The unexpected benefits of online friendships

“Doree and Kate,
After hearing [on your podcast] that you two met on Tumblr I wanted to reiterate that online friendships can be very powerful! Thirteen years ago when I got engaged I started posting in a Craigslist forum about weddings. The group of brides there were all planning their weddings in the same time frame as I was. It didn’t take long for me to bond with all of them over our shared experiences. Fast forward to today and about 100 of us maintain a Facebook group and I consider them some of my closest friends. In fact, I met my BFF through the group and her daughter is now my beloved goddaughter. Fortunately we both live in the LA area so we can see each other regularly. So even if online friendships seem very modern and possibly impersonal, I have experienced the exact opposite. I love all of these women, I will do anything for them, and knowing them has changed my life for the better.”
-5/28/18 email

I wrote this email to the hosts of the Forever35 podcast a while back because I’ll take advantage of any opportunity to extol the virtues of online friendships. In this day and age as we are questioning the effects of extended virtual interactions on our mental health it’s easy to forget that beneficial things can come out of internet relationships as well. I often find myself thinking I should limit my exposure to social media in order to maintain my sanity, especially since I’ve had so many difficulties this year, but I keep finding myself back on Facebook in order to communicate with my wonderful online friends. They lift me up when I feel down, they give me advice when I feel lost, and they remind me that the world isn’t as bad a place as it seems. It is an invaluable connection. We’ve gone through so much together. Love and heartbreak, celebration and devastation, joys and sorrows. We even lost one of our members to cancer last year. Yes, we sometimes argue (politics is so polarizing!), and we disagree on occasion, but we always know that we will stand together no matter what.

Luckily for me these relationships haven’t been exclusively virtual. Most recently, on Saturday I had a girl’s night with two of my online friends who live in LA. We don’t get together nearly often enough so it was a significant achievement that all three of us were able to follow through on the plans we made a few weeks earlier. We ate dinner together (I had my weekly cheat meal that included a mountain of delicious sweet potato fries), they supported me as I tried on dresses at Ann Taylor and Loft (I am still two dress sizes larger than I want to be, which makes me sad), and we acted like crazy teenagers while walking around the clothes section of Target. We even put green bras with a weird combination of lace and netting on over our clothes and took pictures (which I will not be sharing in any public forum!). It was an amazing time. I have often thought that every woman needs a group of steadfastly supportive friends like the one I stumbled upon thirteen years ago on Craigslist, and outings like this one reaffirm my belief. I can’t always share all of the details of everything I’m going through with other people in my life, but these ladies have heard it all. I’ve ranted about my marriage, my divorce, my dating debacles, my work issues, my body insecurities, my illnesses (both mental and physical), and everything in between. And I’ve listened when they need to vent about what their circumstances too. I am extremely fortunate to have the trust of these lovely women and I don’t take that privilege lightly. I honestly don’t know where I’d be without them.

The race that almost wasn’t

You don’t know how happy I was to run the Seal Beach 5K on March 24th. Not because it’s my beloved hometown race or because I can basically roll out of bed and walk to the start line, but because I had to defy the odds to get there this year. I was on a business trip to two different cities during the week, and I booked my flight home on Friday evening so that I would be back in time to run the race on Saturday morning. It wasn’t ideal with my plane landing in Orange County at 10 PM, but I was committed. However, things didn’t exactly go as planned.

On Monday my flight from Orange County to New York (with a layover in Atlanta) was blessedly uneventful. It was so cold in New York, though. Luckily there was no snowfall while I was there and I didn’t have to deal with much ice due to covered parking at my hotel. That leg of my trip was very successful. Then it came time for me to fly to DC on Wednesday evening. Of course that was the day Winter Storm Toby was terrorizing the eastern seaboard so it seemed very likely that my travel plans would have to change. But as the day progressed Delta never modified my itinerary or downgraded the status of my flights so I headed to the airport as planned. My co-workers who were on direct flights that afternoon had to reschedule their travel for the next day. However, since I had a completely out-of-the-way layover in Detroit first, I somehow made it to Dulles without any trouble because my flight landed around 9 PM. By then the snow had stopped and the roads were perfectly clear when driving to my hotel. It really couldn’t have been any easier. I thought the worst was over, but I was so wrong.

On Friday evening I headed to Dulles to fly back home, with a layover in Minneapolis first. My flight from DC took off late due to “air traffic” (Delta’s explanation) which caused me to miss my connection to Orange County. When the plane landed in Minneapolis I ran to attempt to make the connection, but when I arrived, out of breath and fairly sweaty, the jetway doors had already closed. I was out of luck and so annoyed. Delta had already rebooked me on another flight the following morning so things were looking bad, but I hadn’t quite given up hope of getting home that night. My final opportunity was a flight to LAX that was leaving a few hours later. Of course it was overbooked, but an airline employee put me close to the top of the standby list. Miraculously I got the last seat on the flight so I was headed home! It landed at LAX at midnight. Remember that I was originally supposed to fly to Orange County? This meant that my car was 40 miles away. I took a very expensive taxi ride from one airport to another, picked up my car, and drove an additional 30 minutes to get home at 2 AM. At that point I had been awake for about 20 hours and I was exhausted. I fell asleep around 2:30 AM with my alarm set for 7 AM in order to give myself a bare minimum amount of time to get ready for the Seal Beach 5K in the morning. So everything worked out and I got to run the race, but I never expected it would be such an ordeal!

St. Patrick’s Day 2018

St. Patrick’s Day on the weekend for a change is a rare chance to do something exciting for the holiday without the constraints of a workday. So can you guess what I did today? I ran a race, of course! Big surprise, I know. The Big LA 5K at Dodger Stadium this morning was delightfully St. Patrick’s Day themed with green shirts, green race bibs, and a medal with a shamrock on one side. It was fantastically festive. And I got to wear one of my holiday-specific running shirts for the occasion. It proclaimed my heritage as “Irish Every Day.” Very accurate. Even the weather cooperated (winter finally arrived in Southern California this month and it’s been gorgeous). Everything was great, except for the course. There are some serious hills around Dodger Stadium and they make for less than pleasant running. I’m still getting back in shape after a few months of inactivity so it wasn’t an easy 3.1 miles for my weak body, but I’m so glad that I went out and did it. The LA Big 5K is also the last race in the Triple 5K Tour of LA Challenge (Santa Monica, Pasadena, and Los Angeles) so I got an extra medal at the finish line. That’s always good motivation to get up before the crack of dawn, drive an hour, and hit the course even when I don’t want to! Let’s hope this marks my return to regular running again. 2018 has been rocky so far, but I think it’s looking up. Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone!

Thor 10K (NaBloPoMo day 29)

How do you follow a post like the last one? I’m still in shock over the loss of my friend and I hardly know what to think. My first idea was to share a funny story from work yesterday, but I jotted it down on a sheet of paper and then forgot to bring the write-up home with me, so that lighthearted interaction will have to wait until tomorrow. It will have the honor of closing out NaBloPoMo. Until then I’ll share something else that’s upbeat. Especially since I need to finish my Disney race recaps before they completely disappear from my mind.

The Thor 10K took place at Disneyland on November 11th. The theme of the Avengers 10K changed each year depending on which Marvel movie has most recently been released or is up next in theaters. In 2015 when the 10K was born it was the Captain America 10K (the race was held between “Avengers: Age of Ultron” and “Captain America: Civil War.”), and then in 2016 it was the Doctor Strange 10K (“Doctor Strange” was released about a week before the race). This year we got the Thor 10K due to its proximity to “Thor: Ragnarok.” (I actually went to see it in the theater on opening day when I was in Orlando and I really enjoyed it. More humor than your average Marvel film. I’m already looking forward to the 2018 releases.) I do like the rotating theme because it gives us some variety on our race shirts. I woke up at 3 AM the morning of the race, quickly got dressed, and walked from my hotel to the start line. Our course I selected my Thor running shirt for the occasion, and I paired it with a red skirt. It was another opportunity for me to run without having to apply sunscreen since the race started at 5 AM. Perfect! I didn’t break any speed records during the 10K, but I was happy with my pace and I thoroughly enjoyed the 6.2 miles through the Disneyland and California Adventure parks. At the finish line I quickly grabbed by medal and started walking back to my hotel to avoid the rapidly rising sun! I originally intended to have breakfast at LaBrea Bakery at Downtown Disney after a quick shower, but instead I stumbled into the much more conveniently located breakfast buffet at my hotel. Fortunately the food was delicious, especially the exceptionally crispy bacon. I ate more than my fair share. After that I took a lovely nap. Later in the afternoon I walked over to the resort area because I had a dinner reservation that evening. I spent some time in Disneyland taking in the first days of the Christmas decorations before heading over to California Adventure for dinner at Wine Country Trattoria. I had some lasagna in preparation for the Avengers half marathon the next morning. On my way back to my hotel I bought some cupcakes from Sprinkles at Downtown Disney. Their seasonal pumpkin cupcake is one of the best bits of baked goods that I’ve ever tasted. It was the perfect dessert. I was exhausted that night so I actually went to bed at 8 PM, hoping to be well rested when my alarm went off super early the next morning, only to be woken up at 9:30 PM by the nightly Disneyland fireworks. That was annoying, but I still managed to get a good amount of sleep before getting up to run 13.1 miles the next morning.

Be on the lookout for the final installment of my 2017 runDisney adventures sometime next week.

Turkey Day 2017 (NaBloPoMo day 25)

Thanksgiving was two days ago and I’m just now sitting down to write about it. Holidays are always busier than I imagine. But today I’m resting in preparation for a 20 mile run (or attempt, at least) tomorrow morning so I finally have time to finish this recap while I’m sitting on the couch watching Star Wars movies.

On Thursday I woke up at 4 AM so that I could get ready for the Oceanside Turkey Trot. Of course I picked one an hour away so I had a bit of a drive to get drive down there, but luckily the traffic was nonexistent that early in the morning. I was even able to use cruise control. I took advantage of that time to listen to my “Hamilton” soundtrack because I want to be adequately prepared for the show at the Pantages next month. The Oceanside 10K started at 6:55 AM. This was the race I ran with a friend two years ago in order to earn a new personal record. It was tough, but she helped me reach that goal. This year I had an idea in the back of my mind that I wanted to try for a new PR, and without too much effort I was actually doing well for a majority of the race. But then my mile 5 was a full minute slower than it needed to be due to a couple of hills and running on the uneven planks of the Oceanside Pier. That pretty much ruined my PR attempt because I didn’t have enough buffer to make up for the slow down. In the end I finished faster than I did in 2015 (1:08:05), but about 1 minute slower than my current 10K PR from the Avengers 10K last year. It was a valiant effort, but I just couldn’t keep up the right pace for the full 6.2 miles. After getting good and tired during the 10K, it was time to walk back to the start line and run the 5K! It was basically my cool-down and I ran much slower than usual to recover. After that race was over I picked up my shirt, walked back to my car, and started driving home. Much to my surprise the traffic going north wasn’t bad at 9 AM, and I had enough time to finish the “Hamilton” soundtrack.

The second half of my day was dedicated to Thanksgiving dinner. Before I left for Oceanside I put a block of cream cheese out on the counter to warm up so that it would be at room temperature a few hours later. The plan worked perfectly and I was able to mix up my pumpkin dip appetizer shortly after I got home. (It’s basically cream cheese frosting with some added pumpkin and spices. Not exactly healthy, but it’s definitely seasonal and everyone loves it. Even the kids. My goddaughter ate a whole bunch of ginger snaps with pumpkin dip before we even sat down to dinner.) I watched some of the Mystery Science Theater annual Turkey Day Marathon online while making my final Thanksgiving preparations (i.e., slicing apples and pears for the pumpkin dip and throwing everything in a bag for transport.) It was a scorching hot day for late November (95 deg at Natalie’s house) so I decided to wear a dress to dinner. Pretty fancy for a work holiday! I had another long drive to get to Pasadena, but I must have made offerings to the right gods that day because I had very little trouble with traffic once again. Folks driving south on the 605 weren’t as lucky, though. Poor souls. Thanksgiving dinner with Natalie and her family was amazing. I ate a whole plate full of the traditional dishes (turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing, potatoes, etc.) as well as a lot of delicious extras. Baked brie with cranberries, roasted Brussels sprouts, and even some bread pudding for dinner. I was completely stuffed afterwards. It was a great time, even with the ensuing food coma. Eventually I had to drive home (my fourth and final extended journey of the day) and go to sleep after such a long and eventful day. Thanksgiving 2017 was quite the success. Now it’s time for the Christmas season to officially begin!

Giving thanks (NaBloPoMo day 23)

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Continuing the trend this week, I’m sitting down to write this blog post much later than I wanted to and I’m completely exhausted. It’s been a really busy day. But in spite of its hectic nature, Thanksgiving 2017 has been fantastic. I ran the Oceanside Turkey Trot this morning and then spent the afternoon and evening at Natalie’s house for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Come to think of it, a lot of my time was spent driving today. I guess it wouldn’t be a real holiday without a lot of travel! I’ll share more details tomorrow when I have a little more time and a hopefully a lot more energy. But right now I can’t stop yawning! Goodnight, Thanksgiving 2017!

A Seal Beach Christmas (NaBloPoMo day 20)

I don’t have a lot of time to write today because I just barely got out of work in time to grab a snack, change clothes, and hustle to boot camp. Then on my way home I made one last Thanksgiving grocery shopping trip to get cranberries, apples, and pears. The store was basically empty tonight so assuming I didn’t forget anything I shouldn’t have to deal with the Turkey Day food rush. Too bad I still need to get another pie dish at Target tomorrow. That might not be as pleasant. I just finished scarfing down a bowl of chili for dinner, but now I need to wash a bunch of dishes and get ready for bed as quickly as possible. The next two days before Thanksgiving are going to be really busy and I need to get to work early both days. I’m trying to get as much prep done before Thursday as possible so I can relish the holiday. Isn’t that my goal every year? This time of year always goes by too quickly and I want it to be as enjoyable as possible!

Spider-Man 5K (NaBloPoMo day 17)

Last Friday was the beginning of the Avengers Half Marathon Weekend at Disneyland. Not only did it take place only a few days after I got back from the Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend in Orlando, but it was the last Disneyland race weekend for an unspecified period of time. (Smart money is on the West Coast runDisney races returning no earlier than 2020, but it could be later due to all the resort construction.) I was really glad that I’d signed up for all three distances (5K, 10K, and half marathon) so I could bid a proper farewell to the Disneyland races. However, when my alarm went off at 3 AM that Friday morning I seriously questioned that decision. Having to wake up hours before dawn has a way of dampening your enthusiasm, even for things you love! I quickly got dressed (no sunscreen required for such an early race) and drove to Disneyland. Continuing my superhero apparel theme from the weekend before, I picked my Black Widow shirt and a red skirt for the Spider-Man 5K. The shirt appropriately said “spider” on it and everything! And since it was 10 deg cooler in Anaheim that it had been in Orlando the week before I was able to wear my favorite running capris rather than needing shorts. Fall in Southern California is the best. The 5K snaked through both Disneyland and California Adventure parks and it was a lot of fun. There were multiple Spider-Man sightings in both parks. If I’d been smart I would have stopped for some pictures with characters on the course, but I didn’t take advantage of that opportunity. When I finished the race I got my medal, grabbed a banana, and headed back to my car in the parking structure. It was a weekday and I needed to go to work – after a shower, of course. The Avengers Half Marathon Weekend was off to a good start and I still had the 10K and half marathon to look forward to.

One week ’til Thanksgiving (NaBloPoMo day 16)

Thanksgiving is one week away and I can’t wait! I’m spending the holiday with my dear friend Natalie and her family (including my beloved goddaughter) so I don’t have to do the lion’s share of the cooking, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to arrive empty-handed. What kind of a friend would I be if I did that? So far I’m planning to make my favorite pumpkin dip with fruit as an appetizer, some scrumptious homemade cranberry sauce to go with the rest of the main meal, and Food Network’s Ginger Coconut Pumpkin Pie which is the best pumpkin pie I’ve ever tasted. Even though these are three relatively small items, I’m still a little worried about getting them all done and ready for Thanksgiving dinner, especially since I need to transport everything to Natalie’s house. Fortunately I think I can make all three on Wednesday so that I won’t be too stressed on Thursday. However, the only time I’ve made the pumpkin pie was in Tallahassee and I had my mom to help me! I’m concerned about getting it right on my own, especially I’m no expert at making my own crust, but I’ll do my best. And I’m going to attempt to make a gluten-free version just for Natalie. I stocked up on gluten-free gingersnaps at Whole Foods for the crust yesterday. Fingers crossed that they work just as well as the wheat-filled ones. I’ll let you know how it goes!

Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party (NaBloPoMo day 15)

On November 1st I flew to Orlando for my Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend adventure, but back in August a surprising opportunity presented itself. I was looking at the Disney World website and realized that the very last Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween party of the season was being held at the Magic Kingdom the day I arrived. I was willing to move heaven and earth to be able to attend, but would it be enough? The party was starting at 7 PM which was the same time my flight was scheduled to land. However, the celebration lasted until midnight so even if I got there a couple of hours late I would still have plenty of time to enjoy the festivities. There was hope! So I optimistically purchased a Halloween party ticket and prepared myself as much as possible for my busy November 1st schedule. First of all, I tagged my suitcase so that Mickey’s Magical Express bus service would pick it up from baggage claim rather than waiting for it myself. That saved me a little time. Second, I checked in to my hotel online so I could skip the front desk. And third, I slept quite a bit on the plane so I could more easily stay up late and savor every minute of the Halloween party.

I ended up walking through the Magic Kingdom gates a little after 9 PM. As much as I love Disney World, the main reason I wanted to go to Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween party was to see the seasonal fireworks, parade, and Hocus Pocus live show. Before picking a spot to watch the HalloWishes Fireworks I did a little trick or treating. There were several spots around the park where cast members dole out handfuls of candy so it didn’t take long for my little bag to be completely full. It took me the rest of my trip to finish all of it! I grabbed a salad for dinner to counteract the sugar rush, and then I made my way back to Cinderella’s Castle for the fireworks t 10:15 PM. Disney World sure knows how to put on a show. As a Disneyland native I wasn’t expecting the fireworks to come from so many different locations! It was really amazing. Next everyone crowded around the castle for the Hocus Pocus Villain Spectacular at 10:45 PM. This show was worth the (relatively high) price of admission. The actresses were great, there were a lot of laughs, and the music gave me goosebumps, especially “I Put A Spell On You.” It was incredible There were a lot of reasons that going to the Halloween party was impractical for me, but when I saw the Hocus Pocus show I knew I had made the right decision. Take a look at a short video I took of the finale to see what I mean. The last Boo-to-You Halloween Parade of the night took place at 11:15 PM so I hung around the castle for that after Hocus Pocus was over. It was the perfect way to say goodbye to the Halloween season. Before leaving Magic Kingdom I walked around the park some more (and I’ll confess to gathering some more candy) to drink it all in. I finally got on the bus back to my hotel around 12:30 AM very happy with my decision to go to the Halloween party and make my November 1st as insane as possible. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.