Monday, March 31, 2014

From the Land of Ma'am: Day One in Savannah

Happy Monday!  I hope everyone is having a great week.  It's going to be a busy one for me but I made time last night to start my Savannah recaps as I want to write the posts while it's all fresh in my mind.  Basically, I loved Savannah, which you could easily tell if you saw my iPhone photos because I took SO many pictures, especially of the trees and squares.  I knew it was a special place and I had heard a lot of good things about it, but the city totally surpassed my expectations. I actually liked it better than Charleston which sort of surprised me as people rave about Charleston but I just fell in love with Savannah and would be more apt to go back there versus going back to Charleston honestly...

Anyways, I am going to break my trip up into two posts because it's just too much to cover in one.  So here goes!

I drove into Savannah on Friday afternoon.  It was an easy 3.5-4 hour drive from Charlotte (but full disclosure, the drive back took over 5 hours so traffic can really make or break the drive).  Savannah was built on a river and shipping is its #1 source of revenue with tourism being #2.

Savannah's river front was not as picturesque as Charleston but it was still pretty, and I loved the bridge in the background of the photo below, which is actually the bridge that I drove into Savannah on.

On this trip, I decided to cut my costs down a bit by using airbnb.  You can rent an entire house or apartment through this website but since I was traveling alone and knew I'd be out and about most of the time, I ended up renting a room in a couple's home.  It worked out really well and I would highly recommend this couple's home as they were wonderful hosts.  The row house on the right is the one I stayed in.  The 2 rooms they rent out are located on the 2nd floor and have their own bathroom.  Another couple was staying in the other room but I barely saw them. 

Hands down, my favorite parts about Savannah were the beautiful trees and all of the little squares scattered throughout the city.  It was so pretty to walk around.  I took SO many photos of the trees, which of course don't do the city justice.

Many of the trees are covered in Spanish Moss which is actually neither Spanish, nor a moss...

Besides having so many beautiful trees, the city also has about 16 different squares scattered throughout the city.  Some have statues honoring people of Savannah or Georgia's past, some have fountains.  All of them have numerous park benches.  I feel like Savannah must have the most park benches per capita.

This off-centered photo gives you a feel for one of the parks.  This one has 2 different areas:  the fountain area in the front and then off to the back there is a tower that is in honor of someone (but don't ask me who, so many people are memorialized, it's tough to keep track of them all!).
 The biggest park in the city is Forsyth Park, which was my favorite.  There is a beautiful water fountain in the center of the park which is one of the most common images associated with Savannah.

I sat in one of the park benches and took a little reading break.  It was relaxing.And what a beautiful view!

The park has wide sidewalks and on Saturday there was a small farmers market which featured local farmers.  It's definitely a beautiful place to take a stroll.

I was supposed to take a bike tour on Friday afternoon, but it got cancelled as it was maybe going to rain.  It's too bad they cancelled as it did not end up raining, but I was able to easily find something else to do.  I was visiting Savannah during their annual music festival so after walking around some more, I went to a square where they were having a free concert.  It was so relaxing to sit on a park bench, read, and listen to this jazz ensemble.  

After all of that walking around, I had worked up an appetite. I decided to have a casual dinner at a place called Kayak Kafe.  I had done my research and they were known for being GF friendly.  I had some shrimp tacos which were delicious.

After dinner, I wasn't quite ready to go back to the house where I was staying, so I treated myself to a decaf mexican mocha at a coffee shop.

It was my first Mexican Mocha and it did not disappoint.  And I loved the pretty foam art!
My first day in Savannah was so wonderful.  I slept like a baby that night since I had tired myself out walking around the city.  Stay tuned for the recap of Saturday and Sunday!

Have you ever used airbnb?  I wasn't sure what to expect but I would definitely use the service again.  It's a great way to save some money, especially if you know you are barely going to be in the room, which was the case for this visit.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Three Things Thursday

Happy Thursday!  This week has been hectic and stressful, so my mind is all over the place as result.  So here's an all-over-the-place list of questions with my top 3 answers.  

Favorite ethnic cuisine:
1. Mexican
2. Indian
3. Thai

Foods I never seem to get sick of:
1. Pickles
2. Chips and salsa
3. Macarons, especially salted caramel ones

Three words I'd use to describe myself:
1. Disciplined
2. Active
3. Planner

3 U.S. Cities I would like living in, besides Minneapolis:
1. Chicago
2. New York City
3. San Francisco 

3 places in the U.S. that I haven't visited but would like to:
1. Boston/Cape Cod area
2. Grand Canyon
3. Outer Banks

Top things people say to me about my Charlotte move that I'd like to never hear again:
1.  "You don't like living in Charlotte?  Oh, well I know (insert random person) and they love Charlotte." (This is irrelevant.  Just because I love Minneapolis doesn't mean others should, and just because a person knows someone who likes Charlotte, doesn't mean I should).
2.  "You can't see it right now, but something good is going to come out of this experience of living in Charlotte."  (Sometimes bad things happen to people and no good comes of it.  I fully believe this will be the case for me.)
3.  "It could be worse."  (A quote I've seen recently that addresses this:  "Telling someone they can't be sad because others have it worse is like saying someone can't be happy because others have it better.")

Favorite forms of exercise:
1. Running
2. Bodypump or other strength training classes
3. Hiking

Favorite smells:
1. Freshly brewed coffee
2. Thanksgiving morning at my parents - love the smell of turkey and dressing cooking.  Yum.
3. Food being grilled outdoors. 

Big vacations I'd like to take some day:
1. Biking tour of Croatia, like this trip (buy oh my gosh it's so expensive so will never happen) 
2. Tour part of Italy and then spend a week in an apartment on the Amalfi Coast.
3. Tour southern France, spending time in Marseilles and Nice.

Ok your turn - what are your 3 favorite ethnic cuisines and what 3 words would you use to describe yourself.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Virtual Coffee Date

It's Monday so we all need some caffeine right?  If we had a coffee date today, here's what I'd fill you in on.

If we were having coffee today...

- I'd tell you that this whole job search process feels so foreign to me.  Aside from 6 months that I spent working at another company (which was a hellacious experience) I have only worked for my current employer which means I've worked for my current employer, in various roles, for about 10 years.  Internal job searches are so much easier because I know who the hiring manager is and the salary range.  I will be very relieved when this job search is over for multiple reasons.

- I'd tell you that I am nervous about the month of April because I don't have any weekend trips planned which means I'll be in Charlotte a lot.  However, I have work trips to Houston, Denver, and Charleston so hopefully those trips will give me a enough of a break from Charlotte to make the month tolerable.

- I'd tell you how I have very few running path options here in Charlotte because there is no water in this city.  And then I'd tell you how the one running path that it is close to me goes by a hospital and how much is pisses me off that hospital workers walk down to the path for their smoke break.  I already judge people who smoke (sorry I'm not sorry, it's a disgusting habit) so people who smoke on a running/biking path?  I have the very lowest opinion of them.  I should not have to run through a cloud of smoke.

- I'd switch the conversation to something positive and tell you that I am really excited for my trip to Savannah this weekend.  I don't have much planned; I really just want to walk and walk and walk as I have heard it's such a cute city with neat parks and gardens.

- I'd also tell you how great it is that my joints are healing well enough for me to start taking some strength training classes.  Besides not running from mid-April to mid-January, I also wasn't able to do any upper body strength training from early-June to mid-March as my joints hurt so much.  But the medications seem to be doing their job as I've added low-weight strength training in and it's gone well so far.  It's fun to be able to take more classes at the gym!

- Lastly, I'd tell you that I gave up sweets and chocolate for Lent and how I've been surrounded by temptation (I mean at one point I walked through a crowd of people eating delicious home made ice cream) but that it's felt good to exercise the muscles of self-restraint.  I'd tell you that I am unsure how I will celebrate Easter but that the day will certainly include macarons!

If we were having coffee today, what would you fill me in on?

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Currently: March Edition

Happy almost Friday.  I'm definitely anticipating the end of this week!  Here's what's currently going on in my life.

Reading: The Perfume Collector which I am really enjoying.  It's partially set in Paris which makes me love the book even more of course.  It makes me homesick for Paris, though.

Loving:  that some of the trees in Charlotte are flowering.  I am going through another really tough stretch of being unhappy here, so it's good to have pretty trees to distract me when I am out and about in the city.

Thinking: about doing a day trip to Asheville in April so that I can see the gardens of the Biltmore.  I have seen the house twice but haven't seen the gardens yet and feel it's something I need to do while I live close by.

Feeling: stressed.  I thought that things would get easier as I approached my one year mark, but they are actually getting harder because now the stress of finding a job is increasing and I am very worried that I will have to stay in Charlotte far longer than I would like.

Anticipating: my weekend trip to Savannah next weekend.  I made a bucket list of places I wanted to visit while I live here, and Savannah is the last city I need to check off my list.  I am staying in an airbnb place that is in the historical district so I should be able to walk to a lot of the attractions.

Inspired by: people who handle difficult situations with such grace and poise.

Watching: cheesy Hallmark movies because they make me smile and are a good distraction.

Sad: that I don't know when I will see my family next.  Or friends.

Working: on adding more strength training into my workout routine.  My upper body joints are starting to heal more so I have been able to add some low weight strength training which feels great!

Grateful: for family and friends who listen to me, don't push positivity on me, and are compassionate.

Listening: to Lorde's album, which I treated myself to earlier this month.  It's a fun album.

Wishing: that I could find room in my budget for a plane ticket to Tucson so I could spend Easter with my parents, sister, and brother-in-law, but it's just not possible.  Irresponsible Lisa wants to say to hell with the budget and go but practical Lisa knows it's best to not spend money since I most likely (hopefully) have a cross-country move ahead of me in the coming months.  Practical Lisa wins out.  Plus I just agreed to present at a conference in Charleston on Good Friday (weird day for a conference) so it really doesn't work out for me to travel around Easter.  But I so wish I could teleport myself there.

What are you currently reading, anticipating and wishing?

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Finding Comfort

If you read my post on Friday about Florida, by the end of the post it was pretty evident that I am going through a difficult time.  All the stress is just piling up and while I will be OK in the long run, in the short run I am pretty really down.  I just hate that I am 33 years old and have no idea where I will be living 2-3 months from now.  I feel far too old for this.  I hope I am home by June, but I might not be.  And that uncertainty?  Is eating away at me.  The good news is that I was able to negotiate with my apartment management company and and my rent will increase by $100 instead of $500.  Which is MUCH better.  That's one less thing to stress about.

Anyways, the only way out of this is through it, and I know I will get through it but dang it's hard.  So in the mean time, I am trying to find comfort in the little things.  Being able to run again is a huge help, but there are other little things I am trying to include in my weekends to help.

 First up - reading.  It's probably my number one way to escape my reality. 

Secondly - knitting.  The repetitive nature of knitting is so calming for me.  I recently started a shawl pattern which is kind of complicated but the level of focus required takes my mind off things.It's hard to tell in this photo but it has a pretty diagonal pattern to it.

Lastly - comfort food.  I made a chicken and rice dish in my crockpot on Sunday. It probably looks unappealing as it's a mush of rice, chicken, carrots, and celery, but it was really good and easy to make.

Besides this other things that bring me comfort are running, my morning coffee ritual, and phone and video chat dates with friends.

What are some things that bring you comfort when you are struggling?

Monday, March 17, 2014

First Race Back!

Happy Monday, everyone!  I am happy to report that my first post-stress fracture/RA diagnosis race is complete and went really well. Those who have read my blog for awhile know that I had to take a loooonnnggggg break from running due my stress fracture and RA diagnosis.  I went from April 16th until January without running which was very hard on me as running is such a big part of who I am.  But after the race this weekend I feel like I can safely say that I am back to running!

Before getting into my short race report, I thought I'd address how I got back into running.  I was pretty quiet about my return to running and only told two people that I was starting to run again because I was afraid that something was going to happen or that my body would not tolerate it.  But luckily it did.  I started off by doing run/walk combos with intervals of 1/4 to 1/2 miles of running at a time.  I gradually increased the amount of time I spent running until I was able to run 3 consecutive miles.  I also did not and still do not run consecutive days as my rheumatologist said I needed to give my joints a day off between running when I did return to running.

While I hadn't ran in a very long time, I was using the elliptical, going to water aerobics, and taking spin classes so I had a base level of cardiovascular fitness which made my return to running 'easier'.  I use the term 'easier' loosely because it certainly did not feel easy at first and was pretty humbling.  But what has been surprising is how fast I got back to a fairly quick tempo of running (~8:45-9 min mile pace).

It was fun to have my first race this past weekend.  I went into it with no goal besides having fun and finishing with a smile on my face.

And here I am, post-race, with a big smile on my face and a time that I am really proud of.

Here is how my splits broke out:
Mile 1 - 8:31
Mile 2 - 8:28
Mile 3 - 8:39
Mile 4 - 8:27
Mile .05 - 7:55 (the course measured a tad bit long)

Overall time = 34:23, average pace = 8:29

I am really surprised to see that my pace was so consistent for the whole race as there were a lot of downhill parts in the first 2 miles and I just kept thinking that I was going to pay for it on the way back but I was magically able to maintain that pace despite the uphill segments during the last 2 miles.  The street where I usually run has rolling hills so I guess my body was prepared for it.

It was a beautiful, sunny day, so the perfect day for me to stage my recovery to running!  I can't find the words to sum up how great it is to be back to running and how much I need this stress outlet right now.  I definitely felt a runners high after the race and feel more confident that I really am back to my favorite sport.

I have to give a special shout-out to my friend Lori who suggested that I register for this race.  I wouldn't have done this race without her recommending it.  It was fun to do a race with her and especially fun to celebrate afterwards with a yummy brunch.

For now I am going to continue running every other day for 3-4 miles at a time and will be slowly increasing my weekend running distance up to 6 miles as I am hoping to run a 10k race on April 12th.  I will see my rheum during the first week of April and am hoping that she gives me the OK to train for a half marathon.  I have my sights set on one in the San Francisco area in September so clearly have a lot of time to prepare and have high hopes that I'll run a strong race.

Are you training for any races in 2014?  

Friday, March 14, 2014

My Time in Florida

I am back from my week-long trip to Florida.  It went fast and slow at the same time as the time with family went really fast, but the time spent at the conference went pretty slow and the days were long as I had client dinners that went until 9:30-10:30 at night.

The family time was wonderful, though.  The weather was a bit cool, but I still went to the beach in the afternoon on Friday and Saturday.  There's nothing like hearing the relaxing sound of the ocean.  While the temps were cooler, it was very sunny and it felt amazing to feel those rays of sunshine.

2 of my aunts and I

I also ate really well while I was visiting family.  Almost all of the meals were home-cooked and oh so delicious.  Another highlight was squeezing in a game of rummy.  I did not win any hands, but it was still fun.

On Sunday I had to head over to Orlando for my work conference, but I was able to stop in Tampa to meet up with Stephany for a coffee.  We've been reading each other blogs for years so it was really fun to catch up in person!

The work part of the trip was, well, work.  Last year when I was attending this conference, I was preparing to move to Charlotte, and a lot of people remembered that which means I had to answer lots of  questions about how I am liking Charlotte, which, by the way, is pretty much my LEAST favorite topic of conversation.  So yah...  That said, it was good to connect with other people that work in my industry and to learn more about a product that is utilized by a lot of my clients.

I flew back to Charlotte on Wednesday evening and am now trying to play catch-up after.  Between my trip home for work and my trip to Florida, I haven't been around much the last couple of weeks and it's catching up with me.  I'm over-tired and my tummy is a little upset with me as traveling with a gluten intolerance is always challenging.

But I'll be around for the next 2 weeks, which is both good and not so good.  It's good because I miss my bed and need to return to a normal diet. It's not so good because any stretch of time spent in Charlotte is hard on me, and it's been even harder on me lately since I don't see a clear path out of here.  It was made even worse last night when I found out my rent is increasing by $500 when my lease goes month-to-month next month.  Just when I think things can't get worse, they do.  I was stressed about finding a job before, now I'm even MORE stressed. 

Tell me something good or happy because I need some positive things to focus on to pull me out of the pit of sadness and frustration I am currently inhabiting.  Please don't tell me that God only gives me what I can handle or that there is some greater reason I am going through this.  I can't handle any positive spin comments on this relocation experience and I can tell you with absolute certainty that I am not better off in any way for having gone through this experience.  It has been AWFUL.  And expensive.

Monday, March 10, 2014

TLC Book Review: Hope Street, Jerusalem

Synopsis of Hope Street, Jerusalem by Irris Makler from

′I had no idea how demanding this consuming, cruel, dangerous and fascinating place would be. I would fall in love here, I would do some of my best reporting, I would be injured, ending my run of good luck - my life would change dramatically ...′

Moving to a strange city always takes courage, but never more so than in a place where the daily expression of love and hate can turn a simple choice of a romantic table by the window into a life or death decision.

Both a love story and bittersweet tribute to her beloved adopted city of Jerusalem, Irris Makler shines a hopeful light on a part of the world where the news reports often makes it seem impossibly dark. From juggling the danger and unpredictability of her work as a roving foreign correspondent , covering everything from Palestinian suicide attacks to Israeli incursions into the West Bank, to falling in love with a handsome and charming young Israeli, and gaining a mischievious four-legged companion along the way, she allows us an intimate glimpse into a passionate, vibrant and fascinating world.

Adventurous, compassionate and engagingly honest, the award-winning author of OUR WOMAN IN KABUL is a master at capturing the personal stories behind the news we really want to know - and her story is the most interesting of all.

My review:

I was draw to this book for two reason - first because it was a memoir which is a genre I really enjoy, and second because it was set in Jerusalem which is an area of the world that intrigues me but that I know very little about.  It was interesting to read about the author's experiences living in Jerusalem.  I really can not imagine working in a worn-torn country, risking your life and well-being every day.  But I am thankful that there are brave people, like this author, who will take that risk so the stories of people in this part of the world can be told.

Mixed in with tales of her time in Jerusalem, the author also talks about falling in love and becoming a dog owner.  I have to say that reading about the challenges of raising a dog with a very strong personality reminded me that I could never own a dog!!  

The author's experiences raising a dog almost overwhelm the other parts of the story, so if you are a dog person, you'll probably enjoy this book.  However, if you are not a dog person, that part of the story might lose you a bit. 

All in all, it was an interesting read and taught me a bit more about a region of the world that I know very little about.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Three Things Thursday

Happy Thursday!  It's an especially happy Thursday for me because I fly to Florida today!  My head is all over the place so I thought I'd close the week with a "three things Thursday" post.

1.  As I said, I fly to Florida today and am SO excited!  Plus I got upgraded to first class on this flight, which is always a nice bonus.  I am so overdue for a visit as I haven't been down to Venice in about 7 years.  I'm really looking forward to a weekend of family time, sunshine, warmer temps, and relaxation.  The first 2 months of the year were pretty stressful for me between work and job searching so I am looking forward to a mini vacation.  I'll be in Venice until Sunday afternoon and then I drive over to Orlando for a 3-day work conference so I will be in Florida for a full week.  The work conference part will be busy as I have conference sessions all day long followed by client dinners at night, but it will be nice to be out of the office.

2.  I am not sure if it's my stress level or the books I have been reading lately, but I am a hard time focusing when reading and as a result, I'm in a bit of a reading slump.  It's been awhile since I read a book that really grabbed me and was difficult to put down.  Hopefully the books I have downloaded on my Nook for this trip are more engaging than what I've read lately.

3.  I'm starting to get excited for my first race since my stress fracture/RA diagnosis.  It's less than 10 days away so is fast approaching.  It's just 4 miles so it short but it will be fun to be around the race atmosphere again.  So far my body has tolerated the return to running pretty well.  I have some pain in my toe joints but it's not too bad and it bothers me less now that I know it's not a potential fracture.

I won't be posting while I am in Florida, so the lights will be off on this space for about a week or so!

What is on your mind today?  Have you read any really good books lately that you would recommend?

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

On Being Home

My trip home last weekend was so wonderful, but was such a whirlwind experience for me.  I combined a day of work, which included a client event and a client meeting on opposite sides of the Twin Cities, a day of networking which included 5 meetings, I helped Phil move and settle into his new home, got my taxes done, visited a friend on Saturday afternoon, had dinner with 6 friends on Saturday evening, and after dinner I made a cameo at an engagement party that Phil attended so I could see his friends for a bit. 

Phew.  It was a lot to fit into about 3 days.  But that is how these trips always go.  And despite the fact that I fit a lot in, there are still things I didn't get a chance to do and people I didn't get a chance to see.  Of course the fullness of my life in Minneapolis and the fact that I have more people to see than I have time to see is a blessing, I just wish I was better at not feeling guilty about not seeing as many people as I would like.  Maybe this feeling of guilt is something that people who move away from home get better at managing, but it's a challenge for me. I also have had to learn to accept that trips home either need to be entirely friend-centric or family-centric.  Because my family and friends live in different areas of Minnesota, it's darn near impossible to combine the two unless I am home for a week, which is rare.

All that said, it was a wonderful trip home.  The temperatures were bitterly cold as the high for my time at home was a whopping 3 degrees, but I did not complain or care because there is nothing like being surrounded by my favorite people in a city I love.  I feel like a better version of myself when I am in Minneapolis and it's almost like I let go of a breath I've been holding for months when I land in Minneapolis. Of course the flip side of that is the tears that start when I board my flight back to Charlotte and often don't end during the entire flight, as was the case on Sunday.  Yes, I am that girl that cries on airplanes, probably attracting the attention of seatmates. 

As of today, I have 5 weeks until I hit the one-year mark of my move to Charlotte.  I know that seems soon to some people, because I keep hearing that over and over, but to borrow from a comment that my friend Nilsa made a couple of weeks ago, telling me that my time in Charlotte is almost over is like standing at the 20th mile of a marathon and telling runners that they are almost done (which is the cardinal sin of spectating, by the way).  Except it's worse in my case because it's like I'm at the 20th mile, except when I hit 26.2, the course marshal is saying, "actually, you are not done.  I know you are exhausted but you are going to need to continue to run for an indeterminate amount of time." 

So in the mean time, I'm praying, crossing my fingers and doing whatever I can to ensure that there will be a one-way ticket out of Charlotte in my future.  Each trip home is a taste of how good and full my life will be and I have to believe that I'll find my way back there.  Some way, some how. 

Monday, March 3, 2014

Music, Books, Miles, and Looks of February

February is the shortest month of the year, and it went fast for me as I was busy at work and went to Austin, New York (for work), and Minneapolis (sort of for work).  But even though it was the shortest month, it also felt long at times..


Team by Lorde - I love everything about this song - the beat, the lyrics, her voice.  I haven't bought her album but I might have to...


It felt like a slower reading month for me, but I read 5 books which is a decent amount.  My favorite was The Art of Hearing Heartbeats.

Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt - 4 stars
Saturday Night Widows by Becky Aikman - 4 stars
The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker - 4 stars
The Wedding Bees by Sarah-Kate Lynch - 3 stars
Hope Street, Jerusalem by Irris Makler - 2 stars


Finally, I had some mileage to tally up for the month! I ran 33 miles this month, which I am happy with.  Besides running, I did spin classes, walked hill routes on the treadmill, and did some biking on my own.


** crickets **

I have no outfits to share this month.  Blogger fail.  I feel a little blah about everything in my closet right now because I keep cycling through the same winter dresses over and over again.  But hopefully the temperatures warm up this month so I can start wearing some spring dresses and skirts.