Friday, April 11, 2014

Friday Feature

Time to switch it up from Feel Good Fridays to Feature Fridays because sometimes the compelling, important, really well-done videos I want to share just don't feel that good.

My friend Tim (featured in the video below) was diagnosed with Stage 4 Melanoma at 21 years old. He and his (now wife) Amy were on a graduation trip in France when he discovered a spot on his arm. Given a 50% chance of survival over the next five years, he began intensive treatment and now, nearly 10 years later, he is an outspoken advocate for sun safety and awareness.

Skin cancer is one of the most preventable forms of cancer and one of the most treatable when diagnosed early. Take the no-tan pledge.

Exposed from MFNE on Vimeo.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Hometown Tour

Disclaimer: It's occurred to me now that it could possibly take just as long to read this post as it would to go outside and run the same distance, giving a whole new meaning to the term rambling. What are you going to do? I was feeling sentimental.

We went “home” to New Jersey this past weekend to visit a very good old friend and her family, which now includes her absolutely perfect three-week old newborn son. It was so good for the soul. Her two-and-a-half year old was bouncing off the walls and such fun to play with and the baby is simply precious. It was the most real this experience has felt: oh my gosh, we’re going to have one of these.

Saturday morning was sunny and cool and I was eager to get out for an easy run -- my first in quite some time. I wanted to run solo, to take my time, and simply enjoy myself, quietly.

I know each road in my parents' neighborhood better than anywhere else in the world. We lived on Sycamore Street, in a house that my uncles and grandfather built, for most of my childhood, moving just over four blocks down the street for the next 20 years. The neighborhood is loaded with memories and meaning; as I ran I thought about each of the families I knew who lived in the homes from block to block.

Even though I took it easy, my route was fairly hard -- hilly -- having not run at all in at least six or eight weeks. I took the first left off my street for a long, slow climb up and out of the neighborhood. I passed the homes of neighbors new and old, the Hazards house belonged to Eddie Hartelius and his companion, Sandy, when we moved in, our next door neighbors on the left have turned over three times, at least twice on the right. My uncle Rick's, the Ayers', and the house my family built all passed by as I made my way up the hill, slow but sure.

I felt compelled to take a quick left for a steep descent into another neighborhood where I played as a child, one I've actually never run. Gerry who rode our school bus, who's father was a judge, lived on the top of the hill on the left, the Spillanes on the right. They had been older than me, cooler. I passed my old friend Liz's house, where she had moved in middle school after living just houses away from one another growing up. Her so-big-it-was-nearly-a-horse dog, Willie, inspired my utter fear of canines after it chased me 20-something years ago, wanting to "play" as he jumped up, paws to my shoulders, scratching at my face while I tried to run away. Liz is a lawyer now, married. Her sister is due her first baby just weeks after me. They used to throw incredible bon fires in the backyard, with roasted marshmallows and heat so hot it burned our eyes.

Across from them, a recent tragedy: brothers the same age as my sisters who died last spring in an early morning car crash only a quarter mile home, the noise of the crash and first responders so loud it woke the neighbors to the terrible news.

Finally, I took a right and back out of the neighborhood near the family who used to carpool with me to softball. I watched the Pee Wee Herman movie in their family room and later wondered aloud to my parents each night before bed: Are pirates, devils, and things on TV real? I can't remember why, but the movie freaked me out beyond what might otherwise seem reasonable.

The steep downhill meant running back up, and I took a left into a small neighborhood populated by unbelievable, big homes. I revisited kindergarten playdates, a Brownie troop member with a sort of dark and complicated family, an inevitably doomed high school friendship, and a few houses in a row where friends of my mother and their families still live, one with a son who always seems smitten with my sister. Who can blame him, really?

Finally, I made my way back up the main road to the last hill up and over back into my neighborhood. After basically walking the hill, I added another half mile when I decided to run down one particularly gorgeous street, with big houses and lots of childhood stories: the first real bully I'd ever known, a beautiful girl with an outdoor pool where we used to celebrate the end of the school year, the house where a girl I played with a handful of times had lived when she prank called my mother pretending to be her own mother on an occasion or two, obviously not realizing that seven-year olds and mothers sound distinctly different. There was a local hockey player's house and a big tudor where a well-known local family lived. I drove to high school with their son, who reminded me after a car accident that his mother had once had three and it played out well for her: she got "some good experience," he told me, "and a new Mercedes."

Finishing up. I landed at my grandmother's house -- she bookends the street with my parents -- and we sat at the kitchen table and reminisced and talked about what else was new.

Always sentimental, my run had been a fun, slow way to take in a few square blocks of scenery and history, in nature instead of from the confines of a car with fleeting thoughts as we buzz past. It made me think -- again -- of how much I'd like to return one day, and how special a place is when each and every step has been covered before and holds such stories and secrets and memories.

Where would you take and what would you see on your hometown tour?

Monday, April 7, 2014

First Trimester Recap

I'll preface this update by saying, this blog is not about to become a pregnancy diary. I've been fairly quiet and private about this cuh-razy news online and in my real life for a number of reasons. For one, some of it just seems weird to share. For another, there are [very important] people in my life going through some completely unfair, unfathomable circumstances with regards to babies right now and while I feel their love and also completely blessed, it's not entirely comfortable to be celebrating in such a public way at the same time that people I adore are suffering.

So, I don't really plan to make many changes in the way of content around here (except, God willing, showing up more often). Here and there, sure, but mostly I'll continue to ramble. Today I thought it would be fun to reveal what I've been up to for the past few months while growing this little creature.

Truthfully, it still doesn't seem entirely real. With the exception of the fatigue and heartburn I mentioned last week, I've felt really pretty normal. My appetite has been really small -- embarrassingly -- like on Valentine's Day when we went out to dinner and I could only manage two bites of my filet mignon. Literally. Small ones. Eating too much made me feel like I was going to be ill, but not eating at all left me completely depleted and obviously, empty. My solution was packing myself elementary school lunches: single serve applesauce, pears or peaches "in light syrup", an apple... maybe, a handful of raisins or like 10 almonds. Yogurt. It was sort of pathetic. Lunchtime was one of those times I was really grateful to be in a new job. My old colleagues would have figured me out in about two-point-two seconds.

I was sick about a half dozen times, only in the morning, and then it went away until resurfacing last week. I ate sleeve after sleeve of saltines, alternating with oyster crackers when I was feeling adventurous. Each moment I generally had a pretty crappy moment, but had usually forgotten about it by the time I got home and crawled into bed (before eight). I slept a lot. Oh, and peed constantly. Fun fact: pregnant women pee all the time because of hormones! I always thought it was weird when that kicked in right away... It's the size of a thumbnail. It is not pressing on your bladder. Please. And honestly, that's sort of it.

I've continued working out since we found out the news and have felt totally fine. As I mentioned last week, I ran through the first few months on a treadmill (slightly slower and more cautious than usual), which seemed to make me feel better in general. That's one thing I'll say, though. I made the switch to the treadmill quickly and definitively: the idea of falling on ice COMPLETELY freaked me out once I found out I was having a baby. Almost as soon as I got the news, I also returned to the barre studio. I wonder if anyone gets in better shape while pregnant, I pseudo-challenged myself. Barre workouts are super low impact and super results oriented and as soon as I knew there was labor coming up at the end of the summer, I knew my core needed as much help as I could give it.

Barre class has been amazing. Truly. I actually think I have gotten in better shape over the past six or eight weeks I've been in class. My arms are definitely toning up, my butt and legs feel strong, and I think my face looks a little bit leaner, too. Most importantly, I feel so good during and after class, and have found the sense of community I've been missing since leaving my yoga studios in the city with the job change.

Late last week was the first time I looked in the mirror and thought, oh wow, maybe my belly is growing. Since I carry my weight in my middle to begin with, nothing has looked all that different to me, so I haven't been taking weekly or monthly photos at all. I snapped one in the fitting room when I changed for class because I guess you have to start documenting sometime.

16 Weeks
In hindsight, maybe not so much yet, but soon!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Feel Good Friday!

Good news and bad news, friends. Good news first: It's that time of year again. Boston Marathon time. Also known as basically my favorite ever. It's been a rough year for Boston -- lots of horrific tragedies and an unforgiving winter -- but we're a pretty united lot and nothing revs us up like lining the streets from Hopkinton to Boston on the third Monday of April to cheer like crazy. Bad news: I'm going to miss it this year. (Silver lining, I'll be on vacation!) Don't worry, I've already picked out a Boston t-shirt to bring with me to rock that night (major time zone change) in solidarity.

In case you don't live in this part of the world (where we've been talking about the 118th Boston Marathon since the bombs exploded last April) and want to get some preemptive marathon goosebumps, please enjoy.

#WEWILLRUN - Boston from JJ Miller on Vimeo.

Have a rebellious, active, inspired weekend.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

2014 Goals - Checking In

Now that it's April and the sun has come out -- for today, at least -- I am feeling optimistic that my compulsion to write might come out from hibernation. I’ve been struggling a little bit to adjust to how to fit writing into my new schedule, so I’m sorry, my friends, for the frequent and lengthy absences. 

The new job and incredibly quick commute have, in fact, left me with much more time than before, but still, I've been stuck in a bit of a wintertime funk. Instead of getting up early to run or write, I enjoy more leisurely mornings… sleeping in an extra hour and lazing about until the very last minute when I absolutely must get up and move. Afternoons have been more productive and while I kept up running a couple days a week for the first month or two of the year, more often I've been tucking my happy little heart out in barre method classes. 

With the first three months of the year down, I thought it might be an appropriate time to check in on my 2014 goals, and to share some updates.

To refresh your memory, and mine:

Lose 14 pounds. 
Scale back on the vino. 

Run. Farther and faster. Run 850 miles. Sub-4:00 marathon. Sub-1:50 half marathon.
Write (and snail mail) a letter to a friend or family member each month. 

Take better care of my car, without being reminded. 
Be charitable.

To be honest, I'm pleasantly surprised and might go ahead and call it 50-50, if I may be so bold. 

Lose 14 pounds. Down five.
Scale back on the vino. Sober, sober, sober.
Run. Farther and faster. Run 850 miles. Sub-4:00 marathon. Sub-1:50 half marathon. Fail.
Write (and snail mail) a letter to a friend or family member each month. Not enthusiastically, but notsobad.
Take better care of my car, without being reminded. Sure! We just bought (leased) a new car, but I did a-okay for the first few months and so far, so good with the newbie, too.
Be charitable. Work in progress. Still, I work with dozens of priests and a Cardinal so I'm hoping to catch their holiness.

Okay, okay. Full disclosure: I'm having a baby. It accounts for the weight, the wine, and the running (I lied. I'm blaming the baby, but I just haven't really run. It's been a long, cold winter.) and also, just maybe, the lack of posts. I have been so incredibly tired that creativity and real thought haven't really been in the mix.

I'm 16-weeks now and feeling fantastic. Apart from the intense fatigue and insane heartburn, I've been pleasantly surprised by how few symptoms I've experienced over the past few months. In fact, now that I'm in my second trimester, I don't feel particularly pregnant at all: my body is still more or less the same and I'm no longer forced to eat saltine crackers before even opening my eyes each morning to stave off the sickness. Really, I can't complain. I'll include a full recap in a few days and make some adjustments to my resolutions, but in the meantime, I am excited to finally just come out and say it. 

In September, we will be three.

Baby Pereira at 12 1/2 weeks

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Wildcard Workout: SoulCycle

This past weekend, I got back in the saddle. 

I haven’t been a particularly gung-ho spin class participant in the past. I hated classes when I first tried them out in California, and was a short-lived regular at Wednesday night and Saturday morning classes with Mark during my membership at the Weymouth Club. Even then, it wasn’t really my thing, but an undeniably kick ass workout.

Still, over the past few years, I’ve heard tons about SoulCycle and its devoted followers in NYC and LA, so when I found out SoulCycle Chestnut Hill was opening its first outpost in Boston and Erin Gates of Elements of Style was hosting a (free!) Saturday morning class, I was there.

I have to say, I definitely get the buzz. The studio is trendy and cool, each employee was friendly and accessible, and the pumped up ladies and gents getting ready for class represented all different ages, fitness-levels, and body-types (though trending towards the lululemon-clad and fit, I admit). Part of the SoulCycle appeal, so far as I can tell, is the sense of community and that every class is a high-energy, calorie-torching, holy-crap-its-already-over?! party.

While waiting around before the studio doors opened from the class before, I chit-chatted with a friendly woman who had been best friends with SoulCycle co-founder Elizabeth Cutler for years. And as if on cue, up walked Cutler with a comfortable hello, thanking me for supporting her latest studio. Where else should we be?! she asked, genuinely waiting to hear my answer (I suggested Derby Street or Hingham Shipyard, for the record).

Class itself was really pretty great. There must have been 50 or so participants in class and while crowded, there was definitely a sense of being part of a group. I liked the set up of the room (in rows, and tiered, along with small groups flanking either side of the instructor's staging) and it was pretty comfortable. Our teacher, Erin, was incredible. Also known for their motivational coaching, Erin did not let us down. She had the most unbelievable body I've ever seen and the highest energy. We rocked our way through class and I really, really felt like I could do just about anything Erin asked or challenged. I got a fantastic workout, found myself smiling throughout class, and left feeling bizarrely optimistic about the day. I guess I drank the kook-aid.

Full-disclosure: I doubt SoulCycle is something I will continue. There isn't a studio close to home and class prices are steep (prohibitive for me, at $30 a pop), but that's not to say I didn't wish it could be part of my usual routine. I'm attending another class this weekend, courtesy of Daily Candy and despite three days of aching calves and a sore butt, I still find myself counting down.

Have you tried SoulCycle? Is there a spin studio or class you can't get enough of?

Friday, March 7, 2014

Feel Good Friday!

Hi, my name is Jillian. Remember me?

I'm planning to get back on a better, more regular schedule next week, but when a colleague sent this video around the office this morning, I just couldn't stay away. It is incredibly sweet and emotional, but reminds me of all the good in the world and that there are lots of really good people out there.

Have a very sweet weekend. See you back here again soon!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Confession: one pastry just wasn't enough.

This weekend was less than stellar when it came to the choices I made in the way of consumption. It was a holiday weekend -- a four-day feeding frenzy! -- bookended with Valentine's dinner on Friday night and a day eating my way through Portland, Maine to celebrate America's great presidents. Just yesterday, I woke up and had a cup of tea in the hotel, made my way to the famous Standard Baking Company, where I enjoyed a sugared pastry with flecks of orange peel and anise seed with a second cup of tea before making my way through the Old Port and stumbling across The Holy Donut. Mind you, I've had doughnuts on my mind for at least a week by this point. I abstained and continued walking and window shopping, but let's face it, at some point I had to turn back to make my way back to my car, therefore passing by The Holy Donut once again. There was gravitational pull. I indulged in a fresh, hot cinnamon sugar doughnut and it was "worth it" one-hundred-and-ten-percent. To be fair, I didn't finish the first treat from Standard Baking...

Well, as you can imagine, after a slice of Otto's pizza and a two hour drive back to Boston, I was feeling a little bit blah. Filled-to-the-top, but in desperate need of some exercise to redeem my poor choices. After settling for a little bit, I squeezed into some spandex and made my way to Secret Physique Barre Studio for an hour of awkward hip tilts and quivering thigh muscles.

I've been off-and-on at Secret Physique for the past few years. The original studio was too far from home and class times always skewed a bit to the stay at home mom population (with no offense intended, but the class times were hard for this working girl). Then, while working west of the city for the past three and a half years, the class times were nearly impossible. With my new found flexibility and spare time, it's much easier to accommodate, though classes have always been, and remain, a bit expensive.

Nonetheless, barre classes are an outstanding workout. They never seem to get easier, per se, though my body certainly gets stronger when practicing with regularity, making the workout feel a bit deeper -- if that makes sense. I very nearly had a solo class last night, but two last minute walk-ins made it just slightly easier to blend in. We lifted, tucked, pulsed, and collectively winced our way through class, truly feeling the effects of barre method's theory of working muscles to the point of exhaustion and then countering the strengthening with stretching. Apparently, this gives your muscles the long, lean appearance of a dancer's body, though I'm a far cry from that.

I came home refreshed and relieved to have squeezed in at least 60-minutes of exercise to counter my fried food binge (Let's be honest, it also included a slice of pizza for the road... Nik needed lunch and company!). Only four days left this work week to eat well and work out. Surely I can hold it together.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

On the treadmill.

I know I haven't posted much lately, but I'm still here, doing my thing.

You, too, have probably been freezing cold and are probably sick of winter, except for those of you in the teeny-tiny percentage of the country with temps even remotely around or above 32 degrees. And my in-laws. It's probably scorching hot in India, which seems like a pretty awesome alternative right about now. February is rough, man.

So, I just haven't had too many original thoughts to share: I have a very cool new job where I'm starting to find my footing and strike out on my own. Acupuncture continues to amaze and confuse me. (HOW does it work?) I'm running a bit, a few days a week and easily, just trying to maintain some fitness until New England thaws a little, or at least stops freezing more.

Do I sound grey? I think this sounds grey. Meh. Blue. Wintertime. Deep into the tunnel, but no light at the end just yet.

On my run last night, I thought about how the winter feels a bit like a treadmill. It's routine in a way the rest of the year manages to defy. Even when I cover the same loops, repetitiously, in spring and summer and fall, they feel unique. On the treadmill, it's the same thing on a different day. Same manual plug-in and go, different ponytail and back of a t-shirt to stare at for an hour. Certainly, it feels like you're running in place, no end in sight.

But, then, there's this little line at the bottom of Yeah Dave's emails that pop up from time-to-time.

Find your inner Hawaii.

Create the getaway. Get warm in your muscles, your mind, your soul. Stretch the heck out and relax. Ah, yes. Back to the mat. I haven't found a yoga home on the South Shore since changing jobs. I've gone to one a handful of times and it's... fine. I want it to work, but it doesn't feel like I've landed in the right place yet. But, then, I can find my inner Hawaii on the mat in my bedroom or family room, in meditation or movement, anywhere and anytime I want.

Tonight, I'm going to Hawaii. Or maybe Hawaii isn't the place for me, but Bermuda, Goa, the South of France. I'm booking a round-trip ticket... of course I'll want to come home, but just long enough for a winter escape. An hour or two should do.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Marathon Training

Thank goodness for a bizarro-warm weekend here in New England! It was a welcome change of pace in the midst of the deep freeze we've been experiencing for the past two months, and it also meant getting outside for a run yesterday!

It was overcast and a little bit gloomy, but I was running comfortably in capris and a long-sleeved top so there were certainly no complaints from me. Even though I know there's tons more winter weather coming my way, it felt a little bit like coming out of hibernation, since I've taken the past six weeks super easy.

The plan was just to run easy and comfortable. I was hopeful to run around 9:00s, since that was comfortable on the treadmill earlier in the week. That said, the mile two hill always sort of looms... I get such great energy from being outside, though, and was pleasantly surprised to clock in my first mile in 8:40 and then another at 8:50, despite the climb. Mile three bounced in in the middle, at 8:45, and I had already turned for home.

I slowed up a little on my way home -- I was tired and running into the wind -- but was enjoying myself (and some tunes) all the same. Running through a nearby neighborhood, a sweet looking old man was out for a walk, all bundled up. I waved and smiled and took an earbud out, telling him, good afternoon!

Hello, he answered, cheerfully, before stopping and turning to face me. Are you training for a marathon? he asked.

Just running, I told him. It's just so nice to have some warm weather.

I finished comfortably, meeting my goal to run 9:00s, but kept thinking of the neighbor who asked if I was training.

Because even when we're not training for marathons, we sort of are, aren't we? Running injury-free. Maintaining our fitness. Nurturing a competitive edge. Staying sane.

Running outside today, comfortable and warm on February 2, was supremely refreshing, and a simple friendly question gave me the moment of perspective I always seek. How is your marathon training going, regardless of distance, experience, or intent?