The government shut down so I started remodeling my bathroom.

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but last week the government shutdown and I got furloughed. I used to think working for the government was a safe form of employment, but now I’m not so sure.

The good news is that I’ve been recalled, seeing as I work the Department of Defense, so that’s nice, I guess, although the uncertainty of this mess is really pissing me off.

Anyway. When I got furloughed, I reasoned that I needed a project, so I decided to renovate my bathroom, which has been on the top of my to do list since I moved into my house something like 4.5 years ago. Andrew and I always hated that bathroom, with a deep sort of rage. It’s tiny and it was ugly and there was a giant dumb mirror with an outlet in the middle of it.

On Tuesday I started ripping the old tile off the walls.

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It was not easy, but it was sort of fun. I had to buy things like a pry bar and a sledge hammer and then I basically just whacked at my walls until shit fell down, which isn’t a bad way to spend some furlough time.

The not fun part was all the injuries I sustained. Tile is sharp, as it turns out, and my fingers are covered with tiny scratches from cat attacks and tile cuts.

photo 3-1Tiling started on Saturday, and it’s nearly – almost – done.

photo 2-2There’s still a lot to do to the bathroom, even though the tiling is almost done. Because I’ll need to grout and then, once the tub surround is tiled and grouted and beautiful, then I need to figure out what else I want to do to make that bathroom better. The floors are probably gonna come up and I’m gonna need to paint and I need a medicine cabinet to replace the god awful humongous mirror that used to live above the sink and I might even want to replace the sink in there too because that bathroom is teeny tiny and the current sink takes up more space than it needs to.

I’ll be honest. This was a really scary undertaking. I’d never hung drywall before or knocked down a single wall and I’ve certainly never tiled anything before this endeavor, so jumping in was a little bit terrifying, but I reasoned  the internet exists for a lot of reasons, and one of those reasons is to guide me through a bathroom renovation, and so far, so good, minus all the finger cuts and the 36 hour fight I had with my tile cutter.

That time a stray cat broke into my house.

My life is weird. I think we’ve been over that. So, really, it shouldn’t be that much of a surprise that there was an attempted break in at my house by a cat.

It happened a few weeks ago. I woke up early on a non-run day to take the dogs for a walk. I set the house alarm before I left, like I always do and, in the fuss of getting two husky mutts out of the house and off the porch where the stray cat hoard was, I apparently forgot to actually lock the door. My doorknob hadn’t been locking right since I’d changed the locks after losing my house key while out on a run and, locked or unlocked, a little push on the door was all it took to open it. Under normal circumstances I would have set the deadbolt, but given the dog-juggling, cat-avoiding that was going on, I must have forgotten.

The dogs and I set out, walking all over the neighborhood, Luke walking under each and every bush we encountered, Sadie watching for squirrels. And then, when we were a few blocks from home, I pulled out my iPhone to check the time. I had one missed call from an unknown number and several missed calls from a friend, along with a text message imploring me to call immediately, which I did. My friend, who is on the list of people our alarm company calls should the alarm go off, asks where I was and if I was ok, then told me the alarm was going off and that our other friend, who lives a few blocks away, was on the way to my.

So, first, I got a little freaked out. I’d been gone like 25 minutes, maybe, so the thought that someone could have broken into my house in such a short amount of time when I was doing something that didn’t fit with my normal schedule really freaked me out. Also, it was 7am on a weekday and I don’t think criminals wake up that early.

But then I thought about the door, about how it hadn’t been shutting properly, how a little push was all it took to open it and I figured that maybe, possibly, a bit of wind or a gentle push from a stray cat could have opened the door, thus setting off the alarm. I thought I’d locked the deadbolt, but, given the madness of getting out the door, I reasoned, it was entirely possible that I’d turned the key the wrong way or not at all.

I got off the phone with my friend and tried to rush the dogs home, although given a need for quickness, those fluffy jerks decided it was time for pooping and lollygagging, with some squirrel chasing thrown in for good measure.

When I was almost to my block, a friend who lives close by, who had been called by the friend I’d already talked to, called me, to tell me he was at my house and so were some police officers. I told him I was close and he met me in the middle of my block, took the dogs so I could rush to the house, where I found three police officers standing on my front porch.

I was alarmed, mostly by the presence of three police officers on my porch, because I was, at this point, pretty damn sure nothing was wrong, and I felt mostly embarrassed that my inability to lock my front door had called these three public servants to my front porch so early in the morning. But, they were nice, told me something appeared to be wrong with my door knob, which I assured them was not a new issue, but was, in fact, a known issue. They seemed a little disappointed, I think, but told me they had searched the whole house, found nothing and no one, but that when they’d arrived the door had been slightly open and when they entered the house a cat ran out.

I was immediately concerned, fearing that one of my cats had ran out of the house, was going to get lost or hurt or eaten by bears, but after a quick search I located both my kitties, safely hiding in the house. So the culprit?

Daddy Cat:

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Ever since he let me pet him, he’s been hanging out right outside the front door, napping on my door mat, rubbing himself against my legs the minute I step outside and so I’m nearly positive he watched the dogs leave, then claimed his spot back on my doorstep, knocking the door open and venturing inside. He appeared in the middle of my conversation with the cops, taking a seat on the walkway next to my porch, peering up at the four of us, seemingly oblivious to the mess he’d caused. He’s a terrible criminal, that cat, knowing nothing about fleeing the scene.

The good news is that this is a ridiculous story, but also that a stray cat breaking into my house was the motivation I needed to fix my front door and I can say, without a doubt, that it’s cat proof. It’s so secure that I even locked myself out last week.

Sometimes you just need to go and be someplace that’s not right here.

Austin20130830_026I spent Labor Day weekend, and a few days before, in Texas. After other travel plans failed to evolve, I decided I needed to go somewhere, anywhere, that I needed to not be in town for a weekend I was supposed to be someplace else and after a mostly stagnant and occasionally painful summer, it was time to buy myself some plane tickets and leave.

So I did.

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Austin20130902_071I picked Texas because my grandmother moved to Houston over a year ago from Northern Virginia and I miss her terribly and because my uncle and his family live there and also because Abby, blood of my blood, lives there too. By going to Texas, I could do the family thing and the friend-I-don’t-see-enough thing, get into some lady friend shenanigans and soak up some family time too. It seemed like a perfect blend for feel-betterness.

And it was.

I don’t think I knew how bad I needed to get away until I actually got away.

Austin20130830_016I flew into Austin, because it was WAY cheaper than flying into Houston and I’d always, always, always wanted to visit Austin. I had an absolutely incredible flight and made a friend (more on that later), and then Abby came up to spend Thursday night with me so I could have a friend to explore (and drink) with and that’s what we did. We hit happy hours, discovered $2.50 whiskey drinks, $5 nachos and $3 margaritas, checked out the bats (BATS, YOU GUYS!) before finding our way to a speakeasy hidden behind a sliding bookcase.

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IMG_4129 I got up early the next morning, tried to drink enough water to nullify my margarita and beer-induced mini-hangover and then I set out for a little run, because that’s apparently the sort of person I am now, the sort of person who never, ever travels without a pair of running shoes, who plans vacations around running endeavors and regrets ever visiting a city without checking it out with a pair of running shoes tied to my feet.

IMG_4142Post-run, Abby and I set off in search of breakfast. I kept hearing about this whole breakfast taco thing that happens in Texas, which I was immediately fascinated by the minute I heard that such an incredible thing exists because, in case I haven’t been clear, I really, really like things like tacos and nachos and I tend to eat both nearly weekly, and I believe, in a very real sort of way, that tacos and nachos have magical healing properties and they, along with mac and cheese, of course, are my comfort foods in a very real and often-craved sort of way.

So we went to Jo’s and I had a delicious chai latte with almond milk and they even spelled my name right, which, you know, NEVER HAPPENS, and so then, in that moment, I fell in love with Austin. And then there were breakfast tacos, or rather, BREAKFAST TACOS, which are basically just breakfast sandwiches, with eggs and bacon or maybe chorizo or potatoes, wrapped in a tortilla. IT’S MAGIC, I TELL YOU. MAGIC.

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Austin20130830_009And then we wandered. We visited the capitol building, cooed at dogs, cursed the heat, hit up a few thrift stores, acquired some goods and then headed to Houston.

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Austin20130830_028Turns out, I needed a drive, too. There’s something about the open road, especially in places I’ve never been before where the speed limits are higher than any I’ll find in Virginia, something magical and relaxing and reflective and, in all my treks back and forth from Atlanta to where Andrew is in Alabama, I’ve learned that I really like driving, that long drives are the perfect time to sort through things that don’t make sense at any other time or that I can’t focus on during my normally busy days. So the drive was nice, as I figured it would be.

I got into Houston Friday night, stopped for a quick visit with my grandmother before heading out to eat some of the most ridiculous nachos I’ve ever encountered.

IMG_4159Five meats, y’all. FIVE. MEATS. And a center filled with queso. AND a whole sauce bar sort of thing with ranches and salsas and jalapenos. FOR SERIOUS.

Saturday and Sunday were primarily spent IN the pool at my aunt & uncle’s home.

IMG_4178My aunt is a top-notch hostess, and she kept Abby and I satiated with margaritas and sangria by the pool, along with an array of snacks, including vegetables that tasted fresher than rain forest air after the Great Nacho Gorging of 2013.

My aunt & uncle’s backyard is incredible, with a pool and a hot tub, a basket of beach towels close at hand and little tiny lizards skittering nearby, and it had been far too long since I’d allowed myself to do nothing and, aside from a run on Sunday morning, I spent my final full days in Texas doing little more than floating in the pool, talking with my family and Abby and downing margaritas. We even managed to convince my grandmother to don a bathing suit and get in the pool for the first time in a long, long time and when I looked around on Sunday I realized how happy the weekend had been, how great I felt, how happy I was knowing that there are people who love me and are there for me, even if they’re not very close.

Austin20130830_046Monday morning I woke up early, packed up my things, including Armadillo Cat, got kolaches and donuts with Abby and then set off to have lunch with my grandmother before heading back to Austin to catch my flight home.

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IMG_4185It was, in the end, exactly what I needed and I returned home late Monday night feeling better, better than I’d felt in a while, better than when I’d left and just simply better. The vacation high has carried me through the past week and my time in Texas allowed me to readjust my frame of reference. I didn’t know I needed to leave until I was gone and realized how good I felt. I love my house and my critters and the wild things that my home seems to attract, but I don’t take a lot of time for myself when I’m home, not really, so leaving and doing just that proved to be exactly the sort of catharsis I needed.

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 So thanks, Texas. I promise I’ll be back.

That time I climbed all the mountains & didn’t die: Running Virginia’s Super Spartan

It was mud and obstacle racing that got me started with the running. An old friend invited me to run a Warrior Dash with her, and I did. And then we were hooked. We stayed up late researching other races we could conquer, watching video after video of races and reading through FAQs on various race sites, checking schedules as we went to see what was close, drivable or crazy enough we’d consider buying plane tickets so we could experience it, and so that’s when we found the Spartan Race series. There would be in the Virginia the next year, we noticed, a Super Spartan, the middle distance of their three race offerings, and we figured we could do it, given a year to prepare.

And since then, since that first mud run and since that first Spartan registration, I’ve been hooked, and just over a week ago I completed my third Spartan Race, a Super Spartan, held at Wintergreen, a ski resort in the Virginia mountains.

The Super Spartan is an 8-9 mile race, compared to the Sprint, which is 4-5 miles, and the Beast, which is 12 or more miles. This year’s Virginia Spartan was a brutal affair. It was like torture, only that I had paid good money to be racing up double black diamond ski slopes and slipping my way down steep and rocky creek beds nestled between mountains peaks. Which is to say that this shit was HARD. Last year, running with a friend with a wounded knee, we finished Virginia’s Super Spartan, held at a different location, in about 3.5 hours, which was just a bit off the average for female runners.

But this year was different. This year I spent FIVE HOURS on the course with two fellow Soldiers, both male (who, by the way, were amazing and I absolutely COULD NOT have done it without them and also, teamwork for these sorts of things is very, very important). And yet, FIVE HOURS. This year was HARD. I mean, sure, these races are meant to be easy and last year’s Super and the Sprint I did in March were hard, but this crazy shit? WAS HARD, in a special caps lock sort of way. It was uphill, but not like uphill, like MOTHER FUCKING UP THIS FUCKING MOUNTAIN, SO REALLY IT WAS UPMOUNTAIN. And then, you know, you’d have to come down and so it was then DOWNMOUNTAIN, which was equally hard and painful in different ways than all that going up business.

This is me before the race:
photo 1There’s still sleep in my eyes, I think. I was scared, excited and nervous. Ready, I thought. I’d been running and running and running and doing strength training when I could and I was by far in the best shape of my life, and then MOUNTAINS. ALL THE MOUNTAINS.
96206_f67d13f4819db61431fdc13b67ad70ea_SandZoneThere were obstacles too, of course. Ropes to climb and walls to get over and a log carry and a sand bag carry and monkey bars and cargo nets to climb and walls to traverse and fire to jump and pits to climb through, but mostly MOUNTAINS. Ski resorts have a lot of mountains, and I’m pretty sure we very nearly climbed all of them over those five long hours.

97466_7e402206ae8289dabe4e13154b5d05a5_LogZone

98760_c694e2e3cbb0dedf21c9575c88f805fe_FireZone

98759_351b816b6dde95080d60520651791733_FireZoneAs it turns out though, there’s nothing like five hours of climbing up and down the most challenging ski slopes in Virginia to teach you what you’re made off. Then there’s the trying and trying and trying again to conquer an obstacle and the sometimes succeeding and sometimes failing and the burpees that come from incomplete obstacle finishes, and then there’s the time after where you shake your head and say you’ll never run it again if it’s like that, because GOD DAMN, FIVE HOURS OF UP AND DOWN IS A LOT OF UP AND DOWN, but then, deep down, you think maybe you might because getting to the finish is great, maybe not right away, but eventually, because you did it. You finished the damn thing.

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95922_7e8c9637cea0e31fcaa66f1053dac428_GladZoneIt took you a while, maybe, to get to the finish. You had to sit and rest, maybe. Things hurt, probably, but you do it. You keep going. You think you can’t do one more burpee. Maybe your quads seize, like mine did this year. Maybe you run through knee pain, maybe you break skin and bleed on the way up and down some of those mountains, but most of us still finish, even though it’s hard, even though the middle parts suck, because finishing is worth it. Doing something hard is worth it. Stepping out of your comfort zone is so, so worth it and even though I spent the remaining day post-race cussing about how I never want to walk up a hill EVER AGAIN, and how I probably wouldn’t come back to Wintergreen to race because hills are such assholes, it was still worth it and my fussing was mostly bullshit. Because the hard is what makes it worth doing.

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photo 3And that’s why I know I’ll be back. Because it’s hard enough to teach me something and because it’s challenging in a way that makes me learn things about myself, about my limits and abilities, about the things I can do, and because getting to the end, no matter how long it takes to get there, is always, always worth it.

Also – and this is where you come in – I’m a Spartan Street Team Member, which means it’s my job to convince people to run a Spartan Race. Use my link to sign up for a race of any length and save 15% off, because it’s true what they say: You’ll know at the finish.

Putting a bird on it and becoming a visibly tattooed person.

Last Tuesday I put a bird on it.

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I’d wanted a wrist tattoo for a while. I’ve been tattooed for over a decade, but they’re all easy to conceal and I’ve been staring jealously at the tattooed arms and wrists of my friends and I’ve been scheming arm tattoos for months now.

On Tuesday, it was time, for a lot of reasons.

Sometimes it’s nice to replace emotional pain with physical pain, whether it’s going for a hard and long run or getting a tattoo or kickboxing or whatever. And that’s where I was on Tuesday. And I needed to take back control, needed to feel like I’m in charge of something, even though it felt and still feels like things are spinning out of control a little bit.

So I went, by myself, and got a tattoo. I mostly love it. The lines aren’t quite as clean and straight as I’d like, but life isn’t perfect either. Wings get tattered a bit. Shit happens. Life happens.

Afterwards I took myself to dinner. I went to the just-opened Mellow Mushroom, just up the road from the tattoo shop, and I sat at the bar, ordered a beer and some dinner snacks and sat, alone. I got asked no less then six times if the bar stools next to me were taken and each time I said no, I’m alone, and that was okay because going to dinner by myself has been on my list for a while and Tuesday was a day for checking things off lists.

I sat there, smiled at my wrist a few times and sipped a few IPAs I hadn’t ever tried before and it was a nice little me date. If anything, in the past year I’ve gotten much more okay with being out and about with just me. I’ve found I like my own company, rather a lot.

So that’s it. That’s the story of how I became a visibly tattooed person. I put a bird on it.

Thank you all so, so much for being such supportive and amazing people. Thank you for the comments and the emails and tweets and the texts. I love you, internet. Thanks.