Sunday, October 06, 2013

Countdown

I just got home from a pretty cool event. It's the USOC Media Summit and for three days we bring in a bunch of Olympic hopefuls and pretty much every sport media outlet in the country and everyone gets loads of interviews and other content to use in the run up to the Games. It was my first time going and it was a really fun thing to be part of. Any given night you could walk into the bar and end up having a conversation with someone vying for their second or third Olympic team. People with X Games medals and World Championship titles. I went up to our office one night and happened upon Bode Miller sprawled out on the couch watching football in his socks. My sister brought baby Nina up one night and she wouldn't let go of Louie Vito's finger when he came over to say hello.

It's not normal this world that I live in. The travel, the experiences, even the actual work that I do is nothing I ever would have imagined for myself. I went to my dear friend's wedding this summer and happened to be seated next to a guy who was Billy Joel's drummer for 30 years. After I peppered him with questions about THAT amazing career he asked what I did. And when I told him he thought MY job was cool. It's gratifying every single time I tell people what I do and it impresses them but there is more than a little part of me that can't help sound a tiny "don't get used to this" warning. Your cool job doesn't say anything real about you except that you are enormously blessed. 

But also. 

I came home from a trip a few months ago. It was late. I couldn't remember where my car was parked. I wandered around the airport lot for awhile and then tiredness and lateness caught up to me and I couldn't stop crying. It all seemed so pointless to have spent all this time building a career and a network and then having no one to pick you up from the damn airport.

I'm turning 37 next week. I'm sad to report that all those annoying things your parents always said about how they still felt young are true and I look at that number and can't understand how it applies to me. The 20 year high school reunion planning committee has formed and like it or not, I'm on the downward spiral to 40. An age I remember my parents turning. And age that sounds like an expiration date no matter how many ways we want to call it the new 30. Remember when 30 also sounded old?

So. 

This brings me to a point of my career and life where I am rethinking everything I ever imagined about what it means to be successful. All the arbitrary thinks I thought would mean I had "made it" when I was sixteen. 

I want to keep growing and challenging myself at work and I hope that means that I continue to have more responsibility and make more money. No question. A fulfilling career is important to me and I'm not going to feel bad about being ambitious and wanting more, no matter how undatable that seems to make me. But I never want to feel that my job or my salary is any indication of what kind of person I am. 

I am also smart enough (most of the time) to know that my relationship status is not a measure of success either. If I were to be a wife or mother then for sure I would want to be really good at those jobs as well. But again, I don't think having cute kids or a rich husband says anything fundamental about who you are anymore than having a LOT of cool stories from the Olympics does. 

A few months ago I got to teach a class to some sport and business management kids at the local university. My friend Garrett teaches there and had asked me to come share some thoughts on sports marketing. I love love love talking to students so I was happy to take a morning off work and spend a few hours answering questions. At the end of my presentation Garrett got back up and said, "I hope you all got some good things out of that and we'll certainly talk more about her points, but what I really want you to get out of Katie's presentation is not what she does but how she does it. That smile and that energy that she has? That's not an act, you'll see that on Day One of the Olympics and it will be just as sincere three weeks later when she is tired and worn down and you'll see it when everything is falling apart. It's really who she is and that is a far more important quality to have than any of the strategy we can talk about here." I almost started to cry. It might have been the best compliment I have ever gotten because it completely nailed that thing I really, really want. My own personal measure of success. Get ready for the cheesiest thing you will read on the internet today but when I die, the only thing I want anyone to talk about at my funeral is not what I did, but how I did it. 

These big events like I went to this week are always an interesting study in human interaction. You take a whole bunch of people at the top of their field-not just the athletes but the journalist who come, the agents who represent them, the sponsor reps and the people from my own organization who are pretty darn good at what they do-and you put them in a little bit of a pressure cooker and true colors tend to spill out all over. 

I have no problem with anyone owning their own success. I like confidence. So I don't have any issue with people who act like they belong at such an event. I don't expect everyone to walk around in a wide eyed "golly gee can you believe this is happening to little me" haze the whole time. But it's always fascinating to me to see the ways people treat each other there. Folks who cannot be bothered to say thank you or acknowledge the person talking to them if it's just a lowly volunteer or intern. People who you have to reintroduce yourself to seven times because they have deemed you unnecessary. Or my personal favorite, people who have zero interest in you until they hear what you do and then suddenly they are super interested in getting your card. And conversely there is nothing cooler than seeing someone with a closet full of trophies being cool and approachable and nice (I don't like to name names but if you need an Olympian to follow this pre-Games who is as delightful in real life as you think he is on TV, Louie Vito is your guy.)

I always come away from these things trying to be a little bit more aware of how I treat people but for some reason this one hit me particularly hard. One night I happened to be in my room when the maid came by to do turndown service. Don't get me wrong, I love turndown service. I absolutely love coming back to my room after a long day and having the lights low, music playing and chocolate on the bed. It's awesome. It makes you feel a little bit like a big shot. But somehow it was kind of embarrassing to be putting on makeup while a real person was turning down my bed just because the circumstances of our lives meant that I was the one staying in the fancy hotel and she was the one cleaning it. I have been out in the world now long enough to know that the line between the two of us is thinner than you think. I gave her a big tip and was overly effusive with my thanks. She probably thought I was a nut. 

So that's it. That's my goal going into 37. I want my life to be more focused on how I do things than what I'm doing. So if I'm running Olympic Team Processing or I'm teaching the five year olds at Church, I want the way I act to be the same. I have a healthy respect for accomplishments, it's important to work hard. I have a much healthier respect for integrity and kindness no matter the situation. 

I've used this quote before here and I always say it to young people asking my advice but I am trying to figure out how to get tatooed on my body because it's just the best thing. 

"Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you’re kind, amazing things will happen"

Conan O'Brien usually knows best. 

Friday, July 19, 2013

Dry Cleaner

Over the Christmas holiday I went to visit my brother and sister-in-law in St. George. Three of my favorite nephews live there and it's warm when everywhere else is cold and after the wacko year that was 2012, I was very much in need of the high dose of family and chaos I always find there. Christopher cooks things that you can't imagine and takes me on bike rides, Tasha teaches me how to do my hair and dares me to wear things I don't think I can and the boys are goofy and crazy and they make their Aunt Katie WORK to impress them.  I love it there.

The first day I went to hot yoga with my sister-in-law. I hadn't been to yoga in awhile. When we got to the end of class and we laid on the floor and did a supine twist I was grateful that the sweat on my face covered up the tears that the twist was wringing out of me. It had been an incredible year but it had also been an incredibly hard year and as is often that case after a Games, I come home and spend months trying to figure out if I have another one in me. Tasha said, "do more yoga, the yogis love you. It will help you."

We did more the next day. And then the next day I met my tall, handsome friend Lex for a 6 am class because who doesn't want to get out of bed at 5:30 in the morning for peace, balance and sweaty, shirtless guys in great shape?  We did yoga every single day I was there. I drove up to Salt Lake and found a yoga studio that was open on Christmas Eve and it chased away that creeping dread I have been feeling the last few years as more kids drop into our family that I'm the old maid crashing someone else's holiday.

I got plenty of sleep and family time in Utah. The yoga though, the yoga flipped some switch I'd been looking for. I bought a pass at the studio near my house and put yoga into my regular life.

I went on a business trip to New York in February and over dinner my friend Lindsey and I were discussing our hectic schedules and lack of sleep. She told me to go to bed earlier.  I rolled my eyes. "What are you even doing after 10:30 on a weeknight? Just go to bed! You'll feel so much better, " she said. I have a sheet of paper from my doctor next to my bed that says "go to bed by 10:30." I have looked at it and laughed at it a million times because who goes to bed at 10:30. And then over table side guacamole, Lindsey, who is fun and cool and brave and interesting says "just go to bed".

And I tried it. And I felt better. And life didn't get less fun.

I had come home from Christmas to my company opening a gym on the second floor of our building. A gym with a studio and towel service and soap in the showers. On the second floor of the place I go every day. The gym practically takes your hand and leads you to it. My friend at work started really working out seriously. She wanted to do the Insanity videos and needed a partner. I never liked working out at lunch. Packing a gym bag, bringing snacks, taking two showers every day. Laundry. How do you do your hair after you sweat like a pig for an hour? And things are busy and I don't even take lunch most days. But I packed a bag. And we did a week. And then we did two, three, four. I went to LA for work and we did spin classes and drank cold pressed juices. I came home and we did the entire two month Insanity cycle. I didn't miss a day. I didn't make excuses. Some days I didn't want to go and Lisa made me. Some days I made her. My new afternoon hairdo became the top knot. We got a weight training routine and I learned my way around the free weights. I did squats. I saw muscles appear I had never seen on my body before. Someone made a comment one day about my "guns" and I almost fainted.

I felt better. I got just as much work done. I stopped staying late.

I was sleeping. I was working out. I was eating way, way too much junk. My friend Jennise was raving about this cleansing system she uses and one day in a fit of frustration after too many nights of fast food I texted her. What is this cleanse? Will you help me?

So I bought it. It wasn't cheap. But it seemed like a good investment given the enormous time and energy commitment I had already made to being healthier.

It was nine days. Five days of shakes and four days of fasting. I eat handfuls of M&M's at 2:00 in the afternoon and make nachos while I'm downloading music at midnight. Shakes and fasts and salads in a jar are not my lifestyle. But I spent a lot of money and I made a committment to a friend so I tried it.

Day 1 was not hard at all. Day 2 my friend Jess and I organized a girl's  night that started at Buffalo Wild Wings and ended in movie popcorn. I was tempted. Wings and movie popcorn are two of my happy places. I didn't eat any wings. I sat next to popcorn and was grateful that Melissa McCarthy kept me laughing and forgetting and I survived.

The fasting was a little harder but something happened in the second day of the fast-I wasn't craving Chipotle or grocery store frosting cupcakes (I know, I know, I'm disgusting), I wanted salads. I wanted a chicken breast. And I wanted to keep wearing all the clothes that had gotten a little (lot) snug since the days last summer when they were hanging off my stressed out Olympic body.

I went to parties for the 4th of July, I baked a cake I didn't eat. I went on dates. I didn't cheat. The 8th day I went to the Farmer's Market and the direct from the ranch store and I filled my fridge with good things. I made soups and quinoa and homemade hummus. I didn't plan out the first Diet Coke I wanted to have when it was over, I didn't put a cupcake in the freezer for the next day. And when it was time to be done, I made a shake for breakfast in my shiny new Vitamix. And I had a salad for lunch. And chicken and asparagus for dinner. The cleanse didn't solve all my problems but it made me mindful of when and why I was eating things. It felt good to feel some control. I bought another kit, for later, when I forget. When it's hard again.

I have had this fantasy for about two years about getting into really good shape. I don't have any kids, no one lives in my house asking me to make time for him so there is no reason I shouldn't have time to work out and cook meals and go to bed on time. But it takes work to do those things. It takes discipline. It takes not worrying about your hair after 1. It means sometimes you miss a house show because you listen to your tired. It means you don't have to always eat the cake at the going away party. And it means that you change your life, you change your choices, you commit. These are all things I am not great at. I like to fill up my life with too much-people and music and treats and caffeine. I love to say yes. I hate to say no. I said no for a long time out of fear and out of worry and then for a long time I only said yes. And now it's time to balance.

It's not revolutionary to figure out that true change is really hard. It's so easy to do what you've always done because it's comfortable and it's a known entity and also it's not very hard. But then you are 36 all of the sudden and you realize you don't want to give in to soft middles and sensible haircuts. I don't want any "glory days", I want every year of my life to be better and richer than the ones before. So if 2013 is the first time I have strong deltoids and can do a headstand, then I feel like that is far better than remembering the distant past when I used to be fit. So I pack the gym bag, and I make a week's worth of salads on Sunday night. And I get up for yoga on Saturday instead of sleeping in.

I feel better physically than I have in a long time. But the secret is that all this changing and growing has less to do with zipping up my skinny jeans without laying on the ground and holding my breathe-although that is marvelous. Especially when my 36 year old skinny jeans are skinnier than my 26 year old pair. It's way more satisfying to know that real change is possible at any stage of your life. I have a heart stopping fear of getting stuck-in a job, in a relationship, in a city-and the big lesson of the last few months is that I'm the one who chooses that. I get only get as stuck as I let myself. My job, my friends, my church-none of those things are in control, I am. And if I feel too tired or too stressed or too chubby-those are all places I can get out of when I decide to. The only barriers in our lives for most of us are the ones we choose to put up ourselves. Mine come from fear and worry and sometimes sheer laziness. But I am tired of them and kissing some of them goodbye is just what the yogis will tell you to do. "They love you. It will help you," Tasha said.

So I did. And they do. And it does.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Family Ties

Dear friends who read my blog,

I am not a fan of asking people to vote for things on the internet. You probably don't care about the prize I am trying to win and I burn up valuable good will for the times I want to post music or cry about boys or instagram photos of my feet in exotic locations.

However, I AM a fan of people turning misfortune into an opportunity to help other people, especially when those people are my baby brother Logan.

Uncle LoLo with Baby Nina. 

I don't have favorite siblings but I think if our whole family voted on who was the most fun, Logan would win. He is a person who can come into a room and just fill it up with light and laughter. He will chase nephews until THEY are tired. He is a devoted husband who I have actually never heard speak an ill word of his wife. He's a hard hard worker, with a sharp wit and a kind heart.

Last winter, he and his wife found out that the cancer they thought she had kicked had returned. A week later they found out she was expecting their first baby. And on the heels of this roller coaster, they got the news that Logan was a match for a complete stranger who needed bone marrow. Off they went to Seattle where Logan donated bone marrow to someone he will never meet. Doctors have been watching Kristen carefully and after she delivers their baby girl next month, they will get rid of that cancer once and for all.

Logan decided that a good way to take what could have been some dark times for their little family and spin it into something awesome would be to train for his second Ironman and raise money and awareness for the Be The Match bone marrow registry.

To reach as many people as he can, Logan is trying to get to Kona where he can elevate the profile of his cause. He's entered a contest right here on the Ironman site and he needs loads of votes to make it. If you have a moment, may I ask for your vote? You don't have to register for anything and you can once day for the next week.

Thanks friends.

k8

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Nightfall

My friend Adam sent me his summer mix today. Every season he sends me a mix and every season I fall in love. It happened early this mix. Like three songs in.

Here's hoping I have as much fun to this soundtrack as I did last summer.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Sleepyhead


I belong to a church where all of the work is done by volunteers. If you are an adult in a Mormon congregation, you likely have a "calling" in addition to to whatever you do professionally. 

Because my work schedule for the last 14 years has ranged from random to truly insane, I have had mostly teaching callings or responsibilities I can do on the road. I could write a zillion words on the alternating feelings of guilt and glee I have felt about that situation but that is a post for another day.  It's also sometimes tricky for family oriented LDS "wards" as they are called to figure out what to do with single people. I have no global solutions to that stickiness but I currently have a ward leader who is more sensitive to trying to include me than some have been in the past and it feels nice. He asked me in a meeting at Christmas what I thought I could do in a down year from an Olympics and I said that I didn't want to do something I constantly had to flake on but I was up for whatever he needed. 

So that is how I found myself being asked to be an advisor for 25 high school juniors and seniors at Girl's Camp this summer. Every year for a long, long time LDS wards have been taking all their teenage girls into the woods for a week of detox from boys and makeup and technology and teaching them how to hike, light fires and have some spiritual experiences. I'm sure it will not surprise you that Girl's Camp memories account for some of the best AND worst of my 12-17 years. 

When I came home from my mission 14 years ago (ouch) all I wanted to do was work with the teenage girls. I wanted them to see an example of a woman who had gone to college, served a mission and was working at a great job. I had a lot of good leaders as a kid but the teenage Katie sure would have appreciated a role model who had taken a different path than marrying early and starting a family right away. I wanted to be that leader.

I also wanted to date Mormon boys and a pretty great way to meet them was to be in one of the special "singles" congregations and even though I lived in Utah and there was a Mormon boy behind every corner, I was seduced by post Church dinners and campouts in Moab and I jumped ship from the Young Women's program. And then I left Utah and singles wards became the best shortcut to a social life and then suddenly you are 31 and they are tossing you out (which is another blog post as well) and you are back in a family ward after 10 years of never seeing a child or an old person at church. It takes some readjusting and since my own migration out of the singles ward came just as I was moving to Colorado and didn't know a soul, I definitely haven't done a great job of jumping into the family community. I have made a few good friends at church and just sort of left it at that. The chance to get to know the girls and their families a little bit seemed like a good way to finally make a contribution even if it means taking some vacation days I would likely rather use holding baby Nina or chasing nephews. 

All of this long intro is to say that a few weeks ago we had a Camp Kick-off activity where the other leader and I hosted a sleepover with all the older girls who will be helping out with various camp responsibilities and setting good examples for the younger ones. 

I have been apprehensive about these girls. What if a bunch of nice Mormon teenagers look at me and all they see is their worst nightmare? I'm 36 so to 16 year olds I am definitely an old maid. I was a relatively feminist youngster and I for sure thought unmarried ladies in their 30s were kind of sad. And while I have all manner of mixed feelings about being this age and this single, I do not want to look out into a sea of teenage pity when I have a really, really great life. Also, I was not popular with teenage girls when I WAS a teenage girl so there is a fear that they will just find me hopelessly uncool. 

All day at work on the Friday of the sleepover I was so nervous. I want them to like me but I still want them to see me as an adult and I don't want them to feel bad for me but I do want them to see that life is so good even if it doesn't go exactly how their romantic teen brains are planning and I want to keep their attention but I want them to have time on their own and really I just want to drill it into all their little heads that the very best thing they can learn in the mountains is how to have a relationship with God and honestly everything else falls into place but I know they have to figure that out on their own. It's a lot. It's a lot to put on a sleepover. It's a lot to put on kids who don't even know me. 

So we get there. And right away they are spilling out of minivans with braces and sleeping bags and long hair and cell phones and they all seem so cool and confident even though I know (and have to remind myself) that they are not. I take a deep breath and separate from the other leader even though I kind of want to be her siamese twin all night. I plop down at a table where they are filling out forms and I ask them questions. And I know I'm trying just a little bit too hard but I also know they are a little nervous because even thought it was 20 years ago I still remember what it was like. I think one advantage to never doing some of the "grownup" things everyone my age has done is I am still worrying about boys and shifting social groups and if the size of my thighs is the reason I'm not dating much. I have a lot of the same fears and problems they do so I can get myself back there quickly. 

The girls have been there about 30 minutes when I discover that a dear friend of mine taught one of them in sophomore English class. She's a cute little thing who takes AP classes and does theater and is having an easy time talking to an adult. I am relieved to see that a) there are still teenagers who take AP classes and become Thespians and want to please adults and b) that my singleness and kidlessness has so far not caused her to eyes to glaze over. 

I'm not completely clueless when it comes to kids so I have brought a piece of Olympic apparel as a prize for a game. The girls eat it up. The other advisor is also my age and has three little kids. She moved here after a few years in Japan and she has long hair and she's pretty and halfway through our presentation I feel like we are really killing it. We have to shush them a few times and we lose them to their screens a couple of times but for the most part, it really seems like they like us! It helps that the other leaders have introduced us as "the fun ones" which I think lets us a bit off the hook. I am a way better good cop than bad cop so I think my role is the right one. 

We have dinner, we make s'mores, we do some leadership training (well, the bad cops do, the other leader and I do some yoga moves in the back and maybe I post some Facebook updates because I have to document this). I show them some photos of Ryan Lochte trying on his medals stand jacket which I believe lays to rest any concerns because I do not have a boyfriend. We manage to stay up until about 1 but the girls are so good that we don't worry when they are still laughing as we find our ways to our sleeping bags and pass out. I'm sure chasing a few little kids around all day is tiring but I cannot believe how much energy that many raging hormones can zap. 

The next morning we go to the church where all the younger girls will be gathering to do some hiking and fire training in preparation for Camp. As we drive over the girl in my passenger seat, a girl with big brown eyes and a pixie cut who tells me she's headed to college on the other side of the country, asks me what we are listening to. It's a quiet folksy band and I assume she'd rather it was One Direction but she says "no I really like this-do you have any other recommendations like this?" and of course she is now my favorite. 

These older girls are going to be the advisors for this activity and they are taking it seriously. They fan out and take control of various groups and call roll and give instructions. These are such good girls.  We didn't have of the eye rolling, "I'm over this" variety and I am grateful. I am powerless in the face of cynicism in general and it makes me especially sad in young people. I am glad that even though we for sure have some awkward girls and some odd little ducks in some cases, they are nice. They are good. They are taking younger girls under their wings and they are trying to be examples. 

I like these girls. I am not afraid of these girls. 






Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Dance Break

I'm working on a post about my sleepover with 20 teenage girls from my church group that I promise will be nothing short of profound but for now, this.



One of my favorite music gurus and artist extraordinaire claims to be unable to listen to anything else right now but the !!! album and frankly, I get it. This will be on every summer mix I make. I predict some serious jamming on the beach in Martha's Vineyard. In my sun hat.

Summer I love you so.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Highlights

I just got back from a six day photoshoot in LA with 100 Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls in preparation for the Games in Sochi.  These are some things that happened while I was there:

-Lindsey Vonn ate the MoJo bar I put in my backpack for my China trip and forgot to take out
-I increased my lifetime Louie Vito hug total from 1 to 3
-I did some light flirting in line at the Pressed Juicery in West Hollywood with this guy
-My coworkers and I petted Julianne Hough's dogs and then tried to be cool during dinner at Chateau Marmont with Jim from The Office sitting about 10 feet away
-I finally got to see finished samples of all the amazing Nike and RL gear for the Winter Olympics and they look so awesome I want to cry about it
-I crushed all the uber fit LA ladies in the spin classes we went to
-The Ralph Lauren stylists confirmed that white can be worn year round ending years of internal debate
-I finally got to see my dear friend Corey after too long of not seeing here and we spent a glorious night listening to Sufjan Stevens sing about planets in the Walt Disney Music Hall in downtown LA
-I met the future husband of my other dear friend Beckie

But the biggest and most important highlight of the week, and a thing that matters way, way more than celebrity sightings and athlete bonding and fancy food is...

I FINALLY GOT A NIECE!! Little Nina arrived Friday night around midnight and she's beautiful and perfect and I'm so anxious to meet her that I'm getting on a plane Thursday night so I can hold her for the whole weekend.

I'm not posting any photos yet, she's only up on closed social media networks for now but she's got a ton of black hair and big, big brown eyes.

Once again, I sigh with relief that my sometimes shallow seeming life is still anchored in the right kind of priorities.



Monday, April 15, 2013

Beantown

One of the proudest achievements of my life is running a marathon. A year after my own race I had a pretty killer opportunity to be in Boston over marathon weekend, to go the Runner's World pre-race party, and to stand just around the corner from the finish line and cheer on thousands of my brothers and sisters in the "marathoner" fraternity.

I moved to Boston the next year and spent several more glorious Patriot's Days in downtown Boston, cheering for people we knew, finally being outside on one of the first warm days of the year and basking in a day off that none of our friends anywhere else were getting. I loved watching the elite athletes come in first but what I really went to see were all the thousands of people doing something that at some point, I bet they thought they couldn't. I knew just how much of your life got sucked up into being in that race and I knew that every person out there had a story. In many ways my marathon set a solid foundation for the rest of my adult life and I can't watch one anymore without getting excited for all the other people getting to experience that life change as well.

Boston is a funny place-it's a big city that kind of still sees itself as a small town. You go downtown on Marathon Monday, or the 4th of July, or during playoff season, and you'll run into half your friends. Geographically it's tight and emotionally it's tight too. It'll freeze your guts out for six months and act like it doesn't want you around and then suddenly spring comes and it's like the whole place is just dying for you to come have a picnic on it's lawn.

I felt a lot of things today. Relief as I got in touch with friends I knew would be down near the finish because if I'd been there, we would have been down near the finish. Overwhelming sadness for the people who went to celebrate the best day in the city they love and are now facing the loss of a loved one or a totally changed life due to a horrific injury no one should get celebrating the best day in the city they love. As a person who works in the sports industry, and someone who plans events, I couldn't help but feel a certain melancholy that this will change the way marathons are managed and change it in sad ways. Part of the magic of a marathon is being right there, lining the street, watching the regular folks run in the same steps as the Champions. I don't know what the change looks like but I know it involves more rules, less access. And it has to right? I felt heartsick for all the organizers and the people who work so hard to put on this event. I have certainly spent moments at venues filled with athletes and volunteers imagining what would I do if something unspeakable happened and always feel a tremendous sense of relief when we pack up safe and sound.  I watched all those first responders today and felt grateful that there are people in the world who choose professions where they have to run towards the bombs we are all escaping.

Mostly I just felt heavy hearted for a city that used to be my home. There is no way something like this happens and doesn't leave a scar. I think about all the events that didn't worry us a bit, all the times we crowded onto the Esplanade, or jammed into the Hatch Shell for movies and concerts and fireworks, and how those "best days" will now necessarily make people pause. If there is a group of people who will just stubbornly refuse to let this change them, it's Bostonians. I would give just about anything to be at the next Red Sox games because I know Fenway will come up with some perfect way to get the tears out and then everyone will say how much the Yankees still suck and they'll belt out "Sweet Caroline" and it will feel like Boston again.  I sometimes felt like that town was trying to kill me and when I left it was time. But today I wanted to be in someone's living room in Somerville, sharing stories and sitting really close to some of the best people on planet earth.

I really do love that dirty water.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

On the road again

It's been nice to be home for a few weeks but Wednesday I leave for another long haul trip. Three days in Portland with our friends at the swoosh and then seven glorious days in West Hollywood outfitting 100 darling Sochi 2014 Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls for a photo shoot with pretty much every sponsor we have. Since I have about 10,000 favorite people scattered around PDX and Southern California I'm hoping to squeeze in some good friend time in addition to all the admittedly fun but still work, work stuff.

It's been pretty quiet around here as of late, mostly just trying to continue my healthy habits theme for 2013. Lots of cooking, working out, and getting to bed at a reasonable hour. I had a baby epiphany this year that although I sure do like to be doing interesting and fun things with my life, it's ok if I'm not doing them EVERY SINGLE SECOND. It's ok to have a routine that keeps me fit and sane that is punctuated with episodes of "doing epic sh*t". We had an outstanding closing day at Breckenridge this weekend where I actually managed to get real live air on a whole bunch of jumps. It was a pretty ok balance to spending most of my evenings this week making CDs for a bunch of friends. I put a note up on Facebook that I was in the mood to make some mixes and suddenly I was addressing 30 packages to people from DC to Truckee, CA.

One of the songs I put on a few of them is a song that might be the only one to ever make me wish I was a rock star. I would love to have written this and I would probably be beside myself to perform it in front of a screaming crowd. I'd also take Grace Potter's legs since we're being honest.



And with that, it's time for bed before 10:30.

Friday, March 29, 2013

America

Last year was remarkable in a lot of ways but one of them was that 75% of my vacation days were spent in other countries. Not a bad record right?

But I love love love so many parts of my own country and so this year, I'm trying to take most of my vacation days enjoying the people and places I already love or want to explore right here in the U.S. So when three of my lady friends in California got a hankering for an East Coast adventure, I signed up for whatever that entailed.

Turns out we all mind-melded and everyone wants to do exactly the things on my East Coast adventure TO DO list. We're flying to Martha's Vineyard for a few days of lazy island life and what I hope is an almost unhealthy amount of time on a beach cruiser. Then we'll drive to Newport, RI where I will be attending my VERY FIRST multi-day music festival. We picked one with a boatload of history and a less flashy but super meaty lineup than you find with some of the Coachella, Sasquatch, Bonnaroo type festivals. I would like to hit one of those one day but the Newport Folk Festival has been on my list for years. Throw in that some of my dearest friends live just outside Newport and then we're headed to Boston for a crazy 24 hour cap to the trip and well, my heart leapt with joy when I booked the tickets. Beth Orton, The Lumineers, Cold Specks, ANDREW BIRD, Jim James, The Felice Brothers, Hey Marseilles. From artists I have seen in Heather Browne's living room to people who have been on my playlists since before there was an iPod to put them in, add in a venue that is right on the water and a group of friends who will be willing to soak it all up, I feel like I am hitting the vacation jackpot.

The festival posted this video the other day and you can call me a nerd but I got tears in my eyes watching it. America the Beautiful indeed.


A few of the artists I am excited about...




(this song might be in my all-time top ten. i can't listen to it without being right back into my first time living in Boston.)




(this one time, i was at a Lumineers show, and they needed a glockenspiel holder and they picked me. and there were like 200 people at that show. and now lookie. so cool.)

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Oh Hello

I'm inexplicably giddy this week. Maybe it's flying all the way around the world in the space of ten days. Maybe it's nephew time in about 36 hours. Maybe it's two baby nieces on the way. Maybe it's spring coming soon. Maybe it's an influx of great music. Maybe it's too much flirting (but thank goodness there has been some flirting!). I don't know. What I do know is there is a lot of dancing happening in my kitchen lately. Solo dancing mind you, but the serious, like no one is watching, whole soul, shaking it like a polaroid picture kind of dancing.

My soundtrack is really killer.



Brother and sister duo? Yes please.



(braggy sidenote-my super talented photographer friend Dusdin did the cover of this fantastic you must get it album)



I saw these guys play in a coffee shop here in the Springs last night on an old couch sandwiched comfortably between my friend Casey and a very cute fella who was way, way, WAY too young to talk to as much as I did but way way WAY too cute to ignore. The kind of night that reminds me what it was like to be 15. (He was 22 just so we are clear-no actual 15 year olds were involved)



I have a huge crush on Mackelmore. Like I giggle through his songs kind of crush.



Pickwick. I mean, if you haven't gotten on board do it now because they are blowing up. We'll be seeing them Tuesday night in a venue ten times the size of the one they played just six months ago. Get with it.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Ready or not

After spending last spring and summer in the clutches of the Olympics, I am almost beside myself with excitement to have these two seasons to myself this year. Weekends in Utah, a jaunt to Martha's Vineyard, a Rhode Island music festival, camping with the Young Women in my stake and all the hikes and day trips to fabulous parts of Colorado I have yet to see are just a few of the things on my agenda.

I'm getting a little preview this weekend when I head to Salt Lake for my sister's baby shower. My St. George nephews will be around and we've already planned way, way more activities than we can actually fit into three days. Just the way I like it.

My friend Adam sent me his annual Spring Mix yesterday and although the whole thing is wonderful, this is the song that keeps me hitting repeat. It's 4 and a half minutes of joy. I can't stop smiling.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Learning to Fly

Perhaps the most disappointing part of getting older has been discovering that, contrary to my childhood belief, adults don't actually have all their sh*t together. Even as a law abiding citizen with an education and a good job, I am still constantly learning and making mistakes and then sometimes not learning at all and making the same mistakes over and over. It often feels like the more I think I have figured out, the more I see how much there is I still don't have a handle on. In theory I think that is a good thing-it means that I am not staying in one place, that the bar is ever raising on what I expect from myself. In practice it means that my teenage dreams of knowing everything when I grew up seem more and more naive by the day.

Some days though you get flashes of real growth and get to experience some peace about an experience that was incredibly hard.

Without going into to much personal detail, there was something I wanted for pretty much my entire twenties and early thirties. Something I wished for and prayed for almost everyday. Something part of me knew probably wasn't the right thing but that I continued to pursue even if it sometimes meant ignoring my own intuition.

Slowly slowly I started to question why I was holding onto this dream and began to realize that it actually wasn't good for me. So I let go. At first it felt like I had lost a security blanket and I missed that dream. And then it became clear that my narrow focus had blocked other possibilities. Saying goodbye made space in my life for things I hadn't considered. I mourned a little bit for the years lost chasing a shadow but I felt stronger when I stopped leaning on it.

This whole thing was a couple of years ago and I use it as an example to myself when I'm frustrated about some lesson I think is too hard. I think about all the tears and anguish and frustration and heartache and disappointment that didn't seem fair at the time. And then I look at what true change it brought and I feel thankful.

So that is enough. But sometimes you get a little bonus. A bit of "a ha" information that is almost physical in it's power to confirm that you made the right choice. That what you wanted wasn't what you needed.

I'm writing this from a cozy hotel room in Germany. Earlier this week I was in China. By the time I get back to Denver on Wednesday I will have flown all the way around the world. There are things about my life that keep me up at night with worry and fear and things that absolutely take my breath away I feel so lucky. I suppose that makes me fairly normal. I hope that makes me fairly normal. But I'm grateful for the moments where the lucky outweighs the scary and I feel that much closer to being the person my mother thinks I already am.

This version of a great song cycled through my iTunes this morning and I have had it on repeat. Learning to Fly indeed.


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Be the Match

About a month after I graduated from college and a month before I was moving to Switzerland for 18 months my dad's hereditary kidney disease reared it's ugly head and his kidneys shut down.

We had known for a long time that this was a possibility. The disease had come from my grandmother's family and although none of us ending up getting it, it had been the cause of death for nearly everyone on that side.

It was hard to leave with so much uncertainty but my dad had served in the Air Force when he was young so he was getting good care at the VA Hospital in Salt Lake. My brother drove him to dialysis three times a week while I was gone and then a week after I got home, he got a kidney. We don't much about the donor except that she was in her 30s and had died in a car accident. Thirteen years later I still feel an enormous debt to her and to her family for making that choice to donate her organs.

So flash forward to November of this year. My beautiful sister-in-law who successfully battled thyroid cancer a few years ago found out that it had come back. Then a week later they found out she was pregnant with their first baby. Then two weeks later my brother got a call from the registry of bone marrow donors saying that he was likely a match for a leukemia patient.

Kristen's cancer is slow-moving and the doctors are waiting until she has little Clifford grandkid number 7 to do her surgery. Logan turned out to be a perfect match and goes to Seattle in two weeks to give a 31 year old stranger some of his healthy bone marrow.

Top it all off with my grandfather being in the hospital the last few weeks being treated for lung cancer and well, I can't help having all kinds of mixed emotions about being far away from the people I love when things get crazy.

However, another thing I am feeling is incredibly grateful and responsible to do my part for other families. My brother decided to use his second Ironman this summer as an opportunity to raise money and awareness for Be the Match, the national registry of bone marrow donors. You can read about his story and donate to his efforts here.

In addition to donating dollars, I have also filled out my profile at Be the Match so that maybe sometime I can be a bone marrow donor too. Any healthy adult can join the registry and there is all kinds of information there to set your mind at ease about the process. It's not a long application and you feel warm and fuzzy filling it out.

I posted Logan's link on Facebook yesterday and my cute dad who I think has commented on all of two links ever made this wonderful observation:

As the beneficiary of that donation 13 years ago, I can verify that all of you young and healthy friends of Cliffords will never do anything more important or worthwhile than saving a stranger's life. Please get on a donor list - someone is waiting for you.
It's one thing to count your blessings and feel lucky about the good fortune in your life but if you have that good health or wealth or extra time, I think it's equally if not more important to do something with your blessings. 

Join me?

Friday, February 15, 2013

Be Mine

I don't know how your Valentine's Day went but I spent some of mine sitting in the lap of this member of Team Czech Republic. Just doing my part for International Relations here at the USOC.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Peak 8


I had probably the best ski day of my life yesterday. The weather was spectacular, we ended up with a crew eight friends deep, the boys put up with our endless photo ops sans complaint and I am finally to the point where the brave outweighs the scared. I still need to get a million times better before I can truly hang with all my double black diamond friends but I'm getting there. Plus-LOOK AT MY JACKET! I never pay full retail for anything but I saw this on some girl earlier in the season and couldn't rest until Santa (me) made it mine.

Old dogs, new tricks.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Oh Say Can You See

A couple of things...

Sometime last year-and neither of us are sure when or why-a girl in Seattle who loves the Olympics starting following me on Twitter. We had a couple of exchanges where it became clear that she also liked a lot of the music I happen to like and we got to be twitter-friendly. She was super excited when our London gear launched and she was even AT the Olympics this summer. We tried to meet up but our schedules never quite jived. Well then I made that trip up to Seattle and the planets aligned and she and I were able to meet up at a coffee shop near my brother's house. We ended up talking for almost three hours while my adorable nephew demonstrated that he is the world's best baby by being completely cool with playing on the floor. She was a complete delight and I left that day feeling like I had just met a kindred spirit.

I drove home from Utah on January 2nd and had to work on January 3rd. I got home late-ish and I was tired but one of my music blogger friends  was doing a house show that night and another music blogger  who lives in Chicago and who I've gotten to know over Twitter was at the show and we were really hoping to finally meet each other. So I threw in some laundry, combed my hair, tried to look less like a half dead road trip refugee and headed over to Heather's. I creeped in just as the show was ending and sat on the stairs scanning the crowd. I actually had no idea what Mr. Song For The Day looked like so I'm not sure what I was looking for. The applause died down and this super cute kid walked over and introduced himself (I tweet a lot of photos, sue me). We had a way too brief but quite fantastic discussion about music and jobs and relationships (we are experts at Twitter so we can say a lot of things quickly without a lot of words) and I left that night again feeling excited to have a new friend.

I have a lot more stories like this but these two recent ones right in a row made so clear a point I have been mulling around for a few years now. I'm a big fan of the internet, I'm sure that is obvious. But not because I'm using it to escape my real life. And I don't think my online interactions are infringing on my ability to connect with living, breathing people. I truly believe that if the internet is not enhancing your offline life, you are doing it wrong. The amount of people who have come into my life, or stayed in my life, or our relationships have deepened due to the internet is dizzying. If the internet is ruining your real life, that's on you friend, not on the information superhighway.

My friend Adam tweeted this song out this week. My friend Jess and I are now going to see these guys in March. Boom. I love you www.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Loop

Maybe this is going to sound like I am in kindergarten but a boy was mean to me last week and it made me cry.

I was texting with someone who, admittedly, falls under one of the my 2012 lessons learned and isn't a fella I should still be talking to. But sometimes habit keeps a person around even when your brain knows they are bad news.

What started as teasing quickly crossed a line and I found myself being treated to a list of reasons "you are still single". Apparently a guy I went out with a handful of times and who I text every few months has me all figured out. First he gave me a few examples of my faults, none of which were news to me. Then he told me something that I just know isn't true about myself no matter what kind of blind spot I might have into my own personality. In fact, it was something that is the antithesis of how anyone who is truly part of my life would describe me.

It happened right at the end of the day so I was alone in my office and even though I should have been able to brush it off, I couldn't manage to pull myself together. Sticks and stones may break my bones sure, but preying on the biggest fear of anyone who is alone and doesn't want to be anymore? I almost don't have words for how deep that cuts and how hard it is to shut that little "it's your fault" voice up once someone awakens it.  There isn't an unattached person on earth who isn't a little bit afraid that something is just fundamentally wrong with them and that's why they are alone. I don't usually like it when people use social media to air their insecurities but I couldn't stop this rising sense of sadness that night and I posted a little bit about it on Facebook. My friends were kind enough to tell me the two things I already knew which were 1) I am not that thing he said he was and 2) everyone has flaws and mine aren't any more fatal than all the other plenty messed up people who manage to get married. I got some great messages on and offline from people who know and love me and that probably should have been that.

But I haven't been able to leave the experience alone. It's had me thinking about two things I'm becoming more and more convinced of the older I get.

First of all, mean behavior is dangerous.  I am a fairly successful, well adjusted person with a wide network of support and still I have spent five days spinning on this thinking, "well even though all the people who really know me think I'm a good person, this guy must be seeing something no one else can and maybe he's right and it's all my fault I'm alone." If I was struggling with self-esteem or didn't have the right people around me to tell me to knock it off, or if I didn't have the life experience to know that I should immediately delete this guy and cut off further contact, I can only imagine what sort of power this kind of person might have over me. I think teenage girls are probably some of the most at-risk people for falling victim to this kind of thing. Somewhat coincidentally (maybe), I was thinking about this quite a bit at church on Sunday and at the end of the service, I was assigned to go to Girl's Camp with the teenagers in our congregation this summer. I know I only get a few days with these girls but I'm really feeling the responsibility of helping these girls develop the skills to get through some tough years without too many bruises.

Secondly, while I'm sure there are some hard headed people out there who really do think they are perfect, for the most part, aren't most of us painfully aware of the pointy parts of our personalities? And aren't most of us doing our best to work on them? It's hard hard work to fix things that we don't like about ourselves and it seems like our progress is rarely clear to people on the outside looking for reasons to judge us. For me, all my emotions are almost always bubbling right under the surface. It means I am both quick to get excited and quick to freak out. It's a constant struggle to keep that part of my personality balanced and I am not always doing it well. But I'm trying. I'm always trying. And I get disappointed in myself when it gets the better of me. I do not need to be reminded by casual observers that this is a thing that I do. I'm well aware. I've always loved that Jackson Browne song "These Days" and the line "do not confront me with my failures, I have not forgotten them".

So aside from doing more yoga and trying to eat less Chik-fil-a, my major resolution in 2013 is more patience with everyone. More patience with the people in my inner circle whose flaws I know intimately but who should get more benefit of the doubt than they do because I love them and I know what burdens they are carrying. And more patience for the world at large because I have no idea what is going on in their homes/jobs/relationships and how that might be causing them to irritate me in the line at Starbucks.

It's probably going to take a few more downward dogs and maybe some flirting with a stranger to get all of the sting out of this. I guess in a weird way I'm always glad for a reminder that the world is all set on snarkiness, irony, sarcasm and unkindness,  as for me and my house, we will be nice(r).

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Rear View Mirror

So I have been thinking all this week about what I really want to take out of 2012 and how to make some good and REAL changes in 2013 and how to write about all of the above. I started listing all the highlights of the year and it was sounding like braggy mcbraggerson and besides, good year, bad year, my hope is always that there was some sort of growth in any given year and there were plenty of lowlights in 2012 too. They just happened to be surrounded by things like skiing in Austria and chatting up LeBron James.

Thus, I present to you the five big lessons of 2012 in no particular order.

1. Travel now.
I think maybe because it took me a year to save up for the first big trip of my life (NYC for high school graduation) I got it in my head that travel was sort of this once in awhile, special thing that you planned extensively for and spent a fortune on. But the last few years I have been trying to say "yes" to things I once might have worried myself out of. I did absolutely everything I wanted to this year and if you are smart and you don't need to stay at the Ritz all the time, you can do really cool things and not destroy your nest egg. Travel has made me a more interesting person but it's also made me a more interested person and our ever shrinking world needs more brains that want to know the whys and ifs and hows of our neighbors.

2. Forgiveness is a thing. Taking care of yourself is also a thing.
I think I am finally finally getting the point that you can truly forgive someone-let go of past wrongs , quit being angry, move on with your life-but not put that person in a position to rock you again. My biggest dating hurdle has been hanging on forever, just hope hope hoping someone deserves that giant benefit of the doubt I keep giving him and well ladies, he probably doesn't. So you let go. There is no victory in continuing to give someone access to you who really shouldn't be in your life. This one is really tough but makes you feel like a badass if you can pull it off.  (this says it all)

3. Bodies need rest. Especially old ones.
I worked really hard this year. I did a lot of FUN things this year. I did not sleep enough this year. That dumb college manta "sleep when you die" gets in my head and I tend to push past what is probably healthy. It doesn't help that I rarely regret the fun things I do instead of getting to bed. However. As my doctor gleefully reminded me, if I would like to keep doing fun things when I'm old and/or you know, grow a baby at some point, I need to be better about sleep. And leafy greens. It might mean a little more discipline and a little bit more NO that I know how to say but I would like to still be traveling and forgiving when I'm 80 so I'm willing to bank a little more rest now to get there.

4. Family first.
I knew this one. And then the busiest year of my life happened and my brother did an Ironman, my uncle died, my nephews moved to relatively inconvenient places and my sister got pregnant and it seemed like everything black and white got grey. I wrote about my decision to go to my uncle's funeral and at the time it really did seem like a difficult choice. Six months later with the pressure of the Olympics a distant memory, I'm relieved that I never have to say I wasn't there for my dad because I had a lot of packing to do. That 36 hour trip is a very sweet highlight of the year as is Logan's race weekend. I will never forget sitting in a hotel room in London, Emily telling me they might have to cancel their trip to Paris and starting to cry hysterically. Even in the center of 2012 awesomeness, all I wanted was to see my sister. I don't ever want to lose that perspective.

5. A job is a job is a job
I spent wayyyyyy to much of 2012 stressed out. I got on a plane to Austria on January 5 and I didn't feel like the pace slowed down until October. I put an enormous amount of pressure on myself to kill it this year and didn't do a great job of having outlets to channel the stress and worry. I have a prescription sheet from my doctor that actually says "yoga and meditation 3 times a week". My sister-in-law Tasha and I did a ton of yoga while I was in St. George and I even went on Christmas Eve. Just these few weeks of taking some time to be still and clear out my mind has calmed me down in ways I didn't think my frenetic personality could be tamed. So I think I'll be obeying the Doc.

In 2013 I want a little bit more perspective. A little more breathing. A little less of the world on my shoulders.  I feel like maybe 1-5 were lessons I took a long time to learn but I'm trying to put them all into practice in meaningful ways so I don't forget.

And if the universe is cool with it, I'd sure like to fall in love in 2013.  Neither the world nor Katie Clifford needs another break up song.



Happy New Year.