Eight Years and Counting…

Before we know it, it may be “38 years and counting”…

Tomorrow, we will celebrate our eight-years wedding anniversary. We plan to return to San Francisco City Hall where we married to revisit that beautiful, fateful date.

Being together for eight years, one of the keys is to learn to go with the flow. I’m a closeted control freak. Over the years, I have came out and seen the other side (once in a while). We have a hotel reservation at Omni, but we don’t have a slew of activities booked. Truth: I have looked and have thought of about booking dinner reservation or show tickets. Finally, I let it go (someone please give me a high five) We will go on the fly.

We have an idea of HOW things may be, but there isn’t a schedule to follow. That itself is an accomplishment on my part. I’m slowly learning the art of go with the flow. For example, Vlad and I had an awesome time last night just chilling and not necessarily plan out a “date night”. It’s the HOW and not the what … And more importantly, it is the FEELING for each other that can feel like rekindling the romance. It felt like we were back in the earlier days of dating.

On my birthday, Vlad gave me an Amazon echo. Sweet thought. It was all about the music part. There IS always music whenever/whereever I am. Echo basically can play music from pandora, controlled vocally, much like a siri. The first few days, we were like “Alexa, this” “Alexa, that” I jokingly said: “with Alexa in the house, we will not be talking to each other, instead, we will be talking to Alexa”

Last night, after laughing through few episodes of Sex and the City, Vlad was falling asleep, partly because it was SATC and partly because I was giving him a head rub/massage. Then, out of nowhere, I decided that I wanted to listen to spice girls on Pandora. Pretty soon, I was humming to tunes of backstreet boys and TLC, laughing so hard of how much lyrics I remembered.Even more hilarious, Vlad admitted he knew a good number of songs.

Next thing, we moved on to the 2000’s hip hop when we were in college. 50 cents in da house, yo! Before we knew it, we were dancing as if we first started dating and jamming to “Get Ur Freak On” So. Much. Fun. and So. Entertaining.

Who knew Echo/Alexa can be a time machine?

This is the advantage of being born only couple years apart and being together for a good amount of our 20s. We shared similar musical “rite of passage”. It was such an ordinary but super fun night, because of the person I was with. The mood was playful. The atmosphere was intimate (candlelight for the 90s music!). The person was perfectly right!

It is not WHAT to do, but choosing the HOW to do it and with WHOM to be with. I’m really excited for what the next 38 years of the HOW and the WHO with the love of my life.

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First Time Surfing in Costa Azul, Cabos, Mexico

The highlight of the recent Los Cabos trip was my first-ever attempt at surfing. This was not an easy decision because I was not a confident swimmer. In fact, prior to Cabos, I have never swam in open ocean without a life jacket. I have participated in snorkeling in other trips where life jacket was always required (and necessary in my case). I only learned “swimming” few years ago as an adult and I barely mastered the breaststroke in a kiddie pool.

Originally, I had signed up for body boarding lesson while Vlad registered for surfing lesson. Oddly, I did feel better and more secure with body boarding since I would be “surfing” towards the shore. After a lengthy conversation with a friend, who had done surfing, he said it made no difference in terms of “swimming”. In either scenario, I would be out in the ocean. I would not be able to “touch” the bottom of the ocean until I reached the shore.(That was the root of my fear – I freaked out when I could not touch land) I was half convinced after that conversation. Fear, irrational as always, just did not go away with “logical explanation”.

I did not dwell much as we embarked on the trip. The day before the lesson, while confirming the pick up time/lesson, I decided to ask the lady if I could still change to surfing. She assured me that it would be safe and actually more fun. I told her “okay, why not”

We drove from Cabo San Lucas to this local sport called Costa Azul to surf. The water as the name suggested was crystal blue and the waves were HUGE! I thought “holy mack, these were real waves!” And there were few dozen surfers out catching waves and it did look fun!

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We had two instructors taking care of five students, a pretty good ratio. The quickie lesson was done on the sand – “one, you lay down; two, mini push up; three, you stand up” It was less than ten minutes. Then, the instructors went off with the group of three teenagers. I thought “What? Now I am supposed to know how to surf?” Vlad and I were still tired and half awake from previous day’s adventure of off road driving. I didn’t really have much energy to “freak out” although I secretly hoped that maybe I could still take body boarding lesson.

To my surprise, the instructors did not take any boards. They were in the water with the students, helping them catching waves. The most helpful thing was the instructor “commanding” when to stand up as they helped “timed” the waves. It was much easier. That helped with my nerves knowing the instructors were in the water close by.

When the other group finished, the instructors waved at us to come into the ocean. I reiterated to one of the instructor, Victor, that I was not a good swimmer and felt really nervous. He said “okay” and told me to “take it easy”. No strong reaction (which in retrospect, it was a good response).

I had my first taste of physical challenge getting the board into the water. As stated earlier, the waves were big and as they crashed on shore, it had tremendous energy still. Because of my unfamiliarity with the ocean and the board, I got smacked around trying getting into water. Finally, Victor said to get on the board quickly and PADDLE, the word that would haunt me for rest of the morning. I paddled, paddled, and paddled (and paddled some more) to the open ocean. By the time I got to the spot to catch the wave, I was already tired!

To Victor’s credit, he never left my side the first session. He could tell I was really not a confident swimmer, as the first catch turned out to be half successful. He would tell me to get ready as the wave approached and told me when to “stand up” I did as I learned on the beach but my nerves got the best of me. I wanted to actually “fall into water” so that I would know that falling into open ocean without a life jacket was safe. I was after all strapped to the board, which essentially was a floatation device!

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That first fall was not the worst because I had planned it. The second fall was the hardest because I actually caught the wave and half confused because I did not know what riding the wave felt like! When I realized I was balancing on the board and riding the wave, it was super exhilarating and at the same time, the exhilaration took my focus away from balancing. And BOOM, I was off the board. All this happened in about 15 seconds. The wave kept going dragging my board towards the shore as I struggled with gulping salty sea water! That was NOT a pleasant experience.

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In between each catch, there was more “paddle” (and more paddle) back to the ocean. I was dead tired and my arms felt like spaghetti by end of the first session. I could barely walk back to our chairs. In some instances, I had even hard time getting back on the board (which required core and arm strength). When the second session arrived, I was half dreading going back. I did not know if I had more energy to one, getting the board back into the ocean; two, to paddle; and three, to surf!

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To the instructor’s credit and passion for surfing, their enthusiasm helped tremendously. They continued to encourage me and helped me stay afloat. They would cheer when one of us caught the wave. I did catch several waves. As the instructor called us at the end, we were “professional beginners” How about that, a sense of humor on top of being excellent teachers.

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I was glad that I challenged myself to do something I feared. It taught me to face head on (literally as the wave crashed into me few times) with  fear. Now I am actually thinking to go back to the pool and continue to swim to get over my lack of confidence in water. I know it has always been a mental thing than a physical thing. Granted, I was extremely tired and sore the day after surfing. The mental gain totally outweighed the physical gain. I’m very grateful and blessed with awesome teachers in Cabos with this amazing experience. Finally, I am thankful for the perfect ocean condition that allow a “professional” beginner to successful and safely navigate her first surfing session!

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Vacation in Costa Rica (In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the sloth welcomes us)

Pura Vida!

That was the first and the constant phrase we learned upon arriving to Costa Rica! It was used to say “hi”, to say “thank you”, to say “good bye” and to use as an explanation. The literal translation was “pure life” In essence, it was an attitude, almost like you only lived once, so make it purely about life. This could also be used to describe our 10-days trip to Costa Rica – it was pure and it was about life!

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Costa Rica has been on my bucket list for a while now. Finally, we decided to check it off the list this year. We went there to celebrate my birthday and our anniversary. What a perfect choice!

In summary, we transversed from the Caribbean coast to the Pacific coast and visited four areas/cities: San Jose, Tortuguero, Arenal, and Manual Antonio. In total, we travelled over 1000km in 10 days. This was probably closest to “backpacking” we would ever get.  The landscape and diversity of wild life were both impressive. The Costa Ricans (ticos as they called themselves) were very genuine and welcoming. We absolutely loved the country and the people!

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We started our journey in San Jose, the capital. We were only there for a day so we only visited the highlight museum – the Gold Museum. For a small museum, there was a lot of gold on display. Very impressive. We also enjoyed one of the best Sangria we’ve had in a while! The Argentine parrillada was divine. We inhaled that BBQ in matter of minutes!

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We then headed over to the Caribbean coast to visit the Tortuguero National Park. Tortuguero meant turtle in Spanish. We unfortunately missed the eggs-laying season. However, the experience of a true tropical RAINforest was still unforgettable!

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Tortuguero NP was located amongst canals and it resembled like a mini Amazon rainforest. To get to the park, we had to drive to the nearest port to board a boat. Then it was another 1hr45mins to the lodge. The boat ride was beautiful and relaxing. The rain never stopped when we were there. The funny part was our guide, Andres, said, “this was NOT rain”. And clearly, there was water falling from the sky. By nightfall, we finally realized what he meant – there was rain, and then, there was TORRENTIAL RAIN!

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The one day and one night we were at Tortuguero, we felt like there was water EVERYWHERE and ALL the time. Our clothes never dried. It was that humid and rainy. Thankfully, it felt tropical, meaning, it never felt cold. Just very damp. We visited the national park and saw a lone remaining baby turtle. We also saw numerous awesome animals: baby crocodile, iguana, leaf-moving ants, etc.

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Then, it was time to change the scenery again. We headed over to Arenal Volcano area. It was still in the jungle, where rainforest dominated the landscape. However, it was dryer and much less rain, which made the Californian in me happy! We had few adventures in Arenal, including walking on the hanging bridges, hiking down to see La Fortuna Waterfall, hiking up the volcano national park, and ended the adventure in the hot spring.

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We definitely saved the beach for the last. Towards the end of our vacation, we would celebrate the anniversary. Since we both loved the beach, we ended the trip with visiting Manual Antonio National Park. Oh my god – it was THE BEST BEACH ever!

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Modestly, we could not say we’ve been EVERYWHERE, but we’ve traveled enough to know when we found a gem! Can you think of a beach where you could see the crystal blue water along a sandy beach AND see white-faced monkey and raccoons patrolling the beach, almost next to you? Moreover, there was some three-toed sloths hanging on the tree, almost like posing to entertain you. What a unique setting! Best of all (yes, there were a lot of “best” associated here…) The water was WARM. The beach was perfect to swim and to learn how to surf. I could move here. Really.

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It was an unforgettable trip! We will definitely return. It is not that often that we want to return to the same place. Costa Rica is one of the rarest exception!

Pura Vida!!

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Running in Central Park (well, almost!)

I flew to New York over a 4-days weekend (yeah, I know, insane considering that each way is 6 hours!) for a good friend’s wedding. She’s one of my oldest (scratch that, longest) friend from high school. I was so thrilled to see her marrying the love of her life!

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The funniest part, while packing, was that I packed my running shoes and gear first, even before picking out the wedding outfit. My husband gave me the look “really, you plan to run?” I told him “you never know. It’s better to be prepared”

Honestly, I knew the probability of running was like not drinking at the wedding. Slim to none. Thus, I actually started with an easy 2-mile run before getting on the plane on Thursday morning. (Again, husband gave me that look “really, you went out running before a cross-country flight? Might be too much?) I felt awesome with that morning run!

Because my friend and I had not seen each other for 5+ years, the “logical” thing to do was staying up all night Thursday into the wee hours on Friday and catching up on wedding, the soon-to-be husband, and everything else in between! I had not planned on this but it was worth it. Next day, as I accompanied her and her bridesmaid for nails and facials, I struggled to stay awake.

The following day, with my friend being preoccupied with wedding activities, I was on my own. Take the day easy would have been a good choice, but of course, I decided to venture into Manhattan to revisit some of the places. I actually dressed in my running gear thinking “MAYBE, I would run at the Central Park” That would be a nice “cross-off” thing for a runner, right?

My friend’s wedding was in Flusing, Queens, and it took me almost 90 minutes getting into Time Square, my first “tourist” stop. The Seven Train had some kind of construction that I had to learn different ways to get into the city. I literally stood in front of the subway map for a good five minutes. How I did not miss the subway system of the East Coast! (Yes, I, the Californian who drive 1 mile to the post office!)

Time Square looked the same but felt different. There were tons of tourists, swarming left and right to me. There were dozens of billboards flashing up and down around me. Finally, there was a strong police presence, one that was not there when I visited there almost a decade ago. IMG_5193

After Time Square, I decided to head to Central Park to see if a run was possible. I took the subway uptown and took a detour to a local Greek restaurant (thanks to Yelp). I ordered some take out food to eat by the Jackie O Reservoir inside the Central Park. By the time I got uptown, took the food, I knew a run wasn’t the smartest thing to do. The weather that day was sunny, slight humid, close to 85F, which could be fun to experience. However, I still had a 90-minutes subway ride back to Queens with blasting AC. The last thing I wanted was getting sick. So, I enjoyed my lunch, walked around the reservoir, admired the New York runners, and enjoyed strolling on the Upper East Side.
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All in all, my New York trip was very compact and in some ways very intense. On the wedding night, it was a beautiful union and celebration. It was so much celebration that we had an after party. The party continued into the wee hours, but I left around 2:30am since I had to pack and catch a ride at 5am for my 7:30am departing flight. Seriously, it felt like college where sleep was for the weak. Weak, I felt, as I stumbled into my flight and promptly passed out for a good portion of the flight home!

Let’s call this a “almost-central-park-run” trip. I’m sure there will be other times when I will come back to New York and actually run. Maybe the New York Marathon?

 

When I’m not running… I meditate

I picked up a new activity recently: meditation. It started accidentally in late April while I took a hiatus from running training, after completing the half marathon. During the break, I decided to visit Land of the Medicine Buddha in Santa Cruz as I was searching for some spiritual guidance. Actually, that sounded more worldly than it really was. Something was bugging me with work so I wanted to take a day to reflect and be away from all of it. I decided to go to LMB since it was very much out of character for me. I tended to use exercise to “take out” any stress/frustration (hello, running!) Going the quiet, spiritual type of search was certainly out-of-my-element (Or maybe I finally reached the age for needing wisdom, ha!)

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In any event, it has been about a month now. Between running training and practicing meditation, my down time is very much filled, happily I should add. Of course, like running, there is up and down with meditation. I’d say mostly “up’s” as I find myself more in tune with myself and taking each day more at face value and not “add” too much “story” to it.

I practice at a Buddhist center near my place. It happens to be in the same tradition as LMB (although I still have not looked into what exactly this branch is) To me, that is what attracts me in the first place. The Buddhist center is obviously Buddhist, but the folks there are diverse and open-minded, including the teachers. My favorite teacher is an ordained American nun and she explains things in a practical matter (not always referring to Buddhist principles) It is very easy to relate to. Who can’t relate to “constantly grabbing the iPhone and checking e-mails/facebook?” That transcends across culture and religion divide.

With meditation, I’m learning (slowly) what ticks for me. Each meditation is 30 minutes and in silence. I’ve done guided meditation and that is easier to adjust to as the mind can focus on the guidance. In silent meditation, however, the room is sometimes so quiet (even with 30 members!) that I can hear different breathing rhythm. Boy, the mind is then racing, jumping, and freaking out in dealing with that kind of stand-still. I’m so used to constantly in motion or in some kind of chatter that silence is very disturbing at first. I notice that I’d get restless around 15 minutes into the quietness. Then, I would open my eyes, stare at people/the wall/the teacher; anything but meditate!

It finally asked the teacher of my restlessness this week. She wisely told me that if I was restless on the cushion, then I was likely restless in life. That was simply but profound! I never pictured myself as restless (I coded it as “go-getter”, hahaha!) but I could start seeing my habits of checking my iPhone for e-mails/messages/facebook was stemming from that restlessness. My teacher said to observe my daily actions and try to find what trigger the restlessness. She said it could be stress, an emotion, an action, or a person. The key was to be mindful and eventually with time and practice, I would learn to let it go. So far, I haven’t had any progress in pin point the trigger, but at least I am more mindful when the desire to reach for the phone showed up. I would stop and ask “do I need to check Facebook while waiting in line?” I’m teaching myself to stay in the present, even if it’s waiting in line to check out grocery.

I’m not sure where this new “hobby” will take me. One thing for sure is that with meditation, I’m more at ease,  more calm, and more centered. So far so good!

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Off the Beaten Path

It’s a home alone weekend for me as my better half is away with his buddy on track day in SoCal. In attempt to enjoy my mini break from running, I took myself on a spontaneous trip to find enlightenment aka feeding spiritual mind.

I started with meditation yesterday morning. I’ve meditated here and there, but never consistent. With running, meditation pretty much got squeezed out. Ah, I forgot how beneficial meditation was! The deliciousness of being still and the challenges that came with it. There were moments when I finally felt the full effect of the vigorous training. There was this deep tiredness at moments during meditation. I simply became aware of it & acknowledged it.
An hour later, I felt more refreshed all week!

Feeling inspired, I packed lunch and drive an hour to a Buddhist temple in Santa Cruz, called Land of Medicine Buddha. It truly was off the beaten path. It was nestled among Redwoods with birds singing high above. Immediately, I felt serene & calm.

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I took the “Eight Verses” trail into the quiet woods. It was a minor climb to the trail but well worth it. There were eight verses or Buddhist wisdom along the trail.

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The entire time I was on the trail, I saw less than ten people. It was very peaceful & nurturing. I also walked around the main compound decorated with flowers, trees, bamboos, birds chirping. The Buddhist prayer wheel added more to the cultural aspect. I had Buddhist influence growing up but was never a practicing one. However, it was comfortably familiar to be in this setting.

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I picked two books at the gift shop & headed to the beach. At that moment, I really wanted to see sunset. I found my way to a local coffee shop as sunset was more than an hour away. I ordered a bagel with humus enjoyed it while reading.

I went to Sea Cliff beach. It was a gorgeous day, few clouds with a light breeze. There was a pier – which always made me happy. Pictures are worth a thousand words:

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All in all, it was a very peaceful day where I went moment by moment living in the now. Once in a while, it was good to be spontaneous!

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Birthday and New “Month” Resolution

Birthdays are tricky. When I was little, birthdays were exciting, it was all about cakes! That was the only time when “censorship on sugar” was off.  Then, it got a little complicated during teenager’s years. The whole “trying-to-be-cool-but-hope-someone-other-than-parents-remember-my-birthday” hormonal thing kicked in. Then, it got fun in college, because I got to decide whatever I wanted to do. Yipee!

Then, all the birthdays felt “fuzzy” in the 20s. Before I knew it, I was in the “3s”, BAM! No warning, whatsoever! A good friend of mind told me the first number of your age kind of represented of how fast you felt life flashing before your eyes. For instance, in our younger teenager years, didn’t it feel like things were going like 16 miles per hour? (“When could I get the heck out of high school?” Then, things got faster, between 25-30, it certainly felt the speed picked up close to 30mph! (“Didn’t I JUST celebrate my birthday?”)

This weekend, I celebrated my first birthday in my 30s. I cannot remember much of what happened this past year, except, it FLEW BY! I made some important lifestyle change, namely healthy eating habit (turning vegetarian!) and getting into running. I lost few clothes sizes and made new friends. It was a fun year – one that went really quickly!

It’s a good thing that I don’t remember much – that is a sign that life is going well. (Or a sign that I need to start taking ginko biloba vitamin!)  I’m truly grateful for having a supportive husband who always gives me the love and care at the right moment. I’m grateful for my family, especially, to my parents. They are not close by, but they show their support from afar. I’m grateful that everyone I love and care is well and healthy. That is the most important of all.

For the upcoming year, I’m inspired by another friend’s idea from my Toastmaster’s club. She said, “to heck with New Year’s resolution”! Do a monthly resolution – I thought that was brilliant! That would be so much more practical and productive! I think that was an important message in that – since I’m already feeling the “31mph” effect, I love the idea of slowing it down to taking it at 12 intervals at a time. For January, I’d like to get started on my half-marathon training by taking a Chi Running class and apply the learned techniques to better my half-marathon results (under 3hrs for my very first half marathon!)

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