Monday, March 13, 2017

Life lately - 19 weeks pregnant

I hit the 19-week mark of my pregnancy yesterday. Many pregnancy resources describe the baby as now being the size of a mango.
As I mentioned previously, I do not intend to turn this blog into a baby blog. I certainly understand not everyone wants to read about it. Today, however, please humor me as I wanted to share a few details on my experience so far.

How have you been feeling?
Over the last month or two, I've been feeling really good. Many times I feel so normal that I forget I'm pregnant! I do get tired more easily, though. I've been sleeping longer hours and taking more naps than usual. I have occasionally experienced increased shortness of breath during physical activity - most notably when I am climbing stairs.
Did you have any morning sickness?
No nausea or vomiting, thankfully. However, between Weeks 6-9 I had major loss of appetite, which is extremely atypical for me. I also had a heightened sense of smell, upper body soreness, and got a little lightheaded if I had to stand up too quickly or for too long. I was happy when all of these symptoms started dissipating around Week 10.

Are you showing yet?
I would say no, or at least not to the untrained eye. My pants are feeling tighter but I can still fit into all of my clothes. So far my total weight gain has been about 7 pounds. I've consistently been at the low end of the recommended weekly weight gain ranges (note that this has NOT been for lack of eating, especially after Week 10).
Are you still running/working out? Do you plan to run throughout your pregnancy?
I'm trying to stay as active as possible, and have been working out in some capacity at least 4-5 days a week. I've been walking, lifting (lighter weights than before), stationary biking, and doing yoga, Zumba, and barre classes.

Running has become a no-go. It feels like too much for my body right now. One exception was a few weeks ago when the weather was VERY unseasonably warm. The nearly summer-like temperatures motivated me to break a then-5-week running drought. I ran 3 extremely slow miles (i.e. at a pace between 90-120 seconds per mile slower than my pre-pregnancy pace). It was truly all I could handle. I haven't tried again ever since. I am doubtful about trying again until after I deliver.

Kudos to all of you who continue running during your pregnancies. It really is no joke.

Do you have any food cravings? Do you miss anything?
I've gone through phases of craving watermelon, cream cheese, chips and hummus, lemon, and pizza (although, pizza is nothing unusual). There was a time period during which I couldn't get enough bread or pasta - yet that has surprisingly waned. I'd like to believe my body is naturally regulating my carb intake since I'm not running these days. But who am I kidding - my historic dietary patterns strongly suggest otherwise. ;-P

I really miss eating sushi. Every time I walk by my favorite neighborhood sushi restaurant, I feel wistful. I've had to be careful about the cold deli meats whenever my office brings sandwiches in for lunch. Recently, I've had several instances where I unhappily avoided poached eggs.

Are you feeling any movement?
Yes!!! I feel lots of little flutters and twinges. They are most noticeable when I'm sitting at my desk or on the couch, or when I'm lying in bed at night. When I put my hand on my belly, I've caught some little kicks against my palm. Adam has managed to catch a few of them, too. It's exciting! And since my belly hasn't grown much, the movements are also very reassuring that things are happening in there. =)
What are you looking forward to right now?
Adam and I are heading out soon for a babymoon! Plus, I am anxiously awaiting my next ultrasound in a couple of weeks. I can't wait to see how much progress has occurred since our last "look-in" around Week 13!

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Museum Hacks

Before I get started today, thank you to everyone for the wonderful comments and responses to my pregnancy news! I am humbled and grateful for all of your heartwarming support!
I had full intentions of getting back to at least a semi-regular blogging schedule, but that obviously hasn't happened yet. I have been slammed with work and various baby-related preparations, among other things. But I'll talk more about all of that another time.

Today, let's talk about some cool city explorations! Two weekends ago, my friend Helen was in town from Seoul, and came to visit. We had a great time scurrying around town amidst some unseasonably warm weather.

One of the weekend's adventures included attending a Museum Hack tour at the Art Institute of Chicago. The tour was an incredibly fun and unique experience and I have been wanting to talk about it ever since!
The Museum Hack website describes the tours as "...not your grandmother's museum tour" and "Museum tours... for people who don't like museums." Excellent descriptions. I would also describe the tour as an expertly thought-out blend of history/culture, interactive/improv games, and discovery.

The tour groups are limited to a maximum of nine people per tour guide. In my opinion, this is the perfect size. It's small enough to allow personal group interaction without being overwhelmed, but not so small that you feel like you are under a microscope. Here's a picture of our group as we were getting underway:
Our guide, Mark, is the gentleman just to the right of center wearing the dark jacket and glasses. Mark is an improv artist in Chicago (incidentally, he and I know several of the same folks who perform at ComedySportz and Second City!) His demeanor was perfect for the festivities - he was energetic, humorous, knowledgeable, engaging, understanding, and enthusiastic.

Mark began by describing how there were thousands of underground or background stories behind the museum's artwork displays. He had spent countless hours researching and learning these stories, and would be sharing a few of them with us.

For example, these pieces generated stories about the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright:
We learned about how Wright's home was destroyed by not one, but two fires, one resulting in the death of his mistress and two of her children.

As another example, we learned about how the images conveyed in this piece inspired actor Bill Murray to forgo a planned suicide attempt (!!!!!!):
All of the stories were very interesting, of course. However, I was thinking the entire 2-hour tour would consist of us going from painting to painting just listening to different stories. Admittedly, I wasn't sure I had that long of an attention span. Being pregnant, I was also concerned about being able to keep up with all the walking, stair-climbing, and standing involved.

MARK TO THE RESCUE!!!

The tour went WAY beyond listening to stories. We started having fun group discussions and playing a variety of interactive and interpretive games. There were way too many to describe here, so I'll share just a few examples.

In one gallery, Mark had everyone pick out our favorite character depictions in a painting, then try to physically copy them as a group. The gallery was packed, but he told us not to worry because the crowds would eventually move aside and let us pose together. He was right! Here's our masterpiece:
In a quieter display wing, we were asked to look at painting titles, then come up with a dance to illustrate a title of our choice. I chose a painting entitled "Head" (unfortunately I didn't get a photo of it). My illustration was a personal reprise of the SNL Roxbury Guys dancing to "What is Love." E.g.:
(Do you all remember those skits? I had forgotten how hysterically funny they were and still are!!!)

The rest of the group came up with similarly comical moves and we took turns demonstrating and duplicating each other using some quietly-played music from Mark's phone. (A security guard in charge of that wing saw us, of course, but didn't say anything. We noted she was clearly trying to hold back her laughter. =D )

We found a creepy statue and humorously theorized on all of its elements, what it represented, and what precipitated the artist to come up with the design. We also noted the statue bore an eerily similar likeness to Mark:
One last example - we went into a wing of statues which Mark entitled "the goddess wing." We were each asked to find the statue that most spoke to us, then pose with it. Here are the pictures that both Helen and I took with our respective choices:

Again, there were so many other examples of fun activities we did using the museum's displays that I'm not sharing here for sake of brevity - but you get the idea on how interactive it was!

Mark told us, "This is YOUR museum. When you hack a museum, YOU control the experience you have inside and the fun you want to have. You make it out to be whatever you want it to be!" You got it, buddy. Truer words have never been spoken. =)

After our tour, Helen and I went back to a couple of the places we discovered as part of the tour group. For example, the group had visited the Ando gallery, which is a dark room with 16 columns as a traditional element of Japanese architecture. This gallery is intended to be a transitional space to help visitors relax:
Mark mentioned many visitors bypass this gallery, but those that do find it tend to go back multiple times. True to his word, Helen and I both wanted to enjoy the quietness of this gallery in more detail the second time.

Of course, Helen and I couldn't resist popping into a few other exhibits, too, like the paperweights exhibit (who comes up with ideas for these types of exhibits!?!?!?) Here's a shot of us in front of one of the display cases:
All in all, the Museum Hack tour was a blast! I wasn't sure what to expect going in, but I thoroughly enjoyed being able to visit and enjoy a museum in a whole new way. I've mentioned many times how much I love exploring the depths of my hometown Chicago, and this tour was exactly the type of local, get-under-the-surface, off-the-beaten-path experience that I am always looking for.

Many thanks to Museum Hack for such an awesome experience! Big cheers to learning that museums do NOT have to be boring or stuffy if you know what approach to take! I'll never visit a museum the same way ever again. =)

Monday, February 20, 2017

The wheel in the sky keeps on turning

Hello, friends!

It's been a long time since I last published a blog post - almost 11 weeks, to be exact. Today I am finally back and ready to explain my nearly 3-month absence from the blogosphere. Are you all ready for a boatload of lame excuses and the awards that come along with those lame excuses?
I'll just cut to the chase.

I am pregnant. Adam and I are going to be first-time parents this summer.
Many times it's hard for me to believe it. I am feeling a lot of emotions, but most predominately I am an ever-changing mixture of extremely excited and eye-poppingly terrified.

When I've shared the news with folks in person, here are the first questions I've usually been asked (along with my responses):

How far along are you?
As of yesterday, I was 16 weeks. The time has gone by both quickly and slowly for me, depending how I think about it.

When is your due date?
August 6, 2017. Hurray for summer babies! (Incidentally, I have the exact same due date as Amanda - how cool is that!?!?!?! We've already been sharing and comparing notes. =) )

Do you know the baby's gender and/or are you going to find out?
Adam and I just found out a few weeks ago that the baby has a Y-chromosome. Translation: There will be a lot of blue in the near future because...
Going back to the early weeks...
The pregnancy came as a TOTALLY unexpected surprise. I found out in early December and was in complete shock for several days. The reality didn't truly hit me until Adam and I went to our first ob-gyn prenatal check-up and saw the live, moving image on the ultrasound.

The body's ability to create life is amazing. My entire perspective on life has now changed.
About my blog silence...
I wanted to follow suit with the common practice of keeping quiet until reaching the second trimester. Needless to say, it was difficult. There was and is so much to think about how drastically the baby is going to change our lives. It will impact family, friends, health, career, finances, where we're living, etc., etc., etc. I couldn't bring myself to blog without talking about any of these things - it felt so disingenuous. Therefore, I opted to step away for awhile.

I once heard a friend say that anytime someone is unusually quiet on social media, it's always because they are trying to hide something. Yes, this was true for me.
In any event - I am happy to finally share the news with all of you! It is not my intention to turn this blog into a baby blog, but I will definitely share some updates here and there.

On that note - in the past several of you have previously undergone and blogged about your pregnancy journeys, and at the time I always skimmed through those posts. NOW I have been going back and rereading all of your pregnancy posts in enraptured delight! =) Funny how life changes, eh?

Much more to come!!!

Monday, December 5, 2016

2016 PNC YMCA Turkey Trot race recap

This year marked my fifth consecutive running of the PNC YMCA Turkey Trot in Pittsburgh. It has become an annual Thanksgiving Day tradition.
Admittedly, I came close to breaking the streak this year. I didn't arrive in Pittsburgh until very late the night before. I considered not even signing up due to the quick logistical turnaround required. Then, the meteorologists predicted rain on race morning, which made me consider DNSing. However, I've always enjoyed this race and I think it sets a good tone for the day- so ultimately I followed through.

The festivities include a 1-miler, a 5K, and a 5-miler. I did the 5-miler only.

On race day, Adam and I arrived just as the 5K was getting underway. It was fun to watch. Unfortunately, I eventually had to Frogger my way through the running masses since I needed to do race-day packet pickup.
Packet pickup was a breeze, and there were no lines at the portapotties. Excellent.

As I was waiting for the 5-miler to start, I noticed the organizers were blasting fantastic 80s music over the loudspeakers. It helped energize me. When this old classic came on, I shamelessly broke into the best Wahlberg-esque moves I could muster:
Next, I got a couple of pre-race photos:
One of the ever-iconic bridges
With the Bill Mazeroski statue
Time to start. Shortly after I got underway, I saw Adam stationed at the side of the road with his phone. This was an opportunity for a jumping pose. Yeah!!!

The result wasn't horrible. But again it didn't come out quite the way I hoped:
Do I look like I'm doing Wahlberg-type moves while on the run?
Ah well.

Having run this Turkey Trot so many times, I knew the course well. I elected to run without my phone, which felt surprisingly invigorating. It enabled me to focus entirely on all the sights and sounds without thinking about photo opps, text messages, etc.

This was the first running I'd done since the Rock N Roll Las Vegas Half, so I wasn't sure what the paces would feel like. At the very least, I wanted to break 50 minutes.

Within the first half-mile, my Garmin said my pace was around a 9-minute mile. The idea momentarily crossed my mind that if I kept the pace up, I could attempt a sub-45. Then, a 9:00 pacer blew by me, which immediately brought me back down to reality. He passed with so much alacrity, it reminded me of this:
Either the pacer was going way too fast, or my Garmin was off-kilter. Either way, it was an easy decision to slow down and refocus on enjoying the course atmosphere.

My favorite parts of the course, as always, were the bridges. In previous Turkey Trot renditions, I've felt the bridge inclines quite acutely. With this in mind, I braced myself each time I approached. What a pleasant surprise to find the inclines didn't bother me at all. The hill training I did earlier this year apparently had stronger staying power than anticipated, woo hoo!
This Pittsburghese, as seen on several runners' shirts, just seemed appropriate to say here.
Around Mile 3, I spotted Molly and Julie on the course and shouted a hello. I saw them a second time around 4.25, and shouted another hello. Always so uplifting to see friends on the course!

With about a half-mile to go, I saw Adam again. Time to attempt another jumping pose. Check out the action stream he captured:
Still not quite there yet, but getting much closer - especially with #3!!! =D

With less than a quarter mile to go, I saw a man ahead of me wearing a banana suit. I instantly decided I didn't want to be beaten by the banana. I turned on the jets as best as I could and did manage to pass him shortly before crossing the finish line. It's funny what kinds of random encounters end up motivating you, eh?
My official finishing time was 48:01. Had I known how close I was to 48 minutes flat, I would have pushed a little harder to break 48. Even so, my time ended up being a course record for me by exactly 30 seconds. More importantly, my legs and lungs both felt really good throughout the duration. That was a nice morale boost.

Adam and I ran into several friends afterwards, including our friend Jared (who we didn't even know was running!) It was wonderful to catch up.
L to R: Adam, me, and Jared
Jared actually finished just a few seconds after I did, but surprisingly we never saw each other on the course!
Brian, Laurel, Julie, Adam, Hudson, me, Molly, Jacob
In summary, I was very happy to run this race again. I love the festivity, the atmosphere, and the backdrop. It was a great way to close out my 2016 racing season. Let's get the streak to six next year!

With that... I now have exactly zero races on the future calendar! Let's see how long this lasts...!

--
Linking up with MarciaPatti, and Erika for Tuesdays on the Run.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Holiday festivities, Nov 21 - Dec 4 training, TV binging

Hi friends! I hope everyone is having a wonderful weekend.

I've been thoroughly enjoying the beauty of the winter holidays in Chicago. For example, earlier this week after work, I stopped by the Christkindlmarket, which I adore. I was walking around like a wide-eyed child in a winter wonderland.
Source
Seeing all the German and Austria vendors reminded me of visiting Vienna a few months ago. So much nostalgia! I even saw a vendor selling apfelstrudel, which was my favorite dish in Austria. I didn't buy any (not enough time), but you better believe I'll be back soon to indulge. Maybe multiple times!
Flashback from the Naschmarkt in Vienna
Also coming soon - I want to go ice skating at one of Chicago's outdoor rinks, see Lincoln Park Zoolights, visit the Holidays Around the World exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry, and go window shopping on Michigan Avenue. Time to make a list and check it twice... ;-)
Once again I am behind a week in recapping my workouts, so here are the last two weeks:

Nov 21 - Nov 27
MONDAY - Yoga class, 30 minutes strength-training
TUESDAY - 30 minutes stationary cycling
WEDNESDAY - 10 minutes stationary cycling, 40 minutes strength-training
THURSDAY - PNC YMCA Turkey Trot (recap still to come)
FRIDAY - Rest
SATURDAY - Rest
SUNDAY - 30 minutes stationary cycling

Nov 28 - Dec 4
MONDAY - Rest (lots of walking in DC)
TUESDAY - 10 minutes stationary cycling, 40 minutes strength-training
WEDNESDAY - Zumba class, Mobility 101 class
THURSDAY - 10 minutes stationary cycling, 40 minutes strength-training
FRIDAY - Yoga class
SATURDAY - Run 3 miles on treadmill
SUNDAY - 30 minutes stationary cycling

Last night was Adam's company's holiday party. The celebration was a blast. His colleagues are really good people and his company really knows how to rock out the night! The party was a much different atmosphere than what we were both accustomed to after working at accounting firms for a combined 25+ years.

Here is a picture of us:
Here are a few fun "photobooth" shots from the night:
The party venue was just a few blocks from where we live, so we had some of Adam's colleagues over beforehand for pre-party festivities. It was then that someone suggested we do a mannequin challenge. Yours truly volunteered to do the camerawork.

If I do say so myself, I think the video turned out pretty decently. Ladies and gentlemen, please allow me to present my triumphant debut as a mannequin challenge film director!
Thank you, thank you, please hold applause. =D

Speaking of excellent videos - Adam's colleague, Deepthi, mentioned that the NBC show "This is Us" was fantastic.
Source
The only thing I'd heard about the show was that it was devoid of the overscripted drama, violence, or action scenes that have become typical. Sounds good to me.

On Friday night, Adam and I pulled up what was originally supposed to be a single episode via On Demand. It quickly degenerated into us binge-watching four episodes.
I think there are five more episodes before we are caught up. I fully anticipate getting through all remaining episodes by tomorrow at the very latest, and very possibly before tonight. It's so addictive!

Who else is watching "This Is Us"? If so, please let me know so we can talk about it!

--
Linking up with HoHo and Tricia for the Weekly Wrap, and with Angela and Ilka for the Sunday Fitness & Food Linkup.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Coffee Talk - December edition

Happy Friday, everyone! My calendar got hit by a bulldozer this past week so I'm playing catch-up on blogging yet again.

I am linking up with Fairytales and Fitness and Running on Happy for the Friday Five, and will be linking up with Coco and Deborah for the December edition of the Ultimate Coffee Date.
The Ultimate Coffee Date link-up asks, "If we were having [insert choice of beverage here] together, I would tell you..."

Here are five things I would share:

1) You are who your Facebook pictures say you are 
I enjoyed attending one of Adam's high school reunions with him last Friday night in Pittsburgh. At the event, the organizers had old yearbooks on hand to peruse. They also showed original video footage from senior prom, etc. It was a hoot to see how different the styles were back then! To sum it up in a single word:

MULLETS!!!!!!!!
Jaromir Jagr had a fantastic mullet!!!
Mullets aside - Adam has told me a lot of stories about his classmates, so it was great to put faces to names. On the opposite side, when I would introduce myself to others, I received a very consistent response. Almost all of Adam's old classmates would invariably say to me, "I've seen pictures of you on Facebook - you're a runner!"

WOW! I'm not sure which photos they all saw??? Obviously some are worse than others, as we already discussed.
YEAH BABY!!!!!!!!
The good news was that nobody ran away screaming and/or laughing (at least, not to my knowledge). So that was a relief. =)

In any event, I was both surprised and flattered at the consistency of the responses. I like being a runner, of course. (Incidentally, sometimes I like the idea of being a runner more than I actually like running - but that's a whole other story.) Through the magic of Facebook, I am happy to portray that image and be identified as such!

2) Weddings are fun
Last Sunday, Adam and I attended the wedding of his cousin, Matthew, to Matthew's long-time girlfriend Teresa. It was my first time meeting Teresa in person, and she is very sweet. She and Matthew are perfect together. I am very happy for them!

The wedding festivities took place at Adam's aunt/uncle's house in Maryland. Everything was a blast. It was the first time I'd ever attended a wedding and reception at someone's home, and I loved how personal it felt.

Here are some snapshots:
The ceremony
Bridal party
Adam and me
With the happy couple
Congratulations and Mazel Tov to Matthew and Teresa!!!!!

3) It's time to bake the doughnuts
I love doughnuts but rarely eat them since they are typically fried and not healthy. However, Kelly has talked a few times about making homemade baked doughnuts, and Amy brought homemade baked doughnuts to book club last summer. All looked amazing!
My ears perked up at the concept of being able to control the ingredients and bake instead of frying. Therefore, yours truly has invested in a doughnut baking pan!!! It arrived in the mail earlier this week. I hope to test it out over the weekend.
This is the one I bought
Homemade doughnut baking aficionados - if you have any recipes, suggestions, or tips, please share!

4) All points, all the time
Recently, some coworkers talked about taking nice vacations by opening credit cards to obtain new-account specials. For example, one colleague said she received two free nights at a 5-star resort during peak season just for opening up a hotel-branded credit card.

I was intrigued by the stories. I asked how they found out about these deals. The answer: Reading blogs that are specifically focused on them.
Since then, I started reading The Points Guy. I am a big fan! It keeps me up to speed on so many travel deals, and has taught me a lot about maximizing loyalty programs. Even for folks who don't travel a lot, it can be a real game changer! I really wish blogs like this existed back in the old days when I used to do a lot of business travel.

5) Next year
I am completely, thoroughly, 1000% enjoying not having to train for any races right now. I got a Groupon for another barre studio membership deal which I plan to redeem next spring. I also want to continue rolling with my strength-training momentum, which has made me extremely happy. Beyond that, I've got no specific fitness plans or goals for next year - and it's the best feeling.
Similarly, my race calendar is still a completely blank slate for 2017. I truly believe next year is going to be very much more about quality versus quantity (which is what I've long wanted to do but have repeatedly had trouble executing). I am considering trying to hit some more Rock N Roll destinations, maybe doing the Soldier Field 10 again since I will be in town over Memorial Day Weekend, and in a dream world running something in Hawaii. It'll be fun to see what ends up standing out!