Full Circle

In February of 2010 my distance running journey was kicking off and  I was training to run my first half marathon when I wrote this – Running from Crazy.

Seven years and several half marathons later I am planning to run my first full marathon tomorrow in Austin. So much has changed and so much has not. One of things that has not – that list of reasons why I run.

For all of those things that have changed, well those are reserved for another time and another series of posts.

I run for many different reasons:
to stay heart healthy,
to counter the calorie consumption in my favorite pasta dishes and chocolate,
to chat with the Lord,
to chat with myself,
to let the Lord chat with me,
to listen to good music like New Edition’s Candy Girl,
to dance…you lookin’ kinda cute in that polka dot bikini giiiiiirl,
to get out my anger and frustration,
to mourn,
to be thankful,
to feel (because sometimes I just get in a rut and cannot feel things),
to get away from crazy,
because I am crazy!

Training has been a wild ride, filled with lots of ups and downs (including lots of hills). But, I’m going into tomorrow trusting that I’m prepared and ready to face the road (and the hill after hill after hill…gotta love Austin!) that lay before me. My only goal is to successfully cross the finish line, preferably on my feet. There is not stress over any specific time, just to complete the course. Not too different from the goal I had seven years ago.

The other thing that’s not too different about tomorrow is the anticipated weather. Only the race in 2010 was in May and located in Beaumont, TX where warm temps and humidity are the norm year round. But you know…Austin has to stay weird. So why not warm, muggy weather in February? It’s all part of the fun, right?!?!

The one other thing that cannot go without mention is my absolute admiration and love for Girls on the Run. In 2010, I had stumbled across their website and was just becoming acquainted with the organization and their mission. My active participation with GOTR did not really begin until 2012, but it’s been life changing.  I am so thankful for the opportunities to be a part of this group and the friendships that I have gained in the process. Including my running buddy who will be on the course with me tomorrow.

The wheel has come full circle. – William Shakespeare

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Dear Daina -Stuff dreams are made of

Hi D.

In all my life I have never appreciated this fall back time change more than right at this moment. An extra hour of sleep was as welcome as a fresh squeezed glass of lemonade on a hot summers day.

One might say “steady la” in Singlish. Singlish is a creole type language rooted in British English and a variety of other languages including  Hokkien, Mandarin, Cantonese and about 15 other languages. Because we just thought America was the melting pot of the world.

Steady – excellent or agreeing about something. Pronounced “stay – lee”

La or Lah- Used as a full stop in a sentence but doesn’t really have a meaning,. It’s  often used to change the tone of a sentence.

“Wha! You got an extra hour of sleep already? Steady la! 

Sitting around the dinner table with the local office personnel, I learned that Singaporeans quite enjoy listening to tourists try to speak a little of their Singlish language. And found out pretty quick, it was purely for the entertainment factor.

So let’s chat culinary delights for a bit.

This dinner was quite possibly my favorite experience of the entire trip. There is no better way to experience another culture than to sit side by side with a local and break bread….or crab as it is common in Singapore. Chili crab to be more specific, but we will get to that in a minute.

Ranesh was our guide for the evening and guide us he did, right down the red light district of Singapore where one side of the street marked in large bright red numbers are your local brothels and the other is mostly made up of locally owned restaurants and bars. Including No Signboard Seafood. The name was actually given to them by their customers, when they were first a hawker (open air food market) with no name. The locals would make plans for meal time meet ups and say “let’s meet at the no signboard place.” (except for in Singlish, which no doubt ended in lah) The place eventually adopted the name as their own.

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Drunken Prawns

For starters, we had a dish called Drunken Prawns. The waiter approached the table with a stainless steel pot of live prawns and presented them to our host for the evening. A local colleague leaned over to explain to me that many permits in town require some seafood to be served live to guests. Just like table-side guacamole, they literally drowned the prawns in a mixture of rice wine and brandy and then put them in a pot to boil them table-side before serving.

I was told  that the soup of brandy and rice wine is quite good for the body. Imagine that?! It’s like healing powers in the alcohol.

Apparently there is a live version of this dish, which we did not have. Thank the good Lord above! If the idea of cooking live prawns table-side is not gross enough for you, watch this video. What is the Singlish word for gag?

The video is quite like the open air dining experience we had at many of the restaurants in Singapore. Apparently, Singaporeans don’t like their air conditioning too much. So they accommodate the hot and humid climate with open air facilities all over the place.

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Look at these beauties? Bamboo clams (also known as Atlantic Jackknife clam or Razor clam) are one of the most beautifully prepared dishes I have every seen. Prepared being the operative word here.

Because why? Just watch. No need to sit through the entire thing, just catch the first couple of minutes.

And again I ask, how do you say gag in Singlish?

“Obscene and gruesomely looking..” <– my favorite part of this video.

The best part of the meal finally made it’s way to the table. And before you ask, my friend- 1)  it is not the bread and 2) it did not crawl it’s way to the table live.These amazing crabs did however come from the muddy lagoons of Sri Lanka and are prized by seafood lovers around the globe.

Chili Crab is claimed to be the national dish of Singapore. It’s a mud crab that is stir fried in a semi sweet and savory tomato and chili based sauce, which is actually not spicy at all.

We were draped with plastic bibs and provided water bowls for finger dipping because this is another hands on meal. The crab meat was juicy and sweet and the savory chili sauce dripped from my chin. Shiok!

I can’t finish this without telling you about those little heavenly  pieces of bread …It was almost like a fried donuts without the sweetness. An eggshell thin fried exterior and a light and soft warm center. Perfect for scooping up the chili sauce that dripped across your plate.

Shiok -Exclamation of extreme pleasure or the highest quality. Intended to be said with much passion.

This chili crab dinner was damn shiok, man! 

This meal truly was stuff that dreams are made of…both the delightful and the eery!

Happy eating!

-Ames

P.S. One guess as to what my first meal was after landing back in San Antonio? ‘Ole. Isn’t that Spanglish for something like…Mmmm. Get in my belly.

 

Dear Daina – Beauty Looking Back

Hey there, friend! Remember when we would make up stories about where we were going and head off to Longhorn for an evening? Or how about that time we told our parents we were taking a weekend girls trip and snuck along a couple of boys? Something about 3 Strange Days.

Oh memory lane can be a fun place to visit, can’t it?

This week I had the pleasure of taking a quick stroll down memory lane with a taxi driver. This aging Chinese man who came to Singapore as a very young child mumbled story after story through our cab ride as if he was talking to no one in particular.

“The little children used to go to pick up spiders there in the naughty lady’s house.” He reminisced about his childhood and how “the little children” would walk all the way from China town. “Today little children take the bus because they say it is so far” he complained in his broken English with his heavy Chinese accent. All of the d’s sounding like t’s with a heavy emphasis on the t’s. He repeated himself frequently and every time he said “naughty laty” I could not contain my own giggle.

Chinatown Food Street

We passed a very busy business district with retail store fronts on the lower levels and office space on the upper, “theaters those once were.” He seemed to be flooded with memories that he could not contain with each building we passed. “A church there, a school over there and now it is all gone,” disappointment dripping from his words. 

We turned the corner near Fort Canning Park (a site I did not have time to squeeze in) and he rambled on about the Japanese surrender that was decided in the underground Far East Command center in 1942. In his soft spoken mutter, he went on and on about how this was the start of great change.

Did you know it is compulsory for all men to serve in the military here for 2 years? Owning firearms is prohibited except for certain law enforcement. No less than five different male cab drivers asked whether we owned guns or not when we told them we were from Texas. The only time they are allowed to handle firearms is during their service time. No doubt this contributes to the favorable safety conditions of Singapore. That, and the extreme punitive system. Upon arriving, my immigration paperwork reminded me that execution is enforced for certain things like drug trafficking. Bear in mind that drug trafficking here is akin to casual use in the states, something that might not even warrant a slap on the wrist. It’s definitely a different world.

The driver reminded me of my own dad. A man that for as long as I can remember has had a fondness for storytelling. And as he ages his fondness seems to grow and sometimes the tales grow too. I often find myself frustrated that he pays little attention to what is ahead and seems to thrive on the yesteryears. It may be because personally I am so averse to looking back. Go figure. 

“Mikaeri Bijin” is the work of a Japanese artist named Moronobu Hishikawa. Ironically, this painting was used for the first commemorative stamp after World War II and the Japanese takeover of Singapore. It’s meaning is “the beauty looking back.”

My version of Beauty Looking Back

During a layover in Japan, I had the chance to try my hand at creating some traditional Japanese art. 

While this beauty looking back was intended to simply represent courtship, I found that the events of the week helped me remember how much beauty there is in looking back. 

I think I’ll give my dad a call when I get home. 

Much love for all the memories we’ve shared and the new ones we will make. -Ames

Dear Daina – Lizards and Bread

Dearest friend,

I just got back from a run through the Singapore Botanical Gardens which happens to be just around the corner from my hotel. The trails wind through dense tropical gardens and lush rain forests and then open up to green lawns and lakes. There was a light rainfall this morning as I was running along the edge of Swan Lake admiring the view across the water, when I rounded a corner and caught a glimpse of this guy laying in wait across the path.

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My heart stopped for a brief moment and all I could think about was the toddler that got swallowed up by the gator at the Disney resort in Florida recently. I was surely going down by this baby gator on the edge of Swan Lake half way around the world. But then, I saw another lady running toward me and she jogged right on over him. She was kind enough to explain to me in my panicked state that the monitor lizard was perfectly tame as long as I stayed on his tale end and away from his face. The skepticism must have been all over my face because she offered and did run with me, to show me that it was perfectly safe. Thank you, Singapore running buddy whom I will never see again! Run on and run safe. 

The gardens were one incredible view after another. A couple of my favorite spots included the Orchid Garden and the Evolution Garden, which walked you through a series of vegetation, trees, and flowers that are representative of each period of time since Creation.


Ohhhh D – You know how food is one of my love languages? The Singapore bakery scene speaks to my soul. They love their bread here. Bread shops and bakeries are on every corner, much like Starbucks is stateside. (But, to be fair, Starbucks has their fair share of corners here too.)

In the office building where I am working this week there is a brief moment at the entrance where the aroma of fish lingers in the air, because that is common for breakfast here too. Gag. But I rush by it so that I can take in the sweet smell of yeast and fresh bread at the little shop next door.

When in Singapore, do as the Singaporeans do – right?

Yesterday I caved and had an afternoon snack that was pretty much equivalent to an entire loaf of bread. Oh, did I mention it was chocolate bread and stuffed with cream cheese. Be still my heart.

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And this is why I run.

Signing off for now. More to come. Much love and big hugs!

-ames

Dear Daina

Dear Daina,

My typical morning routine usually includes the dull sound of the news in the back ground as I piddle around my house or hotel room getting ready for the workday.  This morning I discovered that I could connect my phone to the Bose surround sound system in my  room. A solo dance party ensued, which may or may not have included some jumping on the bed.

The inner child in me may have been set loose when I attempted the traditional  Indian style dining etiquette that involved eating with my hands yesterday. What?! Well, to be fair it was a combination of cutlery and my fingers as I found out that I am even more clumsy with my hands than with chopsticks. After a bit of a stroll through the bazaar where the aroma of Indian spices and fresh flowers mixed in the air, I stumbled upon The Banana Leaf Apollo where the dining experience began. As a part of tradition, food is eaten from a Thali rather than a plate, which is simply a large banana leaf.

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It was a bit precarious navigating the narrow streets, where people darted in front of moving vehicles and moving vehicles seemed to swerve in the direction of people. Horns honked, people shouted, street-side sewing machines buzzed, fresh garlands of roses and marigolds mixed with the aromas of curry and turmeric, bright-colored silk sari’s brushed your skin in the bazaars as the coastal winds blew –  my senses were on high alert.It’s exactly how I imagine the culture of India.


I learned that local Singaporeans stay away from Little India on Sunday’s, as it is the only day of the week in which the  Indian community does not work. It was also very early in the day by Indian standards the crowds were on the slim side. I can’t even imagine what its like when the action really gets going.



It’s the celebration of Deepavali right now, a Hindu festival of lights that honors the triumph of good over evil. They have said it’s a magical site to see the glow of lights after dark, so I am hoping to make it over another evening this week to see for myself.

Next stop, Chinatown. A very different, but equally impressive experience.

Much love,

Amy

 

 

 

 

Dear Daina…a series

I have this friend, who at times knows me better than I know my own self. She is a loyal companion, a confidant and a fine example of fortitude for all who have the joy of crossing her path.

My life and career have afforded me the opportunities to travel. By no means am I jet setting around the world on the regular, but I do get out and about from time to time. Her life and career have afforded her the pleasures of remaining closer to her home. We live vicariously through one another’s life.

She is my encourager. And she says to me journal; write it down and send me pictures.

Dear Daina,

It is 3:30 am and I am wide awake. After a carefully planned out sleep schedule so as to avoid jet lag as much as possible, I am wide awake on Monday morning at 3:30am. Good thing though, because it gives me a few minutes to share a little of my sights.

Travel was an experience in and of itself. To say anxiety levels were high about the distance and length of time I would be crammed into a tube in the sky is an understatement. However, I found that flying business class is a different world. Not enough to make me want to do this on the regular, but it was bearable. Do you know how many movies you can watch during 22 hours of flight time? ballpark…10,621.

Let me tell you a funny story, reminiscent of a scene out of Pretty Woman. The only difference is that I am not in a fancy hotel room because I am a woman of the night invited by a lonely man. Other than, pretty much the same. A simple girl from humble means found in a rather opulent hotel room. Got the idea?

I finally walked through my hotel room door at 2:20am. It was pitch black and I was less than “with it” after my journey around the world. Let’s just talk about technology for a moment…I searched for no less than a half hour for light switches. I simply wanted to be able to see where I was putting one foot in front of the other. Thank goodness for the flashlight app on my iPhone. There was this gadget on the wall near the door and I finally decided that maybe Singapore or this hotel was more advanced in technology than any previous stay at your run-of-the-mill Marriott Courtyard or Homewood Suites. The room key was magic! I slipped it in and located a cleverly hidden master panel inside the fake drawer front of the bedside table that provided all of the lighting options a girl could ask for at the tip of her fingers. Every light bulb in the room pretty much has its own button with dimming capabilities for each. Sheer drapes up and down. Blackout drapes up and down. Needless to say I spent another half hour just playing with them because, you know… my inner child just needed to come out and play for a bit.

Yesterday I made up for all that sitting time with an entire day on my feet.  It was a bit of a global adventure that started with breakfast in a French restaurant, lunch in Little India, an afternoon stroll through Chinatown, and finished in Marina Bay after a quick trip to the SkyPark at the Sands Hotel and Casino.

More to come on this my friend. But for now I will lay my head back down and try to sleep before the alarm rings loud and I must get shifted into a work mindset.

Much love and big hugs!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Synergies of Community

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This last week I had a special opportunity to help out with one of the coolest organized social runs I’ve seen in the area lately.

Team Red, White & Blue is a community designed to enrich the lives of veterans through social and physical activities meets every Wednesday at the VFW Post for a social run.

Street 2 Feet is a local non-profit organization that promotes strength and self sufficiency through the discipline and joy of running designed for our homeless community.

IAAP is a locally owned athletic advertising and promotions company that works closely with many of the non-profits in the area.

Team RWB invited Street2Feet out for their regularly scheduled social run this last Wednesday and IAAP brought out timing equipment, chips & salsa (the best home made salsa ever I might add) and yummy aguas frescas to enjoy after a hot summer evening run in San Antonio. Other running groups, vendors and food suppliers also showed offering support, treats and goodies too.

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Minka and I went out representing Girls on the Run, and help with serving up those tasty chips and salsa. I am fairly certain that for every 3 plates we served up we had to stop for a chip and salsa snack of our own. It was dang good salsa, y’all. I’m getting off track though.

RWB and S2F Social Run

I remember sitting in the theater watching a production of the Lion King several years ago. By then end of the show I felt like I had been right in the African Kingdom of Lions. I was drawn in by  how well the actors connected with the audience and the lighting, music and backdrops were so well designed and placed that I lost track of the fact that I was sitting in a plush theater. I left the theater humming Circle of Life and thinking through just how those lyrics applied to my own life.

Observing the coordinated efforts of the individual communities was just like watching a theater production. At Girls on the Run, we help the girls understand that each of their unique abilities, skill sets, and interest allows them to each play a role in their communities. And just like in a theater production, there are many roles that have to be filled. When everything comes together just right, a theater production will stir, move, and inspire an audience.

Team RWB, Street2Feet, IAAP and all the other groups that showed up to be a part of this event – YOU ALL deserve a standing ovation! The result of your efforts was definitely greater than your individual contributions. There was a sense of joy and gratitude that filled the air through the evening that was sure to inspire! Thank you all for your thoughtful contributions that are helping to change the world.

S2F RWB Social Run

I Matter….A Reminder

I stood barefoot on the salt and pepper ground swallowed up by the dense, gray layer of moisture suspended all around me. With every effort I could muster, I stopped the endless thoughts in my head and listened to the soft crashing of waves and rolling of seas that lie just beyond my arms reach. They captivated me long enough to settle my mind into a state of awe and then a swell of endless thoughts would crash in my head disturbing that brief yet extraordinary moment of distraction and tranquility.

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My intention for the next 3 days was simply to leave this place with clear answers for a multitude of decisions that sat directly in font me. Each one complexly related to the others and all impacting the trajectory of my life. With every ounce of energy I had, I mustered up the courage and pleaded for help.

Show off. I will only listen. No more planning on my part. In your mysterious way, oh Lord, show me where to go from here.

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I journeyed the peninsula on the far west side of Vancouver Island from Ucuelet to Tofino. Not more than a stretch of 20 km, but packed full of adventure. Rain forests edged wide sandy beaches that cupped gentle surfs, and rocky cliffs protected the inland from fierce sea swells of the Northern Pacific.

For two days, I strolled the waters edge every morning and every night. My mornings started with a plea for help. Answers that would chart out my life path. As the mornings wore on, I found myself so captivated by the beauty of this place that my thoughts could not help but contemplate the depths of the sea, the vastness of the great ocean, the mystery of suspended cloud cover, the reflection of light and the intensity of darkness, the sweet smell of fresh rain, the wonder of life big and small. Those endless life worries that consumed my thoughts before stepping foot on this island were ever more interrupted with the swelling emotion of gratitude as I soaked in the wonder of my surroundings.

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As the sun set the evening before I was to depart. I strolled the beach one last time basking in my own heart’s state of wonder for creation that had provided a welcome distraction these last few days. And just as tears began to fill my eyes and heaviness started to well up in my soul at the realization that I was leaving this place with no more clarity than when I arrived, you whispered.

I have you hemmed in behind and before, sweet child. I have you covered with my hand.

Although a peace settled into my soul, I worked hard to try and conjure up the remainder of this passage in an effort to unravel exactly how it applied to me. But as hard as I tried, I could recall no more. So I made a mental note to look it up in the coming days.

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Settling in for a 2 hour fairy ride back to the mainland, I decided catch up with some online reading.  A couple of clicks took me directly to one of my regular daily reads, She Reads Truth. With the same wonder and amazement I had experienced the last couple of days looking over the vast ocean, contemplating the mysteries of suspended cloud covers, the awesomeness of light and darkness, and the pure wonder of life and creation I let my eyes settle on the words before me. It was a grace day, indeed.

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Tears clouded my eyes as I read through the passage. The same creator of all things wondrous that my eyes had just witnessed had woven together a series of events specifically for me. You have searched me and known me. You discern when I come and when I go. You know when I sit and when I rise. You know every word before it is even on my tongue. You are familiar with all my ways. (My paraphrase)

Oh my heart! I That tender, soft message delivered in the foggiest of settings late in the evening a night before suddenly became so big and so clear. A light in the darkness. As I settled on the edge of the sea and rose at dawn contemplating all your ways, I lost site of the simple fact that you created me and knew all my days before I was even a thought to my parents. If I were to try and count how many small details You know about me and my life, it would outnumber the grains of the salt and pepper sands I had just left.

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It’s been a little over a month since my trip and this incredible grace experience. I wrote it down as soon as I returned out of sheer excitement and also knowing in my heart that it would just be a matter of time before I’d need a reminder. While the memory is still as clear as day, today was one of those days. I needed a fresh reminder that I am hemmed in behind and before.

And so it has begun. A new year. A new season. A fresh start. A clean slate.

I wrote that 7 months ago, hit save, logged out and haven’t since logged in to WordPress.  As I wrote those words, I knew there was a whirlwind of change in the coming year but looking at my calendar, it seemed the so far away. Let me be the first to tell you, as soon as I hit save and logged out it blew in like gale force winds. I fully expect hurricane force winds by the time August rolls around.

With all this change I find myself clinging to the familiar, the steady, the constant, the predictable things in my life. Oh, and chocolate…lots and lots of chocolate.  I’m knuckling in things that I’ve been trying with all my might to let go and my grasp is slipping on the things I’d just barely got a hold of before winds started brewing. Take writing for instance… 7 months of silence. It’s time for some change.

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