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071f1eff1e6704c21a729ddd41fc8400yesterday was one of those days that made me think a lot about what i have, and how easy it is to lose everything in a single moment. i purposefully held off on posting; i think in the case of september 11th, for the most part, silence speaks louder than any words i could write. i didn’t live here when the planes hit the towers, but having been here for the better part of 6 years, i feel like i can at least call myself somewhat of a new yorker, and every year on 9/11, i feel a little pang in my chest, like a tiny piece of my heart has chipped off and swirled down the drain. the world is kind of a scary place these days, you know? i don’t remember the last time i saw something truly happy on the news, and conflict seems to be around every.single.corner. yesterday, i woke up to clouds obstructing the sun, and i thought, good. it simply wouldn’t seem right for the sun to shine on a day like today. 

like millions of other new yorkers, i got up, and went about my day. i took the subway, i walked to work, i got a coffee at my regular spot – but i did so with a heaviness in my heart that isn’t there on other days. then, when i got to work, i found out that a friend’s father had passed away the evening before. and while i’d never met him, and while this friend and i aren’t that close, i felt this dark cloud settle over me, one little prick of sadness after another.

the world just isn’t fair, you know? i know, that’s a silly and childish thing to say. of course the world isn’t fair. but sometimes i want it to be, so that bad things, hard things, things that break our hearts – so that those things don’t happen to the people i care about.

i’m not really the god-fearing type, but i do ascribe to the belief that there’s something greater than us out there, something that has a sense of our purpose, and our plan. that’s not to say there is a reason for everything, but i like to think that sometimes, there’s someone up there (oprah, is that you?) pulling just a few strings.

all that heaviness yesterday got me thinking about just how lucky i am. sure, i put up a post two days ago about my wounded heart, and sure, i’m SAF (single as fuck, a term i recently coined to describe myself), but if that’s the worst thing in my life right now, god damn am i grateful.

grateful. it’s a good word, isn’t it? it makes you think of the things, the moments, the people and places you’re thankful for. it reminds you to take a step back, and see everything as relative, and remember the good instead of focusing on the bad. on days when it seems like the world is a terrible, horrible, scary place, and like no one’s up there minding the store, i like to remind myself of what’s important: all the things i do have, not all the things i don’t. thinking about all those people who lost their lives on 9/11, thinking about my friend who will never get to call his father again – those are terrible, horrible things. and when i stop and truly think about them, they make me realize: my problems? not so bad.

so, as a short exercise, a few things i am grateful for.

1) my health, and the health of my loved ones. almost immediately after hearing about my friend’s father’s death, i texted my entire family. had my parents not been at a medical conference, i would have called. i just needed to hear that they were okay, that they were there. and then i said, i am so thankful that we’re all still here, and we’re all still healthy. my family isn’t perfect (who’s is?) but we love each other dearly, and i wouldn’t be where i am today without them.

2) my job. sometimes i hate it, but i quite like it, and i feel happy to go into work each day. doing something you enjoy is an absolute privilege, and i try not to forget that.

3) my city. i live in one of the most vibrant, exciting, interesting, diverse cities in the entire world. sometimes, new york uses me as its punching bag, but most of the time, the city is pretty damn nice to me, and i’ll be damned if i don’t feel lucky to live here.

4) my body. slightly connected to my health, but also its own thing. anyone who reads this blog regularly knows i struggle greatly with my body image (and i probably always will), but over the past few years, i’ve been working towards a place of acceptance. while i’m not there yet, i have gotten to the point where i have moments in which i feel strong, and capable, and oh so thankful for two working arms and two working legs, and the ability to get just about anywhere on my own two feet. there are many people (my own cousin included) who do not have this luxury; i try not to take it lightly.

5) my friends. i have never been the girl to have a huge group of friends, and slowly but surely, i’m learning to be okay with that. what i do have, however, is a good handful of people i can count on rain or shine, and then a whole other bucket of folks who are just plain wonderful, even if i can’t count them as my inner circle. this morning, one of my old coworkers reached out to send me a little ray of sunshine, and i can’t tell you just how much it made my day. people like that – ones who do things to make others happy purely out of the kindness of their own hearts – they make my time on this world worth it.

i’d love to know: what are you grateful for? 

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remember how i’ve talked about how un-outdoorsy i am? well, that un-outdoorsy-ness extends to winter sports, like snowboarding and skiing. so you might find it a bit funny that i decided to accompany my friends on a ski trip upstate to hunter mountain over new year’s. and even funnier that this was my second year in a row participating in said ski trip.

here’s the thing: i love everything about ski trips, in theory. except, really, the skiing. i like the big comfy sweaters and the cozy nights spend snuggled up on the couch drinking spiced cider (this year, we spiked it with fireball. it was delicious!). i like the constantly crackling fireplace and the hottubs that fit ten people with no problems except some criss-crossed feet. i like beautiful scenic country roads, their pavement streaked with snow. i like rosy cheeks and drinking too much on new year’s and being on vacation, away from reality, in general.

truly, i like it all. except the skiing. so i don’t ski. but this year, i did go snow tubing, and let me tell you, that shit is F.U.N. i used to go tubing in the lake at my camp every summer, and while i was scared shitless of being dumped into the water while going 80 mph, there was nothing like gliding along the water at top speed. snow tubing is the same, except you’re going down a giant snowy hill instead of going across the top of the water. you spin around backwards and the wind whips around your face, and even though you’re freezing, you feel so freeleave it to me to prefer an activity that’s designed for children over one that’s designed for adults. Image

$500 worth of groceries for 4.5 days. EEK. 

so while my friends trekked up and down the mountain, i walked around the tiny town of tannersville, buying silly things like overpriced chocolate malt balls and maple sugar candy. i sat by the fireplace and plowed through allegiant, and generally, had a dandy time. one of my best friends, maddie, joined us this year, which was wonderful, and the entire trip went off without a single moment of drama (a record for our group of friends, as much as i hate to admit it).

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you can’t imagine how many takes it took to get a good picture out of the two of us

when i first saw our house online, i balked. i believe the wording i used was “it looks like the sort of house where SVU murders take place.” but i ate my words; after one night in my (admittedly uber creaky) bed, i was sold on our little log cabin (the upstairs, at least. the downstairs was not really my jam). just a hop, skip and a jump from the mountain, and closer to the town of tannersville than the one we’d stayed in before, the cabin was the perfect choice for our group, and i’d stay there again in a heartbeat.

all in all, it was a wonderful way to ring in the new year. 2014, here i come!

Imagehave i mentioned that i’m not exactly the outdoorsy type? if i haven’t, now you know. this pin rings quite true to me. i’m not a fan of camping. i hate the scratchy feel of sleeping bags. i don’t enjoy a good hike. and yet, “hiking” (if you could even really call it that) was exactly what i found myself doing on my penultimate day in nicaragua. see, martha had mentioned that the view from the jesus christ statue that overlooks san juan del sur was out of this world. we couldn’t miss it. it had to be seen before i departed and flew back to new york. but the only way to get there was to walk up – and i mean up. 

up a series of ridiculously steep streets (my calves have never burned so intensely), and then up about 50-100 even steeper steps. when martha first mentioned the hike, i waved it off, and i’ll let you in on a little secret as to why it’s not just that i don’t like hiking, it’s that i’m afraid i can’t do it. afraid my body can’t handle it. afraid that i’m too overweight, too out of shape to conquer the heat and the hills. so when martha first mentioned the statue, but said it was ‘quite the hike,’ i said i’d think about it.

and then there we were, on my second to last day, trying to squeeze every bit of amazing out of our vacation, and she brought it up again. and this time, i couldn’t back out. so i told myself (and she reminded me) that we could take breaks if we needed to. we’d just walk slowly.

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so off we set, walking along the beach, over a miniature foot bridge, and into the residential streets beyond the bars and the hostels and the little shops in town. before long, those residential streets turned into steep as hell hills, and my legs began to burn. i felt sweat trickling down the small of my back, pooling in my sports bra, dripping down my hairline. i looked over, and both martha and sara were sweating too. that made me feel a bit better. i wasn’t the only one who thought it was practically sauna-like in the sunshine. every moment i felt like i needed to stop, i heard my soul cycle instructor’s voice in my head telling me, that moment when you feel like giving up? that’s not the end. that’s just the beginning. 

after about 45 minutes of walking, we were almost there. we stopped to take a picture by an insanely gorgeous view. and then we kept walking. soon i saw the steps – on such a steep incline that i had a moment of sudden paralysis (what if i fell off?!) – we were so close. at the end of those steps was the statue, and a view of san juan and all that surrounds it. Image$10 later and a GIANT downed water bottle later, we were there. and though my heart was pounding and my skin was sticky with perspiration, i didn’t feel sweaty. i didn’t feel out of shape. i didn’t feel anything but proud. because i had done it. i’d walked, then climbed, all the way from the edge of the beach in that image, to the giant statue that looked over it. little old out of shape, overweight me had done it.

Imageand as i stood there looking over the edge to the town below, i had a thought: maybe little old me wasn’t so out of shape anymore. maybe all those spinning classes have given my heart and my legs an edge. maybe i’m finally turning into a person who doesn’t have to turn things down for fear that she can’t keep up.  Image

on the walk down, i turned to martha, and i said,  i think i’m having a bit of an epiphany. i was so worried about doing this, so afraid i couldn’t do it. but i could. my body could. my body does so much for me. it can do so many things. it’s so strong, so powerful, so amazing. and yet all i do is complain about how it looks. 

it sounds silly, doesn’t it? ridiculous, even. but body acceptance, for me, is a huge thing. and i don’t think i’m there yet, but climbing that mini mountain was yet another step on my journey to acceptance. and that was a beautiful thing.

martha, in all her infinite wisdom, simply wrapped me in a big hug, and said, i’m so happy you’re having this moment.

and you know what i thought? that despite the fact that i was sweaty, and looked like an overheated piglet, so was i.

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i’ve talked a lot on this blog about my homebody nature – how i’d rather stay in than go out, how i crave and thrive on routine, how i prefer things to be planned out, so i know what to expect and when. i’m not, most would say, the most adventurous of ladies. in fact, that last sentence was the understatement of the century. adventure isn’t really my jam. routine, i get. routine, i know. but spontaneity scares the shit out of me. i’d love to be one of those chill, go with the flow girls. god, i wish i was. but i know i am not, and likely, will never be.

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my friend martha, though? she’s one of those girls through and through. she is one of the most open, adventurous, down ass chicks (really, that’s the only way to describe her) i have ever met in my entire life. she is spontaneity at its best, always up for a new challenge, a new place, a new food or person. she’s a free spirit, and i mean that as the ultimate compliment: she goes where her heart takes her, and for this, i admire her greatly.

most recently, her heart took her to san juan del sur, a beautiful little beach down on the southwest coast of nicaragua. see, martha got burnt out at her job as a nurse in boston. and unlike most of us, who would suck that unhappiness up until it ate us alive, she got out. and then she said to herself, what should i do next? what will make me happy? what will make me feel full? and a chance to do some health research in nicaragua came up. so she took it. and she leapt, eyes open, into the unknown.

pretty incredible, right? when she told me her plans, i too was feeling a bit burnt out at my job. i hadn’t had a real vacation in years, and i thought to myself, i should go to nicaragua and visit her. except her plans were up in the air, and i couldn’t book dates until the semi last minute, and i wouldn’t be able to stay with her, which would mean booking a hotel on my own, and traveling alone, and all of a sudden, it didn’t seem like such a great idea.

because it was scary, and new, and different. and adventurous.

and then i did it anyway. because it was all those things, and i needed to push myself out of my comfort zone. so i booked my ticket on the blind faith that even if i was traveling alone, and even if i was staying alone, martha would be there – and during the times that she wasn’t, i would be alone, and that would be a good thing. i would explore. i would practice my spanish. i would volunteer. i would just be.

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as it turned out, while i did stay alone for 2 nights, i spent another two in a beautiful house (see below) with martha and her dear friend sara, who is one of the most fabulous ladies i’ve ever had the pleasure of spending time with.

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and then we spent another two nights in a fancy schmancy resort that was uber lux, but also uber filled with insects. but hey, i can’t balk at that view. who could?

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it was a week filled with some serious girl talk, some crazy dancing times, a lot of rum and cokes, and enough beach and pool time for me to a) come back looking “seriously relaxed” and “very tan” – two phrases that are never, ever, associated with me.

i have a good deal of stories to tell about my week in nica, but i’ll do you the favor of spreading those out a bit, so you’re not reading 9 million words at once. in the meantime, though, here are a few other pictures. i tell you, the sunsets there…i’ve never seen anything like them.

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