Adventure is not canceled

I love autumn but this year, more than ever, I am mourning the end of summer. Those long days were perfect for ice cream meet-ups and the shady afternoons made it easy to picnic in the park. We kayaked many feet apart from other and wore our masks for distanced hikes, and went on mini-golf dates, and sat on our porches and patios with cold drinks.

Now, we need our fall version of adventure in this weird world. It won’t look like it did last year, but it can still fill our hearts while keeping the rest of us and our communities safe.

This is how I’m planning to turn my usual fall adventures into something fun for 2020 – what would you add?

  • Instead of traveling to visit friends >> I’m playing online trivia via Geeks Who Drink, having virtual happy hours, and hosting my second Zoom murder mystery party – plus we’re talking about cooking classes and such in the future. I’m also taking the time to just call and really talk to my friends 1:1 which is something most of us didn’t have time for previously.
  • Instead of political canvassing >> I’m texting with the Biden / Harris campaign to get out the vote earlier than ever before. You can sign up for a text training here! Mine on Tuesday was energizing and fun, and I’m doing my first shift tonight. SwingLeft has some other options, too, and I’m also writing letters through VoteForward!
  • Instead of running in races >> I’m running in virtual races, including the Boston 10k for Women and doing an “Oregon Trail” challenge with my roommate and other friends (even though everyone knows this is WAY too late in the season to head west…)
  • Instead of going to the gym >> I am doing workout videos from Sydney Cummings, which is such a fabulous way to start the day. Highly recommend!
  • Instead of going to art class >> I’m taking “watercolor & pen and ink” classes online – being virtual means that we get to hear the teacher’s critique all together and also get to continue making art even after the zoom ends.

PLUS, we can still do all the following – with our masks on or in the comfort of our own homes!

  • Carve pumpkins (outside! less mess on your kitchen floor!)
  • Pick apples
  • Have picnics in parks
  • Go on walks and hikes, especially on trails or before work / in the evenings when the sidewalks are more open
  • Pick up delicious food from bakeries, beer from local breweries, cider from farm stands, and more
  • Host a book club
  • Cook a new recipe (might I suggest bread if you haven’t already gotten tired of this challenge?)
  • Deliver cookies to your friends and neighbors
  • Celebrate the end of the week with take-out from restaurants you love and want to see survive
  • Write letters and send birthday cards
  • Have a movie marathon or finally watch that series you were saving for a rainy day (Mad Men is next on my list and yes I know how late I am)
  • Plan for a future adventure by reading books, watching cooking and travel specials, learning a new language, or physically training – so that when the day comes when it’s safe to hit the road again, we are ready to go!

Tips for buying a car in a pandemic

The pandemic has brought a lot of firsts – for some people, making bread or going to therapy for the first time. For others, taking up running or starting / ending relationships. For me, it was a material change that is part of a lifestyle change – I bought a car!

My bucket list of things to do with my car is basically almost complete after a mere 2 months:

  • Drive myself to IKEA
  • Go see my cousin and her kiddos, visit my goat friends in CT, drive myself home to see my parents
  • Drive to the beach just to get ice cream
  • Go for hikes
  • Go to the grocery store (thrilling!)
  • Play on inconveniently located sports leagues
  • Visit far-away bakeries and markets
  • Still to come: use it to drive myself canvassing for candidates that matter to me, drive myself to Maine (sad but a tiny 6-seater plane is not where I want to be right now), and drive to see my favorite (yes, only) nephew in NJ plus my sis and brother-in-law

I am honestly loving having a car and the freedom of movement (in a time when so much else is closed off) more than I expected – even if the journey there was a bit time consuming and chaotic. I wrote up these tips to share with a friend and thought others who are considering their first / next car purchase in these weird times could benefit as well!

  1. Consumer Reports has great reviews of cars, including such that you can see the items that might matter most to you (driver side space, mpg, etc.). It’s $60 for a year and it saved me a few thousand dollars! Their website is better than their app but both are useful – and you can use it for way more than just cars.
  2. When you are ready to get a bid (you have picked what car you want), you can actually submit that request through Consumer Reports and people specifically told me they were giving me the CR price which was $2k off immediately. This is under “See Member Price on Local Inventory” on the car page. Highly recommend! This is how I got almost all my bids (and dozens of phone calls). I planned to buy in NH and ended up getting one in MA for a much lower price for the same car.
  3. Everyone is able to negotiate by email right now – and you can and should get offers in writing and keep your options open. I did test drives in the weeks ahead of picking my first choice, and negotiated the price with a few places and only made a final visit to the one where I picked out and bought my car.
  4. In general, inventory is wicked behind due to the supply chain / imports being stalled so there is somewhat of a finite source of new cars at the moment. Be ready to make a quick decision when you find the one you want! I lost the one I wanted in the color I thought I wanted (RIP galactic aqua mica) but love where I ended up with my blue flame.
  5. Be wary of what features are or are not included. I almost got a “better” deal on a version without a spare tire (super common), which sounds fine if you’re never doing distance driving but is less good for road trips of any length.
  6. Go in with a loan in hand from your bank so you can better negotiate. I had one approved, and ended up getting a 3 year loan (as recommended by my financial advisor) with 0% interest and 0% down. Don’t be fooled by seeing the “total monthly charge” – ask and ask and ask about the interest rate vs the principal and do your own math. They didn’t originally want to offer me 0% but I told them I had an offer in hand so they had to make it worth my time. I did have to give up $1000 in “Toyota cash” and get $500 off instead, but I was going to pay much more than that in interest with my bank loan so it still came out as a gain.
  7. Ask lots of questions: for example, how does registration work, what kind of plate options do you have (I got the whale one I wanted!), what other taxes will I have to pay, everything that could be a hassle later.
  8. Make a list of everything else you need to settle once you sign the paperwork. For me, that included insurance, parking permit, EZ Pass, AAA membership, and emergency supplies. I still need to get an almanac, because as much as I love my phone, I never want to go anywhere without a map.
  9. Get your insurance quotes as you’re collecting bids, since you need it to take the car home.  https://www.thezebra.com/ is what my cousin who works in insurance recommended and it’s how I got to my quote.
  10. Per my mom: go in for the final negotiation when you are not in a hurry. This thing takes HOURS and if we were in a rush it would have been miserable. Give yourself time to do it right.

What other advice do you have for a first-time car owner? What’s in your car’s emergency kit? Where should I travel to next??

All good things are wild, and free.

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” – Henry David Thoreau

I spent my Sunday morning in the woods around Walden Pond. This is notable because:

  1. In 34 years (most of them as a historical and literary nerd) I’ve never actually been to Walden Pond
  2. One of the reasons I wanted a car (I bought a car!) was to hike
  3. … and specifically to hike alone, which I’ve never done before.

I love hiking with my mom and other friends, but I wanted to be able to have adventures on my own schedule – which is the reality I’ve been creating for myself since I returned to the city in mid-May. Dates at far-away mini-golf courses, distanced visits to see kiddos and friends I’ve missed, kayaking after work, checking out new bakeries, eating ice cream on the beach, exploring the outdoor world as much as is safe and enjoying every mile (other than that one harrowing rainy drive through Malden…).

Today I needed fresh air, and using my AMC guidebook basically as a “Choose Your Own Adventure”, I found my way to Walden Pond.

I explored the Pond Path, where the splash and babble of the swimmers on the shores below made it feel like I was at the beach. And I took the Esker Path to Emerson’s Cliff – where the non-view made me laugh out loud with only the red squirrels as my audience.

Then I sat by the shore and painted, using pond water with my watercolors and pen. Off to one side was a fallen tree, cordoned off by swim buoys. I painted the way the water was inky where it touched the bark, and where the green pine needles reached down to meet the shadows. It was part of the scene, this Walden life.

Only it turns out – it wasn’t. Pond patrol motored by at one point and I heard the boater say to some nearby swimmers that the hollow tree, formerly a shore menace, had finally fallen just on Thursday – mere days earlier.

It struck me that from where I sat, this thing seemed permanent… inevitable. In fact, it had only just happened and was being dealt with shortly. In a week it likely won’t be there any longer.

It reminds me of this whole situation in the world. It feels like we have been masked and afraid and apart for ages. But when this is over, we will say – that wasn’t forever, it just looked that way from the shore.

We can be the buoys that keep each other safe in this moment – and only once we’ve earned it can we go back to a new normal view.

The last normal thing

Those which I didn’t realize would be significant:

  1. A birthday party centered around chips and dips
  2. Going to a sold out show at a local theater
  3. Jokingly arguing with my grandma on the phone
  4. Winning big at a night out at the casino
  5. A three-hour pottery class
  6. A mini shopping spree and new hiking boots
  7. Canceling a first date because I was too busy (and stressed)

Those that I will celebrate next:

  1. Hugging my family and friends
  2. Seeing any live performance
  3. Eating food from a street vendor
  4. A night out at the Red Sox
  5. Shopping for fun and not alone
  6. Riding a train
  7. A first date – in person

10k of awesome

Yesterday, mum and I ran the 43rd Boston 10k for women – currently sponsored by Reebok but originally the Bonne Bell race circa 1977.

When it started all those years ago, it was one of the only all-women races in the country, and today it still holds the title of the longest running one on the east coast. Last year we saw a woman with a “42 years” sticker and were impressed – then we discovered that she started the race and was its first organizer! Yesterday we found and thanked her again – you rock, Dusty Rhodes!

This was my 4th year running it and mom’s 8th – we missed 7 years because my work retreat at my last job was always on this weekend, but now we are BACK and were ready to rock. We trained this summer and especially this fall, as our hiking season waned – exploring new parts of the rail trail, doing interval workouts, and running more days a week than I have in a long time. I also learned how much I need a warmup to really do my best – 10 mins is enough and makes such a difference in terms of how easy that first mile is!

Race day was beautiful – the sky was clear blue during our warm-up yoga, the temps were rising, and the puddles from last week had all evaporated.

We were so happy to be out on the course – we weren’t even worried about mom’s cell phone which was lost, because we had convinced ourselves it was just forgotten in the car (mega thanks to Kat for coordinating its safe return and being so helpful when we did realize it was missing hours later!). We ran with a similar pack for most of the race, and had hundreds of people behind us (reducing the risk that a cop would dare ask us to move to the sidewalk like last year, though we had our enthusiastic “no thank you”s planned again). The water stops were plentiful (1 per mile!) and operated by very enthusiastic college and high school students. On the bridge, we passed the winners and wheelchair racer coming back the other way – such amazing athletes! Molly Huddle, who won, is 35 to second place’s 22. So impressive!

Also impressive: our pace! Our goal was to beat last year’s time and we were pacing way ahead of that (no splits – see phone issue…). We knew if we kept it up we would crush our goal and that powered us through the last .2 miles.

In the end, we cut 4 minutes off our 2018 time – down to 1:28:41! Such a great ending to such a solid training season and fall in general.

Bonus points for good food from the tents, finding mom’s phone, and my first-year roommate Jill finding ME while stretching. 15 years after we first moved into North Rocky together and we’re still friends!

Mom and I were so happy to be in the sunshine together and fit enough for this and whatever other challenge may come our way.

In summary – get back on that course, set a goal for yourself, and run until your heart sings!

Mountain Day remembered

A belated post – backdated to reflect reality!

Mountain Day 2019 was a rainy, gray day – I knew in my gut that it would be that day, despite the lack of great hiking weather. When I saw the official announcement, I immediately scoped out ice cream locales in Boston – and only found one on Newbury Street.

Where were my Camberville folks at??

Before my roommate, MoHo Sarah, left for the day, I asked if she would help me host something closer to home and she thankfully said yes. Thus I added an event in Davis Square for 18:37, the standard meeting time.

By that afternoon, dozens of spots all over Boston had been added to the list and I wasn’t sure if anyone would come to mine – but Sarah and I headed to the square anyway with my Mountain Day hat to help people recognize us.

It worked! 15 people showed up, most of whom live within 10 mins of the square and thus are our actual neighbors. We all shared delicious ice cream – I got apple cider sorbet, so good!

We made new friends, connected again with old ones, found career and social connections. Four of us stayed until the air had turned cold and we were shivering between words.

I love my Mount Holyoke pals and our Mountain Day traditions – see you all next year!

Being a good neighbor

This week, I went to my first-ever community meeting. You would have thought that as a Leslie Knope fan, this would be a weekly occurrence for me / I would be running these by now, but in fact my progressive city usually operates in such a solid way that I’ve been able to focus my energy on local nonprofit work.

The big, dramatic thing that finally made me change my mind?

Traffic safety

In the year since I moved closer to Tufts, I have been a part of or close to such traffic danger that I never knew was happening down the road. I’ve called 911 for witnessing car accidents in the rotary twice. I’ve had countless cars almost hit me on a crosswalk (usually because drivers were texting). After being on crutches, I realized the terrible weight we put on pedestrians at the benefit of cars (with blocked crosswalks and bus lanes and so much more, which is more than an annoyance when you’re struggling just to stand).

And I now run with a reflective vest in honor and awareness of Allison Donovan, a woman who was mowed down in a crosswalk by a drunk driver right outside the elementary school where this meeting was being held.

For all these reasons – and the tragedies we can prevent – I sat on a hard metal folding chair, wearing said reflective vest, on this Wednesday night. And you better believe that before the night was done, I also put in my name to join the city’s (soon-to-be) pedestrian safety committee.

Being there really showed me why this matters – even if I don’t have kids in the schools or a permanent residence here. Our city belongs to all of us, but we have to show up to really make sure our voices are being heard.

Go to your own local government’s meetings and tell me how it goes! Then maybe let’s run for something together?

Choose your challenge

If you’ve ever met me, you know I love a challenge. This whole blog was built on the idea of challenging myself to try new things before I turned 30.

So it should be no surprise that I try to find a new challenge for basically every month. Whether it’s my no sugar challenge or the 30 day shred I just completed as my broken foot healed (more on that later…) or a promise to send more snail mail, I like to have something new to aim for.

January’s challenge is something I’m sharing with a hundred thousand plus other folks in the form of a 30 day yoga quest à la Yoga With Adriene.

My goal is to keep myself moving in these darker winter months, gain some flexibility, and see what it would be like to really have a yoga practice vs my usual drop-in mode. I’m going to try to complete all 30 sessions, though I might push back the days slightly like if it’s really nice running weather and I don’t have time to do both. I’ll just pick it up tomorrow (a skill I learned and loved from the Shred – finishing is much more important than streaking for me!).

Today was day 3 and I’m starting to see how this might feel – and loving it. It helps that my mom and sis and even a few coworkers are doing it too, and we chat about our favorite parts (and where we think her dog goes when he leaves the screen).

Are you one of the many in this challenge too? Have you set up your own goals for January and 2019? Share and let’s support each other in this bright new year!

Alis grave nil

I just got back from DC (on a 6 am flight because Meg and I are ridiculous) – highlights of my trip including snuggling a friend’s new baby (Ollie!), seeing the Burning Man exhibit at the Renwick (fascinating even if I’m not totally shipping it), and eating breakfast – ok, and then also wine – with Meg at the all-women DC social club, The Wing.

This place is a pastel Instagram dream. I’ve never been into one of the “good old boys” social club but I’ve read about them in many Victorian novels – if they channel a theme as well as this place does, I can completely understand why the chaps would never leave.

From velvety easy chairs to a wicker and pink cafe to phone booths named after feminist badasses, The Wing is a remote workspace, common room, spa, and lecture hall.

It’s a millennial’s paradise – from the avocado toast to the rosé happy hour to the signs everywhere reminding you to register to vote. Plus the “powder room” features luxury hair and body products (for free) and has robes and slippers in addition to usual shower offerings.

My personal favorite: THE LIBRARY. Thousands of books (color coordinated, one of my favorite nonsensical design choices) all by and about women, that you can browse in person or check out for a month at a time. Be still my nerdy heart!

In theory there are plans for a Wing in Boston in the not too distant future. Given how awesomely powerful this space was, I’ll definitely be checking it out when the time comes. And for now I’ll just pop in when I visit Meg and make her borrow #allthebooks on her account.

(There’s a lot more to this idea beyond how beautiful this place is – check it out on The Wing’s website. Their slogan – and this blog title – roughly translates into “Nothing is heavy for those who have wings.”)