Pointing Fingers

•January 12, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Along with the rest of the country, I’ve been following the Tucson shootings that happened on Saturday in Arizona during a meet and greet with Representative Gabrielle Giffords. Giffords, who was shot in the brain, has remained in intensive care, while others, including 9-year-old Christina-Taylor Green, lost their lives. As the tragedy has continued to unfold throughout the week, everyone has been wondering what could possibly make someone kill six people and wound 19 others.

Throughout the week, the tragedy has developed in the media from a tragic act to a political finger-pointing of who-did-what. A lot has been made of Sarah Palin’s crosshairs map and her negative rhetoric. If you haven’t seen the map yet, it depicts crosshairs, or what appears to be a gun targets, placed on the districts of 20 U.S. representatives who voted for healthcare reform. Rep. Giffords is one of the “targets” on the list.

When the list originally was posted on Palin’s Facebook page and websites, Rep. Giffords was quoted in an MSNBC interview saying that the map was dangerous because of its ambiguous and potentially violent message:

“I think it’s important for all leaders, not just leaders of the Republican Party or the Democratic Party … community leaders, figures in our community to say, ‘Look, we can’t stand for this.’ I mean, this is a situation where people really need to realize that the rhetoric, and firing people up, and even things … For example, we’re on Sarah Palin’s targeted list, but the thing is, the way she has it depicted has the crosshairs of a gunsight over our district. And when people do that, they’ve got to realize there’s consequences to that actions.”

I don’t mean to pick on Palin specifically. I only use her as an example of my greater point because she is the most publicized illustration of my feelings toward the issue. (In fact, investigators say the Jared Lee Loughner had no political affiliation, and was not motivated by politicians to shoot Rep. Giffords. Rather, he suffered from severe mental illness.)

I chose this example to demonstrate that the high levels of negativity between the left and right in our government have not produced a single result. The bickering and finger pointing have only led to arguments and immaturity, not change. Since the election of 2008, our country has reached a low point, not only with politicians but with citizens as well, in how we compose ourselves.

The United States is facing a difficult time, with the worst economy since the Great Depression and incredibly high unemployment rates. We are involved in two wars that cannot be won, and witness constant new threats of terrorism. We need our leadership — of both parties — to lead, and show by example that this current state is only temporary.

I remember watching the 2008 election, and most recently the 2010 elections, and thinking how depressing it was to witness. There was name calling, and finger-pointing. I was happy that last year I hadn’t switched my voter registration yet because I didn’t feel inclined to vote for any of these people. I felt embarrassed by the way our “leaders” were conducting themselves, and I wondered what the rest of the world thought us as Americans.

Nothing is going to change until both sides take responsibility for their short-comings, their mistakes, and most importantly, their constant negativity. By spreading messages of hate and violence, we are only going to experience hate and violence. Politicians are supposed to be the voice of the people, but I don’t think any of them represent my voice. However, there are certainly people out there who will interpret the voices of hate to be theirs. This honestly frightens me.

I like to believe that with every tragedy there is some light that shines through. Although I haven’t seen it yet, I really hope that the shooting in Tucson brings a call to action to stop using such negative energy to invoke reactions and party loyalty. Nothing is accomplished this way. The United States needs to show that this isn’t the country we have been in the past, and this isn’t the country we will be in the future.

It’s Not Easy Being Green

•January 5, 2011 • Leave a Comment

I read this article by David Pogue on the New York Times web site today. He discusses the “Two-Year Itch,” which is the need for Americans to replace small wireless gadgets (i.e. cell phones, digital music player, digital cameras) every two years, only to throw them in the trash. He specifically targets cell phones, and the offers by major corporations to upgrade to bigger and better things after customers’ two year contracts expire.

I felt bad while reading this because I know I am guilty of buying new electronics while my last ones still work fine. My last phone worked good enough, but I needed to have an iPhone just to, well, have an iPhone. With Apple and now Google coming out with newer versions of the iPhone and the Android every few months at best, it’s hard not to want a better phone.

I don’t think the idea that electronics are made to break would surprise anyone. How many cell phones and computers have you had in the last two years? What did you do with it when it broke down? Major corporations make products with the intent of having the product break down within a certain time period. It’s more difficult and expensive to replace parts, or try to repair a product, than it is to just buy a newer working model.

But we cannot blame big industries entirely. Our personal wants only hurt the environment. So many do not recycle their old electronics for reuse or resale. We upgrade our cell phones when the older model still works, enforcing the ideals of big corporations to produce, produce, produce. Without taking a stand, we say it’s OK to make borderline working electronics. And of course, we don’t recycle.

Here’s a few facts about the effects our electronics have on the environment:

  • Each year in the United States alone, 3 million tons of e-waste (cell phones, TVs, DVD players, computers, etc…) are thrown away.
  • Improperly handled and poorly made electronics contain PCBs, cadmium, mercury and lead, which are released into the environment. These chemicals are proven to cause cancer, nervous system damage, cell damage and renal failure.
  • In the United States, an estimated 70% of heavy metals in landfills come from e-waste. The EPA estimates that only 15-20% of e-waste is recycled.

There’s always room for improvement — for everyone — to become more environmentally conscious. I try, but I can always try harder. I hope most people feel that way.

One of my professors in college once played a video called The Story of Stuff. I highly recommend watching to see what happens when we throw out those unwanted items that clutter our lives. There is also a newer (and shorter) version specifically about electronics. It’s only between 5-10 minutes long, so please watch! And then go recycle something.

11 in 11, Part 2

•December 20, 2010 • Leave a Comment

In November, I posted about a project that two of my friends and I would be working on throughout the next year — 11 things we each want to accomplish in 2011. I loved this idea because instead of focusing on one ridiculous resolution, which I would inevitably break, this gives me the opportunity to try a bunch of different things that aren’t necessarily life-changers. They’re just goals to fulfill throughout the year.

As 2010 comes to a close, I have to say it has overall been a great year. Throughout the course of the year I moved to DC, found a full-time job, got accepted into grad school, went zip-lining, ran a marathon (and two half marathons), went to a huge family reunion, went to quite a few happy hours with my mom, and met a lot of really great people. Among those are some small daily items that have made me happy, and some really huge life-altering goals that I have met.

Last year around my birthday (which happens to be pretty close to the end of the year) I decided to make a goal and do something that I never thought I would do based on the fact that I didn’t believe I could. I wanted to push myself outside of my comfort zone. I ended up choosing to run a marathon. This time last year, I had only run two 5Ks, and now it feels great to have two half marathons, a full marathon, and hundreds of training miles behind me. I also picked up a hobby that I happen to love. There will definitely be a lot of long distance runs in my future, that’s for sure.

Given that I had a pretty big year, I did again want to choose one thing, as part of the 11 items, that I never thought I would do. However, I did find it a bit challenging to develop a list of 11 different things to do in 2011. But, I am pretty excited about my list. I think I have a good mix of serious things, fun things, and experiences that will stay with me forever.

Before I unveil my list, my friends and I put together some rules for completing our items throughout the year:

1. The honestly policy rules all. Some of these things are personal, and only we will know if we achieve them and when we achieve them.
2.We can substitute items up until January 1. Although, I highly doubt I will make any changes to my list.
3. For each item on our list that we do not accomplish by December 31, 2011, we must buy a drink of her choice for the other two. Obviously this could get pretty expensive pretty fast, so none of us want to get caught with two or three items we did not complete.
4. Each item must depend on us accomplishing it, not an external source.
5. We will check in with each other quarterly in order to be sure that we are still progressing with our list. Of course wine will always be involved.
6. Every accomplishment will be posted in our blog (so you also know we achieved it) and to track our progressing.

So without anymore delay, here are my 11 things that I will do in 2011. (These are in no particular order.)

1. Run Marine Corps Marathon. The Marine Corps Marathon is the big DC marathon, and it’s supposed to be one of the best. Runner’s World says that MCM has a reputation as the “People’s Marathon” because of its goal to just have a good time. The race has over 30 bands playing throughout the course, and 100,000 spectators to cheer runners on. As the 4th largest marathon in the United States, MCM is going to be an amazing experience.
2. Travel through Europe. This is another item I cannot wait for. This summer, I plan to travel throughout Rome, Paris, Barcelona and possibly London. I went to Ireland once when I was 17, but this will surely be a different experience. I’m so lucky to have on of my college roommates, and one of the most fun and awesome people I know, joining me on this trip.
3. Maintain a minimum 3.7 GPA in graduate school. In five weeks I will be starting my Master’s degree in history. I am so excited to finally be moving toward my career goal of becoming a college professor. This is going to be a ton of work, but I know I can do it.
4. Read the 100 greatest novels ever written. Ok, I know this is a multi-year project. This would mean I’d have to read a new book every three days, which is impossible when considering grad school and work. (I do have a head start — I think I’ve read about 10 of them.) But I will be starting this goal, and only reading novels from this list published by TIME magazine. If you’re interested in what is on the list, you can find it here.
5. Begin writing my own novel. I love to write, and I’ve always wanted to write a book. I plan to at least start writing, since again, this potentially could be a multi-year project.
6. Make a time capsule, hide it, and find it again in 25 years. In 2011, I will be turning 25-years-old, so naturally in 2036 I will be turning 50. I think when I’m 50 it will be interesting to revisit my 25-year-old self again. I guarantee this list will be in there. Hopefully it will give me some laughs.
7. Learn to play tennis and kick ass in a tournament. First, I want to thank one of my friends who agreed to give me lessons. I definitely have a competitive edge, and I think I’d be a pretty intense tennis player once I actually gain some skills. I played when I was younger, but it’s been a long time since I’ve picked up a racquet.
8. Learn to paint. I always wanted to take art lessons and learn how to paint. I think oil paintings are so beautiful and so original. I plan to learn through lots of online studying and YouTube videos. And who knows, maybe if they’re good enough I can start a side business!
9. Sit in a park in DC for an entire Saturday and just enjoy doing nothing. Every weekend since I moved here I’ve wanted to just sit and read in Georgetown, but it just never happened. So in 2011 I am determined to pick a day and just relax and enjoy my surroundings. Maybe I’ll even do it twice.
10. Be more dedicated to my blog. Lucky you! I have a tendency to become lazy and slack on updating my blog. I promise to post at least once per week, and I will aim to post twice weekly. There will be a lot to read in 2011.
11. Go skydiving. Last, but certainly not least. I’m not afraid of very many things, but if there is one things that absolutely terrifies me it is heights. I hate roller coasters, high buildings, balconies, stadiums — you name it. As I mentioned earlier, I started a tradition of doing one action every year I never thought I would do. This is certainly it. Now is as good of a time as ever to overcome my fears.
Honorable mention: Go to Panama. My brothers Sean and Brendan will both be living in Panama next year as they continue to work toward building the Solace Group. I want to visit my brothers so badly next year because I know it would be so much fun and so great to see them. The only reason this did not make the list is because I do not know if I can afford it next year. However, it is not out of the question, and I certainly would love to add it on.

So there you have it. The 11 things I am going to do in 2011. Please feel free to comment on my list and let me know what you think. Maybe you will consider making an 11 in ’11 list of your own!

On a side note, DayOneAndAHalf is now on Twitter. Follow me for the latest updates on my blog and for links and other things related to my post. I’ll love you forever if you do!

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

•December 15, 2010 • Leave a Comment

I am in the middle of reading Nineteen Minutes, a novel by Jodi Picoult. I love her books (even though it borders on chick lit) because of their convergence of legal issues with complex societal problems. For example, Nineteen Minutes is about a school shooting from both the shooters point of view as an act of retaliation against bullies, and from victims’ points of views who grapple with the realization of life’s fragility. The shooter survives and ends up going to trial and pleading not guilty. His trial is based on battered woman’s syndrome, which postulates that a wife will attack an abusive husband even when unnecessary because her view of reality become disillusioned. The argument is that bullying will generate this same idea within the mind of those being bullied.

Anyway, I love a book that forces me to think — although I do read before going to sleep, and sometimes that can keep me up at night, and thus, be a problem. Regardless, it’s made me think a lot about the small decisions we can make in life and the ripple effect that they can have, with or without our knowledge.

This isn’t a novel idea. Movies, TV shows and books have all dealt with this idea, and I’ve thought about it quite a bit myself. What if my parents had never taken my brothers to tour the University of Delaware? Would I have ever considered going there? I never would have met my friends, or had the opportunities I was given as a result of my undergrad degree. I never would have written for The Review, which in turn, would have likely deterred me from interning at CBS for the news department, and which in turn, may have prevented me from getting a job or getting into grad school. And reaching farther back, if I had given up on graduating high school due to my health issues, I certainly would never be where I am now. It’s weird to think that even the decisions you make when you’re 13 or 14-years-old can really change the course of your life.

This book has made me think about all the recent bullying episodes and teenage suicides that have occurred throughout the country this past year. If these kids realized how far-reaching their actions were, would they have acted the same? I think particularly of the student at Rutgers, Tyler Clementi, who jumped from the George Washington Bridge a few months ago after his roommate and another girl streamed a video of him kissing another man. Now they face invasion of privacy charges and probable prison time. They caused the end of another life, and the devastation of his family — not to mention their opportunity to receive an education, and then a decent job. Would they have acted the same if they knew their ripple effect?

With the invention of the Internet and social networking, it’s easy to make a snap judgment and irrational decisions and broadcast them to the world. I think they will have a stronger and faster effect than they ever have in the past. It’s a scary idea, and I think one that society will have to come to terms with over time.

Looking Back

•December 1, 2010 • Leave a Comment

I never felt a sense of accomplishment when I graduated college. I felt a lot of things, but never any sort of pride over completing my degree. To this day I still don’t, even though so many people don’t ever receive a college degree. I remember my mom telling me to appreciate how much work I put into school and to allow myself to feel proud. Part of me knows how much I have dealt with in my life, and I hold myself to very high standards in regards to successes and accomplishments.

To be honest, I’ve done a lot of things in my life that should make me feel a sense of accomplishment. Ten years ago, I became sick with chronic Lyme disease. Up until that point, I never faced any problems with my health. From then on, my life became a day-to-day quest for survival, as doctors and specialists performed spinal taps, MRIs, CT scans, brain specs, blood tests, and a countless number of other tests to figure out “what was wrong.” My parents, thankfully, researched every degree of my illness and took me to a Lyme disease specialist in Boston to discuss how serious chronic Lyme disease can be if left untreated. We estimated that I had originally gotten sick when I was approximately eight or nine years old, and that the disease steadily built up in my body, showing sparse symptoms for years, until I crashed over the span of a week.

To make a very long story much shorter than I should, I endured approximately five years filled with chronic pain and debilitating cognitive effects until I finally felt alleviated from the illness. I was home schooled for about two and a half years through middle school and high school, and was a part-time student for another two years. I had difficulties just walking the distance down the hallway of my home to bathroom, and sitting up for a car ride through town. I hated waking up in the mornings, knowing all I could do was face another day of lying in bed in excruciating pain.

On Sunday, November 21, I ran the Philadelphia Marathon. I have to say, without a doubt, that it was the greatest accomplishment of my life thus far. Knowing that I could finish running 26.2 miles was such an exhilarating feeling. After 18 weeks of training, and obsessing over this run, crossing the finish line was truly a feeling I could never put into words.

I decided about a year ago that 2010 was going to be the year to run a marathon, just to say that I had done it, essentially. It was definitely on a whim that I decided this, since I hadn’t even run a 5K at that time. I had never been a runner. I didn’t even know if I would like it. I waited for a while to tell anyone that I wanted to run a marathon simply because I didn’t have the faith in myself that I could complete something so difficult. A few months, and two 5Ks later, I finally started telling my family and friends that 2010 would be the year. There was no turning back.

On Marathon Sunday, the day started at 3:30 a.m. for me, since I woke up naturally at this time. I had set my alarm for 4 a.m., so I didn’t miss out on much more sleep. I just lay in bed thinking of what I needed to do to have a great run, and tried not to get too nervous. Because of my training, I knew I could run 18-20 miles pretty comfortably. What’s another 6.2 miles at that point? It’s just two 5K’s, or one 10K — nothing. Finally, I got up at 4 to start my pre-run routine, and to just generally get mentally and physically prepared. It’s funny, because even after four and a half long months of training, it’s not the physical part that stops you from running. It’s mental. I still had my moments up to mile 12 where I wondered if I could really do this or not. The difference between those that finish and those who don’t is the ability to say “yes”, when your body and your mind are screaming “no.” It is inevitable that at some point you will hit a wall, but regardless, you have to push forward.

My brother, Brendan and my dad dropped me off at the starting line at around 5:45 a.m. It was still dark out, and the sun wouldn’t start to come up for at least another 45 minutes. I picked a spot on a curb and sat until about 6:30, just focusing on the run, and listening to my music. My priorities were just to clear my head, drink water, and stay warm.

At 7:00, I was lined up with the 23,000 other runners who were taking on either the full marathon or the half marathon that morning. Right before I started, my only thought was, “Oh my God. I am actually going to do this.” I couldn’t believe I was about to run a marathon.

Overall, I felt pretty good during my run, but not as well as I had hoped. The night before, I started coming down with a minor cold (of course) so I had a sore throat and I was congested. That’s always the gamble of racing — I had singed up in April, so there was really no way of knowing how I would feel, or what the weather would be like. I felt a little sick throughout the first 15 miles or so, but after that the cold didn’t bother me.

I was so lucky to have my entire family there on the day of the marathon. My brothers flew in from Panama and San Diego, while my parents, and my brother Kevin drove from Connecticut. I think they might have been more excited than I was at points, but it was great to feed off their energy. I saw them at miles 1, 5, and 13, and Brendan even ran miles 1-5 with me to help pace me.

My legs started to get sore during mile 23, but even then I was able to run the vast majority of the last few miles (and the race as a whole). I was glad that I had trained as hard as I did, and that I was only feeling pain when I was should have.

After I crossed the finish line, it didn’t take long for shock of it all to hit. I really did it. I never thought I would do anything like this is in my life, but I actually did it. For the first time, I felt like I had come full circle from a girl fighting to survive to one who came back to run a marathon. This wasn’t just an accomplishment of finishing the run, but of reclaiming my life when so many didn’t believe that I could. I had come so far in the last 10 years, doing so much that seemed impossible at one point. And that is an accomplishment that even I can appreciate.

11 in 11, Part 1

•November 8, 2010 • 4 Comments

I was out last night at a happy hour when my friends and I started talking about New Years, and more specifically, New Year’s resolutions. I hate resolutions.

I consider myself to be a creature of habit. I’ll eat the same foods every night for weeks until I get sick of them, then I won’t go near it for years until I finally decide to put it into my rotation again. I wash my sheets every Friday morning — no exceptions. My roommates can attest to this. I have a specific pre-running routine, which I won’t discuss at the risk of losing my readers. I can be very particular about my routines, and I don’t like to throw off my scheduling. Resolutions by definition mean that you must resolve to never do, or always do, a particular action in the future, and therefore break your routine. Ugh.

In addition to altering my day-to-day life, I think resolutions are trite and unoriginal. I looked on a few websites to see what the top 10 New Year’s resolutions are, and I didn’t see anything that I wouldn’t expect.

1. Stop smoking. (I don’t.)
2. Get fit. (I am.)
3. Lose weight. (I don’t need to.)
4. Enjoy life more. (How do you monitor this?)
5. Quit drinking. (That’s crazy.)
6. Organize yourself. (Have you met me?)
7. Learn something new. (Obviously I already know how to do everything.)
8. Get out of debt. (Thanks a lot, grad school.)
9. Spend more time with family. (I would if I could.)
10. Help people. (A little vague.)

Resolutions and I just do not work.

My friend did make a suggestion, though, that she wanted to make a list of 11 things to do in 2011. I really liked this idea, because it’s original, and it doesn’t limit me to feel like a failure when I screw up my one and only resolution. Plus, I can keep my normal routine, for the most part. So we decided to all create a list of 11 things (33 total, for those of you keeping track) we are going to complete in the year 2011. These items can range from just-for-fun, to self improvement, to community-minded. We want to motivate each other to complete the 11 items before December 31, 2011, and to stay on task throughout the year.

I started thinking last night of some things I wanted to do. **Spoiler Alert: I know one list item will be to run the Marine Corps Marathon next October, and luckily, one of my fellow list-makers wants to run her first marathon. I’m very excited to have a training buddy. Another one will be to maintain at least a 3.7 GPA in grad school. I intend to extend this goal throughout the 5 semesters I need to earn my Master’s degree. I’ve mentioned in another post that I plan to travel throughout Europe — another item.

Besides those three, I have eight slots available. If you have any suggestions I would love to hear them. I will definitely post my completed list when it’s compiled, and you can also make sure I do everything I put on the list. I’m sure this will lead to a number of posts, so stay tuned.

My Brother, the Ironman

•October 7, 2010 • Leave a Comment

On Saturday, my brother Brendan is racing in Ironman Hawaii. For the last three years, it has been Brendan’s primary goal to qualify for Kona before he reached the age of 30. My family and I were lucky to witness him qualify last Thanksgiving during Ironman Cozumel (after finishing third in his age group), which he completed in 10 hours and 24 minutes.

Ironman is known to be one of the most grueling athletic events in the world, consisting of a 2.4-mile swim, followed by a 112-mile bike ride, and culminating in a 26.2-mile run. When I first heard Brendan was racing an Ironman a few years ago, my immediate reaction was, “All in the same day?” and quickly proceeded by “That’s absolutely insane.” My reaction hasn’t changed much. Ironman Hawaii is the world championship, allowing only those who qualify and a few luck lottery winners to compete. The reason it’s so selective is because the heat is sweltering, the ocean is rough, and the race curves through lava-covered terrain and volcanoes. I know what you’re thinking — no big deal.

Let me tell you a little bit about Brendan — nothing ever stops him. I remember being forced (against my will) to play Monopoly with him when we were kids and thinking it was the most horrible experience ever. Our games would last for 3-4 days, and he would not allow me to stop playing until I had mortgaged every property, and given him every dollar that I and the bank had. He wasn’t happy with just winning—he had to have complete and total domination. I hated it. Side note: years later he admitted to me that he would take extra money from the bank, being that he was always the banker since I was too young to do any complex Monopoly math. I’m still bitter.

As we got older, things just progressed down this road of extreme competition. We couldn’t just play basketball fairly; he had to block every single one of my shots. It was never satisfactory to play MarioKart64 for fun; he had to lap me at least once to make it a legitimate win. And when I went to my college orientation, it wasn’t enough to just sit while I went to the seminars; he had to get in a fight with YouDee the Fighting Blue Hen. But this is another story, altogether.

I insist that although my brother is hyper-competitive and extremely determined, none of these stories really provided me with the emotional scars that I tend to exaggerate. Having a brother who does the unthinkable, such as Ironman Hawaii, only makes for great stories and an interesting life. And I am sure that he is happy to be the first of my three brothers to receive a lengthy blog post.

Given all his determination to be the best and to achieve his lofty goals, it was actually not much of a surprise when he announced that he’d be moving to San Diego to pursue his dream of racing Ironman Hawaii. Even if moving meant riding his bike (as in bicycle) across the country, and quitting his rather impressive New York City job. And now, with Kona just days away, the idea that no one really understood years ago is finally a reality.

On Saturday I’ll be following the race at home online, and through videos that my dad texts me throughout the day. I just want to take this opportunity to congratulate Brendan and say how proud I am, and the rest of our family is, of his accomplishment. There are few people who would ever think to follow through on something as grueling and challenging as one Ironman, let alone the unarguable ultimate triathlon. I couldn’t be happier for you. And obviously for myself, since this time I’m not competing against you.

This is supposed to be the point where I wish you good luck, but that seems unnecessary since I never had any doubt that you’d make it to Kona. Just kick some ass.