Be Here Now

Christmas is basically the best thing to ever happen to planet Earth.

I mean that in every sense of the word: we have a Savior thanks to Christmas. Also we have lights and trees and garland and happiness. People just seem happier this time of year.

One of my favorite things about NYC is how this city shows up for Christmas. I first visited around Thanksgiving when I was 13, and I just remember the size of everything. It all seemed so magnificent and big. The buildings are big. The stores are big. The Christmas trees are big.

There’s one tree in particular that is really big. Rockefeller Center is always one of my favorite places (go ahead, judge me for the waning tourist & poor New Yorker that I am!) But at Christmas, even Rockefeller outdoes itself.

I was at a holiday party last night near Times Square and as I headed for the 1 train I realized how close I was to the tree. Without hesitating I changed my path to go and stare at it. I knew it would be crowded; it’s freezing cold. But I had to get a glimpse and this weeknight was my perfect chance.

I was composing my Instagram caption as I walked (ahem. you do it, too) and was almost embarrassingly excited about this excursion.

As soon as I arrived at the tree I pulled my phone from my coat to snap a few pictures. Selfies aren’t always my thing, but I was about to make an exception. I snapped one of the tree before the annoying pinwheel surprisingly popped up – my phone battery was finished for the day.

Crap. I immediately turned on my heels to leave. To go home after looking at the tree for all of 5 seconds when I had excitedly braved the cold and extra 10 minute walk for this.

I was a few feet into my return when I realized what I had done. Just because I can’t take a picture doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

Ouch! When did I stop believing that? Thankfully I realized this and returned to my post to stare at everyone’s favorite Christmas tree for several great, cold minutes. Everyone around me was from out of town, just as excited as me to see all the lights and take in its’ size. I soaked up their energy and awe of NYC while we shared an amazing sight to behold.

I’m grateful I had this realization. I am not criticizing social media – that would be too easy and very short-sighted. Rather I am thankful for the reminder that moderation is a very good thing.

While soaking up this favorite season in my favorite city, I’m pausing to take it all in. Even if I am the only one who sees it.

RockefellerTree

I mean, isn’t it just beautiful?

Thankfully I caught one good photo before the incident. Merry Christmas, friends, from NYC to wherever you find yourself this season. -EL

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#26miles26girls PART 2!

#26miles26girls PART 2!

Sometimes life feels a little crazy. Which is what it felt like for me when I got a spot in the New York City Marathon. Thanks to my awesome new job, I was able to enter to run on November 3, 2013, with 45,000 or so of my closest friends. As this race is a lottery, it was not something I could turn down!

And in the craziness I had to ask myself, “Why?” (And also, “Ummm HOW? WHAT IS GOING ON?” but that’s another story…) The why became very clear: we started funding the 2nd year of school for The 26 girls in Nepal thanks to your overwhelming generosity. 2nd marathon? 2nd year of school? Yep, that’s why.

Watch this video http://bit.ly/26milesVid and be sure to click here http://bit.ly/26miles26girls to donate (and tell all your friends)! Thanks for joining us for the 1st round — who’s in it for round 2? -EL

26.2 Impossibilities–Latergram from 40:20 Vision

This was a guest post I wrote for 40:20 Vision, a forum for 40-something women to share wisdom with 20-somethings. You should definitely check them out as they are an inspirational crew oozing wisdom they’re all willing to share. I wrote this before the Marathon last month, but the sentiment remains. Enjoy!

26 Miles Logo

People sign up for a marathon for a lot of reasons. It’s a “bucket list” item. A nice-to-have. A notch in their belt and big life marker.

When I signed up for the big 26.2 back in October 2012, I had been mulling this decision over for about four years. As a recent college grad in 2008, I quickly learned that life outside of class and all-nighters was one of discipline, consistency, regular bedtimes. Working a day job required 8-9 hours of sustained activity, and things like discipline, longevity and punctuality don’t come naturally to me. I could sprint through finals on 2 hours of sleep and 6 cups of coffee. But go to bed at a decent hour so I could stay awake at work for 8 hours? That was a different story.

 Early on in my career (and early 20s) I quickly learned that life is not a sprint. It’s a marathon.

The unfortunate thing about this was that I wasn’t sure how to implement this reality into my life. How would I learn the daily discipline of marathon training? Enter bucket list.

Wait four years.

The nagging was always in the back of my head. “Maybe this is the year.” “Perhaps now is the time.” But something was missing. This needed to be bigger than just me, because it looked like I had 26.2 impossible miles ahead of me. If this was going to happen, I needed a reason and I needed a tribe.

In March 2011, shortly after moving to NYC, I got connected to an organization called She’s the First through the power of social media. We sponsor girls in developing countries to go to school so they’ll be the first in their families to graduate.

BAM. Something bigger than me? How about sending girls to school? How about sending 26 girls to school? That’s a pretty great reason.

I knew I couldn’t do it alone, nor did I want to. That was $7,800. 26.2 miles. Lots of big numbers to a girl who isn’t a runner nor a professional fundraiser.

That’s when I called Brooke. Brooke and I are friends from my wonderful days in Atlanta, where she currently lives. She is a runner who, as I would soon find out, had vowed to never run a marathon. Impossible! So many miles! Truth be told, she had a much better respect for the distance than I did. See above Re: She’s a runner.

After some convincing and coaxing and her own soul searching, she came around. And when I say that she decided to complete a marathon I mean that she decided to attack a marathon. She charted her path, made a schedule, and didn’t miss one training run. We would Skype often throughout the process and mostly I would moan and groan while she’d blame me for getting us into this mess. But then she’d usually remind us both why we were here; that we chose to do this; girls would be going to school because of this!

We’d send texts about long runs that were completed, cheering each other on from our different cities. The race is this weekend, and if I have any sadness in seeing an end to this it might be the constant conversation Brooke and I have had. We had been besties for years, but the bond we’ve forged over this race proves that distance doesn’t matter in an age of technology for friends who are worth it.

 A note about fundraising while training: you have to tell  people you’re training if you want to raise funds.

Tell people? I mean, can’t I just go run and train in the peace and quiet of my neighborhood? I might fail. I might get injured. I might not want to do that 15 mile run. And what if we don’t raise all the money? What will we tell everyone? Did we set our goal too high?

Fundraising while training is really vulnerable. And vulnerability is awkward and uncomfortable and really, really scary.

It is also wonderful. In sharing my story I have heard so many stories of people being inspired, or hearing about She’s the First, or races they’ve done with pointers for me.

Through lots of dinner parties, prayers, Facebook updates, Instagrams, and even a TV Spot on CBS Atlanta, we have exceeded our fundraising goal and started funding the second year of school for the 26 girls in Nepal. More than 85 people have given generously and joined in on the journey. With every “Like” on Facebook and text message during a grueling long run, friends joined the tribe.

It takes courage to live your dreams out loud. It takes courage to be vulnerable, to face the impossible. But I can say that it is so worth it. When I cross that finish line this weekend as a big puddle of tears, 26.2 miles later and 28 girls sponsored, I won’t be alone. What’s your marathon? Be sure to share it; you have no idea the lives you’ll change – including yours – in the process.

ELandBrooke

You Only Get One First

There is something about the first time for anything that makes it unique. Not necessarily good or bad, just distinct in your mind because nerves are high and comfort is low. The first time you travel somewhere. The first time you try sushi. The first date. The first day of work. The first impression.

My first marathon is this Sunday, and I’m trying to not miss anything. I don’t want to miss the fear and the mental preoccupation I have with the race. Literally, how am I supposed to focus on anything else??

I also don’t want to miss one sweet email or encouraging text or pat on the back. I want to be present and be inspired and to inspire. I don’t want to miss anything.

Atlanta, I will be seeing you and your beautiful weather on Wednesday. I can’t wait to see what’s at the starting line, to try and soak up every mile rather than taking them for granted, and most of all, what the finish line will feel like. -EL

 

Along for the ride

 

I once heard Tammy say, “She’s the First runs itself thanks to a dedicated group of 20 or so volunteers. I’m just along for the ride.”

As her roommate, I see how hard and tirelessly she works, so I rolled my eyes a little (just a little!) Now I think I know a little better what she means.

We have sponsored 27 (almost 28!) girls in Nepal. Typing that sentence helps me believe it a little more, but I don’t think I’m quite “there” yet. I mean, we’re about 2 weeks away from the race and only $300 from our actual goal, which by the way, was WAY BIGGER THAN BROOKE AND I EVER FELT COMFORTABLE WITH. 

All I did was sign up for the race. The training, the miles, the craziness that ensued… It all comes with the territory. I wouldn’t be running without your encouragement, and 27 girls wouldn’t be going to school if it were just up to me. Thanks for letting me be part of the journey. -EL 

 

With a friend in a kitchen on a Sunday afternoon

I was attending church in midtown Atlanta at the time and realizing more than ever before that I lived my life as a sprint. Try this thing today. But I will be tired of it by tomorrow. And that thing yesterday but I’m done with it today.

I was so convicted by the fact that life is a marathon. Not a sprint.

When I got home I saw my roommate, Kara, and told her this. That I thought I need to run a marathon to really learn the lesson for the long haul.

That conversation took place about five years ago, and to date no marathon has been completed. Five years later and so much has changed: my residence x 7, my roommate x a few, and my city x 3 or so. What hasn’t changed is that nagging thing inside that says life is the long haul, the journey, and I haven’t learned that yet, and a marathon will help.

I am now living in NYC… Enter She’s the First. This nonprofit sponsors girls’ education in the developing world so they can be the first in their families to graduate. I got connected through a friend through twitter through a meetup and here we are, volunteering and learning more and more about the need to educate girls around the world.

So girls need an education? And I need to run a marathon? Bam. Something like that happened and it came together; I want to do something meaningful, something bigger than me, something God-sized and see Him do it. So how about run 26 miles to sponsor 26 girls?Image

Girls like Jarana, a fourth grade student in Nepal who will be the first in her family to pass 10th grade. When you see these faces and learn these names and let your heart start to care you get a glimpse of what can happen when a group of dedicated individuals come together.

Which is why I am completing a marathon. Being able to go 26.2 miles is not something that happens overnight. And neither is sending girls to school in Nepal. It takes time, months of effort, creativity, exhaustion, frustration, patience.

I also talked my friend Brooke into it. Read more about that from my sweet friend Abby here. And my roommate Tammy is running it, too. So we have a tribe — but this tribe is all the people who are supporting the girls in Nepal one $26, $75 & $300 donation at a time. The people who “like” our Facebook statuses and comment on Instagram. Who text, gchat, cheer, ask about it. And the people who will be on the sidelines cheering, passing out water, holding up posters, crying buckets with me if I cross the finish line. It truly does take a village and the reality of that is both moving and humbling.

ImageI spoke with Kara last night and remembered the times we had. I also shared this with my friend Sarah five years ago, so the marathon thing for this non-runner wasn’t totally off base when I saw her last month. Sometimes the journey just takes five years to come around, and then hours and hours of pounding the pavement to make it to the start line.

Learn more and get involved here. Thanks, truly, for everything. -EL

Day 73: Love your neighbors #366pics

Had a blast at this show. Love them, and I love living in NYC where everyone goes.

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