November 23, 2014

30x30 #5: Run a half marathon

Anyone who knew me from high school or even college would likely be shocked to hear that I recently ran a half-marathon. It's not that I lacked drive or determination at that point in my life, or that I shy away from challenges. Rather, I was never really into, and sometimes openly opposed to participating in physical endurance activities and organized athletics.

I grew up loving to climb mountains and playing tennis in the summer. And my Mom can definitely attest that I was very active kid. However I lacked (and still lack) natural skill in most sports (still working on tennis and squash). It may have been my 9th grade fall season of field hockey that instilled in me both a strong dislike of participating in team sports and of running. Despite later adoring that field hockey coach/teacher/dorm parent, our weekly Monday afternoon runs of 'Long Tuck' were just too much for my 14-year-old self to digest or appreciate in the least. Instead, I was disgusted by her mandate to 'Run!'. Rather than trying to propel my chicken legs up and down hills faster, I shut down, and told myself that I was just not an athlete. I continued to play tennis, and even dabbled in ice hockey (that was hilarious), but never thought I would partake in any larger athletic events. It just wasn't my thing.

Fast forward to after college. Luckily, we all grow up, and most importantly, we both naturally and can even willfully change. I am still not 'naturally' a runner. As my sister told me from a young age, "you have 'child-bearing hips.'" Whatever that means..  I have willed myself into a new frame of mind about running. I have come to appreciate running as a way to stay fit and feel good. I only need shoes and a positive attitude, and some winter wear at this time of the year! It's become more a part of my life than I ever could have thought possible even 5 years ago.

I had never run an actual race until last fall, and that didn't really count. It was my first race, and probably the only one where I will finish first in a category! My school's homecoming 5k, in which I placed first in the adult female category, because of lack of competition! This past spring, I did the Cape Cod Ragnar, and with 11 other people, crazily spent 24 hours running and driving 200 miles; I contributed about 13 miles of running. That experience sealed it for me. I became determined to step it up and increase my mileage. I still don't think I'll ever do a full marathon, it goes too much against my pragmatic senses. But the Princeton half, despite being REALLY cold and REALLY windy, was fabulous. And despite the fact that I probably could have done better if I had not donated blood and consequently not run for the last 8 days. But with all things considered, I have a strong sense of accomplishment. I am not breaking any public records, but constantly breaking my own records, and that at the end of the day, is what matters. I am looking forward to my next half!

Night before #scaredselfie! Princeton race t-shirt
13.2 miles after! Jett loves a salty face!

A look back at this year's earlier Ragnar Baywatch extravaganza, where I was truly inspired by a group of awesome, supportive and very talented runners!

The full-length feature is available here:

30x30 #4: Donate Blood

I donated blood on October 21st, the day of the annual blood drive at my work/school. This was my 5th or 6th time donating, although I had not donated in probably 4 years. There is a constant need for blood worldwide, and since I have gotten over earlier fears of needles and blood (at least my own), donating blood seems like a no-brainer way to help out.

I am still happy that I donated, but if I could make one change or give one piece of advice about completing a 30x30, it is that sequencing is key!

The blood donation drive was down the hall from my office, making it the most convenient way to check off an item on my 30x30 list. However, I really should have actually researched the effects of donating blood on endurance activity and performance. I asked the Red Cross people, who said I would be fine. Wrong. Bottom line-- donating blood (especially when I historically have had low iron) with less than 2 weeks before my first half marathon was a terrible idea. The race was 12 days later, but I didn't go into panic mode until I had waited to do my next training run 3 days after donating blood. I was completely wiped out after 2 miles, and I had just run 11 miles the day before donating, and felt amazing! Adding 11 miles to 2 painful ones in the next week seemed like an impossible feat. Uhoh. Googling/WebMD'ing highlighted the best and worst-case scenarios and options. I booked it (in my car, no way I could run!) to GNC and stocked up on iron supplements and other goodies to enhance absorption and intended to carry oxygen and regenerating red-blood cells. I had basically done the reverse of blood doping, what Lance Armstrong and other professional athletes have gotten caught-- which probably makes me a different kind of dope! In addition to iron supplements, I tried to fortify myself post-donation. I ate copious amounts of spinach, fish, orange juice and potassium to maximize iron absorption, and rested as much as I could. Additionally, I did not run again until the starting line at the half marathon 8 days later, while everything worked out in the end, I will not be donating blood before my next half!

I also will probably not be donating at my school again. In addition to learning too much about the impact of donating on endurance, donating on the 21st was a reminder that while I can handle my blood etc., I don't fair as well when looking at others in crisis. A student came and sat down next to me at the recuperation/snack/apple juice table after donating. I had finished donating 20 minutes earlier and was feeling good and about to leave. He picked up a juice and then all of a sudden drooped over and passed out, nearly on top of me. The mind is amazing, and clearly mine went into sympathy-fainting/pass-out mode. A minute later, I too was down on the ground. Next blood donation location-- far away from first-time high school donators! As my boss said, "well, finally something that can take Julia out." Ay, work is not the best place to pass out. Must redeem myself!

October 6, 2014

A Very #30x30 Weekend: #2: See a Broadway Show and #3 Take a Flying Lesson

I caught up with my beloved godmother this past Saturday night over Thai food in Hell's Kitchen. In the past month, she had gotten a new job, I had gotten a new puppy, and my sister got engaged that very day (!). It was a good night to sobremesa. Afterward, we strolled east into the theater district for a preview show of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. It was actually the night before Opening night, so we got in right before the real buzz could begin! While I wouldn't file it away as a can't-miss production, the actor who played the main character tackled the very challenging role of an autistic 15-year-old boy extremely well. Additionally, the stage design was phenomenal and ├╝ber modern-- and quite the juxtaposition against the backdrop of the historical Ethel Barrymore theater. I'm always thankful for my godmother's love and care, and amazed by her infinite cultural knowledge.. she is always in the loop! It was only fitting to get back to Broadway with her. I'm now inspired to try and catch some other shows that I haven't made it to yet.

On Sunday afternoon, I ventured to Stratford, CT, about 40 miles northeast from me for a flying lesson at Three Wing Aviation. While I was planning to try and coordinate my flying lesson with the peak of the foliage season, the weather forecast predicts rain for all of next weekend, and I will be busy thereafter, so I decided not to take my chances. While more colors may have enhanced the experience, it was still pretty darn amazing and the weather couldn't have been better. After a brief introductory lesson about the engine and parts of the plane, I buckled in next to my teacher, John. I helped taxi the plane to the runway, pushed the throttle forward and got us to take off. It was admittedly a little nerve-wracking at first, but then just mostly felt surreal. We got into the sky a little after 5:15pm, so there was a strong glare as we flew south toward the distant New York City skyline. But the the light cast a magical glow over Fairfield County and the Long Island sound. The Connecticut shore never looked so good! I now have a pilot's log book documenting my first 0.8 hours of flying; so if I were to decide to go for my pilot's license (maybe a 40x40?), I'm on my way!

The purpose of this year-long bucket list is working-- to not only actually check off the particular things I want to accomplish, but also to get out, explore, and inspire adventure and learning.

Coincidence that Jett (pictured below with his new name tag) and my flying lesson happened almost exactly one moth apart?! 

September 21, 2014

30x30 #1: Research My Family Tree

It somewhat naturally came about that the first item on my 30x30 list that I was able to tackle was to research my family tree-- serendipitously starting 'at the beginning' or rather, well before my own beginning!

I was able to pull together various documents and artifacts from my Mom's side during a recent visit to my grandmother's house. The family tree of my grandmother's side literally depicted below nicely shows the ancestral lineage (tree growing) up to my grandmother and her sister.  The introduction explains it as a record of the descendants of Henry Cooke (b. 1638) from Salem, Massachusetts and Robert Glendinning of Kelso, Scotland who came to the US in 1850. That side of the family settled in Massachusetts, later in Ohio, then moved again, and largely stayed put in Philadelphia. This indicates a long-standing presence in the United States of almost 400 years! My middle name of Cooke, and my Mom's middle name, Glendinning, feature prominently among the family names which also include Benson, Logan, Fisher, and Carpenter.

The trunk of the family tree indicates a lineage to Richard de Clare, a Magna Carta Baron (1215)

Even more fantastical to behold is the framed lineage chart that casually hangs in the guest bathroom of my aunt's house in Connecticut. It tracks the ancestors of Mary Fisher (Glendinning) Cooke, my great-grandmother. Her ancestors can allegedly be traced back to Charles Martel (b. ~688). We care about him because his grandson was Charlemagne-- no-big-deal King of the Franks and Italy, and Emperor of Western Europe. The list goes on-- Louis I The Pious Emperor, Bernard, K. of Italy (who plotted against his Pious uncle, who proceeded to blind/kill him!), William I the Conquerer, K. of England, Henry I K. of England, Malcom I, K. of Scotland. They just didn't have enough space to that full King? K.

Is this for real?

On my grandfather's side (still on my mother's side), there does not seem to be a neat and tidy finished product of a family tree, or at least one that I could find.

The modern day family name of Hallett (two T's) has its origins in Cape Cod where it seems much of my grandfather's ancestors first moved when they arrived to 'The New World' nearly four centuries ago and settled in eastern Massachusetts.

Major credit goes to the industrious person (likely my own ancestor) whose note-taking and puzzling of the pieces is evident in the documents I found. As I picked up these ancestral tablets (which are less like Indiana Jones treasure tablets, and more like flimsy soft-cover books that have been hanging out in a garage for a few years!), I appreciated how these records are beautiful historical artifacts in and of themselves. However, the whole "Collection of Diagrams for Pedigrees" makes it sound like tracking the pedigree of a pure bred dog. This [8th] edition published in 1890 filled with copious notes, arrows, pen and pencil added-on notes opened another interesting ancestral rabbit hole to explore.

I still don't quite understand how the tablets work with certain arrows and peepholes with information that carries over, and how many pages are relevant as my ancestors. Regardless, it's always interesting to do a little research on the early names that appear near the base of the tree or the top of the tablet. Samuel Rider was born in England but settled in Yarmouth, MA in Plymouth Colony. How this overlaps with the next sequence of ancestors? I am also not sure. 

Scribbled on the back of one of the family history books, I found the below hand-written diagram with "Pilgrims by the Mayflower Dec1620" noted at the top. I did a quick Google search to see who John Alden and Priscilla Mullins are, and was intrigued by all of the results. John Alden was a 21-year-old barrel-maker aboard the maiden voyage of the Mayflower. He married fellow passenger, Priscilla, becoming "America's First Couple." Alden was the Assistant Governor of Plymouth for many years, and co-founded the town of Duxbury, Mass. Significant work has been done to track the ancestors of the Aldens on this website, and I was able to find more recent ancestors including the ones at the bottom of this page, Lorenzo Dow Johnson, who I do know to be a great-great- something-or-rather, so I at least do know the Alden lineage is verifiable. Should I apply to be an official lineage member of The Aldren Kindred of America?! Too bad I'm not in high school, they even have a college scholarship!

I love this clipping from 1825 that I found in a family album, a painting by Thomas Gainsborough of Squire Hallett and his wife called The Morning Walk. I'm not sure which Hallett that would be, but he has great hair, a friendly-looking dog, and a wife with a lovely hat! Now in the modern era, you can purchase reprints of this painting on Amazon or Zazzle.

With regards to more recent history, I explored my great-grandfather's "American Embassy" box housing my grandfather's personal items from growing up in the household of a diplomat/ ambassador. My grandfather was born in Paris, lived in Spain during the revolution in the '30s, attended school in Switzerland, and had many, many fascinating and hilarious stories of the playful trouble he created around Europe.

My grandfather's Diplomatic Passport from the 1930s

While researching my family tree isn't completely checked off my life bucket list, I know much more than when I started. Now I can more confidently answer the question: where is your family from? That's now easier than the question: where are you from? ! I am happy with the progress I made to better understand one side of my family. I am deeply grateful and indebted to those more recent ancestors who diligently undertook the real research, and allowed me to leisurely browse the fruits of their labors and sprinkle in sporadic Googling. I still have some questions without fully satisfying answers-- such as the origin of our family arm bracelet tradition. Alas, some things continue on both as family traditions and mysteries! 

Should I get my namesake's crest tattooed somewhere for good measure?

September 20, 2014

30x30 unwritten #1: Adopt a Dog

I plan strategically but can also act somewhat impulsively. Adopting Jett two weeks ago was just that- of wait, wait, wait, wait, ok GO! Growing up surrounded by dogs, cats and other animals, my adult life has felt slightly incomplete without a four-legged creature nearby.

Jett and I have now had 2 weeks living and learning to get to know one another, and we seem to be a good match! I put up with him trying to put every single thing that comes in his pathway into his mouth, and he puts up with me making strange noises at him and taking him to new places to meet strange people and students all the time. Yesterday, my mini-fantasy of taking a new puppy while working at a school to Homecoming came true. Jett was in heaven. As one parent told me, "well now you're invisible, everyone is completely focused on Jett!" Very true! And fine with me, he got great socialization opportunities with all kinds of people and was passed out by 5pm.

Many people have asked where I found such a cute puppy that no one would want? The internet of course! Jett was at a puppy adoption event in Somers run by PawSafe. Jett's origins are mostly unknown, but he does have 6 siblings who were all transported up from the Virginia/West Virginia area and now reside in this general area.

There are many stray and abandoned animals in need of loving homes. Consider adopting one!

Day of adoption, ~9 weeks old, September 6, 2014 (first three photos)

Jett with his #1 playmate at school, Quint

September 19, 2014

Introducing 30x30

It's an interesting feeling to be approaching the 'precipice' of 30. The "twenty-__" rolls off the tongue nicely, I admit I will miss that. Some reading this now will consider me an ancient artifact, while others will think that number is still pathetically close to (baby) diapers. Clearly, age is all perspective. But especially for women, the number 30 seems to evoke some dark societal farewell to youth, having fun, learning new things and re-inventing yourself or your life. I think that is crap. 

As an ode to making sure I never stop pushing, learning, loving, exploring, and trying new things, I am aiming to accomplish the following 30 experiences before my 30th birthday. There are a few 'unwritten' ones as well, which will hopefully pop up. Stay tuned as I dive in, and I invite participation!

March 19, 2011

Givology Benefit and Life Updates

For friends I abandoned for weeks, emails I did not return, phone calls I did not make, I apologize. I am aware of my tendencies towards one-pointedness (sometimes to the detriment of many other *important* parts of life).  The object of my attention in this case, for much of February and the first half of March was the Givology $10,000 for 10 Schools Benefit Auction. As the newly elected Givology NYC President, this was the first significant project to pull off, and without any standard planning lead time to speak of. 

Without diving back into the weeds of the fits and starts and challenging moments and sleepless nights, suffice to say this was a huge learning experience, and the largest (one-time) event planning that I've helped direct (though one month of 100 people in Taiwan was also a stress, of a different kind). Luckily, the results made all of the sweat and effort more than worth it-- the event raised over $10,000 and there were 300-350+ guests in attendance. In addition to these great numbers, we built invaluable new channels of awareness and support for Givology and our partners. 

In addition to Givology happenings, it has been a huge month for me personally, and I am only now beginning to process the inevitable changes soon to come. I have decisions to make about grad school-- Harvard, Stanford, or Columbia, exciting projects to work on with inspiring people at StartingBloc NYC Institute in May, and perhaps a trip or two abroad back to Asia before the fall at a TBD grad school studying International Education Policy/Development.

Below is my post on the event on Givology's website. While I came up with ten reasons to join Givology (NYC), I still return to one primary sentiment about the support at the event, and everything else happening in my life- total and complete gratitude.

Givology post

On Friday, March 11th at about 5:59pm, remaining bid sheets were printed, powerpoint slides were tweaked, and speeches were finalized. By 6:01pm, we began to welcome a stream, and then a flood of press and guests into the $10,000 for 10 Schools Givology Benefit Auction at Hudson Bar in Manhattan. By the peak of the event, the entire venue was packed with people bidding, drinking, mingling, laughing, and learning about Givology and our partners. After weeks of work, it was a beautiful, even miraculous sight for us to see.

The event was a total whirlwind-- I underestimated the number of friends’ faces I would see and overestimated my ability to be in 10 places at once. While I hoped time would slow down even just a little bit so that I could really savor those three hours, luckily with amazing photographers and videographers present, much of it was captured (and more to be available on the interwebs soon!).

The Givology New York City Chapter had worked for weeks to plan the 10K for 10 Schools event, and it was easily the most logistically demanding and complex event that we have hosted to date. A 50+ item silent auction, live auction, two rounds of raffles, ten featured partners, a press gathering, guest of honor, hundreds of lively guests, and a venue with very strict labor union laws created a situation that required serious planning and project management. This was compounded because of the size of our core team-- 12 dedicated volunteers, including 10 full-time working young professionals and 2 students. This truly speaks to the dedication of our team, and ability to rise to the occasion. Looking back even now, it’s so amazing that in just a few weeks with a dozen volunteers, we were able to host the benefit auction, raise over $10,000 and garner the support of 300-350+ guests.

We are SO grateful and appreciative of the generosity of the 10K for 10 Schools sponsors and attendees. In the weeks leading up to the event, I made dozens of cold calls to businesses throughout New York soliciting auction item contributions. I was often so pleasantly surprised at how open and willing business owners were to extend their support to Givology, even if they were not familiar with us. It provided an excellent way to hone my pitch, and begin to build a strong network of new supporters and businesses aware of Givology's work and mission.

I joined Givology just under six months ago and have found in it, and the planning and execution of this event in particular, the wonderful sensation of being part of something much larger than myself, and creating a wave of impact that I can’t even begin to measure. Especially in New York, you live among millions of people, yet it is easy to lose one’s way. Joining the Givology NYC team, members are empowered to give, learn, have fun, and regain confidence that purposeful and dedicated volunteering can harness crowdsourced potential to create global impact.

We hope to continue to grow the NYC Chapter, and create a model for other Givology chapters to follow suit. In keeping with the 10 theme, here are just a few reasons you should apply to join the Givology NYC Chpater, and Givology global if you are not based in New York.

1. Create Impact Support 35+ global grassroots education partners, transforming the potential of thousands of children and villages
2. Join a Community Givology is a growing and diverse family, all committed to positively transforming the world through education
3. Have Fun Our philosophy is that philanthropy should be social
4. Engage in Local Activity with Global Reach Experience New York in an impactful way that transcends all global boundaries
5. Take Ownership of Projects Givology is flat, enabling anyone to initiate and execute their own ideas
7. Use your Skills for Good If you are more than your day job, Givology is the perfect way to give back and contribute to social good
8. Gain New Skills Want to learn about something by actually doing? Members’ roles and responsibilities are based on background, interests and team needs-- help with fundraising, PR, marketing, social media, sponsorships, recruitment efforts, and much more
9. Expand your Network Givology members work across all sectors and study all disciplines, members meet and build relationships with people of different backgrounds, ideas and diverse talents
10. We are 100% volunteer, 100% passion, email the NYC chapter recruitment coordinator to get involved!