Of the Creative-Type.

Is it strange that I seem to write the most around midnight? I probably can’t be the only creative-type who has insomnia issues, mostly related to an influx of thoughts once it gets dark, right?

Lots of things are flowing through my brain right now, mostly in large part to the big project Tom and I have been working on for the last six months or so. This website is something that we’ve spent countless hours on, between the actually crafting of the content to managing the behind the scenes technical stuff, legal stuff, and marketing. It’s an idea that we’ve toyed around with since July, and we are so excited with the direction it’s taken and the reception it’s received.

Over the long winter break, we had two thirteen-hour car rides, in which many hours were spent discussing the site, working on outlines for new posts, new segments, marketing plans, and more. When we came home, totally invigorated and excited for all the new things we had planned, a funny thing happened. The website got a huge, huge promotion, landing on the front page of Reddit’s fitness forum {the largest and most frequently visited of its kind}. Not only were the number of visitors mind-boggling, but so were all the comments and feedback: the majority were overwhelmingly positive. In fact, I’d venture to say that 98% of it was positive. I still can’t quite wrap my brain around that.

It’s gratifying to see something you love so much be so well accepted. That’s obvious, right? But it was also so exciting to see this tiny baby project that we’ve fed and nurtured every night for hours go out into the big, scary world and succeed. When we started this, neither one of us had any direct experience in running a blog of this magnitude. Sure, I write here, and I write at my day job, but I don’t write about nutrition or cooking. I’ve never had to back up a database or try to troubleshoot a PHP log. But we’ve learned as we’ve gone, and dang it, I’m proud of me.

As I {sadly} get older, the urge to put roots down and start to settle into a typical lifestyle is becoming greater. It’s especially more profound when I visit back home and find all my friends buying houses, having babies, and getting promotions. It makes me start to question what I’m doing, and if it’s sustainable, and maybe I should just change gears altogether. And then I came back to Carolina, channeled all my creative energy into this project, and returned to the little bubble that is our unconventional life. And then yesterday happened, and it reaffirmed what I’ve known in my soul all along: my roots are in my projects, not in where I live. I am happiest when I am writing or creating, or learning new things. It soothes my soul in ways I could never form words to explain.

I am humbled and grateful to be of the creative-type, even if it means a few nights spent wide away, the only light in the house coming from my computer.

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Pollyanna.

If I try hard enough, I can find a silver lining in a lot of situations. For instance, right now, I’m telling myself that the silver lining to my insomnia (it’s currently 3 am) is that I do my best writing when I’m overtired. {Except for tonight. Because my grammar is terrible. Bear with me — I’ll edit when I have more than 6 hours of sleep in 3 days.}

When Tom ruined his ankle, looking back we can see how it landed us here in the Carolinas. Living 6 months apart when he was in California ended up being our saving grace, since we weren’t stuck in a lease and could move here for a better opportunity.

Tonight, or I guess last night, Tom didn’t make a legal snatch at the American Open, rendering him essentially out of the competition, out of medal contention, and unable to help his team get points for the title. It was, and is, an absolutely heartbreaking situation. The worst case scenario is always an injury. This seems like the second-worst.

It is so hard to put all this in perspective. Watching him come home every day from practice, bruised and bloody, aching and sore, you tell yourself that it’s all worth it. And for his teammates that walked away tonight with gold, unequivocally, it was. For the teammates that placed and put up respectable numbers, they’ll probably agree. But when he walked off that stage after the 3rd snatch, I wasn’t so sure. {Obviously it’s not my decision, I’m just keeping it real.}

And I wondered if he was going to come back out for the clean + jerk. I know Tom, and I know he’s not a quitter, but after a defeat like that, for someone as emotional as he is, you wonder if it’s worth the pressure. And then it was his turn, and he stormed up on that stage with a ferocity I had never seen before. And I knew at that moment he’d make his lift. And he did. And then his second turn. And the number was high. And I knew if he made this lift, his 3rd attempt would be a PR. And he made the second. And that was it. I knew he was going for it. He didn’t just walk onto that stage. He MARCHED onto that stage, staring this bar down, looking for vengeance. He was going to prove it to himself, to the audience, to his coach, to his teammates, and to that bar, that he was good. And he did. The lift was beautiful. The look on his face was frightening. And then his victory celebration…it was so exciting.

And there you have your silver lining. The feeling I had in my stomach after the snatch session was awful, and I wouldn’t want to experience that again or wish it upon another lifter. But without that, I wonder if he would have made the 192 later. Would he have the determination, the fuel, the focus that it would take to get three white lights?

Medal or no medal, it is obvious to see that this kid has something special. He’s strong, but he’s new and raw in this sport. And tonight is the sandpaper that will smooth him down and make him a great weightlifter.

“In this life, we’re not looking for easy. We’re looking for worth it.”

Thankful.

2012 has been such a monumental year in my life. As I think back to everything that has been set in motion or even completely accomplished, I am astounded at all the things I have been able to check off my informal “life list.” On a very broad level, I think it suffices to say that I am so thankful for the opportunity to undertake what I have. I think it’s impossible for me, growing up in a home that never had an empty fridge or missing parents, to really understand and appreciate all that I do have, because I’ve never truly been without. But I try to remain grateful every day.

This year especially, I am so thankful for:

  • My parents, for teaching me that life isn’t fair, for reminding me about second chances, and for making sure I really could do anything I wanted. Mom & Dad — thank you for allowing me back into your home this year (and especially my sometimes rude but well-meaning dogs). Thank you for making sure Tom & I always have a room to come home to in Chicago, and for the many, innumerable ways you’ve enriched my life!
  • Pandora. This year I’ve rediscovered how much music awakens my creativity, and I love that.
  • My health. This category is especially meaningful for me after battling so much. I am grateful for having the answers I have searched for, and positive that the changes I’ve made this year will enable me to stay healthy for a very long time.
  • My friends, new and old. It has been a blast getting to meet new people and forge new friendships this year, and bittersweet saying goodbye to my friends in Chicago.
  • My job. I may not always love it, but I enjoy what I do and I am grateful for the flexibility I have. Without this single factor, nothing I accomplished this year would have been possible.
  • My family, for being supportive, even though they might not always like what I’m doing or where I’m going.
  • Weightlifting. I never thought I’d say this, but I love this damn sport. I love seeing how much Tom loves it, I love that it’s opened doors to the Olympics that we once thought were closed, and I love that it’s enabled me to fulfill my passion of starting a business.
  • The South. I certainly still have so many moments of culture shock, but it is lovely to move somewhere that encourages politeness and good manners.
  • Thomas, who has been the main catalyst for change this year. I am so happy to be walking down this path blindly with you.
  • You. If you’re still with me, reader, I’m thankful for the encouragement I’ve received, and for every single time you visit this blog to read my words. I was unbelievably nervous to pour my heart out in those first few posts and share this all with the world, but I am so glad I did. Thank you for sticking around.

Happy Thanksgiving, ya’ll.

Fame{ish}.

It’s been awhile, no?

I always said I never wanted to be “that” blogger — you know, the one who disappears, or just has random posts every few months. When I like a blog, it becomes part of my routine. And every single time the page loads to the same post from two weeks ago, I get disappointed. And sometimes, truthfully, irrationally angry.

C’mon, just write a new post already! It cannot be that difficult!

And now, on this side of it, it’s not difficult. It’s not for me, at least. But it’s strange.

This blog was built for me to chronicle this new adventure, and I love that. And now, I’ve been living it…really in the thick of this new life, and I’ve had a hard time thinking of something profound to share.

And this weekend, I found it.

This weekend Tom and I traveled to the first of many weightlifting meets. I guess technically it wasn’t his first meet, but it was his first meet since the move, and his first meet where he felt really confident in what he was lifting. To put it as humbly as I can, he’s becoming a big deal.

We arrived at this meet in a scene reminiscent of a movie. The door slammed behind us, and everyone’s eyes turned to look at us. {Well, more than likely, him.} As he lifted on the platform, I sat in the front row, phone in hand as I captured video for him. I heard murmurs behind me, and as I turned, I saw at least a dozen hands outstretched, equipped with phones or cameras, grabbing photos and videos of Tom. After a successful lift, the woman next to me turns and says, “He’ll be going to the Olympics.”

After the meet was over, I turned to walk toward him and spotted him against the back wall, medal around his neck and trophy in hand. There was a line forming around him, people posing for pictures and telling him how much they enjoyed watching him and his team train.

Over the past few months, we’ve both worked diligently to create an online presence for Tom…a website that showcases his talents as an athlete, and another that demonstrates the knowledge he has of the body, training, and honing athletic skills. If you build it, they will come…right?

And on Saturday, they did. And since that day, after being crowned North Carolina State Weightlifting Champion, computers, emails and phones have not stopped beeping. Not one to sugarcoat, I’ll say with blunt brutality that Tom’s performance wasn’t great {for Tom}. He didn’t do the best he has before, and he didn’t get the numbers he wanted {though he got the numbers he needed for some competition red tape.} But people are putting a name to a face, a performance to a faceless training log.

And it’s really, really exciting to watch. It’s a very, very tiny taste of what’s to come, that’s definite. But nonetheless, it’s humbling and gratifying to see that this leap of faith we took has manifested into something, even if it’s something small.

Bigger things on the horizon…always.

Dear Thomas,

Much like today, that day was hot. Not just a wow, what a summer day kind of hot, but an oppressive, Chicago August day kind of hot. But I donned 5 lbs of ivory silk taffeta and you wore a black wool suit, and we survived the 100+ degree temperature. The sense of calm that enveloped my normally erratic mind was so welcome. Months of planning…and not just in a logistical sense, but in a much bigger life sense, culminated that sunny morning. And as I rounded the corner, arms linked with the two people who had given me life and taught me the values that you and I share at our very cores, I knew there was nowhere else I should have been. At that moment, I knew this thing we had fought for…this thing we had defended and sacrificed for…this thing that people thought we were crazy for keeping going…it was right. It has always been right.

One of my favorite movies…you know, the one you claim you hate watching but usually sit next to me for and alternate laughing at the dumb jokes and rolling your eyes at…that one? There’s a line in there that I love: “I’d rather fight with you than make love to anyone else.”

Is that cheesy? You bet.

But honestly…isn’t love?

But that line just strikes home for me. I’d rather live apart from you for 6 months than be with anyone else. I’d rather move thousands of miles away with you than be “home” with another.

This year has been, in spite of all the blessings, pure hell. You know what I’m talking about…the crap that doesn’t get blogged about, the petty stuff that nags at you and snowballs until it splits you open with a resentment you didn’t know existed, the little stuff that becomes the big stuff, the big stuff that is just big and major and scary, that makes you question everything you believe to be true. We’ve seen it all this year. And honestly, there were times when it was suffocating. When it felt easier to give in, give up, walk away.

But you pulled me back. Every single time.

The goofy grin you give when I need a laugh pulls me back. The squeeze that you give my hand, thinking you’re being gentle with your gorilla grip, pulls me back. Your loyalty, kind heart, and willingness to always do the right thing pulls me back. Your dogged determination and quiet force pulls me back. The shy intelligence you hide away pulls me back. Your willingness to admit your weaknesses pulls me back.

It’s so funny how everything we wanted last year is everything we don’t want this year. A year ago, we were talking about adoptions and mortgages, full-time teaching jobs and masters degrees, running 5ks and baseball games. And now we talk about ice baths and rent checks, Olympic dreams and Sinclair formulas, crossfit and beach camping.

I firmly believe we were meant to be here, be together, and be building this life together. This crazy, beautiful, messy thing is ours. And I know it’s only going to get crazier, more beautiful, and altogether messier.

You are my very favorite.

Citius, Altius, Fortius

As a person with feelings, it’s hard to watch the Olympics and not get caught up in the emotions of the competitions. It’s hard to NOT cheer for the underdog, hard NOT to tear up when an Olympian tears up on the podium as her national anthem plays, hard to NOT root for and get disappointed when the US doesn’t take the gold. Even before my husband began taking steps towards his Olympic dream, I loved the drama and exhilaration of watching The Games. But now that we’re here and watching other athletes with paths similar to ours, it’s an entirely different thing.

It’s hard for me to watch these athletes’ loved ones in the stands without wondering if it will be me the cameras are panning to in eight years…(well, assuming cameras are there. His sport is the one they air at 2 am because it’s not super popular.) It’s hard to not wonder if I’ll be biting my nails as he approaches the platform, if our families will be with us or watching from home, if his teammates will be representing the US, or if they’ll have been edged out by the competition.

Four years would be pure luck (and, as Tom was told by one of his Olympic heroes Brian Oldfield, “Good luck, and by that I mean work hard, because there’s no such thing as luck in this sport.”) Eight years is the goal…a dream so far out of reach right now that the host city hasn’t even been chosen yet. Tokyo, Madrid or Istanbul hold our hopes, without even knowing it.

I read somewhere today that the Olympics are 95% narcissism and 5% national pride. There’s a grain of truth in that, I guess. I think the percentages are pretty far off, though. But I think that’s a necessary combination. To do what Tom does to his body day in and day out, you have to want this so much for reasons beyond American pride. To spend 4+ hours a day training, 2 hours actively recovering (that means tubs full of ice and painful muscle stripping), and another 3-4 hours watching the Greats, your competitors, your teammates and yourself on Youtube, you have to want this for yourself. You have to be crazy enough to analyze videos from the ’70’s while rolling your muscles out on PVC pipe to reduce the inflammation from today’s workout. You have to be crazy enough to give up not one, not two, but three jobs you love to move across the country to train with the best coach and athletes. You have to be crazy to give up a steady paycheck and a comfortable life for one of little monetary reward and lots of physical risk.

You have to be crazy enough to want the Gold. Or the Silver. Or the Bronze. Or just the chance to march in the Opening Ceremonies, donned in the colors of your country, as millions around the world recognize you for the talent you have and the sacrifices you make.

Or, you must be crazy enough to stay married to someone who wants all that.

To my love: Citius, Altius, Fortius 2020.

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Jiggity-Jig.

I travelled back to Chicago this weekend. It was a quick trip – equal parts business and pleasure, colleagues and family, alcohol and water, comfortable and strange.

Yesterday provided me plenty of time (2+ hours in the airport, 4+ hours on planes) to mull over recent events. For as happy as I was to be “home,” I could not wait to be back in Carolina. As I waited to get off my final plane and into the arms of my cute husband/chauffeur, my seatmate asked where I was headed. “Nowhere. I’m home now,” I hastily replied, anxious to grab my bag and go.

And then it hit me. It was so natural to say I was home, even though there are plenty of times when it doesn’t feel that way.

As the clock ticked past midnight, I couldn’t wait to get into my apartment, where my dogs, my bed, my carefully-hunted antiques and hot-pink pillows awaited me…where my suitcases full of clothes are still awaiting to be unpacked from the move…where I was sure to find a sink full of dirty dishes and an empty fridge…my hallmarks of home.

I answered the questions “How do you like South Carolina?” and “How is your husband doing?” a lot the past few days. And the answers were always the same…”Better than I thought I would,” and “Beat up, but still making progress.” And I guess therein lies the truth in the whole situation. We’re beat up — him physically, and me emotionally, but we’re better than we thought we would be. It’s an adventure, and we’re really digging writing this new chapter.

My mom made a comment to me yesterday…something along the lines of, “You seem to really be making the most out of this whole thing.” And I am. Or at least I’m trying really hard. Sometimes, I think that’s all that’s needed to convince yourself that things are good.

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Abnormally Normal.

We’ve been living here almost four weeks now, and I have to say, I really like it.

I feel the same about the environment and the people that I did last time we chatted – everyone is friendly but slow, and the weather here is very hot and humid.

But it’s not that which has changed my mind.

Tom and I have fallen into such a rhythm of comfort here. Long walks with a cool breeze aren’t an out of the ordinary experience here. Spending my lunch break poolside happens twice a week. We share most lunches and dinners together, just for the sheer fact that we’re both home. A lot.

This is in stark contrast to the first 2 years of our marriage, where we’d be lucky to have 2 meals together during the week. Some nights he’d be working until 9 pm or later. A lot of meals were consumed on the couch — mine around 6 pm watching Golden Girls, his around 9:30 watching Sportscenter. It was normal to us at the time, and we made it work.

And now, this is as abnormal as it gets. It is altogether strange. But it’s wonderful. There are days where I look forward to running errands to have some time by myself outside of the house, just as I imagine he actually looks forward to heading off to the gym some afternoons. But I think that’s the normal part of all of this. I can say we genuinely do enjoy each other’s company, and wouldn’t trade this arrangement in for either of our previous ones.

I am under no illusions, however, that this is the way things will always be. Our situation is delicate. It relies on the decisions of others, namely Tom’s coach, his team’s financial backer, and in the future, organizations that govern his sport, and the US Olympics committee. Things change, people take different routes, one gets chosen over the other. There was a weightlifter who made the US Olympic team four years ago and travelled to Beijing. I don’t know the technical details, but another country’s lifter was disqualified (I believe), and that changed the formulas for the countries sending lifters, and long story short, this man no longer met the world standards to be at the Olympics, and was sent home days before the torch was lit.

Disappointment on this journey is everywhere, success is rare, frustration abounds. But contentment and gratitude…thankfully we have a lot of that hanging around.

The Little Hot Glue Gun That Could.

Gosh, sorry again for the extended absence. I’m really not trying to make it a habit, I swear. Time just seems to escape me, and as hard as I try to bottle it up like fireflies in the summer, I just never catch it. I have the best of intentions, but I find myself buried under a million projects.

As CMS in our house {Chief Martha Stewart}, I’ve been busying myself with unpacking, cleaning, organizing, shopping, decorating, cooking, crafting, crying, whining, and more cleaning. {No insider trading, though. Ba-dum-ching!} As the CCO {Chief Creative Officer} of Tom Sroka Inc., I’ve also found myself pulling apart and redesigning his website, ensuring he gets in 8,000 calories a day {no typo, I promise}, and offering feedback for the next portion of the adventure. I also have this pesky thing called a full-time job. Yesterday, between work and the website, I was on the computer for over 16 hours. My apologies to my eye doctor.

What I’m trying to say is whether or not I’ve been legitimately busy or just trying to avoid writing this post, the thought of staring at this blank, white screen had me feeling nauseous. In 15 mere days as a Southerner, 5 of which were spent in Chicago, what could I possibly offer up about our new life? I mean, besides the obvious house and crafty-type projects I’ve chosen to busy myself with. {Navy chevron curtains, people. They’re going to change my life.} First off, I can admit that I was wrong. Totally, inherently, mark this day down because it’s never happening again kind of wrong. I really didn’t think I’d like the South. I thought, in all honestly, I was too…I don’t know…urban, yuppy, Gen Y to enjoy life down here. But I do.

I can’t really pinpoint exactly what I love so much. The heat is oppressive, the accents are thick, and the taxes are high. But despite that, I can see myself living here for a long time. {Sorry, Mom.} Life just seems slower, less hectic, and more savored here. I know that’s quite a blanket statement coming from such a green transplant, but everything, from the cashier at the grocery store to the cars behind you on the freeway just seem to not be rushed. For someone as fast-paced and urgent with no cause like me, it’s rather welcome. I feel like I’m on vacation. I’ve had sweet tea, grits with hot sauce every morning, local sweet, fresh peaches, and waffle fries from Chick-Fil-A. I’ve taken a long walk just because almost every day. I’ve sat out on my porch with my morning coffee, and read a book while laying in the hammock. It’s been unbelievable, yet so natural in one giant, messed up bundle. Some days, when I’m going on hour five of work and I’ve had no one to talk to except my dogs, I feel like I’m going to lose my mind. And other days, I feel like I’ve been waiting for this my whole life.

I’m still scared that the bottom is going to fall out, or that in ten years I’ll look back and wish I hadn’t moved. I guess that’s natural when you’ve uprooted yourself from everything and everyone you’ve ever known. But more and more every day, I feel like we were meant to be here. I don’t know where exactly I fall into this picture, or what the great Queen City has in store for me, but something is a-brewing. And until then, you’ll find me on the porch, armed with a can of spray paint, Tom’s power tools, and the determination to make this place pretty until I figure out something better to do.

On the Road

Technology is amazing, isn’t it? I sit here writing to you all from somewhere in Indiana, en route to my new home. By the time I’m done writing, we’ll be closer to Kentucky.

This just does not feel real. Have 6 months really passed?

Every bump and jolt of the vehicle reminds me that I am indeed on my way to a new life. It sounds dramatic, I know, but it’s true…very few things are the same now. New apartment, new surroundings, new way of living (just found out I’m allergic to gluten), new job (same company, thankfully!). So what’s the same?

You.

My family, my friends, my work wife, my coworkers…you’re still all here for me, encouraging and supporting this dream, and I couldn’t be more grateful.

I cried yesterday…a lot. It’s not easy to make me cry, but I just couldn’t stop the past few days…waving goodbye to my friends and colleagues, getting those tight squeezes from my nieces, the card from my goddaughter that tells me how sad she is that I’m leaving, breaking down when my mother in law asks me how I’m doing, kissing my grandmother goodbye for the very last time…

(And now I’m crying again.)

No amount of excitement can temper the sadness that I’m feeling. Even the fact that I’m returning in the next few weeks doesn’t help.

Please keep my parents and I in your thoughts for a safe and uneventful journey. I will report back in better spirits in Carolina!

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