Well! The lovely Karen at RunKnitTravel (gotta love fellow bloggers who throw in their 3 favorite things for their blog title) has nominated this little blogette for a “Shine On” award! She left me quite a sweet comment and has me tempted to take her up on her offer to pace me for the Marine Corps Marathon one day… whenever I’m ready a long ways from now for the big 26.2.

In the meantime, check out her blog! I love her race recaps – she’s run a bunch of races I want to do and she’s so thorough about detailing the course. Love it!

The rules of the award are simple:

– Visit and thank the blogger who nominated you.

– Acknowledge that blogger on your blog, and link back.

– Share seven random, interesting things about yourself.

– Nominate up to 15 bloggers for the Shine On Award, provide a link to their blogs in your post, and notify them on their blogs.

7 Things

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Besides running, these are my favorite things to do in my spare time:

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Susquehanna State Park

1. Go hiking
Especially in the early spring and early fall – and then masochistically, dead of winter – I LOVE to go hiking. One of the first things I did when I took over ownership of my late dog, Monster, was take him on hikes through the portion of Rock Creek Trail that went by our new apartment. They were our happiest afternoons that fall. I couldn’t take Monster on social hikes, but through Meetup.com I found out about the Mid-Atlantic Hiking Group, which is a super-great resource for finding great trails led by certified hike leaders. There are usually a handful (sometimes more) people to have a pleasant conversation with during the hike. My favorite hike I’ve been on was along the Susquehanna River – we knocked out a good 7 miles with some steep climbs. It was early summer, so still cool out, and there were wildflowers everywhere, and we even saw a big black rat snake chilling on a tree soaking in the sun! I always joked (but was mostly serious) that Monster and I were made for each other – a little too wild for what is/was socially acceptable, and that’s why we were at our most peaceful out in nature. I miss my dog more than words can every say, and being out on a hike, in the woods, under the trees, watching a creek trickle by, reminds me of all my favorite moments with him and makes me feel a little bit closer to his spirit.

2. Go to museums, craft fairs, and art galleries

National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden
National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden

There is SO MUCH TO LEARN out there floating around in the world! I’ve been known to swing over 4 lanes after spotting a blink-and-you-miss-it sign for a tiny museum while on road trips. I could spend twenty minutes staring at one painting. One of the things I love about life is that there will never NOT be something new to learn. How exciting is that?!

On that note…

3. Read

Home by Toni Morrison
Home by Toni Morrison

I have been known to use going to the bookstore as a recreational activity. I will go to the library to return a book and walk out unintentionally with 5 more. In May and June this past year I swallowed like 7 books in the span of 2 weeks. I got hooked on reading at an early age. I loved words – as a little kid I loved vivid descriptions that helped my imagination visualize the colors the characters were wearing, what their faces looked like, what the hallways of their schools looked like. I think it helped me in my acting endeavours later on in life – reading really forces you to activate that visual imagination. My first job was at a Barnes & Noble bookstore when I was 15. I LOVED it! Except for standing on my feet all day, being surrounded in books was heavenly. I have a reading list a mile long and, going back to the above note, I love that there will never not be a book out there I haven’t read yet. Part of me even thinks I could be okay going to jail – I’d just clean out the jail library. My favorite writers include Willa Cather, Edith Wharton, Cormac McCarthy, Jeffrey Eugenides, Vladimir Nabokov, Zadie Smith, Karen Russell, Margaret Atwood, and for excellent guilty pleasure beach reading, Phillippa Gregory and all those trashy Tudor romances.

4. Discover new music and enjoy it live

Kimbra at the 9:30 Club
Kimbra at the 9:30 Club

Last fall I was pretty much at a different show every weekend. Music is my drug. It is an all-natural, non-toxic but totally intoxicating high. And I firmly believe music is best enjoyed live. Whether it’s getting friends together to get dressed up and go to a big summer country music concert out at a big pavilion show, or just grabbing a friend and hitting the 9:30 Club (if you’re reading this from somewhere in the country other than DC, make sure if you ever visit to catch a show at 9:30. It’s pretty much the thing about being a DC girl that I am most proud of) to check out a band I’ve enjoyed but am not yet a groupie for. Some of my favorite artists I’ve become attached to through seeing them at U Street Music Hall, or 9:30 Club – and others, I’m so excited, selfishly, that they’re not terribly successful and I can still catch them at small venues like Jammin’ Java (like Mindy Smith in October!). I am on the biggest, most overwhelming, most indescribable high hearing a favorite song of mine played live.

5. Write and hang out with writers

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My beloved classmates at Yale Writers’ Conference and our awesome teacher, novelist Nathaniel Rich

Once I cried when I met Karen Russell at Politics & Prose, who wrote Swamplandia!, one of my favorite novels I’ve read in recent memory. I once ambushed Jeffrey Eugenides as he came off the stage at the National Book Festival in 2012 (AND IT’S HAPPENING THIS WEEKEND AGAIN WHEN I AWKWARDLY AMBUSH MARGARET ATWOOD AT THE NATIONAL BOOK FEST!). I’m not a huge fiction writer, but I love telling stories about every day people I meet or the silly things that happen in every day life. From the time I was small I have loved putting words on the page. This past summer I got the incredible opportunity to study at Yale for a summer session with the Yale Writers’ Conference. The people I met there are some of the people I’ve never felt more comfortable being totally myself around. And prose writers are not the only type of writers I love to pick the brains of. Good songwriters are my life crushes.

6. Explore and travel

Bristol Caverns in Bristol, TN
Bristol Caverns in Bristol, TN

Whether it’s a day trip to Annapolis to check out a tiny little maritime museum and enjoy the best crabcakes in the world (there’s my Maryland pride peeking out!), or a road trip to the beach with my best friend complete with impromptu side trips, or booking a few nights to myself in the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee, I itch to see more of the world then the same path I trod on a daily basis. I love to bring a buddy along, but I’m just as content exploring alone – I can take as much or as little time as I want checking things out, eat wherever I feel like, and sometimes, it’s just nice to imagine that nobody else in the world knows about this little secret hideaway.

7. Love on some animals

Lulu, one of my favorite dogs I've ever met
Lulu, one of my favorite dogs I’ve ever met

I used to work at my local animal shelter, and though time permits less and less lately, still try to stay involved in volunteering for animal rescue. The most important lesson I learned when I worked at the animal shelter is to give everyone the benefit of the doubt – people and animals included. It was so easy to get mad at people who seemed to be throwing their animals away, but you learn that people have different ways of dealing with their emotions and people have different values in life.

And it was so easy for many people to cast aside certain animals because of breed prejudices or troubling myths, but I can’t begin to count the number of sweet, goofy, friendly as all get-out dogs that some patrons automatically shuddered at because of a blocky head and a story they heard on TV.

Just because I don’t work at the animal shelter anymore and my dream of working for the ASPCA seems a little far away now doesn’t mean I’ve given up my plan to one day live on a big ranch with like eight dogs and twelve cats. And of course, an array of gerbils and rabbits and guinea pigs. And a turtle pond. And maybe a pig.

OKAY. ENOUGH about me. Now I’m supposed to pass on the love.

1. Eat Pray Run DC – Courtney is a sweetheart that I got to connect with through the ever-enjoyable Sunday night #runchat on Twitter. She’s training for her first marathon, the Richmond Marathon, which I’m so excited about because I’ll be there running the 8K with some friends who are running the half! Go Courtney go!

2. Fat Girl Run – Another #runchat friend, Erika, who spent some time here in my neck of the woods as well. (Can you tell I like to connect with the fellow DC/MD/VA folks over #runchat?) Erika began running in late 2011 and has lost 90 pounds since then. Reading about both her triumphs and her struggles with body image after so many amazing accomplishments is a poignant reminder that no matter the number on the scale, loving oneself is about so much more than size, and that running is about so much more than weight loss.

3. The Pavement Princess – Ashley is a runner with a penchant for runDisney and cold beer. Gotta love that. I love that her blog is pink polka dots and she embraces all things about being a girly runner. You can find her offering you picture heavy (love it!) race recaps, reviews of products she loves (everything from Sparkly Soul headbands to Chick’d apparel – see? Embrace the girly), and detailing her training routine.

4. Margarita, Miles, and the Mouse – Okay, I thoroughly enjoy Patty. She’s a proud Longhorns fan and I have had a secret thing for UT Austin since I was in high school. She’s also a fun race recapper and I love a good gif-heavy blog post.

5. Never Trade – Chris is a self-described “penguin runner” and I gotta give love to my fellow slow runners. I also have a special place for fellow runners who are big readers, and Chris’s list of books she’s read in 2013 is totally motivating me to crack open the books more!

I’m not doing 15 because, well, a lot of the running blogs I read are the ones everyone else who reads this is probably reading too, and I don’t really interact much with the writers (stealthy blog-reader >_> <_<) so hitting them up to be like “heyyy I’m giving you a blog award” feels kinda awkward.

Peace y’all. Good night!