Tuesday, August 20, 2019

"No Excuses"

We've all heard it before. The various "motivational" sayings that boil down to "no excuses."
You know, this kind of BS that tries to tough-love you into feeling bad for having human setbacks.

Got a cold?
Pulling some all-nighters?
Working extra hours?
Losing sleep with your sick kids?
Struggling with grief or depression?
Coming off an injury?
Needing a little extra personal-time with your SO?
Just starting your period?

Covered in hives because you have the world's best luck and somehow contracted a virus out of nowhere?
That last one maaaay be a little personal right now. Don't worry, I'm not contagious.
The thing is - and no one who knows me will be surprised by this - I don't ascribe to "no excuses." No one reading this blog is an elite, professional runner making their income off their race results.

Running is a hobby.

It is supposed to be life-giving.

When you're in a situation where going out for a run just feels like the last thing you want to do...when you can hardly think straight and just need that extra downtime, that extra fifteen minutes of sleep, that extra mindless TV show?

Take it.

Go easy on yourself.

Running will be there for you when you're ready to come back to it. Forcing it can do more harm than good. When you buy into the "no excuses" mindset and then have a bad run or a missed run, it can wreak havoc on mental wellbeing. You beat yourself up. You forget the joy of running. You start to feel like running is a punishment instead of a benefit. Negative motivation simply isn't as effective as positive motivation/reinforcement.
So go ahead. Cut yourself some slack; take a little time off. Rest up. The first run back will feel like a welcome-back instead of a chore, and that's really what it's all about.


Thursday, August 8, 2019

Review: JBUDS Air Icon Earbuds

A few months ago, my cheap little MPOW bluetooth headphones started to die. It began with connectivity issues, needing to be manually paired with my phone every time I turned them on. They then started cutting out randomly in the middle of runs.

Generally, they still work, and they'd be fine as a backup pair of headphones, but I wanted something reliable for when I start training for longer races again. So I began a hunt for some true wireless headphones that wouldn't break the bank.

Besides cost, I was looking for: 5+ hours of battery life, water resistance, a reputable company, ease of use, and no slippage. If I could find a pair that also let in ambient noise, that would be a bonus.
After watching approximately 100 YouTube reviews on various headphones, I discovered that JLAB would soon be releasing a pair that would fit my needs. I pre-ordered them in June and anxiously awaited their late-July arrival.
The Air Icons have 6 hours of battery on a charge, plus the charging case.
While I waited, I received this email. I had expected to get my earbuds in late July/early August, so I felt this level of customer service was unnecessary but welcome!
Now that's outstanding customer service!
When my Air Icons arrived on August 2, I was immediately impressed. The packaging is minimal but sturdy and very instructive. The box comes with the earbuds, charging case with built-in plug, two sets of "cush fins", three sets of gel tips and a set of foam tips, and a slim instruction/troubleshooting manual.
I found the earbuds incredibly easy to set up and pair. You take them out of the case, they turn on. You put them back in the case, they turn off. As soon as they're on, they're in pairing mode; you don't have to hold down any buttons for your phone's bluetooth to recognize the device and pair up. I was wearing mine within two minutes of opening the box.
I tested out a few of the tips and fins. I found a combination of the smallest tips and bigger fins was perfect, as the buds stayed securely in my ears but weren't so tight as to block out all noise. (You could definitely use these as noise-cancelling earbuds, but I prefer the "looser" fit.)

The real question is...will these fall out and get lost? Let me tell you, I put them in and immediately forgot about them. They feel lightweight and comfortable. They nestled into my ear as if they were made especially for me. I bounced around, bobbing my head like I had water in my ears. I ran in place. I jumped and shook my head, to Matt's amusement.

The things stayed in!

I was excited to try them out, but it was a few days before I took them for a run.

They did not disappoint. I did have to "study" the package a bit and practice the controls before I got going. The Icon Air use touch controls, no buttons, so they are very easy to use and you don't have to fiddle with finding any buttons. I do think some of the controls will take getting used to (single, double, and triple taps on either earbud produce different results), but they're not very confusing.
They stick out a bit, but their profile is low enough that I think a cold-weather, ear-covering headband wouldn't be uncomfortable.
I have not tested the mic on a call because I don't answer the phone on a run ever, but I did take a little video and tested the sound that way. You're welcome.
On the run, the earbuds didn't move or get uncomfortable. The sound quality was great - there are three settings on the built-in equalizer and I found I preferred the Balanced setting best. I definitely could hear things around me more than usual with other earbuds, but I wouldn't claim they leave your ears as open as Aftershokz do, of course.

Speaking of the competition, here's a bit about the water resistance:
Another cool perk is that the case is magnetic inside and out, so the earbuds snap in and stay securely and the lid also snaps shut with ease and stays that way. It feels sleek and expensive, and the charger is the kind that can plug into a USB port either way, so there's no trying-to-figure-out-which-way-is-up situation.
My only gripe is that I wish the charger's cord was a little longer.
Basically, I'm incredibly happy with my purchase. The fact that these things only cost $59 is kind of unbelievable. I have confidence they'll hold up, and the warranty is pretty great, but if they crap out on me I'll be sure to update here. In the meantime, I'll be thoroughly enjoying my first pair of truly wireless earbuds.


Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Spoiling My Future Nephew

My sister told me she was pregnant during my birthday weekend in February. She gave me a birthday gift before we went to dinner. As I pulled some Harry Potter onesies out of the gift bag, my brain did a weird little stutter.

Me: "Why are you giving me onesies?"

Her: "Why do you think?"

(Later Matt told me at first he thought, "Do they think we're pregnant?")

For awhile this was the hardest secret to keep! I was so excited, but Steph and Gordon found out they were pregnant pretty early on, so I had to wait another six weeks to spill the news.
Her kiddo will be the first grandchild for my parents and the first nephew for my brother, me, and Matt; I am delighted and already spoiling him.

I mean, here's the thing. I want to be the cool aunt. I want to be the aunt he wants to hang out with and gets excited to visit. Who cares that he won't really form lasting memories of me for the first couple years of his life? I need to start now.
My lifetime plan for spoilage is to send money in all holiday cards (this is a no-fail way to win a kid's affection) and have an ongoing list of books I can send him whenever the fancy strikes, so he always has something new and great to read.

It's important to me that I set an example for being compassionate, forward-thinking, creative, and confident. I want this kiddo to be kind and gentle, but to also follow his own instincts and be unafraid to stand up for himself, others, and what's right.

Aunts are allowed to have that kind of influence, right?!
Anyway, Steph's baby shower was a couple weekends ago, so here are some photos of the beginning of Operation Spoil-the-Nephew.

I purposely avoided anything very gender-specific or anything with creepy "future ladies' man" type wording. My sister and Gordon love the outdoors, and their theme for his room is nature and animals, so I went with that vibe. I also went with clothes from 0-9 months because I figured lots of people would get him newborn clothes and they'd need some bigger clothes for him to grow into!

I also got her a Boppy, which is what I get all my mom-friends because I know it's super useful!
I individually wrapped each outfit so they could really enjoy opening them.
Here is a glance at the list of books I plan to get him in small batches throughout his childhood. I'll obviously need to add to this as he grows up.

I already gave them two board books (I Like Myself and Hello, World! Solar System) because I couldn't wait.
The baby shower was beautiful. Steph and Gordon did a lot of the legwork, coming up with the favors and theme, etc., while my mom and I played Ringleader the day of. Matt was a super helpful brother-in-law, running errands and helping to decorate the night before. Here are some photos from the main event:
Making the "birch twigs" the night before.
The candy may not match the theme, but it screams "Stephanie's aesthetic". The cupcakes were from Parlour Vegan.
Besides the trail mix bar, Steph made s'more kits and tree stump tea candles for take-aways.
I recorded all the gifts in a copy of Where the Wild Things Are.
With the wedding and baby shower within a few days of each other, it was definitely a whirlwind weekend. Steph and Gordon are now feeling ready to nest and prepare for little Baby G's arrival. In fact, when we left them on Monday it was after Matt helped move some furniture around to prepare for the crib and dresser delivery that afternoon!

It felt so special to get to do this with Steph. I can't wait to meet the little guy and spoil him rotten!


Monday, August 5, 2019

Steph & Gordon Tie the Knot

This will eventually be a running blog again, but we've had some big family stuff going on, so my next couple posts are going to be a little off topic.

My sister and Gordon have been together seven years; knowing they wanted to get married eventually, we've been waiting for it to finally happen. This past fall, Gordon bought a ring. He planned to propose in March. Instead, they got a little surprise in January and their engagement got moved up.

Steph went back and forth on doing a traditional wedding or a courthouse wedding; she ended up deciding on an intimate dinner with her closest family and friends. The invitations called it a "reception". They ended up having the actual ceremony at the dinner.

The day of the wedding, I stopped by Steph and Gordon's place to go over some logistics and hang out while she got pampered.
I was so glad Steph went with some traditional elements. It was so wonderful to see her dolled up, to hear their vows, and to witness the exchanging of their rings.
The wedding was held at Ruth's Chris. Steph's friend Eddie took photos of the ceremony and after (and the baby shower that followed on Sunday).

(Fun fact - Eddie cut his teeth on photography at Matt's and my wedding nine years ago!)

We enjoyed a delicious dinner and dessert. I asked Steph to let me give a MOH speech because, despite the wedding being non-traditional, I still wanted to be able to do that. Of course then I got all nervous about it, but I'm glad it was included.
There was no dancing or anything, but because the gathering was small there was lots of mingling and picture-taking. It was the perfect balance of low-key and pomp that the couple wanted!
I am so happy to welcome Gordon to the family officially after all these years! I keep getting lucky in the brother-in-law department!

Next up: the baby shower.