exploring chicago

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Not long after the wedding, Naomi came to visit and she and I spent a few days exploring downtown Chicago together. We took the train in the morning and would spend the entire day walking around the city. Adventuring with Naomi is the best. We both prefer meandering and just stopping at anything that catches our interest. And also our energy levels match so we both feel ready to slip into a coffee shop to sit and rest for a bit at exactly the same time. Anyway, those days of exploring the city together were pretty near perfect and it was the introduction I needed to get a feel for this new city.

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Beautiful theatres. Love.

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[obligatory tourist-y selfie at Cloud Gate]

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This is where we drank coffee, ate waffles, and charged our phones.

5 stars for comfy couches and mismatched random mugs.

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The highlight of our time together was our evening at the theatre seeing the Broadway Tour of Once. Naomi and I had always hoped to go to the theatre together and we jumped at this opportunity. There’s nothing else quite like the magic before a show starts. It’s this amazing energy of knowing that anything can happen.

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The show was an wonder. Unbelievably beautiful and the music touches you in incredible ways. This is why I love musical theatre. It reaches audiences and shares emotions in ways that no other medium can.

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I will always remember the rush of leaving the theatre, walking the city streets at night heading toward the train station. The way the lights reflect of the water and the buildings glow. Talking on the train or just sitting in silence watching the world fly past. I adore city life and, after being born and raised in Los Angeles, getting the chance to live so near Chicago is new and exciting. There’s still a lot to experience and many things yet to see, but having an unfamiliar city to explore is an amazing thing.

13.1 – fox valley half marathon

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On the morning of Sunday, September 20th 2015, after training all summer, I ran my first half marathon. This is something I had wanted to do for years, but never thought I would ever be able to cross it off my bucket list. It was such a beyond-amazing experience and I feel so blessed than I had the opportunity to run and also the strength and perseverance to train well so I was ready to do my best on race day.

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It was pouring rain on the Friday before the race when Austin and I drove an hour in a thunderstorm with flash flood warnings after work to go pick up my packet at the expo. Thankfully all went well and I was able to pick up my packet and bib so I’d be ready for Sunday.

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My alarm went off at 4am on the morning of the race so I could have time to shower, eat, and get ready without feeling rushed. As we drove an hour from our home to St. Charles, IL, I was excited, but not nervous. I knew I had trained well and that I had set myself up for success. I was just ready to finally conquer this after the nine months I had spent knowing it was coming after signing up.

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The starting line was right by the Fox River and it was such a beautiful morning. Weather was in the 50s with highs in the 70s for later that day. Perfect.

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As I waited with my pace group, I chatted with some other runners and texted my parents and my grandparents. My Nana had been my running coach all summer as I trained and she and my Poppop were running their own half marathon that morning in Maryland so we could do it together.

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I am so amazed by the running community. Everyone there was supportive and encouraging. So many people woke up early to be out to volunteer and hold signs. Kids were giving high-fives to passing runners and the people passing out water at the hydration stations were such a welcome blessing. Seriously. The running community is the best and I am so thankful to be a part of it. Shout out to Fox Valley Marathon for putting on a fantastic race. It was well-organized and ideal for this first-timer.

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Soon we were at the starting line and it was time to run. I stuck to my plan that I had made while training – tried and true. I had my hand-held water bottle with me and my Cliff Shot Bloks. I brought my iPod with a new audiobook for just-in-case, but I didn’t end up listening to it much. I was too preoccupied taking in all the new sights and making small talk with some of the other runners.

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I cannot begin to say how gorgeous and perfect the course was. (Except for the dead raccoon on the side of the road.) We ran through Downtown St. Charles, along the Fox River, and through beautiful Japanese Gardens. The course was mostly flat with only a few tiny hills. The scenery kept changing which kept the run interesting.

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While I was running, I was surprised by how easy it felt. It felt just like one of my long training runs and I had to remind myself that this was the real deal. Around mile 4 I stopped and waited in line for a bathroom break and at mile 6 I got a side stitch – but once I walked it off I was fine and it didn’t come back.

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I was so excited to see the 10 mile marker! I stopped and texted Austin and my family to let them know I getting closer to the finish.

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By the last mile, I was starting to feel tired and I was ready to be done. I pressed on because I knew I would be there soon. When I had about a quarter of a mile left, I saw the Harrisons standing by the course with signs. It was crazy. I had no idea they were going to be traveling up for the race and after running the entire race seeing people with signs, it took me a moment to recognize them and realize that these were for me! Best surprise and exactly what I needed to be my final push across the finish line.

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…and I finished! :D

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A volunteer placed the medal around my neck and I was surrounded by other finishers and everyone was congratulating each other. I was so unbelievably happy as I made my way over to the food tent to grab some water and a banana. Once I found Austin I stretched and we made our way back home so we could go out to lunch with his family. It was such an amazing day and I could not have asked for a more perfect first half marathon experience. The whole thing felt like a dream and I had to keep reminding myself that it had actually happened. I ran a half marathon!

My goal was to finish with an ideal time of 2:45. My official time was 2:44 and that includes the time I spent waiting in line for the bathroom. God is so amazing! He gave me the courage to undertake this challenge and the discipline to see it through. Everything about this was outside of my comfort zone and it was certainly an adventure that I will never forget. I am so thankful for perfect weather and the strength I needed to persevere and for the friends and family who supported me and cheered me on along my way.

honeymooning

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After our wedding, Austin and I spent two amazing weeks together galavanting around making once-in-a-lifetime kind of memories. He whisked me away to Yosemite (a complete surprise) and then we attended our first (but most certainly not our last) Star Wars Celebration. It was a marvelous time where we ate the best beignets ever and went hiking and popped balloons and ignored our phones and played with legos and kissed in the Millennium Falcon and I skipped rocks for the very first time.

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The day after the wedding, we hit the road for the six-hour drive to Yosemite. The scenery was gorgeous and, since it was the off-season, we pretty much had the place to ourselves. Most shops and trails were closed, but we frequented one tiny diner that was open and got a bit of hiking in around the lake.

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 So. Many. Balloons.

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We stayed at The Heidelberg Inn by June Lake. Everything was so empty and quiet and it was the perfect spot to unwind after the wedding. This resort has been around since 1928 and the lobby was decorated with the classy black and white photos of all the old-time movie stars who had visited over the years. The photos complimented the giant stuffed California Grizzly Bear nicely.

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It was four days of movie-watching and book-reading and card-playing and popcorn-making and visiting the only open diner around. There wasn’t any decent coffee so we sorely missed that, but, otherwise, it was absolutely perfect.

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 Oh. and we were mobbed by ducks.

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The days we spent at June Lake were quiet and relaxing and beautiful. Exactly what we needed before we headed to the crowded craziness of Anaheim for the second part of our honeymoon.

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The Star Wars Celebration VII was incredible. Even though it was loud and busy and we went from seeing no people to being crammed in a room with thousands of people, we loved it. Most of our time was spent wandering around the halls and looking at all the cosplay. We made it to most of the panels we had wanted to see too, so, all in all, it was a complete success.

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legocollage

Daily Lego-building. YES.

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On our last night, we got to hear James Arnold Taylor and Mark Hamill and it was the absolute best way to finish off the weekend.

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 It was time to leave California and start our trek to Illinois. It was time leave my old home and head to our new one.

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The days after were early mornings and late nights and too much coffee and pushing as hard as we could to get home. The country flew past in a blur. Even though our honeymoon had been completely wonderful, we were ready to get back to the real world and settle in to the day-to-day married life that we were both looking forward to so much.