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Off Topic Thursday: Adult Friendships

25 Apr

Growing up, I never thought of ‘making friends’ as a skill I was taught in school. It just happened. You made friends with your classmates and maybe with people from outside activities. You were always surrounded by other people your age and there was always something fun and new to try where you could meet people.

College was the same and I left college with beautiful friendships I’ll treasure for the rest of my life. I’m still in contact with most of them and I care for them deeply.

But then I moved back home. I was living in a town different from (but near) where I grew up and I had lost contact with all but a few friends from high school. None of my college friends were in the same state. It was just me and my husband and his friends. And I realized how hard it could be to make friends as an adult.

I’ve always had an aversion to being friends with someone from work. I’ll do an occasional thing outside of the office like a run or a large group family get together, but I’ve never thought of making friends with my coworkers. Even though I shared an office with another woman about my age at my first job, I never considered befriending her. Work is work, and life happens outside of it.

It took me a few months to start finding friends. The first success I had was through the website Meetup.com. I joined a writers’ group and even though it was a bit of a drive, I made three really good friends from that group. It took a few months before I had the confidence to invite them over to dinner and start building friendships, but I’m so glad I did. That gave me the confidence to know I could make friends on my own.

Unfortunately, two of those girls moved away and the other one and I don’t talk anymore. More miraculously, I have another group of three women from that group I’m now friends with. And I’m the youngest by about five years. But the eldest is older than my mother. This was another good lesson for me, learning that my friends weren’t always going to be my age. Some people give me a weird look when I mention my friend’s grandchild but I’ve gotten over it. We’re not bound to our age-peers once we’re out of school.

I’ve since found friends through my church and athletic groups that I’m very close with as well, but that writing group was a great first step for me. And friendships build on friendships. I’m friends with people I met through acquaintances I don’t speak with anymore and those friendships are incredible. I wish someone had told me making friends was a skill when I was in school. Maybe I would have practiced a little more.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

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Off Topic Thursday: Training

28 Mar

I’ve talked about my 70.3 Race in July so I thought this would be a good chance to talk about the training I’ve been doing to get ready for it.

Cover image via Goodreads

I borrowed a training book from my tri club with week-by-week training plans. This gives me workouts to do six days a week, usually more than one per day. I’m trying really hard to keep to this and have only missed one workout so far! It’s currently week six and I’m in the ‘build’ phase where I ramp up time and intensity and train my body to push harder for longer.

There are ten levels for each distance. I was going to go for level two, but a teammate talked me into trying level six! He said levels 1-4 were not enough and to go for six because if it was too hard, I could drop to five. So far, I’m sticking with six. It will have more than prepared to complete my goal of finishing the race. At this point, completing the training feels like more of a task than the race itself.

During a non-recovery week, I’m doing about ten workouts a week, ranging from 45 minutes to two and a half hours. Most of this is biking, my weakest discipline and where I need the most work. I replace one swim a week with my team swim practice and I’ll probably start swapping out other workouts for team workouts as the weather warms up and those start. I want to follow the plan, but I also want to be social and see my friends!

For cycling, I use an app called Zwift for indoor riding now since the weather makes it too cold to ride outside. Zwift creates an avatar that you control by riding your bike. It uses a heart rate monitor and speed/cadence sensors on my bike to estimate my power output which determines how fast my avatar rides. There are different maps available (London is my favorite) and you can use pre-set workouts or join groups of other uses for workouts, training rides, or races. It’s way better than staring at a wall and more motivating than watching a movie. I listen to audiobooks while I ride and I’m getting through them very fast with all the time I spend in the saddle!

To run, I prefer to go outside, but Michigan weather doesn’t always participate. I’ll also use the treadmill at my gym and I often take an iPad with me and watch Netflix. Comedy specials are a favorite but it can be hard to laugh and sprint! I try to run with my husband or a friend whenever possible. It pushes me harder and it makes it much more enjoyable.

I usually swim at my gym though I’m looking forward to swimming in some lakes once the temperature warms up. I still saw ice this morning so that feels ages away. Maybe by May?

So don’t mind me being absent from my friends and spending every spare second planning out workouts and meal prepping. July seems ages away, but I know it’s right around the corner. My plan is going to be halted a few times by weddings and other obligations so I’ve built some slack time into the calendar to let me enjoy life and to keep me pushing hard.

Until next time, run (bike & swim) on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Off Topic Thursday: Volunteering

28 Feb

I heard somewhere that the Millennial generation volunteers more than any generation before us. I’ve also heard this is because we have no money because of student loans, but I’m going to focus on the good side of this. I have two groups that I volunteer my time with that I’d like to share.

The idea for this post came to me while I was on the train to Chicago for a conference. When I was in college, I joined a co-ed business fraternity, Delta Sigma Pi. The group provided me with amazing leadership opportunities, scholarship money, and recognition for the work I did. I enjoyed it a lot and upon graduating and moving to Detroit, I got involved with the alumni chapter as well as serving as a mentor for a local university. Each chapter has a designated mentor and I’ve been in the role for four years and have enjoyed my time doing so. It allows me to stay in touch with the collegiate members and help them develop themselves as leaders and professionals the way I was able to do in school. I was heading to Chicago to represent our alumni chapter in a voting session and visit my friends from my collegiate days, including an old roommate. It’s a perk that I get to see great friends while I do this.

The second position is with my local Friends of the Library board. I’ve been a board member for six years and have slowly taken on more responsibilities as time allows and as I move toward holding a position. I’m the unofficial ‘bookie’ right now, securing entertainment for our annual Gala event in the summer and helping to put on our fundraiser event in the winter. Most recently, I booked a barbershop quartette to sing show tunes. I like being able to advocate for the library in my community and help direct funds to new programs to serve the patrons. It really aligns with my passions and it’s been a great position for me.

I’m sure there are a ton of other ways I could volunteer and share my time, but these are my big two now. Who else out there volunteers? Anything you particularly enjoy? Anything that lines up with your passions?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Off Topic Thursday: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

3 Jan

I know that these posts usually come at the end of the month, but the end of December was crazy and I figured I’d start off the new year talking about something that’s become very important to me over the past year: plastic and recycling

I should really say using less plastic has become important to me. My husband and I were contemplating when I’d become such a hippy, and we pinpointed it to the day I saw the video below. Many of you know I love turtles, so this hit me in a very sensitive place and made me cry for days. When I was done crying, I decided I needed to start reducing the amount of plastic I consumed.

Be warned, this video is rather graphic.

I knew I needed to do something to help me deal with a man-made threat to my favorite animal. So I started finding ways to reduce not only plastic but as much waste as possible from my life. None of these have been very extreme but together, I think they are making a difference.

  • Brushing up on my recycling to make sure I’m recycling everything I can
  • Bar soap, shampoo, and conditioner instead of plastic bottles
  • Cardboard tampons instead of plastic (Diva Cup would be better… not there yet)
  • Cloth napkins instead of paper
  • Reusable grocery bags and produce bags instead of plastic
  • Wearing clothes twice when possible/not dirty
  • Wool dryer balls instead of sheets
  • Buying products in recyclable packaging (ex. eggs in cardboard, laundry detergent in a box)
  • Turning lights off when I leave the room
  • Wrapping gifts in newsprint or using reusable bags
  • SAYING NO TO PLASTIC STRAWS!
  • Carrying a set of bamboo cutlery and metal straws in my purse
  • Telling as many people as possible about the harm plastics are doing to wildlife and easy ways they can reduce their impact

I know these are small steps, but that’s the beauty of them. None of these have made large impacts on my life. They are easy steps that you can take if you want to which will positively impact the planet and help save turtles and other wildlife. If you’re interested in more information on any of these, please leave a comment. I’m no expert, but I can share with you what I know.

What do you do to reduce your impact on the planet? Is there anything else I should start doing?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Off Topic Thursday: Michigan

29 Nov

I think everyone is proud of where they’re from. I know I am. I was born in Metro Detroit and after living in southern Indiana for four years, I moved back and I’ve been here ever since. I’m very proud of where I’m from and I’d love to give people an idea of Michigan that’s not a bankrupt murder capital. I mean, that’s not wrong, but it’s not the whole truth.

When I was in fourth grade, we focused on Michigan history. We talked about Detroit (day-twa) founding Detroit and the Native American tribes that were common in this area. We visited Lansing, our state capital, and learned about state government. The summer after that year, my mom took my brother and me on a trip around the state that I’ll never forget. She was intrigued about the things I’d learned that summer. She wanted to see the Mackinaw Bridge, the boat wrecks in Lake Superior, the cherries in Traverse City (TRAV-erse), and the waterfalls in the UP (upper peninsula). So we spent a week driving around the state and seeing all these things. So when my brother started fourth grade, he’d already seen it all.

I’ve been lucky to see the city of Detroit change. When I was young, we didn’t go downtown. No one did. Unless you worked there, you never went and if you did work there, you came home right away. When I came back from college, things had started to change. The crime was better controlled and businesses were starting to see the future of the city. There were desirable things to do downtown. We went for fun and if there was a sports game, we’d go early and grab dinner or stay late and have a drink. Detroit is a rare city with four professional sports teams (Lions, and Tigers and Wings, oh my! [and the Pistons]) so there’s often a good reason to visit. I’ll be graduating from a downtown university soon and I got used to being in the city by myself and enjoying my time there.

The metro area is hugely diverse. The city has a majority African-American population and ten minutes west, in Dearborn, we have a majority Arab population. The high-tech automotive industry draws educated people from around the world. My husband’s high school was 40% East Asian. I went to high school in an area that was so heavily Jewish that we got Jewish holidays off in the public school district. Moving to Indiana, I really missed this diversity and never had appreciated it until it was gone.

I’ve made a point to visit more of my home state now that I have the means to. My husband and I had a wonderful camping vacation in the UP a few years ago. We explored old copper mines and had a campsite right on Lake Superior. My parents have a cottage 20 minutes from Lake Huron and we go up a few times a summer. One of my running goals is to do a race in every county of the Lower Peninsula and I’m making steady progress (though it will take some time!). As much as we’re known for Detroit, a lot of the state is rural and forested. There are a lot of farms and deer hunting is a major past time in the fall.

So I hope I can give some of you a slightly different look at Michigan. We’re not all Eminem and only a small part of our state still doesn’t have clean drinking water (Flint Water Crisis). Not all our cities are bankrupt (just the biggest one) and it’s not always cold. I love my state and every terrible and beautiful inch of it. I bet your hometown is great, too, but I wouldn’t trade Michigan for anything.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Off Topic Thursday: Halloween

25 Oct

Welcome to this holiday edition of Off-Topic Thursday. It seemed appropriate to talk about one of my favorite holidays with it’s own post.

My husband is the reason I love Halloween. When we went to college in different states, he would always visit me for Halloween. We’d wear costumes and go to a party and it was when he met a lot of my friends. When we got older, we decided we needed to throw Halloween parties to celebrate every year. And we decided we needed to make our own costumes. Because those are always better.

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To infinity and beyond! #halloween2015

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This was the first time I really rocked it. It involved scissors and fabric paint. A bit of work, but really not too bad. Last year, we did three costumes.

This was the simple one. It was punny and for a house party at our friend’s place. I had to eat at Taco Bell a few times that week and ask politely for extra (clean) papers, but it still wasn’t bad to make.

This was for a 10K run. It was my favorite. A lot of fabric paint and some scissors for this one. The worst part was the face paint. I don’t like face paint at all and I’ve vowed to not use it again. Which also includes my ‘no wigs’ rule.

This one was my other favorite. We had our two real turtles ‘dressed’ as the other two TMNT. (We printed out pictures and taped them on their tanks.) The shells on the back and the plates on the front were fun to do and I had a blast fabric painting in our kitchen.

My husband outdid me this year. I don’t have a good picture yet but it’s coming. Our party is this weekend and he’s been working on this costume for ten months. It does not disappoint. We’re going to have to come up with something really epic for 2019. Keep an eye on my Instagram for the bit update.

Until next time, spooky on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Off Topic Thursday: Turtles

27 Sep

When I told my boyfriend (now husband) that I was allergic to cats and dogs, I thought he was going to break up with me. He grew up with both in the house and thought it was a given that any home would have at least one free-range furry friend living in it. He spent the two years we were engaged talking about hypo-allergenic cats and dogs and even looked up the price of a pure-bred Siberian cat.

For the six months leading up to our wedding, he was finishing up at school and I was living alone and was very lonely. Following what had always worked for him, he decided to get me a pet for my birthday. I’d had an Eastern Box Turtle growing up and he decided it was time for me to have another turtle in my life. That’s how we came to have Jane.

Jane is a really sweet-manored girl and we’ve bee so lucky to have her in our lives. She has only bit me once, the first day we had her! I picked her up wrong and have never made that mistake again! She’s not cat, but my husband has grown to really love her and enjoy taking care of a reptile. They have a lot more of a personality than one might think!

We’d moved to a bigger apartment and had purchased a bigger tank when a co-worker approached me about a friend who needed to re-home his turtle. Apparently, his wife was not a bit fan and he was told the turtle would not be moving with them to their new house. We were asked if we could provide a home for a 15-year-old male, Marty. Fortunately, we were able to oblige.

Marty was very different right from the start. He’s much more aggressive and even bit Jane when we tried to put them in the same tank. He has a bad habit of begging for food by splashing loudly when we’re in the kitchen. Jane has started to pick it up so we’re not pleased. He’s also a little escape artist and we’ve twice had to track him down around the apartment when we realized he wasn’t in his tank. For reference, the lid of his tank is about 5 feet off the ground. He’s a tough little thing.

So I don’t have cute little furry friends but I do have cute little scaley cold-blooded friends. My husband and I love being turtle parents, mostly because it’s so relaxed and we can leave them for the weekend without worry. If you’re in the same allergy-boat as me, consider reptiles! They make great pets. I secretly want a lizard but I don’t want to buy live crickets.

Until next time, write on!

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Off Topic Thursday: Europe Trip

30 Aug

I’ve been building up to this for eight months not but it finally happened! My husband and I took a two-week trip to Europe last month. Some called it a second honeymoon, others a 5-year anniversary trip and I thought of it as an early graduation present to myself. This was my third time traveling in Europe but it was only my husband’s first!

Our first stop was Amsterdam. A friend of mine from high school swimming now lives there so we were able to stay at his place. I really fell in love with the city and if I was going to return to any of our destinations, it would be Amsterdam. Some of our highlights include a bike tour of the countryside, the Anne Frank House, and the MOCO Museum.

Next, we went to Belfast. I planned this stop just to see the Titanic Museum. We spent 7 hours there, completely missing our lunch that day and it was SO WORTH IT! My inner Titanic nerd was well served and I give the museum my highest recommendation. We spent the second day on a Paddywagon tour to see Giant’s Causeway which was beautiful.

From there we moved on to Barcelona and all the paella I could eat. We enjoyed Park Güell and La Sagrada Familia immensely. I wanted to see the church before it’s finished (fingers crossed for 2026!) and I want to see it again when it’s done. We also took a day to relax on the beach and explore the Gothic Quarter.

We went to Belgium and met with a friend of mine from high school. He’s German and had been an exchange student at my high school and we kept in touch since. The last time we saw each other was for our wedding so it really felt like an anniversary trip here. We toured the Parlamentarium building, saw the Antonium and the Mannekin Pis. Really, we drank a lot of good beer and had waffles. The city was really beautiful and I was amazed by the history packed into the center of town that we ended up walking through to get anywhere.

Our last stop was Reykjavik. We got to see puffins and whales which was one of the things I was most looking forward to on that leg of the trip. The city is quite small so we got to see everything we wanted to and more. If you ever go stop in Icelandic Street Food for some amazing soup and the best hospitality I’ve ever experienced.

That’s my quick overview but I have a ton of pictures on Instagram that I haven’t included here. Please consider following me if you don’t already and check out some other great moments from my trip. It was incredible and something I won’t soon forget. I’m already planning something for my next vacation so stay tuned for more!

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Off Topic Thursday: Triathlon

28 Jun

I’ve been building to this Off Topic Thursday topic for a while now. Did anyone else notice my last three months were swimming, biking, and running? This month, it’s all about combining the three and talking about triathlons!

I did my first triathlon in 2004 when I was 14. It was a sprint distance race that I did with a friend on my swim team. The joke was on me because that friend was a runner and I was not. It went OK but I didn’t return to triathlon until 2014 after I got married. I looked up my results and all I can say is at least I got faster! I tried on my own through 2014 and 2015. At the end of 2015, I was suffering from bad knee pain when I ran and was limited to about a mile before I had to stop walking. Biking wasn’t so bad but it still wasn’t good. I was about to bow out of my last tri of the season, which I’d already registered for when my husband and a friend suggested we do a relay. It’s the only one I’ve done to date and I have to say it was amazing and I hope I can do another one again.

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Fist place Sprint Relay team! Go Team Bishop!!!

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In 2016, I decided to get serious and hired a virtual coach. I’ve met him in person a handful of times since he lives ten miles from me. He’d send me workouts to do each day and help me increase mileage and intensity of my workouts. With his help, I finished my first Olympic distance triathlon in September of that year.

I continued with my coach in 2017 and also set a crazy goal of doing a race per month. I over-committed and ended up with more than one per month and a total of 5 triathlons (2 Olympic, 3 Sprint). The schedule was a bit too much for me and I didn’t perform very well. However, I got into a great rhythm with my training.

I decided not to retain my coach for 2018, but I’m keeping him in mind for some goals I have for next year (keep reading). I joined a club team this year and last week I did my first tri as a team member. It’s fun to have a community that will push me instead of relying on myself. I’m hoping to participate in more of the workouts now that my class is over and I have a lot more time during the week. I’ve been taking part in weekend swims since January but it’s time to change my focus to triathlon as a whole. I have one more race this year, an Olympic in September on a course that I’ve done twice already and am excited to dominate again.

I do have one crazy goal. Well, half crazy. I want to complete a Half Ironman in 2019. The September race I’ve done has that distance as an option and I think I can do it. I’m doing a half marathon later this year to remind myself how much training this will involve but I really think I’ve got this. School will be done and I can devote more time to biking and running (I think I’m good on the swim).

I want to do a few sprint tris next year as well. I came really close to breaking 1:30 last week and I think I can do it! I just cramp up like I did before. That would be a good way to end my run. I’m thinking of focusing more on open water swims in 2020 along with some road races. I really just don’t like biking, haha.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Off Topic Thursday: Cycling

26 Apr

I’d almost forgotten it was Off Topic Thursday! My husband had to remind me when I was talking through my weekly posts with him. I’m so excited to share another thing I love outside of books, cycling!

I learned to ride a bike as a kid and my mom always enjoyed scenic rides around the area. When I started a sedentary job, I knew I would fight an uphill battle to stay fit before my wedding. I saw a sign in the office for the corporate Bike MS team and decided to join. That was 2013. I rode 50 miles in one day and raised $250. To get in shape, I found a local easy-going bike club and recruited my husband on a few rides. It’s only grown from there.

Last year was my fifth year of Bike MS and I’ve done three of the four courses offered in Michigan. My husband joined me for my second year and this summer he’ll hit his fifth year. Here’s a picture of us from 2016.

We’ve had a great time riding for Team Ford and I don’t see a reason we’ll stop doing this. If you’re interested in donating toward our 2018 ride (scheduled for July 14-15), you can donate at the link below.

Donated to Bike MS 2018!

Of course, Bike MS isn’t the only reason I cycle. Cycling is a key part of one of my biggest hobbies, triathlons. Most of the time I rode my bike last year, it was alone. I’m anticipating the same this year though my favorite route is closed for construction all summer. I’ll have to find something new.

I love cycling and enjoying nature on a bike. It’s fun to go fast, too! I’m not super fast myself but I do enjoy the ride. My goal for this year is to get faster and be more comfortable on the bike. I got a professional fitting in February so I’m excited to try it out on the road.

Any other cyclist out there? Competitive or recreational? Here’s a picture of my bike (Fuji Gran Fondo). Let me see yours!

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Now with pedals and aerobar! #bikenerd

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Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!