Saturday, June 30, 2012

Don't Hit Me Bro!

I am currently training for the "Tour de Shore" bike ride that is to take place on July 29th. For those not familiar with the ride, it begins at the Irish Pub in Philadelphia and spans 65 miles through South Jersey to end at the Irish Pub in Atlantic City. Last year was my first year doing it and besides being extremely dehydrated and spending the time after I finished in the Medical Tent, it was a really incredible experience. Somehow my quads forgot that I almost died (why am I so dramatic? honestly!) and I signed up for the ride again this year with my BFF's mom and two of her long-time family friends.

Naturally I have been slacking on my bike training after running Broad Street, so the month of June consisted of riding my bike pretty much every. single. day. My butt says noooo but my waistline says hellll yes! And since I've been riding so much I've noticed how many times drivers don't notice bikers or are just ambivalent to our existence on the road, thus they speed past our bikes with only inches to spare (thank you for not hitting my elbow with your side view mirror I so appreciate it).

Smiling through the tears crossing the finish
line. Only I was so dehydrated no tears
came out!
So for any of my (3) readers (hi mom and dad!) that may ride bikes or have an interest in buying a bike to start to ride (I promise you haven't forgotten how to) here are some tips I have for you, with WATCH THE DRIVERS being the longest and most important. Because let's be real, between the cell phones and the iPads and America's overall attention span of 0.2 seconds, drivers are more distracted today then ever.

1. Wear a helmet. Stop laughing and get serious. The Tour de Shore REQUIRES that us riders wear a helmet through the whole ride. I wear one every time I get on my bike. And you know what, Lance Armstrong does too. Because it's not about looking fashionable that you should be worried about. It's the crazy drivers (see my next paragraph) that are more likely going to hit and injure YOU that you should be worried about. Or that one time your chain snaps which causes you to go flying over your bike's handles and crashing to the ground (hey, it could happen).

Do you really want to risk permanent brain damage just because you feel you look silly? Honestly, I care way to much about myself and keeping myself intact (as an accident prone individual this is a requirement to my survival) then how I look. I'm not here to make an impression; I'm here to sweat and get some mileage under my belt. But people who care too much about what they look like when they work out is a subject for an entirely different post.

2. Watch out for drivers because they sure as heck aren't watching out for you.
Prime examples are of the three times I almost got hit in just the past 2 days. Mind you, I'm not a small person. I'm 5'10", riding an over-sized framed bike because my legs are so long, and wearing obnoxiously colored t-shirts. If you can't see me you are literally blind.

- Backing out of driveways: Little old lady that lives down the street from my parents was backing out of her driveway. I immediately slowed then stopped my bike even though I was on the other side of the road as I realized she didn't see me. When I tell you she pulled her car out of that driveway, into the road and only INCHES from my bike, I'm not lying. I thought I was going to have to jump off and run myself with the bike backwards to avoid being hit. She waived apologetically when she finally put her vehicle in drive.

- Yield signs: Drivers ignore these on a regular basis, so why on earth would they yield to a bicycle even though the same rules apply to bikes as vehicles? I crossed over a major intersection that has a yield sign to traffic turning off the road, and I saw the car coming through but not slowing. I instead stopped my bike and got another apologetic wave as the driver continued through the yield sign, apparently unfamiliar with how their brakes work.

- Stop signs: These are by far the worst, especially living in a small farming town where most people find them optional. I was already slowing in anticipation of a turn I was to make as there are trees blocking the oncoming traffic for the stop sign. As I approached the turn I had a Range Rover skid to a halt at the stop sign with it's front end well over and around the corner just barely missing me even though I had slowed significantly. I just shook my head at him as I made my turn since he was the one barely stopping.

I have to say that being a bike rider has made me a more attentive driver. And when I see bikers on the road I make sure to slow down and give them extra room, as they deserve to be on the road just as much as I do.

2. Hydrate. Hydrate. HYDRATE. This was my problem last year. The rest stops were unfortunately cleared out by the time my team made it there, which left us with no food or water. Hook your bike up with more then one water bottle holder. Have both water and Gatorade. Drink one of each an hour you are on your bike on a hot day. No I'm not joking.

Have you ever been dehydrated? It's terrible. At the finish line last year I wasn't sure if I was going to pass out, throw up or both. I was literally in a state of panic because I didn't know what was wrong with me. Huge thanks to the Medical Tent for helping me cool off and get water back in my system.  It took me the rest of the day (and gallons of water/Gatorade) to feel normal and I still had residual effects in my quads and calves for the next week or so.

A friend of my mom's recommended the Speedfill for my bike which I am going to order for this years race, and keep my current rack still on there as well. Plus my wonderful parents have offered to be our ride crew this year, meeting us a pit stops with our own water and food!

3. Push through the pain. Honestly, the worst and most uncomfortable you will be is the first two weeks of riding. Your, ahem, "seat", will be sore. I'm talking notice-while-you're-just-sitting-at-work or try-to-sit-on-the-toilet sore. Push through it. I kid you not after two weeks your body will have adjusted. A good pair of bike shorts or a padded seat cover helps with this as well. Me personally, I don't train with the bike shorts, but absolutely use them on my race day.

4. Have fun. Seriously, I used to ride my bike in my driveway as a kid zillions of times. My brother and sister and I would make up stories and adventures just in that little patch of blacktop. It was a blast. Which is probably why I still love riding to this day. I enjoy getting on that bike and pedaling all over. If you're not having fun you're not doing it right!

So I will just keep training and (trying) to not get hit by drivers until and on the ride July 29th. Which I'm sure I will post about after in a (hopefully) fully hydrated state this year.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Whirlwind Week

What a whirlwind week of simply amazing news.
Nick and I became an aunt and uncle for the first time.
My amazing younger sister Stephanie got a great promotion to Senior Accountant at work.
My brother John is having a once in a lifetime experience in Austria for the next month.
My husband Nick had a fantastic work review with an amazing (and unexpected) bonus and pay increase.
And somewhere in all of that, I managed to win the New Jersey Young Insurance Professional of the Year at the NJ/NY Professional Insurance Agent's Conference in Atlantic City.

If you would have told me four years ago when I came into the insurance business kicking and screaming I would be winning an award for YIP of the year, I would have told you that you were crazy. Not only were you crazy, but that you were certifiable because there is no way I would still be working in insurance after four years and ENJOYING what I do.

To give you some background the Young Insurance Professionals are an organization that focuses on leadership, education, networking and information within the insurance community for young people. As a branch off of the Professional Insurance Agents, we work in tandem to get young people involved and excited about their insurance careers. I joined the YIP's soon after getting my insurance license at the suggestion and recommendation of my father, who is an active PIA member.

I am honestly honored and flattered that my peers saw me eligible to win this award. But I couldn't do what I do in the YIP's without everyone else who is involved. So in no particular order,  here is who I would have liked to thank and some coherent form of a speech I would have liked to give had I not been so surprised and overwhelmed with gratitude for receiving award:
Thank you to my husband, Nick, who always, always, always, says "okay, go for it" whenever I come up with some crazy idea for work or goal for myself. Your support and love is appreciated more then I could ever express.
My parents who also unconditionally support me and love me no matter how many mistakes I make and for constantly hosting the YIP's at the tiki bar. You've raised me to be the woman I am and I hope I reflect that in my everyday life.
My dad, who 4 years ago told me I should get involved with the YIP's, and who has given me the encouragement and ability to actively participate. I know not everyone has this opportunity and I am so grateful for your support. No matter what I know I will always be "John's daughter" to everyone at the PIA. I've got some big shoes to fill!
The rest of my remarkable family, who all love and encourage each other in all our individual endeavors.
Everyone I work with in the YIPs (in no particular order because I love you all): Tom, Casey, Dan, Kristen, Danielle, Beth, Frank, Josh, Charles, Patti, Glenn, Kim, Terri, and all the behind the scenes PIA staff. You welcomed me with open arms when I started coming to meetings and I've never looked back. When I began making suggestions for South Jersey you always have supported the activities. Honestly I cannot imagine working with a better group of people and am so honored and thankful I got to know all of you.  I look forward to growing with you as we make our way into taking over the PIA next.
Kasy C-R  for sitting me down four years ago and telling me that I really should get into insurance as it's a great industry for women to be in. And that by entering I would be able to have a family and career all in one by (eventually) becoming my own boss.
To Kristen S, who also sat me down when I was on the fence about insurance as a career and encouraged me to come into the industry and get involved in the YIPs organization.
To every single woman that is on the PIA board, member, and involved in insurance, because it shows that there is nothing that women can't do and the glass ceiling has been shattered by all of you amazing ladies.

To every other young professional who may be entering into or considering an insurance career, I strongly  encourage your involvement in the Young Insurance Professionals. The YIPs are an amazing organization with so many opportunities and incredible people to meet.

Now if only I could have come up with something that eloquent when they surprised me and announced my name on Monday. Don't worry, from what I've been told my embarrassing and disjointed deer-in-headlights speech was recorded, so I'm sure it will go viral or something ridiculous. Thanks Public Speaking 101, for making me a fantastic public speaker, but not when they completely surprise you with an award.

I can only say that I am humbled and honored again to have won this award. As I was always taught, there is no "I" in team, and I've only been able to accomplish what I have because of all the other extraordinary individuals that I work with in the YIP organization. Thank you is truly an understatement for how I feel.

UPDATE: Hey look mom, I'm on YouTube.
Sidebar, I'm actually more composed then I thought I sounded in my head.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Teacup Humans

You are NOT the mother (Thanks Maury). Well I might as well put this to rest before the the rumor mill starts because I'm holding a new born in my most recently tagged Facebook photo. No the baby is not mine. I am however, an extremely proud Aunt! Seriously, I don't think 26 makes me nearly old enough to say a phrase like that. I mean I still have one (five) too many margaritas on occasion; how the heck am I old enough to be an Aunt?!

Proud Uncle Nick holding Ava
I had the pleasure of meeting the newest (and a bit early arriving) member of the Bruno family, Ava! Clocking in at a mere 5.8 oz and 18 inches long, she was a little tiny thing to hold, but such a joy to experience, albeit for too short a time as always.

It was my husband Nick's first time holding a newborn. He was so nervous; unsure of how to hold this little creature to be sure to not hurt her and make certain she was getting the best support. It was amazing to watch; this full grown man absolutely puzzled and unnerved at having to hold this newborn baby. He aced it, which gives me hope for when we (eventually) have some of our own.

After him it was my turn to hold Ava. And as I was holding this tiny little life, it reminded me of a quote from True Blood in which Eric Northman refers to children (seriously, stop laughing at me for making this reference and just follow me here). For those of you who watch/are obsessed with the show, I believe it is in Season 3, when Sam brings Darlene's two children (who he is stuck watching for the time being) into Fangtasia to bargain with Eric. After the children ask him about his fangs and proclaim that they are not vampire haters like their late step-father, Eric's trusty assistant and protege Pam comments on how these two children make her glad she never had any. Eric grins and retorts to Pam's comments saying  "They're like humans, but miniature. Teacup humans."

And holding this new little girl, I could totally see how children, no matter what age, are just like tiny humans. Just as teacups are smaller and more breakable forms of cups, this little baby is so tiny and fragile compared to us grown people. Sure, we as adults can still bend and break, but it holding a newborn puts into perspective just how delicate and fresh these little lives are. She has a perfectly clean slate with so many possibilities and so many paths she can take in her life. And it's amazing that we all start out this way.

A sincere CONGRATULATIONS to Brian and Amy on the birth of your first beautiful baby girl Ava. You both will be such amazing parents. I am truly so happy for the both of you, and can't wait to watch this little girl grow up. So, see you again tomorrow? How's that spare room in your house looking? Just kidding, though I am looking forward to seeing you both and that little sweetie again soon! And I'm ready to spoil this little niece of mine, as it's the only way my Aunt's ever treated me, and I learned from the best!

Aunt Natalie reveling the newest addition
to the family!
So you are probably thinking, does this means your biological clock is ticking faster now that you've held your sweet little newborn niece and felt the urge to blog about her? Oh silly reader, no, I'm still firmly convinced that my biological clock needs new batteries, or is possibly broken entirely. Or maybe it just needs a longer time to charge and get over the fear of having the ginormous responsibility to take care of a fragile little life. One day though I'm sure I'll be ready to have one of these teacup humans for myself.