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Listening While I Run

9 Mar

When I was busy training for my last half last summer/fall, I really got out of the habit of listening to music while I run–pretty much everyone says it’s important for runners to be able to pace themselves without relying on beats per minute, and I found that to be very true. But, I’m not really training for anything right now, so… who really cares what prety much everyone says? I’ve come back to rocking out during runs– we’ll see if I’m able to wean myself from the tunes whenever I get around to really solidifying my 2016 race plans (suggestions for awesome 10k/10M/halfs welcome!).

Anyway, these are some things I’ve been loving for running/spinning lately (check out previous playlists here and here… oh, and here but only if you’re feeling nostalgic):

Spotify Stations:

  • Big Game Workout
  • Mood Boosters
  • Feel Good Indie Rock


And in a real pinch… it’s all about watching the Underwoods undercut one another like petulant children who just happen to have the nuclear codes. That’ll get you through an indoor ride.




TriTalk Tuesday: Nation’s Tri 2015 Recap

15 Sep

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It’s Tuesday and that means two things: 1) in one (!) day I will be thirty and 2) it’s time for some TriTalk, and I’m linking up with Cynthia, Courtney, and Phaedra to give you the scoop on this year’s Nation’s Tri.

Last year the swim was cancelled due to heavy rain in the days leading up to the race. The weather this year threatened to make the race a duathlon yet again, but thankfully Mother Nature kept it together and we had a beautiful race day morning. Pre-race expo was easy as pie–in and out in less than 10 minutes–and bike racking was uneventful (I seem to have FINALLY learned my lesson from the drama of racking my bike for the 2014 NYC Tri!) . I was looking forward to getting home, stuffing my face with a gluten-free pizza, and going to bed.

…but first, I had to run 17,249 post-wedding errands. After a trip to Costco, Macy’s, Bed Bath & Beyond, the Post Office, Anthropologie and Athleta (which really were all wedding-related, even though I know that’s a strange list of wedding stores), I was finally home. All that running around made falling asleep around 9:30 easy, and I was grateful to be so sleepy that even pre-race jitters couldn’t keep me up!

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Photo credit: SwimBikeRun Photo


There are pretty much two ways to approach transition prep: get there insanely early and organize your stuff so that it would pass military room inspection standards, or get there with only as much time as you need and hope for the best. Any guesses as to which your Type B+ triathlete friend here picks? Exactly. I do not like to get caught up in other people’s mess on race day, so I try to get to transition 20-30 minutes before it closes, set up my stuff, and go claim a shady spot to sit by the swim start. I don’t bring a ton of extras with me (except for goggles–always gotta have a spare set of those!), I do not try to get fancy with balloons or other bike markers, and I do not try to fashion a bench out of a cardboard box or a cooler or what have you.

Sounds like I have it all together, right? Well, I do… once I get to transition. To have met me in this life is to have waited for me–so even though I plan to get to transition with 30 minutes to spare so as to avoid other people’s madness, I inevitably get there with about 10-15 minutes to spare and get caught up in my own shenanigans. This year, I had totally forgotten that Rock Creek Parkway was closing at 630, and I got stopped by a grumpy cop and had to go pretty much all the way back home and take the long way around.  C’est la vie.

The Swim

Like last year, there was lots of waiting around for the Olympic racers to all get off before the Sprint race started. Luckily, it was a stunning morning and then this rainbow appeared–truly a sign of a good race to come!

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Photo credit: Live Free and Run — go check out her awesome blog!

I was Heat 30, and we got moving sometime around 845. Here’s where things get interesting. In general, I do not race triathlons–I just really like doing them. However, sometimes even a Type B+ woman can be driven to Tracy Fleck dimensions. While chatting with this very nice woman, I mentioned that I often sign up for the Athena category (which is a triathlon class for women over 165 lbs… which is to say everyone over 5’6″ or so whose name is not Heidi, Cindy, or Iman). She looks me up and down and says, “Oh, wow. That’s crazy–you look like a normal person, I’m surprised you qualify for racing with those people.”

Now, I know she thought she was being complimentary, and I know that it is practically compulsory in this culture to meet even the slightest comment about fatness with an EMPHATIC “but you’re not fat! You’re just athletic/big boned/curvy/whatever!” but for whatever reason I was just not in the mood for this bologna, and so I decided right then and there that, even if I wasn’t racing the other 1,000 people on the course, I was going to race her. “Those people.” Hpmh.

I usually kind of lollygag my way thought a swim, but since I was suddenly competing, I put my head down and got that thing done… sort of. Twice I got so caught up trying to pass big bunches of people that I veered way off course and probably swam an extra 75 meters or so… whoops. Probably serves me right. The course is a little bit of a cluster because it’s a 9-at-a-time timetrial start and you’re swimming INTO the current for the first 200 meters, so that means there are just throngs of people struggling and bottlenecking for the first third of the course–not my favorite way to swim, but I got through it. I was pretty sure I was one of the first in my heat out, so I just took off for transition and hoped that lady enjoyed the view of my ENTIRE over-165lbs-since-middle-school butt as she watched me from behind. (Swim: 17:05)

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Apparently, this is THE #nationstri photo to take–I, sadly, did not strike such a pose, but thought these people did it the best out of everyone who did! Photo credit: Susie Goggs.

The Bike

I tried to zoom out of T1 as quickly as I could, with mixed results (4:10). I had used PAM Cooking Spray on my arms and legs to help get the wet suit off, and I think that was helpful. I was most slowed down by some mud on the 0.25 mile run from swim to transition, which had me running slowly to avoid falling and took some extra time to clean off

Pretty much as soon as I got on the course, I had the wildly pleasant surprise of finding that my legs felt AWESOME. Head winds were strong going up Rock Creek Parkway past the Kennedy Center, so I moved down to the drops–which I almost never do because I think riding on the drops is a bit unsafe, but since it was the last weekend of my twenties, I felt like reckless impulse was the way to go. Like last year, I just focused on picking people off, so I still couldn’t tell you much about the course… but it was flat, and it was fast. And I was not playing.

On the way past transition on Independence Ave (mile 11?), some woman zoomed by me and was weaving in and out of people (rather than pass on the left, where there was an ENTIRE PASSING LANE at her disposal). While she was breaking all the rules, she was rudely yelling at people who didn’t anticipate what she was doing BEHIND them in order to move out of her way… so uncalled for. Luckily for me, my selfrighteousness burns like the fires of Mordor, and I decided that I was, once again, in a race. She was speedy on the bike and stayed just out of reach, but–as tri luck would have it– her bike was racked near mine and I saw her head out of T2 just before me. Game on. (Bike: 55:28)

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Everyone else in the world got better pictures than I did and I think them for sharing! Photo credit: Jessica Margarit.

The Run

Rude Passing Woman aside, I really enjoyed my time on the bike, and felt strong and speedy for once as I headed into T2. I made a quick shoe change, guzzled some Nuun, and headed out to enjoy my favorite part: the Run! (T2: 2:15)

The Nation’s run route really is spectacular. Down Independence Ave, along the Tidal Basin, a quick uphill toward the Holocaust Museum, then down around the front end of Haines Point before a long chute on Ohio Drive. In the first quarter mile, I saw a patient of mine from a couple years ago cheering from the sidewalk, so of course I had to double back and see her and her supercute toddler–what a happy surprise to see them again! Last year the short-but-steep hill heading into the first water station killed me; this year I owned that little beast (but was bested by the GU I was struggling to open the whole way up… you win some, you lose some).

I thought I was running somewhere in the neighborhood of a 9:30 mile, and could not believe when my Garmin dinged off that I had completed the first mile in 8:20-something. This was insane! I had never felt this good this far into a race (even a sprint) before, and I was on track to match my 5k time from the beginning of the season.

As I rounded the 2 mile mark in Haines Point, who comes into my view? You guessed it: Rude Passing Woman. I’ve been working on my finishes, so I decided to hold steady for another quarter mile or so before turning it on and trying to catch her. As we headed up the Tidal Basin bridge onto Ohio Drive, I tried to conjure the sweetest aura I could so that as I went by she would just FEEL that I was doing it nicely and feel so badly that she had yelled at all those on the bike course. In fact, I bet if you go to, you’ll find a blog post about how this really nice, supportive, thick woman passed her in the final mile of the run and did it so nicely that she is turning over a new leaf and will be transitioning to for the 2016 tri season. Okay, so actually she paid me NO mind as I went by, and–fine–it isn’t really nice if you’re only being nice to prove a point, but … delusions are key to selfpreservation so we’ll just leave alllll of that right there and move right along.

Before I knew it, I was in the chute! I let loose and CHARGED for the finish line… I was not going to be passed in final seconds like last year. I got the run done in 25:48, almost a 2-minute improvement from last year.

Once I crossed, I realized I was pretty much surrounded by men and figured I must have finished pretty high up in the women’s rankings. I headed over to the timing tent, and was SHOCKED to see a number “1” in the Division Place column… I had WON my age group!

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Use your imagination. Looks like the photo credit’s been taken care of for me on this one!

I waited around for awhile before calling MrKef and my family to see if maybe people who had started after me would have finished faster, but it turns out that this time I had really won. This still feels so insane to me, mostly because lots of triathletes would argue you’re not even in contention for the podium without a fancy tri bike, and without having done a BRICK workout a week, and without an aero-helmet blah blah blah. I didn’t meet any of that criteria and here I was, my agegroup winner. How crazy! Total race time: 1:44:31

photo 3I thought I would have a lot to say about this, but I am still kind of shocked. I know, I know– it isn’t THAT special to have won an age group award, but in this world that equates thinness with fitness, it just feels like a HUGE win for me. Whenever I show up to bike groups or races, people are constantly assuming I’m a newbie, or that I won’t be able to keep up with the pace group, or that I need them to demonstrate complicated parts of the workout for me… and this is just confirmation that hard work and good training pays off–period.

It also confirms something that makes me really proud of myself: I cannot be bothered to let other people’s hangups get in my way. If I had waited for the right time, or the right weight, or to look the right way before I tried a triathlon, I would still be waiting, and I never would have found this sport that has brought me lots of joy and contributed immensely to my mental and physical health. This is a lovely thing to realize about yourself as you leave your twenties behind. To all my people out there who feel smothered by the totally effed collective that is American body image (however it affects you) I’ll say this: Bump the haters, don’t believe the hype.

And to “Those People” Swimmer and Rude Passing Woman: I’m coming for you again next year.

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Flywheel DC Review

15 Apr
Flywheel DC review

                                                             Thanks to Washingtonian for this picture!

It is well-established that I enjoy spinning and will try almost any fitness trend (search my college newspaper’s archives for the time I tried Trapeze School if you really need some proof). So the proliferation of boutique spinning studios around DC has been like catnip for me. Since I’ve already reviewed SoulCycle and Wired Cycling, I will assume we are all savvy in the art of spin studio reviews and will keep it to bullet points.

The Good

  • Flywheel has both spinning and barre class. I only took a spin class, but I heard the barre instructor putting his class to work as I was leaving and am looking forward to trying a class there soon!
  • Get your first class of either discipline for FREE just by making an online account–and rumor has it that you can call the studio to get your first class of the other discipline free, too (though I have not yet tested this and will report back if it is untrue).
  • While we’re talking pricing, Flywheel offers a student discount that makes classes just $15 each, which is pretty much a steal for any kind of boutique fitness.
  • The studio is huge, with a stadium-style spinning setup so you can shine in the front if that’s your jam or, if you’d rather, kick butt from the back corner. The facilities are also pretty awesome- 4 big old showers in the ladies’ locker room with a hefty number of amenities- hair ties, blow dryers, spray deodorant, FULL SIZED towels… if I haven’t hooked you yet, there are also free oranges and bananas. Such a treat.

The Workout

  • Unlike most other spinning classes, which are based on perceived effort (your own scale of 1-10), Flywheel works with “torq.” The instructor will say that torq should be at 25 and RPMs should be around 65 (or whatever). I found these to be mostly appropriate for me, but had to add some resistance on hills. It was both freeing and frustrating to have all these measurements on my bike’s unit whose indication I didn’t really know–on one hand I appreciated having to rely on feel to decide if I was working “hard enough,” but on the other hand, if you’re going to give me torq and power measurements I’d just as soon have watts, MPH, and distance. But I guess that’s a personal thing.
  • I took a class with Rebecca, who had a rocking playlist and was equal parts coach and cheerleader. No distracting choreography (just one or two songs with jumps or tapbacks), and not a lot of the sort of fake self-esteem stuff I find unsettling at SoulCyle.
  • Flywheel is similar to SoulCycle in that it touts itself as a “full body” workout because of some high-rep low-weight upperbody work in the middle of class. I was not particularly impressed by the one song of arms we did, but that may be an instructor preference.

The Verdict

  • I enjoyed my class and got a good workout. I really prefer a 60-minute (or more) spin class, and so the 45 minutes left me wanting a bit more… but that is what it is. Similar to SoulCycle, this is a good place to get an in-and-out workout, but I don’t see it becoming a weekly thing for me.
  • These fancy spinning studios are really worth it for the playlists- Rebecca kept us rocking and rolling and I should really bring my phone to Shazam songs from now on.
  • If you care to measure your performance and/or compete against complete strangers, Flywheel may be your new favorite place–after each class you get an email with your “performance data” that you can compare to yourself and, apparently, the rest of the city.

I’m a Triathlete Around Town!

24 Mar

So excited to say I’m an Events DC Nation’s Triathlon Ambassador– check out my first post on the Nation’s Blog for some tunes that will get you through the last few indoor training rides (here’s hoping, anyway!)

bike trainer cartoon

Elevate Interval Fitness Review

4 Mar

elevateOur tour of DC’s cross training opportunities continues today with a visit to Elevate Interval Fitness. I dropped in for a free introductory class on a cold, snowy Thursday, and here’s the bottom line: the folks at Elevate will warm you up and work you out. Quickly.

Elevate was founded by David Magida, who is a super Spartan racer (aka: a bad mamma jamma). The concept is simple: combine cardio and strength training to create a series of high-impact circuits, measure your effort with heart rate monitors, and watch the sweat pour off. The 55-minute classes are split into cardio and strength portions (though you’re doing both pretty much the whole time), and half the class starts out on a treadmill or rower while the other half works through the strength skill of the week and a circuit on the floor. Screens around the room display your heart rate and calorie burn, and awesome music keeps the time flying by. If you’ve been to a Barry’s, it’s similar in structure but has none of the BS.

I took a class with Eric, who was equal parts motivator and instructor without a bunch of disingenuous perk–in other words: we were there at 730 am to put in some work, and he was ready to get us there. He acclimated first timers to the class structure quickly and got us moving right away. I started with cardio on the rowers, and we did 12-minutes of rounds of 300M row at all-out pace, 12 standing dumbbell rows, and 12 tricep dips, adding 25M of rowing to each round. Then we headed over to the treadmill, where we ran at a sub-5k pace for 80 seconds at increasing inclines of 3.0, 4.0, and 5.0 and recovered for 20 seconds. Finally, we did some speed work with the treadmill at 6.0 on dynamic mode (you are powering the belt, not the engine).

Oh, and that was only first half the class.

The second half was strength, where the skill of the week was kettle bells. We did three different circuits:

  • 14 kettlebell swims/sphinx push up/windshield wiper planks
  • Turkish get ups with TRX strap/kettlebell thrusters/speed skater jumps
  • squat jumps, reverse flys, burpees (ascending rep rounds: 4, 8, 12, 16, 12, 8, 4)

If that doesn’t mean a lot to you, my apologies, but know this: it was a tough enough series that the thought of writing more about it exhausts me all over again!

Some other awesome things to consider about Elevate:

    • after the class, you get an email which analyzes your heart rate information– this is an amazing feature that will really rock your socks if you’re someone who loves data
    • it’s in a brand-spanking new space with a big studio and ample locker area, plus 3 big single-person bathroom/showers


    is legit: free intro class, and packages that come out to $15/class (8 classes/month) or $18/class (15-class pack). The drop-in fee is a hefty $25–a tough pill for this nurse to swallow–but those packages are definitely deals.Generous cancellation policy: just call ahead and they won’t charge you for the class!

Eric and Elevate definitely get two big thumbs up from me, and I’m looking forward to going back again soon.

Wired Cycling- Cycling. Training. Seriously.

11 Feb

I’ve been on a pretty serious running hiatus lately–just before Christmas I had a little ache in my foot that went from “hmm, maybe this is the beginning of plantar fasciitis” to “IF YOU DO NOT TAKE THE PRESSURE OFF THIS PLANTAR FASCIITIS-RIDDEN FOOT RIGHT NOW IT WILL QUIT YOU FOR GOOD.” I’m back to feeling nearly 100% but, in the meantime, I’ve been logging some serious miles on the spinning bike.

So the other night I headed over to my old neighborhood (which was awesome well before it had an arch) to check out Leticia Long’s Wired Cycling studio. True to form, I got there with about 1 minute to spare so I got changed quickly in the ample, clean bathroom and stowed my stuff in a cubby. I was THRILLED to see these brand-spanking new FreeMotion bikes–I’ll fight someone in order to claim one of the two my gym keeps in its spinning room.

The studio itself is gigantic by spin room standards–no back splash of your neighbor’s sweat here. All the bikes are equipped with ANT+ computers, whose data is available to you both on the bike computer and on two giant screens that are displayed at the front of the studio. The data measures your rank in the class via RPM, Watts, and another metric called “energy” that I couldn’t quite figure out (calories maybe? who knows). I swore I wasn’t going to get all into the rank thing, but then I stayed in second place for the whole dang class and I just wanted to beat bike 15 so badly… but I might as well have been riding a huffy trying to chase Lance Armstrong right after a blood transfusion. Nothing doing.

To say I loved this class is a vast understatement. I try to take the info a bike computer provides to put together a challenging bike workout for myself, but Leti (as she’s known to the flock of regulars) makes an art form out of this. She put together 45 minutes of sprints, hills, and drills that really challenged me and was great at translating the why behind each portion’s place in the class and in a bigger training picture. There was no choreography or knee-killing “jump” drills, just the kind of researched, reasoned series that after about 10 minutes I knew was going to be the real deal.

Some other reasons to love everything about Wired:

  • Leti runs an 8-week winter training cycle of 2-hour classes on Sunday morning that is developed using real, live training science (I’m a sucker for evidence-based anything). If I ever don’t work 8 weekends in a row, I am ABSOLUTELY going to be enrolled in this.
  • Wired provides gel seats for people who want a great workout without the butt burn later.
  • The pricing is unreal. Your first class is $5 (!). Single classes are $15 (half of Soul Cycle, for what it’s worth). If you buy a 10-class pass, they are less than $12.50 a class.  Leticia also made a big point of telling a regular to buy a cheaper pass rather than pay the drop-in fee– my point is that this is a woman who’d rather provide a quality community of accessible fitness than make a gimmicky buck (ahem… Soul Cycle…).

I have only two cons, and they’re small ones– looks like all the classes are 45 minutes, and I usually prefer longer rides (though if they’re all 45 minutes like Leti’s Monday class, then it’s really a question of quality v quantity, and Leti wins) and my class was called a “HipHop/R&B Ride” but it was heavier on Chris Brown pop, who will just never make it to into my definition of either of those genres… but if you’re focusing on the music at Wired, you’re probably doing something wrong.

Anyway, I can’t wait to go back. Thanks so much to Leti and everyone at Wired for creating such an awesome space!

2014 Cooking Up Kefi Gift Guide

11 Dec

For the Triathlete trying to keep it together in the off season:

Athleta Power Lift tights

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Bring on the winter blues! The fleece lining in these running tights will maintain heat and the flattering cut will keep her style intact… unless she could not care less about style, in which case the functionality of these guys will be appreciated twofold!






Bike Fitting by Smiley

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It’s unanimous: Smiley is the best guy in the DMV for a bike fitting. The DC Tri Club’s forum post with RAVES about his services is four pages long, and those people know a thing or two about bikes. Fittings with Smiley ain’t cheap, but the value is unmatched– for $275 he’ll give you as many visits as it takes to get the fit right, plus a six-month tweak if you need it. If getting fast is a New Year’s resolution for the triathlete you know, you cannot go wrong with Smiley!

Bike trainer

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The fairytale that runs through my head is that if I had a bike trainer, I would ride every single day for hours and hours. Basically, these systems turn your road bike into a stationary bike so you can ride for miles and miles without turning off the Kardashians. KMBGKef has one and swears by it. There are lots of different models at various price points, but conventional wisdom is that, with trainers, you get what you pay for.



SolidCore8Hear me now: there is no better cross-training work out for a triathlete/runner/ballerina/underwater basket weaver than Solidcore. The only way I can describe it is to say that it is Pilates on PCP–expect your clothes to be soaked with sweat and your muscles to quiver with fatigue at the end of this 50-minute class. PurplePenKef turned me on to it and after only a few classes I can say with certainty I’m stronger because of it! NB: most classes are not sausage fests, as pictured here.

For the food enthusiast who just-so-happens not to eat gluten or sugar:

Adjustable Liquid Measuring Cup

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File this under “things I can’t believe we didn’t think of before”– this measuring cup not only lists several different systems of liquid measurements for easy conversions (mL, oz, cups), but the plunger acts as a squeegee so you push out the entirety of the ingredient. The cook on your list will never waste the amazing Greek honey she lugged all over Monemvasia again! (Bed Bath & Beyond says it is dishwasher safe– don’t believe it. The numbers will wash right off!)


Babycakes NYC Complete Baking Kit

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Erin Mckenna is the queen of solid gold sh!t. Her bakery whips up dozens of the best gluten/sugar/nut/dairy free baked goods out there. They ship a few pre-made goods throughout the country, but I love to give these mixes for anytime use. Her cookbooks are great, too– I made recipes of hers for an ice cream parfait, a salted caramel ice cream cake, and a black forest birthday cake.


The Newest Cookbook from the Best Chef on God’s Green Earth


Still not hip to Ottolenghi? Check out his roasted eggplant with buttermilk sauce, the time I made the whitest (and yummiest) salad ever, a revolution in grape leaves and pies, or the post where I realized that fennel could be caramelized. Then go buy the new book and hop on a flight to London to eat in his restaurant.

The hostess who really loves to have people over even though she doesn’t own a dining room table:

Grey Moggie Paper

Screen shot 2014-12-11 at 12.03.49 PMAs JetSet will tell you, the number of social graces your girl Chef Kef feels compelled to fulfill become less by the year. One little piece of Emily Post I will never relinquish, however, is the handwritten note. There are very few things in life that give me the same thrill as finding the perfect card for the occasion and dropping it in the mail–bonus points if it’s a surprise or just-because card. Anyway, Grey Moggie is a DC-based paper shop with a great selection of sappy and sassy paper goods.

Neighborhood Coasters

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Take it from me: table space in a city is coveted real estate some of us would kill for. What better to protect that property than these cedar wood coasters etched with your host’s favorite neighborhoods? Sadly, there’s no DC option (boo), but Baltimore, San Fran, New York, Chicago, LA and …Minneapolis all made the designer’s list. Ouch.


Monogram Bangle


It could just be that I am a product of my environment (where we took nameplate necklaces very seriously until about 2010), but I have always thought personalized gifts are the best ones. I love this elegant and modern update to the initial charm bracelet, and I bet there’s lots of hosts out there who would think so too.

Mother Necklace

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I work on a postpartum unit in a hoity-toity East Coast hospital–suffice to say I’ve seen a lot of “push presents” in my time. If multiple carats are in your budget this year, by all means… but if I were a new mom and was hosting for the first time since my world suddenly began revolving around poop consistency and feeding schedules, this is absolutely the gift I’d want.

The person who thinks we’d all be better off if we supported people doing amazing work instead of spending money on ish no one really needs:

The Ferguson Municipal Public Library. Through it all, the Public Library in Ferguson has stayed open and continued to serve the community as it grieves the murder of Mike Brown. Currently only one full-time librarian is employed there, and his plans for the generous donations pouring in are to create healing kits children can check out to help process traumatic events and to hire a full-time children’s or program library.

Legal Aid. There’s been a lot of attention paid to two cases that exemplify inequity in our court system, but countless Americans whose stories will never make the news don’t get the justice they deserve because they lack financial access to legal advice and council. The Legal Aid Society represents civil cases regardless of ability to pay in cases ranging from housing disputes to class-action consumer matters.

Metro TeenAIDS. My people, always and forever–these guys are arming DC’s young people with information, skills, and jobs to fight HIV transmission, stigma, oppression and cycles of poverty. In other news, they have some very cool intern opportunities (paid and unpaid!) — if you have any righteous college/master’s students in your life, you should let them know!

Girls On the Run. In the next life, when I marry for money instead of wonderful and fulfilling love, I will be a full-time Girls on the Run volunteer. This organization (which almost definitely has a chapter near you–they’re everywhere!) teaches girls the transformative power of running through a confidence- and skills-boosting curriculum. Ahmazing.

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