The Eyes Have It.

Three days ago I was in a building next to an elevator, talking to a coworker. And then I wasn’t. I was a kid, standing at the elevator in my eye doctor’s office in Bellingham, Washington, waiting with my mom to see Dr. Alan. And then I was back, standing on the 11th floor of a high rise in Chicago. The smell was so specific–I don’t even know what it was–some kind of elevator lubricant?

Smell is one of those weird, powerful things that can be so specifically linked to a memory. I remember walking in a mall once, smelling a perfume that took me to the house of a Bible Study teacher in 6th grade, remembering that she gave us chocolate covered peanuts and had blue toilet water, then flashed back to the moment at hand, walking past the Orange Julius/Wet Seal/Hot Topic mashups.

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Today I got an eye exam for the first time in almost 5 years. I’m turning 30 in less than 3 weeks but I still found myself pacing around the office, pretending to peruse frames, trying to hide the fact that I was scared. SCARED. In a doctor’s front office. A shiny, nice, totally open to the outside, good natural lighting, reputable (thank you Google ratings), office.

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There’s nothing wrong with me. I wasn’t there for a real reason, just 1) I feel like I need to do doctor-y things at this stage/to close this decade and 2) apparently vision insurance doesn’t roll over and I thought ‘maybe I should see *if* I need glasses.’ Tl;dr: I still have great vision, almost 20/20. Right eye is good, left has a small prescription. Mostly for anti-reflective coating and such.

But at that moment, some weird, repressed prehensile embodiment of my lizard brain was raging in my chest, knocking around violently as the (very nice) assistant blew puffs of air in my eye to check the pressure. I could feel my chin shaking as I tried to rest it in the…cradle? and pushed my forehead against the rest.

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I had to actively tell myself “this isn’t some pass/fail test. They are doctors, not SAT proctors.” Multiple times. Again, I’d like to say that this was a reputable, well-lit doctor’s office by my place, everyone was nice, everyone working there was female, no one made me feel stupid but something…something was going on with me, guys.

I talked to the doctor about how I look at screens all day, and how it feels great to softly press on my eyes with a warm washcloth and we did the ‘1 vs 2….how about 3 vs 4….5 vs 6….6 vs 2’ dance with different lenses. I got my eyes dilated, which I truly cannot ever remember doing; its the first time I saw my future as an anime doll was probably not going to happen. Although I think I would make a very cute stuffed owl. MY PUPILS WERE FATHOMLESS OLIVE PITS.

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I’ve now spent the rest of the day trying to figure out why I was so freaked out and trying to gently coax myself into relaxing. I took a bubble bath. I did a hair mask. A face mask. I watched 1997’s Cinderella and sang along with Brandi in said bubble bath. I tried, for the first time ever, self-waxing my armpits and was moderately? 60%? successful. And didn’t even scream once…although there was a moment of olive pit dark eye contact with myself in the mirror when I softly whispered “damn” after pulling a particularly vicious strip off.

I ate a fried chicken sandwich at a new restaurant I’d never been to in my neighborhood and tried to hide my ‘playing a demonic extra on a local tv show’ eyes from the waiter. I burned through a whole season of The Office (2) and cleaned out my nightstand, finding 4 different Nando’s punchcards, all with 1 punch.

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You know, I just can’t figure it out. I don’t recall ever having a bad experience at Dr. Alan’s office. I honestly don’t even know if it’s Dr. Allen, Alan, Allan (?). I was a kid…I guess I never saw any paperwork. That was just his name. I used to see him twice a year, then once a year and I don’t know that I’ve seen him in…probably over 10 years.

I have zero idea what the actual, medical diagnosis was, but this is what I know:

  1. My left eye tended to roam when I was tired. If I’m beyond the energy pale now, you might see it, just a little bit. My right eye would steer the ship and my left eye supported the peripheral but was like “don’t put me in, Coach, I prefer to support the team from the bench but still want to wear a jersey.”
  2. I sometimes had to wear a patch to try and strengthen the bench (left) eye. Also, once I had to have eye drops and I was so bad about getting them that I tried to crawl inside our corner cabinet lazy susan to get away (it was a single cabinet, I don’t know where I thought I was going to make my dramatic Steve McQueen exit) and one of my parents had to sit on me as the other held my eyelid open and I screamed and they had to try and drop EXPENSIVE MEDICINE in my squirmy eyes my god I was a terrible kid why am I telling y’all this, my poor parents deserve a medal.
  3. I had eye surgery at 2 and at 8 to correct this. Apparently at 8 they cut the muscle so my left eye has a very short leash to roam around at the dog park and can’t make my right eye work so hard. THEY ARE A TEAM WHETHER THEY LIKE IT OR NOT.
    1. I remember laying on our blue/green leather couch and eating saltines. However, this was also the MO for any season of sickness so I might just be remembering the general gig in our house.
    2. I remember the OR nurse told me to count backwards from 100 and I was trying to tell her about Ellie Mae, our dog—-
    3. My mom swears that I woke up post-op in recovery, shouting “WHY DID YOU DO THIS TO ME” (repeatedly, loudly) and she to this day, has never been so embarrassed because, you know, we weren’t the only people in post-op and I am so proud of her because I would have straight up muzzled my kid with surgical tape and defiantly stared at anyone who looked at us.
  4. My glasses were green and purple and metal and I still have them in a jewelry box at my parents house. They are very round but not like, Harry Potter round. I had a very round face so this was like, circles on circles. But, green is still my favorite color, so that was a cool choice, young me.
  5. I only remember one person calling me ‘4 eyes’ and that dude was an asshat at the time, but apparently has grown up to be a lovely guy with a family, so I suppose we will forgive him. BUT NOT FORGET.
  6. Also, my BFF had (and has) glasses so really, her opinion was the only one that mattered.
  7. Dr. Alan’s office had a fountain outside and my mom would always let me throw a penny in the fountain. I actually really looked forward to my visits because 1) penny fountain wishes are awesome and 2) Dr. Alan was a nice doctor and as a kid that matters when large lenses/machines are in-between your face and his.
  8. My parents prayed for many, many years that I wouldn’t have to wear glasses and that my eyesight would be healed and not keeping me from pursuing any passions. I played basketball, volleyball and threw implements for Track & Field; I haven’t fallen off the front of a stage (yet) and I’ve never *needed* glasses since 12, so I feel happy to report that those prayers did their work. I’m just not supposed to pass cars on 2-lane roads because depth perception at high speeds is a lot harder than spacing for sports. Also, I feel slightly guilty going into an eye doctor’s office when I don’t *have* to because somehow it feels like I’m voiding prayers.

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Are most of y’all’s blogs just you trying to shrink yourself? Because I feel like mine is. Sometimes the moments I feel most alone are when I want to just rest my head on someone else, heartily sigh and watch more of The Office. The days when I hold myself so tightly and professionally together, when I’m scared or I’m challenged or I perform and then come home and I just want someone to take the (again, metaphorical) bags from my hands, guide me to the couch, pull my head on their chest and rub my back and murmur in my ear “you did so good. You held it together so well. I know that was tough for you but damn, you’re doing it so well” and feed me mini Reese’s peanut butter cups.

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That’s my tiredness right now. I feel there are so many bags to carry and I just want to set them down and have someone take care of me. Today’s eye exam, literally any kind of doctor stuff, the insurance choices, the rent, the utilities, choosing which way I want Comcast to screw over our bill, the phone carrier, the constantly changing job knowledge, the gym, the gym job, the comedy classes, the performances, the choosing if I want to squeeze myself into 14s or order 16s because I know they’ll be more comfortable, the picking of a tv show in the massive Hulu queue, choosing what type of coffee I’ll buy from the insanely large Jewel selection, what the hell is a 401k should I worry about it, do I get a new computer because mine is almost 5 years old but it’s still working good, do I need this other long underwear because I think this might be the next Snowpocalypse/Chiberia winter, do I wear my hair like this, what is investments/IRAs, do I try to put on makeup today or…it goes on.

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AND IT IS EXHAUSTING. I know we all have things. Every one of you who is a mom out there reading this is a champion. Full stop. Every dad. Every comedian, every friend I met overseas, every one I love. There are seasons where we feel more capable of handling the ‘bags.’ I just feel like I’ve been holding mine alone for a long time and am noticing that my fingers are a bit numb. It was my own choice not to share them, but I’m noticing that carrying them alone isn’t going to work out forever.

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Long blog post short: I am really excited to see my family in just over 2 weeks. Really really really really really really really really excited. And I hope it’s not too selfish to say that part of the reason is that I want to sit down. Just for 5 minutes. And have someone help me set down those bags, pull me close and murmur that they know. They know.

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—–

I just looked up ‘dr alan eye doctor bellingham’ and found Dr. Robert Alan, MD Ophthalmology IS FROM SCRANTON, PENNSYLVANIA. WHAT ARE THE ODDS?! #theofficeFOREVER

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Of Donuts & Talent Crushes

This city is full of all my talent crushes and I’m getting worse at not gushing at them. What? You’ve never heard that phrase?

A talent crush is when I don’t want to mush my mouth on yours I just want to sit at your feet, become your best friend and ask you how you do what you do and probably eat donuts together.

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Por ejemplo:

-Any improv musical director. Is there a Hogwarts for MDs? Because you are all wizards, I am convinced, and no one can tell me otherwise. From the first Musical Armando I saw in October 2015, I was (and still am) for sure that Dave Asher is a wizard. I spend more time at shows watching him than the show, waiting to see if 1) he has a secret wand in the piano or 2) when that inspiration strikes to begin music, if so, what kind of music, HOW THE HELL does he both lead AND follow AT THE SAME TIME. I’ve worked with Jeff Bouthiette and thought THE SAME THING while I was actually singing in his class watching him watch me and literally seen Aaron Graham write gorgeous melody to lyrics I wrote. IT. IS. WIZARDRY. I’m finally in a class Dave Asher is teaching and after 2 weeks I’m no closer to discovering the secret to any MD’s power.

-People who do convincing accents on stage and keep them THE WHOLE SCENE. I’m looking at you, John Sabine. I have seen The Late 90s at least 10 times and every.single.time that weird pseudo-Belgian accent causes me to lose my mind and your cast mates to break. Being in Susan Messing’s class was a constant side ache of laughter, but seeing her do a Franco-Russian accent in a “The Boys” show for 5 scenes as people kept tapping out her partner was so, so satisfying as she kept it consistent.

-People so good at object work that I’m convinced I can see the thing they’re doing, like some kind of stage synesthesia. I saw Micah Philbrook in a show 6 months before I ever had him as a teacher and it was a completely silent scene with another person and they were both butlers and I can still, to this day, describe it in detail to you, over 18 months later. I saw Scott Moorehead in Second City’s ETC show “A Red Line Runs Through It” and I have tried so many times in my house to convincingly lean like I’m on the train slowing down and I’m so jealous. TEACH ME, SENSEI. TJ & Dave made me believe they were at an actual bar during their show; I didn’t realize it until I was describing the COLOR OF A FAKE BAR to a classmate and then said, out loud, “OH MY GOD THERE WAS NO BAR THERE.” Just a blank stage and these people build a world.

-Any people who sing and improv AT THE SAME TIME. Every time I’ve seen Stacey Smith in a musical improv show, my jaw drops a little. Not only is she 1) improvising a scene, she’s also 2) making her partner look good, 3) writing beautiful, emotional poetry, 4) musically making gorgeous sounds and 5) MAKING IT LOOK EASY, all on the fly. It’s batshit. Sometimes she does it with puppets and I die, every time. From the laughter AND from the sheer skill.

If anyone has tips on approaching these people and stealing their life force/befriending them in a normal, human way, I AM OPEN TO SUGGESTIONS.

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Baby’s First Amtrak…at 29.

So technically, it’s not my first first Amtrak. I took the Cascades from Bellingham to Portland once to visit my bestest friend Loni several years ago, but that was like 5 hours. Psssh. Weak.

THIS was the Texas Eagle, a 13+ hour ride from Chicago’s Union Station to Little Rock, Ark.’s also-named Union Station. I’d never been to Union Station in Chicago and hadn’t been to visit Little Rock in almost 2 years, so it was time to un-bucket list this ish.

Y’all might want to grab a tea and have a bathroom break ahead of this novel titled “CHI>LRK: A Modern Amtrak Tale.”

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Pre-Game: I was going to take the Brown line to Quincy/Wells and walk 7 minutes,  but it’s so much easier to take a Lyft. Especially once it started raining and ESPECIALLY once I hefted a bag that had 2 six-packs of local beer I was ferrying to friends. The Lyft driver and I got into a slight argument about where my address was (I was standing on it, he disagreed, I won) but I got to Union Station nice and early to quiet my Ravenclaw need for order and early arrivals. What’s that? Y’all recommend 60 minutes early? I GOT THERE NINETY MINUTES EARLY, boom! *drops wand*

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Union Station: I was a little anxious because this place. is. huge. It has all the bodies of an airport, less the efficient signage. It was definitely confusing but gorgeous in its old-school design and look. It’s very ‘old Chicago architecture’ vibe mixed with WHERE THE HELL DO I GO?! lizard brain panic. I had purchased a coach ticket online and they said on it ‘if you’re boarding coach in Chicago, get a boarding pass/group’ and there was no help or signage on how to find it.

I had already printed my paper ticket and had a digital version in my iPhone’s Wallet app but was stuck on where to find said physical pass. There was a gargantuan line for checking baggage, but as I was not checking baggage, I was keeping my smuggled beer VERY close to my person, so I ran around trying to find where the baggage pass was while carting the aforementioned beer plus 4 hefty bags of Chicago-style popcorn plus my carry on suitcase and my overstuffed backpack. I’m an overpacker, people. I got told to come back to the main hall at 1:15 to line up for boarding—boarding passes didn’t exist, they’d just line you up. Walking around with my Auntie Anne’s pretzel bites (I have ZERO willpower around that place), I’m noticing the clientele in the station. There’s a lot of people that appear to be of Amish descent/clothing. It makes me curious about how the tenets of their faith and modern technology/trains work together, but if they’re here, God must be ok with it.

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Boarding: ITS 1:15 TIME TO SPRINT 40 feet to the “C” line and hope no one calls me on my duffel (beer & popcorn), carry on suitcase (clothes) and overstuffed backpack (books, tech, sweats, ID/Ticket) plus blanket. You then kindergarten follow an Amtrak employee as a long, snake-y line through the station until you reach the gates, which look like the gates in a small, regional airport. They line you up and you walk down to the tracks and as you walk on the platform in-between two huge, tall hulking trains, Amtrak employees ask where you’re going. “Little Rock is 2 doors up on the right,” was my reply and I get there and meet our car attendant/porter/awesome guide and she directs us in and up a tiny, windy staircase that reminds me of a Washington State ferry staircase.

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On-board: The train is 2 levels—apparently called a Superliner—and I got my ideal spot, back right corner. I get to lean back super far without disturbing anyone and I already made friends with the lady in the back left corner. She’s going to Little Rock too and I asked her to take a picture of me because I literally couldn’t contain my excited face. I was the second person in the car and I hefted my beer/popcorn duffel and suitcase up in the overhead rack, placing the aforementioned overstuffed backpack and blanket under the seat in front of me. I looked for a seatbelt THERE ARE NONE, I don’t know what I expected and then I looked down and I saw so much leg room that I could have cried. CRIED, dammit. I reclined my seat, bothering no one and just sighed, content. And the train hadn’t even started moving yet.

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Our goddesss of awesome train-ness, Avia (“Its’ French for ‘bird’”) gave us some info about the ride, saying how it’s her first Texas Eagle run but not her first w/ Amtak; she’s been with the company for 11 years. AND THEN THE TRAIN is moving. I am wiggle wiggle joyous excited. It feels like that wondrous itch of going to Japan or Thailand and the pride of I’M DOING THE THING and I have missed it. I think sometimes we forget or grow so comfortable with our routine that you forget to be a tourist in your own country. I realize anyone who takes Amtrak every day for work probably just threw up in their mouth, but I’m loving it. Also, I’m not-so-secretly hoping that Joe Biden is on the train. I know he lives in Delaware but I heard he takes Amtrak and I kind of feel like he’s the type to incognito just be on any/every Amtrak train.

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I’m Chris Traeger-ing this train ride and I don’t even care that the poor Amtrak intern probably reading my tweets is exhausted THIS IS SO FUN. Y’all. Why do we travel any other way? I’ve been on the train 30 minutes and I already love it. Just south of Chicago and it’s so, so green. It looks like the woods behind my Grandma Loveau’s house; big green leafy bushes that probably have blackberries hanging plump and ripe and scrubby weeds that I’m gonna pick even though my mom tells me not to.

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I’m pretty convinced that I won’t have great T-mobile cell service everywhere and I’m ok with that. I welcome it, actually. I’ve been reading a book about meditation, (10% Happier by Dan Harris) and I’m looking forward to turning my brain off a bit. I brought my journal and another book and I just want to let my brain slow down.

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Visits observation car; damn. Damn damn. Swivel chairs and full-length windows. Much green. Such Instagram shots.

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Starting to feel like a good nap…return to seat. Dining attendant comes by and I get a reservation for 7:15 like adults do!

…wakes up. Illinois is super green, y’all. And rural. Agriculture is all over.

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…sleeps again.

…wakes up. Trees on the track before Springfield, held for 30 minutes. Cool, I forgot that’s the state capital!

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More Illinois; more green. Continue reading “10% Happier,” trying to slowly let it permeate my brain and not rush through and it’s so helpful on learning to meditate. I know, you cringed. I did too. But breaking it down, it’s about not just my gut reaction to things, it’s helping me slow down and respond rationally. It’s like slow-mo Matrix moments where I have time to make choices rather than EMOTION VOMIT at someone/thing.

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Anyways, it’s a great book. I’ve been on and off reading it for a week and I’m really getting into the meat of it. I’m writing notes and actually absorbing it when—

“7:15 Dining Car, come on down.” OH Y’ALL IT IS STEAK TIME.

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One of my co-workers, Jeff, told me that if I’m gonna Amtrak it, I need to try the steak at least once. It’s $25 but I’m so, so down. And I got a glass of wine BECAUSE I ADULT. I arrive in the dining car on time just as we’re pulling into St. Louis and this iconic view.

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I am seated across from a middle-aged couple and next to a young young 20-something who is super quiet. Like, I’m trying to pull teeth saying ‘hi,’ making casual jokes and asking questions and she is shutting. it. down. She orders a side salad and iced tea, when I offer her the basket of salad dressings, she says “just ranch. I’ve never tried anything else.”

FOR REAL I AM NOT LYING. Folks, I am all for like what you like and eat what tastes good but when salad dressing is FREE (which it rarely is) and you can try new stuff, TRY THE BALSAMIC OR ITALIAN because they are not scary. She would have shit herself if they’d had some chili lime vinagrette. Oh well. She’s going to Houston I pry out of her between her Snapchats. Goodness. I turn to the older couple across from us. He’s asking her about what’s gonna work for him since his teeth are out. They’re going to somewhere near Shreveport, Louisiana, which is surprising considering this train doesn’t go there.

I slowly piece together between our-lady-of-side-salad and the toothless man and the wife who is talking loudly on the large Samsung phone that all 3 of my tablemates were on some weird delayed? Amtrak and got rerouted to Chicago. Side Salad says she got off her train to get toothpaste? and got lost, missing getting back on. Ser Teethless says their train was 4 hours delayed and they missed their connection in Chicago so they had to stay there 24 hours and wait. Damn. This is like joining a book halfway and I’m so in.

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Teethless and I start to get a little traction talking when I joke saying “I’m the only one of us intentionally in Chicago” and he shares that he drove a cab there for 40 years but got out because…something. It was a little difficult to understand him sans teeth, but he was intriguing. I started trying to put into practice some of the things in the book; ‘be present in this moment, don’t think ahead or behind,’ and I leaned forward, asking him about his dogs (2 chihuahuas) and his proclivity for befriending wild animals (a lynx, wolves, myriads of squirrels, stray cats, A POSSUM). Then our food came and I discovered Bernaise sauce.

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FAM. I gotta say, I would have moaned if Side Salad wouldn’t have inevitably snap chatted it. What is this stuff and how have I gone 30 years without it? Chock full of delicious witchcraft, I tried to savor every bite while listening to Teethless tell me about how ‘some people just got the touch’ for befriending animals, and well, he’s got it.

He then said to Side Salad “you want one of these shrimp?” I looked at him, then her, confused. She demurs. He insists. She TAKES IT. I’m ping ponging between them wondering if I need to tell Teethless that this girl/young woman is fine and happy with her ranch leaves and doesn’t seem to be a meat eater. Then Lady Teethless puts a slap of her steak on Side Salad’s plate and I’m like “are they trying to talk her out of being vegan by temptation?” SS is grateful and doesn’t seem to be giving me any bat signal of distress that these people are forcing various meats on her, AND SHE IS EATING THE MEATS. I’m using my customer service face but I’m so confused that this is some new Midwest tradition I’m not knowledgeable about AND also offended that these people aren’t offering me food. But damn, I am an adult who ordered a $7 glass of wine so I guess I’m either a) financially solvent and seem ok in the Iron department or b) not the type of woman they’re looking to meet on a train and take home in a body bag.

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We finish our meal and the family Teethless leaves for him to smoke as we are stopped in St. Louis. I look at Side Salad and say “do y’all know each other?” AND THE STORY COMES OUT.

Apparently they all ended up seated next to each other on the same aforementioned delayed? train to Chicago and made friends? I don’t know how, considering the communication barriers (Snapchat/age/lack of teeth) but that’s why they know each other. I’m assuming maybe Side Salad didn’t realized budget-wise that this was happening and the Teethless Couple was doing a good Samaritan thing feeding her meats and fattening her up for ritual sacrifice so she could stay alive and donate a black market organ see her brother in Houston without going broke.

See, this story had a great ending. As an addendum, I’d like to add that although I was miffed to not be carded for my tiny plastic bottle of chilled Chardonnay, the waiter did ask me to writing down my phone number as I signed for my credit card receipt, so I STILL GOT IT.

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Returning to my seat with a slight case of the meat sweats, I realize that we still haven’t left St. Louis. We’re running a bit behind and they’ve shut off the engines while we’re waiting. So…not meat sweats, just lack of moving air. They announce that everyone should try to avoid using the facilities as the train is off and they only flush when the power is on, prompting my bladder to be like NOW NOW RIGHT NOW EMPTY MEEEE as I’m flush on $7 Chardonnay and already nestled back in my big, comfy, ridiculously great seat.

FINALLY we leave St. Louis and I’m lucky enough that no one boards and sits next to me. These seats are no joke, spacious enough that I wouldn’t be irritated by it, but it’s nice not to worry about stepping over someone on my way to the bathroom/stretching my legs OH MY GOD when did we become the last car?!

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Apparently they’ve chopped off the back 2 cars of the train sometime while I was on a romantic date with a steak. Huh. That’s cool. I wish it was still lighter out because these photos from the back of the train would be AMAZING. And now I’m all peed out and curled up, typing away. Happily full of steak and adventures and more relaxed than I’ve ever been while traveling. Seriously, why do we travel any way but this??

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We stop for over an hour in the dark at the Mark Twain National Forest in Missouri with no explanation and I’m worrying about my friend who had agreed to stay awake and pick me up at 3am is now 3:40, 4, 4:08…I tell him to go to sleep and re-download the Uber app since Little Rock doesn’t have Left yet. I arrive at the station and after an interesting Uber ride that included the words “Jeffrey Dahmer could have passed a background check” to be an Uber driver, arrive grungy and sleepy to my destination.

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Initial thoughts:

  • Ridiculously comfortable: THE LEG ROOM! Reclining seats, fold out desk/eating station, fold out footrest, etc. made it easy to sleep and perform multiple tasks
  • The food: good god, I will remember that béarnaise sauce on my death bed. And the coffee isn’t bad either!
  • So nice to get up and walk around: wide aisles, observation car, easy to get to and multiple bathrooms.
  • Price: a round trip flight from Chicago to Little Rock was over $400 and for multiple dates. So…I thought to try the train and I’m so glad I did. $80 each way for $160 round trip plus steak dinner plus cup of coffee on return trip is total $200. SO LEGIT
  • Timing: It’s…long. Just about the same as driving directly, but much less responsibility. Much easier to get up and walk around than the Megabus, which was cheaper but required transfer in Memphis. I was delayed about 70 minutes on the way down and about 2 hours on the way back. So…if time is a concern or you have a connection or someone is picking you up, possibly not the best choice unless they/you are flexible.

Overall, I’m happy I took Amtrak for my wallet and for the experience. It is great to sleep a good chunk of the ride and wake up/get to your destination actually relaxed and not worry about the weight/number/paying of your bags and the security check and the 2 hours early, etc. (within reason; Amtrak does have baggage rules and they’re on the website) but for me, such a smooth experience. I love that their slogan is “Change how you see the world” because it was truly revelatory seeing some of America’s green gorgeous land and the sun set over the horizon. If you haven’t Amtrak’d before, you should; if not just for the béarnaise sauce *cue Homer Simpson donut sounds* then for the truly enjoyable experience.

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Accidental Wins

There was something on my work shirt this morning. Chocolate? Drool? I don’t know what it was. I tried to wipe it off but it was reluctant to leave. 

I was already at work and didn’t have an extra shirt of my own.

In the storage closet of extra shirts there were Smalls, 6XLs, 2XLS, Mediums and XLs. 

I wear a Large. A unisex Large. Since July 2010 when I first started at this company, I’ve always worn a Large. Not sized up, not down.  Until very recently I’ve always had to stretch my shirts out before putting them on and never ever ever did I put them in the dryer. 

Recently, I haven’t had to stretch new shirts. Recently, they’ve started to fit directly out of the dryer. That’s been a nice thing. A lovely surprise. 

Today, 5 minutes before starting work I frantically looked at the XL and I looked at the Medium and thought “well, I think if I stretch it out, the Medium will maybe work. Enough to get through the day at least.”

I tugged the shirt over my head and pulled it down. I rotated my shoulders. I smoothed my hand over my belly, the part of me I always try to hide. I looked down, surprised. 

No stretching needed. The shirt fit. A MEDIUM SHIRT FIT. I was so shocked. I walked/ran to the bathroom and made sure there wasn’t some weird gas in the storage closet that threw off my mental acoustics and staged whispered to myself “we are NOT going to cry in this work bathroom.”

Seven years of Large work shirts. Seven years of stretching shirts and hanging them up to dry. Seven years of diets and workouts and body concerns and Large shirts. 

Today feels really damn good. 

Krav Maga: Not Gaga’s Alter Ego

When I tell people I do Krav Maga, there’s mostly confusion.

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To be fair, Krav (rhymes with mauve) Maga (reaaaal southern “mah gawd” minus the ‘d’) isn’t super obvious at first. Its not a martial art, but it’s got a lot of martial arts in it and was clearly influenced by them. In Hebrew it translates to “close combat.” It’s a self-defense system developed by Imi Litchfield and the Israeli Defense Force into a program often taught to law enforcement professionals and really, really ridiculously good looking 5’8″ women from the northwest corner of Washington State.

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There’s no rules save this: “Get home safe.” If you need to bite, scratch, scream, use a weapon–all of it’s allowed–there’s no limits since it’s not a martial art. It isn’t bound by a ring or titles or belts but accessible to everyone despite your experience and physical fitness level.

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A coworker asked me this week after learning that I practice Krav, “Do you really think you’ll be able to remember those moves under stress, in a fight?” I sat for a second in thought. A fight doesn’t subscribe to rules. An attacker doesn’t respect any combination practiced. But the one thing that I know for sure that Krav has given me is the knowledge that I can and will fight beyond when my body wants to give up; despite tears, pain, blood, sore muscles and less-than-idea-conditions I’m growing a fighting spirit.

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While living in Daegu, I did some boxing and found that I really liked the workout as well as the community vibe of sweat dripping off one’s nose with friends.

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And now, I do the same thing, except with kicking. And elbows. Possibly teeth on the street. Definitely with the knees.

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In February 2016 I started a 6-month weight loss survey with Northwestern University that needed me to track minutes of working out. Only problem? I didn’t have a gym. I started doing recon in the area and I knew that my job would give me $300/year as a gym reimbursement. There was a free women’s self-defense seminar at this place about 15 minutes by bus south of my house and in-between work and home. So….I tried it.200-6

Holy hell. These women were tough. And strong. And scary. And confident. I needed to be one of that tribe. So…I joined the gym. I passed my Level 1 certification. I went camping with them. I drank with them. I got hit and hit people. I went to their Halloween party as the BEST character and *some* people got it.

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I liked this tribe. In the end of December the owners asked if I’d consider being an instructor. WHAT.

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I don’t understand. I am still over 200 pounds. I’m still working on getting fully into 14s and making my thigh-holes in my 16s be less noticeable when on stage. THESE PEOPLE ARE ASKING ME TO CREDIBLY LEAD OTHER ADULTS IN FITNESSING.

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It was a lot to think about and take on. But ultimately I decided that I wanted to turn 30 at the end of this year knowing I was a certified (or about to be certified, depending on the testing date) Krav Maga instructor. It’s a lot of work: memorizing techniques, teaching style, class management, mats to clean, bathrooms to sanitize and that’s on top of getting my own workout in.

I want to be a Ripley. A Tulip. A Sarah Connor. A Zoe Washburne. A Ronda. A Furiousa. And I really, really want my arms to look like Emily Blunt’s in “Edge of Tomorrow.”

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But most of all, I love the idea of being a strong, fit, powerful, confident woman and sharing that knowledge with others. Krav is a tool that is helping me build a community while empowering me on and off the mat as a student, a teacher and as a woman.

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I’m strong and I’m standing, y’all.

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Now I get to pay it forward with other women too, showing them you don’t have to be a Lululemon-wearing #fitspo junkie to protect yourself and feel good in a gym (although if you are one of those people, you’re welcome too!).

Krav is for those of us with extra rolls in our groin kick. It’s for those with heart wrenching personal experiences of violence and those who thought elbowing people seemed like a cool way to mix up a workout. We’re all there for different reasons and I for one, love seeing the below photo of 30+ women giving up an hour on a Saturday morning to invest in their own safety and taking control of the narrative.

I love this thing. I love this gym. I’m loving where I’m at, where I’m going and I’m proud to be part of the Titan Family.

Fight on, y’all.

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Photo Courtesy of Titan Gym; Monthly Free Women’s Self-Defense Seminar April 2017

(No) Nose Ring By Spring

I remember when I got it. Christmas Eve 2013, I was home from my first 7 months in Korea. With my best friend, Loni, we went to ‘the bad part of Bellingham’ and put a ring on/in it. My nose.

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I remember that the guy’s name was Cory. He was really good at what he did, talking me down and creating rapport. He had gone to Nooksack High School. I remember how long that needle was. I remember that it didn’t really hurt, just felt hot and some pressure. There was a stud bigger than I wanted in my nose; apparently you can’t just start with a small, sparkly one, you had to start big to work down because of swelling? Or something like that.

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I went to Christmas Eve service at church that night, proud of myself. My grandpa promptly said “what are you, a bull?” so clearly not everyone was into it. My mom asked “did you get a tattoo too?” and I replied “It was a Christmas Eve 2-for-1 special” and almost gave her a heart attack as she demanded I take off my clothes so she could check (I hadn’t gotten one). But the piercing, I liked it. I’d ‘practiced’ with a little rhinestone sticker for 3 months in Korea. I tried either side of my nose. I read blogs. I was ready to be cool-er.

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This first one was not huge, but was more noticeable than I’d liked. My school in Korea was pretty lax with 5 teachers having nose rings and never having any problem.

Cut to: 1 month later, new Korean staff member, new rules:

 

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I was terrified. I’d paid $75 for this thing, stuck my face in countless bowls/cups/tupperwares full of murder-hot salt water, only to have to remove it to keep my job. That week, 2 different co-workers got called into the office to talk about dress code (of which piercings were a part). I ordered a tiny rhinestone stud, a hoop and a clear plug online and they arrived later that week. To my immediate distress, I couldn’t figure out how to take mine out. Of course I would have gone to a high-end piercing parlor back in Bellingham and of course they had used a high-quality spring-loaded piercing. I had to email them to ask how to remove it, which they said “WE DO NOT RECOMMEND THIS, but if you must…” I got it out, only to discover I COULDN’T GET THE NEW ONE IN.

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I’m over here in Korea, on a cold night in January, trying to hurry up and put this damn corkscrew stud in my nose because I am CONVINCED it’s about to close up and I’ll either a) ruin my face or b) break the new ring and I’m consuming Youtube video after video of nameless weird girls taking the corkscrew rings in and out with no problem and now my nose is starting to bleed and oh god, I can’t do it, everything is garbage and I’m tearing up from all the nose action and fear and I call my co-worker Melissa in a panic. She tells me to ‘just put something’ in my nose for the night and she’ll bend the corkscrew into an L-shape in the morning.

I try to put the original piercing in. Fail. Try to put the clear thing in. Fail. Try to put the hoop in….FAIL. It has a ball on one end to thread it from the inside and I am falling apart. I give up and put the hoop in from the outside. I look like an idiot with the ball on the outside of my nose, but it works. I go to sleep and the next morning, Melissa does as she promised and uses pliers in the office to make this sucker.

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I wear this from late January 2014 until the end of my contract, June 1 2015. I never had my nose turn red, get a bump, struggle to blow my nose, NOTHING. Somehow the Korean staff settled in and either my nose ring was so small it wasn’t noticeable (unless you were super close to me) or I put enough good juju out into the world that they were like ‘we’ll let her have this, I guess.’

AND THEN I GOT FANCY AND DUMB. I decided that since my contract was up, I was gonna get bold. I took out the piercing (I’d done this 1-2 times in the last year-plus to clean it and scratch my nose, no probs) and tried to thread the hoop from the inside. LOL LOL LOL DIDN’T WORK. I was miffed. Cue more Youtube harpies and me crying. I then went to the Persian piercing/jewelry shop in downtown Daegu and bought a hoop for like, 3000W ($3) AND IT HAD NO BALL ON THE END. It was open on both ends, so I couldn’t fail, right?

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No. I had to stretch that thing almost straight with pliers to get it in. Then I had to try and pinch it back together into some semblance of a circular shape without my fingers slipping. It was…not a clean look. But it was in and different and damn the job and I just wanted to be a boho expat for the month I was staying.

Immediately, there was anger. I got…a bump. I had been so, so lucky. I had never had anything more than localized redness in over a year and a half. I had worn stage makeup and scratched it and played sports and sweated and now, I had a keloid aka bump. I got down to business ASAP and started bathing that sucker in almost-boiling salt water 1-2x a day. I went to Japan for a week with no makeup and gave it a breather.

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There were times in the next month that I loved this thing. It settled down after makeup-free Japan and the nightly salt baths and I looked like the hot boho expat that I’d dreamed of. I landed in the US in July 2015 and promptly caught that thing on a towel in my parents bathroom and shrieked so loud that the border patrol called my parents (hyperbole) but IT HURT, Y’ALL. My sister Emmalee had to help me pull it off as I stood, 11 years her senior, naked in the tub, attached at the nose to a towel.

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ANGER ANGER ANGER BUMP IS BACK, AND BIGGER THAN EVER, DUMMY. I salted and hot watered this thing, to no avail. I was about to move to Chicago and I looked like a basic fool. I flew to Tulsa and my cousin Jordan gave me some tea tree oil, which helped. Nothing like seeing your cousin and her husband for the first time in a year as your face is in a mug of hot salted water on their countertops. I went to Little Rock for a week, and I got sick of it.

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GRAPHIC GROSS BODY STUFF WARNING: This bump looked like there was some pus in it and I was done with waiting. I sterilized a thumbtack A THUMBTACK, PEOPLE, I AM SHAMELESS with a candle A CANDLE, A CANDLE FROM TRACE’S HOUSE and put it in the bump. There was no resulting explosion. I gingerly pinched and a tiny bit of puss came out. I was…kind of disappointed. I pinched a little more, thinking it was holding out on me. And then there was blood. NBD, yeah? I have ovaries and they work and this was nothing compared to the monthly Satan’s Waterfall but…but it kept coming…and wouldn’t stop and I’ve used 12 Q tips (not hyperbole) and I’m escalating and oh god what if it won’t stop this is my one and only face and Trace isn’t home and I will have to call Michael to come get me BECAUSE I WAS A BABY AND TRIED TO PLAY CHICKEN WITH THE NOSE BUMP GODS and I was running water over it, wadding TP up on it, and finally, after 10 minutes, it stopped. It looked…exactly the same size, except now there was a scab on it.

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It was now almost half size of a pencil eraser. Cut it in half and you’re there. This is a photo Michael took of me doing my nightly ritual of sacrifice in time and salt to the aforementioned nose gods. 5-10 minutes, water as hot as you can stand, try not to cry as your neck cramps up and your skin hurts from the last several days of doing the same damn thing I DARE YOU.

I did a combo pack of this ritual, tea tree oil and a baking soda paste and miraculously, it cleared up just in time for my first interview at the Fruit Stand. Interview 1 was calmed down with the hoop, by interview 2 the next week I had switched back to my bent-L model and was back in business. I sometimes wonder if that cheap ring was made of a metal that was bad for me or if I brought it on by the hoop constantly moving and rubbing, but I’m not going to find out. Unfortunately, things haven’t been smooth since August 2015, either.

I haven’t taken out the L, but it gets angry. Bumps of various sizes pop up every couple of months. Always in the same spot, never as big as the OG of July 2015, but still. It’s a pain. The cycle of soaks and tea tree oil, the no-makeup days just for that (not a huge deal, but occasionally an inconvenience) and I’m so tired of it.

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So I took it out. Just now. For good. 

I’m not sure how to feel about it yet. On one hand, it was distinctive, for me. No one else in our family had a facial piercing. No one had a tattoo. It felt like “I’m gonna do this and I choose this and no one can stop me,” in a way. I chose it and loved it because I knew it was a ‘bad girl’ thing. Sometimes I got (and still get) embarrassed of my very, very blessed life, although I know it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Sometimes you just want to mix it up and do something you know you shouldn’t. So I did.

I’m glad I did. I don’t regret it. I wish I had been better friends with it and put better quality products in there. But between the constant worry of catching something on it–one time, a friend’s sweater giving a hug, the aforementioned towel incident, someone hitting it accidentally in Krav class–I’m done. It gives me more anxiety than joy, and I’m happy I did it and excited to be done with it. I worry a little about the if/what the inevitable scar will be like as it heals. I’m hoping for the best and looking forward to a nice long scratch after it closes up.

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Honestly, I’ve been putting it off and off and today was the day. I almost talked myself out of it again, but I didn’t. I soaked it one last time and gently pulled it out of my nose. I looked at myself and cried for my little badass self, although she isn’t contained in a ring. It wasn’t sobbing but those two little tears you get as you realize a chapter in your book is changing and ending for something better.

It excites me to know I can scratch my nose. I can pick it and rub facewash in all of it and use whatever makeup and exfoliate it and blow it and wear Pond’s Pore Strips without them falling off. I will always have some kind of a scar, and rather than worrying it will marr my face, I’m going to remember it as a choice I made for myself. I chose that damn little ring for me, not for someone else. I looked like a boho expat and a delicate little badass and I looked like me and I still look like me. Just slightly less sparkly, but my babes Pikachu and Giraffe keep me feeling fly anyways.

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Night, fam.

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Alt Title: “Ring around the nose-y” and then I googled it and it’s a creepy elephant mask game?

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NOOOOOPE. ALL THE NOPE.

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I keep meaning to write and not writing. I must have 7-8 interesting stories and updates rolling around in my head but for some reason I never sit down to write them. I feel like they all must come out at once or not at all and that’s silly. 

Here’s to more short updates, good books, rich, dark cups of coffee and sunrise burritos on the river in 2017. 

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