She’s Solid.

I looked back through my calendar and feel like 2019 had a lot of wonderful in it. It was a solid year. Here’s a chronological look (I know I kinda did a recap already from Oct ’18-19 – and I was going to write one of my rambling, lovable, GIF-heavy recap posts but I kind of like this bullet points idea) at the whole year!

January

  • Rang in 2019 by watching Millie & Stanley, 2 cantankerous and lovable neighbor pugs. Also got food poisoning.
  • My first MINt team (Dec ’18-Feb ’19): Abominable SnowMINts
  • Playing with Pinafore (Nov ’18-Oct ’19) at CSz
  • Volleyball w Apple buds on team “How I Set Your Mother”
  • Continuing to teach Level 1 Krav Maga classes at Titan Gym
  • I go to work on Polar Vortex day! It’s pretty quiet.

February

  • Promotion to Senior Sales Executive at Grubhub
    • I’d only been there 10 months!
  • Flew to Phoenix for family time
    • Decided to visit the AZ office since my boss was in town too (for actual work)
    • Then worked in the office for 3 days
    • Work paid for my flight back
    • I felt v. v. fancy.
  • My parents drove 3.5 hours each way for me to see the Grand Canyon. On first sight walking up to the rim I cried. How is anything that vast and majestic? Whew. Full stop.
  • Sedona was wonderful and kooky and I need to go back.
  • Visit to best/favorite KBBQ – Cho Sun Ok – in Chicago with Neal AND we went to a concert – Dean Lewis & SYML

March 

  • Started Crossfit at Windy City Strength and Conditioning
  • KBBQ at the same restaurant – Cho Sun Ok – 2 weeks after Neal BUT with Kalin.
    • I still don’t know how this happened but my stomach ain’t complaining about it.
  • Started final ID class w UW-Stout.
    • It will be the hardest class I’ve ever done in my life.
    • I just don’t know it yet.
  • Due to this ^^ took sabbatical from teaching Krav at Titan Gym
  • Flew to Dayton to see Trace/Dinah and Xander/Abs (PLUS YOU, EVIE) and I’m so glad I did.

April

  • Took a Music Improv workshop through MINt with Alex
    • I sang a song about how I still have a Washington State Driver’s License but mid-song realized it was really was about how I missed home and cried in public, in a workshop. I’M FINE.
  • Went to a Cubs game IN A BOX for work
    • Yes, it was v chill and fancy.
  • Cast on second MINt team: BlooMINt Onion
  • Alex & Jake from the Little Rock crew came to Chicago
    • We get Old Fashioneds at the Broken Shaker
    • This is the best Old Fashioned in the city. I am convinced.
    • I will not be moved.
  • Interviewed for dream job while still in school for said job field.
  • Got dream job.

May

  • Started dream job
  • Saw Hamilton w Josh.
    • We are in the second row.
    • I immediately want to see it again. I do not.
    • It closes in 2 weeks (aka Jan 15, 2020) from now LETS GO
  • Bekah Brown (and Potato and Sully) in town!
    • We roam and nap and laugh.
  • Sat in with Oh Cecelia at iO twice
    • Being asked to sit in is bananas nice and I have done it several times this year with different teams. Thank you everyone for your trust in my make-believe!
  • Went to PHX for work to train 5/13 class
    • Do not feel prepared as I JUST started said job.
    • People are v nice.
    • I got upgraded to a suite and neither of my 2 bosses did. BIZLIFE.
    • Abby (L&D Boss) and I do not eat bread bowls from Panera by the hotel pool, WHICH I WAS PROMISED would happen. Still sad.
  • Officially resigned from Titan Gym/teaching Krav due to new job
    • Originating dream job position and possibly traveling every 2 weeks for it just wasn’t good for students, for the gym or for me. But I miss y’all.
  • Saw Falsettos (Broadway) show
    • it was NOT a comedy
    • I was NOT prepared
    • AND if meme photos of me crying on the train alone after ever come out it is Todd’s fault. The end.
  • Finish/graduate from UW-Stout’s Instructional Design Graduate Certificate program
    • I survived the aforementioned hardest class in m’life.
    • Genuinely sad/miss my group TO THIS DAY.

June

  • Mom & Dad come to Chicago –
    • Father’s Day
    • Field Museum
    • Architect River Cruise
    • CHICAGO HOT DOGS!
  • Had huge audition for something I really wanted. Felt good about it. Didn’t get it.
  • Did a 5 Things CSz workshop

July

  • Performed for the first time w Ben, Nicole & Nate as music improv team AirBRB
  • Had lunch with Toni Berry, writer, bud, fellow Sagittarius, former Apple co-worker
    • By ‘lunch’ I mean we hung out for like 4 hours. WE ARE LONG WINDED.
  • Decided to apply (and got) a workshop spot with RIFF; a music improv short form show that performs at iO.
  • Did improv set in a church service with Susan
    • it was a planned set; we didn’t just jump up and start, I swear
  • Lunch with Jenean, former work wife and also, strangely, my first time eating poke
    • I now love poke
    • WHAT TOOK ME SO LONG
  • Fly to Washington to drive to AZ with Mom & Em

August

  • 4-Year Chicago-versary!
    • Me and the Bean are very happy together in a committed relationship over halfway to a common law marriage
  • Drive from Lynden, WA to Phoenix, AZ in 2 long days with Mom & Em
    • YES TWO DAYS
  • Teach 2nd training class in AZ for 8/5 class
  • Abby, L&D boss and of the 2 women I report to leaves the company. I hate this but still love her.
  • Sit in with Goat Milk Goddesses to perform at the Women’s Funny Fest at Stage 773
  • Dana comes to see me!
    • She’s the best.
  • I try my first Pole Dancing class at Brass Ring Chicago
    • Due to a Groupon I bought 6 months before that was about to expire 3 days later. I keep it up through EOY.
  • Compete in music improv competition “Verses” at Second City with AirBRB – we lose to some of my favorite people on Home Entertainment so I’m ok with it.
  • 2nd RIFF show!

September

  • Audition for Anarchy, another music improv team
    • I don’t get it
    • But I know a ton of people in the room
    • I’m ok!
  • Speak to my UW-Stout instructor’s class about being hired to work in ID/Learning & Dev field as a Sales Trainer right out of our program.
    • Feel v accomplished.
  • Toggle from Crossfit back to LSAC gym by my house
    • Y’all CF is cool BUT MY WALLET WAS SCREAMING.
  • Play volleyball for Fall Season with people I met in Spring Season at Lincoln Park High School.
  • Catherine (Sales Boss) the second woman I love working for leaves the company. I hate this but love her.
    • I got her some goodbye cookies that Carrie makes and they are PERFECTION (see pic below) support Carrie she does amazing work and a percentage of every order supports a different charity every month. HERE IS HER LINK I LOVE IT. 
  • I got myself a massage. I am stressed/sad about the boss situation above BUT NOT THE COOKIES.
    • I got it on Groupon, I am fiscally responsible.
  • Start meal plan service to eat Keto for the month of October (officially 9/30-end of October).
    • Not fiscally responsible but IT IS OK.
    • Keto doesn’t let me eat fruit as as a Washingtonian this is a crime I do not like.
    • Make it the 30 days, lost 10lbs in Oct.
  • I get a new boss to report to on the Learning Team side at work. He seems cool although I don’t know it yet.

October

  • Final Pinafore show at CSz. I have the sads that this core group of people I love is done.
    • Yes, yes, I know we can still play together
    • IT WAS A GOOD BITTERSWEET THING
    • I know all things must end I used to watch Lost
  • Started some personal training with Brian at LSAC
    • I warn Brian I am a talker.
    • Brian makes me do weird double kettlebell swings. I am not good at it right away and hate it.
    • Literally all I do is try to make Brian laugh to get my mind off of sweating.
    • Guys, don’t worry. I got plenty of sweating in still.
  • Started an Olympic Weightlifting class with Keith at LSAC
    • I AM SHOCKINGLY GOOD AT THIS.
    • Thank you to the Crossfit gym and also Coach DeHoag at LC, I guess.
  • Cry at work 3x in one day after feeling overwhelmed w my 2 bosses being gone and the announcement we are upping our hiring aka much bigger training classes.
    • 1. After a meeting
    • 2. In a stairwell mid-afternoon
    • 3. In first 1:1 with new boss
    • Is this a record and if so please get me a medal
  • I go to DC for the first time and get to hang with David, Bekah, Adam & Dana (and Millie)
    • I needed this.
  • Performed in Hocus Pocus Redacted at the Music Box as Allison.
    •  Yes, yabbos

November

  • Work tells me they approved hiring a 2nd person to do my role; we begin applications/interviews
    • Robbie becomes 2nd trainer at work and I begin trying to explain how/why I do what I do.
  • Audition for CSz & cast onto new Rec League team: Potluck
  • Watch Heather, Dan & Jess’s Bloody Christmas Carol show
    • My friends are fancy and sing & dance really well.
    • I came straight from a volleyball game and am very sweaty smushed next to strangers in this small theater.
  • See Robbie Ellis’s truly hilarious orchestra with Ben.
    • We fancy dress up.
    • We are seated in the front row.
    • We did not know we would be in the front row.
  • Thanksgiving week is my first week ‘off’ of training since starting my job on 5/1; I get so much work done and also contract a cold.
    • I do nothing except sit in my apartment alone for Thanksgiving, make myself mashed potatoes and I love it.

December

  • Record size massive training class (for us)
    • I am responsible for the learning & logistics of 20 people and gain (probably) 17 gray hairs.
  • Work approves a 3rd (Arizona) and 4th (Philadelphia) trainer; applications & interviews begin
  • I start seeing a therapist – it helps.
    • Nothing specific; I’m just noticing circular behaviors as I look back over my shoulder for 30+ years.
  • Added to the ensemble of RIFF
    • After performing as a sub several times since that workshop in July!
    • I’m added in the same class as Ben, Sarah & Will who I feel so honored to sing (and rhyme) with.
  • I fly home for 12 days to Lynden, WA
  • I turn 32 sitting at home, surrounded by my family.
    • I tell my family I plan on climbing Kilimanjaro in October 2020. I announce it at my birthday dinner so I can’t back out of it. NAME IT AND CLAIM IT BBS.
    • Yes, another blog post will come to flesh this ^^ out.
  • Performed with Upfront Theatre’s ensemble, including Ryan Stiles, for the 2nd time in Bellingham on the day after Christmas. My family is there seeing me do what I love and I am happy.

2019 Overall

  • Performances – with Pinafore, with MINt teams, RIFF and so many other opportunities to sit in and play with teams. Feeling grateful.
  • Shows – I saw countless shows; CSz matches, iO & SC improv, staged shows, musicals, Broadway, even just at movie theaters! Ya girl is stuffed full of stories. Also I have crazy talented friends.
  • People – I saw family 4 times! That’s almost a record for one year! Lunches, grocery store runs, shows and coffee times with so many friends too.
  • Health – Got my first ever stitches (shoulder), which was a weird first to have post-30. Overall healthy but somehow got food poisoning 3x this year. Probably won’t be asked to be on Bear Grylls show because of it ever.
  • Work – very happy to be working in the Learning & Development field as a trainer, instructional designer and general weirdo. Finally. GH has been very good to me.
  • Mental state – I’m pausing here and looking around my house, just thinking about this one.
    • I’m proud to be taking steps to correct patterns and behaviors that are unhealthy. Seeing a therapist that gives homework to work on between sessions is great.
    • I’m improving at recognizing progress as progress even when I wish the progress was bigger.
    • I’m proud/terrified to be setting the goal of climbing Kilimanjaro in October 2020. It scares me and excites me. More to come on this!
    • I’m thrilled to be an ensemble member on a long-term team. This has been a goal since I got to Chicago – I don’t need to drive my work to SNL or Mainstage. I just want to be on a consistent team of talented friends that I laugh with and improve my skills.

Hiya, 2020. Let’s go.

A Blog I Pay For and Rarely Update: UPDATED!

Well, it’s been a year. Truly. I haven’t blogged in a year! Not since my EPIK return to Korea (wink at y’all English teachers over there) for MinShik & Ara’s wedding.

And here those same people are celebrating their one year anniversary by having their first baby ON THAT DAY. That’s some Gattaca-level skill, I tell ya.

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Lots has changed. LAWD. Yes. Grab yourself a low-carb snack because y’all about to get the deets.

  1. Jobs

Two promotions at Grubhub and a sabbatical-turned-bowing-out at Titan Gym ALL IN THIS PAST ONE YEAR.

In January I became a Senior Sales Executive with Grubhub; it was a huge, out-of-the-blue honor and when I asked ‘what’s different than my current job?” my boss replied “Its what you’re already doing with the team, I’m just going to pay you for it.” How cool is that?!

Actual photo of said boss:

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Seriously one of my favorite things in my career was in our first ever one on one development meeting last year (right *after* the Korea trip) the first thing I said was “I want you to know I’m in grad school for training and development and that’s what I want to do long term.”

His reply? “OK, let me hook you up with the right person who’s heading up training.” Literally the next week she got me in a classroom training new hires in a session 1x every 2 weeks. MONEY/MOUTH AND ALL THAT. When does that happen?!

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And this past April when a new role opened up to become a sales trainer for new hires he recommended and she championed me for the role, which started May 1.

Y’all. I have never felt the Conan mantra of “If you work really hard and you’re kind, amazing things will happen” more. I joined Grubhub just to get a sales paycheck and have a regular schedule to pursue my passions and here this place that I thought would be a job I wasn’t going to put my heart into has given me such gifts. Managers that believe in me and CREATE JOBS that I wasn’t even aware of. I’m very blessed.

Now I’m the “Learning Solutions Associate” (ie. Non-Corporate Sales & Account Advisor Trainer) for all employees in those departments for Grubhub Inc. Nationwide. I’ve trained over 75 people in the last 5.5 months. That is bananas to me and I’m so grateful. All that in a year and a half at this company.

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Because of that role shift and wrapping up grad school I knew that my time at Titan Gym was coming to a close. I have loved and sweated and bled and cried in that place – sometimes all at once – and I leave with so many good memories and relationships. I felt like I couldn’t be both throwing my heart (and fists) into learning & teaching Krav while also trying to originate a role at Grubhub.

So with a final rooftop drinking session and countless hugs I left (by choice) no longer an instructor at Titan Gym. I’m still a certified Krav Maga Level 1 Instructor through KMA and I know if I’m ever interested in getting back into it that Daniela and Ivo have my back. And if you need a place to kick ass, feel stronger or find mental toughness I will recommend Titan Gym to the moon and back again and again and again.

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WHEW.

2. School

Yes, I finished my grad program at University of Wisconsin – Stout and now have my graduate certificate in Instructional Design. I need to frame that fancy piece of paper sometime soon.

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3. Comedy

BUT WHAT ABOUT THE LAUGH SQUAD?! Oh man y’all. So last October in the week after I got back from Korea I auditioned for a ComedySportz House Team and was cast into the most perfect circle of weirdos by two insanely talented coaches who happened to have the exact same initials – HMS. So naturally our team name became “Pinafore” after the famous Gilbert & Sullivan comic opera ‘HMS Pinafore.’ I have still never to this day heard any music from it although I did briefly glance through the Wikipedia page.

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No, I didn’t realize we were all serving fierce face. Or at least my genre of fierce face. Our team just had our final show on 10/6 and it has been a journey. I feel like I’ve grown with such a great team with depth and tears and joy. I have peed myself a little laughing so hard, which I can admit now that the team is done. I mean, I could have admitted it before but why BOTHER.

Truly I have loved the CSZ House Program; auditions for the next round are in November and I’m excited to see what the next group of people I get to fall in love with looks like!

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Other things I’ve been blessed to yuk it up on/with: I got cast into a RIFF Music Improv camp which has had me perform 3x with a stone-cold group of short-form music improvisers that HAVE PIPES, y’all. Some of these people I’ve watched perform for years in music improv and it’s an honor to strap on a Britney mic and make up songs for an audience with them.

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I’ve also done 2 seasons of MINt (Music Improv Night) at the Annoyance; such an open space to trying weird and beautiful things with music improv and our voices. If you’re looking for a community to fall in love with, the MINt crew is a good one. 4 teams every 4 months and you get such a wide range of experience, skills and strange, hilarious songs.

There’s been a few one-offs performing with friends’ groups and even a couple shows with some MI people I met in iO’s Music Program as an indie group named “AirBRB.”

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I’m moving into a season when I’m not sure when my next show is; it’ll be light this next month, which is kind of a fun thing. I’ll miss it. But I think it’s healthy to have a breather and come back hungry, whenever the next show is. And you never know when someone might text you at 4pm about a show that night at 1030pm and you gotta be ready to make believe with the best!

4. Health

OOOOOHHHH fun. Let’s talk about it! Since last year when I got my Krav Maga instructor cert in July (shoutout to the 3am Protein Squad) I’ve let things slip a bit. And why not?! When you survive that kind of thing you deserve to let yourself chill. But…I didn’t really reign it in. I was doing ok; maintaining some cardio but I knew things needed to step up. I was getting a little burned out on Krav. Here’s my 7am face on the way to teach class:

I let myself write excuses and they added up. Once I was done punching/kicking regularly I did CrossFit for a few months – it was great and ya girl loves heavy weights – but the price was really high. Especially when I could be going out of town to our Phoenix office for work up to once a month, missing a week at a time. It was an expensive habit.

So I jumped back into going to LSAC (Lincoln Square Athletic Club) regularly – it’s been 3 weeks in and I’m kind of loving my schedule:

Mondays – Pole Class at Brass Ring (I KNOW) and it’s so fun. Such an empowering environment and an hour flies by. Its slow but I see progress! And thigh bruises.

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Tuesdays – Workout at LSAC (trying to follow the schedule Brian (see Fridays) gave me the week before)

Wednesdays – Volleyball with friends at LPHS – y’all we had a double header last week and I burned 1,448 calories in 1 hour and 55 mins. WE WORKIN’.

Thursdays – Improv Day (aka rest and do some make believe in comedy class)

Fridays – Personal Training with Brian at LSAC

Saturdays – Yoga (at home right now using an Apple TV app but maybe at LSAC in the future)

Sundays – Intro to Olympic Weightlifting with Keith at LSAC (today was the first one; I did a 65lb bar snatch from shins to above my head! 9 times! Y’ALL! SHE BACK!)

Also I started attempting/doing a Keto & intermittent fasting on 10/1; it’s been a little rough but we’re getting into the groove of it. That first week, candidly, sucked. The low carb/Keto flu thing is for real. But now I’m used to it; the 12-8 fasting part is honestly not that hard now. Very manageable. It’s more the carb counting thing of keto that is taking slow (but progressive) shape.

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5. The Rest

a. Photography

I know everyone has a camera in their smartphone – I’m doing some photography learning – I bought myself a Canon T6i DSLR last year RIGHT BEFORE starting grad school so I hid it in the closet from myself until school was done in May. I’ve taken some pictures I’m proud of and I’m working my way through a couple Lynda.com (grad school got me a free account) photography courses to learn the camera. I’m a student of it right now for sure but here’s a few photos I’m proud of:

b. Norway

I found out last year that I’m 1/8 Norweigan; that doesn’t sound like ‘a lot’ but honestly I’ve never really thought about it. I generally classify my heritage as ‘SPF 75’ but have always known our family is generally German with some crossover to other classically pale squads (Irish, probably English, other various tribes of roving wild-haired people on/around Hadrian’s wall, etc).

Last year in October someone posted in this Women of Chicago Comedy Facebook group I’m in about a Norwegian TV show that 1. Flies you to Norway and 2. You good-naturedly compete with other Norwegian-Americans to win $50,000. SO I APPLIED OF COURSE and got to ask my mom and grandparents questions over iMessage about my heritage. Apparently one of my great-grandmas was first-generation American, born in the US. Her parents both emigrated from Norway in the early 1900s to Washington State, near Ballard. So…if one of the 8 people that made me is full-blooded Norwegian…then by the power of Punnett Squares or whatever that means I’m 1/8 Norwegian, right?

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ANYWAYS I did not get cast but I just realized they’re auditioning again so I’m going to throw ye olde application back in there. 1. Because it sounds fun and 2. Norway is GORGEOUS and 3. I did promise Neal Carlin that I would apply again. He’s gone in Italy doing an insanely cool apprenticeship so the least I can do is fill out info about my LIFE.

Our family doesn’t really do any celebrations of heritage. My great-grandma Harriman (she of the Norwegian blood) made lefse for Christmas, but I never really understood the connection as a kid. She passed when I was in high school and none of us kids ever learned to make it with her. Also, keep your traps shut but my real goal if I get on this show is to learn to make Fattigman cookies and then make them with my Nana for Christmas. KEEP MY SECRETS, INTERNET.

I think there’s a real beauty in appreciating where you came from and knowing you are a part of a legacy of choices – good ones, bad ones, ones that had to be made one way or another – and then choosing how you want your part of the story to be written. Sitting under the Northern lights and walking on glaciers would be a pretty jaw-dropping moment in life; 10/10 I’d be crying frozen little tears of joy. So we’ll see! I’m applying!

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c. Travel

I’m going to DC in less than 2 weeks – I’ve never been to DC AND I haven’t seen David Brown in 4+ years in person. That’s bananas to me. I genuinely cannot believe that there’s not some time/space blanket fold that I jumped through because it CAN’T have been four years.

But the internet says it has. So myself, Bekah, Adam & Dana (plus maybe their dog Millie) are all meeting up with David in DC October 25-27 and I could SQUEAL I am so excited.

I went to Ohio in March just to see my loves Xander and Trace and get drag-ified myself. I learned that clip on earrings are the reason beauty = pain and that stick on nails are NOT for me. But I looked great.

d. Experiences

I saw my first Broadway shows in the past year – I don’t know what took me so long! I saw Hello Dolly, Book of Mormon, Hamilton. Les Mis, Falsettos – I WANT TO SING EVERYTHING.

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I went to the Shedd Aquarium on Thanksgiving – it was BEAUTIFUL and uncrowded and my ticket was free – cue v v thankful.

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I saw Conan O’Brien’s show in Chicago and met Aaron Bleyart, who’s blog(s) I have followed for over TEN YEARS.

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Passed my Krav Level 3 student test and Muay Thai Level 2!

Survived the Polar Vortex in Chicago when it was over -20 degrees below zero. This is the *inside* of my windows.

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My parents came to Chicago for Father’s Day! The umbrella is my Mom hiding from the camera as all 3 of us eat Chicago Dogs outside the Field Museum. Also, I went to the Field Museum.

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I went to Arizona 3 times – February, May & August – for work and to visit family. What a cool, weird mix of colors. I saw the Grand Canyon and cried a little behind my sunglasses as my family pretended to not notice.

I saw a Seattle-based artist, SYML, who’s work I love not once but TWICE. Also saw Dean Lewis at the same concert and fell in love w his new album.

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Saw a bajillion improv shows, learned which lipsticks look good on my skin tone and saw so many people I love.

What. A. Year.

 

More updates, more often, from this face:

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I missed you too, Korea.

Sneaking back as a surprise was honestly one of the best things I’ve ever done. Someday I’ll tell Ara and Minshick’s kids about how I made their dad laugh by giving him a box of Halloween-themed Captain Crunch the night before his wedding and show them the surprised squeak their mom made on my iPhone X31 as I walked into her wedding pictures and their dad’s shit-eating grin to be in on it. I was so happy to be there that my heart explodes all over again every time I watch the video.

I visited DGEV, the English Village that I worked at and even though I left almost 3 1/2 years ago, it looked the same. The smells, the sounds, exactly the same. I remembered exploring the campus 5 years ago with DB and Roy Gene, moving into the new dorms as we all squabbled over room size and placement, I hugged Mi Ye, the cafeteria worker who remembered me by first AND last name and my heart felt so full. I sassed all the village guides, I drank at least 3 coffee sticks and fought through the jet lag–that flight over is still the.worst.y’all (13 hours, 50 mins ORD > SEO)—and somehow felt like I had never left.

I spent the last few days laughing, eating, reconnecting and decompressing with Camilla, Don, Nick & Meredith and Heather. FEELS 🚨 ALERT: it’s so strange to be confronted with some of the realities of being the one who always leaves. I left Washington at 18. Tulsa at 23. Arkansas at 25. Korea at 27. I’ve lived in Chicago now for 3 1/2 years and in many ways, I feel like the relationships I made in Korea were (for the most part), deeper. We all knew that our friendships were temporary. Every expat you met might be leaving next week, next month, tomorrow. Every Korean you met might be about to go overseas, or get in a relationship, or to college. We made deep, quick, lasting friends.

But I forgot to remember how that can wound those who stay. Those who see people leave again. And again. And again. The strain it puts on them to continue to reach out and be vulnerable. To share their names and hearts and to invest energy and emotion into hearing new stories that might leave again in 12 months. If you’re one of those people anywhere in my sphere, please keep reaching out. Please use technology to keep the thread between us alive with GIFs and sorrows and joys. I’ll do the same.

I roamed around Daegu and saw weird and wonderful things that were the same and different than I remembered. 2.28, the underground shopping, S., Artbox, at least 2 new Starbucks, the Bokhyeon Daiso is a massive 2-story behemoth, some favorite shops shuttered for new things, the way “Next Stop: Yangyangshi” toned familiarly in my ears.

It feels so familiar. Like I never left. And as I sit in this fancy McDonalds near my old apartment that now delivers (insert rage scream from 3 years ago) using the WiFi and chilling for 2 hours, I don’t know if I miss Korea or candidly if I miss the woman I was here.

2013-15 Korea me was a big transition time. I kind of just…up and went. I decided in January 2013 that I would go and applied and was in Korea the end of May. I met so many people that are still in my life today in the best ways. I learned what it was like to be an immigrant. A privileged immigrant, but still. What it was like to be lost, dependent on others to help you to get home. To help you get on the right bus. To kindly count change out of my palm as I cried in frustration. To survive crowded concert venues and streets with no signage and I’m so grateful for that experience.

I see too how my health (mentally and physically) has improved coming back from Korea. I’m not 100% where I want to be with my physical fitness and health but in Chicago I don’t daily hear about my body size/type or stared at for being a foreigner on a bus.

I became a performer in Korea. I mean, y’all know I’ve always been a ‘look at me!’ Performer but my first stage experiences were in the Daegu Theater Troupe. I became a manager in Korea as I led the Adult Program and the teachers in it. I feel like I became a woman in Korea and less of a grown girl, if that makes sense. I owned more of who I was, I tried more uncomfortable things INTENTIONALLY – from recently-alive octopus to stand up to flying or train-ing to places I’d never been. I went on solo trips to Japan, the Philippines, to Jeju, to Seoul, to Mokpo. I was someone’s first kiss in Korea. I felt like I came into my own more here.

It’s strange to be here with Chicago hindsight and the growth that I’ve had there the past 3.5 years–as a performer at some of the largest/most famous comedic institutions in the world, as one of the top facilitators for Apple in the Chicago market, as a certified Krav Maga instructor–and I feel at home. Chicago is my home. Daegu is a home. Lynden will always be my forever home. Tulsa is a spiritual home. Little Rock is where my tightest friend-family home is; the friends who carried me on their backs through some of the most difficult times.

So many people are a piece of home for me too, no matter where you are in the world. Minnesota to Portland to Little Rock to Colombia to Daegu to NYC to Taipei to the WA/BC border to DC to a tiny city up in Kitakami, Japan (and beyond).

Maybe Daegu will be home again someday. I’d like to teach Ara & Minshick’s kids a whole host of inappropriate English words and give them too many candies and make Don take me to weird delicious hole-in-the-wall restaurants and sip dangerously tasty bag drinks at Gogo’s and have Meredith give me a black eye while Muay Thai sparring. I still haven’t climbed Apsan.

It’s been really real again, Daegu. I can’t wait until we meet again.

I’m a student again, and not just of life.

Shame on y’all and y’alls dads for that joke. I officially started the fall semester on August 27; student ID, Apple Music discount and all! I’m doing the University of Wisconsin – Stout’s Instructional Design program online for the next 9 months. I am gestating a graduate certificate.

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“What’s instructional design?” will probably be the 2nd-most asked question I get this year after “How do you pronounce Krav Maga?” (Rhyme it with “Ahv” as in avocado and “McGraw” as in Faith Hill’s husband)

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Instructional design is formally “the art and science of creating instruction for learners in a systematic manner that leads to maximum knowledge transfer.” AKA how to create effective learning and training programs. I love facilitating and training; if the house that iFruit built had a permanent internal training role you bet I never would have left that sweet discount (and wonderful, ever patient coworkers).

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Most of the “Trainer” and “Facilitator” and “Learning and Development” roles I’ve been interested in (and interviewed for) over the last year and a half are interested in two things: can you teach? (CHECK THE BOX, MARTY) and can you create content? (Yes, but it’s been a minute since Korea). I’ve been turned down for 3 different roles in this capacity and was looking for some credibility around the making of content.

Enter Instructional Design and UW – Stout’s program. Bona fides, y’all. A program with a great reputation, solid support network post-program and one of my favorite people, Casey (we taught in Korea together), also taking it. I legit have my own mole? Sandra Oh? study buddy? to pass notes to and ask questions and get called on the carpet.

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However, I’m pretty out of practice with the rhythm of student-ing. I finally have a steady hours job, a big ol’ paper Passion Planner and yet I turned in my first assignment at 11:23pm last Sunday. It was due in 36 minutes. THIRTY SIX MINUTES. Here it’s Saturday and I still haven’t done my reading, much less drawn a t-chart (I cannot believe that is still a tool BUT IT IS AND WORKS) comparing 2 different ID models.

But as I sit here on my couch telling you this, I recognize that this is progress. Taking this program is progress. It is investing in myself. And I can be proud of that. I strongly believe that training and facilitating and finding that mix of improv and creativity and tying down principles about work and life is where you’ll find me in 5 years. And if I needed to get some content credibility to be taken seriously in interviews, well, I’m doing it. I’m stepping on that invisible bridge with you, Harrison Ford.

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I’m not the best (yet) with time managing it and my improv shows and work and eating better and working out and staying connected with important people and teaching at Titan Gym, but it’s progress. And I’m getting better. I will continue to get better. Heck, I might even have my assignment in before 10pm tomorrow.

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So if you see me with a large navy notebook with a dog sticker on it flipping pages and turning down things to figure out that I need to watch some Peter Kavinsky and gain sanity over these next few months, please buy me a Diet Coke and give me a consensual hug. It’s not an excuse to be a hermit (I am good at those), but I’m working on me and I need your help to do it. Please invite me to taco nights and shows and rooftop fireworks watching and please understand if I say I can’t.

I love y’all (even if you’re a stranger); feel free to send along tips on post-29-year-old college/life balance and let me pet all of your dogs and sip Old Fashioneds with you and sit in comfortable silence. Also, now that I’m thinking about it, who’s having a taco night soon?

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Edit 9/9/2018: homework submitted at 10:57pm. PROGRESS.

Edit 9/16/2018: homework submitted at 10:32pm. PROGRESSSSSS.

Certified 3am Protein Monster

I sat on the floor of a Holiday Inn Express in North Attleboro, Massachusetts, forking cold, well-seasoned steak into my sleepy mouth. Our lead instructor, Ivo, had explicitly told us to eat some protein in the middle of the night before our first physical test.

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Everything was in that delicious ‘just before’ moment you get, that bubble of ‘what could happen?’ We’d spent the day before knocking 4 states off my bucket list (New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts) as we drove from LaGuardia to our destination an hour south of Boston.

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Let me briefly tell you about the women in this photo. The two in the backseat are Nicole and Michelle, both Doctors and the chillest marrieds ever. The woman on the far left is my training partner, Ashleyann, and I wouldn’t have wanted to test with anyone else, y’all. I love us and am so proud of our group.

Friday morning came and Ash braided my hair and we all tried to eat something as our butts were puckered in fear for the first day. Impressions mean a lot and we’d flown halfway across the country to do this instructor certification and represent our gym.

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We lined up with 18 other strangers, feeling the year and a half of instructor trainings and injuries and frustrations about to release in 3 days of mental and physical endurance.

What followed isn’t some secret society ritual, but I don’t know how to tell you how hard it was. It was exactly what I expected but also mentally harder and physically arduous. We all joked about how our other instructors told us they ‘just don’t remember’ their testing. Like when moms say ‘I forgot about the pain when they laid the baby on my chest.’ How do you not remember?!

I remember the testing. I’ve never sweat so much in my life. To the makers of Nuun tablets and Gu, well, goo, thank you. I would recommend you as official sponsors of Krav Maga Alliance instructor testing, if it was up to me (it’s not). Y’alls products truly saved me. 3 8-hour days of on/off/on/on/on/off/on/IT’S ON ON ON/off really gets to a body. If Ash wanted to troll me she’d have Tony’s voice wake me up as an alarm shouting “B’s! B IS ATTACKING GO GO GO” and it would have me fully dressed and on the Brown Line in 46 seconds flat.

You know your girl was in there taking mad Hermione notes too, going through pens and pencils like it was my J-O-B (it kind of is). When I look at my notes I remember the lecture where I discovered that I had blisters under my calluses. Isn’t the point of calluses to avoid blisters? I see the blurred ink on a page about ‘safety in warm ups’ and remember running TWENTY TWO separate 10 minute warm ups and flinch. On one of the pages it looks like a person with hand shakes wrote it BECAUSE I HAD HAND SHAKES from all the focus mitt rounds.

It was 3 days of sweat. Of grunts. Of looking Ashleyann in the eyes and us knowing we were gonna drag each other through it by the scruff of our necks if needed. Of some of the most disgusting laundry you’ve ever smelled. More sweat. Paging through the KMA manual after I accidentally taught a Level 2 technique on my first day. Eating anything at all because MY BODY WANTED IT (and frankly, had earned it). You want steak, body? I will put steak in there. You want a burger, body? Let’s put an egg on it, we fancy.

I wish I knew another way to tell you: it was tough. And we did it.

We made 18 new friends (20 if we’re counting Tony and Vinny). Look at our beautiful faces after Tony said Day 3 was complete.

There were 2 other guys from a different Chicago KMA gym, one of which Ashleyann had gone to high school with! SMALL WORLD Y’ALL; Joe & Nick, masters of their domains and I know in my cynical little improvisor’s heart that Joe must do stand up somewhere in this city and I.Will.Find.It. #artofmonkeypaws

We met Maddie from Krav Maga Detroit, who is welcome to have some adjunct training/traveling badass professorship at our gym all day any day.

And so many other people–the whole ABD family from multiple locations, you are wonderful, strong gargoyles and I’m proud to have sweat all over you and also to have bought one of your t shirts, even though I can’t teach in it.

My Oscar list of thanks is gonna get long, so pop in “Lose Yourself” because you know that was the song of the week and settle in.

Thank you to America’s Best Defense in North Attleboro for hosting us. You have an awesome facility and I’m 96% sure it’s weathered for the upcoming zombie apocalypse in that little woods nook; your people however, shine in that place and I’m so happy we got to meet and train with them.

To Soke Tony Morrison, who ran our test, thank you for pushing me/us. Thank you for letting me run Sunday warmups after my Saturday ones weren’t up to my standards. That was immensely needed and I appreciate it. We were warned that certifying instructors could be intense and sometimes difficult to testers; I’ve never been so happy to have received bad information. At all times we felt like you liked us, you wanted to see us succeed and gave us relevant, helpful feedback on our work. Thank you.

To our fellow testers: y’all fierce as HELL. There was no weak link. Everyone went hard and everyone is someone I would let sleep on my extremely comfortable couch. Thank you for the encouragement, the feedback, the laughs and the Boston food/drink recommendations we did not take because we discovered our hot tub had a jacuzzi and that was the end of ‘let’s go to downtown Boston.’ I would listen to your accents all day, every day.

Titan Gym: thank you for believing that I was a badass even when I didn’t. I’m still surprised you saw in me what I didn’t see in myself. I’m grateful for the sweat I have left and learned on your floors, the Romanian moonshine consumed in the wee hours and the students I am privileged to make run around, listen to Pitbull and grow in their skills. I promise to keep bringing you terrible puns and hearty grunts.

To Michelle and Nicole: Thank you for being badass lady doctors and my friends. Seriously, y’all are great. We teach at weird, different hours and don’t see each other a lot but this weekend I felt like we all 4 became a unit; we loved and supported even though I was scared out of my support leggings. I’m so happy to have been a part of your journey and to have seen that moment when Nicole’s eyes turned shark black and I almost lost a tooth. I couldn’t have asked for better people to have gone with Ashleyann and I and believe me when I say I would rub a lacrosse ball across your shoulders any day.

Ash: we did it. We damn well did it. There is no one in that gym that knows me better. That has seen me cry as much, sweat as much, nervously fart as much. We’ve spent hours talking and training and cleaning and I’m so happy that we went on this ride together. I’m a firm believer in arranged marriages after this year and a half. I love you and I love that you wouldn’t let me quit or run during this long season. You truly take joy in teaching and loving your students and Diamond and you inspire me to re-invest my heart in it too. I 100% love you and I am a better woman having done this with you.

This is Ash pulling apart her Gatorade plastic rings “for the turtles.” She’s the best.

My name is Alyssa Bailey and I’m now a Krav Maga Alliance certified Instructor of Krav Maga Level 1. I teach at 8am on Saturdays and 9am on Sundays at Titan Gym near Belmont & Western in Chicago, IL and dance terribly to ‘encourage’ my students during those times.

I have survived the most difficult testing of my life and the next person who asks ‘how was your vacation in Massachusetts?’ Better hope they know a 360 defense for a backhand slap. 💪🏻👯‍♀️👯‍♀️💕

The KMA Way

Hair tightly braided, deodorant applied, electrolyte tablets packed.

3am wake up to eat steak and potatoes, back to sleep. Packed lunches, 3 sets of hand wraps, 2 sets of gloves. Headgear. Shin guards.

My internal dialogue is alternating between the Dune litany on fear, Psalm 91 and positive mantras like those on kitten posters.

Now the only way is through *insert kitten poster* 💪🏻🐱

#InstructorsOrBust

Mom.

Flowers have always made me think of my Mom. Any city, state, or country I’m in–I take photos of flowers and send them to her. If there’s a photo of a flower in my phone, I’ve sent it. Beautiful, fragile, smells good (or not at all), vibrant, weird, defiant; I’ll always associate flowers with her.

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I’ve been home for Mother’s Day once since I was 21. 22 I was in Morocco, 23 in Oklahoma, 24 in Arkansas, 25 I was actually home because I was in that transition 2 weeks before Korea, 26 & 27 in Korea, 28-30 in Chicago.

I remember as a kid that we always tried to do something to surprise our Mom. Countless sloshes of Lipton tea on the carpet trying to sneak up the stairs, flowers we’d cut out of her own flowerbed (lovingly frowned upon, but allowed because it’s the thought that counts) and trying to quietly clank dishes we as we attempted to make an edible breakfast.

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It’s strange to think of where my Mom was at 30. 3 kids (9, 6 and not-quite 3) and somehow keeping us all fed and clothed and the house in order and still kept flowers alive. Now that I’m 30 I realize a thimbleful of the sheer force of will and emotional labor that takes–and I say that as someone looking in, not someone who has lived through it.

I get frustrated at my own proclivity for laundry procrastination–I can’t imagine raising a 9-year old curious, sports-loving boy, a 6-year old bookworm who regularly stole all the batteries in the house to read books by flashlight under her blankets *raises hand* and a 2-year old who ate 97% Cheerios for breakfast-lunch-dinner (the other 3% was just milk in a glass). I would have had leashes on us in 30 seconds.

Balancing us and Dad and her own life and parents and groceries and church and cleaning house and a dog must have been hard. I never saw it though. I can break into tears at the mere thought of an Olympian ‘chasing their dreams’ commercial on NBC, but I don’t really remember my Mom crying often as a kid. Except for when I broke her mixing bowl trying to get my whole head in it to lick the bowl. That was a bad one.

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I outgrew my 5’3″ Mom in 5th grade and figured that was the end of looking like her. My coloring is my Dad, my height is my Dad, my humor is my Dad’s. If you see a picture of my Dad, it’s so clear. There was no hospital mix up. It’s harder for me to see my Mom in me. Other than our eye color (#teamhazel), there’s not as much physical resemblance as my other sisters have. She is small and rocks things with heels & pink & ruffles and I wear a size 11 shoe and own so many sweatshirts that I might/probably/definitely have a hoarding problem.

But sometimes I see it my actions rather than my body. I see my Mom in me when I do that laugh-so-hard-I-can’t-breathe-and-might-need-to-step-out-to-pee. I see my Mom when I grab someone else’s plate as I clean up. I see my Mom when I do a job until it’s done, even if it’s a gross/boring/mindless thing. I see my Mom in how I fold shirts and towels and socks. I see her in how I cook food or throw tupperware haphazardly in the cupboard and shut the door to not see the disorganization. I hear my Mom in every harmony I sing and every time Fur Elise plays anywhere–in an elevator, on a ring tone, in a store.

Sometimes I buy flowers for my house and it feels like a piece of her is here. I made spaghetti tonight and I could hear her telling me to shake in more dried onion. I’ll put on makeup and hear her imploring me to put a little color on my lips rather than just chapstick.

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It feels selfish to say I miss my Mom when I know I’m the one who leaves. I see my Mom 2, maybe 3 times a year if I’m lucky, and that is 100% on me and my itchy feet. But despite my choices, my Mom is always there at the airport (except when I surprise her). She is always going to pull my head onto her lap and run her fingers through my hair, no matter how grown I am. She is thoughtful and caring and tough in ways I will never know.

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There’s a lilac tree under my Mom’s window. It used to be in the flower mound at our old house, and that smell will always be home and Mom to me. There’s a lilac tree down the street from me in Chicago, on the walk home from the grocery store. I forgot about it until today. Spring is a little late in Chicago, what with it still snowing less than a month ago.

I stopped under the lilac tree this afternoon–which must have just recently bloomed–holding all my groceries. It’s perfectly the same. Exactly the same shade and smell. There was a plump purple bunch just above me. I pushed on my toes and closed my eyes and felt a raindrop from the earlier storm roll down my cheek as my nose touched the blooms and my whole body felt like I was home. Sitting under my Mom’s window, feeling the Washington rain and my heart wanted her near.

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If you are with your Mom today, squeeze her tight. I know I’ll get to FaceTime mine and hear that some of these aforementioned memories aren’t fully formed or that I gave her too much credit. My Mom is gorgeous, a dynamo, a force. She is short and beautiful and tough and loves her 3 grand babies and is cute as a bug rocking her bluetooth headphones.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. I’ll love you forever and like you for always. I’m probably going to go stand under that lilac tree with my eyes closed, loudly sniffing until the owner sends his pet duck (yes, you read that right) out to shoo me away.

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