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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Paper Anniversary: Chicago

One. Whole. Year. In Chicago.

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What happened?

  • Got rehired at a great job; free transit, great co-workers and tolerable dad jokes.
  • Started classes at Xavier’s School For Clowns Who Think They Funny
  • Found legit big apartment with 2 roommates who were equally legit and has affordable rent in a safe and cute neighborhood.
  • Discovered 7-Eleven’s rewards program where they give me a free soda after I buy 7 and 7 is God’s number…so…7-Eleven is now the church of Diet Coke.
  • Began attending a Krav Maga gym full of loony characters and lovable idiots. I even voluntarily went camping with them in June.
  • Joined a survey through Northwestern University to kick my own butt about being healthier: it’s just tracking food and tracking activity. That’s it (30lbs down)!
  • Got new roommate that has a BEER FRIDGE and seriously, if that’s not enough she’s the only person who asked me about my life in the interview. #numbah1draftpick
  • Graduated from Second City’s A-E Improv Program after a first-day-of-class fire happened.
  • Ran in the Color Run for the 2nd time, got 2x as much powder and was a magical unicorn.
  • Saw so many ridiculously good sketch shows and improv sets and women being bold as all hell in their comedy. Inspiring and challenging.
  • Took a Korean class and surprisingly, got an award for being the top student in our class. Also won a pound of coffee for making a shoddy keynote, but caffeine addicts such as myself refuse to recheck the numbers.
  • Helped write a Second City Student Revue with 6 of my favorite classmates of the aforementioned Xavier’s School FCWTTF.
    • Shows will be August 26, September 2, 9, 16 and 23rd (more info to follow)
  • Went home to Washington State and was invited to perform at the Upfront Theatre in Bellingham. My family and friends (all 15 of you!) got to see what I’ve chosen to move halfway around the world for…and I got to perform with their incredibly welcoming MainStage team, including the OG himself, Ryan Stiles.
  • Eaten 4 deep dish pizzas, 2 Chicago hot dogs (sans ketchup, natch), 1 Italian beef (dipped) and 1 Old Style Beer.
  • Created a 90s-themed improv show “And A Bag Of Chips” with my babes from Coached Ensemble and we SOLD OUT THE THEATER.
  • Purchased 1 Cubs hat and 0 Bulls, Bears or Blackhawks gear; attended 0 professional sports games.
  • Complained about “Lolla” approximately 4x this weekend and took a picture of 2 17-year olds sitting shirtless on the floor of my Brown line train. Fools! *shakes grandma fist*

It’s been a great year, y’all. It’s not all sunshine and Sears Tower ledges and Aidy Bryant sightings and there’s sometimes more loneliness and tears than I’d like to admit, but overall this still feels like the right place for right now. I’m learning and growing. Plus, most of the people I’ve met are pretty darn great. I’m proud of doing this so far.

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To us, Chicago. Get me a good gift. Preferably one with cheese on it.

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Yes, and watch me now.

I’ve graduated from several things. High school, college, CELTA, potty training (debatable)–and today, I graduated from Second City’s Improv Program.

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10 months ago I moved to Chicago. I had no long-term housing, only 10 hangers, and didn’t know anyone. On a muggy Wednesday last August, I sat in a room with 19 strangers and wondered if this would be my tribe.

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Was I right in having moved halfway around the world from Korea for this? Would they get me? When would I eat Korean BBQ again (still unanswered, which is unacceptable)?

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Then…a woman with a foreign accent slammed open the door and shouted “You must get out of building, the roof is on fire!”

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And ever since then, we’ve been stuck with each other. Sure, we’ve subtracted and added some members as the months went on; scheduling and life and new jobs and such, but overall, these people were my lifeline.

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I don’t think I’ve ever looked forward to Wednesdays so much. From 11am-2pm I got to see these stone-cold weirdos, then eat lunch and frantically scribble nonsense for my 4-7pm Writing class, which will continue until August.

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It feels pretty unreal to think that next Wednesday morning I won’t see them. Not Jolie’s I-just-came-from-the-gym-but-I-probably-look-better-than-you-did-at-prom stylings, nor Scott’s this-is-just-improv-but-I’m-singing-this-operatic-scene-like-the-pro-I-am and Patrick’s I-broke-my-kid’s-ankle-beating-him-in-capture-the-flag moves.

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These people have supported me, loved me, encouraged me, let me cry on them (even ugly cry) and championed me in ways I haven’t deserved. We were all just a group of strangers trying to follow our fear or defeat our anxiety or live our dream and our willingness to be open on this journey and love each other has changed my life. Not a joke.

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I promised myself (and my family and friends and the rest of y’all) that I was going to give this comedy thing at least a year. I owed it to myself to try it. To see if it’s a real thing, a true thing, or if it’s a fling.

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I think it’s a thing, guys. And I’m not going anywhere yet.

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Summer Isn’t Made For Me.

*Press play on this video as you read. Trust me.

With the warmer weather approaching, it’s time for me and my kind to go into hibernation. You know, us melatonin-deprived, bread-dough people made from leftover envelope glue. We are the blinding legs of fathers in shorts at Disneyland. Us descendants of Irish immigrant dreams can’t survive out here with you kayaking, sun-kissed, athletic goddesses. We are made for Renaissance paintings and splashes of brightly colored hipster sparrow tattoos on our collarbones, for 3:47am internet searches about how many toes does a sloth have and hissing in the dark as someone opens a window shade before 9pm. As Ghosts of Christmas Past we long for sunlight but know it is a one-sided love. We are pale Hades covered in Coppertone and you are Persephone, dewey with sweat that doesn’t smell and we lust for you to love us. And yet you will not. You scorch us and scald us and leave melanoma on our outer left forearms in your Vitamin D infused wake. We apply an onion’s worth of sunscreen layers and still you refuse to let us be in live action mountain-climbing ads for Viagra. We are the pasty legion on the beach covered from toe to fingertip and your great-aunt’s floppy straw hat that has seen too many vampire books come and go. We are those that do go quietly into that good night because the day is a living hell at 74 degrees. We are oozing our sunburned, lobster-red meat sacks into a pool made only of aloe vera and sweet tea and it feels like heaven. Go have your Victoria’s Secret Pink tunics and Tevas and hikes up Laurel Canyon. You’ll see us in a couple of months, when the crisp leaves fall and the great Ugg Boot in the sky is in retrograde. When we unfurl our receipt paper limbs into leggings and boots and thigh-high socks and emerge at full strength, powered by Pumpkin Spice and our cold, Voldemort hearts wrapped in scarves filched from a Forever 21 Power Sale. But until then, enjoy the warmer weather, you beautiful tan manatees. Don’t take your powers for granted. We’ll be watching you from our iPhone-powered drones and weeping orange spray tan tears into our hordes of inspirational quote Etsy mugs as we whisper to ourselves, “the dark never bothered me anyways.”

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*I wrote this for my “Writing for Late Night TV” class at Second City; we learn about different bits and styles for late night hosts such as Colbert, Conan, Fallon, et al. This week we were working on rants, where the host goes off on a 1-4 minute diatribe. My vision for this was Colbert shaking his fist at warmer weather and how us alabaster souls long for it and yet cringe from it.

*I also recognize how ridiculous it is to be a crybaby about being “too white” when cultural norms in certain parts of the world falsely goad people into skin-whitening creams in order to be attractive, or place higher safety or value on lighter skin.

*Written indoors on a sunny day by me, a professional vampire.

Bye, 2015.

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January 2015/Lynden, WA, USA

  • I Visited two new countries: the Philippines (Part 1 and Part 2) and Japan. Yay for new passport stamps! Wait, I have to renew it this year?!

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  • Left and moved out of Korea after 2 years. I still miss it. And people.tumblr_msn0n7V24s1rsnz70o1_500
  • Did my first ever stand-up in Seoul. Don’t be sad you missed it. Truly not a knock out.

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  • Moved to Chicago and invested in all wool and down everything. I need to google if they make wool bras EDIT: THEY DO!

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  • Kissed my 3rd guy ever. Unleash your gasps, it’s true!

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  • Went to BigBang’s concert, not one, but TWICE, in Seoul. I thought “I’ll never get to do this again,” so I rolled hard. Such fun. Very sweat. Much happy.

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  • Took classes at Second City in improv and writing (adding stand-up, voiceover and acting in 2016); but the best part is that I’ve met new friends that I love and mentors that I want to work with.

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  • Auditioned for and got on an Open Ensembles team on my first try and I am beside myself to be a member of team Dryer Sheet and our first show is a week from now. Exactly.

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  • Became an aunt for the second time, her name is Olivia and I miss her baby smell even though I just saw her 5 days ago.

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  • Was able to see family 3x (January, July and December), which is some kind of a record for me! I love those goons. They’re mine.

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  • Saw Lee Min Ho aka ‘God of Asia’ in person outside an H&M and there is some serious witchcraft in those cheekbones, y’all. No one should be that handsome in real life.
  • Performed in “Almost, Maine” with Spencer and watched his butt fall in love with a bookshelf.
  • Figured out how to order Pizza Hut 4 months before I left because Korean McDonald’s broke my heart.
  • Saw Illionare’s 4th Anniversary concert in Daegu and guys, Beenzino is for real, hot. And Dok2 is for real, short. And The Quiett is for real, not memorable. But throw them hands up!

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  • Got rehired at the one of the best companies in the world and, surprise! I didn’t forget everything.

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  • Bought a bed brand new and they are hella expensive. But I’m sitting on it right now and my butt is really happy.

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  • Got really lucky and met two really nice roommates on Craigslist and now I live with them and I don’t worry about the bottles of blood in the fridge.

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  • Joined a weight loss study sponsored by a university here and I’m looking forward to making some changes and having free help to do so.
  • Two friends have visited me already in Chicago–thanks Brooke and Dana for eating food I cooked and letting me tag along in you tourist adventures because I’m like, seasoned now (I’m not), and of course I’m too cool for the Bean (I’m not) and I’m totally a pro at the L (I’m not).
  • Consumed a horde of great shows and movies and fell head over heels for Spencer Reid Matthew Gray Gubler on Criminal Minds and this is all Toshira’s fault for hyping him/it for like 5 years. And now I have less than 1 season left to go and I’m not emotionally prepared to say goodbye.

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  • ADELE HAD A COMEBACK, I’M STILL RECOVERING

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It was a damn fine year. Bye, 2015. So long and thanks for all the fish.

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Currently.

 

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December 2015/Chicago, IL, USA