A Big Year in Review

This year has been absolutely bonkers for so many of us. I started the year thinking I’d been in Africa summiting Kili before Spring…and definitely got some surprises along the way. Some beautiful chapters came to their conclusion and new ones (some expected, some not) cropped up too ✨

January

  • January 12th I got the call! KILI FEBRUARY IS A GO! Bought flight tickets!
  • THE NEXT MORNING get a call that it’s cancelled. As is their March trip, due to new US travel rules kicking in on 1/25 requiring a PCR test within 72 hours of arrival back into the US. With the long trip/transfer time in Amsterdam and very few resources in Tanzania…”there’s a chance you could get stuck mid-way and we don’t want that.” Honestly tho leave me stuck there, please?
  • The next date I could possibly go is June, but most likely (since I already have Baker in July), in September. I feel…lethargic. And don’t know why I should bother training, etc. It’s a perfect storm of cold and disappointment and loneliness post-holidays.
  • I drink some bourbon and eat a bunch of tacos and wallow. I try to rally and bootstrap, etc. to middling results. I write about it.

February

  • February is really hard. It’s cold, the weather is trash, I feel no drive to ‘try’ and my original departure date is coming. I have to remove all my OOO calendar dates from my work cal, disappointed.
  • I’m proud though, that I proactively realized the day would be hard and I take it off. I get my nails done, haircut and treat myself to my favorite bakery and a wander through my favorite used bookstore.
  • The day I ‘should’ be summitting is even harder and I didn’t realize how it would carve me up emotionally. My next possible summit date is 7 months away, which in COVID times feels like the same thing might happen again. How can I be hopeful when a new strain or issue might pop up then too?

March

  • Bought myself a ‘push present’ or just a rally gift of a necklace that says ‘Ad Astra Per Aspera’ aka ‘through hardships to the stars’ and it feels right.
  • Tried on my ‘big’ 65L backpack that I’ve had for like 4 years that still has the tag on! This 65L Osprey pack I got on a screaming deal at REI several years ago is gonna be my Baker bag.
  • VACCINATED! I qualified by being obese according to the BMI (the BMI is a trash measurement, check out this amazing podcast ep by Maintenance Phase) so I spent Friday refreshing the Cook County website until a spot popped up 1 hour away in Tinley Park. I snagged it then scrambled to apple and aquire a Zipcar membership – I do! I get a J&J shot and cry I’m so happy. It feels like finally we’re turning a corner on my loneliness/end of this thing.

April

May

  • Former neighbors Jason & Regan get married! First wedding I’ve been to since 2018! I mistimed/forgot that I’d lose an hour jumping ahead to ET (it was in Michigan) and changed into my jumpsuit in the 2-door rental car and put on makeup, all in 12min, walking in 2 mins before ceremony started.
  • Applied for Discovery Channel’s tv show ‘Who Wants to be an Astronaut?’ and well, they called! I know! I kept it on the DL for so long! I had a Zoom call/recorded conversation with producers twice; one the end of May and one the beginning of June. No calls since so my dreams of hugging Mike Massimino are squashed (for now). Seriously though if they call back? I WILL LEAVE YOU ALL AND GO TO SPACE or at least go to Houston and hang with Bekah and the dogs for a few weeks.
  • I go to Little Rock for Memorial Day weekend (I’m only one year late) and see my loves, eat my faves, stub my toe and I’m 94% sure I broke it.
  • Check out the altitude room at Well Fit for the first time – since Chicago is hella flat/sea level – Brian and I go to check out this tool to practice acclimatizing for Baker (and Kili).

June

  • Make my first ever mint julep! And from mint I grew!
  • Lots and lots of altitude gym; truly a weird flex to wheeze and start panting during the WARMUP
  • Long long walks; 5+ hours, we’ll taper in July to Baker
  • Tornado alert – the sirens go off so much in one day that I actually pack a bag and set shoes by my door to go to the basement
  • Start taking Photo I at Chicago Photo Classes

July

  • Go into the office for the first time in 14 months and see several of my faves – we’re hopeful and happy and yet – I don’t go back until post-Kili. I don’t want to risk getting sick pre-Baker nor in my 6 weeks to Kili window.
  • Made my first charcuterie board using a gorgeous board my dad made me from a maple on my parents’ property
  • I go home to climb my first mountain! With my sister Brianna, I summitted Mt. Baker (10,781ft/3286m), our ‘hometown mountain.’
  • Cast on Laugh out Loud’s comedy improv ensemble! I can still do make believe!

August

  • Longest walks of my life. I am running out of podcasts/music to listen to for 5+ hours on Sundays. My PR: 6H22M, aka 18.9 miles on 8/22
  • On 8/10 they call: THE TRIP IS A GO. It almost wasn’t though; they let me know one other guy signed up for September just a few days ago. So it’ll be the pair of us.
  • Hit some truly creepy O2/pulse ox numbers in the altitude room on the 14,000ft Saturdays; broke 55% one day.
  • Last piece of Kili gear acquired with the addition of a Kula cloth! Check out my full gear list (including what I actually used/was worth it)!

September

  • September 1-9 feels like a fever dream. PCR tests and check ins and packing over Labor Day weekend and delivering on some truly wild work things before my Friday, 9/10 flight.
  • KILIMANJARO BAYBEE! Summitted at dawn on Monday, 9/20/21
  • Safari, Serengeti, Ngorogoro, I left some chunks of my heart and soul in Tanzania
  • ^^ still writing about it!

October

  • Life feels weird – things are still happening but THINGS have happened to me (Kili) and I’m not over it. I feel a need to come up with a new driving focus; a reason to workout or be healthy or just give my life structure. I don’t know what to do with myself but answer everyone with ‘it was great.’
  • Go on my first adult ‘Girls Trip’ with a bunch of phenomenal female improvisers to a lake house in Michigan; visiting a distillery and laughing until we cried.
  • Take myself out on a date to see Dune at the Davis and dress up
  • Start my first ever modern dance class – at Old Town School of Music
  • Dress up like Lydia Deetz and crushed it out in the ‘burbs at Jason & Regan’s house

November

  • Met up with Marissa and Bhavini; we met through Well Fit (the altitude gym) but never met in person until now! Marissa went the month before me and Bhavini 2 weeks after me!
  • My coworker Matt goes and climbs Kili on the Marangu route (5 days) vs my 8 day Lemosho route. I feel homesick for a place I only was in for 2.5 weeks.
  • Got a homemade Thanksgiving dinner from a neighbor
  • BOOSTER BAYBEE! Get yer boosters when you’re eligible!

December

  • First ever trip to Florida for Robbie & Barry’s wedding! Kayaking and gowns and beaches and Japanese gardens and weird wonderful vintage stores.
  • My first Laugh Out Loud show! And first live improv show in over 630 days.
  • Home with the fam for 2 weeks, soaking in the love, having my birthday and a Christmas and a ton of snow.

It was a full year. Big dips, big wins, stood on top of multiple mountains, celebrated hard, long-fought joys and saw family 3x in one year. Crushed some huge work projects. Achieved a big dream for a big girl and I’m pretty damn proud. Onward and upward, pals.

In Transit

It’s been awhile since I’ve traveled internationally – but more than that – it’s been 6+ years since I traveled somewhere new internationally. I forgot how fun it is to have a completely new experience. To blend nerves and discovery together and not be totally sure it’ll work.

I slept most of the way to Amsterdam; a good plan on an 8-hour flight that left Chicago at 4pm. We descended through the misty, Seattle-esque clouds around 7am local time and I was looking forward to hanging out in a lounge for the 4-hour layover, using them sweet lil credit card perks, only to find out it was closed. Boooooooooo! C’mon capitalism! Do your girl a solid! Instead I snagged an iced coffee (I mean, it was Seattle weather), watched some Ted Lasso and did a 10-minute meditation in a quiet nook of the terminal.

Waiting to board the AMS > JRO leg, I saw so many people at the gate who looked like me – daypack, hiking boots, REI-ish layers – and had that same feeling: what are y’all doing on my special adventure?! On one hand I’m aware many, many people go to Kilimanjaro (and Tanzania, the Serengeti, etc.) in general and on the other hand it felt odd to have spent 2 years overall preparing for this thing so incredibly solo (being isolated in a pandemic, living/working out alone, etc. for the past year and a half) but being surrounded by other people realizing their dream ON THE SAME DAY AS ME. I may be your only friend/family/person to climb Kilimanjaro but trust me; there’s literally hundreds of us at any given time.

After an easy, uneventful 8-hour leg south to JRO, we arrived around 9pm local time. Seated in row 43 of 45, it took me awhile to get off the plane. I almost vibrated with palpable excitement, looking out the window at the bright letters KILIMANJARO INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT. We rushed outside, groaning with relief in stretching our legs…to get into line. A huge line. A cozy, 75 degree darkness enveloped us, sandwiched between the outer walls of the airport and the massive KLM jetliner we’d evacuated, bottlenecking to be paperwork-checked.

  1. Get in 300+ person line and slowly get to the front of the pack.
  2. Get waved over to one of 10 people checking paperwork, temperatures and IDs.
  3. Paperwork approved, temp check ok – go stand in a different line to pay the $10 COVID test fee – with a credit card machine that is out of receipt paper so they’re handwriting/stamping all receipts, taking forever
  4. Go inside, get pretty thorough COVID rapid test up the schnozz
  5. Booty barely touching the waiting area seat when they loudly call your FULL GROWN FIRSTNAME MIDDLENAME LASTNAME and hand me the (thankfully) Negative results
  6. Get in different line to get a visa, fill out paperwork, scan all ya fingerprints, you’re Jason Bourne now
  7. Pay $100 for the privilege of the finger scanning
  8. Go to a different window to get a receipt for paying $100 for the Bourne finger scan
  9. Go get your bags from the floor (they’ve been nicely pulled from the carousel and set in a line with the other hundred bags, watched over by airport staff)
    ***It’s been 2 hours since you landed***
  10. Bathroom break
  11. Put all bags (including carry on) back through another X-ray machine so you can leave. X-ray attendant is halfheartedly scrolling on their phone.
  12. Finally emerge out into the night, where 50 Tanzanian men are all holding signs with various safari company names on them in varying fonts and font sizes

Honestly? I just started scanning left to right. I was the only person to walk out the door at that moment, so they’re all just watching me stand there, eyeballs glazed over. I started at my 9 o’clock and was going clockwise through all the names, standing in one spot like a spooked baby horse when – suddenly – out of nowhere this guy pops through the ring of men, saying “Mountain Madness?”

“YES” I gratefully breathed as he and another guy, fully masked, took my bags and led me past the other guide companies, closer to the parking lot. “I’m Ben” and “I’m Geoffrey,” they added, as I felt my shoulders finally droop below my ears. Someone else was in charge now. I could rest. There was no more big, solo decisions to make, things to coordinate, etc. It was a relief to have someone else take the wheel.

I think that was one of the things I was most looking forward to on this trip and I didn’t fully realize it until I got back home. There’s only a few people that I’ve talked to about it that really get this, and they’re also single women. Its not unique to us but there’s a unique perspective to it. It’s exhausting to have to do all the things alone. Not just the tasks of living (although that’s a lot) but also the decision-making, the weighing of options, the research, etc. When you’re in a couple (or family) you can take turns wearing those hats, even if one of you does it most of the time, it’s rarely all of the time for all of the things.

You have to get up for work no one is going to wake you up so set your alarm ok it’s time get up and decide what to wear I’m hungry but what are you gonna eat you should use that cookbook that mom got you or maybe just get on google and type in the ingredients you have and see what looks good do not open Grubhub you’ll never cook and those bell peppers are 84 years old in the drawer you gotta do it today or they’re going to rot on you ok I found 2 recipes for stuffed peppers well when are you going to cook it you just started another episode of L&O SVU ok but are you going to eat it like a wolf out of the pot because why get another plate dirty it’s just you and you’ll have to wash that dish oh you’ve just used the same 3 dishes for the last week that’s ok who’s gonna know oh lord that trash has gotta go out I’ve pushed it down too long gotta take the rent check to the post box on the corner tomorrow or it’ll be late I also gotta look at flight times so Mom knows when I’m coming home for the holidays but need to check and be sure it doesn’t conflict with work or theater schedule are my plants dying? when’s the last time they were watered – well – if I didn’t do it then no one did it…etc. etc. etc.

I know there’s beauty in the freedom to make my own choices and it’s a privilege to have the financial flexibility to live alone. Most of the time I’m aware and grateful for it but sometimes it catches up to you – that mental & emotional labor – and the fact that you can’t take all the hats off. The Beret of Personal Responsibility is glued on, y’all.

Standing in the black-velvet Tanzanian night outside the airport, there was a palpable, physical (and mental and emotional) sigh, listening to the bugs softly chirp, a light breeze soothing my almost 24-hours of travel soul. Someone. else. was. in. charge. I took a step away, pulled down my mask and gazed up at the star-flecked sky, gulping in fresh air and rubbing the mask lines imprinted on my scalp. I could rest now. I’d done everything right – I’d trained, I’d prepared, I’d executed, I’d been in the right places at the right times with the right paperwork and my reward was finally here – someone else in control. Glorious.

We tossed our duffels and bags in a khaki-colored Toyota Land Cruiser and started the 90-minute drive out to Arusha National Park and Itikoni private camp, where Mountain Madness has taken clients for decades. It was just after midnight, but to J (our other hiker) and I it was about 4-5pm to our stateside origin bodies. With our whole car vaccinated (and J and I very freshly PCR tested (in the states pre-flight) and rapid tested (about 1 hour ago in the KIA airport) negative for COVID), we took off our masks and happily chattered away. I didn’t even know J’s name before I left the country yesterday and was about to spend a week+ on a mountain with him and the guides, so I was curious.

We turn off the main road into Arusha National Park and put the Land Cruiser into 4-wheel drive for the rugged, teeth-jostling final 30 minutes of the trail. It was too dark to take any photos but we leaned forward, hopeful we’d see a critter or two illuminated in the hazy lights of the car, and were rewarded with half-glimpses of a giraffe and a cape buffalo just off the road. Pulling into Itikoni just shy of 2am, we were taken to the mess tent and introduced to Po, who had made a full meal for us.

Y’all, I know my brain was like ‘hey girl, it’s only 6pm-ish’ but also, after 24 hours of travel I was ready to big sleep. And here an incredibly nice crew made us a full multi-course meal – tangy, brightly-colored salad, freshly sliced steak, even a hand-crafted dessert – and were smiling, waiting for us to eat. They offered me a beer or a glass of wine but I knew I’d be out before we hit ‘asante’ if I did. When my eyelids were heavy and belly full, Ben, Geoffrey and our armed camp ranger, Tony, walked us to our spacious private tents and after a brief tour (how to use the toilet, wash my face, take a shower, and to not to leave the tent while it was dark (there was an emergency whistle if I felt unsafe!)), I said goodnight, zipped the inner and outer tent door and crawled into bed just before 3am, pulled up my sleep mask, squished in my earplugs and slept a deep, dreamless, thankful sleep.

Note to self: Panoramas in split light are…not great. Left side is a desk, 2 coat racks, 2 benches for luggage (1 per person for a couple), behind back ‘wall’ is toilet, shower, double sinks, hot water thermos for washing my face, etc. My back is to the front of the tent, including thick canvas double-zip door.

[Sidebar pro-tip if you’re going to KIA in the next year-ish: You can pre-pay your COVID test and you can pre-file/get your Tanzania visa online but I didn’t pre-do either and still beat the other travel/hiker in our group out of the airport by 20+ minutes. Normally I would have pre-done both but, shrug, six of one and a half-dozen of the other, you know?]

Next Up: Itikoni Camp & Arusha National Park (Days 2-3)

  • Baboon Danny Ocean
  • Swahili 101
  • We get up close and personal with why our camp ranger carries a bolt action rifle

Finally.

I stared at the ‘Out of Office’ banner splashed across the top of my work Gmail and gave a half-hearted cackle and fist pump – and then couldn’t stop – I stood up and suddenly it was way too hot. I whipped my shirt off and just stood in the middle of my living room having a Disney villain moment clad in a sports bra.

“It’s happening,” I muttered to myself in increasingly loud increments. I ran to the bathroom to look at my face and said it in the mirror like a mantra. “It’s HAPPENING. It’s hApPeNiNg.” I put on some music and couldn’t stop dancing maniacally. If you think this is a fever dream/memory – here’s proof:

Yeah, it’s a video, and yeah, I’m taking that one to the grave.

Everything to be done was done.

  • The packing – ✅
  • The PCR COVID test – ✅ – and results were in: NEGATIVE
  • The OOO Gmail, Slack, etc. for work – ✅
  • Someone to water the plants & grab mail – ✅
  • The fridge food – eaten – ✅ (and the next day’s breakfast & lunch set up ✅)
  • Downloads of podcasts, support videos (friends, parents, my trainer Brian), audiobooks, book books, etc. – ✅
  • House cleaned top to bottom – ✅
  • Travel outfit set out – ✅
  • Folder of critical travel documents, copy of passport, trip insurance, TZ address for on-the-ground Visa, etc. – ✅

All there was left to do was execute on the plan.

Day 0 – Friday, September 10

I remember thinking, ‘wow, what if I don’t sleep tonight? I’ll be so excited the adrenaline will probably keep me up.’ And promptly knocked out around 11. I set a 9am safety net alarm, but woke up around 7:30am – my flight not being until 4pm. I made a french press of coffee and sat quietly on the couch, drinking it slowly and looking at my bags. I had a checklist on the door of final things to confirm while going out (take out trash, triple check you locked the door), and a smaller one on the kitchen table for different final things like a gov’t form I had to complete w/in 24 hours of arrival in TZ and writing Katie a note about my plant children’s care, writing my rent check, etc.

I’d fortified myself – a weird word, but true – with emotional boosts, should I need them. My fresh journal has a ton of recently-installed stickers, phrases and quotes making me think of places or people or feelings that would help lift my moods on tough days/nights.

  • Mt. Baker, celebrating my first summit
  • A Bryce Canyon groundhog that makes me think of my sisters ‘ALAN! ALAN!’ joke in AZ & Zion
  • The fear litany poem from Dune
  • A beautifully terrifying Gritty masterpiece from Dana & Adam
  • A fortune cookie stating “Depend on your feet, you can climb the highest mountain’ I got about 5 years ago
  • 2 excerpts from Psalms (121 & 139)
  • Some manual camera settings for night photography (that I did not use)
  • 3 Instax polaroids of my friends/family
  • Korean sticker saying 대박 – ‘awesome’
  • “The finish line is for the ego, the journey is for the soul” quote that’s followed me across this 2-year saga
  • A card tucked inside with a quote from St. Therese of Liseaux (also attributed to St. Therese of Avila and Minnie Louise Haskins 1908 book of poems, but still hits me): “Today may there be peace within, may you trust that you are exactly where you are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith in yourself and others. May you use the gifts that you have received and pass on the love that has been given to you. May you be content with yourself just the way you are. Let this knowledge settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love. It is there for each and every one of us.”

I felt as prepared as prepared could be. The week before the trip everyone kept asking ‘do you feel ready?’ And I did. Body, mind and spirit – I was ready to go – there were no more muscles to build or last-minute-shove-this-in-the-bag epiphanies or frantic items to buy.

A friend came by and picked me up around 1:15pm to head to the airport and I finally breathed out – we were on the path – plan in motion. We missed our airport turnoff and laughed, looping around and finding a modified route back to Terminal 5, O’Hare’s international wing.

4 bags surrounded me: North Face 71L Base Camp mountain duffel, medium-size suitcase, 35L hiking pack on my back, and my Mountainsmith Tour bag on my shoulder with things I’d actually need during transit (travel folder, passport, all camera gear, phone, electronics, book, sunglasses, possible three hand sanitizers?). As I navigated the airport, I thought, ‘I don’t think I’ve had to do a full 4-bags airport dance since I moved back from Korea 6 years ago.’

In line for KLM, I found myself – shockingly – unaware of a form I needed. I felt my spine lock up until the rep said ‘just scan this QR code and you can fill it out online.’ Rapidly filling out a declaration form for the Netherlands (my stopover in Amsterdam for 4 hours needed it, I guess (tl;dr they never looked at it once)), I got to the front of the line and pulled out my travel folder. I glanced to my left, where another man stood with a duffel and a pack, answering the agent’s query ‘Headed to Tanzania.’ I was surprised to see another person in Chicago leaving on the same flight, also headed to the same place; I’d felt like I was on some grand unique hero’s journey and here this random dude was on a parallel track to my story!

Standing in the security line, I was a little bored, so I pulled out my phone and checked work – I KNOW – and someone I’d never met had messaged me, asking about putting a meeting on the calendar next week. I chuckled and typed, ‘I’m literally standing in the international departures TSA line at ORD headed to Africa; unless you want to wait 2.5 weeks, you’ll probably want to find someone else.’ Apparently the OOO notification wasn’t that noticeable…

Once in the terminal, I finally used my fancy credit card perk (getting a travel credit card in Oct 2019 was a stellar move, jk) and hung out in a lounge until boarding. I was reading Gorge: My Journey Up Kilimanjaro at 300 Pounds, and craving those last minute Kili-cramming moments. Do you know they give you free Diet Coke in there?! They doooooooooo.

Boarding call. Everyone was casually sitting and I was practically vibrating. I just wanted to shout ‘I AM GOING TO AFRICAAAA I AM DOING IT IT’S FINALLY HAPPPPPPENING’ but I was not here to get dragged into the Jack Bauer bowels of O’Hare 5ft from the finish line, y’all. We boarded, and I wound my way to my seat in the back of the plane. It was pretty empty – just how we like it! I tucked away my hiking daypack above and snugged my Mountainsmith under the seat in front of me, buckled my seatbelt and sat back, sighing in relief.

A feeling was overwhelming me. A peace that I’d done everything that could be done. Everything happened exactly as I’d planned, thought, worried and laid out for almost 2 years. Wheels in motion and there was truly no turning back now. I was so happy. Happy happy happy and incredulous. I couldn’t believe it was happening. Genuinely I had half-thought it could still be canceled, up until now. That I’d have to use that travel insurance at the last minute. Tears rolled down my face. I took a picture – it was not a good look – but I didn’t care. I realized there was one more thing I wanted to say before leaving US soil.

I’d never truly considered how dangerous this was. Things happen, you know? People still die on Kili; on average about 10 people per year (stats pre-2020 bc COVID) out of ~30,000 who attempt the climb. It was still a dang mountain, and a big one. Literally one of the Seven Summits. Sure, it wasn’t a technical climb like Baker. No abominable snowpits to be swallowed by or glacier ridge spines to tip over on. But it was a formidable mountain; altitude sickness can make your brain swell, or pulmonary edema can make your lungs explode (apologies for the science inaccuracy but I think that’s close) or you can just trip and hit your head on the wrong rock.

I don’t have a will (Will?). I think I’d googled it like 2-3 weeks before leaving, but you know, it was an insanely busy season with work and we were still doing all the final prep/workouts/I was big-time preoccupied. Seated in 43I, I wanted to have one more word to y’all on my trip and also, I don’t know, kinda ‘eulogize’ if something happened. If I didn’t make it over the ocean, or I didn’t make it up this mountain or if a zombified giraffe went to town on my spleen and I didn’t make it back…I wanted my people to know I was still glad I went.

This sounds hella morbid (and I am writing it on Halloweeeeeeen *ghost voice*) but I didn’t feel freaked out or strange doing it. If something happened I wanted y’all to know I was still going to be happy I did it. That I did a big, wild, I-am-not-sure-if-I-can-but-I’m-gonna-try kind of adventure. That I leaped when my landing spot was still cloudy, not fully clear. Big swing and not sure if it would be a home run or a whiff. I wasn’t going to regret this decision, no matter what. I typed and retyped several times, tears running down my face, thinking about what would bring peace (if needed) and be authentically my voice.

“I’m going to go do this thing – chasing something fun and unsure and wonderful – I’m in the right place at the right time doing the right thing. 

Hakuna Matata, bbs 🏔🐘✨

The pilot came over the intercom in Dutch, then in English, and the flight attendants began striding up the aisles, checking for compliance. I looked left down the completely empty row 43 and put my head on the headrest, willing myself to stop crying because the snot inside my mask wasn’t helpful for ya know, breathing.

We pushed back from the gate. I sucked in one, happy sob and looked out at the tarmac and smiled so big that my cheeks lifted my glasses up.

Finally.

Tinker Tailor Writer Editor Catch Upper

I can feel that I’m putting off writing about the trip. Just a little bit. I will write about it. You know those first moments of a relationship – when you’re not telling people – and it’s private and special and just the two of you? That’s a little how it feels. That and I’ve only been back 10ish days, but it feels like forever and 5 minutes ago, teeth jostling loose on Ngorogoro Crater dirt roads in the Land Cruiser and waking up in my frost-coated orange tent halfway up the mountain.

I’m working on it – telling you about this jaw-dropping adventure – the highs, lows, critters, and the unforgettable men who kept me safe, made me laugh to the point of tears and saw through my brave front. I’ve edited down from ~3300 photos (2700 DSLR, 600 iPhone XR) to ~650 that represent the experiences and feelings, the smells and sounds, the dusty, wonderful moments in Tanzania.

Serengeti vistas

Life is also reminding me of all the things I set to the side while training (and doing) this journey.

  • Work – Still in a record-breaking hiring season for the vertical I support, and getting back up to speed on projects we’d already set in motion.
  • Comedy – I was cast into the ensemble of Laugh out Loud Theater in Schaumburg in late July, and I’m ramping up in new cast member rehearsals and attending shows to acclimate to their process. RIFF, the music improv show I’ve been a part of, is also getting a run at the Annoyance Theater this fall/winter!
  • Personal – Between the ‘Panini,’ busy summers and me training/working out every day but Mondays, I haven’t seen many people in the last year and a half. Those 6-hour Sunday walks didn’t leave much time! So I’ve been doing a looooooot of catching up! I went out FIVE TIMES this week – pre-panorama me scoffs – but it’s a big step up from pre-trip me. I may have overdone it a little but it’s a such a good thing to be reconnecting with so many folks. Have I done trip laundry no I have not buzz off to the next bullet, y’all *pushes down laundry hamper, sits on it*
  • Fitness – Um, noooooope. And it feels weird. This was such a massive chunk of each day/week. I don’t know what my next fitness step is. Do I rejoin my gym regularly? Do I just see Brian weekly? Do I go back to at-home workouts? What’s the new goal; I’m not great at consistency in this realm without a little fear-of-something in me like my Krav instructor cert date or climbing Kili.
  • Things I’ve been wanting to do: Take Photo II at Chicago Photography Classes, a dance class at Old Town School of Music in my neighborhood, some domestic travel to see friends, some LinkedIn Learnings on new topics, attend weddings, etc.!

Thank you thank you thank you to all of you have reached out by text, Instagram (or blog) comment/DM, Facebook post, via-a-family-member or friend – I am very excited to start knitting this story/pictures together and I’ll have the first post by the end of this month or I will not touch a Diet Coke for all of November.

THOSE ARE HIGH STAKES. Here’s an absolutely unbridled, child-like joy selfie as a reward from Day 1 in the Ngorogoro Crater! Look at her face! I remember thinking ‘there’s so many of them’ in total wonder. And then we saw hundreds more over the next 4 days; zebra babies and zebra bellies and zebra(s) crossing the road at. their. own. pace.

The Departure Has Arrived

We’re here. The day has crept closer and closer and today she’s ready.

From announcing in my 2019 life review that I was going to climb Kilimanjaro in October 2020 (ah, EOY 2019, you calm before the storm) to fleshing out the reasons I was doing it (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) to getting the heart crushing news that it was delayed the day after I was told ‘it’s on!’ in January 2021 and dealing with the emotional fallout and re-training.

From the trip-specific gear gathering dust now safely tucked into my bags to the hometown mountain I was scared of but conquered in July, it has been a long season. And now…we do this.

In February I wrote:

It is 210 days until September 19th, 2021.

209 sunrises to go. 

209 beats of rest in whatever time signature this song is in. 

209 blank pages until book 3.”

Heart siren – it’s time to see the clouds beneath us and sing this song.

Capable, strong body – you’re ready, you’re prepared right, you can, you can you can.

Soul who told herself ‘no’ too often – you are more than enough, it’s time to ‘yes.’

Welcome to Book 3.

Radio Silence

“Wifi? Where we’re going we won’t need wifi.” – Doc Brown, 2021 (probably)

Since I’ll be AWOL on the internet for pretty much this whole trip I thought I’d give a rundown of where you could find me (why? for what reason? LET ME BE) on my Kilimanjaro sojourn and which day you can raise a glass to my likely summit! A lot of this was lifted from the Mountain Madness (my guide company) itinerary and is heckin’ useful.

Day 0 – Friday, 9/10

Depart home late afternoon and fly Chicago > Amsterdam (sadly, not leaving the airport; I’ll be back to explore another time, I promise), +7 hour on US Central and +9 on US Pacific Time.

Day 1 – Saturday, 9/11

Fly from Amsterdam to Kilimanjaro (JRO) Airport, landing around 9pm. I’ll have a rapid COVID test and get my Tanzanian visa; a Mountain Madness rep will meet us and drive to their private compound. I’ll be +8/+10 hours ahead of CT/PT, respectively.

Day 2 – Sunday, 9/12

This is a bonus day – most people fly in/land this night – but it was $2100 cheaper to fly in a day early! So fingers crossed we do something fun local like visit a coffee farm, shop in Arusha or walk around a bit.

Day 3 – Monday, 9/13 – Ele­va­tion: 6,500 ft / 1981 m

Trans­fer to a pri­vate camp in Arusha Nation­al Park. Here, at about 6,500 feet / 1981 meters, we’ll begin to accli­mate; Chicago is about 597 feet above sea level. With only our climb­ing team (guides, porters, fellow climbers) here, we’ll ease into our adven­ture, enjoy some game view­ing, try to relax from trav­eling, and pre­pare for the climb.

Today our guide(s) will host a trip brief­ing and review our equip­ment. There may be time for a walk or game dri­ve, which will be tak­en out into the grass­lands for views of African game and Mount Kil­i­man­jaro, as giraffe, buf­fa­lo and ante­lope usu­al­ly seen in the area.

Day 4 – Tuesday, 9/14 – Ele­va­tion: 9,000 ft / 2743 m 

MON­TANE FOR­EST — LOMOSHO APPROACH – Hik­ing Time: 3 – 6 hours (3.2 miles / 5.2 km)

After a short dri­ve through the grass­lands and scat­tered Maa­sai vil­lages we’ll arrive at the for­est edge of Kilimanjaro Nation­al Park. From here we’ll walk a few hours through the undis­turbed lush jun­gle to our camp for the night. Our Tan­zan­ian guides will share their knowl­edge of the local ecol­o­gy as we walk through the fan­tas­tic plants and trees, hear birds, and see oth­er exot­ic wildlife. Y’all know I’mma be asking tons of questions here. With luck we’ll be able to see Colobus mon­keys and signs of ele­phants on the walk to camp. If I see an elephant I will attempt to hold in an excited squeal. ATTEMPT. Upon arriv­ing at camp, we’ll find our tents set up as well as hot tea and snacks wait­ing for us in the din­ing tent.

Day 5 – Wednesday, 9/15 – Ele­va­tion: 11,400 ft / 3474 m

SHI­RA PLATEAU — WEST SIDE – Hik­ing Time: 6 – 8 hours (4.8 miles / 7.7 km)

Our Tan­zan­ian guides will greet us at our tents with tea and hot water to wash with before enjoy­ing break­fast as I try to rouse my carcass and tame my inevitable hair tangles. We’ll take our time walk­ing through the for­est, which enables us to accli­ma­tize com­fort­ably and spot the plen­ti­ful game and bird life while enjoy­ing the views down canyon through breaks in the jun­gle. Today’s hike will take us through the Mon­tane For­est and the Hage­nia Zone. We will point out the unique envi­ron­men­tal dif­fer­ences that char­ac­ter­ize these sep­a­rate equa­to­r­i­al zones. Harlan Kredit would be proud (I think). I shall endeavor to ask as many kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, species as possible and reward myself with a Jolly Rancher.

Day 6 – Thursday, 9/16 – Ele­va­tion: 13,500 ft / 4115 m

MOIR CAMP – Hik­ing Time: 3 – 6 hours (4 miles / 6.4 km)

It will take us rough­ly three hours to hike across the Shi­ra Plateau and then one hour up the west­ern slope of the Kibo Mas­sif. Our Camp will be in the upper Heath Zone. We pass the Fis­ch­er Camp, which has a plaque ded­i­cat­ed to Scott Fis­ch­er, friend and founder of Moun­tain Mad­ness. In the 1980’s, Wes Krause and Scott Fis­ch­er pio­neered the Shi­ra Plateau route on Kil­i­man­jaro, which we trav­el. The views of the moun­tain at sun­set and sun­rise are tru­ly spectacular – I’m attempting to make the instructors at Chicago Photography Classes proud (or at least not embarrassed!).

Day 7 – Friday, 9/17 – Ele­va­tion: 15,000 ft / 4572 m

LAVA TOW­ER – Hik­ing Time: 5 – 7 hours (3.6 miles / 5.8 km)

After break­fast, we’ll slow­ly hike to 14,850 feet / 4526 meters, just under the ​“Lava Tow­er.” This will be our first intro­duc­tion to the Alpine Zone where the only plant life is the hardi­est of grass­es and lichens. We will have a spec­tac­u­lar view of the final route of ascent up the West­ern Breach. There is an excit­ing option­al rock scram­ble (non-tech­ni­cal) to the top of this unusu­al lava tow­er – its gotta be easier than the Roman Headwall, right? The views from the lava tow­er sum­mit of Mt. Kil­i­man­jaro, Mt. Meru and the sur­round­ing val­leys are quite impressive – fingers crossed I capture them in their glory.

Day 8 – Saturday, 9/18 – Ele­va­tion: 16,000 ft / 4877 m

ARROW GLAC­I­ER – Hik­ing Time: 2 – 3 hours (1 mile / 1.6 km)

The West­ern Breach ascent route is now in full view. We spend a few hours climb­ing to the base of the route and make camp near the Arrow Glac­i­er at 16,000 feet / 4877 meters. To fur­ther our acclima­ti­za­tion, we take an after­noon hike up a spec­tac­u­lar ridge fur­ther up the route before relax­ing in camp. This camp is famous for the absolute­ly mag­nif­i­cent sun­sets, which illu­mi­nate the African sky.

Day 9 – Sunday, 9/19 – Ele­va­tion: 18,700 ft / 5700 m

SUM­MIT CRATER CAMP – Hik­ing Time: 7 – 10 hours (1.6 miles / 2.6 km)

A looooooong day but should make the next day easier. Today we climb up the West­ern Breach for about sev­en hours to the top of the crater rim. There will be time to explore the inner crater before mov­ing to our high camp on the crater floor. It is com­mon to find snow along this sec­tion of the route. Our high camp will be next to a spec­tac­u­lar glac­i­er and the sum­mit mere­ly a short hike away! The rest of the day will be spent drink­ing lots of liq­uids and enjoy­ing anoth­er fab­u­lous sun­set dinner (plz yes).

Around 8-9pmish for you Central folks and about 6-7pm for the Pacific ones – this is when I should be summiting (the next morning for me) – raise a glass at your dinner (or from your couch) and I betcha I feel it.

Day 10 – Monday, 9/20 – Ele­va­tion: 19,341 ft / 5895 m

SUMMIT DAY, Y’ALL – Hik­ing Time: 1 – 2 hours to summit

This is one of the big reasons I chose MM; I loved the idea of camping in the crater, close enough to touch the stars at 18,700 feet, and making the very hard summit day/night a little easier. After break­fast, we’ll leave camp and hike to the top of the crater rim. From there it is just a ten-minute hike to Uhu­ru Sum­mit, the high­est point in Africa at 19,341 feet / 5895 meters! We arrive at the sum­mit and are reward­ed with clear views before the mid-morn­ing clouds roll in. We will bask in the glo­ry of our accom­plish­ment, grab a bite to eat, enjoy the views and take lots of photographs. PLZ BATTERIES DO NOT FAIL ME NOW. I SURVIVED CHICAGO SNOWPOCALYPSE WITH AN iPHONE I GOT THIS.

Now we go down, down, down 9,000 feet and descend to Mwe­ka Camp – Ele­va­tion: 10,500 ft / 3200 m

Hik­ing Time: 8 – 10 hours to camp (6.8 miles / 11 km)

After sum­mit cel­e­bra­tions we will begin our descent past Bara­fu Hut and down to our camp near Mwe­ka Hut, where our porters will have pre­pared a spe­cial cel­e­bra­to­ry feast! We will have descend­ed almost 9,000 feet / 2743 meters today and will feel intox­i­cat­ed by the oxy­gen rich air. AIR DRUNK AIR GUITAR, GO GO GO. Will sleep a deeeeep sleep.

Summit day is ~10-12 hours and that’s a ‘shorter’ one compared to other companies. Although Baker took 16 hours so honestly, bring it, Kili.

Day 11 – Tuesday, 9/21 – to 4500 feet / 1372m, then drive

Hik­ing Time: 4 – 7 hours (5.2 miles / 8.4 km)

Hik­ing time will vary depend­ing on the trail con­di­tions while trav­el­ing through the lush veg­e­ta­tion at this ele­va­tion. Rain can occur any time of year at this loca­tion and can make the trail mud­dy requir­ing a slow­er pace. Once we have descend­ed the 4,500 feet / 1372 meters to the road head we will have our lunch and say good­bye to our moun­tain staff before head­ing off to safari with our same guide team. We’ll night at Ikitoni Private Camp (where we started) before transferring to safari the next day.

Day 12 – Wednesday, 9/22

LAKE MAN­YARA NATION­AL PARK AND NGORON­GORO PRI­VATE CAMP

Safaaaari szn, bbs! We con­tin­ue on our jour­ney with a vis­it to Lake Man­yara Nation­al Park, a park Ernest Hem­ming­way described as ​“the loveli­est I had ever seen.” Found amid the vari­ety of ani­mals is an abun­dance of bird life, includ­ing the pink flamin­gos that enjoy the water-based micro­cosm of the lake and its envi­rons, all of which add to the eco­log­i­cal diver­si­ty of your safari. After our vis­it we dri­ve to the high­lands of Ngoron­goro Crater Con­ser­va­tion Area. We stay for two nights at MM’s deluxe pri­vate camp at Ngoron­goro, near Olé Dorop’s, our Maa­sai friend and walk­ing safari guide.

Days 13-16 – Thursday, 9/23 – Sunday, 9/26

Continue exploring Ngorongoro and Serengeti, seeing animals, visiting villages and taking all the photos my heart can stand! Return to Arusha for our final night.

Day 17 – Monday, 9/27

Another ‘bonus’ day that saved me another $2100 on the flight – shop, connect, savor – and fly out at 9pm from JRO > Amsterdam.

Day 18 – Tuesday, 9/28

Fly Amsterdam to Minneapolis (there were no directs to Chicago, so odd); then MSP to Chicago, landing around 3pm local time. Customs, bags, Lyft, home. Greet my plants, eat whatever dry goods I’ve squirreled away in the cupboards and likely crash/sleep because my body will still be +8, soul stuck in Tanzania time.

So that’s the plan…

The Pre-Game Mountain

By the numbers, I shouldn’t be more nervous climbing Mt. Baker this weekend than Mt. Kilimanjaro in September. A hunky looming beaut visible from my parents’ backyard, you can’t miss Baker if you live in Whatcom County (or the lower mainland of BC).

I took this
This one too (my mom hates this tree in the middle)
This is pure internet screenshot

Per Wikipedia “Mount Baker, also known as Koma Kulshan or simply Kulshan, is a 10,781 ft active glacier-covered andesitic stratovolcano in the Cascade Volcanic Arc and the North Cascades of Washington in the United States. Mount Baker has the second-most thermally active crater in the Cascade Range after Mount St. Helens.” YEAH I’M CLIMBING A VOLCANO, FAM.

Our main girl Kilimanjaro is 19,341ft. Almost double the height of Baker. But Kilimanjaro isn’t a technical climb – which is a weird phrase to say considering it’s one of the Seven Summits – but it’s really just a long, hard hike at high altitude. It doesn’t require any true technical mountain climbing gear like Baker: helmet, harness, ropes, crampons (aka them shoe spikes), ice axe, there are crevasses to fall into, you carry all your gear (Kili has porters), etc.

Which…is pretty obvious from the photos above ^^ that thing looks technical as all hayllll

Kili just has a lil snow at the top/last day of your hike and is managed in boots/with trekking poles. I understand Kili. I feel like I know Kili. As much as possible without actually going (yet). I’ve been devouring content about it for almost 2 years – blogs and videos, my computer (and phone) wallpaper is Kili, a tapestry of Kili on my wall, following the #kilimanjaro tag on Instagram, reading books and packing (and repacking) lists, my OBGYN telling me at my annual last year about her trip in 2012 (you have not lived until you’ve talked about the right and wrong type of leg gaiters as a speculum is inside you, trust).

Climbing Baker entered my brain last summer when I half-joking asked my sister Brianna, ‘did you still want to climb Baker before you turn 30? Because I’ll climb it with you.” AND THEN SHE SAID YES.

…it scares me. I feel like I’ve been watching the date grow closer and closer out of the side of my eye. Like when you don’t look right at a spider because then it KNOWS and it might JUMP at you because you shouldn’t look them in the eye(s) and INVITE them into your PERSONAL SPACE. It’s like 8-legged smol bears. It’s bears you shouldn’t look in the eye, right?

Baker is my hometown mountain. I see it every time I go home because you literally cannot miss it. Its straight out the kitchen window. It’s driving right at it east on Badger Rd. It’s the end of the eyeline on (no joke) Bakerview Rd. in Bellingham. I know several people who have climbed it; people I went to high school with, people’s spouses that I went to high school with, and I’m sure a myriad of people I don’t know about but do know have climbed it. I’ve skied on it. Hiked around it. Randomly someone I work with at Le ‘hub climbed it 3 weeks ago and summited.

I’ve been training for almost 2 years to climb a mountain and I’m terrified of what it will mean for me if I can’t do it. I know there are a load of reasons why we may not summit – legitimately – bad weather, a fellow climber’s injury, a guide making a safety call, etc. But I just am so scared it’s going to be me. That I will be the weak link. Mentally or physically that something will go wrong in me and I’ll have to look at that mountain every Christmas and Raspberry Festival and family milestone and hold a little shame nugget in my heart.

2 years of sweat and tears and gear lists and telling people and another mountain in 6 weeks and if I can’t climb Baker, can I climb Kili? Its not great mental game/sports psychology to think about not making it, but I think I need to. I wrote down this quote I read awhile back “The finish line is for the ego. The journey is for the soul” on my whiteboard and I hate it.

I need it but I hate it. Because I recognize my ego creeping up.

I think some wonderful things have happened in my soul over the last 19 months of mountain prep.

  • Organically met several people that have climbed Kili – my aforementioned OBGYN, a REI employee helping me with packs, a fellow guest at Jason & Reagan’s wedding – the absolute joy at talking Kili with people is amazing. They have been changed by this trip. And not once did I think to ask any of them “did you summit?”
  • Made a true friend in my randomly-assigned-by-LSAC personal trainer, Brian – I’m sure I will write a wildly emotional post about how his partnership in this process has been crucial – and how I was doubtful the head of triathlons was my ‘person.’ But through injuries and my emotions and a pandemic and no gear (we were literally having me do kettlebell swings with a grocery tote and 5/7 Harry Potter books for awhile) his creativity and care has helped shape this journey and kindly nudge me back on course.
  • Had a north star to mentally and physically focus on when the world went to…absolutely uncertainty this past year+. Even though the Kili date has changed twice I always knew it was going to happen. And telling myself that each workout, each dumb PT stretch (I look so, so foolish doing them), every emotional breakdown as I still CANNOT DO A NON MODIFIED PUSH UP I just tried to look at this wall tapestry and whisper ‘keep going.’
(this is a stock photo not my apt)
  • I’ve actually learned about my body; what it is capable of, what it really has opinions on (hello hip flexors, my nemeses), how feeding it right during a long, multi-hour workout makes ALL THE DIFFERENCE and its taken me far, far too long to get here. I grew up playing sports. Lots of sports. How did I not know some of this?! But you know, better today than tomorrow. I’m better at listening to what hurts, dissecting it, knowing what’s ‘mind over matter’ and what’s worth slowing down on. ALSO did you guys know that quad means FOUR like FOUR MUSCLES IN YOUR THIGH I’m 33 how did no one tell me this until TWENTY TWENTY ONE you should have seen Brian’s face I’ve never seen someone so disappointed and trying to hide it as I truly howled with laughter.
  • Had A Wild Adventure to Plan; it’s been a long time since I felt like I was on a true new adventure. I moved to Chicago 6 years ago from Korea and while there have been several mini-adventures, there hasn’t been a truly wild one since. One of my favorite Kili books has been “Kilimanjaro Diaries,” by Eva Melusine Thieme. I spent several long walks around Chicago listening to the audiobook and at the end (or jump to it in the link above) she writes a list of ‘What the Mountain Taught Me.’ I highly recommend checking out the post above because it’s also excellent life lessons but these ones ring especially true in me:
    “- Wherever you are in life, it’s always a good idea to plan a new adventure. (But get yourself some good boots and take a few extra packs of wet wipes.)
    Everyone needs a mountain to scale in their lives. When you’re younger, life supplies many a mountain – graduation from high school, going to college, landing a good job, getting married. But during the middle years of your life, things get awfully flat (though often rather bumpy). Climbing a real mountain almost certainly helps put things in perspective.
    Consequently, it’s okay to do what you want or must do, even if it sometimes means doing it alone, when others don’t want to come along for the ride.
    You can always take another small step. Pole pole. There is almost no limit to what you might accomplish in life if you just go about it pole pole, one step at a time. If you’re overwhelmed by the task (or mountain) ahead, concentrate on the feet in front of you. Or on the garden trowel, if you must.
    It’s always good to have a change in scenery. If your life seems drab at sea level, maybe you need to take it to high altitude. At least that’s how it worked for us. The higher we climbed, the thinner the air, the more we laughed.”

So I know there’s been a wonderful and good journey in my soul. But my lizard self; the dragon that guards my soft pink heart at the center of my hoard of gold coins, she wants a summit. I don’t know how she’s going to react if she doesn’t get it. She wants it bad, y’all. She wants to stand on the mountain and look down at those clouds and open her jaw and ROAR. That’s the heart siren at full volume. To scream that it was all worth it. And is it still worth it if she can’t roar? Logically I know the answer is yes. But she wouldn’t be satisfied.

In re-reading that paragraph I feel it’s vital I tell you I could not be more sober. I haven’t even had a Diet Coke today.

I guess that’s the ego then, the dragon. My scaly self that wants to summit. That wants to cross the finish line. That isn’t sure if its worth it (time, money, effort, etc.) unless I stand at the top. I need to sit and reckon with the dragon and the logic of knowing this has all been worth it even if I don’t summit. That I’m a changed person from this journey regardless of where my boots land.

So as I make my packing spreadsheet sitting among a nest of REI Garage Sale finds and prioritizing the fancy performance laundry that needs to air dry for 2 days before flying ORD > SEA this week – I want to tell you (me) something.

I am scared and I’m doing it anyways.

I’m fully packed and I’m convinced I forgot something.

I’m taking my ego, yes, and I know my soul holds a certainty that I’ve done all I could.

I haven’t come this far to give up before the race even starts. Also I’m mildly convinced my body will activate some latent Pacific Northwest super power upon landing and it’ll boost me up Easton Glacier and if one of you says it’s weed I will ban you I swear it by the power vested in me by the state of…the internet.

So if you’re into sending vibes or prayers send some over:

  • That Brianna and I won’t murder each other in our tent for 2 nights we are not known for smooth camping skills
  • That the THREE different types of bug repellent I have will keep the biting flies and mozzies away from my sweet juicy body
  • That Tom Hiddleston will quote Shakespearean sonnets to lull me to sleep by earbud or by presence (I’m not picky)
  • That I take at least one good picture of Baker to justify buying a fancy polarized filter and lugging a DSLR up there
  • That some raspberries will still be in season because the one thing I’ve asked my Mom for post-climb is a raspberry pie and we are at end-of-season barrel levels
  • That I don’t revert to my improviser default of MAKE THE PERSON LAUGH when trying to distract our guide from some physical thing about myself (likely trying to put on a harness right (why must there be SO MANY LOOPS))
  • That my body doesn’t do what handsome PT calls a ‘textbook inflammation response’ where my knee got BIG MAD in Zion in April but had never happened to me before in 33 years of sports life #themgoodknees
  • That no matter what happens on the side (or top) of the mountain I have grown up orienting my life around, my dragon and my soft pink heart will be satisfied by my effort and still hungry for the next one.

See you Sunday, pals.

Why I’m Climbing Kilimanjaro (Part 2)

Today I got the unbelievable wonderful magical news that my Kilimanjaro trip is a go. It’s truly happening and it’s happening in February 2021, folks! 75 DAYS. With that glorious Monday info – here’s Part 2 (of 3) on why I’m doing this dang adventure. Check out Part 1 here!

There have been a few movies I’ve seen as an adult that so wholly resonate with me that they make me break down. Not the 3 Scariest Kids Movies Ever, which is a different list, but the emotions. The FEELS.

As the credits for “Ladybird” started to roll I stood, tight-voiced said ‘Ijustneedtopeesobad,” power walked like someone with food poisoning into the beautifully tiled bathrooms at The Davis Theater, put my whole pre-COVID unclean jacket sleeve in my mouth and flushed the toilet to cover a hard, 10-second sob that wracked my body. I peed zero times and flushed the toilet 8 times.

On a hot, lethargic July weekend day in 2019, I sat in front of my wheezy window AC unit, scrolling aimlessly through several video apps and saw ‘Brittany Runs a Marathon’ on Amazon Prime Video. I rolled the idea around in my mind: ‘ugh a feel good movie isn’t there a die hard sequel somewhere instead’ countering ‘ Well, I do love Jillian Bell,’ and after watching the trailer, decided ‘I’ll start it and of course, run back to Season 3 of Orphan Black if I don’t like it.’

But I did like it. And I kept watching.

‘Brittany Runs a Marathon’ is based on a true story – there is a Brittany who did indeed run a marathon – and that true story does indeed range from her first faltering steps outside to triumphantly completing the New York City Marathon. But a story without life breathed into it is just a grocery list of facts, so here’s why the movie made me lose a full pint of tears.

Here’s the description from Wikipedia (with some of my thoughts):

“Brittany Forgler is a 28-year-old living in New York City with her roommate Gretchen, a teacher’s assistant dreaming of social media fame. Visiting a new doctor to score a prescription, she receives unwelcome news; she must get healthy and lose weight. Every doctor’s visit. My entire life. Even when I was a Krav Maga instructor at my lowest weight. Even dentist visits in Korea. I have always been told I was overweight. That losing weight would help the issue du jour – be it mental or physical or emotional.

She visits a nearby gym only to find even the cheapest fee is out of her reach. I cannot tell you how many gyms, how many personal trainers, how many smoothies and supplements and diets. How many times I’ve tried to learn ‘fit lingo,’ bought the clothes, the gear – and how many times I felt like a failure at this goal of fitness. A fraud, waiting to be found out, throwing dollars at my belly.

Despite her fear, she tries running for the first time, successfully running one block. She is invited to run in a group with her neighbor Catherine, whom Brittany detests for her seemingly perfect life. OK well running is the devil’s exercise and no one can convince me otherwise. And real talk: I fully admit struggling with other women based on my idea of their ‘perfect’ bodies, with must of course = perfect life, right? That’s social math (I have a comm arts major so the math is LITERALLY wrong on that).

Brittany gets within five pounds of her goal of losing 45 pounds. Brittany’s pride, and continued reluctance to let Catherine into her life, force her to turn down an offer of support, and she withdraws. She regains weight, forcing her to run even harder, until one of her shins becomes too painful to walk on. Five weeks from the marathon, her doctor informs her she has a stress fracture and will be unable to run for six to eight weeks. In May 2019 I got a new job, I started trying Crossfit, I quit teaching at the Krav gym. In September, I quit the CrossFit due to wallet bleed (WOW that sparse box is pricey), rejoined the LSAC gym, got a trainer, started training. In October I tried Keto for 30 days, in November I added weightlifting classes and by Thanksgiving last year I was in so much pain I didn’t even want to workout. Getting (and staying) fit has a monetary, physical, emotional and mental cost. Not everyone will have your back (or know how to support you) past the ‘YEW GO GURL’ vibes.

She ignores calls and texts from Catherine, Seth, and Jern, saddened to see Seth and Catherine with their marathon medals. That same day, she disrupts her brother-in-law’s birthday party by making cruel comments about an overweight female guest. It’s hard to celebrate with (and for) your friends when jealous little sandworms burrow inside your heart. Your soft heart tightens into glass and you know it’s breakable, so you swing your spiky sandworm tail at anyone close to disrupting your glass heart and seeing through it to your shame of failure (Yes, I recently watched Beetlejuice for the first time and I love sandworms now).

One year later, Brittany runs in the marathon. At this point I’m openly weeping wedged into some half-baked moldy croissant body shape on a red chair that I bought used for $50 when I moved to Arkansas. The iPad is bouncing on my knees as I drag and push air hand-over-hand in and out of my compressed diaphragm. Somewhere inside of me I know it’s a movie, I know it’s a story, but they cut the audio/music bed so you only hear her breathing and I’m right there. I’m with her. The cottony rasp of her tying her shoe laces. Pulling on her good sports bra, you know, the one for bounce. Not the WFH $5 Gap bralette. Clothing herself in the armor she knows is dependable on the battlefield – to challenge the chafing, the high school knee injury, the sturdy Scunci hair tie that will hold 26.2 miles of ponytail bounce. The quality headphones you spent too much on but that hold your sanity playlist, pumping energy through the right and left tracks.

At the 22-mile mark, she develops a cramp and has to pause. She rejects medical assistance, but accepts an assistant’s offer to help her up. While considering quitting, she finds Seth, his husband and sons, and Catherine in the crowd cheering her on. She also encounters Jern, who says he loves her. She then keeps going, finishing the marathon. I’ve paused the movie, scraping my hand over my eyes to hide the shame of whole body sobs from who? the iPad? Jillian Bell? One of the other technological masterpieces in my single-person apartment that probably has an always-on microphone translating my sobs into therapy $s? I regain control of my body and press the space bar to finish the last few happy, joyous moments of the film. I squeeze my shaky, dopamine smile muscles up as the credits roll, showing the real Brittany and photos from her real marathon run.

And I immediately wanted to find…something. Something bonkers – not running – that would be *shudder* horrifying. But an outlandish goal. Something I really wasn’t sure I could do but maybe, maybe I could.

And I’m not sure what led me to this. But it’s the same date. I messaged the only person I personally knew who had climbed Kili (and had also very recently summited the Everest). I don’t know where my brass lil stones came from – but I sent it – and the dream siren did a double take, whispering “soon?” and I whispered back “…maybe.”

…to be continued…

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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