Holding Pattern

I’m grown enough to know that bourbon and tacos aren’t a healthy coping strategy. But also, living alone during a pandemic and facing a large pile of disappointment? Yeah. It could be worse than bourbon and tacos.

Yesterday I texted my therapist, asking for a session to talk about the fact that in 30 days, I planned on leaving the US for my Kilimanjaro trip. I was struggling to reconcile being a good global citizen with pursuing this dream. We talked through the issues being 1) do I feel safe and more importantly 2) am I afraid of others’ perception of me traveling right now? And yes. Yes I was afraid of #2.

Today, I got a call that due to new US restrictions on international travelers entering the country, that my trip was cancelled, with the next dates available in June, 5 months away.

My guide company, who are phenomenal, awesome people – do not have access to guaranteed resources to get me COVID tested in Tanzania, 48 hour turn-around-time for results, take off to Amsterdam, layover 6 hours, then fly to the US within the 72-hour time frame. That’s 63+ hours if everything goes perfectly. And if you’ve ever traveled, you know that’s a big if. So they’ve made the difficult (and in my opinion, right) decision to cancel the trip rather than risk leaving me and my trip mates abandoned in airports flung across the globe.

It sucks, it sucks, it sucks it sucks it sucks. And yet I know there are a thousand things more important. The country is in the grips of civil unrest, there’s a damn pandemic still GAINING GROUND on us and here I am, sad no one will let me climb a big ole’ mountain. There are people without jobs, legitimately fearful of eviction, first responders beyond burned out and I’m soft drunk on my thrifted big red chair, crying that my trip is delayed (for the second time).

But if everyone’s Tad Hamilton to someone then by God, we all have got Kilimanjaro’s worth of disappointments from this past year. My Kilimanjaro is Kilimanjaro, but someone else has to cancel their wedding. Someone else’s new baby hasn’t met friends, coworkers or grandparents. People have lost their family members to COVID. Kids without classmates, triathlons delayed, reunions by the wayside, dream jobs abandoned, graduations deferred, one-in-a-lifetime experiences – gone.

I know I’m one of many. But it still hurts. And I feel, more than ever, so aware that I am alone in this apartment. That the only person who can soothe me is me. That the only way through it is through it.

Tomorrow can be for rallying. Tonight is for tacos, bourbon and sorrow.

Why I’m Climbing Kilimanjaro (Part 3)

411 days ago I was sitting on my couch, eating mashed potatoes out of the Kitchenaid mixing bowl on Thanksgiving 2019 with a spoon, alone. After almost 7 months training sales new hires non-stop solo, my body got 3 rest days without training (Monday-Wednesday) and promptly, rudely, retaliated with sniffles and a cold. I was supposed to bring mashed potatoes to a Friendsgiving, but figured I shouldn’t bring sickness over to someone else’s house. Plus I already had the potatoes and a new recipe. So I made them – did y’all know – if you add cream cheese to mashed potatoes it. is. TRANSCENDENT?! Finally found the best potatoes ever (Pioneer Woman’s recipe) and no one to share with.

As I lounged on my couch, scooping up lazy spoonfuls of starchy joy, I dallied through the internet and came upon an article about plus size women climbing Kilimanjaro with WHOA Travel. I scanned it, moved on. Then I went back and actually read it. Then I clicked through to WHOA’s website. And found myself 2 hours later 6 layers deep into a rabbit hole of reading yet another blog from someone on that trip.

Image courtesy WHOA Travel

I want to try and find the right words here – there is something…what’s the opposite of insidious? Like, it grabs ahold of you and won’t let go…but a good way? It was like a taking a cold drink of water when your body is super hot – you can just feel something bright and alive oozing through every single cell of your body – infusing the dry crevices and cracks. I felt, for probably the first time, that I could do this insane thing. That it was possible. That I was capable. And it was sneaking into my dry corners. Nooks that hadn’t seen something wild in a minute.

Not ‘someone.’ Me.

I could do something hard and physical and a little wild and SUCCEED. The power in realizing ‘people can climb Kilimanjaro’ vs. “I can climb Kilimanjaro.” Intoxicating. A little nuts.

It became an excited little whisper in my ear, saying ‘Bodies who look like you are doing this. You could do this.’ In my mind, the whisper looked a bit like Joy from Inside Out:

That whisper was relentless. It had me thinking about boots and backpacks and whenever I tried to sit on the idea it would squirm out and say ‘I mean, you could also use a GORE-TEX rain coat for like, normal life too.’ Relentless, sensible things! My little hope siren was on a manic pixie dream high, ahhhoooooogahhhing loudly.

WHOA had another trip specifically for their plus-size adventurers going again in February 2020. I sent an info request even though it would have been less than 3 months away. I ordered boots the same day. On Monday, one of the WHOA consultants called me and told me it was doable in less than 3 months, but I’d have to commit and be serious about training. I took a beat.

“Do I really want to do this? If yes, do I want to give myself the best shot at succeeding?” I did. So while WHOA+ had been such a formative and inspirational part of me taking a step toward climbing Kilimanjaro, I knew I needed more. Time to get fit, time to research routes and gear, to find a guide company, to work up to hiking 6-8 hours a day. I went home for the holidays, and at my birthday dinner told my family: “I am going to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro in October of 2020.” And this thing really began.

Wait, so what’s the point of this one? Why is this part of why you’re climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro?

Because someone said I could. I don’t know how else to say it. It was like someone sat next to me, kindly took my hand, with direct eye contact and said, ‘I believe in you. You could do this, if you want to. You don’t need to wildly change to do it. You’re capable.’ And that was enough for me. A paradigm shift in how I viewed what my body was capable of.

That bodies like mine aren’t for hiding. That they’re powerful and strong. This body is made for a mountain. The outdoors doesn’t belong exclusively to ‘straight sizes’ or society norms of mountain bodies. While I’ve definitely gotten stronger in training over the last 13 months I haven’t dropped an insane amount of weight. My bones are still the same. I’m still a size 12/14, having started this at 16/18. I’m still over 200lbs.

And I’m going to climb a mountain with that body. A big body for a big mountain. My body is my ally in this, not something I need to shove into a certain size.

It’s wildly freeing to realize that. It feels silly to type it – knowing – of course outdoors is made for all of us. Of course I could climb a mountain. But when I think back to that moment; reading the article and why I actually clicked through for the information request – what made me do it?

Someone said I could do it. And this time, I believed them. I looked my dream in the eye and whispered back, “OK.” Here we are.

So if you’re sitting there, reading this, thinking about doing something a little wild, a little crazy, an idea squirming to be free, a dream image you’ve carried for years, whispering in your ear that you’re nervous about, scoot over. Just a little skoootch. I’m going to take a seat next to you. Give me your hand. You choose which one. I know eye contact is sometimes uncomfortable, but we’re going to do it. Hi. You know that thing? The one you haven’t told anyone about? Or you told someone but then said ‘it’s a joke’ and laughed off? Yeah. That one. You could do it, if you want to. You don’t need to wildly change to do it. You’re capable. And if you need support, I can help a bit and give pointers. But you’re not alone. And you can do the thing.

Yes. You.

And it’s ok if now isn’t the season for it. But when you’re ready, I’ll have your back.

*squeezes hand softly*

Just think about it.

Why I’m Climbing Kilimanjaro (Part 1)

Why I’m Climbing Kilimanjaro (Part 2)

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…

Why I’m Climbing Kilimanjaro

It began with a massive crush on Justin Gingham, which is not his name, but I’m not here to somehow accidentally link a 10-year-old crush to someone’s professional life on LinkedIn via the technological witchcraft known as Google SEO. I am always down to clown on my life and tomfoolery but when it starts to involve others I AM A SOFT BOILED EGG. Also doesn’t Justin Gingham sound like a kind soul in a folksy parable? It fits.

Let’s talk about one of the factors that has contributed to me committing to climbing the truly bonkers number of 19,341 feet (5,985 meters for the rest of the sane, measuring world) in (probably) February 2021.

It begins with a crush–which birthed a mental image I’ve carried for over 10 years–which was naturally followed by a massive lie but we don’t have time to go into the lie and it’s unrelated. Y’all, I said we do not have time to go into the lie this is not the point of the story. OK sidebar for the lie since I can feel some of you salivating and I know you will not move onto the actual reason for this post; here’s the short(?) context for the lie: October 2009ish, senior year at ORU there is NO SHORT CONTEXT FOR THIS STORY I feel like this:

(Inhales deep breath) Justin Gingham was the…whatever the like, regional coordinator (that cannot be the right title) was for ORU Missions Trips, overseeing the trip I was going on to Morocco as an Assistant Team Leader. Oh, and he was my church small group leader and I had a massive crush on him. Those 3 things could not continue all being true. He asked me once directly about it? did he? someone important did. Maybe it was my team leader at the time? WHOEVER IT WAS someone with sway directly asked if I had a crush on him.*

I knew in my bones that:

1. The shame of telling the truth would be Great-Wave-off-Kanagawa levels of destruction in so many influential areas of my life: this mission trip, this church that was getting me through a very tough life season, my close-knit friend group and even my intramural job since we had a mutual boss. Our lives had so many similar/overlapping threads and it would truly be devastating to lose any of them.

2. ORU Missions had (has?) a no-fraternizing in the leadership hierarchy (Assistant Team Leader, Team Leader, Assistant to the Regional Manager, Houston Mission Control, This Mission Should You Choose To Accept It etc) policy. They would reassign me or him or both. Something public and difficult and it would be VERY AWKWARD because everyone would be like ‘oh why is Bailey and/or Justin Gingham reassigned’ and it would be irresistible ORU gossip catnip for @twapel

3. YOOHOO, HELLO, SHAME, AGAIN, THIS TIME JUST PERSONAL CRUSHING SHAME OF ‘WHAT IF HE DOESN’T LIKE ME BACK,’ DON’T FORGET!

And SO I lied and said, “NO, I DO NOT HAVE A CRUSH ON JUSTIN GINGHAM *scoffs*”

I remember immediately going to the always abandoned stairwell on the 7th floor of Claudius dorm (no one went there, we were all elevator folk THE SEVENTH FLOOR AND THE BASKETBALL TEAM WERE NOT STAIR PEASANTS) and wept. Genuinely wept. Heaving sobs. Sticky, wet shuddering heaves for a very-long-feeling but what probably amounted to 4ish minutes. Because I knew I’d have to sit in that lie for a long, uncomfortable time. And it sucked.

*Editor’s Note: We ran this blog draft past DB, who stated that actually, Justin Gingham asked him, to his face, ‘Does Bailey have a crush on me?’ and this absolutely platonic prince of my heart is the one who stone cold Steve Austin lied to JG’s face, saying “No, she does not.” DB and I are two sides to one coin (I’m heads and he’s CLEARLY tails, regardless of which currency we’re talking about) and so I somehow have internalized this story in my head canon to be me lying. As soon as DB told me this story though I remembered – he had called me on the phone as soon as it happened. I ran into the stairwell, panicked, my heart thumping some 5/4 trap rhythm. The most visceral memory of the story is that I cannot forget how searingly cold the stairwell landing was on the side of my face, which was hot and swollen from sobbing. Memories can be weird, pals.

Also, I don’t feel bad/weird/strange saying 1. I had a crush and 2. Lied about it because it’s 10+ years later. I’ve cycled through many a crush since then and since he’s been happily married for 7 years per some light Facebook creepage IT ALL WORKED OUT FINE FOR BOTH OF US *cackles, sips gin alone in Chicago apartment in a pandemic*

Flashback to Fall 2009 and JG the Crush (honestly, put that on a shirt) went to Clemson, SC to see a friend (Fun Fact for long-time listeners: that friend ended up being my actual replacement team leader on the Morocco trip in June 2010, an even longer story that has even less to do with Kilimanjaro) and they climbed some kind of mountain at sunrise.

Sidebar 2.0? 6.5?: I know the Appalachian Mountains exist because I watched “Last of the Mohicans” BUT I’m not going to expend the energy to google what mountain it was near Clemson because as we said, there is a pandemic, time is precious and democracy is at risk. Move on.

2009. Such a simple time when we used to upload whole albums of photos to Facebook. And if your crush is uploading an album – be honest – you’re going to look at all.the.photos. So here’s a few I went and screenshot (YES I DID GO BACK 11 YEARS AND FOUND THEM THEY ARE NECESSARY TO THIS MOMENT):

Breathe those in. Take a minute, pause here in on the internet. Scroll back up a scooch. You can taste that clean, crisp air. It makes the insides of your lungs feel like a Listerine strip. Sit and lazily watch the clouds roll past, forming puffy shapes and disintegrating into ethereal wisps. You’re in no rush. Watch the sun rise, showing off colors that are flamingo and fawn and plum. You probably hear a song faintly in the back of your mind; I hear Enya’s “May it Be” and I don’t feel bad about it.

And so, sitting in Tulsa, Oklahoma clicking deeper and deeper into a crush on my 2006 Dell Inspiron laptop, this little worm of an idea crawled its way between my ribs and took up shop in a nook of my heart: I want to stand on a mountain and look down at the clouds.

This wee dream started living rent-free in prime heart real estate, twiddling it’s thumbs, waiting for the moment. A brief look at Sagada in 2015 has the mental tornado sirens go off as I research day trips in the Philippines, but alas, it’s rainy season and no safe guide will go.

So I tuck the dream back into the garden apartment of my heart, mollifying it with ‘soons’ and ‘somedays’ as it grumbles and shakes its tiny wispy fist.

And there it hibernated for 4 more years.

And I started to dream about the clouds.

The dream began to rub the sharp lil sleep crusts out of its eyes and the siren let out a few shaky coughs. My browser search history started seeing ‘tanzania’ and ‘Kilimanjaro’ and ‘fitness level climb kili’ with regularity.

This image I fell in love with from a crush that I lied about, wept about, carried to North Africa and back and and tucked safely into the pockets of my soul started to align with something I was scared to even say out loud to another person: I was going to climb Kilimanjaro. I’m going to look down at the clouds. I can. I’m capable. It’s happening.

…to be continued…

2 Branches Off the Old Tree

My whole life I’ve been told I look like my Dad. And y’all I do. From our freckles to our face shape to our 70/30% red/brown curly hair to our smiles – there’s no hospital mixup here. But I see him under my SPF 70-prone skin too in my hands, my heart and my voice. 

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If my mom is who I text flower photos to then my Dad is who I reach out to with the ‘handsy’ things. The ‘I think I have to take apart my Kitchenaid mixer and replace the grease after 20+ years’ and he sends back a Youtube video. He’s the one I call when my toilet tank is making sounds/has stopped making the RIGHT sounds. Trying to choose the right IKEA toolkit for my apartment. Who sends me Amazon links to the right type of superglue to keep my chair bolts together. If you can put hands on it and fiddle with it, that’s Dad turf. He can probably be found in Carharrt overalls, splotched with evidence of fixes past, pulling apart and putting things back together, safety glasses and a t-shirt that probably has a hole in it catching on a piece of a project somewhere.  

He’s the one I try to make laugh; getting his laugh is a currency that throws all your other laughter dollars forgotten on the floor. The two of us will go toe-to-toe on puns as everyone else in the family waits, head in palm, for us to finish trying to outdo each other. Usually at the dinner table. While everyone is just waiting for us to pray so they can eat. Our humor comes from the same tree trunk but our branches do eventually diverge. We conspiratorially cackled sharing Far Side books back and forth. He’s legendary for long, rambling 5-minute jokes and I have NO PATIENCE to get to that punchline. I can fall into fits at an episode of The Office and he huffs, “I just don’t get this.” 

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My  did a tour in the Navy after high school and I remember touching the coins from Hong Kong with wide eyes listening to heightened yarns of the guys he served with. We would all squeeze into bed as he told us long, detail-filled stories of “Spunky the Monkey” as we screamed with laughter, usually involving our plucky hero and bodily functions. I fell in love with books and my Dad was the one to tell me, gently, in high school “Make sure you have your own adventures too, ok?” On the morning of my 18th birthday I remember the local Navy recruiter calling my house – when I told him that night he laughed saying “They don’t miss a minute!” He once told me after college that I was the only kid of his he could have seen surviving and thriving in the military. I can’t tell you how that comment has strangely sustained me, making me feel powerful and capable because my Dad saw me as powerful and capable. 

My Dad is mischievous as ANYONE I HAVE EVER HEARD. I know there are pranks my Dad and pals pulled in high school he still can’t talk about, apparently. IT HAS BEEN ALMOST 40 YEARS. And these are just some of the ones I do know about: the legendary Ferndale High School food fight that he started while wearing a gorilla costume to stay incognito?! A battle of the bands where he was in a white suit and used ketchup packets to look like he was bleeding?! A reputation that apparently made my grandma nervous when people heard her daughter was dating him?! And it didn’t stop there: to this day anytime my Dad has any scratch/bruise/scuff and you ask him how he got it the answer will be (say it with me, siblings): “Oh, that? Your mom bit me.” 

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But my Dad doesn’t sacrifice a soft heart for all those tough, funny things. He’s a loving husband married to my mom 35+ years. He’s a Dad genuinely interested in our worlds. He’s a devoted grandpa to 3 happy little nuggets.

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When my parents left me at ORU for my freshman year…that was the first time I saw my Dad cry. I’d seen his eyes ‘glisten’ before, but this was monumental. I remember I was whole-body sobbing, shaking, standing on the bridge between chapel and the parking lot. That’s normal, right? For me to cry, visualizing living 2,152 miles from home. But it wasn’t just me. My mom was crying too. And so was this jokester, prankster, fix-anything-with-moving-pieces tough man. Which made me cry harder because anything that can break that kind of guy is worth sobbing about. It wasn’t until later that I realized as scared and sad and nervous but hopeful as I was…maybe he was too. He was losing (for awhile) the pun pal. The branch buddy. Someone who tried so hard to understand his machines but didn’t speak the language. Someone who wanted to hear all his stories. Someone who also appreciated a hearty Carharrt beanie and reading adventure stories and watching Young Frankenstein. 

It’s been almost 14 years since that sweltering, August day in Tulsa and I haven’t lived at home since. I’d come home for breaks and summers, and I still find myself boomeranging back to the nest 2-3 times a year. I’m living my adventures and stories like he told me, but there’s always someone I want to share them with. The weird bits of the stories and people I’ve met on the way. To show Morroccan and Korean and Thai coins to; to ping pong puns with, to quote Marty Feldman with, to try and fix some machinery with, to shoot targets with, to lovingly debate and discuss with. Sometimes, a branch misses another branch just knowing who they are in a way no one else does. 

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I am lucky, I am loved, I am blessed with this Dad who knows and adores me. And I am so excited to share him with someone else someday. To watch their eyes light up hearing about a work prank that apparently involved a fake spider in a paper cup that made a grown man cry. 

Happy Father’s Day, Dad. You’re all these things and more, every day. But today I finally kept typing through the tears to say all of it. I love you. 

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A Philadelphia Love Story

This is a Philadelphia love story. Like many internet love stories, I was hooked before we’d even met in person. I was in so deep; so certain it would be perfect once we finally were in the same space, present with each other.

I was obsessed with you. Showing everyone I met pictures of *that* *look.* I could almost feel you under my fingertips, imagining the smell, the taste – fantasizing what it would be like when you first brushed my mouth.

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I came so close on Wednesday night. I knew you were nearby, but unavailable. I sat with my friends at a table, only a few steps from you. We laughed, there were exquisite flavors and phenomenal table service but in the back of my mind, I was distracted. I’ll own it. I couldn’t stop thinking about you like a 16-year old watching the 3-dots bubble on Instagram, energy restless. I even went to the bathroom at the restaurant, just to lean into the kitchen, hoping for a peek at you, but nothing; leaving with hands smelling faintly of rose soap and eye contact deferred.

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It was fine. I’m an adult. I knew I’d see you Friday morning, so I could wait another 36 hours, right? I spent the next day and a half running my mouth about you. Genuinely, I would not COULD NOT shut up about you. Coworkers asked if you could just come to me – I checked – but no.

Friday came and I was up at 5:30am, throwing my belongings into my 7-year old Jessica Simpson suitcase from Ross, checking out of the Cambria, jumpy with anticipation and nerves. I knew the next hour was going to change me, and baby, I was ready to be changed.

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I called a Lyft. It was a quiet ride over to your place. The driver and I didn’t need to talk at 6:52am. I think somehow, we both knew why I was out that early. I stepped out of the car in Fishtown, breathing in the cool, crisp morning air and trying to treasure a snapshot in time, pre-you.

Pushing open the heavy wooden door, I walked in, clearly the first person to cross the threshold for the day. Inhaling the scents that said YOU. I could hear it like a delicate chime in my head, YOU YOU YOU YOU YOU. Nervously, I walked up to the counter; I couldn’t look the barista in the eye when I asked if you were in. She said you’d be out in 30 minutes, with your coworkers.

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I spent the next half hour tapping my foot, trying to write out my thoughts in a journal while impatiently nursing a hot chocolate topped with cotton candy sugar floss. Shifting my weight from foot-to-foot, perusing the onsite market of spices, fair trade coffee and Turkish mugs. My thoughts keep coming back to you; false starts had me lift my gaze in hope and drop it in mild disappointment each time.

At 7:35, your coworkers roll out of the kitchen, fresh for the day. I try to casually side-eye the entrance, thinking you must be next. 7:50, 8:00, 8:07, 8:15 go by with no one else coming out. At 8:22 I ask the barista if you’d be showing up for the day – only to hear the most crushing words – “oh they’re not in until 9:00 or so.”

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I. WAS. CRUSHED.

It was 25 minutes to the office and I couldn’t afford to be late; I had put in all this work to see you. I told my friends we were finally going to meet. I was mortified. Embarrassed. I left with frustration and shame and rage in my heart – if I had asked for you by name, why did the barista say you were going to be out at 7:30? Why not tell me you didn’t start until 9?!

I spent the whole ride to work venting to my Lyft driver about it; we were on the same page that this couldn’t be the last time I tried. I had to do something else. I frantically texted Adam and Dana, telling them that no matter what, we would be there to see you at 8:59am on Saturday morning. Even if I had to WALK across Philly, it would be worth it. I wasn’t going back to Chicago without you knowing how much I was willing to put into this relationship.

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Work was torture. I ranted to anyone who would listen about you; my Craigslist missed connection. I was Captain Ahab mournfully telling the tale of my romance with you, my white whale. Willing the hours forward, clawing seconds through the rest of the day (and night).

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Saturday morning. I swiped on some lip balm and a beanie, attempting a casual but fresh-faced look for our first meeting. Adam and I drove quietly to your place. Slowly walking in, eyes hopeful. Not there. I stepped up to today’s barista, asking in halting pauses if you’d be in at 9, explaining yesterday’s wound. “Ah!” her eyes lit up; she made us coffee and said you’d be out soon.

Adam and I sat with our coffee, trying to talk about anything but you. I briefly wondered if it would be weird that I brought a friend, but hey, he drove and also, I wanted a witness to this historic moment. I’m almost at the bottom of my coffee cup.

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This has now become ‘a thing.’

People are rooting for us – friends on Instagram, people in Chicago, in Philly, Friday’s Lyft driver – they want to see the joy of our first contact. I’ve been fielding messages for days. Suddenly the barista approaches on my right with you. My quick intake of breath as I thank her for facilitating this moment. My hands, shaking, reach out for you, holding you reverently.

You feel warm. Fresh. Glorious smells wafting off of you. You’re an eat-with-a-fork kind of beautiful. And so I do.

.

.

.

.

.

My kingdom, my heart, for this donut.

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— IF THIS SOUNDS FAR-FETCHED I AM HERE WITH RECEIPTS

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Oh, my friends. Trust me.

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She’s Solid.

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

January

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

February

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

 

March 

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

April

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

May

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

June

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

July

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

August

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

September

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

October

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

November

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

December

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

2019 Overall

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

Hiya, 2020. Let’s go.

A Blog I Pay For and Rarely Update: UPDATED!

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

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

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

  1. Jobs

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

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

Actual photo of said boss:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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WHEW.

2. School

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

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3. Comedy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. Health

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fridays – Personal Training with Brian at LSAC

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

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

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

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5. The Rest

a. Photography

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

b. Norway

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

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

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

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

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

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c. Travel

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

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

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

d. Experiences

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What. A. Year.

 

More updates, more often, from this face:

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I missed you too, Korea.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

tnf

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

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

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

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

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

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

progress

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

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

taco love

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

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