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.


“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)


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).


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.


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.


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.


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.

Certified 3am Protein Monster

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


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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The KMA Way

Hair tightly braided, deodorant applied, electrolyte tablets packed.

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

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

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



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


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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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


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

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


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

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


Good feels.

It’s Western Washington summer weather in February in Chicago. 55 degrees, intermittent rain, just a whisper of wind as I sit here on my porch post-gym.

The last few days I’ve been looping a new song, “Wildfire,” by SYML. It came up randomly on a new music playlist recommended for me by Apple Music and damn, did they hit me right on my cute lil nose.

In good time, you’ll come to know

When you release, when you let go

You can find yourself where you belong

You’re not a curse, you’re not too much

You are needed here, you are enough

And nothing’s gonna hold you down for long.


Lately I’ve been feeling adrift, unfunny, uninspired, unwanted, undesirable, listless, without a path, hunting, searching. That’s not to say that people haven’t loved and talked and reached out to me. It’s how I’ve been feeling even with those things.

I’ve done a lot of walking in the past few days. The weather has been beautiful/snowy/wet and something about walking in rain and snow and this song has been healing my heart.

It sounds weird to type this but it helps to think about sitting in front of myself and saying the words. I grew up knowing there’s power in words and something about doing this is working.

Rain and the right song at the moment I need it most from a Washington artist. Seems right. Feels good.


Why I’m Not Scared Of Turning 30 Today

“Are you calling this your 30th or your second 29th?”

“Say goodbye to the best decade of your life!”

“Welcome to your dirty thirties–its all downhill from here!”

Y’all. This is some serious garbage. I’m as proud of turning 30 sitting here in the middle of Chicago’s Christkindl market surrounded by gluwine and sauerkraut as I was to turn 10 and go to Black Angus and get a steak (medium well; don’t worry, I’m better now).

Ending/beginning a decade is something to celebrate. I think about wide eyed, 20 year old ORU me and I look down at myself–purple black lipstick, wedges, gorgeous dress–we’ve come so far, baby.

My spheres of influence and love include people who are of different sexual orientations, races, nationalities, genders. I have voted with my heart in elections and firmly call myself a feminist. I stay too far from home but love hugging and cooking and sitting by the fire with my family.

I’ve lived in 4 states, 2 countries and haven’t been home for a Thanksgiving since I was 18 (although buy me a ticket and get a girl some green beans) but I have Thanksgiving every year with friends who open their homes.

I’ve loved and been loved and cried and laughed and eaten some of the weirdest, most wonderful foods with people who were gracious and had language barriers and still had open hearts for me.

I’ve followed dreams to Chicago and studied improv and sketch comedy at storied places and grown up with one of the best companies in the world and one of my coworkers got me an Edible Arrangement because I work with the best people.

I have tried and succeeded and failed and LIVED. I’m proud of me.

Plus I’m wearing a new thong I bought for my birthday (no, you may not see it) SO BOOM. Bring it, 30.

PS my roommates surprised me after seeing Star Wars with a cake and ice cream and a balloon and I love them. VIVA 30!

The Eyes Have It.

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

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


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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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


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


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


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


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



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


Of Donuts & Talent Crushes

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

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


Por ejemplo:

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

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

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

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

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


Baby’s First Amtrak…at 29.

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

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

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



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


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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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


…sleeps again.

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


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


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

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


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


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

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

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


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


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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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


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


Initial thoughts:

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

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


Accidental Wins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today feels really damn good.