Monday, November 16, 2015

Virtual Wine Date

Many of my favorite bloggers have a feature that they call "Virtual Coffee Date," in which they talk about a number of random topics, things that they would discuss with their bestie over a cup of coffee.

Well, friends, I think coffee dates are dumb. (In fact, I was just telling some friends that I would immediately turn down a date if someone suggested meeting at a coffee shop. I mean, isn't there supposed to be booze involved?)

So while I think the idea of a coffee date is dumb, I am all about talking about random things. Instead of "meeting up for coffee," I have decided I'd like to chat with you all over a glass (or three) of wine.

Please pour yourself a glass. I'll do the same.

Using meditation and wine is acceptable, right? Right?!

If we were having wine tonight, I would recap some fun adventures I have had with great friends over the last week.

On Tuesday, my friend Kate flew in from Florida, and we went to King's Wine Bar (where I want to be a regular) in South Minneapolis for happy hour. I haven't seen her in years, so it was nice to catch up in person. We're hoping to run a race together in the somewhat-near future. (And congrats, Kate, on your triathlon last weekend!)

On Friday night, some colleagues and I decided that we wanted to extend happy hour to a night on the town. The four of us headed to Uptown, where we checked out Stella's Fish Cafe and the Libertine before deciding that we were too tired for partying it up on a Friday after a long week. :)

On Saturday, one of my besties in the entire universe came to town, and he and his daughters and I wandered around one of my new favorite places, Lake Harriet. He and I had a lot of catching up to do, so it was a nice way to do so. Later that evening, we went to the Crooked Pint to watch the democratic debate. On Sunday, we went to French Meadow Bakery and Cafe for brunch before he had to head back to the 515.

After Shaw headed home, I met my friend Nicole for a three-mile walk around Lake Como, one of my favorite places in my old 'hood. It was bittersweet being back, that's for sure. It was awesome to see Nicole, one of my first (and greatest) Minnesota friends.

If we were having wine tonight, I would tell you how excited I am about running again. After Nicole and I walked three miles on Sunday, I headed out solo around the lake for another mile. And I killed it.

And yes, I realize that a 10:12 mile is not fast -- but it's fast for me, and that's all that matters.
I'm especially proud of myself for a couple of reasons. First, I generally run about 11:15 or so. Second, I generally run that pace long into a training schedule, so this pace was especially exciting since I haven't hardly been training at all. Third, I had already walked three miles immediately prior -- as well as three miles the day before. And fourth, I had just eaten the most unhealthy breakfast imaginable.

So yeah, I killed it.

If we were having wine tonight, I would tell you how thrilled I was with the weather this weekend. It is Minnesota -- in mid-November. There is supposed to be a boatload of snow on the ground. (Praise the heavens above that there isn't.) I walked around Lake Harriet in a cardigan and jeans, and I ran around Lake Como in a tank top.

How great is that?!

If we were having wine tonight, I would tell you that I'm feeling much more positive than the last time I wrote -- after The Flood of 2015. It rained all day while I was at work (at least I think it did -- I have no windows in my classroom), and when I got home at 5:00, the floor was dry. Hallelujah! Maintenance is coming to fix my raggedy floor tomorrow, and the leasing company also said that they were going to credit my account for the inconveniences that I faced last week. I was not expecting that, but I am relieved (and grateful) that it's happening.

If we were having wine tonight, I would tell you that I love how peaceful my new apartment is (when it's not underwater). I have been so diligent about keeping it in relatively pristine condition: putting everything away where it goes immediately when I get home, making sure all of the dishes are done and put away before going to bed each night, sweeping at least once a day (usually twice), making my bed every morning, etc. And at night, I love lighting all of the candles and sitting on my couch with my kitties and a glass of wine. It's just so calm, which is something I have not experienced in a long time.

If we were having wine tonight, I would tell you how excited I am for this weekend. The National Council for Teachers of English (NCTE) Annual Convention is in Minneapolis this year, and several of my former colleagues (and great friends) are coming up from Des Moines. Mags will be here Wednesday and is going to come to school with me on Thursday, and I am so excited to see her (and to show off my new apartment, school, city). I am also SO EXCITED to attend the conference, as it is always super rejuvenating and reenergizing -- and, I always get bags of free books, which is especially exciting considering I'll only have to haul them across the city, not across the country this year. Because you know what I need? More books. (Last time I went -- in Boston -- I literally had to pack my carry-on suitcase inside of my checked bag, just so I would have enough luggage for the books I knew I would receive. I then had to carry TWO huge, heavy bags on the airplane with me as well. Crazy.)

If we were having wine tonight, I would tell you that we need to stop drinking already: it's a school night. And speaking of books, I want to do a bit of reading before I crash tonight. I just flew through Necessary Lies for my new book club and really, really enjoyed it. I'm about to dig into Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget (how apropos) and then am super stoked to start After You (sequel to my most recent favorite book) and then The Girls at the Kingfisher Club for December's book club.

Thanks for the wine date, friends! Mwah!

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Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Breaking Point

I consider myself a very cheerful, optimistic person in pretty much any situation. Even recently, despite the disaster that my life has been, I have chosen to remain positive and have been able to find the silver lining in these dark, dark gray clouds. Despite some very difficult days initially as well as some intermittent (and infrequent) sadness at really weird times, I have been doing a pretty good job of staying centered, balanced.

However, I reached my breaking point yesterday. And it wasn't pretty.

I'm about ready for this storm to be over.

It was a long day: I had a lengthy parent meeting after work, followed by a fast trip to the grocery store (to get ingredients for a soup I was making for a potluck today), an hour-long trip to my good friend's house for dinner in a torrential downpour, a 30-minute drive back across town for book club (still in the rain), and another 30-minute drive home. It was the second day in a row that I had been out of my house for 14+ hours.

I'm sure that utter exhaustion factored into what happened later in the evening.

So yesterday, I came home after book club (which was really fun), took off my wet boots, went down the hall to my bedroom to change into my jammies, and came back out into the living room. Huh, I thought. I could've sworn I took off my boots right when I walked into the apartment. Why is my floor wet?

I turned on the light:

I don't know if you can see this or not, but there is a lake covering half of my living room.

It wasn't just "a little" water. No, it was gallons of water.

And it didn't appear to be coming from the wall. There were random little puddles in the middle of the room. The water was coming up through the floorboards.

Keep in mind, it is after 10:00. My whole plan after book club was to hurriedly make the soup for today's potluck and then crash -- I was sooooo tired.

Well, that was not in the cards. First, I called our 24-hour emergency maintenance. The operator did not seem super excited about sending someone out, but I told him that it was a disaster and that I literally had no way of even starting to clean it up.

In the meantime, I did what any normal 32-year-old would do: I called my mom. I didn't even make it two minutes in the conversation before I started bawling my eyes out -- like, ugly-cry sobbing.

Seriously, what the heck?

There was NO reason that I needed to be upset about this. Sure, it was an inconvenience, but my stuff wasn't ruined, the cats were fine (albeit stressed), and I don't own the property and therefore have no responsibilities for it. This should've been something that I could just brush off.

But I didn't.

And I couldn't.

I think every ounce of stress -- and frustration and sadness and disappointment and anger -- came out at the exact same moment. Apparently it was all just pent up inside, and this was the trigger that released it all.

Lucky Mom who had to deal with it.

She is so wonderful at talking me off the ledge -- and so wise. She talked about how I have dealt with some major chaos (and a lot of crap) for the last couple of months and that I have been strong and collected throughout all of it, that it was time for me to let it all go, that everything would be fine.

It was a good thing my mom listened to my sob fest because otherwise Eric, my new best friend the on-call maintenance guy would've had to deal with it.

He came in and started tearing apart my floor before setting the wet-vac loose on it.

Eight gallons of water later, he called in reinforcements (my other new best friend, Mark from the floor restoration business). It took Eric a while to leave because I think he just felt so bad for me; I think he could also tell that I was extremely fragile and ready to start crying (again) any second. I thanked him profusely, but he just kept saying, "I didn't do anything! I'm so sorry! I feel like I just put a Bandaid on a gaping wound!"

And honestly, that's kind of what he did; but, that's all he could do. As soon as he left, the living room filled up with more water.

Mark finally arrived (around 12:45 a.m.) with some heavy-duty equipment. First, he brought his truck around the side of the building and ran a huge hose into my living room and woke up all the neighbors sucked out more water. Then he moved all of my brand-new furniture, tore up more of my flooring, set up a fan underneath the laminate as well as another fan across the room and the biggest dehumidifier I have ever seen (with a hose that connected it to my sink).

This equipment ran all night. (Mark left around 1:30.)

After no more than three hours of sleep, this is what I woke up to this morning: a mostly-dry floor, aside from a puddle around the de-humidifier.

Oh, and a stack of furniture.

While no tears escaped today, it was a close call on several occasions, most notably when I was sitting in the property manager's office, entirely stressed out about my living situation. Awesome.

The apartment is mostly cleaned up now, but there are still some random areas where a bit of water is seeping through the floorboards, there's still one bookshelf out of place since I have no idea what the heck to do with the dehumidifier, and pieces of my floor are still missing. I believe Mark will be back tomorrow to pick up his equipment and put the laminate back together, so hopefully I'll come home from work to an immaculately calm living space again.

Oh, and the normal, everyday maintenance dudes seem to think it's an issue with faulty drain pipes. Apparently there are holes in the one that's right outside my living room window, which means that the torrential downpour that happened yesterday basically just immediately entered my apartment. Hopefully that will be fixed, oh, like five hours ago.

So yeah.

But, I went to work. And I laughed (and commiserated) with the most wonderful colleagues/friends. And I smiled and goofed off with my students.

I told my kids about my horrible night, and I told them the very bare bones of my situation over the past few weeks, and I did so in hopes that they could see that struggles, hardships, and difficulties don't define a person, that positivity, cheerfulness, and a good, hopeful attitude are possible, even when things are pretty darn crappy.

And that is something that I need to continue to keep in mind for myself.

Things will get better.

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Sunday, November 8, 2015

New Apartment Tour

As I mentioned in a prior post, I have had some major life changes lately. One of those changes included moving to a new apartment -- after spending a wonderfully relaxing three weeks with my sister-mom, Gail. (She decided that I am her daughter-sister since our aunt-niece relationship just wasn't describing the two of us aptly enough; therefore, she is my sister-mom.)

Interestingly, I don't have a good photo of the two of us from that time period. Perhaps it is because we spent most of it either at work or in sweatpants. So, here's a photo of us from a couple of months ago -- when we met for lunch at It's Greek To Me in LynLake.

Anyway, I wanted to mention that I am so indelibly grateful for her support (and that of my uncle and cousin) during this very difficult time. I truly believe I am the luckiest girl in the world to have so many wonderful people in my corner. I honestly do not think I could've done it without them.

Also, it is so nice having family in town. I hadn't even been out of the house for a week, and Gail and I already missed each other so much that we had to meet for lunch!

Back to the topic of this post, though: I moved into my own apartment last Sunday. I was a bit nervous to see the place because I was such a hot mess during this whole process: I literally signed the lease without even seeing the unit. And when I was actually able to see my unit, I was so distraught and distracted that the only thing I remembered was asking the leasing agent how to work the dishwasher.

Yep: that was clearly the most important question to ask about the place I'd be living for the next 12 months.

When I first unlocked the door to start bringing in all of my boxes (of books and treasures, duh), I was again a little apprehensive: the place looked tiny. I swear that it was bigger when I did my walk-through.

Turns out all the place needed was stuff to look bigger.

Friends, I am in love with my new apartment: it is so clean, so spacious, so calm.

So without any further ado, I present to you my new digs:

I'm standing in the far corner of the living room. Immediately to my right are two floor-to-ceiling closets as well as my front door. To my left is the couch, which you'll see in a minute. I would like to get a big basket to put underneath the TV stand -- it would be nice for blanket-storage and cord-coverage.

This is my brand-new couch and ottoman. I love it SO much. And I give it one more week before a cat pukes all over it. (But cats: puke away. I got the protection plan.) I'd like to someday get a big comfy reading chair for the corner that has my nephews and candle.

First and foremost, I'd like you to note the bottom left corner: I have a dishwasher, y'all! I haven't had a dishwasher since I lived in Omaha -- fourteen years ago! I love the stainless-steel appliances (including a gas stove) and granite countertops in my kitchen. Eventually, I would like to get real dining room tables rather than icky folding chairs. But hey, moving is a bit expensive. Also, the bicycle is not a permanent fixture there, although to be honest I don't really mind it. There is a bike garage on the property, but it's currently full, and they're working on putting together a second.

Another angle of the kitchen. What can I say? I love it!

Aside from the way-too-close-to-the-toilet towel rack, my bathroom is really nice. There's a lot of storage under the sink (hidden in this view), and my little patio table fits nicely.

So what that I'm 32-years-old and sleep with a bunny and blankies? Don't judge me! To the right of the bed and partially seen in this view are floor-to-ceiling mirrored closets. The storage in this apartment is incredible. There are also floor-to-ceiling mirrored closets in the hallway from the front door, past the kitchen, to the bathroom and bedroom -- you can kind of see them in the next shot. To the left of the bed there is a wall of windows, and the cats really love to play with the blinds in the middle of the night.

Here's looking from the far corner of the bedroom to the hallway.

And Chloe and Charlie wanted me to be sure to include their "house" in this post. They finally figured out how to use a litter box with a lid, and it's hanging out next to the bathroom.

And that's all, folks! I'm crossing my fingers I got off the waitlist for a garage this winter, but if not, oh well. I've been parking outside for the last 14 years, so I can probably manage to go another with snow-scraping.

I love my apartment -- so much.

I also could not have made it what it is without my mama. She came to Minnesota last Saturday, helped unload everything into my apartment, and then stayed until Tuesday morning to help me set it all up. I was at work all day on Monday, and she unpacked my entire kitchen and put together three IKEA purchases (the two book cases against the wall in the living room and the TV stand). Not only that, but she braved big-city driving, something she abhors, to help me in a time of crisis. I am so, so, so thankful for her.

Here we are Monday night. We had no makeup, no couch, and no idea where anything was, but by God, we found the tiaras and the selfie stick, so all was right with the world.
I hope you all had a wonderful weekend! Mine has been so relaxing (despite getting not one but two workouts in). I'm off to enjoy a glass of wine and my book before crashing for the night.

G'night, friends!

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Thursday, October 29, 2015

A Serious Matter

Thanks to the NFL and pretty much every other business and corporation painting the town pink, we know that October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. But October is also the awareness month for another issue that largely affects women: domestic abuse.


Domestic abuse is such a major issue, and the fact that it is not widely discussed is more than disconcerting, to say the least. Do we not talk about it because it doesn't affect us? Do we not talk about it because we think it only affects a certain type of person? Do we not talk about it because we think it's uncommon? Do we not talk about it because we view it as excusable or as warranted? Do we not talk about it because we think we are alone? Do we not talk about it because of the connotations? Do we not talk about it because we are scared?

The reasons ultimately don't matter, I suppose. The fact is that we don't talk about domestic abuse.

Well, friends, I am going to talk about it.

Why am I going to talk about it? Because one in three women are abused in her lifetime. I guarantee that you know -- whether you know it or not -- someone who has been affected by domestic abuse. That is a terrifying statistic, and that is why we need to talk about it.


Often when we think of domestic abuse, we think of violence: black eyes, bruises, broken bones. That is one type of domestic abuse, and it is certainly a major issue: domestic abuse is the leading cause of injuries to women, more than mugging, car accidents, and rapes combined.

But domestic abuse is so much more than that. Domestic abuse is "the pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner." Yes, this includes physical abuse, but it also covers emotional, psychological, sexual, and economic abuse. Abusers use tactics and behaviors to intimidate, manipulate, humiliate, isolate, frighten, terrorize, coerce, threaten, blame, hurt, injure, or wound their partner.

Victims of domestic abuse come from all walks of life: rich and poor, white and black, educated and uneducated, heterosexual and homosexual, religious and secular, young and old, female and male.

Perpetrators of domestic abuse also come from a variety of backgrounds, which is especially problematic. Ninety percent of abusers have no criminal record, and they are frequently kind and generous to everyone outside of their intimate relationship. Not only do they not look like monsters, but they may (and often do) begin a relationship as an absolute Prince Charming.

That is one of the reasons why women find it so difficult to leave. They are in the relationship, after all, because they love him -- and because they believe that he truly loves her. He is kind and compassionate and loving and does wonderfully amazing things for her. He understands her and consoles her and compliments her and brags about her.

And when he "messes up," he apologizes profusely and says that he will make things better.

And she believes him.

After all, she loves him.

This, my friends, is the cycle of abuse.


Another reason women may find it difficult to leave is because they do not have the resources to do so. Often, if a woman wants to leave, she has difficulty finding housing, as family members may fear for their own safety or landlords may not be willing to lease property to a victim of abuse. Fleeing from domestic abuse is one of the leading causes of homelessness for women and children.

In addition, women may fear the repercussions of trying to leave. The closer the victim gets to leaving the abuser, the more the abuse intensifies; not only does the level of abuse rise (and the safety of the victim become more compromised), but the frequency of the abuse increases as well.

I want to make it absolutely clear that abusive relationships are not always physically abusive, and I also want to stress that one type of abuse is not necessarily worse than the others. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence says, "Emotional and psychological abuse can often be just as extreme as physical violence. Lack of physical violence does not mean the abuser is any less dangerous to the victim, nor does it mean the victim is any less trapped by the abuse."

Manipulation and control are never okay. Never.

Feeling unsafe in one's home is never okay. Never. 


So what do we do?

First, if you are in an abusive relationship, know this: what is happening to you is not your fault, and you do not ever deserve to feel worthless or unsafe. Please also know that you are strong and that there are support systems available; the National Domestic Violence Hotline, for instance, is available 24/7 (1-800-799-SAFE).

Second, if you know someone who is an abusive relationship, there are a number of steps you can take as well. First and foremost, be there as a non-judgmental, supportive listener. Second, encourage your friend or family member to seek outside supports and to develop a safety plan. Third, allow your loved one to make her own decisions; after being in a manipulative, controlling relationship, having another person telling her what to do could be detrimental. Above all else, simply let her know how much you love and care for her.

Here are a number of other resources:
  • The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence:
  • The National Domestic Violence Hotline:
  • Safe Horizon:
  • WomenSafe:
  • National Resource Center on Domestic Violence:
  • National Network to End Domestic Violence:


Peace, friends.

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Monday, October 26, 2015

Workout Plan

First, I want to thank you for the outpouring of support (via the blog, Facebook, text messages, phone calls, etc.) upon my last blog post. It's hard coping with a major lifestyle change when you're away from everything you know, but I am extremely lucky and incredibly thankful for the amazingly supportive friends and family I have from afar as well as the absolutely wonderful girlfriends I have made in Minnesota. A transition like this is never easy, but you all have helped me tremendously, and I am so grateful.

Now, let's get down to business: the business of the working-out variety.

When I left you last year, I had just finished the Summer of Running: I ran the Lincoln Half Marathon in May, eleven miles of the Market to Market Relay six days later, the Dam to Dam Half Marathon a couple of weeks after, and the Chicago Rock 'n Roll Half Marathon in July. In the midst of all of that, I had a cortisone shot in my knee and cycled approximately 20 bazillion miles.

Cardio was my middle name.

Amber and I prior to Dam to Dam 2014

Me after Dam to Dam

Aly, me, Stacey, and Leslie after the Rock n/ Roll Chicago Half Marathon

After the Rock n' Roll Chicago Half Marathon (aka the hottest, most miserable race I have ever completed -- note to self to never sign up for a race at the end of July)

In September, I thought I'd give the knees a little break and focus more on strength-training than cardio. I used a Groupon to join MaxT3, a killer bootcamp at a downtown CrossFit box. These workouts were phenomenal: lots of pull-ups, kettle bells, ball slams, squats, etc. I was certainly wiped at the end of each workout, and I both felt and looked stronger. However, these workouts are just not for me: I get too focused on the goal (going fast to beat everyone else) and end up disregarding form, not upping weights, etc. Also, the gym was super unorganized (and is now something else entirely), so I did not have a hard time letting go of that membership.

When I started coming up to Minnesota in December, I began working out with S. He is a powerlifter and in crazy-good shape. He put together a training program for me, and we started working out together at a lifting gym up here. I absolutely loved spending time together at the gym; S. was basically my personal trainer and gave me such great feedback, helped me with my form, spotted my heavier lifts, and praised my growth. I continued this powerlifting routine in Des Moines and felt amazing. I lost weight, I gained muscle, and not only was I noticing visible change in my body, but I was also feeling so much better, so much stronger.

Unfortunately, the workouts fell by the wayside when I got crazy-busy this summer. I couldn't work out as much as I wanted during tennis season due to late nights and lack of a gym (since I was using the school's weight room in Des Moines). In addition, my nutrition was less-than-stellar as I did not plan enough in advance, was out late for meets, etc. Then I was out of town and/or packing much of the summer, which in turn cut into my routine. When I moved up here, I worked out a few times (enough to get a membership at the lifting gym), but shortly thereafter, things took a turn for the worse relationship-wise, and again, exercise was the first thing to go.

About six weeks ago, I started doing yoga, however. A friend convinced me to go to CorePower Yoga with her, and I ended up getting a free two-week pass. I think I went at least six times in that two-week period. I loved it -- and it was just what I needed, especially because I was an emotional disaster. Yes, there were definite physical benefits to my practice (even in that short amount of time), but there were far more spiritual benefits: yoga grounded me -- centered me -- during this time of absolute turmoil. I felt tremendously better during the classes, but that feeling of tranquility (and those ujjayi breaths) really, really helped me in the many periods of distress that followed.

I moved out of my home nearly three weeks ago. Unfortunately, most exercise has ceased in that time period. My free-trial ran out at the yoga studio, and while I bought a Groupon for another studio, I want to wait until I'm settled in my new place to start that. (As you can imagine, trying to start a new routine while living out of a suitcase is not an easy feat.) I have done a few things, though:

First, I went on a few walks. My mom and I walked three miles around Lake Zorinsky when I was hOmaha, one of my new best friends and I walked around Lake Harriet in Minneapolis, and that same friend and I wandered around the Galleria and another cute shopping area in Edina this weekend (and yes, that does count as walking).

I call this one Lake Harriet in Autumn.

Second, I had a night of dancing with three great girlfriends -- who just so happen to also be my colleagues. I am totally counting this as a workout, as I wandered around downtown Minneapolis and danced my booty off in three-inch heels. Two days later, my quads are still burning.

Seriously, how gorgeous are they?!

While the walking and dancing count for something, I am in dire need of a legit routine. So, here's the plan:

  • I want to continue powerlifting (squats, deadlifts, bench, overhead press, and accessory work). I have never felt better in my life. Seriously. First, lifting heavy weights makes me feel like an absolute badass. Second, it makes me feel grounded (check out this article by Henry Rollins). And third, it makes me feel (and look) soooooo good.  My plan is to lift three times per week.
  • I want to continue yoga. I bought a Groupon for ten sessions at Heat Yoga Studio, and while it's not CorePower Yoga, I am nevertheless excited to continue my practice. Like with lifting, I feel so grounded (and spiritually connected), and I also know that it does wonders for my physique. My plan is to practice yoga at least one or two times per week.
  • I want to start training for another half marathon. Thirteen point one miles is my absolute favorite distance, and my goal for next year is to PR. I would love to hit 2:30, and I strongly believe that I can do this, especially with continued lifting and yoga. Running during the winter in Minnesota sounds a bit problematic, but I will have treadmills (ughhhhhh) at my new place, so there are no excuses. I will run outside until it gets unbearable (either in regard to temperature or precipitation), and then I'll resort to the treadmill. I want to start off with low mileage -- like, a mile at a time -- and build up speed and endurance. I also need to select a race to schedule. (Any ideas?) That will help me set up an actual training schedule for when the weather gets a bit nicer. My plan is to run at least three miles per week.

While that's a lot more exercise than I am doing currently, I am really, really looking forward to getting back into the groove. I'm going to start this plan next week but also give myself a little leeway since I'll be getting settled; I will legit start the week of November 8th -- no excuses.

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