7: Wintersport in April

Y’all.

Minnesota’s weather this winter.

Snowpocalyptic.

And never ending. Like Prince said, “Sometimes it snows in April.” And snow is a bit of an understatement of what we have received in the first 18 days of this month. On April 3rd we got an appetizer with a snowfall that forced me to work from home and then this past weekend we got a big, beefy main course with a juicy blizzard that started early Saturday and didn’t really stop until Monday morning.

I spent approximately 44 hours inside my house. And I went so stir-crazy at one point I vacuumed our bedroom standing fan. Which of course, we’ll never use because it will never be summer.

But, by the time we were able to resurface on Sunday afternoon, conditions were actually perfect for some mid-spring snowshoeing at our neighborhood golf course!

April Snowshoe
Here’s we go!
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Making the most of the weather!

We made it just shy of a mile before the falling snow started to soak and chill us.

But! We did see every single duck in South Minneapolis in one spot.

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You can’t really see it, but there is more than 100 ducks here. Loud!
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6: Go To Dinner By Myself

“One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do,” says Three Dog Night.

And, generally, I’d agree.

This year, when we did our Myer-Briggs types at work, I essentially scored off the charts in extroversion. And exactly zero people were surprised by that.

Which is why, of all of the things I considered for 30 New Things This Year, this maybe scared me the most (so far).

I intended to take this evening on a night while Aaron was out of town, but I accidentally overbooked myself and while time would have allowed a late evening dinner, nothing seemed “stress-free” about frantically running between work, a doctor’s appointment, a church meeting, and then dinner, all while trying to figure out where in that mix to walk the dog and feed the cat. So I took it a night later, while Aaron was in town but busy. He gave his blessing, reminding me that he absolutely loves eating dinner alone, but also… introvert.

After a challenging day at work (in a couple of months’ worth of unusually challenging days), I came home wound up, irritable, and anxious. I sort of wanted to just stay home, but I also didn’t want to cook for myself. And I didn’t want to be a quitter.

I have literally been thinking about this dinner for weeks. I Googled “How to go out to dinner alone” which is a sort of depressing search and also full of all the worst advice. I had very specifically selected a restaurant that was close to home, but not a place we go often, was a place where portion sizes meant I could enjoy more than one course, and was an overall small(ish) restaurant. The bad work day felt more like a sign that I had to do it than a sign that I shouldn’t do it.

So, I did what I would do for any date.

I showered. And I used the lavender soap. Because fancy. I did my hair. I put on make-up. Which I essentially never do. I put on shoes that tap loudly when you walk across a floor because that sound makes me feel confident.

(Turns out, those shoes are terrible for icy sidewalks, which Minneapolis is FULL of right now. Nothing says confidence like clumsily shuffling for two blocks, right?)

I drove myself to a quaint little French place in South Minneapolis called St. Genevieve. It is a place we’ve gone for drinks, but never for a meal. It does have a bar, but:

Kate’s Rule # 1 of Dining Alone: No One Puts Baby at the Bar.

I didn’t want to eat at the bar. I wanted to eat a table. And be served by a waiter. At a table. Eating at the bar is not the full experience I was going for. So, I walked up to the hostess stand and confidently said, “Hi! Just one tonight, but I’d prefer a table.”

And, even as I heard it, it sounded confident but inside I was dying a thousand deaths by the paper cuts of social awkwardness. Of course, I silently begged for ANY of the corner tables and instead she put me right in the middle of the booth that runs along an entire half of the restaurant.

The waitress approached immediately, before I even oriented my upside-down drink menu correctly, and asked if there was “anything you need right away?”

“No, of course not. Just a moment to look at the menu.”

And for the earth to actually swallow me whole right here and now, thanks.

I ordered a glass of wine (savior!) and perused the food menu. I ordered two courses: the celery soup (with poached apple, macademia nut, and tarragon) and the duck (with hazelnut, a cherry-liver sauce, sprouted lentils, and turnip). And then I just sat there, because:

Kate’s Rule # 2 of Dining Alone: No “Distractions”

A good 90 percent of writers on The Internet, were like, “When I dine alone I like to bring a book or newspaper or scroll through my phone to pass the time.” I think this is the worst advice. You wouldn’t (or shouldn’t!) scroll your phone at dinner with your significant other or a close friend– why would you do it when you are out with yourself? So, I allowed myself nearly no distractions except a small notebook in which I wanted to jot some thoughts on the day in for a few minutes.

I am not on this planet to “pass the time.” Thank you very much.

And it wasn’t until I was about halfway through that first glass of wine when I actually sat back into the booth, let my heart rate return to earth, and began enjoying myself rather than worrying about myself.

I let my attention waft between the conversations, never pausing long enough to eavesdrop but hearing enough to know that the pair of women to my right were long-time friends who raised their children together and were now bragging about their grandchildren, to know that the table directly in front of me was celebrating a 75th birthday, and the table next to them– a group of girlfriends– were celebrating an engagement. A pair of identical twins with identical haircuts laughed together at the bar.

I noticed the way the waitstaff choreographed their every move and how quickly tables moved between courses and then turned over for new diners but how there was not atmosphere of rush or sense of hurry.

The food was divine, and I don’t have the culinary writing chops to do it true justice, so I won’t, except to share how I described the duck to Aaron when I got home:

“And the duck, Aaron! The duck! It had this like, thick, crispy layer of duck fat all the way across it and I realize that this sounds like how a fat kid would describe duck breast, but if the shoe fits… and then there was this sauce and these things and the sprouted lentils! Dude, sprouts are like, exactly how you get a foodborne illness, but I didn’t even care! I ate them!”

And there aren’t any photos of the food because Rule # 2. I only touched my phone once, after the main course, to tell Aaron that this was “fucking delightful.” It’s not the most delicate or literary phrasing I could have used, but it was accurate and to the point.

By dinner, I was finding my rhythm and my comfort. I ordered a second glass of wine (because date night) and enjoyed my meal at a measured pace, because:

Kate’s Rule #3 of Dining Alone: Do Not Race to the Finish Line 

And the longer I sat there, the longer I enjoyed the company of myself. The more comfortable I became letting my attention wave over everyone– I watched buses drive down 50th Street, I watched a woman frantically scroll through her ipad at the bar. She probably never took a chance to notice me, the peaceful thirty-something eating alone, not dying a thousand deaths by the paper cuts of social awkwardness.

I ordered dessert and an Americano.

Kate’s Rule #4 of Dining Alone Rule # 1 of Life: Treat Yo’Self

Eat places with small portions, friends, so you can taste as much of their menu as possible. Taking the time to sip a coffee and enjoy honey cake with poached pears and a scoop of ice cream was maybe the highlight of the night. Maybe it was the two glasses of wine? Or maybe it was that I had the opportunity to pay the check and bolt the minute that last piece of crispy duck fat passed my lips, but I didn’t. I enjoyed a full evening and a full meal, beginning to end.

Though I am sure most of you are coming to this blog via Facebook, I think the way I summed up the evening on Facebook is the most accurate, so I will share that again here:

YOU GUYS.

I just did something brave.

Really, fucking brave (for me).

I got home from work, showered, put on make-up, and took MYSELF on a date.

A NICE date.

I went to dinner alone– ordered wine, had two divine courses, and dessert.

I did not scroll my phone or read a book. I just sat, on a date with myself, basking in the glory of just being Kate.

It took a half glass of wine to get over my anxiety of eating at a nice restaurant alone, but I am sharing this from my car and I am absolutely vibrating with energy. Vibrating!

Probably there is some ancient, life-guiding text that should be reminding me to stay humble, but I will save the humility for tomorrow because tonight I am super, super proud of me.

How often in your adult life do you reach a point where you literally vibrate with confidence despite getting no input from anyone else? Not often, for me. I spend a lot of time seeking the opinions of others to give me confidence. Approval, validation, course-correction, “atta-girls.” But that’s not what I am here for. I am here to bask in the glory of just being Kate. Amen! Hallelujah! Holy shit!

 

5: Volunteer at a Church Service

I didn’t grow up going to church, so even though I’ve been attending Christus Victor Lutheran Church super-regularly for around six years, sometimes the customs and flow of the services still aren’t familiar to me. And that felt like this huge barrier to me to volunteering during service.

Even the task that I think most people think is easiest, ushering, does not look easy. I know. I’ve watched. I’ve considered being an usher, and frankly, it looks too hard. Before service, you have to hand out the programs. Okay, that seems simple enough. But it gets harder! At offering, you have to pass the baskets, but CVLC doesn’t have a center aisle, so the center section gets the basket passed from both aisles and you gotta not pass in a row that already got it. Tricky! You have to watch not only your own baskets on two sides of the aisle, but also one of the baskets of the other usher. And then, sort of the same thing, but with HUMAN BEINGS at communion. And honestly, I don’t even know what order everyone gets excused for communion because I sit in the second row of the first section to go (overachiever!), so I don’t even notice.

Greeter seemed possible for me, but I am not always the friendliest friend on Sunday mornings. Some days I go all the way through church and never say a single word to people except “Peace” when we share the peace. Sometimes I like that, ya know? Meditative. Come in, praise God, sit in thought, be prayerful, go home and go for a run.

So, for years, I have been faithfully attending services every Sunday (that I am not adventuring) and just sitting there, soaking in all of the good vibes brought to me by two pastors, a small number of staff, and a giant bucket of volunteers.

Regardless of your denomination, eventually something catches up to almost all Christians: guilt.

I’ve leaned really heavily on our church community in the last couple of years– for guidance, prayers, friendship, and some Deluxe Knick Knacks at the church garage sale. And the community has responded ten-fold. It is one of the most lovely bunch of weirdos I have ever gotten to be a part of.

And I can’t even greet.

Ugh.

So, I will blame this goal of doing Thirty New Things this year, for finally catapulting me into church service volunteerism. Three or so weeks ago, I walked right up to the Joyful Servants bulletin board and quickly scrawled my name and email address for Lector on February 18.

Because how hard can reading be, right? I am a great reader, I love being in front of crowds; this seemed like a no-brainer.

The Universe did me a solid and didn’t bring to fruition my worst fear: unpronounceable Biblical terms, people, or places. The Old Testament is like a minefield of ways to embarrass yourself on a Sunday morning, but the New Testament has some sleepers in there too.

Barachiah.

Jehoshabeath.

Nebuchadnezzar.

Sopater. (So-patter? Soo-pay-ter?)

None of these in my reading, hallelujah.

But The Universe wasn’t going to make things easy, either. I can’t recall how many verses there are in a typical reading, but it’s less than 44. But that’s what I got. Book of John, Chapter 11, verses 1 through 44 (the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, in case you are wondering). And I’d argue there are some verses we could have skipped, but to be fair, we didn’t read the entire chapter. There are 13(ish) more verses (depending on your choice version of the Bible).

I’d guess this was the equivalent of nearly two ‘normal’ Sunday’s of reading, so 2 God-points for me.

(Somewhere my pastors are reading this and saying “God-points?! Oh, she is completely missing the point of this whole thing! Has she been listening at all?!”)

I’ll admit it– I stumbled a couple of times. I got a little lost in All the Paperwork involved in a 44 verse reading and lost my place.

Still, my verdict? Reading has got to be way easier than ushering. Got. To. Be.

So, it’ll be better next time– I’ll practice more and I won’t lose my spot. Unless it’s got a ‘Laodicea’ in it.

4: Make a King Cake

You know those food blogs with the amazing pictures of their process and their food? This is not one of those blogs. Get ready for some poorly lit phone photos in a dirty kitchen.

I am a closeted baker. Like, the truth is, I am a pretty sub-mediocre cook (I often forget to season anything), but I am secretly pretty good at baking. The simpler the better, but I have a few mastered recipes (sugar cookies, chocolate cake, lemon blueberry cake, and banana bread–which is actually a cake shaped like a bread). In moments of high stress, I am likely to whip out dozens of cookies over a week’s time.

One of my Overall Life Goals is to get better at cooking foods from other cultures. The other half of our Adventure Team (from our righteous trip to Utah this summer) recently moved to Louisiana and we’ve been asking all kinds of questions about Life in the South. Inspired by their adventurous spirit to pick up and move to a completely foreign place, I decided to make the Mardi Gras favorite: A King Cake!

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I followed the New York Times Cooking recipe and I should have known I was off to a rough start when it pretentiously told me it was “a sort of hybrid” recipe.

That is code for “we took this hard dessert and made it harder. Bon chance, sucker.”

Challenges included, in no particular order:

  • It required more than one kind of flour and that annoys me. Bread flour and cake flour, which shows you exactly how confused the King Cake is about what, exactly, it is.
  • Minnesota has had a brutally cold winter and we live in a house just shy of 100 years old– not exactly heat-efficient. This made it too cold for my dough to rise appropriately, essentially doubly my rise time. Which was already long.
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Not doubling. Not even one-and-a-halfing.
  • Once your dough does rise, you must than take that puffy goodness and roll it out flat, 24 by 6 inches, and according to the recipe, “not reduce the fluff of the dough” (jeeeezus). AND THEN, you have to take these shards of pecans in a hot sugar and butter sauce and spread that all over your rolled out, but still fluffed dough. Under no circumstances are you to allow even one pecan shard to tear the dough. So you spread it with the damn touch of an angel, and then it says, “roll tightly. DO NOT tear the dough.” Wut.
  • The recipe is condescending/patronizing. I roll that dough tightly. And I allow exactly ZERO tears. Then I lift the two feet of rolled dough onto a pan. Still exactly ZERO tears. I shape it into a ring, feeling pretty darn proud of myself. Also, by this point I have essentially been making a King Cake for like 4.5 hours. So, it’s been a battle thus far. And the recipe has the audacity to say, “It’s okay if your ring is uneven.” Damn straight, New York Times. It is 100% more than okay. It is fan-frickin’-tastic that I have gotten myself and this dough ring, filled with the nut-equivalent of crushed lightbulbs this far.
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Not one single pecan poking through. Not one!
  • I made a newbie mistake and didn’t seal my seam well. So, in the oven she burst a bit.
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Thar she blows!

But, after the baking, which was a short 6.5 hours into the process, the rest was super easy!

Stuff a baby in there.

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And frost and sugar that sucker!

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If you’re tempted to note that there isn’t very much sugar, no need! It was the first thing my kind husband noted, but honestly? After 7 hours of making this, I had no more sugar-shakin’ energy in me.

All in all, it was a bit of a rollercoaster with several emotional highs and lows. And I was pretty surprised at the investment of time I had to make (so kudos to people who do this every year!), but I am super proud of the end result and it tastes delicious. Of course it does, I am closeted baker and I expected to be at least half-good at this. And I was. I have already looked into other recipes that I think might improve my end product.

Laissez les bon temps rouler! 

 

3: Install a Toilet

Surely you’ve heard of the “royal we.” Also known as the majestic plural or pluralis maiestatis, it is the use of a plural pronoun when referencing a single person of high office. 

In this story, I am going to use entirely the opposite. I am going to tell you about the time I installed a toilet, but I am using something I would call the unum matrimonium. This is the use of a single pronoun when actually referencing a pair of people, joined in life and adventures by marriage. 


For a few weeks, we’ve had some minor issues with a semi-blocked sewer line from our house. The only symptom was that, occasionally, if we used a lot of water (like running the washing machine), we’d get a small bit of standing water over the drain in the laundry room floor. Even more rarely, we’d get a little more than a ‘small bit’ and those events were beginning to happen with increasing frequency.

Simultaneously, we replaced our washer and dryer and the reduced water use did help a bit. But it wasn’t really a solution. Then, we had a fluke toilet run. A running toilet, in most circumstances, would just be annoying and wasteful. But if you have a semi-blocked sewer line, it means a flood over 15 percent of your basement.

Not awesome.

So, we had a plumber come out to bust up the clog.

But they couldn’t access the main sewer line because someone finished the basement in a way that made it inaccessible without knocking out a wall. Because #oldhouse, #charming, and other #bullshit like that.

But! The plumber, Paul (yay, Paul!), could still get to the sewer line!

Through the toilet.

After he removed the toilet.

(There’s a fee for that.)

And Paul busted up a lot of roots for us, which was awesome.

Then he put the toilet back.

(There’s a fee for that, too.)

Then Paul tells us that, for free*, we can have another plumber come out and take a video of our pipes.

*This is not actually free. We paid a lot of money for the toilet removal, root removal, and toilet re-install. The camera visit was “included” in the cost of the first. Absolutely no part of this was free.

So, today that plumber (Tim!) came out. And he removed the toilet. And sent a camera into our sewer line. I am pretty sure my exact words to Aaron were, “Enjoy watching our poop live and in living color.” In subsequent events that are a surprise to absolutely no one, Tim found a lot more roots. Because #oldhouse, #charming, #bullshit. This news means, essentially, that we need someone to come back out within the next few months to continue the root removal.

In which event, they will need to remove the toilet.

(There’s a fucking fee for that.)

So Tim is putting the toilet back together and then tells Aaron that we need to replace the flange. Toilets have weird parts with stupid names. Except the flapper in the tank, which is called the flapper. Ironically, replacing the flange requires removing the toilet, which Tim has just re-installed.

Aaron then removes the toilet that Tim just re-installed. He charges no fee for that.

Now let me interrupt myself to tell you that this joyous event between Tim, Aaron, and our main poop pipe is taking place while I am at work. On my way home I toss out an investigative text to see if Aaron would be interested in picking me up at the train station so I don’t have to stand in the cold waiting for a bus. I believe I sort of disguise this with, “Hey friend. What are you up to? Any interest in a beer or something?”

“What train station are you at?”

Jackpot!

A few minutes later, as I am toasting my buns on the heated seats of the car, Aaron says, “Wanna come to Home Depot with me? I gotta get a flange.”

“Sure,” I reply.

[A minute or two of silence.]

“Also, if I find a dual flush toilet for less than $200, I am going to buy it and install it,” he says, casually.

“Um, what?!”

“I watched a YouTube video. I can do this.”

Not more than 20 minutes later, I was pushing a new toilet around Home Depot while Aaron agonized over the EXACT hacksaw that we would need to cut the bolts of the toilet. He chose the hacksaw that came with a bonus mini-hacksaw, because he is obviously an economic genius. If you neglect the part where we are replacing a pretty good, working toilet with a brand new toilet…

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So, now that you have the set up, let’s get to the real story.

Just kidding. Installing a toilet is super straightforward, really easy, and the only part my husband would let me do anyway was screw the seat and lid onto the base.

But that toilet seat is screwed on perfectly.

 

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I don’t have a lot of confidence in my handywoman skills. I don’t have a lot of practice using my handywoman skills. And like every other challenging thing I face, I didn’t believe I could do it until I had done it.

But I did it. I installed a toilet (seat and lid)!

And in a few week’s time, a plumber will come out and remove that toilet to snake our sewer line.

And there will be a fee for that.

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2: See the Grain Belt Sign, Lighted

I had this momentary fear that seeing a sign lit up was going to sound like “phoning it in” for my collection of 30 things I’ve never done before.

This was a stupid fear because it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. My goal, my rules. 


I really truly, deeply love the city I live in. Turns out, that’s pretty common in this city. And sometimes loving a city, just like loving a person, means having a connection to things or traits that you can not explain. They just feel… important.

In Minneapolis, the Grain Belt Beer sign is one of those things. It’s an icon in our city, overlooking the Mississippi as it runs along the north side of downtown, splashing under the Hennepin Avenue Bridge and then the equally iconic Stone Arch Bridge. And I can’t tell you why I love it, but I do.

The sign, built in the 1940s to highlight the popular beer brand of the Minneapolis Brewing Company has not been lit since the 1990s. Grain Belt Beer actually has a fascinating history that I would highly recommend my beer-loving and/or Minneapolis-loving friends read here: The History of Grain Belt Beer. The brand’s complicated history includes a rise to fame as Minneapolis Brewing Co. and Theodore Hamm Brewing Company dominated the Twin Cities beer scene in the early 20th century, the challenges of Prohibition, a post-Prohibition boom as “The Friendly Beer with the Friendly Flavor,” and a series of slumps and sales that kept the brand limping along until 2001. At that time, the August Schell Brewing Company in New Ulm, MN purchased the Grain Belt brand and began a 15-year journey to reinvigorate the brand. And relight the sign.

The sign was relit on December 30, 2017. Aaron and I took a 5 mile pilgrimage from home on January 5, 2018– which was not as small a feat as it sounds, as Minneapolis was gripped in a sub-zero winter freeze that made being outside slightly miserable.

She was resplendent.

 

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1: Pop a Champagne Cork

In the deluge of New Year’s Resolution articles that come out at the turnover of a new year, I read that it is most successful to focus on a small number of things (goals, hobbies, what have you) and do those few things very well. Supposedly this strategy makes you a great employee, too, if you operationalize this technique in your work.

Yawn.

In a move that is sort of Classically Kate, my goal is almost exactly the opposite. In 2018, I plan to do 30 things that I’ve never done before. Big things? Maybe. Small things? Likely. I don’t know, because there aren’t any plans for the plan. Except to say “yes!” to new opportunities.

My first chance came right at the stroke of midnight.


It shouldn’t actually be that surprising that I’ve never popped a champagne cork— I don’t like surprises or loud noises— so I’ve often kindly passed on the honor.

We had a small gathering at our home for New Years and a lovely bottle of champagne we received as a wedding gift four years ago. I nonchalantly said I’d never opened a bottle of champagne to a collective “What?!”

Which led to three adults giving me their strategies—

“Point it away from everyone!”

“Just tuck your thumb under the cork…”

“I like to give it a gentle twist first; you’ll feel it loosen.”

I did, at one point of anxiety, hand the bottle back to Aaron and say I didn’t want to do it. But 30 new things in a year is more than two per month. There was no better time to get started.

And, then, with a sharp pop (and disappointly short fly of the cork), we toasted to the new year. And to only 29 new things left to try.

(Not) Recapping 2017

For several years I have really enjoyed spending time each day of December reflecting on the year that has past and looking forward to the year to come. Activities like this feed the introspective, self-improving part of me and my blogging has really been whittled down to only this for a few years now.

I love fresh starts. And this year, I need it more than ever.

I will not be detailing 2017 in an end-of-the-year flourish of storytelling. To say it was a difficult year for me is to put it mildly, and while many might say (even me, once upon a time) that writing about it and sharing it might bring me some closure, today’s not that day. Keeping stories close to the vest is hard for me at times– I am often living my life quite out loud and quite publicly, and I love how sharing and storytelling has connected me to people in new and unique ways.

What I can say about 2017 is that I fought like hell. And continue the fight. Among the normal peaks and valleys of life, at times I found myself below sea level and crawled back to the shore each time. And each time I resurfaced a little battered, a little angry, but mostly okay. I am at “okay” and, frankly, pretty happy to be there.

I didn’t execute perfectly. I let a lot of things slip. I got behind on responsibilities, disconnected from important people, lost my way a bit. Small problems (lost glasses) became insurmountable barriers (“I’ll be blind forever”) at times because everything just felt like too much. But a smart, patient partner reminded me, “Everything is solvable.”  It takes work, but it can be done.

I love differently than I did at this time last year. Partly in the way that I love others, but mostly in the way that I love myself. I am fierce. I am strong. I am resilient. I am capable. I can do hard things. I did do hard things and survived. I am proud of myself and I am proud that I have found the courage and self-confidence to say that.

At the end of a challenging 2016, I said “2017 will be better” and 2017 rolled in like, “Here! Hold my beer!” So, I won’t tempt The Universe again with sweeping predictions like that. But I think in 2018 will be better– more open to things that scare me, more flexible with myself and others, more patient.

Cheers to a fresh start!

 

31 Things Learned, Remembered

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Yesterday, I turned 31– an age I only disagree with because I thrive on pattern and hate prime numbers. It was a complicated year. It was beautiful and tragic, often at the same time. I spent a significant amount of time re-learning myself and some of my relationships, practicing patience (hard!) and grace (harder!), and being super intentional about showing myself the same love and forgiveness I would show a friend (hardest!).

The most rewarding part of the year was the abundant opportunities for learning and growth. Here’s just a small collection of 31 things I learned in my 31st year.

  1. I can turn the volume down on other people by not allowing their hate or ignorance into my own life. I can say, “Not welcome here.” It can feel really good.
  2. The bartender at the Turf Club in Saint Paul would just really prefer if you kept your tab open rather than “run every single fucking beer like every other fucking Millennial.” Noted.
  3. Feeling lonely in grief is a second loss no one talks about. It feels like the rest of the world has left you behind. But they haven’t. This is temporary. You’re never alone.
  4. We’re all just here to walk each other home.
  5. If you are passionate about, talented in, and committed to something, you can get others to suspend their judgment, disbelief, and insecurities. This is how I have found myself in the audience, yelling my head off, at amateur pro-wrestling this winter. Twice. Having the time of my life.
  6. Jim Henson was raised as a Christian Scientist and he turned out pretty okay.
  7. Relationships soften when we enter someone’s home or let them enter our own. Our homes are incredibly special, sacred places and we ought to revere them in such a way that honors that.
  8. In brain chemistry, fear and excitement are really the same emotion (chemically speaking). It’s our thoughts that dictate which we experience.
  9. We gotta give more funding to public radio so the member drives will be shorter.
  10. If a therapist and a ski instructor give you the exact same advice- VERBATIM- it is your new gospel. (That gospel is “lean in to the fear.”)
  11. If you host an event and serve coffee and beer, no one will drink the coffee.
  12. Somewhere, someone is quietly being warmed by the fire of your life or your work or your love, without you knowing it. Keep your fire stoked.
  13. Three days of dehydrated meals might turn your poop green. Like, neon.
  14. you never know how deep you can dig until The Universe puts you in a hole and hands you the shovel.
  15. I am really, outrageously strong and unfuckwithable.
  16. There’s never a bad time to learn something new.
  17. I can use a map and compass to navigate the shit out of an REI parking lot. I am still learning to navigate the rest of the world.
  18. Some things can fix everything– like an apology, a campfire, or a length of rope.
  19. The entire citizenry of Utah is being held hostage by arcane liquor laws that make it impossible to get a draft beer with an ABV above 4%. #freeutah
  20. The wrong socks will really screw up the day.
  21. “Don’t be so hard on yourself, kiddo.”
  22. There aren’t enough words, in any language, for the people that walk beside you in deep canyons. Literally or figuratively.
  23. ‘The only way out is through’ isn’t always true. You can say “no thank you” to a lot of things and then simply walk around.
  24. Show me a person who can create a baked good with whole blueberries in which the blueberries do not fall to the bottom of the cake/muffin/scone and I will show you someone who is using some sort of black magic to defy the laws of physics.
  25. Marriage, dudes. It is really quite a spectacular trip.
  26. If a person was as indiscriminately friendly as a dog, they would actually be diagnosed with a developmental disorder.
  27. Being an auntie is 100% the bee’s knees. And it’s not even that hard– smile like a fool, play a bunch of games that have no real rules, run around the dining room table. Rinse, repeat.
  28. I recently heard this in a training: “Does my audience have the knowledge, skills, and desire to provide me with the goal outcome?” While this was about group discussion facilitation, I have found myself asking the same question in other areas of my life. Is this person truly able to give me what I am asking? If the answer is no, and I know that, the fault is on me for asking and leading us all to failure and disappointment.
  29. Asking for help is not an indication of my weaknesses, but rather of my wisdom to know when I simply cannot (and do not have to) do it alone. This has been my most freeing and life-giving lesson of the year.
  30. When you paddle at the front of the canoe, you are not in a position to see the whole boat. You have to trust the person who can see the things you cannot to keep you safe. They will.
  31. Life is still so, so good. It always has been.

Reverb 16 | December 31 | Hope

Hope. What are you hopeful for in the new year?

I don’t have a Bucket List in the traditional sense.

Mostly because, despite loving to plan, I don’t want to prescribe. And partly because it sort of feels like tempting fate– as soon as I declare I want something, that something starts slipping through my fingers.

Instead of a list of things I need to do before I kick the bucket, I think of a list of things that fill my bucket.

I am glad I am writing this two days too late, because I am hopeful that yesterday (New Year’s Day) was just a foretaste of the feast of a great 2017. Aaron and I woke at the crack of dawn (after only 4.5 hours of sleep and, aside: I am not designed for staying awake until midnight anymore) and drove to the North Shore of Lake Superior–about 4 hours from home. Tettegouche State Park is host to a variety of trails, including ski and snowshoe, and a section of the Superior Hiking Trail.

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At the suggestion of the park ranger, we donned our snowshoes and headed for an area called The Drainpipe. We could see from the tracks that many other snowshoers had simply arrived at The Drainpipe and then retreated. But we could also see that sometime this winter, someone had gone up this narrow, nearly vertical path. So we tried it too.

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And what it unlocked to us was a section of the Superior Hiking Trail that has been untouched since the snow started falling this season.

The woods were silent and a gently blowing snow made everything glitter. We were setting our own path (with the occasional helpful guidance of the blue blazes that mark the through-hike). It wasn’t always easy, even with snowshoes, to tromp through the knee-high fluff. But we were oh-so-rewarded with the opportunity to be somewhere no one else has been yet this year.

 

 

And at the end of the day, after a warm meal and bellies full of delicious Fitger’s beer, I mentally put yesterday’s events into my bucket. The bucket I hope to fill with the best adventures and newly blazed trails before I kick it over in my final act of living.

And my hope is that the rest of the year is just like yesterday. A year of trail-finding and setting my own way, of climbing the Drainpipes after everyone else has turned back, of asking, “What’s over here?” and having an adventure partner who always says, “Let’s go look!”

Yes, 2017. Let’s go look.

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