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.




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.


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


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.


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.



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.


Reverb16 | December 30 | Undone

What did you leave undone? Do you intend to try again in 2017 or let it go?

Lot’s of things were left undone this year. On this day, I am okay saying that is The Way it Was for 2016.

The one that really slipped through my fingers this year was running the Twin Cities Marathon. I was close. Like, really close to having that happen. Due to a delayed training start after getting sick in the spring, I had to abandon some of my time goals and reshift to just a goal of finishing. Which, frankly, is enough for me.

August was a difficult training month. The weekday runs were getting in to the 6-8 mile range one to two times a week, and I was feeling pressure to find the time for those as well as my other obligations. Then the weather took an expected but still unwelcome turn for the hot and humid. A few times I told myself that training through some of that would make me stronger, but the runs were of such low quality I had to bring some training indoors. Running 8 miles on the treadmill in the gym at your workplace is… is probably not good for your spiritual health, to put it mildly. My 14 and 15 mile long runs were sufferfests, the 15 miler bringing my first good mid-run cry (at a busy intersection around mile 9).

And then the next week my 16 miler went by like a dream. The weather had finally cooled, the day was a bit rainy, I was calm and peaceful and it felt almost easy.

Imagine my surprise when I woke up the next morning to an ankle the size of a grapefruit. Two days later, an MRI confirmed some good news/bad news. I didn’t break, twist, or tear anything. But I did irritate the heck out of something because the entire ankle joint was filled with inflammation.

I was sentenced to the boot.

On the same day, my new running shoes– my marathon shoes– arrived in the mail. Neat.


Even though it was only a two-week sentence, it came at exactly the worst time in marathon training, and I didn’t have the time to recover my training plan. The marathon would be left undone for me. The last (I think) of the long string of defeats brought to me in 2016.

Will I go back at it in 2017? I honestly don’t know. I am about 90% yes and then also 90% no, depending on the day. Marathon training is hard and time-sucking. I feel like I neglect my house and spouse a lot during the training, and make him skip out on some things to accommodate my weekend long runs. It’s hard to add in the other activities that bring me joy because I am always running.

Will I go back at it someday? Probably. Once you get the high of finishing a marathon, you don’t forget that feeling. And eventually, you go looking for it again.


Reverb16 | December 29 | Habit

Habits. Tell us one habit you would really like to undo in the new year – what is your strategy? Will you replace it with a good habit instead?

I have a lot of bad habits.

I am quick to anger. I am sometimes quick to judge. I stare into the abyss of my phone before I go to bed, even when a book is lying right next to me. I snack when I get home from work– and not on carrot sticks. I pile my things on the table in the Bob Dylan Room (this is our back room, because we have no formal entry or mudroom to speak of, and it is full of Bob Dylan memorabilia) and I do not clean them up. I seem incapable of watching only a single episode of Grey’s Anatomy at a time on Netflix. I hit the snooze on the alarm clock. I bite my nails.

Habits to give up? I have a few.

But the one I have been working hard to undo, and will continue in the new year, is the habit of negative talk about my own body. Many call this body-shaming, but to me that always makes me think of the big, bold sweeping statements we say when emotions are high. When I say those things, I generally know right away that I shouldn’t and I catch myself and correct. My much nastier habit is the micro-assaults I launch at my body on a regular basis.

It’s there when I say, “Well, girls who look like me can’t wear that” or “I could never pull that haircut off.”

It’s there when I change out of a shirt that fits nicely and I like but I won’t wear because it makes my shoulders look too big (newsflash: I do have big, broad shoulders).

It’s there when I dismiss my natural hair wave as a “bad hair day” because I didn’t blow dry and flat iron.

It’s there when I retake a photo two dozen times until the light is just so and my neck looks longer and my face healthier and my teeth whiter and my hair shinier.

I am in good company. Some research suggest women think negative thoughts about their body an average of 36 times per day. Sometimes, I participate in negative talk about my body only because I am in the presence of other women who are putting their bodies down. Other statistics suggest as many as 97 percent of women have regular negative thoughts about their bodies.

I’d like to meet and learn from the other 3 percent.

Obviously, I haven’t mastered ending this negative self-talk, but I have relied on a few strategies to manage and lessen it overall.

1. Notice it. In order for something to change, we have to first see how it happens. I started paying more attention to when I was talking negatively about my body and whether or not certain events triggered it. And it turns out, there were some key moments that I was more likely to engage myself in negative self-talk about my body– during certain points in my menstrual cycle (because it’s actually pretty damn hard to pull off a nice outfit when you are bloated and weepy), when I was with other women talking about bodies, when I struggled to put together an outfit that I like. Knowing that, I am able to intervene on my own behalf. I donated a lot of the clothing that doesn’t make me feel 100% and I loosely plan my work outfits for the week. When other women speak poorly about their bodies, I try not to join in but I also try not to chastise or judge. Instead, I often say things like, “Ugh. It’s so easy to get down about the way our bodies look!” and leave it there. Frankly, I don’t really have a plausible solution for menstrual bloating and neither does modern medical science. I presume that is because the field is dominated by men who have No Idea.

2. Stop comparing. Because it’s dumb. And maybe she is prettier or slimmer, but maybe she isn’t as funny or adventurous.

3. Counterstatements. Say a negative thing? Counter it right away with the truth. “My calves are too fat to fit in ANY skinny jeans” is wrong, and should be followed with, “My calves are strong from running and cycling and it is not my job to conform my body to the clothes– it is the designer’s job to make clothes for my body if they want my money.”

4. Take a deep breath and ask myself what matters. My grey hairs and crow’s feet are not hurting anyone. My shape and size do not build or destroy nations, relationships, progress, hope, or community. There are several important discussions we could have about my body– it’s strength and performance in sport, they way it has been victimized in the past, the significance of the beautiful tattoo on my thigh. None of them have to do with how it looks as compared to the “ideal standard of beauty.”

At the end of the day, I simply remind myself over and over again that I am beautifully and wonderfully made. Inside and out.


Reverb16 | December 28 | Resolutions

Resolutions. We don’t all make new year’s resolutions. If you are making them, what is your biggest priority? If you aren’t, tell us why – what is your experience or opinion on resolutions?

I love resolutions. Because I love the idea of a restart. Or maybe the runner in me just likes the idea of a starting line; an honest-to-goodness jumping off point that is distinct and clear.

I also know that setting one, giant year-long goal can set a lot of us up to fail. Maybe the goal is too vague (“be healthier”) or it doesn’t exactly detail how we’re supposed to get it done (“save money”). Some of us have no attention span to work on a single thing for a year.

Matt Cutts told his TED audience to try a 30-day challenge, because anyone can do anything for thirty days. And small change is sustainable change.

With that in mind, I did purchase the Commit30 planner and the sticker pack, which was entirely unnecessary but is also like made of unicorns and rainbows it pleases me that much.  The planner is more than a calendar/schedule keeper, it’s a goal-setting journal as well.

At the beginning of the planner, it says “My Vision” and it asks, “What do I want this year to look like? To feel like?” And there are 12 circles with categories like physical health, mental health, friends and family, home, etc. where you write your goals. I am using this like a master wish list that can be added to and referenced throughout the year.

Then, each month you pick a specific goal to work on and you write that in the page for that month. Underneath the big goal statement is a place to fill in 6 action steps. So, for January, my goal is to “Buy Nothing,” which fits one of my broader financial goals to spend and save more wisely. My specific action steps for January are:

  • No unneeded purchases.
  • Absolutely no gifts or treats for myself. I spent all of December being gifted and treated.
  • Groceries and bills are obviously okay.
  • At every opportunity for a purchase ask, “Do I need this or can it wait?”
  • No cash allowances on pay days (this is usually how I manage my ‘fun money’– I give myself a set amount at every pay day, in cash, for things like lunches, happy hours, etc. It has to last me until the next pay day. Anything left over goes in my piggy bank).
  • One gift purchase on vacation is okay, because I have saved for that expense previously.

On the opposite page, you rewrite the goal (you write your goals A LOT. This must be for memory), and you set a reward. For January, I am going to put the money I save into an account for fun spending. No idea what exactly I will buy yet.

You can then track your success daily with the dots, coloring one in or checking it off each day that you are successful.

At the end of the month, you go back to the goal page and fill out whether or not you met the goal, how you’d rate your effort, and the next steps.

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On the weekly schedule pages, you can also set daily intentions for those days you simply can’t look big picture and really need to focus on a bite-sized goal and achieving bite-sized success.

I have now had the planner in my possession for 48 hours. I love it. I have put a sticker on every holiday and pay day, I have marked when bills are due (with a special “Pay Bill” sticker!). I have set goals for January and February. I put pizza slice stickers throughout the planner randomly. Because pizza slice stickers!

I think goal-setting is good and healthy and some of us really thrive in it, even if we don’t often (ever?) really meet our goals. I also think it’s important that we measure what and who we already are and how good that is. We are already enough. We are already loved. We should be kind to ourselves this New Year and every new year and every day.

And then set some goals and crush ’em like the BAMFs we are!

Reverb16 | December 27 | Gifts

Gifts. Sometimes we get gifts that we don’t want or need. Are you honest with the person who gave it to you? Or do your gift givers follow a tried-and-true wish list? If you’re returning a gift this season, what is it and why?

Let’s get one thing out of the way: I return almost nothing, ever, in the history of my life. Not the things you buy my and not the things I buy myself. Why? Because it’s bad enough when I make a purchasing mistake (ugh wrong size, not what I needed, oh I had one of these after all) or when I get a bad gift (not that common– thanks, friends and family!), but I am not going to take one mistake and drive it and myself straight into the depths of hell by trying to make a return at a store. Especially after the holidays.

I do not like crowds. I do not like the Byzantine Return Code of Law of the American Retail Store. I do not like receiving store credit for less than the item’s value because now that item is on sale. I do not like waiting. I particularly despise waiting in one line for 30+ minutes, only to be told that the return line is Over There.

There is not a gift I could receive that I would dislike more than going to a retail store after the holidays. And even there was, if it’s value is less than $100, it is not worth it to me go into the store. Yes. Stores will have to pay me at least $100 to enter and deal with their special brand of post-holiday misery.

The gifts that aren’t quite right for me are still usually right for someone I know, so I offer them up. Not as a re-gift, but as an honest, “Hey, I got this thing and I can’t use it, but you might. Want it?” Some stuff gets donated, because I know there is someone out there who needs it more than I. And some stuff sticks around because even though I don’t like it, I like who gave it to me and that’s enough to give it a home for a least a little while.

Reverb16 | December 26 | Boxing Day

Boxing Day. What does this holiday even mean? I think Harry Potter does it. But how do we unwind after the holiday?

I think my exact words were, “Do you know what today is?! It’s the furthest from the holidays we are going to be for the whole year. Every day is another step closer to the holidays. UGH.”

In truth, this was one of the better holiday seasons I have had in several years. I still Lost My Shit over it a couple of times in the final week, but it was better this year. We tried some new things in terms of celebrations and traditions and it was hard sometimes and it might not all stick but we tried. And our families tried, presumably out of love for us. Or because they were afraid I would finally really lose it completely. Whatever it is, I am here to put in The Written Word that I see that you tried, I acknowledge it, and I so greatly appreciate it– it was The Best Gift.

We spent the latter half of Christmas Day unwinding (hello, jigsaw puzzle and whiskey) and I more or less carried that exact mood and activity into Boxing Day with a brief trip to the outdoors store to buy a patch kit for the deluxe sleeping pad I recently bought for myself and then brought on a camping trip that included the dog. The deluxe sleeping pad now sports a gnarly 6-8 inch gash, courtesy of a dog that was just so happy to greet me in the morning that he ruined my things with enthusiasm.

I like to use this gap week between Christmas and the New Year to unwind my year and also prepare for the next one. I purchased a new planner [choir of angels sings the hallelujah chorus here], I am cleaning and organizing the house a bit, and I am setting goals for 2017. We don’t get a lot of fresh starts in life, especially in adulthood, so it feels good to take advantage of one when I can get it.