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.

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.

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.

Displaying IMG_20161229_081554958.jpg

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 21 | Time

Time. It’s something we never have enough of and can never get back once it’s spent. How do you prioritize your time? What would you like to make more time for?

I spend too much time:

  • Worrying.
  • Watching bad television.
  • Reading internet drivel.
  • Thinking about what to wear, cook, or do next.
  • Procrastinating.
  • Complaining.

I don’t spend enough time:

  • Reading books.
  • Working out (besides running. But, like seriously girl, do a sit up).
  • Cleaning the house or doing laundry.
  • Learning something new.
  • Improving at the things I love to do, like cycling or writing.
  • Traveling.

I see the list and know what I should do. Less of the things in the first list, and more of the things in the second list. It makes sense on paper, but is harder in real life. I do not understand why social media and crap television are such strong sirens and why I repeatedly crash on the shores of wasted time.

[FIRST WORLD PROBLEM AHEAD– THIS IS ESSENTIALLY A RECAP OF MY INCREDIBLE PRIVILEGE AND FORTUNE] Part of my struggle with time management is making choices, right? I have sort of been a Jack of All Trades, Master of None for a significant portion of my adult life. And I kind of like living that way, but sometimes I would like to master something. But putting more time into, say, cycling, means time away from running or reading. And should I really be learning something new if I can hardly keep up with what I already have on my plate? I don’t know. And it all means time away from the house, where I already think we hardly keep our heads above water between the cleaning and the pets.

But tonight, I am keeping this brief because I have spent this entire quiet, pre-holiday week with my face buried in books (I am on the third one since Sunday) and this is time well-spent.

Reverb16 | December 17 | Beauty

Beauty. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Show us a picture that is beautiful to you- the more unconventional the better. If you’d like to write about it, tell us why.


I think this is one of the most beautiful things I did this year. Or rather, I let someone else do to me.

There’s a tattoo shop just about 2 blocks from our house that is 100% ladies– lady owners, lady artists. I dig that quite a bit. So when I decided I was finally ready to get a tattoo, I knew that’s where I would go. I scanned their portfolios and found an artist that had done a lot of work in the style I was looking for– a lean towards the strong outline of classic tattoos, but creative enough to apply that classic style to new imagery and scenes. I wanted to avoid some of the things that are trendy in tattoos right now to avoid a piece that looks dated.

I emailed her a few ideas; we chatted in a brief consultation. And then I waited. For seven months she was booked up. I decided that it was better to be seeing an artist that is in high demand than one that has a lot of free time on their calendar…

In May I went in for the first sitting– to do the outline and start the color on the bike. I was so nervous the day of that I threw up. I was terrified that as soon as I did it, I would have buyer’s remorse and would want my un-inked leg back.

Did I mention I had never seen the final design until the stencil was affixed?

I totally trusted her– I gave her some examples of the style I wanted, I listed some things that were important to be included (the mountain, the tent, obviously the bike, which I provided photos of), and a lot of it she brought to the design– the overall layout, the awesome oak leaves and acorns that provide the frame, the beautifully intense colors.

The first sitting was about 5 hours. Not until September did I go back to have the color finished in another 3-4 hour sitting.

Never once have I experience buyer’s remorse. In fact, maybe quite the opposite (which I hear is common after people get their first tattoo): I am always dreaming up what the next one could be.

Not only do I think the tattoo is beautiful, I think it makes me beautiful. I don’t know how to describe it, but it feels like it fits me and belongs with me. Not that my right thigh was ever lacking in any serious way, but that this artwork somehow adds so much. As I mentioned before, I feel like every year I am watching myself grow in a way that results in me becoming more unapologetically myself all the time and I consider this tattoo to be a part of that growth. It makes me feel strong and beautiful and reminds me that I have lived a great many of wonderful experiences so far.

Reverb16 | December 12 | Brave

Rulebreaking again today. The actual prompt for the day is: “Sweets! Do you allow indulgences during the holidays with all the tempting food about, or do you have a plan to keep it in check?” But I am really trying hard not to eat sweets this year. Not for vanity or to really exercise my muscles of willpower, but because I am sick. Not like, really sick, but not like a passing cold, either. Somewhere in that middle-ground of “probably not going to die, but also maybe not getting better for a long time. Or ever?”

So I again went back to the archives to look for a prompt more suiting to me interests in reflection on the year, and I found this one. And I like it. So I’m going to write about it. 

Brave. What was the bravest thing you did this year?

On a Wednesday morning in May, I showed up to work like this.

As you can see, even though I showed up to work, half my face did not. The entire right side of my face (on the left in the picture, in case that wasn’t obvious) just stopped working.

It sort of started that Monday with what I thought was a pinched nerve in my neck from a long, miserable gravel ride we had done the Saturday before. I had neck pain, ringing in my ear (which I thought could have been caused by 70 miles of crosswinds), and an unexplained loss of taste on exactly one half of my tongue.

I was facilitating a meeting on Tuesday, when I realized I was having a hard time forming certain letter sounds as I spoke– p, b, f, m– all sounds that rely heavily on your lips. No one else seemed to notice, but I could feel the right side of my face getting softer and slower. Immediately after my meeting, I called my clinic, hoping to get an appointment “this week.” They instantly got a nurse on the line and she said, “What you are experiencing is not a clinic appointment. You need to go to urgent care or the ER and you need to go there right now.”

As I called Aaron to ask him if he would come pick me up and take me to an urgent care, I was really commending my excellent clinic for their diligence over a pinched nerve.

I was so naive.

I waited in urgent care for 40 minutes. Alone. As I waited, I started snapping selfies. Each one mirrored to me a progressively worsening condition. When a doctor finally was able to see me, I think she was actually shocked at my condition. She started asking me some normal questions:

“Have you been dizzy? Did you blackout?”
“Have you had any trauma to your head and neck?”

And then she asked me:

“Do you know where you are?”
“Who is the President of the United States?” [To this I practically yelled ‘BARACK OBAMA!’ because already the election rhetoric was thick]

Slowly, I realized she thought I was having a stroke. At 29 years old. She furiously scribbled her observations and concerns on a sheet of paper that she handed to me, and said sternly, “Go directly to the emergency room. Right now.”

So I did. And in the 2 minutes it took to drive across the street, they were waiting for me. I checked in, and expected to have to sit in the waiting room for a space to open up and the intake nurse said, “Oh no, you are absolutely not going to wait.” The initial 20 minutes of the ER was a flurry of vitals and questions. I was again asked who the president was, and I was pretty miffed that the doctor from urgent care had not expressly notified the ER staff of my excellent recall of basic current events. All the while, the droop in my face worsened.

The next part, I can’t remember exactly. As 2 or 3 nurses stood around me, doing various work, or just listening in, the doctor said, “It’s possible you’re having a stroke, which I know is scary. It’s also possible that you’re not, and that this is something called ‘Bell’s Palsy.’ Unfortunately, we can’t know until we rule out stroke, tumors, or multiple sclerosis, which we can do with an MRI. But I don’t want to send you to MRI just yet, in case you are truly experiencing a stroke.” I do remember the doctor being kind and gentle, which matters. I don’t remember if Aaron was there.

At the time, this didn’t seem so absurd, but in the months after I realized what he was saying: “I am afraid to put you in an MRI machine because you could stroke out.”

I did not feel brave. I felt terrified. I did finally get to have the MRI and while I was in the giant whirring machine, I quietly wept as the gravity of what I might be facing slowly settled in.

We waited only about thirty minutes for my test results. I unraveled every single second of that wait over and over again in my mind. In hindsight, Aaron and I both admit to being frightened, but said nothing of it at the time.

It was nothing. Well, not nothing. My face was still drooped, my speech slightly slurred, my hearing on my right side gone. But it was just Bell’s Palsy (later further diagnosed as Bell’s caused by a recurrent chicken pox infection, if you can believe that!). Just your ‘run of the mill facial paralysis.’

So the next day I went to work. With an eye that didn’t close on its own and with a mouth that sometimes drooled a little (nothing says “take me seriously as a young professional” like some completely unintentional side eye and some casual drool). And the day after I sat for 5 hours to get the first part of my first tattoo done. And the day after that Aaron and I went to a cocktail evening at the Minnesota Zoo. And we went to Rock the Garden and we went canoeing and we went to Duluth. For 67 days, I refused to let a very public illness and a very crooked face take the joy out of my days. Mostly because, each day after the 18th of May that I am not having a stroke (or tumor or MS, for that matter) is a day for joy and for living bravely.

Those shaaaaaades, amirite? The doctor told me I need to protect my eye, so I bought myself these sunglasses at the pharmacy and I have never looked better.

You have gotten all the way here and are like, “What the fuck does this have to do with holiday sweets?” And I hear you, and I am sorry. So as to not make a long story longer, what I will say is: Bell’s Palsy is caused by inflammation around one of your cranial nerves. I thought I was having a recurrence this fall, and no underlying cause was detected (read: second round of MRIs to look for tumors. fun. or something). So, in an effort to hopefully just reduce any and all inflammation I might be experiencing, I am supposed to stay away from the sugary treats of the season. At least as best as I can. It probably sounds hard, and sometimes it is. But it’s actually quite a bit easier when your FACE is at stake.

Reverb16 | December 9 | A Day in the Life

A Day in the Life. Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays can be busy days and they can also be lazy recovery days. Tell us about yours (or your plans for a day this weekend) from top to bottom.

Fridays are actually not a “typical” day for me, because things are generally very quiet at work (many people in my office either flex out or work from home on Fridays, but I find working from home to be mind-numbing and miserable because Please Feed the Extroverts).

All day I will post my day in the life over on Instagram and use the hashtag #reverb16DITL. Maybe, if I am super motivated, I will post some highlights here. But. You know. Maybe not.

What I’ve Been Doing While I Haven’t Been Running

It’s been 20 days since my last run, a statement I made yesterday to my sister and she laughed, presumably at the idea that this is currently my most serious “problem.”

I suppose lots of people go for stretches of 20 or more days without running. Probably most people. But I can’t remember the last time I went nearly three weeks without at least hitting the lake trail for 2 miles, just to keep the blood flowing.

So, sure, maybe in the global (or even local) scheme of things it isn’t a big problem, but it has certainly been a misery-maker for me. I have had to find other ways to fill that time and try desperately to maintain at least some of my running fitness. Here’s how I’ve been doing it.

Reading about running. I am not sure this is actually the most positive coping strategy, because it occasionally makes me feel like everyone is running except me. And I get a bit stabby about that. However, I have re-read at least 4 back issues of Runner’s World, I have revisited my running Pinterest board, and I have read in great detail other peoples’ race reports for some of the events I have coming up this year. I did a tiny bit of information gathering about returning after injury, but I thought it was depressing and I kind of just want to trust the PT. He seems more competent than like, 88% of the internet so I think I will just be a patient patient.

Reading about adventures. Specifically, I just finished “Be Brave, Be Strong: A Journey Across the Great Divide” by Jill Homer which made me want to grab my bike and criss-cross the entire world with nothing but 2 sets of bike clothes, some rain gear, and a lot of Sour Patch Kids. It has definitely made me super excited for some of the biking plans I have this year, including the Almanzo 100 and a trip to the Idaho Hot Springs Mountain Bike Route. Unfortunately, I haven’t been on my bike much, which brings me to…

Wallowing in misery on the stationary bike. If Hell is a place where people go to be punished for their bad deeds on Earth, it is not an expansive pit of fiery rage. It is a gray room filled with gray stationary bikes that inform you every time you have completed another 10% of your workout. Good God, these machines are insufferable. This month alone I have put in 57 miles on the stationary bike. 57 miles to NOWHERE. I am an object that appreciates either being at rest or being in motion. Stationary bikes (and treadmills) exist in this horrible no-man’s land where I am in motion but I am not actually moving. It defies the laws of physics and the Natural Order of Things and I do not like it.

moment of silence

Yoga. I have been using yoga as a (not boring) way to incorporate a little more stretching in my life and to get in workouts at home when I am short on time or don’t want to go to the gym. I rely on doyogawithme.com and I really enjoy the videos they have available. I especially like being able to sort the videos by skill level and time. Advanced for over 60 minutes? No thank you.

Physical therapy exercises. I can go to the gym and barbell squat just under 100 pounds (I’m working on it) but I cannot do 15 reps of single-leg squats?! PT has been a great reminder to me about how simple exercises can make a big difference and that every muscle deserves (and needs) a workout.

And how is my Achilles feeling? Some days great, some days are still touchy. I have been doing my exercises to a T and I am hopeful that Thursday’s appointment will have me on the treadmill at least attempting a run and- if it’s unsuccessful- further developing a plan of action.

Reverb 14 | December 7 | Victory Laps

Victory Laps: What was your biggest accomplishment this year?

There are several things that probably make me a good employee on paper: I have a Masters of Public Health and maintained high marks in graduate and undergraduate school, I have worked on some very unique and successful projects but also know the bitter taste of failure and have learned from that, I have presented at a national conference, and I am a leader in my own division in training and education.

But my real secret weapon, which is a lot harder to brag talk about on a resumé? These:


cat_ aca


cat_thin mints

Maybe this is the part where other people might tell you, “Ha! Well, not cat memes but they represent [insert a terrible metaphor here].”

But I do mean cat memes. In every presentation in which I think it might be even marginally appropriate, I place at least one cat meme as long as it is even marginally related to the topic at hand. Emails have cat memes, inter-office memos have cat memes, my cube walls have cat memes. Some I look up, some I create. Most have been viewed not only by my supervisor, but her boss and her boss’ boss and once by her boss’ boss’ boss. “Cat memes” was mentioned as an integral part of my nomination for an achievement award at work. Cat memes.

And here’s where I add my own not-that-terrible metaphor.

What I bring to my workplace is fun. Three simple letters, one simple concept. Something we were born  knowing how to do, and yet most of us lose that by the time we start our careers. The most element of society most overlooked by the governments that try to rule it.

I have fun at work. And I make working with me fun. And most importantly, I make the work we do fun. I don’t diminish it’s importance or it’s scientific value or the very scary impacts some of it can have (I work in a water contaminants group, so, you know… ew), but I work really hard to poke at and sometimes even wake up the creativity and playfulness of the scientists on my team.

Most of us spend 40+ hours a week at our jobs. During the traditional 5 day work week, most of us will spend more time at work than time preparing and eating meals, than time spent with our spouses or children, than time exercising or practicing a hobby, and (for many) than time spent sleeping. I wasn’t willing to give up that much time of my life to anything that wasn’t fun. But I also have to have a job. So, I set out to make my job fun and I did it. I made it fun for me. I made it fun for the people I work with. I have a reputation that precedes me for both taking no bullshit and having/being a lot of fun. I wouldn’t trade that for all the money.