If you’ve ever wondered why this blog is called S is for Scrappy, I’d love to help you out. Well, S is first and foremost for Sarah. But my scrappiness is something very inherent to everything I do.
Some would make a nice banana bread as a kind gift, maybe when hosting others, or as fuel for a blog post they’ve had planned out.
Scrappy is whipping up banana bread because your boyfriend brought it to your attention that if you lose the cap for the maple syrup, you can’t just put it back in the fridge capless, like an animal.
This bread and post was also inspired by 3 VERY ripe bananas patiently waiting to be used. Even though I negotiated with myself that if I bought bananas they couldn’t go brown and be banished to the freezer with a rebrand of “smoothie bananas.” Scrappy.
So, I thought to myself, what can I make that uses bananas and maple syrup that won’t be sugar central. The healthy banana bread searches began.
Seeing as I am no Betty Crocker, I looked to Cookie and Kate to make sure the end result would be in a bread formation of some kind. With some changes, here’s what I was working with:
⅓ cup melted coconut oil or extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup maple syrup (honey can be used)
3 ripe bananas mashed, I left mine kind of chunky for a different taste/texture
¼ cup almond milk (I use unsweetened vanilla, but milk of any kind will do)
1 cup chopped pecans- option for any other mix in
Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit (165 degrees Celsius) and grease a 9×5 inch loaf pan.
In a large bowl, beat oil and syrup together. Add eggs and beat well.
Stir in bananas and milk. Then stir in the baking soda, vanilla, salt, maca, and cinnamon.
Switch to a big spoon and stir in the flour, just until combined. If you’re adding pecans or any mix-ins, gently fold them in now.
Pour the batter into your greased loaf pan and sprinkle lightly with cinnamon. Run the tip of a knife across the batter in a zig-zag pattern for a fun marble effect.
Bake for 55 to 60 minutes. If you check with a knife, it should come out clean, but my chunky banana approach made that a bit tentative. Let the bread cool in the loaf pan for at least 5 minutes.
While I am not committing to Whole 30 or any specific challenges this January, I am striving to be very conscious of my sugar intake. It’s amazing what a downward spiral having any traditional desserts (even in moderation) can be for me in sugar cravings.
With the sweetness of the bananas and pure maple syrup, I’m really not sure why anyone bakes with normal sugar. This was so satisfying in every way! I loved the maple flavor and bites of banana chunks, but that approach did make it more crumbly if that’s a concern of yours.
Moral of the store, if I can bake this, so can you. Looking forward to having this as a guilt-free snack, dessert, or something to bring to the yoga studio for when I am teaching multiple classes and need some sustenance.
When deciding to leave a then-11-person organization for a Fortune 50 Company, I was most excited to see what an organization of that caliber could accomplish. What impact they could have on the communities they’re in.
I’ve been lucky to dive into that first hand, in my first quarter with Comcast, by being the Twin Cities Region lead for Festive Fleet. While I’m a woman of words, I’d rather show you just what Festive Fleet is:
Festive Fleet has given me the opportunity to empower a team of technicians and support staff to embrace the impact they’re capable of. We leverage the relationships they are building in homes every day, and asked them to nominate deserving customers for a special gift.
These are customers who are financially struggling, suffering from a loss in the family, encountering a difficult time, creating a pleasant experience for technicians in their home, or unfortunately having an unpleasant experience with Comcast.
Customers aren’t asking for these gifts, or reaching out to us with these stories. These stories are discovered by the Technician’s time in the home, and their ability to be there as a person, for a person, rather than completing a job for a customer and leaving.
I could talk for hours about the stories I read while choosing the 35 customers from the Twin Cities area to receive gifts.
The only issue is, no one knows we do this.
While I was interviewing for Comcast, I didn’t think of Festive Fleet. I thought of many of the headlines that are probably racing through your mind now.
I decided to set up Google Alerts for Comcast so I could learn the company, but also keep tabs on the outside impression. I still read it everyday; it’s not always the most uplifting email, especially recently.
But when I was about a week into my new role at Comcast, it was a different headline that made me pause. One from the Region VP down the hall, who I now often talk to while making coffee.
Also new to his role in the Twin Cities Region, I was excited to see we were the first to admit where we have gone wrong, and also the first to bet on this team.
I have no desire to have my point of view outweigh these other headlines, rather I hope to capture the side of Comcast that no one hears about- the family that always puts the customer first.
Like peeling layers of an onion, I keep discovering new programs available to employees and customers, and new coworkers to connect with.
I was inspired by Internet Essentials, which offers low-cost Internet service, discounted computer equipment, and free digital literacy training to families with children in the National School Lunch Program. This was then expanded to eligible seniors and community college students in limited markets.
It’s solutions like these that motivate me to find creative solutions, because this fast-paced industry doesn’t allow time to say the words, “This is the way it’s always been done.”
Still, Comcast isn’t perfect. It’s a work in progress, an organization embracing new practices and priorities, and ensuring that cascades down to every single individual. And outside of an 11-person organization, there will be customer experiences and decisions that are out of my control. That’s difficult for a scrappy mind to accept.
So instead of being on the sidelines, I’ve used my scrappiness to make the Twin Cities Region close-knit and I’ve seen how this 159,000 person organization can still build partnerships across departments and regions. I’ve learned from collaborative leaders who are focused on a bigger picture that’s rooted in customer experience.
I’ve shared my experiences with others, and no longer hesitate when saying, “I’m a Marketing Specialist at Comcast” as I did my first week. Whatever reaction that brings, it’s just another opportunity to share why I am so proud to say #IAmComcast.
“Scrappy is being the first Marketing role in an organization, at your first job: I am theMarketing Coordinator at Work Effects, a business consulting company located in Downtown Minneapolis. I am focused on public relations, creating marketing materials, and running our website. Trial and error is basically built into my job description, and that’s what I love about it.” This was the first bullet point of my About page. Until about 5 minutes ago.
In August, I moved into my new condo, started a new job, and changed my entire teaching schedule. I had a really good answer when people asked, “So, whats new?”
When life is moving so fast, the hardest thing to do can be slowing down. Let alone slow down long enough to write, and that’s why we’re all here for a 3 month delayed update. Luckily, I did take many conscious moments to process this transition, and stay present as I watched all that was familiar be put into a jar and given a good shake.
With this shake up came the release of some pieces of my identity, as I tried on a new look for size. Deleting the paragraph above made me pause. Removing myself from the Work Effects website- a site I had designed, wrote, and maintained- made me pause. Pressing send on my first mortgage payment made me pause.
And I’m so glad it did.
When I redesigned my blog to be S is for Scrappy, it was inspired by a thought to reclaim my confidence in myself at my making-it-up-as-I-go-along job. Scrappy is not having all the answers but charging ahead anyway, it’s playing 6 different roles within one day, it’s about making confidence contagious.
Just over 90 days ago, I left my 11-person company for the very similar Fortune 50 Comcast NBCUniversal and gained 159,000 coworkers.
Those 90 days have been pretty scrappy. I didn’t question whether to take part in the labor day potluck/cooking competition, and promoted my Panzanella salad to anyone who would listen, including the VP of Sales and Marketing.
The appetizer gold trophy went to “the newest Comcaster,” and will forever stand out in my mind as a moment where I remember thinking, I feel at home.
Scrappy is being brought in on the tail-end of a project, but leading set design and answering probably too many questions with “trust me, I can see it in my head.”
Scrappy is adopting a mantra of “what if we made it fun?” the first time in a corporate setting. Good news- that mindset is contagious, and effective.
Recently, I’ve been in a few conversations of friends who feel stuck in their jobs, and it’s made my recognize how truly significant this journey has been. I could have never guessed that my path had this in store. I would have never imagined I was exactly where I needed to be; gaining the experience I’d be able to speak to during a phone interview with a recruiter in Denver. That something about my scrappy mix of specialities would be the perfect fit for a thriving sales and marketing team at Comcast’s Twin Cities Region office.
Fire centerpieces, birch table cloths, and plaid napkins
Continuing my set design portfolio with our Minnesotan-themed potluck called Mad About Plaid
You are exactly where you need to be. Something I don’t get to speak to as often is how the Om tattoo on my back captures that sentiment. “Om” has three syllables, and it represents the three stages of any experience, situation, and life- beginning, middle, and end.
When you are in the middle of anything- good or bad- it’s difficult to picture that ceasing to exist. This is why the bad times in our life stick out so distinctly, the seconds crawl by with no end in sight. But everything is temporary.
As I enjoy beginning this new stage, I must recognize that it will shift, grow, and change. Rather than half-heartedly enjoying this moment with the caveat of “but nothing stays perfect,” I am diving in with a present mind and full heart to allow this stage to be as glorious as it wants to be. So that the joy, beauty, and discoveries of this stage do not go unrecognized. So that I pause.
This seemingly ordinary weekend was filled with all of my favorite things- yoga, time outside with Maya and Brandon, teaching, hosting friends and family, Alpha Gam- and it made me realize how extraordinary this life I created is.
If there’s one thing all my friends can agree on, it’s that my coordination on the yoga mat does not translate to the dancefloor. Regardless, I’m glued to any and all wedding dance floors, and have yet to see a shimmy that can rival my own.
So it was somewhat out of character when in Zimbabwe this January, I passed up the opportunity to join in on a large dance circle at our Boma, a traditional african dinner. It was a large circle that would alternate bringing one person into the middle, and some of these people were just amazing dancers. I worried about getting pulled to the middle and not knowing what to do, so I found a place to perch and watch with my sister.
The spunky mother-daughter duo on our trip jumped in right away, and when the free-spirited daughter Wendy came back, I remember telling her with a bit of envy, “That looked so fun, it was really cool to watch.”
She replied, “Oh, yeah I wasn’t watching it- I was IN it!”
The words stung a bit, and stuck with me to become my one regret of my trip.
We could credit this to my rampant FOMO, or any cliche “I Hope You Dance” lyric, but it was something more. It was a clear moment where fear stopped me from having an experience I’ll rarely get again. Where I worried more about what strangers from the other side of the world would think more than my own desires.
I hadn’t thought about this in a while, but was reminded over the weekend while attending the Twin Cities Wanderlust event, the world’s only mindful triathlon. After completing a 5k (part 1) on a scenic St. Paul trail, our 90 minute yoga class (part 2) was to start soon, followed by a guided meditation (part 3).
Rather than starting the class right away, the lively emcee cued the DJ to play some party music and she was getting the crowd revved up on stage. With everyone on their mats, she was inviting everyone to start dancing- which is not something people are used to starting a yoga class with. I was bouncing around (another one of my signature moves) on my mat, when I noticed someone was invited on stage.
I mentioned to my coworker, Belinda, how fun it would be to go on stage. She encouraged me to go to the front so that if they called anyone else on, I would get to go. I think she suggested this partially to get me to dance somewhere else, but also because she likes to bring out a more carefree and bold side of others.
Thinking of the Boma, I ran to the front stage. The emcee asked who wanted to go on stage, and I fan girled hard. I was disappointed when she picked a group of three friends to come up, but I knew me and my bad dance moves could break her down with persistence.
Once another pair was called up, I decided there was no reason I needed to wait for an invitation. If I wanted to dance on stage in front of thousands of people like a crazy person, it would be pretty pathetic to miss out just because I wasn’t called on.
So I ran up with them like we’d know each other for years.
It was unbelievable. I knew there was no space for overthinking like I did in Africa, or half-assed bopping like I did on my mat. So I just danced however I wanted. I was completely in my own element with thousands of faceless yogis cheering me on.
Until I recognized two of the faces, my best friends Alyx and Megan, who I also had come with moved to the front of the stage.
A year ago, I was working up the courage to practice yoga in my sports bra. Truly. As an active meditation, I would wear a sports bra (instead of a tank top) to class and challenge myself to maintain positive self talk regardless of what was reflected in the mirrors.
Dancing on stage, in that same feared get up, in front of thousands, and being filled with the utmost joy and energy, that to me is the epitome of freedom.
In the yoga class that followed, we were reminded, “No more playing small, this is your time to live big.”
Wanderlust allowed me to see whether it’s a scenic 5k, a once in a lifetime dance party, a 90 minute flow with a live DJ, or an outdoor meditation, it’s all yoga. It’s a mindset. It’s saying yes, and allowing yourself to experience things as fully as you can.
Yoga is an opportunity to celebrate being alive, and express gratitude for every part of your being.
We focus so much on being smaller, fitting a certain mold, and refining the edges that aren’t perfect. There’s no need to ask permission, show up exactly as you’re meant to today- whether that’s dancing your hardest, laughing (in my case, cackling) your loudest, and daring greatly in every way.
Give yourself permission to take up space, to be seen. I promise you, there’s nothing better.
“I’ll really talk about anything,” I confirmed to a coworker who told me she listed me as a referral at a local salon, “Really anything I do or use, I’ll recommend it to everyone.” As a proud new participant of a CSA, this proves no different.
I signed up for the Good Acre Twin Cities CSA once seeing it posted at my Corepower Yoga studio. Signing up for a half share (good for two people or one vegetable crazy person), this seemed like a great way to try new fruits and vegetables and be pushed out of my cooking comfort zone.
Sure enough, the last two weeks, I’ve received bunches of rhubarb and have had no clue what to do. All I could think of was rhubarb pie, which is quite for a non-baker like myself. Committed to consuming each week’s selection before the next pick up, I realized it was time to embrace the apron. But not the pie.
1½ cups whole wheat pastry flour (spelt flour would probably work great too)
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon all spice
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup mashed (ripe) banana, about 2 medium bananas
⅓ cup honey (I used agave and plan on using maple syrup next time for more flavor)
1 cup finely chopped rhubarb, about 1 large stalk (for me this was 3 stalks)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. and prepare an 8×4″ loaf pan* with a natural cooking spray.
Whisk all dry ingredients, flour through all spice, in a medium bowl and set aside.
*Use a stand or hand-held mixer to beat eggs on medium speed for about 30 seconds.
Mix in vanilla, banana and honey until combined.
Slowly add in the flour mixture and mix on low speed until just combined. Gently fold in rhubarb. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan. Bake for 50-55 minutes, or until loaf is golden and a toothpick comes out clean.
Cool bread in pan for 10 minutes. Loosen sides with a knife and remove from pan
This was more mild than I was expecting, so I’d recommend serving with butter or whipping up a glaze to put over it. (Pretending that I can just whip up a glaze- so in my case, google it hard)
Followed by- Rhubarb Strawberry Crumble
Rhubarb Strawberry Filling
3 cups rhubarb, chopped
2 cups sliced strawberries
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
pinch of salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup large flake rolled oats
1/4 cup pecans, finely chopped
In a bowl mix together brown sugar, cinnamon, flour and oats until combined. Use a fork to mash in the softened butter until crumbly. Stir in the pecans until combined; set aside and prepare filling.
I’m a huge fan of any baking that calls for just stirring. The second I see the word zest or sift, I’m out. Enjoy how easy this is!
Rhubarb Strawberry Combo
Grease an 8 inch square baking dish or something of a similar size and set aside; Preheat oven to 400F degrees.
In a large bowl, mix together the chopped rhubarb, strawberries, brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg. Pour into prepared baking dish, cover with foil and bake for about 25 minutes or until the rhubarb is just starting to get tender.
Remove dish from the oven and lower the temperature to 350 degrees. Sprinkle the crumble evenly over top. Return to the oven to bake uncovered for another 15 minutes or so or until the crumble is golden and the filling is bubbling at the edges.
Remove and cool for 5-10 minutes. Awesome served warm or cold! I didn’t think these would stay together at all, but once chilled they’re very stable.
Grand finale (unless I get more this Wednesday)- Banana Rhubarb Bran Muffins
Pro tip- when in doubt, follow the instructions on the box. I do think I get 30% credit for making this recipe up, though all I did was add banana and rhubarb to the Bran muffin recipe on the ____ box, without making any other adjustments. There was a pretty good chance these would be too liquidy as a result, but they turned out great! Considering it made 24 large muffins and 12 mini ones, that’s great news for me.
3 cups Hodgson Mill unprocessed wheat bran
1 cup boiling water
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter (I did 50% grassfed butter, 50% ghee)
2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 ripe bananas
5 thin rhubarb stalks (2-3 cups chopped)
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 cups almond milk
Boil 1 cup of water, and mix in 1 cup of bran muffin mix until it is absorbed
In a separate bowl, blend sugar and butter
Add flour, baking soda, and salt
Combine the moist* bran (I tried to find a different word) with beaten eggs, mashed banana, and chopped rhubarb
Mix in the remaining 2 cups of bran, almond milk, and sugar-butter-flour combo (once again, we’re just mixing!)
Finally, pour into muffin tins and bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. Yields just over 2 dozen.
My alarm goes off at 4:36 a.m. most weekdays, I physically jump out of bed to make sure I don’t snooze, and I question all of my life choices that brought me here.
It’s a nice ritual.
After waving goodbye to my sleepy dog snuggled in her crate, who gives me a little wag in return, I awkwardly cart my bike out the door with the grace of a bull in a china shop. I then hop onto my bike at 4:55 and pedal 7 miles to arrive at Corepower just before my 5:30 a.m. desk time.
By the end of mile one, I remember how much I love mornings. Some days, I have a visceral reaction to how uncomfortable bike seats are. But most days, I spend 7 miles admiring the various angles of the sunrise. After wondering if I’m missing my calling as a sunrise photographer, I’m there. I’m energized with a clear mind, and that shell-shocked 4:36 a.m. Sarah is nowhere to be found.
But that wasn’t what he would focus on. He wouldn’t think about the level of commitment a new habit would be, he just thinks about what would be a good shift to make, and tries it out. One day at a time.
Mornings come naturally to me. But that doesn’t mean the first five minutes of being awake aren’t as hellish for me as they are for the rest of the population. I’m not immune to that, I just see past it.
People often claim they “just can’t do mornings,” and while there’s truth to when we feel our best, I have a feeling these night owls take those first five hellish minutes as a foreshadowing for the day.
They don’t wake up with a smile on their face, stretching their arms overhead with the joy of every person in any coffee or face wash commercial. But here’s the secret- as a lifelong morning person and early riser- neither do I.
But I bounce back, and I think it’s because I don’t have a story that goes along with getting up early. I don’t start the morning telling myself how tired I am, how much coffee I should consume or how to get it in IV form.
To me, mornings represent possibility. It’s a blank slate for my long to-do list, which I can optimistically look at and plan to demolish. Night time is when I feel the tendency to stress about all the boxes that were left unchecked. For some, it’s the opposite. Mornings are daunting and night is the time to revel in your accomplishments.
But it doesn’t take long scrolling through your LinkedIn newsfeed to find out that being on the sunny side has it’s advantages.
Rather than being another person to list the 19 things you now need to do every morning (even though you hate mornings and everything of that list), I’d like to share that how you’re looking at motivation is likely all wrong.
While I’ve always been an early riser, my routine of morning workouts began because I was motivated to not shower at the Fraternity house I was living in that summer. Every morning, I’d wake up and go to a 6 a.m, yoga class, so I could use the Corepower showers instead of the ones I was sharing with five sorority sisters and 25 guys.
Somehow that inspiring tale isn’t made into a motivational poster.
I used to live less than a mile away from my yoga studio. I would always say one of these mornings, I’ll bike there, rather than drive the short distance, to teach my 6 a.m. class.
That never happened.
That’s because I’m not motivated by biking. I don’t have dreams to be the best biker, in fact, I enjoy being pretty mediocre. I don’t enjoy biking in spite of being the fastest one on the trail, I enjoy it because I don’t have to be.
I am motivated to bike because I don’t like sitting in traffic while Minneapolis reconstructs every street and highway at the same time. I probably wouldn’t have taken this on if it wasn’t a healthy habit, but what motivates me more than getting back that #thighgap is not paying $9 to park downtown on the daily.
That’s really it. It’s not inspiring, but it’s true.
Along the way, of course, I’ve found countless benefits. I really can’t get over that sunrise. My legs are looking and feeling more like they did when I was an avid runner. I feel more awake on the days I bike, despite the 30 minutes of sleep I sacrifice, than when I drive. I don’t have to worry about keeping my sleepy eyes open while being on the highway. I get to spend more time outside, and less money on gas.
Biking has become a moving meditation for me, and is the rare quiet space I have throughout the day. It’s revived a creativity and thoughtfulness in me, hence why you’re ready this blog post.
Rather than focusing on the 180 degree changes you need to make, tap into what exactly you are unhappy with, and what healthy change you could make to fix just that. The life changing transformation you’ve heard so much about will unfold naturally, once you create the space for it.
Sunday night, I had a dream that I was talking to my mom and she said “Yeah, when your grandma and grandpa died…” I stopped her and asked her what she was talking about. She responded, “oh yeah, we didn’t tell you?” Dream-mom was very nonchalant. I was heartbroken that my grandma had passed away and that I didn’t know.
I woke up Monday morning thinking that was real, and could feel my tears as the alarm went off. Upon further review, I remembered I also had a dream that Maya (my dog) couldn’t go outside because there was a pack of wolves waiting for her. A few giraffes and elephants were also there, so I realized my dreams may not be super reliable.
Even so, I knew I needed to call my grandma. Monday morning, I made a mental note to ask my dad when the best time to call her was, because I always forget when she’s busy with dinner, bingo, or chair yoga at her assisted living place.
My mental notes need to be followed up by three physical notes and an alarm reminder. So I forgot to ask. Work got busy, and by Tuesday, it was off my radar. I knew I’d call soon, by my birthday at the latest (10 days away at the time). I was still thinking of that dream, but I thought I had more time.
Tuesday night, I was leaving my yoga studio when I saw a text from my dad that said, “Call me ASAP.” I panicked, and thought of my grandma. I spent the time leaving the parking lot thinking of what else it could be- maybe he doesn’t text enough to know that that language sounds urgent?
I couldn’t wait so I put him on speaker phone for my drive home. It was too late.
My dad told me that he had visited Grandma because her coffee maker needed to be replaced, and they went out to dinner. “She had Shrimp, now I wish she had lobster,” he said, attempting to laugh through both of our tears. Once they returned to her apartment, she sat down to catch her breath, and she let go.
From Monday morning to Tuesday evening, in 36 hours, I was too slow.
My grandma was the type of person who I thought would live forever. Which sounds naive and cliche, especially because she wasn’t the person focused on superfoods and the health benefits of random plants. She gave off this invincible vibe because she was the least concerned about whatever ailment she was suffering from that day.
While staying at our house a few years ago, when her glaucoma was less severely hindering her eyesight, she said she could play cards with us if the lighting was brighter. So, my dad got out his headlight that he uses for hunting, and put it around her forehead.
“Yes, this is perfect,” she said, sitting at the kitchen table reviewing her Quiddler cards. She laughed with us, knowing it probably looked silly, but could not care less. She was the last person to allow an injury or illness to keep her from experiencing each day to its fullest.
Her Obituary captured her outlook and tenacity perfectly:
“Born during the Great Depression, coming of age during World War II, marrying her high school sweetheart in 1950, Bev could not have foreseen the adventures she would live.
In 1967, Bev and Jack moved their family to Katsina, Nigeria for two years. They fell in love with the place and the people, and returned to Nigeria in 1974 where they stayed for seven years. Her adventures there included coups, a civil war, friends that became family, and the opportunity to change young lives with her private pre-school that is still honored by the students who attended. In 1981, they moved to Botswana, where Bev again found a way to make a difference, as the administrative assistant to the director of USAID.
Their love affair with Africa never ended, but they eventually retired to Door County, Wisconsin in 1995, where their stories of life overseas never failed to entertain their grandchildren and friends.”
This weekend, we celebrate this beautiful and full life.
I’ll celebrate with family, and the amazing community that has been created by the friends that became family.
We are so lucky.
I don’t think my dream was a coincidence, and I don’t think my grandma having lucid dreams of my grandpa the nights before was a coincidence.
Our intuition is so much more powerful than we often realize.
My grandparents always chose adventure, they chose happiness, chose family, and eventually, they chose to be reunited.
Now, we get to choose gratitude for the life and community they built. We choose to celebrate, to live bigger, love harder, laugh louder, just as she did.
“Do you travel like this, as a family, often?” We were asked again and again throughout our recent 19 day trip through Southern Africa.
Early on in our travel group of 30, we were identified by our matching blue eyes. We fielded constant concerns of my dad and sister getting sunburnt (Lindsay later to be nicknamed “The Red Apprentice”). We made iPad crossword puzzles all the rage for long bus rides, and my dad’s commentary dubbed him the Assistant Tour Guide. Our harmonious cackles often erupted without a moments notice, as a preface to the next story we needed to share with the group. In short, it’s easy to tell that the Reeds are related.
Due to our family’s ties to Southern Africa, I wasn’t sure how being in a tour group of mainly empty-nester couples, a few families, a spunky mom-daughter duo, and a couple on their honeymoon would impact the trip and its importance.
When I first met our SmarTours guide Shaun, he didn’t strike me as having the energy I had expected from the group travel I had done as a high school and college student. As time went on, I found that instead of encouraging ice breakers or making lame jokes, his energy came from his passion for South Africa and his pride in sharing his life experiences- even when raw and unfiltered.
He took interest in my dad’s years growing up in Africa, and we built a strong connection with him by asking questions of him outside of the trip logistics. I think he could tell my sister and I had never read the trip’s itinerary, and we’d rather hear his stories than find those details out any time soon.
We wanted to keep taking in what it felt like to be in this place we had heard about our entire lives. We never stopped springing out of our seats for roadside baboons or elephants (including me waking up from a nap because I heard “whale,” which turned out to be a rock).
One of my grandpa’s go-to sayings was, “You can’t pick your family, but you can pick your nose.” As right as he is, it was more evident on this trip that there were other people I didn’t pick as my own.
One elderly woman was not just happy to be there. The Chief of the tribe we visited interpreted her name as Pilis, so we’ll call her that. Rather than getting to know the local hotel staff, she barked out orders for two weeks and accused them of stealing from her.
She would play up her frail age (85- which is impressive) if it scored her some perks, and was miraculously a spring chicken at any time that something cool was a long walk away. Pilis showed her stripes early on by stealing Cape Town bumper stickers because she didn’t have any Rand, the local currency. Needless to say, she thought tipping was optional. Her self awareness was minimal if existent. She wondered what was all the hype about bug spray- “Are we were going into the woods??” Close, just dodging malaria.
Then came time to check out of our amazing Victoria Falls lodge; and we found out that Pilis had disputed her bill from a facial she had gotten the day before. She claimed the facial bruised her because it was too much pressure. By refusing to pay the $60, Lydia, the masseuse and local Zimbabwean, had to make that money back to her boss, out of pocket.
We were furious. I felt sick to my stomach as my friend Wendy relayed this story. Wondering what we could do, I realized I had the perfect amount of US cash in my purse to cover the costs and add a tip. I am notorious for never having cash, so it felt far from coincidence.
I could leave Victoria Falls ashamed of Pilis and her disregard of others, wishing I could change her. Or I could change the situation, now.
I went to the front desk and asked for my money to cover the elderly woman who had refused to pay. When it came time to leave, Wendy introduced me and my sister to the woman that had handled the interaction with Pilis. Unfortunately, the story gets worse.
She was overjoyed that the masseuse Lydia was not going to have to pay, and explained that this ordeal had started right when she arrived for her facial. Pilis brought the clothes of her late son and offered them in exchange for the service.
Pilis got angry when Lydia refused, and reminded her that she lives in Zimbabwe so she could surely use these clothes.
The woman agreed with our horrified expressions and explained, “As Zimbabweans, we refuse to be pitied. We hold our heads higher, and we smile bigger for the next person. We don’t let people like her define us.”
I was still heartbroken for all of the people who Pilis had hurt, but that I had done what I could in the Reed way. That we had been raised better, surrounded by true values, and taught to make a friend in everyone.
When it came time to leave Victoria Falls, our Tour Guide, Douglas, asked me why I was crying, and after hearing the story, he said of Pilis, “She must have some troubles she carries on her back.”
I can’t point to Pilis to make a case for traveling in groups, but I can point to the community that was created with all of the others. There’s endless [positive] stories, adventures we could have never done on our own, and friendships our family will hold dear.
Their responses play in my head on a weekly basis. It so beautifully captures the spirit, pride, and will we saw in everyone we met during those two weeks. People, we wouldn’t have been able to meet on ground we wouldn’t have been able to cover if we weren’t traveling in this type of group.
We showed them our worst, and they still responded with their best.
It’s hard for me to picture this trip being just the Reeds, because whenever the group got to be sensory overload, we had solace in dinner for four, combining our rooms for happy hour, and staying up late to play euchre under the stars.
I can’t imagine how much Pilis’ stories of Africa will differ from the ones I heard growing up from my grandparents. But I can share my own, and encourage you, whenever possible, to go make your own.
I have been waiting to say those words for as long as I can remember. I have heard about Africa from every Reed family member, been surrounded by gorgeous artifacts, and admiring elephants since day numero uno.
Finally, the bags are packed, the meds have been consumed for all of the diseases I’m dodging, and I’m wondering how many Instagrams a day is too many. Nine feels right to me.
In preparation for my family’s two week trip to Africa, I’ve been asked a lot about where I’m going, who I’m going with, why I’m going, and if I’ll remember not to pet the animals.
You know when your mom has it under control so you lose all sense of responsibility? That’s what we’re working with. What I do know is that we’ll be doing a safari, going to toKruger National Park, and ending the trip with a visit to Victoria Falls.
4 days in Cape Town
3 days in Hluhluwe
2 days in Swaziland
2 days in Kruger Park
2 days in Johannesburg
3 days in Victoria Falls
My family loves to travel. Our big trips have mainly been to Europe, planned around when my sister was studying or living abroad in France, and when I was studying abroad in Rome. Without asking them, these are the stories I remember of their previous experiences with Africa. I have clung onto all of these stories for years as if they were my own, because in some ways they are.
My sister, Lindsay: She went to the Canary Islands when she was very young. The story I hear from this trip all the time is that my parents and grandparents were in their hotel room playing cards, while she slept in her crib in my parents’ room. At one point during the night, they heard a knock on the door, where they found little Lindsay on the search for Mom & Dad. We still don’t know how many doors she knocked on until she found the right one.
My mom, Sheryl: Also may be referenced in these posts as SherBear, it’ll catch on one day. She’s traveled to Africa before with my dad, but I’m not sure how many countries she’s been to. One time, my parents were sleeping in a tent outside, let’s say in South Africa. My mom woke up to heavy breaths outside the tent, which she could hear and feel through the thin canvas wall. There was a huge lion standing outside their tent, my mom said her heart was racing, worried that it would barge in. Luckily, it kept on walking.
My dad, Scott: The Africa expert, in my humble opinion. I had always heard stories of him being the only white student at a boarding school in Nigeria. On a recent trip, we visited where he wandered around Switzerland while his sisters were at boarding school there.
However, all the details have always been fuzzy to me. This may be because if you’ve ever gone on a big trip, people will ask you to “tell them everything,” but their attention spans tell you to “skim the highlights.” But I try to repeat the stories anyway, because they feel like home.
This brings us to the why.
Apparently in eighth grade, I got to the bottom of this question. I don’t remember conducting this interview, so that’s why you keep the same desktop for 10+ years. Here is future B.A. in Journalism, 13 year-old Sarah with the facts (and notes from 2016 Sarah) on a project called My Family Story:
“For this project I called my grandma and had her tell me about her husband Jack Reed’s life. This let me learn more about my family, which I am very close with. I always loved my grandpa but I never really talked to him about his career or his amazing experiences. I loved learning so much about him, but I wish I would have done this 3 years ago, so it could be in person; my grandpa died of Cancer when I was 10 years old.”
“When your retired everyday is like Sunday, except Sunday.” (I read this at his funeral and everyone laughed, but I didn’t get it for years)
“The k in knife is silent like the p in swimming” (Personal favorite)
“Finer than frog’s hair” (This was another where I would smile and nod)
“You can’t pick your family, but you can pick your nose.” (Still true)
“There are some people who follow their dreams in their careers and there are others that just settle for what they’re given. My grandpa, Jack Reed, never settled nor gave up. His dad was always interested in Africa, but never followed through, you could say he settled.(A little judgy for a 13 year old living in Mequon, WI)My grandpa shared the same deep interest of Africa and animals, but I wonder if he knew that he would be different; that he was going to follow his dreams. … In 1967 he was offered a Nigerian teacher education project employed by the University of Wisconsin. In Nigeria he would be writing the curriculum for teachers there. My dad and [his sisters] voted and decide they would agree to go, only if their dog could come.(ATTN: Friends, the dog-love is in my blood) When my Grandpa confirmed that would be fine, everyone was ecstatic, it was not extremely hard for the kids to leave considering they had done so much moving already. They had some doubts because it would be such a drastic change.
‘We were curious of what we were letting ourselves get into, but more curious than doubtful,’ My grandma told me.
They moved to Nigeria in July 1967 working on the Nigerian teacher education project. There he taught at the Amadu Bello University. He enjoyed hunting big game there such as elephants. (This is brand new information. I think I purposefully blocked this out of my memory due to my love for elephants) His interest in animals and adventure resulted in lots of exciting camping trips, due to the world around them. The family saw Victoria Falls and would go to swamps to see any animal imaginable for the region.
They lived in Katsina, Nigeria for 2 years despite the food and water shortages, and having no phone or electrical outages. The first year in Nigeria my aunts went to the American School in Leysin Switzerland. My dad went to a primary boarding school in Nigeria where he was the only white kid. Because the school was close to home he came home every night and went back every morning like a normal school.
They lived on the edge of a dessert, so my dad would ride his horse into town and he would come back with chickens and other goods the villagers gave him. ‘All of the villagers loved the little white boy riding his horse,’ my grandma informed me. They came home after every year to see everyone back in Wisconsin, but never got severely homesick. The second year all three kids went to the International School of Ibadan, which was also a boarding school. They left Nigeria in 1969 and moved to Madison.
In Madison he taught science education at the University of Wisconsin. In 1974 he and my grandma moved to Botswana employed by the Ohio University.Hetaught at the University of Gabarone Botswana, where he was the Dean of school education. My grandma and grandpa stayed in Botswana for 15 years, but still returned once a year.
All three kids were in college or graduated, so it was just the two of them. They returned to Wisconsin in 1995, two years after I was born. ‘Me and Jack first held you when you were four months old, like a peanut,’ My grandma shared.(I read this how she says peanut. All the feels)
I knew my grandpa for ten years but with all the memories I have of him, that number seems unreasonably small. (I actually only have a lot of other people’s memories of him, but I always remember his joy and humor)
He was an amazing person who able to fix anything from toys to sorrow. He wasn’t very serious, except for when it came to his dreams.
My grandpa was the type of person where no matter what, around him you would have a great time. He did what his heart told him to and didn’t follow through with something that didn’t make him happy. This reflects his career choice completely and knowing all this information has helped me understand not only him but a lot of my family. It now makes sense to me why there is always a dog in all of our family’s houses. (Finally this mystery is solved) All of his qualities and traditions are great to pick up habits from, such as his loving nature. No one would be settling to have Jack Reed as family or a friend.”
There you have it. Stay tuned for blog updates whenever possible and follow @rarahseed for all of the Instagrams of animals and sunsets.
The tenacious pursuit of this trip, the complete disregard for details, and the emergence of an 8th grade assignment with the answers to all of my questions puts the S in Scrappy
Scrappy is planning a baby shower, when you’ve maybe been to 1.5 baby showers in your life.
The game with the tagline “A party game for horrible people” probably isn’t the first thing to come to mind when you’re asked to think of baby shower games. But when I was asked to help plan our friend Michelle’s (Meesh) baby shower, I was determined to make it special.
A few common questions when planning a baby shower are…
Have you planned a baby shower before?
Will any kids be there?
Does anyone else there have kids?
Do you know the gender?
Did you get a lot of pastels? (real question)
The three of us planning this shower were 0/5 on all of the above, which meant the world was our oyster, and that we looked to Pinterest for all kinds of guidance.
Shower Games that Don’t Suck: I give you Cards Against Humanity: Baby Shower edition. Perhaps my proudest accomplishment of the season. Highly recommended if your crew answered similarly to the questions above^^
Step 1: [Buy/Print Cards Against Humanity] Remove all non-baby friendly cards (i.e. dead babies) and the lame cards that no one wants anyway
Step 2: Choose 10-20 black subject cards and set all other cards aside
Step 3: Create the new subject cards…a few I came up with:
What will keep [Parent 1 & Parent 2] young
What inspired Baby [Last Name]
If [Parent 1] hires a nanny it’ll be due to being overwhelmed by _______.
The key to the perfect dad-bod
Baby [ ]’s spirit animal
The newest trend in mommy social groups
Come 2040, Baby [ ] will be in the process of curing ____.
When Baby [ ] can’t sleep, [Parent 2] will use this as a remedy.
What will keep the magic alive for [Parent 1 & Parent 2]
Step 4: I just created rounded squares from “shapes” in Microsoft and added text to each box. Print, cut out, and tape them over the original text on the black cards.
Step 5: Play according to normal rules. All participants should get 7 white descriptor cards since the deck is smaller. A black subject card will asked (i.e. What has Michelle been craving throughout her pregnancy) and everyone submits their best/funniest white card (i.e. “Some god damn peace and quiet,” “Daniel Radcliffe’s delicious asshole,” etc. etc.)
Everyday baby shower topics.
We also had a onesie decorating contest, invited everyone to write “Mommy advice cards” (despite there being no mommies in the room), and wrote funny messages on diapers to entertain future sleepy parents. The best part of course, was that Meesh got to go home with it all.
2. All things Gold
In Minnesota, we work with a winter backdrop for 40% of the year, so we played off holiday lights with a gold color scheme, a coffee & baileys bar, and cranberry apple sangria. This was the perfect way to keep things gender neutral but still have a lot of fun with the theme.
3. Functional Decorations & Favors
We opted for a brunch event with warm breakfast sliders, an egg bake, and chicken skewers. A family friend contributed gorgeous red velvet cupcakes. We noshed on guacamole, artichoke dip, and puppy chow in between games.