En Route to Africa

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. 

The Where:

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 to Kruger National Park, and ending the trip with a visit to Victoria Falls. 

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Made this map just for you. And my own comprehension.

 

  • 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

The Who:

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. 

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Fondue dinner in Switzerland- yes please

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.  

Why Africa? 

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.”

Grandpa-isms

  • “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. He taught 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.

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My kind of decor: Grandma’s hand-me-downs from Botswana & Nigeria

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.

Happy holidays!

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

Baby Shower: Didriksons- Party of 3

Scrappy is planning a baby shower, when you’ve maybe been to 1.5  baby showers in your life.

img_8442The 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.

  1. 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^^

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  • 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.

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3. Functional Decorations & Favors

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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.

See you in March, Baby Didrikson!

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Namaste, Voters

44563Four years ago today, I was elated to see my state had struck down two laws I had bubbled in “No” for the day prior. A few days ago, I was able to take 15 minutes over the lunch hour to register and vote early in the general election. With my Wisconsin ID and bank statement in hand, I was grateful for my state’s decisions four years ago. My voting experience was seamless, efficient, and most importantly, safe. Unfortunately, I can’t guarantee this effortless experience for all. But what I can do is vote with that intention in mind.

I didn’t vote against the marriage or voter ID law for myself, even though I believe I benefit directly and indirectly from both results. I can’t give equal access for a leisurely skyway walk over to the polls, but I can share my positive experience to convince one more voter that it’s worth their time. I can’t guarantee a safe and welcoming polling experience, but I can vote for candidates who make this a priority. Candidates whose rhetoric protects and promotes all American citizens, and encourages every voice to be heard.

Now, that can be easier said than done. Wanting more voter turnout means voters regardless of what bubble they will fill in. Wanting more voices to be heard means voices regardless of if their opinion aligns with yours. Mindsets of a “wasted vote,” or hoping a person doesn’t “cancel out” your vote don’t fit that bill. Deleting Facebook friends for their opinions, avoiding alternative points of view, or shunning certain headlines don’t fit that bill.

Tolerance is being genuinely happy for the involvement of third party voters, voters of one’s opposing party, and voters who will leave the presidential candidate bubbles blank. Because they’re voters. If you want to see tolerance, practice tolerance.

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Cheers to you, voters

It’s not easy. I think that’s where we’re all the same. For the most part, we all want the same things. It’s human nature to desire, to demand, safety. That’s innately our highest priority- whether to fight or flight  (it’s even our first chakra). But how we think our country will remain safe, and what it means to be protected, is incredibly unique to each person. Understanding this doesn’t necessarily solve anything. It’s a simplified view of one issue. But for me, it provides an example of a shared experience with people that I might otherwise think I have nothing in common with.

For me, practicing tolerance calls for talking (and writing) less and listening more. It means not reacting to an opposing opinion, but rather wondering, with curiosity not judgement, what makes someone feel that way. What experiences have they had that I haven’t? For example, Trump’s recent stance on minorities in Minnesota wouldn’t gain traction if it resonated with no one.

We all have our individual lens through which we see the world. Because these recent comments don’t align with my opinions and values, it can be difficult to accept that point of view. But tolerance doesn’t need to be silence, which is why it’s just as important for it to be made known when a comment or speech does not represent the worldview of a person, group, or community, as Betsy Hodges, Al Franken, R.T. Rybak, and others have done.

What’s helped me (a news junkie who tries to also keep her heart rate below 60 bpm) is remembering that my vote counts, the vote of that loud-person-on-Facebook-you-can’t-remember-where-you-met-but-are-for-some-reason-FB-friends-because-they-wished-you-a-happy-birthday-once counts,  but there’s also a lot more that counts outside of the voting booth and on days other than November 8.

It’s easier than ever this year to be an informed local voter, a simple google search of “What’s on my ballot,” will fill you in on what names to prepare for. If there’s something that is an essential outcome for you after this election, think of how you can be involved in that on a local level. And if you wish this election season’s climate was more tolerant, less divisive, and more balanced, let that start with you. 

Props for my election day viewing party- because we all need something to celebrate
Props for my election day viewing party- because we all need something to celebrate

 

 

Madison Not Madeline

“Well behaved women seldom make history.” 

No stranger to trouble
No stranger to trouble

Maddy wasn’t the most well read, but that quote really resonated with her. My family’s german wired-hair pointer was never described as subtle. She was never one of those dogs where guests exclaimed, “I didn’t even realize she was here!” No, you knew she was there because she gave you more kisses than you bargained for, or maybe she just stole your piece of birthday cake…on your birthday (sorry Grandpa Jack).

My family has enough stories for me to fill this entire blog. And everyone who has met her (or met anyone in our family) has gathered a few as well. They’re these sweet souvenirs that can make me laugh at any moment.

Long before I made it to a yoga mat, she taught us non-attachment. I couldn’t help but be impressed when she limped around the house, and then ate the pizza out of my hand when I bent down to see what was wrong. Another time, she ran down the halls of  my middle school as my mom weaved through students to chase after her. As a sixth grader, this was mortifying. Instead of spending the day embarrassed, I responded to the telling of this story with, “I heard about that! I wonder whose dog that was…” Or more importantly, when we had a bad day, how quickly it could all melt away with a single Maddy story or a cuddle on the couch.IMG_2708

We said goodbye to Maddy today. And on the surface, this all seems silly. There should be no reason for so many emotions or feelings of loss. But anyone who has a pet, especially a dog, knows what’s on paper has nothing to do with the experience of losing a four-legged loved one.

They start to become part of our family, not just because we treat them like royalty, but because they choose to be an active family member. They choose to give love when it is needed most. They choose to be the constant in all situations. They choose us, just as much as we choose them. Maddy was always the one piece of our lives our family could relate on every single day. It’s not in the weakness of the family, but in the strength of the connection that our animals end up being our glue.

Please notice the doormat
Please notice the doormat

Now I can only speak for the last four hours, but I don’t think that glue is conditional. Though it’s physically gone, I don’t believe the it’s power is lost. For all the memories you shared are still there. All the stories that made you laugh, or cry, or both at the same time, will still be told. For all of you experienced giving and getting love in a completely new way. It doesn’t go away.

I think the only way we lose the power of that glue is by pretending it wasn’t as strong as it was. By only allowing ourselves to feel what makes sense on paper, we’re not giving credit where credit is due.

It’s only by recognizing this unique connection that we’re able to grow, and that we’re able to share that love in other ways. 

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Two Wheels in the Twin Cities

A summary of biking in Minneapolis is that everyone hates everyone. Namaste.

Walkers wander into the bike lane, bikers forget to signal, and drivers are reckless. Commuting regularly via bus, bike, foot, light rail, and car, I have been the accused and the accuser in all of these scenarios.

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Once everyone safely arrives to their destination, the dialogue quickly changes to how great the Twin Cities are for offering so many different forms of transportation. In the five years that I’ve lived in Minneapolis, I have been able to explore so much more of the Cities due to all of these options.

It’s true that they aren’t flawless. MPR is required for heavy traffic, buses sometimes follow the beat of their own drum, and sometimes the bike lane disappears without my permission. But I like to think of that as part of the journey, especially with biking.

For a large part of our lives, physical activity is determined by organized sports with the purpose of being the best. For me, biking couldn’t be farther from that. I’ve gotten stranded in St. Louis Park on a pitch black summer night trying out a new route. I’ve made an unannounced U-Turn that prompted a driver to take a few of her fingers off ten and two. I’ve ridden for weeks on incredibly flat tires, all the while assuming that I really needed to work on lower body strengthening.

So, I’m not exactly an expert. But the best part is, I don’t mind.

I love having a hobby that has no pressure to get to certain level, status, or excellence. I love, love, love not paying for parking downtown. I love giving myself permission to not always opt for the most efficient way from Point A to Point B.

And if you know me, you know I love any opportunity to spend less time sitting still. I love having someone 30 years older speed past me on the Cedar Lake Trail, it’s inspiring and humbling all at the same time.

While biking from work to Corepower the other day, I was behind a biker who really looked the part. This is the best case scenario for me- having an expert biker navigate the downtown chaos while I rail closely behind. He was really killing it in his reflective vest, until someone quickly opened their passenger side to hop out for the corner restaurant. The door flew open right in front of him, as he slammed on the brakes and somehow stopped himself from flying over or into the door. 

The woman apologized continuously and explained she didn’t seem him approaching. I heard a few passengers behind me, who also gasped watching the scene, say they hope she apologized. As his self-proclaimed side kick, I let them know she did, and I made sure he was okay. He brushed it off like a champ.

In my opinion, that woman isn’t an expert passenger. But who really is? We all make mistakes, so maybe everyone should think of themselves as beginner everything. We all forget time and time again that there’s a world surrounding our Point A to Point B commute. The more we recognize that, the less we get flicked off. Simple. 

 

 

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Don’t worry, every month is #BikeMonth in the Twin Cities

 

Secondhand Hounds

From the background on my phone, to my day calendar at work, to collapsing on the ground to be on dog-level at any given opportunity, I do not try to hide my love for dogs. I’m shameless.

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Meeting my first Secondhand Hound, little did I know, at the 2014 Minneapolis Pride Festival

To all who I offer to dogsit for (strangers included), I am indeed serious, and clearly need to make business cards to get that message through. I’ve come close to tears talking about dogs I do not know, and tell stories about other’s dogs as if I am a part (or the sole) owner.

When I was little, I would get up close and personal with my Grandma’s small white poodle, Lady. She would bite me on the cheek every time I crossed the line, and I would comfort myself by hugging her and weeping into her fur. That’s unconditional love, people.

At 23 and a bit wiser, I found my way to Secondhand Hounds to get my dog fix through volunteering. A volunteer-run and foster-based shelter, Secondhand Hounds (SHH) finds temporary and permanent homes for dogs and cats that are rescued or brought in from a wide variety of scenarios.

I now start my Friday mornings letting out the animals that are in between fosters, and as a result temporarily staying at the shelter. This means sunrise walks, trying to trick very smart dogs into taking their medicine, rekindling my friendship with cats, and all the cuddling I had been missing. 

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Lady, part dalmatian and part pointer. Loves to cuddle and is a pro at eating the treat but spitting out the medicine
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Doxie, bulldog of some sort. So sweet! Not the most athletic, our walk ended shortly after this photoshoot 🙂

One morning, this also meant meeting an aggressive dog, who was very territorial of his space. I slowly and confidently introduced myself, and he started to be put at ease. He flinched as I put on his leash, which showed he had been abused prior to SHH. After going outside and giving him breakfast, we sat in his room as I pet him to get him more acclimated to the space. All was going well until we made eye contact, and he lunged at my face.

Unlike my younger self, I knew not to stick around. I quickly left his room, all the while subconsciously narrating to the dog, “I have to go, this is not going well.” In immense pain, I realized the bridge of my nose had been bitten very badly, along with a small bite on my chin.

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One week after the accident, other photos of the damage are left out for everyone’s benefit

I didn’t want to share this story too broadly out of fear of how it would reflect on Secondhand Hounds, who were nothing but amazing in responding to the situation. Many people asked me if I would go back to volunteering, or if I still felt the same way about dogs. All of which got the same response, of course.

Truth is, organizations like Secondhand Hounds are why accidents like this do not happen more often. I wasn’t attacked by a dog, rather this is the ripple effect of the abuse this dog has endured. It’s a ripple of someone who I imagine has been given one idea of how to manage anger, what it means to be masculine, and whether mental health should be talked about. 

I was recently reminded of this, when my dress was stolen from the locker room while I was teaching yoga. At first, I was upset and annoyed that I needed to go home for a different outfit to wear to work. However, once I changed and looked in the mirror, I noticed the scar on my nose and was reminded that there can always be more to a story. The new owner of my dress may have needed it more than I did; and either way, I am lucky to have a closet full of other options.

For the pain and fear that I experienced that early morning with this dog, I’m sure that moment of eye contact triggered the frequent feelings of pain and fear he has endured. This scar isn’t a reminder of that morning, it’s a reminder of why organizations like Secondhand Hounds matter. It’s not a reason to avoid dogs, it’s a reason to get involvedIt’s a reason to spread love and compassion whenever possible, because you never know who or what needs it most. 

Sweet Potatoes + Savory Oats

Like any normal person, I decided to make my grocery list by thinking of foods I liked the least. Sweet potatoes and oatmeal, welcome to the party.

I was never into sweet potatoes because the idea of potatoes being sweet was confusing, and brown sugar glazes or marshmallows made the situation even worse. Oatmeal felt like something that was designed to be healthy, but is always served with 30 grams of sugar. Add in my love for protein in the morning and I just didn’t see the point.

However, I thought I must be missing something, especially since both dishes seemed like a very cost effective and filling addition to the day. Here’s how we all found love in a hopeless place:

Baked for Breakfast- Put sweet potatoes in the oven at 425 for 45-60 minutes or until soft to the touch. Cut in half and add protein, hot sauce (if you’re me), and anything else you’d like. Any more potato than that and the ratio isn’t the best for us non-potato enthusiasts. You also just started the meal prep for multiple breakfasts, killin’ it.

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The yolk makes this amazing, topped with sour cream (or greek yogurt)
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Greek yogurt, cinnamon, honey, pecans, and apple pie jam
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Paired with Herbivorous Butcher’s maple breakfast sausage

Savory and Steel Cut- Every morning, my dad makes “oaties” on the stove for himself and our dog. That’s correct. It always seemed like an oddly long process, but yielding 4-5 servings made it worth it. Bring  3 cups water with 1 cup almond milk to a boil, and stir in 1 cup steel cut oats. Simmer for 20ish minutes on medium-low, stirring regularly, until the mixture becomes thick.

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Oats with sauteed mushrooms, onions, and red thai sauce
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Mixed with chocolate chips, coconut, maple syrup, and raspberries for dessert

Let me know what you try!

5 Things to Try in Stillwater

After an AMAZING staycation in Stillwater, I have much to share. Anyone who has gotten a live Sarah-Reed-story before, knows that I firmly believe in the more details, the better. However, with all of the self control in the world, I give you the top 5 highlights. Here’s where to hike, where to drink, and where to eat (aka the essentials): IMG_5210

Willow River State Park: We explored a six mile trail here that was the perfect mix of grassy plains, difficult hills, and overlook views. Best of all, it led to a gorgeous waterfall {option to turn around here if 6 miles isn’t your style} and a large staircase to overlook the waterfall. We also visited William O’brien State Park the day before, which was predominantly grassy plains but was still a winner.

Charlie’s PubBrandon and I had been to this pub in the summer, and enjoyed sitting outside on the deck. Right above it is the hotel we decided to stay at this time, Water Street Inn. While the decks nice in the day, the real party is going here at night. With live Irish music on the weekends, and an intimate bar setting for other nights, you can’t go wrong. Sunday night, we were the only people at the bar, so we got to know the bartender to make his favorite drinks. Ask for the whiskey smash and an old fashioned, you won’t regret it.

IMG_5191Maple Island BrewingCan I go here everyday? I had an awesome flight consisting of an ale, maple beer, IPA, orange creamsicle, and coffee stout, Yes to everything, especially the Maple bock. A full one may have been too much, but the unique flavor was a great treat. There were two musicians playing covers (shout out to their Jbieb’s Love Yourself), which added great ambiance.  If you’re in Stillwater over the weekend, saunter over there Saturday morning for me to check out the yoga class they host- beer included and proceeds go to charity.

Tremblay’s Sweet Shop: After resisting the urge to visit Nelson’s, we wandered this quaint candy shop and I’m still dreaming of going back. There were samples, which is always a good sign, and amazing handmade truffles, turtles, brittles, and more. My bag of treats was twice the weight of IMG_5192Brandon’s, and I still see no problem with that.

Luna Rossa: Not to brag, but I know good Italian. I didn’t choose this life, it chose me. You simply do not live in Rome for four months and leave without greater expectations for pasta, wine, and fresh ingredients. With that said, Luna Rossa was the perfect place for our anniversary dinner Sunday night. Absolutely recommend the spinach and mushroom risotto topped with salmon. Add in some chianti and tiramisu, and it felt like my second home. 

Overall, 10/10 on this staycation. Stillwater’s waterfront small town vibe gives the impression you’re much farther from the Cities, when it was only a half hour commute. This allowed us to make the most of the Sunday morning- Monday afternoon trip, and be present without any stress. Explore wherever you can, it is always worth it. Let me know what you try from this list, and share where else you go!

 

Perfect- Everyone’s Poison of Choice

It’s hard to explain social media to someone that doesn’t get it. And I don’t
mean answering “IT” calls during Scandal to tell your dad how to post a photo on Facebook. I mean for the people that don’t have the same urge to create, share, and interact on a virtual reality.

To the naysayers that claim social media is all perfect filters, planned poses, and only the best parts of our days…I don’t know what to say to you. Because you’re not wrong.

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Aka the best part of everyone’s day

I’ve taken an unintentional hiatus from blogging, journaling, and meditating. Just as I tell my yoga students as they enter the love/hate pigeon pose, it is where we are least comfortable that we need to be most. I have been avoiding what I needed most, because I didn’t have the perfect thing to say.

For the past four months, I have been answering the small-talk question “How are things? How is work?” with the small-answer that is expected, “Great!” Failing to mention that I was doubting myself on an incredibly regular basis.

My life is great, it truly is. Online and offline. With and without filters. But after we spend our whole lives going to school and training for a career, and when work becomes the focus of most conversations, it’s hard to have such a large part of one’s life stray from perfect.

Freshman year of college, when we were all home for Thanksgiving, I remember everyone always asking each other, “How is ____? Do you LOVE it?” There seems to only be one right answer to that question. Lucky for me, the answer was genuinely yes, but something tells me there were some filtered yeses reporting back as well.

Conversations about jobs were always focused on nailing the interview, getting hired, and how to negotiate salaries. But what no one talked about is that once the ink of the offer letter is dried, the welcome wagon is long gone, the real work begins.

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“Honestly, Andy, you’re not trying. You’re whining.” Favorite scene. Even more favorite movie.

Because perfect isn’t an option for 40+ hours a week. Perfect is too easy. Perfect doesn’t stick around for learning curves, trying things that scare you, and thinking outside of what’s been done before. Perfect doesn’t prepare you to be the one in the driver’s seat one day. Perfect stays behind the screen as we scroll by.

But when asked in passing, over vodka sodas and loud music, or following good news, no one mentions that. So we think—even if we don’t believe it—it must just be me.

Well team, you fooled me. I believed it was just me, and that I needed to make a drastic change to my career path. But figuring out the 5 Ws of that shift made each day in my current role more difficult. Turns out it’s really hard to move forward with one foot in and one foot out. To the point that I didn’t want the mess of my confusion and doubt written out on the pages of my journal, to dance around in my still mind, and I definitely couldn’t sort them out to make public.

I’ve realized through conversations with my true north confidants, attending the recent Minneapolis Mad Women event, and having more thoughts in a run than steps, that you can’t sabotage your career at 23. Doesn’t seem possible. I refuse to accept that as a possibility.

It wasn’t perfect opportunities that were catching my eye, it was the idea of how perfect it could be. A perfect opportunity is the one that allows you to overcome challenges, and keep trekking to the light even when the tunnel isn’t perfectly built.

There’s no need to fight or flight from the discomfort, or filter the imperfections. Rather, we grow when we stay in the present, and show that we can be a team player and choose positivity even when it isn’t easy.

And most importantly, when work isn’t our strongest (let alone the only) source of fulfillment, worth, and joy, it’s a lot easier to remember how truly-unfiltered-great life is. Knowing regardless of what the light or tunnel looks like, you are a damn good train, and yes, you can.

How Did They Do That?

IMG_4986Always in amazement of Minneapolis Mad Women events, I’m not surprised I’m still sharing, connecting, and gaining inspiration from the March #HowDidTheyDoThat? session. Six women and one redefining-the-term-power-couple made up the panel that shared their journeys of how they got to where they are today.

Journey doesn’t mean read me your resume, for these speakers, it meant sharing stories of vulnerability, doubt, missteps, and embracing risk.

I could go on forever about the details of each stories (ask my friends, I have) but what sticks with me two weeks later is rather than checking all the boxes and moving through the motions, trust your instincts to follow your own path. Here’s a highlight of how they did it:

  • Kalei Grines, Business Engagement for Target Style, shared that she began her career hiding that she was a single mom, and later having her daughter think of the office as a second home. Once her daughter’s 10th birthday rolled around, Kalei realized she had crossed off all the goals and positions she wanted, but didn’t see her own work in who her independent, extroverted and gifted daughter had become. If something feels like it’s missing from your work/life balance, it probably is. Redefine success to include the life you want to live.
  • Jeremy and Krista Carroll, founders of Latitude, were inspired after spending time in Haiti to leave jobs they weren’t connected to and start their own business dedicated to elevating lives in third-world countries. For this leap to be possible, they asked themselves, “What’s the worst case scenario?” After confirming moving their family into Krista’s parent’s basement was indeed an option, the plan seemed less crazy. Krista credits Latitude’s success to purpose driving talent.
  • Pamela Brown, Brand Licensing & Partnership Management at General Mills, wrote a hilarious letter to her 22 year-old self that prepared her to reframe her career experiences that were to come. She called these “gifts wrapped in shitty ugly paper,” such as receiving a bad boss, terrible pay, no work/life balance; all of which helped her know what to look for in her next role. These shitty, ugly, gifts prepared her not to compromise on what mattered to her most.

After the eight panelists shared their stories, someone asked what their two non-negotiables are in a job. After brainstorming on the way home, and for the last two weeks, I’ve decided my non-negotiables are creative outlets and work/life balance

  • While I currently create content, webinars, graphics, white papers, that is not the only way creativity must show up for me. It’s thinking creatively as well— finding a new solution, trying things that haven’t been done— that make me feel like my whole self is coming to work.
  • Work/life balance isn’t actually a matter of balance. An amazing mentor once told
    me, “If something is in balance, it’s not moving.” So for me, it’s having an employer that allows for flexibility and life outside of work, and for me to be an employee that doesn’t make them regret that. I’m a better employee when I have IMG_4539time for early morning yoga, and evening hours spent away from screens.

I’m lucky that my first role and organization offer these two non-negotiables. At #HowDidTheyDoIt? I realized how many different paths and experiences people come from. We are all too unique to march to the beat of someone else’s drum, or cling to a set in stone five year plan.

For me, remembering that is like a full body exhale. Rather than worrying about being behind or getting ahead, get the most out of every experience and opportunity so you can one day be the panelist saying, this is how I did it.