it’s complicated

In all the relationships I’ve had in my life, there have been a few I’d classify as “complicated” at some point or another.  The one relationship in my life that stands out as being the.most.complicated is my relationship with running.  You guys remember this post.  It’s always been a give and take, a start and a stop, a renewed dedication.  It’s always been the one thing I could go back to and even though I always had to start over (ugh), it was the one thing I always knew I could do.

So this spring I started training to run the DSM Half with my sister.  I was a little behind the training schedule and hadn’t been running as consistently as I should have… till about three weeks ago.  But even when I started getting serious about training, things weren’t gel-ing for me.  My shoes weren’t great, I had no energy, running 1 mile was hard (let alone 4).  I did some tweaking last week just in time to run 6 miles on Sunday.  Which I did – kicking and screaming and in the time that it takes most people to complete a half marathon.  But I did it, and it was over, and I felt awesome after.

Till yesterday.  I had pain in my right foot that wasn’t there previously.  Of all the ailments that have ever plagued me in my running life, foot pain was never one of them so this was different.  I went out this morning (after FINALLY finding an awesome trail around the corner from home) even though my foot hurt.  I walked to warm up and started out with an easy pace.  I even have a mantra from my sister that I remind myself of when I’m just getting warmed up: “it’s my pace” in my head over and over.  Pain interrupted my mantra.  I didn’t even make it a full mile before I turned around and headed back to the car.

Flash forward four hours.  After meeting with the sports medicine doctor at the walk-in clinic… I have a stress fracture.  Which means my half-marathon dreams are over since I have to wear this stupid boot for four weeks.

Here’s the real rub for me: I want to be in control over when I do and don’t run.  I went on a serious hiatus after I moved to Iowa – we’re talking two years – but that was my choice.  I don’t like to NOT have the option to run for any other reason than I choose not to.  I drove home trying to get used to the idea that I wouldn’t be running a half, I wouldn’t even be allowed to run; I’d have to start all over again in four weeks with one dumpy mile.  In short, running never looked so good till she’s gone.

This boot is already annoying and I have to take it on and off every time I drive.  This is going to be a long and disappointing four weeks.  It kind of doesn’t feel like I really have to do this.  I’m reminded the moment I take my boot off and walk around and it starts to hurt again.  I guess this is for real.  Maybe next time I won’t take it for granted that I’m healthy enough to run.  I think that has to be the silver lining here… right?

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cleveland, my hometown

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I’ve found myself inspired to write about my “hometown”: Cleveland.

The truth is that I’m from a town closer to Akron but after going away to college in another well-known Ohio town, “Cleveland” became the learned response to the question “where are you from?”  (Until LeBron, no one really knew of Akron so the chances of anyone knowing a suburb of a suburb of a suburb of Akron was highly unlikely.)  So I’ve been saying “Cleveland” to answer “where are you from?” for ages even though my real hometown is about 45 minutes away.

I’m in Ohio this week visiting my family for my usual summer trip and it seems like every time I’m here, I appreciate it just a bit more.  When I lived here prior to making Iowa my home, I kept my radius a bit tight.  I didn’t venture far from the fanciness of Beachwood where all the shopping is, University Heights where the Whole Foods is, and the east side where my sister lived.  As it turns out, Cleveland is really cool when you know where to go and I wasn’t going to the right places.  It took moving away and stalking the city from afar to really figure out what made Cleveland tick.

I’m continually amazed at how much this city has changed.  Even in the three short years since I’ve been gone.  There’s such a sense of community and the local movement has really taken root here.  It’s exhibited by the restaurants all along W 25th St that pride themselves on dishes made from locally sourced ingredients.  And with the West Side Market around the corner, how could they not feel inspired?  The food scene here could rival almost any big city.

(A few highlights: The Greenhouse Tavern, Townhall, Bier Market, Bar Cento, L’Albatros, The Black Pig and I’m dying to try The Butcher and the Brewer.)

Beyond the food, though, this city is a crafter’s dream.  It’s like an Etsy beyond the internets with vendors lining some of the coolest streets for things like Hingetown, and Cleveland Flea.  This city has really become an artist’s community and really celebrates their creatives.

The city stretches far and wide – you have your outskirts communities like Rocky River and Avon and Westlake – and there are so many more people, places and things beyond just my scope.  I’ve written about CLE in the past; sometimes in good and not-so-good context and I’m happy to embrace this place I call home.

There are still things that make CLE less-than-ideal (the crime rate, lack of an organized public transit system, spaced out neighborhoods, lack of walkability between aforementioned spaced-out-neighborhoods) but I do believe I could kill it (socially speaking) in this city after having been forced to spread my wings and learn a different city.  I’d be more active in the community, more likely to get involved and celebrate all that’s going on here (versus lamenting what’s not).  I’m someone who is somewhat of a city snob but I’m real and I’m from CLE.  Having very little “hometown” loyalty, I am happy to say that this city is something to celebrate and there’s a lot of good coming from CLE right now.

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not faking

I think the thing that’s most true about me is that I’m not a faker.  It also happens to be the thing that keeps me from getting stuff filed away in the DONE pile.

Let me explain.  Even though I’ve been away from this space for much longer than I’d hoped, it’s not because I haven’t been thinking of being here – cause I think about it a lot.  It’s actually because I’m not a faker.  When things in my non-blogging life are slow, my blog life becomes increasingly spotty.  I’m going to focus on spending more time talking about those little things that happen in my life.  That way I don’t spend time trying to conjure up the most epic post ever and then fall down the sneaky guilt spiral of neglecting this space.

So here’s a hodgepodge of what I’ve been up to:

1. I worked a bar tent during a festival here in DSM recently.  I officially poured my first beer from a tap (I exclude all prior college-party kegs because those were for me) and then proceeded to do that all.night.long and you know what?  It was so much fun.  St. Lucia was there, Weezer was there, Wilco was there – it was awesome.

2. I started official training for the DSM Half in October.  I’m so pleased that there’s about four weeks of running ahead of me that consistently includes 2 miles because with the heat (okay, humidity) we’ve been enjoying lately, it’s been so hard to keep motivated.

3. I am almost finished with a 21 Day Fix (shoutout to my sister who is doing it too and she’s pretty much owning me).  I’ve been working out consistently and have fallen in mad-love with Shakeology.  I’d drink it for every meal.

4. I’ve been listening to a lot of Pond (just Medicine Hat, really), Cold War Kids, Father John Misty (and Fleet Foxes, by extension), Lord Huron and how did I just now discover The Decemberists?!

5. I’ve been pretty wiped after work lately but with the bounty of squash from the garden, there have been some delicious squash recipes coming out of the kitch.  My most favorite and one that I recommend to everyone is Summer Squash Gratin by Smitten Kitchen.  It’s incredibly easy, very forgiving and I’ve made a lot of changes to suit my own tastes and laziness.  Personally, I sub Fontina for Gruyere (yuck), add a dollop of goat cheese after it’s served up and always leave out the anchovies from the salsa verde.  Not because I’m afraid of anchovies or anything… but because they’re never on hand.

6. After my summer trip home, I need to save some coin for this little gem.  I’ve been eyeing it for about a year now and I think it’s finally time to make it mine.

Thank you guys for sticking through my inconsistency and my desire to always bring something true here.

rachel’s story

Hey everyone! We have a first here at the blog: a guest.  With Mother’s Day not too far in the rear-view, my sister agreed to share her daughter’s birth story.  As many of you know, I adore little miss Avery.  In real life, away from the blog, it also happens that I adore my sister—we talk almost every day—and when I’m not talking *to* her, I’m talking *about* her (always in a good way).  Rachel is one of those rare creatures whose birth plan went about 98% as planned and she handled every single struggle like a boss.  For real.  So please, sit back and enjoy this written in my sister’s voice.

Rachel’s story

Awesome.

That’s not normally how someone would describe their labor and delivery. I am sure you have read a lot of blogs about horrible experiences in the delivery room and ‘things no one tells you about after you have your baby’. I read them too.  And if you’re looking for that, it’s not here. I will be honest but the truth is that birthing Avery was the most amazing thing I have ever done. Because I’m an ‘over-sharer’ let’s get started with some backstory and way too many details.

Married

I was married when I was 21. I met Adam at 20 and just recently celebrated my 30th birthday – so doing the math, I’ve been with him all throughout my 20’s – that’s not said to be a bad thing. I share it because our first couple years were rocky. We were just really getting to know one another. I would leave lights on around our house, which he hated, it would leave him saying stupid things and lead to fights (about something pretty trivial). Lesson: all marriages have hot buttons. We just made it a priority to work on ours so that we could have a happy marriage. Of course, we failed time and again but continued to work together. Making a marriage work takes a lot of *hard* work. In fact, most people tell you it’s not easy but it’s truly hard to understand what they mean until you are knee-deep in it.

Babies were not something on my radar. Throughout most of our marriage, Adam and I would joke that we might never have children. Then there are the people that tell you “You have to have kids” and my typical response was “uh, no we don’t.” I fully felt that it was our decision to make. Right before I turned 29, I watched a riveting documentary called ‘The Business of Being Born’ and safe to say it changed my outlook on having children. Not only did I want to have a baby, but I wanted to bring it into this world in a beautiful way; surrounded by my loving family. I have such a wonderful family and I’m so blessed to have such amazing people in my life. I also wanted to bring a child into the world in a very natural, unmedicated way as well – which is what most of the documentary is about. You really feel that sense of empowerment when you realize what our female bodies are made to do. Needless to say, it blew my mind. I am pretty sure I was crying with Ricky Lake at the end. After watching the documentary, it prompted Adam and I to have the discussion about children. I shared my deepest desire for truly wanting a child with my amazing husband. The conversation was a little shocking to him but I’m pretty sure estrogen made me do it.

Working momma

In 2013 I had been working at Target for almost four years. I was in a pivotal place in my career. I was asked to take on a new task working overnights as the stores in my district were being remodeled in order to offer produce to our guests. It was a huge change for me. I wanted the career but I also wanted a family. I was ready to put 110% into my new work assignment but at the same time, I was also ready to get pregnant. Whatever happened, I was prepared to work through it all. I got off birth control in February and to my surprise, we were pregnant by June.

The reveal

I had just gotten over some fluke flu, which is what prompted me to take the pregnancy test in the first place. After taking the first test, I took two more just to be sure. I wanted to tell Adam we were pregnant in a very special way. For those of you who don’t know me, I’m very into Pandora bracelets. I carefully chose the baby binky pendant as a present to him to show him we’re having a baby! My timing probably wasn’t the best; he was gone for work for two full days, and I’d just gotten over the aforementioned flu. We went to have dinner at Sixth and Pine, which is the restaurant in Nordstrom. I had a couple bags in hand from my pre-dinner shopping excursion, and as soon as he saw the Pandora bag, he asked what I bought (you can’t plan this, people). I confessed to the cutest pair of earrings and then told him I had a surprise for him. He slowly opened the perfect little bag and as he pulled the tissue out and saw the pendant, he had no idea what it was. He kept asking me what it was and after about 5 minutes or so of prodding him to guess, I told him we were expecting. He was in shock but really happy because we had been trying. I think the realization set in that holy cow, we’re pregnant!

The pregnancy

At first it didn’t really seem like I was pregnant other than the minor lifestyle changes (goodbye booze, goodbye bologna, goodbye Cedar Point, see ya beef carpaccio). These changes become very real when it’s time for that first ultrasound. I didn’t cry then but thinking about it now makes me tear up. The little life that grows inside you is simply breathtaking. I thought in that moment that people have to be crazy to think that life isn’t human. It’s a life that grows and breathes and develops and moves inside you. Avery looked like a turtle at first but with each ultrasound got progressively better. We didn’t know the sex at the time so the baby was known as ‘Baby Roy’. I looked forward to each ultrasound visit. I would talk to Baby Roy, play the baby music and read out loud. It was amazing to connect. It also made me take precious time for myself to relax. Every mommy knows that changes once the little bundle arrives.

For the most part, I was very healthy throughout my pregnancy. I would read and do research, LOTS of research. I was a research junkie. I did so much work to prepare however there are some thing you cannot prepare for. I felt pretty confident but I had some rough patches. Around six months in, I developed pregnancy induced carpal tunnel, which, by the way, totally stinks. You lose feeling in your hands because of the extra blood and swelling. My left hand went numb and then my right hand. I couldn’t feel my fingers. I kept hurting my hands because I couldn’t feel anything. It’s a very odd sensation, or lack thereof. Even with those issues, I felt very blessed to have an overall wonderful experience being pregnant. I had a birth plan and I was one of the lucky people whose birth plan goes exactly as I wanted it to. I found a Doula and a birthing class and I recommend both. Birthworks is an awesome birthing class and find a Doula on D.O.N.A. You’ll be so happy you did.

Even though we shared that she’d be a girl, we were keeping the name a secret from our friends and family. We gathered to celebrate our little girl at her shower. I loved every minute of Baby Roy’s baby shower. I love being around my friends and family so that was a very special time for me. My motto is ‘go big or go home’ and I had a very big shower. It was like a wedding reception and everything was wonderful – from the guests to the food and the support and love I felt. Her room was done and everything was organized. I was ready for the baby to come.

The birth

The one fear I had was that my sister wouldn’t be there. I’m not a huge fan of of her being so far away but I know she’s loving her new surroundings and that makes me happy. But having Ryan be a part of this experience was something that was very important to me. We made a plan early on that once I knew it was go-time (for real), she’d get on a plane and bust-it back to Cleveland. The day before Avery was born, my contractions started around midnight, then became more consistent around 2 a.m. I made sure to contact Ryan early.

A lot of people ask what contractions feel like and I’d say really bad period cramps – like 100x worse. Thankfully our bodies can handle those. At first, they weren’t so bad. I had time to pack, shower, put a full-face makeup on, do my hair and get ready to go. My plan was to wait as long as possible before heading to the hospital. This is where having family support and a doula was helpful. I knew I had to wait and they kept me calm. We had good conversation, they helped me breathe through the contractions and I even tried to eat. That turned out to be an epic fail as it all came back up. This is real, people. I knew I had to wait till Ryan arrived (which is about a 4 hour trip, airport to airport) so I just kept working through the contractions. Just days before going into labor, I was reading a chapter out of ‘Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way’ and they mention just when you think you are ready to go to the hospital, you’re not ready and continue laboring a little bit longer. (This book is an enlightening and educating read and I totally suggest it.) There was a point after laboring at home four hours, just before Ryan arrived, that I asked Adam how I’d make it to the car. I laugh in my own face thinking my contractions were that bad then. No matter what, I had to reach a point where I knew I’d be ready to go to the hospital and that was as soon as Ryan arrived.

I safely made the car ride to the hospital with no issues. After arriving, Ryan and I made our way upstairs and even though I called the nurses before arriving, they weren’t ready. Even so, they made me feel at home fast. When the nurses checked me out, I was 8 cm dilated (not too bad if I do say so myself). Things did slow down a bit and even though I was fully dilated two hours later, my water hadn’t broken. I pushed but didn’t have that urge to. Truth: I was very calm and pleasant to be around during my entire labor and delivery. The last thing I wanted was to be mean to everyone, especially my husband. No way did I want to be mean to the man who gave me such a precious gift, no matter how hard this experience was. I wanted love to carry me through and it did. A couple times I was praying to God and He gave me the strength to fight a little harder. I had been having contractions without the urge to push for five hours. I was safe and healthy and the baby was too so the doctors were supporting my decision to have my water break naturally. I was so tired at one point, I considered having them break my water but I waited. Finally, I was sitting on the toilet, and my water broke (kind of like a ‘whoosh’). Adam kept me calm and encouraged me throughout. I had a second wind, which I totally needed. My only thought was: ‘yay! Baby Roy is making her way into the world.’

As the doctor continued to check me out and stretch me (yes, I said “stretch”) I got an indication that Baby Roy was sideways and every time I pushed, she kept slipping back. I kept pushing harder and harder with no results. Baby Roy was moving but it wasn’t enough. At that point, the doctor handed me a towel and said to pull – almost instantly that made a difference. She started moving and not slipping back. My contractions felt like they were on top of each other. Seriously, I didn’t have time to rest between them. I must have looked pitiful when I would tell everyone I needed to push but I just desperately wanted 10  minutes of rest. Everyone was getting so excited that they could see her head, then she was crowning and the whole family got really excited. Adam said “I can see her head!” and I knew I had to get my game face on. I don’t know where it came from but suddenly I had a burst of energy. I was entirely exhausted by this point but I wanted to meet our baby so I just kept trying. At one point in the labor, I looked over at my mom and I told her I was so exhausted and I had no clue how I’d have the energy to breastfeed immediately. She looked at me and told me that I would be so excited once the baby arrives that I wouldn’t even worry about being tired anymore. She continued to encourage me to keep on pushing and I felt relieved I’d have the energy to breast feed after delivery.

When the baby started crowning the doctor gave one end of the towel to Adam and I held the other. After a few short pushes, Baby Roy entered the world. My heart melted as I looked at this little life. A life that needed me. Baby Roy was placed right on me and we began our bonding, Vernix and all. She wasn’t breathing so the nurse took her for a second (and it was really a second) to remove fluid from her throat to enable breathing. After the nurse put the baby back on my chest, Adam and I looked at each other and he said “do you want to share her name now?” We both knew she was an Avery. Avery Jo Roy, sweet baby, little life, gift from God and she was ours.

After

Getting home with our baby was a truly odd experience; there’s a new being in the house. Our furry baby, Mera the cat, had no interest in Avery. Life truly did turn upside down for all of us. The house was filled with love. My mom, sister and friends were here to support and help us. Our first night with Avery, Ryan took the night shift so I could sleep a little and that’s about all I did. I was tired but my body was in mom-mode. I’d have to say that I really wanted to be the perfect mom but that doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time to get into a schedule, for you to feel like yourself again and somewhere in there you’re a new person. Avery has made me crazy, happy, sad and whole. Bringing a child into the world is unlike anything I have ever done. So “thank you” to everyone who ever tried to give me wise advice before I was ready because now I hear you. All the stories and jokes people make about having kids aren’t as funny until you have one of your own. I am now the proud wearer of that badge of Mommy honor.

 

Rachel & Avery

Rachel & Avery

winter thaw

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So, here’s the truth.  I love being domestic.  I know it’s not very cool or anything that could be rated a “hot topic” of discussion, but it is a true thing about me.  I love cleaning (so.much.more.than.a.normal.person, you guys), baking, cooking, planting, painting, decorating… the list goes on.  Spring always inspires renewal in pretty much everyone, so I’m no exception.  After winter is over and everyone begins to emerge from their weather-imposed shut-ins, I get the desire to start running again, to get my hands in the dirt, to declutter and go garage saleing (maybe that’s not a real word but whatevs).

Speaking of dirt, this year we’re going to have an epic garden.  It’s pretty much the only thing I can think about right now.  The weather here is getting great (in between intermittent surprises of 40 degree weather), spring has sprung (and all that) so my sole focus has shifted to all things outside.  The fella in my life inherited a pretty awesome green thumb and he’s a master starting things from seed.  And in true underpreparedness, EVERYTHING we planted has decided to grow.  Everything.  The basement is overrun with little seedlings that can’t wait to meet the sun.  They already had to be transplanted to red solo cups which are scattered a bit of here, there and everywhere in an effort to keep the cats from eating them.

If there’s anything I’ve learned from my modest gardening experience, it’s that planting things in the Earth is unpredictable and it truly is a combination of blood, sweat and tears.  If all these seedlings die after we transplant them, I’m going to be super upset.  In the meantime, we’ll wait for the ground to be ready, we’ll plan for sunny days ahead, we’ll dig into the Earth the way people have been doing for generations and we’ll begin the labor of love that is growing our own food.

my frienemy, purpose

You guys, I’m about to be really honest and it makes me super uncomfortable. The part of me that knows I want to write this post is the part of me that knows I should be honest in this space. I’ve been avoiding you all because this is the only thing I can think about but it feels so raw to share. So I’m going to just.do.it. Like ripping off a Band-Aid.

My whole life, I’ve wrestled with this voice inside of me. Sometimes it goes beyond just being a voice and is an actual feeeeeling; something that makes me want to act even though I’m not sure what I’m supposed to be doing yet. If I had to pinpoint the voice’s residence, I’d say it’s somewhere behind my breastbone (as that’s where I usually feel its urgency or disappointment or elation). This voice is what pushes me to continue moving in life; it keeps one foot in front of the other, and aims for bigger and better things. It was the calm that moved me to Des Moines, the nervousness in a job interview for a position I wanted more than anything, the peace that found me at home in my first apartment, the longing for Ohio/family after it’s been too long since I visited. In a nutshell: this voice feels like my purpose. I’ve always had a really complicated relationship with purpose. It’s like it knows this secret that I don’t yet know… that I have to choose the right path but it gives me no hints about what’s right.

I’m going through this season in my life where purpose is particularly relentless in trying to get my attention. I’ve tried, in the past, to squash it down but it always comes back. I was telling Dave about it this past weekend and he said the obvious “well, what if it’s part of your character”. After considering that, the truth is, it’s the part of my character that I prize because it makes me fearless and risky and calm and it’s the seat of my faith. What do I do when it doesn’t want to be quieted? How am I supposed to find direction with it clanging around inside me?

That’s where I am now. I’m trying to marry my gratefulness with this ever-reaching purpose. Trying to figure out what it means for me.

I don’t want to just blindly follow purpose for the sake of it but it suddenly feels as though purpose has betrayed me. I’m older now than I was when purpose started coming around and I’m not any closer to finding the meaning. I have never, ever known what I wanted to do when I “grow up”. Purpose isn’t helping me narrow it down at all.

I guess the point of this “rant” is really more to find out that I’m not alone and for other people who are constantly nagged by purpose to know that they’re not alone either. Most days it’s easy to see the trees for the forest and find happiness in the moments but purpose is powerful. I’m trying to harness and embrace it; to figure out how it can maintain a presence in my life but not crush me if I don’t concede to its demands. This is definitely bound to be a learning for me, so I’m going to leave us both with this poem by the great Walt Whitman (who is much more well-spoken than myself).

 

Happiness,

Not in Another Place

But in this Place…

Not for another Hour

But This Hour.

2014: my year in music

Happy New Year, lovelies!  I’m in the process of cooking up my resolutions but in the meantime, I’ve been thinking about this post for quite some time.  2014 was a big year for me—in music.  I really got my money’s worth on my Spotify this year.  The following are some albums I loved that were released in 2014 and a couple that escaped my eye in 2013 that I played incessantly (abused) in 2014.  Enjoy!

If you looked at my Spotify most listens for 2014, you’d probably see this album on top.  The War on Drugs – Lost in the Dream.  I’m pleased to see it topped some other online charts cause it’s getting the recognition it deserves.  It sounds almost etherial but definitely based in rock n’ roll.  The vocals sound super Dylan-esque (with a pinch of Dire Straits) and the music is borderline jam band but please don’t let that taint your initial impressions cause there’s a lot of synth in there.  The epic An Ocean In Between the Waves is a song that, at just over seven minutes, isn’t long enough.  I seriously want to dance like no one is watching.  2014 held two great concert disappointments – one of which is seeing The War on Drugs in Omaha (long story… same night as bags league – blah, blah, blah – no excuse is good enough).  I continue to kick myself over it but I can tell you that I won’t make that mistake again.

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While we’re on the subject, the second great concert disappointment of 2014 is not walking the five minutes to the 80/35 festival downtown when Boy & Bear had their free set.  Again… kicking myself.  But I could hear the end of their set from my apartment and let me tell you, it was so beautiful despite the distance it had to travel to meet my ears.  Even though technically Harlequin Dream was released in 2013, I played the heck out of it in 2014.  It started, quite literally, the moment their set was over and I listened heavily throughout the year.  Lyrically, this is where it’s at for me.  Their stuff is cheeky, well-written and the music backs it up.  Picking just one song off his album is really difficult because they’re all wonderful in their own right.  Please listen.

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Beck made a new album this year… so there’s that.  I couldn’t include a list without including Morning Phase.  This was an album I was so excited about that I continually streamed it off the NPR first-listen website days before it was actually released.  As you guys may already know, Sea Change is one of those albums that will forever be in my Top 10.  This entire album is simply delicious.  Listening for the first time was an experience because it sounds so much like Sea Change.  This album is all the beautiful things.  Imagine your happy place… right now… this album is the soundtrack to that happy place.

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I almost feel bad making a segue from Beck but there are more albums to be discussed.  That said… another massive listen for me toward the latter part of the year was Delta Spirit – Into the Wide.  I paid this album no mind initially because of my deep love for Ode to Sunshine but when my birthday surprise included a trip to Omaha to take in the Delta Spirit show, I had to give it a listen.  It was on after that.  The album is great but seeing them live is even better.  I gain so much respect for artists after seeing their live show and Delta Spirit were so gracious and fun and talented.

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I would be incredibly remiss if I didn’t include Broken Bells – After the Disco.  I realize this album might be a little more mainstream (like me saying my favorite band is Coldplay) and oft overlooked but I am a sucker for James Mercer.  And Danger Mouse.  ‘Nuff said.  While I’m not in love with every song on this album, it got a lot of play time during long drives.  It’s not actually a very long album and all the songs flow incredibly well.  I love the sound of the disco music with modern, clean, James Mercer vocals.

 

Notable 2014 players: 

Albums that didn’t get enough listen time: the full length release by Haerts happened this year!  Looking forward to more of that in 2015.  Spoon – They Want My Soul because yeah, Spoon.  I love their ability to change/reinvent their sound at any given time while maintaining that wide-body-guitar hum throughout.  I’m a huge fan of Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga and Gimmie Fiction and I was really looking forward to this release – I just haven’t listened enough.  Coldplay – Ghost Stories.  I love Coldplay.  I really wanted to listen and love this album but the truth is… it’s just *too sad* for me at the moment.  And I love sad.  My heart just breaks listening to the words and the music and it’s a gut punch for looking back on my own mistakes and sadness.  I think everyone can relate; I just need to be at a place where I won’t cry my eyes out at the first chord.  So I go back to their old stuff a lot (looking at you Live in 2003 which is unfortunately NOT on Spotify.).

You guys, there was SO much good stuff that went on in 2014—so many releases by some of my favorite bands.  One of the best things about music is its ability to shape what we want to listen to.  That’s happened to me a lot this year and I’ve gotten to experience my own tastes changing and evolving as a result.  The albums I’ve mentioned are the ones that will come with me into 2015.  They pass the Ryan-test of being lyrically and musically sound.  Music by artists that I feel are truly that: artists.  These albums get stamped in time so the next time I listen, I’ll remember where I was or what I was doing; I’ll feel happy or sad.  I believe that music is the soundtrack to life—the ultimate enhancer.  My hope is that maybe you’ll listen to some of this; maybe it won’t be for you but maybe some of it will… and we’ll have connected in the way that many others do across space and time.

holiday help

This holiday season, I’m being a responsible adult.

It’s always a bit difficult for me to do my Christmas shopping, pay for the rental car, pay for gas and tolls and then eat my way through Cleveland when I go home for a week at Christmas.  I usually end up back in Iowa with an empty bank account and 10 extra lbs (okay, okay—15).  As you guys know already, we’re “making” family gifts this year and I gotta tell you that I really like it.  Channeling my inner ‘crafter’ has been quite the new experience.

As a back-up plan, I thought I’d get all ‘in the Christmas spirit’ here on the blog and give you guys a gift guide.  You know, in case you all have an ultra cool 32-year-old in your life that you’re having to buy for and you just don’t know what to get her.  (wink face)

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First, foremost and only – she deserves this turntable.

Guys, let me get all nostalgic on you here.  There is something so rich and magical about vinyl.  This was a great year for albums and how nice would it be to relax by putting on a…. record…. after a long, hard day.  I’ll tell you right now, I’m all about it.

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Looking for something a bit less expensive and more personal?  I’ve got you covered.  For me, personally, one of my goals for this winter is finding a new signature scent.  I’ve been feeling like I want something that almost borders on masculine—because, and let’s be honest here, there’s something super alluring about musk.  Here are my top recommendations to achieve that desired affect: Oud & Bergamot – it’s both smoky *and* ladylike; Dark Amber & Ginger Lily – this one was surprising because the aroma of the Ginger Lily wasn’t near as overpowering as I thought it might be; Wood Sage & Sea Salt – this was quite literally a day at the beach followed by a bonfire at the shores after dark – very bewitching; and finally there’s the trusty Kiehl’s Original Musk.

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Still not quite getting there?  I submit this for your consideration.  It’s perfect for people like me who can’t quite handle actual animal heads on the walls but cool enough that it’s still considered pretty b.a.  I’m always looking for animal-friendly ways to gain street cred.  Obvi.

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Who am I kidding though… thoughtful gifts (and for me, experiences) are the best kind of gifts.  So this year, give from your hearts and I’m sure you’re all going to please everyone you love.  Even if that gift is edible (hey, that counts for craftiness, right?!).

giving thanks

I’m sitting here in the room I created as my “office”; my little sanctuary space filled with all the things I love: photos, music, books and lots of natural light.  This space is designed just for me so that I feel inspired to write.  Today, I don’t have to reach too far for inspiration.  It’s looking out on the snow-covered yard and the naked trees.  It’s knowing I’m safe and warm inside my home with the smells of a home-made dinner mingling with the Autumn scented candles.  It’s feeling close at heart to my family who are all ten hours away celebrating this same day.

I have an obscene amount to be thankful for.  I try every day to embrace that attitude.  I do my best to stay mindful of that and give thanks for each blessing.  In the spirit of Thanksgiving, dear ones, I hope you all have a day full of love and laughter surrounded by family and friends; a belly full of food and a thankful heart.

Sending love to you.

something to talk about.

Lately, it seems like the same post is showing up on all my favorite blogs.  The post about blogger burnout.

It’s the topic of the moment.  While I can’t exactly relate (as I’m an incredibly inconsistent blogger with dreams of actually having this problem), I can understand the general feeling of burnout.  My whole adult life I’ve reinvented my situation every two years.  It’s about the marker of time for me to change positions in the company, for moving, for that sneaking feeling of urgency to stir in my belly that something needs to change.  While I’m in this period of embracing my 30’s (myself) I’m trying to pull that part of me in and figure what I can do with it vs. letting it fill me with unease and continue on making me the nomadic person I’ve always been (thus starting all over).

I actually like where I am right now so that feeling is more or less channeling itself in the form of nesting and trying to hone my creativity.  When I say “hone my creativity” it kind of consists of spray painting 20 year old bedroom furniture, replacing the pulls (harder than it seems) and trying with all my might to conjure a blog post.  I have my cart hitched to a fella who loves *stuff* which goes against every bone in my minimalist loving body.  I don’t have any useful life hacks to provide, tips on spray painting furniture (okay maybe two), tips for decorating, etc.  The scariest thing I’m facing currently is trying to figure out what to make my family for Christmas this year.  And guys, those are all blog posts I’ve considered before realizing it would be three sentences long.

I believe in life there should always be a desire for growth, a learning and a refinement; something to spur you on in your journey.  My journey has always been about fulfilling my desire to *be* (all that I can be?).  You guys remember this post.  It’s a lot like that; there are dreams I have, things I want to make, things I want to contribute to my family and the world.  It’s a little exhausting at times trying to do all of that within the confines of every different set of circumstances and I am so.hard.on.myself.  That brings us to the burnout.  I’m in this grey area of time between my birthday and Christmas where I feel a combination of homesickness/productivity/excitement/boredom all at once.  It’s got me in a funk not easily cured by the usual suspects (food, writing, reading, running).  Frankly, I’m feeling a little lack of inspiration.

Doesn’t it seem so crazy that in this world of over-stimulation someone should find themselves in this situation? I think about that a lot. Anywhere I look I can surely find a modicum of inspiration (I spend a lot of time on the internets, guys) but I can’t seem to translate that into something that I want to say.  Maybe over-stimulation is actually a creativity killer?  I can’t seem to see that far in the future so I don’t know where I’m going with this space but I would hope that we’ll still be here; me sharing my stories with you.

Meantime, I hope you’re all well and I’ll be back soon.