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.

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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.

32.

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This week I celebrate my 32nd year.  Whew.

I realize I don’t have much of a right to complain about forehead lines, the need for botox, and suddenly being concerned about how much harder it is to lose weight now that I’m “in my 30’s”.

In typical birthday fashion, I spent a bit of time this weekend reflecting on my life; the past year’s accomplishments and not-so-accomplishments, my journey up to now and where things are headed as I move forward.  While my life really doesn’t look much like what I had *planned* I have to say I am really healthy with myself and really happy with how things have taken shape.

I heard from at least a handful of people that life in your 30s is really much more liberating than life in your 20s.  You spend less time figuring yourself out and more time embracing who you are.  So far, that’s true for me.  I’ve really learned what’s important to me and how to stand up for it.  I have waaaaaay more confidence than I thought could be possible and I’ve really learned (and embraced!) a new way of opening myself to people.

I’ve definitely come a long way from where I’ve been and I understand very well there will be unplanned twists and turns ahead for me.  I think—if anyone cares for my 32-years-wise “lessons”— the *secret* for managing this sometimes messy thing called life might be embracing those opportunities (aka risks) that find you.  Having guts (and a super hard work ethic—thanks parents!) has benefitted me so much more than I can adequately express.

Thank you friends and family for being a very important part of 32 years worth of lessons for me.  I’ll raise my glass and toast you all.

stuff i love: fall edition (aka back to school)

We’re in what my dad referred to as ‘the dog days of summer’.  I knew that was a phrase, I just didn’t realize it was one people actually used in the course of conversation.

It’s HOT here—and I don’t just mean the temps are hot—it’s sticky.  The days are shorter and it’s positively miserable to be outside.  I’ve stopped wearing 90% of my makeup because it just runs down my face the moment I step outside.  And after my lunch time workout it’s pointless.  I am so excited for the days to get cooler, the nights to get even cooler and for all things fall to begin.  I think Des Moines is probably doing this to me on purpose (like how I said “me” right there?!).  It’s getting me primed for my favorite season, which also happens to be the shortest.  In the back-to-school vein, I thought I’d post a couple of my favorite internet finds here.  I am known (mostly to myself) as a queen of the internets so I thought I’d share some with you guys.  Let’s get ready for fall!

  • Some new spectacles for fall. I’ve loved Warby Parker since I learned about them five or so years ago. Reasonably priced stylish glasses?! Yes, please. I’m surprised I’ve held out so long but I’ve been searching for the PERFECT crystal frame. I think these are them.
  • With the nights getting cooler in the fall, it’s the perfect time for bonfires! Since DSM has been beating us down with heat since about May, it’s made fire-lit evenings few and far between. What else goes better with fire than s’mores?! I submit for your snacks this recipe, and this one, and this one (cause I obviously have one thing on my mind).
  • I recently made my way back to Ohio for my summer trip home to spend time with my family (read: AVERY) and while I was home, I ate some amazing food. One was a dish that my mother made. We had a cookout for Avery’s dedication and my mom made panzanella and guys… this is a tried and true success for grilling family get-togethers. Also, *I* cooked one of the nights (what, what). Rach and I went to stay with my mom and I suggested this dish which I could pretty much eat every night for dinner. I’ve made some modifications of my own to fit it to my tastes and it’s a very forgiving dish. I aim to impress and mission: accomplished. There were also A&W root beer floats consumed that same evening…. and my mom beat us both at Phase10 but then what else is new.
  • I’m kind of obsessed with the idea of creating the perfect inspirational home office. These pretty things could go a long way toward creating that space.
  • THIS APP!  Guys, I am an app snob and pretty set in my ways…that is till Mailbox came along. I actually deactivated my Apple Mail apps on my phone and desktop in order to use this. It’s pretty much organized the chaos that is my mailbox at all times. You can snooze messages to come back, archive, delete and sort all with one swipe. Through the generosity of RDB and through my own usage, I have 4 bit coins available to anyone who wants Mailbox Beta for their desktop OS (it’s still in beta but I’ll hook you up)—otherwise you can download the app and start using it for FREE on your iPhone (or other smartphone).
  • Currently reading: this, this, and I’ve kind of been meaning to start this. The Goldfinch is amazing. How authors can basically take the everydays of life and make them so emotional and engaging is beyond me. I’m definitely feeling all the feels in this book. I had to take a small break cause I’m at that point where I want to kind of draw it out because I want to be able to be a part of that world just a little longer.

Oh, and this year I joined a Fantasy Football league at work. I think it’s going to change the way I watch football this year and I’m pretty excited about that. I hope you guys liked this post of some of my favorite finds.

traveling.

Before moving to Iowa two years ago, I couldn’t remember the last time I was on a plane.  In that very short time, I’ve done more air travel (and land travel, for that matter) than I have in the last decade combined.  It occurred to me when I mentioned to my sister the other day that all I needed to do to get on a plane was move away from home.  It seems like the last two summers have been jam packed with travel and it’s usually around July or August.  I make my 2ndAnnual Summer Pilgrimage home in about two weeks and I’ve already begun making requests for my mom’s home cooking.

I can’t wait to see this little face:

Avery-bear

Avery-bear

 

I just got back from a whirlwind trip to San Francisco for work.  I got to spend some time with my amazingly awesome friend Jen (who I haven’t seen in something like 10 years!!) and she gave me a great tour of her city.  San Francisco is one of the places that I’ve dreamed of visiting since I started taking this foodie thing seriously.  They have it all: breweries, ethnic food, wineries, TARTINE and pretty much everything else a gastronomique could want.  I may have made up that word just now.

Here are a few shots from my short (but sweet) trip.

 

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First stop: Tartine

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Shotwell’s for some local Drake’s Chili Smoked Porter. This beer is amazing. A-mazing.

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Bi-Rite Grocery – it’s where they keep all the ice cream in San Francisco.

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The Ferry Building. This is where they keep all the fancy food in San Francisco. Also, I want to live in it.

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Cellarmaker. The new brewery my cool friend Jen took me to.

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No words.

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Oh, hai Alcatraz.

Ohio.  I’ll be seeing you soon.

giving myself credit

I found this on the interwebs today. And let me just say: “Preach.”

The quote is what took my breath away. “Success isn’t how far you got, but the distance you traveled from where you started.” — Steven Prefontaine

Right now, as you know, I’m a pretty far distance from where I started. That’s speaking both physically and metaphorically. Like the article talks about, I think I’ve spent a lot of time being focused on a particular destination. The odd thing is that I’ve found my life being swept up in the lovely in-betweens to the destinations—more as an adult than ever before.

People told me that when I turn 30, all the questioning of my 20’s would go away. I can tell you guys, that much is true. However, in place of it, I find myself questioning the bigger things like marriage and babies and homeownership. I believe it takes special people to get married, stay married and then put that union through the trials of homeownership and children. I have nothing but respect for the people that make those choices every day.

I feel so conflicted sometimes because part of me keeps thinking I should be more concerned with the destinations; my pesky adventurous spirit has always kept me from acting on those feelings. I’m saving those joys for a time that’s precious to me. Some destinations are meant to be savored and fully realized. I have to keep it top of mind that my journey isn’t meant to be like anyone else’s—it’s only meant to be mine.

a modern question

Guys.  I’m going to ask you a question that isn’t original at all.

“Why is it so expensive to eat healthy?”

Let me start backward and work forward.  When I was thinking about what to write this week, I actually considered writing about my struggle to determine if I should become a vegetarian again.  But then I thought more big picture.  You see, I was driving down the highway this week, like I do, and (I promise I’m not going to get all soap-boxy on you and I’m most certainly not going to get graphic) I passed a pickup truck pulling a trailer of pigs.  These pigs looked pretty jammed in there and normally I like to play ignorant and look away from livestock trailers but I saw their little pig noses poking out, so I looked.  This is something that I’m entirely too soft to handle—this “seeing” where my food comes from.  In my own personal protest about the pigs (who I liked to imagine were going to a farm…) I pulled the sausage off my breakfast sandwich and threw it away.  But that doesn’t mean there’s one less pig to sacrifice for my sausage.  For this reason, I was a vegetarian for five years; I believe in animal rights.  Not crazy PETA style but I don’t believe the way we get our meat isn’t the way we’re meant to get our meat.  I bought from Whole Foods, my friends and family bought only farm-raised holiday meats and I bought local where I could when I was transitioning out of my vegetarianism.  That became costly for everyone and eventually I just turned a blind eye and began consuming restaurant burgers and steaks.  Flash forward to present day—I live in the midwest; the breadbasket of America; the Pork capital of the world; Omaha Steaks are my neighbor.  If there’s anywhere I could be a locavore, it’s here.

That brings me to my bigger picture.  While there’s an outstanding farmer’s market on Saturday, I can only buy so much produce to avoid it rotting on my counters.  As much as I try to shame it, the convenience factor still gets me from time to time.  I just don’t have the energy to make food for the week or even every night.  And, as it turns out, eating pre-made stuff or take-out… not all that healthy.  Unfortunately, the reality of this amazing world we live in is that it’s more cost effective to get a Quarter Pounder w/Cheese, french fries and a large Coke than it is to go out, buy fresh ingredients, and make a meal at home.  I think Mark Bittman (disclosure: love him) said it best: just eat real food.  I guess that means, for the everyman, more trips to the grocery, more planning ahead of time, more skipping of the convenience factor.

That’s probably the *only* thing keeping me off the vegetarian bandwagon.  While I’m passionate about what happens to those sweet pigs, it’s crazy expensive right now to buy the meat I want to buy to ease my conscience.  Simply removing it from my plate means more pasta and that’s no good for my waistline.  Should I resign myself to the fact that even a simple diet of fruits and veggies are going to cost me?

I’m still working out this vegetarian thing and I’m still trying to do the best I can to eat healthy on a budget.  That’ll probably be the case until I can afford to grow my own food or buy half a humanely-raised cow or pig.  It’s all a work in progress, as am I, but it’s hard when society as a whole makes it easier to eat food with poor nutrition quality (I’m looking at you Hostess Fruit Pies for breakfast) vs. the healthy stuff (oatmeal, eggs) that keeps me going throughout the day.  Finally, as Mark Bittman implores, I’ll do my best to “eat real food”.