who are you?

“Who are you?”

What a simple question, right?  But when you take it apart and really consider it, it’s a pretty huge idea.

It seems like everything in my life right now is pointing me in the direction of digging in to that idea.  Quick aside in all seriousness: I love the phrase “digging in” so much that it might be on my headstone when I die.

I digress.

This idea grew from a conversation with my therapist, then took root when I stumbled on an Instagram post by Melissa Hartwig (the amazing, kick-ass woman behind the W30).  I found myself thinking: I want to know who I am and own who I am.  I haven’t been able to stop thinking about what it means for me to do that.  I have always owned the fact that I’m moment by moment, feelings fluid, ever-absorbing my environment, tough to pin down.  That’s not near enough of an answer for me, though.

As you know, it started with that same simple question, “who are you?” posed by my therapist.  Out of my mouth came the canned response, “I’m an auntie, a friend, a good listener, a fiercely loyal member of my family and I like to read.”  Those are all words I typically use to identify myself and she came right back by telling me that those words don’t say much about ME and who I actually am as a person.  That answer doesn’t reflect my values, my personality or what gets me out of bed in the morning.  Everyone is a daughter, auntie, uncle, mother, father, son, friend, sibling or a combination of those words.  Those are identifying words that we all fall back on and while there is likely a lot of pride attached to those words, it doesn’t really say who you are at your core.  I’m pretty sure at this point in my life I should know the answer to that question – but I don’t.  I have been so busy avoiding myself that I’ve been focused on helping those around me answer that question for themselves.

Melissa Hartwig wrapped it up in a nice little package called “self-love”, which is a concept that feels foreign to me.  She says everything in life can be taken away (preach, girl) except who we really are.  So why not OWN who we really are – not just those identifiers that are easy responses or the things about us that can be taken away in a moment?  We need to have our identity wrapped up in OURSELVES – not who we are to other people.  Do not allow outside factors to define who we are, she says, and I was completely feeling that.  I’ve often handed a partner the reins in determining who I am; my value; my identity.  I have been stuck waiting for life to happen TO me instead of me happening TO life.  I’m just now starting to grasp this concept.

After much thought and consideration, this is me, as I know me in this moment…

I am strong.  Every day I show up for my life and live it heart-forward.  Sometimes it really, really, really hurts but I’ve never been sorry for my scrapes and bruises because of the lessons I’ve learned in the process.

I am caring.  I have no off-switch in this regard.  I almost care too much.  I’m a very soft person – much too soft for this world – but I’m owning it.

I am dedicated, loyal and determined.  I was once told that I only work under pressure but I think a more correct statement reflecting who I am now is that I work hard despite pressure.  I have shown myself again and again that I can keep my eyes down and continue moving through something till there’s nowhere left to go.  Looking back on where I’ve been, I can see the little rest stops where I might have veered off and taken another path – or more likely should have – but I know that my loyalty is often in the driver’s seat, so we go on.

I am open-minded (and open-hearted).  It’s not too often that I take a hard line about anything.  I’m very malleable in that I listen to other perspectives and give them time to work in me.  Outside opinions often help me get to the heart of my feelings (like this blog post) so I always try to stay open for the wisdom to come.

I am always working to be a healthier version of myself.  This is both at face value and metaphorically.  I don’t strive for perfection I strive for healthy.  I don’t always get it right and sometimes I have to stop what I’m doing, turn around, and go back.  My ultimate goal is to be healthy from the inside out.

I am curious.  I have a SERIOUS thirst for knowledge of all the things.  I like to know the reason behind human motivations and it’s not unusual for my friends, family and really any acquaintance to be met with probing questions from me in an attempt to understand them better.  I speak in feelings and understand emotion.


It’s hard work, figuring out who I am and what I’m about.  This isn’t where the notion ends for me – I’ll keep digging and refining.  I would just encourage you, friends, to really think about who you are at your core… after you’ve gotten past all the easy responses, what are you left with?



Morning is definitely my time.  It’s the time of day I’m most creative and productive; my mind is the most open to receiving ideas and making plans.  My mom has forever gotten up before the sun and had her morning coffee, in the dark, and called it her quiet time.  It’s a chance to think all the thoughts that need thinking, to organize her day, to consider the days and tasks to come.  I love the idea of quiet time but the execution is where I falter.  It’s truly a shame that I love sleep too much to actually take advantage of it before heading in to start my actual job at 7:30 am.

Nevertheless, I start every day feeling like Gwyneth Paltrow.  Why GP?  To me, she is the pinnacle of all the things: mother, entrepreneur, brand, woman.  Some people choose Beyonce – who is also incredibly fierce – GP just aligns more with things I could actually accomplish (my dance moves are outdated and I’m not really the Queen of anything).  In the morning, I feel like there really is nothing I can’t do.  Write a cookbook?  Okay.  Three?  Sure.  Workout for two hours?  Easy.  Organize my home and life?  Done.  Start a successful business and brand?  Pssshhh…I got this.

I’m writing this blog because of the things that happen the rest of the day.  Throughout the reminder of the day I’m met with little obstacles meant to diminish my GP-ness.  These are things as simple as doughnuts in the next cube and as complex as laziness or lack of motivation.  Each obstacle I meet, I make the active decision to let it defeat me or not.  Though, until now, I didn’t really think of it in those terms because I didn’t really think of it at all.  Now it’s all I think about.

I’m going to try to work with the potential and promise I feel in the mornings because it seems a shame to waste it.  Even now, there are sticky notes all over my desk; lists I’ve made in my Moleskine (with sticky notes on those lists); there are blog ideas and lofty dreams being dreamed in my head; there are mental vacations being planned and dinner ideas floating around.  I think that’s how my creative side works: ideas will meander in my brain, waiting to be found and focused on. Waiting to be brought to fruition.  Who knows, maybe I’ll even start waking up earlier to make my lists over some coffee?

stuff i love: food i make edition

Hey guys!  We’re in a deep freeze that just won’t quit here in DSM.  That means when the sun goes down I’m at home, in my pajamas, looking for something to eat for dinner.  I recently realized that I’ve been eating out a lot.  When I’m not eating out, I’m eating something “made” for me by the frozen food gods.  The result is lethargy, weight gain and poor sleep that lead to me doing silly things like cleanses in an attempt to feel more balanced.

I come from a long line of cooks.  I used to cook all.the.time (I think I may have mentioned that before).  My mom cooks dinner every night, my sister cooks dinner most nights, my dad is always cooking… I know it’s in me to do it, I just can’t muster up the energy after a long day.  On days like today, after I’ve overdone it on the weekend and I want to feel better, I take to my tiny kitchen (and my even tinier stove) to make my favorite go-to meal.  I’m not sure what else to call it but the meat bowl.  I could fancy it up and call it a taco-less salad but let’s just call it what it is—we’re all grown ups here: it’s a meat bowl.

The easiest part of this meal for me is that I get veggies and protein and I get to exercise a bit of my creativity.  I’ve done this before with ground bison and ground pork and you just change the seasoning and the vegetables.

Step 1: Brown minced garlic and onion, add mushrooms and sauté till soft.

Step 1: Sauté minced garlic and onion, add mushrooms and sauté till soft.

Step 2: Move mushroom mixture to a bowl (unless you have a large skillet—I do not). Brown ground meat of choice. Prep lettuce base and fresh herb seasoning.

Step 2: Move mushroom mixture to a bowl (unless you have a large skillet—I do not). Brown ground meat of choice. Prep lettuce base and fresh herb seasoning.

Step 3: Everything back in the skillet to mix with the fresh herb (basil, in this case).

Step 3: Everything back in the skillet to mix with the fresh herb (basil, in this case).

Step 4: I like to top it with fresh tomatoes and half an avocado. There's also this delicious artichoke pesto from Trader Joe's which tastes good on pretty much everything.

Step 4: I like to top it with fresh tomatoes and half an avocado. There’s also this delicious artichoke pesto from Trader Joe’s which tastes good on pretty much everything.

Voila. Lettuce base, meat mix on top, veggies = dinner.

Voila. Lettuce base, meat mix on top, veggies = dinner.

I’m hoping this year I can cook a little more and continue my effort in being a healthier me.  I recently heard an interview with Michael Pollan where he advocates not-so-much a particular diet (I realize he’s not encouraging the Paleo lifestyle here) but that we cook for ourselves.  He says: “the food industry has done a great job of convincing eaters that corporations can cook better than we can. The problem is, it’s not true. And the food that others cook is nearly always less healthful than that which we cook ourselves.”  Be a healthier me by cooking?  Now that is an idea I can get behind.




i work out.

Hey, guys!  Remember that time I did a Whole30?  Yeah, me too.  It was so great, I’m doing another one for the month of October.  This time I have some company, though.

You guys know I’ve boo-hooed about my lack of motivation with exercise.  For so long I thought, ‘if I’m not a runner then I don’t know what I could do’.  I finally found what I can do if I’m not a runner.  I’ve been going to MaxLife for about three months (has it been that long?) and it’s perfect for me!  I’m learning how to be strong from the inside out.  If I had to describe it, I’d say it’s P90X meets Cross-Fit with less TRX and more kettle bells.  They’re short, effective, muscle confusion workouts and I feel a strong sense of community and accountability with the men and women I go to class with.  This Whole30 is a gym-wide thing so I have support with my friends, gym-mates and co-workers.


When was the last time you did something that mattered to you?

I mean really mattered.

It could be something incredibly simple or something that matters enough to shake your core.  For me, I realized today, I’m lacking in the core-shaking department.

I drove to Sioux City for work today.  It was a gorgeous day for a three-hour drive west in my uber-posh Detroit dream-machine rental.  I had the windows cracked and some Portugal. The Man. on the radio.  I was about an hour outside of Sioux City when I started to smell the smell.  Now, anyone that’s spent any time in Iowa knows what I’m talking about.  (They say in Iowa corn is king but let me tell you that meat has an equal share of the kingdom.)  It was the sickening sweet meat smell from the processing plants that are situated across the state.  In fact, sometimes when the wind is right I can smell it outside my apartment floating over from the east side.  After rolling up my windows, I thought about what might happen at those places.  It disgusts me to consider it.  Yet I’ll go into a restaurant and order a burger that probably started its voyage to my plate the very same way.

Like most of the personal revelations that make their way to this blog, it translates to my life as a whole.  I can’t remember the last time I stood up for something that mattered to me.  I can’t remember the last time I put my money where my mouth is, so to speak.  You all know the kind of woman I want to be, so when did I stop chasing those dreams?  A younger Ryan was a vegetarian in personal protest to animal treatment—and I stayed that way for five years (I wasn’t PETA-level crazy, guys).  It became part of who I was.  Eventually (probably for reasons of convenience and lack of proper protein) I went back to eating meat and tried not to think too much about where it came from.

My parents (all three of them) always taught me that I could do whatever I wanted.  They gave me love no matter what I decided to do.  They were on my side when I did well in school, when I was too lazy to care in college, when I was unemployed, when I moved to Cincinnati to go to school cause it seemed like a good idea and every subsequent endeavor whether it be success or failure.  They never made me feel like there was something I couldn’t do.  As a consequence, I think it’s taught me to love everything.  I don’t have just one dream, I have many, many dreams.  I think it’s left me in a constant neutral state as an adult.  Instead of mastering just one thing and pursuing just that thing with my whole heart, I pursue many things with 1/4 of my heart.

I know too much about the things that do matter to me to ever feign ignorance.  I know too much about food and I have very strong feelings about it, I know too much about exercise and the human body and eating right but I still offer myself the best of excuses as to why it’s okay not to live it out, I know too much about living whole-heartedly and being vulnerable yet I still choose to hold myself back; I struggle with the just do.  I read a blog post recently by someone I really admire.  She said “how you do anything is how you do everything.”  I have been kicking that around and turning it over since reading that, trying to find how that fits and resonates in my life.  And it does.  I always thought my life was waiting to happen.  That things would really get going for me when I found my purpose.  And as all of you good people may already know, I learned that my life is happening now.  So if I follow the “how you do anything is how you do anything” principle, how I procrastinate about the minutiae of life is how I treat my life as a whole; how I treat most days is (in reality) how I treat all the days.  I want that thought to light the motivation fire that I’ve spent so much time lamenting the loss of.

So that takes me back to where I started… when was the last time you did something that really mattered to you?  Is that something you think about when making decisions—is this something that matters to me?  I know that for me, I’m going to have to keep that top of mind and chase those things.  It doesn’t come as naturally to me as it might to you but it’s a noble pursuit to chase it.

a goal

I’m sitting in my running clothes as I write this post about running.  I’m waiting for the blistering Iowa sun to go down a touch in hopes the humidity will too and I can hit the streets with a bit of cool.  Even though it was 108 degrees in Vegas, it’s got nothing on this midwestern humidity.

In my last blog post I mentioned that my dear friend wants to run a half marathon, which I agreed to do.  Let me walk you through my love/hate relationship with running in order to arrive at how I agreed to get to this stage—that of training for my first half-marathon.

When I was in high school I hated running.  I joined the soccer team for the sole reason that my sister asked me to.  She was already an established soccer superstar and she wanted to have the opportunity of playing the same sport while we were in school together.  Making memories—you get it.  No illusions here, people, I was not a good soccer player.  Nevermind that I’d played indoor on and off.  Everything in outdoor soccer was different: the field size, no walls, my really good opponents and practice.  Early on, I loathed soccer practice.  I wasn’t really used to running all that much (or burpees or working out).  We ran a.lot and even though I spent most of my time not scoring goals and sitting on the bench, I did learn to appreciate the exercise aspect associated with practice and consequently with running.  After my brief stint with soccer, I continued running occasionally.  After a break for a few years I started back up by running with the same dear friend who wants to run the half.  We’d run the steps at Nippert Stadium or run after hours on the track field at UC.

After a time we both ended up back at home in Northeast Ohio.  We’d run the streets or at the dam (where all the local runners go).  I completed my first 5k which was a pretty big deal at the time.  Then my relationship with running changed completely.  I met someone who propelled my occasional running to something much more serious; it became a passion.  I ran because that’s what you do when you’re together with a runner.  I started reading magazines about it and articles on the internet.  I bought some official looking gear and got my first iPod Shuffle.  I started spending more time and money on running shoes.  I got a Camelback as a gift.  I’d run on my own, I’d run at the gym, we’d run together in the blazing summer heat.  I began wearing headbands to mop up the sweat from my brow on longer running days.  I loved running.  Then the best thing happened—my sister joined in.  Then her husband.  Running became more than just running for me.  It became something I did with the people I loved and it became quality time that I really treasured.  Running with my sister was a way for us to reconnect.  She’d talk and talk and talk while I ran beside her, forgetting my discomfort by listening to her words.  Running has been a part of my life, sometimes large and sometimes small, for the last decade.

I look at where I am now and I’ve never been less involved in my passion.  I’ve never run alone, it’s always been as part of a team.  I’ve never had to ignite this fire on my own.  I recognize that and I want to change it.  What better way to change it than to sign up for a half-marathon (okay, there are probably better ways but I say ‘go big’).  This is definitely a mountain sized goal for me and not one I take lightly.  There’s beauty to me in the notion of doing what our bodies are designed to do.  We’re designed to move, so move I shall.  I know what I want and tonight starts the training to get there.

on spring


Spring is here!

We have been enjoying some wonderful weather of late here in Des Moines.  It felt for a moment as though we’d never escape the grasp of winter—we were still receiving snow up to two weeks ago.  However that seems to have been relieved by this burst of 60 degree weather.

Spring is notoriously a time for renewal; a time when new life blooms on the ground and in the air; love of life and circumstance is all around.  People are out running, walking, taking their dogs out and babies out and that’s really easy to see here in such a walkable city.  Driving with the windows down, I am encouraged to see runners out hitting the pavement.  Maybe they’re shaking off their winter treadmill blues or maybe they’re energized into this new endeavor by the breath of fresh air accompanied with the change in weather.  Either way, it got me to thinking.  If there’s anything I’ve noticed, it’s that this life wraps people up in the pursuit of betterment.  It’s something I’ve felt so alone in at times but it’s striking to realize that it’s something most all of us share as a common bond.  We’re all seeking personal improvement—exercising, eating well, furthering education, attending church—it’s all in the noble pursuit of being better people.  It’s probably one of the reasons springtime is so magical.

So here’s to spring!  Here’s to new, healthier habits.  Here’s to breaking down old walls.  Here’s to new beginnings and falling in love with our surroundings.  Here’s to being happy right where we are instead of looking off into where we’re not.  Here’s to open windows, sunglasses, the smell of grilling, the song of birds and whatever else moves you to happiness, friends.

Hey-o Paleo

Catchy title, eh?

Guess what I’m doing?

I decided, after some extensive blog reading and related work chatter, to eat Paleo-style/join the Paleo movement/be Paleo (how does one say that?).  I’m trying to avoid using the word “diet” cause it has such a negative connotation.  However, it is just that.  A lot of people call it the “caveman diet” and that’s really it in a nutshell.  It’s going to be including more meat than I usually eat but the trade off is I’ll be breaking my addiction to carbs and sugars.  Yes, I’ll miss wine and beer and most especially cheese but “moderation” will be  a new word in my vocabulary in 30 days.

I’ve given this a lot of thought.  After eating my way through Des Moines and some additional stress I’ve found that I haven’t been feeling very healthy.  I haven’t been sleeping well, my clothes feel the stretch of some extra lbs. and there’s simply the general feeling of being more run down than usual.  Even getting outside for a run has been a challenge cause I’d rather sleep.  I couldn’t figure out why I was feeling so poorly.  Then I started to think about what I’ve been consuming.  My food philosophy has always been about feeling good from the inside out but I realized that’s taken a backseat to the gastronomical excitement of a new city.

After hearing about it at work, I read this blog which made me feel like Paleo was something I wanted to do.  In true Ryan fashion, I made a plan.  I purchased this book and this book  (okay, okay and this book – but that’s it, I swear).  I began reading about food, how the body reacts to food and the benefits of Paleo.  I won’t attempt to reiterate it here as my goal is merely to talk about this cool new thing I’m doing.  I realized that what’s been happening (maybe my whole life) is that I was regularly putting food between me and my goals and 90% of the time, it just wasn’t worth it.

I felt excited to come home tonight and cook dinner.  I cooked, you guys!  It’s been a long time since I’ve done that.  I even have a menu planned for the rest of the week.  If it wasn’t evident, my day one optimism is showing itself.  I know this is going to be very difficult and I’ll probably need you to remind me on day 9 that I don’t, in fact, neeeeeed a pastry.  I’m just really excited about this.  I’m pretty sure this is going to get me just a bit closer to being the woman I want to be.

on motivation

Pinterest does a good job reminding me of the kind of woman I want to be.  There’s so much creativity, determination, motivation and no lack of good recipes that clog up my Pinterest boards.  From adorable future pets to what I want my future home to look like, I pretty much have the blueprint in my mind.

I’ve been knocking this idea around my thoughts for a bit of time and I can’t seem to figure out what exactly motivates me.  If there’s anything true about me, it’s that I feel like I’m always waiting: waiting for the right time, waiting for the right place, waiting to have the right amount of money, waiting for the right tools, waiting for the right person – you get the idea.  Here’s a list (both the silly and serious) that does a good job illustrating the kind of woman I want to be.  Maybe that’ll help with the motivation part.

I want to be the kind of woman that bakes doughnuts.

I know it sounds silly but I feel like baking doughnuts pretty much makes you the coolest kind of woman.  I’ve made cakes, muffins, cookies, even toffee but never doughnuts.  How cool would it be to bring those into work… homemade doughnuts – no big deal, guys.

I want to be the kind of woman that runs with the sun.

As I mentioned before, I’m constantly trying to be a runner.  Yes, I know my body may be rejecting it as I’ve had everything from hip pain to shin splints.  I refuse to quit though.  While that may make it sound like I have the upper hand, I’m constantly starting/stopping the entire process.  As summer moves closer, I dream of starting my days by hitting the pavement, breathing in the morning air, getting out in the world before most people have had their first cup of coffee – I just can’t seem to get from the bed to the door.

I want to be the kind of woman who wears heels.

This sounds ridiculous, I know.  Again though it’s a more generalized statement which illustrates something that I think makes women amazing.  Fashion has pretty much eluded me my entire life.  My sister is so good at this.  She can put whatever together because she owns it and makes it hers.  My idea of fashion is to add a scarf to any and everything (yes, even a hoodie – epic fail, Ryan).  I want to wear turquoise jewelry, maybe turquoise shoes, blazers, skinny jeans, tall boots – I want to make it look effortlessly put together.  That’s something I know won’t happen overnight.

I want to be the kind of woman who inspires others.

This one is more long term.  Honestly, one could go their entire life not really understanding their impact on others.  Regardless I think I could at least try to live this way.

I want to be the kind of woman who travels.

It really doesn’t matter where.  This one is born out of my love for pictures.  I love when I see a life displayed on the wall (“oh, that was from our trip to Rome in 2010…”).  Travel has always been something that mattered to me but never anything that I put first for myself.  I want to change that and make it more of a priority.

And since I could go on forever… I’ll make this next one the last one (for now).

I want to be the kind of woman who has a dog.

Another silly but true one.  I have wanted a dog FOREVER.  Thankfully, I’ve been responsible enough to wait for good time but I desperately want this one to be true.  A dog could be the first step to my future as a farmer (but I digress…).  I want a cool dog, too: a whippet, or a greyhound or a Frenchie or something.  A dog that will follow me around, that I can take on walks or runs (maybe that would get me out the door?!), a dog that I can take on car trips or on the long ride back to Ohio.  You know, like a sidekick.

I know this post bounced between silly and kind of desperately serious.  I want this space to be an honest place for me but not tooooo honest.  I want to be known and share the good stuff (less on sharing the bad).  Also, this post would have been awesome filled with pictures but I’m only on the first chapter of WordPress for Dummies so that’ll have to wait.