Why I am a Terrible Birthday-Haver

February in Michigan is arguably the gloomiest, most depressing month available to the human race.  It’s a stream of days without sun, a mix between harsh snowstorms and wet, icy rains.  It’s cold in your bone marrow.  Then there will be a day full of sun and the temperature will sky-rocket to 35 degrees and everyone hugs and rejoices in the end of winter and we go running outside in our tank tops, and then the next day we wake up to schools being closed due to a fresh foot of brown snow.  Brown snow, people.  It exists.

But February is my birth month, and if you know me, you know how much I love my birthday.  Sometimes I even get too excited to enjoy it.

For example, last year:

Three of my work friends had won hundreds of dollars to spend at our gorgeous establishment that I’m honored to work at.  They also won rooms at the JW Marriott hotel in Grand Rapids.  These friends invited little old me to dine with them on behalf of my birthday and invited me to stay with them at the hotel.  We are talking concierge floor with free drinks, food, killer views.  I mean, come on.  

You can read the full post here (ooooh, someone learned how to add links…and yes, I’m aware that that should be basic computer knowledge), but I ended up getting so excited that I made myself sick and had to leave dinner early, missing out on savory bottles of wine and even better company.  

A couple years before that, when I still lived in Jackson, I woke up to my roommate and dear friend, Betsy (she is an incredible photographer, find her webpage here) who had made me breakfast and mimosas.  It was the perfect birthday morning.  After that I did a little dog-walking (yes, it was one of my many professions there) and went home to take a nap.  Again, Betsy woke me up to remind me we had dinner plans before our night on the town.  I was still a little goofy from the mimosas, but managed to pull myself together to go to dinner.  

I again was so excited for my birthday night that the wine flowed a little to smoothly.  We left dinner and crossed the street to a sports bar to play some pool.  At one point I stood up from my stool, the wine went straight to my head as the blood drained from it, and I fell face first, smashing my head into the side of the pool table.  Thankfully, I had two wonderful gentlemanly friends carry my home, tuck me into bed and set a bag of frozen peas on my head.  It was 9pm.

Birthdays man, I love them a little too much.

This year, however, I did everything I could to remain calm.  I went to class, got a manicure, pedicure (thank you, Ryan), and then relaxed as I gussied up for the evening.  (I love any excuse to get fancy).  Ryan and I had dinner plans to eat at one of our favorite seafood spots downtown, but as the afternoon led to evening, February took hold once again and transformed a partly cloudy morning into a disastrous snowstorm of an evening.  Ryan got stuck in stand still traffic.  

I called the restaurant to see if they could push back our reservation a half hour.  The lady on the other line informed me, “We are hoping to close early, so just get here whenever you can.”  No pressure.

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Good news, people.  I didn’t smash my head on anything, I was able to eat my entire meal, and I only broke one glass.

I was nervous about turning 27, because if you’ve been following this at all, you know that I’m not at the same place in my life as most of my 27-year-old friends, and there are still some times when I’m hard on myself about it.  But the fact of the matter is that, if my life had gone the way my mind sometimes wishes, I would have missed out on so many of the best things that life has brought me to. 

I know I’m being vague and wishy-washy, but I hope that when you start thinking about the shoulda-woulda-couldas in your life, you also remember that every single thing happens for reasons we will never understand.  The things you think are terrible in your life right now could ultimately lead you to happiness you never thought existed.  Just wait, and then thank me later.

To Birthdays, because they’re secretly just another day,

Cheers! 

….

Also, nine days….that’s it….just nine more days…..

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I’ll take you with me in spirit.

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Why I’m a Crazy Dog Lady For Life

Today is the day where we all take a look at ourselves and realize that we all have some serious sucking up to do.  Generally, Valentine’s Day is dedicated to those who are blissfully in love and have totally forgotten that they are so, and therefore, need a special day to remind themselves that they are, in fact, in a relationship, and they should probably do the annual nice thing for their significant other.

I like it because sometimes we need that reminder to do nice things for our loved ones, but I also despise it, because at the same time we totally should not need it at all.

My Valentine’s Day gift for Ryan was making him breakfast before he scurried off to class.  I do this for him every so often, but today was different because on behalf of Valentine’s Day I went out and bought an onion and spicy sausage to put in our scrambled eggs.  Love you babe, now don’t even think of breathing near me. 

Valentine’s Day for me, however, has a little more meaning, aside from the goopy lovey crap.  Today is my dog’s birthday.

Even writing it seems so stupid, because he is, in fact, a dog.  So let me tell you quickly and lovingly the story of Cooper.

I chose to “foster” Cooper on a random May morning when I still lived out West.  I frequently scoured Petfinder.com to weep over all the dogs who needed homes and then sulk with a glass (bottle) of wine because I was not at a time in my life where owning a dog was a good idea. The night before I met Cooper, I stumbled on a page featuring a litter of freaking-adorable-I-can’t-stop-squeaking puppies.  They were at a shelter two hours away.  Knowing I would never make that drive, I e-mailed the contact for more information.  I sent this late in the evening and she responded very quickly with “I’m actually fostering them in Wilson.  Feel free to stop by any time to see them.” 

Wilson was a ten minute drive.

Obviously, I went to see them the next morning with my roommate and his girlfriend and we took two puppies home with us to our apartment that was not at all pet friendly.  We snuck around for two weeks with our four month old puppies, but if you know anything about four month old Labrador mixes, you know that they are not at all easy to sneak around.  Nor are they easy in any other way.  Cute, eff yes.  Easy? Ha!

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My roommate and I would pass each other on the stairs at 3am, each holding a whiny puppy that needed to relieve himself.  There was one time when Cooper was so whiny during the night, and I was positive it was just because he wanted to cuddle with me and not be in his crate (since I had just let him out) when all of a sudden I heard an enormous fart with squishy spatters of poop smacking every single square inch of his crate. 

Our landlord eventually found out about our puppies and I had to stay with a friend for two weeks until our lease was up, meanwhile searching for the impossible – a pet friendly apartment.  When I did magically end up in one, Cooper formed a habit of destroying books and newspapers, digging through the trash, and if I were gone, he’d pee in the house. 

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He got hit by a car when he took off toward who knows what, leaving me to pay a $500 vet bill for what was maybe a sprained toe.  

He also had three more butt explosions, entirely destroying two separate crates.

I was so quickly in love with this dog, and he grew so attached to me that he formed separation anxiety, where, to this day, if I do not lock him in my room with all of my Hannah-smelling stuff whenever I leave, he will 100% take a crap in the house.

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(Let’s be real, I so don’t mind…and seeing as how I take him wherever I can, I must have a bit of this separation anxiety as well)

When I first decided to keep him, I had sincere hopes that he would hinder me from always going out at night, maybe slow down my party mode.  He did, but only a little.  I tried to use him as a tool to change myself immediately, when what I really had to do was make that decision myself, and it would not at all be immediate.  I put a big job on such a little dog.

I wasn’t immediately successful, but he loved me despite me hating myself. 

Like I said, he loves me to the point where he takes a crap in the house every single time I leave, because he misses me so much.  My boyfriend doesn’t even do that for me.

His furry, intrusive, obsessive love has had a profound impact on me.  Because despite his crazy bowels and his incessant habit to lick anything and everything, he is the best at cuddling, he doesn’t impose his beliefs or his unwanted criticism or advice, he is gentle beyond words (with dogs and babies, it’s the kind of cuteness you want to die from), and he lives to love.  Not many of us can say that.

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So happy 3rd birthday, my sweet little canine.  I’ll be that crazy dog lady any day for you.

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We all know who I’m raising my glass to today,

To the Coop dog

Cheers!

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How to fight Seasonal Depression – Run away!

January and I had no bitter farewells for each other this year.  Instead, we shook hands amicably and I cruised into February with a super cheesy smile.  I have reasons:

  1. Although we are not out of this ever-looming cloud we call winter, we are a step closer.  

  2. February is short.  And the minute it’s over, I will be flying to hot and sunny Costa Rica with my man and some of his family.  Can’t wait to get him in a bikini. Ow ow!

  3. In just a couple short weeks I will be celebrating my 27th year of life.  26 sounded mature, but still young and spry.  27?  It starts to hurt my feelings a little bit.  Not to worry, I will more than happily celebrate it with hefty amounts of food and enough wine to….well, let’s just say I’ll be enjoying plenty of it.

20140206-103438.jpg I love wine.

The thing with February, however, is that nearly every year I’ve lived in Michigan, once February rolls in, so does that creepy thing we call Seasonal Depression (dun dun dun!).  My bones ache to be outside, but then when I go outside, I shiver and die from the bitter cold and lack of sun.  I start to care less about puppies and babies and more about why this or that person is such a jerk.  Then my soul is so sad that it creeps out my eyes and I cry and cry about nothing in particular.

I know not all of you can relate, but I also know that plenty of you can.  You know how I know?  Because I’m surrounded by you every day.  I see you, sulking bitterly, on the verge of an uncalled for meltdown.  I also feel your pain.  

We crave sunshine to warm our faces and pack our bodies full of Vitamin C.  It’s so imperative to our happiness to be able to be outside and not freeze.  Which is why I booked my one-way ticket to Costa Rica and will never return!

Okay, it was a two-way ticket to spend nine (yes, NINE) days there, and I was super shaky and anxious at the thought of taking that many days off work.  I second-guessed the shit of it.

I still do, sometimes.  Like the other day, when I brought my car in to get new brake pads, and instead they told me that my car was in desperate need of new brakes entirely, along with a new bushing (wtf is that?) and an alignment.  Totaling a laughable approximation of $1,000.  This is two weeks after I put $300 into that sucker.  My screechy and grindy brakes rolled out of that place ASAP.  I went home and stuck my head in a 4-foot snow bank while I questioned whether or not to cancel my trip.  This car really hates my guts sometimes.

Listen people, I’m going on this trip.  I am leaving this country.  End of story.  Also, I put myself on a spending freeze, so that’s how things are going.  Sometimes, you just do what you gotta do,

Do you ever feel like you’re playing a game with life and it’s totally kicking your ass?  I kind of feel like that right now, as I do most times when we are this deep into the winter season.  

Thankfully, I’ve had the help of my loved ones to remind me that I have a car (albeit an unreliable one), I have the means to take a trip, I have a warm home to keep me from dying of hypothermia, and the list could go on and on.  

So even now, as I take breaks to look up and out the window to glare at the gloomy clouds laughing at my sadness, I have to remind myself of blessings.  Even though I had to wear two extra layers today for my walk from school to work (holy first world problems, right?) I can be happy that I had a gift card to Starbucks, which allows me to sit warmly inside and blog before my trek.  

I must say, the really crappy things that happen to you in life will be the things that build your character in ways you couldn’t imagine.

Let’s stick this out together, k?

To the sun beyond the clouds,

Cheers!

So Computer Illiterate

I’ve recently been in the market for a new computer.  And by recently, I mean for the past four years.  

What I use now is a Google Chromebook by Samsung.  It is a cheap plastic version of a tablet, except with a keyboard.  It does not allow software and has limited memory.  Very limited.  I purchased it last year because I’m cheap and I only needed it for writing.  I was not yet attending school, however, and quickly realized my purchasing error shortly after beginning classes in the fall.  A computer with software and memory is necessary if one chooses to be a writing major.

It is an unfortunate thing to be born in to the Age of Technology and Information and be entirely ignorant about technology.  I tell you this firsthand.  When it comes to technology, I am lost.  That’s what’s nice about this plastic keyboard-tablet-book, it’s simple to use.  So when I go into the store to look for a computer that’s perfect for me, it goes something like this:

“Hello, welcome to Best Buy, are you looking for anything in particular today?”

“Well, I am looking for a computer, but I need something that’s cheap and easy to use.”

“What will you mainly be using it for?”

“Writing.  Oh, and surfing the intranets.”

silent stare followed by a short scribble of notes.

“Anything else?”

“I need a little bit of memory for photos.”

“Do you use Adobe Photoshop or anything like that?”

Laughter.  “No…Well, not now, but maybe?”

More scribbles.

The customer service rep then goes on to ask which type of processor I’d like, how many gigabytes and hard drive and something about a module and cryptic references to a secret intelligent system that I’ll never be a part of.

I stare for a moment.

“Yeah! Whatever you think.”

They then stifle a laugh, because clearly I have not answered their questions properly and he/she leads me to a computer of some sort and tells me all of the cool things it does.  It even has a touch screen!

“I mean, this looks kind of complicated,” I say. “Can I put Microsoft Office on it?” 

Another stifled laugh, “Yes, absolutely.”

“What if I don’t want to touch the screen?”

“You don’t have to.”

“Why is everyone around us laughing at me?”

“Because they can see how big of an idiot you are.”

I end up panicking and running home and hugging my sweet little Chromebook.  At least we understand each other.

Every computer I have owned has been either a hand-me-down or an ancient Dell that grew from the earth and spawned viruses from the Devil himself.

I tell friends and co-workers “I’m looking a buying an Asus.”

“Are you kidding me?  Those things are like cheap MacBooks.  You should just get a Mac, save yourself the time and energy.”

or if I say I’m interested in learning more about a HP, Dell, whatever the brand, everyone has an opinion.

“That’s so idiotic, Hannah.  This brand is better.”

“No, this brand.”  “No, I like this”   “Those people don’t know anything, this kind is the best.”

My Chromebook and I have been cuddling nightly.

I’m exhausted.  The search still continues because I don’t know the truth.  All I need is Word, dammit, why is the struggle so large?

Do I bite the expensive bullet and get myself a Mac?  Or do I keep it simple and go with something cheap that will get the job done?

Are you knowledgeable? Please help me without making me feel like an ass. Please? Pretty please?

Here’s to Microsoft Word, you selfish brat, it’s all about you these days,

Cheers!

How to Assault a Stranger Under Police Supervision

Once upon a time, from 2010 to 2012, I lived in a magical place in the Western hills of Wyoming known as Jackson Hole.

I lived in a castle high on a mountain and lived happily ever after.

The end.

Okay, being perfectly honest now, this place was pretty magical, and it was a fantastic place to spend a couple years when I decided to run away from home.  If you’re unfamiliar with Jackson Hole, it is a tiny tourist mountain town that looks like this

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where you go on hikes with your new puppy

(this was actually taken by someone else who took my puppy on a hike #badowner)

and it looks like this

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and this

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because when I try to snowboard, I mostly just lay down.  So in the case of epic snowboarding failures, one can always rely on this

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Let’s be real, I am much better at rolling down hills than boarding down them.

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Okay, okay, you get it.  It was wonderful.

There were a lot of things, however, that irked me about Jackson.  Some things that nearly ruined that town for me.  Tourists were one of them.  Granted, a two years’ stay doesn’t exactly make me a local, but the tourists, especially in the winter, were often times self absorbed rich kids on vacation with mom and dad’s money.  Most of them were dudes.  And definitely not men, that word carries way too much respect and responsibility.  No, these guys were 100% dudes or bros, or something else really douchey.

Near the end of my stay in Jackson, my brother-in-law informed me that a couple of his friends from work were coming to visit.  (These were men, not dudes, just to clarify.)  I received their numbers in hopes that we could meet up at some point and I could show them around town a bit, and was happy to offer my assistance.  Did I mention my brother-in-law is a police officer?  

There was one night when it finally worked to hang out with them.  I got out of work somewhat late, but as fate would have it, there is a bar just above our basement steakhouse, and that is where these gentlemen chose to hang out until I was finished.  I invited some of my friends from work to join us and we all chatted, laughed, and drank (and in my case, chair danced) the night away.  

 My new friends were staying in a nearby village that was a decent taxi drive away, so at the end of the night, they offered to have me hop in the taxi with them and take me safely home instead of having me walk in the subzero winter temperatures the couple blocks to my apartment.  What was this chivalry I was experiencing?  It seemed nearly impossible.  I didn’t hesitate to hop in to skip the frigid walk.  A couple other strangers who were headed in the same direction as my friends boarded also and we headed in the direction of my apartment.

When one dude (yes, we’re talking about a dude now) realized that I lived only a couple blocks away, he started brutally mocking me and calling me names that I would not like to repeat since I choose to only include respectful language here. There were a lot of cuss words.  At first I retaliated and said some harsh words back until I began fuming so intensely that I fell silent.  

Listen people, I can get pretty argumentative, but that’s always good news.  It’s when I stop speaking and begin stewing in my anger when you need to worry.  We are talking back up and hide in a closet, because shit is about to get real.  

The dude kept talking.  I remained quiet.  (Don’t worry, my new friends were standing up for me in my silence)

We pulled into my driveway and the door swung open.  The light in the van went on and I saw the dude’s face.  I couldn’t help it.  I snapped.  I wound up, swung hard and vehemently and slunched him in the side of the face.  (Slunch is an undecisive punch.  Half slap, half punch.)  He was completely caught off guard and I continued to slunch away at him while shouting things like “Your mother should be ashamed of herself for raising such an idiot!”  “You are a sad excuse for a man!” and maybe some other things that I should again, not repeat.  Meanwhile an uproar began with the other passengers and I was slowly escorted from the vehicle.  

It isn’t my proudest moment.  I didn’t turn the other cheek.  

But dang, it felt good.  And let’s be honest, sometimes, jerks need to be smacked.  It’s healthy for them.  Trust me.

My new friends let that dude hear about it the entire ride back to their hotel.

Violence isn’t the answer, people, but when police officers are present when you physically assault a stranger and give you thumbs up and a pat on the bag, I’d say your angry retaliation is A-OK.

To not raising self-absorbed idiots, may you spank them when they’re assholes,

Cheers!

Polar Vortex fail.

I know, I know, I can’t believe another blog is up already either.

This past weekend, Ryan and I decided to treat ourselves to one last little getaway to Chicago before getting back to the grind of school and work.  I had earlier found a fabulous deal on Groupon that included a one night stay in a king suite with a $50 gift card to use at the spa. Sold.  We also decided, since my car is questionable to drive on even short commutes and also lacks an efficient heating system, while his has wheel bearings that need to be mended, to opt for a lovely ride on the Amtrak train from Grand Rapids to Chicago.  Sold.  Oh my we were ready.

The morning of Saturday, January 4 arrived and we were bundled and ready for our adventure to begin.  We snagged a couple of seats, reclined our chairs, busted out our fleece blanket and quickly fell asleep for a smooth ride South.  This is the best part about the train.  You have space to stretch and lean back and, did I mention that it reclines?  Not just a half an inch like on an airplane while your feet remain cramped, but we’re talking a good half a foot of reclining enjoyment, and then, beneath your seat, is a footrest that pops out!  Just like your favorite Lay – Z – Boy! Not joking.  We definitely woke up with an hour to go and threw some honey whiskey in our coffee.  Because we could. Because we were not driving.  We were already on the winning on this trip.

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When we arrived at Union Station, we hailed a cab that whisked us away to our hotel, The Essex Inn.  We were prepared to leave our luggage at the front desk and go on with our day until our proper check-in time of 4pm.   No waiting necessary, a room was ready and I shit you not, it was a corner suite with floor to ceiling windows.  We didn’t mind at all.

We did touristy things for the remainder of the day.  We saw the Chicago bean, watched the ice-skaters, found a local sushi spot, and drank a lot of beer.  It was an eat, see, drink sort of day, and although it was freezing, I could rarely feel my toes, and the whisper of threatening weather could be heard all over town, we were all smiles.

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As we wandered in search of our next spot for a beer and an appetizer, I suddenly saw a familiar sign.  It was for a sports bar that I had been to years ago when I visited with my family.  The details are fuzzy, but I remember we had left it up to my brothers-in-law to find us a place to eat and watch a Tigers game.  They chose this spot and were red with embarrassment when they realized they had brought my mother and father, along with their own wives and sisters-in-law to a place called The Tilted Kilt, where the waitresses are wearing cleavage-bearing bras and short, plaid skirts.   My family laughed about it for the rest of the trip and will never let them live that down.  (No, we are not so conservative that this was an enormous deal, but had they been aware of this detail, I don’t think they would have brought their mother-in-law there.)  There was no way Ryan and I were going to pass it up.  We sent this picture to my brothers and then enjoyed some incredible fried calamari.  Our server, Marissa, was adorable and fun and gave us tons of great hints to travel cheaply around the city, which we never used.

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We did have one place that we particularly wanted to stop, and that was at the Signature room.  After our afternoon of wandering, we went back to the hotel to freshen up before our night on the town.  The Signature room is on the 95th floor of the John Hancock Building on Michigan Avenue.  It’s shnazzy. (I don’t want to mention that they’re silverware setup in the dining room was somewhat entirely incorrect for fine dining, but I also can’t just not say anything about it, ya know? Especially since prices easily averaged over $100/person.  C’mon guys, let’s step it up a notch.) We sat in a fog that engulfed the building, but when it happened to clear for a brief moment, holy shit, it was pretty spectacular, and we will definitely be back on a clear night.  And come on, only $42 for two cocktails and a dessert?  Who can pass on a deal like that? (Hi, are we reading that sarcastically? Good)

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We again chose the healthy route for dinner and split some wings and a pizza before hunting down a place I loved on my previous visit with Blake (hannahstwenties.com/the-avatar-survives-chicagoland).  It’s a whiskey bar called Untitled, and it was enormously disappointing this time around.  No matter, it was time to call it a night.

The following morning was a shit show.  Our train was scheduled to leave Union Station at 6pm Sunday evening and bring us to Michigan City where my parents had graciously offered to pick us up and bring us back to Grand Rapids.  However, through the night the polar vortex had caused complete mayhem to the midwestern world of our great United States, producing icy winter storms and bone chilling temperatures.  News broadcasts on every channel warned the public to stay inside and avoid this “life threatening weather.”  The highways in Michigan were down to one lane and dangerous.  My parents were apprehensive to make the drive, and rightly so.  We decided to remain stranded in Chicago rather than force the four of us to become stranded in Michigan City.  Hello Groupon and another hotel deal and hello waiting hours on hold with Amtrak to deal with a customer service rep who was clearly as frustrated as we were. We rescheduled our train ride for the next morning at 7:20am in Kalamazoo where Ryan’s friend offered to brave the roads in his heavy duty truck.

I didn’t even cry, it was a miracle.  Bloody marys saved our souls and after everything was booked and scheduled, you bet your ass that we bundled up and walked to Shedd Aquarium and then to the Planetarium. There were times when I literally thought I was going to blow over.  We ran and laughed and almost fell and definitely took pulls from a flask of whiskey (oh come on, how else are we supposed to warm our blood?) Never again in my life will I go on a trip in the winter without my heavy duty Sorel boots.  Never.

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The next morning arrived way too early as our phones buzzed and dinged our wake up call at 5:30 am.  Our taxi struggled to deliver us to Union Station where our 7:20 was delayed to no estimated time of departure.  At this point we had already been informed that every plane had been cancelled to Grand Rapids, as well as the train scheduled to leave after ours that morning.  Not to mention the highways leading to and from Michigan were also closed entirely.  This 7:20 train was our last hope.

“All Aboard” could not have brought about louder or more dramatic sighs as we loaded up with our fellow riders only to get stuck on the track for two hours.

Look at us now, we are back in Grand Rapids, safe and sound.  No polar vortex could hold us back!

So to weekend getaways that lead from one adventure to the next, and to hoping you have a wonderfully warm coat to get you through these blustery days,

Cheers!

 P.S.  Remember that $50 gift card to the spa I mentioned at the beginning?  Well, what Groupon failed to mention was that the spa was not in the hotel, but was instead a 15 minute cab ride uptown and the spa was so wildly overpriced that I couldn’t get a manicure for that price.  What the cuss, Groupon?

Hey there, 2014

So, seriously? You thought I got a face lift?

I get you every single time!

Anyways…

Ahhh a new year.

To me, starting a new year is like taking a really deep, full breath of fresh air.  Even if the year before was cloudy and murky and full of questions like “what if?” and “why?” and a lot of things look sad and hopeless, there’s still something about counting down the last seconds to midnight and shouting in celebration that what comes next is totally new.  We can say we did it.  We made it through 2013.  Through every high and every low, through every happy moment and every seemingly defeating tragedy.  You made it.  So did I.  That’s pretty great.

I was looking back this morning on the past 365 days of my own life, and I’ll tell ya what, 2013 brought about a couple of jumbo changes for this girl.  The biggest ones being:

1. I went from being anti-college and vowing to never return (and also being extremely confused about what to do with my life), to re-enrolling to my once least favorite place on earth, Grand Valley State University.  It is now a place I’ve come to respect and enjoy, and I’m excited for what the future holds.  What. The. Heck.

2. I had also been single for quite some time, and was always happily so until it started raining engagements and babies and I faced the realization that I was single, not quite ready to mingle, 26 years-old, living with my parents.  I had a couple melt downs.  I had gone on so many terrible dates that I was beginning to lose hope in the race of man.  I was pissed off.  Had every guy become a disrespectful douche bag with no manners and no sense of chivalry?  I started looking at apartments and a lot of cats, as I was sure I was headed in that direction.

Now I’m not saying that that entirely changed.  No.  I still live with mommy and daddy, and at the time Ryan came around, I was still pissed off and apprehensive.  He caught me majorly off guard.  I don’t have time for that full story today, but I’ll just say that nothing as wonderful as Ryan has come along in my life in a very long time.

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Oh my gosh, that is so cute I could barf my brains out.

As for the rest of 2013, I ran a couple of fun races with some great friends

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I went on a couple adventures with more incredible people

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and have witnessed (as mentioned before) my own friends start their families.  As it turns out, it’s actually really, really amazing.

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Friends have gotten married and engaged (and yes, I was able to remember that we all live life at our own paces and I could not be more happy for each and every one of them.)

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and I have not only been able to constantly be with my own family, but have been beyond blessed to get to know another group that I have truly grown to love dearly (ahem, Ryan’s family).

2013 was a good year.

One thing I haven’t done in a long time is make resolutions.  I don’t like them. I feel like resolutions end up looking like a long list of things you need to change about yourself, and I think the world would be a better place if we could all look at ourselves just the way we are and say “I hope to always strive to be a better me, but I’ll love myself every inch of the way.” (unless that person is a murderer or rapist or just a hateful person in general, in which case, they should totally make a New Year’s Resolution to change every single thing about themselves)

However, a friend of mind recently started a blog about his “To-Do” list.  He’s been making them every year for a few years now, and I feel like this is the way to do it.  You can read about them here: ryan40in14.wordpress.com

I really like this idea.  I’ve just begun my list, but it already looks challenging and wonderful.  I may share from time to time, but I definitely encourage you to check out Ryan’s page.

(sidenote: this is not “my” Ryan)

So for 2014 I wish you nothing but better and better.  I hope you look at the struggles with appreciation, as they will mold you into a stronger person.  I hope you melt into every good moment and capture it in your heart instead of just your iPhone.  I hope you make time for the people you love, and only surround yourself with those who make you better.  I hope you step outside your comfort zone, and force yourself to love those you now see as unlovable. I hope you search for understanding and peace.

I hope this for you, my friends, as I also hope it for myself.

Cheers to 2013, thanks for bringing us here!

P.S.  Remember in 1999 when we were scared shitless about the end of the world?  and then again in 2012?  HaHaHa…we are such weirdos.

How to Grope your Boyfriend’s Aunt on Thanksgiving

It’s true.  It happened.  

Now before I dive hands first into this story I must first defend myself just a touch.  The definition of “grope” is actually quite innocent, you perverted freaks.  According to Dictionary.com the word “grope” means “to feel about with ones hands.” or “to search blindly or uncertainly.”  And now I will tell you how I did this to Ryan’s aunt.

It was early afternoon the day of Thanksgiving.  I had enjoyed a fantastic morning with Ryan and his family and we were waiting for his grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins to arrive for the big meal.  

Ryan’s family is tall.  So tall that whenever I hug any of them (and we are a huggy bunch) I wrap my arms around their waists.  I nuzzle my head into their armpits with hands at their midsections.  This is never awkward.  This is natural.  Until Aunt Becky walks in.

Aunt Becky is not tall.  Aunt Becky is actually an inch or so shorter than myself.  Aunt Becky was holding a dog in her left hand.  I approached Aunt Becky on her right side and went in for the hug.  Hand went to the left side of her waist.  Hand was deterred because of dog.  Hand went to right side of waist.  I am slowly realizing that I am not hugging a tall person.  Hand landed on breast instead of tall person waist.  Hand squeezed breast (lovingly).  Stunned silence. Uproar of laughter.  An attempted explanation.  More laughter.  In the end, I blamed it on the (strong) bloody mary Ryan had made me earlier in the day and I walked off in mortified shame.  

I’m fairly certain neither of us felt weird about it after the initial moment of fondling, however, I will continue to tell the story over and over.  I grabbed my boyfriend’s aunt’s boob – it just doesn’t get much better than that.

To Uncle Jeff, you lucky guy,

Cheers!

Wine buzz to Manistee and Traverse City

Hello little Reader Family!

I hope you are soaking in every crisp breeze that Fall has offered thus far.  Last year I wrote of my passionate love affair I have with this season and it seems that time has not weakened our love for one another.  

In honor of Fall, I took a short trip up north this past weekend to enjoy some Michigan wineries, food, and of course, Michigan’s finest Fall colors.  

Okay, it was also in honor of Ryan, who’s birthday we were celebrating.  (One of these days I’ll tell you that whole story.)

We left early on Friday afternoon and hopped on US31 for the scenic drive up towards Ludington, where we planned to begin our wine adventures.  

We started here, at Jamaghra Vineyards

Insanely cute, right?

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Wrong.  Through that front door, friends, lie 5 million fruit flies – deceitfully dormant until wine is poured, at which time they will surely attack.  Around your head, in your glass, in your ears, eyes, jacket, shoe, butt crack.  Everywhere.

The helpful man who assisted us in our wine tasting stood completely oblivious as we covered our glasses and dipped our fingers into our wine to remove the tiny bodies.  I waved my hands about dramatically and even opened the front door, hoping the flies would notice an escape route and flee from their inside chamber.  When that did not happen, we made our escape instead, our first tasting exceptionally disturbing and hilarious.  “Off to a good start!” we laughed as we drove off to our next spot while I continued to find fruit flies in my nostrils.

Stop #2 was this 

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and it was closed.  Since we were in the middle of nowhere and I had to take a serious leak, I was forced to use their outdoor bathroom, which happened to not exist, so I peed behind the building and had this remarkable view.

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We left with empty bladders and a fading buzz and journeyed on to Manistee, where we planned to stay for the evening.  

Our goal, upon our arrival to downtown Manistee, was to find a local hole in the wall to quench our thirst that our first couple stops could not.  We parked the car, stretched our legs, crossed the street and walked down a couple stairs to a magical place known as TJ’s bar (http://www.ramsdellinn.net/the-pub).  It’s a local hot spot – with a cozy fireplace, brick floor, and friendly service.  We set up camp and never left.  Or so we wanted.  We each had a drink and shared a bowl of cheddar broccoli soup and left prepared to find what else this surprising town had to offer.  

We visited one store, and we again hit the jackpot. Surroundings (http://www.surroundings.biz/) offers incense, cigars (we’re talking a walk-in humidor, people), antiques, and other unique gifts.  Neither of us are cigar smokers, nor do we care to burn incense, and I don’t necessarily need any antiques, but holy cuss, we stayed there forever, chatting away with the sweetest of women behind the counter.

At this point, we love Manistee.  We went golfing at Manistee National Golf Course (correction, Ryan golfed, I read my book and drank vodka tonic), and ate at a fantastic local restaurant called The River Street Station.  We ended the day as some of the happiest Michiganders.

Saturday morning rolled around and we were determined to find wineries that were both open and free of flying insects. 

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Why we chose to follow signs to another discrete and middle-of-nowhere winery, I have no clue.  But we did, and the wine gods must have decided to show us more favor on that glorious morning, because low and behold, we found Douglas Valley.  And there, at 11 am we sipped ecstatically some incredible wines and ciders.  Under the shade of a Willow tree.  In the country.  With a perfect fall breeze.  And then I died from happiness.

I didn’t.  But I felt like that could have been a possibility.

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From that point on we stopped at winery after winery (consuming only a wise amount of alcohol at each spot) as we continued North, our destination being Leelenau Cellars.  

Every spot was killer. I don’t know how many times we high-fived in glee.

After the wine, one must dine – and we did so at Mackinac Brewing Company (http://www.mackinawbrewing.com/)with Ryan’s cousin, Jamie (also your local news star), where we ate Lemon Pepper Parmesan encrusted Whitefish.  Sorry, let me rephrase – we destroyed whitefish.  That fish did not stand a chance.

Towards the end of our meal, ominous dark clouds began rolling in, threatening to rain on our glorious day and we stared back, daring it to ruin our tenting night we had planned at the KOA campground just south of Traverse City.

It responded to our dare by pouring as we set up camp in the rainy darkness.

We did not give a shit about the rain and the puddles and waking up in a half deflated mattress when we woke up to realize we were in Fall Heaven.

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(please ignore the ridiculously placed rain fly…)

We packed up, the weekend gone too soon.  

It was a good tribute to Fall, to Ryan’s birthday, to celebrating life and enjoying this great state we live in

So Cheers!!

this time to beautiful Michigan

 

Aside

Being an old fart in college and things I can no longer silently ignore

The other day in class, I was talking with my peer editing group.  We had covered our subject matter and had started chatting about our lives.  I looked at the girl next to me and asked, “Any plans for this weekend?”

“Yeah,” she replied.  “I’m celebrating my birthday.”

“Happy Birthday!” I responded, “How old are you?”

“I’ll be 18!”

I stopped, mouth agape, before setting my head on the table while mumbling, “holy shit, I feel old.”

This is what returning to college at 26 is like – with a lot of moments where I just want to set my head on the desk and cuss.

But it’s also been refreshingly not at all like this at the very same time.

Also know that I understand that 26 is not impressively old to be returning to college, but I hope you understand that if you haven’t done this, it does feel impressive, from time to time.

And though I do feel a bit out of date, out of place, out of the loop in my classes now and again, there are also a majority of moments when I feel like I am exactly where I’m supposed to be.

I love what I’m learning, I love my professors, to whom I make sure to write mushy e-mails about how great I think they are and “thank you so much for being a teacher” (no, I’m not majoring in Kissing Ass, I’m just naturally a professional at this.  Ask my boss).  I love my campuses, a beautiful blend of city and country (this is also something I would NOT have said during my previous college years).  All of these things have molded me into this brand new optimist of higher education.  It’s true, miracles do happen.

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view from GVSU’s downtown campus

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view from the second floor of GVSU’s new library in Allendale.

Despite this incredible new development of me absolutely loving school, there are still some things that boggle my mind.  Some things that I just can’t wrap my head around when it comes to college and it’s students.

The first being – Why the hell are people perfectly okay with wearing pajamas to class?  I counted the other day and five, yes FIVE of my peers were wearing sweatpants, sweatshirts, and looked completely disheveled; like they woke up, took a piss, put on shoes and walked to class.  I will never understand it.  You are in public.  I repeat, in PUBLIC.  Show a little respect and at least throw on jeans.  I mean, just pretend that you give a shit about your education.  Your professor put pants on, the least you can do is reciprocate the gesture.  Remember that phrase “dress for success”?  No, clearly you do not.

Secondly, skateboarders and bikers on campus.  GVSU is a fairly large campus, and getting around can take some time.  This I understand, so I get that wheels make things quicker, more convenient.  What I don’t understand is your dire need to terrify pedestrians as you frantically pedal amongst the crowds.  Am I obligated to jump off the path out of your way?  Or are you going to cut into the grass and go around me?  Why aren’t you using your hand signals or at least make eye contact with me?  We end up doing the most awkward dance between feet and pedals, you topple over onto the concrete and I trip over my own hurried boots and spill coffee all over my shirt.  I wish we could all just agree to walk. (Note:  This has never actually happened, but this image flashes in my mind every time a biker comes at me)

Lastly is the inability to use words and direct them at one another on public transportation.  Yes, we’re talking conversation here, people.  The bus is an incredible tool for commuters to avoid the massive on-campus parking fee, and plenty of us take advantage of it.  Plenty as in, our bodies are touching as we cram in every last passenger we can fit.  As in, if a stranger got this close to me in any other situation, I would assume they were trying to rape me.  You get the picture.  So can’t we look each other in the eye and acknowledge on another?  I mean, simple things like “Good morning,” “Hello there,” “How are you?”

The other day I was one of the last people to get on the bus.  We could fit a few more.  Three more people slowly tried to squeeze in.  We could make it work, but there was such an uncomfortable squashing of bodies that no one would acknowledge.  I grated my teeth, I couldn’t handle the awkwardness.  The tall gentleman next to me inched closer, trying not to touch anyone.  I snapped.  “Come here big guy,” I said as I grabbed him around the waist and pulled him toward me.  He said NOTHING in return.  Still, two more people could board.  “God bless the bus, where strangers are forced to cuddle,” I attempt at humor.  Two chuckles, two nods of agreement.

I guess if I can’t text you, we just shouldn’t communicate, right?  Sorry, next time I’ll make sure to put my headphones in and keep my eyes on my feet, completely ignoring that two pairs of pants are all that separate our private parts which are being forced to grind in an awkward non-dance that would look totally acceptable if only terrible rap music was blasting over the speakers.

 

In any case, I’ll deal with the unexplainable and continue to throw myself lovingly to my studies.

To good grades, may they be mostly A’s

Cheers!