51 Things I Learned in 2016

Historically, my aspirations of keeping up with writing on this blog have led to countless posts beginning with “It has been too long.” Once again, history proves that it repeats itself as I dust off my laptop’s keys and pause briefly trying to remember what my password for this account is.

History is also repeating itself because, as per my annual tradition (going on eight years now), I am going to look back and share several memories and things I learned over the course of 2016. If you are intrigued, please read on. If I have already successfully bored you, here’s a photograph of a cute baby animal before clicking away merrily to a more fascinating website:

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Ahem. And now, 51 Things I Learned in 2016:

1) You wake up with hesitation about 2016 on January 1st. You’ve been having doubts about everything it seems lately, and you are genuinely unsure of where this year is headed. You have just moved out from your parents’ house, and you are still re-adjusting to living on your own.

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2) These doubts and fears don’t go away when you find out that your new landlords tell you they are selling the house you are currently renting on January 2nd, and you have until April 1st to find a new place to live. Again.
3) To fight these feelings brought on by the large blank canvas that looms before you, you start  making spontaneous plans, like entering a writing competition, pitching a story to a magazine, applying for a fellowship and planning a two-week trip abroad with your boyfriend the two of you have dreamed about for years. You tell yourself half-heartedly that if you are meant to be a writer, at least one of the writing things will pan out.

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4) You get rejected by the magazine, but are encouraged to keep pitching.

5) You become a savvy apartment hunter, and within two weeks of learning you have to be out of your current residence you and your roommate locate an adorable two-bedroom that will be ready by March 1st – and you can paint the walls.

6) You have driven a U-Haul. Never forget that.

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7) You sigh relief, thinking you don’t have to move again for a long while – until your place of employment informs you they are moving their offices in August.

8) It’s during the spring where the year suddenly takes off for you, and in turn throws several surprises your way: Your co-worker and fellow work space neighbor informs you she is leaving for another job in another city. You make it into the fellowship. Another co-worker and dear friend informs you she is leaving her part-time job where you work for a full-time gig elsewhere, but she gets to visit you at your fellowship. You receive a voicemail from a number you don’t recognize only to learn that the writing competition you entered has selected your piece out of 270 submissions to be one of the 12 performed in September.

9) May and June are very conflicting months for you.

10) But you start to feel like this whole writing thing might actually be your calling after all.

11) The night at Hotel Foster and Ian’s Pizza in celebration of a friend’s graduation will live on as a story you tell your kids when you reminisce about your twenties before they came along.

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12) You learn that you will never ever ride the Lake Michigan Ferry again. EVER.

13) Because apparently, you get motion sick. Or so you think.

14) Remember, you have driven across half the country completely alone, after getting sick – twice, through states you’ve never been to, with a phone at 10%, a dead GPS, no maps, and with less than half a tank of gas. Remember that you did that.

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15) But next time, remember you should fly.

16) You would find the one lady in Rochester, New York who runs an AirBnB that looks like a fairy-tale cottage and is a freelance scenic designer for some of the community theaters in town.

17) After a 2.5 hour ferry ride, and over ten hours on the road lending to hundreds of miles driven and several toll booths fed, you will find yourself in one of the most comfortable beds of your life. It will easily make the Top 5 List.

18) The Eugene O’Neill Theater Center is a magical and inspiring place.

19) You meet some of the best theater critics and arts journalists currently working in the country, and you instantly feel insignificant. All confidence you just gained regarding your writing is gone.

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20) Marisa Tomei is a fantastic actress. Period.

21) When you think you suck, remember you made Chris Jones laugh with your writing. Laugh because he found it funny, not because it was awful. You hope.

22) You realize your next car should be newer, so the chance of your muffler falling off completely after a cross-country road trip is less likely.

23) Food poisoning isn’t fun. Especially when you are 1,000 miles from home.

24) You spend your second week at your fellowship feeling like your disappointing everyone because you keep getting sick, off and on. You wonder what the hell is going on. You’re quite certain several people are speculating you are pregnant.

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25) But you’re not pregnant. You (finally, and officially) get diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. Suddenly, so many moments of your life make sense.

26) Thank God for your dear friend who was able to help you drive back home. You learn the two of you are even more alike; she is after all the reason you learned about the fellowship, told you to get checked out, and helped you get anxiety medicine.

27) It’s also because of her that you have seen Times Square and your first Broadway show, Something Rotten! at the St. James Theatre in New York City.

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28) In August, you spend two-weeks on a whirlwind adventure abroad with you boyfriend of six years. You thank your doctor for giving you another batch of anxiety medication to help you cope.

29) You don’t remember planes being a problem before, considering you have gone on a plane every year since 2012 and aside from freaking out from occasional turbulence, you have been fine.

30) Despite the rain in Iceland, you enjoy its natural springs and waterfalls and black sand beaches. You adore the colorful houses of Reykjavik. You eat at Bobbie Fischer’s favorite pho place. You sit on a basalt column outside of Vik, in the mist, never wanting to sit anywhere else. You stand in front of a Skogafoss, and the brisk droplets from the waterfall make you feel truly alive and happy. Months later, you will want to go back.

31) London is as wonderful as every single British romantic comedy has ever made it out to be. You feel welcomed. You become a skilled Tube rider. You spend the day touring the Tower of London and see the Crown Jewels. You learn sometimes you just need to go off and discover, and you will happen upon a local pub (just around the corner from 221B) and it will have the best fish and chips you have ever tasted. You walk the whole length of Hyde Park in hopes of finding the Peter Pan statue. Months later, you will want to go back.

32) The London Tube and The Paris Metro both have a tendency to attract accordion players.

33) Paris is exactly how you picture it. You find joy in sitting outside of Notre Dame, eating your leftover airplane breakfast as lunch, listening to the bells beside the love of your life. At that moment, you can’t imagine anything more romantic.

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34) Bike signals save lives in Amsterdam. So does the fact you and your boyfriend both have your phones on you, allowing you to find each other when you separated.

35) You get cursed at in Dutch. You deserved it.

36) You also learn that stairs are incredibly steep in Amsterdam townhouses. But from all the walking you are doing in their beautiful parks and around their museums, your calves are up to the challenge. Good thing, since Scotland also has an obsession with stairs.

37) Edinburgh is the city for artists and writers, and feeds your passion. You attend the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and see circus acts and a wonderful tale about the true writers behind the Grimm tales. You visit the coffee shop where J.K. Rowling worked on Harry Potter, which reminds you to write more…and that you need to finish reading the books.

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38) It is amazing how close a room full of strangers can become over a magical evening featuring whisky tastings, dinner, and an illusionist’s show.

39) The Scottish Highlands are beautiful. You decide you need to return someday to see everything you missed. Speaking of which, you miss Scotland a lot.

40) Your boyfriend can drive on the left side of the car in Ireland. You find this new ability of his extremely attractive.

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41) The Irish countryside makes you think of home.

42) You make it to the Cliffs of Insanity. You can neither confirm nor deny that you took a piece of them with you.

43) Your new work desk is a mini condo with a window. But still, you hope for no more moving.

44) You are called a playwright when the monologue you wrote for a writing competition is performed before an almost full-house at a professional theater. The artistic director hugs you, and she and her artistic associate, along with your piece’s director and actress all commend you on your writing style. For the first time in a long time, you feel like you have found a place where you belong, among these fantastic artists.

45) In regards to a certain election, you didn’t see that coming. You also can’t help but feel as if you are living in an alternative timeline, what with the election results, the surplus of celebrity deaths, and the Cubs winning the World Series.

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46) Apparently, if your boyfriend’s parents host your entire family for Thanksgiving, your grandparents will take this to mean you and your boyfriend are actually engaged.

47) Between the holidays and end-of-the-year-work-related-stress, your anxiety flares up again in time for all end-0f-the-year festivities. You decide you won’t let it get in the way.

48) La La Land helps you find magic in a month where you have been feeling anything but. On that note, Rogue One makes you wistful for Iceland and Carrie Fisher and Arrival helps you make peace with the concept of making decisions for your future self.

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49) Your roommate makes you a Star Wars blanket, a friend gifts you Nessy socks, your landlord and downstairs neighbor continue to be the best landlord and neighbor ever when they surprise you with gifts, your mom gives you a book followed up with the words “you can write better than this,” and your boyfriend invests in your health by getting you a Fit Bit – which, surprisingly, helps you manage your anxiety. Bottom line: on your worst days, no matter the distance, remember people love you just as you are.

50)Speaking of love, you realize how grateful you are to have Z in your life. From remembering the little things (such as the fact you like peanut M&Ms in your movie popcorn) to being there when you need it most (such as having a panic attack), he is absolutely one of the best elements of your life. He has seen you at your worst (mentally, emotionally, physically – yes, including illness) and he still holds your hand and helps you get through to the next moment. Remember his kindness and patience and love as you head into your seventh year together. Men like him (heck people like him) don’t just appear at your doorstep everyday.

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And, finally…

51)You realize you need to keep working on being happy yourself. You skew bitter and resentful too often, which is sad because if there is anything you have learned this year is how much you actually have going for you.

So, in the famous words of Shia, “JUST DO IT!” is the theme for 2017. Eat the healthy salad instead of the pizza you will regret. Clean up the mess instead of letting the mess control you. Turn off Facebook instead of scowling at the stories friends share. Read a book or work on your own, instead of wondering why nothing ever happens to you. Book a flight and go on a trip and don’t let your anxiety win. Love your family, your friends, and Z to the best of your ability, and remember they are human too. Don’t be afraid to be selfish from time to time, and don’t be afraid to stick up for yourself. Don’t judge your life by the friend that got engaged, the brother that bought a house, or the acquaintance that got a new job – hold yourself to your standards, not some other human’s.

Remember that.

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Cheers to 2017,

-The Shoe
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Where We’re Going We Don’t Need Roads: 2015 in Review

It’s been awhile (I always say that), and a lot has happened in the past 365 days.

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As has been my tradition for the past seven years, I like to take a moment to share what I’ve learned this past year for, at the very least, my personal amusement and benefit.

Because it was the year of the Hoverboard (real hoverboards, not this stickless Segway nonsense), I will use none other than Back to the Future gifs to aid in my reviewing of the year.

2015 in Review:

1. I ushered in the new year celebrating one year of full-time with my current employer, and starting a 401k like a real adult.

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2. I finally saw every episode from all ten seasons of Friends. That was most of my January, February, and March. No I don’t regret it.

3. Because sometimes you get coffee with a dear friend at 8 at night, only to have to move to a little bar to purely continue on the conversation.

4. To celebrate turning 25, I took the day off of work, and spent the day and weekend with Z.

5. I paid off the last of my student loans. It still doesn’t even feel real.

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6. I helped market and costume design a Shakespeare show and didn’t die.

7. I road tripped through South Dakota with one of my closest friends and we didn’t die.

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8. I saw Mount Rushmore, Devil’s Tower (one of my favorite places from our trip), Yellowstone National Park (which can be done in one day), and the Oregon Coast all for the first time.

9. The Oregon Coast is beautiful and I can’t wait to return.

10. Had the best coffee in the Seattle area once again…and it didn’t disappoint.

11. Saw the gum wall before they cleaned it up – I call that an accomplishment.

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12. No matter where we are, however many cities or states away, we can pick things up right where we left them. I learned that with countless friends this year, and I look forward to embracing that knowledge in the coming year.

13. October 21, 2015 was literally the best date (night) ever.

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14. I (finally) moved out of my parents’ house, and into my first grown-up place. It has down wonders for mine and my parents’ relationship.

15. Family is important – especially the people that become your family.

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16. Star Wars. Still sorting out my feelings.

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17. It is possible to go ice skating and not fall down.

18. Christmas 2015 – the year I got excited over kitchen appliances…and an R2D2 scarf from my new roomie.

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19. Z gave me one of the best Christmas gifts of my life. This gift took time, heart, and was put together with love. Something he shows me everyday, and that I’m going to try and show better myself to him and everyone else in 2016.

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To 2016 – I have a good feeling about about this one.

Sincerely,

The Shoe

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#24: My First Road Trip, or The Twenty Something’s Contemplative Journey, Part 1

It started out as a crazy idea, the kind that you blurt out of your mouth before your brain’s common sense kicks in and keeps you from saying things like “I love you” on the first date.

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We were driving in the car, it came up, and without really thinking extensively about it I merely suggested it.

My dear college friend and former roommate K had told me several months prior to this conversation that she had decided to move back to her home state in the Pacific Northwest to be close to her family. At first my reaction, and several of my friend’s reactions were as follows:

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It may have looked like anger, but it deep down it was really more this:

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Ultimately, I completely understood her decision and was supportive 100% – which led to us driving downtown one day and me casually asking when she was heading out West, which led to me asking if she needed any help – and her wondering if I would be down for a road trip. I quickly calculated how much vacation time I had left (because, you know – adult and full-time job stuffs), and enthusiastically agreed it was a splendid idea.

Suddenly, her move was something to be celebrated, and we got cracking on our plans.

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Which leads us to day one of our trip. I had a brand new and compact suitcase, that possessed only the bare essentials (my Backstreet Boys tour shirt and my I “less than three” Star Wars shirts, obviously) tightly rolled up in little fabric crepes and burritos I had lovingly created at 5 in the morning. I had prepped myself – we had booked hotels, I had planned for all kinds of weather, and my bladder was prepared for many hours between rest stops.

Our journey was going to take us four days and 2,000 plus miles across country. Because we weren’t just moving K, but making fun memories that we will keep with us always, we were also going to hit up national monuments and memorials (note: there is a difference) along the way. The worst day of driving would be Day 1, going from the beloved Dairy State to Rapid City, South Dakota. Give or take – 12 hours of driving. Thank God for comfy, stretchy, oh-so-wonderful leggings.

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We. Were. Ready.

Here begins the (hopefully) interesting written account of our cross-country adventure. Over the next few weeks, I will go into detail about what each day shared with us, as well as things I learned from a traveling standpoint as well as things I learned about myself as a person. 

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Day 1 – 6:30 a.m. – Friday – Dairy State

K hugged her roommates (her second family for the past four years post college), I settled into the driver’s seat, plugged in my Epic Road Trip playlist, began the Lindsey Stirling, and we were off.

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(This happened later. Much later.)

K had me start driving because since she was moving from the state she had called home for the past eight years and saying an extended “see you later” to the countless friends (let’s be real here – the girl seriously has a colony that is her fan club) she had made during that time, it was understandable there might be some of those things called emotions during the first leg of our journey.

However, spirits were kept rather high. We were making excellent time, after an hour or so we arrived to the singing-along portion of the playlist, and chatted and caught up on things that happened in our lives since the last time we saw each other (which had literally been two days prior). We crossed the mighty Miss a sip, and before we knew it we were nearing the halfway mark of Day 1 of our travels.

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Day 1 – Around 1:00 p.m. – Somewhere in Minnesota

We talked about a full-range of subjects: life, favorite memories, things that happened to us in the past few weeks, and yes – even boys. I was enjoying the drive. K and I never seemed to have trouble with making conversation, and when it was silent it was never awkward, simply a pause or break in conversation. Driving was going great, we were still making excellent time, and suddenly the speed limit was legally 80 mph and I may have pretended we had a DeLorean for a brief moment:

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Then I remembered we had a ’99 Taurus loaded down with my dear friend’s belongings and rejoined the slow lane.

Day 1 – Around 2:30 p.m. – ???

We had agreed upon stopping in Sioux Falls, SD for gas and to stretch our legs, as well as switch positions with driving. However, we hadn’t seen any major cities for awhile, and we were debating if we were still in Minnesota or had somehow entered South Dakota without even realizing it. On top of that, our amazingly smart and highly expensive location finders (read: mobile phones) were receiving no signal.

Coming upon a rest area was a Godsend, and we found out we were about an hour into South Dakota via a bulletin board map with a lovingly YOU ARE HERE scribbled above our location in Sharpie marker.

Apparently, South Dakota doesn’t like to welcome you to their state.

And – to be honest – for good reason. Now, this is not to come across as disdain for the state of South Dakota. They grow a lot of crops that help feed the rest of the country, and they also house a booming tourism industry and economy in Rapid City due to Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse, and other exciting area attractions.

However, with all that said, getting to Rapid City is the least interesting trek you will ever make.

The scenery you experience will be as follows:

1) Flat farm land.
2) The occasional optimistic several-hundred-acre sunflower fields (if you are traveling during the right time of year)
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and (finally)
3) Exciting billboards for WALL DRUG, advertising it is only 260 miles away and counting.

There is a reason the speed limit is 80 miles per hour, and sadly even the novelty of that begins to seem slow once the scenery becomes repetitive. And this is where our trip began to struggle.

For starters, K gets cranky when she is hungry. I get cranky when I’m tired. On top of that, something I had eaten earlier in the day was not agreeing with my stomach, and the only way to not focus on it was to close my eyes and sit in the fetal position in the passenger seat while K played some Spice Girls (which, was oddly soothing) and some Frank Sinatra. This also meant K had to power through an extra hour of driving, with no help from me.

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I have never been so relieved and excited to see so much consumerism and commercialism and name brand stores on top of each other when we reached the edge of Rapid City just shy of dusk.

Day 1 – 7:30 p.m. – Rapid City, South Dakota

We had made it in time to check into our hotel, grabbed dinner at Culver’s (K had her last frozen custard – for awhile – not too far from where Custer had his last stand…), and zoomed over to Mount Rushmore for the evening lighting ceremony.

We hurried up the steps – selfie sticks and tourists galore – and made our way to the outdoor amphitheater at the base of the mountain. A park ranger came out, talked about the history of the memorial, and then showed us a video that went into great detail. At the end, “America the Beautiful” was played, the four presidents’ faces were suddenly illuminated, and I was surrounded by the thousands of expensive camera flash being used by inexperienced photographers.

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The initial part of the ceremony was informative, and interesting to say the least. It was also very cool to see Mount Rushmore in person, however it is true what they say – it is much smaller in person (spoiler alert?). However, you do feel a sense of pride at what each of those Presidents were able to bring to the table (even if some of what they brought wound up screwing over other people – more on that later).

The best part of the evening though was when they invited current and past service members to the stage to assist with the flag lowering portion of the ceremony. The stage was filled with over a hundred people, and it was great to thank them in such a prestigious and memorable place.

After the ceremony finished, everyone scurried to get to their car or the gift shop. K and I sat for awhile, in no rush to be anywhere, and simply stared at the faces of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. That was one of my favorite moments of the trip: sitting in 50 degree weather just passed sunset, bundled in a sweatshirt, swatting at mosquitos, and looking up at something that has become extremely iconic in the States.

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(The fact National Treasure 2 had also been filmed at this location also had some merit, I admit it.)

With a quick swing into the gift shop, nabbing some postcards since our photos hadn’t turned out great (partially due to the fact Kristen’s camera and my phone were dead), we headed back to our hotel, where we nosedived into the most luxurious bed of beds.

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Seriously, I felt like I was laying a firm, yet very fluffy cloud and my blanket was another fluffy yet warm cloud. (It could have also been the fact that after 12 + hours of driving in 90 degree plus heat across South Dakota, I could have tumbled onto any surface and deemed it “cloud-like” and “the best bed ever.”)

As I shut my eyes to go to sleep, I reflected over the past day on the following thoughts and things I had learned:

1) Always leave with a full tank of gas. Always. On that note, make sure your phone is completely charged every morning as well. (#commonsense)

2) Make sure you have a playlist filled with variety so it can appease both drivers, as well as different songs for different moods along the journey.

3) Check your map stash before you leave and make sure you have one for each state you are driving through. Phones will not always work. (#morecommonsense)

4) Bring snacks and stay hydrated. Don’t drink too much – the rest stops are spaced greatly apart – but bring water or some Gatorade to keep you from getting headaches.

and finally…

5) If you are traveling 12 + hours by car in one day, be kind to yourself and upgrade to a nice hotel. Your body will thank you, and you will be ready to tackle driving again the next day completely refreshed.

Stay tuned for Day 2 – This Means Something, WY!

Sincerely,

The Shoe

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Inspired by _______________________

Inspired.

There really is no better way to describe the day I had today.

Often, when I sit down to share my thoughts with the world on this blog, I tend to focus on a negative or less-than-glamorous aspect of my life and strive to find the silver lining of positivity.

However, today I’m not going to do that.

Instead, I’m going to share the positive elements of my day.

Today, I was inspired by:

1) My co-worker, who has a hearty laugh that is highly infectious.

2) A grilled cheese sandwich with macaroni and cheese embedded within, and the lovely company of one of my closest friends.

3) A young man that I guarantee will win a Tony someday, had amazing stories to share, and yet has remained sensationally humble.

4) The sweet stench of the city air while sitting on a park bench.

5) The image of two women wrangling a mattress up a flight of stairs to a cozy efficiency apartment with the biggest personality in the city.

6) The stories and tales we shared over drinks and sweet potato fries while on a rooftop overlooking the city we both love.

7) A theater company and the story they shared about women, who helped save generations of future women by their actions.

8) Z himself, who continues to surprise me with his endurance and strength, and my pride for him grows. And – on that note – despite his most tired of days, still takes the time to tell me he loves me – even though I already know.

9) The stars. Whether you believe in a higher power or science or both – the stars are beautiful and miraculous, no matter how you look at them.

Some days, I spend far too many breaths complaining. Today was a great wake up call in the best way. I was reminded that it is never too late – or early – to dream big. I was encouraged to try new things and be spontaneous. I recalled how great conversation can be. I was humbled by the stories of women, who faced workplaces much more dire than my own. I felt an incredible surge of love and respect for a man I sometimes don’t always appreciate. Finally, and above all, I felt content knowing that my life is far from perfect – and somehow that makes it just right.

May you be inspired today by anything – great or small.

Sincerely,

The Shoe

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To My Dearest Self

A month ago I promised myself I would maintain this blog better. This month ago I made a lot of semi-serious promises to myself, what most people call “New Year Resolutions”, the silly semi-serious promises we make ourselves before another winter storm and several inches of snow takes every ounce of optimism away from us. Before we know it, the new year is beginning to resemble the previous year. The only difference being one is older, in not just age but potentially looks, and the sheer frustration that if I haven’t lost the weight or kept up with my goals that I keep making for some reason-will I ever truly change?

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I love my commute home. After a day of work, which could be any number of things (long, busy, fun, boring, tiring, upsetting, or the go-to “ok”), I settle into my car for a 30-minute drive on side roads in rush hour traffic. I don’t know if it’s because I finally have a few moments to myself to think, or if it is the natural calm that comes with driving, but I have some of my best ideas and thoughts while driving. They range from picking and working on songs I hope to perform in a lip synch battle with Jimmy Fallon someday…

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to planning my dream elopement (which won’t sadly happen because I’m not heartless nor do I lack feelings). [end sarcasm]

Sometimes my mind wonders to my writing (or lack thereof). Everything from writing prompts to my writing style to the fact that I have all these great ideas swirling around in my cranium and yet when it comes to actually pinning them down in actual ink (or pixelated text) I suddenly whine and say it’s too hard, I suck at writing and shouldn’t even try-and before I know it I’m watching another season of Friends on Netflix (after I get home, of course).

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Most often, though, my thoughts become rather reflective and I begin to look at myself.

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I guess when I was younger, I saw myself further in life. To be honest, I never really pictured life after 24 years old. I kind of just assumed that I would graduate college, get an awesome job I loved, marry my true love, and start making babies-all before the age of 25 (I have diary entries to back it up…however we won’t get into that right now).

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If I’m being fair however, my ten-year-old self wasn’t factoring in some pretty big details. Like, student loans: how after almost three years, you will still be paying off your education and degree. Or the big awesome job? Some days I do truly love the job and what I do, but other days are hard-that’s just life. Life is never easy, it’s never without challenges, every day has it’s own struggles that need to be overcome. And marriage-marriage is not as simple as I originally thought as a child. I thought it was as easy as bumping into some random stranger that when your eyes met they just knew your whole life story-one they joined a year or two later. I didn’t factor in things like loving someone despite their flaws and faults, loving someone when they have wronged someone (or after you have wronged them), not being ready for the big commitment marriage is or how truly long ‘forever’ is. Don’t even get me started on babies. There are a lot of things they didn’t cover in my high school sex education class.

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I look in the mirror at what I have become physically. I resemble that ten-year-old girl, except I look older-and tired. My hair has lost that youthful luster, while the acne I was told would go away still is camping out on my cheeks. My body is no longer rail thin-it instead boasts curves, edges-some larger than I would like.

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What I don’t spend enough time doing is looking on what I have become on the inside. Believe me, it’s a bit of a murky mess, but a murky mess that intrigues me-and oddly makes me optimistic. I’m not the strongest person I could be-but the potential is there. I’m not the most confident person I could be-but the potential is there. There are some qualities of mine that have grown and matured and have developed quite nicely over the years, while others could use some work and careful tending.

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What I don’t always recognize is how intertwined our inner selves and our outer shells are connected. If you feel like utter rubbish on the inside, it isn’t going to help you feel like a million dollars on the outside (nor will you be motivated to even make an effort to fake the look through the use of smoke and mirrors). I have a vision in my mind of what I could look like-should look like-but if I don’t start making changes on the inside where it matters, than that vision is going to stay exactly what it is right now-an imaginary picture of what I could be and nothing more.

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So as I stare at myself in the mirror, a month after I made some semi-serious (and semi-empty) promises to myself, I think about the inner self and the outer shell. How it honestly is never too late to make a resolution, and at the same time realizing I am nothing more than a human being that will occasionally slip up. Thinking that maybe I need to stop putting so much pressure on myself to be the best instead of just to be my best. There is a difference, after all.

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So here’s to not giving up, but letting myself fall down sometimes. Here’s to sorting out the mess on the inside, with hopes of it oozing to the surface. Here’s to loving myself enough to give myself a chance. Or several chances, since I will screw up the ones given. Here’s to still dreaming, because even though every dream is now drizzled with a sense of realism, that ten-year-old girl that thought the sky was limitless is still inside-pushing, motivating, desiring-and I owe it to her-and myself-to let her be heard.

This Valentine’s Day, yes I will hand out whimsical valentines to my co-workers and shower Z with amorous love. But first? I’m going to try to love myself better than I have been. I think that’s a good resolution-who cares what time of year it is.

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Sincerely,

The Shoe

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My Year in Review: 2014

There has been some debate lately about the year in reviews Facebook has been posting on countless Facebook users’ feeds this week. Reviewing one’s year has seemed to be a trend for 2014, and even WordPress emailed me a beautifully designed stats sheet sharing information about how my blog did this year.

However, and not to brag, but I have been reviewing my past year since 2008. I started doing so because my 2008 had seen a lot of changes, and around New Year’s Eve I needed to focus on the positive. In 2008 I had graduated high school, received my first kiss, started college, had my first boyfriend and ultimately my first break up. Days after, and hours before midnight, I took to Facebook, created a new note, and started pouring my heart and soul into everything I had learned that past year.

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I have continued the tradition since then (with the minor exception of making the move to WordPress), and some years have been equally hard to focus on the positive while others have been hard to write anything down for because the year was overall relatively great!

2014 was an interesting one. I won’t sugarcoat it-it was at times a very rough year. When it was rough, it was rough…but when it was good, it was truly, wonderfully, incredibly, good. So without further commentary, I give the mixed bag that was my 2014:

1) I started my first official “big kid” job in January, on the second.

2) Word of advice? Try to start jobs on the first, not the second if you can, because sometimes this means you have to wait an extra month before those pretty adult things called benefits kick in.

3) Benefits, in case you were in the dark like I was, are these wonderful things that help you survive as an adult in the real world. Sadly, I didn’t quite get how insurance and 401ks worked because for some reason, How to Be a Competent Adult In the Real World is not a course you can take at any college or university-you just have to learn at some point.

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4) I went sledding for the first time in years. It was magical, and beautiful, and entirely fun. It was lightly snowing, we had soup to keep our bellies warm, and I was surrounded by friends that loved me and were in love with each other and life. I took a moment to treasure the moment mentally, because I knew deep down the moment wouldn’t last forever.

5) In spring, Z and I trekked to Seattle to visit some old college friends.

6) With some college friends, even being divided by several states can’t divide your friendship.

7) Washington state has mountains, forests, coast, and ocean. And copious amounts of good coffee.

8) Don’t drive to Vancouver, BC, Canada during rush hour on a Friday whilst with a full bladder. Just don’t do it. Trust me.

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9) Speaking of downtown Vancouver, it is…interesting. Memorable to say the least.

10) Z and I were able to see the sun set and the moon rise simultaneously from our tiny airplane windows as we flew around dusk. It was incredible.

11) On a side note, Z and I celebrated 5 years together in December. We didn’t celebrate on our actual anniversary, and instead commemorated after Christmas. He cooked me a delicious dinner, and we also went to the movies for cheap. We also binge-watched White Collar while drinking white wine. Ladies and gents, this is romance to us-and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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12) Relationships are hard work. Don’t let anyone else tell you differently. Even if you have one of the best, healthiest, and most loving partners on the planet, there will still be tough times. Working through those tough times with them however, is worth it and extremely rewarding.

13) Speaking of relationships, Z could have very well saved my grandma. He was in the right place at the right time, and I am can’t express how grateful I am for what he did.

14) Life is short, and in seconds everything can change. Cherish and love those near to you. Now every time I see my grandparents, I always say “I love you” and I hug them a little too long. They are okay with that.

15) Luke Bryan talked to me. It wasn’t that cool.

16) Motley Crue payed my brand new laptop. True story. No, really, I’m not kidding.

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17) Confession: I did not stand up in a wedding party nor did I attend a single wedding this year as a guest…and I enjoyed it. The last time this happened was seven years ago. That is not to say I hate going to weddings or standing up in them. I just also like saving money. Which brings me to my next point.

18) I paid off one more of my school loans last week. 2 down, one to go. I can’t express how excited that makes me.

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19) I had a traditional Labor Day for the first time in years. We picnicked by the lake, flew kites, and road bikes in the beautiful tame sunshine. It was wonderful and relaxing, and just what I needed.

21) Working full-time in the private (creative) sector is hard work.

22) I would never have survived my first year at my new job with my wonderful co-workers. Seriously. They are beyond great.

23) I entered a competition during the summer. A local theater was seeking monologues on the theme of banned books for their monologue festival in 2015, and I wrote something. It ultimately didn’t get picked…but it was apparently a finalist.

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24) I also had my first “paid” freelanced writing gig go extremely well.

25) My blog surpassed 4,000 views of all time and features over 40 followers.

26) These last three points have helped me realize that my writing doesn’t (always) suck. So thank you, to everyone, for reading anything I have ever written, and for uttering those two simple words, “It’s good.” Really. Thank you.

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2015 is right around the corner, and I am very excited to see what this year brings. No trips planned (yet), and the entire year is like a beautiful, fresh, blank space (see what I did there) ready to be filled with memories. I can’t wait to see what those memories, lessons, and stories will be.

Happy New Year, to you and yours

Sincerely,
The Shoe

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The Last Five Years: A Love Letter from A to Z

Spoiler Alert: I am branching out from my usual writing today to dedicate this following piece to someone of major significance today. The following post will contain the words ‘love’ and ‘relationships’ more times than some individuals will like, overtly affectionate phrases, and a semi-in-depth look at me and my significant other. To aid in my tale, I will be using GIFs featuring famous couples from film and television, including some of my all-time favorite OTPs (One True Pairings for you folks playing at home). If at any point you feel uncomfortable with this post, please feel free to stop reading and click away as I textually ramble on. 🙂

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Dear Z (and everyone else reading this),

Today is December 17th. If you recall, six years ago this was approximately four days after we had just broken up. I remember the date because we broke up on your birthday. You initiated, while I held a Tupperware container filled with lemon poppyseed muffins-your favorite, one of the few things I knew about you at that point. It was also the first time I had ever written you a letter.

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In my case, lemonade into lemons and back into lemon poppyseed muffins. But I digress.

Five years ago today, there was snow on the ground but it was oddly warm. Finals at school were just finishing up, and we were walking to Subway for dinner. It was the first time I wore your dark red sweatshirt (the one that now takes residence in my closet). We picked up some pre-dinner hot cocoas, and I can literally pinpoint on a Google map the moment everything changed-I was in mid sentence one second, and the exact next one you were kissing me.

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In this particular scenario, I was more like Flynn. Which makes this story even better. 🙂

At that point, I was amazed at how much had changed in one year.
Now as I sit here and write this, I’m amazed at how much has changed in the five years since.

The first six months we were inseparable, which led to driving our roommates and close friends absolutely nuts. In all honesty, we didn’t notice or we did but didn’t care. That sounds callous, but it’s true. I’ve seen it happen with other friends and their significant others and we weren’t any different. We walked around with big goofy grins on our faces, walked each other to every single class no matter how inconvenient, and made single friends and established couples feel awkward with our constant affections of hand-holding, hugging, and making eyes at each other.

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Regina is totally right. They totally make eyes at each other.

We felt this infallible certainty that we were meant to be together, we chose a song to be ours, and you boldly stated you could see us getting married.

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This was also before I appreciated Firefly, but clearly the ideal marriage. Wash and Zoe, and Serenity never happened.

And then…graduation happened and so did reality.

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For the past five years, 4.5 of those years have been spent apart. You in one city, and I in another. Divided by over 100 miles and two hours, we have crammed the in-person aspects of our relationship in tiny windows of time resembling not-long-enough weekends. To say the least, this has lead to a very unique dynamic of our relationship. Our time together is limited and precious, and some friends feel alienated, hurt, or confused when we don’t want to spend time with them while we are together. Others scoff as we have labeled this a “long distance” courtship, because we haven’t had to endure being states or countries apart. We’ve had to balance our conflicting schedules (school, the inconsistencies of retail, and working on weekends), we’ve had to work around living arrangements due to not having our own places, and above all, we have had to answer the question “So when are you guys getting engaged?” from countless friends, co-workers, family members, clients, pastors, and even random strangers.

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No commentary necessary.

We’ve been asked that question so many times that if I received a dollar for every time either of us were approached with that question we would have enough money to pay off my loans, a down payment on a house, and enough left over for a month long venture around the world.

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For the past five years, our relationship and where it is headed has been at the fore front of many conversations. Where some couples when dating can merely sit next to each other on a couch and binge watch Netflix when they see each other every night, we have to cram the following into 48 hours (and less if we exclude the hours we spend sleeping): every conversation we started while apart over the phone but decided was better discussed in person, life goals and aspirations, basic and general dating questions such as “how many kids you want?”, “Are you a dog person?”, or “Where do you want to live someday?”, learning about each other from basic observation (Pet peevs: Feet on pillows-me and excess hair on my hairbrush-him), and talking about the big huge M word (money) and the even bigger huge M word (marriage).

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Most couples discuss these things over the course of a month or two. We get a weekend. Or two. If we are lucky.

For the past five years, we have certainly learned a lot about each other. You like to cook, and I like to do laundry. We both can find the humor in Six Days, Seven Nights, and have a vast array of inside jokes (well, not only). We have traveled together, to the mountains in Colorado to the cherry blossoms of D.C. We have survived camping during an awful thunderstorm and a huge fight over a water ride. I’ve edited your Facebook posts for grammatical inaccuracies and you’ve attempted to help me understand the basics of math.

We’ve critiqued each other, which has led us to some of our best work-after our pride was slightly damaged because of how much each other’s opinion means to the other. We have gone clothes shopping together, where you have encouraged me to spend money and will honestly tell me if something doesn’t look good-or if it does. We’ve gone grocery shopping together, and have both taken turns telling the other one to put things back on the shelf because “we don’t need it.” You’ve pushed me because you’ve seen my potential, and I’ve challenged you on more than one occasion, making us equals and well-matched when it comes to our feisty spirits.

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For the past five years, we have definitely been there for each other. I was there for you when you graduated, and all the emotional baggage that came with. You returned the favor two years later, proudly looking on as I walked across that stage, and stood by me when I went through my own rough patch after graduation.

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We’ve been there for each other through unemployment, the uncertain future of business ventures, job rejections in the form of email, failed job interviews, and sharing a mutual understanding of the hell that can be working retail. We’ve been there for each other at funerals and at hospitals where the lives of loved ones were uncertain or being remembered. We have been there for each other as we have double teamed babysitting for friends and their kids, and have learned just how intense children can be. We’ve been there for each other for birthdays and anniversaries, taking turns picking up the tab on dinners and vacations pending on who was more financially stable at the time. We’ve been there for each other through receding hairlines and graying strands, through weight gain and loss. We’ve even been there for each other when we weren’t sure about our future, and that is a pretty big-and awesome-thing.

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For the past five years, if there is one thing I have learned is that I have a friend in you and you in I. The past five years have been far from easy, and I’m sure life will only throw more curveballs the older we get. However, the past five years have also been filled with countless hours and moments of sheer joy, and I honestly cannot find the right words to express just how grateful I am for it all.

I am so grateful for the hours of laughter to the point of being out of breath, the respect and admiration that has grown for each other, the million little things we do to say “I love you,” the complete honesty and bluntness we bring to every hefty conversation, the moments we can just revel in each other’s company, the hugs that feel like home, every single car ride no matter how many times we debate the accuracy of the GPS, the frank talks about our deepest fears and faith, our trips to Barnes and Noble when caffeine pulsates through our veins and our ideas take flight, and every single moment where we communicate with our eyes with knowing glances or raised eyebrows-every single of these millions of moments I am so grateful for and glad to have been able to share with you.

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Too often I look forward, wondering how this will all turn out. Some may say after reading this I have spent too much time looking back. No matter which direction, I just want you to know how much I love you and how no matter what happens, I am beyond blessed to have you in my life now-as my boyfriend yes, but more importantly as a friend.

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Today I was talking with a friend, and she flat out told me this:

“He’s a good one. He really is. Don’t lose him.”

I think too often I don’t appreciate you or what we have, and what’s good and great about us can get lost in the everyday nonsense that we let take over our lives. You really are a rarity among men, and I want to brag about that to the masses. Thus the reason for this piece. No, not to rub it in someone’s single face that I have an awesome boyfriend. And no, this is not to be construed as a major outcry for some overpriced finger jewelry.

This is simply a girl telling a guy that she still really likes him, and she just can’t keep it to herself.

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Happy Anniversary Z. I love you. Lotza. 😉

Sincerely,

Your Shoe

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