Category Archives: Beer

Why Practice Abstinence?

I’ve read a bajillion Internet posts about how much better people feel when they give up alcohol and/or caffeine.

You can read here about Gretchen Rubin, the woman who wrote The Happiness Project, a book I read with quite a suspicious eye, and her reasons for quitting drinking. I had quite a difficult time relating to much of what she said, because I kept feeling like anyone could be happy if they had all day to hang out and write and do things to make themselves happy, instead of working 40+ hours a week outside the home, like so many of us do. I mean, I’d be happy if I could just eat, swim, trail run, write, and do art. Any agents out there willing to negotiate a contract for a fat athlete who just wants to athlete and write about it? I promise, I’ll make it a good read.

You can read here about how long it might take for you to return to “normal” after quitting drinking.

You can read here about a year-long fast from alcohol and the effects it had on the writer.

In fact, if you google “a year without alcohol,” you can read a countless number of people’s quests to live a year or more without drinking any form of alcohol. Similarly, if you google “a year without caffeine,” you can find a significant number of stories about how people exist without coffee.

After spending a bit of time googling and skimming other folks’ quests of this nature, I decided to try my own little experiment. Since October 10, I’ve not had any alcohol or caffeine, and I plan to continue this fast or abstinence at least until I go back to Indiana in January, so October 10-January 16, when I will run my favorite night time trail run. What is that? About three months?

After nine days, do I feel better? I wouldn’t say that I notice a significant difference in my body. I don’t feel necessarily peppier, or necessarily groggier. I don’t notice a difference in my habits in the morning, since I replaced coffee with a caffeine-free herbal infusion by Tiesta. In the evening, however, I have to say it’s a bit disconcerting to not have a beer with dinner or to wind down when I come home from work.

I’ve spent some time in the past year shedding some of my bigger addictions, and I feel much better for it. It’s amazing how quickly things that seem innocuous when we initially begin them can become such controlling and overwhelming forces in our lives, how they can begin to color everything we do, and how we eventually let them control how we interact with people and how we think of ourselves.

Though I wouldn’t call alcohol or caffeine, in and of themselves, addictions for me, I will say that I think I rely on them too much, so a few months without will do me well. As of now, I’m looking forward to a life of clean eating, exercise, and an eventual Ironman finish. Today, I can say I am back on track.

Choosing Life and Breathing Love

I’m sitting here in my pajamas at 10:19AM on a Saturday before I work from 1PM-10PM at the Apple Store in the Mall of America. I’m drinking expired Caribou Blend coffee that I earned by working at Caribou one day a week. I’m helping my grandchildren, the twins, put my Riley Hospital address stickers on their shirts. The address stickers are almost as cool as band-aids, probably because they get to have limitless address stickers, and we’ve had to limit them to only one band-aid per visit, ever since that visit where they used two whole boxes of band-aids in about 20 minutes. We’ve already watched Mickey Mouse Road Rally, and eaten breakfast and second breakfast. They’re now taking their Mamo to the park to play, then to the river to throw rocks into the water, then to the post office and grocery store. This is pretty much the perfect start to a day.

I’m taking advantage of an increasingly rare and special mood of my own and writing a bit. I’ve not posted anything here for almost six months, because I was trying to give myself some distance from my writing process and from sharing all the things about me, which I hadn’t (and possibly still haven’t) sorted out. Sometimes writing provides clarity, and sometimes the process just muddies the waters in a way that isn’t the least bit helpful. I also read back through a lot of my blogs, and realized that I was on a wild cyclic path, one I hadn’t been dealing with, and one I wasn’t sure I could deal with. The cyber-trail here indicates a lot of swinging from really good moments to really deep, sad, depressed moments.

And, being more honest than I am comfortable with, some of my darkest times aren’t even recorded here, because I was embarrassed that I had no control over my feelings, because I didn’t want to burden people I love, and because I didn’t want the stigma of being so sad I’d contemplated taking my own life. Many times in my life, I just wanted it all to end. My darkest moments were the 18 to 24 months surrounding my move to Minnesota, from March of 2013 until January of 2015.

I needed to move in order to really see how sad I’d been. I needed to move to get a new lease on life. No one was at fault for these moments, and most of you didn’t even know I was having a hard time. I hid it well.

Some of us, for whatever reason, are just prone to depression, suicidal ideations, sadness, loneliness, or the like. For some of us, this can happen even when it seems as if everything is going amazingly well for us. I’ve struggled with this since I was about 12-13 years old. For me, there are a string of reasons—none of which I am ready to divulge to the general public—for my depression. For me, my depression is coupled with addictions or obsessions of various sorts, loneliness even in crowds of people, feeling misunderstood or not good enough, feeling like no one will ever really understand me, and simply not wanting to walk outside of my house to face the world.

But something keeps me going.

A glimpse of hope?

A bit of grace?

A kind word?

A tattoo that says, “Give me hope in the darkness”?

I’d like to say that I am in a place where I will never have to struggle with any of this again, but I can’t be certain. I can say that I haven’t had a suicidal thought since early last spring, but I can’t say I never will again. I am learning to take each day one day at a time, and I am learning to set reasonable and attainable goals to keep myself focused on the joys of living.

Here are some of my long-term goals: to be alcohol abstinent for a while, to run three times a week and swim three times a week, to go hiking once a week, to find the joy in small things, to not allow the bad things in the world overtake me, to write more, to remain vegetarian, to find a therapist and work through some of this, and to tell someone if I start to feel sad, overwhelmed, or otherwise not right.

I know deep down that living can be a joyful and beautiful thing.

At my best moments, I love life. I love to have fun. I love feeling on top of the world. I love running, hiking, swimming, biking, disc golf, and the simplicity of a walk. I love the fine arts. I love rivers, lakes, and the ocean. I love crunching fall leaves under my feet. I love humanitarianism. I love sacred beauty. I love secular beauty. I love my family. I love my friends. I love a nice blue sky. I love people and their idiosyncratic behaviors. I love watching life be beautiful.

I love all of this.

When I can.

As hard as I can.

Because, in those moments, I recognize the joy, the hope, the grace, the beauty, the love.

Happy New Year 2015

Well, here it is, the time of year in which we’re supposed to look back with a regretful or chastising eye and then look forward with a hopeful or change-oriented one. For me, that’s every day, so this socially constructed mindfulness, reflection, personal analysis seems a bit felt up. I’m not being judgmental toward others who find this act refreshing; I’m simply saying that the way most people feel right now, looking back and looking forward, is pretty much how I live my life. I do enjoy the way the new year brings us all together into the same thoughtful consideration of what we’d like to change about ourselves. I love reading the goals that other people post, and I love hearing how people want to make the world better, starting with themselves. And I do love to participate in goal setting or resolution making. It’s an act of hope, like thinking that one day things will be better. So here’s to 2015, which will be better than 2014!

  1. Social Media: As of January 5, I plan to remove myself from social media. No more Facebook, no more Twitter, no more Instagram. For one year. Instead of these venues, I plan to call people, have real email conversations, and engage in face-to-face interactions with those people I love (or those who I will get to know). My interactions on Facebook, with the exception of some, simply serve to make me angry, jealous, bitter, ungracious, or otherwise not kind, compassionate, loving, friendly, or like someone I’d want to be around. If you know me, you can feel free to email, call, or text.
  2. Blogging: In lieu of social media, I am starting a creative project in which I write letters to people from throughout my life. Some letters will be anonymous, some addressed to the intended recipient, but all will be as close to the “truth” as I can get. I’ll house those posts at Grace and Shame, Letters, which is also linked on the right hand side of this blog. I doubt many folks will read the letters, because I won’t have them posting to Facebook or Twitter, but I hope to simply get improve my writing, post some hilarious and heartbreaking stories from my life (people are always telling me I have lots of stories), and maybe connect to some people through things that we have in common. I plan to allow myself an hour a day for writing, starting on January 5 for a total of 360 letters by year-end.
  3. Athletic Pursuits: This year I plan to work out five times a week, doing a variety of running, swimming, biking, and weight lifting. I have mapped out all of January, and I’ve been running and swimming a mile each day, so I think I’m on a good track there. I have two big goals for this calendar year: Muncie 70.3 (finish in 7 hours) and Big Shoulders 5K (finish in 2 hours). That’s it. Other than a couple of fun 5Ks, I have no other goals, except possibly a fall marathon, which entirely depends on my recovery from the 70.3. You can follow my Muncie 70.3 training by clicking above on Ironquest, which is where I will also begin posting my Ironman Wisconsin training after July.
  4. Food for Thought: I am going to eat what I want, when I am hungry. I will focus on eating whole foods and lean toward paleo/primal, but I’m not going to pass up some delicious crusty bread, Chunky Monkey ice cream, or M&Ms, if one of them is offered to me. I’m also checking one macro in my diet, protein, just to make sure I am getting enough to fuel my athletics. I do hope to lose some weight this year, so I’m going to be cautious, but not overly regimented about what I eat.
  5. Drinking: There will be only water, tea, coffee, and fruit juice. Mostly water (a gallon a day if possible, I hear it’s all the rage) and coffee (because I need it to cope). I am abstaining from alcohol, except for the fourth annual Burris Pub Crawl, for the entire year. On a somewhat related note, smoking is out too.
  6. Spirituality: Part of writing, for me, is thinking theologically. The hour of writing will include a bit of time for meditation, scripture reading, and prayer.
  7. Hairy Topics: A seemingly trivial and ridiculous goal is to let my hair grow. My long-term goal is Ironman Wisconsin in 2016, and if I let my hair grow from now until then, I’ll have enough to donate to Locks of Love again. Human hair grows about half an inch a month, so by September of 2016, I should have around ten inches of hair to pull back into a pony tail and shave off. I say this seems like a ridiculous goal, because what kind of a person can’t let her hair grow? Once my hair gets to a certain length, I have a terrible time leaving it on my head. I’ve been mostly bald for the better part of eight years, I’d say, and hair just seems extraneous. However, I do understand how very important hair is to those who have lost it. And, I say this in all humility, I do have pretty awesome hair.

Well, Happy New Year from me to you. I love you all. I do hope you’ll follow my journey.

A Buggy Little Adventure

This day was supposed to be awesome. Bec planned an excellent all day date with her sister Ann and me. Bec and I would start by going to church, then meet up with Ann, head to St. Croix State Park, have a picnic lunch, then hike a 5-mile loop by the river.

Here is how the day really went.

Bec and I got up early, and did what the morning wants people to do. Drink some coffee. Take a shower. Walk the dogs. Not necessarily in that order, but you get it. Then we made the 20-25 minute drive to St. John the Evangelist Episcopal Church in St. Paul. Some folks would take what happened next as an omen of some sort. We, however, did not. We made it before the service started, so that’s a bonus, but as we were getting out of the car we were greeted by this little gem in the car next to ours:

ZombieBaby

We met up with Ann at around 10AM and headed about 2 hours north, northeast to St. Croix State Park. The foliage was gorgeous pretty much the whole way up Interstate 35, with bright yellow, rustic oranges, loud reds, and sumac turning a dark crimson along the sides of the road. Basically, there was all kinds of beauty everywhere I looked. When we got to the park, we had a picnic on an overlook with this view of the river:

River2

And this view of my delicious Summit Porter:

Porter

But, sadly, that is all we were able to do at this state park, because we were being eaten alive (I mean almost carried away like an alien abduction) by mosquitoes. We got quickly into the car and drove through the rest of the park, like good little lazy Americans, using fossil fuels to see nature’s beauty. We did stop at two other places in the park. One was an overlook where the river looked like this:

River1

I also saw a loon after we heard it diving and splashing around in the weeds by the edge of the shore, because the last place we stopped looked a bit like this:

Marsh

So we drove, sadly, back toward the Cities with only a picnic under our belts. But then Ann had a wonderful and brilliant idea: Fort Snelling State Park! We all agreed that would be a fine time. And it could have been with cool stuff like this memorial for the Dakota Indians who were imprisoned during the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862:

Memorial

Or this cool historical marker (I’m a sucker for historical markers):

HistoricalMarker

Or the fine company: HarrisButts

Or the natural beauty of a river island (Pike Island): Clearing

I could have had a good time pretending I was Tom Sawyer or Huck Finn or Becky Thatcher (if she ever got to do anything cool, besides have the hots for Tom), but there were also lots of these little bastards:

So as I said at the beginning today was supposed to be awesome, and it was. I had so much fun picnicking, hiking, and being abducted by mosquitoes… oh, wait… I learned something today: ALWAYS WEAR MOSQUITO REPELLENT WHEN HIKING IN MINNESOTA. ALWAYS. DOUBLE ALWAYS. AND TRIPLE. I kept saying, as we were walking, “This is what hell is probably like. You are with people you love, doing something that’s supposed to be super fun, but there’s one thing really horrible about it. You think all the while, oh, this isn’t bad, but then there are the mosquitoes. These mosquitoes are Satan’s minions, torturing us.” I think I just thought the last sentence of that and didn’t ever say it out loud, but now I am saying it, because it is true.

But I really did have a great time with two fantastic women. In fact, it was one of the most fun days I’ve had in a long, long time. I’m re-learning flexibility. But I’m also learning to WEAR BUG REPELLENT!

Minnesota Minute: A Day on the Town

Today I decided to go for a little adventure through Minneapolis. I don’t have much commentary, except what I will provide for each picture. I can say that today was really fun, and I look forward to exploring the Cities on my days off.

My first stop of the day was at Blick’s Art Supplies where I bought some stuff to start printmaking. I bought linoleum, ink, a roller, some paper, and some other more generalized art supplies. I used my birthday money for this, instead of for interview clothes.

Dick Blick

My second stop, which was a pleasant surprise, was at the Basilica of Saint Mary, the first basilica built in the United States. It is the co-cathedral for the Cities with St. Paul Cathedral, the more famous one. Here are several pictures I took while I was there. Forgive me for the bad quality of the photos; I took them with my phone.

After spending a good bit of time in contemplation in the basilica, I went to my next stop. Birchbark Books is famously supported by Louise Erdrich and houses a huge variety of texts by American Indian writers. The people who work there are very helpful and kind, and the store itself is exactly as quaint and amazing as one might imagine. My favorite part was the confessional that had a sign saying, “Do not enter. We are not responsible for damnation.” Unfortunately, I didn’t get a picture of the confessional, nor did I get a very good picture of the outside. No worries. I will be going back soon.

photo 13

From Birchbark Books, I decided to head for lunch. If you know me at all, you know what I went for. Wings. With a simple google search, I found a place called Runyon’s, which is in the Warehouse District. Since I am new here, I had no idea what that meant. Well, as near as I can tell, the Warehouse District is a mix of businesses, restaurants, and strip clubs. This is what I saw as I neared my destination. You can’t really see the signs as well as I wish you could, but one says Augie’s Topless Bar and the other one is a giant rainbow circle that says Gay 90s. These are clear signs that good wings are nearby.

photo 14

I had to drive around a bit to find somewhere to park, and, once I did, I walked to Runyon’s along 2nd Avenue. I passed this:

photo 20

And then arrived here:

photo 15

The wings and (I cheated) the Deschutes Obsidian Stout were delicious. I kept thinking that it was really too bad that this bar is so far away from my house, because it felt a bit like Savage’s and the wings were just as good. The bartender, Nick, was pretty awesome and is himself a transplant from New York, so I felt pretty at home in his care. Their blue cheese dip was really good, too, so that’s a total plus. No shoddy, half-cracked blue cheese here. And my wings were crispy, just like I ordered them. Total win for lunch.

photo 17

After lunch,I decided to stop into this ecclectic little place I passed on my way to Runyon’s. One on One is the type of place that I’d love to hang out and just people watch. While I was in there I had some strange encounters just off the bat.

An older man said, about my t-shirt, to the woman who was chopping onions for what looked like salsa, “You know why she’s wearing tie-dye, right?”

The onion chopper said, “Why?”

Old guy, who had an opinion on everything that was going on, said, “She wanted to remind me of the good old times, the 60s, when acid was still legal in California.”

I turned to him and said, “You are absolutely right, man. I wore it just for you. I’m glad I could make your day.” And we both laughed.

Anyway, here are some photos from that place with the yummy dirty chai. First the front of the building:

photo 19

Next the inside, where the bicycles reside.

photo 18

My last task was to go to IKEA. I think I may be the only person I know who doesn’t enjoy this place one little bit. There is too much to look at, and the floor plan is structured like a maze. There is no getting in and getting out at IKEA. However, I did love the variety of cool options of everything they have in their little showrooms. I now know where I will go to buy all of my furniture should I ever live in a tiny house, a shipping container, or a tree house. The magic of IKEA is that it’s like a grown-up’s fairy castle where everything is a just a little surreal. I loved that aspect of it.

photo21

I hope you enjoyed that little tour. Haha.