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My road trip so far

Saturday, September 3rd, 2016

My last day at my job was August 18, and the very next morning, I left Minneapolis for a 6,000-mile road trip. I’m two weeks in, and am having such a good time I’ve decided to never get a job again. I will buy a camper and live in KOAs around the country until the day I die, as long as that day comes before my savings account dries up (so… less than a year).

Then again, I would like to see Foxy graduate high school. So I will stay alive and get a job — BUT ONLY FOR THE DOG. As soon as she’s out of the house, I’ll feel free to spiral into squalor and financial ruin. It’s my life.

Speaking of Foxy, she and I are basically conjoined twins these days. We spend every waking minute together (and also every sleeping minute). I fear I’m setting her up for some serious heartbreak whenever it happens that I have to, I don’t know, run to the grocery store or something — but until that day comes, we’re a package deal, and she’s a happy dog. Even if she’s perfected the art of looking sad.

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So far, I’ve found myself in Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Kansas, and Colorado. Today, I point the steering wheel toward Bend, Oregon, and then eastern Washington. I’ve been staying with friends and family so far, but in the coming weeks I’ve booked a few Airbnbs. I’ve used Airbnb before, but always for an empty apartment. These next few stays, I’ll be renting a guest room in an inhabited house — one of which is on, no joke, Killannie Street. KILL ANNIE STREET. Listening to Destiny’s Child’s “Survivor” to pump myself up.

Besides hiking in the mountains and seeing the Dixie Chicks in Denver (favorite concert of my life), of course the best thing about this trip has been catching up with some of my favorite people in some of my favorite places. Every stop, someone has asked me, “So, what’s next for you?” and my inclination is always to blurt out, “Move next door to you!” And it’s never an empty statement. I truly want to live next door to everyone I love (preferably aligned in a wheel with me as the hub) (don’t worry, I’ll situate you next to people you’ll like).

In all seriousness, plans are coming together for the fall. I’ve lined up a way to make some money (it’s not selling drugs), and other than employment, I’m not making any major changes right away. I’m not finished with Minneapolis, and am even excited to get back there.

Until then, hello from the road!

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A week in Hong Kong

Thursday, March 10th, 2016

Back in January, I had to run through the Denver airport like the Home Alone family to catch a flight. I made it onto the plane in the nick of time, and as I settled into the middle seat, I realized that I was completely out of breath.

I’ve lost my Colorado lungs. I had already said goodbye to my Colorado house, Colorado friends, Colorado hikes, Colorado weather — but my Colorado lungs? That’s a low blow, Minnesota. Luckily you’re the state that brought us the Bundt pan, so we’re even.

I have not, however, lost my Colorado hiking haunches. Oh hell no. My general thigh-rump area is as sturdy (read: un-dainty) as ever, meaning that when I was in Hong Kong, I couldn’t wait to get out into the jungle coated mountains to explore the trails. I mean, these glutes have got to be good for something — and in a world built to favor girls with skinny thighs, I take a lot of solace in the fact that I can out-hike them. It’s my only power.

So imagine my surprise when, there on the trails of Hong Kong, I finally met my hiking match, and an unusual suspect at that. When it comes to hoofing it, I now know my primary competition to be… the old Chinese man.

There he was, in his seventies, slight of frame, wearing nylon khaki pants and a little daypack — hauling ass up those hills. “Surely I can keep up,” I thought, and made it my personal aim to stay in step with him for the 1,800’ elevation gain of The Peak and beyond. But just like the time I tried to race a Segway up a hill on my bike (you’ve now heard the entire story, and it was every bit as ridiculous as it sounds), I labored in vain. I couldn’t keep up. The old Chinese man is the most hale and hearty person in the world.

Some might think “old and fit” to be a contradiction — but my way-too-short week in Hong Kong exposed me to all sorts of contradictions. Hong Kong-tradictions? (I’ll stop.)

Truly, Hong Kong is a mix of east and west, rich and poor, city and jungle, poodles and porcupines, glitz and grit. It’s fake Louis Vuitton and real Louis Vuitton. It’s skyscrapers surrounded by bamboo scaffolding. It’s cosmopolitan and outdoorsy, Maseratis and taxis, people toasting champagne on rooftop decks and people living in rural fishing villages. I ate dim sum and curry and noodles, but also McDonalds and Starbucks. You can find Willamette Valley Pinot Noir. There are tensions that I don’t fully understand, political rumblings with the potential to be seismic shifts, and just like anywhere, situations that need prayer and action and attention.

I soaked every single bit of it in. I explored and adventured and rested and basked in the presence of my dear friends like it was the world’s greatest gift, because it was. And I can’t wait to go back.

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The best seat in the sky

Friday, February 19th, 2016

It is exactly 24 hours from my door to Alia’s, and 16 of those were spent on a 777 from Chicago to Hong Kong. I had never been on such a long flight before, nor in such a gigantic bird. (That’s an industry term, you know — pilots call them “birds.” Wait. Do they?)

On a massive airplane with nine economy seats across, lumped in threes, an aisle between each set, I’ve decided that the best option is to sit in an aisle seat of the middle set. Here’s the logic:

  1. No matter what, the middle seat is the worst.
  2. On a regular domestic flight, I opt for the window. But if you choose the window on a flight around the world, you’re forced to watch the ground below, which on a global journey is really just ocean, inducing panic attacks and visions of Tom Hanks as the only survivor in a life raft in Castaway, which is by far the scariest movie of all time. Also, if you need to get up for the bathroom, you have to step over two people.
  3. The aisle seat on the right or left set of seats is okay, but if either of your two row mates needs to get up, you’re standing every time.
  4. But the aisle seat on the MIDDLE set… you can stand up whenever you want. You don’t have to look out the window hyperventilating. And if the person in the middle seat needs to get up, there’s only a 50% chance they’ll choose to go your direction.

Voila — the best seat in the sky. That is, unless you can afford to fly first class. By the time I boarded, those ballers already had free drinks!

Speaking of free drinks, you do eventually get those in economy, too. Time does not exist whilst in international flight zones, so when the alcohol tray comes through at 2pm, 3pm, 8pm, 12am, and 2am, just say yes, man. You paid good money for those free drinks.

Here’s another perk about such a long flight: the movies. The movies! I’m so glad I never paid to see The Martian in the theater, because after spending more money I’ve ever spent on a flight, I got to watch it for free! I also watched The Intern and Infinitely Polar Bear; in other words, it was the day you want every Monday morning when you actually have to go to work. I guess that someone’s gotta bring home the bacon and all… but what good is bacon if it isn’t paying for Netflix?

One thing I was ill advised about: there are no power outlets in economy. I was counting on an endless power supply for my laptop so I could write my memoirs. Alas, this blog is what I wound up with.

I am learning to accept my writing style for what it is. It’s difficult not to compare when reading other people’s words, blogs, and books, especially when I love someone else’s writing. Some of my friends have made a genuine living out of writing, and occasionally I think, “I wish someone would pay me to just be myself” — you know, as if all they have to do is write whatever they want that morning, and then get paid millions and millions of dollars for it. (I do know better, writer friends, you work hard. I’m just jealous.)

Anyway, everyone has a natural “voice,” and mine just so happens to be riddled with capital letters and parentheses and dumb jokes and a tiny bit of cynicism but also a genuine love for stringing words together and telling stories. I like to think that I write like I talk, but the truth is that I write better than I talk. Which is probably why I love to write.

I hope that you’re doing what you love, even if you don’t get paid for it, and even if you don’t do it as well as other people, at least in your opinion. One’s own opinion isn’t always the best judge, anyway. Judge Judy is the only judge for me.

Okay, back to this ultra mega flight. I was worried that they wouldn’t feed us and I would arrive in Asia an emaciated shell (as if). I am very afraid of being hungry, so I packed Larabars, an open-face turkey sandwich, an apple, and a baggie of almonds — and while it all went to good nutritious use, it was largely unnecessary. Here are the things we were offered on the flight: sundried tomato bruschetta crackers, sweet wafery cookies, manicotti, green tea sorbet, wasabi rice snack mix, and scrambled eggs. I didn’t partake in everything because with the exception of Ritz Crackers, mass-produced foods generally taste like sadness — but I’m serious, the crew was through over and over again with something new.

If you’ve made it this far, you know I’m just a wide-eyed country bumpkin on a major international adventure — par for the course for many of you, but out of the norm for me. I know that this week will be full of amazing experiences, and I can’t wait to tell you about them. And just to give you an idea of the length of the journey, here was our progress two and a half hours into the flight:

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The whole rest of the world to go. I can’t wait.

Springtime, come hither

Monday, February 15th, 2016

When I’m feeling overwhelmed, I retreat from the Internet — and lately, I’ve been feeling overwhelmed. An introvert can handle only so much extroversion before she caves in, like a molten lava cake, but way less hot.

Seriously, you should see how non-hot I am looking these days. I am bedraggled and dried out and pallid and puffy. Winter in Minnesota will do that to a girl. After that cold snap of sub-zero temperatures, the weather has been far more tolerable — but it’s still dark and icy and laze-inducing. I am willing along spring like a spectator at a marathon, except spring is the slowest one.

Please spring, even if it takes eleven hours, promise me you’ll cross the finish line. I hear there’s beer! And have I mentioned how hot you look?

Luckily I am leaving for Hong Kong on Thursday. Hong Kong is subtropical! Granted, it’s only supposed to be in the 60s and rainy, but bring on the balm. I plan on coming back with supple skin and the will to live.

Of course, I am terrified that my plane will crash into the ocean like Malaysian Flight 370, never to be found. My friends tell me to stop being morbid, but I’m hoping that by speaking my fears out loud they will lose their power, like shining a light into a 4-year old’s closet. (Except seriously, I just wrote my Last Will and Testament. I’m not joking. Last Thursday in the back row of a music event, I had Gabe and Maia sign as my two witnesses, all “I’m signin’, you’re signin’, we’re all signin’.”)

As for Foxy, I am flying Anna in from Colorado to stay with her while I’m gone. If I am flying my dog-sitter across the country, I am absolutely the 1%. It’s time for me to accept it and stop eating the heel of the bread because I think I’m poor.

I plan on living forever, a regular Tuck Everlasting — but if my plane goes down, know that I love you all, more than I love molten lava cake. I want to see Minneapolis in the springtime though, so count on my triumphant return.

As a parting gift, here’s me on Saturday, STANDING ON A LAKE, harnessing the power of the sun because it’s all I can do.

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An eensy weensy check-in

Thursday, April 23rd, 2015

Some seasons can’t be wrapped up into compact little blog posts. So let’s just pretend that I haven’t not written here for a while – at least anything of substance – and catch up free-form. Like a meandering conversation – but with me talking into a megaphone (everyone’s dream).

We’ll start with the most important things, such as my sadness over Zayn leaving One Direction. Where do broken hearts go, Zayn? Things will never be the same. In light of his departure, I have reordered my ranking of best voice to worst voice to Zayn, Liam, Harry, Niall, Louis (Louis will always be last) – because what can I say? Absence makes the heart grow fonder. We didn’t know what we had when we had Zayn. Paved paradise and all that.

Now, an explanation for why I’ve been a bit MIA. In the past three weeks, I’ve been in nine different states (Foxy joining me for eight): Colorado, obviously. Then Utah, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Montana, Wyoming, Kansas, and Minnesota. I am finally back home for the next two and a half weeks, reacquainting myself with my morning routine, exercise, and dry air. Each time I’ve reentered Colorado in the past few weeks, I’ve gotten a bloody nose. Love, your ideal woman.

Speaking of Foxy (not that we were, but let’s do), I thought about creating an ongoing series on this blog called Fox News – but then I remembered that it would all kind of be the same. She’s the best! I love her! We go on walks! She doesn’t eat her food! She’s scared of strangers and kids and balloons! She loves kittens! So there’s your Fox News, no Ann Coulter necessary. And if you’re feeling nostalgic, here’s a Then & Now warm fuzzy.

Foxy then now

I’ve made a list of things I want very much, but for financial reasons will need to pace myself in the procurement thereof. In no particular order, here they are: a new bike, a Shark vacuum, a Fitbit, a new rolly suitcase, a grown-up size CrockPot (right now I just have a little one), a new Sonicare toothbrush (mine died), and an entirely new wardrobe.

I am still working from my dining room, which means that I am still living in squalor, like a natural foods Grey Gardens. One hundred square feet is simply not enough space to house all of the STUFF my job requires, so it’s all spilling out into the rest of my 500 square feet and making me twitch.

And with that, I’ll let you get back to your day. Keep going! Pink bunny with the drum.

More adventures in flight

Wednesday, February 18th, 2015

This morning when I woke up at 5am in Minneapolis, the “feels like” temperature was -30 degrees. “How am I going to make it from the hotel to my car?” I was legitimately afraid that somewhere in that 500 feet, I would freeze, suddenly, like a Neanderthal.

But my 7am flight would be leaving with or without me, so I made a run for it. It was like inhaling a block of dry ice – absolutely wicked, not in the Boston sense, but in the Witch of the West sense. My skin almost cracked right off me like a frozen shell. But because I am rugged in my soul – a hero, really – I made it.

As we lined up to board the plane, I put in my earplugs – because the only thing worse than being crammed into a tube with 150 other people is to be crammed into a tube with 150 other people that YOU CAN HEAR. Whenever I wear earplugs, I pull my hair over my ears so no one can see the bright blue foam – but this time, there in line, I was standing next to a man who was wearing earplugs too. Neon green.

And what on God’s earth convinced me that this would be a good idea, I will never know – but I caught his eye, tucked my hair behind my ear to reveal the earplug, and tapped it twice. Just like the early Christians would trace half a fish in the dirt with their toe, waiting for a stranger to complete it, it was our secret code. We were comrades – in the war against noise!

However (and telling the story now, I suppose predictably), Earplug Man did not see it this way. He quickly looked away and ignored me for the rest of the boarding process. I found my seat (far from this fellow noise hater), and we were off.

Mid-flight, it started. Music. Loud enough to hear through my earplugs.

“Give me the beat, boys, and free my soul…”

Someone was listening to the Doobie Brothers with no headphones on an airplane, which, in my mind, is worse than sin.

While the music was loud enough to cut through my earplugs, I couldn’t tell which direction it was coming from. I waited for the culprit’s seatmate or a flight attendant to politely ask them to stop disturbing their fellow passengers (because isn’t it a rule that you have to use headphones on an airplane?), but by now we were to the head-bobbing part where everything but the drums drops out and all of the DBros are singing a cappella in harmony and still, no one had intervened.

When Eric Clapton’s “Layla” started in, I shot up out of my seat like a Whac-A-Mole. WHO IS DOING THIS. WHO. My head on a swivel, I scanned the tops of heads looking for the miscreant, but the engines scrambled the sound and garbled my otherwise bionic hearing.

By the time “American Pie” rolled around, I felt myself shutting down. Everything within me was in agreement with Don McClean; this will be the day that I die. This will be the day that I die.

When I landed in San Francisco, it was 70 degrees, meaning that today I have experienced a 100 degree swing in temperature. I peeled off my down parka, changed from Sorels into flip-fops, and caught a cab into this gorgeous city. I’m here for work, just like I was in Minneapolis for work, and while I miss Foxy, I am grateful for a week of mixing it up – because there’s nothing like breaking routine to make me grateful to get back to routine.

In the meantime, I’m wishing this is how I got to San Francisco:

Flight of the Navigator

Northern exposure

Monday, June 9th, 2014

I spent the weekend in Minnesota along the edge of Lake Superior, an area called the North Shore. I’d been to Duluth once before – but that was in November, and I was really only there during the dark. I needed to see it in the summer, in the daylight.

I was not disappointed. Northern Minnesota is magic, and I had the dreamiest time.

On Friday, I drove north from Minneapolis and was in Duluth by 5pm. I checked into the Hampton Inn (which is basically just like the Hamptons), and immediately changed into my walking clothes; it was 85 degrees outside, and my very top #1 hobby is walking around. Talk about low-maintenance – someone marry me!

Duluth

After a shower, I headed out on Friday night to realize a dream I’ve always held: to eat alone in a legitimate restaurant, a place with a menu and a server and a cloth napkin. For the amount that I hang out by myself, I don’t know that I’d ever gone out for the express purpose of dining alone – but I’m happy to report that everything went really well. I ordered Pinot Grigio and the truffle mac & cheese with bacon (a respectable Grown Up Lady meal). And because I tend to excel in situations where I don’t know anyone, I struck up conversation with the man sitting next to me.

He was a complete weirdo.

I wasn’t being flirty or anything – I just wanted to talk to someone. I wound up having my leftovers boxed up and walking back to the hotel, turning around every block or so to make sure he wasn’t following me. He wasn’t. I am not blogging from the grave. Hooray!

I had big plans for Saturday: I was going to hike 18 miles on the Superior Hiking Trail. With just 3 weeks to go until I set off to thru-hike the Colorado Trail, I felt the need to get some mileage in – but Mother Nature (that old hag) had other plans. When I woke up on Saturday, it was pouring rain.

Ever delusional, I got in my car at 7:30am and headed toward the trailhead. “It will burn off in the next 30 minutes,” I thought. “Rain never lasts.”

Oh sweetie. Welcome to the Land of 10,000 Lakes, all of which were apparently filled by ceaseless precipitation.

It kept raining. So I kept driving north. For hours. All the way to Canada.

And since I didn’t have my passport, nor a legitimate reason to flee the United States of America (besides the national debt, portion sizes, and Pat Robertson), I turned around. Still in the rain.

North Shore

When I stopped at the Java Moose in Grand Marais to order a chamomile tea, I noticed a massage parlor across the street – and it struck me. That would be a great place to wait out the weather. Whilst someone rubbed my body.

Let me tell you, the worst mistake I ever made was to have smelly massage oil smeared all over my skin, only to have the rain let up and therefore head out into the boggy, mosquito-ridden wilderness of Minnesota. I now have West Nile. I don’t even need a test – it’s just a fact.

I wound up hiking for a little bit around the Temperance River – which, for the record, shows no temperance. It shows rage.

Temperance

Then I hiked 6ish miles around the Split Rock River, which I felt earned me all sorts of snacks and sweets. So I ate cookies and drove back to Duluth.

If you’re looking for natural beauty, lighthouses, interesting people-watching, and gift shops with names like Moose-scellaneous, get ye to the North Shore. It’s one of the most lovely, charming places I’ve ever been.

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The whole time, I felt a million miles away from Seattle Pacific University, the school that used to be my address.

I don’t understand why some of us get to live longer than others. I don’t know why I was able to spend my weekend up to my eyeballs in beauty and charm, feeling wonderfully independent and alive, while others were forced to grieve. But I know that I can’t be okay unless you’re okay – because to quote the ever wise Frederick Buechner, “there can be no real peace for any of us until there is some measure of real peace for all of us.”

Seattle, from one waterside town to another, I’m sending you all my love.

Twitchy

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

I am the girl who balances her checkbook. Makes her bed every day. Drives the speed limit. Plans in advance. Goes to bed at a decent hour. Projects ahead so the future will never take her by surprise. Always has a responsible amount of gas in the tank of her car.

This is what’s known as “foreshadowing.”

On Monday, while driving west from Kansas City to Denver after being gone for 10 days, Foxy riding shotgun and both of us desperate to get home to the Shotgun, my mind anywhere but present, I ran out of gas. Subaruthless just sputtered and gave up, right there on I-70.

Subaruthless

Western Kansas was unseasonably warm that day, inching toward 80 degrees. And when the air conditioner died, so did the manic vim, vigor, and verve I’d been running on for a week and a half. I was spent.

My friends call me “the most extroverted introvert” they know, but for whatever amount of social prowess I might possess, the truth is that people, noise, and chaos drain me of my very lifeblood – and right there on the shoulder of the interstate, I realized that the past 10 days had been too much. They’d been good, really good – but they’d been too much.

When I finally arrived back in Denver and stumbled through the door of my house, dragging suitcases, a dog crate, an ice chest, three hardback books, two laptops, and one very squirrely puppy, I could have kissed the hardwood floor. But there’s no rest for the weary; I had errands to run, laundry to run, a dog to run, and a full day of work waiting for me the next day.

Disorganization makes me twitchy, like a spider. And a lot of areas of my life feel disorganized right now, the least of which is the explosion of detritus all over my house or the pile of receipts or the significant amount of sleep debt. Last night, I came home from work and, rather than taking care of the things that needed doing, opted to just twitch for a while instead – which means that today, my house is still a disaster, my calendar is sneaking up on me, I forgot to pack a lunch, and I’m wearing yoga pants at work (although… okay, yoga pants at work are not unusual).

I wish that life was like a gas tank, and that through a simple act of fuel in, our wheels would be guaranteed to keep moving.

Actually, I think that’s just called sleep.

I hope to emerge in a few days. Until then, my earplugs are in and I’m laser beam focused on getting my life back in order. If you know any happy news, please share it – I could use a little oomph in my day.

Ping-pong

Friday, March 7th, 2014

This week, work has had me ping-ponging around the nation (and thus, ping-ponging around in the otherwise vacant warehouse known as “my head” – watch out for raccoons!). I needed to be in Minneapolis for meetings followed by Anaheim for a trade show, and all of that travel was going to equal 7 days.

Fine, except for Foxy.

Even for a snuggly wonder pup, 7 days is a really long time to ask someone to dog-sit – that is, unless “someone” is family. So what did I do? I left Denver last Saturday, drove east on I-70 for 600 miles, dropped the little mongrel with my champion of a mom, and arranged all of this travel out of an airport that is conveniently in the middle of the country. Way to go, Kansas City!

I spent a few days in Minneapolis immersed in meetings, the kind that are engaging and interesting and important but leave your brain feeling like a deflated pufferfish, depleted after all of that, well, puffing. Yesterday, I hopped a flight to California, and today I’m in Anaheim for National Products Expo West. After the craziness of the last week, I’m ill prepared for the extroversion it’s going to take me to get through the next 3 days – but it’s time to gird up my loins (any excuse to use that phrase, really).

It’s been an exhausting time, and the trip isn’t over yet – I still need to fly to Kansas City on Sunday night, and then drive 9 hours back to Denver on Monday. But the cause is noble – because like Schmidt says, “I’m in marketing, the backbone of capitalism. Without it, you’d be dead in two days.” Also known as my new professional motto.

(Also, if you are at the Anaheim Hilton and heard an alarm go off this morning, that was me accidentally opening a door to the roof. I’m sorry, and I hope I don’t get arrested.)

Trollhaugen

Monday, December 16th, 2013

Fear not, loyal readers – despite last week’s ridiculous debacle, Foxy and I have not been nabbed by the Canine Gestapo. It probably helped that I was out of town for the second half of last week, far from the arm of Colorado law in a mystical land called Wisconsin.

Actually, I was only in Wisconsin for one night. The bulk of my trip was spent in Minneapolis, a city I pop in and out of for work – but rather than holing up in a hotel room to order room service and catch up on “The Mindy Project” (not that I would have complained), I opted to spend Friday evening doing as the locals do. In this case, I was swept away to a truly bizarre place: Trollhaugen.

They call Trollhaugen a “ski resort,” but it’s really just a hill in Dresser, Wisconsin. Maybe they piled up some dirt with bulldozers? Who knows. What’s important is that the slopes are open until 3am, which, judging by the festivities I witnessed in the lodge, I can only assume leads to many a drunken concussion. But if there’s anything I’m learning about the folks up north (or as the ‘Sconcies* say, nort’), it’s that they are hearty stock.

Drinks were $3.50 (read: three dollars and fifty cents). I ordered the cheese curds, because when in Wisconsin – although upon delivery, I found them to be nothing more than string cheese nuggets that were battered and fried. Again – NOT COMPLAINING. Just giving you an accurate vision. College-aged kids swept in and out of the lodge all night, en route to another kamikaze run down the snowy hill. I kept my parka on the entire time.

And so the evening passed.

The only people I knew were the band that was playing, so during their set, I did something that I’m finding I quite like: I talked to strangers. For being an introvert, I really love people – and given the three significant moves to different cities in my adult life, as well as my propensity to go places by myself, I’m getting pretty good at talking to the ones I don’t know. The trick is to swallow your pride and get nice and comfortable with the awkward, because of course it will be awkward – at least for the first sentence or two, if not the entire interaction. Oh well, get over it. There are worse things in life than awkwardness (see: tapeworms, the DMV, velour sweatsuits, hangnails, loud talkers on airplanes, paper cuts, grenades, running out of hot water when you still have conditioner in your hair, litter, wet socks, people saying “irregardless,” slow internet, the way your hands feel after peeling an orange, cold sores, SeaWorld, stepping on a thumbtack, dental work, passive aggression, Styrofoam, perhaps the way this blog is ending?).

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*I have zero idea if people from Wisconsin are known as ‘Sconcies, but if it’s not already a thing, please. Let’s make it a thing.