certified kindred

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My legs ache, my hands are blistered, and the goofy symbols on my wrists are making me laugh.  A certified FP+KS+BF came to visit, and memories of the blissful three days are stamped all over my body.
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Some confusion?  Leg pains from biking the city, blisters from paddleboarding the lakes, and ink marks from bouncers insisting we need an X-on-the-wrist to enter. Oh, and FP = Favorite Person, KS = Kindred Spirit, and BF = Best Friend.  Did anyone solve that equation without the explanation?
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Acronyms and text lingo get all kinds of negative press, but, more and more, I’m finding myself adapting the language to create new ways of saying things.  There might be some initial confusion, sure, but perhaps the new sayings become commonplace with time?  I mean, why not describe people as certified FP+KS+BF?
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I check Urban Dictionary every morning as part of my coffee+pandora+’check the news’ routine. I told Emily my favorite ‘new words of the month,’ and now I’m sharing them with you:Screen Shot 2014-07-11 at 8.24.31 AM
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And now I’ve essentially gotten away from telling you about my dear friend, Emily.  The two of us met while nannying for neighboring families in Milan, and we’ve remained friends evvva since. Emily went to law school in California while I volunteered in Mexico, and then she moved to New York when I started grad school in Chicago.  A bit of jaunting around the country, and now she’s in Texas and I’m in Minnesota.
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We’ve managed to visit each other in all the cities I just mentioned, and the travel has me musing about the importance of commitment over convenience in friendship.  Yes, it’d be great if we could be BFF with the people in our town, but there’s something beautiful about committing to a friendship that travels around this great big world.

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color me 101

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It’s easy to be heavy and hard to be light.  I have half a dozen mantras that play through my mind at any given time, but that simple reminder to feel and spread joy might be my favorite.  Yesterday began with a girls brunch at a rizty downtown hot spot, and once the kate/apple/spinach smoothies were gone and the bills were paid, we decided to paint pottery at popular children’s art studio.  
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As you might imagine, we were the oldest guests by at least 10 years, but we spent three good hours giggling, chatting, creating, and wondering whether brunch&painting should become a Saturday morning ‘thing.’  The painting made us hungry, so we got ice cream with every.single.topping.  Of course, the children around us munched on classic concoctions like ‘vanilla with sprinkles.’  As for us?  Bring on the circus animal cookies and cookie dough bites.
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The day ended with a trip to the dog park where we got into a discussion about ideal age.  A friend said that she loved being playful and was pretty sure she was meant to be 15, always.  Then another friend, Gigi, told us her grandpa’s theory that everyone has an age they ‘hold onto’ – so if you really love being 15, for example, you live like you’re 15 for the rest of your days.  
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I’ve been surprised at how I’ve enjoyed every age more than the one before it- 16 was great, 17 was better, and so forth – and I have this feeling that I’m not at my ‘ideal age’ just yet.  Something tells me it’s going to be 31?  If I’m lucky, it’s 101, right?  

I was about to wrap this up, but now I’m wondering why we have so many movies where children wish to be adults – 13 going on 30, BIG, etc – but not so many where adults become children?  Wonder why?  Any thoughts?  And, perhaps more important, what’s your ideal age?

kindred spring

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I used to marvel at the likelihood of meeting a kindred spirit in a world that spins round with nearly 7 billion people.  Lately, however, the experience of meeting someone new and quickly feeling like I’ve known them forever and always is becoming… dare I say, normal?  There seems to be many more kindred spirits than I ever imagined – perhaps I wasn’t looking in the right places before?

Or maybe we get better at identifying similar souls as we grow older?  Our personalities solidify and then we attract people that recognize shared interests and values?  What do you think?  Does finding kindred spirits become easier as we age?
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Perhaps it’s something unconnected to age?  When I think about bonds that formed quickly, I can usually find a shared experience or unique interest that helped to solidify the friendship.  I’ve met close friends while traveling abroad and starting new ‘life-stages’ and moving to foreign places.  Sometimes its been as simple as happening upon a ‘you too!?’ moment in the middle of an otherwise ordinary conversation.
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And now, having pondered the connection between kindred spirits, age, and shared experience, I wonder what role location plays in the equation?  Do kindred spirits gravitate toward similar places where running into one another is not only possible, but likely?
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Kindred spirits were on my mind yesterday as I cut and stitched and sewed fabric of navy and pink into a new spring outfit.  You see my bucket list picture just above?  It’s the top of a suitcase that Jon and I used as a guestbook at our wedding.  We each listed 3 things that we wanted to do as individuals, and then we asked people to help us build our ‘married bucket-list.’  
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The third item on my individual bucket list was to sew a dress.  My mother-in-law gave me a sewing machine for Christmas, and ever since I’ve been doing little projects to prepare myself for the project.  I’m not gifted enough just yet, but I am getting pretty close: today I sewed a scarf and shorts.  

What do you think?  Should I try a dress next, or should I continue the baby steps and do a skirt?

gem garden

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Make new friends but keep the old – one is silver and the other’s gold.  If you were a girl scout in the late 90’s then you might remember that little rhyme about making and keeping friends. Problem is, my husband doesn’t think the little ditty holds any truth.

We were having brunch on Sunday, and I mentioned that I was joining a new book club.  Jon reminded me that I’m already in two.  Yes, yes, but they only read one book every 3 months, so it’s very manageable.  Okay, but what about your new photography class and your Junior League stuff?  And will you still have time for your volunteer commitments and yoga?  I justify that everything lands on different days and fits together quite nicely.
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And then Jon explains: Joining is kind of like making friends – you don’t want to spread yourself too thin.  He says I should focus my time on building close friendships with the people that I care about the most.  In a similar fashion, it’s generally best to master one thing before experimenting with anything else.  A matter of quality over quantity, really.
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But as for me? I love meeting new people and making new friends and introducing everyone.  The more the merrier, right?  Same thing with hobbies and activities – I’m always eager to dive-in and try something new.

So what’s the right balance?  Maintain an intimate group of friends, or bring people together? Join lots of activities, or perfect a skill before moving onto something else?
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PS- Did you figure out the riddle in the photos?  They are out-takes from a community mural I did last summer.

give me details

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Up down and around six times and all for what?  It seems, more and more, that people are driven to fill their schedules with work and dates and trips and projects and whatever else comes to mind.  The end result? We’re experimenting and working and leading lives that are, well, busy.

And busy is better than boring, right?  The old saying goes that ‘if you’re bored, you’re boring’ and no one wants that. 

I had brunch with friends this weekend and phrases like ‘I don’t know where the time goes’ and ‘there’s just too much to do’ popped up throughout the meal.  Worrisome words, if you ask me, because there’s not much time for focusing on the details when you’re rushing to and fro.
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And the details are the important things, right?  Don’t just have a conversation with your friend, listen to what they say and how they say it and leave space for a big laugh or three.  When you’re baking a cake, enjoy the process and make sure you share a piece or two with a neighbor. And when it comes to work?  Take your time on projects and note how you could do better or improve your process. Image
There won’t be time for everything when you slow down and focus on the details.  And, if you ask me, that’s a good thing.  Thoreau says we should “simplify, simplify, simplify” in order to focus on things that fill us with passion and give us purpose.  I couldn’t agree more – quality over quantity every single time.  Image
I made valentine’s for friends the other day, and I was thinking about quality and quantity in relation to social media.  Social media isn’t one area where we’re encouraged to simplify, is it?  On the contrary, it’s constant parade of connections and follows and friends and likes.  We might have 1,500 friends or 17,000 followers, but how do we judge the quality of those relationships?  Could you send all your online friends a handmade valentine? Image

jump up & get down

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I got asked on a date Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, and I’m feeling pretty good about a weekend lineup of brunch, movies and a kite festival.  Lucky for me, my husband is out of town. 

A little preview into what I’m taking about here:  

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Just to be clear, Kitty Cat Klub is a coffee shop/wine bar in downtown Minneapolis.  I feel like the name leaves too much to the imagination not to provide an explanation.  But anyway, I digress.

Books and movies and blogs and magazines consistently offer advice on dating as it pertains to romantic relationships, but where is the discussion as it pertains to friends?  Perhaps most people call being with your friends ‘hanging-out,’ but my friends and I take our girl nights pretty seriously — we dub them “friend-dates.”  

Friend dates are different than simply watching movies or going for walks or chatting over tea — they are designed to ensure that some of our best experiences our happening with our closest friends.  Every Wednesday, I’m doing something called “Surprise Night” with my friends Chrissy and Lauren.  Come again?  Surprise night means we take turns planning a fun adventure for each other.  Today we went to a trampoline center:
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I came up with some other fun ideas for ‘dating your friends’:
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1.  A-Z:  This is a dinner club that goes to restaurants according to the order of the alphabet.  The first week you go to a restaurant that starts with the letter A, the second week you dine somewhere that starts with the letter B, and the dining continues til you reach the letter Z 🙂

2.  Sip:  Why take wine and cheese classes when you could learn with a weekly girls’ night?  This group works by making a list of wines you want to try, and then meeting once a week to share the bottle.  Red, white and vine.  

3.  Groupon:  Each week someone picks a Groupon to try, and then everyone gets together for the painting class or workout session or concert on a designated day. Bonus that it’s on a sale, right?  

4.  Surprise:  As I mentioned above, this is something I do with my friends: simply take turns surprising each other with fun nights out on the town.  Good for the adventurous bunch.  

5.  Cook Book:  Pick a cook book with your friends, and then get together each week to create a new recipe.  Eventually you’ll make everything in the book and, as a bonus, become pretty skillful in the kitchen.  

6.  Neighborhood Night:  The name pretty much says it all: pick a night of the week, and then plan an adventure in a local neighborhood or suburb of the city.  A fun way to get outside your comfort zone and learn about the hidden gems lurking nearby.

7.  Read It:  The good old fashioned book club.  The most popular girl on the list because it doesn’t get much better than discussing good books with great friends.

8.  Make it:  We all have unique talents and skills, so why not enjoy learning from one another?  My friends and I do this pretty frequently, and it works like so: one person picks a recipe/craft/project that they want to do, and then everyone gets together to do it with them.  More convenient than signing up for classes at the local college.

9.  TV Show:  This one is just too easy/fun to leave off the list.  If you’re anything like me, you’re probably already watching your favorite guilty pleasure with a gaggle of girls every Monday night at 7pm on ABC.  Yep. I admitted it.  But, really, your show can be anything – just an excuse to get together.  Make sure someone brings popcorn and/or cupcakes. 

10.  Connoisseur:  Is there something that all of you enjoy?  sushi or artwork or music or hiking?  If so, make it your mission to find the best handroll/painting/band/hill in the city.  When everything has been tried, vote on the best.

Do you date your friends?  Do you have a standing girls’ night of some sort? 

lucky stars collide

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It’s hard to imagine many things happier than living together in a city filled with friends.  That’s all most of us can ask for, right?  To be grounded in a city where we feel connected to the people around us.  To be able to throw a dinner party at the behest of a phone-call or two.

A month after we got engaged, Jon received a job offer from a company in Mondovi, Wisconsin – a town of 2,700.  Mondovi’s claim-to-fame is that there isn’t a street-light in the entire town.  Residents may roam freely.  

When we first met, Jon’s job required working late-nights (midnight on a week day) and weekend hours (usually Saturday and Sunday from noon-five).  I wanted to be able to spend more time together, and Jon promised to make that happen.  Perhaps, I shouldn’t have been too surprised when he came home with a bottle of champagne and a map.  Beggars can’t choosers, after all. 
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Deciding to leave Chicago – my sweet family, my friends, and my job – was incredibly scary.  I’d moved half a dozen times in my life, but this was the first time it felt like leaving home.  

Why the sudden unease?  Previous moves had come with a built-in social network, a group of friends that would make transitioning more comfortable. When you start college, for example, you’re beginning a new life with thousands of other people that are embarking on a new journey. With a bit of luck, you’ll experience the ups-and-downs of college alongside people that will become lifelong friends.

We lived in Mondovi for just over a year, and then Jon’s company moved us to downtown Minneapolis.  Once again, I felt uncomfortable about the move and the prospect of making new friends.  Rumors that Minneapolites were as cold as the weather made me nervous:

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New Years Eve marked 7 months in Minneapolis, and Jon and I decided to spend the evening sipping champagne and playing games with friends.  I went shopping for party crowns and horns and hats before the event, and as I tried to match celebratory gear to my friends’ personalities, I felt overwhelmed with gratitude for all the truly kind people I’ve met here.  

The Minneapolites that I call friends are down-to-earth, genuine, and fun.  Mixing a group of them together for an NYE party made for a perfect night.  When the clock struck midnight, I kissed my sweetheart and thanked my lucky stars that our adventures had landed us in such lovely company.
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make it pop

Is there a more important task than cultivating a grateful heart?  When we learn to recognize the smallest blessings, we’re able to truly appreciate the people and moments that make our lives special.

November inspires reflection on the multitude of gifts in our lives, and gratitude lists seem to be pop pop popping up on all sorts of social media.  These lists are wonderful, but I think it’s important that we remember to actually give thanks for our blessings.

Today I wrote gratitude letters to a few people who consistently make my life more positive.  To make the project a little more fun, I put the letters inside confetti poppers.  That said, make it pop!
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“In the end, though, maybe we must all give up trying to pay back the people in this world who sustain our lives. In the end, maybe it’s wiser to surrender before the miraculous scope of human generosity and to just keep saying thank you, forever and sincerely, for as long as we have voices.” — Elizabeth Gilbert

turnip the beet

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Weird is wonderful and the silliest people are my favorite.  That’s the mentality that makes a fanny-pack-attack a typical Sunday night adventure.

I told Lauren that fanny packs were making a comeback, and rather than question my line of reasoning, she simply replied that fanny packs could hold large quantities of chalk.  Smart girl, right?

Lauren skipped the fashion debate and suggested a sidewalk art project.  A couple texts later we decided that I would sew two fanny packs, fill them with chalk, and meet her outside our apartment at 7pm.   By nightfall, we had covered the sidewalks outside our building with a dozen happy messages. Rah rah rah, y’all. ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage1-IMG_93191-IMG_93241-IMG_9327

monster bash

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Misunderstood monsters are all invited to my house next Monday night.  That’s right, I’m hosting a monster bash: a celebratory fête for all the good hearts crying out from inside a somewhat disfigured facade.

What’s that?  You’re a helpful ghost? A big friendly giant? A monster afraid of the dark? Come one and come all.  I’m having a spooky movie night and i’m inviting my closest friends and all misunderstood goblins.

My closet friends, however, will need to wear a spooky sweater to the monster bash.  I’ve decided that ugly sweater parties shouldn’t always be reserved for Christmas.  Let’s start rocking the heavy knits a little sooner, shall we?  Here are my top picks:

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As for the entertainment, my friends have requested the following:

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Do you have a halloween tradition?  Any suggestions for the spooky movie marathon?