Adios, 2013 and Another Attempt

Well, here we are again.

I've once again told myself (and anyone who might read this) that I was going to update the blog more often, and once again, it has been two months since I posted a single thing. Of course I've been busy. It's the holidays, I've had a lot of knitting to do, we're getting a foot of snow every other day, my puppy won't stop doing adorable things that require photographing (or scolding), I'm planning a wedding...

A fraction of the aforementioned knitting.

Festive apartment!

Curious puppy!

In short, a perfectly ordinary winter.

And while those are all valid excuses and I could offer them up and keep offering them up, I'd rather make time to reflect and actually put together a blog post a couple times a week.

My friend Liz just moved here from South Carolina, and has started a blog devoted to her adventures in Milwaukee. She has an incredible list of very Milwaukee things to do during 2014, and I can't wait to see what happens. Not only does this inspire me to get out more and explore our city together, but it's also reminded me the reasons I started blogging in the first place and how much I enjoyed it. There are a number of reasons - remembering things, improving as a writer, having adventures worth writing about on the internet... so I'm going to try again, again.

2014 will undoubtedly be a year full of adventures. Adventures worth of documentation. Things will happen I won't want to forget. One of my best friends just moved into a house about three blocks from me (YAY!), I get to marry the best person in the whole wide world, I'mgoingtotryrunninganothermarathonsshhdon'ttellanyone, I'm going to attempt to learn how to can things and actually be a decent cook, our puppy is turning the big O-N-E... and who knows what adventures are in store? No doubt, there will be unexpected excursions and I'll probably fail at a few things (hopefully spectacularly - if you're going to fail, do it with gusto), but I'll try to keep track of it all here, and that will help me remember to keep upbeat and find the awesome even when things don't go as planned.

Here's to a happy New Year!


Volunteering For Stuff You Love

A few months ago, I realized a very silly thing. Though I have been a distance runner since approximately 2007 (six years! Woah), I have never volunteered at a race event.

So I signed up to volunteer at the finish line of my first marathon, the marathon I ran last year, the Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon. (AKA... The best marathon. My opinion may be biased.) I received my volunteer placement email early last week and learned I would be working the gear bag pick up area, and if I could come an hour early, they could really use some help yesterday morning.

Every person working gear bag pick up showed up an hour early, coffee in hand and ready to throw some gear bags.

Everyone working gear bag pick up was either a runner or cared very much for someone who is a runner.

It took about an hour to unload the truck, and another 45 minutes to organize the bags (some of which were heavy - I learned later a lot of people pack their own chocolate milk and Gatorade and sandwiches and beer and things for the end of the race - seriously?), and no one complained for one second.

The excitement in the air crackled between us as we tossed bags in order and laughed giddily when we realized we couldn't count. RACE DAY!! Who knew race day was so exciting even when you're not running?

I met a lot of really amazing fellow volunteers, most of whom were fellow marathoners who volunteer for stuff like this because they really, really love running and runners. And of course, because runners talk a lot about running even to people who are not at all interested in running, we talked allllllll about running all morning. We got a little somber when we realized what the police dog was sniffing for amongst our gear bags. Turns out the officer was a runner, too.

And when the runners started coming to the finish line, we cheered. We said congratulations to every single person and I got to make a big fuss whenever I found out it was someone's first marathon, or they had a PR that morning, or they thought they were going to die at mile 18 but pressed on because a child gave them strawberries, or because they were crying and couldn't talk. Everyone thanked us, some people more than once.

No, no no no no no, runners. Thank YOU for running. Thank you for letting me be part of your big ass deal day. It was, truly and honestly, an honor to be even a small part of your marathon experience. I hope your day was as awesome as mine.

So... I highly recommend volunteering for something you love. You probably already do that, because a lot of people have more sense than I do. I know that next year if I'm not running a marathon, I'll certainly be there at the finish line to make a big deal out of everyone, because I love the Milwaukee running community. It's amazingly supportive of everyone - fast, slow, experienced, first-timer, big, small, young, old... you love running, I love running, let's celebrate.


Last weekend The Fiance and I did a canoe race! It was almost an accident - I was searching for duathlons, and found a canoe-run-canoe race in our beautiful state capital.

There were many, many canoes.

Rocky and Bullwinkle started next to us!

It ended at a big party with free beer and food from the Essenhaus!

And we got to portage up to the state capital building. Pretty great day.


I love lazy Sundays.

This has been my day:

My fiance and I got a "new" canoe! He patched it, and we'll take it out later tonight. Just to make sure it works. Just to check.

We dog-sat this weekend for our downstairs neighbors!

I spent the morning on my front deck with Beorn, a Bloody Mary, my garden, and a good book.

I discovered our first cucumber!

And our first pea!

And our second pea!

And some tomatoes!

...and I think that about sums it up.


Oh, right. I have an amazing camera.

A bad thing happened in 2008.

I dropped my Nikon D40 lens-down on a mountain in Ireland.


It hasn't been the same since. The main problem (perhaps the ONLY problem) is that it does not autofocus anymore. This is a problem because I have terrible eyesight and when I use a manual focus lens, things come out less awesome than I would like.

A few months ago, I got an iPod touch, which, essentially, is the same as an iPhone but I can't make calls on it (which... fine. I flat-out refuse to pay for a data plan, so... sorry, iPhone). Now, the iPod/iPhone has a pretty great camera. Unfortunately, I was lulled into what I will call an Instagram stupor and forgot that my Nikon is REALLY a good camera. It's not a great camera, it was the lowest-end DSLR I could get in 2006 when I bought it, but it's better than I need.

I remembered today, and took a few photos at the dog park with Beorn, after which I uploaded those and some other random photos I'd taken in the past few months.

I love this camera, so much. It captures colors beautifully. It's hard to take a really bad photo with it. I just wish autofocus DSLR lenses didn't cost so much. :/ But these are still pretty, despite the not-quite-perfect focus, right?


Have I mentioned that Beorn hates baths?

Allow me to explain the sequence of events that happened to me today.

1) Beorn and I decided we were going to the dog park (well, I decided we were going to the dog park).
2) We get to the dog park. We go to this particular dog park because the one closest to our house has two massive mud puddles that Beorn loooooves to jump in, and this one does not. Also, it is adjacent to a biergarten, so win-win.
3) Someone coming out of the dog park says, "Hey, look out for the mud puddle!"
4) I take this advice and when we enter the dog park, do look for aforementioned mud puddle. I do not see it.
5) Beorn does.
6) Beorn runs to the mud puddle.
7) Beorn sits in the mud puddle.
8) Beorn lies down in the mud puddle.
9) Beorn rolls over. In the mud puddle.
10) Several times.
11) All while ignoring me.
12) I give up and resign myself to the fact that my dog is now completely covered in mud. COMPLETELY. There is mud in his ears. He hates baths, but now... he must have one.
13) Some helpful fellow dog-parkers inform me that hark! There is a pond over yonder!
14) We go to the pond across the street. Beorn immediately jumps in the water and begins swimming.
15) I rejoice!
16) I also enter the water and pour a approximately one tablespoon of water on Beorn's back, which, as we have learned, is receiving a mud-skin-treatment.
18) Beorn sprints up the bank. I am holding the leash and fall in the mud (this seems to be a theme with Beorn and I lately). I try to pour more water on Beorn's back. He runs under a bench, which I run into, cutting my leg. Beorn is shaking and crying. I am trying not to laugh and comfort my dog. I give him a treat. Beorn tries to "shake" with me using both paws and scratches my arms.
19) I decide we are done with the "bath" in the pond.
20) We go to the biergarten. I get myself a lager, and take a photo of the aftermath of this ordeal. We are both tired.

There's probably a lesson here somewhere, but I couldn't tell you what it is.

Songs. There are so many songs.

As you may recall, I am getting married next year. My fiance and I may or may not have a DJ - we're on a budget, so chances are we won't. Which means... we get to come up with our wedding playlist ourselves!

Now, there are a few things that will definitely be on the list. Michael Jackson - PYT. Tupac - California Love. Biggie - Hypnotize. But there's a lot of time up for grabs.

What are your must-have wedding playlist songs? We're not super-poppy people, but we do like to dance. Old skool is where it's at. Any great suggestions?


Simple things are hard and I am a hot mess.

This has been A Week. A very, very frustrating week.

It started on Sunday, when I attempted to make a variety of different very simple foods (think pasta salad, but with only pasta and like, one other ingredient) and failed at every. Single. One.

Then I fell up the concrete stairs to our duplex while carrying my bike, which resulted in my legs being all sorts of lovely colors. This wouldn't be a big deal, except that the building in which I work may not actually have air conditioning. This leaves me with the choice of being sweaty and gross all day wearing pants to cover my red-purple-yellow-blue legs, or hey, self - just man up and wear a skirt and be more comfortable.

So I tried to match my cardigans to my bruises this week. For the most part, it went okay.

A variety of less-interesting, slightly more severe sneaky hate spiral-y things happened. Then, yesterday morning as I was leaving for work... the puppy saw a bunny.

Now, we have a puppy. He is nearly six months old, which makes him almost NOT a puppy, but I'm told that dogs act like puppies until they're about two, so... he's still very much a puppy. For the most part, he is adorable and does things like this:

He is not interested in hunting bunnies. He is not interested in eating bunnies. He just saw a small, fluffy thing bouncing around our yard as I was leaving for work and taking him to doggy day care, and he thought, "Hey! That's my best friend! Oh, Fluffbottom McBunnybuns, you are my new best friend even though we've never met and we are natural enemies! Come play with me!"

Unfortunately, I had been lulled into a false sense of security by Beorn (aforementioned puppy). Until yesterday, when I took him to doggy day care as I was leaving for work, he would run around the yard like a giddy little schoolboy, perhaps pee, and then bound over to me as soon as I opened the car door, knowing that wherever we went, we were going on a grand adventure together.

Fluffbottom McBunnybuns changed everything.

Beorn bounded into the tall grass after his new bunny "friend." Beorn is not tall enough for me to see in this grass, and decided he did not want to listen to me telling him with great "calm and assertive" (*cough*caesarmillan*cough*) voice that he ought to "COME BEORN." Oh no!

Beorn decided his new favorite thing, since he could not play with Fluffer McBunnybuns, was to run around the yard getting muddy (did I mention that it has been pouring here for the last four days? It has). What fun Beorn had! I, the stupid owner, attempted to lure him with treats! I attempted to call to him in an excited tone! I attempted to step on Beorn's leash as he sprinted past me in circles!

I fell many times in the mud. I fell on gravel. I fell on my own car keys. I fell in the wet grass. I fell and my shoes fell off. I fell in my work clothes.

This went on for, I am not joking, ten minutes. Beorn is the slowest dog at the dog park, but he is  still significantly faster than I am. I only caught up to him when he stopped to poop. And let me tell you, I am a really nice person, but it was really hard to explain to Beorn in a calm tone of voice that he was being a little poophead.

And that is the story of how I went to work covered in mud and my own blood yesterday. I am a hot mess, and a responsible grown-up, and totally have my stuff together.


Buying your wedding dress and other traumatic experiences

Quick wedding-related post for today... I bought my wedding dress last week!

If you know me in real life, you know I'm not a super picky person about clothes.


My "style," if you can even call it that, is very, very laid-back. Most of the time I'm not at work you'll find me wearing some kind of superhero/Star Wars/Doctor Who/Wisconsin sportsball related t-shirt, because I am a mature grown-up lady-person. If I'm really feeling fancy, I'll wear a shirt without any sort of logo or symbol on it and attempt to look cute, but that's not usual. I am not a girly person by any means. I am the only woman I know who has never voluntarily gotten a pedicure.

You can see how wedding planning has been sort of a challenge. I don't have a "vision," I don't have "colors." Basically, I just want to get married and throw all our friends a great party with awesome food.

That isn't to say I don't enjoy dressing up and looking nice - I do! I have lots of dresses that I wear for special occasions, lots of sundresses I wear when it's hot, and I am capable of throwing on a cute pair of boots with some kind of sassy shirt and looking like I know how to dress myself as a grown-up.

So I was thinking that finding a wedding dress was going to be a pretty laid-back affair. I wasn't married (get it?) to a particular style of dress, and there were only a few things that were absolutely out (mermaid silhouettes. Looking like Amy Adams at the beginning of Enchanted). I had a few things I was hoping to include in the dress, but wasn't totally set on a single thing.

And then I went dress shopping. Oy.

I went to a wide variety of bridal shops. I went to two very fancy boutiques downtown where I discovered that the price range listed on their websites included perhaps two dresses at the low end, but loved the people and the help I got there and found some dresses that were definitely beautiful, and I looked nice in, but were someone else's dresses. I also found two that were "pretty nice." While my entourage was wowed, I was not overly enthusiastic. They were pretty nice. They were fine. Most of the dresses I tried on were too much. Not too much money necessarily, just TOO MUCH DRESS for me. Even the ones that weren't poofy were just... too much. They weren't "Jess."

I went twice to a certain very large chain store twice where I had a great attendant once and found another "pretty nice" dress. The second time I went to aforementioned large chain store, my experience was not as great and got to the point where things were going so wrong, my moral support and I all found it very funny. I tried on the "pretty nice" actually-almost-perfect dress from the first visit and asked to speak with the alterations person, who took twenty minutes to come speak to me, only to immediately say, "No, there is no way. We can't do that." My radical alteration request? Make the straps slightly thinner.

So... forget that, I guess.

I was very discouraged at this point because I was ready to buy that dress that day, provided they could reassure me of the alterations I wanted. This was the sixth time I'd been out shopping and I was ready to throw on this ill-fitting white sundress I have and call it quits (which would have been totally fine, but for the ill-fitting part). My mom suggested we try one more place.

The attendant I had at the last store was wonderful. I told her what I'd liked about other dresses I'd tried, and she pulled a few dresses for me. My mom, my friend Shelly and I pulled a few more.

I wound up buying the very first dress my attendant had thought of. It has everything I wanted. I keep going to the designer's website and looking at it, which I didn't do with any of the previous dresses I thought I'd be buying, so that has to be a good sign. It was juuuuust under my budget. It felt like mine. I will not be posting a picture of it on the Internet until after the wedding.

And oh gosh, I hope it fits in a year!

And to show you how classy I am, I have to go because my toilet has just started overflowing.

Until next time!


Update #3 - We get a puppy.

My fiance and I have been talking about getting a dog for a couple years. I, personally, have literally been talking about getting a dog since I could verbalize it (my second word, ever, after "mum-MAH" was "dog dog dog"). We knew that we wanted a rescue or shelter dog, and preferred a large or extra-large breed (or mutt).

We moved into our own place about a year ago, and our landlord gave us permission to have a dog after we agonized about asking her for about six months (I'm bad at asking for stuff. Really bad at asking for stuff). At that point, we started looking on PetFinder for Newfoundland mix puppies or young-ish adult dogs. After calling a few rescues and shelters, we found and set up a time to go meet Newfoundland/Lab mix puppy... Gizmo.

These are Gizmo's PetFinder photos. How could we not go see him?

He was in a foster home with about ten other dogs, including one of his brothers, who we were also interested in meeting. When we got there, Gizmo immediately came to me and Curly, the other puppy, immediately went to my fiance. We spent about twenty minutes agonizing over which to choose, and eventually went home with Gizmo (my fiance said he seemed more "chill." That has not continued. Also, Curly peed on the floor, but hey, he's a puppy and that wasn't a deal breaker).

Anyway, Gizmo became our dog.

This is him in the car on the way home. We were prepared for him to absolutely freak out on the ride (I'm a librarian, we did lots of research before this trip), so I sat in the back with him. However, he was a total rock star and sat on my lap, looked out the window, put his little head on my leg, and then curled up and went to sleep for the duration of the ride.

We named him Beorn for a number of reasons ("Bjorn" means bear in several Scandanavian languages, and Beorn is the guy in The Hobbit who can turn into a bear... and our little pup looked like a bear cub, right?). He is the sweetest, smartest, best puppy in the world.

He's grown a little since then (tripled in size, actually), but the vet doesn't think he's going to be huge. We're not convinced he is a Newfoundland mix, but whatever he is, he is the right dog for us. We love him, and if he ever meets you, he'll love you.

He tolerates almost anything, loves playing with all other dogs and adores everyone he meets. The only thing on earth he doesn't love is taking baths, which is unfortunate, because he does love mud. We're working on that.


Next thing: I got engaged

I've been putting this off for a few days because I'm not entirely sure what to say about it.

I got engaged!

I've been with my fiance for about 6 and a half years (wow, that sounds like a long time). We met on a canoe trip. He proposed Christmas night, and I obviously said yes. He's pretty much the best person I know. He's not really on the internet, so he probably won't show up here much, so you'll have to just trust me on that. He's definitely not Batman, that's not why I'm keeping him off the internet. Nope.

Definitely not Batman.

Don't know why I even brought that up.

Definitely not.

Moving on...

We're getting married next May, right in our neighborhood! It'll be a thoroughly Milwaukee affair, and I'm very excited about it, despite the fact that I am very bad at party planning and that's essentially what this is.

It'll all work out. More details on all that later.

Up next: We got a puppy!


I ran a marathon. A whole, legit marathon. 26.2 miles.

As previously mentioned, a lot has happened since I last updated this blog. I'll take the biggest things in the order in which they happened.

I ran a marathon.

Let me explain why this was such a big deal. It occurred to me, the other day, running a little piddly 3 mile run, that it took me a loooooooong time to start loving running. I started running in 2005, when I realized that I was going to be "the fat bridesmaid" at my best friend's wedding, and I decided I didn't want that (yes, it's a totally stupid reason to get active, but it is what it is, and whatever the original motivation, I'm glad it happened). I stopped eating meat and junk and drinking soda. I started running, for the first time in my life. I hated it, but I did it almost every day. The first year I ran, I didn't run a single race - I was too embarrassed. I didn't think running races was meant for people like me (out of shape women with low self-esteem).

Then I lost 65 pounds.

I started thinking that maybe... just maybe... maybe I could run a 5k. I kept telling myself how much I didn't like running, but I kept doing it. I ran a 5k in downtown Madison without telling anyone. And it was awesome.

I ran incredibly slow. I wasn't even close to a decent finish in my age group, but I ran the whole thing, it was easy, and it was fun.

I went to grad school. I got a master's degree. I moved to Green Bay. And all of a sudden, I ran FIVE MILES. All in a row. At the same time. I blew my own mind, because I realized after the first 3 miles that I was going to RUN 5 miles. I was going to do it. I did it. And loved it.

I ran my first half marathon in 2010. It was in the town where I went to college during Oktoberfest. I'm not sure exactly why I decided on this as my first half, since there was a 2:30 time limit (they had to start the Oktoberfest parade, you know), and I fully anticipated not finishing, but I was going to TRY.

And I finished in 2:05.

That's not a fast half-marathon time, and I didn't finish near the top of my age group (I've accepted that this will never happen). But for me, it was unreal. I ran half a marathon! Who does that?

Then I moved back to Milwaukee. I'm not sure what the initial spark was, but in January of 2012, I registered for the Lakefront Marathon, and a few days later realized I was going to run a marathon in October. I was going to run the hell out of the Lakefront Marathon.

Which is exactly what I did. I ran the hell out of the Lakefront Marathon.

I wrote a long, probably very boring race recap the night after the race, but in short, I couldn't have asked for a more perfect first marathon. It was slow, but I ended with six miles that were by far (about a minute/mile) my fastest of the entire race. I hit the wall at mile 20, and finally discovered what people mean by "runner's high" shortly thereafter when I got to my neighborhood and realized... I was going to finish a marathon. I was going to finish a marathon in a neighborhood I loved and had already run countless miles in, in a city I adore. It was amazing.

Not sure I'll ever do it again, but definitely recommended at least once. :)

Next time: I got engaged.


Many things.

Well, it's been quiiiiiite some time since I updated this, hasn't it?

Must resolve to do better.

I ran a marathon.

I got a puppy.

I got engaged.

There is much to say.

I'll start tomorrow.