BINGO & Serums – 24 hours in Excelsior Springs

Friday evening in Excelsior Springs, Missouri, 7 p.m.

It’s BINGO night at the American Legion. $12 buy-in and one glance at the “cheat sheet” tells me I’m already over my head. We don’t have any daubbers, but thankfully the two women whose table we’ve joined have a rainbow collection and they’re kind enough to share so we can use our remaining cash on cheese fries and ginger ale.

Our table-mates give us pointers on how to really do BINGO:

  • Pre-mark your card because the games we’ll be playing are not your simple five-across and it’s easier to focus only on the squares you need to win.
  • Watch the screen, so you can get a jump on marking your card for the next call.
  • BYO paper bag to peel off and trash your used, loser sheets.

I was an absolute disgrace, daydreaming in the middle of the games so I’d get behind in marking my cards.

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We wound up here on a whim, a left turn in search of dinner after a day relaxing at the spa at The Elms. We’re younger and gigglier than the rest of the crowd, but under the wing of Janice and her mother-in-law, we’re learning the ropes and having fun.

I accidentally toss my pre-marked final BINGO card into the paper bag with the losers, and I’m ready to just let that be that. But Janice paws through everything with me until we find it – just in time. And, life lesson: It’s a winner.

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The American Legion in Excelsior Springs, Missouri, has never heard the blend of cheer/screech/laughing as erupted from our table. A $100 payout! Our tablemates get a cut of the winnings and the rest is just enough for our pizza, salad and beer tab down the street at Dubious Claims Brewing. We leave giddy. This is not the actual winning card, but you get the picture. We were a crew.

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The next morning, after yoga in the gazebo, salt scrubs, sauna and serum* time, we met up with Janice in the parking lot of the Walmart. She gifted us a mason jar of her homemade hooch (an Everclear, Koolaid, Strawberry concoction) so we were sure that the night before hadn’t just been a strange but wonderful dream.

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(Christa gifted me an incredible lovely face oil from STL-based LARK Skin Co. and now I’m a fancy lady whose skincare routine will involve more than drug store moisturizer. I love everything Christa has been doing through her Instagram to encourage people to consider how to pursue more sustainable choices!)

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Runners run, writers write

This month was about making good on promises to myself.

Last winter, I felt like I was getting further away from the person I wanted to be. I know there’s a lot of commercialized talk about “self care” now, and I’m all about getting a pedicure or indulging in some little treat that helps buoy you. But at a deeper level, I knew to I needed to look at the aspects of my life that I had been neglecting and come up with a plan to reconnect with a few of the things that make me feel like I can bring my best self to the world.

So I signed up to run a 20K. Running was a bit part of my high school experience, and I ran a few half marathons in my 20s. My distance running has been pretty nonexistent lately, as in the past six years since having kids. The June 1 DAM to DSM race was a compact with myself, a deadline to get moving. It inspired me to sign up for a 6-week challenge with Burn Bootcamp this winter (which involved 5:30 a.m. workouts that I was surprised to appreciate!) and to take up a weird practice of listening to OnBeing podcasts while running on the treadmill and watching HGTV shows with the closed captions on, like a total weirdo. I embraced a quick run before the kids woke up, or in random half-hours that I used to spend scrolling the internet.

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And I did it! My longest training run was probably five miles, so I was very nervous heading into the 12-miler. But we had wonderfully cool weather, and I felt amazing out on the course. I wasn’t fast, but I finished just under the 2:30 target I’d set. And, the kids joined me on a jogging loop at mile 10 around Union Park, and were super excited to see me finish. I am seriously considering signing up for Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth next June, before my old knees give out.

The second thing I set for myself was to sign up for a workshop through the Iowa Summer Writing Festival. I chose “All those pages” a novel-writing session with the author Sandra Scofield.

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The last time I took a creative writing workshop was as an undergrad at Mizzou, and I absolutely loved it. My short story was published in Epic, the student journal, but pretty much everything else I’ve done has been journalism. And this blog. The idea of walking into a group of strangers and sharing my idea — an idea I’ve hardly spoken about at all, and definitely haven’t committed much time to — was terrifying.

The workshops are capped at 12 people, so it was an intimate roundtable of writers. Sandra’s workshop helped us focus on the “aboutness” of our novel, and helped us tighten our ideas into statements that convey the plot, the theme, the tension.

When the workshop started, she challenged me and pushed me and I questioned whether I had enough to work from. But by the end of the weekend, I left with an outline that gave me much more clear direction and confidence. The other writers in the workshop asked each other questions about our work, and made suggestions on areas we were struggling.

It was energizing to be in a room with a bunch of people who had committed to their ideas, and were honing their craft. I don’t know it my book will get published, but I am committing to at least writing it. Like the race, it’s about setting a goal and putting in the miles.

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Mother’s Day alternative bouquet

Today was gray and green, with a mini adventure to two spots just outside of Des Moines that I’ve been wanting to visit for awhile.

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Harvey’s Greenhouse in Adel is the backdrop for many a hipster photo shoot, and it seemed like a good spot to pick up some plant babies and escape the dreariness.

We came home with a succulent, spider plant, coleus and a cactus that looks like a bunch of Muppet thumbs. Quite the alternative bouquet for Mother’s Day.

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Not far from there is the Brenton Arboretum, which we decided to explore on a whim. Mental note: Pack a picnic or at least some snacks, because the smoothie at 1 p.m. was not enough to tide Eileen over for three hours of exploring. Real life frolic in the crab apple trees with my little crab apple:

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Thankfully, the rain held off for the afternoon. The kids were delighted by the nature playscape. Emmett especially enjoyed climbing the enormous fallen tree stump. And I was psyched to see they have a labyrinth. I’m hoping we can return later this summer to see how different everything looks as the season progresses. Love the idea of hosting an event in the Pavilion, too.

The Brenton Arboretum is another one of the spots that Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden members get into for free, as a reciprocal benefit! You can still use HUMMINGBIRD at checkoff to get $10 off.

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One is silver and the other gold

Make new friends, but keep the old / One is silver and the other gold. — Girl Scout Song

Growing up, the Bennett house down the street was like a second home. Terri was a year ahead of me in school, Danny a year behind my brother Kevin. And since ours were the first houses built in a new subdivision development, we found each other quickly. When we got older, the boys would dismantle and rebuild computers together, and Terri and I founded an earring company and would spend afternoons building a Caboodle full of inventory. Our hours together was mostly unstructured, figure-out-a-way-to-entertain-yourselves time.

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I love how that early neighborhood friendship is still a part of my life, and now I’m seeing those goofy giddy bonds forming with my kids. We’re fortunate to have a good crew of families within a few blocks who swap kids around for dinners and impromptu playtime. It feels so good to fling open the doors in the spring weather and see who’s walking down the street. Eileen’s girl gang is shaping up.

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I’ve noticed this year that I’ve been much more intentional about checking in with my friends and making time to be together. And it’s making me so happy. Sometimes I go through periods of feeling isolated, or disconnected, but it’s often when I forget that friendship is a two-way street and I’ve put obstacles in my lane.

A magical getaway full of laughter in Florida with my high school girlfriends happened over spring break, and now I’ve finally booked a weekend with my college besties at this sweet KC-area spa.

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It’s blowing my mind to think that I’ve been in Des Moines four times longer now than I was in high school and college (!!!!) and there are women here who have known me ever since. I’ve kept up with my “Book It” book club, many of whom I met through the East Village stationery + more shop Ephemera in our early 20s. I write those club nights on my calendar in permanent marker.

I’m pretty terrible at remembering and celebrating birthdays, so I’m trying to just let people know that I’m thinking of them in an un-calendared way. Sometimes it’s a quick check-in text with a long-distance friend, an I-have-8-minutes-to-chat-while-I-walk-the-dog call, a Marco Polo message or even a quick, handwritten note.

Making friends as an adult can be hard, but I started reaching out to a few women who have been in my “orbit” of kids/work but who I didn’t really feel like I knew one-on-one, and have had breakfast with them after drop-off and before work. It’s been such an energizing way to start the day.

All of these little touch points — some inspired by my kids new friendships — are making me more fully appreciate the beautiful field of friends that I have sown and whose tending is such a joy.

How do you stay friends? 

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Terrarium time & other things I’m into

I left my house just twice this past weekend (once to work out and once to buy Girl Scout cookies/pick up library books because #balance) and am gearing up for a full spring ahead.

Last week, at the height of when-will-winter-end despair, I briefly escaped the Iowa tundra with two trips to the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden. The first trip was to remind the kiddos what humidity feels like, and then mid-week I took a class (there was even wine involved!) on how to make terrariums and brought home this cutie:

It now also has one of Emmett’s special rocks and a bright orange plastic frog in it because the kids insisted on some extras after I got her home. I’ve crossed my fingers I can keep this little ecosystem happy.

We got a household membership to the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden through a hummingbird promotion, and if you’re considering it you can get $10 off using the code HUMMINGBIRD (through 12/31). I love having memberships to some of our favorite Des Moines attractions because, in addition to discounts on classes, the shop and restaurant:

a) it’s easy to say yes to a bunch of quick visits vs feeling like you have to commit a whole day to a trip there. We pack a little snack and board game and spend an hour hanging out on the mezzanine.

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b) They come with reciprocal benefits to like attractions in many other cities and the Des Moines memberships are so much more affordable! We can use the Botanical Garden membership at the Morton Arboretum outside Chicago which is amazing. And our local Arboretums in Iowa, etc.

My next visit will probably be with a book because I picked up a nice little stack this weekend. Ok, I’ll admit I already devoured “Where the Crawdads Sing” over the past two days. It wasn’t as lyrical as the last book I read and the folksy southern dialect was a little irritating at times, but it’s a page-turner.

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I’m also ridiculously excited to catch a mini spring break in the sunshine with my high school besties. A “we should do a girls trip this year” text chain escalated quickly a couple of weeks ago while I was in the midst of a facilitation training and I was suddenly scrambling for a flight to Florida.

We don’t leave for two weeks but my bag is already literally packed. Let me know if you have any Delray Beach recommendations!

Until my flight, I’m going to just curl up with a book and my terrarium to remember what a gloriously green world looks like!

Oh, and p.s. totally not related to anything else, except wanted to say that Russian Doll on Netflix is the first show I’ve binge-watched in forever. The first few episodes, especially, felt much more film-like than show-like to me. And now I’m super interested in reading the Emily of New Moon books by the L.M. Montgomery of Anne of Green Gables Fame, because it keeps getting referenced in an otherwise very M.A. themed series.

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Make it OK

Last night, I had the privileged of attending the unveiling of Mind Matters, a temporary exhibit at the Science Center of Iowa intended to raise awareness around and reduce the stigma of mental illness.

SCI gets to host the exhibit, which originated in Minnesota, before it’s booked out for five years to other museums. And, Capital Crossroads committees have programmed a series of events tied to the run. (On day one in my new job, I got to jump into the planning for the “Understanding Cultural and Racial Trauma” session!) We’re also incredibly grateful to donors who are backing a free day on March 10 so anyone in the community can access the exhibit and accompanying resource fair.

I knew I wanted to share a photo from the event to help spread the word that it was happening, and my typical promo-type post was going to say something thanking all of our community leaders for creating momentum around this conversation. But then I decided to get real and share about my family’s struggles with mental health, and how that has impacted me, personally:

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Opening that old wound was scary. But it made me really reckon with the fact that I was afraid that if I shared my truth, my friends and family and colleagues would look at me sideways. That there’d be some stigma, or assumptions raised. I realized that by holding back I wasn’t doing my part to really encourage and normalize conversation on this topic. It’s one thing to simply post #endthestigma and another to get vulnerable.

I honestly had never really considered myself as someone who was impacted by mental illness. For whatever reason, that wasn’t the lens I viewed depression with when I was growing up. Mental illness was schizophrenia, bipolar disorder. But my dad’s inability to get out of bed was not mental wellness. And my teenage mind brainstorming a way to land myself in the hospital for a couple of days — not to do irreparable harm, but to buy myself a little time to not have to deal with things — was not mental wellness.

I have always let myself feel deeply the full range of emotions, and I’ve been able to ask for help. I’ve still never seen a therapist, although last year when I was struggling with a real crash in confidence and felt that spider crawling back from that old familiar place, a few friends offered a referral. They helped me see that I wasn’t OK. This time, when I made a plan, it was to prioritize my overall health.

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I’m happy to say that, this year, the sun has really been shining for me. I’ve given myself more grace, and weirdly turned into one of those early morning workout people. Sweating before sunrise has given me more energy — and I’ve been really intentional in where I reinvest that energy. Joe’s been awesome about encouraging me to continue to do the things I love, which means I’m going to run DAM to DSM (thus the inspired workout routine!) and I’ve registered for an Iowa Summer Writing Festival weekend workshop at the University of Iowa because I just might have the beginnings of a novel rumbling around and I want to nurture that.

I know I’m never going to get the time back with my dad. I can’t take back how my anger and resentment about his disease made the struggle of those last years even harder for us both. He died three days after my high school graduation. I just want to make sure that I am not going to perpetuate a cycle. That I give my kids tools to manage stress, and to create an open channel of communication when they’re grappling with feelings they don’t know how to address. I want to make it OK, and I know there’s a lot I can learn to be a better advocate. I hope you’ll join me.

 

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What I’m into: January 2019

2019 has me feeling like I’ve got my groove back, or some cheesy notion like that. I have a lot more energy for the things I love and am realigning my priorities. Here are some things I’ve been loving this month:

Reading: The Library Book, by Susan Orlean 

I am such a Susan Orlean fan-girl. No joke, I once e-mailed asking to be her personal assistant because I pretty much wanted to BE Susan Orlean as a college magazine journalism major. Which means I’m probably on some no-contact list for her upcoming visit to Des Moines as part of this year’s Des Moines Public Library AViD series/DSM Book Festival. Screaming into a pillow excited about this. Her latest book is about the Los Angeles library fire, but also about the fascinating people who made the library what it is today and kind of an homage to libraries in general. Ironically, I am reading it on my Kindle app. #fail

Sweating: Burn Bootcamp and Cyclebar and YWA #Dedicate

I wouldn’t say I’m into working out. But I’m into how I feel AFTER a workout is over. In an attempt to set a goal and keep myself accountable, I signed up to run the DAM to DSM 20K on June 1. (Use the code HUMMINGBIRD for $5 off your entry before Feb. 1) Then, I had the opportunity to try out Burn Boot Camp with the Des Moines Moms Blog, and have been going to 5:30 a.m. boot camps M-W for the past two weeks. It’s completely outside my comfort zone and I try to pair up with the middle aged ladies because they’re more my speed (some of them even kick my butt). It’s circuit workouts, with lots of weights and things I’d never try on my own. It’s a franchise, and it’s fun to know my friend Christa is doing the same workouts in Saint Louis! She’s hilarious:

I also got to try out Cyclebar Jordan Creek and did my first ever spin class last week!

It was super intense and I don’t think I adjusted the bike very well, so I want to go back and try it again. It was a fun Friday night alternate “bar” activity, although at the 30-ish minute mark when the instructor had us also pull out a weight and do arm exercises while pedaling I wondered what fresh hell I’d gotten myself into.

Lastly, I still have so much love for the free Yoga with Adriene 30-day journey, and am doing those short sessions as a kind of wind-down to my day. The majority have been super gentle and affirming and lovely.

Eating: JOJO’s Chocolate Bark 

I came home from our second annual Des Moines Moms Blog favorite things party with a bag of JOJO’s from Kara Swanson (who is legit obsessed!) and I totally get why she loves it. Anyone else need a daily smidgen of chocolate?

Unpacking: At my new job at the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines. I’m just a couple of weeks in, but really happy that I followed my heart and went for a position that is way better aligned for me. It’s so invigorating to be working closely with local nonprofit leaders, making connections, planning trainings, etc. I’ve been a big fan of their work for awhile and feel lucky to have landed in an opportunity to work on the team. I put up this plaque I inherited from my grandpa’s house to remind me to keep my priorities in focus:

Other things I published lately: 

A DSM story on the fabulous Julia Franklin’s latest work 

A Des Moines Moms Blog post about hosting a clothing swap 

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