Tuesday, July 22, 2014

He left me wordless.

I have started writing this blog post three times now. I started with the story of how it happened. Then I decided to recap the timing of when it happened. Then I scrapped that and stared at a blank page for a while. Then it dawned on me, I can't put words to this one. Five years, 462 posts full of so many (sometimes TOO many) words about anything and everything that has happened in my life. Job changes, relationship changes, exciting vacations and boring random thoughts and I can't find a single set of words that will do me any justice for this story.

So instead of trying to poetically tell how it happened, or find words to emphasize how strongly I have been hit, I'm just going to tell you this.

I met a man. A really good man. After three years of wondering if I'd ever be struck by butterflies about another person, it happened. It happened fast, I fell hard and I'm possibly never going to look back. There's all kinds of irony about the situation - one of my favorite being that me, having spent three years perfecting the art of independence, I have met the guy who'll finally make me dependent on someone else ON our country's celebration of INdependence. (You follow?)

He makes me smile bigger and laugh harder. He wins all the things, including my heart.

Blog followers (*cough* Sukie who was sitting next to me begging for a blog post *cough*), here's Tom. Get used to him, he'll be around for a while.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

A Quiet Mind

 Sometimes during yoga the hardest part is trying to coerce my hamstrings into not being the tightest muscle that's ever existed...begging them to NOT feel like they're a rubber band about to snap. Other times it's talking nicely to my biceps and triceps into pretending we've got some upper body strength and we can seamlessly transition from down dog to up dog and back in that same graceful manner my instructor does.

Almost always, the hardest part of the entire class is when we get to savasana. If you were on the outside of class looking in you might think I was full of shit for saying that, as savasana is literally you laying on the ground in any comfortable position you can find...for minutes. That's it, lay there. Well, that's it for your physical body. It's an incredible challenge and often times impossible for your emotional body. Getting your brain to shut the hell up for that long is crazy difficult. Sometimes it just doesn't happen.

Most of the time it takes me the majority of time we're in savasana to let some thoughts creep in, acknowledge them and try to get them to pass. Not massive things...usually it's a collection of little things. What am I having for dinner? Did I pay that bill? Why was my forward fold so wonky today? I wonder if I have gas in my car? I can't forget to plant those flowers this week! Oh, I need to pick up a sleeping back from my parents. Wasn't that funny when my nephew said that? That one girl in the back, DAMN her flexibility! Man, this was a good weekend. I can't remember if I sent that email today...and so on. I've heard a lot of instructors offer different options for when this happens. It's okay to have the thought, acknowledge it and then let it go. It takes focus to get past that point in savasana and quiet the mind. Keep those little nagging thoughts out.

Sometimes, just sometimes, I can do this. I can get the little thoughts to come like rapid fire in the first few minutes and I can then get my mind to quiet. To focus on my breathing with intention and just relax. And the very best of times, when my mind is quiet and my breathing is deep, I can get to a point of relaxation when it *almost* feels like the room or me or something is spinning. It's my very favorite place to get to because it means I finally quieted my mind. I'm truly meditating and it feels AWESOME.

Lately my mind has been a bit noisier than normal. Dating and work and life and a summer calendar and all those crazy pieces coming together and occupying every nook and cranny in my brain. I had begun to think maybe that kind of relaxation was beginner's luck. But it came again last night. Which makes me feel like my mind is getting quieter again. And I'll take it, a quiet mind is a happy one for this girl!

I'd like to get in the practice of doing a little bit of yoga with at least a few minutes of savasana every day. I really think it helps me keep my mind quieter through the rest of the day. And I'll take it, a quiet mind is a happy one for this girl!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014


(This post was born out of my third rant of the morning about how wonderful being on a boat is when my girl Marit finally said, "Angie, that is a blog post waiting to be written." So here it is, you can thank Marit and then go read her blog.)

I've never considered myself much of a lake person. Growing up we always had a pool and I guess I couldn't really understand why you'd need to leave home to play in water when there was some right in your back yard. And let me confirm and reiterate, that pool in my parents backyard is and will always be at the top of my list of happy places. Nothing will ever compete with that.

However, having gotten a taste of Lake Life last year and what looks to be a full-on CRAVING for it this year, I can say with confidence there is something to be said about the magic that happens when you climb aboard that boat. Given that, I consider myself ridiculous amounts of #Blessed that my good friend Dan (or Uncle Danny as I affectionately call him...much to his dismay) decided to take the plunge last year and purchase this beauty. Apparently name is still TBD, but in the mean time I call her Heaven.

Now there's a multitude of reasons for happiness while being aboard this babe. There's the obvious reasons. First and foremost, it means it's summer, which means winter is over. Secondly, it also means I'm with friends. So can't go wrong there. Thirdly, you'll see that little collection hanging out on the back which indicates there are adult beverages on board.

But there is honestly something magical that happens when you're on a boat out on the lake. Something maybe less obvious. There is some sort of forcefield (am I using that term correctly? I don't speak fluent nerd, but I googled it and I think that's what I mean) that prevents problems from boarding the vessel. There is something about a wide open lake that just makes it all disappear. It feels like vacation no matter how close to home you may be. People are friendly on the lake. Everyone's out to have a good time and leave the weight of the world behind.

Now, did a 3 day weekend help? Sure did. I had not a plan in the world (and even when I did have plans they were pushed back due to spending 7-10 hours aboard Heaven as opposed to the originally planned 2-3). Did good company, great music and cold beer make it an OBVIOUSLY enjoyable time? Absolutely. Did good looking men with biceps on top of biceps keep a smile on my face? Yup, yup they did. But I'll be dammed if that doesn't happen every time I step aboard that gorgeous piece of machinery.

So if you need to find me this summer, and I'm NOT in my parent's backyard? Chances are, I'm being Lake Angie. Beer drinking, mouth open, laughing and lounging in the corner spot Lake Angie. And I won't have a trouble in the world.

See you on the water.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

100 Happy Days, Week 11

I'm way way way behind on these posts...but I am still posting daily pictures of my #100HappyDays challenge on Instagram! I just am lagging on recaps. So here's week 11!

Day 71 - Tiny Elephants (this is the winner but I'm too lazy to go back and change the picture)
For the last year or so, ever since that commercial for COPD with the elephants, my dad and I have decided we love baby elephants and some day we'd like to have one of our very own. Since then we swap pictures of elephants via email and pretty much weekly talk about how cool they are. So for Easter (yes, that's just how late I am on these recaps) my mom tracked down this tiny elephant ring holder for me. He sits on my newly remodeled bathroom sink and is just the cutest damn thing in the world. I named him Nellie and I love him.

Day 72 - New Running Shoes (Was the original winner when I made the collage but I can't remember why...)
I (finally) decided to go get some new running shoes. I hadn't been running because my old shoes were way past their expiration mileage but I was clinging on to that excuse for not running with dear life. Once the weather started to show signs of warming up I decided to suck it up and get a new pair. You can read all about the experience Kennan and I had in choosing a pair here. Update: Still haven't run in them. So there's that!

Day 73 - Snuggles on Snuggles
By 72 other days of posts, do I have to explain this one again? Look at those two, they're snuggle monsters and I'm never alone when I'm at home with those two monkeys.

Day 74 - Got a man waitin' on me at home.
And his name is Gentleman Jack. He's smooth (I mean, Gentleman IS in his name), always waits right where I left him and he makes me feel all warm and gooey inside. I had had a particularly shitty day and this was exactly what I needed to round it out. A little whiskey over my fancy ice spheres (still one of the best grown-up birthday presents I've ever gotten!)

Day 75 - Pour one out for the homies.
We had a pretty rough week at work and due to some changes happening there were 12 people let go including my office neighbor and mentor. It sucked. Having now been on both sides of a layoff I can say with confidence there is no good side to be on. My work bestie & I decided the only thing left to do was to crack open a beer in his old office (where we used to regularly have Beer:30 on Fridays) and pour one out for him.

Day 76 - New nail polish!
Pretty self explanatory. New spring color - Tart Deco by Essie. (For those who care: it's a great color but it goes on pretty thick and therefore chips easier than other colors. I'd stick with Cute as a Button in the future - similar color, less orange, and goes on a lot better.)

Day 77 - I made stuff!
I decided to finally give this whole "cold press concentrate" iced coffee thing a try. I honestly expected it to be a lot more time intensive and putsy. It was neither. It takes me about 5 minutes. You add coarsely ground coffee to water and then it just has to sit for a long time. Like 10-12 hours long. But then you just strain it and voila, concentrate for your iced coffee. I followed these instructions and it was easy as pie. Here's a few things I've learned over the last few batches... Experiment with coffee. The first batch I used Trader Joe's Costa Rican "Tarazzu" and loved it. The guy talks about how you just have to try the concentrate without cream or sugar because you'll be shocked at how smooth it is and it really was. This last batch I changed it up with a Target brand and it's not as good, I'll definitely go back to the Tarrazu. Also, definitely use cheesecloth. It's the fastest and easiest way to strain the grounds. I also made these energy bites which have become a staple. They're *almost* like a cookie and have no sugar or flour. They're only 2 weightwatchers points which is amazing for a cookie that ACTUALLY fills you up.

There you go, that's week 11!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

One month from today...

May it's the age I'm at, maybe it's the group of people whose news populates my feed, maybe it's just a hyper sensitivity to it. At any rate I have a plethora of "one month from today I'll marry my best friend" or "Six days from now we're our baby is due" and "Three years ago today we met this little one."

Now before you go filing me under the "Bitter Betty" column, know this: I am TRULY happy for my friends. (That one person I worked with who incessantly posts about bathroom milestones of their son? Not so much.) I love seeing their lives unfold and watch their hard work pay off, their love bloom, and their patience turn into families.

But as a single person, it makes me realize how little I know about "One month from today." And, even for a controlling, type A person who typically prefers planning to chaos, for the most part, that is really kind of exciting. I mean, sure, there's a lot that will likely be exactly the same 30 days from now as it is in this very moment. But at the same time, because it is me and only me (well, me and the dog & cat) things could change in a moment.

I could meet the man of my dreams around any given corner at any given moment. I could move to a new city. I could get my dream job offer and take it with little regard to anyone else's plans. I could dedicate the next few months to a new hobby and dive in with every second my spare time allows. There are so many things that could be different for me, and not knowing what they might be is actually pretty exciting.

Not long ago, I had my entire life planned out. I had the house, the man, the plan. I had carefully constrcuted what the next day, week, month, year, decade, etc. would look like. And I was (what I believed to be) truly happy.

This is a different kind of happy. This is a freedom that took some getting used to. This is a sometimes frustrating, annoying, WHY CAN'T THE PIECES JUST FALL WHERE THEY'RE SUPPOSED TO kind of happy. And it's all mine. Every unplanned, unexpected, unimaginable detail belongs to me.

Here's to one month from today...whatever it may be!


Monday, May 19, 2014

My First Yoga Workshop

I guess I'm taking this whole "yoga" thing pretty seriously. I got a groupon notification for a Yoga Workshop and figured I might as well take advantage of it. I had been casually doing yoga for a while. Then about a year ago I found BodyFlow and, well, I'm pretty sure you all know how I feel about that. I've been taking BodyFlow classes consistently 2-3 times a week for the last year and have been really amazed at what my body is capable of and the progress I've made. Not just physically but mentally. I'm learning to be present, to focus on the movement and my breath and most importantly to quiet my mind.

That class incorporates elements of tai chi, yoga and pilates. I love the fact that it's yoga based but feels slightly more intense at points. It's a great balance and an awesome overall workout. However, I've wanted to get down more to the nitty gritty of yoga. The minor nuances of the poses, the deeper elements of breath and the more committed meditation and relaxation. So I figured a workshop was just what I needed.

There were two choices: "Yoga Fundamentals" or "Taking Your Practice to the Next Level." *Cue panic.* I mean I wanted it to be a challenge but next level? And then this happened in my brain... What level am I currently at? What if there's a bunch of people walking around on handstands and I'm all "But, Warrior 3, am I doing it right?!" Oh God, what if they start talking about chakras and vegan smoothies and I have to try to find something to contribute about my beer & burger dinner I had the night before?! I DON'T OWN ANY LULULEMON, WILL THEY KNOW JUST FROM LOOKING AT ME?! (This entire thought process is crazy because what they say is true - yoga is YOUR practice. For the most part, those people aren't even looking at you, or watching you struggle in your bind or have any idea what you're wearing. They're there for their own practice, you're just another body in the room.)

So, I decided to quiet the crazy and take a logical approach. I emailed the studio and explained my experience and what I was looking for out of the class. They emailed me back right away and said I could hang in either class, but if I was going for a challenge I'd be fine in the advanced workshop. *Cue more panic* (Warning: there's a lot of panic in this post.) So I sucked it up and went for the challenge.

Fast forward to Sunday morning...scene: Angie frantically googling ALL THE THINGS about yoga and workshops and what to wear and what to eat and WHEN to eat and HOW to prepare. *FULL BLOWN PANIC* It was as if I was going to absorb yoga through my phone and somehow become a full blown expert in a matter of hours. Newsflash: that didn't happen. But here's what did...

I ate a light lunch three hours before the workshop and a snack of almonds, dark chocolate and a banana about a half hour before the class. I drank a lot of water to stay hydrated (it wasn't a hot yoga class but they keep the room warm and I'm a sweater). I relaxed and took my time. I got there early so I could feel calm when the workshop started. I also threatened puking to my mom and 2 forms of social media.

The workshop was at Haleybird Studios in Wauwatosa - great yoga room, warm and welcoming. Tons of props and obviously qualified instructors. There were 4 of us in the workshop.

Here's what we did:
  • Relaxing heart opener to start, some gentle twists and warming poses
  • Flowed through Sun Salutations A with some variations and binds for additional challenge
  • Balance poses
  • Worked through Warrior 2 with different binds and balance challenges
  • Inversions (crow, tripod, headstands and headstands)
  • Hip openers (pigeon and swan with some balance challenges)
  • Savasana (sweet, sweet savasana)
Here's how I feel about it:
  • I was able to keep up, but it was DEFINITELY challenging (I sweat my ass off)
  • Michelle was extremely helpful, offered modifications and challenges for EVERY pose, helped adjust during each pose
  • She played TUPAC (and Phish and the Head and the Heart and Katy Perry - seriously it was like my own iPod was being played). 
  • It wasn't until the inversions that I felt totally out of my league. (I have NEVER attempted anything beyond a forward fold when it comes to inversions.)
  • I worked on Crow pose and struggled, but improved. At one point I fell forward and bit it HARD. With all your weight in your hands I had nothing to catch myself and hit my nose, lip, skinned my knee. It was the opposite of graceful (thankfully, no one saw).
  • But, BUT, I kept trying. And eventually for a whole 5 seconds, I held crow pose. Michelle clapped and I no longer felt concerned. 
  • I was truly taking the practice for myself, listening to my body and challenging myself. It was AWESOME.
All in all, I'm happy I went for it, I'm proud of myself for stepping WAY outside my comfort zone and just going for it (the class, the poses, the challenge). I am SORE today. Two hours is a LONG time to do yoga. I do feel like I have a better understanding of my practice and what I can focus on to bring it to the next level. I have more confidence in practicing with challenging podcasts at home without risk of injury. And I'm reassured I'd like to continue pursuing life as a yogi.

Crow pose, I'm comin' for you. 

Monday, May 5, 2014

Waiting on an Ace

I don't talk much about religion, here or in real life. Partly because to me it's a very personal experience and I know two people's beliefs will never completely align. Also, I ultimately believe good people are good people - religious beliefs completely aside. Secondly, it's usually something people feel pretty strongly about. Like politics, I find that you are rarely going to change someone's mind about it. So for the most part, I keep it to myself. If someone asks, I'm happy to talk about it, share my experience and answer questions. But I don't impose that on any uninterested parties.

Yesterday a couple of my favorite internet strangers-turned-friends & I gave a new church a try. If you've never tested out new churches, let me tell you..this can be a wonderful or terrifying experience and you will not know which it is until the service is over. I have been to some WEIRD places. Like, speaking in tongues and people falling to their knees places. I've also been to some great ones. This was one of the latter.

Sometimes I feel like sermons are a little bit like horoscopes. It's not so much that they're spot-on what you need to hear, but you hear what you need to. A good sermon is applicable to a large group and the individual listening applies it to their own life, struggles, needs. Yesterday before we got to church I had just been hoping for a really good message. There was some comforts I was seeking and I just hoped this church could do that for me. So I listed extra careful and tried to find the messages that were meant for me. This pastor NAILED it. I know he was giving a generic sermon but I feel like he could've said "Angie Nikolas, I am talking to you" and he would've been right. In fact, when it was over my friends even said, "I was trying not to look right at you because it was like he was talking RIGHT TO YOU."

Without getting into the actual sermon, the point was this, you can play whatever card you want in reaction to situational circumstances in life, but God's got the ace. And if you let him he'll play it. The pastor SPECIFICALLY said maybe you're single. Maybe you've been single for much longer than you care to be. Maybe you've thought you need to lower your standards or change how you approach dating because of it. Don't play the wild card. Wait. There's an ace for all of us and if we let it happen when the ace is played it'll be better than anything you could have ever dreamed or imagined.

I am generally a pretty steady person. But when it comes to thinking about my romantic future, I am bipolar. It's not 50/50 but it goes back and forth. Sometimes I think it's just not in the cards. Not in a sad way, but I think that I've been so terribly fortunate to experience love in so many other places that maybe there isn't room for someone in that capacity.

But other times, I think to myself that all this waiting and terrible dates and shitty dudes has to be because something so much better is waiting around the corner. (A corner that occasionally feels miles way, but around the corner nonetheless.) That's what the sermon told me yesterday. Be patient (I'm awful at this), stand your ground (but WHY!) and the ace will be played. And when it is, it will be so much more than I've ever imagined. And it will all make sense. Every shitty first date, every ignored call/text, every rollercoaster ride I've been on when it comes to dating.

The message came not a moment to soon, but right on time. I needed the reminder. I needed the encouragement. I needed the comfort of knowing it's all how it's supposed to be. It's exactly the kind of message that keeps me exploring my faith and trying to figure out how it fits into my life and how my life fits into the greater picture.

At the beginning of the service, everyone got a playing card. They were randomly handed out and we didn't talk about them, just a supporting detail of the sermon's message. That we're all dealt the hand we're dealt. Ironically, or maybe entirely not by coincidence, this was the card I got...

So if you need me, I'll just be over here...patiently waitin' on an Ace.