Is smart the new pretty?

smart is the new pretty

Every day I ask my daughter some version of “what happened at school today”. This week? Sweet creamery butter, it was about math class. My nerdy heart soared. There were kids moving between advanced and regular math classes and it was A. Big. Deal. After watching inane snapchats by the thousands, it’s easy to discount the general level of intelligence and engagement of our children, but then there are rays of hope.

If smart and strong are the new pretty we need to celebrate science fairs more than selfies, math competitions more than insta followers, grit over giving in, problem-solving over popularity, and grades over make-up tutorials. This isn’t a competition pitting kids against each other, it’s more about shutting down the constant overt and covert messages about beauty being the ultimate prize.

I’m teaching a group of college women about group therapy practices. Each week the students lead a different part of the class and I listen as they share about the things they manage: volunteering, working, studying, caring for others, roommate issues, dating, finances, and the list goes on. This is an outstanding group of individuals yet none of them feel good enough. “I look at what my friend’s post and think “What the hell? Really? My life sucks. I feel like a freaking beast in my tower sitting in my sweatpants.”

If smart is the new pretty, let’s celebrate thinking. Let’s compliment the way a girl figured out a difficult problem, not the way her jeans looked. Let’s not give a fig newton about sitting at home wearing sweatpants while you’re studying. Tell all of the young adults in your life the truth, no one has the utterly fabulous life they portray. No one.

The world will continue to tell girls (and boys) a million ways they don’t measure up, don’t add to the chorus. In my experience, people don’t need to know what they aren’t good at, they could tell you 10 things in 10 seconds. Your job, all of our jobs, is to make them believe they are smart. All of them. At something. Dig deep, people. These kids need you to say something beyond their hair, their face, their clothes. Give them something that will last.

Keep sharing moxie.

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Meetaversary

Am I the last person to know about the “meetaversary”? My daughter was baking a cake this week and I asked what the occasion was, “It’s our meetaversary tomorrow, we’ve been friends for ** years.” My first reaction was promposals, now this? Come on. But then, my grinchy heart stopped, and thought about my own friends, and grew bigger.

My friend from elementary school that made it through bluebirds, divorce, and moves with me. Happy 35th meetaversary, Granny.

My next door neighbor that lived through middle school, loss, boys and break-ups. Happy 31st meetaversary, neighbor.

My college roommates that walked me down the garden path in ways that you can truly only get away with in college. Happy 22nd meetaversary, roomies.

The ones that have saved my sanity through my first real job, marriage, kids, and the shitsortment of life for the past 20 years. Here’s to 20 more, softball gang.

I think we spend a great deal of time trying to immortalize ourselves on social media, taking pictures of this vacation, and that amazing meal, but if you really want to see who you are? Look to your friends. They have the goods on you from every stage of your life, right? They knew you before you were whoever you present to the world now. Any friend that has stood witness as you dramatically flushed some boy’s picture down the toilet with gusto and then offered to bike to get you ice cream is the real deal. Same for the friend that showed up for the funeral, that showed up, and showed up, and showed up.

We celebrate love with anniversaries, with engagements, with weddings, and a huge amount of pomp and circumstance. The truth is, my friends have saved me, all through my life. My husband didn’t. It’s because OF my friends that I didn’t need to be “saved” but rather to just have fun and see where it went. I can’t thank all of them enough. If you stop and think about it, I bet you can’t either. Meetaversary? It’s not such a silly thing. When I think about what I truly want for my daughter? It’s to have friendships that she wants to celebrate. That is no small thing. It’s everything.

Keep sharing moxie.

Meetaversary

Her happy place…

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Every family has their own vacation rituals, right? My childhood trek was to, wait for it, the great state of South Dakota. Every. Single. Summer. My mom had little vacation time, so the yearly pilgrimage to South Dakota was a big deal. We got a bag of cheetos, twizzlers, made some sandwiches, filled up the coffee thermos, and wouldn’t dream of forgetting to pack “Love is- Best of the 70’s” tape, part 1 and 2. I can still recite every single line of “Islands in the Stream” and “I’ve been to paradise, but I’ve never been to me.” (Now if that isn’t a great party trick…I don’t know what is…)

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No air conditioning, sticky seats, and an older sister that barely tolerated me headed to a town smaller than my own. Sweet bliss! As time has gone on, what I remember most about these trips is how happy my mom was. This was the one time that I could imagine what she was like as a child. She hummed getting close to South Dakota. She let me blow things up with my rowdy cousins in South Dakota. She let me drive a car (when I was 13) in South Dakota. This was her happy place.

Of all the gifts from childhood, the ability to see your parents as people separate from yourself is a lasting one. I always associated my mom with work, cleaning the house on Saturday mornings, grocery shopping, and worrying about the future. I saw someone different in South Dakota. It was the equivalent of seeing your elementary school teacher on a ride at the county fair. They can have fun?! That’s allowed?

I just spent the last week packing to decamp with my own family to the lake for a month. I hummed while writing my packing list. I overheard my kids talking last night, “Just ask her. She’ll probably let us. Mom’s in her happy place.”

Bike to get ice cream? At 10 o’clock? You bet. I’ll do you one better. I’ll race you there.

Keep sharing moxie. Happy Canada Day to our friends to the North & Happy 4th to those stateside.

 

Rise up, small town, rise up…

small-townI live in a small town, was born and raised in a small town. Stop it, John Cougar Mellencamp, this is my story. Like many, I couldn’t wait to get out of a small town, until I had kids. My children can walk down any street in this town. Everyone knows their names, who they belong to. My kids will eventually feel suffocated by this, but not me. Nope. This helps me sleep at night.

There are two seasons here: ice in and ice out. Whether for fishing or the two hockey arenas, it’s boat or fish house, skates or dryland. We have more churches than bars. This is Minnesota after all, not Wisconsin :). Our polling place is in a farm field. I kid you not. My husband brings out donuts to the election judges, and by the time I get there I’m treated to a full report of not only when my husband voted, but who he visited with. Often I feel like I live in Mayberry, but sometimes I feel like I am stuck in high school. Forever.

Sometimes small towns can be, well, small. Small-minded and full of nosy parkers. I’m not quite sure why I have Facebook, most of the people that are my friends on this medium see me grocery shopping daily and picking up my kids from practice. It’s hard to make a mistake and change in a small town, or to create a better version of yourself. Everyone seems to remember Fat Timmy, Drunk Bev, or that homewrecker, you remember the one.

But then, once in awhile, this small town knocks the curmudgeon right out of me and fills me with love.  When it comes to the nitty gritty, this town shows up. Whether that’s a fire, a car crash, or a brave little boy fighting to get well, the town answers the call. Rise up, small town, rise up. There is a family that needs you. Print the t-shirts, open the fund, fling wide the doors, invite others in. And we do. And we will. Because we live in this same small town…

Well I was born in a small town
And I live in a small town
Prob’ly die in a small town
Oh, those small communities

All my friends are so small town
My parents live in the same small town
My job is so small town
Provides little opportunity

Educated in a small town
Taught the fear of Jesus in a small town
Used to daydream in that small town
Another boring romantic that’s me.

Alright, John, you had your moment. Pack it in. I’ve got a little boy on my mind, just like everyone else in this town tonight. Rise up, small town, rise up. Let’s watch something magical happen, bigger than you, bigger than me, more than we could ever do on our own.

I hope all of you have a small town somewhere, at some point, in your history. They’re a good place to spring from and return to when you need it.

Keep sharing moxie.

 

The Iditarod Trail on Bike

People dogsled the Iditarod Trail, right? They also bike, run, and ski it. In the middle of the winter. In Alaska. Unsupported. For 1100 miles, 350 or 130, take your pick. This is not a joke. In our house it’s been on the bucket list of racing adventures for the last 20 years, within reach for 10 years, actively planned for one year, and completed in 6 days.

The Iditabike was started in 1987 as a 200-mile course on the Iditarod Trail. Racers didn’t know what to expect, but showed up anyway with their little mountain bikes and a hodgepodge of clothing and gear. Once a mountain is climbed, new feats must be sought and the Iditasport Extreme, a 350 mile event, was created and later expanded to the full 1100 mile race to Nome. The Iditarod Trail Invitational was created by a former Iditasport racer, Bill Merchant, a race for racers, unsupported, no purse, no mandatory gear, with no marked route.

Fatbiking has grown exponentially over the last decade and the mountain gear has been refined. The fact remains, biking, skiing or running on the Iditarod Trail, in the middle of an Alaskan winter, is going to be very hard. Some years are harder than others and 2017 was a doozy. Read below for my personal interview with a 350-mile ITI 2017 finisher.

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  1. What first interested you in the ITI? There was a mountain bike book I saw in the 90’s of the most extreme races in the world. Most people didn’t finish it.
  2. Why did you sign up this year? I’d had multiple years of good finishes in the Arrowhead Ultra (an 135 mile event in Minnesota) and my wife told me it was time to get out of my comfort zone. The greatest enemy to human potential is your comfort zone. I have that in my office and I figured I should follow my own advice. riding

3. What preparation for the ITI do you think helped the most? Beyond the riding, extensive training, it was the winter camping trips. It’s one thing to have gear, you need to know how to use it. I slept outside a lot this past winter in Minnesota. You need to be comfortable with going to sleep outside in dangerous temps. Mental preparedness. I obsessed over this race from the gear to potential equipment failures.

 

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When your spokes are frozen, you know it’s cold.

 

4. It’s been said that going out on the trail changes you. Did it? Yes. I’m not sure of all of the ramifications yet. From a riding standpoint, it pushed me beyond what I thought was possible. For my family, hopefully, I’m a role model to my kids. Not everything was within my control. It scared me. We were caught in a snowstorm and the temps were -50 on the trail. Because of the extreme weather, there was so much clarity. It was basic: hydrate, eat, and move forward, but all of it was an enormous challenge in the weather. Being in a 50 mile an hour headwind through a mountain pass gaining elevation at -20 to -40 below temps, it’s relentless. It’s scary seeing people turning around like they had seen a ghost while you’re trying to decide if you should continue on or not. Bivvying outside those nights, I knew there wasn’t a margin of error. None of my gear had been tested for that.

 

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Climbing Hell’s Gate

 

 

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Pulling out every piece of gear. The final balaclava.

5. Highlights? Best moments? Finishing. Most didn’t. Really though, being immersed in the Alaskan interior, it’s beautiful. Stopping at camps and being welcomed into some of the culture and living in the moment.

 

There was a 22-year-old guy camping by the river all winter. He invited me in for lynx and coffee. The lynx was burnt, the fish was being boiled for his dogs, and the skinned beaver was a little alarming when you biked up, but the kid was so friendly and welcoming.

6. What advice would you have for others considering this? Overprepare. If you don’t live in extreme conditions, find them and train in them. Learn how to push your bike for hours. There was one entire day that I had to push my bike, because the trail was unrideable. gorgepushing

7. How would you characterize yourself as an endurance athlete? I’m good, but not the best. I have a high dose of experience in extreme conditions and a lot of tolerance.

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8. What’s next for you? I don’t think there’s anything that can compare to the ITI when the conditions are extreme, like they were this year. The hardest part of the trail, with the most elevation change, is in the first 350 miles, but riding to Nome would be a great experience. Some have done the ride to Nome ten times. You get addicted.

9. Final thoughts? Standing in a swamp looking up at Mountain cliffs makes Alaska what it is. The people of Alaska in the backcountry are amazing, self-reliant, but helpful. They aren’t looking for handouts or attention, they just want to be outside in Alaska. I get it now.

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Riding the Iditarod Trail for 350 or 1100 miles isn’t my dream. It may not be yours either, but you have to respect those that are pushing the limits of their experience and ability to endure. Keep sharing moxie.

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Iditarod Musher’s Ball

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The convention center was packed with $1,000 tables, the dress casual, as all Alaskan events seem to be, and the mushers mingled in the crowds. My favorite part of the night? The clear fact that the mushers would rather be on the trails than mingling, the times their faces really grew animated was when talking about their dogs.

I am here in Anchorage this week by happenstance, others because being a part of the Iditarod is on their bucket list. The Musher’s banquet was filled with the founders, memories of them, and racing legends. The Iditarod has groupies like you would expect at a rock concert. People lined up to have their favorite mushers sign their shirts and take pictures (see picture below of an acquaintance pictured with two identical twin mushers). I saw a book of trading cards even. As with every sport, there is a culture, and the Iditarod is no different.

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The Iditarod Sled Dog Race was co-founded by Joe Redington who wanted the Iditarod trail listed as a National Trail, much like Lewis & Clark. He became friends with Dorothy Page who wanted to save the sport of dog mushing. The combination of their two interests became one and the Iditarod Sled Dog Race was born. It’s the 45th running of the Iditarod this year and Joe’s three grandsons are entered in the 2017 race carrying on the family tradition and his crooked grin.

Sled dogs used to be the major mode of transportation here in Alaska. It was the 1925 serum run to Nome, also known as the Great Race of Mercy, a transport of diphtheria antitoxin serum by dog sled relay across the U.S. territory of Alaska by 20 mushers and about 150 sled dogs 674 miles (1,085 km) in five and a half days that put dog mushing back on the world’s stage briefly before airplanes changed the face of travel completely. The Serum Run saved the small town of Nome and the surrounding communities from an incipient epidemic and the lead dog, Balto, became a legend. By the 1950’s and early 60’s families weren’t passing down methods of dog mushing to the younger generation and it was beginning to die out. The Iditarod Trail race has become the iconic symbol of this state and frontier life. It accomplished both Dorothy and Joe’s goals, to bring life to the Iditarod trail and renewed interest in dogsledding.

Iditarod 2016

It isn’t called the “The Last Great Race” for nothing. In a world where constant communication is normalized, mechanization is prized, and comfort is sought above all, the Iditarod Sled Dog Race is a uniquely special event. The mushers have to train their dogs all year, yet elements of the race can’t be controlled now, just as they couldn’t in 1925, racing to Nome. Weather can be harsh, dogs can struggle, yet the mushers continue on.

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For me, I started the week not caring a fig newton about this race, and now I’m fangirling. Susan Butcher, the late female racing legend of the Iditarod, named her firstborn after her lead dog, Teckla, that made the first dog-sled ascent of Denali. The Iditarod has strong women, strong men, all heart, and a crazy love of nature and animals. We could use more of this in the world. Iditarod, welcome to your newest fan.

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Hello, I’m a closeted introvert

fill-your-cupHello, I’m a closeted introvert. Actually, I’m an introvert operating as an extrovert out of professional necessity. Are you? Truth is, my ideal weekend is to come home on a Friday night and not leave, well, ever. Does this sound familiar?

When people talk about what fills their cup up and recharges their batteries? Not spending time with more people. Can I say that? I just did. I have enough people in my professional life that are ready to pounce with a canister of need as soon as my office door is open. I retreat to survive. I need books, coffee, and solitude (rinse and repeat) in order to face the music every week. Can I get an amen?!

Social media gives us the illusion that we are in contact with people, that we know what is going on in their lives when we actually haven’t seen them in 10, 15, 20 years. I love this. The feeling of connection without putting on shoes or make-up? Yes. It’s not real though. I know this, but I’m not sure how much my younger counterparts realize the dimensions of connection that are lost in translation online. Sometimes we need to suit up to do the #wholethingandadeal. Once in a while, we need to change out of sweatpants and see our friends, but most of the time? Nah.

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If you haven’t taken the Myers-Brigg or done any personality typing, that’s ok. I think most of us know what fills our cup up. (disclosure, because I’m sure you’re waiting with bated breath- I’m an INTP, borderline INFP). I had some friends recently confess that they eat most of their meals out because one of them can’t stand to be at home, they just want to talk with people. I must’ve looked at them like they had two heads. I was reminded that there is a very wide spectrum of means to replenish and maintain one’s cup.

 

Over time I’ve come to realize what turns me into a sneering piss ant, it’s when I don’t have time to read and be by myself, when I feel hedged in by people and their tidal waves of requests (even my family, yikes, I’m getting Oprah honest here).  My professional life is filled with people, counseling, and lectures. My personal life? If I see that my calendar has two or three commitments requiring small talk and glad-handing on a weekend, I’m overwhelmed with a sense of dread and foreboding.

If you’re anything like me, perhaps you might acknowledge that you are, in fact, a closeted introvert. Throw off the chains of social niceties and start turning down more invitations than you accept. If you’re going to be a miserable schmuck sneaking off to read in the bathroom, you might as well have stayed home. (confession: I have on more than one occasion snuck out of a wedding, a dinner party and a birthday party to read a book like a junkie).

Let me be clear, it’s not that I can’t interact with people, and it’s not that you can’t either, it’s just a simple acknowledgment of what fills your cup up and what drains it…and the wisdom to know the difference.  

Keep sharing moxie.

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