Winter on Lake Monona

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With all this beautiful weather we’ve been having, I had to get outside so I took a long glorious walk down by Lake Monona last weekend. I feel so lucky to live right on the isthmus (the best geographic term, right?) and to be so close to both of Madison’s gorgeous lakes. Winter has been a tough time to move to a new city – everyone is in hibernation and there’s not so much going on – but this little thaw we’ve had has gotten me so excited for Spring. After being away from the Midwest for so long I’ve forgotten how much the cities come alive with the weather!

I didn’t expect my walk to turn into a photography expedition or else I would have brought my big camera but I had to share some snaps I took on my phone while I was out. How crazy is that ice?! I’m such a sucker for that sort of thing so these are only a few of the like billion photos I took of it.

Anyway, I hope you have a wonderful Tuesday and soak up the sun while we have it for a moment. ğŸ˜Ž

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Operation Boozeless: Week One

So after my sort of distraught post from last week, I thought I would follow up on how my first full week without alcohol went. To be honest, not that much was different – I have in fact gone a full seven days without drinking before so it wasn’t too crazy. But I did notice that my thought process has changed a bit as I prep for a longer stint on the wagon.

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1. Pay more attention. I went out to brunch with a newer friend on Saturday and even though we have a lot in common and I really like her, we’re still getting in the groove of being friends. We’ve also spent most of our time going out together so a lot of our conversations have been wine-fueled. I love a good boozy bonding moment as much as anyone, but I had this moment at sober brunch where I thought “This conversation would be way easier if I had a drink.” What? This is really the state of my social skills? I’m better than that and my friend deserves better than that!

So I perked up, took a breathe, and listened better. And you know what? We ended up having a really good time, talked way after we’d signed the check, and made plans for another weekend. Boom! Definitely realized that I lean on alcohol sometimes because I’m just plain lazyyyyyyyy.

2. Change doesn’t happen all at once. In preparation for my boozeless month I started reading a bunch of articles on the benefits of cutting alcohol. More energy! Clearer skin! Better sleep! The list goes on, so I was psyched to become the pure, zen, Gwyneth Paltrow version of myself. Color me surprised when after 7 days I pretty much feel the same! Because duh, I’m not going to change overnight and no one is going to erect a monument in my honor for not drinking one weekend of the month.

I am still hoping that by the end of the month I feel a difference in my body (because that’s the entire medical reason for this experiment), but I need to have some patience with myself and realize that cutting  wine will not make me a super hero. Although fingers crossed I’ll feel like one by March.

3. I’m not that different after all. So on a typical Friday night when I don’t have any plans I’ll usually crack a bottle of chardonnay and then ultimately end up crying over the Gilmore Girls reboot. I guess I always blamed this on wine, but low and behold I do the same thing completely sober… This is actually sort of a relief – that I am still pretty open to expressing my emotions even if that means weeping over Lauren Graham’s face lifts.

So all in all I would say this has been an enlightening week. It’s funny what happens when you just change your mind set and how taking away a crutch like drinking makes you realize how much you don’t need it.

But this is just the beginning. Stay tuned for week 2.

Sobering Thoughts

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So I just found out that I have to stop drinking for a month. I’ve been having stomach issues and my doctor’s put me on a medication that doesn’t mix well with alcohol, so it’s 4 long weeks on the wagon for me.

And you know what? I’m scared.

I’m scared because I’m realizing how much of my life revolves around drinking. I’m disappointed in myself for becoming someone who can’t meet new people without a drink in her hand. I’m afraid that I won’t be social and that people won’t hang out with me because I’m not drinking.

I haven’t been sober for this long since I was 18.

When I lived in Ireland, everything revolved around drinking. I went on job interviews at pubs, I drank with professors at lunch, we always met our friends out for pints. But I drank alone, too, because things were hard and it made life seem less stressful and more exciting.

But I think I’m the most scared that I won’t be able to do it. That I won’t even be able to make it a month. That drinking is too hard wired into me to let it go, even for the sake of my own health.

And I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. Not the only one who asks herself on Sunday morning if maybe it was too much. Gives herself pep talks on the way home from the liquor store to justify a bottle of wine I will drink alone. Judges people at parties who say you don’t have to drink to have fun.

Well, I guess I’m about to find out.

What’s Your Morning Ritual?

I know it’s a little late for New Years resolutions, but I’m starting to feel settled at my job and finally have more energy to dedicate to life outside work (whaaaa?). I’ve been an aspiring morning person for a long time so I picked up Laura Vanderkam’s book What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast for a little advice…

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In it she talks about using mornings to focus on personal growth through activities like exercising, writing, or meditating and sustaining them over long periods of time. She claims the benefits of morning rituals: people feel more fulfilled, have long-term career success, and are more focused and productive during the day. Her reasoning is interesting:

“Getting things down to routines and habits takes willpower at first but in the long run conserves willpower… Ultimately, self-control lets you relax because it removes stress and enables you to conserve willpower for the important challenges.”

I like the idea and, in turn, have been getting up early to write for an hour before work (almost) every day. Here’s what I’ve liked and disliked so far…

Pros

  1. I feel like a superhero! I’ve gotten up, eaten breakfast, caught up on email, and written for an hour before most people in my building are even awake.
  2. I like investing in my creative life. My job is really technical and it’s nice to still flex my artistic muscles even if its not my main focus right now.
  3. It makes me more focused at work. I’ve had a chance to brainstorm and daydream before I even get to the office so I’m not so distracted.

Cons

  1. Waking up is hard. I love sleeping, hate mornings, and it’s so easy to get derailed.
  2. Writing now feels like a chore, which duh is the point, but I’m surprised at how quickly I burned out on something I love. It make me wonder if I’m fostering my creativity or forcing it.
  3. It’s another thing to push through. Sometimes my writing goes great and I feel awesome, but other days I feel frustrated or disappointed, which is a tough way to start the day.

Looking at my list, I definitely feel like it’s worth it to keep up my writing ritual (it was actually kind of tough to come up with cons!), but it makes me wonder if I’ll eventually lose my love for it because I’m forced to do it everyday. Or will I just love it more because I do it everyday? The jury’s out.

So, I’m curious: do you have morning routines? What do you do? Is it something you love to do or something you feel obligated to do? Any tips on keeping it up? Hit me up!

Weekend Roundup: Packing Up!

Back in Chicago this week, I’m starting to get ready for the big move up to Madison, but also trying to enjoy the time I have left around here. Of course I’ll be back in like three weeks for Thanksgiving and I’m only like 2 and a half hours away anyway… But it still feels like a big move! This week has been filled with the highs and lows of apartment hunting, frequenting my favorite guilty pleasure food spots, and a whole lot of hometown team pride. I’m not a Cubs fan, but it’s pretty fun to see the city light up as they head to the world series next week – historic stuff 🙂

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What I Did This Week

1. Went to my first Blackhawks game of the season! The rest of the city may be cheering on the Cubs, but I’m staying true to my favorite guys in Chicago. They played the Flyers, which I always find funny because my first Hawks game was in Philly and I have never been booed more in my entire life… It turned out to be such an exciting game and, of course, a Hawks win! Hopefully I’ll manage to get out to (and afford 😰) another game sometime soon!

2. My mom and I headed up to Madison to start the apartment hunt and it’s looking pretty good! We managed to find a place right downtown that is available before my start date and isn’t a creepy murder basement, so fingers crossed all the paperwork goes through. I’m soooo excited to start decorating and organizing my own place, finally! Updates on all that to come.

3. Before heading out of town on Saturday my mom and I stopped by the Madison farmer’s market to grab a little breakfast and oh my god was it so overwhelming. When I think farmer’s market I think quaint little booths and chatting with the stallkeepers over coffee, but Madison’s felt more like a trading floor – people bustling around, yelling and crowding stalls, I almost got elbowed in the face a few times… Good to know Wisconsinites get rowdy for their fresh produce.

Culturally Consumed

1. Loved reading the comments of this Cup of Jo post “What Do You Like About Yourself?” I’ve noticed several bloggers starting to engage more directly with their communities and, frankly, I think it’s awesome. Like this is what the internet is for: cultivating great little groups online and then being able to talk about real shit. I’ve always admired that about Joanna’s blog, too; she always manages to be open and honest because she’s created the right context for the kinds of conversations she wants to have. Have always loved her blog and really like the direction its moving in.

2. Have been paging through Grace Bonney’s In the Company of Women over coffee the last few mornings and have discovered it’s a lovely way to start the day. Practical wisdom and reminders that life is hard and wonderful and your dreams are worth fighting for. I’ve always admired women who know exactly who they are and aren’t willing to compromise that and this book of chalk full of them. Would make a great graduation gift.

3. Finally caved and bought these beautiful boots! I’m always nervous about buying clothes online because half the time they don’t fit or I don’t like them, but Lord and Taylor was having their family and friends sale so I finally just went for it. Fingers crossed that they look as beautiful on me as they do in the photos. They would be perfect day-to-night boots for chilly Madison winters.

Coming Up Next

1. A few photos from Boulder that I didn’t manage to get to last week – I know I’ve been behind on everything lately, but hoping that I’ll get back into a routine when I’m a little more settled.

2. Some of my favorite quotes from In the Company of Women. It’s also totally inspired me to start an interview series with influential women in my life here on the blog. I sort of don’t even care if anyone else reads it, I think I would get a lot out of putting something like that together. Grace Bonney must be so wise after interview all these awesome people!

3. Some home decor inspiration that I’m feeling and a few ideas I have for the new apartment! I’ve never had my own place before and I’m out of my mind excited to have complete control over everything. As a child of divorce and an avid traveller, I haven’t had all of my shit in the same place for over a decade so the idea of having all of my clothes in one closet is like completely mind blowing. Stay tuned!

I’m Moving to Madison!

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If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve already heard, but I wanted to announce on here that I’ll be moving to Madison, Wisconsin in the next few weeks! I’m starting as a Technical Writer for Epic Systems in November and couldn’t be more excited for this next chapter. I’ve been to Madison a couple of times since I’ve been home and will be heading up again this weekend to do some apartment hunting (if you have any leads, let me know!) and it’s a gorgeous little city. I’m so excited to get to know my new home and to hit the ground running at work!

If you’re a Madison local or have been recently, I’d love to hear any recommendations you have for restaurants, bars, shopping, or fun things to do around town 🙂 And of course, if you’re ever around Wisconsin, hit me up for some cheese and beer!

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Weekend Roundup: Sweet Home Chicago

It feels really good to be home. The last several weeks have been crazy to say the least, but no matter where I go in the world there’s nothing like coming back to familiar places and loving people. I’m honestly just starting to feel settled back into the US and a big part of me still feels like its in Ireland, but having some down time to write, run, and catch up with my favorite people has been really centering. Here’s a little recap of what I’ve been doing, reading, and loving this week…

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What I Did This Week

1. Got dragged to a visiting artist lecture at the School of the Art Institute by my mother, a former student, and actually completely loved the whole talk. The artist, Tal R, is this sweet, silly painter from Copenhagen who preaches being “irresponsible” with art, something I totally resonated with after years of being told to be diligent and thorough while making theater.

2. Sat in on a rehearsal of my friend Kevin’s contemporary choir at Northwestern and heard a preview of their super interesting piece “Consent” by Ted Hearne. The text of the piece is a combination of love letters, marriage rituals, and text messages from the Steubenville rape case and explores the ways we use language of ownership and sexual violence to express romantic relationships. Haunting and fascinating. Looking forward to seeing more of his upcoming concerts!

3. Headed up to Concord Music Hall to catch Kaytranada with my brother and our friends. Although I wasn’t sure what to expect, it ended up being a fun night of DJs and dancing. I loved one of the openers, I think a local female DJ, but didn’t catch her name – if anyone knows, would love to hear more of her!

Culturally Consumed

1. Finally got around to reading Animal Farm after all these years. Such a quick read, but I see why its required reading in high schools around the country: political commentary, easy to grasp and specific metaphors, and it’s actually engaging – I read the whole thing in like 2 hours. Feels good to start reading for pleasure again!

2. This ultra-brief gem from one of my very favorites, David Sedaris, on this election. Just when I think things can’t get worse too…

3. Love this new series that Cup of Jo is doing. I’ve always been fascinated by personal style and its so fun to hear people talk about why they wear what they wear. Especially obsessed with her use of the phrase “bitchy accessory” to describe a structured, see-through bag. Like I resonate with that term soooo much – definitely need more bitchy accessories (and clothes and shoes) in my life.

4. Also, I know that Stranger Things has already had its moment in the sun, but I would like to take a moment of silence for Barb. She was the real MVP.

Coming Up Next

1. Heading out West on Sunday for a little bit so stayed tuned for some picturesque views and me pretending to be outdoorsy.

2. A HUGE guide to all things Dublin that has actually taken me a century to put together, but I’m super excited to share.

3. A to-do list for all things fall! Fall has always been a huge time of change for me (and this fall is no exception) so I often feel this time of year the way I imagine people feel about new years. Time to get into new habits, shed harmful and distracting practices, and open myself up to saying yes more. I know it all sounds so cheesy, but we all need some inspirational cheeseballs when we’re going through shit, am I right? Stay tuned!

St. Stephen’s Green

Even though I absolutely love sunshine, I’ve really been vibing with the lush and overcast weather we’ve been having here in Dublin recently. It seems our summer was rather short (aka it lasted two weeks and it’s not even June) and I’m starting to get used to the idea of a temperate and rainy summer. It helps that the sun doesn’t fully go down until 10:30 and that I’m not sweating through all of my clothes like I would be at home. I think I’m actually starting to understand this whole “summer knits” thing they keep talking about here…

I took a walk around St. Stephen’s Green yesterday and grabbed a few snaps of the park under cloudy skies. I love that even an overcast day doesn’t deter people from spending time outside here; I feel like at home, if the weather isn’t perfect then why bother? But here if it isn’t pouring and the temperature is reasonable, there’s no excuse not to walk around or have lunch outdoors. It’s also hilarious that the weather becomes a national pastime – everyone is always talking about it! But then again, so am I right now… 🙈

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So, even though lots of great things have been happening lately (the end of classes, friends coming to visit, successful meetings) the last few weeks have actually been pretty stressful. Surrounding all these good moments have been a lot of worry and uncertainty and so these things that should be wonderful and inspiring have actually introduced a lot of anxiety into my life. It’s like I’ve been so distracted with everything that I’ve let self-doubt creep in unnoticed. Then suddenly a little mistake or a brief goodbye can seem like the end of the world.

But I know that it’s not. And it’s been taking walks like these and doing things alone that reminds me of that solid part within myself that I can always fall back on. That voice inside me that reminds me to let it out and then pick myself up and do better. It’s like I ran into a wall of my own self-esteem – but why has it been so elusive for so long? How do I tap into this solid foundation of self all the time? I feel so lucky to have this part of myself, but I’m afraid that soon the things that have helped me harness it will lose their potency and I’ll be steeped in fear again.

Am I alone in this or do others feel this process of building up and tearing down? What do you do to remind yourself of your own strengths? Is this getting a little too LiveJournal right now? Probably yes, but I’m still curious…

Weekend Roundup: Happy Earth Day!

This week has been totally crazy cause I’m in training for my new job (which I talked a little bit about earlier) – I’m learning many marketable skills such as hanging up sparkly dresses and strategic ways to stand above objects while I photograph them. It’s unexpectedly exhausting though, so I have been minimally productive in other regards (aka my essays due in like a week and a half 😳). Planning on holing up at Bailey Bar’s outdoor patio this weekend with a glass of white wine and about 5 books on French existentialism… Hit me up for good times.

In other news, happy Earth Day! We were #blessed with beautiful weather today and I took a lovely walk home from work in celebration. Keep up the good work, pretty lady!

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And here are a few gems from around the interwebs, if you’re looking for a little procrastination…

The best tribute to Prince yet. (Also, Kiss is on repeat this weekend 😭)

When you explain ‘goals’ to a grammar guru

These illustrations are totally my vibe… even if they are just for candles lol

You know you’re a goddess when Zac Posen designs your showgirl costumes and you can get away with naming your burlesque show Strip Strip Hooray! 

Rocking out/getting v nostalgic for high school thanks to this cover. (This whole album is hilarious.)

That’s all from me for now – have a great weekend, chickadees!

Weekend Roundup: Paddy’s Day Edition

I gotta say this last week has bit a of a wash in terms of productivity – between my birthday and St. Patrick’s Day not a whole lot got accomplished. But we certainly had a great time! Ian took me to our favorite spot, The Winding Stair, for dinner on my birthday where I ate way too much steak and flipped through an Irish novel someone used as a journal from 1933 (complete with Rugby scores).

For Paddy’s Day we grabbed a few pints of Guinness to prime ourselves for the madness that was the Dublin City Center. I thought after Lollapalooza I could never see more drunk 15 year olds in one place, but I guess I was wrong… Other highlights of the day were watching tourists vomit on historical monuments, getting hustled for money by a South African man with a strangely Irish sounding accent, and discovering the existence of nursing homes for nuns. I would count the parade as a highlight, but we couldn’t really see much of it – shout out to those dedicated patrons who climbed virtually every vertical object in town to catch a glimpse, though.

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The city is slowly draining itself of tourists and I’m hunkering down for a few weeks of reading, essay writing, and dissertation work. If anyone has some good YA fiction recommendations about female sexuality and technology, let me know… In the meantime, here are few links from the interwebs for your lovely Sunday!

・Finally found sweet potatoes in Ireland, so I’ve got potato skins on the brain.

・Read Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home for class last week and totally loved it – thinking Are You My Mother? is next on my list.

・Went to see Hail, Caesar! on Friday- have you seen it? The Coen Brothers have really grown on me.

・Looking for classic white sneakers for spring: should I go adidas, converse, or leather?

・The things that women still endure in the work place is unreal…

Hope you all have a wonderful week and look out for some changes on the blog – playing around with a new look. Let me know what you like!