Sunday, January 5, 2014

My 2014 Goals: Simplify

Hello from an (excruciatingly chilly) Minnesota! I arrived home today to sub-zero temperatures and crazy wind chills, but honestly; I don't even care. I just spent the first five days of 2014 with my fabulous friend Kelsi and it was everything I needed and more to jump start this year.

I arrived in Los Angeles with a pretty decent idea that my word for 2014 needed to be simplify. After one too many overwhelming moments/days/weeks in November, December, and really all of 2013, I decided that in order to make it to 27 years of age, then I am going to need to learn to say no! Therefore, 2014 is all about trimming back to what really matters. Making time to focus on the things that make me the happiest and sorting through everything else that I just do because I feel like I should/already committed to.

After Kelsi and I spent a leisurely morning with coffee, breakfast and this Four-Step Life Purge Guide (an awesome, free resource!), our respective goals became pretty clear. Ignoring the obvious irony that my 2014 word is simplify and yet here I am setting a number of goals, I am psyched about the end result! As my roommate Ilse put it tonight, there are some things that will be challenging and others that will be easy to attain...overall it is a good balance moving forward.

A few things I am especially looking forward to tackling as I work towards more simplicity:

  • Planing/scheduling one night of the week that is just for me.
  • Being IN BED at 10 PM (This will be the most challenging goal for sure!)
  • Two "No Unnecessary Spending" months (I did one in 2013 and it was awesome!) as well as donating things I already have but do not wear/use.
  • Reading an actual newspaper once a week. (Preferably while sipping coffee)
  • NOT working at my desk while I eat lunch at least three times a week.
  • Inviting friends over for dinner once a month so I eat out less (two or fewer times per week).

Cheers to all that you want to strive for in 2014! Here is a complete list of my 2014 goals.

Hiking the Hollywood sign with Kelsi on January 4.

Other adventures included, but are in no way limited to: exploring Little Tokyo/Chinatown, DIY biking wine tour in Paso Robles, Saturday morning yoga, homemade sesame seared ahi tuna salad, reuniting with Hana in Santa Barbara, and just lots of good best friend good-for-the-soul time.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Eff Yeah 2013

In keeping with tradition, I am sitting down on December 31 to look back on 2013. (Take a look back at 2011 and 2012 if you wish) For a few months now I have been thinking I cannot wait for 2013 to be over. Lots of hard things have happened in the last few months and I have just been dying for a breath of fresh air. Here's to hoping 2014 has exactly that and much more in store! That said, there was a lot of awesome that took place in 2013 and one of my goals was to keep track of things all year long (thus making this list much easier to write!), so here it is, straight from my iPhone notes to you lovely people.

Eff Yeah 2013 

  • Housewarming Party
  • Successful no unnecessary spending month (ALL the dollars saved!!) 
  • Joined a (short-lived) book club
  • Passed my Praxis 3 pedagogy tests to obtain my five year Minnesota teaching license


  • Successful no alcohol month (many dollars saved!!)
  • Winter trip to Ilse's cabin in Nisswa, Minnesota
  • Minnesota Restaurant Week 
  • Indeed Brewery tour


  • Summit Brewery tour on St. Patrick's Day morning
  • MALLasana - giant yoga class in the rotunda at the Mall of America with Maria
  • Weekend in Sheboygan with Joe and Michael for March Madness


  • National Council of Teachers of Mathematics conference in Denver 
  • Long weekend in Denver with Aunt Susie
  • Organized a 20 person summer kickball team at Lake Nokomis
  • Accepted to and attended first ever Cities 97 Singles Mixer with Jess
  • Got my financial life in order, acted like an adult and met with a financial planner
  • Surly Brewing tour with Mom and Dad
  • Twin Cities Ultimate Frisbee spring league with Ilse


  • Needtobreathe in concert at the Orpheum Theater
  • Sara Bareilles in concert at Cedar Cultural Center
  • Run or Dye 5K with Liz and Joe
  • Bought a new bike!! Hello Twin Cities bike trails :) 
  • Learned to operate a grill without blowing anything/anyone up
  • Kenny Chesney and Eric Church in concert at Miller Park with Joe, Megan and Katie


  • Started grad school for a Masters in Education at Hamline University 
  • Grand Ole Day with the family 
  • Danny's high school graduation and open house
  • Music in Mears Park on Thursday nights
  • Minneapolis movies in the park


  • Impromptu Fourth of July trip to Las Vegas
  • John Mayer in concert (for the first time in years) with Katie and Evan at Summerfest
  • Week with the family at Madden's in Brainerd, Minnesota 
  • Rented a pontoon and spent the day on Gull Lake for Michael's 21st birthday
  • Worked the Basilica Block Party beer tent with Mom and met Oake and Keri
  • Matt Nathanson at Basilica Block Party with Mom
  • River Falls Days with Tim, Jamie and Andrew
  • Brett Young in concert in Santa Monica with Kelsi, Sam and Aaron
  • Birthday party with friends and a princess castle in our backyard
  • Second birthday party with California friends
  • Two week road trip with Kelsi along West Coast - California, Oregon and Washington
  • THREE new baseball stadiums visited - Los Angeles Angels, Oakland As, San Francisco Giants
  • Drove through the Redwood Forest
  • Hiked the Columbia River Gorge
  • Dinner in the Space Needle with Papa and Paula

  • Baseball road trip with Joe to Kansas City Royals, St. Louis Cardinals, and Chicago White Sox
  • Successful no coffee month (many more dollars saved!!)
  • PLC Workshop with three coworkers in Lincolnshire, Illinois


  • Year five of teaching!!! 
  • Worked as a SIOP instructional coach and PLC leader at school 
  • Celebrated Jenny and Justin's wedding
  • Organized the first school "night out" of the year at a Twins game
  • Overnight with all students and staff at Camp Courage to kick off the school year
  • North Shore weekend with the family
  • Purple Ride Twin Cities to raise money for pancreatic cancer research


  • Celebrated Tim and Jamie's wedding
  • Halloween weekend in Madison with all three brothers
  • Started Soup Club at school


  • Two back-to-back nights of Matt Nathanson concerts with Nicole and Mom
  • Thanksgiving weekend with all the brothers in town
  • Meals on Wheels with Mom and Joe
  • John Mayer in concert at Target Center
  • Katie and Evan come to visit for the weekend 


  • Bachelorette party with coworkers
  • Holidazzle parade with the family
  • Visited Allison and Jesse in Duluth with Bridget
  • Skiing with all three brothers at Welch Village
  • Christmas with both extended families
  • Libby comes to visit for the weekend 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Take Time

When I think of him I will remember the way he talked passionately about politics. The way he hated the idea of girls who only wore yoga pants to Target. The way he embraced learning Spanish and salsa dancing. I will remember how fondly he spoke of his students and the way he paid attention to even the smallest details about them. I will remember that he was always graciously accepting of help and the kind of man who everyone wants to be friends with. I will remember that he could never say thank you enough times when I would plan out a trip or something for us to do in Cali.

Last week my friends and community in Colombia lost an amazing man named David. He is loved and missed by us all. His passing shocked me. Stunned me. All I could do was call Kelsi and just sit on the phone with her for a few minutes.  The news led to an outpouring of emails and messages between friends and former students. All searching for answers that aren't there. How do you explain to teenagers that a man they love and respect as their teacher is no longer here? Remind them he loved being their teacher, that he always spoke fondly of them, and that he was remarkably proud of them. And to admit the painfully obvious that this is hard, I can't explain it and I can't be there to tell them it's going to be okay. It's not okay and I am still processing that.

I came home from work on the day I found out about David to find my roommates AKA friends of 20 years both home. Both waiting to give me a hug. Both without anything special to say other than "I am here". That night I met one of my closest friends, who happened to be in town for a wedding, for a late night drink. We talked about David, life and the reminder to be grateful. To take time for each other. To take time for joy. To take time to notice things. To take time to just be.

This weekend we celebrated to aforementioned wedding. Friends came into town. We celebrated together. We danced together. We laughed together. We just enjoyed each other and the feeling that you can always come home again...and no matter how much changes in life, we will always be here for each other. And I guess that's the take away. It has to be. That when nothing seems to make sense and there is no reason for what happened...that someone, if you're very lucky - lots of someones, will be there to sit with you. Wherever he is right now, I hope David knows how much we loved him and how much he taught us. And wherever you're at right now, with friends, with life, with relationships, with yourself - there is never a bad time to remind people how real your love for them is. Tell them today.

Monday, September 2, 2013

"We'll fade out to whispers, it's the last days of summer in [Minnesota]"

Tomorrow is September 3, 2013.

My fifth "first day of school" as a teacher.

A day of first impressions. A day of greeting new students. A day of helping my international students feel welcome to St. Paul, to Minnesota, and to the United States of America. A day for introductions. A day for reuniting with old faces. A day for "How was your summer?".

My summer was fan-freaking-tastic, thankyouverymuch. I live my life from summer to summer, and this one felt like the very epitome of my personal motto - work hard, play hard. I spent the 2012 - 2013 school year in a new job at a new school that I loved, but which challenged me to teach three new classes to an incredibly diverse population of students with varying levels of English competency. To say I worked hard for ten months seems like a bit of an understatement.

This summer I needed to decompress from that. To remember why working hard all year long is worth it. To remember why it's okay that I take work home five nights a week and every weekend. Of course, the gratification for this comes all school year long when I build relationships with students and guide them in learning. However, I would be lying if I said I didn't need more than that. I need summer. 

Anything can happen in the summer, anything can be. It is a time for frolicking in parks. For swimming in the land of 10,000 lakes. For a new bike and bike rides. For a new passion for running, specifically at twilight. For last minute trips to Las Vegas because you can and you want to and you are surrounded by people who understand your exact brand of wanderlust. For iced chai lattes and getting lost in books like "Gone Girl", "The Happiness Project" and "That Used To Be Us". For a kickball team of 20 amazing people willing to take a chance on a team where they only knew one person, at first. For two week road trips with your best friend to remind you that traveling isn't just something you do from time to time, but a part of your soul. For celebrating your birthday (twice), in two different states. For learning - through reading, through new friends, through making time for input, through educational conferences and starting grad school. For outdoor music at Summerfest and Basilica Block Party. For outdoor movies in the parks throughout Minneapolis. For spending an afternoon on a pontoon boat celebrating your brother's 21st birthday. For yoga in the park. For a birth month that included seeing (almost!) all of your favorite people on the planet. For seeing six new baseball stadiums on your quest to all 30. For dreaming and wishing and hoping. For real talk and real conversations about what the hell you actually want out of life.

I might not have all the answers to those questions yet ever, but I do know this: We don't pause enough. My summer feels (and sounds) like a blur of activity...and it was, in some ways, but more than that it was a pause to realize how blissfully in love I am with my own life. The people in my life are loyal - to me, to each other, to the people they love. They cherish each other. They understand my sense of adventure, my need for community and the thrill I get from trying new things.  They are passionate examples of the life I want and the things I stand for. They encourage me to be Kristin, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year. They love fiercely, with hearts open to possibilities. I am lucky, blessed and grateful - all at once.

As I contemplate the transition from summer to fall, my principal reminded us last week that each first day of school is a chance to create a legacy for students. Tomorrow is just day one in another school year where I will have the opportunity to influence the lives of young adults. To show them, as people have shown me, that they matter. Their thoughts, ideas, dreams, fears, feelings, loves, words, passions - they all matter.

Am I sad to say goodbye to such an incredible summer of memories? Of course. But fall means new adventures, new students and new beginnings. A breathe of fresh air after a summer of rejuvenation. Fall 2013, let's do this. (But first, pass the pumpkin spice latte)

Thursday, August 8, 2013

On Passion and Setting Your Life on Fire

Yesterday I returned from an incredibly inspiring three days at the Professional Learning Communities conference for educators. The final presentation I attended, after three days of discussion on collaboration and learning, ended with the presenter telling the audience, "There is no more essential work to be done in the United States right now than in reinvigorating K-12 education. I know this, because if there was, I would be doing that work." He spoke with a fervor and passion about his work as a middle school principal in such a way that left me thrilled for the possibilities brought forth by a new school year.

I live life from summer to summer. The summer I traveled to Spain. The summer my family camped in the Black Hills. The summer I turned 21. The summer I spent two weeks traveling the West Coast. The summer I traveled to Guatemala for the first time. The summer I became friends with Anna and Maria at church camp. The end of summer means a transition. A new beginning. A fresh start. Endless possibilities. Personally and professionally.

Driving home yesterday thoughts of passion and possibilities played in my head as I contemplated where I am at and where I am going. One month from now will be my 5th first day of school as a math teacher. I'm living with two of my very best friends in the world, but with a May 2014 end date in mind as one of them moves on to get married. I have spent the better part of the last year creating a life for myself here in the Twin Cities, rebuilding a support network of friends and family after three years away. I'm happy. There are quiet moments when I look around and cannot believe how incredibly blessed I am with this life. Then there are moments where I am restless. Where I want to know what the next big adventure is and when it starts. Moments where I want more passion, more love, more life....just MORE.

I want sunny skies with a chance of killer tornados, just to keep music (and life!) sounding good. I want to set my life on fire with a passion for living boldly. I am starting that work by getting real clear on what I value and surrounding myself with people who get me and get why these things are important. A work in progress, this list of values currently includes:

  • Learning
  • Passion
  • Reflection
  • Relationships 
  • Health
  • Growth
  • Input
While I focus my energy on getting my own values clear I look forward to conversations with others about what they value and why. The things we value, those things define us, they create our character. Often when asked what defines us we pick adjectives that sound good, things we would like to be, the best versions of ourselves. But these values I want to get clear on aren't what I think I should be or even what others think I should be...these things are the best way I have for describing what is important to me here and now. What are your core values? Let's get talking about it :)

Friday, March 1, 2013

That Little 19 Year Old Pop Star Doesn't Know Anything (Reflections on Sober February)

J Biebs has an entire autobiographical piece entitled "Never Say Never". I know because I once watched it in its entirety due to lack of other things to do on a three hour plane ride from Colombia to Miami.

After completing Goal #2 of my 2013 goals, "Sober February", I am going to be inclined to disagree with him. This will NEVER be a monthly goal again. But not just because IT'S REALLY FREAKING HARD (which it was).

When you're 25 years old and it's February in Minnesota do you know how many social activities there are that involve drinking? A WHOLE HECK OF A LOT OF THEM. In the past month I have said "no" to drinking:

  • Out to dinner with my parents 
  • Out to happy hour with coworkers
  • Out to happy hour with my parents
  • At brewery tours with my brother
  • At social events with friends
  • On Valentine's Day! (the horror)
  • At a beautiful winter cabin in northern Minnesota that literally begs you to drink a dark winter ale in it's presence
  • At more than one wine bar
  • On two different nights when friends were in town visiting me
  • Every single night that my roommates want to sit around, chat & drink red wine (so basically ALL THE NIGHTS)
...and probably a few other instances which I have most likely mentally blocked out. Basically, I said "no, thank you" a lot this month. And what did I do instead?

Drank so much bloody tea that my body doesn't know what to do with itself. And coffee. So. Much. Coffee. To the point of getting a caffeine headache (I have never been addicted to coffee up until this point in my life) on the weekend.  Turns out I have some sort of mental association with socializing with friends or family and holding a cup of something in my hand. Who knew, right?

I guess that is the point of the 2013 goals, really. Not to give something up for a month because it's going to change your whole life, but to try things on and see how they fit. Not drinking anything doesn't really fit in my lifestyle right now, which wasn't that surprising to learn, but I did learn some new things along the way...
  • I spend a lot of money out on drinks when I go out to eat. While I am pretty much done with the college scene of going out to bars for many drinks in a night, I rarely say no to a beer or glass of wine with dinner. Mostly this is fine, because I work hard for my money and I don't go out to eat that often. However, sometimes I could just save $5-10, stick with water and it would be just fine as well. 
  • The older I get the more drinking is becoming something we do while chatting and catching up with each other's lives as opposed to the point of an evening, like it was in college. I like this a lot and I love that I have great friends who want to get together over a glass of something delicious. The hardest part of Sober February was probably making the effort to still meet up with friends who were out at places where drinking would be an option.
  • Our social choices impact others - even though they don't have to. On at least three occasions during Sober February I was out at a restaurant with another person who opted not to drink. Whether these decisions were out of support for me, not wanting to be the only one to order something or some other reason, I am not exactly sure, but these situations happened and I thought it was interesting.
Overall I am going to call this month a great success since I completed it without cheating once!!! And really, it wasn't as hard as I thought it was going to be, but just took a lot of self-discipline that I didn't really know I had. In all honesty, it's incredibly debatable as to if I would have succeeded without having a partner in crime in one of my roommates, Ilse. Without the moral support of someone also making the same decisions as me, I am not sure I would have made it. We barely made it through last Saturday night as it was and even that required making a 10 PM batch of cookie dough which we consumed half of without baking.  Moderation - who needs it?

Sober February was a fun experiment and perhaps No Beer Month or No Wine Month or No Drinking at Restaurants/Bars will be a 2014 goal, but I am not sure No Alcohol Month will ever make it back on the list.. With those thoughts in mind, the last school bell just rang, it's Friday afternoon and I have a very important roommate happy hour date to attend. 

Saturday, February 16, 2013

DIY Valentine's Day

Towards the end of the school day on Thursday, February 14, another teacher passed by my classroom and commented "Valentine's Day is so hard for some people; there is a girl crying right now in the hallway."

"She needs to get over that."

Weird gut response from me, huh? I recognize that sympathy/empathy are not really my strong suit, so I immediately clarified my comment and said something to the effect of, if you want to have a lovely Valentine's day (or a lovely ANY day!), then you need to go out and make that happen yourself. Don't wait around for someone else to make it happen for you.

For several years now, Valentine's Day has been one of my favorite days to celebrate love, friendship, delicious treats and just an overall reason to wear a fabulous outfit. Even growing up I loved the idea of making yourself a fun, colorful box for all your elementary school classmates to place themed Valentine's and the obligatory candy hearts into. However, after all the fun associated with Valentine's Day as a kid there came a time when I needed to make a decision about what some people still deem a "ridiculous, made-up holiday".

See I was a sophomore in college and got it into my head that it made perfect sense for my boyfriend at the time to drive from his college to mine to celebrate Valentine's Day together. And I fully expected it to happen. The entire day I kept thinking he would show up. Spoiler alert: he didn't. And years later, with hindsight as my friend, my adult self recognizes that it was ridiculous I even expected him too. He never said he was going to and in fact probably had completely legit commitments/reasons why he couldn't. That night however, I remember feeling so let all the sudden all the fun of that day didn't matter because I was disappointed.

I went to bed that night thinking about how I couldn't just sit around and wait for someone to make my day complete, but that I needed to do that for myself. Kind of the same reason why I don't believe in being someone's "better half" because I think a successful relationship involves two wholes, but that's another blog post. ;)

Since that year in college, my Valentine's Days have been about making my own fun.  This year that meant spending a cold day in January sprawled on my bedroom floor with construction paper, stickers, glitter, markers, ribbon and a best friend as we crafted Valentine's for our friends near and far. After mailing my Valentine's in time for a February 14 arrival to places like Brazil, Colombia, Wyoming, California, Indiana, Washington, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

On Thursday I dressed in purple pants and hot pink shirt to head off to school, where I received the most delightful Valentine from one of my students, brought in muffins for my co-workers to share, and handed out Valentine's to all my students that involved Hello Kitty temporary tattoos - because why not? From there, it was off an Inversions Workshop at Core Power Yoga where I played around in headstand and handstand with some of my favorite instructors. AND where all the students did cartwheels across the classroom, all in the name of fun.

Fifteen minutes later I arrived home to the sounds of Michael Jackson music blasting. I walked upstairs to both of my roommates cooking Valentine's dinner (Ilse for me and Liz for her boyfriend) and dancing to Michael Jackson on the Wii. I dropped my bags and joined in immediately - because why not? After the dancing ceased, Ilse and I enjoyed our pesto pasta, green smoothies and tea (since February is no alcohol month) before watching our Red Box pick of the night, Flight. Weird movie, by the way...

Another successful Valentine's Day completed, I headed to bed, reflecting on the idea that in today's world of DIY (thanks, Pinterest) we are so quick to try to build ourselves something pretty out of wine corks and chalkboard paint, yet we don't extend that "do it yourself" attitude to our lives and emotions. And in some ways that reliance on others is necessary, human and just are terrifyingly risky as going it alone, but at the end of the day, if you have already created a great DIY "you" then won't everyone else's contributions just add to make it that much better?

That's my plan.