The Year of You

learning to live without limits

Tim Tams and twenty one pilots: My Australian Walkabout — March 31, 2017

Tim Tams and twenty one pilots: My Australian Walkabout

My trip to Australia can be summed up pretty simply: I expected the worst, but experienced the best. I have a new-found love for Australia and the adventures that I had these last few weeks. I thank this wonderful place for the hospitality.

March 17- 31, 2017

Travel Days (Friday and Saturdayish): Traveling to Australia went as I expected which is exactly how I like my travel.  It was exhausting, long, but still somehow relaxing. When you are on a plane for 17 hours you either read, write, watch a movie or sleep…..there is nothing else that can be done and it is great. I opted to catch-up on a few movies.  La La Land was really the highlight of  my flight.  17 hours later, and I arrived in the land down under.

Day 1 (a Sunday) Was a travel to site day which included our first kangaroo sighting, two winery visits (apparently the Hunter Valley is prime Australian wine country), and severe zombie like jet lag. While cute, kangaroos are savages and they are everywhere in the rural areas.

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Resting kangaroos

Day 2 was a Monday and meant business: 6 hours worth of presentations followed by 4 hours of driving and an inadequate amount of food (for my standards). This is the face (as captured by one of my equally disgruntled travel companions) that I make after a day like Day 2. Meanwhile Jason survived Monday morning and even did the boys’ hair, at their request. I miss these fools.

Day 3: What can I say about Day 3? More meetings and more driving. The beauty of all the driving is that I have been able to see a lot of Australia via my view from the car.

Day 4: Fly to Brisbane. My hotel accommodations up until Brisbane were questionable at best. Think windows that don’t lock and bugs. What Brisbane meant for me was civilization, an amazing hotel, regular access to food and a full gym set-up. I was never so happy as when we arrived in Brisbane, and I think I proclaimed this to my co-workers 20 times that day. Brisbane makes me happy.

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Brisbane City

Day 5 and 6: Work, work, work, work, work. Every day we would make the nearly mile walk each way to the office, and it was amazing.  It’s another reason I love Brisbane, you walk everywhere and you feel completely safe doing so. If only such things were possible in St. Louis. We did so much walking on this trip, my fitbit is going to be disappointed when I get home.

Day 7  was a Saturday which meant our first free day of the trip. I got up early and participated in a 5k along the river in Brisbane.  The 5k was through Park Run which is an organized free 5k. People meet at the same spot every Saturday morning at 7am and run a 5k. It is somewhat informal yet timed, but no divisions and no awards. 512 people joined in on this day. It was an awesome experience and I am so happy that I did it. The rest of the day was spent walking and shopping. I hit an all time high step count of 27,000 steps and 12 miles.

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Brisbane South Bank, Park Run 5k

Day 8 (a Sunday) was when things started to get interesting. Originally, we were suppose to leave Brisbane and head to Mackay to start the second round of site meetings which meant man camp accommodations (which I found out were worse than I even thought), snakes and other less than desirable room conditions. Due to Cyclone Debbie hitting that region our entire second week of site visits was cancelled. Debbie was considered one of the worst cyclones in years. (Fun fact, a cyclone is the equivalent to a hurricane, but because it is below the equator it spins in the opposite direction. Essentially, hurricanes below the equator are called cyclones.) If we would have traveled to site, we would have been in the heart of Debbie, think gale force winds, flooding, stranded, loss of power. Instead, it meant another full week in Brisbane…I cant say I was disappointed at all. I had a comfy little routine going in Brisbane and another full week there did not break my heart.

With an additional free day, the team decided to visit Lone Pine Sanctuary which is a zoo that lets you hold koalas and hand feed kangaroo…things you could never get away with in the US. Also on Sunday I realized that Twenty One Pilots was staying at our hotel! I knew they were in town for their concert the next day, and I had a hunch they would be staying at our hotel because it is one of the better hotels in Brisbane. Sure enough, it was confirmed by the front desk and I instantly lost. my. shit. Twenty One Pilots is my absolute favorite band (thanks to my sister); I love all of their music…all of it.  That evening I ended up sitting within feet of both Josh and Tyler (hence my stalker pictures), but I never quite worked up the courage to go up to them. No one else in the entire hotel lobby bar bothered them so I didn’t want to be that girl. Today, I regret not doing it. I hate living with regret.

Day 9: Started with work, ended with the Twenty One Pilots concert in Brisbane. They really are amazing, especially live. I will see them in concert every opportunity that I get. So flipping good.

Day 10 and 11: Work, work, work, work, work. More team bonding with my co-workers. It will be strange not spending every day/meal with these people.

Day 12: Debbie’s rage finally hits Brisbane. Flash flooding and torrential rain all day. The flooding was so bad our office closed at noon as did all the schools, public transit and local businesses so we had absolutely nothing to do most of the day (which gave me time to catch up on writing this post).

The team (minus one, the photographer) walking back to the hotel. I’m the one leading the pack with the purple umbrella.

In other news, I tried Vegemite which is an Australian staple, and from what I have found on google it is a spread made from yeast. It looks gross and tastes like salty meat flavored jam. Not the worst thing I have ever had, but I wouldn’t waste the calories.

Day 13 was a Friday and our last full day in Brisbane. I took my last opportunity to do a sunrise run along South Bank. The rest of the day was filled with work, a bit of shopping and preparing to come home, plus one last stop at our favorite juice/coffee bar.  I will miss this wonderful city, but I am ready to head back home to my family.

Tomorrow we start the nearly 20 hour trip home. Everything about this experience with the exception of missing my family has been amazing. The trip has given me a unique opportunity to focus on me and only me for two full weeks; to clear my mind, de-stress, and slow down. As a mom (and wife) it’s not something that happens very often. I feel truly blessed to be able to travel to Australia and immerse myself in the wonderful city that is Brisbane. The “no dramas” relaxed active lifestyle is one that I can definitely get behind….not to mention the coffee is really good here.

Lessons from this trip:

-Always pack more underwear than you think…you never know when laundry service might steal a pair.

-If your heart tells you to do something…flipping do it. I am still so angry with myself for not going up to TOP!

-I work with some really great people and have really enjoyed the two weeks with this group.

-My husband is absolutely amazing. He has held down the fort these last two weeks and managed life as a single parent without complaining one time. I am a lucky girl.

-Embrace the journey in front of you and don’t look back. Live the adventure that you have been given.

Until Next Time Australia. I love you.

Beware The Ides of March — March 17, 2017

Beware The Ides of March

Six years ago, on March 15th, my grandma passed away. My grandma was the first person that I have lost that I miss every single day, and every March 15th brings reflection and sadness as I am amazed on how much time has passed. I was 30 weeks pregnant with Chase when she died and I was so close to introducing this wonderful woman to her first great- grandchild. He missed her by 6 weeks.

When I think about my life and my inspiration, my Grandma Pat is right up there at the top. She was a beautiful, intelligent, kind woman. Those who knew her knew she had a strong willed sas about her that was still somehow cloaked in kindness. She wasn’t the grandma that smothered you with affection, but you could feel her pride and love in every word. I had the privilege of spending a lot of time with my grandma as a young child and I think that is how our bond formed; we were cut from the same mold. We just understood each other.

In my late teens, I remember her being so proud that I was going to college, and she confided in me her own dreams. Growing-up she had hoped to become a nurse, but then life stepped in. Six kids later and many grandchildren, her dreams adjusted.  In these conversations,  she urged me to go after everything that I have always wanted to do, and I have been trying to do just this ever since. My inspiration lies in doing the things that my grandma didn’t get to do. Everything I’ve done, everything I’ve tried to accomplish, has a foundation in making my grandma proud.

So this March 15th, in honor of my Grandma Pat, I eat the Red Hot eye off the Wood’s Bakery bunny cookie FIRST because you should always go after exactly what you want in life and she would have wanted me to eat that delicious cookie.

Pat in Sundress 001

#AustraliaBound — March 10, 2017

#AustraliaBound

A week from today I will start the long trek to Australia where I will be for the next two weeks. This will be my third trip to Australia (all three for work), the last trip being nearly seven years ago. I have never been away from my boys for longer than a week at a time and anxiety has kicked in. I think it’s fair to say that “Planner Mode” has been fully activated, list making has hit an all-time high, and I am just a wee bit stressed. I have a to do list for before I leave, a packing list, three grocery lists for the weeks I am gone including dinner and lunch menus for each of the 16 days, a calendar with my location each day because I will not be in the same location for more than a few days at a time, and a calendar of things happening at home including reminders for each day. A lot happens in our household over the course of two weeks, and I am sadly going to miss it all. Letting go of the control will be a challenge, but I know Jason is a superstar which helps me breathe a little easier. He really is amazing.

So why am I going to Australia you ask? Many of my company’s operations are located in Australia, and there is a small team going to conduct workshops at these sites. Business travel sounds so glamorous, right? Wrong. It’s not. You know what is glamorous?  Traveling for vacation. I am going to air my grievances against this trip now so that we can all move on to happier things because I really don’t want to sound like a brat. I do realize how lucky I am for this experience.

Grievances:

  • Two weeks away from my family….missing two weeks of my kids’ lives.
  • Packing….for two weeks. Lugging said suitcase and carry-on bag around eastern Australia for two weeks.
  • My ridiculous nine-hour layover in Dallas before boarding my flight to Sydney
  • Sleeping next to a stranger on a plane
  • Being that person that gets up to pee 12 times on the plane, and the anxiety I have about being that person
  • 17 hour flight from Dallas to Sydney. 17 hours
  • Not being able to bring my protein powder or any Lauren approved snacks through customs in Australia. No out of continent food allowed!
  • Jet lag….which does really weird things to your body and mental state when you flip your body clock. You are awake when you should be sleeping and your body still adjusts temperatures as if you were sleeping so you get these weird fluctuations in the middle of the day. Example of the extreme time difference: When it is 5pm on March 9th in St. Louis, it is 9am on March 10th in Brisbane Australia.
  • The food. I have been underwhelmed by Australian cuisine. I’d like to point out that never once have I seen a Bloomin’ Onion on a menu in Australia and NEVER ask for a Fosters. Fosters practically doesn’t exist in Australia. It is NOT Australian for beer.
  • The Wildlife. Every image you have ever seen of creepy crawly slithering animals that made you say “NOPE”……they all live in Australia.
  • Minimal to no access to a weight room. Minimal ability to run outside when at our operations. Unknown workout schedule.

Positives:

  • I will have no house to clean, no meals to prep, no real obligations except for my own safety and wellbeing for two weeks. It’s a little bit scary but a little bit exciting.
  • It is summer in Australia
  • Tim Tams… they have them in the states now, but trust me they are so much better in Australia
  • The coffee
  • Brisbane
  • Being on the other side of the world
  • The adventure!

While there are a ton of downsides to this trip, I am still really looking forward to it. Regardless of if I will have time to explore, I love traveling. I love being immersed in other cultures. I love seeing new things. I am an explorer at heart. I feel oddly at home being somewhere unfamiliar to me. It makes me feel free, and forces me to really see.

Traveling to Australia is an experience in itself. First, you need a plane big enough to hold  enough fuel to travel 8,578 continuous miles.  The plane I am on from Dallas to Sydney is an A380. It is a multi-leveled aircraft and for anyone into planes it really is nice.  Because I am traveling for work, I am flying Business class. I am not sure I would survive the 17 hour flight any other way. When we leave Dallas, it will be night-time. When we arrive in Sydney it is early morning so it feels right even though you lost an entire day of your life. For this trip, I will be losing March 18th because of time zones and such. I will never get to experience March 18th. Strange, right?

Once in Australia, I will be traveling around to our various sites with some days back in our Brisbane corporate office. Brisbane really is a wonderful city. When visiting our sites, it gets a bit more rustic. I will be staying in accommodations called “man camps”. Sounds questionable, right? Yeah, questionable. I’ve never had to stay in the man camps at our sites before, but it was unavoidable for this trip. I have heard many stories about the man camps, but my personal favorite was one of a guy who couldn’t leave his room for 3 hours because there was a giant adult male kangaroo hanging outside of his room door. Things you don’t think about in Illinois.

The most stressful part of my trip may simply be that I am throwing off my routine, and I have a constant fear of falling off the health bandwagon and resorting to old ways. I saw something on Facebook today that felt spot on to my concern, it said “When you decide to have a cheat meal and all of a sudden it’s three years later.” This is what I fear the most. At home, I have well-defined routines and habits to keep my priorities straight. Food and exercise are basic parts of my day. I’ve taken the guesswork out of my food to keep me from straying and my decision to workout is as basic as brushing my teeth. I just do it because I don’t want to feel bad later (or have bad breath).  When I am in Australia, I will have no consistency day-to-day. No known access to a weight room except for in Brisbane. I have been advised not to go running outside by myself at our sites because of unknown dangers both human and animal. So what is left? My hotel room and my body weight.  This will be a challenge, but I am up for it.

My go to hotel workout will likely be some interval/circuit/tabata/HIIT variation depending on what I am into that day. Below I’ve sketched out a sample 40 minute tabata workout that will likely occur on one or multiple days while I am traveling. For those unfamiliar, tabata is a high intensity interval style of workout with a fairly simple formula of 20 seconds of work, 10 seconds of rest, repeated for 8 rounds (so 4 minute circuits). Tabata workouts tend to be shorter (think more like 20 minutes, which is 5 circuits) because they are meant to be all out effort for the entire workout. I opt for 40-60 minutes of tabata when I am on my own. I really do love tabata. As a point of reference, typically I will burn 19o calories during a 20 minute tabata class, and that is just the calorie burn while in the class, so it’s pretty effective for the time invested (and you don’t have to count reps!!). The image below explains the Tabata structure far better than I can. Image and content credit to Ex Sloth

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The below Tabata sample workout is done with supersets, but you could do single exercises per circuit instead. I like the superset approach because it breaks up the circuits. 8 rounds of burpees can be kind of awful.

20 sec work, 10 sec rest x 8

Circuit 1: Jumping Jacks (JJ) and Full Burpees

Circuit 2: Mountain Climbers (MC) and Lateral Leaps

Circuit 3: Half Burpees and Push-ups

Circuit 4: High Knees and Butt Kickers

Circuit 5: Plyo Lunges and Plyo Squats

Circuit 6: Hop Scotch and Plank Jacks

Circuit 7: Toe Runs and Squat Thrusts

Circuit 8: Fast Feet and Broad Jumps

Circuit 9: Scissor Squats and Cross Mountain Climbers

Circuit 10: Sprinters Lunge (Right) and Sprinters Lunge (Left)

=40 minutes

By way of example, here is how Circuit 1 would work:

(20 sec of JJ, 10 sec of rest, 20 sec of full burpees, 10 sec of rest) times 4 and then you move on to the next circuit with the exact same formula. It’s super handy to have a fitness timer app on your phone.  Most will just run in the background if you are listening to apple music or rockmyrun and buzz when the work or rest has ended/started. I also want to point out that I am a little unconventional when it comes to exercise names. Sometimes I will call things what I know I will remember them as.  I think I have tried to include fairly common conditioning exercise names in this workout example, but if all else fails just use Pinterest to find yourself a handy image of the exercise. If you aren’t already doing Tabata style workouts, you will love it. I promise. I feel compelled to say things like stay hydrated and don’t do anything uncomfortable for your body. Basically, don’t be an idiot and drink water.

My goal is to not simply survive the next few weeks, but to really thrive. I will be forced outside of my comfort zone. I will be tired. I will be challenged to work outside of my routine. I will miss my family, BUT I will have two solid weeks to focus solely on myself which hasn’t happened in many many many years. I hope I come back with a fresh perspective ready to take on the next challenge with the confidence gained from knowing I can not and will not give-up.

Next Time: I’m in Australia!

#livelikeawarrior —

#livelikeawarrior

Thinking about continuing with my “Letting Go” series has seriously been hurting my brain. Have you ever had something that just consumes your mind? As much as you try, you just can’t get past it? For some it’s worry, for me it is typically a pursuit to figure something out or answer a question that is bugging me. This is how I am with most things. Some call it obsession. I call it passion or better yet determination. When I am intrigued by something, I don’t let go until I have what I need. I think my spirit animal is a boa constrictor which pains me because I am absolutely terrified of snakes.

My determination has led to many successes because I simply won’t give- up until I achieve what I am after, but it has also taken me down dark windy roads on missions for truth and justice only to be disappointed when I don’t get the answers that I need. It’s a blessing, it’s a curse and it’s exhausting. I have been struggling with what I was going to write on this topic for awhile because I don’t have the answers. For anyone who understands this right now, having someone tell you to just “Let it Go” is hurtful. If it was that easy, you would have already done that. So, instead of telling you to “Let it Go”, I will suggest that you “Live Like a Warrior”.

I was driving home from work this week thinking about this post and a song caught my ear. It was Matisyahu’s “Live Like a Warrior”. It was perfect, and Live Like a Warrior has become my new mantra for all things in life….a G rated version of “be a badass bitch”. I’ll let you look up the full lyrics because I am a little uneasy with copyright violations and correct citation methods, but here’s to hoping that Google didn’t let me down.

I tend to gravitate towards the second verse which is below. I hope this helps you as it has helped me. (I highly recommend listening to the song as well)

“Some things you should let go, they’re only gonna pull you down,

Just like weight on your shoulder they are only gonna make you drown

We all swing high, we all swing low,

We all got secrets people don’t know

We all got dreams we can’t let go,

We want to brave, Don’t be afraid

Today, today, live like you wanna,

Let yesterday burn and throw it in a fire, in a fire, in a fire,

Fight like a Warrior, Today, today, live like you wanna,

Let yesterday burn and throw it in a fire, in a fire, in a fire,

Live like a Warrior” 

Songwriters: STEIN, VINCENT / KNIGHT, JACK / MILLER, MATTHEW / SCHERER, KONSTANTIN / GRIGG, ALLAN / WITHERS, KORI

Live Like A Warrior lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd., BMG RIGHTS MANAGEMENT US, LLC, DOWNTOWN MUSIC PUBLISHING LLC

#AllIDoIsWhitewash — March 5, 2017

#AllIDoIsWhitewash

My hashtag is to the song “All I Do Is Win”. I didn’t want you to overlook that nerdy little gem. This week we had Chase’s kindergarten musical which was just about as cute as you would expect. I never want him to leave kindergarten which is why I sometimes sabotage his schoolwork.  Also this week, Jason and I gave up eating after 8pm for Lent. Let me describe how this typically goes, 7:50pm rolls around and we are cramming cheezits down our throat. We did set a few stipulations. We are allowed to eat any fruit or vegetable after 8pm.  We may have stretched the definition of fruit into a smoothie one day this week but tomato tomato. 

This weekend has been filled with more home projects. Hours of whitewashing and putting furniture together. The awesome design company Belle & Ballast Designs is transforming our seriously dark and boring living room into something out of a fancy person’s home.  I am in love, and we aren’t even done! It has been great working with the owner, Kirstyn. She has an amazing eye for design, and not to mention I have really enjoyed catching-up with this friend from high school. She is the real deal. You can find her on Facebook under Belle & Ballast Designs. Here is the initial major change. More to come once it is completely done.

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The rest of the weekend was spent finishing some painting and getting things done for the week. I am starting to stress a little over my upcoming business trip to OZ. This will be my third trip to Australia for work. I am truly blessed to have these opportunities, but the thought of being away from my family for two weeks is stressing me out. Thank god I have the world’s best husband who can keep everything in order like I’m not even gone.

Next Time: Preparing for Australia and Finishing the Living Room Design! Eventually I will get back to my Letting Go series.