ready to rumble.

“Buuuuuuterfingers! Buuuuuuuterfingers!” the crowd repeated as I hung my head in shame.

Decked in cleats, shin guards, and gloves I borrowed from the girl who should have been in my position, I guarded that soccer goal like a chihuahua guards its master’s home–with a heart of ferociousness and a laughable lack of intimidation. Our team was down 14-1 thanks in large part to me, a ball had just hit me in the face, and I left the game with a sprained knee from the opposing team’s forward. My knee must have resembled the ball in the moment of impact. Ouch. Sadly, her missed kick saved us from being down 15-1. Score! No pun intended.

This is just one example of when my lack of athleticism really shined in high school. I was horribly uncoordinated and ridiculously bad at sports. If we had fun during practice or a game, I was all smiles. Who cares that we never won a game? Didn’t everyone have fun?! It’s no wonder that I always won “Best Attitude” at the end of the year. Which may be worse than the participation award. It’s like, “Hey, thanks for trying. You made us look bad, but you smiled about it and we feel bad not giving you something. So, here’s a cheap trophy. Please don’t join the team next year.”

I am still not competitive by nature. If I win at anything, I stop while I’m ahead because beginner’s luck is my only advantage.

But there is an exception: CAMP. For four hot, humid, and perfectly epic Indiana summers, I worked at SpringHill Camps. I was totally that counselor my first summer. Overly competitive, obnoxiously loud, and probably most co-counselor’s worst nightmares. Except for the fact that, if you were in my cabin, it was likely you would win the week-end spirit award because I made my campers do things like this with me:

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We dressed up. We yelled catchy chants I still remember. We painted our faces. We were every cabin’s envy and worst enemy all at the same time. I was determined to win and have fun doing it. I can’t tell you how freeing it was for many of my campers to just LET LOOSE and be stupid with me. And clearly, I spared no one’s dignity to win. Not even my own. 

I’m mostly about fun, not winning. If I can win in the process, that’s not so bad either. But for the most part, I’m probably ok with you beating me at whatever competition is before us.

This weekend, señor (my overly-competitive companion fo’ life) had a genius idea: A Cider Off. “What, pre tell, is that?” you ask. Why, a competition of the best ciders this side of the internet–that’s what!

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Apples were sliced, spices were mixed, vanilla syrup was added (don’t judge ’til you try it), and we battled to find the perfect hot apple cider recipe for our upcoming Thanksgiving meal. Blindfolded.

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Four recipes, four taste testers, and lots of overly-dramatic reactions to each cider. I believe “sultry” was one descriptor. We’re all basically cider connoisseurs now. Trust us.

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Kudos belong to señor in this competition. He kicked butt with this winning recipeHis secret: maple syrup. Way to go, babe. 

You’re my apple cider hero.

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busier than you.

Let’s walk through a common scenario, shall we?

Person 1: “Hey! Good to see you! How are you?”
Person 2:”Hey! Busy. I’m REALLY busy.”
Person 1: “Ohh, me too. I have so much going on right now.”
Person 2: “Oh, I bet. But I have at least 10 more things on my schedule than you.”
Person 1: “Doubtful. I’m up to eyeballs in work.”
Person 2:”Ohhh, nice try. I’m, like, busy every night this week.”
Person 1: “Ha. Amateur. I have double booked myself every single night this week. And the weekend. Every weekend actually.”
Person 1: “Hmm. Yeah, I’m busy, like, every weekend until the end of the year.”
Person 2: “Look. You don’t know my life.”
Person 1: “PLEASE. My life is WAY more important than yours, ok?!”
:: Person 2 walks away in shame.::

Ok, I exaggerate. But is this not the subtle conversation that’s happening beneath most “How are you?”-“Busy.” conversations? If you have never had this conversation with a friend or acquaintance before, I applaud you. I commend your honesty and ability to carry on perpetually riveting conversations. I, on the other hand, find these conversations happening daily.

I’m busy. You’re busy. Thanks for the lifeless conversation.

WHY? Why do I let this kind of brainless, horribly boring conversation go on? If we’re all busy, shouldn’t the conversation be interesting? Shouldn’t it be filled with all the tantalizing details of what’s busying us?!

If it’s school, tell me about what you’re learning.

If it’s work, what’s good? What’s rough? How can I encourage you?

If it’s family, tell me about your kids. How are they growing? What adorable, however inappropriate, phrase did your toddler say this week?

And if you’re busy just living life to the fullest, TELL ME so I can live vicariously through you. I spend most of my days in a library or classroom learning about effective counseling strategies. Am I actively counseling people right now? No. I’m learning about it. Which might be the worst thing ever for this lady who CRAVES hands-on learning. Let me hear about your life and tell you all the dysfunctional things that are happening in it.

I joke. But seriously. We’re all a little crazy.

We are busy people. Life is busy. Life is rich and full of experiences we’re attempting to soak in every day. Can we just acknowledge it and move on to a different conversation topic? So help me, I would rather talk about the WEATHER. It’s sunny here all day erryday. Let’s talk about that for 20 minutes. Then, let’s talk about substantive topics. I like that better.

And when did life become about one-upping each other’s busyness? If being overcommitted is a competition, we all lose. Because being overcommitted and busy steals away from rest. If you have a lot on your plate, there’s probably a few expectations from others or yourself from which you can break away. Be the anomaly that’s willing to not be busy. Take a Sabbath. Take one day a week that releases you from telling people how filled your life is. Just be.

I probably like you. So, let’s live that out. Let’s be real friends. Let’s go beyond what’s crazy and busy in our lives and stop trying to compete with each other for busiest “aren’t I such a superstar for balancing all these responsibilities” person. I’m beyond guilty of this, and I’m sorry. I have failed you as a friend. I have failed to value the depth of your thoughts and the immeasurably awesome parts of your life. Your days are worth hearing about so let’s talk about that.

I’m busy. You’re probably busier. Let’s move on to a more interesting topic now, world.

paleoh-no.

Dairy is my frenemy.

She’s like the friend you love to hate, hate to love, and want around all the time. She comforts you for a moment before she stabs you in the back (or in this case, the belly). She entices you with sweet treats before laughing in your face when your stomach is bloated like a balloon. And she’s everywhere. For the record, I don’t actually have a friend like that. But if I did, her name would probably be dairy.

I am lactose intolerant. My mother has known from when I was young, but I ignored her. In fact, I even worked at a Dairy Queen in high school. For nearly 3 years, I sacrificed my stomach to the addictive taste of blizzards, dilly bars, and perfect swirly cones. What a wise decision-maker I was at age 16. College was not much different. I thought, “I just won’t drink milk and go easy on the ice cream.” So, I opted for pizza, chicken alfredo, nachos, cheeseburgers, cheez-its, and any other processed cheese product I could ingest. Again, wisdom abounded.

It wasn’t until about 6 months ago that I really started to get it together. It was as if my brain finally caught up to my body’s plea for normal digestion. Sorry, small intestine. Your bravery is commendable.

This season of life (aka moving out of Indiana) has brought a lot of changes. Now, it includes gleaning myself off of as much dairy as possible. And it has SUCKED. Which is why there are multiple days I say, “Forget you, body! I WANT PIZZA.” After devouring said food to satisfy my craving, I pay my dues. Interpret as you wish.

So, señor and I have decided to do this together–sort of. We recently bought a subscription to eMeals (not emails, though often confused). “E” stands for efficient, easy, and everything-this-lazy-cook-could-have-dreamed-for. With 12 options of meal plans to subscribe to, we opted for Paleo. No dairy, lots of man-meat, and loads of veggies. A total dream, right? Uhh, mostly. Let’s get real. I’m still going to eat pasta because carbs are my life-blood.

On Friday, we had our first meal attempt with our new Paleo plan. AND LET THE RECORDS SHOW THAT I WILLINGLY ATE SALMON. I basted, grilled, and ate that salmon like it was my favorite meal on earth. To all the haters that still think I only eat cheese sandwiches, chicken nuggets, and mac n’ cheese: my taste pallets have matured! Never mind the fact that I still (often) eat 2 of the 3 items mentioned…Let’s focus on the positive: I actually like real food now.

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Señor even made up a song about the food. That’s a good sign the meal was a hit. Or, it’s just further proof he really missed his calling as a freestyle rapper. Ok, ok–both are true.

I’m such a carb, gluten, and sugar lover that this new Paleo choice won’t translate into all my meals. I’m just not ready to break up with bread. It’s too emotionally taxing for both of us. But for dinners, I will gladly unleash my inner cave-woman.

Minus the whole hunting my own meat part.

normalcy.

Dear October,
You rocked my world.
Love,
A weary traveler

You took me to Minneapolis where I saw perdy colors, heard northern accents (don’t ya know), enjoyed the crisp air of a Midwest fall, and enjoyed the hidden gems of the city.

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You flew me to Indiana for a whirlwind visit full of prospective students. And brief coffee dates.

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You sent our first snowfall…which killed any hope of colored leaves in November. Whyyyyyy?

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You brought one of my dearest friends to me from across the country. Thanks for the mems.

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You gifted to me the birthdays of SEVEN immediate family members. Both grandparents on both sides, my little bro, my stepdad, and señor. What a month of epic births.

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You were the definition of stress, October.

And 5 days after you’ve left, I’m still hungover from your late night study fests, fall celebrations, and absolute chaos. I said you rocked my world, but I didn’t say it was all good.

Between the ring on my left hand and the man I keep seeing around my apartment, I think I’ve discovered that I am in fact still married. Poor señor and I have hardly spent quality time together lately. It’s been one weekend venture, class, assignment, paper, friend hangout after another. Date night, oh, date night. Where for art thou, date night? GET BACK IN OUR LIVES.

This is nothing new. I crave normalcy, but I hate routines. I love spontaneity, but I want to plan my days. I write out my assignments, but hate to feel confined by a schedule. Thus is the reason for my current stupor. October basically brought it all with no rest for the wicked–or those with a case of FOMO (fear of missing out). I wanted to do it all this month. So, we did. We traveled–per usual in this Armstrong home. We went on late-night excursions with friends. We tried delicious new restaurants. We were impulsive. We studied like good grad students. We soaked up all October had to offer.

And now, I want my life back. Like, I actually WANT to go to the grocery store so I can eat home-cooked meals. I will even go in the morning, dressed in workout clothes with no intention of going to the gym, and push my way through aisles with the soccer moms. That is commitment. Give me a Saturday where I can lazily catch up on my TV shows like a mature, responsible grad student. Drive me into the mountains again where all I hear is the whistle of wind between the trees. Let me have a full seven days where I’m not driving to the airport.

Please help me get to the end of this month with my sanity in tact so I can confidently write:

Dear November,
Thanks for the rest. And the Thanksgiving weight gain.
Sincerely,
A turkey-lover