The highs and lows of parenting and real estate.

Hiking Tales: The One With the Wasps

We met at the trailhead at 5AM. It was a long hike, eleven miles, but I’d done Tom’s Thumb before, so I was pretty sure it would be NBD.

It was an out and back, and for most of the ‘out’ the sun was behind the mountain. We started with a group of 8, but my sister, who runs 7 miles every other day, quickly pulled ahead of the pack, followed by her bestie, and former Division 1 collegiate athlete, Jen. I trotted behind them, mostly keeping up.

The last time I did this hike was 2 years ago when I was running 12-15 miles a week and 4 months into a weekly long hike training program. I was also hiking with non-super athletes. We did things like Stop For Rest Breaks. This time was different.

About 3 miles in, the gap between me and Jen (behind Sarah) was starting to grow and I was breathing hard. I began to fantasize about hiking with my husband, who bitches bitterly, but gives me an excuse to rest occasionally. I looked up, and in the distance, Sarah stopped. Jen piled up behind her, and I quickly caught up, ready to complain about the pace and non-resting. I was bitter bitcher of this group.

“I don’t think this is the way,” Sarah said, looking toward a dip in path that went over a small wash. It was overgrown with trees and bushes.

“This has to be the way,” I said. “Where else would we go?”

“There’s… bees,” she said, and I paused, listening for a moment. Sure enough, I heard the eerie hum of hundreds, maybe thousands, of wings.

“This is the way,” a voice behind me said. It was a guy we’d passed awhile back who’d caught up to us. “They’re wasps. You have to go through them. They were worse yesterday. I turned back. But today I’m going through. You just have to keep your mouth closed and not swat at them. They’re attracted to the moisture in your mouth.”

“We have to walk through them?!” Jen asked. It sounded completely insane. We could see them swarming around in the wash. It was about 5 feet of branches and bushes and a little bit of water, covered in buzzing, stinging kamikazes.

“I talked to the park ranger about having them removed, but they won’t do it. If you want to finish the hike, you have to go through them. Do you want me to go first?” the guy asked. He was weird, but he didn’t seem like a complete lunatic, and we sure as fuck didn’t want to be the ones to test his theory.

“Yes please,” Sarah said.

The guy took a deep breath, clamped his mouth shut and walked down into the depression in the path. We collectively held our breath as he took three or four steps through the mass of insects, but they didn’t change pitch or fervor. The guy didn’t scream or fall to the ground writhing. On the other side, he shouted back to us (with more surprise and relief in his voice than I was comfortable with), “I made it! I didn’t get stung!”

Sarah, Jen, and I stood there for a few moments just looking at each other.

“I think I’m going to hold my shirt over my mouth,” Sarah said. Apparently we were going to do this, too. I was sort of hoping everyone would decide a 6 mile hike was decent enough for the day and pack it in.

“Alright, let’s go,” said Jen (she’s an attorney, so she has experience staying calm while under attack).

Sarah lifted her tank top over her mouth and plunged in. Jen followed quickly behind. Before I could lose my nerve, I held my shirt over my face, took a step, and closed my eyes, walking as calmly as I could.

Wasps dive-bombed my head. I could feel them bouncing off my cheeks. Their wings were in my ears. It took everything I had in me to keep from screaming bloody murder and using my arms like propellers to keep them the fuck away from my orafices. With my eyes still shut, I took three quick steps through the brush and was out on the other side.

Shaking with relief and residual terror, I opened my eyes. Sarah and Jen were standing there, also unscathed.

“That was horrible!” said Jen.

“That was the most terrifying thing I think I’ve ever done,” I told them, without exaggeration.

“You know we’re going to have to go through again on the way back, right?” Sarah said.

Vacaysh Travel Reviews

Last week we vacayshed in La Jolla for a week with the fam. It was a mostly enjoyable experience (which is really the very highest praise you can hope for of an eight day trip with 8 kids and 9 adults in one house). I feel compelled to do my due diligence as a proper vacayshee and review all the establishments we patronized for future vacayshlings.

1. Some hotel in San Diego we stayed the first night – Showers are super excellent for washing your mid-section and knees. A room with two double beds is perfect for a family of 5, unless your teenager wants to sleep lying down without being a fire hazard. Walking distance to a bar my brother-in-law really loves because it has a piano player and paintings of naked ladies on the wall. I’m pretty sure he and my sister named their dog after that bar.

2. Cody’s (restaurant in downtown La Jolla) – Fantastic champagne cocktails. Adorable waiters abound (my favorite was the one with the man-bun, but the one with the black-frame hipster glasses and accent was delicious, too). We went back a second visit to sample different cocktails and waiters and it did not disappoint.

3. Our rental house – Extremely homey vibe. With all of the owners’ personal belongings stuffed into closets and drawers and all their old family photos up around the house, it felt like we were visiting my Great Grandma in Minnesota, down to the ancient peeling wallpaper, unpredictable plumbing, and possible haunting. The feral kittens who live under the deck in the back provided endless hours of entertainment for the children. Also the hot tub is the very perfect height for epic jumps and flips into the swimming pool. And it seems like maybe someone hosted swinger parties in the room we affectionately called The Ghost Dance Party Room, so… that’s probably useful, for someone. Tip: If you have to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, don’t use the middle switch on the second floor bath for the light. It goes off and back on every 13-ish seconds, so you might die of a heart attack when you’re half asleep and plunged into darkness mid-pee. The far left switch stays illuminated more consistently. 

Feral kitten.

Feral kitten sighting.

4. The La Jolla Farmer’s Market – Absolutely superb location for fresh, local produce, poke’ over rice, and nonchalantly stalking that actor from Pretty Little Liars while he buys souvenirs for his girlfriend from the guy with the table of crap he swears he found on the bottom of ocean.

5. Birch AquariumThe place to go to spend $17/person for 12.5 minutes of entertainment for your children. If you’re in a big rush, just go straight to the sea dragon exhibit and stand there for 7 minutes and you’ll get your money’s worth.

Sea dragon. Real thing. I think.

Sea dragon. Real thing. I think.

6. Legoland – Completely endurable if you go to BevMo beforehand and stock up on tiny cans of margaritas to carry in your purse.

7. Surf Divas – A legitimately excellent place to get surf lessons complete with a harbor seal and a shovelnose guitarfish sighting. And no one even drowned!

Offspring surfing! And not drowning!

Offspring surfing! And not drowning!

Post surfing! (Pre-drowning.)

Post surfing! (Pre-drowning.)

8. Being on the Beach – Supremely beautiful experience when the sun is out. I recommend bringing a nephew who is obsessed with chasing seagulls. This will keep the birds away from your snacks and provide entertainment when you get bored. Don’t forget to apply sunscreen to your super-fair middle child’s hands and forearms. They will literally turn purple and swell from four hours of gripping the boogie board in the sun if you don’t.

9. Prison Hill Brewery in Yuma – A far better choice for lunch than Arby’s. Yes, driving home sucks ballz, but you might survive after a BLT and fries from this place.


Hard Things

I haven’t been doing The Running. Or The Blogging.

I have lots of excuses:

  • So. much. working.
  • Circus classes are both exercise and a creative outlet, so that’s where I’ve been focusing my time and energy.
  • Offspring require feeding. Like every day.
  • It’s hot. I hate hot.
  • Being funny is stressful.
  • TV has gotten so much better in the last few years, amirite?
  • Who’s going to read all those Jezebel articles if I don’t?
  • I’ve been busy learning how to do my make-up from Youtube videos ever since I got super old and need it.

But mostly, I think it comes down to the fact that they’re hard. Writing and running are both activities that require consistent mental focus and regular willpower. If I run and write several times a week, it gets easier and more rewarding. It’s still exhausting and challenging, but I’m better at it. It’s easier to ignore the trolls in my head urging me to give up. My momentum picks up and my accomplishments mount. Each run adds to my self-worth. Each blog post makes me feel like I’m adding to the collective art/entertainment of the internet.

But neither is ever easy. Neither is ever relaxing or even something I could call “fun”. Eventually I get to the point where I feel like I can give myself “A Break”. You’re too busy to write a blog post, I tell myself. You can’t run tomorrow, you need to rest, I demure.

And then, instantly, it’s been 3 months of sporadic writing/running. Suddenly, even though I ran a half marathon 6 minutes ago, and wrote a blog post that got 500+ likes 87 seconds ago, I can’t even run 3 miles without walking or write a blog post that anyone I’m related to will like.

Now that I know I can run and write, I hate myself when I don’t. I’m a lessor form of myself when I’m not running and writing. I’m the person who ran. And who wrote.

So I have a plan. I’m going to run and write. The hard things make me stronger. They make me better. They grow my brain and my body and my soul. I’m going to do the work.

Today I ran on the treadmill. It wasn’t pretty. I wanted to watch 7 Days In Hell, but my super old iPad didn’t have a new enough operating system. So I watched a Jen Aniston movie that depressed the shit out of me, Cake. About halfway in I wanted to hold my breath until I passed out. But I pushed through.

Today I’m writing a blog post. I’m posting it late. Probably no one will read it.

I’m going to run 3 times a week. Even if I don’t run the whole way.

I’m going to blog 3 times a week. I’m going to write them short and sweet, to work on conciseness. 500 words or less. Quality, not quantity.

Ready, set, GO!

Diet Math

If I lose 10 pounds, my life will be approximately 10% happier. I will feel better both physically and emotionally. I will be more proficient at aerial because I’ll be lifting 10 fewer pounds each time I climb. When I get dressed in the morning, I won’t need to examine the density of my muffin top. Seeing a picture of myself in a leotard or swimsuit won’t be emotionally scarring. Thus, it makes quantifiable sense I should go to the drive-thru salad restaurant for lunch today.

That said, if, instead of waiting in the 10-car-long line at the drive-thru salad place, while I’m already ravenous, and then another 30 minutes to get home before I eat, I drive through the fast food joint next door and get french fries to eat in the car while I’m driving, my happiness will be improved by at least 50% for the next 45 minutes. French fries are a proven source of joy in the immediacy of their consumption. Plus, in order to reap the 10% increase in happiness that will eventually come with the weight loss, I will have to defer the 50% happiness increase surrounding every meal, three times a day, for approximately two months. This works out to 8,100 minutes over the next 2 months that I will have to choose to be 50% less happy in order to eventually be 10% more happy.

This also does not take into account the maintenance salads (and accompanying happiness decrease) I will have to forgo french fries for over the next foreseeable eternity to keep the weight off and maintain my 10% improvement in happiness.

Additionally, if I move forward with the plan for the 10% improvement in overall happiness, there’s a 30% chance at some point during the 8,100 minutes of fairly significant unhappiness, I will be unable to maintain control of my temper during a blood sugar crash, and I will get out my car after that bitch in the white jeep with the stupid fucking vanity plate that says SASSY, cuts in line in front of me at the drive-thru salad place, and stab her in the arm with the wine opener I keep in my purse.

In the event that I stab Sassy Bitch, there’s a 90% chance I’ll go to prison, because you can’t just stab bitches, even if you’re dieting and she deserved to be stabbed. If I go to prison, according to Orange is the New Black, I can expect an overall 40% decrease in general happiness due to both the total lack of french fries and anything of nutritional value on the menu. Although I will (again, according to OITNB) ultimately learn some life skills that will probably balance out a portion of that. And also there are some hot chicks. Plus no one has to wear leotards or swimsuits in prison.

So I think what I’ve concluded here, is that if I don’t eat french fries now, I will regret it eventually when I am in prison.

Small Talk, Ranked by Awkwardness

13. With your spouse when you’re out to dinner for the first time alone in a really long time, and you can’t remember how to talk about anything not urgent or imperative.

12. With your pest control service when the card on file was declined, after you explain it’s because the card was compromised and reissued and you’re not sure they believe you.

11. With your kid’s teacher in Target, when she’s in yoga pants, and you suspect she thinks your kid is annoying.

10. With your boss when he’s trying to be “one of the guys” and starts talking about the last time he was in Vegas at that one strip club.

9. With that guy you went to high school with you haven’t seen in 18 years and are in a long line behind at the post office, when you’re not wearing any makeup.

8. With your kid’s friend’s mom when you are pretty sure you have nothing in common but that both of your sons are the class lunatics.

7. With the cashier and other people in line at the grocery store when you’re all standing there waiting for a price check on tampons that’s taking forever.

6. With the pharmacist as he’s ringing up the prescription strength laxative you’re trying really hard to be an adult about and not explain is for your son, because you don’t actually have any problems pooping.

5. With your dentist when he’s using the high-pitched scraper thing.

4. With your gyno when he’s adjusting the speculum.

3. With your next door neighbor the morning after you had a big fight with your spouse and you’re pretty sure you left your window open.

2. With your waxer when she’s using the tweezers during a Brazilian.

1. With your cleaning people. Ever.

Living the Dream as a Work at Home Mom

How today was intended to go:

6:15AM – Wake up to the sun streaming in through the windows the birds chirping. Lie in bed reading social media on my phone for half an hour before showering.

7:15AM – Drive happy teenager to school who is grateful he’s getting a ride and didn’t have to get up early to take the bus.

8:30AM – Breakfast at adorable hipster crepes and coffee restaurant with old friend from college and his new baby.

10AM – Show new builds to fun clients I haven’t seen in awhile.

11:30AM-2:30PM – Catch up on paperwork/emails.

2:30PM – Help boys with homework.

4PM – Start dinner.

6-7PM – Take a lyra class in Tempe.

How today has actually gone:

3:13AM – Gray wakes me up. I have a headache from the 3 glasses of rose I drank the night before because real estate makes me want hang myself. He has a 102 fever. I give him the literal very last drops of children’s Advil we have in the house. On the upside, it’s not expired, for once.

6:05AM – My friend from college texts me to say he’s excited for breakfast. I reply that I’m bailing because my kid is sick. He probably just thinks I’m a flake.

7:15AM – I drive the teen to school. He is surly and when his phone buzzes and I ask him who he’s texting he snaps, “NO ONE, MOM! NOT EVERY TIME MY PHONE BUZZES I’M GETTING A TEXT.” I stop at the grocery store on the way home to stock up on children’s pain reliever/fever reducers. While I’m in the utter wasteland of cell phone service that is my grocery store of choice, I get frantic texts from two different clients with two different urgent issues.

7:40AM – I get home and check in on the sick 10 year old. My cell rings with a school prefix number. I answer it, expecting the ‘Your child is absent’ notification. Instead it goes like this:

Me: This is Elizabeth.

Jonas: Mom, I need you to bring me a lunch.

Me: Jonas? What? Why?

Jo: I just need you to bring me a lunch. 

Me: Dude… right now?

Jo: Yes. 

Me: Is this for the field trip you told us was last Friday and then this morning you told your dad was tomorrow? Because we need to have a discussion about being responsible and giving people notice-

Jo: Mom. Make me a ham sandwich and whatever sides you want, I don’t care, and a capri sun and bring it to school. 

Me: Well-

Jo: Just make me a lunch and bring it to school.

Me: OK.

I have the epiphany that although he might be the smallest kid, Jonas is probably The Godfather of the first grade.

7:50AM – While I’m searching the fridge for ham (we don’t have any and I’m nervous this will displease Him) my phone buzzes with a text. It’s my mom’s neighbor. She’s watching my parents’ dog while they are on a cruise in the Bahamas. She needs me to come let the dog out because some clusterfuck with the yard guy has happened and Princess Sophie the spoiled lapdog refuses to go in the backyard while the help is there or something. I text her that I will drive over there in the next couple of hours and let her highness out.

7:57AM – My phone rings with an unfamiliar number.

Me: This is Elizabeth.

Caller: *Garbled*

Me: Hello?

Caller: I’m trying to reach Elizabeth Newlin.

Me (yelling): This IS Elizabeth Newlin! Hello? Hello? Can you hear me?

Caller: Yes, is this Elizabeth?

Me: Yes, this is Elizabeth… *longish pause* who is this? Is this Mary Rose? Because I’m going to let the dog out in a little bit, I’m just in the middle of-

Caller: Ah, no. This is Cindy with Cartus Relocation Corporation. I’m calling about the Ramblewood file.

Me: Oh! I’m so sorry for my unprofessional response! It’s chaos here. I thought maybe you were my mother’s neighbor about her dog. Or maybe my super demanding 7 year old. And my house is a total dead zone. Sorry. Yes. The Ramblewood file. What can I do for you?

Caller: *heavy sigh*

8:15AM – I drive a sack lunch up to the school. The secretaries raise a judgmental eyebrow at my obvious lack of preparedness (and bra). I haven’t brushed my teeth yet either.

8:23AM – While I’m driving home the other agent on the Ramblewood file calls me and asks questions I don’t have answers to. I promise him text responses as soon as I get back to my laptop. This is a lie and we both know it.

8:28-9:32AM – I shower, iron a dress, and negotiate a contract with a husband and wife separately, while texting with the listing agent and putting on eyeliner. At one point I answer the phone with toothpaste in my mouth and say, “Hold on, I need to spit.” Because I’m a lady and a professional.

9:35AM – I dash downstairs to give the sick kid more meds. I’m still intending to show new builds at 10AM. Within minutes of drinking the Advil Gray says, “I think I’m going to throw up.” and pukes into the bowl he has in his lap. I walk him to the bathroom (he pukes twice more while I’m holding the bowl. I almost throw up in sympathy.). I text the clients that I won’t be meeting them at new builds and call and beg the sales agent to allow me to represent my clients despite the fact that I won’t be meeting them at the sales office on their first visit as required. He takes pity on me and relents (probably because he can hear the puking in the background). I answer emails, texts, and phone calls while waiting for Gray to feel a little better.

10:30AM – It’s late enough I feel super guilty my parents’ dog is still inside. Gray hasn’t puked in quite awhile and is sleeping on the couch. I decide this is the best time to drive the 23 miles to my parents’ house to let Sophie out.

11:03AM – I get to my parents’ house and unlock the door. Sophie does not come running. I call her name while walking through the house. When I get to the back door, there she is, outside, eagerly wagging her tail, wondering if I will let her in. I shake my head and text the neighbor, “I drove over to let Sophie out and she’s already out.” She texts back, “Oh yeah, John went by earlier.” My head explodes all over the inside of the house. I just drove almost 50 miles, while my kid is home sick alone, my clients are stalking me, and I have at least 300 things I’d rather be doing, FOR NO REASON WHATSOEVER. I wish this woman was standing in front of me right now so I could punch her in the boob. I call my sister and yell at her not because any of this is her fault, but because I need someone to feel my injustice. Then I felt guilty for yelling.

11:30AM – I stop at Paradise Bakery on the way home, and instead of getting a salad, I get a sandwich, chips, and a cookie because I will probably get sick soon seeing as how it’s scientifically impossible to hold a bowl full of a sick person’s vomit without getting sick yourself, and I’ll need calories to keep my strength up.

1:30PM – Gray has a 103 fever and pukes up the Tylenol I give him.

2:35PM – Jonas gets home from school. He doesn’t say thank you for the lunch. He says, “I hate cheese and you shouldn’t have put it on my sandwich.”

It’s a glamorous life.


Keep Your Head Down

Last night I worked out at an aerial studio downtown during an open gym session. I haven’t successfully sweet-talked a gym near my house into letting me hang a silk and work out, or bullied my husband into building me a rig in my backyard, yet, so I’m still working out when I can, where I can, in and around my stupid have-to-act-like-a-grown-up schedule. Lately that’s been more of a challenge because apparently right now I’m pretending to be a “Successful Real Estate Agent” instead of a “Professional Waiter for the Phone to Ring”. The former is exciting and dramatic, but more labor-intensive than the latter.

Last week, my workouts consisted of one aerial fitness class (+1!), one run that wasn’t actually run and more of an exercise in futility (-3), one aerial choreography workshop that was really probably too difficult for me and mostly made me sad about my existence (+.25 for effort), and one actual run (+2!). On the weekend, even though I intended to hike and workout, I did nothing but wait for our new couches to be delivered, eat sourdough toast and blueberry muffins, and work (-∞).

This week I’ve been intent on redoubling my efforts, so I headed to the gym, alone, for my workout. It was only the second time I’d attempted a solitary workout. Usually I take classes or workshops, or meet up with friends to work out together, but I’ve been feeling like I need more solo sessions. I like to learn tricks, but I need to work on them to clean them up. I want to work toward creating an act, or a piece, or something. I’ve now taken classes from probably a dozen different aerialists, and I’ve gotten a strong sense for how they each have their own individual styles. Rain Anya is all about fluidity and stunning transitions that don’t even look like transitions. DeAnna McCandless does everything with a straight arm and specializes in powerful momentum and terrifying open drops. MoNika Ell told me once that he thinks of himself as a paintbrush and the space around him in the air as a canvas, so he stretches and extends his body throughout the space to ‘paint’ as much of the canvas as possible.

I want to have my own style! I want to be an aerial artist. And I feel like to have any hope of expressing myself in that way, I need to spend time on the silks without anyone instructing me or telling me what to do so I can figure out what I’m drawn to. I know, as a dancer, I was into a kind of ‘modern’ style. As a writer, I favor comedic storytelling. Who knows who I am as an aerialist? I want to be someone beautiful and amazing! (Who maybe doesn’t do a ton of bendy back things, because I kind of have an old lady back.)

This is how I ended up on the silks last night, working out alone. It’s also how I ended up heading home after only an hour at the gym, wondering if it all wasn’t really just a futile, waste of time, money, and gas. The workout was a shitshow, is what I’m saying. I ran through my stuff, but it was really hard. My stamina was down from lack of consistent time in the gym, and there were several things I wanted to work on that I couldn’t even remember how to do. I spent 10 full minutes trying (unsuccessfully) to remember a simple crossback from footlocks thing Dakoa taught me once.

At the end, I set a timer, with a goal of staying up on the silks for 10 minutes, to build strength and condition myself to perform ambiance sets. I made it through just under 8 minutes before I considered hanging myself from the silks instead of sliding dejectedly to the ground.

It was horrifying. I’d been watching YouTube videos of gorgeous performers before I got to the gym and I was determined to emulate their grace. I was going to focus on long lines and adding performance elements, posing within tricks. Instead, I spent the set shaking and sweating, trying desperately just to keep my old ass in the air. I wasn’t graceful, I wasn’t pretty. I didn’t know how to even figure out tricks I’d already learned, much less create my own. My hands ached, I felt nauseous and chubby, I just wanted to go home.

In bed, after I’d stripped off my sweaty circus outfit and determined I didn’t deserve my star tights and probably never would, I wondered if I should be spending my time and energy on an activity I was more suited to and less destined to fail at. Maybe my failures lately were a cue that I’d reached the end of my potential in this field and should move on to a new distraction.

But then I remembered Ira Glass (who’s totally on my celebrity hall pass list, so I how could I forget him?) and that thing he said I love so much:

Ira Glass quote

I decided I’m in the gap, drank a glass of wine, and went to sleep. After all, when I watched the video of my 8 minutes in the air, there were moments of beauty. My windmill hipkeys are great. My straddlebacks have always been enviable. For most of it, it doesn’t look like I’m working quite as hard as I am. I’m just not amazing like I want to be. My taste still far exceeds my abilities. And maybe it always will. But I won’t ever know if I give up.

This morning I got up and put on my running gear. I had on the schedule my normal 4 miles. I decided, because I’ve done my easier 4 mile route several times without walking in the last few weeks, that it was time to try the tough route. The tough 4 mile route is more difficult because it has a stretch of almost a mile at the end that is straight and gradually uphill. I can see the full mile when I turn the corner, and I can see the whole elevation change. It’s murder on my psyche, and I’ve given up and walked during that stretch probably as many times as I have made it through it.

This morning, though, I was in a decent mental place to get it done. As I ran the easier, downhill part at the beginning, I mentally prepared myself for the beasty end section. Just focus 3 feet in front of you, I pep-talked. You can make it 3 more feet, and you can certainly do 4 miles. You did 4 miles two days ago. This is not more difficult. Keep your head down, and don’t think about the mile you have left to go. Only think about the next three feet. 

Not terribly surprisingly, I did make it through. It was difficult, but the end section seemed to fly by as I diligently kept my eyes literally three feet in front of me.

As I finished the last half mile (it’s a downhill section back into my neighborhood to my house), I reflected on how this strategy is really what Ira is talking about. Rather than getting caught up in the big picture of how successful I’m being in comparison to everyone else, and my ultimate goals, I need to keep my goddamn head down with respect to my creative goals. I need to focus on the work I’m doing that’s right in front of me. I need to think about being successful in the next three steps, versus worrying about how much I still have left of the long, uphill part.

So this is what it comes down to:

Dear My Creative Pursuits (Writing, Aerial, Whatever Damn Other Ridiculous Thing I Decide I Want to do Next),

I will not give up on you. You are important to me and you make me who I am. I will do the work in front of me. I will recognize sometimes the steps I’m working on are difficult or going badly, but I will move past them and focus only on the next three steps in the journey. I will not get swallowed by The Gap.

All my love,



The Other Side of “Running”

I’ve gotten out of the habit of both running and writing. I’m not trying to make excuses, but work has been intense, I’m pretty sure I have at least 12 kids now, and I’ve been super busy thwarting terrorism, coming up with a solution for world hunger, and staying caught up on Catfish and Teen Mom: OG (Oh, Amber. Get it together, hun.).

I started running again last week because I’m planning to hike the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim again in September, so I need to get my cardio back in shape. Also: Swimsuit season’s imminent approach + The joy I get from eating an entire bag of ranch flavored croutons by myself  = Stress nightmares where I have to submit my tax info before a panel of judges while wearing a super unflatteringly cut mismatched bra and underwear set. The judges first look over my financial information disapprovingly and then circle my fat and stretch marks with a red sharpie. Obviously I really needed to start logging some miles both for my physical and mental stability.

My first couple of runs went surprisingly well. I got through my normal, 4-mile route slowly, but without walking. I was able to keep mostly out of my own head and felt really positive when I was done. I was strong! I was confident! I was killing it!

Of course, for every beautiful, empowering run, there are two that make feel like an emo teen on the downslope of a misery binge. Like, I just shaved my eyebrows off and dyed my hair black because beauty isn’t a thing. Only suffering.

This morning I woke up crabby and unmotivated. I made the mistake of stepping on the scale before I left, and despite the fact that I ate salmon and chicken and goddamn mother-fucking salads yesterday, they apparently didn’t cancel out the Magnum bar, Fig Newtons, and wine from the day before. The scale straight up laughed and gave me the middle finger. Suddenly it was obvious my thighs were billowing from of the bottom of my shorts and my belly was oozing out of the waistband at the top.

You’d think this would spur me to run more miles, wouldn’t you? Redouble my efforts! Burn more calories! Sometimes it goes the other way, though.

By less than a mile in I realized I had forgotten to pee before I left. And it was warmish; like at least 75 degrees. And the breeze was blowing. Right. At. Me. AND I wasn’t even wearing my belt that holds my phone, so I had to hold it in my hand. MY HAND HAD TO HOLD MY PHONE WHILE I WAS RUNNING.

That was it. I could not deal. I’d started out giving maybe two fucks and my supply of fucks had diminished at a rate of at least three per mile. It was inevitable. Demand was far greater than my resources. I was simply out of fucks to give.

I stopped running right then. I vowed not to post this “run” on social media. I took a shortcut and walked the rest of the way home. I strolled, even, except when I wanted to get across the street before the light changed, and for a little while when the path sloped downhill and I was bored with how long it was taking to get home; then I jogged. I JOGGED, I tell you. I didn’t “run”. Running is for the proud. It’s for athletes. It’s for people with willpower and goals. I jogged, like the guy 5 steps away from walking into Starbucks behind you, so you hold the door open for him, and he doesn’t want to be a jerk and have you stand there for too long. SO HE JOGS to grab the door.  I jogged.

Then I got home and had a spoonful of crunchy peanut butter, a tiny bag of Cheetos, and a piece of sourdough toast.

I hate myself.

10 Things I’ve Learned in 10 Years of Real Estate

Last week I opened two escrows and closed two escrows. It was a fruitful week in real estate for me, which is nice, because it also marked my decadiversary as a Realtor. That’s right, I’ve officially been a Professional Lunatic for 10 years of my short (Ok, medium) life. I was going to announce it online and wear a special sparkly outfit or something to commemorate the occasion, but then I had to go to inspections and signings and deliver keys and before I knew it, the official date had come an gone. No matter, we’ll celebrate now. To mark my 10 years in this nuthouse of a profession, I have for you 10 things real estate has taught me in the last 10 years:

1. Get that shit in writing.

Sure, we’re all gentlemen here. Sure we can shake hands and agree. You can totally trust me. We’re all mature and trustworthy right up until we’re searching for a loophole. It’s never a deal until it’s signed, sealed and delivered.

2. Success is about properly managed expectations.

Buying and selling houses is, generally speaking, an enormous clusterfuck of unknowns, risk, compromise, and paperwork. You will not (WILL NOT) get through a deal without becoming at least slightly irritated about signing your own name. In my experience, the success of the transaction hinges on everyone having his and her expectations firmly within achievable bounds. If a buyer who’s qualified for a loan up to $120k is expecting to get a 2000 square foot house with a pool and granite counters in Chandler, she’s going to be extremely disappointed with the 1200 square foot fixer-up townhouse she can afford. If a seller has the idea he should have multiple full-price offers in the first week his house is on the market, he’s not going to be pleased with 5% under after four weeks.

50% of a real estate agent’s job is to assess the situation and get everyone’s expectations in a place where we can hope to satisfy them, every step of the way. Which is why I regularly tell my clients: This is going to be an enormous pain in your ass for at least the next month. Get used to it. 

3. Real Estate Voodoo is a legit thing.

I’m an atheist and a skeptic to a fault. I don’t believe your grandma’s house was haunted by your uncle who died as a young child. I think your essential oils smell nice, but they aren’t curing your chronic pain disease. I feel confident you and your husband didn’t fall in love at first sight. Just walk away from me with your homeopathic meds, right now.

BUT, if you tell me you calculated your commissions on the three deals you have in escrow and you’re going to spend them getting your kitchen redone, I will cross myself, throw salt over my shoulder, knock on wood and run far from you because you just totally jinxed all your deals. You can’t count your chickens before they hatch! Dude. That is Rule One; what are you thinking?

Real estate is as much about luck and good juju as anything else. A deal that’s ugly from the start is only going to have 87 more abnormal problems with it before it closes. A house that’s sat on the market for two months with no offers will bizarrely have 3 offers come in within 4 hours. I recommend regularly sacrificing a gold jacket on the altar of the real estate gods to keep them happy.

4. How to calculate showing timeframes.

This one won’t matter to 99% of anyone, but I’m pretty proud of my algorithm and maybe some rookie agent will come across this and get some use out of it.

Part of the job of a buyer’s agent is to set up a series of house showings for the buyer. Generally, some of the houses will be occupied. It’s customary to give the sellers a one hour window in which you will show up to view the house, so they don’t have to spend an entire day wondering when you’ll stop by. This can be a challenge to narrow down if  you have, say 12 other houses to show. How can you know how long each house will take to look at? And driving times? They do not teach you this shit in real estate school.

After 10 years, I’ve come up with a pattern that works 90% of the time if I’m showing houses within a 25 miles radius (so it’s not going to be good if you’re showing in both San Tan Valley and Surprise). I’m pretty sure it’s brilliant and I’m a genius. I start by putting the houses in a logical order by area. Then, I give the first two the same one hour window, starting at the time we’re meeting. After that, I bump the window forward one half an hour every two house until we’re done. It looks like this:

  • House 1: 9-10AM
  • House 2: 9-10AM
  • House 3: 9:30-10:30AM
  • House 4: 9:30-10:30AM
  • House 5: 10-11AM
  • House 6: 10-11AM
  • House 7: 10:30-11:30AM
  • House 8: 10:30-11:30AM
  • House 9: 11-12PM

And now that I’ve typed all that out, it’s really dumb and obvious. You’re welcome.

5. It’s not personal.

Some people choose me as their agent because they’ve known me their whole life and they trust me. Some interview me and pick me because they like my information the best. Some come by me because a coworker personally recommended me. Some saw me on the internet and believe that thing about how people who swear are more trustworthy. Some want a front row seat for when I’ll embarrass myself next.

Some people don’t choose me because their mom is a Realtor. Some have a family agent they’ve all been using for years. Some prefer to keep their business separate from their friends. Some don’t like the numbers I gave them. Some think blue hair is unprofessional. Some are over my #circusshit.

The point is, some people will use me, and some won’t. Getting worked up over-analyzing why someone decided not to ask me to represent them is an enormous waste of time and emotional energy. Which is why I Let It Go, Elsa-style.

6. Always carry the keys from the lockbox with you when you’re showing a house.

Because this could happen. Don’t be all, Oh that wouldn’t happen to me. You’re just tempting the real estate gods.

7. Always be ready to apologize and potentially write a check.

Mistakes will be made. Things will be over-looked, or misinterpreted. In my career, so far, I like to think I’ve been careful, and that I’ve made good choices and well-represented my clients. That said, I’ve also gotten really super-duper good at apologizing. Sometimes, I apologize even when nothing is my fault, because it helps to hear someone is sorry for what you’re going through. Real estate is hard.

I have also written my share of checks. In a business with a million moving parts, it would be impossible to never miss something. Just a few months ago I paid for an appraisal out of my own pocket, before close of escrow, because I missed that a very-rarely marked box for the seller to pay for the buyer’s appraisal, was marked, and I hadn’t advised my clients it would be something they’d have to pay for. It was my fault, I paid for it. I remember buying a fridge for a listing back before the contract was clarified and the buyer’s agent and I weren’t on the same page about whether it was to stay or go.

If you can’t admit when you’re wrong, this isn’t the business for you. You’re going to be wrong.

8. People have strong feelings about Arizona Rooms.

I wrote this post more than four years ago about why I think Arizona Rooms (walled-in patios) are generally a terrible idea out here, and I still regularly get comments on it ranging from indignant to furious. Sorry guys, sometimes the truth hurts.

9. Sometimes you’ve done everything you could and it still wasn’t enough.

Real estate isn’t a business where you are always in control. Sometimes there’s an amazing house for clients you really love that you know would be just perfect for them. You were in the door the first day and you put together your strongest offer, but you’re up against two others. Situations like this used to keep me up nights. I felt like the world would end if we didn’t get the house. I stressed over clients who wouldn’t take my advice. I wrung my hands when the market got dry and I was left pacing, waiting for the next client.

It’s possible I’ve become desensitized to the constant stress of unknowns, but in the last few years, I’ve learned that at some point, you take a deep breath and say (out loud, in front of your bathroom mirror after splashing cold water on your face), “I’ve done all I could do.” And then you move on.

10. Don’t take pictures of people’s puppies in their houses you’re showing (regardless of how cute and photogenic they are) and post them on the internet without asking permission from their owners. 

I saved this one for last just so you know I’m always learning new lessons here in the wacky world of real estate.

Here’s what will happen if you do: Even though you only have like 400 Instagram followers and really only ever post pictures of your circus selfies and kids skateboarding, the daughter of the sellers will somehow (curse you, real estate gods!!!) see the picture of their puppy you posted with the hashtag about how you wanted to steal him and be super creeped out by this invasion of privacy. They will call their agent, who will call your broker and ask you to remove the photo. You will be both personally and professionally mortified by your misstep. And, of course, the clients you were showing the house to will want to buy that house, so you’ll need to put all of the skills you’ve learned over the years pertaining to number 7 to use, just so the sellers don’t think you’re a psycho with no personal boundaries and hold it against your clients who couldn’t be nicer.

So, you know, don’t do that.


In Search of a Place to Hang

You: Hey! How’s the illustrious circus career going?

Me: I just looked up that word and I think it doesn’t mean what you think it does.

You: “Illustrious”? Doesn’t it mean fancy and sparkly? Or something with jazz hands?

Me: Apparently it means, “well known, respected, and admired for past achievements.

You: Oh. Well you did have that one gig, right? Everyone was pretty impressed you pulled that shit off.

Me: Yeah, I’m not sure it propelled me to “illustrious” status. Or “career”.

You: Ok. So how’s your *fancy jazz hands* circus hobby going?

Me: Honestly? It’s bumming me out right now.

You: What?? Why

Me: So when I first started, a year and a half ago, I was taking classes at a place way up in North Scottsdale, about 40 minutes in good traffic from my house. I learned a lot. I got much stronger. In the beginning, I would go to class on Sunday midday, and be utterly wrecked for the rest of the day, and sore for two or three more. It took until the next week for my bruises to fade enough to be ready to try again. Gradually, my endurance grew and I could take a circus class twice a week without being unable to function. Now my body can handle a couple of hours of circus training a day, everyday.

You: Woah.

Me: I know. I’m kind of impressed with my body’s capacity for strength, even starting at not a particularly youthful point.

You: *cough* almost 40 *cough*


You: Sorry.

Me: Anyway, I’m at the point, now, where what I really need is practice. I need regular time on an apparatus repeating what I know, over and over, to get it perfect, add performance elements, and to build stamina in the air. I feel like I’ve learned a bunch of tricks and sequences that are now gone from my repertoire because I didn’t ever practice them again and I’ve forgotten them. Or I learned them too early and I wasn’t really strong enough to do them well. I also need to build on my strength doing conditioning so I can learn next level stuff.

You: So what’s the problem?

Me: The problem is, the place I was taking at is too far to go everyday. Once or twice a week was manageable, but dude. I do have a job and a family. I just can’t make it happen more than that. Plus, there isn’t much of a ‘higher level intermediate’ or ‘advanced’ program at that school. They have a policy that you can come in to workout whenever there are classes being taught, but if you want to do that, you run the risk of driving all the way up there and the class is canceled and you didn’t know, or the class is super full and there are no extra apparatuses on which to work out.

You: Yeah, that’s not ok. So why don’t you find somewhere closer to home?

Me: Yeah, that was my initial thought. There is another school that’s sort of closer, but only by about 5 mins. It also has lots of beginner-level classes, but not much for someone like me.

You: And that’s all there is in metro-Phoenix??

Me: There are literally only 4 other studios I’ve found with any aerials at all, and all of them have low ceilings and only one or two classes a week. Apparently Phoenix SUCKS for circus resources. When I was in Denver, I was told by the aerial girls up there that the “Denver aerial market is saturated right now”. There are a bunch of studios everywhere.

You: You’re going to hang silks in your living room, aren’t you?

Me: I want to, damn it! I went for a private lesson in a girl’s house who had two rigging points in her ceiling. She had an aerial studio in her house! Unfortunately, I didn’t realize the benefit of two story ceilings when we bought this house. Our tallest ceiling is only 10 feet.

Jason has talked about building me a rig in the backyard, but I feel like that would be stupidly expensive and time-consuming. Plus, in case you haven’t seen our backyard lately, it’s basically a graveyard of abandoned projects and an enormous trampoline.

What I really want to do is buy my own set of silks (with my gig money, burning a hole in my Paypal account) and rig it in a gym somewhere in the East Valley that I can have access to several times a week to do some open gym time. I tried to float this idea at the gym where my kids take skateboarding and parkour lessons, but they weren’t willing to let me install a structurally secure rigging point and said their insurance rider doesn’t cover aerial sports.

You: Really? Dude. I can see why you’re bummed.

Me: I know. I’m going to call every gymnastics, crossfit and rock climbing gym in the area and see if any of them will go for it, but I’m not holding out a ton of hope. It seems like unless I’m willing to open my own East Valley circus gym, (which I’m not), I’m kind of SOL.

You: You should take out an ad on Craigslist.

Me: I totally should.

Bendy gal ISO place to hang from

Looking for a mutually beneficial relationship. I need you to be tall, strong, and close to home. Specifically, 15-20 feet, able to support a dynamic load of 1000+ pounds, and East of the 101. If you’re available late nights, or even for an occasional nooner, that’s even better. I’ll compensate you for your time and bring my own equipment. Call me!

You: That should definitely do it.