Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Digging out to see the light

In 2006, I came to the realization that the life I was leading didn't resonate with my soul.  I had no idea of who I wanted to be or what I wanted in life yet, but I knew that I was lacking joy and true connection.  I made some drastic changes and, some time later, started this blog as a way to celebrate the new journey I was embarking on.  I was on a mission to try new things, grow lasting relationships and explore the world around me to identify what truly brought me joy.  One of the guidelines I set for myself was to use this blog to bring positive, uplifting stories to light to share my happiness with others (whoever they may be).

For over a decade, this blog has helped me relive some amazing accomplishments, celebrate dreams coming true, and express my gratitude for the life I had found.  But for months now, I have realized that I had major writer's block that was causing this dark vortex to surround me and drag me to a very scary place.  I let my self-doubt and procrastination take priority over the simple pleasure of my writing and it came back at me tenfold - by skipping that which brought me such joy for so long, I was missing a significant source to feed the spring and my well was running dry.

Maybe it was the sale of the cherished company I used to work for to one that I couldn't fall in line with and throw away my morals to work for.  Maybe it was the realization that I was on the wrong career path. The stress of a new career and new company? Trying to make a name for myself in cycling after three years of off and on injuries.. only to also come back a few years older?  The winter that refused to end?  Maybe it isn't so hard to believe (er.. admit) that I was more depressed than I'd been in decades...

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Sure, there were some awesome races, a handful of great finishes, wonderful memories shared with family in friends in the past months, but the shadows still lingered when I sat down to tell the latest adventure, blocking the stories from activating my fingertips.  Although summer's intense arrival has lessened the sadness, the shadows still blur my thoughts at times and distort my story.  I've experienced some amazing personal bests as of late yet the doubt whispers to me ... 'maybe it was a fluke' ... 'you can't do that again'....'maybe you shouldn't even try'....

It's one thing to ride the miles, lift the weights, stretch the muscles.  But what do you do when your mind doesn't believe you can do it?

The only way I can imagine fighting it is to shine a light into the deep wound that refuses to heal up.  Maybe by opening the door to the pain I've held so tightly, I can kick it out into the light and begin to move on.

It works on the Boogeyman, right?

Image result for darkness cave light blind depression

I have a handful of friends and family who also struggle with their own darkness and depression and I hope they always know I'm here for you.

And to my husband, Jay, who I've just now realized loves me enough for the both of us... Thank You from the bottom of my heart.  Your belief in me may not always chase away the tears, but your unending pursuit is the knight in shining armor this girl has dreamt of.

Sleeping with the lights on,
Kristy Kreme

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Slip Slidin' into Spring

... or maybe it's second winter.  Either way, after watching the snow fall for over 36 hours, we couldn't help but rally the troops for a 'spring' urban ride. Lucky for us in MN, the bike paths are among the first paved surfaces to be plowed every snowfall, so we headed to the Greenway to begin our adventure.  Sure, why wouldn't my road bike with fenders work for today's ride?

I should have known this would be quite the feat when we had to help push a motorist or two out of an intersection on our way to our meet spot.  We tossed the bikes aside, dug our heals into the 6+ inches of snow in the intersection, and rocked the car forward as our feet sank to the glare ice below and we scrambled for traction as it lurched forward.  Mission: Accomplished.

We found our pals at the Greenway entrance and headed east into the wind as the snow pelted our faces and the ice under the bridges kept our attention sharp.  We really didn't have much of a plan before the trail hit West River Road and an audible sent us south towards Minnehaha Falls.  Much to our surprise, Sea Salt was open and the typical line around the building was nonexistent.  I looked to Dave and said "I thought they weren't open in the winter.??".. He laughed and pointed out "It's not winter".

We sat along the windows, drinking beers and sharing stories as if we were figures in a snow globe watching the winter bliss entertain us.  But it isn't winter.. it's F$%&ing spring!  But, hey, we made the most of it!  As the snow refused to let up and the chill began to set back in, we knew we had to be back on our way home.

Riding my road tires was a mistake..  or maybe just early cyclocross practice.. but I fought my bike and the ice and slush for the entire ride.  While my friends were smart to bring their CX, Mtn or fat bikes, I found myself hanging out at the back riding the best line I could find.  Slipping out on every climb and Tokyo-drifting down every decent kept me on my toes, but I still had a fun time trying to film the awesome, yet less than desirable spring ride.  Man, what I wouldn't do for some sun on my shoulders and sweat dripping down my back!

Holding out for warmer days,
Kristy Kreme

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Recognizing when "toughing it out" is not the right decision

I'm typically the type of person that avoids the doctor as much as possible and believes my body will (eventually) fix itself.  Something about this week was different... and extremely unexpected.

I started a new job last week and was pretty fatigued come Wednesday.  I chalked it up to the floods of information coming at me, meetings, trying to find my desk, navigating the halls and learning so many new names.  By the time Jay picked me up from work the exhaustion was obvious and I backed out of our fat bike ride during the drive home, opting instead to hit the grocery store and make dinner while he rode.  Walking through the grocery isles, a dull ache settled into my stomach which through me off guard.  

Me to self:  I guess I've been eating a lot of tangerines and acidic foods lately.. maybe it's just super acidic.

I returned home with the fixings for some flatbread pesto pizzas with roasted veggies and didn't think much more about it.  As the night waned the ache returned but again I made up some idea of the cause (maybe too much garlic now on my pizza) and went to bed.  But I found myself unable to sleep for most of the night as the ache grew stronger over the night.

By morning, the pain hadn't subsided so I took a few Tums as I prepped for work and went about my day.  Today was my Getting To Know You lunch with my team and I was so excited to play games and meet everyone.  But, with my stomach bothering me so much, I couldn't stomach the idea of eating so I grabbed a banana and plain yogurt to get me through.  By the end of the lunch, the pain was increasing noticeably and I started to have an impending feeling that something was wrong.

I went down to our in-house medical clinic to request an appointment but they were full.  When I told the nurse my symptoms, she asked me to go to urgent care.  I texted Jay asking him to take me after work but, by the time I made it up three floors I knew I couldn't wait.  I called him back and he quickly jumped in the car to pick me up as I paced along the windows of my new desk holding my stomach as it had been swelling beyond belief over the course of the last few hours.

He took me to Urgent Care and they began taking some tests and palpating my abdomen as I was no longer able to sit still from the increasing pain.  After a few tests, they had me on my way to the ER to have my appendix checked.  Jay flew down France and through red lights (sorry) as I was dry heaving out the passenger window.  They quickly ushered me into Triage when I hobbled in and something about knowing I was going to be safe seemed to break my ability to control my vomiting or my shakes any longer.  

We quickly moved into a room where I could gown-up, hooked up to an IV and monitors, and started donating blood to start narrowing down the likely suspects - Appendix? Gall Bladder?  My hubby returned after dropping the puppy at home and my dad, stepmom and stepsister were all by my side as I fought through the pain and nausea.  The blood tests came back healthy but, luckily, the CT showed that it was after all my appendix.  Thank heavens I followed those instincts so we got there before it burst and there I was, 5 hours after asking Jay to take me in, I was headed off to surgery for a laparoscopic appendectomy.  

My medical team was amazing (thank you tons to Dr. Laguna and the entire team at Southdale Emergency Hospital)!!!  By 10:30 my family was allowed back into post-op to see me and the kind nursing team had me dressed and ready to head home to bed.  I couldn't believe how quickly they were able to treat and diagnose me and how much worse it could have been.  I am so grateful for everyone's help, their recommendations, and to Jay for getting me to the hospital so quickly.

Now, it's just settling in for a longer-than-I-wish recovery and focusing on a comeback once I can exercise again.  For now, guess I just get to heal up and be a super fan for the next few weeks!

One organ lighter, another adventure survived, 
Kristy Kreme, bloated post-op machine ;)

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Oh, to dream just a while longer...

I am often a vivid dreamer but something about last night will stick with me forever....

It was a warm fall day and Jay, Ben Miller, and Christopher Cross and I were in the woods collecting logs for a fire.  We made our way into a clearing filled with waste-high prairie grass towards a set of railroad tracks.  One by one we crawled on top of a wooden pump trolley, prepared to depart to our bonfire destination.  

The sun was warm and I looked around to find Jay manning the pump, Ben was sitting on the back, dangling his feet over the edge.  I looked to the front to find Christopher standing and looking down the railroad tracks and, to my surprise, sitting between us was Dave Pike. 

He had on a light button up shirt, jeans, tennies, and was sitting with his hands casually resting on his bent knees.  His face was clean-shaven and he looked at me and smiled as the sun lit up his face more than anything around him. 

I quickly knelt and pulled him into my arms and told him how great it was to see him.  He didn’t say much, but we all circled around him with joy and huge smiles on our faces.  There was an unspoken word between us as if we didn’t want to acknowledge that he shouldn’t be there for fear that he would leave, while at the same time Dave gave off this feeling that he’d just stopped by to say hello.

He continued on the trolley with us to our destination and helped unload the logs into the pile that would become our fire.   I don’t remember all that we were talking about with Dave, likely sharing stories but there was something he had to do – he said he had to check on his girl and we told him he should get to it before it gets too late. (I wonder if he visited Tracie last night too)

I woke out of my sleep and had to grasp where I was (stupid chamomile tea before bed making me have to pee!).  When I returned to bed, I fought with myself on whether or not to go back to sleep.  Would I fall back into the same dream?  Or would I fall asleep and forget the dream I just had forever?

I stayed awake for a little while, trying to burn the memory of discovering Dave sitting on the trolley into my brain so I could revel on it later.  It was so peaceful and warm and everything we would have done together in real life (except maybe the pump trolley)… and I feel so blessed that he visited my dream to say hi.

I miss you, buddy. And I love you like a brother.

<3 kristy="" o:p="">

Friday, August 18, 2017

The Art of Falling Down

The true art of falling down is in how you get back up.  As a human Albatros, I've had a lot of scraped knees and cut hands from hitting the deck, but I've always picked my self up, dusted off, and got back to living.  But this year, each impact with the ground challenged me physically and mentally but also challenged my creativity.

As the 2017 pole competition season began, I was preparing to create one last competition routine and to push every one of my boundaries with my choreography.  Again, Albatros.. NOT delicate, flowy, or graceful.  But, rather than being a creepy, dark and twisted thing, this year I was going to be pretty, fun, light, sexy, entertaining and everything I'm too shy to be when I pole.  I bought a hot pink umbrella, a polka dot Lucy dress, pulled out my 5" heels and began choreographing to "Singing' in the Rain".  Lucky for me, the amazingly talented Freaky cut my song with some wicked sound effects to transition into "Thunderstruck" for the 2nd half of my routine!!!  The man RULES!

With the help of some awesome coaches, Jamie and Emily, teammates and hubby, my choreo was set pretty quickly so the pressure started to subside.  Until I fell down.

We were up at the Fat Bike Birkie, likely the coldest one yet, getting fired up for the Friday night Fat Bike crit.  The course was frozen solid and covered in ice even after the trail crew tried to break it up with a beast of a machine.  Mixed in with the men, I was just riding as hard as I could to stay warm and get it over with.  During one turn, my studded front wheel lost control and I augured onto the icy ground left knee first.  I got up with no air in my lungs and tried to walk a few steps to avoid being hit from behind but found each step excruciating.

The pain was fierce and walking was not going to work.  I got back on my bike hoping to 'spin it out' but any movement of the joint was agony.  I pedaled by using only my right leg for most of the remaining laps until I could passively rest my left heel on the pedal and moving the joint without pressure til I finally made it through the final lap.  Although my snow pants survived, I later found that my leg warmer was trashed and the wet feeling in my knee was blood.

Weeks later, the swelling and discoloration subsided, but the whole front of my knee was numb (6 months later = still numb).  Practicing my run throughs was a challenge and some of my floor choreography now had to go because any time on my knees was more painful than I could bear.  Routine #2 began.  Some time passed, I was sure I was ready to go... then I pulled my left hamstring.  No more splits.  Routine #3, commence.

I wasn't in love Routine 3, but I was willing to run with it.  But, just weeks before we were to go to competition, I fell down again.  Crashed out during a Tuesday night crit, I was hit from behind by another racer who rode me like a surfboard down the fairground streets, leaving more than 8 pts of road rash down the side of my body.  But I got up, Jay got my bike back in order, I gagged when I looked at my meaty elbow, but I got back in the race.

When I got back to the dance studio, I ran through my routine, found which parts I needed to change yet again due to my injuries, and added in just some things for me.  This was to be by competition finale.. it better be fun!  Truth in advertising... I was still terrified to fail.  The night before we were to hit the road for CPC, my confidence was faulty and I finally broke down.  Was the 4 minutes on stage going to be the finale I was hoping for?  Could I do it?  What if I failed?

But, the next morning, we packed up and headed east to Chicago.  I competed in Championship (judged on all-around tricks, flow, and presentation) and Entertainment (based on character and presentation).. and I placed in both!  Oh, yeah, and I fell down in the middle of my routine during my 2nd performance.  Damn ankle strap of my heels broke and I fell to my knees on stage.  But, I got back up and kept on going (all while hyper aware of the loose shoe now barely attached to my foot).

I finished 2nd in Championship and 3rd in Entertainment and am so proud to have challenged all the things I'm too shy to do, had fun, created something I'm proud of, and went out with a bang!

So, without further ado... here's the final video thanks to Alloy Images!

Not only was I the only goof ball cruising around town to two pink umbrellas (needed a back up) with pin-up style make up and hair, but I pulled of being cute and sweet.  I called her Penny.

I threw in my favorite tricks or little homages to people I love like a Pike D for our friend Dave Pike who passed away just before Christmas.  (miss you, Buddy) <3 p="">

My favorite static hold.

But then Penny turned into Stella.. and she was fun to be!

I am so grateful for all of the help, support, love and Tegaderm that got me through this last pole competition season.  Jenna and Margaret - thank you for making me wear heals! Jamie, Emily, and Emma - coaches like you help lil monsters like me put something together worth watching!  Angela, thank you for watching me fumble night after night. My friends and family - thank you for all your support. And Jay, thanks for always helping pick me back up and getting me back on my bike without questioning if I should. 

As long as I continue to get back up, I haven't yet failed...


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Coming Home...

Taxiing along the runway in Cleveland, heading for MN by way of Chicago, in the smallest plane I’ve ever been in to end  4 days working a tradeshow hit me like a ton of bricks.  I’d been home sick all week, but the accumulation of insomnia and missing my husband rolled like thunder in my chest as we prepared for take-off.  Lucky for me, it was so small, there was only one-seat wide on the left side of the plane, so I was solo in my sorrow as both the window and the aisle seat.  I gazed out the window over the wing to hide the tears that fell down my cheeks in slow motion.

It had only been four days.  But it felt as though I’ve been living someone else’s life, longing to return to my own.  I cried a little more as I fantasized about seeing Jay that night as Bob Dylan filled my ears ….
“I should have left this town this morning, but it was more than I could do.
Ah your love comes on so strong, and I’ve waited all day long
For tonight I’ll be staying here with you”

Staring at the rainbow sky that prepared for the pending shadows of twilight was a quiet relief as I silent-cried out my window, thinking of running across the room for a tearful embrace.  

Its these echoes of myself that I filed away as I tried to conduct business all week but, in secret, screamed loudly as I contemplated what I want to be when I ‘grow up’.  It’s not the typical story I tell, but the time alone, quietly in conference with myself and my heart, truly made me reflect on what happiness is to me… and where I wish the next adventure would take me. 

…. I want to be home.
As turbulent air disturbed the mundane vibrations of the plane, I thought about our wedding vows, and I’ve never felt more passionate about them…

“I promise to always come home to you, and to always be there when you come home”

Once on the ground in MN, I sped to the taxi booth to hail a cab downtown. The driver couldn't have gone fast enough to ease my unrest, and I was quick to jump out in a small parking lot once we made it within a block of the cycling year end party that I had missed.  Scantily-clad women climbed out of cars by the handful, barely dress for a MN winter, but who was I to care.. I was here.  My roller bag echoed through the alley behind One on One and familiar signs of life meant there was still people here.

Mojo was first to greet me and let me into the rented space and I quickly found a welcome embrace with Kadence.  Friendly faces still lingered in the room, but the party was clearly over.  My heart exploded when I saw the smile on Jay's face as he quickly bounded over to me, kissing me on the dark stairs and refusing to let me go.  

It was everything I needed.

Kind hugs and high-fives quickly followed as I greeted my friends and listened to stories of the party missed.  By midnight, we were on our way home and ready to snuggle on the couch with the puppy.  It was the perfect ending to a long week and a great reminder of the amazing life that I have, always here ready to welcome me home.

Road-worn and weary, 
Kristy Kreme

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Pole 2016 - Creating a Psycho

It has come to my realization that, during times of prolonged stress, I put aside the things that bring me joy.. riding, creating, writing..  But, in truth, those are the things I should make more space for when I'm struggling to smile.  We should spend MORE time in with these things to remind ourselves that the struggle, stress, and depression are just a small part of the world we live in.  So, with that in mind, I'm challenging myself to make that time for myself to do that which I love.

With that being said, I've finally carved out these moments to tell the story of my Psycho. From dream to reality...

In June of last year, I heard the song "Psycho" by Muse on the radio and was instantly obsessed.  My first thought was "I will create a pole routine to this!".  Shortly after, I received an invite to perform on stage with the first ever Dolls on Parade at Mill City Nights in Downtown Mpls.  A paid gig! Are you shitting me?  Of course, I screamed YES and began the preparation.

As part of my process, I printed off the lyrics and began scribbling down my ideas.  What tricks do I love? Which ones am I close to getting, want to learn, fit the part, match the lyrics?  Pages and pages of scribbles, costumes and make-up saved on Pinterest, scouring YouTube videos for inspiration from other pole, ballet, and contemporary dancers.  Lucky for me, my dear friend Freaky is an AMAZING musician and tech genius and helped me cut the 5 minute song to just the length I needed (plus helped me cut all the 'fucks' out per comp guidelines)!

Come December, I began working on my choreography, training with the amazing Jamie Wagner and Abbey Eff.. two of my biggest inspirations and two amazing coaches I'm blessed to train with.  When it was finally time for the February 2016 show, I was nervous, excited, and so stoked to show an audience of 400+ what I'd created.

It was the most fearful I've been on stage yet.  Lucky for me, my straight jacket-wearing lil Psycho was twitchy and weird, so the hand tremors were lost in the dimly lit stage.  I hit all my tricks and musical cues.  I creeped a few people out as I crawled to the edge of the stage as the music waned.  It was a success!

Photos thanks to Lions Mane Photography!

My body, all bruised and sore from months of training, needed a brief break following the show, but I wasn't worried since we still had months before competition.

 After a couple weeks, I was back in the studio, working on fine tuning the Psycho I'd created.  She never had a name, but she was never innocent.  The story, stuck in a psych ward, shackled in a straight jacket, she fought off the memories of the monster that created the killer she was.  Until she broke free...

Before we made it to competition at the Central Pole Championships in Chicago over Memorial Day weekend, we held three shows at our studio to prep the team for the stage.  In each show, I forced myself to try something new.  A new facial expression, hand movement or twitch of the foot.  Each show was different, but all amazing in their own right.  I was enjoying each moment of sharing my Psycho with the crowd, playing to the beat, PERFORMING.  It was exhilarating!

One of the greatest things that came from the Showcase performances was the feedback I received from our mock judges and my friends who came out to support us.  The biggest feedback I received was the power of my character, but most got a feeling of a zombie or a vampire...  not at all who I intended her to be.  Looking at the photos, I see what they saw.

So, with just weeks to go and my routine done, I switch to three weeks straight of character practise.  I would sit for an hour with my headphones in, the song blasting in my ears, staring at myself in the mirror and make faces to each moment or lyric.  I watched The Shining, studied Heath Ledger in Batman - Dark Knight.. I practiced my facial expressions in the car (probably creating utter fear in the drivers near me).. all in an attempt to recreate her before the big day.

Then, finally, it was here:  CPC 2016.  But for some reason, I still wanted more.  The night before comp began, Jay, Doreen, Itly and I went to dinner and talked about the competition to come.  Something Jay said to Itly (a first-timer) struck me.. "the audience isn't listening to each word of the song to see how you translate it"... and there it was.  There was one part of my routine that just didn't feel 100% natural to me because I was trying so hard to interpret the lyrics.  It was then that I decided that, during my performance, I was going to do something I am terrified to do even when alone... I was going to freestyle.

Sunday morning came fast, but I was calm as I ratted my hair beyond repair and blacked out my eyes.  Everything was packed, my headphones were on, and I said my goodbyes to Jay as I rode my bike from the hotel to the theater where I was set to perform.  "Don't change anything" he said.. I didn't listen.

Once I stepped behind the curtain a handful of minutes before performing, I caked myself in grip aide in some desperate attempt to stop sweating.  But I was ready.  I knew in my heart this was the last time me and my Psycho would come out to play.  The field of women I was competing against was fierce, and I just wanted to entertain the audience if nothing else.  I knew they were talented and strong, so I resolved myself to have the most fun I possibly could have on stage.  After eight months of planning for the 4 minutes I'd have on stage, I knew that if I achieved that goal of having the best time ever, it didn't matter where I placed.  

Here's the performance:

I did it... I had the most fun I'd ever had on stage!  I played, I freestyled, I made all my faces and creepy hands I'd practiced.  I'd crushed my goal and couldn't have been happier!  

Afterwards, we headed straight for food.  Starving and exhausted, we saddled up at a local restaurant with Jay, my coach Jamie, and teammates Doreen and Margie.  Sometime during the meal, Jamie leaned over and asked if I wanted to know my results.  I really didn't.  But, judging by the twinkle in her eye, I knew I had to look at the picture that lingered on the screen of her phone.  

2nd place!  2nd place in the Senior Level 3 division!  What the? How the?  I cried immediately... Yes, I cried.. but after 8 months and endless hours of preparation to achieve something you believed impossible, I didn't have any strength left to pretend it wasn't the greatest news I could have received.  Part of me was sad for it to be all over (and kinda hard to stop the facial expressions for a few weeks), but the other part of me was just so overjoyed with what I accomplished against my own doubts, the great performances by my entire team (who friggin dominated the stage!), not to mention all the fun that was had.

Of course, the greatest joy at looking back at this journey is holding my pride in myself close to heart as well as the gratitude for everyone who helped me get there.  My Dad and step mom, who came to see me perform for the first time during this prep - your support means more than you will ever know.  My mom, who cheered me on and spent her time caring for our lil fur baby as we ventured off to Chicago - thank you for being such a huge fan and super fur-grammy!  My team for helping provide feedback as I created my Psycho.. I couldn't have done it without you!  Abbey, for helping me explore my own weirdness, I will forever cherish all that you taught me and all the ways you inspire me!  Jamie... don't ever leave me!  You see right through my fears and hesitation and challenge me to be better.  Thank you for everything.

And Jay, my sweet, never faltering, never wavering, supportive beyond all things husband..  your love is a constant shield trying to protect me from myself. Your hugs make all things better.  And celebrating with you is the greatest joy in life!  

So happy to have moments like these to reminisce on,
Kristy "Once a Psycho" Kreme