The C-Word

…And I don’t mean C U Next Tuesday.

I had the extraordinary experience of traveling solo in the PNW. I extended a work trip into a #workcation and rented an Airbnb in Washougal, WA. Why Washougal? It’s the perfect distance between Portland and the Bridge of the Gods. It’s a beautiful, quaint town on the Gorge and Misty’s house had a hot tub – so BOOM.

I knew this trip was going to be refreshing and I was really looking forward to being alone with my thoughts while hiking in the woods. Now, I’m no Cheryl Strayed – you will never find me backpacking the PCT – but I do love to be outside.

The day my coworkers left I received the news that my father was diagnosed with prostate cancer. At this stage in his diagnosis, all we knew was that it was definitely cancer. No stages, no treatment plans, nothing. No one prepares you for this. Everyone associates a diagnosis with an immediate plan. This is not true for all cancers, and especially prostate cancer. So with this news, I spent some time wandering the streets of the Alberta Arts District in Portland (pause here – The Grilled Cheese Grill – you guys are my jam, and I will be back!) and then headed East. It was Oktoberfest, and Amnesia Brewing happens to be located in Washougal. I needed distractions.

I gorged myself on some incredible pizza at the Hearth, talking to the owner/chef about his blown glass artwork and his new restaurant. He was so kind, and incredibly fun to watch. I moved onward and made friends with some recently divorced women at Amnesia – one of them had left her husband after she found out he was cheating, and the other had left her husband after years of emotional and physical abuse. They were amazing women. We talked about their new lives, their hopes for their single adventures and they had a lot of questions about me and my travels. It was comforting talking to strangers, especially ones filled with so much hope for the future.

If you have never traveled alone, people are INCREDIBLY kind to you when you do. You make new friends every place you go, and discover hidden gems you never would have known about!

I went back to the house after a few beers, fired up the hot tub and soaked until I was a raisin. In the morning I found a great breakfast spot called OurBar, and I got to talking with a couple who had lived in Minneapolis about a decade ago. They asked me where I was planning to hike, and instructed me to find Beacon Rock. I would have never known to stop at this former volcano, which provided my favorite views on the trip, had it not been for the kindness of these strangers.

On my way to Beacon Rock, I turned a curve and saw Cape Horn for the first time. I pulled to the side of the road, and just took it all in. I eventually grabbed my camera and started snapping. Once I was back on the road, the tears came. This wasn’t the first round of tears (and definitely not the last). It hit me like a ton of bricks that my father was about to face an important battle. It was going to be hard for my mother too, who has been with him for the past 45 years. They were planning for her retirement (dad retired a few years ago), so what was this going to mean for them and their hopes for the future?

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The view from Beacon Rock.

I made it to Beacon Rock, and climbed the 850ft (with about 50 switchbacks) and the view from the top left me breathless. Though, it could have been the hike… I made it back down, hopped in the car with new enthusiasm and continued on to The Bridge of the Gods. I had fun singing in the car, walking across the bridge, talking to other travelers who paid their toll to walk across, too – and just enjoyed the sunny day. I forgot about everything for a little while, and I just soaked in the experience. On my drive to Multnomah Falls, I felt selfish for the feelings of excitement I was having. But I also hoped that my parents would not let this illness ruin their excitement for their retired futures together, filled with travel and grandkids. My love for adventure comes from them after all. No one prepares you for the emotional rollercoaster when they talk about cancer. Honestly, all we ever see in pop culture and in our personal lives is overwhelming sadness when it comes to the c-word. No one talk about the confusion, guilt, hope or awkwardness. Yes, you feel guilty. Guilty for having fun, guilty for feeling emotional about such an early prognosis (seriously – I felt that stage 1 wasn’t bad enough to feel openly sad). And yep, it can be awkward – like getting drunk and telling your friends in the bathroom at a birthday party (see also: dance floor, drag show, brunch…) kind of awkward. Your mom talking about your dad’s prostate medicine to your friends kind of awkward (they didn’t even know about the cancer yet…). Having to talk about prostates at all kind of awkward… So anyway, I hiked to the top of Multnomah, made it back down (legs made of Jell-O at this point) and then I called my mom for the first time. We spoke while I drove to Mt. Hood for my last stop of the day. My mother was honest, but strangely optimistic – I wouldn’t normally give her that adjective! I lost cell service on the mountain, but I made it to the top where I ate some delicious fondue and watched a sandstorm take over the mountain from a cozy table in the lodge.

It’s been seven months since my dad called me with the news. And we still wait. Every few months he goes in for testing, this time could be the one where they decide to move forward with treatment or surgery. Or it could be the time they tell us his numbers are getting better. None of us know. Tom Petty said it best, the waiting is the hardest part. I’m happy to say my parents are looking forward to moving south for the winters, so much so that they’re house hunting this fall. Initially, they had held off on planning too far into the future – so it’s encouraging to hear them discuss where they are going to go on vacation, where they want to move, etc. No one talks about this part of the disease either – how to keep planning, keep moving forward and stay hopeful in the face of this ugly disease.

So I’m starting to talk about it – not just the medical part. I think well all need to stop whispering about cancer, stop being so damn awkward. It’s likely going to have an impact on your life, so let’s try to help each other through the mental/emotional/psychological parts of this illness. And not just the worst cases – the normal, everyday, stage 1 cases. The waiting.  The fear. The hope. All of it.

For more information on prostate cancer click here. My dad did not have (and still does not) have a single symptom. His annual physical resulted in one test coming back with a strange result, and his doctor re-tested him to make sure it wasn’t anything to worry about. Six months and three tests later, the cancer was found.

For more pictures from my trip click here.

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2 Years Later

Wow, I can’t believe it’s been 2 years since I wrote. It is truly amazing how fast life moves, and changes. I’ve changed jobs (and careers altogether) and moved back to Minneapolis. It’s not something I imagined doing, but the job and life in Chicago took a toll and I needed a change. I’m so grateful for the time I had at that job, it provided me the opportunities to visit so many wonderful cities and introduced me to some of my best friends. Chicago is a great city, but it was hard to put roots down when I traveled at the rate I did – and I desperately missed nature!

There are far too many things to list here that have happened in the past two years, so I won’t even attempt to do so. My new job provides me with opportunities for travel (about 20%) and I get to work with animals – which I love. Last week, I spent time within a few feet of 6 elephants that were just rescued from being euthanized in Africa (due to severe drought and poor health). The day before this, I visited a customer who breeds reptiles and roaches… What will tomorrow bring?

Most importantly, my newest career path has allowed me to have free time! For 10 years I worked in sports and entertainment. This means that I’ve missed birthdays, holidays, and numerous occasions with friends and family. For awhile I thought it was worth it. No job is worth it. Work-life balance isn’t just a trendy term created by Millennials, it’s an important practice more of us should aim to achieve. Life is too short to feel chained to a computer or a desk or a job that doesn’t allow you to LIVE.

So with this new found free time, I will be traveling to visit friends in Europe, Canada and around the US! I’ll also have work trips to Southern California, St. Louis and Georgia. Thus, I felt like it was a good time to start writing again.

And, as always, if you have any “must-do” recommendations – PLEASE let me know! In Europe I will be traveling to Munich, Innsbruck, Vaduz, Zurich and the Black Forest.

 

Ciao for now, Lissa

 

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Are you From Tennessee? Because You’re the Only Ten I See

If I lived in Nashville (which would make my soul so happy), I would use that pick up line on every tourist who walked through the doors at Tootsie’s…

I love Nashville. There are very few cities I’ve been to where I feel home, and this beautiful city is one of them. From the first moment I saw its luscious hills through my airplane window, I knew this city was going to stomp a bootprint right on my heart. Though, going out on Broadway during the Women’s Final Four isn’t exactly the same crowd I had remembered back in the fall.

nashville 3

But it was okay. My insane, two-bedroom, suite at the brand spanking new Omni Hotel made my forget my man troubles (or lack thereof…) while gazing out my floor-to-ceiling windows…

nashville

I’m dying just remembering taking this photo. I want to live in that suite forever and ever…

nashville 2

Y’all, I can’t even. I’m so obsessed it makes life in the Windy City difficult at times. The grass is truly greener in Nashville (I mean that literally, it snowed here like a week ago…). Though I may never move there, it will hold a place in my heart that can only be filled with frequent vacations back to visit.

Of course we went out Honky Tonkin’ the first night we were in town, and we also ate dinner at my favorite diner – Merchant’s. This little house with the vintage feel has two separate menus, servers that wear bowties, suspenders and skinny jeans, and deviled eggs that will make your grandma turn in her grave (no disrespect, of course).

On my first trip to Nashvegas I received a Hatch Show Print as a gift, so I was happy to find out that the shop was in our hotel lobby. And I went shopping… twice.

Printing posters like it's 1899.

Printing posters like it’s 1899.

I didn't leave empty-handed.

I didn’t leave empty-handed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I could have spent a whole day in there asking questions about the printing process, but I showed some self-restraint… and purchased one large print (for my mama) and about 5 small card prints.

And yeah, there were some basketball games too… And a concert featuring Cassadee Pope…. but mostly there was just a lot of pimento cheese, bourbon and live music.

I love the Music City and hope to visit again soon. The trip didn’t end here, we went straight to the City of Brotherly Love (Philadelphia) for some hockey and cheese whiz. Lots of cheese whiz.

I’ll write about Philly soon, but for now I leave you with these…

Brittney Griner is 6'8" and wears a men's size 17 shoe.

Brittney Griner is 6’8″ and wears a men’s size 17 shoe.

Tennessee State's marching band... it's a guitar.

Tennessee State’s marching band… it’s a guitar.

Cassadee Pope concert.

Cassadee Pope concert.

 

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B1G Hoops, Hopes and Hockey

Wow, has it really been two months since I last wrote? WHOOPS.

I really haven’t been traveling as much, which is the reason behind the absence. That, and I have been preparing for our crazy run at the NCAA spring championships. You know what happens before that, though? Conference tournaments. I love that I get to work at the Big Ten tournament every year just because of my location, because it means I get to cheer for my Gophers!

B1G

The excitement of March Madness Mayhem is unavoidable, even for the fans of the little Big Ten schools that have very little hope of progressing far into the tournament. But this one weekend in March, all of the fans cling to that hope and cheer for their teams. Though this conference is not considered the best in the NCAA, Michigan State and Michigan played well and added to the little conference that could. Plus, Wisconsin (….still better dead than red…) are in the Final Four. This will be the only time I ever cheer for the Badgers. Ever. And let’s not forget that the Gophers are playing in the NIT Championship Game tomorrow night (#RaiseTheGarden #SkiUMah)! Sure, it’s not Dallas, but we’ll take it.

March is On

Michigan State won the B1G Tourney, and our time in Indianapolis was coming to close. Not before we had one night out to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day properly. And man did we both pay for it the next morning. Brutal.

While this is all fun and good, let’s get to the real excitement of my month… the B1G Hockey Tournament (aka a trip to the Motherland…) and eventual Gopher Hockey run to the Frozen Four (another tournament I will be attending soon)! Like any good Minnesotan, I love hockey. Which also means, I hate that they split up the best conference in college hockey, thus ruining the greatest college hockey tournament – the WCHA Final Five. The B1G Hockey Tournament just didn’t compare. And when the Gophers fell apart against the Buckeyes, that helped no one. The crowd for the championship was near silent, and the stadium felt empty. BRING BACK THE WCHA!!!!

A trip home wouldn’t be complete without visiting some of my besties, and a night out at the Wild Onion in St. Paul. Following the tournament I was lucky enough to catch my friend play lacrosse against the team he used to play for (and I used to work for) and spend the afternoon with friends before my flight back to Chicago.

laxlax 2lax 3

 

 

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Pour Some Sugar on Me.

A year ago today was my last day spent as a resident in Minnesota. What an incredible year it’s been. I thought it was appropriate to write my annual post about New Orleans, the Sugar Bowl, and the shenanigans that ensued, bearing in mind the year that’s occurred between games and states.

My first Sugar Bowl in New Orleans marked the end of something, and at that time I didn’t know where I was headed. I would never have imagined that a year later I would be the second-in-command for the annual Fan Fest and concerts that take place in the French Quarter prior to the game. At that time, I just took it all in and hoped for the best, knowing there was a chance I would never been there again.

But I was there again. And I am so happy I had the experience the year before as a temporary/contracted employee. Not only did that mean I had the experience of being there before, but I had the appreciation of seeing it through two completely different sets of eyes.

I have a love/hate relationship with New Orleans, and every time I visit the love part of that sentiment grows. With an entirely new group of coworkers this year, and one who was sadly on his way out, we had a great team and everyone spent the week living up to the motto “Work hard. Play hard.”

Bourbon Street Balcony

Bourbon Street Balcony

Dancing on Frenchman St.

Dancing on Frenchman St.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I still don’t know how I do it during these events, 12+ hour work days with a maximum of 2 hours a sleep each night. If I tried to do this here in Chicago, I would be a wreck. Something about being out in a different city, trying new bars, new restaurants and out with new people, you’re able to just keeping going… just keep swimming, just keep swimming…

But seriously. I feel like the damn Energizer Bunny. By the end of the week I no longer have a voice, I can’t feel anything below my knees, my eyes are like slits, and I’m just happy I still have my credit card (and my dignity, well mostly).

NYE Photo Booth.

NYE Photo Booth.

The most important thing is, we all produce incredible work during this time. Maybe it’s a job qualification none of us know they’re secret shopping for… Whatever it is, it’s quite a sight to see a group of 25-30 year olds putting on a festival after the legendary nights we have on Bourbon and Frenchman Streets. Have you ever seen a group of people chug hurricanes? And then show up for work at 7:00am? Because I have. And I applaud this awesome group of people I call my coworkers.

NYE with the best group of girls to work with

NYE with the best group of girls to work with

Producing an event like we do takes months (and months, and months) of preparation. It’s an incredible thing to take a step back and enjoy it from time to time. One of my favorite parts is watching the crowds of thousands of alumni, students, drunks, etc. come to Fan Fest for the Pep Rallies. It’s such a sight to see. And I love marching bands, mascots and the like…

Obviously, I can’t talk about this time of year without the mention of the bands we bring in to play on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. This year: O.A.R. and Imagine Dragons. I’ve been a fan of O.A.R. since I was about 16 years old, so I was ecstatic. And they put on a great show, like they always have done and always will do.

O.A.R.

O.A.R.

O.A.R. aftermath on stage

O.A.R. aftermath on stage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We all had an idea that Imagine Dragons would be a popular band when we booked them, then the EXPLODED. They were everywhere. We were all watching it unfold and keeping our fingers crossed for a great show. And man, was it a great show. Not only are they a very entertaining and talented band, the crowds were INSANE! Kids were lining up at the front of the stage 6 hours before the first note. It was cold, damp and nasty outside (aka December in NOLA). Traffic stopped, crowds were EVERYWHERE. It was loud and it was a great way to kick off 2014.

Imagine Dragons

Imagine Dragons

And then there was the game… I wish I could say I paid attention to every moment, but it honestly just felt so good to sit down I didn’t have a full attention span to give. Quite the upset though… BOOMER SOONER!

Allstate Sugar Bowl

Allstate Sugar Bowl

In a few months the cycle will begin again. And I can only imagine with the next year will bring.

If you’d like to see the full-length Imagine Dragons concert from Fan Fest, you can go to http://www.allstatefanfest.com. I suggest watching it, and if you look to the left of the stage you will see me dancing below the jumbotron. Screaming may have occurred too…

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Great Read: Date a Girl who Travels

I’m friends with a ton of females that travel. And when I say travel, I mean 50-100% of the time, I don’t just mean a once or twice a year type of travel…. The kind of travel that makes you question paying rent, makes it impossible to have a normal social life (forget a normal dating life), but also makes you feel so completely blessed to be part of that small percentage of the population who gets to travel and call it a job.

One of these women shared this great blog about the benefits of dating girls like us.

View story at Medium.com

 

Enjoy.

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Hoosier Daddy?!?!

I’ve been spending too much time in the Hoosier state, mostly in Indianapolis. In case my two trips in two months wasn’t enough, I’ll be back in March for the Big Ten Basketball Tournament. Fortunately, I’ve been exploring this city with some great company.

The first of the trips to the luxurious and exciting city was to work at the Big Ten Football Championship. This event is always a good time, mostly because it’s one of few events that I get to attend that features my college conference. This year was a particularly fun trip, mostly due to having a PIC (Shan Shan – writer of Romping & Roving)by my side, but also because of the entire group we had with us.

big ten good works

Refurbishing a park in Indy

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Big Ten Fan Fest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The highlight of the weekend (aside from watching OSU lose!) was meeting up with some coworkers from Atlanta and enjoying the taping of ESPN’s College GameDay from backstage. Sure, we couldn’t feel our feet and our faces were numb from the negative temps, but it was still a new experience and a lot of fun for our team.

game day

On the set withe GameDay crew

After returning to the warmth and comfort of the indoor Big Ten Fan Fest, we rooted on Michigan State during the pep rallies and eventually to a victory at Lucas Oil Field.

big ten game

This trip was just a prelude to the fun we would eventually have in this city in January…

Once the dust settled from the holidays and the Sugar Bowl (posts to come…), we packed up our bags and hit the road for Indy once more.

My whip for the weekend.

My whip for the weekend. Photo courtesy of Shannon.

The particular trip was for the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) annual convention. AKA 8,000 football coaches in one city. Sorry to our male coworker (pictured above) who had to listen to us all week…

But in all seriousness, 8,000 coaches were in one place at the same time. I was overwhelmed. Thankfully, 6,500 of them were over the age of 40 and married. And about another 1,000 of them were under the age of 40, southern and married. So that left us with about 500 who were actually our age and single. And by our count, we were the only 2 females in a 5 mile radius. The odds were ever in our favor…

Until we met this guy.

Creeper Alert!

Creeper Alert!

Yeah, he didn’t really leave our sides… Though we laughed so hard it was hard to finish our cocktails (Chris had him going that he was a GA from Alabama…), it limited our options on conversation with coaches our own age.

After a successful few days at the convention, we packed up and headed our separate ways… Chris back to North Carolina, Shannon back to Michigan and me back to Chicago. It was a fun final trip with these two and I’m sorry we had to say goodbye (for now).

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