Finding My Voice

I woke up today at 4am. Not because I had to, but because my brain has decided 4am is the perfect time for problem solving. The obnoxiously early wake-up calls these past eight months have netted nothing but apocalyptic fantasies of burning it down or spectacularly dramatic retreats that lose all their power with any bit of daylight shining on them. 

But today, my 4am brain was emphatic in its clarity: “You’ve lost your voice.”

Instead of fighting to go back to sleep, I felt compelled to see where this was going. 

I have always been a talker. I’m the oldest kid–I grew up with the adults–so words are important tools to get attention. It was uniformly recorded year after year in report cards with checkboxes in front of “Does not disturb others” and “Listens when others talk” an archaic grading system to say you’re an annoying and rude child who talks too much. None of it untrue.

And I’ve sang. I sang in cars until I was hoarse. I sang in choirs and concerts. Not well–but always singing regardless. Singing was nothing but pure joy.

I wrote. I’ve always valued writing and writers over nearly all else. To get to participate–even a little bit–in putting words on a page feels like the highest honor, the greatest accomplishment, my proudest moments. I had a dance show we were readying for audiences in March. All these dance pieces we spent months rehearsing but the part of the show I thought about the most was a monologue I wrote. I was excited for it to be heard. 

But it wasn’t. Not the way it was planned. And the eight months since has resulted in my slowly and then rapidly losing my voice. No more writing officially started in July, not even morning pages. No more singing–not even in the car or shower–in August. Inability to reach out to friends in September. No concept of a Facebook post or a response to one or processing others-so the app went off my phone in October. No phone banking for the election. No calling my parents. Not a lack of something to say, but a choking grip on any words that dared to get out. 

Sometimes I had so much to say and no way to say it, it came out in panic attacks. Episodes with so many questions–What is wrong with you? How can I help you? What’s going on?–and no words to answer. Now I’m seeing a therapist every two weeks instead of monthly. Mostly she says–it’s hard for everyone–and she’s right. What else is there to say. 

I try to give myself a pass. Not just because it’s pandemic time. I’m from a collection of people who have historically struggled to use their words. A generation that felt words had so much meaning it was best left to professionals. Gen X expressed our feelings in mix tapes filled with other people’s words because ours were certainly inadequate. Our generation’s enduring cinematic image of self-expression is holding a boombox playing someone else’s song high enough so it could be heard. And from a movie aptly titled Say Anything.

Recently, Jess and I have been talking about a movie we were obsessed with in high school that is completely forgotten–including by us--Pump Up the Volume. It’s not streaming anywhere. Jess had to dig deep on the internet to get a DVD of it during quarantine.

Since it’s been a while–or mostly likely–it’s new to you, it’s a typical high school romance. The protagonist–Christian Slater–is a rebellious teen (per usual) but his crime is having an underground radio show where he disguises his identity and speaks the truth about the school and the pressures of being a teenager. And he plays music that only cool kids like him would know to his sheltered peers. He is radical. He has an opinion. He has technology. He has taste. He has a voice.

And that’s what I always wanted–a voice. It always felt like it was something that was earned. Only special people got to have one. You had to say things that mattered even if it was just to a small group of people like you. With this blog, I felt like I could write about things that interested me–to other people who may be interested too. It was for friends who told us that they had lost their connection to makeup trends and music and entertainment. Usually it was friends with kids–I could fill a void because I had the time they lost–even though their interest remained. I had permission to write and to share it. My request for a voice was granted under special circumstances. 

But even with more time than I could’ve imagined to write, I have less ability than ever to do it. Now I feel disconnected. Losing my voice has been a symptom of something larger. Who am I and who am I becoming? And realizing this change was happening before March 15th. It’s just now I’ve had nothing but space to face it.

We are not the generation who wanted to be defined. As a whole, we actively didn’t want to stand out. Our fashion was flannel. Our generation’s theme song is “oh well, whatever, nevermind.” We were awkward misfits who wallowed in our loneliness never noticing we all felt alone. We were afraid. Unless you could be clever or biting or irreverent, there was nothing for you–at least that’s the excuse we gave ourselves. To care was uncool. It was too painful. So instead we are defined by our silence–we are the generation that took our voice and actively threw it away. 

Without the few things we tried to use to give meaning, even transiently, like our fashion and makeup–or lack of, the company we keep, the concerts we go to, our favorite restaurant, who are we? Who am I? Who cares?

But while my voice has been muted, I have been listening. The BLM protests overwhelmed me. It wasn’t the “you should do this” I was accustomed to, it was “this is who we are.” It was a revolution. Not because they choose to speak–because their lives depend on it.

In amplifying their voices, I was faced with how little I know about my own.

And that’s where I am today. Unprepared for these times like a lot of my generation. 

I did the one thing I could do this election–I voted. I’m listening and I’m trying to sort out what I value and what I need to let go of. I’m watching this generation and trying to learn from them. Regardless of how the election goes, they are right in telling us the fight is just beginning. And I’d like to join them. I’m learning how not to be afraid, how to speak. If we all do have a voice, what do we say? What do I say? 

Right now, I just want to say anything. And hopefully, this is a start. 

Lyn’s Favorite Songs of 2019

What a way to end a decade! This year’s list is basically a representation of all the types of music I gravitated to the most in the past ten years. Slow jams? Check. Dance tracks? Check. Indie veterans? Check. Burial? Check.

Usually I spend tons of time crafting–what I believe to be–the best presentation of the songs, the perfect playlist.

But in pulling my notes together this year, I started to feel like shuffling the list might actually be the most representative way to experience the songs. A true 2019 way of listening to music. It’s such a mix of styles and genres, voices and experiences that mixing them up makes songs hit even harder coming out of nowhere or take on surprising new meaning.

And it’s also fairly consistent with my relationship with this collection of songs. Like all music, it’s a soundtrack. Songs I played on repeat when I was happy and songs that speak to specific feelings I had while working things out. Sometimes just minutes apart.

However, my favorite song of the year is from one of my favorite experiences of the year. While it was only a few months, I participated in a Tuesday night dance class that brought me so much joy and connected me to the outlet that always grounds me and makes me feel like the best version of myself. It was an Afro-Peruvian/Latin/Hip Hop/Zumba/you name it class and 100% happiness. From the instructor, Francis to all the lovely people in the class living their best, sweaty life in that hour–just like me–it was a really important moment and reminded me how impactful dance has been on my past 10 years and will continue to be in the future.

I’ve always had a soft spot for Latin Pop and this class introduced me to all the chart topping hits–most can be found on the Spotify playlist called Viva Latino–but dancing to them fuses their energy directly into your body.

While I obviously love all the songs on my favorite songs of 2019 list, my most favorite, bestest song of the year is Baila, Baila, Baila, Ozuna, Daddy Yankee, J Balvin, Anuel AA. After one listen–I was hooked–and I don’t think a day has gone by where I haven’t played it multiple times.

Below is the full list. You’ll find all the top personalities of the year–Lizzo, Billie Eilish, BTS, Ariana Grande, Lana Del Rey, Rosalia, Post Malone and Sturgill Simpson– represented. I also agree with many of the already posted tops of the year (my list is soooo late and therefore didn’t follow a pre-October 31 release date rule) with nods to FKA Twigs, Clairo, Solange, Angel Olsen, Sharon Van Etten and Tyler, the Creator. And then old favorites like Jenny Lewis, Local Natives, Future, Kehlani, Bon Iver, Haim, and Beyonce. It’s great to have Missy Elliot back and she shows up twice as does Lykke Li. Whitney Houston sings us higher in a surprise posthumous release and I finally get to put one of my favorite songs of ALL-TIME, Murder on the Dancefloor on a year-end list with an orchestral re-imagining of the early 2000s, pre-Lyn’s favorites playlists Sophie Ellis-Bextor classic.

It’s been quite a year and this list reminds me that music remains my most treasured and reliable memory book through it all.

Enjoy this playlist on Spotify–and why not follow it and me!–on the platform! What did I miss? What did you love? What fell flat? I wanna hear it all from you! Thank you, 2019 for all the great moments and music!

Lyn’s Favorite Songs and Albums of the Decade: 2010s

Earlier this fall, a friend posted on his Instagram story his responses to Pitchfork’s survey of readers’ favorite songs and albums. It was the first time it even dawned on me the decade was ending. Wow. What a decade it has been!

Then the questions kicked in: Where did I think I would be at the start of the decade and where am I now? How quickly did time pass but how far away somethings seems to be. 10 years. Over. When you try and process it, it gets overwhelming pretty quick.

So instead I redirected and focused on the more important questions–what are MY favorite songs and albums of the 2010s?

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Of course, this became an all-consuming project for me. Coming up with my favorite albums was fairly easy. I just stuck to the albums I’ve come back to year after year. I didn’t try to overthink it.

When it came to songs–that got much more difficult. Luckily, I had a starting point. I took all my “favorite songs of the year” lists and put them into one big playlist (which you can check out here) and started listening to them again. Some of the songs I’ve continued to have on repeat, others had fallen off my radar.

But here’s the magic of music–it brings you back to a particular moment in time. As much as I wanted to avoid reflection, there it was. All the memories–some I would relive again and again if I could–but some I’d give anything to forget. Songs that fire up those pangs of regret I’ve worked hard to cool, all the work undone by two notes in an intro. People I don’t talk to anymore. People who I still love despite how they hurt me. People I’ve hurt. Disappointments that still feel fresh. Pain that lingers. Dreams dashed. Things that are over or never began.

What do you do with songs that you loved once but can’t listen to anymore? Get rid of them? Pretend they never existed? If you erase the song, can you erase the memory that’s tied to them?

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I wrestled hard. So I did a list of just 50 songs that I could confidently listen to on repeat and feel good about how I spent my last decade. But then a few friends checked out the first draft and said it felt incomplete. It felt like songs were missing. It was the social media representation of my life through music but not the real thing.

And they were right. So I dug deeper. Found the songs that didn’t make my year-end lists for whatever reason and got them counted. I re-listened to music I had actively avoided and looked for ways to make peace with them and appreciate them for all they gave me.

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Ten years is a long time. That’s thousands of songs for me. It’s all the people I’ve met and all the moments I’ve made–and I make moments, y’all!–organized into one playlist.

But I did it! Here’s my list of my 200 favorite songs of the 2010s–all the good times and bad times that have made me who I am today and will help me become the person I’m going to be tomorrow.

The rules were simple–the song had to come out 2010-2019. And as hard as it was, I basically limited the list to one song per artist (you can check out my “favorites” playlist to get a sense of how many Drake, Kanye, Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Florence + the Machine, Bon Iver, James Blake, Future and Lana del Rey, etc. songs could’ve been included!)

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The list starts in order with my favorite songs of the decade up until 50 and then I couldn’t manage it anymore so I went alphabetical. Hahaha!

Which means my favorite song of the decade is Robyn, Dancing on My Own. The song is universally agreed upon perfection–as is Robyn, in general–but it’s the balance of hope and sadness in the chorus’ last line “I keep dancing on my own” that makes it so special.

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Thank you, 2010s. You taught me a lot about myself and others. You introduced me to amazing people and experiences. You showed my strength and made me come to terms with my weaknesses. I’m not the person I was when I started this decade and that’s ok.

And to the 2020s–bring it on. Because whatever you’ve got for me, I’m gonna keep dancing.

Oops… We Took Shopping Advice From Britney

Here’s the problem: impulse shopping from your phone has become TOO. EASY.

A few weeks ago Britney Spears, proud new owner of an iPhone, posted a picture of herself in a Bloomingdale’s dressing room wearing a super cute yellow dress. From Bloomingdale’s!! Jess was quick to find it on their site, and it was reasonably priced! Why is Britney in store, trying on an off-the-rack dress from Bloomie’s that comes in sizes S-M-L? Who cares- we bought it!

Hot take: this dress is super cute! On top at least. But neither of us were able to zip it up- the lace was too lumpy and the zipper was too long/awkwardly placed for any normally jointed human to do it alone. (We suspect Britney didn’t zip hers, either!)

We forgot one important detail: it’s a well documented fact that Britney is “skinny as a needle“. Lyn and Jess are 3-dimensional. So while this reached to mid-thigh on Brit Brit, there was baaaaarely enough fabric to make the journey around our actual human butts.

Also, Jess coughed the entire time this dress was on or near her face. ??????

So, back to Bloomingdale’s with you, yellow dress. It was fun to pretend we could be shopping buddies with Britney. I’m sure it won’t be the last time.

(also maybe we were supposed to wear sunglasses while trying it on? perhaps that makes it easier to zip?)

What impulse purchases have you made because of the Instagram? Any shopping app that continuously sucks you in? Are we alone in the universe? Let us know in the comments below!

Lyn’s Favorite Songs of 2019–and Albums–so far!

Happy 4th, everyone!! Here’s a playlist of my favorite songs for you to throw on shuffle during your holiday weekend!

While definitely not as tricky as creating my year-end list–it was hard to keep it to 50–this has been a really strong year and there are a bunch of big releases still coming.

But I narrowed it down as best as I could–and as quickly as I could–to get this to you for the 4th.

Additionally–here are 15 albums I’ve had on repeat all year. I keep a playlist on Spotify called “2019 Favorite Albums.” Are you on Spotify? Why not follow that playlist and check in on it throughout the year? Do it…

Helado Negro: This is How You Smile

James Blake: Assume Form

Tyler, The Creator: Igor

Sharon Van Etten: Remind Me Tomorrow

Girlpool: What Chaos is Imaginary

Billie Eilish: When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?

Anderson.Paak: Oxnard and Venutra (a bit of a cheat but i listen to them together a lot)

Angelo de Augustine: Tomb

Better Oblivion Community Center: self-titled

Jenny Lewis: On the Line

Nilüfer Yanya: Miss Universe

Local Natives: Violet Street

Solange: When I Get Home

Carly Rae Jepsen: Dedicated

Kehlani: While We Wait

Speaking of playlists–did you read Jess’ ghost story last week? Damn. Still thinking about it–why does everyone have that one person who makes random appearances at random times? Crazy.

There you go! Lots of new music for you to enjoy! What have you been into this year? Are you on Spotify? Do you want these playlist on other platforms like YouTube? Let me know below!


Thank You, Next: A Ghost Story

Hi! This story is maybe boring! But it’s spinning around in my head, and I need to give it a place to go and that’s why our blog is named Everything & Nothings. 😉

We were only 15. I remember the day we met, but I don’t actually remember meeting you. In the chaos of a high school forensics meet, there we were, in the center of the storm, eye to eye, as if to say “hey, there you are. I’ve been expecting you”.

Officially, not my type: I was into skater boys and edgy, art weirdos. Here’s you all prepped out, heavy eyebrows, Christian Slater voice, and a smoldering confidence that would easily land you the part of “Cute Guy at Peach Pit” on 90210. We wrapped up in each other on a cafeteria table, and stuck together during the awards ceremony. We exchanged numbers.

To be clear, we very much weren’t dating. We went to different high schools and lived in different worlds. We talked on the phone, and we made out (a lot) in your parents’ basement, in your car, in between and around dating other people. You were Blane, I was Andie. We hung out, but we never really went on dates. We didn’t go to school dances or parties; there isn’t a single picture of us together. There was no big romance, no broken hearts, no love letters, and I can’t say for sure if there was really even a true friendship by proper definition: neither of us seemed to be in it for anything more than the little thrill of being with someone who didn’t make sense in our normal timelines, and that was ok. It was exciting. We understood the game. We lived in a pocket universe, floating in and out of each other’s lives like snow. You’d drive me home through the Lake Michigan fog, way past curfew.

You were a year older than me, and left for college my senior year. By this point, we had kept in touch but had abandoned the pocket, retreating to the normalcy of Real Relationships. I ended up going to the same college (unrelated to you being there- basically I wanted to go to a fancy out of state art school, and my mom said “how about UW Oshkosh?” and I was like….. fine.) but we didn’t really hang out ever. I visited you once before I was there, on a day where I was checking out the school, and once when I lived there, but I remember you being kind of a dick? I think you were full into college frat-bro mode, and I was way too busy being goth, so it was fine. We just skipped it.

Years later, I was planning a wedding. I had been with this guy, and it was fine, but we didn’t love each other. At least I didn’t love him, but I didn’t know that yet. We were caught up in checking off boxes, working down the list of things to do by the time we turned 25. I don’t know why, but you showed up in my emails. Hey, it’s been forever- what’s up? I didn’t quite pay attention to the fact that you were in an unhappy marriage. I mean, I heard you, but also, I knew you first, right? We’d send long emails, and it was like I woke up from a trance. You hadn’t been here in years, but you were the only one who could actually see me. I needed this tether: someone who knew the old me, who flashed forward in time to find a shell of the person I once was, asking me questions my close friends couldn’t, like, “are you actually happy? Is this really what you want?”

You saved me from the quicksand. I was in over my head. Took a wrong turn for a long time. When suddenly, a hand, outstretched, reminded me of the me I used to be. We chipped away at the old layers of paint until my old face was restored.

It didn’t matter that you were married; we didn’t love each other. There was no future here. Just skin and sweat and secrets pressed up against my kitchen wall.

I met my future husband later that fall. You and I, we still talked pretty regularly- you were trying to save your marriage, and I was gushing about this new guy. At first, you did the thing a friend should do when your friend, who just got out of a five year dead end and needs to eat/pray/love for a while, starts falling hard for a new guy. You reminded me that this was probably a rebound, to not go too fast or go all in right away. And for a while, yeah, you were right. But then it started to feel weird. Controlling. It was almost as if you were trying to keep me in this place where I was vulnerable. Misery loves company, you know. I started to pull away. You had gone from a trusty tether to the devil on my shoulder.

I was with my friends, getting ready to go out to the club where MB was DJing that night. We were giggling and pre-gaming and having a great time. I noticed my phone buzz, looked down, and saw it was you calling. I thought about answering, then hit “decline”. And just like that, I ghosted you forever.

My life, without you, is amazing. I have a partner who challenges me, supports me, loves me, makes me laugh every day, and is fucking hot in a suit. My career is fulfilling, and I have friends who inspire me, and push my edges, and let me dance and live through every day.

Over a year ago, maybe a year and a half, I noticed some missed calls on my phone from an unknown number. Then a text came through: “hey, I’m trying to track down my friend Jess from high school. Is this you?”

I knew immediately, but asked anyway. “Who is this?”

It was you, of course, and I threw my phone down to the couch. I didn’t want this. I didn’t invite this. It had been over 16 years of silence, and I had been perfectly fine without you. What. Do. You. Want.

Out of curiosity and nostalgia, I texted you back, for weeks, but I kept you at arm’s length. I didn’t need a disruption in my life. Was this a long-shot booty call gone wrong, and now we have to have a weird, awkward friendship??

I am not here for this.

But then, a few weeks ago, I had a thought: maybe I was the one being a dick this time. Maybe you had reached out to me because you were in the quicksand and needed a hand. I sent a text. Next thing I knew, we were planning to get together for a drink within 24 hours.

I was twisted up for an entire day. WHAT. IF. Have we ever been in a room together and not made out?? Do we have some kind of crazy chemistry that supersedes rational thought? No. Stop. I love my life, and nothing is worth sacrificing that for, even for a second. It will be fine. I turned up Childish Gambino, remembered who I am, and rolled into the bar. Shooing away the host with a “hi, I’m meeting someone”, I recognized you immediately across the room.

Think about your good friends, the ones who have been around seemingly forever. If time is a river, as Steve Winwood suggests, slowly carving out stone into canyons, we watch our friends evolve and change and become polished in certain ways and cracked in others, but constantly; changing, imperceptibly, before our eyes. When you skip ahead 18 years, it’s like a flash flood that gives way to a landslide. The landscape has suddenly changed. It’s still a bit familiar and you remember what it used to look like (maybe?), but it’s startlingly different, and you can’t quite picture how it was, or what’s missing, exactly.

You’re just…. a guy. Not the devil at all, as it turns out. And you know what? It was nice to see you. It was easy to catch up. You showed me pictures of your kids. I showed you pictures of my cats. You still have that voice, but I can’t help but feel like something is off. Your spark is gone. You used to be larger than life, and now life seems to have swallowed you.

Don’t think I didn’t notice that you tried to get me alone: “should we go for a walk?” “want to go people-watch at my hotel?” Darts thrown wide. As we started to say our goodbyes, a huge summer storm opened up. We waited under the overhang for a break in the rain, you had a cigarette, and we realized our cars were each about 30 feet away in opposite directions. You tried to offer to… pick me up? Take me to my car? In your car? I laughed. We shared a long hug, and I ran out into the rain.

Here’s the thing though: I don’t know how to be your friend. I feel like something hasn’t been said, that maybe you’re holding out. Why did you show up after a lifetime of years? Why are we still here, expecting each other? Are you a time traveler, checking in on me? I can’t deny that by seeing you, you’ve held up the mirror; I see that my life is exactly how I want it to be right now.

But still…. I want to help? I want to try. Let me be your friend. Let me send you a joke on a Thursday, or listen to you complain about traffic, or have you bounce ideas off me. Tell me your secrets, because it doesn’t matter what I think of them. We haven’t known each other for a long time, and yet we’ve been here this whole time. Now, maybe, we can finally be real.

Hit Me With Your Best Shot: We Try Boxing! (Kind Of)

Here we go, cats- our first fitness experiment is in the books! We picked our first class based on a long scroll through Groupon, and settled on Canvas Club Boxing. We both felt like this would be a good place to enter the game, since both of us have some experience with bag work (Jess took some kickboxing classes a few years back, and Lyn used to be a for real martial artist!) So what did we think? First, a run-down:

So early… so sweaty…

What Is It?

Canvas Club Boxing is a locally owned boutique gym that offers group boxing/fitness classes. It’s a smallish space that holds a small boxing ring, a section of like 16 heavy bags, and some floor space. Each 45 minute class (we took three total) was formatted similarly, but different every time. It started with a group warm up, then you and your partner would be put into one of three groups that you would rotate through every three minutes: working on some kind of drills in the ring with pads, working on the heavy bags, or doing some kind of floor exercise (like shuttle runs, medicine ball passes, pushups, etc.) The end of the class, just when you’re thinking “it must be almost time for the cooldown!”, would be some kind of group torture, like burpees or running down the alley.

inside the space: the ring, the bags and the wood floor were the main three areas used—along with a field trip outside in the alley

Things We Liked:

J: Right off the bat, everyone was super friendly and helpful! At 6:00 in the morning, a smiling face offering to help us was a great way to start. Plus all the other class members were nice and willing to help keep us on track, too. Generally speaking, the music in each class was great! The workouts were solid and the 3 minutes per station format kept it interesting- also I tend to dread when classes are the same/predictable, so I really appreciated it being different each time.

L: I’m definitely down for this kind of format. Switching things up after a fair chunk of time was a good way to get in a bunch of different exercises and not get too salty at any one of them. Except burpees. And it’s been a long minute since I hit a bad, and I still really like it.

Things We Didn’t Love:

J: While I totally understand that this is a boxing class, I really wanted to kick that bag! I was also a little annoyed that we were instructed to always be dominant-hand leading. How am I supposed to trick the Dread Pirate Roberts into thinking I’m a pretty good left-handed fighter when really I’m a great right-handed fighter if I never train my left side??

L: I really, really, really don’t like being pitted against other people in a class—especially people who aren’t even there. I don’t need to hear that Steve did 757 burpees in 3.5 minutes yesterday. I legit don’t care and also start wondering why I’m a terrible person who can’t also do 757 burpees in 3.5 minutes on my first day of class. (Jess and I are geminis—this has been established, right?) It’s not even that I’m particularly competitive against others, but I’m way too competitive with myself and its something I’ve been actively working on for my own self-preservation for a while. So it’s best for me to give me things to do and tell me how to do it and give me some goals or guidelines and then just cheer me on. I don’t’ want to be yelled at or told I’m not working hard enough when any normal person can see I actually am and when it just makes me feel bad. I’m definitely more inclined to want to do less reps but to do them correctly. So this was a major fail for me with one of the instructors.

J: Lyn, you totally nail this feeling about feeling like a jerk who isn’t as good as Steve! I do much better with personal cues like “see if you can do one more rep than you did the last round!”, because fuck Steve and his 737 burpees. He can keep them.

Was There A Hard Sell?

Nope! Which makes me feel like we’ll be back someday, honestly. They were so nice! Especially at 6:00 in the morning!

Off to breakfast- the best part!!

Would we do it again?

L: 6am is not my favorite, although once you’re up, it’s pretty ok. And there wasn’t really a time that worked for both of us outside of stupid o’clock. I really like the last teacher we had and would totally be down to talking class from her. If we went to the usual teacher—I would just have to steel myself to do me and not get shaken by triggering cues. As for the workout itself—I really liked it. A lot. 

J: Yeah, same- I really struggle with getting up and somewhere by 6am, but then maybe I like being up and having all this secret personal time in the day? I can’t quite convince my snuggled-up-with-cats self of this, though. Anyway, overall I really enjoyed the class and the instructors and would totally do this as an every-so-often fun class, but I wouldn’t want it to be my main form of fitness.

How Was Breakfast After?

Being on Monroe Street, we were rich with breakfast options!! Barrique’s is a reliable, solid choice with a good breakfast selection, but Crescendo let us down with spongy toast and not a lot of avocado. Bloom, however, was the clear winner (streets ahead!), from it’s exceedingly friendly staff to it’s perfectly poached eggs. Please bring me all the sweet potato donuts.

What’s next, friends? We’ve gotten lots of requests to do something in the aerial/circus realm, so maybe! Also: should we have a podcast?? Let us know in the comments!!

Introducing: The Untitled Fitness Experiment

Madison, you may have noticed, is a fitness town. We host the Crossfit Games. We host Ironman. We even make it on to national “fittest cities” lists. And Madison loves to run- look at how many races are coming up around here!! So it’s easy to feel like running is the thing to do- a few years ago, Lyn and I used to run together all the time!

Crossing the finish line of the very first race we ever ran together, circa 2011

It was a great thing we had going- we would meet once a week or so, early in the morning, at one of the two Willy Street Co-ops (Lyn lives near the east side one, I’m on the west side) and check the box off on our fitness for the day. Then, the best part and likely 90% of the motivation for even getting out of bed, we would sit at the Co-op and drink a delicious juice and have breakfast and catch up on, wait for it, Everything and Nothing.

We weren’t particularly fast or trying to win, but we kept on the grind and ran a bunch of local races to keep us motivated. Then, tragedy struck:

It took a month for this stress fracture to get diagnosed.

While running the Zoo Run Run 10k, a race we had not really trained for well (that summer was sooooo hhhhoooottttt!!), my foot/ankle started to feel very wrong. Lyn was ok with walking, because she realized she forgot to eat for, like, the past 24 hours. We slogged to the finish line, Lyn almost stole a banana straight out of the hand of a random passerby, and we declared defeat over our post-race brunch.

Turns out I had a stress fracture in my 4th metatarsal. I was benched from pretty much everything for 3 months. It worked out, though, because Lyn was also needing to take some time off running, and we were heading into winter anyway. Fast forward to the next spring: we started running again, and had a redemption Zoo Run (just the 5k this time), and I realized something crazy important: I HATE RUNNING, AND THAT’S OK. I hung up my running shoes for good.

While I was rehabbing my foot, I discovered kettlebell training, and fell in love with strength sports. Lyn still runs pretty regularly- it’s fast, she can do it wherever work happens to take her, and she gets an excuse to listen to music (she wouldn’t do it silently, and I concur!!)- but admits she only “tolerates it” and she isn’t planning to run any races or hit PRs, just happy to get it done.

This past winter was rough, for a lot of reasons, and it seems the whole city hid under the covers and ate cheese from December through March, including us. Lyn sent me a message mid-March, and echoed what I had also had on my mind: we need to get back to doing something exercise-y together, and more importantly, we need our weekly-ish breakfast chats back in our lives. I really don’t want to run, and Lyn isn’t particularly jazzed to lift. So what can we do? Well, thanks to Madison being such a fit town, we have options. SO MANY OPTIONS.

Here’s the plan: we are going to cast a wide net and grab any Groupons and introductory offers we can to try all kinds of fitness! We’ve just finished our first class, and we’ll let you know how that went in an upcoming post (along with our opinions on breakfast options). But!! We need your help! What should we call this project? And also, what fitness do you want to see us try?? We are game to try almost everything. Almost. 😉

Sephora 20% off–spring edition

I haven’t bought much at Sephora lately. It’s not that I haven’t been picking up new products–let’s be real–but I’ve been really digging a lot of drugstore makeup or cheaper lines like Essence, Flower Beauty and Wet N Wild. I’ve actually returned quite things at Sephora (which I’ll mention below.)

Additionally–I haven’t had much time to watch YouTubers to even see what’s good out there. So there’s been little product FOMO in my life.

But with the 20% off discount code in my inbox–that was all about to change.

Here’s what I got in three categories: Restock, Give a Shot, Legit Wishlist with recommendations built-in. At the end, I included two bonus sections: Things I Returned and Things I Recommend:

Restock: I am obsessed with Drunk Elephant products. My skin just has never looked better and I’m using primarily this line, especially with my nighttime routine. Since DE products are on the pricey side, getting a discount seems like a good idea. Unfortunately, some of the items have a short shelf-life, so it’s not ideal to let them sit in a drawer. Without being able to see inside the packaging to know how much I have left–I had to just make a guess based on the weight of the bottle to see if it felt full or empty. Using that scientific determination, I decided to get a few items I think I’ll need in the next month or so. (sadly–i had JUST repurchased the Protini cream two weeks ago without the discount and it feels weird to return it and repurchase it on sale. but i still might…)

I credit my skin turnaround to the T.L.C. Framboos™ Glycolic Resurfacing Night Serum. I love it completely. So I grabbed one of those since mine feels light. I mix it with the A-Passioni™ Retinol Cream, but I’ve purchased that fairly recently and I will definitely have enough to get me to November’s sale. But if you’re looking for a really gentle, but high performing Retinol cream–this is for you! I’m also completely in the tank for the Lala Retro™ Whipped Moisturizer and cannot go without it. So I grabbed one. I use the La La and Protini together often–or when I’m lazy–I’ll grab whichever is handiest. But they are very different creams, the La La being heavy and Protini is a serum/moisturizer hybrid. However, with summer coming (it is coming, right?) I decided to try the B-Hydra™ Intensive Hydration Serum again as my day cream moving into warmer months. I’ve tried it before and didn’t LOVE it, but I’ve been having such success with DE lately, I’m going give it another shot. I’ll just return it if it’s not what I really want.

If you haven’t tried Drunk Elephant before, they have a new trial box out called Get Even™ Kit with pretty good sized samples of the Night Serum, Retinol, Protini, the C-Firma™ Day Serum–which I use and like enough for something I do because I feel I should but not really sure I notice a difference because of it–and their sunscreen which I haven’t tried. These are some heavy hitters and you’ll definitely get enough uses to know if it’s for you or not. There’s also still The Littles™ Set which gives you more products to try but no Retinol. Neither of these sets have the La La cream and it’s seriously my favorite–but these are nice ways to try the line–especially with the discount on top of it. I would also strongly recommend the T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial™ Mask Mini which is a very impactful mask and a quantity that is realistic and more reasonably priced.

i got to use this photo again–i repurchased during the summer 20% off sale last year!

The other restocks I grabbed were my Milk Makeup Matcha Toner and Watermelon Brightening Serum which are both a couple weeks away from being cashed out. So the sale was good timing. I thought about not getting the Brightening Serum–but I really like it–so I’m keeping it as part of my morning routine.

Finally–and I can’t believe I’m admitting this–I’m obsessed with the Charlotte Tilbury Lip Cheat Lip Liner in Pillow Talk. I have spent a stupid amount of time trying to find the right dupe for it and I just can’t. I love it so much. It’s just perfect for me so I got the full size one. UGH.

me using all the new products including the pillow talk pencil and sugar sugar marc jacobs beauty gloss that is my go-to combo and my new giannis mean mug t-shirt!

Give a shot: I have no problem returning products I don’t like, so I use the sale as an opportunity to try out products I’m curious about–they could be amazing or terrible–and I’m for finding out.

When it comes to high end products, my favorite line recently has been Marc Jacobs Beauty. The Enamored Hydrating Lip Gloss Stick was one of my top finds of 2018 and I now have them in several colors although Sugar Sugar is my favorite. I got a Highliner Gel Eye Crayon Eyeliner during the November 20% off sale and have already picked up a few more in matte, shimmer and glitter finishes. I love them all and they have replaced UD as my favorite eyeliners. I got a couple of the Le Marc Liquid Lip Crème liquid lipsticks during a Wow sale but the colors I grabbed are sold out online–they were available at the West Towne Sephora when I was there over the weekend. These are very nice liquid lipsticks–not drying at all. And then on a Facebook recommendation during the November 20% off sale–from Rachel I think–I got the Shameless Youthful-Look 24H Foundation SPF 25 in Light R250 and I’ve really liked it a lot! It’s been my go-to non-drugstore foundation option ever since.

Thanks to a Kathleen Lights video on what to grab during the sale, I got the Velvet Primer – Epic Lash Primer and the See-quins Glam Glitter Eyeshadow in COPPERAZI 86. I’m wearing both for the first time today. I don’t have an eyelash primer at the moment and I like this. I’m going to try it a little longer. But I can already tell the shadow is going back. It’s toooooo glittery for me but also doesn’t really pack much more punch than some of my more shimmery copper shadows I already have. So nope.

Legit Wishlist: These are items I’ve had in my “Loves” and have been waiting for an excuse to purchase. I have a friend who is desperately searching for a good pore filler and I really haven’t been much help in finding something I like. The Tatcha, The Silk Canvas Protective Primer Mini always comes up–including in that Kathleen Lights video–so I decided to get it. I’m wearing it today and I think it may be a winner! My skin is looking pretty legit so fingers crossed this might we the one!

I love face oils and tinted moisturizers so I noticed the KOSAS, Tinted Face Oil Foundation in Tone 3 the second it showed on on the “Just Arrived” page. Tati did a review of it that was positive but it’s expensive so it’s just been waiting. I got it and tried today. It’s HELLA watery. So much so it may be a deal breaker. BUT! My skin looks really good. I think I’ll give it a week and see how I feel. I’ll keep you updated on Instagram if it goes or stays.

I’ve never tried the Beauty Blender, liquid blendercleanser® so I grabbed one to see how it fairs compared to the solid–or just soap TBH. We’ll see.

And then I use the world’s smallest mirror at my desk at work, so I ordered a small but WAY bigger than what I’ve been using mirror which I already love! Sephora Collection, Seeing Double Compact Mirror is perfect!

Things I Returned: Perhaps you need to be talked out of some items or minimizing your order a bit. Here are some things I tried recently but returned.

Sol De Janeiro, Coco Cabana Cream made me understand the people who couldn’t get over the scent of the Brazilian Bum Bum Cream which I love. This scent was an immediate NO! for me. And I also started to feel a little icky about spending $45 on lotion, so I bought a lotion from The Body Shop at Ulta during a discount and it was less than $20 and I really like it.

Milk Makeup, Lip Color in OG Red is messy and slides easily and just no. Way too many fantastic and cheap lipsticks out there–and I’m not hurting for red lipsticks. It went back.

Nudestix, Nude Gloss Balm Founder Set: Ugh. This was a in-line impulse purchase I immediately regretted. These glosses are nudes and are basically all the same color and all too light for me. This wasn’t event close.

Tata Harper, Volumizing Lip & Cheek Tint: Please don’t even look at the price. My lips were super chapped. I was feeling low and made a bad decision. Luckily, Sephora has a generous return policy when I came to my senses.

Things I Recommend: I bought an RMS Beauty Wild With Desire Lipstick sampler during the November sale and really love the formula and would recommend the set. I’m crazy about Temptation in particular and got the full size this winter. It’s AMAZING!

I still really miss my Laneige Sleep Mask, but I got this Farmacy, Honey Butter Beeswax Lip Balm at some point and it’s very nice. And at $10, it’s more than a drugstore lip balm but nicer by a lot with really good ingredients.

My love for Fenty Beauty by Rihanna is well documented. I picked up two more Mattemoiselle Plush Matte Lipstick in Thicc – sultry mauve and
Ma’Damn – royal red and my only regret is I can’t find my red!

So yeah–that’s a lot! But I hope it gives you some ideas before the sale ends on May 6th. What’s on your list? We’ve all got a few days to do a little more damage! What do you recommend? What do should be avoided? Let us know in the comments below!

All my money. Which makes that stupid Tatcha Harper even more embarrassing.

High vs Low: Workout Leggings Edition

Confession: I have a leggings habit. It’s pretty severe. I KonMaried out a whole pile back in January, and then have slowly been rebuilding my collection, because that’s just how life works. Between my job and being a fitness (and comfort) enthusiast, I pretty much live in them, and so I have opinions! What makes a good legging? Is it worth dropping a bunch of cash? Can I get away with cheapos? In the name of science, I took it upon myself to test a few popular options and gave them all a good test drive. I tried to pit them against each other in ways that made sense to me, but I’ll also rank them overall at the end of this post. My criteria is pretty simple: Are they squat-proof? Do I have to worry about my underwear? How aware of them am I? Ready? Let’s go!

ROUND 1: GAPFIT($69.95) vs LULULEMON HIGH RISE WONDERUNDER ($98)

Gap on the left, Lululemon on the right

Ok ok- right off the bat, I have to admit that these are really only similar to each other in that they are black with white stripes. What happened was: I was in Lululemon poking around, and the design caught my eye. I was just waiting for my husband to buy some pants, so I wasn’t really shopping for myself and passed them on by. Then a few days later, I was thinking about them. So I went back and paid a stupid amount of money for leggings, only to then have an Instagram ad start showing up in my feed for the Gap ones, which are, visually at least, pretty much the same, but way cheaper. Gap was having a big sale so I snapped them up for like $30, because why not? Maybe they’d be my new favorites? And comparing things is fun!

Straight away, I wore the Lulus to a yoga class, since that’s the whole point of these pants. Immediately, I regretted them! The waist band, as described perfectly by my friend Ann, is FLOPPY. There is no structure to it, so if you’re just standing around, it’s fine, but once you start moving, it rolls down. Especially with bending, which is like 75% of yoga. I have since worn them to work and for my normal workouts (strength training mostly), and they’re fine overall, but I do find myself having to adjust them frequently. I don’t really get the hype or why they are worth almost $100.

The Gap ones are…. fine? I guess? They look cute enough on, but at the same time they’re not mind-blowingly great. They aren’t see-through and the fabric is nice- smooth, but sturdy. I don’t love that there is an interior drawstring, but it’s necessary because these start to get baggy in the crotch after moving around in them for a while, which is annoying. I am very aware of these pants while I wear them. Also the print (are stripes a print?) is a little less refined than the Lulus.

WINNER: LULULEMON, officially because of the non-drawstring, but probably just because I’m trying to justify the price. Also my husband complimented my butt.

ROUND 2: AERIE PLAY HIGH WAISTED POCKET LEGGING ($39.95) vs
FLEO EL TORO ($73.95)

Aerie vs Fleo

Again, these leggings are pretty much only similar in color. So not really dupes for each other, but…. I like this color??

I’m sure many of you are thinking “what the hell is a FLEO??”, and that’s fair! Fleo is a small, female-founded company that really specializes in making workout clothing (mostly shortie shorts) for women in strength sports. They design and manufacture in the US, and they tend to do short runs of items, which is kind of fun in a “gotta catch ‘em all” way, but also kind of annoying because they are often sold out of things. That being said, I now own 3 pairs of Fleo leggings. I looooove them. The fabric is unique- it’s almost soft, like a jersey, but sturdy and stretchy like a more robust legging, with a gentle compression. They move and breathe and I don’t even think about them, and I reach for them almost immediately after doing my laundry. Whenever I wear these leggings, they make me feel like an athlete! I super feel myself in these. The high waist does tend to scrunch down a bit while working out, but it doesn’t roll- does that make sense? My only complaint is that I have to choose my underwear purposefully, because while the fabric is beautiful and opaque, you can clearly see lines.

Aerie has some good stuff- I am a huge devotee of these bras! They can keep these leggings though. Ok- they’re not horrible. They’re actually pretty cute, and they have pockets! The fabric is pretty lazy though- no compression going on here. I’ll wear them when I don’t want to really exert myself, like if I just need to run to the grocery store on a lazy Sunday, or maybe an easy walk on a cool day, but don’t even think about getting sweaty in them- I did a few goblet squats and it was like I was wearing plastic bags on my legs!! So not breathable!!! Very gross.

WINNER: FLEO by miles and miles. They are heaven and I like giving them my money.

BATTLE OF THE CHEAPIES: OLD NAVY HIGH RISE COMPRESSION ($26.99) vs CRZ YOGA HIGH RISE YOGA PANTS ($24)

Black from Old Navy, Navy from Amazon

Once upon a time, Nike released a new line of perfect black leggings called Legends, and they were the best! But sadly, as so many fashion stories go, they changed the formula and, over the seasons, the quality declined and the cut changed. Boooo!! These Old Navy leggings though?? Pretty ace dupes! These are actually great workout leggings- they are on the thicker side, and they do have a bit more compression than the others on the list, but it makes you feel secure and non-jiggly, not sausage-y. The rise is high, they are opaque, and they stay put!! They are super reliable during a workout, and I have even worn these comfortably on airplanes and around theme parks. $26 is already plenty cheap, but they are on sale ALL THE TIME. Get some! I have several flavors, but the black ones rotate in pretty regularly.

I got tipped off to these Amazon leggings (CRZ Yoga) as “the Amazon dupe for Lululemons”. Now, I wouldn’t go quite that far, but they are pretty good! The fabric is nice (not as smooth as lulus but not bad either), they have a similar rise and ample inside pocket, I feel like they are pretty opaque, and they fit nice and secure. I find myself reaching for these pretty often- maybe because they’re navy and that seems interesting? They do shimmy/roll down a bit during workouts (especially if there is jumping around/twisting), but I like them ok. I’m not gearing up to buy another pair right away, but they seem like a good option if you want something basic and easy.

WINNER: OLD NAVY. Obviously.

AND NOW I WILL RANK THEM ALL!!! (favorite to least favorite):

  1. Fleo
  2. Old Navy
  3. Lululemon
  4. CRZ Yoga
  5. Gap
  6. Literally any other kind of pants
  7. Aeire

Now, word on the street is that Athleta should also be a contender on this list, so if they have a baller sale soon, I’ll check them out and report back. Because I bought all of these with my own money, preferably on sale.

What are your favorite workout leggings? Are there any I’m totally missing out on? (I also have a few pairs of Teekis and Onzies that I like, but I really only like those in the summer since they’re meant for hot yoga/being in the water) Let me know in the comments!

xo, Jess.