RAGBRAI does Cedar Rabbits.

My coworker and I walked out of the office yesterday evening to the pounding of distant music and — faint, maybe only imagined — the whir of 30,000 bicycle wheels speeding into town.

“What’s that noise?” I asked as we headed for our cars.

My friend threw his hands in the air and said, “Festivities!”

An early birthday blog post.

At age 7 or so, I developed an unshakable preoccupation with my own and my parents’ mortality.

There’s a chance I was way too serious for my own good between the ages of 3 and 19. This is just one example.

After weeks of sleepless nights fearing Dad’s imminent death (and listening to the desperate skittering of the squirrel stuck in the attic), reassured by all of our continued existence, I began to ponder what mortality meant for me in the short term: aging. Specifically, advancing a couple decades to age 27, which I decided long, long ago was the perfect age. By that time, I’d be self-sufficient, beautiful, worldly and probably have my own dog and loads of books. This was also before I knew how many famous people died at 27. That would have been a blow.

Though I still have high hopes for 27, 23 has been practically perfect in every way, including loads of books and friends’ dogs. I’m not sure what I imagined for myself at 23. Everything got muddled when I turned 9 and realized riding horses professionally was not as viable as I thought — the same summer I smashed a giant spider on my crayon portrait of a gentle brown pony hanging above the bunk bed. It had to be recycled, guts and all.

The day after my 23rd birthday, I got an unexpected call offering an unexpected career move. A month later, I was an ag journalist on the home-cookin’, sustainable food and lamb placenta beats. The second day on the job, a co-worker and I found ourselves seated in a combine doing laps around a cornfield during harvest — an interesting start, and it’s mostly been ups from there.

This year, I’ve simultaneously fallen in love with my foster home, Cedar Rapids, and my home-for-a-week halfway around the world, Beijing. I’ve gotten lost in an embarrassingly tiny jungle in Mexico and on the gravel back roads of Iowa and thanked Steve Jobs in heaven for an iPhone to guide me back out, dusty but free and found.

This is the year I’ve said yes significantly more than no. I’ve spent beyond my means on trips that were worth every credit-card bill. I’ve tried to be a better daughter and sister and friend and employee, and that’s worked maybe half the time. But I can see where that attitude might take me (like teary-eyed and smiling on my bike ride home from a volunteer job this Tuesday night because everything felt just right and I’d had a pretty intense beer and sometimes I just cry when I’m happy, OK?).

At 23, I entered that chapter in life when all your peers start getting married and you start imagining everything you can do that is not that — not until at least 27, please. Luckily, not-that involves traveling to visit all these friends, who also managed to land awesome new degrees and jobs and cities this year. This year marks the first I’ve had grown-up Labor Day weekend travel plans to visit A in Knoxville, hike the Smokey Mountains, make up our own bear calls, eat and drink and laugh and shop and recall being friends when we were 10 and still a little bit horse crazy.

This year, there’s a 75% chance I’ll get a (small, sentimental) tattoo with my sister, a decision we made last night in a wild burst of affection for each other and for life.

This year I bought a car. Alone. And only got swindled on a few minor details. I also realized it’s OK to still have school-girl crushes on unavailable men and to fingerpaint, tipsy, late at night. I realized I’m not an adult despite all the trappings. Or maybe I am, and adulthood is just a lot more vulnerable than expected.

I’ll figure it out at 27. For now, I’m going to put all this over-the-top, youthful enthusiasm into year 24 starting next month, and see what kind of crazy sunshine bicycle daydream that age can be.

Dance revolution.

Kristen Wiig and Tina Fey have revolutionized what it means to me to be a smart, funny and capable woman writer, performer and, close to my heart, awkward dancer. They’ve had huge success on projects that pushed their potential after stellar starts to their careers in comedy. After SNL, Fey launched 30 Rock and Wiig gave us Bridesmaids. They also gave us the Gilly dance and Fey’s sprinkler move on Ellen.

It’s trailblazing silly moves by these powerful women that opened the door for my Grandma to get up and boogie to Michael Jackson at a family wedding last weekend (she also does the stanky leg, but only in private). They paved the way for my cousin to rip her bridesmaid dress up the back doing a particularly wide-legged move. And, they inspired the new hand movement I invented very late Saturday night to accompany Ke$ha’s “Tik Tok.” It’s basically a clock made of arms accompanied by a very serious facial expression and locked knees, and its time (puns!) will come again at another wedding in a couple weeks. A stranger’s wedding. You’re welcome in advance, everyone there.

If it weren’t for Tina Fey and Kristen Wiig, we would not flail so exuberantly or shine so bright. The abstract dancers of the world honor you, ladies, with wild arms, crazy eyes and feet that know no bounds.


Summer lullabies and songs that sound like Wes Anderson color palettes have been guiding my little car all over the Midwest this past month.

I promise this is the last Monday Dirty Projectors song, but really, just go buy the whole album Swing Lo Magellan and/or check out my other favorite song “The Socialites.”

IA to IN.

Though we only lived there all together for a year, my family’s connection to Indiana is deeply rooted. My parents, grandparents, great-grandparents were all Hoosier born and raised, which puts me and my sisters in the delightful company of Michael Jackson and Kurt Vonnegut. We also grew up only seeing our Indianapolis cousins about once year — three sisters to our four-sister family. Still, we’ve grown up with the exact same senses of silly humor and absurd dance moves.

My cousin Jordan was married this weekend in a big way at the gorgeous Indiana State Museum in downtown Indianapolis, which is immaculate and criss-crossed with a canal, bike path, sculptures, slow food gardens and intriguing restaurants (including the model for the steakhouse that Ron Swanson loves so much in Parks and Recreation). A weekend trip there is definitely going on my Midwest travel itinerary.

On the way to the ceremony, I learned my freckle-faced little sister has a massive iTunes library of ONLY musicals, and though I grumbled all weekend about it, I have to admit, I love “Seize the Day.” There you go, A. We got ready for the wedding in the wood-paneled middle bedroom of my Grandma’s house, where her decades-old, still-working computer sits next to a closet of toys and boardgames. Just being in the room never fails to bring me back memories of the Thanksgiving the cousins stole a big bag of Grandpa’s jellybeans from the candy cabinet and retreated there to rehearse variety shows.

Goodbye, Blue Monday.

The day after family vacations end can be particularly cruel. I make the 4-hour drive back to Iowa and restart my life. I try to sew up the holes a week of beaches and Spanish and the unconditional love of five people tore into the placid fabric of my solo northern life. I’m blue. I admit to gazing glumly at the tan line left by my turquoise Sister Ring (long story) and juggling seashells collected during long walks on the beach.

But, this afternoon I found out a new, cozy little bookshop opened just across the river while I was away. I took a pink sunset stroll there after work, picked up the brand new Dave Eggers, talked with the owner about his nonprofit 826 Valencia (is it weird to have a favorite charity? ‘Cause this is mine), talked with my sister about turtles and Barbies and felt better. In one of my more disgusting moments of cheesiness, I actually thought,  “Golly gee, there’s always something good — and sometimes it’s just around the corner.”

If I were ever to get a tattoo — which I won’t because I’m not a forever person — but if I did, it would be this Vonnegut phrase. “Goodbye, Blue Monday.” Because it’s been my experience that blue is not a forever color.