[Fantasy] Football Season is Here!

I love this time of year. Apart from the promise of pumpkin beers and sweaters and boots, fall brings with it the delight of football season.

I was never that girl: super into football. Baseball was my sport of choice, but I’d watch basketball or football if it was on. I’d half-heartedly cheer for the Patriots or Packers (which are my parents’ favorite teams) or the Redskins (because they were the home team), or failing those excuses, I’d pick the team with the prettier uniform colors (i.e. Panthers and Seahawks).

The Wildcards invited me to join their fantasy football league two years ago. It was possibly a rare instance of the boys being nice, or maybe they figured adding a couple girls who didn’t pay attention to football would increase their chances of winning. I don’t think they realized just how consumingly competitive I am.

The first year, I scoured the lists of top players and read a few articles about projections, but mostly I went in fairly blind and ended up with a pretty phenomenal team that brought me to second place. Somehow, I managed to draft Gronk, Odell Beckham Jr, Julian Edelman, Danny Woodhead, and Drew Brees. If I hadn’t lost Woodhead in a misguided trade and OBJ to his attitude — and suspension — I might have won it all.

Last year, I made it to play-offs, but ended middle of the pack. It was frustrating, since I’d spent far more time and energy last season reading every scrap of information I could get, taking risks tempered with “expert” advice. Still, I learned.

For me, the best result of fantasy football is that it’s encouraged me to pay attention. And not just to the teams I like for wishy-washy reasons, but to every game. Every player. Because of fantasy, I know the names of the top players in the league. And because of fantasy, I’ve found my favorite team in the Oakland Raiders.

My husband argues this is simply because we have family in Oakland. That helps, but even once they go to Vegas, as long as Carr leads them, I’ll follow. Between the past two years, I’ve had almost their entire (possible) offensive line on my team. My brother-in-law offered me the typical challenge when one claims to love a team: name three of their players. Easy: Carr, Crabtree, Cooper, Janikowski, Murray (at the time), Jalen Richard, Walford.

At this point, I could probably name at least three players on every team in the league. That’s not all Oakland has going for it. I just love watching them. They have an obvious cohesion and a fluidity that’s beautiful. They’re good — good enough to keep every game interesting — but not so good that it would be more exciting to watch them lose (ahem: Patriots). I’ve watched every single team play any number of times, but few give me a similar thrill to the one I get when the Raiders are on the field.

And I have fantasy football to thank for giving me a team to cheer for, and interest in a sport that’s as intricate and graceful as it is straight-forward and brutal. Win or lose, I’ll always have that.

But, obviously, I want to win, too.

Our First Month-iversary

Today marks one month since we arrived in Saint Louis, and in its honor (and because I have nothing clever to say), I will share some of my journal entries from the past four weeks.

Here are the highlights:

7/18 –

Thoughts and memories from the second half of the drive (Columbus, OH to Saint Louis, MO):

  • Way less pretty than the drive to OH
  • I saw a license plate from Alberta!
  • The last 20 minutes of the trip filled me with butterflies. I wanted to be like “no, never mind, let’s just go home, I don’t want to do this.” Then, coming around a bend, I caught my first glimpse of the arch. I audibly gasped and all I felt was excitement.img_4420
  • Passing Busch Stadium, “Country Grammar” came on — which has basically been my theme song for moving to The Lou.

Now we’re watching the first Harry Potter movie on the little TV I brought in my car — OMG I just found out my husband has never seen the end of the series and didn’t know (*SPOILERS*) Harry had to die. WHO DID I MARRY!?

It still doesn’t feel real, but as we get more unpacked and start exploring the neighborhood, I’m sure it will settle in.

7/19 –

My husband just informed me the pill bugs we found yesterday got squished into the bottom of our air mattress and won’t come off — gross, but hilarious!

Some bee-otch was moving out this morning and booked the loading dock from 8-10 but her movers were late and they were supposed to pack her up, too, and they were all “do you mind waiting?” and we had to be like LOL NO. carol

Tonight we had amazing Mexican at El Burro Loco and met the bartender Juan who recommended a strong Chupa Cabra Marg for me and promised I’d like it without even knowing me, but guess what: I did, so good job, Juan. — Love, me & tequila

7/22 –

This morning we got coffee from Soulard Coffee Garden. The back patio was very cute and their sit-down breakfast options looked good. We just got coffee/tea and a muffin — and the coffee guy was pretty douchey.

7/23 –

Since our dishwasher is still messed up, we’ve developed this adorable habit of washing and drying dishes by hand each night and even though there’s a drying mat if I take too long to grab a towel and start drying my husband chides me like, “excuse me, young lady, what do you think you’re doing?”

7/24 –

This morning we tried out Rise coffee shop in Tower Grove. We drove past one boarded building and two with graffiti so my husband was convinced we’d entered the heart of the ghetto. But the Tower Grove strip was nice — super hipster. It reminded me a lot of DC. We also checked out the Galleria so my husband could find some business casual pants — which he ended up ordering online. Typical millennial, destroying the department store industry.

For the fourth night in a row, I’ve asked if he wants to document anything. For the fourth time, he’s simply said “no.” with an angelic smile.

7/25 –

For dinner we went to Dressel’s Pub near us. My husband had the “best burger he’s had in five years” (or so he told his dad) and I had some freaking excellent crawfish mac n cheese.

7/27 –

My husband’s (FIRST) input:
The nice thing about living somewhere else is it forces you to reach out to people you wouldn’t otherwise.

And he likes his friend’s neighborhood in U-City.

8/11 –

My husband shaved his beard for picture day yesterday (frowny face). It won’t be so scratchy when I kiss him, but I really like him with a beard. Fortunately, he does, too, and will likely grow one again once “meet the firms” is over in September.

(Update): On our way to a river boat cruise with his MBA class, he and four of his buddies agreed to grow mustaches this november. NOT what I’d hope for his facial hair…

8/12 –

Last night’s river boat cruise was a lot of fun. It was cool being at the base of the arch, even if the river front is nothing special — very industrial. Still, coming back toward the dock after sunset, with the cool river breeze teasing the hair around my face, the city lights twinkling off the water and the shadowed arch looming overhead, it felt like one of those rare, fleeting moments of 100% perfection. A tiny sliver of pure contentment when you’re just happy to be alive.


After the cruise we went out in Ballpark Village, which was basically like a mall but with bars instead of stores. Expensive, though, so we left and went to Tin Roof. It was so fun, dancing with everyone. A lot of the guys had moves so similar to my wildcards I couldn’t stop laughing.

8/13 –

Tonight, my husband had to remind ME about Game of Thrones! I keep forgetting it’s an hour earlier here and almost missed getting to sing along with the opening.

Earlier in the day, we finally walked through our side of Forest Park. There are some very pretty bridges — one a Victorian footbridge from the 1890s — and decent water features. Still, it’s very shadowed/treed in the direction we walked, so I’ll likely not go that way alone. But it’s nice that we have such pretty walking/jogging paths literally right outside our door.

Settling In

Well, it’s been almost two weeks since we left Virginia for Missouri, and I’d say we’re finally settling in. It was a rough first week, with a few issues in our apartment not getting taken care of and our subconscious homesickness manifesting in my husband’s constant complaining and my own extremely short temper. Once we finally reasoned out that we were just adjusting in our own — cranky — ways, it made it easier to understand each other.

 

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Missouri River in St. Charles, MO

Now, we’ve crammed a lot of exploring into the past week. My husband starts school on Tuesday, so our adventures together will be limited after that. We’ve found the essential box stores like Target and Bed, Bath, & Beyond, and tried a handful of coffee shops in different neighborhoods.

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Statue of Dog, with his faithful companions Lewis and Clark

We traveled up to Saint Charles, where Lewis and Clark are especially famous, and we’ve been to our first Cardinals baseball game. We’ve walked through part of Forest Park and wandered down private streets lined with gorgeous homes from the 1940s. We passed by the Soulard Farmers Market and took a free tour of the Anheuser-Busch Brewery. Today, it’s raining, so instead of locating one of the local “beaches” around us, we’ll visit one of the many museums.

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Complete with free 16oz beer of choice upon completion!

I’ve also done laundry in a laundromat-style laundry room, for the first time ever. Other than some initial guesswork as to the settings for each load, it went pretty well (read: no clothes destroyed)!

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I already really like this area. The food is amazing — we’ve yet to have a less-than-great meal — and the people are so friendly (if sometimes a little too chatty). I’m convinced my husband is afraid that if he admits to liking Saint Louis, I’ll never let him move back to DC when school is done. He has gone so far as to say if STL was on the east coast, he’d love it, which I guess is the highest praise I can hope for.

 

Tequila Dance Party

Once upon a time, I worked in residential property management, which meant I got paid very little to get yelled at a lot by people for things like charging them late fees when they didn’t pay rent or sending out “pick up after your dog” letters or when a lightbulb needed to be changed but they didn’t report it until the end of the day after our maintenance team had already left and what do you mean that isn’t an emergency, it’s dark in my dining room!

There were good days, too, and wonderful residents, and the team I worked with was made up of some of my favorite people ever. The good parts don’t work for this post, though, because they did not contribute to my discovery of the best stress relief exercise ever.

After one such day that left me feeling like a total failure, I went home planning to lay on my couch and watch TV until my eyeballs bled. Instead, for reasons I still do not know, I decided to take a shot of tequila and watch YouTube videos of zumba dance moves set to Enrique Iglesias’s “Bailando” (I do not remember in which order these happened — it’s a chicken/egg situation). Next thing I know, I’m tequila-tipsy and trying my best to sexy-dance to Spanish music — AND RECORDING MYSELF. I think the recording was to show my mom I was okay. Or maybe because my friend was laughing hysterically at the idea of my tequila-dancing, and I wanted to show her how epic it was. Either way, it was horrendous and so mortifying I couldn’t possibly share it with anyone.

Except of course, my mom and my friend. I have a pretty high threshold for humiliation at my own hand. I lay on my floor and belly-laughed until I thought I was going to throw up, and it was amazing.

It became something of my own ritual: have an especially horrible day, come home, drink tequila and dance it out. I always text someone if I’m drinking alone, because drinking alone is usually frowned upon. The last time I had a tequila dance party, I told all of Twitter, so I was extra covered.

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As you can see from the likes and retweets, I have a ton of followers who really care about my goings on. Regardless, I hadn’t had a dance party like that probably since getting engaged about two years before those tweets — because who has time for fun when a wedding needs to be planned amiright? — but now that I’ve found it again, I’m not giving up my dance parties.

Tequila is my go-to party liquor. I get that it’s a controversial choice that makes a lot of people gag just hearing the name, so you know, go with whatever works for you. Also, stupid dancing is amazing fun all on its own, so there’s no real need for alcohol to have a great dance party for one. But it does help lower some inhibitions if it’s hard to get started. Closing your eyes helps, too. If you can’t see your windows, you forget people can see inside them. I try to think of the dumbest things I could possibly do with my arms or legs or head and then I do that thing, so the dancing is more kicks and jerks and wiggles and it-is-hilarious. Whatever gets your lungs working and your face hurting from grinning. The goal is to forget your worries and remember how great being alive can feel.

Rambling Review: Garden of Thorns

Recently, I’ve been reading more “adult” books (Slaughterhouse-Five, The Handmaid’s Tale — reviews to come), modern classics that make me sound more cultured and grown up than the usual YA fiction I prefer. I do feel more well-rounded, but I’ve missed the adventure and angst and inevitable romance that all winds together into nearly every young adult novel.

Garden of Thorns by Amber Mitchell popped up on my Amazon recommendations, and I couldn’t resist. In all honesty, I was fully prepared to re-read any one of my favorites I already own, but currently they would need to be fished out of boxes, and Garden of Thorns was only $3.99 on Kindle, so I figured I’d take a chance on it.

The story is about a girl, Rose, who is part of a traveling entertainment troupe called the Garden — in which the Flowers dance and the Wilteds are punished for any infraction the Flowers make. The Gardener is cruel and abusive, and very early on we get to see just how devastating life in the Garden can be. Rose manages to escape, only to find herself in a rebellion against an emperor every bit as cruel and emotionless as the Gardener. All she wants is to free her sisters from the Garden, but first she has to prove herself worthy of the rebellion’s help.

Her growth throughout the novel is a beautiful thing. She struggles with trust issues and hope, vacillating between the two nearly constantly. Frustrating and relatable, it sometimes seems like one step forward is met with two steps back. I soared with her triumphs and screamed (internally) when she seemed to have run out of chances for success. As a reader, her fears seemed objectively ridiculous but also extremely valid at the same time. The frequent reminders of her past felt repetitive at first, but were necessary to continuously explain her hesitations.

I’m not sure if this is a stand alone novel or part of a series. Unlike most series, the ending was satisfying and didn’t hint at another story waiting to be told. I’d be perfectly happy with this as its own novel, but I can’t deny I’d love to see Rose and the others back for another adventure.

Saint Louis Bound

My husband and I are moving to Saint Louis, MO next month. (I’ve mentioned it in past posts, but here’s the post specifically about it.) He’ll be pursuing his MBA through Olin Business School at Washington University, and I’ll be there for moral support. Also for financial support, and to make sure he eats well, and because I’d miss him for two years.

When he interviewed, he fell in love with the campus.

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Okay, maybe that was me. He did say he really wanted to go here and it was his number one choice. I’m the one who wanted to say my husband goes to what is basically American Hogwarts.

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We were in Saint Louis for the day and didn’t experience much beyond the Delmar Loop, Campus, and a fraction of Forest Park.

The second time we visited, we were already apartment hunting. We wandered around the Central West End and into Clayton, but again, we only had one full day to explore. Sight-seeing and touristy-stuff would have to wait.

We chose a lovely apartment overlooking Forest Park in Central West End. Then we flew back home to D.C. to start preparations to move.

And by that I mean I made an insane amount of lists while my husband pretended nothing was happening. Now that we’re officially less than a month away from the move, he’s had to acknowledge that our lives are headed for a big change.

We’re looking forward to the adventure. Our families are on the coasts, so it will be nice to be a half-country closer to his sister, but also be sad to have to fly 2 hours to our parents, rather than the fairly easy drives we have now. We’ve met or spoken with plenty of people who have lived in Saint Louis or know someone who lived or is living there currently, but we’re going in virtually friendless ourselves. Through the business school, among other groups and activities and my work, we’ll both have lots of opportunities to get to know people, so we aren’t too worried about loneliness. Still, we’ll miss the friends who have made our lives great for so many years.

Saint Louis isn’t a place either of us would have chosen. My husband would have happily moved to Charleston, SC. I’d love to live in Long Beach, CA. There are probably a dozen other cities we’d choose before even thinking of Saint Louis. And yet, here we go.

That’s part of what makes it magical. We’ve barely spent a full weekend there. Neither of us is already in love with the city. We don’t have any preconceived notions of what makes it great, so we can’t be let down by the difference between living and vacationing, which is a very real possibility in any of the places we’d have picked given the choice.

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Gotta say I already love Forest Park

We have at least two years to experience Saint Louis. We’ll learn its secrets and enjoy making it ours.

Jesus was all about wine and so am I

Okay, so the Bible never really specifies whether Jesus drank the miracle wine he created but either way, he knew how to keep a party going so I raise my glass to him.

Virginia is pretty well known for its vineyards. Isn’t it? Maybe I only think that because I live in Virginia and can visit any number of them in a 45-minute drive. But I feel like Loudoun County wines are a thing.

My husband and I have visited quite a few of said Virginia wineries (side question that does not need to be answered: what’s the difference between winery and vineyard? I think something to do with grapes grown on site versus shipped in — which sounds like that is technically cheating, but what do I know).

His favorite (until recently) was Stone Tower. It is a gorgeous vineyard with rolling hills and a pond and a separate barn for kids and pets so people can bring their family OR people can enjoy adulthood without screaming kids and slobbering dogs. Choices. There’s a huge patio overlooking a second patio (which is usually closed — at least when we’ve been — for a wedding), and tons of seating that is always almost all taken.

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This vineyard is lovely and well worth a visit, but it is crowded and if it’s a weekend in the summer, there’s a wedding closing down part of the grounds. This is why — after the third or fourth visit — even my husband admitted defeat and agreed we could go elsewhere (after waiting 20 minutes in line for a bottle of wine that is decent but…I’ll just say we go for the scenery).

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Stone Tower does lend itself to some pretty great photo backdrops

My favorite is Paradise Springs in Clifton. Part of this is because we can’t go to Paradise Springs without also stopping in the town for some ah-mazing crepes at the Clifton Cafe. I think the wine is pretty good here, too, but full disclaimer: I’ve only recently begun to develop any sort of “palate” for good wine vs. less good. Wine is wine, amiright? No, I know I’m wrong. I guess I’ll just need to keep up the wine tastings until I’m able to discern between the complexities of a merlot and the subtleties of a chardonnay (or even if those descriptions could even apply to those wines. I’m hopeless!).

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So excited for Paradise Springs! (Photo stolen from my sister’s Instagram)

I’m still trying to find my husband a new favorite vineyard near here, but since visiting Sonoma on a spur of the moment trip last time we were in California, he’s become something of a California wine snob. Still, we have a date this afternoon to visit Quattro Gumba, so fingers crossed!

Now, Missouri isn’t known for its wines, but apparently there’s a Missouri wine country very similar to Loudoun County and not too far outside Saint Louis, so we can keep exploring and improving our wine palates even after the move.