Total Pageviews

Follow by Email

Monday, October 9, 2017

Thoughts on the Wild Women Yoga Retreat at Wolf Ridge

I struggle with balancing my external life with my internal life. I love planning events, activities, and get-togethers. I’m well known for intense itineraries that start at sunrise and go well past sunset. I love laughing, storytelling, dancing, adventuring, camping, traveling, and living life in big, bold, colorful strokes.

This often results in months of consecutive weekends full of activities. It also means sacrificing a rich internal life to meet the obligations of my external life. It means I go to happy hour or drive to the cities instead of spending time reading or hiking with Drew. It means I trade off an orderly closet for a chaotic space with suitcases never fully empty between weekend excursions. It means that I don’t prioritize my own fitness and wellness. Inevitably, it leaves me exhausted, drained, and deflated.

This is a cycle I’ve self-perpetuated since I can remember. I’ve always been a busy body.

Once, an acquaintance gave me what she thought was a compliment by saying, “Amanda, you are always flying around like a big ball of mess but somehow still get everything done.”

I was really hurt by that comment. After all, no one really wants to be perceived as a “big ball of mess.” The truth is, that description can be pretty accurate.

I do fly around a million miles an hour.

I do overextend myself.

I do believe in being generous of spirit, but at what cost?

At the last retreat, we were… busy. I logged around 30K steps per day, practiced yoga several hours per day, rose to see the sunrise, and hauled paddleboards 4+ miles. On Saturday, I was walking back from Raven Lake with Bryana and said, “I don’t think I can do this. I’m too tired.” Months of running around all hit me at once.

By Saturday night, I reached a level of exhaustion that I haven’t felt for a long time. The same level of exhaustion I’ve felt after coming home from a funeral, after completing a long race, or after a 10+ mile hike. In the depths of exhaustion, I see things with new perspective.

On Sunday, I drove home from the retreat totally exhausted but also fulfilled and satisfied, I had an overwhelming sense of calm and clarity.

I hardly spoke for a nearly a full 24 hours. I simply allowed myself to rest and reflect silently. In that silence, I realized the toll my extroversion can take on both me and on my introverted husband. I made a commitment to work on my personal wellness this fall. That has meant learning to say no, setting boundaries for myself, asking others for help, letting go of control and allowing others to assume responsibility, setting aside time to do nothing, stopping myself from planning things when an idea strikes, getting back into the habit of running, drinking more water, consuming less alcohol, and spending more time in silence.

The retreat at Wolf Ridge genuinely surprised me. I did not expect to feel so exhausted and simultaneously fulfilled. I did not expect to walk away with such clarity. I did not expect to have to face my own shortcomings and insecurities so squarely in the face.  It was humbling and grounding.

I’m entering this fall retreat with a few months of practice under my belt, but I still have a long way to go to achieve the balance I need between an external and internal life. Heck, I’m still super busy with all the plans I made BEFORE the last retreat. It’ll take me through the end of October to get back to a calendar that is beautifully blank.

I am so excited to find out what this next retreat holds for me. Yoga, when practiced several hours a day, offers healing through intensity. We stretch our limits, find vulnerability in our discomfort, and achieve new depths in the process.

Drew's 2016 Holiday Letter

This year Amanda and I took our relationship to a whole new level. We’ve already been best friends, spouses, and business partners, to which some people say, “wow, don’t you ever get sick of each other?” To which we say, “why do you think we have a TV in the basement?” But still, being the perfect couple, just wasn’t enough, so Amanda decided she had better add becoming my teacher to the list. This came about one evening when Amanda asked me if I was aware that she was putting on an 11-week bi-weekly journaling workshop and that I was signed up for it and that the first class was tomorrow and that if I missed it I might as well just start packing my bags. Needless to say, I did not know any of the above and was slightly taken aback by the sheer audacity of her just assuming that I had time to attend a journaling class for 11-weeks when she knew perfectly well that I was very busy re-watching all of the Star Wars movies to prepare for the new one coming out this holiday season. However, I was also keenly aware of the look in her beautiful, deadly-blue eyes, so instead I said “What time, dear?” I know what many of you are thinking, that is, that having your wife as the teacher would be awesome and that it basically guarantees that you will be the teacher’s pet and ace the class. Well, let me be the one to tell you that anybody that thinks that is an idiot.

My attendance in the class, has proven, without any doubt, that being married to the teacher in any of Amanda’s classes does not buy you brownie points. Actually, it makes things twice as hard. Of course, it also didn’t help that I was the only male in the class and that many of the writing exercises involved writing about feelings. Amanda clapped and praised the other students as they recited heartfelt poems dealing with serious issues such as divorce, depression, eating habits, parenting, love lost, and love gained. Amanda frowned and shook her head when I recited my epic space saga full of flesh-eating aliens, mutant assassins, laser-eyed-lizards, battle-axes, piles of corpses, and zombie bears. In fact, Amanda was so appalled by my inability to write thoughtful, emotionally charged literature that she decided that she would take on the additional role of becoming my X-mas card editor. This is the main reason why you are receiving this letter after Christmas.  This is (I’m not lying) the fourth version of the X-mas letter. The first was too vulgar, the second too childish, and the third too politically insensitive. I was becoming so disheartened from my apparent inability to write an acceptable X-mas letter that I was forced to take desperate measures in order to actually get something in the mail. Long story short, I waited until Amanda was put under general anesthesiology for her ankle surgery to write the letter. Then, when she was all doped up on morphine and other powerful narcotics, I told her the X-mas letter was all done and ready to send, to which she responded “why does it taste like purple in here”, which I took as, “it’s perfect, let’s send it to all of our loved ones”. In other words, what you now hold in your hand is the unedited, uncensored version of the 2016 X-mas letter.      

Besides spending most of the year in journaling class, we did manage to do some other stuff this year. We spent a week in the Bahamas snorkeling with the Thoe family. It was a wonderful trip. We are continually amazed by the culinary evolution happening in the Caribbean. It was the gastronomical adventure of a lifetime as we joined the native Bahamians at little Ma and Pa places like Dominoes Pizza and Burger King. Can you believe they have a conch burger? It’s number 6 on the drive-thru menu.

We also took a trip to see glaciers in Glacier National Park. Seeing glaciers in Glacier National Park is more challenging than one might think. This is mainly due to the fact that there are none, unless of course you consider a dirty pile of snow, much like something you would find after you plow your driveway, a glacier. Not satisfied, we travelled north to Canada to see the glaciers in Kootenay, Banff, and Jasper National Parks. These glaciers, although much more glacier-esque, were receding at a pace that made them nearly invisible to the naked eye. All in all, it was a great trip and we both returned home more depressed than ever.

Other than that, we didn’t do too much this year. By we, I mean me. Amanda did lot’s of stuff. Here’s a list of some of the stuff Amanda did:
        Became a board member on the St. Luke’s Hospital Board of Directors.
        Taught an 11-week journaling class that was a smashing success.
        Put on a number of fundraising events to raise money for local charities and other good causes.
        Joined Mentor Duluth to be a role model for young children in need of such things.
        Was on the news and in the newspapers for all her good deeds and special talents; virtually a local  celebrity if you ask me.
        Continues to teach yoga and win awards at her smarty-pants job at Maurices HQ.

Here’s a list of everything Drew did:
        Fell over and broke his face.

Which reminds me. If you ever want to get lots of nice letters, tasty treats, and cool stuff in the mail, all you have to do is seriously injure yourself. I was unaware of this until now, but I feel like I might be on to something. If I can just seriously hurt myself three, or maybe four times a year, I wouldn’t ever have to buy groceries again and people would always be saying nice things to me like: “Wow, your face looks even better than it did before.” (On second thought, maybe that isn’t so nice. What did I look like when I had teeth and a solid facial skeletal structure?) On a serious note, we can’t thank everyone enough for the support we received during my little mishap. I did write lovely thank you letters to everyone, to show the true depths of my appreciation, but I lost them somewhere in Glacier National Park. I’m not lying, I really did. If you don’t believe me, just look next to the glacier, if you can still find one.

Season’s greetings and Happy New Year to all. 

With love,
Drew and Amanda Imes

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Drew's 2015 Christmas Letter

I’m beginning to wonder if starting the tradition of writing an annual Christmas letter was a wise decision. I have numerous concerns about the whole thing. First and foremost, is the fact that Amanda and I have to continue to try to do cool and exciting things in order to have “Xmas letter worthy” content. That is a lot of pressure. In prior years, we’ve gotten married, bought homes, moved to a new city, accepted new jobs – you know, big life milestones and things like that. Sure, that made writing the letters easy, but it also set the bar high right off the get go. If I was more smarter, I wouldn’t have mentioned any of those things in the first few letters. That way, I could have gradually built the letters up, year after year, until finally, at the ripe old age of 62, the grand climax would occur – which I imagine will be the year Amanda finally kicks me to the curb for a younger, better looking, higher functioning model. At that point, I will be too depressed to continue writing Xmas letters and you (the reader) will finally have one less piece of paper to immediately discard into the recycling bin. 

My other major concern about the pressures of an annual Xmas letter is that we will start doing things we don’t really want to do (or simply shouldn’t do) just for the sake of having something to write about. This concern, I fear, has already begun to manifest itself in the happenings of this past year.
For example, if someone were to ask me what motivated us to start putting uncoordinated and/or aquaphobic people on thin slabs of floating foam and take them out paddling on the coldest lake this side of Pluto, I would only be able to respond: “Oh, ummm, well you see, we started SUPerior Paddle Boarding because there is this Xmas letter thing we have to live up to….” Honestly, I’m not sure there is a better way to explain why Amanda and I decided to start our own paddleboard outfitter. The fact is, we did, and it was a great first year, I think. We were featured in numerous publications, partnered with other local businesses to put on some really cool events, received positive reviews, and no one died. So that was good. But why? Why did we decide that we basically don’t want to have a single minute of free time in the summer if not to get some decent Xmas card content?
The same question must be asked about our trip to Iceland. The place has the word “ice” in its name for crying out loud. Why would we leave Duluth during its only nice month of the year (August) and head to a tiny island country a stone’s throw from the Arctic Circle renown for poor weather, flesh-melting volcanic eruptions, and the tasty national dish of harkal.[1] Why indeed? Again, I’m not certain why, but Amanda and I did find Iceland to be a fantastical place. The only way I can describe it is like something out of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth.[2] We camped around the entire (and I mean entire) island and loved every minute of it. Mostly. There was that one night in which I decided to partake in a scientific study of the national pastime of Runtur. As it happens, Runtur mainly consists of staying out all night enjoying a potent variety of schnapps made from a very specific type of highland moss intermixed with sips of some sort of liquor fondly referred to as “Black Death”. As a man of science, I took my studies very seriously. Amanda did not partake in the Runtur, but she did create a new event called the “ranter” when I returned from my studies. Amanda’s “Ranter” has now eclipsed the great eruption of Skaftaredar as the most violent and earth shattering event in Iceland’s history. 

Sadly, we didn’t do anything else worthy of the Xmas letter this year. We got settled into our new home here in Duluth. We went on a ski trip to the Keweenaw Peninsula with old friends, became the first documented paddle boarders in the Boundary Waters National Canoe Area with new friends, cross-country skied to an old logging camp in the Superior National Forest with best friends, and generally had a great year – but nobody wants to hear about that crap. 

So that’s it. There is nothing left to say. I mean, I could say some of the obligatory things like that Amanda is still excelling at everything that she does, such as being a Real Estate Analyst for Maurices corporate headquarters and teaching some type of inferno yoga designed to suck every last ounce of sweat from your body. She also ran the Grandma’s half-marathon this year. I drove it, but still couldn’t keep up. Amanda has also spent a lot of time making friends. I’m from Duluth, and yet somehow Amanda knows more people here. Go figure.

That really is all there is to say. Except that we loved having family and friends visit us this year in our new home. We really enjoyed when our nephew Lane could come visit and steal my childhood toys. He is so cute the way he can find boxes full of my treasured childhood items and walk out the door with them. We also loved it when our nieces from Alaska came down during Halloween. They are so charming the way they pelt you mercilessly with rotten apples when you play “Ghosts in the Graveyard” with them. 

I’m done. Besides to say that we really, truly, from the bottom of our hearts, can’t thank everyone enough for helping Amanda’s mother this autumn when she broke both her arms. It is those acts of kindness that, especially during this busy holiday season, make us stop and think about how lucky we are to have such great friends and family. 

That’s a wrap folks. Until next year. Maybe. After the whole Runtur thing, Amanda could decide to make that upgrade a few years early. 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Sincerely, Andrew, Amanda and Loki Imes

[1] A delightful treat consisting of putrefied shark which has been buried in a shallow pit for 12 weeks and then hung outside to dry for six months before it is deemed worthy of testing the limits of one’s gag reflex.
[2] For you cooler people out there, Middle Earth is the world in which The Lord of the Rings books take place. If you still don’t know what I’m talking about, I’m not sure you were meant to receive this letter.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

11 things I've learned since starting a small business

  1. I use way more hashtags than I care to admit... because, #marketinng!
  2. I am now that annoying person on Facebook (sorry guys, I’m trying not to flood your newsfeed with events and posts from our business… I know you are looking for pictures of puppies, babies and buzzfeed listicles).
  3. There is an unhealthy correlation between my feelings of self-worth and the number of new "likes" our page receives in a day. Hey, admitting you have a problem is step one, right?
  4. Friends are incredible resources with seemingly infinite skills and talents you may not have even known about (like graphic design, web design, video editing, photography, race organization knowledge, local permit requirements, just to name a few)
  5. Friends & family members will do almost anything to support your small business, just shy of tattooing “our friends’ small business is THE BEST” across their chest- and let’s be real, there are even a few who might do that… 
  6. Oh em gee, I have a network?! I remember how desperate I felt to “make connections” after college because everyone stressed the importance of networking. Now, at 28, I am astounded by the network that has organically woven itself around me. All my bright, goofy, outgoing, fun-loving and talented peers are becoming successful entrepreneurs, academics, government officials and business professionals. 
  7. I’ve learned the value of a dollar. It took months of hard work, planning, investment, anxiety and self-doubt before we finally used our Square app for the first time. I will never buy another sub sandwich or coffee without thinking twice again. 
  8. Warning: the people working at Square,Inc will do nothing to alleviate your start-up anxiety. Speaking of number 7, just a heads up- if you purchase a square app, the square app people will send you bi-weekly emails saying things like, “we’ve noticed you aren’t using your square app” and “is there anything we can do to help you get started with your square app?” right up until you finally process that first payment….
  9. Technology has made entrepreneurship a viable option for young people with limited resources. At every turn, there has been an app, website service, meet-up group, or online company available to meet our small business needs. From marketing, payment processing, and online scheduling to hosting a race, finding sponsors, connecting with consumers, and finding local printing companies, technology has altered the capital requirements that would normally be a significant barrier to young people trying to enter the market. 
  10. People are good, kind and generous. We have been overwhelmed by the kindness and support of the community, strangers, clients, other businesses in Duluth and of course, our friends and family. (Have I mentioned how much this process has revealed to me about the awesomeness of my friends?)
  11. Go for it. Ideas are a dime a dozen- for all your great ideas, there are one hundred others with the same great idea. Be the rare person who takes a risk and acts. Don’t be afraid to pursue that wild idea you’ve been contemplating for the past few years- all the world will conspire to help you succeed.

“When a person really desires something, all the universe conspires to help that person to realize his dream.” 

“All The Woulda-Coulda-Shouldas
Layin’ In The Sun,
Talkin’ ‘Bout The Things
They Woulda-Coulda-Shoulda Done…
But All Those Woulda-Coulda-Shouldas
All Ran Away And Hid
From One Little Did.” – Shel Silverstein, Falling Up

Sunday, April 26, 2015

SUPerior Paddle- Rentals, Delivery and Adventure on the North Shore

Some exciting news! We decided to share our love of the outdoors with friends visiting the lovely shores of Gitchi Gumi through stand up paddle boarding (SUP). We will offer a variety of services, from inflatable boards and hard boards, to guided tours, yoga, and paddle board delivery. Over the past year we've had so much fun paddling with friends, and introducing them to the grandeur of the north shore from the vantage point of a board, that we wanted to share this unique experience to those less familiar with the area and the sport of paddle boarding.

The inflatable boards are great for a number of reasons. If you don't want to deal with the the hassle of strapping boards on top of your vehicle, the inflatable boards are ideal. The inflatable boards fit into pound backpack you can easily throw into your trunk. For the more adventurous folks, the inflatable boards are great for hike-in campsites and paddling in more remote locations along the lake. The boards take about 5 min to inflate, and another 5 to deflate and roll up. They look, feel and operate just like a hardboard, with all the perks of easy transportation.

We'll also offer guided paddles, outdoor yoga classes followed by an hour paddle and other fun events- calendar coming soon. For more info, check out our website at or check out our Facebook page

We hope to see you! Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP) is really amazing on the big lake. The water is deep and clear, offering amazing views into the depths below as you paddle alongside cliffs. We have countless suggestions for great paddles, places to stay, hikes along the way to your destination and places to grab a bite.

I imagine I'll keep y'all posted on the progress as we get our little business rolling. The boards arrive this week, and we can't wait!!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Drew's 2014 Christmas Letter

I really hate to start off this year’s Christmas letter with bad news, but due its magnitude, I simply must. Even now, as I attempt to write this letter, I can feel my blood run cold and my hands begin to tremble.  But after countless hours of therapy, I now understand that the first step to healing is to talk about it with the people you love and trust. So to all of you, my family, friends and loved ones, I confide in you this most horrid news with the hopes that you can help me to regain my trust in humanity. Brace yourself now. My Christmas list has been hacked.

At first glance, it appeared as if the cyber-criminals that were responsible for the Target Store credit card scanner data leak were the culprits behind this grievous crime. However, further investigation showed signs that the original point of infiltration originated from within the borders of North Korea. Whatever the case, it was obvious that these devilish cyber-thugs were attempting to use my Xmas list to undermine the fundamental meaning of this most glorious and holy of holidays– which, as everyone knows, is that I receive hundreds of ultra-expensive gifts. Using highly advanced cyber-trickery, my Xmas list was being hijacked and filled with things like throw pillows and fancy sheets rather than snowboards and skis. Sixty-inch TVs and video games were replaced with hand towels and new plates. Even as I mourned over the idea that Santa would never get my request for a new Fat Tire Bike, I was struck with an even harder blow. My inside contact at the CIA Cyber-Terrorism Division uncovered a code within the deepest layers of the matrix that traced back to an address in Duluth, MN – the very address we just recently moved to. Then it hit me like a sack full of naughty-kid coal. This was an inside job from the very beginning. Amanda was the hacker.

What could possibly motivate a person to do such a thing? To dedicate 5 years of her life getting close to her victim just to fill a poor boy’s Xmas list with girly knickknacks? Perhaps it was her desire to furnish the new home in Duluth we have purchased and will be moving into in January. True, this new home is much larger than the condo we owned in St. Paul and will require more furniture. It is also close to Lake Superior, which Amanda hopes will attract many visitors to fill the spare rooms. And of course, with visitors comes the need for fancy new bed sheets and hand towels.

Or perhaps Amanda was just overly tired from the stress of starting a new job and accidently added stuff to my Xmas list rather than her own? After all, her new job at the Maurices Corporate Headquarters as a real estate analyst does require using massive amounts of brainpower. She helps to determine where new stores should be built by analyzing more data than I knew existed. Maybe, just maybe, her eyes were all loopy after looking at all those spreadsheets and she just didn’t realize she was editing MY list.      

Or was it that she thought that since I’m working as a sheet metal worker I’d be so tired and cold after a long day outside that she took it upon herself to ask Santa on my behalf for decorative throw pillows on which to rest my weary head.

Amanda’s true motivation will forever remain a mystery. Whatever the case, the holidays are a time for peace and goodwill to all, and so, with that spirit in mind, Amanda has been pardoned of her holiday hijinks, with only one stipulation: She has to add a new Fat Tire Bike to HER Christmas list next year.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Please come visit us at our new home 2323 Boland Drive, Duluth MN, 55804. I’ll be more than happy to share my plush new hand towels with you. 



Drew, Amanda, and Loki  


Friday, November 7, 2014

Moving North!

Well, I guess this blog might need a new name. Farm Girl in the Far North? Farm Girl on the North Shore? Today is Drew's last day in the office. Below is the email he sent to our coworkers.

To all my dear PropTax friends (and others),

I have had many significant, life-altering things happen to me during my life. But I was either too young or too dumb to recognize them as being significant at the time. I guess I must be getting old, and perhaps my brain has finally developed beyond the adolescent stage, because this is the first time in my life that I remember actually stopping to take the time to think about a decision and how it will impact my life going forward. And I don’t like it one bit.

This stopping and thinking about stuff is really hard. Because now I have to think about how I am going to miss everyone here so much. And I have to remember all the great things that this division does, and all of the acts of generosity and kindness that I have witnessed here every day over the last 7 years.  I have to think about if this is the right choice; to say goodbye to something that has given me so much and to the people that have become like family. Will I ever find a place like this again? Will I ever find someone to hire me again? What the heck am I going to do with my life!


So I am done thinking about it. I will leave the thinking to the philosophers and those really deep, introspective poet-types. Instead, I am just going to do what I have always done: savor the past, enjoy the present, and let the future bring what it will. I’m not worried about it. It’s like my good buddy Danny Kaye said,  “Life is a blank canvas, and you need to throw all the paint on it you can.”  And that’s what I’m going to do, start splashing paint like I’m Jackson Pollock. Happiness to me is an ever-changing horizon, the thrill of going around that corner and not knowing what is on the other side, and those butterflies in your stomach the moment you drop off into the unknown. And so I’m going to venture down the road and let all those unknown bumps and curves shape who I am. To what end, only time will tell.

So that’s it. This is goodbye for now. I am so thankful for what everyone has done for me, and what they will continue to do for this great state. I was lucky to be part of it. I wish everyone the best in everything that they do. If you find yourself in Duluth, look us up and come hang out. We’ll go jump in the big lake. It’s totally rejuvenating, trust me. Bon voyage!

What is that feeling when you're driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? - it's the too-huge world vaulting us, and it's good-bye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.” – Jack Kerouac, On the Road

This is the super cool photo the Department took of me to accompany any articles I submitted to assessment magazines.

Angela and I in front of the state seal, the state flag and the American flag on one of the biggest days of the year for my division (State Board of Equalization).

I will miss the close proximity to the Capitol. I've enjoyed many lunches on the Capitol Mall and was able to head over to the lawn the day the Marriage Equality Amendment passed. Minnesota is awesome, and I am proud to have been part of the public policy process in some small way.