"Grammarissa" is a nickname I earned while working as a technical writer for a government contractor who shall remain nameless. My friend and I decided one day, exasperated in our endless editing, that we were grammar superheroes in disguise. Her last name is Smith, so the logical choice for her nickname is Wordsmith. Mine was a little trickier to come up with. I gave it some thought and decided that, yes, I would let my first name (which I consider to be awesome all by itself) to embody my grammar superpowers. Voila: Grammarissa was born. Since then I've cultivated my own personality to accompany the nickname and I've grown to embody the superhero I am (but not just in the realm of grammar!).

I'm not a "grammar Nazi," and as a matter of fact I don't like associating myself with anything connected to genocide or that required a Geneva Convention to mitigate. People who lean towards prescriptive grammar are often the ones pegged as diehards for rules and regulations in grammar. The rest of us (the famed Grammar Girl included) are descriptivists who find that the English language has a was of working itself out. It's not always pretty and it doesn't always make sense, but it's usually pretty fun to understand. (For me, anyway. I like grammar, remember?) Return to top

My Sugarpacket Collection

I began collecting sugarpackets in 2003. I was a senior in high school on a band trip. My best friend and I had run out of money for souvenirs by the time we reached the Hard Rock Cafe. We decided to take a sugarpacket since 1) it was free, 2) it had the logo on it, and 3) we like sugar.

Since then, my best friend has gone on to travel the world. I, however, haven't been as lucky to travel so much. Instead, I ask people to bring me sugarpackets from wherever they go. It's wonderful. I like it better that way because it means that people were thinking of me while on their trip (aww) and they usually have a terrific story to go along with the little packet. The map on the Sugarpacket Collection tab shows all of the places I have sugar from.

Which leads me to another common question: do I keep the sugar?
Absolutely not. Often the packets come to me a little mangled. They've been in pockets, pushed through purses, crunched on conveyer belts, and sometimes even through the washing machine. I usually trim the corner of the packet, drain out the sugar, and flatten the packet out to put in my collection. I keep all my packets in baseball card collector sleeves. (Geeky, I know. And I love it!)

Feel free to help the cause! I've traded sugarpackets with people before too. One fellow from Peru traded with me via mail twice. He wanted things like McDonalds and TGIFridays packets... In return, I received colorful, flowered Peruvian packets. Gorgeous. If you don't want sugar, I am happy to send you a wonderful, marvelous personalized thank you note!

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My Running Story

Most people I've talked to have a running story. It's about how they started running, what got them going, what keeps them going, their goals... I'm not unlike the rest: I have my own running story.

Life-changing events come in many forms. Mine came in the form of a rare tumor. I found out in February 2010 that I had a pheochromocytoma (an adrenaline-producing tumor) and that I needed surgery as soon as possible. Recovery was difficult because the surgery required my entire right adrenal gland to be removed in addition to the large tumor that flooded my body with more than 700 times the normal amount of catecholamines a body my size and age required. Most people would think this is a good thing, but, left to its own devices, my tumor could have killed me.

Until this point, I had been living my life as though I had a roadmap in hand, moving logically from one thing to the next. This tumor was clearly not part of my plan. It derailed a number of things in my life, not the least of which was my body’s ability to regulate its own hormones.I had cancelled a presentation at an academic conference (getting in was a HUGE deal and I was going to scout for places to do my PhD). I had to push back my grad school graduation and my thesis defense. I had to put everything on hold for my body and I wasn't really okay with that.

I had to give up the intensely linear mindset I had come to rely on, but this came with its own set of stressors. One day, late in my recovery process, I was so frustrated with not knowing my next step that I threw on the only pair of sneakers I owned and ran around my backyard. I remember feeling a sense of freedom as I ran, not knowing or caring where I would run. I didn’t have to have a plan—I just ran. After I collapsed under my maple tree, I began to appreciate the clarity I gained from that anxiety-fueled jaunt around my yard. I laid there and looked up at the sun through the leaves, glints of sunshine showing me that unpredictability is beautiful.

That was the day running found me.

When I run, I know I burn calories, but I also burn the nervous energy that would otherwise take up residence in that dubious “worry gland” we all possess (and bemoan). I run to keep myself grounded, to get perspective, and to air out all those worries that creep into my head when I’m not running.

In 2011, I was completely out of commission for my recovery, but when my doctor cleared me for exercise this winter I felt so lucky. I decided that I needed to run.

My first race was in April—a 5K fundraiser for a Pennsylvania state trooper who was killed by a drunk driver. The buzz of excitement, pure athletic joy, and unfettered, unapologetic lust for a good run filled the air, and I breathed it all in. When I tied that chip to my shoe, I may as well have just tied myself to the essence of the sport itself.

Since then, I’ve run a race each month.

It’s my goal to keep this up for as long as reasonably possible. I want to run a raceevery single month.

I’m hooked. I share my addiction with anyone who will listen to me. I freely admit that running changed my life. It’s holistic medicine, as far as I’m concerned, and I’m an evangelist for its efficacy. Return to top


  1. Karissa, this is fantastic! I shared a link to your blog on the club's Facebook page-- check it out!

  2. Thanks, Laura! I'm excited to be part of the gym community. Thanks for sharing my blog!


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