The ramblings of an erratic woman

Written by hootenannie on October 27th, 2014

I’m becoming exceedingly private these days – at least when it comes to the bare-my-soul stuff. Even in the face-to-face presence of the people I trust the most, I find myself holding back – because just because I think/feel/act a certain way today doesn’t mean I’m going to think/feel/act the same way tomorrow, and how would I explain that?

In short, my emotions are drunk. (I am not.)

I guess I just don’t trust myself these days. I am convinced – convinced – that something is true (like, I WANT TO MOVE FAR, FAR AWAY) (MY LIFE IS HORRIBLE) (I HATE EVERYTHING), and then one day, like today, things feel different. Better. Calm. Until maybe it will all change again – which, it totally will. I am a fickle, persnickety nutcase.

There are a lot of factors contributing to my erraticism – things outside of my control that are pressing in and weighing heavy and making me feel unsure about the way my future might unfold – so you can understand why I am craving certainty. I love certainty. I want to marry it and have its for sure, locked in, done deal of a baby. (That was weird. Forget I said it.)

But in the midst of the uncertainty, there are some things I know for sure.

Savory breakfasts will always be better than sweet, and breakfast at home will always be better than breakfast out. Laughter is jumper cables for the soul. Also, puppies. Lori McKenna’s “The Luxury of Knowing” is the best song in the world. A breakup is like a broken arm – set it, and then don’t mess with it. No one – not a single one – can have a thick, glamorous side braid like Princess Elsa. Food looks most appetizing when on a white plate. One should never buy a car brand new. It’s better to have done things you might regret than to have always just played it safe. If tempted to buy something pricey, sleep on it. Being impressive will get you far, but being liked will get you further. The best things in life are not things – unless, again, those “things” are puppies.

And though I’m not fully there yet, and HARDLY an authority, here is what I suspect:

We should work for 8 hours, play for 8 hours, and sleep for 8 hours.
We are not defined by what we do, but by who we are.
It’s all going to be okay.

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Neighborhood pest

Written by hootenannie on October 14th, 2014

I’ve been walking Foxy after dark these days. I know, I know – but just because the sun is going down earlier doesn’t mean she needs any less exercise.

Last night, walking through crunchy leaves, I rounded the corner and noticed a man on the porch of the house I was passing. He was frantically trying to unlock his front door. When he noticed me, he turned around and breathed a huge sigh of relief.

“I heard you coming. I thought you were a raccoon.”

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Well boogedy boogedy.

Best Cousin Ever

Written by hootenannie on October 5th, 2014

I met my friend Nicole several years ago at the wedding of mutual friends. We bonded over gin & tonics, and stuck close together since we didn’t know many other people there. In the four busy years since we met, we’ve managed to get together a few times a year for drinks and gossip – and for being someone I see so infrequently, she’s still one of my favorite people.

A few weeks ago, we were texting back and forth, just catching up on life. Nicole mentioned that she’s dating someone, that she’s had a recent career change, and that since I’m single and fabulous (obviously), she wanted to set me up with her cousin. I trust her judgment of men, so I gave her the green light. She said she’d make the introduction.

Fast forward to this weekend. Nicole and I had made plans to meet for brunch, and as we texted about the time and place, she mentioned, “I know Chris wants to meet you too. Can we work him into the plan?” So on Saturday morning, I walked to Sassafras to meet Nicole and her cousin.

Nicole is the kind of person who sets everyone at ease, and Chris immediately struck me as the same. Conversation between the three of us was easy and pleasant, and I had the thought, “Everyone in their family must be so nice.” Nicole told me that Chris had moved into her house, which sounded kind of fun – because as a woman, what better roommate to have than your male cousin? He could reach the top shelf in the closet and lift the heavy things. They even bought new couches together – a true sign of a combined life, probably because Nicole is sweet and generous and wants him to feel at home, I thought. Chris told me that ever since moving in with Nicole, he’s become a runner; Nicole and all of her friends are marathoners, and if he wanted to join that group, it made a lot of sense to me that he would take up the same hobby.

Admittedly, I had never known cousins this close. It sounded like they do everything together, which felt a little odd. But just because I’m not as tight with MY cousins doesn’t mean that others couldn’t be – so I just accepted the fact that they’re best friends and ate my eggs.

Chris was good looking and interesting and quick to smile and so, so nice. But I wasn’t really feeling any kind of vibe between us, which was fine since we were all just having a casual brunch anyway. I was happy to have found a new friend, if nothing else.

About an hour into conversation, I realized I hadn’t heard about Nicole’s boyfriend yet. So I turned to her and asked, “Hey, aren’t you dating someone?”

She looked at me blankly. “Dating?”

Pause. Wrinkled forehead.

And then, with a quick shake of her head, like she was trying to rattle her thoughts into place, she gestured to Chris and said, “I’m dating Chris. This is CHRIS.”

And in that moment, all of the air sucked out of the room.

I looked down at my plate. When I lifted my eyes, Chris and Nicole were staring at me completely flummoxed. There was no getting out of this one, no way to gracefully play it off. Time to face the music.

“I’m sorry, I’m so confused,” I awkwardly blubbered, the red creeping up my cheeks. “I… I…”

“Oh my…” Nicole broke in, eyes wide, the realization suddenly all over her face. “Did you think this was my cousin?”

And we all died. Right there in our chairs, every one of us died a thousand deaths. I don’t know that I’ve ever laughed so hard – while simultaneously wanting to, you know, crawl underneath the table. While Nicole had been introducing me to her boyfriend, now she knew I had been SCOPING HIM OUT FOR MYSELF. No wonder I wasn’t feeling a vibe – the only vibe at that table was between Chris and Nicole. Who are not cousins. I wanted the chef to hit me over the head with a frying pan; please put me out of my misery.

Revisiting Nicole’s text, I realized that she had never said her cousin was coming to brunch – she said Chris was coming to brunch. And isn’t it just like a girl to make that mean whatever she wants it to mean? We then relived every twist and turn of the conversation up to that point, all of which added up to a weirdly intertwined cousin relationship, including a trip to Mexico – which I assumed was a family vacation? We laughed so hard we cried. And maybe I just cried.

Chris and Nicole say they’re going to get T-shirts that say “Best Cousin Ever.” As for me? I’ll go with “Moron.”
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More

Written by hootenannie on September 29th, 2014

“Do you find the tension between seeking contentment and desiring more, difficult? I do, certainly.”

Those were the closing lines of an email I received last week from a woman who has lived more life than I – and just like that, she so concisely distilled my entire life’s dilemma. Perhaps you relate?

Contentment in its truest form is a beautiful thing, and worth cultivating. But personally, I can easily confuse contentment with complacency – an artificial version of “satisfaction,” keeping my dreams and desires in the OFF position.

Contentment should never be at the risk of betraying one’s heart.

I used to feel a little sheepish that I (still) love the song “Part of Your World” from The Little Mermaid – but not anymore. Why shouldn’t I love it? The lyricist, Howard Ashman*, perfectly articulates the honest acknowledgement of restless desire, regardless of how much one has – which is actually quite profound.

I want more.

When’s it my turn?

Contentment and wanting more seem to be in direct opposition of each other – and like my friend Joey recently said, “I think that for some people, it’s honestly just harder to be happy.” And if it hadn’t been 10 in the morning, we would have clinked whiskey glasses.

The trouble with wanting more is that we’re never satisfied. The beauty of wanting more is that it cracks our lives wide open – for better and for worse, but ultimately for better. It’s like when you love someone. Loving makes you vulnerable to pain. Loving means there’s a lot to lose.

Loving can make you afraid. But being loved means you don’t have to be.

I don’t know that any of this makes much sense, and I don’t know if I even mean for it to. All I know is that I want MORE – and I’m not talking about the material things (although I’d definitely take another pair of Frye boots if you’re offering), but just… more. Life. Depth. Beauty. Freedom. I don’t want to play it safe – because this is what Mary Oliver calls my “one wild and precious life.”

What if there’s more for me? What if there’s more for you?

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(Once on a trip to Texas, I forgot pajamas. I raided the Target sale rack, and obviously chose this.)

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*From what I’ve learned about Howard Ashman (and trust me, I’ve obsessed over the man), I so wish I could have met him. His work on The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin is some of the best musical storytelling there’s ever been. Watch this short clip, and try not to fall in love with him. And then watch this longer clip and witness Jodi Benson sing like a laser beam.

Writing as light

Written by hootenannie on September 23rd, 2014

The darkness of this world has been weighing me down and sucking me under, cinderblocks tied to my ankles. You know what I’m talking about; all the news is bad. Every day is full of incessant sound bites, ISIS and Syria and Ebola and child abuse and gunmen hiding in the woods. It’s enough to give even the most stalwart a panic attack.

My heart has been beating more rapidly these days, and my fingers have been twitching. It’s not that I’m necessarily afraid for myself (although perhaps I should be). But at a very physical level, this world is not a safe place – and yet here we are, living complicated lives that slap against others’ complicated lives like BBs in a pinball machine. Life should come with a warning: Brace yourself – this is gonna hurt.

Which is why this weekend meant so much to me.

I was invited to attend a workshop called the Art of Songwriting hosted by the Nashville Treehouse. It was fairly last minute, and I had to rearrange some pre-existing travel (to Seattle – which is a trip I’ll need to make up soon). But the writer in me has been in need of some TLC (not this) (or this), and it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. I’m so glad I didn’t.

Fifteen women gathered for two days, and we had a chance to share songs, share stories, co-write, and learn from each other. It could so easily have turned into a competitive game of comparison – because shoot, these ladies could WRITE – but somehow, everyone seemed to bring their most authentic self and check any ego at the door. I was shocked. It was beautiful.

As I drove to the Treehouse, I made a conscious decision to shut the door on all of the darkness and stress and jam it with a folding chair.

And sometime during those two days, full of freedom and light and encouragement, it occurred to me that jamming the door is nothing new for me. I’ve been a professional door slammer since I was 14 (just ask my parents) – but in the last couple of years, I’ve been jamming it in the wrong direction. I’ve been doing it to my writing. I’ve blocked it out, said no, curled up in the dark closet where it’s “safe,” hoping that the boogeyman doesn’t find me.

But the only way to scare off the monsters is to bathe them in LIGHT. And that’s what writing is for me: pure luminosity.

I had forgotten. But this weekend reminded me, and I’m grateful. Kim and Paulette, thank you for hosting us – and Abby for this beautiful video!

The Art of Songwriting Sneak Peek from Nashville Treehouse on Vimeo.

Grace and potatoes

Written by hootenannie on September 8th, 2014

In the last month or so, I’ve been having a quiet mental breakdown.

I say “quiet” because it’s not like I’m falling apart. I’m waking up and exercising and getting my work done. I painted a wall in my living room the other day. I’m meal planning and taking Foxy on walks and meeting friends for drinks and boarding airplanes and generally just taking care of business.

But every night, I climb into bed and stare at the brick wall across the room, the one that sold me on the house – because hello, charm. But in these nighttime moments, it’s felt like a metaphor for something going on in my soul, something that I struggle to name but have been feeling on a daily basis.

I’m up against it.

I’ve just really been up against it these days, you guys – that desperate feeling that sneaks up for no real reason and with no real warning and tells me that the hard things are never going to get better, and that the things I desire aren’t worth hoping for. I wonder if my days have any purpose. All it takes is one quick trip down the rabbit hole that is Instagram to look at dozens of other people’s worlds that appear more lovely than mine, for a dozen different reasons that really aren’t worth listing, and I’m hit with that same old question: does my life matter at all?

I don’t mean to be dramatic. This isn’t a cry for help or a plea for people to validate me (that would make me embarrassed). But I just wonder if I’m not the only one who sometimes feels this way – futile and insignificant, like I should do more or have more or be more.

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Recently, I stood with my friend Becca over her garden in Minnesota, and she confessed that this year she and her husband had neglected the potatoes that they planted, not doing any of the things that they “should” have done to guarantee a good crop. But even so, their garden has produced dozens of pounds of beautiful, perfect potatoes.

“I look at my garden and I see grace,” she said. “We didn’t do anything to deserve potatoes. But we got them anyway.”

And then she picked some fresh strawberries and gave them to me to eat.

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I’m in the weeds these days. Some are there by my own negligence, some despite my best efforts – either way, they’re messing with my perfect little plot. Because when the things you hope for just aren’t happening and the things you despise just won’t go away, at some point you just want to throw up your hands.

But could it be that there is something good growing underneath?

I think that’s what grace is: the generosity of good things, whether or not we’ve earned them, whether or not we choose to acknowledge that they might be developing.

September

Written by hootenannie on September 2nd, 2014

Well, hello September.

I’ve made nary a murmur in this place for over a month. You want to know why? It’s a little thing called a J-O-B. I went back to work on August 4, and that was that. Because listen, I don’t care how much you love your job – going back after 5 weeks off is rough. August was rough. August was hot. August was a slog, retraining my brain to think in terms of “way too many details” and “never-ending emails” and “calendar deadlines.”

But here we are, August behind us, and September ahead. It’s my sincere intention to write more in September – and I think that maybe that starts tomorrow. For today, let’s play catch up.

In the month of August, I walked hundreds of miles. There are times in my life where my workouts are more than mere walks, but for August, I stuck to hoofing it. As you can see, my “bike to work” days were few and far between – that’s another thing that’s going to change in September.

August

Something else that I’m committed to for September: sticking to using cash envelopes. I need financial accountability, and cold hard Benjamins (okay, Jacksons) seem the best method for right now.

Here’s something we need to talk about: awful TV shows. In August, I watched True Detective and House of Cards. And then I felt so hopeless about the human race that this weekend I binged on season 4 of Friday Night Lights just to renew my faith in humanity (or at least the television version thereof).

I’m realizing that I do not want to consume stories in which I hate every single character. I do not want the good guys to be bad guys. I do not want to immerse myself in narratives with no element of redemption. I don’t care if “the character development is amazing.” I don’t care if “the acting is incredible.” I really, really don’t care if “these shows are a more accurate representation of real life” – because I have to believe that real life includes a lot of good, even if it’s intermingled with the hard.

This month, I’ll be spending time in Boston, Minneapolis, and Seattle – some pretty great places.

Since I last wrote, I had a birthday and so did Foxy Brains! My tiny puppy has turned into a full grown 1-year old dog, and I couldn’t love her more.

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Summer is winding down, fall is on its way, and thank goodness – because sheesh, I am in need of some newness. I hope today somehow feels new for you.

Mountain Law

Written by hootenannie on August 1st, 2014

This morning, I set out to try to climb Humboldt Peak, the mountain that thwarted me last September. I’ll just go ahead and tell you that I didn’t make it to the top – because this is actually a story about something different.

In the trail description, the guidebooks said that a high-clearance, 4WD vehicle is necessary to get to the trailhead, and that if you’re not in the appropriate car, just park at the bottom of the road and hike up. Now, my Subaru Forester is far from being high-clearance, but I figured that it was worth a shot – because who wants to spend a bunch of time walking multiple miles up a rocky road?

Dumb idea. I made it about half a mile before the road got too rough for Subaruthless – and if I didn’t want to high-center my car on a boulder, I knew that I couldn’t go any further. Despite all of the signs along the road that said “PRIVATE PROPERTY” “NO TRESPASSING” and “NO PARKING,” I pulled over.

“Does anyone really enforce those signs?” I thought. “Doubtful.”

I threw on my emergency brake, placed some big rocks behind each tire to keep the car from rolling down the mountain, and Foxy and I took off for the summit.

Fast-forward a few hours. We were 5 miles in and just crossing tree line when the dark clouds got the best of my nerve, and I decided to turn around – because I have a strict No Death by Lightning policy.

Humboldt

As we headed down the trail, I started to think, “I hope my car is okay…” but was distracted by Foxy leaping into the air and catching a QUAIL in mid-flight.

“Foxy!” I yelled. “Foxy, no!”

And then before my very eyes, my sweet pooch shook a wild bird to death.

“Foxy,” I said, now serious. “Drop it.”

She opened her jaws and the lifeless fowl dropped to the ground.

I can’t decide which I’m more shocked about: that I witnessed my dearest companion’s first blood, or that she obeyed “drop it” on first command.

By now, the rain was starting to come down in sheets. I pulled on my Patagonia jacket and we high-tailed it for the car –

The car!

In all of the excitement over witnessing an actual murder, I had forgotten that my car was parked illegally on the side of a mountain road. “Surely they wouldn’t tow it…” I thought. “But there might be a ticket?”

You can imagine my relief when my Subaru came into view – and without a backwoods rancher with a shotgun alongside waiting to greet me. The rain was pouring, Foxy was a mudball, and I knew that before anything else I would need to get the towel out of the back to dry her off. I reached for the handle to the back door, put my fingers underneath the latch to pull up, and…

What is this.

I pulled my hand back toward my face and smelled my fingers.

It was feces. Of the equine variety.

I walked around to the driver’s side door to open that instead, and found the same.

Someone had packed horse poop under every door handle on my car, and smeared it on the windows for good measure.

I recoiled in horror – and then, surprise of all surprises, I giggled. Before I knew it, I was laughing hysterically in the middle of a rainstorm on the side of Humboldt Peak, drenched and muddy with a handful of horse shit. I knew that I had no right to be angry – the signs had made the rules crystal clear, and I had broken them. And the thought of a crotchety old mountain person securing their perimeter each day by applying the dung of their livestock to any offender’s vehicle… well. It was spectacular, really.

Because when it comes to Mountain Law, all’s fair in love and manure.

Consolation

Written by hootenannie on July 22nd, 2014

Recently, I was talking to a sweet man from overseas. I’ve known him peripherally for a lot of years, although this was one of the only times we’d really talked.

He asked, “Why are you not married?”

I laughed. “I ask myself that all the time! I guess I just haven’t met the right person yet.”

“But how old are you?”

“I’m about to be 32.”

He paused, and then spoke slowly. “It’s okay. You still look young.”

Nothing doing

Written by hootenannie on July 21st, 2014

Let me tell you what: 3+ weeks of unscheduled vacation time? Just what the doctor ordered (and the doctor is me).

First, I must say thank you for all of your amazingly kind words after I bailed off the trail. I knew that I had made the right decision, but still felt a little sheepish that I might be letting people down, and that disembodied internet voices would tell me so. How silly of me. I have the greatest friends and family in the world, and this fact was only more firmly emphasized last week.

So, now I’m on vacation. I’m basically doing nothing. I’m doing a great job of not hanging out on social media and not checking my phone very often (if you’ve tried to get in touch with me, I should just go ahead and apologize). When I first came home and realized that I had 3 ½ weeks of unscheduled free time ahead of me, I thought about going on a big trip – Hawaii, Europe, maybe a Road Trip USA. But then I remembered that my unscheduled time off was also unpaid time off, and I probably shouldn’t go blowing my Dave Ramsey Emergency Fund on frivolous gallivants and romps. So Colorado is where it’s at.

I obviously would never have taken a 5-week leave of absence from work just to lie around and relax – but good grief, have you ever done this before? It’s HEAVEN. Never in my life have I had an opportunity to rest my brain and body to this extent. It’s worth not getting paid for.

I still have two weeks before I have to head back to work (on my birthday, so please arrange for your gifts to arrive at the office), and have a few things I hope to do and thoughts I hope to think. But mostly, I’ll be waking up each day and taking Foxy on a walk and then just seeing what happens next. Last night I got to see this sunset, so life is obviously rich these days.

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