In which I drain my savings account

Written by hootenannie on January 26th, 2015

Back in December, a natural gas leak was discovered in the crawl space beneath my house. The inspector from Xcel told me that it wasn’t urgent, and that I could have it repaired at my leisure (pronounced “lehh-zhure” in my mind). So this past Friday, I finally had someone come take a look. He shut off the gas, unplugged all of my appliances, and started testing.

Here is how a gas man “tests” for a natural gas leak: he uses a spray bottle of soapy water to mist the joints of your pipes (not an innuendo). If bubbles form, gas is leaking.

Well, bubbles were forming. Gas was leaking. It’s much worse than I was originally told: I need a full (multi-thousand dollar) replacement of all of my gas lines – that is, if I don’t fancy a dramatic death by explosion.

This worker would have started the job when he was here on Friday, except that my gas line actually runs from my cellar out beneath my neighbor’s house, and he will need to access their basement to complete the repair. My neighbors are out of town for the next week – and since the worker said that it would be dangerous to turn my gas back on, I have been gas-less for the past three days, and will be for at least four more.

But don’t cry for me Argentina – it’s basically like fancy camping. I have a comfy bed and electricity – at least, I did until my space heater blew the breaker (momentary setback). I have coffee in the mornings and a microwave to heat up the soup from my freezer. But I don’t have stovetop burners or an oven, a shower with hot water, or heat of any kind. Luckily, this week is off to an unseasonably warm start, so I don’t have to worry about my pipes freezing. I’m cooking in the CrockPot and wearing wool socks and counting my lucky stars not to be dead even though I haven’t taken a proper shower since Thursday.

On Saturday night, I crawled into bed and tucked the covers around myself like a burrito. It was 10:30 or so, because I am geriatric – and even though there was a party with a bonfire raging in the vacant lot across the alley behind my house, I put in earplugs and fell asleep.

When I awoke to shouting and laughter, I figured that I hadn’t been asleep long since the party was still going – but when I looked at the clock, it was 3:45am. “Seriously?” I thought. I walked to my kitchen window and looked outside – and yes indeed, the bonfire was in full force.

So I called 911. (See above: geriatric.)

I asked the operator for the non-emergency line, but she said she could help me. I told her that I needed a squad car (and yes, I called it that) dispatched to break up the party, and after taking down the information, she said she’d send someone as soon as possible.

An hour later, the drum circle started.

At 4:45 in the morning, my neighbors started a drum circle.

So I called back, this time to the non-emergency line like a decent human being (720-913-2000, FYI), and asked the status of my knight in shining cop uniform. They said that the night was busy, and assured me that they would send someone as soon as they could.

I hung up the phone and burst into tears because in that moment I so desperately wanted someone else to fight my battles for me. But then I pulled myself together and tugged on my boots and marched across the alley like a BAMF/high school chaperone, and informed them that they were at least 5 hours past their bedtime and could they PLEASE stop DRUMMING around their BONFIRE.

I didn’t stick around long enough to experience their reaction. I was too mortified at my old lady rage. I did a step-pivot and scurried back across the alley, blessing the darkness for shrouding my face, lest I see these hooligans in the daylight.

I slept from 6-8am, and then got up to go on a hike with Kristen. We made it a half mile before Foxy bounded up a hill and then started limping. After checking her paw for thorns and not finding any, I carried her back to the car, which is kind of like carrying a 4-year old without the benefit of legs that can wrap around your waist. As we drove home, I passed one of those traffic cameras that take your picture if you’re speeding – which I was (54 in a 45, which also happened to be a construction zone). The camera flashed, and I can now look forward to a hefty ticket in the mail.

Foxy’s limp worsened throughout the day and her paw swelled up, so I took her to the emergency vet. The x-rays revealed no breaks, but potential torn tendons. So I spent last night worrying that she would need surgery – but luckily the radiologist called with the report that she should heal up without it [cue the angel choir] and oh by the way, your bill will be $500.

So now it’s Monday and it’s back to work and I’m still without gas and my poor pup is on pain meds and all I want is some roasted vegetables and a bubble bath, and I guess that the moral of the story is that we don’t always get what we want.

Hope you had a better weekend than Foxy’s foot and my bank account.

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Hope on the rocks

Written by hootenannie on January 16th, 2015

I am not a rock climber. Aside from that ill-fated day at elementary summer camp when I was forced to rappel which resulted in emotional trauma so severe they made a special exception to let me call my mom afterward (thanks a lot, CAMP REDCLOUD), I have never been roped to a rock wall – or, you know, however it works.

But I can’t stop tearing up about Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson.

If you haven’t heard, these two climbers made history on Wednesday, being the first people to ever summit El Capitan’s Dawn Wall via free ascent – that is, using only their hands and feet against the natural formation of the rock, and using ropes only to stop a fall. This 3,000 foot (remember, that’s over half a mile) granite slab has long been considered the world’s most difficult rock climb – but after 19 days living in mid-air, sleeping on cliff tents and pooping in bags and having supplies ferried to them by cohorts, they made it.

So why does this make me tear up? Mostly because I gave up on them.

Here were the rules, as I understood them: both men needed to free climb the 32 pitches (segments the length of a rope) without falling. If one fell, he had to start again from the beginning of that section. And Jorgeson? He attempted Pitch 15 time after time, and fell every time. While Caldwell waited above, Jorgeson kept falling. For days.

And in that time, I thought, “Yeah, this isn’t going anywhere. What a bummer – this dream they have isn’t going to come true.”

I come by my negativity honestly. I was raised to be emotionally cautious, opting to prepare for the worst rather than hope for the best, all the while marinating in that Christian pessimism called Calvinism. Stack on top of that a plethora of personal disappointments and a decided absence of fairy tale endings, and you can see why my default might be to assume that all of our best efforts usually end in defeat.

But then again, sometimes they don’t.

After 11 attempts over 7 days, Kevin Jorgeson made it through Pitch 15. And less than a week later, he and Tommy Caldwell reached the top together.

The other night, I was immersed in Sara Hagerty’s beautiful book Every Bitter Thing is Sweet (read it read it read it), completely engrossed in the account of her adoption of two girls from Uganda. It’s an amazing story, full of miracles and unlikely providences. This part stopped me in my tracks:

“It has always been safer to expect that God allows suffering in the interest of refinement. While I still believe this is a significant aspect of his nature, Uganda had given me the chance to discover new frontiers of his generosity. For he also allows joy.”

He also allows joy.

When they reached the top, Kevin Jorgeson said he hopes that their accomplishment inspires others to “find their own Dawn Wall.” None of our stories will mirror the achievement of Jorgeson and Caldwell exactly – but we all dream of something, right?

I don’t know what you’re hoping for. Some of my dearest friends are waiting for things that feel so far off that at times they seem impossible – waiting to get pregnant, waiting to be matched with a baby to adopt, waiting through a season of prolonged singleness, waiting for a job to improve, waiting for a spouse to change, waiting for an illness to shift, waiting for the pain to lift. I am well aware of the things I am personally waiting for. And hope? Hope can feel cruel – because by its very nature, hope means that the thing we want hasn’t happened yet.

But like I once heard it defined to a child, hope also means “something wonderful is about to happen.”

I’m not a rock climber, and I probably never will be. But I’ll remember Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson as long as I live for reminding me to check my doubts at the door – because he also allows joy.

DawnWall

Photo credit: Corey Rich

 

Hootenannie’s Dating Tips

Written by hootenannie on January 8th, 2015

I’ve heard that activity on online dating sites soars after the holidays.

As one who currently does not have a profile on any dating site (despite having spent some quality time on every available platform in the past – and probably will again in the future), I say good on you. If you’ve declared 2015 the year of finding love, I wish you more of Cupid’s arrows than you know what to do with.

By no means am I a dating aficionado. That very thought deserves a literal LOL. But in 2014, I went on my fair share of dates – maybe more than any other year in my life thus far. And I learned a few things. And because I am known as a Lady of Wisdom (again, literal LOL – and why can there not be a Sarcasm font?), I am here to bestow on you Hootenannie’s Dating Tips. LOL. LOL.

  • Get a puppy. Instant conversation starter. But…
  • Do not go out with men from the dog park. You need that place too much to want to avoid it later.
  • If Tinder were space travel, you’d be at Pluto sooner than you’d think (i.e. 3 days). Despite how it feels in the beginning, the options are actually quite finite. And then you reach the end. And you realize, “THERE IS NO MAN FOR ME IN THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE” (i.e. 50 mile radius).
  • If someone is sending you mixed signals, it’s actually just one signal: run for your life. Mixed signals are the equivalent of multiplying by zero: no matter how positive, times it by zero and you wind up with nothing.
  • Do not spend the better part of a year emotionally entangled with a person who has no intention of dating you – even if he is the best texter you know. Listen, I grew up in church youth group, which means that at age 14 I made a “Husband List” (just to keep the LOLs rolling). And I’m here to tell you that not even googly-eyed teenage girls put “good texter” on their List.
  • If he doesn’t want to date you, do not listen to “I Can’t Make You Love Me” on repeat while drinking wine and envisioning your bleak future of solitude.
  • If she doesn’t want to date you, don’t send her snarky texts in the middle of the night and defriend her on Facebook before she’s even awake for the day. Take it like a man, because God knows I’m trying to.
  • A breakup is like a broken bone: set it, and then don’t mess with it.
  • Confidence will get you further than looks. Just look at Tom Petty.
  • Never, under any circumstances, assume that the man is her cousin.
  • No matter what, keep hoping. Because just like Fievel says, it helps to think we might be wishing on the same bright star.

Now go forth and date. Be your wonderful self, and don’t settle for someone who doesn’t make you laugh. But maybe be open to someone shorter than you imagined when you wrote your Husband List. I’ll be here on my couch with Foxy cheering you on.

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Give a Hoot in 2015

Written by hootenannie on January 6th, 2015

I have a confession to make. I didn’t end 2014 well.

I spent the last three months of the year lost in my own head, unable to focus on anything or anyone except myself. Some stressful situations got the best of me – and while my circumstances were certainly worthy of some level of anxiety, I allowed the undertow to take me down. My work suffered. My relationships suffered. I disengaged from everyone and isolated myself and got really hell-bent on being able to control my tiny little kingdom, Foxy my only serf.

Basically, I became a total head case. My mental health took a nosedive straight into the gutter (where, awesome, someone barfed the night before).

For the past few weeks, I have been playing a game of chicken with some big decisions, ones that have the potential to change a lot about what my life looks like. Change always appeals to me until it’s actually happening, at which point I find myself wanting to pull the emergency brake – so I’ve been especially bipolar these days. One moment I’m hoisting my war stick and yelling “CHAAAAARGE” – and the next I’m drinking herbal tea, coming to my overly sensible senses and wondering if I have any guts at all.

This is the time of year when we Type As of the world tend to make resolutions (or for the relaxed, intentions – ha, amateurs). And in the aftermath of the last few months, a season in which I’ve felt helter-skelter and utterly jumbled, I find myself wanting to fix everything. I want to get my life back on track by committing to be ALL THAT I CAN BE in every single way – an idea that already has me exhausted.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who struggles with the fear that my life isn’t going to matter UNTIL. Until I get myself together. Until I do something noteworthy. Until I have more time. Until I save more money. Until I achieve that one very important thing. Until I move somewhere else. Until everything is different. (Who’s with me?) For the last several months, I’ve been acting like my life is insignificant, discontent with everything because I haven’t reached UNTIL.

I want my life to matter. But I forget that it already does.

And in case you need the reminder too, here it is: we are not better people for what we achieve and we are not worse for what we don’t. All of the fullness of life is available to us right now, right where we are, and regardless of where we are not. I firmly believe that each of us were set in our spots and in this time on purpose and for a purpose – and that’s the truth no matter how “together” we are, or if we’re any closer to UNTIL.

Right here, right now, it’s time for Hootenannie to give a hoot.

Stay tuned for what I mean.

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Scaredy dog

Written by hootenannie on December 24th, 2014

It’s no secret that I think Foxy is the best dog in the entire world. I love her more than anything I’ve ever had. She is smart and snuggly and intuitive, loves to walk as much as I do, and is all around just the most wonderful little companion.

But no one is perfect.

Foxy’s Achilles’ heel? She is terrified. Of so many harmless things.

(A friend recently asked what Toad’s Achilles’ heel had been, and I told him the doctor sawed it off – because, AMPUTATION JOKES!)

But truly, Foxy is scared of a lot of things. Here are some things she recently lost her mind over:
• A black trash bag full of leaves in a neighbor’s yard
• CAUTION tape tied to a construction site
• A man in a wheelchair
• A plastic bag blowing in the wind
• A wagon full of watermelons (yes, we saw this)
• Anyone under the age of 12

After a monster day of driving (I-70 was closed, so I had to reroute up through Nebraska), I arrived in Kansas City last night. Foxy was so excited to jump out of the car, and when I opened the door to my mom’s house she tore into the living room – and then high-tailed it the other way.

Because there’s nothing like Christmas to transform a safe space into a house of horrors.

This morning, I tried a little treat therapy – but alas. Watch and see:

There is no treat therapy for this kind of terror.

A video posted by Annie Parsons (@hootenannie) on

Merry Christmas!

Boy oh boy band

Written by hootenannie on December 7th, 2014

Half a lifetime ago, I was somewhat of a boy band aficionado. My childhood was soaked in New Kids on the Block, but things really picked up speed in the late 90s when we had so many options: Boyz II Men, 98 Degrees, Hanson, Backstreet Boys, and the ultimate, NSYNC.

I was obsessed with NSYNC. I knew every piece of trivia, every nuance to every song (remember when Justin dropped down the shaft and landed in a crouch and then did that chin-lift/smile at the camera and we all dropped dead of love?), and the fact that JC’s last name was pronounced “sha-ZAY.” When I was 17, Laura and I drove 5 hours to Denver for their show at Mile High Stadium, and after the opening acts (Pink and Sisqo), screamed like maniacs along with tens of thousands of other girls. It was their “No Strings Attached” tour – you know the one. The one in which they were lowered to the stage like marionettes? YES.

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When I went to college and became an adult in the eyes of the law, NSYNC dropped on the list of “things worth losing my mind over.” I realized that I probably wasn’t going to wind up marrying JC. Justin was going solo. Lance had been batting for the other team all along. Besides, at that point there was SO MUCH Shania and Faith and Martina and Dixie Chicks to listen to. I heard about the new groups – O-Town and Westlife and eventually the Jonas Brothers – but really, the boy band era was over for me.

But that phase couldn’t last forever. Because One Direction.

One Direction burst on the scene a few years ago with the kind of hooky, catchy, bubblegum pop appropriate for their fresh-faced, teenage selves. They spun on the beach and played in the waves with their arms spread and bounced a lot. They were babies. And I tuned them out. Sure, I knew their big songs from the radio – but I wasn’t paying attention. I certainly didn’t know any of their names.

1D

That was then. But this is now. HARRY ZAYN LOUIS LIAM NIALL.

Say what you will about my musical taste – but about a year ago, I heard “Story of My Life” and thought, “This is surprisingly good.” So I looked up the video, and found them all… adorable. Suddenly I was captivated by these guys – not in a predatory, pedophile kind of way (ew), but just because they’re incredibly likeable. They’re funny. They’re well-spoken. And despite millions of dollars and a mind-boggling level of fame, they’ve somehow managed not to go the way of the Biebs (that is, psycho).

one direction

I don’t want to marry them – I just want to cook them soup.

I think that what I like most about these guys is that with the exception of Harry (who between his style, charisma, and swagger is obviously Best in Show), I don’t think they were destined to be famous. They have average-to-good voices. They have average-to-good looks. They DO have fantastic hair, every one of them – but if they’d never had a stylist, they’d still look like they did before fame:

OneDirection

But they had a chance at fame and jumped on it. What are the odds?

Recently, in an effort to ignore all of the horrible news in the world, I went on a YouTube binge and watched, um, A LOT of videos of these guys – because if you have a choice between depression and joy, please just choose joy. One Direction is so much better than fear and sadness and terrorism (no one can challenge that statement). Anyway, this “research” led me to some opinions – which I will share here in a bulleted list:

  • Their voices, best to worst: Liam, Harry, Zayn, Niall, Louis.
  • Their current hair, best to worst: Harry, Zayn, Niall, Louis, Liam.
  • Their style, best to worst: TIE BETWEEN ALL OF THEM. Good job, stylist.
  • Who I want to hang out with, most to least: Niall, Harry, Louis, Liam, Zayn.
  • Current favorite song: “Steal My Girl,” duh.
  • Sure, Harry is the favorite of millions of girls. But that still leaves at least several hundred thousand girls who find each of the other guys their favorite. So no one can feel sorry for any of them.

Well, if you’ve made it this far, you’re probably a 14-year old girl and my new best friend.  And if after all this you STILL can’t get behind One Direction, at least watch this cover of “Story of My Life.”

Okay, and fine – also watch this. It’s a nugget of fun:

The best and the brightest

Written by hootenannie on December 2nd, 2014

When I left the office last night, my inbox was down to 5 messages (a record!). When I arrived this morning, I had 181 emails.

 

Here was the original message:

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And then came the replies:

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Dozens of times.

Eventually, the sender of the original message realized her mistake and attempted to remedy it:

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No such luck, KATHY.

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And then The Enforcer stepped in:

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Because nothing commands authority like Bold Red Letters.

 

But the people would not be silenced.

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And my personal favorite:

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Because while you might be smart enough to get hired at a Fortune 500 company, it’s not a requirement that you understand how a distribution list works.

“Nothing can be necessary that he withholds”

Written by hootenannie on November 3rd, 2014

Last Friday, I listened to Taylor Swift’s 1989 for the entire 9-hour drive from Denver to Kansas City. Collectively my favorite record I’ve heard in ages, it just might have the power to pull me out of athletic retirement and train for another half marathon. Running would probably be good for me, seeing as how these days I’m wound as tight as a guitar string one pluck away from snapping up and whipping you in the eyeball.

In the past month, I’ve been in a lot of airports – Denver, Minneapolis, Austin, Atlanta, Kansas City, Chicago, Rochester, and Baltimore, to be exact. Between work and my far-flung family and friends, I travel more than the average person – and I’ve found that the only way I can survive the aggravation of airline travel is to wear earplugs at all times. Not ear buds – I don’t want music. No, I want to drown out everyone and everything, even at the risk of appearing rude to my fellow passengers. Oh, you just introduced yourself? UNACKNOWLEDGED. You’ll get over it one day.

But despite the irritation, airplanes get me where I want to go – which, this weekend, was upstate New York for 24 hours. While I’ve been a bridesmaid more times than I have fingers, “godparent” is a new role for me – and there was no way I was going to miss Colin’s baptism. He is 6 months of chubby, flirtatious perfection, and I’m honored beyond words that his parents would choose me.

Colin1

When the service was over and the reception was in full swing, I stole away to the edge of Will and Miranda’s dock on Seneca Lake. Their property is beautiful – it’s been in Will’s family for generations – and I needed to be by the water. At the risk of sounding all woo-woo, water affects me spiritually. It cracks my hard heart wide open. It’s a shame that Denver is so landlocked.

There on the dock, I thought about the stories that the majority of my friends are living, and how different mine is turning out to be. I tried to tell myself that it’s okay, I’m okay, that not having a family of my own is actually far less complicated and I should be happy for the simplicity of my little life. After all, as some well-meaning friends have told me, it’s dangerous to love someone so deeply – because then you have so much to lose.

Well. I’ve never been divorced. But I’ve never been married. I have never lost a child. But I’ve never had a baby. Hope unrealized brings with it its own invisible grief, one that doesn’t fit into an obvious category, the kind that solicits cards and casseroles. Could it be that things that haven’t happened can hurt as badly as things that could?

Because it’s one thing for all of your friends to get married. It’s another when they start having kids. It’s entirely another when they decide to be finished having kids… and you’re not sure if you’ll even start.

I know, cue the sob fest and the weeping ovaries. Except.

Here’s what I’m discovering: joy is found in connection, and connection comes in all sorts of forms. I might not be a wife, but I’m a friend who can and will hop on a plane at a moment’s notice to fly across the country. I might not be a mom, but I’m an auntie, and a dog lover, and now a godmother. I’m a daughter and a sister. I’m a hard worker who cares about the well-being of the people I work with. I’m a writer and a wanderer and a hoper and a dreamer, and damn it, I want to be one who celebrates the things worth celebrating, even if they’re not happening to me.

And until those celebrations are my own, I’m clinging to John Newton’s words: “Everything is necessary that [God] sends; nothing can be necessary that he withholds.”

Given that, I’m really thankful that God has sent Foxy Brains and Colin Warder and Southwest Airlines and red wine and Taylor Swift.

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. 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.”

raccoon

Well boogedy boogedy.