Live frugally on surprise

Written by hootenannie on July 5th, 2016

Write in the middle of it.

That’s what someone told me to do. As an introvert, my inclination is to wait until things are settled, processed, and sorted before sharing news in any kind of broad way — but I’m realizing that it might be awhile before things are settled, processed, and sorted, so OH WHAT THE HECK.

A year after moving to Minneapolis (Sunday was my Minneversary), I’ve decided to leave my job, the one I moved across the country for. There are a lot of factors that went into this decision, and it was not one that I made lightly. That said, I have a lot of peace about the decision itself, even though it leaves me staring into a future I can’t yet see.

From a job to the city in which I live, everything feels very much up for grabs right now — and while I’m experiencing a sense of possibility and potential, every idea I explore has a cost, a rub. My friend Leigh Kramer once wrote about the “jar lid click” — the moment when everything lines up — and so far, none of my ideas have led to that intuitive sense of alignment.

I don’t know what I’m going to do.

I am not the “leap and the net will appear” girl. I am a planner, a preparer, a “that’s not in the budget” pragmatist. The fact that I quit a job without a new plan in place is so out of character, it makes me question everything I thought I knew about myself. (What if I start liking board games?)

But you know what? The best stories of my life have been the things I could never have predicted or manipulated into happening — like once writing a song about a snack bar that landed me a job, or buying the first and only house I looked at (happened in both Denver and Minneapolis), or meeting people I had no idea would change my life (I’m looking at you, Keri Alexander, Kari Medina, Katie Freeze, Carin Towne, a whole slew of folks in Nashville, gal pals in Denver, my nephews, Foxy Brains, and, okay, EVERYONE).

Here is an idea I like:

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I don’t know what’s coming next. But I’m going to try living frugally on surprise, the rhythm and simplicity of the unknown, and see what happens.

Or I might buy a bed & breakfast. (I’ll add it to this list.)

We can never go back

Written by hootenannie on June 11th, 2016

If you really want to torture yourself, keep your email address linked with the house you used to own in a city where real estate is on a rapid upward trajectory. Once a week or so, you’ll get an update that tells you how much the value of your former home has increased, i.e. how much money you didn’t make because you sold when you did. Bless.

Yesterday, I finally (mercifully) cut the Zillow cord with the Shotgun, my old, charming, 11-foot wide, 600 square foot house in Denver. I loved that nest, and it was the perfect place for me to live for the years I spent there — but that season is over. I made a choice, which led to a decision tree of other choices, all of which ultimately led my life 900 miles away to Minneapolis.

The cruelest question in the world is “what if.”

And yet, we ask it all the time, don’t we? What if I had stayed? What if I had gone? What if I had said yes? What if I had said no? What if I had met that person, or not met that person, or met that person at a different time? What if I had never left my house in Denver and now was sitting on an 11-foot wide MOUNTAIN OF GOLD.

Dumb, all of it.

Asking “what if” keeps us stuck, mentally revising the past toward a future that will never actually be. It’s a waste of energy and a waste of heart. Like Joy Williams sings, “We can never go back, we can only go on and on and on.”

Real estate profits are the least of it — because that stuff doesn’t matter, really. It’s about owning your life, owning your decisions, blessing the good, and wrestling the bad (which, by the way, would exist no matter which path you would have chosen). It’s about seeing your story for the adventure that it is, and realizing that certain things aren’t up to you, anyway. It’s about knowing that it’s a privilege to have a choice at all.

If you struggle with feeling alone, or anxious, or frantic because life doesn’t look the way you imagined it would — well, me too. Keep going, though, because we can never go back. We might as well move forward, because who knows what might be up there?

Here is what I’m learning

Written by hootenannie on May 25th, 2016

Some uncomfortable situations are worth stretching and growing for; others might only make you unhappy. It’s important — and sometimes difficult — to know the difference.

It doesn’t matter if it takes you five minutes or five years: As soon as you know a romantic interest should no longer be a romantic interest, cross him off the list. With a Sharpie.

Time is the new money — that is, until a 50-foot tree limb snaps and almost crushes your car in the driveway. When you fork over $450 to have some guy saw it down and haul it away, you realize that in certain situations your time is kind of worthless and money is, in fact, worth a lot.

At the end of the day, dogs are just wild animals. So when yours hunts, chases, catches, kills, rips apart, and swallows a rabbit, come on, man, don’t be so surprised.

If the only food you stock in your house is eggs, apples, string cheese, and Wheat Thins and it makes you feel sad but you still don’t change your ways, you have no one to blame but yourself.

Wherever you go, there you are. The grass is never greener; it’s all just grass.

The opposite of mending fences

Written by hootenannie on April 23rd, 2016

If you know me at all, you know my fence. Installing it was a huge deal in my life, and I talk about it to basically everyone I know. (I never promised I was cool.)

But when I moved into the house, there was an old stretch of a privacy fence at the top of the driveway, separate from my Fence of Glory. Maybe 12 feet long, it didn’t enclose anything — it was just a strip leftover from what had once been a full fence around the backyard. It served no purpose for me, except to hide my shovels behind. One of the most un-exciting things about being a homeowner is the fact that one has multiple shovels.

Last week when I returned from a work trip, I found that the old fence had fallen over.

Fence 1

And lest the neighbors start looking at my dilapidated house and thinking I’m a meth cook or something, this weekend I ripped it out with my own two hands.

I borrowed a few things from the neighbors — a drill, a sledgehammer, and a crowbar — and got to work. Most of it was easy to disassemble, just removing the screws from the boards and stacking them one at a time. But when it got down to just the frame, I had to get down to business. It was crowbar time.

So I crowbarred, and sometimes I sledgehammered, and the whole thing was very Chip and Jojo except my hair will never be as thick and luscious as hers. But I was DOING IT.

Fence 2

At one point, I yanked on a board and the whole frame came crashing to the ground — and instinctively, much like the time I watched 10 Cloverfield Lane, I screamed.

A man was walking by. “You okay?” he called.

“Yeah, sorry. I’m just being a girl.”

He looked at the fence and then looked back at me, felled fence and crowbar in hand. “It doesn’t look like it.”

Damn straight, man.

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Life plans I’ve made in my mind

Written by hootenannie on April 7th, 2016

#1 — Quit your job, sell your house, buy a little camper, and drive around with Foxy. You’ll probably stay in the US, but the Canadian border is right there so be sure to keep both your passport and her vaccination papers in the glove box. A Scamp would be ideal, but a teardrop trailer is probably more realistic for towing behind the Subaru (get a trailer hitch installed, btw). I wonder if grizzly bears can rip the door off a camper? You need to stay in campgrounds that have actual bathroom facilities, because you require running water and a mirror in which to apply your $100 eye cream. Don’t sell that long leash at your yard sale next month, because when you sit in your lawn chair drinking boxed wine, Foxy will need to be tied to a tree so she doesn’t chase a rabbit and get eaten by a grizzly bear. Oh, and buy a lawn chair.

#2 — Train for a marathon. You’re 33-years old, for crying out loud, and your knees will only get worse. It’s now or never. It’s okay to start slow. Tomorrow morning go run a mile, and just build up from there. Never mind that running a mile sounds like torture, let alone 26.2. Achievement is more important than anything else, and think about how good your butt will look.

#3 — Move back to Seattle and get a Masters in Counseling. Maybe you would be good at it! You care about people, and all you ever want to do is talk about feelings anyway.

[searches 98103 in Zillow, loses all hope]

#4 — Never mind, you can’t pay money to go back to school. You need to make money. Stay where you are and throw everything you can into retirement. You’ve been doing that for years, but that financial guy says you’re behind — because don’t you have any concept of inflation?

#5 — Wait a second, don’t worry about money. Trust God. Birds of the air, lilies of the field. (But I really do want that $100 eye cream.)

#6 — Get a puppy. Foxy needs her very own dog.

#7 — Have a baby. There are lots of ways — just google it.

#8 — Move back to Nashville and do life with all of your old friends. It’s hotter than literal hell in the summer, and yeah there were those cockroaches and the possum that frequented your apartment on Music Row, but there are no better people on earth than your friends in Tennessee. What’s more important than relationships, anyway?

[searches 37206 in Zillow, loses all hope]

#9 — Do the Whole30.

#10 — Write more songs for one of the three recording projects you have in mind. Actually, just choose which one you want to make, and do it. DO IT. It’s so important that you be writing, creating, making, Annie. You’ve somehow allowed yourself to believe that writing isn’t something you’re qualified to do, and here I am, your better self, begging you to do whatever it takes to throw yourself into these songs. Please do it.

[prays that she can do it]

#11 — You should probably fall in love, never mind that you’re really bad at falling in love. Let’s skip this for now, maybe circle back later.

#12 — Minnesota isn’t bad, you know. Just be present. Be here now. Explore. Invite people over for dinner. Wallpaper the stairwell, and maybe get new kitchen cabinets at some point. One day you can build a garage, but only after you save enough to pay cash.

#13 — Go work for Dave Ramsey?

#14 — Move into your mom’s basement. Just regroup. If you didn’t have a mortgage, you could afford to do more yoga.

#15 — I’m loving the baby idea. Could the baby sleep in a teardrop trailer?

#16 — Colorado is the best. Move back to Denver and who cares what your job is as long as you’re able to get to the mountains every weekend.

[searches 80211 in Zillow, loses all hope]

#17 — Stop making plans and just go with the flow.

#18 — Don’t let your life pass you by.

#19 — Trust God, but tie your camel.

#20 — Get quiet. Listen. Go on a walk every morning and every night. Be kind. Be honest. Forgive. Forgive. Even yourself, forgive. Do your best. Don’t be afraid. Remember that you’re hemmed in, behind and before — and that somewhere in the jumble of Christmas lights, there’s still a straight line.

Wallpaper dreams

Wallpaper dreams

And a really great song about how love is the best

Written by hootenannie on March 16th, 2016

I mean, it’s only fair. (Watch until the end!)

Really great songs about how love is the worst

Written by hootenannie on March 16th, 2016

My friend Carin Towne introduced me to “The Blade,” and I can’t get over it. Ashley Monroe gets better and better.

And while we’re listening to sad stuff, I recently found this miserably beautiful cover by Rose Cousins. Who needs a heart when a heart can be broken?

That’s all for today. [scurries back to cave]

A week in Hong Kong

Written by hootenannie on March 10th, 2016

Back in January, I had to run through the Denver airport like the Home Alone family to catch a flight. I made it onto the plane in the nick of time, and as I settled into the middle seat, I realized that I was completely out of breath.

I’ve lost my Colorado lungs. I had already said goodbye to my Colorado house, Colorado friends, Colorado hikes, Colorado weather — but my Colorado lungs? That’s a low blow, Minnesota. Luckily you’re the state that brought us the Bundt pan, so we’re even.

I have not, however, lost my Colorado hiking haunches. Oh hell no. My general thigh-rump area is as sturdy (read: un-dainty) as ever, meaning that when I was in Hong Kong, I couldn’t wait to get out into the jungle coated mountains to explore the trails. I mean, these glutes have got to be good for something — and in a world built to favor girls with skinny thighs, I take a lot of solace in the fact that I can out-hike them. It’s my only power.

So imagine my surprise when, there on the trails of Hong Kong, I finally met my hiking match, and an unusual suspect at that. When it comes to hoofing it, I now know my primary competition to be… the old Chinese man.

There he was, in his seventies, slight of frame, wearing nylon khaki pants and a little daypack — hauling ass up those hills. “Surely I can keep up,” I thought, and made it my personal aim to stay in step with him for the 1,800’ elevation gain of The Peak and beyond. But just like the time I tried to race a Segway up a hill on my bike (you’ve now heard the entire story, and it was every bit as ridiculous as it sounds), I labored in vain. I couldn’t keep up. The old Chinese man is the most hale and hearty person in the world.

Some might think “old and fit” to be a contradiction — but my way-too-short week in Hong Kong exposed me to all sorts of contradictions. Hong Kong-tradictions? (I’ll stop.)

Truly, Hong Kong is a mix of east and west, rich and poor, city and jungle, poodles and porcupines, glitz and grit. It’s fake Louis Vuitton and real Louis Vuitton. It’s skyscrapers surrounded by bamboo scaffolding. It’s cosmopolitan and outdoorsy, Maseratis and taxis, people toasting champagne on rooftop decks and people living in rural fishing villages. I ate dim sum and curry and noodles, but also McDonalds and Starbucks. You can find Willamette Valley Pinot Noir. There are tensions that I don’t fully understand, political rumblings with the potential to be seismic shifts, and just like anywhere, situations that need prayer and action and attention.

I soaked every single bit of it in. I explored and adventured and rested and basked in the presence of my dear friends like it was the world’s greatest gift, because it was. And I can’t wait to go back.

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3D printer atheist

Written by hootenannie on March 1st, 2016

I don’t believe in 3D printers. They do not exist. And you’ll never convince me until I see one with my own eyes.

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Tofu can make ice cream or a hot dog. It has no limits*. A 3D printer is the same. It can make a running shoe or a cell phone case or a hamburger. A hamburger! Not even tofu can be a hamburger! (*We found tofu’s limit.)

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In 2007 I heard about Dubai for the first time. I read about it in Vanity Fair and couldn’t believe I’d never heard of this place, where the skyline shifts every single day, where they make homemade islands and sell them to richies, where millions and millions of people are continually building a thriving metropolis. It’s hard for me to believe that Dubai is actually real. If my friend Shea hadn’t lived there and sent me Christmas cards postmarked UAE, I might still be a doubter.

In 2012 I heard about 3D printers for the first time. I thought, “There is no way that’s a real thing.” Nothing can make something from nothing — except God, and even then he used Adam’s rib.

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I want to believe in 3D printers. I just don’t know how.

The best seat in the sky

Written by hootenannie on February 19th, 2016

It is exactly 24 hours from my door to Alia’s, and 16 of those were spent on a 777 from Chicago to Hong Kong. I had never been on such a long flight before, nor in such a gigantic bird. (That’s an industry term, you know — pilots call them “birds.” Wait. Do they?)

On a massive airplane with nine economy seats across, lumped in threes, an aisle between each set, I’ve decided that the best option is to sit in an aisle seat of the middle set. Here’s the logic:

  1. No matter what, the middle seat is the worst.
  2. On a regular domestic flight, I opt for the window. But if you choose the window on a flight around the world, you’re forced to watch the ground below, which on a global journey is really just ocean, inducing panic attacks and visions of Tom Hanks as the only survivor in a life raft in Castaway, which is by far the scariest movie of all time. Also, if you need to get up for the bathroom, you have to step over two people.
  3. The aisle seat on the right or left set of seats is okay, but if either of your two row mates needs to get up, you’re standing every time.
  4. But the aisle seat on the MIDDLE set… you can stand up whenever you want. You don’t have to look out the window hyperventilating. And if the person in the middle seat needs to get up, there’s only a 50% chance they’ll choose to go your direction.

Voila — the best seat in the sky. That is, unless you can afford to fly first class. By the time I boarded, those ballers already had free drinks!

Speaking of free drinks, you do eventually get those in economy, too. Time does not exist whilst in international flight zones, so when the alcohol tray comes through at 2pm, 3pm, 8pm, 12am, and 2am, just say yes, man. You paid good money for those free drinks.

Here’s another perk about such a long flight: the movies. The movies! I’m so glad I never paid to see The Martian in the theater, because after spending more money I’ve ever spent on a flight, I got to watch it for free! I also watched The Intern and Infinitely Polar Bear; in other words, it was the day you want every Monday morning when you actually have to go to work. I guess that someone’s gotta bring home the bacon and all… but what good is bacon if it isn’t paying for Netflix?

One thing I was ill advised about: there are no power outlets in economy. I was counting on an endless power supply for my laptop so I could write my memoirs. Alas, this blog is what I wound up with.

I am learning to accept my writing style for what it is. It’s difficult not to compare when reading other people’s words, blogs, and books, especially when I love someone else’s writing. Some of my friends have made a genuine living out of writing, and occasionally I think, “I wish someone would pay me to just be myself” — you know, as if all they have to do is write whatever they want that morning, and then get paid millions and millions of dollars for it. (I do know better, writer friends, you work hard. I’m just jealous.)

Anyway, everyone has a natural “voice,” and mine just so happens to be riddled with capital letters and parentheses and dumb jokes and a tiny bit of cynicism but also a genuine love for stringing words together and telling stories. I like to think that I write like I talk, but the truth is that I write better than I talk. Which is probably why I love to write.

I hope that you’re doing what you love, even if you don’t get paid for it, and even if you don’t do it as well as other people, at least in your opinion. One’s own opinion isn’t always the best judge, anyway. Judge Judy is the only judge for me.

Okay, back to this ultra mega flight. I was worried that they wouldn’t feed us and I would arrive in Asia an emaciated shell (as if). I am very afraid of being hungry, so I packed Larabars, an open-face turkey sandwich, an apple, and a baggie of almonds — and while it all went to good nutritious use, it was largely unnecessary. Here are the things we were offered on the flight: sundried tomato bruschetta crackers, sweet wafery cookies, manicotti, green tea sorbet, wasabi rice snack mix, and scrambled eggs. I didn’t partake in everything because with the exception of Ritz Crackers, mass-produced foods generally taste like sadness — but I’m serious, the crew was through over and over again with something new.

If you’ve made it this far, you know I’m just a wide-eyed country bumpkin on a major international adventure — par for the course for many of you, but out of the norm for me. I know that this week will be full of amazing experiences, and I can’t wait to tell you about them. And just to give you an idea of the length of the journey, here was our progress two and a half hours into the flight:

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The whole rest of the world to go. I can’t wait.