Take it from Hadley

Written by hootenannie on November 12th, 2015

My sweet friend Hadley is six-years old, and one of the wisest, funniest, sweetest souls I know. I just had to share this articulate little Hadley-ism (which she said to her mama), because it cracks me up. She already gets it.

“It’s interesting how boys are so different when they’re little and when they’re grown up. Girls are mostly the same. Like, you and I are pretty much the same, except that you are in charge of me. But the boys I know don’t act like our Daddy does.”

Bouncing back and living forward

Written by hootenannie on November 10th, 2015

It is a truth universally acknowledged that we can’t always date who we want.

I’ve been both the rejector and the rejectee – and even if it’s mutual, it’s still the pits. Blame it on timing or distance or one person deciding that they’re just not that into the other; whatever the circumstance, love can knock the wind out of you.

I’ve grown really hesitant about writing about singleness online, mostly because sometimes it brings up some well-meaning but largely unhelpful responses (not from YOU, my compassionate friends. But from The Others). For example:

  • Love will find you when you’re not looking. I would wager that 95% of couples I know were “looking” when they found each other – cab light on, antenna up, and putting out the vibe.
  • Just be content with God alone – then he’ll bring you a husband. As if marriage is a reward for the very most devoted. Super lame formula.
  • Maybe you should try online dating. It’s 2015 – of course I’ve tried online dating! A bunch of times. And while I know plenty of people who have had great success with it, I hate online dating more than I hate pickles, which is a lot, which is why I don’t do it anymore. It just doesn’t jive with me. If this decreases my “odds,” so be it.
  • I can’t understand why you’re single. While I know this is usually meant as an encouragement, it insinuates that there must be a “reason” I’m single. What if there’s no reason, except that I am? I can’t give a reason.
  • You should enjoy this time. I am enjoying this time. I am traveling, spending and giving money the way I deem best, investing in friends both male and female, pursuing some passions, learning, moving where and when I want to, and reveling in the delicious silence of living alone. Silence is a gift. Someday when babies are screaming and – God forbid – Caillou is blaring, I will shoot up my veins with the stored silence of these quiet days. I am taking full advantage of this relatively uncomplicated life and living well, as best as I know how.
  • You’re just too intimidating. I can’t tell if that’s an insult or a compliment, but either way, I am drawn to men with guts.
  • Here’s a rough one: Pity.
  • And finally, my favorite flurry of contradictions: You should flirt. You should play hard to get. Stop being picky. Keep your standards high. Look for a guy at church. Look for a guy at a bar. Look for a guy on the top of a mountain. Put yourself out there. Just pray about it. Try harder. Just stop trying.

May I gently suggest some alternative things to say to a friend who happens to be single and hopes to someday not be?

  • I think you’re a catch. That is, if you really do think that. If the person is a schmuck, well, I suppose you’re allowed to say that too.
  • I’m sorry that this feels hard today. Regardless of one’s relationship status, I think we can all agree that some days are great and some days suck.
  • I am so hopeful. This one is especially good when the other person is tired of hoping. I’ve found it really nice to occasionally let someone else carry the hope for me, like a really huge backpack, until I know I can take it back.
  • You’re doing a good job. Period.

These days, I can honestly say that most of the time, being single doesn’t make me sad – because in so many ways, I love it! Even when I experience false starts. When the guy I’d been on three dates with and decided that I really liked texted me when I was at Home Depot to say he thought we should just be friends, or another guy called me before a first date to tell me that God had told him not to take me out (?), or even in the wake of a recent romantic bummer, I’m bouncing back and living forward – which is the healthiest thing to do, no matter if one is single, dating, or married.

We can’t always date who we want. We can’t engineer our lives to manipulate our futures. We can’t speed up time, and we can’t predict what’s going to happen next. We can’t control another person. We can’t “If You Build It, They Will Come” love – unless you are building a brewery.

But we can still choose to be happy. And I’m getting pretty good at the choosing.


False humility and hashtags

Written by hootenannie on November 9th, 2015

Over the last year or so, women (and some men) have been embracing the hashtag #iwokeuplikethis, posting pictures of themselves “first thing in the morning” in the name of being #real and #authentic. While I know that some of these posts are meant to be funny, and some come from a genuine place of embracing oneself au naturel, I’m struck by many of these images as being carefully staged and posed: steaming cup of coffee in hand, messy hair that conveniently resembles that of a sex kitten, wearing a chemise, nestled up in a white duvet. The only sign of morning face is calculatingly smudged eyeliner. The images are often run through a filter, which makes anyone’s skin look like that of a glowing angel. She probably recruited her boyfriend or roommate to take the shot, after being #awakelikethis long enough to get the lighting right.

(Fine. I never found a picture that was ALL of those things – but I found those elements in a bunch of different shots, and combined them for a super #iwokeuplikethis conglomeration. You can see it, right?)

But the picture isn’t really the issue for me. I can’t fully know the intent behind each of these posts – but sometimes, they have long captions that reek of what I can only call false humility.

I’ve run across images from women (and an increasing number of teenage girls) who wax poetic about the terror of exposing their physical imperfections, only to get comments about how stunning they are. They call out their flaws, in turn receiving adoration for their courage to share. They talk about humbling themselves, which results in their followers thinking they’re amazing for being so humble. It seems to work like reverse psychology: By talking about how imperfect I am, people will tell me that I’m perfect. Some of these women have tens of thousands of followers, and when they address the question that they claim “so many” people are asking them – How did you get so many followers? – they attribute it to being so #real and #authentic.

Rather than telling people that we are #real and #authentic, why don’t we just live real and authentic?

Any of us is capable of taking something good – humility, for example – and twisting it into something selfish. I know I am. In a world where we’re taught to be defensive and cynical, we’re not exactly invited to celebrate our confidence out loud – and so we shroud our proud moments or the things we like about ourselves in a humblebrag, all the while hoping for the validation we’ve been craving all along: acceptance, admiration, and love.

What if we just said what we meant?

When someone gets a piece published in a magazine, she shouldn’t have to express being “grateful” and “humbled” by it, all the while secretly wanting everyone she knows to read it and share the link. It should be okay to say, “I love this piece that I wrote, and I’m proud as punch that this publication loved it too!”

When someone loses 20 pounds, he shouldn’t have to brush off recognition of his hard work by saying “Oh, I’m nowhere near my goal,” while covertly savoring the positive response and being hungry for more. It should be okay to say, “I know, I’m killing it!”

When someone is told “You look really pretty today,” she shouldn’t have to clam up and deflect the compliment. It’s perfectly okay to just smile and say, “Thank you.”

And when someone feels the urge to pose for an #iwokeuplikethis shot, styled however they like, it should be okay for the caption to read, “Here’s me in the morning. #iwokeuplikethis” without listing all of the reasons she doesn’t deserve to post the picture, all the while knowing she looks pretty hot for an #iwokeuplikethis shot and hoping for compliments. Sure, it’s a little narcissistic – but it’s more honest than feigning a lack of vanity.

In our false humility, we are projecting the message of “I’m not that great,” while secretly hoping that we actually are. We are assuming that there isn’t enough wonderful to go around, leaving all of the worth to the girls with the thigh gaps and perfect skin, even though we are desperate for the world to find us beautiful. We are protecting ourselves against the potential accusation that someone will find us arrogant, even when we know we’ve done a pretty great job.

But in a way, false humility is the same thing as arrogance – because either way, we’re giving ourselves too much credit.

Confidence in our worth is not the same thing as arrogance. Confidence in our worth is claiming what is true: We are unique and irreplaceable. Our worth isn’t based on who we are or what we do. Our worth is intrinsic, built-in, and doesn’t in fact depend on us – which, ironically, is the genesis of true humility.

I want to live this way. Just don’t expect me to post an #iwokeuplikethis, because the world is not ready for my nightguard. #real #authentic

Tea party

Written by hootenannie on October 28th, 2015

For anyone who is a fan of the tea served at Aveda salons but doesn’t want to spend the the NINETEEN dollars for 20 tea bags, I have discovered an alternative:

Yogi Egyptian Licorice Mint Tea


It tastes just the same, and you can get it on Amazon for $0.20/serving as opposed to the $0.95/serving Aveda brand. That is a 79% savings.

I am here for you. Namaste.

My cattle panel fence

Written by hootenannie on October 27th, 2015

This is going to expose me for being the spoiled brat of a consumerist that I am, but here it goes anyway: I still have an iPhone 4 and it’s RUINING MY LIFE. *throws self on ground to flail*

A rundown of my first world phone problems: It’s slow. I try to slide the bar to answer a call and it just sits there. Siri is broken; she sounds like a smoker from Boca Raton. When I use Maps for directions, there’s a delay that results in me being told to exit about five seconds too late. And the camera — you know, the 5 megapixel camera that used to feel so extravagantly advanced — is absolute crap.

So when it came time to photograph the finished product of the cedar-framed cattle panel fence I had installed, the iPhone just wouldn’t do. Nay, I say to thee. This was an occasion for a good old fashioned digital camera — just like the pioneers used.

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I love my fence so much, and in a way, it’s changed my everyday life. It’s absolutely luxurious to be able to throw Foxy outside in the morning and not have to follow her; she can hunt squirrels to her heart’s content while I make my coffee. I love the fact that the entire yard is enclosed, so if I want to sit on my front porch swing (because I have a front porch swing, just like I’ve wished for my entire life), Foxy can hang around. I may not have the most up-to-date phone — but damn it, I have a fence surrounding a tiny little dream house, and that means that life is pretty extravagant.

Tick talk

Written by hootenannie on October 19th, 2015

If Foxy had a baby book, yesterday would have been a new page:
Foxy’s First Tick

Ever since I moved to Minnesota, I’ve been worried about ticks. They’re much more prevalent here than they are in Colorado (I’ve actually never seen one in Colorado), and between my disgust at all things “burrowing” and my paranoia over enigmatic yet incapacitating phenomena such as Lyme disease, a tick is basically my worst case scenario. Throw in Foxy’s long fur, thus an unlikely early find, and my anxiety reaches a fever pitch.


I’ve been the human tick ostrich, burying my head in the sand and ignoring all possibility that my dog might draw one in through her fur to her skin like a magnet. I’ve let her run off leash in the woods like that proverbial absurd little bird (Cuckoo!) – because life is too short, right? Life is too short not to let your dog be a dog, and this dog was born to run free.

Until yesterday morning, when I felt that swollen jellybean on her side. I didn’t even have to look. I knew what it was. And that I was about to lose my breakfast.

But what choice did I have? This is my dog. It’s not exactly a marriage or anything – but I DID promise to take care of her til death do us part. So I grabbed my tweezers and… did it. I extracted an arachnid interloper from my dog’s flesh.

It was horribly disgusting, and yet surprisingly satisfying – not unlike popping a zit or ripping a weed out by the roots (which, yes, I find disgusting). And by impulse, I dropped it – head and legs and bulging body – into the toilet. Except I didn’t flush it.

I just stared at it.

There it was in the toilet bowl, fat and repulsive and everything I had feared, and yet… not that bad. I mean, I’m not suggesting you go and do a Google image search for “tick on dog” or anything (no really, don’t) – but honestly, it just wasn’t as awful as I thought it was going to be. It was a disruption in my morning. Nothing more.

It made me think about all of the things I think I’m better off ignoring: my fears and my bad habits and my shame. They seem so scary and appalling and unspeakably vile, and maybe if I just never, ever look at them, they’ll never really take hold. They’ll never become visible. No one will ever know.

I wonder if God looks at those things and thinks, “Ugh, gross. Whatever,” and can pluck them dead right there. Just because he loves me. Just because he wants me to run free.


Brain crumbs

Written by hootenannie on October 12th, 2015

I haven’t had it in me to write something meaty. So here are some scraps of stories and thoughts from the last few weeks.


Just once, I would like to hear a country song in which the woman is driving and the man is riding shotgun. Come on.


I know that I’ve recently changed my entire life, city, job, house, everything, and this change is mostly exciting and good — but no matter where I live or what I’m doing, I think I will always fantasize about scrapping everything, driving away, and living out of a Scamp.


I hired a company to install a custom fence all the way around my house. I was VERY particular about the type of fence I wanted, and it turns out that while this style is found in abundance in Seattle, Portland, and Denver, apparently it doesn’t exist in Minneapolis; I contacted multiple companies to get quotes, and only found one who was open to even trying to build it. It feels good to be a local trailblazer, and based on the fabulous almost-end result (it should be finished by the end of day today, tomorrow at the latest), I have a feeling that Minneapolitans are about to be circling my block, inspired to copy this crazy-wonderful cattle panel (also known as hog wire) fence. I’ll be sure to share pictures when it’s finished.


Latest letter from my Compassion International kid (7-years old):

Dear Miss Annie Parsons,
Hello, Miss Annie! I received your letter. I enjoyed reading your letter.
I don’t like music. I want to be a soldier. Please pray for me that my dream will come true. This is my letter for now.
From, Nathanael


This weekend, I made a quick trip to Madison, Wisconsin. From my limited time there, I’ve decided that I love it and would definitely go back for further exploration (so much beautiful water!).

I kind of forgot to take pictures, although when I got home, I did find two back-to-back shots that made me shake my head.

Here’s the first:

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Never mind that I cut out the image of the UFO hovering over the words. As one for whom faith is hard-fought (“faith like a child” is not my strong suit), this felt like a heart-cry.

The very next picture was this:

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I FOUND THE STONE TABLE, cracked in half, with Aslan nowhere to be found. If that isn’t irony/happenstance/a gentle prodding, I don’t know what is.


Sending hugs and brownies your way this Monday. You can do it!

My first trip to a casino

Written by hootenannie on September 28th, 2015

When I moved to Minneapolis on July 3rd, if you would have told me that I wouldn’t leave again for 84 days, I would have keeled over dead.

In the last five years, I’ve gotten used to the pattern of skipping town roughly every other week: some business, some weddings, a lot of adventures. My suitcase was always packed, I had a separate set of travel toiletries, and both airline and hotel status. So it simply didn’t strike me as a possibility that the journey from Colorado to Minnesota would be my LAST TRIP EVER.

At least, that’s how it’s felt. After nearly three months of remaining within an hour radius of the city, I was going stir-crazy. It’s a cool place and all, but sometimes a girl just needs to get out.

Even if it’s to a casino.

My good friend Joey drums for Scotty McCreery (you know him, you love him), and a few weeks ago he let me know that they were playing a show in Minnesota at the end of the month. “Too bad it’s four hours from Minneapolis,” he said.

My escape had arrived. “I AM COMING.”

Which is how on Friday afternoon I found myself driving north on little back highways en route to the Shooting Star Casino. Have you heard of Mahnomen, Minnesota? Me neither – but I’m here to tell you that it exists, and I’ve been there.

This was my first real experience of a casino, and it was everything I thought it would be, everything I hoped it would be, everything I feared it would be. Smoking is allowed (it seems like everyone knew this to be true: casinos allow smoking. But I DIDN’T KNOW! Life is full of wonders). The food was wretched – avoid the Whispering Winds restaurant – and the people-watching superb. The drinks were weak, but hey, they were $4.

When I looked at Mahnomen on a map, I couldn’t understand how this show would draw very many people; there just isn’t much up in that area of the state. But I sorely underestimated the devotion of Scotty’s fans: the place was packed.

Women young and old go crazy for Scotty because 1) he’s talented, and 2) he’s darling. Throughout the show, he would occasionally fling a guitar pick out into the audience, at which point there would be a mass stampede of estrogen toward a tiny sliver of plastic. At one point he threw a pick in my general direction, and I got body-slammed by the woman next to me, her head straight to my clavicle. She never did find it, and after the show when the lights came on, every woman around me dropped to their knees to crawl all over the carpet looking for the missing pick.


After the show (which was FUN – these guys are so good at what they do), I got a front row seat to the drunken-fan malarkey that reaches beyond Scotty (tucked away on the bus) to his backing band (out amongst the casino commoners). From the relatively harmless girls wanting to take selfies with each band member to the older woman in a Shania t-shirt making gauche jokes about the name of her town (Climax, Minnesota) to the sad man who bumped into my barstool moaning, “I’m fat, I’m lazy, and I just lost it all,” Mahnomen was impressively inebriated.

But the thing I will always remember about this night is how much I laughed. There was so much to laugh about – and it made me realize how little I’ve been laughing lately. Between the combination of my quick-witted company and our comical surroundings, I just got to sit there dissolved by the funny, like Alka-Seltzer in a glass, bubbling until there was nothing left except feeling better.

The guys left on the bus at midnight, and I stayed in a questionable but free-of-charge room at the attached hotel. I awoke to the faint smell of urine (not mine) – a most appropriate ending to the most bizarre adventure – and drove home with a smile on my face.


We all juggle a lot of things – our jobs and our homes and our families and our health. We watch our weight and our bank accounts and our mouths in certain settings. We work like crazy with the promise of vacation only to have a hard time powering down our minds and our screens, leading us to wonder if time is the new money. Life can feel like our own personal snow globe, turning and shaking and making it tough to remember which end is up.

But then we kick off early on a Friday afternoon, and drive like mad to the middle of nowhere just to see some familiar faces – because our people are what matter. And to me, that’s what friendship is: taking the time, buying the gas, and heading to Who-Cares-Where just to see your friends, just to laugh really hard for just one night. Just to be reminded who you are.

And if it can happen at a northern prairie casino with bad drinks and horrid lighting, it can happen anywhere.

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Doxology in darkness

Written by hootenannie on September 22nd, 2015

By nature, I’m a worrier, a worst-case-scenario projector, a catastrophizer. I have an extra hard time trusting that everything (or anything) is going to be okay. Last night I tossed and turned with about ten million anxieties on my brain, and woke up feeling like my life is a disaster (I suppose I’m a wee bit dramatic, too).

Then Foxy came and nudged my hand, telling me to get up. We went on a walk before work, like we always do, and I prayed the prayer of the sad and the weary and the meek and the small: “Help.” I came home and had a cup of coffee and an egg on toast, and put the miracle that is smoothing creme on my flyaway hairs, and dragged myself into the day.

Then I read this quote:
“To be grateful for an unanswered prayer, to give thanks in a state of interior desolation, to trust in the love of God in the face of the marvels, cruel circumstances, obscenities, and commonplaces of life is to whisper a doxology in darkness.”
―Brennan Manning

A doxology in darkness. Holy shit, that is beautiful. Strength enough for today, hope enough for tomorrow.

How to save money and still be fabulous

Written by hootenannie on September 18th, 2015

Here in Minneapolis, my financial situation is slightly different than it was in Colorado. I’ve always kept a pretty strict budget, but because of a few decisions I’ve made (with eyes wide open – none of this is coming as a surprise), these days I’m needing to batten down the hatches. And you know what? It doesn’t feel constraining.

Because this is not deprivation – it’s purposeful planning. I designate a little bit of fun money like it’s an allowance, and enjoy spending it. But it’s absolutely freeing to know where every single one of my dollars is going. By creating and sticking to a budget each month, I don’t have to worry that I’m going to overspend and not have enough.

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Without my initiation, several people have recently asked about the logistics of how I manage my money. Some might find that question invasive, but I LOVE PERSONAL FINANCE. Ever since I got out of debt, I’ve discovered the empowerment that is fiscal intentionality, and I am more than happy to discuss what works for me (and what doesn’t) with the people in my life.

I could share about the ins-and-outs of how I stay on track (quick version: cash envelopes – actual paper money divvied out by category), but today I just want to tell you about some of the helpful ways I’ve been cutting costs.

Let’s get thrifty.


This week, I skipped the salon and went to the local Aveda Institute to have my hair cut by a stylist-in-training. Given that a head massage, shoulder massage, hand massage, shampoo, cut, and style was $19 and I’m used to dropping at least $60, I figured that saving $41 was worth the risk of being a guinea pig.

The short story: I got a decent haircut, and would do it again.

The other part of the story: the 23-year old cutting my hair told me about all of her dramatic Tinder dates, ending with, “It’s fine – I’m not worried about it. As long as I’m not single in my 30s.” To which I responded:


So many gals in my life swear by lululemon. They claim that these pants make their butts look better – and for $100, I SHOULD HOPE SO.

I admit, I don’t own a single pair of these pants – and maybe if I did, I would join the throngs of believers. But while my friends DO look awesome, here’s my thinking: if you don’t like the way your butt looks, no pair of skintight yoga pants is going to change that. All workout leggings are going to slurp onto your body like a fish sucking on algae, lululemon or not, great booty or not.

With that in mind, I recently bought a pair of black yoga pants at Costco for $16, and they’re my favorite of any pair I’ve owned. Voila – there’s $84 back in my bank account!

[Word to the wise: when at Costco, avoid Snappers and Toasted Coconut Cashews. They are crack and you will never stop eating. This will not bode well for your new workout pants.]

Chipotle makes me happy when skies are grey. But each $7 starts to add up. Given that it’s the simplest meal of any fast food (actually, I believe they’re calling it “fast casual”), I’ve started making my own.

I cook several chicken breasts in the CrockPot – just chicken stock and fajita seasoning. When it’s finished, I throw the meat it in the food processor for a few quick pulses, and there’s my shredded chicken.

Then I sauté bell peppers and onions in one pan, and simmer black beans and corn in another. A bag of microwavable brown rice later, and I have everything I need for a delicious burrito bowl. I can usually get six meals out of this.

I recently found myself drinking a little more than I felt good about – as in, not thinking twice about drinking wine with dinner more nights than not. Not a huge deal, I guess, and it wasn’t exactly interfering with my life or anything – but a couple of bottles of wine a week is basically tossing away $100/month.

So now I’m sticking to the “no drinking on weeknights” rule – which is probably how it should be anyway. Instead, I drink half a La Croix a night, and save the other half in the fridge for the next night. It’s flat by the time I get around to drinking the second half, but whatever. I have a Benjamin in my pocket.

I don’t have cable. I have ABC, CBS, PBS, and FOX.

I don’t spend money I don’t have. This one always seems to strike people as the most radical, because what about the points? – but points don’t pay the bills, folks. Money is finite, we can’t spend whatever we want, and to only use the money I have just makes a lot of sense.


Being intentional about my spending is allowing me to pay all of my bills each month, save for retirement, set money aside in savings, and prepare for car repairs, Foxy emergencies, and that stretch of April/May/June when half my family has birthdays – all the while living in a little house that I adore. I even allow myself the occasional latté and pedicure – out of the “Personal Care” envelope, of course.

If you have any ways you’ve figured out to be thrifty, I’d love to hear them. Together, we can save the world money.