The three nicest things anyone has ever said to me

Written by hootenannie on March 12th, 2015

From a mom of 4 wild ass monkey boys: “I want a girl just like you in my family.”

From a mom of twins whom I’ve still never met, pre-teens at the time: “I wish my girls could know you.”

From a kindred spirit gal in Louisiana: “I like you. You’re like when little kids want to hold hands with you.”

I’m not writing these things down to toot my own horn. I just want to have a record stating that the nicest compliments don’t have to be romantic – and that parents who associate you with good things when it comes to their children is possibly the highest praise one could ask for.

To laugh often and love much; to win the respect of intelligent persons and the affection of children; to earn the approbation of honest citizens and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to give of one’s self; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to have played and laughed with enthusiasm and sung with exultation; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived – this is to have succeeded.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Annie recommends

Written by hootenannie on March 9th, 2015

The past several weeks have been so full. I’ve had multiple work trips (Minneapolis, San Francisco, Anaheim), three humongous work events, houseguests, family visits, and a particular emotional roller coaster that’s still unfolding.

With each close friend that I confide in, I realize that my heart is hoping more and more for a certain outcome, and how disappointed I’ll be if it doesn’t happen. But what’s the alternative? Not hoping at all? Novocain to the heart? We were never meant for dull souls. As a friend said to me last week, “Sometimes it’s good for us – getting our hopes up.” And so I hope, and I wait, and trust that whatever the outcome, I’ll make it through because I’ve been through worse.

I’ll tell you if it happens. And I’ll probably tell you if it doesn’t.

In any case, there are all sorts of other people saying and doing things worth sharing. So here are some of my top picks.

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I recently met Nashville singer-songwriter and all around superstar Annalise Emerick, and heard her play a song that I capital L LOVE. Listen to “Patti Smith.”

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Do you know about Kara Tippetts? Her widely read blog is chronicling her last days on this earth – and just about every post makes me want to throw my computer across the room, it’s so unfair. Just six years older than me and one hour south, Kara is dying of cancer. Just yesterday, I watched the trailer for a documentary about her life and imminent death, and openly wept in my kitchen. Will we ever understand why some families are dealt the short stick?

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My very favorite podcast, On Being with Krista Tippett, is a conversation about faith, religion, psychology, race, art, science, and ethics (my very broad summation), and I can’t get enough of it. I’ve recently been going back and re-listening to some of my favorite episodes, and ran across one that is so encouraging and life-giving, I want to pass it along. What happens when you get a Jewish rabbi, a Christian bishop, a Muslim scholar, and the Dalai Lama in the same room for a conversation? I cannot recommend this program enough.

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My friend Hilary Oliver (she looks like Gwyneth Paltrow, and also you should read her blog) recently shared a quote that stopped me in my tracks. To live like this!

“In boldly setting out toward ends, one risks disappointments;
But one also obtains unhoped-for results;
Caution condemns to mediocrity.”
-Simone de Beauvoir

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That’s all for today. Until we meet again, remember to be like Ariel (“I want more…”), Belle (“I want adventure in the great wide somewhere…”) and when it comes to hope, fine, Pocahontas: “How high will the sycamore grow? If you cut it down, then you’ll never know.”

A meandering take on honesty, vulnerability, and courage

Written by hootenannie on February 24th, 2015

I hate conflict and I hate humiliation. If someone wants to have an honest conversation that would require me to say something that might hurt their feelings, I turn tail and run like a deer. I’m learning to be better, be braver – but I know that no matter how good I get at it, I’ll always have a hard time with the type of honesty called BRUTAL honesty.

I watched “The Voice” tonight, and anytime a singer would get a zero chair turn, I would have to mute the TV and look away. I can’t handle it. Heartbreak breaks my heart. And even if these people weren’t completely heartbroken, I was heartbroken.

As my sister-in-law recently pointed out, I am a professional empathizer. And maybe that’s my issue – I internalize events around me, for better and for worse.

A few months ago, I heard that an entire herd of elk fell through the ice of a reservoir in Pagosa Springs. All 20 of them were found the next day, frozen to death. I thought of their panic, however animalistic, and I cried.

A few days ago, I saw a 4-year old girl run full-force across an airport to jump into her grandma’s arms. I witnessed her beautiful and wholehearted freedom, and I cried.

I want to have it both ways. I want to block out the bad and experience the good, but that just isn’t possible. An open heart means that I accept the joy and the pain in equal measure.

I once heard an interview with J.K. Rowling in which she said something like, “Courage is the most important virtue, because it’s the only one we can’t fake.” Courage is strength IN THE FACE of one’s fear. I can pretend to be kind, pretend to be gracious – but courageous? The very definition acknowledges that we are not yet the thing that we hope to be – but we choose it anyway.

It takes courage to be honest and vulnerable. It takes courage to let your guard down and allow the world to beat at your heart. It takes courage to hear about animals dying and not want to die, or to witness absolute freedom and imagine your own self free.

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I’ll just leave my heart right here

Written by hootenannie on February 20th, 2015

All of San Francisco is a protest to the uniform and utilitarian. I will never not wish for more time here.

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More adventures in flight

Written by hootenannie on February 18th, 2015

This morning when I woke up at 5am in Minneapolis, the “feels like” temperature was -30 degrees. “How am I going to make it from the hotel to my car?” I was legitimately afraid that somewhere in that 500 feet, I would freeze, suddenly, like a Neanderthal.

But my 7am flight would be leaving with or without me, so I made a run for it. It was like inhaling a block of dry ice – absolutely wicked, not in the Boston sense, but in the Witch of the West sense. My skin almost cracked right off me like a frozen shell. But because I am rugged in my soul – a hero, really – I made it.

As we lined up to board the plane, I put in my earplugs – because the only thing worse than being crammed into a tube with 150 other people is to be crammed into a tube with 150 other people that YOU CAN HEAR. Whenever I wear earplugs, I pull my hair over my ears so no one can see the bright blue foam – but this time, there in line, I was standing next to a man who was wearing earplugs too. Neon green.

And what on God’s earth convinced me that this would be a good idea, I will never know – but I caught his eye, tucked my hair behind my ear to reveal the earplug, and tapped it twice. Just like the early Christians would trace half a fish in the dirt with their toe, waiting for a stranger to complete it, it was our secret code. We were comrades – in the war against noise!

However (and telling the story now, I suppose predictably), Earplug Man did not see it this way. He quickly looked away and ignored me for the rest of the boarding process. I found my seat (far from this fellow noise hater), and we were off.

Mid-flight, it started. Music. Loud enough to hear through my earplugs.

“Give me the beat, boys, and free my soul…”

Someone was listening to the Doobie Brothers with no headphones on an airplane, which, in my mind, is worse than sin.

While the music was loud enough to cut through my earplugs, I couldn’t tell which direction it was coming from. I waited for the culprit’s seatmate or a flight attendant to politely ask them to stop disturbing their fellow passengers (because isn’t it a rule that you have to use headphones on an airplane?), but by now we were to the head-bobbing part where everything but the drums drops out and all of the DBros are singing a cappella in harmony and still, no one had intervened.

When Eric Clapton’s “Layla” started in, I shot up out of my seat like a Whac-A-Mole. WHO IS DOING THIS. WHO. My head on a swivel, I scanned the tops of heads looking for the miscreant, but the engines scrambled the sound and garbled my otherwise bionic hearing.

By the time “American Pie” rolled around, I felt myself shutting down. Everything within me was in agreement with Don McClean; this will be the day that I die. This will surely be the day that I die.

When I landed in San Francisco, it was 70 degrees, meaning that today I have experienced a 100 degree swing in temperature. I peeled off my down parka, changed from Sorels into flip-fops, and caught a cab into this gorgeous city. I’m here for work, just like I was in Minneapolis for work, and while I miss Foxy, I am grateful for a week of mixing it up – because there’s nothing like breaking routine to make me grateful to get back to routine.

In the meantime, I’m wishing this is how I got to San Francisco:

Flight of the Navigator

On repeat

Written by hootenannie on February 2nd, 2015

Judge if you want, but this melody…

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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