May, 2014

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Heads and tails

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

For me, Nashville is a safe place to land. It’s a city that always welcomes me back and tells me that I belong.

After spending last week with friends, holding new babies and touring new homes, being surrounded by people who know me and accept me, talking about life, love, and other mysteries (not this), I found my heart creeping back to that place that it always goes: Do I want to move back?

But I know that the question is bigger than that. It always is. The real question is, Is my life what I hoped it would be?

And for the entire 17-hour drive back to Denver, Foxy curled up in a ball on the passenger seat, I turned that question over and over in my head, an existential coin toss.

I don’t live in Nashville – tails. But I do live in Denver – heads.

I don’t get to see these people on a regular basis – tails. But I do have them as friends forever – heads.

I’m not independently wealthy – tails. But I do have a job that, most days, I really love – heads.

I don’t have a guest room – tails. But I do have a charming little hut just big enough for my dog and me, with high ceilings and skylights and an interior brick wall and a gas stove and a clawfoot tub – heads.

I’m single – tails. But I am single – heads.

Sometimes we choose our circumstances, and sometimes they choose us, and sometimes the only choice we have is to choose them back.

Fox

Trading for cantaloupe

Tuesday, May 20th, 2014

So, on Saturday –

Wait. Let me back up. I’m currently in Nashville. I drove here.

I was in Minneapolis last week, flew back to Denver Friday night, loaded up the car, and headed east first thing on Saturday morning. A quick stop over at my mom’s house in Kansas City on Saturday night, and another in St. Louis on Sunday afternoon (to see one of my dearest friends, THE Juliette Genteman), and by last night, I was pulling into the driveway of Brandon and Miranda – or as I like to call them, Mirbranda. Everything about this trip has been tops.

Back to Saturday. In the middle of Kansas, I took a detour and wound up at Mushroom Rock State Park – probably the tiniest state park I’ve ever seen (5 acres), and the strangest phenomenon: gigantic alien rocks standing inexplicably in the middle of farmland, an agricultural Stonehenge.

mushroom

Foxy and I jumped out to snap a few pictures, and – oh. This is where I show you the vehicle I was driving.

car

Nice and loud, right? It attracts a lot of attention. So I wasn’t surprised when a woman approached me. “You’re from Colorado?” she asked. “I’m heading there tomorrow. Anything I just gotta see?”

She looked to be about 65, maybe a little older. She was driving a little white pickup with Florida plates, the topper on the back packed to the brim with her things. Her spunk was all too clear, as I soon learned that she was en route to Wyoming to work on a ranch for a few months – much to the worry of her children.

“But you know, I just tell them, you’re only old once!” And she laughed with her entire body.

I asked her to take a picture of Foxy and me in front of the rocks, and she was happy to oblige, calling for the dog’s attention: “Roxy! Roxy!” I didn’t bother to correct her.

As I was leaving, I pulled out a box of bars and offered them to her. Her eyes wide, she immediately raised both of her hands, fingers spread, and aimed her palms at me: “Oh, nooooo, I couldn’t possibly accept!” I told her that it was okay, that I work for the company, and that part of what I do is give stuff away. I opened the box and showed her all of the different flavors, and said, “Please take them!”

She thought about it for a second, and then said, “Well, do you like cantaloupe?”

And before I knew it, she reached into the bed of her pickup and pulled out half a melon, covered in foil.

“Oh, that’s okay –” I started, but she cut me off. “No, take it! Fresh from the farmer’s market this morning.” And with that, I traded a box of bars for half a cantaloupe – because don’t you want to live in a world where melon is currency?

I opened the car door and Foxy jumped in, the lady calling after her, “Bye, Rocky!” And then she turned to me and said, “Remember – don’t talk to strangers. We never met.” I smiled and laughed and said, “I won’t tell if you won’t tell,” as I buckled up and got ready to leave.

When I started to pull away, I noticed her next to the car waving her arms. I stopped and rolled down the window. She trotted up alongside to say, “Don’t forget a spoon.” And she handed me a plastic spoon, because maybe I’d want to eat the cantaloupe out of my lap while flying down the interstate.

I never caught her name.

The sky is falling, and other tales of woe

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014

Ever had one of those weeks?

Last Monday and Tuesday, I got four parking tickets in 24 hours. My license plates had expired at the end of March (news to me!), and before I could find an opening in my work schedule to hit the DMV, Denver’s parking patrol graced me. Four times.

I have to say, street parking enforcement in Denver is stricter than any other city in which I’ve lived. No matter the offense, THEY WILL CATCH YOU. I’d say that it’s the worst thing about this town, except then I remember how bad the boogers hurt (those who live in dry climates at high altitude surely understand), and allow the parking patrol to drop a notch on the Worst list.

When I finally made it to the DMV, they slapped me with a late fee and sent me on my merry way.

Late last week, I walked out into my backyard to find Foxy chewing on a chicken bone – just, you know, an instrument of canine death. I mentally accused every one of my neighbors of throwing leftover KFC over the fence into my yard, and cursed them along with their children and their children’s children.

The next day I saw a squirrel summit my fence with a chicken thigh in his clutches, and realized that the bone had likely been dropped by a varmint. I released my neighbors from vindictive mental prison, and instead, channeled my anger into psychic BBs aimed at a rodent – which really gets me nowhere (as opposed to despising my neighbors, which is obviously edifying).

When I was stopped at a red light at Colfax & Speer and I offered the homeless man on the corner a granola bar and he refused it, saying he doesn’t eat “that garbage,” I told him that his sign (“Anything helps”) was a lie. And as he walked angrily and aggressively toward my car and I frantically reached for the button to roll up the window, I thought, WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME.

On Sunday, May 11, it started to snow. On Monday, May 12, it was still snowing. And just as my soul was withering up to die, my kitchen ceiling caved in* – as did my will to soldier on.

Let me tell you, you think life’s bad, and then your roof collapses*.

I’m leaving tomorrow for a work trip to Minnesota, and 12 hours after I get back, I’m leaving for a week in Nashville. My roof has one job – to keep everything out – and it’s failing. Work is busier than ever. I’m exhausted. There’s a lot of uncertainty in my life that I’m trying to beat back and not give the power to, but it feels impossible. I find myself craving things I don’t need – new clothes and new shoes and plane tickets to take me far away – but I know that they’re just misplaced desires. This ache can’t be fixed by money or things or security or control, all of which are just a fist full of water – the tighter I hold on, the more they slip through my fingers.

“You sound really stressed,” she said. And it was the best possible thing someone could offer – a simple acknowledgement that life feels out of control right now.

My throat got tight. “I am. I’m really stressed. I wish that just one thing was easier right now.” And then, the heart of the matter floated right up to the surface. “I need to find a way to be happy.”

And I’m not talking about a “look for the silver lining,” “there’s always something to be thankful for,” “what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger” kind of happy. I’m talking about laughing in the face of life’s trials and letting them roll off my back like a wet duck – because life’s too short to dwell on the nonsense. Do I trust that there’s a story bigger than I can see, and that it really doesn’t matter if the sky is falling, because my security lies somewhere other than my circumstances?

This is the question I’m asking myself today – because the older I get, the faster life goes. I don’t want to miss it.

*Very dramatic terms to describe a mere leak – although yes, thank you pessimist friends, I agree that the roofer is probably going to tell me, “There’s no such thing as a ‘mere’ leak.”

Yard work

Sunday, May 4th, 2014

I’m discovering that I’m no DIY-er – which is unfortunate, given that I’m also not made of money. When I first moved into the Shotgun, I painted a few walls – the first and last act of home improvement to be performed by my own hand. The slop-job of color application has bothered me every day since, and I recently bought a Groupon to have professionals come fix my domestic faux pas.

I used my tax return to have new windows installed – a relatively painless feat, since there are only two (one on the front of the house, one on the back). But the change has made such a difference, it’s given me the itch to upgrade a few other things – namely, the kitchen floors and counters (at some point), and the backyard.

Let me tell you about my backyard. It’s tiny (the size of a parking space), it’s sun-beaten, and it has no water source. Foxy has dug several holes. The ground is dry and the growth patchy, but the plant life that does exist (i.e. weedy grass) grows with enthusiasm. Last summer, I eventually had to have a lawn company come spray the entire plot to kill what had grown to be waist-high – I didn’t know what else to do, given that I didn’t own a lawn mower, and even if I did, I’m sorry, how do you use a lawn mower?

I’m determined to stay on top of the yard this year. So on Saturday, I borrowed Erica’s weed whacker – a tool I previously had zero experience with – and went to town.

Yard3 collage with text.jpg

YARD1 collage with text.jpg

Yard2 collage with text.jpg

It’s like a really bad haircut. (And if you’re wondering what’s under that hatch, that’s a horror story for another day.)

Obviously, my best case scenario would be to have a water source, thus have a way to grow grass – so after I weed whacked, I had a plumber come by to tell me what it would take to get a spigot installed in the backyard.

I’ll tell you how much: one THOUSAND dollars. No thank you.

So I’m left without a good solution. Maybe I’ll just remodel my kitchen instead.