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Z is for Zimmerman-Clayton

Monday, January 26th, 2009

This is the moment you’ve all been waiting for. The triumphant, final alphabetic entry of Z – “zed” if you’re Canadian, or “izzard” if you’re Old English. And I know what you’ve been thinking: “Annie will probably talk about zebras. Or zest. Or zero.” But those are all too easy.

So then I started looking at unusual words that start with Z, and found some fantastic new terms:
zizz – a brief nap (only the Brits would call a nap a “zizz”)
zaftig – pleasantly plump (I’m looking forward to the day when “zaftig” is en vogue)
zonelet – a little zone (of course! how cute!)
zyzzyva – a South American weevil (this one will make me the Scrabble champion of all time)

But then it dawned on me: I have this friend. His name is Paul Zimmerman-Clayton. And he is worth blogging about.

Because there was this one time when our internet freakishly disappeared, and I, not knowing the difference between a modem and a router and a toaster, crumpled into a heap on the floor. “It’s hopeless!” I wailed. “We will never have internet again!”

Paul told me to pull myself together, and led me into the den where the modem and router reside. He told me the science behind them – or at least which lights should be flashing – and then quickly figured out that we had simply plugged them into an outlet that was wired to a light switch. Someone had turned off the light; our internet had no power source. He flipped the switch, and once again, peace, order, harmony, and blogging were restored to our household.

I was Clark Griswold, Paul was Ellen.

On Saturday, he found out that I had never really listened to the Counting Crows – because when they became famous, I was 12 years old and still obsessed with Amy Grant. And I’m still obsessed with Amy Grant. But yesterday, he presented me with my very own copy of “August and Everything After” to love and cherish – and I’m already well on my way. How have I missed out on them all these years?

When I recently found myself in a situation I didn’t want to be in, I asked Paul if he thought I could tell an outright lie to get out of it. He said that he could not endorse lying. I don’t know why. But he was right, and I listened to him.

He plays a lot of Tetris, which is weird. And he likes Robert Frost, which I don’t understand. But he’s studying for the GRE, and tells me about new words that he learns, which makes me want to take the GRE just as a (very expensive) vocab quiz. And he shares my incredibly nerdy love of solfege. And he’s a part of Running Club. And he’s one of my favorite people.

And it’s a good thing that his last name is Zimmerman-Clayton, because if it wasn’t, today you would have learned a lot about zalambdodonts.

Y is for Yes

Monday, January 19th, 2009

Did I think I had to go to work today?
Was I pleasantly surprised to learn that I didn’t?
Am I hooked on “Twilight”?
When I read it, do I tell my roommates that I’m “vamping it up”?
Could I live on pizza and wine?
Did I run 6 miles yesterday morning?
Did I want to quit at mile 5?
But did I keep going?
Am I going to run even further next week?
Is my hair growing at warp-speed?
Did I buy a jumper from Wal-Mart for $3?
Am I without a career ambition?
Are my toes and fingers always cold?
Do I need a new car battery?
Do I need a new computer battery?
Am I going to live without both for a while?
Have I made my peace with my baby blue bathroom walls?
Am I wrestling with some really big questions about God and prayer?
Is my blog getting a face-lift soon?
Is there a great new fake news site out there?
At 26-years old, is my favorite question still, “Who do you have a crush on?”

X is for Xanthous

Monday, January 5th, 2009

Yesterday, my roommate got an email from a friend that said, “I just rented a movie. It turns out that ‘XXXmas’ does not stand for ‘Merry Merry Christmas.’” I laughed until I snorted.

X does present a problem, doesn’t it? I mean, I refuse to tell you about the time in 5th grade when I was chosen by my music teacher to play the xylophone at the school assembly for a performance of “Sakura,” a Japanese folk song. In my opinion, “xylophone” is a meaningless word invented simply to balance out alphabetized file cabinets and dictionaries.

But fortunately, my “Word of the Day” emails are paying off. Last week, I learned a timely new term:

xanthous \ZAN-thuhs\, adjective:
yellow; yellowish

Baby chicks and daffodils. Sunshine and canaries. As the dreary, despondent soul that I am, yellow is not really my thing. I have never been a big fan of the color, mostly because when I wear it, I look like a corpse – which is odd, because when my sister Becca wears it, the angels sing and bluebirds and butterflies land on her shoulders.

We have the exact same coloring. It bucks the laws of science.

In a moment of recent self-pity, I told my mother and sister-in-law that when it comes to love, I feel like a yellow Starburst: if it’s the only option, someone will choose it – but in a bowl of pink and red, the yellow doesn’t stand a chance. Ashley said, “Some people prefer the yellow Starburst.” Mom said, “You’re more like a chocolate truffle in a sea of pink and red… decadent and intense, and no one quite knows what to do with you.” It was all very sweet. And then my moment of wallowing passed, and I ate a cookie.

One of the worst Family Feud answers ever:
Question: Name something packrats have a hard time throwing out.
#1 Answer: Photos.
Worst Answer: Corn

Corn is yellow.

Yellow flag = penalty.
Yellow light = warning.
Yellow skin = jaundice.
Yellowbellied = cowardice.

The only color worse than yellow is baby blue.

And that’s all I have to say on the subject of xanthous.

W is for Writing

Monday, December 29th, 2008

Last night, I returned from Kansas City to Nashville and, upon depositing my suitcases at home, put a beer in my purse and drove to my old apartment to clean before my lease is up. And as I sipped on Red Hook and Swiffered the floors, I thought of what I’ve been learning about writing.

I thought about how writing songs is like working on a jigsaw puzzle, turning a piece this way and that, trying to figure out how it might fit – and when it doesn’t, trying it in a different place. Sometimes I start with the edge pieces and work my way in; other times, I begin with the lower left-hand corner and have absolutely no idea what might be forming… until suddenly, with a single certain piece falling into place, the big picture is made clear. That is an exciting thing – the brief moment of warmth in an otherwise desolate landscape.

I thought about how there is an art to attempting to live buoyantly and passionately, yet still having eyes to see and words to tell of darkness and hurt – for that is so much of the world that we live in, and it’s important that writers tell the truth. My favorite songs are sad ones; how can I write sad songs and still be a healthy and contented person? I want to figure that out.

I thought about how miraculous a privilege it is to birth something into the world, to bring forth a scene, a song, an emotion, and then step back and view it – something where there once was nothing.

I thought about how the practice of writing has made me more aware, more observant, with quivering ears attuned to any truth worth telling. And I thought about how the biggest gift that writing has given me is a greater appreciation for other people’s astounding words. I’m a better reader. I’m a better listener. And I love good songs even more than I did before.

I thought about the times that I have wished to write like Greta, or Allie. I thought about my deficit of poetical bones. (See? Super dumb sentence.)

But then I thought about how Stephanie called me out of the blue one day, and told me that something I had written brightened her otherwise dreary afternoon. And I had the distinct feeling that if my words could make a small-town Colorado housewife smile, then I was on the right path.

And I thought about the time that Duane encouraged me to change one of my songs – to revisit it, to perhaps rewrite part of it. And when I listened to his advice and did it, it WAS better. I became a better writer.

I thought of the card waiting in my mailbox last night from the friends saying, “We believe in you,” and how those words are worth more than any amount of money.

And I thought about all of you, continuing to land on this blog day after day, even when you know it’s a weekend and I won’t be writing, even when all I talk about is hair dye and shower curtains and bra shopping, even when I feel sorry for myself and am convinced that the sky is falling… you listen: strangers, many of you, giving me a moment of your attention each day. I am so grateful – because your permission that I be a person in process has given me the freedom to grow.

Writing is the only thing that I know I want to do for the rest of my life (that, and get as many shoulder rubs as I can). And I suspect that the more that I write, the more I will figure out that the real value lies in the doing of it. Even if nothing ever “happens.” Even if there is never a song published, or a book released, or a memoir read aloud on “Oprah.” I’ll be glad for the moments spent writing, stringing words together like beads on a thread – for it is in these moments that I feel like I might actually be living up to something.

V is for Vacate, and Vote

Monday, December 22nd, 2008

Tonight, I am moving out of my sweet little Music Row apartment – the one that has held me for my first year in Nashville. When I moved in, I had a chair and a dresser; I slept on the hardwood floor in a sleeping bag, and drank my morning coffee wrapped in a blanket on a tiny rug I bought at T.J. Maxx. I cried a lot of nights, I cried a lot of mornings – and I stole an internet signal from the neighbors to frantically reach out to my far-away friends, desperate for any kind of connection. I was jobless, and relatively friendless, and in my most honest moments, absolutely hopeless.

I now look back on that time with nostalgia and sentimentality – those first few months were some of the most emotionally raw and honest I have ever experienced – but the truth of the matter is, I was terrified. I have never felt so alone. Every part of me wanted to run away – to go back to Seattle where I would be safe and loved.

Last night, as I looked around the now fully-furnished living room, piled high with boxes, my heart snuck up into my throat. I’m leaving what has become my HOME – the place where Christina sent a housewarming gift of stemless wine glasses, and then came to use them in person. The place where Greta and I got ready for the Opry, and talked until I cried. The place where I wrote some songs, and got brave enough to share them. The place where Mary and I were evangelized to by a homeless man. The place where Miranda and I accidentally split an entire jumbo bottle of chardonnay. The place where I baked for the ex-cons across the street. The place where my mom and I rehearsed for one of my shows. The place where Julie and I talked about breakups, and Miranda and I talked about breakups, and Meg and I talked about breakups. The place where I cut off my hair, and felt awesome… and then felt remorse. The place where Paul and Josh and I played Scrabble at 1am on Halloween. The place where Annie picked me up for the 5K. The place where my dad hung curtain rods, and the Handy Graham hung pictures. The place where I killed cockroaches. The place where the inaugural Running Club was held. The place where I realized that it’s a good thing that I moved to Nashville. The place where I realized that I’m pretty happy.

The place where I realized that God can take anything – an empty apartment, a broken heart, a lonely soul – and fill it to overflowing.

Tonight, a handful of friends will show up at my door, grab my boxes and bags and couch and bed and table and chairs, and move me to a new house – a house with two roommates and a front porch swing and a back deck and a fireplace. I could not be more thrilled – to be moving in with Julie and Melissa. To actually have furniture to be moved. To know friends who are so willing to help.

God is faithful. Here’s to signing on for another year of the Nashville unknown.

– – – – – – – –

And now, for a VOTE.

My new bathroom is painted my least favorite color in the universe… baby blue. Not a warm, robin egg blue… but cold and sharp. I have two options: take the time and effort to paint the walls a more neutral color so I can still use my terracotta paisley shower curtain, or to buy a new, somewhat-tolerable shower curtain that will match the color of my anti-dreams.

The walls would be tricky to paint – weird angles and a large possibility of drippage. It’s possible that I could find a shower curtain that I would like – I’m a big fan of turquoise, or brown, or the right shade of green. But it would have to be a good enough shower curtain to distract from the heinous color of the walls.

U is for Ubiquity

Monday, December 15th, 2008

Let me begin by saying that U is for a lot of hideous words.

Udder. Ulcer. Urethra. Uvula. Upchuck.

U might be turning into my least favorite letter.

However, U is also for Ubiquitous, which is what I was this weekend – seemingly present everywhere at once. Becca and I did a lot. And friends, let me take the opportunity to make this announcement: anything I said before about possibly turning into an extrovert is being utterly revoked.

I am an introvert, through and through.

Weekends like this – where I am presented with many very, very good options of how to spend my time, and thus feel the need to make them ALL happen – leave me feeling exhausted and peopled-out. So much so that at the Tacky Christmas Sweater Party on Saturday night, I found myself attempting solitude the only way I could figure: by sinking onto the kitchen floor in the corner. It was quieter down there.

Becca and I took part in two Christmas parties, a Josh & Meg show, running club, Whole Foods lunching, Anthropologie browsing, the Frist, a Dickens of a Christmas festival down in Franklin, Rosepepper Mexican food, and of course, plenty of photo ops.

Now she’s gone back to Kansas, where it was 4 degrees this morning.

Now I’m back at my desk, where my mind is elsewhere and everywhere*.

Ubiquity, indeed.

* = the fact that I’m living on my credit card, and I don’t know when/where I’m going to do laundry next, and I’m moving a week from tonight, and how am I going to buy Christmas presents for anyone, and holy cow I’m really training for this half-marathon and that scares the bajeebis out of me because oh man it’s going to be hard, and I need a haircut, and I wonder which of my friends will get engaged THIS Christmas, and is Nashville really going to be covered in ice tomorrow, and I’m still a temp receptionist, and I miss my Seattle friends, and I wish I could go hang out with my friend Christina in Boston, and I’m sorry but I just couldn’t get a video together today.

T is for Tradition

Monday, December 8th, 2008

Saturday was St. Nicholas Day.

The Parsons celebrate St. Nicholas Day.

In recent years, our tradition has fallen by the wayside; with all of us scattered (well, okay, currently it’s just ME who is scattered – I’m the rogue), and Jeremy and Ashley having their own family and building their own traditions, and everyone just being generally busy, it’s been hard to celebrate together on December 6. But as a child, we opened our stockings on December 6.

First, Ma & Pa would gather us around and tell us the true story of Saint Nicholas, the Turkish bishop known for his secret gift-giving. According to lore (one of my favorite words, by the way), jolly old Saint Nick met a man who could not afford a dowry for his three daughters – which would assure a life of singleness (and thus, prostitution) for each of them. Late one night, Nicholas crept up to their open window, and tossed in three purses – enough gold to pay a dowry for each girl.

Other stories feature Nicholas anonymously providing children with food and money, typically deposited in their shoes which were left outside their front doors each night.

Our stockings always held the same things: (chocolate) gold coins, an orange, a pair of socks or tights, and usually a small treasure. Once, I got a tiny Pound Puppy, and I thought it was the greatest gift of all time. As I got older, I would find a yummy-smelling lotion or some lip gloss or nail polish.

At some point in history, Saint Nicholas and Santa Claus became synonymous – but my parents always distinguished between the two, making sure that we knew that Saint Nicholas was a real man – a generous man who helped people – and the Santa Claus we saw in the mall was “just a guy in a costume.” I never, ever believed in Santa Claus. But I always knew about Saint Nicholas.

If I get married and have kids someday, this is a tradition that I want to continue. And if I don’t well.

I’m thankful that I won’t be forced into a life of prostitution.

S is for Sister-in-Law

Monday, December 1st, 2008

In September of 2007, I was cruising through Kansas as a part of The Big Trip, en route to Nashville. My über-talented sister-in-law, Ashley, gave me the gift of some pictures to use for promoting my music – we spent hours in a field, and then at a barn, and then in a parking lot with a fabulous red brick wall, taking hundreds and hundreds of images. There were wardrobe changes, there were smiles, there was fabulous hair. The Annie that was captured is hopeful, warm, vibrant.

Just over a year later, I look at those pictures and think, “I feel like a completely different person.”

This past weekend, I talked with Ashley, and told her about what’s been going on in my heart. There has been a cold wind blowing through, and the death of some dreams. At times, it has felt like my life is a stark and barren wasteland. My heart has been broken, my spirit stripped, and I’ve been confronted with my many limitations. It’s been a dark time.

And yet, somehow, hope remains. There is a resilience in my will, and a warmth in my chest.

I told Ashley that right now, I feel simultaneously the happiest and the saddest I have ever felt. Odd, but true. So we decided to try to capture that in some pictures.

Can I brag on my sister-in-law? Ashley Parsons is a true artist. Creative, soulful, truth-telling. She allows people to be exactly who they are, and encourages them to take off the mask. She has this unreal ability of using a camera to capture something more than just a picture – she captures life. She takes the time to get to know her subjects, and has a deep desire to tell their story through photographs.

I don’t know anyone else like her. And when she laughs, I can’t help but feel absolute joy.

She has become one of my best friends, one of my favorite people – and she has set the bar high for those who might someday join the Parsons family. My younger sisters and I cannot marry duds, because Jeremy sure didn’t.

Thank you, Ashley, for sharing your gifts. And of all of the beautiful pictures that you took, this one speaks the loudest to me. The happiest and the saddest I have ever been, all at the same time.



For more stunning images from the Parsons Photographers, see their amazing blog. And then hire them for all of your photography needs – you will not be disappointed.

R is for Rest

Monday, November 24th, 2008

This weekend, I was overwhelmed with a wave of… I don’t know. Shame? Guilt? Regret? I was knocked off my feet a few days ago, and since then, it’s been a deluge of memories and hauntings and disappointments.

I don’t know why I was created the way that I was – wired to both express and share, even at the risk of rejection or judgment. A few people who are close to me have recently suggested that maybe I should be different. Maybe I shouldn’t share so much. Maybe I should present a different picture to those around me. Maybe I should keep a lid on the truth.

But I just don’t know how.

Throughout my life, I’ve struggled with trying to make people like me, to be something good, to convince others that I’m someone worth knowing – whether it be through acting a certain way, or looking a certain way, or doing something noteworthy, or being associated with All Things Awesome. We all want to be liked, right? But ultimately, it comes back to the fact that I just am who I am. It didn’t change when I moved 2,500 miles away. And no amount of finagling or maneuvering or tweaking of the Annie Parsons Package is going to change who I am – who I was created to be.

The people that I like the most are at rest with who they are. Contented, humble spirits. Quiet, unassuming souls who love easily. I want to be one of those people.

So. Stomping down insecurity. Being exactly who I am, and trusting that “Annie” is the best thing I could possibly be. Humbling myself. Praying for the grace to stand in truth, acceptance, and hope. And knowing that my ability to love others will be a direct overflow of the love and care lavished on me by a God who is always faithful. He’s ready and waiting to transform my heart, heal the things that I’m afraid are beyond healing, and give me rest.

Q is for Quotidian

Monday, November 17th, 2008

This morning, I am in a quagmire. I made a quick video on Saturday, but am questioning the decision to share it. The thought of broadcasting my quirks – my quaint qualities within a quadrangle – makes me queasy. I quiver, quaver, and quake at the quandary I am in. Perhaps I should have quelled my quips and remained quiet.

But I am on an alphabetic quest. And I can’t quit now.

Rather than quashing my efforts, I will set aside my qualms, avoid quibbling, and fulfill this week’s installment of the A-Z quota. So queue up, and behold the quixotic glory of a quintessential quotidian weekend in the life of this queen.

Thus quoth Annie Parsons.


Quotidian Saturday from Annie Parsons on Vimeo.