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We can never go back

Saturday, 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?

Bouncing back and living forward

Tuesday, 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.

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From the bottom

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

A few months ago, Fair Trade USA invited a few brands that source Fair Trade Certified ingredients, LÄRABAR being one of them, to tour some participating cocoa farms in the Dominican Republic. Naturally, I volunteered myself to go. Not being an incredibly experienced international traveler (prior to this trip, I’d been to Canada, Mexico, England, the Czech Republic, and Haiti), I got vaccinated, haphazardly threw together a carry-on suitcase, and this past Saturday, found myself in Santo Domingo.

The hotel had arranged for a driver to pick me up, and promised he would have my name typed on a sign (life dream come true). When I walked out of the airport, there were the men holding signs, but none of them said “Annie Parsons.” Instead, my eye was drawn toward a man who was wildly waving – waving at me. I walked toward him and he said my name: “Annie Parsons!” Yessssss? “I searched for your picture on Google Images!”

I am very Googleable.

His name was Victor, and his English was pretty good – which I was grateful for since my Spanish these days is very bad. He led me to his car, but before he lifted my suitcase into the trunk, I remembered that my hotel confirmation was buried somewhere in it. So I stopped him: “Un momento – I need to get something from the bottom.”

I wish you could have seen the look on his face. Confusion? Horror? Amusement? Yes to all. And it soon became clear that when I said “from the bottom” he thought I meant a DIFFERENT kind of bottom, which is one of the best misunderstandings of my entire life. Victor and I laughed the whole way to the hotel, because if there’s anything that crosses cultural barriers, it’s butt jokes.

I spent a very full 2 days learning how cocoa is grown and processed, and met some precious people whose livelihood is cocoa farming. I ate empanadas and fried plantains. I sweated – Lord, did I sweat. I issued a personal challenge to myself to translate the chorus of Katy Perry’s “Roar” into Spanish (“Tengo el ojo del tigre…”). And I came away with a deeper appreciation for the Fair Trade movement and what it means to farmers.

Plain and simple, Fair Trade is a model in which fair prices are paid to workers in developing countries. When a product is Fair Trade Certified, it means that it was produced in an ethical manner; environmentally sustainable farming methods are required, and forced child and slave labor are prohibited. In some cases, the product might cost a little more – but that premium is routed back to the community where, by a democratic system, the farmers decide how to invest the funds.

For the group of Dominican farmers we met, they’ve chosen over the years to use the money to help them build drying and processing facilities for their cocoa beans. While they used to have to outsource those steps, now they can bypass the middleman and sell their beans at a higher price. In a world of corrupt supply chains, the farmers are often the most easily cheated out of a fair wage – so the Fair Trade premiums help ensure a just income from the bottom (there it is again) up.

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Now listen, I’m a thrifty girl. What’s the least amount of money I can spend to get the most amount of stuff? Let me tell you, there’s an answer to this question, and it can be found within the walls of Wal-Mart (for shame). I’ve purchased things from Forever XXI (double for shame). When deciding between two products that serve basically the same purpose, I’ll generally choose the less expensive. I love a good deal, and historically, I’ve sought it out.

But my insistence to pay the cheapest price very well might be at the expense of someone else’s living wage, or even their freedom.

I live in America, which automatically makes me one of the richest people in the world. I, like most of you, have some level of expendable income, and I get to choose how to spend those dollars each month: do I want to go out to eat? Go shopping? Splurge on foundation at Sephora? I can blow through money faster than you can say “Mas cosas, por favor!”

Admittedly, global economics is a bit out of my wheelhouse, and I know that poverty is a humongous and complicated issue. But here’s what I think. We have money, and we’re likely going to spend it anyway – so why not choose to support responsible vendors? This seems like a no-brainer, and a really good place to start. Sometimes it might cost a little bit more. But trust me, you have that money. I have that money. And as such, we have an opportunity to choose products that don’t just make the rich richer. Let’s support companies with a conscience.

Fair Trade USA, I was so grateful to be included in this trip. Thank you… from the bottom… of my heart.

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Shotgun

Monday, April 29th, 2013

Over the weekend, I traded in my dollhouse for a real house: as of Friday, I’m the owner of a shotgun row home. I’ve spent the past few days vacillating between absolute elation and a full-on panic attack – mostly for irrational reasons, like What if it’s built on a sinkhole? and What if I’m murdered?? Because obviously there is a direct correlation between owning a home and being murdered.

Back in February, I was not looking to buy a home. It was not a thought in my mind. You know me – I’m a rolling stone, a vagabond gypsy, a tumbleweed of a girl – and the thought of “settling down” makes me break out in hives. Of all of the feelings, trapped is the worst one I can think of.

But there’s a difference between being trapped and making a decision. When you go to a restaurant, you can’t keep staring at the menu forever just to “keep your options open.” That would be dumb, because LAY OFF ME I’M STARVING. There is goodness to be enjoyed and life to be lived, and sometimes you just have to choose.

Two months ago, Greta was here for a visit and we walked past an open house. I can’t resist an open house, because apart from becoming a lawyer, it’s my only legal-slash-socially acceptable chance to be nosy. I took two steps into the house before I realized I was in love.

Built in 1900, the house is 11 feet wide and 55 feet long, four rooms stacked one right after the other: living room, dining room, bedroom, kitchen. It has hardwood floors, 10 ft. ceilings, 3 skylights, a brick wall, and the tiniest backyard perfect for a 3-legged dog. Two minutes from downtown, the Jefferson Park neighborhood has a history of violence and crime, but it’s in the process of development and change. The area is still gritty, but right now is an exciting time to buy here (even though you know I’m still using the Club on my steering wheel).

It all happened pretty quickly: I got a realtor and a lender, sent off a bunch of paperwork, had an inspection and an appraisal, wrote some checks, and bam, signed on the dotted line. Call me crazy, but I didn’t look at a single other house; I saw this one, loved it, and bought it.

The entire experience has been surreal, and I have a lot of emotions swirling around in regards to buying a house as a single woman, the financial commitment, the fact that this house is in Denver, and the dead mouse decomposing on the cellar floor. I also have emotions about the skylight right above my bed, forcing me to wake up with the sun (I welcome your solutions to this problem).

I’m sure that I’ll write about these things in the future, but for now, I just wanted you to know where I am. Home.

Crossroads

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

I know.  I KNOW.  I haven’t blogged in hundreds of hours.

What’s been going on, you ask?  Well, this happened.

Whatever dramatic scene you’re envisioning, yes, it was all that and more – although probably more hilarious than you imagine.  Poor Toad.

Another thing is that I mentioned to someone something about Gadhafi being dead, except I pronounced it “Gandalfy.”  I like make believe more than reality, it seems.  I can’t help it.  The Real News is too heavy sometimes.  So when I go to CNN.com, the first thing I check is the Entertainment page – where, yesterday, I learned that the kid from “Jerry Maguire” just turned 21.  And then I promptly died of old age.

In other news, I’m at a crossroads of sorts.  It’s general and yet specific and encompasses a lot of defined areas of my life without being about any one thing in particular.

How do we ever know the right thing to do?  How do we ever know the best decision?  And if we make the wrong choice, is the rest of our life derailed?  (I know that the answer is no, but just humor a girl who often feels the need for hyperbole.)

Itty bitty tidbits

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

Something I Googled this morning:
Is kennel cough contagious to humans?

Because – bad news – Kodi has kennel cough.  And also – bad news – it is.

– – – – – – – –

First, “The Pianist” came from Netflix.  Then, “The Piano” came from Netflix.

What in the world.  Why did I choose to watch these back-to-back?  I’m so depressed.  If you happen to know something happy, please share.

– – – – – – – –

I’m so bored of my running playlist (Roxette’s “It Must Have Been Love” is only SO inspiring – although, let’s be real, it’s pretty damn inspiring).

What are the best songs to run to?  I’m thinking of utilizing this.

– – – – – – – –

Sometimes I miss Nashville so much, I can hardly breathe.  The next day, it’s Seattle.  Today, both are very much true.

But right now, in this moment, I choose to be present in this city, on this day, with these tasks, and these people.

I believe that the future holds good things.

But I also choose to acknowledge that the present holds good things.

It is a choice, you know.

Denver 2010ver

Monday, December 27th, 2010

When I moved to Denver a year ago, it was on an open-ended basis – I moved to be close to my family as my mom underwent cancer treatment, but had no idea what the future would hold. I decided to live it up and soak in every bit of Colorado that I could, since I didn’t know how long I would be here. I ran hundreds of miles all over the city, and went to concerts, and climbed mountains, and got involved in a church, and made some friends, and felt grateful every single day to work for a company that made it possible for me to live close to my family during this time.

And now, it’s been a year, Mom is doing awesome (cue the confetti, for real), and nothing is “officially” holding me here in Colorado.

But I’m going to stay anyway.

I’m going to staaaaaayy exclamation point!

I’m going to dig in here, and see what Denver might have to offer me, and what I might have to offer it. I’m going to move forward into the unknown, even when it’s tempting to go back to what’s familiar and comfortable.

Because trust me, both Nashville and Seattle are tempting, wonderful, good options. I have people who love me, and people that I love, and opportunities and connections and community and a heart that bursts at the thought of any number of amazing memories. I wonder if I’m crazy to make a life for myself in yet another city, when I already have ready-made lives in other states.  In a way, it’s scary to think that I’m deciding against these wonderful places that I love so much, because, as Tom Petty says, “Well, the good ol’ days may not return / And the rocks might melt, and the sea may burn.”

But, you know – I’m learning to fly.

And I can honestly, wholeheartedly say that I love my job, I love the mountains, I love my family, and I love a good adventure. Why NOT stay?

This is a good decision.

But friends?  Please come visit me.

Bloom

Monday, December 6th, 2010

Hope isn’t always an easy thing, and it doesn’t always feel very natural.  But I’m learning that hope is more than a feeling (more than a feeeeeelingg…) – it’s a choice, a deliberate commitment, like exercise, or saving your money instead of spending it.  It’s the wiser, healthier decision – the one that will bring the biggest payoff, even when it doesn’t feel like it at the time.

Recently, I’ve experienced discouragement and disappointment and hurt – to the point that I’ve stopped hoping for anything, because hoping hasn’t felt easy.  I’ve snuggled up with loneliness, curled my back to hopelessness, and taken comfort in the company of emptiness because it’s what has felt most real.  Hope hasn’t felt real – it’s felt imaginary, like playing pretend, like inventing some mythical creature and expecting it to materialize in front of me.

But the rejection of hope is actually to my detriment.  It makes me an ugly person, a bitter person, one with walls and suspicions and frown lines.  And moreover, as a Christian, I am called to hope, commanded to hope, even when it feels dangerous because of the possibility of pain and disappointment.

It might get cold, and all of our leaves may fall off, and our branches may crack – but hope is trusting that our roots will hold, and spring is going to come, and something is going to bloom again.

It’s just that what blooms might not be what we’re expecting.

To be like Toad

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

My parents have three dogs, Rowdy, Maci, and Kodi.

Kodi is the cutest.  That’s not favoritism – it’s just fact.  I mean, look at her happy dog perma-grin:

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Her name is Kodi, but mostly we call her Toad.  She’s this ridiculous, squatty little Chow mix, with short legs and a barrel chest.  She has so much fur, she looks like a tank – but in the summers, my parents have her shaved to keep her cool.  And then, she looks like a little pig.

The best thing about Toad is that her tail is always wagging, no matter what.  She wags when she sees you, she wags when she’s looking out the window, she wags when she’s all alone in the backyard, she wags when she gets fed, she wags when she’s lying on the living room floor, she wags when she hears voices – even if they’re not talking to her.  The only time that she didn’t wag was when she was entered in a tail-wagging contest at the Puppy Parade – then she stood stone still.

The remarkable thing is that Toad has bone spurs on her spine that keep her in a constant state of discomfort.  She has trouble sitting from a standing position, or standing from a sitting position.  She is stiff and awkward.  She is in pain.

But she wags anyway.

I want to be like Toad.

I want to wag anyway – even when nobody’s looking and I’m all alone.

On forgiveness

Thursday, June 11th, 2009

It’s amazing how quickly I, an alleged full-grown woman, can revert back to feeling like I did with other girls in elementary school: insecure, timid, and small.  Recently, a moment leapt out of nowhere and grabbed me by the throat, reducing me to those irrepressible tears that leave me shaky and sick to my stomach – because my feelings got hurt.

I am naturally a sensitive person, but I’m also fairly rational.  I don’t get my feelings hurt all that often – mainly because I am largely surrounded by pretty tremendous humans who rarely do or say mean-spirited things.

But when it does happen, it makes me feel so sad, and shocked, and ultimately, rejected.

How could I NOT cry?

But here is the difference between 9-year old Annie and today’s Annie: to forgive is to not let those feelings take root – even when they are justified.  To forgive is to deflect any feelings of insecurity catalyzed by those initial words.  To forgive is to let go of what is right, reasonable, and defensible – in favor of something entirely unsensible.

It’s hard work, forgiveness… but then again, isn’t it our very best option?  Isn’t it the easiest, most freeing thing we could possibly do – to simply let it go?

No one ever loses if no one is keeping score.