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The Minneapolis Miracle

Monday, January 15th, 2018

By now you’ve all seen it, right? Last night’s last ditch pass from Vikings quarterback Case Keenum to wide receiver Stefon Diggs, resulting in a game-winning touchdown in the last 10 seconds of the game.

Watch it here:

And again here:

And this one, for good measure:

They’re calling it historic, legendary, the Minneapolis Miracle. Things like this just don’t happen… until they do. And when they do, we all — sports fans or not — lose our minds. We scream. We jump up and down. Kids light up and grown men cry. We can’t believe it — but look around. Everyone else saw it, too! We confirm the good news to each other with grins and hugs and tears and cheers, and wake up the next morning shocked and hoarse and happy.

I’m not a very good sports fan. I love the Denver Broncos, but they had a disappointing year and I lost steam toward the end of this season. I like to go to baseball games, but mostly for the hot dogs and people watching. I couldn’t tell you anything about basketball except running and shooting and sometimes dunking (?). There’s no good reason I, Annie Parsons, should be thinking about sports today, except that it taps into something that I major in:

FEELINGS. (You knew it was coming.)

My favorite genre of film is the DISM: the Disney Inspirational Sports Movie (trademark: me). If you want to see me cry, turn on The Rookie or Miracle. If you want to see me bawl, it’s Remember the Titans. I even loved the one about cross country, for crying out loud (McFarland, USA). These stories are about the underdogs, the impossible dream, the ragtag group of far-shots that band together to do something bigger than any one of them could have done alone.

The very best part of every one of these movies is the montage. You know what I’m talking about — the two-minute compilation of short scenes spliced together in order to save time while still showing progress. There’s usually an up-tempo song playing in the background, advancing the story but sparing the viewer any quotidian details — because daily tasks, even the ones that ultimately lead to victory, tend to be unsexy.

Remind me of this tonight when I put in my nightguard.

Anyway, I think this is why I loved Michael Phelps’ commercial for Under Armour. It aired during the 2016 Olympics in the midst of him winning all of those gold medals, serving as a reminder that his glory was only a result of all of the hours of unseen work.

Listening to interviews with the Vikings after last night’s game, they confirmed that this was a play that they’ve run over and over in practice. They put in the work, not knowing when or where they might need it — but when that moment came, they were ready for it. To borrow from the Phelps commercial, it’s what they did in the dark that put them in the light — and whether or not we’re professional athletes (I’m basically positive that no one reading this is — no offense, dear reader), I’m pretty sure this is inspiration we could all apply to our lives in some way or another.

Twenty four hours later, my social media feeds are still all purple. I’m thrilled for my many longsuffering Minnesotan friends, and am pulling for the Vikings to be in the Super Bowl at home — something no team has ever accomplished — in just a few weeks.

Until then, you can find me here, hanging out on YouTube, still crying.

Gun-Shy

Tuesday, April 4th, 2017

I used to dream of being a professional songwriter. I didn’t want to be famous (still don’t) because I didn’t love to perform (still don’t) — but to be the mind and heart behind the music? That appealed to me so much.

Life has taken me in a different direction than music, at least in any sort of “professional” sense. I don’t dream of making songwriting my bread and butter anymore, mostly because (full disclosure) I don’t think I’m all that good. But every now and then, I follow an idea on a chase and wind up with a little something.

Here’s what I’ve discovered about writing songs: it’s my favorite thing, regardless of whether anything happens with those songs. I like the challenge of it — figuring out how to tell a story, turning words this way and that, and hopefully making someone feel something. That’s all. That’s my only aim in writing songs these days — to make someone feel something — even if the someone is just me. Which is easy because, as you know, I am all feelings, all the time. Cheap date.

All that to say, here’s a new song, recorded with my friend Jeff Harper in Nashville, TN. It’s called “Gun-Shy” because LOOK WHAT LOVE HAS DONE TO ME.

Thanks for listening!

Twirl

Thursday, February 23rd, 2017

I used to be a dancer. I can hardly believe it myself, as these days any dancing is generally an alcohol-fueled error of judgment — but it’s true. All the way through high school, I was a (thick-limbed) ballerina.

One of the fundamentals in ballet is spotting, a technique used to execute turns without losing balance. By holding the head in place and focusing the eyes on a set mark, spotting allows for steady rotation of the body while delaying movement of the head until the last minute. When the turn reaches the point at which the dancer can’t physically keep the focus forward anymore, the head quickly spins and the eyes immediately reorient on the spot on which they’d been fixed before.

Like this:

Life can toss us around like a tumbleweed, can’t it? I recently told a friend, “I’m the happiest I’ve ever been!” and by the end of our conversation I found myself saying, “Actually, I think I’m the saddest I’ve ever been.” And both were true, at the same time, in the same set of circumstances. Maybe this means I’m like Anne of Green Gables, vacillating between “the wings of enchantment” and “the depths of despair.” Maybe it means I need more meds.

Or maybe it just means that being human can be a very disorienting experience. There are highs and there are lows, and there are winds that knock us off our feet and whip us around for a bit, and it can be difficult to remember which end is up.*

These days, I’m spinning like a trailer park in a tornado. Junk is flying around, and sometimes it feels scary — because this is dangerous, man. Someone could get hurt. I could get hurt.

But as I reel, I remember that the only way to keep from falling is to keep a steady gaze on what is true and will not change.

“You will keep in perfect peace
those whose minds are steadfast,
because they trust in you.”
–Isaiah 26:3

Stay steady. Stay true. Whatever you’re going through, whatever tempest has swept you up in its path, keep your eyes straight ahead. It’s the only thing that can turn a whirl into a twirl.

*I once heard that if you’re ever caught in an avalanche and get buried by the snow, you might not know which way to dig in order to reach the surface. Here’s what you do: spit. Gravity will drag that dribble toward the ground, and then you know to claw like hell in the opposite direction. Good luck and you’re welcome.

Doxology in darkness

Tuesday, 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.

The last days

Friday, July 3rd, 2015

When I think of my last days in Colorado, I will think of the temperature – days in the high 90s, the brutal sun beating down on the Mile High City, and me, applying SPF 100 like my life depended on it (which it kind of did). The air conditioner in my Subaru struggled, no longer strong enough to stand up to the heat. On the lucky days in which I made it to the mountains, I experienced Colorado’s iconic summer smell: pine needles in dry dirt.

And then I will think of the rain – the afternoon thunderstorms that you can set the clock by, raging storms that swelled the rivers and flooded my normal walking paths. Of course, this didn’t stop me from walking, although June was a Fitbit feast or famine (35K steps at the highest, 3K at the lowest – a day in which I brought shame to my family).

I will remember moving out of my house, everything in cardboard boxes and plastic bins, stuffed into the largest truck I’ve ever driven – and then the solo cross-country trip in which I got 6 miles to the gallon and took 16 hours to make it 900 miles. I unloaded everything into a storage unit, and flew back to Denver – because I wasn’t finished with Colorado yet.

I will think of Starbucks breakfasts and Chipotle lunches, just because I didn’t have a kitchen anymore.

I will remember my nephew’s faces when we all stayed up way too late playing games that made them laugh uncontrollably. And I will remember rubbing lotion into the 4-year old’s skinny, espresso-colored calves, and him telling me for the tenth time, “I saw a antelope! Outside! I saw it!”

I will think of my final appointment with my beloved and trusted counselor who, when discussing all of the changes I’m going through, reminded me, “Don’t put too much stock in anything you’re thinking or feeling right now,” which made me laugh, because doesn’t she know who I am?! But it secretly felt like permission granted. And when I said, “When I move to Minnesota, no matter what, I just can’t stop hoping,” she shook her finger at me and said in a hushed, urgent voice, “Don’t you dare.”

I will remember the entire year before these last days, a year in which life felt like it was closing in, like I was trapped and constrained, like toothpaste in a tube. And the day I decided to say yes to this opportunity placed in front of me, the day I decided to move to Minnesota, it was like the cap fell off and life squeezed loose.

Today I drive to Minneapolis, for real and for good this time. I’ve sold my house in Denver, and am in the process of buying a new one – but until everything is final, Foxy is staying with my dad in Colorado. Even though it’s temporary, leaving my dog is the hardest thing for me. I anticipate crying all the way to Nebraska.

The days to come are sure to be filled with newness, novelty, and fresh perspective. I am excited, and ready for the change. But as exciting as the first days are, I never want to forget the last days either. Because they’ve been pretty damn rich.

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North

Tuesday, May 19th, 2015

If you know my sister Becca, you know she’s all about dogs. She always has been; her first word was “woof-woof.” In addition to running a dog rescue (whence came Foxy!), she has three dogs of her own – and they’re like her kids. So when she and my brother-in-law decided to go to Seattle, they called in only the best.

Annie the Dog Nanny.

Foxy and I moved into Becca and Michael’s house on Saturday night, and it’s been the Wild West ever since. I’m playing defense against a collective 200 pounds of canine. Things I will need to replace before they get home: Bulleit and a lot of chocolate chips.

In the midst of it all, I am wrapping up my job, selling my house, and looking for a new place to live – because I forgot to tell you:

I’m moving to Minnesota.

Two weeks ago, I gave my notice at work. I am leaving what has been a gift of a job for what is sure to be a challenging, soulful adventure of a next chapter: I’m moving to Minneapolis to work for my favorite public radio show, On Being with Krista Tippett.

For over eight years, this has been a blog mostly about my feelings – so don’t think I’m going to stop now.

What can I say about my 5 ½ years in Denver? They have been the toughest years of my life, minus 6th grade when all of the girls turned mean. Cancer brought me here, divorce made me stay. I watched my family disintegrate, and a few relationships of my own. I’ve said such horrible things to God, it’s a wonder he still loves me. I’ve lost hope, battled depression, and numbed the pain with all sorts of soul novocain.

Denver made me write this song. (And as always, forgive the guitar.)

[UPDATE: Song has been taken down. Maybe you’ll hear it again someday.]

But it’s not lost on me that the hardest years were spent in the most beautiful place. It’s like someone knew I would need the beauty.

I’ve walked thousands and thousands of miles. I’ve climbed mountains – I’m up to 35 14ers, with 19 to go. I spent 11 days on a solo backpacking trip, digging deeper than I knew I could dig. I’ve learned to own my finances, my career, a dog, and a house. If Seattle is where I became Annie and Nashville is where I became a woman (gross, sorry for saying that), Denver is where I became an adult – a reluctant transition, but true nonetheless. I’ve made a handful of incredible girlfriends, the kind that make it hard to leave. I’ve been to counseling – gracious, have I been to counseling. I’ve stopped blaming my parents for everything that’s wrong in my life.

As it turns out, I am sad to leave Denver – but not as excited as I am for a new adventure.

I will miss my perfect tiny house and my friends and the weather and the mountains. But I know that there’s something for me in Minnesota – lakes and forests and people and meaningful work. And mosquitos. And snow. But I’m choosing to believe that richness awaits. I can’t wait to tell you about it. I can’t wait to learn it for myself. I might even start going to church again.

Until then, I am frantically wrapping up my time with LÄRABAR/General Mills. Yesterday I wrote a “manual” for how to do my job. So far it’s 17 pages long. I’m getting my ducks in a row to sell my house, and looking for another in Minneapolis (tell me, is 40% of my income too much to spend on a mortgage?).

And I’m dog-sitting for my sister. Maybe these dogs will come visit me in Minnesota.

My roots are up, and I’m headed north. There is so much to be nervous about, and so much to be grateful for. Thanks for sticking with me, no matter the gap between posts, no matter the city in which I live.

See you soon, Minneapolis!

Minneapolis

“Nothing can be necessary that he withholds”

Monday, November 3rd, 2014

Last Friday, I listened to Taylor Swift’s 1989 for the entire 9-hour drive from Denver to Kansas City. Collectively my favorite record I’ve heard in ages, it just might have the power to pull me out of athletic retirement and train for another half marathon. Running would probably be good for me, seeing as how these days I’m wound as tight as a guitar string one pluck away from snapping up and whipping you in the eyeball.

In the past month, I’ve been in a lot of airports – Denver, Minneapolis, Austin, Atlanta, Kansas City, Chicago, Rochester, and Baltimore, to be exact. Between work and my far-flung family and friends, I travel more than the average person – and I’ve found that the only way I can survive the aggravation of airline travel is to wear earplugs at all times. Not ear buds – I don’t want music. No, I want to drown out everyone and everything, even at the risk of appearing rude to my fellow passengers. Oh, you just introduced yourself? UNACKNOWLEDGED. You’ll get over it one day.

But despite the irritation, airplanes get me where I want to go – which, this weekend, was upstate New York for 24 hours. While I’ve been a bridesmaid more times than I have fingers, “godparent” is a new role for me – and there was no way I was going to miss Colin’s baptism. He is 6 months of chubby, flirtatious perfection, and I’m honored beyond words that his parents would choose me.

Colin1

When the service was over and the reception was in full swing, I stole away to the edge of Will and Miranda’s dock on Seneca Lake. Their property is beautiful – it’s been in Will’s family for generations – and I needed to be by the water. At the risk of sounding all woo-woo, water affects me spiritually. It cracks my hard heart wide open. It’s a shame that Denver is so landlocked.

There on the dock, I thought about the stories that the majority of my friends are living, and how different mine is turning out to be. I tried to tell myself that it’s okay, I’m okay, that not having a family of my own is actually far less complicated and I should be happy for the simplicity of my little life. After all, as some well-meaning friends have told me, it’s dangerous to love someone so deeply – because then you have so much to lose.

Well. I’ve never been divorced. But I’ve never been married. I have never lost a child. But I’ve never had a baby. Hope unrealized brings with it its own invisible grief, one that doesn’t fit into an obvious category, the kind that solicits cards and casseroles. Could it be that things that haven’t happened can hurt as badly as things that could?

Because it’s one thing for all of your friends to get married. It’s another when they start having kids. It’s entirely another when they decide to be finished having kids… and you’re not sure if you’ll even start.

I know, cue the sob fest and the weeping ovaries. Except.

Here’s what I’m discovering: joy is found in connection, and connection comes in all sorts of forms. I might not be a wife, but I’m a friend who can and will hop on a plane at a moment’s notice to fly across the country. I might not be a mom, but I’m an auntie, and a dog lover, and now a godmother. I’m a daughter and a sister. I’m a hard worker who cares about the well-being of the people I work with. I’m a writer and a wanderer and a hoper and a dreamer, and damn it, I want to be one who celebrates the things worth celebrating, even if they’re not happening to me.

And until those celebrations are my own, I’m clinging to John Newton’s words: “Everything is necessary that [God] sends; nothing can be necessary that he withholds.”

Given that, I’m really thankful that God has sent Foxy Brains and Colin Warder and Southwest Airlines and red wine and Taylor Swift.

More

Monday, September 29th, 2014

“Do you find the tension between seeking contentment and desiring more, difficult? I do, certainly.”

Those were the closing lines of an email I received last week from a woman who has lived more life than I – and just like that, she so concisely distilled my entire life’s dilemma. Perhaps you relate?

Contentment in its truest form is a beautiful thing, and worth cultivating. But personally, I can easily confuse contentment with complacency – an artificial version of “satisfaction,” keeping my dreams and desires in the OFF position.

Contentment should never be at the risk of betraying one’s heart.

I used to feel a little sheepish that I (still) love the song “Part of Your World” from The Little Mermaid – but not anymore. Why shouldn’t I love it? The lyricist, Howard Ashman*, perfectly articulates the honest acknowledgement of restless desire, regardless of how much one has – which is actually quite profound.

I want more.

When’s it my turn?

Contentment and wanting more seem to be in direct opposition of each other – and like my friend Joey recently said, “I think that for some people, it’s honestly just harder to be happy.” And if it hadn’t been 10 in the morning, we would have clinked whiskey glasses.

The trouble with wanting more is that we’re never satisfied. The beauty of wanting more is that it cracks our lives wide open – for better and for worse, but ultimately for better. It’s like when you love someone. Loving makes you vulnerable to pain. Loving means there’s a lot to lose.

Loving can make you afraid. But being loved means you don’t have to be.

I don’t know that any of this makes much sense, and I don’t know if I even mean for it to. All I know is that I want MORE – and I’m not talking about the material things (although I’d definitely take another pair of Frye boots if you’re offering), but just… more. Life. Depth. Beauty. Freedom. I don’t want to play it safe – because this is what Mary Oliver calls my “one wild and precious life.”

What if there’s more for me? What if there’s more for you?

IMG_2720

(Once on a trip to Texas, I forgot pajamas. I raided the Target sale rack, and obviously chose this.)

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*From what I’ve learned about Howard Ashman (and trust me, I’ve obsessed over the man), I so wish I could have met him. His work on The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin is some of the best musical storytelling there’s ever been. Watch this short clip, and try not to fall in love with him. And then watch this longer clip and witness Jodi Benson sing like a laser beam.

Grace and potatoes

Monday, September 8th, 2014

In the last month or so, I’ve been having a quiet mental breakdown.

I say “quiet” because it’s not like I’m falling apart. I’m waking up and exercising and getting my work done. I painted a wall in my living room the other day. I’m meal planning and taking Foxy on walks and meeting friends for drinks and boarding airplanes and generally just taking care of business.

But every night, I climb into bed and stare at the brick wall across the room, the one that sold me on the house – because hello, charm. But in these nighttime moments, it’s felt like a metaphor for something going on in my soul, something that I struggle to name but have been feeling on a daily basis.

I’m up against it.

I’ve just really been up against it these days, you guys – that desperate feeling that sneaks up for no real reason and with no real warning and tells me that the hard things are never going to get better, and that the things I desire aren’t worth hoping for. I wonder if my days have any purpose. All it takes is one quick trip down the rabbit hole that is Instagram to look at dozens of other people’s worlds that appear more lovely than mine, for a dozen different reasons that really aren’t worth listing, and I’m hit with that same old question: does my life matter at all?

I don’t mean to be dramatic. This isn’t a cry for help or a plea for people to validate me (that would make me embarrassed). But I just wonder if I’m not the only one who sometimes feels this way – futile and insignificant, like I should do more or have more or be more.

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Recently, I stood with my friend Becca over her garden in Minnesota, and she confessed that this year she and her husband had neglected the potatoes that they planted, not doing any of the things that they “should” have done to guarantee a good crop. But even so, their garden has produced dozens of pounds of beautiful, perfect potatoes.

“I look at my garden and I see grace,” she said. “We didn’t do anything to deserve potatoes. But we got them anyway.”

And then she picked some fresh strawberries and gave them to me to eat.

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I’m in the weeds these days. Some are there by my own negligence, some despite my best efforts – either way, they’re messing with my perfect little plot. Because when the things you hope for just aren’t happening and the things you despise just won’t go away, at some point you just want to throw up your hands.

But could it be that there is something good growing underneath?

I think that’s what grace is: the generosity of good things, whether or not we’ve earned them, whether or not we choose to acknowledge that they might be developing.

Let it go

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014

This weekend, something that I wanted to work out didn’t work out, leaving me sad and disappointed. Then my bike seat broke. Then I tried to fix my bathtub drain, but realized I don’t have the right tools. Then several people told me, in various ways, that a dream that I’ve been working toward is a bad idea. Then, after dealing with shoddy, unreliable internet service for over a week, I came home yesterday afternoon to find that my actual electricity was gone.

Must be the wind, I thought, as I dialed Xcel to report the outage. I followed the prompts on the automated service, and then took Foxy on her lunchtime walk.

When I arrived back at the house, I got a phone call from someone in the Xcel customer support department. He asked me some questions about the meter (“It should be on the south side of the house”), so I found myself prowling through bushes, being poked in the eye by branches, and reading the unit number to the man on the phone – only for him to tell me that that’s the gas meter, and we need the electric meter.

That’s when I remembered I was on the north side of the house, and also, a moron.

So I headed around SOUTH into the backyard, crawled on a ledge, and had to touch dirty, rusty things, relaying meter readings to the man on the line, just to have him tell me that none of that helped him, so he would send a technician out – except, wait a second. What’s this?

He put me on hold while he took a look at my account, and eventually a new voice – a woman, probably Bad News Special Forces or something – came back on the line. Apparently, a neighbor had not paid her electric bill in quite some time, so they had disconnected her service – at least, what they thought was her service. Turns out they turned off mine instead.

Whoops.

Oh, and they wouldn’t be able to send someone to turn it back on until tomorrow.

And all of a sudden, it was just too much. Something snapped. This is when, to use a technical term, I lost my shit.

I have worked in customer service before, and still do, to a certain extent – which is why I couldn’t believe I was finding myself uttering words like “infuriating” and “unacceptable” and “immediately” and “you people” and “enraged” and “now – NOW.” My chest was tight but my tongue was loose. I was on an absolute rampage.

I spent the night at Becca and Mike’s, where Foxy whined non-stop in the darkness because that big yellow dog Grizz is RIGHT THROUGH THAT WALL. RIGHT THERE. HE’S THERE. I got a grand total of 2 hours sleep, and spent all day today feeling downright witless.

So now I’m home and the power is back on and I’m typing all of this out, and laughing because it’s so ridiculous. I’ve been sulking about things really not worth sulking about – especially since furrowing my eyebrows is the last thing I need to do more of, seeing as how that look is basically already my natural resting face.

The older I get, the more I realize my strong need for justice – which is unfortunate, since it’s also the more I realize that life just isn’t fair. Sometimes your neighbor doesn’t pay her bills, and you are the one inconvenienced. Sometimes you take good care of your things, and they break anyway. Sometimes someone else makes a decision, and your heart winds up paying a price.

We can try to legislate fairness into our lives, but it just isn’t going to happen.

I could be a sulker. I could resent people and situations and reality itself. I could shake my fist at heaven and tell everything to go to hell.

But to borrow an idea from Proverbs, I’d rather be clothed in strength and dignity, and laugh at the days to come – or you know, Frozen, and let it go.