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An ode to female friendship

Friday, January 29th, 2016

Last weekend, I sat with my friend Becca in a restaurant in the suburbs 30 minutes south of the city. We both had the steak & Gorgonzola salad, and we talked about friendship.

As someone who has lived in four cities in the past eight years, I have met so many people — many of whom I adore with everything in me. For being a severe introvert, I am rich in relationships. It’s probably the best thing about my life. It’s also one of the hardest.

Because for all of the incredible people, apparently we only have room for 150 stable relationships at a time (this is a real thing — it’s called Dunbar’s number); that includes our family, co-workers, friends, everyone. And in a globally-linked world with no shortage of opportunities to “connect,” it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.

Our Facebook feeds are full of people we don’t really know — and yet we have a window to learning all of their kids’ names and where they vacationed last summer, even if we might try to avoid them given a run-in at the hometown Walmart. We can fall down an Instagram rabbit hole and fill our brains with the lives of strangers, their Whole30 meals, their beautiful homes, and their succulent plants. We spy on our favorite celebrities. And pretty soon, our brains are full, like an iceberg with too many penguins. At some point, penguins are going to start falling off. To be eaten by arctic seals.

So despite all of the wonderful people there are to know, Becca and I agreed: There is value in having fewer friendships, but giving those relationships deeper roots.

A few years ago, I broke up with the majority of my guy friends. Some required a conversation, some I just stopped reaching out to and — go figure — they never contacted me again. Today there are a few exceptions (and thank God for these men) — but it turns out a lot of my friendships with guys had been surface-level at best, emotionally manipulative at worst (don’t cry for me, Argentina — I was a willing participant), and the healthiest decision for me was to let them go.

But my girlfriends? I would be sunk without them. In the wise words of Lena Dunham, “I love loving men, but I love knowing women.”

Some I have known nearly forever; I met Sheryl when I wasn’t yet two-years old, and she remains one of the dearest people in my life. I still have a postcard she sent me from Disneyland when we were six. She knew me when I wore a crewneck sweatshirt featuring Beethoven and all of his puppies beneath the Universal Studios logo, and loved me anyway. We were roommates our freshman year in college — the first time we’d lived in the same city since we were in first grade. I was a bridesmaid in her wedding. She came to my grandmother’s funeral.

Some are brand new. Maia and I both moved to Minneapolis last summer and started working together on July 5th; she has been a mainstay for me ever since. She came to Kansas City with me to hang out with my mom. She had Thanksgiving at my house and met my dad. In one game, I transformed her into a Broncos fan; the other day she said, “Twelve more sleeps until the Super Bowl!” I delight in her Australian accent to an annoying degree.

Remember when it felt so special to get a letter in the mail instead of an email? Now it feels special to get an email instead of a Facebook like. Email is the inside scoop. Email is the stuff no one wants to post as a status update. Some of my favorite relationships exist almost solely via email, because real deal friendship isn’t bound by geography. I met Val, Juliette, and Dani years ago on the internet, and while we’ve been in the same room a handful of times, our friendship has flourished via a four-way Gmail chain that I hope never ends; we are currently discussing the specifics of our deep, deep shared love of Hamilton.

Nearly all of my closest friends now have babies. I delight in watching them grow into motherhood, even though I secretly despise their happiness that is probably mostly made up in my head. SARCASM FONT. (But seriously, give me your baby.) I adore their kids and relish every chance I get to visit them. Becca, the one with whom I was eating that steak & Gorgonzola salad, recently invited me over and said, “The kids are sick and I’m not cleaning up the house. That’s because you’re a friend, not a guest.” A few weeks later when I was in Nashville, Mel said the same thing. I love that.

I can’t remember where, but sometime in the last week or so I read something like, “My old friends remind me who I was. My new friends remind me who I’m becoming.”

Two weeks ago, my three bests from Denver flew to Minneapolis. They braved a sub-zero weekend (no, seriously, the high was negative 8) just to see my life. We lounged around the house drinking coffee and talking about our feelings every morning (I only cried once), shared a bottle of champagne every afternoon, and ate our way through the city every night. It was a dream. We are all currently in a similar stage of life: not married, hustling in our jobs, budgeting, trying to be healthy (whoops, champagne), and asking the big questions. Kristen, Lacey, and Kayla are the most fun people I know, and they make me feel good about being me, like I’m worth being friends with, or maybe even worth loving.

And when we feel like we’re loved, it’s a lot easier to love.


I wish that Dunbar’s Number could be higher, and that we could all invest heavily in every single amazing person who crosses our path. But fewer and deeper is my goal, because less really is more.

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.


Steaking her claim

Monday, March 31st, 2014

Foxy and I spent the weekend in Steamboat Springs visiting some dear friends.

This is how I know they are dear friends.

On Saturday night, they made an incredible meal: steak, baked potatoes, salad, wine. We were laughing and enjoying conversation, when all of a sudden Amy yelled, “The dog has the steak!”

Sure enough, Foxy had gotten up on the counter and dragged an entire flank of delicious red meat down to the kitchen floor, where she was helping herself.

Absolutely mortified, I sprang into action, grabbing the puppy and swatting her nose – “Bad dog! Bad dog!” Then I lifted all 35 pounds of her and carried her upstairs where I forcefully locked her in her kennel. “Bad dog!” I scolded one last time, and then headed back down to join the dinner, embarrassed and disgraced – because it’s an odd thing to feel responsible for a living, breathing creature that you actually sometimes have no control over.

When I arrived back at the table spilling over with apology, PJ shrugged his shoulders and said, “Ehhh, we threw it back on the grill. Nothing that 500 degrees won’t kill.” And when he brought it back to the table, we ate it anyway.


And the next morning when we went for a hike, Foxy, still drunk on red-blooded protein, grabbed joy by the jugular and LIVED IT UP.



Wednesday, November 6th, 2013

This past summer, I helped run a singer-songwriter contest at work. This was one of the entries.

Is that guy Minnesota or what?

Gabriel Douglas wound up being one of the winners of the contest, and I met him in San Diego when he opened for Gregory Alan Isakov. His personality is bigger than life (as is his beard); he’s like a caricature of himself. And since he makes me laugh A LOT, we became fast friends.

When we met, one of the first things he said to me was, “Duluth is the greatest city in the world.” Duluth. Duluth, Minnesota. The song above is about Duluth, Minnesota. And geographical chauvinist that I am, I knew that this could not possibly be true – Gabe Douglas must be very sheltered. Minnesotans must never get out.

Those humble Midwesterners – they’re so precious.

But when a work trip took me to Minneapolis last week, I decided to make the jaunt north on Friday night to hear one of Gabe’s bands play in – you guessed it – Duluth.

And I loved it.

Duluth is nestled on the shore of Lake Superior, built right up on a hillside. When I-35 dropped down toward the city, the lights were sparkling on the water and the stars were bright as flashbulbs. I used all of my hotel points for a room on the waterfront, and then walked up the hill to the little downtown strip.

We spent most of the evening at Tycoons, a bar/restaurant that used to be the City Hall, with a speakeasy in the basement that used to be the town jail, all “Not in Nottingham” style. Since Gabe was my only friend and he was busy being the Most Popular Man in Duluth, I made friends with the locals. By the time the show was over, I’d social butterflied my way around town, crashing into bed at 3am because Duluth makes you wild and crazy.

The next morning involved a stroll along the water, coffee at a bakery called Amazing Grace, and – once again – the confirmation that my assumptions aren’t always right. Of all places, I can’t wait to go back to Duluth, Minnesota. It charmed me.

[And speaking of charming, listen to this song Gabe wrote for his niece on her 3rd birthday. It’s magic. You’ll be happy the rest of the day.]

Like family

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

Okay. I’m back. I’ve begrudgingly re-entered Real Life after being whisked away for a week in Never-Neverland – that is, a week in California with Gregory Alan Isakov and a related cast of characters.

You know the situation – LÄRABAR held a singer-songwriter contest and three artists won a chance to open for Greg – and since this project was my baby, I flew west to manage the shows. We started in San Diego, then moved up to LA, Santa Barbara, and San Francisco. We wound up the PCH, and I visited San Francisco for the first (but surely not the last) time. I got some much-needed quality time with my sister-in-law, Ashley. And all week long, I fell more and more head-over-heels for my new friends – the contest winners, the Kris Orlowski guys, and of course, Sir GAI and his band.

There is something about getting away from the day-to-day routine that snaps you out of bad habits and ruts. It opens up the horizon and awakens possibility. It reveals fears and insecurities and the places where you grasp for control. And as one of these dear new friends reminded me one night, the thing that you’re clinging most tightly to is probably the thing you most need to let go of.

He’s right, you know. The only way to receive anything is to open your hands.

I’m back in Denver now, and opening up Outlook crumpled my soul like a piece of paper. Email is a hazard of any job, I know – it just feels particularly cruel after such a rejuvenating time AWAY from it.

I’m so sad that this project is over. But last week slapped my heart awake, and I’m just really thankful that it happened at all. I can’t pretend to know how or why it made me feel this way, but here it is: I trust that there is so much good ahead.

In the meantime, check out the pictures from the shows, captured by the one and only Ashley Parsons:
San Diego
Santa Barbara
San Francisco

On Friday night when the goodbyes were happening and I was dreading walking away, Greg hugged me and said, “This feels like family.” And it did.


Tuesday, August 6th, 2013

I turned 31 on Sunday, and my sister Becca and brother-in-law Mike treated me to the best possible thing we could imagine: a live performance of Miranda Sings.

I’ve talked about Miranda Sings before, and her live show did not disappoint. She started the show as Colleen Ballinger but changed into Miranda right on stage – and people FREAKED OUT. It was brilliant, and seriously one of the best things ever. We didn’t catch the transformation on video, but someone in Atlanta did:

Anyway, that was my birthday. Maybe I should be embarrassed to admit how much I love Miranda Sings, but I’m in my 30s so I really don’t care what anyone thinks.


When I was in Nashville, my friend Jen presented me with an envelope, and this was inside:

Jen MADE THIS. Can you even handle it? Toady and her 3 legs? I was so moved, and humbled to have such an amazingly talented, kind-hearted friend. The second this girl opens a web shop, you’ll be the first to know.


I ran across this article yesterday, and I really liked it. I buck against discomfort all the time, but maybe being uncomfortable is not the worst thing in the world.


I watched “The Bachelorette” in its entirety this season, and as of last night, it’s over. For all of the “drama” they hyped it to be, it was a total snooze-fest. No spoilers here, but I should have known it would end so boringly.

Sort of like this post is.

Yesterday at work

Saturday, July 20th, 2013

Within context, it was obvious that a co-worker-who-shall-not-be-named was attempting to conjure the “If a tree falls in the forest and no one sees it, did it really happen?” idea. It didn’t go as planned.

“You know what they say: if the wind blows, does anyone even see it?”


Kris Orlowski / The Last Bison

Thursday, March 21st, 2013

My introversion has taken a beating lately. I’ve been running from one thing to the next, constantly surrounded by people, without any down time – and you introverts know how we need our down time.

But each person I’ve been around has been 100% worth it, and none more so than the 5 guys we had staying at our house for 3 nights this week. My dear friend Mark Isakson plays guitar(s) with singer/songwriter Kris Orlowski, and the band was in Colorado for a few shows. We piled them in every corner of our house, had a couple of late (way fun) nights, and on Monday, saw them open for the Last Bison.

The Last Bison are completely mesmerizing. Billed as “mountain-top chamber music,” these kids create an organized sonic pandemonium, all while dressed like Little House on the Prairie (girls in floor-length calico gowns, guys in brocade vests). They are insane and entertaining and completely worth experiencing.

And Kris’s songs – oh my word. As we left the show, Hannah said, “No one would not like that music.” And it’s true – his voice is gorgeous, his melodies surprising, and the musicianship top notch. In the spirit of Hannah’s comment, I dare you to not like his songs.

The guys are touring with the Last Bison for a few weeks, and if they’re coming through your city, you must go. You MUST. Tell them I sent you and get a free hug*.

March 21 (tonight!) :: Treefort Music Fest – Boise, ID
March 22 :: College of Idaho – Caldwell, ID
March 24, 2013 :: Media Club – Vancouver, BC
March 26 :: Doug Fir – Portland, OR
March 29 :: Rickshaw – San Francisco, CA
March 30 :: The Mint – Los Angeles, CA
April 2 :: The Loft – San Diego, CA

*Not a promise, but… well, no, I bet I could promise it.

“Written Together” by Shanna Mallon

Thursday, January 10th, 2013

As is the case with so many people in Nashville, we had been sort of peripherally acquainted for a while. We had a lot of mutual friends, had been in the same room a few times, lurked around each other’s internet spaces – but I wouldn’t say that I really knew Tim Mallon.

So you can imagine my surprise back in 2010 when I had just finished running the Country Music Half-Marathon and looked up to see Tim – internet-acquainted but real-life-unfamiliar – making a beeline for me. Sweaty and disgusting is not the state in which you want to have your first real in-person interaction with anyone, man or woman, but Tim was unfazed: he gave me a hug and, after talking for a few minutes, we concluded that we should continue the conversation.

So a week later, I met Tim and his brother Nathan for coffee at Frothy Monkey. It was pouring rain that Saturday. The rain would continue for two days, and by Monday, Nashville would be under water – but we didn’t know that yet. We were just enjoying casual conversation, learning about each other’s families and each other’s work and why they had started drinking unpasteurized milk. Tim and Nathan are disarmingly genuine. I wish everyone could meet them.

Somewhere in the conversation, Tim mentioned Shanna. “We’re talking,” he said. And just as I always do when I hear about a crush, I got excited. “You’re talking?” I asked. “You’re talking to Shanna? Shannalee the blogger Shanna?”

He grinned. “Yeah! Shanna and I are talking.”

At the time, I was a new reader of Food Loves Writing – I don’t remember how I came across it, but once I found it, I was hooked. So much more than a foodie blog, Shanna weaves stories from her life into her experiences in the kitchen – her perspective is compelling, her heart absolutely beautiful. And the food that she makes – oh my word. The recipes send me into guilt spirals for standing in front of the fridge picking store-bought rotisserie chicken straight off the carcass and calling it “dinner.” Everything about her site is lovely and worthwhile. She’s one of my favorite voices on the internet.

And I couldn’t believe the coincidence: Tim Mallon, the Tim Mallon sitting right across from me, was talking to Shanna!

I’m going to spoil the ending: they kept talking. Shanna moved from Chicago to Nashville, and they got married. I met her in real life, too – a picnic lunch at Sevier Park, where we talked about struggles and faith and where this life might be leading each of us. She is every bit as wonderful in person as she is online.

And now, she has written a book – a book about that period in her life when she and Tim were talking, getting to know each other, falling in love. Written Together is a quick but gorgeous read, a story interspersed with recipes and details and hope. Last week, I put on my pajamas and crawled into bed, started reading and didn’t stop until I finished it. I loved it.

And I just wanted to tell you.

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Written Together is available in both ebook and printed format. Shanna didn’t ask me to write about it – but if you want to support a couple who lives and loves in a way that is inspiring, I encourage you to get a copy or three.

“O Holy Night”

Monday, December 24th, 2012

Here is my friend Charlie Hardin Murphey of Commitment Bells singing “O Holy Night” better than anyone ever.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

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Don’t forget to enter the Stuck giveaway – a winner will be chosen on Friday.