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Old enough

Saturday, October 8th, 2016

I only slept for five hours. When I woke, it was to a frigid house and a dull ache in my lower right abdomen.

Foxy was on the bed with me, curled up like a coyote, snout tucked beneath her tail. While she’s welcome on the bed, she usually doesn’t choose to be there. She’s independent and she needs her space. We’re a lot alike.

This morning, I was glad to find her on the bed. I wasn’t alone. I was freezing and weirdly in pain, but I wasn’t alone.

I picked up my phone and typed it in — abdominal pain lower right side — and it spit out the answer, the authoritative answer: Appendicitis. Go to the hospital immediately, it said. It will burst within 24 hours, it said. Once it bursts, it’s too late. You are dead, it said.

Appendectomy cost, I typed. I found a story about a Reddit post in which the bill for a 20-year old guy totaled $55,000. “I guess I’ll never afford that wallpaper,” I thought. Mentally subtracting my very high insurance deductible from my bank account, I decided that before driving myself to the hospital, I should try drinking some Metamucil, which I stock in my cupboard because at some point, I became old enough to stock Metamucil in my cupboard.

I got out of bed and put on a down jacket and wool socks. Why was the house so cold? I made my way down the stairs and into the kitchen. Two rounded teaspoons of orange powder in a tall glass of water, then down the hatch. Within 30 minutes, I felt fine.

Appendectomy averted.

But the furnace. The furnace wasn’t working. The thermostat read 50 degrees. I texted Dane next door and asked him if he knew anything about furnaces, and he said he didn’t, but came over to look anyway. We took the panels off the machine and looked inside with flashlights — for what, we didn’t know.

I found a big cricket dead beside the furnace, and then realized it wasn’t a big cricket but a tiny mouse. Not an insect. An actual mammal with bones. How long had it been there? Did whatever killed the mouse kill the furnace, too? I grabbed it in a dryer sheet and threw it in the dumpster.

I called an HVAC repairman, and he showed up in the afternoon. I left him in the basement. Later, he called me downstairs. “What I’m about to tell you will make you want to tell me to get the hell out of your house,” he said.

The furnace is shot. I need a new one. They recommend also replacing the AC unit at the same time, especially since my AC unit is already over 20 years old, on its last legs. I thought about telling him to get the hell out of my house. When he gave me the estimate, I stared at him, and then said, “I want to curl up in a ball on this basement floor.” He laughed. I didn’t. It’s more money than I’ve ever spent on anything, even a car, save this house itself.

But my house is so cold.

I almost did it. I almost signed on the dotted line, which would have guaranteed me a brand new HVAC system by Tuesday. But at the last minute, as the salesman was walking around my house counting and measuring the windows in order to file the permits, my defeated, slumped shoulders straightened up.

If I’m old enough to stock Metamucil in my cupboard, then God knows I’m old enough to have learned to seek a second opinion, and probably a third. I’m also old enough to know that money is just money, so even if it’s worst case scenario, well, oh well. I’m old enough not to panic at a financial gut punch. I’m old enough to look a man in the face and let him know that I will not be pressured into anything.

And if I’m that old, then I’m definitely old enough to sit at my dining room table at 8pm on a Saturday night just typing out the events of the day.

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My favorite words, via Emily McDowell

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?

The opposite of mending fences

Saturday, April 23rd, 2016

If you know me at all, you know my fence. Installing it was a huge deal in my life, and I talk about it to basically everyone I know. (I never promised I was cool.)

But when I moved into the house, there was an old stretch of a privacy fence at the top of the driveway, separate from my Fence of Glory. Maybe 12 feet long, it didn’t enclose anything — it was just a strip leftover from what had once been a full fence around the backyard. It served no purpose for me, except to hide my shovels behind. One of the most un-exciting things about being a homeowner is the fact that one has multiple shovels.

Last week when I returned from a work trip, I found that the old fence had fallen over.

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And lest the neighbors start looking at my dilapidated house and thinking I’m a meth cook or something, this weekend I ripped it out with my own two hands.

I borrowed a few things from the neighbors — a drill, a sledgehammer, and a crowbar — and got to work. Most of it was easy to disassemble, just removing the screws from the boards and stacking them one at a time. But when it got down to just the frame, I had to get down to business. It was crowbar time.

So I crowbarred, and sometimes I sledgehammered, and the whole thing was very Chip and Jojo except my hair will never be as thick and luscious as hers. But I was DOING IT.

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At one point, I yanked on a board and the whole frame came crashing to the ground — and instinctively, much like the time I watched 10 Cloverfield Lane, I screamed.

A man was walking by. “You okay?” he called.

“Yeah, sorry. I’m just being a girl.”

He looked at the fence and then looked back at me, felled fence and crowbar in hand. “It doesn’t look like it.”

Damn straight, man.

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My cattle panel fence

Tuesday, October 27th, 2015

This is going to expose me for being the spoiled brat of a consumerist that I am, but here it goes anyway: I still have an iPhone 4 and it’s RUINING MY LIFE. *throws self on ground to flail*

A rundown of my first world phone problems: It’s slow. I try to slide the bar to answer a call and it just sits there. Siri is broken; she sounds like a smoker from Boca Raton. When I use Maps for directions, there’s a delay that results in me being told to exit about five seconds too late. And the camera — you know, the 5 megapixel camera that used to feel so extravagantly advanced — is absolute crap.

So when it came time to photograph the finished product of the cedar-framed cattle panel fence I had installed, the iPhone just wouldn’t do. Nay, I say to thee. This was an occasion for a good old fashioned digital camera — just like the pioneers used.

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I love my fence so much, and in a way, it’s changed my everyday life. It’s absolutely luxurious to be able to throw Foxy outside in the morning and not have to follow her; she can hunt squirrels to her heart’s content while I make my coffee. I love the fact that the entire yard is enclosed, so if I want to sit on my front porch swing (because I have a front porch swing, just like I’ve wished for my entire life), Foxy can hang around. I may not have the most up-to-date phone — but damn it, I have a fence surrounding a tiny little dream house, and that means that life is pretty extravagant.

The List

Sunday, August 30th, 2015

My entire office takes the last two weeks of August off. It’s such a brilliant idea, because when everyone is out of the office, no one needs to catch up when we all return. Everything just… pauses… and then it starts again.

I knew that this break was coming, so I thought about what I might want to do – visit Seattle, or Nashville, or Denver, or even Hong Kong (dream big) – but in the end, I decided to stay right here in the old M-P-L-S.

It was such a good decision.

Don’t get me wrong – the last two weeks have been quiet as a mouse. Many boring tasks were attended to. I spent 90% of my time alone – by choice, because as an introvert, this was a DREAM COME TRUE.

Since I’m heading back to work tomorrow morning, I thought I’d list all that’s been accomplished in the last 17 days:

  • Enrolled in my new 401K
  • Rolled over my old 401K
  • Found a new dentist, and had my old records sent over
  • Found a new vet for Foxy, and had her old records sent over
  • Vacuumed my car
  • Weeded every flower bed in my yard
  • Picked up all of the sticks in my yard
  • Visited the DMV for the third time
  • Touched up paint in the bathroom
  • Bought a desk off Craigslist
  • Bought a headboard for the guest bed off Craigslist
  • Bought bedding for the guest bed
  • Mowed the lawn
  • Organized the work bench in the basement
  • Visited the Minnehaha dog park seven times
  • Visited Wisconsin twice
  • Read two books (For the Love, The Invention of Wings)
  • Watched two movies (The Theory of Everything, Whiplash – and I sent Birdman back before finishing it)
  • Watched Good Morning America every day
  • Killed a mouse in the kitchen
  • Got an oil change
  • Got a massage
  • Brushed the dog (Foxy’s coat is VERY soft these days – I blame Solid Gold)
  • Got the dog enrolled in doggie daycare, just in case I ever decide to take her (the jury is still out)
  • Organized my closets
  • Made multiple CrockPot freezer meals to get ready for the fall
  • Arranged for gutters to be installed
  • Arranged for the way-high-up trees to be trimmed
  • Figured out my property boundaries without the help of a land surveyor (I shall keep my $900, thankyouverymuch)
  • Got YARD WASTE stickers for my bins
  • Installed new ink cartridges in my printer
  • Hosted Greta and Jeff for two nights
  • Hung pictures on the walls
  • Hung a door back on the hinges all by myself
  • Got a toilet brush and a paper towel holder and a kettle
  • Edited a piece I’ve written for a magazine
  • Hit 20K+ steps on my Fitbit a lot of days
  • Bought a ticket to Hong Kong after all

GRIN. I am smiling so huge. I’ve wanted to visit my dear friends in Hong Kong since I was in high school, and come February, I’ll finally get my chance!

I am so grateful for an uninterrupted window of time to take care of all of these little tasks that would have worn on me throughout the fall. Tomorrow, I’ll go back to work a little less ragged, slightly more together, and ready to take on a very busy season.

May you embrace your staycation with gusto.

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The guest room is ready for you.

The Fox Den

Tuesday, August 11th, 2015

I’m a homeowner again – as in, fare thee well, all of my dollars.

But for a most worthy cause.

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A few weeks ago, I traded the little sum I got from the sale of the Shotgun in Denver for a 1916 – farmhouse? Bungalow? Victorian? The official style is unclear, since different elements of the house favor different trends – but in any case I’m dubbing it the Fox Den, for obvious reasons.

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I have tiny-bit-more-than doubled my square footage – which, coming from a 600 square foot Shotgun house, was not hard to do. Still though, just a 2 bed / 1 bath feels like so much space. I have an entire closet JUST FOR COATS – and it’s a good thing, because come Minnesota winter, you know I’m going to need them.

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Here are a few things I’ve learned in this particular home-buying process:

  • Internet service providers are like political candidates – they’re all the worst, but they’re all we have to choose from.
  • Mowing a lawn is basically just like vacuuming, but burning more calories.
  • When house hunting, it’s best to buy the first and only house you look at*.

It’s true: I’m two for two. When I bought the Shotgun in Denver, it was because I wandered into an open house while on a walk (not house hunting at all), stood in the front doorway, thought “I like this – maybe I should buy it?” and then I did. I never looked at a single other abode.

This time around, my friend Gabe’s friend JMatt was selling his house without listing it through a realtor – and when I found out about it, I just so happened to be in Minneapolis wrapping up with Larabar. So I grabbed my friend Mark (who was in town from New York) and we went to take a look.

Mark asked all of the questions you’re supposed to ask when considering the largest purchase of your life (“When was the roof replaced?” “Why is there a cluster of wires coming up through the laundry shoot?” “Allow me to inspect the basement walls.”) – but I just walked around swooning.

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And then I bought it.

I thought about looking at other houses in other neighborhoods, but… why? This house was everything I wanted: warm, welcoming, with enough space for guests to come and stay. A big yard for Foxy. A back deck and a front porch swing. A mile and a half from work. Why WOULDN’T I buy this house?

So now I’m settled in. I love it so much. It’s more than I knew to ask for or imagine, and falls into the “Generous Things I Do Not Deserve But Will Never Take For Granted” column (which is already overflowing, to be honest). I am grateful for my home, and want to fill it up with my people.

So please come and see me.

*I cannot be held liable for this backfiring in your face.

The inevitable emotional emergency

Monday, June 15th, 2015

Well, it finally happened. I freaked out and lost my mind.

Back in January, I applied for a job that I was eventually offered in May. This means that for the past six months, I have lived with the possibility (and now plan) of leaving Colorado – and even after making the decision, it’s felt like a whim. Oh sure, I’m moving across the country, I’ve thought. Everything will come together. I’ve had the poise of Kate Middleton, if not bigger thighs, and moved through my days with a serenity that, as it turns out, I am not qualified for.

I’ve been sailing off into the sunset, only to wake up this morning and panic that THE EARTH IS NOT ROUND I WILL FALL OFF THE EDGE.

I am still three weeks away from starting my new job, but I will only sleep at my house for four more nights. On Friday, I’m picking up a moving truck and loading all of my worldly possessions into it, then driving to Minneapolis alone. I’ve hired men to help me unload my stuff into a storage unit, where it will stay for over a month while I fly back to Colorado, go to a wedding, celebrate my mom’s birthday in the mountains, leave my dog with my dad, drive all the way back to Minnesota, temporarily move in with friends, start my new job, and eventually, hopefully, close on a new house – which will result in a reunion with my dog and a second moving of all of my stuff at the end of July.

In the meantime, I am hemorrhaging money, picking at a rotisserie chicken carcass for breakfast, lunch, and dinner in an empty kitchen, and wishing for everything to be different. Easier. Safe.

But like Mary Engelbreight reminds us:

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(I promise never to do that to you again.)

In all seriousness, risk is risky. Adventure and discomfort go hand-in-hand. But aren’t you curious? Don’t you want to know what might happen if you just step out into the unknown? For all of the mystery, I would rather walk forward into the unmapped and uncharted than know exactly what tomorrow will bring. (Because after all, it’s probably rotisserie chicken off the carcass.)

When it comes down to it, come August, I’m going to be unpacking my clothes into a closet with Foxy at my feet, and readying a guest room for you to come visit. And if you need further persuasion as to why Minneapolis is worth a look-see, help yourself to these articles:

“The Miracle of Minneapolis” – The Atlantic
“Minnesota’s New Cool Image as ‘The North'” – The Wall Street Journal

It’s going to be great (she says, after a good cry, some frozen pizza, and 20K+ steps on her Fitbit).

Shotgun for sale

Tuesday, May 26th, 2015

As of tonight, my house is on the market. And given all I have accomplished in the last seven days, I feel like nothing less than a freaking superhero (I call dibs on the name Trixie Firecracker).

In addition to holding down my full-time job (three more days!), I have moved 30 boxes, a bookshelf, a cabinet, and a flat screen TV to my sister’s garage, completely de-cluttered and neutralized my house, found a potential new home in Minneapolis, number crunched while comparing estimates from five different lenders, made some emotional decisions and a few rational ones, had an honest conversation with someone I care about, sent a few of the longest emails I’ve ever written in my life, flown to Portland, been stuck with acupuncture needles in a friend’s living room, attended a wedding for some favorite folks, slept in my own bed, my sister’s bed, and a hide-a-bed, deep cleaned my house, vacuumed the cobwebs off the ceiling, weed wacked the backyard, laid mulch in a flowerbed, organized the basement, and somehow managed not to eat my feelings. (Except that pulled pork mac & cheese. But it could have been so much worse.)

According to my Fitbit, my resting heart rate is generally around 57. One day last week, it was consistently 81 all day long, even when I was just sitting at my computer – a physical manifestation of the state of my emotions. Things have been BANANAS.

Speaking of bananas, I don’t really buy them anymore. Sure, I like bananas – but I never want a whole one. And when you try to save the other half for later, the open end gets mushy.

But let me tell you, I’ve learned a lot about selling a house (it is my first time, after all). And one thing I know: when it comes to strangers traipsing through your house deciding whether they’re willing to pay you some percentage of a million dollars for it, YOU STOCK YOUR DAMN FRUIT BASKET.

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You also adorn the tables and nooks with fresh flowers.

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And God forbid anyone find anything in your home that tells them what sort of a person you are: all books, pictures, toiletries, toys, trinkets, and shrines to Tim Riggins must be packed up and stowed far, far away. The potential buyers have to get the idea that your home is warm and inviting, yet still be able to envision making the space their own. Not that anyone could argue with Riggins.

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I adore this little Shotgun house. I’ve only been here for two years, but in that time it’s felt more like “home” than anywhere else I’ve ever lived. I’ve taken good care of it, and put as much money as I could afford into improvements: new windows, new kitchen floors, and – get excited, buyers – brand new natural gas lines! This air is safe to breathe.

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My favorite things about my house are the skylights, the interior brick, the original hardwoods, the high ceilings, the gas stove, the claw foot tub, the insane water pressure, and the location – good grief, the location. Less than a mile to downtown, a half mile to REI, three blocks to the football stadium, two blocks to the Platte River bike trail, one block to Jefferson Park and a B-Cycle station, and around the corner from a little French restaurant.

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Plus, whoever gets to live here next will surely feel my spirit lurking – and there is no price tag for that.

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So come and get it, folks! This house is about to fly.

Shotgun, revealed

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

It’s no secret that I’m a perfectionist. I don’t like to admit that I’m a person in process, because I would love for everyone to think that I have it all together 100% of the time.

Well, I don’t have everything together 100% of the time. And as if there weren’t already enough hilarious (read: mortifying) reminders of this on a daily basis, I am now the owner of a 113-year old house – and it is definitely not perfect. The roof leaks in the kitchen, the hardwoods are scratched and stained and disintegrating, the backyard is completely dead, and there is no central air, leading the thermostat on the wall to read 86° every minute of the last 3 months.

But it’s mine, and I love it so much. I’m working to fix things, one tiny dollar after another. Little by little, it’s coming together, and although it’s taken me 4 months to start to feel settled, these 600 square feet really do feel like home.

So here it is – the Shotgun, revealed*! Although I’m not showing you the outside because then you would come and steal me.

THEN

NOW

I know. You have to walk through the bedroom to get to the kitchen. It makes everyone uncomfortable except me, because hey, I’m the one who gets to sleep 5 feet from the refrigerator (life dream).

I’m trying to not make it Girlyville, hence the burlap curtains, selection of bourbon, and a few gender-neutral pieces. The last thing I need is for a man to like me only to be driven away by my decor like the girl with the unicorn house in “Dodgeball.”

Someday I’ll show you the bathroom. But I guess it won’t be today – because truth be told, I forgot to take any pictures. Poor bathroom, always being overlooked.

There are still things I want to do with the space, of course – new windows, a gallery wall in the hallway, building a closet to hide the washer/dryer, sealing the exposed brick in the bedroom, installing an awning over the back window, somehow fixing the standing puddle of water on the roof over the kitchen (any ideas?) – so more to come. But for now, I think it’s pretty good start. And I’d love to have you over any time for wine or whiskey – or more likely, both.

*Please do not judge my photography. I have no idea how I’m related to We Are the Parsons. I’m going to make my own company called I Am the Parsons, and it will specialize in horrid blue/green lighting and zero skills.

Top 10 reasons I haven’t been blogging

Monday, June 10th, 2013

10) TECHNOLOGY
I don’t own a computer – not one that works, anyway. My Macbook is from the year Two Thousand and Six, back when dinosaurs roamed the Internet. It barely turns on. Work has provided me with the privilege (?) of a PC laptop that blows hot air like [insert politician of choice], and when it’s 95 degrees outside and the house I just bought doesn’t have air conditioning, said laptop is the last thing I want to cozy up with. Besides, the wi-fi that I share with two (count ‘em) neighbors is spotty at best. Plus – PLUS – my digital camera is broken, so I can’t even make you a video of the Shotgun. All of these things make me want to pull out my newly dyed hair – which, sidenote, has now grown out to the awkward in-between phase. Great.

9) JUICING
I saw “Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead,” okay? And yes, now I’m doing the trendy thing and spending ungodly amounts of money on produce just to distill it into vegetable sewage. The process of juicing is time consuming and the cleanup is a beast, but I’m hoping that switching out a meal or two a day will help me feel like my old self, back when a mere breakup was the hardest thing I’d experienced, before the years of hard living got me down. (But seriously, if anyone knows a fruit/veggie combination that won’t leave me tasting liquid spinach with a celery splash, please let me know.)

8) HOMEOWNERSHIP
Last Friday, I came home from work with big plans of reading a book, relaxing, maybe drinking an end-of-week cocktail. What did I do instead? I set up my newly purchased ladder and, rake in one hand, iPhone in my teeth, climbed onto the roof. I spent nearly an hour filling three turbo-sized garbage bags with leaves, sticks, twigs, dirt, and the remains of a few unfortunate critters. When I’m not spending time on my roof, I’m taking things to the cellar (we can’t even call this hole a basement – the entrance is a HATCH in the backyard). And when I’m not taking things to the cellar, I’m painting my bathroom or running loads of laundry or paying bills or trying to decide if buying a house was a good decision (it was).

7) CROSSFIT
Let’s not lie, I’ve only gone three times. I’m supposed to be there right now. Whoops.

6) NIGHTMARES
Maybe it’s the aloneness. Maybe it’s the book I’m reading. Maybe it’s watching Toad get more fragile. Maybe it’s reading about deaths on the mountains I’m planning on climbing this summer. Maybe it’s just turning on the news, hearing about massacres and beheadings and building collapses and freak accidents. Whatever it is, I’m not sleeping through the night these days.

5) MUSIC
But don’t go feeling sorry for me – I’ve had some great music to keep my toes tapping and my heart humming. Hunter Hayes’ “I Want Crazy” makes me happier than everything. The Band Perry’s sophomore album “Pioneer” is solid – they’ve won me over, despite their hair. One of my favorite writers, Gretchen Peters, came to Swallow Hill a few weeks ago, and I took my mom; sharing the music I love with the people I love is one of my favorite things. I saw David Ramirez at the Soiled Dove last week, and his new EP “The Rooster” is songwriting at its best.

Also, joining a group guitar class 16 weeks ago was the greatest, most life-giving decision. I love the new friends I’m getting to know, and it’s good to have a reason to practice.

4) DATING
Sike. Haha, sucker.

3) SOCIAL MEDIA
If being online wasn’t such a big part of my job, I’d scrap it all. Social media is a major source of envy for me, since it’s easy to read other people’s happy posts and assume that everyone’s life is perfect except mine. We’re bombarded with a steady stream of highlights and never the low points – which makes sense. I don’t particularly want to share my Ugly Cry face, or the moment in which I say the very most hurtful thing – why would anyone else? So we continue to revise our wording, and crop our photos so no one sees the mess, and pretend that everything’s okay when it most decidedly is not.

2) DREAMING
Someday, I’m going to hike the Colorado Trail, record another album, live out of my car, write a book, fly first class, spend quality time with my nephews, hold every one of my friends’ babies, sit still, speak the truth, drive all the way to Alaska, cook a turkey, take an art class, stop guarding my heart and start using it, do something drastic, trust, read so many books, finish climbing the 14ers, stay at a bed & breakfast, and sing to old people in a nursing home.

1) NO GOOD REASON
I miss you. Maybe that sounds weird, since to you I might just be words on a screen – but you (yeah, you) are more than that to me. You are an important part of my community and my life. My posts may be sporadic these days; I suppose that’s the season I’m in. But I skipped doing anything “important” tonight just to write, because that’s what felt important and significant and as necessary as breathing. This space matters to me, and you matter to me, and it feels good just to say hi.