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Fargo Forever

Thursday, May 25th, 2017

Over the course of the last four and a half months, I ran 434 miles. Last Saturday, all of that training culminated in me running — and I do mean running — the Fargo Marathon. I did it! I ran the entire thing! I never stopped, except this one time (we’ll get to that).

First things first, I will never do it again. I will never run another full marathon. My body just isn’t meant for it, you know? In the last few days of recovery, I’ve felt like an old Volvo whose frame was just sprung in an accident. Everything was rattled and pounded and jarred and thrashed. I’m back to walking, but I’m pretty sure I’ll never be able to squat down to unload groceries into the refrigerator ever again. My knees are talking to me, telling me the deep secrets of their souls. My left glute is permanently crimped. I descend the stairs backward like a toddler, using my hands for balance, butt in the air. Nay, I say to thee: I will live the rest of my days in a safe, padded cocoon, treasure my cartilage, and protect my joints like the precious gifts they are.

But am I sorry I did it? Not a chance.

My sister Sarah drove up from Kansas City – 9 hours! – to be race support

The morning of, standing in the chute waiting for the race to start, even before they starting playing “Eye of the Tiger,” I was already tearing up. I couldn’t believe it was finally here, all of the hard work come to fruition. It’s true what they say: the training is the real achievement, and the race is just the victory lap.

A reeeeealllly long victory lap.

The first 20 miles went better than I could have ever dreamed. When I did my 20-mile training run, it took me 3 hours 40 minutes; when I hit the 20-mile mark on race day, the time was 3 hours 15 minutes. I was flying! (You know, for me.) Up until that point, I was running 9:55 minute miles, and having a great time.

Still feeling good with 7 miles to go — I was so young and innocent and had no idea what was coming

But then I passed mile 20. And you know what’s past mile 20? Hell. Except hell is made of a billion tiny knives stabbing you simultaneously. And then those monkeys from The Wizard of Oz fly in and rip you limb from limb. And then what’s left of you is set on fire and left to burn in a dumpster.

I’m trying to find a strong enough word for the pain. Agony? Excruciation? I could feel every cell in my body individually dying — probably because they literally were.

Somewhere between mile 22 and 23, I reached downtown Fargo. This is the iconic stretch of Broadway where you run past the Fargo Theater, and tons of people are out to cheer. Earlier in the morning I had had visions of reaching this point, and how surely it would result in a euphoria that would carry me to the end.

But do you know what happened on Broadway?

I stopped, put my hands on my knees, crumpled to the ground, and curled up in a ball. I curled up in a ball in the middle of the road! There were no thoughts going through my head except one long “Noooooooooooo.” No to running. No to pain. No to life. I heard footsteps around me as runners passed, and figured it was only a matter of time before someone yelled for a medic.

I was down for about 10 seconds before I felt hands under my arms and I was hoisted up — but it wasn’t a medic. It was a fellow runner. He was wearing a National Guard shirt and looked like a real BAMF, you know? He stood me up, steadied me on my feet, looked me in the eye, and then shook his finger in my face and yelled, “YOU GOT THIS!” Then he high-fived me so hard my hand hurt, and took off.

And you know what? It worked. I started to run again. I ran through the pain all the way to the end, because, in the words of modern day wise men Rascal Flatts, “When push comes to shove, you taste what you’re made of.” And it turns out I’m made of grit. Who knew?

Our sage prophets

When I crossed the finish line, I immediately burst into tears. There was my sister Sarah, and my dad and Nicole, and our friends Scott and Stephanie, and I didn’t have to run anymore, and it was over, and I had done it. I had done it! The thing I had never been sure I could do. But I did it anyway.

I earned those ugly tears

I finished in 4:27:14, faster than even my secret stretch goal. And I will love Fargo for the rest of my life.

Marathoner!

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.

Clouds

Tuesday, April 7th, 2015

I travel a lot, which means that I drive to the airport a lot. If you know Denver International Airport, you know that it’s a) full of conspiracy theories, and b) SO FAR AWAY FROM DENVER. Peña Boulevard is paved with good intentions, but mostly a dull drive.

Except for the clouds.

For the longest time, there was an art installation in a field just west of the road to DIA, and it was one of my favorite things. “Why do you like it so much?” people would ask. I don’t know. Why do I like chocolate, or the color green? I just do. It was delightful and whimsical and just totally unnecessary – no one NEEDS cloud towers – but aren’t you glad they exist?

Clouds
(Art by Christopher M. Lavery. Photo credit.)

Sometime in the last year, the clouds vanished. It didn’t exactly make a difference to my life or anything, but it really bummed me out. Why did they take them down? Where could they have gone? How sad that a bright spot in my regular drive to DIA just up and disappeared.

But just now, I took Foxy on a lunchtime walk. I wasn’t half a block from my house when I rounded the corner and, there across the freeway, I saw them.

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The clouds are right around the corner from my house! Albeit in a hideous location. But there they are! I found them!

I don’t know if they’re just in a holding cell until they’re moved to their intended spot, or if that empty parking lot in the shadow of Elitch’s is their final destination (which would be a strange choice). For now, I’m just glad to know that they still exist. It gives me hope that the good things can continue, like the Velveteen Rabbit.

Introducing Foxy Brains

Monday, November 4th, 2013

My sister Becca works for All Aboard Animal Rescue, where they pull dogs from high-kill shelters – usually in New Mexico – and bring them to Colorado to adopt them out. Coloradans love dogs. The state animal is probably a Shelter Dog.

About a week ago, I went to one of her adoption events to hold the puppies brought up through the Underground Tailroad (come on, that’s too good), needing a snuggle fix. Since it was the week of Halloween, all of the puppies had been given spooky-themed names: Goblin, Creepy, Crawly, Spider. I was not going to bring one home – but maybe I was asking for it. I fell in love.

Her name was Brains.

puppy

You don’t want the responsibility of a dog, people say. You travel too much. You’ll lose your freedom. And it’s true – ever since Toad died in July, I’ve really enjoyed having the ability to go wherever, whenever, without the worry of “I have to get home to let the dog out.” Life has been manageable. It’s been easy. I’ve been footloose and fancy-free.

But I’ve also been lonely. And self-focused. And a tiny bit bored.

These are not themes that belong in the life of Annie Parsons.

So after a few days in Minnesota for a work trip, I got back to Denver on Saturday and took custody of my new best friend.

foxy

She’s a 9-week old mongrel – maybe part Australian Shepherd, part Border Collie, part extra fluff. Her ears are lopsided, one of them being closer to the middle of her forehead than the other – and her little eyebrows are expressive and close together. Meal time is the most exciting thing that’s ever happened to her. Bath time is the worst. She is smart and curious, and sleeps through the night in her crate like a champ. So far, her favorite things are her squeaky turtle and my bed skirt.

And since there is no other word I’d rather have my name associated with on a regular basis, her name is Foxy – Foxy Brains, because she’s more than just a pretty face.

She’s about to ruin my life. For the better.

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Free

Thursday, December 27th, 2012

Yesterday was a momentous occasion, a freaking scream-from-the-rooftops miracle: after working toward it for years, I made the final payment on my student loans, and became 100% debt-free.

I still don’t quite believe it myself.

My debt was made up of common damages: credit cards, a car loan, and everyone’s favorite, student loans. I was 17-years old when I decided to go to a private university, therefore sealing my fate as an indentured servant from graduation on. Borrowing money for school led me to feel justified in borrowing money for other things (“What’s another thousand? At this point, it’s just a drop in the bucket”).

Thus, my entire adult life has been spent owing.

Just about two years ago, my 21-year old Honda Accord rolled to a final stop on the side of the highway just outside of Kansas City. I had no money in savings, and could only laugh when the salvage lot paid me $251 for parts. I had a $2,000 credit card balance, $17,000 remaining on my student loans, and found myself borrowing $8,500 to buy a used car. All of a sudden, after 6+ years of paying the minimum monthly amount on my student loans, I was basically back to owing the original sum I did in the beginning. In other words, in 6+ years, I had made no progress.

Maybe it’s tacky to give dollar amounts. Maybe you read those numbers and think, “Wow, that is a TON of money” – or maybe you read them and think, “Come on, Annie – that isn’t so bad.” The point is that the sum was much more than I was comfortable with, more than I was able to fathom settling – and I had no idea how to get myself out of the mess I had gotten myself into.

Around that time, I started listening to the Dave Ramsey Show. I’m sure there are other financial gurus out there with valid get-out-of-debt plans, but Dave is my guy, and I think he gives solid, common sense advice. I loved when people would call in to the radio show to tell Dave they were finally debt-free, and was sometimes moved to tears as they shared their stories. Some of these folks had more debt and a smaller salary than me. Some of them were single women like me. I started to realize that actually, mathematically, I could do it: I could get myself out of debt.

However, when it came to following the Dave Ramsey plan, I had a bit of a slow start. I spent about a year trying to pump myself up, listening to his show and reading his books but only kind of following the steps. I moved in with my mom for 3 months, built up a $1,000 emergency fund, and started the debt snowball. But I continued to overspend each month, making it so I could never quite pay off the credit card – because I NEEDED to fly to Nashville, or I NEEDED to have that dress from Anthropologie, or I NEEEEEEEDED to have whatever I wanted when I wanted it. I could write an entire book on how this “neediness” is nothing short of a disease. It’s a contentment killer, a sabotager of joy, and a dream stealer – because as long as money is owed, certain dreams have to be put on hold.

And this past February, I had finally had enough.

I knew that I had to “stop the bleeding,” and there was only one way how: I drank two glasses of white wine and took scissors the plastic. And when I realized that I had no backup plan – no way to buy something unless I had dollars for it right then – I stopped buying shit that I didn’t need. Simple as that.

That’s when my debt snowball really took off, first paying off the credit card, then my car. When my student loans were the only thing left, I upped the payment from $200 to $300, and a few months later, I said “I’m over it” and bumped it all the way to $1,000. One thousand dollars every single month on a single girl’s not-gigantic salary. This was the most fun, because I watched the digit drop every month, $10,000, $9,000, $8,000, just like the New Years’ countdown.

Speaking of New Years’, my 2013 will contain zero debt.

Again, maybe you think it’s tasteless to talk about money – and who knows, maybe it is. But I’ve become very passionate about being debt free, so I’m throwing caution to the wind and writing about it – because I want other people to know that YOU CAN DO IT. If you are up to your eyeballs in debt, and feel like there’s no end in sight, and that you will spend your entire life paying for decisions of the past, I’ve been there – and I’m here to say that THERE IS HOPE.

And the feeling I have today is worth everything that it took.

Secret project: revealed

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

A few times, I’ve mentioned the fact that I’ve been working on a secret project.

And each time, I’ve thought, “I’ll tell everyone what I’m doing soon” – but it just hasn’t happened.  I’ve written about things like Zumba and ants and Tom Hanks as Animals instead – because I just couldn’t help it (and really, who could blame me?)

So months have gone by, working on this secret project, and now it’s happening TOMORROW, and I still haven’t even told you what it is.

Well.  Okay then.  It’s time.

Remember when I wrote a little song about LÄRABAR?  And they rewarded me by sending me bajillions of Cocoa Môlé?  Well.

It turns out that LÄRABAR is based in Denver.

And it turns out that they’re really, really nice people – and they like ME, too.

So they asked me if I could come up with some more songs about the brand, to which I replied, “Holy môlé” – and then a resounding yes.

Some fast and furious writing has taken place, and tomorrow, I’m flying to Southern California to perform these LÄRABAR songs at Natural Products Expo West.  Need proof?  Here’s the poster:

I know.  I KNOW.  It’s so fun.

Oh, and you might be wondering who this “Matt Whitman” is.  Well, in addition to being my co-writer for these songs (and they truly would not have gotten written without him), he’s a Louisiana redneck who shoots squirrels and cooks them in gumbo.  He’s also a farmer who knows how to grow vegetables.

All I’m saying is that when the world ends, I want him on my team – because when the LÄRABARs run out, this guy will keep people alive.

More to come…

“Thirty-five boxes can’t be wasted”

Wednesday, December 29th, 2010

Just when you were starting to forget it, I’m bringing up the song again.

In response to my video, Lärabar sent me the most wonderful package containing, among other goodies, 4 boxes of Cocoa Môlé.  That’s 64 bars – I’LL NEVER GO MÔLÉ-LESS AGAIN!

I love Lärabar.

From Head To Foot

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010

You know my friend Annie Downs?

Of course you do.  She is famous in the blog world, famous in Nashville, famous in my heart, and now, famous in honest-to-goodness book print.

When I first met Annie several years ago, she was in the beginning stages of writing a book.  She wrote and wrote and wrote, more words than I have ever strung together.  She poured her heart and her time and her stories into this book – and now it’s finally ready for you to read.

Anyone who knows Annie in real life knows that she’s the greatest to hang around.  She is honest and funny and loves people like she means it.  She draws people in like a moth to the flame – except in the end, the moth doesn’t burn to death, so it’s actually not like a moth to the flame at all.  It’s more like cartoon birds and chipmunks being drawn to Cinderella’s song, or me being drawn to men with scruff.  (Please note that Annie Downs does not have scruff.)

Here’s the crazy thing: so much of the good that is Annie translates directly over to the way that she writes.  I’m only a few chapters into this book, and reading it feels like we’re sitting across the table from each other, hashing out the good, the bad, and the ugly.  The girl is gifted.

For those of you who can’t get enough of her hysterical, heart-felt blog, you will definitely want to grab a copy of “From Head To Foot.”  It’s geared toward young women – and chances are that you either are a young woman or you know a young woman, so order one or five or enough for all of the high schoolers at your church.

It’s a really cool thing to watch a friend’s dream come true.  Annie Downs is doing one of the many things that she’s meant to do – writing good, truthful, life-giving words, and sharing them with others.  It’s a big deal.  It’s a great story.  I’m so proud to call her my friend.

And the winner is…

Thursday, April 1st, 2010

I have this friend named Mary who is tall and leggy and rocks the red lipstick like no other.  She is into fashion and design and music, has traveled the world, and – just like Uncle Chester – straight up owns the Buddy Holly glasses.

She is pure fabulosity.

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And according to this…

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… she is the winner of the Burning Daylight gift basket!  Hooray for Mary!

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And a huge thank you to sweet Dani for offering such a fun prize.  I am super anxious to try some more of Burning Daylight’s products, and plan on ordering some of the Cherry & Roasted Almond cereal as soon as possible.  Be sure to check out their delicious-sounding options, and try something other than Grape Nuts for a change!

– – – – – – – –

Even though I’ve posted each day this week, I’ve left out some events and details.  Tune in tomorrow for everything I’ve been keeping from you (how’s that for suspense?).

Track 7: “By the Time”

Sunday, November 8th, 2009

I have to say, it’s scary to take little pieces of my heart and toss them out into the big bad world. But you have been a most gracious audience!

Thank you so much for listening to my songs this week – and thanks a million for buying the AP EP. Your support is helping me recoup some of the money that I spent to make it – which isn’t what it’s all about, but let’s be honest: it’s super helpful. My heart is overflowing with gratitude.

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“By the Time”

There are only two things you need to know about this final track:
1) I love the “oooh-wah” harmonies during the bridge.
2) I like to pretend that I’m much more of a badass than I actually am.

This track has been deleted – you should buy the EP to hear it!