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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

Trading for cantaloupe

Tuesday, May 20th, 2014

So, on Saturday –

Wait. Let me back up. I’m currently in Nashville. I drove here.

I was in Minneapolis last week, flew back to Denver Friday night, loaded up the car, and headed east first thing on Saturday morning. A quick stop over at my mom’s house in Kansas City on Saturday night, and another in St. Louis on Sunday afternoon (to see one of my dearest friends, THE Juliette Genteman), and by last night, I was pulling into the driveway of Brandon and Miranda – or as I like to call them, Mirbranda. Everything about this trip has been tops.

Back to Saturday. In the middle of Kansas, I took a detour and wound up at Mushroom Rock State Park – probably the tiniest state park I’ve ever seen (5 acres), and the strangest phenomenon: gigantic alien rocks standing inexplicably in the middle of farmland, an agricultural Stonehenge.

mushroom

Foxy and I jumped out to snap a few pictures, and – oh. This is where I show you the vehicle I was driving.

car

Nice and loud, right? It attracts a lot of attention. So I wasn’t surprised when a woman approached me. “You’re from Colorado?” she asked. “I’m heading there tomorrow. Anything I just gotta see?”

She looked to be about 65, maybe a little older. She was driving a little white pickup with Florida plates, the topper on the back packed to the brim with her things. Her spunk was all too clear, as I soon learned that she was en route to Wyoming to work on a ranch for a few months – much to the worry of her children.

“But you know, I just tell them, you’re only old once!” And she laughed with her entire body.

I asked her to take a picture of Foxy and me in front of the rocks, and she was happy to oblige, calling for the dog’s attention: “Roxy! Roxy!” I didn’t bother to correct her.

As I was leaving, I pulled out a box of bars and offered them to her. Her eyes wide, she immediately raised both of her hands, fingers spread, and aimed her palms at me: “Oh, nooooo, I couldn’t possibly accept!” I told her that it was okay, that I work for the company, and that part of what I do is give stuff away. I opened the box and showed her all of the different flavors, and said, “Please take them!”

She thought about it for a second, and then said, “Well, do you like cantaloupe?”

And before I knew it, she reached into the bed of her pickup and pulled out half a melon, covered in foil.

“Oh, that’s okay –” I started, but she cut me off. “No, take it! Fresh from the farmer’s market this morning.” And with that, I traded a box of bars for half a cantaloupe – because don’t you want to live in a world where melon is currency?

I opened the car door and Foxy jumped in, the lady calling after her, “Bye, Rocky!” And then she turned to me and said, “Remember – don’t talk to strangers. We never met.” I smiled and laughed and said, “I won’t tell if you won’t tell,” as I buckled up and got ready to leave.

When I started to pull away, I noticed her next to the car waving her arms. I stopped and rolled down the window. She trotted up alongside to say, “Don’t forget a spoon.” And she handed me a plastic spoon, because maybe I’d want to eat the cantaloupe out of my lap while flying down the interstate.

I never caught her name.

A little good Fortune

Thursday, January 16th, 2014

Anyone who knows me knows that a professional publication would be an unlikely place to find me. I wear yoga pants to work. I tell my manager about my feelings. I’ve never had a career path or a 5-year plan. My degree is in music, for crying out loud.

But somehow (you know how), I wound up employed by one of this year’s 100 Best Companies to Work For – and wonder of wonders, I was recently contacted by Fortune Magazine to chat about how I got my job.

The interview is here – check it out for a glimpse of me being hashtag totes profesh. Maybe that music degree came in handy after all?

From the bottom

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

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

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

I am very Googleable.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

The best kind of busy

Thursday, July 11th, 2013

I don’t write a ton about my day-to-day goings on at work, but trust me when I say they are many, and they are crazy. My to-do list never ends, and my schedule never stops. I know I’m not alone when I say this, but still: I am busy all the time.

Luckily, I like a lot of my projects, and none more so than THIS.

LARABAR Simple Singer-Songwriter Contest

[It’s okay, I’ll wait. Check out the link and then come back.]

Okay. Is this right in my wheelhouse or what?

First of all, if you don’t know who Gregory Alan Isakov is, you need to change that right now. He’s an amazing talent, and a great guy, to boot. He has a new record out called “The Weatherman,” and it’s all I see people talking about in my Facebook newsfeed this week. It’s really, really good – and I’m lucky enough to be joining him for 3 tour dates in August when the LÄRABAR contest winners perform during his shows.

Do you want in on this? Here are a few ways you can be involved:

1)      If you’re a singer-songwriter (and I know a lot of you are!), enter the contest. We want to hear your songs – and if you win, you’ll be hanging out with me in California next month (the real prize, let’s be honest).

2)      If you’re not a singer-songwriter, pass the contest along to anyone you know who is.

3)      If you live in California, get tickets to GAI’s San Diego, Santa Barbara, or San Francisco show – and let me know you’ll be there, because I’d like to hug you. I’ll probably be at the Los Angeles show, too.

4)      If you live anywhere else in the US or Canada, go see GAI. He’s touring all over this summer, and you’ll love him.

I’m busy. But this project is the best kind of busy. In the midst of the stress and the chaos, I feel really lucky to have the chance to work on something fun, something that makes me happy.

What I “do”

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

I changed jobs at the beginning of the year, and have spent the last several months learning what it is that I “do.”

Here is my conclusion: my job is pretty cool.

I work on the marketing team for LÄRABAR, which is a brand that I was smitten with long before I was ever connected to; my title is “Community Host,” which I couldn’t love more. A series of hilarious events led to where I stand today, and I don’t hesitate saying that I think I have one of the best “how I got the job” stories of anyone I know.

But lest you go thinking that my entire role revolves around jingle writing, let me tell you about some other cool things I’ve been up to.

First of all, I’m paid to be on Facebook and Twitter. I’m the “voice of the brand,” and channeling the LÄRABAR personality gives me an excuse to use exclamation points – something I rarely do in real life. *Like* LÄRABAR on Facebook, and delight in the secret knowledge that every status update you see is posted by yours truly.

Another part of my job is to help give free stuff away. Blog giveaways, surprising friends of the brand, sweepstakes – the joy of giving is alive. For example, do you like the Avett Brothers? Do you live in Colorado? Then you should enter this sweepstakes I helped organize with the City of Denver.

LÄRABAR has a new bar called über, and it’s super delicious. We built and launched the über Gallery on our website, and are featuring photos and videos of friends who are living life in a bold and unique way. Check out the current content – you may see some familiar faces – and then submit your own “über moments,” because you are wicked awesome.

The biggest project of the summer is hosting the LÄRABAR Half Marathon with 5K and Kids 1K. Have I ever put on a race before? No. Has anyone on the team? No. But we are learning a lot, and prepping for a crazy-huge undertaking – and if I may be so bold, I think it’s going to be fantastic. If you’re looking for a race to run in August, we’d love to see you there – the registration will be live in the next few days.

Mainly, my daily routine consists of not having a routine, holding a million details in my brain, and telling everyone I know that LÄRABAR is the greatest little fruit & nut bar on the planet. If you’ve never tried one, I highly recommend Peanut Butter & Jelly, Coconut Cream Pie, Chocolate Chip Cherry Torte, Cashew Cookie, and Blueberry Muffin.

Second place

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

Today is my last day at Emma.

My sweetie friend Miles – the one who played guitar for my original LÄRABAR song, the one who gave me my most favorite nickname of all time (“Persnicket”), the one who makes work so much more fun – made me this.

That?  Is awesome.  And hilarious.

Thanks for the wonderful years, Emma.  Thanks for introducing me to some of the greatest people in my life.  Thanks for the chance to make Nashville home.  Thanks for acting as training wheels for my transition to Denver, and now launching me out on my own.  Thanks for teaching me how to talk to all sorts of people, and giving me the confidence to confront conflict, and guiding me toward grace under pressure.  Thank you for being exactly the right place during exactly the right time.

I kind of feel like the luckiest girl in the world.

Except for… um, her?

Really, internet?  Really?

Well, so, okay.  Second place, I guess.

The time I said “EXPLODE” to homeland security

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

So there I was at the Denver airport, heaving my bulging black suitcase onto the conveyor belt for the x-ray machine. This was just my carry-on – my REAL bag (a behemoth red Samsonite) had already been found 6 lbs. overweight at the ticket counter, leading me to put on my boots and jacket, stuff my curling iron and jewelry into my purse, and relegate various items of detritus to my smaller suitcase.

As the carry-on inched toward the x-ray machine, the TSA agent observed the swollen vessel, and made a comment that he didn’t know that it would make it through the machine.

“I know!” I laughed. “It’s about to explode!”

And right then and there, all of the air was sucked out of Denver International Airport.

The silence coddled the word like an overindulgent mother.

Explode.

EXPLODE.

I literally clapped my hand over my mouth, realizing what I had done – and then I sprung into action.

“Haha, I mean explode with my stuff. My STUFF – nothing dangerous, nothing sharp. I mean, except for high heels! Haha!”

No one else was laughing.

“Ma’am, we’re going to need to take a look in your bag.”

I was led to a sterile table where a blue-gloved person (man? woman? man?) asked, “If I open this bag, will anything harm me?”

“No! No, not at all,” I rushed. “All that’s in there is shoes. Oh, and a bunch of computer things. And I guess some snacks.”

Snacks is right.

The agent slowly, hesitantly, cautiously unzipped the suitcase, and beheld the contents.  “Ma’am, why do you have so many energy bars?”

Full disclosure: in my bag were hundreds of LÄRABARs.

“Well, those are for my co-workers in Nashville.”

“Okay…?”

And then, without further prompting, it all came tumbling out. “I resigned with the company – just last week, actually. I’ve been working for an email marketing company that’s based in Nashville – but I’m switching jobs. To LÄRABAR, actually. They’re based in Denver – I live in Denver. I just wanted to bring my Nashville friends some bars – as a little farewell, I guess.”

There it was. And there it is.

The suddenly indifferent agent waved me through security and all the way to Nashville, where I’ve given the bars to my friends at Emma – an understated thank you for the three years of support, camaraderie, and friendship they have given me.

Come January, I’ll join the marketing team for LÄRABAR, a brand that I have been evangelizing on my own for years. I am leaving an incredible company for another incredible company, which is not lost on me: this basically makes me the luckiest girl in the world. This is one of those moments where I can look back and see how the complicated, jagged-edged pieces have fit together perfectly, creating a gigantic flashing arrow, pointing me toward this next step.

So my suitcase may be emptier – but as much as my heart is tempted to feel the same (after all, I am giving up what has been a very good thing), it’s actually full to overflowing. I will spend the next week with some of my favorite people in Nashville, and then gently close the door on what has been a beautiful season in my life.

The goodbye is bittersweet, but the future feels warm and bright. In fact, my heart is exploding with sprinkles.

Just don’t tell TSA.

Holy môlé

Monday, March 14th, 2011

The LÄRABAR weekend has come and gone – and all I can say is that I want to go back to the land of palm trees and free samples.

It was amazing.  Basically the greatest ever.

Want to hear one of the (many) LÄRABAR songs we sang (many times)?  Here you go.

We spent the morning in the sunshine, right by the entrance to the convention center, welcoming 56,000 attendees with songs about LÄRABAR.  In the afternoon, we moved inside to the brand booth (one of 3,000), and in between sets, would run around like (free range) chickens with our (happy, healthy) heads cut off, eating as many natural food samples as we could.  Some were amazing, some just needed some gluten or meat or something.

Here were a few of my favorite finds:
Alexia: Spicy Sweet Potato Fries
Svelte: Cappuccino protein drink
Redwood Hill Farm: Smoked Goat Milk Cheddar Cheese

And of course, when it comes to LÄRABAR, I am a humongous fan of:
Blueberry Muffin
Cashew Cookie
Cherry Pie

The highlight of the weekend was singing LÄRABAR songs to Lara herself.  The other highlight was meeting David, the inventor of Cocoa Môlé (I am his biggest fan).  The other highlight was being within arm’s reach of Fabio. The other highlight was when Matt, suddenly possessed with the theme of “natural foods,” accidentally said that our return flight was routed through “Las Vegan.”

The LÄRABAR team was a dream to work with, and I’m so thankful to have had the opportunity (and the new friends).  This will go down as one of those big surprise gifts in my life – something I never could have planned, but am so glad that it happened.