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Evergreen

Friday, November 22nd, 2013

Major changes at work. The tragic death of a guy from my hometown. The Austin Sigg sentencing. Stress and uncertainty. Too many work dinners, not enough exercise. Men being straight-up disappointing. A puppy that barks from 4-7am. And a high of 20-freaking-degrees yesterday.

This week wasn’t my favorite.

Next week, the holiday season begins – which, in the past few years especially, has felt so horrendously sad. Who can celebrate when so much is wrong? How disingenuous can we be? Gone away is the bluebird, here to stay is a cuss word. The weather outside is frightful, and I’m feeling rather spiteful. Follow me in merry measure, while the world kills all our pleasure. Faithful friends who are dear to us disappear to us once more. And will someone bring me some damn figgy pudding already?

The halcyon years are over. We know too much. And whenever the saccharine feels like overkill, I tend to overcompensate in the other direction – choosing the bitter over the sweet.

But, you know, I bought a pumpkin. And it’s still sitting in the middle of my dining room table, reminding me that this life is marked by seasons. While “autumn” makes me think of blazing colors, crisp air, and Anthropologie sweaters, “fall” feels like the beginning of deadness – the literal falling of what used to be so alive. And as I watch the world around me expire, trees stripped bare and everything left shivering, I remember that something has to die in order for something new to live.

So I’m trading in my pumpkin for my very first tiny Christmas tree. I have no tinsel, no lights. But I’m placing it on my mantle as a reminder of what is unchanging – an evergreen in the midst of transition – a sign that even when everything around is dying, some things are constant. And if we stick around long enough, something new is sure to begin.

After Thanksgiving, maybe I’ll start by hanging an ornament.

Sunrise into day

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

Things look different here (you might need to refresh your browser). After 6 years, it was time.

I loved that photo, the one taken in a Kansas field, sun-drenched and vibrant and glamorous – because who wears heels in a meadow? That girl was a great girl, bold and impulsive. She had so many wonderful things ahead, things that she couldn’t have dreamed even if she tried. She was running full speed into the unknown, and the latter half of her 20s was sensational, to say the least.

She was happy, and she didn’t know it.

But then again, her life was censored. She didn’t know that, either.

The field was eventually plowed over, and townhomes went in. That flowered chair ripped apart, and so did her family. Her free spirit was trampled into the dirt. Her skinny thighs got a little bigger, while her confidence got a little smaller. And one night, the left stiletto on those red high heels snapped right off.

Uncensored reality can be ugly. If you’ve been reading for a while, you know that the last several years have been dark for me. You’ve tracked along with what I now know to have been seasons of crippling depression and despair. And when the struggle got to be too much, I just went on auto-pilot, choosing monotone over minor chords through a variety of anesthetics.

But Brené Brown says, “We cannot selectively numb emotions.” She’s right: when we numb the painful emotions, we also numb joy, love, and compassion. And what kind of a life is that?

So I’ve taken that idea to heart, and have spent the past year plowing forward into the darkness – which, by the way, has been about as fun as venturing into my spider-infested cellar with nothing but a Zippo. But at least I’m seeing things for what they really are, or at least closer to the way that they really are. These days, the veil is lifted, for worse and for better – and there is a “better.”

So it’s time for this space to be fresh.

Life is quiet these days, and largely uncomplicated. It’s also lonely, although that’s probably mostly by choice. If I told you the last time I went on a date, you would cringe. I have more questions than answers, and the things that are unresolved – the broken relationships, the questions of purpose, the nagging insecurities – peck at me from time to time.

But somehow, there’s an element of contentment. I am rooted – not necessarily geographically, but in who I am and what I’m willing (and not willing) to wait for. I can’t say exactly when it happened, but I feel a simple confidence that just like there are good things behind, there are good things ahead.

The light is soft, the colors gentle, and the good hair days abound.

Thanks for being here through the slow, slow changes. Here’s to more light and laughter in the midst of the quiet unknown.

Change comes slow,
And sometimes you don’t notice
The twilight into darkness,
The sunrise into day
-Jill Phillips, “If You Were Here”

Just west of Crazy

Friday, August 9th, 2013

I walked into Wal-Mart at 11:50pm with a mission to buy 4 things. The Health & Beauty section was first: Ibuprofen and a bar of soap. Then, I found an employee. “Excuse me, where are your ant traps?” He walked me to the Garden section and motioned to a shelf full of pest sprays.

“Well, I’m not really looking for sprays. I want actual traps – those little plastic things full of poison that you put on your kitchen counter.”

He stared at me blankly, and I stared right back. Clearly, Wal-Mart is not where either of us preferred to be at nearly midnight on a Thursday.

“Sorry – we don’t carry those,” he said. Obviously, this was an unacceptable answer since we were in WAL-MART, an orgy of consumerism, and if you are looking for anything (especially something poisonous), Wal-Mart is the place to go. The look on my face must have given away my incredulousness, because he quickly followed up with, “I mean, this is the smallest Wal-Mart in the state.”

Sir, we are in Denver, Colorado. This is NOT the smallest Wal-Mart in the state.

But my fatigue got the best of me, and I gave in. “That’s okay,” I sighed. “Can you point me toward the hand soap?”

I walked all the way across the store to the back corner of the grocery section, and found the aisle with the dish soap and laundry detergent. I walked up and down, looking high and low, but couldn’t find hand soap. However, I did find mousetraps, which led to fly paper, which led to ANT TRAPS. Victory!

I snatched up what I needed, and then found another employee. “Hi. Where’s the hand soap?”

“Oh, that’s in Health & Beauty.”

Oh really.

I walked all the way back across the store, right past the Ibuprofen and bars of soap I had perused just moments earlier, and grabbed a container of blue liquid Dial.

All 4 items on my list were accounted for, so I headed to the register… the one register. 30-some registers in a row, and only one open. I was twelfth in line at Wal-Mart on a Thursday at midnight because apparently, frugality never sleeps.

These days, I am burning the candle at all ends – work and travel and morning and night and friends and family and email and money and laundry and exercise and who needs sleep? Every hour is full, including midnight at Wal-Mart. As I type, I’m at the airport again – this time, flying into a weekend which will require an amount of emotional muscle that I’m just not sure I can manage right now. But I will anyway.

Knowing some of this, my manager/friend Sarah looked at me the other day and said, “I’m afraid you’re going to burn out.” I looked back at her, surely with eyebrows raised and a maniacal grin, and said, “Oh no, I’m fine. I’m fine! HAHAHA!” And then my eyeball twitched.

When the Wal-Mart cashier finally checked me out and I’d swiped my debit card for $15.18, I walked toward the exit only to find the automatic doors turned off. “PLEASE USE OTHER DOORS” the sign said, pointing toward the far end of the store. Seeing my car just beyond the glass, I put my fingers in between the glass gates and pried them open, setting off an alarm. And I walked out into the night.

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.

Hammerhead over heels

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

Just a few days ago, this is where I was:

The Gulf coast of Florida is something amazing. White sands and clear water and slushy drinks and hammerhead sharks that ALMOST EAT YOU.

No joke, Miranda and I were up to our waists in the water when people on the shore started yelling and motioning us to GET OUT OF THE WATER. When was the last time someone used full arm-waving to get your attention? Let me tell you, it works. If I see a stranger-woman flailing her arms and yelling something indiscernible except for something about “teeth like razors” and “eaten alive,” you can bet I’ll hustle.*

Other than multiple shark sightings, the weekend was the most relaxing, glorious, magical experience. I was with three of my favorite people. We talked a lot. We laughed a lot. I read a lot. I barely checked into work email. I only almost-cried once (almost-cry: to be in mid-sentence when something strikes you as emotional, and your eyes burn for 3 seconds as your throat snaps shut and your voice breaks, only to recover and act like it never happened).

Catapulting out of a holiday weekend and back into Real Life, I should be all business. After taking an actual, honest-to-goodness vacation, I should be organizing my house and working out and running errands and grocery shopping and obliterating my to-do list. But right now, my throat hurts. And I think that the very best thing for me would be to practice playing “Come Together” on my guitar and congratulate myself for making it to the day-before-pay-day with a cool $1.04 remaining in my checking account.

So that’s what I’m doing tonight.

In future days, I’ll be sharing pictures of my new Shotgun house. I’ll surely have tales from my recent experimentation with CrossFit. I want to tell you about the music I’m head over heels for lately. My heart is being tugged in some very fresh and new ways. And I want to write it all down so I don’t forget, so I always remember what it feels like to be living these particular days. Time is going so fast. I want mine to count.

And I’m trying to figure out what that looks like.

*Running through water? Among the most awkward actions to attempt.

Into April

Monday, April 1st, 2013

Whoa. I disappeared from the blog for a while there. But now it’s a new week, a new month, and I’m back – at least for today.

Can I be honest? I’m glad to have March behind me. March held some wonderful things, but it was a crazy month in which it felt like every minute was booked with something: work, travel, work travel, meetings, volunteering, visitors, get-togethers, occasions, paperwork, budgeting, blowing the budget, and too few workouts. I’m spent. And I’m looking forward to a small spell of relative quiet before jetting out of town again – when little sister Sarah gets married in Kansas City in less than 3 weeks.

In the spirit of a quick catch-up:

What I’ve been [reading]: East of Eden. All of my hours on airplanes in March allowed me a bit of time to read, and I’m so glad that I’ve chosen to spend my time with Steinbeck. “Do you take pride in your hurt? Does it make you seem large and tragic? …Well, think about it. Maybe you’re playing a part on a great stage with only yourself as audience.”

What I’ve been [watching]: Homeland. It’s addictive and I’m obsessed – but fair warning, it’s graphic (in more ways than one), so if you’re sensitive to language, violence, and nudity, maybe just steer clear.

What I’ve been [loving]: humming and strumming. I’m in a group guitar class at a local music school, just for fun, and it’s my favorite thing I do all week.

What I’ve been [wishing for]: a solid week of silence. That probably won’t happen for a while – but I can still wish for it because I’m an American and I deserve whatever I want.

What I’ve been [looking forward to]: Sarah’s wedding this month, a trip to the Florida Gulf coast with some besties for Memorial Day weekend, using my new backpacking sleeping bag this summer (which, between gift cards, coupons, and my REI dividend, I got for over 50% off).

What I’ve been [listening to]: this new song by David Ramirez. He’s giving it away for free in advance of his new EP “The Rooster,” which is out in early May. If you don’t know about his music, you need to.

And now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to make this week productive, which ultimately is going to make it peaceful.

Ins-and-outs

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

Lately, I’ve been using this space for a lot of personal processing, and just realized that I’ve neglected to update you on some of my actual goings-on. Yes, I am just that pompous to believe that the world is desperate to know about the ins-and-outs of my everyday life – so without further ado…

1) I cut off my hair: 10+ inches on the salon floor, leaving me feeling like a sassmuffin. My hair hasn’t been this short since 2008, and I’m ready to go even shorter next time.

2) It’s hard to tell what’s been the worst expenditure of the past week: head gasket repair, new clutch, 4 new tires, bill from the ER, or dental work. When it rains, it pours. And I cry.

3) If you want to believe in magic, watch “Searching for Sugar Man.” I haven’t been so captivated by a documentary in ages.

4) Today, I’m wearing a grandma shirt. No really, it used to be my grandma’s. It’s a red and black silk houndstooth print with a high neck and puffed long sleeves that cinch at the wrists. It’s the most old lady thing in the world, and I kind of love it.

5) Lissie’s cover of “You Can Go Your Own Way” is haunting and beautiful and completely transformative of the original. And I know what you’re thinking: you wonder if this means that I saw the movie “Safe Haven.” And the answer is NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS.

6) The things I am currently most looking forward to: eating here in March, volunteering with Habitat for Humanity next weekend, and Greta’s arrival tomorrow night. Praise be.

Wherever you are, I hope that it’s warmer than it is right now in Denver. Someone put me on a beach so fast.

The steady season

Thursday, February 7th, 2013

Yesterday, a relatively new acquaintance asked me, “What do you want to do with your life?” She was asking about my career path, I suppose – to which my answer is always a shoulder shrug. I’ve never been one with a bullseye plan for my professional life – I just try to do my very best wherever I happen to be, and take each next step as it comes.

I’m learning to see my life in seasons. There have been seasons when I’ve been a freewheeling gypsy, tumbling from place to place with no rhyme or reason, living on scrambled eggs and dreams. Sometimes (a lot of times) I miss those days. But right now, I’m in a season of stability, a chapter of routine.

And despite the occasional call of the wild, this season is good.

I wake up each morning around 6:30, and start the coffee pot that I readied the night before. Toad goes outside, then comes in to eat her breakfast (which I sprinkle with shredded cheese because she is old and 3-legged and I just figure she needs as much happiness as she can get). I fry an egg and mix a little granola into a tiny cup of yogurt, and take my breakfast back to my bed where I usually read for a little while.

When I finally motivate myself to actually get up and go to work, I pull my lunch out of the fridge (packed the night before, of course), and either say goodbye to Toad or bring her with me. She comes to the office with me one day a week and gets dropped off with Becca another day, leaving 3 days when she’s home alone. On those days, I run home at lunch and take her for a walk around the block, then sit with her on the front porch for a few minutes. I’m convinced that no one in the world loves me as much as Toad – not to say that people don’t love me well, but just that this dog’s enthusiasm for me is over the top.

Every day at work looks a little different, as I juggle plenty of different projects. Some constants: email, social media, writing, planning, organizing, mailing, and making sure that everything I do is legal.

I try to keep weeknights low-key. I come home and eat a bowl of soup (that I cooked in the Crock-Pot over the weekend), and eventually go to the gym around 7:30. Then I head home to take a shower and go to bed and then start the whole thing over again the next day.

Nothing is flashy these days. I’m not jet-setting around the country like I have in previous seasons. I’m not dating. I’m not going to many parties or events. I’m not climbing any mountains. I’m not “accomplishing” much of anything, unless you count being a good employee and keeping Toad alive – both of which are worthwhile goals, by the way.

Sometimes, the wanderlust tries to convince me to break out of this routine and do something crazy, something that makes me come alive, something risky but beautiful. A trusted friend sent me a text the other day, urging me to do a thing that I’ve always wanted to do – and entertaining the idea of being bold and brave slapped my heart awake. I know that one day, it will be time for that tumbleweed season again.

But today, I am steady. Today, I believe it’s good. And I just wanted to write it down to remind myself.

Finally Friday

Friday, January 11th, 2013

I don’t know about you, but for me, this week has been insane. Last Friday, we finished moving my sister Becca out of the house (she’s getting married a week from tomorrow – how is this happening?). On Saturday, we got a new roommate (Melissa – she is wonderful and blond and adorable). January 7 was the first Monday back to work after the holidays – which felt a lot worse than Wednesday, January 2, just by merit of the fact that it was a Monday. Work is in full swing, my to-do list a mile long, significant pieces of my brain tucked into various pockets of projects. I am trying to figure out how to keep Toad alive without living with Becca (it’s a lot easier to share the load of two dogs than take care of just one by myself). My sister Sarah set a wedding date (have I not mentioned this? I haven’t! My youngest sister Sarah got engaged over Christmas – and by April, she will be a lawfully wedded wife. Yes, both of my younger sisters are getting married within 3 months of each other. Yes, this sends me for an emotional loop. No, I’m not falling apart at the seams. More on this later, I’m sure). My Subaru needs a $2,000 repair. I’m training for a half marathon. And I’m hosting Becca’s bachelorette party tomorrow night.

All of that to say, I’m tired. I’m glad it’s Friday. And I’m really glad that Joey explored Pinterest as a man.

Re-solutions

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

Last Tuesday morning, I poured myself a cup of coffee and crawled back into bed. To be fair, this is what I do every single morning (don’t judge my self-indulgences, except when they include reality TV). But Tuesday was no ordinary day – Tuesday was New Year’s Day, which means I needed to make my New Year’s resolutions.

My resolutions. My re-solutions. My attempts to re-solve myself – because every single year, I think that I can. And every single year, I’m disappointed to figure out that I can’t: I cannot solve myself, no matter how many times I try. No amount of accomplishment, weight loss, or personal virtue can fix me, or any one of us.

Often, I wish that I could solve myself, because wouldn’t it be great to be in the driver’s seat of my own life. Wouldn’t it be great to call all the shots and know that if I tried hard enough, prayed hard enough, was good enough – poof – I’d be fixed. I’d be better. I’d be awesome. Best of all, I’d be in control.

I’m not big on poetry, but I remember William Ernest Henley’s “Invictus” from AP College English during my senior year of high school. An ode to self-reliance and resilience, the last two lines go:

I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.

I don’t know about you, but after all of my years of control-freaking, all of a sudden, that thought exhausts me. I do not want to be the master of my fate or the captain of my soul.

So this year, my “resolutions” are being reframed.

Don’t get me wrong – I have some hopes and plans for the year (climb 7 14ers, write 4 songs, run 1 half-marathon, have 0 nervous breakdowns). But if these goals come from a place of “because this will solve me,” then I’m going to wind up sorely disappointed – again.

So no more re-solutions. No more mastering my fate, or captaining my soul. Just some hopes, and daily little steps, and trusting that I’m exactly where I need to be in this moment, even if nothing is is “solved.”