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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.”

Stuck

Friday, December 21st, 2012

When I turned 30, I had the sinking realization that no one was going to fix me.

I had long harbored the belief – although perhaps not consciously – that someday, something was going to shift, and I would no longer be broken/sad/angry/afraid/lonely/insecure/what-have-you. Believing that someday things would change somehow made it easier to accept that today, I was still stuck.

I continued to allow myself to be stuck in the (shoddy) confidence that the elusive and undefined someday was coming.

But when the calendar turned to a new decade, I realized that I was struggling with the same things I struggled with at 14 and 19 and 23 and 28. I realized that in certain areas of my life, there was no movement. I realized that I was stuck – and that no one was going to dig me out, even if they tried.

Because oh, they have tried. Parents and friends and boyfriends and mentors – they have all meant well, and genuinely cared, and offered both words of truth and tangible acts to attempt to loosen me from the muck and mire. But I’ve been like a Chevy sunken to the axles: desperately, impossibly stuck.

A trusted person recently observed to me, “I see a war happening over your heart.” And I believe her. Feel free to disagree, but I believe that about all of our hearts – that there is good and there is evil, and they both want us desperately. Now, I believe that good wants us much, much more than evil ever could – but evil is insidious and conniving, and if the devil can’t have our souls, he’ll settle for our lives. He’ll do everything he can to keep us bound and gagged, to keep us from being a force for good – to keep us stuck.

Right around my 30th birthday, I got an email from Thomas Nelson Publishers asking if I would be willing to review a women’s bible study. Now, you guys. Confession time: I’m not big on bible studies. I just haven’t really done many (pastor’s kid failure). Thomas Nelson asking me to review a bible study was the equivalent of the MLB wanting my thoughts on the statistics of, I don’t know, BUNTING. (Although remember when I was so sporty and wrote this?)

But the name of the study caught my eye, and so I said yes. A few days later, Jennie Allen’s Stuck arrived on my doorstep.

This DVD-based study was so meaningful to me. It helped me pinpoint some of the areas I struggle with being stuck in: brokenness, anger, discontentment, fear, sadness. Jennie’s conversational teaching and storytelling made the 8 DVD sessions completely engaging (I want to know her in real life). And while I can’t say that I’m now completely “unstuck,” I know that addressing these topics head-on has given me language and tools to MOVE.

God wants our hearts, and is fighting for them. I truly believe this. And I’m happy to say that he is helping me get free, even in the smallest of ways.

- – - – -

Thomas Nelson gave me an extra study kit to give away to a reader, so if you’re interested, leave a comment saying you’d like to be entered for a chance to win. The curriculum includes an 8 session DVD, study guide, leader’s guide, and conversation cards for group discussion. While I believe that the lessons apply to both men and women, Jennie created the study for women – so all you burly men, feel free to enter, although you have been warned.

A winner will be chosen via good ol’ RANDOM.ORG on Friday, December 28th.

Girl, interrupted

Sunday, December 2nd, 2012

… and we’re back.

I thought about making a video to give a glimpse into my life in November, but if I had, it would have been full of long, drawn out silences and artsy frames of my face staring off into nowhere.  Trust me, I respect you more than to put you through that. The month was fairly quiet, nothing exploded, and I crossed off each day in my calendar as it passed.

It’s an odd thing we do, this virtual sharing of our lives. The internet is still a new frontier, and WE are the ones determining the etiquette – how much to tell, how vulnerable to be, what is meaningful, what isn’t. In real time, we are succeeding and failing and flying and flailing – and we’re often giving hundreds (if not thousands) of people a front row seat.

When it’s great, it’s really great. But when it’s not, it’s magnified.

As far as this blog is concerned, I’ve been playing it safe. Having once written from a very authentic place, I’ve been sharing less and less – and what I do share is surface-level, at best. I’ve wanted to maintain an image of having it all together – of being fine, even when I’m not. I’ve wanted to be cool and smart and witty; I’ve wanted you to like me. There, I said it.

I have spent years chasing excitement, adventure, and change – looking to validate my existence with various and sundry admirable feats. I’ve sought interruptions to the mundane, and solicited drama to avoid being bored with my life (or, more exactly, disappointed with my life).

But it turns out that what I’ve needed has not been an interruption of circumstances, but an interruption at the core of who I am.

These days, my sense of self is being torn apart in the best possible way. Oh, sure, it can feel like being put through a cheese grater, painful and terrifying, like the pieces could never possibly be put back together (unless they were melted in a microwave) (which doesn’t sound much better).

But it’s been SO GOOD, you guys. Humbling. Necessary. And it’s leading to good things.

In fact, Greta, who knows me better than just about anyone in the world, recently wrote to me, “I just feel like you’re leaving this very safe, very small, very familiar square of space and heading out into the biting air – and now you’re WALKING and FEELING and seeing things. I see you MOVING right now, more than you have in years.” What an encouragement to have someone who can recognize the things that we’re too close to see.

And how ironic that the acceptance of what I’ve historically thought of as an “ordinary” life could actually lead to much greater truths: freedom, clarity, peace.

I am still very much in process. I have jack-nothing figured out. But I am tired of holding my breath, hiding beneath the surface-level words posted in this space. I am ready to come up for air, no matter what it might look like, no matter who might see the inevitable thrashing (and you know there will be thrashing).

So thank you for being here, whoever you are. Your presence, even virtual, makes a difference to me. Our stories are meant to be shared – and I’m grateful to have a chance to share mine with you.

Tuesday love

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

BOOK
I just finished reading Wild by Cheryl Strayed.  I can’t tell you what this book did to my heart.  I can tell you that wherever life takes me next, I’m going on a major backpacking trip first.  If you know me at all, you’ve already heard me talk about it.

SONG
Say what you will about Taylor Swift’s latest album, but I can tell you this: “All Too Well” is classic Taylor, and it hits me in the gut.

QUOTE
“How we spend our minutes is how we spend our lives.”  I don’t know who’s credited with coining that phrase, but it’s hitting home for me these days.  I want to spend my minutes well – which means, ugh, maybe I need to stop watching “Dawson’s Creek” on Netflix.

PLAN
I recently volunteered to be bumped from a flight in exchange for a travel voucher.  I’ve decided that I want to use it on a solo vacation somewhere peaceful in early 2013.  Requirements: a beach, a kitchen, and plenty of quiet.  Any ideas for where I should go?

Things you are dying to know

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

1)      I’m back from New York.  “Newsies” was the definite, absolute highlight of the weekend.  I smiled basically the entire time – that is, when I wasn’t tearing up (and then just letting the tears spill over) during “Santa Fe.”  If it’s even possible, I think I’m getting MORE EMOTIONAL with time.  Suitors to the left.

2)      In addition to getting good, quality time with my pal Val, a twist of serendipity brought Nashville Miranda to the city on the same weekend – something we didn’t put together until we were already there.  So fun to get some unexpected time with her and her awesome boyfriend, Brandon.

3)       Speaking of Miranda and Brandon, I like to think of them collectively as “Mirbranda.”  I’m waiting for it to catch on.  So far, I might be the only one who thinks this is a good idea.

4)      To complete my month o’ travel, I’m heading to Nashville this weekend.  Out of all of the trips I take, ones to Nashville are my favorite.

5)      Did anyone catch the Broncos game last night?  I did, because I’m so sporty.  GREAT GAME.

6)      I bought a 2013 calendar, and already have things to write in it.  Things like…

7)      BECCA’S WEDDING.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, we’re gon’ have a weddin’.  Michael Murphy is joining our family in January, and we couldn’t love him more.

Longs Peak

Monday, September 10th, 2012

On Saturday, I climbed my 31st 14er, and my toughest one to date, Longs Peak.

Believe me when I tell you that two days later, my entire body hurts.  Not just my quads, y’all – my entire body.  I’m talking about the fronts of my ankles, and the tops of my shoulders, and that fat little hand muscle below the thumb – the one that I imagine would taste like a buffalo wing.  (Consider yourself warned: if we ever find ourselves together in a life or death situation a la “Alive,” I’m going for the buffalo wing.)

The day started just two hours after I went to sleep.  My alarm went off at 12:30am, and I drove to meet the band of strangers that would be my companions for the day.  The only girl in the bunch, I introduced myself, ate a Pop-Tart, and at 2:30am, we were off.

The first 4 hours were in the dark, our path illuminated only by our headlamps and a half moon.  At one point, we turned off our lights to look at the stars – and I can’t remember when I’ve seen stars that bright.  Despite my lack of sleep, I was energetic, and kept up with the men just fine.

As the sky began to grow light, the mountain started to reveal itself.

Longs Peak looming large

And I turned just in time to see the sun come up.

Sunrise

Six miles in, we approached the Keyhole, a huge rock formation that serves as the gateway to the last mile and a half to the summit, and the game changer in terms of terrain.  Up until the Keyhole, it’s just a long hike – but everything from the Keyhole on is a tricky and challenging climb, with an abundance of narrow ledges, loose rock, and near vertical ascensions.  My dad’s advice to me the day before was to “manage my emotions”; he knows me all too well.

The Keyhole - Longs Peak

The Keyhole – Longs Peak

First came the Ledges, a series of vary narrow ridges along a cliff edge.  Hearing that I’ve historically harbored a fear of exposure, our fearless leader Mark gave me the advice to always keep a hand on the rock wall and to never look down.  Now usually, when presented with the command of “don’t look down,” I almost always look down; ever pragmatic, I want to know the grave reality of my circumstances.  But this time, I took Mark’s advice – and I made it across the Ledges with no moments of panic.

Next was the Trough, a 600 vertical foot couloir (a word that my fellow climber Jim taught me – one that makes me feel très French).  The gully is filled with loose rock, which made the wisdom of our climbing helmets all the more obvious.  At the top of the Trough, I was tired – but we weren’t to the summit yet.

Photo by Dan Biro – and that’s my booty

Then came the Narrows, a constricted ledge that took us across another vertical rock face.  Whoever named it “the Narrows” was not messing around; nothing forces you into the present moment like the potential of falling to your death.  I found this video that gives a brief glimpse of the path – and it’s even more dizzying than YouTube makes it look.

Finally, we came to the Homestretch, a polished granite slab at a nearly 90 degree angle.  Hand over foot, it took about 15 minutes to climb 300 feet – and by 9am, we were at the summit.

Homestretch

Photo via iorg.com

We had gorgeous weather, and stayed on the summit for a full hour – longer than I’ve ever hung out on top of a mountain.  I had a brief moment of cell service, and posted this picture for the world to see – bright eyed and proud to have conquered Longs Peak.

(And for those who are keeping score, yes, I realize that this is the exact same picture as the one I took on the summit of Mt. Elbert last summer.  Apparently it’s my signature mountain look.)

Believe it or not, the descent was tougher than the ascent, since we were basically forced to crab walk for a mile and a half back to the Keyhole.  Try climbing off the top of a mountain down steep, sheer rock faces – it’s not for sissies.  Many accidents occur on the way down from a summit, since it’s easy to think that “the hard part is over” when, all the while, your body is that much more tired.

When we made it through the Keyhole and back to the trail, I was exhausted.  It was hard to lift my feet, and my legs felt wobbly.  The miles stretched on and on.  With every twist in the trail, I hoped to see the end – only to be met with more of the same.  It felt like it would last forever.

But 6 hours from the summit, after talking about everything from snowshoeing to dating to “Brian’s Song” (note: if you want to see grown men get emotional, just mention “Brian’s Song”), we emerged from the trees.  We were finished, back at the cars, pulling off boots and peeling off socks.  No matter what you go through, I can tell you this: nothing compares to putting on sandals after a 15-mile excursion.

I was so fortunate to climb with a great group of men through the Colorado Mountain Club – seasoned mountaineers who were encouraging, experienced, and pleasant company – and I am more than proud to check Longs Peak off my list.  It’s a mountain that had given me stress dreams for weeks, as I read first-hand accounts of the challenges (and occasional deaths) along the trail.

But I was encouraged to find that my last few years of mountain climbing have strengthened my courage and confidence; as with so many things in life, experience builds backbone.  I didn’t have any moments of panic, never hyperventilated (something that has happened to me on mountains before), and hand over hand, step by step, focused on one move at a time. This climb forced me to live only in the present moment – which is the only place that life happens, anyway.

Chalk it up to another real life lesson learned in the mountains.