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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.

Top 5

Monday, September 3rd, 2012

Top 5 movies

  • That Thing You Do!
  • Jurassic Park
  • Children of Men
  • While You Were Sleeping
  • Dumb and Dumber

Top 5 albums beginning-to-end

  • Lorraine :: Lori McKenna
  • Living With Ghosts :: Patty Griffin
  • Women & Country :: Jakob Dylan
  • Wide Open Spaces :: Dixie Chicks
  • The Good Things :: Jill Phillips

Top 5 things that make me cry

  • Rascal Flatts songs. Like, an embarrassing amount of them.
  • Kerri Strug sticking the landing
  • YouTube videos of soldiers surprising their families
  • Oprah interviews
  • “The Biggest Loser” – every time

Top 5 current goals

  • Pay off all debt (I am close – look out, Spring 2013)
  • Run a sub-2 hour half-marathon
  • Write a book (even if it might not happen very CURRENTLY)
  • Hike the Colorado Trail (486 miles from Denver to Durango)
  • Not to die climbing Longs Peak this Saturday

Top 5 things I wish I knew more about

  • Black holes
  • Taxes (I mean, I guess)
  • First aid
  • Fashion
  • How to be cool

Top 5 favorite ways to blow $50-100

  • Massage
  • Visit to Anthropologie
  • Mini road trip (2 tanks of gas)
  • Dinner at an extravagant restaurant (starting with the cheese plate, of course)
  • Perfume

Top 5 least favorite ways to blow $50-100

  • Fluoride kit at the dentist
  • Speeding tickets
  • Bras
  • Dog food
  • AAA

Top 5 Kenny Chesney songs

  • Anything But Mine
  • Come Over
  • Better as a Memory
  • Somewhere With You
  • You & Tequila

Top 5 things that Toad does

  • Wags her tail the entire time she eats her breakfast
  • Throws her entire body against the backseat of my car for balance when I start driving
  • Comes running (hopping) when she hears a knife slice through cheese on the counter
  • Jumps into my lap when I make her “special noise” (you wish you knew)
  • Refuses to step on grass unless it’s 100% dry (this one is actually not that awesome)

Top 5 international trips I want to take

  • New Zealand
  • Australia
  • Italy
  • Ireland
  • Hong Kong

Top 5 reasons I’m excited for this fall

  • Soup
  • Boots
  • Weddings (I have 3 – only 3! – Denver, Austin, Nashville)
  • My “bangs” growing long enough to tuck behind my ear
  • Getting back into running shape (i.e. chasing the ever-elusive runner’s booty) (starting this week)

20 things learned in my 20s

Monday, July 30th, 2012

It’s the final week of my 20s, y’all.  I’m running down 30 like a lion runs down a gazelle, or, in the case of “The Lion King,” a wildebeest runs down Mufasa.  [Wah, wah – killjoy.]

Nothing against the 20s, but can everyone agree that they are some weird years?  Don’t get me wrong, the 20s haven’t been all bad – most of my best stories thus far happened in this decade – but I am ready to move beyond them.

However, I have learned a thing or two or twenty in my 20s.

  1. Suitcases.  Do not own a gigantic suitcase.  You will be tempted to fill it up completely – which means it will weigh over 50 lbs. and result in a penalty fee at the airport.  Invest in a smaller bag to keep yourself in check – you won’t wear all of those shoes anyway.
  2. You can’t do everything.  Growing up in America, kids are taught that they can do anything.  And while it’s true that we have a tremendous amount of options and opportunities open to us, it’s important to remember that we cannot pursue every path.  Even the most abundant life involves choices – and saying yes to one thing oftentimes means saying no to a plethora of others.  This is okay.
  3. Learn what’s worth the investment.  Good concealer is.  A good sports bra is.  A good set of knives is.  Wine glasses, bangle bracelets, and sunglasses are not.
  4. Wherever you go, there you are.  When faced with the temptation to run – from a city, from a relationship, from a job – don’t count on the change of circumstances to fix your problems.  Three or six or nine months down the road, you’ll wake up and realize that you’re the same person dealing with the same stuff.  Tackle the real issues – which are probably with yourself, anyway.
  5. Don’t drink & Facebook.  Just don’t.
  6. Hang curtains.  It ain’t home until the curtains are hung.  As one who has moved a lot (a lot a lot), I’ve realized that fastest way to make a room feel “finished” is to hang curtains.  But you won’t find me wielding the drill – it’s good to have an excuse to talk to boys.
  7. Most conflict is fueled by fear.  When someone attacks you, it’s safe to say that in some capacity, they’re probably afraid.  Let this knowledge give you grace for that person.  On the flip side, when tempted to lash out, inspect your own heart for insecurity.  You’ll probably find it.
  8. You can either be right or be happy.  Have enough humility to not have to be right all the time.  I’m working on this one.
  9. No muffin tops.  Listen up, ladies: I have it on good authority that men do not care how much you weigh, nor what pant size you wear, nor any other kind of “number” you attach to your self-worth.  Take care of yourself.  Exercise in a way that feels enjoyable.  Eat colorful produce.  And then buy clothes that actually fit, no matter the size.
  10. Student loans are not “free money.” They are not.  You will pay – for a very long time.
  11. Dating.  I’ll just go ahead and say that 90% of dates are a waste of a Crest Whitestrip.  But that doesn’t mean that they’re a waste of time.  Sometimes you meet a good one, and sometimes you feel understood and seen, and sometimes you connect and talk and think and laugh, and sometimes you get kissed like the angels sing, and it’s… the best.
  12. A dog is a big responsibility.  But worth it.
  13. Nothing is unforgivable.  Growing up in the church, I was taught in a round-about way that certain sins are worse than others.  These days, I do not believe that this is true.  We are never past the point of forgiveness, and never too far gone for grace to hit us like a tidal wave.
  14. Don’t mess with your cowlicks.  You will not win.
  15. Dreams are important.  Pay attention to them, make time for them, foster them, and grow them.  The best dreams are the ones that you’ve had since you were too young to know your so-called limitations.
  16. Don’t let money be an obsession.  Be a good steward of your cash.  Watch where it goes, and be aware of how you’re spending it.  But good grief, sometimes it’s okay to spend the extra $4 for guacamole on the side.
  17. You cannot change your body.  Oh sure, you can gain or lose weight.  But your height?  Your hips?  The shape and length of your legs?  Those are here to stay.  Get nice and comfy with them – because no amount of dieting or running or stretching is going to change your basic body structure.
  18. Being single is hard, and being married will probably be hard – just like being single is great, and being married will probably be great.  No matter what relationship status you find yourself in, there are going to be tough parts and great parts.  There’s no use in playing the “grass is greener” game, because once we reach “the other side,” I’m pretty sure we’ll find that it’s all just grass.
  19. Trust your instincts.  You’ve lived long enough to know when to go with your gut.
  20. And finally, it’s okay to be happyIt’s okay to be happy!

I know that 30 is just a number, and that Saturday, August 4th will be just another day, but I can’t help but think that this birthday signifies the beginning of a new chapter.  It’s a cause for reflection – for looking back and remembering, and then looking ahead and hoping, and ultimately, feeling so thankful for the good gift that is my life.

Reminded

Saturday, July 21st, 2012

First things first, thanks to everyone who has called/texted/written to make sure I’m okay.  I am not dedicated enough to go to a midnight showing of any movie, let alone a Batman one – and in fact, I wasn’t even in Colorado on the night of the shooting.  I am very much okay, aside from being horrified along with the rest of the country.

I am reminded once again that this world is not a safe place.

Other things have been going on in my life – big events, changes of plans, last minute flights.  I spent the week in in Richland, WA, feeding ice chips to my grandmother, smoothing her hair back with a wet washcloth, sleeping on a too-small hospital loveseat.  I hate cancer with a passion, and in spite of missing a week of work, there was no doubt that I was exactly where I needed to be.

I am reminded once again that family always wins.

Life continues to feel fractured and imperfect, and “happiness” isn’t something that I feel much of these days.  But even when walking in the cold shadows, we are bound to come across patches of warm light – the trick is to just keep moving.  I am moving.  And I’m encouraged by the moments of warmth, and trusting in a hope that is bigger than circumstances.

I am reminded once again that “happiness” and “joy” are different things.

While the iron is hot

Friday, June 15th, 2012

It’s been a doozy of a week, y’all – the kind that makes you take drives just to cry, and slam your laptop shut in frustration, and call your mom only to say negative things, and listen to your “Life Support” country mix on repeat. The stress has come from every angle, and while I wish I could tell you that I’ve handled it all with grace, I’ll just go ahead and admit that it’s pressed me down like a trash compactor.

But now it’s Friday night, and I’m posting a blog. No one reads blogs on Friday nights, or even on the weekends, but my blogging opportunities come so infrequently, I have to strike while the iron is hot.

So if it’s Tuesday and this is still the most recent post, well. You’re welcome.

I love lists, and while I tend to try to avoid list blogs – because does anyone really care about my lists? – they’re a good way to catch my people up quickly. In that (half-hearted) spirit, here are some of my happiest, most lovely, favorite things that have happened as of late – because life is too short to blog about the negative.

  • One of my not-so-nearest yet dearest, Christina, had her first baby this week. His name is Duffy, because THAT IS THE MOST ADORABLE EVER. It’s such a sweet thing to see your best friends become parents. I need to plan another trip to Boston as ASAP as possible (as possible) to meet the little mister – not that I mind, since Boston is my home in a parallel universe.
  • I’ve been super into “The Bachelorette.” It’s a disease – but who can blame me? Emily plays the part of the narcissistic Disney princess, and the guys are ridiculous, and it’s all for my entertainment.
  • My favorite Melaroose (AKA Mel, AKA “M” of the JAM House) did a heroic thing. See, I was in Nashville last week, and stopped into that Francesca’s store – “Frannie’s,” to the uninitiated. They have all sorts of cheap jewelry and cheesy gifts and dresses that barely cover the butt cheeks of a tween (I really hope I don’t get in trouble for saying “the butt cheeks of a tween”) – but when I was there two weeks ago, I found an awesome black and white striped tank. Which I didn’t buy. But a week later when I was still thinking about it, I asked Mel if she would go find it for me. Which she did. And then she sent to me. And I love it.
  • One time at a wedding in Austin, I met this guy named Brett. He had a mustache. I don’t know if he still does. Anyhow, he’s a contributor to the Corner Booth, which is written by several of my favorite people – and last week, he posted a story from his life. As a fellow fearer of dancing, it was among the greatest things I’ve read.
  • The lines on a Solo cup are FOR A REASON.

And with that, I’m off to clean the kitchen, file my papers, pay my bills, and pack my backpack for a hike tomorrow morning. Because what else would I do on a Friday night?

Seasons

Friday, May 25th, 2012

For me, the year is split up into four different “seasons.”

Fall is running.
Winter is gym.
Spring is walking.
Summer is hiking.

When it comes to exercise, these are my natural inclinations – during that particular season, the corresponding activity just feels RIGHT. They’re not mutually exclusive – I’ll still go on walks in the fall, or to the gym in the summer, or hike in the spring – but by and large, the weather and the air dictate my workout, and this spring, I’ve found myself a 9-mile walking loop.

I start at home, and head south through the Sunnyside and Highlands neighborhoods until I hit Lohi. Then, I cross the pedestrian bridge to downtown, and wind down Platte Street past REI. With the rollercoasters of Elitch Gardens off to my left, I walk underneath the Speer Bridge and past the Denver Aquarium, cross back over I-25, and through Jefferson Park. It’s a mile to Sloan’s Lake, which I circle, and then make the long trek north back to the house where I drink a gigantic glass of water.

Last night, my friend and former co-worker Anna joined me on this walk. If you know Anna, you know that she is something special: kind and generous and authentic, an insanely hard worker, and uniquely talented. Also, if you know Anna, you know that she will probably be embarrassed that I wrote those things.

Sorry, Anna. I would say you’re lame, but that would be a lie – and I’d rather go to heaven.

Anyway, Anna has been in Denver since last September, and has done such an amazing job of embracing this current season of life. She, like many of us, finds herself in some unexpected circumstances – but has marched forward and done the things that feel right – for right now. Her current season is helping to determine the direction that she goes, and she is rolling through with such grace and aplomb. For a girl like me – often hell-bent on bulldozing my own path, come hell or high water, with nothing but The Future in mind – it’s so inspiring to see Anna live in the moment, enjoy the simple things, and take each day as it comes.

There are seasons to life, and adaptation is key. Like my exercise-of-choice, different seasons call for different routines, different practices, different processes. Little by little, and with friends like Anna, I’m learning to embrace my current season, shelving my expectations for the future, and experiencing the Now.

Except I’m really excited that it’s almost hiking season. You understand.

[Quote by Gabrielle Blair. Who made it into art? I don't know, because sometimes Pinterest fails us. If this is your picture, let me know so I can credit you (and tell you that you're great).]

What to do with this blog

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

I have a confession: I don’t quite know what to do with this blog.

The posting has been light, at best, in 2012.  I’ve thought about scrapping the whole thing, taking the site down, going off-the-grid in the virtual world.  I’ve thought about forcing myself to post more often, rehashing the meaningless minutia of each day.  I’ve thought about doing a series, dedicating each day of the week to highlighting all 5 members of various boy bands.

Instead, most days, the site just sits here.

I have so many amazing friends who are doing a great job of keeping up their writing, featuring vignettes from their lives, sharing what’s on their heart and mind.  I used to do these things, I think.  But these days, when I sit down to write anything – a blog, an email, a journal entry – it just feels flat.  It feels forced.  It doesn’t make me happy – which is alarming, since historically, writing has made me happier than just about anything else.

It’s been a long time since my heart has felt full to the point where I feel like I have something to share.

I keep trying to rally, but the truth is, I feel too tired.  I miss my friends – I really do. I miss having a sense of belonging.  The future feels big and overwhelming. I wish my family was intact.  I wish I wasn’t broken.

I know, I know – this is the point where I’m supposed to stop and say how lucky I am, how many things I have going for me, how there are good things about my life and situation (because there really are, and I know it).

But just now, as I was writing this, the tears came – and damn it, but I’d rather cry than say nothing at all.