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Grief, forgiveness, and love

Monday, August 28th, 2017

A few months ago, my life was completely upended when a man I deeply loved betrayed my trust and broke my heart. While the details matter to me, all I’ll say is this: I was planning to move to Nashville so we could be together, but it didn’t happen. The relationship was serious enough to warrant me selling my house and putting a down payment on another — but when a man tells you there’s someone else, you do not follow through with a move across the country to be with him.

I have hesitated to write about this, because in doing so, I can only share my own experience. This person is living a now separate narrative, and despite the pain that his choices have put me through, I am not out to demonize or villainize anyone involved. He meant more to me than that. I’m just sad.

I want to be honest about what I’ve gone through, what I’m still going through. I am not writing from a place of resolution or remedy; the heartache is still very much in process for me because I lost so much. I lost a man who had become my best person. I lost a relationship I had been led to believe was “it.” I lost a dream of a future that had made so much sense — even felt confirmed and ordained by God, to be honest. I lost not one, but two houses. I lost any sense of direction or home. I lost the ability to trust. I lost 15 lbs and a whole lot of money. I lost everything we had been building toward. Cruelest of all, in some moments, I lost all hope.

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How do you hold the conflicting emotions of heartbreak, anger, and the remnants of love all at the same time? It’s an unbearable tension. But here is what I’m learning.

GRIEF
To experience grief in all of its awful fullness is human and healthy. To sidestep it, whether through alcohol, travel, social media, shopping, sex, or tattoos, is to cauterize our humanity. It’s best to lean straight into the pain; if we don’t, it will seep like oil through a bed of dead leaves, poisoning life from the ground up. Numbed-out grief leads to anger, anger leads to depression, depression leads to a critical spirit and a lack of peace.

But grief? We are promised that grief leads to comfort. Beauty. Dancing. I want to be a person who looks my pain in the eye, regardless of what it costs me, and then rest in knowing that there is still goodness ahead — eventually.

FORGIVENESS
Forgiveness is not primarily for the one you are forgiving. It’s for you. Choosing to forgive sets you free from the bondage of what was done to you, the pain that was inflicted upon you. It doesn’t change it, it certainly doesn’t excuse any of it — but it loosens your chains and allows you to move forward, inch by inch, breath by breath, day by day. When you release the grip on your right to harm the other person, you get your hands back. You get your life back. Slowly.

It doesn’t happen all at once. I’m finding it’s something I have to do over and over in the hopes that one day my heart will match the choice. It stings like a death; a grave is involved, the burying of a perfectly good hatchet.

Nothing about it feels fair. Nothing about it feels justified. But isn’t that the point?

LOVE
You cannot love without risk. There is no such thing. The pain I’m in comes from the love I felt, because I was brave enough to show up as my fullest, truest self and enter a relationship that mattered. And when you truly love someone, you don’t get to be in control. To force, to clutch, to cling, to do whatever it takes to get your way — that is not a picture of love. That is a picture of fear. Fear is a liar, and the opposite of love.

This may have ended in disaster for me, but I will never regret opening my heart to hope and allowing myself to be known by another. It’s the bravest thing I’ve ever done, and a testament to strength, not weakness.

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I am not “recovered.” This experience has altered my insides in ways I struggle to articulate. I was left heartbroken and homeless, and some days I’m still so sad, when I walk around I swear you can hear my heart rattle in my chest. Time truly is the only healer for something so brutal, and unfortunately, there’s no way to fast-forward. But I’ve made it through these first few months; here I raise my Ebenezer.

You may be wondering where I am. I obviously had to move out of my Minneapolis house in July, gutted and reeling, suddenly with nowhere to go. But thanks to my amazing friends and family, I’ve found places to go. Foxy is with me, of course. We’re being taken care of.

I have missed sharing my life in a virtual way. It didn’t feel right for me to carry on posting like nothing had happened, because racking up likes and comments is a false balm. The pain of this betrayal has been potent, and it’s been important for me to honor it by bearing the full weight of what I’ve lost. But I’m still here.

The path I took to get here has washed out behind me. The way forward isn’t yet clear. But I’m gathering the broken pieces in hopes of building something new. It’s not the future that I wanted, but it’s the future that I’m going to get. And somehow, I want to live it well.

You’ll be hearing from me again soon, grief and forgiveness and love intermingled, moving forward and holding on to hope for dear life.

Huge thanks to my amazing sister-in-law Ashley Parsons for capturing this image. You’ve helped remind me that I’m strong in a season when I’ve felt anything but.

On the move… again

Friday, June 23rd, 2017

This little dream house… I can’t believe it, but I’ll be handing the keys over to someone else in July. My two years in Minneapolis have been abundantly sweet, rich, and healing — and now it’s time to go.

I will miss the amazing friends I’ve made, my perfect fence, and the cheese curds. I will grieve the loss of my trails every single day (although the projected Southwest light rail was going to ruin them eventually anyway, ugh). I CANNOT BELIEVE I’ll miss the chance to rent this house through Airbnb for Super Bowl LII. But I will always, always be grateful that I had the chance to live here. Minneapolis was never on my radar until I started flying here for work in 2012, and I fell in love with it. Everyone should be so lucky to get a chance to live here — not just despite the winter, but even because of it. It makes you tough, it’s pretty darn beautiful, and even if you hate it, the summer makes up for it all.

As for where I’m headed, well… see you soon, Nashville!

Fargo Forever

Thursday, May 25th, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

A reeeeealllly long victory lap.

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

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

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

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

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

But do you know what happened on Broadway?

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

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

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

Our sage prophets

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

I earned those ugly tears

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

Marathoner!

In advance of the Fargo Marathon

Tuesday, April 25th, 2017

In less than a month, I’ll be running the Fargo Marathon.

Now before you go trash-talking Fargo, let me tell you something. I drove through last September, and was immediately smitten by the small town feel. The tallest building downtown was… not tall. Several stories, maybe? I found shops and boutiques and restaurants, a brewery, a bike shop, and an Amtrak station. My experience was brief, but I found Fargo to be a sweet community, with affordable real estate, a growing economy, and a great arts scene. It just felt so live-able. I have a crush on it.

Plus, dontcha know their marathon is flat as a pancake? And since this is my first 26.2, that sounded great to me.

Being nearly 17 weeks into a 20-week training plan, I’ve reached the point where I’m just sort of over it. This Friday, I’m slated to run 20 miles — the longest distance so far — and lest you think I’m a confident runner these days, know that I will spend every moment between now and then in utter anxiety. These long runs are brutal, because while I know I have all of the physical and mental stamina necessary to finish the race, I didn’t anticipate that it would be so painful.

It just hurts. Oh my →SWEAR WORDS← goodness.

But no matter how my 20-mile run goes, and no matter how the full marathon goes, I will always be proud of myself for deciding to do this and then just doing it. I haven’t had a training partner or a running club; every single run has been by myself. Whether running 18 miles on a deadline (rushing before picking someone up at the airport) or 3 miles in the pouring rain the morning after a delicious yet irresponsible night of Scotch (whoops!), I’ve just kept getting out there, with no one motivating me but me.

I’m not a good runner. I don’t love it. I’m not fast. I’m not leggy and lithe (if you want to know how much weight I’ve lost, the answer is +7 lbs). But I was ready for a challenge, and chose my challenge, and have followed through on the challenge. What more can one ask of oneself?

I’ve been largely absent online these days — quieter than usual on social media, and nearly non-existent on this blog. I’m under no delusion that people notice, because the Internet is a loud, loud place where anyone’s absence is immediately filled by a hundred other voices. But since hootenannie.com is my party and I’ll talk if I want to, I’ll say this: the past four quiet months have been so good and so necessary for me. They’ve been fertile soil, and good things are growing. The 362 miles I’ve run so far have been a big part of that, and I never want to forget it.

Anyway, I’ll letcha go (just practicing my Fargoan). But just as a poll, do you know what hotdish is? I had never heard of hotdish before I moved to Minnesota — but you guys, it’s a casserole topped in TATER TOTS. What the heck. It’s either a nightmare or a dream-come-true. You decide.

Consolation and New Year’s resolutions

Thursday, January 5th, 2017

Over the past month or so, I’ve woken up several times in the middle of the night with a sudden panic that I’ve left Foxy outside in the cold. I sit up straight and call her name, scared to death that she is [morbid alert] frozen to death out in the yard. And each time, I’m relieved to find that she’s right there by the bed. Of course she is.

My lifelong propensity towards anxiety paired with a winter that’s already more extreme than the entirety of the 2015-2016 season is doing dismal things to my brain. It’s not so much the temperature as it is the wind chill, and it isn’t so much the wind chill as it is the darkness.

Winter in Minnesota, man. Only the strong survive.

But regardless of how I feel about the weather, I find myself living in Minneapolis for my second January. Take four degrees and subtract them from zero, and that’s the temperature at this very minute – and it doesn’t even seem all that unreasonable, given the stiff and hypothermic potential. My survival strategy is to just keep living – and in January, I’ve decided that life will be made up of only two things: working, and running on the treadmill.

It happens to all of us at the start of every new year, doesn’t it? Making resolutions, resolving to re-solve what we’ve deemed wrong about our lives. As usual, I’ve decided that the root of all that’s wrong with my life is not, in fact, my fallen nature, but the circumference of my thighs. My re-solution? To run.

To run a freaking marathon.

Ha. That was actually my New Year’s resolution – to run 26.2 miles, twice as far as I’ve ever run, twice as far as I’ve ever wanted to run. Annieeeeeee. Why must your goals always be so extreme??

But since then, some thoughts.

First, last week I listened as a wonderful dinner companion shared about the Ignatian method of discernment called Examen, a prayer-fueled mindfulness that involves the idea of consolation and desolation. Each night, one is to review the events of the day and pinpoint the moments that were consoling (life-giving, inspiring, connecting) and the ones that were desolating (draining, despairing, isolating); in other words, consolation is movement toward God, and desolation is movement away.

As patterns begin to emerge, the idea is to orient one’s life toward consolation as a way forward. It’s not about making the “right” concrete decisions or checking items off a list, it’s about moving toward the things that stir us up and send us out, strong, tender, and present.

A few days later, I listened to an episode of Steve Wiens’s podcast in which he makes the case for “change that actually changes you.” So much of what he said parallels the idea of Examen. You should listen to the full episode, but for now, I’ll share the simple daily prayer offered by Steve at the end: “God, I want to experience life in all of its fullness today. Please lead me there.”

Do you feel how different this way of life is from our crazy New Year’s resolutions, those hard-hitting, full throttle plans that we think are going to turn our sorry ass luck around?

At the Christmas dinner table, I told my sister-in-law Ashley that I am thinking about training for a marathon, but that I’m nervous that if I commit to it and say it out loud that I won’t actually be able to do it and then I’ll be a total garbage person failure. She said, “I guess that you’d need to know that the process of reaching the goal would be just as worthwhile as achieving the goal itself.”

This morning at the gym, I ran for 45 minutes while staring at a poster in front of the treadmill that said, “What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?” That’s a preposterous notion, really, since we can and do fail all the time. So I changed it in my mind to, “What would you do if you knew you might fail, but you’d kind of like to give it a shot anyway?”

Here’s the truth about today: I’m glad I ran for those 45 minutes. I feel awesome. That run felt like consolation. I want more of that feeling.

Here’s another thing that’s true: I was not well in 2016. The quiet stress I experienced during the first half of the year wreaked havoc on the second, health-wise. I had an eye infection that lasted for two months. I got shingles. My body harbored infection, I was sick over and over again, and I couldn’t sleep. But in November, when I started getting back into running after years of not running, I started to feel better. The beginning of 2017 finds me quite well, physically. I credit much of this to running, which is reason enough to keep doing it.

I don’t know if I’ll run a marathon this year. But at the risk of feeling stupid later, I’ll say it anyway: I’m going to try. I’m going to follow this training plan day by day, as far as I can take it, and give it everything I’ve got.

Maybe it will result in the torturous achievement of running 26.2 miles all at once, or maybe I’ll find that running 26.2 miles via multiple runs spread out over a week is a pretty cool accomplishment, too. Last week, my new friend Barnabas said something like, “What if running 15 miles 10 times is just as big an achievement as running 26.2 once?” I like that. When we drop our rigid expectations, the world opens up to us (the most Oprah thing I’ve ever said); success can take so many different forms.

(But I really am going to try for a marathon.)

I hope 2017 finds you experiencing life in all its fullness and moving toward consolation, New Year’s resolutions or none. And if you’re dying for a getaway, please come visit me in Minneapolis. I have a brand new furnace.

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All the shingle ladies

Tuesday, October 25th, 2016

I’m sure you’ve been on the edge of your seat, just dying to know WHAT ON EARTH has transpired since my last blog. Here’s the answer:

1) I had to replace my entire HVAC system.
2) My abdominal pain turned out to be shingles. Because I am 72-years old.

The first thing makes me want a drink. The second thing means I can’t have one. A big old SIGH to all of it.

But despite it all, I recently told a friend, “I think I’m the happiest I’ve ever been.” And in that moment – not spectacular or special or particularly noteworthy in any way, just a regular moment – I really meant it. This fall has been so good to me. I’m well-rested, working only part-time (and loving it), taking the dog on so many walks, and peppering my schedule with life-giving people and events. It’s quiet a lot of the time, but it’s okay. My life is lacking nothing (except skinnier thighs, but what a stupid thing to let ruin my contentment).

On my birthday back in August, I realized that I only get a good year every three years (22, 25, 28, 31). This year, 34, I’m due. I’m happy to report that the pattern continues.

I don’t know what happens next or how long this particular day-to-day will look like it does right now, because I don’t know that my current circumstances feel all that permanent. But I’m grateful, and I want to remember it, shingles and all (except not the shingles).

Old enough

Saturday, October 8th, 2016

I only slept for five hours. When I woke, it was to a frigid house and a dull ache in my lower right abdomen.

Foxy was on the bed with me, curled up like a coyote, snout tucked beneath her tail. While she’s welcome on the bed, she usually doesn’t choose to be there. She’s independent and she needs her space. We’re a lot alike.

This morning, I was glad to find her on the bed. I wasn’t alone. I was freezing and weirdly in pain, but I wasn’t alone.

I picked up my phone and typed it in — abdominal pain lower right side — and it spit out the answer, the authoritative answer: Appendicitis. Go to the hospital immediately, it said. It will burst within 24 hours, it said. Once it bursts, it’s too late. You are dead, it said.

Appendectomy cost, I typed. I found a story about a Reddit post in which the bill for a 20-year old guy totaled $55,000. “I guess I’ll never afford that wallpaper,” I thought. Mentally subtracting my very high insurance deductible from my bank account, I decided that before driving myself to the hospital, I should try drinking some Metamucil, which I stock in my cupboard because at some point, I became old enough to stock Metamucil in my cupboard.

I got out of bed and put on a down jacket and wool socks. Why was the house so cold? I made my way down the stairs and into the kitchen. Two rounded teaspoons of orange powder in a tall glass of water, then down the hatch. Within 30 minutes, I felt fine.

Appendectomy averted.

But the furnace. The furnace wasn’t working. The thermostat read 50 degrees. I texted Dane next door and asked him if he knew anything about furnaces, and he said he didn’t, but came over to look anyway. We took the panels off the machine and looked inside with flashlights — for what, we didn’t know.

I found a big cricket dead beside the furnace, and then realized it wasn’t a big cricket but a tiny mouse. Not an insect. An actual mammal with bones. How long had it been there? Did whatever killed the mouse kill the furnace, too? I grabbed it in a dryer sheet and threw it in the dumpster.

I called an HVAC repairman, and he showed up in the afternoon. I left him in the basement. Later, he called me downstairs. “What I’m about to tell you will make you want to tell me to get the hell out of your house,” he said.

The furnace is shot. I need a new one. They recommend also replacing the AC unit at the same time, especially since my AC unit is already over 20 years old, on its last legs. I thought about telling him to get the hell out of my house. When he gave me the estimate, I stared at him, and then said, “I want to curl up in a ball on this basement floor.” He laughed. I didn’t. It’s more money than I’ve ever spent on anything, even a car, save this house itself.

But my house is so cold.

I almost did it. I almost signed on the dotted line, which would have guaranteed me a brand new HVAC system by Tuesday. But at the last minute, as the salesman was walking around my house counting and measuring the windows in order to file the permits, my defeated, slumped shoulders straightened up.

If I’m old enough to stock Metamucil in my cupboard, then God knows I’m old enough to have learned to seek a second opinion, and probably a third. I’m also old enough to know that money is just money, so even if it’s worst case scenario, well, oh well. I’m old enough not to panic at a financial gut punch. I’m old enough to look a man in the face and let him know that I will not be pressured into anything.

And if I’m that old, then I’m definitely old enough to sit at my dining room table at 8pm on a Saturday night just typing out the events of the day.

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My favorite words, via Emily McDowell

Live frugally on surprise

Tuesday, July 5th, 2016

Write in the middle of it.

That’s what someone told me to do. As an introvert, my inclination is to wait until things are settled, processed, and sorted before sharing news in any kind of broad way — but I’m realizing that it might be awhile before things are settled, processed, and sorted, so OH WHAT THE HECK.

A year after moving to Minneapolis (Sunday was my Minneversary), I’ve decided to leave my job, the one I moved across the country for. There are a lot of factors that went into this decision, and it was not one that I made lightly. That said, I have a lot of peace about the decision itself, even though it leaves me staring into a future I can’t yet see.

From a job to the city in which I live, everything feels very much up for grabs right now — and while I’m experiencing a sense of possibility and potential, every idea I explore has a cost, a rub. My friend Leigh Kramer once wrote about the “jar lid click” — the moment when everything lines up — and so far, none of my ideas have led to that intuitive sense of alignment.

I don’t know what I’m going to do.

I am not the “leap and the net will appear” girl. I am a planner, a preparer, a “that’s not in the budget” pragmatist. The fact that I quit a job without a new plan in place is so out of character, it makes me question everything I thought I knew about myself. (What if I start liking board games?)

But you know what? The best stories of my life have been the things I could never have predicted or manipulated into happening — like once writing a song about a snack bar that landed me a job, or buying the first and only house I looked at (happened in both Denver and Minneapolis), or meeting people I had no idea would change my life (I’m looking at you, Keri Alexander, Kari Medina, Katie Freeze, Carin Towne, a whole slew of folks in Nashville, gal pals in Denver, my nephews, Foxy Brains, and, okay, EVERYONE).

Here is an idea I like:

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I don’t know what’s coming next. But I’m going to try living frugally on surprise, the rhythm and simplicity of the unknown, and see what happens.

Or I might buy a bed & breakfast. (I’ll add it to this list.)

We can never go back

Saturday, June 11th, 2016

If you really want to torture yourself, keep your email address linked with the house you used to own in a city where real estate is on a rapid upward trajectory. Once a week or so, you’ll get an update that tells you how much the value of your former home has increased, i.e. how much money you didn’t make because you sold when you did. Bless.

Yesterday, I finally (mercifully) cut the Zillow cord with the Shotgun, my old, charming, 11-foot wide, 600 square foot house in Denver. I loved that nest, and it was the perfect place for me to live for the years I spent there — but that season is over. I made a choice, which led to a decision tree of other choices, all of which ultimately led my life 900 miles away to Minneapolis.

The cruelest question in the world is “what if.”

And yet, we ask it all the time, don’t we? What if I had stayed? What if I had gone? What if I had said yes? What if I had said no? What if I had met that person, or not met that person, or met that person at a different time? What if I had never left my house in Denver and now was sitting on an 11-foot wide MOUNTAIN OF GOLD.

Dumb, all of it.

Asking “what if” keeps us stuck, mentally revising the past toward a future that will never actually be. It’s a waste of energy and a waste of heart. Like Joy Williams sings, “We can never go back, we can only go on and on and on.”

Real estate profits are the least of it — because that stuff doesn’t matter, really. It’s about owning your life, owning your decisions, blessing the good, and wrestling the bad (which, by the way, would exist no matter which path you would have chosen). It’s about seeing your story for the adventure that it is, and realizing that certain things aren’t up to you, anyway. It’s about knowing that it’s a privilege to have a choice at all.

If you struggle with feeling alone, or anxious, or frantic because life doesn’t look the way you imagined it would — well, me too. Keep going, though, because we can never go back. We might as well move forward, because who knows what might be up there?

A week in Hong Kong

Thursday, March 10th, 2016

Back in January, I had to run through the Denver airport like the Home Alone family to catch a flight. I made it onto the plane in the nick of time, and as I settled into the middle seat, I realized that I was completely out of breath.

I’ve lost my Colorado lungs. I had already said goodbye to my Colorado house, Colorado friends, Colorado hikes, Colorado weather — but my Colorado lungs? That’s a low blow, Minnesota. Luckily you’re the state that brought us the Bundt pan, so we’re even.

I have not, however, lost my Colorado hiking haunches. Oh hell no. My general thigh-rump area is as sturdy (read: un-dainty) as ever, meaning that when I was in Hong Kong, I couldn’t wait to get out into the jungle coated mountains to explore the trails. I mean, these glutes have got to be good for something — and in a world built to favor girls with skinny thighs, I take a lot of solace in the fact that I can out-hike them. It’s my only power.

So imagine my surprise when, there on the trails of Hong Kong, I finally met my hiking match, and an unusual suspect at that. When it comes to hoofing it, I now know my primary competition to be… the old Chinese man.

There he was, in his seventies, slight of frame, wearing nylon khaki pants and a little daypack — hauling ass up those hills. “Surely I can keep up,” I thought, and made it my personal aim to stay in step with him for the 1,800’ elevation gain of The Peak and beyond. But just like the time I tried to race a Segway up a hill on my bike (you’ve now heard the entire story, and it was every bit as ridiculous as it sounds), I labored in vain. I couldn’t keep up. The old Chinese man is the most hale and hearty person in the world.

Some might think “old and fit” to be a contradiction — but my way-too-short week in Hong Kong exposed me to all sorts of contradictions. Hong Kong-tradictions? (I’ll stop.)

Truly, Hong Kong is a mix of east and west, rich and poor, city and jungle, poodles and porcupines, glitz and grit. It’s fake Louis Vuitton and real Louis Vuitton. It’s skyscrapers surrounded by bamboo scaffolding. It’s cosmopolitan and outdoorsy, Maseratis and taxis, people toasting champagne on rooftop decks and people living in rural fishing villages. I ate dim sum and curry and noodles, but also McDonalds and Starbucks. You can find Willamette Valley Pinot Noir. There are tensions that I don’t fully understand, political rumblings with the potential to be seismic shifts, and just like anywhere, situations that need prayer and action and attention.

I soaked every single bit of it in. I explored and adventured and rested and basked in the presence of my dear friends like it was the world’s greatest gift, because it was. And I can’t wait to go back.

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