Minnesota

...now browsing by category

 

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.

img_2594b

My winter wardrobe

Tuesday, January 5th, 2016

You know your heart is shifting in a hearty direction when you say “It’s only 10 degrees” and then go walk your dog because “It’s only 10 degrees” means “not that cold.”

But honestly, my first Minnesota winter has not been bad. November and December were almost warm, most days in the 30s and 40s; it snowed once or twice, but then melted (an anomaly, so I hear). Some lifelong Minnesotans have said that it’s been the warmest winter they can remember.

But it is only January 5.

I had a hunch that when I came back after the holidays, winter would really start — and I was right. We’re staring down a high of 1 degree (one singular degree) on Sunday, and in preparation, I’ve been doing some online shopping. I got almost everything on sale, because is pays to shop post-holidays.

So without further ado, I present to thee: Annie’s Winter Wardrobe (most of which has yet to arrive and thus be tried on, so there’s a chance I might not keep something).

parka

I am over-the-moon excited to receive this Patagonia parka. It looks to be crazy warm, and the wind/waterproof layer is going to save my hide. Plus, how cute is the grey/green combo?

boots

I purchased Sorels two years ago, and last winter the rubber split open, rendering them a tiny bit useless in the snow. Given that I had just passed the 12-month warranty mark (13 months, to be exact), they wouldn’t replace them (cool, Sorel). I’ve been limping through with an extra pair of wool socks, but it’s time for new boots. I like this North Face pair because they are basic and have zero fur. No boots with the fur for me.

gloves

I have CHAT (Cold Hands All the Time, copyright me), so I got these. They also come in neon green and I thought maybe I should get those so I would always be able to find my hands, but then I thought… they’re my hands. (SO DUMB PLEASE FORGET I EVER SAID THAT.)

hat

I got this pom-pom hat last week and basically haven’t taken it off since. I’m wearing it right now. I will be wearing it tomorrow. I never want to be without it. Ashley knitted me an cream-colored infinity scarf a few years ago, and I’m living in that, as well.

michael-michael-kors-knit-pom-pom-hat-womens-black

And since one can never have too many pom-pom hats, this one is on the way. The little metal plate will be removed immediately because it is dumb.

img-thing

And I’ve decided to wear more fuchsia, so here you go.

Bonus items: I got a down blanket for Christmas (my heart’s desire), and also a microwaveable rice bag from Aveda from a gift exchange. If you come over, chances are I will be wrapped in one or both. I’m also traveling with a down sleeping bag in the trunk of my car. I’m also hanging tough — as is Foxy.

FullSizeRender (2)

My first trip to a casino

Monday, September 28th, 2015

When I moved to Minneapolis on July 3rd, if you would have told me that I wouldn’t leave again for 84 days, I would have keeled over dead.

In the last five years, I’ve gotten used to the pattern of skipping town roughly every other week: some business, some weddings, a lot of adventures. My suitcase was always packed, I had a separate set of travel toiletries, and both airline and hotel status. So it simply didn’t strike me as a possibility that the journey from Colorado to Minnesota would be my LAST TRIP EVER.

At least, that’s how it’s felt. After nearly three months of remaining within an hour radius of the city, I was going stir-crazy. It’s a cool place and all, but sometimes a girl just needs to get out.

Even if it’s to a casino.

My good friend Joey drums for Scotty McCreery (you know him, you love him), and a few weeks ago he let me know that they were playing a show in Minnesota at the end of the month. “Too bad it’s four hours from Minneapolis,” he said.

My escape had arrived. “I AM COMING.”

Which is how on Friday afternoon I found myself driving north on little back highways en route to the Shooting Star Casino. Have you heard of Mahnomen, Minnesota? Me neither – but I’m here to tell you that it exists, and I’ve been there.

This was my first real experience of a casino, and it was everything I feared it would be, everything I hoped it would be, everything I dreamed it would be. Smoking is allowed (it seems like everyone knew this to be true: casinos allow smoking. But I DIDN’T KNOW! Life is full of wonders). The food was wretched – avoid the Whispering Winds restaurant – and the people-watching superb. The drinks were weak, but hey, they were $4.

When I looked at Mahnomen on a map, I couldn’t understand how this show would draw very many people; there just isn’t much up in that area of the state. But I sorely underestimated the devotion of Scotty’s fans: the place was packed.

Women young and old go crazy for Scotty because 1) he’s talented, and 2) he’s darling. Throughout the show, he would occasionally fling a guitar pick out into the audience, at which point there would be a mass stampede of estrogen toward a tiny sliver of plastic. At one point he threw a pick in my general direction, and I got body-slammed by the woman next to me, her head straight to my clavicle. She never did find it, and after the show when the lights came on, every woman around me dropped to their knees to crawl all over the carpet looking for the missing pick.

IMG_8543

After the show (which was FUN – these guys are so good at what they do), I got a front row seat to the drunken-fan malarkey that reaches beyond Scotty (tucked away on the bus) to his backing band (out amongst the casino commoners). From the relatively harmless girls wanting to take selfies with each band member to the older woman in a Shania t-shirt making gauche jokes about the name of her town (Climax, Minnesota) to the sad man who bumped into my barstool moaning, “I’m fat, I’m lazy, and I just lost it all,” Mahnomen was impressively inebriated.

But the thing I will always remember about this night is how much I laughed. There was so much to laugh about – and it made me realize how little I’ve been laughing lately. Between the combination of my quick-witted company and our comical surroundings, I just got to sit there dissolved by the funny, like Alka-Seltzer in a glass, bubbling until there was nothing left except feeling better.

The guys left on the bus at midnight, and I stayed in a questionable but free-of-charge room at the attached hotel. I awoke to the faint smell of urine (not mine) – a most appropriate ending to the most bizarre adventure – and drove home with a smile on my face.

:::::

We all juggle a lot of things – our jobs and our homes and our families and our health. We watch our weight and our bank accounts and our mouths in certain settings. We work like crazy with the promise of vacation only to have a hard time powering down our minds and our screens, leading us to wonder if time is the new money. Life can feel like our own personal snow globe, turning and shaking and making it tough to remember which end is up.

But then we kick off early on a Friday afternoon, and drive like mad to the middle of nowhere just to see some familiar faces – because our people are what matter. And to me, that’s what friendship is: taking the time, buying the gas, and heading to Who-Cares-Where just to see your friends, just to laugh really hard for just one night. Just to be reminded who you are.

And if it can happen at a northern prairie casino with bad drinks and horrid lighting, it can happen anywhere.

IMG_8557 (1)

It’s my blog, and I’ll emote if I want to

Friday, July 10th, 2015

What a week.

You guys! I live in Minneapolis now! Wait, let me amend that statement: I live in Inver Grove Heights, which is due south of Saint Paul and a half hour from work. I’m staying with Roger & Judy (you [might] know them, you [definitely] love them) until I close on my house – the house that is ONE AND A HALF MILES from work – on July 30. I’m beyond excited to move into my new abode, but until then, I’m over the moon to be living large in the ‘burbs. My gracious hosts have given me a guest room, a private bath, coffee every morning, and hugs when I walk out the door. Part of me thinks I’ll stay forever.

I can’t believe I live in Minnesota. Sure, it’s been over two months since I accepted this job (and thus, my northern fate) – but those first two months were spent in List Mode. I made said List, and then I executed it: wrap up job, list house, sell house, move out of house, rent a truck, drive north, empty truck into storage unit, fly back, PARTY, and then, finally, head east on I-80 and north on I-35 and arrive at my new vida loca.

After months of chaos, one day I woke up in Minnesota and thought, “Wait… what?”

I mean, really – how did I get here??

But it’s been wonderful. I mean, I know I’m only one week in, but so far, so good. And honestly, if we can say that about our lives – so far, so good, in whatever stage – we’re doing JUST FINE.

Plenty is still yet to be written, but here is what I know for sure:
• My co-workers are great.
The office is gorgeous. You will die a thousand deaths when you come to visit.
• For all of my fears of the humidity and bugs and heat, this one week has been one of perfect weather.
• Minneapolis is a city of bicycles, beer, fitness (the second fittest city in America), and delightful weirdness. No, it’s not Portland, Austin, or Louisville. But it’s Minneapolis, and thus full of music, theater, food, and all sorts of progressive shenanigans, for most of which I’m gung-ho (conservative friends, you know I’m with you on all things fiscal) (and yes, I still love Jesus).

All in all, I am energized and vitalized and feeling like I’m 100% where I’m supposed to be.

In Minnesota. Who would’ve guessed.

The last days

Friday, July 3rd, 2015

When I think of my last days in Colorado, I will think of the temperature – days in the high 90s, the brutal sun beating down on the Mile High City, and me, applying SPF 100 like my life depended on it (which it kind of did). The air conditioner in my Subaru struggled, no longer strong enough to stand up to the heat. On the lucky days in which I made it to the mountains, I experienced Colorado’s iconic summer smell: pine needles in dry dirt.

And then I will think of the rain – the afternoon thunderstorms that you can set the clock by, raging storms that swelled the rivers and flooded my normal walking paths. Of course, this didn’t stop me from walking, although June was a Fitbit feast or famine (35K steps at the highest, 3K at the lowest – a day in which I brought shame to my family).

I will remember moving out of my house, everything in cardboard boxes and plastic bins, stuffed into the largest truck I’ve ever driven – and then the solo cross-country trip in which I got 6 miles to the gallon and took 16 hours to make it 900 miles. I unloaded everything into a storage unit, and flew back to Denver – because I wasn’t finished with Colorado yet.

I will think of Starbucks breakfasts and Chipotle lunches, just because I didn’t have a kitchen anymore.

I will remember my nephew’s faces when we all stayed up way too late playing games that made them laugh uncontrollably. And I will remember rubbing lotion into the 4-year old’s skinny, espresso-colored calves, and him telling me for the tenth time, “I saw a antelope! Outside! I saw it!”

I will think of my final appointment with my beloved and trusted counselor who, when discussing all of the changes I’m going through, reminded me, “Don’t put too much stock in anything you’re thinking or feeling right now,” which made me laugh, because doesn’t she know who I am?! But it secretly felt like permission granted. And when I said, “When I move to Minnesota, no matter what, I just can’t stop hoping,” she shook her finger at me and said in a hushed, urgent voice, “Don’t you dare.”

I will remember the entire year before these last days, a year in which life felt like it was closing in, like I was trapped and constrained, like toothpaste in a tube. And the day I decided to say yes to this opportunity placed in front of me, the day I decided to move to Minnesota, it was like the cap fell off and life squeezed loose.

Today I drive to Minneapolis, for real and for good this time. I’ve sold my house in Denver, and am in the process of buying a new one – but until everything is final, Foxy is staying with my dad in Colorado. Even though it’s temporary, leaving my dog is the hardest thing for me. I anticipate crying all the way to Nebraska.

The days to come are sure to be filled with newness, novelty, and fresh perspective. I am excited, and ready for the change. But as exciting as the first days are, I never want to forget the last days either. Because they’ve been pretty damn rich.

_MG_9334

North

Tuesday, May 19th, 2015

If you know my sister Becca, you know she’s all about dogs. She always has been; her first word was “woof-woof.” In addition to running a dog rescue (whence came Foxy!), she has three dogs of her own – and they’re like her kids. So when she and my brother-in-law decided to go to Seattle, they called in only the best.

Annie the Dog Nanny.

Foxy and I moved into Becca and Michael’s house on Saturday night, and it’s been the Wild West ever since. I’m playing defense against a collective 200 pounds of canine. Things I will need to replace before they get home: Bulleit and a lot of chocolate chips.

In the midst of it all, I am wrapping up my job, selling my house, and looking for a new place to live – because I forgot to tell you:

I’m moving to Minnesota.

Two weeks ago, I gave my notice at work. I am leaving what has been a gift of a job for what is sure to be a challenging, soulful adventure of a next chapter: I’m moving to Minneapolis to work for my favorite public radio show, On Being with Krista Tippett.

For over eight years, this has been a blog mostly about my feelings – so don’t think I’m going to stop now.

What can I say about my 5 ½ years in Denver? They have been the toughest years of my life, minus 6th grade when all of the girls turned mean. Cancer brought me here, divorce made me stay. I watched my family disintegrate, and a few relationships of my own. I’ve said such horrible things to God, it’s a wonder he still loves me. I’ve lost hope, battled depression, and numbed the pain with all sorts of soul novocain.

Denver made me write this song. (And as always, forgive the guitar.)

[UPDATE: Song has been taken down. Maybe you’ll hear it again someday.]

But it’s not lost on me that the hardest years were spent in the most beautiful place. It’s like someone knew I would need the beauty.

I’ve walked thousands and thousands of miles. I’ve climbed mountains – I’m up to 35 14ers, with 19 to go. I spent 11 days on a solo backpacking trip, digging deeper than I knew I could dig. I’ve learned to own my finances, my career, a dog, and a house. If Seattle is where I became Annie and Nashville is where I became a woman (gross, sorry for saying that), Denver is where I became an adult – a reluctant transition, but true nonetheless. I’ve made a handful of incredible girlfriends, the kind that make it hard to leave. I’ve been to counseling – gracious, have I been to counseling. I’ve stopped blaming my parents for everything that’s wrong in my life.

As it turns out, I am sad to leave Denver – but not as excited as I am for a new adventure.

I will miss my perfect tiny house and my friends and the weather and the mountains. But I know that there’s something for me in Minnesota – lakes and forests and people and meaningful work. And mosquitos. And snow. But I’m choosing to believe that richness awaits. I can’t wait to tell you about it. I can’t wait to learn it for myself. I might even start going to church again.

Until then, I am frantically wrapping up my time with LÄRABAR/General Mills. Yesterday I wrote a “manual” for how to do my job. So far it’s 17 pages long. I’m getting my ducks in a row to sell my house, and looking for another in Minneapolis (tell me, is 40% of my income too much to spend on a mortgage?).

And I’m dog-sitting for my sister. Maybe these dogs will come visit me in Minnesota.

My roots are up, and I’m headed north. There is so much to be nervous about, and so much to be grateful for. Thanks for sticking with me, no matter the gap between posts, no matter the city in which I live.

See you soon, Minneapolis!

Minneapolis

More adventures in flight

Wednesday, February 18th, 2015

This morning when I woke up at 5am in Minneapolis, the “feels like” temperature was -30 degrees. “How am I going to make it from the hotel to my car?” I was legitimately afraid that somewhere in that 500 feet, I would freeze, suddenly, like a Neanderthal.

But my 7am flight would be leaving with or without me, so I made a run for it. It was like inhaling a block of dry ice – absolutely wicked, not in the Boston sense, but in the Witch of the West sense. My skin almost cracked right off me like a frozen shell. But because I am rugged in my soul – a hero, really – I made it.

As we lined up to board the plane, I put in my earplugs – because the only thing worse than being crammed into a tube with 150 other people is to be crammed into a tube with 150 other people that YOU CAN HEAR. Whenever I wear earplugs, I pull my hair over my ears so no one can see the bright blue foam – but this time, there in line, I was standing next to a man who was wearing earplugs too. Neon green.

And what on God’s earth convinced me that this would be a good idea, I will never know – but I caught his eye, tucked my hair behind my ear to reveal the earplug, and tapped it twice. Just like the early Christians would trace half a fish in the dirt with their toe, waiting for a stranger to complete it, it was our secret code. We were comrades – in the war against noise!

However (and telling the story now, I suppose predictably), Earplug Man did not see it this way. He quickly looked away and ignored me for the rest of the boarding process. I found my seat (far from this fellow noise hater), and we were off.

Mid-flight, it started. Music. Loud enough to hear through my earplugs.

“Give me the beat, boys, and free my soul…”

Someone was listening to the Doobie Brothers with no headphones on an airplane, which, in my mind, is worse than sin.

While the music was loud enough to cut through my earplugs, I couldn’t tell which direction it was coming from. I waited for the culprit’s seatmate or a flight attendant to politely ask them to stop disturbing their fellow passengers (because isn’t it a rule that you have to use headphones on an airplane?), but by now we were to the head-bobbing part where everything but the drums drops out and all of the DBros are singing a cappella in harmony and still, no one had intervened.

When Eric Clapton’s “Layla” started in, I shot up out of my seat like a Whac-A-Mole. WHO IS DOING THIS. WHO. My head on a swivel, I scanned the tops of heads looking for the miscreant, but the engines scrambled the sound and garbled my otherwise bionic hearing.

By the time “American Pie” rolled around, I felt myself shutting down. Everything within me was in agreement with Don McClean; this will be the day that I die. This will be the day that I die.

When I landed in San Francisco, it was 70 degrees, meaning that today I have experienced a 100 degree swing in temperature. I peeled off my down parka, changed from Sorels into flip-fops, and caught a cab into this gorgeous city. I’m here for work, just like I was in Minneapolis for work, and while I miss Foxy, I am grateful for a week of mixing it up – because there’s nothing like breaking routine to make me grateful to get back to routine.

In the meantime, I’m wishing this is how I got to San Francisco:

Flight of the Navigator

Northern exposure

Monday, June 9th, 2014

I spent the weekend in Minnesota along the edge of Lake Superior, an area called the North Shore. I’d been to Duluth once before – but that was in November, and I was really only there during the dark. I needed to see it in the summer, in the daylight.

I was not disappointed. Northern Minnesota is magic, and I had the dreamiest time.

On Friday, I drove north from Minneapolis and was in Duluth by 5pm. I checked into the Hampton Inn (which is basically just like the Hamptons), and immediately changed into my walking clothes; it was 85 degrees outside, and my very top #1 hobby is walking around. Talk about low-maintenance – someone marry me!

Duluth

After a shower, I headed out on Friday night to realize a dream I’ve always held: to eat alone in a legitimate restaurant, a place with a menu and a server and a cloth napkin. For the amount that I hang out by myself, I don’t know that I’d ever gone out for the express purpose of dining alone – but I’m happy to report that everything went really well. I ordered Pinot Grigio and the truffle mac & cheese with bacon (a respectable Grown Up Lady meal). And because I tend to excel in situations where I don’t know anyone, I struck up conversation with the man sitting next to me.

He was a complete weirdo.

I wasn’t being flirty or anything – I just wanted to talk to someone. I wound up having my leftovers boxed up and walking back to the hotel, turning around every block or so to make sure he wasn’t following me. He wasn’t. I am not blogging from the grave. Hooray!

I had big plans for Saturday: I was going to hike 18 miles on the Superior Hiking Trail. With just 3 weeks to go until I set off to thru-hike the Colorado Trail, I felt the need to get some mileage in – but Mother Nature (that old hag) had other plans. When I woke up on Saturday, it was pouring rain.

Ever delusional, I got in my car at 7:30am and headed toward the trailhead. “It will burn off in the next 30 minutes,” I thought. “Rain never lasts.”

Oh sweetie. Welcome to the Land of 10,000 Lakes, all of which were apparently filled by ceaseless precipitation.

It kept raining. So I kept driving north. For hours. All the way to Canada.

And since I didn’t have my passport, nor a legitimate reason to flee the United States of America (besides the national debt, portion sizes, and Pat Robertson), I turned around. Still in the rain.

North Shore

When I stopped at the Java Moose in Grand Marais to order a chamomile tea, I noticed a massage parlor across the street – and it struck me. That would be a great place to wait out the weather. Whilst someone rubbed my body.

Let me tell you, the worst mistake I ever made was to have smelly massage oil smeared all over my skin, only to have the rain let up and therefore head out into the boggy, mosquito-ridden wilderness of Minnesota. I now have West Nile. I don’t even need a test – it’s just a fact.

I wound up hiking for a little bit around the Temperance River – which, for the record, shows no temperance. It shows rage.

Temperance

Then I hiked 6ish miles around the Split Rock River, which I felt earned me all sorts of snacks and sweets. So I ate cookies and drove back to Duluth.

If you’re looking for natural beauty, lighthouses, interesting people-watching, and gift shops with names like Moose-scellaneous, get ye to the North Shore. It’s one of the most lovely, charming places I’ve ever been.

:::::

The whole time, I felt a million miles away from Seattle Pacific University, the school that used to be my address.

I don’t understand why some of us get to live longer than others. I don’t know why I was able to spend my weekend up to my eyeballs in beauty and charm, feeling wonderfully independent and alive, while others were forced to grieve. But I know that I can’t be okay unless you’re okay – because to quote the ever wise Frederick Buechner, “there can be no real peace for any of us until there is some measure of real peace for all of us.”

Seattle, from one waterside town to another, I’m sending you all my love.