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Like family

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

Okay. I’m back. I’ve begrudgingly re-entered Real Life after being whisked away for a week in Never-Neverland – that is, a week in California with Gregory Alan Isakov and a related cast of characters.

You know the situation – LÄRABAR held a singer-songwriter contest and three artists won a chance to open for Greg – and since this project was my baby, I flew west to manage the shows. We started in San Diego, then moved up to LA, Santa Barbara, and San Francisco. We wound up the PCH, and I visited San Francisco for the first (but surely not the last) time. I got some much-needed quality time with my sister-in-law, Ashley. And all week long, I fell more and more head-over-heels for my new friends – the contest winners, the Kris Orlowski guys, and of course, Sir GAI and his band.

There is something about getting away from the day-to-day routine that snaps you out of bad habits and ruts. It opens up the horizon and awakens possibility. It reveals fears and insecurities and the places where you grasp for control. And as one of these dear new friends reminded me one night, the thing that you’re clinging most tightly to is probably the thing you most need to let go of.

He’s right, you know. The only way to receive anything is to open your hands.

I’m back in Denver now, and opening up Outlook crumpled my soul like a piece of paper. Email is a hazard of any job, I know – it just feels particularly cruel after such a rejuvenating time AWAY from it.

I’m so sad that this project is over. But last week slapped my heart awake, and I’m just really thankful that it happened at all. I can’t pretend to know how or why it made me feel this way, but here it is: I trust that there is so much good ahead.

In the meantime, check out the pictures from the shows, captured by the one and only Ashley Parsons:
San Diego
Santa Barbara
San Francisco

On Friday night when the goodbyes were happening and I was dreading walking away, Greg hugged me and said, “This feels like family.” And it did.

Aloneness

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

I’ve been in the Shotgun for two and a half weeks, and things are coming together. I have all of my furniture, and as of Sunday, a washer and dryer. A few pictures are hung on the walls. I painted the hallway, but gave up halfway through painting the bathroom because the ceilings are too high and the floor space is too small for a ladder; I think I’ll need to hire a professional to finish the job. My curtains are up, and I’ve jerry-rigged a temporary solution for the skylight over my bed (a towel draped over two tension rods). I’m learning the oddities of the space, and despite the quirks, it’s starting to feel like home.

But the transition has been rough for Toad.

This little dog has been through more than her fair share of change in the last few years. We just passed the 2-year anniversary of her amputation, which is right around the time she came to live with me. In less than two years, she’s been through three moves, lost her dog companion when Becca got married and took Gabe with her, grew out all of her fur just to have it shaved off, and has tripped and scraped her nose more times than I can count. Through it all, she just keeps hopping along.

But my new next-door neighbor (with whom I share a wall) recently told me that when I’m not home, Toad barks. This is surprising to me, since Toad never barks when I’m around – she’s a silent, sleepy mutt who, for hours at a time, barely makes her presence known. But it appears that she has an alter ego, and as soon as I’m out the door, starts barking – and she doesn’t stop.

Last night I came home from guitar class, and had to park on the street a few houses down. As I walked toward my front door, I started to hear it – a desperate, throaty cry. “That’s not Toad,” I told myself. It couldn’t be her. But as I got closer, I knew it: my dog was barking incessantly, to the point of losing her voice, and she’d been doing this for the past 2 hours straight.

After an apology text to my neighbor, I sunk onto my bed feeling exasperated. Doesn’t this dog know that I take good care of her? Doesn’t she know that I always feed her, always make sure she has what she needs when she needs it? Doesn’t she trust that I’m never going to leave her alone, that I’m always going to come back for her?

She doesn’t believe it, so she cries. And I am no different.

How often do I buy into the lie that I’m all alone and that no one is going to take care of me? How often do I overlook the ways I have been provided for? How often do I draw conclusions based only on what I can see? How often do I assume the worst?

I’ve lived alone before, but something about being the only signature on the deed to this house has exposed my “aloneness” in a new way. Have you ever tried to hang a picture on a wall without someone standing back, telling you whether to move it higher or lower? Or deciding to change the placement of the rugs after the furniture has been set without someone else to lift the corner of the sofa? Not to mention being the only person earning money for the bank account to pay for it all. If I think about it for too long, I start to feel a lot like my little dog: frantic and afraid.

But here’s the good news: when you’re alone and you know it, you’re so much more aware of the ways in which you’re taken care of.

If I didn’t feel the full weight of my aloneness, would I feel the value of a Home Depot gift card from Luke and Maggie? Would I understand the thoughtfulness of flowers from Allie on my doorstep? Would I fully appreciate Steve coming over to drill things into the walls? Would I know the significance of Graham taking his entire Sunday afternoon to help me move a washer/dryer? Would I acknowledge the Denver map from Hitoshi, the rosemary plant from Isreal, or the bottle of wine from Erica as so meaningful? Would I read all of the well-wishing words with as much gratitude? Would I wake up each morning well aware that I’m living in a home that I didn’t even know to ask for or expect?

In the morning, I’m leaving for a 36-hour work trip, and I have an Anna-Hannah-Becca tag-team to make sure that Toad is never left home alone to bark. I don’t know what I’m going to do about this problem long-term. But despite the aloneness I am so tempted to feel, this little stressor of a dog is being provided for and taken care of – and so am I.

Free

Thursday, December 27th, 2012

Yesterday was a momentous occasion, a freaking scream-from-the-rooftops miracle: after working toward it for years, I made the final payment on my student loans, and became 100% debt-free.

I still don’t quite believe it myself.

My debt was made up of common damages: credit cards, a car loan, and everyone’s favorite, student loans. I was 17-years old when I decided to go to a private university, therefore sealing my fate as an indentured servant from graduation on. Borrowing money for school led me to feel justified in borrowing money for other things (“What’s another thousand? At this point, it’s just a drop in the bucket”).

Thus, my entire adult life has been spent owing.

Just about two years ago, my 21-year old Honda Accord rolled to a final stop on the side of the highway just outside of Kansas City. I had no money in savings, and could only laugh when the salvage lot paid me $251 for parts. I had a $2,000 credit card balance, $17,000 remaining on my student loans, and found myself borrowing $8,500 to buy a used car. All of a sudden, after 6+ years of paying the minimum monthly amount on my student loans, I was basically back to owing the original sum I did in the beginning. In other words, in 6+ years, I had made no progress.

Maybe it’s tacky to give dollar amounts. Maybe you read those numbers and think, “Wow, that is a TON of money” – or maybe you read them and think, “Come on, Annie – that isn’t so bad.” The point is that the sum was much more than I was comfortable with, more than I was able to fathom settling – and I had no idea how to get myself out of the mess I had gotten myself into.

Around that time, I started listening to the Dave Ramsey Show. I’m sure there are other financial gurus out there with valid get-out-of-debt plans, but Dave is my guy, and I think he gives solid, common sense advice. I loved when people would call in to the radio show to tell Dave they were finally debt-free, and was sometimes moved to tears as they shared their stories. Some of these folks had more debt and a smaller salary than me. Some of them were single women like me. I started to realize that actually, mathematically, I could do it: I could get myself out of debt.

However, when it came to following the Dave Ramsey plan, I had a bit of a slow start. I spent about a year trying to pump myself up, listening to his show and reading his books but only kind of following the steps. I moved in with my mom for 3 months, built up a $1,000 emergency fund, and started the debt snowball. But I continued to overspend each month, making it so I could never quite pay off the credit card – because I NEEDED to fly to Nashville, or I NEEDED to have that dress from Anthropologie, or I NEEEEEEEDED to have whatever I wanted when I wanted it. I could write an entire book on how this “neediness” is nothing short of a disease. It’s a contentment killer, a sabotager of joy, and a dream stealer – because as long as money is owed, certain dreams have to be put on hold.

And this past February, I had finally had enough.

I knew that I had to “stop the bleeding,” and there was only one way how: I drank two glasses of white wine and took scissors the plastic. And when I realized that I had no backup plan – no way to buy something unless I had dollars for it right then – I stopped buying shit that I didn’t need. Simple as that.

That’s when my debt snowball really took off, first paying off the credit card, then my car. When my student loans were the only thing left, I upped the payment from $200 to $300, and a few months later, I said “I’m over it” and bumped it all the way to $1,000. One thousand dollars every single month on a single girl’s not-gigantic salary. This was the most fun, because I watched the digit drop every month, $10,000, $9,000, $8,000, just like the New Years’ countdown.

Speaking of New Years’, my 2013 will contain zero debt.

Again, maybe you think it’s tasteless to talk about money – and who knows, maybe it is. But I’ve become very passionate about being debt free, so I’m throwing caution to the wind and writing about it – because I want other people to know that YOU CAN DO IT. If you are up to your eyeballs in debt, and feel like there’s no end in sight, and that you will spend your entire life paying for decisions of the past, I’ve been there – and I’m here to say that THERE IS HOPE.

And the feeling I have today is worth everything that it took.

30. Thirty. 30!!

Saturday, August 4th, 2012

“Time and tide wait for no man, but time always stands still for a woman of 30.”  -Robert Frost

I may be less than a day in, but I can say with confidence that I love my 30s. Today has been the best ever – breakfast with a full house of guests and sisters and friends, flower deliveries, coffee deliveries, furniture deliveries, good words, party prep, and messages from friends all over the world… including this:

Can you handle it? I can’t. I can’t handle it. I am the luckiest girl in the world, and don’t deserve the friends that I have – but will shamelessly and gratefully take every minute that they give me.

I wish I could tell you how loved I feel today, but I just can’t.  It’s the best day.  My heart is bursting.  I am overwhelmed and thankful and happy, and I just want time to stand still.

Thank you, dear readers – near and far, known and unknown – for being a part of my life.

The land for which I’m meant

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

For being a self-proclaimed control freak, there are a lot of things about my life that I did not plan, that I could not have planned.

I’ve experienced:
unachieved goals
unanswered prayers
unfulfilled dreams
mistakes
defeats
derailments
dead ends

I’m sure I’m no different from anyone reading this when I say that I have not always gotten what I wanted.

But I’ve also experienced:
surprises
provisions
little graces
big graces
friendships
victories
adventures

I don’t understand it.  I can’t see the pattern or the grand design, and I have no idea where this life will lead – is leading.  Half the time, I am bumbling around in the darkness, just praying that I don’t stumble off a cliff and splatter at the bottom of the canyon like an egg.

But even in the midst of the confusion, I can recognize that there are things to be thankful for.

  • I am so thankful that somehow – somehow – I live in Denver, Colorado.
  • I am so thankful that my family is, for all of our brokenness, made up of the people who are in it.
  • I am so thankful that I have a body that works, that will run me 13.1 miles in Seattle on Sunday.
  • I am so thankful that I work for an amazing company in a job that provides me with enough (more than enough, come on) income.
  • I am so thankful for car insurance and that the fact that my car was stolen means that I am lucky enough to own a vehicle at all.
  • I am so thankful for the friendships that have carried me, encouraged me, and sustained me.
  • I am so thankful I did not marry any of the men I thought that maybe I could have married.
  • I am so thankful for my cities – Seattle, Nashville, and Denver – and that all three are equally “home.”
  • I am so thankful that my plans are not The Plan.

I am so thankful for the twists and turns, the things I could not have predicted, the “no”s when I wanted “yes”s, the tears when I wanted joy, the loneliness when I wanted companionship, all of which have propelled me further down the tracks through the land for which I’m meant.

And I’m thankful for you, known and unknown readers, my companions on this written journey.  I wish I could bake each of you a pie.

Happy Thanksgiving.  May our hearts overflow with gratitude even for the things that we don’t understand.

Just call me angel of the morning

Thursday, July 7th, 2011

Morning is my least-creative time.  I am not –  how do you say it? – PERKY.  I don’t wake up before the sun, just bursting with inspiration to get the day started.  And because I don’t work in a traditional office environment, the most “ready” I get these days is a tank top and workout pants.

My best thinking is done when I’m not trying to think.  My best writing is done when I’m not trying to write.  Inspiration often strikes in the middle of the afternoon, when I’m troubleshooting HTML code or talking to a co-worker about email delivery (don’t be jealous).  My desktop is littered with text files, snippets of sentences and scraps of songs, which I usually return to late at night as I’m going to bed.

That’s when I write.

And yet, it’s before 8am, and I’m just typing as I think.

We’ll see how this goes.

Are you ever struck with just how lucky you are?  Don’t get me wrong – I’ve had my fair share of pity parties (duh, you know this).  But sometimes, when I can take a step back and look at the good things, it’s a little bit overwhelming.

Today, my brother and sister-in-law have been married for 10 years.  They were 20 and 21 on their wedding day, and at 18, it was my first time being a bridesmaid  – little did I know how well-experienced I would be 10 years later.

When I think about Ashley, and all that she adds to our family, I just feel really thankful.  She is creative and irreverent and passionate, funny, self-deprecating, soulful.  When she really laughs, it’s this explosive, joyful sound that probably makes the angels dance.  And my dear brother loves her so well.

I look at their relationship, and at my sweet nephews (all three!), and I feel hopeful.

Unbeknownst to me, while we were celebrating their wedding 10 years ago, someone who would later become one of my closest friends was ringing in the big 2-1.  Today is Annie Downs‘s 31st birthday, ladies and gentlemen.  If you know her, you love her – that’s just the way it is.  Few people in this world have such a wide circle of influence and friendship, but Annie Downs is something special.  She is hilarious and selfless and ballsy and loyal.  If you live in Nashville and see her today, give her a hug from me.

And because it’s my unimaginative morning time and I don’t really know how to work this in, I’ll just say it: thank you, readers of this blog, for your words of encouragement and love in the past week or so.  I can’t pretend to know why people keep checking in on my little life (especially when I’m always in a tank top and workout pants – honestly, I need an intervention), but I am grateful for your companionship along the way.

Time’s up.  And in the words of Bon Jovi… have a nice day.

Brownies, dog poop, and grace

Friday, March 18th, 2011

These days, I am jolting from one crazy big thing to the next.  Many of these things are good, wonderful, amazing things.  I mean, I flew to Haiti for a week of snuggling babies and expanding my vision.  I wrote songs about Larabar and spent a weekend under the palm trees.  I bought a car that I adore and pretty much want to write a love song about.

Truly, my life is like a fresh pan of brownies.

With a little bit of dog poop in it.

“Oh, it’s just a tiny bit of dog poop,” you say.

Um.  I’m sorry.  But even just a little bit of dog poop in the brownies has a way of tainting the whole batch.

There is a lot of insanity going on behind the scenes in my personal life these days, and it’s starting to creep into every corner of my world.

Yesterday in the Denver airport, I had a complete emotional meltdown.  It was borderline obnoxious: there, in front of God and TSA and everyone, tears dripping from my chin, struggling with the feeling that I’m not good enough, that I’m not doing enough, that I’m not in control.

“But Annie, you’re not in control,” you say.

I knooowwwwwwww.  AND IT’S THE WORSTTTTTTT.  [gnashing teeth]

But I’m learning that grace is defined by necessity; it doesn’t mean a thing unless we need it.

And oh my stars, do I ever need it.

I am so thankful for the people in my life who are extending grace to me right now.  I know that I don’t deserve it.

But I suppose that’s the point.

Please don’t claw your face off.

Friday, September 3rd, 2010

I’m a creature of habit, a woman of routine.  I take comfort in consistency.  I like knowing what is “for sure” and to be counted on.  When I show up somewhere, I want to be prepared, to know what to expect, to be ready.

Are you like that?

When you show up here on Fridays, do you expect a new entry of (Bosom) Friend Fridays?  And if a new one isn’t posted, do you want to claw your face off?  Because when I have an expectation that isn’t met, I want to claw my face off.

Now, I have an arsenal of amazing chums just waiting to be written about.  I love writing about these friends, because it makes me happy, and it reminds me of how lucky I am to know such remarkable people.

But some weeks, life gets crazy, and I have two different out-of-town guests, and work is busy, and I try to keep exercising so I don’t go nuts, and I pack 71 pounds of luggage to fly across the country, and I’m too busy EXPERIENCING my friends to WRITE about them.

And I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

So – hello, Nashville.  It’s so, so nice to be back.

Something wonderful is about to happen

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

I never thought the day would come, but here it is: I have officially outlived Kurt Cobain.

Today is my 28th birthday.  I’ve waited ALL YEAR for August 4th, and it’s finally here.  Not to make a big deal out of it or anything, but… okay fine.  I am the birthday girl!  Yippee!

I’m so glad to be 28.  The only thing that makes me a little bit sad is that I can no longer refer to my birthday as being “one score and seven years ago” – because that was clever of me, wasn’t it?

Probably not as clever as it sounded in my head.

In all seriousness, sometimes I think that I’m the luckiest girl in the world.  I am surrounded by the world’s best humans – ones that draw out the good, and sit with me in the ugly, and love me regardless.  I have a job that I really like with people that I really love.  I have a body that works and does everything that I need it to do.  I have the sweet serenity of words and books and songs.  I have amazing, life-giving opportunities to pursue the things that bring me joy.  I have a home with hardwood floors and a dishwasher and tall trees outside the windows.  I have an abundance of quiet – which is never to be taken for granted.  I have a humidity-free summer.

A HUMIDITY-FREE SUMMER.

I have nephews who, last night, asked for the story of “Beauty and the Beast” in its entirety, and then wrapped their little arms around my neck and told me that they love me.  And then this morning, sang me “Happy Birthday” with their sweet voices.  And then asked if I was wearing a wig.  And then told me that the man emblazoned across the tush of their underwear was “General Obi-Wan Kenobi.”  And then yelled at each other to stop singing while going to the bathroom.

And for some unknown reason, I have you coming back to this space on a regular basis, reading along and offering more to me than I have ever offered to you through these cockamamie posts.

Most importantly, I have hope in my heart – and hope is just another word for “something wonderful is about to happen.”

So here I am.  28-years old, the luckiest girl in the world, with hope in my heart.  Something wonderful is about to happen.

I am never allowed to complain about anything, ever.

Creepy shenanigans

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

Yesterday, my co-worker Molly got a text from an unknown number that said, “I know where you live.”

I have no patience for creepy shenanigans like that, so I had her give me the phone number.  A quick bit of internet/phone sleuthing later, and I discovered the anonymous texter’s identity – a pre-adolescent boy in the Bay Area, most likely pranking random numbers to freak people out.

So I suggested what any gracious human being would: that she write back, “No, Patrick: I know where YOU live.”

So.  Awesome.

And So. Creepy.

– – – – – – – –

Now feels like the right time to publicly declare how much I love and appreciate my co-workers.  I am the only person from my team out in Denver, so I spend the entire day corresponding with my teammates through technological means (IM, video chats, conference calls).  And every day, without fail, I find myself silently giggling at my computer screen.

These people are wonderful.  They make me laugh so hard.  And one of them was in “Ernest Scared Stupid” – I’M NOT EVEN JOKING.

I feel so, so lucky to be a part of a team of people who care so well for each other, who approach each day with a positive attitude, and who keep me thoroughly entertained every single day.