A little good Fortune

Written by hootenannie on January 16th, 2014

Anyone who knows me knows that a professional publication would be an unlikely place to find me. I wear yoga pants to work. I tell my manager about my feelings. I’ve never had a career path or a 5-year plan. My degree is in music, for crying out loud.

But somehow (you know how), I wound up employed by one of this year’s 100 Best Companies to Work For – and wonder of wonders, I was recently contacted by Fortune Magazine to chat about how I got my job.

The interview is here – check it out for a glimpse of me being hashtag totes profesh. Maybe that music degree came in handy after all?

“Everything that made you so different”

Written by hootenannie on January 7th, 2014

“At a certain point in your life, probably when too much of it has gone by, you will open your eyes and see yourself for who you are, especially for everything that made you so different from all the awful normals. And you will say to yourself, ‘But I am this person.’ And in that statement, that correction, there will be a kind of love.” -Phoebe in Wonderland

Adventure

Written by hootenannie on January 6th, 2014

I’ve been thinking a lot about adventure. So many of us crave it – but what is it, actually?

Is it doing something crazy – quitting your job and selling everything you own and taking off for parts unknown? Is it doing something risky – hanging from cliffs and diving out of planes and willingly allowing your life to hang in the balance? Is it doing something gigantic – traveling around the world and living large and turning heads?

All of those things certainly count as adventure – and my life has included some of those moments. But could it be that the experience doesn’t have to be berserk in order for it to make you feel alive?

Because I think that that’s what adventure really is: an experience that makes you feel alive. Something that snaps you into the present, a place most of us are more comfortable avoiding. Often, all that takes is doing something out of the ordinary, something different than usual, something that you’re not exactly sure will work out.

I woke up on Saturday morning, the only thought in my head, “I don’t want to stay home.” I love my little house, and am usually perfectly content to spend time within the four walls, but something about this weekend had me itching to get out. The weather was inopportune, as the snow had started overnight and was continuing to come down, blowing in blustery circles, slicking the roads and driving people inside.

But I needed an adventure.

So I grabbed my snowshoes, loaded up Foxy, and drove west.

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If you live in Colorado, you know that I-70 is the worst place to be on a weekend morning. The ski traffic is merciless, and when you add bad roads into the mix, it can be aggravatingly slow. And about 30 minutes into my drive, that’s exactly where I found myself: bumper to bumper, creeping along at less than 5 mph, wheels grasping for grip on the ice.

“This is stupid,” I thought. “I should turn around.”

But something in me said to stick it out. I wanted to find out what might happen if I just kept going for as long as I could.

After an hour and a half, I reached Idaho Springs (a mere 30 miles from Denver), and then turned south onto an unplowed mountain road. I drove for 14 dicey miles until I reached my intended destination. And Foxy and I headed out into the winter air, where we explored in complete stillness and peace.

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I thought back to the moment I had wanted to turn around, and realized that that’s when the adventure began. It’s the moment when you’re not sure if your plan is going to work, or if it will, how. The decision to keep going despite the unknowns, heading into something out of the ordinary, is unsettling and exciting (two things which often co-exist). And often, the “getting there” is just as much a part of the adventure as the destination itself.

So cook something new for dinner. Take a different road home. Sign up for the art class. Throw your name in the hat – for a job, an opportunity, a relationship. Loosen your grip on control so your hands are free to grab life and enjoy the shit out of it. Foxy will show you how.

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All things new

Written by hootenannie on December 31st, 2013

Just the other day, I was reminiscing with my mom about 2011 (i.e. The Worst Year Ever) – and while she said that she has blocked out a lot of those memories, to me they’re still vivid, still shocking. Cynthia Monahon calls trauma “the occurrence of the unthinkable,” and if we’re using that definition, 2011 was traumatic in so many ways. While the events of that year aren’t as viscerally painful as they once were, sometimes I still can’t believe that they happened.

In early 2012, I remember praying that God would “throw me a f***ing bone,” because I believe that God doesn’t mind an honest swear, even if some people do. And while I don’t necessarily credit that prayer with the change, I have to admit – today, things are different.

2013 was good, so good, in so many ways.

I made it through two sisters’ weddings, as well as the remarriage of my father. I experienced four different managers at work. I bought a house. I lost a beloved dog, and gained another. I found myself in Los Angeles, Nashville, Kansas City, Minneapolis, Austin, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, a beach in Florida, the summits of Colorado mountains, cocoa farms in the Dominican Republic, the shore of Lake Superior, and the seat of a bicycle (of all places). There were hours and hours of walking, hours and hours of silence, hours and hours of friendship, and many bottles of wine. I barely went to church, but I read my bible more than ever before. I chopped off my hair, and started the long, slow work of growing it back. I played my guitar. I met so many new people.

It was a rich year – not without heartache, but somehow without heartBREAK. And that was a welcome change, a gentleness I’d forgotten was possible.

Today, as I retire my 2013 calendar to the bookshelf that holds 10 years of its companions, I look ahead to 2014 – and I’m so excited. I’m just so excited for what’s on tap for this year. I can’t wait to see what the time brings – because despite my sparse church attendance this year, if there’s any promise that I love, it’s that all things are being made new.

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My favorite news stories of 2013

Written by hootenannie on December 30th, 2013

There are a bunch of “Top 10 Stories of 2013” lists floating around the Internet right now, and that’s all well and good. But I have a few favorites of my own – and whether they be for legitimate or ridiculous reasons, here they are.

  1. 5,000 people gathering at the Mall of America to sing Zach Sobiech’s “Clouds” in his memory.
  2. The man commissioning the crafting of a 12-foot bronze statue to flip his ex-wife and her new boyfriend the bird on a daily basis.
  3. The fraudy sign language interpreter at Nelson Mandela’s memorial. (See here for an awesome translation of what was actually being signed.)
  4. Batkid saving the day.
  5. Kim Jong-Un sending a threat of attack by fax. By fax?
  6. The Boston Marathon bombing survivor meeting the woman who saved her life.
  7. WestJet Airline reviving the holiday spirit.

I tried to get to 10, but the list started to feel watered-down. So there are 7. Let me know if I missed your favorite.

Christmas lights, Christmas miracles

Written by hootenannie on December 20th, 2013

Greetings from my pit of convalescence.

On Monday, I came down with a bout of the Mighty Influenza, and while I’m mostly back to normal now, I still can’t breathe all the way to the bottom of my lungs. My house is littered with dirty dishes, blankets, dog toys, and tissues that as soon as I blow my nose into, Foxy tries to eat.

On Day 1 of this sickness, I came home from work early with heavy, achy limbs and a wicked headache. I felt atrocious. But as I made a beeline from the car to my front door, my only hope being the bed inside, I noticed something different about my house. And when I stepped up on the porch, I saw it.

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That, my friends, is my front porch wrapped in Christmas lights, and a note from an anonymous someone telling me to plug them in.

And then my heart exploded with sprinkles.

It’s no secret that I have a hard time with festive merriment; remember, “convivial hullabaloo just isn’t really in my nature.” And while I actually love Christmas lights, I would never, EVER take the initiative to put them up myself. The fact that someone (I still don’t know who) not only had the idea, but actually took the time to flash-decorate my house for me is one of the sweetest gestures ever offered my way.

When I plugged them in, all but one strand lit up, leaving a dark spot in the midst of the bright colors. No complaints from me, though – because given the lack of cheer that would otherwise be my front porch, 3 out of 4 strands ain’t bad. Even in the midst of my sickness, I proudly plugged them in every night this week.

Last night, I was finally feeling up for some social interaction, so I plugged in my lights and went out for a bit.

And when I came home, all of the lights were working.

Christmas miracles just keep happening.

Trollhaugen

Written by hootenannie on December 16th, 2013

Fear not, loyal readers – despite last week’s ridiculous debacle, Foxy and I have not been nabbed by the Canine Gestapo. It probably helped that I was out of town for the second half of last week, far from the arm of Colorado law in a mystical land called Wisconsin.

Actually, I was only in Wisconsin for one night. The bulk of my trip was spent in Minneapolis, a city I pop in and out of for work – but rather than holing up in a hotel room to order room service and catch up on “The Mindy Project” (not that I would have complained), I opted to spend Friday evening doing as the locals do. In this case, I was swept away to a truly bizarre place: Trollhaugen.

They call Trollhaugen a “ski resort,” but it’s really just a hill in Dresser, Wisconsin. Maybe they piled up some dirt with bulldozers? Who knows. What’s important is that the slopes are open until 3am, which, judging by the festivities I witnessed in the lodge, I can only assume leads to many a drunken concussion. But if there’s anything I’m learning about the folks up north (or as the ‘Sconcies* say, nort’), it’s that they are hearty stock.

Drinks were $3.50 (read: three dollars and fifty cents). I ordered the cheese curds, because when in Wisconsin – although upon delivery, I found them to be nothing more than string cheese nuggets that were battered and fried. Again – NOT COMPLAINING. Just giving you an accurate vision. College-aged kids swept in and out of the lodge all night, en route to another kamikaze run down the snowy hill. I kept my parka on the entire time.

And so the evening passed.

The only people I knew were the band that was playing, so during their set, I did something that I’m finding I quite like: I talked to strangers. For being an introvert, I really love people – and given the three significant moves to different cities in my adult life, as well as my propensity to go places by myself, I’m getting pretty good at talking to the ones I don’t know. The trick is to swallow your pride and get nice and comfortable with the awkward, because of course it will be awkward – at least for the first sentence or two, if not the entire interaction. Oh well, get over it. There are worse things in life than awkwardness (see: tapeworms, the DMV, velour sweatsuits, hangnails, loud talkers on airplanes, paper cuts, grenades, running out of hot water when you still have conditioner in your hair, litter, wet socks, people saying “irregardless,” slow internet, the way your hands feel after peeling an orange, cold sores, SeaWorld, stepping on a thumbtack, dental work, passive aggression, Styrofoam, perhaps the way this blog is ending?).

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*I have zero idea if people from Wisconsin are known as ‘Sconcies, but if it’s not already a thing, please. Let’s make it a thing.

Unleashed

Written by hootenannie on December 10th, 2013

I live a block from a city park where Foxy has made a lot of dog friends. There’s a huge grassy area in the middle, and a lot of dog owners have taken to letting their pups off leash to run like banshees. The Fox loves it, and there’s no better way to tire her out than to have her chase dogs 5 times her size.

The only catch: it’s illegal. I’d been warned by the other dog owners that city officials will ticket if they catch you with your dog off leash; the first time is $80, the second is $150, the third is $300, and most everyone I’ve met at the park has been ticketed at least once.

So yes, I’ve been warned. But I’m Annie Parsons and live on the edge of danger.

Today, on this beautifully bright morning, I bundled up and walked Foxy to the park. The sun was gleaming off the snow, and she couldn’t wait to chase the ball I’d brought. I did a quick spin-around and saw that the perimeter of the park was clear of any city trucks, then unleashed her to run like the unrefined mongrel she is. A few other people showed up, and we chatted as our dogs romped.

All of a sudden, one of the women hissed, “TICKETER.” And sure enough, walking toward us was a man, notepad in hand, his white Parks & Rec truck at the curb.

So I did what any self-respecting person would do. I grabbed Foxy and ran.

I ran full speed in the other direction.

One glance over my shoulder, and I saw the city man about-face and head for his truck. He was going to circle the block and head me off at the corner – because is this girl seriously running?

But the thought of an $80 ticket was sickening, so I picked up speed, blessing the tread on my Sorels as I beat across the ice.

I made it to the edge of the park, and turned to see the truck about a half block back on the other side. The light was red, but we crossed the street anyway. I cut through a neighbor’s yard and into the alley behind my house, crouching behind the fence just in time to see the truck pass us by. Just like the movies.

And when I finally made it through my front door and locked it behind me, I closed the curtains, put my hands on either side of Foxy’s little furry face, and collapsed into a pile of giggles.

Weight weight… don’t tell me

Written by hootenannie on December 9th, 2013

Several years ago, I threw out my scale. The contraption had come to rule my life, with every weigh-in feeling like spinning a wheel in a game show – What did she win, Bob? – except the needle never landed on the jackpot. Tossing my scale into the dumpster was equal parts terrifying and liberating, and for years, I had no idea what I weighed.

But this past year, my mind started to play tricks on me. The mirror has never been dependable for me, as the image I see rarely matches reality. The old paranoia started to creep in; I was convinced I was gaining weight, even though my clothes still fit and my diet hadn’t changed. And while I kept a good poker face about it and didn’t mention this insecurity to almost anyone, inside, I was falling apart.

So in January, I decided to once again embrace the scale. In the midst of the mind-games that were yanking me around, I needed an objective number to ground me in reality. And no one is more surprised than me, but these days, I have to admit that knowing my weight is almost a comfort – an unbiased, unemotional truth in a manic world.

On Saturday morning at the gym, I stepped on the scale – the mechanical kind they have at the doctor’s office where the little weights are moved to the right or left until everything is balanced. I automatically set everything to the number I had been last week, but then was horrified to have to keep moving it up, up, up – over 10 pounds higher than it had been a week before.

Panic started to rise in my throat, threatening to strangle me. THIS CANNOT BE, I despaired. HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?? NOOOOOOOO!

And then I heard a snicker behind me.

I whipped around to find a man much too old for pranks standing behind me with his foot on the corner of the scale, pressing down, laughing at his own trick. “I got you!” he crowed.

Fine, it’s kind of funny to retell it now – but in the moment? I was not amused. I was not a good sport. After calling him a dipshit in my mind and a terrorist to his face, I said, “That’s one of the meanest things you could do to a woman.” A sudden fury was rising, as were my eyebrows. He must have sensed my intensity, because he took a step back. I turned to face him square on. “Are you going to leave and let me weigh myself? I’LL WAIT.”

He slunk away, I stepped back on the scale and got the number I was expecting, and then spent the rest of the day thinking about body image, weight, beauty, and how they’ve all become so inextricably fused.

I recently saw an interview with Mindy Kaling. When asked, “What’s the biggest compliment someone could pay you?” without skipping a beat she replied, “That I’m beautiful.” No apology. No pretending that her answer was “wise” or “generous” or “compassionate” in the name of respectability. She wanted to be known as beautiful.

And it was so refreshing.

Because ladies, isn’t that it? Maybe I’m alone in this, but I’ll go ahead and own it: I want beauty to be the truest thing about me. Granted, the definition of beauty has been twisted by our culture to the point where it’s difficult to even be able to define it – but we know the real thing when we see it. We want to be associated with it. We were designed to want to be noticed, seen, and enjoyed.

Beauty is beyond the physical, of course – if you say differently, I’ll fight you. But because we live in this very physical world, it includes our bodies, our features, our faces. This is why we make attempts to foster our beauty – not to manufacture it, not to attain it, but to release what is already there. We want our outsides to match our insides, respecting and cherishing the bodies we’ve been given.

Of course, that’s the ideal world. Reality is much more warped.

I manage the Instagram account for my work, and a recent hashtag search accidentally led me to the accounts of young girls struggling with eating disorders. One of them had posted a picture of our product, a 200-calorie snack bar made of nothing but dates, peanuts and sea salt, with the caption, “I feel so guilty about eating this. I don’t deserve food.”

It broke my heart. And while I’ve never struggled with a full-blown eating disorder, I know guilt. I know deprivation. I know workouts as punishment, ubiquitous insecurity, and self-hatred – yes, hatred.

If I were a “tie a bow on it” type of Christian, this would be the time to say that God thinks we’re beautiful (even if the world doesn’t), that our hearts are all that matter (so stop being so vain), and just wait until that glorious day when there will be no more insecurity (the struggles of this life don’t mean a thing). But I’m not that kind of Christian.

I believe that “Thy kingdom come… on earth as it is in heaven” means that the physical here-and-now matters. I believe that our desires are important, because they point us toward something True. I believe that we come into this world packed to the core with beauty, and that part of the work of this life is to let some of that loveliness out, restoring us to what we were originally imagined to be. I believe that we get to play a part in making this sad place beautiful again.

And that’s something worth putting my weight on.

Patience

Written by hootenannie on December 2nd, 2013

“How’s your writing going?” he asked.

It’s the question I’m coming to dread more than any other (except for maybe “Been on any good dates lately?” – bless your heart), because whether songs or prose, the answer is “It’s not, really.” The thing I love to do more than anything in the world is bringing nothing but disgruntled resentment these days. Inspiration is nowhere to be found. The well hath run dry.

Of course, I’ve been through this kind of thing enough times to know that the drought isn’t permanent – at least, I hope it’s not permanent. One never quite knows for sure. Surely, at some point, writing is going to bring me joy again? My thoughts are going to arrange themselves in some sort of semi-organized fashion? Or maybe it’s going to take me grabbing them by the horns and wrestling them to the ground like a cowgirl, the kind I used to watch at the Montrose County Fair when I was a kid.

Life is fairly daily these days. The rhythm has become predictable – which, how is it that I can both appreciate and despise routine? Foxy the Wonder Pup is growing, we go on a lot of walks, I ride my bike to work, I grocery shop. There is coffee in the morning and a crock pot of food at night. I haven’t been on a plane in a month – an abnormally long stretch for me. I see friends, I clean the house, I rearrange the money in my bank accounts. And I think ahead to 2014, wondering what it might bring, praying for the things that I hope for.

Hope is hard – because I’m a person of action. If there’s something I want, typically I make it happen. Time waits for no man, and especially not a woman. But some things aren’t up to me, and no amount of posturing or positioning will make a difference in the ultimate outcome. This reduces me to – okay, tears of frustration – but also a reliance, a faith, a giving over of myself, a trust that something, whatever it is, will be.

“I have to write these things now,” I told her, frantic. “If I don’t, they’ll pass by – I’ll lose them – they’ll spoil.”

She smiled at me. “They won’t spoil. Maybe they just need to marinate for a while.”

This is an “in between” time – in between the exciting moments, in between the sowing and the reaping, in between the preparation and the meal. And in the quiet, slow rhythm of it all, I remember one of my favorite quotes by Frederick Buechner:

“Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and pain of it, no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it, because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.”

All moments are key moments. Life itself is grace. The humdrum is valuable, if only I can find the patience to sit with it for a while. And in the midst of the mundane, I want to engage with life with the same enthusiasm as this one – because she is bringing me a lot of joy.

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