Leaning Into Life.

Happy Sunday, friends!  I hope you’ve all had a wonderful weekend – mine was lovely.  Yesterday, we had our annual alumni ski day at Arapahoe Basin.  We reserve a spot on the “beach,” where people tailgate all day, dancing in neon snowsuits and petting dogs that wander by in search of a hot dog forgotten in the snow.

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The road to A Basin

Over the past few months, I’ve been slipping into a familiar pattern: dreaming of escape.  Some things were frustrating me at work.  My yard is a mess.  I miss my family.  So I planned a bunch of vacations and fantasized about selling my house and ditching my responsibilities by moving to a lake in Tennessee or loading myself and my dog into a Volkswagen van and driving cross-country.

It’s easy, when you’re frustrated and sad and lonely, to think you can solve all your problems with a fresh start.  To tie all your negative emotions to your geographical location; your job; your messy yard.

Each morning, I read a page in A Year of Miracles and the email newsletter from Abraham-Hicks.  Both teach that the way to happiness lies not by seeking a new job, relationship, or possessions, but by finding the beauty in your current life.  It can feel scary and counter-intuitive to relax into someplace (literally or metaphorically) where you don’t want to stay, but rather than continue resenting everything around me, I decided to try.

I bought a fancy new camera that takes gorgeous pictures; I signed up for banjo lessons, just to do something creative for its own sake; I hiked with a friend.  And I began to notice tiny miracles!  Those frustrations at work?  I had much more agency and ability to make positive changes than I thought.  My messy yard?  I can pay someone to clean it up.

I remembered how fortunate I am to have a home where I can see the beautiful Colorado sunsets, and to be able pay someone to fix the yard.  These are easy problems, the ones I have.  How silly it seems to lose sight of this.

So this weekend, I didn’t head to the mountains with a desperate hope that a fun weekend would save me by providing an escape.  I drove out to A Basin happy to have a reliable car, grateful for good weather, and excited to see my friends.  We played all day in the Rocky Mountains, with the warm sun shining on our faces and burgers cooking on the grill.  We sat in a hot tub with fat snowflakes landing on our faces, laughing, laughing.  I drank more wine than was good for me, but there was strong coffee in the morning and an easy drive back to town.  To my little house, which feels like a haven, where my sweet dog is being teased by the squirrels and there’s chicken chili in the crock pot.

(Oh, and rather than waste any energy feeling spoiled and self-centered after this realization, I donated money to Meals on Wheels.)

This week, I hope your beautiful life filled with sunshine, laughter, and compassion.

 

 

Share the Love.

Happy Sunday, Friends!  Hope you’re having a great weekend!

Earlier this month, I walked into the grocery store and was greeted by a familiar display: the seasonal aisle in February, overflowing with oversized teddy bears and garish pink balloons.

Most people have a complicated relationship with Valentine’s Day.  Mine began in elementary school when a male classmate gave me a Michael Jordan valentine card that read “You turn me on,” next to which he had written, “NOT.”  Setting aside the incredibly inappropriate words on a child’s valentine and the fact that neither of us knew what it meant, I got the message.

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Presumably our teachers required us to give these cards to everyone in our class so that we would learn to love others equally, and so everyone could take home a literal bag full of love.  Unfortunately, we all got hand cramps signing our name to 30 romantic references that we barely understood enough to know we didn’t mean them.

It’s easy to take issue with the holiday’s commercialism and how it supports the societal pressure that says you’re only whole if you’re in a romantic relationship.  As an adult, I’ve been single during many Valentine’s Days and have had dates for a few, but my favorite February 14 thus far was the year I received a care package from my mom during study abroad in Scotland.  I clutched that envelope of cards and candy while I walked the cobblestone streets of campus, feeling so loved and grateful.

So this year, when we feel surrounded by fear and division, I thought Valentine’s Day would be the perfect time to do something loving.  Yesterday, some like-minded friends and I went to Target to pick up items to donate to Clothes To Kids.  For the same amount of money as a dozen roses and a box of chocolates, we dropped off a few items that will hopefully help some kids in our community feel better prepared to greet the day.

If you, too, roll your eyes at the giant teddy bears and balloons (the chocolate can stay, though), please join me in searching for a new way to celebrate Valentine’s Day.  Whether you’re attached or single, it’s a safe bet that someone out there could really use your love.

 

Friday Miracle.

Hi friends!  It’s been a wonderful weekend of good friends and good wine, and looking at mummies and dinosaur fossils.  I hope yours was equally magical!

dino-skulls

This week, I was given a tiny miracle.  Years ago, my mom gave me the Elsa Peretti “J” necklace from Tiffany & Co. for Christmas.  It was special and beautiful and helped me feel like I fit in at college, and I wore it every day, including on my first trip to Africa.  We arrived in Botswana during a summer heatwave, and shortly after, the pendant tarnished.  Not understanding you could polish it, I was angry with myself for being so irresponsible.  I mentioned it to one of the professors leading the trip (an incredible woman filled with curiosity and kindness), and she said, “but isn’t that the point of silver?  It tarnishes, and then it un-tarnishes.”

This necklace has traveled with me to Scotland and Europe, Costa Rica, East Africa, southern Africa, India, New York, and Denver.  In moments of stress, or when I need to feel grounded in familiarity, I touch it like a talisman that hangs against my chest.  Then, several months ago, I lost it.

When you gradually become a stranger to yourself, your soul begins to send up smoke signals.  I had been ignoring some underlying unhappiness for so long that I began to forget things – unusual for me and frightening.  I would remember having something in my hand and then have to wander the house in search of it.  Most times I left the grocery store, I’d stop at the blacktop edge of the parking lot, searching for my car while feeling like a lost child at a theme park.

So when I took the necklace off, I was careful to note that I was zipping it into a pocket in my ski coat. I waited a couple of days to search for it, and when I did, it was gone. I spread the coat out on the floor, where I sat and searched each pocket twice, once again feeling the sting of failing to take care of something so important to me.  This was a consequence, I thought, of allowing myself to become such a mess.

Over the past couple weeks, with help, I’ve been working towards a fresh start.  Hoping to live in gratitude and connection; be a brighter light and find ways to help others; embrace change and possibility.

Friday, I wore my ski coat to work.  In the middle of a meeting, I stood up and started searching the pockets.  “I keep thinking I’m going to have a Carrie Bradshaw moment,” I said, “even though I’ve searched so many times.”  I pointed to a pocket with a button hole.  “I’m afraid I put it into this pocket, since it has a hole.”  I reached a fingertip into the bottom corner of the pocket, just like I’d done ten times before, and felt the cold links of a fine silver chain.

I was gleeful as I untangled a knot in the chain so I could return the necklace to its rightful place.  As I worked, the pendant, which bears the first letter of my name, seemed to whisper, “you’re on the right track.  You’re on your way.”

Isn’t that the point of this life?  Sometimes we tarnish, but with hope, love, and a brave heart, we can become new again.

New Year/New Tune.

Happy New Year, friends!  During this first week of this new year, I’m adjusting my typical New Year routine.  Most years, I sit down with a pad of paper and a fresh pen to write my New Year goals.  (In our family, we like to have goals to which we aspire as opposed to resolutions we break.)

These goals are generally variations on a theme:

  • Work out three times a week, minimum.
  • Eat (and cook) healthy foods.
  • Volunteer.
  • Publish a writing piece.
  • Etc.

As for everyone, these lists boil down to, “THIS YEAR, I’m gonna do it.  I’m gonna be perfect.”  Then, naturally, I decide I’ll cut back on wine after I finish this one bottle (it’s  open, after all), pack a gym bag that ends up on the floor of my closet, donate $50 to help kids in Africa and call it a day.

The next January 1, I rummage around for a notebook, and the previous year’s goals rear up like last night’s garlic.  My failure is both pungent and stale.

Thankfully, this year, I was saved: pulled off the demented merry-go-round by my Christmas and New Year’s visitors!  My mom and step-dad arrived December 23 and stayed with me until January 1, and it was a special and meaningful visit.  We attended a candlelight Christmas Eve service at the church around the block, cooked filet mignon for Christmas dinner, and watched the whole first season of The Crown.  We took Bella girl on walks around the neighborhood and a hike near Red Rocks.  They led the charge as we worked together to transform my house into a home: a place I’m proud to live.

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We turned these old basement windows into cool frames for photos from my travels!

Most importantly, we talked for hours over home-cooked meals and re-heated tea about our histories, our fears, and our dreams.

One transformational tidbit they shared was that before they write their New Year’s goals, they write a reflection of the previous year.  This might sound self-explanatory.  Perhaps everyone does this and I missed the memo!  But this year, after writing for over an hour about all the things that wounded or cheered me, all the personal triumphs and dark, lonely moments, and the many memories created with family and friends, my New Year’s goals are different.

Here are a few of my goals/thoughts/mantras for 2017:

  • Think outside the box!
  • I forgive myself; I forgive others; others forgive me.
  • Spend time being creative, in whatever form it takes.
  • More tea.
  • Better wine.
  • Give myself the gift of taking Bella to the groomer for a real bath more often.
  • Remember I can always move things to another shelf.
  • Daydream.
  • Deep breaths.
  • Sit with my own feelings.
  • Practice feeling my truth and trusting it – so I can speak it.
  • Focus on moments of peace, beauty, happiness, and joy.
  • I love myself; I love others; others love me.
  • Find ways to be a bright spot and have a positive impact.
  • Gratitude.
  • More deep breaths.

I’ll still donate money, and I’ll probably pack the occasional forgotten gym bag, but this time around I intend to do it with a grateful heart.  I am healthy, relatively wealthy, and very loved.  I’m starting this race with the medal already around my neck.  Now I just get to run.

Happy New Year.  Happy new tune.

Blessings to you all.

Stronger Together.

Friends: I’m heartbroken.  Not just because my candidate lost, but because this has awakened me to some truths I didn’t want to see.  The reasons I refused to vote for Donald Trump are legion, and I assumed that not only would Hillary Clinton win the White House, perhaps the Dems could capture the Senate as well, sending a message that love truly Trumps hate.

Yesterday, I wore my “Jackie O.” sweater – a classic red-and-blue number I rarely wear because it seems too fancy for everyday wear, and paired it with my blue-and-white shoes.  I proudly wore my country’s colors, confident that we would make history by repudiating what this man stands for.  By electing a woman to the office of President, a long-overdue development.

I got home from work, played fetch with my sweet dog Bella girl, and then turned on NBC.  I was exchanging texts with my mom and my best friends from New York.  Both threads began hopeful yet guarded.  Lots of encouragement and photos of a friend’s new puppy.

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And then.  And then.  Slowly (yet somehow so quickly), we watched as millions of my fellow Americans voted for a man who wants to kick the chair out from under some of our most vulnerable citizens.  A man who wants to change libel laws to stifle free speech.  A man who openly admires authoritarian leaders.

Each state that was called for Trump felt like a physical blow.  Another sharp elbow to women, putting us back in our place.  Each vote a glowing red middle finger thrown up in fear and desperation, hatred and ignorance.

Many friends and family members voted for Donald Trump, and I love those people.  I loved them yesterday and love them equally today.  I know they are good people.  Not all who voted for him are evil.  But I cannot reconcile myself to this, not today.

Today, I have allowed myself to cry at a stoplight, hearing the excited voices of Trump supporters on NPR.  I have wept with a coworker as we heard Hillary Clinton encourage little girls to see their own value and follow their dreams.  I have begun to process this on multiple phone calls with my mom and step-dad – intelligent, kind, brave people I’m grateful to be able to lean on.

I’ve also been inspired by friends and folks on Twitter who are channeling their grief into so much positive action.  I’ve donated money to the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and NPR.  I’ve realized there’s so much we can do to protect each other.  I’ve relied on a safety net that wasn’t there, but now I truly understand: we are weaving our own safety net with every word we speak, every action we take, and every dollar we spend.

Tonight, I’m going to have a big glass of wine and snuggle my dog.  Moving forward, I hope to turn this incredible grief into action.  Let’s listen to each other.  Let’s help each other.

Let’s be better.

Civic Duty.

Friends: today, I did something uncomfortable, inspiring, reaffirming, and important.  I volunteered to get people registered to vote.

When you live in New York, you perfect the art of ignoring or turning down strangers who approach you with their agenda.  “Excuse me!” they shout as you hustle back from lunch. “Do you care about pandas/polar bears/babies?”  After a friendly response resulted in year of donating to Greenpeace, I learned to wear giant headphones, never make eye contact, and respond with a curt and forceful “no” if pressed.

I get it.  I get that people just want to be able to buy some groceries and a pumpkin spice latte without being harassed.  I understand being afraid that the person with the clipboard is going to prey on your friendliness and leverage it for their own cause.  But this year, this election feels too important to be sidelined by awkwardness, fear of rejection, or trying to preserve your “cool.”    So I put on my USA t-shirt, got my clip-board, and camped out by the Safeway entrance.

Voter registration volunteer

Doing democracy!

And you know what?  It was incredible!  Most people, when they heard I was registering voters and not trying to weasel them out of their money, were so incredibly kind.  Many thanked me.  Some wished me good luck.  One lady gave me a homemade pecan tart, and another man offered me one of his donuts!  Even a couple of Trump supporters (assuming I was stumping for Hillary…which…is fair) approached me jovially and politely.

If you base your opinions solely on what you see on the news, it would be easy to assume that Americans are filled with hatred and fear or have disengaged, but what I saw was a small army of folks with their hands full of grocery bags, holding their babies and dog leashes, stopping for a moment of shared humanity.  Even if they didn’t agree with me.

By the end of two hours, I had registered two women to vote.  One is a die-hard Hillary supporter and so excited to vote; the other is a roofer who’s still deciding her path.  It was my honor and pleasure chatting with these ladies and helping them prepare to participate in our democracy.  Two may not sound like a lot, but to me, it felt like a Sunday morning miracle.

Deep-fried Twinkies and Other Thoughts.

Much like Hillary Clinton herself, I assume, I’ve been struggling to understand why many people believe that she is an equally bad a presidential option as Donald Trump.

I’ll admit – I was not what you’d call “jazzed” about her being the nominee at first, but then two women I respect shared their opinions of her, which began to change mine.  The first I know personally – she’s intelligent, thoughtful, and holds many people’s wellbeing in her hands.  The second was Gloria Steinem, whose memoir My Life on the Road I listened to while driving to Moab.

Gloria Steinem My Life on the Road

I recommend.

After listening to these women and looking into my own heart, I realized that my main problem with Secretary Clinton was that she wanted it, and I could tell.  I couldn’t stand her because of her ambition and willingness to play the game.

It was the same impulse that made me dislike a woman who was in the NYU Summer Publishing Institute with me – when we did a class field trip of sorts to Jane magazine, she spoke up every time the editor asked a question, charmed the woman and eventually got a job at the magazine.  I loved Jane and would have stabbed someone with a pencil to work there, but I didn’t want to seem too eager.  I didn’t want to annoy anyone by seeming like I wanted to sit at the head of the popular table.  But DAMMIT if I didn’t want to sit at the head of that table, and I turned my sadness and jealousy into snide derision.

Mean Girls

You can’t sit with us.

That young woman, shunned by so many of us, pursued and achieved her dream.  I found a job on craigslist, far from the industry that I loved.  My feeling superior to her was cold comfort.

Barack Obama, who makes me feel all the feels with his graceful yet powerful speeches, has made some bad-judgment mistakes.  And yet, and yet, I love him.  He’s cool and funny and calm, and I can’t see the gears of his clock.  Hills, as I like to call her, is intelligent, experienced, and far more qualified to lead this nation than many of the people who tossed their hats into the ring, but we can see her gears.  We can hear them when they grind and we know when she gets out the oil can.

She isn’t always smooth and polished, but at least I know that she has the right mechanisms to tell time.  Donald Trump, by contrast, is trying to tell us time doesn’t exist, and that somehow feels preferable to being faced with the truth behind the facade.  He’s the guy making s’mores, and she’s the person telling you that marshmallows are made from cow tendons.

In November, I will proudly cast a vote for Hillary Clinton, because my conscience revolts at the thought of voting for someone who believes that I would rather live in a fantasy world than deal with some hard truths.  Someone who appeals to the darkest, fear-inhabited pieces of our souls, whispering that these shameful feelings of hatred and racism aren’t wounds we need to clean out – they’re righteous truths.  Someone who encourages us to believe we can feel good fast if we are bombastic and blunt enough, instead of listening to each other and embracing nuance.

People I love and respect will vote for Donald Trump, and neither of us will ever fully empathize with the other person’s choice, and I am okay with that.  Thank God we live in a democracy where we can recognize the validity of different ways of living and loving.  Hillary Clinton isn’t pure good and Donald Trump isn’t pure evil, because reality doesn’t work that way, but I am choosing to stand with her.

Though he isn’t Satan incarnate, Donald Trump is the human equivalent of a deep-fried Twinkie.  Deep-fried Twinkies are ridiculous and a novelty, and the first couple of bites taste pretty good.  Their lavishness feels incredibly American.  Eating a deep-fried Twinkie in the summer sun at the state fair seems to send up a one-finger solute to boring, constrictive worries about nutrition and diabetes.  But Twinkies, deep-fried or otherwise, are really bad for you!  They’re harmless every now and again, but imagine if they became a staple of your diet.  If you had to eat deep-fried Twinkies every day, wouldn’t your stomach ache grow worse as you realized that perhaps this didn’t turn out like you thought?

I'm with her