California Here We Come.

Just a quick post before I fly to San Diego tonight for my little brother’s wedding.  While it seems like only yesterday the little cowlicked towhead was running around in his Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle tighty whities, he is, in fact, a grown man.  We’re excited to welcome his fiancee into the family, and I’m so happy I get to be there to wish them joy.

In the meantime, I’ll be singing the OC theme song in my head on repeat…

Happy Memorial Day.

Happy long weekend, friends!  I hope that wherever you are, it’s sunny and you have a BBQ to attend.

It has been a truly lovely weekend in Colorado.  On Saturday, a few friends and I ventured up to Boulder to explore the festival there in preparation of the BolderBOULDER 10K.  There are about 50,000 participants in this 10K, which ends in the stadium at CU, and people come in from all over the world for the race.

Carnival rides in Boulder

The festival had live bands, carnival rides, and delicious fair food.  I broke down and tried the cookie dough tent’s fare, and it turns out eating a bowl of cookie dough at a sleepover when you’re 11 is a lot more fun than eating a bowl of cookie dough in 80-degree heat in the tail end of your 20s.  I didn’t barf, but it was touch and go for a minute.  Since it was in Boulder, the booths at the fair included “gentle chiropractic adjustments” and handmade leather moccasins that wouldn’t look out of place on Legolas.

cookie dough

[A few words about Boulder: spending time in that city makes me equal parts annoyed and ashamed.  With my conservative Midwestern upbringing, I can’t help but roll my eyes at the long-haired hippies with their weird dancing, compost bins, and stringent traffic laws that overly favor pedestrians and cyclists.  But then I feel guilty because I love the environment, too!  I recycle!  I support dancing to your own beat!  Who am I to get judge-y because I don’t approve of their “packaging”?  It’s a complicated set of emotions.]

We ended the day with a drink at a rooftop bar overlooking the Flatirons, where we made friends with two middle-aged Scottish couples [read = I practically tackled them as I professed my love of their country and demanded that they all look at my thistle tattoo] who were in town for a wedding.

Yesterday, another friend and I biked from her apartment in the Highlands along the Cherry Creek trail down to Wash Park, where we parked on a blanket with a little picnic and enjoyed the sunshine and people watching.  It was a glorious day.

Wash Park Denver

Ironically enough, it’s easy to forget the origins of this holiday, so I want to add a quick note of gratitude to all the men and women who have served and given their lives for our nation.  There would be no festival for cookie dough-loving hippies if not for you, and I am thankful to have that freedom.

Enjoy the Monday off from work!

Some Thoughts About Moving.

Friends – may I be serious for a few minutes?  I try to be a source of positivity in this world, and I strive to see the silver linings in all situations.  I believe that much of your experience in this life is determined by your attitude, and it’s been proven to me many times.

But.

I’ve been pondering some things this week.  I’ve been a bit of an itinerant soul throughout my adult life.  I spent a semester in Scotland, which introduced me not just to some amazing people, but to the idea that “cool” has a very different definition than I thought in high school.  Immediately after graduating from college, I moved to New York, a place that feels every bit as important to my development as my actual hometown, and where I had a job that allowed me to travel solo to Africa and India.  Just over six years into New York, I decided to move to Colorado.

When I got to each of these new places, I didn’t have good friends there, but by the time I left Aberdeen and Brooklyn, I had incredible friendships that I hope will last a lifetime.  But now I find myself in that weird place where you know lots of people in your new city, but your friendships just don’t have that same comfort level – in New York I didn’t think twice about asking people if we could drink wine together in our pajamas, and while I’m sure I’ll develop new friendships like that in Denver, on nights like tonight, I can’t help but think about how I left that behind.

Even though I’ve met and reconnected with plenty of fun folks, even though the mountains provide a dramatic backdrop for daily life here, and even though I can hear the frogs singing behind my apartment as the sun sets, sometimes I feel profoundly lonely, like all my leaving has severed a lot of these bonds that were forged with some really special people.

There were good reasons for me to leave New York, and I don’t regret that decision one whit.  I guess I just hope that maybe this move is the last one.

Maybe this time I’ve found home.  Maybe it just takes time.

Sky’s the Limit.

One of the side effects of living in New York is that it’s so overstimulating you forget what’s missing until you go elsewhere.  The first time I visited home after six months in the city, I stood in the bank parking lot and said to my mom, “there’s so much sky!”  (Shortly followed by a mystified, “and everyone has a southern accent!”)

Even though you see celebrities on a weekly basis, it’s possible to go months (or even years) in New York without properly seeing a sunset.  This didn’t even register until I visited southern Africa last April.  Every night we’d prop up our feet at the bar, or our guide would pull the Land Rover off the path in the bush, and we’d knock back some “malaria medicine” (gin and tonic, naturally – tonic water contains quinine) and watch the sun set.

During this trip, I felt myself go un-crazy, if that makes sense.  I realize it’s an obnoxious thing to be able to say, but there’s something about being in Africa that brings you back to your elemental rhythms.  Life moves slower and at its own pace there, and you get to enjoy these sublime moments of hearing a fish eagle’s cry or watching a hippo’s mouth gape open.  You have nothing else to do and nowhere else to be: you simply exist in awe of the exhilarating beauty and wildness around you.

When I got back to New York, I embraced the beginning of the end of my time in the city as I said to my friend Jenny, “why do we live in a place where we can’t see the sunsets?”

Even now, six months into my Colorado adventure, I still love looking at the wide blue sky and watching the dramatic sunsets over the Rocky Mountains, so I wanted to share some serenity with all of you.

Red Rocks sunrise

Sunrise at Red Rocks

Red Rocks blue sky with moon

Otherworldly

Sky with clouds

Couldn’t have painted it any prettier.

Sky with wispy clouds

Sunny day on the plains.

Platte River sunset

Sunset over the Platte River

Hope your week brings you beauty and happiness!

Mother’s Day Tribute.

My pretty mom!

My pretty mom!

Happy Mother’s Day, friends!  Since I can’t be there with my mama today, I wanted to share some thoughts.

Anyone who’s spent at least five minutes in my company knows I’m obsessed with my mother.  Just in the last few years, she got her personal trainer’s license for fun, spent a summer on study abroad in Athens, and was chosen to be one of the models for the hospital’s ad campaign after beating breast cancer.  In short, she’s a badass.

When my brother and I were little, she was an amazing mix of irreverent fun and unreserved support, with a dash of not taking any shit.  If we complained, she simply asked if we wanted any cheese with that whine and sent us on about our business.  At dinner, she’d squish mashed potatoes through her teeth and smash in some corn and smile at us until we laughed so hard we couldn’t breathe, but to this day, if you yawn without covering your mouth, she’ll poke her finger into it.

Even though she always laughed at us when we fell off our bikes in a particularly amusing way, there were many times she protected us like we were glass.  Well into my middle school years, she’d be dropping me off at a friend’s house and would sense my anxiety-induced stomach ache – she never let me go back home, but she’d turn to me as I dilly dallied in the car and ask, “Do you want me to get you settled?”  She’d walk in and talk to the friend’s mother while I eased into the idea of spending the night away from home.

In my teenage years, our family endured a wave of hurt: my mother’s sister and father both died of cancer, and then my dad died unexpectedly, all in a four-year span.  She hid the worst of her sadness from us, keeping our home as stable and happy as possible, even though we spent that next year in a kind of trance.  But more beneficial was how we got to see her grow in the years that followed.  We’d always joked that we had three kids and one parent, and after we heard the news about my dad, she took my shoulders in the hospital bathroom and said, “One of us has to grow up.”

She took care of all the things one has to take care of after losing a spouse: selling his business, his car, and his mid-life Harley.  She guided one child into high school and another into college.  And then she began to reclaim her joy.

Her youthful spirit, which had sometimes crossed into rebellion, began to mature into confidence and independence.  Previously only happy surrounded by friends, she ventured to Florida on a solo vacation.  Despite her infamous fear of needles, she returned home with a tattoo of a sparrow (halfway through, she asked the tattoo artist if they had any chardonnay – she turned down his offer of a beer), symbolizing her new free existence.

She has been an example of how life is a series of opportunities – chances to learn, and to choose happiness – and that the rewards of living an authentic life far outweigh the pain and embarrassment we all experience along the way.  Every day I am grateful to know her, and when I doubt myself, her love is the only proof of my worth that I need.

Whatever her next adventure is, I can’t wait to hear all about it!

Cinco de Mayo.

Happy Monday, friends!  I hope you all had a glorious weekend involving tacos and/or fancy hats.  This was the first year since 2007 (except one ill-timed vacation) I haven’t attended my friends’ Derby party, and it made my heart hurt.  To drown out the lonely ache, I accompanied a couple of friends to the Cinco de Mayo parade and fiesta in downtown Denver on Saturday.

To get downtown, I tried out the light rail, which is easily accessible from my new place.  After an initial moment of panic and frustration when trying to buy a ticket (I was mortified to look like a tourist after a mostly successful 6-year stint riding the NYC subway), I noticed the touch screen button saying “buy a ticket to Downtown Denver stations,” and I regained my cool.

The light rail is, not surprisingly, much nicer than the subway for a couple of reasons: the train cars are clean, and you’re above ground with a view of the Rockies.  Also – no joke – there were two foxes on an embankment next to the track.  However, I bet it almost never happens that the electricity gets shut off because the cops are chasing someone on the tracks, while some lady shouts about her own experience throwing herself onto the tracks, prompting some teenagers to ask if she was suicidal and is now on medication.  So you just have to ask yourself which you like better – physical and emotional comfort or a good story?

Anyway, I once again missed the parade, only seeing a few low riders bounce along the street while some old white dude waved enthusiastically.  After meeting my friends, we proceeded to Civic Center Park for the festivities, which included live music and dancing, booths selling cheap toys and airbrushed t-shirts, and food – so much food (including a whole tent devoted to cookie dough).  There was also a public Zumba class, and all I’ll say is I’ve only taken one Zumba class, and it was an epic fail.  If I ever had any doubts about my Caucasian heritage, they were put to rest that cold January day.  So while it was tempting to laugh, we had to admire these folks who were brave enough to dance it out in public.

This guy, however, did not escape my giggles:

Twilight blanket

Team Jacob

Then, while we were housing some steak tacos, this guy cruised by:

Motorized La-z-boy

Yep – that’s a La-Z-Boy wheelchair. This guy for the win.

Just around the bend from the Zumba class, the cars from the parade were lined up.  They tended towards the “boat” variety, and they were all pretty sharp.  The owner of this beauty even took a photo with my friend and me – I am curious/afraid of where that might end up.

Low rider

All my friends know the low rider.

Across from the cars was the petting zoo.  There was an enclosure with some bedraggled ponies hooked to a stake, offering slow circular rides, and a pen containing a disturbing variety of species.  In addition to about fifty rowdy goats, there was a llama, a donkey and a Shetland pony (both frozen in either fear or boredom…possibly both), some ducks, a potbelly pig, a tortoise, and the largest rabbit I’ve ever seen.  This poor rabbit spent most of its day hiding under a bench to escape the rough grip of excited children.  As we were gawking at it, a carnie woman came over to the fence.  “Flemish giant,” she rasped.  “They get even bigger.  We had one got up to almost fifty pounds.”  She raised her eyebrows and stared at the rabbit for a moment and walked away.

Petting Zoo

The tortoise and the hare…and the goat.

We wandered around for hours, sampling chips and green chili, seeing adorable little dark-haired girls in their traditional dresses, and enjoying another perfect sunny spring day.  In fact, we enjoyed the sunshine so much that the thought briefly crossed my mind, I wonder if I should have put on some sunscreen?

I apologize in advance for the image you’re about to see (unless you have a foot fetish, in which case, you’re welcome), but I can’t resist…

Sunburned foot

At least it’s in a neat shape?

YES, I should have worn some sunscreen.  Regardless of this minor mishap, it was a truly lovely day, made even better by sharing it with fun friends.  I hope you all made some great weekend memories to carry you through your Monday!