Sing-a-long.

As my step-sister Katie said upon leaving Denver this morning, “I’ve got a case of the Sundays.”  But let’s focus on the positives: I had wonderful visitors this weekend, it’s a beautiful day outside, and I used a shop vac like a boss this morning.

We visited Red Rocks this weekend and enjoyed the view from the top, after we climbed the bleachers as a rite of passage for their first trip to the amphitheater.  It was a perfect day with blue skies and a light breeze, and we wandered all over town soaking it up over local craft beers. #Denver.

Before we left Red Rocks, I took a silly photo with the statue of John Denver – it’s a long story and an inside joke, but it brought back wonderful childhood memories.  We used to drive from Indiana to Myrtle Beach, or Virginia to see my great-grandma, in the summers.  On those long drives when we weren’t allowed to sleep (shamed awake by my dad’s regular refrain of “Look out your windows!  We’re in the Smoky Mountains!  Appreciate what’s around you!”), we listened mostly to Brooks and Dunn, Clint Black, and John Denver.

John Denver Spirit at Red Rocks

Take me home, John.

Every time we hit West Virginia, we all belted “WEST VIRGINIA, mountain mama, take me home…country roads!”

The last time I was home, my mom gave me my dad’s CD case to take back with me.  Opening it felt as significant as a time capsule.  The Beatles 1 album beamed its red face out of its felt slot, reminding me of how we’d listen to it on the way home from tennis practice, and I would share my naive, new-born notions about capital M “Music” and how perfect every song was.

I flipped through the options until I reached Clint Black’s The Hard Way.  I played it in my Honda CR-V, a later model of the same car he used to drive, and though I hadn’t listened to those songs in over 15 years, every note felt familiar.  I laughed as I struggled to find the right key and remembered how my dad once told me to sing in tune or be quiet (Clint Black, for some reason, is my sing-a-long kryptonite).

I remembered us being so excited to him in the movie Maverick, and how he was listed in the credits as “Sweet-faced gambler.”

 

I’ve been feeling my dad’s presence so much lately, and it’s bringing with it memories I thought were lost.  While I’m so grateful for their return, I’m starting to realize that it has taken me 14 years to heal enough for these times to start coming back into focus.  And I don’t feel disappointed in myself or anything negative, I’m simply marveling that I’ve been healing the whole time – that my mind and soul intuitively understood when I was ready to start the next phase of healing.

What’s even better is that I know now that I’ll feel him alongside me.  When you lose someone close, you feel like you need to push through the pain until you have faced the reality that you’ll never see or talk to them again (well, that’s how I felt, anyway), at least until the afterlife, depending on your religious persuasion.  What I’m starting to realize is…maybe I don’t have to face that notion because it isn’t necessarily reality.

He may not be physically present, but he’s with me every time I hear “Better Man,” “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” or “Can’t Buy Me Love.”  He’s with me when I refuse to sleep on road trips because I want to soak up everything around me.  He was with me when I sat down to write this and turned on the TV to find Last Action Hero, a cheesy Schwarzenegger movie he loved.

It’s still hard every day, but I’m looking forward to this next phase,  featuring a little more trust that he’s along for the ride with me, just the same as if he were still here.  I don’t know how things will change, but for now, I’m grateful.

Here’s wishing you a week filled with connection, love, and happy memories.  Oh, and some great tunes.

 

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Kool-Aid.

Hi friends!

My brother and sister-in-law visited this weekend (more on that later), and after saying a reluctant farewell, I thought I’d cheer myself up by sharing some exciting news: I’m running the Ragnar Relay this August (uh, pending getting the day off work…)!

What’s the Ragnar, you ask?  The Colorado iteration is a 12-person, 200-mile relay race that begins at Copper Mountain and ends at Aspen/Snowmass.  We’ll be running continuously over…two-ish days?  Or however long it takes to run 200 miles.  I’m still fuzzy on the details, but luckily, our fearless leader (and awesome friend) Felicia has a handle on it.  She’s also organized our first group run in Wash Park next month!

Brooks Ghost

New kicks!

So I guess this is what happens.  You move to Colorado, and then one day, you look around and realize there are ski goggles in your sunglasses basket, you own more pairs of yoga pants than jeans, and you’ve signed up for a ridiculous race at 10,000 feet elevation.

A friend of a friend recently drove through Denver en route to L.A., where he got a super cool new job, and he said he couldn’t wait to “drink the Kool-Aid.”  He’s was so excited to get to California and be part of the culture, and – since we’d both lived in New York – we talked about how refreshing that was.  Part of the NYC Kool-Aid is being too cool for Kool-Aid, except for the underground flavor designed by this artist nobody’s heard of yet, which really isn’t for everybody because it’s so complex, and only then ironically.

New York is filled with people drawn there by a love so fierce it outweighs daily frustrations and humiliations.  You buy only as many groceries as you can carry, and you live out the drama of your existence on the city streets.  I wept in the Meatpacking District while on the phone with my mom, confessing I didn’t have enough money for those groceries.  I sobbed on a crowded 1 train to Columbus Circle as I finished reading The Book Thief.  I cried and cussed my way down 5th Avenue from Midtown to the West Village after being dumped – a 50-block walk that jump-started my move to Colorado.

After sling-shotting myself out of the mean streets, I was so excited to be in Colorado.  I went on hikes, learned to ski, and made a bunch of new friends.  And tonight, one of those friends sent me this video.  I was in my own home (on my couch, in the living room – which is a totally separate room from the bedroom…baller!), so this time there weren’t any strangers to see the tears.

I miss New York.  New York wasn’t always easy, but she was never silent – the city was either loving or fighting, and sometimes both, and I never felt alone.  In contrast, Denver sometimes seems to play hard to get.  Watching that video, I was reminded that Denver loves its natives (and its newbies) just as much, but it has a quieter love.  It has the confidence of a frontier town that knows adventurers will always find it’s mile-high perch.

It rewards us with 300 days of sunshine, delicious craft beer, and a whole team of people who are excited to run through the Rockies together.  And that, friends, is enough.  It’s plenty.

Monarch Mountain

Fresh Powder.

Well, friends, it seems God wants me to be a skier. The very next weekend after my first time downhill skiing, some friends invited me along on a weekend adventure at Monarch Mountain, where it snowed 45 inches of fresh powder in the five days before and during our stay.

Monarch Pass

On Saturday, my wonderful friend Felicia strapped in for her first snowboarding lesson while I clipped in for lesson two on skis (our more experienced friends headed straight for the lift), and we followed our instructors out to the mountain.  There was only one other student in the lesson – so different from the eight at Breckenridge – and the ski instructor Mark was great.  He reminded me of all my coaches growing up: he yelled at us a lot, but it was all for our own good.  While those years of benevolent abuse may have done a serious psychological number on me in real life, in the context of the lesson, it worked out great!

While my lesson mate seemed to get more tired and timid as the two-and-a-half hours went on, I got bolder and better, racing down the mountain after Mark.  By the end, he told me I looked like a skier – it could have been empty flattery, but I felt like a skier, dammit, so I’ll take it.

Monarch Mountain

Ski bunnies

Sunday, Felicia took another lesson (during which she boarded down a green run like an old pro) and I rode the TERRIFYING CHAIR LIFT WITH NO LAP BAR OR ANY OTHER SAFETY PRECAUTIONS up the mountain with her fiance, Brian, who is awesome at snowboarding.  I’m not sure what happened during my sleep, but I awoke filled with anxiety in place of confidence, and it showed.  We tried a different run than the day before, and I ate it at literally every turn.  Thank goodness for all that fresh snow, because the falls didn’t hurt.

Brian generously offered to switch runs, even though a long flat stretch made it trickier for boarders, and he patiently encouraged me along the way.  We made it down several more times, each one getting a marginally easier.  I had a tiny emotional meltdown over pb&j at lunch – I was so disappointed for so many reasons: I was afraid, I once again didn’t trust or believe in myself, and I allowed all those fears to rob me of the liberating, exhilarating pleasure I’d felt only a day before.

Thankfully, Brian wouldn’t let us wimp out and made us do one more run after lunch – the boarders went down “Little Jo” and I stuck with “Rookie,” and it was actually a decent run!  Felicia reminded herself and me that even though we may not be awesome at it yet, we were getting ourselves down that mountain.  And then we ran into friends from Denver and laughed over beers in the bar while the pass was closed for avalanche blasting!  It was all very exciting and reminded me why it’s worth sticking this whole skiing thing out.

It’s such a fun part of Colorado culture, clomping around in big plastic boots with a helmet and goggles on, but somehow looking cool, or meeting friends for a drink in the hot tub after a day spent playing in the snow.  I might have more anxiety than your average bear, but I also have determination to match, and I want to give it a real try.  After the past couple hours of watching the Olympics, I’m excited to go back up this weekend – these badasses may be vying for gold, but I’m happy with green for now.  After all, blue is only a shade away…

Halfway to Sochi.

Well, friends – it only took me 15 months as a Colorado resident, but I finally joined the ranks of downhill skiers!  After a year spent watching my friends decamp to the mountains every weekend, I jumped at the chance to tag along with a few of my favorites to their condo in Silverthorne.

We loaded the rack with skis and boards and the coolers with beer and food and headed west on I-70.  Unfortunately, some guy thought Friday afternoon ski traffic was the perfect place to begin driving so erratically the cops were forced to SHOOT HIM, turning a 1.5-hour drive into a 4-hour crawl along the frontage road.  Fortunately, we had good CDs, great company, and some road sodas, so it felt like an adventure.

Ski goggles

Robocop: ski edition

Once we got settled into their sweet condo, we cooked dinner (baked lemon-ginger chicken, herbed quinoa, and kale with pine nuts: power food!) and tucked ourselves in.  We awakened at 7 a.m., drinking strong coffee while pulling on our snow pants and ski coats.  After stopping to rent my gear, we drove to Breckenridge, where I had booked a lesson at Peak 8 and my friends were going to ski Peak 9.  They dropped me off to ride the gondola, calling out the car windows for me to “have a good first day at school – make friends!”  (Like a true rookie, I forgot my poles in the car, and they had to drive back and drop them off…)

I struggled to keep hold of all my gear as I hopped into the moving gondola, trying to ignore the butterflies in my stomach by chatting with the guys next to me.  They, too, wished me luck as we reached the base of the peak.

Waiver signed and helmet on, the lesson began: we learned how to clip into our skis, slide around in a figure 8, and ride the “magic carpet” to the top of the bunny hill.  On the short slope, we learned how to hold our poles, how to slow down, and how to turn.  After lunch, those of us who had graduated to Level 2 (woo!) took the chair lift (a terrifying mode of transportation) up to the top of the hill, where it dawned on me that we’d have to ski back down.  A few panic attacks later, I followed instructor Art – a handsome and talented man – down the run.

Breckenridge Ski instructor

Art – the god of skiing

And it was exciting!  And terrifying!  And I did really well!  Until two-thirds of the way down, when I started going way too fast and ended up in a heap of skis and poles, yelling “shit” in front of small children.  Their instructor pulled me up, encouraging me like he would have one of his students, saying it was OK and skiing is really hard.  Even though class was over, Melanie – a snowboarder from Denver learning to ski – offered to ride the lift up with me for one more run so I could regain my confidence.

We hopped off the chairlift with ease (as opposed to my first attempt, which ended by landing on my butt) and set off down the mountain.  And it was exciting!  And awesome!  And I did really well!  I made smooth, wide turns with something like confidence, sliding up next to Melanie at the bottom of the mountain, where we high-fived and headed back to the lodge.  I met up with my friends and we traded stories from the day as we drove back to the condo, where the hot tub and Domino’s pizza awaited – a relaxing end to an exhilarating day.

Chair lift

Adventures!

We made it back to town in time to watch the bummer of a Super Bowl (you’ll get ’em next year, PFM), making plans to ski again in two weeks, all of us feeling so lucky to live in Colorado.  Hope you all had a chance to enjoy nature and your friends this weekend – happy almost Tuesday!

Weekend Update.

Hi friends!  It was recently pointed out to me that I’ve been “slacking off,” so I wanted to share some recent excitement (beyond the joy I felt upon finding out someone reads my blog).

Last week I realized I’m basically a toddler: any time I get off my sleep or food schedule, I break down.  It’s not one of my nicer traits, and I try to keep Mr. Hyde in check with nearly constant snacking.  It was the sleep that got me this week, so on Friday night I nested.  One bowl of soup, half a bottle of wine, and four episodes of Game of Thrones later, I felt cured.

On Saturday, I walked along the South Platte River with a friend, commiserating about working too much and working out too little.  Next up was a baby shower, where the soon-to-be parents found out they’re having a boy (congratulations!), followed by a half hour wandering around The Source, which reminded me of a clean, spacious Brooklyn.

The Source Denver

Then I joined my fellow Hoosiers to cheer on the Pacers, who were playing the Nuggets.  It was the first time I’d ever cheered for the opposing team, which is a strange experience.  I kept wanting to cheer along with the crowd, until it became ingrained to automatically boo when everyone else cheered…which made me feel much more confrontational than usual.  When I went out to grab a beer, I ran into a couple guys I went to college with – ironically, one of whom I ran into on Rockies opening day.  We all behaved very responsibly, and I wasn’t at all hungover on Sunday morning.*

Pacers vs Nuggets

We won…in our imagination.

Sunday morning, when I woke up feeling fresh as a daisy, a few of us drove out to Leadville to cross-country ski.  It was a beautiful day spent gliding across the snow, and I felt so lucky to know those people and be in that place.

Cross-country ski

We’re halfway to Sochi.

After a few hours of exploring, we packed up and headed back to the city, and I didn’t freak out at all while driving home in snowy ski traffic when my windshield wiper fluid ran out.**  [I’m cautiously optimistic that my friends still like me.]

Next weekend promises to be just as much fun – some awesome friends invited me to join them at their ski condo in Silverthorne, like a real Coloradan!  I’m going to take a lesson in downhill skiing at Breckenridge!  There’s a hot tub!  And then the Broncos are going to win the Super Bowl!

Hope you all had a great weekend – you’ve already made it through Monday, so it’s all uphill from here (or…you know, downhill if you’re in Breckenridge…).  Go Broncos!

*This is not strictly true.**Neither is this.

Rose Gold.

The week after New Year’s, while driving home from work and talking to my mama, this is what the sky looked like.

Sunset

Happy sigh.

As the sun continued to set, it only got more dramatic.

Colorado sunset

Molten marble

These pictures don’t do it justice, friends.  It was so beautiful it made you want to grab someone by the sleeve and shout “look to the skies!”  I settled for taking photos from every angle and sharing a few of the best.

It seemed like a good omen for the new year.

Snow Bunny.

Friends and lovers, I have an important announcement: I have now, for the first time in my life, been on a pair of skis.  It was so much fun!

It was cross-country skiing – I’ll tackle downhill another time – and I’m already obsessed.  My cool, outdoorsy friend Trent invited me to explore the wilderness outside of Leadville (former home of both the Unsinkable Molly Brown and Doc Holliday), so we loaded up the truck with our gear and his dog, Titan, and ventured forth.

Cross-country skiing

Ready to explore!

An easy sub-two-hour drive later, we bundled up in snow pants, strapped on our skis, and set out.  I had been secretly very nervous about this outing (I tend to fall down, and Trent is an ultra-marathoner), but it was easy to pick up, and I didn’t feel like I was slowing him down.  In fact, we were going at a decent clip, and I only fell twice!  We had back-country skis, so we left the beaten track to forge our own.  It was silent, the air was crisp, and we didn’t see another person all day.

Skiing near Leadville

Wheee!

One unexpected benefit was how happy I felt to finally be “legit” – people decamp for the mountains every winter weekend here, and since I don’t downhill ski or snowboard, I was missing a big part of Colorado culture.  The whole time we were gliding through the forest, I had this big goofy smile on my face.  Something I had wanted very badly to do, but had been intimidated by, turned out to be both doable and as fun as I’d hoped.

Leadville mine

I’ve started browsing craigslist for used skis and poles.  I want to go again, like, tomorrow.  Can’t wait for the next time I get to enjoy the view atop a pair of skis!