On Adoption Camp, Happily

This past weekend, I volunteered at Domestic Adoption Camp, which is exactly what it sounds like: a camp for families who have adopted children inside the United States.

I was one of three counselors helping with the pre-kindergarten/kindergarten group. We had five little girls in our group, which was fantastic. The smaller group size allowed us to do a lot more one-on-one activities, which is important with kids that small.

As domestic adoptees and (arguably) adults, my brother Mike and I were invited to speak on an adult adoptee panel in front of adopted parents. I was nervous and excited. Adoption is a non-issue for me; it’s always been a part of my life and I’ve never really thought of it as being a huge deal. It’s not anything that sets me apart; it’s just a fact.

As I get older, I find that adoption is more important to me. It’s something I’m proud of. It’s something I respect and for which I am eternally grateful. It’s something that does set me apart, to a certain extent. It is a curious thing, the way that I now have so many different mothers: I have my birth mom, my mom, my brother’s birth mom, my dad’s girlfriend. I love each and every one of them.

The panel focused on issues related to adoption and how we as adoptees handled certain things like self-esteem, open adoptions, searching for parents, and transparency. I explained that Mike and I have very different relationships with our birth mothers; I told them how envious I was when Mike got to meet his birth father (Mike jumped in to say that it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be); I told them that even though I’ll never get to meet mine, the curiosity about what he looks like only grows stronger.

It’s a magical thing, to be surrounded by families like these. I’ve learned a lot about family over the years, as one tends to do when confronted with the inescapable reality that family is non-negotiable and therefore something you’ll have to adapt to. I’ve learned that family is what you make it. I have friends who are family. I have family who is family. I have family that I don’t consider family.

I have been fortunate enough to find so many different relationships, and when I went to my birth mom’s wedding in South Dakota, my family got a little bit bigger. (I’ve been playing a word game on the phone with my biological aunt. It’s been fantastic – she’s a seriously worthy adversary.)

I have been incredibly blessed to build the kind of strong support system that everyone should have. Through my participation in these adoption camps, I have been able to see the strength of family. The powerful and overwhelming amount of love there is something that gives me chills, in the best way.

Speaking on the panel, I told the adults that transparency was important. And unconditional love. I told them that when I started therapy, I told my mom that I might be angry with her sometimes, and in her graceful way, she told me that she knew that and that she supported me. I told them that if I were to be arrested tomorrow, the first phone call would be to my mother. I told them even though she doesn’t always like what I’m saying, she’s always there to listen. And for me, that’s huge.

When I told her my birth mom was getting married, she wanted to go. I was a little nervous, but I think she was more excited. I was grateful that she was there so that we could all share the experience, both of my moms and me. My family.

I watched a documentary called “Closure” about one woman’s search for her family. She had been adopted by a family in Washington when she was an infant, and as she grew older, she struggled with the not-knowing. (It’s a serious pull.) She began the search and was ultimately successful. It was a moving story, but a poignant reminder that family is forever.

In the documentary, they showed a clip of an old home video in which a stranger was questioning the dad about the kids (eight of them, I believe, all different colors and kinds). “How’d you get so many kids?” the man asks. The dad responds, “They stick to us like magnets. Better question: how do you get rid of them?” Laughter.

My favorite part is the laughter. At the last camp, I remember a girl telling the story of how her parents came to find her. They were in Africa, she was in an orphanage. She beamed as she recounted how they picked her up for the first time, and she smiled at each one of them, and they knew that she was their daughter. She radiated joy as she told the story, and my heart ached with happiness. I could tell that the parents had told her that story over and over, and I could feel the pride she felt.

My mom, Mike, and I have our things. We call each other the “worst guy” and we regularly quote The Sandlot. You’re the worst guy if you are doing something annoying, like when my mom senses that the stop light ahead might – just might – change, so she slows down while it’s still green. You can hear the chorus of groans and “Ugh, you’re the worst guy!” coming from both of us. My mom and I dissolve into a fit of laughter-induced tears when we tell the story of Mike falling off the treadmill. (No one, including Mike, thinks it’s funny.)

Family may be what you make it, but for some of us, we’re lucky enough to have more opportunities for family than most people.

On the Wedding Weekend, Happily

The road trip was a success. We left a little bit later than I had anticipated on Friday morning, but the drive went smoothly.

We stopped somewhere in Wyoming:

Rapid City is only about 7 hours from Denver – maybe I’ll have to start making the trip more often!

We grabbed some barbecue for dinner and then headed back to the hotel, where I promptly fell asleep. I was exhausted.

This is the view from the Rapid City airport, where we rented a car. (Mom’s car is too old for road trips and Simon has a pending transmission issue, so we took my grandma’s car. It’s thirteen years old but only has 38,000 miles. I don’t think it had ever gone over 100 mph.) We needed to rent a car because the road up to the wedding was very rocky and nearly impassable by regular car.

This is a lovely picture but it doesn’t do the road justice. It was rocky. It was rough. I’d never really done off-roading before, so I threw the car into low gear and proceeded cautiously. I managed just fine.

The site of the wedding was about an hour and a half outside of Rapid City. Rural South Dakota is beautiful; it’s a lot like Colorado. After leaving the highway for a dirt road, we came up on the rocky road (just after I’d declared that we hadn’t needed to rent a car after all). Following the rocky road for probably the better part of a mile led us to another dirt road, which was the driveway.

We parked. We were the first ones there. They were still setting up for the traditional sweat, so we hung out for a while. It was hot! The couple on whose property the ceremony was held had an adorable granddaughter who was eager to help out.

The sweat was really cool. I was a little nervous going in because I’ve never participated in a sweat lodge before, but it was awesome. (This one was an abbreviated version, so that helped too.) We crawled in to the inipi (a dome-like structure) and then hot stones that had been cooking for several hours were added before the inipi was sealed and we were left in the pitch black.

As soon as the inipi was sealed, it got hot. I started sweating immediately. (The good kind of sweat, like two back-to-back hot yoga sessions.) They pour water on the stones, which are set into the earthen floor. That’s when it really gets steamy. We went around in a circle and said prayers for the bride and groom, and then we sat there for a little bit. Then it was over and it was the men’s turn!

I was bright red after the steamy sweat session, but i felt amazing. After changing clothes and putting on a much cooler dress, I waited for the men to be done with their sweat so we could have the ceremony.

The ceremony itself was beautiful – I’ve never seen a Lakota wedding before. The man who officiated was hilarious. He was half-German, half-Italian, but he had at some point come over here and become a Lakota. (His wife was the one who held our sweat session.) He told us all about what a Lakota wedding ceremony entails (flesh offerings!), and reminded us that this is a forever marriage. There is no option to divorce.

“What are you going to tell the Creator?” he asked us. “That you left your partner because it got hard?” He explained that in Lakota tradition, you go with your spouse to the Milky Way after you both die. He also reminded us that all that you can really own is your body. None of your possessions are really yours, because you can’t take them with you. Of course, your body doesn’t go with you, but it is your vessel for the time that you are here on Earth.

My birth mom, Lise, and her husband after the ceremony:

There is so much love between them and I’m absolutely thrilled for them to begin their lives together. (Well, continue their lives together.) He’s such a calming presence and they make a really wonderful couple. I’m thrilled to have just added more people to my family.

Speaking of family, I got to meet some of my blood relatives! My birth mom is one of twelve kids (so many!) and this weekend, I met four of my aunts and one uncle. They were very cool about it, and it was a no-pressure situation. It was awesome.

My birth mom gave me a ring that belonged to her mother! It’s an opal ring that her brother had made for their mother when he was in college. It’s so unique and absolutely beautiful. I am so overwhelmed with love and gratitude.

We made the trip back on Sunday after a somewhat disappointing trip to the Cosmos – it was exactly like Casa Bonita: go as an adult and it’s not the same at all. I kept expecting it to be longer, but it was so short! I hope that everyone who was with me had a good time – I’m worried that I wasted an hour of everyone’s time, but alas, it was great to get to hang out with everyone for a little bit longer.

I was tired and ready to be home – I cut about an hour off of the drive back home by taking advantage of the quiet back highways. We got home late on Sunday and I went home and immediately crawled into bed (I’m never in bed before ten, but I was wiped out). A very grumpy Carlos was there to greet me – apparently he’s not a fan of me taking road trips and leaving him home alone. He’s been very loud ever since, reminding me that I do indeed have a cat son and that he demands attention and love. I’m not leaving any time soon, the yowling is super cute but gets annoying very quickly.

On Emergence, Nostalgically

You know those songs that always bring you back to a particularly poignant memory or moment?

Of course you do. The flashes of triumph you feel when you imagine the songs that accompanied your most brilliant moments, the song that nursed away your first heartbreak, pushing back the crushing sadness. There’s that perfect song for jogging, the perfect song for dancing in your kitchen.

For me, there will always be the Garden State soundtrack. I used to retreat to the bathtub and read and listen to it. It’s soothing. It’s not a moment for me, but a time period. Junior year of high school. The final set of struggle before the emergence of a more confident young woman.

It was an interesting time. I was testing the limits in many ways, pushing back against the very things I’d always taken at face value. I was plagued by the unknowns, the philosophical crises that stem from the inability to guess at what the future might hold. I believe that it was the looming promise of college and freedom that may have set off all of that thinking, but looking back on it, I feel as though it was more about the solidification of myself as a person than it was about anything else. I was settling into the next phase of life and of course, being actively engaged in that transformation, I had no idea.

I found this, a disjointed post I’d written quickly. I find it curious:

We’ve lost ourselves in a deconstructed fictional world. We’ve become the very things we were afraid of, that we wrote about in stories that were supposed to be far too far-fetched to ever become any sort of actual reality.

And yet here we are, thrust into a confrontation with our pasts and our fictional futures and instead of looking inward, we push blame, we make tender excuses, we tiptoe around the subject until we’ve lost sight of the original goal.

Gone are the days we thought the future held – in the third grade, I wanted to be a judge, the first woman president, both, all of it. And in the third grade, it was all just out of reach, attainable with hard work and dedication, the things that take you places. Of course, I reached.

And I found myself the very antithesis of everything I’d ever hoped for. You could say I was a serious child, but that would be an understatement. I realize now that every emotion I felt was tinged with a sense of nervousness, an eager anxiety that nibbled at me constantly. I became so self-aware that growth was impossible and instead, I reached for the only anchor I could find: peer acceptance. It had never mattered to me before.

The false idea that peer acceptance could make me happy changed my life. It was a startling realization. And of course, I panicked, handled it as well as, well, an awkward teenage girl, and then survived those awkward phases to grow into the young woman I am today.

(I hate the word “survivor.” My dad said it once, on Hampden, so I must have been in high school. He said to us, “Kids, we’re survivors.” And I scoffed, and I scoff to this day. I hated that. I hated that admission, that pretentious assumption of camaraderie, that weakness. We were not survivors.)

I left my old self behind in my search of light-heartedness, spontaneity, all of the things that they promise you’ll have in commercials. I wanted that.

I worked for it, I pushed it, I pulled it into place. Once it had settled over me, I was happy. For a long time. And then something shifted, there was a change in everything atmospheric and I was fraught with the same doubts that had preceded that first adult transition. I can’t help but wonder if now is one of those times, the current state merely a chrysalis in which I’ll grow and change and from which be reborn?

That idea of the bright light and the newness is what drives most humans, I get that. But maybe this time (like all the times so declared before it) will be different? This may be the second great emergence of my life. Or third. Whichever way you categorize it, this might be a big one.

My god. They sure do sneak up on you.

On Big News, Relievedly

The words were gone again, the constant bubbling up of ideas temporarily ceased. I started typing draft after draft, but each one was pushed aside in disgust as I stared at the pathetic words on the screen.

Tomorrow, I kept whispering. I’ll try again tomorrow. Before I knew it, many tomorrows had turned into weeks. My apologies for the extended absence.

I have spent the past few weeks dreaming the most vividly intense dreams I’ve ever dreamt. The images are surreal, telling signs of the subconscious dwelling deep within, stirring, demanding attention. The questions seem as though they will remain unanswered for some time, if they are ever answered at all.

There is only muddled clarity, which I imagine is the worst kind, other than total obfuscation. However, it is with the utmost certainty that I can say that I am about to start on a new path, one that I hope will take me swiftly away from the things I wish to leave behind. It may not be clear, but it is (“is” as a state of being and existence) because it must be.

I handed in my three weeks’ notice today. I told them that my last day will be July 31st.

I have not yet found another job. I will continue to work at my other part-time jobs while applying for new jobs in the marketing field, and I will hopefully be able to cover my expenses without draining too much of my precious, carefully hoarded savings. (Seriously, I’m like Gollum when it comes to my savings. You can re-read that sentence and hiss “precious” if you like. I just did.)

I am terrified, of course. This is my first time really embracing the job hunt. I hope to be able to find something that pays me enough that I will only have to work one job. I hope to do more writing. I hope for many things, but mostly I hope for new opportunities. I’m excited to expand my skill sets and to embrace the challenges that come with new employment.

I know that this is not the usual order of things, but I believe this is the best choice. Which is why I made it.

On AAA, Shamingly

I heard a commercial for AAA on the radio the other day. The voice of a woman details all of the times that AAA has been there for her while her husband was too busy watching sports to come to her aid. This commercial offended me.

I know, I know, we’re too sensitive and jumpy and can get offended about anything. But you’d think that in a culture such a this, too sensitive and jumpy and easily offended, the team of advertisers tasked with the creation of such a commercial would be wary of their content and mindful of public opinion.

Apparently not.

Ostensibly, someone sat down a team of ad people and said, Sell AAA memberships to women. Remember, they’re helpless and scared, so we need to remind them that AAA is everything their man is not: responsible, reliable, prepared.

So the ad people probably said, Fish in a barrel! This one’s easy – let’s be quick about it so we can have an early lunch.

And then they created this sad excuse for a sales pitch.

Now, I must explain a few things. First, I love AAA. I have been a huge fan of AAA since the very first time I locked my keys in a running car at 16 (you’ll note that I said “very first time.” Yes, with my first car, the Green Bean, it happened often since the doors locked automatically 3 seconds after you started the car, which is just enough time to say, “I forgot _____!” and get out of the car). They were there for me in Chicago, when my roommate left my headlights on and drained my battery.

They were also there for me when I got a flat tire. That’s the experience most closely associated with this radio spot, and the experience most likely to get my blood boiling.

I was driving to Boulder one afternoon last summer to see my boyfriend at the time. I was just getting off highway 36 when I heard a sound like an angry rattlesnake. Sure enough, I had just gotten my first flat tire. I drove along in traffic until I could safely pull onto a side street. I parked. I got out and inspected the car. Sure enough, the rear left tire was flat. Gone. Donezo. (If you were to spell “donezo,” is that how you’d do it?)

So, being the resourceful independent woman I am, I opened my trunk, shoved a million things aside, and pulled out my jack and spare tire, prepared to change the damn thing myself. (I’d never changed a tire, but we covered how to do it in driver’s ed and I wasn’t overly concerned.)

I used the tool (the name escapes me, I was to say tire iron but that’s so incorrect) to remove the lug nuts. Except they wouldn’t loosen. I jacked the car up anyway, hoping I’d be able to loosen them then. I couldn’t. So I jumped on the tool. That didn’t work either. A guy on a bike stopped and offered to help. I was stubborn, but after realizing that my full body weight wasn’t going to do much, I accepted his help. He couldn’t loosen them either.

So I gave up, had my boyfriend come pick me up, and decided I’d deal with it in the morning. In the morning, my boyfriend, such a great guy that he was, left me at my car so that he could drive to Denver. I called AAA. And then I waited.

The AAA guy got there to change my tire and said, “Where’s your boyfriend?” I bristled. My internal voice was yelling, “What, just because I’m a woman I can’t change a tire?!” But my external facade was composed as I explained that I had been unable to loosen the lug nuts and had been forced to call AAA as a last resort.

Then he tried to loosen the lug nuts, cocky and masculine in his approach. He couldn’t. I saw his posture change. My internal self cheered, a smug smile on her face. He looked back at me and I just raised my eyebrow at him as if to say, “Where’s YOUR boyfriend?”

“Not as easy as you thought it’d be?” I asked, sweetly. He was sour. He loosened them eventually, put on the spare, and I drove to the Discount Tire where I got two new tires.

I was upset. AAA has always been wonderful. In Chicago, the dead battery happened on a Sunday. I was so grateful to the man who came to jump my car, and he was so gracious about the whole thing. I told him that I was terribly sorry that he had to come out on a Sunday and he was so kind and wonderful and funny.

But this Boulder man? Everything that frustrates me about people existed in him. Grumpy demeanor, sexist, superior, and so on.

That’s why hearing this AAA ad annoyed me so damn much. It’s not hard to say, “We’ll be there when you need us.” or “We’ll make you feel more comfortable when your teen starts to drive.” or “Everyone needs a backup plan.” I don’t know — I’m not the ad guy, but I feel as though they could have gotten their message across a million other ways instead of having the rely on the oh-so familiar tropes of the sports-obsessed, neglectful husband and the weak, incapable wife.

(I get that in my own rendition of the “I’m a powerless woman and I need you, AAA!” story, my own boyfriend fell into the same trope, but he wouldn’t have been able to fix the tire anyway, so it’s a moot point.)

Shame on you, AAA. You get what you pay for and I suggest you get a better ad agency. You’re a valuable service that I find so worth the money, but if you can’t sell yourselves, how are you supposed to sell your services?

On De-Stressing, Gradually

I’ve been working on the concept of “me time.”

Since it appears that the 60-hour work weeks aren’t going anywhere, at least for a while, and the decisions that have yet to be made hang heavy over my head, just out of my reach for now, I have been focusing on making small changes in the hopes that they will have that marvelous ripple effect over all areas of my life. Stress mitigation is difficult, because when you’re this deep, it’s often hard to identify which stressors are the root cause of ever-expanding panic.

Last weekend, I was wound tightly, anxious and tense. I thought about my schedule for the coming days and realized that I would have no time — literally no free time during my waking hours that wasn’t allocated for work — for the next three days. That’s the kind of realization that settles heavily over your heart, because there is no choice but to keep going, to keep moving forward, to hope that nothing goes wrong to derail the carefully laid plans or you’ll throw everything off-balance.

Then it hit me. The thing I was most nervous about wasn’t the work, but the fact that instead of cleaning my house from top to bottom during my one free night last week, I’d read. I’d curled up on my front porch with a glass of wine and tucked my bare feet under me and I’d read. It had been worth it, when I thought I’d have Friday night free to clean. But then a co-worker burned herself at her other job, and I had to cover her Friday night shift, effectively removing my cleaning plan from my schedule.

Inconvenient? Yes. Necessary? Of course. When someone needs help, you help them. I had to work at Dairy Queen on Saturday and then go babysit after that, and immediately after that, we were scheduled to host a party at my house (thus necessitating at least a cleaning once-over).

Identifying that the most stressful thing for me was the fact that I’d have no time to prep for the party was key. I thought about how to handle it and cancelled babysitting. I had worked three 14-hour workdays in four days, plus the Saturday shift, and I was exhausted. I told the family I babysit for as much, and they were understanding. As soon as I did that, I felt as though a great weight had been lifted. I even took a nap on Saturday, pausing to rest while the world went on around me.

I didn’t clean heavily. I didn’t stress. The handle of our toilet broke and instead of panicking, we pulled out the duct tape and made it work. It ended up being a lovely evening. (The duct tape solution is still in play, and it’s rather charming in a rustic, we-DIY-ed-this-all-by-ourselves sort of way. I’m rather enchanted by the novelty of it, although it must soon be fixed – it’s not the classiest of stopgap measures.)

These are lovely people – as the party began to die down, we took a Friends-esque photo on the couch outside.

I can’t tell you how excited I was when Evan walked in, carrying a six-pack of my favorite beer. It was funny, because I’d bought him a six-pack of the hard cider he likes, so we had a trade. We snuck off at one point, holding hands, and spent the better part of an hour talking and laughing, and I felt so overwhelmingly content. I am beyond thrilled, beyond terrified, and all-over ecstatic.

The next day was a day of no work. I got bagels with a couple of friends and then laid on the giant bean bag in the basement and caught up on Game of Thrones in between brief naps. It was the best burn day ever.

Afternoon arrived, and Gina went to set up in the park for the second leg of our joint birthday party. I grumped around, bemoaning my headache and wishing for long stretches of welcome sleep. Eventually though, the guilt got to me and I got up, washed my face, and put on my Lannister dress (I’ll have to post a picture – it’s insanely amazing).

I’m glad I went to the park. We sported quite happily. (“Sport” is our newest verb. At one point, my friend Katie and I were discussing our contributions to relationships and she said, “I don’t sport.” It was so spot-on and sincere, and I’ve adopted it as an excellent verb to describe any sort of physical recreational activity.) We played frisbee, football, and a rather aggressive game of 10,000. At one point, we were tossing two frisbees, a football, and a bubble stick between the ten or so people in the park. It was wonderful to stretch and move and be.

I laid on the blanket I’d brought with me and stared up at the tree I was under. In that moment, I was calm and content. I had left all of my stress behind. There was no looming Monday, nor were there any obligations left unfulfilled. I was, for that brief period, free.

The sun set and a new week began.

Last night, after working another 14-hour workday, we played night frisbee in the parking lot. (Working with the people you love is also helpful – we work together nearly seamlessly, and the night passes quickly and productively. At one point, I commented to Evan that I adore getting paid to hang out. He agreed.) The light-up frisbee (you must purchase one, they’re the best thing) flew through the air and I was filled with the heady rush of happiness, of appreciation for the current moment and the lack of worry for the past and future.

They had established a plan for the night before I arrived – food and then Game of Thrones. Mike (Evan’s friend) and I had watched one more episode than Evan had seen and we’d agree to lie about it to Evan and pretend we’d waited for him. I failed miserably at keeping up the ruse, and so we re-watched that episode before watching the newest one (70% of which, I slept through, of course). I woke up just in time for the action – and then cried, of course.

I love where I am right now. I love the people I’m surrounded by. I’m so grateful for each and every one of them.

“Me time” may not be long bubble baths and hours spent lounging and reading, but it can be found in the places where I least expect it. Finding the calm I’m sure exists somewhere inside of me may be the biggest challenge, but it’s one I’m finally really ready to take on, even if it means tackling it in small pieces or finding joy in strange places.

Baby steps forward.

On Wedding Weekend, Spiritedly

I forgot how much I love to travel.

Love. The other morning, I had the urge to just throw things into the back of my car (including the cat – who doesn’t hate the car as much as you’d think), and run far away. I wanted to drive until there was no more road, until I’d come upon the glorious nirvana that is endless waterfalls and starry nights that never get too cold.

I love grabbing my “mountain backpack” (that’s what I call it, I bet it has a proper mountain term) from the closet and filling it to the brim with whatever I’m going to need for the next three to five days. I love the travel-sized toiletries. I love the bits of brightly colored fabric straps that have been tied to the zipper pulls for the past four years. I love the way I feel when I wear it.

I love shouldering the always too-full pack (always. I’m going to be the worst backpacker ever) and heading into the airport. In those moments, before the back aches set in and my feet start to hurt, I am filled with the possibility of adventure, with excitement, with a tingling in my fingertips as I hand over my boarding pass to the TSA agent.

I always try to make the exact awkward face I’m making in my driver’s license or even worse (better?), the face from my passport. I don’t know if they find that as hilarious as I do, but it’s worth it.

Chicago, gold coast, streelights,

The view from my friend’s apartment downtown. Oh Chicago, your cold spring winds caught me off-guard and were terrible. But the magic of the city is palpable. Its energy flows around you. It’s sublime.

This is where Katie and Eric got married. Between those two trees. I started tearing up when I saw her start walking down the aisle. I teared up again when her dad gave a speech, but it was her mom’s that put me over the edge. It was beautiful.

White wine. Photo booth. I kept calling it a “king hat.” It’s very obviously a crown. I’ve always been good with synonyms. Dancing. It was so wonderful to see my friends. I have missed them.

On Sunday, my friend Anne drove out to the burbs to pick me up and then we went back to her place and watched new episodes of Arrested Development and got frozen yogurt. I went with her to a birthday party before heading back to Denver.

I’ve been telling Evan that I want to go camping with him (athleticism and adventurous spirits are so sexy, but I’m nervous that I don’t have enough of that – maybe enthusiasm can make up for it?). My goal is to go to Conundrum Hot Springs, which is a very lovely 8.5 mile hike each way. While I was in Chicago, with my “mountain backpack,” I took the stairs as much as possible at the train stations to practice hiking. (Obviously this is a very flawed approach, but you have to work with what you’ve got.)

Sunday was great – I woke up early and went to REI with Evan. I’m really not having great luck with not losing Nalgene water bottles (I left yet another one in Spokane), so I thought I’d try yet again.  (80th time’s the charm, right?) We’re two days in and I’ve not lost them yet.

[Hah, I just have to insert a thought here that has nothing to do with anything, except losing stuff. My freshman year of college, while being young and dumb, I lost my camera at a bar. Shortly after, my mom sent me a care package with a package of cards with a note attached that said, “Maybe these will entertain you on those Friday nights when you don’t want to go out and lose something.” I love my mom.]

After REI, we went to brunch and then, faced with the prospect of an entire day off, I went to see Jacob. There was coffee, cleaning (I owed him – he’s helped me clean so many times), and then we met up with my brother and his friends for some grilling in the park.

Delicious.

Evan was at work, so I brought him dinner – tucked into an empty 6-pack was a cornucopia (ha, mostly) of delicious picnic foods: a brat with grilled onions and German mustard, chips, grapes, and cookies.  He loved it. (Relief. I was a bit nervous that it was going to be the worst thing.)

Summer is coming and I’m in full adventure mode. I want nothing more than to take road trips and to see things I’ve never seen before. Also, I’d love to actually get around to planting my garden (too late, but whatever), and doing yard work, and relaxing in my hammock. I’m filled with the same excited anticipation that I get waiting to get on the plane. It’s endless possibility and experience and it’s all in front of me. This is going to be the best thing.

On the Marrow of Life, Lovely

(I don’t care that “lovely” isn’t technically an adverb. But if you were to use it as an adverb, then you would be able to attempt to encapsulate everything I’m trying to put in this post. Think of it that way. I do what I want; deal with it.)

I think I was a sophomore in high school when we read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby.” At this point, I had not yet developed my hardened hatred for Hemingway  and was far more open to the literature from that time than I am now. I loved and hated the book.

At my core, I believe firmly in hopeless, foolish love. But at the same time, I recognize a situation that has no hope of ending well.  You can’t quite manage to tear your eyes away, watching the disaster unfold in front of you. It’s the compelling crash, but even as I see everything unravel, I hold out hope that there’s some way to fix it, for the characters to run off into the sunset together, happy and unburdened.

I also happen to adore Baz Luhrmann, mostly for “Romeo + Juliet”, but also “Moulin Rouge” and “Australia” — tear-jerkers, the lot of them. I’ve been meaning to go see “The Great Gatsby” but haven’t managed to find the time.

Evan came to visit me at Dairy Queen to try my roasted beets – his face was priceless, and he declared that he didn’t hate them, but I’m not sure if that was just an attempt to preemptively soothe my eager, anxious ego.

Spurred on by the wildling living inside me, I declared that I wanted night tennis (which is exactly what it sounds like); he did not. He suggested the movie; I readily agreed and plans were formed. He stayed for an hour and helped us close. Poor guy – his day off and he finds himself at work, sweeping and counting. I was thrilled, because we got out in time to make it to the last showing (11:15 PM; we’re madmen).

The theater was nearly vacant. I curled up and settled in for a long movie. It was breathtaking. I’m actually surprised that Luhrmann didn’t go for a more disconnected, surreal vibe. It obviously was, but I almost wanted more. It was elegant. I’m a sucker for Jay-Z and I loved the soundtrack. There were moments of brilliantly placed black humor.

The critics are right – we do lose some of the story through the visuals, but I think in the end, the story isn’t about the details. It’s about more than that. It transcends its own plot, as poignant and pertinent today as it was then. It speaks to experiences and heartbreak and the evils of obsession. You cannot repossess your past. There is no way to go back, no matter how hard one tries. There is only the bittersweet, hopeful march forward.

Speaking of the bittersweet, hopeful march forward, I’ve been on a journey of my own lately. It’s not bittersweet at all, it’s beautiful. The slow kindling of something into something more has created in me a warm radiance that seems so natural, I feel as though it’s always been there. It’s brimming with possibilities and the prospect of adventure.

For this, and so many other things, I am eternally grateful. I’ve been wondering Why now?, for it emerged suddenly but sweepingly, but I don’t want to wonder. I want to let this cloud of happiness swallow me whole, and I believe that’s exactly what I’m going to do. (He hates baseball and golf, too! Ugh, this is the best thing!)

We had our first book club meeting last night. The discussion was interesting, at times incomprehensible  and all around inconclusive, as I imagine every discussion about gendered communication to be. It was lovely. We sat on the porch outside, gathered around a table full of snacks, until the air grew too cool and we retired inside.

Then there was Game of Thrones. And of course, I fell asleep, warm and safe, pretending that I wouldn’t be unhappily woken by the rude intrusion of the daylight and the 4 alarms I set each night. But alas, employment called and I answered, reluctantly leaving my nest. (I won’t lie, I’m an insanely good nester. My bed consists of pillows and blankets and small bits of heaven.)

And now, I’m off to Chicago for a wedding! I always cry at weddings. I always cry at everything. The other day at Dairy Queen, a grandmother with tears in her eyes thanked me for letting them have their graduation party there, and told me how wonderful it was. And then I teared up. Because it was so sweet. She was so happy. It was just a cake. It was beautiful.

I haven’t been back to Chicago since last Memorial Day. I’m going to eat Dunkin Donuts, and touch the Bean like a tourist, and eat Portillo’s, and go to Laschet’s (or Laschet’s’z, as I call it), and stand by the lake. It’s going to be lovely. I have beautiful dresses to wear, too, so that never hurts.

Enjoy your weekend.

On Birthday Weekend and Beets, Happily

I’m not a huge fan of my birthday. That sounds weird, but I just get really stressed out trying to make everyone happy. This year, I decided not to stress, and for the most part, it worked out. I just did what I wanted to do with the people who I wanted to hang out with.

I do love mojitos. I also love my friends. So it was lovely. Here’s most of the group later in the night:

I’m terrible at being aware of where I am in a picture. I think I’m all set up and it’s perfect, and nope, I’m right in the way. It was so lovely of Mike to come out with us – I know piano lounges aren’t his thing. I need to take him to jazz night; I think he’ll enjoy that.

Sunday, we had brunch and then went to the park to play frisbee and be in the sun. The park was packed – people playing volleyball, jogging, biking, practicing martial arts, lounging. We lounged, and ran, and eventually, after watching several groups of young men stop and do pull ups on some bars just off the path, I attempted to do a pull up as well.

It was not meant to be. When I was little, I was never able to climb the ropes in gym class. I couldn’t do pull ups. I thought I might be able to do it with sheer will, but I got halfway up and realized I could go no further.

A very supportive gentleman (mind you, he was doing pull ups like they were as easy as lifting a spoon) told me that most girls can’t do pull ups and that even if I just hung there, it would help build the strength that I needed. He was pretty awesome and I felt less awkward hanging there while he did pull up after pull up next to me.

That night, we went to my grandma’s house, where we were surprised with a visit from my cousins! We played with bubbles in the front yard:

I super love these two pictures and I’m not sure why.

Continuing in the new but still grand tradition of various attempts at adulthood, I roasted beets last night.

Evan brought me beets the other night at work because I had been talking about how much I love beets but when asked how I prepare them, I laughed. Prepare? I prepare them by buying cans of pickled beets and grabbing a fork. I told him that I wanted to try cooking them at home. (In my mind, the leap from not cooking to cooking with ease is a short one…in real life, it’s far more involved.)

I googled “how to roast beets” and was pleasantly surprised to find that the internet didn’t roll its eyes at me. The instructions are basically: turn on oven; wash beets; cut off green parts; olive oil; foil; walk away; after some time, pierce with fork; turn off oven. I guess I could have figured that all out by myself, but you know, why do something by yourself when you can just consult the Google and have it hold your hand?

I roasted them. Then peeled them. I think the internet lied about roasted beets being easy to peel. I may have also just been really into Aztec-human-sacrifice and/or warrior mode, because I had a blast staining my hands.

I haven’t eaten them yet. I was too nervous. They’re wrapped in foil and in a Tupperware in the fridge, so I’m going to do a tentative taste test later tonight. Fingers crossed.

On the Weekend, Quickly

The weekend went by too quickly, as usual.

Friday was a stressful day for me – I had a meeting that took up a few hours in the morning, so I had a lot to get done at work before my shift at Dairy Queen started. We close at 10 pm, but on Fridays, we have to clean the store before we leave. Usually, we get everything done and are out the door by 10:30. On Friday, that did not happen. We clocked out at 11:20.

I declared a fifteen-minute break after we closed the doors and finished dishes. I was tired. We pulled crates out behind the store, like we used to do during summer nights in high school, and we sat for a few minutes. We attempted to try out some team bonding exercises I’d watched in Spokane, but I think we failed. (Or the exercises themselves failed. No, probably us. Something about truth-telling and strength. You push down on someone’s arm and if they’re telling the truth, they’re able to withstand your push, but if they’re lying, it’s easier to push their arm down?)

Then I decided that I wanted food and beer. We ended up closing Old Chicago. (Their late-night menu is amazing. We had bruschetta, 2 orders of chicken tenders, salad, and 4 beers between the two of us and the bill came to like $30. Why do we not do that more often?)

There was such great joy in the knowledge that my brain was working, dusting off some of the deepest corners of thought processes and bringing them to the forefront of my consciousness. I was lost in conversation, content to forget some of my points and make wild assertions that I was potentially incapable of backing up.

Saturday was more work. I was tired, since I’d gotten home so late. I was fumbling around, trying to unpack an emergency delivery order and get stuff done. I ended up flustered. I was grateful when my backup showed up. We were slammed. I stayed later than I was scheduled, but had to rush home to shower so I could go babysit.

During babysitting, I decided that this was one of those “you only live once” moments, and so instead of going to the goth bar to celebrate a friend’s going away, I drove up to Ft. Collins to celebrate another friend’s graduation. Oh my, was that an adventure.

I got there late – everyone had already been out and about for a while so I had some catching up to do. Our main objective for the evening was to make to a bar that had swings. We ultimately failed at that, arriving just a bit too late. But in the interim, we had a blast. (At least I did.)

(Just so we’re clear, I knew that my eyes were halfway closed when we posted that photo. It was just the best one out of the bunch.)

We almost got kicked out of our hotel some time during the early hours of the morning. At the time, I was thinking that we were being so quiet, but now I realize that seven people are in no way quiet. Ever. Especially not when they’re trying to twerk. (Still can’t do it.)

I woke up the next morning hating everything and in desperate need of coffee. I drove back to Denver, took a nap, then headed to my grandma’s house for Mother’s Day. I got my mom a necklace – since she works with the hearing-impaired, she speaks ASL and therefore the sign for “I love you” always makes me happy. I remember having it on something – a stamp? – as a kid. I saw a necklace with the sign for “I love you” and then a little charm that says “Do all things with love” and I had to have it. I hope she likes it.