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.

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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.

On Books and Chocolate-Covered Pretzels, Hopefully

Bookstores are dangerous places for me. I go in for one book, just like I did yesterday, and I’ll come out with five. When I have the time, I devour books. As a child, I had to start borrowing books from the library based on their thickness, simply because I read so fast and so much that I’d be finished with the books and desperate for more long before our next library trip. (And then of course, I’d lose them and the fines would begin to rack up. It’s much easier to locate a 750-page book than it is to find a tiny paperback.)

I found myself standing in Barnes and Noble yesterday, reminding myself why I don’t go in more often. (I had a gift card from when I graduated from college in 2010 that I found and hadn’t used. “Treat yo’self!” said my subconscious, so off I went.) I just want to buy all of the books.

My friend Evan is starting a book club. I’m thrilled. We voted on our first book, so I wanted to run to the bookstore to buy it. (I know, I know, I could have gotten it at the library. But I blame college for giving me the distinct pleasure of writing in books. There’s something so satisfying in marking quotes, starring pages, underlining, making notes in the margins. I don’t know what it is about it, but that makes it the best thing. I’m also far too impatient to order it on Amazon and then have to wait for it to come in the mail.) I got the last copy. He was not pleased when I informed him of that.

Our first meeting is at my house in a few weeks. We’ve got that amazing free space in the basement, or if the weather’s nice, the backyard. I’m imagining hors d’oeuvre, wine, and a lively discussion. I can’t wait. I’ve been wanting to use the remaining intellectual capacity that’s left over after hours of legal stuff, or computer screens and spreadsheets, or fake-smiley customer service for good and I feel like this endeavor is the perfect commingling of friendship and worthwhile debate. Besides, I’m starting to love having an excuse to make bacon-wrapped jalapenos.

I also got the first two books in the Song of Ice and Fire series: A Game of Thrones and A Clash of Kings. I’m going on a business trip this weekend through the first half of next week, and I imagine I’ll have tons of time to read. I’m secretly thrilled to have nothing to do after the conference day is over. It’s going to be amazing.

I also got a romance novel (already halfway through it; can’t help it), and a book about resilience in the human spirit. Lately, I’ve been struggling and feeling weak is one of the things I hate the most. I know that time heals all wounds, but I also know that there’s enough uncertainty in my life right now to keep me edgy and upset as I wait to find what the future holds. Perhaps some baby steps toward recovering my inner strength will help put me on the right track, or at least help me feel better about the things that are out of my control.

***

Last night I worked with Evan, who is by far my favorite co-worker and one of my best friends. (I didn’t start to think about this until a few weeks ago, when we were talking about how hard it is to find fun, intelligent people. Then I was like, holy shit, there’s one right next to me.) I was trying to explain to him how much I hoped my Wednesday people would come in.

My Wednesday people are a mother and her teenage son. They’re so sweet. Do you ever just really like people even though you don’t really know them? I can’t put my finger on it, but I love this family. They come in every Wednesday night (hence my use of descriptive naming) and we always have the best conversations. They’re my favorite.

Last night they pulled up and came in carrying a cup wrapped in duct tape. My face lit up. I knew immediately what it was.

About a month ago, we were having a conversation about my serious addiction to the chocolate-covered pretzels we have for a limited time at work and I told them that we’d been cautioned not to eat all of them. (This was as I was shoveling chocolate-covered pretzels into my mouth.) I told them that I wanted to get my hands on a box of them. (They’re terrible in ice cream. Absolutely horrific. But by themselves, they’re delicious. If only they were dark chocolate. If only…..Trader Joe’s needs to hurry up and get to Colorado. I’ve got pretzels to purchase!)

“Where have you been?” they asked me. I apologized; I’ve been working Tuesdays and Thursdays instead.

The mom laughed, “I couldn’t get a whole box, but I brought you these. We thought we’d cover the cup in duct tape so they didn’t think you were stealing.” They have a Dairy Queen connection, and she asked her friend if she could have some pretzels for me. How thoughtful and sweet of them. I am overwhelmed with how happy that made me.

This is what I love about the world. These little moments. I’m not trying to get all sappy here, but if you think about how much impact a little moment can have, you start to realize how important “good” is. I was updating Evan on my life situation, and was telling him about Tobias telling me that I radiate light, and Evan agreed. “That’s such a great way to say it. You give off positive energy.” Last night, as I was handed a duct-taped covered, chocolate-pretzel filled cup, I started to believe it a little bit. No one would waste precious pretzels on someone they hated. (Unless, of course, they hated pretzels. But that’s beside the point.)

On Easter Weekend, Catholic Guiltily

Those of you who know me know that I’m not big on holidays. I enjoy them, certainly, but they bring such a source of stress for me that I usually pretend they’re not happening until I’m obligated to attend some holiday-related event.

Easter is not terribly stressful. You might go to church, you might go on a Easter egg hunt, you’ll most likely eat ham. (Last night, as she was helping me cook dinner, my friend Emily declared, “I’m pretty sure no one actually likes ham. You just eat it out of habit.” I think she’s onto something.) For the lapsed Catholics like myself, Easter is a good holiday to hang out with family and a great reminder that it’s time to start welcoming spring.

Easter throwback – 2007. Chicago, Illinois. Too bad I didn’t have this outfit this weekend; it would have been perfect!

We hosted another party this past weekend. After all of the fallout from the last party, we decided to call it “Ashes to Ashes: The Resurrection.” So naturally, it was Easter-themed. I panicked, because last time, I knew exactly what I wanted to wear.

This time, I found myself lacking not only direction, but conviction as well. Apparently, Catholic guilt is a seriously real thing: I didn’t want to go too far down the road to hell with my heresy, but I also wanted to have fun.

I found myself at Goodwill with two of my friends the afternoon of the party. At that point, I was still considering some sort of Eve-inspired outfit, or something Easter-egg-esque. Then we came to the undergarment rack. It’s actually great – I got a white slip for $2! Ben suggested that I buy a blue nightgown and I found a white robe to go over it. I also purchased some pink pajama pants and a pink silk shirt, thinking that I could wear those with my Easter bunny ears and be some sort of Easter bunny. (In the end, the pink was horrible. As we were checking out, I asked Jacob if you could return things to Goodwill. “You always re-donate them,” he said. That is exactly what I will be doing.)

The best thing about having a house is having a washer and dryer for when you buy undergarments at Goodwill and need to wash them before you wear them out in public but you only have two hours to get ready.

As I was getting ready, tossing nearly every article of clothing I own around my room, I imagined myself much like Lucille Bluth home alone. In the end, I donned the blue nightgown and the white robe and was quite content with my “Virgin Realness” ensemble. It was soft, which is my number one requirement for clothing, it fit, and it was sort of pretty. (Katie would later tell me that I looked like something out of The Great Gatsby, which I took as a high compliment.)

Jacob and I:

These photos were taken by the very talented Paul – I am eternally grateful that he cut the shoes I was wearing out of each shot. You have no idea how hard it is to find shoes that match undergarment outfits. I considered some shoes that I bought when I was 17 and still haven’t worn in public – they’re lovely, over-the-top sparkling heels with camel colored bows on the toes, but my feet slip out of them. I did a test run around the kitchen, realized they wasn’t going to fly, and ended up selecting some very gorgeous but not-quite-right heels. By the end of the night, I was back in flats.

Jacob and I had to run across the street to buy some batteries for a light-up headdress, and the cashier asked us if we were in a play. We mumbled something incomprehensible and slipped out, trying to contain our laughter.

It was so good to see everyone. I loved the energy of the crowd, the positive vibes and genuine happiness radiating out of everyone led to a very successful evening. It was over all too soon, and I was dragging myself home for sleep before the family packed Easter Sunday.

We went to see my dad’s family and had brunch with them. I’d worked from 8:30 in the morning until 11:30 on Friday night and then turned around and opened Dairy Queen on Saturday, so I was exhausted. By the time we’d finished our afternoon Easter dinner at my mom’s house, I was ready for a nap. I crawled up to her bed and slept for an hour.

My little neighbor was so cute – she had gotten a little stuffed bunny for Easter and so I held her and she rested the bunny on my shoulder. Pretty soon, she’ll be too big for me to carry, unless I magically develop more muscles, so I want to make sure I take full advantage of the time I have left.

My little cousins got hair chalk – apparently that’s a thing. We covered our clothes in towels and got down to the hair chalking business. It’s fun! I ended up covered in pink and green, but I had Medusa-like green chalk curls briefly. The little one, who’s six, ended up with bright pink hair. She was so excited about it.

On Sunday night, I tried to introduce my brother to Game of Thrones. We’ve still got free HBO for another month, so I intend to take full advantage of it. He sat with me while we watched the third season premiere. It’s really hard to explain everything. I finally got to the point where I’d just say, “good guy,” “bad guy” to help him differentiate between the characters. Hopefully he’ll start it from the beginning and fall in love with it like I have. (I’ve been terrible and haven’t read the books yet….it’s on my list, I swear!)

I hope your Easter was lovely!

On Spring, Expectantly

What is it about the first hints of spring that incite a need for motion? I feel as though the minute the scent of the forthcoming growth stings the nostrils I have the urge for adventure, for chasing the dawn, for stars and night frisbee. (Night frisbee is my weakness. It gets me every time.)

This weekend brought warmth and the promise of summer heat – that first day that makes you shed your shoes and run outside, only to find that the ground is still cold and damp. Those are the days when you don’t care, you let the mud seep up between your toes and you relish it, knowing that soon enough, you won’t be cold.

Last night, as I left the restaurant where I was having second dinner with a couple of friends, I smelled summer. In my mind, I was no longer walking down a dark street in early March. I was suddenly walking down a dark street in June. It’s that smell that transports you, that reminds you of soft streetlights and sangria shared with friends. It’s the smell that calls you to the park, to sit on blankets, to listen to jazz. Oh, it’s the best.

When I was little, there was always that first really warm day before spring. I’d open all of my bedroom windows and run out to the backyard, where I’d begin to dig around in the still-frozen garden. My toes would be freezing because I was (still am) always barefoot and too stubborn to put on real shoes.

I had a dream last night about that garden, and about the wild green onions that used to grow there, and how I’d pull them, and chop them, and put them into pretend stews that I’d create using mud and sticks. My hands would reek of onion for days, but it was always so worth it. In my dream, they were there, growing sooner than ever, their green tops sticking out of the earth. They were wonderful. I smelled the spring and I woke content.

***

Speaking of things from the earth (what? totally legitimate seque, I swear), Katie and I juiced yesterday. She’s into making juices and I am into drinking juices, so this was bound to happen eventually. We ended up at the grocery store, loading up on fruits and veggies, before heading back to her house and breaking out the juicer. It’s quite the ordeal, with all the cutting and washing and juicer setup taken into account.

I had so much fun and I only cut myself once – great success. We made two different kinds – one green, one beet/orange. (I have such a thing for beet juice, but have never tried to do it myself since I’m intimidated by fresh beets. – That’s not weird at all, either.)  I think it’s something I may have to look into getting into. It could be fun. Or alternately, a piece of kitchen equipment that hangs out in my cabinets, collecting dust.

On Deli Meat, Rectangularly

I wouldn’t consider myself an angry person.
I think that most people I know would agree.
But they’d also agree that even though it’s pretty hard to agitate me, once I’m there, it’s going to be a while before I come back. I’m not that great at letting go of things.

I was so pleased with myself last Thursday. I made it to work on time and I was able to get to the grocery store to stock up on food. But I didn’t have time to get deli meat from the actual deli, so instead, I got the pre-packaged kind.

Mistake. Huge mistake. Don’t ever do it.

(This is coming from someone who loves Cheddarwurst and polish sausages and the pepperoni you find in Lunchables, so you know that my tolerance for quality meat is pretty flexible.)

I made myself a kick-ass sandwich. I had the good kind of spicy mustard. I toasted my bread. I sliced tomatoes. I washed and dried the lettuce. I had sandwich pickle spears. I had aged-cheddar, cut just thick enough.

I put the meat on last, almost like an afterthought. I wish I’d forgotten it. The meat was rectangular, very shiny, and not at all the texture of roast beef. I thought, maybe it’ll work, and put it on. I got back to my desk and took a bite. I managed to swallow that bite, but I left the rest of the sandwich on my plate and proceeded to go about my workday. I was ashamed that I threw out 97.5% of a sandwich. But then again, it wasn’t fit for consumption.

It’s been four days. And I’m still furious about it. I’m mad at myself for not taking the extra 45 seconds to get good meat. I’m mad at the people who call that roast beef. I’m mad at the beef for being so horrible. If it had good sense, it would hide in the back of the supermarket refrigerator until well past its sell-by date.

I’ve been craving a sandwich for about a week now. I think tomorrow morning, I’ll try again. Only this time, I’ll make sure I leave enough time to stop by the deli and have them slice me some rather than chancing it with the pedestrian meat in the deli meat aisle. Fingers crossed.

On Teenage Tattoos, Children, and Ice Cream, Tangentially

Oh my goodness, children are the most beautiful thing in the entire world. They’re such adorable little tiny chickens full of love. Little eyes, and toes, and fingers, and noses. Granted, they’re totally going to grow up and go through that weird decade where they’re hormonal and gross and emotional.

But I’m definitely maternal. Little kids love me. Last night at work, my 16-year old coworker was hurting after basketball practice, so I made her chocolate milk (it’s a great option after a workout for recovery), and made her drink it. She told me that I’m like her work-mother. I laughed. I get mom-ish, I can’t help it.

Yesterday, I tried to talk a 16-year old out of getting a tattoo on her wrist of something her girlfriend likes. I never thought the words would come out of my mouth, but there they were: “I know adults always say things like this, but you’re not going to feel the way you do now in five or ten years.” Here’s hoping she doesn’t get a tattoo she’ll regret. I told her friend that she should start putting $20/month into a bank account earmarked for future tattoo removal.

I am not wrong. I love my nautical star tattoo – on my hip like every other person on this planet, of course – because it means nothing. Literally nothing. It represents my enjoyment of stars as shapes, and black as a color, and lines. It represents my desperately wanting a tattoo but not wanting to get something I’d eventually regret or hate. So, I printed an image of a nautical star. I kept it in my giant pink wallet (best wallet ever) for three years – I was fifteen when I decided, and I was eighteen when I finally went through with it. I figured that was enough time to ruminate on my choice.

My ohm was the same. It’s mine. I made it. I love it. I did get it too high on my ribs, though, but that may have been for the best, since lately, I’ve been considering getting a crow on top of it. Thus making it a “chrome.” I giggle every time I think about it, but no one else seems to think it’s a good idea. Psssh, it’s not my fault everyone has no sense of humor.

(This is what it looked like when I got it in 2010 – it could use a touch up now since it’s less black.)

ohm symbol tattoo

But that’s not the point at all. (And granted, some people may look at my tattoos and be like, Ew, gross, you’re uninspired. Maybe that’s true. I don’t care.)

Lately, I’ve been really thinking about whether or not I want children. Don’t get me wrong, I love them. But they’re expensive, and they cry a lot, and then they’re teenagers. And that’s terrifying. (I was a teenager not long ago. I was terrifying.)

But then there are those moments that remind you why children are the most precious gift:

Last night, at Dairy Queen, this adorable family came in: grandparents and two little kids. The little girl wanted red ice cream, so I bent down (closer to her level) and we talked options. She decided to with white ice cream with red on top (a cherry dipped cone). She was so sweet, after I gave it to her, she asked me if she could get something to take to her mom, at which point the grandparents explained that they were having a “date” night (sleepover) with the grandkids. I went, “Ohh, I’m so jealous! Sleepovers are the best!” It was adorable. But even better? As they were leaving, the little kids came back up to the counter to say thank you and goodnight to me. My heart cracked open. Adorable.

I know they cry and get messy, but they’re so cute. So maybe someday, I’ll have a couple. And they’ll cry and be weird and I’ll love them even more than I love Carlos (if that’s possible). (But what if they get my nose?!? Ah, well, it’ll build character.)

On Rage and Authenticity, Quite Happily

As much as I dread the thirteen-and-a-half-hour workday, I find that it is a reminder of many things, including strength, dedication, commitment, and so on. Mostly, it’s a reminder of the lengths that I’m willing to go to ensure myself a solid, stable future and to keep Carlos in the style to which he’s become accustomed (which is basically just fat. Wet cat food is not cheap, but since it delights him so much, it’s worth it – and I benefit indirectly because the amount of snuggling I receive correlates to his enjoyment of his wet food).

Lately, as I struggle yet again with a lingering resentment for a part of my extended family, and as I work long days, I am reminded of the opportunities for gratitude in everything that I do. Today at my real job, I had the opportunity to have a wonderful conversation with my lady boss, a woman I’ve come to respect and admire for both her spirit but also her ability to keep everything together in the face of immense pressure. She’s funny, strong, and intelligent: all things that I aspire to be.

After that, at my night gig shelling out ice cream, I was grumpy because a couple came in and made fun of the way I said “food laws” by way of an attempt to explain why we no longer offer a certain product. Excuse me if I get offended because you find my use of “food laws” so immensely entertaining that you need to say it eighteen times. I’m exhausted, annoyed, and perfectly capable of using correct language, but sometimes it doesn’t happen. “I misspoke,” I said simply, glaring at them, hurt and embarrassed. I swear, “cross-contamination” and “regulations” are words that do exist in my vocabulary, even if I’m not always capable of injecting them into conversation. I was determined to let it bother me all night, holding onto my repressed rage at the indignation I felt.

But of course, life had other plans and I was treated to some of my absolute favorite customers. A mother and her son came in and told me that they were delighted to see my face behind the counter. A father and his son came in – they were in for ice cream last night so I made a quip and we discussed our own personal limits for enduring Journey songs on the radio. Another guy came in who knows my boss, and so we talked about the neighborhood and the church and parking tickets. Yesterday, I had a conversation about the American habit of rushing through eating, and the idea of savoring a meal and appreciating the experience. These are all totally strange conversations, but they’re the kind of conversations that I want to be having. They show me so much about people.

These are the moments when I’m reminded why it’s so important to forge wonderful bonds with people, even if those interactions are infrequent, or based solely on introduction to free Blizzard punch cards. The people who may have the most profound impact on you are the people you may know the least, and that’s why it’s so important to present your best self at all times – not your best fake self, but you, entirely. The people who came in tonight revived my spirit and my mood. They have no idea they had that affect, of course, but I can only hope that I did something similar for them.

As I think about the version of myself that I put forward, I think back to a conversation I had with my mother this week about my frustration with an issue that I’ve done everything in my power to resolve, but to no avail. She told me that no matter where I go in life, and no matter what tax bracket I find myself in, I’ll never lose my grit. (I immediately saw myself wearing dusty cowboy boots and clenching my teeth while smoking a Marlboro.) But she must not be wrong, because the sentiment was echoed by someone who means very much to me who told me that my authenticity shows in everything that I do.

And the more I think about it, the more it’s true. Living my life guided by three simple principles – “don’t lie, don’t cheat, don’t steal” – has allowed me to be my most authentic self at all times. I’m not always right, but at least I’m always me. And leaving out all deception, theft, and malicious intent has allowed so much love and happiness to grow inside of me.

Consistency and adherence to my core values allows me to experience so much that others can’t, and I’m immensely grateful for it. I’ve found myself in many situations this year that have tested me in ways that I never imagined – both professionally and personally – and yet they’ve allowed me to flex my honesty, my drive, and my intuition.

Things are going swimmingly – I’m happy. I’m happy discussing conspiracy theories with my Dairy Queen co-workers; I’m happy writing press releases at my real job; I’m happy in my new relationship; I’m just really happy.

Of course, I’m overworked, exhausted, and prone to bouts of melancholy. Of course I’m panicked and stressed and overwhelmed, but even through all of that, I’m happy with myself and with the person that I’m becoming, which is far more important than anything else.

I’m so grateful for everything that I’ve experienced in life, because it’s made me so much stronger. I’m no wilting wallflower. I believe it was Courtney Love who said, “I’m not a woman; I’m a force of nature.” I aim to embody that. And as my mother said during our conversation, no matter where I end up, I’ll never forget where I came from. I’ll never forget the hard work I’ve had to put in to get here, because in the end it’s all worth it. Along the way, there are little bits of encouragement, reminding me that the path I’ve chosen is the right path.

When I wonder why I’ve been rejected by an entire section of my extended family, I can’t help but take into consideration the fact that perfect strangers are excited to see me. I can’t help but think about how much I care about the people I love, and the things that I’d do to help my friends. I can’t help but think about how much of my personality gets to shine through at all of my jobs, at family events, on dates and adventures and through literally everything that I do. I can’t help but think about the person that I am today, and the person that I was yesterday, and I realize I’m still exactly me; I always have been.

What was my advice to adolescent girls dealing with people who are assholes? Oh yeah, “fuck ’em.” Here’s another piece of advice: if all of the evidence points to you being an authentic, awesome (oh, totally modest right now, too) human being, fuck the people who can’t wrap their heads around that. Fuck the people who don’t respect you, or value you, or care. You can find new family; you can make you own – and you can find the respect and value in tiny places like a pair of customers at Dairy Queen who express joy at your presence. That’s enough to remind you that who you are can’t be all bad.

Everything is going to be all right. Everything is all right. Everything is better than all right. Everything is amazing. Life is beautiful. It’s complexity and it’s pain, but it’s insanely worth the journey.

My authentic self, chilling on a rock in the desert:

He does take the best pictures, doesn’t he? (He’s editing, more soon.)

On the Road Trip to Albuquerque, Excitedly

We set off to spend a weekend geeking out over “Breaking Bad” in Albuquerque, the trip we’d planned on our first date. This was officially our tenth date, but it was so much more than that. It’s been so much more than that.

If you’ve never seen it, “Breaking Bad” is a show on AMC about a high school chemistry teacher who starts cooking meth because he’s been diagnosed with cancer and he wants to provide for his family. It’s an incredibly well-done show. It really asks a lot of “what if” questions that you’d never think to ask yourself and brings morality into focus. It’s well-written and it pulls at my heart in ways I never thought television could. (But then again, I cry at Google commercials, so it’s a given that I’m going to cry at this.)

I-25 to Albuquerque

I was so excited to spend a weekend away. I’ve been under a lot of stress lately, with work and the impending home purchase, so the promise of a relaxing weekend (three whole days off!) was almost more than I could bear. Matt and I have been communicating constantly since we met, but our dates are relegated to the weekends due to our jobs and the distance between us, so the thought of spending 72 hours with him was both thrilling and nerve-wracking.

We stayed at the Hotel Parq Central in Albuquerque (great AAA rate!). It was lovely – the hotel used to be a hospital, but was redone a few years ago. It’s clean, bright, and gorgeous. The hot tub is open 24 hours a day! We made sure to get as much hot tub time as possible in. The first night, they had a party at the rooftop bar, which got to be annoying. The guy working the front desk said that one guest had called to complain, saying that he would come down in his underwear and start yelling. That thought made me laugh.  Our room was a corner room in a separate building, so we had tons of windows and a huge bathroom.

But seriously, who throws a Halloween party on November 2nd? Albuquerque does. Apparently, they don’t let go of Halloween there – we were at a diner on Saturday and the waitress asked us if we had enjoyed Halloween. Very strange.

Saturday morning, we started our adventure. Matt was adorable and made us the sweetest map ever – he pinned all of the filming locations that we wanted to visit (I found the locations on a blog and sent him the link) and then added pictures and the physical addresses of each.

The first stop was the Crossroads Motel, which actually wasn’t on our map. We happened to drive by it on our first night in Albuquerque. (Oh, there was also an incident in which we attempted to get slices of pizza and were treated horribly by the manager after waiting more than 20 minutes only to be asked “Are you waiting for something?” by the girl who took our order. When we finally got a refund, the man snapped “I’m not refunding the Dr. Pepper!” Jeez, dude, chill. I didn’t ask for that. At that point, I just wanted like $5 in cash and I wanted to bail.)

We were standing in the parking lot of the motel when a man approached us, opened his wallet, and said, “DEA, what are you doing here?” Of course, he wasn’t from the DEA, but he was at the motel with his wife doing the same thing we were doing – taking pictures of filming locations. They were from Albuquerque, so we traded maps and chatted for a few minutes before moving on to the next stop: Jesse and Jane’s apartments.

One of the main characters is named Jesse Pinkman. He’s a small-time meth cook before he joins Walter White (the chemistry teacher) and their business expands. I love him, and one of my favorite story lines of the show is his star-crossed love affair with a recovering addict named Jane. They live side-by-side in a duplex, they fall in love, then (spoiler alert) she dies. It’s sad. But it’s beautiful. They are adorable together.

I knew that this was going to be my favorite spot, and it absolutely was. This was the site where I felt the most connected, not necessarily to the show, but to all of the emotions that I felt while watching it and all of the emotions that I felt while standing there with Matt. (We have some adorable couple pictures all over this property that you’ll see once they’re edited and ready for viewing.)

Jesse Pinkman's apartment, Breaking Bad, Jane Margolis,

(Jesse ends a lot of his sentences in the word “bitch.” It’s his way of emphasizing something. When I originally posted these, I posted them with the caption, “Jesse Pinkman’s apartment, bitch!” just because it felt like the right thing to do.)

Jesse Pinkman, apartment, Breaking Bad, Jane Margolis,

When we got to Walter’s house, we walked around the block, holding hands and chatting. (The curbs are seriously high in that neighborhood. I would destroy Simon. I’m very glad I don’t live there – I was driving Matt’s car, and when I parked, I purposefully parked about a foot off the curb so I wouldn’t take any chances of hitting the curb with his car!)

It was surreal.

There’s a scene in the show where the teacher, Walt, gets angry and throws a pizza on his roof, so apparently at one point, the family who lives in the house had to put out a sign that said “Please don’t throw pizzas on our roof.” Imagine going outside every day and having to get pizzas off your roof. I bet they clog the gutters and get annoying pretty quickly. (Still not the worst thing that could happen to your house after it’s been used as a filming location, though.)

Walter White's house, Breaking Bad, meth, Albuquerque

This is us posing in front of Walter’s house, but you can’t tell.

Hank and Marie (the chemistry teacher’s DEA agent brother-in-law and his wife) live in this insanely gorgeous neighborhood. Better than their house was the park nearby – we got out and hiked around and I got to climb on some rocks!

We also got to go to the Chicken Man’s restaurant! (In the show, there’s a super awesome meth dealer named Gus who owns a chain of chicken restaurants, so I call him the Chicken Man. In real life, the chicken restaurant is a real restaurant. We went and I got a soda.) It was amazing. We also went to the Octopus car wash – I’ll post pictures as soon as I get them from Matt.

Leaving was such sweet sorrow. We woke up, fully intending to go take more pictures near this gorgeous wooded area we’d seen the day before, but ran out of time and instead headed to Santa Fe. We had lunch there, walked around the Cathedral, stopped at Trader Joe’s (wine! chocolate covered cherries! chocolate covered pretzels! tea! pumpkin yogurt!) then headed back to Denver so that I could be home at a reasonable hour to be ready for work today.

On the whole, I would not return to Albuquerque willingly, unless you promised me that we could stop at Olo Yogurt Bar – where I had red velvet frozen yogurt topped with strawberries, mangoes, kiwi, gummy bears, and chocolate sprinkles. The city itself is stuck in the past – they have Furr’s cafes and lots of old neon. We didn’t really see much revitalization, but the neighborhoods that we found ourselves in were absolutely lovely. So perhaps there’s still a bunch of Albuquerque that we’re missing.

The hotel was amazing. The continental breakfast was Matt’s least favorite part, but I found it to be par for the course (they had me at Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Earl Grey tea). The shampoo was his favorite part. My favorite part? Hot tub. Sheets. Quarantine signs when you wanted privacy (a nod to the hotel’s beginnings as a hospital). We laughed when they talked about the “nurse’s quarters” because the building had a smokestack next to it…obviously not nurse’s quarters.

It was the best tenth date ever.

Denver, Albuquerque, I-25

 

I’ll post more pictures soon!

And note to everyone: VOTE! Tomorrow is election day and if you want the right to bitch for the next four years, you absolutely must vote tomorrow so you can at least say you did your part.

obama 2012, i voted, sticker, colorado,

I, of course, voted for Obama last week. Here’s hoping I won’t have to spend the next four years bitching. (According to Nate Silver’s newest forecast, I should breathe easy because it looks like Obama’s going to take the election easily. You can find Nate Silver and his election forecast on the Five Thirty Eight blog at http://www.nytimes.com.)

Nate Silver election forecast

But seriously – I care more about you voting than who you vote for. (I mean, that’s totally a lie, but I will find it even harder to respect you if you don’t vote than if you voted for someone I think you should in no way logically support.)

On Love, and Fall, and Family, Certainly

“The love of family and the admiration of friends is much more important than wealth and privilege.” – Charles Kuralt

Thank you, Charles.

***

Lame family-centric quotes aside, I’ve been feeling immensely grateful these past few weeks. Family is one of those things that can either be frustrating or wonderful, and I’m lucky enough to have a family that falls on the side of wonderful.

When we have dinner, we linger. We sit at the table long after the meal has ended, and I’m usually reprimanded for playing with my silverware, since I’m not one who’s mastered the concept of “still”.

My aunt from Vermont, who’s an awesome photographer – I thought her yearly Christmas book was awesome, but the facebook has allowed me to see pictures of adventures, gardening, sunsets, etc. – took pictures at the dinner we had a few weeks ago. (The one where Matt met the ENTIRE family.)

Here’s me, Matt, and my little neighbor:

This picture of my mom and brother stops me in my tracks, cracks my heart open, and makes love pour out of it. My mother and brother are not known for their willingness to engage in patient sitting for pictures, so this semi-candid shot blows my mind. My aunt has managed to capture them exactly as I see them in my mind when I imagine them. These are the faces they make during those moments when we are teasing each other about being “the worst guy” or pretending to be exasperated (sometimes it’s actual exasperation) and saying “You’re killing me, Smalls.” I am going to frame this picture.

***

Life seems to be increasingly hectic. In between all the working is the life part, and then the house-buying procedural part. This weekend was wonderful – Friday night, Matt came down to Denver and we went out to dinner, then walked and got dessert. He got to meet Jacob since we walked past the restaurant where he works. I like dinner dates with him. Somehow, it’s like we’re the only two people in the world. Interestingly enough, I’m becoming more and more self-conscious as time goes on, worried that I’m repeating myself too often, or talking too much (what’s new?), but at the same time, I’m more comfortable. It’s like we’ve been dating for years and dinners are merely a formality.

On Saturday, I worked at Dairy Queen then went to babysit, then found myself exhausted and went home. On Sunday, I worked, missed the home inspection, then drove to see Matt. He made me caprese lasagna (oh man, so good), we decorated an awesome Halloween gingerbread house, and then watched Moonrise Kingdom. 

I asked him to rub off on me with his healthy eating, so he made the lasagna with whole wheat noodles. I told him I was glad for that, and he seemed surprised. It’s not that I’m not a healthy eater, it’s just that lately, I’ve fallen into a bit of a rut as far as food goes. I’m definitely not making the healthiest choices; I can’t tell you the last time I went grocery shopping; I’m not watching my figure or anything. But I do enjoy healthy food. I don’t want to give him the impression that I’m someone who lives on McGriddles and Mountain Dew, even though right now, I totally am that guy.

Here’s the front of our house.

Halloween Haunted Gingerbread House

And here’s the back:

Spooky Haunted Gingerbread House Halloween

He got the kit at Target. I am very much enjoying his appreciation of all things Halloween. It was a nice Sunday night activity. But by far the best part of Sunday was Moonrise Kingdom.

I love Wes Anderson – he did Rushmore, The Darjeeling Limited, etc. – so when Matt suggested it, I was thrilled. It’s the story of young love – the two kids are about 12 – and the consequences of running away to be together. It is, for lack of better descriptive words, precious. The kids retain their innocence through their adventure, which begins with a courtship conducted entirely via letters.

They make an inventory of what she’s brought on their escape. (He’s some sort of scout, so he’s armed with all the necessary provisions.) She brings books, a record player, and a various amount of other things. It’s a very Katie Barry packing style.

When I was that age – twelve and up – I carried around everything I cared about. It was at twelve that we began taking vacations, and it was at twelve that I did not learn that you will eventually return home, and therefore don’t need to bring everything with you. I would pack two huge suitcases (this was back when you didn’t have to pay baggage fees), and I would fill them with everything, especially books.

I think I fell in love with Suzy when I saw her unpack a suitcase full of books. But I loved the purity of their young love and their determination and their struggles. You should go watch it. It will fill your soul with happiness and remind you of young love, which is something we too often neglect.