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.

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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.

On Taking Time, Thoughtfully

I woke up Friday morning crying. I sobbed the whole way into work. It was ridiculously uncharacteristic, and it was in that moment that I knew something was wrong. On Saturday, I saw my therapist for an equally uncharacteristic Saturday session. As it turns out, there is a perfectly rational explanation for what happened: One of the blog posts I read last week upset me and triggered an emotional storm. I had no idea that was even possible. Obviously, I’ve read a lot about triggers through the course of my studies, but I’d never experienced it firsthand.

He explained that the first few times this happens, you have no idea what is going to set you off, but something brings all of those emotions back to the surface. He reassured me that this is all normal, and that eventually, I’ll be able to recognize triggers before they sneak up on me.

It’s a wake-up call in a few different ways, but mostly it’s a reminder for me that I need to make time in my life for relaxation and recovery. I’ve been pushing myself so hard for so long, and something has to give. I have too many jobs, I work too many hours, and I don’t have enough time to reset. Instead, I find myself wound up, pushed to the limits, and exhausted.

Someone told me that I’m high-strung on Friday night, and to a certain extent, they’re right. But I do think that my inability to find time to relax is contributing to a higher level of high-strung Katie. My phrase for 2013 is “do less.” I”m trying to find a better sense of balance between work and relaxation, and  my hope is that I can find a happy medium soon that includes less work and more life.

I am lucky enough to have some of the most lovely and supportive friends on this planet. My gratitude for them is unending and impossible to quantify. I may be high-strung, but I have moments of calm, I swear, and I feel that with their support, the past few months have been far easier than they would have been otherwise. I am looking forward to a bright summer full of days playing frisbee in parks, eating cheese and drinking wine sitting on a picnic blanket. It will be wonderful.

I told work that I was going to take a few days off to relax. People asked me what I was going to do. I wasn’t sure. I giggled today, suddenly shy about an entire unplanned day, and said that I might lay on the couch and watch some Real Housewives. And that’s exactly what I’m doing. Today, I woke up, I had brunch, I ran errands with a friend, I saw a movie, I had soup. It was very magical.

This weekend was an adventure, and today, I woke up sick. Of course. I take time off of work to reset and I end up sick. I have a doctor’s appointment scheduled for tomorrow morning, so I’ll be up early braving the snow. After, I’m going to get coffee, come home, and lounge.

On the Weekend, Happily

I truly believe that sometimes life hands you exactly what you need when you least expect it. I believe that radiant joy can be found in the strangest of places, like a crowded bar or during an impromptu adventure sometime during the darkest hours of the night.

Last week, my horoscope said that my personal winter was over. As I read it, I sighed in relief. (I don’t care if you don’t put stock in horoscopes, I believe that even the slightest suggestion of positivity can work wonders, and thus, I allow them into my heart, hoping that they’ll plant the seeds of sustainable hope.)

The past few months have been quite the journey, testing me in ways I wasn’t sure I was strong enough to withstand. Whenever I feel like quitting, I laugh and think of my brother quoting Wedding Crashers, “Rule number 76,” he’ll yell, “no excuses. Play like a champion.” As soon as I posted that rather melancholy blog post last week about how down I felt at work and with life, I imagined what Mike would say. He’d have told me to stop focusing on the negative and to count my blessings, to cultivate the positive in my thoughts and in my life.

And I did.  The universe responded in kind, rewarding me with a weekend so full of joy and adventure that even through the exhaustion, there was no possibility but to be happy. So here we are. Spring. New beginnings. Renewed strength. Hope. Joy.

Exhausted from my third fifteen-hour work day last week, I went home Friday night and collapsed into bed. I’m so disappointed – I finished the three seasons of The League that Netflix has to offer and now I’m not sure what to work through. I could finish Breaking Bad, or Mad Men, or ….the possibilities are endless, and overwhelming. 

Saturday brought babysitting. I had two of the three girls. We painted, and did some stretching (we call it yoga, but it’s not yoga at all), and read some stories. I painted Carlos and a birthday card for Jacob.

I went home, got my nails done with Gina (oh yes, the simple joy of a pedicure and gel fill is like best kind of joy), went to my cousin’s birthday with my family – Happy 32nd, Brian! – and then went to meet up with Jacob for his birthday.

I usually have a “no drinking in heels” rule, but I just got some wedges that are so adorable that the rule had to be amended to “no shots in heels.” I danced, quite happily, and then managed to clumsily drop both a glass of ice and a cup half-full of gin and tonic. If you’re looking for a graceful woman, I am in no way your girl.

In all fairness, I was so nervous. For the first time in a long time, I have a crush on a boy developing and I’m panicking. “Be cool” is not a phrase that exists in my life dictionary. Also curiously missing is “Remember to breathe.”

We ended up chasing the dawn, a small party filled with music and couches and warm PBR. (I owe someone beer. Remind me to check on that. I hate drinking beer without giving back; it makes me feel terrible inside.) At some point, I grew bold and reached for his hand, and as our fingers came together, it was simultaneously terrifying yet familiar.

I danced. I talked to new people. I drove home and accidentally let the cat out and spent five minutes chasing him around the yard as dawn broke around me. The chirping of the birds sounded like mockery and I groaned as I finally secured the black beast and held him tight against my chest, pressing my face into his furry head with relief at his safe capture.

I woke up, threw on hipster shorts, and went to brunch with Jacob and Ben. We wandered down Colfax, bringing coconut water to a friend who’d joined us for the evening and who had to work early. We went to Cheeseman Park, pulling some sheets from my trunk to lay on. Just as we’d settled into the grass, the sky grew dark, the air suddenly biting with cold wind. Desperate for summer, we stripped down to our shorts, but frozen in the wind, we huddled under the sheets. It was miserable, and as we headed back to the car, it started to sleet/hail – small soft balls of ice shattering against my windshield.

I went home, napped, and then went to work. By the time I got there, I was wrung out, ready for a respite from consciousness, and thoroughly not prepared to be fully present. I told Evan that if I stopped, I’d most likely fall asleep, and we settled into a frantic rhythm as we helped the customer after customer who came in never-ending waves. I was laughing, though, delighted by my life and in the hilarity of the present moment, and the night passed easily.

I teased Evan about being a professional just as I nearly overflowed the strawberry container, and we had a discussion about his favorite physicist as we wiped down the store. At one point, I turned to Evan and muttered something about “….the inevitable existential crises” that result from our (under)employment at Dairy Queen. He laughed and nodded. I imagine that I won’t work there much longer after he goes; he’s my partner in crime, the other half of the A-Team. The lighthearted and yet mindful banter we engage in both enriches my life and keeps me entertained.

***

Totally off-topic, but then again, when am I ever fully on-topic?

Recently, my favorite pair of jeans resurfaced from the depths of the house, the same place all the socks must go. They are the first “nice” pair of jeans I ever owned, purchased when I was 21. They have traveled with me to countless cities, and they’ve been worn down to the soft point where they’re like pajamas. (The back pockets are also ripping, so it’s a “wear at your own risk or with big underwear” situation.) I put them on today, reveling in their nostalgic magic. But then I got to work and I remember why I won’t wear them anymore: as you wear them, they start to expand, as tired pants are wont to do. By noon, they’re now like two sizes bigger than they were when I put them on this morning. So you know, that’s less than thrilling. Perhaps they’ll have to become house-bound lounge pants from now on.

On Nails, Beautifully (Optimistically?)

I used to have acrylic nails in high school. I loved them. At the time, I’d get a French manicure, but with black tips instead of white. (Because I was such a dark, edgy lady. *cringe*) They’re a bitch to maintain, expensive and they break, and once they’re off your fingernails, you’re left with sad, broken nail beds that are ridiculously weak.

I went back to my regular nails, which aren’t all that much stronger, and have been working to come to some sort of happy medium where I paint them regularly and try to keep them from breaking. But….usually, I just have the nails of a 12-year old boy, destroyed and neglected (the nails, that is).

I got gel nails yesterday. They’re artificial nails, long and cumbersome, because my ultimate goal is to stop picking at my skin (it’s such an unconscious stress-based habit that sometimes, I don’t even realize I’m doing it). In theory it’s much harder to pick at (and ultimately break) skin with fake nails.

However, after years of having stubbly, bitten nails, I now feel like my new accessories are becoming dangerously close to being reptilian claws. It doesn’t help that they’re painted a muted shade of green called “Mermaid’s Tears.” Nothing makes me feel more optimistic than painting my nails a color that invokes visions of sad mermaids crying out viscous sea water. Oh dear. Imagine how the animal rights activists would react once they get a hold of that story. “Seal Pup Pets Stolen By Nail Polish Industry: Mermaids Reduced to Tears for Corporate Profit.”

From the google:

(image taken from google image search – click to go to original image URL)

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 Joy, Happily

The shameless hipster that lives in me felt the need to post this quote today. The impulsive emoter (psssh, it’s a word now) that shares the space agrees. Deal with it.

“…the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones that never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars…”

– Jack Kerouac

After spending the better part of the last month fighting a strange bout of utterly consuming melancholy, I seem to have emerged radiating joy. I can feel good energy flowing around me, and I’ve noticed that the world seems to be noticing that as well. I’ve been having the best conversations with friends and strangers; I’ve been smiling and laughing; I’ve been hooked by the promise of what is still to come.

I heard someone talking about what they’ve learned about grief and pain – they said that someone once told them that instead of fighting it, you should just let the waves of emotion wash over you. I did exactly that. Instead of struggling, I let the seemingly infinite sadness surround me.

Apparently, my life force was too much for the sadness, and I’ve been returned to my usual state of good humor. Oh, how I had missed it. This weekend was my first full-on return to joyous revelry.

I ended up in Boulder on Friday night at a show that my friends were excited about. They told me that some guy named Dave Au Jus would be playing…and all I could imagine was a man holding a French dip sandwich. As it turns out, there were no sandwiches nor a man who spells his last name Au Jus (très disappointing on both counts). The man, Dave Aju, was more amazing than a sandwich. I had a blast. I forget how much I like to dance. As much as I gently ridicule my friends for their love of “techno parties,” I’ve never had a bad time at one and I always end up having some sort of excellent adventure.

An excellent adventure it was. I ended up on a porch at an after-party trying to find Orion in the sky – I was extremely disappointed to find that the night had progressed so far that he had slipped away, but the people around me were kind enough to provide me with their sky maps so that I could search. (Note to self: find more constellations to love. I can find Jupiter, sometimes, or Cassiopeia, but other than that, I’ve got nothing. Not even the Big Dipper.) I slipped back into my house at 6 am, an hour I’ve not seen from the side of night in ages, desperate to find sleep before the sun started to creep into the sky.

***

Saturday brought a lingering breakfast of coffee and bagels, then babysitting. I didn’t see the girls last week, and it’s funny how much I missed them. From there, it was off to get ready for the drag ball and Emily’s birthday celebration.

This is the lovely birthday girl!

My costume and a direwolf – he made that himself and the hood was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen. I would very much like to own one.

More of us, but with my wig:

Since it was a drag ball, there were categories that people would walk in to win trophies and glory. I ended up judging at the last minute because one of the judges didn’t show. It was part terrifying, part really fun.

Jacob and Gina are beautiful people – Jacob won the (S)Executive Realness category for his stunning outfit and walking ability. (You should have seen the suit jacket he wore.)

Sunday brought brunch – if you ever need to lure me out of bed, just say “brunch” and I’m there. You might also want to say “bacon,” “gravy,” or “mimosas.”  Then I’ll hurry.

After the drag ball, there was quite a flurry of internet activity, mostly comments about the party the night before. The original “Denver is Burning” drag ball was held last year in a DIY space. The party was a smashing success. It wasn’t repeated due to space issues – it’s really hard to find a good place to hold a sweet party sometimes.

[Odd side note – that silver cuff that I wear was gifted to me by an artist who was painting in the same building that night. I wandered in and apologized for bothering him, but I was fascinated by his work. He gave me the cuff and a necklace. It’s become one of my most treasured possessions, and I think of that man fondly every time I wear it.]

The chief dissenting comments discussed voguing, ball culture in general, and racial issues related to all of it. It is frustrating to see such good intentions be torn apart by misunderstanding. It also reminds me that Denver’s racial demographics aren’t conducive to creating the underground ball scene that Harlem saw in times past. Denver just isn’t that diverse.

Granted, some of the categories were a bit weird. Game of Thrones? Totally shouldn’t have been a category (even though I loved it). But it was awesome. I wish you could have been there – there was music and dancing, and I ran into friends that I haven’t seen in ages. Everyone looked amazing, and free, and happy. Isn’t that what life is all about? (Minus the looking amazing part. Just the free and happy part.)

Some people were frustrated about what they perceived to be the over-involvement of white people. As a white person who spends a ton of time in the gay/queer scene, I find it frustrating that people are so quick to jump on race like that. I was born white and straight. I can’t help that. But it doesn’t mean that I should be excluded from activities because of my biological sex, my gender, my race, my sexual orientation, etc. (Isn’t all that inclusion what we’re all working for?! We’re working backwards if we can’t start to love people of all colors, genders, body types, hair colors, whatever. Also include my obligatory “understanding of white privilege” statement, but I’m not going any further into it because it doesn’t apply here.)

Plenty of appropriate thought was put into it – plenty of links about the origination of ball culture and voguing were shared in the lead up to the party. Plenty of respect is held by everyone for the original ball culture, the original intent of ball culture, and the struggles that people have faced while trying to achieve the equality, respect, and recognition that they deserve.

Ball culture will never be what it once was – it’s impossible, not because of people’s refusal to embrace tradition, but because of the fact that situations have changed drastically. The world is a different place now in some ways, and exactly the same in others. The people who threw this party wanted to be respectful of the past, but also embrace something new. It’s how things will work, communities will grow, and people can become more educated.

I think that it did open up a very important dialogue, but it was hard to watch the pain that my friends felt – they worked so hard, and with such pure intentions, to create something magical. I hope that this doesn’t stop more like this from happening in the future – Denver could use more of it, and needs people to remain involved and motivated to create beautiful things.

***

I returned home from brunch to be lazy and do nothing. It was lovely. I killed some bugs on the side of the house. (That’s a lie – I made my brother do it.) Then I did some googling about said bugs. They’re harmless but annoying, and I imagine that the Barrys vs bugs battle that will undoubtedly take place this coming spring and summer will be nothing short of frustrating. (I can be a very determined woman – those bugs haven’t seen anything yet.)

***

When I was 18, I dated a guy who always used to tell me he was going to make me a bunch of rocks that said “Katie” on them. So they’d be Katie rocks. (Get it? I rock!) This weekend, my phone dinged and told me I had a message – there, out of the blue, was a picture of a rock with my name on it. A Katie rock. The caption? “I know it’s been years, but you still rock.” My heart cracked into a million pieces and a huge smile spread across my face. It absolutely made my day.

***

And so now it’s back to work, back to reality, back to responsibility, but with a renewed energy. I’m back to being my radiant weird self and I’m beyond thrilled about it.