Conversations

Everyone possesses that one special place in the world.  A place for solace, a safe harbor, a thinking spot.  I know it may sound weird, but mine exists on a grassy little patch at the foot of a white marble headstone at Fort Logan National Cemetery.  My thoughts feel better equipped to run free if I share them with my dad.  So, I often grab the blankets from the back of my car, sit with my Papa and tell him my thoughts, my worries, my joy, my wishes and whatever my current condition may be. 

When my dad was alive, he asked me about my day…every day.  He asked about my classes, my teachers and my homework.  He listened attentively and got to know each of my friends through the stories I told.  He wanted me to read my essays and papers out loud to him.  We talked about news, politics, actors, books and any other topic that struck us.  Ironically, though, in the final days of his life, I hated talking.  I sat in his hospital room reading, staring out the window, acting every bit the bratty teenager I was at that time, and doing my best to answer each and every one of his questions with one-word answers, hoping we could just stop talking.

So, maybe my conversations now with my dad help me relinquish the guilt I held on to for so long after he died.  Maybe I’m attempting to capture lost time and lost conversations.  Maybe I feel like he actually hears me and that comforts my heart.  Maybe I feel like I can tell him things that I can’t otherwise verbalize to any other soul.  Maybe I’ll just always be Daddy’s little girl.  Whatever the reason, or combination of reasons, I am always drawn to his side during the best and worst periods of my life and so many occasions in between.  When I’m there, I’m home. It’s like I’m back sitting at the foot of his old recliner.  I talk, he listens and for just that small period of time, I feel like nothing else matters.  Time slows down, my thoughts come pouring out and I feel completely blanketed in safety and calmness.  I really also feel as though he’s talking back, too. I can hear the questions he would ask, the way he would challenge some of my notions and the pride he would feel in being my greatest confidante.

Every year, shortly before Christmas, I deliver a holiday bouquet to my dad’s grave site.  Then, a few weeks later for his birthday, I retrieve the Christmas arrangement and swap it out for flowers for his birthday, a shot of Jim Beam (his favorite) and a steaming cup of black coffee.  Today, January 11, is my dad’s birthday, so he and our annual tradition are at the forefront of my mind. I probably won’t visit until the weekend, though, so that I have plenty of time to spend there, setting the stage for another interesting year of conversations. 2011 is already making my head spin. I can’t imagine what this year will bring and what scenarios will draw me to talk to my dad.  No matter what this year holds, I know that my thoughts are held in confidence and shared in love at the one place that always feels safe.

Incidentally, I know that as disjointed as this post is, my dad would love that I used him as the inspiration and catalyst to sit and write again.  This blog has been empty for far too long, although many thoughts and conversations have been unfolding.  I hope that through my talks with my dad, I’ll also be able to put my thoughts together more this year to capture them here.


Weekly F-Bombs

It’s not what you’re thinking.  Although I do lace my vocabulary with the occasional colorful swear word, I have decided to implement a new addition to this blog on a weekly-ish basis, called the F-Bomb.   I will highlight something in each of the Five F’s (Family, Friends, Food, Fashion and Fun) on which this blog is based.  There will be little tidbits in each category from the previous week that caught my eye or attention and were of note to me or that triggered a memory or thought.
Those who know me well know that I’m rarely at a loss of words or opinions, but I’ve struggled with how to structure my writing and to do it more often, so this will allow me to have more frequent time to reflect, and hopefully appreciate, what’s happening around me.
And away we go:
Friends
I had lunch last week with my friend, Cali (Twitter handle: @caligater).  You know when you spend time in someone else’s company and then you walk away feeling refreshed, enlighted and with your spirits high?  Most of my, and everyone else’s, encounters with Cali are just that way.  It is fitting, then, that I let you know that she was the inspiration behind this F-Bomb idea.  On her fabulous blog, she has started doing weekly Gater Bites, where she shares interesting articles, music, and other musings from around the Web.  I fess to it that I totally stole the idea of weekly tidbits and made it my own here.  Why mess with brilliance?  Thank you, Cali, for being you, which incidentally means being warm, smart, articulate and relatable.  You are an admirable person, who also happens to share two traits with me that few fully understand – an insane need to overcommit and the struggle with retreating after doing so (closet introverts unite).  I only hope to continue spending more quality time being inspired by you, and I’ll try to keep the pilfering to a minimum. 😉
Family

My aunt is an angel on earth.  Really, she is.  Anyone who meets her is instantly struck by her warm, kind nature.  Murph calls her a “sweetheart” and he doesn’t often use such flowery terms about anyone.  Since the holidays, she has taken up an old hobby – crocheting.  My aunt is a very skilled seamstress (she taught design school classes in South Korea back in the day) and also knits and crochets.  She has a favorite pattern for a specific doily.  She crochets this one favorite pattern over and over (from memory now) and she gives away these wonderful pieces to friends and random neighbors (really – she walked over a few streets to give one to variable strangers because they were nice enough to help shovel our walkways one snowy day).  Mine sits on the hope chest at the foot of my bed.  Murph’s is on his bedroom dresser.  Doilies may seem old-fashioned, but anyone who receives one has a little piece of my aunt with them, and that is a treasure. She puts love and pride into every item she crafts, so no matter what she makes, people accept them delight.

Food

From Babbo NYC Web site

My pal, Lee (Twitter handle: @JustaSunGod) and his wife have been world travelers in recent months.  He’s been documenting these travels through entertaining YouTube recordings, letting us office drones live vicariously and enviously through them.  One of the foods he discovered while traveling in Spain was black pasta.  Black pasta is made/flavored with squid ink.  Before you crinkle your nose in disdain or get any ill-conceived notions about it, let me tell you, promise you, that black spaghetti is packed with deliciousness!  My friend Jen and I took a girls’ trip to New York last fall and were introduced to black spaghetti at Mario Battali’s Greenwich Village restaurant, Babbo.  That meal was single-handedly the best Italian meal either of us had ever experienced and the black spaghetti was our favorite.  After we returned home, Jen discovered that Babbo provided a Black Spaghetti with Rock Shrimp and Spicy Soprressata recipe on their Web site and that her local Whole Foods market carried black spaghetti (I had to resort to ordering mine online).  We both made this dish, with slight modifications.  Verdict? Not nearly as good as the Babbo experience but a delightful runner-up for the adventurous home cook (and very simple to make)!

Fashion
I have a new bucket list item, as of yesterday.  Elaine Ellis (Twitter handle: @ElaineEllis) is the kind of person who you would hate, if she wasn’t so darn likeable.  You would hate her because aside from the fact that she is a wickedly smart and effortlessly cool woman, she spent the past 90 days traveling Europe (find out more and join me in the love/hate relationship by exploring the blog that captures photos from her adventures).  She’s back in the States now, in New York, and yesterday, SHE GOT TO GO TO THE MARC JACOBS FASHION SHOW FOR NEW YORK FASHION WEEK!!!!!!!  AND LIVE TWEETED PICTURES!!!!!  Yes, it *is* worthy of capital letters and the annoying overabundance of exclamation points and yes – I am SHOUTING!  A fashion show. During New York Fashion Week.  Live.  In person.  Thanks for the motivation, Elaine.  More to do before I die.
Fun
If you hadn’t noticed by the references above – or if you haven’t heard me mention it once or a million times – I love Twitter.  It is my favorite social media outlet and even though I use them for different purposes, Facebook doesn’t hold a candle to Twitter.  I tweeted this morning that I’m growing tired of people who claim to be adept with social media but then tell me they don’t “get” Twitter.  I won’t try to explain Twitter here because you can’t really know it until you’ve tried it…REALLY tried it.  Instead, I will just tell you about the numerous people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting in the Twitterverse and in real life.  People like Cali, Lee and Elaine.  I have regular girls’ wine nights with Twitter friends.  I’ve received recommendations on everything from restaurants to the type of external hard drive to buy. I’ve consistently seen news break on Twitter before any other news outlet. I won tickets for Murph and me to sit in a suite at the Pepsi Center for a Nuggets game.  Twitter has proven itself as an excellent customer service tool.  Whether I’m happy or upset with a customer service experience, I’ve had immediate follow-up from businesses after throwing my comments out into the Twitterverse. Most importantly, I’m now honored to be a part of a growing philanthropic effort with brilliant people who I met on Twitter (more on that in an upcoming F-Bomb). Smart companies monitor and manage their brands on Twitter.  Smart people build and strengthen relationships on Twitter.

Erik Rokks – in life and beyond

Funny how death gives us clarity about life.  I wish that the vulnerable moments right after we lose a loved one could stick with us through the valuable insights they often create.  We tend to just drift back into normal routine too quickly and just as soon as we tell ourselves that we won’t, we find ourselves blinded by the stress and mayhem of our daily lives.  While emotions are still raw and fresh in my heart, though, I wanted to take a moment to capture the memories that are swirling in my head. 
 
I lost my dear friend and love one, Erik (my ex brother-in-law), to his battle with lymphoma last month.  He was only 33-years-old and truly in the prime of his life.  He had found the love of his life (Dale), had a good job and was at the best place that he had ever been for himself.  I have been thinking so much about the memories I cherish with him ever since I found about his diagnosis last year.  It hurts me that we lost touch for a while after his brother and I were divorced.  I pushed a lot of people away during that period to deal with my emotions and to make it through that hard time, but he was always close to my heart, constantly in my thoughts and as I found out, just one email or phone call away.  It’s not right that this tragic news is what brought us back together, but I am thankful that I got to spend Erik’s last months remembering him and confirming that he was exactly as I always knew him to be: funny, clever, optimistic, loving and full of life. 
 
A couple of weeks ago, many of his friends and family members got together in a celebration of his life.  Seeing a beautiful montage of photos only conjured up more memories and provided me a wistful glance back at the only “sibling” I’d known.  I just wanted to jot a few key memories down…not that I would ever forget any of them if I tried.
  • Erik LOVED Disney.  When I say loved, it’s an understatement.  He had one of the largest Disney video collections I’ve seen and according to his brother, he was ecstatic when he discovered and downloaded a Disney font that was used for a poem at the end of his photo montage.
  • Erik also loved music.  One of my favorite country artists/bands is Sugarland.  I started off hating them, though, and Jennifer Nettle’s voice used to grate on my nerves.  Erik turned that around.  He used to play it in his car, and I grew to love it, too.  We shared a love of Sarah McLachlan and the first time I ever saw her perform live in concert, I was with Erik.  There are countless other memories that I have tied to certain artists and certain songs because of him. 
  • Erik loved New York and Broadway shows.  When I went to New York with a friend for a girls’ trip this past August, Erik, who was in the throws of chemo treatments, took the time to get restaurant recommendations from his NYC friends for me.  I texted him the night that my friend and I went to see Mary Poppins, my first show on Broadway, and fittingly, a Disney production.  He couldn’t wait to hear all about it and I’m just heartbroken that he won’t be able to see it with me when it comes to Denver in a couple of months.
  • One of my favorite activities in the world is to wrap gifts.  Erik was a black belt in gift wrapping.  He even knew how to fold the paper right along the edge of a box and tape it down perfectly with double-sided tape so that a gift appeared to have no seams.  It was genius and a true art form.
  • Erik loved to play games.  I can’t tell you how many hours and how many late nights, especially around the holidays, that his family and I spent playing UNO.  There were rounds of that game that just never ended and we happily and competively stuck with it, hour after hour.
  • Erik had a really great belly laugh and an even better little chuckle…the kind that you release out of impulse when something is amusing.
  • When you proposed an idea that Erik liked, he had this very specific way of saying “OK” (“Uhhh, Oooh-KAY!!”).  I say it in the same manner all the time… a habit I picked up from him.
  • Erik was the only man, the ONLY one, who never flinched about going shopping with me…even shoe and Christmas shopping.
I couldn’t begin to capture Erik on paper and I wouldn’t want to, really.  To know him is to love him and I and many others did, and we are blessed for it.  One thing I will always remember Erik saying in his wedding toast (he was the best man) was, “I always wanted a sister and now I have one.”  And he looked at me and he meant it.  Regardless of how circumstances turned out, I will always consider him family.  He was my big brother and a dear friend and someone who I already miss beyond words.  Erikrokks was his email address. Erik does rock…in life and beyond. 

With Erik at his 30th birthday party


Controlling me letting life be

It’s a new year.  Most people already set their resolutions for the year, but I purposely didn’t…and I don’t plan on making any resolutions in the coming years either.  I want to be more present in the moment without getting so obsessive and distracted with short-term goals that I lose sight of the bigger picture in life.  Sounds easy to strike that balance for normal people, but for me?  Not so much.

I am a perfectionist/Type A/Capricorn/only child.  It’s the quadfecta of someone who wants things controlled, painstakingly planned and itineraried, and well, just…perfect.  Setting goals is like breathing for me, so you would think that making resolutions would be par for the course and that I would accomplish them with astonishing ease.  But, it’s all a farce.  You see, there is this amazing force in the world that often wrecks my attempts to carry out all of my goals in the exact manner in which I set out: LIFE.  Life just doesn’t play nicely in the sandbox with the well-laid plans of an Über perfectionist.  

Failure is inevitable, so the “right” thing to do is to stay flexible, learn from mistakes and march on.  For someone like me, though, getting through life’s unexpected times is not a straight, direct journey from point A to point B, with natural clarity or epiphanies that dawn on me along the way.  It’s more like the drunk man’s version: wobble, weave, fall down, get banged up, try again, repeat.  It wasn’t until I stumbled my way through my life’s worst hurdles (deaths, divorce, general other doom and gloom) that I FINALLY relented to the truth that I am not, and cannot, be in control…all of the time.     

So, in this new year, with mindfulness about myself and about my need to loosen the reins on life, I will only commit to one set of goals.  They are not the standard for-this-year-only resolutions.  They are more along the lines of a “bucket list” – a collection of long-term goals that focus on the priorities that I value most, that indulge and enrich my spirit and that allow me the room to dream big. I want to take ample time to realize each of these life goals and savor them while being more present in the moment.  I’m taking a leap of faith and hoping that if I let go of some of the perfectionistic expectations, life will take notice and reciprocate in the form of priceless experiences and memories.  I hope to fondly look back at these experiences and be proud that I was able to successfully compromise with life instead of miserably fighting it for control.  I envision filling this blog with tidbits, stories and memories that help me appreciate how good life can be when I let it.


Gratitude

This time of year usually makes people pensive and reflective, and I am no different, especially since this Christmas also marks my 31st birthday.  As I look back on the year, my first year in my 30’s, the one word that best sums it all up is “gratitude.”  I told myself (maybe willed myself, actually) that my 30’s were going to my best decade yet.  So far, I haven’t been disappointed and I am utterly shake-my-head overwhelmed at how grateful and blessed I feel when I look back.

On my 30th birthday, Christmas Day 2008, I was “leaving on a jet plane” to a layover in Chicago to meet up with my best friend Stacy, who flew there from Omaha, leaving behind her husband and three young children.  When we met there, she spilled the beans about the elaborate and well-guarded surprise that she had planned – five days and four nights in sunny Miami and Key West for what became the best girls’ trip of my life. For this example of obvious thoughtfulness and for countless others, I’ll credit Stacy as the first reason that I’m sitting less than a week away from Christmas bursting with more gratitude than I can hold in my body.  I believe to my core that true friends are like extended family, and Stacy cements this belief constantly.  I miss her terribly and wish every day that she will move her family back to Colorado…soon.

I also am blessed to have an entire network and support system of other amazing friends.  All women know that no matter how wonderful their significant others may be, there is a place in their hearts that can only be filled by their girlfriends. This year, I have cried, laughed and grown to be a better person and friend because of regular coffee dates, happy hours, vacations and valuable time spent in the company of fabulous women.  Beyond this, I have amazing male friends who give me realistic perspective into the male psyche and who refute any stereotypes that say men can’t be sensitive, warm-hearted and compassionate.

My family is small, but they are my lifeline and my thankfulness for them can’t be measured.  My mom is stubborn and has a fiery temper, but is also strong, loyal and one of the most honest people I know.  My aunt is an angel on earth. Every day for over 10 years, my aunt has devoted her life to being my mom’s primary caretaker after my mom suffered a debilitating heart attack and massive stroke.  My aunt is soft-spoken, humble, patient and one of the kindest, gentlest souls you will ever encounter.  I lost my dad when I was 16, and I miss him more now than I ever have.  I am still daddy’s little girl. 

You know that saying about “saving the best for last”?  After all of this reflection and gratitude, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the best and most important part of this past year – my boyfriend, Murph.  Our relationship is almost three years in the making, but this year, we have both grown more than in the others combined, and our relationship reflects it.  He is my very best friend and my total opposite, which work as a nice balance.  I am not “that” girl who publicly gushes, so I don’t often verbalize enough how much I love Murph and how I just don’t know what I would do without him. He is playful, funny, loyal and a thoroughly good human being.  He is annoyingly stubborn, just like me, and he gives me strength whenever I need it most.  I am grateful beyond words to have him as my biggest cheerleader and partner for life.

The people in my life and the experiences that I have shared with them this year are essential to how I feel going into another Christmas and New Year: content, excited, hopeful and so, so grateful.


Hello world!

Wow!  Is this real?  Me…*gulp*…blogging?  I used to think that blogs were only reserved for “those” people…”other” people – the experts, the ones with families, the famous, the ones wise enough to say things that the world wants to hear.  I am none of those things. 

I’m simply a “normal” person who genuinely and idealistically believes, with every fiber of my being, that everyone should attempt to live life to its fullest.  For me, that means surrounding myself by people who enrich my life and challenge me.  It means eating good meals (and sometimes, overeating) and savoring different tastes and flavors, and often pairing them with good drinks (wine, beer, iced tea…whatever works at the time).  It means traveling and being affected and impacted by every new place and event and person I experience along the way.  It means takings some risks and seeking adventure or even in the confines of daily life, appreciating all the little details that alter or develop my perspective.  It means keenly observing, intensely analyzing (I am a perfectionistic Type A, after all), feeding an insatiable desire to learn, and forming A LOT of thoughts and opinions in the process!

I needed an outlet for it all.  No one in the world has enough time or energy to listen to all of my stories, rants, theories or musings, nor should they.  A friend recently asked me about a vacation I took and when I gave her highlights, she didn’t respond.  Later, she apologized for ignoring my remarks and told me that she was just jealous of my experiences but did eventually want to hear about them.  That was an “aha!” moment for me.  I applauded her honesty and didn’t view her comment in a negative light.  It just made me realize that no one needs (or sometimes, wants) to listen to my thoughts or share in my experiences. 

So, I decided that ultimately, this blog is for me.  It’s my place to put down my thoughts.  It’s my time capsule, my creative outlet and my cathartic way to put whatever is on my mind out into the world.  If anyone wants to experience the journey with me, you are welcome…but not obligated. 🙂