A year

It’s hard to feel motivated or inspired by the change of the calendar that’s about to occur. I’m not setting any goals or thinking about making 2021 my year today. Truthfully, we will all wake up tomorrow plagued by the same problems we have today. Sure, I wish that were different, too. It’s hard to use 2020 as a baseline for any goal-setting or framing of the year to come because it was so unlike any other and we just don’t know what’s ahead.

Still, I hope that you have found things to be grateful for. I hope you have found moments of peace and happiness this year. For me, I have never been more grateful for the written word and the escape that reading has provided me. I also feel like I really came to know my independence and mental toughness and my ability to adapt and survive in ways that are appropriate for me. While there have definitely been plenty of days of sadness and feeling suffocated by the weight of this year, I’ve somehow managed to embrace the slow-down and the time without plans. I’ve become reacquainted and comfortable with silence.

This year has brought a deeper realization of my values, and I hope that the same will prove true for society as a whole as we start to see our way out of this.

More than anything, I am thankful that myself and my family have made it through this year with our health, and my biggest wish is for that to continue as people begin to be vaccinated.

Happy New Year and good riddance to this garbage year. Wishing you all love and light in the year to come.

How I’ve survived and you can, too

We’ve all had our own version of a garbage year, #amirite? I’ve gone through my own emotional roller coaster that has ranged from seriously-I’m-fine to oh-look-I’m-crying-now to please-for-the-love-of-god-can-I-please-just-go-somewhere-without-it-being-a-whole-thing!!

This year has given me a shortened attention span thanks to all the doom-scrolling, emotional unpredictability, and levels of laziness and exhaustion that I did not know a were possible, even though I’m an introvert with, what I would call, a tendency toward laziness. AND THEN I had the cool idea to apply for, interview, and get a new job this year. In addition to the events of this year, I also thought it would be fun to feel like I have to prove to my new boss that she was right to pick me for this job (lol I’m dumb).

My point is that every day brings a new struggle. So go easy on yourself. We’ve still got at least a few more months of this, but it looks like we are starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel. Here are a few things that have brought me joy… or at least helped me pass some time. Maybe they can help you get through this final stretch safely and COVID-free.

Books

Books have been my number one source of comfort this year. Considering my melting attention span, I also do not know how this is possible tyvm. I’m thankful my brain hasn’t completely turned to gravy in the last 9 months. Here’s a list of 10 books I’ve read this year that I loved. For my full book list, find me on Goodreads.

  • Beartown by Fredrik Backman – This was a recommendation from my high school English teacher who I ran into at a restaurant last summer. We immediately started talking about books, and he told me this book was better than A Man Called Ove by the same author. When I started reading it, I was like, “Ugh a sports book.” But then it becomes a different kind of story entirely- about men and ego and loyalty, and doing what’s right. I couldn’t put it down.
  • A Dream About Lightning Bugs by Ben Folds – I love Ben Folds. If you also love Ben Folds, you’ll probably love this book. Or if you’re interested in the music business or song-writing, you also might love this book. Ben Folds sounds like a neurotic genius nightmare who I would probably never be friends with, but I appreciate his contributions to the world.
  • The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead – This is the story of two young, Black boys wrongly sentenced to a reform school in Florida during the Jim Crow Era. There’s a reason this book won the Pulitzer. It is very good. The end is just incredible.
  • Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens – I feel like I’m a little late to the party on this one. I had been hearing about it for a while before I finally read it. It’s a story about growing up and survival, and the secrets we keep. Believe the hype. It’s all true. The end is so damn rewarding.
  • Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan – This is a mystery set in 1990s Denver. The author worked at our local bookstore, Tattered Cover for a time, which is what the bookstore in the novel is based on. If you’re a very Denver person like me, this is so much fun to read with the references to the Colfax bus and different pockets of the city. It’s great even if you’re not from Denver.
  • Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid – This book is about a young, Black baby-sitter and the well-meaning white people around her. It covers race and privilege and saviorism with honesty and even humor. A great read.
  • The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson – I’m quite late on this book, as well. It had been on my to-read list for years, I think. Read this book. The white-washed history we learn in school… sucks. I don’t recall ever hearing about the Great Migration or how it shaped the current landscape of our country. We learn history like a series of problems that we put our heads together and fixed and now America is perfect (lol). History is obviously far more nuanced than that. Take responsibility for your education and read this book and books like it.
  • Wow, No Thank You by Samantha Irby – Honestly, read anything by Samantha Irby. You will laugh out loud. I happened to be reading this book the week that Ruth Bader Ginsburg died, and I needed to escape and be able to laugh. This book is a gift in this year of hot garbage.
  • Shit, Actually by Lindy West – I was reading this book the week of the election, so in between refreshing my Twitter feed for updates, I had this book to keep me company. This is another laugh-out-loud hilarious book about movies you love and how they do or definitely do not hold up.

TV

No, I haven’t quite finished Netflix yet. Far from it, actually. But here are a few things I’ve watched and loved (okay maybe not loved, but they all served a purpose) over the last several months.

  1. Glee (Netflix) – I know there is a very big, dark cloud hanging over this show that just doesn’t seem to clear. At the start of the pandemic, I needed something familiar and comforting, and I loved this show when it was first on TV. It was totally what I needed, and I think Harrison is officially a Gleek now. I’m pretty sure a lot of the deeply inappropriate Sue Sylvester insults went right over my head the first time around, so watching this show again was a wild ride.
  2. Somebody Feed Phil (Netflix) – I have never really been into food or travel content, so I have no idea why I can’t get enough of this show. It might be that I can relate to the goofball level of happiness around trying different foods when you go somewhere new. This is also how I react to food when I travel. Traveling may not be a super chill thing to do right now (are we even allowed in Europe yet?), but watching someone else’s adventures has brought me some happiness.
  3. Emily in Paris (Netflix)- No this show is not “good,” but if you want something mindless that you can binge in a day, this is it.
  4. I’ll Be Gone in The Dark (HBO)- I couldn’t really get into this book, but a lot of people loved it. The docuseries was really, really great – weaving Michelle’s story with the ultimate conclusion of finding the Golden State Killer. Such a crazy story!

Other Stuff

There may be no more important task than protecting our mental and physical health. There are days that it is hard, like really hard, for me to get out of bed. I’ll be honest- there have been some Saturdays that I haven’t left my bed, opting to stay under the covers with a book. It’s okay if that’s you some days, but try to give yourself some things to look forward to.

  1. Go outside as much as possible – Hike, bike, go for a walk. Do something. I have found this to be absolutely necessary for my sanity, and it hasn’t been easy. We did a fair amount of hiking in the spring and summer, but there were long stretches where the air quality here was so bad because of the fires in the mountains that going outside or even having a window open was out of the question. Now it’s dark by the time I finish working during the week, so I’ve had to adjust by trying to get outside in my lunch time hour instead.
  2. Virtual Game Nights – Harrison and I have been hosting game nights for friends to give them something to look forward to during the week, especially now that it’s colder and outdoor events are more difficult. We just brought both of our families together for games on Thanksgiving since we were all apart that day. Check out Jackbox games party packs. They have a variety of games, and they make it so easy to share an evening with friends when you can’t be physically together.
  3. Exercise – At the start of the pandemic, the yoga studio I had been a member of for years did a great job shifting classes online, which was such a comfort. Then they closed abruptly in June, and I had no idea what to do. Fortunately, I found Black Swan Yoga online which is only $8 month and has a huge library of classes. If you’re comfortable going to a gym or a class in person, great! For folks like me who can only seem to visualize the respiratory droplets flying around, there are a ton of online options for classes. Whether it’s yoga or something else, find something physical to do.
  4. Attend Virtual Events – I know it’s not the same, but this year has robbed us of our ability to make plans. These virtual events are a little way of getting that back. Virtual concerts, comedy shows, book tours, or even a hard seltzer festival (yep, we did that) have been small ways that we have been able to pass the time and enjoy an evening. The true silver-lining of this year is that we can do all of these things from the comfort of our homes with or without pants.
  5. Support Your Local Businesses – Harrison and I have been extremely fortunate this year. We’ve both maintained employment. He got a bonus from his company, and I got promoted- twice. We have tried to be very intentional about how we spend the money we are so lucky to still be earning. We think about the places we used to spend our time before all of this, and how we can play a part in making sure they’re around for a while. Whether it’s a local brewery or distillery, or a local plant shop, think about the places you love and where you want to be able to go when this is finally over.

And it will be over.

I think it started on Halloween

Has anyone else been struggling with some rage issues? Like you feel it, but you’re not sure what to do about it. If you express said rage, you might ruin relationships. But also, maybe it’s okay because MAYBE YOU DON’T WANT TO BE FRIENDS WITH PEOPLE WHO CAN’T STAY THE FUCK IN THEIR HOUSES IN A GOD DAMN GLOBAL PANDEMIC ANYWAY!!!!!

Okay listen – I am a rule-follower by nature. I’m also insanely introverted. I can do alone way more than basically anyone I know. I do not suffer from FOMO to the slightest degree. I also have a partner whose company I enjoy 98% of the time, and we are both still employed and working for companies that have given us the ability to work from home. I am wildly fortunate, and I recognize that.

On the other hand… I cannot for the life of me understand why a single person, healthy or not, would just be like, “Welp, if I get it, I get it. I mean, I’ll probably be fine. Statistically speaking.”

Let’s say that’s true. You’ll be fine. But what about all of the unassuming people your reckless dumb ass comes into contact with who are just trying to work their job that we the public have deemed essential, for which they almost definitely do not get paid enough, and I don’t know… NOT DIE. This is why I have had to restrain myself from chucking my phone at the wall for the last 6,7,8 months whenever someone posts online that we shouldn’t judge people for their choices.

FUCK YOU, YOU NO EMPATHY HAVING MONSTERS! I WILL JUDGE YOU FOR YOUR CHOICES WHEN YOUR CHOICES DO NOT EXIST IN A VACCUUM IN THIS PARTICULAR SITUATION!

And furthermore, you do not know that you will be fine, so why would you risk it? Personally, my lungs, brain, and heart are my 3 favorite organs. All of those organs could be permanently damaged by COVID.

It’s the week of Thanksgiving, and judging by how things have escalated the last couple weeks, it bears out that all of the people who couldn’t handle chilling the hell out on Halloween have made an already very bad thing much worse. The hospital down the street from me in Denver is full last I heard, and meanwhile, I know people getting on planes.

I’m tired, too. I used to LOVE our weekly grocery store trip. Now, we go bi-weekly and shop like it’s the actual apocalypse to keep ourselves out of circulation as much as possible. I have not walked out of my apartment door without a mask on my face since May 6, when the Denver mandate was implemented. Every trip out of the house has a damn strategy. I haven’t sat down to eat at a restaurant since March. I. AM. TIRED. I miss the movies, theater, concerts, yoga in a studio, and not having to think about what I’m touching or how close people are standing to me. I have seen 6 friends in person since March, and only 2 of them more than once. My family lives an hour away, and I am not seeing them for Thanksgiving, and maybe not Christmas either. We definitely aren’t traveling to see Harrison’s family for Christmas like we have for the last almost decade. I get it. This sucks. But guess what I’m not sick of – being healthy and not spreading a deadly virus.

So yeah, I’m judging you because I know what other people have given up and continue to give up while you just can’t be bothered.

I am not the person to show your Thanksgiving photos to, and I am NOT the person to complain to about the stresses of holiday traveling. The CDC has given you a giant wide open out.

I think I got a job because of this

I’m starting a new job tomorrow- same company, different job. It’s basically a writing job. I’ll be creating content and copy for my company’s website and social media channels. This is exactly the kind of step I have wanted to take for years, and I’ve tried to find every little extra thing I could do outside of my regular job responsibilities to put on my resume while trying to convince a anyone that would give me an interview that what I don’t know, I will learn quickly. It’s pretty incredible to have someone finally believe you and give you a shot.

The first step in the interview process was a writing test. Part of it was a sample blog that would go on the website and a sample e-mail that would go to prospective clients. The final piece was just to write about the last trip I took, and I think this is what got me the job based on comments I received in interviews.

So…here it is. Approximately 600 words about the last trip I took.

For the last nine years, my partner and I have gone to New York to visit his family for Christmas. When I tell people that my partner grew up about an hour from New York City, and that I have spent Christmas there for so many years, the typical reaction is, “You are so lucky!” It’s true. I am lucky to have a reason to go to the greatest city in the world during the most wonderful time of year.

It probably surprises no one that the most wonderful time of the year is also the most crowded time of the year in New York City. Sometime around my seventh New York Christmas, the novelty had worn off. I was tired of the holiday traveling and the crowded city.

Still, I begrudgingly packed my bags for my ninth New York Christmas last December. This was a bit of a special Christmas for my partner’s family. His sister had recently gotten engaged, and his brother had returned to the United States after spending several years teaching English in Turkey, where he also met a girl and got married. It would be her first Christmas in the states after receiving her Green Card.  

My partner and I always try to sneak away from family to spend a few days in the city, avoiding the areas overrun with tourists if we can. On our first train ride into the city, we had yet to establish any plan for when we arrived at Grand Central Station. Being musical theater fans on a budget, Broadway can be a challenge. We are both skeptics of secondary ticketing services, but we decided to give it a try. Much to our surprise, we found tickets to Moulin Rouge for a steal. Moulin Rouge happens to be one of my favorite movies and was recently turned into a Broadway show. My attitude about our trip shifted immediately. We arrived to the theater just in time after a mad dash through Times Square.

The last night of our trip, we visited a cat café near Chinatown after eating some delicious vegan food and visiting a chemistry inspired tea shop. While we were trying to lure some kittens out of a cave in the wall with a toy, we decided to check the ticket app one more time. Tickets to Hadestown were available for a fraction of what they would normally cost. We were elated. How was it possible that we would see two of most acclaimed shows of the year within just a few days? Again, we weaved through the crowds of mid-town Manhattan and arrived at the theater just in time.

I left New York on an emotional high and with a cold I picked up somewhere along the way. From vegan food to cat cafes to Broadway shows, we made that city uniquely ours for a few days. That’s what makes New York City special.

Broadway went dark just a few months later as New York City became the biggest COVID-19 hotspot in the country. The cat café we visited had to place all of their cats in fosters and began selling cloth face masks to survive. Knowing now how quickly things can change, I treasure that trip. It’s likely we will not be traveling at all this year, New York or otherwise. It will truly be an extraordinary thing when we can get back to the experiences connect us and bring us joy.

When it feels like everything should stop

I was out on a walk when a friend texted me to turn on the news. I opened Facebook and saw that Ruth Bader Ginsburg had died. I stopped, and moved from the sidewalk to the grass and just stood there. I cut my walk short, went home and wept.

As a woman in this country, I am devastated, writing through tears even now. My life has been, in many ways, shaped by the work she did. I can get a bank account or a mortgage without a male co-signer because of her. It is illegal to discriminate against me in employment because of her. It’s also worth noting that she fought for the ability of men to receive tax deductions for being care-takers, which was something previously reserved for women. It was never about man versus woman; it was always about equality.

This loss feels personal for so many. Why now? Why did it have to be now? And the worst part is that we can’t even properly grieve because of what’s at stake and the thing we knew would happen if a Supreme Court seat opened this year. I wish we could just stop for just a minute, but we can’t.

She carried such a weight, and hung on for so long. I am so grateful for her life and her work, and to have existed on this planet at the same time as her.

To say that it feels like we’ve reached a new level of fucked is an understatement. I haven’t felt this way since November 9, 2016. I’m terrified.

Grieve her. Mourn her. Cry. Then get to work. Hell, get to work while you’re crying. Let it fuel you.

Donate. Phone-bank. Text-bank. Tell your Republican Senators what you expect of them (knock-knock Cory Gardner). We have to. We have to for her.

What IS Happening in cities?

My grandparents live in Montrose, Colorado – a smallish town so far west that it may as well be Utah. While they both spent significant portions of their life living in or near the city, they hate coming to Denver or really anywhere near it now.

Too much traffic!

Too many people!

What’s with all the homeless people?

THE CRIME!!!

Their life in Montrose consists of keeping things that are strange or uncomfortable away and preserving a warped sense of safety. There is no clearer signal than the number of times they manage to use the word “property” in a conversation. This guy built something that crossed into their property. That guy drove his tractor onto their property. If the phrase “get off my lawn” was a couple of 70-somethings living in Western Colorado, it would be my grandparents.

Fortunately for me, my dad moved away from his Western Colorado upbringing, and I grew up in the suburbs near Denver. I attended college in Downtown Denver, and in my early 20s, I escaped the strip malls, and chain restaurants, moved into an apartment in the Five Points area of Denver. I wanted to be in the action, I wanted more diversity, and I wanted to be around people who cared to talk about anything other than my prospects for marriage and children.

No offense to suburbs. I love a Chili’s.

With all eyes seemingly on cities right now (or at least the ones with Democrats in charge), a lot of people suddenly have strong opinions about what’s happening to our “crumbling” cities despite the fact that they have not recently or ever set foot in an actual city. I now live in the southwest corner of the Capitol Hill neighborhood in Denver. I am just over 1 mile from Downtown Denver. This neighborhood along with the central business district have been the epicenter of protests, marches, and yes, a really bad and getting worse homelessness problem.

When you live in a city, it’s pretty likely, you live in an apartment, where you are in a shared space as soon as you exit your front door. Above you, below you, and next to you, is the place another person calls home. When you step outside, people are buzzing by you on bikes, or walking their dog, or going for an evening run. You may not know anyone’s name, but you are forced to care about their space and their well-being because it is also your space and your well-being. I’ll admit that in the middle of a pandemic, the unavoidable closeness of other people has felt unsettling, but it’s also somewhat comforting.

Here’s the thing… you can’t remove yourself from the situation in a city. You can’t not see the homeless encampments. You can’t not hear the helicopters flying overhead capturing a standoff between protesters and police. You can’t listen to people saying that your home is going to hell in a handbasket and walk away without defending your community and its citizens. You can’t not care. You can try, and I’m certain there are some people getting by blissfully on apathy.

This all adds up to one thing: Empathy. The closeness of others, the diversity of thought and background, and the exposure to struggle create a collective of conscientious and activated people who desire a world where all are included and lifted up. It’s why our citizens show up to help our unhoused neighbors pack their belongings before an impending sweep and then scream (into what feels like a void) at our leaders for a humane solution. In cities we recognize humanity. “Other” doesn’t exist in a city because we couldn’t keep the unfamiliar away if we wanted to. The way we tend to vote isn’t a coincidence.

Some might argue that Denver is barely a city compared to places like New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles. You wouldn’t be wrong. Denver’s population is less than 1/8th the population of New York. Some might argue that a city hardens you, and to a certain degree, you wouldn’t be wrong about that either. Living in a city requires boundary setting and the ability to be independent. Underneath that is the care a city-dweller must have for their small and densely populated corner of the world.

Denver is far from perfect, but Montrose, Colorado has one of the highest suicide rates in the state. There are theories as to why that may be, isolation and lack of resources being just a few of them. I can look outside and see community right in front of me. It’s not scary for other people to be close (except there’s still a pandemic, so 6ft and wear a mask please and thank you), and what the hell is the comfort of home, or “property” as some may call it, if you’re too afraid to see what’s beyond it?