Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Climbing Rocks.

My fingers are very angry with me tonight. I've subjected them to unusual punishment because something has recently come over me that I can't quite describe. I've discovered rock climbing. I dabbled a little bit in college and then dropped it altogether for about four years. I went to a local climbing gym in October and the next thing I knew, I was buying rock shoes and a membership to Sport Climbing Center.

Climbing gets in your blood and once it's there, you're toast. Every day brings a new challenge, and it's hard. Mental discipline, the fear factor, and strengthening my stick arms have all been part of the package. And in the car on the way to climb, I select the right music and then start mentally going through the problem I'm currently working on. It's weird. And sometimes I don't sleep well because I'm climbing in my head. It's embarrassing... sort of.

The best part of all is that it's a sport surrounded by comrades. You have no enemies, only friends. I came in knowing nothing and looking like a fool. Now I know a lot more and have a dozen personal coaches who, once upon a time, started exactly where I started. And what's not to love about a place that pushes you forward while supporting and encouraging the whole way? Worth its weight in gold.

Gym chalk, sore fingers and toes, and the downtown Mountain Chalet have all become familiar over the last two months. And I happen to live in The Wild Colorado, home to some of the best climbing in the country. It's going to be a fun year.

Insane, Chris Sharma. Insane.

Almost more remarkable than the climbing is the life application, particularly to my Christianity. The most obvious would be the rock itself. Need I say more? All throughout Scripture, God is compared to a rock, a refuge, a fortress. He is solid, sure, and steady, able to support all my weight. When I approach the rock correctly and move the way I've been taught, I can finish the climb. Also, you climb the level at which you are able to climb. Beginning climbers generally can't complete or even start advanced climbs. But they can watch advanced climbers and learn by observation and by working on the climbs that are, to them, challenging but manageable. In the same way, we will never be asked to face something in life for which we are not capable of handling. And of course, there's the comradery. No one can do this alone. On a difficult climb, you need a spotter. On a first climb, you often need someone who's climbed it before to tell you how to do it and watch you as you go. It's the best way to improve.

And the last application to life: you can't always explain why. Someone asked me if I get bored climbing. I didn't know how to answer. Someone asked me what I like about climbing. I fumbled my way through an explanation. You can't force someone to get it, or to like it, but you know with everything in you that it's something you can't get enough of.

I confess, climbing has cut into my writing time. Seriously. I love both, so we're just going to have to work something out here.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

An Island Debrief

From my front door in Colorado Springs, travel 3,281 miles SouthWest and you'll land on Maui, a strange and wonderful land of tropical birds, fish, and all things green. Last Christmas my parents announced that this year's Christmas gift was a family trip to Maui, so I packed my little duffel bag and climbed aboard the tiny regional jet for the first leg to Los Angeles International Airport. I've never seen people so happy to be on a crowded jumbo jet as they boarded our full flight from L.A. to Kahului. I'd like to thank Zac Efron for our mid-flight entertainment. And the friendly travelers who gave a loud cheer when we hit the runway.

The moment you step off the plane, you can feel the balmy air and see your hair start to curl. Instead of walking, people meander (including the locals). We drove half an hour to our hotel and hit the beach. This is my third trip to Maui, and the clear, warm water astounds me every time. It is, in a word, perfect.

Remember those goals I mentioned? I did my best to meet them all, except the Hawaiian history part. Once I got there, I lost all motivation and instead found myself studying present-day Hawaii via people-watching.

My older brother, Matthew, is a snorkeling fiend and because he was so enthralled I decided to see what all the fuss was about. Last time I snorkeled, I freaked. All I could focus on was breathing through my mouth. I generally prefer my nose. And then there are fish -- schools of them -- that could attack at any moment. This time, I pushed through the awkwardness and now I could do the mouth breathe in my sleep...and I probably do. And as for the fish, they're rather friendly. One little striped guy followed me around like he was my tour guide and I saw creatures that looked more like baseball bats than animals. The reef was lime green, soft pink, and all sorts of shades in between, and the light reflecting through the water fancies everything up. With all the colors, creatures, shapes and light, it feels other-worldly and for a brief moment I lived in it.

Hawaiian food is fresh and tasty. Banana-Mac Nut French Toast, Macadamia-Encrusted Mahi Mahi, and Fish Tacos were some favorites. The food situation is as you would imagine, relaxed. Servers are in no hurry to get you out. On the contrary, many became friends. At the Kihei Caffe, owner Bunny Allison sat down at the patio tables with some of her guests and visited with us for most of our meal. She told us a couple jokes, about some miracles in her family, how she loves this cafe, and prayed for my brother and sister-in-law's new marriage. Braddah Hutts is on the other side of the island in Hana, and it's planted in the owner's front yard under a white tent. Three long folding tables, a few coolers, a grill and a homemade sign put them in business. And they're hoppin'.

The Road to Hana in an electric blue Mustang convertible was perhaps the most memorable of all. Hairpin turns, waterfalls, tunnels of trees, and cliffs plunging into the sea were all part of the 48 mile drive. We stopped often because you can hardly help yourself. It's so beautiful. Don't tell anyone that I told you, but when you go, look for Nahiku Road. It's a small, secret turn off that will take you down to the ocean, right to the place where the waters crash together from all directions. Black lava rock shoots out of the crystal, foaming water, in just the right place so the waves hit the rock and spray high in the air. That was the only place I really never wanted to leave.

It was all so wonderfully relaxing, and now it's time to come back and join everyday life again. Hello, mountains.
A joyful reunion {one of those "in the moment" photos I was hoping for}

Kihei Caffe

Bunny Allison, owner of Kihei Caffe

Makena Bay
View from the front door of our room
View from the balcony of our room

beach time

Scrumptious Banana-Macadamia nut French Toast

Pure beauty

Braddah Hutts menu: whiteboard and paper plates

Tunnel of trees

Clear water

Beach hats.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Away to Paradise We Go

Try as I might, I can think of nothing else to write about than Maui. That's right -- that island paradise with perfect blue water and soft, sandy beaches. It's on my mind because I've just finished packing my bags and will be on a plane to Maui first thing tomorrow morning. My family is celebrating Christmas early and hoping to be there in between the holiday crowds.

The timing is perfect. Do you ever put thoughts "on hold" if you know you're going away soon and can process everything then? That's what I've done, and I have a large backlog of thoughts to sort through, and some killer books to read. Hopefully this will mean some good writing for me.

Some goals for the trip:

- Take good photos in the moment. Why good? Because mine generally aren't, and I'd like to get better. Why in the moment? Because those are often the best kind, and they're much more engaging to look at later than single file smiles.

- Take good video footage. Same reasons as above.

- Make an island friend or two. I've been to Maui twice before and have not made a local friend yet. That's a problem. One of the best parts of traveling is meeting locals and hearing their stories. And they usually tell you some insider secrets that guidebooks don't share.

- Run on the beach. A lot.

- Learn a little bit more about Hawaii's history.

- Get over my fear of snorkeling. Perhaps the fear is more the "nothing in-between" me and the strange sea creatures. It gives me the heebie-jeebies.

- Kayak in the sea.

- Write all these adventures down!

Come back in a week or so and I'll be posting about the trip. If I'm lucky, I'll get to blog some while I'm there, but I make no guarantees. Until then, take good care of the mainland!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Think about it.

A design podcast I recently discovered has been keeping my mind occupied at work. The episode I listened to yesterday was an interview with Milton Glaser, the designer of the famous NY graphic. The discussion was about ethics, a topic I wasn't expecting for a design show. Glaser's passion for ethical design challenged many of the ideas I've adopted just because they're popular, not because I've actually thought through them and formed a conviction.

One of his life convictions is to avoid promoting or participating in things that harm a human being in any way. I think most of us would agree that this is good and right. And then he got practical. As a designer, he must decide what sorts of jobs he's willing to accept and which he's not. Can he in good conscience design a campaign to market a food product to children that is high in sugar and low in nutrients? Can he design for a dieting method he knows won't work? What about companies that in some way use child labor? Can he design ads for cigarettes, knowing the product does only harm to its consumers?

He asked a group of design students if they would work with a company that used child labor, and of course they immediately said no. He then asked if they would design a campaign for cigarettes, and many of them said they would. He presented the question another way: what if that child has no other way to make money, so although he makes a brutally unfair wage, is it better for him that he have no work, or work at little income? And then there's this unfriendly fact: according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, tobacco is the leading preventable cause of disease, disability and death in the United States. It takes an estimated 400,000 American lives every year. That's tangible evidence. Why would we more readily support something that directly caused someone's death?

Milton Glaser believes it's the popularity factor. His point was that we like to appear to have compassion. We like to be trendy and appear to care about today's moral, ethical issues. But when you find someone who would refuse to design something for a company who uses child labor but would willingly design graphics to sell a product that would directly cause someone's death, a thinking person must realize that these don't match up. So then, how many of our so-called convictions are for appearance's sake? Do they really hold up when we stand back and look at them with a thoughtful, objective eye?

Social justice is a huge trend for young people, and I think this is an important thing to ask ourselves. Why do we want to be involved in social justice? Do we truly care about people? If I support a child who lives in Swaziland but don't think to give food to my neighbor who can't pay his bills this month, do I really care about people? Or do I just like having Swazi girl's picture on my refrigerator and patting myself on the back when I see it?

This has challenged me to look for pretense in my convictions and to replace it with substance. To be aware of what's really happening and not take pop culture's word for it. Glaser has written 12 Steps on the Road to Hell for Graphic Designers, and they're presented well in this video. Most of us aren't graphic designers, but all of us are faced with decisions that could help or harm someone else, so what are we all about, really? Think about it.

Monday, November 22, 2010

I'm in Love

Something has come over me and I can't stop it. Colorado -- everything about it -- is suddenly irresistible. It's a place where the adventurous soul can find a home. I suppose life itself could be exhilarating anywhere if you're the "bloom where you're planted" type, but simply seeing, smelling, tasting, hearing, and touching Colorado is an experience unlike anywhere else I've been.

Two years ago, fresh out of Los Angeles, I considered myself a city girl and felt so out of place among the primitive mountain folk. I owned a lightweight J. Crew jacket, a few breezy tees and some heels. The most "Colorado" thing I owned was my pair of running shoes. Of course I still enjoy cultural things, of which Colorado happens to have plenty, but now, nine times out of ten, I'd rather climb rocks than go to a fancy dinner. Snow season is here and I'm excited beyond my wits to learn how to ski and/or snowboard. I'm even wearing my snow hat (with a puff on top) as I type this.

Colorado has been described to me as a state full of independent, individualist people who can never relax and just "be." First, please define 'relax', and second, there's something missing in that statement. We are a state full of independent, individualist people who like to do almost everything with other independent, individualist people. The active mountain lifestyle builds a community around the activities themselves, and that's what unites us. In L.A., you had to have the friends before you could do the stuff. Here, you do the stuff to find the friends, which then leads to doing more stuff...together. Voila.

And more than that, this is the place I am most often reminded of the beauty and intelligence of my Creator. Every single day when I open my front door and step outside, I'm astonished by what I see. It's unfathomable that the One who created such a magnificent place knows my name, let alone puts air in my lungs and gave His life so that I could live.

"The mountains melt like wax before the Lord, before the Lord of all the earth. The heavens proclaim his righteousness, and all the peoples see His glory." psalm 97

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Bad Wheel

To write often and to write well, one must be disciplined. Hence, the last post was over ten days ago. I've not been a disciplined writer lately. I've been a rockclimber instead. There are plenty of stories I could write about from the last two weeks, but whether or not I should -- for all the world to see -- is the question. 

The truth is, the only writing worth reading is honest writing, and I haven't wanted to be raw and honest for the last little while. It's hard, dadgummit. That's a writer's job: to think about life, describe it in honest detail and try to make some sense of it all. 

There are times that life seems more like an assembly line of perfectly synced parts and demands little reflection. Other times, one or two parts jump off their track or tucker out and require some attention, and sometimes the whole machine smokes, screeches, and shuts down for repair. Time to reboot. 

You know the grocery cart with one bad wheel? That's life right now. But you know, it's times like these that really make you stop and ask yourself important questions. What am I doing?  Why? I'm learning that quality relationships take a lot of maintenance. I'm learning that every interaction I have with someone sets the tone for our friendship. Every single interaction -- every word, every look, every action. I've felt a heavy weight of responsibility over this, because I'm aware of times I took this responsibility far too lightly and it will take hard work to recover. 

I also don't recall ever being more aware of the reality that the only reason we love anything at all is because God first loved. The capacity to love comes from Him. That's why relationships matter. Were it not for God and the love, forgiveness, grace and mercy we have so abundantly in Him, I don't know where the motivation to work through difficulty would come from. He is a refuge in time of weakness. His joy is our strength. 

He is my only hope, my anchor, and when we're weary, that's cause for rejoicing.

In other news, I've decided to allow comments again. I removed all comments because I read somewhere that you should hide comments until you have several hundred readers a day (because no one wants to read a blog that no one else thinks is worth commenting on). Oh my. My hair will be gray by then. Life is too short for that! It's no fun to write when friends can't comment. I don't write for the hundreds, I write for you and me. So feel free to comment, and feel free not to. But at least you have the choice. 

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

First Local Pick: Word on the Street

Alright, if I'm tired of writing "First Local Pick," you're certainly tired of reading it. Especially if you're not a local. This is my last post for the locals, but it's the post that keeps on giving. It's about a website (and no, that's not cheating). Colorado Springs folk: if you haven't perused, you must. It's the best source for everything cultural in town. Who knew Colorado Springs had a First Friday Art Walk? Peak Radar did. It will tell you when the Harlem Globetrotters will be in town, where to see the best local musicians, and has a good collection of free events.

If you're new to the "exploring your hometown" idea, peakradar is a great place to start. To bargain hunt your way around town, sign up for daily discounts at sites like livingsocial, groupon, and Gazette Deal of the Day.

Wherever you are, start exploring. If you think your town is boring and mediocre, I challenge you to make it different. We all contribute to the culture we live in, so find something to enjoy and enjoy it. If you're convinced there's nothing to enjoy, then plant a flower outside your front door and call it a day. The End.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

First Local Pick: Treasure Hunting

Just about everybody I know likes a house that feels like a home. That's a no-brainer. For me, this happens when a house feels lived in, tastefully nonchalant and layered with items that tell stories. Achieving this sometimes takes a lot of talent, a lot of time and a keen eye or two. Not you? I feel your pain. I tense up at the thought of sifting, shopping and hoping I'll stumble across the right thing. 

Thrifting made a brief appearance on the blog this summer, and even with the tips I've received on doing it well, I'm still hesitant to try. Something about digging through a lot of junk to find that one good -- or sort of good -- thing doesn't sound like the best way to spend a Saturday. And then I stumbled upon the Treasure Shoppe on the downtown corner of E. Pikes Peak and Wahsatch. This is 18,000 square feet of pre-sifted treasures. The Treasure Shoppe rents space to 140 vendors, or mini shoppes, and almost has the feel of an organized, upscale flea market. 

All kinds of styles are represented, so if you're looking for the perfect tea cozy to brighten up your Victorian-themed sunroom, you can probably find it there. If you want an original statement ring or necklace, there's plenty to go around. I've found a great retro chair and paired it with a delicate desk and stool, making my bedroom decoration almost complete. The shoppe is full of new, old, vintage and repurposed handbags, glassware, jewelry, artwork, furniture, and other weird, one-of-a-kind things. 

If you're scared of thrift or antique stores, don't knock this one until you try it. It can be overwhelming, but you'll quickly realize whose shoppes suit your tastes and whose don't. I'd be surprised if even the biggest skeptic left empty-handed, given their variety and knockout bargains. And if you need help finding something specific, the employees love working there and know the merchandise and the vendors well, and give excellent recommendations. 

I'd like to thank the Treasure Shoppe for making it possible to find charming things at great prices and be able to walk out the door in a good mood. It's now my top pick for both rookie and veteran thrifters.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


A letter arrived here from Denver, addressed to the previous owner of this house. There was no return address, but the envelope was thin and we could see through to the paper inside. It said three words:

It's your time.

I don't know whether to scream, cry, laugh, or run. 

First Local Pick: Java

Planet Coffee
The place to see and be seen for young, middle-class white American trendies is apparently the coffee shop. Hey, it could be worse. Any coffee shop will do, but it's better if you know the best places to perch. I confess, this post is included in the mix because I thought a coffee shop had to be included in a "local's best of" series, not because there is a particular knockout shop in town. There are several good coffee shops, but I have yet to find the spot I can't wait to get back to. That said, I decided to include my top three.

Most likely place to have a conversation about the triumph and dangers of Arminianism: Agia Sophia. Operated by the Greek Orthodox Church and located in the historic building which used to be Colorado City's city hall, this is definitely the place to come when you want to study or read. For one thing, you're surrounded by books and often listening to Gregorian chant. For another, you get subtle {but dirty} looks from the other patrons if you blab too loudly. They have the best chai latte in town and the most comfortable atmosphere.

Most likely place to spot a hipster: Jives. This place has the potential to be head and shoulders above other coffee shops in town, but it's only a few months old and is still settling into its niche. With wingback chairs, checker boards and a warm warehouse-y vibe, it has an attractive quality about it resembling that certain "pulse" that made us adore coffee shops in the first place. Jives will become the go-to place to hear live music several nights a week, and to grace Colorado Springs with your own masterpieces on Open Mic Night. It also has a killer location, right in the heart of Old Colorado City, just off Bancroft Park. I'm excited about this one.

Most likely place to feel a tad more sophisticated: Poor Richard's, or Rico's, as the locals call it. It's technically named Rico's Coffee, Chocolate and Wine Bar at Poor Richard's. Why so complicated? Because Poor Richard started four different businesses -- a bookstore, a restaurant, a toy store, and a coffee/wine bar -- all next door to each other. And now he's Rich Richard. Your drink is ordered from an actual menu, and you might as well try one of their fine chocolates to enjoy while you sip. If you don't feel like sitting at the bar, reveling in the brick wall and dark wood, or browsing the bookstore for a used treasure, you can stroll downtown on Tejon Street and do a bit of window shopping with your hot cuppa' somethin' in hand.

So there you have it: my top picks for studying, jamming, and feeling cultured. I tend to judge a coffee shop's greatness based on whether or not I would travel from another town to go there. Denver has some places that meet this criteria, but I'm afraid Colorado Springs still has some growing to do. We're making great strides, and I have a lot of faith. These three are all worth a shot, and I'd love to hear your impressions!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

First Local Pick: Threads

Ladies, let's get one thing straight. We like to have fun. We also like the freedom to be original and stylish at the same time. And to eat the occasional piece of chocolate. My favorite local clothing boutique covers all the bases. Eve's Revolution not only has a fantastic staff who remember your name and your friends' names, but they are walking advertisements -- the kind that make you want to buy what they sell and listen to their style opinions. I'm not quite to the point where I'd say I feel like family, but I do feel like the girl next door.

Taste is a critical element when it comes to boutiques, and Eve, the shop owner, has winning taste and incorporates styles from current trendsetters. She regularly goes to market in Los Angeles and comes home with well-chosen new pieces that are put on the floor with high-quality consignment items. If you prefer subtle or bold, trendy or timeless, shoes or bags, coats or dresses, jewels or jeans, it's all there. And if it's not there this time, visit again soon.

Coming here from L.A., I was expecting sky-high prices. Everything in the store is fairly priced, and if you time it right, you'll find deals worth shouting from the rooftops.

Pampering her customers is a priority. She throws parties several times throughout the year and even hires a local catering company to bring food into the shop for the day. These days are always fun, a great way to meet other locals and see what's new for the season. Her next event, Rendezvous on the Avenue, is this Saturday from 10-6. Be prepared for a packed house, because word has traveled and people want the Revolution. Keep up to speed on events on their facebook page, or sign up to be on their email list.

One of the most attractive things about this shop is that it is constantly promoting other local businesses, even those similar to their own. It's all in the spirit of celebrating what local businesses collectively bring to a community, and because they believe in that, they promote others who work to give Colorado Springs a unique flavor.

The shop is a delicate old house with industrial flair on the inside thanks to Eve's husband, an industrial engineer extraordinaire. It's worth a poke, and while you're there, congratulate Eve on ten successful years in business!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

First Local Pick: Eats

How would you like your favorite breakfast, lunch, and dinner spot to be the very same place? Yes? Then pack your bags and head!!... as long as the final destination is Adam's Mountain Cafe in Manitou Springs.

Adam, you've done it. You've single-handedly created the best food and ambience for all three meals and everything in between, right there in your little mountain cafe. Okay, so it wasn't Adam. It was Greg Adams who started this beautiful thing in 1984, the very year before I entered this great, wide world. The restaurant has moved around but is now planted {hopefully forevermore} in the historic Spa Building.

Adam's Mountain Cafe maintains the highest standards for every dish. As part of the Slow Food movement, you can count on a leisurely meal, local, original food with outstanding taste, and service that assumes you want to linger. These people take their restaurant seriously, and have even included the Slow Food International Manifesto on their homepage. They want you to eat like snails crawl. Sllloow. Savoring every bite.

My favorite meal there is the Fresh Pear and Pecan Salad, topped with a heaping portion of the best Colorado goat cheese to be found. To drink, a cold glass of fresh lemonade. On a summer evening, I prefer to eat on the patio next to the creek and watch the mountain shadows creep their way down Manitou Avenue. When it's too cold for the patio, the dining room vibe is just right. I wouldn't change a thing about it. Antique, mismatched chairs, high ceilings and Persian rugs all add to the style, and if you're there on a Tuesday or Thursday evening, you'll enjoy a tasteful serenade by local musicians.

The restaurant is in the heart of downtown Manitou, so a post-meal walk is always an interesting one. I often connect with my inner child at the Penny Arcade next door (yes! a good laugh for only a penny!), but there are art galleries, clothing and jewelry boutiques, shops just for chocolate, ice cream and coffee all along the Avenue. And did I mention that Manitou is at the base of a mountain? I don't know what more a person could want, really. Adam's is a great blend of city and mountain, so if you like both, you'll love it here.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

First Local Pick: Home Sweet Home

The first spot that makes a place feel like home is... well... home. So that's my first "locals" topic. I've moved again. Yep. This one's on the West side -- the best side -- and is perfectly quaint. I walk and bike places now, enjoy a peaceful pace, and catch myself gawking at the mountains when I should be driving to work.

I climb the creaky wooden stairs and open the front door, which is itself a black, geometric delight. The inside is light and airy with dark wood beams across the ceiling. My favorite part of the house is actually the outside: the porch and the tiny balcony. Both look out over the valley, covered in overgrown trees and speckled with old houses and slow cars. It's the valley of the eternal lazy afternoon. Beyond the valley is the ever-changing Pikes Peak, Garden of the Gods and Red Rocks Open Space. I can see it all from our little spot, and somehow never tire of looking at it.

It has become my writing nook and reading corner, and is just right for a cup of hot tea (tea kettle coming soon in the mail!). It's my new secret place. I know that's cheating because it's my house, but it's still my secret place. I'd tell you where it is and invite you for tea once my kettle arrives, but then it wouldn't be a secret.

The reason these four little walls made it onto this blog as a favorite local pick is that I feel alive and free here. Even though most people in my neighborhood are of the vintage stock, that means it's anything but "keeping up with the Joneses." It's a place you can simply be and appreciate what's around you for what it is, young or old, stylish or not. Personality abounds, and I breathe a deep sigh of relief when I arrive at this place and call it home.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Can Everywhere Be Home?

For a country as individualist as America, we sure do labor and strive for "sameness." I've written about suburban housing, but here I want to ask questions about what we're giving up to support suburban businesses.

Over lunch a couple weeks ago, several friends announced that a favorite restaurant from back home was opening soon in Colorado. Their excitement was contagious, but as they described their favorite meals, I realized that this restaurant would no longer be associated only with home. Every time they eat there, it will be less a reminder of another place and more a part of their life here in Colorado.

I crave a piece of coconut cake from Aroma Cafe and fondly remember the originality and class at Gjelina, but I don't wish those places were also in Colorado Springs. They are some of the things I anticipate in a visit to California. They are some of the things that make the California experience what it is. If I could get the same things here, California wouldn't seem so special, and neither would those places.

Think of your favorite place to be and then think of all the reasons why. It's most likely your favorite place because it doesn't stir a single emotion in you and inspires you to do absolutely nothing. No?

When consistency and convenience are at the top of the list, the chain idea is a good one. When an unusual, memorable experience is at the top, chains are a bad idea. The second tends to be at the top of my list more frequently than the first. I'm not suggesting doing business only at local places, but when given the choice, wouldn't you rather have the experience over the convenience?

And I have to say, I've made friends at all my favorite local places. I have yet to make a friend at a chain store or restaurant. I don't snarl at chain employees (although maybe I should), but their employers have a different feel and purpose: Get 'em in, get 'em out, don't care who ya are, just don't hold up the line. I've never walked into Wal-Mart and been delighted to do so. Some people must prefer this method because big box stores keep showing up.

Chains have a way of sucking culture right out of a perfectly decent town. I don't want to get off the plane in Kalamazoo and wonder if I accidentally flew to Salem. People go bananas in a place that is void of expression. It's what we were made for.

For all you Colorado Springs dwellers, my next few posts will highlight some of my favorite spots around town, and maybe give the out-of-towners some motivation to visit!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Good Friends: A Cereal Review

Cereal is that wondrous 24-hour food. There's never a bad time to pour yourself a bowl. Feeling especially adventurous and nutritious last time I went cereal shopping, I picked up my first-ever box of Kashi's Good Friends. This "Toasted Trio of Flakes, Twigs & Granola Cereal" was my kind of cereal... or so I thought.

After a few bites, I asked myself if I was eating fiber twigs or a spoonful of nails. Certainly doesn't fall into the category of "comfort food". I decided to let it soak, but to no avail. If soggy cereal is your worst nightmare, Good Friends is the one for you.

I don't know what kind of friends the namer of this cereal has, but if by Good Friends he means Two-Faced Back-Stabbers, I could do business with him. This doesn't remind me of good friends or even good times. It doesn't make me want to invite my good friends over for a bowl. The only thing it makes me want to do is count down the days until the box is empty. I'm happy to announce I have maybe a bowl or two left, and then I'm going to spend the weekend with my real friends.

If healthy cereal is your thing, always go with Kashi, but leave your Good Friends on the shelf. :)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Hearty Analogy

The other day, my friend Amanda the Sassy created an analogy, effortlessly, on the spot, that was so good I’m still thinking about it. In a conversation about dating, which...never...happens, she said something like this: “I’m in a place I don’t think I’ve been before. I think about dating like this --- a man is the hot tea after an entirely satisfying meal. Hot tea is delightful; not necessary for survival. The food, the nutrition, I need that.” 
Hot tea. Brilliant. 
When you’ve already eaten a hearty dinner, the tea is even more enjoyable. Its calming, settling effect are felt more dramatically on a full belly. If you neglected dinner and went straight for the tea, you’d be ravenous and malnourished, and the tea would help with neither. Tea would only make you realize that it’s not food. And all you need is food. 
So what if we all ate food before we drank tea? Psycho girlfriends (I’ve had my weeks) would face extinction. Boyfriend wouldn’t fuel the fire for said girlfriend’s derangement. The gumption to end a bad romance would be there. The gumption to start and keep a good one would be there. A healthy soul makes a healthy romantic. 
I’ve been telling Amanda for weeks that her life calling is to write children’s books. Who doesn’t agree with me after reading this genius analogy? 
Jesus is the hearty dinner. Romance is the tea. Chew on that. 

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Calvary's Anthem

The Valley of Vision may seem old, outdated; shoot -- it may even seem like Greek to you. But the folks whose prayers are recorded there had serious insight. They could speak in language that expressed the real Christian experience with honesty and accuracy. Oh, and they make me think things I've never thought before. Although my mind is full of things I could write, this particular prayer struck me this week and I hope you find value in it:

Heavenly Father,

Thou hast led me singing to the cross
where I fling down all my burdens
and see them vanish,
where my mountains of guilt are levelled
to a plain,
where my sins disappear, though they are
the greatest that exist,
and are more in number than the grains
of fine sand;

For there is power in the blood of Calvary
to destroy sins more than can be counted
even by one from the choir of heaven.
Thou hast given me a hill-side spring
that washes clear and white,
and I go as a sinner to its waters,
bathing without hindrance
in its crystal streams.

At the cross there is free forgiveness
for poor and meek ones,
and ample blessings that last forever;
The blood of the Lamb is like a great river
of infinite grace
with never any diminishing of its fullness
as thirsty ones without number drink of it.

O Lord, forever will thy free forgiveness live
that was gained on the mount of blood;
In the midst of a world of pain
it is a subject for praise in every place,
a song on earth, an anthem in heaven,
its love and virtue knowing no end.
I have a longing for the world above
where multitudes sing the great song,
for my soul was never created to love
the dust of earth.

Though here my spiritual state is frail and poor,
I shall go on singing Calvary's anthem.
May I always know
that a clean heart full of goodness
is more beautiful than the lily,
that only a clean heart can sing by night
and by day,
that such a heart is mine when I abide
at Calvary.

Does this not make you want to sing at the top of your lungs? To jump into that stream, dunk your head under and guzzle?? To stay always at the cross of Jesus? Even if the world crumbled around you, somehow everything would still be at peace, everything would still be okay, if settled at Calvary. I need more of this. The best part of all is that there's a lot of room at the foot of that cross. So hog all the space you want. Revel in it, get to know your neighbors. There's room for you, and you, and you. And you.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Encounters in the Wild

{What you are about to read is true in its entirety, and most information was scored in an exclusive interview with the prey.} 

My sister Emily bikes to work in the summertime. It's a lovely ride that winds through overgrown vines and trees and weaves between tall red rock towers to reach her destination: an 1800's castle. One particular day, Emily was crossing the bridge to reach the castle and noticed a legion of turkeys across the lawn. She looked again, and one crazy turk had bolted from the group and was running straight at her. Instinctively, she pedaled those little legs like lightning, out-sped the turkey and made it to work in one piece. 

The next day, Emily was biking to work and crossed the bridge to reach the castle. She noticed a legion of turkeys across the lawn, and looking again, the same crazy turk bolted from the group and ran straight for her, only this time it bolted sooner and ran faster. Emily jumped off her bike to use it as a shield and a weapon, and once the turkey was sufficiently frustrated it left her alone... and late for work.

The next time Emily was biking to work and crossing the bridge to reach the castle, she expected a legion of turkeys across the lawn, but instead, she saw something much bigger: a bear. Knowing her bike simply wouldn't be enough to protect her, she darted into the nearby carriage house and slipped into an open door. When she turned to close the door, the bear had followed and was just outside. After slamming the door in its face, she watched through the window and after several minutes it wandered into the woods. The coast was clear -- or so she thought -- so she got up to leave. As she rounded the corner to the carriage house, another bear was poking its head around the corner... and it might have been drooling a little bit. She left her bike for later and scooted herself up the back stairs to the kitchen, out of breath, panicked, and ready to find another form of transportation. 

Who knew animals conspired?

I've had my own share of wild encounters since moving a few weeks ago. When I leave home in the mornings, a little gray rabbit is waiting by my car door at least twice a week. I only started to think it was weird when I found gray rabbits waiting by my car at other places around town. Oh, and did I ever mention this guy was on my balcony not too long ago? 

Thursday, September 16, 2010

On Behalf of the Women

Dear Women's Fashion Designers, 

I have a few bones to pick with you. Your job is to design clothes that flatter and beautify a woman, no? Then why, when shopping for a dress this summer, did I have to wonder whether the bottom half of almost every dress I tried on was sold separately? You know very well that thighs are something most of us try to conceal...or should try to conceal. 

Also, which one of you decided that a bra should no longer be an undergarment, but an accessory? And who seconded that motion? I suggest we scratch that one and start over please. After all, we follow your lead...and you know that most of us will believe that what you tell us is beautiful really is beautiful. 

I've always wondered why all clothes are made in all sizes. Wouldn't it be better art if certain styles were designed for and restricted to those it looked best on? 

And for the good of all mankind, please start encouraging the ladies toward a bit more mystery and intrigue. This promotes self-respect, which promotes healthier relationships, which promotes happier lives, which results in less self-focus and a more joyful world. And wouldn't you agree, if you were honest, that true, lasting attraction develops from admiration and respect for the person, not the figure? Help a sister out.


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Running for Freedom

Today’s downtown run led to some interesting thoughts. Running brings me joy and I hardly feel more alive inside than when I run. It is freedom. Think about the things people run for: People run for their lives, in war, from home, to safety. People run for help. We run to warn people of coming danger. We run to escape. We run to the arms of our beloved. We run for sport, to push ourselves, to do what we thought impossible, to conquer goals. We run angry, we run scared, we run ecstatic. 
All of these reasons, in one way or another, lead to freedom. We either run so that we can be free or we run because we are free. 
Back in the good ol’ days when I took running seriously, I would recite 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 in my head right before a race. It pumped me up better than techno. “Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”
At a glance, discipline appears to be the opposite of freedom. A closer look reveals that lack of self-control and being disqualified from the prize is bondage, meaning that discipline and its fruit lead to freedom. If we focus our running, decide we’re running for Christ, and go at it with all our might, we will know never-ending freedom when we see his face. 
Proverbs 19:16 says, “Whoever keeps the commandment keeps his life; he who despises his ways will die.” We will all continue running, but those who run to obtain the prize will run for freedom, and they will receive it. 


I found this poem I wrote in college on an especially feisty day and thought I'd share.


I know you know I’m here, 
But me you will ignore.
Tomorrow you’ll be clear:
It’s me you just adore.
You take your time and say,
“I’m not quite sure. Please wait.
 I must take time to pray.”
I’ll find another date. 
You want to hold my hand
and hear that I’ll be there. 
It’s this I cannot stand.
I’ll go pull out my hair. 
And then I look at him, 
So beautiful and kind.
This game is far too grim.
He’s in a different line.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Moving to Colorado from Los Angeles and making necessary life changes meant that concerts are now a privilege, not a right. The one I've been to was last night, and it was better than all the shows before it... combined. Yes. Little Jonny and I got each other the same birthday present: tickets to a Ray LaMontagne concert at Red Rocks Amphitheatre.

You couldn't possibly change one thing about last night to make it better. Warm air, clear sky, seats high enough to see the city of Denver, towering red rocks on either side of us, and a shirtless gentleman two rows down with a centaur tattooed across his entire back {who's lucky he decided to stop dancing after the first song...}. Oh, and I was with little brother Jonny, one of my favorite people on the planet. 

Ray LaMontagne has been one of my favorite musicians for about two years, and I felt it was risky business to see him in concert. You know when someone sounds so much better on the album than in real life, and you consider deleting all their music and hanging your head in shame when you return home? On the contrary, I wanted to bottle up his voice and wear it on a string. 

Apparently a simple man, he worked in a shoe factory before making us weak in the knees with his voice and lyrics. His simple stage presence made him all the more appealing, and his music spoke for itself. He doesn't force emotions on his audience. Instead, he can summarize bits of life in a song and leave you speechless and dumbfounded without hardly trying. I think if you asked him why he sings, his answer would never be "to entertain the people." His music is soul music -- his songs mean something to you. 

When he opened his mouth to sing, I stopped everything. I realized I forgot the defibrillator only after my heart stopped beating -- or maybe it flipped inside out. Either way, I wanted to explode. He possessed a refreshing humility like I've never seen before on stage. The whole thing was, in a word, unforgettable.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

I Dream of Grocery

I decided to write about something weird today, and that idea was confirmed as brilliant when I walked into the coffee shop just now. A musical group was seated inside the front door, playing instruments I have never seen. It was either Renaissance or Riverdance music. I'm not familiar with either to distinguish them, but all I know is I wanted to jig. I wanted to jig bad, and this is exactly the kind of place that I could start a jig and perhaps be joined by everyone else in line and it would be totally normal...but weird. Anyway, it got me in the perfect mood to write about my weird dream.

This dream was inspired by the name of a local grocery store. Some grocery stores have names that actually reveal what's inside: Food4Less, Whole Foods, and Farm Fresh. Others are just plain funny: HE Butt Grocery. Others leave you guessing: Jitney Jungle, Piggly-Wiggly, and the main character in my dream -- King Soopers.

King Soopers. What? It's a household name in Colorado. It's our local grocery store, founded by Lloyd King in 1947. I've shopped at King Soopers for years and think it's great. So great that I dreamed about it and will never forget it.

In my dream, I had just been hired by King Soopers and arrived for my first day of training, only to find all the employees dressed in Kung Fu fighting clothes. Startled, I stood off to the side until I realized why. Kung Fu was the newest effective method of cutting down on shoplifting and taking care of those unruly customers. I slipped into my fighting clothes and instead of learning the cash register, I learned Kung Fu. The result of all this? King Soopers was forever known as Kung Foopers.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


Think of this post as With Love, Jen: Part II. I scanned pages of her letter and put them here with her permission, both so you could see why I was so delighted and so you can add some of the best advice around to your thrifting repertoire. When Jen and I were together in Washington, I asked her how to successfully shop thrift stores. I want to learn this skill. Extraordinary items can be found there when one has the eye for it. Jen has the eye, and I asked her to tell me all she knew. I apologize that some of it is hard to read because of the scan quality, but I hope you enjoy her response as much as I do.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Talk to the Hand

Remember when "talk to the hand, not to the face" was the ultimate insult? It appears that everyone took that to heart. I've found myself recently wanting to say "talk to the face, not to the hand!" It might be a few more years before we fully realize the effects of texting- and facebook-only relationships. We are more adept at expressing ourselves electronically than we are in person!

Does this alarm anyone else? I catch myself doing this. Awkward topics occasionally come up over video chat, and instead of responding verbally, I'll type it out! I never do this in person. I've never pulled out a piece of paper and written out what I was going to say because I couldn't explain it. That's absurd. Why is this normal as soon as a gadget is involved? I've met teenagers whose entire dating relationship was texted. They got together, they talked, and they broke up all via text.

Privacy, the 21st century's most endangered word, is thrown out the window with texting. It's no longer acceptable to respond when you want to. You are expected to respond to a text pronto, and there could be relational consequences if you don't. The next generation of phones will probably be waterproof so we can text in the shower, thus avoiding a friendship demise because of 15 minutes of silence.  

I don't mean to sound anti-text. I'm all for it. I'm reluctantly learning to be more conversational and not so mission-accomplished. Texting is especially handy when I have a couple minutes of downtime in public and want to look important and popular... er... um... you get the idea. And thus ends my "technology may not always be the only solution" rant. The End. 

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Lone Ranger

I'm housesitting for the, shall I say plantsitting. Why I agreed to keep plants alive for 3 months, I have no idea. I'm a notorious plant-killer. Grandma loves her plants. Bad combination. There was no interview, or I wouldn't be here writing this. So far, only a few have been lost but are making a surprise comeback!

Flying solo in the Rocky Mountains is decidedly less exciting than I hoped. I used to think I was an introvert with extrovert tendencies, but I'm thinking it's the other way around. It's definitely not as great to have fun by yourself as it is to do it with someone. Dinner is a joke. I stocked up the first week with all these grand plans to cook for myself, only to make it to Friday with a tub of wilted lettuce, some bad tomatoes and one lonely piece of leftover quiche. Eating across the table from Empty just doesn't have the same allure.

Living alone is wonderful for doing things at your own pace and with your own style. I can read, clean, groove, make coffee, come and go, whenever and however I like. It's terrible for laughter, interesting conversation, and spur of the moment bike rides. It's terrible if I choke. It's terrible if I break my legs. It's awesome if I just need to get away. It's perfect for enjoying the simple things. 

In the end, living alone has its ups and downs, just like everything else. I am second-guessing my dream of getting my own apartment, and unless things improve, it will be awhile before I plant my own garden. And I continue to learn that the grass is green on the other side, but it's green here too.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

With Love, Jen

Take a deep breath and put your virtual personality aside for a moment. We are about to venture into a foreign place -- the land of handwritten letters. Three weeks ago, a letter dropped into my mailbox for the first time in years. Not a greeting card; a letter. Six pages of bliss. I read it four times in a row and laughed out loud to myself, not because it was funny, but because I was so delighted.

We write letters differently than any other way we communicate. Putting pen to paper feels more permanent. For one thing, you can't ever look back at it to see what you wrote. In a world that has an electronic record of almost everything, not knowing what you've said can be unsettling. Once it's in the mail, it's gone. It's almost as though your thoughtful side intuitively knows it's time to shine. We usually write about more meaningful things in letters than we do in texts or emails. We usually treasure letters more than texts or emails.

This letter was so captivating not only because of what it said, but because it was written by someone's hand. No one else in the world has this handwriting. I see charm and personality, not font. It is special because I know how long it takes to write a letter -- and I know it was sent only to me, not 755 facebook friends. I am closer with her simply because we exchanged one letter, the first of many.

Here is my idea for you: sit down with a blank piece of paper, a pen, and a person in mind. Start writing what flows to your fingers, and you may not be able to stop. Receiving a letter in return might be the highlight of your year. Seriously. It will at least be more memorable than the annual mass "Merry Christmas! I'm so thankful for your friendship!" text. Happy writing!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Land of Corn and Fireflies

Windblown and sticky, six of us pulled into the Eberspacher driveway after eight hours on the road. Eight hours without air conditioning, in the sultry heat of June, surrounded by cow farms and other unidentified odors. 
Why would people choose to live in Nebraska? We didn’t know. Yet. Tumbling out of the car, we faced an expansive cornfield that gave me a fraction of the feeling I have standing at the edge of the sea.  A train clunked on behind us and Lucy, the German Shepherd, sat by the front door as if this was her friendly queendom. 
The family inside the farmhouse greeted us like we were the long-lost relatives. We were taken straight to our VIP sleeping quarters, to an air-conditioned basement full of soft air mattresses and a bathroom big enough for the entire Nebraska population. 

Those of us not in the wedding explored around the farm while everyone went to rehearsal. There is a lot of open space between people in Nebraska, so our free spirits came out and we laughed long and loud, disturbing only Lucy.  We walked along the corn-lined gravel road and felt surprisingly relaxed. I saw my first fireflies that night and was completely enchanted, as if I’d been invited to a spontaneous garden party. 
It was Saturday afternoon when the radiant and relaxed Elisa slipped into her pretty white dress and hopped in the car. The only decorations in the chapel were candles and wildflowers. Nothing distracted from their vows to each other and it was the sweetest wedding I’ve ever been to. After a catered dinner, Krispy Kreme groom’s cake, and my first ever bouquet catch, they were off! 

Allie took this awesome snap.
When we thought about going to celebrate afterward, we remembered we were in Milford and did the only thing we could do: we went back to the farm. We rode in the bed of the old pickup out to the pasture to watch the stars and the distant lightning. We soon found ourselves driving through corn, then running through corn until we got scared of the dark. I think I can speak for everyone: we had the times of our lives. 

Thanks, Nebraska. I haven’t felt so free in a long, long time.