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I Love French Films Because they Sound Soothing and Seductive and they Validate My Wine Consumption.

Lately, I’ve been watching quite a few foreign films.

Ugh. I know.

It’s not like I’m trying to become one of those people — one of those people who only watches them so I can make obscure references during intellectual conversations at my literary club. Honest.

I’d seen some of the obvious ones from the past — Amelie (French, and an absolute favorite), Lola Rennt (German, aka. “Run Lola Run”), and Das Boot (German, interesting counterpart to the American “U-571” and told from the “enemy” point of view). But my experience didn’t venture far beyond those which I was forced to watch in school (the German ones) or by close friends (the French).

In fact, I pretty much thought that Hollywood was the center of the movie universe and that other countries didn’t really bother making films worth watching because why, pray tell, would an actor bother to act anywhere else?

But then I accidentally streamed a French film on Netflix.

See, I have this terrible weakness for horrible romantic comedies — especially when my husband’s deployed because I don’t have to explain my reasoning (umm… because I have ovaries instead of testicles?) for wanting to watch them. The online Netflix streaming is set up so that it analyzes shows and movies you’ve already watched and then makes suggestions of films it “thinks” you might like based off of those. The hilarious fact is that before Justin left it was all sci-fi and crime dramas and geek shows, but I’ve successfully managed to (mostly) transition it to rom-coms and whiny indie flicks. He will be SO pleased. Also, I think I might be completely confounding Netflix’s computer brain algorithm thingies because it’ll suggest movies like “Runaway Bride” (which I didn’t like) alongside shows like “Sons of Anarchy” (which I probably would kind of like), and so just when it thinks it has me all figured out, I’m all, HA, Netflix! I’ve foiled you again!

And you know you’re kind of lonely when you spend your free time trying to confuse inanimate objects.


I was in the mood for a good old-fashioned rom-com, and Netflix suggested this one called Heartbreaker. The title was in English. The description was in English. I didn’t look at the actors’ names, so there were no obvious signs pointing to the fact that this was actually a subtitled French film. In fact, it didn’t even actually occur to me that I was reading subtitles until a good 10 minutes in, and by then I was already hooked.

The most interesting part about watching it was realizing the subtle differences in humor and beauty. The leading actress, to me, seemed a little homely and a lot emaciated with her Madonna-esque gap tooth and bony frame, and I didn’t find the leading actor, with his hairy, bumbling scruff attractive in the slightest.

That is, until I continued watching. I became genuinely interested in their characters, and realized that it worked. These cultural differences were only surficial — the heart and the humor was still there, and now, in retrospect, I know I wouldn’t have cast them any differently. It was lighthearted, funny, and a new twist on the typical “opposites attract” story. It was kind of like the Will Smith movie “Hitch,” only instead of bringing couples together, Alex’s job was to break people up by seducing women and making them realize they deserved more than the douchebags they were currently dating. Not a bad gig, huh?

My mom says she hates watching foreign films because while she’s reading the subtitles, she feels like she’s missing out on some of the visual effects of the movie.

Well of course. But really. It’s just a little reading. My grandmother goes every day — every day — without her sense of smell and therefore, without her sense of taste. But that doesn’t stop her from eating, does it? And that doesn’t stop her from cooking delicious food. Just like deafness, I’d imagine, wouldn’t stop someone who’s hearing impaired from enjoying a good movie.

So. If you haven’t before and want to give a foreign flick a chance, go for it. Start with Amelie and learn the story of the traveling gnome.

If you want something deeper but still funny, try Patrik 1.5, a Dutch film about a gay couple struggling to adopt a child. They think they’re getting a 1 1/2-year-old, but instead end up with a 15-year-old homophobic, troubled teen. It’s funny and touching and heartbreaking and embraces stereotypes while slapping them down and shows that maybe — just maybe — a nontraditional family isn’t as scary as we might think.

If you want a little more epic, watch Bride Flight, another Dutch flick that takes place just after World War II. It’s forbidden love. It’s unrequited romance. It’s impossible choices and frustratingly lovable characters and the most adorable leading actor in the history of ever.

And if you want sad. If you want oh, so incredibly Holocaust sad but without the in-your-face death camp stuff of Schindler’s List, watch Sarah’s Key. But. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

These movies might change you.

They might change your perception of other cultures and how they perceive humor. How they perceive sadness. How they perceive beauty and action and romance.

They might make you realize that we’re not all so different, out there in the world.

And a foreign language, while scary when you’re lost in a train station and can’t find the bathroom, can also sound soothing, interesting, and a little bit seductive when experienced from the safety of your living room sofa.


An Open Letter to the Spouses of Deployed Active Duty Military:

This morning feels fresh.

I stepped outside, coffee in hand, and stretched. The thick coating of stiffness dried to a dust and then cracked, with my stretch, to crumble and fall to my rotting deck boards. It left only the dull ache of fresh, tender muscle from yesterday’s strain.

This feels good, I thought. I feel good.

And I smiled to greet the day.

But last night?

Last night I felt melancholy and oh so alone. And that’s the thing about a deployment — your feelings all packed into a lotto spinner of chance, and you never know what you’re working with until the pretty girl in the sparkling dress pulls your number for the day.

Or even the hour.

So I think I’m going to share what I wrote last night, not because I seek attention or am particularly proud of my state of mind at the time, but just in case. In case anyone reads it who needed to read it. And if you don’t, bear with me. Tomorrow we’ll be back to our regularly scheduled program.

To the spouses of deployed active duty military:

I know you.

I know you, and I know your particular brand of loneliness.

Though you’re surrounded by hundreds of family, friends and acquaintances in good faith, thousands of uniforms in camaraderie, and millions of citizens in patriotism, the loneliness.

It’s palatable.

Everyone expects you to always be strong.

After all, you chose this. Not just the job or the distance or the time, but the danger. The inability to communicate. The words, chosen carefully, so he feels needed and missed but not too needed or missed, because then he feels helpless, and basically you hold the coiled nerve ball of your partner’s raw emotions in the palm of your hand and all it takes is a tight squeeze here — a wrong pinch there — and the entire thing unravels.

Your family and friends — those unaffiliated with the military or the Life, say nothing. They rarely acknowledge the fact that he’s gone. Especially if they don’t live nearby, it’s easy. It’s easy to pretend like it’s not happening at all or that he’ll be back “any day” or that this time — a quarter of a year, a third, even 12 months or more of your life will “go quick” and they think that those words — the wishing of a life passing quickly — are comfort.

Just know.

It’s not because they don’t love you. It’s not because they don’t care. They do. But this unknowing — the sheer unrelatability — is vast and confusing. They’re worried if they try to relate — if they comfort too much, they take away your ability to be strong. It’s hard. It’s hard to be a friend to someone who chooses this life.

Who brings it on herself.

The others — the other spouses, both men and women who know what it’s like don’t ask because they know.

They know if they ask, it might make you crumble.

They know that if you need it, you’ll ask for help.

And let me tell you this.

No one will be quicker to give it.

So ask.

If you need help, ask. If you need a hug, ask. If you need to cry or say bad things or punch the wall, those people will be there.

Just don’t punch the wall. That’s stupid.

And stupid, you’re not.

Because you’re doing this, aren’t you? All on your own? Alone and surrounded, all at the same time. And it’s not so bad, this self sufficiency. This time to think.

And imagine — they call you dependent.

Like telling a rock that it’s soft or an ocean it’s weak.

Almost as dumb as punching a wall.


So go. Keep living. Keep the wheels greased and the cogs spinning and find joy every day because, after all, that’s kind of the point. Your freedom to go on living.

It’s okay to miss. It’s okay to feel sad. It’s okay to sometimes feel angry and mean. But it’s okay to feel good, too. Feeling good is not forgetting. Feeling good is not less sacrifice. Feeling good is a choice, and it’s something everyone wants for you.

Eventually, this will pass. Not any more quickly or slowly than normal time, but one way or another, it will pass.

I’m thinking about you, and I know.

I know.

It’s Like Suddenly I’m The Most Valuable Wage-Earning Employee In The History Of The Universe.

I’ve written about this before.

One of the hardest things, it seems, is going into work when you’ve already quit.

You’d think you’d be this giant ball of happiness — that every time something went wrong, you’d breathe a self-satisfied sigh of relief that soon, sweet soon, this would no longer be your burden to bear. The place would turn into this technicolor dreamworld with rainbows and butterflies and men with ties and button-down shirts would break into song every time you head to the lavatory.

But. The reality of the situation is that everything that bothered you before, now bothers you more. Much more. Tasks that turned your stomach pre-quittal become that much more grotesque when handed to you post-quittal. Your mind says, Why are you doing this? You’ve already quit. Just leave. You don’t need to stick it out another 2 weeks.

Suddenly, there’s all this pressure to finish projects. And new project ideas seem to appear from nowhere — projects that somehow, oh wonder of wonders, only you are qualified to handle. And it’s really really important they get finished before you leave, but oh, could you also do your regular tasks as well, because I’d like to put off learning them as long as possible, and really — it’s no big deal for you to stay another week, is it, because it’s not like you’re starting another real job…

Of course, I’ve never actually heard any of these things spoken out loud.

But I know the thoughts are there.

And really, it’s not so bad to feel needed. And it’s not so bad to feel like you’re making a contribution.

The problem arises when you start to feel used. Abused. And a little bit manipulated.

So the countdown begins to preserve my good cheer towards those who’ve employed me.

Quitting, it turns out, is how I maintain decent professional relationships.

And during that awkward time between quitting and actually leaving, I distract myself by making a plan.

I’m constructing a website to highlight my services, which, as much as I’d like them to say, “I travel the world and photograph and write about stuff,” will more likely say, “Give me money and I’ll take your picture. Or a picture of a house. Or your food. Or whatever you want me to photograph as long as it’s legal.”

And I almost hate to admit it because it seems that every would-be full-time blogger these days turns over to photography as a “back up” career, like it’s just something that any old hobbyist can pick up and turn into a business, and I would like to be the first to come out and tell you that is absolutely correct.

Of course, there’s much more to it than picking up a DSLR, sticking her in “auto” mode, and handing over some prints. And I fully intend to learn more ins-and-outs of people posing, lighting, and post processing, all while attempting to re-vamp this blog and scratch out some sort of writing existence.

I can make this happen.

will make this happen.

Not just for me, but for you. Because I feel like you have my back. Like this is important to you, too. Like you quit your job right along next to me and now I need to make this happen for the both of us.

And the good news, too, is that I won’t be scribbling out a post half-dressed for work while guzzling down a coffee and applying for mascara.

We’re going to start going for quality here, people.


Let’s be honest.

It will still be drivel.

But un-rushed drivel. Languishing drivel. Drivel with heart.

So bear with me, friends.

I have a lot to say.

Oops, I Did It Again.

When it comes to jobs of my past, I don’t exactly have a stellar track record.

I started off on the straight-and-narrow, at age 11, babysitting for my mom’s friends and neighbors. Ever the professional, I received my babysitting certification from the Red Cross. I knew how to perform CPR. I knew how to bandage abrasions. I knew how to stick my fingers into a kid’s throat to remove a blockage. Basically, I could tell parents, Hey. Nothing bad should happen to your kids under my care, but by golly if they choke or bleed or their hearts stop beating for any reason — any reason at all — I should, theoretically, be able to save them.

Comforting, no?

I’d pack along my little babysitting kit, complete with crafts and games and things kids liked to do 20 years ago that didn’t involve batteries or electricity or controllers or computer-mimicked hand motions, and I quickly became the IT babysitter for the ‘hood. Kids adored me, believe it or not, and thanks to the under-the-table payment nature of the gig, I was quickly able to save a pretty impressive amount of money by the time I was 15.

Then, through some unfortunate standard of life progression set by our peers, I decided it was time to get a “real” job.  I don’t know why, since in retrospect, babysitting was pretty much the best gig ever. The kids would go to bed at 8 and I had the whole night to watch Cocktail and gobble snacks provided by generous parents. Plus, it kept me out of trouble.

Regardless, I moved on to burger flipping at A&W Rootbeer, then Product Replacement Plan selling at Best Buy, then table waiting at a sports bar, then tour guiding on my college campus and dish washing at the nearby coffee shop and waking up at 5:00 a.m. to sign people into the gym and wipe down mirrors and ellipticals.


After quitting college and moving back to Nebraska, waited tables again. Then I took a road trip. Then I fixed and sold watches. Then I moved with Justin to Georgia and waited more tables and worked in a jewelry store and finally — finally — landed an environmental internship on the Air Force base.

In one year, I actually managed to file taxes for 7 different jobs in 3 separate states.

Turns out that’s not the best way to build your resume.

Once we moved to North Carolina, it was on to white-collar America. My first job here was for an environmental consulting company (which involved a very interesting interview), but my hour-and-a-half commute was turning me into a drooling zombie, so that only lasted 6 months.

Then, the job on Fort Bragg.

The job where I cracked.

The job that launched my Costa Rica hot sauce makin’ career and effectively redirected my entire professional course from that of an eventual suit-wearing government schmoozer to a beatnik hippie travel writer, if I could only have my way. (Minus the beatnik hippie part because I enjoy all kinds of travel. All kinds.)

After a year of absolutely nothing happening, I started hourly work at a bar just to earn some cash to feel like less of a lump, and then as a part-time real estate assistant, and this, my friends, is where you would probably still find me in another year, had I not finally realized my problem.

I wasn’t working.

I was gliding.

I wasn’t planning.

I was drifting.

They say that dreams don’t work unless you do.


So I quit my job in order to work.

Which only partially makes me feel like a loser.

But also, now I know.

Beyond a shadow of a doubt I know that working my ass off for someone else’s success is NOT what I want for myself in this world.

I have to stop trying to find myself.

I have to create myself.

It only took me approximately 47 jobs to get here.

Back at the bottom of the ladder again, but this time, it’s my own.

And when you build your own ladder, it seems, it becomes a hell of a lot more satisfying to climb.

Today’s Shopping List: Milk, Bananas, and an Oversized Steamer Trunk to Evoke the Feeling of Adventure.

So do you remember that time I took a design style quiz and it called me an alcoholic?

I mean, I was kind of able to get over it because a) it was kind of right and b) it basically said I should live with Johnny Depp and we could be winos together forever and I’m pretty sure he’d be okay with Justin living with us too because he’s bohemian like that.

Johnny’s bohemian.  Not Justin.

Johnny’s right arm says “Wino Forever.”  It used to read “Winona Forever,” but I’m willing to overlook that. (Source)

So even though the quiz redeemed itself, I pretty much avoided ever taking them again until a few days ago.

I discovered THIS HomeGoods Stylescope quiz over on, my favorite voyeurism I mean house peeping I mean home interior blog.  When I learned that all you have to do is pick 5 pictures that appeal to you and the quiz would instantly reveal your design style, I decided to go for it.  I mean, I’ve already been called a drunk by one of these things, so what’s the worst that could happen?

Apparently, my friends, the worst that could happen is that it could be absolutely and totally accurate.

I am “The Traveler.”

And also, apparently, a touch of “New Country.”

But I’m choosing to ignore that part and focus on the main one.  The Traveler.  The painfully accurate and seemingly unattainable design style that I can only achieve by — you know — traveling the world.

So I better get on that already.

The quiz even gives tips about how I can achieve the look:

Which is nice, but it basically all comes down the fact that I need to buy a plane ticket.  Also, I need to start actually buying stuff when I travel.

It’s kind of hilarious because HomeGoods tries to make suggestions of things I could buy from their store, which kind of seems counterintuitive when it comes to decorating for this particular design style.

I mean, do I want to look at the elephant figurine on my console table and think, “Oh, remember the time I bought that from the balsa wood carver in India whose hands were craggy and worn with his craft,” or, “Oh, remember the time I found that on the clearance shelf at Home Goods?”

Not that I would probably buy an elephant figurine anyway, since I’m not really into the whole let’s-use-tiny-animals-to-decorate-our-house phenomenon.  Unless, of course, I had some cool travel story like that Canadian girl who had her ear ripped off by an elephant and bought the figurine as a reminder.  Because I would totally need a figurine to remind me of that.

So.  This really is a terrible quiz result because I feel like it’s kind of mocking me.  Go!  It says.  Travel!

Only I feel like I can’t.

Because I kind of quit my job again.

Oh, would you look at the time!  I’m late for this job that I won’t be having for much longer.

I guess this is a story for another time.

In the meantime, go take the quiz.  Report back.  I’m curious to see whether the other results are as equally accurate and unattainable without spending thousands of dollars on plane tickets.


You Can Never Get Enough of What You Don’t Really Need.

This morning, it rains.

So rather than take the mutts for our morning walk or get any kind of physical exercise whatsoever, I’m making crepes and lamenting the fact that last night I reached a hideous low in my state of Justinless pitiability.

I was going to get the photos ready for a post about San Antonio, and since I’m hardly organized enough to already have those photos labeled and filed on my iMac, I dug a memory card from my camera bag, sent a wish out to the Universe that the photos I wanted were on it, and stuck it, rather unceremoniously, into the computer’s CD drive.

I stuck my memory card into the CD DRIVE.

Not the memory card slot which, due to a lazy design flaw on Apple’s part in my humble little opinion, is located directly beneath the CD drive on the side of the monitor.

And humble, I am, because I didn’t even look.  I just felt it go in, much further than normal, and peeked around the side to see the top of the card was flush with the side of the monitor.


I stuck a piece of paper inside in order to entice it out, but turns out I should’ve tried flowers or chocolates or seductive letters because the damn thing slipped all the way inside, past the rubbery dust blocker thingies, and I heard it clink to rest inside the drive.

Now normally, this is where husbands come in.  I don’t know if you know this, guys, but us women, we use you.  Like, a lot.  Like, even if there’s something we’re perfectly capable of doing but would rather have you do it in case it gets messed up so we can have someone to blame other than ourselves, we ask you to give it a whirl.  Plus, when you do fix it, it makes you feel all manly and powerful and needed and then we’ve done our good deed for the day by letting you do your good deed for the day.


But last night, I couldn’t exactly call Justin’s superiors in Afghanistan and ask if they’d send him home real quick because I did something dumb with my computer.  In fact I can’t exactly call Justin at all — ever — and this tends to pose a problem when I need advice on fixing the dog’s electric fence or why the subwoofer’s buzzing or how to get an effing memory card out of an effing CD drive because apparently, I effing suck at effing EVERYTHING.

So you see, this is where the inevitable self-pity came into play.  I knew that frustrated tears were well on their way, and I should probably pour another glass of wine because the pity party’s not a party without any wine, and I can’t believe I just got home from Raleigh like 2 hours ago, which is an hour away and happens to be the location of the closest Apple store, and who knows how long it will be before I can get back there and get this fixed?



I have a trick for when this starts to happen.

You’re going to love me for this, really.

Go to YouTube (assuming lack of internet connection isn’t your problem), and run a search for “Stuck in a Moment” by U2.

Then, listen.

U2 Stuck in a Moment

And once you do, you will probably cry a little bit.  And then, wonder of wonders, you will smile.  And maybe even laugh.  Because really, with this song, U2 has struck the winning combination of  I-get-it-and-everything-will-be-okay understanding and smack-you-in-the-face-get-over-it-bitch-and-move-on-with-your-life motivation.


So after closing my eyes to “Stuck in a Moment” followed by some internet searching for “how to get a memory card out of an iMac CD drive” and relief that holy crap I’m not the only one, I fashioned a hook tool from folded cardstock and packing tape and, after about 20 minutes of sweet talking and many cardstock prototypes, was able to fish the sucker out.


So.  I never did edit the photos.  Because after all of this, I did crack just a little, U2 or no, and decided that a microwavable peanut butter mug cake and a large glass of milk would do better to cure my woes after a harrowing night of memory card rescue than a bout of actual productivity.

And I was pretty well convinced that composure would not be my primary reaction if I managed to stick the memory card into the right slot and discover that my photos weren’t on it.

I still haven’t had the courage to look.

But, when I do, and if I feel the need to spaz out, “Stuck in a Moment” will be there to bring me back to earth.

Because, really.

I never thought you were a fool
But darling, look at you
You gotta stand up straight, carry your own weight
‘Cause tears are going nowhere, baby

You’ve got to get yourself together
You’ve got stuck in a moment
And now you can’t get out of it

You are such a fool
To worry like you do
I know it’s tough and you can never get enough
Of what you don’t really need now, my, oh my

And we don’t.  In the end.  Really need anything.  Just a clear head, some decent music, a little perspective, and the energy to keep on swimming.

Red, Red, Rocks.

You know that feeling — that feeling you would get in a certain place as a kid — that made it seem as though it were filled with magic and wonder and that it was somehow much bigger, really, than it actually was?

Grandma’s house was not just Grandma’s house, but a cozy cottage that smelled of Grandpa’s spicy pipe tobacco and Grandma’s famous pumpkin bars and where handfuls of Werther’s Originals could be snatched from the old crystal dish as I ran through the arched kitchen doorway to splay across the soft, brown shag living room carpet.  The kitchen floors were beautiful, speckled brown and orange and green and I’d wait, sometimes, in rare moments of patient composure, for the bird to pop out of the coo coo clock to indicate the hour.  The basement was scary and filled with adventure.  Boxes of old toys and musty don’t-touch-thats and the home’s only shower but that was okay because baths were a novelty at Grandma’s house.  I wove yarn tissue box covers and baked peanut butter pies and picked raspberries in the garden and chased squirrels from the bird feeders.  These things I did at grandma’s house, which wasn’t just a house, but a world.  I’d rub my cheek against Grandpa’s rough stubble and snuggle up to his warm flannel shirt.  He used to tap his rings to his own tinny tune on the steering wheel when he drove as I slid around on the worn leather seats.  His truck had a square orange pillow I liked to squeeze.

But then.

But then I grew.  And the house became a house.  An old one with ugly linoleum floors and creaky steps and I had to wash my hair in the sink and barely reach to touch the top of the archway as I passed beneath, the coo coo bird mocking each slow passing hour.  And the magic wasn’t just lost for me, but lost for them.  And then Grandpa was gone, and now, with just Grandma, it feels not like a house but a trap.  Because I want more for her, you know, than lonely last years.  I don’t know what happened to that faded orange pillow.

Time changes things, it’s true, and not always for the worse but sometimes for the better — though even the better, sometimes, can feel worse if you know what I mean.

Take, for example, the Garden of the Gods near Colorado Springs.

Garden of the Gods

Stunning red rock sprung from unearthly ground against a backdrop of towering Rockies.

My family used to go there when I was still a kid and we were still a family.

I remember it being vast.  Rugged.  We couldn’t just drive to everything we wanted to see — we hiked.  Of course, some of these memories could just be small worlds made big in the mind of a child, but on our most recent trip to Colorado, I saw that still it had changed.  More roads.  Easier access.  More people.  Less… magic.

On the one hand, simplified access to this free and natural wonder is fantastic.  People who might never have bothered can now behold, but sometimes I think.  I think those who mightn’t bother if access were more difficult are those who throw the trash.  Those who scream and shout.  Those who just want to go, go, go and not stop, for a second, to see if the magic is still there.

Wide, paved paths.

So tempting to leave the trail…

Kissing camels.

Fortunately, I was with Justin’s family.  They came out to visit while we were staying with my mom to say goodbye before he left for Afghanistan and, despite my disappointment with the throngs of people with whom we had to share the Red Rocks, exploring the park and the nearby town of Manitou Springs with them was a wonderful way to spend the day.

Gard family.  There’s only 547 of us.  From left to right: Hannah (Justin’s sister), Andrew (Justin’s brother), Becca (Justin’s sister), Ashley (Justin’s sister — are we sensing a pattern?), Jack (Justin’s nephew), Jon (Ashley’s husband), Me, Justin, Justin’s mom and dad.  (Thanks, Aunt Lori for taking the photo!)

Travel tip: Explore with fun people who wear bright shoes.  Seriously.  They’re way better than boring people with boring shoes.

Tip: Travel in packs. Other tourists will get scared and you’ll have the whole place to yourselves.

Tip: If you’re going to climb, don’t photograph the evidence.


Climbing?  We’re not climbing.  (This is Brad.  Remember Becca and Brad from our trip to Spain?)

Pegg!  (Sign: “If you are not a technical climber using proper gear and a permit, stay on the sidewalk!”)  Seriously.  “Progress” makes the park safer and less fun.

Balance Rock Garden of the Gods

The Gard Men are RIPPED. (Photo by Hannah Gard.)

Even little Jack was a champ.

Late lunch in the adorable town of Manitou Springs was the perfect way to relax after the park.

It turns out the improvements made to Garden of the Gods over the years are what made it possible for us to see it as a family.

And in the end, I guess that’s not such a bad thing.

After all, time does change things.

It always will.

My family has grown exponentially.  It laughs.  It plays.  I miss them sometimes.

And the future, to me, doesn’t look so bad.

See our tour of the Coors Brewery HERE and a chalk art festival in downtown Denver HERE plus the best hot dog ever right HERE.

And I Traveled Just A Few Steps, At Most, To See The World.

It’s funny.

I spend all of this time daydreaming about travel.  About where I would be if I could be anywhere other than here.

And then, out of nowhere, I discover this whole universe that’s been sitting outside my back door for the past 5 1/2 years, and I never even saw it.

Like literally.  It’s the Universe.

All it took was a couple of solo glasses of wine, a little bit feeling sorry for myself, a broken electric dog fence, and a chance look up.

The metaphor, this whole time, was in my own back yard.

Look up, my friends, instead of down.  Look up, or you might miss it.

Absence Makes the Heart Grow Deprecating. Which is a Good Thing. I Think.

Justin has been in Afghanistan for over 3 months now, and I’m ready to admit something.

Here goes.



There have been times in our marriage when I’ve looked at him and thought, I can’t believe I’m actually married to you.

Like the time he realized he didn’t brew enough coffee after he poured his cup but before he poured mine, so instead of making more coffee to fill my cup, he just ran new water back through the soggy, used coffee grounds and hoped I wouldn’t notice that my cup was filled with light brown water as opposed to actual coffee.

Times like that, my friends, when I thought, I can’t believe I’m actually married to you and not in a totally smitten, pre-honeymoon, post-vows kind of way with a mental tone of adoring and grateful affection, but in a we’ve-been-living-together-for-over-8-years-now-and-you-think-I-won’t-notice-weak-coffee? kind of way with pure, unadulterated, incredulity.


I know it sounds terrible, but there it is.

The “good” thing is, I know I’m just as bad.

(What can I say?  I’m a Libra.)

Like the time he came home after 3 months in Africa to find I’d bought dog beds so our little monsters could sleep with us in our bedroom to keep us safe from intruders and bogeymen and fill the space with protective methane fart gas throughout the night.

Because I always think these things through, you know?


Even though I do these things too, I still usually feel that I’m in the right.  That I know best.  That really, if we would just do everything my way, the world would spin smoothly and double rainbows will fill our home and the sex will always be fantastic and no one will ever — ever — have to sleep in the wet spot.

(Don’t pretend like you don’t know what I’m talking about.)

But now he’s been gone for 3 months.

Three months, apparently, is enough time for me to stop blaming him for every cluttered mess that collects on counters, for almost-empty orange juice bottles in the fridge, for laundry that sits in the dryer for days, and the pulpy, globulated mess that coats my clothes when an errant pocket receipt goes through the wash.

It’s enough time, apparently, to realize that I’m actually fallible.

I mean, I’ve always known I’m capable of making mistakes.  In fact, maybe my blunt, drunken wrist tattoo should read erroneous, because I’ve certainly made more than my fair share.  And I’d be the first to admit it.

But it was always these little things.  These little house things that would get on my nerves make me mutter under my breath as I’d fritter around the house collecting crumpled papers that someone — and certainly not me — was too lazy to throw away, are not always entirely his fault.

And that’s the gift of distance.

They say, you know, that absence makes the heart grow fonder, but I know a secret.

The real benefit of absence is clarity.

The way it gives you a chance to look at yourself.

The chance to experience the discomfort that comes with the dawning realization that wait — I’m not perfect?

It’s not a good feeling.

But it’s a helpful feeling.  And a relief, too, to know that he’s not the only one to blame for the messes and the occasional late charge and sometimes erratic online shopping binges.

Wait.  Maybe that last one has always been me.

But my point is that true perspective — not just about a partner but about yourself — is something that most people who’ve been living together for a long time never have the space — or the distance — to experience.

And that’s unfortunate.

Because while I would never recommend that you ship your significant other off to Afghanistan for a quarter of a year or more, a little space can sometimes help.

Not to get away from your partner.  But to get back to yourself.

So now, at least I know.  I remember.  I can overlook the little things when he gets home because while cohabitation definitely creates more messes and chaos, it also provides an extra set of hands to help.

Except the coffee thing.  I can’t overlook that.

But I’m working on it.


Crunchy Like Granola.

I make my own granola.

Sounds quaint, I know.  Like knitting my own socks or preserving my own peaches or churning my own butter.

But the thing is, I like granola.  It’s a fantastic breakfast, it’s healthy-ish, and it’s crazy easy to make.

I mean, basically you mix a bunch of stuff together, then mix a bunch of other stuff together, then mix the two mixtures together, then bake.

Heck.  You don’t even have to bake it if you don’t really want to.

To make it, you will need pretty much anything you want.  You can use the recipe below as a guide, but don’t be afraid to get a little crazy.  Like agave nectar instead of honey?  Use it.  Prefer vegetable oil to coconut oil?  Be my guest.  Crazy about oat bran?  Substitute for some of the ground flax and toss it on in.  If you want your granola to be more sticky and less crumbly, make more of the “wet” part (step 2) and cook a little less.

This can get a little pricy, depending on the ingredients you choose, but it makes a lot.  If you were to buy the same amount from the store, you’d not only be spending mucho deniro, but you’d be getting all kinds of not-so-awesome added sugars and preservatives and all of that crap that makes us feel slow and drudgy instead of awesome and powerful.

Here’s what I used in my last batch:

  • 4 cups oats
  • 3/4 cup wheat germ
  • 3/4 cup ground flax
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup chopped almonds
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil (vegetable oil works, too)
  • 1/2 Tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 Tablespoon vanilla extract
Optional additions:
  • Raisins
  • Craisins
  • Chocolate chips
  • Butterscotch chips, etc.

1)  Mix the first 7 ingredients (oats, wheat germ, flax, sunflower seeds, and nuts) together in a very large mixing bowl.

2)  Mix the last 7 ingredients (salt, sugar, syrup, honey, oil, cinnamon, and vanilla) together in a sauce pan, heat over medium-high heat, and bring to a boil for 1 minute.

3)  Pour the wet stuff into the bowl with the dry stuff and stir to combine.

4)  Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper, then spread the mixture evenly and bake at 300-degrees F for 30-40 minutes, stirring halfway through.  It will keep cooking for a bit after you remove it, so don’t worry if it’s not completely crunchy before you take it out.  If you like it softer, bake it less.  There really are no rules — just don’t burn it.  That’s easy to do, so watch closely as you start to near the end of your cooking time.

Once you take it out, add your raisins or chocolate or whatever your little heart desires.  I prefer mine plain.

Let it cool on the sheet before storing it in an air-tight container.

5)  Serve however you’d like!  My favorite is over vanilla or plain yogurt with sliced strawberries.

Mmmm.  All I have left to do is put my hair in dreads and buy some hemp pants and I can officially call myself crunchy.

But really, with granola like this, that’s not a bad way to be.

Also, it will make you feel awesome and powerful.  I promise.