Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Hill

Before we moved to Iowa, a state without a single mountain, I sold my Trek mountain bike. The one my dad and I picked out at the small shop in town when I was finally tall enough. The one that wove around creosote bushes and kicked up desert dust on the way to friends' houses; the one that went up and down the Quail Ridge hill, over and over again. The one that took me to college classes on the rare days I braved the extreme heat, sweating profusely and cursing the sun and the air and every piece of clothing I wore. The one that could never keep up with Jason's road bike; the one that left me slow and jealous.

After our first year in Des Moines, the winter melted and spring enveloped me in warmth and dreams of evening bike rides. I found a cheap road bike on Craigslist, listed by a man cleaning out his garage. His daughter's old bike was neglected and in the way. I was replacing my childhood bike with another's so it felt right. In his driveway, on a bike for the first time in a year, I put the phrase "like riding a bicycle" to the test. Jason and the man watched me teeter precariously around the cul-de-sac. After figuring out the new handlebars and getting a few good pumps in, I returned to the pair and pulled out my wallet. 

A good portion of that summer revolved around packing and moving and unpacking in a new place across town. But before we moved, we ventured into a nearby neighborhood to flex our legs and bond atop bicycle seats. We began zigzagging through the residential streets, admiring houses and dreaming about the future (Sunroom or porch? Big front yard or big back yard?). We came upon a mansion, quite grand for this old, modest neighborhood, complete with a gated entrance, turrets, wrapping buildings, a lawn that must take a whole Saturday to mow, and... goats (uh, yep). The best part about this find was that it was settled on a monumental hill. A hill high and stretching with just the right amount of curve to the road, wrapping down and around the mansion grounds. 

We found ourselves at the top: Jason looking down expectantly and me hesitantly. We both lifted our feet and pedaled, he with gusto and I with panic, and then let gravity guide us (okay, okay, there may have also been some braking on my end). I don't know that our trip down was much longer than a minute, but during those 60 something seconds, I was weightless. I rose out of my body and united with wind and wind roared back in my ears, curled my hair and tugged at my face. We yelped and hollered and laughed all the way down. Afterwards the wind stayed in my ears and pounded in my heart. I kept thinking, this, this is what living is.

I can't romanticize the whole story, because climbing back up that hill, well, you can imagine. During the never-ending climb, the only thing propelling us was the residual adrenaline from the descent down. Nevertheless, I have thought back on that hill occasionally. The grand mansion with a rolling lawn and wrapping pavement. The euphoria of flying on a bicycle seat; a moment of feeling fully extraordinary and extra-human. A simple yet poignant memory for the bad days to remind me that joy is still out there for the taking. 

I just need to lift my feet and pedal.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Dubuque, IA

After a day in Galena, we spent the night in Dubuque (cheaper). Someday we'll come back and stay in an adorable Bed and Breakfast, until then, it's Priceline negotiator for us.

 This is downtown Dubuque. Brick everywherrre and life is good.

One of my friends, Kellie, told me about this. A guy lived on a bluff overlooking downtown and sick of his commute, he built a tiny railroad/elevator  down the bluff. God bless quirky people.

The following two houses were right next to each other. When we were coming into town, I saw the towers peeking above the other buildings so I pointed and said, "There." So gorgeous and clearly in need of my tender loving care.

Can I move into this sun room?

Still mastering the photos in the glass.

But the important thing is that my pinky is up.

We fueled up on frites in Galena before going skiing in the afternoon. Skiing in the midwest, right?

All in all, a lovely little overnight, 2-day trip.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Galena, IL

I've been slowly, slowly writing out my El Salvador trip. In the meantime, I wanted to share our recent trip to Dubuque, Iowa/Galena, Illinois. Jason had his very last spring break (!) and we took an overnight trip to the east side of the state. It's been such a long time since we traveled together; how I missed it! We spent the first day in Galena. If it was good enough for Ulysses S. Grant, it's good enough for us. Quaint, charming and picturesque. We were both surprised with how much there was to do on the main street, and we even got a head start on Christmas shopping which is kiiiind of unbelievable for us.

Disclaimer: I am obsessed with beautiful houses and buildings. You've been warned. 

My favorite building was this white beaut. Swoon. 

Spice wall.

Jason. That is all.

Madly in love with these three photos. Singing Aladdin and winning my heart all over again.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Here comes the sun

Ahh, yesterday. The weather was warm and sunny (and windy, because it is Iowa after all) and I was feeling footloose and fancy free. Iowa winters are rough on this Arizona girl. I’m already cringing and cowering thinking about the NEXT winter even though the current winter hasn’t left town yet. I certainly feel tougher after surviving nearly two but more than ever, I understand that I’m a sunshine kind of girl. Which, yesterday. I didn’t wear my winter coat the entire day. I frolicked in an aisle of ranunculus and brought two little ladies home with me. Jason fired up the grill for the first time this season and it felt momentous. We sat OUTSIDE on our patio and enjoyed burgers with this slaw on top (heavy on cilantro) with a side of sweet potatoes and Vitamin D. I felt like a princess.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Mellani Palmer Larson

I read the text on my phone and then stared out the window into the snow, my vision blurring with tears. What does one say to a friend whose mother is hours from the end of her life? In the evening, another text came. And I lay on my sofa and stared into that phone for a long, long time. Typing, erasing, staring, typing. Praying for words that didn't want to come. How does one honor a life, a beautiful and sweet life, and convey the extent of grief at what is lost, through a few words on a phone?

Another text message came in the spring last year. Too distraught to call, but it was cancer. Cancer, the word that became a fixed companion in our conversations over the last year. It has drained our eyes of tears, called us to question the future, torn us apart individually and bonded us together. The miles between us have been consistently a sucker punch to the gut. Texts, emails, phone calls, and skype to bide the time, but comforting a friend whose mom has cancer is so much harder without those moments of simply holding each other and crying. 

Molli has been my best friend since fifth grade, meaning our friendship lasted through the ups and downs of grade school, middle school, high school, college, and adulthood, with new marriages, a new baby, new jobs, new friendships, and new places to move. It has been one of the most meaningful friendships I've had in my life and in large part, it is thanks to Mellani. I was always a shy guest in their home, not the kind of kid to quickly win over a family with charm and charisma. And yet, she consistently encouraged Molli to continue our friendship. In her motherly wisdom, she saw that we needed each other and understood our loyalty for each other. That constant support was a driver in our friendship. It meant so much, as an insecure teenager, to know that Molli's mom trusted me and wanted me around. That was her biggest gift to me.

Mellani was so grounded; a foundation of fortitude and grace in her home, at work, and in the community. She understood priorities and her family was always first. She had a smile for everyone and would always, always lend a helping hand. She was strong, kind, creative, silly, hard-working, and humble. She was a positive part of so many people's lives and she leaves a huge hole in her absence. It is more evident than ever that the quality and depth of my friendship with Molli is because she grew up under the wing of her mom, guided in how to care, love, and serve. Mellani's legacy will live on in her beautiful family; a continual blessing to those who benefit from knowing the wonderful Larsons. 
Oh, how she will be missed.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

El Salvador

I've been back in the US almost a week after a trip to El Salvador with my church. It was a lot of firsts for me: first international flight, first time being in Central America, first missions trip, first time mixing cement and laying brick, first time working with a translator, first time falling in love with a community so quickly.

I have a jumble of words about the experience in my head that I'm still sorting out but until then, I want to share some photos of the faces I can't stop thinking about. Definitely left a piece of my heart in Anemona.

Monday, January 27, 2014

When I grow up

I was an active participant in FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America) in high school. My club was new and still figuring it all out which mostly meant more fun, less structure. We traveled in yellow buses and hung out in hotels watching late-night movies. We paraded around in business attire for competitions and won a surprising amount of awards.

One competition continues to surface in my mind from time to time. I had naively signed up for an event that was something to the effect of “Telephone Marketing.” In my pinstripe skirt and closed-toe pumps, I was shown into a small room with a desk, a telephone, and a prompt about some made-up company’s product. I had some time to study the prompt and then the phone rang. A man’s voice on the other line, low and deliberately slow, began asking me about the product. I was supposed to answer his questions, hitting all the bullets and features to effectively sell the product.

I was dreadful. I muttered and mumbled and stuttered and stumbled. I could hear in his voice that he knew I was doing a terrible job, and I’m sure he could hear in my voice that I knew that he knew that I was doing a terrible job. It was humiliating and my only saving grace was that I had those four walls to hide my shame.

Nearly ten years later, I will be at work and a project appears without much detail and a short deadline. And I have to chuckle because sometimes real life feels just like an FBLA prompt from an imaginary boss to prove my “deductive reasoning” and “quick action” skills. Seemingly I’m still 16 in a 25-year-old body just faking it each time I’m given any responsibility (people really trust me with things?!). I hope one day I will actually feel like a full-fledged, professional adult, but now I remind myself that I am not a Telephone Sales Rep for ABC Company and boy is life good.