Tuesday, December 31, 2013


I'm really ready for 2014.  I'm not sure I've ever been so happy to hit the end of a year, or so optimistic about the year to come.  It's not that 2013 was a bad year.  I got to see a lot, try a lot, do a lot.  I accomplished my New Year's Resolution with aplomb.  See one new place: San Francisco.  Try three new things outside my comfort zone: skydive (that should count for two), leading a small faith-sharing group with total strangers (I know it doesn't sound like all that much of a stretch, but trust me), asking a guy out (started with promise, ended up going over like a lead balloon, don't ask).

And there were a ton of other really awesome moments: Mass on top of a 14er, a killer going-away party from my top-notch coworkers, snowmobiling the Continental Divide, speaking at a couple of conferences (that counts as outside my comfort zone too), a long overdue trip back to Omaha, some good craft time, some good craft beer time, Laura moving home, volunteering, etc.

So I can't figure out why I'm so ready to move on, why 2014 is calling my name so urgently.  Part of it is the really awesome stuff in store (Nicaragua, Ireland, Nashville), part of it is a need to settle into the new job and reassure myself that I made the right decision, part of it is the looming big 3-0.  But if I've ever ended a year so completely convinced that I have the best support crew to help me with the transition, this would be it.  So, raise your glass to hope.  Here's to a great 2014!

7 Days Off

Still not sure what to think about the new job.  Several days through my first stretch, I had a dream that I was asked for dosing recommendations for enoxaparin in an obese 10-year-old.  Something I would ordinarily jump at, but something that, unfortunately, is not likely to be part of my new job.  There are a lot of things that I loved doing clinically that will not be part of my new job.  The part I'm going to have to figure out is how to make the job as much as it possibly can be.  The part I've already figured out is how to maximize my weeks off.

In 7 days, I've managed to:

  • ski my first day of the season without falling
  • snowshoe a gorgeous trail up to the top of Squaw Mountain
  • try a new brewery, visit one of my favorite bars, and tour the Stranahan's distillery
  • celebrate Christmas with the fam, kick everyone's butt at Mexican Train
  • see two movies in the theater and another two from Redbox
  • vacuum, laundry, give the dog a bath
  • cook Greek meat pies, veggie mac 'n' cheese, breakfast burritos, and sausage & sweet potato soup
  • see Zoo Lights
  • finish a couple books
  • work out just enough to not feel like a slug
  • get my refrigerator fixed (hooray!)
  • do a little self-indulgent shopping
The only thing lacking was catching up on sleep.  That's gonna make 4:45am come really early tomorrow, but I'm taking things in baby steps.  Ask me in another month how the job is going.  In the mean time, the time off is going really well.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Goodness, Truth and Beauty

Hard to believe it's been 2 1/2 months since I've blogged.  Not much I've wanted to say, I suppose.  But as a community is grieving, having just returned from a prayer service for the Arapahoe family, I am a little overwhelmed by a surprising sentiment.  Through the tragedy, the tears, the sorrow, the hurt, I am reminded over and over of a God who is bigger than all of that.  The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.  The reminders have not been big revelations.  I don't know where this community will find hope.  I don't know what positive things will come from this horrific event.  But the little things are everywhere for me.  At the prayer service, I just kept seeing the goodness, truth and beauty in my life.  Fr. Mel cracking jokes in the pew behind us.  Members of my extended family, at my second home, greeting one another with fierce hugs.  Power of Love sung beautifully, with meaning I've never heard before.  A powerful display of what prayer can do.  Dolly Parton on the radio on the way home.  You know, little things.  But they point to my foundation, my hope, my passion, and my purpose.  And I don't want to forget that.

So, I am proposing a challenge to myself.  Every day, I will write down one thing of truth, one thing of beauty, and one thing of goodness that I find throughout my day.  I'll try it for a week, a month, hopefully a year.  Because I want to let those things be the last thing on my mind as I fall asleep.  I want those things to be the first thing I remember when I wake up.  I want them to be the reminder throughout the mess of the day that our God loves us with a powerful love, and that nothing can separate us from that.  Nothing is more important than that.  Nothing is more worth fighting for.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Ninja Angel- Elsa Meresi

It feels selfish to grieve, it feels cold not to.  It feels far too easy to pretend there's been some mistake.  I'm afraid of how much it might hurt if I let myself process it.  And I'm afraid of betraying a beautiful life if I bottle it up and act like it's not real.  So, until I figure it out, I remember with fondness the smile, the laughter, the kind words, the sneaky ninja moves, the snarky comments, the Greek connection, a fabulous coworker and dear friend.
This is what happens when Elsa goes all ninja on your back

And this, sadly is the only picture I have of her...gettin' down with her bad blue self (making chemo with Zanette)

Friday, September 20, 2013


The week has been long, somewhere between horrific and never-ending.  With the wombmate being out of town, I was left to deal with the dog on my own.  Not normally an issue given that he's the best dog in the world, but I was feeling torn between neglecting him and sucking my time away with adequate walks.  Work has been stressful to say the least.  Box-picker mock go-live (which means nothing to you who don't work with me), student precepting, extra meetings, double-back into a day center shift, and the looming Omegaven presentation at the annual CSPEN symposium.  CYAS committee work, fertilizing the yard, this darn attempt at dating, and inadvertently walking in on an STM school Mass (they are supposed to be on Friday people!).  You now understand why I'm ready for the week to be over.

But after killing it at the CSPEN conference and having time for a celebratory beer and socializing after the CYAS meeting, I'm feeling like maybe it was mostly worth it.  I have enough of a sense of fulfillment in my social life and professional life that I think I will sleep well tonight.  Figuring out precepting, planning the details for Nicaragua, mowing the overly healthy lawn, and all of the other things on my to-do list can get in line.  I'll take the temporary satisfaction.

And bonus points for me: the jacket I bought from REI at 50% off is now 70% off.  So I bought another one and I'll return the first, saving $30 in the process.  Go me!

Friday, August 30, 2013

No Fear

Took me a while to get this picture saved.  Had to do a screen shot of the video because my photographer didn't start the stills until we were spinning.  I wish I had something profound to say about my experience jumping out of a plane.  I wasn't really nervous or scared except standing at the door of the plane.  Once it was real, I had about half a second to think OMG! and then we were gone.  

The free fall felt like floating, not falling.  Well, floating while being underwater, because I did find it hard to breathe, despite following explicit instructions to keep my head up and breathe through my nose.  But the pictures show that I was smiling at least half the time.  The canopied descent down after the parachute opened was an awesome way to see the Front Range.  Long's Peak was staring me in the face, and fields stretched out below.  Landing was a piece of cake.

My favorite part has been listening to everyone else's reactions.  It didn't seem like that big of a deal to me.  Honestly, my motorcycle and kayaking classes were far more scary for me.  This was just something I've been wanting to do, so I did it.  I'm grateful for the pictures and the video because the details are a wee bit fuzzy.  And I'm glad to look back and say that I did it.

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Only Time You'll Hear Me Curse the Outdoors

Top 18 Things I Hate About Yardwork:

  1. Allergies
  2. Russian Olive Trees
  3. Stumps of Russian Olive Trees that spout new Russian Olive Trees
  4. Thorns on Russian Olive branches
  5. Weeds that spray seeds when you pull them
  6. Spiders
  7. Feeling like spiders are crawling on you
  8. Sweating
  9. Getting dirt caked on the sweat
  10. Did I mention Russian Olives?
  11. Feeling like I will never have the yard I want
  12. Everything always grows back except the stuff you want to
  13. Did I mention spiders?
  14. Getting yard envy at everyone else's house
  15. The time of year that the work is most daunting is the time of year I want to spend outside doing anything but yardwork
  16. The longer I ignore it, the harder it is when I finally tackle it
  17. Trying to decide what to do myself and what to hire out

Sunday, August 4, 2013

F'n Crushing It

Had a blast on Friday enjoying several elements of what makes up a lovely Denver evening- sunshine, cold beer, pizza, patio, friends, great music, meeting fun new people, and oh yeah-- getting exactly what my 13-year-old self always wanted!

While the Meet and Greet was much faster than I wanted (I didn't even get a chance to mention that I almost brought a bag of red jelly beans for Taylor because that was all the rage when we were 14), and I got a very noncommittal answer when I asked when Mmmhops would be available, and Laura didn't get to join us for the photo-op, it was still a very cool experience.  Plus, nothing beats a free outdoor concert, even if we couldn't see very well and the crowd was more judgmental than joining in.  The blog title comes from a guy who said it best: "VIP passes and pizza, are you guys f'n crushing it?" We met a new friend, Sally, a tattooed mother who is probably fast approaching 50 if not already there.  She was hysterical.  "My sister lives in Tulsa and texts me...Baby Hanson at the grocery store!!!"  "I saw you singing every word to the new album and I thought these are my new friends."

All that excitement for like 3 seconds of interaction
Signed VIP passes
They played all the songs I wanted them to: Penny and Me, Give a Little, Get the Girl Back, Been There Before, Thinking 'Bout Something.  My camera zoom was good enough to capture some decent shots.  Our mid-concert move took us right next to their exit path which meant that Laura got some high-fives and smiles instead of the Meet and Greet.  And we were home by 8 o'clock.  I'm hoping for many more Friday nights like this when I change jobs.
Pretty much the only shot of Zac I could get.

This is why I'm not a photographer.  My timing is atrocious.
And try #2.  Wasn't sure how good of a shot I'd get as he got closer.
Turns out they got really close.  My camera took too long to reset and this is Laura getting mad that I missed Tay looking right at her.

Don't worry, third brother's a charm.
Just another lousy night in Denver

Musings from Mass

I've been struggling on my work weekends to find a Mass to go to that doesn't leave me feeling bitter.  I know that's a horrible way to start a blog and an even worse way to view Mass, but there it is.  Either the music is terrible, or the homily is way too long and I'm torn between fuming or leaving after communion, or nobody participates, or there is no sense of community, or all of the above.  I decided to try Mass at MPB (Most Precious Blood for those of you not in the know, although both people who read my blog are in the know) this morning.  I was a little put off when I walked in to a circular set-up with no sign of the tabernacle and more chairs than pews, but it got better.  It was a little reminiscent of St. Vincent de Paul in Omaha, where I hated the architecture but loved the priest and the music and the sense of family.

Granted, the music had the flavor of a 90's charismatic church, and Fr. Pat (who I probably hadn't seen since 1999 and therefore was reinforcing the theme) gave a super long homily.  But you know what?  The choir and musicians were enthusiastic, the congregation participated, Fr. Pat compensated for the homily by working quickly through everything else so we still finished on time, the homily was relevant and funny, the people around me were warm and welcoming.  There were certainly elements that wouldn't be everyone's cup of tea, but on the whole, I consider it a success.  We need more Masses where people leave feeling like they would come back and repeat the experience if given the choice.  So on that note, here's a quick excerpt from Fr. Pat's homily (not one of the relevant parts, but one of the funny ones):

"I haven't really slept since the 70's.  A couple years ago, I saw a doctor about it and I told him that I can't really ever manage to go to bed until 10 or 10:30, and then it usually takes me 4 or 5 hours to fall asleep.  He said 'That's not normal.'  One of the hazards of celibacy- how am I supposed to know that's not normal?  So I did a study and they found that when I was supposed to be sleeping, there was a part of my brain that wasn't turning on.  I said 'Let's stop this study before they find out how much of my brain doesn't turn on."

He also talked about how we need to be less concerned about what the world gives us and more concerned with how much we give and who we become in the process.  How we try to give our kids (or get for ourselves) some kind of head start and all we really do is rob them (or ourselves) the opportunity for an adversity that might build character.  He said that we need to stop assuming that we are doing things right when life is easy.  Christ wasn't on the cross thinking, "boy, I really screwed that up."  Maybe when we struggle, it's because we are living life as it should be lived, and the experience is molding us into a person who is closer to who God would have us be.  So, I'm going to try to focus on that this week.  I hope.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Monty Python's Holy Grail Ale and other highlights from the Epic Beer Festival

I'm not going to hit every detail or every beer.  Christie has the master list, plus it would take forever.  But I remember enough to give the highlights.

Beers in hand, pretzel necklaces ready to go
Welcome to the Epic Beer Festival Denver 2013.  First year in Denver, my first beer festival, over 100 breweries, over 350 beers, lots to drink in 4 hours.  Much of the first hour was spent in line for our "free" t-shirts.  They were free because we bought VIP tickets, which also gave us an extra hour.  We tried our best to score some swag, including underwear that said "Bad A&%" on the butt, but the best we could come up with was a fanny pack.  And some bottle openers.  Now, on to the beer.

These are based on my semi-reliable memories since we didn't rate the beers as we tried them, we just crossed them off the list.  And many of the beers I was dying to try were gone by the time we got around to them (because we drank light to dark).

Favorite find: Kasteel Donker- a ratebeer.com post described this beer as having chocolate, cherry, licorice and banana notes.  It wasn't wrong.  Definitely a dessert beer, but delicious.

Favorite Hefeweizen: either Schneider and Sohn or Ayinger.  I don't remember much about either except that I really enjoyed them.

Favorite Saison: I liked Tommyknockers.  That kind of makes me feel like I missed out on some fancier saisons, but it was good.

Worst Saison: Trinity's 3 Flowers.  Tasted like soap.  Floral soap, but soap nonetheless.  I actually liked the idea of it and they accomplished their goal with aplomb.  I just don't think beer should taste like that.

Biggest Beer: (as in, the most going on, strongest, etc) St. Bernadus Abt 12, a Quadruppel; or maybe Unibroue's Trois Pistole, a Belgian strong dark ale

Best Backyard BBQ Beer: Bristol Beehive Honey Wheat or Clown Shoes Clementine Witbier

Biggest Disappointment: Crazy Mountain's Horseshoes & Handgrenades, or maybe not getting to try Chimay or Rochefort

Best Porter: to be fair, we didn't try many, but Odyssey's Psycho Penguin Vanilla Porter was as good as its name

Best Stout: Yak and Yeti Chai Milk Stout, also definitely a dessert beer (not to have with dessert, to have for dessert)

Hoppiest Beer: Rickoli's Disturbed Reflection, weighing in at an IBU of 190, infused through fresh hops.  Not as bad as I thought it was going to be, but my palate was also shot by that point

I'm mostly just impressed that I tried this
Highest ABV: we tried a 12% ABV amber ale that wasn't on the beer list so I don't know whose it was, but I thought it was worth mentioning

Other pretty decent tastes: Ft. Collins Red Banshee, La Chouffe, Green Flash Rayon Vert, Moylans Kilt Lifter, Ommegang Rare VOS, and some ESB that I can't remember, blast!  I also broke my rule and had a tiny bit of Rogue Hazelnut Brown Nectar even though I swore I wouldn't have any beers I'd already tried.  I resisted Banana Bread Beer, Tank 7, Double Chocolate Stout and Hennepin.

Having the beer list printed out was a definite conversation starter.  And I'm amazed at how many people were so intrigued by the pretzel necklaces.  It's a beer festival people.  And ours were the least impressive by far.  Next year, I'm weaving beef sticks into mine.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The World's Worst 14er Attempt

I planned everything correctly.  I looked up trail routes, printed directions, pictures, maps.  We packed everything we could possibly need: knives, first aid, food, water, layers, toilet paper, sunscreen, poles, headlamps, etc.  We woke up on time, packed the campsite quickly, made it to the trailhead parking lot just before 5am.  All of the prep work goes out the window when you don't actually start the hike on the trailhead.  I can't explain why I thought going out of the parking lot back onto the road made more sense than going to the far end of the parking lot (not that far away) to the actual trailhead.  Blame it on my last 14er hike which involved miles of hiking on a dirt/rock road rather than an actual trail.  Blame it on the dark, the early hour, the lack of sleep.  Blame it on overeagerness to start and summit.  Blame it on the fact that the wrong trail actually matched up more closely to the actual trail directions than any wrong trail should have (the first stream crossing mileage was a little off, and the second stream was more like a stream and a beaver dam marsh, and we didn't come out of tree line to the view of the peak when I thought we would, but it still was close enough that my thoughts were looking forward, not back.)

I have nothing to say except that I still keep hoping that it was a bad dream.  If there is a stronger word than incredulous, I'm there.  Total stats for the disaster: 11.3 miles, 5 hours, 2 horrific stream crossings (4 if you count both ways), almost 8 hours of driving, two days gone, and 0 summits.  We never even made it truly above tree line.  I feel like something straight out of the pages of Dumb and Dumber (Floyd, you idiot, the town is that way!)  I feel like I'm suffering a minor form of PTSD from my stupidity.  I hear running water and I'm envisioning the streams; I see a sock and I have flashbacks to Mary ringing hers out; I see a rock and suddenly I'm back on the trail--the wrong trail; I see the trail mix on the counter and I want to vomit; I see a picture of the mountains and my throat tightens.  I still don't know whether to cry or to put my fist through a wall.  I'd rather laugh about it but I don't see that happening for a good long while.  I lay awake last night just picturing it over and over in my mind, trying to figure out how I could do something that wasn't even on my radar of how to screw this up.  I'm hoping that writing about it will help me process, because I don't want another night like that.
Still dark, still stupidly naive, already on the wrong trail.
Mary wringing her socks out after the second stream crossing.  See video on facebook for why her socks were wet.

Above my head is Mt. Massive.  This is shortly after the nice campers looked at us like we were morons and pointed behind us saying, "That's Mt. Massive" when I asked where the trail was.
A better view of Massive from the back side.  Not the side you are supposed to climb.
And Massive from the front side (after we were back on the road).  This is the side you are supposed to climb. And also, you can see why it's called Mt. Massive.
I can't decide which I'm more upset about: the epic failure and the wasted time and energy and the disbelief that something like this could even happen and the knowledge that I'll have to do it all again, or the fact that I'm so upset about something that turned out to be a gorgeous day hike in the gorgeous mountains.  I shouldn't be having PTSD about hiking in Colorado.  Since I can't undo it, and I can't make it any different, I just have to resign myself to accept that it is the dumbest thing I have EVER, EVER, EVER (add 76 more EVERs and you are close) done, and try to move on.  Until I'm able to move past it, I'm not sure I would recommend hiking with me.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Creation seems to be a window for my eyes into God's arms

After a couple good nights' sleep, I'm finally ready to sit down and talk about our adventures (though I can still barely walk and going down stairs is a joke).  I'm gonna skip the parts about stressing about whether or not the trip was even gonna happen, and the disaster of trying to find someone to work my Friday evening shift.  That's worth forgetting.  But the rest should be a highlight reel of my first 14er Mass (and my first hiking/camping with Fr. John).

Who: myself, Fr. John, young seminarian Chris
What: climbing Blanca Peak and Ellingwood Point, with Mass on top of Blanca
Where: the Sangre de Cristo mountains above the San Luis Valley
Why: Fr. John is four 14ers away from the set, and his new goal is to say Mass on top of each; this was his 15th 14er Mass (and my 15th 14er)

When I first got to Fr. John's house, I saw his packing pile (he wasn't quite ready, shocker) which included two ice axes, crampons, a helmet and rope.  I almost turned around.  Turns out that was the Switzerland packing pile, complete with all the gear needed to climb Monte Rosa, the highest peak in Switzerland.  Phew!

The drive down to the San Luis Valley was pretty uneventful.  The fun started when we hit the Lake Como road.  I can no longer claim to have never been off-roading.  Parts of the road were no worse than a bad dirt mountain road-- ruts, rocks, sheer drops off the side.  Other parts were bad enough that I was doing my best rafting "high side" in Fr. John's 4Runner.  He kept turning the music up louder to drown out the noises of the car taking a beating, so Mumford & Sons, the Avett Brothers, and Coldplay provided our soundtrack to the bouncing and jolting.  When we came across a stalled Land Rover, I started to wonder at the wisdom of taking the road head-on.  But, we made it to a parking spot about a mile and a half above where I would have parked.  Well, that's not true.  It was about 4 miles above where I would have parked, and about a mile and a half above where I would have had Fr. John park.  The car was making funny noises when we parked, but we couldn't figure out where they were coming from.  So we left, after sprinkling the car with Holy Water, praying that it wouldn't explode while we hiked.  From there, it was hiking up Lake Como Road to the campsite on the lake.  I had forgotten how physically taxing it is to hike with a full pack.  Cooking gear, rain fly, sleeping bag, pad, two liters of water, food, and of course, Chacos for camp shoes.  I was grateful that we stopped driving when we did after we came across Jaws 1, Jaws 2 and Jaws 3, so named because they swallow vehicles who try to off-road up to the lake.  It's been done, even by Fr. Peter in his Jeep, but you couldn't pay me enough money to sit in one of those cars.

Jaws 2
The lake was worth the hike, a beautiful setting for our campsite.  Once we all got our boots off and our sandals on, it was a quick tent set-up and an even faster water run.  And then the talk started about what time to leave the trailhead in the morning.  Just as a reference point, when Dad and Laura and I did Harvard, we left the campsite probably around 7am.  Of course, we had to turn back before the summit due to winds, so maybe an earlier attempt would have increased our success.  When 4am started being thrown around as a time of choice, I bit my lip.  Fr. John has, after all, done dozens more of these than I have.  A storm loomed as we went to bed, and just before we turned in, the lightening started and rain was spitting.  It blew over shortly, unfortunately dropping the temperature about 15 degrees when the clouds disappeared.  Nobody slept well, I was wishing I had brought either my warmer bag or my liner, and 3:30 came both too early and not soon enough.

Coffee at 4am
Thank goodness for the Jet Boil.  The rehydrated scrambled eggs were awful (I forgot to double the rehydration time for altitude), but the coffee was totally worth it.  After a quick breakfast, we were on the trail by 4:20.  The first hour was done with headlamps.  The sun rise over the valley was gorgeous.  The sun coming up behind the mountain and illuminating the traverse we would have to climb between Blanca and Ellingwood was uber-intimidating.  We hiked fast, blowing by the Blue Lakes, the waterfall, Crater Lake, past the ridges and up into the saddle.  The final 600 feet of Blanca was straight up the ridge, difficult Class 2 climbing until Fr. John took us off trail for the last 50 feet and it turned into Class 3.  Whoops.  The top was cold, but the views were fabulous.  You could see from New Mexico up to the Crestones.  Mass was quick in deference to the temperature, and it was a little odd being one of two people in the "congregation."  But I feel so blessed to have had the experience.  When Fr. John elevated the host during the Eucharistic Prayer, the sun caught the Eucharist and it made for the most beautiful image.  Part of me is glad I didn't ruin the moment by turning my camera on and snapping a photo, and the other part of me is kicking myself for not having preserved that moment.  I had to settle for a shot of Fr. John after Mass.

And then it was time to conquer the traverse.  With a slip of the tongue, Fr. John said "It's really worse than it looks."  I reminded him it was the other way around, right?  We just went for it, staying just below the exposed top.  Only at one point, when Fr. John was hugging a boulder and working his way around the side did I object.  For the most part, it was tolerable, made more difficult by the fact that my knees were wobbly from the first ascent and the 600 feet of descent down the ridge of Blanca.  But we traversed in speedy time, hitting the Ellingwood Point summit by about 9am.  Fortunately, the sun had finally started to take effect and the summit was far warmer than Blanca.  Looking back at Blanca made me so glad that we had done that one first.  It really was a beast.

The traverse from Blanca, looking at Ellingwood
The descent was nothing special, killer on the knees and ankles, lots of loose talis, one minor snow field crossing that took much longer than it should have because I couldn't erase the image of my mother sliding down the ice on Mt. Sherman.  Before we knew it, we were back at camp, breaking it down in record time to hit the road.  With full packs on, the descent of Lake Como Road was the hardest part of the hike for me.  My legs were shot, my feet were starting to rub in my boots, the flies were buzzing around my face, and Fr. John hikes a lot faster than my little shrimp legs can follow.  He disappeared ahead of us.  We got to the point where we thought we had parked the car, and it wasn't there.  We had three thoughts.  1- Fr. John decided to play a prank and drive the car down farther.  This would have resulted in bodily harm.  2- Someone was hurt and needed a quick evac.  3- Fr. John needed to start the car and drive it a little to make sure it still worked.  Turns out, that section of road looked eerily similar to where we actually parked.  And it was just a little farther down the road before our end was in sight.  Sandals on, we made the treacherous descent down the road, music blaring, heads nearly hitting the ceiling.

When you hike as long and as hard as we did, the only thing to do is eat as much as possible while you can still justify it.  We stopped at this hole-in-the-wall convenience store in Blanca, run by two Polish brothers who make the most amazing kielbasa.  Giant sausages split on a roll, pickle, kraut, jalapenos, mustard.  And a cold Coors.  We sat on the curb soaking in our success.  And then, after several hours of traffic back to the 'burbs, it was a stop at Steak 'n' Shake for double steakburgers, extra crispy fries and a dark chocolate shake.  It's been more than 40 hours since we finished hiking, and I can still hardly move.  I think my quads will be sore for a month.  But it was worth it.  It was worth the physical effort, the lack of sleep, climbing outside my comfort zone, suffering through two days of Fr. John calling me Laura, finding my bathroom on the side of the mountain, eating crappy rehydrated eggs and frozen energy bars, and not being able to walk for a few days.  I am grateful for our very own Pier Giorgio priest who finds God in the mountains and takes others there to meet Him.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Somewhere between boorishness and buffoonery

My week has been a week of highs and lows.  The highs were a little harder to find, a little fewer and farther between, but there nonetheless.  So, instead of focusing on the stresses of homeownership, severed phone lines, my work "mom" quitting, yardwork, working my least favorite shift, a double-back at work on two hours of sleep, two STM school Masses this week, and a complete lack of exercise, I'm going to focus on the good.

Eutrapelia: once again, my week is blessed with Catholic Stuff You Should Know.  It's making my commute super tolerable.  I just wish that when I went to explain it, I could remember half of what I listened to.  So instead of saying, "there's three...things...that are part of everything...they're called the three...I don't remember," I could intelligently discuss the three transcendentals of beauty, good, and truth.  One of the more obscure topics this week (I'm listening all out of order, so this was this week in listener land, not in podcast recording time) was eutrapelia- essentially wittiness and good humor.  I also really enjoyed the Christological Constellations, although I wasn't going to even try to explain that one to someone.

Girls Night In: I am so grateful for the reminder of the wonderful women of God that grace my life, even though I routinely forget about them when I'm wallowing in self-pity about my work schedule.  They are friends for life because the friendship is founded in something deeper than a weekly happy hour, and I know that these are women who care about my soul, my true happiness.  It didn't hurt to have fabulous food, gorgeous weather, s'mores around the fire pit, or some significant good-natured ribbing.  But the overwhelming feeling that has stayed with me is that I still do have a Catholic community surrounding me, ready to bail me out when I get bogged down with the stress of life.

Beer With A Priest: Despite the horrific traffic and the craziness of the rest of the day, I did get to have a beer with Fr. John at the Avery Tap Room in Boulder.  We caught up a little, mostly talked about Kilimanjaro, and I got on the schedule for the next 14er Mass.  YES!!!  It only took about 6 hours of scheming and four or five detours in my plans before I found someone to trade shifts with me so I can go.  I'm also grateful for a friend at work whose question was, "Will your life be worse if you don't get to do this?" and then agreed to the trade when I said yes.

Almost to another "weekend": I'm exhausted and therefore closing out the blog early.  A final bright spot in my week is that it's almost over.  I have two days coming up to catch up on sleep, laundry, sunshine, new food spots, friends, and more of that good Catholic community.  And then eight more days of work before a whole bunch more bright spots: Hootie at Red Rocks, Laura's graduation, football playoffs, etc.  I'm ready for bed just thinking about it.  Here's to finding the good in life and holding on to it.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013


I've been leading a small faith-sharing group called a Virtue Challenge Team.  I volunteered to host the group and therefore got appointed the de facto leader.  Not sure I'm qualified to lead a group in discussing and cultivating virtue, but it's been good to get back into a fellowship setting.  There are definitely a lot of challenges, mostly revolving around everyone in the group being strangers and at completely different points intellectually, spiritually, and vocationally.  With no unifying event to forge a bond (retreat, mission trip, etc), we are revealing bits of ourselves by degrees.  Fitting, then, that our first virtue to discuss was patience.

It's a virtue that I struggle with.  I'm the person praying, "God give me patience and give it to me now."  I've always associated patience with tolerance of a trying situation.  But the chapter from DeMarco's The Heart of Virtue that we read had some interesting thoughts on looking at patience in a way that is much more in tune with my own natural inclinations.

"If something appears without fanfare, patience will take the time to find its inner glory.  When the moment seems unpromising, patience will discover some surprising benefaction."

I can work with that understanding of patience.  It's about a search for the three transcendentals--beauty, goodness, and truth--in the midst of everyday life.  Any object, person, event, or situation has some element of these three things.  Patience takes the time to find them.

"Patience gives us the flexibility we need so that we can find worthwhile pursuits when other opportunities have been taken from us."

This seems to hold a lot of relevance in my life recently.  With my work schedule the way it is, I feel like a lot of opportunities have been taken from me.  I haven't had the patience to find other worthwhile pursuits, hobbies, passions, missions.  They would bring me fulfillment and reveal the goodness, truth, and beauty in my current situation.

So, while I still lose my temper at the drop of a hat, maybe cultivating patience in this new light will allow me to grow in virtue in a way that seems to be more freeing and less restricting.  The next virtue is meekness and I'm not sure I'm ready for that one either.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

If I could wish upon a star, I would hitch a cable car...Won't you save me, San Francisco?

Had a heck of a birthday vacay in the city by the bay.  Here's a few highlights:

Transportation.  We hit all the kinds.  Taxi, BART, CalTrain, PediCab, walking, biking, ferry, Cable Car.  Each was a different, authentic look at the city.  My faves were the PediCab and the Cable Car.  Almost got my ankles swiped by a crazy driver standing on the outside of the Cable Car, but I guess that goes with the territory.

Riding bikes across the Golden Gate Bridge
Food.  Burgers and local beer in Sausalito.  Homemade pasta in short rib ragu in Little Italy.  Authentic Mexican brunch (I know you don't think of Mexican as breakfast food, but they do it right).  Chowder in a sourdough bread bowl.  Ghiradelli cookie-bottom sundae.  Late night pesto pizza.  Polish sausage from a street cart.  Yummm!
Polish Sausage with Sauerkraut and Red Onion Relish
Touristy things.  The Golden Gate Bridge.  Fisherman's Wharf.  Pier 39.  Ghiradelli Square.  Union Square.  Alcatraz.  Lombard Street.  We pretty much did it all.

Felon in Cell Block D
Giants game.  Those folks love their World Series Champions.  While I felt like a poser in my just-purchased Giants' t-shirt, I had a blast cheering for the home team.  Hot dog, beer, churro, sunshine, nail-biter game won on an RBI double in the bottom of the ninth.  Did I mention they put on a fireworks show for my birthday?  Strong work.

Happy Birthday to Me!
Wine.  Our tour was cut short by a driver who called in sick.  But we still managed to hit a few wineries and sample our fair share.  The hands-down highlight was Homewood Winery.  Killer food pairings, uber-friendly staff and volunteers, and AMAZING wine.  The Barbera was to-die-for.  The Chardonnay was good enough for me to buy two bottles, and if you know me, that's a big deal.  Among the 4 of us (I'm not counting Brad and Rachel because they were too poor to buy any), we walked away with 50 bottles of wine.  Not joking.  I was the responsible one and only bought 10, and half were for Dad.  But that tells you how much we liked them.

Sonoma Valley Vineyard
And there was my five days in San Francisco.  Made complete by a turbulent landing in Denver that had me sick enough to warrant the paramedics.  Awesome.  And now I'm watching the snow continue to fall and add to the 3 inches from yesterday.  Welcome to April in Colorado.  Bottom line- San Francisco is a great city.

Monday, April 15, 2013

"You go to Sunday dinner and all you do is fight. You sure you're not Italian?"

So I'm watching Blue Bloods, and I had to laugh when Danny asked the OR pharmacist if she was familiar with fentanyl.  The first words out of her mouth were "Yeah, synthetic heroin."  (Also, my brain wants to spell heroin h-e-r-o-i-n-e, cause that's the better kind)  I don't know a single pharmacist who thinks of fentanyl first and foremost as synthetic heroin.  Some see it as a pain med, some as a procedural sedation for RSI or a reduction, some as a sedative anesthetic in the OR.  I suppose as long as Blue Bloods stays away from pharmacy, I can keep watching.

I've been trying to figure out why I like this show so much.  There's not a lot of humor or any sort of love story (unless you count Linda and Danny, which I'll get to), and through a little more than a season and a half, I'm not sure I've seen a ton of character development.  Character revelation, yes.  Each episode, we do get to see a little more of each character's soul, but they aren't really evolving or growing that I've seen.  Those are all the main reasons why I like most shows.  But something about Blue Bloods just keeps pulling me back.

I think it's simply that no other show on television is so rooted in a family's commitment to faith and family and justice.  Nobody on TV has a moral code anymore.  Much less an entire set of characters.  Most episodes have me thinking that Danny is finally gonna blow it with Linda.  Or Erin is being just too darn strict with the letter of the law.  Or Jamie is going to get killed because he kept something from his dad.  Or Frank's stubbornness is going to prove to be his downfall.  But these are their human sides and weaknesses. And it makes it that much more appealing when they triumph over them.  When Danny gave Linda his badge after she threatened to leave him, and she said, "I don't want you to quit being a cop," I nearly cried when he said, "I just need you to know that I would."  Since when does marriage get the trump card?  Never in our society.  But it should.

Every time the sibling fighting seems ready to boil over, one of them does something to show without a doubt that family and the right thing are more important than opinions and prejudices.  Every dinner starts with a prayer.  Mass isn't a four-letter word.  The Catholic priest was defended for his abuse accusations until the truth was revealed.  Four generations of moral conviction, compassion, work ethic, honesty, sacrifice, and love.  I think that's why I love this show.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Copycat Blog

Things I like this week (stealing from Laura):

-Sleeping in
-That first breath of fresh air when I step outside in the morning
-Reading the paper with a hot cup of coffee in my hand
-Getting a voicemail that says "Meechelle, I have a ketogenic diet crisis and you have to call me back right now" (I'm paraphrasing, there may have been a bad word in there)
-Brother Donald subbing on our Ultimate Frisbee team
-Corned beef, cabbage, and green beer
-Watching Blue Bloods, loving that a TV show exists that shows Catholics in a positive light
-Getting a manager's SEED at work
-Having the end-of-Mass announcement be "Habemus Papam"
-Knowing Laura is coming home
-Family lunch at Maggiano's (and three subsequent leftover meals)
-Having one of my favorite techs tell me I'm the greatest
-Free Bistro Box from Starbucks
-Having the rest of today and all of tomorrow to do WHATEVER I WANT!!!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Habemus Papam!! Viva Il Papa!!!

I'm keeping this short because I have to go to work early tomorrow for the annual Great Potato Race (yes, I work at a Children's Hospital, we are awesome), so to bed forthwith for me.  But, since the whole world is talking today, and the Catholic Church is on fire, and since the world is ending because the media has been positive toward the Church today, I figured I'd mark the occasion with an overdue blog post.

Mass today at the AI started with Fr. Riley saying, "the almighty iPad says we don't have a pope yet, keep praying."  And midway through Mass I was embarrassed when Dad's "knock knock knock" text alert went off, and mortified when it went off again as he received communion.  Then at the end of Mass, right before the final blessing, it was announced that we had a pope!  No name yet, but Habemus Papam!  I felt the Holy Spirit pretty intensely right then.  It was like all of our prayers had culminated in a glorious moment to give us a new Vicar of Christ.  (And it explained the texts-- kudos to FOCUS for popealarm.com)  What a blessing to have been praying during the moments of the election, and knowing that despite claims of politicking and scandal and whatever else, it was really the Holy Spirit who has given us a new Holy Father.

By all accounts, I think that Pope Francis I will be a strong, passionate, gentle, inspired, and humble leader.  I am excited about his choice of namesake, about his Jesuit background (all jokes aside), about his presence for the Americas, and about the reaction from the Church thus far.  I am excited to see where he takes us.  And, if any of the prophecies are true, he better live to 100, one lung and all.  May God abundantly bless the Church and her new shepherd!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Me, Myself, and All the Things I'm Not

Because it was my idea first, but Laura beat me to the punch.  Because I spent the weekend doing things that weren't fun for me, but that I "had to try to get outside my comfort zone."  Because after said weekend, I got home to find that my roommate had spent her weekend in the mountains, eating dinner with priests and trying the local brewery.  Because I'm keeping calm and staying shiny.  Here are some things about me that I've decided to embrace instead of fight:

I like beer.  I like to have a beer.  One beer, maybe two if we're enjoying ourselves and staying awhile.  I don't like to get drunk, I don't like to get tipsy.  I don't like shouting over the music or the crowd to carry on a conversation.  I like trying the craft beer, not because I'm a beer snob, but because I like the feeling that something is my little secret, my discovery.  Give me a pint at Dry Dock over a night out on the town any day.

I'm Catholic and I love being Catholic.  I love the Church, I love Her wisdom, I love the Pope, I love spending time with priests, I love learning about the Saints, I love the Sacraments (most of them).  I feel a deep sadness that not everyone gets it, and fewer people love it.  But I also feel a great joy knowing that I have found my home and I know exactly where to go when things get tough.

My TV and movie preferences aren't always mainstream.  I'm a fan of NCIS (along with most of America), and I'll watch a few Oscar nominees and probably even enjoy them.  But give me Firefly or James Bond or old school Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Arrow or Waitress or Tomb Raider, and I'm set.  So sue me if I've never seen Modern Family or Anchorman.  I'm judging you because you've never seen Castle, so we're even.

I like to win.  I don't always express it with grace, and I don't always accept losing with humility.  I'm not always successful at just having fun.  But I'm not going to apologize for being competitive, or for using my athletic talent.  Someday, someone will like that I jump off the couch when the Broncos have a Pick-6.  They'll like that I make single-handed double plays in wiffleball or that I catch the girl extra-point in football.  And they won't mind if I take a couple hours to unwind if we didn't win.

I read to relax and feel guilty that I should be reading to better myself.  I'd wear my Chacos every day if I could.  Sometimes I'd just rather stick a baseball cap on my head than care about my hair.  I like flannel.  I don't like skiing.  If I'm gonna hike, I'd rather end up on top of a mountain.  I'd prefer if you'd leave the F-bombs at home.  I am horribly naive and uneducated when it comes to music, but I'll sing you every word to All For the Best.  I can quote Alias bloopers.  I can't wink, whistle, or burp.  I hate talking on the phone.  I don't do well meeting new people.  I sing like a (tone-deaf) diva in the shower and the car.  And at work.

I reserve the right to make this blog as worthless to read as I feel like, and also to write as infrequently as I deem necessary. Just thought I'd let you know since I finally decided to share my blog.