No I do not want to join your book club

Am I the only reader who wants nothing to do with book clubs? This is a serious question. I love to read, and I love books. But I hate book clubs. Yet, I repeatedly get asked to join book clubs, and I feel like a jerk for repeatedly declining. Then Harrison tells me I’m spending too much time reacting to being invited to join yet another book club.

I recently read a book along with a group of co-workers, and it was mostly fine, except that I finished the book before everyone else because I don’t like to read more than one book at a time (with the exception of my “in-between” book that I read when I’m waiting for something to be available at the library), and subsequently I finished the book before the rest of the group because the rest of the group decided they wanted a month and a half to read 100 pages. 

Reading is my loner, introvert activity. It always has been. Even when I was a kid, I remember sitting by the window reading a book while my sister played outside with the neighbors. It’s one of those few things that I can do completely on my terms. I choose the book and how quickly I read it, and the experience I have reading the book is completely my own. I don’t have to talk about it with anyone or be influenced by someone else’s experience. Most importantly, I do not have to leave my house to discuss the book with anyone else. I’m just particular about this one thing, I guess.

So again I ask, am I really the only reader who does not like book clubs?

With or without you…but preferably with you

Harrison got a new job this year. It’s kind of his first real adult job with real adult pay and real adult benefits. Although, he has yet to go to the dentist, despite the fact that he knows he probably desperately needs to. One thing we did not expect was that he would have to travel for this job as much as he has. He has been to the Washington, D.C. office three times now; the first time he traveled to the D.C. office, his trip was extended, so he could go to the New York office for a day. It was planned to be a five day trip and was extended to an eight day trip, which I felt was quite long. We’ve both traveled without the other throughout our relationship for work and pleasure, but it had never exceeded five days at a time until Harrison started this job.

Whenever he is preparing to leave, I am faced with the initial blow of painful anxiety about the loneliness I am sure to feel while he’s gone. Now, maybe some would think that is a sign of a healthy, loving relationship. Maybe it is, but I can’t help but be reminded of the codependency my mother had for my (former) stepdad, and really, any man I ever saw her in a relationship with.

This same conversation has come up again and again in my head through our 7 ½ year relationship. I am half of a partnership but still one whole person. I am holding on to my independence for dear life. I can’t be like her. I can’t. I’m better than that. I am okay on my own. I always have been, and I always will be.

The first time Harrison went out of town for work, I was a complete mess. As a life-long insomniac who is finally getting a handle on it, a change to my routine or sleep environment completely destroys any progress made. I barely slept that week. At one point, I went to Harrison’s weed stash hoping that what he had would be what he refers to “sleepy-time weed” because I can’t keep the actual strains straight. (If you ever say inidca or sativa in conversation with me, I’ll pretend I know what you’re talking about, but I don’t.) I took a risk that night, and I lost. I had a serious panic attack and was convinced that when I went to sleep, I wouldn’t wake up. This is what happens when I smoke the wrong kind of weed. I am certain I will die.

I went through the same initial motions the second time he went out of town for work and again this week. When he left for his most recent trip, I had a few brief freak-outs, I Googled, “Is it normal to feel separation anxiety when your partner travels for work?” Answer: this is totally normal. Phew.

I also cried  in a Target parking lot. Going to Target has become a weird couples ritual for Harrison and me. We grocery shop there, because Red Card + Cartwheel= getting that money…or um, just spending less of it. And we make a pretty good team. We plan our meals, make lists, we get in and out in under and hour, and we keep each other from buying things we don’t need. When I’m there alone, trying to get the things that only I need for the week ahead, I feel a little lost, and I’m suddenly wandering around putting random things that look okay to consume in a basket.

I do this solo grocery shopping with the best of intentions, but deep down, I know the food may not ever be eaten because I hate cooking for one. I will inevitably be a frequent flyer at the Taco Bell drive thru.

Something was different about his last trip, though. I’d had some practice. I was able to comfortably settle into the solitude of the week alone. And it was very alone. Since his trip had him gone the week and weekend before Thanksgiving, most of my close friends were also away or had family in town. Sure, I still did not eat particularly healthily. I still went to Taco Bell, one more time than is probably acceptable. But I did slightly better than I had before. I stuck to what would be our normal routine in order to prevent severe insomnia, and that went well with the exception of the first night. I made plans for the weekend with only a short period of indecisiveness, and I actually really enjoyed my time alone. It was a great time to go see that movie that Harrison said sounded like “a total bummer.”

Harrison came home, laid down in bed and was immediately engulfed by our cats. And everything was in its rightful place again.

He’s probably going to have more trips in the coming months, and he’s going on a quick comedy tour in February. The thing I have to remind myself of is that I’ve done the solo thing before – before Harrison and for brief stints during our relationship. And damnit, I’m good at it. It’s just not my normal state after this many years of steady companionship. I have someone to go to plan meals with, to shop with, to see a movie with. I love that. But it’s easy to lose yourself in it. I’ll always be excited for him to come home, but I’m getting to a place of content and gratitude for the time I have to be alone and grow and just be.

The dilemma of a well-behaved Hanson fan when they play with the symphony

I am an unashamed Hanson fan. I can’t even call this a guilty pleasure because I feel no guilt. I never went to see Hanson in their prime because given the choice to take me to a Hanson concert or an NSYNC concert, my dad chose NSYNC. In the late 90s, that was arguably the better option of the two. One had sweet dance moves and a rad light show, and the other, um, didn’t. However, I have seen Hanson live multiple times, since I have been able to purchase my own tickets to the show… and alcohol from the bar. I have been of legal drinking age every time I’ve seen Hanson live. Once I did a shot at a Hanson show because I was still in college and responded very well to peer pressure. I immediately when to the bathroom and vomited because I don’t get along well with Jager.

Before you get all judge-y about my appreciation of the Hanson brothers, let me ask you something: Are you still living on money you made when you were a pre-teen? Didn’t think so. Shut it. Also, I dare you not to click on this.

Furthermore, they are all multi-instrumentalists who have been practicing their craft most of their lives. Rather than trying to live up to the level of fame of that song everyone knows, they kind of did whatever they wanted after the hysteria around their first album died off. There’s something to be said for staying true to yourself regardless of popularity and generally being good dudes. We’ll get to the charity work shortly.

Okay, wait a minute. Why am I justifying this? It’s reflex, I guess. Moving on.

Hanson’s latest project is called String Theory. They are touring the country and playing with elite symphony orchestras in various cities. I can only imagine the thrill the orchestra members felt when they found out the years they spent mastering their instruments would result in playing an orchestral arrangement of “Mmmbop” while women in their 30s lose their collective shit.

The music part was excellent. I wholeheartedly enjoyed it. But I don’t know how I felt about the display of poor behavior and buffoonery I witnessed in a SYMPHONY CONCERT HALL! Let’s catalog some of these things.

  • Many girls were dressed in club attire, tits fully on display, posing with their best duckface in front of the stage. Full disclosure, this was a Saturday night in Downtown Denver, so maybe they were actually going to one of LoDo’s finest establishments after the concert. Also, I don’t want this to come across as shaming of any woman’s choice of clothing. I generally believe that women should wear whatever the fuck makes the feel good, regardless of the opinions of others, but consider the venue. (Also, wait a few bullet points for criticism of mens’ attire.) I would also like to note that all the Hanson brothers are married and have children. No one is leaving their wife and kids for you despite what you wished for your life in the fanfic you wrote at 15. Put your tits away!
  • A man sitting two seats over from me who had to have been at least 40 yelled, “This is so much fun!” It was very loud. Everyone heard it. Even if it were appropriate to yell things in a venue like this, what a dumb thing to yell.
  • Up in the balcony, there was some sort of pelvic thrust dance happening to the tune of “Mmmbop” accompanied by the symphony. Maybe she thought she was already at the club? I’m not sure.
  • The ushers told exactly one person to put their phone away before completely giving up on that.
  • There was a mass rush toward the stage toward stage during the last two songs.
  • A man wore a backwards hat.
  • A man in a graphic tee and cargo shorts was accompanied by his family including a daughter wearing what I think was some sort of Pokémon hat that had ears on it.

Again, all of this in a SYMPHONY CONCERT HALL.

Am I a huge snob? Maybe the symphony knew exactly what they were signing up for, and I need to loosen the hell up. Maybe the symphony taking itself (a lot) less seriously for a night is a good thing. I mean, they have movie nights at the symphony on a regular basis where they play famous movie scores like Jurassic Park and Star Wars. It’s a good way to bring people in and open them up to a new experience. And of course, it’s a good way to bring in some money. At the same time, that type of behavior or attire in that venue for any normal symphony event would just not be okay. This is not just the venue allowing Hanson to play; this is the Colorado Symphony Orchestra’s house.

I went on field trips to the symphony when I was in school. We were always told to dress nicely and be on our best behavior. Don’t talk… or, uh, yell things. You treat the art and the work with respect. Did no one else have that experience?

This also isn’t the first time I’ve seen Hanson fans behave like assholes. A few years ago, I went to a show at the Bluebird Theater. They broke during their set to talk about their Take the Walk Campaign.

(For those of you unfamiliar with Hanson, which I assume is most you, Hanson use to invite fans to walk a mile with them, often barefoot, in order to raise awareness and money for various challenges plaguing many African countries.)

The oldest brother, Isaac, began speaking when someone in the crowd yelled, “Where were you?” Isaac then explained that he was talking with a friend on the phone who was starting cancer treatment, and that was the reason he did not attend. The crowd was silent and uncomfortable. Of course, whoever yelled in the crowd that night had no way of knowing, but maybe if they didn’t feel so entitled to the company of a Hanson brother, who is in fact a human being with human problems, they wouldn’t have said anything.

I don’t know what conclusion I’m trying to draw here, but it’s one of the following:

  • Hanson fans are dicks.
  • Take your damn kids to the symphony, and teach them how to behave and dress.
  • I’m a snob.

Things I would do if I had all the time 7/23-7/29

A weekly recommendation of things I would do if I had unlimited time– and money in some cases. Maybe I’ll make it to a couple of these things. In any case, report back if you go to any of these events.

Monday 7/23

Yoga Storytime: What a great combination of things I love! Yoga and public libraries. The city of Longmont just got a little cooler. Check this out at the Longmont Public Library on Mondays at 11am.

Next to Normal: Harrison hates community theater. I love it. How did I not know this was happening? Get to Evergreen to see this at Centerstage Theatre! Closes Tuesday 7/24.

Tuesday 7/24

The Girls & Gays Comedy Showcase: I’m close to the local comedy scene because of Harrison’s involvement, and I am always rooting for the comics who are not straight white men. We have plenty of those. Tickets only $5.  Show starts at 8.

Wednesday 7/25

Livin’ in A Ho House, hosted by Felony Misdemeanor: Few things thrill me more than seeing Drag Queens come out of the gay bars and into the mainstream. Drag Queens are artists and incredibly dynamic performers, and Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox is an excellent spot in Downtown Denver. Side note: I wrote a piece for Denver’s Metromix.com (R.I.P.) about some of Denver’s best Drag Queens almost 10 years ago, and Felony was one of my featured queens. Go see her in action.

Thursday 7/26

Into the Woods: Wait, why don’t I have tickets to this? Phamaly Theatre company will be presenting this show at the Space Theatre at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts through August 5th. Phamaly produces shows that feature performers with disabilities, so you will not only be entertained, you will be supporting an excellent organization. Click the link for showtime and ticket information.

Friday 7/27

Denver Summer Brew Fest: Who doesn’t love a good beer festival. This is happening at Mile High Station on Friday and Saturday. I’ll be here Friday representing Shirts on Tap.

Saturday 7/28

Bub Comedy Presents: Dickin’ Around- A Night of Comedy and Trivia: I think Harrison is on this show, but I can’t keep track anymore. This show is at the Dicken’s Opera House in Longmont. Doors open at 7:30. Tickets are $11.

Sunday 7/29

Shakesbeer presents Henry IV Pt. 1: There’s a group in Denver called The Wit’s Shakesbeer that performs abridged versions of Shakespeare plays while drinking with the audience. Go see this. Happening at Alpine Dog Brewing Company at 8pm.

I hope you will find some fun this week. Let me know how it goes. Please contact me if you have an event you think I should include. But remember, this is a list of things that I would do if I had all the time. I won’t recommend just anything. Then we’re getting into advertising territory, and you’d have to pay me for that…. which I am also open to. Let’s just talk.

Tips for Extroverts with Introvert Friends

I recently read the book “Quiet” by Susan Cain. Reading this book was like reading about myself. Why do I get so burnt out? Why do I have such a hard time taking on other commitments outside of work, especially commitments involving people? Why do I love the days when the weather quiets the city and keeps people indoors? Why do I get so annoyed when I’m interrupted in the middle of a task at work? Why am I risk-averse? I am an introvert.

This book was incredibly validating. It even gave me some insight as to why some relationships in my life can sometimes feel strained without any fault on either side being at fault. I deeply value people who are more on the extroverted side of the spectrum because without them, I would probably miss out of a lot of great experiences. At the same time, my alone time is of serious importance for me. It’s how I recharge. It’s how I process a problem I’m having or destress. I don’t want to be pressured out of that time. I also don’t want to upset a friend by turning down an invitation. Let’s be real—invitations. Plural. It isn’t personal. I just need a little less stimulation. I came up with a list of tips based on my own experiences for extroverts who have introverted friends. Obviously, communication on both sides is very important, but I can only speak from my perspective. So, here we go.

1. It’s not personal.

I just said this, but I feel like this is worth restating. Not wanting to participate in a particular activity doesn’t mean we don’t like you, or that we’re mad at you. It probably means we need a break.

2. No means no.

Seriously though. We’re adults. Why are we still peer pressuring each other? If your introvert friend says, “no, thank you” to an invitation, I can assure you we are not looking for you to show us how bad you want us to go by begging obnoxiously. Another thing Cain points out in “Quiet” is that introverts is that we feel a higher level of guilt than others. Sure, if you beg us, we’ll probably go, but we won’t be happy about it. We’ll probably be a little annoyed with you, too.

3. Give us a minute.

A few years ago, Harrison and I took a trip to Arizona with his family. Five days… in a timeshare… with my mother-in-law… who is, um, long-winded. The first day I was back in Denver, a friend of mine immediately started to talk to me about weekend plans, and I’m pretty sure I snapped at her, which I immediately felt bad about. I didn’t understand why I did that. The truth is, I had reached my limit. Being presented with an invitation to partake in further human interaction was too much. I needed some time to recharge before making more plans, and I needed my friend to back off. Just for a little while.

4. We are bad multi-taskers.

This was a huge epiphany for me because I have thought for the longest time that I multi-task like a pro. That was incorrect. I’m just efficient, and I know how to prioritize multiple tasks and go back and forth between them. Since I read this book, I started to understand why my stress level gets as high as it does. For example, I have Skype for Business at work. This if, of course, rarely used for business. Sometimes chatting with co-workers is a great way to get through the day, but if I have too much work to get done, and I have co-workers trying to chat with me, I start to get really anxious about all of the directions I’m being pulled in. So, I ignore the blinking Skype box.

5. We know what we need.

I was going through a bit of a rough patch recently. I was sad, stressed out, unhappy with my job…all of it. A friend kept asking me to do things, and I kept saying that I just wanted to stay home and not be around people. She replied that it sometimes helps to do “low-key” things with people when you’re stressed. I’m pretty sure I wanted to throw my phone at that moment. I had just stated what I wanted—what I felt I needed at the moment, and she questioned that. I understand the inclination toward offering solutions to “fix” a problem, and that it takes an especially enlightened person to understand that most of the time, that is not possible. In a lot of cases, the best thing you can do is say, “That sucks. I’m sorry. Please let me know if you need anything.” This doesn’t only apply to an extrovert/introvert friendship. It applies to basically everyone. If someone tells you they need something, who are you to think you know better what that actually need? I know I’ve probably done this to people, too. And I am deeply sorry for that. I’

6. Calling us misanthropic might hurt our feelings.

Introverts are not misanthropes. This is about stimulation not any individual or group of people. If you read this blog or know me personally, you know I have an affinity for yoga. I know some people find yoga strange because it’s a workout with an ideology attached. But that ideology is one of loving yourself and others. I take that seriously. I believe all humans are valuable. Everyone has something to offer. Accusing someone of essentially being hateful toward others just because they recharge by being alone is rude, hurtful, and incorrect.

For these relationships to work, each side has to try to meet the other where they’re at, which is difficult. Introverts have to set boundaries for their own self-care, but also be willing to get out of their comfort zones sometimes. There might be a cool experience waiting on the other side of that comfort zone. Extroverts have to respect boundaries and be willing to back off sometimes. Sometimes, we just need different things.

Caffeinate. Eat. Drink. PDX.

If you’ve followed this blog, you may know that Portland, Oregon has a very special place in my heart. I went there for the first time at one of my lowest points, and it held me. I love going back. I was there last weekend meeting a friend who moved to Hawaii a while ago. Each time, I find new places to drink coffee, eat good food, and drink beer. I hope these suggestions make someone’s trip to the City of Roses the best ever.

CAFFEINATE

Stumptown

Duh. Stumptown might be the most well-known coffee roaster in Portland, and there are many locations around the city. My favorite thing about Stumptown are all of their creative cold brew varieties. When Harrison and I went to Portland last year, I had a sarsaparilla cold brew that was delicious.

Barista

Barista has several locations in Portland. I have personally visited the Nob Hill location on NW 23rd Ave. The vibe inside the shop is great, and they serve great coffees from roasters all over the world.

EAT

Seastar Bakery

This place is a gem! At first glance, the menu appears to simply be a bunch of toast. We know Millennials love their toast. There is a fancy toast option for everyone on this menu. There are sweet options, savory options, and plenty of vegan and gluten-free bakery items. Don’t forget to look around at the fun décor.

No Bones Beach Club (vegan)

Best tempeh bacon I’ve ever had. End of discussion. This place has a really great menu complete with some fun cocktails. It’s also right on Mississippi Ave, so you really can’t go wrong here.

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Vita Café (vegetarian)

Vita Café reminds me of one of my favorite vegetarian spots in Denver. Their menu has options for everyone, and again with the tempeh! This was the first I’ve had tempeh that was battered and fried, but it was good. And of course, peanut sauce makes everything better.

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Screen Door

GO THERE. I’ve only eaten at Screen Door for breakfast/brunch. I imagine going there for dinner would be just as good or better. The food is southern comfort style food. Try the cheddar grits! If you’re a vegetarian, the veggie sausage is really good. Yummy cocktails, too! Try the blood orange mimosa or Ginger 75.

BEER

Portland is known for beer. There are great breweries all over the place. Here are a few of my favorites from my latest visit.

Great Notion Brewing

Breakside Brewery

Stormbreaker Brewing

Ecliptic Brewing

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Cascade  Brewing Barrel House If you’re a sour beer lover like I am, Cascade is a must!

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BONUS- Stuff to do

Powell’s City of Books

This is probably pretty obvious. I love to read, and I love walking the aisles of big book stores. Powell’s takes up an entire block. You could seriously spend hours here. It’s a reader’s paradise. There are a couple of smaller locations in the city, but the big store is really something to experience.

Cannon Beach/Haystack rock

HEY YOU GUUUUYYYS!!

I hope someone got that reference. This is where you can find the rock that appears in The Goonies. I don’t know about you guys, but that movie was a huge part of my childhood. Cannon Beach is about an hour and a half from Portland, so it’s an easy day trip. It’s beautiful. The pictures really don’t do it justice.

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North Portland Yoga

I am so grateful that yoga is portable, and that I was able to practice in Portland. I really wish I had taken a better picture of this space.  Harrison gives me a hard time about being so particular about where I practice and who I practice with. I don’t like studios that are so polished. It feels inauthentic. This studio was perfection. I highly recommend it for traveling yogis.

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I’m with the kids

It was inspiring to see kids walking out of their classrooms today. They walked out because they care about their lives and the lives of others, and they have the guts to do something about it. So many people have your backs, kids. Keep fighting.

Seeing the way some “grown-ups” are treating these kids hurts my heart so much. You know what gets my goat more than just about anything? The notion that anyone under a certain age can’t possibly have enough understanding of the world to know what they believe in yet is preposterous. Sure, maybe the fact that they don’t have a fully developed prefrontal cortex leads to dumb shit like eating Tide Pods or snorting cinnamon or whatever. But these kids know what it feels like to grieve, to hurt, to lose. They know the difference between right and wrong, and they know that it is wrong for kids their age to be murdered at school, a place that should be safe and even sacred. Furthermore, they’re smart enough to find a common denominator. Spoiler: It’s guns.

I saw some of the most ignorant, and frankly, stupid comments on social media today. Most of them were from the adults. Some hurled insulting names like idiots or sheep and accused the kids of using this as just another excuse to get out of class. The dumbest thing I read was a man stating that his kids don’t need to participate in something like this because they were raised to fend for themselves. A) What does that mean? B) The way a kid was raised won’t help them if someone with a powerful weapon wants them dead. What is even more disappointing is that some of these people are probably parents.

Then there were the people playing the anti-bullying card WHILE BULLYING TEENAGERS ON FACEBOOK. Don’t get me started on the #WalkUpNotOut nonsense. Okay fine, people should be nice to each other, and bullies are shitty. I agree. But the fact that this came about as a response to the planned walkouts makes it yet another scapegoat to avoid addressing the issue of easy access to powerful weapons. It’s the new mental health. It’s also a very emotionally manipulative form of victim blaming. Please stop.

I digress.

I am a Democrat raised by a Republican father. Granted, my dad hasn’t voted for a Republican for president since Bush in 2000. My earliest political memories are of how much my dad hated Bill Clinton. “Slick-Willy” Clinton is what he called him. When I got older, I started to understand what I believed in through involvement in democracy. Starting just after my junior year of high school, I protested, I canvassed, I worked my ass off alongside other high school students. None of us could vote yet, but we understood what we were working for, and we cared about the future of our communities and our school.  My dad supported my desire to be involved in the political process so much that he excused me from school on Election Day, so that I could call voters and make sure they were able to get to the polls. That year, voters approved a measure to increase school funding in our district, and these types of measures had been historically difficult to pass there. High school students from all over the district had been knocking on doors telling voters how much they cared about their schools since summertime. With the support of all of our parents we worked for something and we were able to watch that pay off.

If you’re a parent with a kid who wants to participate in the democratic process, that means they care. If you have a kid who cares, that means you did something right as a parent. If you’re on the opposite side of an issue, fine! TALK to your kids. Ask them why they feel the way they do; don’t admonish them. Encourage them to read and research and be able support their opinions with FACTS. For Christ’s sake, how amazing to be able to say that you raised an independent thinker! This is the time in their lives they will start to create the kind of adult they will become. Don’t you want to raise a kid who believes in the power of their voice and someday their vote? Or would you rather spend grades 9-12 telling your kid they are too young to possibly understand, so their opinion doesn’t count? They might just transition into adulthood holding on to that kind of cynicism. Think about it.

One more thing: The Gen Xers and Boomers (mostly) who have such strong opposition to these kids participating in the democratic process better hope these kids hang on to their compassion and respect for human life. These kids will see the older generations through retirement. Quite honestly, they have no reason to care about the lives of their elders considering how little care has been shown for their own lives. But something tells me they’re going to do the right thing.

Join me in marching on March 24th. I’ll be participating in the Denver march.