2017

My blog posts over the past year have been few and far between. Other than recapping two of the bigger trips from the year, I have neglected this space, despite my love of storytelling! Not really one for New Year’s resolutions, I may try harder to share more stories and get more writing practice in 2018, but no promises. ūüėČ

As for 2017, even though there was relative silence in my WordPress realm, we were having a great time! I just finished compiling our second annual recap video (you can see 2016 here, if you missed it!), and it was really hard to narrow it down to the length of just one song. Despite Anthony’s playful suggestion that maybe I expand to multiple songs, I did you all a favor and kept it to a fairly digestible length. You’ll see a lightning-fast barrage of beautiful views and the smiling faces we shared them with, representative of so many laughs and memories shared with family and friends. Happy New Year to all — I can’t wait to see what 2018 brings!

 

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Snippets of our summer

Sometimes it’s easy to forget how lucky we are to live here. We, like everyone I assume, sometimes succumb to the occasional dreaming of where we’ll be next. But with the beauty, adventure and company we have at our ready disposal, it’s hard to imagine anything much closer to paradise. Our summer this year was filled with the usual outdoor adventures like hiking, camping and backpacking, in addition to our gorgeous visit to Alaska. Throw in a little bit of biking with pals — both in town and out on the mountain trails, incredible¬†concerts (especially at our favorite venue with those infamous red rocks), road trips, entertainment from our four-legged buddies, moonlit game nights in the backyard, brewery festivals, and general mountain-gawking, and we’ve got yet another unforgettable summer for the books. This year, I made a little montage for us to look back on, in hopes that I can make it an annual tradition. Hope you enjoy it!

 

Love that is ever steadfast…

When I was a freshman in college, the first thing I did was pledge a sorority. I realize it was such a stereotypical move for a former high school cheerleader who came from the suburbs, but at the time it seemed only natural. My parents had regaled us with their Greek college stories all our lives, especially since that was how they had met, in neighboring houses, and I had always seen myself being a part of something that I saw as being so integral to the college experience. In addition, coming to a school several states away from my high school, knowing only one other person (who also happened to be in a fraternity), I was eager to meet as many new faces as possible.

I ended up in Delta Zeta, which did, indeed, play an integral role in my college life.

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Don’t get me wrong — it wasn’t all amazing. My sorority experience was full of ups and downs and threatening to quit and getting some¬†space and coming back to this giant group of girls who were both crazy-fun and made me crazy. Spending money on dues and fees every month, which is so sparse anyway to a college student, and being required to go to organized functions (only half of which were mind-numbingly fun) — I will admit that I actually questioned or regretted the choice often.

However, looking back now, I don’t think I’d make a different choice if I had it all to do over again. These girls became my sisters, and (to my surprise, I admit) have become a support system for life. We’ve seen each other through marriages and divorces, moves and job changes, babies and tragedies. While the distance may cause some of us to lose touch from time to time, we still rally with the best of them when one of our sisters needs us.

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A select few of these girls have remained to me, as the Delta Zeta creed labels, “those closer ones.” The two sorority sisters that stood with me at my wedding have continued to be¬†the two that I can always count on as lifetime friends. We have a tradition every Christmas, to make a point to see each other while¬†I’m in the state of Indiana for a fleeting moment to catch up, see the husbands and kids, and exchange our annual Christmas ornament gifts. It warms my heart that Kristen and Julie both¬†rearrange their holiday schedules to drive to wherever I am and make time to keep this tradition alive.

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This year, the tradition was a bit delayed due to my own tight¬†travel schedule, and I made an extra trip out to the midwest on my own in January, making it a girls’ meetup with the added bonus of seeing Kristen’s boys as we stayed at her house outside of Chicago. Again, they still rearranged their schedules to work with mine, drove through hours of horrendous Chicago rush-hour traffic to pick me up (with all four five-and-under boys in tow, bless their little hearts!) so that we could have our traditional weekend of catching up like we had never skipped a beat.

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The next night, a few more of our sorority sisters made their way up and we had a post-bars slumber party just like the good old days. We all caught up on each others’ lives — all of us in different places with our families, careers and general lifestyles. Despite the fact that we are all in incredibly different places — both literally and figuratively — we still shared this connection that made it all so comfortable.

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I think Kristen said it best when she commented that there is just something special about spending time¬†with the people with whom you became an adult. We know each others’ histories, our mistakes, our triumphs, the good, the bad. No matter how much time has passed, we know each other to our cores and we know what made us into the people we are today. We all obviously have friends that we have met since we entered adulthood, but there is just something about the familiarity of close college friends — who you don’t have to fill in on the backstory or explain anything — that allows you to really relax and be yourself.

It was a wonderful weekend of catching up and getting small glimpses into each others’ lives. Also finding out that we are now the “old ladies” at the bars and that we start to fall asleep before getting too much alcohol in us, while still making sure to order a “wounded turtle” before making a pre-midnight exit. Our college selves would be utterly disappointed in our lack of party power, but I can’t wait until the next time we get to be the even older ladies at the bars, talking about where our lives have taken us next and reminiscing about the memories that will never be forgotten.

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Enjoyin’ the ride

Do you ever think about how it would be to go back in time and show your past-self how awesome things will be?

Just an average night, making dinner, and I thought of College Erin. I wondered what College Erin, Erin of 10 years ago, would think if she would have had the chance to look through Present Erin’s eyes.

I look around at this house — that I absolutely love — with Anthony — who is obviously the love of my life — and oh wait — Gizmo’s here, too? Sweet!

College Erin would be more than pleased with where we’ve ended up. Dancing in the living room to silly hippie music with a crazy dog jumping happily around us.

It looks like we both have jobs where we are relatively happy and fulfilled, and apparently we’ve come a long way from the boxed dinners and stolen dorm flatware from our BSU days. I guess we’re doing alright for ourselves.

There are travel books on the table, for our upcoming epic adventure Down Under, and photos on the wall with those epic trips of our past. Alongside the travel photos are those of life events of our loved ones like marriages and babies being born, family members being added, and laughs and memories shared among friends new and old.

College Erin has so much to look forward to.

It’s funny, because I normally look back at College Erin and think of that time of my life as The Peak. The most fun. The best it ever would be.

But sometimes, when I really examine all that I have to be thankful for, I realize that there’s no reason to look back. With any luck, Future Erin will be just as excited to show 30-Year-Old Erin how awesome things are to come.

Home

It occurred to me the other day that it’s been one year since we moved into our new/old home. In another instance, I realized that we have been living in the state of Colorado for just over 5 years. This means that I have lived in Colorado longer than I have lived in any state other than my adolescence in Minnesota. I have been in at the foot of the Rocky Mountains longer than my college years in Indiana (which felt like a lifetime itself), longer than my early childhood in Ohio, and longer than I lived in Chicago.

And I couldn’t be happier.

I remember telling people shortly after our move out west that it felt surprisingly easy to settle in, thousands of miles away from everything familiar to us both. I felt like I was “home” for the first time in years, after jumping from place to place since the age of 18, wondering where the wind would take me next.

I didn’t expect us to settle in so easily, let alone settle down at all. I knew Colorado was beautiful, and Anthony was clearly in love with the locale, but as we packed up the U-Haul for the cross-country drive, I truly saw Colorado as one of many places we’d live as we’d hop around the country, never staying in one place long enough to establish roots. I told Anthony, “Colorado first, and then we’ll live in San Francisco — or maybe overseas!”

Strangely enough, 5 years have passed so quickly that I haven’t once thought about leaving. Not to say that we’d never consider another nomadic leap someday, but I really can’t imagine living anywhere else right now. Aside from the fact that we’ve definitively put down some of those elusive roots for at least a little while (just ask our mortgage company!), Colorado still, easily, just feels like home.

Perhaps it’s the scenery — we find ourselves snapping pictures of mountain vistas we have photographed several times before, just overtaken with the pure beauty of our surroundings. I have noticed even in this blog it seems like there is a little photographic deja v√ľ from time to time. Somehow, the scenery just never gets old. Couple these spectacular views with copious amounts of sunshine, and sometimes it feels like we’ve discovered a little corner of heaven.

Maybe it’s the possibility for adventure. I was never anything close to an “outdoorsy” girl in my youth, and wasn’t really up for taking chances. However, these days I don’t even bat an eye at an afternoon hike and have even been coerced into a few backpacking trips, which were surprisingly well worth it. Not to mention the sports I’ve picked up while living among the weekend warriors, including rock climbing and snowboarding.

But most likely, the reason we have never thought twice about leaving, and feel so at home here in the Centennial State, is the group of friends that we’ve found surrounding us. We’ve been lucky enough to have found a great “chosen family” out here, who I can’t believe we’ve only known for a small fraction of our lives. We see each other through hard times and celebrate even the smallest of victories. A ragtag group of (mostly) Colorado transplants, we’ve been there for each other at holidays and milestones, when our blood relatives were thousands of miles away. While the hardest part of living out here has been the distance between us and our families, this group of friends is the next best thing.

As our roots grow deeper and become more firmly entwined into this rocky soil, I couldn’t be happier that Anthony gave me the opportunity to get out of my comfort zone and introduced me to this place and the life we’ve made here. Our need to see the world certainly hasn’t lessened a bit, and I’m sure we’ll bounce around some more, either short- or long-term. However, one way or another, I have no doubt that we will always consider Colorado “home.”

 

So long 2012, hello 2013!

Throughout 2012, I kept saying to people, “It’s just this crappy year. I can’t wait for it to be over.” I’m not sure what it was, but it seemed like many of my family and friends were taking hit after hit, and my own little family had our own share of challenges. However, looking back and talking about the year with those same friends that received such hard blows, many of them tell me how great a year it has been. A year of overcoming challenges, no doubt, but with putting the negative events behind and looking forward to bigger and better things. Of course, it’s an old clich√©, but with every storm comes a rainbow, and I’m so fortunate to be reminded of that truth by my strong, optimistic loved ones.

That said, I’d like to take a look back at the positive memories made in 2012! It was a year of firsts, for certain, as I look back at all of the fun activities we enjoyed.

January: Hikes and snowboarding filled my weekends, as I enjoyed all that a Colorado winter has to offer. We also started a new tradition of art nights with friends, which continued throughout the year.

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Bob Ross night

February: A snowshoeing expedition and my return to sugar. Plus, more snowboarding and a 10k — my first race since my knee injury.

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A day at Keystone

March: Lots of celebrations for birthdays, work events and of course, St. Patrick’s day!

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Antho (and me! in his reflection!) enjoying the St. Patrick’s Day festivities.

April: After an Easter weekend visit by my parents at the beginning of the month, the weather warmed up in time for me to begin work on my vegetable garden, and then we enjoyed some HOT adventures in Moab, Utah. Rounded off the month by surprising my mom in Vegas, toting along my best friend from high school and spending a fun weekend by the pool with the family.

Vegas fun

Vegas fun

May: As spring roared into summer, I began training for a half marathon, and spending as much time as possible outdoors. We ended the month with a trip to Chicago, to catch up with one of my favorite cities and also visit with friends, continuing on to Indiana to spend my birthday with family by the pool. We returned in time for an ice cream party with some of our closest friends to commemorate my big 2-8.

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Mom and Dad’s pool

June: June was a blur with activities at every corner! We enjoyed my brother’s family visiting as they made their way across the country for a big move, and also went whitewater rafting on the Arkansas River. We had our first outdoor climbing adventure, and finally spent Anthony’s birthday weekend on a beautiful backpacking excursion to Upper Cataract Lake.

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Cataract Lake

July: This month, I had my first golf outing, as we joined some friends at a neighborhood course. I am not enrolling in the PGA tour just yet, and will look forward to making more contact in the future. ūüôā Also, after a busy invitation season, I was able to finally enjoy a wedding for myself as we traveled to my “homeland” for one a high school friend’s wedding.

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HS buddies with the groom

August: After a challenging but memorable backpacking trip up Mt. Holy Cross, I blew away my former PR with a mountain half-marathon. We rounded out this active month with a charity hike up Mt. Yale. Additionally, Anthony saw his hard work pay off as he began a rewarding new job.

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The top of Mt. Yale

September: Tour de Fat is always a favorite event of ours, and this year, like the year before, we hosted friends for breakfast and led our little pack to the annual bike parade. We also squeezed in one last backpacking trip to soak up some beautiful fall colors, and had a college friend in town for a weekend of fun.

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Hunt Lake

October: As we started to feel the chill return to the air, we joined friends at a cozy cabin deemed “Rancho Relaxo,” and then hit another cabin for a few days away in Grand Lake with Anthony’s whole family. We also enjoyed our final cruiser bike ride of the year, dressed in our Fifth Element costumes.

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Crazy ladies dancing at Rancho Relaxo (the dogs were just playing, I swear…)

November: I started off the month with a wine tour with some girlfriends, and we rounded it out with Thanksgiving celebrations and holiday visitors.

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Grand Junction, CO

December: My parents came to visit at the beginning of the month, giving me the chance to play “holiday hostess.” After many Christmas parties and events, we headed to the Midwest to celebrate with family and friends. We made the rounds in Indiana and finished it off with some play-time in Chicago, including an annual visit with two of my best girlfriends and their growing families.

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Christmas tree hunting

And that bring us to today! We’ve already got some big things in the works for 2013, and I’m confident that this will be another year of positive growth and exciting adventures. Happy New Year!

10 years, 11 Halloweens

I met Anthony in the fall of 2002, shortly after arriving at Ball State. I couldn’t deny a developing crush on the boy who walked barefoot around the first floor of my dorm in his old blue soccer shorts. I think we officially “met” at the cafeteria, as we both joined a mutual friend for lunch, and I remember remarking to my friend later, “I don’t know if it’s something I said, but that guy is really quiet!” Gradually, however, that cute, quiet boy with the sweet smile warmed up to me, and we began spending a lot of time together. We got to know each other over greasy fries in the dorm cafeterias, walking each other to class, attending parties with our group of brand-new school friends, and hitting the gym together.

While not the most romantic “how we met and fell in love” story ever told, it was a sweet and innocent courtship during one of the most memorable periods in both of our lives. Our “first date” was not a parkside picnic, or a candlelit dinner, or a cozy caf√©, but a Halloween party at a stranger’s house, joined by at least a dozen of our friends. We danced together all night to the band playing Tom Petty covers, as a black cat and a doctor-turned-veterinarian, as if there wasn’t another soul in the room.

Ever since that first Halloween, when it was clear that we had both fallen for each other, we’ve celebrated October 31st as our official anniversary. It’s the perfect excuse to spend a fun night out together, and with friends, and mark another year.

I cannot believe there have been 10 of them.

So, to mark this year’s anniversary, I thought I’d take a trip down memory lane and show you all 10 Halloweens (and this year’s 11th), and the kooky costumes we’ve donned. Most years, we had more than one celebration, and sometimes, more than one costume. Every one of them is filled with special memories with my special someone!

2002 – Doctor (or vet) and black cat

2003 – Pirate and Lucille Ball

2004 – Moulin Rouge girl and cowboy

2005 – German beer girl and … girl ‚ÄĘ German beer girl and devil

2006 – Gangster and boxer (Gizmo was dressed as a baby)

2007 - Devil and angel ‚ÄĘ Han Solo and Princess Leia

2007 – Devil and angel ‚ÄĘ Han Solo and Princess Leia

2008 – Gypsy and superhero

2009 – Newsies ‚ÄĘ Werewolves

2010 – Steampunks

2011 – Muppets (Fozzy Bear and Dr. Teeth)

2012 – Korben and Leeloo Dallas (from the Fifth Element)

3 years ago today…

… I married my best friend. I know it’s an old clich√©, but I truly mean it. Our wedding photographer recently posted a flashback of our wedding day, and I pulled it up again this morning to get all choked up once again. The day was filled with so much love for each other, and for both of us from our most cherished loved ones. I can honestly say that October 17, 2009 was the best day of my life.

As we approach 10 years together in total, I can’t help but reminisce about all of the time we’ve seen each other through. We share so many memories — some of them amazing, and some of them challenging — but there is no one else I would have rather had by my side throughout them all. The last 3 years alone have been filled with immense change, adventure, and growth, none of which are ever easy, but my husband has a knack for making all of it fun and exciting. We’ve made new friends together, taken frightening risks (which all seemed to have worked out in the end), discovered the world as well as the beauty in our own backyard, and found a way to make a home out of each of the various places we’ve lived with our furry little family members. I am so lucky to have a partner who is truly that: a partner — sharing in life, in responsibilities, in love and in hopes and dreams for our future together.

I have no doubt that we’ll continue to face challenges in the years ahead, but also that we will make new and exciting memories while treasuring our ever-growing history together.

From an 18-year-old in a dorm room, whispering into a boy’s ear, “You’re my favorite,” to getting the chance to wake up every morning next to the man that boy has become — I feel like the luckiest girl in the world.

The Best of Both Worlds

I’m not sure when I became a urban-lover, but somewhere in my adolescence, I was convinced that I was going to spend my adulthood in the “big city.” I think it’s a natural side effect, for many of us, of growing up in a suburban area, where the city skyline is just over the horizon, beckoning you with it’s glittery lights, constant movement and promise of a fast-paced, exciting life. Beyond its glamorous facade, however, even the everyday realities of city life have always appealed to me. I can remember watching sitcoms like Friends and Seinfeld and being jealous, more than anything, of the characters’ abilities to simply head out their door and be instantly transported to the neighborhood coffee shop or the grocery. Convenience and accessibility have always been the biggest factors for my yearning for city life, and continue to play a large role in my choice in locale.

My first home out of college, a studio apartment in Chicago, was in arguably one of the most walkable locations you can imagine. I was in the middle of the (sometimes revered, sometimes reviled) Lincoln Park neighborhood. I cannot even count the number of attractions within a 3 block radius of my door, including several bookstores, at least 4 sushi restaurants, dozens of bars, a free zoo, the beach, clothing boutiques, a decent number of bus lines, and even a grocery within my very building. And thus, my obsession with urban convenience began.

Just a couple blocks from my first “grown-up” front door.

I’ve had my fair share of living quarters since that first, well-placed-but-overpriced studio, all with varying degrees of urban-ness. Our Boulder apartment was probably the least walkable, situated at the top of a steep hill, but with a lovely park, grocery, and brewery at the bottom of the neighborhood. We were close to bike paths and within a stone’s throw of hiking trails, but retrieving a gallon of milk took either a half-hour walk or [more commonly] the use of a vehicle. The views, however, were so gorgeous and distinctly “Colorado” that we stayed there for a good three years before succumbing to the fact that we were spending a lot of time traveling to the big city to the south.

Our Boulder view

Our move to Denver brought us closer to my work, and also, all of the attractions that the city provides. Although we miss living in Boulder — with both its beauty and its quirks — and may return again someday when we are able to justify living in a more central location of this endearing town, Denver has provided us with the convenience and accessibility that we both crave.

In the past week, we have been able to make spontaneous plans with friends, ride our bikes to a neighborhood brewery, see an off-Broadway show, walk the dog to get a Sunday evening frozen yogurt, and bring home groceries in the ‘ole bike basket.

On the other side of the coin, however, and possibly one of the things that makes living in Denver so ideal, is the fact that we still have the ability to get away from the city and all of its “reality” very quickly. We’re able to completely escape into a disconnected splendor in less than an hour’s drive, and can go as deep or as shallow into the Rocky Mountains as we may desire.

This past weekend, for example, I finally got to participate in the “car camping” that I had so narrowly missed a couple weeks before, and ventured into a land where cell phones no longer had service, and our walks included those to a refreshing creek or a lake for fishing, instead of museums and city parks. We enjoyed the company of great friends around a roaring campfire, as opposed to a bar table. We slept to the background noise of chirping crickets and mountain breezes instead of the honking horns and sirens that we have all learned to tune out.

This weekend’s excursion

I won’t go on record saying that I could never live out in the middle of nowhere, or that I will be a city-girl forever, but for now, I am certainly enjoying the best of both worlds.

Going back

This past weekend was a blast from my past, but also reminded me that you can’t go back. At least, not exactly.

A wedding brought us back to the area that I consider my “home,” the place where I grew up. However, as opposed to the suburban area where I spent 13 years of my life, we spent the majority of the time in downtown Minneapolis, the place I had always envisioned myself living as an adult.

It’s funny the turns you take in life. If someone had told me 15 years ago that I would be living with my Indiana-native husband in Denver, Colorado, I would have laughed and pointed to the house on Lake Calhoun that I dreamed would really be mine.

On the other hand, if someone had shown me this image 10 years ago…

…I would have no problem believing that these nearing-30 faces belonged to many of the wily teenagers in this well-worn photo:

While we’ve all grown up and traveled down our individual — and often surprising — paths, it’s always fun to get back together and relive the “glory days.” We spent the night dancing the night away, squealing when we heard old mutual favorites like “Baby Got Back” and mouthing along with the lyrics like we did over a decade ago, jumping on the beds during a basketball trip. We laughed about former (?) crushes on dreamy 10th grade Economics teachers and memories from Friday night football games.

We celebrated a friend and his bride; a friend with whom we all shared hysterical memories. A friend who, by default (due to our almost identical last names), was always seated next to me in classes, had a neighboring locker, and lastly, spent the week of graduation giggling alongside me, sharing the nervous realization that everything was about to change forever.

And everything did change. This weekend, outside of the wedding, I reunited with only a select few friends from those “glory days.” There are only a few people still left in Minnesota that I consider myself close to anymore, which is also something I wouldn’t have expected as we packed up for Indiana in 2002. As someone who has changed locations drastically and suddenly (moving away from home right after high school, moving from my college town on graduation day, and moving to Colorado with a month’s notice…), I have learned the sometimes difficult lesson that distance may sometimes make the heart grow fonder, but it always makes relationships much more difficult. Keeping in touch is a two-way street, and while I was sometimes the one that dropped the ball, I learned to give up on some people, when it felt like all of the effort to keep in contact was coming from my end. Or, when getting together after the years had passed, things felt awkward and strained.

The people I know are my lifelong friends, however, are the ones with whom I can reunite after months — or years — and we never skip a beat. We may have changed, we may have faced obstacles, and we may have found new paths, but it doesn’t change who we are to each other.

Despite my stubborn tendency to live in the past, and hold on to treasured memories with the hopes of someday recreating them, I know that there are some things — and some people — that are part of an old me, and a life that is best left behind. This weekend was a beautiful reminder of the memories that I have both forgotten and remembered fondly, as well as the new life that defines me, and the people and relationships that will always be around.

Playing with my nephew in Lake Calhoun, surrounded by my brother and his wife, my husband, my best friend from high school, and a sorority sister who relocated to MN from Indiana. Now that’s what I call “full circle.”