Speed On.

I turned 35 on Friday. 35 doesn’t feel old enough to have friends with cancer. 35 doesn’t feel old enough to lose friends to cancer. At least not friends my age.

My friend Mark passed away this morning. He filled his last months with all of the things he’d always wanted to do. The last time we chatted, he was brainstorming menus for the bar he recently opened, and I told him how much I was enjoying following his “fuck cancer” adventures. He turned 40 last month. I don’t even know what to say.

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Bros

Welcome to Bonnaroo!

 

Mark, I hope that paddle boat we always talked about stealing is waiting for you wherever you end up.

In June, I went to Seattle (again)

Annette wanted to do a destination race, and I had a $500 travel voucher to burn, so in June, we hopped on a plane to Seattle. We ran the Rock N Roll half marathon, saw a lot of naked people on bikes with Natalie, got sunburned (me), climbed a giant hill to eat amazing burgers with Emmi and Mike, and toured a library and took a ferry ride with Carly.

We had hoped to go to Vancouver for the last night of our trip, but poor (passport) planning on my part meant scrapping the border crossing and instead heading south to Portland, which was 100% as expected. We watched the Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup, went to the Queen Bee mothership, saw some backyard chickens, ate good sandwiches, and were joined in an absurdly long donut line and a wardrobe_remix photo shoot by Patrick.

It was a good year for making good memories of the PNW. Here’s to more of the same in 2014!

Friend Feature: Natalie B.

There’s a scene in The English Patient where the nurse Hana tells Almásy of the arrival of the thief Caravaggio. She mentions that he’s Canadian, and Almásy wonders why that matters, why people are “always so happy to collide with someone from the same place”. Hana replies that during the war, where you come from becomes important.

In the last few months, I’ve become increasingly convinced of this. It’s not that there’s a war on – I mean, there are many wars, but few that touch my life directly – it’s that spending time in the same place gives you a shared vocabulary, a set of references, of people and places and things that provide context that can then go unspoken.

When people from junior high and high school started to turn up on Facebook a few years ago, I did the mass-friending, only to be reminded that I didn’t really like most of those people in high school, and so didn’t really have much interest in rekindling relationships that never really existed. I removed most of the high school people just as quickly as I added them – with the exception of those who seemed interested in actually being friends, not just performing friendship by friending.

My friend Natalie fell into the latter group. I’ve known Nat since the third grade, when her family moved to Illinois and her dad became principal at our school. With the exception of one week at camp, I don’t know that we were ever really friends in grade school and junior high – and then we went to different high schools, and the rest would be history if it weren’t for Facebook and P90X.

About two years ago, Nat started blogging about her path to fitness via P90X and running. Her posts were hilarious, honest, and motivational, and provided  a connection and a path to actual friendship. When she finished P90X and ran her first half marathon, I sent her a package including a BRING IT pin – I have the same pin on my backpack.

Nat was in town a few weeks ago to cheer her cousin on in the Chicago marathon, and we made a point of carving time out of the busy race weekend to meet up for brunch. I wasn’t sure what to expect – it was probably the first time we’d hung out apart from church functions since junior high – but instead of the likely awkward small talk between acquaintances, we had a lovely, rambling meal and talked about everything from our parents’ retirement to sex ed to running to our struggles to find a place to fit in (or out of) a church.

I don’t know how much of this friendship can be credited to where we come from – It’s not that Mr. Steely’s 8th grade science class provided a foundation for this friendship, or that it came up in our conversation at all. But it was there, as were all of the other artifacts of growing up in the same place at the same time around the same people and experiences. And perhaps that was just enough to ground what could have otherwise been an ephemeral Facebook friendship.

Either way, I’m thankful for Nat’s friendship, though I might feel differently by next October if we follow through with our hare-brained plan to run the marathon. I’m also thankful that no matter how rough we look when we cross the finish line, we’re almost certainly guaranteed to look better than we do here:

8th Grade Class Trip

Friend Feature: Tina P.

I don’t know about you, but it’s been hard for me to meet people since finishing school. When you’re in school, you have a common set of circumstances that structures your interactions with others while also giving you a lot of flexibility in who you meet and how you meet them. People come and go every year and your classes and interests shift, so you’re presented with a constantly changing cast of characters.

When you get out into the “real world” of a 9-to-5, that all changes. You see the same people and do the same things day in and day out. In some jobs, it takes a really long time to stop being “the new guy”. Outside of work, you have many of the same options for meeting people as you did when you were in school, but somehow it’s harder to make those casual connections that might turn into real friendships, particularly if you’re an introvert, and even moreso if you’re an introvert in a relationship.

I mention all of these things because five years ago, I came to DC on a job interview, and when I met Tina on my candidate lunch, I decided that I wanted to be her friend. We bonded over cats and Project Runway and Queen Bee bags. Tina was at the reference desk on my first day of work, and reintroduced herself, even though I definitely hadn’t forgotten her or any of the other cool people from my interview (including Abigail!).

C'est chic!

I really don’t think it’s possible to will a friendship into being – I’ve certainly tried and failed since – but I’m glad that the powers that be agreed that Tina and I should be friends. She made the days at Gelman a great deal more bearable, and I’m thankful our friendship persisted after I left that job.

Here are a bunch of things Tina and I have done together:
– picnicked and happy hour’d at Fort Reno and the Sculpture Garden and the Galaxy Hut
– rode bikes from Old Town to Georgetown and back
– knit for the troops at Buzz
got naked at Spa World
– saw Neko Case at the 930 Club
– ate a lot of latkes and cupcakes
– made plans for an alpaca farm where the stud alpacas will be named Brian Eno and David Byrne
– wrote a craft blog and also haikus about CVS
– high fived under the Kennedy Center
– wandered through “snow” on a film set in June in Ypsi
– ran a bunch of races as Team Helpful Paws and Team Astronaut Mike Dexter:

Team Helpful Paws
2009 Race for the Cure 5K, Washington, DC
Team Astronaut Mike Dexter!
2011 Cherry Blossom 10 Miler, Washington, DC
Pre-Race Flexing
2011 Dexter-Ann Arbor half marathon, Ann Arbor, MI
Team Astronaut Mike Dexter!
2012 Cherry Blossom 10 Miler, Washington, DC

Here’s hoping for many more miles, and many more cupcakes, and many more stitches, and many more Talking Heads dance parties in the years to come!

Friend Feature: Abigail C.

In lieu of explaining how I know Abigail or of sharing any choice anecdotes from the handful of years that I’ve known her, I would like to share a conversation we had recently via IM:

AC: elizabeth!
AC: let’s always be friends
EB: yes please!
AC: so i will always have someone to send coco things to

Yes, Abigail. Let’s always be friends for Coco. And for Spa World and pre-race bathroom breaks and being catty on the internet.

Also here is Abgail happily regarding a latke:

Abigail

Friend Feature: Mike J.

In lieu of the 30 Days of Thankful Facebook thing, I’m going to make a renewed effort at my Friend Feature over here. I’m thankful for lots of other things, of course, and hopefully some of them will be highlighted as well.

A little over five years ago, Shane and I Couchsurfed with this dude while apartment hunting in DC:

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I’m pretty sure that when we sent the CS request, we had no idea that our prospective host would turn out to be basically the best person on the planet.

Perhaps you think I’m being hyperbolic. Perhaps you would be correct. But I’m pretty convinced that Mike is the best person that I know. He’s intelligent, funny, has great taste in music, and is raising an amazing daughter who is also one of my favorite people.

Galaxy Hut Karaoke!

He is possibly the best travel companion ever as he is unflappable in the face of late night Bonnaroo departures, chipped windshields, closed Taco Bells, and hotel snafus. He will boldly join in the singing of ridiculous versions of 90s pop songs, and will play Youtube videos at the Hut even if it gets him yelled at. He writes long, delightful letters that make me laugh out loud.

Mike Janssen on Men
Mike Janssen on men

He once transmogrified into a cat at a holiday brunch:

Scrabble

Scrabble

Should Mike ever find himself in need of a ghost writer for personals ads, I might offer my services based on the text of this post. I’m very thankful that Couchsurfing brought him into our lives, and that inclination and affinity kept him there. He’s a tremendous dude, and I’m privileged to know him.

Friend Feature: Annette L. F.

Yesterday I had the extreme honor and privilege of escorting this bad ass across the finish line of the Chicago Marathon:

In her email a month ago, she said that asking me to run miles 18 through 25 was the runner’s equivalent of asking me to be her bridesmaid.

I took my responsibilities very seriously. I carefully prepared my outfit. I did my hair and makeup. I showed up at Ashland and Taylor and watched for her in the crowd. And I had a number of prepared and spontaneous speeches ready when her spirits flagged, some presented just as tearfully as a wedding toast might be.

As we approached the last 800km, the last 400km, I reminded her of how a year ago, she hadn’t finished any marathons, and that she was just minutes away from finishing her second. That this was far from the hardest thing she’s done this year, but that she was DOING IT. That she’d worked so hard to transform her body, but is working just as hard to transform herself, and to live her life, all of it. That I don’t know how I would have made it through the last year without her friendship and support.

And lots of other things, but with lots of expletives, and lots of yelling, and then we were past the point that they could pull me off the course, and the finish line was so close, and I yelled at her to give it everything she had left, and chased her to the finish line. She beat last year’s time by at least five minutes. But that is only one of many reasons why I’m incredibly proud of her, and incredibly proud to be her friend.

Keep Saying Yes

St. Patrick’s Day was epic this year, but not in the ways that it tends to be epic, at least in a college town. My housemates had invited people over for brunch, but many of them didn’t come, and so we found ourselves with a number of bottles of champagne, a gallon of orange juice, and a whole lot of leftover bacon and waffles on a 75 degree day in the middle of March. I sat on the porch and wrote letters. Chris took a conference call. Rachel played video games. The two of them spun poi while I sat on the sidewalk and took photos. We drank all of the champagne, texted Kat to come home, ended up in a cuddle pile on the couch with the dog and the cat. The next day, Chris emailed me to say:

Seriously, you’re amazing. I’m glad you’re in our lives, regardless of how short the waltz. Keep saying yes, yes, yes to drunken nights and beautiful people.

I’ve taken that to heart in the months since, and have been saying an emphatic yes as often as possible. This has included:

  • Yes to a movie on an impossibly hot day. And so I saw The Cabin in the Woods, which I would’ve never seen otherwise but really enjoyed – and had the occasion to go to the gorgeous Logan Theater for the first time in very good company. The same thing would happen later in the summer with Your Sister’s Sister (at the State with Shana and Javan) and The Hunger Games (at the Logan with Carrie).
  • Yes to seeing the jellyfish at the Shedd with Karina and her adorable cousin, who later listed ‘meeting Elizabeth’ among her favorite parts of her weekend in Chicago.
  • Yes to fancy lady sleepovers where we lounge around in vintage slips with martinis and ridiculous movies. These weekends at the Uptown Beach House were some of the highlights of the summer.
  • Yes to biking around the city to meet friends for cocktails – and hopefully much more of this to come now that Orange and I are back together.
  • Yes to going to shows. I don’t care who it is. And so I saw Café Tacvba with Karina and had a great time even though I speak basically no Spanish and even though someone dropped a beer on my head. And I saw Cameron McGill with Carl for the first time in ages, and experienced an intense – and intensely wonderful – flashback to 2005. And I went to Lollapalooza as Karen’s +1 and we wandered the grounds and saw some music but mostly just enjoyed the free drinks and the beautiful day.
  • Yes to borrowing books and long bike rides and neighborhood walks and free ice cream from sympathetic vendors.
  • Yes to nights out when my bad mood made me inclined to stay in (thanks, Annette).
  • Yes to being Carl’s +1 for Leah’s wedding, which gave me the excuse to buy an exceptionally incredible dress.
  • Yes to last minute dinners in, to bánh mì sandwiches, to drinking my dinner around a table with random and exceptional people.
  • Yes to future travel: potentially Hawaii and Italy in the next year, as well as solo trip(s) to be determined. And to day trips on lazy rivers, and to visits with good friends.

So many amazing experiences in the last six months thanks to taking that advice. Chris Tom, I hope I’m making you proud.

Librarians on the Farm

About 6-7 months ago, my friends and I started kicking around the idea of a girls’ weekend away. I think the idea had been in the ether even longer, but after I read an article about a group of women who take yearly trips to all kinds of places (sorry – I can’t remember where I read about it OR any of the specifics) and THEN read this post about another group’s “lovebomb”, I really wanted to make something like this happen for us.

So after months of planning, the announcement of two pregnancies, one home purchase, and one rescheduled wedding, 5 out of 6 of us found ourselves en route to southern Illinois last week, where we spent two days at a cabin and another day in St Louis. I wish I could bottle up and send you the essence of the weekend, but pictures and bullet points will have to do.

Making Friends

– weather in the mid-70s, driving through the country with the windows down and classic rock on the radio, the joy of driving up to a cabin and finding kitties on the porch waiting for us

– walking outside to find horses, dogs, and assorted fowl making their way up the hill to greet us, then spending the waning afternoon talking to the farmers/innkeepers about their flock and herd while a peacock cried for his mama

– being presented with a dozen of the most beautiful eggs I’ve ever seen – after debating whether we wanted duck, goose, or chicken (as said animals milled around near us)

Farm-fresh free range eggs

– after a run in the muddy woods, having the hardest decision in the morning being whether to take our coffee on the front or back porch

– hiking in the woods in the sun, relishing the changing temperature as we moved in and out of the shadow of rocky outcroppings. Also finding any excuse to say ‘outcropping’. Ice cream in a tiny hippie town after.

– sunset, campfire, grill-out with the first asparagus of the year

Angie and Erin

– the most ridiculous drive ever on country back roads, some of which looked like they might have just been driveways, some of which led over one-lane wooden bridges and by the camps of folks living off the grid – resulting in lunch at a truly insane root beer saloon and a sneak peek at a building rehab in process

Alto Pass

– falling a little bit in love with St Louis as Erin took us to favorite spots in her neighborhood

View from the Top

– most of all, spending hours and hours and hours just talking and relaxing and reconnecting with dear friends

At the beginning of the trip, we said that if we weren’t driving each other nuts by the end of it, we should make this an annual thing.  By the end of it – and in many subsequent emails – we’ve affirmed this decision, as despite travel headaches and the inevitable indecision about how to make money issues the easiest, we all arrived home relaxed, with friendships recharged and bodies and spirits rejuvenated.  It is such a blessing to have the means and the friends to make this possible!  ❤ ❤