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Cafe Larson: An Experiment

March 5th, 2012 No comments

Tracy and I love to host.  Tracy and I are leaving the country.

Tracy and I want to get in as much time with great friends while we still can pre-World Tour, so back in December we created a structure by which we might do just that.

Here was the email we sent originally introducing the concept to all of our friends, subject line “We love to host.  Introducing Cafe Larson”

Hey All!

By now you all know that we are leaving Denver to start our World Tour on May 1, 2012.  While we’re stoked to get our travel on, we’re really going to miss all of our awesome friends here in Colorado.

To make the most of our next 4.5 months here we’ve decided to amp up our hosting game.  Since the most complicated part of hosting is trying to find a date and time that works for everyone, we’re experimenting with a way to simplify the process and ensure that we have a constant stream of fabulous friends hanging out at our place.

We call it: Cafe Larson.

Here’s the gist.  Every 2-3 weeks we’ll send out an email with an invite to the next social gathering we’re planning.  They’ll be things like laid back dinner parties, evening cocktails, game night, etc.  If you can make it, awesome – RSVP 24 hours prior.  If you can’t, no big deal, we’ll see you at the next one.

If you want to be on the list to get these invites you have to opt in by sending us a quick note back.  We don’t want to clog your inbox if you’re not interested!

Our first Cafe Larson will be:

Cookies and Cocoa by the Fire
This Wednesday December 14th 7pm

Join us for a roaring fire, tasty holiday cookies, and tea/cocoa/decaf coffee.
If you’d like to bring some of your holiday cookies to share, we’d love to sample them!

(RSVP by Wednesday December 14th at noon)

Let us know if you want in–the notice is deliberately short so we can get this thing started, but no worries if you are already swamped with holiday merriment.  We’ll be sending out more invites soon enough!

Don’t forget – send us a note if you want in on the email invites!  Looking forward to seeing you!

Cheers,
John and Tracy

By design we figured we’d get to do more hosting, hang with more people, and get to be more flexible for people’s schedules.  (As an added bonus we figure only good can come of our friends making friends among themselves.)

How did it work?  Mixed bag, it turns out!

While we had some great gatherings (my favorite was the Dance Dance Revolution party in which we turned our living room into a dance hall by way of projecting the screen on the wall), turn outs were way smaller than our more conventional style of doing invites had us think.  The consistency of RSVPs followed by no-shows was high, and confirmed what already intuitively makes sense: when you invite via mass email, it creates a much smaller sense of commitment and follow through than if you invite people specifically.

So for our last 7 weeks in town we’re going to go back to the tried-and-true model of specifically inviting over a few folks on a regular basis, and have as much quality face time with them as possible.  Cafe Larson was a cool idea, but we see it is indeed much more compelling to be invited intentionally than by mass email.

[UPDATE 4/15: Yep, turns out it works way better to invite people the old fashioned way!  We’re enjoying being super-sociable with our awesome friends as we round out our last few weeks in town.]

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Christmas Gifts Remixed

December 28th, 2011 No comments

This year the family (the in-town family, meaning my wife’s family plus spouses/soon-to-be-spouses) all converged on a new way to do the Christmas gift exchange.

Until the next generation of little people comes along, we’re all adults and thus we’re all apt to get whatever physical stuff we want on our own.  So there’s a generally not a lot of things we need or could get excited about which we don’t already have, which makes gift giving tricky.  So we came up with a few rules to make it interesting this year:

  • Stuff is out: experiences are in.  The gifts you give are to be experiences for the recipients.  An experience that you can share with the recipient is encouraged, but optional.
  • Quality over quantity.  Everyone randomly picks two people to get gifts for, so it’s like Secret Santa doubled.
  • No picking yourself or your spouse/spouse-to-be.  Keeps things interesting by requiring cross-couple creativity.
  • Just to throw back in a dash of material goods (and to make things tastelessly teeter on the brink of over-complexity), everyone brings one gift valued between $20-50 for White Elephant exchange.

How did it work?  Really well, methinks.  It took a few tricks of logic to do the drawing of two names each where self and spouse weren’t allowed, all whilst one couple was missing (we sealed the remaining un-drawn 4 names in an envelope for them to draw from later, and had to concoct an elaborate ruse by which we could be certain they wouldn’t be stuck with a mis-draw, forcing a full do-over).

The gifts we all came up with really good–things like a weekend getaway, a snowshoeing adventure, a ride in a sail plane, a Cirque du Soleil show, and membership to the Botanic Gardens all marked the creativity put in to the theme.  What’s more, each of us left Christmas with 2 experiences to look forward to, making the fun of the exchange way more long lasting than it usually would have been.

All in all, taking the time to call time out on the standard model and inventing a new one was a big win, worth doing again both in the sense of using those exact rules, because they worked so well, as well as inventing another set of rules to mix it up yet again.

Which is good, because I think we’ve got a few more years before the little people come and make gift exchange simple again.

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Sport Coat Night

November 4th, 2011 No comments

My father-in-law and I have a ritual that is now marking one year of faithful execution: Sport Coat Night.

Sport Coat Night is when Glenn and I get dressed up in sport coats, go out to some nice lounge (or restaurant) befitting of such attire (really good appetizers are a vital qualification for venues), and talk for between three and five hours about whatever suits our fancy: politics, science and technology, business, innovation, books, philosophy, ambitions, dreams and family rank among the most common topics.

This monthly event has been the backbone my getting to know and bond with the father of my wife.  There’s a strong stereotype of having bad in-laws and the attendant malaise that comes with, so I figured there might be some serious joy and workability in being closely related to really kick-ass in-laws.  I’m delighted to report that experience has borne this out.

Sport Coat Night arose largely from chance, stemming from my lax approach to getting a suit for my wedding.  I put the task off for a few months, until finally getting around to it on Columbus Day weekend.  (Those armed with a 2010 calendar will note that that has me first seeking my wedding attire about one month prior to the event: I confess, not entirely responsible).

As good fortune would have it, the Men’s Warehouse was then having a sale named for the holiday: buy a suit at full price, get a sport coat free, and another suit for $100.  I took advantage.  While recounting the apparent karmic reward for my delayed approach to vital apparel acquisition, my father-in-law chimed in to say “Hey, I just got my suit there!  Same deal, I stocked up as well.”

What a fun coincidence.  In that moment I somehow had the stroke of brilliance to name a fabrication.  “Really?  Well heck, whaddaya say you and I go do Sport Coat Night sometime?”  I asked with such conviction even I thought that was a real and well established thing.

“Sport Coat Night, what’s that?”

Improv flowed: “Well, that’s when you and I get all dressed up in sport coats, go somewhere nice, and have great conversation over smart cocktails.  Sport Coat Night.  Whaddaya think?”  In essence I’d just invented a catchy gimmick, shorthand for “Hey, let’s hang out sometime.”

Delighted was I as the incipient son-in-law to have my offer so quickly agreed to: we would do the first ever Sport Coat Night the following Monday, and I would be surprised and delighted by how quickly 3 hours passed in one-on-one conversation.  I’m pretty sure he felt the same way, and a tradition was born.

Now, one year later, we’ve had 12 such occasions and it has been a consistent treat.  I don’t know how or by what means we’d have been able to bond without this simple structure.  It’s been the perfect excuse for getting to know my father-in-law.  Now I just gotta figure out some reason to hang with my mother-in-law (I know you’re reading this, Cindy :).

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On Getting Married, Part 2

November 16th, 2010 No comments

With all of that ranting about all of the commonplace, traditional aspects of a wedding that Tracy and I proudly said “no” to described in Part 1, it’s completely fair to ask what it is that we DID want our wedding to be all about.

To which I would say (assuming that question were ever asked of me), “I’m glad you asked!”, for it is what we created our wedding to be all about that I am most proud of all.

One of the things we asked ourselves as often as necessary while going through the wedding planning process is “why have a wedding at all?”  (This arises naturally when hassles of wedding planning come up, and the more cynical part of you demands to know why you didn’t opt to elope in the first place.)  “Because we have to” or “because people are expecting it” or the like are the answers to this question which will bring you deeper into the experience of the whole thing being a burden, so we were careful to create and keep present for ourselves a reason with a little more substance.

Why have a wedding at all?

The John-and-Tracy answer to this most valid question is as follows:

We live a really blessed life and there are a lot of people near and dear to us who have contributed massively to that blessed life.  Tracy and I both know for ourselves who we are for each other: even the most magnificently executed wedding day isn’t going to change or deepen that any further.  So the wedding would be less for us and more for them.  We created that our wedding would be a celebration and acknowledgment of those near and dear to us: the people who have guided, influenced, and shaped us into the kinds of people we are today who are proud become husband and wife to one another.  And THAT we couldn’t have gotten by eloping.  THAT is why have a wedding.

And that’s just what we got.  Though there were some that were missing, among our 55 guests in attendance there wasn’t a single person in that room that night that we weren’t delighted to have there, who didn’t have some special meaning to us.  We weren’t saddled with having people there that we didn’t really care for but felt we should have for some political reason or another, and I think that, as a general rule, when you have that high a percentage of beloveds in a single room you’re bound to have an amazing time.

Now then, with a clear understanding of why we should want to have a wedding for lots of guests, it only made sense that we be mindful of the substance of that wedding for which we’d have all those witnesses.  As I mentioned in part 1, a religious ceremony did not speak to us, so we didn’t do one.   Instead, working with our most excellent officiant Susie Grade we put together vows to one another that we could genuinely own as our own words, and opted to a Celtic traditional handfasting ceremony.

These two things moved Tracy and I (and I’m told, many others who were there) way more than a reading from Corinthians ever did.  Below you’ll find the complete words from the vows (I just about lost it at about line 7, by the way) and handfasting ceremony, but first and to wrap up I want to say a few things about the structure and significance of the hand fasting (that a cold reading of it probably won’t convey alone).

The hand fasting ceremony consists of a series of questions and answers asked of both the bride and groom, each in turn, which are quite similar in nature to the declarations in standard “in sickness and in health” vows we’ve heard a million times.  What I find completely awesome about them is the honest connection to reality that they betray.  For while the traditional vows are all declarations that essentially say “I promise to be perfect and never let you down even when times are rough” (which seems an unrealistically tall order when you consider divorce rates), the vows in this ceremony admit what for what is darn near inevitable over a span of decades spent in close proximity to another human being.

Let me show you what I mean.  Some of the questions are plainly positive in nature, for example: “Will you share his dreams?”  “Yes” the bride replies, right on cue.  “Will you share in her dreams?”  “Yes” then responds the groom, predictably enough.  But then later the groom gets “Will you cause her anger?”

Now here you might expect an answer like “No, never; baby, I would never do that!” (ok, perhaps a little more formal, but still a denial).

But that’s not how the script goes.

The line is “I may“.  And now the audience is truly paying attention.  “Is that your intent?” continues the officiant, “No” is what the groom confirms, and everyone in the audience who’s been married for a few years nods in approval and appreciation for the realism this ceremony [surprisingly] is imbued with.

I love everything about this ceremony.  It sets up marriage as a genuine committed journey, not an impossibly perfect ideal to be eventually fallen short of.  The full ceremony is listed below, feel free to steal and share it.  (Incidentally, this ceremony is the origin of the phrase “to tie the knot” as it pertains to marriage.  The first through sixth cords alluded to are cords of rope that are strung over the joined hands of bride and groom as the ceremony progresses.)

The Wedding Vows:

John,
I choose you to be my husband,
to join with you and to share in all that is to come,
to give and to receive,
to speak and to listen,
to inspire and to respond.
To gather wisdom from our shared experiences,
to discover the joy of loving more deeply
  as the years pass.
To build a life rich with laughter, love, and adventure
while bravely and enthusiastically facing our future.
I will be loyal to you with my whole being
as your Wife and best friend
as long as we both shall live.
Tracy,
I choose you to be my wife,
to join with you and to share in all that is to come,
to give and to receive,
to speak and to listen,
to inspire and to respond.
To gather wisdom from our shared experiences,
to discover the joy of loving more deeply
as the years pass.  
To build a life rich with laughter, love, and adventure
while bravely and enthusiastically facing our future.
I will be loyal to you with my whole being
as your Husband and best friend
as long as we both shall live.

The Celtic Handfasting Ritual:

Opening Words:
Know now before you go further, that since your lives have
crossed in this life you have formed ties between each other. As
you seek to enter this state of matrimony you should strive to
make real, the ideals which give meaning to both this ceremony
and the institution of marriage. With full awareness, know that
within this circle you are not only declaring your intent to be
handfasted before your friends and family, but you speak that
intent also to your God. The promises made today and the ties
that are bound here greatly strengthen your union; they will cross
the years and lives of each soul’s growth.

Do you still seek to enter this ceremony? Yes

Blessing: I bid you join your hands and look into each others eyes
and hear this blessing:

Blessed be this union of heart, mind, body and soul. May the
symbols of these cords which will soon drape across your wrists
also tie together your souls that you will love, cherish, and honor
one another to the end of your days.

Will you cause her pain? I May
Is that your intent? No

Will you cause him pain? I May
Is that your intent? No

Will you share each other’s pain and seek to ease it?  Yes
And so the binding is made. (1st cord)

Will you share his laughter?  Yes

Will you share her laughter? Yes

Will both of you look for the brightness in life and
the positive in each other? Yes
And so the binding is made. (2nd cord)

Will you burden him?  I May
Is that your intent?  No

Will you burden her?  I May
Is that your intent?  No

Will you share the burdens of each so that your
spirits may grow in this union?  Yes
And so the binding is made. (3rd cord)

Will you share his dreams?  Yes

Will you share her dreams?  Yes

Will you dream together to create new realities and
hopes?  Yes
And so the binding is made. (4th cord)

Will you cause her anger?  I May
Is that your intent?  No

Will you cause him anger?  I May
Is that your intent?  No

Will you take the heat of anger and use it to temper
the strength of this union?  Yes
And so the binding is made. (5th cord)

Will you honor him?  Yes

Will you honor her?  Yes

Will you seek to never give cause to break that
honor? Please say, “We shall never do so” We shall never do so
And so the binding is made. (6th cord)

Tie (wrap) the cords around the hands while saying:

John and Tracy, remember that the knots of this binding are not
formed by these cords but instead by your vows.

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On Getting Married, Part 1

November 15th, 2010 No comments

I’m a married man!

And I’m delighted about the whole thing.  The future that I get to create and live out with my beloved the next seven decades or so is quite exciting, and I shall have much to share on the matter as time goes by.

But for now, speaking as a newly vetted participant in the whole “planning a wedding and getting married” thing, I have a few reflections to share on the matter.  Depending on your own marital status, what follows may either read as one man’s [highly abridged] guide to how to do it, or one man’s [vaguely entertaining] recounting of going through it.  In this part I want to discuss what strangely turned out to be a pivotal concept on our road to wedding day:

Defying expectations without dissing them.

The phrase “defying expectations” is usually used in, say, popular media, to connote things along the lines of “mystical”, “magical”, “delightfully surprising”: something that goes beyond the ordinary, predictable ho-hum.  In this case I use “defying” more in the spirit of a petulant child that doesn’t want to do as told, and “expectations” to refer to fast held notions of WHAT SHOULD BE.

I gather that, for a great many couples (Tracy & I included), the act of getting married/planning a wedding comes ready-made with strong sense of urgency to do things in accordance with a certain established way.  (Contrast this against the process being a blank canvas, with bride and groom having full freedom to do whatever is within their own style and self expression.)

No, by default a couple seldom has the luxury of that proverbial blank canvas upon which to create and plan their nuptials, but rather inherits a big ball of expectations that said nuptials should live up to.  It’s not surprising nor unreasonable that a feeling of pressure is there: it’s simply the sum total of various ideas and ideals that come from surrounding culture, friends, and family.  I mean, everyone knows a wedding is a big deal. And the bride and groom are generally in on it too: just by carrying a desire to have the wedding be pleasing and memorable for all involved, even the unspoken (or imagined and non-existent) expectations of others get added in.

So, when it came to Tracy and I (Tracy especially, from her experience as a wedding photographer), we realized that this sense of pressure would be there.  And we felt it.  And we occasionally got carried away or stressed by it until remembering that our wedding was in fact ours to create.  And we subsequently forgot that wisdom and went back to step one, and repeated as necessary.

Like everyone else, we really wanted to be sure we were planning our wedding to be the way we wanted it.  Perhaps less like everyone else, we were prepared and willing to say “no” to things that are highly anticipated or expected.  We were even excited to do so, to be so defiant and say to the world “we’re not gonna do X, Y or Z because everyone else does… this will be OURS!”.  It was the active resistance to doing any particular thing because it was simply expected of us: expectation without a matching desire on our part wasn’t sufficient.  Anytime we felt ourselves going through the motions of the “getting married” script and/or letting that script make our decisions for us, we came back to the question “How would John and Tracy get married?” and resumed thought from there.

It’s harder to do than it looks. :)  To be crystal clear: we didn’t even have any overzealous parents who were going zilla-style controlling on the situation.  Rather, all three were the epitome of being laid back, hands off, and keen to root us on.  Like I said before, the weight of it comes from the sum many [even humble] opinions and ideals.

But we got through to the blessed day and stayed reasonably true to our intentions, and the result was darn good.  I of course cannot be trusted to not be biased, but I will put in nonetheless that it was the best wedding I’ve ever been to.

So what did we say “no” to during our crusade for wedding individuality, and how did it fare?  Here’s the list of things that are super common in American weddings, about which were greeted by at least some form of suspicion by our non-adherence:

  • Save the Dates and RSVPs. Our save the date notice went out as an email notice leading our people to a website where we hit them up for their mailing address (electronically).  We still sent the RSVP by conventional mail, but it sure was nice to have the replies come back via the internet.  The site for both was pretty spiffy, too.
  • Bride’s maids and groom’s men. Just a Maid of Honor and a Best Man filled out our wedding party.  For my sake with groom’s men, I love my brothers and there are a few other friends who would’ve fit the bill, but I preferred to kept it simple.  Tracy’s been a bride’s maid 3 times already and is clear she did her friends a huge favor by not subjecting them to the cost and rigmarole.
  • Bachelor party. It’s supposed to be just the groom with his dude friends, I’m told, but I was quite content to have some of my near and dear girl friends be there to celebrate the occasion.  I had no interest in going to a strip club anyway.
  • Diamond ring. Tracy and I are both underwhelmed by diamond craze and think it’s only by a massive marketing campaign that rock size is somehow indicative of how much we love each other.  Nothing against anyone who chose and loves their diamonds, went simply opted for topaz instead.
  • Groom in a tuxedo. A rental would only fit so well, and a purchase would just collect dust afterward. It’s just not my style.  A three-piece suit, however, is.  Not only that, but it’s a fine piece of formal wear that I shall enjoy to wear out again.
  • Bride’s bouquet. We wanted to chuck the whole thing, but were ruled by reason that it’s an important ornament/something to do with the hands for the bride, during ceremony and pictures.  Jury’s still out on how grateful we are for caving on that one: Tracy couldn’t get rid of it fast enough and who can really say if it would have been all that awkward without it?
  • Religious ceremony. It turns out a Celtic knot tying ceremony spoke to us more genuinely than any particular religious doctrine on the subject of marriage, so that’s what we went with.  (My sister had the best reaction when I told her in advance of this: “So is that like, your religion now?” as if I’d just turned 2 shades weirder on her.)
  • Specially colored slip covers for the ceremony chairs. We were thinking it a superfluous detail that would only last about 30 minutes, but we did back down from our “no” on this one.  I will admit, they looked pretty darn good in a way that white or black wouldn’t have.
  • Elaborate decoration. We got by with adding very minimal decorations to the space in which we were married and had our reception, the space as it came needed so little else to have the ambiance we were looking for.  We even passed on having some sort of height-building elements (floral or otherwise) to demarcate our “alter” for the ceremony: we figured the 3 of us standing front and center would make it a focal point enough.
  • Sit-down dinner. We opted instead for heavy passed appetizers, spiffy spreads of various foods, a whipped potato martini bar, and carving station.
  • 10-top round tables for the reception. In our experience, people only talk with their dates and those seated to the left and the right under that setup.  We wanted more intermingling among our peeps, and so opted for a scattered assortment of high tops and 4-tops, all unreserved.  Worked great for coming and going with our alternative catering option.
  • Wedding cake. In our experience it’s overpriced, generally not as great as it’s cracked up to be, and three’s usually a ton left over and thrown away.  So we skipped entirely.  Instead we had a gelato cart with four fab flavors to choose from.

To be clear, I’m not saying that anything we did was revolutionary: a lot of these variations on the theme have either been around a long time or are coming more and more into vogue.  But every item on that list was a point of contention, met with some sort of surprise, misgivings, distaste or reservation by at least one person who is important to us.  It is these things that we stood for, the things that needed to be stood for because they don’t garnish immediate universal acceptance, which made our wedding ours.  Simply put, with no disrespect to the standard formula of weddings (ok, except perhaps wedding cake: I blasted that pretty hard) we sought to have ours a different way.  And from my vantage point, it totally worked.

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The Hotness Game

July 19th, 2010 No comments

This past Saturday Tracy and I made a day trip of visiting Bolder. Amid a wealth of other to-dos and activities, we, while sitting outdoors enjoying pizza and beer while watching the crowds go by on the highly-trafficked Pearl Street, invented and played what we call “The Hotness Game”

The Hotness Game is a people-watching game defined simply as follows: while with your significant other, you and she/he take turns trying to pick out people walking by that one thinks the other would be attracted to, and name why.  In other words, guess by image alone who appears to be datable in the eyes of your beloved.  You get a point for every person you successfully name.

There are a couple of things about The Hotness Game that are worth sharing.

The Hotness Game probably requires being in a stable and secure relationship in order to play without calamity, and to play it otherwise is probably asking for trouble.  Here again makes another reason to be delighted by the relationship Tracy and I have created.  You can imagine a watered down version of this game wherein both players pretend their datable people are limited to near-carbon copies of the other.  This was NOT the case in our playing, and we had way more fun because of it.

Physical image by itself is a DELIGHTFULLY shallow criteria for attraction, and the more you dabble in that being the end-all-be-all criteria (as one must while making snap judgments upon passers by while playing The Hotness Game), the more you appreciate the wealth of substance that lies in elsewhere in things like personality, passion, believes, and so forth.  There were a couple of smokin’ hotties that Tracy [correctly] named as being my type for which my baser brain was content to muse upon “trading up”, which was then simply met by the sober realization “yeah, but I’d probably have to talk to her, too”.  An ever-so-slightly expanded appreciation for my Tracy quickly followed each time.

I think, in our yet still slightly homophobic culture, that a guy playing The Hotness Game has to be secure enough in his sexuality to be able to recognize and point to other male hotness.  While trying my best to name ’em for Tracy I got into more than one disagreement that ended in my saying “Really?  Huh, I think he’s a pretty good lookin’ dude.”

The final takeaway from my experience of playing The Hotness Game is as follows: dang, y’all girls got it ROUGH. Seriously: you remember the point system I mentioned above?  Tracy CRUSHED me on the scoreboard, and it wasn’t because she had that much of a leg up in knowing what I find attractive, nor a reluctance on my part to identify male hotness.

No, whether it’s a matter of disparity in effort among the sexes, or the natural order of things, there appears to be an absolute dearth of datable guys relative to datable women when you go on looks alone.  While doing my darndest to spot a guy that my love would judge datable, I had to weed through loads of slouched postures, agape maws, unkempt hair, partially tucked in shirts, and aimless eyes.  The ladies overall have their stuff WAY MORE together, and god bless ’em for it; I had no idea us fellas were generally such a sorry lot.

Now that I think of it: my final final takeaway from the experience is this.  If you’re a nice guy who can never seem to land a nice girl, grab a platonic girl friend and go sit out on a busy pedestrian mall and play The Hotness Game together.  While walking in a woman’s shoes, trying to spot datable guys, you’re apt to gain some pointers of what’s working and what’s not for you, and, if nothing else, you may get a dose of perspective concerning how truly datable you really are.

Come to think of it, I could have used this advice about a decade ago.

Happiness

June 3rd, 2010 No comments

I am neither poetic nor original to declare that happiness takes many forms.

For me, today, happiness is walking about downtown Denver in my sandals, rocking out to a really old Genesis album on my iPod (Genesis Live, 1973) while tending to various errands.

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Anti-Holidays: A Festivus for the Rest of Us

May 5th, 2010 2 comments

I went back to visit family in Wisconsin this past weekend, and it was the best visit I’ve had in a long time.  In retrospect it is quite clear why.

I left my hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin now nearly thirteen years ago, first to Madison for college, then to St. Louis for grad school, and most recently to Denver for the next chapter of the created life (ah, love!).  As my distance from home has grown, so too has the likelihood that any given trip back was for the purpose of enjoying a holiday with family.

But this time the reason was different: it was my niece’s First Communion.  Her mom (my sister) Nancy made a great go of having us 6 other siblings feel all of invited, welcomed, and wanted for the occasion.  It turns out there’s something surprisingly powerful and compelling about the email/phone call/snail mail card trifecta–good one, Nancy!

So on Saturday we converged, I from Denver, Julie from Atlanta, Susie from Chicago, and Kevin, Mary and Mike from their nooks about the greater Milwaukee area.  The rare occasion of seven of us in the same room.  We’re a great group of folks in general, but when you strip out the hectic travel, the usual to-dos, and the low-to-moderate drama of who’s staying where which characteristically plague holiday gatherings, what remains is a fantastic, lively and engaged group of adults with way more to say than apologies of how they have to go soon to be with the in-laws.

The whole experience has me thinking the counter-intuitive notion that the holidays are a terrible time to be with family: there’s just too much going on.  Better to have it be some other day: that’s when you really get to enjoy quality time.  I call it the anti-holiday.  Nancy I think stumbled upon something great to get us all together on a calendar day that has no presence on Hallmark’s revenue radar.  I think it would be great for my family to have our own moving target of a holiday that could change from year to year, such that this one doesn’t just go down as a fluke.

Our own, dynamic Festivus.  We can even skip the Airing of Grievances.

In Search of the 5 Gems of Denver

February 12th, 2010 No comments

Even though I thought it a shamefully telling trait of being a nerd back then, I don’t mind telling you now that I was totally a Nintendo kid during my years of growing up.  Because of it, I’m left even now with a few indelible concepts & cliches borrowed from all the video games I used to play, and it’s still fun for me to fit them to my every day life.

One such cliche is the quest to find “X shiny objects” necessary to open the magic door/access the hidden realm/lift the curse/etc., usual as a prerequisite to finding and killing the ultimate bad guy and winning the game.  Zelda had its 8 pieces of the TriForce, the first Final Fantasy had its 4 orbs, Sonic had its 6 chaos emeralds, etc. etc.

So I’ve made up that, as a way to frame my task of getting settled into and acquainted with my new town, I’m on a quest for the 5 Gems of Denver, and by that I mean 5 of a very specific kind of thing:  I’m out to find no fewer than 5 features of Denver, be they places, events, venues, restaurants, parks, cultural institutions and so on, that constitute distinct reasons to fall in love with this particular town.  They have to be recurring in nature: something that can become a more-or-less regular staple of my happy lifestyle here.  They don’t have to be universally unique, something that makes me say “wow, cool–there’s nothing like that in St. Louis that I know of” is sufficient to meet the uniqueness criteria.

So far I’ve found one of the Gems of Denver, which I mentioned before, Core Power Yoga.  I love it, it boasts a community and following like nothing in St. Louis, and it remains a regular facet of my typical week.  That leaves four more, and by the time I finish this quest I will have much to brag on about my new home.

The imminent bike season should make it much easier and faster to do so, but I wouldn’t mind to cheat a little with some help and hints.  If you have some ideas of where the Gems of Denver are to be found, by all means share.  When I’ve found my 5 I’ll post the what and why of the whole collection.

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