Feathered Aspen


A Retrospective

Ok.  Consider the following a stream of consciousness.  Stacy posted a similar list on her blog a couple of weeks ago, and I’ve been sneaking a few minutes here and there to write my own.  I had intended to link a bunch of the stuff to old posts, but I only had the time to do a few.  Regardless, I’ve written about most of the things after 2009.

The premise is to study the past in order so that I may divine the future.

2003:  In the fall of 2003, I began my Senior year of high school.  I had just returned from a summer in England with family, and I was the captain of the XC Team.  Mick, my boyfriend at the time, dumped me, and I spent the fall with my girlfriends; meanwhile, I was applying to colleges and crushing on that boy (Joshua) in Humanities.

Best: living and breathing cross country; England; hanging out with Ashlee.  Worst:  being dumped.  Hindsight:  that crush is the real deal.

2004:  That winter, I was the captain Nordic Ski Team.  In January, I mustered up the courage to ask Joshua to a school dance.  Soon, college letters came in, and despite all the odds, I was rejected from four of the five schools I applied to.  Although it was a huge hit to my confidence, I was accepted to the University of Puget Sound, and it just so happened that Joshua had applied there in the fall for early acceptance.  That Spring, I didn’t run track and I ran my first (and only, so far) marathon at Grandma’s in Duluth.  In May, I graduated with a 3.94 (sorry, had to add that in, lest you think I’m a dummy for having been rejected from four out of five schools), and I worked all summer for FedEx on the night shift.  That August, my dad and Hannah took me out to UPS.  During Freshman orientation, I went backpacking with Eric and Matt who would become good friends for the rest of college.  Joshua and I broke up for 24 hours, and my first roommate was a bust, but otherwise, life was pretty good.  I moved in with Stacy, and we got along well, but we didn’t really become friends (until 7 years later?!).

Best: dating Joshua; marathon.  Worst: rejection; first roommate.  Hindsight:  make friends with Stacy!

2005:  During the second semester of freshman year, Caitlin and I became friends, and a group of us decided to live together.  In the Spring, I took an Outdoor Leadership course, and I got to go on a weeklong backpacking trip along the Washington coast.  That Summer, I went back to Minnesota and worked for FedEx and Mandy’s office, and then in the Fall, I moved back to the UPS and started living with Joshua (in a house with six other people).  I took my first Art History and Gender courses, and I fell in love with them.

Best: backpacking, classes.  Worst:  choosing a major that’s pretty much useless.  Hindsight:  graduate with a credential, not a degree.

2006:  That winter, I remember studying hard and weathering the dramatic ups and downs.  19 and 20 year olds are a lot like sixth graders:  they want to be treated as though they are adults, but in a lot of ways, they still act like children.  The kitchen was a sty, and forging new friendships while maintaining others proved tricky.  That summer, Joshua, Caitlin, and I stayed on campus and worked for Conference Services.  That fall, the three of us flew to South America and spent four months on the lam, learning Spanish, trying out WWOOFing, teaching English, and discovering the life of travel.

Best:  living with Joshua for the first time; TRAVELING.  Worst:  dysentery, 19 year old boys that smoke weed and don’t clean the kitchen.  Hindsight:  send e-mails with all of the information (don’t through the family into a panic).

2007:  Back in Tacoma, the three of us got an apartment in the Proctor District, less than a mile from school.  In January, I went to the Humane Society, and we adopted Oscar, a shy and wonderfully grumpy mutt who lives with us to this day.  By now, I had declared an Art History major (good sense be damned) and Joshua had declared a History major.  That summer, Joshua worked for Conference services while I worked at the Office of Accounting and Budgeting Services and took summer classes.  That fall, I became a Campus Campaign Coordinator for Teach For America, and I recruited like crazy, compelling 10% of our graduating class to apply.  Joshua and I were accepted in October, and every morning, we would wake up early and run, talking about our future in New Orleans.

Best:  Oscar, running with Joshua.  Worst:  not much!  Hindsight:  that teaching thing?  It’s not a bed of roses.

2008:  That Spring, we finished out our degrees and graduated with Honors.  Joshua proposed, I said yes (of course), and in May, we packed our tiny little Hyundai with all of our earthly possessions – including Oscar – and set off for the Bayou, stopping at the Grand Canyon and Taos along the way.  We stayed with Sarah for a couple of weeks, exploring the new city and dying from the heat, and then we flew to Phoenix for Institute.  Six weeks later, we returned to New Orleans for our first ever teaching jobs.  In the same school.  (Crazy right?)  Together with 9 other corps members, we were baptized by fire.  It was the worst year of my life.  We lost 10 students to gun violence.  Other students were put in prison for taking the lives of others.  It was unsafe, unhappy, miserable – no more so for us than our students – but vicarious trauma has its own teeth.

Best:  the trip down to New Orleans, spending time with Sarah, our little quarters near the Marigny.  Worst:  ‘nuff said.  Hindsight:  ????

2009:  During our second semester, the police were called onto campus 52 times.  Gun clips in the yards, abusive administrators, and urine in the closets.  But then.  Summer.  We drove back to Minnesota.  Flew to Athens.  We spent a month biking around the islands, swimming in the sea, and remembering the good things in life.  In July, we married at Afton Apple Orchard among our friends and family, tan and happy.  That fall, I returned to another slightly better but still terrible alternative school run by the RSD.  Joshua went to New Orleans College Prep.  We survived.  Joshua working harder than ever, and me – coping.  That Thanksgiving, we spent a short vacation in the Ozarks with my dad, Mandy, Hannah, and Eamon.

Best:  GREECE, wedding, Ozarks.  Worst:  ‘nuff said.  Hindsight:  ????

2010:  I remember New Years as one of the highlights in New Orleans.  We ate a fancy dinner and watched the fireworks up on the levee, dressed to the nines.  That Spring break, I flew to Portland to visit Caitlin for a week, and we poked around the coast like old times.  And in May, it ended.  If you ask me now, I can’t tell you why we stayed.  It was so horrible, and I honestly don’t think I did any good.  But we did, and when we left, we felt like we were being born again.  Free to live life.  Free to choose a new path.  In June, we flew to England.  We met up with Ashlee, hiking the Wicklow Way and exploring Andalucia.  Back in England, we biked from End to End (and side to side), visiting our fabulous English family the whole way.  After dunking our toes at John O’Groates, we headed for Turkey and then India.  We spent a short time in Northern India with the Tibetans and zen travelers, and then we hopped a train and a bus for Nepal, a dream of mine.  We hiked there for a couple of months, meeting up with the Ps, rafting down the Kaligandaki, soaking in the Himalaya, and then we flew back to England for a couple of weeks of mulled wine and scones with family before heading back to Minnesota.

Best:  TRAVELING, rafting with the Ps, finishing teaching in NOLA.  Worst:  not much.  Hindsight:  DO IT AGAIN.

2011:  In Minnesota, I came down with pyelonephritis, and lost the 10 pounds I hadn’t lost travelling.  We lived in Ellsworth with Yvonne and Dave for a few months, and then we applied to our jobs here in Denver, driving down for interviews in March.  We were both made offers on the spot, and we took them, renting a place in the Highlands before we returned to Minnesota to pack up our stuff.  In April, we moved down to our two bedroom apartment.  We took a little road trip into the mountains and down to Mesa Verde, and then I taught summer school.  K and Stacy moved down, and they became our close friends.  In July, we got pregnant, and that Fall, I suffered through the heat and learning how to teach for the first time.  In November, we bought our house.

Best:  Colorado, spending time with family, getting preggers, hanging with the Ps and Devanes.  Worst:  teaching while preggers in the heat.  Hindsight:  you’re so lucky to have the Ps and the Devanes!

2012:  Just as I started to get the hang of teaching in a place where teaching is possible but never easy, Spring Break arrived and so did Lily.  My pregnancy and her birth really do mark one of the most momentous occasions in my life.  Those first months were hard.  K and Stacy were living with us (in between renting and owning), and their company made things a little easier.  Gradually, we started to get the hang of this parenting thing, and in the fall, we returned to work, dropping off Lily at a wonderful little school.

Best:  Lily, visits from friends and family.  Worst:  the first few weeks of breastfeeding, episiotomies…  Hindsight:  take a hypnobirthing class, or something.

2013:  That second year of teaching was easier, but still difficult.  More and more, I’d gotten the feeling that something in me wants to teach, but I’m not really sure if teaching wants me to teach, if that makes sense.  I poured myself into my friendships and Lily, and we enjoyed numerous visits from family and friends.  This summer, we took a road trip to California, and this fall, we began another year of teaching.  This year, by far, is the best year of teaching, and yet…  Well, we’ll see.

Best:  Spending time with friends and family.  Worst:  the Ps leaving.  Hindsight:  none yet.

Hopes/Goals/Themes  for the Future:

  1.  What I want more than anything is a strong network of family and friends.  Brittaney was here last week, and I practically salivated when she talked about having friends with children, people who they see on a regular basis, bounce ideas off of, and count on.  I would love to have a loving community in which to raise Lily.
  2. One thing I haven’t found is professional satisfaction.  In college, I loved art history, religion, and feminism, but since then, I’ve struggled.  Teaching has been a lot of good things, but it’s also been a lot of terrible things (I mean really, really horrible).  In some ways, it’s more bad than good, more stress and heartache than joy.  I really want to carve out a space professionally where I feel like I have something unique and good to offer, but I don’t have all of the answers yet.
  3. Kids.  Having Lily is one of the most rewarding and profound things I’ve ever done.  We want more J
  4. TRAVEL.  Like Stacy, I’d say this is money well spent and some of the best experiences of our lives.

And that’s about it.  I don’t know about predicting the future, but that’s what I hope for.  Any divinations you find with reading?  What about you?


12 Days of Christmas: Over the River and through the Woods…

Christmas was a whirlwind, so a photo-journal will have to document what I am to weary to catalogue:


On Christmas Eve, a sick Lily opened a few gifts while leaning back against mom and having photos taken by Grandma (and dad).2

Opening the gifts was as much fun and playing with them once they were opened.


On Christmas morning, Joshua and I tried to go for a run, but it was just to darn cold, and we lost steam less than a 1/2 mile from the house.  Instead, we got dressed and relaxed with Papa Tim, Granny Joette, and Auntie Sarah.


And we opened some more gifts.5

Some good toys 🙂6

Lots of fun 🙂7

A telephone from Auntie Sarah.8

Auntie Sarah and Dad have the same expression:  JEALOUSY.


Some kisses.


Irish cream and coffee…



The requisite family photos (above:  Gaetano, Joshua, Sarah, Ellie, and Jacquelyn)


The kiddos (Joshua, Sarah, and Gaetano)


Papa, Joshua (thank you, good sir), Sarah, Gaetano, and Joette


The whole fam (except Lily, who’s napping).


Cousin JoJo came over.  Lily perked up, but JoJo was not impressed. (Dixie and Shannon in the background.)


JoJo soaks up some Joette love.


Joette, JoJo, me, and Lily.


Got your nose (and mom’s necklace).

We were toasty warm despite the chill outside, and Christmas morning was filled with catching up, opening gifts, and sipping coffee.  It was so nice to see everyone!  Lily was still feeling sick, so she was not her usual cheery self.  Gift opening and Christmas greetings were a bit overwhelming, and she spent much of the morning napping, crying, and blowing snot into mom’s velvet dress.

In the afternoon, the three of us (and Thibodeaux and Oscar) piled into the car with Auntie Sarah, and we drove to Stokholm, Wisconsin, where Nana Yvonne and Grumpy Dave live.


It was quite the drive.  Truly “over the hills and through the woods to grandmother’s house” we went.  So much so that we had to take a little pitstop so that Marge could barf (seriously.  Only it was Sarah, not Margie.).


But is sure was pretty.  By Pepin in the little town of Maidenrock, we looked out over bluffs down to the frozen lake below.  I don’t have a picture of the whole thing, but here’s a photo from the web:

The place is absolutely beautiful.  Unfortunately, some f***ers (you’ll pardon my french) have set up camp along the river and are fracking oil, injecting nasty chemicals into the ground and contaminating the water supply.

Of course, Evil People (oh excuse me, corporations) always put a positive spin on raping the earth.



Finally we made it to Nana and Grumpy’s.  They live in a perfectly stunning little farmhouse outside of Stokholm, and the two of them have made it very cozy and charming with tons of Nana’s artwork, lots of photos, and good colors.  Nana even got Lily an old-fashioned wooden high chair to eat at the dinner table.  Clearly, Lily approved of Nana’s good taste.


After a good long nap in the car, Lily was a smiles again.


She spent some time on Daddy’s shoulders.  You can tell she’s feeling better but still sick.  Her eyes don’t quite open when she’s not feeling well.


Cuddles with Auntie.  Sarah bought Lily her Christmas outfit.  My favorite part is her little red socks 🙂


Nana made fried tacos for Christmas dinner.  They were delish 🙂


The blue-eyed Minnesota genes.


My good looking husband.


Mom and Lily on the couch.


Oscar cuddles with stuffed Oscar.

I’d like to say that we spent the rest of the evening as we usually do, drinking wine, playing games, and opening gifts.  But Lily had other ideas.  Midway through Yahtzee, she started to squirm in earnest, and I spent the rest of the evening trying to comfort her.  It’s so nice to see everyone, and it’s hard being so far away from family, but the go around at Christmas is difficult.

I find myself feeling guilty (cracks about Catholic, midwestern guilt appreciated here) the whole time.  I feel guilty that our jobs have taken us so far away from family, guilty that a 19 hour drive back to family and a change in climate and routine has made Lily sick.  I feel guilty that we aren’t spending enough time with everyone and that they don’t get to see Lily at her best.  I feel guilty that the culmination of a long, very cramped and very stressful car ride coupled with strange beds, a sick baby, and too much time spent driving to and fro has made me cranky and anxious.

I love Minnesota, especially in winter, and I’m not being sarcastic.  I know most people are when they say that.  I’m one of those rarer breeds who love the winter because I love snow.  I love the weak, pink light that the sun makes as it descends below the flat, cold skyline.  I love the swish of my skis against icy snow and running when my breath makes puffs of steam in the air.  I love how ice crystals form on my eyelashes and the flyaways that have escaped my hat and neckwarmer.  I love the contrast of bare branches against all the white.

And I love my mom.  I love how she makes every space that she lives in a home.  Her hodge-podge furniture that she’s found (for free, mostly) and saved, the fabrics that she’s found (for free, mostly) and salvaged, and the artwork that she’s made or discovered (for free, mostly) creates this collage of earthy colors, homey vignettes, and well, spaces that just speak “Eunice.”

I love how she cooks.  It’s probably one of the first things that I tell people about her.  When I’m trying to describe my mom, I explain how she cooks.  You know that cliche saying about how “Indians used the whole animal”?  Well, that’s my mom.  If you were to look in the fridge or the pantry and ascertained that there is absolutely nothing in there (oh sure, maybe some rice, an apple, a few wilted fronds of kale, one small head of broccoli, the heel of a loaf of bread, and the back end of a wedge of parmesean) and what is left could not possibly be assembled into anything that remotely resembles a palatable meal, my mother is here to prove you wrong.  She’ll whip up a meal with her trusty iron skillet, and it will be sublime.  It always is.

I love sitting down and making art with my mom.  I love that she’s always making something: music or soulful conversation, art or food.  I may tease her, because frankly, going “meta” all the time can drive me bonkers, but I love that my mom has made a life that speaks for her.

I love my dad.  He gets me, or at least he gives the impression that he gets me.  He might think I’m off the charts or something, but I feel “gotten” when I’m with him.  He laughs at my acerbic observations and just generally makes me feel far wittier than I deserve.  He asks great questions without me feeling like I’m being interviewed, and he always seems interested in the answers.  He’s smart and loving, and he treats people well.  We can talk and talk, and we love to run together.  He lets me know that he’s proud of me for things that feel like, well, duh, normal.  And when he lets me know that he’s proud, it feels pretty nice like, well, I guess I am pretty cool.

Ironically, I think his opinion matter more than almost anyone’s to me, and yet, I can’t remember the last time he’s given it.  I think dad just wants to see what I’ll do next, and he doesn’t need to lead or influence behind the scenes.  Maybe that’s the teacher in him.  He did his part; he did the best he could, and now he’s content to see me use the things I’ve learned to make something new and different.

I love Mandy, her conversation, and her will.  I love how she gets excited and knows exactly what she wants.  I love Eamon and how he wears his hat cocked to one side and his pajama pants way too short.  I love how he sit next to me on the couch and puts his head on my shoulder.

I love Hannah.  I love how she’s forging an identity all her own, and even though she loves people to pieces  she won’t let them push her around.

And then there’s Joshua’s side of the family.  They’ve welcomed me with a generosity and familiarity that is humbling.  Papa Tim and Granny Joette are constantly providing.  Their time, skill, and care are such steady forces in our lives.  Nana Yvonne and Grumpy Dave have a special place for each of us in their homes and hearts, and every time I spend time with them, I am reminded again how well they have loved their families.  Their priorities are very clear.

So of course I want to share all of this with Lily.  I want her to have relationships with these wonderful and important people, and I want her to “get” Minnesota.  But it’s hard.  We’re still figuring it out.

30In the meantime, we’re living out of overflowing suitcases and abiding by a master schedule so that we can spend time with everyone.

That’s all from Stockholm, where the men are hard of hearing, the women wear “progressive” lenses, and the children are snarky.