Toastmasters, gardening, babies, music, etc.

So, this week definitely took a turn for the better after a bummer of a weekend.

On Tuesday, I went to a Toastmasters meeting for the first time. It’s one of those I’ve-been-meaning-to-scope-this-out-for-like-eight-years kind of things.  And it was really cool. They say it’s great for people who either love public speaking or are terrified of it (I’m the former, it’s never scared me).

I volunteered for the impromptu speech activity and had to speak for 90 seconds on whether I would choose to save a cat or a dog from a burning building if I could only pick one. I said if it were my own cat and dog, I’d pick dog because he is younger and has more life left to live. Also way more fun, entertaining, doesn’t puke on the furniture, etc. Sorry, Alaska!

Wednesday I volunteered at one of the Community Gardens in Civic Center Park. Lots of weeding, and I planted some garlic. Beers, plants, good conversation, and perfect weather.  Civic Center Park is one of my favorite spots in Denver.


Last night I dropped by to see a friend who was literally going into labor. (Contractions were ten minutes apart.) It was kind of weird, she was still hanging out at home, but by today her baby might already be born (or perhaps it’s happening as I type).

Other random highlights: introducing a bunch of people to hyperbole and a half, taking a bath and drinking champagne (to celebrate good work stuff!), I picked really good towels off the stack at the gym (some barely cover your bottom, this one had inches to spare), changing the sheets from cotton to our bamboo set (OMG soft), and good workouts this week.

Tonight, happy hour, tomorrow Avett Brothers at Red Rocks, Sunday…maybe City Park Jazz? We’ll see.

City Park Shooting

So. I haven’t been very useful for the last 24 hours. This has been a tough few days.

To begin, Chris’s grandmother, the amazing Nana Brown, who made me realize I do like stuffing (as long as it’s made by her) and who tells the most delightful stories about getting wrong number text messages on her only-for-emergency cell phone (They says things like “How u been!” and “wut it do!”) was diagnosed with multiple cancers. We’re waiting for more details, but when they rattle off a list of affected organs, it doesn’t sound good.

That alone would be enough.

But Sunday night we went to City Park Jazz to hang out with our friend, Peter. Peter was working at the bike parking corral in City Park, and we volunteered to help out.

On this map, we were where the orange mark is, in the lower left of this picture. We split a six pack amongst the three of us, complained about the heat, and chatted with cyclists who came to park their bikes.

Just after 8 pm, right after the music wrapped up, a sudden swarm of people came screaming and barreling around the corner of the building towards us. It was quick, a burst of maybe six or seven seconds of people streaming around the corner, girls screaming, some people who seemed to be laughing maybe? Most people stopped running once they had turned the corner.

We were confused, we couldn’t see around the building and I was scared to look. Chris told me to get inside to bike parking area, afraid we’d get caught and trampled in a stampede of people, and he stood in front of me. Maybe 20 seconds later another wave of people came running and screaming around the corner. The park was crowded, but people were definitely running towards us, and away from something. My heart started beating really hard, and I asked Chris what happened, like he would know anything more than I did, even though we were standing together.

There were murmurs from the crowd about a knife and “he’s got a gun.” I’m not sure how to describe it. It was definitely not full on pandemonium from the movies, but the crowd was skittish and I said, “I’m scared. I want to go.”  My instinct was to get down on the ground or stay close to the building, but I felt silly since no one else was doing that.

Someone came on the loudspeaker to announce, “The park is now closed. Please exit to the south side of the park for your safety.” It was scary, but it still felt like…if there was still immediate danger, would someone be calmly speaking on the loudspeaker? Surreal.

We grabbed our bikes. Chris started to put on his red buff, basically a fancy bandana on his head he normally wears under his bike helmet. I’ve given him shit for wearing a red bandana when we live on the blue side of the tracks (and I don’t mean Democratic) a million times, but as we fled City Park, knowing there had been some kind of violence, likely gang related, I snapped at him, “Seriously? Put it away.”

I get bitchy when I’m nervous.

We took off across the park. I rode as fast as I could, knowing Chris could more than keep up with me. Dozens of police cars were headed into the park, sirens blazing, driving across the grass.

It wasn’t until we were five blocks out of the park that we slowed up a bit. I said, “I bet it wasn’t really anything. We’d have heard gunshots if there were any. It was probably just a fight and people got spooked.”

We got home and started refreshing, refreshing, refreshing twitter. Searches for City Park and local tv stations. Drips and drops of information. We were seeing the same things and just reading them off to each other. Shots were fired. A cop was hit. She’s in critical condition. Something about an Anti Gang Violence Rally? The officer was a female. She’s married with two kids. Stepped in to break up a fight. Another site says she’s a single mom of two kids. Then just one kid. Several suspects in custody. No suspects in custody, but many in for questioning.

About where the yellow mark is on the photo above, a police officer named Celena Hollis was shot in the head, and she died that night.

I have so much to say about this. In not much of an order:

  • I was completely useless at work today, refreshing the news and learning the smaller details. I cried as I told someone about it, that it happened roughly 100 yards from where we were standing.
  • I don’t know what caused the two swells of people, but there were definitely two distinct panics with a break in between. Maybe someone pulling a gun, and then actual shots fired? Panicked crowds are scary, and I was about as nervous about the herd as I was about what had spooked them.
  • We didn’t hear the gunshots, which seems crazy for how close we were. Must have been a random acoustics fluke.
  • A local channel, I think 9 news, posted on their facebook page that an officer was shot, and predictably there were soon dozens of comments offering up thoughts and prayers, and then one that went something like, “Your prayers didn’t work, she died. Praying is stupid.” (I’m sooo paraphrasing.) People suck.
  • Another facebook comment was something like, “You won’t catch me in City Park during the day much less at night.” That’s a stupid thing to say. City Park is huge, housing the zoo and the science museum. There’s a running race there almost every weekend. Obama’s helicopter landed there a few weeks ago. I have spent hours and hours in that park and the sketchiest thing I have seen was a guy who was smoking a joint while watching his kids. Sketchy, but not scary. I can think of at least three parks offhand that are 100 times scarier in Denver.
  • I never noticed the segregation at City Park Jazz until someone pointed it out after this incident. Most white people tend to spread out to the South, and most black people tend to hang out closer to the pavilion/stage. I’m just not that observant. I have sat in both spots.
  • They keep asking for witnesses to come forward. Hundreds of people must have seen what happened. Especially if there was a skirmish that preceded the shooting, it would have drawn a lot of eyes. I wish I had seen more and could help.
  • A local reporter tweeted that friends and family of the suspected shooter wore red bandanas into court this morning for the arraignment but were asked to remove them. Not sure how to feel about that.
  • Why does anyone need to bring a gun to Jazz in the Park? You need a gun to protect yourself or to hurt other people. Is there really a need for either at this event? Even if there is, could we get away with a knife? Or some other weapon that’s not going to accidentally kill a cop or any other bystanders?
  • Granted, I was giving side eye to people who couldn’t even follow the no glass rule and bring beer in cans, so I probably don’t have much perspective on the appropriate weapon to carry in this situation.
  • It was weird to see so many inaccuracies in the news. Some reports had the officer married, some single. Some with two kids, some with one. By this morning everyone seemed to agree she was a single mom of one daughter. But some reports had her in plain clothes, some said uniformed. Some said this was a “jazz festival,” which isn’t really right. Some said this was the first in a summer concert series, when it was really the fourth installment this summer. There kept being this weirdly phrased detail that she had been attending an Anti-Gang Violence Rally. But…she wasn’t because we were all at City Park Jazz. There wasn’t also a rally that night. Maybe they meant previously? As of today this detail was dropped from most reports. I have to assume this is normal in the scramble to get information in the hours after an event, but it was still unsettling.

I just…this has rattled me. For a lot of reasons.

I haven’t decided if I’ll be back at the park next Sunday night. On the one hand, if I stay home, then OMG THEY WIN. I don’t want to be intimidated out of my own neighborhood’s park.

On the other hand, that was terrifying. And I can drink beer and pretend to listen to jazz at home. (Seriously, no one is listening to the music. It’s just social people watching.)

On still the third hand, these concerts are likely to be crawling with security for the rest of the summer and might actually be the safest place to be in the city.

Dressing Room Snaps

I didn’t used to go to Nordstrom Rack every other Saturday but lately I have been “offering to pick Chris up from work,” and my route just happens to take me right by here. Fancy that.

From left to right, do I even need to write anything? As in ALL situations in my life, exactly what I’m thinking is written right across my face whether I like it or not.

  • Sigh. Disappointing. I thought this was going to be awesome. Modest neckline! Pockets! Calvin Klein! But the seam where the white meets the brown looks weird and awkward. No wonder this was on the sale rack.
  • This could work. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with it. It fits. The green is nice. Not too short. Not too…anything. The pattern is kind of boring. I wish it were all green. Or all grey. Or green and white stripes. Meh.
  • Why the eff is this bunching in a way that is making me look pregnant? Not even pregnant, more like…stomach tumor-y. Ugh, Nanette Lepore, why do you hate me?

At least when dresses aren’t awesome I save money.

In other news, I only have eleven weeks until my 70.3. Three months sounds like a long time. Eleven weeks sounds like…I should be at the gym right now swimming.

Weekend Update

This was a super chill weekend. Brunch, workouts, pedicures, cooking. This is more for me than for you, so you might just want to look at the pictures and keep scrolling.

Friday afternoon I reluctantly passed on office beers. I had opted to sleep in rather than knock out my workout in the morning. So I waived goodbye to my happy-hour-ing coworkers and hit the gym for an hour spin and a 30 minute run. I finished right as they were closing at 8 pm.

Came home. Sat in the backyard and drank a Ranger IPA. Caught up with Chris. It felt like I barely got to hang out with him this week. Marveled at how late it stays light. Took a bath and went to sleep.

Saturday morning I considered swimming in Bowles Reservoir at 7 and going to Root Yoga at 12:30. Realized I could also swim and do yoga at the gym and be finished and home by 11 instead of by 2. Done.

Felt proud of myself for saving time. Promptly wasted it on the internet.

Saturday afternoon

Haircut! Mentioned I’ve been into braids lately, and my stylist showed me a new way to braid my hair. Sadly, you know how your hair is all…slippery when freshly washed? Yeah, it all sort of unraveled shortly after I left.

I returned a dress at Ann Taylor and returned another dress to Target. Then of course I bought two new dresses at Target. You know, to maintain balance. But both of my new dresses are less expensive, so still a net gain.

I’m wearing the stripey one right now. It makes me want to sing “I’m on a Boat!”

Does anyone else have a stack of those crappy extra bits of fabric they try to pass off as a belt? I never wear them because they look so cheap. And apparently I’m trying to pass off my $20 Target dress as…I don’t know, a $30 Gap dress?

I picked up Chris from work because I was afraid it was going to rain, but it didn’t. I convinced him to swing by Nordstrom Rack on the way home to look for shorts for him. He ended up trying on zero things. I tried on four dresses but passed on everything.

Saturday night we…went grocery shopping then fell asleep on the couch. Fascinating stuff.

Sunday morning we took Harper on a playdate with his BFF Winslow.

Then engaged in apparently our only social activity of the weekend, brunch with friends at Sputnik! But they changed their quinoa cake dish. Not as good as it used to be.

Sunday afternoon Chris and I got pedicures. As always, I immediately wished I’d picked another color. I always have severe color remorse.

I rode my bike in nine million degree weather to slog through a brick at the gym (60 minute spin + 15 minute incline walk). It was hot even inside and I was bored with my book, bored with my music, and there was nothing good on tv.

Sunday night I fixed up a batch of my homemade Chipotle bowls and somehow Chris and I got to talking about Cake (the band, not the food) and how excited we are to see them in July at Red Rocks. And then we played tons of Cake super loud and sang along.

Standing in the Alpha Beta parking lot, watching you leave me…

Sheep go to heaven, goats go to hell!,

We are building a religion! We are building it bigger!

She’s changing her name from Kitty to Karen She’s trading her MG for a white Chrysler La Baron

She’s got a serrated edge that she moves back and forth. It’s such a simple machine, she doesn’t have to use force.

I’m sitting by the window of your 32nd floor apartment, waiting for your phone calls all to end

Proglonging the Magic is my favorite album, followed by Fashion Nugget, but followed closely by Comfort Eagle.

Took a bath. Did a little work. Enjoyed the extremely refreshing combination of Pellegrino Limonata with a splash of whiskey. And then it was Monday morning!

PSA: Typing the degree symbol

It’s frigging hot in Denver. I’m not really one to blog about the weather as that seems even more boring than pictures of what I ate for lunch. It’s been getting hot and cold and rainy and snowy for a long time now, not sure we have anything new to say about it. I’ve already seen a picture of a car covered in snow, what else ya got?

(Though feel free to blog about the weather if a, you are hardcore and bragging about how you went outside and worked out anyways or b, if you are making me laugh.)

Anyways. I have noticed that a lot of Denver seems to think it is 100 asterisks outside rather than 100 degrees. So here’s a 20 second lesson in typing this symbol: °

This way we can all whine about the weather more correctly.

  • On a Mac, press Shift, Option, and 8 at the same time
  • On an iPhone, hold down 0 and you will get the degree symbol as an option
  • If you’re stuck with Windows, hold down the Alt key then type the numbers 0176
  • If none of these work try typing these characters in order: d-e-g-r-e-e-s

Tada! Thank you and you’re welcome.

Does this pancake make my face look fat?

I just googled my own name for kicks, as we all do from time to time. No joke, this was the second result. “Happy face pancake.”

This is from the Pajama Party fundraiser to benefit Denver’s Road Home, a 10 year plan to end homelessness in the city. Glad I could do my part by eating overly-sweet pancakes from Snooze (and drinking a ton of mimosas).

Book #8: A Gate at the Stairs

Oh yeah. I still like to read books.

A Gate at the Stairs

A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this. The writing was beautiful, and I want to be friends with Tassie (though I think she might roll her eyes at me).

Maybe this struck a chord a little more with me since I was also in college in a small town immediately after 9/11? I was definitely thinking of my own experience in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, though they were in a much more liberal college town in the book.

I knew from my friend Michelle’s review that the ending was a little up in the air, so I was ready for it, and I didn’t feel disappointed. I thought the very last scene was a little hokey but overall, I adored this. I highlighted at least a dozen delicious passages.

“Love is the answer, said the songs, and that’s OK. It was OK, I supposed, as an answer. But no more than that. It was not a solution; it wasn’t really even an answer, just a reply.” 


“Her gaze made a slow, observing circle around my nose and mouth. “I’m Sarah Brink,” she said finally. I was not used to being looked at close up, not used to the thing I was looking at looking back. Certainly my own mother had never done such looking, and in general my face had the kind of smooth, round stupidity that did not prompt the world’s study. I always felt as hidden as the hull in a berry, as secret and fetal as the curled fortune in a cookie, and such hiddenness was not without its advantages, its egotisms, its grief-fed grandiosities.”

“I had never eaten such intricately prepared food before, and doing so in this kind of mournful, prayerful solitude, in a public place, where by this time no one but I was seated without a companion, made each bite sing and roar in my mouth. Still, it was an odd experience for me to have the palate so cared for and the spirit so untouched. It was a condition of prayerless worship. Endless communion. Gospel-less church.” 

“Yes,” she said. “‘I Been Working on the Railroad.’There’s just two things I’m worried about with that: the grammar and the use of slave labor.” 

“I tried not to think of my one excursion to Whole Foods, over a year ago, where I found myself paralyzed by all the special food for special people, whose special murmurings seemed to be saying, “Out of my way! I want a Tofurkey!” 

Lorrie Moore could write about the phone book and it would be beautiful.

I will also be stealing an idea from the part of the book about Christmas and saving earrings who have lost their mate for Christmas ornaments.