Moving On

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For two amazing years abroad, I was Rachel in Amsterdam. But that chapter ended two years ago and a new one began. As such, it’s time to move on from here. To start anew. You can now find my musings, photos and stories at ColoRachel.wordpress.com.

Tot zeins.

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No Sympathy

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For the past two weeks I have been complaining about having to go on a 10-day work trip. The weather in Denver is beautiful and everything is happening. I didn’t want to leave. So I whined and moaned about having to be away so long and wouldn’t allow myself to see any positive side to the trip. Oh, I should probably mention the destination(s): Germany and the UK. Yes, I’m an awful person for not jumping for joy at the word “go”. I’m spoiled rotten and should have my passport revoked. To my credit, I’ve been loving the heck out of my life in Denver. New friends, new experiences, the beautiful outdoors. You tell me to leave and I whine like a small child.

Once the flight was booked I figured I needed a weekend plan, so I reached out to a fellow RCPM fan I met in Mexico a couple summers ago who lives in the UK. She was free and, apparently, lives conveniently close to places like Stonehenge, Bath and Whales. She threw out those and other suggestions and the first smile began to crack. For the Germany portion of the trip, I solicited advice form friends and realized I was headed to maybe the only place better known for beer than my current hometown. Maybe this won’t be so bad after all. As it got closer I complained a bit less and promised I’d lighten up once the travel day crammed in coach is over. Nothing like an uncomfortable transatlantic flight, rubbing elbows and knees with your neighbor for 8 hours.

And now, here I am, sitting at the Weihenstephan beer garden, looking out over Freising with a smile on my face. In fact, the moment we landed and I allowed myself to acknowledge being back in Europe I was pretty darn happy. Sadly I won’t get to see any of my Amsterdam friends, but the next few days will be filled with friendly colleagues. The time will fly by, many pictures will be taken, and before I know it I’ll be flying back the other way across the pond. More than likely already hungry for my next trip back to this beautiful, historic, culture-filled land.

Prost

Hello New Year. Again.

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Happy new year! Somehow the first two weeks have already spun by and I have a feeling the rest of 2014 will follow suit. Along with every other year ahead. Once I heard that our perception of time is linked to Einstein’s theory of relativity and that as we get older, we have more days/weeks/years/experiences behind us giving us the impression time is going by faster having more to relate it to. Who knows if it’s true, but it sure feels like it’s all going by in a flash.

Before the year gets too far on, I’ve set a goal for myself and that’s to get back out in the world again. Traveling new places with new cultures, languages, foods, sights and sounds. On the list in this country: Austin, TX, New Orleans, LA, Pacific Northwest (WA, OR). The bigger adventure is planned somewhere in Central or South America. No real destination other than to be much farther down Mexico than I’ve been before and maybe even setting foot on my fifth continent. Planning will happen – eventually.

In general the year is off to an okay start. Some areas of life are trucking along while others can be a bit wobbly or uncertain. Rather than getting down I’ve chosen to find fulfillment where I can to make up for where it’s lacking. In short, I’m working on getting involved in my community. Hopefully some volunteering, service projects and fun neighborhood events are in my not-too-distant future.

Here’s to yet another wonderful year ahead.

P.S. Soon to follow is a more thoughtful post about something that’s been on my mind lately. In one word: Home. What it is, what it means, what it feels like. Please comment with your $0.02 while I work on mine.

P.P.S. Denver loves me and I love Denver.Denver Sky

Introvert Schmintrovert

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Today is the three year anniversary of the day I arrived in Holland. Happy Sinterklaas, y’all! Time for a bit of reflection, I think.

If you’ve read the “About Me” page on this blog or knew me as a kid you wouldn’t be surprised that my folks and just about anyone else in my family was a tad bit concerned I’d never have any friends. I remember hiding behind my mom’s leg when a stranger would come over, gazing down at the floor rather than making eye contact with someone new or in circumstances I wasn’t sure I’d have anything to say. Call it shyness, lack of confidence, or maybe low self-esteem but as a kid, a teen, a young adult, I wasn’t comfortable enough with me to hold my head up high and seek out opportunities to interact with people. Obviously that is no longer the case, but how did I get here? I thought about that recently and notice a few milestones that cracked and eventually broke open the shell.

First was high school. Somewhere around my Junior year (1995/6 to date myself) a friend asked me if I rollerblade. I am a product of the 80’s and 90’s so the answer was clearly, Yes. He suggested I grab my skates and come over to his house after school so that he and a couple of his friends could teach me how to do some tricks. Out came a saw, a grinder and whatever else it took to hack my skates into the appropriate condition and a short while later these guys had me in my skates and sliding down an aluminum pole about 8″ off the ground. I didn’t know what it was but I knew I liked it and wanted more. Most, if not every day, some collection of us would get together to skate at my friend’s house, the high school or some other location with something grindable where we were unlikely to get kicked out. A couple years later an indoor skatepark opened about 30 minutes away and I learned about skating transitions, mini-ramps and other such nonsense. Rollerblading (or aggressive inline skating as it was so fashionably dubbed) became my first real passion in life. I absolutely loved it and the people I met as a result. Nine times out of 10 I would be the only girl at the skatepark earning me respect and attention and building my self-confidence. It was easy to talk to people when there was a common platform to jump off (pun intended) of and I met a number of people I am still good friends with 15+ years later.

Second was the tennis club. In college I found a part-time job working at a private tennis club. No, I didn’t play tennis or know anything about it, but I found the posting, interviewed and was sitting at the front desk answering phones and booking courts in no time. On average it would be pretty safe to say that the membership’s age was somewhere in the mid- to late-40’s, upper-middle class, Orange County. I think I started working there when I was 19 or 20. Absolutely no common ground, right? I was my shy and awkward self until, after a few months of seeing the same faces over and over as well as being pushed behind the bar, things started to loosen up. The members of the club and the other staff I worked with (some of whom were among my generation) all unknowingly cracked the shell significantly deeper. Over the years I worked there my confidence continued to build. I finished school and felt at least a little more ready to be out in the real world. I left the club after college/university for my first real 8-5 office job and started building my experience and career.

The next  10+ years were a collection of different jobs and moving my life from Southern California to Reno, Nevada. In California I mostly kept the same friends I’d had from the tennis club. In moving to Reno I picked up the friends of the person I relocated for rather than building my own social circle. When the relationship ended, I was left without much of my own identity. So I picked up the skates, went to the skatepark and remembered how to meet people, to make friends again. I stayed in Reno a while longer until that day in December, three years ago today, when I packed up and moved to Europe sight unseen. Which brings us to…

Third was Amsterdam. Not just Amsterdam but everything around it, everything it symbolized, everything that happened in those two years. I’m not sure an introvert would have ever left her home country for a place she knew no one. Packing up and leaving everything, everyone behind was the easiest hard decision I’ve ever made. Call it what you will, but it was time for a change. For everything to change. The right opportunity hit at the right time and there was no way I couldn’t go. The experience pushed and stretched me personally and professionally. I learned I could do things I didn’t think possible or that I might have been afraid of. I learned so much about myself in those two years and came out the other side more comfortable in my own skin than I’ve ever been.

For the first time, I feel like I could probably connect and find common ground or something interesting to talk about with just about anyone. Not only do I feel I have something to say, but I’m more curious about other people and their experiences than ever before. Now, I seek out those opportunities more often online or out in the real world. Learning, growing and living is an amazing space to occupy. Don’t get me wrong, there are still many moments of insecurity. Will they like me? Am I good enough? Am I doing this right? But the voice is quieter and easier to trample over. Looking back at my youth and today knowing other kids and young adults, I realize those formative years are just wrought with insecurity for everyone. Nobody knows what they’re doing or is completely sure of themselves. It’s just that some do a better job of stepping over those feelings or hiding them than others. Now, in my 30’s I am me, I know who me is, there’s no one else I’d rather be. There’s still plenty more to learn, do, explore, discover and I’m certain it’ll all be wonderful. Probably not easy, but still wonderful.

Thankful, But Lazy

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Well, I had the best of intentions to kick start my writing again. I listed a few things I thought would be good posts, and a few people requested I keep going, but you know, stuff. Fast forward to last week when my good friend Rachel Wright asked me to return as part of her December Guest Blog Blitz. Being days before Thanksgiving when she asked I knew exactly what I wanted to write about. I made some notes, clicked Save and Close, and waited until the day before my deadline to sit down and write. But I did write. Rachel gave me some good feedback and direction and we ended up with this. Enjoy.

http://gattusovarietal.blogspot.com/2013/12/dgbb-of-gratitude-bravery-and.html

P.S. I still have intentions of writing here again. Intentions…

So, Then This Happened

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View from the apartment over Rijksmuseum and to the West

There had been talk around the office for a few weeks about my going to Europe to work with the client I’d been working for while in Amsterdam. Then Friday the trigger was pulled and my flight booked. And today, Thursday, September 19th, nine months and two days since I left Amsterdam, I am back.

I landed very early this morning, took the train then the tram to my friend’s apartment (the one who almost got crushed by the refrigerator in this little experience), caught up, took a nap, then went back to my former employer to catch up with colleagues. It’s difficult to explain how, exactly it feels to be here but mostly it’s great. I love and adore this city and would probably still be here if it weren’t so far from home, from family. I’ll sort through that later. For now, I’ll enjoy the view from this apartment, the opportunity to spend time with people I haven’t seen for nine months and the city in general.

So happy to see that blue plane and to be getting onto it
So happy to see that blue plane and to be getting onto it
Arriving at Schiphol Airport

Arriving at Schiphol Airport

Ah yes, the commute to the office where I don't have to drive.

Ah yes, the commute to the office where I don’t have to drive.

Just a little happy to be back and in a scarf. It's chilly and rainy here. Shocking, I know.

Just a little happy to be back and in a scarf. It’s chilly and rainy here. Shocking, I know.

Hello Again

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It’s been a while, but I’m back. For now at least. I haven’t had the desire to post here for a while, but as I go through this most recent wave of changes I feel drawn back to the blog, to writing, to sharing. So, hi.

I’ve got a couple thoughts on posts that I’d like to dedicate some energy and effort to, but in the meantime I wanted to follow up on my last post and share some photos of my (mostly) finished apartment. I couldn’t love my place any more and love having friends over to hang out, eat dinner and drink a few local brews inside or on the roof as long as the weather will allow. My apartment feels like home as does Denver. More to come but enjoy for now.

Bedroom area

Shangrilado - Bedroom

Kitchen and coffee barShangrilado - Kitchen

Living room into bedroomShangrilado - Living Room

View from the rooftop terraceShangrilado - Rooftop

Home.

Feelings of Home

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I had a feeling when I wrote this blog… That one’s for my RCPM friends. If you’re not on that boat yet, what in the world are you waiting for? http://azpeacemakers.com Do it.

I’ve been thinking a lot about feelings lately. Maybe it’s that I’m in a new place meeting new people and experiencing new things. Or maybe it’s the phase of life when I become more in tune with myself. Either way feelings, or the lack of them, have been especially prevalent as I’ve conducted a grueling and frustrating hunt for a new home here in Denver.

Being a new city, and a pretty big one at that, the options at first seemed endless. But layer in the neighborhoods one should (or shouldn’t) live as a single female, the type of home, features, amenities, etc and the pickings get slim. So slim I thought for a minute I wasn’t going to find anything. I’d walk into houses, duplexes and apartments and think “Really? This is all I have to choose from? I’ll have to make something like this a home?” It was awful.

So I widened the net back out and all of a sudden I was re-energized. But still, the places were too small, next to less than desirable neighbors, missing this or that. In general nothing I saw over the many, many hours I spent searching online and visiting in person sung to me. Nothing took my breath away. Nothing got under my skin. Until Tuesday of last week.

On Tuesday I visited an apartment complex near downtown. Two of the things I’d originally ruled out – apartment complexes and downtown. Wider net, more options. Originally I’d gone to see a split level one-bedroom but walked out having fallen in love with an industrial loft. Just over 900 square feet of open space and pure character. Actually, I didn’t fall in love with that 900 feet, but a comparable 800 square feet and the mental picture of a place I could call home. The moment I walked into this place, previously a the administration building of a children’s hospital from the early 1900’s, now apartments with concrete floors, original tiling, exposed brick and high ceilings, each one unique, I felt it. It. The thing I’d been missing up to then. The feeling, the pull.

Previously I’d been looking for a neighborhood that felt good because I thought character had to be outside. That I would have to go outside to enjoy looking around at the things that surrounded me. Then I walked into this place and realized the walls that would make my home contained all the character in the world. Sure, the neighborhood outside those walls and windows still had to meet certain criteria, and it does, but as I reflect I feel that apartment wrapped its comforting arms around me and enveloped me in its warmth.

A home can be four walls, a place to rest your head at night, a stopping point between events, but it can also be so much more. Not only did the place make me feel warm and fuzzy but I hope that when I move in and get settled it will give my guests the same feeling. I’m happy to soon have a space to call my own, to host countless dinners, pre- or post-event drinks given its location, and to be the place friends come to feel welcome, to relax, to enjoy. As an added bonus, the locals I’ve talked to since last Tuesday all respond to my location as the next up and coming neighborhood in Denver. Just another few weeks and I’ll be home.

It doesn’t look like much with the current tenant’s sparse furnishings, but the potential is endless:

Living and Bedroom Kitchen and EntryExterior

The Beautiful West

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Yesterday afternoon Mom and I pulled into Denver after a most beautiful drive through Nevada, Utah and part of Colorado. As anxious as I’ve been to get to Denver and turn the page, I couldn’t be more thankful we took the time to make it a slow, scenic drive. Now we’re here and it’s time to start getting settled. Finally. Here are some photos from the trip. If you ever have the chance, I recommend any/all of these sights.

Flop

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This is the sound I plan to make on Friday when I arrive in Denver. To live. For the foreseeable future. I’m not sure I’ve ever looked forward to staying in one place this much. It’s not to say the travel the past two years hasn’t been fabulous, but the month of February took its toll. California, Nevada, Colorado, Nevada, Florida, Colorado, New York, Colorado, Nevada in 30 days. Somewhere around New York it all caught up with me in the form of a cold. Not the ideal state with only 24 hours in the city after almost 10 years since my last visit. Fortunately it’s all about to calm down, at least a little.

In the coming days mom and I will make the drive from Reno to Denver via Salt Lake and Grand Junction making a three-day scenic road trip of the move. It seems the weather will be in our favor providing clear skies and roads on the 1,000 mile journey. Friday we will pull into Denver and for the first time in three months I will have a place of my own. Since leaving Amsterdam in December I’ve been fortunate to stay with friends and family, to feel welcomed, but there’s nothing quite like having that one place to call home. A place to fully unpack and a refrigerator to stock from scratch. This sounds like absolute bliss. I’ve been counting the days until I can settle in somewhere and fully turn the page into this next chapter.

The first few months of the year, though hectic, have been a great start. I’m thrilled to be back at work, diving right back into things and happy to be surrounded by such great people. I’m enjoying being back in the US, close to family and friends, with no shortage of decent Mexican food (it’s the little things), and to start thinking about and planning for the future. I’ve said it before but I feel 2013 holds great things and I can’t wait for Friday to come so it can really get started.