Moving In 101

Earlier this year, in June, after over half a year together, Chelsea and I decided to move in together.

This was a relatively easy choice; it made sense for us financially, it made sense for where we were in our relationship, and also, as mature, young adults, it would allow us to keep growing in our relationship and sharing our lives together.

When you are not living with your partner, there is a limitation for what you can share.

How long do they brush their teeth?

How much do they snore?

How many times does their alarm clock go off in the morning?

How do they fold their laundry?

How do they plan for the week?

Do they sing in the shower?

Do they clean up after themselves?

Do they have a routine for paying the bills?

Do they cook dinner or eat out?

There is so much that co-habitation can teach you. And, when the time is right, it is a stretching, meaningful, and frankly, incredibly important experience.

Knowing that Chelsea was the person I wanted to fully, 100% commit to, I knew that moving in was the next step in the long journey of a relationship. It certainly was not something we decided overnight. We discussed what that would mean over the course of weeks and months – even while I was away in Rwanda earlier in the year. When I came back, and we got more serious, we began to openly discuss what a shared, co-habituating life would mean for us. One day, after church, we sipped coffee at a trendy coffeehouse in Uptown for several hours as we talked about the different ins and outs of living together. We even wrote up notes on this conversation.

We talked about our expectations, our hopes, and our dreams. We talked about chores, about work-life balance, and about taking Sabbath. We discussed how we would pay for groceries and also, who would cook, when. We brainstormed how we could differentiate for what this season would be in our lives, versus when we get engaged, get married, and the like. From the beginning of our relationship, it has been important for us to take every season in stride, for what it is, and for why it has meaning. For example, when we were dating, we tried visiting new places, often and frequently, so we could learn more about one another. Once we got promise rings for each other, the conversations intensified, and we began to share our dreams for the future and what those could look like if they were fused together.

On our move-in day, I was jubilant. It was happening!

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In seven (long) hours we consolidated our stuff from each of our homes into the new one that we were starting together. We ate Qdoba on our first night in our new place, and I was so happy that “home” was inclusive of a place we shared together. In the months that followed, we learned a lot about each other. For example, Chelsea is a diligent rice cooker (who knew?). That’s her domain, without any question. However, if we need to experiment or change something up in a recipe, I’m your girl. Quickly, we learned our strengths (and weaknesses) and played to them.

Moving in together is a big deal. Moving in together is a huge step and should be taken when the relationship has two, committed people, in it for the long haul. Living together should be an intentional step too, ensuring that both people are on the same page for what responsibilities they have and how it will affect the relationship.

Of course, when we made the decision to move forward in it, old memories of “wait until you get married” and “whatever you do, dont live in sin” came flooding back. These old, traditional mantras always do. There is so much fear-loaded rhetoric for young people to move in with their significant others.

Like the plethora of pumpkin flavors at Trader Joe’s in the fall, unspoken and spoken moral codes are often the most pervasive when it comes to thinking about the “right way” to live your life. And, I get it. Moving in with your partner should be an informed, thoughtful decision. Yet, I think we can do more to educate youth on what that means and the kinds of conversations we can have around those choices.

If we are so busy telling people not to live together, we miss the opportunity to have the conversation about what happens when it happens. Because, that’s the thing. It will happen.

What I have so loved about living with Chelsea has been that we have been able to build a strong foundation for our lives. We, literally, are getting practice for sharing the load of adulthood, and still making space for ourselves, each other, our faiths, and the many other things that we love. Like sports, living together has taught me about teamwork and partnership. It has also taught me how to be present in the best (and worst) times of another person (and vice versa). Living with another human brings down the walls of facades; no longer will you be the public persona of yourself.

In the end, you will just be, you.

You have to be ready to show the “real” you if you’re willing to move in with someone. You have to be ready to be vulnerable, honest, and humble.
You have to be ready to be an active participant in someone else’s life – not just your own.

These are real measures of maturity in a relationship. I am beyond grateful to be experiencing – and learning from them. We have not had a perfect ride, by any means, but we have been open. It has made all the difference.

Relationship education is a growing need our world desires. I wonder what it would be like to emphasize the opportunity for conversation around growing up, adulthood, and partnership. These are the real conversations. I wouldn’t be here now if I hadn’t had them and for future generations, I hope we can start having them too.

There is no list to follow, there is no how-to-guide. Instead, moving in with another person is about knowing yourself, knowing your partner, and knowing where you are headed. This takes a lot of self-awareness, faith, and gusto – not just for the first few months, but for the long haul. Sharing your life is a big deal. Let’s not forget that.

I have never been happier in a home than I have with Chelsea. Perhaps, ironically, it is because moving in was not only about creating a real, physical, and tangible home together but also, starting (and growing) a home between us. This takes work. Every. Single. Day. However, it is a gift and I hold that close and dear to my heart.

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A Guide to Rollerblading in Denver

“You could even be a rollerblading unicorn.” – Dan Howell

Last summer, in 2016, I made a lot of changes in my life – intentionally.

I moved to a neighborhood where I knew I could walk to get ice cream (one of life’s essentials), where I could be closer to work, and namely, where I could be near the happenings of Denver. I also tried a new team sport, rugby, and joined a new church, too. I made these decisions and changes because I was in a season of deep knowing that if I was going to live the life I wanted, I had to move toward it. It was my responsibility, I recognized, to articulate and pursue what I desired, and that I could absolutely trust God to do the rest. Being brave in the thick of unknowns is one of the most devoted acts of faith, I think.

So, I did these things and, most importantly, bought my first pair of rollerblades since I was, like, 10. Sports Authority had filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy and was going out of business. Thus, they had incredible sales and deals that you wouldn’t have been able to find elsewhere. While perusing the store, my mom and stumbled upon a really nice pair of blades – knee pads, elbow pads, and wrist guards – all for $70. It was a steal.

I had started dreaming about rollerblading again when, while in Rwanda, I stopped at a rural bus stop and saw a gentleman energetically serving cool fruit juices in a blue tub, while on blades. I smiled, gasped, and knew then that yes! I wanted to blade again. When I was young, I played roller hockey with my brother and friends any opportunity I could get. Rollerblading had made me feel strong and free, and I knew that I wanted this again.

So, for the last 1 ½ years, I have been cruising around Denver in my gear, happily and enthusiastically rollerblading. Chelsea has joined me a lot this last year, and it has been a joy to share the experience with her. Rollerblading is amazing for a lot of reasons. It’s refreshing. It’s fun. And, it works nearly every muscle of your body. It is a kind of sport that challenges the parts of your body to be in perfect synchronization with one another.

If you also are intrigued about the idea of suiting up in blades and helmets, here’s a quick overview of what you need to know.

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  1. Get a reliable pair of rollerblade It is essential to identify what exactly you want the blades for because there are better blades for racing, for indoor skating, and for recreational use. This link has exceptional recommendations. For me, I knew that I wanted to skate outdoors (no racing) so I could simply enjoy the views and have an alternative way of getting exercise. For this purpose, K2 has proven to be an excellent brand of skates.
  2. Before committing to a long ride, practice! If you haven’t skated in a while, you will feel a bit strange and a whole lot of awkward on your skates. Definitely try to get comfortable with your skates before heading over to a park and showing off your skills.
  3. For the love, wear safety gear. This should be self-explanatory, but PLEASE wear a helmet. I often to see bladers cruising along in jean shorts, with their hair down, and with no helmet. Sometimes they even have a boombox on their shoulder (and no, it’s not 1992). This gives me the heebie-jeebies. Blading can be dangerous because at times, there are unidentified objects in the road (like twigs) that you can trip over and land face first. Be safe. Wear a helmet.
  4. Scope out good routes. Denver has a good selection of recreational paths for rollerblading. Without question, my go-to-choice is Washington Park. The inner loop is 2.1 miles, all with relatively good pavement. There are sections where the cement and asphalt is particularly “groovy” (and not in a good way) so that causes some extra strain on your feet. Washington Park has also recently redesigned the paths (don’t get me started) so it can be kind of confusing where the lanes go. The big rule of thumb: pedestrians have the right of way. You should always blade closer to the right, only passing on the left when necessary. Other great routes include Sloan’s Lake and the Cherry Creek Trail. City Park looks like a viable option, but I would be a bit hesitant for the lack of connection of some of the pavement. I would walk any route first, before committing to rollerblade on it. This gives you a better sense of the terrain.
  5. Bring water (and snacks). Blading works your legs (like woah). Make sure you stay energized and hydrated to keep your body strong while on the trail.
  6. Dont listen to music while on skates. I used to listen to my podcasts and blade at the same time. However, I’ve almost been hit by cyclists because I couldn’t hear the background noises of what was happening around me. So, this is a good safety measure that ensures you are aware of all that is passing by you.
  7. Keep your blades in your car with all of your other gear. You never know when you might want to go blading. I keep my stuff in a large bag in my trunk so that if it happens to be a gorgeous day and I’m driving by the park, I have the option to blade. This is also nice so you don’t always have to move your blades in and out of your house.

Have fun with your skates, the sunshine, and the invigorating experience of blading in Denver.

Enjoy the ride.

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privilege.

My sturdy, red Honda Accord slowed to a stop around the bend at Staunton Rocks State Park – about 20 minutes outside of the foothills of Morrison, Colorado. They’re open! Yes!

I was a sight for sore eyes. With a car that has a duct-taped driver-side window (oh, and it’s not just grey duct tape either, it’s Colorado Buffalo themed-tape to boot), with Otis Redding tunes spilling out, the park ranger must have been thinking, oh boy.

I had awoken Christmas Eve morning, ate a hearty bowl of oatmeal (with banana and cookie butter, obviously) and decided that with a couple hours of free time on my hands, one should be outside. Exploring. Why not? I made no plan (this is typical of my behavior), gathered my hiking boots, gloves, and backpack full of the essentials – a cliff bar, my journal, a water bottle, camera, and a coffee mug to go. As the highway stretched further towards the high country I simply smiled and thought, I’ll find the right spot.

Stumbling into Conifer – and the State Park – I knew I did. I pulled up to the window.

“Hi there! I am excited to see you are open today.”

She warmly waved and exclaimed, “Oh yeah! We are open every day of the year. You got yourself until 5:00 today with a day pass. Have fun!”

I paid and continued onward. Parking my car close to the entrance, I chose to do one of the main trail loops – Staunton Rocks. In totality, the round-trip hike can last up to 12 miles; I chose a shorter circle, something around 3.3 miles. Not bad for a holiday jaunt.

Though snow was ubiquitous, my boots – purchased from a mountaineer-garage sale last winter – crunched everything in my path. The joy of a good pair of boots is unparalleled – at least for outdoorsy folk.

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At mile 2, in the midst of my prayers, thoughts, and contemplations, I sat on a damp log, with a view of the Continental Divide; that’s a view that’s hard to beat.

As I eyed the peaks of Colorado with gratitude, and journal and pen in hand, Mike and Brad walked by. With walking sticks and snow-shoes, they had greeted me earlier in the trail and now had managed to catch up to my speedy ways.

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Are we going to be in your story?”

I looked up. I smiled. I told them, “We’ll see; you never know…”

In a serious tone they asked, “Are you a journalist?”

Camera. Journal. Inquisitive behavior. Am I that obvious? I laughed and with a resounding “no” explained that though I wasn’t a journalist, I was a writer, and found it far easier to write when I was away from the noise, from the distractions – from real life.

They paused and thought for a moment. I went on to share that what was most amazing to me was that we live in world with scenes like the Rocky Mountains and the hills of Rwanda – and the innumerable sights in between. We live in a world soaked with beauty, and it’s overwhelming sometimes. As I rambled about these musings, Mike agreed and said that when he was younger, that was what had kept him travelling. His friend, from Wisconsin I would learn, Brad, interjected,

Yes…we certainly are privileged.”

They walked away a few minutes later but it was this simple statement from Brad that kept me thinking. Not only am I privileged in terms of materials, experiences, knowledge, opportunity, food, relationships (I could go on), but on this day, on Christmas Eve, I feel all the more privileged because even in my doubts and questions and against the grit of life, I know there really is such deep and purposeful intention in life. I am privileged to trust in a God that really does love me. A God that doesn’t make mistakes – and certainly, a God who desires mercy – not sacrifice. I am privileged because I am His child.

I sat on this log and thought about that for a while.

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I think about my friends in Rwanda who so intensely comprehend this truth that each day, each moment is done in gratitude towards God. I consider those in my family who have sought and found God in impossible situations – my mother, namely, who in deep concern for her child, turned all of her fear into hope in Him. I remember teachers, and pastors, and friends – all of whom echoed this idea. I find that in some parts of life, truth hits a lot harder, and when it comes to understanding privilege, I think being 27 and “figuring out life” is one of those points. I don’t know where life is headed – but I do know who I am.

I looked at these incredible, albeit leafless Aspens and considered that when we forget our truth, our identity, we are frayed – like the extending, frazzled branches. But in truth, we are rooted. We are privileged – much like the strong, single trunk of the tree.

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Christmas is a holiday sometimes filled with joy, sometimes with loneliness. A season where we thank God for what we have – but admittedly consider what we don’t. And yet, His gift is greater than all of this. We celebrate Jesus, because it’s a gift of life – from God Himself.

This life isn’t for nothing. I forget that all the time. And so, it’s why I have to drive myself away from the world sometimes, find a log, and be gently reminded by the people around.  I am privileged to be a child of God. In potlucks of food, in carols of Christmas, and in exchanges of gifts, it’s this truth I pray I will hold onto.

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that colorado magic

If you want battleship on a Friday night over a craft beer, visit Jake’s. A lemon-ginger light ale will bring joy even to the more heartier beer types. Myself included.

For mythological creatures on a cold afternoon (because it’s Colorado and it can snow in May), try the Denver Museum for Nature & Science. If you need coffee, you can find Pablo’s just a few miles South. Pablo’s is organic, “green” coffee (whatever that means, honestly, other than the fact that it tastes as smooth as a freshly opened bottle of Red wine) that was one of Denver’s first coffee roasters. It’s tasty.

The Alamo in Littleton combines the classic drive-ins with a modern, sleek edges (healthy food, too!); the Tattered Cover satisfies the literary types with comfortable chairs that allow for imaginations to run wild in politics, creative non-fiction, and travel books. Just to name a few.

Our towering rocks with a sandy, burnt dust color were once used by the Ute tribes and now find themselves home to ambitious Denver runners, the Fray, the Eagles, and Tracy Chapman. Anyone, really, who’s “made it,” At Red Rocks, anyone can sound good.

There are other things, things in between county lines, homes, and mountain ranges that are a bit harder to capture. You know, that thing of home. How can you really describe the moments that comprise a vacation that includes a shared meal with family for Mother’s Day? A wine-tasting party that has grandma sitting next to her daughter sitting next to her daughter. Or maybe, it’s the long walk you took, to nowhere in particular, losing track of time (even with the rubbing sole of your boot digging into your heel) because just being together is enough. These are the parts of vacation magic that don’t have a ‘yelp’ rating, a review, or an easy way of promoting. They’re good enough, just as they are. Sharing this life is sweet, like molasses on top of a ginger snap cookie. Sweet, because mostly it doesn’t have to make sense. It’s good enough, even as a standalone.

Colorado – home – always has been.

Lauren and I couldn’t stop saying #butforreal, discussed the metaphorical meanings of the Avengers, looked at old photos, watched Land Before Time, and went hiking. We did a little bit of this, a little bit of that. Colorado makes it easy in this way; with so many hidden gems, there is always something to do, something to see, something to explore. A year ago, I was recently coming home from a journey that I had hardly begun to process.

This time, I’m headed on another journey, having had processed more, finally realizing that processing our past events takes a really, really, uncomfortably long time do so. I’m leaving, but I’ll be back.

I was lucky that in between I could be filled up by someone who knows me well. Someone who knows my rambunctious spirit, someone who hears the details I hang on to, and who has been there for so much of the previous transitions in my life – college, hockey, post-graduate life, etc. Our talks, whether in a duct-taped car, along the treacherous dirt paths (none of which we are sure we are walking correctly on), or in my cozy living room, make for comfort and the sense that hey, I’m right where I need to be.

Colorado is, always will be, and couldn’t not be home. I don’t need to make a hard sell. I think it speaks for itself. And yes, Casa Bonita is involved. Guilty as charged.

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where i am from

Where I am From

by Heather Newell

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I am from orange and blue skies roughly framed

By domineering pioneers and treacherous fourteeners

Oh Rocky Mountain High

From crumbles of granola falling on my bicycle rolling, shifting, and pushing outdoors at all costs.

I’m from front range crusin’ the Continental Divide revealing and navigating West, always

I’m from hey, beer, wine, with every meal, you live once they said, and we’ll hike it off tomorrow.

I’m from rays of sunshine splashing in hastily on Saturday mornings –

open windows, open days, open people

3rd, 4th generation like gold, Samsonite, avalanches, marijuana, and Boulder-ites.

Weird, quirky, always there.

Give me that green chili, grandpa would proclaim, coating his burritos’ edges perfectly so no spot went untouched

I’m from the same womb that has mayor blood; Brighton builldog leadership.

Family, strength, dedication seeps in my skin.

I’m from the hands of stained coffee and burnt grilled cheese

I came back too late to be a 303 girl so I’m stuck with a 720.

Seems a bit rude for a native.

Perched in the china cabinet adjacent to the door, a family heirloom passed down from mama,

Remnants of a Colorado flag carried along to far-off places sits quietly besides grungy Tanzanian bus tickets, woo pig sooie memorabilia, and colorful Rwandan woven baskets.

Photographs of families, everywhere, across races, nations and boundaries create the mirror’s reflecting edges. I’m from here and there.

A big world, home becomes scattered.

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the things we share

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45 minutes into our Saturday mountain drive, approaching the rocky crevices with the old mining town of Georgetown wedged in between, I asked Goshen plainly,

“…what do you want to do with all this? What is your dream?”

A gifted young man with his own story yet to be told, he commented,

“My dream is to share stories people don’t know…the things untold.”

Goshen is an aspiring independent filmmaker; a US resident for the past 4 years, originally from the Congo, by way of Ethiopia. His mother, whom he hasn’t seen in something like 8 years, is in a refugee camp back in East Africa and his grandmother is residing in Gisenyi, a Congolese-Rwandan border town on Kivu’s north coast. I happen to think Gisenyi is one of the most beautiful places in the world. At least from what I’ve seen.

20 and undeterred, he will go to film school in Denver and continue working full-time to support himself and his brothers.

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Rewind.

The whole reason were on a late fall Rocky Mountain adventure in my little maroon Honda?

Mom and I attended a film festival a couple of weeks ago (sponsored by Emily Griffith Technical College) that highlighted local refugee stories. Goshen sat on a question & answer panel after one of the showings, and when asked what he would recommend to Colorado visitors in regards to things to do, he commented, “I’d say the mountains…but I have never been there myself.”

My eyes widened, a spark inside my body lit and God spoke clearly, you will go with him.

I approached him afterwards, before mom and I headed to the small wine bar in the corner, and we exchanged numbers and I vowed that we would find a date to go. He must of thought I was crazy; this random girl who insisted that we go to the mountains together. Yet, when he realized I spoke Kinyarwanda, his demeanor eased and he must have thought, oh, well, this is interesting…

Last Saturday had to be that date to drive up for a mountain joyride; it was just shy of 85 degrees outside and I knew it was meant to be.

You see, God knows us intimately too, and just as Goshen has a dream to tell stories – so do I.

Mine is rooted in writing and also in experiences.

I thrive in doing new things and in them, helping others experience new things as well. Call it passionvocation…I don’t really know, but it’s always been a source of deep gladness. Ice-skating with Arkansas youth, summer field hockey trainings, reading with my 1st grade buddy back in college, facilitating the arrival of cleats and balls in Ruramira sports, traveling long bus routes for religious pilgrimages, enjoying an African safari alongside my girls, helping them access a sustained and continuous education, and even helping to implement “mindbenders” into my current work staff meetings. Experiencing new things, often with some element of service, but always appreciating joy that can be found in the world is what I want to do when I grow up.

My conversation with Goshen, on our two-hour road trip, helped me realize as much.

With an extra push on my accelerator, we eventually reached Winter Park, walked around aimlessly, took photographs, and later hiked up the moist trails of Berthoud Pass. Living only in the present reality, I loved that day. Goshen’s first mountain trip, he had fun too, I think.

The snow surprised him and the plethora of pine seemed to capture him in awe. Driving home, I anxiously and excitedly put my Kinyarwanda music CD in my stereo and he explained bits and pieces of what the lyrics tell us. I could understand the basics, but Goshen was able to expound in further detail, as he has the ability to speak English, French, Kinyarwanda, and Swahili. Impressive, right?

God couldn’t have orchestrated it any better – and I just beamed in God’s glory and power to give us the people, the revelations, and the stories right when we need them. Goshen certainly wanted to see the mountains, but I wanted a friend that I could exchange cultural stories and nuances with. I wanted someone who could understand – far better than I can – the two worlds I myself have blended together.

I do new things and revel in them because always life can be appreciated that much more. When you do that, God always follows through and provides people to share this with. Life is meant to be shared, after all. All to His glory, amen.

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Check out Goshen’s latest documentary piece on youtube:

Winter Park, Colorado

Winter Park, Colorado

snow. from where I stand.

snow. from where I stand.

Goshen & I

Goshen & I

Berthoud Pass, Colorado

Berthoud Pass, Colorado

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welcome to the neighborhood.

I decided it would be fun to go on a run/photo session after work one day. Completely, totally worth it. This State Park is about a 15 minute drive from my new place.

I decided it would be fun to go on a run/photo session after work one day. Completely, totally worth it. This State Park is about a 15 minute drive from my new place.

Sunset on the front range - Friday, after work, post-run.

Sunset on the front range – Friday, after work, post-run.

Chatfield State Park, Douglas & Jefferson Counties, Colorado.

Chatfield State Park, Douglas & Jefferson Counties, Colorado.

Exploring the bike paths behind the neighborhood; this leads to the Highline Canal, a 27 mile long trail that leads right into Denver.

Exploring the bike paths behind the neighborhood; this leads to the Highline Canal, a 27 mile long trail that leads right into Denver.

Me and the trees. You know, gotta capture that stunning yellow color!

Me and the trees. You know, gotta capture that stunning yellow color!

Could fall be any prettier?

Could fall be any prettier?

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I took my bike out to a nearby pond close to my home and it was full of leaves, trees, and ducks!

I took my bike out to a nearby pond close to my home and it was full of leaves, trees, and ducks!

fall.

fall.

Evening stroll in the park - my backyard is kind of awesome.

Evening stroll in the park – my backyard is kind of awesome.