three years

October 20th. It's marked in my calendar as D-day, a sad reminder. How has it been three years? They say time heals all wounds, but I don't buy it. Anyone who has experienced loss will agree. Even now, as I write this, I miss Dugee, and the hole in my heart is just as big. Sure, the more minutes I put between myself and that day, the more familiar I get with life without him, but still.

I have a lot of memories from that day. I remember caring too much about the clothes I would wear to the hospital - so trivial in retrospect. I remember how he lit up when I walked into the hospital room, "Hi, Coli." So bittersweet. Those were the last words he would speak to me. I remember being excited to have him home that afternoon, but being so disappointed because the morphine rendered him unconscious. There was no pain. There was no nothing. He just slept (and snored) - all afternoon, all evening, and into the night. I remember getting ready for bed and noticing that his apnea was getting worse. At least he's still breathing. 

But then he wasn't. 

Most days, life goes on as usual. But occasionally, a random wave of emotion will bear down on me and flood my eyes with tears. Because I miss him. It's funny though...I see him everyday. In me. Even as his step-daughter, there are things about me that are undeniably him. I'll drive across town to use a $1.00 coupon; I stockpile toiletries (some of which I take from the hotels I visit) under the sink and under my bed just in case I might need a shower cap and shoe polish someday; I love retrievers more than I care for most humans; and I'd rather be golfing at 3:30 on a Wednesday afternoon than stuck behind a desk. I can still hear his voice when I leave the bathroom light on or take too long of a shower, and I can't wait until Thanksgiving so I can drink too much wine and eat 'til I'm miserable. I just wish I were eating turkey and drinking wine with Dugee.

But I can't.

October 20th. A reminder of our fragility. And a reminder to love hard, every second of every day.

Click here to donate to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.


An Air Raid and A Drive-by

Two weekends ago, I went to my very first Washington State football game. You know, the one where the Cougars were up by 14 points against Colorado with 8 minutes to go? And Mike Leach's air raid offense spiraled into a huge nosedive when it went for it on 4th down and threw an interception...instead of chipping an easy one through the uprights? No? Well, I saw it. I also saw an albino - and a girl wearing a tank top emblazoned with "PURPLE IS BY FAR THE UGLIEST COLOR". Excuse me?? No! I threw a tiny fit inside and started seriously doubting whether I could ever be a loyal Coug fan if it meant giving up aubergine, eggplant, and indigo. I got over it the next second and watched as Colorado broke the crimson heart of Martin Stadium.
Washington State University Homecoming Football Game 2012Shane Rice Washington State baseball

And last weekend, my forever friend Brittany and her son Blake came to visit for the first time (meet them here). Brittany and I have been daydreaming about this little reunion since she moved back to the U.S. Finally, she made it. Dreams really do come true.

Their stay was short, so I squeezed a few of my Spokane favorites into a single day. First stop: Green Bluff for pumpkin donuts at Harvest House. I know eating dessert first spoils your dinner, but this was a special occasion! And when dinner is Tomato Street, I'm not so sure it's even possible to spoil. Then we threw a little slumber party - cozy blankets, white wine, white cheddar popcorn, girl talk, and giggles. What a great way to catch up. Sunday morning meant it was already time for Brittany and Blake to head back, but not without grabbing breakfast and coffee at Rockwood Bakery. Where else?..the quiche is to die for. A quick bite, a long hug, a few shameless self-takes, and just like that, they were off again. Let's just say, we're already scheming up the next reunion.
Harvest House pumpkin donuts Spokane

Rockwood Bakery South Hill Spokane
Rockwood Bakery best bakery in Spokane


Eating Frogs for Breakfast

Being a grown-up is overrated. I find myself saying this a lot lately, and I shouldn't... even though it's entirely true. Or am I the only one who thinks this? I mean, if responsibility and bills are your thing, feel free to have mine. Anyway, since there's no getting around being a grown-up, I figured I should change my attitude. So I did.

I started eating frogs for breakfast. And toads on Tuesdays. Okay, I actually eat eggs whites from a carton (and sometimes maple bars), and I like turtles more than I like toads. I digress. But here's what I mean...I stumbled across an article the other day, written by someone I can assume is way smarter than me, about what successful people do during the first hour of their work day. Since the first hour of my day looks a little something like this, I knew a quick read couldn't hurt.

tree frog on pink dahliaTwo things stood out to me. First, the part about eating frogs, inspired by a Mark Twain quote: "Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day." Translation: clear the worst thing from your plate first thing, and the rest of your day will be a piece of cake. I do love cake. Being the save-the-best-for-last kind of girl that I am, I've embraced this eating frogs idea whole-heartedly. I pick the things I want to do least and do them first. I've also decided to tackle all the most terrible tasks (or toads, for metaphor's sake) on Tuesdays. I would do them on Monday, but I think transitioning from weekend to the work week is the biggest frog of all.

Now, conquering the worst thing first thing isn't exactly easy. Sometimes finding the energy to even get started (or out of bed) is a task in itself, and if you've got an ounce of procrastination in you, there's a good chance you won't get anything done at all. Talk about your all-time backfires. Which brings me to the second thing that grabbed my attention: Gain Awareness, Be Grateful. The article suggests setting up "mindful first hour rituals" to get motivated, which can be a personalized mix of exercise, meditation, prayer, and self-reflection.

So instead of spending twenty minutes in the shower every other morning, wishing I could crawl back under my duvet from heaven, I've been spending that time thinking about everything I'm grateful for - in life, in love, and in my job. I could count blessings till the water ran cold. I'm beginning to cherish this time. It helps me put things in perspective and helps me prepare to dominate my to-do list. If I'm still struggling to get the ball rolling, I spend a few minutes indulging in a few simple pleasures that inspire me, like cupcakes and cashmere, compelling travel articles (Why You Should Travel Young), or Dan Patrick's Wall of Morale. No wonder Dan Patrick is so successful.

And when all else fails, just add coffee. Lots and lots of coffee.

So just how much does the first hour of every day matter? As it turns out, a lot. My new routine has made a huge difference. I feel productive, disciplined, smart, and happy. That last one's kind of a big one.


A Change of Color

itsfallwhen pslFall. There's just something about it that captivates my soul. Maybe it's the return of all the rich flavors and scents, manifested as a cliche obsession with pumpkin spice lattes; the bittersweet bikinis-for-boots and sandals-for-sweaters exchange; saying goodbye to the grill and hello to the crockpot; the ageless Faith Hill ringing in a new season on the gridiron and funnel cakes at the fair; or maybe it's the crisp mornings and clear afternoons. Whatever it is, it makes me want to turn over a thousand new leaves, rake them into a heaping pile, and jump in.

anthropologie Ernest Hemingway Starbucks couponAnd whatever it is, it's tugging me in a million different directions. Pushing, pulling, driving, distracting. Just like the weather this time of year, there's no predicting it. I love it, and I hate it. It makes me want to kick ass at my job and take over the world - or quit my job and travel it. It makes me want to dye my hair and paint my toes only to curl up in sweats and eat my weight in tuna noodle casserole. It makes me want to sleep in on Saturdays or wake up early to sip hot tea... or hike... or vacuum. It makes me want to bake beer bread and cupcakes and join a spin class for damage control. It makes me want to read a book, then write a book, and then give up and watch TV instead. It makes me nostalgic as I flip through the mental photos of old friends, volleyball, and college. And it makes me want to dust off the Canon and capture the beauty of today. 

Felts Field Upriver Dam Benders CornerBut mostly, it keeps me up at night. I lay in bed staring at the blades of the ceiling fan spinning around and around as a thousand wild ideas surge through my mind, trying to keep up. Not even the white wine can tame them. And when my eyes are finally too weak to follow one more revolution of the fan, I fall into a deep, tumultuous sleep where Wonderland-like dreams invade my subconscious - the kind that take over when you eat chocolate just before bed. I wake up exhausted, yet energized, to face another day of this strange dichotomy.

So whatever it is - the confusion, the distraction, the inspiration - I welcome it, and the change of colors that's coming my way.


The Best Birthday Ever

As a little kid, I remember my dad asking me how old I'd want to be if I could only pick one age to be forever. I decided on 27. I don't remember the reason...I probably wanted to have boobs and a job (now, I just want a boob job)...or if there was any reason at all. Either way, I should probably start placing bets and playing the lotto because, based on how my birthday unfolded, predicting 27 as the ideal age was right on the money.

I typically have a few choice words for my alarm clock on Monday mornings, and last Monday was no different. But of course, I rolled myself out of bed and even made it to work early. This is a huge victory for me. So here I am, poking away at my keyboard, trying to be good at my job, when the office manager pages me and says there's something for me at the front counter. I'm not expecting any shipments... I wonder what tacky promo items someone is trying to sell me this time? A little perplexed and slightly annoyed, I make my way to the front, and my eyes instantly light up as I see an impressive bouquet and my name on the mini-card that accompanies all flower arrangements. Eeeek! I open the card: Happy Birthweek! Birthweek?! I am beaming. Shane knows me too well. I spend the rest of the day trying to focus on my 347 page document, but am distracted by my own excitement and the scent of pink lilies.

After work, I cruise downtown and treat myself to a set of fake lashes. Nothing makes me feel prettier, and I'm allowed to feel pretty on my birthday, right? Not to mention, now I get to skip the mascara application step in my getting-ready routine (which is often the only step). Bonus!

Maybe she's born with it.
Flirty lashes and unexpected flowers? Now I feel pretty and think I'm special - looks like I don't need a mom anymore.

With a Monday like that, I was getting even more anxious for the weekend, so the week dragged on like it always does when you're excited for what comes after Friday at 5:00 o'clock. Thank goodness for other birthweek surprises and treats to speed things along!

Finally - the weekend welcomes me with big open arms and a congratulatory high five. Time to celebrate! Saturday is looking like the perfect day to be out on the water. 8 friends, Shane, and I pile onto his boat. That's 10 third!!! Don't worry, one life jacket for every person. We soak in the day on Lake Coeur d' Alene - swimming, wakeboarding in no wake zones, and relaxing in the sun. Nevermind that we run out of gas on the way home, still an amazing time. 

Better yet, the night is looking like the perfect excuse to rinse the lakewater off our sunkissed skin and venture downtown for rounds of laughter and drinks. I think I may have had too many of both. Oh well. Successful birthday-eve complete!

My actual birthday is an absolute blast. The apartment complex I live in has a cute 7-hole Par 3 golf course and an even cuter clubhouse that I reserved for my birthday party, and Shane took care of the rest. Friends start arriving with their pitching wedges and putters mid-afternoon for the "Drink and Drive Best Ball Tournament." To be clear, that's lemonade and golfballs. Teams of two, one foursome, and one sixsome (um?). We get in as many holes as possible (um?) and race off to our co-ed softball game. Our softball team is probably the most hilarious/ridiculous group to ever set foot on the field: 18 batters in the line-up, pink uniforms, and a right-fielder with a cigarette in his mouth. And the level of athleticism is somewhere between Brooklyn Decker's jumpshot and your first impression of Eli Manning with his shirt off. But you cannot dampen our spirit! 1-1? We'll take it! Even the Mariners aren't a .500 ballclub.

We follow the game with a BBQ, beers, and Costco carrot cake back at the clubhouse to round out the night.To all the people who brought gifts, brought food, or just showed up, thank you just isn't enough! You made my day!

P.S. I can't leave this out...maybe the biggest surprise of the week...say hello to my gorgeous, new Coach bag while I say thank you to Shane! xoxo. I am spoiled rotten.

It was the best birthday ever, and I'm so looking forward to this next trip around the sun!


Game Seven

Tonight is Game 7 of the Lakers Nuggets playoff series. You probably don't care because "the NBA doesn't interest you." Well, I do. I will always be a Seattle Supersonics fan and am more than ready for Seattle to have a team again. Come on, GP, make it happen! But I have to admit, in high school, when I wasn't cheering for Detlef Schrempf and Shawn Kemp, I was crushing on all the Lakers players. Eddie Jones? Yum. Glen Rice? I'll take him, bad knee and all. And Kobe Bryant? Obsessed. I even had this ESPN Magazine cover on my bedroom wall...

Isn't he dreamy?

What I'm trying to say, is that the Lakers are a big deal around here. Such a big deal that I whipped up purple and gold German chocolate cupcakes for the Game 1 tipoff and made Shane's dog, Kobi, (yes, the dog's name is Kobi) her own cheerleading outfit. Let's call it a jersey.

Now you know. GO LAKERS!


My Cheeks Hurt

The last time my cheeks felt like this, the pain meds from my wisdom tooth surgery were wearing off. Thing is, I can't stop smiling.

Take Easter Sunday for example. No need for an alarm clock on this particular morning; after 40 long days without fast food, the thought of a McGriddle was all I needed to roll these lazy bones out of bed. I was on a mission! Hello golden arches. Hello seductive, green Siren. A meal for two - enough calories for four - a warm welcome back to the world of fast food. But before I could dive into my iced Chai and mini pancake sandwich, Shane sent me on a surprise Easter egg hunt: lots of laughs, lots of goodies - like a Reester bunny 4-pack (R.I.P. chocolate peanut butter friends), boxes of Girl Scout cookies, and neon, striped socks - and a registration receipt for Bloomsday. Hmmm...which of these does not belong? I'm hoping cute socks can somehow propel me up Doomsday Hill. But still. I'm lovin' it.  

Sidenote: I belong in a sidecar. One of the first sunny evenings of spring, Shane and I made off like Lloyd and Harry for a quick trip to the grocery store on his moped! The simple fact that he owns a moped and a helmet that fits my oversized dome has to be some kind of sign. My day was made in the shade. Until it was my turn to drive. I will preface this by saying I tried to talk my way out of it. There I was, in the driveway, with my oversized helmet tightly cinched, receiving instructions on how to operate the seemingly harmless motorized vehicle..."Gas. Brakes. It's just like riding a bike. Go!" And go, I did. Slowly at first and then suddenly faster. And by suddenly, I mean, instead of making the right turn into the street I pulled back on the handles in sheer panic, floored the moped, jumped the curb onto the grass median that separated me from oncoming traffic on Upriver Drive and the steep drop into the Spokane River just beyond that. Somehow, I landed my curb jump and came to an abrupt and upright stop. I was not smiling. Neither was Shane. And I've been permanently demoted to passenger, which I'm perfectly content with.

For awhile there, 2012 had me thinking I was looking at an Albert Pujols power slump. I have since changed my mind and am all smiles.


March On

Happy New Year!!! Oh, wait. It's March.

I remember when I had time to write about scarfing Cinnabons and making a feeble attempt to burn them off during workouts fueled by sick beats from a new iPod shuffle. Those sure were the days. I still do those things, but now I don't even have time to unclip my shuffle from my gym clothes...that bad boy went through the wash last week. Bust out the air fresheners! Prolonged muscle atrophy here I come... 

Nah, the shuffle survived. Don't worry. 

Taking pictures isn't something I do anymore either, so there's a good chance that when I'm 83 years old I won't remember one single thing about this winter except that I hung out with Natalie a lot and New Year's Eve parties are a great place for old roommates to catch up over a few strong drinks.

If I'm being honest, 2012 has been kicking my ass - for a lot of reasons. I won't get all Debbie Downer on you, but as an example of how random and unpredictable life has been, I conjured conjunctivitis mid-January. That's pink eye for all you slow folk. What 26 year-old gets pink eye?! Besides that I love to flick eye boogers at my office wall when I'm bored, it was terrible.

Of course, there have been bright spots. Like Fridays. I really love Fridays. And this is something I've never said before and probably never will again, but Valentine's Day has been the best day of the year so far. Feel free to throw up. Let's just say, I am completely smitten and homemade breakfast sandwiches are the way to my heart. Good chocolate never hurts either.

Speaking of love. My lovelies and I recruited a new lovely, with even lovelier hands. For setting. Having a real setter that hustles makes all the difference in the world. Kara, we love you and your hands. 4-on-4 Rec League Champs! Holla.

The best part is, I have a gazillion things to look forward to in the near future, starting with my first real vacation day in over a year coming up on Monday. Hellooooo, three day weekend. And in case you haven't been counting down like this girl, only 119 days till Hoopfest.



Another November has come and gone - far too quickly if you ask me – and I want to take a minute to reflect on all I'm thankful for. I tend to mistake life’s little luxuries as givens, but I know that I'm undeserving, and not everyone is afforded these same privileges.  I am grateful for a zillion things, but because there are 30 days in November, here is an abbreviated list (of 30 things) that make my life richer one way or another no matter how silly or serious...

1.  My lovelies who I could not survive without...Beebs, Melissassippi, Whitney, Natalie, and Holly
2. God's amazing grace because I need it more than anything
3. Starbucks and its ability to brighten just about any day
4. Dancing Donna who is the prettiest, funniest, smartest, and craziest mom a girl could ask for
5. And Mr. Pete Vander Meulen who is the most handsome, brilliant, hard-working, and young-at-heart dad a girl could ask for
6. Body Pillows
7. Sunday Funday
8. Having a steady job with full benefits, which include a sarcastic and caring group of co-workers
9. Heated seats in my car (AKA: bun warmers)
10. Jeopardy
11. The snooze button
12. Not being a Gonzaga fan or having hairy feet
13. Nicknames
14. The undefeated Green Bay Packers
15. My gym membership (yes, I said this out loud)
16. The rest of my family...all the Dutch people unite!
17. No snow on the ground for now and a garage to park in when it does
18. Living alone
19. The Baltimore Ravens
20. Never going hungry
21. Speaking of... my big thighs that help me play volleyball
22. Christmas time
23. Salvation
24. Chiquita bananas
25. Having a thick winter coat - literally and figuratively
26. America. We live in a great country.
27. FAT CAT!! Oh, how I love my Rory and her cuddles and sand-paper kisses
28. Friendships, new and old
29. VanderPeenra vernacular *criggles*
30. Boating in the summer. So really, having awesome friends who own boats


Free As We'll Ever Be

I am ashamed to say that I have lived in Washington my entire life, and until last weekend, had never been to the Gorge. I've probably driven by it 499 times and peed in the Columbia River right below at least 100 times if that counts for anything? Actually, that just makes it worse, so nevermind.

When I found out the Zac Brown Band was performing at the Gorge in September I squealed. And then in recently-implusive-Nicole fashion, bought two tickets thee second they went on sale. I didn't care who ended up with the second ticket and would have gone alone if I couldn't bribe any of my friends to join me. Turns out bribery wasn't necessary. When I was home in August I mentioned the concert to Mic and Melissa and begged and pleaded that they go with me... Melissa said no. Balls! But Mic wasn't cool with that. He called me as I was headed out of town--actually I was all alone at the single most stressful place on earth (the IKEA warehouse), sweating, and struggling to maneuver two carts of household goods to the checkout line. Terrible timing, but we came up with a terrific plan... long story short: Mic, the sweetest husband ever, surprised Melissa for her birthday with a ticket to ZBB (my extra one), and my apartment is now partially decorated. I am still accepting house warming gifts, by the way; wine will do. 

So. The Gorge. More breathtaking than I ever imagined. I'd hang out there even if there wasn't a concert going on. But the concert itself was phenomenal. I am always wary of live music because sometimes you find out the band belongs in a studio--and nowhere else. Zac Brown Band belongs at the Gorge. Their music reaches a new dimension in person, like they are singing or strumming straight into your country soul; the violin intro to Free even moved this girl to tears.

Of course, the last song of the night was Country Fried...or so we thought. The lights shut down, and we were packing up our stuff when all the lights came back on and Zac confessed they were looking at a three week break... "So. What the hell?"..and they busted out RATM's Killing in the Name. Perfect way to end the night, and the perfect first Gorge experience.