On never forgetting

When I was 14 years old, the world changed forever. Not only my personal world, as our family structure began to shift to two households, but the entire, wide world beyond my narrow and self-involved vantage point. It was 2001.

In September 2001, I was still very much an uncertain young gal, uncomfortable in my own skin, and completely unconvinced that I fit in a setting beyond the Colorado neighborhood I grew up in with my three siblings. I had been homeschooled for my entire life up until that point, and had only just begun to wade into the chaotic, loud and terrifying environment that is a public high school. The world seemed too big for my adolescent self to ever grow into. It was like gazing at an ancient world map that depicted the world as flat and largely unexplored, land and ocean borders dropping off into darkness beyond the scope of that generation’s knowledge. It was simply vacant past a particular point. There were maybe dragons.

On the morning of September 11, 2001, my older sister and I got up early to get ready for school. To begin our trek into public school life, we had joined the choir at one of our local high schools. Two or three times a week, we would begin our days in a large, high-ceilinged classroom designed for music education with dozens of other teenagers. That day, the school year was still new, and we were still in the process of figuring out our place among all those other students. We were in the habit of listening to a morning radio show every morning. The kind of show that featured a couple of hosts bantering about celebrity gossip, local news, and that day’s trivia question, interspersed with the musical hits of the day. (Think Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys, NSYNC.) As we listened, the radio hosts broke from their usual carefree topics and cautiously began referencing a plane crash in New York City. Though they remained calm, there was a note of urgency and fear in their voices. We turned on the news. The second plane hit the World Trade Center.

No one knew what was happening, but it was painfully clear that something earth-shaking and catastrophic had occurred. My mother got us into the car to drive to school.

When Emily and I walked into the choir room, the usual loud, unconfined chaos of teenagers starting their school days was absent. It was eerie, quiet, clouded. We were all still too young, children born in the 1980s, with very little personal experience with war and death and terror. Our choir teacher had turned on a boxy and outdated classroom television, and told us we would be quietly watching the news during the course of that period. Thirty minutes later, we watched as the south tower collapsed. In what felt like an entire lifetime and somehow at the same time, just a single moment, the north tower also fell. Just after 9 a.m. MT, we were dismissed from class and told to go quietly to our next period. I don’t think anyone made much noise.

It is now 2017. Sixteen years later. Everything has changed. And yet, inexplicably, some things continued on their course. Those kids who sat silently in the choir room, we still grew up, went to college and started our careers. We continued our lives’ journeys. Some of us got married. Others had children. We became adults. We are now in our 30s.

We vowed to remember, to never ever forget. We hope still to somehow honor those who were lost, whose lives were cut short without their consent. We hope always to dedicate ourselves to hope, fortitude. Love. Compassion. To devoted care of our fellow men and women.

Much was lost that Tuesday in September, 2001. But today I reaffirm my hope that our fundamental characters remain intact, and that we will continue to strive for a better, wide world every day, regardless of how narrow a viewpoint we sometimes allow ourselves to wallow within.

brooklyn bridge

manhattan skyline

brooklyn bridge

brooklyn bridge

empire state building

one world trade center

Our world — our huge, collective worldview — was forever altered on 9/11/01, but the world in and of itself was left standing. Let’s not let it down.

 

With all my love forever:

anya elise

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July 4th: What’s the State of our Nation?

Statue of Liberty

I spent some time last night wandering the wild lands of the internet, searching for inspiration, answers, clues, guides, insight into this nation of the United States of America. It is July 4th, our Independence Day. This year, it feels perhaps more poignant than ever to stop and consider what indeed makes up the character and fabric of our country. What do we stand for? What do we live for? What do we hope for?

In my fall down the Google rabbit hole, I found these quotes; some from the USA’s Founding Fathers, others from the wise and enduring women who accompanied them, or arrived later in our nation’s history.

  • “Those who expect to reap the benefits of freedom, must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it.” — Thomas Paine
  • “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” — Thomas Jefferson
  • “Freedom makes a huge requirement of every human being. With freedom comes responsibility. For the person who is unwilling to grow up, the person who does not want to carry his own weight, this is a frightening prospect.”Eleanor Roosevelt
  • “If we mean to have heroes, statesmen and philosophers, we should have learned women.” — Abigail Adams
  • “I beg it may be remembered by every gentleman in the room that I this day declare with the utmost sincerity, I do not think myself equal to the command I am honored with.” — George Washington
  • “If we do not lay out ourselves in the service of mankind whom should we serve?” — Abigail Adams

We have largely mythologized the men and women who laid the foundation for the United States, and it’s easy to grab your favorite quote, post it to your preferred social media account, and uphold it as gospel when considering what it means to be an American citizen. But in the course of my research last night, I found too many instances to note here when the Founding Fathers warned that liberty, freedom, and a healthy republic were not alone guaranteed by the founding documents and principles upon which a nation is built. Rather, it requires the resilience and fortitude and ceaseless education of that nation’s people, to work every day toward its continued survival.

I love this country and I am proud to be called a citizen of this country. But, as ever, we the people reflect the state of our nation. So, on this 241st anniversary of the United States’ founding, I believe it is important to rededicate ourselves — each and every one of us — to the mission of carrying on. Let us not succumb to fatigue or weariness of spirit. There is beauty and strength and so much goodness to find in these united states, but we must all bear witness to that beauty, and hone in on that strength, and contribute as much goodness as we can, to maintain the essential character of our beloved nation.

Happy Fourth of July.

 

SIGNED, anya elise

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By the Numbers: On turning 30

30th-birthday

At the beginning of April, I left behind my third decade of life, said farewell to the formative 20s, and ventured into the brave new world of my 30s. For indeed, I am now 30 years old.

On such a particular new age, I felt I had to write something to commemorate its arrival. I kicked around several ideas and themes, self-reflection and possible nuggets of wisdom. Then I realized that though I am no longer a “20-something gal,” I am mostly still figuring everything out, and I am just as goofy as that young whipper-snapper in the above photo. (Though I haven’t gotten that close to possibly setting my own head on fire in some time; there’s hope yet.) So instead of writing what I feared would be a contrived or forced essay speaking to what it means to be a 30-year-old woman, I numbered a legal pad page from 1-30, and crunched the numbers, so to speak. Here is the result of that effort. (And let me tell you, it was an effort; I really had to mull over what to note for some of these digits. Turns out 30 is a pretty big number after all.)

1> Number of traditional team sports in which I’ve participated (it was soccer, I didn’t last long)

2> Number of cavities (I was at least 27 when I finally got my first cavity; alas, my long streak of tooth health was broken)

3> Years I’ve been married (well 3.5, as of this writing)

4> Number of Semenoff kids (that is, my siblings and me) (Denver 4 for life!)

5> Number of choirs I’ve been involved in since high school (singing both as a soprano and alto, depending on the choir)

6> Number of times I have left the country

7> Number of years I worked at The Denver Post

8> Average number of bacon strips I would happily eat in one sitting

9> How old I was when the Atlanta Olympics took place and I decided I simply had to be a gymnast when I grew up

10> Number of childhood journals I was able to find stored in my basement

11> Age at which I realized my frequent growth spurts made me too tall to be a gymnast

12> Number of jobs (paid and unpaid) I’ve held over the years

13> Number of cameras I have owned to date

14> Average number of coffees I drink in a week

15> Age at which I first attended a public school full-time (sophomore year of high school; I was homeschooled up until this point)

16> (in months) How long I lived at my mother’s home after graduating college

17> Age at which I decided to pursue journalism as a career

18> Number of states I haven’t yet visited in the good ol’ US of A

19> Age at which I accidentally dyed my hair black

20> Number of coffees I will drink during the course of a particularly busy/stressful week

21> (in months) Longest stretch I’ve been able to keep a plant alive

22> Age at which I started work at The Denver Post

23> Age at which I moved into my last solo, studio apartment

24> Age at which I started my own business

25> Number of bags currently in my possession (I am preparing to stage an intervention for myself) (and yes, a massive donation effort is underway) (don’t judge me) (OK, you can judge me)

26> Age at which I got married

27> Approximate number of gray hairs currently on my head (this is obviously an estimation; who knows what’s really going on at the back of my skull)

28> Number of airports (domestic and international) to which I have flown

29> Average number of books I’ve read per year in recent years

30> Number of years I have had the privilege of being alive on this dear planet

And, scene.

To be honest, I was excited to turn 30 and become a 30-something. No existential crisis mode on my watch. My 20s were the dearest of my life. I accomplished a lot, I met so many of you wonderful people, and I had the distinct honor of growing in a career, business, marriage, friendships and so much more. It was a great foundation on which to build my adulthood, and I am very much looking forward discovering what this next decade may bring.

So, as ever, here is to you, and here’s to whatever comes next!

 

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to be or not to be

I’m sitting at our kitchen table, our Christmas tree still glowing behind me. We keep the Christmas tidings rolling past December 25 in this household. It’s the New Year: 2017. We made it. I get the sense that we collectively stopped holding our breaths when the clock struck midnight on New Year’s Eve. And then maybe collected a whole new deep breath into our lungs. There are many mysteries ahead for this year, but it feels momentous to have finally turned the calendar forward from 2016. As my grandfather said, “It’s time to stop staring down our noses at it and face it head on.”

I’ve never much been one for New Year’s Resolutions. We shouldn’t need the prompting of a new year to address changes we want to make in our lives or find inspiration to try something new. But I still find myself reflecting on what this next year may bring, and what I would like to bring to it. Goals such as extending graciousness further into the world; inviting more freewheeling contemplation; distracting myself less with phone/TV/computer screens.

Opening our front window curtains more frequently.

Picking up the ukulele again.

Calling friends instead of simply texting or offering digital thumbs up on their Instagram photos.

I heard suggested on a TV show the other day that Hamlet’s tormented “to be, or not to be?” is the wrong question. Almost nothing operates between just two stark options. And I’m fairly certain our resolutions and expectations going into a new year shouldn’t be black and white either. So if anything, let’s all allow for a little nuance, a lot of forgiveness, and as much understanding of the wide and messy variety of grays as possible.

We’ve got this, my dear ones.

And because we had a lovely little New Year’s Eve celebration with friends, I offer you these cell phone photos from our evening out. 

Cranberry cocktail at new year's eve celebration.

Little boy holding gold balloons for yellow lab.

Dan toasting a friend on New Years Eve.

Preparing champagne flutes for New Years Eve.

Dan and Anya on New Years Eve.

 

 

SIGNED, anya elise

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chamomile

chamomile flowersOn Sunday, I bought a bouquet of chamomile flowers at Whole Foods for five dollars. After trimming them down, I bundled them into a stainless steel tumbler and put them on a stack of books beside our kitchen doorway.

Almost every time I walk to and from the kitchen, I bury my face in the buds and inhale deep. The scent is one of earth. It’s subtle and grounding. The fragrance carries little of the sweetness that you might find in the petals of a rose, but the chamomile scent makes me feel calm and clear in a way that very little has this week.

The whole world knows of the events in Orlando. The devastation and raw distress that those directly impacted are feeling is something I think many of us are also dealing with, be in it much smaller and less severe waves.

A loved one told me a few days ago that it felt strange, perhaps even insincere, to be so affected by the violence and loss of life when we knew no individual who was killed. I contend that to not be affected would be to deny a piece of our humanity. It is only in that humanity that we may somehow find a true direction forward.

Forty nine people died in a most inhumane and grotesque way early Sunday morning. I have no answers. I have no words. I keep hearing this verse, over and over in my head, from a song in the musical “Hamilton.”

There are moments that the words don’t reach
There is suffering too terrible to name
You hold your child as tight as you can
And push away the unimaginable
The moments when you’re in so deep
It feels easier to just swim down

Almost three weeks ago, the father of a very dear friend died of a terrible, incurable disease. A week later, I learned of a woman — a public speaker, mother to three and foster mother to three more — who suffered a seizure and temporarily lost her ability to speak. And this past Friday, a local Denver photographer — a decent, kind man, with great talent for his craft — died suddenly and unexpectedly in his sleep.

So much loss and profound pain. So much uncertainty and fear.

I’m not sure there are any “right” words for moments like these. The older I get, the more I realize that there truly are moments that words can never reach.  All I do know is that I have to continue to believe in the power of loving our fellow human beings. It is OK to feel dismayed and overwhelmed. It is OK to cry. Maybe even cry several times a day. But don’t lose sight of the pronounced impact that comes from sharing our compassion, promoting the dignity of all people, and holding tight to the notion that in giving our love we can create powerful antidote to the immense hurt in this world.

The woman I mentioned above encourages people to “show up” in life. Show up for others. Show up for those in need. Though it is still (I believe) unclear what exactly happened to make her lose her voice, she has since recovered. She again remembers who she is and who her children are, and has regained her sense of purpose.

So, even in the face of all this I want to remind you that you are not alone. There is power in showing up. Even if it’s in a small way, in a manner that perhaps feels insignificant. Showing up is one of the most meaningful things we can do for each other on a daily basis.

Let’s all make an effort to do so.

Take care of yourselves, dear ones.

 

SIGNED, anya elise

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