Things to do in Bruges, BE (Brugge, if you Belgie)

Colin Farell leaped out of a window in this Medieval town in 2008, but this mini Venice, untouched by the German blitzkriegs, has a bit more to show you – though 1 in 3 people will point to the window (that’s a freebie).

IMG_6059Pro tip: take Tyler. He’s the best travel buddy.

Stay  at the Gulden Vlies

Bruges (or Brugge) is a fantastic host to travelers, with hotels of all price points and lots of centrally located options. We stayed at the Gulden Vlies with Fleur and her family, and it was a treat. So much of the town is curated for tourists, and it’s easy to walk through this snowglobe village and miss some of its characters. Fleur’s family runs their boutique hotel/B&B like they’re hosting friends, and between her friendly family and their relatively local travelers, you get some truly choice recommendations – what to see and what to avoid (the latter being worth its weight in gold). I literally miss Fleur right now. Right. Now.

Walk to the Square

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The central square and main areas are all canal, cobblestone, cobblestone, canal. It’s amazing. I loved winding through the tiny streets and trying to imagine all the crazy fashions, types of transportation, shop windows, etc. had called Brugge home. It’s rare to find a place so old and left untouched by war – you have to stroll through and try to take it in.

See the Belfry and the Market Square- climb steps and take pics

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Old man river said you can go your own way…JUST KIDDING. If you’re into steps (and bats), like 366, and views the likes of which allow you to spot encroaching fires, scale the Belfry in Bruges. Thanks to our hosts at Gulden Vlies, we avoided eating on the square (apparently that’s a big nah), but the chocolate shops, parades, and horse-drawn carts have their charms. It’s one of this small city’s most prominent landmarks and is adjacent to tasty frites.

Eat frites…chocolate…waffles

IMG_7071This is not a frite, a waffle or a chocolate. It’s a swan swimming by me as I’m enjoying my snack in peace.

Speaking of frites, order some. Order many. Belgium isn’t really the place to adhere to your paleo diet. What they do with carbs is so delish we haven’t tried to fully co-opt it here in the states. Indulge it. Waffle it up, get a cone of fries with aioli. Walk it off on the uneven streets.

Drink beer

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Since we’ve all agreed that this is the city where we’ll carbo-load, time for a beer. Trappist Monks in Belgium have influenced beer from Windsor, England to Windsor, Colorado. There is no shortage of water-side watering holes, but the three most famous stops are: 1. Dubbel BVBA – with a terrace and something like 300 taps to keep you busy, 2. Herberg Vlissinghe – established in the 1500’s (1515) and closed on Sundays, this old tap room is a place for beer pilgrims, 3. De Halve Maan – this family-run brewery is the only Bruges-based brewery and home to Bruges Zot. You’ll know what I mean when you’re in town.

Take a canal tour

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Locals will tell you they are “little Venice” and that you cannot miss the canals. I would agree. I loved seeing the city from the water as the driver told us about the Romans building the first fortifications of the city, followed by stories of the Gauls, the Vikings, the Franks, the Kings of the Lowlands, World Wars, and (of course) Colin Farrell. The history, like the beauty, is unusual – and, you can hear about it in both English and French because we Americans are linguistic chumps. There are about 5 landing spots where you can buy tickets and board a boat for a tour. You can’t miss it.

Stop into the shops

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My favorite shop is Juttu (who can resist a store that calls itself “home of brands, house or friends”? Not moi!) but you can find all means of curiosities in the alley shops. And, for the love of Piet, take a pic when you see one of the adorably strange fancy dog pillows.

IMG_6118the aforementioned and famed window for jumping Farell.

I’m told Ghent and Antwerp have a bit more to offer for a full weekend, but Bruges is the right speed for a day trip out from Brussels, Paris, or Amsterdam. I loved spending the day with Brugge and have the fancy dog pillows to prove it.

 

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Things to do in Nashville, TN

Nashville has long been known for live music and barbecue, but ask anyone from the area and they’ll tell you it’s changed and grown into a whole new city in the last few years. Then, they’ll launch into a story or seven about the traffic. It really is the new LA.

Nashville, you got a thing going on. I like it.

Thanks to my lovely community that has emerged in the Nashville area in recent years (what’s up East Nashville?!), I had a chance to spend a weekend seeing the city like a local. Here are the highlights for this San Franciscan.

Barista Parlor

Barista Parlor, East Nashville

Come for the biker garage turned cafe, stay for the creamiest lattes and smooth espresso.

I am not going to lie to you, it’s a bit of a scene. But so what? The coffee is delicious, the pastries are fresh, and if you like chocolate or a comfortable place to sit and work, there are a variety of options for you in this shop. Barista Parlor has locations throughout Nashville, and they all have their own personality, but we kept hopping back to this one in East Nashville because they kept the garage doors open during the gorgeous fall weather we had while we were there.

Five Daughters Bakery

I don't know who would have the will power to take these home...I finished mine by the time we reached the sidewalk

 

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Left: Samoa Right: Snowball Not pictured: my joy

Come for the wildly elaborate cronuts (mine had marshmallow whip frosting and this bonkers marshmallow-berry filling that I still can’t believe exists in a world that doesn’t have unicorns), stay for the…donuts. It’s all about donuts, gang.

Hattie B’s – Hot Chicken

Hattie B's on Charlotte

Come for the hot chicken, stay for the southern essence. Sweet tea by the gallon, y’all.

Prince’s is credited for the original Nashville Hot Chicken, but after watching Anthony Bourdain get taken out for a day after eating it (ouch), I opted for friendlier fire. Hattie B’s will bring the heat, don’t worry. But, I was delighted to get a mild option as this meat & three style restaurant. They have “unsweet tea” as well, but why are you asking?

Bobbie’s Dairy Dip

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Come for the dairy dipped cones (I miss it like an ex-boyfriend who was really nice but moved away for school), stay for the old school vibes.

Bobbie’s dairy dip is simple. It’s an ice cream shop with milkshakes, cones, and an outdoor porch. The building is covered in faded, old-school ads that have been up since they were modern. It’s simple, y’all.

Pinewood Social

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Come for the coffee and cocktails, stay for the activities. So. Many. Activities.

Dubbed a place to meet with friends, Pinewood Social is a little unlike most restaurants. You can find everything from a coffee shop and lounge area, a delicious full-service restaurant, a bowling alley, bocce courts, and a few soaking pools to keep you busy all day.

Martin’s BBQ

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Come for the barbecue, stay for the upstairs courtyard. It’s unlike any other downtown restaurant I’ve ever visited.

Martin’s BBQ has gained fame from Anthony Bourdain to Sonoma wineries, and places I can’t pretend I am knowledgeable about. It’s because his food is simply delicious and unapologetic about the flavor. They have a few whole hogs roasting each day, and when they’re out, they’re out. The 4th Street location has enough room, personality, and food for everyone. This was a highlight of the trip to Nashville.

Greko Greek Street Food

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Come for the Athenian quarter chicken, stay for the street cred (everything is amazing).

The Darsinos family has been feeding Nashville since before it was cool. And, I don’t mind suggesting that they laid some groundwork to make this such an eater town. Greko pays homage to the family’s Greek roots with careful attention to details intended to bring their island home to Nashville – down to the graffiti and “Green one” on tap (evidently, Greece really loves Heineken). It’s new to the neighborhood, but with it’s local ties, it’s destined to be a mainstay. I can feel it.

Public House @ Urban Cowboy

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Come for the cocktails, stay for the backyard firepit (and perfectly selected playlists).

The next door outpost to Urban Cowboy feels like a glass of bourbon personified. It’s a little smokey from the fire pit, yes. But the soft lighting, cozy blankets, delicious foods from former cooks at Catbird Seat and Bastion, and expertly mixed cocktails make for the coziest, smoothest setting for great conversation. We went back a few times. Can’t miss.

Flipside

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Come for the tater tot nachos, stay for the trivia.

This 12 South spot sits across from Draper James and a handful of fun shops. After walking up and down the street, the bright and open dining room is a fun place to grab a drink, dinner, and round of pub trivia. Just know a thing or two about Johnny Cash, ok?

John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge

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Come for the views, stay for exercise you so desperately need after donuts, tot nachos, cocktails, barbecue, and hot chicken. Sweet Moses!

 

Before I go, it seems worth a friendly heads up that they don’t exactly love the bachelorette parties. Woo girls, keep this in mind when you start scouting for the BEST. WEEKEND. EVARRR. At least try to play it cool.

 

But, why?

When I opened up this old blog, a few questions flashed across my mind like a blinking marquis.

The first was:

“Oh sweet Moses, why? Why was I like this in 2012?”

The next question was:

Why am I blogging? We know what they say about opinions and assholes, why add one more of each to the internet?

In the last few weeks, I have answered only the latter. I need to write. Fish swim, birds fly, and I write weird things. When I don’t, I post all these half thoughts in Slack, several long texts, or (regretfully) on Facebook. None of it is quality and it’s not even cathartic. I’m here to do the dang thing.

If you have an answer to that first question though, inquiring minds would desperately like to know.

 

Choosing a simplicity mindset

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“Courageously, we need to articulate new, more human ways to live. We should take exception to the modern psychosis that defines people by how much they can produce or what they earn. We should experiment with bold new alternatives to the present death-giving system.” -Richard J. Foster

I’ve always been a hippie (or yuppie or hipster, or whatever best couches me as slightly crunchier-than-the-mainstream). I would also try to tell you that I’ve always valued simplicity. But in the last few months, lifestyle creep has tripped me up a bit. I have a cluttered apartment, I’m a little behind on my credit card, and I’m quoting Bono – because I still haven’t found what I’m looking for (1). Thankfully, I had a practice of simplicity in my early 20s that I found myself longing for.

Simplicity then

Now, let me back up a second. My early 20’s practice of simplicity was hardly a choice. It was a lovely framework for my situation in life: a newly married college grad whose bright future was met with the 2008 financial crisis. All of my academic achievement and hustle promised a meaningful job at graduation, so I quit my retail job to focus on finding my dream job. When there was a run on my bank (2), I snatched up a terrible reception job and held on for dear life and medical benefits.

Continue reading “Choosing a simplicity mindset”

Lemony Gold beets + Creamy Goat Cheese pasta w. crushed red peppers

LEMONY GOLD BEETS + CREAMY GOAT CHEESE PASTA W. CRUSHED RED PEPPERSIn an effort to liven up my palate from the creamy dishes that are popular this time of year, I wanted to leverage some of the delicious local, in-season lemons. This weekend, I stumbled upon Louisa Shafia’s Lemony Gold Beet Barley Risotto in 2009’s Lucid Food (a visually stunning cookbook full of seasonal recipes) and saw that I could easily incorporate parts of this dish with one of my standby pasta recipes. It made for an enlivening and comforting dinner with both new and familiar elements – an instant fan favorite at our house.

Make this little pot o’ gold whenever you need some vivid colors and jolts of citrus to brighten up February, the month in which we are made to believe winter will never give way to spring.

Lemony Gold beets + Creamy Goat Cheese pasta w. crushed red peppers

Serves 4 average adult humans (or 2 hungry hippos)

Ingredients:

2-4 Gold beets, washed and greens trimmed off

Zest of 1 lemon + 1 TSP fresh squeezed juice

6 TBSP olive oil

1 pound penne rigate

S + P, to taste

4 oz. soft goat cheese

Crushed red peppers (or cayenne pepper), to taste

Parmigiano Reggiano, shaved

Directions:

Rinse the beets and place them in a large pot. Cover them with water and bring to a high simmer over medium-high heat. Cook until the beets are easily penetrated with a fork (this can take anywhere from 20 – 60 minutes).

As the beets cook, zest and juice the lemon, setting aside the zest and 1 TSP of the juice for the meal. I used the rest of the juice for our water glasses, but that’s because I am actually just a walking lemon head pretending to be an adult human.

Once the beets are cooked through, place them in a bowl of cool water and slip off the skins using your hands or the edge of a spoon. Coarsely chop the beets, and set aside in a small to medium mixing bowl.

Bring another pot of water to boil for the pasta. Just cook to the directions on the box or until the noodles are al dente.

As the pasta cooks, mash the chopped beets until they are chunky and just rougher than the texture of apple sauce. Add in the zest, lemon juice, olive oil, S + P to taste. Stir thoroughly and set aside.

Drain the pasta, reserving about a half an inch of the water (or about a 1/2 cup) and return the pasta and water to the pot. Mix in the goat cheese, stirring as it melts into a cream sauce. Add in the beet mixture, tossing gently.

Serve the pasta warm with small shavings of Parmigiano Reggiano and sprinkle with red pepper to taste.

Note: Mix in sautéed garlic, onion and some greens to make this dish a little more toothsome

I’ll end with the small confession that I basically try to put lemons, goat cheese or crushed red pepper on everything. Everything. All of the things. And it is delicious.

A LABOR DAY MEAL OF EPIC PROPORKTION

This post was originally posted to my former blog September 2010
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It deeply saddens me to say goodbye to the summer, which I suppose is a testament to how great this summer was to me. In order to soften the blow a little, I planned a special end-of-summer meal to be carted over to our neighborhood park. We wanted to salute the summer over grilled eats and a meal around the picnic table. Everything’s just a little bit more enjoyable over a good meal.

This meal in particular was a stretch for me because I made [brief pause for dramatic effect] pork chops. I cooked it. I ate it. I even liked it. This is significant as I’ve had it out against pork since I was about 8 years old. I have a distinct memory, which I’ll spare you the details of, where it ended in me declaring to the world: “I’ll never eat pig again!” And I didn’t. I had a bevy of reasons I wouldn’t eat it, and for about 16 solid years I stuck to my guns. I saw no pork. I cooked no pork. I ate no pork.

Sadly, my mister totally digs on pork and has long requested I reconsider my whole hog avoidance. That I please give pork a chance. Happy Labor Day to him.

As I was planning out the meals for the week I came across this absolutely lovely farm stand on Valmont and 75th in Boulder, called Munson Farm. They were selling local peaches the size of softballs and the freshest ears of corn I’ve ever seen in real life. Once I loaded up entirely too much of each, all I needed was a good meat to round out a delicious summer meal. Well, lucky Mister, pork chops were on sale and I was feeling courageous.

Pork Chops w. Blue Cheese, Grilled Peaches + Corn on the Cob

Serves 2

This recipe was not only delicious but also easy to tote over to the park for a picnic. Add 5 bonus points.

You’ll need:

2 pork chops; we opted for smaller sized chops for the budget… and my deep-seated fear of hating this dinner

Roughly 3 TBSP Stoneground or dijon mustard (eyeball it)

2 C water

Salt and pepper to taste

Blue cheese to taste; I used Salemville Amish cows milk

2 ears of corn

1 giant peach (a la James)

Directions:

Rinse the pork chops under cool water and set aside. In a large bag, combine the mustard, water, salt and pepper. Once you have your desired consistency and flavor for your brine*, place the pork chops in the bag and seal.

Place in fridge for 2-4 hours to chill and allow the flavors to fully marry. Place the bag in a baking pan in case the zipper lock gives way- unless, of course, you like to live dangerously.

Heat up a greased grill to a medium heat. Place the pork chops on the grill and cook thoroughly, flipping as needed – use a cooking thermometer

While pork chops are cooking, place ears of corn still in husks directly on the grill. Cook for about 20-30 minutes, or until corn is fully cooked but still crisp in texture. To eat, pull back husks and use them as a handle (add 5 kitsch points)

If you have additional room on the grill, slice peaches in half and place flesh-down the the grill. Cook these to your desired consistency. I found a good indicator for me was the temperature of the skin. Once the skin began to feel warm to the touch and there were visible grill marks on the flesh of the peach I pulled them off the heat. You can experiment with this one, but probably want to stray away from over cooking since it makes the texture really stringy and saps much of the flavor.

About 5-10 minutes before pulling the pork chops off of the grill crumble the blue cheese over the meat so that it begins to soften and melt but before it turns runny or liquid in texture.

Arrange these items on your plate and pair with your favorite summer beer. Follow it up with a great conversation with your friends or a Lady GaGa sunset dance party. Your choice.

*Many people add an apple cider to their brine, but I wanted to keep it savory since we were going to be pairing the meat with peaches

Blessed are the peacemakers: a brief tribute to Xe

MemorialA little over a week ago, a friend of Tyler’s was senselessly killed. My heart is still heavy and sore over the thought of it. I didn’t know him all that well, only through  conversations at the grocery store and at the company Christmas party. This much I know, he was one of the gentler souls I’ve ever met. I always enjoyed seeing him and getting the chance to say hello. It took me little time to realize he was someone who wanted to live a simple, peaceful, vibrant life and at only 24, he was doing that very well.

The details of his death are unclear, but after attending a beautiful memorial for him, they only pale in comparison to the details of his life. Those closest to him described him as sunlight, as the person who would have helped them heal in light of such a tragedy, as a deep and spiritual friend, and a sweet younger brother.

This certainly has laid a mile marker on our life in the city. A reminder that we don’t have time to waste, and an inspiration to live in a way that can change the world you’re living in. At the very least, impact the lives of those you live among.

My thoughts on guns are fully explained elsewhere, and really belong there more than they belong here. But I just want to say, this issue now has two faces for me. The one of kind, gentle, young, Xe, who’s life was taken far too soon. Far, far too soon. And the one of the confused, scared, misled other who likely lost themselves that night, before knowing a minute of the life they were stealing. I am confident that had the scenario been slowed, a conversation had, the outcome would have been entirely different.  If it weren’t so easy, so fast, so disconnected to end a life.

Xe’s father said as he lead the memorial for his son, just down the street from where he was killed,”Please don’t hate anyone, as much as you may want to. Send love and light to the person who opened the door for my son that night.” Then, he lead a processional to the corner where it happened and asked for peace for the neighborhood, for a better future.

I hope I can hold that depth of grace for others in my life.

Rest peacefully, Xe. After all, blessed are the peacemakers. I only wish I could have known you better.

Our cognitive dissonance on weapons

I’ve never been one short on words. But in the days following the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy, I have been at a complete loss. In part out of utter shock at the horror of this most recent shooting, and in part by the truly shocking comments and flippant soundbites people have spewed off to downplay the news while also expressing condolences for the lost lives. I simply cannot follow the logic that connects the two.

What I find so disheartening in this renewed talk about guns and our increasingly commonplace experience of mass murders, because that is what they are, is the cognitive dissonance of our worldviews.

The utility of social networks makes dialogue a nonessential and so, we monologue. We monologue all day long. Sometimes at each other, and sometimes to no one in particular. But what social media doesn’t do is forget. So those things you said emphatically months ago are still living and breathing as you say what you say today. We’ve laid plain the chasms in our logic for the world to see, but  still ramble on about opposing philosophies, staking reputation, friendships and respect on the validity of one current opinion.

Cognitive dissonance is the term used for anyone holding conflicting thoughts and experiencing pain as a result.  Through social media and traditional media, I see serious cognitive dissonance on assault weapons. This is causing anguish, political inaction and allowing more tragic massacres to go unaddressed.

Of all the opposing viewpoints, these are the conflicting philosophies I find utterly confounding:

  1. Pro-life, pro-gun paradigms
  2. Christian brothers and sisters defending assault weapons in the name of protection
  3. The un-amendable amended amendment

Sanctity of life

One of the hardest things about this recent loss of life is the sweet, innocent age of a majority of the victims. Many of these kids likely fell asleep on car rides, thought “guts” was a bad word, and were expectantly waiting to see if Santa would give them what they had asked for this Christmas. They were babies.

During the election we learned that the overwhelming majority of conservative republicans believe life to begin at conception. Some states when so far as to enact laws stating all women were pregnant each month until proven not pregnant. The push was firmly rooted in concept that all life is precious, and babies, even those not yet born, deserved a protected environment where no one could willfully harm or kill them. Because, they were babies.

This is where the disconnect occurs for me. Many of the people so deeply offended by abortion also believe everyone has a right to own gun, and not just a gun, any gun. I understand this is a traditional conservative perspective. It was even one I held for much of my life, though I don’t anymore.

What I don’t understand is how someone who is pro-life can concurrently advocate for the right to a weapon created for war, created solely to end lives?

Christians advocating for assault weapons

One of the great NRA soundbites refers to an inalienable God-given right, when referring to our guns and other “arms.” But as a Christian, I find this rhetoric far more reverent to the identity of a nationalist than to the identity of someone following Christ. In fact, I find them strictly in opposition of the way Jesus lived and commanded his followers live. the familiar directive is that Christians are called to “turn the other cheek,” to give not only their cloak to a thief on the road, but all of their clothing.

Further, looking to how Jesus lived and died leaves little to no room for weapons in the name of our personal rights. Jesus was an innocent man who willingly allowed Roman soldiers to give him a criminal’s death. When Peter tried to fight off guards, he yelled at him to stop saying, “Put your sword back in its place, for all who take up a sword will die by a sword.” In a moment of total vulnerability, being led to his death, he commanded peace.

I wonder where my fellow Christians have received the doctrine that these directives from our God were somehow amended to allow for our right to guns. Our right to protection through violence. Our right to willingly take the life of another person. In the argument of self-protection against robbers, I look at the lives of the early Christian monks. You couldn’t ever still from a monk, because there was no way you could take something from them they weren’t willing to give you. G.K. Chesterton wrote, “there was nothing the world could hold them by, for the world only snares us by the fringes of our garments, the frivolous exteriors of our lives.”

I don’t see any room for assault weapons or violence in a Christian paradigm without seriously amending the bible. Which brings me to my next thought.

Why can’t we amend the second amendment?

The favorite statement is that the government is trying to take away all guns. They’re not. Sure, the most extreme liberals might. But overall, people for gun control just want to keep access to war machines limited to those in the military and law enforcement.

This idea that we have an entitlement to any weapon we so choose is seriously incorrect. We do not. We may not drive a tank, we may not target shoot with grenades, we may not shoot rocket launchers for sport, and we are not constitutionally permitted to shoot torpedoes, even during hunting season. The second amendment is not an open door for access to these weapons of major force and destruction. Why? Because they’ve been developed for war.

When we look at the weapons used in any of the recent shooting massacres, we can clearly see that they too are created for war. At the very least, created to take a large number of human lives in a matter of seconds. And that’s exactly what they do.

I won’t even go into the idea of overthrowing the government with our stockpile of weapons. Do a quick Google search of “drone strikes” to understand why. You would have better luck defending yourself from the destruction of a tsunami with my drugstore umbrella.

So what?

I didn’t write this to put myself or those who agree with me on a pedestal or because I know every important fact on this issue. In fact, I have no doubt there are friends and family who know more about one, or all, of these things and may not agree with me. I’m ok with that, and I’m open to hear their views.

I wrote this because I remember watching the news of with my friend (now step-sister) and her remarking that her dad (my now step-dad) was one of the SWAT members rushing in to pull kids from the bloodied Columbine library. Because I grew up staying home from school every April 20th from that year through graduation, because I was afraid of a repeat.

I wrote this because went to college at a time when every lecture hall could be likened to one at Virginia Tech. In the weeks following that shooting, I never entered a classroom without considering how I could possibly escape if someone else had the same horrific idea.

I wrote this because began school in a time where school shootings were unheard of, flukes, uncommon flashes of evil. As I grew up, I watched that rapidly transform. I’ve heard every argument of arming teachers, students, undercover cops. And, I have attended two schools where they have foiled copycat plots, complete with ammunition, pipe bombs and hit lists of students.

Finally, I wrote this because I want you to know that for me, the thing causing the greatest cognitive dissonance in my life is the idea that guns create freedom. In my life, I’ve only known them to create fear, the opposite of freedom.

I hope anyone who reads this can take a moment to shift this prism of politics and see where the light hits from the place I’m looking in on the issue. I assure you, there is light on this side as well. Not all of it, but certainly some.