Surfing Lesson

31 May 2013

Ah, the last day of Jenni's Blog Every Day in May challenge. I can't believe this is already the end- it feels like the last day of Summer Camp. I think we all need a big group hug.

Today's prompt: a vivid memory. Given how heavy some of the posts have been in the past two weeks, I'm going to share something a bit happier: one of my favorite memories from my travels.

Let me paint a little picture for you: the air is a balmy low-80 degrees Fahrenheit. There is a slight breeze, but it's warm. The scent is Hawaiian tropic, along with the faint scent of plumeria and gardenia floating on said breeze. The beige sand is warm beneath my feet, and the ocean is blue-gray, just like the sky, which is a bit cloudy. I can hear sea birds and crashing waves. I'm on Oahu.

It is May, 2010 and I have taken a few days off of work to visit Hawaii for the first time. I didn't tell my boss what I was doing, just that I was taking personal days (because I had personal days to use up before i lost them, and I was afraid that if she knew I was going to Hawaii, she wouldn't let me take the time off- strange, but she was crazy). There were really good deals on flights and hotels that Spring, so Ir took the leap and decided to check Hawaii off of my must-see list.

As soon as I booked my flights and hotels, I knew I wanted to take a surfing lesson. It was on my bucket list, and I'd always admired the sport of surfing- it looks so exhilarating! I did some research and found Hawaiian Fire Surf School, where I could learn how to surf from firefighters, and if I happened to drown, they would be able to save me. Totally safe. I had to do it.

So fast forward to a Friday in May, I had just gotten to my hotel in Waikiki the night before. I wake with the sun and put on my tankini and a cover up, slather on some sunscreen, and head to the beach. The beach is nice and peaceful, so I plop down on the sand and take some pictures and enjoy the view of Diamond Head. Anticipation is building in my stomach as I await the time for me to find the shuttle that will take me to my surfing lesson.

I'm one of the first people on the shuttle and the driver asks me if I'm nervous. Heck yes, I'm nervous! He asks why, and I explain that I've never tried surfing before, and I'm really not a great swimmer. He tells me I'll be in good hands, and the beach we're headed to is tranquil anyway. We drive around Waikiki to pick up the other students for the lesson, then head off toward our special beach.

When we arrive at our beach, I see the clouds in the sky and the waves crashing in the ocean. Is this the tranquil beach? My anxiety is rising within me, along with excitement to try something new. We all climb out of the van with our beach bags and we're instructed to put on rash guards. I feel like a girl in junior high again, stripping off my cover up and pulling the tight rash guard over my pale skin. I'm glad I'm wearing a tankini because I just don't have the nice flat stomach the other girls have. But these thoughts are not allowed to linger for long, because our lesson is about to begin.

First, we get a brief lecture about how to surf- how to position ourselves on the board, how to paddle out to the waves, how to steer ourselves against the current, how to push up and jump to our feet. We're told that normally the beach is much calmer than it is today. Just my luck, I think.

Next was the hands-on part of the lesson. We each took a humongous surf board and practiced jumping up onto our feet. I do really well with this part- I've got my positioning down and my timing is good. I'm thinking to myself, I can do this!

But then came the time to go into the ocean with our surfboards. I felt a bit like a prisoner with the ankle strap connecting me to my board, but I would later be (somewhat) thankful for it. I walk out into the water until I'm about hip-deep and then I climb on my board. I start to paddle. And paddle. And paddle. Good lord, I don't remember swimming to be this hard. I also find my self heading away from the instructors, when I was aiming for them. So I paddle and paddle some more. All the while, waves are coming at me- some small, some not as small. Each wave seemed bigger than the next. We were taught to push up with our arms straight on our boards as we headed into the waves so as not to get flipped over, and for the first several waves that is what I did. Eventually, one of the instructors comes to steer me toward the instructors who would help me push off with the waves and head to shore.

When it was my turn to ride a wave, I paddled with the wave, just as we were told, and when it felt right, I hopped up. To my knees. I was to afraid to try for my feet, and not a little tired. But boy, riding that wave, even on my knees, was a blast. That trip to the shore felt way short in comparison to my trip out into the ocean. I caught my breath and headed back out into the water for another try.

Warning: surfing can cause MAJOR bruising along the pubic bone. Don't say you weren't warned.

This time the paddling seemed endless. My arms grew achy and tired with each stroke, and I could barely see anything for all of the saltwater in my eyes. The damn waves just keep coming and I'm losing the strength to push up into them. So one wave catches me off guard and throws me off of my board and into the water below. I'm so surprised and unprepared, I suck in water through my mouth and nose. I'm now panicking under water, trying to find the surface, which feels a million miles away. I can't be far from my board, since I'm connected by a leash, and when I finally hit the surface, I suck in a huge breath of oxygen. By this time, my lungs and sinuses are burning, I can hardly see a thing, and I"m exhausted. But I climb back on that board and do my best to paddle toward the instructors.

My second wave was much like my first. I was hoping to muster up courage to make it to my feet, but being sucked underwater really shattered my confidence. By this time, my only goal was to stay above the water. I just wanted to survive the day. So I ride the wave on my knees and have just as much fun as a kid on a slide.  Dredging the surfboard out of the water is a lot harder than going into it, so I have a bit of a struggle picking up my board, and picking up my legs to move toward the nice, dry sand.

Once on dry land, I collapse into one of the lawn chairs and down as much drinking water as I can stand. My lungs are still burning and my throat is scratchy as all get out. I enjoy watching the other students try their hand at surfing, and some of them do quite well. I'm happy for the ones that manage to stand on their boards. I chat with another girl who had decided to throw in the towel and observe with me. She's from New York and she's a travel writer, about my age. We talk about travel, about coming to Hawaii alone, about how we never need to try surfing again. There's a camaraderie that comes from agreeing that the view is nicer from land.

After the surf lesson, we all gathered to give back our rash guards and take pictures with the instructors. I felt a bit silly posing with these muscly, six-pack strewn firefighters, but I had to get in on the fun. Once in a lifetime, right? After that, we were driven back to Waikiki, all the while sharing our personal experiences with the surf lesson, and some of us making plans for lunch on the beach. I may have traveled to Hawaii alone, but that certainly did not mean I had to be lonely.

I learned a lot about myself in that one morning. I realized I'm a terrible swimmer, and though I love watching people surf, it is just not for me. I learned that when I put my mind to something, I will do my best, but it doesn't necessarily mean I'll move mountains. There are simply things that are out of my control. And I think that was the hardest part, and is something I still grapple with. Ever since that trip, I have had occasional nightmares about tidal waves. I will be somewhere along the coast- a hotel, on a cliff, in a car, and a sudden, massive wave will be headed my way. I wake up feeling just as I did when those waves came at me during my lesson in Hawaii, like I have absolutely no control. I've just got to hold my breath and hope I make it through. And so far, I have.

Have you ever tried surfing? If not, do you have any memories that haunt you?

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Letting Go

30 May 2013
Grab a cuppa, this is a long one.

I’m having a bit of writer’s block about this topic, I’ll be honest. I’ve been enjoying the prompts so far, each one pushing me to dig deeper and see what comes out. I feel like I have hit a wall today, and I’m not sure what I see. I’m feeling a little disoriented after a disappointing reunion Tuesday evening. I’ve been doing well lately on my road to self-acceptance, but Tuesday night I just fell flat on my face. This time it didn’t even have much to do with the comparison game. You see, I have some friends with graduate degrees and who are working toward some very fancy, important things to do with the environment. When I got together with them, I literally had nothing to say about the topic. I’ve never liked science, and environmental science is so huge here in the Pacific Northwest that it’s a bit like a dead horse. I know it’s important, but it is not my niche, and that is ok. But when I’m around these friends, I get to feeling like it’s not ok, that I should be more passionate about it. But I’m not. I have my causes, and they happen to be social (animals are considered social, right?). Give me a petition to sign that promotes keeping hens out of cages in a more humane environment, and I will sign it. I’m a vegetarian, after all. I will gladly donate to a dog rescue organization, and I learned the hard way that I should not watch documentaries about animal shelters (I bawled my eyes out, then I hugged Lucy). But energy? Meh.

So I sat there, thinking, oh, how nice that this is a topic my friends have in common. And then the selfish thought, what about me? Can’t we talk about something we all have in common? I talked about how much I love my nephews for a little bit, but then I felt like the crazy one because I’m really the only one of us who loves kids. What’s not to love about kids? They force you to stop being so serious and just play. Well, I didn’t ride my crazy lovin’ on my nephews train for long, because another friend showed up. And that’s where it went downhill. From then on, we talked about everyone but me (this was a catching-up-after-years reunion). And I was reminded of who I was when these people first met me. These people met me when I was much bigger than I am now. But for some reason, Tuesday night I felt invisible again (it’s so weird how the heavier you are, the more invisible you feel). And I left that night feeling let down. I had gone out looking forward to seeing one of my best friends and catching up, and instead it was something else. Something I don’t want in my life anymore.

And I guess that’s where the letting go comes in. I have shed my physical shell through running, dancing, yoga, vegetarianism, and eating everything in moderation. But there is a shell on the inside that needs shedding, that I’ve held onto for far too long. I’m not the same person I was even two years ago, and I have so much to be proud of for that fact. I might not have a Master’s or a fancy job, I might not have a house, or kids, or be in a serious relationship. But I have love in the places that matter most, and best of all, I have respect for myself. So I can let go of relationships that bring me down. I can let go of mindsets that hold me back. I can take a lesson from my nephews and let go of my inhibitions and just play!

My most recent achievement that I am proud of has been my yoga practice. Yoga helps me in so many ways beyond just helping me get strong and flexible. It helps me breath, even when my mind is racing. It forces me to slow down when I feel myself accelerating out of control. One of my goals of late has been to hold crow pose for more than ten seconds. On Saturday night, I held it for at least fifteen (seriously, I was holding it just wondering when I was going to be called out of it because my body was not going anywhere). I was so excited, I wanted to jump up and fist-pump the air (I love fist-pumping), but I was still engaged in my practice. I was feeling a little spunky after the video, so I played the tutorial for doing a headstand- something I’ve never even tried before, because, well, I can’t do a headstand! You guys, I made it into tripod headstand with my knees resting on my elbows. This is huge to me. I could not have done either of these things if I had not let go of the notion that I couldn’t do it.

I’m coming to the realization that to get anywhere in life, you just have to let go. When you hold on to the negative thoughts, when you cling to your desires, when you set your plans in stone, you only set yourself up for disappointment and pain. Four years ago, I had been accepted into a Master’s program for Art History. I had had my mind set on becoming an art history professor, and worked hard to get into a good program. I was accepted into a decent one and made the plans to leave my job and move to Florida. All the while, I had this niggling feeling in the back of my mind. The economy was heading south and I wondered if I was making the right decision. Luckily, I received a very timely phone call that made my decision clear. I cancelled my plans for grad school and stayed put, with no plans for the future. It was heartbreaking to let go of something that I had had all planned out in my mind. But I know it was the best decision for me at the time. I have let go of that future, and it is a relief. Academia is too harsh a world for me. Instead, I’m letting my future go. That’s not to say I’m not putting any effort into my life’s direction. It just means that I’m aiming for something, but if my life takes a different turn, I can handle it. I’m letting my future go so that it can come back to me.

So there are my thoughts on letting go. I want to let it all go. I want to be fresh, to be a renewed self. I am ready.

What are your thoughts on letting go? Have you ever had to let go of a version of your future that you held onto? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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The Soundtrack of My Life

29 May 2013
Today I am supposed to include  five pieces of music that bring back memories or remind me of someone. Music plays a major role in my life, and it is constantly playing in the background. It is impossible for me to just pick 5 songs, but here are my picks, in no particular order:

This song makes me think of the year I studied abroad in Poitiers, France. I heard it a lot while I was there, and kind of became the unofficial anthem of the year. I made so many friends that year, and really felt like I had a community I could rely on. This is the song for that community of friends.

This song reminds me of my younger brother. When we were little, at Christmas time we would play A Very Special Christmas and we would take turns lip-syncing to the songs. My sister and I usually tackled the girl songs together, but this song was Sean's time to shine. An he rocked it. I can still picture his scrunched-up nose and gap-teeth as he busted out an angry rendition of this song.

True story: when I was a junior in high school, my best theater friend got pregnant. We were partners for all of our theater projects, and when our teacher would send the class into the hall to rehearse, Erin and I decided we were set with our scene and made up a dance instead. It was a chair dance. Senior year, we polished it up, made this the song for the piece, and performed it on our last day of school. We wore red dresses and used feather boas- I can't remember if wigs were involved. It was epic.

Because there are a lot of songs that remind me of my sister, but this is the one I use as her ringtone in my phone. She once sang this at karaoke and brought the right amount of Tina Turner raspiness to render it a classic. 

This song reminds me of all of our car trips growing up. My dad is a railfan, so when I was little, he would pack the family in the car on weekends to go on drives looking for trains. The White Album on cassette was usually our soundtrack.

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Beach Day

27 May 2013
Day 27: Just pictures.

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A Letter for You

Day 27: A letter to your readers.

Dear readers,

It's been awhile since I've written a true letter. Part of me feels this letter isn't really a letter since it is on a screen instead of a piece of paper. Letters are a very intimate thing, for me. This is where I bare my heart and soul. And now the time has come for me to bare it to you.

Thank you for coming here. However you found yourself here, I am glad that you did. It means so much to me that someone would take a little time out of their day to read the words that I have typed up here. When you leave me a comment, my heart is filled with so much joy, I feel like jumping and fist-pumping the air. I am so thankful for everyone I have "met" through this blog, and it's strange to me that just a month ago I had no idea you existed. But I am so glad you exist.

And that is the point that I want to get through to each and every one of my readers, even the ones who never comment. Even the ones who read this and think, "she cray-cray." I am glad you exist. You may not see where you fit in the grand scheme of things, but your existence is important. This world needs you. It needs your love, your laughter, your smiles, your hugs and your high fives. It needs your tears and your broken hearts, it needs your pain and frustration. It simply needs you. What you do in this life matters, whether you are a world leader or a woman in her twenties just trying to figure out what she is here for.

Most of all, dear readers, I want you to know that you are loved. I'm not just talking about people in your life who love you- friends, parents, significant others, children. There is a love you do not see, a love that is harder to define. I believe that there is an infinite supply of love in the universe, and I believe that each of us has a tap to that love within ourselves. When we tap into that love, we can move mountains. That love causes us to smile at strangers, to hold doors open, to offer a hug to someone who is suffering, to carry groceries for the elderly woman at the store. It is absolutely possible to love people that you do not know, because love is a verb. And so, my readers, my friends, I love you. You don't have to accept my love, but I am going to give it anyway. I am not asking for anything in return, because for me, it is enough to know that I  put love out there into the world.

And so my readers, I want to know what I can do for you. I am here, writing and sharing, and sometimes it feels a little selfish to just write what is on my mind. I want to know what is on your mind. How can I make your day better? How can I make you smile?

Well, I must go, for it is time for me to start my day. I still need to take a shower, and there's a bed with sheets in dire need of changing. I hope that you make the most of your day, even if that means staying glued to you couch while watching Arrested Development on Netflix (I wish I had a dollar for every status update on Facebook pertaining to this activity).

Much love, and a hug,

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26 May 2013
Today's prompt for the challenge is "something you read online." I read a lot of things online. Heck, I could share with you everything I've ever looked up on WebMD, but that would probably be way TMI for you, and possibly bring waves of anxiety back to me (I get nauseous every time I look something up on there, but when I'm worried I can't help it- I need to know- and thankfully, it has also helped me seek medical attention when necessary, like the time I got shingles- because I'm 80).

But it's Memorial Day weekend, and today I'm heading to the coast where I can take in the fresh, salty air and listen to the music of the waves. My heart and soul feel at rest along the shore of the ocean. So instead of sharing something I read, I'm going to share my absolute favorite YouTube video ever. If someone ever hires this guy to serenade me, I might propose marriage, or at least bake them my super duper chocolate chip cookies. This video makes me happy. Just like the ocean.

I hope you are enjoying your weekend! What are you up to? Do you like George Michael? (Please say yes.)

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Rachel's Guide to Portland: Tasty n Alder

Hi! Welcome to a new feature on my blog, Rachel's Guide to Portland. Since I often find myself out and about in the Rose City, I thought it would be a good idea to share my finds with my readers. There are so many great restaurants and neat spots in this this town I call home. I hope you enjoy the bits and pieces I share with you.

Source: Tasty n Alder home page

This morning I had the pleasure of going to Tasty n Alder for brunch. Tasty n Alder is the sister restaurant to the original Tasty n Sons, which has quite a popular reputation. In fact, it's not uncommon to have to wait in line for brunch at Tasty n Sons. Naturally, I was also expecting a wait when we visited Tasty n Alder this morning, a Saturday. The place opens at 9, and we arrived a bit closer to 10am. Lucky for us, there was no wait!


We were seated right away and promptly asked for our drink orders. After glancing at the drink menu and seeing that they serve Water Avenue coffee, I ordered a cup of joe. I always get coffee, unless it's Stumptown Coffee (which I hate). They also serve cocktails and have several Bloody Mary's to choose from- my dad enjoyed the Tasty Mary. Another bonus on the drink front is that they serve Smith Teas, from a wonderful local tea maker.

Bloody Mary

I am really glad that there were four of us for brunch this morning, because after seeing just how many items on the menu I wanted to try, I knew that we would need to maximize our sharing. The restaurant encourages sharing, in fact, by serving the dishes up family-style. Items are brought out as they are ready and everyone digs in. There are small and large plates to choose from, as well as some boards (cheese board, meat board, and smoked trout board).

Budapest Coffee Cake

We started out with the Budapest coffee cake, the potatoes bravas, and the yams. The coffee cake was delicious- moist, cinnamony, and just the right amount of sweet. I adored the potatoes, which came with two over-easy eggs and aioli. The serving was rather huge, if you ask me, so I ended up taking about a third of it home. I can't vouch for the yams, but my mom and sister in law thought they were incredible.

Potatoes Bravas

To top everything off, my sister in law ordered the egg and cheese biscuit, I got the french toast, and my dad had the polenta with sugo. Let me tell you about the egg and cheese biscuit. Or just the biscuit. It was so buttery, so light and fluffy, it is what other biscuits aspire to be but come up short. My sister in law's family hails from the South, and she claims that this biscuit was as close to her grandmother's biscuits as she's found. Portland folks- this biscuit is better than Pine State. Just sayin'. As for the french toast, my goodness. It seems like it's made with brioche, and is served with a blueberry sauce and whipped cream. It was lighter than your average french toast and simply delicious. I did not try my dad's polenta, being a vegetarian and all, but he wolfed the whole thing down, so I'd say it's a winner.

French Toast

As we were dining, the rest of the restaurant filled up. By the time we left, there was a sizable line waiting outside. And I can understand why those folks were waiting- this food was absolutely worth it.

Portland folks- have you been to Tasty n Alder or any other of Tasty's restaurants? What are your thoughts on the brunch scene in Portland?

Tasty n Alder on Urbanspoon
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I'll Never Forget

24 May 2013
Today's post in the challenge requires me to share something someone told me about myself that I'll never forget. Honestly, the things I remember the most are the things I have overheard people saying about me. Instead of going into much depth, considering how heavy I've gotten with the last few posts, I'll keep it simple and share a short list.

Not listed: My kindergarten teacher said she thought I'd be in commercials when I grew up. I'm not.

1. "Who's that? She's ugly." -Some girl in my 8th grade dance class

2. "She's got soul." -A black lady working at the homeless shelter, upon observing my dance skills, age 16

3. "You're pretty." -A 5th grader at outdoor school when I was a counselor, age 16

4. "You have nice eyebrows." -A gangsta Asian kid in my high school creative writing class

5. "You'll make a three cow wife one day." -Andrew Sampson, my wheelchair pusher in Bye Bye Birdie

6. "C'est charmant." -My host father referring to my American accent during my class' Thanksgiving skit

7. "It's kind of sexy." -My friend Adrienne, referring to the freckle on my lip

8. "You have tiny hands." -Boxing instructor, before pulling out child-size hand-wraps for me to use

9. "I love you." -A French man, after tasting the chocolate tart I made for a Christmas party

That's it, 9 things I remember people saying about me, good, bad, and weird. Moral of the story: I remember the things people say about me, and I'm sure I"m not the only one, so if you're going to say something about someone, make it nice.

Has anyone ever said something to you about yourself that you'll never forget? Leave a comment- I'd love to hear what you have to say!

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My Worst Traits

Day 24 of the challenge: Your top 3 worst traits.

Really? I'm trying to bring more positivity into my life, and working on growing my self-esteem after a lifetime shortage, so reviewing my worst traits doesn't exactly sound appealing. But then I think of the opportunity to honestly examine my downfalls so that I may constructively work to better them. This thought always makes me think of Jo from Little Women.

Here's something pretty.

So, here they are, my top 3 worst traits (according to me, my family might have something else to say about it):

1. I have a hard time staying focused on one task. While I'm watching T.V., I'm probably going to check my phone at some point- I'll check my email, Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. I try to keep it to the commercial breaks, but sometimes I become to absorbed. At work, I'll be working on entering an order, then an email will come in that I will answer, and if I get a text, I'll be answering that as well. When I'm cleaning at home, I will get started on my bathroom, and putting something away in my bedroom will lead me to start cleaning off my dresser, which will take me to my bookshelf, which will take me to emptying the garbage, which will take me to a whole lot of projects begun and none completed. And then there's yoga. I'm supposed to be present and mindful in yoga, but it's so hard when I get the hunger pangs and I start thinking about what I"ll make for dinner, and then I'm thinking about my next blog post, and planning my trip to the beach on the weekend, and getting excited to see my friend Adrienne on Tuesday- and oh, where should we meet up? I know I need to take one thing at a time, and sometimes I do manage to slow down. I will make a list of what needs cleaned. I will line up my tasks at work. And I will take a deep breath in yoga, and in the rest of my life.

Lovely, soft blooms.

2. I'm good at not taking my own advice. I will see oh so clearly what someone else should do in a situation, but when it's my turn, nuh-uh. I have a million and one reasons excuses not to take my own advice. You should leave that horrible job if it's making you miserable, even though I stayed with my terrible boss for almost five years (I'm not exaggerating- she once yelled at me for going to the bathroom too often). I think it's human nature though, since it so so much easier to see someone else's life objectively, than it is to see your own. I've just got to give myself a break and hope that my advice catches on one day.

3. I have road rage. I've shaken my fist at people. I don't honk, but I swear like a sailor within the confines of my car. I get incredibly angry when someone cuts in front of me on the freeway, only to go at a snail's pace. I hate when people don't use their blinkers. I hate when the car in front of me won't scootch forward when a semi-truck is right next to me and wants to be where I am, especially when the car in front of me has a semi-truck's length between him and the car in front of him (it happened this morning- I swore and then as soon as I had the chance, I sped up to the speed limit and passed him). I hate it when cars and motorcycles make up their own lanes during rush hour. It's not just that I hate it, it's It helps if I take a deep breath and play some Bob Marley, but this is another difficult one for me to work on.

Look at that little guy!

There they are, the lowest parts of my human nature. I try to be the best person I can be, but it takes work, one day at a time.

What are your worst traits? How do you deal with them? Any advice for handling your own road-rage? I would love to hear what you have to say!

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Things I've Learned

23 May 2013
Today's prompt in the challenge is "Things you've learned that school won't teach you." I find this to be one of the most difficult prompts because how can you distill all that you have learned into one blog post? I learned plenty in school, and I've forgotten a lot about what I've learned. I know longer recall dates, facts, and formulas. I think I've retained ideas, but I have trouble forming words when tested. But this isn't about what I learned in school.

1. The most important thing, the only thing you ever really need to know and understand: love. Love is the most important thing in life. Jobs may come and go, homes will be lived in and left, your bank account will fluctuate, but love will remain constant. So when you are with someone you love, make sure they know you love them. Look them in the eye, listen to their stories, laugh at their jokes, tell them that you've though about them, give them a hug, or just sit in knowing silence. But always be present for the ones you love, because you never know when your last moment with them will be. And in the end, the love will be all that matters.

This lesson really hit home for me when my grandmother passed away. Just three months earlier, right before the start of my final year of college, my uncle killed himself. It was the first death in the family that I had experienced, and it was shocking and painful. I did not know how to deal with it, but thankfully I had some good friends to surround me with love and support. During Christmas break, right after Christmas, my family got news that Grandma Louise's cancer was wreaking havoc on her insides and she probably had about six months to live. Two days later six months turned into a week. She didn't make it the week. On January 3, I awoke to the phone ringing constantly. My Aunt Becky was updating my parents on Grandma Louise's situation, saying that Grandma was asking for my dad (her son). My dad booked a flight for he and my mom to get out there as soon as they could, but just a few hours later Grandma Louise passed. It wasn't fair. Why couldn't God just let her hold on until my dad could get there and let his mother be with him one last time? That was the moment that I truly understood that love is the meaning of all of this. Love is why we are here.

2. Life does not go according to a plan. You can certainly head down one path, but there will likely be roadblocks in the way. There may even be detours. And sometimes you end up on a different path completely, but it's all ok. There is no path you are supposed to be on other than the one you are on. One of my favorite lyrics from one of my favorite songs says, "nowhere you can be that isn't where you're meant to be" (from All You Need is Love by the Beatles). All that matters is that you show up on your path and take in the lessons it has to offer.

This is the lesson that I keep learning over and over. I've found that in life it tends to take me longer to do things than it takes everyone else. I never had a boyfriend growing up, never had a date to a dance. I didn't head off to college knowing what I wanted to study. I went to community college, which took 3 years to complete due to moving from Arizona to Washington and having completely different requirements for transferring to a university. I decided after my 2nd year of college that I wanted to major in French and after the 3rd year I knew I wanted to minor in Art History. I transferred to a university where it took me another 3 years to complete my degree. It sure was not the typical path for a college student to follow, but I wouldn't change it. Each year I learned something about myself that took me to the next step. I learned that I love to dance. I learned that I adore the French language, and that art simply fills me up. I learned that I can't stomach a crappy job (at Disney World, no less). I learned how to be a leader. I learned how to take a leap and live in a country where I barely speak the language. It took me 6 years to get a degree, but those 6 years formed me into an adult in ways that many college students don't experience. It took another few years before I started dating and had my first kiss (say what?! yes, it's true, now I'm a freak). But every bump and turn along my path has led me to where I am right now, and I firmly believe that I am where I am meant to be.

3. Just be yourself and everything else will fall into place. Don't worry about making friends with so-and-so, or trying to fit in with a certain crowd. The people who are right for you can only find you if you just be yourself. Know who you are, know what you believe in, and don't be afraid to have a good time. Belt out a song if that's what you're feeling. Break into an Irish jig if that's what makes you happy. Wear all yellow or all black, just to please yourself. At the end of the day, you have to go to bed with yourself, so make sure that you're someone you can trust.

This is another lesson that is on repeat for me, though I learned it pretty early on. I've got a strong enough personality to know what I like and that I'm not going to change any of that for anybody. I love walking down the street with my friends belting out Disney songs, and sometimes I wear yellow, or bright pink, but mostly bright green, and I like making references to PeeWee's Big Adventure. If you're on board with that, you're my new best friend. If that's not really your thing, but you like me anyway, then you're my new friend, and if you don't like any of that and therefore can't stand me, then you don't need to be part of my crew. All of that is ok. Every good friend I've had has drifted my way when I've been the most shamelessly myself. And now that I think of it, my good friend Adrienne won't join me in song, tends to wear dark colors, and I don't know if she's even seen PeeWee's Big Adventure, but she'll stand by and laugh when I do my thing. And I laugh when she does her thing (like talk about smart grids, which I still have a hard time understanding).

I love odd numbers, and trinities are rad, so I will stop there. I think out of all I've learned outside of school, these are the most important. How do you feel about this list? Would you add something to it? What is the biggest lesson you have learned? Leave a comment or send an email- I'd love to hear what you have to say!

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Buckle Your Seatbelts

22 May 2013
It's going to be a bumpy ride. Today I get to rant about something for the challenge. My family and friends in real life know that I can really rant about things. In fact, I feel the most self-conscious when I'm ranting because I know I must look and sound like a crazy person. My eyebrows do crazy dances, my eyes bug out, my head starts bobbing side to side and yes, sometimes I throw in some hand gestures. I purse my lips and my voice rises. I can tell that I make people uncomfortable, but, at the same time, I feel like if I can't rant about things with you, then you're not really my friend at all. You don't get to be my friend if all you want is my good side.

So folks, here's my ugly side. I'm going to rant. It won't be pretty, but maybe you'll relate. Maybe you won't. But I won't find out until I try.

Yep, this is a really old pic from when I was heavier, but I pretty much still look like this when I rant. Adrienne took this and posted it on Facebook. She's mean. And I'm the idiot posting it on my blog.

So, what really gets to me? Sports bras, for starters. Seriously, you're going to size those things on the XS-XL scale? You do realize that normal bras come in band/cup sizes because- guess what? Boobs come in very different shapes and sizes. So when you tell me that I should be in a medium sports bra when I normally sport a 32DD, you're trying to tell me that same bra would also support a 36A?! I've never known an A cup to be the same as a DD. DD tends to have a dramatically different shape than an A. That Q really just needs compression for support, where as these droopy DDs need lift and separation in addition to compression. Capisce?

Next up, movie theater temperatures. Ever notice how in the winter they tend to be sweltering, but in the Summer they're as cold as a walk-in freezer? Well I noticed. So, when we're bundled to the brim with sweaters and thick coats and scarves and boots, we're supposed to sit in a pile of our own sweat at the theater. And then, when we're wearing hardly anything at all, we get to see how long it takes before we get frostbite at the theater. No thanks. I really shouldn't have to not only wear a scarf in the Summer, but bring extra socks and a blanket just to be comfortable watching a Summer blockbuster at the multiplex. Save some trees and cut back on the AC, will ya?

Finally, something that could ruffle some feathers. Pretentious Portlanders.* Portlandia is funny because most of what occurs and the characters on the show could very easily be found in Portland. What I really can't stand are urban Portlanders who turn up their noses at Suburbanites. I'm sorry, but do you fart rainbows? What makes you so g.d. special that you think you're better than people ho live in the suburbs. Some of us grew up there and are just fine with that. The suburbs have their perks, one of them being not getting harassed by homeless people (or people who just look homeless, but aren't- you can never tell in this town). Also, there generally isn't a pee smell lingering in the suburbs. Besides, the suburbs have nice things you claim to like, such as trees and gardens and fresh air. But no, you turn up your nose and pay way too much on rent, then drink your overpriced (and disgusting) Stumptown Coffee with your fancy espresso machine while twirling your mustache and reading some obscure piece of crappy literature. Or, if you're not the pretentious hipster type, but more of the pretentious hippie, you're composting your own waste and wearing drab clothing that looks like it came from Goodwill, but you really spent an unhealthy amount for something made locally to make you look like you're a poor hippie. And you judge me for dressing nicely when I go out in public. Why are you judging me? I feel like Portland is high school where you're either cool or you're not, and once again in life, I'm not. But I don't care. The cool kids are no fun- they aren't authentic. When you stop caring about what other people think, you get to just be yourself and be who you like, and that is where the fun starts. Take that, Portland.

Oof, so there it is. I'm done. I got it out, and I'm not editing because I want to keep it real- this is what you would hear me say. I almost did a video, but I really didn't want to scare everyone off.

Do you have any rants you feel the need to share? Go ahead and use the comments as your springboard- let's just get it all out in the open. It's rather cathartic.

*Disclaimer: I really believe in putting positivity out into the world, but sometimes you make exceptions. In this case, I wanted to be true to the challenge and true to myself. I absolutely intend this blog to be a place where everyone is welcome and everyone can feel good about themselves. That said, when I talk about Pretentious Portlanders, I am referring to a very specific type of person who lives in Portland. I've made a lot of transplant friends here, and they all know what I'm talking about (they have the same complaints). Plenty of Portlanders are genuine, friendly people. I'm simply ranting about the non-friendly ones.

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Favorites, So Far

21 May 2013
Wow, after yesterday's doozie of a post, it seems hard to follow up. I was nervous about writing what I did, but I started this blog with the intention of being completely open and honest, to let myself be vulnerable. I am glad I wrote what was on my mind because as it turns out, so many of you can relate. And knowing that none of us is alone is so comforting. Sidenote: Lucy is acting like her normal self, and therefore, I'm feeling a lot better.

Today I am supposed to talk about my five favorite posts in my archives. Considering that I just started this blog on May 1, I don't have much to work with. So, I will share what have been my favorite posts to write in this challenge.

1. My Favorite Picture Let's face it- I love getting all nostalgic, and this post was as nostalgic as it gets for me. Two pictures, one I love, the other I love to hate. Two wonderful, amazing memories that I will savor until my dying day.

2. I'll Always Miss Paris It turns out someone found this post by searching for "la mie caline calories maxi pain au chocolat." I don't think my post was entirely helpful, though maybe served as a warning that those things are high in calories. But this was another time where I got to be nostalgic and share my love for the most beautiful city on earth.

3. What Scares Me This was my first opportunity to get real, and write about something that is the very essence of this blog's purpose. I hope to share my story with others- what it has been and what I want it to be- so that others can find inspiration, or insight, or just know that they are not alone in how they feel. This post is a glimpse of that.

4. I'm Sorry This post was really cathartic to write. I got personal in this one. It's real, and it's a glimpse of who I want to be. The story that I want to write my life to be.

5. A Dedication Because I love that woman, and I miss her.

And just for fun, here's my favorite thing I've seen on the internet this week. It was my favorite part of this week's Mad Men.


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On Sensitivity, Introversion, and Perfectionism

20 May 2013
Day 20 of the challenge asks us to post about something we are struggling with right now. Well, here are a few of my gremlins, as Brene Brown would call them. I wrote the following last night.

So sad.

What am I struggling with right now? At this very moment, it is my sensitivity. I read an article a few years ago that totally clicked with me and gave me insight as to how I am and ho it is ok. I am a highly sensitive person. Right now, my heart is still pounding just a little faster than normal and my nerves are just a little more frayed than they usually are. About half an hour ago, my dog was playing on my sister's couch and suddenly started squealing and ran right to me. I had no idea what was wrong, but she and I were both freaked out and she just wanted me to hold her. She was so startled that she had pooped herself, which in turn freaked me out more because it meant that she was terrified. I ran my hands along her tiny body, feeling for broken bones, but she felt fine. She did not appear to be bleeding. When I got up to take care of her mess, she was walking gingerly on one back leg. Cue panic button. May is already a financially strapped month for me, so a vet bill on top of everything would be more than I can afford. Well, thank God that a few minutes later, Lucy was walking just fine.* Unfortunately for my nervous system, it is taking longer than I would like to get over that little scare.

This kind of reaction on my part is not unusual. I might appear cool and calm on the outside, but inside I am freaking out. I went to a baby shower today that had lots of grownups that I did not know and lots of children. It was completely overwhelming for me. I thought I was going to lose it when a little boy starting batting a balloon around in front of me. And I hate that alcohol (or lorazepam, when the doc prescribes it) is the only thing that can help me cope with such overwhelm. That is not healthy. I sat through it all because I was happy for my friend to have her first child, and I wanted to see her open her gifts. But man is it hard when little kids are misbehaving and their parents don't seem to know how to discipline their kids (Honey, no no in a sweet voice is not going to get your kid to behave, no matter how many times you say it). In situations like this, I tend to retreat within myself, not really caring to talk to anyone else, unless it is a good friend I am already familiar with.

So, I struggle with being sensitive in the fact that I just can't help it that I become overstimulated very easily. Sometimes I'm feeling particularly sensitive, so I tend to feel like crying when I'm happy for someone, or that damn ASPCA commercial comes on TV (please no, no more Sarah Maclachlan). And I'm really sensitive when someone gets hurt. I can't handle seeing someone else in pain; when my sister was in labor, I almost passed out during one of her contractions because I could see the pain on her face. Pain makes me nauseous, and when it's really bad, I start to pass out. It's the number one reason why I did not go into the medical field.

Which takes me to a similar thing that I struggle with: I'm an introvert. How is that a struggle, you ask? Because, as I am learning from Susan Cain's Quiet, our society has a preference for extroverts, so much so that it has become an expectation. If you want to get anywhere in life, you must be an extrovert! I've grown up with people not understanding me and pushing me to "come out of my shell" or "open up" or "put myself out there." In fact, one time I was fake sleeping at church camp and heard some of the older girls asking each other why I was so quiet. Um, I'm not always quiet, but I definitely prefer to sit back and observe the action when I'm in a group. I will participate on my own terms. And that is ok. But I still struggle with reminding myself that it's ok. I struggle with becoming defensive when I feel myself retreating. I struggle with offering myself compassion when I just need a break from people. I struggle with feeling like I'm a bad person because I just don't want to talk right now.

Creating this was stressful.
Polka dots and straight lines- oh my!

One last thing I struggle with: I put a lot of pressure on myself to be awesome. I don't want this blog to be a piece of crap, so I put pressure on myself to update it, make it readable, make it pleasant for me to look at. I want people to read and interact, and it's a lot of pressure. I also do it with my creativity. When I bellydance, I am so selective about what music I use because I want people to think that it was awesome. At karaoke, it is the exact same thing. Throw competition into the mix, and I'm about ready to give up (because I'm too sensitive). At both baby showers I attended this month, there were white onesies for us to decorate with fabric pens. Naturally, I want to create something awesome, so I put an immense amount of pressure on myself to do so. I was trying to be creative, so I decided to draw outfits on them, hoping that the mothers-to-be would like them. God forbid the pen bleeds or I draw a line a little bit too crookedly- I would feel like a failure. I forget that no one really cares all that much. If people are looking down on me for any of these faults, then those are people whose opinions I shouldn't even care about to begin with. I want the kind of people who cheer me on, no matter what. And most people really do just want to see you be yourself and succeed. So I need to tell little miss perfect that she can bug off and I don't need her opinions. It's just a struggle because little miss perfect is a squatter who has taken up residence in my mind.

Those are my biggest struggles at the moment. Can you relate? What are your struggles? I'm here to listen- leave me a comment below.

*Lucy has not been acting quite herself- she's afraid to go upstairs on her own, and will not jump up on the couch or bed (which is low to the ground). She hasn't eaten either. So, I'm a bit worried, still.

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Blog Love

19 May 2013
Today's post is about five of my favorite blogs and what I love about them. Er...that's a hard one. I read way more than 5 blogs. But there are 5 I have been consistently following for some time, so I will talk about those.

1. Take a Megabite. This blog is awesome. Megan writes about food, and best of all, has amazing pictures to go with her recipes. I love how super-talented she is, plus she has a cool sense of humor. I particularly enjoyed this post, in part because I am a cookie monster angel. And seriously, how can you go wrong with a post about chocolate malted brownies? You can't and that is why this blog rocks.

2. Aunt Peaches. Yet another person with a great sense of humor, and a little bit of sass. She blogs some really neat DIY and craft projects, none of which have I tried, most of which I have every intention of trying...some day. I'm one of those who aspires to be crafty, but I just can never seem to find the time. But if I had time and a ton of glue sticks/tissue paper/random baubles, I'd be resorting to this blog for the how-to.

3. The Small Things Blog. Kate is who I consult for all of my hair-related questions. What is the best hairspray? The best dry shampoo? How do I tease my hair? She knows it all, and shares it all with her readers. She is also a really sweet girl with a heart of gold. Along with her hair advise and how-tos, she has shared a bit about her journey in life, which really makes her like your virtual hairdresser. If you're not reading her, you should be. She is a fountain of knowledge.

4. Eat, Live, Run. Another girl with a heart of gold. Though hers is a food blog, she also shares about her life. My favorite posts are actually the ones where she talks about what she is reading. I love getting book recommendations from fellow bloggers, and this girl delivers the goods. Oh, and did I mention double chocolate fudge cookies? Ok, then. Easy enough.

5. 365 til 30. This one I've only been following for a short while, but it is really inspiring. My favorite feature of hers is her Project 30. She interviews awesome 30+ year olds in her life about what life is like at 30, compared to what they thought it would be in their 20s. As a 30-year-old, it really resonates with me. Hers is actually the blog that inspired me to start mine. Reading her blog really fills my soul and tells me, where you are is where you're meant to be.

There you have it, my five favorite blogs. What are yours? Do you have any recommendations? Go ahead and share in the comments- I'd love to hear from you!

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