Reflections // Welcome, New Year

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Sometimes, if I’m honest, all the movement makes me dizzy. The on-the-go aspects of my lifestyle lead me to feel frazzled, unsettled, disconnected and wondering what I’m missing, having not pursued a more rooted, stationary path.

But then, other times—most of the time, thankfully—it makes me feel lucky, wowed, inspired, alive.

This year followed a few unexpected themes like Scandinavia (Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland…I love them all!) and glaciers (climbing around inside of one and sleeping at the base of one—alongside frolicking mountain goats—in the awesome Cascade Mountains).

My work peaked, then plateaued, freaking me out and making me question. (Five years in, it’s a cycle that’s prone to repeat, this I should know.) Then, again, toward the end of the year—it picked up yet again with exciting opportunities on the horizon for 2017, reminding me to have faith in this unconventional route I’ve chosen to somewhat blindly, yet intuitively, walk along.

I saw my family tons, which makes me exuberantly happy and fortunate-feeling, and I reunited with friends in all corners of our country (and European hot spots, too). My travel roundup is nearly embarrassing to list, but something I am working on simply appreciating and taking credit for, instead of feeling the need to justify or excuse away… (In North America alone, there were trips to: Chicago, DC, Hawaii’s Big Island, Vancouver Island, Wenatchee, the Tri-Cities, Austin, Denver, San Diego, Osoyoos, British Colombia and so on.)

I saw some live music that moved me to the core—most recently, a broody Gill Landry on a local neighborhood stage … this summer, a gracious and genius Swede named Daniel Norgren, who poured every ounce of his soul and voice into the magical canopy of trees towering above my favorite Pickathon stage. Some other surprisingly special 2016 concert experiences included Joseph, I Draw Slow, Good Old War, Half Moon Run, Cobi, Blind Pilot, The Augustines, Third Eye Blind, Death Cab for Cutie, The Head and the Heart and—the biggest shocker of all—STYX.

Things changed, relationships shifted. Some remained as steadfastly solid as always, others strengthened in beautiful ways, and a few petered out in natural evolution. I feared some changes that never came; I felt the effects of other transitions more deeply than I may have expected. I worked hard to cultivate a stronger sense of “home,” I discovered the cleansing practice of hot yoga (which I always assumed I’d hate), and I tried to delve deeper into inflammatory flareups my body tends to suffer from more often than I’d like.

I celebrated several friends’ amazing accomplishments and exciting milestones, dancing and dining and wining the nights away, as we remembered what life’s really, truly all about. (When the comparison game snuck in, as it’s wont to do, I assessed ways I moved along with them and worried about parts of my life that make me feel “stuck.”) I continued to love the city I call home, and I challenged myself on a couple nature adventures that were hard, dirty and really, really cool.

I saw bears, marmots, sea lions, orcas and a nasty brown house spider I won’t soon forget. I failed miserably at squashing certain patterns etched in my psyche, while I made strides with other habits, reflex reactions and communication modes that I simply feel it’s time to drop.

In November, in light of the election I cannot yet discuss, I felt despair like I’ve rarely known—flattened by such deep-seated shame, embarrassment, confusion and sadness over a catastrophic decision that somehow (HOW? WHY?) sends the message that racism, sexism and disrespect of our fellow humans is blatantly OK.

I still don’t understand it, and I’ve had to work very hard to quiet the anxiety of what this all means … to believe that good and light can still triumph over an undercurrent of evil we’ve somehow given the go-ahead to surface and seep. During this disheartening, regressive period of history, I have felt so grateful to live in an evergreen-dotted bubble, where I’m surrounded by like-minded people, and I continue to seek out folks who champion the causes, mentalities and ways of life that I, too, admire and hold close.

All in all, it’s been a really, really good and blessed year, capped off by one of my most favorite Christmases on record. It took place in my parents’ cozy house on a hygge-tinged suburban street. We flew, trained and drove in from London, Seattle and Ohio, filling that welcoming home to the brim with laughter, cookies, games, movies, twinkly lights and easy conversations decidedly more adult and reciprocal than ones we might have had just a few years back. We downed mug after mug of daytime tea, and sipped on cider and wine as we gathered in the family room each evening, smashing together on a chock-a-block couch, to bask in the glow of a festive tree.

On my last night in the house before flying back to Seattle, I couldn’t sleep. I replayed the events of the visit over and over in my mind, feeling positively overwhelmed by the friends and family I get to call my own (and feeling that aching twinge I experience every single time we have to part ways). I full-well know that these highs don’t last forever—and that life ebbs and flows in ways we cannot control—so I increasingly take care to sit in the waves of gratitude when I feel them rushing in at speeds I cannot slow.

I am so thankful for all I’ve experienced, learned and felt this past year—even the times I’ve picked myself up when feeling low, combatted a loneliness that threatened to drown and trudged on through periods of scary unknown, working hard to maintain a blind faith that it’s all unfolding as it absolutely should.

I hope to write more in the New Year—a passion I’ve let somewhat slip into the cracks—and in the meantime, I wish you and yours the peace of letting go of the past, looking forward to the future and sinking whole-heartedly, attentively and appreciatively into the delicious, awe-inspiring present.

Happy 2017, friends. Let’s make it a great one. xo

Life, Here + Now

I keep talking about it “being summer,” which is a bit bonkers considering it’s still early May. (The wee panting kiddo we passed on yesterday’s trail wearing a “Happy 4th of July” tee certainly did not help my confusion either…)

But we’ve been blessed with some brilliant sunshine and warmth here in the PNW this May (after a sog-gy winter), so I’m embracing the seasonal preview as best I can.

This spring has felt a bit tough in several ways…
So many people I know are going through periods of transition and stretches of unknown. And me? I’ve been on the move a lot…often feeling unsteady, ungrounded. Yes, some great things/trips/events have happened, but throughout it all, I’ve been unable to shake this sporadic sense of malaise, no doubt triggered by the revisitation of resurfacing *muck* that clearly seeks my attention. (Hi there…yes, I see you…)

While coming up with gratitude lists hasn’t felt tempting or fun as of late (though believe me, I KNOW I’m so lucky in so many ways, of course I do…), it feels better right now to look ahead to things that make me feel hopeful about what lies ahead.

This summer, I want to:

~Spend a lot of time in nature. Hiking, camping, biking, kayking, stargazing. Picnics on beaches, beers + guitar strums by campfires.

~Secure story assignments that inspire me. Find work that fulfills me creatively and points me toward interesting topics and passionate people.

~Spend as much time possible with bare feet, lake hair, toned arms, a strong core, a carefree ‘tude.

~Reconnect with family and friends near and far. More FaceTime, more hand-written notes, more visitors (hint:))

~Drop. The. FOMO. Be happy with where I am, here + now.

~Practice self-care. Mountains, oodles, mounds of self-care.

~Music music music. Listen to it. See it. Feel it.

~Try new things. Get out of my routine. Challenge myself. Push beyond the comfortable. Seek new connections.

~Only devote time and energy to those who reciprocate. Full stop. No exceptions. {To those willing to practice honest, open, raw vulnerability, too.}

~Heed the whisperings. Listen to my gut, listen to my gut, listen to my gut.

~Ban the pity party. I can drop in for a quick hello (maybe, if the moment warrants), but I cannot/will not accept the invitation to stay.

~Release the “stories.” Laugh more. Find the lightness.

~Trust the journey. Even when it feels hard.

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Welcome, Year!

I love when my birthday falls in the calendar year.
I love its ring: 3/3.
I love that it lands in the midst of a blah-ish stretch, yet on the cusp of a new, hopeful season.
I love that it arrives when winter’s felt long, and the blossoming of spring finally feels within reach.

I love that it comes just when I (and others) seem to need a bit of a boost, and this year—even more than usual—I felt absolutely showered by and immersed in love.

I am so lucky, I am so thankful, and I can’t wait to see what goodness this year has in store.

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Hello/Goodbye 2015/2016

I absolutely love end-of-the-year recaps. I enjoy reading what people learned, what they listened to, what they loathed, what they loved.

I always feel great pressure to create my own Year in Review, not because it’s a pesky “should” I feel obligated to complete, but because I think it’s a valuable exercise—a great (and rather fun) excuse for pausing, assessing and celebrating, too.

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This year for me was CHOCK-full of travel. My freelance career took off in newfound directions, for the first time (in a long time) making me feel blessedly unworried about money. I met wonderful people, reaffirmed exquisite, can’t-be-captured-in words bonds with family members and lifelong friends, went to two of the most fun weddings I’ve ever been to, delved even deeper into my yoga practice, got really good use at using Viber and FaceTime audio (hi, fam!), had sweet reunions galore in sun-kissed climates and carefree settings, welcomed fun, go-with-the-flow visitors to my welcoming PNW city, consoled friends in moments of heartache and loss and then this spring said goodbye to my sweet, funny, wonderful grandfather (my last living grandparent).

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I met friends’ cuddlebug babies and bonded with new favorite wee ones and watched some relationships quietly soar to exhilarating heights, while others quietly slipped into the backdrop. I dealt with great disappointments—the pendulum eventually swinging back (as it always does), launching me into smooth periods where it all seemed to perfectly click into place like a well-oiled machine–moments where I wanted to confidently shout, “I’ve got this!” I let out huge gasps of relief when hearing others’ positive health reports; I prayed (and continue to pray) for those still waiting for the tides to turn and for that good news to (please, please, please) roll in.

I used my passport several times (yeeha!), and packed/unpacked my suitcase more times than I care to count. I dipped into the world of glamping by sleeping in a fancy fabric tent and a cozy vintage trailer, I propelled myself down ziplines, and I hovered in a helicopter high above the rainbow-dotted cliffs of the Napali Coast, a couple-minute stretch of magic emblazoned in my memory bank forever. I went on my first international press trip (a huge personal goal) and had several inspirational travel moments—*those* moments, you know the type—that remind me why it is exactly that I continue to do what I do.

Many times, but especially this November, I felt terrified by our world…petrified by the potential evil lurking within the human race.
Then, I felt in absolute awe of our world…uplifted by the potential for love and kindness and triumphal goodness, plus the resiliency of the human spirit.

I had high highs and low lows, euphoric epiphanies and epic meltdowns. I felt utterly alone; I felt fantastically loved and supported. I leaned on the loyal pillars who hold me up when I falter; I listened more intently to that inner voice that alway seems to *know* when I allow it be heard.

For the first time, I went to Memphis, Nashville and Oxford, Mississippi, Hawaii (incredible Kauai), Spain (delicious San Sebastian!) and Costa Rica (Pura Vida). I returned to Austin, San Diego, Whistler and lovely London (seen through a brand-new, local-living lens). I saw new parts of awesome Oregon and the stunning Olympic National Park, and I watched concerts beside beach bonfires and under Happy Valley’s tranquil forest canopy — mystical musical moments that feed my soul in a way I cannot sufficiently record on this page.

I learned a lot and also remembered a lot that I already knew. I am still navigating my way through some decades-old patterns and “stuff,” as we always will/should be I’m finding, and it’s abundantly clear that the journey continues. I am staying curious and non-judgmental, and old stories are slowly chipping away.

For now, though, here are some pearls I know to be true. (More than anything, I write these down as a future reminder to myself.)

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~The bad doesn’t last. Neither does the good. It’s all fleeting. Savor, relish, but don’t cling. It’s all fluid, ever-changing.

That is the bad news. But this happens to be the very, very good news, too.

~Gratitude changes everything.

~ “You can never go wrong doing something nice for someone.” Mom knows best:)

~There are few places more magical on the planet then a Pacific Northwest beach or lake on a radiant, pastel-tinged summer evening.

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~Music makes life better, always.

~As a dear Seattle friend says, you have to follow the “POP.” If it makes you smile, if it puts that pitter-patter in your chest, if it feels right, do it. There doesn’t have to be a logical “why.” If your gut moves you in that direction, by all means, FOLLOW.

~If you’re not sure, sit on it. Silence and space are wondrous tools. Don’t react rashly; step away, wait, view it from a new angle in the morning.

~It’s not personal. Don’t make it about you.

~As humans, we are often terrible predictors of our own emotions. It is silly to preemptively dread a feeling or reaction I am convinced I will have. My emotions are not always logical, and they are certainly not always predictable, but they are what they are. So why waste the time assuming I know? Why not just wait and see? (Heck, perhaps I’ll even surprise myself. In fact, I find that I often do.)

~I am brave. (We are all brave, in ways we forget to acknowledge.) I may be an absolute baby when it comes to doing certain “adult” tasks (ahem car maintenance and calling Comcast), but I am stronger than I often give myself credit for. I went to Pickathon alone (again). I drove with my cousin and her four kids from Chicago to Virginia (again). I spoke some public words at my grandfather’s memorial service. I’ve been self-employed for 4+ years. (Perhaps bravery meets naivety with this one…but I’m going with it:)) I’ve traveled alone to locations near and far (nothing new for me by any means, but a nice reminder that that—a defining characteristic of who I am and who I want to be—is still embedded within me. The adventurous spirit of curiosity burns bright).

~The only constant thing in life is change. I am slowly processing some Seattle goodbye(s?) I’ll have to say in 2016, and while it guts me to the core to even admit of their imminent arrival, it soothes me to know that I’ve done it before, and that—in time— I/we will adjust, adapt, recalibrate. No, it won’t ever be exactly the same, and yes, that makes me really sad. But it is what it is, and when we fight it, we suffer. We must flow with the currents, ride the waves, trust trust trust & simply carry on.

~I can be my own worst enemy. But I can also be my own best champion. In 2016, I want to (continue to) work on championing myself—being big and bold and getting out of my own way a whole heckofalot more.

What do you wish for your 2016?

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Thank you, 2015, for your ups and downs. For your predictabilities, your consistencies and your wild surprises, too. For your many miles, scattered longitudes and latitudes, your countless planes, trains and automobiles that led me to stunning landscapes around our beautiful world. For the people who continuously enrich my life and so often make me feel like the luckiest lass alive.

Bring it on, 2016. I am so excited to see what you have in store.

On the Road Again: Costa Rica

On night one, I sat in the sterile-meets-snazzy hotel restaurant, knowing it was entirely too posh and AC’ed and buttoned-up for the country I was about to see, but feeling perfectly OK to hover in that comfortable safety zone before launching into the week ahead. I peered around expectantly (and excitedly!) in the restaurant and lobby, hoping to find someone..anyone..from my group, but alas, I navigated that first night alone (probably just fine, considering the exhaustion headache pressing on my temples).

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So instead I dove into my smartphone’s WiFi, ordered the grilled veggie panini—all in English (cringeworthy, in hindsight)—acutely aware of and nearly embarrassed by how “American” (North American, I should say) I knew I appeared during that first evening of the trip.

But I cut myself slack, easing back into what it means and what it feels like to be alone far from home, in a land that is so foreign (and so not Europe, which practically doesn’t feel foreign to me much of the time). And I gave myself permission to enjoy the cookie-cutter accommodations—removed from the humid buzz of real Costa Rican life outside—tiredly, deliriously, disoriented-ly indulging in the comfy bed, real water pressure, cable TV and properly flushing toilet. Even a slice of (something?) cake greeting me on my desk.

Sometimes it’s OK to hover in that familiar zone, I think, before we take the step out into the unknown. Steadying ourselves for the rich, full, multi-tired, multi-emotional experiences that are to come.

Places change us, thank goodness, and before long we become temporarily immersed in their tapestry, their rhythms, their unique cadences. (As I type this, I hear the accented English of Freddy and Diego swirling in my head.) And we come to realize that we can never get back to those night #1s in which we felt tentative and vulnerable and unsure—which really, looking back, is a very sweet and beautiful place to be.

We returned to this same San Jose hotel on our last night, and it looked entirely different to me after a week of experiencing this land of friendly “ticos,” a week I am still processing, because—like all travel—it had many highs and a couple lows.

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Yet I know for sure that the following are key buzzwords from the cumulative experience:

*COLORS, zip line, crocodile safari, sweat, butterflies, monkeys, clouds, city traffic, beach sunsets, rice and beans, fresh fruit juices, surfer man buns, patience, impatience, WiFi, anxiety, tranquility, car time, motion sickness, potholes, flora, bugs, vultures, language lessons, “mai,” tile floors, open walls, lazy fans, roaming chickens, plastic furniture, scamping iguanas, plantains, brilliantly-hued birds, macaws, dodgy AC units, spitting shower faucets, heavy humidity, “sodas,” cumbia, laughter, “cafecitos,” Paris terrorist attack {fear, horror, sadness, heavy-hearted, gut-punched, surreal}, futbol match, garlic “shrimps,” note-taking, “pipa,” Pilsen, miscommunications, camaraderie, “Ole, ole, ole…ticos, ticos!,”storytelling, community,“muchas gracias,” goodbyes, “Pura Vida!”*

Costa Rica reminded me so much of Kauai, Cambodia and countless other destinations, plus allll my time spent in incredible, alive SudAmerica, an era that sometimes slips from my consciousness as time marches on. I am so grateful for explorations that remind me of long-forgotten journeys and inspire me for adventures to come. It is a vast and wondrous world indeed, and I feel forever fortunate to venture beyond my own little corner.

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Welcome, Grateful November

For whatever reason, I am bursting with heightened emotions today, my senses feeling highly piqued and everything feeling especially vibrant & intense (touch wood, in a good way). I don’t know whether I’m riding a post-trip high or a post-concert high or a pre-OTHER-trip (yes, another one!) high, but I know full well that this ain’t gonna stick around forever (heck, it could have flitted away by the time I press “publish”)… So I’m gonna go ahead and ride it out while I can, acutely thankful when periods like this decide to pass on through.

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I love this month leading up to the holidays (with so much talk of “November gratitude” and much-anticipated reunions on the horizon), and I’m currently finding the early-evening, wintry-hued skies cozy and contemplative versus dark and depressing. (Again, we’ll see how long this lasts, so just bear with me please:))

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I’ve started about a bajillion other mini-posts about amazing adventures and epiphanies and assorted thoughts I’ve had over recent months (I can’t keep up!), but for tonight, I’m just gonna post this photo love and soak up some ambient KEXP tunes, as I plug away on several more deadlines that are quickly approaching (a peril of self-employment and my recent self-granted vacation).

I mention this not to complain—it was 1,000% worth it—but rather to say that are often periods of hard work and long hours, and my life is far from an endless session of carefree gallivanting and fun. (I don’t know who I’m justifying this to, and who knew this would sneak out right now, but I admit I’ve bristled the few times I’ve heard comments like, “Your life is one big vacation!”)  Like everything, it’s a balance, and one I’m recently—finally—feeling pretty darn good about.

Happy November, friends. Let’s make it a great one.

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Happy Birthday, Grandpa Buggs

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Today is my grandpa’s birthday, the first one since he passed on in June. It’s so odd, such an ache, to not have that phone call to make to Binghamton today, and I know my dad is feeling that void most of all:( I feel as though I should be honoring the day in some special way, and yet I don’t quite know how. (What would even feel close to sufficient?)

So for now I want to share this precious photo of my grandpa (with my dad), a man who taught me so much about what it means to be gentle and kind, hard-working and humble. He always knew how to share a good belly laugh, and he often had an alluring twinkle in those electric blue eyes. He didn’t need much; he seemed to enjoy the simple things (his morning coffee with his neighbors, his afternoon sits under his beloved front-yard tree). There is so much to be learned from him and the way he lived. In some ways, we could relate on so few things (we led very different lives), and yet we shared a bond so very special. I am so grateful to have had a grandparent well into adulthood. I suppose this is the true gift to focus on.

Happy birthday, Grandpa. We miss and love you so much!

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