Monday, July 11, 2016

Bucket list

I'm totally wanderlust. Everyone knows it. I can't help it. I think I was born with the need to roam. There's so much I want to do and see!

"What, specifically?" you ask. Well, lucky for you, I give you my bucket list:

Places (domestic)
All 50 states
Especially Alaska and Hawaii
Entire Pacific coast, especially Seattle
All the national parks I can possibly visit in one lifetime
Especially Yosemite and Yellowstone
Mackinac Island
Anywhere in Maine

Places (abroad)
Europe: Greece, France (again), Germany (again), Austria (again), Italy, Turkey, Russia, Iceland
Asia: Cambodia (again), India, China, Thailand, Japan, Nepal, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam
Africa/Middle East: South Africa, Kenya, Ghana, Egypt, United Arab Emirates, Israel
South America: Brazil, Chile, Peru
North America/Central America/Caribbean: Canada (BC), Mexico, Jamaica, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Cuba
Australia/New Zealand
Anywhere else I ever have the opportunity to go

Prairie dog observation with Kimmy at Devil's Tower in Wyoming
Stay at Giraffe Manor in Nairobi, Kenya
Walk the entire Appalachian Trail (not necessarily in one stretch)
Kentucky Bourbon Trail
Concert at Red Rocks
Kiss in the rain
Biltmore Estate tour (happening in less than 2 weeks!)
Run a 5K
Get a really fancy haircut
Impact another human life in a significantly profound way (because I have to throw in a super abstract one)
Buy another painting at Montmartre
Play slots at a casino
Re-learn German and eventually become fluent
Witness a child being born (not my own)

Sea urchin
Quail eggs
Kobe beef
Every tropical fruit I've never tried
Tons of varieties of pasta (preferrably in Italy)

To be continued...

Sunday, July 10, 2016

I'm a catch

My generation has severe Disney-movie syndrome.

There, I said it.

We want whirlwind romance, love that sweeps us off our feet, a soulmate, a perfect match, and effortless, everlasting bliss.

But that's not love, and that's not real.

Yet what do we do? (Girls especially.) We flail. We chase. We think that if we shine brightly enough and grab all the attention and be enough, that the perfect guy will notice us and not be able to get enough.

I'm so done with that! It's exhausting. If a man can't notice me dancing beautifully over here all by myself and simply being me, he's not the man for me.

I'm a catch, and the right man will know it. He'll be magnetized by my personality. I'll make him laugh so much. All my exuberance and over-the-top emotions and spontaneity will be right up his alley. I won't talk too much or feel too much or think too much: I'll be fine just as I am without censoring that. My depth will not intimidate him. I'll be the keeper of his secrets, fears, hopes, dreams, and every silly thought-in-passing because he'll know I'm a good listener and someone he can trust. He'll slow me down and balance me out and smooth my rough edges. We'll put in work in our love because it won't be the "happily ever after" of Disney films. It will be raw, fluid, real.

But I can't will it into existence by hooking any and every guy who could be good for me. It's so much better to be just me and not waste all that energy searching. And if that good guy doesn't exist, I won't cease being a catch. I'll be over here doing my own thing and enjoying life regardless.

Life is too, too good to waste day after day chasing after boys--or, worse, waiting to do all the things you would love to do for hope of the day that you could possibly, hypothetically have a man to do them with. Yeah, being single gets lonely, but it's so not worth it to replace that lonely with just anyone. I'd rather fill it up with all the books I've ever wanted to read. All the words I've ever wanted to pen. All the places I've ever wanted to go. All the friends I've never spent enough time with. If I'm gonna spend time chasing anything, it will be my daughter, my goals, my dreams, sunrises and sunsets, and every adventure that pops into my head.

How about more Disney princesses who are truly happy being authentically themselves, single or not? I'd love to see a generation of girls grow up with Disney heroines like that.

We're all catches, ladies. Don't ever settle.


Wednesday, July 6, 2016

An ode to Kim

For those who don't know, my older sister Kim died in a terrible car accident in 2004.

It was movie-worthy--a real-life horror/drama. My parents were out of town in San Francisco, and it was the first time they had ever left us home alone. Kevin was at our grandma Gugs's house. It happened in the middle of the night. No one knew whether to wake Kevin or not. No one knew how to breathe or think or talk. Kim's boyfriend survived and probably faces mental trauma I can't even fathom. It was a nightmare. An actual nightmare, except we were all awake and alive and forced to live through it.

It shocked us all. It rocked all of our worlds. It shook up our whole small town.

High school turned into living hell for me. Fake people stuck out like sore thumbs. Pity was on everyone's faces constantly. People walked on eggshells around me at all times.

Home turned into an empty shell with 4 human souls doing all they could day in and day out just to survive in the huge void left in Kim's absence. We didn't talk. There was absolutely no laughter. "Home" really ceased to exist, as a structure at least. Everything became upended and meaningless.

Writing was my only escape. Plucking the words from my mind and putting them to paper was my lone distraction, my one place of solitude in the midst of all that had crumbled around me. Being able to write about Kim's death is the only thing that helped me trudge through my emotions those first few years and make sense of the most nonsensical event of all time.

It took me years and years to be okay. I missed dozens (at least 3 of them) of days of school my senior year of high school, simply because I was too emotionally exhausted to pry myself out of bed those days. I have absolutely no clue how I maintained my perfect GPA through school because everything I "learned" is a blur. The Board of Education threatened me with truancy, and I wrote an essay rebuttal telling them to suck it because my survival was more important than school. No exaggeration: I was literally just trying to survive day to day. There was no concept or fact or theorem in school that held any actual, tangible meaning in my life next to the earth-shattering trauma of losing my best friend in a single instant of time.

Moving away to college helped me heal even more, but it also opened new wounds. No one in college knew my sister. There was such discomfort in that reality. When new friends asked me how many siblings I had, my new answer became: "I have 2 older half-siblings, Rachel and Cody, and a younger brother, Kevin." I could never seem to force Kim's name to roll off my tongue in that answer. Instead, I replaced her name with a lump in my throat and choked-back tears and self-loathing for undermining her memory.

I didn't feel anyone was even deserving of knowing about Kim until around my junior year of college. I remember the night I finally opened up about her life and death with my closest group of guy friends and how relieved, terrified, and emotionally spent it made me feel to talk about her. I cried myself to sleep that night, both out of relief and deep, deep sadness.

The life event that healed me the most, though, would have to be my pregnancy with Kimmy and the way my world brightened with her in it. She filled up so many little rips and tears of my heart. She may never know the depth of the impact she had on me by simply existing, but I hope to always do my best to tell her and show her through everything I do in my journey of motherhood.

Kimmy is Kim made over in so many ways--more ways than I can even articulate. And not because I need her to be Kim made over, but because she just innately is so much like her. Her bravery. Curiosity. Kindness. The things that make her laugh. Facial expressions. Angelic singing voice. Zany sense of humor. Her old soul. She is my biggest blessing.

(Kimmy is also so very like my brother, especially these past 6 months or so. I am so happy she is helping me see all the ways I ever took Kevin for granted. In so many ways, Kim's death and the time we each spent grieving robbed us of years of time as brother and sister that we can never re-claim. But I think we are finally getting in a good space and making up for it. I am the luckiest sister to have my awesome brother. For all the times I never said it: I love you, Kuh-man. We're all we've got, and I don't mind it one bit.)

Overall, I'm pretty okay these days. I have found happiness and bliss. I live authentically. I find true joy in things many people would overlook time and time again. I still think of Kim all the time, but I only catch myself crying every now and then. Usually, I laugh and smile and consider it an honor to be the keeper of her memories. We have memories as sisters that no one else can ever touch, and she fills up places in my heart that no one can ever get into.

Kim was my very best friend in the entire world, and I know she would be so proud of me.

I miss her. I miss her cackley laugh, the way she made everything challenging seem easy and natural, the way our voices fit like puzzle pieces when we sang together, her very odd and hilarious sense of humor, her brave and adventurous spirit, her strange food pairings, her wit, her incredible depth and intelligence, the way she made me strive to be the best version of myself at all times, the wacky songs she was always making up, her terrible parking skills that she always needed me to help with, her inventive solutions to problems, her ability to empathize deeply with just about anyone, her amazing artistic talents, and just the way she saw the world.

I will never forget our adventures together, especially in Midelburg and camping and at the beach. I will never forget the way it felt to speak, many times without even uttering any words, to a person who never once doubted my integrity or character or abilities and who truly got me. I will never forget our sister slumber parties on Christmas Eve or taking shifts getting ready on school days and waking each other up when it was time to switch off in the bathroom. I will never forget laughing so hard that I felt I would never be able to stop, complete with coughing fits and pee and any other type of bodily function that sometimes follows laughter. I will never forget the elevation my heart floated up to when Kim and I sang together. I will never forget Seaweed & Starfish. I will never forget crying in front of someone who never made me feel ashamed. I will never forget "helping" her clean her room (AKA reading magazines for hours while she cleaned it herself). I will never forget spelling our names so fast it was nothing but a blur of sounds. I will never forget plucking our eyebrows together and making fun of each other when we messed up. I will never forget all the weird games we invented. I will never forget her stinky morning breath that smelled like pure death to me (though it was from her albuterol inhaler). I will never forget the 50 billion times she jumped out and scared me. I will never forget her twinkly brown eyes and sneaky smirk, always concealing some wild and wonderful plan for what's next. I will never forget the feeling of "home" with Kim in it.

Today would be Kim's 29th birthday. She died when she was 16. We're nearing the time when she will have been dead longer than she was alive.

But no one can ever, ever tell me that my sister's life was short or that it was meaningless or that she didn't exist or have purpose. Kim lived more fully in her 16 years than most people can live in 100, and that's a fact. There will never be another her. No one else will ever shape me like she has.

Thank you, Kim, for being the best sister and friend I could have ever hoped for. Thank you for loving me unconditionally and always having my back. Thank you for making me me.

I love you.


Friday, July 1, 2016

Things I wish I had known (part 2 of more to come eventually)

I wish I had known years ago how to recognize my own unhappiness, and when I did recognize it, I wish I had taken myself seriously and not been so afraid to change the things that caused it.

I spent years in a loveless, lifeless relationship, feeling underappreciated, unloved, unheard, unliked, and utterly alone. Sure, it started out great. Why else would I have stayed, right? But it morphed into something I hated, but blindly tolerated because it was one of the only "stable" things in my life at that point in time.

Most of 2013 consisted of me being unemployed and caring for an infant alone. I never slept, or I always slept--you could take your pick on any given day. My daughter was the only thing that made me truly happy. I watched a lot of TV. I sat through many "you may have depression if..." commercials that listed off symptom after symptom, most of which I had, but swiftly swept under the nearest rug.

Do you know how scary it is to lose your passion for basically every single thing you ever loved to do? Because I do. It leaves you in a constant state of questioning: Who am I, really? How did I become so uninteresting? Why don't I like doing things anymore? What am I going to do with this endless stretch of time in front of me? Why can't I feel anything? Nothing feels right, and nothing feels real. I'd rather feel everything than feel nothing. They're two completely different states of "raw," but I'd much rather be the bleeding kind of raw than the cauterized kind of raw.

If I had known how happy and free my life could become, I would have struck out on my own much sooner than I did.

Now, let's flip.

Do you know how amazing it is to re-discover old passions and completely new and different ones? It's mindblowingly awesome!

I love to cook. I love traveling. Music--I love music again! I joke. I talk on the phone. I laugh my ass off! I love to run (even if I'm terrible at it and really should call it jogging with some walking mixed in). I love nature: hiking, all types of birds and trees, thunderstorms, lightning bugs, twinkling stars, sitting by a campfire and just listening to everything out in the dark. I love to be by myself and just think. I love to be in a room full of people and observe their every move--it's stunning to watch people's eyes as they think and comprehend what's around them or what they're going through. I love trying new beer. I love gardening, even if I have no clue what I'm doing. I love, love, love art. I love to paint...watercolor or acrylic, canvas or paper. I'm even starting to sing again.

Healing is a pretty cool phenomenon.

I hope to never get stuck in unhappiness again and miss the beauty that's all around me. It's a good, good life.


Just be free

I have some questions.

Where in our culture did we become so backward and messed up that we are all conditioned to rely on others for our happiness, for our validation, for our self-worth?

Why are we not instead conditioned from childhood to be freely and fully ourselves and to only settle in with someone when he/she makes us feel wholey and completely okay being our true selves?

What is the actual purpose of comprimising who you innately are just to please another human being?

Why is one-on-one companionship the ultimate goal of society as a whole; is it not better to have a firm sense of self and a handful of the best friends you could ever hope to have?

What if fixing yourself first is the key to being companion-able in the first place?

What if you're single fo' life--are you happy with who you are as a person right here and now? Can you actually function on your own? Because you might be all you've got.


The older I get, the more comfortable I feel in my own skin. There is no feeling like it.

I go to bed happy at night. I wake up happy in the morning. I wear the most comfortable clothes ever that make me feel so utterly good inside and out. "Good morning, self. Don't feel like wearing make-up today? Great! I think I won't!"

I listen to the music I want. I cook meals I want and try foods I want to try. I laugh when something strikes me funny. I spend time reading about things I'm interested in. I spend time talking to family and friends. If I have a travel destination on the brain, I find a way to make it happen.

Am I self-centered? No way. I care about others so much, but, historically, it's been at the expense of me. Since I've started making sure my own person is cared for, I have felt so truly free. Free from others' opinions and advice. Free from societal pressures. Free from fear.

Because who cares what type of boundaries other people have for my life? I literally do not care. I lie my head down on my pillow at night bound to my own voice of conscience inside my head, not anyone else's. I am my own stakeholder: the sole proprietor of my headspace.

And I would never want to be with someone who is not exactly as happy being himself as I am being myself. While I'm over here living my life to the fullest, I know the things I'm doing are the things that will shape me that I can share with someone someday if the universe sees fit.

Que sera, sera.

More later,