Hippie Hair.

Last week, I chopped my hair off.

When I was eight years-old, my mom made me cut off my long hair. She was tired of me screaming in pain when she tried to comb through my incredibly thick long hair. (As an adult, I totally understand my mom’s position on this, as the dread associated with combing my hair resulted in the stretching of days between hair washings from three to four to sometimes five days.) I cried in the chair while the poor hairdresser did what the person paying her told her to do, and then spent hours moping and crying in my room when I got home. (Then, THEN, the next day, my 3rd grade teacher started the day by saying, “Awwww, what happened to your hair?” and making a sad face. That was SUPER helpful.) Ironically? I ended up really liking it, and eventually abashedly admitted this fact to my mom and apologized to the sweet hairdresser. This incident taught me some of the facts of life: Nothing – including the length of your hair – is permanent. And that’s okay because sometimes change brings new beauty.

Since then, I’ve gone back and forth between short and long hair, with a bias toward the long hair (because it just takes so long to grow long hair; once it’s long, I want to enjoy it for a minute…or a couple of years). But, I think that this is the longest time period that I’ve had my hair long in my life. Danny liked it long, and once I got to California, I immediately developed an affinity for the long “California girl” hair, and I liked that people could recognize that I was a “hippie” – and all the socio-political views that being a “hippie” entails – just from my hair. Over time, I grew attached to that image.

🎶…We don’t want to live like kooks

Just want to live in-between

Not square, not hippie, and not like you

Good American kids with dreams…🎵

When I told my friend, Amber, that I wanted to cut my hair because I was “too attached” to it, and wanted to – literally – cut the attachment, she laughed and said something like, “So you want to cut your hair because you like it too much?” Yes, yes, I do.

But it’s also deeper than that. (Not much deeper because, we are still talking about hair.) In my dabblings into Buddhism, I’ve re-learned about impermanence. Almost nothing in this Life is permanent. Relationships change and grow; people and plants and pets die; jobs don’t last; resources get depleted; objects break; we move; we create new people; managers retire; the atmosphere is affected by humans’ short-sighted use of fossil fuels; trees fall down or burn up. Everything changes. And our human denial of that simple fact – our attachment to things staying the way they are, particularly when things are pleasant – creates a lot of unnecessary suffering. We do our best to keep things the way we want them, and then we feel sad / betrayed / lost / angry / unsettled when they change anyway.

In Al-Anon, too, we learn about the dangers of attachment – to people, to outcomes, to places, to all the things that we have no control over. At the beginning of every meeting, we recite The Serenity Prayer: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” And you know what? Most of the time, the “things I can” change boil down to my perspective and my own behavior. That’s about it.

And so, what I’m saying is, cutting off my hair was actually a deeply symbolic gesture of my cutting off attachment. Of my detachment. Of my acceptance that nothing is permanent, and that does not have to be scary or bad. Of my realizing how ridiculous being attached to “hippie hair” is, which is actually just an attachment to – or an attempt to control – how other people see me.

Or, you know, it was just a freaking haircut.

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Painting.

You may remember about a year ago when I did this painting workshop thing at work, and – surprisingly – really liked it. The painting, the ambiance in the room, the break from work, the low pressure emphasis all made the experience really enjoyable. We drew ourselves, and then created a “self-care” plan. My mother, being the adorable and incredibly supportive person that she is, took the iphone picture that I sent her of my creation, blew it up, and framed it. It’s now sitting in their dining room.

Since then, I’ve talked often about wanting to paint again. Every time I went into the art store downtown, I wished that I was an artist, so that I’d have a reason to shop in that store more. (I only went in for fancy pens and their killer card selection.) I had priced out easels and paints – I even had a wishlist on Amazon entitled “The Arts” – but could not quite bring myself to pull the trigger on something that I didn’t know if I’d really use and, frankly, felt kind of silly buying. Because I don’t know how to paint.

But when my parents asked for ideas for birthday gifts for me this year, I decided to add the easel, some watercolors, brushes, and paper to my potential gift list, and I was overwhelmed with their generosity when they got me nearly everything on the list.

I set up the easel last weekend and loved looking at it. I took pictures and sent them to my friends, confidently saying, “My parents got me an easel for my birthday, so… I guess I’m going to learn to paint.” I am moving next month – into the house one of my friend’s lives in – and told everyone that I was going to set up a painting corner in my huge bedroom. I started looking up painting classes in Santa Cruz. I was going to be a painter!

…Except that I was scared to actually try the painting. Those painting classes came with intimidatingly long lists of materials that I didn’t totally understand. And there are acrylics, and watercolors, and oil paints, and I have only the vaguest idea of the difference between those mediums. And… I don’t know how to paint.

Then, I found myself full of free time this afternoon, and the easel kept looking at me. I couldn’t, though. What would I paint? I don’t know how to paint. And then I remembered what Elizabeth Gilbert taught us when she decided to try writing poetry. She didn’t know how to write poetry. But she wrote a poem anyway and reported, “It wasn’t a great poem, but nobody died from it.” So I remember Liz, and then I thought, “Well, maybe I could try painting, and even if it isn’t great, nobody will die, probably.”

And so I put on a mix of Jaymay, First Aid Kit, and Phish as background music, and I painted today. Because I didn’t really know what to paint, I went back to what we learned in that workshop. I drew a picture of my face, and a bunch of self-care things around my head. And then I painted my drawing.

🎶…Truth that starts as understanding finds you in the night

The circles all around the ceiling, a frightened bird in flight

After spending hours beneath it, everything comes clear

Truth will pose no danger to you, what haunts you both is fear

And if this darkness came from light

Then light can come from darkness, I guess…🎵

It’s not great. The pens that I used to draw did not respond well to water and bled all over the place. [I think that we used a Sharpie in the workshop; I’m going to email the facilitator on Monday to confirm.] But, nobody died. Nobody died at all! AND, I actually had fun! Like, I really want to do it again. I want to get some Sharpies and draw more things and then paint them. And I want to tackle the intimidating materials list and take one of those damn art classes. As it turns out, it doesn’t freaking matter if I don’t know how to paint (or draw, for that matter) because it’s fun anyway!

And, I mean, of course it’s fun. Painting was fun when we were kids. Kids love painting. Kids love doing a lot of things that adults don’t because kids have not yet learned to be afraid of failure. I love listening to my three year-old niece sing with gusto and watching my friend’s three year-old dance with abandon; it’s like watching freedom. Little children have not yet learned to feel insecure or embarrassed or afraid of looking silly or wrong or like they don’t know what they’re doing. Kids are just doing the damn thing. They know that nobody is going to die. They don’t even know to consider that anyone might die.

I have friends – mostly internet friends from my Bullet Journal groups – who, instead of making resolutions, choose a word to embody what they want for that year, and then they do things related to that word for the year. I think that it’s a cute idea, but have never done it. But then, earlier this week – probably around the arrival of the easel – I couldn’t get the word create out of my head. I want to create paintings. I want to create essays. I want to create new friendships. I want to create progress at work. I want to create boundaries with unhealthy or toxic people. I want to create the life that I want to be living. Because I can. We don’t have control over many things in Life – that’s part of the adventure – but we do have control over what we do and who we spend time with and the perspective that we choose in our daily lives. I can create a life that I love living.

And that life is going to include painting, apparently.

👩🏻‍🎨

———————————————————-

[I need to add a disclaimer here that I am exceptionally privileged. Having the resources to buy these supplies (or parents with the resources to buy these supplies for me) is privilege. Not having to work a second job on the weekends to make ends meet is privilege. Having access to these supplies is privilege. Having the time and energy to spend painting – as opposed to say, fighting for survival in a war-torn, food-impoverished area of the world – is privilege. Having a home is privilege. Having an extremely comfortable life is privilege, and one that makes my everyday perspective a helluva lot easier to keep positive.]

Thirty-three.

I am turning thirty-three tomorrow.* When I write out “thirty-three,” I realize that I’ve lived three decades plus three years, and that seems older than I feel in my head.

I know plenty of people that are super reflective on their birthdays. I remember having a conversation with Brother on one of his last three birthdays (30, 29, 28), in which he shared that he expected to have accomplished far more by that age. I was equally amused and confused; my Brother is fairly accomplished and, by some standard measures, much more so than his two-years-older sister.

I want to be reflective on my birthday, but I’m generally working too hard at insisting that it’s just an average Tuesday and age doesn’t mean a thing to entertain any kind of introspection. But as I was walking by the ocean at sunset, I was overwhelmed with gratitude and joy (sunsets and oceans almost always have that effect), and had the desire to give some reflection a try.

Last year on my birthday, I was, to some degree, suffering. Danny and I weren’t in a great place, but I wasn’t telling anyone that, and so I spent the day happy and incredibly grateful for my friends and for Danny’s efforts to make it a good day despite everything, but also alone. Nobody knew what was happening in my head or what was really going on in my life, and I wanted it that way, but it was lonely. Loneliness is the cost of valuing image more than authenticity, of valuing what things look like instead of the beautiful humanity of how things are. I didn’t even know that I was lonely.

This year, I am alone, physically, in my apartment, and I think that this will be the first year that I’ve ever spent a birthday sleeping alone in my home. Am I where I thought that I would be when I was thirty-three? If I really focus on what my younger self imagined for my 30s, I can vaguely remember thinking that I would probably have a Ph.D. by now and be ready to start having kids. My mom had me – her first kid – when she was thirty-three.

But as I try to remember what I imagined for thirty-three when I was younger, I realize how irrelevant it is. What difference does it make what my eighteen year-old self thought thirty-three looked like? I mean, seriously: What did she even know about how this whole life thing works? [It’s worth noting, too, that my eighteen year-old self rebelled hard against the idea that her life would be linear and neat and square and just like The Jones. And when my twenty-two year-old self got into her dream graduate school, she literally cried on the phone with her then-boyfriend, telling him about her secret fear that everything in her life was lining up too neatly and that she was going to wake up when she was forty with a white picket fence and two kids and realize she had given in to the mainstream. So, really, if my eighteen year-old self had been introspective back then, she might have realized that that version of what thirty-three looks like wasn’t even something that she wanted.]

Some better questions, I think, are Am I where my thirty-three year-old, present day self wants to be, doing what I want to do, with the people I want in my life? Am I content? Am I striving to live in accordance with my values? The answer to all of these is an easy yes. My life now is filled in ways that I could not have predicted when I was eighteen because I didn’t even know these options existed. I didn’t know that I could choose joy, by most of the time doing things that I love with people that I love. I didn’t know that I could choose gratitude, by seeing around the horror and disbelief at our country’s elected method to execute our inevitable fall from World Superpower, to the people rushing in to help, and by going outside often enough to love my neighbors and smell the roses. I didn’t know that I could choose my own god damn worthiness. I can scarcely believe how long I have spent hustling, in a million different ways, for my worth. This is the year I learned that I can literally choose how I want to live and how I want to see the world and this life and myself each day.

I learned a lot of things in the last year, actually. I think that is a natural byproduct of change, or of life not going as planned or anticipated. And I am so deeply good with that. The thing is, Life didn’t promise me anything, other than maybe an adventure. There are no guarantees that it will be easy – in fact, if anything, Life is pretty much guaranteed to have hard parts – and I’m starting to suspect that maybe that’s part of the actual plan, a plan that is much bigger than anything that I could come up with on my own. Who knows?

What I do know is that I am exceedingly grateful to be getting older (as I am fond of saying: It’s certainly better than the alternative), to be garnering wisdom, to be becoming more myself, to be getting healthier and more joyful and freer, to be living where my feet are. Thirty-three looks pretty damn good from right here.

*I wrote this last night. So, I’m actually turning thirty-three today.

Community. 

When I first moved away from the tri-state area, to Colorado, I remember my mom telling me that it takes about two years of living somewhere to start to feel settled there. That’s about how long it takes to get to know the city, make some real friends, find your favorite coffee shop and bookstore, and figure out where you fit in with what the city has to offer. In other words, two years is how long it takes to start feeling a sense of community. This timeframe has proven true in all three cities that I’ve lived in since I graduated. The flaw in the plan is that I left both Fort Collins and Austin soon after I hit that mark. 

Because of Santa Cruz’s culture, I made friends and felt like the city was a fit from the get-go. After all, I chose to live here; CO and TX were both a result of Adam’s job and – while I was not opposed to living in either, very much enjoyed both, and remain grateful for the time that I spent there – they were not places that I would’ve thought of living had Intel not been located there. Santa Cruz is the first place that I’ve lived that I decided that I wanted to live in, and went about making that happen. 
That being said, I’ve now been living here for about two and a half years, and I found myself telling my parents during our Skype date last week about just how settled I feel here, and how much I love the different communities that I’ve found. 

I almost never impulsively buy anything, but after looking at this poster 27 times in a week, I bought it. I love The National (band), and love these lyrics. And Facebook kept showing it to me over and over again! 😝


Last Friday night was a really special night for me at Al-Anon. A friend of mine that currently leads the Friday night meeting texted me on Thursday afternoon to ask me to “chair” that meeting. Which basically means that you share a bit of your own story – what brought you to Al-Anon, what you are learning, where you’re at now – for about 15 minutes in the beginning of the meeting; and then, for the rest of meeting, most of the people who “share” talk about the parts of your story that they related to. 
I was nervous. While I am pretty comfortable with public speaking and have been giving educational presentations to various community agencies throughout my career, publicly speaking about myself makes me feel a bit more vulnerable. 😬 But I’ve been trying to practice this concept that I learned from either Brené Brown or Glennon (or both) about changing the thing that you value from “doing things well/perfectly/right” to “courage.” That way, all that you have to do to “succeed” is show up. It doesn’t matter what happens after that; if you fumble for words or fall on your face, you had the courage to show up and that’s all that matters. 

This is a card that I got for Danny at The Flying Pig (in Wisconsin) in 2013. I still love it.


So, I showed up. And wore my favorite rainbow tie-dye dress for confidence (and distraction). Glennon has written before about sweating profusely when she’s nervous or gives public speeches, but I always thought she was being a tiny bit dramatic. I thought wrong. She gives speeches to hundreds (maybe thousands?) of people, and I gave mine to a group of about ten, and, literally, my entire body was covered in sweat by the time I finished talking. And I didn’t stop sweating until about 35 minutes after. 

BUT, I did it. And people told me that they liked it. One of my girlfriends told me that they felt like I was giving a presentation, like a TED talk. It was all very flattering and self-esteem boosting. AND, the best part was that, afterwards, this woman who is about my age, that I’ve been inspired by since I started going to Al-Anon, that I had actually hoped would be there that night to see my chair, came to talk to me about being my sponsor. Like AA/NA, the Al-Anon program also includes sponsorship and “working the [12] steps,” and I’ve been thinking more seriously about getting a sponsor for the past few months. And I’ve been thinking that it should be this woman! So, that was pretty amazing. She is not officially my sponsor yet; I have to call her every day for thirty days to check-in, which is mainly to demonstrate a level of commitment to the process and for us to get to know each other better. 

I really enjoyed this garden. The picture doesn’t do its beauty justice.


[Another great part of that night was simply hanging out with some of my girlfriends. One of my friends and I stayed and talked for over an hour after the meeting. Al-Anon has gotten a lot more fun for me since A) There are more young peoples, and B) I started talking to them. Now, going to meetings is becoming synonymous with going to hang out with my friends.] 

I also have my work friends, who are some of my favorite people in the world, and my Buddhist group friends, who are incredibly lovely and full of wisdom. I have coworkers that I am friendly with, and whom I really respect and enjoy working alongside every day. I have a job that I really love and feel passionate about, that has great benefits [OMG. The benefits. We had a mini presentation about them this week, after which I turned to my friend that has a three year-old daughter and said, “Well, I guess that I’m going to watch K grow up and have kids because I’m clearly retiring from here.’], and that I am feeling more and more confident at doing everyday. I have my favorite hiking spots, and am always finding more; I have my favorite bookstore, thrift store, grocery, farmer’s market, float center, and coffee shop; I know the differences between all the beach spots and neighborhoods, and I know when and where the traffic will be the worst. And there’s so much more to explore and try and learn. I love this city that I call home, and the community that I have found within it. 

Other wonderful and fun things that have happened lately: 

Rooms had her baby!!! ❤️ Much like during weddings, I found myself sobbing when I received the first picture of the miracle baby for reasons that I didn’t understand. I cannot wait to meet her – and to see the sisters together 👭 in September. 

Danny and I saw the band, Portugal. The Man., at the Greek Theater in Berkeley. [And I didn’t take a SINGLE DAMN PICTURE.] It was a beautiful, outdoor, amphitheatre with no bad seats. Not that we were sitting. Danny and I share the belief that the best way to enjoy live music is to dance our little hearts out. We had a blast. 

I got a ticket for rolling through a stop sign back in March – my first ticket in years! And it wasn’t for speeding! – and I argued the ticket, and won! Woot woot!! 🤗


The next day, I was a bit tired from the concert, and ended up watching The Matrix for the first time in my life. When I explained to Danny that I had never watched it because people had told me that it was hard to follow and I didn’t think that I’d understand it, he gave me a sideways look and pointed out that I was much younger and maybe now that I’m thirty-two, it might not be so far over my head. 🙃  And I loved it! So much so that I’ve suggested that we watch it again – along with the sequel – at least seven times since. 

I started a new puzzle that my dad got me from The Magic Garden in Philly last time that I visited. Starting a new 1000-piece puzzle with itty-bitty pieces is always a bit intimidating, and I never have any idea how I’m actually going to do it. It’s puzzling! 😜🤔🤓

Otherwise, life is the usual mix of friends, sunshine, hiking, yoga, reading (Loving Day is the current read), journaling, Bullet Journaling, meditation, cooking, Al-Anon meetings, Buddhist meetings, hanging with Danny, chores, and working. How do people fit children into their lives? I barely fit in time to write this blog or send an email (Alix – you’re still on my list! 😘). Parents are heroes. ❤️

Love yous. 🤗😘🤗😘

I Am Not Fine. 

So, normally what happens here is that I share updates about my life. My shiny, happy, beach-loving, self-care-doing, meditating, recovery-based life, filled with sunsets and oceans and lots of love. Those are true parts of my life. Everything that I post here is true.

But it’s not the whole truth.

The whole truth is that some days, I am not fine. Isn’t that true for all of us? Say this with me now, “I am NOT FINE.” How many times in your life have you wanted to say that? “How are you?” “I’m fine, and you?” “I’m fine!” Smile, smile, and we move on with our days.

I am NOT fine.

On Wednesday night, I was meditating with my Refuge Recovery group. And for the second night in a row, for, say, 17 out of the 20 minutes that we were all meditating together, all that I wanted to do was run out of the room and scream. Not scream any words, but just scream. Loudly. AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!

I am not fine.

This morning, I woke up at 6AM. Because I.always.wake.up.at.freaking.6AM. Even when I went to bed late. Even when I didn’t sleep well. Even when it’s SATURDAY and I don’t NEED to be awake at 6AM. It is now 11:50AM, and I have spent 5 of the last 6 hours laying in the bed. Watching Girlfriend’s Guide to Divorce. (Which I was VERY disappointed to learn only has 7 episodes available on Netlfix in Season 3, as opposed to the normal 13. WTF??) After finishing the 3rd season (again, way too quickly), I started re-watching videos of my hero, Glennon Doyle-Wambach, live-streaming on Facebook. Still in bed. At almost noon. Which is not actually a problem in itself except that I never stay in bed until noon unless…

I am not fine.

I know why I am not fine. Sort of. I’m going to stay out of the details of why I am not fine today. (I am emphasizing the today because, if we’re being honest – and it seems that is what we are doing here today – I am not fine on many days. Not the majority – although, I bet more people than we realize are not fine the majority of the days, and there is nothing wrong with that – but more days than I generally admit to in polite conversation.) I don’t think that the details are particularly helpful or even relevant, and some of them are also personal and not entirely mine to share (and some of them are not personal and have to do with the government and the war and the GREAT INJUSTICES plaguing our whole freaking world, and I have nothing to say about them that has not already been said, probably better, by someone else….but this isn’t exactly about that right now). 

In meta terms, what is wrong is that my soul is not happy with the choices that my mind is making. My soul and my mind are not aligned. I suspect that this will remain true for most of my life because my soul is love and peace and light and Truth, and my mind is a crazy, loud, somewhat unsafe place to be the majority of the time. This is not a failing of my mind, or of me. This is a result of trauma, both from my own life experiences and from living in a society that is near-bursting with trauma and fear. My mind is a never-ending reel of the messages that I have received throughout my life, from people who (also) do not know how to experience and process pain, from a mainstream society whose chief values are money (power) and image, and from a media that is a product of people and mainstream society’s value system. 

I am not fine. 

And you know what? I think that’s sort of okay. I think it’s fine to be “not fine” some of the time. I think that it is actually perfectly appropriate. Because…this world is crazy. And our country is sick. (Seriously, if you are “fine” with what is happening in the world right now, you are not paying attention. But again, this post is more about the internal not fine than the external not fine. The external not fine is a-whole-nother ball of wax.) And life is FREAKING HARD. Glennon taught me this concept and it was one of the most freeing things that I have learned in the last five years. Life.is.hard. And NOT because we are doing it wrong, but because that’s just the way it is. Our lives were not meant to be 100% rainbows and sunshine and puppies. Nobody learns shit from living a comfortable, uncomplicated life. And, while I – much like everyone else in the whole wide world – cannot be sure of what we are here for, I believe that we are here to learn some things. And my experience has been that being a bit uncomfortable – being a bit not fine – is when I learn the things. 

I am not fine.

And one of the things that I learned? Is that we make life harder by refusing to admit that it’s hard. By not talking about the hard. By only posting pictures of our perfect families and beautiful vacations and great accomplishments. By telling everyone, all day every day, that we are fine. That we are good. That we are GREAT, AND YOU? Even when we are not fine. Even when we are scared. Or sad. Or falling apart on the inside. 

I am NOT fine.

Let me be clear: Life is incredibly beautiful. Nary a day goes by that I am not literally overwhelmed with gratitude and joy for the beauty that surrounds me in this world. I struggle with the concept of heaven because I already feel so damn blessed to be where I am right now that I don’t see a need to believe in some place better. I love living this life. I do. 

The thing is, it’s not either/or. It’s both/and. Life is beautiful and life is hard. It’s both. And today, on this little blog, we are embracing the hard. We are embracing the messy and the ugly and the painful. Because the hard is as natural and important and true as the beauty. And I want both. I need both. And I need us all to be able to talk about both, without fear or judgment or shame. 

Say it with me now: “I am NOT fine.” Some days.

Love always, all ways,

Me

P.S. I wrote this yesterday (on Saturday), but didn’t post right away. It’s now Sunday and I spent the morning grocery shopping (probably my most favorite weekly activity), chopping veggies and food prepping (probably my second most favorite weekly activity), practicing yoga, listening to new-to-me guided meditations, researching yoga studios, and journaling. So, this morning, I am quite a bit more fine than I was yesterday. Great, even. But still wanted to post because…we all need the reminder that it’s okay to not be fine sometimes. I’ll be back soon with more updates about my beautiful and hard life. 

P.P.S. I’M GOING TO SEE GLENNON!!!! She is coming to San Jose on 9/26 and a friend and I are going to see her and I AM SO EXCITED!!!! And will probably mention it 20-25 more times between now and then.  🤗🤗🤗🤗🤗🤗🤗🤗🤗🤗🤗🤗

The Work. 

Hey Loves! 

Above and below are pictures from the fern cave that we visited on a really magical hike that Danny and I took this morning at Wilder Ranch. We saw a BUNCH of birds and bunnies, and spent a solid ten minutes watching otters play in the water. We were both bursting with gratitude and joy at 730AM. 

Last week, a friend asked me to teach her how to BuJo (read: teach her how to use the bullet journal system). I was *thrilled.* While Danny, my parents, and most friends will listen to me talk about my BuJo when I get excited, this was the first time that someone had actually requested that I talk about it. In detail. 

As I was explaining different things that I track and lists that I make, I mentioned that I have a list for ‘Notes’ for the blog that I write for my family and friends. Except that  I realized as I was saying that that I haven’t actually written a post in about three months (making that list both long and mostly irrelevant at this point). Today, we’re going to remedy that, and I’m going to recommit to writing here regularly again, at least on a biweekly basis. (I know how deprived everyone has been without their weekly dose of sunset and beach pictures. 🤓)

As you can see from my upcoming weekly BuJo set-up, I’m traveling to Michigan this week. My cousin is getting married, to a really wonderful man, in Traverse City, which is perhaps one of the prettiest places that I’ve visited in the continental United States. I am pretty excited about a Ledvina family reunion (and equally excited to not be at work for a week. Because oh my goodness, I’ve been working my booty off). 

Danny isn’t joining me for the trip – our future was a bit uncertain at decision time – but, as you may have gathered, we are still together. ❤️ We have both been doing (a LOT of) emotional and spiritual work, individually and together, and we want to keep working together, for as long as that makes sense for both of us. 

And, people, as it turns out, emotional and spiritual growth IS work. So much work. Hard work. Every day. And I’m not entirely sure how to explain what that work looks like yet. At its core, the work is uncovering the Truth that exists inside all of us and that we already know, on a deep level, and using that Truth to respond appropriately to what happens in the world. Which is a really incomplete and abstract description that I will attempt to both expand and concretize as I continue on this path. 

The above is a list from the Refuge Recovery book by Noah Levine that I really liked and copied into my BuJo. (Sidenote: Noah is from Santa Cruz, and is responsible for starting the Against the Stream Meditation Society, Refuge Recovery, and Dharma Punx. I have a slight fangirl obsession with him, and ordered all of his books last week.) In the Work, the first list is the set of values / behaviors that we aspire too, and the second list is of the behaviors that we renounce. They are, of course, pretty unsurprising and seem basic, but I suspect that most people struggle regularly with at least a few of them. 

For me, The Work looks like this: most days, I wake up around 5:15, and start the day by writing my morning pages. [The picture above is of my first and second morning pages notebooks. The bottom one with the colorful design was $5, whereas the top one was only $2. I made a deal with myself that if I stuck with the habit, I could have the $5 one for my second notebook. I did – and am actually almost finished my second one – but didn’t realize how much bigger the designed one was. Writing three of those pages is significantly more, so I’ve been doing 2.5 per day in this notebook.] After my morning pages, I read from a couple of Al-Anon daily readers, and check in with my BuJo. I then meditate for 10-15 minutes. After that, I pack my lunch, get ready for the day, and Danny and I go walk for 20-30 minutes. Then I go to work. 

This is me, hard at work. 😉 My coworker’s daughter / my best friend came to visit and it was the best lunch break ever. 😍

Some people think that I’m crazy for waking up as early as I do voluntarily. But the things that I do between the hours of 5:30 and 7:30AM are infinitely more valuable than the things that I do between 9:30 and 11:30PM (read: looking at Facebook). I’m a morning person, and I have stopped believing that staying up late makes me cooler. 

One place that my practice lacks is during my work day. Most days, I’m moving so quickly and have such a full plate that I barely have time to think about any of The Work. In an effort to correct this imbalance, I walk during lunch 2-3 days a week, go to yoga at lunch on Wednesdays, and go to therapy during lunch on Mondays. The most important piece for me is to get out of my office and really disengage from work. On the days when I’m not able to do this, I feel completely depleted by about 4:30. My job requires me to talk to people and make decisions, like, all day long, and it’s kind of exhausting. Lunch breaks matter. 

After work, I go to meetings most nights. A rough schedule of my favorites: 

  • Monday: Refuge Recovery 
  • Tuesday: Al-Anon or Against the Stream
  • Wednesday: Refuge Recovery 
  • Friday: Refuge Recovery
  • Saturday: Al-Anon
  • Sunday: Refuge Recovery and Al-Anon (which I’m probably going to start rotating with Rebel Dharma) 

Can you tell that Refuge Recovery is my favorite? 😉 I don’t go to every meeting above every week, but I go to most. And I really love all of it. I’ll expound on how much I love these communities/Sanghas in future posts; suffice to say, they are the most honest, supportive, loving, beautiful spaces that I’ve ever entered, and my heart constantly feels like bursting with gratitude that I’ve found these places and these people. ❤️

Finished puzzle.


In addition to weekend meetings, I also do some of The Work in the form of recovery journaling and reading. And! I’m joining two women’s study groups, one for Al-Anon and Refuge. I do slack at meditating (outside of meetings) on the weekends, and don’t do my morning pages either, which is going to be a goal in upcoming weeks. Progress, not perfection. 

Perfect day at Pleasure Point.


So yeah, it’s a lot of work. But to be clear, it’s work that I want to be doing, and that I consider to be probably the most important work of my life, thus far. And, I’m not all work and no play! I still hike every weekend. There is lots of music and dancing in our apartment. I read novels. I watched all of the new season of Orange is the New Black and House of Cards in the past several weeks. I go to the movies. I hang out with friends. 

Danny and I saw Baka Beyond at a house concert a few weeks ago, at my mom’s urging. I’ll be honest, when she first brought it up, I eye-rolled in my head and thought, ‘Why is my mom into what is probably weird tribal music?’ And then I listened to them, and realized that – as she often is – she was so right. We had *such* a great time dancing at the show, and seeing them in a venue like that really made for a very cool, intimate experience. They were, like, right there, and danced with us. I will totally go again the next time they are here (and encouraged my prenatal to visit Santa Cruz to join us). 

It’s strawberry season! We drove up the coast to Swanton’s a few weeks ago, early enough that we were the only people there, and sang ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ as we picked several pounds of strawberries and looked at the ocean. The novelty of farms – and strawberry fields – backing up to the ocean as yet to wear off on me. 

And the beach! Danny and I have been beach bums for at least part of most weekends. Reading and people-watching at the beach for a couple hours is my favorite lazy afternoon pastime. We also play frisbee, which, in my humble opinion, we are actually pretty good at! (For the first twenty minutes. After that, my arm gets tired and Danny ends up running all over the place trying to catch my wildly misaimed throws.) 

These jalapeños are a Trader Joe’s win.


We have also been making a solid effort and cooking the vast majority of our meals. For a little while there, we got into the habit of eating out or eating prepared/frozen meals, out of convenience and time limitations. But now we’re back on the meal planning train, and I do some food prep on the weekends to ensure that we eat actual meals during the week. I like cooking for several reasons, including that that’s my podcast-listening time. 

Aaaaaaaaand, we’ll leave it there for now. I’ll be back soon and regularly. 
Love yous so very much. 

🤗❤️😘

Photo Dump. 

Hello Loves! 

I’ve been away from the blog for awhile. As many of you already know, my personal life has been in upheaval since mid-February, and I’m still wading through the journey. There are challenges and pain, and lessons and joy. It’s an experience. 

This post is going to be a mix of a bunch of pictures and their descriptions, and random updates and thoughts. Above is a gray day on West Cliff. The wildflower game in Santa Cruz County is en pointe this year, thanks to five weeks of rain.  

Above is a view from San Gregorio Beach, about 45 minutes up the coast from Santa Cruz. I met some friends from a Buddhist-leaning weekly group that I attend there to hike and meditate by the ocean. 

Above is a pic of the harbor that I snapped on a four-mile walk that I took along the coast from my apartment to a friend’s house. My office was closed on 3/31 for Cesar Chavez Day, which was awesome because three-day weekends are my jam. A coworker-friend invited a few of us over for lunch and it was SO beautiful out that I decided to walk. 😎 (Another friend drove me home though.) 

Above is Seabright Beach – a few blocks from my apartment – at dusk. Work has been very, very busy for the last few weeks and will likely continue to be for the next few. When I spend that much time inside an office, I have to make a conscious effort to balance it with daily walks, even for only 25 minutes. I take a lot of walks at lunch, and at sunset too. (Obviously. 😋)

Another shot of Seabright at dusk. I’ve been walking out on the cliff in between the boardwalk and Seabright beach. I meditated out there last week. I can’t say enough how much I love being close to the ocean. Very, very grateful for this opportunity. 

Sunset from the above-mentioned cliff. This is also where the San Lorenzo River – from the Santa Cruz Mountains – meets the Pacific Ocean. 

How much do you love the clouds in this pic? A couple of weeks ago, my friend turned 35, so we had dinner, drinks, and cake at a lounge inside a fancy hotel on the beach. It was a really good time, but because I drink far less than I used to, I get mildly overwhelmed around a group of outgoing, slightly buzzed peoples. My friend’s two year-old felt the same way, so the three of us took a break to run around on the beach, which is when I snapped the above pic. 

Above and below are my attempts to capture the wharf at night from the Seabright cliff. 

Here are a couple of pictures of some of my fave California flowers from around the neighborhood. I don’t know what they are called:

I did the below 500-piece puzzle below in one Saturday. But I forgot to snap a pic of the finalized version. I’m gluing and framing tomorrow and will get one then. 

I pet-sat for my friends’ dog and cat a couple of weeks ago. This is their dog, Chewy. She has to wear a cone because she has allergies and scratches until she bleeds if nobody is paying attention to her. She’s old and adorable (and I have zero desire to get a pet/responsibility). 

Oh! I am officially a member of the Equilibrium Float Center that opened in my neighborhood. I have been floating at least once a month and adding an extra one in when I can. My next appointment is Thursday night at 7:30PM for 90 minutes. I’m going to find out if I like getting in the tank right before bed. 


In the midst of all this upheaval, I’ve committed to doing some emotional and spiritual work that I need. On a weekly basis, I’m attending Refuge Recovery meetings (the Buddhist-leaning groups I mentioned above, that are geared towards using Buddhist teachings to free one self from attachments), Al-Anon meetings, therapy, and yoga. On a daily basis, I am writing morning pages, meditating, using my BuJo, and practicing gratitude. In addition to hiking, walking, and following Michael Pollan’s food advice, I’m feeling pretty great. I mean, some days are hard, but I’m managing. I’m learning how to take care of myself, and I actually like doing it. ☺️

Hope all of you are happy and healthy and loving your people in this hard and scary world. ❤

Love,

Me 

Hippie-Dippy. 

Happy Monday, Loves,

My friend Susan sent me this and I think it is The BEST Ever.

After about a month of blissful peace and quiet, we are officially entering the busy season at work. I also overextended myself a bit with on-call hours – because I’ll be in San Francisco next weekend and in NJ (!!!!!) for a week, I traded shifts around and ended up on-call for too many weeks in a row, in exchange for six weeks of no on-call starting Monday – so I’m kind of spent. Very, very much looking forward to (and earning) my vacation. 🤗


For a long time, Santa Cruz – and most of California – desperately needed rain. Then it rained for, like, three weeks straight, and we desperately needed for it to stop. The mountains have literally been falling down all over the county (and Northern California). During a respite from the rain last weekend, Danny and I went hiking at Pogonip, and discovered that one of these HUGE redwoods came down. We’ve actually taken pictures of this tree before because it is so big. (Danny is 5’11” and look how tiny he is next to that base!) We climbed up it – and then had to come home afterward and immediately shower because there was poison oak everywhere – which was challenging and fun. And muddy. Everything was muddy, actually. The ground just doesn’t have enough plants in it to absorb all this rain. 


Once a month, we have a supervisor process group at work facilitated by a wonderful woman named Evelyn. However, Evelyn is out of the country for the next two months, so she arranged for Rachel from Healing the Healer to come to our group. Honestly, I was skeptical. I thought it was going to be too artsy-fartsy/hippie-dippy for me, and I was feeling very self-conscious about my artistic abilities (or lack thereof). 


I ended up totally loving it. Rachel was a CPS lawyer in LA for over a decade, so she’s got a lot of practicality and groundedness paired with the artistic hippie vibe. Her and her partner transformed the room with candles, artwork, music, tea, and snacks, and started by having us set our intention for the time. Mine was to let go of my inner critic and trust the process. They then led us through a guided meditation to find symbols for mind, spirit, body, and heart. And then we drew and painted our own self-care plans. There was a strong emphasis on ‘play’ like we did as children and I had such a good time that I am strongly contemplating buying an easel and watercolor paints. (In fact, as I type this, I realize that the only thing stopping me from doing so is that ‘I’m not a real artist.’ But, like, what does that even mean? I just want to play with paint and that is a totally acceptable reason to buy paint!) 

Rio Del Mar beach in Aptos. Santa Cruzians are outside *all the time*, as long as it’s not raining.


On Saturday afternoon, I went to Equilibrium, the new floatation center about 0.3 miles from our apartment. Both Danny and my friends got me gift certificates there for my birthday, and I ended up totally *loving* it. Definitely my best float experience yet. I’m not sure if it was that the float tank was a huge cube that felt more like a float room, or if it was the atmosphere, or if it was because I was just on the right mindset for it, but I practically floated out of there on a zen cloud of serenity. 

The old cement ship in Aptos, that nearly sunk in the rain. (Aptos is a tiny ‘suburb’ of Santa Cruz, a few more miles down the coast.)

Floating is kind of weird, even to hippies and Santa Cruzians, and it’s been hard for me to fully understand people’s love for it. Until now. My entire body was so relaxed and all the kinks that come from sitting at a computer all week got worked out in the 90 minutes that I was in there. Plus, my skin feels so soft and New when I come out. 

It’s also a therapeutic experience. I get anxious while I’m in there (how much time is left? What if they set the timer wrong and I’m in here forever? What am I supposed to be doing? Am I thinking about the right things?), and the float tank has taught me to recognize the physical feeling of anxiety and breathe through it better than any therapy session, book, or person. I had the revelation that I don’t actually need to respond to every impulse or react to my anxiety; I can just breathe through it and it will pass. 

And, it’s kind of a spiritual experience. When you remove all your senses and external stimuli – like other people’s expectations and the pressures of the world – your mind is free to think about all sorts of other stuff. A lot of people find it to be a source of creativity and inspiration, and I definitely had some sort of existential experience in there. 

Can’t wait to see these babies in two weeks!

I’m going into a busy few weeks: my girlfriends and I are going to San Fran next weekend to see a couple of shows, then Danny and I are seeing The Growlers (😍) again the following Friday, and then we leave for NJ the next day. Love love LOVE. 

Have a great week, Loves. Do some self-care; we need it more than ever. 

😘

The Resistance. 

Hola Mi Amores,

I’m not sure where to begin. We are a little over one week into Trump’s presidency, and I feel like I’ve aged several months. With each executive order he signs, my feelings oscillate from outrage to fear to sadness. I have an overwhelming desire to just take a nap for the next four years. 

Inauguration Day was rough, but the day after comforted my soul and encouraged my spirit. My friends and I showed up for the Women’s March in Santa Cruz, and I spent the entire day smiling. 

There were estimated to be 10000 people at the Santa Cruz chapter of the March, which is a huge percentage of its population. My friends who are longtime residents said it was the biggest demonstration that they’ve ever seen in Santa Cruz. [The weather probably played a role, as people were too nervous to drive  over the hill to San Fran or Oakland – where we all go for Pride – in the heavy rain.]



The organizers were not prepared for the size of this crowd so we couldn’t hear any of the speakers or singers, and that was totally fine. The number of people who showed up all over the world gave me a lot of hope for the next four years. There is a large and strong resistance that is committed to showing up for the people that our president plans to trample on. 

Planned Parenthood is up there!



When we walked by Planned Parenthood, some of the doctors and nurses were standing on the (screened in, for protection) balcony, cheering us on, and everyone went CRAZY. The attack on Planned Parenthood not only breaks my heart, it makes no goddamn sense to me. We want to prevent abortions by…limiting people’s access to birth control. (And not all people. This mostly effects low-income peoples, while many of us privileged folks – Trump’s daughter included – will remain able to manage our own bodies and if/when we get pregnant.) The complete lack of separation between church and state in regards to this issue also infuriates me. And I’m sure that we all saw the picture of him signing this executive order surrounded by OLD WHITE MEN. 



And can we talk for a quick second about him signing off on his refugee/Muslim ban on Holocaust Remembrance Day? Like, why?? You wanted to give ammo to the Resistance? (Some people’s cynical/paranoid response: probably.) Turning away Jewish refugees during WWII is a stain on US history; why would we repeat our past mistakes? Why does making America great again mean that we have to be assholes? Whyyyyyyyyy? 


That day was amazing, but that high didn’t last long. Pretty much everyday, I woke up anxious to check the news because what did he do now? The onslaught of bad news (and ‘alternative facts’ OMG) is crushing. I suggested to Danny last night that we take a ‘sabbath’ from the news every Saturday, as a day of rejuvenation to maintain my stamina. Because the reality is that I can’t sleep through the next four years and, in fact, I’m going to have to work, hard, as an advocate and an activist. We don’t have to wonder if we would have marched with MLK Jr. during the Civil Rights era; we can march in this civil rights era. This moment in history requires that we shake ourselves out of apathy and complacency and complicity and show up. 

Plus, I can’t spend the next four years consuming media and fuming. I need to do something with my anger. I need to act. To that end, I spent my Saturday night (on-call for work and) calling all of the swing vote senators for DeVos and Sessions’ confirmations to voice my dissent. (And I was super encouraged to discover that many of those voice mailboxes were FULL.) The Compassion Collective leaders provided me with a list of the senators’ phone numbers, as well as a few potential scripts to use


I also took some time to write in really tiny lettering on postcards to my senators, telling them about why I marched. This is Action 1 of 10 to be completed during Trump’s first 100 days in office, organized by the Women’s March. It was super easy to do, using the Women’s March Unity Principles. [Granted, I live in California and my senators are already fighting the good fight. But I imagine this still bolsters their spirits for the battles in Washington.)

This time in history also calls for a constant checking of one’s own privilege. Angela Peoples’ sign at the Women’s March and the accompanying interview was an important reminder that even us super-progressive women need to check our whiteness. Intersectionality is the answer to the question of how we achieve true equality. [And let’s be clear: true equality is going to be uncomfortable to those of us who are privileged. But we’ll get it’s that later.] People of color have been fighting this fight for a long time. They don’t need white women to save them; they need us to get behind them (or, in some cases, beteeen them and law enforcement). 

In other news, Danny and I went hiking both days this weekend, Saturday at Pogonip and Sunday at Henry Cowell with my friend, Stef. Everything is still super muddy from all the rain, but we had to take advantage of the rain finally stopping. And, as I mentioned above in relation to the Saturday News Sabbath, self-care is more important than ever right now. This is a marathon, not a sprint. 

And February is going to be a super fun month. My friends and I are going to San Fran the weekend of the 10-12th, Danny and I are seeing The Growlers on the 17th, and then we fly to NJ on the 18th for several days with the babies! And the fam! And the besties! 😍😍😍 I can’t wait! Look for an email from me in the next day or so about my itinerary. I am already super excited! 🤗💖🤓 

Love yous very much,

Me

Happy Birthday to Me. 

Hello Loves,

Well, Friday and Saturday were a whirlwind of emotions. On Friday, I had started sobbing twice before 7AM, cried on and off all day, and my entire office wore black. On Saturday, I was revived and so fired up by all of the marches. Here in the tiny city of Santa Cruz, we had over 10,000 people show up to march, and I couldn’t stop smiling the entire time. Couldn’t be more thrilled to be be part of the re-LOVE-ution! ❤️💛💚💙💜

We can talk more about that later; right now, I want to back up and tell you about my birthday weekend, because it was wonderful and I feel so grateful. 💝

A San Francisco street.


I took Friday off, mainly to give myself a four-day weekend, and spent the day doing self-care stuffs: journaling, reading, and walking. Friday night, there was a work happy hour, and some of my friends and I talked and hung out for hours. At one point, Adi commented on how exceptional her friends are, and that’s exactly how I feel about all of my people, too. ❤

The Farmhouse / B&B

On Saturday, Danny and I got on the road towards the city of Westport, in Mendocino county, in Northern California. Our destination was about four and a half hours north of us, and we knew it would be a beautiful drive. We actually drove up the entire California coast back when we were traveling in 2013, but I had no point of reference to fully understand where we were.

The creek in front of the farmhouse.

Our original intention was to see the 2000 year-old redwood that you can drive through in Legget, CA, and Northern California is rural: there were, like, six places to spend the night within 45 miles of Legget, and most were B&B’s. We went with Howard’s Creek Ranch Inn, a reasonably-priced and beautiful old farmhouse on 60 acres, whose website stated that they would not accept cancellations because you discovered when you arrived that it was an old farmhouse in the middle of nowhere. We had zero cell service, weak wifi, and they actually turned off their wifi around 10PM when they went to bed. 

It was perfect. 😍

There were actually two large farmhouses and several cabins on the property. The two farmhouses were separated by a rushing creek that went straight out to the ocean. A bridge connected the two properties and made everything even more idyllic.  

We stayed in the Blue Balcony room, which had a skylight above the bed. I woke up around 2am to a full (or, nearly full) moon directly above me. 

We arrived around 4pm after an absolutely beautiful drive. We met Sally, one of the homeowners, who gave us a tour and got us settled, then we immediately headed out to the beach, which was about 300 yards from our room, just in time for dusk. 

The view was breathtaking. I swear: I have an uncertain relationship with a Higher Power, but, for me, nothing makes a stronger case for its existence  – and creative design – more than the striking beauty of nature. 

We hiked around as the sun fully set, then headed back to our room. We had packed Trader Joe’s food for dinner, as I had been warned when I made the reservation that there was nowhere nearby to eat. I journaled, and we both read by the fire in one of the living rooms. 

The next morning, clouds had rolled in along the beach, blocking the sunrise, but creating a dramatic effect when coupled with the morning light. We set out on a hike up the small mountain directly behind the farmhouse. The farm had a herd of sheep that we walked by, but wouldn’t let you get too close. They also had chickens, and used to have cows. I was in heaven, surrounded by both the mountains and the beach. 

Breakfast was incredible: quiche, baked pears, biscuits, sausage, and fruit, all fresh, local, and homemade. There were three other couples at breakfast, two of whom had been there before. The third couple commented at breakfast that the highway noise was terrible at night, and we all looked at them confused, as maybe three cars had driven by on the 1 since our arrival. Then it dawned on me: ‘Oh, you were hearing the ocean, not the highway.’ They seemed much less bothered when they realized they were hearing nature. 

When we told Sally that our plan was to see the big tree that morning, she broke the news to us that all the rain had caused a huge landslide, so the 1 (highway) was closed going north. The only way to get to the tree involved going back down and around, which would add about 2.5 hours to what was already going to be a 6-hour ride home. We were both so taken with the B&B and the surroundings that we decided that we’d rather just come back soon. 

Soon after breakfast, we started the drive back, and opted to drive along the coast (we had taken the 101 on the way there, which is also a beautiful drive). The 1 is a longer way to go, but so worth it for the views. 

We pulled over several times on the way back, to enjoy the view and do some coastal hiking. 

I started looking at property in Mendocino county on the drive back. I was so in love with all of the beauty and the quiet that I decided that we should definitely move there. We drove through Fort Bragg, which is he biggest city near there. They don’t have a Trader Joe’s, but they have a downtown area and a Safeway, so I think that we could make it work. 

People always talk about the immense beauty of Northern California and now I totally understand why. Sally told us that they haven’t had a drought up there, and the difference is noticeable: everything looks a bit more green and lush than it does down here. 

The above picture is an example of what I mean when I say that driving around California is like driving through a national park. This is the highway that we took to cut from the coast back to the 101. 

We also drove through wine country (above), where the houses are seated on little hills. Here, it was a bit drier. All in all, it was a fantastic little getaway. We arrived home late on Sunday night, in time for my actual birthday. 

On Monday morning, I spent the first few hours of the day on the phone, which was lovely. When you live far away from a lot of your loved ones, this is a common practice on your birthday, and makes your heart feel all warm and full because so many people care enough to call. 💝

In the afternoon, I met some of my Santa Cruz friends at Seabright beach to have drinks from the Cooler of Randomness, walk around the beach, and hang out for a few hours. 

While we were there, we discovered that the rains had formed a pretty big hole in the beach, filled with driftwood, that the children had creatively turned into a seesaw. 

We took a turn on the seesaw, though, there was a huge pointy knot in my leg, so I couldn’t quite embrace the situation the way my friend did. We watched the sunset before heading out, and I fell more in love with my Santa Cruz coworker-friends. I’ve made some really solid choices here. 😁

I came home to this beautiful bouquet from Danny, that came with dinner, a gift certificate for a massage and a float at the new flotation center in our neighborhood (the next day, my friends also gifted me a certificate for a float at the new center – I’m so pumped for all the free floats that I have coming!), and the below tiramisu cake. 🤗

The whole weekend was pretty much amazing and I was so filled up with love, I practically floated into the week. 💝 I am very grateful to everyone who made my birthday brighter, and continue to feel disbelief about how lucky I am. 

LOVE.