If You’re Willing to Start from the Ground, You Can Build Anything

Can I have a show of hands for anyone who has been personally victimized by country duo, Dan & Shay’s song “From the Ground Up?”

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Right, okay, that’s what I thought. Let it be known that my hand it also up.

In case you’re unfamiliar with this song, have a listen:

Or, if you want the short version: it’s a painfully adorable ballad about finding true love and building a life with someone.

The first verse of the song starts like this:

Grandma and grandpa painted a picture of sixty-five years
And one little house
More than a memory
More than saying I do
Kiss you goodnight’s and I love you’s

And then the chorus goes like this:

And we’ll build this love from the ground up
Now ’til forever it’s all of me, all of you
Just take my hand
And I’ll be the man your dad hoped that I’d be

It’s the kind of song that gives you all the feels and makes you yell at the ceiling of your car in the middle of traffic—or at least that’s what it does to me.

When I was little, I dreamed about finding the one. The person all the Disney movies and romantic comedies promised me. The person that would make everything make sense. Now, as I grew up, I figured out that you don’t actually need someone else to make your life make sense. I figured out you can do that all on your own. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t wish for someone to stand beside. Someone to laugh and cry and get all crotchety with. Someone who, when this song comes on the radio in the middle of dead stop traffic, you realize is so noticeably absent that it provokes you to yell at the aforementioned ceiling. BUT I DIGRESS.

The key point to note in this song is that the singer proposes he and his true love build their life together from the ground up. When he brings up the love story of his grandparents, he isn’t saying, “we have that,” or “it will be easy to have that,” rather he’s saying, “if we work hard, we could have that.”

In our lives, we will wish for a lot of things that will require us to build from the ground up. Be it a love story, a career, a legacy or a home. But no matter what we’re building or the various tools we’ll need to do so, every bout of architecture starts with a Day One. A commitment to the desire. And one of the marvels about life is that we often don’t know when that Day One will be.

You never know when you’re going to find your true passion. You never know when you’re going to meet that person the romantic comedies promised you. But isn’t it a wonder to know that every day you wake up with an open heart, every day you meet someone new or try something you never thought you would, it could be the start of something that changes your life forever?

So even though there may be songs or movies or coworkers or couples walking down the street that sometimes make you want to jealous road rage your way off the (literal or metaphorical) freeway, it’s important we don’t take advantage of these days. We never know what they might be teaching us, or the Day Ones they might be leading us towards.

And hey, you never know, Day 1 could be today.

Fighting Hate With Love

Female. White/Caucasian. Middle Class.

On any given form, this is how I would be identified. These are the statistics I would represent if I participated in a poll. These are the bubbles I filled in for every standardized test I took in school. But for anyone who’s ever met me, known me, or ever even seen me in passing, I’m obviously much more than that.

I’m curious. I’m quiet. I’m friendly and tough and a terrible liar. I love to write and read and be outside in the fresh air. I love sweet potatoes and hate peanut butter and will try to make anything into a quesadilla. I’m funny, or at least I try to be, and I’m smart, determined and constantly pushing myself to be better.

These are the things that forms don’t tell you. These are the things that statistics don’t tell you. These are the things that stereotypes, discrimination and bigotry don’t tell you. Not about me, or anyone else.

In the real world, where people are living, breathing things, checked boxes and filled bubbles don’t matter. They will never tell you about the morals of a person or whether or not you will relate to them, get along with them, like, or even love them. Only conversation can do that. Only time, patience and mutual respect can do that. But our world seems to have forgotten that.

Recently, it seems that people believe the only mediums of expression available to them are hate and violence. Aggression and disrespect. I watch and I’m not only hurt, but confused.

How? I want to ask. How can you feel this way?

No, I don’t want to know when you started feeling this way, I don’t want to know why you started feeling this way, and I don’t want to know who you believe made you feel it. I want to know how.

How in this world built by so many beautiful, unique, hardworking people. How in this world of deep oceans, vast forests, tall mountains and endless skies. How in this world of kindness, compassion and understanding. How can you possibly believe that hate offers you more than love? How can you believe that someone is less important, less valuable, or less worthy than you are? How can you live each day hating the statistic filled inside the bubbles and boxes, rather than taking the time to get to know the person doing the filling?

Don’t you know what a big world we live in? Don’t you understand how much life you deprive yourself of? How much beauty and depth and color? Can’t you hear the hate in your voice? Can’t you feel it killing you? Will you ever realize that you don’t have power, never will have power or anything close to it, not when love exists, and it always will?

Well, hear this. Know this. Understand this: I do not and will not meet your hate with hate. But I will not concede. I will not watch idly as you spread it day by day. I will fight, I will love, not to tear you down but to drown you out. Your voices will only make my voice louder. Your darkness will only make my light brighter. And your hate will only make my love stronger.

A Handful of Pictures & One Thousand Thank You’s

With the sound of ocean waves lapping against the shore below us, and the sun doing its best to poke through the clouds, we moved closer and closer together. It was hot, but not too hot, especially when you don’t mind each other’s company.

I was standing in a striped dress and a hat made of palm leaves, next to my uncle and in between two amazing women named Tracy; my brother stood behind me, holding up a small dog we’d all made the day’s mascot; my sister was sitting on the floor, in a line of cousins, three by birth, one by marriage; and my mom and dad stood in the back corner, surrounded by siblings, nieces and nephews, some requiring an –in law suffix if you wanted to get technical. Directly behind me were our gracious hosts and directly in front of me was my grandpa and my great aunt, the two who started it all.

The camera snapped three times and Leslie, a second cousin of mine, and co-owner of the beautiful house we’d gathered at that day, ran around from behind the group and stood next to the tripod we’d macgyvered out of an ice chest and an empty cardboard wine carrier.

“I’d like to make a toast without a toast,” she said.

We all remained at our posts, none of us holding a wine glass or bottle of beer to cheers, so instead we offered her our sole attention and silence, a rarity for our big group.

“I just want to say thank you,” she said, this time focusing on my grandpa and my great aunt Shatzi. “Thank you for this.” With the last word she gestured to us, everyone who stood in a united, giggly circle around them. “Because of you, we are here. Surrounded by love, made of love.” The air fell silent, heightening the sound of waves crashing below us. We all stood still, quiet, teary, humbled by the truth.

“We have this,” she said, gesturing again to the group of us, but referring not only to our collected presence, but also our shared love of each other’s company. “Not everyone has this.”

Suddenly the air was loud, powerful, as if we were all talking at once, even though no one was talking at all. Thoughts and memories ran through our minds, recalling laughs and tears, good times and bad. We thought of all the ways we were similar and all the ways we were different and how all of these things added up into a group of people that loved each other unconditionally. These words raced through the air, from ear to ear, hand to hand, and we smiled a thank you for every single one of them.

“Thank you,” Leslie said again to my grandpa and great aunt Shatzi. “Thank you for all of this.”

For a few more seconds we stood silent, basking in the love brought into the light. Some wiped tears from underneath their sunglasses, others bit down on their lips to stop them from quivering.

As we moved apart, making our way back to patio chairs or poolside pavement or kitchen bar stools, to continue conversations about the distant future or recent past, we all walked with a lighter step. We had love. We were surrounded by it, we were made of it, and with that, any problem or worry we might have walked in with suddenly seemed very small.

“Okay, NOW is it time for cake?” someone yelled from the kitchen. We’d all been told that Porto’s cheesecake and my grandma’s famous angel food cake would be our reward for taking a group picture. “Yes,” someone else said, be it an authority figure, or just a hungry someone who pretended to be. Suddenly the room was full, loud. Conversations took off in every direction, and laughter echoed off every wall. Plates were filled and then refilled and after a while we all found our way back outside, listening to the ocean waves below us and watching the sun set out in the distance.

“Thank you,” we said to the sun as it made its way behind a mountain, “and thank you,” we all said silently, both to each other, to my grandpa and aunt Shatzi, and to all the years past, present and future. Because even though we’d always known it, today it had been brought to the tip of our tongues. We are lucky. We are grateful. We are love.


Strain then Stir: Kayla Itsines’ Cookbook (Part 1)

As mentioned/announced/proclaimed/etc. in yesterday’s blog post, I’m launching a new series on my blog called Strain then Stir, which will chronicle my attempt at becoming a better cook. To do so, I plan on working my way through cookbooks, cooking blogs, cooking shows, and those cooking videos that seem to plague our Facebook pages every once in a while.

First up on the list:

Kayla Itsines: The 28-Day Bikini Body Healthy Eating & Lifestyle Guide


Now, I know a little bit about Australian born Kayla Itsines from her bikini body app. My best friend Allison and I have spent a good helping of weekday mornings laying on the floor of our gym, panting our way through the carefully constructed workouts. I’ve also done some thorough Instagram stalking, which led me to believe what many others already know: this girl knows her sh*t. So, when I saw her book sitting pretty on the top shelf at Target, I (figuratively) threw it in the cart, brought it home and immediately filled an entire sheet of paper with a grocery list.

Confession #1: I had/still have no plan to follow the diet plan in order, simply because I don’t have a schedule that would allow it. However, I plan on following as much as possible as closely as possible, because each day has meals carefully calculated to give you a good helping of all the food groups. Also, I figure skimming through the book solely to find the recipes involving carbs and chocolate would kind of defeat the purpose of this whole thing.

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Discovery #1: HEALTHY GROCERIES ARE FREAKING EXPENSIVE…(especially when you buy too many at one time because for some reason you shopped for the entire month as if you’d be unable to leave the house at any moment for the next 30 days.)

Lesson learned: try buying for about 2-3 weeks of meals at a time.

Recipes I’ve Tried (So Far)

I’m not exactly sure what the protocol is for giving out recipes, but I can’t imagine Kayla would be stoked about me buying her book on sale at Target and then giving out all the information for free on my blog. SO, I will not be provided the recipes in detail, because I’d really like to keep myself out of jail and in a space that provides an opportunity for Kayla and I to become besties one day. Instead, I’m just going to give you the name of the recipe and then recount what went on in my attempt at following it.

Let’s begin!


Maple Banana Yogurt Muesli

Initial thoughts: What on earth is muesli?


Oh, okay, so oatmeal with a top hat. Got it.

Process: This recipe was pretty straightforward, though I wasn’t 100% sure of how to mix it together. I’ve never really worked with rolled oats before, so I wasn’t sure if I should scoop them in with a measuring cup or just throw them in there Emeril style.

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I ended up doing a combination of both.


Additions: I added walnuts to shake up the texture of the dish which ended up saving it for me. And in case you’re wondering, I sprinkled them in the same way one might sprinkle rose petals on a bed: delicate, deliberate and probably slower than necessary.

Final thoughts: If I’m being honest, I didn’t love this right away. I’m not a huge fan of oatmeal and this was, if I may, very oatmeal adjacent both in taste and texture. It was essentially the bite equivalent of that kid on the playground saying “I’m not touching you,” even though it doesn’t matter if he’s touching you or not, he’s still annoying and this muesli is still oatmeal. #ProfessionalFoodLingo. That being said however, I would (and did) eat this again, if only because it makes you feel good afterwards. My morning stomach was like, Woah, are we satisfied yet completely lacking lethargy and regret?! What a feeling. Let’s get this day started.

Pulled Pork Sandwiches w/ Cole Slaw

Initial Thoughts: Pulled Pork Sandwiches w/ Cole Slaw

Process: Just about the time I’d pulled out all of the ingredients and mixed together the sauce, I realized that I hadn’t bought vegetable stock. So, I took to Google.

vege stock goodle

Purpose of Vegetable stock

Okay…sauce, no. Mashed potatoes, no. Braising! That’s what I’m doing here. Let’s read up on that.

vegetable stock

Oh, good. So it’s essentially the MOST IMPORTANT THING, without which I can never achieve mouthwatering perfection.

substitute for vege stock

Right, because if I forgot my 79 cent can of vegetable stock at the store, I definitely have celery seeds, marjoram and dill weed just lying around in full supply.

At this point I just chalked it up to a loss and I threw the meat in the oven, hoping the sauce I made would be enough to at least approach mouthwatering anything.

Additions: Since my meat did end up being a little on the dry side, I put a some Miracle whip on the hamburger bun. I also added thin slices of green apple because I remember seeing that on a sandwich menu somewhere, and I chopped up a carrot and sautéed in garlic salt and threw that in too because, well, I have no idea, really…but it was pretty good!

Final thoughts: Even though it was nowhere near perfect, it had that inkling of potential, like if i did it right it would be fantastic. Regardless, I still enjoyed it enough to have for leftovers the next day. I’m sorry to have underestimated you vegetable stock. It won’t happen again. Also, next time I’m nixing the carrot.


Banana & Ricotta Cheese Wrap

Initial thoughts: That sounds freaking delicious.


Process: This was the simplest recipe so far, which is always good in the mornings because 95% of the time I’m running late. Also, in a shouldn’t have been so shocking turn of events, I was floored when I realized I could use my panini maker to toast wraps. Who knew I was using that thing to its actual lowest potential?! A million regrets.

Final Thoughts: As predicted…it WAS FREAKING DELICIOUS. I didn’t make a single change to this masterpiece because it was just that. It was one of those meals that I thought about making again the second I finished eating it. The kind that you call your mom in the middle of traffic to gossip about. The kind that you mourn the day you run out of bananas. It was just. so. good. My picture of it however, was not.

Chicken, Sweet Potato, Caramelized Onion & Arugula Pizza

Initial thoughts: giphy (14)

Process: In typical Kim fashion, I forgot to defrost chicken for the CHICKEN pizza. But since I was already starving and had everything (except the arugula because I also forgot to buy that shrug_1f937) else out, I just decided to forgo the bird and move forward. #ItAlmostRhymed.

Additions: The recipe calls for pita bread, which I concluded was not up to the task of being a valid crust, so I cheated and bought these:


I also decided to add some corn and zucchini, which we’ll say was due to innovation and not because my zucchini was starting to go bad and the corn had been frozen so long it was nearing frostbite.

Final thoughts: The end product was actually DELICIOUS! If given the opportunity I could have sat at my table and eaten both mini pizzas. However, much to my body’s appreciation, I was taking the pizza to go because I was headed out to see other humans and felt too much shame to show up with a plate piled as high as my head in pizza. Also, to be completely honest, I didn’t really want to share…

Banana & Strawberry Bruschetta


Initial thoughts: Talk about toast 2.0

Process: It was another brief and straightforward prep, which was great because left little room for failure and made it easy to memorize the recipe after just one make. However, if I want to get nit-picky, I’d say my presentation could use some work. My bread appears to be drowning in fruit rather than featuring it in a balanced and nutritious way.

Final Thoughts: Similar to the banana & ricotta wrap, I instantly fell in love with this breakfast because it was 3 of my favorite things.

  1. Easy to make
  2. Quick to prepare
  3. Featuring maple syrup

And much to my surprise, this too made me feel satisfied but not gross, as many sugary breakfasts have in the past. Who knew eating healthy could feel so good?

Stuffed Sweet Potato w/ Chickpeas, Tomatoes & Spiced Yogurt Dressing

Initial thoughts: You had me at sweet potato.


Process: This was quite the undertaking for me because it involved a lot of steps that needed to be timed just so. With one hand I was over here chopping an onion and with another I was over here slicing a sweet potato and with another I was over here stirring a pan on the stove. Then I’d come back to the cutting board, crying over a chopped onion and sweating over the now 400 degree oven, wondering if I should put on more deodorant, or maybe give up and order a pizza.

Final Thoughts: This was a recipe that called for “two serving plates.” Which is hilarious, because when I whisked up the spiced yogurt dressing and grazed it over the sweet potato like it was a cinnamon roll needing icing, I knew very well that I would only be needing one plate.

So, after my first week and a half or so of cooking from the cookbook, I’m happy to report I have NOT burned the house, or started any fires whatsoever. I did use about 45 dishes, slice a little piece of my finger, and stink up the whole kitchen with a tomato that went forgotten and moldy. But hey, who hasn’t?

Some other key lessons I learned about myself include:

  1. I LOVE feta cheese
  2. I consistently underestimate how long it takes to chop vegetables
  3. I talk to myself when I stir

Tune in next month to hear more stories about my (mis)adventures in the kitchen. And always remember strain then stir.

Strain then Stir: A New Cooking Segment (Kind of)

Hello friends, my name is Kim, and I am a terrible cook. Okay, not terrible. Not great, though. A hard average if I’m being honest. A passing grade but not one to hang on the fridge, if you catch my drift.

I’m also a rather monotonous cook. I have a schedule, a limited bank account and only a handful of recipes I can make from memory, so I often make the same things over and over and over again.

And while I’m someone that thrives on routines, I’ve started to feel like a robot. Like I’m eating what I’m eating only because it’s what I usually eat when I usually eat it. As a result, I’m never really excited about eating because it feels more like something to check off my to-do list rather than something to enjoy or cherish.

On my recent trip to Hawaii, each meal felt like a celebration and an expression of passion. Every meal was healthy and delicious and unique and vibrant. It was the kind of food that makes you feel good while you’re eating it and after you eat it, which was new for me.

When I got back home, I was desperate to continue this I can enjoy all kinds of foods in all kinds of ways and don’t have to eat so much that I feel disgusting all the time lifestyle, and so, like any average yet determined cook/honest yet sarcastic writer would (and should) do, I’ve decided to document this journey.

DISCLAIMER/INTENSE REMINDER: I am not a chef, thus this segment is not going to be your run of the mill cooking blog. There will not be pretty, studio-esque pictures. There will not be sage advice. There will not be perfection. There will tales of disaster and frequent admissions of “oops.” There will be a lot of recapping of panicked Googling and pictures of the too many dishes I dirtied while trying to be professional. There may even be some utensil related injuries. Basically, this will be a series of me trying to cook and then writing about what went wrong—because trust me, something always goes wrong—and then hoping that you can relate, laugh, and (somehow) be inspired to cook as well.

As far as names go, I’ve decided to fondly refer to this new segment as “Strain Then Stir,” which recalls one of my most shining moments in the kitchen that you can read about here.

The first post will be up tomorrow, and will continue on a monthly basis until I either: 1) become a world famous chef with her own show on Food Network or 2) burn the house down, throw in the towel and shift my marital focus to a world famous chef with their own show on Food Network. Only time will tell.

5 (More) Easy Ways to Save the World

A few months ago for Earth Day, I posted this blog that listed 5 ways we could all lend a hand in the rescue of our damsel in distress planet. Today, I come to you with 5 more! Let’s dive right in!


1) Say no to straws


Straws are one of the most wasteful plastics out there. If you think about it, you use a straw for about 10-15 minutes (or 5 minutes, if you’re like me and have a binge-sipping problem) and then you throw it away, never to be used again. According to Ecocycle.org about 500 million straws are used EVERY DAY which is enough to fill 127 school buses EVERY DAY. Those straws then end up in a landfill and eventually the ocean where they break down into particles marine life mistake as food. Good news is, we are—as were generations upon generations before us—completely and totally capable of enjoying our beverages sans straw. OR if you prefer to live the straw life, there are tons of reusable straws out there calling your name (like these ones!)


2) Use a cloth makeup remover


One of my favorite parts of the day is getting home from work and wiping my makeup off—and taking my pants off, but that’s beside the point—and for a long time I used both big name and knock-off brands of makeup wipes to accomplish this afternoon feat. However, I recently started using a reusable cloth makeup remover (which I got for super cheap on Amazon) and it has worked better than anything else I’ve ever bought before. PLUS, as an added bonus, it creates no trash, it only uses water so it can never dry out, and it can be washed with a load of towels to start anew every couple weeks! I think this is what you call a win win win.


3) Recycle


I know, this one seems obvious. How long have we been told to recycle? And yet, how long have we not been recycling to our fullest potential?! Recently I came to the end of a bottle of face wash and out of habit, I chucked it in the trash, then opened the new bottle I bought at the store. I’d just got back from my trip to Hawaii where I learned a lot about new and easy lifestyle changes that benefit the environment, so after a few minutes, I reached down and pulled the bottle out of the trash, turned it over and found the familiar black-universal-recycling-symbol_267b symbol. An immediate pit formed in my stomach. I’d been throwing away these bottles for years! This got me thinking, how many other things have I not been recycling correctly? So, next time you’re getting ready to throw something away, double check the label. If you find this guy: black-universal-recycling-symbol_267b, throw it in with the recycling.


4) Shop & Upcycle

Another thing I was shocked to recently find out is that the fashion industry is one of the most wasteful in the world. An article published on Ecowatch.com stated that in 2015 it was the second dirtiest industry in the world, outmatched only by big oil. Can you imagine?! But while suppliers in the fashion industry are taking a variety of steps to reduce their carbon footprint, we can help right now, by both shopping at our local donation houses such as Goodwill or Salvation Army and/or upcycling old clothes into something new.

diy rug with upcycled old denim ohohblog 17 (1)

One of my goals for 2017 is to make this DIY rug with old jeans, which is just one of thousands of other projects floating around Pinterest and the like. So even though it is an amazing thing to donate clothes and I am in no way saying to stop, it is also the sad truth that thousands of pounds of old clothes are ending up in landfills. All I’m saying is it can’t hurt to do some research, or to spend a few hours perusing Pinterest, or to stop by your local donation house as a customer once in a while. There are always some great finds to be found.



5) Pick up trash


One of my favorite things about my cousin a.k.a the female Indiana Jones a.k.a the leader of our weeklong adventure in Hawaii, Alison, is that she practices what she preaches. Being an environmentalist who has literally swam through trash to showcase the malpractice of human waste, you’d think that she must take extra care in, well, taking care of the earth in her own day to day life, and I’m happy to report she does! In the week I spent with her in Hawaii I saw her collect trash off the beach and put it in her backpack and I sat buckled in the back seat as she pulled the car over to collect cans rolling down the side of the road. At first I was a little shocked, thinking, woah, she’s really putting in some extra work here. But then I started to realize that while yes, it might have taken a couple extra seconds out of her day, it wasn’t actually hard. And if we all lent a few extra seconds each day to get some trash to a trashcan or recycling bin, our world could be a much prettier and cleaner place.

31 Good Things that Happened in July

I have good news and good news. I have only good news!

As mentioned in this blog post, at the end of every month I’m going to highlight all the good things that happened in that 30-day (or so) span, to give ourselves a break from the well known bad.

You can find last month’s here.

Happy July to you!


1) This woman did a sexy photoshoot as a surprise for her fiance…dressed as a dinosaur



2) Nickelodeon released information about the new Hey Arnold! movie


3) This husband gave his wife of 30 years a very special gift for their anniversary


4) The 4th of July



5) Kelly Clarkson had an amazing response to an internet troll


6) This man started a new job


7) This man received a much deserved dose of humanity


8) This guy proposed to his girlfriend/dance partner in the middle of a dance


9) This man got a surprise birthday party from his favorite breakfast restaurant


10) This police officer attended a birthday tea party for the first baby he ever delivered



11) This little girl learned her second word


12)  This man combed his sick wife’s hair

It doesn't get any cuter than this. ❤️

A post shared by People Magazine (@people) on


13) This kind police officer found way to help a woman he was called to arrest


14) This mom shared a hilarious story about farting during yoga.


15) With some divine intervention, this woman got the surprise of a lifetime


16) One Country gave us this recipe for Oreo-stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies


17) San Diego Comic Con released some much appreciated nerd-out material. (Including this trailer for the new season of Stranger Things!)


18) This woman got to meet Luke Bryan


19 Billy Zane, Kate Winslet & Leonardo Dicaprio posted this photo together with an iconic caption


20) This dog made people smile


21) This man found a way around sitting in rush hour traffic


22) This girl made eye shadow a nostalgic art


23) This dad took a dance class with his daughter


24) It was announced that Mean Girls: The Musical is officially a thing!


25) The Vancouver Aquarium introduced the world to this baby sea otter


26) This guy found out he was going to be a dad…


27) …and then found out it is a boy!


28) This guy gave a baby some encouragement


29) After being told to “move to the batters’ box” Adrian Beltre moved the batter’s box to him, resulting in one of baseball’s most hilarious rejections


30) This man found an amazing display of love


31) And these guys brought their groceries in the only way you ever should (#onetrip)


Wanna know the best part? There is SO much I didn’t include.

I can’t wait to see what August brings!


How to Survive an Alison’s Adventure (Day 8)

Day 8

Before every meal we ate at the house, David, Deb, or really anyone who was close, would ring the gamelan—which is similar to a xylophone—to announce that dinner was ready. I always loved hearing it, because unlike the usual rush or dread of making and eating dinner I feel at home, it felt like a celebration of another meal we got to share together as a family. That being said, it was only fitting that on our last day in Hawaii, we were woken up not by the sun or the birds or an alarm, but by the gamelan.FullSizeRender 41

The previous day had been a long one, and we were all worn out. We mosied up to the kitchen at different paces, at varying levels of awake, sad and happy all at the same time.

Sandy and George had early flights while the rest of us were leaving in the evening. So, we took each other’s hands, joining together as a family for one last time, feeling grateful, loved and understood by one another in a way that no one outside the circle would ever truly understand.

I packed up my things, already feeling a certain level of separation anxiety from the routine we’d acclimated to over the last week. I wondered what it would be like to go back to the “real world.” Would it be the same, would I be the same? And though I knew a surface glance would suggest, “yes,” I knew better. For just as our cliff jump had encouraged a new way to jump, and our vision boards created a new way to dream, a shift back into “reality” would provide nothing short of a new opportunity to live. I would take what I learned, both about others, from others, and within and about myself, and I would use it to break the barriers that have held onto me so tightly. I would tear down the walls that locked me between expectation and anxiety and build new skyscrapers of determination and possibility.

And when I got home, and people asked me about my trip, asked me what it was like to go on one of “Alison’s Adventures”, I’d look at them with a smile, knowing that while the adventure had her name on it, and her blueprints beneath it, we’d all made it our own, and we’d all carry it forward from here.

FullSizeRender 48

How to Survive an Alison’s Adventure (Day 7)

Day 7

In a smooth transition from the previous day’s adventures, Day 7 of our trip started off with a morning yoga session where Deb introduced us to the Sanskrit term, “shanti” which means, “peace.”

“Shanti shanti shanti,” she said as the sun rose up over the ocean.

I let the words sink in as deep as they possibly could, knowing I’d need as much peace as possible. Today was the newly scheduled surf day, and I was already shaking.

Unlike our initial, crack of dawn attempt, our surf shenanigans were set to start around 11 a.m. (high tide), at a new location that promised waves. I slid into my bathing suit, envisioning not as many, though still a few possibilities of me falling, drowning, etc.

Emily and I took our seats next to each other in the car, both of us silently hoping there would be a simultaneous lack of waves for us and great waves for everyone else. This however, would prove as impossible as it seemed, because just under an hour later, we were wearing surf shoes, rash guards and listening to our instructor, Bear, give us a quick intro on the “need to know” of surfing.

I was doing everything I could not to cry, including looking into Bears eyes, which were so genuine I felt as though letting him down by not surfing would be equally as damaging as fulfilling one of my drowning prophecies.

He put a surfboard down on the ground and mimed a paddle out into the water and the proper way to jump up into a standing position once we were riding a wave.

“Who’s next?” he said, looking out at our oh-my-gosh-we’re-actually-about-to-surf faces.

One by one we lay down on the board, paddling our hands just above the sand and popping up into a balanced squat. When it came my turn, I glided up into the standing position and Bear clapped with a bright smile, “like butter!” he said. This filled me with both pride and dread. I hope this means I don’t have to stay out there longer…

“Alright, let’s go! Everyone grab a board and have Sam, Trae or I help you paddle out.”

I strapped the board to my right foot and timidly walked down to the water. Sam, one the assistant instructors, helped guide me out passed the rocks and then I paddled alongside Bear.

“Are you excited?” he said.

In the spirit of being open and honest, I turned to him and said, “No, mostly just terrified.”

I expected him to say, “You’re good,” or “don’t worry about it.” Something nonchalant and mildly encouraging that would have bounced right off me. But instead he slowed down the pace of our paddle and told me something I have no doubt will stick with me for a long time. “Nervous and excited are the same emotion in the body. It’s all about channeling that energy to the right place. You’re the boss out here, take it at your own pace.”

I nodded, more appreciative than I was able to express, and paddled out next to Alison, where she took this picture, perfectly capturing my still very prevalent fear.


But then, just like on that first day when I went from sitting firmly on a lava rock to literally jumping off a cliff, before I knew it was paddling through the water with Sam behind me saying, “Stand up! Stand up!”

Spoiler alert: I didn’t stand up…

that time.


That’s right folks, I totally shredded a two foot wave like my life depended on it. Sure, I looked confused. Worried. As if I had just been teleported onto a surf board without knowing how or why. But I did it. I surfed. Me. The girl who was not going to surf. And I had a great time.

I did end up feeling a little seasick after a few runs, which caused me to paddle in and take my initially desired seat: the beach. But I was immensely proud of myself for trying and was able to watch the rest of my family surf without a stitch of regret.


Upon arriving back at the house, we met in the yoga studio to do one of my favorite activities: crafts! Well, sort of. Going with the theme of the entire week, we were going to continue on with manifesting our dreams, ignoring limits and defying obstacles, by creating vision boards.

If you’ve never heard of or made a vision board of your own, it is essentially a visual representation of what you want in life. (Here’s a good article on it)

Before we went surfing, Jack encouraged us all to dream about doing well. To visualize ourselves succeeding, as it was the first step in actually doing so. Now, as you know, I wasn’t great at that, however, I understood the idea. Vision boards are the same concept.20108150_1476410822415149_310974896981170149_n

So, Alison gave us all a piece of poster board, put a stack of magazines in the middle of the room, and told us to sift through them to find words, images or any visual manifestation of what we want in our lives, and glue it down on paper. Afterward, we all shared the what and the why of our individual boards, both to let ourselves say it out loud, and to allow others to then hold us accountable.

Keeping with that spirit, here’s mine:


It includes wishes to be strong, to fight for what I want, no matter how long it takes, to run 1000 miles, to fall in love and have a house and family of my own, and to never stop pursuing even my craziest ideas.

Upon arriving home I stuck it up on my wall and have every intention of achieving the impossible.

Speaking of impossible, let’s cut to back to Day 7, post vision board craft, at 8:00 pm.

I’m on a boat. It’s pouring down rain and I’m standing, shivering in a wet suit, dreaming of dry land. It will be worth it. I’m telling myself over and over and over. It will be worth it.

15 minutes later, I’m snorkeled up, laying face down in the rocking water, with my ankles resting on a pool noodle.

Really take a minute to picture that.

I’ll never know what I looked like, especially from their point of view.

They, of course, being the manta ray.

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Yup, that’s right. While laying face down in the water, these guys came within about 5 inches of us. Our boat would shine lights into the water, attracting plankton, which would in turn attract the manta ray like an ice cream cone would attract me: quickly and with a wide open mouth. Our feet rested on pool noodles so as not to accidentally kick the manta ray, and our hands held tightly onto a raft so as not to allow us the temptation to touch the manta ray. (Though if I stuck my tongue out, I swear I still could have. They were that close.)

To say it was unreal—well to be honest, that’s all there really is to say. It totally felt like I was looking through a glass at an aquarium rather than sharing the same air bubbles as a sea creature fondly known as “Amanda Ray.” Let’s just say there were multiple times I involuntarily screamed into my snorkel. And if I didn’t have the film footage and multiple witnesses to prove I was there, I’d probably chalk it up to another one of my weird dreams.

But then again, upon arriving back at the house and looking at my vision board, I was reminded that dreams, when taken seriously, can be far more than just dreams. That just as swimming with manta rays would have only (if ever) crossed my mind as an impossibility, the things I find myself constantly dreaming about can become that much more possible.

How to Survive an Alison’s Adventure (Day 5&6)

Day 5

On perhaps my most dreaded day of the entire trip, my sister and I awoke not to the rise of the sun, but to the sound of an alarm. At 5:15, we slipped out of bed and put on our bathing suits—we were going surfing and I was pretty sure I was going to throw up.

Two days earlier, when Alison initially announced that Monday was surf day, I cautiously asked if there were any alternative activities available.

“What about standup paddle boarding?” I asked nervously. “Is that an option?”

Being a less than superb swimmer and an active worrier, I had no interest in surfing. For days I had pictured myself falling and drowning and getting swept out to sea, as if Alison was going to drop us in the middle of 50-foot waves with a foam board and a slap on the butt. I am also extremely prone to seasickness. So as I pictured myself falling again and again, I also envisioned the motion of the waves rocking me all the way to the bathroom for the remainder of the night.

“You’re going to do great,” Alison said, looking at me in the rearview mirror, “I promise you’ll be totally fine.” But alas, there I was, dressed and (not so) ready to go, hands shaking in my lap as we made our way down to our intended surf spot.

Emily, a new friend from Canada, sat quietly beside me. The night before, as we were given a quick briefing on what to expect for surf day, she’d leaned in and asked me what my thoughts were. Turns out, she too was terrified. A long breath escaped my lungs in relief. I had been dreading surf day for weeks, and the fear of its arrival had only been matched by my admission to want to skip it. However, in the spirit of “jumping”, I had been honest with how I was feeling, which not only gave me the slightest bit more courage, but also gave those around me—like Emily—the slightest bit of comfort.

As we pulled up to the surf spot, our would be instructor, Bear, hopped out of his car with a frown. The water was flat as a pancake. I tried my best to hide my relief from everyone except Emily, who gave me the slightest smile when no one was looking.

“Alright,” Alison said, bummed, “new plan!”

We hopped back in the car and jetted over to a bay, our car now stocked with snorkels and fins. I walked out along the rocks to the water line with a boogie board and leftover anxiety, still the slightest bit scared for what we were about to do.

“Ready?” I said to Emily, and she nodded.


We swam out towards a building crowd. Swimmers and kayaks alike were gathering in the center of the bay, screaming and laughing with excitement. I held the boogie board out in front of me, steadily kicking my fins behind me.

“There they are!” someone shouted in front of me. My pace quickened.

“Look down now!”

I pushed my snorkel beneath the water and my ears popped. Suddenly I heard a high-pitched noise coming closer and closer. I turned my head and three dolphins were swimming right towards me. They moved smoothly, effortlessly and I was hypnotized. Once they were out of sight, I popped up out of the water with a bright smile.

“That was amazing!” I said

I rested on my boogie board, completely in awe. Wow, I thought. There were just three dolphins swimming right below me!! What a day. 

Fast forward an hour later, I’d seen over 100.

Excuse me while I let that sink in again. Yes, I did in fact swim with one hundred dolphins. Me. The person who doesn’t swim. What is life?


From the bay of (100!) dolphins we made a quick stop for some local organic ice cream, then spent the remainder of our afternoon snacking, laughing, and working as hard as this monk seal we found lounging on the beach.




Day 6

As far as I’m concerned any day that starts with carbs is going to be a good day. So as I sat around the breakfast table with people I’d grown to really care about, eating a scone at sunrise, I was loving my life.

By this point we were all very comfortable with each other and were not afraid to make a bit of a touristy scene when it came to properly documenting a good view. To give you an idea, allow me to introduce our group by way of shameless photograph.

First, there’s our leader, filmmaker, environmentalist, and all around superhero, Alison.


photo credit: @eemburton

And her parents: calm, gentle, and encouraging Deb


photo credit: @eemburton

And witty, kind and creative David


Then there’s YouTuber, adrenaline junkie, and dreadlock extraordinaire, Jack.


photo credit: @eemburton

Genuine, funny and caring Wayan


photo credit: @eemburton

Canadian photographer, peacemaker, and lover and appreciator of all things, Emily


photo credit: @alisonsadventures

There’s good-natured go-getter, undeniably adorable Sandy


And kind-hearted, courageous and soulful George

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Then, some faces you might already know:

My punny, caring and dad of all dads, Brian

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My wild and free ray of sunshine sister, Natalee

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And this chick with the orange shorts that kept following them around (a.k.a me!)

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We were an undeniable family, so much so that—as you may have noticed—we often posed the exact same way, and people constantly asked if we wanted our picture taken together (which we almost always obliged) (in the exact same pose).


On this day, we took in the sights of yet another breathtaking beach, unique in topography but not in grandeur to those we’d seen before, and we also got a little lesson in survival.

For those of you who don’t know, Alison had a very unique upbringing, the likes of which gave her the slightest advantage (if one can exist) on Discovery Channel’s Naked and Afraid a few years back. So as we took a seat under a shady tree a little ways up the shoreline from the water, she stood up with her signature enthusiasm.

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“So we’ve just been dropped here,” she said, pulling us into an imaginary scenario, “and we need to use what we can find around us to survive the night. Do you know what the four most important tools for survival are, and in what order?”

*pauses in case you’re the kind of person that wants to make they’re own guess.*

Answer Key:

  1. Shelter
  2. Water
  3. Heat
  4. Food

Alison then walked us through the Jurassic Park-esque landscape, pointing out different materials we could use for shelter, what to look for in terms of food, some key facts about tropical plants and some basic survival tips we could take with us to any terrain.

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Afterwards we walked back over to our camp—which included a minor trek across a river—and set up for a relaxing afternoon on the beach.

Again we split off into the napping and non-napping, the swimming, the tanning, the exploring, or in my case, the writing. I took a seat up against a tree, pulled out my notebook and let my mind spill out onto the page.

One thought that kept coming up was about a conversation we had in the car a few days prior. I was sat in the middle of the backseat between Natalee and Emily, with Alison and Jack riding in the front. Emily had asked Alison how she defines her—some could argue unorthodox—profession.

Alison kind of laughed, and bobbled her head around, her face revealing she’d not only been asked this question many times before, but has also spent a good amount of time pondering the answer herself. She said she usually sums it up to “filmmaker” as films are the center of what she does.

I remember sitting there quietly, wishing I could sum it up better, if only to be more apt to brag about her to my friends and family back home. But it wasn’t until I found myself under that tree that I felt as though I’d finally found the right word.


I played with it, threw it around my brain. I understood it wasn’t correct if taken in the logical sense. However, in the same thought that not all artists draw and not all athletes play baseball, I felt as though architect too could lend itself to interpretation.

The way I see it, she builds moments. Be it with her films, her adventures or her one on one conversations with you. She designs them, lays them out, and invites everyone to be a contractor in the steps that follow. On this adventure alone, she’d given us the tools to build ourselves up to be something bigger than we could have imagined. She’d reminded us that each of our lives is our own adventure and it is not only our job to live it, but also our great opportunity.

So as I sat there underneath that tree, watching the breeze sweep across the beach and the waves crash along the shore, I felt something I never would have expected in the chaotic weeks leading up to the trip: peace. For even though I was constantly being challenged to test my limits, I was starting to realize, that should I invite the possibility, I no longer had to have any.