journal

I’ll Always Remember the Good Parts

A couple weeks ago my mom, sister and I took a trip to Arkansas to visit both my cousin Brittney and her family, as well as my great great Aunt Evelyn who just recently turned 97 years old.

Usually when I go on a trip, I like to blog about it (check out some examples here and here) but when it comes to Arkansas, I tend to just let it lie. Not because the trip is boring or not worth sharing, but because it always seems to feel different than any other trip, making it hard—if not impossible—to find a way to write about it. In a way it feels like it’s not so much a trip as it is a step into another world, one that I couldn’t explain to someone as well as I could show them.

Our past couple trips to Arkansas, while fun and the exact breath of fresh air I needed, have had a bit of sadness attached to them. With my Aunt Evelyn’s health declining first slowly, and then quicker than we could keep up with, we saw our trips change from spending afternoons reading on her porch, to sitting at her bedside in a nursing home. For these trips, rather than staying at my Aunt Evelyn’s house, we’ve stayed with June, a childhood friend of my mom’s mom, and her husband, Jim. This alone has balanced the scales of the trips, filling them with as much laughter as they had gloom.

This past trip, after being warned by June that Aunt Evelyn had fallen not once, but twice in the last few days, and that her cancer had spread to nearly every part of her body, we took a few extra breaths on our drive from Brittney’s to June and Jim’s, knowing that this trip would be somewhat of a goodbye.

Upon arriving at June and Jim’s, we all exhaled, because at least for the moment, we were home. In an instant we were laughing, almost too hard to walk. They greeted us at the door and we dropped our things, unable to peel the smiles off our faces. It was almost 6 o’clock when we got there, so it wasn’t long before we were back on the road, headed out to dinner at one of June and Jim’s favorite restaurants. June sat next to me in the backseat, cracking jokes and nudging my elbow whenever she made a snarky comment just out of Jim’s earshot.

At dinner, we talked about our trip to Brittney’s. About her husband Scott, their five year old son, Landon, and their two and a half year old daughter, Nora. We talked about the three days we spent with them; about the slow mornings filled with Nora’s singing and Landon’s giggling and dancing and soccer ball dribbling; we talked about the day at the waterpark and the evening at the comedy club; and we talked about the afternoons on the couch talking or napping or laughing or just simply being.

The next morning, as we slowly got ourselves out of bed to the breakfast table and then out of our pajamas and into real clothes, we took another collective breath. My mom, my sister, June and I loaded up in the car to go see Aunt Evelyn, all of us the slightest bit nervous, even if we didn’t say so. When we got there, we found Aunt Evelyn asleep in her bed, so asleep it took two nurses to finally coax her awake to eat, even though she didn’t want to. I sat in a chair in the corner of the room, watching her slowly bring the world into focus, my mind flickering from the woman I saw in front of me, to the woman I’d sat beside in her living room watching reruns of Judge Judy.

As an adult, I’d never seen Aunt Evelyn without pain. She was always moving slow, her back keeping her slightly hunched and most content in her chair in the living room. But there were moments when it seemed to dull. Like when my sister made her favorite cookies in the kitchen and she giggled in her chair, excited to have three too many. Or when a story we told reminded her of a memory she carried. The three of us could never get enough of her stories. Both the good ones and the bad, the happy and the sad. Aunt Evelyn had lived a long, oftentimes hard life, and had spent many years living on her own, ruminating, reminiscing, and understandably burying a lot of memories.

As I sat in the corner chair, watching my Aunt Evelyn’s eyes squint and her brow furrow, I saw fear and confusion, pain and exhaustion. Then, for a moment, it passed. June cooed at her and Aunt Evelyn smiled in recognition, saying, “Hello June,” almost sarcastically, before softening her eyes and smiling at the sight of my mother, “Gina.”

But just as soon as peace settled in her eyes, the pain was back. The nurse sitting at her side offered her a bite of each helping of food on her tray, and Aunt Evelyn begged her to stop, hating every bit of it. Then, her eyes shifted again, this time into anger. She looked up at June and my mom, perhaps embarrassed, perhaps ashamed, perhaps longing for that woman I pictured sitting by my side in the living room watching reruns of Judge Judy.

“Get out,” she said. It was stern, but calm.

At first.

Then it was meaner. Louder. Fiercer.

“Get out of here!”

On the drive back to June’s we were all quiet, all bearing wounds that we didn’t want to talk about. Knowing what we knew about her health, we knew that could very well be the last time we would see her, and it was hard to swallow that as the last time. But just as I was able to picture her how I knew her, how I’ve known her, not in that bed but in her chair, in her house, in the hundreds of old pictures—some from stories I knew, others from those I might never know—I made a promise to remember her that way too.

On our flight home, my mind flashed with memories of trips we taken to see her. And even though there were hard parts, sad parts, bad parts strewn in, I clutched desperately to the good. To the funny and beautiful and indescribable. I hoped she knew I’d remember those parts most. And I’d visit them as easy as we did our weekend at Brittney’s as we sat across the dinner table from Jim and June. No matter what, I would always hold on to the good parts. Both today, tomorrow, and (if I’m lucky enough) seventy years from now, when I have my own chair in my own living room with a pair of great great nieces sitting by my side watching reruns and making me cookies.

Does Someone Have A Second to Invent These Things?

When I was younger I thought it would be cool to be an inventor. I pictured myself creating the next big thing the world never knew it needed, becoming a millionaire and living in a mansion with my family and a pet elephant. The only thing that stood in the way of that dream was actually having the idea for the next big thing in the first place.

These days, while I still don’t necessarily have the idea, I like to think I have some pretty good ones, though I’m still nowhere close to having the skills to turn them into anything tangible. That being said, if there are any inventors out there with some extra time, do you mind spending a little on these guys? They would make my life better, which has to mean they would provide a similar benefit to someone else’s.

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1) A blinker that indicates U-turns

You know when you’re in the left hand turn lane and the person in front of you is blinking their blinker and you think you’re on the same page and are ready to follow the leader across the intersection, only to have them flip a U and turn your whole world upside down? Okay, maybe not you’re whole world. But it’s definitely a I took a sip of a drink I expected to be soda but it was milk and now my life is a mess type of moments, you know? I just think there should be some kind of secondary blinker that says, “Hey, I’m not doing what you think I’m doing and I just wanted you to know.”

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2) To-go/delivery services for breakfast foods

You can get pizza delivered to your door in twenty minutes, you can get McDonald’s delivered to your door at 1 o’clock in the morning, heck, you can even get more wine delivered to your door before an episode of The Bachelor is over. If we’ve come this far, why can’t I order a waffle yet? It’s 2018, people, the world needs a pancake delivery service.

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3) Solar powered lane markers

The other day I was driving on the freeway at night and having trouble seeing the lane dividers. It had just stopped raining so the cement was wet, and the brake lights of my neighboring cars were making the reflectors on the lane dividers almost a non-factor. This got me thinking, if someone like me, who has 20/20 vision is having trouble seeing these markers, how would my sister, who requires a special prescription and especially struggles with night driving, have faired? So my thought here is, let’s Disneyland Electric Light Parade those bad boys! Stick some solar panels on the tops of them so they charge all day and glow all night. Not only would they make our freeways more exciting, they’d undoubtedly cut down on late night collisions.

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4) Something that can control CAPS LOCK

Have you ever been typing something and accidentally hit the caps lock when you didn’t intend to and then you typed an entire sentence in the wrong format and the only way to correct it was to delete the entire thing and start over? This happens to me more than I’d like to admit and it is endlessly frustrating. I just wish there was a way to highlight and either apply or remove caps lock in one fell swoop.

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5) An app that actually calculates the odds when you say, “what are the odds of that?”

Can you imagine having this power? Would it be too much? Would it be useful at all? It’s hard to say. But you can’t deny the fact that it would be fun to be able to pull out your phone while you are walking down the aisle of a grocery store in a city you are only in because you are on vacation, and yet you somehow find yourself running into an old high school acquaintance you never thought you’d have to see again and they say, “it’s so great to see you!” and the only non-controversial thing you can think to say is, “yeah, WHAT ARE THE ODDS OF THAT?” and your phone would say “approximately 1 in 1,000,000,000” and you would feel validated in how utterly ridiculous the whole thing is. You know that, and other, less complicated curiosities.

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All I ask in your quest to bring these ideas to life is to give me a shout out. I have no idea how patents work, but if there is a section where you provide influences, inspirations, muses, etc., just leave a link to this blog. I suppose a cut of the profit also might be nice. Just include a check with a doorstep waffle. Thanks in advance!

If You’re Going to Post, Post What’s True

As a creature of habit, my routine in the morning is almost identical every single day of the workweek. Among pressing snooze a few times, listening to a podcast, and making a (usually empty) promise to myself that we’ll nap later, checking Timehop—an app that connects to your social media accounts and shows you posts you made on that day in years past—is a staple.

Even though the Facebook posts, Instagram pictures and tweets can sometimes be unbearably cringy, I like to check in on the person I was however many years ago, and observe how much I’ve grown since then.

But among the goofy, the melodramatic, and the sometimes indecipherable posts, I sometimes find ones that make me downright frown. Because even now, after all these years, I can still feel the inauthenticity. It only takes a second to read the words or scan the picture to remember that the only reason I posted that was to impress/amuse/appease someone else.

On the one hand, I don’t want to be too hard on myself. We all go through periods of growth. Seasons when we’re trying on different versions of ourselves to see which one fits. Thus, reading those posts that definitely aren’t me could be viewed as little more than skimming digital records of that growing process. But it also makes me sad to see how much I valued the opinions and acceptance of others over presenting a truthful version of myself.

These days, I do my best to present nothing but the truth. Not only for the benefit of my present self (and anyone who might view what I post) but also for my future self, who, upon skimming Timehop one or two or five years from now can look back and be proud that I was confident enough to be my true self. After all, as much fun as it is to receive love and praise and “likes” for something we post, none of that will mean much if you know that what you posted is an ingenuine representation of who you are and what you’re feeling.

Think of social media like a scrapbook or a journal, minus the fear of it getting lost or worn with time. Once you put something on the Internet, it’s there forever. Which is kind of scary, but also kind of cool if you use it to your advantage. Technology is scrapbooking our memories for us, storing them for future “awww’s” and “eww’s” and “OH MY GOSH’s.”

Don’t get me wrong; posting to social media is a choice. The world will only see what you want it to see, but with that being said, why choose to only show the world a lie? What good does that do anyone, especially your future self who might want to look back and connect.

At the end of the day, I’m not here to judge you or anything you do or do not want to post to social media, and I expect you’d give me the same courtesy. But over the years, I’ve found that if you are going to post something, it’s always better to post what’s true. It’s better for you, it’s better for those around you, and it’s better for the world as a whole. We don’t get anywhere when we lie to each other, and we only go backwards when we lie to ourselves.

What I Learned from My First Stagecoach Festival

This past weekend I went to the Stagecoach Country Music Festival for the first time. Leading up to it, I didn’t know what to expect. Stagecoach is held in the same venue as Coachella, which I’d actually been to before to watch my brother play lacrosse, but even so, I really had no idea what I was walking in to.

Now that I’m back (and still alive!) I thought I’d analyze what my friends and I did right/wrong, in order to better prepare us (or you!) for future trips.

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What We Did Right: We stayed offsite

After we bought our tickets, our #1 priority was to find the best/most affordable/most convenient lodging. As it turned out, this was a very intense and stressful process, because everyone else who just bought their tickets was doing the exact same thing. But we ended up getting a great place on Airbnb about 20 minutes from the venue and it was great to get away from all the madness each night.

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What We Did Wrong: Parked at the venue

One of the downsides of staying upwards of 20 minutes away is the need to, you know, get to the venue. On Friday night we decided to drive straight there and park in the lot. It was a relatively smooth process on the way in, but it took us a solid hour to get out of the parking lot after the show, 45 minutes of which we didn’t even move. (Note: a friend of mine who’s been to Coachella suggests that if you leave about 10-20 minutes early at the end of the night, getting out of the parking lot is not too bad!)

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What We Did Right: Parked at a friend’s house

After Friday night, we asked some friends of ours who were staying at a house in walking distance from the venue if we could park in their driveway. The walk from their house to the venue ended up being the same distance and took the same amount of time as parking in the parking lot did (about 30 minutes) but once we arrived back at our car that night, we were out of their neighborhood and on the freeway back to our house in approximately five minutes. Granted, this isn’t a luxury that everyone has when they go to Stagecoach, but if you do stay offsite and know people staying closer, it’s worth the ask.

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What We Did Right: Brought bandanas

One item we constantly heard as a recommended bring was a bandana, and even though we weren’t exactly sure why, we all showed up on Friday with one packed in each of our bags. This would prove to be on of our greatest choices because not only does the wind pick up after sundown, blowing dust all up in your business, but the walk back to your car/house/camp/etc. is essentially one big parade of dust. I couldn’t recommend them more.

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What We Did Wrong: Left our chairs at home

Overall, the first day was really one big learning experience. In preparing for the trip we had bought cheap chairs but weren’t sure whether they’d be too bulky/nerdy to carry around. So on the first day the four of us only brought a few towels and a blanket to sit on. On our walk into the venue, we quickly realized that EVERYONE brings chairs. And after spending the afternoon and evening sitting on the hard ground, we found out why. Needless to say, we proudly carried our chairs in on Saturday and Sunday.

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What We Did Right: Brought sunscreen

I get it. Applying and reapplying sunscreen isn’t something you want as your number one priority when you’re at a music festival and you’re trying to look cute and have fun and forget all your worries and all of that. But as the sun set on Friday and we took a look around at some of the people who didn’t take the time to apply (or reapply), it was clear they were going to be hurting for the next two days.

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What We Did Wrong: Didn’t bring blankets and (good enough) sweatshirts

As it turns out, when the sun goes down in the desert and the wind picks up, it can get freaking cold! Saturday was especially cold and had all of us curled up and shivering. So we made a note for next time to not only bring blankets, but maybe even a pair of pants and a bigger jacket. It might seem ridiculous when you’re walking in at 3:30pm and it’s 100 degrees outside, but you have the option to either rent a locker, or if you’re with a big group, you can set up camp by the main stage and rotate getting up for food/drinks/exploring.

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What We Did Right: Sang and danced as much as possible

One of the best parts about any concert or sporting event is collectively enjoying something with a bunch of strangers. It’s a very uniting feeling. And even though it might seem weird to sing at the top of your lungs and dance your damn heart out in front of all these strangers, it’s really the only way to go. Lose your inhibitions, have a drink and just dance! It’s fun, it’s freeing, and at night it’s the only thing that keeps you warm!

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Overall, I would definitely go again. Even with the slight bit of chaos it took to figure everything out, I had a great time and was so glad I went. For anyone thinking of going next year, I’d say go for it! Even if you’re not a big festival person, it’s worth going once to try it out, especially if you go with a group of people who are looking to experience it the same way you are. Plus, you really can’t beat live music. Especially live country music in the (almost) summer time. It feels good down to your bones!

You Keep Following Your Dreams & I’ll Keep Following Mine

In August of 2016, me, my sister, and my best friend Allison (except I spell it Alleeson because of a whole Kimberlee double-e solidarity thing) went to dinner at Islands. As we sat laboring over which hamburger to choose from the menu, Alleeson put her hands on the table and took a deep breath.

“I have news,” she said.

I put my menu down and looked across the table at her, trying to gage whether this was good news or bad news based on the tone of her voice.

“I got a job.”

“That’s great!” I said, relieved.

“It’s for a news station in Oregon.”

Not even a month later, she was moving into a house 12 hours away and I was both heartbroken for me and unfathomably excited for her. She was nervous, I could tell. But she was also excited and curious and determined to give herself the big break she’d been waiting for.

In November of that year, I was able to visit her. She took me on a tour around her studio and showed me where they filmed the show and the things she was in charge of. I even got to watch a live taping of the evening show and witness her talent in action.

Back home, I was trying to catch some of the fire Alleeson had left behind. I was in awe of her bravery and her ability to just go for it. She made it look easy, even though I know almost no part of it was. She made me want to fight the battles that had long been easier to stay out of.

As the months went on, even though we were now hundreds of miles apart, I noticed how we still managed to mirror each other. Since we both come from creative backgrounds, we are constantly looking to do more, make more, be more, and so we both have our ups filled with confidence and our downs filled with doubt.

One night, as we were both lamenting over where we were and where we wanted to be, we made a pact. We decided that since the paths to our ultimate dreams were somewhat blurry, the best first step would be to hone in the destination.

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In the last year, I’ve seen Alleeson dive even deeper into her work. Putting in day after day, constantly pushing herself and trying new things, trying to be more. And yesterday, just as I was getting home from work, I got a message.

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She called me and I screamed into the phone. I tried to tell her how proud I was, how excited I was, how much she deserved it. Because she did. She does. She took that big risk; she’s put in all that work. She’s carving that path towards her dream no matter what anyone has to say about it.

It would be easy to be jealous, but that would be a waste of time. Instead, I’m going to take this as a reminder of what we set out to. What we intend to do, no matter how hard it is or how long it takes.

So as I celebrate this huge step she’s made, I’m going to take a few more of my own. For we started this together and always planned to kick ass side by side from there.

Congratulations Alleeson! (And good luck at the 2018 Regional Emmy’s!) Keep following your dream and I’ll keep following mine, and may we continue to follow each other’s fire.

Some Thoughts on Hug Protocol

I like hugs, I really do, but I’m also very confused by them.

See, I understand there are times when it’s obvious to hug and times when it’s obvious not to hug. But then there’s all this middle ground that is hard to read and makes my stomach hurt.

Take for example the “to hug” situations:

Hi, hello, it’s nice to meet you, let’s hug.

I’m so sorry your bird died, let’s hug.

I love you! I missed you! I just want an excuse to touch you! Let’s. Freaking. HUG.

Sometimes our bodies have no idea what else to do except hug, and so without even thinking twice we’re walking in for the kill with our arms wide whether the receiving party is ready or not.

Wait, stop right there. This is where a grey area comes in.

See, my sister is a BIG hugger. She’s all about showing love with a body glove. So much so that I sometimes refer to her as an “attack hugger,” which she—unsurprisingly—does not care for. She believes hugs are always important and will benefit all parties involved.

They break the ice. They show affection. They often provide you the opportunity to not-so-casually sniff someone’s hair. I get it. But am I the only one that wakes up on some mornings with zero hug toleration?

As in, Do. Not. Touch. Me.

I mean, is it so much to ask to let me dude it up from time to time and shake your hand or maybe just wave to you from across the room?

I don’t know, maybe this makes me antisocial. Or emotionally distant. Or some other string of big words that a psychologist would use to overanalyze me, relating it all back to the moment I realized my parents put me down and never picked back me up again.

But anyways, back to the grey area.

Say you walk into a room of 20 people you know, 15 of whom you genuinely like, and you start your circuit of “hello hugs” even though you know that your relationship with a few of these people is very “non-huggy”, either because you barely know each other or because you know each other too well and have too much of a wonky past. Do you still hug them?

Or what about when you’re talking to a friend whose kids are standing nearby and even though you know of all of them, you’ve really only gotten to know the oldest one through sports or church or something, so when you are getting ready to leave you only hug your friend and their oldest kid. Should you hug the rest of the children knowing they’d probably feel just as weird as you do about it, making the hug they actually do give you this weird hand pat on the back thing, which tempts you to make some sort of joke about how they should really hug people, even though you don’t want to hug them and they don’t want to hug you and now you’ve made quite a show about what type of hug you expect from them, even though you didn’t want one in the first place? Should you still hug them?

Lastly, say you arrive late to a family dinner so you walk in quickly, waving to everyone and apologizing for your tardiness, anxious to get to your seat so your family can order because they’re already complaining about how hungry they are. But when you get to your seat, you notice that your sister, who walked in behind you, stopped at each individual seat to hug everyone over-the-shoulder style—the act of which you hate because of that one time you accidentally put your hand in someone’s arm pit—and you wonder if you should have done the same thing. But now you’re already sitting down and you’ve taken your jacket off to try and cool yourself off, and you know that if you got up to hug everyone now someone would almost certainly put their hand in your arm pit by accident, which by this point is flooded with stress sweat. Do you still get up and hug them?

Jeopary-style answer: What is, I have absolutely no idea.

Can someone just invent an app I can sync with my Fit Bit that will make it vibrate once whenever I should hug someone and twice whenever I shouldn’t?

Yeah?

Good. Great. I would so appreciate that. Honestly. I mean, if you could really figure that out I’d be so thankful. No, you know what, I’m already thankful just because you’re considering this. Thank you, you are such a gem. Really, you are. Bring it in, let’s hug.

Strain then Stir (Episode 3): How to be Ingredient Conscious (Part 2)

Hello and welcome back to another episode of Strain Then Stir, a no-cameras, diary-esque cooking show blog where I attempt to transform myself from a two-meal Tina into a full course Frank…or at the very least, be capable of feeding myself more than cereal and pasta.

It has been quite a while since our last episode, though I suppose I have the holidays (and blunt procrastination) to blame for that. It always seems like the beginning of November turns into the beginning of January in the blink of an eye, doesn’t it?

If you remember last episode at all—don’t feel bad if you don’t, I had to go back and look because I had absolutely no idea—you’ll recall I talked about being ingredient conscious, which was essentially just me learning to better utilize leftover ingredients rather than letting them go to waste. Going back and reading it, I was a little disappointed in myself for not including some actual recipes I was using. So in the hopes of making up for that, I’ve brought some today!

In these last few months, I again noticed that my pantry and refrigerator were starting to pile up with ingredients that weren’t being used and were just sitting there taking up space. Eventually I got tired of looking at them and I went on a mission to start using them all.

Here are some recipes I found to help:

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Leftover Ingredient: Bananas

Recipe: Banana Bread

Have you ever bought bananas, brought them home, eaten 1 or 2 and then totally forgotten about them until they are brown and gross? Yeah, that’s me almost 100% of the time I buy bananas. Luckily, banana bread thrives on overripe bananas, and acts as a haven for your forgetfulness. I came across this recipe about a month ago when I was on the verge of throwing my bananas away, and it was so delicious, I will never again commit such a crime! (Find the recipe here!)

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HT_Chrissy_Teigen5_cf_160226_4x3t_384Leftover Ingredient: Sweet Potatoes

Recipe: Sweet Potato Gnocchi

I also happen to be guilty of buying sweet potatoes and forgetting about them until they’ve grown vines and look more like a monster than a food. In my last post, I talked about using sweet potatoes in an omelet, which was great, but this recipe from Chrissy Teigen’s cookbook is to die for. (Find the recipe here, find her cookbook here)

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Leftover Ingredient: Brown Rice & Frozen Veggies

Recipe: Rice Bowls

Whenever I go grocery shopping I like to buy brown rice and frozen vegetables in bulk, figuring the combination of the two is always an easy and healthy option. The only problem is, after a while rice and vegetables can get a little bland. An easy solution I’ve found for this however, is to:

a) Get more creative with my rice bowls, for example, you can check out a bunch of recipes here and here.

b) Add more flavor to my rice bowls. Growing up I was never much of a spice person. I’ve always been super sensitive to spicy foods and as a result tend to shy away from almost all spices. Recently however, I’ve been trying to ease in different herbs and spices to—wait for it—spice up my life a little bit, and let me tell you, it’s been life changing! (Check out this article for 15 easy ways to spice up brown rice) 

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p_R103186Leftover Ingredient: Cannellini Beans

Recipe: White Bean & Tuna Wraps

When I was working my way through Kayla Itsines’ book in the first episode, I bought a couple cans of cannellini beans for one recipe or another but then completely forgot about them. As a result, they were sitting in my pantry for months! My biggest issue with finding a recipe home for these guys was that I wasn’t exactly sure what they were or what they tasted like, and oftentimes when I’m making dinner, I’m too hungry or lazy to do that kind of research. But in the spirit of cleaning out my pantry, I finally took the 2 minutes to google “cannellini bean recipes” and I came across this bad boy. Honestly, I’m mad it took me this long to find it. (Find the recipe here)

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Over the next month or two I’m hoping to dive into another cookbook and find some new recipes to learn. If I were to sum up what I’ve learned so far in only two words, I’d say, who knew?! because it seems like the farther I go into this journey, the more I’m finding that is always something else to know.

You Won’t Win Unless You’re Willing to Lose

In October of 2017, as he was training for the 2018 Winter Olympics, Shaun White had a horrible crash that resulted in 62 stitches in his face. In an interview a few months later, he was asked whether the crash gave him doubts about his ability or willingness to continue, especially in pursuit of a spot on the Olympic team. He nodded his head, saying that while he looked in the mirror at his nearly unrecognizable face, he realized that by agreeing to continue, agreeing to step back out there and try again, he was more or less accepting that this could happen all over again.

At first, this statement seemed obvious to me. Being a complete outsider to the sport, the corresponding danger is constantly at the forefront of my attention. I mean, they are literally throwing themselves through the air, flipping and spinning and twisting at high speeds, all the while hoping they’ll land flat on a thin piece of fiberglass. With that in mind, of course it could happen again, Shaun! Honestly it seems like it should happen more.

But as the weeks went on and the Olympics came and went, the quote sat with me, churning around in my brain the way all lessons waiting to be learned tend to. Eventually I started thinking about the risks I take in my own life. Both small and big. I thought about my writing, both on this blog and outside it in pursuit of other projects, accolades, etc. Every time I write a blog post, I accept the fact that people might not like it, or that it might not do well. Every time I submit a piece to a contest or a magazine or a publisher, I accept the fact that it might lose or get rejected. Every time I try to succeed, I accept the fact I can fail.

After a while, I realized this mindset can apply to almost every aspect of our lives.

In relationships, every time you make yourself vulnerable you accept the fact that you could get hurt.

In finances, every time you make an investment you accept the fact that it could fall through.

Plans can fail. Accidents can happen. Hearts can break.

In this world, there is a lot to be afraid of, there is a lot that can go wrong, and there are a lot of opportunities to fail. But every day we get up, every day we step outside, every time we accept those fears and try again, we give ourselves the change to succeed, to win.

On February 14th, after spending months both recovering from his injury and working his way back into the physical and mental shape needed to make the Olympic team, Shaun White won the gold medal in the Snowboard Halfpipe event, making him the most decorated snowboarder of all time.

In many ways it was expected, hoped for, anticipated, both by Shaun White and the millions of people tuning in to the competition. But the only guarantee would have come from him not trying, not taking that risk, not stepping back into the sport all those months ago. The same goes for anything you hope for, I dream of, we all aim to accomplish. So even though failure is hard, vulnerability is terrifying and losing sucks, it’s worth the risk. Not only because it brings you one step closer to success, but because it makes you stronger, braver and smarter than you were before. And although it might not feel like it, trying and failing will always show more courage than avoiding failure all together. So take the risk, make the try and see where it takes you.

2018 Goals Check-in

Can you believe we’re already 3 months into this year? I seriously can’t get over how fast everything is moving! And with the end of March officially marking the end of the first quarter of the year, it’s time to check in on how I’m doing with the goals I set for 2018.

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1) Do a handstand in yoga

Progress: 33.33%

So I have to admit, I haven’t been doing great at going to yoga. I started strong at the beginning of the year, but that petered out fast. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy yoga, I just didn’t particularly care for the class I was going to and haven’t been that motivated to find a new one. HOWEVER, I have been doing some at-home yoga using Yoga Girl’s program and have been very diligent about going to the gym. Thus, I am getting stronger, which was the ultimate plan in working myself up to do a handstand. Stay tuned!

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2) Take a kickboxing class

Progress: 0%

I have not got around to signing up for a kickboxing class. However, I’ve done a bunch of research on where I can take them. In doing so I found a bunch of promotional deals on sites like Groupon, as well as a number of gyms and classes near me that offer a free class for beginners. So I will definitely be taking advantage of those opportunities in the near future.

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3) Visit (at least) 20 museums in Los Angeles

Progress: 1/20 (5%)

This was another one that had a great start but has been in a solid lull since then. However, I’m not too worried as I love museums and I think it will take just getting back to one for me to fall into a rhythm and go consistently. As of now, I’ve only gone to is The Getty, but I’ll keep a running list in case you’re interested!

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4) Get CPR certified

Progress: 0%

This one is on hold until the fall because my aunt offered to take me with her when she gets re-certified before the coming school year. That being said, please hold all emergencies until September.

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5) Shoot (at least) 1 roll of film per month

Progress: 3/12 (25%)

It’s funny, I never realized just how long it had been since I photographed with my film camera or how out of practice I was until I shot my first roll. At the beginning of this year, I was feeling pretty confident and decided to ignore my instincts to re-read the directions on how to work my camera, and I moved through the roll of film pretty quickly, thinking, “I still got it!” This overconfidence however, came back to bite me when I finished the roll, tried to unload the film—while STILL not looking at the directions—and ultimately ruined the film all together. Since then however, I’ve got my groove back (and I’ve read the directions) and am currently on target.

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6) Complete the 104 things to Photograph book

Progress: 10/104 (9.62%)

I made a spreadsheet to track this (which surprises no one) but I’m actually not 100% sure where I’m at, as I haven’t developed the film I’ve shot over the last few months. There might be some surprises that can apply to the book, we’ll see!

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7) Visit the sea glass beach in Fort Bragg, CA

Progress: 0%

I haven’t had any time to do research on this one, so no progress yet.

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8) Go to the dentist

Progress: 0%

I’m going to make myself an appointment today. I (probably) promise!

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9) Watch 20 documentaries on Netflix

Progress: 4/20 (20%)

Before starting this goal I was a little nervous I wouldn’t find documentaries I liked or enjoyed and instead would feel like I was back in school trying not to fall asleep during an educational video. To my pleasant surprise however, I’ve found that documentaries come in a variety of flavors, at least one of which everyone is bound to like. Here are the ones I’ve watched so far:

  1. Happy
  2. The Mortified Guide
  3. The Mortified Sessions
  4. Minimalism

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10) Perfect an omelet

Progress: 0%

For this one, I’ve both received tips and invitations for in-person lessons from friends, but the biggest thing holding me back is getting a good pan. So, once I find some extra room in my budget to grab one, I will take everyone up on their advice/help/etc.

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11) See (at least) one movie in theaters per month

Progress: 3/12 (25%)

If you read my January & February favorites, I mentioned MoviePass, which has essentially been the key for keeping up with this goal. After seeing two movies in January for a total of only $10, I quickly convinced my sister and my roommate, Rachel, to sign up and I hope we take wild advantage of it for the rest of the year. Also, in case your curious, I’ll keep a running tally of the movies I see, so far that includes:

  1. I, Tonya
  2. Call Me By Your Name
  3. Maze Runner: The Death Cure
  4. 50 Shades Freed
  5. Red Sparrow
  6. I Can Only Imagine

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12) Read 20 books off the Time’s 100 List

Progress: 2/20 (10%)

I fell a little off track on this goal after getting sucked into a couple books (Into the Wild & Into Thin Air, both of which I’d highly recommend!) by Jon Krakauer at the beginning of this year. In addition, once I was ready to start checking books off the list, I realized I either had to ask if people I knew had these books, or start working a second job to start buying them all. Luckily, my roommate Rachel discovered something MAGICAL, a.k.a the digital library. It works exactly like a physical library: you check out books and get them for 21 days. However, with the digital option now available, you can rent the books and have them sent directly to your Kindle! What a time to be alive, people! If you are in the LA area, you can check it out here, or if you’re not, I’d recommend researching whether your local library has an online database. It’s a real game changer.

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13) Pay off credit card

Progress: 6.40%

So the whole point of this goal was to pay off my current credit card so I can open up a new one. Specifically one that gains your airline miles because flights are ridiculously expensive. That being said, the start of this year brought a lot of reasons for me to use my current credit card, so I fell a little behind. Good news is, I caught back up and am now in the green in terms of repayment, so hopefully I can keep trucking along throughout the year.

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14) See 3 WRLA’s – COMPLETED!

Progress: 3/3 (100%)

While on a trip to Seattle and Canada this past month, I was unexpectedly able to complete this goal, seeing the World’s Largest Cowboy Hat & Boots in Seattle, WA, the World’s Largest Paper Airplane in Mukilteo, WA, and the World’s Largest Tin Solider in New Westminster, BC, Canada!

 

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15) Volunteer (at least) 5 times

Progress: 0/5 (0%)

I admit it, I’m totally slacking on this one and I need to get on it.

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16) Donate Blood

Progress: 0%

The day I started this progress report my church announced it is holding a blood drive at the end of this month. So, while I’m still slightly terrified, I feel like that’s kind of a sign to suck it up and go for it. Stay tuned for the next update to see if 1) I chickened out, 2) I went for it and passed out or 3) I went for it and handled it like a champ. #3 seems farfetched at this point, but you never know.

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17) Do the 1 second/day video challenge

Progress: 95/365 (26.03%)

This has actually been more fun than I expected. While it is a little stressful to find something unique to record every day—especially when I forget and it’s already 11pm—I ’ve been very pleased with the results so far. My favorite part is knowing I’m the only person that knows what all the clips relate to, as some of them come off pretty obscure. When I watch them back however, they all awaken a specific memory from that particular day.  On March 1st, the 60th day of the year, I compiled all the clips I had so far in order to see what my first “minute” of the year looked like.

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When we add that all together, my total progress is about 15%. So I’ve got a little ground to make up, but it looks like a lot of it will be covered by the end of this month!  If you set goals this year, I hope things are going well for you, and if you didn’t, it’s never too late to start! 🙂

It’s Always Sunny in Seattle & Canada (At Least When We’re There): Spring Break Day 5&6

Day 5

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I’d like to consider me, Natalee and Mel pretty similar. For example, when we come across a highly recommended restaurant online and its menu includes things like “homemade biscuits” and “chocolate fudge waffles,” we’ll all agree it is a must taste. That being said, it wasn’t really a question whether we’d wait out the line in front of Jam Café on Wednesday morning.

It was our first stop of what was sure to be a full day, so after spending a solid 40 minutes waiting in the crisp Vancouver air, we sat down and ordered exactly what our hearts desired. For me, that included a chocolate milk and this masterpiece known as the “biscuit breakfast.”

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Animated GIF-downsized_largeFrom there we made our way up the highway to the Capilano Suspension Park, which was one of our most anticipated sights.

First order of business: crossing the bridge.

While none of us are afraid of heights, it is impossible not to wobble on this bridge, as the entire thing literally wobbles as you cross. To be honest, it kind of feels like standing up from a stool at a bar and realizing you’ve had too much to drink but are determined not to show it, so you try your best to walk straight, only to zig zag your way straight into a stranger.

Once we were in the middle of the bridge, we made sure to take a bunch of photos and videos, both to commemorate the experience, and to deviously show to my dad later who is terrified of heights. #sorrydad

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Awaiting us on the other side of the bridge was a series of paths that led us up amongst the trees and offered us views of the river down below. We walked slow, looking up and down and all around, trying to soak in as much as possible, knowing any pictures we took could never completely showcase the beauty of what we were seeing.

Back on the other side of the bridge, we took a final turn that looped us around on an even thinner path—again, sorry dad!—and then we made our way back to the car. Seeing as we’d soaked in a heavy dose of nature, we thought it was only fitting to head into…more nature!

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So, we drove back into town and rented a few bikes (we used Yes Cycle) to take a personal tour of Stanley Park. The loop around the park was about 5 miles, and we did it in an hour, which included stops to take pictures, say hello to Canadian geese, etc.

By the time we returned our bikes, it was about 3:30 p.m., and since we hadn’t eaten since breakfast, we thought the perfect spot for dinner would be Granville Island. So, after dropping our car back at our hotel, we walked the whopping 5 blocks to the dock and took an Aquabus across the water.

OriginalPhoto-543368639.672033Once inside the market, we had a few things we wanted to accomplish. First, we did a quick lap, taking in all the options both for dinner, dessert, and everything in between. Our waiter at the Jam Café had told us to “follow our nose.” But with the amount of sugary, salty and sweet smells, blindly following that advice would have left us running in circles for the rest of the day. So, after eating everything we possibly could with our eyes, we sat down for dinner on the top floor. From there we did a second lap around the market, this time making stops for a honey dip donut from Lee’s Donuts (a personal recommendation from our waiter), some caramel corn (which I’m currently munching on as I write this), and some red velvet cake (which Mel said was DELICIOUS.)

On our ferry ride back, we were all beginning to fade, but after a solid hour-long veg session, we rallied and made our way to the Shameful Tiki Room, another recommendation from our waiter at Jam Café.

As he promised, the outside of the restaurant was completely blank and easily missable for the average passerby. Once we walked inside however, we were transported into a zombie-fied tiki haven that was as dark and foggy as it was vaguely Hawaiian. The three of us opted to split “the mystery bowl,” a drink served in a large shell that was lit on fire and delivered in precession with the ringing of a gong.

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Note: it was far less poisonous and far more delicious than this picture might suggest. These reactions were primarily provoked by the flash, which in the moment felt like a direct attack on our corneas.

After we finished our drink (which was approximately 4 minutes later) we talked about our favorite parts of the trip, each of us remembering different moments than the other. And as we made our way back to the hotel, there was again a bittersweet air that hung around us, except this time it was mostly bitter.


 

Day 6

On our last day in Vancouver, we were in a bit of a time crunch. Since we were all flying out around 3:00pm and wanted to have ample time to return our rental car, we knew that any last minute adventures had to be timely and organized.

So, with Mel fully loaded with Wi-Fi researched and copied down directions, we pulled away from our hotel for the last time and made our first (very Canadian) stop at Tim Horton’s for breakfast.

Now, it should be noted that of the 5 days we’d been gone, this was the first and only day it rained. But when I say it rained, I mean it rained. Clearly Vancouver was as upset at our leaving as we were. Nevertheless, we proceeded with our sightseeing marathon, never hesitating to run out into the rain and take a picture.

First on the list: the Gastown Steam Clock.

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Next was the Olympic Village, though after following an address to a town square that had street names like “Athletes Way,” we didn’t find much else that memorialized the 2010 Olympics. (Note: we later found out the Olympic Rings are actually in Whistler)

IMG_3853Our final stop was the World’s Largest Tin Soldier. A delightfully tall and unexpected international WRLA! He stood overlooking the Fraser River, both welcoming us and wishing us well as we made our way back to airport.

Once we were on the plane—Natalee and I on one and Mel on another—I took my seat and looked out the window, wondering if I could see any of the sights one last time before we took off. A few minutes later, a family boarded and took a seat in front of us. It was a husband and wife and their three children. They were all on their way to Disneyland for the first time. The kids excitedly looked out the window, amazed at the prospect of flying and propelled by the promise of their first big adventure. It made the sting our adventure ending a little dimmer, as it reminded me of the promise that new adventures are always around the corner.

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