What is success?

A little while ago, my friend Sienna was in town visiting. It seems that she often inspires my posts, but I'm not too surprised about that. It is easy to make light conversation with her, but the really good stuff comes out after a bottle of wine has been opened and the hours stretch far into the evening. These conversations cover topics from life goals, to sexuality, relationships, politics - nothing is off limits. She brings out the passion in people, and inspires me to look inwardly but also to see the world in a different light. 

I treasure these nights! 

Sienna and me at the Gay Pride Parade, 2016. 

Sienna and me at the Gay Pride Parade, 2016. 

This particular evening we got on the topic of success. She felt she was taking a step backwards because she was moving back in with her parents. This decision freed up time and finances in order to allow her to pursue acting and poetry - her true passions. 

My younger sister has been doing the same thing for a little while now. She's been living with our parents, and using any moment of free time to build her own production company from the ground up.

It has allowed her to worry less about money, while at the same time build something that truly makes her happy. 

In our society, much of someone's success is directly correlated to how much money they have (or, let's face it - how much they can show it off). People judge others, and themselves, on the size of their home, the quality of their car or phone, the clothes they wear, and everything in between. But do those things really bring us happiness? 

Finding my own personal fulfillment has come from not only looking within, but creating more time to do things that I truly want to do. Yes, a degree of happiness comes from the stability of having money, and being able to purchase the things we need to live. But after a certain point, more money doesn't equate to more happiness. 

I highly recommend everyone see the documentary "I Am" - it illustrates this point beautifully.

There are plenty of cultures that live with their families throughout their entire lives. If they get married, they move out to start their own family but often still live nearby. It's not a measure of success as to whether or not they live alone in a big apartment or huge house - in fact, it may even seem wasteful. 

Me and my sister, Amber, having fun in Disneyland last month! We could live together happily, I am sure of it. 

Me and my sister, Amber, having fun in Disneyland last month! We could live together happily, I am sure of it. 

Having family nearby allows everyone to have a helping hand when they need one. It means extra care for the kids, friends to share meals with, and safety. It is the creation of community and relationships, as opposed to isolation. And as humans, we do not thrive in isolation. 

I have a friend that has one of those big fancy apartments. She makes a good amount of money, can buy the latest gadgets, and is a pretty good definition of what our world deems "successful". She is also unhappy with her job, has very few relationships, and often dines alone.

This is one circumstance, but I have to ask - would sharing a space with someone free her up financially to allow her to quit her job, and find something that is fulfilling? Would it help her feel more comfortable around others so that she can build more relationships? Would it make her happier? Maybe taking a step back at first would be the best way for her to take a step forward in the future.  

Many of us think it's embarrassing to have to move back in with the folks, or find a roommate after a certain age in our lives. Some of us would rather get into even more debt than to deal with the embarrassment of having to explain that to someone. People ask with a grimace, "they are 35 and still living with their parents?" when they should be asking (without judgement), "what is their plan, and their next move in life?"

For someone to accept that sharing space with others is an option that will open up new opportunities or help remove a burden in place of struggle is a huge success, in my opinion!

So Thankful

Thanksgiving

I don't know about you kids, but I feel so lucky to have all that I have and to live this beautiful life. Even with everything that's been happening in the world right now, there is so much beauty in every day that sometimes I think I might burst.

To put it simply, this life is pretty darn awesome. 

There are a gazillion things that I'm grateful for, and this list barely scrapes the surface. Nevertheless, in honor of Thanksgiving, here's my little list for which I'm constantly thankful: 

- The fam. All of 'em. 
- My ridiculous, wonderful, loving, selfless, hilarious friends. 
- Bicycles.
- Those moments we can set aside our phones and enjoy each other's company.
- Impromptu dance parties. 
- The Denver Bicycle Cafe. For reminding me that working at a cafe doesn't have to suck - and in fact, it can be pretty darn rad. Case in point, this
- Lazy mornings when you can sleep in then watch back-to-back episodes of Bob's Burgers. 
- Sweet and passionate kisses.
- Extra large hot water heaters. 
- When a song hits me at the very time I need to hear those words. 
- The moment I finish reading an amazing book. 

Yep, that was a good one!! 

Yep, that was a good one!! 


- Safety pins.
- Really big hugs. 
- Helpful neighbors. 
- Snow boots.
- KARAOKE NIGHT. 
- Thoughtful gifts. 
- People who really listen. 
- People embracing (and sharing) their talents. 
- Days off. 
- Really delicious coffee. 

I made this one myself! 

I made this one myself! 


- Shared meals. 
- Puppies. 
- Shoes I can stand in for hours that don't hurt my feet.
- Police officers, firemen and women, emergency room doctors, nurses, and anyone else working their butt off during the holidays. 
- Home.
- All of my friend's beautiful little babies that were born this year. 
- Live music. 
- Earplugs. 
- Laughter that makes me forget anything bad ever happened.
- Hope. 
- Movie nights. 
- Jokes that land at the perfect moment. 
- Park naps on warm summer days. 

There's so much more that I could put on this list, but for right now that'll do just fine!

Most of all, I'm thankful every day that I have so many wonderful people (like you) in my life.

Yes, there are terrible, awful things that happen in this world - but let's gather, eat a bunch of food with the people we love, and focus on the good stuff. 

Wishing you and your families all a wonderful and beautiful Thanksgiving! 

Current Mood | A New Season

I remember once when I was working with my friend Sienna, I asked her if I could put on some music, specifically my "Melancholy Mood" playlist.

Her response was, "I feel like that playlist is always my mood."

It was so funny at the time, but I'm starting to understand how she feels! It may have been the election outcome, the sad news that keeps popping up all over the world, or that it's already dark at 5 p.m., but lately my mood has been a bit more melancholy than usual. 

I have always loved fall. I love the chill in the air, the excuse to stay in and snuggle under a blanket with a book, and the colors of the leaves. Fall in Denver has been drawn out a bit longer than usual this year, which I must admit has always been something I've wanted. However it seems that the looming winter is weighing on my shoulders. 

I went for a walk this morning to try and shake off my state of mind, but my steps dragged. When I looked up I saw the moon still fading in the early blue sky, and it just made me feel tiny. 

Maybe it's okay to feel small and helpless every now and then. The problems of daily life can feel a little less heavy when compared to the rest of the big bad world.

Sometimes the moon only seems bright when compared to the absolute darkness around it. 

It seems that there's just not enough time to do everything I want to do. 
Sometimes I feel so full of love I want to burst, and other times I feel so sorrowful I want to hide under the covers all day. 
Sometimes everything just seems too big, and impossible to reach. 

I'm just one tiny person that hopes to do big things. 

I know that things will start getting brighter, and that my mood will lift back to its normal height of happiness. But right now, I'm just going to accept things as they are. Sometimes I just need to exist where I am at the moment in order to get to where I need to be. For some reason, I find comfort in that. 

Girls on the Gorge | An Amazing Adventure!

Last year I took a road trip with Nina to Montana, where we whitewater kayaked with Girls on the Gorge. 

My post about the trip breaks it all down, but it was a pretty amazing experience. Not only did I learn a lot about myself in just a few short days, but I got to see the beauty of Montana's rivers, and meet some truly wonderful women!

Nina and I on the river! 

Nina and I on the river! 

We were lucky enough to have Sprout Films along on this trip to film us for a video they were making to promote the Girls on the Gorge kayaking program. Here is the full video (keep an eye out for me!):

Ladies, if you have the availability to take this trip I HIGHLY recommend it. It's such an empowering experience, and an adventure I will always be thankful for!

For more information about Sprout Films, click here. 
For more information about Girls on the Gorge, click here. 

Missing You

Lately, I've been missing some of my favorite people:

From top left, clockwise: Megan (as lazy susan), Amber, Ryan, Sienna.

From top left, clockwise: Megan (as lazy susan), Amber, Ryan, Sienna.

Oh, and of course the beautiful Betsy that started what I call the Denver Friends Pacific Northwest Migration! 

You need to check out her Instagram page. Trust me. 

Although these folks are not physically in my life anymore (at least for now!), I think of them constantly, and miss them dearly. 

It's interesting looking back on the people that have come in and out of my life at different times. People that were so close to me at one point I barely know now. People that I only knew as random acquaintances years ago are now some of my dearest friends. 

I love how life is a constant ebb and flow of different connections and relationships. It's ever-growing, and ever-changing. There is comfort in the constant, but also excitement in the change. 

Friends that are far away, I just wanted to let you know: I love you, and I think of you all the time! I really truly hope to see you again very soon!

Freelance for a year!

My LinkedIn profile just alerted me to something I may have otherwise missed: I have been working freelance for just over a year as of this month!

I am a little shocked at how fast the year has gone by, and also so thrilled that I've made it this far. You might remember, I kinda jumped right into this whole career-change thing. It was scary, but also a risk I was willing to take in consideration of the new freedoms I could gain. 

I've certainly had my doubts along the way, and I am constantly learning how to manage my time. I've had my moments of feeling like every extra moment of my time is filled with work, and my moments of oh-shit-am-I-going-to-be-able-to-pay-rent-this-month. I've even tried applying for full-time office work again after being so frustrated with the instability (and lack of benefits) that comes with being self-employed. 

Then I get a steady few months of work, get back into a routine, and remember that I can do this... 

Work outside on a beautiful morning!

Work outside on a beautiful morning!

And this... 

Bike to the park on my lunch break (that I can take whenever I want)!

Bike to the park on my lunch break (that I can take whenever I want)!

And I'm SO HAPPY all over again. 

I'm sure I'll have tough months moving forward, I'm not naive about that. I'll still have doubts, and have exciting moments of success. Overall I'm just going to continue riding the wave! 

I may even find a full-time job someday that will allow me to have kind of freedom I'm looking for but also let me do work that I'm passionate about! ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE! 

But right now, that little tidbit of news made me really proud of myself. I truly feel like I can accomplish anything I put hard work into. I am so glad I took the chance! 

Taking a Break (Part 3)

Continued from Taking a Break (Part 2).

Part 3: 

Not once on my hike today did I think about email. 

I didn't think about Facebook. I didn't worry about whether or not someone would text me back. 

I heard thunder in the distance, but didn't think about checking the radar or my weather app. If it rained, I would just get wet. 

I didn't wish I'd brought music with me - I enjoyed the sounds of the forest, and the crunching of my own footsteps. 

When I reached the end of the hike, I didn't feel the desire to share the moment with a photo on Instagram.

I just sat. I rested my legs. I breathed in and out. I existed. And it was beautiful. 

Last night, while riding the boat home from an evening of tubing and swimming in the lake, I thought - how can I save this feeling forever? 

How could I possibly capture the child-like exhilaration of being whipped around on a raft behind the boat (in a non-stop fit of giggles), or the feeling of floating in the warm water, legs dangling below me, the glassy waves rising up to my chin and the orange sun setting in the distance? 

The feeling of the warm wind pulsing against my skin as we sped back to the dock - eyes watering beneath my glasses, tangles of wet hair whipping around my face and neck. Feeling a blissful sense of happiness and tiredness and absolute contentment. The strain in my chest of the love I feel for my friend Megan. The way the water sparkles as we skim over the top of it in the final pink of sunset. A smile spreads across my lips, even though I know I can only hold onto a few small pieces of this. I won't remember every detail, the exact temperature, or the sweet smell of the air. But I still have this moment, and it is wonderful.

It came and went, but it was there. And that's what makes me happy. 

The long drive home!

The long drive home!

My trip to Missouri was absolute bliss. There was a moment when Megan and I were sitting on her porch next to each other. We had our feet resting on the railing, while a thunderstorm was raging all around us. We were silently reading our books, when Megan turned to me and said, "I'm so glad that you're here." 

I saw all kinds of animals - herons, turtles, skunks, deer. 
I bought a candle called "Crisp Morning Air" that reminds me of the smell of the woods. 
I drank beer from a local brewery that was light and sweet and refreshing. 
I didn't worry about what time it was. 
I read a book. 
I floated in the warm water of the lake, and was reminded of how nice it is to swim in something that's not chlorinated. 
I dove off the dock.
I cooked dinner with Megan (well, let's be realistic - I cooked, Megan ate).
We watched "Slow Learners" and "Jurassic Park". 
I cross stitched. 
We kayaked and got homemade barbecue. 
I got sunburned, then really tan. 
We relaxed. 
Megan and I sat in the tree house spa and talked about our dreams for the future.
We drove around the resort in a golf cart while I yelled at the squirrels. 
We played fetch in the lake with Grace. 
We went tubing!
We watched the sunsets.
I went shopping at the "antique" store (more like a junk store, but I still loved it). 
Megan bought a dress at the Jug & Plug. 
We laughed. 

When I departed very early on a rainy and foggy Saturday morning, I reluctantly turned on my phone. It beeped continuously with all of my unread texts and voicemails. But when I began responding I realized nothing was terribly urgent. I got home and began replying to my emails and Facebook alerts, it only took me about an hour to catch up. 

I realized I can spend HOURS every week checking and re-checking for emails, posts, and messages, when in reality the internet doesn't need me there all the time. 

This was a magnificent thing to learn. I think from now on I will make a rule: No phones on vacation, unless there's an emergency. I'll also designate more time every week / weekend to shutting off everything, and just existing. 

Could you go without phone or internet for a week or weekend? 

Taking a Break (Part 2)

Continued from Taking a Break (Part 1).

Part 2:

Yesterday, we drove 3.5 hours to Tulsa, OK to take Nina to the airport. She could only take a long weekend off rather than the entire week, like me. While there, Megan and I got to spend some quality time together and get caught up. 

We discussed the constant presence of our phones, and how people so often have their faces and minds all wrapped up somewhere else rather than engaged with the person sitting across from them. 

We went to a little bakery / coffee shop called Antoinette, and decided to find a place to get a manicure and pedicure. Instead of reading reviews or looking up directions on our phones - we decided to do something uncommon these days: ASK SOMEONE FOR HELP. 

I kind of loved   that little bakery . 

I kind of loved that little bakery

We had a lovely conversation with the two women running the shop, and they gave us directions to a place nearby. It was so much nicer than sticking our faces in our phones, and trying to sift through a list of reviews. We made real connections with real people, and shared a laugh together. It was so simple, yet the experience made a more positive impact on our day. 

Why do we depend on our phones when we don't need to? Why can't we just start a conversation with someone rather than automatically turning to our phones or computers for information? Sure, it's easier. But it also eliminates the opportunity to connect with another human being, and that is something our world is lacking.

It takes effort to resort back to the "old fashioned" way of doing things, and yet I've found that it's so important to do so. We have to consciously make the decision to talk to someone rather than take the easy way out, and our devices should be a back-up plan - not the ONLY plan. 

We are losing the connections we create when we start conversations with people in our communities, and it's up to us to make the decision to change that. 

TO BE CONTINUED...

Taking a Break (Part 1)

It's the tiniest twitch. 

First, it's something you think you hear. Did it buzz? Did it beep? 

Then, it's visual. Is my notification light blinking? 

IS SOMEONE TRYING TO REACH ME?? 

When did this become a constant worry? These days, we're ALWAYS reachable on our smartphones, and have an endless amount of choices at our fingertips. 

We can read a review of any restaurant before choosing to eat there, we can change plans last-minute at the swipe of a thumb, and we can find events, friends, and activities at any moment of any day. We're constantly in contact and so is everyone else. 

So what if, for one week, I decided to shut it all off? 

I recently took a week-long vacation to Missouri to visit my bestie, Megan. It was the perfect opportunity to relax and recharge my personal batteries. 

Who needs any distractions from a view like that? 

Who needs any distractions from a view like that? 

For one week, I couldn't reach anyone and they couldn't reach me. I couldn't check my calendar, my Instagram, my texts, or anything else. Not-so-surprising news: I survived just fine! I even learned some new things about myself. 

I'm breaking this post into three parts, as I wrote journal entries about my experience in a few separate installments during the week. 

Part 1: 

I can tell I'm still adjusting. Nina and Megan are still using their cell phones, and it's difficult to resist the urge to ask who liked that picture they posted, or ask if they tagged me in the photo. Then I asked myself: "Why do I care?"

In a week, not only will I forget about that post but so will everyone else. It'll be buried under a million other posts and completely forgotten about. Everything on social media is so fleeting, and yet we spend so much unnecessary time and interaction there. 

It has already been a huge stress relief, I can tell you that much. I don't wear a watch, so normally I just use my phone to tell the time. Since it's been off, I've slept until I'm not tired anymore, eaten when I felt hungry, and poured a glass of wine when I wanted one. That has been wonderful. Living with only my instinct of time (rather than a measurement of it) has made the days seem longer and more relaxed. It's very peaceful, as the only distinct change is the rising and setting of the sun. 

Another beautiful sunset at the swim dock. 

Another beautiful sunset at the swim dock. 

I am grateful for this type of solitude. I'd forgotten about it. I only know what is happening right now, with exactly who I'm spending time with. 

Of course I catch myself wondering what others are up to. But I don't have a way to find out, so it's easy for me to let go of. 

It's funny that there was a time in my life where needing to "shut off" didn't really exist. Not just because I was young, but because there wasn't an app for that. I didn't have a cell phone for a long time, or even email for that matter. I grew up without texting or social media. It was a different world. 

But for now, this is great. I don't miss the twitch, and it's only been a couple of days. I also already have noticed that I'm beginning to dread turning my phone back on! 

TO BE CONTINUED...

A Lot Can Happen in ANOTHER Year

My big year-without-drinking was a wonderful way to take on some very important life lessons. Although it was a struggle at times I learned how to handle my emotions differently, face some of my personal fears, and learned how to embrace every moment in a new (and sober) way. 

This year has been very different. I have to motivate myself to try new and different things, rather than having a single goal in mind. It has definitely been a change from 2015. However, so far this year I have learned how to cross stitch, am re-learning how to play the piano, and next, I want to try a whole new challenge! 

One of my favorite cross-stitching projects! Pew pew pew! 

One of my favorite cross-stitching projects! Pew pew pew! 

I thought about coming up with another year-long challenge that I could write about each day, but then decided to stick to something for the next few months to see how it goes. It takes anywhere from 1-3 months to form a new habit, so trying out a new and healthy way of life for a little while (rather than an entire year) will be a great exercise for me. 

AND it'd give me something new to blog about! WIN-WIN!

Here are some of the ideas I have so far: 

  • Write in my journal every day. 
    Even if it's just a sentence. Record my thoughts, feelings, or memories every night. 
     
  • Limit my phone and/or social media usage.
    This could be difficult with my freelance work, but I hate that I check my phone up until the moment I go to bed, and the first moment I wake up in the morning. 
     
  • Wardrobe limit. 
    Take out anything I haven't worn in the past year, and put it out of sight. Minimize my wardrobe to the few things I truly wear every week. See how it changes my morning routine!
     
  • Eat only real foods at least two meals a day. 
    Two out of my three meals per day, I can only eat whole real foods. That means vegetables, fruits, whole grains, eggs, nuts, etc - NO cheese, NO breads, NO processed foods (except once per day - I'm only human).
     
  • NO SUGAR. 
    This one scares the hell out of me, as many of my friends know that I am a sugar ADDICT. Recent discoveries I've made through documentaries, article research, and books have revealed to me how truly awful sugar is to our health. Giving up sugar would be a huge challenge for me, and also be one change that would greatly impact my current and future well being. 

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Yes, I understand that most of these are self-centered goals for the betterment of my personal well being or mental state. But I hope that through my own self-improvement, others will be inspired to do the same. There are certain things in life we can control, and others we cannot. I like the idea of taking something that is within my control to change, and seeing what happens.

No, I do not believe this makes me better than you. I do not believe that choosing to make a big drastic life change is right for everyone. For some reason, it works for me. I enjoy having solid guidelines, and the challenge of putting myself through something that could be uncomfortable - but could also lead to a wonderful learning experience. For you, the steps could be smaller, or maybe even bigger and more drastic. Your goals will inevitably be different from mine. But isn't that the beauty of it? 

We all have the capacity to do great things, in our own way, at our own speed.

There are no rules, no clear right and wrong answers. Everyone's path in life is different, and we can impact the world in our own special way. I believe that the important thing is that we at least try. Take that first step and see where it leads, rather than deciding it's too difficult and never even trying.

When I'm an old lady, I don't want to look back and wonder about all of the things I didn't do. I want to look back and say: "I did it all. I lived the most that I could. I challenged myself. I gave my heart fully. And it was fucking amazing." 

Where you'll find me and Megan, 50 years from now - thinking about all the rad things we did!

Where you'll find me and Megan, 50 years from now - thinking about all the rad things we did!

Do you have any thoughts or suggestions regarding these ideas? Why would they be a challenge for you? Do you have other ideas that you think might be even better? Let me know in the comments!