10 Awesome Happenings From 2017…So Far

The last 6 months have been a sham. In today’s world it’s pretty easy to write a list of 10 terrible things that happened recently… in fact, you can probably write up 10 terrible things that have happened this week #America. But, in the spirit of being my opposite self (known pessimist) I’m going to encourage us to focus on the positive.

I think it can be really easy to focus on all of the not-so-great things in the world, and while I am not advocating for ignoring those (at all!) I am offering a 5 minute read break of some pretty cool things that have happened, but that can easily be overlooked. But don’t let it stop with me! I want to hear all the beautiful things that have happened in your lives, as well. In the spirit of celebration, share yours in the comments!

1. The apocalypse didn’t happen

Okay, so this one might seem a bit extreme. But, yo. Shit went down in January, and I think we can all agree on that (sorry for the swearing, mom). But can I just say something, really quick? I’m proud of you guys. I’m proud of my allies who post signs in their yards saying that they support people who look different from themselves. I’m proud of the people who don’t stand around ignoring homophobia or xenophobic remarks on public transportation. I’m proud of the women who take their daughters to protests with signs that say, “WE ARE HERE. WE ARE WATCHING. WE ARE NOT GOING ANYWHERE!” I’m proud of my science friends who march for knowledge. I’m proud of my friends who sat in airports and said, “No. Fear will not rule how we treat our neighbors.” I’m proud of you guys.

2. I found out what I want to be when I grow up

This is the year when I finally figured it out. I know what I want to be when I grow up! And no, it’s not a brain surgeon—sorry mom. I graduated in 2010 with a Degree in Journalism and literally no idea what I wanted to do with my life, other than have people stop asking me what my five year plan was.

I gave myself five years to do whatever the hell I wanted. I traveled the world, lived in another country and in different states. I worked for a non-profit, I took more internships than I can count. I was a nanny. Giving myself time to grow was one of the best gifts I think I could have ever given myself, and it works! I finally figured something out. Stay tuned for more details!

3. I took a trip to Europe 

Every year, since I started solo backpacking, I’ve tried to take a trip back to to Europe. Why Europe? Because it’s my heart. I don’t know how to describe it, really. But when I’m there (almost regardless of the country) I feel like I’m at home. Since 2013 I’m kept my promise to myself and this year I went to Denmark, Scotland, Ireland and Belgium! I’m so excited because I’m actually going to get to go TWICE this year, which I do not take for granted, at all. What an insane and unimaginable gift. I’m so excited.

4. I went to a clothing exchange 

Hands up if you like clothes! As someone who has more than I probably should, and a Degree in Fashion Design, I’m a 100% clothing and shoe lover. This month I got the opportunity to meet up with some other stylish ladies, and we exchanged clothing and stories and laughs. The best part was that all the extra clothes got given to an awesome non-profit that helps out women coming out of domestic abuse situations!

5. I hosted a craft night…and it was f*cking awesome (sorry, mom)

Me and a friend tried to join a knitting group about a month ago and when we got to the damn coffee shop (sorry, mom) we found out that the group wasn’t meeting anymore. We had been waiting to go for weeks, so we were pretty upset to find out we couldn’t get our knit on.

Solution? Host a craft night at my house so we DEFINITELY have a place to create and geek out. AND IT WAS SO FUN. One of my passions in life is bringing together magnificent, strong, creative women and having them all meet and talk to each other. What an awesome event for us to get to craft and laugh and drink wine and just have a great time!

6. I’ve hung out with eight estranged friends

I’ve talked about this on here, before, but my New Years Resolution was to grab coffee with someone every month, who I hadn’t seen in a long time. So far we’re 5/5 and I already have a couple coffee hang times scheduled for June.

This has honestly been one of the coolest resolutions, because it is TOO easy to lose touch with awesome people who may even live close, but are just eternally busy. And I get it, we’re so busy with life that we don’t have time for relationships with people, anymore. But let’s swim against the tide and battle those loneliness statistics (looking at you, Seattle—we’re #5 on the list).

7. I went to an awesome birthday dinner for my Grandpa

My family is borderline insane. And the great part about saying that is that we all agree, so I don’t have to apologize. That being said, we still get together and we still celebrate the occasional event. This April, we had a glorious celebration for my Grandpa’s birthday, and it was the actually a lot of fun! Maybe we’re growing out of some of our crazy?

8. I had a sleepover with my friends

Yep. Like an old-school sleepover. The brainchild of my brilliant roommate, we built a blanket fort out of our living room, watched Knight’s Tale, and ate pizza. Of course we had all types of girl talk and tons of laughs as well. The best part? It was at my house, so I still got to go to sleep in my own bed. #adulting

9. I didn’t adopt a cat…but I did get a cat sitting job

In March I got out of a pretty long term/serious relationship and as all sane recent breakup-ees do, I immediately went on the hunt for a cat to distract me from all of my woes. Thank the universe that nobody let me get one (because practically speaking I am technically allergic to most of them…broken hearts make you do weird things). The GOOD news is that I got a job cat sitting, which is awesome because I get to play with cats, get paid, and I still can breathe at home! Win-win-win.

10. I took a personal finance class…and it was awesome

Call me crazy, but why is personal finance not a required class in college? I mean, no wonder this country has so many financial problems. Ask any millennial and all we know is that if we don’t pay the student loan gods we get in trouble. What about retirement? What about balancing a budget sheet? WHAT ABOUT TAXES!? Okay, so that last one is probably more important to me because I work at an accounting firm, but come on America, where are we supposed to figure this stuff out!?

Luckily there was a free personal finance class that was offered near me, and it was like four hours of empowerment. I highly recommend looking into your local community centers (or this one was at a church—shoutout to Quest) to see if you can take one. Believe me, it’s worth the time investment.

11. I have an art exhibit going up tomorrow! 

Bonus! I have an art exhibit going up at Irwin’s Bakery tomorrow and I’m so excited! I’ve wanted to have an exhibit for a while, and it’s so awesome that the dream bubbling around in my mind is actually becoming real. If you have a chance to stop by definitely do, if you can’t, you can check out more pics (and a video – woot!) on my Facebook page.

Denver, CO: Day 2

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Well, it has been a bit of whirlwind since my second day in Denver, and I lost track of posting, but day 2 was filled with beautiful art and hipster coffee shops, so it is definitely something I still need to share. Denver wasn’t my cup of tea, as a whole, but I did love the art museum. Not only was it huge, but it also had one of the most extensive Native American exhibits I’ve ever seen.

Another happy little surprise was that I got in for free! I’ve been to most of the museums that it covers in Seattle, but if you haven’t checked it out, yet and you bank with Bank of America – look up your city for “Museum On Us.” Basically, the first weekend of every month you get in to museums (general admission, no special exhibits) for free. All you have to do is show your debit/credit card. Which is wicked awesome because I love museums like nobody’s business. On this round, it saved me +$20 dollars…which I then spent on books. But the point is, getting into museums is always a bonus.

Anyhoo, I thought I would share some of my favorite pics from wandering around the Denver Art Museum and Denver itself. One thing that I will say, is that being at some crazy elevation kept me from taking long days of exploring because I could not breathe. It was the worst. But, I did manage to visit a few spots before feeling like I was going to collapse from my faux smokers lung.

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These were all made out of tree bark. Which makes me feel like I do absolutely nothing with the basic resources I have accessible to me.
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One of my favorite paintings, which I bought a postcard for. I never thought of Denver as the “Wild West” but I guess it is. And that makes sense. Shame on me.
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I wish you could see how big these cows really were. Something about cows, but there were statues of them all over the city. (*I know, I know, the city’s history or whatever)
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Beaded purses that probably took a lifetime to make. It’s crazy to think that artifacts like this lasted hundreds of years. Talk about making something that will last a lifetime.
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I love Native American designs so much. Maybe it’s my own heritage coming out, but I’ve always been so attracted to the beauty of intricate and geometric patterns.
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Yeah yeah. A real chief’s feather headdress. As in not from an culturally appropriating ad. That’s right Free People/Urban Outfitters: I’m talking to you.
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This pic does a good, but still not completely extensive job of showing how huge this space was. There was so much to see!
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Be still my heart. I’ll take one of each.
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This picture looks super cool and high-up like I’m one of those awesome photographers who climbs things in the name of their art form. Lies. It was taken out of a museum window. But looooook – mountains!
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Somebody painted this by hand. Appreciate that for a moment.
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So there were a couple of Samurai exhibits. The other one was an additional $20 to go see, so I chose to look at the main exhibit armor instead of the fancy shmancy ones. I don’t regret this decision. It was still pretty cool.
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This picture has no significance except that I love beautiful rooms. And just outside there were two Monet paintings that made my heart soar.

Invincible Me

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Memories are funny things. Childhood memories can be filled with imagined wonder, or overwhelming pain. And, looking back at my crazy bookworm artist braided hair younger self; I see so much more insight into who I am, and who I am becoming, as an adult.

Looking back, I see all of the laughter, the imagination, the beauty, the pain, the curiosity, the anger and confusion – and I sometimes think I was so much more intact when I was a child. Because, back then, I didn’t worry about being filtered. I laughed and danced because it was time to laugh and it was time to dance, not because I had been told by society to do, or not to do, one or the other.

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about when I was 11 years old.

My grandma, who I had only met once, had died and I was laying on my bed, curled in a crescent shape. Alone. And wondering if I should cry. At the time, I suppose it would have been the right thing to do. But all I could do was sit there, curled up, wondering whether I was supposed to do it.

That was the beginning of a pretty unhealthy relationship with tears.

You see, I was raised in a very non-emotional family. We didn’t cry, hug, say ‘I love you’ or talk about emotions in pretty much any other way. We were strong. We were invincible. Or, at least, in my naivety, that’s what I thought.

Over the next decade I didn’t cry. I didn’t cry at sad movies, funerals, when pets died, or when sad things happened in the world. I was invincible. I was strong. Or that’s what I told myself.

I still can count the number of people who have seen me cry on one hand. It’s a pretty rare occasion, and like any natural phenomena it’s usually brief and then gone, like it never happened in the first place. Crying just wasn’t ever an acceptable means of communication in my life.

Then I moved to France.

Americans make fun of the French, a lot, for how emotional they are. And, to a certain extent, those jokes aren’t always wholly unfounded. In my one year in Paris, I saw more tantrums, and crying fits than I had in my entire existence. And I’m not talking about from the kids.

Maybe it was the culture that was surrounding me, or maybe it was the trauma of being alone in a country 5,000 miles away from your next closest friend. But, when I lived in France I cried – quite a lot. In fact, I wouldn’t even say ‘cry’ is a solid enough word. I wept. A lot.

And while it still wasn’t in front of people, and there still weren’t tantrums involved, I think I have to thank France for giving me back my tears.

You see, something I’ve realized, since being back in the US, is how much more emotional I am. When shit is sad, I cry (sorry, for the swearword, mom). When I’m upset, I cry. When I see something heartbreaking in the news, I care…and sometimes I cry.

And while I may not be single-handedly supporting the Kleenex industry (yet), that’s a really big deal for me. But what’s more substantial, in my opinion, is the realization that for so long, I believed a lie.

Crying and caring hasn’t made me weaker.

It has made me so much stronger. I’m able to invest so much more in the people and relationships around me. It has pushed me forward, and allowed me to focus on creating a solution, rather than trying to control the problem.

I hear a lot about people who don’t cry: they’re tough, they’re cool, they’re manly, they’re invincible. But the truth is that we are broken. And don’t get me wrong, that’s not necessarily a bad thing – brokenness builds beauty all the time.

But, speaking from the other side, I’ve learned so much more about my own ability to rise higher, dig deeper and pursue and dream more. There’s something empowering about the ability to cry. In a way, I like to think of it like a phoenix burning. It can hurt to feel pain, and to allow your body to process it. But, in the end, it creates something even more beautiful; something renewed.

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The Party Strikes Back – 2015

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There are certain moments in your life that you will hold on to for the rest of your life. Being around 2,000+ other Star Wars nerds was  one of them. From the moment I entered the EMP (Experience Music Project) museum in downtown Seattle I was met with the cutest little sister squad of Princess Leia, Darth Vader and a bounty hunter. They reached about the height of my knees. At that moment I knew I was in for a pretty awesome night.

I’m pretty geeky by nature. I was raised by a huge sci-fi geek family and that has definitely translated over into my adult life. I’ve travelled around the world visiting geek events and I loved being able to be in my home city and have the same kind of beautiful community. If you’re in the Seattle area, this exhibit is only available to see until October 4th! The costumes are beautiful and well worth the trip!

Here are some of my favorite shots from the night – shout out to my friend Ben for putting up with me throwing my camera at him as I ran to ask cosplayers to take pics with them. 

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Oceans

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Galway, Ireland

On the way back from school today, I was walking with my two youngest boys, and we came to a crosswalk. We stopped, looked both ways, and I stepped out first with them following. While they happily scampered across the street a car came speeding down the road, slamming on its brakes last minute when it saw me there, standing in the center of the crosswalk waiting for my kids to get across. I eyed the driver defiantly; because do or die, I was not moving until my kids were safe.

This isn’t the first, or the last, time that something like this has/will happened. As an au pair it’s my job to protect and take care of my kids and that’s what I do, even if it means risking my own safety in the effort. First and foremost it’s my job to make sure they come home safe and sound at the end of the day.

But, you know what? They don’t know that. In fact, I would go as far to say they don’t have a clue.
Sure they know I feed them, and pick them up from school, and that I take them to the park. But while they’re happily crossing streets, they have no idea there are cars narrowly missing them. And that’s okay. They’re kids and being oblivious to adult responsibilities is part of the package deal.

Today, though, I started thinking about how I cross my own streets in life, all the time, with God standing guard. I am the kid walking across with little to no idea of the protective measures going on around me.

The only difference is that my crosswalks are life choices – things that might seem scary or unknown, or downright insane. The other side of the road doesn’t always look like a nice and visible place to be. I get distracted by the fact that I can’t see what’s on the other side, or that I’m crossing alone and no one else seems to be walking in the same direction; I get nervous because I don’t have a plan after I cross, I don’t know who or what I will become when I reach that point – and that is terrifying. All I can think about is the other side of the street, but if only I would take the time to see the protecting guidance of my Father I would know better than to fear.

Lately I’ve had a lot of people ask me what it’s like to be an au pair. People have sent me messages saying they’ve thought about doing it, and they want to know if I think they should. I’ve been really careful replying to these messages, because I know giving “advice” on life altering decisions is very serious. And being an au pair IS a life altering decision. You will not come back the same.

And I don’t mean that solely in a, “you’ll have such a larger perspective of the world” way. Yes, you will gain amazing skills such as viewing people different from yourself, new friends and experiences and most likely have a more open mind. BUT you will also have battle scars and wounds from your time abroad. You will have situations that you wish you could have avoided, and problems you never thought you would overcome.

You’ll probably spend time crying – a LOT of time crying. You’ll wonder what the hell you’re doing there. You’ll feel like you’re wasting valuable time in your life, and that you could be doing something more significant. You’ll feel like you’re suffocating, like if you missed places and people any more your heart would implode.

That. That is what it means to be an au pair. And I don’t want to mislead anyone into thinking that you won’t feel like giving up on a regular basis. Because the reality is, it’s an extremely “unnatural” feeling to be living in a stranger’s house in a strange land with strange surroundings and nothing and no one familiar in immediate reach during your rough moments.
You don’t get to go home and vent after work – your home is your work. You don’t get sick days to stay home and marathon Netflix, you go to work every day, regardless of your state of health. Your schedule is not your own, you get woken up by screaming children and have to be quiet at night so you don’t wake them. Sometimes you’ll wonder if it’s worth it – or whether you should crank your music so loud the walls shake just so you’ll remember that you are there. And you are. Even though sometimes it feels like you’ve melted into an emotional pot the family has forgotten to stir – some kind of strange substance floating on the surface.

Let’s face it, sometimes a lot of the time you will want to give up. A lot of time I want to give up.

But I was raised to keep running a race until I reached the finish line. Whether I have to run, walk, limp or crawl there – I will cross it, and hold my head high.

Being an au pair is hard; it has stretched me in ways that I never knew I could be stretched. It has emboldened me in ways I never thought possible, and it has cut into my heart, replacing pieces I never wanted to admit were rotting. I’ve overcome things that I never would wish for anyone else to experience, stories I’ll never tell to anyone but those who are closest to me.

It has been painful and difficult and crazy and confusing.

But every now and then I’ll catch a glimmer. A faint light shining amidst the chaos that this life brings, and I’ll remember; the life I was called to, to run a good race, to push forward even when absolutely everything is pushing me back. I’ll remember that even the darkest rainstorms result in beautiful color pallets painting the skies.

And maybe that’s what this season is about. It’s a season of stretching. A season of building the muscles that will carry me across steeper roads, higher mountains and deeper canyons.

It’s not easy. Not one day since I’ve been here has been easy. But there have been times when I’ve smiled more genuinely than I think I ever have before. And I guess that is what truly marks a great adventure. Not that it’s a leisurely stroll. But that it’s a trek that leaves you scratched up, worn out and ready to drop at the end – but with an overwhelming sense of accomplishment.

We did it.

None of us leave this life unscathed or unaltered. The real question is whether the wounds we acquire have stories that are worth telling for generations.

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The Breakup

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This week marks 5 months of me living in France, and I can hardly believe that it has gone by so quickly! I know that’s probably somewhat of a standard thing to say, but I really just cannot believe how much has happened in such a short amount of time. It simultaneously feels like 5 weeks and 5 years.

As a marker stone for this anniversary of my life in France, I thought I would think back to what I missed from life before living here. The answer: Everything. So then I thought it would be BETTER to think about the things that I didn’t really miss. That worked a lot better.

The biggest thing I don’t miss is my Netflix account. I know, shun me. But it’s the truth! I thought I would die without it, but honestly, I was using it most of the time to watch things I didn’t actually want to watch and to fill in the void of exhaustion that I would have after work. There wasn’t much “fruit” growing out of this part of my life. Oh, and Hulu got the boot too. The reason was mainly financial that I cut the cord on my Netflix relationship. It really wasn’t them, it was me. As an au pair I make next to nothing, after student loans etc., so I decided to cut all unnecessary costs. It was a really hard decision, to be honest, but in the end I knew it was worth it. You don’t really think about Nextflix/Hulu as costing money, but after a year it’s almost $250 I was spending. Crazy.

Obviously I realize this breakup isn’t for everyone. But I’ve noticed myself being so much more intellectual in the spare time that I now have. If I’m bored, and want to watch something, I go on PBS (free) and stream a documentary or Downton Abbey, or something that I actually want to watch (unlike Bronies). It turns out I don’t need 500 movie options to choose from every night, and the act of actually picking a movie is so much more enjoyable because I CHOOSE the movie. It’s not the suggestion of a suggestion of a suggestion of an algorithm of a choice I made three years ago. Not to say there aren’t good things to watch on Netflix, just that I don’t need access to all of them to stay happy.

My second breakup was with my smartphone. Although I do still use it for keeping in touch with awesome people from home (when I have wifi) I bought a little prepaid phone and (GUESS WHAT!?) it works just fine for making phone calls/texts. While I do like the idea of having information constantly graspable, I’ve realized that it’s kind of cool not to always be checking notifications, but instead be checking what my kids were doing at the park.

Instead of bringing my iPhone, I bring my sketchbook, or my knitting, or a book to read when I go out. I read on the metro, or just sit there silently (or as silently as one possibly can sit on the Paris Metro). It’s amazing how undervalued silence is. My brain goes absolutely wild. I come up with some of my best ideas while catching the mostly empty metro to church on Sunday mornings. I find myself sketching randomness when I’m waiting for my kids to finish piano lessons or PE and then realize: Wait. I DREW that! I finish books I’ve wanted to read for forever and I come up with designs and ideas on how to fix problems. If I have my iPhone out at all it’s because I’m using notepad to write down all of the ideas that are pouring out of my mind.

Next on the kick list, and this one kind of breaks my heart, is fashion. I’ve bought only basics and accessories, like scarves, since I’ve lived here (I think I might have bought a pair of shoes and a coat at some point) and that’s pretty much it. It was really hard at first, because I LOVE fashion and I love being able to keep up with trends, but something I’ve learned (which is oh so French) is that minimalism is okay. I have one pair of American made, sturdy leather boots and they work great for every day basically. Amazingly, I don’t need 25 sweaters and 200 pairs of shoes. Instead I mix up accessories and play with different makeup choices. It’s actually a lot more fun, and still keeps me on my toes in the fashion arena.

And lastly I’ve broken up with waste food. I would call it junk food, but I honestly feel like “waste” is a better word because of how much of a waste it is to my potential. A few months ago I joined this healthy eating/living group and it has been so great. We’re able to keep each other accountable and really push ourselves to work out, or to eat healthy meals. When I first arrived in this house there was so much junk food it was incredible, but after living here for only a few months I see a difference in the way me and my kids eat. Even the parents are climbing onboard!

The result of getting rid of these (and more) unnecessary things has allowed for a kind of renaissance in my creative life. AKA: my mind feels like it’s going to explode all the time. I have too many ideas, not enough time. I have so many projects I want to start, so many things I want to make and create. It’s like the past few years my mind has been storing ideas and suddenly the dam has been breached.

It’s both glorious and mildly terrifying, mainly because I don’t really sleep anymore. But at the same time, it’s incredibly liberating. And I can’t help but wonder: How much more would have been stuck in my mind had I not decided to take a step back from some unhealthily dependent relationships?

Amsterdam 2015

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A couple of weekends ago (time flies!) I went to Amsterdam. It was cold and rainy and wet, but I managed to catch some sun breaks, hit up some museums and have an overall good time. Not my favorite city I’ve been to, but there was something magical about the architecture of it. I love the history, too! But that’s a given with any city that I travel to. On to the next weekend adventure!

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