Norway: Returning To My Family’s Roots

I’ve always wanted to go to Norway. It’s the part of my heritage on my mom’s side that I’m the most connected with mainly because that side of my family NEVER stops talking about it. We’re very proudly Scandinavian and I think it was growing up around that mentality that made me want to visit this place so bad.

And now here I am.

The last couple a days have been a jet-lag blur, but today some clarity finally started to break through. I took my time getting ready this morning and finally made my way over to the Oslo Opera House around noon. The building reminded me a lot of the Titanic Museum in Northern Ireland mainly because it too is shaped like an iceberg, and it was also just really nice to sit by the ocean during the few moments of blissful sun.

The opera house was also the starting place for my walking tour, which I booked through Airbnb Experiences. Airbnb is currently one of my favorite places to find experiences in cities because it matches you with actual professionals in the space you’re hoping to enjoy (with the exception of Riga, Latvia which didn’t have any experiences available…sadness). In the past, this was how I found my hat making experience in London, Yoga in Paris, and my most picture famous experience: Royal Day Out. For this trip I have an travel journal class scheduled for tomorrow, in addition to my walking tour today and a photo shoot in London the very last day of my trip.

The tour today was two hours and walked around the city throughout it’s historic center and on to City Hall. The walk was super lovely even though my legs are dying because I’ve been sat behind a desk for way too long (by the end of this trip I fully intend on having power thighs again…especially since I’m walking 5-10 miles each day). The best value of the walking tour, though, was having a Norwegian native I could talk to. I loved the knowledge of my host and she peaked my interest about my own family enough for me to start asking my mom more questions. It turns out that our family DOES have census records that were shoved into a box somewhere that tell the exact Norwegian city my great-grandpa was born in.

I won’t have time to visit it this trip, but you KNOW I’ll be going there in the future. Another fun thing I learned today was that the traditional dresses/suits you see in Norway are very specific to cities/regions. VERY specific. As in, you can actually get in trouble if you wear one that’s not where you’re from. I’m so glad I found this out because I’ve been wanting to make a traditional dress from Norway for about four years and I haven’t had the information of which style I should make. Well. Guess what guys? Now that I know the city I know exactly what design is ours, and I couldn’t be more excited.

It’s crazy, but the design that is specific to our region is EXACTLY what I would have chosen if I had all of the Bunad designs lined up: Classic with a whole lot of extra.

Another really amazing part of my walking tour was getting to see the building that Norwegians emigrated to the U.S. from back in late 19th, early 20th, century. It’s still there. It was pretty crazy to think that over 100 years ago my great-grandfather (who shares my birthday, by the way) was more than likely standing at that building where I was standing. And it’s even MORE crazy to think a journey I took in half a day took him weeks, landing in a country that changed his last name and told him to “Go West Young Man!”

Our family made enough of a living in the U.S. but I know that there wouldn’t have been enough money to even consider returning to Norway for a visit. Especially not with his nine children. Yeah, NINE. I wonder if he ever wanted to come back? Probably. As far as I can tell the only reason to leave Norway during that time was because there wasn’t anything for people to do here and the country was dismally poor. But to leave your home and everything you know is not easy (as I know in a way less permanent way by moving to France) and I’m sure there were moments where coming back to visit was something he wanted more than anything.

It’s so odd to be so intimately connected to a place that I had never been before, but that’s one of the reasons I’ve wanted to make visiting places like Ireland, England, Scotland, Denmark, Germany, and now Norway, a priority. I’ve said it before, but visiting the places your family is genetically tied to does something to you. It awakens something. And it’s really hard to explain I guess unless you’ve experienced it, but my sincere wish is that we never forget our roots…because where we’re from matters. And it’s a more intricate part of who we are than I think any of us realize.

Tomorrow: The Viking Museum + Touring the Fjords + A travel journal class!

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.

Scottish Highland Games 2016


Wow, what a crazy summer it’s been! For the first summer in a while, I’ve been out traveling around, having so many adventures, that I’ve had no time to write/sit here and get my thoughts out. This upcoming week is the last week I’ll be working at the Summer day-camp I’ve been working for, though, so things should start being a little less crazy. In addition, cool and crisp fall days are almost here and I CANNOT wait. Not only is fall the host of my birthday, and every good holiday (with the exception of New Years Eve), it’s my very favorite for reading and writing and enjoying life the way that it’s supposed to be…under four wool blankets and with a hot cup of tea.

That being said, I should probably start posting about what I’ve been up to this summer, huh? I definitely have been traveling, but I’ve had no time to put pen to paper…or, I guess, fingers to keyboard. I’m excited to bring you guys in on all the fun, though! First off, waaaaaay back in July we got the amazing opportunity to celebrate one of the favorite parts of my family (where we, no doubt, get our strong headedness and our tempers) by going to the Scottish Highland Games. I was so thankful for the info that the event was happening up in Skagit Valley, so a huge ‘thank you’ to my Outlander Fanatics of Washington Facebook group. Yes, you read that right. Have I mentioned how much I love the show Outlander? If you haven’t seen it, yet, you better get on that.

The event as a whole is one of my favorite things I’ve done all year. And the best part is that it’s supposed to be one of the smaller Highland Games in Washington, so next year we’ve agreed to go to the one in Enumclaw, so we can see the whole sha-bang. Eventually, I’m hoping to go to an actual one in Scotland, but baby steps, right? Anyway, we spent the day lounging in the sun, watching men throw trees, and Border Collies herd sheep. All the while being lulled by the sounds of the bagpipe competition being held in the far side of the field. Sounds like heaven, right? It was. I can’t decide what my favorite part was, yet. The food was amazing, the dancing was fun and (of course!) the athletic events were insane. Men competing in kilts. It’s just all types of perfect.

Here are my favorite pics from the day!










We Will Renew Our Strength

Seattle, WA
Seattle, WA

This morning I woke up to sunshine and an eerie silence. It’s been hanging over my neighborhood since Thursday, and the only thing to slice into it are the helicopters that continually fly over the building where Thursday’s shooting took place. Even if I wanted to forget, the constant propelling sounds, day and night, wouldn’t let me.

You never think it will be your school, your community or your friends. But then it happens. And when you hear the reports for the first time you think someone must have made a mistake – they must have. Things like that don’t happen here.

On Thursday afternoon there was a shooting at my Alma Mater, Seattle Pacific University. When my boss asked me at 4pm if I had heard the news, I started to correct her mid-sentence, “You must mean Seattle University, or Seattle Central, or North Seattle…” Anywhere that wasn’t Seattle Pacific. Not there. Things like that don’t happen there. But it did.

SPU is more than a school to me. It’s my family.

I’ve been on campus since I was four years old. I went to preschool across the street at First Free Methodist church. I used to color underneath the library study tables while my mom studied. I’ve been to almost every SPU play since I was 9 years old. And even though I graduated four years ago, I live across the street.

After four years, I still can’t walk across campus without being greeted by someone I know. Faculty, staff, students – someone always notices.

SPU has always been a safe place for me, and when I heard about the shootings, I couldn’t believe it. I went about my workday, waiting for the news to correct their mistake.

ATTENTION: The named location of the shooting has been misidentified, and is now being corrected to ________________.

But it never came.

Instead, there were reports of hospitalizations, friends mourning, and eventually the pronouncement of a death.

My heart was breaking. But I still couldn’t bring myself to cry.

As I played “Sorry” with the 7 year old I nanny, I tried to balance fake smiling and joking with him, while desperately checking the Seattle Police Twitter and trying to scrape together details of what happened. My brain was scrambled, people were shot – did I know them?

Then came the “I’m ok” messages on Facebook. And while they should have seemed reaffirming, they haunted me. With each message I realized who I could have lost. Who it could have been. How many people I knew on campus. It could have been any of us.

When I got back from work, hours after the shooting, I saw police cars, yellow tape and hoards of people gathering in the center of campus and streaming toward the Methodist church across the street. They were holding each other, praying with each other and the overall silence on campus was almost overbearing.

We weren’t wearing black, but every soul on that campus was mourning. You could feel it. And as I walked through campus, and once again saw faces I recognized, our eyes met in the silence. We all knew – we would never be the same. Campus would never be the same. Our family would never be the same.

Watching news footage that night made it all the more real. I saw my friends interviewed by the police – standing in front of the building moments after. I saw one of my friends bent over a bleeding student, comforting them as they waited for the ambulance. I saw the university President try to hold back tears as he answered questions from the press. Was this really happening?

The morning after.

I was getting ready for work at my usual ungodly hour of 6am when I got the text from my mom, “It was Aaron Ybarra.”

All I sent back was, “Shit.”

I knew him. I grew up with him. I remember him hanging out in friend circles, cracking jokes and sharing classes with me. He was part of my homeschool family. One that is very much like SPU.

And knowing that broke my heart even more.

How could this happen? Not one, but two separate families, shaken to the core by one persons actions. My grief was overbearing.

It would be easy to over analyze, to be consumed by pain and anger and confusion. But, while those are my instinctual reactions, I feel my heart needing more. My mind knows that the wages of sin are death, but my soul remembers that the gift of grace is eternal life (Romans 6:23).

What I’ve seen happening the last couple of days is moving beyond words. People coming together – churches overflowing to capacity with students, faculty, staff and an overwhelming number of alumni.

We didn’t forget. We didn’t graduate and walk away, because that’s not how family works. You never outgrow or graduate beyond the community and people who love you.

And while circumstances like this week could have easily broken us down, I’ve seen people coming together like never before.

In our grief, I pray for the ability to extend grace. To mourn with and for those affected. To seek guidance and somehow process something that has no easy answer. Through it all, I thank God for his grace and for his healing. We are going to need it.

I’m also so thankful for the people who have stepped up; for those who have organized, sacrificed, put others before themselves and responded. For the response teams – police, fire and medical. For the hospital teams who, through their hard work, have enabled students to return to their families. For the church, who has stepped up and been hope to the grieving. For the students who have organized funds for supporting families and commemoration at this year’s graduation ceremony.

We’ve been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we’re not demoralized; we’re not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we’ve been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn’t left our side; we’ve been thrown down, but we haven’t broken. (2 Corinthians 4:8)

And amidst these heavy shadows I see light. We are shaken, but not moved. And at moments like this I look around proudly and think, this – this is my family.



Voyager Avec Ma Famille

Me, my mom and my brother adventuring
Me, my mom and my brother adventuring

Traveling has always been a family affair. My mom was a huge advocate of getting out and seeing the world beyond our front door, and made sure that we all experienced as much as possible while growing up.We were the extreme road trip family (my mom didn’t like flying), and as a result, I feel almost more at home sleeping in a moving car than I do in my bed at night.Whether we were camping, driving, staying in cabins or almost hitting a moose, my childhood included exploring all kinds of different parts of the country, and I have so many good memories of the places I’ve been.

I’ve always loved to travel, but I know that it’s mostly because of how my mom raised us. Because we learned to love new places at an early age, it’s so much easier to go and explore them now as an adult. I honestly view the world as my extended family, and, as such, I thought it would be fun to share some old school pictures of me and my friends/fam adventuring around. Enjoy!

Me and my older brother celebrating my birthday in Alaska
Me and my older brother celebrating my 13th birthday in Alaska
I was extremely excited for this adventure
Road trip down to LA!
Exploring the Washington peninsula with my little brother and sister
Me and my little sister at a beautiful lake on the Washington Peninsula
Mountain life in high school
Mountain life in high school