Saturday, December 26, 2015

The Reason(s) for the Season

One of my favorite things about the holiday season is the variety.

I love asking people what their holiday traditions were growing up. I loved my own childhood holiday traditions, and I love how they've evolved and changed as my family has evolved and changed. I heard a story recently about a man who felt disappointed that he received so many cards labeled "Happy Holidays" because he felt that it robbed the season of the reason HE held most dear in his religious practices (and there's the articles all over the Internet expressing the same sentiment, in all ways and all directions).

Christmas is a bit of an interesting area for me, since I spent most years of my life celebrating it religiously, then a couple years feeling conflicted about that aspect, and this year feeling just....not...very religious about it. Because girl needs a break. I have a childhood friend who admitted that Christmas pains him deeply, since the religious vibes and nostalgia it digs up hurt him in the same way that his religion ultimately hurt him. I spoke with someone else who dreads the holidays because his parents recently divorced and it's one big reminder that nothing feels the same in that sacred part of his life. And my dear friend Camille, who spent last Christmas with her heart aching because of yet another failed round of infertility treatments (but spent this Christmas with her new baby please go see how cute!)

I'm sure there are yet other things I can't see in the people around me -- the people that feel pained by the season because of this or that memory or a person missing from their lives and so on.

And for that reason, I'm OK with any reason for the season.

Sure, Christmas itself was named religiously and has religious roots, but what doesn't evolve over time? I love when people are able to make it their own in a way that feels both safe and celebratory for them -- whether it's steeped in religion or just a cozy day off from work with friends and family. Or a reason to run away on vacation and avoid it. Or a reason to grit your teeth and get through it and breathe a sigh of relief in January, if that's all you can take from it right now. Personally I love Christmas music both religious and secular (enough so to start cranking that shiz in early October don't judge me Silent Night is incredibly soothing on a long work day). I love that my Jewish-raised coworker likes the music too. I love that my friend posted from India about a group of women who took time to throw a Christmas party (complete with Gandhi readings!) for her since she was far from home for the holiday. I love my friends who express no religion at all and yet soak up the beautiful day and beautiful memory-making moments with their loved ones.

My Christmas this year meant celebrations with family, and with friends who feel like family, buying and receiving some thoughtful gifts, a bit of travel, not working, not working, more of that, quiet days in my parents' house with crossword puzzles, Law & Order & naps, watching HGTV and Forrest Gump with my parents, seeing Star Wars: The Force Awakens with the fam (SO GOOD OMG).....and so on.

I love all of it. And mostly I love that all people are free to love all of it, however they choose. I love that each individual's reason for celebration does nothing to diminish the joy of anyone else's celebration.

So may it leave you merry and bright -- whatever your reasons.

Photos of  my own season! In whatever random order they uploaded because I try rull hard 'round hurr.

Straight from the Phoenix airport to my favorite al pastor taco....

Dyed my hair back to brown! Bye bye blonde.

Cafe Rrrrriioooo

Christmas morning....just me....only single kid at home this year!

When my nephew was so excited on Christmas morning that he went full Internet meme status...

I colored this in a coloring app on my phone. My mom also bought me a real coloring book. All good things.
 View from somewhere in the air....

Took a trip to Texas! To visit some extended family and also spend time with a couple high school friends, one of which graduated with a master's degree. Congrats little bird!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

And here's to you, 2015

I cracked open my new day planner today.

I'm a die-hard sucker for an actual paper day planner. Ironic, since a good majority of my daily work revolves around digital scheduling. I love the tangible look and feel of my life all laid out for me. I love a place to slip wedding invites, concert tickets and prescriptions. I love making little lists and checking little boxes and scribbling down flight schedules and confirmation codes.

And I *really* love every December, when I carefully pick out a fresh new planner. It literally gives me the opportunity to close the book on the previous 12 months and stare into a blank new future all spread out for me.

Anything can happen in 365 days of blank opportunity.

2015, you were one to remember. I turned 28 with the best of intentions. In Italy. I left Google for my current full-time gig. I ran away for a smattering of weekend adventures. I blogged less but not for lack of thoughts or words --they'll find their way out in time. I settled into more of my best self and left more of the unhealthy behind, bits and pieces at a time. I pierced something and tattooed something else. I watched a long-awaited beautiful thing come true. I adventured north to Canada, and sailed south to Mexico. All in all, I left the country three times -- and it'll be four before the new year rings in (stay tuned!) Not too shabby for a girl who only obtained a passport less than two years ago. (But not surprising for a girl who's nigh unto obsessed with stalking travel deals online.)

Girl. Girl.....woman? Woman. I'm sure the term will fully set in at some point. I use it interchangeably here and there. I use it deliberately in work (and often dating) settings because it's important to be taken seriously. I mentioned I changed jobs. I've alluded to the fact that I've been working my ass off for several months now. It's been...invigorating? Whatever the word is for something that pushes you forward and gives you bright joys and new friends but also rolls your soul out with a rolling pin and robs you of sleep and peace of mind at the same time. But what is growth if it isn't taxing and stretching and pulling like taffy? What is life if not full of alternate plans? In quieter moments when my head stops racing, I catch glimpses of some end goal down the line and it involves a quiet, steady pace in a quiet, steady place with a quiet, steady shoulder under my resting head. But for now, the burn. The kind of burn that lights me up and cleanses me all at once.

2015 finally set fire to a long-cultivated spark in the back of my mind that always said "grad school, someday." The spark became an idle investigation, which became a certainty somewhere in my belly, which became an application and some essays and, finally, an acceptance letter. And a plan, just three months away now, that means big changes and late nights and pushing myself more, more, more.

And I'm hungry for it. I'm hungry for that MBA in a way I haven't felt in many years when it comes to education. It's that certainty in my belly, that steel resolve that the coming months and years are exactly what I want. It's a calm and fiery resolution that, of course, still comes with a little whisper saying "heaven help me, what am I getting into."

But that's how all my best things start: a hot flame with a cool edge of uncertainty. This is my sweet spot.

This is an arena I know how to navigate and coals I know how to walk on. And a sure knowledge of what it looks like in practice -- alternating turns of exultant highs and tear-ridden lows and white-knuckling through the hard, hard, hard parts to the moments of grace when I can look around and behind and ahead and see the utter beauty in the path under and around and behind and ahead of my practiced feet.

And somewhere ahead, yes, that quiet, steady place and all the little and big and medium dreams that come with it. But right now, the burn. The sparks catching fire. The fresh new flame, all laid out in little white squares on clean white pages.

So here's to you, 2015. For lighting me up when I wasn't necessarily planning on striking any matches. For telling me yes and telling me no, both a dozen times over, even when I didn't want to hear it either way. And here's to you, 2016. We've got some flames to feed.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Tumble Dry Low

Have you ever put a pair of shoes in the dryer?

Or overalls, with all those extra metal pieces. Or anything really that makes an irregular bump, thud or clack as the cycle tumbles round and round.

This is an analogy that fuses well with my brain. All the normal thoughts, the day-to-days, the mundanes, the what-will-I-wears and the where-are-my-keys and the did-I-pay-the-bills, just spin smoothly around in a predictable loop, sorting themselves out a bit at a time as they fluff and expand. And then, there's the odd bits and pieces, the ones that thunk against the side and make a bit of extra, uncomfortable racket.

I tend to always have a topic, or two, or three of that sort bumping around up there. Little irregularities, which altogether make a sort of regularity by their shared inconsistency, albeit different details filling in the spaces. And these are where I fixate. These are where I drift when a night is quiet or a plane ride is long or traffic is sitting still at a red light on a gray morning or post-sunset commute or I have a spare minute perched on a couch outside a meeting room with my laptop briefly, quietly closed.

Bumps. Thumps. Thuds. Clacks.

The things that manifest themselves over time and take up residence for varying leases and varying taxation of my mental real estate. Both goods and bads. Both joys and stresses. Taking up space, knocking about in my head cavity and consuming my idle brainwaves.

Grad school. Thump. Work-life balance. Thud. The pursuit of happiness. Clack. The pursuit of love. Bump. What classes should I take next year. Thump. What's the difference between working hard and working smart. Thud. I feel fulfilled. Clack. I feel dry as a desert. Bump. I want to be a good friend. Thump. When is it OK to turn down invites or ignore emails or messages or not return calls. Thud. I wish you'd call. Clack. Why'd we ever go on walks in this neighborhood. Bump. MY neighborhood. Thump. The one I have to face every day, for hours. Thud. It always gets better with time. Clack. I always get better with time. Thump. Where will I get the money for this. Thud. This is what I want. Clack. Am I aiming right? Bump. Should I do more? Thump. Am I doing too much. Thud. Should I do less. Clack. Who has time to do less. Bump. Who has time to do more. Thump. I have time. Thud. I still wish you'd call. Clack. I shouldn't care. Bump. I do care. Thump. I still have the last of that small bag of  your mom's granola. Thud. Silly. Clack. I'm ridiculous. Bump. No. Thump. Own it. Thud. Swipe left. Clack. Swipe right. Bump. No. Thump. Yes. Thud. Maybe. Clack. Check your work email. Bump. Set boundaries. Thump. Work harder. Thud. Things are going well. Clack. Don't let it wear you thin. Bump. Shhhh. Thump. Already cracked. Thud. Slow down. Clack. Breathe. Bump. The thrum of Silicon Valley. Thump. A quiet cabin somewhere in the PNW. Thud. In. Clack. Out. Bump. Keep up. Thump. Slow down. Thud. In. Clack. Out. Bump. Shhhh.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

A Very NOLA Thanksgiving

Blogging is a lot like exercise. The less you do it, the harder it is to motivate yourself to start. You may think this is a random analogy, but I actually feel this way about both blogging and exercise right now. So. I'm creatively untapped with weak arms; this is my life.

But what you must know! Is that I went to New Orleans for Thanksgiving. My family was scattered about for the holiday and we're getting together for Christmas, so I took advantage of the long weekend off to do another type of traveling. And my friend Laura was game for the party and neither of us had ever been to New Orleans soooo...

Something about New Orleans manages to constantly buzz and calm you at the same time.

It was almost like going to another country. Turns out I'm not so much made for all the heavy/fried foods (though I did indulge in beignets and a plate of muy delicioso fried chicken)....but there was much else for me to love about the area! So much flavor. So many sights. And sounds. Really, music happening spontaneously on every corner! So many different cultures and things happening all at once. The whole place just kind of....crackled.

Stayed in an eccentric airbnb (think velvet bedding, mannequin heads as decor on the walls and a fish tank that I was asked to care for during my stay...which I are welcome, little school of fish) (miss you too). Took long morning walks along the Mississippi River. Wandered about the French Quarter. Got my palm read (see below for my results!) (you are so curious!) (it's like click bait but scrolling!), went swamp kayaking with a group of people including a constantly bickering couple that inspired me in many ways for what I want in my own #relationshipgoals except #oppositeday, toured a plantation, wandered around the garden district eying all the beautiful homes (did not see sandra bullock or nic cage but it's cool they'll write), and vegged out entirely for one night of the trip reading books and watching Bridget Jones and communing with the(my) school of fish.

Anyway. Like I said. Crackle. And now you may enjoy the photographic evidences!

behold, my Thanksgiving airport feast....

the aforementioned mannequin heads, along w/ costumes we found in the closet...

this was my swamp kayaking crew....

dubious life advice from the sidewalks of the French Quarter....

best beignets of the trip, along with sultry live tunes at the davenport lounge...

oak alley plantation tour....

impromptu cemetery tour was (insert 4 star emojis)....


ah, the much anticipated palm reading report! it's like a real-life Internet personality quiz! I learned: I have a fire hand. I should be an entrepreneur. I don't waste time making decisions and just go after what I want fairly quickly. Part of me would be happy living out of a suitcase. An early love ruined me for later commitments but I have potential for a long-term deep relationship. I worry too much about inheriting genetic illnesses and should let it go. I have a strong will. I may have sleeping troubles and/or endocrine issues. I have performance abilities in athletics and music. I think the formality of the dating process is a con and believe you can't really get to know people that way and should take a different route. Also I'm a big flirt and cause drama when people inevitably take it the wrong way. Hey, some potential truth here, some definite untruths. I'll let y'all guess what is what.

aaand the new background photo on my phone....those trees though....