The Decemberists Feels or Trying to Make My Sister Proud

Today as I drove out to a friends baby party, I listened to the Decemberists.  I don’t know if I do this when  I consciously when I want to think about my sister, but no matter what happens  I always wind up thinking about my sister.  The Decemberists make me think of my sister because she introduced me to them when she was still in High School.  I remember her telling me about this cool band that she had heard on Pandora, and how she really liked them because their music had a lot of narrative and the singer was a writer so his songs told great stories.  I am not sure if this is what she said verbatim, but I remember thinking that sounded cool.

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To the Left See a Photo of the Crane Wife/Sister Tattoo

Fast forward to a dozen Decemberists concerts in Washington D.C., Baltimore, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and a huge tattoo on my leg of a Japanese Crane in honor of the Decemberists album The Crane Wife.  The words inscribed underneath of the tattoo fade into the water underneath the crane.  It says Hear All the Bombs, They Fade Away.  Why this in particular?  My sister  and I went to two concerts where they ended the concert with that song that contains those lyrics, Sons and Daughters.  The whole crowd sang, and there was an really communal energy.  Funnily enough, the last time we saw them perform that song together (I think) was at the Orpheum Theater in Baltimore, and I am pretty sure that the venue was packed and neither one of of being either tall or very interested in pushing through the crowd, we couldn’t really see the Decemberists on the stage.  In fact, I remember thinking it was funny to have paid all this money for a concert and to watch the musicians on tiny TV screens above the bar.  So I did I did best at that age, and got very drunk.  My sister and I had a great time.  I also remember throwing up later at the hotel, and thinking I was a terrible example for my little sister, but now I just feel ashamed that she seems to know her limits better than I do sometimes, actually a lot of the time.

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Shout out to those who remember Scopes!

So anyway, I was driving and listening to the Decemberists and thinking about my sister who is about to embark on another adventure outside of the United States of America.  I will not disclose the location specifically, because I want my sister to be able to share that info herself.  However, I would venture to say that it’s in area of the world is surrounded by a lot of tumultuous political warfare.  Anna has already lived in both Bulgaria and Turkey, and it is is neither or or those places.  However, when I mention to my friends that my sister is planning to go there, they all say Why there it’s so dangerous?  All I can say to these people is if you know me, then you probably know I already suffer from overblown anxiety, so you can keep those comments to yourselves.  I can read the State Department’s information as well as the next person, and I am a compulsive person, so I have.16003041_10154159024041889_7793614880122871249_n

Here’s the thing.  I worry about my sister because she is my sister.  She is my little person, and I want to be there to protect her always and forever, but as my puking 22 year old self showed me years ago, she is not the one who needs to be taken care of, at least not all the time.  In other words my sister is an adult, and I am inspired by her tenacious spirit of adventure, and I believe that she is smart and will be successful no matter where she goes.  It has been hard to accept the adulthood of my younger sibling, but as the years have moved on, I realized I needed her support, direction, and advice just as much if not more than she needed mine.  I realized how much I have leaned on her for so long, and how much now I look to her for direction and inspiration to be a wiser more successful person who lives her life in service to others.20969_242967621888_3711042_n

Anna’s adventures have included but are not limited to, studying and living in Chile during college, helping to manage a non-profit that serves the homeless in her local community, working as a nanny for a family in Turkey, and my favorite to brag about; she was a Peace Corp in Bulgaria where is taught English in a village close to the Turkish border, and she subsequently starred on a reality TV show called Lost in Bulgaria.  On the show her and a fellow volunteer underwent the challenge of participating in all kinds of Bulgarian traditions.  I honestly don’t know how popular the show was in Bulgaria, but I like to think she is a celebrity in that country, being featured on a show similar the Amazing Race without the racing aspect or the extreme physical challenges- although being kicked in the stomach by a cow seemed pretty physically intense, didn’t it little babes?

That last paragraph is to highlight the fact that my sister is like my personal super hero.  She is strong and brave and she is adventurous and always expanding her knowledge base by listening to others, asking questions, and going to new places to experience new cultures and have different perspectives on life.

In the past several years as I have really tried to take control of my own anxiety, she has shared some of her suggestions, one of the biggest being mindfulness.  She told me that sometimes when she was upset about something she would choose to engage her mind with other things in order to not feel so stressed, anxious, or upset.  When I would call her in a panic she’d ask me if there was something else I could do besides freak out, and I would always tell her no, that was impossible.  She gave me examples of ways in which she distracted herself or stayed on task during very distressing times, and I am not sure how many times she told me, but it finally sunk in, which is why I have been so diligent about incorporating mindfulness into my life.17861834_10154397050951889_315398102819494822_n

I guess what I am saying in a very sappy manner is that I have learned a lot from my sister.  I have learned that I should talk less and listen more and always ask questions rather than assume I know the answers.  I have learned that sometimes you need to ramp it down, even when it seems like ramping it up is the only possibility.  Sorry if that doesn’t make sense, but once I went crazy on a cruise ship and was acting really ridiculous and my mom told me to ramp it down, and because I was in my frenzy I yelled NO YOU RAMP IT DOWN.  Okay, so maybe this is just an inside joke with my family, but this post is for my sister, so I had to…

So as I think about my sister leaving for another adventure abroad, I try to be mindful.  I have cried about this, and I will cry some more.  I don’t know how rational it is to cry.  We already live 3,000 miles away from each other, what’s another ocean?  So like I said, it’s not rational to cry, but I feel worried for my sister as well as sad for myself who will have less opportunity to see her than I did in the last 3-4 years while she was living in the United States.  It would be really easy to get super emotional and cry and RAMP the emotion way up, but I am trying to be more mindful, like my sister taught me.  So I am offering infinite gratitude that I have been able to spend time with my sister recently in Austin, Charlotte, Orange County, and the Eastern Shore of Maryland.  This time has filled me with so much joy and wisdom and gratitude.  While it makes me feel sad that we will see each even less often and communication might be harder, I am ever inspired by her commitment to following her dreams, and ultimately to be expansive.  Her desire to learn and to grow makes me want to be a better person, and it makes me strive to make her proud.13501662_10153614051231889_6450651987972937184_n

She doesn’t have to try and make me proud.  I could go on about how proud I am of her for hours.  I can’t wait to hear all about her new adventures in her adulthood.  I will be proud of her wherever she is, near or far, the Decemberists are always there to connect us.

The Importance of Being Authentic or Tell Your Story or Quakers and Yoga

I talk to everyone.  This is something else I got from my mother.  I talk to the man who works on our lobby at our 21 story office building, and I talk to people in elevators even when it makes them slightly uncomfortable.  I ask real straight forward raw questions, and while I don’t expect answers most of the time I get them.   I am pretty much an open book.  I tell everyone everything about myself, although I tend to keep my friends deepest secrets very close.  Although, I don’t particularly like secrets, because I think they lead to drama.  I think there is something about authentic, open, vulnerable every day honest living and friendliness that really invigorates me.

Last night after I went to an awesome Women’s healing circle, and was feeling super charged and full of energy.  I somewhat randomly decided to watch a Documentary called The Stories We Tell.  This is one of the best films I have seen in my entire life, and I believe it had something to do with the authenticity of the story that was told, all the different perspectives the story was told from.  I won’t spoil it for you, because I think if you like storytelling at all, it’s a must watch, done beautifully, and while you will cry your eyes out, you will soothe yourself with much laughter at every turn.  It’s a raw story about childhood trauma, and family, and how relationships are hard, but people are human, they make mistakes, and really there is beauty and humor despite the pain.

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My Cards Spoke Loud and Clear to Me the Other Night

In the Kundalini Yoga I have been practicing, there is a lot of focus on the breath.  Although breathing is an involuntary action, when you consciously take control of it, there is an ability to kind of transcend earthly problems and to connect with something positive that exists because of both your own strength and the strength of those who practice with you.  I find strength in the unity of chanting and breathing with a group of women with the intention of focusing on love and positive energy and the light within ourselves and each other.

As a Quaker we look for the light of that with in each person.  We believe that there is a light in each person and that their mere humanity is something that gives them the right to exist peacefully.  In a Quaker meeting you sit in silent meditation until members in the room feel led to share a personal experience or reflection.  People tell personal stories, sing hymns, talk about the Bible, and also just share their reflections.  In a sense Quakers are meditating storytellers who are contemplating the what is of enough important to share with others.  But we are always seeking to understand others even if we do not agree.e323194aedeb2f942c87d30c0ed1e0ff--yahoo-image-search

Brene Brown in her book Daring Greatly says, “If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive.” I think what she means is that when humans share with one another there is less need for embarrassment and misunderstandings, and a greater ability for relating to others and creating conscientious positive communities, who are trying to understand each other rather than to fight or argue or focus on their differences.

I think that’s why my mom teaching me to talk to everyone is to key to my dream of being both a storyteller and a comedian.  In teaching me to have conversations with everyone from the janitor in my office building, to a coworker in the elevator, to random people I see in public, she taught me that the more you talk to people, and he more you share your story the less barrier there is between you and another person.  I am pretty sure Jesus would be all about people focusing on the stories of others and listening with and open heart, than telling them what they are doing wrong.  I think if we just listen to people with an open heart and reflect back love and understanding rather than judgement and fear we are truly walking in the light. Christian. Quaker. Guru. Yoga Enthusiast.  Unconscious state fanatic.  All of that really describes me, and I think that some would think that those things don’t intermingle, but I feel that whether it’s silent meditation, chanting, breathing, or just listening to others stories it all comes down to valuing other humans and having gratitude for the opportunity to learn new things from each other and from ourselves.

Storytelling is important because it helps us to gain new perspectives on difficult things.  Writing for myself without a direct audience in mind, I still believe I gain enough new perspective to continue the craft of writing and telling jokes, even if I only am the only one laughing.

You have a story.  What is it?  Can you share it with others?  Does talking to others freak you out or make you feel uneasy?  Do you feel like vulnerability it important in every day life?  Do you ever tell yourself stories and laugh out loud?  Do you love make other people laugh?  I know I do.IMG_20170714_132757222

Try to Do it Without Laughing or Miracles Don’t Have to Be Big

I am posting this publicly with my friends permission to post pictures of her children.  I didn’t use their names, but if you know us you know them, and I mean this post with so much gratitude to the joy the kids and Roxy brought to me.  This one is for you pup. Also said friend does not condone my foul mouth or sense or humor, or if she does, I’m not telling! 

I have been accused of being a serial narcissist.  BY MYSELF.  Whenever I tell my friends I feel narcissistic, they tell me to hush and it makes me feel better, so perhaps this is a new way of saying I’m sorry, but it’s more like saying okay guys, I know sometimes I make things all about me, but is that always a bad thing?

I am actually really struggling to write this at the moment, and my inner critic is telling me it’s time to shut the Chromebook down, and watch boring TV, but I think that sharing this story is worth some time and concentration.  Plus if I write this, maybe I can feel things in a more constructive and less escapist manner…

Today I cleared my afternoon out, and made sure that I didn’t have any obligations.  I had originally tried to make plans with a friend, but it seemed like the rest of the weekend was going to be hectic, so I decided to stay home this afternoon.  There were lots of options for things that I could have done.  I could have binged watched sitcoms while disengaging from the world, which is many times completely necessary and understandable.  I could have sat by the pool and read a book, and soaked up the sun, and enjoyed the pool.  I could have done this dishes in the sink, oh wait, I should probably still do that…

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I did what bored people do and looked at my Instagram.  That brings me to the topic of social media’s practical uses in our everyday lives.  I recently learned that there was a new phrase called “doing it for the gram”, which means we are just living our life for good Instagram photos, and hell, I got some good smiles with the kids this afternoon, so I will continue to DO IT FOR THE GRAM.  Anyway, while on Instagram I saw a friend had posted a photo that concerned me, and made me think that she may be really sad.  Her beloved friend, daughter, and companion passed into the next realm this morning.  Her senior Dog Roxy passed away this morning in the loving arms of her family.

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I share this image with the utmost gratitude for all the love that Roxy provided into her friends lives.

As a fellow animal lover, I immediately understood that I should go be with her.  She doesn’t live close, but it’s only about and hour and some change, and I thought to myself, okay universe, this is why I kept the day open.  It’s time to go out for a nice drive and listen to some podcasts on the way.  For a change of pace, I turned on On Being by Krista Tippet, and the podcast was about the spirituality of running.  It was both about how people have incorporated their own spiritual practices into their beliefs, as well as how after running long distances people have experienced a sort of ecstasy or God like connection or need for a higher power to keep them going.  It’s really funny,  because after I started running my need for outside spirituality did seem to increase, and I think that the best way to put that is that I recognize that there is something greater than myself out there if I can get up and run 5 miles at Saturday morning on at 6:30 am.  Maybe it’s simply a draw to be more grounded in nature, and outside more, but I think there is something inherently meditative about running.  I could talk about this forever, and you should check out the podcast for sure, but suffice to say as I sat in the car and this is what came on my speakers, I was like okay I get it higher power, I am doing what I need to be doing.

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So I drove to my friends home, where I got more excited as the miles shortend between us, because I was going to get to hang out with two little kiddos who fill my heart with so much joy.  I knew it would mean the world to Drea that I drove to get there, and I knew that to the kids I could be like magic, just show up and be the fun entertaining/distracting one for 3-4 hours and go home to my cats.  I came in and hugged my friend and let her cry.  This shit is sad people.  A family member was lost today.  We should cry, wail, mourn, laugh, talk and distract ourselves together.

Why crying is good for you

So I went to their house, ate some delicious pizza with them, ran around the backyard with their kids, drank their tea and coffee, and tried to bring as much laughter into their lives as I possibly could.  My particularly favorite moment from this afternoon was when their daughter picked up her pizza and burned her finger and said she needed a band aid.  I noticed that she was holding up her middle finger, and instead of encouraging her to eat and not worry about her wound, I asked her to show me her finger again, and then I asked her dad to look at it, and he totally knew what I was doing.  He smiled and said, mom look at her finger, and I saw my friend smile.  Then I blew on her finger and told her I had the only magic that could fix her finger, and soon enough the finger incident was over.  The kids had no clue we were being inappropriate because we didn’t make a big deal out of it, and it made two heart broken people smile.  Comedy is a fucking gift my friends.  I must share my talent with the world!

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It’s pretty hard not to laugh with these crazy “monster faces”

As the kids evening game to a close, some crying started to happen.  It’s bedtime for gosh sakes, and crying seems like an inevitable at this point in a very long, and very hard day.  I told their son to come make some monster face pictures with me, and it distracted him from crying.  I said, you have to make the face without laughing, and of course within 15 seconds he was laughing at my crazy faces, and a bit less concerned about being upset.  Then their daughter took her turn, and I told her the same thing, you can make monster faces, but you can’t laugh.  She took me more seriously, but was totally laughing by the time she got taken in for bedtime.  She definitely reemerged from her room upwards of 3 times with complaints of headaches, her fan not being on, and something else I couldn’t remember.  It struck me that parenting doesn’t stop just because you had a sad even if it was a REALLY BIG SAD.

 

When I told the kids to try not to laugh while we were taking funny selfies, I realized I was literally becoming my mother, and I was really happy about that.  I listened to another On Being in which the topic was Black Lives Matter, and the one thing that struck me about the episode was that someone talked about lives only change through individual acts of kindness.  I felt so much gratitude how my day had seemed to come full circle.  I was happy.

But, I’m also kind of sad, so I decided to write this.  Because I really do believe that we need to be the change we want to see in world, and sometimes the changes we need to make on our lives our really small.  Like trying not to over plan your life, so that you can be open to the possibility of being able to play with your friends kids for the afternoon.  I am not angel, but miracles or are small things people.  Do them.  And like my mom would say, try to do them without laughing.

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Student Loans or Bonny Christine O’Neill, MURP, CPP

Recently the Death, Sex, and Money Podcast did a 2 episode feature on student loans.  I have about $70k worth of student loan debt, and my current partner has a similar amount.  I managed to graduate from a private liberal arts college as an undergraduate with about $15k in student debt.  I saved money by not going to school for all 4 years, and I felt like the amount of debt I graduated with was reasonable for my History and Political Science degree with a minor in Religious Studies.  I was also very fortunate in that my mother paid off about half of it.

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A recent graduate, I entered the job market and got a job that had nothing to do with my degree.  I learned the art of administrating payroll, and by about 23 years of age, I worked myself into a position where I was comfortably making $40k per year.  My loan payments were manageable, my interest rates were low, and my payment was less than $100 a month. I knew it would take me 10 years to pay it off at the rate I was going, but that seemed reasonable, no biggie.

After a series of events involving my romantic relationship and some less than tolerable practices with my current employer, I decided to pursue a Masters of Urban Regional Planning at the University of California, Irvine.  In other words my name is Bonny Christine O’Neill, MURP, CPP (certified payroll professional).  The year that I was going to the orientation for the MURP program,  I was told that approximately 75% of students in the graduating class had job offers, and within a year of graduation most students (90%) were working in the field.  I figured hey, I will leave a decent paying job, take out loans to get a degree and a higher paying job, and the higher loan payments will be totally doable.

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They made Urban Planning look so sexy.

Then the economy tanked.

As I studied for two years at UCI, I continued to do work that was not in field of Urban Planning because I felt like I needed an income, even if it was just a fourth of what I had been making prior to going back to school.  Somehow in my first year of the program, I miraculously got my full tuition covered by a scholarship.  I don’t know how it happened, and honestly, I don’t think that it’s supposed to happen to Masters students, but I was fortunate.  My problem was that instead of taking out less loans because I had my tuition covered, I still took out a maximum of loans to pay my rent, car payment, and the other normal bills a person who used to make $40k a year has.  I honestly thought that it would all come out in the wash, and when I graduated I’d make more money, get caught up, oh and did I mention, then the economy tanked.

My colleagues and I did not experience 90% job placement in the field with 12 months of graduation.  I don’t know the number, but from what I understood it was much lower.  Upon graduation I applied for every job in the field I saw.  Even with a fresh degree, I didn’t get more than one interview.  I didn’t take it very personally.  I just figured other people had experience, and I did not, so I would not be the most likely person to call. During this time I also did not get a job that I did interview for and believe I was well qualified for.  It’s kind of a long story, and I am trying to let it go, but it was slightly heartbreaking.

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When I finally found a job as a payroll clerk at a non-profit, I took a drastic pay cut from what I was making before I went back to school.  At my new job I made $14 per hour.  I thought that if I liked the organization that I worked for, even if the work was boring it would be worth it.  I eventually started making loan payments towards my new acquired

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My friend Amy, was one of the biggest benefits I got from going to grad school.  I plan to share our Barcelona adventures at some point.

$60k in student loans, but since my income was pretty non-existent, so were my payments.  At that job, I learned that even though I liked the organization  I DID NOT LIKE MY BOSS and after a year of being treated like crap for $14 and hour, I eventually found another job.  I applied for both planning jobs and payroll jobs, but the only interviews that I got were for payroll.  I took a new job in payroll and at least doubled my income, which was the goal.  I continued to think about community development, organization, and planning, but I also realized that payroll was a unique skill set and pretty much a guaranteed income, and I had experience, so maybe I should just go with it.  I realized that maybe the timing in my life just wasn’t going to work when it came to Urban Planning.

About 7 years later, I am at my third job since graduation.  During this time, my last employer paid for me to become a Certified Payroll Professional.  The test was actually quite difficult, so I like to give myself a pat on the back for this one.  I am a Payroll Administrator and now I make $70k per year, which sounds great but with all of my student loan and credit card debit, and the high cost of rent in Orange County, CA, it doesn’t seem like a lot at the end of a month.  My loan payments are currently $350 a month, and as we speak I need to re-certify with my 2016 income, and I dread doing that because I know my payment is going to go up again.  Every year when my payment goes up, I am thankful that it is because my income has increased, but I do think it to be slightly ironic that it has nothing to do with the four letters after my name.

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Studying in Barcelona was such serious business

MURP MURP MURP MURP MURP! Say it five time fast, and it might make you laugh.  

When I listened to the podcast about student loans recently  I thought about the decisions that I had made that were directly influenced by my and my partner’s student loans.  I definitely:

  1. Chose to get married sooner rather than later because my ex-husband had a lot of student loans also and also a very low income.  When we combined our households we had lower payments for both of our loans.
  2. Went back onto the job market thinking that anything and everything had to be an option for me.  I wanted to use my degree, but I also needed to pay for the damage I did in those two years and the year after grad school when I was making $14 hour.

Do I regret the degree?  I don’t think so.  Even though I do not use my degree in my job, I do think it’s always sets my resume aside when people see that I have a Masters from a UC school.  Also, grad school was amazing.  I made several great friends and strengthened relationships that I had prior to grad school, spent a month living in and studying Urban Development in Barcelona, took a extended trip to Bulgaria to visit my sister in the Peace Corps, and traveled in Ireland and Scotland with my mom.

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Epic Flat Tire In Rural Snowy Bulgaria Story…
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The Fam in Bulgaria

I dated my ex-husband who was getting his Masters in San Diego at the time.  I mostly just enjoyed life, read lots of scholarly articles and books and thrived (somewhat) at being a student.  When I graduated I thought about trying to get funding to get paid to get my PhD, but I felt burnt out on school, and like going back was essentially just going to be  delaying the inevitable.

In the podcasts I heard many people talk about the shame that was associated with their student debt.  I don’t feel a lot of shame for what I did.  I do feel like I made some poor choices that have unfortunate impacts on my life today.  I could be saving $350 a month, or paying off more credit card debt every month, but because of my choices I can’t do that.

I also heard people talking about how they felt like they got duped, but I didn’t really feel like that.

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Gaudi in Barcelona

I felt like whenever I signed loan paperwork it estimated my payments, and they always seemed to me like they’d be really high. I can’t claim I didn’t understand, because I definitely did, I just didn’t imagine this is how it would all play out.

I can’t blame institutions for the bad choices I made.  I however can express my disdain that the student loans I got in grad school have about an 8% interest rate, and it seems that the Drumpf is now threatening to get rid of loan forgiveness programs, which is pretty much my (and my partner’s) only hope for this debt.  I think we deserve the right to make income contingent payments for 25 years and call it a day.  However, that’s politics, and I don’t need to go there right now.

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It couldn’t have been that bad if I got to swimming in Spain, right?

How have your student loans impacted you?  Do you avoid making payments?  Do you hide this debt from friends and family?  Are you ashamed of your loans?  Were your degrees worth it?

My Sun Mustache or Be Grateful You’re Laughing

When I was a little girl, I walked up to a middle aged lady while in a Rite Aid and asked her why she had a beard.  Because the Universe has somehow decided that I am important enough to care about spiting me for this behavior, I was blessed with a mustache that is actually quite special.  It is known as melasma, but I like to call it my sun mustache.

Hmmm, as long as it's not a black zinc we are good.
Photo from: http://the12ishstyle.com

  Since it is a sun related disorder, I think it becomes more pronounced when I get a lot of sun, which is what happened in Joshua Tree last week.

So anyway, my SO and I are laying in bed the other night after I have been gone all weekend, and we are both tired.  He’s been working a lot lately, and I have been trying to stay away so that he has time and space.  So we are laying in bed, and I am talking about something really heavy and deep because that’s me, and he says something to ask me about my mustache.

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Because I am going to exaggerate the story slightly for effect, I think that he touched it, and even tried to kind of rub it off.  I can’t be certain if this actually happened, but he definitely looked at it closely.  I told him him it was freckles, and that I would go shave it to prove it to him.  The funny thing is that I look at this mustache all the time, and I see it in every picture I see of myself.  I’ve seen it for a long time. I see it more after the ladies who wax my eyebrows ask me if I need my lip waxed too, and I just want to look at them and say LADY I know you want my extra money, but look closely at the fur above my lip.  It’s blonde.  WAXING OR SHAVING AIN’T GONNA DO SHIT.

Anywho, I start showing Charlie selfies on my phone and zooming in on the freckles, and he realizes that he has hit a nerve, which is really kind of funny, because well, I’m a dirty hippie by choice, and I give no fucks about what people think of me, but at the same time I have this facial feature, that is just kind of funny and different, and I am going to start wearing zinc when I run or something like that, but yea dude struck a nerve.  I am kind of upset, but trying not to be, I haven’t seen him all weekend, and I know I want to cuddle up to him and be close, but at the same time, dude just told me I had a mustache, and we’ve been together for almost three years.  Now I just feel confused, and I let my anxiety kicks in.  I should do to a facial mask and cleanse my pours. I need to scrub my face.  I must be dirty and a hairy Italian like I always thought.  My lip hair is not blonde, I have a mustache like the Rite Aid lady.  Revenge has found me. Because again, the universe it has time to care about my dorky behavior as a kid.

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You totally see it, right? I know you do. Admit it, it’s all about me!

Anyway, I needed to get out of my head, I wanted to reunite if you know what I mean.  I had been away for a few nights.  I excused myself to the bathroom to pee, where I promptly used the dollar shave club razor on the sink to shave a tiny bit over the freckles.  Nothing changed, the freckles were still there.  I was right, I was not crazy, it was freckles all along.

I hear footsteps, heavier than a cat, and I know Charlie is lurking at the door.  Are you shaving you face?  I say Even if I was, it’s none of your business, because I don’t have a real mustache it’s just freckles.  I hear guttural laughter from the bedroom, and a silly but babe, I love your mustache.  I sit on the toilet having a hard time peeing, because I am spending so much time laughing, but eventually I pee, and come to bed, and because I want to leave some things to your imagination (or not, sorry mom) we may have gotten it on, and I may or may not have stifled laughter for the first bit of the interaction, because all I could think about was him staring at my new mustache.

I fell asleep that night thinking that I was happy I had a partner who I could laugh with about my stupid mustache.  I had a partner who had been with me almost three years and hadn’t noticed it, which could be attributed to inattentiveness, but maybe it’s just really what love is.  Not seeing the flaws in your partner until you get really up close.  Is that what intimacy is?  Kind of rhetorical, unless you wanna PM me.Screenshot 2017-06-26 at 1.53.50 AM

 

 

The moral of the story is believe in yourself, and your mustache ladies.  Have confidence in your face and your smile, because you will always have your mustache, but you may not always have your man.  Just kidding. The moral is try and laugh more, and try and send gratitude into the universe for the opportunities we have to laugh at ourselves.

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People in The Desert; Musings on a Lovely Time in Joshua Tree

Joshua Tree is one of my happy places, and I got the opportunity to spend some time with one of my best friends there this weekend.  Screenshot 2017-06-19 at 10.01.03 PMThat may seem like a crazy idea to most people, because it was 105 degrees outside, but our Airbnb had a very nice pool, so we did no hiking, a lot of eating, and relaxing by the pool and lazily walked up the street of Pioneertown, enjoying the scenery and sweating.

It’s interesting how cautious I feel about traveling a together as women.  We were at the local saloon that we had walked to from our Airbnb and the seemingly nice man at the bar asked us where we were from. We talk to everyone, so we told him, and he asked us where we were staying.  We told him at a local Airbnb where our hosts had been participating in a local art installation that was a mermaid gala and parade.  He then proceeded to ask us how many people were staying there with us.  And this is when my friend and I were officially done with the conversation.  I am sure it was harmless.  Maybe he was thinking of renting his local vacation home on Airbnb and didn’t know what it was, but buddy take a hint.  Don’t ask two single women who are traveling how many people are staying where they are.  IT’S CREEPY.

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I stole this photo from my friend, who is the best ever, but I am keeping “anonymous”, although if you know me IRL, you know.

The second day we were walking to breakfast, and there was a group of three guys who was standing in the street and talking to each other.  They looked harmless, but I think for me it’s hard to understand why anyone would be standing outside in over 100 degree heat when they didn’t seem to be on their way anywhere.  I tried to keep my distance from them, and I watched my friend closely, as I cautiously smiled at the men.

Here’s the other thing.  There is this stereotype about desert people that they are all meth heads, addicts, etc, and as a single woman traveling with another woman, I take these stereotypes into consideration while scoping out my surroundings.  I honestly don’t think that most people in Joshua Tree fall into this stereotype, but some of them do, and the world seems to be getting scarier and scarier, so these are the things I consider.

Then something happened today.  I honestly don’t think my friend will be happy with me sharing this story, but maybe she will understand why I am telling it after I write this.

We were walking back to my car in the 105 degree heat, and a man who was sitting on the sidewalk eating a yogurt blurted something out to us about getting him something to eat.  We asked what he wanted and he said a sandwich or something.  We quickly went in the local health food store, which is a fun little store, but they didn’t have sandwiches or ready to eat meals, and it was expensive so my friend went a few doors down into a Vegan sandwich store where the cheapest sandwich was $13+.  The bottom line is that neither one of us would have bought one of these sandwiches ourselves unless we were very hungry, so eventually we thought about giving the man some cash, but instead looked at him and decided to walk away.  He had a yogurt.  He clearly wasn’t going to starve immediately.  My friend felt guilty and I felt like it wasn’t a big deal.

Until we were driving away.  Then I thought about the man, and what choices he had made to get himself to a place where he was begging on the sidewalk in 105 degree heat. And then I thought about my father.  I don’t know much about the man, except that he died relatively young due to psoriasis of the liver, and he may or not not have been known as the town drunk in Bakersfield.  I believe he was in a wheelchair for much of his adult life, because he was born before the Polio vaccine and I am sure his health deteriorated as he aged and continued to drink himself to an early death.  I thought about Bakersfield in the summer, and how hot it was, and I wondered if my own father had ever been so intoxicated that he slurred at passersby to feed him or give him money.  And as I drove away, I let myself cry a second for the man we hadn’t fed, but also for my father, whose challenges I have never really understood, but that I feel like I am piecing together more and more as I age.

Later tonight at dinner, my friend was embarrassed when I shared the story about the man. I understand why.  I understand that we are called to feed the hungry and clothe the poor.  I understand that we are called to treat all humanity as we want to be treated, but I also understand that we are humans. For me the risk of having to interact with that man anymore than we already had was enough to not want to even hand him a few dollars.  Plus, I mean, he made his choices, and he is in that place for a reason.  Perhaps it has to do with institutional poverty or the inability to get the care he needed from the right mental health care professionals. Or perhaps there were people in his life that gave him many many chances, and ultimately decided he was toxic in their lives.

It’s kind of a sad story, and it doesn’t have a happy ending, except this is my take away.  My friend and I were fortunate enough to have gone on a three day getaway weekend, where we somewhat frugally stayed at an Airbnb and split most meals all weekend.  We are both women who work very hard, and who have faced some challenges in our lives, but have overcome them by making a series of choices that have allowed us to reach perhaps a somewhat a fuller potential than that man on the street has.  And we have both loved, cared for, served, and given many different people in our lives many different chances, and we didn’t owe that man anything.  I will say a prayer for him and send all the positive love and light I can muster tonight, however I will also stand confidently in my choice to walk away and not engage.  You can’t save everyone, but you can look at them and gain greater empathy and compassion for the struggling people in the world and maybe even in your own life.

I am not sure what Jesus would have done, but Jesus could make bread turn into enough to feed a hell of a lot of people, and we couldn’t turn our $3 cash into the $13 we needed to buy a hungry man a sandwich. I think Jesus would understand.  I think Jesus would be proud us is for all the light we shine into the lives of the people we know.  Actually, I am pretty sure Jesus is hella proud of us.  I know our moms are!!!!!

Adulting or Look Mom I Can Feed Myself!

There is a lot of controversy over the new term adulting.  You can go down a internet wormhole on it if you want, and read about how millennials are entitled and silly, and make a big deal out of ourselves because we cook dinner or go on a run, but here’s what I have to to about that. Big fat raspberry fart noise.  Okay, well maybe not that big, but come on.  When we say we are adulting, we are giving ourselves credit, and maybe we don’t need credit for picking something up from the dry cleaner, but maybe we do? Confused look.

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I keep going back to this scene in the last season of Girls.  Hannah is pregnant or had just delivered, and she is hysterical and screaming to her mother that she is in pain, and her mother asks her You know who else is in pain Hannah?  The whole world.  She tells Hannah that she needs to look outside of her hysteria and grow up enough to realize that the world is painful, and that is just a fact.  It’s becoming clear to me that there are things that have to happen to be productive successful human beings, and part of that is being responsible enough to feed ourselves and take care of our bodies, and some of that is just knowing how to sit with our pain and grow up and just kind of take things that hurt and sit with them and realize the world isn’t ending, the core of our being is not changed, and we can just take a deep breath and wait for things to unfold.

Adulting is learning to be strong, and to attend to the things that are the most important to us.  I don’t know I fall into the millennial generation, but I do wonder if past generations may have balanced less things than we try to do now?  With the internet at the ready there are endless opportunities for meetups, exercise groups, friends gatherings, internet time wasting, researching, playing games, learning more and more and more or just really wasting time. And yes, I value the internet obviously, I’m writing this on a blog.  But I think my point is that to a point adulting is learning how to balance all the things including self care, relationships, finances, health, and all of the wildly distracting things that get us off course.  I guess adulting is also just learning to be strong, and ride the waves sometimes.

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Perhaps what is also different about our generation and maybe part of the reason why we are looking for credit for adulting is that our parents didn’t just teach us  just to put our heads down and do our best, they taught us to like ourselves, and to learn what we loved.  While I think that mentality is certainly a step forward it creates this tension against doing what we love and what we are passionate about and what makes us feel good, and doing what we need to do in order to survive.  I mean as a 33 year old payroll administrator, I like my job a lot, but this is not what I dreamed of doing.  Hell, I don’t even know what I dreamed of doing, but my life is pretty great, and still this is not what I thought this would feel like.  But you know what, that’s okay, it just means that I keep seeking more, I keeping pushing myself to find healthy and reasonable ways to express my creativity and pursue my passion.  Hence the blog.

So, I say cheers to adulting.  This week in my episode of Adulting 201 because I finally passed 101 and 102, but I have been on repeat at the sophomore level core curriculum,  I have have needed to shift my anxiety about relationships and future into different avenues than I may have chosen even 4 months ago.  I was a big fanof Avenue Breaktown, Avenue Argument, and even Demanding Attention Street.  However, I feel like I have seen all the houses on those streets too many times, and their garbage is kind of piling up, so I want to see something fresh and new.  Instead of giving into my spinning and need to control the situation, I breathed, ran 7 miles so far, went to work was more efficient than normal at work, and spent some well deserved time in the kitchen making some really delicious healthy meals for myself and partner who is working seven days this week.  IMG_20170613_213617670

When I am depressed or anxious the struggle to cook is real.  I am lazy, and I like to binge watch shows that make me feel something outside of myself, rather than getting moving and do something that requires effort.  Cooking involves shopping, and planning, and cleaning, and it all seems like too much when there is a Taco Bell on the next corner.  But this week I didn’t give into the urge to eat fast food.  After a lunch with friends this weekend where I asked numerous questions about making something in a Moroccan tagine, I thought to myself that sounds so delicious, and then something inside said, that’s too much work, but I shut it down and made something delicious.

Two nights later, I have made another tagine dinner, which is surprisingly easy, however please don’t ask for a complete recipe, because I don’t measure, but really think chicken quarters, cumin, cinnamon, apricots, almonds, shallots, carrots, squash, tumeric, cardamon, honey, and over all delicious. I don’t think a tagine is needed.  Dutch oven would be great.  The first night I served with wild rice, and tonight I am eating it with couscous which I made on the side and I also ripped off a piece of my homemade bread and dunked it into the lovely gravy produced in the tagine.

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I’m obviously proud of myself.  Look at my adulting, feeding myself and everything mom!  But for real guys, I am proud of what this represents for me.  It represents a concrete expression of my creativity and passion at a time when life was seeming really overwhelming,  At this time my head told me to stay in bed and binge watch Netflix, but instead I watched a little Netflix, listened to some podcasts, and cooked my heart out.  It was definitely more work than I needed to do, and I totally give myself credit for beating my mind this week.  I feel like I am screaming at myself I have pain and then there is just a wiser more mature version of myself saying so does everyone else.  But instead of stopping there my inner voice says but what can you do to better yourself despite that pain.  So I cook, and I write, and I keep patting myself on the back for adulting, because if giving myself a little too much credit is what gets me through the day, I’ll take it.

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Bikini Pics and Book Clubs

I have done a lot of shameless self promotion of my weight loss lately, and I am not ashamed at all of that.  I think that social media and the internet should be used to inspire those around us, and ourselves.  I have been working hard on my body and my health, and I want to show others how proud I am.  All the nice comments and support keeps me going, and if I could get one additional smile out of my day, or make one person remember it’s possible to have a lifestyle change, mission accomplished.Screenshot 2017-05-26 at 10.07.27 PM

In addition to getting my body in healthier working order, I have been trying to establish better over all habits.  I don’t know about you, but I work full time, and after a long day at the office I just kind of want to lay around, watch Netflix, and drool- and this is often what happens for me, but I guess lately I have been thinking if I want to have a kind I need to gain some stamina and some wherewithal to endure the demands of a mentally exhausting child,  and that I might as well take the opportunity to explore some of the facets of my brain now while I still have the time and energy.

I know that I personally am not the best to sticking to regimented programs, so when I learned that this book was a sort of spiritual path towards more creativity that involved daily writing exercises I thought to myself I couldn’t do that.  But, I reached out to several friends and friends of friends to see if they were interested, and many already even owned the book, or had worked through it in the past, and I found that sort of connection to be a lovely kismet that I welcome in my hippie, floaty, feely universe.

So I talked to several people about the book and I dragged my feet at starting up the group, but a few of my friends who took me emails seriously started reading the book themselves and doing the exercises, and I thought- wait if they were brave enough, why can’t I be?

The book is The Artist’s Way, a spiritual path towards creativity.  Take a look and if you are interested in joining our rather intimate Facebook circle of going through the exercises, and sharing our experiences in finding our creative voices, then let me know, and I will connect you.

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And if this is not your thing, then no worries at all.  I feel alive for the first time in a long time, and I think it’s because lately I have been able to step outside of myself, and kind of see things with a less emotional lens than I once did.  Charlie alone would tell you that even within this new construct I cry at least 3 times a week, but hey progress is slow.  Getting emotionally healthy, and building resilience as an adult is kind of difficult.

Since a lot of the people in my group our aspiring writers, great mothers, fellow artists, and those who may care to express themselves on the topics of wanting to make others proud, mental health practices, creativity, etc, so I might ask some of them to allow me to either interview them, write blog posts about them, or to guest post and share their hilarious stories on mental health, adulting, and parenting.

How do you find ways to connect to others?  What kind of healthy habits do you create to gain psychical or emotional wellness or both?  Do you feel like you need to stay mentally agile?  Do you use social media as a means to connect to others on higher ideas that make you happy, and inspire passion in your life?

Happy Mother’s Day Mom!

Anna and I
My little sister, my heart and my soul

This year I decided the best Mother’s Day present I could give to my mom and honestly myself was to start becoming more emotionally self sufficient, despite my mental health issues which have often tripped me up in the area of growing up and self soothing.

Growing up is a journey I feel like I really just started, but I know I am have been acting responsibly for years now, however having a bit of a different emotional make-up than many people. I struggled with my fair share of depression, anxiety, and now that I have finally come to realize it  hilarity.  Yep, I am both a narcissist and am also hilarious.  I am staring this blog to connect with others out their in similar places in their lives, and mostly to make people laugh.  You can check out more about me and more about the purpose for this blog here.

I dedicate this blog to my mother who always taught me that it was okay to feel my emotions without apologizing.  She always told me that I was strong, smart, caring, and deserved nothing but good in my life, and now that I finally believe it  I think I have some things to share with the world.

If I want to be a mother, I need to be my own first.

     I want to be a mom, but I am not good at boundaries.  Ask anyone who knows me.  I push the limits one thing at a time, if it’s not getting way too close to a Sea Lion in San Francisco with my younger sister telling me I have to stop, then it’s me secretly binge drinking at my Aunt’s wedding when I was under 21 and vomiting all over the stairs of my mom’s front porch.  I can be a handful.  I guess what I am saying is that sometimes moms have to tell us when to stop.

I have been thinking lately, that I don’t even know how to tell myself to stop.  How will I know how to tell a child to stop?  How will I assert a boundary or set a limit with another human who I care about, without crushing there spirit completely.  Geez, being a parent sounds hard.  Right now I just have to focus on caring for myself, because once I have gotten a little better at that I might feel remotely qualified to have a little human of my own to care for.

I am a person who as a very intense emotional side to her.  I have struggled with anxiety, depression, and in general I like to think that I am a very lovable handful.  However, I think that this handful must have at time, been a lot for both my mother and younger sister to handle.

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Once, when I decided to move across the county to attend the college of my choice I acted like a complete brat on the entire trip, because I was internally freaking out that I was leaving the only family I had ever known to be alone.  The thing was, I had chosen that path, which is why when I hysterically begged my mother not to leave me in the parking lot of Vanguard University, I mean I pleaded with her even,she told me that she loved me and I could do it, and that she had to go.  She explained to me that while she would like to take me back with her, she hadn’t purchased a return ticket, and well, I had no other option but to follow through on the choice I had made.  At the time here were my thoughts: They are going to be so glad when they finally get rid of me.  I have been so terrible on this entire trip that my mom will be glad that she doesn’t have to deal with my bullshit anymore, and my sister will get so much more attention now that I don’t need it all.

Because I think this is a great story, please allow me to tell you some of the brief highlights of this trip with my mom sister and Aunt that spanned about 9 days and started in Las Vegas, went through the Grand Canyon, the coast and central valley of California, to San Francisco, and finally back down to Costa Mesa, my final destination.  On this trip

  • Bought jewelry behind my mother’s back. Even though she wanted me to be responsible with money I had to have that white turquoise.
  • I gambled at slot machines in Vegas even after she expressly told me not to.
  • I threw a fake temper tantrum in the middle of a Casino and pretended to rip apart a doll from Circus Circus.  
  • Scared my entire family when I rebelled against my mother’s decree that I could not have a $10 sundae from Ghirardelli Square even though that’s all my Aunt had been raving about all weekend.  I bought said sundae after disappearing for 30 minutes or so to wait in the line, and this was before we had cell phones, so it wasn’t like they could just text me to see where I was.  When I finally found them I asked them if they wanted any of my overpriced sundae.  I had taken two bites, which was enough for me.  It was very rich and I felt sick.
  • I got car sick, and demanded we change the trip from up the California Coast to one through the central valley, even though it as pretty impossible to get off PCH at a certain point
  • I threw up in the streets of San Francisco. (I wonder if the aforementioned sundae was involved)

I had about one meltdown per day, that resulted in my mom or sister telling me to calm down or that I needed to just breathe and chill out.  My favorite incidence of a meltdown occurred in a Motel 8 towards the end of my trip.  I am not sure what happened, but I do know it was getting closer to my families departure date, and things were getting hairier by the minute emotionally.  All I remember is hysterically crying in the lobby of the Super 8 motel, and the manager asking my sister if there was anything he should do or anyone who she should call. I like to remember her telling him, that it was okay, her sister was just a nut job, and the police didn’t need to be involved.  I remember my mom walking me back to the hotel room and telling me to get in the shower.  I also like to remember this happening with all my clothes on, although the memory is not as vivid as it could be, so I am possibly making that up for dramatic effect.

Almost 15 years later I imagine the agony that my mother had to go through watching her hysterical daughter cry and beg her to stay.  I imagine the horror of getting a phone call from that same daughter a week later, and hearing her hysterically tell her that I missed her and I wanted to come home.  I remember her telling me after that phone call that she didn’t want to talk to me on the phone when I was like that anymore, because it was too hard for her, and while I am not sure if I understood at the time, I now realize she needed to set that boundary not only for me, but for herself, and her sanity.

It’s been almost 15 years, and I would like to think that over that time I have made a lot of progress setting boundaries for myself and allowing others to set them for me, but in all honestly I think I am still very much a work in progress in this area.  When people tell me they need space or don’t give me their attention I go into full anxiety mode and imagine the worst.  I let myself cry like a little baby yesterday in my office at work, because I was disappointed in a mistake I had made.  But then I think of a time a few weeks ago where I felt myself going into a full meltdown and I went to the bathroom and told myself that I needed to read my mantras two times before I let myself cry, and in the process I avoided crying.  I have wanted to scream and yell at my partner and tell him I’m in emotional pain and severe anxiety, but I have stopped myself realizing that it wasn’t a productive use of either his time or my own, and that perhaps the timing was not right and I needed to wait for a time that was more appropriate to express my needs.

Mothers have to set boundaries for us, even when they don’t want to.  I know there is that old adage that where someone tells someone else, this is going to hurt my more than it hurts you.  Mothers must feel like that a lot, because they have to look at their children and say I know you are hurting and scared and confused, but I want you to grow up a little bit and figure this one out on your own, because even though I might wish that I could, I cannot always be there for you in this life.

So I guess in the process of wanting to become a mom, I have had to start trying to be my own mother.  I have had to look myself (anxiety, depression, compulsion) and all straight in the mirror, and say I know you want to scream and cry and lash out emotionally, but you are an adult, and you get to decide whether or not this is a good use of your time and energy.  And sometimes I fail at setting the boundaries for myself, and I let myself cry and scream.  But the times when I make the right/healthy choice for myself, I know this is going to come in super handy when I am a mother, and like mine, I think when the time is right, I will make a really great one.

Mom and I
My awesome mom and I having some beer in Asheville last year.