Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Easy Way....

Far and few between, life lets you learn very big and VERY important life lesson the easy way. My example....

Every year when I drive down to Klamath Falls during bad weather, I am scared out of my mind. I am that horriblly cautious driver- I drive 20 mph; I go unbelievably slow around corners. Not that I don't care how annoyed the drivers are behind me- I am well aware and it drives me insane. I am just more concered for, well, my life. Mostly, I'm just a scaredy cat who clenches the wheel for my life in the slightest of unfavorable driving conditions. However, this year was different. The roads were horrible coming down on Thanksgiving day, and many cars were stopping to put on chains. I was feeling rather adventurous that day so I refrained. For about two hours, the Jetta and I ruled the road. We passed cars chaining up, cars pulling over, and those women that I usually am- driving obnoxiously slow- hugging the right side of the snow bank. There were many moments when I thought to myself how much fun I was having conquering the snow ridden roads and really imagined never going back to the old and much more boring me.

Just as the Jetta and I were hitting 40-50ish on a straight road (past Chemult), feeling like nothing could ever stop us....the Jetta starts to fishtail. As my car is swerving right and left, I look up to see a semi truck barreling down towards us in the opposite lane of traffic. The Jetta pulls a slight left (semi-truck direction) then over-corrects itself right again (snow bank direction). Then slight left, then right. To be honest, I have no clue what I did in those moments. The car eventually pulled right and I let it take me, going 40 mph into a 3 ft deep snowbank.

Long story short (or shorter than it could be, atleast)- my car, being the badass it is, survived without a dent. I was completely fine. I sat on my phone for two (yes TWO) hours on Thanksgiving Day waiting for a tow truck to get me out of the mess I had put me in. The way I see it- there was a 50-50 chance. My car could've pulled me into the semi (lesson learned the very, very hard way). But it didn't. I suffered the embarrassment of atleast 30 cars stopping and making sure I was ok (Oregon drivers are AWESOME) and being a couple minutes late to my Family's Thanksgiving.
Needless to say- I'm back to the old me. For good.

I was thinking a lot more about this the last week because a friend of mine has been pretty distrought by a mistake he made. He left some prescription pills out (side note- he is a good and seemingly cautious dad, complete mistake) that his young son ended up getting into. A night of hell (I can only imagine) at the hospital....but yes, his son is fine. I can't imagine the fear he felt that night- but life gave him a break. He has his son....and I'm sure he'll never, ever, ever leave them out again. And I think thats a beautiful thing....when life does that for you.

So many people make mistakes and, just because life didn't punish them enough for them, they refuse to learn. But the way I see it (or atleast my life seems this way), life is just a series of messing up, big or small- then figuring out how not to mess up like that again. Life is about making those mistakes, losing that job, that boyfriend or girlfriend, that best friend......and vowing to yourself you'll learn. You'll make the necessary changes so that your life is only moving in a positive direction. Don't get me wrong, I've learned many of my lessons the hard way. Thats why I can be so thankful when life lets me slip up, gives me a motherly "don't do that again" stare, and lets me go on my way. I hope you can realize these moments when they come as well.

So anyways, if you pass me on your way to or from anywhere (on snowy roads going 10 mph) and I haven't pulled over to let you pass, feel free to flip me off. But I won't really care- because I'll be alive.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

I want....

I want to be inspired!

I want to remember what its like to fall in love <3

I want to look at the world and be reminded just how beautiful everything is

I want great moments with great friends - that feeling where I am completely myself- and people actually love me anyways

I want to have my breath taken away

I want moments where I feel competely whole and happy and at peace

I want to feel like i'm right where I should be

I want to keep seeing magic and beauty in the tiny moments in life

I want to not be so afraid of change, but to embrace it

I want to let go, and let myself become the person this life is leading me towards becoming

Monday, December 6, 2010

My List...

So....I'm finally putting it up- my list. This list has been about a year in the making, and I've finally sped it up the last couple days because it feels wrong to cross something off as "done" when the list itself isn't even done. How would I ever get to 100? =) Writing this list has been a process for me. Some of these things are pretty personal and some of them are just kind of silly- it doesn't make any of them less significant to me. When my time comes, I don't actually care if i've done every single one of these things- but this is my road map. This list reminds me there is still so much life to be lived. There is so much of this world to see, so many people to meet, and so many crazy adventures to be lived. Now, more than ever, I have no clue what this life holds in store for me. All I know is this: my world is going to be huge.

100 Things To Do Before I Die (with commentary by yours truly)

1. Take a spur of the moment flight
-this is my favorite of all. I seriously just want to go to the airport, pick the next plane out, and go. End of story.

2. Get a teaching job

Call it being lucky, call it being prepared, or call it working my butt off...I ended up getting the teaching job of my dreams. 

3. Start my own non-profit

4. Run a marathon

5. Skydive

6. Pubcrawl in Ireland

7. Live in Italy for a summer
-had this is mind BEFORE Eat, Pray, Love thank you very much!

8. Get my picture in front of all 50 US state signs

9. Learn Italian
-fell in love with this language the moment I heard it. Ciao Bella. Grazie! Prego!

10. Dive into a glacial lake

11. Go to S. Italy/Greece

12. Spend a month in El Salvador

13. Study in the Galapagos Islands

14. Teach a college Evolution class

15. Go to New York
-I have since done it shall go in italics. Thanks L for being so random and adventurous with me.

16. Bungee jump (2017 update: I literally never want to do this). Must change.

17. Get married to the love of my life

18. Have kids

19. Adopt a kid
- Both my mom and grandma were "adopted" by family members when they were around 12. I'd love to adopt a kid around that age.

20. Take my grandparents to a nice dinner
- My grandparents ALWAYS pay....I asked them when I could pay and they said I could pay once, the first time I get my first paycheck from my career job. I thought I was there once but that didn't stick. Kind of my right of passage to adult hood I guess.

So, here it is- the dinner that Grandma and Grandpa let me pay for (if you know them, you know what a rare occurrence this is). It's weird to be an "adult"- and have a career and have all of these things set in stone and planned out for me. It still doesn't feel real most days.

21. Take my family on a vacation

22. Go white water rafting

23. Take a super random class
- Think basket weaving or can can dancing

24. Cook something out of a new cookbook every day for a month

25. Get thrown out of a bar
- I don't mean nicely asked to leave...I mean *thrown* out

26. Attend the coolest festival I can find
- Thinking something like a bbq, steak, and beer festival in the South?

27. Hang glide
- On a dorito? hahahah

28. Kayak San Juan Islands and see Orcas up close

29. Relax in the Maldives

30. Dedicate my time to a project that's bigger than what I'm doing.

31. Hike the Wonderland Trail, WA

32. Swim under a waterfall
- I have also done this! Butte Creek Falls this summer. I plan on doing this many more times in my life. Its amazing!

33. Do a century bike ride

34. Do a regular triathlon

35. Sail an island chain

36. Take a US pilgrimage
- You should all get the jist of a pilgrimage by now

37. See a tornado

38. Have Thanksgiving at my house

39. Catch a firefly

So...this is obviously *not* a picture of me catching a firefly- but a picture of me in Chicago. And maybe only a picture that means a lot to me. But Chicago (ish) is where I caught said firefly. An amazing trip.

40. Summer in New England

41. Country bar hop in Nashville

I didn't know what to expect from Nashville. I knew I would like it- I didn't know I would completely fall in love with it! A whole street full of live country music at all hours, no cover charge, dancing, laughing, staying out until 6 am. A whole week full of Mara- Spring Break 2014!

42. Be a contestant on the Price is Right

43. Road trip to Mt. Rushmore
- Oh yeah, saw Mt. Rushmore. It was very uneventful and touristy. But the Black Hills of South Dakota were beautiful <3 Spearfish Canyon: 

44. See the fall foliage in New England

 Not only did I get to see the leaves in New England, I got to do it with one of my bestest friends in the whole wide world. Live free or die! Xoxo- AER :)


45. Teach someone illiterate to read

46. Grow a garden

47. Start a shoe tree
-Its started! Lets see if it sticks! =)

48. Climb the largest staircase in the world
- I believe its the CN tower in Toronto (thats open to the public)

49. Make a hole in one (golf)

50. Make a hole in one (Frisbee golf)

51. Go on a vacation with just my sister

-Yosemite, Summer 2011. Love you BSF.

52. US road trip
- very different from the pilgrimage

53. Become a "regular" somewhere

- I would say I've accomplished this since then. Amy at Grand Vines knows how I like my lattes, what seat I like, and hooks me up with a free truffle now and then. I also shortly considered opening a charge account there, but then realized I would spend way too much money that way.

54. Spend a week by myself

55. "Invent" a popular blog/website

56. Hike the PCT, at least in Oregon

57. Pay off my credit cards

58. Pay off student loans
- This will most likely be the last thing checked off this list. Hah.

59. Summit Mt Hood
     - Thanks to the determination and encouragement of Brit Laurenti & Erin Currie! 

60. Rent a fire lookout

61. Have "Sex on the beach"
-Not the drink ;)

62. Spend an entire weekend being lazy and in pajamas

63. Tomato fight/festival in Spain

64. Live downtown in a city
- Yes, I'm counting West Seattle as "city". Because what I've learned in my seven years since writing this list is...I'm not a city girl. I can see the city from my rooftop patio here in my apartment that cost too much money and doesn't have a deck or a wood burning fireplace, and thats close enough for me. If I could write this list again (and I could), I would change it to "Own a comfortable house in a small town with at least five acres of land"

65. Win a prestigious award in teaching (or whatever I'm doing)

66. Create a drink that becomes so popular that I hear someone I don't know ordering it

67. Face my fear of the cold and go snow camping
Thank you, Brit Laurenti, for pushing me in ways I never want to be pushed. I love you :) 

68. Stay at a bed and breakfast
  - Thank you Theresa! I've learned two things from staying at B&B's, 1. They're adorable and cute and cozy. 2. I do not enjoy breakfast conversation with strangers that much. 
Pictured, the best B&B: Run of the River, Leavenworth, WA 

69. Graffiti, or have someone do it in my honor
-There is this awesome huge rock on my way from Klamath to Salem, and it always has all of this graffiti on it "I love Sally so and so, etc." How cool would it be to have someone love you that much that they would do something that stupid just to make you smile? =)

70. Watch the sun rise and set in the desert
  - Since my adventure life with Brit, I've had the opportunity to watch the sun rise and set in so many beautiful, amazing places. Alvord Desert. 

71. Write a memoir of some sort, even if it sucks

72. Golf par on 9 holes

73. Give someone something that significantly changes their life

74. Start a scholarship fund

75. Lay in a field for hours

76. Make a list of 1,000 things that make me happy

77. Swim with dolphins or turtles

Hawaii was amazing! Yes, I was in one of the most romantic places on earth with my mom and stepdad....but I couldn't think of a better place to be. And, yes, I swam with turtles AND dolphins (in the wild blue ocean ;)

78. Challenge myself professionally- work for a KIPP or inner-city school

79. Make out in the pouring rain

80. Work a completely random job
-Like....bread maker or gas station attendant

81. Take a bike trip
-Long distance, think bike around Holland, etc

82. Watch someone give birth

Introducing Miss Olive Fladwood

83. Go to a white sand beach

Can't believe I hadn't done this before Hawaii. Incredible!

84. Swim with sharks
-In a cage, duh

85. Bet a ridiculous amount of money on one hand

86. Explore in New Zealand

87. Write something that is published in a journal/magazine

88. Drink an obscene amount of beer at Oktoberfest

89. Make a photo book of my best photography (and have enough good photography to do so)
 - After our Trailer-Life trip, we did make a photobook- full of photography I never even dreamed I would be taking in moments I never dreamed I would be in

90. Watch every Academy Award winning movie

91. Get a complete makeover by a famous stylist

92. Start my own family tradition

93. Go ghost hunting

94. Get a moped for a day

95. Read the top 100 books
-In what list? I don't know yet...TBD

96. Find my home
-I hope life will figure this one out for me....

97. Watch the sun rise over the Atlantic Ocean

Not only do I get a little sister that's my best friend in the world- I get a partner in crime. A person who will fly to the East Coast to watch the sun rise over to Atlantic Ocean with me. A person who asks "why not?" instead of "why?" My forever best friend...

98. Donate money, and put my name on something that will always be there

99. Own a vacation home on a lake

100. Visit Charleston, South Carolina

-For an old best friend.
While visiting Charleston I realized a couple things. One, Savannah is, in fact, better. Two, you need to live your life forward. You need to look forward. Only by doing this, do you grow and change the way that you need to. Keep memories in your heart, hold them close, and let them shape you as a better and stronger person. Far better things lay ahead than those you left behind. 

So I'm putting this up half to hopefully inspire other people to plan out their road map a little bit and half to hold myself to this. I don't want to be someone who finds out they have x amount of time left and try to live my life to the fullest then. We are all on a time clock, and everyone has x amount of time to live- be it 5 years or 50. So in the words of Henry David Thoreau, "Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the you've imagined."

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Three Day Pilgrimage

So I'll start out by correcting myself...our "three-day pilgrimage" ended up to be more of a 40 hour pilgrimage. However, this is how it was planned...and I've had this title in my head for a while, and it's my blog, so I refuse to change it.

When I told people I was going on a three day pilgrimage to a shoe tree that may or may not be there in Eastern Oregon (8 hour drive away) some people thought it was weird, some people thought it was awesome, and most people just thought it "sounded like something I would do." (which I take as quite the compliment!). Going to this particular shoe tree is on my TDBD (to do before I die) list, so sounds like a good way to spend a weekend to me. We did A LOT of exciting things on our little pilgrimage, but more importantly than any one thing we did on this pilgrimage, is to explain why this is a "pilgrimage" and not a vacation. And, oddly enough, I plan on doing this through the introduction of ANOTHER book- this one by author (and super-hippy) Dan Austin- The Road Trip Pilgrim's Guide.

"So what is a pilgrimage? Well, the way I've come to understand it, you can take a trip or you can take a pilgrimage. You can escape from life or escape to it. You must always return from a vacation, but you never return from a pilgrimage quite the same...

though historically religious in nature, pilgrimages do not need to be holy quests. At its heart, a pilgrimage is a journey of importance, to the pilgrim and maybe no one else. Road trip spirituality is as unique as the person who seeks it, often having little to do with any prescribed path. After all, most religions were started by vagabonds, mavericks, and idealistic visionaries with no great love for bureaucracy...

Your pilgrimage could involve fasting, penitence, and self-flagellation (not flatulation ;) hehe). But it could-should-also involve falling in love, dancing all night long, sleeping on the beach, reading Jacques Prevert, biking through torrential rain, crying your eyes out at something so beautiful (or so tragic), crashing with locals, breaking laws, sleeping in hammocks, guzzling Guinness, hitting midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, sleeping in banana fields, making out on top of Mayan temples, indulging in a Japanese onsen, and ultimately, finding that grail of happiness and meaning: truth to self."

So this is where the idea got started. I don't think enough people feel this way- and I feel like its almost faux pas to say so....but I LOVE MY LIFE. I love my life as imperfect, unstable, sometimes hectic, sometimes monotonous, and as average as it is. What other point is there in life if not to love it? I don't want an escape from my life. There is a quote that reminds me of this sad but abundant faux pas in our society, made famous by Nelson Mandela, that may be one of my favorites:

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

People too often downplay their strengths and play off their weaknesses- because "who are they" to be that person. Well...who are they not to be? So anyways, all of that to say I don't want to escape from my life- I want every experience I have and every breathe I take to be PART of this thing called life. I don't want a trip to get a "break" from life- I want a trip to redefine who I am. I want to, every day of my life, walk away from the person I once was and become the person I will be.

So my pilgrimage involved driving through the night (well, passengering through the night), sleeping in a car in 20 degree weather, eating apple pie at 8 am, driving ten miles down a dirt road to knock on a cousin of a customer's door (second house to the left past the cattle grate ten miles down the dirt road across from the red church)- to be graciously invited in, fed calf testicles, and be put to work "fly-swattin' and feedin' cattle", wading a freezing cold river to get to a hot springs in the middle of the high desert, starting our own shoe tree, standing next to Lincoln (statue...not the man... sorry) in downtown Boise on a platform reciting the Gettysburg Address, illegally ringing Idaho's liberty bell, spending an uninterrupted two days with one of my best friends, and feeling the freedom that you only feel when you have no plans attached to your plans.

Long story short, my purpose of the trip was never techincally reached. The shoe tree in Juntura, OR died a couple years ago and was removed from the site. Tammy the waitress showed us a framed picture on the wall of the shoe tree that once was. RIP. However, this is where sometimes life throws you a curveball and thankfully my list is not a static process. I am hence forth changing number 47 on my list from "throw a pair of shoes on the shoe tree in Juntura" to "start my own shoe tree".

So do me a favor if you're ever driving down Highway 20 outside of Juntura, Oregon. Turn off just west of milepost 20, follow the dirt road by the river until it ends (about a mile), look out across the river to see the steam rising from the hot springs- and notice that big tree next to you. Looking up, you will hopefully see an old pair of Converse and some Sketchers tangled in the branches. Since every shoe tree has to have a purpose, use some old sneaker to cross that ridiculously cold river that takes you to the most beautiful hot springs I have ever seen. When you cross back, just make sure to toss those old sneakers up on the tree for me. I'll be back in one year to check.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Live Bigger

So, soon enough I'll put on here my list of ALMOST a hundred things I want to do (am going to do) before I die. Everyone who knows me well knows I'm pretty obsessed with list making...but I love it. I love the simplicity of lists because I'm not the least bit of an organized person- but they help me feel like it somehow. And what better kind of list to carry around with you everywhere than a list that reminds me what I want out of my life? Before I put my list up, however, I want to start with an Intro. Its not mine, exactly (not mine at all, actually)....but it inspires me in so many different ways. An old friend of mine once told me
"This world is only as big as we make it." world is going to be huge.


Donald Miller (Portland author)- Through Painted Deserts

It is fall here now, my favorite of the four seasons. We get all four here, and they come at us under the doors, in through the windows. One morning you wake and need blankets; you take the fan out of the window to see clouds that mist out by midmorning, only to reveal a naked blue coolness like God yawning.

September is perfect Oregon. The blocks line up like postcards and the rosebuds bloom into themselves like children at bedtime. And in Portland we are proud of our roses; year after year, we are proud of them. When they are done, we sit in the parks and read stories into the air, whispering the gardens to sleep.

I come here, to Palio Coffee, for the big windows. If I sit outside, the sun gets on my computer screen, so I come inside, to this same table, and sit alongside the giant panes of glass. And it is like a movie out there, like a big screen of green, and today there is a man in shepher's clothes, a hippie, all dirty, with a downed bike in the circle lawn across the street. He is eating bread from the bakery and drinking from a metal camp cup. he is tapping the cup against his leg, sitting like a monk, all striped in fabric. I wonder if he is happy, his blanket strapped to the rack on his bike, his no home, his no job. I wonder if he has left it all because he hated it or because it hated him. It is true some do not do well with conventional life. They think outside things and can't make sense of following a line. They see no walls, only doors from open space to open space, and from open space, supposedly, to the mind of God, or at least this is what we hope for them, and what they hope for themselves.

I remember the sweet sensation of leaving, years ago, some ten now, leaving Texas for who knows where. I could not have known about this beautiful place, the Oregon I have come to love, this city of great people, this smell of coffee and these evergreens reaching up into a mist of sky, these sunsets spilling over the west hills to slide a red glow down the streets of my town.

And I could not have known then that if I had been born here, I would have left here, gone someplace south to deal with horses, to get on some open land where you can see tomorrow's storm brewing over a high desert. I could not have known then that everybody, every person, has to leave, has to change like seasons; they have to or they die. The seasons remind me that I must keep changing, and I want to change because it is God's way. All my life I have been changing. I changed from a baby to a child, from soft toys to play daggers. I changed into a teenager to drive a car, into a worker to spend some money. I will change into a husband to love a woman, into a father to love a child, change houses so we are near water, and again so we are near mountains, and again so we are near friends, keep changing with my wife, getting our love so it dies and gets born again and again, like a garden, fed by four seasons, a cycle of change. Everybody has to change, or they expire. Everybody has to leave, everybody has to leave their home and come back so they can love it again for all new reasons.

I want to keep my soul fertile for the changes, so things keep getting born in me, so things keep dying when it is time for tthings to die. I want to keep walking away from the person I was a moment ago, because a mind was made to figure things out, not to read the same page recurrently.

Only the good stories have the characters different at the end than they were at the beginning. And the closest thing I can liken life to is a book, they way it streches out on paper, page after page, as if to trick the mind into thinking it isn't all happening at once.

Time has pressed you and me into a book, too, this tiny chapter we share together, this vapor of a scene, pulling our seconds into minutes and minutes into hours. Everything we were is no more, and what we will become, will become what was. This is from where story stems, the stuff of its construction lying at our feet like cut strips of philosophy. I sometimes look into the endless heavens, the cosmos of which we can't find the edge, and ask God what it means. Did You really do all of this to dazzle us? Do You really keep it shifting, rolling round the pinions to stave off boredom? God forbid Your glory would be our distraction. And God forbid we would ignore Your glory.

Here is something I foundto be true: you don't start processing death until you turn thirty. I live in visions, for instance, and they are cast out some fifty years, and just now, just last year I ralized my visions were cast too far, they were out beyond my life span. It frightened me to think of it, that I passed up an early marriage or children to write these silly books, that I bought the lie that the academic life had to be seperate from relational experience, as though God only wanted us to learn cognitive ideas, as if the heart of a man were only created to resonate with movies. No, life cannot be understood flat on a page. It has to be lived; a person has to get out of his head, has to fall in love, has to memorize poems, has to jump off bridges into rivers, has to stand in an empty desert and whisper sonnets under his breath:
I'll tell you how the sun rose
A ribbon at a time....

It's a living book, this life; it folds out in a million settings, cast with a billion beautiful characters, and it is almost over for you. It doesn't matter how old you are; it is coming to a close quickly, and soon the credits will roll and all your friends will fold out of your funeral and drive back to their homes in cold and still and silence. And they will make a fire and pour some wine and think about how you once were...and feel a kind of sickness at the idea you never again will be.

So soon you will be in that part of the book where you are holding the bulk of the pages in your left hand, and only a thin wisp of the story in your right. You will know by the page count, not by the narrative, that the Author is wrapping things up. You begin to mourn its ending, and want to pace yourself slowly toward its closure, knowing the last lines will speak of something long and earned, and you hope the things closes out like last breaths, like whispers about how much and who the characters have come to love, and how authentic the sentiment feel when they have earned a hundred pages of qualification.

And so my prayer is that your story will have involved some leaving and some coming home, some summer and some winter, some roses blooming out like children at play. My hope is your story will be about changing, about getting something beautiful born inside of you, about learning to love a woman or a man, about learning to love a child, about moving yourself around water, around mountains, around friends, about learning to love others more than we love ourselves, about learning oneness as a way of understanding God. We get one story, you and I, and one story alone. God has established the elements, the setting and the climax and the resolution. It would be a crime not to venture out, wouldn't it?

It might be time for you to go. It might be time to change, to shine out.

I want to repeat one word for you:


Roll the word around on your tongue for a bit. It is a beautiful word, isn't it? So strong and forceful, the way you have always wanted to be. And you will not be alone. You have never been alone. Don't worry. Everything will still be here when you get back. It is you who will have changed.