Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Patchwork of 2013

I began this year in my sweet, isolated beach town on the Central Coast. That experience was coming to an end and I was reaping the rewards of patience and searching for peace through some pretty lonely years. This year was full of necessary endings, new beginnings and transitions. My friend told me that 2013 was going to be my year, she apologized this week but I don't think that is necessary. I'm resilient and know myself better because of this year.

Grace and calm were my intentions for 2013. The hardest realization this year was letting go of my inner control freak. Grace and calm do not reside well with controlling tendencies. I fought hard against this for months and admitted my shortcoming right before my birthday. There was the sweet consolation of grace and calm waiting for me once I confronted my inner dictator. I learned in order to receive grace, I had to ask for it and the hardest part...receive it. Being fiercely independent makes it hard for me to ask for help and even harder, to receive it. Ever since I have opened myself up, blessings have flowed in. I am so grateful for this year.

Here is the patchwork that made up 2013:
-Moving back to San Diego (gorgeous sunsets, dear friends nearby and the Pacific still keeping me company)
-Saying goodbye to my vivacious, loving and hilarious grandma
-Soaking up Mediterranean sun in the Amalfi Coast
-Island hopping in Greece
-Floating effortlessly in the Aegean
-Running hundreds of miles (time to retire those shoes)
-Finding out one of my dearest friends is expecting after years of trying
-Meeting wonderful people who are new friends (Friendsgiving, dancing and laughter)
-Being honest with myself
-Returning to Seattle after 5 years and loving it
-Satisfying my inner oenophile in the Willamette Valley (holy love of Pinot!)

Cheers to another lovely year. I can't wait to see what 2014 has in store.

"I do not at all understand the mystery of grace--only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us." -Anne Lamott

Friday, December 6, 2013

My Paris Journal

"As we were climbing, the lights started to twinkle, it was like we were in a glass of champagne"

I wrote this my first night in Paris back in 2006. I remember the butterflies in my stomach when I first saw the Eiffel Tower from afar. This was my first trip overseas and it was a whirlwind all over Western Europe, trying to see and do as much as possible in 16 days. Paris was the final stop and I wanted to savor the city. I had dreamt of Paris (Europe really) my entire life, and I had finally made it.

We only spent 2 days in Paris. It is amazing how much you can cram into 2 days, yet leave so much unseen. I must return. I got lost in the Louvre and passed "Winged Victory" at least 3 times before I realized I was walking in a very large, but art filled, circle. Notre Dame was enjoyed from the outside and when I return, I would like to go inside and be painted with the stained glass reflections. French onion soup, escargot, cheese, bread, chocolate and Bordeaux were consumed. A walk along the Seine and a ride in the metro were preferred modes of transport. A cabaret and dancing at a night club near the Moulin Rouge completed the visit. We sipped champagne and toasted to our friendship and adventure. We had no idea that this was the catapult of more international adventures.

When I look back on Paris, I remember my excitement and naiveté. It was my first big adventure out into the world and my wanderlust exploded upon my return. There isn't a day that has passed that I haven't thought about somewhere far away. It is so appropriate that the Eiffel Tower symbolized a glass of champagne to me. It was like the world was toasting my desire to explore it.

Monday, December 2, 2013

On Vulnerability

I watched Brene Brown's TED talk on vulnerability last year and it changed the way I approach my life. She eloquently speaks of what it means to be vulnerable and how it can change the way we interact with each other. Vulnerability can be one of the scariest things and also one of the most rewarding.

Ever since I decided to chip away at the walls I built around my heart and soul, I have experienced life in a more vibrant and satisfying manner. This doesn't mean that there aren't remnants of the walls or past hurts left, but I can be more open and forgiving with myself and others because of this. I have experienced new relationships form, old relationships healed and some removed from my life just from being open and honest.

I used to be such a hard, sarcastic and blunt person. When I look back just 5 years, I hardly recognize the person I became. I was working and playing hard, spending my time and money like they were invincible and not really showcasing love as it should be. During that time, I desperately wanted love and acceptance, but my walls just towered over my ability to soften.

This all began to change when I quit my high stress job and began letting go of so many things--physical and emotional. Selling everything, a broken heart, a couple years alone in a coastal town and unconditional love from family and friends can really chip away at a hard shell. The more I opened up, the more opportunities and love entered my life. I don't think it is a coincidence that I have been able to travel more, cultivate relationships and work on awareness during this time. By letting my guard down, blessings have flowed in and I am truly grateful. One of the hardest lessons of my life has proven to be the most rewarding.

"to let yourself soften into loving someone, to caring about something passionately--that's vulnerable" -Brene Brown

And just because this is lovely and relevant...

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Holiday Memories with Grandma

This is my first holiday season without Grandma. I found this photo tonight and it made me really miss her. It has been months since she passed away but my heart is still healing from the loss. She was such a vibrant, sarcastic, funny and loving influence in my life. I adored holidays with her. She always made us feel special with stockings and dinners with pasta on the side--always. I remember the garland on her Christmas tree was comprised of plastic candies; it sparkled in the large colored bulbs she used to light the tree. Santa and Snoopy were favorite Christmas decorations and carols sung by Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and friends crooned from her white tape deck. She filled her green candy dish with Swedish Fish and we snuck several pieces throughout the night. My favorite holiday memory of Grandma would be the light in her eyes as we opened the gifts she wrapped and stuffed into stockings for each grandchild. We would chime "Thank you Grandma" and she would graciously smile and nod. I always felt loved and so special around her. I am so blessed to have had a grandma like her and am grateful for all the years we had together.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Friends with Turkey

Coming from a large family is wonderful, but cumbersome during the holidays. I have sisters in different states and my brothers live in Northern California. Every year, I travel to one of their houses to spend the holidays, but I decided to stay put for Thanksgiving this year. My friends, Tim and Kandice, were so gracious to host Thanksgiving for those of us who have family far away. Since San Diego is full of transplants, we had a pretty good size group.

Friendsgiving, as I like to call it, was full of amazing food (2 turkeys), wine, laughter and good conversation. We went around the table and stated what we are thankful for and it was lovely to hear everyone give thanks. I am so grateful to have met a group of wonderful people where we can share gratitude and laughter.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013


I love this time of year--everyone states what they are thankful for and gets together to eat delicious food. Taking the time to reflect on what we are thankful for creates an opportunity to really experience happiness. I appreciate the collective expressions of gratitude.

I remember the first time I felt overwhelming gratitude; I had just returned from living in Seattle and was just about to withdraw the last of my money out of the bank. My life up to that point was full of fun and adventure, but I never really stopped to appreciate most of what had transpired. After taking time off and moving back to California, I started to deeply appreciate things that I had taken for granted.

For instance, California golden poppies were so vibrant to me and the ocean even more majestic. I remember taking a trip up to the redwood forest and just standing at the base of a redwood in awe. These are things I grew up with and never took the time to ponder their beauty. Simple things like coffee with friends, yoga and music became revered. I think that selling everything and simplifying my life created the space for gratitude.

This year, I am most thankful for living in San Diego again. The years on the Central Coast were great years for reflection, solitude and growth. Even though my patience was tried, I see now that timing is everything. It had been 4 1/2 years since I moved away from San Diego and as I look back at the years in between, I realize that so much had to happen in order for me to find my way back here. I am thankful for the time away, lessons learned and deeper appreciation for the simple things in life.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

NorCal Nostalgia

The familiarity of the Northern California landscape is nostalgic for me. I worked in Sonoma County this week and memories of living here and being able to explore the coast and forests brought back lovely memories. I was able to venture around yesterday and drove the Oakville grade from Sonoma to the Napa Valley. My favorite part of that drive is right as you descend, the beautiful patchwork of the Napa Valley appears.
In fact, road trips would be chapters in the biography of my 20s just as plane rides have been for my 30s thus far. I can remember long trips up to 12 hours and short ones just to spend the night on the coast. I have always wanted to go somewhere and see something. The movement keeps my adventurous spirit happy and the anticipation gives my imagination the practice it needs.

These trips have been with companions as well as alone. Music and silence have always occupied my ears and many a good book and conversation have been a result of the journey. I learned that I am resilient when it comes to travel, by not falling asleep at the wheel, dealing with flight delays and cancellations, learning how to navigate a new city--foreign and domestic, and most of all that travel is my passion.  It is almost impossible to wipe a smile off my face when I am encountering a new terrain.
But, new terrains are not always what I want to experience. I enjoy the familiar trips; like driving windy highway 20 to Fort Bragg. I love it when the sides of the road become sandy and the air salty, right before it meets the sea. I love the smell of driving through a redwood forest where the scent fills the car even with the windows rolled up. Also, driving in the Napa valley in the fall with the intoxicating scent of fermentation seeping out of cellars making the entire valley drunk with wine’s birth.  These are the most familiar sensorial trips for me going all the way back to childhood. And it is no wonder that my favorite things are the ocean, redwood forests and wine...they are deeply imbedded in my soul.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Last Night a DJ Saved My Life

Firenze fun
When I was 9 years old, my aunt and uncle took me to see the San Francisco Ballet perform the Nutcracker. I wore a black velvet dress, tights, shiny shoes and a peach headband. I remember sitting down and listening to the orchestra start one of the most memorable overtures my young brain knew. The excitement of being dressed up in the city and hearing Tchaikovsky was trumped when the dancers took the stage. They were so graceful and strong. I was experiencing kinesthetic empathy and wanted to learn how to dance.
I never took dance lessons, but dancing has always brought me joy. I grew up in a super religious church where music and dancing were almost forbidden—that made me want to explore it even more. I remember being jealous of prom and homecoming dances that my friends attended but decided that dancing in my room with my Walkman would have to do...until college.

In college, I spent my weekends dancing. I danced to any music that played, I found DJs to be my liberators as my requests were played and dancing ensued. You know that song Last Night a DJ Saved My Life --it could be the theme song to my college years.

A lot of my memories include dancing and they are some of my happiest ones. I learned that dancing was in my genes at a KC and the Sunshine Band concert with my dad and sister! Then, at my sister’s wedding, we turned the driveway into a dance floor and all of our dearest friends and loved ones came together with music and movement. In Florence, I went to my first official disco and danced the night away with people from all over the world to music in several different languages. 

Last night, a dear friend returned to San Diego and what was meant to be dinner and catching up, turned into a night of dancing and laughter. I love how that happens...I wasn't dressed for it, but that didn't stop me from moving to the music.

"To watch us dance is to hear our hearts speak" -Hopi Saying

Monday, November 11, 2013

Best Laid Plans

I had plans to take the month of November off. I was going to head to Costa Rica for a month to explore, relax, write and try my best to speak Spanish. My plan excited me and has been something I have wanted to do for quite some time. Last year, I planned on going to Costa Rica but then my dear friend invited me to Bali. The trip was amazing and it felt great to be unplugged in warm tropical air. Every day was filled with writing, yoga, long walks and intense cultural experiences. Although it wasn't my original plan, I think it was exactly what I needed at that time.

This year, instead of laying on a hammock I am working and travelling for work quite a bit. I have 5 flights scheduled, a budget presentation and goals to be met. I am not looking forward to any of this and find myself wondering why my best laid plans didn't come to fruition. Costa Rica seems to always be just right out of my reach and I wonder why. I can't help but think about running late to work or a party and then find out if I was on time, I would have been involved in an accident on the road. There are all kinds of stories of near misses and possibly my plans fell apart yet again to keep me out of harm's way.

Then I think about being present and that there is a reason that I am here now...not because of a near miss. Being present is definitely a skill and with all the scheduling, goals, travel plans and relationships in life, there is a tendency towards distraction.

Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook fame said something that really caught my attention in her TEDtalk; she states: "Don't leave before you leave". Such a simple statement with a huge requirement. This can be applied to all facets of life. When I am with someone, I don't want my mind wandering to my to-do list or pending schedules. I want connection and to be present. Perhaps this is a tall order, but I think it is something worth striving for.

I'll admit, I haven't followed the above advice much this year. My mind has been all over the world and I am realizing that I need to practice being present...maybe that is why I am not in Costa Rica this month. I am sure I will know the reason in due time, but until then, I am going to try harder at being present and enjoying what is in front of me.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Travel Highs and Lows

I am sitting in  the San Jose airport waiting for a flight that had to be rebooked due to a shooting at LAX. My first thought was selfish and I wondered when I would get home. Since I am only an hour flight away, I figured I could find another flight and quickly calmed down. One of my favorite things about airports is people watching. I find it fascinating the way each of us differently handle travel woes. After the news was announced, people had 2 very distinct reactions...some started figuring out their new travel plans and others started flipping out.

It is understandable that delays and cancellations are inconvenient and in a way terrible, but we weren't shot! We are all just trying to get to San Diego in a timely manner so we can go home or have a great weekend in an awesome city. I feel sorry for the ticket agents that are getting yelled at--as if they caused the shooting in a separate airport. One of the things I have learned from all my travels is smiling and kindness gets you farther than yelling.

With the lows of travel, we have great rewards. The above photo was taken as I was landing in Athens. I had to wait 6 hours in Rome, sleeping on a chair with my legs wrapped around my luggage. I was cold and hungry and just wanted to get to Greece to see my sister, but there were certain things that were out of my control. In my exhaustion, I arrived at the ticket counter to check in and the agent upgraded me and gave me a pass to the airline's lounge (probably because I looked disheveled). She told me she appreciated my kindness and patience. Proof that kindness pays off.

I wouldn't trade anything when it comes to travel. I have had lost baggage, cancelled flights, extra nights in cities I don't particularly care for and really bad food. On the flip side, I have seen beautiful places, different oceans, observed constellations in both hemispheres and so many more highs that keep me checking into flights and smiling from ear to ear.

Monday, September 16, 2013

For the Love of Pinot Noir

Delicate, fruity, earthy, raspberries, cassis, vanilla, cola, sassafras, dark cherries, strawberries, cedar, mushroom, leather, cigar, silky, velvety...

I could go on and on describing one of my favorite varietals. I love Pinot Noir. I have been fortunate enough to taste it in many different places, but I have never been to the Willamette Valley in Oregon until last week. This trip solidified my love for this wine and placed Oregon as one of my favorite Pinot regions.

We visited White Rose Estate Winery and with each taste, I declared "this is the best Pinot so far". Then, the winemaker let us taste his 2012 out of the tank and I couldn't believe how delicious the young wine already was.

I try my best not to geek out when it comes to wine. I try to just enjoy it and let the conversation flow, but the Willamette Valley awakened the Wine Geek in me. I can't wait to return this beautiful, green countryside covered in vines and evergreens with the Cascade mountains keeping watch.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Unlikely Return

I left Seattle almost 5 years ago and never thought I would return. I quit my job, fell in love and moved all the way up the Western seaboard to begin a new life. We didn't work, we lived off our savings, explored the Pacific Northwest and attempted a relationship. It sounded like a really good idea, romantic really, but I was not prepared for it all. Seattle's sun hid after a month and the relationship's foundation wasn't very solid. The snow fell, hearts were broken, I sold everything that didn't fit into my car and left the Emerald City in tears. There was no way I ever wanted to return.

This past week, duty called and I found myself driving into the city with a colleague to work for a couple days. The sun was shining brightly, it was warm and unexpectedly I was okay. I was actually worried about returning, but as the day progressed, I became happy to be in Seattle. All of my good memories returned and I felt complete gratitude that I was able to live there and explore for a while. I reflected on how blessed I was to have a city as my playground and realized that I had created a very good sense of place there.

I guess that is what letting go/evolving feels like--joy and gratitude even when faced with bad memories. Now when I speak of Seattle, I need to replace my doomsday "snow and gloom" stories with the memory of love and exploration. I no longer need to refer to that move as my worst mistake, but as an amazing opportunity to be daring and carefree.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A Good Year

I had a really good 32nd year. I was looking back at this past year and counted my blessings which outweighed the sorrows.

Last year, I was in Bali with a broken heart trying to figure out new plan and a direction. I wrote down 5 intentions at a coffee shop in a small Balinese town and have referred to them many times over the past year.

1) Positivity every day
2) Letting go of the past
3) Hope
4) Wisdom to decipher what's next
5) Open heart and mind

These intentions have been the foundation for the past year. These 5 things are hard to achieve from where I was last year. But, with practice, prayer and encouragement from loved ones, I get closer every day. I don't think that the blessings would have been recognized without this list. I worked hard on them and although there have been struggles and tears, joy and peace continue to take their place.

My dear friend, Katy confidently proclaimed "2013 is your year, friend!" I think she is right. But then again, any year is what I decide to make of it. And this year, focusing on the blessings is my intention. I learned this a long time ago when my grandma had me sing "Count your blessings" to her in Spanish. I may have not known what I was actually singing, but I think the message is finally sinking in.

Friday, August 9, 2013


I learned how to swim late,when I was 12 years old. I remember the anxiety of not having full control of my body and definitely despised going underwater. Even when it was time to go to school, I would hang on to the bed post and cry full of angst over what might happen that day. I was the worrier in my family, always aware of possible doom. (I had my bags packed just in case the Oakland hills fire reached us all the way in San Leandro).

I am coming to terms with accepting the fact that my inability to let go has caused great anxiety in my life. This problem has also given me the tendency to showcase the control freak that tends to live inside. I don't like that and I am resolving to fix this about myself.

Letting go is a great feat I realize. It is not easy for a worrier. But, through meditation, prayer and post it note reminders all over the place, I am finding it easier and easier to release. And let me tell you, it is so much more wonderful than I thought it could be.

I think the best possible image I can give myself is floating in Greece. We found a secluded beach in Paros and I really wanted to get in the water. The water was crystal clear and turquoise. I had the initial "it's too cold, I should get out" thoughts and then I laid down and let go. Without any effort, I was floating in the Aegean Sea under the Mediterranean sun and my heart and soul flooded with gratitude and happiness. I had physically let go and the water took care of everything else.

I think of this image often these days. Being able to physically have a reference to this life lesson helps me release the tensions that come with not letting go. Floating is exactly the way my heart and soul feel--like a balloon--when I release the unknown and trust that everything will be alright.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Cyclades Celebration

I think a 30th birthday is something to celebrate and since, my little sister turned 30 last month, we celebrated! We traveled to Greece for some island hopping. I was so excited to be on a trip with my sister. Usually, I am with work or friends and never with a family member. This trip was memorable and quite special to me for many reasons...Lizzie and I are 3 years apart and we were each other's first friends. I can't imagine my childhood without her constant companionship. So, a week together flew by leaving us with fond memories and great tans.
Our island hopping took us to 2 islands: Paros and Santorini.
 Paros is a great place to rent a car and drive around visiting beaches and small towns. We spent a couple days on Paros and enjoyed the freedom of driving around and exploring the entire island. We found a beach lined with olive trees with crystal clear turquoise water which was perfect for effortless back floats.  In the mornings, we drank espresso frappes and soaked up the sunshine. Then, in the evenings, we ambled through the streets and sipped on Greek beer and ate a lot of salads.
Santorini was a completely different experience...
We stayed at a resort with pool overlooking a vineyard and the sea. The town was walking distance and the scenery was stark white buildings down a sheer cliff. The sunsets were epic and the towns more lively. We laid out by the pool, sipped local wine and walked many miles on cobblestone streets (up and down the cliffs). We shopped for gifts to take home and saw cave paintings.

History, culture, delicious food and ocean breezes were our constant companions in Greece. The celebration was fun and I can't wait to travel with my sister again. My only hope is that next time all three of us (sisters) can go.

Amalfi Adventure

Last month, I travelled to the Amalfi Coast with a friend before a work conference in Umbria. We spent a few days soaking up the sun, trying Aperol spritzers and eating copious amounts of delicious food. This was one of my favorite trips and I can't wait to return. We stayed in the quiet town, Maiori, where we could walk everywhere and stay across the street from the sea. The days were long and relaxing and the nights were filled with friendship and laughter.
Getting to the Amalfi is not the easiest route. We spent time on a plane, train and a bus. The road is narrow, windy and hugs the mountain closely. The sea is a brilliant aqua and the hills are terraced with citrus. Limoncello flows freely and the seafood is remarkable. 
We took a day trip to Capri with the intention of laying in the sun until it rained. However, the rain was one of the highlights of the trip. At first, I was upset but we ended up laughing until the sun broke through the clouds giving us ample warmth after the showers. 

I can't wait to return to Maiori and spend even more time on the shores relaxing. Life gets crazy and when I look back on this trip, I can feel a sense of calm because for the first time in a while, I felt completely at peace. 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Love is Patient

Grandpa and Grandma in downtown San Francisco
She taught me to read great books, cook with love, enjoy a good cocktail, how to play blackjack and poker, that real women love sports (particularly the SF Giants and 49ers), listen to old music, dance in the kitchen and in the end that love is patient.

Grandpa passed away almost 5 years ago and grandma has been patiently waiting to be with him again. Every time I visited her she would tell me "I can't wait to get the hell out of here to see your grandpa". And now she is with him. I haven't really known how to process my grief because I know this is what she wanted. I am so happy that they are together again and I can't remember a time when the weren't together before he left.
I love the way he adored her
Rest in peace, dear grandma. I am sure you are dancing with grandpa and holding on tight.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Love Love Peace Forever

Smart Monkey

When a year ends, nostalgia can't help but rear its head and demand attention from the heart and mind. This past year brought many emotions, revelations, awe inspiring scenes and inner peace. I remember beginning my year, like so many others, with a list of things I wanted to change, create, accomplish and see. This list came out a few times for review and although I did not complete everything on my list, I did change, create, accomplish and see things that I could have never planned for.

When I began 2012, I felt isolated in the Central Coast, overworked, underpaid, tired, and full of so many more complaints. I didn't like how my heart and mind had been filled with such negative energy. However, I wanted a change and fast! So, I began the year thinking a job would change, a move would come, friends would be closer and perhaps even love. Oh how I was wrong. But that's okay.
What 2012 gave me was a broken heart, hard character building exercises, opened eyes and heart, a quieter mind and a calmer soul. This happened in the form of all of my plans being squashed, relinquishing control and allowing what is meant to be, be. WHAT A HARD LESSON. I cried lonely tears, felt my heart crack again and realizing that I had it mostly wrong. But this was the best thing that could have happened to me. My lonely sad tears have been replaced by tears of joy. My cracked heart is healing and opening up at a level I have never experienced before. And my ideals and plans-they are headed in a direction that excites me and is still a bit unknown...but I have faith its going to be AMAZING and I can't wait.

This year I am grateful for...
living by the ocean
abundant travel
healing relationships
close friends
lessons learned
faith and hope