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.