Monday, September 10, 2018

Blog Things

Is blogging still a thing?

It's been a long time since I've read anyone's blog, let alone written one of my own. Funny how different forms of social media take over and leave other formats in the digital dust.

I get into routines with work, activities, etc, and tend to think that I have nothing interesting or new to report. But then I realize that it's been so long since I've blogged that no one even knows what my routine is. I've only managed a couple of posts in the same number of years.

So here's my slightly ahead of schedule yearly blog post with the intention of blogging more but no actual accountability to make more frequent posts happen. You're welcome?

I still teach aerial arts. I teach quite a lot - approximately 13 classes a week. Currently I'm at 3 studios on a regular basis, and get asked to sub or teach summer programs at 3 more. I still drive a lot to make this happen, but have occasionally taken my bike and the train to the studio in Long Beach to avoid traffic and get a little more exercise. It's nice to be able to read during my commute when I do this, but returning home when it's dark and late exposes me to the shadier side of public transit and ends up taking longer to get home than it would if I drove - because there is usually no traffic at that time of night. I keep debating whether or not I should make this a more regular thing since my car just hit 140,000 miles this week; I don't have the budget for any major repairs or a new car should I start having problems (knock on wood!).

Because I teach so often I hadn't taken aerial classes to improve my own skill set for some time. To be honest, classes are expensive, and teachers don't get paid what they used to thanks to a saturated industry that's willing to hire instructors with little to no experience who will take maybe a third of what the rate used to be. Frustrating, to say the least. Two of my studios however offer free classes for their own instructors, so feeling like I've been stuck in a bit of a rut with my strength and creativity I got up this morning and attended a hoop (lyra) class to get my butt kicked. I told my instructor/friend/coworker why I was there (she has been in the industry longer than I have), and she said she's had several other instructors come to her classes recently that have been feeling similar to myself. It was sweaty. And just what I needed. She pushed me to clean up my movement, incorporated a lot of conditioning, and challenged me with a pose I hadn't seen and that my body can't do. Yet. It's refreshing to just be a student again - I'm going to try and make her class part of my regular routine.

As another way to make the aerial world more interesting to me lately I've been working on handstands semi-regularly, and am happy to see the progress. It may not sound like much, but my personal record a few weeks ago was a 19 second handstand. I have a student who will make me do them with her between classes - some days we manage to do many good ones, and some days we can't get them to work at all, but the constant effort is paying off over all.

I still live in the same house in SoCal and throughout the 5(!) years I've rented here I have seen several roommates come and go. Our contract renews at the end of the month, so once again another one has decided to move and we begin the hunt for someone who can get along well with 4 other people. The drama isn't as prevalent with roommates in your 30s, but it's never completely gone. Wish us luck. Also, I've been in California now for 8 and a half years. Crazy!

The rest of my life this year has been filled with outdoor adventures, a couple of trips, and work assignments with church, as well as a lot of reading and watching Netflix.

I went to Colorado in January to take care of my mom for her first week home after having a heart attack and quadruple bypass surgery; I was able to organize and track all of her medications, help her move around the house, be a gopher for anything she needed, and just be a support to her and my dad. Her bruises from vein harvesting and IVs were VERY impressive, she bruises easily so she had several limbs that were almost completely black and purple. The recovery process was painful for her, but she is back to full speed and says she feels great. Definitely not something we'd like to go through again.

There's plenty more I'd like to write about but I know how annoying long blog posts get and I feel as though I'm already reaching the "I'll-just-skim-the-rest-of-it" length. Please, if you do read this, will you leave a little comment saying hello? It would be nice to know if blogging is indeed still a thing, or if I should take a crack at handwriting in a journal again. Ha.

Friday, January 19, 2018


Last month I had the fun opportunity to travel with my friend Debbie to Mexico! Debbie had been invited to be a bridesmaid in her friend Diana's wedding, and knew that her husband would not be able to attend with her due to his crazy work schedule. Not wanting to go alone I was the lucky friend who was invited to be her travel companion - she said she wanted to travel with someone fun, and it helped that I also conveniently knew Spanish.

The invite came unexpectedly via a text conversation:

Debbie: So.... I've got a question for you.
Me: Shoot 
Though in my brain it was more like "uh oh...what did I do?"

Deb:Got any plans Dec. 28-31?
Deb: (say no say no say no)

Me: Um, right now I was planning on being in CO, but flights can be changed......why??

Deb: Want to come to my friend's wedding in Puebla, Mexico with me? I'll pay for your flight with miles...
Deb: (say yes say yes say yes say yes)

Queue the massive excited freak out that ensued. 

Me: Aaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhh!!! Really?!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Plus several excited bitmoji characters.

Which was shortly followed by a nearly two hour hunt through every shelf, drawer, closet, and box that I owned in desperate search for my expired passport. I searched under my mattress, in shoe boxes, through my bookshelf, under my stereo, record player and TV...I knew it was expired, and remembered that I had moved it from its old home, but I could NOT remember where I had moved it to! Debbie tried to calm me a bit and said I didn't need to find it right away, but I knew if this was going to happen I had to send in my passport for expedited renewal right away. I found it at last, looked up all the information online of where I needed to go and what I needed to do, and early the next morning I was at a drugstore getting my photo taken, and then at the post office filling out forms. 

You would think that a place that has forms that require only black ink in order to be accepted would be able to provide a pen with black ink.

Luckily I spotted a woman in line who had brought her own black-inked pen and I asked to borrow it. This awesome woman wrapped up what she was doing, smiled and just gave it to me! She said I could keep it, and then headed out the door.

My passport came back quickly, Debbie booked my flight, and before long I was flying back to LA after a short 3 day Christmas weekend in Colorado with my family in order to repack my bag for Mexico. Debbie and I met up at the airport before dawn on December 27th, and began our adventure!

We were collected from the Mexico City airport by the groom Andrew, and the bride's brother Oscar. We spent the afternoon visiting different places in Mexico City; a castle in a giant park, voladores performing in said park, statues, fountains, and visited a restaurant for a dinner of pozole. We then drove about an hour and a half to the west to stay at Diana's family's home in Toluca. We saw Diana only briefly as we dropped Andrew off in town where they had dance practice; Diana's sister Estefani joining us for the drive home. Debbie and I were exhausted by this point, so we headed to bed.

The next day we got to sleep in a bit, and then had a yummy brunch prepared for us by Diana's mother. We met Diana's other brother (I'm totally forgetting his name right now), and her friend Miyuki (another bridesmaid) who had arrived that morning from Japan. By early afternoon Oscar, Estefani, Miyuki, Debbie and I were squeezing back into the car with our suitcases to drive back through Mexico City and beyond to Puebla. We ate tacos in a small hole in the wall restaurant, walked around the plaza next to the giant cathedral where the wedding would take place, and headed to the hotel. Debbie had booked a hotel room for the two of us to share, but earlier in the day upon learning that Miyuki hadn't found a hotel she was invited to join us since the room had plenty of space. We settled in, and poor Miyuki discovered that she had forgotten her bridesmaid dress in Japan!

Friday morning the three of us decided to do some exploring, and took an Uber (yes, really) to the town of Cholula. With the volcano Popocatepetl rising (and smoking!) in the background, we wandered through some excavated tunnels of an ancient pyramid, and then walked around the ruins that were visible above ground. We met a man who made beautiful pieces of art out of colored grass that depicted how the pyramid and volcano may have looked before time and elements had buried the man made structure. I bought one. After seeing the ruins we walked through part of the city, and visited one of many cathedrals that stood out along the skyline. The outside of the cathedral was visibly damaged from the large earthquake just a few months prior; pieces from the top of the building had fallen down and left holes in the surrounding pavement.

The afternoon was dedicated to shopping in Puebla. Specifically, for a substitute bridesmaid dress for Miyuki. We headed to a mall, and immediately asked a department store employee for help. If store employees here helped as much as these people did, I'd never have a problem shopping. I explained what type of dress we were looking for, and a couple of ladies flew into action pulling dresses off racks, and shooing Miyuki into the changing rooms. Debbie mentioned how glad she was I spoke Spanish, as it made the entire process smoother. Unfortunately the first store didn't have a style in Miyuki's size that worked with the bride's style, so we popped into another smaller store (not much luck), and grabbed lunch in the food court before making to the other large department store at the far end of the mall. Again there was an employee ready to help pull dresses off of racks, and this time we found a winner.

We at a fancy, well reviewed restaurant for dinner; Puebla is where mole (the sauce) was invented, so Debbie found a restaurant that offered a lot of it. It was. AMAZING. I'd tried mole a few times before but didn't care much for it. Knowing that tastes can change, and knowing that I now like dark chocolate (chocolate is sometimes used in moles), I was open to trying again, and I'm glad I did! My dish had 5 different moles and each one was yummy. One had what I think were pumpkin seeds and was kind of green, another was peanutty, one was lightly sweet and tasted like it had pineapple juice in it, one tasted more like red enchilada sauce, and the last one had so much chocolate in it it could have passed for dessert. Except we also ordered desserts too. We were sooo full afterward!

Saturday morning Miyuki opted for some solo exploring (she loves traveling solo), and Debbie and I went to the Amparo Museum. We wandered the galleries, had lunch on their rooftop (cathedrals as far as the eyes could see!), stopped in a couple of shops for pottery for Debbie and a flag pin souvenir for me, and then headed back to the hotel to get ready for Diana and Andrew's wedding! The cathedral had a wedding scheduled every hour, so we only had to show up a few minutes early, wait for the previous wedding to finish, and then find seats. I guarded Debbie and Miyuki's personal belongings as they lined up for the processional. Once everyone was inside and in their seats we quickly realized there wasn't a translator as we had been told, so I quickly leaned forward and did my best to keep up with the priest and translate what I could for Debbie and Miyuki. Nothing like an on the spot translation job to show you how incredibly rusty your Spanish is. And a translator I have never been. I got enough across so they could get the basic ideas of what was being said, and they said they were grateful they had me there so they could understand some of it. My brain was quite tired afterward!

The couple looked very happy, and at the end of the ceremony everyone filed back outside to take photos and let the next wedding party take their places. The reception was a short walk away; we were served dinner, listened to a singer, followed by a string quartet, followed by a DJ, (with lots of dancing), followed by a mariachi band (who didn't even start playing until 1:30am!). We kept the dance floor alive basically the entire night; Debbie and I seemed to have a gift of getting people to dance each time the dance floor started petering out. I even used one of the long balloons they'd brought out to start a limbo party at one point. It was a big hit.

We said our goodbyes as the waitstaff was breaking down the tables, went back to the hotel to shower and pack, set our alarms, and slept for only two hours before Debbie and I got up to head to the airport. We had scheduled an Uber to pick us up, but the first driver who showed up couldn't commit to the 2 hour trip to Mexico City (and the 2 hours back). We requested a new ride, and to make sure we wouldn't get ditched again I sent the driver a text in Spanish from Debbie's phone letting him know where we needed to go. He agreed as long as we could pay the tolls to and from the city. We made it to the airport with time to spare, and relaxed until we boarded. I was able to nap a little on the plane, but spent more time helping the lady next to me with her immigration paperwork since she didn't speak or read any English.

Back in LA we went through the shortest customs line we had ever seen, picked up Debbie's suitcase from the carousel, and hugged goodbye at the curb before taking Lyfts in different directions. I refused to let myself nap during the day so that I could get back on a normal sleep schedule, and even though it was New Years Eve I was asleep just after 9:15pm and didn't get up until 8am the next day. It was a fantastic trip, and an excellent way to end the year!

Sunday, August 20, 2017

My Tribe

From my journal (with minor edits) - Monday, August 14th, 2017

I am feeling a great sense of thankfulness that needs to be noted. For much of my life I have not been able to keep close friends for very long for a variety of reasons - people move away, loyalties change, expectations aren't met, we grow apart as we ourselves grow and change. It just seemed to happen an unnaturally large number of times in my life, and I have often felt like I was left on the outside of various circles of friends. I remember crying to my mom in high school or early college because once again my friend base had crumbled. She sympathized, and commented that it may be the trial I'm meant to have in life. It's been discouraging to have it happen even in adulthood, and it may happen again in the future.

But now.

Right now I'm surrounded with this incredible community of women that I can't help but be in awe of. Strong women from different backgrounds and life situations - all of whom are talented in their unique ways. These women are married, divorced, single, mothers, pet moms, newly pregnant, longing to be pregnant, some who never want children, working professionals, creative, quiet, loud, genuine. Healthy. Sick. Yet we've found a commonality that has brought us together.There is no adequate way to describe the impact they're having in my life. Together we laugh, struggle, cry, encourage, comfort, listen, share, support, and challenge our abilities. I'm witnessing all of us becoming better people because of the community we're developing. I'm watching bonds of trust being formed, and gently tested as we open ourselves up to each other. We lift each other. Sometimes literally.

I feel included, wanted, loved. Valued.

My heart is so full of love for these women it's overwhelming. Life is never free of struggles, but this is a time I hope will last - it makes the burdens and challenges easier to bear; just a snapshot of imperfect perfection in the midst chaos. I am grateful for the impact they're having on me and I am striving every day to be someone of value to them in return.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Below the Surface

I often house and dog sit for a friend of mine to pick up some extra cash. I like to think of it as a staycation in a way - I get a house and yard all to myself, raid their collection of puzzles for something to do, occasionally do some of my laundry in their machine, and as a plus my commute to work is cut nearly in half. I've been to their house so often as a guest and as a sitter that it kind of feels like home. I've been there so often that they even gave me my own key.

Each time I house sit I make sure I clean up after myself and have all of my stuff gone by the time they get home so they can easily fall back into their routine. However, recently I had been staying at their house for a few days and had gone to work in the afternoon, leaving my stuff out in the room where I stay, probably with a few dirty dishes in the sink from breakfast and lunch, and fully planning on staying another night. Somehow we had gotten their return dates mixed up, and my friend and her family arrived home that evening - one evening earlier than I had in my calendar! It wasn't a big deal to them, but I was slightly embarrassed that my mess was still there.

I stopped by after work to pack everything up, and chatted with my friend while stacking my folded laundry into my suitcase. She made a comment on how organized my suitcase was, and I had to laugh! Just out of sight beneath the neatly folded clothes was an entire load of clean laundry laying in a jumbled mess. 

And that got me thinking. How many of us seem to have a neatly organized facade while lurking beneath is a wadded up mess that we hide? How many times do we present our best selves while concealing our true situation, emotions, or needs? I think this was a good reminder for me to not take everyone at face value. There is more to a person's story than what they present to the world. It reminded me to pause before judging, give the benefit of the doubt, and be kind even when wronged, because I don't know everyone's story. I just hope the world does the same for me, because we're all just one crazy mess underneath.

Not my friend's house.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Birthdays - Sushi and Camping

My roommate Mary and I both have June birthdays. Mary's birthday falls a few days before mine, and this year she decided to have a sushi party. I was asked to help since I am the resident sushi master; I did all the shopping for the dinner and taught all of her guests how to roll their own sushi. Handing me all dinner responsibilites freed up Mary's time earlier in the week to figure out how to make dessert sushi: 

I did help out one evening by peeling fruit rollups off their plastic and separating the green sections for the "seaweed," and shaping starbursts into various shapes for the "nigiri." I now can tell you how many seconds you need to microwave said starbursts to make them maleable. And yes, some colors require different times.

Overall I think they turned out rather cute!

On the day of the party (Saturday) I ran to the grocery store for some last minute items when I got home from work, and learned that Mary's birthday is international sushi day! We had no idea - I sent her this picture from the store and we had a little freak-out-because-we-couldn't-have-planned-Mary's-party-better moment.

I think there was between 20-25 people at the party; we stuffed our faces and even ended up with leftovers!

The next day (Sunday) I packed up my car after church and headed out on the road to start my birthday celebration. This year I decided I wanted to get away from the city and go camping. I drove about 3 hours north to a campground I had booked online a few weeks prior. The most awesome thing about going up on a Sunday afternoon was that the campground was already emptied of weekend partiers, and the place was nearly empty - nice and quiet! I grabbed the best campsite which was only a 2 minute walk away from the river:

I had invited multiple people to join me, but because my days off aren't Saturday and Sunday like normal people, only one friend was able to make it. Lynette was driving up to join me for the first night; she couldn't take more than a day off of work. After checking in with the site manager and setting up the tent I borrowed from Lynette, I hiked to the top of the hill to try and get some signal on my phone to check on Lynette's status. I never could get through. I waited around for a while hoping I could see her car coming over the bridge before the turnoff. I got bored and took a makeup-free selfie. Go nature!

Lynette arrived before sunset, got her tent set up, and we quickly set off to do some fishing; hoping to catch something for dinner. It's a good thing we each packed extra food, because we didn't catch anything then, or on Monday when we went upriver. I'm definitely a novice when it comes to fishing (though I can gut them without help), but got some tips from a lady on Monday on river fishing. I need to pick up a few doodads she recommended and will try again sometime.

After returning from the river on Sunday night we cooked the dinner we had brought up, and watched a nearly-full moon rise brightly over the mountains. The weather was honestly too hot for camping, but I still slept really well even without being able to use my air mattress (I blew the fuse on my cigarette lighter in my car when I plugged in the air pump).

Monday we were up with the sun, made breakfast, and headed out to explore. We checked out a trailhead for some natural hot springs, but decided almost instantly to pass on the hike since hiking and hot springs aren't very enjoyable when the temperatures were already climbing into the 90s. We instead drove upriver where we explored part of a small town, fished, and waded. I got mildly sunburned (of course) before we headed back to the campsite around 3. Lynette had to pack up and head out so she could work the next day, and I stayed at the campsite to spend my first night in the wilderness alone.

I ate a snack in my tent, then decided to try fishing one more time before making dinner. Wanting to get my line out before the sun sank too low, I left quickly not thinking to put my bag of groceries back in my car. When I came back from the river I was walking toward my tent when I saw something inside of it move! "Ha!" I laughed - "There's a SQUIRREL in my tent!" And then quickly my amusement turned into concern... "There's a squirrel IN my tent." The darn thing was so determined to get to the loaf of bread in my bag that he/she had climbed up the side of the tent under the rain fly and chewed it's way through a seam before dropping down inside:

It (or the rest of it's crew) had also attacked a few other areas of the tent:

The squirrel couldn't get back up to the hole to leave and was madly flinging itself against the screen door trying to escape when I got near. I opened one door, then walked around the back to scare it out. The thing had obviously been stuck in there for a while - it had pigged out on the bread, pooped on the floor, left squirrel hairs all over my pillow, and peed on my blanket. The picture doesn't do it justice - it looked like someone had spilled a bunch highlighter ink on it. Did you know squirrels pee neon yellow? Thanks for the present...

I grabbed some tissue to take care of the poo, chucked my blanket in the corner (I didn't need it anyway because it was so hot), cleaned up and threw away the crumby bread mess, hid the food back in my car, stuffed the empty tent bag in the hole of the tent, and flipped my pillowcase inside out so I wouldn't rub my face on the hair. 

I made myself dinner, watched the shadows creep down the mountain and a full moon rise above them. I wasn't nervous to be on my own, really, but decided to be smart and have my hunting knife in my tent with me anyway. I read for a little while by flashlight, and then went to bed. 

Thus ended the last day of my 32nd year.

I woke up the morning of my birthday, packed up in the hazy early morning sun, ate some yogurt and left for home before the air could get too hot. I stopped at an REI once back in the city for a tent repair kit, then spent the majority of the day by myself (this happens a lot on my birthday in recent years) before Mary got home from work and took me to dinner as a happy birthday/thank you for making sushi for her party.

On our way out the door we saw a hawk sitting in the tree by our driveway. You may not be able to tell, but he had a smaller - dead - bird in his claws and he was systematically ripping it's feathers out and raining them down on my parked car (I'm starting to think wild animals don't like me). I think you can see one of the feathers falling below the branch.

I spent the late evening hours trying to patch Lynette's chewed up tent, but ultimately I'm just buying her another one and keeping the squirrel-marked one for myself.

Camping by myself that last night got me thinking. For years I haven't gone places or done things I could have; usually because I think I need someone else to take part in the adventure. I've often thought 'when I have a family I'll (insert activity of choice here).' Since there's no sign of family happening any time soon I've decided I'm tired of putting things off. I'm working hard now to pay off my debts (I paid off my car in September - hooray!) so I have the ability to go and do the things I want to do more often. Hang on world, I'm coming for you.