What I Don’t Want for My Birthday

This Saturday is my birthday. I will be 34.

I think there are people who look at their upcoming birthday and the year ahead and have ideas for what things they would like to do and how they would like to improve their lives and themselves as they embark upon a new trip around the sun. Maybe I’m lazy (okay, the ‘maybe’ part is probably a stretch), because I don’t have any grand plans for things I’m resolving to do as I officially turn one year older. I like myself and my life, for the most part anyway, and I’m quite content to just let it continue to be the way that it is.

Now, there are some things I would like to NOT do in my 34th year, to be sure. I do hope to continue to not have any grey hairs, because keeping up my roots when my hair is this blonde is already a pain and I don’t need to add any other shades to the mix.

My current hair

I would also like to not go on any diets because I love food and I also love alcohol and I think anything that prohibits me from having things I enjoy is stupid. Furthermore, I would like to not put any pressure on myself to be good-looking or busy at all times or to do too many things that I don’t like doing just because someone else feels I should be doing those things. I honestly don’t know how many birthdays I’ll get to have in life, and when you don’t know how much time you’re going to get, it’s just silly to waste the time you DO have doing or thinking about unpleasant things. And if I do happen to be lucky enough to advance into old age, and I certainly hope I do get that lucky, I don’t want to look back on my life and realize that I could’ve had a lot more fun if I’d concerned myself more with what I like to do than with what everyone else thinks of me and my life. I already primarily spoilt my high school experience by trying to live up to other people’s expectations and it seems crazy to waste my adulthood in a similar fashion. And, doing too many things I don’t like or listening too much to what other people think of my life makes me enjoy being alive a lot less, and since being alive is a temporary condition I don’t have time for people and things that lead me to stop appreciating life fully.

Also, I don’t want to do any running because I hate it. There are so many things that I love to do that are healthy and active things, like dancing and riding my bike and taking walks. I like doing things that make me feel good and running is not one of those things.

I think that pretty well sums up the things I don’t want for my 34th year of life. I do always want cookies though, if someone so desires to bring me some.

Time to Breathe

Over the weekend the battery in my Garmin Vivofit died and I had no way to count my steps, which made me realize that I am in fact quite dependent on the positive reinforcement that is the hitting of a 10k step goal in a day. I could have simply replaced the battery but it turns out it takes some sort of strange battery with a name beginning with C and all the batteries I have at home have names with a row of A’s in them and to boot you have to take off the face of the Garmin with a teeny tiny screwdriver to get at the dead battery in the first place. Seriously, these screws are so small that I would need a screwdriver that would fit nicely in Barbie’s hand (and yes, it fits in Barbie’s hand and NOT Ken’s because Barbie has her shit together and in addition to being unafraid to start down new career paths she also knows her way around a toolbox. Unlike me, obviously.) to remove them.

Having no mysterious C batteries or any Barbie screwdrivers, I did the only rational thing a girl could do in this situation and marched myself to the mall to buy an Apple Watch.

Okay, I would be lying if I said I bought the thing on a whim – the price point for Apple Watches is far over my self-imposed spending limit for impulse purchases. I had wanted one for awhile but always found ways to talk myself out of getting one, but the death of my Garmin’s battery sealed the deal for me and I indulged myself.

Today I am wearing the Apple Watch and it just buzzed at me and when I looked at it, it was reminding me to breathe. At first this made me indignant because I CAN actually remember to perform such a basic life-sustaining function sans reminder, thanks Apple, but then I realized that maybe I was feeling a bit riled at myself for being so lazy that I went out and bought a new watch rather than simply changing a damn battery and perhaps I did in fact need to take some deep breaths and mellow myself.

Well played, Apple Watch, you delightful bit of modern technology. Well played. Also, this helps me feel that I needed this device in my life to look out for me.

Finding Peace

It’s a chilly, gray Tuesday morning. I’m running late as usual, fueled only by caffeine and my desire to not miss my train for the second morning in a row.

As I walk quickly to the train platform, my hair is tossed by the wind. Although I would like to imagine that this is sexy – tousled hair, confident walk – the grim reality is that I probably look more like this:

Lovely photo, n’jes?

I like commuting via train. I started taking public transit in October, after driving back and forth from Edmonds to Bellevue for the first month at my new job and finding myself feeling slightly homicidal. To get from my house to my office, I catch the Sounder train in Edmonds, which takes me to Seattle. I then walk a block and catch a bus that goes across the I90 bridge and into downtown Bellevue.

The bus is okay, convenient but also incredibly crowded most mornings. The train, on the other hand, is bliss. I have no idea why, but most morning commuters prefer aisle seats and will make me climb over them to sit by the window before they will ever entertain the idea of simply scooting over. Although I am anything but graceful and half the time I stumble over the person grudgingly letting me sit next to them (you do NOT get two seats to yourself on a crowded commuter train, you jerks, so just get over it and share), I’m happy to have the window seat and the view of Puget Sound.

Even mornings like this rather dreary one are strikingly beautiful to me. In nearly eight years living in the Northwest, I’ve never failed to find myself overcome by how breathtaking it is here. Looking out at the Sound brings me a feeling of peace and tranquility that I find myself desperately needing these days.

Am I the only one feeling the strain of a lot of digital animosity lately? Last week there was yet another school shooting, but this time the survivors are speaking out and demanding action. It’s so refreshing, and it fills me with so much hope. But for as good as it makes me feel that maybe this time something will actually be done, the fact that people are talking about the shooting also means that people are arguing about how to stop shootings. And because these arguments are taking place online, people are cruel and ruthless.

I don’t mind a healthy debate, you guys…I actually love acquiring new information. I have changed my mind about pretty nearly every view I’ve held in my life – my politics, my (lack of) religion, my dreams for what my own life will be. And I changed my mind on these things because I received new information that swayed me.

Notice that I didn’t say I changed my mind because someone argued with me on social media or insulted me? That’s because arguing with people on social media and insulting them isn’t going to change their minds. What it IS going to do is make them defensive. It’ll make them tune out. It’ll make them dig in their heels.

I’m aware that my view of the world isn’t traditional and that my views are typically in the minority. I’m used to that, and because of it I don’t really put much effort into trying to persuade people to adopt my ideas as their own. Short of when I see someone causing harm, I don’t make a habit of calling people out.

Sometimes I need a reminder that the world isn’t really this angry, volatile place. And so this morning I put on some soothing music, turn to the window, and look out at the beauty of Puget Sound. I cannot really describe how soothing this is for me.

My focus now is to add as much kindness to this world as I can, and to use productive tools such as my vote, my participation, and my dollars to support the things I believe in.

2018: The Year of No Bullsh*t

Last week, my friend Marie declared that 2018 shall be the Year of No Bullshit. I love this fierce mentality for going into a new year and adopted this new mantra immediately.

Of course, the YONBS will mean not feeling obligated to tolerate others’ BS, but for me it will also mean not allowing myself to fall into the same old BS either.

I confess, I am not where I would have liked to be at the end of 2017. I fell short of my health and fitness goals, and I’m not as far along in my degree plan for college as I would like to be. I can make a choice now: cut the BS and get back to working for what I want, or wallow in my failures and continue to disappoint myself. The former seems a lot more productive.

After flying through my first four college classes this semester, I enrolled in a fifth. I was so confident that I would complete it and maybe even finish a sixth class by the end of the semester. Fast-forward to two weeks ago, when I was panicking because I had put off studying and was now in a bind. I really don’t know why I let myself procrastinate so much; I suspect it was because I felt like I had all the time in the world to study, until all of a sudden I didn’t.

I wanted to drop the class and pick it back up next semester, but my mentor pushed me to try and finish it. I thought she was smoking something when she said it was achievable, but ultimately I (grudgingly) agreed to try. I drew up a rigorous study plan that had me covering all the course material and taking the final exam by December 30th. I wasn’t at all confident that I could pass the test, but as my husband pointed out, better to fail than quit.

I stuck to my study plan and devoted more hours to this class than I probably have to any schoolwork ever in life. And today, just a few days before I take the final, I’m able to pass the practice test with a score of 98%. I proved myself wrong. I actually CAN pass this test and finish my class this semester. I feel extremely confident that I’m going to do well on my final exam.

I learned so much from this near-miss. Now I know that I need to make myself a study plan so that I have structured due dates to keep myself on track. The experience also reaffirmed to me that I am smarter and more capable than I give myself credit for, and that I can achieve the things I want if I really put my mind to it. Once I cut out all my BS reasons for not doing what I needed to and just focused on doing the damn thing, I started succeeding.

Sound familiar?

It’s no secret that I’ve been struggling with my weight for the last few years. It’s also no secret, to anyone paying attention, that a big reason for this is because I wasn’t putting in the work to get what I wanted. When the scale showed me numbers that scared me, I went on crash diets that guaranteed me fast results, but that did nothing to help me build better habits. Not shockingly, repeating this BS cycle just left me heavier than I was when I started dieting. Earlier in the year, I was very dedicated to my exercise plan, but after Bill and I got back from Cabo I fell off the wagon and kinda just let it roll right on out of town without me. I let starting school be an excuse for skipping workouts.

Excuses are BS. Diets are BS. They are no substitute for just plain old putting in the work. And they have no place in my life, starting now (because really, why do I need to wait until 2018 to banish the BS from my life?).

Last night, Bill and I got home from work and immediately changed clothes and worked out. After we exercised, he made dinner while I studied. And at the end of the night, I went to bed feeling AMAZING, because I had dedicated time to achieving goals that matter to me.

I won’t always eat healthy. I won’t work out every single day, and I’m not going to study every day either. I’m not going to tell myself that I will. Going to extremes is also BS, as it isn’t satisfying or sustainable. But what I am going to do is put in the work to get what I want.

Finding the Fisher & Diaz Funeral Home

Back in 2009, I became obsessed with the show Six Feet Under. I was late to the party (the show first aired in 2005), which was a good thing for me because I was able to binge-watch the entire series on DVD and wasn’t forced to wait between seasons.

For those unfamiliar, Six Feet Under followed the Fisher family, who owned a funeral home in LA (originally called Fisher & Sons and later changed to Fisher & Diaz). The funeral home also served as the family home, which may seem a bit disturbing to anyone who HASN’T lived directly above a steady parade of dead bodies and funerals, but is something the family and their friends are totally used to.

Although I lived in Southern California at the time, I never thought to find out if the house used in the series as the Fisher funeral home was a real place. When I discovered that it was indeed real and actually was located in LA, I had already moved to Washington and didn’t think I would ever get a chance to see the house in person.

Last September, Bill and I ended up in LA while on our road trip, and I knew I had a chance to finally see the house. As we drove toward the beach one afternoon, we made a detour and found it.

Thanks to the Internet, I was able to find out that the 6,324sf house is located at 2302 W. 25th St. in LA. It was built in 1905 (according to Zillow) and is currently owned by the Filipino Federation of America.

There was no one around when Bill and I arrived at the house (another benefit of being behind the masses in discovering the show was that people weren’t exactly lined up to take photos of the house). We snapped several shots from the sidewalk before I decided I was going to go perch on the front porch for a photo.

Writing Again 

I think blogging comes in waves for me. There are times when I feel like I have so much to say and that I need to write, and then other times I can go months without even logging into this site. It’s not that my blog isn’t on my mind, it’s just that I don’t feel like I have anything meaningful to say. I’ve thought more than once about stopping, but that idea just makes me so sad. Writing is a huge part of who I am. From my spiral notebooks filled with journals and stories in high school, to my first blog (on MySpace, of all places) and now to this one, I’ve always had some writing project going. 

Sometimes it’s not about writing something mind blowing and powerful. Sometimes it’s just about getting back into the habit of writing at all. So here I go; here’s what I’ve been up to in the last few weeks. 

In September, Bill and I took a long road trip from Seattle to Las Vegas to attend my sister’s wedding. It was a small ceremony and (in my opinion) rather perfect. Vegas weddings don’t really get enough credit; there are several beautiful venues that definitely don’t fit the stereotype of shotgun weddings performed by Elvis. 

With the Newlyweds


After the wedding, Bill and I spent some time in California before heading home. My parents hosted us for a night, and we spent two nights in Hermosa Beach. 

I never really did tourist-y things when I lived in California, but on this trip I really wanted to find the house that was used for the Fisher Funeral Home in the show Six Feet Under. Bill humored me, and we tracked down the house (it’s located in LA). I thoroughly geeked out and took a ton of pictures (geeked out face on display in the photo below), and even went so far as to queue up “Breathe Me” by Sia as we drove away. 

“You can’t take a picture of this, it’s already gone.”

Back in Washington, I started a new position at work and finished up my fourth college class. Technically, I’ve completed my semester, but I want to keep pushing forward so I enrolled in another class. 

It’s crazy to think that it’s almost November, that soon the holidays will come and go and 2017 will be over. I’m hoping the rest of the year is just as pleasant as the first ten months have been, and that I’ll regain my inspiration to write more often as we finish out the year. 

V Goes to College (Again)

This week is a big one for me, as I re-join the academic world as a full-time undergraduate student yet again. I’m no stranger to the full-time student/full-time employment combo, so it’s not new territory for me. I do remember how much work it is, but I’m ready for this new journey. Finishing my degree is something I’ve always wanted for myself, so here I go!

I dropped out of community college after only one full semester, and ultimately earned my Associate’s degree online while working full-time. It ended up being a good thing for me, because I was able to use my company’s tuition assistance program and graduated debt-free in 2010. Since then, I’ve stopped and started a few times as I worked toward my Bachelor’s degree. I tried University of Phoenix, but didn’t like the group-work format (why on earth an online school requires so much group collaboration is beyond me). After taking some time off I enrolled at Washington State University, only to find that it’s really difficult to be an online-only student at a school that is really designed for full-time students who can attend classes. At most, I was able to manage two classes at a time, and ultimately it just felt like I’d never graduate and I tabled the whole idea.

The idea of finishing my degree never really left my mind. Last year, after being with my current company for a year, I became eligible for their tuition assistance program. It would have probably been a good idea to jump back into school right away, but I was busy planning a wedding and taking classes was NOT in my plans. Now that the wedding is over, I feel like I can handle balancing work and school, and I’m ready to try yet again to finish college.

Since my real goal is to just be DONE already, I decided to enroll at Western Governor’s University. The courses are online, the classes are individual and completing them is based on a competency assessment, and there are no traditional class schedules. I can take as many courses as I’m able to per semester, and each semester’s tuition rate is flat – meaning that the more classes I complete, the less I pay (or my company pays) for school in the long run.

The enrollment process at WGU wasn’t a walk in the park, I admit. When I decided to move forward, I applied online and was accepted, but never heard anything further. I did some research online about next steps, and proactively ordered transcripts from my previous schools to be sent to WGU. I could see online that they’d been received, so when I still hadn’t been contacted I reached out and spoke with an enrollment counselor. Although he was very nice, he wasn’t a lot of help in the subsequent enrollment process; I did a lot of researching online until I figured out what I needed to do.

Financial aid is no picnic, either. In the past, I’ve always had company tuition assistance programs that issued Letters of Credit to the university I was attending, so I never had to pay. This time, the program is tuition reimbursement, so I have to pay upfront and then seek reimbursement after the semester ends and I pass my classes. Not wanting to drain my savings to pay upfront, I decided to apply for student loans, knowing that they will come due six months after I graduate and that I can simply use my tuition reimbursement money to pay them off. While this sounds simple enough, you can’t just apply for loans – you have to apply for financial aid first. I knew this was going to be a waste of time; my husband and I make far too much money for me to qualify for assistance. Still, the rules are the rules, so I filled out my required FAFSA and got my reply that I qualified for $0 assistance, then was finally able to move on and apply for my loans.

Once I got through all the admissions requirements, things got a lot easier. Yay! I was paired up with my Student Mentor, a former student who has successfully completed the program herself and who will check in with me weekly throughout this process. She got me set up with my orientation, and helped me with a road map for what my degree program is going to look like. She gave me a bit of an overview of what I could expect in the next year and a half (hopefully I can be done by then!). I completed the online orientation, and I’m all set to start my first class. Whew!

I really want to finish this time. Wish me luck!

 

Back in the Saddle (See What I Did There?)

After a six-month bad-weather induced hiatus, my husband and I dusted off our bikes last Saturday for our first ride of 2017. It felt so good to be biking again. I knew I had missed it, but I didn’t realize just how much until I was back on my bike with the warm breeze in my face.

For our ride, we chose to start in Kenmore at Log Boom Park, and take the Burke-Gilman trail down to Seattle’s University district. We stopped at Agua Verde Cafe for a nice lunch and enjoyed both our burritos and the view of Lake Union. Once we were full of delicious Mexican food, we rode back to the trail and continued on to Ballard, where we treated ourselves to a refreshing beer on the patio at Stoup Brewing. It felt so nice to sit in the warm sun after enduring months of chilly weather!

It was mid-afternoon by then, so after our visit to Stoup we decided it was probably time to head back to the car. We did take one detour along the way, cruising down to Magnuson Park. We had hoped to visit the infamous ‘A Sound Garden’ sculpture. Soundgarden named their band after the sculpture, so we were curious to visit it after Chris Cornell passed away last week. Unfortunately, we found out that there is no weekend access to the sculpture, but we were able to see it from a distance and it was decorated with balloons, flowers, and other items left by fans.

We left the park to bike the last seven miles to our car, and by then I was beyond tired. My legs were totally fatigued and it took some stern conversations with myself in my head to keep me going. I was a little surprised at how much weaker my legs were; I know I haven’t been biking regularly, but I felt like I was in pretty good shape from the Beachbody workouts I’ve been doing in the mornings! Apparently those exercises aren’t helping the leg muscles I need for biking.

After what felt like an eternity, we got back to the park where we’d left the car. In total, our ride on Saturday was 32.8 miles – not bad for a first time out after a long stretch of not riding, but about half of what I’d like to be able to do by the end of summer. Now that the weather’s nicer, I want to spend my weekends on my bike!

Before We Disappear

This morning, my husband broke the news to me that Chris Cornell has died. That in itself was upsetting, because Soundgarden was one of those bands I would blast so loud that my ears would ring later when I was a teenager. When I moved to Seattle, I was excited to be living in a place that had produced such epic bands as Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, and Nirvana. The music Chris has made over my lifetime has inspired me, it’s spoken to me deeply, it attached itself to memories of moments in my life. But then I found out that Chris Cornell apparently took his own life, and that makes me even sadder still.

Sometimes I think that this world is too cold and unfriendly for sensitive, creative people. I know there are times where it feels like far too much for me; when I feel like I don’t want the things I’m supposed to want, that I’ve strayed from a clearly marked path off into the seeming chaos of the surrounding forest. Most of the time, I’m okay with that. But there’s another side to it: being this way means that I feel things deeply, and sometimes that’s very overwhelming. Like this morning, when I held back tears because I saw two raccoons along the side of the road that had been hit by cars. I had looked away as quickly as possible so as not to see the details of what had happened to them, but the fact that they had been violently killed made me so sad. It always does. So I can understand how others would feel this way. Would feel like going on for even one more day is an impossible task. I understand.

Five months ago, a dear friend of mine took his own life. This weekend I will be attending a celebration of his life, a life so incredibly worthy of celebrating. We will be remembering yet another creative, beautiful soul who for whatever reason felt that this world was just too much, or that he was not enough, or both. I will never know his motivation, I only know that I will never stop wishing that he could still be here. My feelings and emotions as I remember him mix and intertwine with how I feel about the loss of Chris Cornell. It seems wholly unfair that the people who make this world so much better and brighter are the ones who feel driven to leave it.

This life may be crazy and at times it’s damn hard, but it’s all we’ve got. Both Chris Cornell and my friend made my life so much better for touching it, and when it’s my turn to leave the world I hope I can do so knowing it’s better than it was before I got here.

 

Pixie Cut FAQ

If you follow me on Instagram, you already know that I cut my hair from a chin-length bob to a short pixie cut at the beginning of the year. With my wedding coming up, I wanted to have cute, fun hair, and I truly love rocking a pixie.

I’ve been alternating between pixie and bob cuts for the last few years, and I think it’s safe to say that long hair is NOT for me and I will not be sporting Rapunzel-esque locks anytime soon. Short hair is so stylish and flattering, and I love having a hairstyle I can play around and have fun with! Since my hair grows out quickly (I generally have to get trims every 4-6 weeks), I never feel limited from trying a new cut or color. If I don’t like it, my hair will grow out!

Since I’ve gotten a ton of questions about my hair since getting it cut, I thought it would be fun to write a FAQ post to answer them all in one spot. Please feel free to comment and add more questions, I’ll answer them in a future post!

-What’s your favorite part of having short hair?
Wearing my hair short makes me feel stylish and beautiful! It’s definitely a confidence-booster.

-Who cuts your hair?
Andrea at Ombu Salon in Edmonds. She is the BEST and I adore her!

-How often do you get your hair cut?
Generally, every 4-6 weeks I’ll need a trim. My look can literally go from stylish to furry practically overnight!

-How often do you wash your hair?
Every 2-3 days, depending on my workout schedule (I always have to wash it on cardio days, because I get crazy sweaty!)

-What are your favorite styling products?
I absolutely adore Ion Dry Texture Spray Wax, Oribe Superfine Hair Spray,  and Bed Head After Party (this protects my hair from heat styling)

-How do you style your hair?
It’s ever-evolving; currently, after washing my hair I run a very small amount of Bed Head After Party cream through my ends and spray the longer pieces of my hair with texturizing wax spray. I comb my hair forward while blow drying, since that’s the way I want the style to go. My bangs tend to get a little bit of a wave in them, so I’ll smooth them with a flatiron. Then I hairspray and go! On non-wash days, I freshen up my roots with a bit of dry shampoo and smooth any strange kinks or waves with my flatiron.

-Is your hair thick or fine?
It’s pretty fine

-How do you describe your cut to your stylist?
I don’t rely on descriptions, I take her LOTS of pictures so I know we’re on the same page! My current cut is Jennifer Lawrence inspired.

This is the photo I showed my stylist of the cut I wanted

-Do you get bored with styling your hair the same way every day?
No way! It’s such a myth that short hair isn’t fun or versatile. I can style my hair lots of different ways and use fun hair accessories. Last weekend I had an appointment to practice my wedding-day hairstyle, and it was as gorgeous as any style we could have created with longer hair!

A few leftover curls after my bridal hair practice appointment

-Are there any downsides to a pixie cut?
Bad hair days are one…there are days when my hair is just not in the mood to do anything I want it to, and I definitely can’t just throw it in a ponytail! On those days, I usually end up pinning back my bangs with cute clips or just wearing a hat.

People’s comments can be a downside, too, although I really don’t care what other people think of my looks. The response I got after cutting my hair was overwhelmingly positive, but one coworker did make me cringe. She saw me in the hallway at the office and said, “You cut your hair!…Oh well, you can wear extensions for your wedding.” It makes me crazy that women still identify long hair with looking pretty! I would much rather rock my cute short cut on my wedding day than wear a head full of fake hair!

-What would you say to someone who is thinking about getting a pixie cut? 
Do it! Short hair really does look good on anyone; just find a stylist who is comfortable with the style you like and who will spend time with you discussing what you like and what you don’t, so they can give you a cut that looks great on you. Remember, hair does grow back, so take the plunge and give it a try!