Desert Daze

I’m back from visiting the desert with a bunch of Austin amigos and happy to say we all survived tent camping during THE ONLY time it has rained or stormed in this area since I moved here. That was seven months ago! Of course it would happen on a night we were set to see a favorite band (Tame Impala) and sleep beneath pieces of fabric under the stars. My tent is more of a Central Texas or Southern California, warm, dry weather style, and wasn’t really designed for all-weather conditions, so I was impressed that it held up during a whole night of rain with only one tiny leak.

We made it back to the campsite/car area and sought shelter in the bathroom structure after the Friday night shows were canceled. Luckily, this all happened early in the festival so by Saturday we were feeling much drier and ready to head back out for 2 more days and nights of music and enjoying a festival on the shores of a gosh darn glorious lake. If you haven’t tried it, you probably should.

 Desert Daze

Fair Festivities

It’s the middle of September and we’re starting to wake up in the dark. If we were living by the clock of nature, shouldn’t we wait just a little bit until the sun shines through the window and warms us up? I guess we started this whole time thing for farmers and, I know only a little bit about farming, but couldn’t the farmers sleep in a bit, too? I’d be ok with it.

But the last days of summer bring one of my favorite childhood memories: going to the fair! The Dutchess County Fair, our local event back home in New York, is hard to beat. Even the Texas State Fair for the entire state of TEXAS paled in comparison. That’s saying something.

But we’re in California now, and the LA County Fair came through for me. It’s held in a massive Fairplex with two chairlifts to carry non-walking people from end to end. There were your typical treats including rides, games, farm animals, and fried everything. On top of that, there were palm trees, A ZOO, and the aesthetic hanging bistro lights that millennials like me love. I missed pierogi and 4H milkshakes, but they had chicken in a waffle on a stick, so let’s say I did not starve.

There’s still time to check it out if you’re in the area. Otherwise feel free to live vicariously through this picture of me and my chicken waffle below:

 Waffle on a stick

Bulldogs & Beach Daze

Last weekend, we celebrated a friend’s birthday at a new favorite beach of mine, Point Dume. There were rocky cliffs, turquoise waters, sea lions, and the types of things you might think of when you think of Malibu. Actually, I didn’t see the sea lions or think there were sea lions in Malibu, but I heard and believe they were just around the bend.

 Point Dume Malibu, CA

The only small bit of trouble was that we brought one of these girls without knowing about the steep stairs and rocky descent down to the water:

 via  Instagram

Fortunately, Cricket loves the beach, so she trooped on out to the ocean and the whole group of us had a very nice day.

I’m still dreaming of a dog of my own, and I hope you’re still heading outside to seek out sights near you!

Midsummer Music

I'm calling it midsummer here because, really, what good could come of admitting that it is anything else but that? And also, does summer ever end in Southern California? I will keep you posted.

This time of year has been good for me and the music scene. I got to see a best band play a best show at the Ace Hotel Theater in Downtown, LA. It was the night before my yoga teacher training and a last minute decision that I'll stand by for all of time. 

 Ace Hotel Theatre, Los Angeles

The next week, another best band played a pretty wild and unexpected show at the Hollywood Bowl. There were new songs and dancers and it was something good for me to see.

Also major thumbs up for having found friends here who are into similar music, which is a positive contributor to my not having to be the lonesome girl who just wants to enjoy a show, but I have sometimes been that girl and it was quite alright.

 Hollywood Bowl

Guess what? It's gonna be...

Just kidding, y'all. It's already May. But I did go to see Justin Timberlake on April 30th and, if you are asking me, he missed the chance to turn himself on stage into a living meme.

Of course, the show was still rhythmic and smooth, and I got to dance to "Cry Me a River" next to my mom which was everything I'd hoped it would be and more.

My aunt and cousin flew down from Portland with a group of their family friends, and we spent a little gals' weekend exploring Pasadena. Pasadena is a good place to go if you like nice things and if you like pretending you live in a quaint small city where you can walk places instead of in one of the most sprawling urban metropolises in the world.

We went to Universal Studios on Saturday, which was how you would expect Universal Studios to be on a Saturday, but we really enjoyed ourselves. It turns out that long lines are a great time for catching up with friends and fam. One of the gift shop employees gave us speed passes for the Harry Potter castle ride which really sent our day at the park above and beyond. Thank you gift shop man! It was so nice to have a whole weekend to relax and reconnect with family and new friends.

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Life in Laguna

Once regret that I will never leave behind (mostly because my dad and uncle will never let me live it down), is that when I was some-age-around-middle-school, my sister and I had the chance to visit Australia and we didn't want to go. I remember being at a party or a picnic where we met some of my dad's IBM colleagues who were living in Australia, and they invited us to come for a visit. Just like a few years earlier when I'd cried about being stuck visiting my uncle in Bermuda and missing the first day of our 5th grade sleep-away field trip, I was not having it. I didn't want to miss school or any chance to be cool around my cool friends, and so I was not about to hop on a 24-hour plane ride to hang out with kangaroos and my dad's work associates. No thank you.

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I am proud to say that my priorities have changed drastically since then. My dad's work associates have given me numerous tips on what to do while traveling the world, and they've taken us skiing or joined us on other adventures. Since I'm a nepotistic girl living in a nepotistic world, I was eventually able to make some global IBM colleagues of my own and visit them in cool places, too. April took me to Laguna Beach to visit my friend Steph, who I met while working in Austin and who was wonderfully hospitable to welcome me into her beautiful beach life.

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We enjoyed some much needed seaside walking and happy hour time as I got to explore another part of this new state. I'm glad I've become much more of a travel "Yes" woman, and I'm grateful for kind coworkers and friendly faces everywhere that have a way of making the whole world feel like home.

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Take a Hike

Did you know I didn't like it here in LA the first time I came? I didn't like it even one bit. That first visit was about 5 years ago, my sister and I were driving around at the end of our full California road trip, and we had no idea where to go. We took the metro to Hollywood with a lot of smelly people. We found Hollywood to be disappointing (or at least I did, but my sister might have been satisfied with seeing the sign and Ellen DeGeneres' star). We spent a day and a half here and the flight home couldn't come soon enough, although we did stay in an adorable Airbnb which provided our safe haven.

 Echo Mountain Hike

I certainly didn't think that one day I would wind up living here. Things in the city have changed since our Airbnb hostess told us to only turn left at the end of our street, never right, if we wanted to preserve our safety. I found out that it's full of interesting things to see and do, beyond the star walk and Santa Monica Pier. And there are still plenty of unsettling strangers to yell at you on the sidewalk.

The biggest surprise for me about LA has been the availability of nature and outdoor explorations. I didn't know it during my first visit, or my second or third, but there are a great many hikes to be had around here. While it appears so concrete and traffic ridden to an outsider, the mountains and parks are very accessible once you live here.

 Los Liones hike

I've been squeezing in as many hikes as possible during my free hours. It's hard to get myself on the stairclimber at the gym when I know there are such beautiful hills nearby. I'm envisioning myself becoming part of the group of early rising elitists that does a morning hike before the start of the workday, or (more preferably) one that at least breaks up the commute with a climb on the way home.

And for you, wherever you are, I hope it's not snowing and that you are remembering to go outside. <3

 Echo Mountain Hike

Pups at the Park

Big news! In the past week, I have found that the best things in life are.... NOT free! They are $46.00 and they are tickets to the annual Pups at the Park night at Dodgers Stadium.

 Pups at the Park

Are all baseball teams doing this? I hope so! If not, why not?

 Pups at the Park pug

My friend Katherine filled me in just in time. First of all, Dodgers Stadium is a nice place for a ballgame. You can see California palm trees all along the walk in, and sunsets from your seat.

 Dodgers Stadium

Second of all, dogs. A lot of them. They're out in public; they're all in one place along the right field fence; and many of them are wearing pet-fitted sports uniforms.

 Pups at the Park frenchie

Third of all, there are unlimited hot dogs, nachos, popcorn, and peanuts, but you should probably always impose your own limits on these types of food items. I imagine the freebies are due to the potential hassles of wrangling dogs, wallets, and trays of baseball treats, but I didn't ask any questions.

 Pups at the Park bulldogs

The girls were a little tired by the 9th inning, not to mention unimpressed with the disappointing 1-9 loss, but I think it's safe to say we got what we came for.

 LA Dodgers bulldogs

What I'm Doing & Why

Hi friends! Last week, which began with my 30th birthday, I went on a little stay-cation to the luxurious (seriously!) Crowne Plaza LAX airport hotel to participate in training for my second year of AmeriCorps. For the next year, I'll be serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA with Bright Prospect, an organization that helps low-income high school students get into and through college.

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I've been pretty open about my move to Los Angeles, but I haven't told many people why I'm here and what I'm doing. That's partially because I'm always doing a lot of different things, and partially because I felt slightly silly to be a 30-year-old signing on for another year of AmeriCorps. 

If you're not familiar, AmeriCorps is a service program where volunteers work in underserved communities for a year or two (sometimes more) to make life better for the people living there. We act like full-time employees, but receive a very modest stipend that is designed to give us the experience of living in the communities in which we serve. VISTA is a program that specifically aims to fight poverty in those communities, and I'll be doing that by making sure high-potential high school students have access to higher education, regardless of their income level.

During my first year with AmeriCorps, I worked in a low-income elementary school and provided 1-on-1 reading instruction to 10-12 students per day. I wanted to test if I'd eventually like to become a certified teacher, and quickly found out that I did not! (Although 5-8 year olds can be pretty adorable.) When the year ended, I decided not to return from my leave of absence with IBM, and instead took some time to teach yoga, travel, and drive for Uber while I figured things out. I also also took a few courses in Graphic Design to pursue some personal and semi-professional interests on the side.

6 months later, I was finishing up my work/trade in Nicaragua and considering next steps, dreaming of Southern California like I had for a long time. I’d done a couple interviews in the area, but nothing really stuck. I kept getting the dreaded, “Contact us when you get out here!” But I wasn’t brave enough to move to one of the priciest places in the world without the promise of a job.

One day, I finally decided to browse the AmeriCorps jobsite-- just to see! I had mixed feelings about my first year. I learned so much about what humans are capable of; I was part of an awesome and irreplaceable team; I felt on fire about pursuing my passions and working with equally passionate people. At the same time, it was hard to record 1600 service hours for a stipend that barely covered rent. I also worried about how it would look. AmeriCorps is popular with the fresh out of college, idealist crowd, so almost everyone in my first program was 22 or 23. I'm 30 now, and I hear your 30’s are supposed to be about expanding your career, planning for a family, developing expertise, etc.

BUT the job seems perfectly aligned to what I’m looking for: it will be a lot of writing, putting my new graphic design skills to use, building experience in non-profit marketing, and gaining entry to the Golden State. This is a dream that I'm now living-- using the rewards from my previous more comfortable job to fund adventures and service projects that are important to me. What better way to invest? (The stock market, 401Ks, and personal property that would deliver long-term returns, you say? Nonsense! That's not for the life of a wandering spirit!)

I’m sure it will be a challenge going back to the 9-5 schedule, but I’m positive it will be a rewarding learning experience. And you can bet that the yoga teaching has already started and will continue on every evening and weekend possible. Thank you for following along and being here to read this! I'm so grateful for your continued support.

Rainy Days

Last week I had an emotional day. Maybe it was all the rain, or that I was PMS-ing since I wanted to eat every chocolate bar within arm’s reach all week. I went to aerial yoga in the morning where we did a lot of deep stretching, so maybe I released something in a chakra somewhere.

Everything started out fine. I left yoga class and thought I should visit the DMV since I had the time. My umbrella and folder of materials were already in the car, so I went. There was a free parking spot and the line *only* took an hour. I had all the right stuff to get my license, and the employee told me there were 5 minutes left to take the written test, so did I want to take it or come back another day? A test? I’ll come back next week when I register my car. No, no. I’d better do it now. I tried to keep a positive outlook, but I was feeling anxious because I’m not very expert in official road safety and I was in the last group rushing in before the testing area closed.

Well, I failed. I don’t remember which questions I got wrong because, apparently, there were a lot. And now I would have to return someday to bring my smog certificate and retake the test. You can take it up to three times. My cheeks burned with shame as I tried to log back in and retake it before anyone noticed I’d failed, but the screen wouldn’t load fast enough, and I heard a guard approach. “Ma’am, did you fail the test?” Yeah. “You have to come back another day. You can’t retake it right now.” Ok.

My eyes were starting to water. I was a failure! I’d had a feeling I would fail because common sense tests always tend to make me doubt my instincts and think everything is a trick question. But, yup, I failed. I was trying to gather my belongings and get out of there to my car where I could contemplate all of my failures alone in solitude, when this much older man whom I had talked to in the waiting area earlier stopped me to ask for my name and if we could exchange phone numbers. He’s been in LA for 6 months and is looking for a friend. I don’t know what commonalities our friendship would be based on, other than both having waited at the DMV for an hour, so I said “No, thank you” and tried not to feel bad. I thought back to the time in Nicaragua when I gave a guy my number out of discomfort and guilt, and he sent me 100 unanswered Whatsapp messages in two days before I blocked him.

I got to my car to cry about not knowing the rules of the road and thought maybe I should have taken his number in case I fail again and need someone to drive me places.

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