Old Flames, Rekindled

This weekend, as on many weekends in the summer, I went berry picking with friends. Spencer, my favorite new coworker, picked me up early on a Sunday and we headed west towards the land of plentiful berries and wine. I look forward to Oregon’s U-Pick berries every year, but this was Spencer’s first time. I couldn’t wait to have his review of the experience.

Though we are new friends, we’re getting to know each other by leaps and bounds, partaking in many lunchtime walks together and a lot of giggles. As fast friends, I became comfortable being 100% Becky early on, so at some point in the car ride, I sang a few verses of a song that was on the stereo.
“Hey, you’ve got a voice!” He commented. Indeed I do! There is no possible way I could escape the house of Swank without having formed some sort of singing voice; my parents were both constantly belting out tunes of all kinds in my formative years. I heard folk songs, hymns, jingles of favorite NPR shows, you name it. My sister and I were always encouraged to join in. We sang in church here and there as well. Whether or not I was any good, I hadn’t thought about in years, but I was glad to know my “training” had held up.
We got to the fields at Rowell Bros. and began filling our buckets, and I swiftly tucked the singing into the back of my mind. Though he had forgotten his sunscreen and hadn’t had time to eat, Spencer appeared to be having a great time. I was in my little corner of heaven, moving methodically through the berry bushes, dumping handfuls into my bucket. I had to stop myself before I hit five pounds of blueberries, though I could have easily gone for more. We hopped next door to Smith Berry Barn in hopes to finding some marionberries, but left with a flat of gorgeous blackberries instead. Not such a terrible compromise.
Afterwards, we loaded our berries in the car and drove towards home. Spencer asked me, “Do you know that song from Frozen… “Love is an Open Door?” I answered that I was sure I’d heard it in the movie but didn’t know it by heart. He responded not with words, but by bringing up the lyrics on his phone and turning on his Spotify to the Frozen soundtrack. “It’s a duet.” We both smiled.
And so it began. The first time I stumbled through, not knowing the pauses and speaking parts, of which there are several. But I loved it! As soon as the song ended, I asked him to play it again. He grinned, knowing I was hooked. “You sound really good!” He said excitedly. The second time around we really got in sync. The third time was better yet!
I felt exhilarated. I’ve always been a musical person, whether expressing that through singing in the kitchen, playing piano (9 years of lessons!), trumpet (5 years!), or most recently, by belly dancing and adding flair to my twirls at the salsa club. Music runs in my veins. I hadn’t meant to stifle the singer in me…I had learned new hobbies, focused on other things as I got older. I hadn’t realized how happy it made me until I was reminded so joyously.
How amazing it feels to have stumbled back upon something that makes me so happy! And how about you? You can find a flame, whether it’s something completely new or an old one you’ve let go. Blow gently, feed it some love. If the flame ignites into a fire, take the opportunity to cultivate it and see where it goes. Let me know what you (re)discover this summer.

Roller Coaster of (Self) Love

Hello, friends. It has been quite a while since I’ve written something new. While I’m always learning, always evolving, sometimes I just don’t have the energy to share it with you. Now I’m ready, and I’m very excited to connect with you all again on this level. Life is funny. It sends you lessons, sometimes the same lessons you’ve seen before, over and over, but each time there is a new twist. At times I feel like life is a maze that we go in and out of—we might come out the same opening more than once, but the way that we reached it is never the same way twice.

Trying to take too much control doesn’t do anyone any good. No matter what I do, life is going to happen, and I can either get ahead of it and attempt to control it, or hang on for the ride and hope for the best. The first six months of 2015 I only had enough juice left to hang on… and maybe that was the best thing for me.
I felt lonely. I’ve been single a long time, most of you know this. It gives me a freedom that is amazing, but I was missing having a partner by my side. A month into the new year, something changed in that department. I began a beautiful journey with someone that took me places I never expected. We didn’t put a label on it; we were simply companions, mindful of the love between us and with a goal of becoming better and more aware partners to the people we would encounter down the road.
I spent much of my energy on others. My mother had double knee replacement in June, so I went to care for her for three weeks. Oh boy, did I have high hopes for those three weeks. I was going to get some serious writing done while seeing my school buddies, all while taking care of my mother. That turned out to be a pipe dream. I was working 24/7. When you can’t walk or stand for long periods, there are a lot of things you can’t do…I guess I hadn’t taken that into consideration. I thought I’d be cooking a meal here and there, driving her to the physical therapist and the library…that kind of thing. I did those, plus a hundred more. It was all day long. Every night I fell into bed without an iota of strength to write or even brainstorm. I can’t, however, say that it was all slaving and no fun. I got to see some loved ones. I played some righteous games of Bananagrams. I shopped…and I took care of my mother, who spent 18 years and some change making sure I turned out okay. She deserved every drop of energy I spent on her.
I met someone. Everyone told me It happens when you least expect it—I promise to never, ever say this to a single girlfriend EVER—but it was true in my case. I was finally not sweating the details or intently looking for something serious. Then I got a text from the person I would least have expected it from, which led to an amazing first date and, several more dates down the line, a wonderful boyfriend.
I was having fun. I was laughing with friends, allowing myself pleasure, running, dancing, eating good food, drinking cocktails, hashing, reading, working, hugging, giggling, meeting new people, travelling. I was running myself ragged. It didn’t give me much time to think about things, which is something I tend to do when I have lots to think about! I became somewhat emotionally lazy. At times I stressed myself out worrying. If there is one thing I am sure about myself, it’s that I’m not a lazy person. So why did it feel like I was changing in an undesirable direction?
I got lost in the whirlwind of all these things for a moment. Silly me. I thought I finally knew exactly who I was, what I wanted, and who my community consisted of. I constantly had to remind myself that everything is in its rightful place, at the right pace. And my world shifted, as it always does.
It was scary and incredible. As humans, we should never have all the answers. We should constantly be changing. Part of that is allowing yourself to recognize the gift of taking breaks. Taking time to smell the roses, if you want to wax poetic about it. One thing I always hear about myself is how busy I am. How many plans I make. What if I were to let life come to me for once so I could enjoy the ride, instead of always chasing control?
I know the universe will always provide me with prospects. I just have to slow down, give that control freak a breather, and welcome those opportunities when they come, with the understanding that the maze is always going to change; all I have to do is be present inside of it.

WHY: Part I

Today I went back and read a post that I wrote some time ago. It was a bittersweet commentary on the trials of my weight loss journey, but also a heartwarming reminder of how far I’ve come. The reason I went back to it today was because of the fitness group I joined on Facebook. We were asked to write about our “why.” Why are we choosing to lose weight right now? What is our motivation to achieve our goals? Originally I shared the following piece only with the fitness group, but I decided I needed to get this to a bigger audience. Following is my “why.”
I’ve struggled with my weight and abandonment issues from my parent’s divorce my whole life, and because of that I find it hard to follow through with the things I really want to accomplish. I either give up and desert the project, or, more often, sabotage myself. This includes goals involving my passion for writing, my fervent need to be beautiful (AKA, skinny), and finding (and marrying) the love of my life.
For the longest time, even though my self-esteem wasn’t the greatest, I didn’t stress a whole lot about being fat because I never expected I could change it. When I did finally lose weight, it started a whole domino effect of anxiety because I had all this new pressure. Where before it never mattered because I had zero expectations, suddenly the world was at my fingertips and I was completely unprepared. It was really easy to blame others for my shortcomings, and for a while I thought, things haven’t changed a bit. Why not just stay how I am? My life is fantastic, even if I’m not living the dream of marrying Dr. Handsome and writing that bestseller. I’ve got great friends, a steady job…I have good dates here and there. I can hack it a little longer, getting by how I am. But that’s not how I want to live my life. I want to set meaningful goals and attain them, NOW (starting with being focused on them better). I want to be able to tell myself every day that I am worthy of a beautiful and healthy relationship. I want to break the chains of inadequacy that I’ve carried from a very young age—and that I’ve continued to carry all on my own, using them as an excuse to be average.
Doing all that takes a concerted effort, and a community. I’m so used to doing things for myself, being single for such a long time, but letting people in, and, God-forbid, letting others see my vulnerabilities, is so important. It’s not something I do lightly. It takes faith in my community, and love for myself.
I know that I have to let go of my past in order to be the future amazing Becky that’s always been inside. Grasping onto my communities’ outstretched hands is a great start. Spending time with people from all corners of my world is a very important part of that. I’ve got my running community, my writing peers, my dance family, my work buddies, fellow gamers and hikers and coffee-lovers, Blazer fans, my blood family. But it’s more than just spending time, and it’s more than just hoping a few of you will read my blog and empathize. Getting vulnerable with yourself and your “people” is not a one-stop deal. Clearly, you readers have seen that for the last two years that I’ve been writing this blog. Of course I hope to inspire others, but letting out my fears and emotions in this medium is a very important part of my process, and I thank you for being my audience and safety net. You, love, are a very big part of my success in this life, because we all need love to thrive.

All you need is love

All you need is love


This is the first piece in a miniseries called WHY. I look forward to sharing parts II and III very soon.

Books are My Friends

I got the idea to write this post from reading this Move, Eat, Create blog post. It inspired me to tell my own story, after being so moved by this one.
When I was a child, the library was not just a place to pick out books. It was my second home.
One of my earliest set of memories involves my mother, twin sister, and I going to the library nearly every weekend. We were each allowed to pick a stack of books; most of the time it was more than we could carry ourselves. We spent what felt like hours picking out those books. I remember the smell of the library, the grand stature of the ancient building, the texture of cracked spines. We would walk past the checkout station and wave to our favorite library employees, Scott and Betty. Scott was a tall, slender man with a big poof of dark curly hair; he was like the fun uncle. Betty was a sweet older woman who gave warm and fleshy hugs; she was our library grandma.
Sometime in the 90s, a brand new library was built. It was fresh, and clean, and felt like a Christmas present every time I walked in. During my early adolescent years, my mother started volunteering at the Friends of the Library bookstore, which meant we got four whole hours every Saturday morning to revel in the adventures of our cohorts: Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield, the members of The Babysitters Club, Mandie Shaw, Sandy and Dennys Murry, and more. My mother was parenting on her own at this time, so my sister and I created a weekend ritual with our “library babysitter” out of necessity, but it was rarely an encumbrance.

Of course we read Sweet Valley Twins.

Of course we read Sweet Valley Twins.


We grabbed our stack of library books, and met our best friends (another set of twins) C & E bright and early each Saturday. We would return what we had read and pick out new books, then take over a big table in between the child and adult section. The four of us were all precocious readers, and lived by the mantra “Books are our friends!” which was lovingly crammed into our heads from an early age in the Talented and Gifted program taught by one of my favorite teachers of all time, Mrs. Swingle. We were big proponents of the “Read In,” a program that my elementary school introduced, where we would lock ourselves in homeroom all day, get cozy on pillows and carpet pads, and read until the bell rang to go home. So, we created our own version at the library. We got comfy and let our imaginations run wild. Of course we allowed for interruptions when Scott would come along and greet us merrily, or if there was a cute boy (Or perhaps four!) to snicker towards.
As an adult, I wish I had the time to go to the library regularly as I did when I was a kid. I am astounded by the power it still holds over me when I make it through the doors. I am blessed to have lived in cities where reading is truly a fundamental of everyday life. Portland’s (Oregon) library is known for its huge circulation system. The main library here is not only a wonderful place for the keen reader to obtain more reading material, it’s physically a beautiful edifice all on its own.
I truly feel lucky to have been embraced by books, and I can only hope that as more and more readers find enjoyment in electronic reading aids, the majority will realize that nothing replaces the rush to the senses that books made of paper and glue can bring to a reader.

Great Expectations

Last night I was feeling stiffed in the friend department by one particular person. I have been trying to manifest a stronger relationship with her, and I felt disappointed that she hadn’t given me the quality time that I was expecting. I’m not ashamed to say I expect a certain amount of attention from my close pals, and I felt like I had been giving generously and had not gotten enough in return. I do my best to balance my friends and family in this busy world, (mostly) remembering to cheer them on when they have a big interview or event, comforting them when they are down, and sending a text their way when I think they just need a little extra boost. I try to give this love unconditionally, I really do, but there is no such thing as a one-sided friendship. It is circular.
Right after I had hit my lowest emotional point of the evening, I decided to take a breather and draw myself a soothing bath. Then, two things happened. The Universe truly does listen! First, that same friend called me. It was bizarre how quickly the Universe responded. We had a wonderful talk, and I hung up feeling like I was not as heated about the whole thing anymore. It hadn’t worked out the way I had wanted, but her intentions were honorable. The other thing was that I stumbled up on this article on Twitter by Danielle LaPorte, who has a website called White Hot Truth: A prayer for expectation addicts
It stopped me in my tracks. I have been talking all this jazz about manifestation to you all year, but this article shed a whole new (and kind of tricky) light on it. What does it say about manifesting my dreams? This lady says I have to live in the Now. So I should quit thinking about the future? No. Danielle suggests we put our manifestations out into the Universe, and then just let them go—buh bye. We can be in the moment again. Instead of simply rattling out my list of attributes for my dream man, and then sitting back with my hands clasped behind my head, waiting impatiently, I am supposed to do what, now? As Danielle puts it: Show up. Shine. Let it go.
The point is not to stop me from yearning for these things which I try to manifest. Well, maybe it is, just a little…but can anyone really do that 100% of the time? “I want my Ooopma Looompa right NOW!” is used outside of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for a reason. It is human to want to see instant results, or get the mail-in rebate without the wait. There is nothing wrong with wanting. The point, as I am interpreting it, is to consider whatever the Universe will send me in the future as an unexpected gift. It is better to work with what the Universe has given me already and make the best out of it by appreciating it daily, and to go the distance with what I have previously been given. Don’t let the future distract you from enjoying what is in front of you at this moment.
So, make the list (Please do make the list! The Universe can’t give you a gift card; it needs to know what you want!), check it twice, and then return to your regularly scheduled programming.
“All I want for Christmas is…”

Circle of Friends

Warning, this post is going to be extremely raw and honest and might be about YOU. I will not be adding names to this post, though many of the people cited have been highlighted in this blog before. If I have mentioned you, please know I am telling this particular story because it has helped me work out some of my own issues. It is not to hurt or expose anyone.
I’ve noticed that many of my friendship statuses have been fluctuating this year. What I mean is that throughout the year I have noticed that my previously ever-steady close circle of friends has expanded and shrunk, and gone through a metamorphosis. It’s a very good thing…and of course it all happens for a reason.
My mother always said it’s better to have 75 good friends than only a few best friends. I have always disagreed with her. I feel if I have those 75 “outer circle” friends and I can’t count on one of them to check in with me every day, make sure I get my morning coffee, or know to ask for the full name and phone number of my blind date, then I may wind up with many acquaintances, but no one to make sure I came back from that blind date in one piece. I have a small circle of friends that I talk to every day or near enough, and they always take priority. I have a larger set of friends who I acknowledge at least once a week, even if it’s just on Facebook. The outer ring of the circle are the friends who I can go weeks or months without talking to, and I know that once the link is reconnected, it will be like no time has passed.
I like these definitions. The three rings of friendship give me security. And like a good (and single) Virgo, they give me comfort that someone will notice if I dip below the radar in less than 24 hours. Please see Sex and the City Season 2 where Miranda chokes on her food and has to save herself by heaving her upper body over a chair. Right afterwards she calls Carrie in a panic that no one will know she is dead for days, except her cats, who have, in the meantime, eaten her eyeballs. Have I had these fears? Oh yes. I don’t know for sure, but I’d be willing to bet that Miranda is a Virgo.
There are several accounts that I will share that back up this theory of friend fluctuation. This year through life’s trials and tribulations, one of my closest friends and I became almost completely estranged. She moved a half-hour away and was in a bad situation with an extremely controlling partner. This was someone who I used to speak with every day, who I could count on to be there for me whenever I needed her. Then the friendship I had known for seven years just stopped cold turkey. When she dropped off the radar, I felt feelings of panic well up. This was my go-to for all the crazy ideas I had that no one else would take part in. I knew I’d always have a date with her any time I had the urge for salsa dancing. In addition, and most importantly, she had two children who I considered family. I was having withdrawal symptoms for them most of all.
Another situation was with my former roommate. We lived together for three years, and then separated, citing a potential friend break-up and the desire to live on opposite sides of town as solid reasons to get out while the going was good. Almost immediately after moving, she met her soon-to-be fiancée…and dropped off the face of the earth. When I did see her it was almost always as a duo. I felt like our interests and commonalities were drifting at a rather alarming rate. After what seemed like no time at all, she and her boyfriend became engaged. My mind was absolutely boggled when she asked me to be a bridesmaid. I was at this point feeling pretty distant from her, and in addition I had just spent a lot of money on another friend’s wedding and was starting to feel resentful and frustrated about all my friends with their stupid weddings. I began having feelings of incredible unhappiness about this long-time friend and former roommate, when I should have been nothing but elated for her. I knew I would eventually have to tell her I couldn’t be in the wedding for financial reasons, but I was terrified she would hate me. So I did what any normal person would do:  I avoided her and the situation completely.
My last story is about my trusty hiking friend. We had been hiking together for two years and were always close, no matter if one of us had a boyfriend or girlfriend. Then, he met Her. Suddenly he was always too busy to hike with me. They had plans to go away for the weekend, or they had a function with Her parents. He fell off the map! The three of us hiked a few times but it was pretty clear that she was now the priority and I would have to work around their schedule. I admit it, I was jealous. Not only did he have a great partner, he found someone who liked to hike. I wanted someone who liked to hike!! The worst part of all? I actually enjoyed this girl. The night I met Her, he brought Her to my birthday party. He was clear he wanted me to meet Her and he wanted to know exactly what I thought. I really wanted to not like Her, because that meant he would be free to hang with me any time. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case. As I have grown to know Her more, I hate to say it, but she is awesome. Grrrr…
Because of these estrangements, I had an awful lot of time on my hands. My brain understood that all of this extra time I now had was partially the cause and effect of people growing up, getting married, moving across town, etc. Though I may be single and childless, I can comprehend the need to focus on one’s family, but from my standpoint it can really stink when everyone else has different priorities and I am stuck alone, partnerless, and without family in the immediate area. While I love being an independent woman who chose to move away from her hometown eight years ago, sometimes I feel a little sad, knowing that most of my friends have a partner to run to or a kiddo to cuddle when they feel this way. This is exactly why I chose to have the close circle of friends. But when they aren’t making me a priority, who is left? I wasn’t sure what to do. I hadn’t been faced with this situation before.
Instead of crying (much), I opened my up my contact list. I went through the list, noting people who I hadn’t talked to in ages but who I still very much wanted a connection with. One in particular stood out. We hadn’t seen each other in the flesh for over 4 years, but somehow we always stayed kindred spirits. We linked up on social media websites, talking about how we should get together, but we never actually did. So when I saw an opportunity one day, I took it. I knew she loved belly dance; she took classes from me when I was teaching a few years ago. There was a show coming up that I knew she would love, so I invited her, and she said yes! On a whim, I also invited my estranged salsa-dancing partner-in-crime as well, hoping she would bite, and I was so pleased when she decided to go! My evening was filled with catching up with the old and creating bonds with the new.
As for my former roommate, I finally got up the nerve to tell her I couldn’t be in the wedding. It was only fair; I couldn’t leave her in a lurch without a bridesmaid at the very last minute. I cornered her (figuratively speaking—it was over email) and got her to agree on a solo dinner. I hemmed and hawed during the entire dinner, only able to speak about my situation after we had paid and walked out the door. I don’t know what I was expecting: a slap in the face, tears? No, my friend was cooler than a cucumber and, as I should have known, hit the nail right on the head. She told me she wanted me to enjoy the wedding, not be pressured by it in any way. She said she didn’t want me to resent the financial burden that being a bridesmaid can bring upon someone. I was so relieved. I was also thrilled when she told me I would still be completely involved in any part of the wedding I wanted. The weight that lifted off of me was palpable. It also opened me up to wanting to spend time with her again. We have since completely renewed our friendship and are closer than ever. The grace of honesty in a relationship is something that can never be overemphasized. Even though we still live across town and have different marital statuses, we can be as close in spirit as we want.
Because I was left high and dry without a hiking partner, I was grumpy. I am used to getting dozens of hikes on the books each year, and I was at a loss. The Universe must have been working overtime because I gained two brand-new hiking buddies this year, completely by coincidence! One of them, as I have previously mentioned, took it upon himself to invite himself on one of my already-planned hikes. The other I had known for a while, and it just seemed natural that once we established our mutual love for hiking, we would do it together. What makes me really happy is that I have gotten all my hiking buddies, new and old, on the same hike. Thanks for listening, Universe!
Does this mean my mother was right? I don’t want to say she was 100% correct. I still want to be confident that my cats won’t be eating my eyeballs because no one checked in on me, but it’s nice to branch out and let some of the outer circle in a little closer.
When one door closes, another one opens. I swear I have read or heard this mantra hundreds of times in my life. No matter what, it always ends up being true. Life can really be painful, but I have found that once I get past the clouds, I can see the sun shining through. It really is a beautiful thing.