Tangled, But Not Tied Up

Last week a special Trail Blazer alumnus passed away. I didn’t follow Jerome Kersey in his heyday, however, his presence in the Portland community was very well known by fans and non-fans alike. He became a Trail Blazer ambassador after retiring from the NBA in 2001, and went above and beyond his duties. He made a positive impression on many, and was a true community leader. I even had a few interactions with him at a favorite restaurant that we both frequented a couple of years ago. He was always smiling and friendly to everyone at the bar. Many people have expressed warm remembrances of him from years past, including this beautiful essay by a friend of mine. It’s safe to say that Portland is feeling a great loss this week.
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Jerome’s death made me incredibly sad—it hit unexpectedly close to home—but also very pensive and a little tangled inside. I had just come off of a first date when I read about his death on Facebook. I was flying high—my date was nice, a gentleman, adventurous, and he was willing to go zydeco dancing with me, which was a first for both of us, and very cool of him. I was patting myself on the back for taking a chance on someone I may have passed by in another life. We met speed dating, which, let’s be honest, is always a guessing game as to whether you just wasted $29 or met some really cool people that you may or may not ever see again.
So when I read about Jerome’s death, I instantly started reviewing how I spend my time and who I bring into my life. Since I moved to Portland almost 12 years ago, my life has taken many twists, turns, and curved paths that I could never have foreseen. It made me want to reach out to you in the best way I know how—through writing.
I want this blog post to function in two ways: 1) As my Christmas letter for 2014 to tell you what I did last year, and 2) As a way to dispense what I’ve learned in the past year (Okay, 14 months). During December, I kept finding excuses to put off the writing of my annual Christmas letter, and I wasn’t sure why. Now I realize I had so much more to process about my past year before sharing it. Normally I send these out to close friends and family only, but we are all one, we are all family. I love you, and I want you to learn my life lessons along with me. I’ll share my thoughts with you and use examples from my past year to make sure you get the best of both worlds.
Spoil yourself.  Spend the money. Take time off. Go somewhere new. You’re worth it! In 2014 I took my third annual solo beach vacation. For three days I ate decadent food, walked on the beach, drank wine, got my nails done, and did whatever my heart desired. I truly pampered myself. I also took a five day camping trip (between several shorter camping trips) to the Olympic Peninsula. It was so awe-inspiring and beautiful! In the fall, I went to New York. If you’ve read this blog in the past, you may know the story that goes with this. If you missed that one, read about it! What an amazing trip. I enjoyed staycations and fancy dates with handsome suitors and nights out on the town with good friends. I’m so blessed to work at a company where they reward loyalty with quite a bit of vacation time, and boy did I take advantage of it!
Challenge yourself. Some of my biggest challenges in life have been the result of belly dance. When I left Ohio, I could shake my booty with a little rhythm, and that was the extent of it. I had no formal training at that point, and I never thought that dance would be something I would later take on as an amateur performer. But then I met Yemaya, a professional belly dancer who also happens to be my long lost third cousin. She somehow convinced me that I was going to be a belly dancer one day. My style had never been particularly feminine, and when she said that, all I could picture was a horror show of obnoxiously bright sequins and awkward dance moves to snake charmer music. However, I allowed her to tease me into a few lessons, and from then on, I was in love. Soon I was practicing multiple times a week, taking every available workshop, and started performing in 2007, debuting at the Oregon Country Fair’s Gypsy Caravan Stage.  In the past few years, I have fallen into a “comfortable sweatshirt” type of relationship with belly dance. I still practice and even learn some new skills sometimes, but rarely do I try anything that really scares me. For the last two months, however, I have embraced the sword! Sword dancing scares me—big time. I took a four week course more out of dedication to my teacher than actual interest, but I should have known that it wouldn’t stop there. Now I’m signed up to perform my sword dance in front of a crowd, with the assumption that I won’t allow it to fall off my head and pierce someone’s foot. Terrifying? Yes! Essential to grow as a dancer and as a person? Absolutely!
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Embrace Your Sexuality. Yep, we’re talking about it. In the past, I hadn’t been confident in my sensuality or sexuality. This was caused in part by my weight issues as a child, my perceived lack of femininity as a young adult, and being from just above the Bible Belt in the Midwest, where traditional values and conservative ideas still have a hold on the population. I envisioned that the right type of sexuality centered on a husband or at least a serious relationship. I thought that sex under other circumstances was not wrong per se, but not ideal, and not really necessary. I believed that expressing your sexuality freely maybe made you just a little slutty, if not an actual slut. In acknowledging my feelings of judgment, I also recognized that I had mistakenly thought that my lack of sexual expression was a character flaw; now I understood that judging others was a defense mechanism, and my personal level of sexual expression is not a flaw. It is wholly mine, and I must engage it in a way that is true to my own nature and not anyone else’s. Make sure to explore this side of you, even if you’re not in a romantic relationship, because it is so important to know that side of yourself before you share it with anyone else.
Life is short! Do what makes you smile and giggle, and spend time with people who inspire you. There have been so many times that I have stayed home to get a proper night’s sleep, only to find out the next day what unbelievably cool exploits I had missed the night before. If I had a nickel for all the times I’ve heard, “You can sleep when you’re dead!” I would be a millionaire…okay, maybe I’d have a few bucks. But you get the idea. Don’t get me wrong, I value my health and I truly feel my best when I’ve had a good night’s rest, but sometimes it is totally worth it to take a chance and stick it out for a little while longer. Nights that I stayed out with the Hash House Harriers for one more conversation, or salsa danced for one more song almost always ended up with new friends, new plans, or a memory I would never forget. I knew that I would feel tired in the morning, but I also knew that I was put on earth to experience those blissful moments…and I have had so many of these moments this past year.
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Make every movement with love and authenticity. This is a big one for me. I am a people pleaser. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with bringing joy to your loved ones, making yourself happy and loving who you are will bring you the most joy in this world. Don’t worry about impressing others or fitting normative expectations of your culture. Live with authenticity in your heart and express gratitude for it daily. Be Love, every day.
2014 was a fantastic and enlightening year for me. When I think about the possibility that life can be cut off so abruptly, the way Jerome’s was, it makes me sad, but it also makes me grateful that I do the things I do, know the people I know, and experience miracles every day. Nothing is ever perfect, but my perfectly tangled existence is absolutely an abstract design of immaculate beauty.
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14 in 2014 – Let's Do This!

The time has come to set some new goals. It’s quickly closing in on the New Year’s Eve countdown, so why not? Before starting my list, I have to note that my numerology number for next year represents Beginnings. How great is that? That may seem like a given, considering that’s pretty much everyone’s theme for starting every new year, but I really think that 2014 will be a year of astounding changes and new opportunities for me, in particular. I have noticed that many doors have closed this year, and people or things that were clinging to me have been noticeably slipping away—some sneaking quietly in the night, and some going out with a bang. All of them needed to go, whether I was truly ready to say goodbye or not. As they say, out with the old, in with the new! So, without further ado, here is the list!
1) Have my last first kiss
There are no guarantees in love or life, but I’d certainly love to have my last first kiss in 2014.
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2) Trust my gut feeling – and always be proud of the decisions I make
Sometimes I let fear rule my decision-making. Sound familiar? If so, congratulations! You’re human. Let’s work on it together.
3) Take a vacation to somewhere completely new
My initial thoughts are New York City and Miami. Who’s coming with me?
4) Finish the novel I started
I wrote 33,000 words of this novel, tentatively titled “From Rich Soil,” in 2011, and now that I have figured out the ending, I’ve got to get the words out of my head and onto paper (or into Microsoft Word, as the case will surely be).
5) Run a new race
I’m all signed up for Cinco de Mayo Half Marathon and ready to set a new PR! Actually I’ll be running at least two new races next year. I’m running the Chocolate Run next year as well as participating in their ambassador program. This race and the ambassador concept is a first for me, and I’m very excited to see where it will take me, in my running and in my writing. Bonus – I will be running in a new racing city: Seattle!
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6) Salsa dance in a new city
Speaking of Seattle, I’m thinking it’s time to take on their salsa scene!
7) Go wine tasting at a new winery
Taking fantastic winery suggestions and applications to be my partner in crime!
8) Take a new class
Nutrition? Samba? Archeology? What exciting things will I learn this year? I am a student of the world, and I love to learn continually.
9) Use my new tent as much as possible + rent a cabin or yurt on the coast
I bought a new Kelty and I’m eager to use it!
10) Go to Crater Lake!
One of the most amazing natural sights, and I’ve never seen it in person. How can this be that I’ve lived in Oregon for ten years and not seen this monolith??
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11) Be gentle
This encompasses everything and everyone. I vow to be gentler with people who are different than me, and I vow to be gentle to myself when I am feeling critical of my own actions.
12) Be healthy
I’m not going to state a pound amount of weight loss I am shooting for (although I have one in mind), but I will tell you that I want to be more healthy and only eat when I am hungry.
13) Triple the love in my life
No, this does not necessarily mean get married and have a baby this year (Please don’t tell my parents…they will use this against me). I just want to surround myself in radiant, hugging, giggly, sometimes blush-inducing LOVE! That goes for familial, platonic, and romantic love. Help me share the glow!
14) Be grateful every day
It’s a pretty simple idea. Sometimes, it’s easy to forget how great I have it. Join me in remembering every day and treasuring the feeling.

Say Yes to the Bed! A Few Notes on Sleep

Beach

You're getting very sleeeeepy...


Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise. – Benjamin Franklin
I am a morning person. My prime hours of operation are approximately 7–11 AM. I’m not sure if I was born a morning person, but from the dawn of my humanity I remember being woken up by my mother singing at the top of her lungs and—in the worst possible move a parent can make—ripping the covers violently off and sullying the warm cocoon I had been snuggling in mere moments before.
Somehow, after years of this conditioning, I actually got used to waking up early and (please don’t tell my mother this) I came to like early mornings. I started feeling like I could get more done if I woke up early. Dare I admit this? I get up early on weekends so I can accomplish more things! Oh, where did I go astray? How is it that I actually prefer waking up at the crack of dawn on a Saturday to go running rather than sleeping in?
A quality life requires adequate resting time.
But…in order to be such a sunny morning gal, I have to get to bed at a reasonable hour. This has its ups and downs. I love the feeling I get from a full night of sleep. I feel refreshed and happy. I feel like I could run 15 miles and not feel tired. I could salsa dance all day and night! Sleep not only gives me energy, it is very important for all sorts of reasons. It keeps me healthy physiologically, and—literally—it keeps me healthy mentally. So when I say I feel refreshed and happy, I mean it actually lifts my mood. It also lowers my risk of getting heart disease, improves my memory, and gives my body time to heal.
Life is short! Sleep when you’re dead…!?
Unfortunately it means I might miss out on some nightlife. I don’t know how some 9-5ers do it, but I see Facebook posts all the time of people who are going out on a Thursday night to a party that starts at 10:00 PM. I just can’t do it.
It’s not fair! Well, actually, those people aren’t being fair to their bodies. I’m the one doing myself the favor. The hour or so I’m going to miss of drinking and dancing will be to my advantage when I can actually remember the guy I gave my phone number to at the sensible hour of 8 PM. If I’d stayed up until midnight I might have forgotten his dreamy eyes and ignored his call later on…right? Please, just nod your heads.  
Sleep… Oh! How I loathe those little slices of death. – Author Unknown
The bottom line is clear: I’ve got to hit the sheets before I accumulate a sleep deficit. I know that I have to say NO sometimes to evening fun, climb into bed at a reasonable hour, and let the Sandman do his thing.
It may not be the most entertaining activity in the world, but it is important to consider your sleep needs and your sleep environment. One way to make it a little more fun is to creatively enhance your sleep environment. This link has some great suggestions for fancying up the place where you spend a third of your life (or at least you’re supposed to). Take some time and put the effort in. Remember that this is purely a selfish action, and you’re worth it.
If you have the means to take a vacation where you can sleep away your stress and be completely away from those exciting social temptations for a few days, do it. I’m serious. I write this advice from a beautiful beachfront hotel room at the Oregon coast where I slept for 10 hours last night. And yes, it was totally worth it.

The Beautiful Hike

Again, I am compelled to write. I am so moved and so very grateful for this time in my life, especially the last few days. I can feel my place on earth shifting. I’m not sure how to put this into words, exactly. It just feels like I am moving into the place I am supposed to be at this time in my life, surrounded by the people who are supposed to be in it. It is a good and strong feeling; it is comfortable.
Yesterday was a typical weekend day for me—hiking with friends. It was also atypical, and magical. There were four of us. In the beginning I expected about eight people, but some people cancelled for various reasons. It is always so. I wasn’t offended, but I was a little sad they would miss out on the experience. As it turned out, it was meant to be.
Coincidentally, none of the people who came to hike with me yesterday knew each other. There was Chris, a guy I met through salsa dancing, but who quickly became a staple hiking buddy. I never actually invited him to go hiking, but he took a chance when he saw my post on Facebook one day and decided spontaneously to ask to join my friends and me. We instantly clicked and we have been hiking together ever since!
I’ve known Chrissy for a long time. In fact, she was one of the first friends I made in Oregon. We worked together for a short time, stayed friends, lived together for three years, and after eight years we know each other through and through. She doesn’t usually hike with me, although she has a strong love for the outdoors. I was so pleased she decided to come because we hadn’t spent much time together since moving out of our apartment a year ago.
I met Kim a few years back when, in a panic about an ill-fitting bellydance costume, my cousin Yemaya came to the rescue and hooked me up with her. Kim is a bellydance designer and seamstress, and she fixed my costume, amazingly, in the 36 hours before I had to leave for the Oregon Country Fair, where I would be performing for the first time ever! (For more on that experience, please read the blog post entitled “The Art of the Dance.” http://wp.me/p1AwLQ-I) Some years into our business relationship we decided we genuinely liked eachother and decided to hang out outside of bellydance events. It was a successful venture, and we continue to hang out!
Since there were so few of us, we were able to drive down to Silver Falls State Park in one car. The drive was over an hour long and we didn’t stop gabbing once. The conversation flowed easily and it seemed everyone felt completely comfortable with everyone, as if they’d known eachother for a long time. The vibe continued when we got to the falls. The conversations were full of giggles, exclamations, intensity, and were all very interesting.
As it happened it was the day before the anniversary of September 11th, 2001. I am not prone to going on about this event. I will not post about it on Facebook or Twitter. I mostly keep my feelings about it to myself. Interestingly enough, though, all of us shared our “I was at…” experiences about that day ten years ago. It didn’t seem awkward like I expected it to. I felt like it bonded us. We didn’t mull over it, but our sharing created a feeling of love inside me, as did all of our topics of conversation.
At the end of the hike I felt a ball of light rising from my stomach into my heart. I couldn’t hold it in, I had to share it! I knew that this day would have a special place in my heart for a long time. Now I will be able to come back to this post and relive that day whenever I want.

Passion on My Mind, Pt. II—The Dating Diva

From reader comment by JM—“The wonderful truth (that you already know) is this: you ARE in a relationship…with yourself. It’s the one relationship that most people forget to nurture, especially once they get involved with someone else. The more you adore who you are and allow yourself to just be, the more you tell the Universe exactly how you wish to be treated – not just by an intimate partner, but everyone you draw into your life. As you continue to soothe those feelings of dissatisfaction and disappointment when the opinions and behaviors of others rear their ugly head, you will strengthen your ability to remember that your unique life and self are perfect just as they are, right here and now (which is all there is anyway). The more you focus on that truth, that reality, the more it will show itself to you.”
I’ve been writing about romancing myself, making time for me, understanding the full potential of my fabulousness, and leaving dating to fate. I’ve been feeling really good about it! (Although in the spirit of full disclosure, I bought more heart-shaped stones for my altar and romantic pictures for my Love and Romance Feng Shui bagua* last week.) Ironically, the Universe is performing exactly as it’s supposed to and I’ve fallen prey to its unfettered power! It heard the “romance” call, anyway. Take what you will from the message of The Secret**, but always know the things you put into the Universe may not be interpreted in the way you intend! As they say, love comes when you least expect it.
I met a real live man while salsa dancing last Saturday! Before you laugh, hear me out. I’ve had troubles meeting men in Portland. Mostly it has been done through online dating, which can be fun, but for a short time. Then it begins to feel tedious and like you’re on the hunt for the perfect job. It just gets old. People (especially straight men) are not very aggressive when it comes to meeting their life partner here in Bridgetown. Ask around, you’ll find I’m not the only one with this opinion.
Anyway, I met a man! He was sweet, handsome, and had a desire to perfect his salsa moves. I was really excited about this, especially when he made the first move to get my phone number. We made arrangements to meet at a Tuesday night salsa event. From there the stress started. He didn’t know his way around Portland, so he asked me to Mapquest him the directions. Why he couldn’t do this himself, I don’t know. Then he started texting me—in Spanish—in really terrible, misspelled Spanish. My Spanish skills are middle-of-the-road at best, and it was starting to give me a headache. First I had to figure out what word he was trying to write: aser = hacer; boi = voy. He spelled everything phonetically. As an English nerd I was excited to figure out his method. I wasn’t so excited about deciphering the word in Spanish and then having to translate each text message. Ugh.
The date went okay. He looked good, smelled good, and was on time. I could tell he was into me, and I was physically attracted to him. Then, the things we didn’t have in common started piling up. Education, lifestyle, hobbies, family values, salsa ability (ok I’m being a snob here)…it seemed the only thing we had in common was our interest in dancing. The con list started to outweigh the pro list pretty quickly. The bottom line? He was a great guy, just not the great guy for me.
The evening ended well. He was very respectful about my personal space, and said goodbye like a gentleman. I wanted to give him some kind of consolation prize, like a second date, but I knew it wouldn’t be useful for either one of us.
When I got home I started analyzing. Maybe I was missing something fantastic about this guy. Maybe in a less crowded atmosphere I would find myself entranced by his charm. I went on like this for a while until I finally fell asleep. In the morning, regardless of all this back-and-forth, the pro-and-con list, I realized something. I wasn’t getting that sickening feeling I usually get; the one where I realize that a man is interested in me, and right away I panic and descend like a vulture, knowing that with one misstep he’ll ditch me for someone prettier and skinnier. It’s the inexorable itch of desperation that makes me think this may be the last chance at a boyfriend. Ever. But I wasn’t experiencing any of that sweaty anxiety.
It dawned on me (again) that I can be picky and wait for someone who is worth it. There are bellydance classes to attend, mountains to hike, and blogs to write! I can woo myself in the meantime and have confidence that I will never settle for someone less than worthy.
*For more information on Feng Shui, read the fantastic book Move your stuff, change your life: how to use feng shui to get love, money, respect, and happiness—by Karen Rauch Carter.
**The Secret, by Rhonda Byrne.