Allowing Myself

…to feel, to love, to be.

Category: Traveling

Check List for Worthwhileness

We had Monday off from work – and there is nothing I love more than a Monday holiday. A perfect day for some climbing outside (it’s been months) at Stoney Point.

Making a 1/2 day trek to LA’s urban outdoor rock gym is right in line with my adventuring for 2015.

It requires some planning, getting up early on a day off, packing a bit, and the whole hustle it takes to actually get going. Then, once you’re there, you scout around for the routes, re-route your plan if other people are already there, discuss anchor points, look at maps, stand in the hot sun and set anchors (this part mostly done by H), and then finally – almost 2 hrs after you left the house – you’re ready to climb.

And climbing is a metaphor for life itself, but we don’t need to go into it right now. Instead, what I want to point out is, all of the above is hurdle enough to keep people (and by “people”, I mean me) from doing anything interesting with their time.

So a day like this is really just a check-list for embarking on anything worthwhile:
Plan a bit
Pack a bit
Invite someone cool to travel with
Stare at maps some
Scout a bit
Route + re-route as needed
Tie in / buckle up / walk off the cliff (whatever, you get it)
… and enjoy it

Denver Trip, November 2014

In November, I visited Chelsea, one of my longest standing and bestest friends, at her home in Denver, CO. It was a spontaneous trip, whose incarnation went like this.

Me: H and I would love to visit Denver in the spring.

Chels: Well, what if you planned to come with H in the spring, but first booked a trip in the next few weeks…by yourself?

Me: Um. Actually, sure. I could totally do that.

That simple. Being 30, with a steady job and few responsibilities has its perks. Spontaneous travel to see one’s best friend is one of them.

Over the 4 days, we hung out at her apartment, sampled a bunch of beer, visited the famous Fancy Tiger craft store and made our own crafts at Upstairs Circus (a bar with crafts? crafts with a bar? whaatttt??), ate VooDoo Doughnuts (my first one) and tacos and fancy pancakes, had an amazing dinner with probably too much wine, visited the Dushanbe Tea House, talked about and browsed books, and spent some serious quality time together.

Chels’ apartment is all of these separate rooms laid out in an L-shape, with wood floors, very tall windows and a cozy, old-building feel (nothing like we have in LA). The VSCO app filters on the photos remind me of the cold outside and the warm, heated air inside. It makes me miss fresh air, brick buildings, snow… and Chels.

Malibu Creek – Hike and Climb

Last week, we had Tuesday off, and decided to head out to Malibu Creek State Park to climb the Planet of the Apes wall. After taking care of the dog and eating breakfast, we headed out. The park was simple to find and we didn’t hit too much traffic.

It was overcast which made the feeling of autumn and vacation sink in even more. I’ve had the camping / hiking bug for a while now, and it was intensified by our trip to Joshua Tree a few weeks ago.

We parked, paying $20 to the envelop system because we didn’t have any change, and headed down the Crags Road trail. After about 1.5 miles we came to the Planet of the Apes wall.

Another group was setting up a few climbs, but the bolts for the easiest climb were still open. We hiked to the top of the wall, the view was awesome. H set up our top rope anchor. (You can see him in the picture above – and the tiny people near his left elbow that show how high up we were).

The climb we set up, a 5.9, ended up being tougher than I’d hoped. Even though there are huge pockets for your hands the wall comes back at you, and it takes a lot of energy just to stay on the wall and not swing off. This was a type of climb I don’t normally work on. Plus, it is filthy. There is tons of dust and dirt in the holds, so it felt like reaching around in a cellar.

We didn’t last long. H melted out before the top of the 5.9 – I made it 1/2 way. We switched ropes with the group next to us so we could try the next route over. That felt more fun, but was tough as well. Then there was already another group of people waiting to set up their ropes. H felt pressured and I agreed. We decided to pack up the climbing gear, eat lunch and continue on a hike into the canyon.

We came up and around to the rock pool, which was prettier than it was clean. There were a lot of people there, including what felt like a bus load of high school kids.

The people were were originally climbing next to at the Apes wall had also packed up and made their way to traverse the rock pool to an additional set of climbs on the other side. You can see them in the two pictures above making their way across the rock wall of the pool.

We ate lunch at a picnic table under some coniferous trees, brown needles blanketing the ground. It felt isolated, quiet and just what I needed. The overcast made climbing feel really hot, but otherwise I was wearing my jacket and long-sleeved shirt.

Sitting there at lunch, eating a random assortment of food I packed, I told H I could sit there for hours. That I wish I’d brought a book and we had more time – I wanted to just relax there for hours. But we needed to get hiking to beat the daylight and we didn’t have all night to burn.

Down the path, H slowed. H was tired and probably not as into the hike as I was. We were headed to the M.A.S.H. site – I was using that destination as a reason to get him going. I’m all for hikes for the sake of hiking, but H likes a purpose to all the walking (this is pretty much the only instance where this type of “productive” role reversal happens haha).

 

After about an hour of walking, we made it. It’s not much, but it’s cute. I hadn’t been to this site since I first moved to LA. I don’t remember being that impressed with it then either, but it does make for a “destination” on the hike.

We took a few pictures, ate some snacks at the tables and then both took an Awake energy shot. That perked H right up. He was zooming along the trail on the way back and we were chatty as we kept up this faster pace.

We talked about camping, our Thanksgiving trip plans, the future of our homelife, the idea of kids and a bit of what we’d like 2015 to hold (travel, for sure). This is the kind of quality time I really love – being outdoors by ourselves, doing something interesting with H, and a good swatch of time to enjoy.

This whole day felt perfect. I’m so glad we headed out on this little adventure. Clearly both my day off alone and this day made for a super spoiled introverted me. Yay.

Joshua Tree Overnight (Part 1)

A few weeks ago we took a few of H’s students out to Joshua Tree for an overnight trip: camping, rock climbing and hiking. The night before was Halloween, where it poured rain and we slept maybe 4 hours. The lack of sleep was no fun, but I knew the rain was going to make the drive to the desert a gorgeous sight.

I was right.

The guides we hired decided we would climb the solarium at Joshua Tree. Most of the kids had never rock climbed before and the weather report that morning was saying cold winds – the solarium is one of the warmer areas to climb at JTree.

The guides spent a lot of time talking about the mechanics of climbing, even demoing a climb, and then got the students up and going.

The routes they set were easy so the kids were having a good time. If they weren’t climbing they were talking, taking photos and eating snacks.

I was able to get on a 5.9+ / 5.10 route later that afternoon. It was really difficult. It took me quite a while, and while the guide belaying me wasn’t the best coach, another guide encouraged me from below, and I made it. There is nothing more thrilling than reaching the top a climb you’ve never done before – and this was a difficulty I’d never climbed outside. Woo.

After climbing all day, we all piled into the 12-person van and H’s car and drove out of the park into town. We went to Pie for the People where H and I split a Caesar salad and sausage, mushroom and ricotta calzone. (This is the same place we ate after our climbing day Memorial Day weekend, which I still have to blog about…) The students all sat at a table together, eating and talking, and being the purely young and self-sustaining people teenagers are. And from the pizza place we were given this awesome sunset.

And that’s just part 1.

Day Alone – Last Bookstore

Since yesterday was Veterans Day (and work was closed) I took Monday off as well, creating a 4-day weekend (after 4 days of travel for work). It was the perfect way to get grounded.

I did a HITT exercise, gave the dog a bath and then ran 2m with him. I met a friend pretty early for breakfast at Paper or Plastik Cafe (where the “no laptop” pic was taken above – Hi Julie!) and then picked up a weaving Jessica O’Brien made and gave away for free via Twitter (heart the Internet).

Some time that morning I thought about The Last Bookstore in downtown LA – I’d never been. Having the entire day to myself seemed like a good enough reason to go.

The drive downtown was pretty easy with the help of GPS and I found a metered spot across the street. #bonus

Inside it is all sorts of used-bookstore-goodness. There are shelves and shelves of books, grouped in the usual categories, but the endcaps had random assortments of new and used volumes. The tables in the middle held art or coffee table books – the themes not entirely obvious at first glance. There were a bunch of very worn, very old chairs strewn around, some with people lounging and reading. And there were PA speakers set up, with a random playlist going, though I caught some Conor Oberst, which made me super happy.

I walked around for over an hour, collecting a few books that I thought were worth owning. And by worth owning, I mean, books whose pages I may want to write in the margins of. I love reading but I don’t buy books often anymore. In the interest of more open space in our apartment, I gave away most of my books in the past few years – getting our living room down to one bookcase and the bookcase upstairs holding other things besides just books.

But that dry, paper smell of stacks of books? That never gets old.

I drove from the bookstore to a Starbucks. I tried writing some, but my brain felt so overwhelmed with ideas, it seemed blank. After an hour of scratching around, I left to pick up groceries.

At home I unpacked the groceries, biked the dog around the neighborhood, cooked Mexican food for dinner, and pulled the 9 of Cups from the tarot deck: It is a sign to enjoy the abundance of life and to feel each of your emotions as if you had never felt any of them before. See the perfection all around you.

Yes, another day alone. Just like my day in Pasadena last month, it was a much needed luxury of spending time with myself, and creating space to just be.

Perfection.

Post-Travel Grounding

Back home.

Here is how I get grounded after returning from a (work) trip:

I do not schedule anything for my first full day back. Traveling is fun and exhausting. I usually need quiet, slowing down time to feel back at home. Like jumping off a merry-go-round – you hit the ground running before you can slow to a stop.

I unpack – putting things away, sorting dirty clothes and storing the suitcase (so it doesn’t live in front of my dresser, blocking drawers) really helps the travel feel done.

I return to my normal morning activities (aka rituals) – the dog and I go out for a walk or bike ride, I write morning pages, I make the bed and eat my favorite foods (H was wonderful to pick up eggs and milk so I’d have groceries to make my own breakfast my first day back at home #itsthelittlethings).

I take it slow – I don’t expect too much of myself, I don’t pressure myself to get “to dos” done, I listen to podcasts, straighten up around the apartment, and nap. Napping is important, especially if I’ve overloaded myself with information and conversations, like the return from a work trip.

I find quality time with my husband – so much of feeling untethered in our relationship for me comes from a lack of quality time. He picked me up from the airport, we slept in on Saturday, we went out to dinner Friday night. We spent time together and that makes me feel even more comforted and grounded.

I indulge – this time, I’m being even more self-indulgent and taking a 4 day weekend after traveling for work 4 days. But I’m learning more and more that my all-or-nothing personality functions well when I’ve rested enough. If I take an entire day to do what I want to do, or even more so, to do nothing productive at all, then I bounce back with tons of energy the next day. It’s a rubber-band sling-shot type of balance that seems to suit me.

How do you ground yourself after travel?

Busy, Simple Boston Trip

Another trip to Boston for work is in the books.

This trip was quick and dirty – flew in on Monday after the weekend in Joshua Tree and seeing Jimmy Eat World again – worked all the hours Tuesday through Thursday, and flew home Thursday night.

Glad I went to sit in on a few important meetings, connect with colleagues and bounce ideas around. It was gray, dark and chilly – it poured the last day.

Highlight was getting to meet Lindsey of A Design So Vast in person – yay for meeting people from the Internet. She was just as engaging, kind and thoughtful as her writing portrays her to be. So thankful she made the time for me.

I broke out the puffy coat for the cold, did HIIT exercises in my hotel room, tramped around in my new maroon boots, and made sure I ate a bagel with lox. I consumed many chai lattes, didn’t drink too much this time and ate seared Ahi tuna steaks at more than one meal. I stopped at a Dunkin Donuts for a glazed donut and hot tea, sipped french onion soup and spoke to 5 student groups. I had dinner with one of my best friends and heard about her wedding plans and hung out with her puppy for a few minutes. I got to hug my two favorite colleagues. I had deep conversations with people I consider mentors and friends.

My flights felt long, but were as easy as flying across the country can get.

I stayed up too late and didn’t get enough sleep.

Once student event had a small number of people show up and my presentation wasn’t working – so I decided to improvise. The the fire alarm went off, forcing us to change locations. Somehow, we all reconvened and the students who stuck around said they really enjoyed the entire event. Proud of myself for going with the flow.

And lastly, when I tried to catch a cab in the rain to the airport, there were no cabs to be found. A women, my age or younger, was also waiting. She said she was going to call an Uber and that I could tag along with her. I didn’t get her name or info but I’d like to send her a thank you for that ride – which was quick, warm and got me to the airport with plenty of time.

Life is so simple and easy at times, just going with the flow.

Flew to Boston yesterday. Flight was on time, middle seat was open, window view was spectacular, headphone jack and TV channels worked. Watched Guardians Of The Galaxy for free. Drank tons of water and my lips are still completely chapped. Headache once I was back down on Earth, but the flight was as good as it could be.

Working this week Tuesday-Thursday in Boston – packed schedule.

Went from a back-country overnight camping trip in Joshua Tree, to being up in the clouds, to urban busyness.

Life is so odd sometimes.

I want to share our Halloween with you, the JTree trip and seeing Jimmy Eat World again – but the weekend was so packed, I didn’t get much sleep. And being on a 3-hours-ahead time zone can really wreck a person… so I’ll check in and tell those stories to you soon.

In the meantime, I love listening to Joni Mitchell’s album Blue when I’m flying.

“Sometimes I think love is just mythical”

Move-A-Body Friend

I’ve been waiting patiently for months for today.

The day where I wish my friend Chelsea a happy birthday, and explain to you what a move-a-body friend is.

This is not my term. Brene Brown coined it:

When we’re looking for compassion, we need someone who is deeply rooted, is able to bend and, most of all, embraces us for our strengths and struggles. We need to honor our struggle by sharing it with someone who has earned the right to hear it. When we’re looking for compassion, it’s about connecting with the right person at the right time about the right issue.

We need a move-a-body friend.

(She continues to tell a story about a friend needing help moving her passed out alcoholic mother off the sofa before the kids get home from school)

“I’d call you because you would come right away, give me a hug, never look judgmental or disapproving or disgusted. And then you’d say, ‘Let’s do this.’

And that’s what I’ve decided Chelsea is for me. Someone who embraces my strengths and struggles and continually shows up for me as a friend.

I feel utterly responsible for so many people. People naturally trust me and share their honest and weighty experiences with me (many times without my prompting). This is part of my superpower, part of the service I bring to the world, but damn, if it doesn’t get tiring.

I was just talking to Chelsea the other day and said that it seems I don’t have a need for physically close friendships. Maybe because I’m an introvert, or spent so many years without best friends, or am close with my siblings, or have Henry, or because talking is my love language…

I have many female friends. Loving, deep, important, close, supportive – these are all words that come to mind for the friendships I keep.

But, while I need and love my female friendships, I don’t need them to be in my physical presence. I go to work and call one of them. While I’m driving I call another. We Skype, we text, we write emails and letters and Gchat all day long… but I don’t see many of them in person often.

And I haven’t seen Chelsea in years. So it’s only fitting that, at the strongest our friendship has ever been (at least, I think), I booked a plane ticket to see her this month. To visit her in the city she’s made a life for herself, meet her boyfriend and cat (though you could argue order of importance there haha #joking), and spend quality time with her.

Y’know, make her laugh in person. It’s gonna be awesome.

We met working retail in Boston. It was my first and only retail job. Our boss was a fucking nutcase, one rude comment away from full on sexual harassment. Chels and I bonded instantly with sarcasm, high levels of work and ridiculous chocolate chip cookies from the mall food court.

She quit. Then I quit. She left Boston. I left Boston. Maybe I left first…? And we stayed in touch.

I moved to LA. She moved to Denver. We stayed in touch but somehow had a fight, then a falling out.

And then, after some long cooling off period, we got back together. She is one of two friends ever that I’ve had more than one fight with and yet we continue to stay friends.

Lately, we talk multiple times per week for hours at a time, text every day, rely and depend on each other the way only close friends do. I can be my full, real, honest self with her. She shows up for me. And I hope I do for her.

I don’t think I have ever felt so fiercely about a friendship.

So, here’s to you Chelsea. Happy Birthday! Can’t wait to celebrate it with you in person in a few weeks xoxo

#30daysofdresses – day 21

The Sunday of our trip to Vegas meant brunch at the Jasmine restaurant inside the Bellagio. It was formal, elegant, and quiet (ah yes, finally I found a place in Vegas that is quiet). The restaurant overlooks the Bellagio fountains and each time the fountain show comes on, the music in the restaurant changes so you can hear the music that lines up with the water dance.

Oh, and my dress just happened to match the flowers & butterfly decor. #nailedit

After stuffing ourselves with breakfast items, Chinese food, sushi and ridiculous pastries (one had a pipette of rum stuck in it) we walked the Bellagio Conservatory to see the harvest flower display.

And then we were on our way back home to LA.

Dress is Kohls – purchased for $4 on the sale rack. Little yellow belt appears again. Purse is from Aldo.