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Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest TrailCover Me:  The cover is pretty classic and makes even more sense when you read the forward.  The boot is a symbol for many things throughout the book.  Well, at least I looked at it that way.  It seems like the perfect cover for her story.

The new version is based on the movie and splashes Reese Witherspoon on it looking less glamorous than she usually is.  I guess this is a selling point to highlight the fact you can watch the movie too.  I deliberately bought the cover with the boot like I was proving something to myself about wanting to read it for the story it was and not the movie it became.

The Concept: This is Cheryl Strayed’s true story about hiking across the Pacific Trail to heal from her mother’s death.  Yep, that’s it.  Nothing really more.  This is one of those coming of age stories, but you’re in your 20’s.

The Peeps:  Cheryl introduces us to many characters in the book and they all have their own lives.  Hers is the dominant force and I loved how she exposed herself.  She dropped big details in short sentences and moved on through complex relationships in few pages.  I think this was an amazing parallel to the story she told about herself.  My favorites were the little acquaintance stories that just happened.  They weren’t really bigger than what they were, unless you learned more from it because it means something to you.  Such a great thing to read when you’re a writer.

I felt for her relationship with her ex-husband Paul.  Watching them fall apart was harder than the other familial relationships she left by the side of the road.  Cheryl’s love for him while betraying their marriage told how deep the damage went in her heart.

The relationship with her mother was the dominating force and shaped her person when she started on the trail.  I had a hard time getting through the first chapters because it was gut wrenching.  Still healing from losing people in my life, I had a hard time experiencing someone else’s broken spirit.  And yet, I understood it.  So much so, I encouraged Hubs to read the book when I was done.

The Ending (spoiler alert!):   She finished the trail.  But you knew that, didn’t you?  I think the thing I expected the most was Cheryl would meet someone on the trail who would mean something enough it would shape her future life.  You know, like a man she would fall in love with and marry.  (I think I’ve read too much fiction.)  Maybe I even felt a little unfulfilled when she reached the end and I didn’t know more about how good she would be.  I had to remind myself, it wasn’t my story, it was hers.

The thing I most appreciate about this book was Cheryl’s honesty.  Some scenes were so blunt, so raw, so unafraid to say it like she wanted.  I commend her.  It’s one of those examples where you tell yourself as a writer to be brave and scare yourself with the story you are willing to tell.  Hats off to you Cheryl Strand.

What I Cooked Up:  This was a hard treat to make.  I knew I wanted something to honor her “monster.”  It’s the large backpack she hauled through all those miles.  It started over-packed and weighed her down to where she was crippled by it.  As she went through the trail, she shed unnecessary pack weight, hardened to the process, and learned a simpler way.

It seemed the perfect thing to highlight with a cake that represents way too much.  I’ve nicknamed this “Monster Cake.”  It’s all my favorite things put into one dessert.  Not only does it have cake, it has layers of cheesecake and chocolate chip cookie, and is frosted in peanut butter buttercream. It’s so much, it might make you puke.  Just like Cheryl’s monster pack.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Fortitude in Fifteen

It’s time to roll out my resolutions.  I’ve been thinking about what I would choose for a while. A couple were easy.  One a no-brainer since I made no progress last year.  Another was something I should do to help my creative juices.  Then I stalled.  Stuck with wanting to do something meaningful.  And fun.  Because I’ve learned it has to be fun for there to be any chance it might work.

1.  Write a great book.

Here we go again.  I’m determined to meet this one this year.  Not only will I write the book, I will query the book.  Yep, it’s time to get back in the saddle again.  I need to make this more of a priority than I did in 2014.  I’m committed to attend the writers’ conference in August which means I better have something for the question “So, what’s your book about?”

2.  Complete one Baked Book a month.

Reading a book a month is a challenge when I divide up my time.  In 2013, I was proud to complete my resolution to read 25 books in a year and then I decided not to include a book resolution in 2014.  I read some books here and there.  (Who didn’t read Gone Girl in 2014?)  It felt a bit empty.  There was no structure, no result, no baked goodies to show for it.  Although I wish I could be like Bestie who goes through books like water in the desert, I need a goal.  And I think everyone would like some more Baked Books, right?

Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard

3.  Recover quickly.

Recently I watched some entrepreneurial videos from Barbara Corcoran about how to be successful. While she focuses on business, I think her advice easily fits into living in general.  A theme she carried throughout her videos was her focus on taking a hit and getting back up again.

This hit a nerve with me.  One exposed from recent wounds caused by people who shouldn’t matter.  Instead of moving past the initial hurt I felt in 2014, I threw major pity party where I bled out the situation over and over.  The dumb part was it didn’t make me feel any better.  I wasn’t more empowered every time I asked myself why it was happening again and again.  I was doing the exact opposite of what I wanted.

This is why in 2015 when I take a hit, I’m going to get right back up and head towards the next challenge.  There’s not enough time for pity parties or unimportant people.  Thank you Barbara for reminding me I deserve better.

4.   Pay it forward.

One article said the reason people don’t stick with resolutions is because they always make selfish ones.  I disagree.  However, I think it is important to pass along kindness anytime we can.  This year I’m going to challenge myself to do it on a regular basis.

5.  Do a Vlog.

This one probably scares me the most.  Ever since I saw John Green and his brother Hank doing their videos a couple years back, I thought it was the coolest thing ever.  For someone else, that is.  Putting myself in front of a camera doesn’t seem like it would be that big of a deal with the amount of horrible photos I put on here.  But add “needing to say something interesting” and now we have a serious resolution challenge.

That’s it.  Pretty tough ones if you ask me.  I know I’m up for the challenge.  What about you?  Are you pushing yourself to be the person you want to be?  And if not, what are you waiting for?

2014 — Friend or Foe?

It’s the year’s end, which means it’s time for me to look back and see if I did everything I set out to do 365 days ago.  Why make you wade through a profound reflection when you’re probably chomping to get to the meat of the matter?  It’s time to dust off the resolution list and see what can be checked off.

1.  Write a great book.

Ugh, let’s start with the proverbial kick in the balls.  It was a rough road for my writing career.  2013 left me a little more mentally hurt than I thought and my imagination took the brunt of it.  I wrote a few words here and there, but I was no where near a book.

2015 looks better for this.  I’ve done some soul cleansing and mind stimulation through meeting people, reading again, and surrounding myself with artists (in concert, of course.)  These things have given me new life in this realm and I’m re-committing in the new year to meet this goal.

2.  Take a picture every day for the year.

Check!  That’s right, I did it.  Some days it was hard to pick the best photo.  Capturing the blue waters in Mexico, the energy surrounding The Airborne Toxic Event, the excitement from meeting Fitz and the Tantrums, the awe in the Chicago skyline, and any other incredible memories I had this year was more difficult than I thought.

Here's a small sample.

Here’s a small sample.

I’m not going to sugarcoat it, there were some days where I was desperate for a photo at eleven o’clock at night.  Usually it involved me waking up one of my kids for a portrait or capturing the first thing to grab my attention in my living room.  I was also challenged in uploading the picture each day.  Some days I took the photo and forgot to post it.  Not to mention my difficulty in keeping on the correct day number count.

I’m pretty darn proud of the fact I stayed with it all year.  Who knew I could have that kind of attention span?  I also have 365 incredible memories documented in pictures on Instagram to show I had a pretty good time.  Feel free to live through my year again.  I know I will.

3.  Break through doubt.

It was an interesting experiment to have a blog post around doubt on the 5th of each month.  I think we all know I struggled meeting my deadline to have it up on the blog by the 5th.  What’s new?  Sometimes inspiration doesn’t come on a timeline.  Looking back, I’m glad I did it.  It made me re-think through some things I took for granted about myself.

It started out with what I thought it would be.  Stories from other people guiding us with ways they overcame their doubts.  In a few months it evolved into something where I looked internally.  I tried new challenges to prove to myself I have to take a step to start a journey.  I faced the harsh reality about still having a broken heart from my personal tragedy and I evaluated the importance of being brave with love, even when it hurts.  The feature became so much more than I thought it would.

I may still have doubts in my writing adventures, but there’s less insecurity about being fearful to try.  Because I came to realize confidence is all a state of mind.  And it’s worth fighting through the fear to get to the place you’ve always wanted to go.

4.  Send a cookie to The Airborne Toxic Event.

Done!  Twice!  Actually there was no need to send. I chose to hand deliver.  I didn’t get the personal request I think I may have been looking for originally.  Although I did get an Instagram shout out from Anna Bulbrook regarding liking the IO the dog cookies.  Oh, what does this happen to be right below?

anna insta

This put renewed wind in my sails and I fired up the oven for their Fall tour.  In San Francisco I delivered a package to Ms. Bulbrook’s hotel.  (Don’t be freaked out.  I was staying there too.)  From San Francisco, I focused on making another set for Hoogie from the support crew and those were delivered in Seattle.  Both sets garnered thank yous and checked off this resolution as completed.

HooGie

5.  Host a Delish open house.

The lessoned I learned about making a resolution around a business I have with a partner is get the sign off from your partner before you start making resolutions.  Bestie was horrified when she heard my plan last January.  I might have been a little over-excited in my resolution and needed a bit of grounded reality.

However, Delish did have forward progress and we’re happy with the strides we’ve taken.  We hope to have even more success in 2015.  I’ve learned it might be smarter to keep my resolutions to my personal goals versus business ones.

There you have it.  My year completed.  This list doesn’t take into consideration all the additional awesome happenings that didn’t have resolutions around them.  You might get the drift if you check out the Instagram pics for the year.  2014 kicked ass and in 2015 I plan on taking some more names.  Those resolutions are coming up soon…

End of a Hair-a

I’ve taken many adventures in 2014.  (Soon, I will do wrap up and wade through successes and failures.  Cross fingers for more successes.)  However, one thing I strove for relentlessly in the last several years was not on my resolution list this year.  I’d given up on it in 2013 after failing miserably several times over.  There seemed never to be a conclusion to my own personal big white whale hunt.  I conceded to forever be outrun by my unrealized dream, only to be shocked this year.  Finally, I harpooned that fucking beast.  I took a good hair picture with Mikel Jollett.

It started back in 2009 when I saw them in Seattle.  At that time I didn’t even get close enough for a picture with him and my shitty camera phone.

old-mikel

It didn’t matter, the hair situation was a disaster.  Even with a smaller crowd at the venue, I sweated myself right into grossness.  In 2011 when I saw them again, I didn’t realize pictures were something I could get pretty regularly.  I danced the night away madly and ended the night looking like this:

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My hair tried to recover by the time I ran into Mikel at a bar and we took this picture.

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I like to believe we shared a moment here.

I didn’t give up.  At the end of 2011, they went on tour again and I loaded up the lady friends to travel the seven seas to Sacramento in search of that mythical creature.  It started out on rocky water when I popped open the lemon drops when we rolled into town at 3:00pm.  (It was a girls’ trip, what did you expect?)  After much drinking:

I've been dying to use this picture.

I’ve been dying to use this picture.

And dancing:

dancing

The situation was dire.  (Mainly due to Bestie forgetting her ID and we were banished to the pit. Oh yeah, I said it.)

worst pic

Once again, the hair tried to recover.  It was no use.  The damage was done.

Mikel ass grab

In 2013, I was determined.  Nothing was going to stop me.  I convinced Bestie to go on a two show trip to Portland then Seattle.  A back up plan with a spare city.  The first night I kept the hair pristine waiting for Mikel to greet fans and pose for pictures.

Oregon, why do you try to ruin my hair with rain?

Oregon, why do you try to ruin my hair with rain?

I was ready for my close up.  My only shot.  I waited.  And waited.  Only that elusive white whale flipped its tail at me as he dove back under the waters (really, he jumped into a cab) and got away from my grasp.  It was after sacrificing a show experience to try to capture a picture, I vowed not to miss the fun again  In Seattle I embraced my crazy sweat and felt satisfied with the terrible photo at the end of the night.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We both look tired and terrible.

When 2014 came around and there was the promise of three shows in San Francisco, I didn’t hold out much hope.  Do I sacrifice my love of the show for the photo to commemorate it?  Or do I go all out and wreck my hair?  The first two nights I didn’t even try.  I wanted to experience everything with the people.  Smashed close together and sweatin’ each other up.  (Totes worth it.)  I accepted my hair disaster with open arms.

On the third night, Bestie was tired and wanted out of the crowd.  We watched from above in the balcony seats and I thought it might be my best chance to have reasonable hair.  Not my best hair because San Francisco hates naturally curly hair trying to go straight.  I had to let the wave out.  At 3:00am, my white whale crested the waters and posed for a few pictures.  He was gracious, smiley, and I thought I finally had the best I was going to get.

He is damn fine looking.

He is damn fine looking.  Me?  Uh…not so much.

Two months later when I saw The Airborne Toxic Event again in my two city adventure, I wasn’t looking for anything.  The good hair picture was proven to be a myth and I had my travels to keep my heart company.  The seas were calm.  In Portland, I didn’t even try.  I headed to the hotel after the shows without the second thought to get pics.  In Seattle, I wasn’t even looking for my Moby Dick.  I was snapping shots with someone else when I happened to see the band gathering near their bus.  We went to check it out and that’s when I finally got what I’d always been chasing.  A picture where my hair didn’t look like a fucking mess.

mikel me

Someone once asked me why I didn’t Photoshop my perfect picture.  I wondered “where is the fun in that?”  That would have been like Ahab shooting fish in a barrel.  Sometimes it’s about the chase versus the end result.  Now that I have my picture, I’m kinda lost to find what’s next.  Do I look for a picture with great hair and one of those prize winning Mikel smiles?  Or do I relish in the fact I have what I came for and move on?  As Ahab, I’m kinda lost if I don’t have my Moby Dick.

I’m not quite sure what the future brings for Mikel and me.  I do know I’m different for it.  I don’t have the same drive I did when I started 5 years ago.  Maybe it’s age.  Maybe it’s time.  Or maybe it’s the end of an era.

It’s the last breakthrough in my year long exploration to get past doubt and insecurity.  (Of course, I’m late.)  Interestingly enough, I happened to travel to my hometown over the holidays and met with a lot of my high school friends.  We exchanged stories about shenanigans, sneaking out, and some of our best memories.  Things were going along swimmingly until I was completely caught off guard when one close friend said, “you were always so confident.”  After I picked myself up off the ground, I rationalized I heard her wrong.  She couldn’t have been talking to me.  Or about me.   Then another friend commented on how I always had my shit together.  The theme continued throughout the night and left me wondering if any of these people knew me at all.

Sorry high school besties, it was one of the only high school pictures I had on my computer. Please don’t hate me.

For the next days I mulled over how they came to the answer I was confident.  I was pretty sure I shared with them my insecurities about only being looked at as the “just a friend” girl.  You know, the worst title to ever grace any teenager.  Boys passed by my “great” personality for my friends with thin bodies and pretty faces.  How did they not think this would have a giant impact on my confidence?  My self-esteem stalled.  I reinforced it by never putting myself out there in a real sense.  Sure I was outspoken, but only on superficial levels.  It was a pretty transparent act in my mind.  How the hell could they think that was confidence?

So I asked.  I started one-on-one conversations to get a better understanding.  Maybe I would find something to be applied today?  Some trick to conjure when putting my art out there.  What lead them to believe there was confidence ahead of my self-loathing?  The overwhelming answer landed on being an extrovert.  My outgoing personality, meaning being talkative and assertive in plan making led people to the conclusion I knew what I was doing.  That was it.  No authority.  No credentials.  Just a fake it until you make it.  And without really ever needing to “make it.”

I laughed.  I laughed for days.  I think I’m still laughing now.  How could it be that easy?  Believe in it and that makes it true?  Such a simple concept.  Ridiculously ludicrous.  So if I truly believe Mikel and I are going to be BFFs, he’ll start texting me?  We’ll barbecue on the weekends and he’ll braid my hair while we brainstorm through my next novel?  (Okay, so this paragraph took a disturbing turn in my fantasy.)

Who’s to say this couldn’t happen?  How many times do we let self-doubt talk us out of taking chances?  For standing up to the stuff we believe is important.  For telling people they matter even if they think we’re weak?  What if I did believe we could be hair-braiding buddies.  Maybe I wouldn’t fall into my TATE-Tourettes pattern.  Maybe I would stay a calm, rational person who could sustain a longer conversation than “you’re great.”  Mikel may mention he just learned a crazy braiding technique and has been waiting for volunteer with dyed red hair.

It’s a great idea.  I’m not sure if I believe in it yet, but I want to.  Believe in myself and confidence will follow.  Soon the two will meld into each other and I won’t be able to determine which came first.  Start leaving my exposed heart on the table?  Because isn’t that what art is at the core?  Maybe someone will care for it and choose to nurture the relationship I trusted them with.  Or they may decide to plunge a butcher’s knife right through the middle.  (Which only says something about their confidence, not mine.)

Either way, I was the brave one who put it out there.  I was the one who followed my dream and didn’t let fear hold me back.  I was the one who was confident.

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Cheers to confidence. Drink it up. And be merry!

 

 

 

Breakthrough: The F Word

Holy fuck, I’m forty.  I’m sure my mother is cringing right now as she reads that statement.  Not for the fact her youngest daughter is “over the hill”, but more that she wasted so much money on my English degree for my writing to rely on F-bombs.  She doesn’t understand there is actual shock behind the realization I’m middle-age.  Which aptly earned a good-hearted and earnest “fuck.”

I’ve passed the hump.  The mystical line where “so many opportunities” lived on one side. Now I’ve traveled to the harsh reality of “this is the life I chose.”  It’s been a difficult process for me.  I’ve had lovely people try to be supportive by reassuring me “it’s not so bad.”  People recollecting their best forty-something stories.  They laugh and smile because what else are they going to do?  They could say the worst sentiment ever, which is “it’s better to turn forty than not turn forty.”  Ugh, seriously people, I’m not that self-pitying.  Or maybe I am.

I’ve written this blog ten times over.  Sometimes I choose to highlight all the fun I’ve experienced this year.  Other times I want to talk about the stuff I still plan to do.  Both come off as trying to prove to myself that this isn’t so bad.  I’m living the life I want, right?  What more could I want?  (To be thirty again, that’s what.)  I’m grabbing life by the balls and playing by my own rules.  I’m cliché-ing this blog to death without any apologies.  This is living the dream, right?

I’m not sure if I’ve always been this worried about forty or if I’ve worked myself into a tizzy for blog entertainment.  If the latter, I didn’t do myself any favors.  Here I am, with the day facing straight on, and I lack the grace many have shown when their day arrived.  Maybe they weren’t poised, but they didn’t take to a blog to write about it.  Or maybe they did and I missed the link.  Go ahead, console me and put it in the comments.

Most wonder why?  What’s my problem with getting older?  Honestly, I’m not really sure.  I guess I never really thought it would happen.  Somehow youth goes on indefinitely even though I love all the things that have come because of age.  Having an eleven year old son would be awkward if I followed it up with only being twenty-one myself.  Traveling to Mexico, San Francisco, and Seattle never would’ve happened on my twenty-something budget.  Rocking mature friends who are normal enough to hold jobs, smart enough not to get arrested, and daring enough to put their noses on strangers wasn’t always something I found in my early thirties.

So if I have all that, why do I hate this number?  Maybe because then it’s over.  I won’t be wondering what it’s like to be forty because it will be what I am.  I’ve celebrated with parties all year long with the excuse of this milestone birthday, with even more spectacular events still to come.  Really what I’ve discovered this year is turning forty has encouraged me to be fearless.  To not put off to tomorrow what I should have done yesterday.  Visit old friends.  Tell people they matter.  Dare to keep chasing a dream.

In fact, I now finish this blog with the day already here.  I’ve been humbled by the love shown to me today.  Bestie threw an outrageous shindig at our office.  (Seriously, it was so spectacular I shocked her with a hug.)  I’ve received birthday wishes from long time friends and friends in far away places.  And I ended the night with a small home celebration where Hubs covered every counter with confetti while the kids blew party horns.  It’s these things which give me pause, to enjoy what forty really represents.  It symbolizes all the wonderful people I’ve met, the terrific adventures I’ve taken, the soul-filling family I’m blessed with.  I will be lucky to have the same reflection when I turn fifty.  Because turning fifty is better than not turning fifty, right?

This is 40 year old me. (Early in the morning.)

 

There’s something magical about live shows.  The energy sneaks around in a slow crawl until it suffocates your mind from reality.  It pierces every pore and lulls you into an intoxicated trance before you even know it showed up.  The venue, the music, and the fans morph you into something you don’t recognize in the mirror.  I start out a rational, sane-minded, almost forty-year-old professional woman, and in less than two days I’m an insecure, hyper-sensitive, fangirl clawing for attention scraps.

I know this about live shows.  I’ve experienced it before, after returning home and putting the band’s tracks on repeat for weeks.  This accounts for my 50+ Toad the Wet Sprocket plays in 2010.  It’s where I relive the experience.  Remembering the beers we shared after the show.  Letting the memories wash over me in a sentimental breath by comparing each song with its live counterpart.  Basking in my small piece of feeling special in a regular life.

TATE Seattle

The Airborne Toxic Event only makes it more difficult to keep from falling into the “being someone” abyss.  Their compelling personalities and easy going nature are the equivalent to friendship crack.  I get a small sample and I crave more instantly.  A wink here, a half smile there and I question every little meaning.  Is this the time we have a real connection?  I rack my mind to say something intelligent, fascinating, or funny to make us best friends forever.  Insecurity starts to whisper I’m not interesting enough to capture their time, beautiful enough to keep attention, or smart enough to engage in meaningful conversation.

This only makes their fumes more toxic.  The poison blinds me to the reality this is their job.  Their income depends on the relationship they forge in seconds.  While I know they’re all nice people and I’m sure genuine in our interaction, if my head were cleared I’d realize it’s impossible for us to be friends in a matter of minutes.  Even when I try to have a normal dialogue with someone from the support crew about his family and cookies, I’m immediately crushed when someone else yells over how “fuckable” he is. Embarrassment stuns me.  Insecurity screams I’m a cliché.  So naive to pretend we could have a regular conversation.  I want to defend I’m not looking for an angle.  It’s a thank you for doing a job.  No different than when I surprised the Sonic worker with a gift card for smiling every day when she fills my Diet Cherry Limeade.  In my normal world I would’ve fired back a “fuck off” without a second hesitation.  My confidence in being the type of person who likes appreciating others would’ve kept me from spiraling into a world of self-doubt and over-explanation.  Drunk on concert fumes, I disappeared into the night without even saying good-bye and robbed myself from the experience I could’ve had.

I can’t see how deep I’m in until the drive home.  They won’t remember my name or even recognize my face once they hit the next town.  No matter how bad I want it to be different. When making the nine hour drive back from Seattle, Mikel did an “Ask Me Anything” session.  I usually read through them and roll my eyes at every “marry me?”  With the toxins still streaming through my bloodstream, I crave a piece.  The questions become a popularity contest.  Who’s name sticks out the most and will garnish a response?  Before I know it I’m typing a three word question.  And regretting it when there’s no response.  I have failed in being someone.  Someone memorable.  The full-blown sickness consumed me because I’ve allowed any of this to matter.

In the same car ride, I reflected on releasing my in-laws ashes the day before and missing them terribly.  I learned a friend lost her job.  I read the announcement another friend’s brother died after a terrible battle with Alzheimer’s at the age of 37.  He leaves four children behind.  One only two years old.

These are the antibiotics I need to get my shit back together.  The cold sledgehammer to clear my head.  I have a pretty great thing going in my world.  Healthy kids, supportive husband, terrific friends.  I’m baking my favorite things, deejaying my own radio show once a week, and writing another novel.  How can I say this isn’t special?  With a clear mind, void of million dollar smiles and lyrical charm, I’m able to see the truth again.  I may not be BFFs with rock stars but I know I am rockin’ this regular life.

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