Rappelling Down 38 Stories

rappelling

I rappelled down 38 stories this past weekend through fundraising for Make-A-Wish. It was by far the scariest thing I have ever done. I cried when I was literally hanging on top of The W Hotel by my toes. I have done a lot of scary things in my life but don’t remember being reduced to tears. As I was crying and stalling, I heard my friends on the ground cheer me by name. Hearing my friends cheer me for the first time finally motivated me to take the first few steps.

rappelling
photo by Thomas

I inched down slowly and clumsily. I’ve heard the term “spaghetti legs” a few times from unique sources describing my ungracefulness. I was instructed to descend until my butt touched the ground. After the volunteers unhooked the ropes from me, they asked me to stand up. That was when I realized I couldn’t without help. This was the second time in my life where I felt pins and needles throughout my entire body and all my extremities from the adrenaline and nerves. (The first time was when I heard upsetting news during my first experience with heartbreak.)

The Make-A-Wish volunteers hoisted me up on my feet when it was clear that I needed help. I numbly smiled the biggest smile I could muster to my excited friends waving at me. The volunteers told them I had to return my gear and get my belongings before I could join them.

After returning my gear and retrieving my belongings, I checked my phone. I received so many texts of encouragement from those who couldn’t watch in person. I was stunned by how big of a deal my loved ones were making this to be. I didn’t quite feel like I owned this challenge. I tried to tame my helmet hair before heading out. I was to go on a winery tour for the rest of the day for my friends’ surprise birthday party and my freshly washed hair was now damp with sweat.

Still in a daze, I walked out and was greeted by a neon group of smiling faces, signs, and silly string. Some of my closest friends made it and were meeting each other for the first time. Treavor met my best friend from high school. My best friend from high school met Anita. Thomas was no longer there but he got to meet some of my Austin friends. I felt so loved and lucky and yes, a little undeserving.

The thing is, I often downplay my accomplishments. I was hard on myself for being so scared and not enjoying it. The only enjoyable part for me was being done. I also thought it wasn’t that big of a deal. A lot of people rappel down buildings. No one cares. It isn’t that special. But almost a week later, my friends are patting me on the back still and just today Kim tagged me on a Facebook status bragging about me. I’m seeing myself reflected through their proud eyes and am finally reveling in this feat. They are patting my back not only because they’re sweet and loving, but because I rappelled down 38 stories!

I’ve walked by The W Hotel twice since rappelling this Saturday and each time, I looked up and thought, I rappelled down that. Just as I don’t think I could have made it down if I hadn’t heard my friends’ cheers, I don’t think I could have been proud of myself had I not got a glimpse of my reflection through their eyes.

It’s amazing what you can do if you surround yourself with people who believe in you.

May On and Off Instagram

April was a flurry of activity as I ran from one fun thing to another in an effort to get over a crush. May was less frantic and more grounded. I spent more time at home in my own company. I am also reviving parts of me that had laid dormant for half a year, one of which is my love for cooking! I used to cook almost every day and took painstaking care of organizing weekly meal plans. Now that it’s just me, I can get away with cooking just one or two meals a week and subsisting on leftovers for the rest of the week. I courted my old bond with cooking by hosting a brunch for my girlfriends and we ended up brunching for seven hours. I have so much love for everyone who was there and am reminded how forged sisterhoods are one of the best things in my life. I had one trip to Houston in May and met with one of my best friends who happens to be a photographer. He gave me a long-exposure tutorial, lent me his tripod, and together we hung out on a bridge in Houston to shoot light trails. It was exhilarating!

Not depicted on Instagram in May, holding hands with a good looking man for a couple of dates before gently parting ways. The moment you first hold someone’s hand is such a delicious moment of possibility. I’m enjoying the ambiguities of life these days.

Lamb Chop

Julie and Me

Tikka Masala

long exposures

long exposure

Brunch

Feelings

Macaroons and Latte

Reading

noodles

The Ugly Things That Happen to Us

Recently, I was talking to a friend about an ugly thing that happened to her. She wanted to know if she should tell someone in her life about it. I did my best to advise her without pushing her one way or another. I gave her a decision tree. If she thinks sharing this will bring them closer together and that’s what she wants, yes. If she wants to let her friend experience her more fully, yes. If she doesn’t think she can handle a disappointing reaction from her friend, no. I gave her a handful more scenarios for this decision tree. At this point in my friendship with her, we had already exchanged stories. I had told her about the ugliest thing that happened to me. The emotional scar that no one can visibly see on my body. I told her that it took me two decades to fully process it and I had to do it in stages with a lot of breaks. I told her that now I tell my story if others tell me theirs and I can sense they’re feeling isolated and alone. I told her that I plan on telling my story if I find myself regressing to that time in my life because I’m being triggered by someone I want to keep in my life.

I told her all this to remind her that the emotional scars from the ugly things that happen to her in life are part of her story. So now I’m telling you. That ugly thing that happened to you? It shapes you. You can share it as a tool for intimacy. You can share it as a tool for self-discovery. You can not share it for preservation. You can share it to be heard. It’s yours and you can do whatever you want with it. Whatever happened was inexplicably ugly but you are beautiful. And if the people you share it with try to make that ugly thing your fault or don’t receive it in a way where you feel supported, it doesn’t change that you are beautiful. It just might mean that they’re not your people. And the fuck with them.

Peonies Season

After my parents immigrated to the states, they had to raise a family with very little. We always ate well but there were luxuries my mom wouldn’t dream of purchasing. One of which was flowers. My dad and I learned to stop buying her flowers on special occasions. It was just beyond her threshold of enjoyment. I on the other hand, love receiving flowers and they always are a treat to see the flowers blossom just for you in your home. I even like how brief their lifespans are. It reminds me to enjoy them now because in a few short days, their beauty will wilt. In the last couple of years, I’ve started to treat myself instead of only enjoying them as gifts. I don’t buy them regularly but have resolved to always have fresh flowers at home when I host a meal. These beautiful peonies grew in size during the course of a 7 hour brunch and we all marveled on how quickly they opened for us.

Peonies

Peonies

Peonies

Peonies


Question: How often do you keep fresh flowers at home?

April On and Off Instagram

April was a flurry of activity. I looked at my calendar and only had 4 nights at home. There were food tastings, food events, a bachelorette party, a subsequent wedding, birthdays, happy hours, a trip to Houston, and filling in for absent players in intramural kickball games. The crush I alluded to in my March Instagram recap didn’t feel mutual. I distracted myself with friends, family, meeting new people, and delightful bites. Not pictured in these photos from April is my raising over $1500 for Make-A-Wish and securing a spot to rappel down a 38 story building in June (I’m still fundraising so please consider donating to a great cause). Also not pictured, booking airfare to Greece for August and buying Oprah tickets for October. Despite the discomfort of unrequited crush, April was delicious and love-filled and I planted seeds for an exciting 2014.

Oh, did you see? I breathed the same air as Andrew Zimmern, truly a dream come true.

Sous Vide Steak

Pork Belly

Whip It

Sunset

Beginning

Oasis

Pooped

Ming Tsai

Andrew

Odd Duck

Odd Duck

Japan Festival

Curly

Oasis

wine

wine

Life Lessons Learned Through Improv

A couple of months ago I went on an awful first date. There’s not much of a story there except that I found him too much of an intellectual elitist. I hate wasting my time and always enter every experience (especially the bad ones) with searching eyes. Looking for treasure in the guise of a new hobby or lesson learned or a good story. As I was sitting over coffee with this pompous man, I tried to learn something. Anything. It was such a difficult endeavor since I was so turned off. Finally, he mentioned that he was a serious comedian and also dedicated a lot of his time to improv. He said anyone could take a free introduction class at any of the clubs in town. Ding, ding, ding! Treasure! After we parted ways, I shook off the icky feeling he gave me and went home and signed up for a free two hour introductory class. I went to the class and loved every minute of it.

I walked away from this class with a new conviction. Everyone should take a free improv class. Even if you have no interest in pursuing it further than just one free class. Not only will there be fits of laughter as you play, there are skills in improv that are useful in everyday life. Let me share three of them.

Failure Bows

During the intro levels of improv, we are encouraged to yell out, “I failed!” and then take a bow every time we failed to come up with the perfect line, let the ball drop, tripped either figuratively or literally, broke the rules of a game, zoned out, or do anything that made us feel like we failed. When someone yells out “I failed!” and takes a bow, the rest of us are to applaud them. The life lesson of the Failure Bow is two-fold. We should be proud for taking chances that lead us to our failures. We should react with admiration when we see people take chances and fall short. Our failures are our badges of courage.

Yes, And…

Improv is a live collaboration. Connecting with the audience and making them laugh hinges on how you work as a team. Enter the “Yes, And…” rule. When someone suggests something to you or invites you to play along with something, for the scene to stand a chance, you have to not only validate what your partner is saying to you but add to it. “We should get in this boat” should be met with an enthusiastic “Yes, and we should pack a snack!” There’s a beautiful openness and acceptance in the interactions during improv that could enrich our everyday life.

Be Present

To have a really great improv session, you have to be present. To really validate your teammates, you have to see and hear what they’re doing instead of withdrawing into your own mind and planning out your lines. The only way you can naturally and seamlessly move forward a scene is to be completely present. This means no live tweeting or instagramming. I’m the queen of preserving my moments live through my social feeds and yet that night I published nothing. I was too busy listening.

And there you have it. Three life lessons I gleaned from a bad first date.


Questions: What’s the best thing you have happened because of a bad date? Have you ever tried improv?

March on and off Instagram

I know this sounds cheesy, but looking back through your photos over the past few months, your smile has changed and it’s for the better. It’s a very “at peace with yourself” kind of change and it’s physically showing.” – Friend

I see life as chapters and big changes. Moving, birthdays, births, deaths, break-ups, new relationships, job changes, all serve as chapter endings and beginnings. My last chapter or pivot point was in October with both a physical move and break-up and two deaths. So much can change in such a short amount of time that it feels like a life time ago. March was a good month. These instagrams show good food, good friends, and a couple of trips that involve two beaches in two different states and a canyon. There’s a hint and homage to a future trip being taken soon to Greece. Not pictured on instagram from March was my first crush in years. I’m skeptical the crush will blossom into a new relationship but it was such a lovely surprise to feel butterflies that I smile at the memory and experience. March, you were a gem.

You can find me on instagram doing the best I can to linger on the special moments in my life at curiousnotions.






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Having Adventures Without Traveling

Local Turtle Pond

Local Turtle Pond

Some time ago a nomadic soul who recently planted roots asked me how I managed to keep the explorer in me fulfilled when I’m not traveling. There are infinite amount of experiences to be had which means you don’t necessarily have to get on a plane to start exploring. As much as I love traveling, it’s not always feasible to hop on a plane or jump in the car with an out of town destination.

Be a sponge for local news and events. I am always on the lookout for things to do in Austin and Houston, my home-bases. Even if my schedule isn’t free, I’ll mentally bookmark the local gems. Just last week I finally checked out a rooftop telescope that has been open to the public at the University of Texas for decades. I saw Jupiter and four of her moons. I’ve had access to this building for thirteen years and still just manage to experience its roof and peer at Jupiter for the first time. Examples of some of my local gems? In Houston there’s an obscure museum called the National Museum of Funeral History and in Austin we have the Cathedral of Junk. What does your town have? When was the last time you checked out your local tourist spots?

Be deliberate. I’ve been consciously looking for a new experience at least once a week since the summer of 2005. I have not missed a week and it comes so easily to me now. It can be as small as trying a new restaurant or cooking with a new ingredient or finally taking that dorky Segway tour of your city. Scan your Livingsocal and Groupon emails for new experiences in your town. That’s how I found myself taking a bee-keeping class and rolling down a hill strapped inside a plastic ball. All of these experiences required no booking of airfare or lodging.

Have friends with adventurous spirits. I recommend being friends (and dating) people who aren’t afraid of looking stupid. People who don’t mind making fools of themselves as they learn how to ride that Segway or who are brave enough to be in that plastic ball with you. These like-minded friends will also be in the know of all the unique nooks and crannies your town has that most locals take for granted.

Be open and say yes. I’m willing to bet that a lot of us are so comfortable with the familiar that we make excuses. Excuses are dangerous stories we tell ourselves on why we can’t have or do something. Adventures aren’t limited to faraway places. Be open. Next time something strikes your fancy, google it along with your city. See if your city has a sensory deprivation chamber after you hear about it on the Joe Rogan podcast. If your friend invites you to a reading party, even if it’s easier to just read in your pajamas at home and not suffer the social anxiety you get from meeting new people, say yes.

Traveling is an easy gateway into the feelings you’re bound to feel when your horizons are being stretched and you are seeing things for the first time. I get it. I can never get enough of travel. But it’s still possible to feel awestruck anywhere you happen to be.

Now that I have you here. I need your help fundraising for Make-A-Wish and fulfilling one of my local adventures. If I’m one of the first 200 people in Austin to raise $1500, I get to rappel off a 38 story building. Help me raise money for a good cause and scare myself silly?

Grand Canyon

I usually plan my trips around metropolitan destinations. However, I hadn’t spent time with Ashley Riordan, Nicole, and Ashley D as a foursome since we went to Vegas almost two years ago. I also never visited a National Park before and still need to scratch off Arizona on my 50 states list. So when Ashley Riordan expressed an interest in visiting the Grand Canyon, we all jumped aboard and had a reunion trip. I’ve never experienced nature so breathtaking in person. I landed back in Austin with such an ache in my heart. The views and backdrops of our weekend there were unreal and being around girls I love so much felt like finding a long lost beloved sweatshirt that still fits. I newly resolve to travel with them at the very least once a year.

If you want a more thorough recap of our trip, might I suggest Ashley Riordan’s? But first take a look at my favorite photos.













Happy As I Am


In between the two big relationships of my life which cumulatively lasted almost ten years, I was single for most of two years. I remember I really came into my own during this time. I actualized facets of my personality and my identity that laid dormant between the ages of 18 and 22. My sense of adventure and wanderlust no longer was hidden within me but became a manifestation of how I live my life. I cultivated gratitude, joy, and self-reliance. I learned so much and had so much fun doing it that I almost feel sorry for those who never get to experience the self actualization that comes with living on your own and as an untethered person. I have friends who have never been single in their adult lives and I can’t help but wonder how much they might have missed out on their self-knowledge.

This is who I am when there’s no one to come home to. This is who I am without the context of a romantic relationship. I am someone who likes to read and doesn’t like watching football. I am someone who can eat ramen three times a week because I much rather cook for people than just me. I plan things out and leave slots in my calendar to “rest” but when it’s time to rest I use those pockets to make spontaneous plans. I kill time at the library or book store when I don’t want to come home to an empty apartment. I love to travel. I’d love to do it with a significant other but if he is not around because he doesn’t want to be or because I’m not in a relationship, I will go without him. This is just a fraction of what I learned my first time as a single adult.

I’m not saying there isn’t a lot to learn when I’m in a relationship. I learned what kind of communicator I am and what my needs are from a partner. I learned about boundaries and nonnegotiable after testing them out in relationships. I reinforced my values within the context of being someone’s girlfriend and I know I will go through that again if ever I become someone’s wife or mother. I am just thankful for the time I’ve spent truly on my own. I value the security and connection and love that comes with romantic love, but if I never fulfill that again, I can be happy and fulfilled as I am.

And that feels like power.


Questions: What have you learned about yourself while you were single? While you were in relationships?