2017 Recap

Brent has been asking me for months to update my blog with something happy, but in all honesty I just haven't felt compelled to write anything. I don't like to post arbitrarily or be dishonest in the representation of my life. So, it is what it is. Despite having a long list of reasons to be grateful and happy, I still had one of the worst depressions of my life this past summer. However, there were a lot of great times I enjoyed in 2017 too and now I'm a little bummed I didn't do a better job of documenting it. I hadn't planned on making any resolutions for 2018, but keeping up with this online journal is a good one, so I'll give it a shot. 

In the interest getting my feet wet again, I'll just do a year-long summary inspired by Brent's 2017 recap post, although you won't find anything as badass as winning a pro mountain bike race here, so check his blog out for the more exciting stuff. 

Here are my favorites from 2017:

Date night at Soif

Sorry to be a total cheeseball right off the bat, but literally every moment spent with Brent this year was my favorite. My belly is always full of laughter when I'm around the guy, and he's without a doubt the highlight of this year and my life, really. We had way too many fun date nights to count (like the one in the photo), plus a ton of great traveling together.

In February we had a McMenamins adventure weekend in Portland with friends from AZ... stayed two nights in a haunted saloon hotel and two nights in an old elementary school. But by far my favorite part of the weekend was exploring Powell's City of Books... twice. It's 4 floors spanning an entire city block full of BOOKS. AKA, Heaven. 

We had a couple of short weekend getaways for Brent's bike races... first Sonoma in April, then Carson City, Nevada in June.  Then in July we took a longer weekend for what has become an annual trip to Bend, Oregon to stay at yet another McMenamins. Highlights were floating down the Deschutes with Rudy and an old friend of Brent's, soaking in a big roman bath with an ice cold blackberry cider, and finding the little speakeasy hidden in a broom closet right by our room in the hotel.  

In August I met Brent for a few days in Colorado after he finished a week-long bike race, and we explored Breckenridge and Boulder together, had some delicious tacos, and found another amazing bookstore.  

Our latest weekend getaway of the year was a belated anniversary weekend in Guerneville together, complete with wine tasting, a couples massage, some of the best pasta I've ever had, and yet another perfect little bookstore.

Another favorite time from 2017 was our trip to Kauai... it was our second time there, and somehow even more incredible than the first. This trip came at the end of a very stressful period at work, and it could not have been better timing. That Hawaiian air literally breathed life back into my spirit. 

I love a vacation where Brent actually wants to take it slow... we had multiple days of just hanging out at the beach the entire day. We never made plans in advance, and just let each day be its own little adventure of whatever we felt like doing. During that one week I read three books, kicked my caffeine habit, and ate my body weight in acai bowls and poke. We also discovered the best burrito joint in town and managed to eat there twice, despite the burritos being the size of my forearm. 

I suppose it's not at all realistic to think we can buy a second home, but I admit I've been daydreaming about it... for now, we're scheming about how we can get there twice a year. 

This one may be a little silly, but I can't deny it... one of my favorite memories from 2017 was the abundance of random dance parties I had with my coworkers (friends, really). It makes me laugh to think about how self-conscious I used to be when dancing at weddings or night clubs (back in that 4-month period when I was 21 and actually went to them), and now I couldn't care less if we are the only gals out on the dance floor or creating our own dance floor wherever we are!

From crashing a farmers' mixer with the electric slide at a conference in Monterey in January to a 3-hour dance marathon at the House of Blues in New Orleans in October, we were unstoppable all year, coast to coast. We closed out the year after our company holiday party, dancing on top of the locally famous Peace Bus out in the streets of Downtown Santa Cruz. I think my favorite part, beyond the music and the great workout is how willing, eager even, people are to join in. There was a moment during our holiday dance party where there were at least 20 random strangers dancing in the streets with us in Downtown Santa Cruz. Sure, we tend to attract some weirdos in this town so it's not surprising we can rope people into spontaneous dance parties for no apparent reason, but nonetheless it tends to restore one's faith in humanity to see how universally happy it makes everyone to just boogie.

That pretty much sums up the major highlights of the year... there's a iPhone dump at the end of this post with many more photos to enjoy (roll the mouse over them for a caption), but in the interest of sharing I thought I'd make a quick list of my favorites:

Books: 
Non-fiction: Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer
Fiction: The Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Memoir: The Telling Room by Michael Paterniti

Movies:
Overall fav: Wonderwoman
Most unique/creative & best soundtrack: Baby Driver
Comedy: Thor Ragnarok
Indie (ish): Table 19 (mostly loved this because of June Squibb and Lisa Kudrow)

Podcasts:
Weekly: My Favorite Murder (this will likely be my fav as long as they keep making it!)
One-time series: Dirty John & Missing Richard Simmons (tie)
Local: Bay Curious

Songs (yes, I know some of these are older than 2017, but still my favs this year):
Holiday: Santa's Coming for Us by Sia
Electronic: Light (instrumental) by Odesza
Classical: Qi by Phildel and September Song by Agnes Obel (tie)
Romantic: Chateau Lobby # 4 by Father John Misty
Dance: Aftergold by Big Wild
Bluegrass (ish): Ebb and Flow by Larry and His Flask (credit to Brent for introducing this one to me)
Roots rock (whatever that means): Only for You by Heartless Bastards (another Brent credit)
 

Depression is a quiet beast

The ugly truth behind the beauty of my life right now is how much of it I have spent sustaining the structure that supports it. I fear I am wasting away little by little behind a desk, staring at a computer doing a job that can be so stressful during this time of year that it wreaks havoc on my mind and body. I spend the rest of the year trying to make up what it takes from me, but it's futile, really. In the long run it really is just sucking the life right out of me. 

This summer has been a complete blur, to be honest with you. My mind hasn't had a break from work for the past few months, as the summer season at this business requires I be on-call and available at all hours. Even after spending 10-12 hours at the office 5 days a week and many Saturdays, I'm basically on-call 6 days a week for the different facilities we work with on both sides of the country that work weekends and overtime in different time zones... so it ends up being all of my waking hours.The time I spend sleeping is the only time I don't spend thinking about work, and still there have been countless nights this summer spent laying awake, my mind racing with everything I didn't get done and will be on my plate the next morning.

I've done my best to tag along with Brent on little weekend getaways, but in this modern cloud-based world those weekends are still structured around taking calls and working on my laptop. The time I should be spending for myself while Brent is on his mountain bike, the time I want to be spending outdoors going on a hike, sketching, writing, or taking photos, I'm actually just sitting in a hotel room with Law & Order on the TV while I work on my laptop. In the evenings I try to sit and enjoy a meal with Brent but in reality, anxiety builds with each moment I know I'm falling behind or likely missing something important that will cause an issue and reflect poorly on my performance.

I've also started drinking as a method to distract my mind during the week. I have never been a week-night drinker, but alcohol has been a really easy and effective way to loosen up the physical ball of stress I carry in the back of my neck at the end of the day, and getting a buzz finally lets my mind go quiet while I drown it in some stupid reality television show. 

I've lost sight of the point of all of it. I haven't had the chance to stop and enjoy the life for which I'm earning this paycheck, and I just keep thinking about the fact that how I spend my days is in the end how I will have spent my life. To be honest, I'm really unhappy with it. 

I don't want to seem ungrateful of the good fortune bestowed on my life; I am truly appreciative of it from an objective standpoint... I've just lost touch with it in some strange way. This no longer feels like my life and I no longer feel like me.  

In the days ahead while work starts to die down, I'm going to dip my toes back into spending free time doing what I want to do... the tricky part will be figuring out what that is.  

On deciding not to have children

I recently discovered Katie Couric has a podcast, and I really enjoyed her interview with the Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten. Back when I had cable, hers was always my favorite cooking show.

Sure, her soothing voice and the sounds of her making truffle butter scrambled eggs in the background were pleasing, but what struck me most about the episode was one topic in particular... Ina sharing her decision not to have children. When the topic came up she said, “We decided not to have children. I really appreciate that other people do and we will always have friends that have children that we are close to, but it was a choice I made very early. I really felt, I feel, that I would have never been able to have the life I’ve had. So it’s a choice and that was the choice I made.”

Hearing this made my heart swell, and made me itch to talk about that thing that is not often talked about... parenthood as a choice, not an eventuality in life. And to also address the awkward conversations I find myself having on a surprisingly regular basis, being a woman who has decided not to have children. 

I think I always knew deep-down that I did not want to be a mother, much like I hear many women talk about how they always knew they did. It is difficult to describe since it's not any one thing in particular that keeps me from it, like the anxiety of financial burden or the fear of giving birth.  It's just more an understanding of something that I am not meant to be.

So here's what's up... am I a huge fan of kids? No, not really. Do I think motherhood seems like a beautiful, rewarding, and life-affirming experience? Absolutely! I think conception and women giving birth is the best evidence we have that magic exists on this earth. Don't even get me started on breast feeding... miraculous! Yet, there is still not one single fiber of my being that wants to do it and therefore, I don't think I should. I have SO much respect for parenthood and for the little lives created in the process that I know I should not be a mother unless I truly believe I have it in me. I do not think I am being stubborn or living in denial - I examine my feelings at regular milestones like getting married, or my best friend and sister getting pregnant and having kids, or after losing my most beloved and nurtured cat. Brent and I also revisit the topic a few times a year together and talk openly about how we each feel about it. All I can do is carefully examine of all of the facts and after that, it's all gut instinct. 

Seems simple enough, right? Well, here's the rub. I spend a lot of time not getting to share my life experiences, but instead defending my choice to people when they ask whether or not I have kids, and/or when I plan to. I don't think it's wrong to ask the question - my issue is usually with the responses I receive.  It has been an interesting progression over the last decade - in my early 20s, it was 'Oh, you're so young... you'll change your mind'.  In my mid 20s it was, 'Well, once you get married you'll start to feel differently'.  Now, being 31 (in other words, T-minus 4 years until it would be considered geriatric or risky to get pregnant), people are shocked and usually start to ask probing questions regarding my relationship with Brent as if the subconscious reason for me choosing not to have children is likely due to having an unsuitable partner or unhappy marriage. Or, better yet... sometimes I'm given a flat-out threat like 'You better be sure you're OK with your decision before you get to your 40s because then it will be too late'. 

Can we please talk about how f*cked up this is? The equivalent would be me telling a pregnant woman that I think she is going to be miserable and remind her to think of everything she will have to give up in life to be a mother. What really bothers me is that the responses along the lines of those previously stated is essentially an implication that something is wrong with me for not wanting children. What matters is not what choice is best as far as the rest of the world is concerned, but what choice is best for me as an individual, and as a wife to the person with whom I share a life and a home. In my opinion, I believe it should be assumed that we are not having children until such time we have weighed all of the pros/cons and believe we are capable and are certain we truly want to dedicate our lives to those we bring into the world.

I am not sure I have a good takeaway from this chain of thought other than to say if you find yourself in a conversation with a woman who is choosing not to have children, please find a way to just be positive and affirming of her choice rather than try to make her fear she's made the wrong one. Life is made up in large part of a series of choices we make as we age... I am acutely aware that there may come a day later in life that I regret not having had children. However, just as I do with any other choices I've made up until this point, I plan to focus on and celebrate what has brought me joy in this life rather than dwell on what I may have missed.

Saying hello, saying goodbye

I just signed in tho this virtual journal of mine, and couldn't believe my eyes that the last time I posted was back in January... which then made me shudder to think it's already April 22nd. What a blur these months have been, with two work conferences, a couple of weekend getaways, and a work trip to the east coast. All the while one of the most ever-present thoughts on my mind was that of my kitty Boo, and how I knew this time when he started losing weight it meant he wasn't going to come back from it. Back in December just before I left for San Francisco for New Years, I came home from work and saw a look in his eyes I immediately knew meant he was nearing his end. Turns out his kidneys weren't doing so well, but he hung in there for another almost 4 months. I could not be more grateful for this tough little guy giving me such a long time to say goodbye to him... I needed every minute of it. 

The day I adopted him almost 13 years ago back when I lived in Arizona is a very vivid memory for me. Mom and I were at the Maricopa Animal Shelter; we were there because she wanted to adopt a dog, but thus began my excellent track record of visiting an animal shelter and not being able to leave without taking someone home. Boo was in the dog section of the shelter since the cat kennels were all completely full. I heard a distinct meow over the sea of dog noises, and turned to my left to see this massive cat on his back legs, his front legs outstretched through the cage reaching for me. He had the worst case of kennel cough I'd ever seen, his eyes crossed and green with infection, but considering his sign was marked that he had been there for two weeks, it wasn't surprising. In that moment I knew I wasn't leaving there without him... no one was going to take the full grown cat stuck in the dog kennel when there was a hallway full of precious baby kittens to choose from. 

As a child we always had cats in our home, and I desperately wished they would play more, answer me when I talked to them, and want to cuddle non-stop... not many ever really obliged. But the minute I turned 18 and could adopt my own, there was Boo. My soulmate kitty. That first night I brought him home, he slept on top of my chest, face-to-face, and sneezed on me all night. But I could not have been more happy about it... I knew he was my new BFF. The 13 years we had together were some of the most formative years of my life, every day of which I came home to his constant chatter and always found him constantly by my side... or right on top of me. Sometimes Brent and I joked that if he could crawl under my skin, he would. He could never get close enough. He never lost his kitten-like enthusiasm for paper, string, bird watching, etc. and he always answered with a sweet mew when I told him I loved him. 

I will be forever grateful we had a goodbye fitting of the time we had him... I would expect him to depart in no less a dignified fashion. Who could ask for more than to fade away peacefully in your own home, with your loved ones by your side? Brent and I remarked on how most humans don't even get that sort of ending... but that cat always had such high standards. In his last moments, just before Brent and I both caught the sudden and fierce flicker of the candle sitting in our still bedroom, Boo reached his arm out to me one last time. Heartbreaking, but such a perfect little circle of a life I feel honored to have witnessed. 

Book Review | Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

I read this book last fall, after seeing it recommended on the Instagram feed of my favorite bookstore. Once I picked it up, I hardly put it down... I went deep in this one. 

The novel is about marriage, but more specifically it's an examination of personal perception, how outsiders perceive a couple to be, how the couple perceives themselves to be, and how they see each other. 

The beginning of the novel is told from the point of view of Lotto, the male protagonist. You get a good chunk of his childhood, and more importantly insight into his relationship with his mother, aunt, and sister.  Lotto marries Mathilde, who, by all accounts of friends and family (well, save Lotto's mother), is a catch. 

Much of the novel follows how Mathilde supported Lotto's acting and eventually playwriting career, how in love Lotto and Mathilde are, describes their various friends and family relationships, and how difficult marriage and life can be. I got about 300 pages in to the book and felt confident I knew what this book was about, and loved it.  Then the narrative changed to Mathilde's point of view and completely blew me away. 

There is so much disparity between the two points of view, even though they shared their lives. Despite the discrepancy, there is a glorious beauty in both perceptions of their marriage and I truly loved it, in all its harsh reality. People are imperfect, therefore marriage is imperfect... but it's incredibly rewarding. The end of this book is compelling, depressing, relatable, surprising... ugh - it's a lot. But I would definitely recommend it.