New Zealand: A Land of Extremes

Sunday, July 2, 2017

I recently made a trip to New Zealand with my sister and brother-in-law. I was amazed by the varied landscape. New Zealand is a land of extremes, with desert, glaciers, jungle, fjords, high mountains and low valleys. It's a place where birds have reigned for thousands of years and even today, they approach people with a confident curiosity. And New Zealand has some of the most beautiful landscapes. Enjoy.

Paragliding in Queenstown. I had to do something daring in the adrenaline capital of the world!

Jungle fever

We did a lot of hiking.

The Stunningly Beautiful, Very Grand Canyon

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

I love hiking. It's my reward for working out. I get to power up a mountain with relative ease and experience the beauty, peace, and comfort of nature. The birds sing, the wind blows gently across rippling ponds, and I get to witness it all. Recently, I convinced a friend to hike the Grand Canyon with me, rim to rim. We started out on the North Rim and hiked 23 miles to the South Rim. We took our time; breaking up the hike in 2 days and resting another day at the bottom of the canyon. It was a true joy. Northern Arizona is my favorite place on earth. It's a barren, desolate, beautiful, surprisingly rich dessert. And I think it's the isolation that I love the most. And since photos always say more than words, here's the best I have to share:

Grand Canyon (view from South Rim)

The Grand Canyon (view from North Rim)

Hiking up Bright Angel Trail
At the bottom of the Grand Canyon
Among the hikes in Northern Arizona, there are a few in a wilderness area called Coyote Butte. It's covered in layers of deep red, prehistoric sandstone formations that have been eroded away by wind and rain. It's like no other place on earth.

Vermilion Cliffs (Northern Arizona)

Lower Antelope Canyon
The hike to The Wave feels like you're walking back in time. I expected to see a dinosaur lumber around the corner.

The Wave- everywhere you look, there's another stunning view!
The Wave

The Wave

Hiking from The Wave.

Why I'm joining the Women's March on Saturday

Friday, January 20, 2017

I'm not an activist. Never have been. I'm not comfortable making signs, marching in the streets, yelling out, or participating in any public displays. I don't want to bring attention to myself. It seems so brash and unladylike. And I was raised to be a good girl- don't question authority or challenge the status quo. It's my job to just be good and do good in my small sphere of influence; quietly, without drawing attention to myself.

It's not that this was overtly taught to me by my parents (my 5 siblings and I have very strong opinions and share them openly with each other), but the culture in which I grew up conditioned me to not speak back to authoritative figures. 'Follow your leaders- they will never lead you astray.' This message was given in a religious context but it sunk in for all aspects of my life. I've realized that my natural inclination is not to challenge authoritative figures, whether in church, school, or work. I've had to work hard to change this.

So there's a Women's March on Washington happening this weekend with sister marches throughout the US (including San Francisco). I've decided to go and participate. I've never done something like this before and I wanted to take a moment to write down my reasons for participating. So here goes:

The San Francisco Women's March facebook page has a statement about the purpose of the march: 'We march to support and inspire each other and the nation to celebrate, honor and protect our diversity, freedom and human rights.' That's a beautiful statement, but also very general so I want to share my personal reasons for joining the march.

First of all, a little perspective. I realize that in many ways, I have a wonder life. I have opportunities that very few people (regardless of gender) have had during the course of history. I've been able to get a world-class education, travel the world, use indoor plumbing, live in a relatively peaceful era, use an electric toothbrush, and have a career that gives me financial freedom and intellectual stimulation. Throughout the thousands of years of recorded history, how many people have had all of this? Very few.

So I start with feelings of gratitude. But I've also experienced a small taste of the discrimination that has reigned for hundreds of years. Sometimes, I feel like a second-class citizen because I'm a woman. I've struggled with it at church, school, and work. Having a male coworker interrupt me, speak over me, or reiterate my exact point without acknowledging my contribution is so commonplace that I almost don't even notice it. And as far as the sexism in Silicon Valley and startups in particular, it can be bad. Just think of a frat house and add lots of money and huge egos and that'll give you a good idea of what goes on (more for another post).

So why am I marching on Saturday? I'm marching for hope. I'm marching to remember the legacy of all the women and men before me that have sacrificed to get me to this point. I'm marching to remind the incoming administration that women not only matter, we are equals. I'm marching as a reminder to myself that women are powerful, that we've made great strides for equality, and that we will continue to make progress. I'm marching as a reminder to all who listen and watch that we still have a ways to go.

I may not be loud, but I won't be silent.
Time to march...

One more travel post....Greece, Italy, France

Sunday, May 15, 2016

As most of you know, I took the past several months off work to travel, hike, read, and work on a few personal projects. It's been an amazing few months and I've given myself a great gift- memories of traveling alone in Europe, riding a Vespa through the vineyards of Tuscany, eating my weight in gelato, and watching ballet at the Paris Opera House. I have so many photos from my wanderings that I have to share more! So here you go:

Greece. This was my view from the hotel. You can see the Parthenon at the very top of the hill.

This was the freshest fish I've ever tasted. Rich, buttery, flaky. It was caught that morning by the fisherman who cooked it. 

Island of Santorini. It's characterized by the gleaming white buildings with cobalt blue roofs and pink bougainvilla.

This was just off the coast of the Island of Capri. There are caves there where only diffused sunlight enters. The suns rays hit the white sand at the bottom and reflect up through the water, making it glow. I call it the sapphire pool. This is without any filters.

On the southern coast of France, there are calanques (narrow, steep-walled inlets). The water was crystal clear.

Dumo in Florence, Italy.

At the Vatican, they let you climb up countless stairs to the top of the dome. What a view!

The best gelato in Rome. This is orange chocolate with vanilla and whipped cream. I don't eat ice cream that often, but I ate a ton of gelato while I was there. I already miss all these amazing places. I'll have to plan another adventure soon.

Top 10 reasons men have broken up with me

Saturday, May 14, 2016

It’s 7pm on a Friday night and I’m in my pajamas eating French Fries and chicken wings. That’s the kind of day I’ve had.

I have BBQ sauce smeared all over my face and I'm holding back tears as I try to distract myself from another heartbreak. I just received the cursed 'break up text'. This is dating in the modern era, I suppose. But rather than dwelling on that sad situation, I need to make myself laugh. So I've compiled a list of reasons men have broken up with me. Some were painful at the time, but now are just too damn funny not to share!

Top 10 reasons men have broken up with me:

1. I want to date other people
2. I cheated on you
3. It’s not ‘meant to be’ (This is the worst one. I hate attributing a decision to some divine force. Is God really circumventing our agency as a cosmic matchmaker to pair up specific people? I don't think so.)
4. You won’t have sex on the first date
5. You’re too attractive
6. You’re too seductive
7. You’re a bad influence
8. You’re a temptress (OK, these last 4 all came from the same guy. I think he had issues.)
9. You’re not a big enough Radiohead fan (This one was NOT in High School. It came from a man in his late-20’s. And it wasn't that I wasn't a Radiohead fan, it's that I wasn't a BIG ENOUGH Radiohead fan.)
10. No reason

Most of the reasons I've been given are focused on what's wrong with me, which I think is bullshit because I’m a wonderful girlfriend! ☺ But it actually doesn’t matter what specific reason is given, if someone doesn’t want to be with me, then that’s reason enough.

Time to log into the latest dating app...

The long awaited travel post!

Monday, February 15, 2016

I've been meaning to post more photos of my amazing European adventure, so here they are! It makes me happy and a little nostalgic as I think back to the interesting people I met. I feel like I gained something by traveling alone in a foreign land where I don't know the language. I had to set aside my fiercely independent nature at times and rely on the goodness of strangers. A few months in 11 cities isn't enough time to fully enjoy every town, village and city, but let's just call it a prelude.

(I took all of these photos with my iphone6, which is better for traveling. I applied instragram filters to some, but no other editing was done.)

Ok, so I have to start with an Arizona sunset. There's no place like home.

This was close to the Arizona/Utah border at a protected wilderness area called Coyote Butte. It's an amazing place to hike and I highly recommend it. 

Horseshoe Bend, Arizona.

I had to get at least one shot of the Grand Canyon. I am an Arizona girl!

And on to Europe. This needs no introduction.....

In the catacombs below Paris, over 6 million people are buried.

On a lighter note, Amsterdam!

Cinque Terre, Italy is a treasure. There are 5 fishing villages right on the edge of the Mediterranean. They are so close together that you can hike between all five in a day. I loved this hike and feeling the sunshine on my skin as I followed the wandering path in and out of the coastal woods. This was one of my favorite places.

The Garnier Paris Opera House. I saw Ballet here and loved it. If I weren't already totally in love with Ballet and theater, this would have done it!

Nice, France. The waters of the Mediterranean are other-wordly.

There are so many wonderful cathedrals to see in Paris, but don't miss this special one. Sainte Chapelle. J'adore.

A Series of Unfortunate Events and A Drug-Induced Rage Post

Sunday, December 27, 2015

To wrap up this year, my back decided to explode. Happy New Year! I have a herniated disk and it’s bad. And when I say bad, I mean it’s 6am Christmas morning and I’ve been up for 3 hours already (my lack of sleep is not due to the holiday excitement), my left leg is numb, and it feels like there’s fire in my veins.  I’m not sure how that works, but apparently, you can be numb and feel unquenchable burning at the same time.

It all started a few weeks ago just before Thanksgiving. I had moved apartments and had tweaked my back in the process. I was also sleeping on an old mattress with a bad box spring and then tried to drive 12 hours to visit my sister for Thanksgiving. Half way there, I stopped for the night in Crescent City. I stayed at a small motel on the coast with a view of the ocean. That night, there was a major storm and the wind and rain pelted the small room. I thought I was in a hurricane with the rain and wind battering the walls, roof and window. It kept me up, restless. I know that area is especially prone to tsunamis, so I had anxious nightmares about a gigantic wave smashing me to pieces. The next morning, I could barely stand, walk, sit, or drive.

In the morning, I did manage to make it 5 painful minutes down the road to get breakfast. Once at the restaurant, I started having serious problems. The pain was overwhelming me. I got hot, sweaty, dizzy and almost fainted. I tried standing, sitting, walking. Nothing helped. I finally walked outside and laid down on a bench. That relieved enough of the pressure that I didn’t pass out. The kind waitress brought my food out in a doggy bag as I just laid there.

I spent the rest of the day in the motel. I was still thinking I would feel better the next day and could continue my drive. How optimistic and stupid! By the next morning, I was at urgent care getting pain killers so I would last a few more days until seeing my doctor. Long story short, turns out I have a herniated disk (the lowest disk in my back) that is putting pressure on the left sciatic nerve root (which runs down my leg). Basically, my disk exploded and is choking the nerve root. Nerves don’t like that.

I guess now I’m an old person with a ‘bad back’. It sucks. It also makes me angry when people give unsolicited advice. And it doesn’t help that my doctor gave me an oral steroid to reduce swelling, but it just makes me agitated, irritable, and angry. So here goes the drug-induced rage part of the post….

One thing that happens when people hear what I’m going through is to give me advice. Have I tried yoga? Do you know yoga is great for posture and core strength?
And I recognize this comes from a good place in people. They want to share with me something that has helped them, but don’t realize that my situation might be totally different. Or that I already do yoga! And ballet and hike and walk and stay active and have good posture and am not overweight and don’t drink or smoke… all the things to avoid injury in the first place. Seriously, I feel like I’m bleeding from a gapping wound in my neck and people are giving me a child-size bandaid printed with cartoon characters and saying this will make it all better!
It’s irritating.

After the urgent care visit, I took the pain meds and tried to continue on my way to my sister's house. At this point, I was high on medicine so probably wasn’t thinking too clearly. I only made it a few minutes down the road and had to pull over from the pain. I saw a man who had just checked out of the hotel (suitcase in hand) who was walking down the road. He saw me and stopped to ask if I knew where the greyhound bus station was located. We got to talking and he was headed to Portland so I offered him a ride. Actually, I offered him a ride and then made him drive as I laid down in my drug-induced state and sang Christmas carols. His name was Miguel or Manuel or something like that. He said it was a bible name, but I don’t remember a Manuel in the bible. Maybe short for Emmanuel? Anyway, I was pretty drugged up so don’t recall all the details. Probably not my wisest moment.

But, I survived the drive, Manuel survived my endless singing, and we both made it to Portland alive! And eventually, I made it home safely (a friend flew out and drove me back to San Francisco). Now I just have to work out my back issue while dealing with a high deductible health insurance plan (which basically means I pay for everything myself) and being temporarily homeless. I usually don’t write such bitchy posts, but I blame the drugs on this one :) That, and the constant, searing pain in my back/leg for the past 5 weeks.

Merry Christmas!

PS. Encouraging comments welcome (no advice)! Also, I do want to thank all my friends for putting up with me the past few weeks while I've been a grumpy gus. Thank you!

European Adventures

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Tomorrow, I head back to San Francisco. After 7 weeks of traveling across Europe, I'm going home. I've loved taking this break to renew my soul. I've done some scary things and had some amazing adventures. Here's a few:

Rode a Vespa through the vineyards of Tuscany
Met a hotel concierge named Peter Pan
Ate gelato 4 times in one day (ok- maybe 5 times)
Almost got run over by a bus in Rome
Kissed an Italian man in the back of a laundromat
Sailed and swam in the crystal blue waters of the Mediterranean
Saw a ballet in the Paris Opera House
Visited countless museums and ruins
Walked, walked, walked
Hiked through small towns and fishing villages, on high peaks and valley troughs
Watched an Italian opera in Florence
Saw inspiring art and sculpture
Ate the best food- pizza, gelato, pasta, pasta, pasta!
And my favorite- I met some wonderful and interesting people.

I'll miss Europe, but I'm looking forward to spending the holidays with family. I'll be writing a lot more about my travels as there are great stories to tell and more adventures to come!

On a Vespa in Tuscany....

Island of Capri and swimming in the Mediterranean

Doing Scary, traveling alone, and bikini waxes

Friday, October 2, 2015

"You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face." -Eleanor Roosevelt

As part of my 6 month wanderings, I've decided to do a few things that scare me.  Get my motorcycle license, travel alone across Europe, rent a car and figure out how to pay a toll while driving a manual transmission in crazy French traffic, and get a Brazilian bikini wax (the scariest of all!). Fear is a strange thing. We're afraid as we anticipate the worst possible outcome of a dreaded event. And then in reality, it usually isn't that bad. Unless it is. And then that sucks.

But I'm working to conquer my fear of motorcycles, being alone, and bikini waxes. So here goes.....

Step number one: Get my motorcyle license. 
Oh wait, step number one: learn how to ride a motorcycle.

As I sat on the idling motorcycle, waiting for my turn to go through the obstacle course for the driving test, I was so nervous. I'm talking butterflies-in-my-stomach-I-might-barf nervous. I can't even remember the last time I felt like that. But I just thought- focus on the basics. Eyes up, look where you want to go, easy on the throttle.

I recently attended a talk given by world famous climber, Ron Kauk. This is a man that has 30+ years of climbing experience. He's one of the best in the world. He's climbed El Capitan in Yosemite (2000+ foot sheer granite face) over half a dozen times. When a friend recently asked him what advanced, difficult, detailed climbing technique he was working on, he replied, 'Breathing'. 

The most basic, primitive, usually involuntary skill. It's something all of us do every single moment without thought. But that was what Ron was working on after 30+ years climbing. Breathing. I love the simplicity of that. Keep it simple and focus on the basics. Another title for this post could have been, 'Three steps to overcoming fear', but that sounded too boring. But if I were writing an inspirational essay on overcoming fear, my three steps would be breathe, be teachable, and show up!

When I signed up for a motorcycle safety course, I was nervous about going to the first riding class. Would I fall and hurt myself? Hurt someone else? Crash the bike? Then I just thought, the first step is to just show up. You can do that. You can show up.

And remember the voice of that coach, teacher, or someone knowledgable and on your side. A good teacher will give you something positive to focus on. I decided to listen to everything the motorcycle instructors said, even if it didn't seem right or natural (like counter steering). Counter steering is pushing in the direction you want to go. It means your front wheel turns left as you go right. Maybe I'm the only one here but that sounds counterintuitive. Once I learned the reason behind it (it all has to do with the curvature of the wheel), then it made intellectual sense but I was still afraid to do it in practice. You have to be going fairly fast to make it work, which adds to the scariness of it. Once I decided to trust the teacher and do it anyway, it worked! Now I can feel the bike lean (and turn) more when I countersteer.

I read a book recently called 'Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway'. It wasn't that great of a book, but you can learn all you need to know from the title. Everyone feels fear. Don't fight it. Let it come and acknowledge it. Then keep trying, keep showing up, keep making an effort. Don't let the fear paralyze you.  

I grew up playing flute. I was very intense about this passion, practicing for hours each day after school and on weekends. A fun day was getting together with one of my best friends and playing flute duets. Yes, we were big time nerds and I loved it. I did a bunch of competitions and got nervous for every single one. But just before going on stage or into the audition room, I'd take a big breath and slowly move my fingers on the keys. The most basic thing I could do and it would help me focus. 

So I passed the motorcycle test and have my license- yay! Not everyone passed the class and I felt anxious as we waited in line to get our scores. Turns out I got the 2nd highest grade in the class. Yes, I'm a teacher's pet. I guess it never leaves you.

So now as I'm traveling around Europe alone, trying new things and not knowing what each new city will bring, I just remind myself, show up, be teachable, and most importantly- breathe.

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