Feeling Small in a Big World: learning to throw stars

This week I saw the new movie, 'Fury' (yes, Brad Pitt was the main motivation for going to see it, and he did not disappoint!). It was an entertaining, heart wrenching movie that left me in deep thought about the history of humanity, war, and the insignificance of life in this world. Heavy topics for a date night.

Recently I have felt a bit overwhelmed by the news. From ISIS to ebola, social injustices, and good people gone too soon. 'Fury' reminded me of just how many lost their lives in WWII, which only amplified my thoughts about how cruel we are to each other. The human condition has always been one of struggle and injustice, but now it is in our faces 24/7 in the form of news and entertainment. There is no escaping the brutality of this world, and it can all feel like too much sometimes.

When I was younger I felt like I could do anything. I was going to change the world. I felt powerful, like I was put here to fight the good fight. For as long as I can remember I knew that I wanted to make a meaningful impact -- to live my life so that when I leave this earth it's better than it was before...

But, life has been humbling. I now know that I probably will not change the world. I most likely won't be in the history books. Future generations won't use my quotes for inspiring internet memes. The big goals that once fueled me to wake up and seize the day now feel a bit insignificant.

I often struggle to the find enthusiasm to achieve smaller goals after "saving the world" didn't quite pan out like my childhood plans had anticipated. I'm learning how to feel content being small, and how to not feel guilty for no longer striving to save the world.

When I was a kid I heard a short story that has stuck with me, and I want to start thinking more like the little boy in that story. I'd like to celebrate the small things one can do instead of feeling overwhelmed and helpless by enormity of the big picture.

The Star Thrower story goes like this: (by Loren Eiseley)

A man was walking on the beach one day and noticed a boy who was reaching down, picking up a starfish and throwing it in the ocean. As he approached, he called out, “Hello!  What are you doing?”

The boy looked up and said, “I’m throwing starfish into the ocean.”

“Why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?” asked the man.

“The tide stranded them. If I don’t throw them in the water before the sun comes up, they’ll die” came the answer.

“Surely you realize that there are miles of beach, and thousands of starfish. You’ll never throw them all back, there are too many. You can’t possibly make a difference.”

The boy listened politely, then picked up another starfish. As he threw it back into the sea, he said, “It made a difference for that one.”

Even though my youthful ambitions have not turned out as hoped, I can still wake up each day and be a star thrower.

And, that is enough.

Life and Love Update

So far this summer I have traveled to California, New York and roughly 20 states in between. It has been an amazing adventure -- exhausting, invigorating, cathartic, inspiring, educational, affirming… I could go on and on.

There were many reasons for my journey, but a large part was that I’ve been in Austin for 7 years now and began to feel a bit restless – wondering what I might be missing out on somewhere else. In the past that’s been my cue to pack up and move, but I couldn’t think of any other place I’d rather be.

Before I uprooted my life and moved back home to Scottsdale or ran off to NYC, I thought I’d spend some time away from Austin and see what it was like to live in other places. But, when I arrived in each new city, I found myself telling everyone about how awesome Austin is by comparison. Though I liked them all, I didn’t love any of them like I do Central TX -- it became very apparent that it was time for me to come home.

When I returned with the realization that the grass is not greener, I had a daunting feeling of “now what?” and it became clear that after two years of being single, it was probably time to throw my hat back in that ring. Ugh! After exhausting a long list of excuses, I had run out of reasons why I was avoiding a relationship.

So, I did what anyone who's looking to find a suitable partner would do -- I set up a Tinder profile late one night while watching bad TV and drinking a vodka soda.

At first I had it set to men ages 30+ within a 10-mile radius and added a profile pic, with no bio. The next few days I got lots of matches, and it was addicting! I couldn’t turn off the app.

I started getting messages, and it seemed that the men were divided evenly between those looking to hook up that night, and others interviewing for the position of “baby mama.”

After browsing profiles on the app, I decided to just use Tinder as practice for getting back into dating and not take it too seriously. I took off all age, location, gender restrictions, and added a short bio trying to weed out the riff raff.

Lots of new seemingly cool, interesting people! I started chatting with a handful of them and decided that for the next couple weeks I was going to go on a bunch of dates. I was just going to dive in headfirst!! Worst case I would end up with some funny stories. Best case I meet some nice people. I planned on shooting for ten dates with a variety of people and began to fill up my calendar.

The first guy was super sweet, but not for me. The second guy was also very nice, but exactly the kind of guy I needed to RUN away from!!! A cute, young foreigner, without a vehicle or a green card -- bad news.

By the third day I was already feeling exhausted and rethinking my ability to be outgoing enough to sustain two weeks of dates. I was looking forward to the lunchtime doggie play date scheduled for the weekend…

Julia and I began talking after a night of insomnia when she saw that I was online at 4am, and asked if I was having a late night or an early morning.

By the time we met we’d been texting daily for a week, so I felt like I already knew her. She had also been married, in the Army, two big dogs, a liberal, tree-hugging vegetarian… lots in common.

It felt very comfortable from the beginning -- besides the part where I’m straight and didn’t want to lead her on of course. When we met we had a very honest conversation up front to make sure we were on the same page about me not being gay, just trying to stay open-minded as I figure out what is next in life.

The rest of the day we ate pizza, played with the dogs, swam in the pool and had great conversation over a couple beers -- before I knew it she had to leave. More than six hours went by in a blink. I didn’t want her to go, and as an introvert, that is NOT normal!! But, she had to get to a work dinner, so staying wasn’t an option.

As she left, I kissed her goodbye -- and, it was awesome. Whaa?! Wasn’t I the one who just hours before made sure she knew that I wasn’t gay? Hmm, yeah, maybe not as straight as I thought.

We saw each other a couple days later for another afternoon date, which turned into two days. I immediately went to visit her for the weekend in San Antonio, and then she came back to Austin with me.... and that is how its been since. I didn’t go on any other Tinder dates. In fact, I deleted the app a few days after we met. I didn’t care who else was on there.

This has all happened very fast. It's felt surprising and exciting, and there have been a handful of mental/emotional breakdowns when it all seems too scary.

Not only has dating a woman completely caught me off guard, but also falling in love has scared the hell out of me. I wasn’t sure I ever wanted to again, and I certainly didn’t anticipate it happening with a woman or so quickly after meeting.

When I start to feel scared or overwhelmed, I realize that the scariest thing is dealing with others’ reactions and worrying about what people will say or think -- getting looks from strangers and unsolicited advice from those who have a strong opinion, but no personal experience. When I am able to clear all of that out of my head, the reality is that this is without a doubt the healthiest, happiest relationship I have ever been in, and the rest is just noise.

I know some will not approve, and as much as I’d like to say it doesn’t bother me, it does a little bit. However, I feel like I have found exactly what I’ve been looking for. I’m in a relationship full of fun, respect, and trust… I am happy and in love. And, that is where I’m choosing to focus my attention.

Epic Journey Musings Volume Two: Memorial Day Edition

I woke up this morning thinking about Memorial Day and the meaning behind it, as well as my own connection to the recent wars and those who served. I thought about writing, but the day got busy and Facebook is saturated with "Happy Memorial Day" posts and outdoor celebrations, so I figured there was no need for another post about the day. I spent most of today enjoying beautiful weather and had a great time exploring Manhattan with the pups... getting a bit lost at times, and honked at by disgruntled locals who had little patience for my TX license plate and confusion about which way to turn. 

I'm back at the apartment and ready to crash after a long day, and yet I can't rest. I can't let this day pass without sharing my gratitude for those who have sacrificed it all so I could have a carefree day in the sunshine like I did today. This day is the reason I joined the Army, it is the reason I love this country, and it is a day that makes my heart swell with pride for the selfless men and women who gave us what we freely enjoy on a daily basis.

There was a time during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars when I was so frustrated and disgusted by what was happening that I felt ashamed for being a part of it. I hated that I was training men to go into a war which I felt they were not prepared for and there was no clear reason for putting their lives at risk besides having an order from our President.

By the time I left the Army I hated it. They offered me promotions and bonuses then attempted to intimidate me into signing another contract by sending me higher and higher up the chain of command until I finally sat across from an Army General and told him that if they handed me one million dollars cash right then and there I still wouldn't sign the contract. There was nothing else they could offer. I was DONE.

Fast forward seven years and I'm driving across the United States by myself as a single woman, meeting people who are kind, supportive and happy to help, friends willing to take me in with my two big dogs, and feeling freedom in its truest sense. I've been listening to the radio as I drive and hearing stories of girls who are kidnapped from their school in Africa and women who are beaten for speaking out politically in Egypt and Iran -- I am remembering what makes this country so incredibly amazing and unique.

There is no doubt that we are far from perfect. But, as a whole, we have opportunities and freedoms that people around the world only dream about.

And, today, as I stood at the site of the twin towers and remembered those who lost their lives on 9/11 as well as the soldiers who have lost theirs in the years since, I am inspired and humbled by the strength and courage and resilience of our country and our service men and women.

Epic Journey Musings Volume One

Last month I quit personal training, let my apartment lease expire, put my stuff in storage and hit the road for a two month cross country trip with a duffel bag and my pups. I knew it was time for a change, but wasn't entirely sure what that change would look like. Maybe I'll stay in Austin, maybe move back to Scottsdale to be closer to family, or possibly live in NYC for awhile to change things up a bit. I figured that being jobless and homeless with 80 hours of driving in solitude should not only be a great adventure, but also give me an opportunity to get very clear about what's next on my journey.

As I set out on this trip I hoped for clarity and adventure -- then got smacked over the head with a lot of both. This trip could probably be made into a Lifetime movie already. A good reminder to be careful what you wish for!

In a nutshell, the first day we got caught in a tornado and stranded on a closed highway in the middle of nowhere New Mexico for the night. Then arrived in Arizona just in time for my sister to go into early labor and rushed to the ER, which happened to be the same hospital I took my mother to twelve years ago for cancer treatment where she learned of her impending fate. And, just to top it off, a close friend is buried directly across the street. Wow! Talk about a flood of emotions. After a minor breakdown and a long waiting period of feeling scared and helpless, I am happy to say that my sister and nephew are healthy and life is good.

Several weeks on the road so far has given me a lot of time to think, and there are some things that are standing out and becoming very clear.

When I piled up most of my stuff into a storage unit I honestly had the thought of tossing a match behind me as I walked away, and just being done with it all. Not because I'm a pyro, there is just absolutely nothing in there that I need anymore.

I haven't even used a third of the stuff I packed in my bag for that matter. I have been drastically downsizing for years, and now that I am down to a duffel bag, two dogs and a car, I kind of feel like switching to a backpack instead.

After having so much stuff and being trapped by self imposed shackles for a very long time, this is the first time in my life I have ever been truly free. There has always been something controlling my life whether it be family, military, school, marriage, job or stuff. And, now, there is just me. It's liberating and a bit intimidating at the same time.

It's been interesting reflecting on a time when I was obsessively driven to have MORE. More money, more things, more credentials, more titles, more friends... At one time in my early/mid-20's I had two houses, three vehicles, a few bikes, two sets of golf clubs, a couple computers, six handguns, a home gym, a kayak... and a $6000 couch. What?!

I inherited some money from my mom's death and leveraged it to get home loans, student loans, and lots of toys. I ended up with a shitload of stuff and debt.

The money was not mine, and I did not want it. So, I blew it all.

Once there was nothing else I could buy to mask my grief or fulfill my need for external validation I began simplifying. Surprisingly, the less I had the better I started to feel. Like I had lifted a weight off of my shoulders.

Now that I have almost nothing left, I never want to go back! Everything I need in life is right here with me in this car.

Freedom, adventure, and unconditional love. I couldn't ask for anymore more.

Fearing Happiness

I consider myself a "happy" person, most days. I've learned to find happiness in the little things -- my 3-legged cat chasing her tail, a sunny day in Austin, getting to be "Aunt Tatum" or "Auntie Taters" to the kids I love. Those all bring me immense joy, and they are all passing moments. I have come to peace with the idea that happiness comes in waves, and have learned to enjoy it while it's here then patiently await its return when it's gone.

Recently my life has started to feel like everything is exactly as it's supposed to be. I'm happy with the direction of my business, my relationships, my body, my home, my future... I am genuinely content with the way life is unfolding. Yet, I repeatedly catch myself sabotaging my happiness by distracting myself with things that don't bring me joy and don't align with my goals. It's like "happy" is a bright light that I can't look at for too long because it starts to hurt my eyes.

The moments of feeling happy are often followed by a feeling of intense anxiety that I can't quite pinpoint. And, I don't know why, but I want to crawl under the covers for awhile like a scared child, and make the world go away.

I've discussed this frustrating cycle with a therapist, a life coach, close friends and my big sister looking for insight. We chatted about maybe fear of success, possibly fear of failure, fear of money, feelings of being unworthy, a simple need to retreat and recharge, etc.

There is possibly a grain of truth to the feelings of worthiness or need for quiet time, but to be completely honest, there is absolutely nothing in this world that I fear anymore. Seriously. After 8 years in the military, a crazy childhood and adventurous adulthood, there is really not one thing I can think of that scares me. Even death or public speaking. So, what the hell?! Why all the self sabotage and anxiety?!

Last night at dinner, I was involved in a relatively deep conversation, and got asked when I was the happiest. Hmm. I didn't have an answer. I have moments of feeling extremely happy all of the time, but overall happy? Maybe never. So, we moved on and finished dinner. Then, as we were leaving it hit me. This time 12 years ago was the last, and maybe only time I've felt completely happy. I remember it very clearly.
Happy family a few months before our mom passed away.
There was about a few month window when I was 19 and remember wanting to pinch myself because life seemed surreal. After a childhood full of nasty custody battles, tension, competition, and intense fighting between me and my mom and sister, we were all friends for the first time ever. My sister and I got an apartment together in a fancy Scottsdale neighborhood, I had finished 6 months of military training which gave me a new confidence and maturity, I got hired as a personal trainer at a prestigious gym, my college journey had just begun and after a lifetime of being a skinny tomboy I finally had boobs. Boys who had never noticed me in high school were now wanting to take me out and I loved every second of this new attention. 

I remember standing in the kitchen of my new apartment having a conversation with my mom and her telling me how proud and inspired she was by all I had accomplished already. She was excited to see what was to come and knew that I was going to go far in life -- first and last time to ever have a conversation like that with her. Within weeks of that phone call she found out that she had terminal cancer. 

I dropped many of my classes at school to help take care of her during the day, then would put on a brave face at work in the afternoons. She soon went to hospice, so after school and work during the day I'd stay up with her at night. My sister and I broke our lease to move into her home and take care of her affairs. It was all very sudden and there was no updated will so we had to talk to lawyers and bankers and nurses and doctors and eventually morticians to get things sorted out. She was dead within two months. Our old family dog died just days later, so we had a joint funeral for both of them. 

My relationship with my sister became volatile under the stress. The job that I loved so much quickly went sour after my much older boss came onto me, then became very cold after I turned down his advances. He called me into his office one afternoon a couple months after she died, saying that he had recently lost his mom too, so he knew exactly what I was going through, and that I had to move on. He wondered when he could expect me to get back to being one of his top sales performers.

Unable to deal, I began throwing giant parties in my childhood home and drinking until I passed out. I woke up many times fully clothed in the front yard or on the floor not remembering how I got there. My life had gone from perfection to hell in a matter of months. I knew that I was way off course and something had to change. I woke up one morning, grabbed the phone from the side of my bed, and called my best friend in Dallas. I told her I was moving there. I then called to rent an apartment, packed up my car, and left with my cat, "Picky." 

Fast forward 12 years, after lots of life lessons, good therapists and amazing friends, I am at peace with everything both good and bad. I'm confident and driven, and on the brink of being blissfully happy once again... And, that scares the hell out of me. 

Why I Joined the Army And What I Learned From The Experience

When I was growing up my mom made certain that my sister and I understood that Veteran's Day and Memorial Day were not just days out of school to be lazy or a day off work for adults to barbeque and drink. They were days to reflect and be grateful for those who sacrificed.

She was a young woman during the Vietnam War and had been deeply affected by the way veterans were treated upon return and had a high school boyfriend take his own life after coming home from war. She knew the price that people paid for our freedom and used military holidays as an opportunity to pause and give thanks.

I remember visiting my great grandma's house as a little girl and feeling so much admiration for the men in uniform on her mantel. They looked so tough and handsome. The old man who lived across the street had served in World War II, Vietnam, Korea, the Cold War, etc. He gave me many of his Army medals and ribbons and told me G-rated war stories. I found it fascinating.

I remember sitting in my high school history class thinking that the common theme in most of the stories was the Army. Many of the people in our history books that made a meaningful impact had served.

One afternoon during my senior year an Army recruiter approached me and asked if I was going to college and how I was going to pay for it. I said yes to college and no idea of how I would pay. She told me to go home and ask my mom. So I did, and her answer was, "I guess you better get a job." Ha! I actually had one, but wasn't making enough to afford college.

I went back the next day and told the recruiter I wanted to join. My mom knew nothing of this, in fact I spent weeks getting physicals, taking tests, picking what job I wanted and when it came time to sign an 8 year contract I apparently wasn't old enough. Oops!

The recruiter called my mom and asked her to come sign a waiver. She was stunned and said no. I got on the phone and reminded her that it was her fault I was patriotic and if she didn't sign now I was just going to join when I turned 18 anyway. She reluctantly came to the office, signed the papers, and proudly took pictures as I raised my right hand and I swore in that day.

Oddly enough, I didn't use the GI Bill or any military benefits. I turned down the $8K bonus if I'd become a nurse to be a diesel mechanic instead. The military was never about the money, it was about the service and the experience. I took a lot of pride in being a part of something so big with so much history. It was an honor to give back to my country.

Those years taught me so much about life, discipline, how to "suck it up" and push to my breaking point and beyond. There were times I was full of pride and times when I hated every second of it. I learned how to deal with sexual harassment, what it felt like to be a minority, and how to work as a team with people even if you do not like them personally. I learned about integrity, and honor, and doing the right thing even when no one is looking. And, as a Drill Sgt I learned how to make it look like you have your shit together even when you don't.

I got what I wanted from the Army. The sense of belonging to something bigger than myself, and the feeling of pride for being part of what makes our country so great. On days like Veteran's Day I feel a sense of nostalgia for that time in my life, being a part of this incredible group, and gratitude for all of the people who served and continue to serve.

How a bike ride and a new cd changed my life.

Last winter I signed up for a 3 day bike ride through the Rocky Mountains with Velo View Bike Tours. I thought that having 9 months to train for the ride would be the inspiration I needed to become a cyclist.

I even proclaimed that I was becoming a cyclist in a blog post about making the switch from running to cycling. I made a similar mistake years ago when I signed up for a half marathon thinking that would turn me into a long distance runner.

Turns out, I'm a bit of a procrastinator! I also kind of like the thrill of a challenge. So, there was very little training involved, and it showed on the first hill of our high altitude journey.

Even though it was tough, I was bright eyed and bushy tailed. Happy to be in the mountains with great friends, nice weather, beautiful scenery, and on vacation. Yay!!

I made it the first day with the help of some energy bars, chocolate chips cookies, a few shots of espresso, and lots of encouragement. Even with my caffeine and sugar high, the steep climb and lack of oxygen took it's toll. Following the ride I couldn't even pretend that I hadn't gotten my butt kicked.

After a nice dinner and plenty of rest we were back at it the next day. This time I took my friends' advice and used chamois butt'r :).

We were a few thousand feet higher, and the first 25 miles were straight UP the mountain!!!! Seriously. WTH was I thinking signing up for this damn ride? I could be at a spa somewhere.

But, I finished the 50 miles that day with a bit of whining, some cursing, lots of drafting, and banana bread that I snagged from the continental breakfast that morning (carbs and sugar were my friend that day).

By the third ride, I couldn't pretend to be excited about getting my sore butt and legs back on the bike. As we loaded up the van and drove to our starting point I was thinking about how much I was ready to be done. I thought about staying behind and had to give myself a serious pep talk.

Even though many of my friends were experienced cyclists, I was the only personal trainer in the group. It's my job to motivate people and teach them how to be fit. There is no way that I wasn't going to finish. I convinced myself that I needed to set a good example, and that was the inspiration I needed to get going.

As we began the winding climb up the highest road in America my legs felt like lead. I clung to my friend's tire focusing on her wheel and pedaling one foot in front of the other. My knee was killing me, my hips hurt, my attitude was taking a turn for the worse. This was not looking good!

Around one of the turns I saw the Velo View van. Thank goodness! I stopped for a break, water, ibuprofen, and some tylenol cream (amazing stuff!). Everyone else had already gotten back on their bikes and I was having a hard time motivating myself to do the same.

As I was about to get going I looked in my bag to see if I had my iphone and headphones. I did! But, unfortunately there isn't an internet signal at the top of the world so I couldn't use the music apps. I opened iTunes on the off chance I had something to listen to.

Yes! The "recently purchased" folder had the Court Yard Hounds cd I downloaded before my trip. I pressed "play" and started back up the mountain.

The views were breathtaking. Every time I looked up to soak it in I was reminded about how far I still had to go. When I looked down at how far we had come I felt nauseous at how high up I was on the narrow mountain road. So, I starred directly in front of my wheel and watched the road go by.

I could make it those next 10 feet, so that's what I looked at. Before I knew it I had passed up the van a couple more times without needing to stop, and now there were only a few other cyclists in front of me.

The album I was listening to already finished and started over. I had gotten so lost in the songs that 45 minutes and several miles passed without me noticing it. I was feeling good and told myself that the faster I rode the faster it would be done. I surged forward knowing that I had less than 10 miles to the finish line!

Not long after, clouds rolled in and the wind picked up. It started to sprinkle and thunder. The temperature dropped drastically. I went deeper into the harmonies, layers of instruments and followed the stories in their lyrics. My body was numb. I grabbed onto words like, "I can journey on. I won't leave it all to fate. It's a choice you make. It's the road you take." And, "I look up and I smile at the clouds. I make a kiss and I throw a wish out."

The cd ends again, just a few miles from the top. The rain has turned to sleet. My hands and feet are painfully frozen.

I watch the road and pedal one foot in front of the other. Thinking maybe if I speed up I'll get warmer. The album plays for a 3rd time. Upbeat songs like PhoebeRock all night, and Watch your step give me a little extra much needed adrenaline.

Right about when I'm thinking it may be time to throw in the towel I pass a guy on a stand up elliptical bike. WHAT?! How in the world?! Ok, I'll be damned if I'm going to get beat by an elliptical biker.

"My eyes are wide. Aimless upward I will rise." I turn up the volume.

I stand up on the pedals and dig deep for one last push to the top. Switchback after switchback the allusive peak seems just out of reach, and the sleet has now turned into a snow storm. I make a final turn and see the Velo View van. Hallelujah!!

Shivering and numb it's all I can do to hand my bike to our tour guide and throw myself into the warm van where two other friends were already there and greeted me with open arms.

I did it.

In the weeks following my life feels different. I have a confidence in my ability that was missing before. It occurred to me that the last ride was not a physical accomplishment at all, but a mental one. When I reached my limit physically I dug deep and found strength much stronger than I'd ever find at the gym.

I have a whole new love and appreciation for the power of music. It transported me off my bike and into the songs. I don't think I would've made it to the peak that day without a comforting place to escape.

Reaching my limits and continuing anyway by looking only at the next step and shutting off the negative voices is a lesson I'll carry with me. I am so grateful for the reminder of how much can be accomplished when I put on good tunes and keep moving forward.

Year in Review

I have only a couple days left of being 30 years old and can't help but think about what a crazy year this has been. I'm so incredibly excited to celebrate 31 this weekend. It isn't any sort of milestone birthday, but it is possibly my most significant to date. Last year at this time I set a clear intention to deal with the issues I was facing and not carry them with me as I moved on with my life.

My 30th birthday was in the middle of a pending divorce. I was feeling lost, sad, and embarrassed. The birthday celebration itself ended up being fun because my incredible friends and family rallied around me serving as a welcomed distraction. Though the future looked like a scary uphill climb.

Trying not to repeat past mistakes of bottling up grief only to have it bite me later, I decided that I would give myself one year as a "freebee". I could be a total screw-up, sow wild oats, not worry about money or consequences, be irrational, and use the divorce as an excuse to do whatever I felt like I needed to do in order to heal and move forward. This year was about rediscovering myself, which did not leave room for a relationship or anyone else's issues but my own (not easy for a recovering codependent!).

I am so happy to say that "30" has met and exceeded even my wildest expectations. Turns out that I didn't have nearly as many wild oats as I thought. Acting out and letting myself be free of any constraints didn't look anything like I thought it would!

The first 30 years were pretty action packed, but I have learned, experienced, and grown more in the past 362 days than I have in all of the previous combined. To summarize this year seems like an impossible task, but here is an attempt:

It began with a week long celebration with incredible friends and my awesome sister who all stepped up in a big way.

Went to the coast with my pups for their first ocean experience and camped on the beach. Still getting sand out of my car!

Spent a week in Quebec where I met wonderful people and fell completely in love with Montreal.

Visited MIT when they hosted the Dalai Lama, and his monks. Listened to their wisdom and felt their incredible presence.

Explored Boston, met up with a dear friend, and listened to James Taylor play an acoustic set.

Cut off 10 inches for 'locks of love' and a new me.

Got rid of over half my belongings and downsized to a tiny little apartment in Central Austin.

Rang in the new year backstage at the Willie Nelson show with my ex-sister-in-law, and got a hug from Willie as he went on stage just before midnight.

Took a "staycation" and spent 10 days and nights experiencing SXSW to the fullest.

Saw more amazing concerts than I can list, including Sam Beam/Iron and Wine, Patty Griffin and Robert Plant, Emmy Lou Harris, Ben Harper, Dixie Chicks, and Soundgarden...

Finally met my beautiful 20 year old half sister. And, ended a lifelong dysfunctional relationship with our father. 

Realized that traveling makes me very happy, and this is how I want to spend more of my days.

Visited LA, San Fran, Berkeley, Malibu, and Vegas over the holidays.

Spent quality time with my favorite boys.

Ran in an "undie run" for a great cause beginning the journey out of my comfort zone!
As I began to open up publicly I realized that I'm terribly insecure and afraid of being seen/vulnerable. I hired an amazing photographer who helped me overcome that fear.

Remembered just how much fun it is to shoot! 
Stopped pretending to be something I'm not and embraced being an introvert.

Stayed a week in Portland with a fantastic group of entrepreneurs. 

Fought Rick Perry's oppression and brought a tampon into the state capital. ...for real, google it. They weren't allowed!
There were also business successes and failures, lawsuits, crazy people, awesome people, new friends, old friends, as well as things too personal to share. I thought "30" was going to be about getting back to my old self, and I ended up discovering someone I never even knew. I am not my old self, and thank God! Turns out there is so much more to life than I ever imagined, and I've only scratched the surface. Letting go of any "should's" and "supposed to's" has opened a door that I have no doubt has changed me permanently. 

This year has been full of adventure, heartache, soul searching, loss and gain, discovery, and letting go. What started as a year to be free of expectations or consequences has become a new life entirely. There is so much to look forward to in the near and distant future, and I am excited to see what lies ahead.

Overcoming my Fear of the Camera.

The gym I work with has needed to take a new headshot of me for a year. I've tried a couple times by actually showering and putting on makeup (compared to my typical rolling out of bed and putting my hair in a ponytail). Both times I stood there with a stiff smile, clenched jaw and hunched shoulders. It has been so frustrating that I cannot seem to just take the damn picture!! Hopefully the 3rd time will be a charm. :)

If you have read my previous posts you'll understand where this comes from. I have a paralyzing fear of feeling on display. The idea of this picture going on a wall indefinitely for all of the members to see is way too much pressure!!

The only pictures on my websites are some old head shots taken when I wasn't looking or an impromptu shot when I didn't have time to think about it. The only professional shoot I've ever done for my brand was with a group of moms and kids who I could hide behind in most of the photos. 

In order to become a big brand and successful entrepreneur I understand that I can't keep hiding. It's time to suck it up and get a professional picture for my website. I contacted a local photographer who has taken amazing pictures of some of my closest friends. He captured them so beautifully and I wondered if he might be able to do the same for me. To my surprise he emailed back and said we could meet the following morning to chat. AAHH! I kind of hoped he might be too busy, or too good of a photographer to work with me. 

We chatted over coffee discussing why I was there, what I was afraid of and what I hoped to gain from this experience. He showed me some of his incredible work and we brainstormed ideas about what would be a good fit for our shoot, and what was pushing too far or not far enough. 

As we finished I felt so comfortable that told him that I completely trusted him and would let him do what he thought was best. I agreed that it was time for me to push boundaries and get out of my comfort zone. He asked, "how about we start now?" ....WHAT?! ....NOW!?

Um, ok. I just said I trusted him and would push boundaries, so I didn't want to look like a liar. He walked me back into his studio and handed me a 1980's bathing suit and said, "try this on".

You have GOT to be kidding me! 

I reluctantly put it on. He grabbed his camera and walked me outside in broad daylight with joggers and other passersby. I was so nervous the muscles in my cheeks were twitching and my lips were trembling. He kept reminding me to breathe and relax. After 10-15 minutes we went inside, he uploaded the pics, and asked me which ones I liked. Ugh! The embarrassment continued!

But, to my surprise they weren't nearly as bad as I thought. He's good!! How in the hell did he make it look like I wasn't about to pass out? Impressive. I knew that it couldn't get any worse than that so I was excited to see what we could do when I was actually prepared.

We scheduled our photo shoot for a the following week and he told me to go shop at American Apparel to to get some fun, playful clothes. Hmm, I don't even like shopping for "normal" clothes. Not sure what "fun" clothes looked like. So, I bought about half the store and brought a bag of clothes and shoes from my own closet.

He picked a few interesting combos for me to wear and we drove around Austin stopping at several spots. He coached me and reassured me every step of the way. I was very uncomfortable, but felt so cared for. It was an incredible experience, and feels awesome to have faced this fear head on.

I am so grateful to Todd for taking me under his wing and making me feel safe enough to get this raw and vulnerable. I started out just needing a picture for my website, and ended up with a new friend and a new confidence. I can't thank him enough.

Visit Facebook if you'd like to see the rest of the pictures.