cool things i saw this week

I’m fired up because I’m going to eat Chinese food in Flushing, Queens with Anne and Aarthi tomorrow! I hope that you have a good Friday and an even better weekend. Here are some things I’m liking this week:

1. Want some no-nonsense writing advice? Read this.

2. Glenn Greenwald attacks the myth of Obama’s wussiness and inspired me to be a raging cynic of the media.

Keep reading

Heart located in the Great Barrier Reef.

I’ve recently had opportunity to exchange emails with the talented and adventurous Lauren regarding Advice for the Oz Bound. In one of her encouraging and thoughtful replies was this,

“That’s what life is all about, making the best decision that you can at the time, with what you know. We will never have everything figured out, and very rarely can you be 100% sure about any single decision. But I believe that deep down, we know what is good for us. And the fact that you even have the desire to pack up and try something new already sets you way ahead of the rest. So, so few people have that interest, or would ever have the guts to actually do it, so I’m proud of you!”

I’m going to do it. I’ve been talking about going back since my return flight landed in LAX the summer of 2008 after a semester abroad. I entertained the idea of moving there after college. But then there was that awkward post-grad year of being constantly in flux, not knowing what I was doing or “supposed” to be doing with my life … but I digress. Last Spring, I started researching the different Visa options and subtly dropping hints to my family and friends. 

Last summer, I began idly weaving a plan for departure. In this twenty fourth year, I will savor each of the seasons. Fall was beautiful. It almost felt like it was the loveliest fall ever and maybe it was because I had been waiting for it, or maybe it was just timing. This winter has proven to be more snow, more cold, and more ice than any other winter I can recall with an upwards of 80 inches of snow. I spent the holidays with my family and both my sisters flew up. I played my heart out this hockey season and capped it off with a 2-1 win scoring the game winning goal with five minutes left in the third period. At the end of the month, I’m flying down to visit my older sister in San Antonio for a long weekend, and toward the end of May I’m hoping to fly down to Phoenix to visit my younger sister. I will smile at the first flirting thaw of spring–the outside runs, the smell of lilacs and savor the upcoming MPLS summer of lakes, patios, camping, and friends. In July I will celebrate my golden 25th birthday and my head might explode. This September my mom is turning 60 and wants to take a trip with my sisters and me. I see this selfishly as my farewell trip; a send off.

Destiny has an Aussie friend she met randomly while in LA. He used to own one of the biggest publishing companies in Australia and then sold it. He has a house in Lennox Head (the beach where I learned to surf, which is twenty minutes or so from where I studied), and a house in Sydney. He just started another writing company and is going to start a Marketing company in Sydney. Destiny told him about my plans, and he emailed her this morning saying of course I should meet him when I get down there. She told me once, “I believe that one of my purposes in life to be the connection between all these wonderful friends I meet.”

As my loose deadline grows closer, I find myself contemplating serious and borderline essential decisions; whether to sell Big Red (my beloved truck I’ve had since my permit), when to apply for my Visa (after it’s approved you need to leave within 3 months), if I should start another part-time job like being a barista so I can save more money as well as have some Go To Skills for an easy side job etc.

I met with my old therapist last week for coffee to get his advice and input. I told him that my Mother has been voicing all of my hesitations, fears and concerns as a means to dissuade me e.g. You’re crazy to leave your job at such a great company, You will come back and be unemployed and (probably) broke, You’re making a mistake and will regret this …

He has known me since I was just sixteen and therefore also has known my parents. He told me most parents feel that it’s their Inherent Need to think logically for their children, to guide them for ‘What’s Best.’ He told me to live my life as loudly and free as possible, to not be afraid to be reckless so long as it’s not destructive. “Intuition trumps Intellect.”  

I have people down there still. The best friend I made lived in the apartment below me. We Skype when our schedules and timezones align. I will have a place to stay when I arrive. This feels so possible now. And as much as I am excited, I am also scared. I’m rereading The Alchemist and feel my Personal Legend will be found in Australia or perhaps just traveling there in and of itself will do. Today after the news from Destiny, I read this by the wonderful Holly

Go easy on yourself. At some point, even the A students need to coast for a while as a way to get their bearings and take stock on where they’re heading.  It’s a strange place to find yourself torn between doing what’s ‘right’ (perfectly and predictably) and doing what ‘feels right’ (risky!) and that doesn’t always come naturally to over-thinkers and overachievers because real life isn’t a mathematic equation where water always boils at 99.97.  Real life is tragically less scripted … 

I certainly don’t have it all figured out, but I know this much: as long as the world keeps spinning, we’ll all get where we’re going soon enough. None of us are having babies like we were at our mother’s ages and frankly that’s a good thing, because it means we have options they never had. We’ve been empowered with the choice to put ourselves first. To have children, or not. To get married, or not. To become a bread winner, a home owner, a world traveler or a difference maker – the options are overwhelmingly limitless. We’re a new class of women who’ve been told we can do anything, be anything and there’s a certain self-imposed expectation that comes with that: to choose right… 

Home is where your heart has always been: right there in your chest.

Here is to risk taking, heart following, and putting all the love you have into the universe and marveling as she loves you back. I’ve been dreaming of Fall a lot lately.

Navigating a solo adventure is a challenge because you own the role of both captain and co-pilot. I have to trust myself and my compass that West is West, but the truth is, I can’t read a map. I can’t even fold a map. And so, like every trip that involves the George Washington Parkway, I get lost. I take wrong turns and U-turns and sometimes I pull over and cry and it’s all part of the journey. I have to make room for it in my life, allow extra time for it in my commute. And the lesson for the week is that there is no glory or grandeur to be found in enduring the loneliness, no rewards for martyrdom. There is no shame in asking for help. In saying, I was wrong. In telling your friends, you’re happy they’re home. In telling your mother, you’re happy she called. In confessing that I need you.
—  Hollygonightly, I don’t quite remember how I discovered her blog, but I immediately fell in love with her writing. It is extremely comforting to read as we both strive and struggle to make new lives for ourselves in this “DC Metropolitan Area”. I, too, get lost on every driving adventure around here and 90% of the time end up crying about it.

GPOYW - The Pride Edition

Minneapolis has one of the biggest, gayest, Prides in the country. We’re expecting the upwards of 100,000 people this weekend. I tried to explain to Holly that it was basically like a college Homecoming Weekend on steroids and glitter. Everyone is happy, everyone is proud, everyone is love.

On Sunday I’ll be in the parade dancing on a float with my Jager Girls and Dudes. Come out to say hello. I’ll throw you some swag and do the robot. 

Openness and hospitality

Hospitality is the virtue which allows us to break through the narrowness of our own fears and to open our houses to the stranger, with the intuition that salvation comes to us in the form of a tired traveler. Hospitality makes anxious disciples into powerful witnesses, makes suspicious owners into generous givers, and makes close-minded sectarians into interested recipients of new ideas and insights. — Henri J. M. Nouwen in Ministry and Spirituality

The past few weeks we’ve been more diligent about our to-do lists, ticking off the small chores that never seem to get done under usual circumstances in an effort to bring more completion to our humble home. Base boards will get dusted, closets will be organized, the scraggly lawn shaped into more order.

The reason is that tomorrow we welcome the loveliest stranger-friend, someone we know and yet don’t know, someone who brings her own hospitality into our home by her presence, taking up life with us for a few days – going swimming, seeing our town, eating, drinking, talking, and sharing our lives and the connection that brought us together in the first place: keepers of blogs who came together in unexpected community.

I told Holly how I’m like this: How I try to clean the house as if the Queen is coming. Only thing, though I try, the finger smudges will still be on the glass, and the cat hair will fall on the floor right after vacuuming, and all will not be perfect as I’d like, though why should it be? My daily life is not.

Hospitality is a virtue and the root word hospes means “to have power”. The power of hospitality is in strangers becoming friends and neighbors, and in all the ways that Nouwen writes: turning the suspicious into the generous, the close-minded into the curious, the tired into the refreshed.

It’s a gift to be able to receive a guest. And I know already the power of openness: To receive another and to see through another’s eyes; to enlarge the walls of our home by another’s presence alone; to get life by opening a door.

We’ll dine under white lights, swim at the coldest and sunniest spot, sit in the yard and be changed – even a little – all in being together. And through being, see some bit of healing.

Saint Holly

In one hour, I am going to go to an appointed location near my home in Austin, per the instructions of one St. Holly – to be met by some kind of surprise that she’s arranged. The obvious question is: WHAT COULD SHE BE PLANNING?

I have to say that I am handling the uncertainty of all this with much aplomb. Just ask my husband about me and surprises. I don’t do them well. If I know a surprise is coming, I’ll pester and pester and ask and ask about all the particulars to get the secret out; and I don’t relent, usually. And sometimes I even correctly guess what the surprise is.

Will I be met by a clown for a singing telegram? A crate of monkeys to take home to the girls? Hot air balloon to take us all to Minnesota? I will update you here, I guarantee.

Cupcakes! (and so much more)

My girls and I drove to this place where I walked up to the clerk behind the counter and said most uncertainly, “Um, someone told me to come here between 4 and 6,” when I was promptly handed a box of these confections: six yummy cupcakes that on a sweetness Richter scale would register around 8.4, with their fluffy frosting and colorful sprinkles, and scrumptious, spongy, sugary cake.

“Cookie! Cookie!” Baby cried when she saw them, settling on only cupcakes for dinner and nothing else. Liesl, too: cupcakes!

I don’t know if I can properly tell why this sweet and thoughtful act – unexpected and a thousand percent delightful – stands out so extraordinarily, but I’m going to try:

Some of my best and closest friendships (and I only have a few best and close ones) are important to me because the friendship is based on a reciprocity wherein we share our foibles, voice our complaints, and present our worries and sadness in such a way that there is a common and shared experience of life. Other friendships, the ones that aren’t close, are filled with a bit more guardedness and a whole lot less understanding.

There is a religious sentiment that acknowledges confession’s power to cultivate joy in one’s life. The people I trust the most are those friends who don’t hesitate to tell me when they’ve yelled at their husband or kicked the dog or done any number of things. When I got to know Holly a little bit beyond the Tumblr blog, I found someone who is honest beyond words, uncommonly caring, and brave enough to reach out to someone like me at the time that she did. Knowing her made me feel less alone.

Sending our family cupcakes didn’t involve just the cupcakes. It cemented what I knew about Holly already, and it encouraged me – from more than 1,000 miles away – to live my small life here with gusto. To believe in the community of friends and the hope that comes after a bit of desolation.

As for the cupcakes …

… And then there were four.

“I’m doing this thing where I order champagne all the time because … I can.” Holly explained as she expertly wrung the neck of a fresh bottle, stifling the cork with a kitchen towel.

I arrived at her new place with tiny beers and tiny cupcakes for our Tiny Party of Two. It’s beautiful and artsy and warm and lovely. It’s very much Holly. Earlier that day, I read the piece she wrote about interviewing, which was sort of synchronistic because I had my Aussie phone interview three days prior and wanted to chat with her about it.

“Holy shit, Bre! I’m glad I got champagne!” Holly fills my glass and smiles.

I had the same reaction as Erica to her Animals Dressed as Humans prints. Before I left, she gave me a Huge hug (Holly gives the best hugs - fierce and sincere - finsirce?), and handed me this dapper fellow.

“When you get the job and move to Sydney, I want you to frame this in your new place and send me a picture, okay?”

She didn’t say “if”, she didn’t waiver, it was as if she already knew.

The big world of the backyard (and home)

I would like to learn, or remember, how to live. I come to Hollins Pond not so much to learn how to live as, frankly, to forget about it. That is, I don’t think I can learn from a wild animal how to live in particular…but I might learn something of mindlessness, something of the purity of living in the physical senses and the dignity of living without bias or motive.
–Annie Dillard

Charles gets home from work and goes out with Liesl to look at the garden. A friend comes to visit to enjoy sunshine and for the few days she’s here the air is lighter. More troublesome things are forgotten.

A baby dove falls to the ground in the evening, and then wanders off nowhere to be seen when no one is looking. We keep pets inside in the hope that doing so will encourage its safety. Plants grow, the rains come just a little bit (and when they don’t we water in between). In Charles’s words, “It’s spring." 

Learning the rules of the Mountain Fairy-Valley Fair game

Valley Fairy

Spying a hummingbird out the front window 

First bit of beans from the garden

Tomatillo in metaphorical bloom

His hands washing dishes

Laughing, life in blurry motion

Figs growing

Laughing (running away from camera)