Those Tricky Transitions

Life has a pretty dark sense of humor… and an odd way of teaching the most important lessons. There have been a lot of silly clichés in my head the past couple months as I try to look on the bright side; I am filled with gratitude even as I’m filled with grief and heartbreak. They make me laugh in their inadequacy yet utter perfection, like bad puns. Like “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” All I can think when I hear this is that I must be a compulsive multi-tasker, because I’m like “WHY NOT BOTH?!” Because both SO apply.

So, yeah, this happened…

Friends & Fam ~ it’s been hard for me not to say much about what’s going on, but as you all know, I am not good at keeping the feels in. And having the same conversation over & over is harder than I thought, so in the interest of keeping things simple, and not vaguebooking, even though this is likely going to spark a lot of attention we’re really not looking for, I feel it’s time to say something a bit more publicly:

James and I have been in transition for a bit now… our chapter as partners is closing. There is no way we couldn’t stay friends, but we’re trying to give each other some space. Letting go is hard, especially for me. This transition has been really difficult for both of us but after many conversations and tears, it’s just what must be. And so on we grow…

Please be a little extra patient and a little extra kind with us as we get thru this in our own ways, and please don’t bombard him with questions or advice or whatever. I am sharing this because it’s been harder for me not to say anything, and he is amazing and understanding about that even though he’s much more private on social media. We didn’t want to make a big deal out of our struggle when it could be so much worse…

So it is with a heavy heart that I share this with our loved ones, but please don’t worry. We’ll both be ok. Eventually. Change is hard, but that’s life. Thank you SO MUCH to everyone who has been there for us, listened, helped us both move and helped make this difficult time easier. Please know that there are no sides we’re asking you to pick. So grateful to have such an amazing support network. We love you!

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Change is never easy, but it’s pretty much all we’re guaranteed in life. It’s especially hard when you don’t see it coming, when it’s not your choice that brings it on, but maybe it’s even harder when it is… Endings are never easy for anyone. We all have our own ways of processing things. And the ways we process are always changing too. But one thing I have learned is that holding back doesn’t serve me. I am very sensitive and emotionally deep, which I’m sure is a bit intense.

Not everyone can handle my transparency and vulnerability, but writing, thinking and talking about what I’m feeling helps me process the sometimes overwhelming emotions I go through. It feels a little strange to share it online with friends and strangers, and may not always be safe to divulge too much. But when it comes to the real life shit we all go through as we grow, I can’t see a good reason not to talk about it. Sharing our stories and listening to the experience of others is how we connect. Connection is how we grow, create change and build community…

And so we begin this exercise in Letting Go…

I’m trying to see this lesson as a practice. One that makes me stronger, as hardship and heartbreak always do, and one that doesn’t let me harden my heart or hide its real, raw, pain but to feel it, flow through it, and then let it pass. The deep shit, the rock bottom, the darkness is what makes us human. Trudging through it all while refusing to give up all hope, walking in darkness without losing that tiny flicker of light that’s the pilot light of our hearts is what makes us learn and grow.

And so here We Grow…

Thank you, James, for sharing three wonderful years with me. Thank you for jumping in with me, probably a bit too soon, when it felt so right to be and live together. Thank you for supporting me and helping me shine, for seeing me and listening and just being there. For treating me as an equal and believing in me. I wish we had more time, but I’m glad you were wise enough to exit gracefully, and remain my friend.

I am left alone, with a heart ripped open, missing what we had and lost, but grateful to have experienced a love I always believed was possible, a connection deeper than any I’ve felt and a relationship that left me far, far better and more fulfilled than when it began.

These words popped into my head today so I had to write them down in one of many little books of snippets and bits of wisdom I keep around… “The good news is: You Will be STRONGER. The bad news is: It will hurt & it won’t be easy…”

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This is hard. Gut-wrenching, heart aching, breaking down kinda hard. It always is. Especially when it comes to love — for better or worse, I’m all in, and my love can be a bit overwhelming. But there wouldn’t be highs without lows, and life is all about dancing on the edge of darkness and light… Or at least those are the pretty poetic things I tell myself as I nurse this heavy heart and try to take care of myself while simultaneously worrying way too much about him and wondering how he truly feels and what went wrong.

Just keep swimming… Just keep swimming… Just keep swimming…

We’re not the only ones wading through the muck. And it could be SO much worse. Those cliche silver linings can make all the difference. And so can amazing and supportive friends and loved ones. Grateful and grieving all at the same time. I suppose life is full of such dichotomies. C’est la vie. <3

Sweet September Summertime Magic

It’s hard for me to believe that it’s late September already. This year has truly flown by… I suppose that happens when you’re living the dream!

This weekend James and I embark on our last festival adventure of the year, and our second flow arts retreat this year, Pacific Fire Gathering. We went for the first time last year and it was one of our favorite weekends ever. I am so ready to finish up a packed festival season with one final family reunion ~ an intimate, flow arts focused retreat of our spinnerd flowmies on the beautiful Oregon coast. We can’t wait!

We are still recovering from Enchanted Forest… Wow. My heart swells with the memories made, the hard work and little sleep, the bonds cemented and the family found. I am so ridiculously grateful that even thinking about it brings me to tears… Just… Wow. Thank you.

Flower of Life at the Dance Temple

I have truly busted my ass this year, but it doesn’t always feel like work, even when I’m going from one job to the next to the next and staying up late working. Some of it has been familiar territory, but most of it has been completely new to me. It’s been a steep learning curve and I still have so much more to learn and explore. Thankfully I have been able to work with inspiring people and branch out to social media marketing and event production while keeping my part-time web design contract with PETA, providing some stability while I expand my skill set in new areas after hours. But quite honestly, I’m ready to hibernate for the winter and catch up on my web design training and flow arts practice again! After a decade of doing design work, getting into a new field and getting involved with producing some of my favorite events has been a breath of fresh air to my life and I am so excited to keep doing ALL THE THINGS!

Enchanted Forest marked the culmination of working on three consecutive festival production cycles with three (somewhat overlapping) really amazing teams. In addition to social media and marketing support, I also helped co-coordinate the Flow Zone at EF this year, one of eight workshop areas focused on flow arts and spinning. We had a small workshop area near the main stage shaded by beautiful oak trees, and every time I walked by, the area was full of happy people learning new moves and props. I was SO proud to see so much play and joy happening in that space, well attended workshops and lots of beginners trying flow arts for the first time.

EF Flow Zone

 

There was a moment on Sunday afternoon that completely made my weekend… I was hanging out with friends dancing to Chali 2na and behind us, in the flow zone, we saw a toddler wearing nothing but a diaper and ear protection rocking out with his dad, both with shiny new flow wands they’d gotten from Aileen Lawlor’s workshop. The dad was practicing his flow to the music while the little guy held his wand in the middle, dancing around clumsily and waving it in his hand with a huge grin on his face. They rocked out together all afternoon in blissful moments of the most adorable flow magic. Just one of many magical memories…

We were posting to social media throughout the event, but since the wifi hot spots onsite were painfully slow, Jonah and I had to drive into Laytonville each day to get posts scheduled, check messages, and update our networks to rally the family to our gates. We still have quite a bit of space at Black Oak Ranch to fill, but we had a bunch of on-site ticket sales especially on Sunday. We had a huge media team, a big expansion of offerings with 8 different workshop areas, 4 stages and a variety of music programming, awesome performance artists, a sexy sauna and bathhouse, and a brand new beautiful venue to enjoy as the fruits of our months of work and organization, so there was a LOT going on and I was running all over the place working on a little of everything (and playing too – one can never be too busy for an impromptu photo shoot).

Photo by Edward Clynes
Photo by Edward Clynes

Though our fire spinning performance time was cut short, I got to fire hoop on the main stage with Liquid Stranger and James and I even got to meet him afterwards. We also got to watch Koan Sound from backstage, get our minds melted by Ott, get serenaded to sleep from the nearby Dance Temple, and we had sound in our camp with Acacia Beats and all kinds of guest DJs playing throughout the weekend. The performances were top notch, the music was amazing, but it was the people I shared the weekend with that really made this one memorable.

Camp Higher Porpoise Peeps

In between running around everywhere and working, I did get to enjoy some of the festival. It was awesome getting to hang out with friends from Lucidity, Once Upon a Festival and other festivals, flowmies from flow fests, local friends, our Enchanted Forest and Camp Mendoland families… but seeing us all coming all together and creating Camp Higher Porpoise this year was simply mind-blowing and heartwarming. James’s DJ crew Acacia Beats and a bunch of our Mendo friends joined forces with the fine folks we camp with at Raindance (which was canceled this year) to create the most amazing glampfest I have ever been lucky enough to be a part of. We rented a huge tent, had power and sound, a yoga swing, carpet and squish, lights and a badass lounge area in our camp just behind the Dance Temple. So many friends from various parts of our lives collaborated on a theme camp that was so plush, we had people asking what part of the festival we were and producers and musicians coming back again and again to hang out, play music, or get buffed with the car buffer on the massage table. SO GOOD. My friends are such badasses and DAMN do we know how to have a good time. Camp Higher Porpoise / Mendoland, we fucking rock!

The Raising of the Porpoise

The weekend went pretty smoothly but of course it flew by way too fast. As we worked, played, learned, connected, and danced, my heart swelled. This is where I was meant to be. These are my people. And I actually helped make this magic happen! Like I said, WOW.

But Enchanted Forest was not the last of our summer adventures. For Labor Day weekend, James and I drove up to Boise, Idaho to hang out with my family. We stayed at the family cabin in the beautiful mountains of McCall with my grandparents, parents, aunt, and my sister, her fiancé, and their adorable dog Bisbee.

We ate well, caught up, did a little planning for my sister’s wedding next summer (!!!!!), took a boat ride around Payette Lake and rode bikes in Ponderosa State Park. It was a long overdue and really nice visit, but I’m glad we’ll be going back for Christmas because it wasn’t quite enough family time. James got to meet more of my family and he really bonded with our fur-niece, he and Bis are SUPER tight now. 😉 She was a bit terrified of the boat though…

Family Time in McCall

As we’ve been decompressing and preparing for one last hurrah this weekend, I have enjoyed being home, cooking delicious food from my garden, and playing catch up after a whirlwind production season. I am SO looking forward to this fall, when I can stay home for a while, catch up on design and flow training, clean and purge our house so we can look for a new one, hibernate with my babycakes and just RELAX for a bit. Thankfully the next trip after PacFire will be for Thanksgiving, when I finally get to meet James’s mom in Southern California.

Whew! Life sure has been amazing lately. Sometimes I can’t believe how lucky I am to be living it. Thank you all so much for being a part of this magical journey!

And now I leave you with some inspiring words from Prince Ea, whose videos I’ve been digging lately:

 

 

 

April Fools in Love

Kissy kissy with our Sprinkletons

I have never been able to pull of a believable April Fools prank (I’m a terrible liar) but I think our little joke actually got some people today! Hehehehe! APRIL FOOLS!

Last night James and I joked about pulling something silly on Facebook for April 1st. We decided it would be hilarious to see everyone’s reactions if we “broke up” and changed our statuses on Facebook to “single.” Then this morning as we both logged in and were about to do it, James saw all the relationship status options and decided it would be even funnier to pretend to be engaged. Plus it’s a little more positive, don’t wanna jinx ourselves! So we counted down and both changed the status at the same time (which was very reminiscent of the day we decided to make our new relationship “Facebook official” almost two years ago…). The likes and comments started flowing in immediately, but James had to go to work and I had a full day ahead of me, so we went on with our days. (The photos Facebook chose to display are a little odd, right? I proposed with a hat pin – see!)

Engagement April Fools Joke

Thankfully a few of our friends know us well enough to know that this was a prank and started calling our bluff. I got a text from my best friend in Idaho saying “You can’t play with my emotions like that! ;)” and the sweet congratulatory comments kept rolling in, while it seemed that more people caught on to the joke on his post than mine… It has been really hard not to totally give it away!

And now I am going to feel a bit bad when I have to break this news to all of our family and friends… because it’s incredibly sweet seeing all these comments and all this support. Apparently we’re not the only ones who think we make an epic match! And I’m also very glad we decided to get fake engaged instead of fake break up, because then everyone would be panicked and sad instead of excited and happy for us – though maybe that one wouldn’t have been as believable? 🙂

This has been fun! Best April Fools joke I’ve attempted yet! I really wasn’t expecting to fool so many people! But this little prank has also made me realize many things about this very special and amazing relationship that I am so lucky to be in.

For the first time in my life, I am with someone that I completely trust with my heart and my life. I am with someone that I am overjoyed to share life with and proud to call my partner in crime, and someone who feels the same way about me. But most importantly, I am finally with someone that truly sees and values my worth and is not afraid to let me shine (or loudly speak my mind, or express myself however I see fit) as I walk by their side, and someone who treats me as a complete equal. Realizing this fact simply FLOORS me with gratitude.

I have not always been so lucky, as many who have known me for a while know, and I have never felt so well matched.  It’s nice that other people can see that too.

The thing is, I don’t have any fears of James walking out of my life, but I actually like the fact that he is completely free to do so if he chooses. We are both very independent creatures by nature, but our bond and the unspoken commitment we have is the strongest force I have ever felt. I know he’s a hottie and that others are quite likely going to notice that, but for some reason I don’t feel the heat of jealousy rise up in my chest when I think about him with other women or see him talk to someone attractive. I know I have nothing to worry about. And I hope he knows the same. I don’t even need to bother filling my head with such nonsense. Knowing this feels amazing, because it was not always the case for me in the past.

The notion of legitimizing love with a legally binding contract completely kills the romance for me. Which is odd, because I am a total sap who cries her eyes out at romantic comedies (or even overly sappy commercials) and has to remember to wear waterproof mascara and bring tissues to weddings. I have no problem with long-term commitment or the idea of marriage. I love weddings and children, but I don’t really have a desire for either in my own life, and I’m not sure if I ever genuinely have. I’ve found that my relationships are happiest without the pressure that comes along with expectations of having to take things to the next step. And I never ever again want my partner to have to be asked when he’s going to “make an honest woman out of me” – blech! Thankfully, I found someone who feels very similarly and allowing our relationship to unfold naturally has created the most beautiful love story I could have ever imagined.

I much prefer to think of a romantic relationship, of true love, as a choice we make every single day. Every day I wake up next to the sexiest man alive and I say “YES” to him and to us. I CHOOSE HIM every single day, and day in and day out, HE CHOOSES ME. We don’t make this choice because of some commitment or promise we have spoken, we don’t choose it because society expects us to, or because of a legal contract, a financial obligation, or even a sense of duty, we are free to choose anything or anyone in this world, and yet we choose each other in every moment and every chance we get. And that, to me, is fucking BEAUTIFUL. Why mess with a good thing?

I’m pretty unconventional and I loathe being told what to do (especially by societal norms – ha! patriarchy, you can suck it!) – so I know this attitude is not for everyone and I have no judgement towards anyone who feels differently… To me, having the freedom to choose anything you want, but choosing to love and be with a particular person over and over again, is WAY more meaningful than spending a small fortune on ring and a wedding and then signing a legal document saying you’ll only love that person for the rest of your days or else deal with stressful legal bullshit on top of an already stressful breakup. (And don’t even get me started on the moral qualms I have about the diamond industry…). Not to say that I am totally against marriage or we’ll never do it, but if we had the kind of money for an engagement ring and a party, we would be buying property and traveling around the world. I don’t even like wearing rings!

A few of our friends picked up on the joke in our posts today, and we thank them for knowing us so well. And for those who we tricked and who are slightly disappointed, we’re sorry, we know it would be one hell of a party… er… more like a festival…

So, sorry if you totally fell for our little April Fools’ joke on Facebook today… hehehe! We’ve been laughing our asses off about it all day while we’ve kept you in suspense! But seriously, even this perpetually online, social media obsessed nerd would have more class than to announce an engagement with a relationship status update on Facebook—our families and close friends would all be bombarded with at least ten sappy kissy-faces-with-ring-bling photos via text message before anything ever reached social media. And yes, mom, you would definitely be getting a phone call right off the bat! (Not sure if my mom saw the shenanigans today on Facebook today, to be honest… she might know me too well to be fooled, though).

We may not have any plans to make this thing “official” any time soon, but we are touched by all your comments and words of support. It’s good to know I picked a good one this time! I think I’ll keep him! For as long as he’ll have me, at least…

We make an epic team and we’re glad everyone in our lives agrees, but we don’t need a legal contract or a ring to know that. Power couple status is plenty good for us for now. Here’s to many more adventures together!

Zip Line Canopy Tour on Ometepe, Nicaragua 2014

Endless Gratitude

This time of year makes me quite sappy. I am currently listening to the Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s Pandora station, taking a break from making Christmas cookies. To my left is a small pile of colorfully wrapped gifts addressed to James and I, and behind me is a well-fed cat cuddling into a fuzzy blanket on the couch. I have a roof over my head, food in my fridge and cupboards, plenty of work to keep me busy and secure, and a life full of people I love. And I am wondering how it could be possible that I got so ridiculously lucky.

Holiday Cheer - our tiny tree for our tiny house.
Holiday Cheer – our tiny tree for our tiny house.

While enjoying a Thanksgiving weekend with extended family in the Portland area this year, I was struck by this deep sense of gratitude a few times. When my dad’s side of the family gets together (The Pru Crew, and then some) we top out at well over 30 people. I met three new babies in my own family and one belonging to a good friend from high school on my trip. I marveled as I shared food, games, small talk, and stories with my family how amazing it is that we all get along relatively well, enjoy seeing each other, and are all relatively healthy and happy functioning humans doing amazing things (like raising twins – holy cow, my cousin just had the second set of twins in the family and I thought one baby sounded like work; two at the same time of the same age?!?! Yeah, parents are superheroes, and parents of twins are super-duper heroes). I’m not sure what I ever did to deserve to be born into a happy, healthy family support system like this, but I sure am grateful. Call it privilege or an “original birthday gift” (in my sister’s words, more on that later), I am a very lucky girl. And I am very thankful that I have such a loving, supportive, and pretty damn functional family and family of friends.

Pru Crew assembling on Thanksgiving.
Pru Crew assembling on Thanksgiving.
Braxton and Koleson, my cousin's twins and two of the four new babies I got to meet on my trip.
Braxton and Koleson, my cousin’s twins and two of the four new babies I got to meet on my trip.

After being stuck in Portland waiting for car repairs (which VW ended up paying for due to it being a known issue – yet another reason to be grateful!) for four days longer than expected, I made the very long drive home. That night I put on my onesie footie pajamas and watched Adventure Time while snuggling with my man in his onesie and our cat on the couch in our cozy tiny house. I may feel like I am struggling at times, but it’s simple little moments of bliss like these that make me realize just how great life is, and how very blessed I am to have the life I do. Especially at this time of year, the warmth and goodness that fills my life seems at sharp contrast with those whose struggles are far more burdensome than mine. As hard as it is, I urge you to open your eyes and your hearts and do whatever you can to support the less fortunate, oppressed communities and those in poverty. We all have something we can give… like perhaps a donation that could help improve an orphan’s life in a third world country, or one that could give cold neglected dogs shelter this winter?

Onesie snuggles, pizza, and Adventure Time right after getting home. Ahhh this is home and it is SO GOOD.
Onesie snuggles, pizza, and Adventure Time right after getting home. Ahhh this is home and it is SO GOOD.

And on that note, I leave you with some very inspiring words from my sister, Rachel Prusynski, who may be my little sister but is also one of my heroines. I have always loved this speech (and admired her bravery for being able to deliver it so eloquently) that she gave at the high school graduation ceremony of the high school we both attended, only 5 years after she had graduated from there, in 2010. I re-read and remember these words whenever I am feeling the weight of my own problems that seem to eclipse the rest of the world. Reading this helps me to put things in perspective and realize just how lucky I am with what I already have in life.  I realized the only place I could find the text of this speech was on her Facebook page, so I am sharing the speech here to give this inspiring message a bit of a wider audience. Hope you don’t mind, sis, but I just have to share this brilliance with the world. <3

Rachel Prusynski’s Bishop Kelly High School Graduation speech 5/30/2010

Thank you and good afternoon. I feel very honored to be here.
But I do have a confession to make. When I was thinking about what I wanted to talk to you about today, I realized that I don’t remember the subject of the speech, or even who the speaker was, five years ago at my own graduation from BK. I apologize to whoever that person is, but I figure either I was too preoccupied by my itchy graduation gown to pay attention, or maybe the speaker just didn’t make enough of an impact on me. So I decided that while I can’t do anything about that horrible polyester tarp that you’re wearing, if nothing else, even if I can’t inspire you or change your life in my allotted 5-8 minutes, at least maybe I’ll say something that will strike you enough that you’ll remember it five years from now.

But first I have a second confession. I’m barely twenty-three years old, just graduated high school in 2005, and I have no idea what I’m doing here. What could I have possibly done in the five short years that are separating me from you that gives me enough infinite wisdom to qualify me to send you off to the next stage in your life? It could have something to do with the fact that Mr. Coulter sat in the audience when I spoke to my college graduating class and he liked what I had to say. But more likely it has to do with the fact that I’ve seen and lived through things in places around the world that not many twenty-three year olds have been fortunate enough, but also unlucky enough, to experience.

But here’s where I want to start with you. Guess what? High School is nothing like real life. No matter if that realization elicits feelings of excitement, gratitude, or remorse and panic, it’s true. Everything is about to change. Everything. Even the part of your brain, called your orbital gyrus, that determines your beliefs, personality, morality, and behavior hasn’t stopped developing. That fact may have just made some parents in the audience breathe a massive sigh of relief, but it’s true. Everything could change starting today, but only if you allow it to.

I know that the next four years, no matter where you’re headed, will offer a ridiculously overwhelming amount of options for you. But coming from the same seat you’re all sitting in, here’s one thing that I wish somebody had told me. No matter what your plans are, I encourage you to leave. Go. As far away as possible and as many times as possible. Leaving, going anywhere else at some point in college or the next stage of your life, is probably one of the best ways to allow all sorts of changes to happen. And don’t think that even if you’re headed out of state or across the country for college, that that necessarily counts. Realize that an idyllic ivy-covered college campus in New England can be just as sheltered of an environment as staying at home with your parents. Speaking of parents, when I asked my mom what she thought I should say today, she told me not to forget about speaking to the parents. Even though my own mom and dad almost lost me to a collapsed building in Haiti, my mother still said I needed to tell you to not be afraid to let your children leave. Because there are things in this world that just don’t exist here. And these things need to be witnessed firsthand, encountered at close range, for the true magnitude of the experience to be felt and any sort of real lesson to be learned.

So I want to share with you some of my own firsthand painfully close-up experiences that I allowed to change everything for me. As a disclaimer, I will mention that what I’m going to say is similar to what I spoke about last year at the University of Portland’s commencement ceremony. That’s not because I didn’t have time to write a new speech, but because even after the earthquake in Haiti changed everything; after it turned my world upside down; after it made me question some of the most fundamental beliefs I had carried with me, not only did what I am about to share with you survive the upheaval that Haiti brought to my life, but it was strengthened by it. The thoughts I shared with my own graduating class a year ago were fortified by my experience in Haiti, and when you can ride a seven-story building to the ground and be trapped under rubble and get evacuated by helicopter to Cuba because of injuries, and when your best friend who gave a year of her life to work with orphans and kids with mental disabilities dies in that same rubble you were pulled from, when all that can happen and you still believe in something, when that something is all you have left and you are able to rebuild off of that foundation and pick up the pieces and live on, you know the foundation is good.

My foundation is something I call the original birthday gift. And I’m about to tell you what that means.

I’ve spent some time in the two poorest countries in the western hemisphere; Haiti and Nicaragua. They are beautiful, but also terrible. Traveling to these types of places is not a vacation, it is not relaxing, it is not even pleasant half the time. But what I brought back with me, my foundation, was a million times worth it.

In Haiti I held babies that at three and a half months old were only about the size of a grapefruit, I hugged children born with AIDS who never knew the mothers that gave them their death sentence, I did physical therapy with kids stricken by entirely preventable diseases like meningitis and malnutrition. In Nicaragua I drove through a massive landfill called La Chureca and watched thousands of people dig through mountains of burning garbage looking for food or something valuable enough to sell. The young girls who lived in the dump would be sold as prostitutes to the garbage truck drivers so their families could eat. The little boy I saw climbing over a pile of trash would never have an education, much less a full stomach.

And that’s when I realized something. Something so important that if you have not listened to a word I have said so far, if you are like me and won’t remember this speech in five years, please listen now. Haiti and Nicaragua and all of my travel experiences have taught me one essential thing. I did nothing, absolutely nothing, to ensure that it wasn’t me that was born into that garbage dump or born with AIDS to a mother that abandoned me. None of us chose to be born into these lives where we have food and clean water and families that can afford to send us to BK and maybe to college. We did not earn this incredible blessing. It was a gift. An original birthday gift.

You are here through no fault or effort of your own. You are probably healthy and full from breakfast and you have a high school education and a future, all stemming from your original birthday gift.

But there’s a bit of a catch. It’s as if your original birthday gift made you start your life already in the red and in debt to the world. As potential future college students figuring out student loans and how to pay for school, you’re probably thinking “great, more debt. The last thing I need.” But original birthday gift debt isn’t monetary, it just comes with some responsibilities. All you have to do is try to start deserving your gift. And the great thing is, every morning you wake up, you have a new chance to do something extraordinary. And please don’t think that you have to be a valedictorian or a world traveler or someone rich and famous to do it. My friend Molly that died after deciding to move to Haiti to work with orphans had an average grade point average, slept til noon, ate copious amounts of Taco Bell, and had an unhealthy obsession with Diet Dr. Pepper and America’s Next Top Model. She is the perfect example that ordinary people can do extraordinary things. I can’t tell you how to give back, or which of your talents to use to pay back your debt. But I know you’ll find your way to give back to the world in exchange for your original birthday gift. But know that you have the power to turn your life into one big thank you note. But the last thing I want to say is that Molly is also the perfect example that you have to start writing that thank you note now because you never know what might happen, so please wake up tomorrow and start paying back your debt. Don’t let today be the best day of your life.

Thank you.

All I can think of to say after that is: Thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you, for my original birthday gift. I strive to keep trying (and trying harder) to live my life as one long thank you note. I hope you’ll join me. 🙂

Reflecting on an Amazing End to Festival Season

Almost a month has passed already since Foreverland, which marked the end to our festival season this year. Since we started off early with Envision in February, it felt like a really LONG season. We only went to seven festivals, but with a couple back to back festival weekends and street teaming, volunteering, and working at over half of them, it was a very busy festy season. And a seriously amazing year in general… wow.

It has been hard to come up with the words to describe the past couple of months – they have flown by and the only way to summarize is to say that I’ve been overwhelmed (in a good way), extremely busy, and of course, overflowing with inspiration and ideas to keep me very very busy through the winter and into 2015.

One thing I must say is that I am in complete and utter AWE at some of the people I have been working with and surrounded by lately. Sometimes I have to pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming because of how amazing life is. The transformational festival community, and especially the flow arts community, have recently opened up even further to me, filling me with a massive dose of inspiration, creative energy, and motivation to hustle my ass off and share this magic light we are co-creating with the world.

It’s kinda blowing my mind that I don’t just go to festivals any more, I help create them. As someone who has been going to barter faires, festivals, gatherings, burns, etc. etc. for about a dozen years now, this represents a pretty massive shift for me. And makes me ridiculously excited.

I am now helping the marketing & media teams for Enchanted Forest and Foreverland, wearing many hats and assisting however I can, but mostly maintaining social media accounts, creating marketing materials, and working with some very talented people to get the word out about these beautiful events. I have learned a LOT from some of the masterminds involved in events like Envision and Lucidity, and it has been a great way to gain experience in marketing and social media management. I get to build upon my design skills and learn new ones, all while helping the production team and getting a peek at how some of my favorite festivals are created. But I don’t just see events being created here, this community is building a new paradigm, testing out new ways of life, creating an amazing variety of art, circulating ideas, and bringing many divergent communities together to create something beautiful. This experience has made it even more clear to me that the transformational festival community can and is changing the world and shaping a more healthy and whole way of being. It’s electrifying watching this all take shape, and even more amazing playing a small role in making it happen. Like I said, wow.

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We finished off festival season with our only flow festival this year, Pacific Fire Gathering, on the Oregon coast, followed by Foreverland the very next weekend. We got to have a fun little flowmily sleep over at our friends’ house in Eugene before and after PacFire, and in addition to getting to spend time with friends we haven’t seen much of lately, we met many more spinner friends. Oregon was good to us and we didn’t want to leave! We worked at the fuel depot, took tons of workshops (I got to take two from the very inspiring Mary Jane Schroeder – such a badass!), watched all kinds of mind-blowing performances (and a very silly renegade show), spun fire all night, brought mega hoop out to play on the beach, got some new toys, learned a lot, and laughed so much our faces hurt. So much silliness, spinning, and love!

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I have never felt more at home among a group of people as I have at flow arts festivals. FireDrums and PacFire are definitely both on the must do list next year. These are our people and we were so tickled to be welcomed into our Oregon spinner crew at Camp Lookout at PacFire. FLOWMILY!!!

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The above poster was in the lodge at PacFire. It was my favorite. ONE OF US! If by “us” you mean this crazy family of circus freaks, fire benders, ninjas, jugglers, spinners, dancers, performers, object manipulators, and clowns that I am lucky enough to have stumbled into – then yes, I am in the cult. Sign me up. PacFire was one of those life-affirming weekends that will be fueling my flow practice all winter and then some. Lots to work on!

We were home for a couple of days, just enough time to do laundry but not enough to catch up on sleep, before it was time to head to Foreverland. After working on the event for six weeks, I was really excited to see everything we’d been envisioning manifest. Plus we had a pretty awesome crew gathered to camp with,  friends from our various summer adventures all setting up camp together for one last hurrah of the summer.

I headed to Foreverland with our friend Kolby, and we found a spot to camp and got situated before James and a bunch more friends rolled in. We arrived just in time to catch a beautiful sunset Thursday evening over the lake, and witnessed domes going up, stages being built, and a dusty lakeside being transformed into a pirate’s playground. It was quite an impressive collaboration, and the vibe and atmosphere reminded me a lot of Burning Man, though on a much smaller first-year-event scale, and with a lake, albeit a depressingly low and muddy one due to severe drought.

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We enjoyed perfect weather at Foreverland, hot days good for chilling and floating on the lake, and mild cool nights perfect for dancing and taking in all kinds of art and magic. I worked a bit over the weekend, posting updates to our Instagram and Facebook pages, participating in media team meetings and taking photos. We got to see some great music and performances, hang out with friends, spin some fire on stage, and even go up in the Space Wench pirate ship stage at the lake’s edge. It was an epic weekend and really satisfying to see the event we worked so hard on go so smoothly.

James and his buddies played an Acacia Beats set on a floating stage on the lake Saturday during the day. Their tunes brought out plenty of people to dance on the lake’s edge or float and swim in the water. I rode a floaty out to the stage, carefully taking my camera with me to get some photos during their set.

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Foreverland is a collaborative effort put on by various production companies, Burning Man camps, and other groups such as Enchanted Forest, Fractal Planet, Hookahdome, Sacred Spaces and more. It was a mix of the spiritual new-age hippie crowd, the rowdy pirate party people, local first timers and festival regulars, folks from all over and all walks of life, who came together to celebrate art, music and life harmoniously and beautifully. By the end of the weekend, the local cops were partying with the attendees on the dance floor and holding “Give Thanks” signs for photos at the top of the pirate ship stage… mind blowing stuff and a wonderful way to break new ground for the festival community. It is an absolute honor to be involved with such an inspiring group of people at Foreverland!

We have been slowly winding down over the past month as we clean up and pack away the festival gear, get back into a regular spin jam schedule, and make the most of the autumn abundance here in Mendocino.

I started canning with a friend in Comptche recently, and have been spending afternoons and long nights out there making jam, picking grapes and apples, sharing homegrown food, trying new jelly recipes, and even making salsa and pickles. I’m keeping up with the fermented foods swap group and just started taking belly dance classes again.

James and I have had plenty to practice after PacFire, and hosting regular spin jams and fire practice sessions. James made a Facebook page for his fire and DJ performance and got fire performer insurance. He’s been practicing with his new fire staff and recently got hired for his first professional gig as an insured performer at a birthday party last weekend. I am following suit with insurance soon and we will both be performing on Halloween at a local street party event. Super excited to be leveling up our involvement in flow arts and performing, and I am so proud of my amazingly talented man for taking big steps towards making a living from spinning fire. Wow.

Lots of good things to come as the rains return and our social schedule slows down. I have been enjoying the time at home to work, save money, make delicious food, and go out and about locally. Hibernation  & work made: engaged!

Setting Sail for Foreverland

Summer is always busy, but WOW has this one been a doozy! Between hosting spin jams, keeping a variety of fermented foods going, gardening and the usual summer BBQs, river days and beach trips, it’s been a lot of fun, too. I am happy to say that I recently picked up a couple new “jobs” to keep me even busier, and more financially stable. I am now a personal assistant for a local couple and have joined the production team for a transformational festival. And this is, of course, in addition to my day job and the occasional freelance design work. My weekdays especially are tightly booked, but I am loving having more billable hours and several projects that I’m excited about working on.

I am working with my friend Amae to help manage her etsy shop, Amae Love Designs, filling and shipping orders while she’s performing, traveling, and festivaling, and helping with marketing, social media, and optimizing her business. It’s a nice variety of work, which is perfect for me!

Amae’s partner Tulku is lead of production for Enchanted Forest, one of my favorite local festivals. He and a team of festival producers and Burning Man sound camps are throwing a new festival in just five short weeks, a fun mix of the more spiritual, faerie tale Enchanted Forest vibes with some rowdy pirate party energy, with 24-hour world class music on multiple stages, workshops, amazing art and performances, a lake to swim & float in, and hopefully all of YOU! It’s called Foreverland and it’s going to be AWESOME. It’s kinda like my favorite local festival and some of my favorite Burning Man camps had a love child who became a Lost Boy in Foreverland. 🙂

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I was lucky enough to be brought in by Tulku to assist with the Foreverland web content, marketing, social media, and basically to help the production team in any way I can to create a top-tier event that’s accessible to broke hippies at the end of an epic festival season. Check out the web site to apply to get involved!

So needless to say, I will be VERY busy in the next five weeks. It’s probably a good thing I’m not going to the burn this year, because I’ll have plenty to do on Foreverland production team, helping Amae get orders for fabulous playa wear sent out, and keeping up with the endless bounty of zucchini and other goodies from my garden! Plus, we are going to our first Pacific Fire Gathering, our only flow arts festival this year, and I am very much looking forward to learning new things and leveling up in hoops, flow wand, fans, and performing in general!

See you in October when festival season is over… Whew! Now back to work… anchor’s away!

31 Lessons I’ve Learned in 31 Years

Full Moon at Laguna de Apoyo, Nicaragua 2014I’m not sure that I’m ready to turn 31 on Saturday, simply because the past year has been the best year of my life and I don’t see how I could possibly top it. But the best is yet to come, right? I feel like I am just starting to hit my stride and figure things out in life. I guess I’m a late bloomer. I’m also just kinda glad that my 20s are over.

This year on my birthday, I will be performing with friends from Mendocino Moonlight Flow Arts at Noyo Food Forest‘s Earth Day Festival at the Learning Garden at the Fort Bragg high school (we’re on at 2:30). NFF is a great local organization and if you get there early, you might be able to snag some goodies at their plant sale. The day before, we’ll be celebrating with a few friends at B. Bryan Preserve, a local wildlife preserve that houses giraffes, antelopes, and most importantly ZEBRAS in big open tracts of land in nearby Point Arena. If you know me at all, you know that I love zebra print and zebras are my power animal. So to say that I’m excited to see the zebras is a bit of an understatement!

The older I get, the faster time goes, and the more I seem to learn from everyday life. I may have forgotten most of high school chemistry and at least half those art history facts I had to memorize in college, but I’ve picked up a few hard-earned life lessons in my 31 years. So in no particular order, here are 31 things I’ve learned that are worth passing on:

  1. Don’t wrap your life too tightly around any one person or thing — no one holds the reigns to your life except you. You create your own reality. Don’t be in the passenger seat of your own life — drive it like it’s hot!
  2. In general, people are good-hearted, and if you treat them based upon this assumption, you’ll find that more often than not, it’s true. Be careful and observant, but don’t be so guarded that you close yourself off to new people and experiences.
  3. Seek balance. Happiness comes naturally when you and your life are in a state of balance. Balance work and play, balance your time among passions and people, balance your own needs with those of your loved ones and the world. Seek the middle path between the extremes.
  4. The only constant is change. It is the ONLY thing in life you can count on happening for sure.
  5. You are not entitled to anything in life, so don’t expect anything to be easy or free and assume nothing. Anything you are given is a gift. Be grateful for everything you have, for many others have much less. Express gratitude often.
  6. We do not forget how to play because we grow old, we grow old because we forget how to play. Free, joyous, expressive play is essential to keeping childlike wonder in your life. You are never too old to play! This is why flow arts are so awesome.
  7. Every person you meet is a window to another world. You expand your own world by opening your heart to others.
  8. There is nothing more sacred than life. Every living being has a presence, value, and a voice. We might not be able to hear it, but if we try hard enough, we can feel it. All life is connected in one symbiotic web.
  9. We are all in this together. Cooperate and communicate. We’ll get a lot further working together than by focusing on what divides us and working against each other.
  10. Humans are not separate from nature. We are nature. The further we remove ourselves from it, the further we get from our true selves and the more sick our society becomes. The more we try to understand the cosmos, live in harmony with nature’s rhythms and work with nature instead of against it, the more sustainable and happy our lives will be.
  11. All of the answers, and all of the questions, are within each of us. The essential truths do not need to be dictated to us from authority figures, dogma, politics, religion, society, or other people. Truth can be found by simply being, silently focusing, and looking within. Your truth is your own, all you have to do is seek it out.
  12. Listen to your heart. Use your head, too, but let your heart guide you on what really matters.
  13. Music and movement are magic, medicine, meditation, and essential to a happy healthy life. Support live music and get out and dance as often as you can. Never be afraid to sing your song, shake your booty or find your flow!
  14. Whatever you daydream about doing while sitting around bored at work or school, whatever you feel driven to be involved in, whatever feeds your soul and gives you an outlet for your passions, talents, and energy — do that. That is your calling. Try to find a way to make it your living.
  15. Help others every chance you get. You will never regret lending a hand to others and there are SO MANY worthy causes that need  help. Be a giver, even if all you have to give is your time.
  16. You are not a plant. You might have roots, but you don’t have to stay where you are planted. Explore. Travel. Engage with the world. Get out, get away, even if it’s just a hike in a local park. The further you go and the more you travel, the more you connect with others, broaden your frame of reference, and expand your world. You’ll also realize just how connected we are to everything and everyone, and how precious this amazing planet we call home really is.
  17. Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. 
  18. Work to live but don’t live to work. Life is not all about making money. Make time to relax, play, explore, and learn, too. Don’t let work stress poison your life or health. Don’t let money rule your life and don’t let what you own end up owning you.
  19. Never stop learning. There is always more to learn and discover. Never stop growing either. Always be working on yourself and trying to be a better person.
  20. Don’t compare yourself to other people. Each of us is on our own path and it does us no good to compare ours with another’s. The only person worth comparing yourself to is the person you were yesterday. Comparison leads to jealousy, division, and hate. Ain’t nobody got time for that shit!
  21. Push yourself to try new things. Even if they scare you a little.
  22. Keep your word. Follow through with the commitments you make with people and only make commitments you can keep.
  23. Don’t be a hater. You don’t know everyone’s story and judging someone or something only closes you off to the lessons they could teach you. Bringing others down only brings you down with them. Others are simply a mirror and what we see in them if often a reflection of ourselves. Lift others up instead.
  24. Your perspective is important. Change the way you look at the world and you change your world entirely.
  25. What you focus on and give energy to grows. If you’re constantly focusing on what’s wrong, negativity, complaints and problems, more of those things will manifest in your life. If you focus instead on positive things, the silver linings in every situation, the good in life and what you’re grateful for, you’ll get more of that in your life.
  26. Let go. If something or someone is no longer serving your life, let it go. Let go of expectations and approach everything with an open mind. The more tightly you try to hold on to something, the more easily it will slip through your fingers.
  27. Love yourself and tell yourself so often. Take good care of yourself and listen to your body. Don’t be afraid to be alone. Know that you are enough and don’t be so hard on yourself. Watch the words you use to describe yourself, even in your thoughts. Words have power. Use them wisely.
  28. Shit happens. To everyone, at some point. Breathe, let it go, and trust that you’ll get through it when it does. You wouldn’t appreciate the good times as much without the bad. You got this! And if you don’t, lean on your friends when you need them. A good support network is priceless.
  29. There is no such thing as normal and you should never ever try to be it or live up to anyone else’s standards but your own if you want to be truly happy and free. FUCK NORMAL.
  30. Happiness is a choice and a practice. It’s all a matter of where you direct your energy and focus and your attitude.
  31. Love is the most powerful force in the universe. Treasure it, give it, receive it, be it, live it and you can’t help but be happy and fulfilled. Love is all we need. Be love! <3