Tuesday, September 14, 2010

I'm in Sweden, and this is where I'll write the most...

I'm writing most things about Sweden at:

Letters from Lund

but sometimes I'll need to come back here. Not so many people know about this one... better that way. ;)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

sunset chase

Email today to the other American girl who will be in my masters program:

hey sarah,

i'm sitting here at work, frozen and unable to be super productive because there is so much to do and so much on my mind. as i stress about where i'm storing all my stuff, if my passport will come, the parking ticket i got, if i can tie up all my loose ends at work, if i should get an oil change and how there's possibly time, all the goodbyes that are happening, and if i will be able to fit in a workout tonight...

i can only ground myself by knowing that there's scene coming, soon, which will be symbolic that the hard work over this last year was so amazingly worth it and that i've reached the top of this mountain that's called "grad school in sweden." i've been picturing it for a long long time.

a girl i know wrote about this one time here.
the scene that says you made it.

it's going to be after i've arrived in sweden...traveled down from stockholm...gotten all my stuff into the apartment... checked into lund university so they know i'm there...met the people in our program... bought a bike... and then

i'm going to ride that bike out of Lund and into the countryside of Skåne, and keep going. the days will still be long at this point since it will still be august, and so it will be a later evening ride because i want to chase the sunset. i did that one time in the netherlands, rode my bike into the sunset as far as i could, and it was one of the best days of my life. i know the day i do this in Sweden will be my "climactic scene," and also one of the best days of my life. i'll have finally made it. and it was all so very hard but so very worth it.

join me if you like... or at least let me know your scene, if you've pictured one... ;) we're going to be okay and it's all going to work out.

here's where that girl wrote about reaching that scene she'd written about long before.



Tuesday, July 27, 2010


In these last couple weeks in Santa Barbara, my mind is full to overflowing.

But it's not so much with wondering, questions, ifs and whens and whos...

My to-do list is of course crowding my thoughts. But my mind is most full of moments, each dashing through, wanting it's own image to stain me with it's meaning. These moments are past memories, things of the present and anticipation of the future.

I think about moments that changed my life. Sitting in a Westmont dorm for preview days as a senior in high school, looking at the late night madness around me, and passionately scribbling down what was to be my entrance essay for that college. Picking up a description of the trips that the summer missions teams were going on through Westmont when I was a sophomore, seeing the description of the Thailand trip, and without knowing anything about the student leaders or the country, knew I was going. A late night conversation with a tall blond boy the year I was an R.A., who looked deep into my eyes and heard every word I said, in a way that few had before and since. The day a certain curly haired girl moved into my house after graduation. The text that came that said, "Let's do New Zealand this February." Standing on the dancefloor, waving the ridiculous ribbons of white from the smoke machine out of my face when a tall guy with a mischievous smile started waving it away for me. Opening my email to discover all the good news these past couple months.

I think about these things and how hard work and drive has come between all of them to get me to where I am now. To a place where I finally know what the next year will look like, and it looks exactly as I am certain it should. Everything's been so up in the air.

Now all that's up in the air is how amazing it will all be. How much I'll learn. How cold I will get but how beautiful it will be. It's the best up in the air I can imagine. The certainty of growth and discovery... I'm finally there.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Out of Africa

It's amazing how things loom on the horizon and then all of the sudden they've come on gone.

Such was my trip to Uganda. I can't believe it happened and I've been back for a few days. One minute, I'm dancing at a party in a museum with all my friends downtown, the next, I'm in a village where women carry babies tied around their backs and baskets full of food on their heads. And then, I'm back again. Looking at the high heels in my closet and trading them for flats because I still need to debrief mentally from my trip and high heels just won't help.

The posts I wrote about Africa are originally at the family website I set up for the trip, Roots of a Tree. That site has the photos if you want to check them out.

I think my trip will forever be seen through the lens of the fact that a few days after I left, there were bombings in public places in Kampala where people had gathered to watch the World Cup Final. At least 70 Ugandans and and other international residents and visitors were killed. I can picture the types of people who died while enjoying the soccer game... older brothers taking care of their family, young women who just finished their waitressing jobs and wanted to join in on the viewing, aid workers from abroad. It wasn't, but could have been, Ambrose, Georgina, Lonna, or Francis. It wasn't, but could have been Kacie, Sarah, Kate, or my aunt. And even Kevin and I could have been there, as we spent so much time watching the World Cup in public places while in Uganda.

Please keep the people of Uganda in your thoughts and prayers as they deal with the pain and fallout from these terrorist attacks. It could be just this incident, but it could be the beginning of a streak of these cowardly and devastating acts.

Fitting Finale

"You've got to do your own growing, no matter how tall your grandfather was."
-Irish saying

Our time in Uganda ran out all too soon, but as it ended we still fit in some of the best moments with people there we'll never forget.

I met my mother's friend, Dorothy, whom she met when she visited Uganda three years ago and has corresponded with ever since. Dorothy hurried to meet Kevin and I as we pulled up to my aunt's church on Sunday. She was so easy to talk to right away, and we carried on chatting and I gave her a gift from my mother (the novel Little Women, some candy, and a card). At one point she paused and said, "It is so strange to be talking to you now, you look just like your mom, it's almost as if she's here." She seemed to have tears in her eyes, and of course then so did I. I understood why my mom always spoke of her with such tenderness.

My aunt and Kevin and I had lunch with Kevin's student, Ambrose, and the student that my mom and stepdad sponsor, William. As soon as we met William I could tell he had a fun and hilarious personality. Over lunch I had the privilege of getting to give him a new backpack packed with fun presents from my mom and Brad. I wished that they had gotten to be with William to do this, since they've never met him and I knew they'd love him. As he opened the backpack he first spotted a card from each of them, and read them thoroughly first without even touching the candy and gifts, and then grabbed a stack of photos my mom included of various family members doing fun things, and had me explain who was in each photo and where it was taken. William's amiable curiosity and confident caring nature is going to take him wherever he wants to go... it was a such joy to meet him.

On our last full day we went bowling with my aunt and the Hope Alive staff. The skill level was wide-ranging but the smiles never stopped, and after every turn, there was always someone cheering you no matter how you did. There was a dj playing a wide variety of 80s and 90s dance hits, and between turns our Ugandan friends would bust some serious moves. Kevin and I were so impressed, and Kevin decided then that he needed to one day come back to Africa for a few weeks just to study dance moves... "there was so much to learn from them..." he said in awe. Totally true.


Then we flew away... but before our journey was completely over, there was still something left we had to do. As we touched down in Dubai for our overnight layover, Kevin asked, "Did you bring your paintbrush?" I grinned. "Yep."
"Good, because I've got my roller," he replied. But we didn't quite paint the town.

Our cabbie drove us through the glittering city in the middle of the night. The streets were quiet but the skyscrapers lit up the middle eastern night sky. Nothing was open at this time, so we had him drop us off at the beach right in the heart of Dubai. Kevin and I tore off our shoes and ran through the sand. We stepped into the ocean... and just started laughing. It was so warm. Warmer than the humid desert air. And the fantastic and very foreign scene was just too incredible. That famous hotel, the one that rises up in a curved arc with a tennis court hovering in the sky, was just to our left, looming over us and illuminating the gentle waves of the Persian Gulf. We bodysurfed and picked up shells and floated easily on our backs in the very salty water. It's a euphoric feeling to be in a moment that you are confident will stay with you for the rest of your life. As we drove away, the sun rose and we could see the city come to life. Kevin and I knew there could not have been a more fantastic finale to our African adventure, and when we landed in San Francisco eighteen hours later, with sand still in our hair, I know we could not have felt more grateful when we saw our Grandma waiting for us, sweet and excited, eager to hear our stories.

"The greatest adventure is what lies ahead.
Today and tomorrow are yet to be said.
The chances, the changes are all yours to make.
The mold of your life is in your hands to break. "
— J.R.R. Tolkien

Crossing Hemispheres

We spent most of the weekend in Masaka. Although the road there was rough and bumpy, I knew as soon as we pulled into our site there that this part of Uganda was my favorite. The hills are green and rolling. The air is still warm but not nearly as gripping and humid as it can be elsewhere... at times it almost felt cool. The atmosphere of the town is more relaxed than Gulu, the other smaller town we've been in, since Masaka is in Southern Uganda and not affected by the rebel activities that had been going on in the north. Whenever I'm in a new place, be it a city, state or country, I like to imagine where I'd live if I settled down for awhile there. In Uganda, it would be Masaka.

There were so many highlights to the weekend...

* We visited the classes at a primary school and were there during one of their hour breaks. Some of the boys in the Hope Alive program practice their drumming during htat time. Kevin went over to join them... and soon there were dozens and dozens of kids around, because as someone said, "There's a muzungu (white person) playing the djembe!" Boys were authoritatively pounding their respective drums, fiercely hitting their shakers, occasionally looking up at each other to acknowledge or adjust the beat. Beads of sweat dripped down the face of each person. Some of the girls started dancing, swaying their hips to the sounds, looking like they were born to do it. I don't know how they learn to do that by 8 years old... they truly must've been born with the skill. Then a dance-off evolved from that... muzungus vs locals. You could probably have scooped up in handfuls the joy that was pouring out from everyone all over the place.

* The next day the kids of Hope Alive put on a fantastic dance and drumming program for us. It was a more polished, more passionate, and amazingly impressive version of what had happened spontaneously the day before. They work on their music program all the time, and treat visitors to their talent when they pass through their Masaka site. The girls in their native dress costumes shook their bodies like crazy, worked their bare feet over the floor- paying no attention to the 2 inch deep and probably 1 foot wide holes dusty holes in the facility floor. Kevin and I clapped our hands and cheered and thought the same thought many times... "I wish I had moves like that."

* We watched the USA vs. Ghana game on the outside patio of our Hotel Zebra on Saturday night. The full moon was out and so was our patriotism in support of our team. All two of us... surrounded by Ugandans, cheering on the last African team left in the World Cup. We were sorely outnumbered. Kevin and I would gasp quietly at all the close calls for a goal for our side... and on both of Ghana's great quick goals, we looked down in disappointment as cheers rose up all around. We laughed at the setting and couldn't be too bummed about the USA loss... we've loved our African World Cup watching experience and are quite happy for them.

The time here in this country has almost run out...but I think it's been lived to the fullest. Still a bit more to share with you before the end though.

A Dad's Gift

"You have a nice home," I said.

"Not really," he replied, his tone matter-of-fact but laced with a hint of sadness. We were spending some time visiting the homes of children in the Hope Alive program. This was the fifth house, and the first time we had encountered a father. Usually it was a mother or the older sibling heading a household. His home was nice, relative to so many others; I hadn't been transparently trying to flatter him. The house looked like many in this poor area of Masaka; the roof was made from tin shingles and the walls from maybe some native bricks and the floor was concrete. But there were no chickens running around inside or posters taped up on the walls, and the floor was swept clean. It was spacious, there were at least three rooms and the couches were very worn but comfortable, and they even had a tiny TV.

Ronald spoke of how difficult things had been lately since he was out of work. His wife occasionally worked as a cook, which brought in some money, but he still was very concerned for their situation. Several times he said the words, "I just want to provide for my family." I wanted to do more than listen. I wanted to say that he was doing so much already just being there for them. That he was doing a great job for his kids, and that as they grow up they will benefit immensely from having had a dad. So many kids in Uganda may have a father, but he is often absent, for every reason from not wanting to be involved, to having found another family, or having passed away, or having to live in another place for a job. Ronald is providing, and I wanted to tell him that. But for that time, it was best to just let him share.

His darling daughter, a primary student who wore a pink dress and had greeted us with a hug, waved goodbye as we set off for the next home. She's a lucky girl, and I hope one day she realizes that. Her name, by the way, is Gift.


"I think this is when most people give up on their stories. They come out of college wanting to change the world, wanting to get married, wanting to have kids... But they get into the middle and discover it was harder than they thought. They can't see the distant shore anymore, and they wonder if their paddling is moving them forward. None of the trees behind them are getting smaller and none of the trees ahead are getting bigger. They take it out on their family, and they go looking for an easier story."
-Donald Miller

Give & Get

From what we get, we can make a living; what we give, however, makes a life.
-Arthur Ashe

Kevin met the student he sponsors on Thursday.

We went to Ambrose's secondary school to have Kevin visit him at lunchtime. The secretary had Ambrose pulled out of class a few minutes early. He walked into the office and then there they were, student and sponsor, grins a mile wide, giving each other the Ugandan handshake, and then, a hug. I bit my lip and stood to take a photo of them. We walked out to the schoolyard where they got to talk for quite awhile.

I try to put myself in the place of the students who are sponsored, to imagine what it would be like to meet in person the one who is putting you through school. Especially the older teenagers, who are close to graduating and being able to take their qualifying exams for college... they are so aware of how the support is allowing them truly move forward. Ambrose doesn't have parents, he lives with his older brother. It has to be overwhelming, to meet your sponsor, to know what to say, how exactly to say thank you, and all in your second language. And I know that sponsors are eager to convey their care, their interest, their desire to see the student thrive...It's true that their lives are separated by obviously so much more than a continent and an ocean. But you learn that often, that separation doesn't matter at all.

It was awesome to see Kevin and Ambrose dive right in to exchanging stories and discussing sports and video games and school. We'd heard Ambrose is quite smart and driven, and that was evident. I know they each got to express the depth of their appreciation for the other. And past that, I watched them become friends, the seventeen year old and twenty seven year old, laughing and posing for photos in matching aviator shades, as girls looking on giggled.

Brushfire Fairytales

I was heading back to my hut at the safari lodge we were staying at on Sunday night. It was very dark but as I left the main lodge, I was sure of where I was going and was a little startled when an elderly man dressed in the lodge employee outfit came out of the shadow, pointing away from us and looking at me. He was calm but saying something in a low and forceful voice. "Bathroom," it sounded like he said. I paused... "No, no I'm going to my hut," I said quietly back. He shook his head. I leaned in.



About ten feet from the path that led to all the huts stood about six massive dark buffalo. We'd actually been told to expect this, and that it wasn't too dangerous but you should just be cautious. Hearing about it is of course quite different from encountering it. I walked slowly, reverently, past. And obviously, made it safely back to my place.
The next day we viewed dozens and dozens of them from the safe and assuring enclosure of a hardy safari van. Along with giraffes, bucks, a lion and her cubs, and a lot of other things. The feeling of standing in a vehicle, your upper body out through a hole in the top, racing past the landscape, wind on your face... doing that every day would most certainly be incredibly good for the soul.

Other highlights of the last two days out on the game reserve by the Nile...

* Our safari guide setting fire to the tall golden grass and then having us drive away. Um, aren't you about to burn up thousands of acres of African landscape? No, it's not dry enough here? Okay. Santa Barbara would light up like a Christmas tree in January, but we'll take your word for it.
* Watching the World Cup games with Ugandan locals and international lodge guests on a sweet flatscreen by the bar. Geckos crawling on the wall, bats flying by the ceiling, Ronaldo drilling the ball into the net after it bounces off his back. Epic.
* Scrambling around on the wet rocks surrounding Murchison Falls on the Nile. Hot air, cool water spray, rainbow over the gap... can't wait to share all the photos.
* Food from the street vendors while on the road... its official: Meat on a stick is fantastic no matter what corner of the world you're in. Thailand, Greece, Uganda, Sharkeez in Santa Barbara... All delicious.

Miss you all.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Gulu Scenes

The sky here is enormous. It goes on forever in every direction, clouds billowing high and low. You could lay in the long grass and watch them forever.
Gulu is fantastic.

We drove for five hours to get here from Kampala, and the highlight of the trip for both Kevin and me was the same. We rounded a bend and there it was...massive, raging, scary and beautiful. The Nile. Pictures will absolutely not do it justice. We could have sat on that bridge and stared at the river for days. We get to ride a ferry over it tomorrow, but apparently that will be at a calm spot. The place we saw on our roadtrip had rapids rated something higher than Class V, as in, perilously unnavigable. There's a small part of me that wants to take it on anyway.

Today we visited the Gulu Hope Alive site, which was amazing. We played with the kids, they made up songs and skits, Kevin taught them how to make paper airplanes, I put countless fake tattoos (my specialty;) on eager arms, and enjoyed a meal of casava (a sort of potato) and sweet tea. The site is in an area which used to house internally displaced persons from Sudan, and so there are dozens of huts left over from that in the surrounding areas. I took a walk through grass about twice as tall as me, wandering as I'm prone to do, until my little friend Mark, he's about six, came and found me, taking me by the hand back to our building for tea.

You should know, if you haven't been here before, how amazing the childrens' smiles are. It's not just the smile itself, it's how it happens. The kids are observant, watching you as you move past, not afraid to look right into your eyes, but their gaze is serious, curious and respectful. Then if you give them a smile, and if you hold it for at least a second, and they break into a smile as well. A shy and delighted smile that lights up their entire face. Also difficult to capture on film. No worries, because I know we won't ever forget it.

all in a day

* Relaxed dinner with new friends that don't feel so new since they know several members of my family pretty well already.

* Driving on the left side of the road, with, as Kevin put it, more almost head-on collisions than he's had in the past few years combined. Just a standard cross town trip in Kampala.

* A sudden thunderstorm around noon, that came down hard and fast, and left as soon as it arrived. I stood on the porch and overlooked the city from the Hope Alive office and soaked it up, since rain in warm air is a novelty and a delight for me.

* Ugandan food... varieties of potatoes and rice and banana dishes and chicken and beans...delicious.

* You must speak slow here to be understood by Ugandans. But more importantly, you must listen hard to understand their English. To get every word, it's best to lean in and silence your own thoughts and focus on every word. Think about the context and wait before asking them to repeat themselves, since if you pause and review, you probably got it the first time. This is a great lesson.

*Fatigue. I know we have jet lag, but I started this trip sleep deprived, and maybe a couple months of too much too fast are catching up with me. There's nowhere like here to be able to slow down and rest. Even when the night sends through my open window the loud sounds of people cheering the World Cup game at a party in the distance. It didn't keep me up, but I fell asleep with a smile.

roots of a tree

Five years ago I was heading back to Santa Barbara from Ensenada, Mexico, returning from a trip with a team of Westmont College students and other alumni. As we crossed the border I pulled my phone out to check messages that hadn't gotten to me while I was so far south. There was one from my mom, wanting me to call her - it was urgent. I did, and found out that my grandfather had passed away a couple days before.

It was expected, as he had been battling prostate cancer for several years and for a couple months we knew he could go any day. As we sat in the pews at his funeral, I looked around at all the men in the family; my strong and kind uncles and cousins and brother. I observed the women; my loving and wise aunts and mother and sister and Grandma. Although we and hundreds of others were mourning, strangely, I didn't really feel like my Grandpa was gone. I contemplated how to describe what Cliff Coon and his wife, my grandma Lucille, meant to our family and to so many others, but it was years before I found words that described it.

When I read A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller last year, I came across these words that finally explained my feelings.

"I knew he wouldn't die, because his life was like the roots of a tree

that went miles into the soil and miles around its trunk

and came up in my cousins, in their faces and their voices and their character.

I didn't think you could kill a tree that big."

And that was it. I got it. Cliff & Lucille lived a life of intention and virtue and achievement that grew roots so deep that though he passed away, everything they instilled in their six kids and fourteen grandkids and respective spouses was palpable and evident in the spirits and actions of each family member. It made sense why it often felt like he was still around... giving quiet words of wisdom, scribbling puzzles on napkins for people to figure out, tending his world class ivy garden while listening to the baseball game on the radio, writing his novels.

One of my grandfather's final wishes was that he and my grandma would pay for my sister and cousin Stephen to go to Uganda to visit our aunt Catharine. She has lived there for eight years and founded an organization called Hope Alive, a relief and development project focused on orphans and fragile families.

Last year, when the trip finally came together and Calista and Stephen were sent off, my grandma asked me if I'd like to go next year. I was floored. She said she had decided to send two cousins every year, an extension of my grandfather's original wish sprung from the joy she felt in sending her grandkids on this incredible experience. This is a sacrifice for her, and one that she has taken on with patience and generosity, and never with a hint that anyone owes her anything for it. She is faithfully ensuring that the third generation is inspired to live a life where their roots can grow deep too.

So off I go, along with my cousin Kevin, to Africa. 2010 is our year.

My grandparents live a life that has meaning, a life that makes for a great story. So do their children. The cousins, in our twenties and teens and gradeschool years, have been blessed with the encouragement and support to do the same.

So here's some more words from Donald Miller, in hopes that as the Coon family ventures out to Uganda over the years, we will take them to heart...

"No, life cannot be understood flat on a page. It has to be lived; a person has to get out of his head, has to fall in love, has to memorize poems, has to jump off bridges into rivers, has to stand in an empty desert and whisper sonnets under his breath... We get one story, you and I, and one story alone...

And once you live a good story, you get a taste for a kind of meaning in life, and you can't go back to being normal; you can't go back to meaningless scenes stitched together by the forgettable thread of wasted time."

Here's to a great story... for your life and for mine.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

try a little tenderness

He'd just made us some rice and chili for a late night snack. Brought two big glasses of milk over. Settled down on the floor in front of a fire and a movie playing in the background. His housemate was asleep on the couch. We'd all had a pretty fun and long day. A lot of sun, quite a few watermelon mojitos.

We started wrestling a little bit, just jokingly. When he seemed ready to stop letting me pin him, like he was about to really prove who was stronger, he said something about not wanting to hurt me. The words slipped though the laughter and my automatic response cut through it right back:

"You can't. You can't hurt me." I stared right into his eyes.

A few moments later the same exchange happened again. "You can't hurt me." I felt physically compelled to state it again, with an unblinking gaze.

"Okay. You have a heart of steel then?" he asked amiably but laced with understanding.

"Yep." I replied.


I can feel the reflex. Vulnerability peeks over at me from it's far away retreat, and I throw daggers and flying kicks to send it back to hiding. Don't mess with me, I tell it. I tell him. But from the other direction creep in my very real feelings and a sense that I shouldn't miss out on something. Even if it's just fun.

It's been a couple months now and after a bunch of back and forth, ignoring him, reconsidering, distraction... even a conversation after two days on a boat together about the fact that I don't feel enough to respond as affectionately as he wanted me to since we aren't dating and I am not in a place to date...

After all that, um, here we are this week... Looking like I'm going back on things I said and thought. Goodbye kisses, inside jokes, meaningful looks. Whoa, how did that happen. Somewhere between him telling me exactly where he stood and our singing along to Jack Johnson and the talk about WWII history on the ride home, I suppose...

Crap. Get me out of here. Wait, hold that thought... I'll hang out for a bit.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

every moment red-letter

I don't know how old I was when I first realized that music pulsed through my veins as thickly and essentially as my blood. I know I loved to sing and so I did so in musicals when I was little. I know it felt natural to want to pick up my dad's flute and join the middle school marching band. Come high school, I didn't think twice about trying a new musical direction and joining bell choir (that's another story ;). And in college, my musical desires were fulfilled in tiny bits with a year in gospel choir and a semester leading worship every Sunday for several dozen students in Europe.

But I don't know when I knew that a beat can make me overcome almost anything. That I want to live and die to music. I'm quite positive that the last year and a half my music blood rushes through me more than ever. I have to either sing, dance, or be happy if the right tunes are on and I don't have the words to explain how it's so powerful.

Last weekend, on a four day houseboat/wakeboarding trip, I was struck by this again.
The music was always playing. Whether it was:

Jack Johnson in the morning as we crept out of our bunks and woke ourselves up with bacon and coffee and dives off the patio into the lake.

Jay-Z during the morning boat run to get us rocking with the wind in our hair and our first tries on the wakeboard.

Girl Talk during the afternoon boat runs which pounded so fiercely through the speakers and out to me as I was pulled over the water that I felt I had my own private dancefloor as I sped by on my board.

David Guetta to get the evening party started, no matter how tired I was, I would go nuts when he was on.

And then when we'd create our own music late at night, after settling in on the roof while the guys with guitars led us in rock slow jams, pop favorites, and Disney songs. And I could sing with my full voice. And the stars looked on, and no one but the 20 of us could hear what we were doing as we sang out on our boat in our little cove.

I couldn't have been happier. My many cares were a world away, to be dealt with after this holiday. And then, the lead guitarist began a melody I knew too well, and I thrilled and sang while I thought about how applicable the song was to this rambunctious group of men and women in their late twenties who are all still figuring things out, and doing our best to have as much fun along the way...

"Either way, I wonder sometimes
about the outcome
of a still verdictless life...
Am I living it right?"
-John Mayer

Friday, May 14, 2010

stand or fly

We sipped wine and the waves hit loudly against the nearby stretch of sand. Flames from the restaurant's heat lamp kept us warm in the cool evening breeze.

And we had a conversation so full of things we've discussed with other friends in different ways for the past few years...

what, where, who, why, when? how?

The topic that twenty-somethings return to again and again. Especially, I find, single twenty-somethings.

One of the questions that tugs the most can be the "who?" For my friend, it is at the forefront of her mind right now.

And I've been there. I will be again. It's not my question at the moment, but I have learned some valuable things during those times that it was and I know what to watch out for.

So I told her how it feels like when you know you're loved beyond doubt. When you can look at someone else and be incredulous together about your love. When they aren't afraid to talk about the future. When someone thinks you're the most interesting person they've ever met, and you think that about them. Or when they simply just don't want to let you go if you're lying down for a nap and you just need to get up for some water.

And she and I discussed together, what things do we need? What can we let go of? And when do you stop giving someone the benefit of the doubt and realize that they're just not that into you?

Is it too much to overcome if he's this way and I'm that way?

Regarding these questions, I think I've come a long way in figuring out the answer in many cases. Still have some learning to do.

I hope my friend, and the rest of my girls who have yet to find someone, can figure out their answers too.

"She kept asking if the stories were true and I kept asking her if it mattered and we finally gave up -- she was looking for a place to stand and I wanted a place to fly."
-Brian Andreas

Don't let yourself be tied to the ground if your wings are aching to catch the wind.

Monday, May 10, 2010

silver wings

Roald Dahl will help me with this post...

"I've heard tell that what you imagine sometimes comes true."

So I sat on my couch last July and was researching and when I found it, my pulse quickened.

I can do this masters program. One year. Free tuition. An adventure in Sweden. This can happen.

"Never do anything by halves if you want to get away with it. Be outrageous. Go the whole hog. Make sure everything you do is so completely crazy it's unbelievable..."

It's amazing how time flies while it still takes you to so many places and carries you along while you scramble to get a million things done.

And then, a couple days ago, the emails flooded my inbox. I was accepted to the program. My dream program, ready and waiting for me in the south of Sweden. Now if only I can make it happen.

"We have so much time and so little to do. Strike that, reverse it."

When I began the journey, while it seemed outrageous and lofty, it simultaneously felt like the most logical and natural thing for me to do, combining all these things that I needed, longed for, and knew would take me to great opportunities and a better version of myself. And I knew that reaching for it would allow me the chance to fail. Failure... I hate it. I'm not used to it. Life here, in the past couple of years, hasn't given me much opportunity to experience it. But I knew it was time to change that. I'm terrified and ecstatic... and proud of myself that I looked for and found the less traditional option, the path less traveled.

"And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don't believe in magic will never find it."

I hope I can arrange the finances to make it happen. In the past couple days, my worry has been outweighing my action. If I can reverse that... and end up biking along cobblestone streets to my university, reading in cafes with classmates from around the world, and exploring the rocky shores of the Swedish coast with my dear friends... wow. My imagination bursts with this real opportunity for adventure.

"You seemed so far away," Miss Honey whispered, awestruck.
Oh, I was. I was flying past the stars on silver wings," Matilda said. "It was wonderful."

Friday, May 7, 2010

pink bubbly

We found a perfect spot by the water. We spread our blankets out. Out of the bags came our crab, chicken, and chinese salads, some cheese, strawberries, and of course, bottles of champagne. We brought out the speakers, hooked up the ipod, and turned on the tunes. A late afternoon, last day of April sun shone down, it felt perfect on our bare shoulders and legs.

Everything then was so unknown and yet the moment couldn't have been happier. A rolling tide of joy rose up, inspired by the setting and the food and the fact that I was sitting around dear dear friends who have meant so much to me in the past year.

Friends who sing Disney songs at the top of their lungs while we walk downtown in the night.

...who help me when I don't know how to ask for it.

...who know the people I have known and can understand.

...who pull me out of my occasional hesitance and into epic and sometimes mischievous memories.

...who wrap their arms around me so tight when they saw I needed it. I didn't have to talk or move, they just held me hard and close. I wouldn't have expected that from them, I can't even do that for those I'm close to most times, but they did, and it was the perfect thing to do.

And we toasted several times, to various things, and since summer is close, the sun still kept shining. We sang into pretend microphones to so many songs, and the one I remember most was this one:

"and all the roads we have to walk are winding
and all the lights that lead us there are blinding."

Winding or straight... well-lit or not... this is a good road.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


"So will you still be here in the fall? We'd love for you to stay on with us!"

"And Corinne, what are you looking for in a relationship? Something serious? Or...?"

"Will you be in town for Fiesta?"

"What will you do if you don't get into the program?"

"Why wouldn't you play kickball next fall?"

"Shouldn't you buy new cleats?"

"Want to see John Mayer at the end of August?"

"Can you come to this wedding next spring?"

"Are you interested in this other job? It's not where you want to end up but it's really awesome..."

"If you went to Sweden when would you go? If you didn't study there how long could you stay?"

"What is new?"

"How do you feel?"

"You're complicated."

To every question, every comment... I don't know. All these in the past couple weeks. Sometimes from people who know I'm up in the air, sometimes from strangers or people who don't know what I'm up to.

And I just. don't. know.

In a couple weeks I probably will. And any which way things will go, I'm getting really scared, because the changes are coming either way, and change has NEVER not been for the better but it remains ABSOLUTELY terrifying when it holds the most major things in your life in its hands.

visual diary

Coachella... as I saw it.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

"tall as the dunes on the shore"

At nighttime you could look up and if you waited a few moments, the dozen-plus searchlights that swept across the desert sky would come together, shining simultaneously towards the middle of the stars. Whether I was sitting in the grass swaying my head to lilting piano melodies, holding the hand of a friend as we weaved our way out of the dance tent and on to the next stage, or jumping up and down to the beat of the headliners, I would look up there pretty frequently... it was settling and stable, yet fantastic and out-of-reach. It was a fleeting mental escape from one of the most intense sensory experiences I've ever had... one that pushed hard against our capabilities for handling sight, sound, touch, and the rest. And even as it pushed, we wanted more, and knew that we'd never have the time to see, hear, feel, or do it all. And as we drove away we were already remiss that it was over. Showers, silence, clean clothes, sleep, sanity, be damned.

To remember every moment would be most desirable. I would love to recall exactly the way Temper Trap opened their set. I wish I knew how we ended up talking to some Australians after the Gorillaz played. It would be great to remember what songs we laughed at and sang to when they came on at the club in the campground. But of course, life is not designed to remember everything, it's impossible. So much is a blur. But there are some extremely vivid moments that I think I'll hold forever.

* Our group of five was zooming through the crowd, led by tall Jonas who had his fist in the air so we could keep track of him by our stay-together method of wearing glowing wristbands. There was a thick frenzy of excitement pressing down on us, the final act of the festival was taking the stage. Movement, movement, lights, bodies, cheering... Jonas was running faster and faster. He kept repeating, "this is it guys. let's do this. this is IT!" and all we could do was keep our eyes trained on his glowing fist and clasp hands tight, Sabina and Jodie and me, and follow. Then we got near the front. And then the beat dropped.

* Without expecting it, I found myself falling for LCD Soundsystem. The tunes were fantastic and the energy incredible. And several songs in, they started one song, I can't remember if it was Someone Great or All My Friends... Then I could see a fierce jump forward from a guy to the right and back of me, and his face was elated. He cried out, to noone in particular, or maybe all of us, or maybe just for himself... "THIS IS WHY I'M HERE! THIS BAND...THIS SONG! THIS IS WHY I'M HERE!!!.... this is why I'm here..." he trailed off as he began to sing along. I smiled at that for hours. His moment, I could so identify with it, became one of mine.

*She danced and waved her hands, not as crazy as some around us, but she was enjoying herself. She was in a two piece bathing suit only, with some body paint and maybe some feathers in her hair, not unusual for the festival. It was nighttime at one of the headlining acts. Since our groups were pressed in close to each other, the usual festival camaraderie came easy. We hadn't exchanged any words at all, just bumps and laughs and sing a longs. She was younger than me, and looked not crazy or hipster but sweet. At one point she leaned back, wanting to say something, so I leaned forward. "This is my first time really letting loose. The first. I don't ever look like this, I never have, I'm so conservative," she said, gesturing to all her bare skin. "I came here to be free." Her innocent face, somewhat buzzed, seemed to hope for acknowledgment that it was okay. It was. "You look great. And this is the most fun. Be free," I smiled at her and hugged her. She grinned and turned back and wrapped her arms around the girl next to her. I wonder about her.

*We could hear that they'd started a few minutes early. We started to run. It wasn't fast enough. Sabina and I broke into a full sprint, leaving the rest behind. We couldn't miss one more note without being as close as possible, this was one of the main bands we came for. When we reached the more tightly woven crowd, she persisted as she always did by pulling us through, winding past. Then somehow, after my pointing it out and her daring assertiveness, we got ourselves up on a concrete platform, only big enough for the two of us and a fellow Passion Pit fan. Our feet were at least seven feet higher than the heads of the crowd. We were right in the center of thousands. The sun was going down, and the colorful festival lights came on; the orange ferris wheel, purple folded crane, green and blue palm trees... Passion Pit sang, "let your love grow tall, tall as grass in the meadow, or the dunes on the shore, like the buildings in the city, and your children on the floor..." And the wind was warm on my face and Sabina and I waved our hands and it was unbelievable and THEN they played Moth's Wings... one of the songs I set my 2009 video to, and images of some of the best times of my life flooded over me, mingling with the images and feelings before me right then. There were tears in my eyes. It one of those perfect and stunning moments when you feel that it's possible that all your dreams will come true. You forget about the scholarship decision waiting in the mail at home, you forget about everything except for the moment.

That was Coachella.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

desert bound, unfettered and free

and away we go...

more friends than I can count, from across California.

music lovers and good timers from across the country and abroad.

cars packed with summer dresses and bathing suits and sleeping bags and lanterns and beers.

spirits full and thrilled in anticipation of the next four days, of which we've been counting down the days since triple digits.

we arrive tonight after a road trip of a multiple car caravan. for days and nights we will...

run between concerts, set list in hand, smiles wide with excitement.

pump our fists to the beats of djs playing under the stars where hundreds move in time with us, warm breezes blowing by.

sit in the mornings and before bed with friends old and new in a tent city, telling stories, taking pictures, playing games, sharing snacks and coors light.

soak up the hot desert sun and the fact that life is beautiful and we are so blessed and these are the kind of adventures that you seize to make things as memorable as possible along the way.

See here to see what Coachella will look like. See this website next week to see what it looked like through my eyes.

Thursday, April 8, 2010


To Do List For This Week:

1. finish my taxes
2. complete my Coachella band research
3. secure tent and sleeping bags and outfits fit for the desert for Coachella
4. buy a new camera
5. all my clients are back from spring break. figure out new work schedule.
6. check the mail. try not to think about it too much.
7. new debit card was sucked into atm... must replace
8. sleep
9. confront the tangled web that is Tuesday night co-ed kickball
10. purchase plane tickets to Uganda. yep.


up in the air

"So tell me the story!" S said eagerly. "I just know there was kissing in a treehouse, and I want to hear all the details! From the time we left, how did you end up there? Sounds awesome!"
I grinned. "It was really awesome." It was a good story, but more than how it sounded cool, it had really been a genuinely great time. Once we were all sitting down with menus in hand, they had me tell the tale.
"So after you guys left, I had to take E and him home, and of course E is so close, so I dropped her off first..."


"Do you want to come in?"

I had just pulled into his driveway. I looked directly in his eyes, looking for some hint of smirk. None. We'd been coyly flirting all night, under the radar of all the outright flirting and jolly mischief that regularly goes on with our team during the food and drinks after kickball. It was only a matter of time before we'd confront the fact that he was obviously interested. Which is interesting to me.

"How about... I come in and we go to the treehouse?" I suggested. I'd wanted to see this treehouse since he'd mentioned it a couple weeks ago... two different levels, ocean view, it sounded like it was right up my alley. It was still an early night...and, this way, I wasn't actually "coming in the house to hang out." The treehouse was the purpose...not something else.

So inside we went. After some chatting with the roommates we went out to the backyard. It wasn't a treehouse like your dad made for you when you were a kid, with a straight ladder and walls or a fence around the platform, all safe and storybook-like. This was a twentysomething-plus treehouse. Less safe, more adventurous. Kinda tricky to climb up to the first level, quite a bit of careful foot placement and upper body strength was needed to get up from the ground. Then you had to climb skillfully around the thick branches upwards... until you got to the second level. It was a perch, high above the ground, with a perfect view out to the ocean. A long strand of little white lights wound carefully from branch to branch, illuminating the inside of the tree where we sat. It was perfect.

We talked and talked. About the funny, the serious, the random... we even debated. At one point he placed his hand over mine very deliberately, laced his fingers through, and pulled our hands towards himself. Later there was a break in the conversation. I leaned forward to see if I could see any constellations through the gaps in the leaves.

"So, how do you feel about kissing in a treehouse?" he broke our comfortable silence. I didn't look at him and kept peering upwards, but could feel a laugh trying to break through my lips. "Well, I don't want to fall out of here..." I stalled. The laugh escaped.
"Well I'm not going to lay you out over this branch!" he laughed too, pointing to the 5 inch diameter bit of tree coming out from under our platform. I laughed harder. When I stopped, I said finally, "I feel good about kissing in a treehouse."

And then we did.


Then a few days later, amidst too many people and too much noise, a kiss happened again.

Shortly afterwards he said this: "When I kiss you, I can see in your eyes beforehand that you are thinking 'What am I doing?' You really have to think about it first. It's so obvious. What's the deal?"

He was absolutely right. I didn't think I was so transparent. I was thinking that... I have been.

It's just cause there's so much else going on... so much unknown, so many people to consider, I don't know who or how much I want. It's not you... it's me.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

what's to come

a drive home, north on the 101, for a holiday. oh how many times i have done it.

but my favorite time to do it is during the daylight of spring. the hills are greengreengreen... rolling and gentle and lush. the rains have worked their magic on "golden" california and made it clear that we sorta do have seasons. and this one is the very green one.

i've been a few places and i still think california is one of the most beautiful there is. so many different parts of it. and i love that to go to family means that i must drive up through vineyards, along the ocean, past fields of yellow, mist swirling around the massive hills dotted with round bits of forest. i enter the bay area and the hills slope down to a shimmering bay, bridges rise in the distance, and i marvel at how lovely it is and wonder if i'll ever live here again.

with all the rain this winter, this drive was one of the most amazing i've done in the last ten years. despite the crippling allergies all this blooming has brought me, i could still gaze in awe. i sipped on a peppermint tea, while some of my new tunes played over my wandering thoughts about all that April has in store for me...

"never wanted time for looking back
for a moment i look down and wonder
and of what's to come today
girl, i wonder where you are..."

-Ra Ra Riot, who I will see in two week at Coachella.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

"oh we'll get there someday"

"You mean you're not going to follow her to the east coast for college?" the mother said pleadingly but with a twinkle in her eye.
"Oh, wouldn't that be fun!" I answered with a laugh. I've been giving heads-up in the past couple weeks to the families I work with that there is a possibility I won't be in town next school year. Just a possibility... I don't want to surprise them with the news later on if it's really going to happen. I've been surprised and flattered at the playful resistance and genuine disappointment that's come in response. In some ways, I know that there is someone else who could do perhaps a better job than I have with these high schoolers, and I have some people in mind to pass them on to.

But it's nice to know I will be missed if I'm gone. I will miss them too... no work I've ever done is as fun as tutoring these teenagers. And it's so much more than tutoring... it has to be, to establish that rapport and gain respect and mutual "like".

I love Monday nights when I arrive at B's lovely home on the hill... and she is ready with the latest funny anecdote about one of her friends, or a photo of a piece of clothing from the Olsen twins line, Elizabeth & James, which we both love. This is my second year with her... and at times I've even shared very tiny snippets of the latest travel/boy/fun stories in my life, which seventeen year old girls gobble up.

Tuesday afternoons with C... that girl is amusing. She was quiet at first...but her humor sneaks up on you with its spontaneous quirkiness. On our second session, she was telling me how her classmates, two darling hyper girls I worked with in tandem last summer, told her that the best way to bother me was to try to "scrunch" my hair when I wear it curly. I laughed, and immediately sent a joint text to those two girls thanking them for passing on that wisdom. I explained to C that yes, I don't like my hair scrunched, and most clients wouldn't get a chance to know that, but those girls and I spent a lot of hours just the three of us, sitting in couches going insane studying Algebra, so they got comfortable enough with me to touch my hair, which doesn't commonly happen with my clients. Little fourteen year old C didn't skip a beat and responded, "Oh, don't worry, we'll get there someday." We're not there yet, but we have discovered our mutual love for the smell of freshly lit matches, so I've given her a box of Swedish matches that light extra explosively. And since we meet at my house, I let her light some of my candles during our sessions.

And then I think, I'm gonna miss these girls if I go. But even if I don't, they will soon, so one of us has to do it first.

Monday, March 29, 2010

"sparkly and colorful, we are"

We sit in the car, southbound on the 405...

"Some people, some girls, are just colorless. I want to be around people who are colorful. You are colorful. You are vibrant. A colorful girl. That would make a good song."


We sit in a modern space, dramatically decorated red and black, with the tastiest Italian food before us.

"So won't you show me your writing? Can't I see your blog?"

"Hmmm." I look down, embarrassed, not sure how to evade this any longer, I must just say it. " Well, maybe, it's just that, I've kind of written about you on there. Like once or twice."

"Well, I can't wait to read it." He said with a gentle and amused smile.


We sit on a balcony with tea, overlooking the beach.

"Why is it that you want to figure people out so completely?"

"If I know and understand people, I can treat them better, they don't bother me since I get their motivations, and, well, I think I want to understand people well enough so that they can't hurt me..." I explain vaguely.

He frowned. "But people can still hurt you, even if you 'get' them."

"Yeah, but maybe they can hurt me less this way... " I trailed off. I had never really said that reason out loud. Not sure how I liked the sound of it.


We sit by the window, he with his spicy shrimp soup and me with my chicken pad thai.

"What kind of guy do you typically go for, then?"

"I like leaders... I like guys who are sure of themselves and are such that others are sure of them too. Kind and good with people. Driven. Fun. One of my best friends told me that I seem to only have ever dated guys who 'sparkle'. I like that." I smiled.

"Well... that sounds like me!" He winked. "But really, I have heard that said to me before... Sparkle. Am I a guy who sparkles?"

We both kind of laughed but it was an honest question. "You are!" I said.

"Okay then. Here we are. A sparkly guy and a colorful girl."


We just been standing, kissing goodbye, giving long hard hugs. I opened my car door and stepped in, he closed the door behind me. I pull my seat belt around as I reach for my ipod to set up a song for my road trip. I'd just barely picked it up and clicked once before there was a tap on my window. I reached for the door handle but he was already opening it.

"One more kiss." He leaned in and gave it. "Okay, be safe." Then shut the door again. I drove away, grinning. He stood there and waved until I was out of sight.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

"set your course by the stars"

On the 4th of July last year, I was more madly in love with my town than ever before.
On the 5th of July, I decided that I needed to attempt a new challenge, one that would likely take me away from this beloved town.

It was strange, realizing that as in love as I was with Santa Barbara, the fact that I still had nagging feelings of "what/where is next?" was a powerful turning point. The first half of last year confirmed my thirst for work that challenged me more, where I could apply the highest tests and purpose to my skills and intuition and passions. The first half of last year developed in me a more fervent thirst for new experiences and learning and relationships.

So I decided to apply to graduate school far far away, to the perfect one year masters degree program designed for the exact career I'd been wanting for years. And I decided that I would put all my effort into winning a top scholarship to get me there.

So for this scholarship, I dove deep into research. I emailed foreign admissions representatives, business contacts, local scholarship advisors... I conducted informational interviews.. I studied for and took the GRE... And I researched some more. Read a ton. Made hundreds of to-do lists.

Then began the writing. Oh, the writing. It was painful. Every sentence of my personal statement and proposal statement was crafted in agony. How could I cram everything I knew and had read about my field into a couple sentence summary? How could I answer all required eighteen-plus questions about who I am, my study/work/life experiences, and where I want to go in one single spaced page? I was on the emotional edge for weeks figuring it out. I had a dozen such statements found online that had won this scholarship that were tattered and highlighted from my intense study of them in order to create something as good or better. I knew the competition was out there, fierce and accomplished and driven, and several times I was close to giving up... when I couldn't figure out the precise angle of my necessary research aim for my proposal, when I didn't think my letter of affiliation would come from the foreign university, when I assessed that my college grades were crap and uncompetitive... But briefly, just a couple times, I thought: I could win this. I have amazing experiences, travel/work/life, behind me. Maybe my writing will draw them in. The letter of affiliation has come! My references are stellar. I think I'm what they're looking for. I hope.

I've never been on such a rollercoaster of belief in myself as I was during August and September. Then I just had to wait.

On January 29 I was told I was a finalist. I was in the top 15 or 20 for ten awards. Just reading the first line of the email I had tears and shaking hands and a pounding chest. That was affirmation enough. I am so honored. And I'm the better for having applied... the process was transformational. So then I've waited some more.

Sometime in the next two weeks I will hear the final answer. It will come by snail mail. The letter, no matter what it says, will change my life. And I'm prepared. I've opened envelopes before that held answers that changed my life, answers that I hadn't expected or hoped for. And it has all worked out okay. I know for certain that it will all be okay this time too. No... not okay... fantastic. Scholarship or not.

You'll hear from me in the next two weeks... shortly after I find myself alone on a beach, opened envelope and unfolded letter in hand.

“When you set out on your journey to Ithaca,
pray that the road is long,
full of adventure,
full of knowledge.”

-Constantine Peter Cavafy

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

"explore. dream. discover."

The last time I'd checked, it was March 11.

Then I was on a hotel rooftop skybar in San Diego, looking out over the city lights, sipping the best champagne I've ever had.

Later I was lying on a black sand beach in La Jolla as we laughed at the unexpected nudists strolling by while we drank Coronas and ate girl scout cookies. Thin Mints and Do-si-dos.

Then I was on a boat in Newport Beach Harbor at sunset, motoring our way to a fancy seafood restaurant.

Some time later I woke up in a big soft hotel bed and had breakfast- cranberry bagels, bananas, juice, and chamomile tea, on a balcony overlooking the ocean in my own little Santa Barbara.

The next day kickball started and I had my fingers crossed for a good team, that my foreign friends would do well, that I would make a good catch and have great kicks and that we'd make a bunch of fun friends. It all happened, even better than I imagined.

Then this one day we all wore green and I drank cider and had veggie pizza with some of my best friends and we traipsed about town, and the night ended as I sat under the stars with someone who hadn't let go of my hand since he'd met up with us and there were whispers in my ear of how beautiful and classy I looked and how funny I am...

A day or two later we said goodbye after a beachside wine tasting and spell in the hot tub. I drove away. And then

I woke up in Pacific Grove. With my mom, sister, aunts, Grandma... and other women who have watched me grow up. We hug repeatedly and we save each other spots at lunch. I greeted the day with a run; following the wooden boardwalk through the white sand dunes and between the cypress trees, and down to the fine soft sand on the beach, scrambling over rocks and jumping over rivulets, the beat of the turquoise ocean loud through my ipod earphones, and it was so amazing and I was so happy to just BE that I had to run with both arms open wide. Laughing.

I just looked at the calendar and it's March 24. How did that happen?

Sometime in the dark dark night as I journeyed the 101 north I was on the phone to my sister, I sat in my little car cocoon and she on a log near a bonfire on the beach that awaited me. I wondered to her, "Is this my real life? Doesn't it sound outrageous? Or is it a dream, like my friend Nick says..."

It is my real life, for now. It's okay for life to be this crazy, this fun, this dreamlike. It's not without it's tears and insomnia and stress and awful pollen allergies.
But mostly everything altogether is adventurous and lovely and I am not taking one second for granted.

Friday, March 5, 2010

"first i must say that i miss your company..."

When I write emails to my mom, she responds in a timely manner, and always responds. She addresses each thing I say, and her tone is engaging and, where it applies, encouraging. I am such a verbal person, both written and spoken, and that she responds to me this way is something I so appreciate.

I was trying to assess why there was something familiar in the way he's been emailing me... I like writing back and forth with people, especially when they are far away. But why did the emails feel so... I don't know... reassuring?

Then it hit me. He writes and responds to me like almost no one else does besides my mom. Not in a weird way...of course... but when I bring a topic up, he continues it with more thoughts. If I answer his question, like what's Newport Beach really like, he thanks me for telling him. If I attach a recent photo of myself doing something fun (following him doing it first), he comments on how pretty I look. And then the time I wrote more than I intended, and tried to disclaim by ending the email with "wow didn't mean to write so much!" he responded by starting "thanks for your long email" and his email was equally as long.

Ummmm... I don't know what to do with this. Verbal affirmation, in person and on paper (well, on internet). I've craved it in a relationship and now it's here... but I don't even consider myself in a relationship. Not really. Confusing? Yep. A problem? Nope.

Whatever happens, it is good to know what it feels like to spend time with someone for whom verbal affirmation comes naturally. It feels reassuring. It feels safe. And it feels good.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

this will look good on him

I think I was about 12 years old, and my mom had just brought us kids home from something and we were sitting down for dinner. My sister and I were commenting on how we probably missed one of our favorite tv shows that night. Then my brother, around 8 years old, jumped out of his chair and made an animated joke about the show, and I almost fell out of my chair laughing. So did my sister and my mom. "He really is funny... more than your average funny guy funny..." I remember thinking.

I always knew it must be hard to grow up as the youngest by several years of three kids, and the only boy, and with obvious personality and interest differences from the older two sisters. I knew it was difficult and it was hard for me to show empathy since we were so different. We all loved each other even if it wasn't said very often, and we mostly got along, and we definitely had some awesome pretend games in the early years... but then sometime along the way as we grew to resemble adults more than we resembled kids, a few years ago, the realization came that my brother and I weren't so different. Definitely not in every way. Inside jokes were easily created and cherished. Laughter was easy and often. Texts back and forth were clever. He would have thoughtful things to say about the guys that I dated.

And so this early adulthood stage in a brother-sister relationship is a great chapter, and it's not necessarily the early years that are the most important in a sibling relationship. All the time you spend together can make it seem like that... but even when you don't wake up and stand on opposite sides of the wall heater every morning before school every day, you can grow as a brother and sister who are friends.

I thought these thoughts the other day when I was wandering around H&M looking for a present for my about-to-be 23 year old brother. I had texted him to double check his shirt size. "Medium, right?" I asked. "Yeah!" he said. Then, a second later, "Except when I'm flexing. Then I'm like an XL." I laughed out loud. I grabbed the medium size sweater. "Obviously!" I texted back.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

lala land

Where do you go when you need to get away? Be refreshed? Get a taste of a place you love and don't get to see often enough?

I go to L.A.

It's not always my escape, but I love being there and it's so close, and I miss it sometimes.

It's been a week-plus of sickness and not too much social time or productivity. I needed some time out of a house littered with herbal supplement bottles and blankets, some fresh air, a new atmosphere, some shopping maybe, and some time away from my computer and watching the Olympics to get some reading in.

So off to Venice and Santa Monica I went.

After a successful shopping session, I went for some lunch with one of my favorite people and ended it with some fried plantains... I'd been craving them for months. We walked along the beach boulevard and played on the rings, balance beams, and climbing ropes that dot the walkway near the pier. It's such an energetic and carefree scene, I wish I could start or end every day there. Then I watched a cold and colorful sunset looking over the coast of L.A. I found a birthday present for my brother on Third Street. Then I sat in an airy cafe with passionfruit tea and eggs on toast for dinner while I read. The rain waited until I started driving home, where a couple more hours of Olympics welcomed me back before bed.

*photo credit not mine for this one

It's good to get away for the day, even when it's away from my wonderful paradise town. It's also good to treasure this time when I have nothing else planned, nowhere to be, and no one to answer to.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


If I really think about it, I've only truly felt healthy for maybe a dozen days since my birthday in October.

It's unlike me... well, unlike how I grew up. I was always super healthy. The year after college I got a lot of colds, but I blame that on working with kids and an extra rainy and depressing winter season. And then in the past year and a half or more my colds have lasted too long. Then last May I had to go on antibiotics to get over a 6 week weird cold-turned-chest congestion thing. Same in the beginning of December. And then a few days later, before the antibiotics were over and I'd been able to enjoy more than 5 days of feeling better, I got sick all over again. So at the end of December, another ten day round of antibiotics. These were stronger, made my mouth taste like poison, and generally made me feel strange. As January came to a close and after a few nights of little sleep, my throat started warning me again with a familiar dull ache, and then all of the sudden, last Thursday, my head and chest were exploding with congestion. And then followed days of the most debilitating cold or flu or sinusitis or whatever I've experienced since I can remember.

When I've talked about it in the past few days, I start to tear up. So it was all I could do to keep my tears from spilling down when I sat in the office of a soft spoken Belgian homeopathic doctor yesterday. I sat there thinking about how I didn't really have a choice besides him, since I knew I shouldn't go back to urgent care and be on antibiotics again, but he was going to cost me so much money. His questions turned from details about my symptoms and history to... my feelings. "How does it feel to have been sick so often?"

"Well I'm used to getting to do whatever I want since I'm a healthy person with a pretty healthy lifestyle. I am not used to having to be careful, to say no to things, to be balancing precariously on the edge of health."

"So...how do you feel?"

He kept returning to that, to ask me to explain it precisely, what I've been and am thinking and feeling. I felt silly almost, to say that it frustrated me, made me upset, made me feel weak. It felt weak to even say all this, like I shouldn't be making it a big deal. I didn't feel like myself saying those things, trying to verbalize thoughts and feelings that I was slowly realizing had been affecting me negatively the past two months especially. I'm not used to being emotionally affected by my health, though it comes as second nature to know how I'm affected emotionally by everything else.

He diagrammed for me on a piece of paper how my emotional, mental, and physical elements are not in sync, and how my physical health issues are causing the other two elements to get off kilter. His questions were all a fine-tuned attempt to figure out how my body is functioning and predict what will help it to function best.

I recognized his analytical method, could compare it to how I analyze people and personality functions. I have to believe, since he is an expert and I am not, that he is more accurate than I am and that this cocktail of supplements I am on now will lead to an end to all of this.

Monday, February 8, 2010

you are very cute.

It came on. I stopped talking. I leaned forward more and more. And then I teared up instantly, and grabbed the hand of my friend who'd just done the same. Across town at another Superbowl party, my friend yelled for the party to pause and rewind the commercial so it could be seen again, because it was "just sooooo Corinne!"

There are so many different versions of those same searches I've typed before in various years of my life. For different and similar reasons. My life has been launched into dozens of adventures, the biggest yet to come, from what has come up on my dramatic and/or curious Google searches. I was so moved by the simplicity of the words and the vulnerability that we give to our internet searching. And as one youtube commenter put it, what the ad showed in so few searches was "just the journey of being human."

Millions of other viewers have been touched by the spot too... just a few comments:

afterburner - Wow.
I met a french girl two years ago while she studying abroad here in the US.
We started to date.
She came back to the University. For me.
We were sitting together at a Super Bowl party and this commercial came on.
Everyone became silent at the party and stared between us and the commercial, smiling.
Almost as good as our first kiss.

rwalford79- And that my friends is EXACTLY the same thing I do, except mine is for Colombia :)

hundredyard-I am a hard-hearted prick and that made me tear up.

marcustodd-i love this commercial, reminds me when i was in love with a foreign exchange student from sweden......

jeromebesnard - That's my story (the other way around).  I'm French, met my wife in the US and we just had a daughter. Very nice!

timberwolves-Great commercial. Stopped an entire bar dead in its tracks last night. By the time the commercial was over you could hear a pin drop.

starsandsea - As someone who met her current partner thanks to study abroad, this made me tear up a little.

JohnnyB - This is crazy. My girlfriend is French. We have been doing everything we can to get her a job back here in the US. We met in business school at SU and she has her MBA. This commercial speaks to us on so many levels...like google has been spying on us. It's one of those things that give you hope and assurance that it has to all work out in the end.

usafpilot - this is something that i am experiencing right now. went abroad last year, have a girlfriend in Germany, and hopefully i'll have the same fate as this lucky guy.....

jpickles - I wonder what the Paris girl is searching about on her end?


Great question. I wonder that too.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

amazing except for

A few days of my favorite class in college focused on how to observe and experience your environment more keenly. Our professor taught us that we should learn how to cultivate "The Illusion of the First/Last Time." The idea is that when you see a place for the first time, you are supremely more aware of the details around you, noticing things that those that are accustomed to the place don't notice anymore, and you are maybe more appreciative. And then, when you see a place for the last time, you tend to linger, soak it in, let your senses take their time over the things there are to remember about the place. In these ways, if we cultivate the illusion that we are in a place for the first or last time, we can see, feel, and learn more about it. It can work with a person or an action or anything. I've never forgotten this lesson.

I don't know if I will be leaving Santa Barbara this year. But in case I am, I have been trying to soak up the luxuries that my daily life in this town bestows upon me, thinking about them more deeply than before, and wringing out every bit of wonderfulness from them. If I leave, I would miss a thousand things as much as I might miss my right arm if it were gone.

But one of the main ones would most certainly be the weather. There are so many great things about living in coastal California and having one of the most mild climates in the world... it's what I've grown up with. But as I look around me, in the dead of our winter, I'm noticing more as I wonder if I might not have this next year.

Tonight, people sit on outdoor patios of restaurants. It was rainy and windy today, but tonight was calm and mild, and outdoors they sat with thin jackets on and no hint of chill. When my friends and I want to dress nice to go out at night, we can leave our jackets in the car for the short walk to the destination. In February. I can go for a run in a tank top and shorts. It rains for more than three days in a row and it makes major news. Just a few days ago, I laid out in a bathing suit in my backyard to read. I mean, this is ridiculous. And I've never known anything else.

This part of the world is wonderful, and many who live here consider the weather to be the best part about it. And I might leave it for a place, as described by it's locals, that is truly amazing except for one bad thing: the weather.

I'm reveling in the 50 and 60 something degree days, sometimes 70+, that we call winter. But I'm also trying to convince myself that these are not non-negotiables for a content life. I'm trying to make myself believe that I wouldn't miss them desperately if they were gone. Because weather isn't everything... right?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

piano man

He looked down at it, eyes sparkling, moving toward it eagerly. As he sat down he said excitedly, not even seeming to direct his words to me but to the atmosphere around us..."I'm going to rock this piano, I promise you."


It had been a good night already, on the way to this moment. We sat in oversized velvet red armchairs and shared delicious Middle Eastern food... grilled halloumi, lamb, hummus... I watched amusedly as he peppered the waitress with questions, his inherent curiosity not allowing him to simply order whatever struck his fancy. He had to know; what was the best local red wine they had? Would she recommend the syrah or the pinot noir? What do the kibbeh wheat balls taste like? I would have been slightly embarrassed, assuming that she would be getting a little annoyed, if it wasn't so apparent that she was a bit charmed by his accent and honest wondering eyes.

We'd been talking about music and how he was in a band and how I played the flute and handbells, and sometimes sang... "I would love to get to a piano right now! I could play... and you could sing." he said. I decided I'd do what I'd been contemplating doing since he'd arrived. "I'm going to take you to a place where you can do that," I replied. "It's deep in Montecito... I'll drive."

As I drove in past the Westmont College sign and parked by Clark Halls, he looked around with his characteristic deep curiosity. We traipsed around for awhile, making our way through Kerrwood Hall and then over to the library rock. Scrambling to the top in our fancy shoes and jackets got us laughing, and at the top he closed his arms around me and stood still for a few moments, oblivious to the perpetually smiling nineteen year olds in their school sweatshirts passing by the rock to study in the library.

I pulled him through the formal gardens and we arrived at the prayer chapel. There is a piano in there for anyone to play, although in all the times I'd been in there I'd never touched it. At that moment, there happened to be a student at the keys, having a moment, singing his heart out. While we waited we ducked into the observatory classroom and pretended to give each other lectures. We scribbled our names on the board, drew pictures, sat in the desks, and giggled like kids. When we walked back to the chapel, the guy was still on the piano. I made a lucky guess, and took us to where I thought the music practice rooms were nearby in another building, and happened to open the right door. There was a practice room, quiet, private, with a lovely baby grand just waiting.

He approached it, and put his fingers to the keys, and played like crazy. Blues, classical, rock, soul... his hands flew up and down the black and white. I couldn't remember when I'd ever seen someone play like that in person. He'd said he was in a band a decade ago, but it seemed he truly did play often at home like he said. He didn't have to think about the notes, and he sang along, and when he didn't know the words he hummed. So supremely comfortable with himself, no hint of shyness, as in anything he did. I sat down next to him and watched as he went from Guns N Roses to ABBA to Journey. I wanted to sing along but I only knew a couple lines to each song. "These songs are a little old for me...maybe could you try something post-1995?" I asked with a laugh. He laughed with me, then tried another idea. Lennon's "Imagine". I could sing that. So we did.

Then he moved on to something else, something beautiful, it seemed somehow familiar but I wasn't convinced I'd heard it before. He didn't sing, he just played. "Do you know what that was?" he asked.

"No... it was lovely though!" I answered. "I wrote it," he replied. I was impressed. "Really? It was beautiful. Beautiful and melancholy and complex," I observed.

He looked up, not at me, and smiled. Then he looked down. Then he nudged my shoulder with his and finally looked in my eyes. "Thank you... yes. Yes. Thank you," he said sweetly and genuinely. It seemed as if he'd wanted it described exactly like that.

Last time he was here we sat with some wine by the beach at night, and I said that I hoped he'd remember that moment when he was back home, so far away. He laughed incredulously, and assured me that it wasn't a moment anyone could easily forget. He's gone again, and that's okay, but now I have this piano session, in my head, not willing to leave anytime soon. It's not a moment easily forgotten.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Here's to the next ten...

I didn't think about the fact that 2010 was a new decade until December. A new decade...and the end of the previous one.

In 2000 I graduate high school and moved away for college and turned 18 and first fell in love.
In 2001 I chose to major in Communications and September 11th happened and I grasped life more firmly as a college student.
In 2002 I grew exponentially as a leader and in my sureness of who I am, lived in Thailand for six weeks, and had my life changed forever by being a Resident Assistant in Clark Halls at Westmont.
In 2003 I met a love of my life, soaked up Santa Barbara for the summer as I would for the rest of the decade, and went on the trip that shapes a lifetime through twelve countries in Europe for three and a half months.
In 2004 I excitedly and fearfully graduated, left Westmont, studied Spanish and life and dancing and body boarding in Costa Rica with my mom for a month, and landed a dream job, lived in a house with friends for the first time, and experienced a completely broken heart.
In 2005 I lost my grandfather, car, house and job within a couple months, and built life back up with the support of my growing Santa Barbara friend group to create the dream that we affectionately called "the mid-twenties", and the theme parties with the roommates began.
In 2006 I reunited with love, watched my sister graduate and biked through fields and past waving grass beaches in Nantucket with my family, deepened relationships with friends post-Westmont in ways that assured we would be friends forever, and had a golden party for my golden 24th birthday on the 24th.
In 2007 I dyed my hair dark, we watched our house burn, we found a dream come true as a replacement and threw the party of the year to celebrate it, and I grew to love LA as I spent every other weekend there with my boyfriend.
In 2008 I had to part with love again, the roommates and I threw our Last Dance, I moved to my own place for the first time, I worked hard, I thrived.
In 2009, well, you know.

In 2010... I will:

* as life evolves for me, be honest with those close to me so that I stay close to who I am and what I believe
* seize the moment but use wisdom within it
* wear my hair curly more often for things that matter
* cook more often. i always say this, but I promise. i'm getting better.
* be more fit than I've ever been
* start a graduate program in the Fall
* travel to Sweden, or possibly study there
* hopefully visit my aunt in Africa
* make sure my friends know I adore them, especially if I might be leaving Santa Barbara
* live an adventure. I swear it. You can only take your memories with you... So I will learn a new language, teach students to succeed, study what I love, spend time with people who are living life to the fullest, and see places I've been dying to see.

Mark my word. Hold me accountable. Here we go...

One Story Alone

"No, life cannot be understood flat on a page. It has to be lived; a person has to get out of his head, has to fall in love, has to memorize poems, has to jump off bridges into rivers, has to stand in an empty desert and whisper sonnets under his breath... We get one story, you and I, and one story alone."
— Donald Miller

2009 was an incredible story. Here is where I tell you about it, but here is where you can see it...

2009 In Review


Moving to the Lindblad's cottage. Best decision ever. A housewarming party full of friends old and new in a home to be proud of.

Body boarding at Raglan Beach in New Zealand. One of the first days of my epic trip, and I knew that the months of saving and years of hoping were redeemed as I took wave after wave during summertime in this paradise in the Southern Hemisphere.

Partying in Queenstown with our new travel friends after days of hiking and exploring the town. This is what traveling is about for me these days... the carefree, spontaneous, shared experiences with new friends in foreign settings that I can do now in my free-as-a-bird days.

Went to Mexico with some of my favorite girls on a cruise ship listening to John Mayer live all the way.

Dancing at Indochine with my Santa Barbara friends and Swedish friends after pre-parties full of wine, singing, youtube videos, and dancing.

Swedish DJ concerts in Hollywood... swaying to the beat all night, it didn't get old.

Watching Carly start to crawl, start to talk, start to walk, start to run, and become the brightest, blondest, happiest, most determined baby I've ever been around.

Fourth of July weekend where I hiked and ate and watched fireworks with my parents and went out dancing with my friends.

A July where I transformed my perspective and had some of the most amazing days I've ever spent in this town, posting a picture here for every day.

Concerts in Hollywood with the Stichters and Quinlans... Phoenix and Ray LaMontagne. Music and southern California and wine and summertime go perfectly together.

August and September spent in research, studying, emailing, planning, and intense personal growth... the reason why will be explained.

Meeting Sabina and Emilia, creating an Autumn unexpectedly laced with Swedishness, like my Spring had been.

Lovefest in San Francisco.

Vegas with my best girls for my birthday.

A Thanksgiving in Napa with my foreign friends and awesome family, where we jumped on the trampoline in the colorful fall forest for hours and hours.

Winning tickets to see John Mayer in Hollywood right after his new album came out.

Christmas Eve breakfast bonfire in the cold Oregon forest in my dad's treehouse.

New Year's Eve with Emily and Zac in Hollywood. Nothing like old friends and an insane club to ring in the New Year.

Challenges of the Year

Being in a new relationship... I learned just how direct I've come to be, gained confidence, learned more patience, and grew from the significant interaction with someone so different yet so similar to me. It gave me a thirst for more new experiences, places, knowledge and people.

As summer began I learned from the Swedes to soak up the sun, they practically worship it, and once they left I took that and ran with it to a place where every day I woke up more in love with Santa Barbara and summer life than the day before. I've always been a somewhat grateful person, but this summer my gratefulness and

I moved from real estate into educational consulting and tutoring, and grew exponentially as a person from it every month. I've improved and gained skills in communication, managing, being assertive and direct and persuasive, analytical problem solving, and speaking honestly to inspire others. I'm happy in what I do and am better at it than I've been at anything before... and it continues to spur me on to want and reach for more...

And in my aim to reach for more professionally and personally, one of my biggest challenges of the year has been the process to get there. I made a decision this summer that required so much from me over the fall in regards to work, self-examination, follow-through, writing, and faith. The journey continues, and I'm am infinitely the better for it. More in the New Year.

Songs of the Year

*Face to Face on High Places by School of Seven Bells
*Burning in the Sun by Blue Merle
*Everything Leaves a Mark by Pictures & Sound
*So Here We Are by Bloc Party
*Praan by Gary Schyman
*1901 & Love Like A Sunset Pt. II by Phoenix
*Use Somebody & Notion by Kings of Leon
*All My Days by Alexi Murdoch
*Vid spilum endalaust by Sigur Ros
*Moths Wings by Passion Pit
*Feel It In My Bones by Tiesto
*Yes by LMFAO
*Fireflies by Owl City
*Pjanoo & Call on Me by Eric Prydz
*Leave the World Behind by Axwell & Ingrosso
*Leende Med Kniv & Stunder Som Den Har by Bo Kaspers Orkester