My Grandmas & Me

Sometimes in a tough moment, or just because, I close my eyes and talk to my angel grandparents. This week in particular, I’ve been thinking a lot about my grandmothers; Grandma Joan and Nana.

When I think about these amazing women, the picture I always have in my head is of them hugging me. I can visualize their unique embrace.  I think about the way they hugged me, their scent and how their kisses felt on my cheek.

My Nana was a spunky 5’ nothing Italian lady, who always held a rosary in one hand and my Nonno’s hand in the other. She would flit around like a tiny fairy, sprinkling holy water on anything and anyone. She made the best homemade pizza. Food was her love language and thankfully she passed that onto my mom. She had a beautiful, but also tough life, and in her last years, constantly surprised us with her strength and nine-lives. Her body may have been frail, but she had the fight of a lion.

My Nana would reach out to us and gently grab our face for a kiss with her tiny, arthritic hands. She had the prickliest kisses from her tiny chin hairs, but they were full of unconditional love.  She used to say “feel my hugs” whenever we were away from her.

My Grandma Joan was magnetic, the life of the party in every sense. She whistled like a freight train when she needed to get everyone’s attention.  My Grandma had 6 kids and 15 grandkids, and somehow, each of us thought we had the “special” relationship with her. She once drove with the 16-year-old-me to Santa Barbara to visit my sister at UCSB. I was flying down the 101 freeway going 85 and instead of yelling, “Jesus take the wheel!”, she just smiled and said, “I trust you!”.

My Grandma gave expansive, firm hugs, tucking us tight into her chest. I envision her gold heart locket resting against the creases on her chest that represent years of love and hard work. She would reach her hands straight out for us to dive into. She smelled like “her” perfume and I imagine her always wearing a peach colored shirt with peach colored toe nail polish.

These women were strong in such unique ways. My nana was unassuming, sweet and mighty. My grandma; boisterous, kind and confident.

Sometimes as a mom, wife, colleague, friend, sister and daughter; I feel absolutely spent. Like I’m living on my edge all day and have nothing extra to give, especially to myself. Come 3pm, my brain fog is equal to San Francisco in June.

When I think about these two women filling up my spirit and standing by my side, I get an extra jolt. In my moments of self doubt, not only do I have their spirit by my side, I am literally a part of them. I came from them.

I will always feel their hugs; they are closer to me everyday than they’ve ever been before.

Ideas & Daydreams

I felt a breeze of Australia today. I was putting Maisley in her car seat and out of nowhere this rush of air came through me like a whisper on a whim.

The sun, a smell, the air.

It was transporting and invigorating. It filled up my wanderlust tank in a split second. It was Australia, in Carlsbad. I felt it.

Australia is my daydreamer’s paradise. The place she goes while sitting in traffic or on a walk with Maisley. Specific spots all around the city come flooding into her: Watson’s bay, the coastal walk, Lord Nelson’s Brewery.

Sometimes I think those rush of beautiful memories are more divine than just a daydream.  As if they come straight from the Mother Nature and God collective. Those two creators sit amongst the stars, gleefully sending us beautiful signs of wonder right in front of us, and wonder we once knew.

I asked my beautifully creative photographer friend how ideas come to her. Are they abstract? Concrete? Do they come in color, words, images?

She told me that she writes in her morning pages every single day. While most of it is just stream of consciousness, she finds gems of ideas hidden in the words. She allows herself time to daydream so that she can create and experiment with original ideas, not just those she sees on Pinterest or Instagram. And she travels. Whoa does she travel.

She then returned the question.

An idea or thought typically comes into my mind either from something someone said, or a little pop from another train of thought. It floats around the chatter of my mind for a few days.

From the front, to the back, to the front again. It persists. Sometimes it bothers me.

A few other ideas begin circulating.

Then, without warning, a bigger idea comes into the flow. I call this thought, “the closer”. It comes in hot. It’s an idea that somehow makes the other ideas fit into a story or narrative. Then I write without hesitation. With freedom and ferocity.

Whatever the source, I’m just happy to get a breath of my soul place and a visit from creativity every now and again.

Fire & Ice : A Writer’s Muse

Mother Nature rules the roost on this island. She decides when Geyser will explode into the air, when the next volcanic eruption will transform the land, when the tectonic plates will shift and when the northern lights will dance. I felt small and insignificant, figuratively and literally next to the dramatic and fierce landscape, at the mercy of Her. A risk taker, enjoying a land that emitted a quiet, impending doom.

I couldn’t help but notice geometric patterns tagging the landscape; an ikat rug amidst the frozen lake, leopard print covering the mountain side. The bright colored roofs on a gloomy day made me giddy with childlike wonder and enamor.  The vibrant street-art filled the otherwise boring walls with a funky personality of opinion and depth. The volcano formed scenery reminded me of agro crag from Nickelodeon’s GUTS. Tales of mischievous elves and the hidden people ran through my mind as I gazed into the mountainside, feeling confident of their presence.

The dramatic landscape and the feeling of unpredictability in this country fosters raw, vulnerable art. A transformative aroma in the air, a feeling begging for fresh thought and nurtured ideas.

Iceland: the perfect setting for a writing retreat.

As I arrived home and unpacked my suitcase labeled ‘heavy’ by airport staff, the only thing I found left untouched was my little green book, Brave Enough, by Cheryl Strayed. She was scheduled to attend our writing retreat in Iceland, and of course, sign my book, but much to everyone’s disappointment, had the stomach flu and couldn’t make it.

The writers were reassured with an Icelandic saying, þetta reddast, meaning it will work out.

This little book represented a theme for my week at the retreat. What I thought would be my experience, was something quite different. Something more, defined not just by one person but an entire country, like-minded friends, authors and mouth-watering brown bread.

Self-discovery as a new writer was my heart-tugging purpose for attending the retreat. Looking back, a quite lofty goal. I have been seeking direction and clarity in my new full-time pursuit as a freelance copywriter/blogger/newsletterist/non-fiction short story teller, and this seemed like the perfect setting for exploration.

Wednesday to Sunday in the small, big city of Reykjavik were dedicated to writing, workshops, receptions and tours. I was intimidated by all of my accomplished co-writers, legitimized by their published work and extensive background. Were they nervous like me? Were they undercover introverts who love their alone time but also feel rejuvenated by fresh conversation and connection?

I knew I would have to explain myself as a writer and this made me a little anxious. As if someone was going to discover that I wasn’t actually a writer? In reality, being surrounded by so many honest and vulnerable people was a huge relief. These were my people

When I explained my current situation of career ambiguity (like some kind of a prognosis) to a man of 60-years, he just nodded his head in understanding and agreement.  He explained that he has done all types of writing in his career, and that was the best part about it. You don’t need to have just one formula.

One of the novelists, Adelle Waldman, recalled her humble beginnings saying, “I used to be just a girl with a word document.”

Maybe I’m in that phase.

I captured so many other important, tasty bits of knowledge throughout the retreat. Here is a small sampling:

  • If something disturbs you, write about it
  • Be humble in front of the world
  • You have an idea, now find the story
  • What is something you are too afraid to ever write about. Write about that.
  • Don’t mistake the good feeling of finishing something, with actually being finished
  • Emotional responses are not your friend
  • Writing is the only art form where you can inhabit the body and mind of another human, real or fake
  • Open yourself to condemnation and shame, and trust in everyone’s humanity
  • Know the difference between a confession (deep/dark) versus a revelation (how something changed you)
  • Ask yourself the question, “Who am I really?”
  • Be brave in your writing

I am brave. I am brave. I had to be brave traveling alone at 22 weeks pregnant. Brave to be vulnerable and true in sharing who I am. Brave to take the leap into a career of the heart.

Now, to take my real-life bravery and translate it into my writing, and my pursuit of new writing opportunities. My challenge and purpose is clear.

We were treated to a small Skype session with Cheryl Strayed at the end of the retreat. It all worked out. And I left with so much more than a signed book.

A soul brimming with creativity, motivation and bravery.

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Photo Credit: Lucy Rogers

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22 Weeks : 10 Days in Iceland

As we made our descent onto the harsh landscape of a country inhabited with a mere 300,000 people, I couldn’t help but feel like we were landing on the moon. Accurately named the land of fire and ice, this country already had a grasp on me.

After much anticipation, 10 upcoming days of Icelandic adventure, a writing retreat, and a baby-moon were upon me. Here is a small taste of my experience traveling to Iceland while 22 weeks pregnant.

International travel as a baby bean carrier felt amazingly out of whack, but at the same time, so normal, because it was still me, doing my favorite thing in the world.

Far outside of my control and comfort zone, I quickly realized that the real Mother Nature rules the roost on this island. 

My anxiety level was certainly higher than on a normal trip, unsure of so many unknowns and wanting to protect my baby. I had a few rough nights of heart-racing insomnia that left me questioning my strength. This led to anxiety about having anxiety and not wanting to put extra stress on my baby. Anybody?

I quickly turned those thoughts into a positive mantra, arming myself with a new sense of purpose and double the amount of strength with my baby on board.

“I will not harbor unhealthy thoughts anymore.” – Elizabeth Gilbert.

With pickled shark plaguing the menus, I knew I was in for an interesting week of eating. We as Americans, or maybe me as an internet reading informant, seem to be significantly stricter on pregnancy diet than other countries. No lunch meat, no unpasteurized cheese, no raw eggs,  the list goes on. No such rules exist in Icelandic culture. I cheated a few times, and gave myself permission to be ok with it. Hunger and nausea usually won the battle when there was nothing else to eat!

Bean, will you forgive me?

Natural, geothermal hot springs sprinkled the landscape. A full-body mineral bath plunge felt like Iceland’s form of a baptism; holy relaxation. 

As if in perfect harmony with my need for reassurance, bean was moving around inside of me like a wild, fist-bumping banshee the entire trip. While laying in bed one night, watching “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”, my husband felt bean kick for the very first time. His reaction and disbelief were priceless, slightly creeped out yet unable to get enough. We laughed and cried in a magical moment imprinted on my memory forever.

Despite the challenges, and missing out on a couple of experiences, it was worth it. It’s always worth it to jump out of my comfort zone and come back built up with an even greater layer of strength and bravery.

Our pseudo lunar landing was complete. One small stamp on our passport and one giant leap in the memory book for our family.

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