This Friday, February 26, 2021, marks my 10 year blogiversary. It all started with a post about my puppy, Uncle Jesse.
In case you’re wondering, he’s doing well.
In 2011, after years in a beige-walled cubicle, I needed an outlet for my creative writing background. You know, something my mom could read for a chuckle. I didn’t expect that, within a year, I’d meet some of the most influential people in my life – creative, kind-hearted, hilarious humans who I’m lucky enough to call friends to this day.
Not sure what they’d call me…
This blog has seen me through divorce, dating disasters, job losses, career changes, a cross-country move, countless sweat-fests, ethical epiphanies, and more than a few woo-woo experiences. Most importantly, it documents my keen eye for talent.
I dare you to search “Darren Criss” (a.k.a. “Second Husband”) on this blog. …And noooo, I don’t find it all cringe-y that I jokingly called him “Second Husband” for two years and then ACTUALLY GOT A DIVORCE…
I originally called this blog “Go Guilty Pleasures!” and wrote light-hearted posts detailing my many (many) embarrassing obsessions. The presentation was silly, but brewing beneath the surface was my aching desire to help others feel at home in their own skin. No trolls, bullies, or bigots allowed. It wound up being fantastic training in diplomacy, improv (answering every comment with, “Yes! And…”), and memoir writing.
In fact, even after years of studying writing in college, I didn’t find my voice until starting this blog (at age 28).
A lot has changed over the years, and most of the old readership has faded away, but having this port to dock my creativity, during stormy and sunny seasons alike, has brought immeasurable joy.
But what have I REALLY gotten from having this blog? The bittersweet reminder that some things never change.
What I lack in posting consistency, I like to think I make up for in character consistency.
Based on a true story, The Dig is about a lady with lumps in her lawn. What, you want more? Okay. It’s 1939. A wealthy British widow (the lovely Carey Mulligan) hires an amateur excavator/archaeologist (played wonderfully by Ralph Fiennes) to dig up these odd, massive hills dotting her property; she suspects they could be covering up something of historic significance.
As I watched Fiennes methodically plotting his dig and carefully setting to work, I was struck by the sheer beauty of it. The tenderness, care, and focus on a future outcome rooted entirely in honoring the past.
So often now things seem rushed. Careless. Disposable. Selfish and singular. Flurries of social media posts, appliances that break before you take them out of the box, decisions made out of convenience versus the greater good. I’m as guilty as anyone of resting on my privilege, posting seven “look at my food!” Instagram stories in a row, and pressing ‘Buy Now’ on questionably-sourced products.
Why can we handle an archeological dig with such tender patience, yet treat each other and our shared future so carelessly? Furthermore, why can’t we apply the same loving consideration when we mine our own hearts and past(s)? Can you imagine the world if we approached it and ourselves with such reverence?
The cynic in me says, “We’re only careful when someone stands to make a fortune – either in money or fame or both.” But that doesn’t explain the characters in The Dig. Their motivations were based in truth-seeking and respect for the past. And, sure, a desire to be remembered for something bigger than themselves, but in this case, I’d argue it was less ego-driven and more altruistic.
As the movie played on and two more characters entered the scene – a young archeologist couple – a new question came to mind: Is it possible to find treasure without also finding sorrow and struggle?
Speaking of dirt…
It’s no epiphany, and perhaps just a sign of my aging conscience, but I watched The Dig and longed for simpler times and a purer future for us all. I love movies that make me cry. Think. Laugh. Preferably all in one film.
Hey! What’s up! How are you! Why am I using so many exclamation marks! I don’t know! There’s just something in the air!
I don’t want to keep you from your own celebrations, but if you’re looking for even more uplifting stories while you wait to pop the bubbly, I thought it’d be fun to share some of the REALLY cool stuff I’ve seen lately.
(I’ve cried enough while watching the news this month. I figured you might be feeling the same.)
If You’re Looking for #WomanPower or #Entrepreneur Inspiration…
My friend, Ericka, launched this cruelty-free beauty company right here in Bend, OR, and their waste-free, multi-use balmies landed on OPRAH’S FAVORITE THINGS LIST! I’m excited to interview Ericka in the future, but in the meantime, I can’t recommend her products enough.
If You’re Looking for a Feel-Good Movie*…
Check out “The Grizzlies” on Netflix, based on the true story of a group of Inuit high school students who live in a small Arctic town struggling with the highest suicide rate in North America. Cue: preppy, young history teacher from the city who takes the only job he can find and decides to teach them how to play lacrosse. I especially loved how they included an update on the actual students and teachers at the end of the film.
*I hesitate to post this for fear of promoting the simplification of solutions to systemic problems…but watching this movie made me want to BE AND DO BETTER, so I’m including it here**.
**I really hate having to qualify things that make me want to be a better human***.
***But unfortunately it’s important to do so because watching a movie isn’t going to help unless you take action afterwards****.
****I promise the rest of this post is free of footnotes.
If You’re Looking to Take a Trip Without Leaving the Couch
My French Chronicles just pulled together a wonderful two-minute video, “Bloggers with a View,” featuring quick clips from around the world (including Bend!). She’s got more collaborative projects in the works, so if you’re interested in participating, head over and say hi!
If You’re Looking for a Healthy Living Jump-Start Before You’re Seen in Public Again…
And whether you’re rockin’ your quarantine bod or better, why not clothe it in our new merch?
If You’re Looking for a Really Great Podcast Episode
I love Rich Roll. He’s smart, eloquent, sensitive, vegan, badass, and driven. In episode #567, he interviews Joe De Sena, founder of Spartan and a bunch of other crazy endurance events. Maybe it’s the Jersey girl in me, but I laughed out loud (along with Roll) listening to this Queens native tell his fascinating story.
If You’re Looking for…YOU
Okay I know I just insinuated that I was about to shut up, but real quick, I just want to give an insufficient, yet utterly heartfelt, thanks to YOU. If you made it to this point in my post, I’m going to assume you choose hope over all else. And even if you don’t? I love you anyway. So there.
I glanced to my right and let out an astonished chuckle. Shifting in my seat, I looked right again.
The clouds had lowered themselves in such a way that they were somehow part of the sprawling, high desert ground, the northern Nevada mountains peeking out over top. They looked solid yet ethereal. Upside down. A fairytale landscape.
I wondered how many fanciful reasons I could come up with for this sight.
Even the clouds gained weight in 2020…
A giant sky troll got mad and smooshed them down…
A GROUND troll started weight lifting and pushed them UP…
The clouds were hungover, couldn’t get out of bed, and like seriously why are mountains such show-offs anyway…
The mountains were taking a shower and didn’t want road warriors like me to see their, ah, peaks and valleys…
The mountains were getting ready for a grand performance and the clouds were their theater curtain…
Maybe it was the monotonous driving; nine hours with little more than radio static to keep me company. Or the stress of the past year. Or maybe this was just how my brain worked. Either way, a surge of energy swirled around my heart.
There was magic in this moment. Not just because the sight itself was otherworldly. But because it catapulted me into my imagination, a place where time was meaningless and the more something made me giggle, the more valid it was.
Those moments were commonplace in 2019.
When I got back home, I stared at my laptop wallpaper, where I proudly displayed my vision board. A cliché exercise, to be sure, but I’ll be damned if it didn’t produce some of that mountain magic.
In fact, over the past few years, I’ve had to update my vision board regularly because the images on it KEEP COMING TRUE. Usually not in the exact way I pictured, but that’s how the universe works. Wishes are granted through chance encounters, strangers’ smiles, and saying “yes” when all you want to do is sleep.
2020 robbed us of many things, including some of those opportunities to bump into each other, smile, and say, “Yes!” But now the cloud curtains are parting and reminding us that the mountains and magic were there all along.
Wow, can you believe another year has come and (almost) gone? It flew by in such a haze of joy, stability, and stocked shelves! I’m so excited to share some of my 2020 highlights – and, gosh, I hope your year was as awesome as mine!
In January and February, good friends gleefully gathered for birthday parties, clothing swaps, tubing with drag queens, and snowshoeing…
This is going to be the BEST YEAR YET.
In March, I–OH MY GOD FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT’S JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE WHA-? WHY? HUH? TOILET PAPER??
I, like many others, focused on what I could control.
I wasn’t worried about the calories because, hey, this would all be over soon and I was training for a marathon! Which wound up being steeped in cheers, medals, and merriment.
Speaking of, April also found me “celebrating” my birthday alone, surrounded by friends I found in magazine pages.
And then I hit a new low.
Once I realized the answer to my expanding waistline wasn’t in cauliflower form, I began weightlifting with a generous COVID bubble friend/former personal trainer.
Stacy, you say, “You made vegan mac and cheese 14 days in a row” like it’s a bad thing…
Feeling a little better immediately, I made the monumental decision to get bangs accept my first date in weeksmonths let’s not talk about it.
Quickly remembering why I don’t date, Uncle Jesse and I planned a series of hikes where no one would tell us they never called like they said they would because they were waiting to see if they could take someone ELSE out on a date that weekend (YES THAT’S A THING THAT HAPPENS).
We first tackled a spectacular canyon hike and had a great time both got burnt paws.
And then, a month later, just when we were sure things couldn’t get worse…
It would be many weeks before we trusted each other again.
Well, no matter, later in the summer, we scaled new heights during a hike that was supposed to have one of the best views in central Oregon!
For our next stunning hike, we climbed on our hands and knees for a half an hour and found a pile of rocks! I wondered if we would need them before the next toilet paper run.
“Is anyone using the Long Island house next weekend?” I typed, biting my lip. I proofread the email to my aunt one last time before hitting send. I’m sure she won’t mind…
My aunt owned a small, rustic family home near a bay that was one of my favorite getaway spots (and favorite places to paint without permission). It was the perfect place to hide my new secret.
I walked away from the computer and got ready for that night’s group cycling ride. Every Wednesday night, a few girlfriends and I would sweat through our padded Spandex shorts as an excuse to go eat sushi and drink wine afterwards.
That night, we went to one of our usual Asian fusion spots.
“May I please have two orders of the avocado roll?” I asked when the waiter appeared, my heart pounding.
When our food arrived, one of my friends glanced over at my plate.
“What, you’re not eating meat now?” she asked with a smile.
I gulped. “Actually…no.”
I cringed, waiting for the fall out. But Jules, I don’t know anyone who loves bacon as much as you. What about cheese? Butter? Smoked salmon?!
My friends tilted their heads. “How come?”
“I watched this documentary,” I began in a rush, feeling my face crimson. “And I saw things I can’t unsee.”
They nodded as if to say, “Fair enough,” and the conversation quickly pivoted.
That was it…? I inwardly sighed with relief and stopped worrying where the conversation would land.
While holed up in Long Island for the weekend, I read every plant-based cookbook I could get my hands on, tinkering in the old kitchen with things I’d never tried before. Tempeh…huh. Flax seeds…all right.
It was terrifying.
Just a few years earlier, I’d been vacationing in that same small Cape Cod-style house with my now ex-husband, wondering if we’d have kids and whether we’d ever be financially stable enough to take that plunge.
In 2016, unaware that I was straddling major life events, I hadn’t quite learned to embrace the unknown. With each spare second, I turned my vegan epiphany into a research project, reading every plant-based blog under the sun and even enrolling in a related Masters program. I quickly created a framework and milestones for “being vegan,” like completing grad school and signing up for a plant-based meal plan.
Being in the middle of change is a little like being in the eye of the storm. Things are swirling so quickly around you that you can’t even process the chaos. But suddenly you’re staying up past midnight, again, triple-checking that you locked the front door, and obsessively picking out the perfect picture frame for your desk. Control begs to be heard and yet, counterintuitively, the only way to quiet her cries is to let her go completely.
If recent years (especially this one!) have taught me anything, it’s that very little ever goes according to plan. The beautiful thing about accepting this, and relinquishing control, is that you start to get excited about the unknown. Well, gosh, how amazing might things be, beyond my wildest imagination? Who KNOWS what chance meeting or conversation I might have tomorrow that changes the ENTIRE TRAJECTORY of my life…
Since I know what we focus on expands, I know if I focus on the infinite possibilities, I’ll always have something to look forward to. And if I focus on the endless opportunities of an uncertain life, well, then…
(The Future) Mrs. Justin Timberlake
(A slightly altered version of this post will soon be cross-featured on my new baby/business venture, PlantBasedPoint.com, launched in partnership with Robin [more on her soon]! Huzzah!)
If you read last week’s post, you already know that my social media presence lives somewhere between Eepsville and Creepytown, USA. Instead of letting strange lurkers bother us, though, why not capitalize on their incredible…creativity?
I mean, let’s say you had access to all of the search terms that ever led people to your blog. Would you just sit on this information?
You would turn that shiz into t-shirts and sell them in your pretend blog store PRONTO!
And then give your fake paying customers the EXCLUSIVE FIRST LOOK!
BEHOLD [what happens when you spend too much time on Zazzle]…
Oh, what, you don’t believe me? Have a peek:
But wait, there’s more!
And what I plan to add to my own private collection…
“Sometimes I put up a story [on Instagram or Facebook] just to see who’s watching.”
“Wait. Tell me more,” I stared at my friend.
“Yeah, you can totally see who views your stories [that disappear after 24 hours]! It’s a great way to see if an ex is still creeping on your social media.”
As my friend explained more, it made sense. Unlike with normal feed posts, stories capture who has viewed them, so you actually get some insight into not only the total view count, but into exactly which followers have been checking out your stuff. In other words, anyone silently lurking on your social media, never liking or commenting, is CAUGHT. Watching you.
As a long-time blogger, I’m well aware of the depressing statistic that only 1% of readers ever leave a comment. 10% might like your posts, if you’re lucky. So even though you can see how MANY people visit your site [via behind-the-scenes analytics], you never know WHO’S reading.
This was brand new territory.
Over the past few weeks, as part of building my [alter ego] The Vegan Dollar YouTube channel, I started regularly posting and sharing stories on my associated Instagram account. Right away, I noticed a familiar face checking out every. single. story. Sometimes within minutes of hitting publish.
Wait. Didn’t he follow my account like a year ago? I thought that was an accident…I guess it wasn’t! I clicked on his profile image. His account was private. I didn’t follow back.
BECAUSE THAT WOULD BE INSANE.
BECAUSE HE DUMPED ME SIX YEARS AGO.
AND WE HAVEN’T SPOKEN SINCE.
Yup. That’s right. The infamous fellow who texted heart emojis just hours before asking for his apartment key back is now watching every single story…on my vegan brand account…
What. The. Actual. Fudgcicles.
I immediately snapped into research mode. After about an hour, I stumbled on a post that referred to this exact phenomenon. “Orbiting,” the article called it. (And apparently I was late to the scene.)
With this new phrase in my back pocket, I dug deeper. Unfortunately, I soon discovered tale after tale of people -women, especially- with experiences just like mine. In one case, the woman reached out to her peeping-Tom-ex-who-had-dumped-her-years-ago. “Hey, I noticed you’ve been watching my stories,” she messaged. “What’s up? How are you?” The guy never wrote back and immediately blocked her.
Is this okay? Are we okay with leaving it at that? Forgiving stalking just because it’s (arguably) passive? And furthermore, putting the onus on the stalked?
Does having a public social media account give implicit permission for any and all lurking? Are we signing a contract that says, “Sorry, pal, you asked for it”?
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’ve creeped on a page or two in my day. Truuuuust me. And there are certainly instances where exes can remain friends on social media, even if they need to take an initial pause after a break-up. But consistently checking out the content of someone you dumped years ago and with whom you haven’t exchanged a single word, like, or comment since?
Are we really okay with that?
What about a family member with whom you might have had a fallen out, but then notice they’re watching every story of yours on Facebook, while refusing to have an actual conversation?
Ten years of (mostly) sheer tomfoolery. From mustaches to missing thumbs to Made for TV specials, it might be easy to think I naturally see the humor in everything. That the universe winks upon my charmed world and I wink back.
But the truth is, THIS BLOG makes me see the humor in everything. It forces me to consider how I WANT to be and to turn that into reality.
I need that. We all do.
Aside from needing to force myself into seeing the lighter side of life, I also need to force myself OUT of being, well, a bit of a…tightwad. As part of my project manager nature, I like to track money. Think about money. BE IN CONTROL of money.
In order to combat this miserliness, I make myself donate money on a regular basis – to various causes that align with my values. Because despite my practicality, I believe money, just like everything, is simply energy. It flows if you let it flow. And if you believe something is scarce? You’ll experience scarceness.
In other words, the more worried I am about money, the more I make a habit of giving it away.
It…sucks. I feel stupid. Reckless. Pissed off.
And then, quickly, always, I feel…wonderful.
I hesitate to share the following story because it seems like a major #humblebrag, but, well, once you read it, you’ll (hopefully) see that I JUST HAD TO.
Before I fled the recent wildfires here in Oregon, I made a guilt-ridden, combat-Scrooge-Jules donation to the Red Cross, hoping to help some of those faceless heroes fighting fires and other altogether badass things.
My donation was for $1,111.
Because, you know. 11:11. It’s a lucky number full of all kinds of mysticism, and if you’re like me, you’ve always made a wish whenever you’ve caught the clock at that hour.
With that donation under my belt, I made the long drive from Oregon to New Jersey to stay with family for a couple of weeks. I worried during the entire 3,000 mile drive. Was I hand-sanitizing well enough? How would my home state feel after all of these months, especially during a pandemic? Were my friends in Bend doing okay with all of that smoke? Did I make a big mistake by not getting a t-shirt at the world’s largest truck stop?
When I arrived in New Jersey, a strange series of events ensued – all during three consecutive days.
First, my sister paid me back for a COVID-canceled trip: $150.
Next, my father wrote me a check for another family trip that I’d made a deposit for (but had mistakenly thought he’d already paid for): $933.
Then, I went out to (outdoor, masked) dinner with my two best New Jersey girlfriends, Mary and Jenn. Mary drove and after we parked, I stepped out of her car and looked down.
“Uh, Mary, there’s a bunch of money in your car…” I said, my voice muffled behind my mask.
I grabbed a wad of $5 and $1 bills that were wedged between the passenger door and seat. I hadn’t noticed them when I’d gotten in. Mary furrowed her brows.
“I haven’t even driven this car in months [because of the pandemic]. I have no idea where that came from.”
“I think it looks like more than it is because of all of the singles…”
I counted the bills. $28.
“Well, perfect, our tip is covered,” Mary smirked.
We joked about it until our dinner bill came. I quickly calculated a 20% tip.
“Holy shit you guys, a 20% tip comes out to exactly…$28!”
Mary and Jenn were already onboard Jules’s Woo-Woo Bandwagon, so we simply laughed about how cool and “typical” the whole thing was.
The next day, as I quietly sipped my coffee on my parents’ living room couch, I suddenly thought, “Huh. All of this money I’ve unexpectedly stumbled upon probably amounts to close to what I just donated to the Red Cross…”
Right now I’m staring down a bright orange, symmetrical pumpkin. “CARVE ME,” he’s whispering seductively. As I consider this new blank canvas, I can’t help but think back on all of the carvings I’ve done over the years decades. Sure, there are the actual carvings…
But then there’s the other kind, too. The pathways -relationships, careers, goals- we carve out for ourselves one stroke at a time. Wouldn’t it be great if we always knew the outcome when we set out with starry eyes and orange-handled knives? Or if someone gave us a book of patterns and all we had to do was choose our favorite one?
What if pumpkin carving lessons were actually life lessons we could learn from? Oh wait…
LESSON #1 – Give Yourself Room to Breathe
Have you ever cut open the top of your pumpkin only to realize you can’t actually fit your hand inside to scoop out the guts? But you keep trying anyway? Several minutes later, with an aching paw, you face the inevitable and carve a larger hole, hoping it doesn’t infringe on your carving territory.
Lately, I’ve realized how often I say ‘yes’ to things only to later have to backpedal with profuse apologies and gut-wrenching guilt. Instead of knowing ahead of time that I need more space -in order to thrive, grow, and create- I dive into commitments and invitations blindly, not wanting to disappoint anyone. In the end, I wind up bruised and frustrated. The beauty of making this mistake so many times, though, is that I’m starting to learn just where the line needs to go.
LESSON #2 – Prepare to Laugh at Yourself
If you’ve ever carved a pumpkin, you’ve probably had that “oh sh*t” moment when a crucial piece falls inside or your crescent moon winds up looking more like a misshapen croissant. Right then, time and effort (and maybe a few bucks) feel wasted.
I have an independent streak as wide as Bob Ross’s fro, especially when it comes to pumpkin carving. Only a Jules original will do. Which means…my patterns usually suck at least a little. But I don’t care. Because they’re mine.
Bigger is always better, right? Yeah, maybe when it comes to your Halloween candy haul, but definitely not when it comes to pumpkin carving knives. Those itty, bitty, jagged knives you find inside the $4.99 carving kits are actually the best! They’re sharper than a vampire’s fangs and handle detail really well.
Last winter, I was extremely depressed. For months. By the time I started to turn a corner, a global pandemic slammed us. This year, I decided to arm myself with a fully loaded toolkit to combat those winter blues. (It also helps that I won’t be kicking off the season by moving during a ridiculous snowstorm.) I’ve got plans to see family for Christmas (unlike last year), a backlog of exciting creative projects, and a car that doesn’t slide down icy hills. Bring it, Winter 2020.
LESSON #4 – There’s ALWAYS a Messy Part
Before you can even start carving, there’s the decidedly sticky process of ripping out your pumpkin’s guts. I hate this part. Everyone hates this part.
An hour later, though, the gooey gore is a distant memory as you sit cross-legged in your darkened closet, shouting for the nearest family member to come admire your handiwork.
This life lesson is one of the more obvious, but it bears repeating. Just like the old “caterpillar into a butterfly” metaphor, anything beautiful that I have ever carved -in pumpkins or in life- has only come after “the goo stage.”
LESSON #5 – …And There’s ALWAYS a Light at the End Bottom of the Tunnel Jack-o-Lantern
What’s that? You took your lopsided croissant moon and turned it into a full moon? Your one-fanged vampire has decided to embrace his flaws? Your black cat looks creepier without a tail? You did it! You figured out life!
Because your life IS a work of art.
Very little ever goes according to plan, even when we have the perfect tools, the perfect pattern, the perfect pumpkin. But if you can roll with it? Your (jack-o-lantern) light will shine brighter than them all.