humor

Change Tastes Good: How I developed an appetite for uncertainty

“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.

Sometimes we even got on the bikes!

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?!

In fairness, I did have a bit of a reputation. (Jules circa 2012)

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.

Oh thank god.

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.

Hello…? Future…? If I have kids do I have to put on clothes? (I’m kidding. I had a bathing suit on here. I only get naked in the middle of the woods.)

A few years later, in 2019, I’d be living in a 350-square foot apartment before quitting my steady, corporate job and moving across the country to pursue an entirely different life.

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.

But what if I NEVER LEARN TO PREDICT EVERY POSSIBLE OUTCOME OF EVERY POSSIBLE SCENARIO?

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…

Like that time I won an Emmy.

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…

Signed,

(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!)

~*~*~*~*~*~

humor

Carving a Way: Lessons Learned from a Lifetime of Pumpkin Carving

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?

I’ll take option b(utt), please.

What if pumpkin carving lessons were actually life lessons we could learn from? Oh wait…

WARNING: Heavy-handed metaphors ahead.

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.

Sorry. No can do. Working on a masterpiece here.

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.

Much like the $40 you spent on that pet torture device.

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.

One of the very best things about having this blog -besides how it connects me to you- is that it allows me to view every experience through a humorist’s lens. Dating, celebrity obsessions, missing thumbs, more dating… it’s all GREAT. The more embarrassing, the better.

LESSON #3 – The Right Tools Will Help You Succeed

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.

Even in 2011, Uncle Jesse the Doodle Dog knew he’d score some pumpkin guts if he waited long enough.

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.

But maybe don’t bring it too much.

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.

If you don’t hate this part, I’m very concerned for you and also will you please come over and help me with my pumpkin?

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.

“Guys. GUYS. It’s UNCLE JESSE. *PLAYING UNO.* …Why? I don’t need a ‘why’!!!”

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.

Even when it isn’t.

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.

~*~*~*~*~*~

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

~*~*~*~*~*~

humor

What’s the Hardest Thing You’ve Ever Done?

“Sooo, all we have to do is get right up there,” I said, pointing my camera towards the mountain looming in the distance.

“Easy,” Stefanie replied, grinning.

I was already breathing heavily from the first two miles. This central Oregon trail clearly had no intention of showing any mercy.

While the trailhead sign passively proclaimed the summit was six miles away, it didn’t specify the elevation gain during those six miles: 4,900 feet. 490 flights of stairs. Half of which was loose sand and lava rock, meaning you took at least two steps for every one step forward.

Thankfully, I had had several experienced friends and candid AllTrails reviewers warn me:

As Stefanie and I slogged up South Sister mountain this past Saturday, pausing often to catch our breath, I started singing Gnarls Barkley. After that, Maroon 5.

“Songs keep popping in my head,” I explained, realizing that this always happened when I wanted to separate my body from my mind.

Eventually I fell silent, but there was one song that just wouldn’t quit, even after we summited: Justin Timberlake’s “The Hard Stuff.”

Anybody can be in love on a sunny day
Anybody can turn and run when it starts to rain
And everybody wishes all the skies were blue
But that ain’t the kind of love I’m lookin’ to have with you
So give me the hard stuff

The kind that makes you real
I’ll be there when the storm comes
‘Cause I want the hard stuff
When they’re throwin’ sticks and stones
We can cut each other to the bone
I’m never gonna give you up
‘Cause I want the hard stuff (hard stuff)
Yeah I want the hard stuff (hard stuff, yeah)

Sure, my big toenails were currently undergoing a messy divorce with my feet, but you know what was really hard? Actual divorce. Sure, that celebratory beer was now looking to make an encore performance, but you know what was more nauseating? Telling everyone I loved in New Jersey that I was moving 3,000 miles away. Sure, my head was throbbing thanks to a faulty alarm and zero caffeine that morning, but you know what was even more painful? Losing my first real mentor to cancer.

I welcomed pain complemented by sweat, jokes, and lukewarm water. The kind of pain whose reward was almost always immediately apparent.

“I feel so lucky that I have strong enough legs to carry me up a mountain,” Stefanie mused, as if she could hear my thoughts.

I immediately recalled something The Byronic Man had said during last summer’s three day yoga and running retreat (you know, the one with the no clothes or cell service or booze).

“I know it sounds morbid,” he had begun, “But sometimes during a hard run, I’ll think about what it would be like if I couldn’t do this.”

As Stefanie and I slipped and stumbled our way back down the mountain, we gave a breathless hello to a handsome, wiry man perched on a dusty boulder. He, like everyone else, was taking a much-needed break during the final, grueling ascent.

“Not bad for a 45-year-old with two broken hips,” he grimaced.

“Wow,” I replied. I hope he doesn’t mean they’re broken right now. “Yeah, this is probably the hardest hike I’ve ever done!”

“I’ve done harder,” he said.

“Don’t say that!” I teased. “We were feeling really good about ourselves!”

Smuggy McSmuggersons.

As we continued downward, I thought again about the subjectivity of “hard.” As the above AllTrails reviewer so aptly put it, “Super hard for one person might be pretty doable for another.”

“Stef, do you know I’m closer to that guy’s age than I am to yours?”

Stefanie looked confused for a moment.

“Yeah,” I went on. “You’re 30, I’m 38, he’s 45.”

And it doesn’t matter at all, I thought.

Even on a trail notoriously described as, “THE HARDEST F@^*#*@% THING I’VE EVER DONE IN MY LIFE,” there were people of all ages passing us, including mountain goat-like runners shouting gleefully as they slid on piles of lava rock, “This is actually better than if it were all sand!”

So what really makes something hard? Is it simply a matter of perspective?

Because even at 10,000 feet, crossing a slushy glacier is looking, ah, difficult.

And once we achieve that higher perspective, do we always maintain it? Does scaling one mountain mean you’ve, in essence, scaled them all?

Or do we simply return home to a newer, hopefully slightly improved version of ourselves, now ready to find a taller mountain to climb?

If that’s the case, can I at least sit for a while first?

~*~*~*~*~*~

What’s the “hardest” thing you’ve ever done? Would you do it again?

~*~*~*~*~*~

Blogging, humor

Ride or Die…Ski Lift Style

Go Jules Go Title Graphic Ride or Die_ Ski Life Style 29JAN20

This doesn’t look good. I should probably make the prudent choice and turn around. I’ve still got all week before the new job starts.

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Rain turned to sleet, then snow, as I wound my way from Bend, Oregon to nearby Mount Bachelor, the city’s crowning jewel. Every winter, thousands of locals and tourists flocked to the snow covered mountain to…shred…powder…or something.

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I don’t understand half the things people say and do here.

When I moved from New Jersey to Bend last June, I made several promises to myself:

  1. Cultivate friendships that felt like family.
  2. Pretend being naked in the middle of the woods was normal.
  3. Go backpacking.
  4. Start dating running again.
  5. Tour the west coast.
  6. Ramp up The Vegan Dollar’s YouTube channel.
  7. Try all of the winter sports: cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and downhill skiing.

In other words: Do all of the things that petrify me. As of this month, the only two left on my list both involved skis. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it), Mt. Bachelor rewards new skiers with an incredible deal via their “Ride in 5” ski lesson package, complete with equipment rental.

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Gulp.

Because people swarmed to the mountain on weekends like Go Jules Go to compliments, I decided to attend my first lesson on a Monday. I had already talked myself out of it for two weeks. The memory of my one and only other downhill skiing experience was still powder fresh in my mind.

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Jules: Before [ski lesson, hiding in yurt].
I was 11, and somehow, in the course of two hours, managed to: drag my mother off the chair lift, crash into a fence, and fall down a ditch, requiring a pimpled, teenage rescue team. I’d always been considered an athletic kid, but apparently this was limited to swimming pools and soccer fields.

This past Monday, I turned left into the Sunrise Lodge parking lot, clenching and unclenching my jaw. Ten foot high piles of snow blocked any form of signage.

Seriously? They don’t tell new skiers where to go? This is a sign. I should just go home and hug my dog. 

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Snuggly dogs: a solid reason to stay within your comfort zone since forever.

Eventually -on the third attempt- I made it to the proper parking lot and found the check-in and rental office.

“You look excited!” the check-in employee exclaimed. He had clearly been born with a snowboard attached to his feet.

“That would be the sheer terror,” I retorted, feeling the wild look in my eyes.

“Oh no, you’ll be great! Let me just make sure I have all of your information… And what is your weight, my dear?”

I swallowed. I knew this was coming. I didn’t even lie, lest I increase my chances of death from 99.9% to 100%. Besides, it was printed right on my new Oregon driver’s license [because despite the endless smiles and generosity, they are MONSTERS here].

I was sure to tell everyone at the outfitting station that I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, my eyes darting frantically from the rows of skis to the exit sign.

“I think Matt Damon wore these in The Martian,” I marveled at my borrowed ski boots. They were harder to get on than pantyhose after a steamy shower.

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Right?

“NASA actually used ski boots as the model for their latest expedition.”

My head shot up and I looked at the guy who’d just made the remark.

“I don’t care if you’re yanking my chain,” I said. “I choose to believe you.”

“Do you want a helmet?” he called as I headed outside, shockingly heavy skis in tow.

I stopped dead in my tracks.

“You mean we’re not just practicing how to take these on and off today?”

I’d been certain that, in a package of five lessons, lesson one was simply: These are skis. See you next time!

He laughed and walked over to a giant wall of black helmets. “I think it’s a good idea.”

“I’m not gonna argue! Safety first,” I replied as he jammed a 47-pound bowling ball on my head. I had flashbacks of a similar moment preceding my epic mountain cycling fail. He tightened the chin strap and I waddled outside, almost an hour early and feeling utterly ridiculous.

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My helmet, in all its bowling ball glory.

By the time my Australian instructor, Rohan, introduced himself, I was so antsy to get moving that I shouted,

“I’m Jules! It’s great to meet you!”

Because it was a quiet Monday on the slopes, there were only two other first-timers in my class, a couple from Brazil, who chose to spend their week-long vacation away from their hometown beaches and…learning how to ski in central Oregon. I sized them up. We were all going to die.

The lesson was two hours long, and much to my dismay, in under an hour, our downhill ski instructor announced that we were going to ski downhill.

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For the first round, that meant riding this escalator death trap. Oh sure, it looks like it’s barely on an incline in this picture. WELL LET ME TELL YOU SOMETHING IT WAS AWFUL. AWFUL!

After nearly falling on Satan’s conveyor belt, which jerks you forward as soon as you place your skis on it, Rohan decided it was time for the real deal. The ski lift. The part I had been dreading since my summer ski lift tour.

Mount Bachlor summer ski lift Aug 2019
Hey fellow family members with an irrational fear of heights, let’s soar over a mountain of lava rocks to the (near) summit with only a flimsy bar between us and the open air! It won’t be scary at all!

“I’m not gonna lie,” I confessed to Rohan as we boarded the lift. “I’m glad these snow pants are waterproof.” I glanced skyward and said a prayer.

Rohan held my arm as we disembarked and miraculously, I didn’t fall. By the second and third rounds, I was launching off on my own with all of the confidence of a newborn giraffe.

“Looks like you two ah friends nowah,” he said in his Australian accent, nodding towards the chair lift.

“I might even let it take me out for dinner,” I grinned.

At some point, Rohan had to tell me to slow down and prove I was still in control on the turns.

“Wheee!” I cried as I flew past him and he laughed in spite of himself. When we hit the bottom of the hill, I said, “Admit it. We’re the best class you’ve ever had.”

“I’m very impressed,” he smiled indulgently. “It helps that you’re all athletic.”

And suddenly, 26 years in the making…

REDEMPTION. Turns out..

…I LIKE TO SKI.

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Jules: After [ski lesson, manic in car].

~*~*~*~*~*~
humor

Your New Life Has Arrived! (some assembly required)

I instinctively lifted my foot off the gas pedal and gripped the steeling wheel. My car slid backwards as I stared in the rearview mirror, wondering when the pick-up truck behind me would realize what was happening. Before or after we collided?

I can’t believe this. I cannot believe this.

The truck narrowly missed me, charging up the steep hill while I reached a trembling hand toward my hazard lights. As if it was my poor, low-riding, two-wheel drive Acura’s fault for not being able to overcome central Oregon’s lack of snow management.

F$&@%. What am I going to do?

No. Just…no.

Meet Suba-Ruby. SHE EATS CRAPPILY MANAGED ROADS FOR BREAKFAST!

Over the coming days, I moved countless boxes over icy sidewalks, painted walls and ceilings that felt like sandpaper, and waited for my couch to arrive so I could collapse at the end of each long day in anything other than a cold, metal camp chair.

I want my mommy.

And my couch did arrive. …Three weeks later.

F@&% you, Ashley Furniture!!! …No! No, wait! I’m just kidding. I love you. Come in. Do you want water? Cookies? Marijuana-infused soda (apparently that’s a thing here)?

I also checked my inbox repeatedly for any updates on a job offer I’d accepted earlier in the month. By the second week of December, with the apartment still in partial chaos and no news on the job, I flew to New Jersey for my twin niece and nephew’s Sweet 16, a.k.a. A New Circle of Hell that Requires Its Own Blog Post.

I now know what it feels like to be Leonardo DiCaprio in the face of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences circa 1993-2015: totally invisible. I had to sneak this photo before they kicked me out. I THOUGHT I WAS THE COOL AUNT. I THOUGHT I WAS THE COOL AUNT!!!!

Throughout the last few scattered and uncertain weeks, I kept myself sane by continuing my marathon training and French lessons, binge watching The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and creating the greatest calendar the world has ever known.

I know. I KNOW.

I also became an expert in cheap furniture assembly…

…Are there supposed to be this many leftover pieces?

…learned how to paint ceilings in high heels…

Because there was No. Way! I was going back to Home Depot for a pole extender.

…spent my first Christmas without my family…

…learned I can no longer party like it’s 1999…

…and attended my first drum circle, along with 66 other women.

You would have loved it, Jenn. (Photo taken from our 2019 Kristmas Krafty Korner – YES! We’ve kept the tradition going every year SINCE FIRST DOCUMENTED IN 2011 ON THIS VERY BLOG! …Not sure about our crafts, but both my camera and Jenn’s cocktail recipes have markedly improved.)

Though life kept marching onward, a familiar soundtrack accompanied every moment. Am I doing the right thing? Will I like this new job? Is this really the proper place and time to spend all of my savings on furniture plant roots? Will I ever find TRUE love? Why is Uncle Jesse looking at me like that? 

It seems I forgot to read the fine print on the “Live Your Dream Life!” manual.

I also went temporarily color blind when picking the bathroom paint color.

Despite taking a series of ballsy actions over the past year (like quitting a steady corporate job, selling all of my stuff, and moving across the country), building my dream life has felt a bit like parasailing. You experience the thrill of soaring freely through the air, all the while still tethered to whatever beliefs, constraints, and values you had before. Crippling insecurities, societal expectations, questionable past decisions… they don’t go away the minute you decide to spread your wings. 

Thankfully we are not tethered to paint colors. Ahhh. Much better.

Now, from the comfort of my new couch, Suba-Ruby sleeping soundly in the parking lot, I feel my pulse finally beginning to settle. Though the past six months have brought wave after wave of change, and though I cried at my friend’s Thanksgiving table when talking about having to sell my old car often think I might capsize beneath it all, I know I’m home. Because that boat I’m tethered to isn’t my shortcomings or my past or my fears – it’s my heart. No matter where I go, I can’t be anywhere BUT home.

~*~*~*~*~

What are you hoping 2020 will bring? (Psst, I’m sorry I’ve been gone so long. I’VE MISSED YOU EVERY DAY.)

~*~*~*~*~

humor

This Wasn’t the Plan

Go Jules Go Title Graphic This Wasnt the Plan_4SEP2019

“We’re just gonna gun it,” Erin said.

The three of us stared up the hill from the safety of Erin’s Jeep.

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“If that Sprinter van could do it, we can do it,” Other Erin said.

Less off-road-worthy vehicles lined the road, their passengers watching to see who would tackle the beast next. On the other side of the cavernous potholes sat one of the best hikes in the area.

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And in central Oregon, that’s saying something.

Erin floored it and in a matter of seconds we knew: this wasn’t happening. Other Erin hopped out of the car.

“Okay, turn your wheels this way!” she shouted, motioning with her arms. My heart raced. We were dangerously close to rolling off the edge of the road.

“Don’t worry, the trees will stop a fall,” Erin assured me.

I peered over the side of the car, clutching Uncle Jesse. I am not ready to die.

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Well, you’ve done it again, Mom.

By the time Other Erin said, “Okay, your front wheel is off the ground,” I wanted to cry.

“I’m sorry, I need to get out,” I blurted and quickly grabbed Uncle Jesse’s leash, fleeing for solid ground.

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As I scurried down the hill to join the other onlookers, overhearing Other Erin say, “Okay, now three wheels are off the ground,” I thought back to the weekend’s adventures. It was Monday, Labor Day, and I was certain I couldn’t have crammed anymore excitement into a three-day period.

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I’M GOOD.

First, there was Uncle Jesse’s inaugural 10k, after which I drank a free hard cider (because this is Oregon), promptly vomited, then hiked uphill to a picture perfect lake where a new friend floated in a unicorn raft while I watched from a hammock strung between two Ponderosa pines.

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Then I picked up some Pacific Crest Trail hitchhikers who needed a lift and ran into a family whose raft tipped in the Deschutes River rapids, waiting with them until help arrived, followed by an impromptu sing-a-long at a friend’s house. That was Saturday.

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Uncle Jesse post-10k. Show off.

Speckled between those moments were more live music, planning my first backpacking trip, skinny dipping in a lake (okay, maybe that was a spectator sport for some), and hard cider – that I did manage to keep down.

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A year ago, I was slogging away on a Masters thesis, working full-time in Corporate America, hauling my $25-a-week Trader Joe’s groceries to a third floor walk-up into a 350 square foot apartment in suburban New Jersey, scrimping and saving every penny I could. I had planned to stay in my hometown for at least three more years, until I had just the right number stockpiled in my checking account.

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Uncle Jesse finds the only place he can spread out in the tiny apartment.

A year ago, the idea of living in a place where I could hike to a new lake every day, make instant friends, and bump into neighbors on the top of a mountain (more than once), was unfathomable.

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Hey, I know you!

A year ago, I hadn’t even met the friends who would help convince me to move to Bend, Oregon, sight unseen.

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They’re very persuasive.

As I watched Steve, a stranger and Patron Saint of Pothole Navigating, climb into Erin’s Jeep and expertly back us away from certain death, I knew life had many more twists and turns in store.

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Did someone say “twists and turns”?

A short while later, the Erins and some of my other new friends toasted on the shoreline of a beautiful, almost completely private, lake. While it wasn’t the hike we’d set out to do, we couldn’t argue against our good fortune.

“To Plan B,” we said in unison.

“And Steve!”

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Steve, you really missed out. (They’re naked.)

~*~*~*~*~*~

How has life surprised you?

~*~*~*~*~*~

humor

The Piercing Truth

Go Jules Go Title Graphic The Piercing Truth_14AUG2019

I stood in the mirror, turning my head to the right just slightly.

The side of my nose bore a small mark where a metal stud had just been. During a particularly enthusiastic nose blowing session, it had fallen loose. I’d gotten the new facial bedazzlement (…what? It’s a word) just five months earlier.

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At which point I DEFINITELY didn’t proceed to take 10,000 selfies.

After quitting 12+ years of corporate America, about to hit the open road, I had steeled my nerves and done yet another thing I’d always been too scared to do.

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See? Just a selfie or two (thousand).

Now, happily settled in Oregon, 3,000 miles from my New Jersey hometown, I reconsidered my reflection. As tiny as it was, the nose stud had been a booming echo of my inner state. It had symbolized the version of myself I’d tried so hard to hide – or at the very least, keep subdued. The independent thinking, rebellious, stubborn adventurer.

Go Jules Go drinks river water in Utah
Oh, a little muddy creek water on the side of a mountain in Utah? Don’t mind if I do.

When I had first gotten the piercing and had looked in the mirror, I had nearly cried.

Finally.

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Now all I need is pink hair. Oh! Got that, too!

Five months later, I turned my head back and forth once more, staring at my bare nose, remembering the panic I’d felt in April, while roadtripping in Canada.

“I took my nose ring out to clean it and I can’t get it back in!” I had frantically texted to my friend, Sandy.

“I hate to break it to you, Jules,” she had immediately replied. “But you’re just going to have to shove it in.”

After a tearful 30 minutes in the bathroom, I’d finally gotten the nose ring back in place. I’d taken a few deep breaths, attached to this ‘other’ thing that I had been sure was a critical part of The Real Me.

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“Just shove it in and leave me alone. Uncle Jesse and I are having a moment.” –Sandy

I stared at my naked face, hit by the exact same thought as when I’d first gotten the piercing.

Finally.

I didn’t need it anymore, I suddenly realized. I didn’t need an outward symbol to acknowledge my newfound badassery. I was an independent thinking, rebellious, stubborn adventurer. No piece of jewelry could outshine my current lifestyle. My day to day choices, at long last, represented the authentic me.

…Or maybe I’m just really fickle.

Go Jules Go Mt Bachelor June 2019
Day to day choice I will not make again: Riding a ski lift over jagged lava rocks to get this view.

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How do you (or have you) express(ed) the ‘real’ you?

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Blogging

Keeping My Chin(s) Up

Go Jules Go Keepig My Chins Up Title Graphic 5JUN2019

“Is that what I look like?” I asked.

Babs tilted her phone towards me so I could take a closer look at the photo she’d just snapped.

“I look cute!” I marveled, grabbing the phone from her hands.

“You are cute,” she replied in typical mom fashion.

I stared at the picture for another moment. Huh. I hadn’t wanted her to take the photo. I was sitting on her back porch in hiking gear, eating snacks, feeling grimy and gross and shiny and pudgy.

Don’t get me wrong. There are times when I am Feeling. My. Self. This was not one of them.

The next day, I sat in a plastic chair, sweat starting to pool at the base of my spine. Three fiery orange lights pointed directly at my foil-covered head.

“Just a few more minutes,” a woman in a black smock said with a smile, disappearing to concoct more ammonia-scented tinctures behind closed doors.

What am I doing? Why am I spending 3+ precious hours -not to mention hundreds of dollars- stuck inside on this beautiful June day, covered in chemicals, flipping through a magazine in order to learn more about Mark Hamill’s ill-fated marriage?

Did I think perfect highlights would give me that I Feel Pretty moment?

Amy Schumer I Feel Pretty
Photo credit

What was I really after every time someone snapped a group selfie and I insisted they take it from atop Mount Everest, or I decided to drop half a month’s rent on a universally accepted, if questionable, beauty ritual?

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Does this color bring out the desperation in my eyes?

In two days, I drive 2,780 miles to a new city that I intend to call home – at least for the next year.

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This is exciting. This is terrifying. As someone who, in the span of five years, lost her job, got divorced, moved three times, got dumped twice, started a new job, had a life-changing epiphany and went vegan, enrolled in (and finished) grad school, gave up a kitchen in favor of tiny living, quit her aforementioned new job, and sold all of her stuff, I’m still every bit as scared as ever to try something new.

Much like bravery -that thing you only have because you’re willing to sh*t your pants on a regular basis (…hang on, is that not how the saying goes?)- confidence isn’t an unwavering friend, staring you back in the mirror murmuring, “You got this.”

Confidence skirts behind bullied childhoods and face palm-inducing moments. Confidence comes as quickly as she goes, and holding onto her sometimes feels like reaching for that perfect hair day. There is no perfect hair day.

“See this?” I held up my phone to Babs, having just finished the 3+ hour follicle-torture ritual. “This is all lies.”

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“No, it isn’t! You just took that photo. I was sitting right next you!” she said with a sideways glance.

I snapped another picture, holding it underneath my face, sunlight highlighting every chin and their respective hairs.

“I also just took this one.”

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I don’t have the original photo because I deleted it as quickly as they canceled My So-Called Life. I hope you’ll accept this as a passable reenactment given that it took me four hours to decide I was willing to post it.

Babs looked at my phone and laughed.

In two days, I’m going to remind myself that during every one of those 2,780 miles, I have a choice. I can decide to see myself as the girl with 8,000 chins unforgivable flaws, incapable of making new friends in a new town -or- as the unstoppable girl woman brimming with something even more intoxicating than confidence: self-love.

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How do you keep a brave face?

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Blogging, humor, New Jersey is breathtaking

Home is Where the Start Is

Home is where the start is Go Jules Go title graphic_22MAY2019

“I haven’t gotten to bed at a reasonable hour in at least a week,” my sister, Lori, said, sliding into the driver’s seat of my car.

She pressed the “2” button on the armrest of my car door. After picking her up and explaining the floppiness of my sandals, she offered to drive the rest of the way to dinner where we were meeting a couple of friends.

My certified preowned Acura had proved worth its weight in gold over the past four years. Lori enjoyed the extra leg room her button press provided, using my car’s pre-programable driver’s seat position feature. It only allowed for two pre-programmed seat positions, and, well, I haven’t dated anyone in over two years shut up she was my number two.

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Although Jackson was definitely in the running.

Earlier in the week, one of Lori’s two indoor cats had taken off on an impromptu rumspringa, and between that, raising teenage twins, working as a 6th grade teacher, and recently cutting sugar from her diet, things were looking bleak.

“Well…I still don’t have anything to blog about for tomorrow…,” I offered meekly. “I was thinking about doing something about gratitude… Mostly since Grayson [your spoiled, jerk, OMG-I-love-him-so-much cat] is back!”

Go Jules Go Grayson the cat
“Oh that’s right. A warm bed and regularly timed meals appeal to me.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about all that I’m thankful for because many of those things I’m about to leave behind. I haven’t made any splashy announcements, but in two weeks, I leave the only state I’ve ever really called home.

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Me earlier this year, drunk thrilled to have caught the final train home to New Jersey after a New York City trip to visit a bloggy friend.

At first, signing a lease on an apartment 3,000 miles away felt amazing. I knew that feeling wouldn’t last. Because I love my life. I love my friends. I love my family. I love stupid New Jersey property taxes and stupid good bagels and the stupid feeling that I’m only ever seconds away from SOMETHING.

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Today’s plans: this Broadway show. I AM SO SPOILED.

Yet at the same time I know -in that way you just DO- that moving cross-country is perfectly, exactly right. Goodbye a-hole adorable cats, goodbye #2 seat, goodbye everything bagels.

Except not really.

If quitting my corporate job in March and traveling for the past three months has taught me anything, it’s this: the world is a small place. And you’ll always have a home in it.

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Also apparently when you tell your friends you’re moving cross-country they just start buying you wine.

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Have you ever made a big move? How did it go?

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Blogging, PSAs

When the Bridge Appears

When the Bridge Appears Go Jules go title graphic_15MAY2019

Ah, crap. If I keep going this way, the sidewalk is going to end, and the cars whip around the next corner like they’ve got a death wish. MY death wish… 

I was on mile nine of one of my daily half marathons -a favorite past-time since resigning from corporate America two months ago– and fretting over the pedestrian “F You” I was about to encounter.

…But if I turn around, I’ve got to go alllll the way back to that other sh*tty spot…

Just at that moment, my most recent audiobook uttered the phrase “addiction to worry.”

…Then when I get home I still have to write a blog post. Ugh. I have nothing to write about. …Is that a rain drop? Not again…

I spotted a worn down gravel path veering away from the main road. What the…? I hadn’t been on this particular road in years, but certainly this path had always been there. It seemed to wind through someone’s front yard, yet was clearly meant for foot traffic. Stepping onto it cautiously, Uncle Jesse and I soon turned a corner and faced a sweet little covered bridge, connecting the gravel path to a cul-de-sac.

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Once again dazzled by the treasures my long walks often gifted me, I stopped to snap a couple of pictures and investigate a nest tucked into one of the supporting beams. This little bridge would ensure that I stayed on safe sidewalks for the next mile or so.

“Worrying is like playing the slots every day,” Gay Hendricks, author of The Big Leap, continued. “Or worrying about the stock market crashing. Eventually, you’ll ‘win’ big. You’ll be right.”

Hendricks described the difference between worrying about things you can actually control -like someone who’s stepping on your foot- versus things you can’t. Most of the things we worry about, he said, are entirely outside of our control – because we make them up (what Brene Brown calls “rehearsing tragedy”). We imagine things going wrong because we all hit a certain happiness level and then subconsciously sabotage ourselves. Something inside of us -picked up from our early years, like most things- believes we’re only allowed a limited level of joy and success. How many times have you felt the high of a healthy lifestyle, only to gorge on potstickers and late-night Fuller House episodes (…just me)?

I thought about how I’d spent the past two months since leaving my full-time job: Ensconced in utter freedom, with plenty of money saved to travel, relax and enjoy my favorite things and people.

But what did I mostly do?

Worry.

How long will my savings really last? What will I do after that? Where am I going to live? What if I’m alone for the rest of my life? What if I wind up right back where I started? Why am I so lazy? 

I recalled countless moments where I’d caught myself having imaginary conversations that ended with me feeling angry, defeated, ‘less than’ or all of the above. When I downloaded this latest audiobook, I knew I needed to revisit some of the lessons I’d learned over the past few years. Gratitude. Visualization. Breathing.

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And a little Zac Efron fantasy never hurt.

It wasn’t hard to think of a million and one reasons to thank my lucky stars. Heck, just thinking of my Netflix queue brought a tear to my eye. The much harder part was believing I was worthy of this delicious slice of life. Was I doing my part for the planet, for society? Was it actually okay to quit a steady job, uproot my entire life, and hike every day? Was I leveraging my gifts and talents in a meaningful way? What I was really asking, of course, was, “Am I good enough?”

I stared at the little red covered bridge a while longer, remembering all of the bridges that had appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, over the past year. Some literal, some not. Certainly if those bridges could talk, they would have said:

Duh bridge Go Jules Go Of course we’re all good enough. Why else are we here? As one of my very favorite passages goes, from Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, “We did not come all this great distance, and make all this great effort, only to miss the party at the last moment.”

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So let’s party.

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How do you manage the addiction to worry? 

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