Resolutions in Instagram: #20 & #59 New State, Old Friends

I love surprises. But, I’m generally pretty terrible at executing them because I’m generally pretty terrible at keeping secrets. I finally pulled one off, though, with the help of a brilliant surprise-executing friend. My good friends Jake and Jenn moved away from good ‘ol Austin about 9 months ago and–like all long distance relationships–we miss each other terribly.

I wish I could claim the idea was entirely mine, but Jake threw out the idea that as a birthday gift for Jenn’s milestone 30th birthday, I could fly in to visit and bring a little piece of Austin to her in good ‘ol Indiana. So, somehow…some way..and thanks to some brilliant misdirection on Jake’s part, I managed to completely surprise her!

Resolution #26 / #59 : Visit a Friend in Another State & Visit a New US State

(Evidently she thought family was coming over. Surprise!)

I will be the first to admit that I didn’t know the first thing about Indiana. I didn’t know what was there, other than the Indy 500, and I was only vaguely familiar with where it is geographically (don’t judge me). Turns out that there’s a whole lot of farm land, but also a lot of really fun places to explore…

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…even when it’s 25 degrees outside. That’s like a tourist attraction in itself. If you were able to swipe that picture of an iPhone screen you’d be able to see that at the very same moment it was a pleasant 73 degrees in Austin, TX. Cold weather does two things for me, makes me really happy first of all, because you rarely experience real cold in Austin, but also makes me really appreciate the Texas heat, which is really hard to appreciate most of the time.

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We explored some little shops downtown where I got my obligatory coffee mug for my collection. I get one from every place I go, and they generally have no obvious connection to the place I was–except for that I remember getting it there. This is my newest addition, the Tea-Rex. It came from a quirky little store called Silver in the City, which also has an online store if you’d like to peruse their quirky goods. It’s on MassAve which is apparently the slightly condensed Indianapolis equivalent of Austin’s SoCo. It was also home to a toy store that I really wish I would have known about as a child because I’d have insisted that my mom fly me to Indiana to visit it…and purchase one of everything. Plus, a whole bunch of little boutiques that I only wish I’d had more time to explore.

544464_10151554694211635_2536704_nIt was also pleasant to discover that the good people of Indianapolis have your self-esteem in mind. Not only are the people extremely friendly, but even the buildings are proud to announce to the world that you are–indeed–a beautiful person. Thanks Indy.

image (3)Next, we made a day trip to Nashville in the famous (is it famous? I’m not sure.) Brown County, a small tourist town about an hour or so away from Indianapolis. This photo has almost nothing to do with Nashville, Indiana except for that that’s where it’s taken, but you’ll see here that one of the many reasons that one should pay a visit to the little town is that it is home to a very responsible generation of children, who apparently lock up their tricycles.

In all seriousness, though, we went specifically to sample the fried biscuits and apple butter at the Nashville House Restaurant connected to the Brown County Inn. This is one of those culinary delights that I can confidently say is WORTH the drive, which is actually a really nice one through plenty of hills and tall tress, a huge difference from the flatlands of nearby Indianapolis. You don’t even have to order real food. An order of those biscuits and apple butter will keep you going all morning.

It wasn’t just about the biscuits, though. I’m not sure what exactly I can compare this town too, other than Gruene, TX if anyone knows where that is. It’s like stepping back in time where all of the shops are mom-and-pop shops, all of the products are made locally (okay, ALMOST), for some reason everyone sells fudge no matter what kind of shop it is and you get to try everything before you buy it.

The only dead giveaway was that I don’t know if they used the term “Big Ass Cookie” back in the day.

photo (8)But, hey, “big ass” sells. Got to get up with the times, eh?  I might suggest that they create a set of signs for their “Damn Good” coffee too.

Next, I got to meet the Tea Rex’s cousin at the world’s largest children’s museum.

image (4)Guy really should start watching where he’s going.  …First of all, having a dinosaur step on your foot is less than pleasant, but I’m okay. That building, however, yeah, that’s going to cost a pretty penny.

This museum should be on the list of things every child needs to see before they get too old to appreciate it, like Disney World and Sesame Street Live. I’m not a kid anymore, but the child in my heart leaped at the sight of 5 stories of pure, educational discovery. …Does that make me a nerd?

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The must see thing here is the giant carousel on the 4th level which was our first stop. I’d forgotten how magical those things are. I almost even made the mistake of telling Jake and Jenn that I would simply watch, but I boarded anyway and there’s just something special about that classical organ music and glossy plastic animals that makes your heart happy.

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I also got to look like a badass building a free standing arch with the unbelievable powers of physics, visit the real Batman suite and Riddler costumes from the Batman movies, drool over real life, giant Hot Wheels and poke around in Egypt for a minute or two. Again, I’m going to have to go back with more time because the entire thing is IMMENSE and couldn’t possibly be explored in one trip.

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So, I got me some space food for the road and we headed back to the house. I’m not sure I could be an astronaut after eating this, but for all the science that goes into putting cold dairy desserts below -40 degrees farenheit and drying it to make it shelf stable, this stuff was really good. But, the real food adventure was not anti-frozen ice cream.  It was this… the last new experience in Indianapolis was a doozy…and frankly had nothing to do with Indianapolis, but I have a long standing record of ridiculous and potentially disgusting food challenges with Jake. And so….

9208c3b69f1c11e2bc0822000a1f9737_7Canned…Haggis.  Do you guys even know what is in this stuff? Lungs…heart…EYES.  It was perfect. So, we spent the evening eating warm haggis on mini ritz crackers and enjoying each other’s company, before I finally had to say my goodbyes and head home. Do I recommend haggis?  You know…it’s not that bad, but better enjoyed with an adventurous friend.

I love visiting new places, but this whole trip just taught me that new adventures are fun, but new adventures with old friends are priceless. Thanks again, Jake and Jenn! I’ll be back soon.

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Well…The World Didn’t End, Bring on 2013

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Here we are 5 days into the new year and here I am without a complete resolution list! Shame on me.  This year hardly felt like it started with a clean slate. Heck, even my new year’s eve outing ended in a bit of chaos, including getting bitten by a dog and searching for a lost cat in the cold at 4 a.m., but I’d like to believe that that’s setting the tone for a year full of excitement (but not as intense as the ‘excitement’ that we all got a fist full of in 2012, please).

I did a lot of reflecting on my resolution list from last year. I thought about how it affected my year, the good and the bad things I got out of it, and most of all…how everything I learned should affect this year’s resolutions. This year already feels like its going to be one of spiritual growth.  People have heard me say “I need to do some soul-searching” a lot lately, but I don’t really know if I’m indulging that need or desire quite yet.  So this year I’m kind of categorizing my resolutions into the big buckets that are important to me this year:

  • Making habits of the things I love to do
  • Accomplishing the things I wanted to in 2012 that I didn’t
  • Keep on having new experience and big adventures
  • Take steps toward making my life dreams and goals a reality
  • Focus more on my health/wellness
  • Make a conscious effort to do that “soul-searching” I keep talking about
  • Do more good things for other people

So, with that in mind, I’m whittling my list down about and aspiring toward the completion of 60 resolutions this year.

The Shiny New 2013 Resolution List

Creating Habits:

Do something “just for me” once a week
Make a blog post 3 times a week
Exercise at least 3 times a week
Take a self-portrait once a month
Read a new book every month

2012 Resolutions Revisited:

Go on a road trip
Volunteer
Add an unnatural color to my hair
Create something I can wear
Write a short story
Participate in an activity that is only for women
Get a concealed handgun license
Take myself on a date
Submit a design to Threadless
Host a dinner party

New Experiences:

Go to Burning Man/Flipside
Go paintballing
Learn how to ride a motorcycle
Do something completely out of my comfort zone
Visit a new US State
Join a club or group
Learn to make something that I usually get pre-made/store-bought
Attempt a new form of art
Enter a competition
Do a DIY project
Stop in somewhere that I pass on the road just because it seems interesting
Create a secret recipe
Hack something into something cooler
Try acro yoga
Guerrilla anything (I’m thinking christmas decorations?)
Learn or create a new craft
Buy a groupon for something I’ve never done, and do it.
Take a cooking class
Learn to make sushi at home
Travel somewhere by train

Making my Dreams Come True:

Submit a short story to literary magazine
Get an article published by YCN
Get a consultation at Write by Night
Get certified to teach english as a second language
Pay off at least one credit card
Make an investment
Find a creative (and fulfilling) way to make extra money
Toss/donate/sell at LEAST 25 things that I do not need
Visit somewhere awe-inspiring
Learn more about astrology (you know, signs other than my own ;))

Self-Discovery:

Go camping alone
Make a change that I’ve always wanted but was afraid of what other people would think
Do the 21-day meditation challenge
Make one improvement that makes me more self-confident
Work on intuition/psychic development

Health and Wellness:

Try the Paleo diet
Get a check-up
Shop at the farmer’s market once a month
Attempt a tough mudder (or similar) challenge
Find something new and interesting to do for fitness

Good Things for Good People:

Do 10 random acts of kindness in one day
Help make someone else’s dream come true
Send an anonymous gift to someone for a holiday/birthday
Visit a friend in another state
Get involved with a charity or non-profit

Exactly What I Wanted, In None of the Ways I Planned

Today is December 20, 2012. There are currently 11 days left in the year, and I almost can’t believe that it’s so close to coming to an end. I started this blog on December 31, 2011 with all sorts of intentions. In all honesty, I was feeling bored more than anything. Bored with myself, with life. It was a good life, a GREAT life in fact. I had accomplished all I wanted to so far, had a lot of great things going on with relationships, friendships and family. I was happy–but something felt like it was missing. I saw this massive global awakening happening: people discovering things about themselves, taking action on things they were passionate about, really growing and living while I sat at home and kept going with my day-to-day routine like I had for years. I decided to go, do, see, and be anything and everything. After all, how easy is it to really grow and learn about the universe around you when you’re always looking at it through the same window?

It began simply. A list. 112 things that I would like to experience in a year’s time. I feel much more accomplished when I can check things off a list. But, and I can not even put into words the pure and raw emotion behind this statement: This year is ending exactly as I’d hoped, but in none of the ways that I planned.

I know many of you noticed that my posts started dwindling in frequency near the middle of the year. While I still held hope for completing my list, my world was changing dramatically all around me. I made one decision, one that does not appear anywhere on my list, that ended up–albeit indirectly–sparking that awakening that I was so longing for when 2012 started.

This may not be the most pleasant story, but stick with me here. This one, single decision catapulted me into a place that I did not know existed for me. While I have had my dark moments in life, I can say with confidence that I have always felt like my life has been relatively easy. I’ve been very very lucky. I had friends that loved me, no enemies to speak of, a solid support system, and very little uncertainty about my future and where I was going in my life.

Suddenly, this all changed.

Every cell inside of me that had felt restricted by the life I’d been living before burst forth from within me, pushing me to be wild, completely unpredictable, even to myself, and in many ways a little self-destructive. I no longer had any idea what I was doing, where I was going, and worse–I had no idea what I even wanted out of life anymore. I was, in every sense of the word, lost. The way I see it, though, is that while the path you are walking on may be comfortable and familiar, sometimes you have to divert and get a little bit lost in order to find another path that you may not have known existed, but could be better for you than you could have imagined.

Lucky enough for me, there were a few people who, despite recognizing that I was flailing uncontrollably, were willing to hold my hand, literally and figuratively while I went through all the stages of destruction and regrowth. (Is a phoenix rising from the ashes a cliché?  Because it’s appropriate here.) They stayed up with me at all hours because all I needed was someone to sit with me because I just needed to–cry. Or talk. Or just…simply sit in the company of someone else and do nothing at all. Some of these people had known me a long time, some people met me just as this all began, but regardless of how long they had known me, or how well, they had faith in me and recognized that though people sometimes have moments of darkness, that they do indeed rise out of it again.

Truly, I find myself thankful for this gift, these people, more than anything else, this holiday season.

Very slowly I started looking inside again, at what I needed as a person, at flaws, fears and insecurities I needed to resolve. I talked myself blue in the face, to myself or anyone else who would listen. I started to meditate again. I picked my pen back up and started to write again. And of course, pushed myself to complete as many more resolutions as I could.

I can’t say that it was prompted by any one particular event, but eventually it started to feel like the fog was lifting. I heard myself speaking with confidence again about what I wanted and needed on a soul level–not just a materialistic one. As this year begins to draw to a close, and on the eve of this milestone date 12/21/12, I can honestly say that I feel like I am on the right track again.

I am well aware that I still have many things to work through, to figure out.  I will probably spend the rest of my life feeling this way, because life IS evolution and growth, but it;s a relief to realize that when I sit down and allow myself to be very quiet, that I feel calm. I feel as though I have the people in my life that are meant to be in it, though some are playing roles that I didn’t expect. I feel as though I recognize what is important to me, not because someone told me it should be important, but because it actually means something to me. And most of all, I feel as though I can release my fear. I finally recognize that although things can get bad, although you can get lost in a way that you don’t think you’ll find your way back again, you do, and when that happens you may find yourself in a completely different but far more beautiful place.

I am working on a brand-new resolution list for 2013, with a new focus based on all I’ve discovered this year. I can’t wait to share it with all of you and keep this adventure going for another crazy year. It’s been so fantastic to hear from the friends and the strangers who have followed my journey so far, so thank you from the bottom of my heart for going along for the ride with me.

And of course, I don’t want to forget!  There were a few resolutions that I completed and sadly never had the chance to write about so I want to at least list and give recognition here that I didn’t quite complete the whole list, but I got a few more things done and want to say a public thanks to everyone who was involved because I didn’t do a single one of these alone:

Resolution #4: Spend a Night on the 3rd floor of the Driskill: This came SO close to happening but fell through at the last minute.  But, I did get to hang out at the Driskill on Halloween of all days and had a blast while it lasted.

Resolution #5: Learn to Play and Sing a Song on Guitar: I got pretty close but did not perfect Hurt by Johnny Cash. I also almost got “The Only Exception” by Paramore under my belt.  I really need to practice more.

Resolution #7: Learn to Deep Fry. I ate so much fried food this day I made myself sick. Including an entire fried snickers bar, Oreos and a plethora of meat and veggies. …That snickers one is going to have to happen again sometime.

Resolution #16: Start a Balcony Garden: I moved into a house so we no longer have a balcony, but my roommate and I started a mason jar window sill garden with herbs. My cilantro was the only one out of four plants that sprouted…and then I forgot to water it… 😦

Resolution #18: Run a 5k: I actually did this one better and ran the 5 MILE Turkey Trot race with my family on Thanksgiving Day.  I managed to finish the 5 miles in just over an hour, and I am so proud of my mom, she worked hard on her fitness all year and completed this as her big coupe de grace this year.

Resolution #25: Learn More About Buddhism: I wanted to do more with this, but did actually seek out more info on Buddhism.  I read a great book called Dharma Punx by Noah Levine that taught me quite a bit, and visited a Buddhist Zendo here in Austin called the Austin Meditation Center and learned about tradition Buddhist Zen Meditation. I want to look more into this next year.

Resolution #38: Have Matching Couples Halloween Costume: Dru and I hand-made, and pulled off quite nicely if I do say so myself, costumes for Amber Sweet and The Graverobber from Repo! The Genetic Opera. And bonus, I now own a custom tailored cage skirt (thanks Dru!) and a rhinestone bra.

Resolution #43: Learn a Magic Trick: Dane taught me a couple of pretty great card tricks and then gifted me the deck so that I could practice. 🙂 I’m going to have to bust them out at a party sometime.

Resolution #57: Go to an Austin Music Festival: This was going to be Part Two of my most recent post (recent being October) but I never wrote it out. I managed to get a wristband for a day of ACL and had a BLAST with my friend Nicole getting to see as many bands as humanly possible in one day’s time. Even got a see a few great late night shows as well.

Resolution #61: Go Stargazing in the Middle of Nowhere: One of the coolest things about meeting new people is getting to know their favorite secret spots. I got to spend a really great night, in great company, out in the middle of a green belt with two bottles of wine, a waterfall and a sky full of stars. What’s better?

Resolution #70: Go to a Bar by Myself: This happened a couple of times but i never checked it off because I never had the courage to actually sit at the actual bar alone. I always found a book to hide in or a table to occupy. Seems I still have issues being alone in public.

Resolution #97: Go to an Alamo Drafthouse Event: I took my cousin, who was visiting from overseas, to Terror Tuesday featuring the 80’s disgust-o-flick The Blob. We did it up right with the comfy balcony seats at the Ritz, local brews, and lots of snacks.  And its only $3 or something for regular admission?! I’m going again sometime!

Resolution #99: Support a Cause I Believe In: I donated a lot of money this year to different causes. Hurricane Sandy relief most recently, I supported entrepreneurship in Kenya, bought a mosquito net for an area that had problems with Malaria, but I still feel like I need to be more proactive before I can really check this off my list.

Resolution #109: Do Hot Yoga: Let me just say, this is TOUGH, but a great experience and a perfect winter-weather exercise bit. A cold front just came in tonight, maybe I should dust off the yoga mat again.

Thanks again for a wonderful year and I’ll see you in 2013!

[Resolution] #81 Do Something I’ve Always Been Afraid to Do (Roller Coaster Edition)

Ready for a profound metaphor?  Life is a roller coaster. Specifically this one.

I find it just a little poetic and a lot hilarious that the biggest roller coaster ride of my life would involve actual roller coasters. And, at the age of 23, thanks to a couple of amazing and unrelenting friends, I boarded, rode and survived my very first roller coaster ride. Ever.

On the metaphorical roller coaster: Life has absolutely done a 180 on me. I know I mentioned in my last post that there were big things going on…and then disappeared for a while.  It’s a long story and a short one all at the same time, but the short version is that Nick, my boyfriend of almost 3 years, and I have broken up.  I don’t necessarily want to go in to the nitty gritty, but it was such a life changer that I know is worth mentioning.

I’ve changed a lot in 3 years. I’ve woken up to aspects of myself that I didn’t know existed and remembered aspects that I’d forgotten or let go of and shouldn’t have. In short, it was all of these things that banded together to drive a wedge between Nick and I.  While we never stopped getting along and certainly never stopped loving each other, as more time passed the more questionable our compatibility became. This was mostly based on the way we both looked at life. More importantly, it was about the way that we both saw our lives going.  We had different visions. And, while there are ways to sacrifice and ways to compromise, the foundation of any successful relationship, there are some points where it is better on both sides…to let go, and give both of us the chance to find someone we are truly happy and compatible with.

People either say “Good for you for being true to yourself.” or “What were you thinking?” but all I can say at this point is that the decision felt right then, and still does now.  While it breaks my heart to hurt anyone, and hurts even more to lose someone I was so close to for so long, I have to trust my instincts and intuition, and trust that it’s for the best.  If I don’t, what business did I have doing it in the first place?

It’s a journey that I don’t think anyone is ever particularly excited to take. Though, as more and more people talked to me and gave me their best advice the more stories came up that showed that even though it ALWAYS hurts to have a relationship end…it does get better. And when you eventually do find that person that you are unquestionably meant to be with, you can’t be upset that it happened.

Now, the roller coaster metaphor kind of applies to all that, but it applies even more to the aftermath of the whole thing.  As soon as all was said and done, I realized that I had thought through every word of the actual break-up and not even given a sliver of thought to what would happen after. The emotional.  The logistical (especially difficult since we lived together). Even the physical.

It’s amazing the things that happen when any part of your foundation gives way. Walls that you didn’t know you had fall and expose parts of you that may have otherwise been lost, both good and bad, light and dark.  But after those walls fall you are forced to rebuild, reinvent and grow.

Of course, right as I realized that was when (not so coincidentally) a lot new things started happening, a lot of old interests were reignited, and new people started walking into my life. Some people were acquaintances that suddenly became much closer and some people I didn’t know at all but got close to pretty damn fast.

Dru is one of the latter. We met…in a cage fight where he had to prove himself worthy of friendship by besting me in a no-holds-barred battle of bare fists and…

Okay..Cage fighting isn’t one of those new things. That’s a picture from a zombie bar crawl, but I wanted an excuse to use the picture. Epic battle or not, he became a close friend pretty fast and immediately jumped in to help cheer me up when things got difficult.

A week or so into the whole thing I finally caved and had to take a personal day from work.  …And on that day, instead of dimming the lights and eating Double Stuf Oreos, Dru and his beautiful friend Ajay who had come into town for the week brought me along with them…to Six Flags.  What better way to cheer up than scaring the shit out of yourself with giant roller coasters. Am I right?

Like I said, I had never stepped foot on a roller coaster in my life. I was a very strange, very scared little child and absolutely refused to take part in anything that I perceived as something that could potentially end my life.  This included, among other things, roller coasters, rope swings, and eating chicken wings at Chili’s, but that’s a story for another day.  Anyway, no roller coasters.

I don’t know what I was afraid of.  I half expected to get to the front of the line for the roller coaster and burst into tears…or vomit.  I guess it kind of helped that there was almost no line at all, so I didn’t even have much time to psyche myself out about it.  We hopped on, strapped in, and before I could say “This is a terrible idea” I was diving, spinning and flipping upside down 100 feet off the ground.

Whoa.

Roller coasters.

How did I possibly live so long without you?

I de-boarded that thing with an adrenaline rush like nothing I’ve ever felt.  Just enough adrenaline to spend the next 8 hours riding every. single. ride. in that park.  All the roller coasters.  Log rides. All the spinny, g-force, free fall, crazy rides.  We even went back and waited in the longer lines to sit in the front car to get maximum terror.

Seriously, I love them so much I’m almost willing to go give rope swings and Chili’s Chicken Wings another shot. 🙂

…We also paused to hang out with Bugs and Daffy and play with all the toys in the souvenir shop.

The night ended with fireworks and late night pancake puppies at Denny’s (seriously, if you haven’t had them before, go now).

While things certainly aren’t easy right now, and of course the difficult stuff never completely leaves the back of your mind, it was one of the best days I’ve had in a long time.  Perhaps the concoction of facing fears, adrenaline overload, new friends, and mild heat exhaustion is the magic combination? I don’t know, but it gave me the optimism I needed to get through the difficult times and excited to see what lies on the other side of it all.

Here’s to that “year of change” everyone was talking about.  And here’s to finally realizing that no matter what your plan is, you’re never ACTUALLY going to know what’s coming next.

When It Doesn’t Go According to Plan

I feel like this kid.  I feel like this kid ALL the time. I even make that face when I see birds.  Anyway…

I had grand plans for this week. Boyfriend gone. House to myself.  Ample time to check off some resolutions. See some people I hadn’t seen in a while.  Maybe get a couple of workouts in. Oh yes.  This week was going to be great.

But I didn’t do any of those things.

And, originally I was going to complain about this.  “My week didn’t go according to plan, boo hoo, still behind on everything, feeling fat, blah blah.”  But when I started to list out the things that DID happen this week…

  • Had feelings expressed to me (love, like, whatever you’ll call it) from someone I didn’t know had them
  • Rode on a Harley
  • Watched the sunrise two mornings in a row
  • Ate some killer sushi over philosophical conversation
  • Helped out a friend in need
  • Got covered in chigger bites

Okay, maybe that last one is a bit of a bummer, but for the rest of them, I’d sound like a real bitch if I said anything other than “This week was actually EXACTLY what I was looking for.”  Adventurous. Full of love and good people. New perspectives and new experiences. The whole reason I started this darn blog, right?  And, I got all of the above, without doing anything that I planned to do.

I’m just so used to having a list and checking things off of it, that suddenly when I was having adventures off the list, I felt like I wasn’t doing anything at all.

Pity, right?

I’ve written in the past about living in the present, but it never ceases to amazing me how genuinely difficult it is to do sometimes. I can’t believe, in retrospect, that I was watching the sunrise thinking “I can’t believe how much I didn’t do today.”  …It’s a sunrise Ami, enjoy it. Or that after riding on that motorcycle my second thought after “I’m alive!” was “That could have been a really bad idea.” It wasn’t, (I even wore a helmet) and it was awesome, nothing bad-idea about it.

So what did we learn this week?

That to-do lists are all fine and good, but make sure you set aside time to deliberately disobey your responsibilities for a while.

In other news, I successfully accessorized an outfit today, and also…bought my first pair of leather pants!  In Texas, no less.

To go with the owl shirt and new leather pants: Fancy new shoes, necklace (right), bracelet (middle) and a feather hair clip (right).

We’ll see how much use I’ll get out of them, but for tonight I plan on sporting them in the darkness of a movie theatre to watch Prometheus.