Happy Wednesday.

Friends – I have not been at my sparkling best for the past couple months.  It’s just been one of those times when you can’t exactly pinpoint why, but your happiness reserves seem depleted.  I’ve had a few really bright spots, don’t get me wrong, but a lot of my everyday self-sufficiency and cheeriness had deserted me.

Thankfully, the tide has turned!  I went out to run an errand this morning – to the Post Office…very banal – and on the walk from my car, I felt this incredible sense of peace.  It’s a perfect late summer day – the sun is shining, it’s warm but not too hot, and there’s a light breeze.  The town where I live is charming, and I loved that I was going to a small-town Post Office instead of working at my computer.  Everything around me was quiet and clean.

These are my favorite moments, when life in its simplest state feels exquisite.

Here’s hoping you experience the same bliss, wherever you are.

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Aloha Means Hello (and Goodbye).

ALOHA, friends!  I’ve been off gallivanting around the Hawaiian isles in celebration of my step-sister’s perfectly beautiful wedding.

We love these two crazy kids.

We love these two crazy kids.

My step-sister and her husband (weird!) got engaged on the island of Lana’i two years ago, and our families traveled across the Pacific to watch them tie the knot on the very same island.  I couldn’t wait to spend a week in paradise with my favorite people, and I got even more excited when I saw Denver’s forecast the day before we left.

Denver forecast

No thanks.

We arrived on Maui (our home for the next five nights) exhausted but ready to have a rockin’ good time, and we did!  We snorkeled, ate a mahi-mahi caught by my brother, and drank Kona coffee every morning as the sun rose.  (SERIOUSLY, GUYS – Kona coffee is the bee’s knees.)

I was most excited for our surf lesson with the Maui Beach Boys at Kalama Beach Park.  Now, in case you don’t know this about me, I am terrified of a lot of things.  I nearly had a panic attack during my first snorkeling experience (on day 2 in Maui)…in waist-deep water.  By the shore.  I screamed so loud on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad a couple years ago that an elderly couple turned around and asked if I was alright.

I also refuse to be a ninny, so even though I hate flying, I once strapped myself into the co-pilot seat of a 6-passenger plane flying across Botswana and over Victoria Falls because why would you let some stupid emotion stop you from experiencing that?  So despite my lack of agility and general unease around fast-moving objects and large bodies of water, I was going to surf, dammit.

And surf we did!  It was exhilarating!  I understand why people drop out of corporate America to live in search of the next big wave – it’s invigorating to feel the water surge behind you as you paddle hard and jump up on your board.  It’s very zen: there’s nothing but your body, your board, and the water.  Awesomely enough, my mom was arguably the best surfer of the group.

Surf Lesson Maui

Step-sis Katie with surf instructor Kyle.

We bid “aloha” to Maui and boarded a catamaran bound for Lana’i, stopping to snorkel along the way.  Five eagle rays swam directly under us!  It was also a little choppy, and a couple people got seasick – I have never seen fish swim so fast.  It was like last call at the Shoney’s buffet.

We disembarked on Lana’i and got settled in at the Four Seasons Resort, half down at the beach resort and half of us up at the mountain lodge.  Both were stunningly beautiful.  We spent a day lounging by the pool and hiking through the rainforest, and then the wedding day arrived!  They were married under white orchids with a white sand beach below – Sweetheart Rock a beacon of undying love in the distance.

Sweetheart Rock

Some Hawaiian ladies taught us to dance the hula at their reception, and we ended the night toasting to the bride and groom in the hotel bar, so sad to be leaving the next day.

Before our journey, my now brother-in-law sent the following message:

As we learned on our trip, Aloha is more than a word; it is a way of life.  The literal meaning of Aloha is “presence of breath” or the “breath of life.” It comes from “Alo,” meaning presence, and “Ha,” meaning breath. Aloha is a way of living and treating each other with love and respect.  Its deep meaning starts by teaching ourselves to love our own beings followed by spreading love to others through our “Ha.”

We’re a motley crew of step-siblings, and some of us didn’t know each other well when we arrived.  By the time we lifted our glasses to the newlyweds, we were all hugging, trading stories, and “friending” each other on Facebook.  Seeing everyone come together in this atmosphere of love and acceptance was the perfect embodiment of the Aloha spirit.It was a beautiful wedding – a fitting start to their new adventure.  I can’t wait to see where life takes them next!

Maui

Wherever it is, I hope it’s someplace warm and sunny…

Hail Mary.

Uhhh…so I just got to experience the downside of Colorado weather.

Hail

Holy hail!

Yes, kids – that’s a pile of ice balls.  The same ice balls that were pelting my car on the drive home from Target while lightning flashed all around.  And that pelted me when I had to roll down the window to punch the key code to my apartment complex, while I screamed a little and prayed I wouldn’t die of electrocution.

Woof.

(Spoiler alert: I made it home just fine!)

Washington Wedding.

Wedding friends

This weekend my darling friend Hillary got married.  She and I met during our semester abroad in Aberdeen, Scotland, and while we’ve stayed in touch, we haven’t seen each other in seven years, so I was excited and grateful to be invited.  To Washington I went.

On Saturday morning I flew to Seattle, where my equally darling friend Emily (whom I also haven’t seen since 2006) picked me up at the airport.  When she hopped out of her little silver Honda outside of baggage claim, I could have cried out of excitement.  It seems strange that a friendship formed over just six months can last, but these two ladies were my soul sisters in Scotland.  As Hillary explained it, we were already formed enough as people, yet the experience was so formative, we bonded really intensely.

"Act like you're Scottish!"  "So...we have bad teeth and we hate ourselves?"

“Act like you’re Scottish!” “So…we have bad teeth and we hate ourselves?”

Silly little things like hearing Hillary’s voice and seeing Emily twirl her long hair brought back memories of a time that was so meaningful to me that I got the country’s national flower tattooed on my shoulder.  I thought about the time we tried to make s’mores with Digestives and blocks of Cadbury chocolate at a bonfire on the beach, afternoons spent drinking tea in our dingy flats, and the time Hillary watched me almost get arrested in Paris (another story for another day…).  I remembered runs with Emily around Seaton Park, when she patiently endured my whining and told me stories about her wild and beautiful friends.

The wedding was at TerraBella in Conway, Washington.  No offense to my other married friends, but this was the most charming wedding I’ve ever attended.  TerraBella is out in the country surrounded by flowers and cool old buildings, and after the ceremony, we ate wood-fired pizza and homemade fruit pies and then danced as the sun set.

TerraBella

The “hardy guests” continued to a divey local pub, where, as luck would have it, it was karaoke night.  It’s amazing how quickly “I don’t plan on drinking much tonight” turns into “singing Ginuwine’s ‘Pony’ is the best idea you’ve ever had!”  (Not to brag, but it was epic.)

Before Emily, her cousin, and I drove back to Seattle that night, we said goodbye to Hillary with hugs and “I love yous.”  Her husband seems like such a cool, kind, and romantic guy, and it made me happy to see her surrounded by so much love. 

Sunday morning I was able to wake up, look over, and see my dear friend Emily next to me, and despite a too-much-fun headache, my little heart felt a wash of happiness.  We promised not to wait another seven years before seeing each other again. 

Emily and Jessica

Emily headed back to Portland while I took a cab to my friend Andy’s houseboat for lunch before my flight.  Yes, you read that right: apparently people can live in floating houses in Seattle.  This place was unreal – they open their bedroom door to the Puget Sound (I think!  My geography is terrible).   They can literally step out of their house and into the water.  Andy and I had lunch on the roof of their boat and chatted until it was time for me to leave.

Sailboats

Room with a view.

Seeing long-lost best friends and having lunch by the water on a sunny day are truly tonic for the soul.  I left Seattle feeling happy and thankful for so many things: for knowing these people, for having the means to go see them, and for looking forward to Denver awaiting me upon my return.

 

Fun and Games.

Friends, I heard some great news this week.  My dear friend has started a Tumblr called “Let’s Writey Drawey.”  Why is this so exciting?  I’m glad you asked.

This friend married one of my other friends (you follow?), and they are ridiculously awesome people!  They are creative and funny, and they’re two of the best party hosts you could ever find.  Some of my favorite days in New York were spent in their Brooklyn back yard, watching the squirrels run across the fence tops, eating brisket still warm from the smoker, and playing Writey Drawey.

Brooklyn back yard

Our secret garden.

If you’ve never played, here are the basics: sit in a circle with all your friends (or soon to be friends), each holding a piece of paper and a writing utensil.  Each person writes a sentence and then passes the paper to their left.  Person number two draws a picture representing that sentence.  Person number two then folds the paper, hiding the sentence and leaving only the drawing, and passes it to person number three.  Person three then writes a sentence interpreting the drawing…and so on.  It’s basically the most hilarious game of telephone you’ve ever played: you start with “wine makes me happy,” and you end up with sentences like “bowling while drunk makes everything look all squiggly.”

You should read the Tumblr and then go play with all your friends.