This fall, I volunteered with an organization whose goal is to empower and unite girls. I entered the term so pumped. I had visions of amazing discussions, close bonds of friendship, and giggling. I also felt like the years I have spent working with children (specifically girls) was ample training for a few hours every Monday.

Of course, I was wrong. It’s been a minute since I was in middle school, so I wasn’t ready for the girls I encountered. The first meeting, my partner and I couldn’t get their attention long enough to even play name games. Fifteen minutes from the end, one girl raised her hand and asked: “So what is this program, exactly?” I realized then that I had way more on my plate than I planned. The weeks that followed, I cried after almost every group and my heart rate was through the roof upon entering the school. Try everything became my motto. More games? More free time? More consequences? More debates? My partner and I were desperate to connect with the girls in a real way.

IMG_0829I wish I could say that we turned out like a pamphlet story: Girls are rough, leaders show them kindness, girls eventually soften, everyone is giving each other verbal affirmations and hugs at the end. However, the story did not pan out that way. But that’s alright! I got to look closely at how hard it is to be a twelve-year-old girl at a low-income school. At some point, I let go of the curriculum because I saw that these girls had so many big points of tension in their life that they had no capacity for truly caring about community action. Could I blame them? No.

I think this lesson is in there somewhere: give something of yourself to people that you know are not going to give back. It may be a little unhealthy emotionally, yes. But if you’re aware of that possibility, it is an amazing way to practice selflessness. The seeds will be planted by your words and actions. I still think about strong women in my life that gave me the gift of just being on my team, no questions asked. They are the heroes that inspired me to volunteer in the first place.

IMG_1498You know what is interesting? After three months of spending time telling girls to get off their phones, keep the conversation relevant, and journal about their ideas instead of writing the names of their boyfriends, I am signed up for another term. You know what is encouraging? A girl who came in during week eight and cried to my partner and I that she didn’t have any friends has signed up again too. I can only hope it’s because she knows she’s got an ally.

I wanted to end this on a lighter note, so here are some of the questions I was asked this term: “What contour kit do you use, Mary Emily?”* “Why aren’t there Meninists too?” “Are you a feminist?” “Will this affect my grade?”*** “Do we have to?” “I’m having a lot of feelings today, can I go out in the hall?”****

*I was not wearing makeup that day.

**We were asked this maybe three times a meeting. They seemed to think feminists were people that yell at you if you want to get married or have children.

***This was an after-school program that was not graded. They seemed to not believe me.

****I let her.


Adventure seeker

It seems like I have blinked twice and the summer is already half over. If I am completely honest, this summer has gone by the quickest of any I have experienced in the past. There have been only a few markers or events to even denote the passage of time. Real question: is this what getting older feels like?

Regardless, that is not what this particular post is about. I have been thinking more and more about having a life of adventure. I recently finished The Artist’s Way by Julie Cameron and have started reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. Both books are about creative living and I highly recommend them. In a nutshell, they are both about pursuing your dreams in a real way within the structure of your real life. Since birth (most likely), one of my dreams has been to live a life of adventure. I have always wanted to be an independent, free-spirited adventuress who writes and paints and runs and rides horses and etc. In May, I got a great full-time job as a tile painter. And just like that, I became a “weekend warrior” type. The adventure-seeker-free spirit inside of me yelped and I became anxious.


I asked myself “what does this mean?” and “am I giving up my dreams?” and “Julie Cameron would shake her head if she knew.” A few weeks after accepting the job, David and I decided to make good on a new year’s resolution: to hike the Wildwood trail (over 30 miles) in one day.  We started the trail at 6:15 AM on the hottest day of the summer. I wish I could say that it was easy peasy and such, but it wasn’t. It was easily the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It was hot, my feet swelled to twice their size, and I came face to face with my weaknesses. However, it was easily one of the best things I’ve ever done. I got to spend the day with my best friend, I was outside for almost 14 hours, and I came face to face with my strengths. Additionally, I feel a whole new connection with Forest Park and for that, I am grateful.


What does the Wildwood trail have to do with Julie Cameron, dreams, and adventure? Well, that day spent on the trail graciously showed me that I am pursuing my dream of an adventurous life. I get so focused and frustrated on what I am not doing, following, experiencing, that I ignore all that I am saying “yes” to: I have been to the coast seven times this year, I have run a lot of miles in the woods, I have spent time outdoors every Sunday for the last 6 weeks, and I have written almost every day since December. I am not intending to sound arrogant or braggy. I am intending to show myself and you that we may already be following our bliss, whether we feel like it or not.

Hiking Wildwood trail, committing to my writing practice, Ms. Cameron, Ms. Gilbert, and the “Outdoors on Sundays Project” (which I hope to unpack more next week!) have all been incredible teachers to me. They have taught me that, yes, I do long for an adventurous life and yes, there are always new and better things I can accomplish. But they have also shown me that adventure seeking is in my blood. I don’t have to worry about living complacently, and neither do you. When we find those things that make us feel alive, we won’t be able to stay away for long.

Body talk

It’s been a while and honestly I dislike saying that every time I blog so I vow that this is the last time that I will say that. Period.

It’s been a while.

Anyway, I’ve had a lot on my mind lately. I am starting training for an adventure race in June (that I will not miss) and I am starting a new job in a couple of weeks. Spring might actually be springing here in the PNW (!!!) and there are big, cool things in the making. All that said, one of the most lovely developments lately is my relationship with…myself. (please don’t stop reading) (just kidding) (but not really)


Going through training for my last race and being so dedicated taught me a lot about what my body can do.  However, I still find myself faced with the challenge of accepting how my body looks. For some reason, I am able to completely separate the shape of my body from what it is capable of. I have read so many articles about body-positivity and loving yourself and etc. that you would think I would’ve gotten the message by now. But honestly, it wasn’t until reading this post by Kelly K. Roberts that it dawned on me-I have been doing an incredible disservice to my body by hating on it. When I started running again last fall, I felt slow and heavy and unsure.  Every time I ran, I would get discouraged by how different my body moved and looked than other runners I passed (let’s get real, mostly they passed me). Luckily, I was running in the winter, so I found comfort in covering myself with loose sweatshirts and (most often) rain jackets. The real test happened a couple weeks ago when the temperature rose.

I was on an easier run with David and the sun was out and I made the decision to run in just my sports bra and running tights. I was completely unaware of the liberation that would ensue. Growing up in a (super well-meaning and wonderful) conservative household, I was taught to cover up. I can still hear “modest is hottest” and other such sayings in my mind. I never felt suffocated by my upbringing and carried a lot of the principles of modesty into my adulthood. However, while I was running with David, I felt so fast and so free. More importantly, I felt beautiful. By “uncovering” my body, I was embracing my own strength.


I’m not telling you to run in your sports bra because that will fix all of your problems (LOL what if I was just telling you that.) I am telling you to give your body a chance. Don’t make excuses for it, just love it as it is and be proud of how it is shaped. I am still working on giving my body the admiration it deserves and that journey might never end. But I am fully committed to being a part of the #sportsbrasquad (weather permitting) and I am never looking back.

P.S. As an exercise this week, I wrote an objective love-letter to my body. I honored it for its hard work and beauty. I told it that I love it. Not “I love you body, no matter how you look.” Or “I love you body, even though you’re not the way I want it to be.” Just “I love you body.” I made myself look at myself how others see me. I wrote thank you’s to every part. It felt narcissistic and weird, but the discomfort was worth the healing.