Once again Coach Jennie sent out a mission to her League of Ambitious Badasses of which I am a part of. Blog about your 12 favorite things. I have a lot of favorite things but when I found myself writing “my shoe collection”, “Jason Statham movies”, “American Muscle Cars” and things of this sort I just halted, not really able to go on. Though I have been studying metaphysics and spirituality for eons, I do have a penchant towards the superficial. But, I realized that this post could be more. It could be a way to close out this year, 2014 which has been by far one of the most surprisingly trying years of my 40-something life. So instead, I’ve decided to take some time and reflect and try to find the good in the madness. A way to remember this year for its delights instead of its devastations.
1. January: My Money Girls.
Late 2013 I started reading the book Money a Love Story by Kate Northrup in an effort to better understand my relationship with money. Through a series of synchronistic events, I came across a Facebook posting from a woman in France who was looking to start a book club based on the book. A few weeks later, our Money group was formed and I got to meet via skype Madeleine who lives in a small village in France and Lisa who lives in Arkansas. Together we started studying our money and dove into the world of finances. But more importantly, unexpectedly I got to forge inspiring friendships with like-minded souls. And as an added bonus, out of nowhere in January I received a check for the exact amount that I needed to cover the cost of my Dutch classes.
2. February: Unexpected Travel.
I started 2014 with Travel in mind. I got bit by the travel bug in 2008 and have come to adore to finding myself in new places. Out of nowhere, I got an opportunity to travel to Brussels, Belgium by way of house sitting. I joined this fabulous site Trustedhousesitters.com and spent 2 weeks in fabulous Brussels with a new dog friend. Valentine’s Day, I found myself enjoying pizza with the dog’s father at a charming and packed little pizzeria the night before his departure. Brussels turned out to be a magnificent city and the mussels in Brussels were by far, the best I ever had!
3. March : Meeting unexpected people in unexpected places.
In the last days of February, I was still exploring Brussels when I stopped into one of the oldest pubs on the Grote Maarkt a few paces away from where Victor Hugo once lived. As I was sitting there enjoying a Belgium beer, I overheard a woman speaking with her father at the next table. Hearing a distinctive American accent, I started talking to her and come to found out that she lived in LA, like me, once upon a time. But now divides her time between Norway and Belgium. We made a date to meet up in a few days as it was going to be March 1st, my anniversary of moving to Europe. We met at a fabulous old restaurant, Chez Leon, that is famed for the aforementioned mussels. After a bottle of wine, we came upon a fabulous Art Deco club that in the middle of the afternoon was hosting a jazz concert. That day will seriously go down as one of the most fabulous days of my life.
4. April: Family.
Moving from Seattle and my father was one of the hardest things that I ever did. But the words “If not now, then when?” kept ringing through my ears and I knew that if I didn’t take the leap, as hard as it was, then I never would do it. But In April, after more than a year of being away, I went back to Seattle to visit my family. Little things like having coffee with my father or sharing a bottle of wine, were some of the things that I missed most about leaving. It was incredibly joyous to do these things again. My brother and his partner also whisked me away to the Oregon coast where I had never been before. So between hanging out with my dad and experiencing another place, this was by far one of the best trips I ever took. As an added bonus, I met up with an old friend from my ship days who took me to a gun range. After years away from shooting (I did grow up in Miami after all) it was fabulous to face my new found fear of guns and empowering to hit the target.
5. May: Going Dutch and more unexpected friends.
When I came back to the Netherlands, I started school again to continue learning Dutch. This has been a process trying to grasp this very difficult language. But one day as I was sitting outside in the parking lot waiting for school to begin, a girl came up and once again, I detected that unmistakable American accent. We started talking and that meeting turned into my closest friendship here with my fabulous American soul sister Jessi. I'm grateful to meet someone in this land of tulips and different customs that gets my Seinfeld references. My ability to start a conversation with just about anyone has proven to be one of my favorite talents. I’m grateful that as a result, I’ve met so many fantastic people around the world that I might have otherwise not met.
6. June: Writing.
I spent most of the early Summer working furiously on my novel. In June I reached a huge milestone in my writing as it was my one year anniversary as a paid writer. Yes!
7. July: Jazz in France.
In July, I got to finally meet one of my Money girls in person. I traveled to the south of France to meet Madeleine. She lives in a beautiful house in a small charming village. We cooked beautiful dishes, drank fabulous wine and went to a charming little café that featured a performance by this awesome jazz musician. Sitting outside listening to this glorious music, drinking a delicious rose with a new, dear friend, I found myself happier than I had been in ages.
8. August: Finishing my novel. In August I finally got to write the two sweetest words in a writer’s life “the end.” I finished my first novel about the three years I spent traveling the world working on board a cruise ship. I had been working on this for two years so finally finishing it was a huge accomplishment for me. Here’s hoping that 2015 is the year it is picked up by a publisher!
9. September: Finding beauty in the destruction.
I started September once again in France. The day before I left, my father went into the hospital. By all accounts, he was fine. As I found myself in France, caring for my friend’s two little girl’s I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was just not right. I booked a ticket to head to Seattle to see my Dad and to be there to help my brother with his care. The morning after I bought the ticket, I was coming home from dropping the girl’s at school. It was 9:00 A.M. I went outside to my friend’s back yard and as I sat there in the sun, the entire yard started filling up with these tiny birds. Dozens and dozens of birds flew around me and made their presence known by flying about wildly and dipping themselves into her pool. My first thought was “Oh God, please don’t let this symbolize death.” A few hours later I was awoken while I was trying to nap. My brother was on the phone. My worst fears were realized. My father had passed on. As it turned out, at the exact moment that the birds were doing their wild dance more than 6,000 miles away from him in a tiny village in France.
10. October: Coming back stronger.
When I came back from Seattle in late September I was emotionally and physically exhausted. But I carried with me the kindness of friends and strangers alike. So many people stepped up when my father passed and the support I received was incredible. I had also survived my biggest fear. Never in a million years did I think that I could ever muster up the strength that it took to deal with my Dad’s passing. But I realized in the wake of the aftermath that I am way more stronger and far more capable than I ever thought possible. My father’s passing made me more determined than ever to get to it, to create the life of my dreams. To know that I can handle just about anything. And for those lessons, I am grateful.
11. November: A month of coaching a la carte.
In November, I sought out coaching. I had sessions with a variety of coaches around the world in an effort to put together a plan to make my dream life possible. My biggest take away from all these sessions were that I have the talents, and I have to tools to create my delicious life. I just need to focus on my dreams consistently. Consistency, being my sore spot. But this made me more determined than ever to finish the editing on my book, revamp my website, find new writing opportunities and to be grateful.
12. December: Following Through. Consistency and follow through have always been my weaknesses. I have been known to get super jazzed about something, bust on it for awhile and then right before it comes to fruition, I back down, walk away, then give up. But realizing a pattern is the first step to overcoming it. As part of my living in the Netherlands, I have to take this big exam to show my grasp of the Dutch language. After my Dad passed on, I signed up to take the test in December. And true to form about three weeks before the exam, I started to give up. But then I caught myself and pummeled on. I studied like mad and December 17th and 18th, I headed to Zwolle, in the middle of the Country and took the exam. I have to wait weeks for the results. I have no idea how I did as it was incredibly tough, but I did it. I followed through.
These moments are some of my favorites from 2014. Although this has not been my favorite year and will most likely go down as the one in which my father finally passed on, writing this post has made me realize that through it all, I have accomplished and obtained so much. I suffered a huge loss but I also gained a huge understanding of myself. And I am very much looking forward to closing out this year and welcoming in the new.
Thank you so much for reading and I truly wish that 2015 is an absolutely and fabulously prosperous year for all of us!