Looking Back on 2015

There's always been something special about the number 5 to me. I loved being five years old (which just so happened to be in 1995.) 2005 was a particularly special time of my life, in terms of love and friendship. 2015 only carried on the tradition, bringing with it adventure, personal growth, new experiences, forgiveness, and regeneration.

Between the Work Away adventure, a period of unemployment, and my recent relocation to one of the world's most expensive cities, this year demanded some serious financial attention and flexibility, and yet it worked wonders on my anxiety-driven, miserly tendencies. It's an interesting phenomenon; that the process of putting money toward new experiences and other people (rather than hoarding it for my own sense of security) should make me feel more at ease and, in some sense, all the richer.

While I currently have less to my name than I did this time last year, I feel more generous and less materialistic than ever before. As anyone close to me can confirm, I still spend a lot of energy worrying about my budget, but I'm finding it easier to let go of these concerns in exchange for living a fuller life. If similar financial anxiety is preventing you from following your heart -- whether it's traveling, moving to a new city, or enrolling in those music lessons you've always wanted -- I encourage you to raise your third finger to it and take what comes in stride.* The inner fulfillment that comes out of the experience will negate any stress that comes from making it a reality.

As you may have noticed from more recent entries, I am also becoming increasingly invested in a minimalist lifestyle. To me, this does not mean dressing in black and white, embracing Ikea furniture, and throwing away all my old love letters, but rather being more mindful of the information, people, energy, and physical objects I welcome into my life. In the past six months I have forgone new books for library cards, forgiven a three-year grudge toward a lost friendship, gone vegetarian, and donated one half of my wardrobe without personally purchasing any new clothes. I'm not trying to pat myself on the back about it (after all, there's always more to do), but I bring it up to illustrate: (a) you can make huge life changes in a comparatively little amount of time, and (b) one small adjustment is liable to inspire several larger ones. The simple choice to go on a trip prompted a total transformation to my lifestyle, from the way I process anger to how I shop at the grocery store. Ultimately, it has helped redirect my focus from how others perceive me to who I wish to be at heart.

Whatever you do, do it for you. I'm a firm believer that we can all change the world, but it begins in our own hearts. If you can radiate the best version of yourself, you stand a better chance at helping others find theirs.

I'd like to close with a few shout-outs to some groups of people who have been particularly inspiring and/or helpful this past year. If you hosted J and me on our trip through Europe, I so appreciate your hospitality and hope I have the chance to repay you with an open door in the year ahead. If you are a Spokanite friend who helped me feel welcome again in my hometown after six years of absence, I am grateful to you. If you are my brother or my parent, I am thankful for your accepting me as an ever-evolving person and for not tethering me to an outdated version of myself -- particularly when we all wound up under same roof again! If you live in (or visited) New York and chatted/walked/shopped/wined&dined/laughed&cried with me in the past three months, bless your heart for giving me buoyancy in this stormy, sublime ocean of a city.

Finally, if you are reading this now, I am graciously indebted to the time and attention you've provided me and Inspirsession. Every time I feel silly, fearful, or pointless in the process of typing out these posts, I am reminded of the kind words people like you have shared with me, and I am reignited once again.

*Take this with a grain of salt, obviously. If your dream is to own a San Francisco penthouse and you can't afford to feed your cat, you may need to put that dream on ice for a while.


Making Space for Stories

For as long as I've wanted to be anything, I've wanted to be a writer. Wanted to be a storyteller, in a more general sense, because acting, to me, is simply an extension of that same impulse.

Being a collector of stories, however, comes with its own burdens. As anyone with similar sentiment knows, we have a tendency of collecting reminder objects. These items inspire in us certain memories, memories we cling to in hopes that someday we may pen them -- out of reflection, onto the page.

Of course, as "someday" gets pushed further and further down the pike, these collections swell into piles of clutter. They attract cobwebs and mold. They plight us with an unseen weight, following us around even when we think we've unloaded them (read: hid said weight-creator at our parent's house....) Eventually, they morph from noble memory-vessels into a lumpy burden on our hearts and minds. The stress they bring is acutely ironic; it absorbs the very air our creative muscles need to, well, create.

Yesterday I returned from New York for an extended holiday in my snowy hometown. For the first time, I discovered clear surfaces and empty drawers in my bedroom -- real space to fill with the version of me I'd brought home, rather than the dusty evidence of a me that I've since discarded. The few items that remained -- favorite books & journals, meaningful artwork, an assortment of jackets and dresses -- formed something of a personal museum. That's my life, I thought, upon opening my closet doors. That's a timeline of me.

This phenomenon is partially due to traveling and living out of a backpack for three months and substantially thanks to the recently popularized KonMari method. More than likely it's also a basic side-effect of growing up. Whatever the case, waking up in this space made me feel clean, light, and happy. Instead of raiding the refrigerator and lazing about in my pjs, sorting through old birthday cards and mixed CDs, paining myself over which to keep and which to toss, I showered, got dressed (LIKE AN ADULT), and sat down with my laptop to write. In relinquishing myself of the burden of memory, I freed myself to tackle the very thing I hoped to do all along. I didn't need my photos or books or letters to make it happen. The memories were all still there in my head and heart. And, barring amnesia, they're going to stick around for a while yet.

I've come here, to a favorite coffee shop, watching one of my dearest, oldest friends sling lattes like the badass she is (and always has been.) Because she isn't just a memory, or a letter, or a photograph -- she's real, and she's here.


Holiday Festivities

With the holiday season in full swing now, it's time for party invites to hit the mail. Luckily for me (or unluckily, depending on how you look at it), my friends are all (A) too busy and/or (B) too budgeted to host any extravagant soirees, and I don't currently hold the kind of job that offers one of those infamous annual office functions.

That aside, you yourself might have exactly that kind of job. Or, like me, you'll simply find any excuse to dress up. For instance, the night I wore the outfit above, I was meeting a friend at what was described to me as a "jazz bar." Visions of a low-lit club with white tablecloths and abundant golf-clapping danced in my head, so I pulled out my shiniest little black dress and French twisted the ever loving life out of my hair...

...only to find myself in a billiard / ping-pong / shuffleboard hall, complete with a scruffy jazz band stuffed beside the overcrowded bar. Lucky for me, my friend had classed up too, so we shared a laugh at our overdressing and made sure the night was unforgettable anyway.

How do you avoid playing the fool in your fancy holi-duds?

Here are three fail-safe steps for comfortable-yet-chic holiday dressing, for ladies and gents alike:

1) Stick with the standard.
This means if you're going to an office party, don't select a dress with a hemline eight inches shorter than what you'd wear on a given work day. Likewise, if your friends are blue-collar hipsters whose idea of fancy dress is "not flannel," you're probably safe with an ironic festive sweater, tailored pants, and nice flats. (Just maybe ditch the beanie and run a comb through your hair or something.)

2) Add some glitz.
Once you've determined your standard framework, tszuj it up a little. Accessorizing is an easy way to class-up everyday basics. For dudes, this might mean the one time of year you pull out your tie clip or funky cufflinks. Ladies, feel free to consider jewelry with a bit more sparkle than your regular office accouterments. If your daily wear is more casual than business, opt for a similar silhouette with more luxe fabric choices. An everyday uniform consisting of an a-line day dress + opaque tights + ankle boots can be elevated to an embellished fit-and-flare affair + sheer nylons + heeled suede booties. Don't be afraid to shine; 'tis the season of twinkling lights and sparkly ornaments, after all.

3) Consider color.
If you're shopping for something new, there are a few standard holiday palettes that resurface year after year. Jewel tones are a safe bet for most every skin tone, and obvious choices include Christmas' ruby and emerald shades or the Hanukkah-associated sapphire. Metallics -- especially gold and silver -- often feature heavily in New Year's outfits. Finally, black and winter white (cream) are safe standbys for more formal affairs.

Them's the rules. Now get celebratin'!


Christmas Playlist 2015

This is my third Christmas playlist, and every year it gets a little trickier to create. I try to keep the tunes original, but it's hard to resist my old standbys. (Especially the great Darlene Love!)

That said, restricting myself from previous years' choices led me to discover some new favorites. I (shamelessly) tuned into the holiday radio stations as soon as Halloween ended, just to ensure my new findings stood the replay test. Most of them have held up. I will tell you this: Gianni and Sarah's "Fairytale of New York" left a serious mark on my heart from the very first listen. I've been working on the guitar chords for a few weeks now, and I can nearly strum it from memory! And guys, I don't play guitar. Serious marks, we're talking here. (Check out their adorable video here.)

Other exciting finds this year:

-It's my mom who truly loves Celtic-inspired Christmas music, but this Barbara Higbie piece is a family showstopper. My brothers and I never miss an opportunity to "skate" around the kitchen in our socks to the happy little tune, in between wrapping presents and baking cookies eating cookie dough, of course! Christmas can't really start until this moment comes to pass.

-Sufjan Stevens!! Wow, what a Christmas offering this man has provided. I love the quirky takes on classic carols, but his originals might be even better. Couldn't resist sampling some of each.

-Okay, okay... I guess I knew Seth McFarlane could sing, but I'd never listened to his actual recordings. For a moment I genuinely confused his voice with Frank Sinatra's. As for "Marshmallow World" -- well, Dino would be proud.

-I felt I had to pay year-end honor to this past summer's Beach Boys obsession by including a holiday number, and I used "Little Saint Nick" last year. I only wish I could offer more Brian Wilson and less Mike Love.... Still, "Merry Christmas, Baby" isn't too bad a catchy little number.

-She & Him's take on the Judy Garland classic is gently bewitching. I like that it maintains the haunting aspect that makes the original version so irreplaceable.

Merry Christmas, everyone! I'm so happy the time of year is here at last!!

Listen to this playlist on Spotify: