Friday, December 23, 2011

2012 To-Do List

I'm not one for resolutions really. I don't say I'm going to lose weight, go to the gym more or other things that may or may not happen and may or may not matter. Instead, I add things to my goals list. The things I want to get done that I didn't try in the past year. In 2011, I was able to cross off some things on my to-do list: ziplining, paragliding, whale watching, visiting the Santa Monica Pier, tried ceviche, and other things big and small that I've always wanted to try.

2011 was a great year. It was about building upon work put in from all the past years and finally reaching a next step in my career and what I want to do and be in my life. Maybe it was turning 30 and getting out of the "learning" decade of my 20s but now I feel I want to put all that learning to work.

New adventures in 2012 will include more travel, more accomplishments all while balancing the things that will always be my first priority: my relationships.

So far, I only have three things on my 2012 to-do list: get a passport, travel, write more. I want to visit Greece, Italy, Spain and go back to New York. I want to explore San Francisco and Napa Valley and have tentative plans for these places already in the works. I want to really concentrate on the kind of book I want to write. For so long, it's been too many ideas and notes and not enough pages and continuity. I feel this is the year that I'll have a finished product.

2011 has been a lot of learning and growing with a lot of blessings. I hope for that and more in 2012. What's on your list?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Fun On a Budget

Sometimes as much as I don't want to admit it, it's expensive to have fun! San Diego is a great city for those who are budget-conscious because there are a ton of free things to do. However, there's always a need (or want) to try something different; a new restaurant, a new event, a new adventure.

First off, one of my favorite free fun things is visiting the library. Yes, I realize that this does not fall in a lot of people's category as far as things to do that are entertaining. But, you can borrow DVDs, magazines and newly-released books just by LIVING somewhere.

However, if it's always nice not to be a complete hermit and try to get out and about. My advice: sign up for everything! Businesses are dying to give things away right now. To boost sales, good reviews, etc. With Yelp!, Twitter and Facebook giving us the power of voicing an opinion within minutes of time, every business wants to make sure their customers are satisfied. Also, no matter where you are, sign up through your city's papers and local websites for their free deals and contests.

This week I received: access to the Hornblower for a free evening concert (102.1 KPRi), two tickets to La Jolla's Wine Walk and Taste (San Diego Reader), and was able to spend a Girl's Night Out complete with dinner, dancing and late-night tacos for under $20. (Thank you, Buca di Beppo coupon and my slick budgeting skills). Also, I won tickets to a free screening of Martha May Marcy Marlene next week (San Diego Union Tribune).

My point being that there are always people who are going to say they can't afford to go out or have fun and I think they're just not trying hard enough. Many cities have free street festivals, museums offering free admissions, zoos. You can sign up to win tickets for anything: theatre tickets, concert tickets, restaurants. Also, I've used Twitter to win contests. Follow your favorites and take advantage of promos they run and contests they have.

It doesn't matter what your bank account numbers say, the feeling of saving money feels pretty nice. And if you don't want your email inbox filled with deals and coupons, set up another account to use just for those times you want that free deal. You'd be surprised at how many wealthy people who have relayed their misery to me. Money or not, they forgot to have fun. Money can't buy happiness, haven't you heard? Quality time with people you love is priceless.
Saving a buck while doing so is just the icing on the cake.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Salon...

Tonight, I got my first ever Turkish coffee reading. I didn't even know there was such a thing as Turkish coffee readings. But, when I scheduled my appointment at Balboa Salon I soon learned that there was a lady there that would read your fortune through coffee. Right after they blow dry your hair.

I've had my fortune read several times. Once by a 12 year old girl at River Market in Kansas City. Once by a lady in the French Quarter. And several times by friends who've read tarot cards for me. Oh, and once by a lady here in San Diego who read my aura and promptly told me that I was 'yellow' which means bright and full of energy and happiness. And all of those psychics told me I was psychic too so there you go.

But back to the coffee. Balboa Salon had their Grand Opening tonight and I got a fabulous haircut for $20. Fabulous as in, I've tried several different salons and stylists over the years and somehow they all love my hair, but don't know how to cut it. And after she cut my hair, it took two ladies to blow dry it. They were gesturing wildly while they were speaking in a language unknown to me as they were spinning me around telling me how pretty I looked. In the oddest way, they felt like family.

They had platters full of cheese and crackers, cups full of strawberries and champagne and some type of potato salad served with pita bread in the back room. And, then there was the Turkish coffee lady who was sweet, adorable and kept thanking me for being honest with her. (?)

To tell your fortune, she brews a small cup of thick-ish coffee which is pretty tasty. She spreads out some cards and speaks rapidly in a language while an interpreter tells you what she is saying. It's very fascinating. She told me a lot of things that of course left me skeptical including some tidbit about how I will be doing a dance that will be very meaningful in January or February of next year.

But she did say that I don't have to follow money, it will always follow me (let's hope!), I will travel overseas and find great happiness and success there (I've been told that by every fortune teller I've ever been to) and that sometime in the near future I will see an owl and become very much involved with learning about them (uh, doubt it). Oh, and she says I am in sync with the moon which brings me good luck which I will tell you about at another time because that actually resonated with me. And she talked about having cats in her readings, which always a bad sign. Mine was the first time it's been seen as good and she got goosebumps. Again, this makes me laugh because I am not a fan of cats but they are of me. One in particular who follows me to my door often.

Imagine being told all of this rapid fire in a language you don't understand while she stares at the bottom of your coffee cup and into the "design" it's left behind and simultaneously continues to shuffle her cards spreading them out to decipher them. She wasn't the slow, thoughtful fortune teller type. She had a lot to say and wanted to make sure I heard it. Even if you don't believe in psychics, it's nice to hear there are good things in your future. Call it good juju or positive thinking of a peek into the brilliant future that is to come.

Or, be a grouchy cynic and think your life sucks and the world is corrupt. You know, whatever.

I won't tell you the rest of what she said, but I believe her. Because I want to. Who doesn't want to hear about being rich and successful and finding love? I don't listen to psychics because I want them to see into my future. I want them to confirm the things I already know and they usually do.

So it's no coincidence my fortune cookie had a positive message for me as well. Believe what you will. Maybe you think the world is ending. Or, that psychics are phonies. Or, that there is no such thing as mind over matter.

Maybe you'd rather just have your hair cut and not speak a word or not take things to mean more than what they do. That's completely fine too. But please tell me you believe. In something. Anything. If for no other reason then that it's fun.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

How 30 Feels

Well, since my last blog post, I've turned the big 3-0. And to be honest, I don't know what everyone worries about. I didn't have a breakdown about where I thought I should be which I guess to most means settled down, married with kids. Honestly, I was happy to say good-bye to my 20's as much as I loved them. I felt my 20's were full of too many questions and not enough answers. I felt like I was hanging on to things that I shouldn't have been and questioned myself when I should've just gone with my gut.

My actual birthday was an amazing day. I went paragliding for the first time! It's been on my bucket list and I got the opportunity to walk off the cliffs at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, an absolutely beautiful area. As I was floating along the coast, I saw about a dozen dolphins down below and just felt really relaxed. I was spoiled throughout the day and felt completely carefree.

The Monday following my birthday weekend I started a brand new job! And for the first time in several years, it is not with an attorney. I don't even know how I got caught up in working for attorneys in the first place but after three law firms and eight attorneys later, I hope that I am done for good.

This past year has been great in making moves in my writing career. I've been taking on more freelance opportunities and starting to understand how to turn my passion into a career and not just a side job or a hobby. My current job is as a SEO writing specialist so it incorporates writing, editing as well as web marketing and all the important SEO information that is invaluable to a lot of companies today. I also was able to score a contract gig as a part-time consultant with a beauty website and that is definitely a position that is right up my alley and I can't believe that for once I have two jobs that I actually enjoy doing! Call it the law of averages, but I hope this is the beginning of more opportunities to come.

30 feels good. It feels like the answers come more easily now. And it comes with the knowledge that some things I don't need the answer to when figuring other people out or the things that make them tick. It's been easier for me to filter out any lingering negativity in my life and it has felt like a new jumping point to the direction I want my life to go.

My 20s were awesome. I learned so much and had the best time. I pretty much did whatever I wanted. So, I feel that my 30s will be pretty much the same type of party. I just am a little bit smarter, stronger and more confident in the plans that I make. And if things don't go according to plan, I know I can handle that too.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

You Wanna Be a Writer? You Must Be Crazy...

You wanna be a writer? You must be crazy. You will spend hours, days, years of time devoting your "creative spirit" to things that will a) never get read, b) never make you money or c) never be finished.

You will work day jobs that you loathe. Jobs that dull your senses and zap your brain cells. You will pay your bills and daydream about writing by the beach, in a coffee shop, somewhere pleasant and serene. In the meantime, in the real world you will listen to people berate you, disrespect you and have you do things simply because they are the boss and you are there to hold their hand/fight their battles/count down the days until you leave.

You must be crazy to think that writing can save you. That writing can spare your sanity, instill hope and determination. You must be crazy to let being a writer be a continuous goal, to call it your life and dare allow yourself to believe that your job is just your job.

Writing has tricked you into stretching to see the smallest successes of life. Small as in seeing your name in a byline. Becoming overjoyed by your first paid writing gig (which actually paid only enough for approximately three trips to Starbucks). Writing has been cruel - the time you lost all your work when the delete button came out of nowhere. The time you poured your heart into a story only to have someone tell you that they "didn't get it." And, let's not forget the time when you wrote over two hundred pages of the next great American novel only to read through it and be ashamed at the trash you penned. Snooki has written a book. Levi Johnston. Get it together.

And, yet you love it. You keep going back to it. Willingly! You send out writing sample after writing sample hoping to find a job that pays you and sustains you on truly gratifying level...although that level keeps going one step higher. Who strives for that? For every twenty writing samples you send out, you are excited for that ONE response that comes two months later, as an afterthought, politely and formally thanking you for your submission, but with no other glimmer of an invitation that a job or gig or future in writing at all may be offered to you. Ever. You will save this email and look at it from time to time happy that SOMEONE responded and that someone will respond again.

You will develop a tough skin for rejection. You will duck a compliment because good is never good enough, there is always better. But you will also begin to recognize your value. Nothing is for free. And even when you find those gigs that pay you, you will continue to write "just for fun" and for topics that you have interest in, passion for because you know no other way. As a writer, you know/have been forced to accept that money isn't everything.

You will squeeze every possible working hour out of the day to finish that one last freelance assignment because you don't want to miss an opportunity because someone else worked harder. People will judge your work. People will be blunt in their comments. People will nod with understanding although they don't fully know where your craziness for this writing life lies.

And, what to tell them? One day I started writing and never stopped? You love to hear people's stories but sometimes you like reading them more? I am inspired easily. I know what I want and I am stubborn - two of my greatest strengths, I believe. Despite the more profitable lots in life, the more practical roads to take, I can't think of any other path than this one.

You wanna be a writer? You have got to LOVE it. Fall asleep writing with paper stuck to your face love it. Down to your last dollar and winging it love it. Move to new cities simply to fill your life with stories love it. Letting one quote, one lyric, one perfectly structured sentence light your whole world love it.

You wanna be a writer? Courtney, you must be crazy...

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Timing Is Everything

Currently, I'm working 43 hours a week at a job that I am indifferent towards. There are a few days when I really lose it and then I HATE it, and all in all, it dulls my senses, makes me weary and decreases my level of caring to practically nothing.

Recently, I went on an interview for a writing project that if offered to me will span over a 3-month period of time and require a devotion of 20 hours per week. Also, I accepted the offer from one of the companies I freelance for to help them catch up on their editing work. I went in for a full day of training to learn the systems and procedure, so that I can work from home for yet another anticipated 20 hours a week.

Add on top of that my freelance writing assignments and blog work, social networking obsession and responding to emails of those I love and I seem to be pushing the time I actually have to lay down and breathe further and further into the dark hours of the night. If we're being honest though, working 83+ hours a week is nothing compared to some people. Doctors, journalists, mothers - they all work much longer hours on much less sleep for much bigger issues and manage to get it done.

The trick is to make time for what you want to do. Those people make time for their careers and/or families. They prioritize their time, which is probably one of the biggest lessons I learned during my four years of college. Right now, if the right opportunity presented itself to me, I would agree to take it on, knowing that I could squeeze a couple more hours out of my day all for the greater good.

You don't get unlimited chances to make life what you want it be. I want my life to be fun, successful and full of memorable moments. I make time to work on projects that will help me with the future of my writing career, I work to pay bills and try not to lose my sanity and I definitely schedule time for fun. I don't mean to run myself ragged, but even if I did, I wouldn't do it without my eyes open to the bigger picture.

Don't work to work. Work to achieve something. When one goal is reached make three more and that way you stay continuously active. An object in motion remains in motion...

I pray for the opportunities that will open doors. I embrace my sleep. I crave alone time. I will get it all done. I will watch my timing. I will not let anything pass me by. I will believe in my bigger picture and see how much I can fit into it.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

California Dreamin'

It's been almost a year since I packed up my bags and drove my little red Suzuki Forenza (RIP) the long (but surprisingly not awful) drive from Kansas to California. My friend, Candice and I packed my car full of essentials and snacks and avoided a speeding ticket in Oklahoma, suffered through short downpours of rain in New Mexico, and drove exhausted and road weary around the mountains in Arizona.
Let me say one quick thing about Arizona: I do not like the state (don't be fooled by the photo). At the height of border security last summer, my equally tanned friend and myself joked that maybe we were too dark to drive through the state. Maybe I don't like it because it was the final destination after a long day of driving. Maybe because driving around mountains in the dark makes you start to hallucinate UFOs. Maybe because it's hot and desert-y and full of cacti. Or, maybe my experience with the state has not been the greatest because of things that have nothing to do with the actual state. Others have insisted it's a great state because their hot's not humid. 115 degrees is still FUCKING HOT!

The last leg of our trip led us to drive through two checkpoints along sand dunes and the sights of Mexico literally just over the horizon. When we finally pulled into San Diego, I felt excited, happy and surprisingly, at home. My furniture had yet to arrive (and wouldn't arrive for three more weeks!) so we camped out on the floor of my month-to-month rental and planned for some fun days before my friend had to fly back to Kansas.
We ventured to LA with free tickets to George Lopez in the hopes of seeing T.I. When we arrived, they announced T.I. would not be appearing so we decided to hop a double-decker bus and ride down Sunset Boulevard and through the Hollywood Hills to take in the sites like true tourists. We took our pictures next to the wax figure of Samuel L. Jackson and along the various sidewalk stars along the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Later, we staked out the premiere of "Takers", saw T.I., Chris Brown, Hayden Christiansen and then Snoop Dogg walking on the sidewalk right past us. We don't play nonchalant aloofness. We like celebrities. We took pictures.
When my furniture finally arrived, God bless the movers who had to shove all of my stuff into my small apartment. It was the dead of summer, no air conditioning and they had two moves following mine and not once did the complain or act like they had somewhere better to be. One of the moving men even gave me the floor fan from his truck letting me know it would come in handy on those late summer days.
What was to follow was a cycle of fun, adventure, and at times literally just getting by on hope alone. San Diego offers so much to newcomers. Most San Diegans I've met aren't natives at all. They too had the ocean calling their name. The perfect weather. The laid-back attitudes. I have been able to watch sea lions up close and personal in La Jolla. Kayak in the ocean. Watched a whale leap out of the water, several times in fact. I have ziplined at the Safari Park and had chances to make it back to LA. I have walked around the Fashion District. Walked along the Santa Monica Pier and been mesmerized by the skaters of Venice Beach.

I have been able to experience the most perfect food of my life - the Surfin' California burrito from Lucha Libre and enjoyed the quest for the best chicken mole (which has not yet been found). To sum up a year, a dream, isn't really possible. To say there hasn't been difficulties would be a lie. But those days have quickly been replaced by waking up to sunshine and cool weather, ocean breezes and sand beneath my feet. To enjoy a freedom and independence and sheer "because I wanted to" attitude that can never be taken away from me.

It was about two years ago that I told my friend I wanted a change. I felt restless and unsatisfied. Maybe I'll always have a little bit of that feeling in me. But it was just a year ago, I changed that and moved my life two time zones away to set up a little place to call my own.
Was it the right time, the right choice, the right decision for my life? Those really aren't the kind of questions I tend to ask myself. I ask, will I regret not going? Will I wish I would have moved? I'm definitely a "so glad I did it" kind of gal and not a "really wish I would've" type of person. When seeking adventure, taking chances, the best question to ask is that's shouldn't really be a question at all is: Why NOT?

Friday, July 15, 2011

What it Takes to Climb a Mountain

Cowles Mountain - San Diego, CA
Elevation: 1,591 ft. above sea level

On May 11, 2011, I climbed my first mountain. To those native to San Diego or those just generally in good physical shape, climbing Cowles is no big deal. People do that hike weekly. Some probably walk it every other day. The trail is easy to follow with few steep hills and relatively flat terrain. When my friend, Deondre came to visit he decided that climbing a mountain would be a fun thing to do. Having wanted to conquer a mountain myself, I said, "Let's do it!"

It was a beautiful, cool evening and we began our hike up the mountain. There seemed to be two trails. One to a smaller peak and one to the top. Standing from the bottom looking up we both thought the same thing without saying it out loud: There is no way in hell we're hiking up there. Neither D nor myself are what I would call "in shape". I try to frequent the gym as much as possible, but trekking up a mountain is out of my comfort zone.

After walking over a mile, we reached the summit. Looking down from where we came, it seemed like we had hiked a long way. Looking to what lay before us though, we hadn't even made it to the path that would lead us to the top. I told D I would go for as long as he would. Part of me was hoping that he would say he wanted to go back so I wouldn't have to be the one who gave up and went home. But like a champ, he said, "Nope. We're going to make it to the top!"

And so we continued. People were passing us on both sides. We stopped to rest more than once. But then I saw a man carrying his baby in a pouch walking next to a KID who looked like walking back down that mountain was the easiest thing he'd ever done. So it turned out that my will to reach the top did not come from myself, not from Deondre or from the grace of God. It came from a child who I wanted to outdo. If that kindergarten tot could do it, I could too!
Halfway up the mountain, the sun began to set and we were able to witness some truly breathtaking sights. In that moment, I did send up a silent 'thank you' to God for the pure beauty of that sunset. When we finally reached the top, you would think we had climbed Kilimanjaro. That's how I felt. I was in awe of the city, how beautiful it looked, how on top of the world I felt. I could see the a panoramic view stretching out to more mountains on one side and the ocean on the other. I could have stood there forever.

It was setting out to do something, to really experience what it would feel like to climb a mountain and then doing it. It was the difference between going halfway and understanding that would never be enough and pressing on. And in a way only D can express, he summed it up best when he turned to me and said, "We climbed a motherfuckin' mountain, b!"

So, what does it take to climb a mountain? It's just like anything put one foot in front of the other and go. It's no Kilimanjaro, but as always, there will be other mountains to climb. Bigger things just over the horizon.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

And Then Comes 30...but Why Worry?

One evening after browsing through my latest issue of Glamour, I came across an article dedicated to the feelings of turning 30. Women are worried about wrinkles and child-bearing and meeting the right man. Women lament that they thought by the time they turned 30, they would already be married with one or two children. You know what I have to say to these women? PUH-LEASE. I was thinking about all that at sixteen - well, not the wrinkles part.

When I was 16, I thought by the time I was TWENTY-ONE, I would have a successful career, be married to a gorgeous man, maybe living in a fancy NYC apartment, baby optional. I even went on to confirm this plan as a Senior in high school. The night of our Senior Dinner, we were to step into a room setup with a video camera like some Real World confessional and say where we thought we'd be in 10 years. The only part that came true about my prediction is that I moved to New York. I did not, however, live in a fancy apartment. I lived in a studio way up on the "Upper East Side" that really a few more blocks and I'm in Harlem.

As my 21st birthday came and went in a drunken/throwing up/hungover blur, it became clear that my sweet little sixteen-year-old self was way off the mark. So, I woke up the next day not knowing where my phone was or how many shots I had consumed the previous night. But I wasn't worried about Mr. Right and I was for damn sure not worried about having children. And, I haven't worried about it since. A friend of mine who Botoxes advised me a few years ago that I should look into it for preventative purposes. I'm sure I have "crow's feet" and "smile lines", but uh, that's just my face. That's how I LOOK!

You know how I feel about turning 30? I feel excited! It might not have anything to do with the age either. I just feel like every birthday is a chance to do all those things you were supposed to do in the past year. For me, it's finish my book (a never-ending struggle). Travel to foreign places. Seek new adventures. You get to make birthday resolutions. I don't think about marriage or babies or even my career, really. It doesn't mean I'm not focused, it just means I have a bigger picture in mind.

The success of all of those things would make my picture prettier, but as it is right now life is unfolding the way it should. Hectic at some points, leisurely floating along at others. I make decisions in the moment and appreciate each experience for what it is. One thing I can celebrate about turning 30 is all the things I learned in my 20s - a bitch of a decade it's been, but a FABULOUS one as well.

It's great to have a plan. It's fantastic to envision how you want your life to turn out, but I tend to mark down my accomplishments and look forward to things yet to be achieved instead of moping about all the things I haven't done. I like to think about how much better things get with every passing year and how lucky I am to wake up most mornings perfectly HAPPY. Make the lists. Create goals. But, for God's sake, don't forget how to LIVE.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

(Google) Plus One

I was late to the game on joining the now defunct MySpace. I never wanted to be part of The Social Network a.k.a. Facebook. I was just on there to play Scramble. And Twitter was just an added silliness that I thought I could use to pass the time. Now, here I am right on the verge of the newest social networking - Google+.

By on the verge, I mean I have no idea what the hell I am doing. Working backwards, I find that Twitter has been the most beneficial to me, Facebook lets me peek in on my family and friends' daily dramas and excitements and MySpace (R.I.P.) led me to great music, profile songs and smiley faces so people knew exactly what mood I was in.

As a newbie, I felt that all of this "connecting" with people was unnecessary and just another phase of networking and technology that would pass by not blow up to a monumental size and continue its King Kong-like growth. So instead of fighting it, I decided to swim with the stream for once, instead of against it. By doing so, I have been able to be led into a fascinating world with new people, new businesses, fellow writers and of course, my friends and family who also update their statuses religiously so that I can know what they're doing during the day.

So I say to all of you who may be hesitant, give it a whirl, and see if you like it. You may think it to be a complete waste of time and go back to your tv reruns and discussions with no one. But, then again you might find it captivating, intriguing and if nothing else, fun to be able to network and connect with people you may never have had a chance to meet otherwise.

Cheers to the social networkers out there! Friend me, follow me and plus one me into your virtual worlds.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

What I Want to Be When I Grow Up...

The Day I Gave Up My Journal

When I was in the fifth grade, a good family friend gave me my first journal. None of my entries started off with 'Dear Diary' but many of my entries began the same way. There were days I wondered if I was going to win the spelling bee. If the boy I liked would send me a valentine. Why my best friend was mad at me again. The journal was meant to serve as an outlet for any emotions I might be feeling following my parents divorce. I feel that our family friend saved me a lot of money in therapy by giving me such an outlet.

Looking back I see that over the years not much changed in what I wrote down. I rarely wrote when I had a good day. I always wrote when I was sad or mad or confused. Although the names and situations changed, the common theme throughout my journaling days was - "Will I find someone who loves me?" and "What am I going to do with my life?"

Then something happened.

I started throwing away my journals. Many people told me I should save them. Why? To learn from the lessons that I failed to learn the first time around? Some of the entries while entertaining were not worth keeping around to have someone read when I'm gone. They were more embarrassing than it is riveting.

So one by one, I began tearing out the pages and throwing them away, laughing as I did. Reading the words I had written about things that really didn't matter. Writing about things like they were the ONLY things that mattered. In 2010, I noticed my entries finally began to really change. Instead of the angsty, unfulfilled entries of the past, I started making lists of goals. I wrote down inspiring lyrics and quotes. I started stories. I ended ones too. And then one day, I realized I hadn't posted an entry for about three weeks.

Instead I had started keeping a dream journal to record my dreams. I started writing for Examiner as a fashion and relationships writer. I began to build upon what I loved doing. I continued to work on freelance projects and found that I didn't want to use what I love to write about how SORRY I feel for myself - talk about a waste of time.

And yet, it wasn't.

Writing in those journals let me see what I was feeling without realizing it at the time. It allowed me to get my feelings out so that I could move on instead of holding them inside. It showed me a way to positively and productively focus my writing. And it confirmed that although that chapter of my writing life has ended, the story has just begun.