My Questionable Return to Facebook

get-free-facebook-likesOriginally published on medium.

You’ve heard it all before. Someone swears off Facebook (for Lent or whatever) and then returns and writes a story about why. It’s happening to me too. What I’ve noticed is more about what’s missing from the experience, 4 years removed.

A friend from back home emailed me today. Not the email where she says “tell me all about New Zealand and your life there”. She went in-depth about her new job and what makes it so special to her. She was telling it directly to me. Not to all her Facebook Friends or not in some short chat on the Messenger app. She went in. It’s not something I could have gotten on Facebook.

I elected to delete my Facebook 4 years ago after a breakup. My privacy became everyone’s interest and it was too much for me at the time. I adopted Twitter and couldn’t handle managing several social media accounts at once. I’d since tested the waters on Facebook and quickly found myself unable to handle the overwhelming changes and tendencies to stalk so they were always deleted within a day. Only recently, upon moving to a new city, did I realize I kind of needed it. I needed a personal page in order to make a Page on Facebook to promote a bike club I founded.

Since then I’ve found some pretty neat events, gotten advice or help on an issue, and shared a laugh with people I haven’t spoken to in months. Facebook doesn’t like it when you don’t have many friends so I’m constantly rejecting it’s ways. Tips on how to use it are coming from all around. A different friend recommended I don’t click on sponsored links. Then someone told me to go through my Settings if I wanted privacy in any way. Honestly, I don’t care. I jumped in and I’m swimming with caution.

I’m working under the assumption that I only know surface-level information about my “friends”. I make an effort to email details to those I care about and connect on a deeper level. Marketing-wise, this could be very much in my favor but I need to mix it up with personal and professional things so as not to bombard “friends” with things I need.

I don’t dare say I know how to use Facebook properly. It’s a lot different than when I used it last (they hadn’t yet introduced Cover Photos!) and I’m always asking for tips or hints. Even on the mobile app, I often get frustrated trying to decipher the difference between a Page, Friend, or Group. I’m also not afraid to reject a friend request or hurt someone’s Facebook feelings in the event I think it just doesn’t make sense for us to be connected. I use it one way, others use it another and we just have to deal with it.

I Won’t Be Going to Outdoor Music Festivals Anymore

I’ve officially attended my last outdoor festival as a spectator. I wouldn’t mind working the event in the future but there is no way I’d be back as an audience member. Attending as a fan among thousands of screaming, drunken 20-somethings is not my cup of tea anymore.

Sure, I enjoyed it to a degree when I was younger (this is making me out to be an old, crabby lady) and had the patience to deal with the lines, the porta potties, the shoves from drunkards, and the heaps of trash on the ground. These days, I can’t bring myself to enjoy the music without being bothered by the stench wafting from the stale, sweaty air of the venue. The only music act I’d see live at an outdoor festival is OutKast and I reached that feat this summer so… no thanks.

I attended a few concerts in my youth and truly tried hard to enjoy myself, despite the nasty atmosphere. With the help of fistfuls of beer, I achieved some good results. Something tells me I would never cut it at Woodstock or Lollapalooza. There aren’t enough drugs in the world to get me to stand in line to pee in a crummy loo or wait ten minutes for a plate of tacos.

I recently attended Electric Avenue, Christchurch’s summer festival to end all festivals. It was rad. I may have enjoyed it more because I knew this was the last time I was ever going to put myself through that mess again. There were times when I exited the near-front stage area (also know as a mosh pit) to catch my breath, get some water, or to avoid being punched in the boob repeatedly by drunken Christchurch concert-goers (seriously the bruises make me look like something out of 50 Shades of Grey). The musical acts were top-notch. New Zealand’s finest were there and I wouldn’t have missed it for much (unless you offered me double the price of my ticket at the gate—$170 NZD). I knew this was a once in a lifetime opportunity, so I took it.

That was my swan song. I’ve seen the best. I’ve heard the best. Now I can die peacefully knowing I’ll never have to deal with that crap again.

Lessons in Long Distance Relationship-ing


After being in a long distance relationship for nearly three years, I think it’s about time I shared some learnings along the way. Originally, I swore off ever participating in something so difficult. I think the ease of the relationship at it’s beginnings is what kept me going. When time came to part ways, it hurt but I thought it’d be worth it. Here are the lessons I learned thus far:

Lesson #1: Don’t lose yourself.

This is a lesson I continue to learn despite the relationship I’m in. I have a tendency to lose myself in others, friends or otherwise. If you find yourself changing things for another person, you’ve already drifted from one of the true foundations of a successful partnership. If you are confident in who you are, if you have your own life outside of the relationship, you have a strong position. I don’t mean for this to sound like a competition though. The key to a successful relationship, long distance especially. is finding the balance. Know who you are and stick to it.

Lesson #2: Set an end date.

Sometimes the hardest thing about being apart for so long is not knowing when you will see your loved one again. If you have a date in mind, there’s always something to look forward to. You have a goal and can make plans accordingly. If there is no end date, communicate plans to set a date sooner rather than later.

Lesson #3: Go with your gut.

We all know that aching feeling deep inside that says whether you are making the right decision. It’s so critical to listen to it when you are making big (or even little) decisions apart. I constantly needed validation that the decisions I made were the right ones and I would seek input from others. What I should have done was recognize that I had the answer all within myself and it was my gut screaming. Trust that feeling and go with it.

Lesson #4: Beware the scenery change.

My long distance relationship came with a variety of scenery changes all over the world. That was a bonus but sometimes, it was not an ideal location for one of us. When we were together in places like Portland, we had some of the most amazing summers of our lives. It was hard to duplicate that and live up to a dream-turned-reality. I recently moved to Christchurch, New Zealand, a broken city with not much appeal for the average American. My partner was unhappy there (or rather would have chosen another locale) and sometimes his unhappiness was contagious. Know that no matter where you go, you have to WANT to be there.

Lesson #5: Don’t rush things.

It’s important to take things slowly. We were forced to make some big, legal decisions and things were rushed at times, ultimately leading to some unwanted pressure on the relationship. That’s the most difficult and un-romantic thing about dating a foreigner– you have to think about things in terms of legalities and sometimes rush the relationship where you aren’t prepared to do so yet. So don’t. Do what’s best for you, regardless of time.

Lesson #6: Self love still applies.

You must realize that finding happiness comes from within and no one else can provide that for you. That’s what makes your identity so important. If you focus on your needs (mind you, this is different than being selfish or conceited), you will be happier. It also puts less pressure on your partner to provide that love and support if you already have it for yourself. Lastly, it gives your partner confidence that you aren’t depending on the relationship for your happiness.

Lesson #7: Find friends who understand your woes.

When you move countries, join a meetup group, specifically one with fellow newcomers. You may be lucky like me and find some close friends this way who are in the same boat as you. As the saying goes, misery loves company. There is comfort in having friends who have been through it too or are going through it with you and you can chat over wine about the tough times behind you or ahead. Stay in touch with them! They’ll become friends for life.

Lesson #8: Over communicate.

Lots of things get lost in distance. Even over video chats, I often left the call confused as to how my partner truly felt. We made an effort to share emails with videos, photos, and even sent hand-written letters or packages to compensate for the lack of being physically together. We tried apps like Avocado (specifically for these purposes). We weren’t extreme in the sense that we had to talk to each other every day. That, and our time zones were SUPER different, making it hard to really schedule these things. Try hard to keep in touch often because it also means there is less stress to fit all the “heavy” stuff in during the times you can finally catch up on Skype. Knowing that you can’t always just sit and have a coffee means a lot gets lost. Make up for it in other ways.

Lesson #9: Be present.

Change is inevitable. Knowing that you will be apart (or together) soon means you could be drifting your thoughts toward those times instead of taking advantage of your time together (or apart). Stay present as much as possible and enjoy what you do have. Nothing ever lasts forever.

I chose to not to do 10 lessons because that would feel like I am successful at this when in fact, I am not. I’ve failed many times but I’ve learned a lot in the process and that is the purpose of sharing this. Have a Happy Valentine’s Day folks!


I’m actually really glad the commercial for Always pantyliners came out this Super Bowl. In under a minute they managed to speak to something I’ve been talking about for awhile. Lean in, Always. The message is “As a girl (or female woman), you define what “like a girl” looks like. You are not defined by age-old insults. Throw how you wish, run as best you can, and be yourself”.

chola powerI’ve had this dream to open a nonprofit that teaches women handywork around the house, automobile, and in the garden. There are so many valueable tasks that we have spent years just “leaving to the guy” to do. There is so much value in learning these skills and empowering yourself to do them on your own. It’s not about snuffing the guy or emasculating him. The project is a long ways away but I find any opportunity to empower another woman by showing her skills I’ve learned while also learning from others.

I’ve begun volunteering twice a week at a local bike workshop and have been excitedly overwhelmed with the work and tools that go into repair and rebuilding a bike. I’m learning from all walks of life– women, men, tourists, Cantabarians, elders, and the youth. Confidence in my ability to do almost anything grows and grows the more I learn about bike mechanics.

I’ve always been a confident person. I can change my oil, build a farm, repair a toilet, swim far and fast, and drink expensive whiskey– sometimes better than the boys. I can also throw a mean party, bake a fluffy, delicious cake, and sew a pillow. It doesn’t mean I want to be a boy (although Beyonce’s If I Were A Boy and Ciara’s Like A Boy spoke to me), I just don’t want to be defined by these things. I want to be accepted for who I am, for my flaws, and for my awesomeness.

So when I saw the commercial, I was delighted the message is exposed loud and clear. And during a big game with lots of guys watching. I hope everyone got the message.

For the Love of Bikes

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about what brings me passion. What is something I can truly identify with that brings me lots of joy? Few things have stuck around in my life since a very young age: books, gardening, swimming, coffee, and bikes. As soon as I arrive in a new place, I get my library card in the new city, I buy plants for the new garden, I find my local coffee shop, I get on a bike and I head to the beach. Simple. They’ve always been my things though and not really something I share with others. Until now.

I started a club the other day. It’s called CycleCHCH. For now, it’s me and one other member. But as far as I know, that is all it takes to make a club official. I schedule social rides and use it as a means to make new friends who like to ride bikes as much as I do.

My love for bikes has now gotten to be something I define myself by. I gawk at bikes when I’m riding around or parked having a coffee outside the local cafe. I browse the web for vintage bikes for sale. I follow bike blogs and latest trends in the bike world. I ride every day, nearly everywhere I go. I read bike magazines. I even dream about bikes because that’s just how damn into them I am. Like I said, it’s one of the few things in life that brings me complete joy.

Thinking back to my youth and where this all stemmed from, I recall that my family are big cyclists and advocates in the cycling community. Although we lived in Atlanta, we still embraced life on two wheels. I remember my father taking long tours out of town on his bike. I remember seeing my brother wear those cycling caps, riding no hands and thinking he was the coolest guy ever. I remember watching my mom learn and re-learn how to ride a bike on the beach. I remember my first bike, my first bike accident, and every bike I’ve owned since. I remember my sister’s teal Specialized bike that travelled all over the US with her and we kept in the family for ages. I remember when the local bike trail opened up by the railroad tracks near my childhood home. Or when sharrows were installed on the streets. I remember the car racks, the trailers, bells, lights, and shoes we accessorized our lives with. To this day, my brother, father, and myself still cycle as our main means of transport. My young nephews now ride around Portland like it’s no big deal. Even my brother-in-law works for Team Type1 race team. There were even bad times. Like the time I was hit by a truck. Or the time my two-day old bike was stolen in Brooklyn. But cycling is in my blood. And I’d never give it up. Let me be clear though, it is never a competitive thing. It is simply a passion that ran deep in my family and has stayed with me ever mulch

So naturally, upon arriving to Christchurch, I knew I needed a bike to get around. Cars in this city are mostly for getting out of town. I was delighted to learn about the established cycling community here. Not only do tourists take to bikes to see it all, there are thousands of regular commuters. It’s primarily flat land here, making the barrier to entry for new cyclists rather easy. Even still, there are lots of MBX tracks and racing clubs nearby that take full advantage of city’s cycleways. There is a rich and deep cycling history in NZ that I’ve only begun to scratch the surface with (hence my bike club).

I won’t say that I’m the strongest advocate for cycling though. And I’m certainly not anti-car. There are people much more passionate than I and who use their voice to forward the movement. I simply like to ride and ride and ride until my legs get giggly. I like to collect things in my basket and take a book to the park to read under a tree. I like the sensation I get when the wind pushes me faster toward my destination. I simply like feeling like a kid again: free and without a care in the world. It’s that joy that has kept me pedaling for years.

What Are We Really Trying to Ask?

Picture the scenario of meeting someone new. You’ve reached out for networking purposes and now have their full and undivided attention at the local coffee shop. There’s a buzz, if only from the espresso. Besides all the regular Googling you’ve done on them beforehand, it’s time to get the conversation started. “What do you do?” you ask. There it is. The question we all wish wasn’t asked as soon as it’s left your lips. It’s what we’ve gravitated to when meeting someone new. Or worse, the question has been posed to you and you have to fiddle around in your brain with the answer that says I-do-something-interesting-but-not-in-a-bragging-kind-of-way. It’s even found it’s way into our cocktail parties and happy hours, “So… what do you do?” asks the girl meeting a guy for the first time at the table next to you. You cringe when you hear it. We all do.

I’ll be honest– I use it too when I can’t think of anything else to ask. But I also judge people who ask it. And lately, I’ve heard a newer version, “So, where do you work?”. Lucky me, I have a generic answer that shuts people up but that unfortunately doesn’t describe me very well. “Who me? Oh, I’m a freelance writer.” Even that doesn’t feel like it covers everything someone needs to know about me. I’m not defined by it nor do I want you to think that I only fit into that bucket. And don’t you dare ask me if I’ve published anything you may have read before. I’m not saying that everything you need to know will occur in one sitting but now you know nothing about my interests by that answer. What if I said I was a consultant? What if I told you I worked at Facebook or LinkedIn? Would you look at me differently? What are you really getting at when you ask me that question?

I’ve tried a few varieties of answers and questions. I think the real question should be “What are you interested in?”. I haven’t perfected the question yet but I believe we should remove the usual ones from our small-talk banter. If I wanted you to know what I did, we’d be wearing nametags. If I wanted you to know where I worked, I’d wear the startup tee. Truth is, I don’t care what you do. I care about what makes you tick, what motivates you to wake up in the morning, and what you do during your free time. Those are the things we probably have in common. Not that I’m hunting you down as a friend but I feel like those answers give me more insight than the typical answers about project management, inbox zero-ing, and marketing/sales daily routines.

I’ve heard this is a typical question of Americans to ask. Some think we use this crutch question as a means to brag about our salaries or make a power play. I agree. Sadly, I’ve seen people use it for those purposes and I’m quick to shut them down. “I won’t bore you with those details. Let’s talk about an interesting book I’ve read recently.” Maybe it sounds as if I’m hiding something but who wants to be bored with the details of work. Why can’t we discuss the state of social enterprise in the city we’re in? I’m more curious as to what challenges you face and how I can help. What is the last big project you worked on? Was it successful or not? All of which is of interest to me. Next time we sit down for coffee, and it’s the first time I’ve met you, don’t be surprised if I don’t ask you what you do. And be ready to answer something far more personal or in-depth about your hobbies and interests.

The Anti-Cookbook

I have a love/hate relationship with the kitchen. It’s a place I’m learning to enjoy more with each passing year. Lately, it’s been on the positive side. When I’m alone, it’s harder to convince myself to cook for just one person. As a book lover, I thoroughly enjoy browsing the pages of cookbooks– admiring all the gorgeous food and pretty place settings. Although my food never looks like it does in the books, I aspire to write my own cookbook one day. The problem lies in the fact that I don’t really think it’s necessary to follow a recipe to come up with a great creation in the kitchen. Some rules in the kitchen are meant to be broken.

Now this first: there is a distinct difference between cooking and baking. Baking is a more precise science than throwing something together in a sauté pan to cook on the stovetop. However, if I’ve learned anything from Alton Brown, it’s that there’s room to experiment and to fail in the kitchen. The hard part of my kitchen relationship stems from my many failures but in those failures were also many learnings such as: rolling pins help knead out the air bubbles in pie crust, knowing the difference between baking soda and baking powder, and cheesecakes are baked in springform pans for a reason.

So how does one create a cookbook without recipes? You really can’t. It’s just a book otherwise. The idea is to offer guidance to your everyday recipes like muffins, cakes, casseroles, and pies but give the reader the chance to explore. Maybe leave out an ingredient or two? Maybe skip the temperature? I realize these are critical in some recipes but with fair warning, I’d want my readers to gain experience through failure. What better place to do so in the kitchen (given you have proper ventilation and fire extinguishers).

My suggestion is to find an ingredient you have never used before. Two days ago, my ingredient of choice was canned guava in syrup. Think about what you’ve seen the ingredient in before. Have you ever made that? Would it make sense paired with something you already considered cooking/baking? It doesn’t have to be an exotic fruit but you get more style points this way. Logic is your friend. Consider logical substitutions like honey for sugar or additions like nuts and berries. It helps to know your basics (see Alton Brown again). Feel confident in the basic cookie mix, cake batter, or cornmeal crust. Adding to those is what’s going to make your “recipe” stand out.

Have fun and eat up!

A Kiwi Christmas

I don’t mean to rub it in but Christmas in the Southern Hemisphere is pretty awesome! I’ve enjoyed two holiday seasons in New Zealand and wanted to share a bit about what a kiwi Christmas looks like.

Deep in the South Island of New Zealand, around the 45th and 44th parallel, Santa hats and Christmas ornaments sit next to outdoor grills and beach towels at the local shops. It’s not the warmest place on Earth but everyone tends to enjoy a nice holiday at the beach at some point during their break. They also take their holidays very seriously and people get ample time off to celebrate with friends and family. The biggest difference for me is the sunlight. It’s daylight here until very late into the evening. I’ve witnessed sunsets past 9pm and I’m convinced it doesn’t get completely dark at any point in the night (I haven’t stayed up late enough to prove this theory).

In the food department, kiwis enjoy Christmas cake, Christmas pudding, and Christmas cookies, all of which are basically renditions of what we just call cake, pudding, and cookies with a festive touch. They too enjoy feasts of food but instead of roasting veggies and meats in an oven, they slap things on the BBQ. There aren’t many hot drinks during warm weather so eggnog is not for sale at the market.

There are still Christmas trees but they seem out of place when there isn’t snow on the ground. I haven’t seen many people decorate the lawns or doors much but perhaps I’m in the wrong part of town. I’ve seen the postal service workers dressed up in Santa and elf costumes. People still put those ridiculous reindeer antlers on the car antennas here too.

So those of you in the Northern Hemisphere who may be snowed in, rained out, or freezing by a fire, take comfort in knowing the traditional Christmas celebration may not fit in the warmer climates. I’m not complaining though. In fact, I’m gearing up to go to the beach today for a swim. But there is nothing like a white Christmas with family gathered around the fire and opening presents with a hot chocolate in hand. Nothing.

Merry Christmas from down under!

Our kiwi travel companion

Our kiwi travel companion

What Takes Courage?

I’ve recently thought a lot about this topic: What takes courage to do? Well, a lot of things. I’ve been called courageous but I never quite thought of myself that way. I’ve always considered what I did as an understanding of what I wanted and what I needed to do to go out and get it. In the meantime, I’ve realized it does take a lot of something to do what you want, to seek opportunities you dream about, and to follow your heart. It’s risky, scary, and some would say crazy.

If you are like me, you don’t think of yourself as courageous. You simply do what it takes. However, I think there is something to be said about giving yourself some credit when it comes to life’s big decisions and moves. I’m always surprised when people say that they’ve recently changed jobs, gotten married, moved homes, or had a baby in a year. Wow! That’s an incredibly different year than the year before. Can you imagine experiencing that in the course of a year? We often do it without thinking twice. It’s what we must do and it just gets done.

Nothing goes without the support of friends and family, but at the end of the day, these are your decisions to make. And they are never easy. This is the time of year when a lot of reflection happens. You look back at the year gone by and recall what actually happened and where the year went. Now is the time to give yourself some credit. Even something as simple as getting a haircut or finishing a book can be a step in the right direction and you deserve credit for it. And if you’ve done any of those big life changes, give yourself a hug. That took courage to do. You probably set an example for others and don’t even know it.

I’ve moved countless times this year. It didn’t go without a lot of debate and finding comfort in the unknowns of life: Where’s the next check coming from? When will I hear back from someone? Where will I be in a month? How am I going to make this work? But every time, I knew what the end goal was and I made sure that each action led to that bigger goal of mine. It’s scary sometimes but I’ve convinced my mind to turn nervousness into excitement and enjoy the moments I have right in front of me. I have more confidence to do bigger and better things next year. And I have the courage to stand behind my decisions. I think everyone has it in them.


As embarrassing as this post may be, believe me when I say I’m more embarrassed to talk about it than you are to read it. But I am a firm believer we need to have this discussion.

This has been a roller coaster year in health for me. Before I sound overly dramatic, I understand that many more people suffer more pain than I have but I think there is something to be said though about the dull, constant pain that we just learn how to live with and suffer through for whatever reason. My number 1 reason for suffering has been the cost of being sick.

I have been uninsured since May. The timing of my travel, coupled with my freelance career, hasn’t quite worked out the way I would have hoped in terms of ability to get proper care in any one city. During the month of May my travel insurance expired. I hoped to land a contract big enough to afford paying record-high healthcare premiums but that never happened. Timing just wasn’t on my side.

I won’t go into the details of my ailment but I will say it’s “lady issues”. To give you a sense of my variety of experiences, here’s what the last 10 months looked like: My first visit for the issue was at a local doctor in May, then a homeopathic doctor in August at a “friend discount”, then a Christian-based health clinic (note, not free) in October, then a random ZocDoc in November, and finally the NYC Health Department. The saddest part about all of this (besides the fact that I’m not better yet) is how I refer to this process in the context of cost. You see, when you don’t have a regular physician, benefits, or even a job, it’s hard to get help. You are cast out in the deep, dark seas of medicine to sink or swim. Not that having health insurance makes it any easier to get help, it just costs less. Apparently.

For the longest time, I went through an independent broker to source my health insurance, changing it annually to get the best rate. I didn’t want to be dependent on my employer (especially during college when I changed jobs all the time) to find me the best deal. I rarely went to the doctor or only needed an annual visit so I didn’t see the point in paying a big monthly bill for a low deductible. It made sense then but I’ve since changed careers. I realize how helpful it would be to be part of a collective group of freelancers, signing up for insurance as a group. I recently received an email that Freelancers Union is offering help with coverage. Alas, I’m leaving the country a day before open enrollment starts. And I’m headed to a country with affordable health insurance.

Please note, I’m not fleeing the country because of this issue. I would never do that. But I am aware that other countries have easier systems to navigate, smaller populations to manage and can help me with the same issue with less stress. I actually hope to never have to use the system overseas. I also hope my current travel insurance policy will cover me in the event I need to seek help.

I’d often get confused looks from doctors and nurses when I’d arrive to my appointment without health insurance information. They’d say, “Wait. You didn’t sign up for Obamacare?”. Actually, no. I arrived in the US 2 days after the deadline last March and what the hell is it anyway? I’d also get the occasional expression of pity from adminstrators when they handed me my bill ($250+ sometimes) before ever even seeing the doctor.

Although I’m not 100%, I am improving everyday. It’s taken a lot of work to get here. I’ve considered forging antibiotic prescriptions. I’ve been on hold on phones for almost 5 hours while scheduling and rescheduling appointments or asking questions. I’ve overdrafted at front desks in front of a huge waiting room of patients. I’ve spent countless hours on the physician’s table in tears to “figure this out”. I’ve gotten a full spectrum of diagnosis to my “issue” including “It’s God’s gift and curse to you” and “Dr. Oz says…”. I even dragged my boyfriend in with me at one point, bless his heart. That speaks to the openness of our relationship but mostly I wanted him to bare witness to my experience at an American doctor’s office.

The point of all this is it’s sheer ridiculousness. I know I’m not alone in this struggle. The struggle is real and many more are dealing with it too. I wish I had a better solution. So tell me, are you on Obamacare? Do you carry private insurance? Are you covered by benefits from your workplace? What’s that all like?