terms and conditions

With this new purpose, I feel like some terms and conditions would be useful to share. Especially for any of my friends or family who may have notifications on for my blog posts. So here we go.

  1. I will swear in my posts. Not the most important thing, but as the rest of these terms and conditions contain swears, I felt it was a good place to start. I have always been a bit of a swearer, but didn’t swear in any kind of public social media to be respectful of my friends/family/followers who are offended by swear words. Well, to me they are just words. And they are very effective for me to convey my emotions. If this bothers you, I respect that, and also just don’t read my blog. And maybe just stop here because, as already mentioned, the rest of these terms and conditions contain swears.
  2. I have turned off commenting. This was very intentional. This blog is now for me and all about my actual existential dilemmas. It helps to think about an “audience” as I’m writing, but not for the purposes of filtering for that audience or wanting validation. If it’s helpful for any readers, awesome. If not, that’s okay.
  3. If you know me personally and want to share some love for anything I’ve written, great. You know how to get in touch with me. If you have a difference of opinion or hate something I wrote or are sad because I seem sad/angry/frustrated, you are totally entitled to your opinions and feelings…AND I don’t give a shit and don’t want to hear about it. And I still love you. This might sound bitchy…because sometimes setting boundaries can sound bitchy. (There’s a great Brene Brown video here that I highly recommend if you don’t understand the importance of setting boundaries.)
  4. This blog is no longer going to be about my travels and cooking and all the “fun” stuff, but the emotional work that I doing. My instagram still has the fun stuff and you can follow me there. I may occasionally post some of the fun stuff, but it will be with an emotional purpose.
  5. I’m no longer a practicing or believing Mormon. I am not likely going to get into the reasons I left the Mormon church, but I will definitely be processing stuff related to my exit as it’s part of my daily life. This might be offensive to those of you still practicing/believing. If you don’t want to read about it, that is totally valid. We all need to do what works for us. I respect that. If you are still practicing and do choose to read it, DO NOT send me messages bearing your testimony, or telling me you hope I’ll come back, or links to great talks that helped you stay or that you think I might find valuable, or telling me how sad this makes you, or giving me advice for what I need to do to have enough faith. This has been a five-year plus process. I’m sorry if it’s shocking to you because I haven’t openly shared the struggle I’ve been going through. I have read all the talks, prayed all the prayers, tried all things. I made every effort possible to stay. I did not want to leave. I wanted it to work. It didn’t. And now I’m done. Please respect that decision. If it makes you sad that I left, that’s okay. You can be sad. You can feel however you feel and those feelings are valid. Just don’t tell me about them.
  6. I reserve the right to update these terms and conditions regularly.

rekindling my writing

It’s been almost three years since I’ve touched this blog. And even then it had been sporadic. My life has changed a lot. I’ve changed a lot. And now this blog is really for me. It’s been a round couple of years. Rough and amazing and exciting and wonderful. As change always is. At least for me.

I’m not going to try to capture it all in one post. That’s not what this is about anymore. But I do need to write. I miss writing. Not because I’m good at it. (I’m not.) I miss it because it helps me capture and process and reflect. And I’ve been pretty out of touch with myself for a while. Except for the hour I spend in my therapist’s office each week.

I’ve been thinking about this for a while, but what finally got me sitting here writing was a conversation I had with a guy the other night. We were talking about music and he played a Gregory Alan Isakov song for me called Too Far Away. He asked me what I thought it meant. Being one who likes to have the right answers, even thought I’m pretty sure that’s not what he was looking for, I told him I’d think about it. He joked that I should write him an email with my thoughts on it. And that’s what finally motivated me to sit down to my computer and write something completely unrelated to work or “getting shit done.” (Which is the only kind of writing I’ve done for years, really.)

Even though I wasn’t really planning to write him an email, I have listened to the song about 100 times since then and it’s helped me process some emotions. I think music is such an amazing gift, like any art form, except for me there’s something about music that just helps me feel and see things differently; that helps me get in touch with whatever is going on deep inside; the things I always want to keep deep inside, but need to be let out.

Here are the lyrics from the official website:

hey, how have you been
since you let in
the clouds through your window as it rained

the last time we spoke
you were glued to that telescope
i heard you say it was too far away
was it too far away

me, i’ve been fine
i work most of the time
digging for secrets deep in the ground

a few days ago
they called for that big snow
man, i thought that i would never get warm
did you ever get warm

all inside the rain
we carry what we’re able
among the sewer rats and angels
and all of us in between

before i go
i’ll leave you with this poem
about the galvanized moon and her rings in the rain

For me, this was a conversation between two versions of myself. That’s the short version anyway.

seoul round three

I know there are a number of people who question my love of Seoul, but I love it. Maybe because it was my first Asian city outside of Japan. Maybe it was because when I went for the first time it was magical. Maybe it’s just my love of Korean food. Whatever it was, I fell in love right away, so I was happy to go again when my dear friend, Oliver, told me he was going to be there for work. His wife very kindly gave him the “ok” to head out of the country a few days early so we could meet up and play tourists. And to make the trip even better, I got to stay at my friend Jaclyn’s house and visit with her. It was another amazing trip!

And here are my favorite things to do in Seoul. (These are just in chronological order from this trip.) One quick tip for all attractions: be sure to check what days places are open as there are a lots of things closed on Mondays and some on Sundays and Tuesdays.)

img_7948DMZ/JSA Tour – I did the DMZ tour on my first trip to Seoul and loved it, but I didn’t realize at the time that there was a difference between a tour of the DMZ and a tour of the
JSA. The JSA requires a bit more advance planning (the tours fill up fast) and it’s the only area where you can actually set foot on North Korean soil from South Korea. So, this time I made sure that I got to do a tour of both. It was amazing. And intense. And I highly, highly recommend it. I booked us through a company called Cosmojin and they were fantastic.




View into North Korea



That little curb between the two buildings is the border between South and North Korea. You can even see a North Korean soldier standing at the top of the steps in from of the large building in the background.  


Itaewon – this is a cool little neighborhood that reminds me of a tame Harajuku. Great restaurants and lots of people watching.



Spicy tofu at Jonny Dumpling. So delicious!

img_8036Nanta – This is a kind of musical / performance art / comedy show. I don’t know how else to describe it, but it’s super fun and equally ridiculous. This was the second time I’ve seen the show, but it was made even better that the first because Oliver got called up on stage and he was perfection. They said no photos, but of course I managed to sneak a few.

Myeong-dong – This is one of two central shopping districts in Seoul. I like this one because it’s not too huge and crazy AND has amazing food stands. Olive made a great partner in food adventures, which is needed you’re going to try everything you want to without wasting a ton of food.




Changdeokgung Palace Secret Garden Tour – The palace itself is impressive, but it’s the Secret Garden that really makes this one worth visiting. It’s absolutely stunning. During peak times in the fall and spring it can be difficult to get tickets, so plan ahead. It’s one of my favorite palace/shrine/equivalents in all of Asia.


I love doors, especially old ones in gates or walls. This one was so pretty. I wish my photo did it justice.




The War Memorial of Korea – My friend Heather took me here the first time I went. It’s such an interesting place. And bonus, this time, there was this amazing Korean calligraphy temporary exhibit. There’s a beautiful exhibit of a teardrop made from dog tags that I absolutely love, as well. In addition to this, just around the corner from the museum is this amazing little hole-in-the-wall fish place. We weren’t able to make it because it was closed the day we went, but if you can go, do it!

Gyeongbokgung Palace and the Nation Folk Museum of Korea – These are basically connected so you can plan to do them both on the same day. This palace is massive. In addition to that, they do a kind of “changing of the guard” which is very fun to see. (I didn’t take any photos of the Museum because we didn’t go there this trip…no time…but you can see my photos from my first trip here.)




How adorable are these munchkins?!


Oliver: “I am walking where Psy walked.”



Janet’s Cooking Studio – I’m sure there are several Korean cooking classes you could choose from, but Oliver and I both loved this experience. Janet is a native Korean who spent much of her life in the U.S. Her English is perfect, as is her knowledge of Korean culture and food. We started with a tour of a local Korean market (we were the only foreigners there) and it was absolutely delightful. We tried some new fruits neither of us had heard of before and then got to taste roasted seaweed fresh out of the roasting machine thing (I have no idea what it’s called). It was so very good! This was followed by cooking five Korean dishes in her darling studio. There were two things from the class that really stood out to me about Janet as an instructor. 1) She adapted the recipes slightly so that we would be able to make them in America. While some people wouldn’t love this, it was nice to know we could recreate these in our respective countries. 2) She was very mindful of our skills and abilities and adapted her teaching based on that. As I love to cook and do it quite a bit, she didn’t spend as much time talking about the basics and she let me flip my Korean pancake (pajeon) which was super fun!




N. Seoul Tower – A total tourist trap, but well worth the views! I took no pictures this time as it was my third trip to the tower.

Insadong – This is another place we didn’t get to this trip, but it’s a great little tourist area where you can get all of your souvenir needs met with lots of yummy treats. There are also a number of great restaurants in there. You can see my pictures of this area here.

Finally, watch a Korean drama. Such an interesting experience. I can’t tell you where to do that because I did it in my friend’s home, but do it. You will not regret it.


I think that’s it…for now. This is in no way comprehensive. Just my favorites.

the magical maldives


Okay, so here goes. I’ve had a few people tell me they’d love a blog post detailing the information about my vacation with my niece to the Maldives, so I’m going to capture it here and try to make it as organized as possible. Also, I’ll include links to my reviews of the resorts eventually (haven’t gotten around to do them yet. I try to review most places on Trip Advisor.

Also, I’m going to qualify this post, though, with one major disclaimer: this was a once in a lifetime trip for me, so while I was not totally “money is no object” about the trip (I’m not made of money and I’m a terrible budgeter), I was also not traveling on the cheap either. And I’d almost say if you tend to be a very frugal traveler, the Maldives is probably not for you.


Getting there: There are airlines that fly to the Maldives, but from the west coast of the U.S. (which is where I was coming from) I recommend Cathay Pacific (even though that means LAX and I LOATHE LAX). You will fly to Male (airport code MLE) and from there, you’ll have one more leg, either by speed boat or sea plane, depending on where you’re staying. Speedboat is the cheaper option by far, but a sea plane…is a sea plane and it was amazing to see the Maldives from the air. Your resort should arrange this last leg of transportation for you, but you’ll likely pay for it separately. Also, if you’ve got time and/or budget, I’d do a stop over in Hong Kong. You can get the highlights in a couple of days and take care of jet lag at the same time.

Choosing a resort: Most resorts are their own private islands, so you need to do your research and figure out what you want. For me, I had two main criteria. 1) I wanted an over-the-water villa (like I said, once in a lifetime) and 2) it needed to have a reputable dive center. This helped narrow things down quite a bit. Then it was a matter of reading reviews and budgeting. I actually booked three different hotels to hold the rooms while I did more research.* Ultimately, I chose the Sun Siyam Iru Fushi. It used to be a Hilton, apparently. And we did four days (three nights) which was perfect for us.

While this resort required transfer by sea plane (which, as stated is PRICEY), the room itself was significantly cheaper than any other water villa I found at the time AND the resort had an awesome dive center (they actually have a few locations throughout the Maldives. More on the dive center in a bit.


A few other pointers:

1) Due to our arrival time (10pm) in Male, I booked us at the Maldiva Inn and arranged for an airport transfer. While I could have booked something closer to the airport, I’ve learned through lots of experience that a little distance from the airport generally gets you cleaner and safer rooms for about the same price. Worth the 15-20 minute drive. The airport transfer was $10 each way. While this was necessary due to arrival time in Male, it was super helpful budget wise. We saved a ton on that night and were at the resort around 8:30 am the next morning. We wore our bathing suits on the plane as we planning on not being able to get into our room until the regular check-in time. We were pleasantly surprised as our room was ready around 10:30 am.

2) Food is EXPENSIVE. I’ve talked to other friends who’ve been to the Maldives and read 100s of resort reviews…doesn’t matter where you go, it’s pricey. My advice is to do what we did: book your room with breakfast included. There are all inclusive options and if you really want to not worry about it and you’re going all out, this could be the right option for you. For us, we had breakfast included (and it was good!) and loaded up in the morning. Then we did protein shakes for lunch (yes, I packed protein shakes for every day and two shakers), so the only meal we were paying for separate from the room rate was dinner. And that was still expensive! Just be prepared. For two of us, with a few drinks (even without the alcohol, I’m a firm believe that island vacations necessitate fun beverages) throughout the day and dinner it was around $150-$200 day (we always did dessert…this was vacation after all)! I will say that while the food definitely wasn’t worthy of the pricing had we not been on a remote atoll in the middle of the Indian Ocean, it was quite very good.


This lime creme brûlée was amazing!

3) Budget for your activities so there are no surprises. Nothing worse than arriving somewhere and not being prepared. My niece was doing the open water portion of her dive certification and I was accompanying her on all dives, so I priced all of that out so I knew what I’d be spending. I also knew we wouldn’t just want to lay on the beach or by the pool every second we weren’t diving. Our resort had a number of free activities, provided you had experience. I wanted to do paddle boarding (but neither of us had really done it before), so I budgeted for a 30 minute lesson and after that, it was free to use the equipment.



4) I unintentionally chose a resort that had an adults only pool. I’m not sure if the resort we chose was especially kid friendly (wasn’t looking for that info), but there were quite a few kids. I’m not opposed to children in theory, but I mostly only have patience for the ones I’m related to when I’m on vacation, so the adults only pool was unexpectedly awesome!

5) For diving (if you’re a diver), because I knew I’d be joining my niece on her open water certification dives, I really didn’t worry too much about specific dive sites. There are probably amazing places that I could have focus our trip around, but with the limitations of a new diver, I just decided to not even research it and assumed the diving would be good wherever we went. Ignorance is bliss and we saw amazing stuff, so I feel really good about that decision.



6) We had some extra time between our sea plane arrival back in Male and our flight from Male back to Hong Kong. Our butler (yes, we had a butler) was super helpful and arranged for a tour of Male which was actually really cool. The tour guide didn’t charge us anything, but we paid him $20 for about a 30 minute tour (it’s a small little downtown).


*I use booking.com for almost all (like 99%) of my hotel booking. I know there are other websites out there (that may be better and or cheaper), but I love their app, I’m happy with the prices, and they have pretty true-to-point reviews. Plus, because I use them so much, I get an additional 10% off frequently and welcome drinks at most hotels. Small thing, but I love it. I also never use the non-refundable booking option. I’ve learned through experience that it’s worth it to me to pay a little more to know I’ve got some flexibility in case my plans change OR I find a different hotel that looks better.


saipan (google it)

turtle saipan

So, I turned 37 on Tuesday. And, as has been my tradition recently (two years makes it a tradition, right?) I took a trip. Last year was Burma/Myanmar with Brittany. This year was a little solo trip to Saipan (google it) to go scuba diving and enjoy some warm weather, the beach, and a little taste of America.


It was a really good trip and the diving was amazing! My dive guide, Harry, was an American who’s been in Saipan almost 20 years. In addition to great diving, I got a lot of great stories about Saipan, it’s history in WWII, and the current state of politics in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. It was fascinating. And some of the best diving I’ve done. If you ever make it to Saipan, I highly recommend diving with his company. And you have to ask him the story behind the name of his company, because it’s pretty cool.


It was also a much needed break from my crazy busy life and gave me some good time to reflect on the past year, as well as what I want for the year to come. There were a number of little personal epiphanies that took place. Some were a little painful…in the way muscles are sore after you work them hard. So, not a bad pain, but just a “wow, I haven’t worked those muscles in a while” type of pain.

IMG_4876If you’ve never taken a solo vacation, I highly recommend it. I know it sounds kind of scary to some of you. Or maybe you’re just thinking, “What’s the point?” And maybe there wouldn’t be a point for you, but I definitely need these times to just do a little personal inventorying.

And back to the part about it being Saipan. Because it’s an American commonwealth, I got to enjoy a little taste of America, including Diet Coke and Winchell’s. Happy birthday to me!


And while the trip was over way too soon, I left feeling ready to take on this next year of my life with some good plans and goals to make some needed changes and to continue becoming the person I want to be…and more importantly, the person I think God wants me to be. And what a better reminder of how blessed I am than this little rainbow as seen from my plane when heading back to Japan.