Six Things I Learned in 2016

I know this is four months into 2017, but it took me a long time to write this because I really tried to reflect and process. For so many people, 2016 was a tough year filled with unexpected challenges and hard lessons. In the way of self-discovery and personal growth, my year was just as arduous. But it was also a wonderful opportunity to get to know myself a bit better. I read a quote somewhere on the internet that resonated with me as I reflect on my past year of growth: you have not met all of yourself yet. Amazing and frightening all at the same time. Here are a few things I learned in 2016:

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  1. When moving, I need to set up my house within the first month of moving in, or I won’t ever finish. We moved into this house in May of 2016 and there are STILL boxes that aren’t unpacked and rooms that serve no purpose other than being a place for those boxes. I lost energy about three weeks into getting the house in order. Now I know that if I can’t conjure up some natural energy, I can always make lots and lots of coffee!
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  2. Small dogs are the hardest to house train, so you have to start early and be very consistent. Yeah, didn’t know that until we adopted a mini Aussie in August. He still has trouble. He’s lucky he’s so damn cute.

    img_0039Photography basics: I purchased my first DSLR in 2016, and I knew NOTHING about my camera when I bought it. Over the past year, I’ve done some travel photography, landscape photography, and I’m currently working on my portraits. K taught me some basics, and I learned some things online. My next step is to take a photography class which is one of my goals for early 2017.

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  3. You absolutely need waterproof and tall boots when traveling to Canada in the winter. This may seem obvious, but the last time I was in Canada in the winter, it wasn’t all that cold. When we went to ring in the new year, the snow was up to my waist in some parts. We all had to make a trip to the underground mall to purchase waterproof boots. I finally bought the cranberry docs that I had lusted over for about a year. If I could go back and do it again, I would have chosen taller boots. I can chalk that one up as a rookie mistake for sure.

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  4. Don’t sweep relationship issues under the rug. Even if you talk about them with your partner, I learned that trying to share my feelings all the time isn’t the way to really listen, understand, and empathize. I’ve always heard that communication is key. I thought I was communicating well because I can talk about my feelings all day every day. Apparently there’s more to it than just expressing feelings 🙂 It also takes effort every day to effectively listen and understand. It sounds so simple, but sometimes it’s easy to slip into the hum drum of every day life and forget what’s really important.

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  5. The perfect taco is pretty hard to find, but I discovered I can come pretty close to making it at home. My friend and I had embarked on a quest to find the perfect taco in Colorado Springs and Pueblo. We found several new places, one of which I was obsessed with for about two months. I ate there three or four times in the first week I knew about it. Tlaquepaque, (pronounced T-lock-uh-pock-ee) you have my heart. But when I couldn’t get to Tlaquepaque, I tried perfecting my recipe at home, and I am SO pleased with the outcome. Maybe I’ll share that recipe soon! I’m especially proud because I made it myself! Food blogging, here I come (eh… maybe.)

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  6. How to make friends as an adult: This is often so hard for me. To me making new friends was like embarking on a delicate platonic courtship. I used to be very rigid about my friend standards– I only spent time with people with whom I vibed 100%. This year I have learned how to reach out to friends for casual hang outs, I’ve learned how to be comfortable in a casual get together at our house where we order pizza and drink cheap and craft beer, and I’ve learned to relax my structured thinking about with whom I spend time. This has all allowed me to realize that I actually like hosting, cooking, decorating, cleaning, and prepping for hangouts in general. I’ve also realized that being around people that vibe with me on all wavelengths is wonderful, but that also creates an echo chamber of the things that I already value and believe. I’ve discovered that being around people with very different view points allows me to open up my mind and empathize with certain view points, especially politically, that I would not have otherwise. A lot of this I attribute to learning from K and his naturally calm, relaxed, and open demeanor. It also helps to make ridiculous faces. That’s how you can tell who’s part of your tribe 🙂

Thanks for letting me share! I know there are a lot of sad things happening around the world that hurt my heart, but I’m still holding out hope for the rest of 2017.

Kindly,
Maegan

New Beginnings

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View of the Sound from Tiger Mountain

Hello, friends! I have an exciting announcement–no, I’m not pregnant–but I am relocating to an area just south of Seattle, Washington. My three years in Colorado Springs have been challenging, heart wrenching, beautiful, inspiring, motivating, and I could go on. So many things have happened in the last three years. I value the people I’ve met in Colorado Springs and Denver, and I’m so honored to have the privilege of being part of the community.

Now this blogger goes West again! Stay tuned for new life experiences and inspiration.

Sending out so much love and light,

Maegan

P.S. I’m in Seattle presenting at the National CASA conference. I am so inspired by all the connections that I’ve made here. I also became galvanized to actually sit down and write the book that I’ve been writing in my head for years. On a particularly rainy day in Seattle, I dreamed up my first chapters over a burger and fries in a downtown bar in grill. If anyone has any knowledge about publishing, I would love to learn from you!

Currently Making Me Happy

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{My newest plant babies getting some snowy light}

GUYS! I haven’t shared what I’ve been up to in a long time. I had many, many pictures since Christmas that I needed to edit. Here are some of my favorites that are currently making me happy. In high school I used to write happy lists in order to refocus on gratitude. I recently started writing those again, and all of these pictures document some of the things on those lists. It’s truly made me feel like a happier person in general. I would recommend it.

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I chose these colors in honor of Valentine’s Day. I don’t much care for the holiday, other than having a great excuse to decorate with all sorts of pink, purple, gold, and hearts. Magical!

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Confession: I WAY overwatered my Snake baby (also humorously called Mother’s In-Law’s Tongue). There was standing water in the bottom for about three days. The leaves started drooping, so I replanted the whole thing. Fingers crossed that it can still survive.

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{My bestie at a new brewery in Texas}

Spending time with my friend, Breann over Christmas lifted my spirits more than I can say. We met at this brewery that gave us free food and free glasses. The service is warm, and the beer is delicious. If you go, get the Armadillo Ale Works. It’s a crisp blond ale. Take it from this Colorado beer snob, it’s the real deal.

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{Women’s March in Denver, Colorado}

I was privileged and honored to take part in the Women’s March in Denver. This is one of the many, many pictures I took. I’ll share more about that in a future post. The gist is that I talked myself out of climbing a tree and I couldn’t stop crying. The two were unrelated.

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James and Knox being willing participants in my photography experiments. As long as they get to take one picture each with my camera, they’re happy. I’m going to miss seeing these guys learn and grow.

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I am so fortunate to have spent Christmas Eve with my family at my grandmother’s house. I have learned so much from her and everyone that was there. Thanks for letting me take endless pictures after dinner 🙂

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I thought this sunset shot was going to be one of the worst that I took, but now I think it’s the best by far. Funny how that works.

Thank you for letting me share with you!

Warmly,

Maegan

 

Dreaming of the Beach

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Every now and then I have dreams of sticking my toes in the sand on a deserted beach. I look down to see the sand folding over my toes and everything feels right. I love the mountains, but there’s just something about the beach that beckons me. Would I want to be a sailor? Not a chance. Do I actually like being in the ocean? I feel like I’m going to die every time I get past my hips. But the calming ebb and flow of the waves is comforting and somehow reminds me of who I am when I feel lost.

Forever a beach baby,

Maegan

Avoidance: A Letter to My Blog

Dearest Blog, 

So it’s true. You may have noticed. I’ve been avoiding you, blog. I have few beautiful pictures to share. My camera has been sitting in a bag that is currently collecting dust in the far corner of my craft room. I haven’t been on any hikes, fun weekend trips, or scenic drives lately. It’s getting cold in Colorado, and there’s very little daylight at the end of the work day. The weekends since Halloween have all seen me in sweats, house shoes, and a book in my hand. While I haven’t taken very many photos or delved further into photography in general, as I had promised myself pre Halloween, I’ve been cooking surprisingly tasty and challenging meals, finishing old crosswords, and attempting to keep my closet organized (at which I am forever failing). 

I forget that with the time change and the colder weather, I tend to forgo my warm spontaneuos adventures and opt for finishing Netflix shows (Guys, have you seen the Crown? It’s brilliant.), crafting, or doing anything inside. Potty training Atticus has also been a time consuming priority. Why is it that people only tell you small dogs are hardest to house break after you get a small dog? Ugh. 

But hey! I’ve been focusing on going to the gym and eating healthier. But that’s just not very fun in pictures. 

I’ll attempt to do better as my energy stabilizes. I promise not to take ridiculously long naps anymore. Besides, I got napped out on Thanksgiving weekend. Here’s to moving forward and refocusing energy on what’s important. You guessed it, that’s you, blog. 

Forever yours, 

Maegan 

Do or Don’t? :Thoughts on Touristy Spots

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I’ve given a lot of thought to whether or not it’s worth my precious travel time to see the touristy spots and take pictures of the monuments, restaurants, movie scenes, buildings, etc. When I first started traveling, visiting tourist destinations was the only way I knew how to travel. And the only real reason anyone goes to touristy spots is to take pictures of themselves with the thing that’s been standing for hundreds of years in the background. Because my face is super important, right?

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Yikes. I have several pictures of us in front of things like the Eiffel Tower, Versailles, Kilkenny castle in Ireland, and this particularly weird one of me in front of Big Ben. Kathleen is a natural 🙂 Even then, I found it awkward to have someone take pictures of me standing in front of a monument. What are you even supposed to do with your hands/arms/face/neck? Clearly I don’t know.

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Millions of people have that exact same photo although most people look decidedly less awkward than I do. My trip to Paris was largely touristy which I regret on one hand, but we had so much fun! I also learned a lot about different cultures and humanity in general. It was a wonderful experience.

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Now I’d much rather sit at a cafe and speak to the locals about why they live where they do and where would they live if they could. I’d rather talk to them about their culture, daily lives, habits, and things like that. I like to get a feel for a destination, and I certainly can’t do that when visiting touristy places. They are often watered down parts of the culture. And they feel the same everywhere I go. People trying to sell you pointless things, food and drink price gouging, people with cameras over their eyes, people without cameras in front of their eyes but right in the way of your view of the Mona Lisa, etc. Ugh.

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See what I mean about awkward? I took so many pictures on that damn boat ride in San Fran that I barely remember the experience without my phone in front of my face. It took me the ENTIRE boat trip to get a decent selfie with the Golden Gate bridge at the most artistic angle possible in the background. Out of 55 pictures, I only got one good one. And even that one reads as weird and self-absorbed. There’s a sort of beautiful, venerated, and world famous icon in the background which clearly makes my face look better.

Touristy spots while traveling is a DON’T about 95% of the time in my book.

Maegan

 

Absorbing the Autumn Sun

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YOU GUYS! It’s officially autumn. Which is my favorite season. No, not for the PSLs (pumpkin spice lattes), pumpkin lotion, Ugg boots and yoga pants. Because of the crisp mornings that warm into pleasant days with just a hint of chill in the air. Because the leaves evolve into brilliant yellows, radiant reds, and toasty oranges. Because days melt into cool, mysterious nights that are perfect for roasting marshmallows over a fire. Even the breeze smells different. It seems the whole world is slowly becoming something softer, more eloquent than the obvious heat and high energy of the summer.

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We took a trip to Taos for the Fall Arts and Crafts festival. We stayed at our first Airbnb that was about a ten minute walk from downtown. I have a lot of thoughts about that experience, so I’ll share those in another post. The first two pictures are of us letting the perfect day soak in during breakfast.

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After perusing the craft fair, the farmers’ market, and the Bent Street shops, we stopped for some appetizers and margaritas at the Taos Inn. Their margaritas were unique and strong. Every thing I look for in a cocktail 🙂 I wouldn’t recommend the hummus plate unless you like toasted and very crunchy bread. I generally don’t like my bread to tear up my mouth, but if you’re into that kind of thing, give it a shot!

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Atticus and Grayson made lots of friends and ate lots of leaves while we were there. I tried to get a picture of them with a leaves in their mouths, but Grayson happily ate his too fast. This is the best picture we got. And it’s a Snapchat, of course.

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As we were driving out of town, the setting sun cast the most enchanting “magic hour” glow on the mountains and the surrounding foliage. Clearly I had to take a gratuitous selfie. I couldn’t say no!

More autumn enjoyment posts to come! 🙂

Warmly,

Maegan

Holocaust Memorial Museum

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When we went to Washington D.C., I couldn’t pass up a visit to the Holocaust Museum. I’ve wanted to see the museum since I wrote a paper on Dr. Mengele in the sixth grade. Several of my friends have visited the one in Amsterdam and the one in D.C., and they warned me that I need to mentally and emotionally prepare for the depth of sadness of the museum. I thought I was ready, but when I left the museum, I had to sit on a park bench for quite a while with a hot dog and chips to process what I saw, thought, and felt.

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On the first floor of the museum, guests choose a booklet that follows the story of a person who endured the holocaust. This was the one I chose. Karee chose this one:

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When I go to museums, I like to read everything. By everything, I mean EVERYTHING. And digest, and process, and speculate, and wonder. I remember being in complete awe of the wealth of information that I did not know about the Holocaust. It’s different when you read an article, a textbook, or watch a movie about the Holocaust. Being immersed in the maze of macabre and sadness made it sink it like it hadn’t before. It wasn’t quite real for me until I spent three hours in the museum. And I could have stayed for three more.

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One thing that particularly resonated with me was the Nazi’s strategy for rising to power. First, they lead a propaganda war against the Jewish people of Europe. I stared at this sign for several minutes before I tore myself away. There was a depiction of a propaganda poster that had Jewish people smiling who were missing teeth and whose faces were slightly deformed. The poster reads, “Even when Jews smile, they’re evil”. As a result of this propaganda assault on Jews, Germany passed numerous laws that cultivated and bred legalized hate.

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The paragraph on “Homosexuals” (which by the way, don’t use that term. It’s a throw back to when being LGBTIQA+ was classified as a mental illness in the DSM. They took it out of the DSM in the 1970s) literally made my stomach turn. There were several pictures of gay men who died in the Holocaust. I didn’t know that there was a whole bureaucracy to hunt down gay men. They didn’t even have to be Jewish.

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These are some portraits taken from the homes of the victims.

IMG_4877IMG_4880Throughout the museum experience, you’re directed to read certain pages of your Holocaust victim’s booklet. The girl that I had survived, but the guy Karee had did not.

I can’t help thinking about how Hitler and the Nazis created a culture and political climate for hate and how that relates to the American elections that are happening this year. No matter your politics, consider this when voting: do we want a president who has repeatedly said that he wants to create laws that marginalize certain ethnicities, races, and heritage based on fear and hate? I certainly do not.

Kindly,

Maegan

 

On Taking Travel Photos

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This is something I’ve thought about a lot since I started traveling, solo or otherwise. I have mixed feelings about taking pictures while traveling, but my perspective has shifted somewhat since I decided to start a blog.

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When I first started traveling I had a tendency to take pictures EVERYTHING. Sunsets, shops, streets were all captured by my low quality cell phone camera. I felt the need to document all of my experiences so I could share my trip narrative with visual aides. I liked the idea of the vacation slide shows of the 1960’s. I soon realized that my friends were all humoring me through the painstaking explanation of each of my trip photos. It also quickly became apparent that I was spending too much time focusing on snapping memories than actually being present in the moment. When trying to recall what it felt like to witness a  sunset on the beach, I found myself having difficulty. What did it feel like to have a Chicago style hot dog in Grant Park? I couldn’t tell you. But I have a plethora of pictures that are all mysteriously slightly blurry. And I feel no connection to them.

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On my next trip, I challenged myself to take less photos in order to focus on soaking up the experience. My first trip that I really exercised this was on my first solo trip to Seattle. I have vivid memories of hiking up my first “mountain” just south east of Seattle proper. And I only took five photos of that entire journey. And for someone coming from flat land, it really was a journey. On the way up I took one of my favorite pictures, though admittedly, not my best. A foggy mist permeated through the pine trees, and a cloudy sky cast a gentle ethereal glow on the trail. Fresh dew drops cascaded from green and yellow leaves of all shapes and sizes. The smell of pine and fresh rain floated through the air, just subtle enough to remind you that it was there every few breaths. Instead of stopping to take pictures every fifty steps in order to capture glimpses of my trip for other people, I paused to consciously absorb my surroundings. After I was satisfied I had experienced that moment to its fullest, I grabbed my crappy cell phone and took five seconds to take two pictures. This was the raw, unedited result:

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I am confident that I will remember the details of that glorious moment, not because of the picture, but because I took the time to let the moment wholly envelop me and my senses.

Now that I’ve started my blog, I realize how important it is to take numerous pictures. But I’m finding it rather easy as long as I focus on being present first, then taking a quick photo to remind myself of how I felt.

-Maegan

5 Solo Travel Destinations of 2015 Review

In January 2015, I set some goals for solo traveling to San Diego, Utah, Mesa Verde, the Grand Canyon, and Yellow Stone here . I had also booked a trip to Prague, Vienna, and Budapest in February. Most of my travel plans were thwarted because I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Despite my medical dramas, I managed to visit a few destinations in the latter part of the year. IMG_5561
1. Denver, CO – Denver is only about an hour away from where I live. In 2015, I took the short jaunt north to see one of my favorite bands, Geographer. I also took day trips for tattoos, to see Mary Lambert, another favorite artist, for Denver PRIDE, and to visit some friends. I also spent Halloween in Denver at one of the best Halloween parties that I’ve ever been to. Denver is a wonderful city with such good vibes, and I would love to relocate there at some point.

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2. New Orleans, LA – My second time to New Orleans was on  a business trip in early summer. It was my first business trip, and it was such a relief not to have to foot the bill for the hotel, meals, and transportation. New Orleans doesn’t sound like a great place to go for business, but we still managed to have a lot of fun while we were there. It helped that a fun coworker got to go with me. I also was able to reunite with some of my former coworkers whom I hadn’t seen in years, which made for a very special trip.IMG_4404
3. Roswell, NM – I took my first solo road trip in years to Roswell. You can read more about my experience here.IMG_4892
4. Washington D.C./Baltimore, MD/Dewey Beach, DE – One of my friends, who relocated from Oklahoma City to D.C., invited my significant other and me to stay with him during the late summer last year. It was the first time traveling a long distance with my significant other, so it was definitely an interesting journey. We had so many wild adventures during this trip that I look back on it very fondly. It might have been my favorite trip of the  year.IMG_5217
5. Mesa Verde, CO – My second road trip of the year, but this time it was with my best friend. Being alone with my best friend for basically the entire four days was such a joy. It’s so grounding to be around someone who has known me for years. She always has a way of reminding me who I am. That trip was so healing in so many ways.IMG_54776. Albuquerque, NM – This was my third road trip of the year and my second time at the International Balloon Fiesta. Though I went a few years back, I found myself looking at the balloons in wonder and amazement for hours. If you’ve never been, I highly recommend it. But you have to get up REALLY early if you want to see the Dawn Patrol. Traffic is awful before and after. But look at that sunrise! *heart eyes*IMG_5816
7. Dallas, TX /NYC– I grew up in a Dallas suburb, so I often go home to visit family and friends. I flew home for Christmas and flew to New York City before New Years to take a trip to Montreal in Canada. Most of that trip happened in the new year, so I count that as a 2016 trip.

Where did you travel in 2015?