that one day we got engaged.

five years ago, i met a man rock climbing in maple creek canyon in utah. we happened to both be going to kentucky for a month. and then, i followed him back to australia to see if it was something more.

five years later, he dropped to one knee and held out a ring. i’m a sucker for a good love story, and so far i’ve been given all the makings for a romcom box office hit (including a cute foreign accent). 

but for now, i’ll just skip to the engagement proposal story so i can start directing people to my blog instead of leaving out more and more lovey-dovey details every time someone asks. and so that in the future, i’ll actually remember the details…

a few months ago, a longtime beloved festival (the event that i work for) attendee emailed me asking if he could propose to his girlfriend on the stage at this year’s festival. after asking my boss, i realized there was no way in hell i was going to be able to convince him to halt the main music lineup for a random patron to takeover the microphone and share his love with 3,000 other patrons. (he’s not quite the romantic that i am.) i gave up on that idea but was committed to helping this man find the space to propose at the festival.

once onsite the second weekend of august, i met with him and helped plan a time for him to get on the microphone at the yoga pavilion. on saturday afternoon, following a great ecstatic dance set, he professed his love in front of her family, friends, and a small dance floor full of other attendees. 

i stood on a hill overlooking the proposal feeling pretty proud of myself and basking in their love. i walked back down the forested pathway to the office getting drunk on chlorophyll and glowing from their love. everyone loves love.

when i returned to the office, i told my boss how i had just facilitated my proposal perfectly. he looked confused. he asked me where. i told him at the yoga pavilion. he said, no no, i think we should do it at the stage. then i was confused. i thought you said we couldn’t do it at the stage. 

all the sudden, he realized i was talking about the guy who emailed a few months ago. he changed his tune and gave me a high five, finally joining me in my pridefulness. then, he started hounding me about organizing the staff photo. he had been bugging me about it all weekend. typically, it was not a big deal and a pretty last minute thing. we would just pull as many people as we could to some discreet location sometime on sunday. 

this year, he said he wanted it on sunday afternoon at the stage right before manoj’s dj set, so all the staff would stay and dance a bit to his set afterwards. (manoj is a good friend of many beloved staff.)

cool. sounds good. staff photo planned. now stop bugging me about it.

back to the grind. i run around nonstop during the festival. as the general manager, i have most of the answers, so people ask me all of the questions. my mind has zero time to think about anything unrelated to the festival.

i made the announcement for the staff photo over the radio on sunday morning. all call, all call. the staff photo will be at 3:15pm at the stage. be there and bring your smiles.

3:15pm came quickly, and i rounded up all the admin staff in the office to head down to the stage. a couple of my coworkers alerted me that it was pretty hot outside (since i had not left the office since breakfast) and encouraged me to take off the black leggings i had on under my green dress. 

okay, leggings off. now let’s go.

i asked our security manager to borrow his megaphone, and we headed to the stage. 

it was the middle of the final day of the festival and the dance floor was packed. all the staff gathered together and waited for the current musician to finish their set. i continually glanced around the audience trying to figure out who was missing. which staff members would i need to radio individually and remind them to get their butts down to the stage for the staff photo?

i didn’t see ryan, so i texted him to make sure he was on his way. 

the music ended, and we all congregated in front of the stage on the dance floor. several of our festival photographers were there to help capture the moment. megaphone in hand, i directed everyone to squeeze in closer and move to get out of the sun. eventually, i slide into the front row, and the staff photo was complete.

we all hugged and started to clear out. i said thanks to everyone and thought we were heading back to work.

but, then my boss announced that he wanted to do department photos…

my thoughts: department photos? you’ve got to be kidding me. everyone has so much work to do. we never do department photos. there are over 20 departments. this is going to take forever. ughhh… 

he took the megaphone out of my hand and called out for the operations department to gather. (i guess the boss always gets what he wants.) the operations crew (ryan’s department) gathered on the dance floor. one photo down, a million more to go…

next up, they called the admin department (my department). i started walking out and all the operations crew pushed everyone else back. 

i yelled out something dumb like “oh now we’re doing couples’ photos?!”

but instead of an admin department photo, ryan and i were left alone in a small space on the dance floor encircled by hundreds of my fellow staff and thousands of festival patrons. (the view behind us looked something like this…)

he had changed out of his filthy work clothes and put on a nice button down aloha shirt. he dropped to one knee and held out a ring. 

holy. shit.

my hands went straight over my mouth as shock and awe overtook my body. it is hard to surprise me (especially when we have discussed marriage and i knew it was coming), but he did. 

it was too loud to hear over the audience’s cheers, but i think ryan did actually ask me to marry him at some point, and i am pretty sure i said yes.

our friends from hawaii adorned us with a handmade lei and flower crown, and the operations crew gifted us with champagne to uncork over the crowd.

manoj’s dj set began and the endless group hugs turned into joyous dancing. what a perfect sunday afternoon.

and all this time, i had no idea that i was planning my own proposal. that my boss and boyfriend were scheming to make me the center of attention. that thousands of patrons would high five us the rest of the weekend. that my engagement party would have 3,000 people.

apparently some people are allowed to stop everything for a declaration of love in the middle of the dance floor at beloved festival, and i am deeply grateful to be one of those people. thanks elliot. (i am also grateful that my gals made me take off my leggings in preparation for photos that will be shared forever.)

thank you to everyone who made it happen. to everyone who kept it a secret. and to everyone who continually supports us in our relationship and in our love. 

it is not easy living a love that involves friends and families and jobs and homes across two different countries that are separated by a giant ocean, but we have done it. we will continue to do it. and it is absolutely worth it.

we love you. we love each other. now let’s plan a wedding… or two…

*****

p.s. i am sure i left out a few amazing details that ryan will alert me to after reading this. i’ll be sure to edit if he feels i left out anything absolutely essential. he always seems to think i do…

p.p.s. if you’re one of those people who is just dying to see the ring, here is the beautiful one that ryan slid on my finger at the festival.

however, he knew that i have dreamt of a custom ring designed by my friend rosemary for quite some time. so, this is not the forever ring. we will be going through her amazing love story custom ring creation process soon to craft a one-of-a-kind symbol of our relationship. check her out if you’re in the market for jewelry.

 

 

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one month of finding balance.

two full months on the road based out of our van, moby clit. aptly named by my auntie because ryan insisted that our big white van was not big enough to be called moby dick. plus all cars are ladies right? you can call her moby or mc for short.

month one…

our first destination was red rock canyon national conservation area, just outside of las vegas and part of nevada’s mojave desert. we spent three weeks there hanging with a gang of lovable canadians. it was a gentle ease into van life with such a major city only a 15-minute drive down the road. with friends for ryan to climb with, it also allowed me to keep up my full time job and not feel guilty that he had no one to belay him.

that is one thing that i am realizing about van life, it is hard to keep up on all the work i have to do. before when i was on the road, i had multiple clients who only expected a few hours of my time each week. but now, i have one main employer who expects 40 hours of my time each week. so just like everyone else working the 9-5 grind, i am basically a weekend warrior. i might switch out a tuesday for a saturday, but i pretty much only climb three days a week. and i’m sure ryan is getting over the fact that we need to wake up at 7am and find cell service for a couple hours before we head up the rock and off the grid.

but welcome to real van life. it is not all play, but it is worth it.

it is worth it to experience things like the stark juxtaposition between city and nature. las vegas is a weird town to begin with, but when you seclude yourself amongst the rocks for several days and then saunter into a casino covered in sweat and dirt, you really feel out of place. we treated ourselves to one night in old las vegas, but otherwise, we tried to stay out in the wilderness.

since this was our first destination, we had to get back into the swing of climbing. our fingertips needed to turn red and raw before callousing. our forearms needed to tire out entirely. our calves and gluts needed to get used to the long, uphill approach hikes. our minds needed to reacquaint themselves with the innate risk that comes with climbing.

but eventually, our bodies adjusted. our brains adjusted. and our way of life adjusted.

we spent our days climbing the red rock and our nights playing cards or sitting around the fire. and on rest days, we filled our bellies with cheap mexican and unlimited wifi. it was wonderful.

then, the clouds rolled in and the thunder roared. it was time to move… the climbing life is always dictated by the weather.

the whole group relocated to one of my favorite small towns in california, bishop. it is at the foot of the sierra nevadas and near mammoth lakes. although most people go there for the bouldering, we found ourselves hanging out on the beautiful granite cliffs of pine creek canyon.

i had to remember how to trust my feet on tiny granite crystals. i had to remember how this magical rock could be sticky and slippery all at once. i had to remember how to crack climb. (i had to do this in red rock as well.) and i had to remember why i love to climb.

it is easy to be unmotivated when you live on the road. since there are no time constraints, there is no pressure to cram it all in. leisurely mornings (sometimes too leisurely) have become our standard. we’re lucky if we have put on our harnesses by noon. some days, i am all for this, but other days, i wish i could find a little drive. a little more excitement to conquer the rock.

“wherever you are, be all there.” – jim elliot

this quote is on an old tea bag tag taped to the back of my phone. so far, i am finding it hard to heed these words on the road. when i am on the cliff, i am worried about missing important emails. when i am staring at my computer, i am worried about missing epic climbs.

but, there are moments where it all comes into balance. even if it is just that one minute where i am at the top of a climb looking out over the canyon below with my best friend by my side realizing how lucky i truly am. or that one minute where i am sitting in bed catching up on emails next to a campfire realizing this is an amazing life i lead.

but back to bishop…

aside from the amazing rock climbing that is in and around bishop, the town is one that we could see ourselves spending a bit more time in. it is close to skiing, climbing, hiking, hot springs, and lots more. it is four hours to los angeles and las vegas, give or take. now if only the ocean were a little closer and had good surf, i don’t think ryan would ever leave…

before heading north to catch my mom in san francisco for mother’s day and visit my aunties, we celebrated a friend’s birthday at whitney portal.

wow. what a stunning area. with views of mt. whitney, unique rock formations in the alabama hills, and gorgeous pine trees lining the bottom of giant granite walls, this detour was well worth it. and so was the taco truck and pub in lone pine, population 2,035.

now if only i had starred in one of the hundreds of movies filmed in this area

coming up in month two: san diego, joshua tree, and yosemite

van life: red rock canyon (video tour)

we left portland at 9pm on thursday, april 12th with red rock canyon, las vegas, nevada set in our google maps. we were so excited to hit the road and sleep our first night in the van, that we didn’t even care that we would only drive about three hours before needing to pull over and go to sleep. so excited, that we totally didn’t even think about the fact that the pass over mt. hood might have snow… which it did.

despite the chain requirement warning, we slowly pushed through the pass and safely found our way to the redmond, oregon wal-mart, our first home away from home.

it was freezing. we didn’t think about the whole snow thing at all. we curled up close in our new cozy bed, too lazy to unpack our extra sleeping bags.

in the morning, we woke up and hit the road again. i worked for 10 hours while ryan drove for 10 hours. and then, we arrived in vegas. our first climbing destination.

we met up with some friends who were in town from hawaii and were treated to a true las vegas luxury dinner (from a famous chef that i can’t remember the name of) after a full day of exploring red rock canyon state park. it was so great to share our home with some good company. plenty of space for four… thanks nate and nancy!

after a few days of climbing and a few nights camped out in a casino parking lot, we met up with some other friends and moved out to campsite closer to the canyon.

it’s been almost two weeks since we landed in vegas and since we moved in our new van life. these first couple weeks have been full of learning. learning what works, learning what doesn’t, learning what we’re missing, and learning what we love.

life is pretty great. i am so proud of ryan and the home he has built us. it is cozy and has everything we need for the life we love to live. it is a blessing to wake up every day and look around at the beautiful creativity of my partner. thank you ryan.

and now, what you’ve all been waiting for… a super awkward video tour of the final product!

beginning van life: week 8-10

so it turns out that ryan isn’t great at documenting a van build… since i was working full time (and overtime) while we were stationed in portland for the past two months, i could not help get footage of the amazing process ryan underwent to produce our new home.

since my last blog post, we have completed the van!!!

it took about 4-5 weeks of full time work, and i am still totaling the expenses, but probably around $8,000 for everything including the vehicle. more details on expense breakdown to come soon.

in the final weeks of the van build, a lot of things came together…

ryan framed the kitchen and modified a piece of bamboo donated by my boss for the counter top and pull out table/desk.

he built out the cupboards and drawers. complete with soft close hinges! and then, he gave them all a couple coats of oil to protect the wood and make the grain pop. our van is majorly cedar, including these beautiful cupboards.

 

as everything came together, some of the last details were finished up. we added a vent fan over the bed to draw air from the front windows throwout the van, and ryan finished up all the electrical.

the sink was custom made from a bowl to minimize depth and allow space for our pull out table/desk.

 

and then there was the one thing that i contributed to the van… the curtains. i will admit that i cannot even take full credit for them since a friend of mine did assist with the sewing. thanks elana!

and then, we unpacked our storage unit into the van and moved in…

now, to hit the road…

beginning van life: week 1-7

the number one question from everyone these days has been, “how’s the van coming?” so, i guess it is finally time to do our first update on the pending #vanlife chapter of our lives.

it has been seven weeks since we arrived in portland, and we have been super busy. ryan thought he would have all the free time in the world while on a break from work, but he was very wrong.

our first three weeks here were pretty mellow. lots of craigslist searching and alert setting, checking out various vans, and daydreaming about creating our new home. since ryan was not working full time like me, there was also a lot of boredom and anxiety to get started on this next adventure. that boy does not like to sit still for more than a day or two at a time…

we joined a climbing gym in portland, which gave him something to do while we continued to scour the internet for our perfect van. we needed to get back in shape anyways. our forearms and fingertips were definitely not up to climbing road trip status. but, after seven weeks, they are starting to get there.

after about two weeks, an alert popped up in my inbox: 2004 chevy express 2500, 164,000 miles. i forwarded the info to ryan, and he went to suss out if this could be our glass slipper.

turns out that it was. but it also turned into a hilarious example of a craigslist fiasco…

after getting the van home and getting ready to register it, we realized that we had the wrong title. what?! for the next several hours, my brain thought about every possible scenario. was this a stolen van? did we just get swindled? it turns out the answer was no. we bought the van off an electrical company that was selling off a couple vans from their fleet; we just had another van’s title.

during this time, ryan also realized that the transmission could use a little work. lucky for us, the owner had to meet us to exchange the titles. when we picked up the new title, we learned that the vehicle we had purchased was actually a 2003, not a 2004.

this was used to our advantage as i tapped into my schneider debate skills and negotiated a partial refund due to the less than perfect transmission and older than expected vehicle. threatening legal action (without actually knowing anything about the laws surrounding craigslist purchases and bill of sale stipulations), we got them to agree to a partial refund.

with the actual title now in hand, we registered the van in our name and dropped it off at the transmission shop for a makeover while we headed down to lake tahoe for a little snowboarding fun with friends for week four.

we returned to portland in early march, and ryan got straight to work. he joined a community workshop space, so he had access to all the tools he would need. and now what you’ve all been waiting for…

week five:

  • removing the stickers from the outside
  • stripping the inside of shelving and cage divider
  • insulating the walls and floor
  • sanding the wood wall panels
  • waterproofing the wood wall panels (the only thing i have done to contribute thus far)
  • starting to install wood wall panels

 

 

 

week six:

after endless hours researching and unsuccessfully finding a van bubble topper for a decent rate and reasonable turnaround time, we abandoned the idea of adding a higher roof onto our van. at least for now. standing up in the van is definitely a very exciting luxury, but in an effort to save time and money, this part of our plan has been postponed.

  • finishing installation of all wood wall paneling
  • insulating the roof
  • installing wood ceiling boards
  • wiring the van for our ceiling lighting and mood lighting
  • online research and ordering of parts

week seven:

  • installing LED mood lighting
  • prepping holes for ceiling lights
  • building bed frame
  • oiling wood wall panels “to make the grain pop”
  • designing (and arguing about) under the bed storage compartments
  • designing and planning out the kitchen
  • more online research and ordering of parts

and there you have it! three weeks of hard work and ryan has already created an amazing new home for us. i can’t wait to see what else he has in store for _______! (we are taking name suggestions. “rowdy” has been suggested as a throwback to the previous owner’s company “gowdy electric” but we’re still open to ideas…)

mahalo.

with the amount of adventures we’ve undertaken in the past two years, you’d think that my blog would be filled with endless entries. but since we moved to hawaii at the beginning of february 2016, the weekly excursions never found their way to the page. and now that we are gone, i feel like i have so many stories to tell. as i scroll through my hawaii folder of photos, i am overwhelmed by this life we live and the love that follows us wherever we go.

what started as a way for ryan and me to live together in the same place for more than three months at a time, has ended with a place we will always call home.

our last weekend was filled with socializing and saying goodbye for now to the wonderful friends we have created over the past two years.

the friends who slacklined with us until the sun set over waikiki beach. the friends who hosted “sunday suppers” complete with homemade pizza, sushi, and other utterly messy food creations. the friends who made absurd mock reality tv show intro videos. the friends who are smart enough to get us out of an escape room in under an hour.

the friends who taught us how sharp volcanic rock is and tried to turn us into boulderers. the friends who almost swigged a bottle of tequila full of dead fruit flies. the friends who made me feel extremely tall and pale and loved. the friends who supported and amplified my rockstar karaoke dreams.

the friends who saved me from drowning at rockpiles when my surfboard leash broke. the friends who know the seriousness of spike ball. the friends who love taking massive group photos touching each other’s butts. the friends who know how to light up a dance floor (even in costumes). the friends who know how to reap the benefits of a fishing trip.

the friends who lived across the pond. the friends who fed us way too much european wine and delicious food. the friends who embraced the full moon’s excitement. the friends who took us to hidden tide pools and unpopulated waterfalls.

and of course, the friends who started as family. ❤

yes, hawaii is awesome. yes, we did a lot of epic shit. no, i didn’t lay on the beach everyday. no, i don’t have a killer tan. but, yes, we have made some amazing friendships on these little islands in the middle of the pacific. and yes, i now own an obscene amount of bikinis and rashguards.

for now, that is all. but don’t worry, i am sure as the nostalgia sets in even harder, our stories of hawaii will come to fruition, and we can relive the memories together. mahalo.

i pledge allegiance.

i said the pledge of allegiance today for the first time in a long time. i actually cannot remember the last time i recited the pledge. as the maui county council chair asked everyone to stand and recite it, my heartbeat quickened in fear that i might have forgotten the words, and i’d have to brand myself a shitty american for the rest of my life. but as i put my right hand across my chest, the many years of daily repetition paid off and muscle memory moved my mouth to form all the correct sounds.

i pledge allegiance to the flag of the united states of america, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under god, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

i cannot remember the last time i voiced these words. i cannot remember any time where i have actually thought about the words i was voicing.

but today, i heard my voice.

i sat in the maui county council chambers surrounded by women and men there to honor maui resident teresa shook (the women responsible for igniting the women’s march), and i heard my words loud and clear.

img_1101

just as it would often hit me unexpectedly while dissecting one of the many great poems in my intro to poetry course in college, the words transformed from merely words into actual meaning. especially there in that moment, standing with my palm pressed over my heart in a room full of local government officials and everyday people truly wanting the kind of nation our forefathers pledged.

we are all united. we cannot be divided. we will fight for liberty and justice for all. i pledge my allegiance to this. i have pledged my allegiance to this subconsciously since kindergarten.

but today, i actually took the pledge. and i will take it here again:

i pledge allegiance to the flag of the united states of america, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under god, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

img_1102and then i sat back down in my chair and listened to maui county’s councilmen, local residents, and even a german tourist, give their testimonies celebrating teresa shook, celebrating the fact that one facebook post from a retired attorney from a tiny island in the middle of the pacific, could spark a movement. i watched as women and men wiped tears from their eyes, inspired by the powerful stance our nation took when its appointed leader challenged our unity. we are indivisible.

i am the product of a hardworking father with a creative and charismatic personality and a hyper-driven mother who is an extraordinary example of independence and intelligence. the values they consciously (or unconsciouly) instilled in me encouraged understanding, acceptance, growth, and love. through their actions, i saw that fear could be conquered, that perseverance leads to results, and that perfection is a daily practice.

and today, as i made my pledge of allegiance to our flag and the nation it represents, i celebrated those lessons…

our nation can conquer fear.
our perseverance leads to results.
our perfection is a daily practice.

12 signs you were born and raised in the Chicago suburbs

In honor of heading home for the holidays… 12 signs you were born and raised in the Chicago suburbs:

1. You have a photo of yourself being knighted at Medieval Times.

Or crowned princess on your birthday, in my case. Nothing like slipping back in time and investigating ancient torture methods before cheering on the black and white checkered knight as he conquered the evil green knight in an epic jousting match. Let’s not forget the whole eating with your hands element, either.

2. The last Metra train determined when you had to close out your tab. 

And missing that last train meant a very expensive cab ride home from the city. You also knew that open containers were totally cool aboard the train, and necessary since Chicago cocktails were triple the price of your local Main Street bar. Let the train pre-game begin!

3. All your major life events were celebrated at Colonial. 

Or whatever your local diner happened to be. Dance recitals, school musicals, graduations, etc. all ended with a Kitchen Sink at Colonial. Not only did you get to celebrate your accomplishments with a 6-scoop ice cream sundae served in a miniature kitchen sink, you also got to walk away with a bumper sticker to prove you’re a fat ass.

4. You have at least one photo of yourself crying at Six Flags Great America. 

All right, maybe not every Chicago suburbanite hates walking around amusement parks in drenched denim as much as I do, but they definitely have made the trek to Gurnee at some point in their lives. One ride on the Viper’s 25-year-old wooden track (forward or backward) and you’ll be doubting your sanity for years to come.

See the rest of this article on Matador Network!

 

24 reasons illinois is the most underrated state

in case all my friends and family from back home have grown sick of reading my stories about australia, here is some homegrown content you can enjoy! check out my latest article on matador network and be sure to share, like, and comment on the original blog post.

1. It has Chicago.

Let’s just get it out of the way first since it’s the most obvious reason Illinois is awesome. Although it is not the official state capital, as most foreigners think, Chicago is the epicenter of culture for the Midwest. From Shedd Aquarium and Sears Tower (yes, we will forever call it that) to the Taste of Chicago and Lollapalooza, the Windy City will always give New York and Los Angeles a run for their money.

2. And Chicago gave you deep dish pizza.

Let’s not forget this very important fact. A piping hot, cheesy pie from Lou’s is just what you need after a long night on Division, so thank goodness Chicago invented it.

3. The historic Route 66 starts in Illinois.

It doesn’t start in Michigan or Indiana or any other Midwest state, it starts in Illinois, just one block SE of this Adams Street sign. The 301 miles covered in Illinois offer some of the best when it comes to Americana icons, like the oldest usable service station — Soulsby Service Station.

4. The Land of Lincoln was the first state to abolish slavery.

The 13th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States was ratified by Illinois on February 1, 1865 before any other states. Way to go, Illinois (and you, too, Lincoln).

5. There is 26 miles of salt-free beachfront.

That’s right. No spitting every five seconds. No burning eyes. No layer of dried salt on your skin when you get out. Just crisp, fresh water allowing you to wakeboard without the lingering fear of getting eaten by a shark. And if you ignore the fact that you know geography, you can imagine that Lake Michigan goes on forever.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE OTHER 19 REASONS!