my trip to cleveland

Happy weekend, friends! As promised, I wanted to give you a recap of my wonderful trip to Cleveland, OH to visit my dear friend Holly. Cleveland gets some flack in pop culture, but I don’t know why — I thought it was a beautiful, vibrant city with lots to do! If any of you find yourselves in Cleveland, here are some fun things we did that were absolutely lovely.

Cleveland park

Our first morning, Holly took me to the West Side Market, which was an enormous indoor market with a farmer’s market and tons of stalls selling all varieties of food! We spent quite some time wandering around, “window-shopping” and browsing all the delicious options.

Westside market

We ended up splitting a Shepherd’s Pie and a Turkey-Swiss Cornish Pasty, plus a pumpkin cheesecake cupcake for dessert! YUM.

cupcake pumpkin cheesecake

There is quite a vibrant Irish culture in Cleveland, which was evident from the food… I snapped a photo of this cake for my dad, who loves Guinness! I am going to look up a recipe for this cake and try to make it myself one of these days! 🙂

guinness cake

Holly and I also spent some time browsing Penzey’s Spices, located just across the street from the West Side Market, which was my first time ever being to a Penzey’s. It smelled divine in there! I also loved picking up all the free recipes on notecards around the store. I picked up a jar of Dried Jalepeno Peppers for my sweetie, who loves everything spicy! {I, however, am quite the opposite!}

We lucked out with gorgeous weather during my visit to Cleveland. Crisp autumn perfection. Holly took me to Lake Erie, which was so much bigger than I had pictured! It reminded me of the ocean, with the waves lapping the shoreline.

lake erie

lake erie shoreline

holly lake erie

Throughout Cleveland the trees were lit up with bright oranges, reds and yellows. I could not stop taking pictures! It was obscenely beautiful.

fall colors cleveland

beautiful autumn tree

During my trip, Holly took me to these restaurants, which I loved:

I always have such a wonderful time with Holly, and it is always hard to leave. I am already looking forward to our next visit!

me and holly cleveland

moving away from fear, towards fiery possibility

My dear Holly wrote a stunningly beautiful, achingly true piece about grief and love and our friend Céline. I have read it many times since it was published last week, and every line of it resonates. I have been thinking a lot about these lines, in which Holly writes about the new self she is in the process of discovering and becoming:

I hope that she will be like Céline and make friends everywhere she goes, that she will move towards fiery possibility instead of away from fear, that she will view faith and adventure as intertwined.

celine flowers

In all honesty, my natural self can be a fearful person. Even as a child, I was cautious. I liked to test the water before diving into the pool. I would read a book at the base of the tree, instead of climbing its branches. I have never been a wild daredevil, taking risks or acting impulsively or figuring things out on the fly. I am a planner. I like to consider my options. I like to make lists.

Sometimes, I worry too much. Sometimes, I make decisions more as a way of moving away from fear, rather than intentionally moving towards fiery possibility.

But Céline was a fiery possibility type of person. She always seemed fearless. And I so loved and admired that about her. Being her friend made me more fearless, too. The good kind of fearless. Céline taught me that being fearless doesn’t mean you make rash, stupid decisions or refuse to think about consequences. It’s more a mindset of being brave even when you feel scared, of pushing yourself to grow, of not putting limits on yourself. Getting outside your comfort zone, even just a footstep or two. Trying new things. Not labeling yourself or confining your own ideas of who you can be or what you can do.

lamppost paris

So, inspired by Holly’s beautiful words, and in homage to Céline, I have been trying to actively move towards fiery possibility, rather than away from fear. Here are just three examples from this past week:

After church yesterday, I led the first meeting of a community circle for young adults in our congregation — a time for people to gather together and have meaningful conversation about their lives. Facilitating this group was intimidating for me. I have never done anything like it before, and worried that my questions would not resonate, that conversation would be awkward or stilted, that people would think I was a fraud, that nobody would come. But it ended up being a wonderful experience. The atmosphere in the room felt safe and authentic, conversation flowed well, and we all go to know each other on a much more genuine level than coffee-hour small talk. It was soul-nourishing for me. I am already looking forward to next week.

trees and shadows

I pitched myself for a copywriting assignment in a field I do not know much about, but am interested in and passionate about. I landed the assignment and am interviewing half-a-dozen professionals in the field this week and next week for the article. At first, I felt nervous, thinking, Who am I to write this? These questions are probably silly. What if I don’t come across professionally? But instead of worrying, I made a choice to shift my frame of mind and focus on the exciting possibility of the assignment: a chance to meet fascinating people and learn something new. And I am really enjoying stretching myself in this way!

me and allyn lottie's

Last night, Allyn and I went to a 2-hour beginner’s Improv class. Oh my, was I scared to do this! While I generally enjoy public speaking, I have never really thought of myself as an actress and was especially intimidated by the “not-knowing” aspect of Improv. What if I couldn’t think of any good ideas? What if I had a mind-freeze? What if I ruined the scene and let down my partner? Intentionally, I made the decision to push these worries aside and just focus on having fun and soaking up a new adventure. And it ended up being one of the best “date nights” Allyn and I have ever had! I loved seeing him jump into a new endeavor, just as I could tell he was proud of me each time I raised my hand to volunteer and bounded onstage. There was so much energy and creativity in the class, and everyone was very supportive of each other. I was definitely a little nervous/uncomfortable the whole time, but it was exhilarating to get up in front of people and act out a zany scene on the fly. It made me feel proud of myself, and ripped off the label I had always put on myself as “someone who could never do Improv.” Now that label is gone. In fact, Allyn and I are already talking about going back to the class sometime soon!

sunflowers

Here is what I am slowly learning: when you move away from fear, the fear only gets stronger and bigger. You can never move far enough away. It will always cast its shadow over you.

Instead, when you move towards fiery possibility, the joy and sense of adventure soon eclipse the fear entirely. What is left is a bigger and braver and more beautiful sense of yourself.

a year of living simply: week 3

Hi everyone! Apologies for my delay in posting… I was out of town visiting my friend Holly in Nashville! We had an amazing time, as we always do when we’re together. I just love this girl so dang much!

me and hol sunshine

Most of yesterday was spent trying to get my life back in order after being away for nearly 3 weeks {visiting my parents in Ventura before my trip to Nashville}… unpacking, laundry-doing, and prepping for the various teaching & tutoring sessions I have this week! Aaaaand perhaps spending some quality time with my sweetheart, who has returned safely from his adventure in Kenya, hooray! I’m so grateful that he had a fantastic trip, and that he is home safe and sound.

allyn kenya with kids

Now… onto this week’s simplicity challenge! Over the course of the year, we’ll be focusing on various meanings of simplicity: in our possessions, routines, spending habits, projects, relationships, food choices, and more. We’ll rid ourselves of clutter — physical, mental, emotional. We’ll reflect on what truly matters to us, and why, and what we hope to do with that knowledge.

year of living simply

Last week, the challenge was to ruthlessly unsubscribe to unnecessary emails. I first went through and unsubscribed to the various spam/promotional email lists I’m on that I haven’t bothered to unsubscribe from even though I never open them and am wholly uninterested. That was the easy part.

The harder part for me was unsubscribing from lists that I am genuinely interested in, but simply don’t have time to read. I realized that I have remained subscribed to these emails because I blindly hoped that some mystical future version of me would one day find the time to conscientiously read through them — even though I know that isn’t true, and even though the slow trickle of them piling up and piling up in my inbox stresses me out. I think this relates to the “Fear of Missing Out” phenomenon that is so prevalent in our social-media culture. I think I was worried that if I deleted an email newsletter that I was interested in reading without actually going through and reading it, I would “miss out” on something important. But no, what I was really doing was to open these emails and scroll through, skimming them mindlessly.

So, this week I ruthlessly unsubscribed, choosing to remain subscribed to only those email lists I fully, genuinely *love* to read, the ones that consistently add value to my life. I told myself that if I missed any one of them, I could always resubscribe. But, not surprisingly, I don’t miss any of them. It might sound silly, but the simple act of unsubscribing and taking back a portion of my inbox has made me feel freer and more at peace. Email isn’t as big as a chore as it once was. And that’s a step in the right direction!

workstation

This week reminded me of the whole point of minimalism: clearing away all the stuff that isn’t important makes room for what truly IS important to you.

This week, let’s continue our digital de-cluttering: go through and organize your photos, deleting any unnecessary duplicates or “bad” ones. My photos on my computer are a jumbled mess of random folders, and my photos on my phone are a disaster zone — I never delete any! This week, I want to get these all straightened out. The beginning of the year is the perfect time to organize your photos, so you’ll have a system ready to go for all the photos you’ll take in 2015! 🙂

I’ll leave you with this insightful post from The Minimalists that I thoroughly enjoyed: “Thomas Jefferson’s 10 Rules for a Good Life”

Questions of the morning:

  • What emails did you unsubscribe from this week? Was it easy, or more difficult than you envisioned?
  • What digital clutter do you struggle with?

fabulous friday #35

Aaaaaand just like that, it’s Friday again! These past few days have absolutely flown by for me. I’m loving the new students I’m teaching {plus four new classes start tomorrow!} but it’s always a balance at the beginning of a new semester, re-learning to juggle teaching with my tutoring and editing work AND trying my darndest to finish up the novel I’m working on! But I’m savoring the process. As Coach Wooden would say, “The journey is better than the inn.”

Hope you all are having a great morning. I’m off to one of my favorite yoga classes, then popping to Starbucks for a pumpkin chai latte & some productive work time. But before I go…

Here are 5 things I’m loving right now:

1. Holly gave me this water bottle a couple years ago for my birthday, and I absolutely love it! Every time I use it, the photos of us make me smile 🙂 It makes gym sessions a lot more fun when I see her beautiful friendly face every time I take a water break!

holly water bottle

2. Bolthouse Farms yogurt dressings. I love how they have a creamy yet light texture and are very flavorful. I’ve previously loved Bolthouse Farms yogurt ranch dressing, and this week I decided to try this cilantro-avocado flavor — it’s my new favorite! Avocado creaminess with a little kick. I can just use a small amount of this salad dressing and it goes a long way. Love it!

cilantro avocado

3. These words of wisdom from Money-Saving-Mom founder Crystal Paine in this interview:

Remember what’s going to matter in 25 years. Wrap your life and energy around those things.

4. Look who’s featured in the church newsletter this week! Woot woot!

church newsletter

5. Tonight Allyn and I are going out to dinner in San Francisco to celebrate his birthday! It’s gonna be a blast. I made a reservation at a rave-reviewed restaurant on Yelp, and I’m taking the opportunity to get a little “gussied up,” as my grandma would say. Last night I had fun trying on various outfits and I think I’ve settled on this one. {Please ignore my messy room in the background!}

al's bday dinner outfit

Happy Friday, everyone! Have a wonderful weekend!

Questions of the day:

  • What are you loving right now?
  • What are your plans for the weekend?

mid-week meditation #5

Hi, everyone, and apologies for my {unexpected} blogging break! I was not really planning to take time off, but life just worked out that way with my visit home, teaching final classes and then prepping to teach a couple summer camps for Communication Academy. And THEN Holly visited me all of last week which was absolutely wonderful and the perfect excuse to unplug for a bit. We lounged, talked, cooked a delicious impromptu frittata, ate lots of veggies {and yeah, some pizza too!}, talked some more, explored San Francisco, met up with Dana for dinner, had a sleepover with Arianna, skyped with Allyn, and just generally had a magical time.

holly and dana

So special to have two of my favorite ladies together in one place! ❤

Whenever Holly visits me or I visit her, it always feels like we instantly fall back into our rhythm from when we lived together in college — it feels so normal to be together in everyday life. Now it’s weird not to have her here. I love you and miss you so much, Holly!

me and hol brunch

Now here’s a quick mid-week meditation to hopefully brighten up your Tuesday!

gandhi happiness quote.jpg

Have a joyful day, friends! I’ll be back again soon, I promise. 🙂 Thanks for sticking around and being patient with me. I missed you guys!

year of kindness challenge: week 37

year of kindness button

Hello from Nashville! I am currently in the country music capitol to visit my lovely Holly … it is so much fun just hanging out with her, laughing and talking and drinking tea and watching chick flicks. And I have been having a lot of fun exploring the beautiful Vanderbilt campus and surrounding area while she is in class. I’ve been getting some good writing done at Starbucks, too — pumpkin chai latte, bring it on! On Saturday we are seeing our girl T.Swift in concert! SO. EXCITED.

Anyone have any suggestions for places I should try to check out while I’m here in Nashville? Let me know!

The people I’ve met in Nashville have been so warm and friendly. In fact, my entire travel day from California to Tennessee was blessed with so many instances of kindness! From people letting a harried, late traveler go ahead of them in the security line to strangers complimenting each other while making small talk in line to board the plane, it made my heart smile to see so many instances of connection and kindness.

Another happy thing in my life this past week was that I reconnected with my friend Dana, who I hadn’t seen for years … she reached out to me when she saw I’d moved to the Bay Area, and we met up for breakfast on Sunday. It was SO great to catch up! She is one of those sunshine-filled people who makes you feel instantly at ease, and I was smiling the rest of the day after seeing her.

This past week’s kindness challenge was to fill out a feedback form with five star ratings, write a positive review of a book or product you love, or even call that “How am I driving?” phone number on the back of a semi-truck and rave about the truck driver’s wonderful driving skills. I filled out positive feedback for Marshall’s and Einstein Bros Bagels. It took all of three minutes to do each, and it made me feel like I was brightening someone’s day. Ever since my friend Erica started working at Target, it’s made me more aware that there are real individuals behind even the biggest corporations, working hard every day, who often don’t get as much positive feedback as they deserve. I also wrote two positive book reviews on Amazon {they aren’t up yet, but hopefully they will be up soon and I’ll let you know!} This week’s kindness challenge is certainly one I plan to continue doing. I didn’t see any of those semi-trucks with “How am I driving?” on them this past week, but I’m keeping my eye out … when I do, I am definitely going to call the number and give a glowing report.

The Week 37 Kindness Challenge is to do a household kindness for someone you live with. Do your roommate’s dishes, stock the fridge with your husband’s favorite drink, vacuum for your girlfriend, clean the kitchen for your mom. You get the picture! If you live alone, get creative … maybe you could do a household kindness for your parents or for a friend.

As always, blog about your experiences and include your links in the comments section below, or feel free to send me an email at dallaswoodburn <AT> gmail <DOT> com.

Always,
Dallas

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year of kindness archives:
– week 1 challenge: donate items to those in need
– week 2 challenge: leave quarters & note at laundry machine
– week 3 challenge: write & send a kind handwritten note
– week 4 challenge: give hot chocolate to someone outside in the cold
– week 5 challenge: do something kind for a neighbor
– week 6 challenge: deliver valentines to a nursing home
– week 7 challenge: donate to a food pantry
– week 8 challenge: donate toiletries to a shelter
– week 9 challenge: post a kind note in a public place
– week 10 challenge: do something kind for a child
– week 11 challenge: thank someone in a genuine & meaningful way
– week 12 challenge: deliver baked goods to a fire station
– week 13 challenge: give someone flowers
– week 14 challenge: donate books
– week 15 challenge: reach out and spend time with people
– week 16 challenge: smile at everyone you meet
– week 17 challenge: pick up litter/trash
– week 18 challenge: write a kind note to a mom figure in your life
– week 19 challenge: leave an extra-generous tip
– week 20 challenge: donate blood/join bone marrow registry
– week 21 challenge: visit a cemetery and pay respect
– week 22 challenge: practice a little patience
– week 23 challenge: call 3 loved ones on the phone
– week 24 challenge: do something kind for a senior citizen
– week 25 challenge: pay for someone’s public transportation
– week 26 challenge: volunteer at a food pantry or soup kitchen
– week 27 challenge: send a care package to someone in the military
– week 28 challenge: give at least one compliment every day
– week 29 challenge: do a favor for someone else
– week 30 challenge: scatter lucky pennies around a playground
– week 31 challenge: mail an empowering postcard
– week 32 challenge: plant something
– week 33 challenge: donate school supplies
– week 34 challenge: give a sandwich to a homeless person
week 35 challenge: compliment a salesperson to their manager
week 36 challenge: leave positive feedback

happy birthday holly!!

Today is my amazing friend Holly’s birthday! As per our tradition, I baked her something special even though we’re not together right now to celebrate. {Fortunately I am going to visit her in two weeks, so we get to celebrate belatedly then!}

holly bday

Holly is one of those people that just has this light about her. She glows with warmth and genuine kindness. She is a constant source of joy in my life. We would talk often on the phone this summer when I was living at home, and my family would immediately know I was talking to her because I would erupt into fits of giggles. She is that type of friend. She knows me to my core and she loves and accepts me exactly as I am. And the amazing, generous person she is makes me want to be a better person myself. I feel so blessed that our friendship has grown with us the past eight years and even though we are physically separated by distance, as the years pass we grow closer than ever.

me and hol thesis reading

Happy birthday, Holly! I love you! ❤

DSC07567

what I wore on easter

Happy Easter Sunday! I feel so fortunate that my bestie Holly came to visit this weekend. Whenever we are together, we spend all day talking and laughing and drinking tea and watching Nora Ephron movies. She is such a wonderful person and having her as my friend brightens my life in so many ways!

holly and me

Holly and I went to church this morning and had an easy lunch at home before she had to hit the road. She was also sweet enough to snap a picture of my Easter dress to share with you, linked up at Camp Patton!

Camp Patton

easter dress close up

easter dress

Sweater: Nordstrom’s Rack
Dress: Target
Tights: Target
Shoes: American Eagle
Necklace: a gift from a friend

Hope you are having a restful, happy day filled with friends and family!