Category Archives: life


For most of my life, I’ve struggled with belonging. I distinctively remember being in 1st grade, six years old, on the playground at the international school I went to when we lived in Belgium, and getting hit by a wave of loneliness. I was on the swings, other kids swinging on either side of me, and I felt like I was about to sail off into the sky by myself, detached from the swing chains. I felt very old, like I’d lived a hundred lifetimes already. I felt…isolated.

That feeling has followed me my whole life. I never quite fit in as myself. If I wanted to “belong,” I had to change somehow. I had to listen to certain music, watch certain movies, and keep my mouth shut about the stuff I cared about. When I got older and more independent, I didn’t bend to peer pressure as much, but in order to feel okay with it, I had to take pride in my loneliness. “I feel this way,” I told myself, “Because I’m special.” That’s a dangerous way to live, because in order to feel joy or connection with others, I had to let go of that whole “special” thing.

I’m over that now. I don’t want to be isolated or lonely. I don’t think that’s what makes me special. But I still don’t feel like I really belong anywhere.

Chris and I have been going to a church lately, and for practically the first time ever, I actually don’t hate going to church. I feel safe there. But it isn’t easy. At one of the services, to celebrate the co-pastor getting her Masters of Divinity, one of her professors spoke. He spoke directly to the congregation, offering advice and encouragement and so on, and I got hit by that wave again. Specifically, a talking wave that said, “You don’t belong here.” It felt really strange, like I was looking in a window, spying on the service. He isn’t talking to me, I thought, because I don’t know anyone here. I’m not a part of this community. That sad little voice added, “And you never will be.”

My instinct is to say that voice is the devil, but I don’t think it’s that cut-and-dry. It’s fear, yes, which doesn’t come from God, but I am sick of identifying every negative thought as a demon hissing in my ear. I’ve lived that belief before, and it is exhausting. I think that voice is six-year old me, fearful, who is counting out all the times I’ve been lonely or rejected, and telling me that’s what will always happen. She doesn’t count all the times that hasn’t happened, though.

So, what do I do? My spiritual director has given me advice for when fear like that comes up, when our past selves try to convince us of something that isn’t true. I reassure six-year old me. I tell her it’s going to be okay. The idea of treating fear with compassion is still new to me. Since I believed every negative thought was a demon, I’m more familiar with going on the attack, like my head is a war zone. The result is always a bloody battlefield, without much peace or hope. I only succeed in traumatizing myself even more. It’ll be different this time.

I’ve been to church since that wave of isolation. I didn’t feel it as strongly this time, because I anticipated it, and I knew how to respond. When the little voice tried telling me, “You don’t belong here,” I knew what to say: “Maybe not yet, but that’s okay. It’s going to be okay.”


Foodventure 2019: Seattle

For our anniversaries, Chris and I have a tradition where we try a bunch of food places instead of one pricey dinner. This year, we went to Seattle and stayed overnight in a tiny house. First on the list: Lunchbox Labs. I had read about it when researching milkshake places for work, and it looked like a place we both would like. It was kind of weird to get to, and even though we were one of the only people there, the service was slow. They also got some of the order wrong, though that did mean we got a free banana cream pie milkshake. Their sign says “world-famous” milkshakes, which I didn’t feel was quite true. Chris said the burger was very similar to In ‘n Out, which is a good comparison, though In ‘n Out is significantly cheaper. If you’re in Seattle and looking for the best burger, I don’t think Lunchbox Labs is it.

Next on the agenda: some kind of physical activity. We found a mini golf place and for once, it wasn’t raining! It wasn’t either of our best showings at the game, and I kept getting distracted by trying to take pictures of all the bees. There were a lot of gorgeous flowers on the course. I ended up beating Chris by two. We still weren’t hungry, so we found a park and strolled for a bit.

Finally, it was time for Hot Cakes Molten Cakery! I’ve been following their Instagram for what seems like forever and was most excited to try it. We found good street parking and walked about a half mile to the place. We passed a used bookstore – Twice-Sold Tales – so of course, we had to stop in. I got an older copy of “The Turn of the Screw” by Henry James. Hot Cakes lived up to the hype. We got the mac and cheese and S’mores cake. The mac and cheese was amazingly creamy with rich cheese flavor and perfectly-crunchy toasted breadcrumbs on top. The cake was everything you’d want it to be, especially when you ate a bite with the ice cream on the side covered in graham cracker crumbs. The cake may look small, but it’s so rich, we were totally satisfied sharing. If you’re going to go anywhere in Seattle and love desserts, I highly recommend Hot Cakes.

The next morning, we were going to try and hit up Biscuit Bitch before heading back home. The first location had a super long line, and then we simply could not find the other one. Some streets were closed and we kept driving back and forth through a super long tunnel. Eventually, we were just too hungry, and knew that even if we did find it, there would probably be a line. We went to a place in Kent instead (Maggie’s on Meeker) and were thoroughly satisfied. Not busy, fast service, and Chris said the chorizo omelette was the best omelette he’d ever had. High praise from a man who doesn’t really like eggs. I got biscuits and gravy, and doubt that Biscuit Bitch could have done much better. There’s only so much you can do biscuits and gravy, as long as you do them right.

Before going to Maggie’s, we had stopped at Hello Robin Cookies for after breakfast. It was very difficult to resist – we could smell them through the box. We got a half dozen: orange habanero chocolate chip, classic chocolate chip, lavender, Mexican hot chocolate, Mackles’mores, and whole wheat sea salt chocolate chip. I don’t think I’ve ever had cookies that good from a store. They were the perfect texture – soft inside, but with just enough chewiness, and crispy edges. The flavors were so deep, too; it wasn’t just sugar. My favorites were the classic chocolate chip (which is their best-seller, and I can understand why) and orange habanero chocolate chip. The habanero adds just the right amount of heat that’s great with the orange and chocolate, and the cookie had a kind of raw sugar coating, too, I think, so there’s really nice crunch. Chris liked the Mackles’mores and classic chocolate chip the most. Sadly, Hello Robin does not ship (they don’t use any preservatives so shipping would be impossible), so we have to go back if we want more. Maybe Robin will open a shop in Portland one day?



A Post About Sex

I’m usually pretty tight-lipped about stuff like this, (my family reads this blog after all, this may be one to skip, Mom), but I think it’s really important to talk about considering how much mental illness/antidepressants affects it, and how silent the Christian community usually is about sex in general. I was never forced into purity culture or wearing a purity ring or anything, but the book “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” had a huge impact on my worldview from a young age, and I’ve definitely dealt with some shame issues. This post isn’t so much about that; just wanted to put that out there so you know where I’m coming from.


I wish I had more of a libido.

There, I said it. If I had break down my feelings about sex into percentages, 90% of the time I’m completely uninterested, and 10% I’m basically on board, but I don’t have a strong feeling one way or the other. It wasn’t always this way, so that makes things even more frustrating. I used to think it could be related to my bisexuality, that maybe I went through phases where sex with a guy just wasn’t my cup of tea, but in the last year, the whole concept of sex has become just uninteresting.

Why has my sex drive shut down? I’ve been blaming most of it on my antidepressants, but as I’ve reduced my dose to nearly zilch, it’s clearly not why. That was a pretty major disappointment, to be honest. I really hoped, despite the fact that Effexor isn’t supposed to be affect libido, that I would be one of the few cases where did. Since I don’t have any depression symptoms either, I can’t even blame my old nemesis. I’m mostly medication and depression-free, and still totally frozen sexually.

Could it be my birth control? That’s very possible, and I’m kind of leaning towards that as at least part of the reason, but what should I do with that information? I don’t want to stop taking it. I actually lost a month’s supply and stopped for a week or so before calling in another prescription, because the cramping and bleeding was so bad. Seems like going off birth control would be another exercise in gradual reduction, and I’m not interested in doing that.

Maybe this is just the way I am? I’m generally fine with that, but I’m not the only person in this equation. I’ve read a lot of advice online, some of it good, some of it really bad, and I’ve talked to a few of my girlfriends, but nothing has really clicked. This really confirms to me how much sex and sexuality is an individual thing, and Christian culture discourages and oppresses pretty much all and any exploration or discussion of it. If it is talked about, it’s all male-focused and doesn’t get into how girls and women are feeling. There is no masturbation talk for girls or talks about different levels of libido and normality, and I don’t believe that’s limited to Christian culture. Culture as a whole is not a fan of healthy female sexuality.

So, is this my normal? Maybe. But how do I change it? Should I want to change it? Can I change it? There are a lot of questions. I don’t really want to think about them. My plan is to address the possible physical reasons, like the birth control. I ordered powdered maca, which has been used in Peru for libido with limited side effects. This is big for me, because I am very skeptical of supplements and herbs and what not, especially when they’re labeled as “super foods.” Not expecting miracles, but the bag cost less than $10, and just maybe it’ll help counter the effects of the birth control, if that is indeed part of the problem. I’ll let ya’ll know after I’ve tried it for a while.

If you made it this far in the post, congrats. Maybe this is all way too much information, but this has been a big part of my relationship stress and questions about my identity, so it would be weird to never talk about it. Thank you for bearing with me.

Favorite Things About Summer

It’s the first of August, which means lots of people start thinking about autumn and winding down their summer goals/activities. It’s been a great summer, so here’s a list of my favorite things about the season that’s about to pass by:

Sitting outside with my patio puppy listening to the trees, birds, and occasional angry squirrel
Beach days
Lots of flowers and colors
Ice cream
Fresh fruit, specifically nectarines

What are your favorite things about summer?


A big part of my spiritual “therapy,” I guess you’d call it, has been identifying and focusing on my “safe places.” These are the sensations and states of being that make me feel closest to God. When they’re cultivated, I can think about trauma and ground myself in safety, so I’m not disrupted by painful memories. I’ve found five safe places:

Floating in the ocean in Jamaica

I experience different aspects of God in these places. With Yoshi, I feel adored and significant. With Chris, I am accepted, respected, and loved. While walking, I am strong, free, and flexible. In nature, I am free, rooted, grounded, and open, like the opposite of claustrophobic. When I remember floating in the Jamaican water, I am completely at peace, held, and still.

My spiritual director pointed out that it’s interesting that there are five things, like fingers on a hand. I immediately thought of the book title, “The heart is a muscle the size of your fist.” It’s a novel about protests and I haven’t actually read it, but the phrase sticks with me. In my head, I connect a fist or a hand with the heart. The key to spiritual fulfillment is to hold the Five within myself at all times, so no matter where I go or what I experience, I can rely on them. To help get a visual sense, I painted a picture:


Each color represents a different part of the Five, and they all seep into one another and come from the heart. The heart has cracks from my traumatic experiences, but that’s where the color bleeds from.

The Five represent my essence. When I feel stressed or conflicted about something, disturbed by a past memory or triggering event, I’ve been turning back to whatever part of the Five best supports me. Sometimes it’s lying outside on the deck with Yoshi, looking up at the trees, just listening to the sound of the leaves. Other times it’s going for a walk without my headphones and just really focusing on each step, letting my arms move, breathing more deeply. In the past, I would focus too much on what was bothering me. I would run it back through my head over and over again, writing it down, picking it apart, analyzing it. That process has led to revelations, but I’m tired of it. One of the reasons why I didn’t want to go back to regular counseling was because I felt like I would have to rehash all the things wrong with me again. My spiritual director isn’t so interested in the details of things. It’s more about how memories and experiences fit into the bigger picture of what I believe about God, myself, and others. Most importantly, it’s about moving forward and not letting trauma define me. She’s all about “respecting” the trauma and having compassion towards it – it’s not as if I’m denying the impact of anything – but healing comes from immersion in the Five, not the trauma itself.

What are your safe places?


What I’m Baking

Needed some baking therapy yesterday, so I made orange shortbread cookies from My Baking Addiction. I love shortbread, even though they’re a bit of a pain because they need to freeze first. It was only an hour though. Mine also never look very pretty; they’re never perfectly-round.

image1 (9)

They smelled AMAZING, and the house smelled like orange cookies for the rest of the night. I wish there was a candle with the fragrance. These are the perfect cookies for dunking in milk, tea, or coffee.

Foodventure 2018

Today was Foodventure 2018! Since our first year in Portland, Chris and I go sample the flavors of the city for our anniversary. We love driving around in areas we may not have visited before and seeing the different types of businesses, like the home-brewing store, clogs for kids and adults, and about a million vintage shops. The weather was overcast, slightly-humid, with pockets of sunshine later in the day.

Our first stop: Grand Central Bakery. I heard about it on the Spilled Milk podcast and when I looked it up, learned they had a location in Portland. When we walked in, we were met by the warm fragrance of fresh bread. I got something basic: a biscuit egg sandwich with cheese. Chris got a ham+swiss and a hot chocolate.




It was the best breakfast sandwich I’ve ever had. The egg was perfectly cooked and seasoned, but the biscuit was the real star, as it should be. Light, crumbly, and flaky in the right places. After breakfast, we stopped by Tea Chai Te, because it turned out they were right next to Grand Central. I got a Spiced Vanilla Chai that was so hot, I slowly drank it for the rest of the day and only cooled to lukewarm. Our next stop was Rachel’s Ginger Beer, and while we searched for a parking spot, I spotted Waffle Window, so of course, we had to get a waffle.




Torn between chocolate and strawberry-Nutella, Chris pulled the trigger on strawberry-Nutella. The waffle had a slightly-crunchy exterior because of the “pearled sugar” they use and soft inside. It reminded me of waffles in Belgium, though obviously not as good, that would be impossible.

Then we hit up Rachel’s Ginger Beer. I got the White Peach, Chris got the Caramelized Pineapple. We had a funny exchange where Chris said this was an alcohol we could actually take to go, and I said, “What? This isn’t alcoholic.” And then Chris revealed that he thought “ginger beer” was real beer. It was especially funny to me because we’d been drinking it and I guess it tasted boozy?




Now it was time for ice cream! We always have to get ice cream. I chose 22 Below, a rolled ice cream place that just opened a store in Portland, its 3rd location. The founder is currently only 20-years old! She was actually there today; I just looked her up and recognized her. Watching them roll the ice cream is mesmerizing. For my “Campfire” ice cream, they put graham crackers on the cold work station and topped them with marshmallows. He set them on fire and once they were toasted, he poured over the chocolate ice cream base. The surface froze the ice cream as he chopped and smoothed in the graham crackers and marshmallows. The ice cream is then flattened and rolled into the distinct tubes.




I was a bit concerned the rolling would be a gimmick, like liquid nitrogen ice cream, which I find has a weird “gummy” texture. Not so with rolled ice cream. The texture was melty and smooth like regular ice cream, and the flavor was the best ice cream flavor I’ve ever had. The toasted marshmallow came through so strongly, it was really like eating a s’more. Fire does amazing things to food, and the ice cream managed to capture it. Chris got “Nutty Nut,” which is banana ice cream and peanut butter cups. I had a taste and the banana flavor was so fresh. FIVE STARS!

Chris was practically passing out, so we decided to go home, take a nap, walk the dog, and then get dinner at the Happy Valley food carts. Chris took a nap while I painted and listened to a podcast. After a short walk, we headed out, with Yoshi freaking out per usual. There were so many choices at the food carts: I went with a sushi roll with shrimp, crab salad, avocado, and cucumber. Chris got a Mac & Jack burger, which was a hamburger with the fixin’s, deep-fried Mac and Cheese bites, and Chipotle sauce.




Foodventure 2018 was a success. If I had to choose one place everyone should ABSOLUTELY go to, it’s probably 22 Below. They also make bubble tea with a wide variety of pearls and jellies, so if you just want a drink, you have options.

What I’ve Been Eating

Around Thanksgiving, I saw a recipe ad for Alexia Foods for a sort-of deconstructed sweet potato “pie” that used their Sweet Potato Puffs. I knew I had to make it, so last week, Chris and I grabbed the dog, our iPods, and walked the 1.5-miles to the Safeway, where I read that Alexia sold the puffs. I made the pie last night, and it was the best choice ever.

Here’s how it’s done: bake the puffs at 425-degrees for 20 minutes. Pile them into a pie dish. In a bowl, mix melted butter, brown sugar, and pecans. I didn’t really measure anything – the ad didn’t – so I just went by general feel. I didn’t want to make the pie a sugar bomb, so I wasn’t too generous with the brown sugar. Once the nuts are mixed in the butter and sugar, layer them on top of the puffs. Add a criss-cross drizzle of caramel sauce (I used Torani) on top and return to the oven for just 5-7 minutes to toast the nuts. While that baked, I melted a little butter, cream cheese, and maple syrup together on the stove. This makes the “frosting,” which I added to the pie before serving.

It’s rich, creamy, sweet, nutty, and buttery in all the right ways. The sweet potato puffs are perfect – they’re basically sweet potato tater tots. When baked, they get a little crispy on the outside. There isn’t anything I would do differently, and I will be definitely be making it again. It seems like a really great, super easy dish to bring to a Thanksgiving gathering.

Caught in Tangles

So, I set fires of starlight
To burn up against the despair
I was caught in the tangles of midnight’s
Long, unanswered prayer:
‘Are you there?’

Matthew Perryman Jones/”O Theo” 

In the past, self-reflection was my thing. I spent most of life facing inward. While it meant I was lonely a lot, I knew myself really well. I always knew where I stood with God, how I felt about Him. That’s changed.

Self-reflection gets exhausting. After years and years, I’ve sort of given up. Being self-aware and monitoring my feelings used to be necessary for survival, but now that I’m in a good place with my mental health, it isn’t a necessity. I prefer to fill my mind’s space with work, writing, art, movies, TV…anything but thinking about God and where I stand. Why? I think I’m scared of what I’ll learn. After giving up on our small group, I kind of gave up on believing I’ll belong somewhere spiritually. For the group, I forced myself to fit in as much as I could, but it felt incredibly fake. Talking about the Bible or praying was phony. Questions like, “What motivates you to read the Bible?” felt stupid when an honest answer for me would be, “Nothing does. So I don’t.” The idea of going to church still makes me want to run away screaming.

So, why am I googling spiritual directors? Why am I looking for songs on Good Friday that stir something – anything – inside me? Something feels off. I can’t say that I feel “a God-shaped hole,” because, again, that has a fake taste. It’s too cliche. I feel like a picture that’s off-center, or a floor with a slight slope in the middle. It’s Good Friday, and it isn’t like I feel guilty, or that I “should” feel something. It’s more like when you touch a hot stove and don’t feel anything, you know something is wrong. It isn’t guilt that takes you to the doctor, it’s necessity.

I just have a lot of questions, and I need someone to help me answer them.

Hunting For Tea

I have a collector’s personality. In my younger years, I collected Sunday comics, Newsweeks, and keys. These days, I collect enamel stick pins. I also like collecting experiences, and my favorite one is chai teas, specifically chai tea lattes. That means I want to go to every place that serves chai, and analyze them. Here’s my list so far:

Dutch Bros – Terrible. It’s sugar and water. In the summer, though, after a long walk, an iced sugar water is pretty refreshing on the way home.


Starbucks – Also pretty bad. Very one-note.

Ike Box – One of my favorites. I had their spicy chai iced (which apparently was a sort of unusual order) and it was truly spicy. Lots of black pepper.

Java Crew – My favorite so far. It’s not too sweet, not too spicy. I can actually taste different flavors.

Tea Chai Te – I had the seasonal Gingerbread one, and that was really good. I was with Chris and a new friend at the time, so I didn’t pay super close attention to it. I have to go back and try again to get a more focused opinion.

Human Bean – The hot chai is pretty much just sugar and milk. The chai smoothie, however, is delicious, because I’m expecting lots of sugar.

Grab ‘n Go – One of those teeny drive-thrus in Aberdeen, Washington. They had a spiced chai and a vanilla chai. I got the spiced one, but it wasn’t very spicy. It had a bit too much milk in it, I think, which diluted the flavors.

Having this “collection” of chai encourages me to go out and try new places. It also forces me to be in the moment and really focus on what I’m drinking. I can get anxious about really random things or overwhelmed when I’m out in the world, but having an “assignment” really helps me zero in a few key things – the flavors of the drink, its coldness or heat, what I feel when I’m drinking it. It has a centering effect.

I also buy chai powders to make my own tea at home. I have tried Oregon Chai (meh) and Pacific Chai. I like the Spiced Pacific Chai better than the other two flavors. It recommends 2 tablespoons, but I think that’s way too much. I do about 1 1/5 with water. Just got the David Rio Tiger Spice Chai, aaaaaand it’s amazing. Just made it with water and hazelnut milk. Hot. SO GOOD.