Category Archives: Musings

Ramblings of an adventurer and ponderer

I’m Going to Meet Dr. Temple Grandin!

When I was rescuing animals in the Ecuadorian Amazon, sitting in a monkey-poo stained hammock in a bamboo hut after a 12-hour work day, I read Dr. Temple Grandin’s Animals in Translation by candlelight.

The book details how Dr. Grandin’s autistic mind allows her to understand animals, literally putting herself in their shoes. She crawled through mud down cattle chutes to revolutionize the livestock industry. Half of the slaughterhouses in the U.S. and even more throughout the world now use her humane design, giving respect and dignity to these farm animals up to their predetermined end.

Dr. Grandin’s book was pivotal in my decision to commit to a vegetarian (and now vegan) lifestyle. It is a conscious choice I make every day to offer respect to the beautiful, entertaining, comforting, inspiring, impressive, and innocent animals that make up this great big world.

And now I get the chance to go to a Q&A and book signing with one of my idols, a woman who has battled countless odds to give a voice to those who cannot speak for themselves or are misunderstood. Not only is Dr. Grandin world famous in the livestock industry, but she is also a leading spokesperson for autism.

I received a press pass to go to the Vashon Sheepdog Classic (VSDC) this summer. Read more about Dr. Temple Grandin and the VSDC here.

“Animals in Translation” was a reprieve each night from the manual labor I put my body through in the Amazon, and helped me escape my anxiety and homesickness after being robbed on my first day backpacking solo in a foreign country.

When I was back in Ohio, I used to pull the book out from the shelves and stick my nose in the pages that forever captured that distinct and remarkable rainforest smell, transporting me back to the first glimpse of both my addiction to solo female travel and my future animal career.

Humans + Minds + Mother Nature

mountain hike

My friend Sarah snapped this candid shot last weekend on my birthday hike as four of us caught the last magic of winter before it fades softly into summer. When she got my attention, she asked me what I was thinking about.

For the first time in a long time, I wasn’t really thinking about anything. I was just listening, to the chirping birds and the rushing waterfalls. I was just existing, a mote of bones and flesh in a breathing cosmic arena.

So much has happened in 29 years. So much has happened since I moved to Seattle. I have met incredible, diverse, and creative friends. I starred in my first film. I wrote a frigging book. I pulled 80-hour weeks. I went to Ikea and Costco for the first time (!). I learned how to wear a sari. And I’ve done it all while being shaken by a past that I knew and a past that my mind had blocked out.

The mind is a powerful tool, a wonderful and equally fascinating and disturbing gift. The human mind is unique.
We will never be as big and vast in our existence as Mother Nature. But we can lead meaningful, significant lives. We can use the power of our minds to create, to engage, to learn, to protect, and to really, truly live.

Sometimes I turn to the beauty of this planet when I am feeling broken. And sometimes I turn to it for no reason at all other than to stop and smell the flowers. But I always appreciate this planet, this life, and my role in it.

Almost a Published Author: A Reflection of My Journey Writing My First Book

Today my book title is being registered with the Library of Congress. As I edited the final 254-page draft this week with a sprained wrist, it was (painfully) evident just how damn hard I worked to make this dream come true.

Last month, my editor asked me to write a preface for the book. This was an opportunity to fit into 500 words what writing these pages meant to me. It was a chance for me to tell my story in first person.

I sent the intro to one hand-picked person to look over, someone who knows me about as well as I know myself, someone who I knew would give me honest feedback. He read it between his busy schedule and told me it was nearly perfect. But that was the problem. He couldn’t hear my voice.

He said one of his favorite things about me is how I am open about my vulnerabilities and imperfections. He knew how much I struggled to turn this dream into a reality. I erased and re-wrote nearly three-quarters of my original words, this time sharing snippets of my heart and my hardships. Before I even sent it to him, I knew what he would say.

Because he was exactly right. It needed to be imperfect to be perfect.

I wrote this book during two of the most challenging years of my life. Many of my struggles many of you know; a few of my struggles only a few of you will ever fully know. Right now, I am dealing with a past that cuts very deep, facing things that no one should ever have to experience. But this is my imperfectly perfect life, and these are things that happened to me. It’s not my past that shapes who I am; it’s how I choose to handle it. Part of that is therapy, self compassion, and maintaining strong and meaningful friendships. Another part is choosing to keep putting one foot in front of the other, moving forward to follow my dreams even when I feel my feet being pulled in the opposite direction.

Sometimes I stumble, sometimes I scrape my knees or reach for a helping hand. Somehow I get back up again.

In a few weeks, you’ll be able to hold in your hands the dreams of my 7-year-old and nearly-29-year-old selves. My biggest hope isn’t that you learn everything there is to know about turtles. What I really hope is that this book, one of my many dreams, inspires you to always, always follow your heart—even when the odds are stacked against you.

With deepest gratitude, respect and sincerity,


20 Ways I’ve Smiled & Stayed Sane Since Trump Happened

The week after the election, I cried non-stop. I cried for my gay friends and black friends; I cried for women and children and the poor and handicapped. I cried for the environment. I cried for my Latino friends and Muslim friends. I cried for the man I met from Iraq.

I cried on my walk to work. I cried at work. I cried on my lunch break. At the end of each day, I pounded my fists into my bed out of despair. I had no appetite. When I caught myself in a chair collapsing from exhaustion, I said, “Fuck this.” And then I changed tactics.

I needed to let myself have my feelings, just like everyone else who was processing the results in their own way–many in a similar fashion. And then I needed to get on with my life instead of letting a government I don’t agree with suck me dry of my passion for living.

I began to bring joy and peace back into my life, and this is how I did it:

 1. Girl Power Songs

Including but not limited to: “Stronger” by Kelly Clarkson and “This Is My Fight Song” produced by Elizabeth Banks for the Democratic National Convention. These and others were listened to on repeatrepeatrepeat.

 2. Dancing to Said Girl Power Songs

 3. Singing

I looked in the mirror and sang “I Won’t Give Up On Us” by Jason Mraz. I sang it to America and I sang it to the world until I believed it.

 4. Creativity

I poured myself into my artistic talents, writing and acting as much as possible.

 5. Social Media Moratorium

I took a break from social media, because I just couldn’t stand all the fighting.

 6. Conversations with Conservatives

I had verbal discussions, not arguments, with Trump supporters because I needed to understand. I wanted to believe that people I loved who supported a man who was so vehemently hateful were not hateful themselves.

And I do. I really do believe that this world is full of more love than hate, and I am grateful to my conservative friends for showing me that.

 7. Nature

I went into the mountains for a week.

 8. Dogs

I signed on Instagram only to follow funny dog accounts. If you’re in need of suggestions, I am an avid fan of @dogsbeingbasic, @itsdougthepug and @bark. I also hugged every dog that came into the vet clinic. They were living their lives happily despite who was President, and I knew I could, too. Thanks, canines of the world.

 9. SNL

It is 100% biased and has been 100% hilarious.

 10. The Kindness of Strangers

I have been very keyed into my surroundings. When a homeless man helped a blind woman off the bus, I smiled and cried happy tears and it gave me hope.

 11. Change of Residency

I was living in Washington but registered in Florida and didn’t need a new license until 2021. I don’t drive out west. Florida is a swing state for elections. I didn’t have $89 lying around. All very good reasons to not switch my residency over.

But I wanted to be able to say yes to canvassers who ask me if I am registered to vote in Washington, so that I can sign petitions to help the homeless and save the bees. And Washington is finally a place where I feel like I’m meant to be. So I saved up and got a hideous new photo taken for a WA driver’s license and registered to vote in the Evergreen State.

 12. Marches

I joined the Women’s March. I will be marching for Black Lives Matter and Science. I make uplifting signs and I display them in my bedroom window.

 13. Baths

I’ve never taken so many baths. Magnesium flakes are glorious.

 14. I Started Saying “No”

Some people need to vent constantly about the state of the world, but I enter into a downward spiral when I’m surrounded by repeated negativity. So I’ve learned to politely say, “I’m sorry, but I can’t talk about that now.”

 15. Good Things

I remember that there is still so much beauty surrounding us, and I make a point to reflect on it.

 16. Meaningful Relationships

I threw myself into maintaining friendships that mean the most to me.

 17. Health Care

I saved up for insurance and addressed burgeoning health concerns I’d neglected before. I tackled doctor visits at the beginning of the year to protect myself in case my plan was suddenly unavailable to me.

 18. Massage

I treated myself to a massage because dammit, I deserved it.

 19. Delayed Filing Taxes

Normally, I do my taxes in January. But I had a lot to learn about self-employment tax this year. And I needed to focus on myself before I focused on my taxes. So I set a personal record by waiting until mid-March to file.

 20. Goodwill Closet

I bought myself some dresses at Goodwill so that I could feel sexy. Yes, sexy.

The U.S. government’s attack on arts and science and basic human rights has been a personal attack on my careers and my fundamental beliefs. In many ways, Donald Trump has shaken awake the hibernating souls who never knew what they believed in but now are budding activists.

I will not bury my head in the sand, but I will take care of myself. If I forget to look after me, then how can I help the rest of the world? I’ve learned that there is a dotted line between ignorance and knowledge. As an empath, I remain informed, but I don’t have to know everything. And no matter what I do or do not know, I won’t stop standing up for what I believe in.


I Met a Man from Iraq

On the evening of Tuesday, November 7, 2016, I flew from Idaho to Washington. In the airport terminal, I stopped at a burrito bar. It was there that I met a man from Iraq.

I made small talk with the man taking my order. He asked where I was from, where I was heading. Friendly and bright-eyed, he asked who I thought was going to win the election. I was confident a racist, xenophobic misogynist would not be taking the presidential oath in January, so we didn’t talk much more about politics.

I asked him how he liked living in Idaho. He said he hadn’t been here long, but it was suiting him fine.

“Oh, where did you move from?” I asked innocently.

He looked at me and said, “I’m from Iraq.”

A woman in a hijab emerged from the kitchen to begin fixing my burrito.

In that moment, I fumbled for words. I wanted to pour my heart out to them, to offer my sincerest apologies for all the hate–so much hate–being spewed in their direction. I wanted to ask them what it was like to live in Iraq, what it was like to listen to the news in America, what it was like to pass through airport security every day. I wanted to know how they came to run a burrito business and what were their hopes and dreams. I wanted to tell them I was sorry for the state of the world.

I wished to reach over the counter and take that man’s hands in mine and tell him I would fight for him. I wanted to look that woman in the eyes and tell her she was beautiful and so was her hijab.

Instead, hoping my enthusiasm would show I didn’t care where they came from, I uttered, “Oh, wow, that’s cool!”

Then I asked the man, “How did you choose Idaho?”

He shrugged and said, “It’s quiet out here in the middle of nowhere.”

I gave the couple a generous tip.

Early in the morning of November 8, 2016, I cried for the man and woman I met at a burrito bar.

I have wished countless times since then that I could rewind the clock and speak my thoughts aloud. Silence and inactivity are a crutch for the weak, confused and insecure. Fear paralyzes us and accomplishes nothing. Hate begets hate begets hate.

I cannot time travel, but I can work for the future. I will not stop fighting, and America, I hope you won’t either.