Looking Back on 2014

A lot of people I know had a rough 2014 and couldn’t wait for the clock to strike midnight so they could mentally wipe the slate clean and start over. I was feeling the same way, but when I looked at my year in review on Facebook (thanks, Facebook, for actually being useful for once) I was amazed to see that 2014 was, in all reality, pretty damn awesome.

2014 was the most physically fit year I’ve ever had. I started with physical therapy after my first surgery in 2013, continued into strength training with a pro at my gym, did loads of pre-therapy for my second surgery, and moved past surgery #2 into physical therapy once again, all with the goal of staying fit through two convalescences and getting back into my snowboard boots in early 2014. During the process I discovered the true depths of my willpower and drive, and developed a deep commitment to physical fitness and wellness. All that hard work paid off, too!

FB post February 23, 2014: “So stoked! One year and two operations later, I’m BACK!”

Colorado2014BAM! That’s pretty sweet. Snowboarding with great friends is one of my top 5 activities in the WORLD, and I worked my ass off to get back on the hill in 2014. These photos were taken on my annual pilgrimage to Summit County, Colorado, with my dear friend Gordon. I was so happy to be able to play in the snow again!

Seeing the results of my labors and spending more time fully present in my body finally made me come to a decision that has been years in the making. This is the year I quit being drunk. Not like AA quit, but quit having more than I should. I did it quietly, in the middle of the summer, and I am so glad I did. No more questionable decisions, embarrassing pictures and videos, waking up with hangovers, losing a whole day to lassitude, or hearing what I did the night before and having no memory of it whatsoever. It’s wonderful to wake up feeling refreshed and ready to go every morning, and I feel like I have so much more control over my thought processes and my life in general.

FB post May 11, 2014: “The largest piece of art I’ve ever made, measuring in at 119″x29″! I am extremely proud of this piece, which took me about a week to make. It now hangs in Lucas’ studio, my early birthday gift to the most wonderful, supportive, and inspiring man in my world. xoxoxo Mr. Awesomepants!”

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Creatively, 2014 was a watershed year for me. A trip to the Denver Art Museum in February, combined with a Brene Brown course I started in January that included a ton of art journaling, got me primed to begin my own art practice again. Besides creating the giant wall hanging for Lucas’ music studio, I learned the basics of bookbinding and paper-making, experimented with watercolor (forever my nemesis), discovered that after years of drawing curves my hand now likes to draw geometric shapes, started a series of biographical drawings, and spent loads of time opening up my talents and allowing myself to experiment with new styles and mediums. 2014 was a year of rediscovering my creativity and learning who I am as an artist in the present, rather than try to revisit my past projects. I haven’t produced this much art since I was in high school, and it feels amazing!

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ArtVariousLucas and I traveled a ton this year too. First there was my solo trip to Colorado in February, and then in March we headed off to St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands (!!!) to shoot the wedding of two fabulous friends. It was a whirlwind trip, and the tight wedding schedule/lack of car kept us at the resort the whole time, but we definitely managed to get in some sun and snorkeling. I love long sunny days spent with the sound of surf and rustling palm fronds.

StThomas

In May we hopped in the car with our friend Mikey and went on a Great Big Canadian Road Trip. First stop Vancouver, BC, where the three of us covered countless miles on foot as we explored the city and ate some top notch food. We then we parted ways and Mikey took the Amtrak back to Portland while we forged ahead, through BC up to Jasper to visit Lucas’ cousin Alison. After too short a time in the Canadian Rockies, it was down to the flatlands and Edmonton, which is Lucas’ hometown. Five days there, and it was time to take our leave and head back into the mountains, this time to Banff and Lake Louise, one of the most stunningly beautiful places I’ve ever seen. For miles, all we could say was “Wow.” and “Oh, beautiful!” We can’t wait to go back.

Canada

The photo in the bottom right is Lucas with his mum and dad outside the home he was raised in. It’s rare to get both of his parents in the same frame!

In late September we teamed up with Mikey again to head to his old stomping grounds in the waterways of South Carolina. I was stunned by how lush and full of life it was there. Everywhere were pine trees, saw palmettos, magnolias and cypress, everything festooned with trails of Spanish moss; the saltwater marshes teemed with a dizzying array of waterfowl; shrimping boars massed together wherever the harvest was especially rich; fiddler crabs and with their silly lopsided claws rustled their way through fallen pine needles; alligators in all the local ponds seemed to be a simple fact of life (I was told to run in a zig zag pattern if one chased me), and one evening we saw a dolphin nosing for food in the mud of the saltwater river right behind Mikey’s dad’s house.

SouthCarolina

Although we stayed in Bluffton, SC and spent some time in Charleston, Hilton Head, and Beaufort, we were only about half an hour away from Savannah, Georgia. It would have been completely remiss of me as a longtime cemetery enthusiast to pass up the opportunity to head to Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah, famous resting place of notable people from throughout American history, and used as a setting in Midnight of the Garden of Good and Evil. We took a tour led by Shannon Scott, a true taphophile and masterful storyteller, and it was definitely the highlight of the trip for me. Unfortunately, Lucas lost all of his shots from the second day we spent there, much to our collective chagrin. On the upside, this just means we’ll have to go back to Savannah, and I wouldn’t mind that one bit.

Bonaventure

Our final trip was in mid-October, down to the Bay Area. Originally the trip was to be a solo one for me, as I was heading to a Death Salon at Fort Mason in San Francisco. Then our friends got engaged at Burning Man, and after a hurricane of back and forth emails amongst all of their friends determined a date for the wedding, which just happened to coincide with the time I was already planning to spend there! So, I booked a ticket for Lucas so he could join me, and spent the first half of the weekend immersed in death, and the second half celebrating life. It might sound weird to some people, but for me to two go hand in hand, so it was a very satisfying and joyful weekend for me.

This year I increased my involvement in….I don’t know what to call it. Death culture? Death advocacy? Well, even though I don’t know exactly how to define it, how I fit into it is beginning to take shape. After graduating from the Celebrant Foundation and Institute earlier this year as a Funeral Celebrant, I began working with a great group of people who are planning on bringing a full weekend death festival to Portland in 2015. There will be tons of information and resources, speakers and presentations, art and cultural offerings (that’s the section I’m heading up), music, and maybe even some theater. The whole goal of the event is to help remove the stigma of death and death talk in our society, so people can plan for a good death for themselves and be equipped to handle the death of those they love. It’s super exciting, and one of the reasons I’m really looking forward to 2015!

2014 was a nostalgic year for me. The Fez, the Matador, and Magic Gardens closed down. I used to spend every Friday at 80′s night at the Fez, bookended by drinks at the Matador and (if the night went really south) Magic Gardens. The closing of those three establishments erased big parts of what I guess you could call my “third youth,” the first being my actual teenage years in Bellingham and the second being the time I spent snowboarding and rabblerousing up on Mt. Hood. The Matador, especially, was a bitter pill to swallow, even though I hadn’t been there since Santacon three or so years ago (I got a concussion from that night when a Santa dancing on a table fell off and knocked the table into my head as I was leaning over. I felt that was a good night to call it quits on the Matador phase of my life).

This year I finally dipped my toes into my ancestry with the indispensable help of my wonderful friend Kolby, who has experience in historical research. Because my father and I have been estranged (such a nice word to assign to some really horrid experiences followed by sustained absence) since I was 13, I don’t know much at all about my Chinese Filipino ancestry, and as the years go by this feeling of lack has become more pronounced. Most of my friends take the easy knowledge of their heritage for granted, but I’ve had to work to gain even a rudimentary understanding of my father’s family heritage. After giving Kolby every snippet I knew, she spent a few days researching and came back at me with a veritable wealth of information. I’m not overstating it when I say that it felt like she’d given me the gift of my heritage, and for that I will always be grateful. Among the things I learned: my first cousin once removed sang backup vocals with his Hawaiian group The Surfers on Elvis’ album “Blue Hawaii.” Whoa!

Oh, and a big highlight, but one that won’t really bear fruit until 2015, is that I finally, finally, FINALLY am done with the organization I founded eight years ago! I left it in the capable hands of the Executive Director we hired at the end of 2013 and a small but enthusiastic and talented Board of Directors. My last night was in the middle of December, so I’m still learning how to live without constant worry, but so far it feels absolutely amazing. Lucas has imposed a mandatory and indefinite sabbatical from work, so for the foreseeable future my life will consist of art, housewifery, and volunteering for the death festival. I feel incredibly lucky.

And, finally….

FB post July 4, 2014: “5 years of Awesomepants and still going strong!”

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Somehow, miraculously, an exceptional human being has chosen me as his partner, and even after all this time his love shows no sign of flagging. Every day I strive to be a better person because of him, and every day I wonder how I got so damn lucky. More than anything, I’m looking forward to 2015 because it’s a new year of projects and adventures with Lucas. Forward, ho!

 

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