I’m going to

I first read Life Is A Verb at the recommendation of a good friend, with whom I often talked about books. She told me reading this book really changed her outlook on life. I thought it was a self-help book, and I didn’t need to help myself. I was just fine. I am such a stubborn idiot, sometimes.

“I’m going to speak out and be energetic and articulate and have something important to say. I’m going to pay attention to what’s going on in the world as if the fate of the earth depends on me paying attention. I’m going to have a point of view and an opinion without waiting for other people to tell me what it is. I’m going to do the work that I know I need to do, that I must do, that I’ve been waiting my whole life to do, without waiting for an audience. I’m going to sit up straighter and make people hear me. I’m going to ask a lot more questions, and I’m going to pay attention to the answers as if they really matter. I’m going to really, really listen to people when they tell me their stories. I’m going to raise my voice when it needs to be raised. I’m going to lend my voice to people that have none. I’m going to figure out how to be an effective advocate for others. I’m not going to care anymore whether people like me when I speak my truth. I’m never going to ask for permission again. As [Eve] Ensler said, “I am going to hold who I am in the face of anything.” – Patti Digh Life Is A Verb

I had highlighted the above in my copy of the book. It stood out to me, which is saying something, because in this book, everything stood out. The above was like a resolution of sorts, but it doesn’t have to be on New Year’s Eve. The above was included in a chapter about not needing other people to validate you, not looking to them to seek your own worth, and not to seek praise. Just do what you do, be you, and don’t worry about others think of it.

I took it to heart. I mean, for the most part, I like to think I embody those intentions in everything I do. I try to be a good listener; I read and form my own opinions, regardless of whether I think they’ll come up in conversation or not. I try to wake up, be mindful, and live intentionally. We all seek a purpose. I pondered my own life’s purpose in one of my blog posts, so I won’t bore you to tears reiterating it again. I want to be someone I respect, and often the hardest person I find to respect is sometimes myself. We are our own harshest critics, and I am no exception.

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The passage above was organized within a chapter of the book called “Don’t Stop to Wave, You’ll Drown.” Basically, the concept is like that of an Olympic runner. If you concentrate on your own breathing and don’t look left or right, ignore the other runners and just do you, you will be successful. The moment you look at others in comparison to yourself, the moment you slow down to show off, or check your competition, basically when you stop focusing on you, you lose the race. The person you didn’t see out of the corner of your eye, directly on your heels, just benefitted from your insecurity and need for comparison. They won the race because you stopped focusing on the finish line.

That’s a tough lesson to learn, indeed. If only I’d just kept my head down and not gotten involved, or even poked my head of the turtle shell to see what’s happening. This idea of not stopping to wave or you’ll drown really hits home for me when it comes to performance appraisal time at work. Having to seek and get feedback at certain points in the year is just painful. I’m not a huge fan. I’m too focused on creating a file that looks good on paper. Why should I need validation from my bosses? If they can’t talk to me and give me the feedback verbally and real time, the written feedback for the file is useless to me. I could write a whole other post whining and complaining about performance appraisals, but I shan’t. Even I couldn’t tolerate myself if I did that.

Today, my lesson is to do everything in that passage a little more. I want to put myself toward doing all of those things with a little more oomph – using my voice, advocating for others, and pay more attention. I am an open slate, and willing to learn what’s in store. I’m not throwing my pie for anyone but myself.

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Thanksgiving ponderances

One of my favorite things about San Francisco is how quiet it gets on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. Everyone has left town for the day, because their family lives elsewhere, or they’re getting away for the whole holiday weekend. Being such a transient, cosmopolitan city, almost no one is originally from here, and if you are, chances are that you don’t live downtown.

I live in the very heart of San Francisco, the left ventricle, the quad, the hub, whatever you want to call it. No one is on the street this morning. Very few cars, if any, are making their way around. The ordinary sounds of the city have ebbed away. It’s one of the most peaceful feelings I can describe. No sirens from the nearby fire station, fewer F streetcars rumbling up and down Market Street, no yelling from mentally unstable homeless people, no loud music thumping from car sound systems. The absence makes my heart grow fonder.

With a friend in town, visiting from Sydney and originally from South Africa, I accidentally find myself cooking a mini Thanksgiving meal kind of just to show off. I’ve never really hosted before. I had a small family growing up – just my dad, my mom and me for Thanksgiving. Maybe at Christmas, my aunt, or in the early years, my grandma too, would be there. 5 people, tops. I don’t like big, over-the-top holidays, but I don’t want to abstain from the holidays this year. I have put that damn Christmas tree up early, and I’m cooking quite a meal today: honey baked ham, loaded mashed potatoes, gravy, corn on the cob, stuffing, dinner rolls, pumpkin pie, salami/cheese/pickles/peppers nibbles until the food is ready, and plenty of wine. I want to show my friend how it’s done, and maybe some small part of me wants to try cooking for once.

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Of course, to counteract the onslaught of calories today, I will be doing a morning gym session. There wouldn’t be guilt if I bailed, but I actually find myself wanting to move my body. I’ve already cleaned the apartment, and there is energy to spare.

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While engaging in a holiday that has basically become about food, I don’t want to be wasteful. That is one thing in Australia I came to appreciate – not everything is as big as it is in America. Servings are smaller, toiletries are travel size and more compact. A plate can be sufficient without going over the top. If there are leftovers, everyone takes it home because I can’t eat them all by myself…

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I’m on a diet… Just kidding…

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I don’t pay for cable, because it’s a bit excessive for my needs right now. I do pay for Netflix streaming, and have a healthy DVD collection to pass the time. So my holiday won’t be totally American and full of football, but it’ll be mine.

I’m really missing my dad this year on this day. The dreams with him being alive still occur from time to time, and it still messes with my head. His birthday is always right after Thanksgiving and before Christmas. Saying the holidays are hard for me is an understatement. Thanksgiving, his birthday December 2, and then Christmas. A triple gut punch at what is supposed to be the happiest time of the year. I was a complete mess at this time in 2013.

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I celebrated Thanksgiving in Sydney last year with good friends, my support system at the time, a lesbian couple (American country girls originally, living in Sydney for 15+ years), a single-at-the-time lesbian friend (cusses-and-drinks-like-a-sailor Australian), a gay male coworker (Australian and Greek), and my gay flatmate (barefoot and proud Australian). 4 lesbians and 2 gay men. At an American restaurant in Kings Cross, that served maple syrup gin drinks. It was hot as all hell already, being nearly summer there. The air was muggy, and my new prescription of the antidepressant, Zoloft, was wreaking havoc on my body. I couldn’t keep anything in south of the border, if you know what I mean, and my body temperature seemed to be running much higher all the time, causing a constant bead of sweat on my upper lip. I reluctantly agreed to the antidepressants as a floor given my mental and emotional state at the time, and they hadn’t kicked in yet, so if my friends called me imbalanced at that time, they’d be abso-fucking-lutely right. Bless their hearts for tolerating me. Hot mess that I was.

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So I wish you and yours a happy and plentiful holiday season. And stuff – ing.

Gratitude

You know, I didn’t realize I took for granted celebrating Thanksgiving, or being American at home in America, for that matter. It wasn’t until I moved to Sydney that I realized, duh, they have totally different holidays than America. Yeah, they had Christmas; they had Easter. They didn’t have the 4th of July (but they did have the near equivalent of Australia Day), nor did they celebrate Thanksgiving. Their half-ass attempts at Halloween were ample justification to only buy candy for cheaper prices and eat it yourself, without having to trick-or-treat for it. Hell, Australians celebrate the Queen’s birthday, but it’s not even their Queen! And it’s not even really her birthday! But, I digress…

First off, everyone who uproots themselves on purpose to move to another country to live for a period of time suddenly becomes a foreigner in a foreign land, by the very nature of the beast. There is no longer the safety automatically afforded by being on the home team at the home game. When you’re the visitor at an away game, there is a distinct change in how all of your meaningful encounters play out.

Walking the halls of the CityRail train stations at Town Hall or Kings Cross, if I was talking with my mate, Sydneysiders’ ears would perk up when they would hear my American accent. When I went to restaurants and pronounced/enunciated differently than most Australians, waitresses and staff immediately noticed. Not only that, they called me out on it. Asked where I was from, how long I’d been there, and we’d chat. I mispronounced (even though, in my world, I was pronouncing them properly) other words like Melbourne, merlot, Dymocks (the bookstore), oregano, aluminum foil, and had countless other verbal faux pas on a daily basis.

I suddenly felt different from everyone else, very different. I’d read a different subset of books growing up, had a different plant environment than Australia, and everything made me feel really unique. I had redwoods and sequoias, not gumtrees and jacarandas.

Even in business meetings, I used an American colloquialism like “snafu” and then got called out by the client to explain what it meant. One guy googled it during our meeting to find that Situation Normal: All Fucked Up was what it was, and then we started using it all the time, because hey, free swearing. I brought something new to the table and I had a different perspective. I loved it.

I can be a rebel and I don’t like to necessarily be traditional. I don’t take classes at the gym because I have a blatant disregard for authority figures and discipline. I work out on my terms; and when I can, I celebrate holidays on my own terms. I embraced not having to deal with traditional habits, rituals that lose meaning over time, and I didn’t do that more than when I lived abroad. Even now, I’m not traveling for Thanksgiving this year, nor Christmas. I don’t want to, and you can’t make me.

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As a foreigner, when you have differences that aren’t visible to the naked eye, you can also experience some discrimination and some racism. My propensity towards assertive forwardness and ability to start a friendly conversation is most definitely very American in Australian circles. I was always nominated as the one to ask the waiter if we could modify an entrée, or to start a conversation from which to glean very important information, like if we could get a free round of drinks if we were extra nice and tipped well *wink wink*

Now, being back on my home turf, in my familiar little town of former Atlanteans, San Franpsycho, I feel like not only am I unique, but I fit right in here. I’m quirky, open minded, with lots of experiences, and in my weirdness, I am like a lot of people in this pond. I certainly don’t feel so different, though I still retain those qualities that make me different.

Difference is relative. I only feel different when I am around those not like me. I love feeling different though. I am still different, but not feeling it, not truly appreciating it, well, you forget that what makes you so special should be felt all the time. I should feel special all the time. Everyone should. Life’s too short not to.

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While I enjoy being different, I still have the same rights as other citizens of the United States. I have a really hard time feeling bad for violent protestors. There, I said it. Alcohol is sometimes the answer, but violence is never the answer.

Shooting, looting, and going batshit nuts in Ferguson, and here in the bay area closer to home (Oakland, I’m looking at you) is unnecessary. There is a lot to be said for getting your point across in a way that someone will actually listen, and take your point on board, seriously. Racial segregation is somehow on the forefront of the news, coming back in a big way, even though apartheid didn’t work in South Africa and it doesn’t work now, in the wake of events this week, even after all the lessons we learned in the 50’s. In my Facebook feed this morning, someone talked about how they saw a black man encounter racism on a Bart train for this morning’s commute. No one would sit by him. What the hell is wrong with you people? I ain’t hatin’ the players though – I’m hatin’ the game.

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I have the same rights and must abide by the same laws as anyone else. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying protestors don’t have a right and reason to protest with what they think is wrong with the system. We have the right to free speech. We don’t have the right to shoot people or end a person’s life. We don’t have a right to treat someone differently based on looks, and you should be ashamed of yourself as a human if you do. I think the Ferguson verdict has been taken personally by people when maybe it doesn’t need to be. It’s hard to accept that though, because how could this get any more personal??? It’s human rights.

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That’s the thing about advice – it sounds so good in theory, and the intentions are there. Maybe because I’m a Caucasian female, with blonde hair and blue eyes, and I’ve never been discriminated against for my looks, I never had an appreciation for what it might be like, therefore I have no place to speak. I have a voice, and I have an equal right to free speech, which I will not take for granted.

It wasn’t until I was a foreigner in another country, even though I looked like any other Australian, that I learned how I somehow wasn’t equal because I wasn’t Australian. Beyond being a gay woman.

Let’s just add to my point soup that I’m also a lesbian because 1) it’s fun to remind everyone of that fact every so often, and 2) I have had the privilege of not having been personally discriminated against ever for it. Maybe that, too, is just because I live in San Francisco, so maybe I don’t have a right to speak about that, either. Well guess what, I’m gonna anyway, because you’re not the boss of me.

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Brass tax, I am utterly grateful – for every privilege I’ve had growing up, for the opportunity I seized to live in Australia for 3 years and try something new in hopes of broader perspective. I’m thankful for everyone I’ve had the privilege of knowing so far and meeting in my travels.

I approach each day with gratitude. I grew up in a country that has a national holiday to remind people to be thankful for what they have. Don’t take it for granted – take nothing for granted, including life itself. Maybe other cultures could benefit from a holiday that reminds you that it’s not getting what you want; it’s wanting what you’ve got.

I’m not even going to talk about what causes us to celebrate this holiday (a bunch of people not wanting to pay their taxes interacting with Native Americans who paid the ultimate price when those tax evaders came to America), that’s a story for a whole other day. But, however flawed this country is, in the system that showed us again this week that it can still fail, sometimes, we Americans get things right. Pumpkin pie is one of those things. Because pumpkin should be sweet; not savory. Now, I’m looking at you, Australia. “Look at moiiiiiieeeeee…” (in a Kath Day-Knight voice)

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

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A little perspective

Finally, I have a moment of peace to write.

I wanted to write yesterday, but one of my zombie clients I thought was dead (we met a deadline last week, so I took it off my plate entirely until next year’s annual audit) arose from the dead and needed something from us urgently this week, and told us yesterday. They had previously told us nothing else was needed. LIES. So, I killed a zombie before I went to bed last night and did the work required.

That frees me up this morning, before a meeting with another client later this morning, to write a much needed blog post.

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I’m finding that I still have positivity, somewhere in me, and it’s manifesting itself through the cracks (where I’ve been broken) these days. I thought my inner light was lost until work busy season was over, which is going to be around April 2015. I handled something yesterday with grace, but still confronted someone over what I thought was right. I stood up for myself and my work. That felt good. I didn’t need to extinguish the other person’s flame to make mine shine brighter. I wasn’t a total bitch to this person. For once, I finally exemplified some form of grace.

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I’ve also been going back to the gym just about daily again, as I was before work got hectic. I’m going again today. I had been without motivation for a while on the gym, and was resigned to “letting myself go”. I’m a little softer around the middle because of it – I blame the holidays – but the good news is I’m going everyday again.

I’m reading a new book. I hadn’t felt motivated to read in a long time either. A friend bought an autographed Neil Gaiman book and left it with me to post to her at a later date, so why not read it while it’s in my possession? Don’t mind if I do… Hey, free book!

A friend in Sydney and I were chatting on WhatsApp recently, and I mentioned I was feeling down. At the same time, I asked for his mailing address to be able to send a little holiday card, and he asked for mine, so I assumed he would do the same. Just a few days ago, I received a photo postcard in the mail – a picture of him and me at our last house party at Kensington Palace on Easter Sunday. It made my day, that little gesture.

Here’s a photo I took while in Maui, HI of the sun breaking through the clouds and shining on a solitary boat, much like how I felt at that little kindness:

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When I was in New York recently, I had preplanned and brought every member of my family I’m close to a little present since I wouldn’t be with them for the holidays. I’m not going anywhere for Thanksgiving or Christmas this year, so I really don’t have the pressure of shopping for the holidays. I don’t need much myself these days either, unless someone wants to pick me up some toilet paper next time they’re at Costco.

Yes, dare I say it, life is pretty good, despite the nebula of shit I seem to have been navigating through lately. That’s the funny thing with depression. Everything that used to bring you joy, suddenly doesn’t anymore. The gym, books, even music, I lost interest in for a while. I was genuinely down.

“In order for the light to shine so brightly, the darkness must be present.” – Francis Bacon

I don’t know what clicked. Having my friend, Hank Moody (I wrote about him in my previous post here), around has really helped, actually. Sydney feels like a distant memory most days, but he reminds me of how it was, how I was, when I was there. It’s like discovering a part of yourself you accidentally kept hidden for awhile. It starts coming through, and you feel more like yourself than ever. My intonation changed, being back in the US. I also started saying the more American pronunciation of Melbourne, instead of the Australian pronunciation, because most Americans don’t know the difference, and it’s like my little secret while they are none the wiser.

“No one lights a lamp in order to hide it behind the door: the purpose of light is to create more light, to open people’s eyes, to reveal the marvels around.” – Paulo Coelho

Hank Moody and I went to Muir Woods this weekend, just north of the Golden Gate Bridge, and walked amongst the redwoods and sequoias. It was beautiful and peaceful and very much needed to re-center myself. I’ve been there quite a few times now, and I’m less concerned with capturing stunning photographs and more focused on just trying to be there, in that moment, looking through my eyes, not through a camera. Breathing the cool fall air and being silent. My mission this time was to see a banana slug. It was the day after a rain, everything was moist, there were mushrooms everywhere. I kept looking, using my eyes to scan for the banana slug color and being disappointed every time it was just a yellow leaf.

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But then, something changed. After walking as far as out as we felt was good, we turned around and headed back toward the entrance. Two-thirds of the way back, I changed what I was scanning for. I remembered banana slugs are meant to blend in. The reason they are the color they are, is because it’s protection from predators. So I changed what color I was scanning for. I changed my perspective.

That is precisely when I saw not just one banana slug, but two. I thought after spending most of the hike observing and actively looking for these, I wouldn’t see one. I changed the way I looked at things, and suddenly, there were two.

Moral of the story – it’s all about perspective. If I go through my days, looking for something to pull me out of my funk, I likely won’t find it. But, if I look for rays of positivity, for moments that are positive, suddenly, things start looking up because I’m seeing the positives for what they are, and not what they can do for me.

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A visitor to my city

I haven’t written a post in a while. I’m not sure why. The only excuse I can come up with is that I haven’t felt particularly verbal or inspired. I shouldn’t use it as an excuse. I should push through it. Perhaps more correct on this point would be that rather than feeling uninspired, I’m tired. I’m lazy. I can’t be bothered writing. In my spare time, I’ve been catching up on Netflix streaming TV shows, reading, working, returning to the gym and working out, and basically anything but writing.

I did sit and read my Not For Anyone’s Eyes journal, and as usual, I cringed at my naiveté. Further, I noticed how I’d get into big funks, be really depressed, then try to say that something happened and I wasn’t depressed anymore.

Have you ever seen that film, the Butterfly Effect? Ashton Kutcher’s character has memory lapses and blacks out pretty traumatizing events. By revisiting his old journals, he gets a nosebleed and can re-visit the past, figure out what happened in the blackout, and change his behavior and the course of the future by just making slight adjustments in those traumatizing events. I’m not experiencing any nosebleeds, nor am I rewriting history when I read this journal. I’m basically shaking my head in shame at the sheer stupidity. And the best part? I thought I knew everything then.

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I’ve also been spending my time putting up my Christmas tree way too early before is sanely possible. It’s decorated, but for some more red and gold balls. You can’t have enough gold balls. I’ve written all my Christmas cards, addressed them, and they’re stacked nicely, ready to mail. I’ve cleaned my kitchen, my closet, my bathroom, and main living area. I have literally done everything but write.

My mind has needed a bit of a vacation. Work clients dragged on for far too long, and are still dragging. A colleague referred to these jobs as “zombies” because they just. Don’t. Die. It’s true, that’s exactly how it’s felt. But before this turns into an I’m sick of work and vacation rant, let’s change the subject, shall we?

Indeed. A friend of mine I met in Sydney arrived in San Francisco today for a visit. I visited him when he was working in the Philippines at one of our Service Delivery Centers. From Manila, we went to Singapore, Boracay, and on a more recent trip, we travelled to Phuket and the Phi Phi Islands together. He was also there for one birthday in the Whitsundays, when we drove runk on golf carts across a beautiful island in the Great Barrier Reef.

He very much reminds me of a stray dog, like David Duchovny’s character Hank Moody, in the TV show Californication. You can’t keep a good dog down, and my friend is no exception. He is of South African descent, with the accent to prove it. However, he has attained permanent residency in Australia, and he’s partially through his pilot’s license. When we were on Boracay, we took a trip to Ariel’s Point. He was the first of that group of travelers to jump off the highest cliff dive spot available, and he did it a second time, before anyone else worked up the guts to do any of the 3 heights for the first time.

When we were in Manila, this guy took me to Ringside, a bar with a boxing ring, where midgets and women held matches every night. Filipino girls scooted into the booth next to us as soon as we had our drinks and began flirting, in an attempt to get us to buy their drinks, as their madam watched on from a curtain in the corner of the bar. It made me quite possibly the most uncomfortable I’ve ever been in my life, to have Filipino girls hitting on me, and asking about being a lesbian. This was also partially because of the prevalence of the Catholic religion in the Philippines.

But my very own Hank Moody (let’s just call my friend that, since they’re so similar) made me comfortable, bought the girls their drinks to please their madam, and took all the girls I deflected off myself. He got into the ring and refereed the midget match, while I refereed a ladies’ match. How could you not visit these little nuggets when you find yourself in Manila???

Here we are with the gang at Ringside – if you ever find yourself bored in Manila, give it a whirl.

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I’m excited to show him around San Francisco as he’ll be getting a tour of places the locals go. Not the typical places like Fisherman’s Wharf. No – I want to take him to Bourbon & Branch, and the real underbelly of San Franpsycho.

Bottoms up, chuckas, salut, cheers. Time to spend a great weekend catching up with a good mate I met from traveling. The best kind. So until my next post, dear reader.

That Seattle feeling

Some days, San Francisco has that Seattle feeling.

I want to curl up, looking out my window, with a warm mug of coffee
A song by the Head and Heart playing in the background
Contemplating everyday people doing everyday things
With a backdrop of redwood trees, gray skies, heavy rain, brown bark, green leaves, steel blue
Flames burning in the fireplace, taking time to warm the space
Yet still feeling the icy gusts of crispness in the air
The smell of pine and evergreen and the holidays on each breeze.

On these days, I like to think in silence, just be wrapped in my own blanket of thoughts
How the sun still rises, even through the rain
How I have it all together even though the pieces don’t seem to fit
There are answers and questions but they’re mismatched across a table, painfully speed dating
Then a Tom Petty songs comes on, and the lyrics ring true, how

“Some doors are open
Some roads are blocked;
Sometimes you’re happy
Sometimes you cry
Half of me is ocean
Half of me is sky;
And some things are over
Some things go on
And part of me you carry
Part of me is gone.”

My glasses come off and I let the day blur, not caring to be seen, but no longer wanting to see
Suspended, comfortable, floating.

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Not for anyone’s eyes journal

I’ve promised in posts past that since the return of my Not For Anyone’s Eyes journal from my teenage years to my possession, I would share some reflections on what I wrote. Here is what will probably be the first of many of those. I started, where else? At the beginning… but it wasn’t truly the beginning. It was just when I got this nice fancy journal, a dedicated space to put these most secret thoughts. I had one journal that was more like “the journal it’s ok if people find” that had daily happenings and superficial thoughts. But this second journal, the Not For Anyone’s Eyes journal with the fancy binding, was one not meant to be opened to the light of day.

I thought I would surely die of humiliation if anyone found this. I’m not quite so concerned anymore about the secrets in this journal. I’ve done a lot of soul searching throughout my life, figured out who I am. I know a good amount of the good and the bad. I’ve discovered the bad side of myself, to a similar extent that I’ve discovered the good side of myself. I know I am far from perfect, but I’m less concerned with what people would think if they got inside my head. So why not crack it open and see what my teenage mind had yet to learn? There’s got to be some insight my 33 year old self can gather from my idiot self that knew nothing of the world.

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The very first entry in my Not For Anyone’s Eyes journal is about my biggest fear. Guess what it was. Nope, not that.

It was dying without saying goodbye. It wasn’t heights, or some other fears, I’ve mentioned in this previous post on fear, and this post about my legacy. I wrote on November 25, 1995, “Of everything I have, my friends are the most important to me.” What a crock of shit. I had no idea how to be a great friend. I was only a what-I-call “fair-weather” friend, up to that point in my life when this was written. I had no concept of real struggle. I knew not the loss of losing the friends I had then. I didn’t realize death wasn’t the only thing that could part me from my friends.

Everyone is on their own journey. Including my friends. Very often, those journeys will lead all over the globe, to places I simply am not. While I’d love to be there, and am in spirit, I am not. Don’t get me wrong – I love my friends. Biggest group of eclectic weirdos and the one thing they all in have in common is some sick, twisted part of them wanted to be my friend. I love all my friends, that I’ve had at any time throughout my life.

I wanted my friends to know that I was ok, and that they wouldn’t be alone. I had no idea if there was an afterlife, or where we go when we die, but I wanted people to think of me and talk to me like I was there after I die. I wrote that I wasn’t afraid of the dying itself, but more of not having left a mark on this world. I didn’t want to be famous, just loved. I didn’t want people to mourn my death and be sorry I died. I wanted them to be happy I lived. That’s fair; I’ll allow that one. That is still true, but I’ve done considerably more living than I had at the tender age of 14 when that was written. When someone I cared about saw a beautiful sunset, I wanted them to think to themselves, “She would have liked to see this.” I wanted them to know as soon as they thought of me, that I was there with them.

Here’s what my 33 year old self would add to that – being true to myself is the most important thing to me. I may still be figuring out who that “self” is when I’m 64, but at least I’ll be true to myself as I am each moment of my life. I’m going to say and do things that people won’t like. I’m going to go places my friends can’t join me. Friends will come and go; not all of them are meant to last my entire lifetime. I’m not afraid of not saying goodbye anymore. I know inside that each time I spend time with friends, I’m grateful for those moments. You say goodbye, and hug, and part ways. Maybe you see them again; maybe you don’t. You still say, “See you next time, mate.” “Catch ya later, alligator.” While I love them, and we may each make our own journeys, we can pick up the book of our friendship anytime, no hard feelings for having to close the book for awhile. We open it, we close it, and it’s a damn good book.

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Life is meant for living, not for only looking after your friends. They are important, but more important is taking care of yourself. It’s being ok to let some friends go. You outgrow some, some outgrow you. Some have a different path to follow that requires them to move on, live in other countries, raise children you’ve never met, and they become people you don’t know anymore. That is ok. In fact, sometimes, that’s exactly what is supposed to happen.

I think why I was really so afraid of dying without saying goodbye, is really about keeping a string attached to the world. I was afraid to be alone when I died, despite not fearing death itself. I was afraid that no one would remember me, that one day, I wouldn’t be known by anyone on earth. That was a truly terrifying thought to me. Not only being alone, but not even living on in someone’s memory. How else would I know I ever really even existed?

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June 3, 1997 – that was the day I wrote about my high school friend and chemistry lab partner, Scott Martin, dying. He got into a car accident with another friend of mine in the passenger seat. Scott’s was the first death I ever had to deal with, of someone I knew, whom I was used to seeing everyday. A lot of girls had crushes on him, and he was one of those guys that transcended cliques in high school. He was buddies with the guys, and a ladies man, for one special lady in particular. But he was my friend. We used to joke, I used to let him copy my work, and we had fun in class with our experiments. One Friday, Scott was there, turning in his homework, and I had called him “chicken legs”. Then one day, it was like he was on vacation, but never coming back.

Scott’s death was the first time I experienced what-I-call my “bad feelings”. It was an intense fear, more than I even knew about in 1995. Those feelings would cause actual anxiety – sleepless nights, nightmares, and I eventually got to a point where I could control them when I felt them coming on. I learned to curb them, shut them off into the shell of a nautilus, into a chamber, and not go down that road anymore. I thought if I let myself get too far into them, I’d lose my mind and never come back as me. I was probably right.

Going through my Not For Anyone’s Eyes journal is already making me cringe. Every time I write about what’s in there, I should just accept the fact that I will be humbled. But hey, we live, we learn, we get smarter. Let’s just say I’m glad I got smarter…

Of ice and fire

“On Comet, on Cupid, on Donner and Blitzen…” It’s not just a Christmas song anymore. A Song of Ice and Fire is no longer just a famous fantasy book series by George R. R. Martin. This week, humankind landed vicariously on a comet, via a space probe, launched 10 years ago. I heart science.

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Nothing to this extent, in my opinion, has happened since man landed on the moon. It seems like NASA and the space program have been reprioritized behind everything since the 60’s. At least in the US. The ESA (European Space Agency) is responsible for Rosetta, the operation to get this probe on the comet. Go Europe. NASA’s all but died to me… why is that?

Comets themselves are really interesting. One theory holds that comets were responsible for delivering water to Earth, helping to kick-start biology – they “seeded” the Earth with the H2O chemistry – needed to add that “elixir of life”. Maybe comets played a part in what ultimately led to the creation of humans.

There is this whole concept of the Oort cloud that has tons of dust and rock and stuff in it, sitting just outside of our solar system, about ¼ of the way to the nearest star to the sun. The gravity between a binary star system creates a gravitational force that stabilizes somewhere between the two masses, keeping the Oort cloud intact in this location. Comets shoot off into our solar system, ice and frozen rock moving so fast, it creates fire. Forces occasionally dislodge some of this planetary material and set the comets to shooting off in orbit. Other comets are more well-known and maintain their orbits – you may know one of them by name.

Halley’s Comet last came around in 1986 – it’s a shame I was only 5 and I couldn’t fully appreciate it so early in life. I didn’t get to see it even. So if I really want to see that comet and appreciate it for what I know of it, I will have to live to be at least 81 years old. No pressure. By then I may be senile, in the grips of dementia, or even deep in the throes of Alzheimer’s.

We can get a space probe to land on a comet. But we can’t cure world hunger? We can find the one mad cow in Canada that sparked an epidemic, we can find Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden, but we can’t make significant strides in climate change to save our planet? Sometimes I wonder about our priorities, as a human race. Take for example this tidbit of knowledge I’m about to drop.

I’m a big fan of conspiracy theories. I was watching a TV show recently, Unsealed: Conspiracy Files. No government will go on record to admit aliens exist, but we don’t know if they are trying to avoid mass panic. The episode focused on the global threat of an alien attack. In 2012, US and Chinese naval forces launched a counterattack under code name Valiant Shield, to a deemed hostile threat off the California coast, and spanning up to the Alaska coast. What would unite both countries to defend themselves? The US navy denies the battle and called it a “training exercise”. A leaked memorandum said opposition was “extraterrestrial” and it posed a “clear and present danger”.

Further, in the 1980’s, President Reagan was briefed by the CIA about the Roswell incident, presenting a case that the UFO’s were very real and we are not alone. Corpses of 9 dead aliens and 1 lone survivor in the 40’s were found as a result of that crash, and Area 51 is still off limits and guarded very heavily to this day. Supposedly, the 1 sole survivor worked with the CIA and military for 5 years. Holy crap.

Could it be coincidence that every time there is a major leap in technology, there are sightings of UFO’s? I spoke about game changers and advances in technology in this post. It really gets me going, how these could not just be coincidence.

Is the CIA covering its interactions with aliens? In 1954, something called the Greada Treaty was signed. A summit was called under President Eisenhower to form a UFO investigation committee in February of that year. A message in binary code was launched into space and received by a race of aliens known as the Greys in the Zeta Reticuli star system, 39 light years from earth. Evidence has been obtained which is kept in the Library of Congress proving the meeting with aliens happened – physically, in person – but documentation of the treaty signed by Eisenhower is still “many levels above top secret”. According to the testimonies examined so far, the first 1954 meeting was not successful, and the extraterrestrials were rejected due to their refusal to enter into technology exchanges with humans. They insisted on nuclear disarmament by the US, and presumably other major world powers. But in a second meeting, some agreement was formed and signed. Humans could be taken for experimentation, and the Greys would provide technology.

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As a result of the Greada Treaty, the US would have gained technology – smart bombs, stealth technology, bioweapons, and so on. Coincidentally, there were 2 immediate jumps in technology after Roswell – the patent of the transistor (i.e. transistor radio) and development of metal called titanium (virtually indestructible…) Defense spending tripled in the time since Roswell, and allocation of defense spending budgets is highly classified information. We went from horses and muskets to fighter jets in a relatively short amount of time. And now we’re landing on comets… Crazy.

It’s also no coincidence that the rise of Hollywood and films, and especially horror films depicting aliens in the way the Greys may have looked, started making this idea of extraterrestrial life forms more conceivable. It may have been the intent to use TV and movies to market and publicize the idea of alien life forms while all this was happening.

This is the stuff of science fiction. Armageddon, the Ben Affleck movie of the 90’s with the great Aerosmith soundtrack song, “I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing”. Steven Tyler’s big lips and the tear shed for Bruce Willis when he does what he must do on the surface of the asteroid with Earth’s name on it. That Jodie Foster film, Contact, and her character being the one to work with another scientist to interpret the blue prints from the coded message, the blue prints being a piece of technology that would allow humans to travel through space and time into the space between. Her character interacts with the alien life forms, and she sees her dad again. It’s not so farfetched and fictional anymore all of a sudden, when you piece together the bits of information available out there. There are more films – Gravity, Signs, ET, and so on. There’s even a theory the surviving alien life form and 9 dead aliens found in Roswell were the basis for the depiction of the aliens the way they look in movies.

A comet is just the start of the space age revival, so I hope. The news this week has inspired my imagination and refreshed my belief in the amazing and wonderful, and made me question our government and its space agency strategy going forward.

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Some play the game; others change it

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We live in a world that is constantly changing. Technology is moving at the speed of light (because technically nothing can be faster than that.)

Did you know there is a new font that supposedly helps dyslexics read better? Dyslexie, as it’s affectionately dubbed, was designed by a Dutchman so that each character is unique and not confused with characters that typically look similar in other fonts.

Smell-o-vision technology has actually been created and can be downloaded as an app for your smart phone. You need to attach a scent cartridge to your phone, and as of a year ago, there were 12 flavors in the scent catalog. While it was initially pioneered in the 1960’s, it can be used now to market restaurants and their fantastic recipes, or smell perfumes before you buy them.

I was a reading an article the other day about digital game changers, and it articulated so well the crux and impact of innovation, “As with previous transformations, this new wave of technologies is tearing down old industries and building up new ones. Destroying value. Creating new value. Altering the course of history before our very eyes.” Destruction breeds creation, and such.

Biometrics and identity is a huge controversy for me, at the moment. A judge in Virginia set a precedent in court that fingerprints are not covered by the 5th amendment. A defendant can be required in a court of law to use a fingerprint swipe to unlock a phone containing evidence. But if said evidence on a phone is locked with an alphanumeric passcode, that is not required in court. I can’t plead the 5th when asked for my fingerprint to unlock my phone? It’s MY fingerprint, and no one else has the same one. Anyone could have my very same passcode. That’s completely counterintuitive… and stupid. There, I said it. Next thing you know, and I’m not abusing hyperbole, there will be retina scans, as imagined in that film Minority Report. You know it; Tom Cruise tries to stop crimes before they happen until his name comes up as committing a crime. That scene where he has an eyeball transplant to avoid being caught by authorities may be the next form of disguise for an incognito escape.

Another new application of technology is the impending obsolescence of mobile service providers. In the US alone, with Verizon and AT&T struggling for market share, the “next big thing” for these companies to survive is to bundle its services with existing cable communications providers. Mobile broadband for wifi at home and on the go – and this will also blur the lines in the supply chain as mobile service providers and broadband services acquisitions affect content distributors, like Netflix and HBO, and cable providers, like Comcast and Time Warner. (As an aside, I have a position in Netflix in my portfolio currently, but I’d like to think that doesn’t affect the point I’m trying to make here. I do not mention this with the intent of getting anyone to buy Netflix stock specifically, or for my own monetary gain.)

Cloud computing has been “the next big thing” for a while now, so it hardly seems new. As the public saw with the release of nude photos of Jennifer Lawrence and other celebrities, there is nothing that guarantees the security of content placed in the cloud. Owning your own servers and own data may become the solution to that cloud of which we hear but do not see.

The world of prosthetics and artificial limbs continues to astound me. Pistorius legs for amputees, be it from the result of Boston marathon bombings, or military service, may actually be, dare I say it, better designed than our own original human knees. I have visions of a world that is bionic: part-human and part-robot, and really neither of both. It’s not science fiction anymore… it could possibly be nonfiction soon enough. Perhaps before I kick the proverbial bucket, I’ll get a couple of knee replacements and be able to run a marathon at the ripe age of 64.

While I was in Australia, the firm I worked for researched and provided compelling data under a code name of sorts: Project Blue. It looked at population trends, social networking, regulatory shifts, global governmental interactions, and other indicators to be able to engage our clients in discussions around the changing the landscape of big business. It was some pretty interesting stuff. It looked at demographics of age and generational impacts from population, an increased proclivity to urban living and ever rising prices of housing in places like Tokyo, London, New York, Sydney, San Francisco, and so on. Emerging markets like South America, the Middle East, parts of Asia and Africa have big roles to play in the development of money-making infrastructure.

Thinking big is something I’ve always been drawn to. Working in the field of accounting can be difficult for someone like me when you see things on a huge scale and into the future, but are forced to review details and minutia in hindsight. These discussion topics in Project Blue are what CEO’s are thinking about to lead their companies into the future, to ensure the profitability and very existence of that company in this century and going forward. It’s strategy, it’s mega-trends, and if you can’t tell, it sort of makes my tail wag. Besides, when you innovate and improve, you first have to accept that things aren’t perfect just the way they are. If you are someone who thinks you are never wrong, and you don’t keep your mind open to the previously unthought of, or learn from those who have different perspectives, then you will ultimately be proven wrong.

New generations are thinking about old problems in new ways, looking at old models with fresh pairs of eyes, and applying solutions that result in fundamental changes and, hopefully, value creation. Even language, the very words we use, change over time. I don’t think you could “unfriend” someone before the advent of Facebook. There is a whole generation of children who will not know what life is like without a tablet, and I don’t mean that in pill form. They swipe left and swipe right, like it’s something they were born to do.

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As Steve Jobs put it so eloquently, “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” So ask yourself, which are you?

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Leo’s den

I’ve written posts about environments in which I feel completely at home – The room maker, Night blooming jasmine, and The gardens of Kensington Palace. The room maker spoke to locations – a tree house, namely. The other two spoke to dream gardens and outdoor spaces that make me comfortable and at home.

Being in New York this weekend, visiting family, and not having much to do otherwise, has left me with lots of time to watch one of my favorite TV channels, HGTV. I could watch home and garden television all day long. I am not interested in cooking shows or talk shows at all, but give me HGTV and I could easily binge watch all day long.

However, it always leaves me inspired to take on my own projects, and I’m left mentally designing the interior of my dream home as well. I love the various finishes. I’d like to think I’d be a general contractor’s dream. I have a realistic view of renovations, the disaster area that ensues, especially if you live in your home while renovating. I don’t see it as stressful at all. I know very much what I want in my home, and would not have any problem being decisive. I also would pay money for good quality materials and labor.

I’ve been saving money for my dream home, investing in the stock market, and being relatively frugal. Ideally, I’d like to build my own home, and work with an architect to design it to my own specifications, however, I know realistically I would need to buy a fixer upper and renovate to my liking. I’m an elemental person, in that I like using earth, air, fire, water, wood, stone, and metal to create a balanced environment. Even in my apartment now, I have pot plants with earth for plants to grow – plants all over my home are essential. See those other blog posts for plants I like. The view, fans, and the open windows create the sensation of moving air with space and freedom. Candles provide the fire, as well as the obvious fireplace feature. Copper water features would incorporate both water and metal. I also wouldn’t mind an aquarium, or pool, for water, but I know I have to have a hot tub with fairy lights in the backyard. Wood would be present throughout, as I also seem to like a rustic, natural style. Stone would make an appearance wherever possible – geodes, crystals, salt lamps, slate, or other rocks, since I’m a self-identified rock and mineral nerd.

Here’s my ultimate wish list of what my dream home needs to have. It wouldn’t be your typical things like open floor plan, high end finishes, huge rooms, or anything like that. I’m about to be very specific. I’m painting you a picture, dear reader, of the space I’d like to one day invite you into for a glass of wine and a chat. Walk with me…

In the entryway to my home, there would be a modest foyer. Ideally, I’d love a home with stairs and multiple floors. The home I grew up in was only 1 story, and I loved stairs even as a kid. In my foyer, I’d love a nice glossy sealed slate tile floor, with lots of variation and color, giving it a rustic look and being very durable for whatever you may bring into the house on your feet. That slate tile could also be used for any fireplace finishes or kitchen floors, possibly even bathroom floors. I love the look and vibe slate tile provides.

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I also love hardwood floors – I don’t want a speck of carpet in my home. Wood is natural, elemental, and easy to clean. I’m not a fan of bamboo flooring, so I’d have to hand over my greenie card because I’d probably want some kind of wood that isn’t from such an easily renewable source. Being a northern California girl, I’d love beautiful redwood floors, but perhaps Brazilian redwood, rather than harvesting locally. If I can’t get a whole floor of that, then I’d love to work redwood into my design another way. Redwood is beautiful for decks, which is also something I’d love to have.

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Now, I’m a creature of comfort, yet I also know what I find beautiful. I don’t want to waste time describing furniture to you. But, ideally I’d like a comfortable sofa, a fireplace, and big windows with beautiful views (I’m more of a mountain/trees/lake/city view person, than an ocean view person). I love Victorian and craftsman architecture, so wainscoting painted glossy bright white is definitely on order for me. It lightens a room, and the chair rail makes for a wonderful ledge for my thousands of tea lights. My fireplace would ideally be gas, not wood burning. Can I have my greenie card back now, please? The finish on the fireplace could be just about anything – if I find a home with an original stone, or original tile fireplace, I will do my best to restore that. I wouldn’t tear it down just to modernize it. Part of my dream home is being true to the home’s original character. I’ve seen giant stone fireplaces I loved, and fireplaces finished with glass tile… it just depends. I could even bring the slate tile to the fireplace too. But my fireplace would be a focal point of the room, for sure. The coffee table wouldn’t be perfect; it would be one you could set your coffee mug on, or put your feet on, without batting an eye. Therefore, rustic would probably be the way to go there, as well. Nothing with hard edges like glass.

On top of the wainscoting, I love color on the walls. I grew up in a home where my father only wanted institution-white walls, I called them. Or straitjacket white, as you like. When I owned a condo in San Francisco in 2008-9, I painted every single room. I loved it. Bright lemon yellow hallways, to open up the darkness of having a bottom floor railroad flat without a lot of windows. I painted the guest room a soft, slight light blue. I love the light yellow and light blue combos. I’m not much of a warm color person. I actually find cool colors to be warm for me. I’d love for the living room walls of my dream home to be a light steel gray, especially to make the reddish wood floors and slate tile floors stand out even more. I love dark gray and charcoal too, therefore that could easily play into the design as well. There would absolutely have to be a bay window though, with storage inside, and a cozy seat on which I can perch myself to look outside when it rains. Love.

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I also love pieces of art. I have a piece now, done by a local artist in the San Francisco bay area. The story behind that piece was that an artist had his work on show at a restaurant in the mission district called Andalu, which has since closed. Andalu always showcased local artists’ work. I had had two glasses of champagne too many with my dinner for 1 at the bar, and asked the bartender about a piece I liked. He said that one had already been purchased, but he gave me the business card/contact info for the artist in case I liked another piece. I found a second one I liked, and agreed to purchase it. $2400 later, that 6’x6′ piece travelled with me to Sydney, and now is back as a feature in my studio apartment in San Francisco again. This would be in my living room as well. He used only 5 colors of paint, and the canvas is really just plywood. He used water on the plywood before setting a blowtorch to it, which preserved the wood grain in spots, but charred the rest. The blowtorch also caused the paint to bubble, which leads to a lot of texture in the piece as well. I love it.

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So you’ve hung your coat in my foyer, and I’ve walked you through the living room. Now, come to the kitchen. Kitchens aren’t usually my favorite place in any home. I’m not a huge chef. However, I know exactly what I want in there. I need an under-mount double sink with room for a drying rack, nice range stove with a sleek and easy to clean hood vent, a French-door style refrigerator, with the freezer on the bottom, a wine fridge, and dishwasher. Stainless steel would be ideal for the aesthetic for all appliances and faucet finishes. As I previously mentioned, I’m not one for warm colors. My kitchen countertop, and island or peninsula, would be blue pearl granite. I just find it absolutely stunning.

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I love sparkly things, and that counter would make me want to cook things. All the things. I’d love a mosaic glass tile backsplash above that as well, in a fleet blue iridescent color. All the sparkles.

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With all the trim throughout the house painted a glossy white, and with the blue countertops and backsplash, I actually don’t care what color the cabinets are. White would probably go well with the blue, but I could just as easily go for a wood finish as well. Depending on whether the flooring in kitchen was conducive to carrying the redwood floors through, or slate tile, I’d see what went well. I love under-cabinet lighting to light up the work surface, and make the sparklies that much sparklier.

A dining room is a dining room, and I’m not too fussed. You know I like rustic, and comfortable, so I’d be fine with a repurposed wood table, long, or round, and plenty of seating. I’m not one for clutter, so I don’t need tchotchkes, and décor would be minimalistic. Lighting would be good – you need to see what you’re eating, after all.

Moving quickly through the dining room, I’d give you a peek of my master suite. I really only need a queen size bed – a king size bed just for myself would be overkill, and the bedding is that much more expensive. I’d consider a king bed, if I had a partner, to ensure there was plenty of room though. I love down duvets and a few throw pillows, but not overkill on the pillows. I don’t want to spend a lot time pulling them off and putting them back on again everyday. I’d love a bench or trunk to sit on to tie my shoes across from the foot of my bed, but not right at the foot of the bed. No need for a dresser since I’d have a separate closet, which means a minimal bedroom, just how I like it. I’d like matching bedside tables. Ideally, they’d have drawers, so they wouldn’t be cluttered on the surface with books, earplugs, mouth guard, or water bottles. I love my Himalayan rock salt lamp, and I would probably have one of those on each bedside. Lighting in a bedroom should be minimal and soft, and light through the windows should be minimized at night, to allow for a dark sleeping environment.

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After living in so many San Francisco apartments without modern conveniences like dishwashers and laundry, I absolutely need a washer and dryer combo in my home. The closer the closet, the better. In fact, why don’t I just create a custom walk-in closet off the master bedroom, with a center island for folding, cabinets, and shelving? Sounds great. The less carrying around of laundry baskets I have to do, the better.

The ensuite bathroom would also be a key part of the master suite. I’d love a separate tub and glass shower, side by side. Beautiful tile, be it slate, blue pearl granite, or glass mosaic, similar to the other parts of the house featuring those, would make another appearance. A bowl sink resting on a flat surface with a unique water spout faucet would be amazing. The unique the bowl and water spout, the better.

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There would be guest bedrooms and other bathrooms as well. And of course, the outdoor space would be a dream spot too. I don’t think about the rest of the details, partially because those part of my dreams have not yet been realized, but also because they are simply not as important to me. I would definitely want a library as well, for all my books. While I have a Kindle and a growing collection of electronic books, I’ll always want my home to have a library for real books. A quiet place to be alone with my thoughts, cozy up in a comfy chair or sofa, and read to my little heart’s content. Much like a secret garden, I’d love a secret library, where even the door into it is disguised as a bookcase. It would have a beautiful desk and a comfortable chair, and I would also write in there. It would have to have an ergonomic set up to take care of my aching back, and a laptop should not look out of place in it. These are good representations of what I want, minus the tiger rug in front of the 2nd library’s fireplace. Two stories with a whimsical staircase would be ideal, as would be beautiful wood finishes.

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A Leo’s home is her castle – a humble, yet luxurious abode fit for a queen and her subjects (pets). I love being home, and with a bad case of joy-of-missing-out, it has to be the ultimate retreat for me.

I hope you enjoyed your virtual tour through my dream home, but really, I honestly don’t care if you liked it or not. I love it, and that’s all that matters. Come in for some wine, and maybe tell me about your dream home. I might pick up a thing or two I actually didn’t know I’d want either. But sorry, you will eventually have to go home, so I can roll around like a big kitty cat in my Leo’s den.