Surfing part 2

Part 2 of 2: Surfing. Click here for part 1 

My experience:

The first time I touched a surfboard, I was on vacation in Phuket, Thailand. I found an instructor on the beach named, Jimmy. A handsome import with an Australian accent. For $30 I was able to get a one-hour private lesson and gear rental (insanely low price. Thank you Thailand). It was the dry season, so the waves were infrequent and very small. Jimmy kept apologizing for the lack of waves. Personally, I thought it was perfect for a beginner. I was able to stand up several times on the board. The water was warm like bathwater. The waves were gentle and far apart. I only needed a rash guard. I was in Thailand during the dry season. I have heard, but not seen, during the wet season the waves are much more aggressive.

I loved surfing the moment I put my board in the water. I wasn’t just sitting on the beach and sticking my toes in the sand. I was finally an active participant in connecting to the ocean.

My second time taking lessons was in Pacifica, with Adventure Out. This time, I took group lessons. Though the instructors were knowledgeable, Pacifica was unrelenting and determined to show me waves aren’t always so gentle. I spent more time paddling to the instructor than surfing. I wore a wetsuit and surf shoes. It helped in the frigid water. The ocean only had to tell me once, do not put your board to the side (i.e., you do not want your board parallel to the waves. You want it perpendicular). I went in like a perfect amateur, board to the side. The waves pushed the board back into me hard.

I enjoyed my surf experience in Pacifica. It is close to where I call home. I will go back, but I need to regroup before I feel ready to brave the unrelenting waves of the northern California coast.

Most recently, I took a lesson in Tel-Aviv. An adorable teenage girl, who had been surfing since she could stand, fought through the language barrier to help me try to stand up. Early in the lesson, I felt a slight pain in my calf. I assumed when I fell off my board, and I had gotten a bit of road rash from scraping against the sand. I shrugged it off and continued surfing. After about an hour of falling on my face, a man in a red rash guard came up to me and said, “I am going to give you lessons until you stand up consistently.” I gratefully accepted. (Side note: I have said my greatest weakness is my own hubris. I pray to God to grace me with grace and a bit of humility. God answered my prayers. There are few things more humbling than falling over and over while next to a class of seven-year-old kids standing up like Kelly Slater.)

As the man in the red shirt helped me consistently stand on the board, we started talking. He told me to stop looking at my feet and start looking at a focal point. Instantly, I saw a vast improvement. He smiled at me and flirtatiously asked, “How old are you?”

“I’m 36, I’m too old for you,” I replied.

He looked at me proudly and said, “I am 22, I am old enough to be your husband.”

I laughed and asked, “So, how long have you been teaching surf lessons.”

He looked at me sheepishly and said, “Oh, I’m not an instructor.”

Thus, ended my surf lesson in Tel-Aviv.

Walking back to the beach I saw a woman crying hysterically as everyone crowded around her, she had a mark on her leg with a distinctive ring, saying a jellyfish had stung her. I looked down at my leg, which had not stopped aching from early in my lesson. I had the same ring. Excited I pointed my sting, and sounding both stupid and excited I said, “Hey I got stung too!!!” The ocean had finally initiated me.  The woman looked at me like I was an idiot and I sheepishly walked off.

One of the hardest things for me, living in NorCal is how people born and raised here, take it for granted. I despised Kansas before I entered into Kindergarten (once again, many people love the changes in seasons and the Midwestern charm. I didn’t). I couldn’t find a stretch of nice weather long enough for me to enjoy the outdoors. I didn’t have access to the ocean or mountains. Now, I live in the most beautiful place in the world. I love the pines of Tahoe; I love the splendor of Napa and the salt smell that rises from the ocean. When I meet people, California born and raised, they often tell me they have forgotten how lucky they are to live in such an awe-inspiring landscape.

I have been on a surfboard in Pacifica. There is nothing between the water and me but a piece of foam. I lay on the board in a paddle position, looking at the shore from a different vantage point. I love the taste of the salt water and the feel of waves.  In that moment on the board, waiting for the wave to come up behind me, I look at the people on the beach. I feel as if I am granted access to some special moment in life. A moment, too special and pure to articulate.  If you are not coastal, I suggest taking a few lessons on vacation. If for no other reason than to try something new. If you are coastal, born and raised, I suggest you go out on your surfboard. If it is for the first time or for the 100th time, look out at the horizon, look out at the beach and inhale. Breathe in your good fortune in living in the most beautiful place in the world.




Burning Man Part 2

This is Part 2 of Burning Man for the first timer. If you would like to read Part 1 follow this link: Burning Man for the first timer: Part 1

The experience:

“What is Burning Man?” The generic answer is an art and music festival in the desert. This answer will get shut down by any veteran burner. The truth is, describing burning man is like trying to communicate the color green to someone who has never had sight—but I love a challenge. Therefore  I will try. Every year, 70,000 people commune in the desert to just be who they want to be. Everyone from CEO’s to drifter’s meld together in this mecca for self-expression.

During my first burn (2015), I spent a lot of time alone. I didn’t drink or do drugs. I wasn’t pressured to partake in drugs either. I didn’t engage in promiscuous behavior. I say this only because, burning man has a reputation for being a sex and drug-fueled party. One of the reasons I enjoy talking about Burning Man is because I want to remove the stigma it is just some party in the desert. To some people, it is just that. To most burners, it is so much more.

There are a few key concepts to understand if you want to go to burning man. The first is you need to be self-reliant. The goal is to attend burning man with everything you need. All your food, all your water. You can buy (with cash) coffee, tea, and ice at Center Camp. Other than that, expect to be on your own. If you forget your sunscreen, there is no Wal-Mart. If you are not staying in an RV (services are provided for a fee for water and sewage), then think about how you are going to go to the bathroom. Though there are porta-potties, few people find this ideal when they have to wake up in the middle of the night to pee. I suggest bringing a camping toilet. Solar showers are also surprisingly inexpensive and efficient for staying clean. Gray water, is the water that accumulates when you shower, brush teeth, dishes, etc. it is discouraged to allow this to accumulate. I like to bring a small inflatable baby pool to catch the shower water. There are no outlets or places for electricity. Take this into account when considering charging cell phones.  Last year, my setup was a large Coleman cabin tent, with a camping toilet. My burning companion, EDH (from part one of this series) rigged an umbrella pole from a patio set to hold up a solar shower. We put a baby pool at the base of the shower to catch the gray water. I brought a folding table and mirror for a vanity. That was our bathroom. It worked well.

If you have been camping, then food will be a simple concept. If you are not a seasoned camper look up quick and easy camping recipes. Bring as much food premade as possible. I have a camping recipe I like in my blog, Camping with Kids. I also get my favorites from restaurants and freeze them. Last year I got Pad Thai, put it in a ziplock bag, froze it, then reheated it on my camping stove. It worked out great! Another easy option, buy a whole pizza, put it in zip lock bags and have pizza to snack on.

Another fundamental concept is gifting. If nothing else, BM is a community. Do not be a drain on the community. Don’t go hoping to live off the gifting culture. The expectations of gifting for a first timer are small. Gifting can be intimidating. Do not overthink it. Some people go to thrift stores and find 10-20 pieces of wild clothing and hand them out. It is common to see people passing out a plate of homemade snacks or setting up a small lemonade stand. If you do not gift, that’s fine. No one is keeping track. But still, plan on attending self-reliant.

My favorite concept is radical inclusion. Bring your open mind or stay home. Burning Man is not a place for judgment. You will see self-expression in a whole new way. People will wear outrageous outfits; they will do marvelous things and all unapologetically. This is not a place for judgment.

My first year, I wanted to ‘costume right.’ I went online and looked at pictures of the various outfits. I attempted to recreate my favorites. I now see that is not how to do it. When costuming ask yourself, ‘if I could wear ANYTHING I wanted, what would I wear?’ Would you wear that Halloween costume that makes you feel sexy? Would you wear your old football jersey from high school? Perhaps nothing at all? The key is to wear what YOU want to wear. From my pictures, it is evident; I love wearing corsets and tutus. Shoes, do not play by the same rules. You want to be comfortable; I suggest boots.

Mainly, the BM experience is what you want it to be. There is a saying at BM, “Fuck yer burn.” This term isn’t meant as an offensive term. It means, “I am going to burn how I want to burn.” My first year I wanted to be alone a lot. I desired time to reflect on my recent divorce and my new-found independence. When people wanted to tag along, I had to stand up for myself and tell them no. My second year, I inadvertently really pissed off a camp. I had made plans to camp with them, but when I arrived the vibe didn’t feel right. They are all wonderful people, but I wanted more autonomy than being in a camp allowed. That didn’t hit me until after I had set up and been welcomed in. I could have stayed though it wasn’t how I wanted to burn. I chose to say, “Fuck yer burn.” I packed up and headed to the outer edges of the playa where it is quieter. When heading off to burning man, decide, what do you want to get out of this experience, because the answer to that is different for everyone. Stand by your choice and Fuck yer burn.

What you need to ask:

-Why are you burning? Are you on a spiritual journey? Are you there to party? To see the art and listen to music? No matter why you are going to burning man, you need to go on the burning man website and read the survival guide. These are not instructions from IKEA you can just toss, and Hail Mary you get it right. Burning Man is no joke, and sure as heck isn’t a backyard camping trip. If you run out of food or forget something— You might ruin your burn. Read the survival guide before you even consider buying a ticket.

-If you are headed to Black Rock City (AKA the location of Burning Man), first things first, where are you going to stay? The easiest answer is a tent. Unless you are already a hardcore, seasoned camper, I do not suggest this. The dust will consume everything in your tent, the wind is relentless, the nights can be near freezing and the days are scorching. A lot of people go to burning man, and they camp in tents just fine.  I consider myself pretty tough, and I wouldn’t even consider BM in a tent. Your best option is an RV or pop-up camper. Please know, many places have a clause stating you cannot take a rental to Burning Man. If you try, they will know. My car engine has playa dust in it from 2 years ago.

If you want to learn more about Burning

Step 1: Go to the Burning Man website and read the survival guide. If you read it and still want to burn then DO IT!!!!

Step 2: GET A TICKET. There are a lot of scams. The best way to get a ticket is through the main sale. If you cannot secure a ticket directly through Burning Man, then make sure you do not pay with cash. There are a lot of fake tickets circulating on the market.

Step 3: Accommodations.  If you have an RV or pop-up camper, you are ready to go. Otherwise, consider joining a Facebook group and getting hooked up with an established camp. Often for a fee or in exchange for work, you can find a place to crash.

After this, the rest is just details. Bring more food and water than you think you will need. I will not include a list of what you need as the survival guide provided on the site is fully inclusive.


Just go, burn. Once you are there, remember, there is no place like home.

Ask yourself, when was the last time you did something for the first time?         

Step one for trying new things: Get off your ass. Stop self-deprecating and tap into the awesome that is already within you. All the greats had to take a first step. Michael Jordan may play basketball like he came out of the womb doing lay-ups but never let it escape your brain that he had to pick up a basketball for the first time just like everyone else. Stephen King put pen to paper to write his first book Carrie, which was rejected 33 times. Marilyn Monroe was told by a modeling agency she was more suited to be a secretary and Elvis was infamously told he should go home and drive trucks. The point is everyone had to start somewhere, and getting started is the hardest part. There is something raw about putting yourself out there to try something new. Entering into a world in which everyone around you is already steady and well-versed, then there is you just learning to walk, and talk is difficult for almost everyone.

As humans, we resist change. The idea of new beginnings brings out our most paralyzing insecurities and reveals our greatest deficits. Once over that hurdle, we break the mold we have created for ourselves and find that we are capable of more than we ever thought possible. I love trying new things and have learned that mastering a new skill is not the challenge so much as getting started is the hardest part. But once the first steps are put into motion something beautiful happens, a momentum takes over and you realize that it wasn’t that a particular hobby got easier, it was that you got better.

I often find myself encouraging my friends to put themselves out there and try new things. I am writing this blog to tell my story about the various things I have tried in my life with the hopes that I can help you on your journey to try something new. If it is just to check something off a bucket list or if you have a desire to begin and lifelong passion, I just want to encourage you to get off your ass and get started. If you know of something you are interested in pursuing but you do not know how please message me. I am always up for trying new things.