You know that thing where you discover something incredible and it gives you hope and energy and passion and excitement? It awakens something inside you that had kinda been laying dormant for a while, and you can’t stop thinking about it so you tell everyone within earshot including complete strangers and you blast it over the internet so everyone you can reach is completely sure that this thing is totally awesome and they should really be paying attention?

OK so that…

You can watch the entire BLINDSIGHT movie (in which Erik Weihenmayer and his awe inspiring crew take six blind Tibetan children 22,000 feet up into the Himalayas) on Hulu for free!

And it’s mind blowing and inspiring and beautiful and thought provoking. So don’t be an idiot.

Watch this movie.

And then write me a recommendation letter so when I apply for a job with these fine folks they can’t help but shred all the other resumes and hire me on the spot.

Thank you and good night.

Originally I planned to do a half marathon (13.1 miles) yesterday up at the Gunstock Ranch – the same one I did two years ago with the cows and the donkeys. But then I found out about Erik Weihenmayer and plans immediately changed. After seeing a blurb about him giving a speech at UH Manoa that was open to the public and free, I picked up his book Touch the Top of the World, about him summitting Denali, and was enthralled from page one.

This man has been everywhere and climbed everything. He’s one of very few people to conquer the Seven Summits – the highest peaks on each continent including Mt. Everest! – he’s made his way up The Nose of El Capitan in Yosemite, he skis, skydives, kayaks the Colorado River and the list goes on and on. So OK there are a lot of adventurous climbers in the world, what makes Erik so special? Well, he’s blind. 100% completely and totally blind since age 13. And he didn’t start doing any of this until after he lost his vision.

He travels the world speaking about living a No Barriers Life. The motto is:

What’s within you is stronger than what’s in your way.

I hated bailing on the half but couldn’t miss the opportunity to see him speak so I devised a win/win plan. I put my running clothes on, laced up my sneakers and ran six miles to the event in a delicate rain. Afterwards Tropical Storm Ana was really kicking in but I ran home effortlessly in a downpour, adrenaline coursing, easily completing twelve miles on the fuel of his words.

Erik Weihenmayer’s accomplishments are extraordinary but what really hits home for me on a personal level, is that he does something very few motivational speakers do: he acknowledges the struggle and the suck. So many mystics and speakers will tell you it’s all so easy, anything is possible, you just have to “let go”. It can feel condescending, not to mention incredibly frustrating, when you’re having a difficult time with something that’s holding you back. But Erik says something more along the lines of, “No this is hard and it takes strength and commitment and discipline. A lot of times it’s gonna totally suck.”

He’s funny and sarcastic and human.

He continues saying, “We’re gonna rope up and get through it together.” Roping up is what climbers do in extreme environments like two foot wide ridges above 20,000′. If one person falls, everyone’s falling. So you dig in your ax and catch them.

Suffice it to say I was blown away on a much deeper level than anticipated. I feel like I found a kindred spirit. Maybe I don’t succeed as often as I’d like, and I’m certainly not climbing Everest with my eyes closed anytime soon, but what I’m always trying to do is show the whole picture: the success and the failure and all the work in between.

I went online and took The No Barriers Pledge:

I pledge to view my life as a relentless quest to become my very best self,

To always view the barriers in my life as opportunities to learn,

To find ways to work with others to build teams, serve those in need, and do good in the world,

And to push the boundaries of what people say is possible, for only I know the potential that lies inside of me.

After perusing their website I laughed when I realized the No Barriers organization is located just outside of Boulder, CO. So now I have a new unexpected goal: figure out how to work with these guys when I get there.

I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to compose this post. This decision came to me weeks ago in my tent on the North Shore: It’s time to leave Hawaii because I did not come here to suffer.

I came for adventures and beauty and warmth and I’ve had no regrets and many incredible experiences. It’s not time to leave tomorrow or this month or even this year. But next year, yes. I will leave in June because the unexpected consequences of this long distance journey have become unbearable loneliness, nonstop high pressure work stress and a concern that maybe I’m kinda just floating 3,000 miles at sea, not so much docked or grounded on dry land as I’d hoped.

My coach rode his motorcycle half way around the island to visit me on my week-long staycation at my landlords’ ranch in Kahuku. Not Coach C who I fell in love with and ended up broken hearted by, but Coach J who was just always funny and supportive and totally awesome. He took me out to dinner, bought me a margarita and said, “Well hey if you’re gonna leave in the spring you should train for the Honu Half Iron Man and take off after that.”

There was no argument to be made against his logic of going out on a totally awesome high and so a plan was put into place the next morning. I was texting my sister from my air mat in the tent with the windows zipped down watching the sunrise over the North Shore of Oahu. [I could not make this shit up if I tried.]

The night before I read the Tao Te Ching flanked by dogs with white wine and Cheez-Its and in the morning it became crystal clear.

My sister has decided to move back to Boulder, CO, a city and a person I adore. And I’m going to join her there. But not until I do something great. Not until I accomplish something that currently feels impossible: 70.3 miles on the Big Island of Hawaii.

So here’s to the next goal and the exciting adventure that will follow: 1.2 mile open ocean swim, 56 mile bike ride up and down the Kohala Coast and a 13.1 mile half marathon to end a challenge I would never have thought I could accomplish if I hadn’t come here in the first place.

I’m not sure if I’m supposed to read the Tao Te Ching with a plastic keg cup full of organic sulfite free Sauvignon Blanc in one hand and a bag if Cheez-Its in the other. But I’m certain I’m supposed to read it on a queen sized deluxe air mat in a tent on the North Shore of Oahu, headlamp dangling from the ceiling, dogs by my side, waves crashing a few dozen feet away.

Cheers Lao Tsu and thank you again for everything. My hair smells like campfire and I am happy.

Last week in the midst of a serious funk I hosted a barbecue. I have a pool, hot tub, a big fenced in yard for lawn games and happy go lucky dogs to roam off leash. There’s a grill, a picnic table, a decent sound system. I spent almost $200 at Target on food and beer, strings of lights for the tiki hut and pool area, paper plates, plastic cups. It was a beautiful day and I was set up for complete and total party hosting awesomeness.

I should probably re-word that intro to say, “I attempted to host a barbecue.” Of the 20 or so people I invited, all of whom I told to please extend the invitation to their friends and significant others, two showed up: my two closest friends on the island. We sat on my front porch around a comically large pile of uneaten food while I lamented how difficult, near impossible, it has been for me to create a community of close friends here even after three years of trying.

So the funk got worse before it got better.

After my friends left I lit a candle and a stick of sandalwood incense. I turned off the lights, opened my computer and YouTubed a full length Krishna Das kirtan I hadn’t seen before. I unwrapped my mala beads, strung them around my hands and fingers like I was playing Cat’s Cradle with my ten year old self and I got to singing.

It was well after midnight and I just didn’t care. I had the house to myself and it seemed like my neighbors were out of town so I let loose, singing at full volume for an hour and a half. I bobbed up and down. I rocked back and forth. I sat perfectly still for a very long time. I’m not sure but at some point I might have been napping. Or maybe that’s what deep meditation feels like and I just never knew. All I know for sure is I let it all in and I let it all out.

I howled for my loneliness and the sadness I feel every time I fall asleep and wake back up alone. I howled for the distance I’ve put between myself and my loved ones. I howled for how hard it is to stay sane in the pursuit of a strong independent life because what I’ve learned so far is that strength and independence lead to unshakable independence – not romance or boyfriends or well attended barbecues. It’s an unexpected pill to acknowledge and attempt to swallow.

At the end of the kirtan I was exhausted as if I had just run a marathon. Then something happened that I’ve never experienced before. As I slowly disengaged my fingers from each other my mala beads broke and scattered all over the floor.

My immediate reaction was panic: Oh no no no no no! These were a gift from my sister! Oh my gosh what do I do? What does this mean?!!

Scouring the floor in the candlelight I found every last bead, counted them twice to make sure. 27 + 27 + 27 + 27 = 108. OK, once more. I carefully placed them in the silver box my sister had sent them to me in years ago. I wrapped the purple ribbon around the outside like I’ve done after every other prayer I’ve ever sang with them. Then I just sat there having no idea what to do next.

I considered Googling what do you do when your mala beads break? But the clarity came on its own relatively quickly once I calmed down. I let go of the guilt of breaking something sacred and considered that maybe what happened had been out of my control; perhaps it had nothing to do with carelessness. Maybe, just maybe, it was exactly what was supposed to happen.

I placed the silver box with the purple ribbon and the beads inside into my new shrine box, the one that says Live your life like there’s no tomorrow. I blew out the candle and fell back onto my pillow. Within seconds I was fast asleep.

Don’t forget the dream you had about you and your mom on a very large cruise ship, dark grey, sleek and shiny with glass on all sides. And the incredibly almost inconceivably high waves barreling towards you in the middle of the ocean. How the boat tilted all the way to the port side and you could see an entire ocean of sea life below the water as it dipped under. Then it flew back up and tilted starboard. At first you thought you were the only two people on the massive boat. You held your mother’s hands, silently nodding to each other, trusting what you knew she already knew: that it would right itself, which it did. Just then you understood there was a captain in the wheelhouse, you could feel the boat turning from his direction. The captain steered you directly into the monstrous waves and made the bow of that enormous cruise liner duck dive down below them like a surfer. You were in an observation deck surrounded by glass, staying dry as the waves crashed over. Never unsteady, the tossing and turning absorbed by the strength of your stance, all you could do was grasp your mother’s hands and take in the ride. Despite your fear you noticed the beautiful clarity of everything underwater. Even though you couldn’t see him, you trusted completely that the captain was steering and you were OK. It wasn’t even trust anymore, it was simple knowing. You felt his presence, pictured him perfectly even though you had never seen or met him. Then he parked it at a dock on a river and you got out and you were in Italy.

Bradley Cooper was falling in love with me, everyone could tell. Especially my mother standing across the room gossiping about it in real time with Billy Bob Thornton. They were leaning against the wall looking over at us on the couch, the same one I had seen earlier that day at Costco.

Or maybe they were swimming. In fact, yes, I believe Billy Bob and my mom were swimming and sort of leaning against the side of the pool, which was also the side of the room. She had no idea who she was talking to and it didn’t matter.

We were in the back parlor of an Old Victorian house where my dentist had his office. My mother had taken me there to sort out the business of my broken tooth – the injury sustained when someone accidentally kicked me in the mouth at my first attempt at kickboxing an hour or so before.

We waited a long time in that room, me kind of sprawled on the couch in pain, my mother quietly treading water. It was long enough for Bradley Cooper to come in, walk straight over to me and immediately profess his love. And how could he not? My face was bruised and purple, my lips swollen from the impact, blood swirling inside my mouth. And then there was the matter of the tooth.

The broken tooth extracted from the left side of my mouth was dreamlike in length – easily three feet long with a severe arc and ending in a hook with long bristled roots. For a minute I was sitting there on the couch next to Bradley holding it, staring wondrously at its size. The next, the room was empty but for me waiting alone for the angry nurse to return. I don’t recall how or why she was mean, I just felt it. I did not like her.

While I was waiting for her return another tooth, this one on the right side, came loose. It wasn’t painful and I moved it back and forth with my tongue for a while. Then I reached in with my fingers and jiggled it out. Nothing special there, just a normal sized unbroken tooth.

I woke up happy, very excited for the day to begin.

That’s right bitches, I said “my editor”! YEOW!

I figure you’ve all been sitting around wondering where the heck is Jennifer?! Har har… but seriously here’s the thing: my year of tiny goals project went off the rails before it even began so I scrapped it because I honestly was not into it. I like BIG goals, not little ones. A bit of soul searching illuminated what I really want to do – I want to write a book.

I’ve known this for a long time but I’ve been too scared to commit. Not anymore. So my 36th birthday present to myself was to hire a real bona fide professional editor to read through my drivel and help me set a course. So far it’s been fantastic!

I’m hunkering down and putting together a full-length memoir including some old writing and lots of new stuff too. Yeehaw!

Soon the blog will have a new name and focus and if my editing sage pesters me enough, eventually I’ll even have a Twitter account to go with it.

I hope you are all remarkably well and healthy and happy. Sending LOVE and LOVE and LOVE and LOVE!!

The other day I was sitting in the tiki hut in my front yard reading Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert again. Her follow up to Eat, Pray, Love is a fascinating history on marriage and what it has meant for women over the course of time. But of course, because she’s a fantastic writer, it is also much more. Ms. Gilbert dives in from numerous angles as she attempts to justify her upcoming forced nuptials to the love of her life. The two of them claiming to love each other too much to ever consider marriage find themselves facing deportation if they don’t make their union legal.

It’s undoubtedly a love story and not exactly anti-marriage. (And to be clear, neither am I.) However in summary, she makes a strong argument for why women should pretty much never ever succumb to the institution, or at the very least they should wait until they obtain complete autonomy and pass thirty.

It is my go-to comfort book for reassurance and acknowledgement that I am doing JUST FINE with my current life choice of singlehood on the most remote landmass on the planet.

While I was out there in the hut, the kids I live with were playing around me as they often do and the four year old threw himself onto the cushion next to me. I love how kids have no physical boundaries and think nothing of leaning in on you and climbing over you as if you’re simply an extension of the furniture. He took a look at the author picture on the back of the book and asked if it was me.

I was so instantly pleased to be compared in anyway to someone I admire so greatly, even if only from a four year old who kinda thinks I look like her. And to think someone (anyone!) in this world would think my face belongs on the back of a published book, what joy!

Ha ha. Anyway, this is all just to introduce one of Liz’s latest essays, which I consider to be an important read. I would highly recommend everyone read Committed, but if you’re not in the mood for an entire book, please at the very least check out this nugget of golden bliss:

ElizabethGilbert.com

Thank you to everyone who made suggestions of their favorite charities for me to consider giving to this year. As one of my tiny goals, I’m attempting to donate $600 this year in $50 increments to a different charity each month.

January’s 50 bucks is going to my personal favorite: Best Friends Animal Society

Their mission is clear and concise: SAVE THEM ALL. Can’t possibly argue with that!

Nearly 30 years ago, when Best Friends helped pioneer the no-kill movement, more than 17 million homeless pets were dying each year in our nation’s shelters. Today, that number is around four million unnecessary deaths annually – that is tremendous progress, but Best Friends is committed to reducing that number to zero. By implementing targeted spay/neuter and TNR programs to reduce the number of animals who enter shelters, and by increasing the number of people who adopt pets, we know we can end the killing. We know we can Save Them All.

Sound like the best thing anyone could possibly be working toward? There are many ways to get involved including tax deductible donations, volunteer vacations and pet adoptions. One of my best friends did a volunteer vacation there a few years ago and it was a truly transformative mission for her. In fact she is now a certified veterinary technician saving animals lives on a daily basis. Need a new buddy? Maybe your next pet is hanging out in the Utah sun just waiting for you to find her!

Check out their website to learn more. They are truly an awesome, inspiring and change making organization.

P.S. If you’ve never adopted a shelter dog, please go do so right now. It’s the best decision you’ll ever make. For realz yo. Need proof?

Meet Banjo Lynch, the most handsome and well behaved best friend/protector a girl could ever hope to have in her corner. Adopted at age 4 months, just two days before he was scheduled for completely senseless and unnecessary euthanasia, he has brought more joy and unconditional love to my life these past 8 years than most of the humans I’ve met so far:KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

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I Can Feel The Love

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