Sustainability on a budget
It's estimated that there are more than 5 trillion individual scraps of trash in the ocean. That's a deadly dozen of zeros. There's been a rapid depletion of sea life over the last 40 years, including the death of half of the world's coral reefs. These are vital ecosystems that thousands of species of marine animals depend upon for food and shelter. The ocean is key to life on this planet, so why do we destroy it? The answer is convenience. It can be a challenge to take steps toward living a greener life when it seems like most things are made to be thrown away. And personally, as someone on a tight budget, sometimes the disposables are just more affordable. Throughout my journey toward living more consciously, I've found a whole host of hacks that I can feel good about using on a daily basis.
As one of the hottest tourist destinations in the US, Lake Tahoe sees over 20 million visitors each year. People come to our community to ski, hike, boat, or simply escape the bustle of city life. Regardless of why they travel, the one thing everyone does on vacation is eat. With more than 400 restaurants to choose from, travelers can indulge in everything from high end pub fare to hole in the wall South Asian staples. Having so many options can make it easy to settle for the overpriced tourist traps with flashy advertising and broad menus. I'm here to tell you that if you want the most bang for your buck, you should forego the Heavenly Village crowds and eat where the locals do. As a 5 year Tahoe resident and a high end hotelier, I've had the opportunity to try out a wide variety of restaurants. I've narrowed down my favorite places to a short list. So where are Tahoe locals getting their grub? Here are the Tahoe treats I think everyone should try.
Hey Kid, It's me, your new and improved self, and I want to tell you how proud I am of the woman you have become. Right now you're scared, wondering why you were given this life and if there's any way out. Every day has been uncertain for you and I know that sometimes you just want it to end. I promise there is a light at the end of this tunnel, and I am here waiting for you. It's hard to believe that, from where you are right now. You're broken, scared, not even sure who you really are after being gaslit for so long. The answers you're looking for will come in time, but it's not going to be an easy journey. Your fight isn't over yet, and I'm learning that it might not ever really end, but you will learn how to bob and weave and become the champion I know you are. At your age, it's hard to love yourself. You feel like you don't deserve it because of where you come from, and what's happened to you. Those feelings are difficult to shake, but I promise you are worthy of love. Bad things happen to people - a lot of bad things in our case, but it doesn't mean we deserve it. You are so young, and you haven't done anything to earn the way you've been treated - no, not even that. The truth is there is nothing wrong with you. In a perfect world you'd probably be that girl everyone wants to be, but that's just not how it turned out for us. You can't help the life you were given, all you can really do is learn how to live it. That feels unattainable to you, because you're being told that everything you are is wrong. The world says a queer kid from the foster system who's been abused in every which way doesn't stand a chance. You feel like giving up because you know that the odds are stacked against you, but I'm here to tell you to hang in there because it does get better and you are going to shatter that glass ceiling to a million bits. Right now you're trapped, and I'm sorry to say you don't escape for a long time coming. You think you found the way out, but soon you're going to realize you're just in a different cage. You're going to fight for your survival, and lose parts of you that you thought you couldn't live without. When it seems you can't go on, don't let go, because you're going to come back like a pheonix and prove that where you come from does not define who you are. Today you are so much more than you ever dreamed you would be. You are a mother, and despite the pain that made you one, you're damn good at it. You are a boss, managing an award winning business with a finesse most people learn in school, but you learned from life. You live in a beautiful mountain town, like you always wanted to, in an apartment you never thought you could afford. You have a stunning and supportive partner who has given you the love that you always deserved but never received, and the best part is you've already met and fallen for her (yes, that one, she'll be back). You are learning how to manage that voice inside your head that says you're never safe, and sometimes when all is well, you feel secure, something you can't even really comprehend. It's true you were dealt a horrific hand and could have easily folded a long time ago, but you didn't and because of that grit, you are still here and you are thriving. Not a day goes by that you don't still struggle, but from that hurt you have learned to find the good in life, and to truly appreciate what you have. You've done an amazing job, as impossible as that sounds, and I am so proud of you for sticking it out. I wish I could have been there to tell you this when you most needed to hear it, but I'm here now. You are valid. You are worthy. You are powerful. You are beautiful. You are woman. Nobody can take that away from you. So hold your pretty head high and stay the course, and remember that you are unbreakable. If there's any advice I can offer it's to trust your gut, because it's trying to protect you. I'm so proud of you, proud to be you, and I want you to know that I love you from the bottom of my heart. Your strength inspires me every day to keep fighting, and I am so grateful for all that you did to get us here. Stay strong, and I'll see you in ten years.
Red Red Wine
We met at Coasters Bar in downtown Sacramento late on a Saturday night. It had only been six months since my divorce finalized, and I was still apprehensive about dating. I'd seen enough episodes of Catfish to know that anyone could walk through that door claiming to be the woman I'd come to meet. Ice cubes clinked in my cocktail glass as I sipped from the edge, lubricating my social muscle. We'd gotten along online so I was hoping not to make a fool of myself in person, which for me was easier said than done. I spotted her as she wandered in from the warm spring rain looking just as nervous as I was. Her velvety brown eyes found mine and she smiled wide, exposing the dimples in her sun kissed cheeks. She walked toward me with her arms extended as if seeing an old friend for the first time in years.
An Adventure Into Science Fiction
It's day 800 of the pandemic and you've just completed the final episode of Stranger Things season 3. You're left with a craving for more monsters, more heroes, and more laughs to make staying at home a little less boring. Sure, there's plenty of other titles to choose from that could take you on a new adventure, but what you're looking for is specific. You want to recapture the feelings you had when you watched Eleven battling the mind flayer with every last morsel of power she had inside of her. Of course, no two shows are the same, and chances are you probably won't find a duplicate that can compare, but if adventurous science fiction fantasies are your thing, here is a brief list of titles that might just pique your interest.
Beyond the Stars
We've all been there. You're a few minutes into a good chat with that cutie you met on tinder and then they drop the question - what's your sign? I have to admit, this is usually my sign that they aren't the one for me, but I don't mind playing along. Astrological signs hold different weight to different people, and while I don't choose to live my life by mine, I have drawn comparisons for the fun of it. As a cancer I certainly identify with a sense of deep emotional awareness, and the ambitious nature that leads me to be successful. It's true that relationships don't come easy to me, and that I love with passion and empathy. Cancers are notorious for being moody, overbearing, secretive, and vindictive. We've gotten a bad rap for having complicated emotions, and unpredictable reactions to them. Personally, I don't find that most of these traits ring true for myself, and the ones that do are direct results of a complicated history. In truth, I'm a deeply forgiving person, and I tend toward logic and open communication. It's important to me to live and let live, and not to try to control or sway others, especially the people I love. Secrecy does nothing for me, and unless I'm having an OCD spike or a panic attack, I'm fairly level headed. I tend to think that astrology generalizes people unfairly. It puts us into a box of "this is who you are, whether you like it or not,". It might be naive, but I believe people are capable of change with time. I'm certainly not the same person I was ten years ago. I could argue that in the course of my life I've shown traits of every star sign, because I am a dynamic human being who is changing and growing all the time. There are so many things that influence an individual's personality including environment, early childhood, parental relationships, abuse, bullying, and a whole host of genetic factors. Life would honestly be so much easier if people were as predictable as their zodiac suggests. Wouldn't it be great to be able to know within moments of meeting a person whether or not you're compatible; or to take or refuse a job because you can quickly predict the manager's temperament? If it were that simple, people wouldn't waste time getting their hearts broken or running their well dry for a bad job. It might sound like I'm just ragging on the astrology community, but when it comes down to it, at least for me, the idea that I am destined to be a moody empath with poor relational skills is really demotivating. It's required a lot of personal growth to be able to take responsibility for my mental, emotional and spiritual health, and I'm seeing change because I'm working for it. There is no reason to limit myself by attributing my flaws to being a cancer, when I can recognize and correct them instead. On the other side of that coin is the fact that I've pushed through a lot of hard times to be the loving, empathetic, and successful person that I am today. It wasn't luck, superstition, or fate that brought me here. It was my own will to do better than the hand I was dealt. It's fun to imagine that maybe the day and month I was born had some influence on my character, but at the end of the day I am who I am because of where I come from and the choices I have made. I am a cancer, and yes I can be emotional, sensitive, self-protective and driven, but there is so much more to me than that. So if you really want to get to know me, you should ask for my time instead of my star sign, and you might be surprised by what you see behind the shell.
Looking Forward To 2021
We can all agree that regardless of where you come from or what your circumstances may be, 2020 was one hell of a year. Natural disasters, riots, and one of the most pervasive global plagues in modern history made the last twelve months feel like a lifetime. While we certainly haven't seen the end of our challenges, 2021 is bringing with it the opportunity to do better as individuals. Global lock downs forced many people in self isolation. An unexpected silver lining to sacrificing our social lives is that we've all had more time for introspection and self development. Record numbers of people are enrolling in therapy through services like BetterHelp, and finding support through online communities. Others have chosen to use this time to achieve fitness goals, or expand their skill sets. We're learning to prioritize what's important to us, including our own well being, something many of us have lost sight of in this lightning paced era we live in. There is a benefit to being forced to distance ourselves from the routines and habits we know, and it's discovering what we really need. Personally speaking, this has been an opportunity to identify and correct destructive patterns in my own life, form healthier bonds with the people closest to me, and challenge my self professionally. It's given me the opportunity to consider what I want going forward, and how I might achieve those things. I'm entering 2021 with a better understanding of who I am, as I'm sure many people are. With that in mind, my goals for the year may not be extraordinary, but they're building blocks for a successful future. It starts with baby steps such as cancelling unwanted subscriptions, working on myself through medication and therapy, learning to cook new recipes, and penciling in time for fitness. With commitment and support it can lead to a more sustainable lifestyle, and that is what I'd like have going into this new decade. Thanks to evolving technology, sticking with these goals no longer feels so daunting. Financial tracking apps can help me manage my money. HelloFresh and Instacart allow me to prepare healthy meals for my family while juggling school and my busy work schedule. I can manage my health using online telehealth services, and can keep track of what's happening at work with remote viewing. The vast number of resources available at the touch of a button have made me feel more capable than ever before of taking steps to improve my life and overall well being. Self improvement is not always about taking a giant leap, or doing a 180 turn around. Any great work is done deliberately, and one step at a time. I think the same concept applies to people. We can't cut corners if we want to be the best versions of ourselves. I'm looking forward to the rest of the year to come, whatever it may bring, as a chance to lay out a path toward success. I'll be keeping track of my progress with daily affirmations in a positivity jar, and I'm excited to look back a year from now and see all the strides I've made in confidence and stability. Friends of mine are working on similar goals and I feel encouraged by their drive to better themselves. 2020 was an eye opener of a year if nothing else. I think we are going to start seeing a lot of positive change in the world as we enter into this decade, and it starts with each of us making positive changes in our own lives, one baby step at a time.
A Strangers Kindness
It was early fall when the tourists began to pack it in, while us locals prepared for another long and bone chilling winter. I'd only lived in Lake Tahoe for a year and some months, and it had been a rough start. The decision to move to the popular ski town had been made rather desperately after losing everything I owned. I was separating from my husband at the time, and had chosen initially to stay in the Sacramento region to seek out a new life. It was my husband who decided to take our two children and move up the mountain where wages were higher. What he forgot to anticipate was the challenge of finding a home in a ski town, and he was forced to rent monthly rooms at local motels until he could find something long term. I was having similar troubles down in the valley, as rent had suddenly sky rocketed, while wages stagnated. Feeling defeated after a month of dead end interviews, I followed my estranged husband and our kids up the hill. For the first nine months we lived together, the four of us in a 150 square foot motel room with a single king bed. My ex worked, and I looked for homes. It seemed that as much as I wanted to leave him, my only option was to stick it out and go half in on a place. It quickly became clear that this was a terrible idea, and again we separated. He found a studio apartment and I stayed in the cramped motel room. Three more months came and went, and I'd yet to secure a lucrative job or stable housing. It was becoming expensive to pay for both a motel and a studio, so again I gave in and moved in with my ex. It was tumultuous at the best of times. No more than a few weeks passed before I began to feel suffocated and worried that I'd never escape the constant emotional turmoil of that marriage. By September, things had come to a head, and the tension was too much. My ex husband packed up my things, threw them in my car and told me to leave. Having no real family to speak of, and barely enough money to survive for two months, I was devastated. I had come to this town to make a better life for my kids, and get back on track. I'd always tried to be a good mom, and a good wife. I never had trouble holding a job or paying bills, and lived a clean lifestyle. I was determined to give my kids a better childhood than my own, and I felt like I was failing. In a matter of 18 months I had lost everything I worked for; my marriage, my home, my job and now my babies. That first night on the street was a true test of my grit, but I held on. One day at a time I began to find the will to keep going. The real turn around happened in early October when I met an older gentleman who was also transient. I'd driven up to a state park to wash up and sunbathe in the fresh mountain air a little bit before starting my daily job hunt. As I breathed in the scent of pine, I spotted a gray van parked catty corner to my Jeep. I'd seen this van before and recognized the lean, weather worn man who hopped out to start his morning routine. We'd never met, but when you're living out of your car you start to notice who else might be doing the same. Being a petite woman in my early twenties, I was wary of him at first. Men hadn't exactly proven themselves to be trustworthy in my experience and I wasn't about to let my guard down easily. I kept a watchful eye on him as we shared the sunny outdoor space, brushing our teeth and filling our canteens at the water pump. Then he went back to his car, and returned a moment later with a beautiful pit bull that was delighted to see me. As the dog relieved itself, the man finally turned to me and said hello. His name was Rob, and this was his pup Chico. He couldn't help but notice that I'd been sleeping in parking lots and parks the last few nights, and was worried that it wasn't safe for someone like me. We got to talking and I learned that he and his dog had been homeless a while, but they knew all the best places to go at night, and which places to avoid. I wasn't sure why, but I had the feeling that everything was going to be okay. I let him show me where the safest sleeping spot was, and that night I joined him and about six other vehicles in a quiet tree covered lot. I rolled up the windows, locked my doors, hid my fishing knife in the compartment by my bed, and tucked in with a movie. When I woke up unharmed I decided Rob's intentions might be innocent after all. For weeks, Rob kept watch over me, sharing food when he had it, and making sure Chico knew to guard my car as well as his. He gave me his phone number and let me know I could always call if I needed him. Having a new friend, and a new found sense of security was a god send. I began to sleep soundly, and would start each day with hope that it could get better. Every evening I'd find Rob and Chico, and we would share a light meal and talk about our day. Within a week I had not one, but two jobs. After three weeks I found a room in a house with some other twenty somethings, and their dogs. Almost immediately I reached out to Rob and thanked him for his help. I kept in touch with him for a while after that, and though he didn't ask for anything in return, I helped him in whatever way I could. We did lose touch after about a year, but I still think about him from time to time. It's been a challenging and rewarding journey since then. I've found a career in hospitality management, and regained custody of my children. I have a loving and healthy relationship with a woman who treats me well. Most importantly I have hope that there is still good in this world. Maybe I would have found a way to get here on my own, but I believe the kindness of a stranger is what set me on this path, and I'm forever grateful for Rob and Chico. It really doesn't take a grand gesture to change someone's life. Sometimes simply being a friend is more than enough to help a person get back on their feet.