Facing My Biggest Fear

So today’s “Blogtember” prompt is to share my biggest fear. As I began to type this post, a heavy sense of deja vu swept over to me. I realized that there is a good reason for this: I’ve posted about it before, the night before I hiked Huayna Picchu. Here’s what I wrote then, and don’t worry, I’ll include an update after:

 

I am going to confess to you that my kryptonite, the one thing that will without fail shake me to my core and induce panic and sweat, is heights. More specifically, the far of falling.

And yet I find myself in situations like where I will be today, climbing Huayna Picchu, the steep mountain that towers over the ruins of Machu Picchu. I don’t know what to expect, but reviews I’ve read online (and stories from acquaintances) have my palms sweaty already.

via Wikipedia

One review I read cheerfully described it as being similar to Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park. I’ve tried that hike. I still have nightmares about it. I never made it to the peak of that trail because close to the top, while holding onto chains and looking at the 1000+ foot drop next to me, I panicked. I was shaking and sweating and terrified, almost completely frozen with fear. I  knew that the fear was only going to escalate, and realized that if I kept trying to push through the fear and froze with panic, I’d put us in a very dangerous situation, so I had to turn and go back. I still feel really bad about that, and I wish I hadn’t been such a wuss.

Angel’s Landing. It looks like I am smiling, but that is my nervous “I’m going to die!” smile.

I also still get sweaty palms when I tell people my story of zip lining, when I had to slow myself down by grabbing the line with a leather mitt. I grabbed too hard out of fear and got stuck on the line, and had to pull myself along, 150 feet in the air, to the next platform. I could hear the birds of the rain forest chirping below me. Dangling precariously higher than birds’ nests is not where I like to be.

I even get sweaty palms just looking at images where people could fall. You know the famous photograph of construction workers eating lunch on the scaffolding of a sky scraper? I can’t look at it. C finally understood the extent of my fear when we were watching Die Hard one Christmas Eve, and during the scenes with the elevator shaft, I touched his arm and he felt how damp, nay, soaked with sweat my palms were while watching a scene where I know what will happen.

What can I say, I can’t control it! I’d call an irrational fear but let’s be honest; it’s pretty rational.

So we shall see how this adventure goes. I am determined to complete the hike with relatively few tears of terror.

****

So, obviously I did not fall to my death. I was terrified, my palms were shaky and I was on the verge of tears for much of the hike. Going down is always the hardest, and while that ancient staircase in the clouds was awe-inspiring, I spent much of the time scooting down on my butt. I’m that much stronger because of it now, and while heights still freak me out, I know that I can at least breathe through the fear.

By the way, that day on the mountain I had my phone in the pocket of my cargo pants, and cracked my screen on the staircase. It’s the only time I have ever cracked a screen (because I have never owned an iPhone, suckers!), and I think it’s a pretty legit reason for having a small crack on my S5–better than dropping it on the bathroom tile at least!

 I am going to confess to you that my kryptonite, the one thing that will without fail shake me to my core and induce panic and sweat, is heights. More specifically, the far of falling.

And yet I find myself in situations like where I will be today, climbing Huayna Picchu, the steep mountain that towers over the ruins of Machu Picchu. I don’t know what to expect, but reviews I’ve read online (and stories from acquaintances) have my palms sweaty already.

via Wikipedia
One review I read cheerfully described it as being similar to Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park. I’ve tried that hike. I still have nightmares about it. I never made it to the peak of that trail because close to the top, while holding onto chains and looking at the 1000+ foot drop next to me, I panicked. I was shaking and sweating and terrified, almost completely frozen with fear. I knew that the fear was only going to escalate, and realized that if I kept trying to push through the fear and froze with panic, I’d put us in a very dangerous situation, so I had to turn and go back. I still feel really bad about that, and I wish I hadn’t been such a wuss.

Angel’s Landing. It looks like I am smiling, but that is my nervous “I’m going to die!” smile.
I also still get sweaty palms when I tell people my story of zip lining, when I had to slow myself down by grabbing the line with a leather mitt. I grabbed too hard out of fear and got stuck on the line, and had to pull myself along, 150 feet in the air, to the next platform. I could hear the birds of the rain forest chirping below me. Dangling precariously higher than birds’ nests is not where I like to be.

I even get sweaty palms just looking at images where people could fall. You know the famous photograph of construction workers eating lunch on the scaffolding of a sky scraper? I can’t look at it. C finally understood the extent of my fear when we were watching Die Hard one Christmas Eve, and during the scenes with the elevator shaft, I touched his arm and he felt how damp, nay, soaked with sweat my palms were while watching a scene where I know what will happen.

What can I say, I can’t control it! I’d call an irrational fear but let’s be honest; it’s pretty rational.

So we shall see how this adventure goes. I am determined to complete the hike with relatively few tears of terror.

photo signature_zpsca76ea10.png

My Happy List

Whoopsie daisies, I forgot to have a post ready to go for this morning, and then I slept in quite late, so I am a bit late to the game on this one. But that sounds like a good place to start on what makes me happy:

  • Sleeping in on Sunday.
  • My adorable dog Khaleesi.

    dog, oktoberfest

    Khaleesi is all ready for Oktoberfest.

  • Cuddles with my handsome, loving partner in crime, C.2013-10-05 23.35.56
  • My rascally kitties, Lula and Rex.
  • Manis and pedis (as in, I really need to hurry up with this post since I am supposed to be sitting in a chair right now.)
  • Strong coffee.
  • Wandering aimlessly through Target, picking up “needs.”
  • Subscription boxes.
  • Blog comments
  • Window shopping for beautiful fine jewelry that  will someday be on my body. 
  • Watching my students discover that they can write.
  • Wine. Duh.
  • Huntington Beach sunsets.
  • Boarding a plane.
  • Coming home to a clean house.
  • Carbs covered in cheese.
  • Exceeding my own expectations by surviving a killer workout.
  • Sunday night dinners with my family.

 

Helene in Between Blogtober

A Dirty Little Secret

Let me tell you a little secret. I know that I often write confession posts, but this time I’m really going to divulge a dirty little secret…

Are you ready?

confessions

I edit photos of myself for my blog. Not like I just adjust the exposure and crop backgrounds– I use the Picmonkey tools that come with a paid account. I smooth out fine lines around my eyes, or smooth out my skin when it’s red and splotchy. I’ve even used the “weight loss tool,” the one that stretches out images a little.  And for the record, the “weight loss tool” doesn’t really do very much. I don’t know much about how to use photo shop so I don’t go actually slimming my waist or legs or anything.

But yes, I guess that technically means I ‘shop some images.

So there you have it. It’s okay, go ahead and judge.

Trust Me, I’m An Expert

I am very reluctant to call myself an expert at anything, really. I definitely do not feel like an expert at what I do for a living, and I definitely do not feel like I could claim any expertise as a blogger, cook, fighter, traveler, or any other title I could assume from one of my hobbies.

I mean really, when is a person considered an expert? I’m not sure I’d really like a person who called him or herself an expert at something without a hint of irony. I mean, even if you’re the best in the world at something, there’s still room for improvement, right?

expert

So with that hint of irony I will declare myself an expert at pretending like I know what I am doing.

Fake it ‘till you make it; that’s my mantra. No really, it is. Because I rarely truly know what I am doing, or know if I am doing it correctly. But I am really good at pretending like I DO know what I am doing, and even making people believe me.

Ever stand in front of a classroom of bored college students and have to talk for an hour as if you know anything? It’s terrifying. I don’t know what I am talking about. I don’t know why they listen to me. But they do.

That is because I have become an expert at making it look like I know what I am doing. Today I am leading a staff meeting also, and for some reason, all of the tutors who I supervise listen to me, and even come to me for advice.

I keep waiting for someone to blow my cover, but remember, I’m an expert.

Helene in Between Blogtober

 

Fall Fashion Favorites

Since we never really get an Autumn here in Southern California, Fall Fashion to me mostly means jeans and flip flops, with the occasional riding boot thrown in when the weather dips below 80 degrees.

I’ve been fantasizing about cooler temperatures and the gorgeous fashion I’d wear if it were actually cool enough to wear a jacket. On days when I need a little escape at my desk, I peruse my favorite online stores to build an imaginary wardrobe for my imaginary flat in Notting Hill.

Like this gorgeous jacket from Joules USA.

joules pea coat fall fashion

Actually, I’m kind of obsessed with Joules right now. Their line has a balance of nautical and floral that just scream “RACHEL!” to me. Here’s my lust list for a real fall wardrobe:

joules collage 1

cable knit sweater// Padded jacket //Leather shoulder bag// floral wrap skirt

joules collage 2

Navy engineered striped top// floral scarf // Wellies // Pajamas 

Gorgeous, right?

I’m also salivating over this beautiful watch. Wouldn’t it go perfectly with everything above?

michael kors watch watches 2 u

Ahh, fashion. You provide too good of a distraction when I have a desk full of work to do. Which of these are you loving (or hating)? Let’s distract ourselves from work today. Give me your recommendations!

 

Helene in Between Blogtober

Words to Live By

My favorite quote, hands down, is this one:

change it

This concept really drives the way I think about my life. I truly believe that this kind of perspective can lead you to a happier life.

Here’s why: your life is only as happy as you make it. No one else is going to make you happy. And unfortunately, things don’t always go the way we want them to. The difference between people who live fulfilled, content lives and those who don’t is their perspective during those times.

Sometimes it is easy to change something that is making us unhappy. Too often though, we expect the world or karma or luck or whatever to do the changing for us. And guess what, it doesn’t work that way. I think that understanding this can make life that much easier. You control your destiny. Everything that happens to you happens because a series of decisions, and it’s you who decides how your life is going to be. Feeling sorry for yourself does nothing to change the situation, and you cannot be a victim of your own life.

Sometimes though, we are victims. Shit happens, like really bad shit. If your house gets destroyed in a tornado, that really sucks, and there isn’t much you can do about reversing that action. But how you think about it dictates how life will be after you are a victim. Even when your entire home is destroyed, you still have the ability to rebuild, to make new connections, to grow from the pain. Every set back in life is an opportunity to grow, even if it really sucks at the time.

One of my pet peeves is when people use the phrase, “FML.” Like posting on Facebook, “My car has a flat tire. FML.” Really?! Fuck your life because you have a flat tire?! That is exactly the kind of thinking that will make you miserable. Yes it sucks to get a flat tire. But you also learn how to change a tire, or which local place has good deals on tires, or you end up having a good conversation with the coworker you ask to drive you home. That mild inconvenience can open up so many opportunities if you think of it with a healthy perspective.

Don’t ever curse your life. Just change it. And if you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.

 

Helene in Between Blogtober

“Gawdamit, Rachel!”

Today’s prompt about my funniest childhood memory is one that I struggled for a long time with.

You see, some funny memories are of the “you had to be there” variety, like the time my old, cranky cat watched E.T. with me and my mom, and the cat became obsessed with the movie, meowing excitedly at the tv as E.T. and Elliot peddled into the moonlight. See what I mean? You had to be there.

Then you have to understand that my funny childhood memories are not of the National Lampoon variety, where hilarity ensues over holidays and European vacations. They were more of the “Little Miss Sunshine” variety, the kind that are full of awkward and embarrassing moments that make you laugh uncomfortably and convince you that these people will be more likable, more human because of it. Those are posts for another day, maybe even a therapist’s chair.

So instead I am going to share a story of a time that I was too young to remember, but has been recounted enough that I feel as though I do.

 

my parents used instagram back in the 80s.

my parents used instagram back in the 80s.

You see, my father had a bit of a temper (to put it mildly) and he swore like a sailor. Naturally, my first sentences were a little…salty too.

I went through this phase where each night as I ate dinner in my high chair, I would drop something. I either knocked over my sippy cup of milk, spilled peas everywhere, whatever mess a two year old could get in to. “God Damnit, Rachel!” My dad would sigh each time as he would grab a towel to clean up my mess.

One day, for whatever reason my dad wasn’t home. My mom had settled me in to my high chair and was in the kitchen a few feet away. Her back was turned to me so that she didn’t even see me spill my milk; all she heard was a tiny voice exclaim, “Gawdamit, Rachel!”

You better believe that I still mutter “Godammit, Rachel!” whenever I do something stupid.

 

Helene in Between Blogtober

My Favorite Fall Comfort Foods

Just a couple of weeks ago I posted about some of my favorite, healthy fall recipes. I don’t want to throw the same recipes up on the blog for today’s prompt, so instead today I will share some of my favorite not-so-healthy recipes. The first two are perfect for Thanksgiving, which is fitting because today is actually Canadian Thanksgiving!

I know you’re probably expecting some sort of pumpkin dessert recipe, but fall makes me think of savory, comfort foods. That and I don’t even want to tempt myself since I am staying away from sweets right now. So without further ado, here are some of my faves:

 

Challah Bread StuffingChallah Bread Stuffing. This was a big hit last year for Thanksgivikkuah. Just because the two holidays won’t be combined this year doesn’t mean that this awesome stuffing has to wait. It is seriously so, so good. You’ll never be able to eat that crappy boxed stuffing again. The richness of the bread makes this a perfect comfort food, but it also has an interesting combination of sweet from the roasted apples and savory from the fresh rosemary and thyme.

While we’re at it, the Challah Bread Stuffing goes perfectly with:

mashed-potatoes-Horseradish-and-chives1

 

Mashed Potatoes with Horseradish and Chives. These are easy-peasy. I am the weirdo who hates gravy on mashed potatoes, and these are so flavorful that you won’t even want gravy on them anyway.

 

 

no knead wheat bread 8

No- Knead Wheat Bread.  Because no, I definitely do not need bread, but I’ll be damned if tearing in to freshly baked bread is not one of the best guilty pleasures out there. There’s just something so satisfying about tearing into a loaf of bread that you made yourself.

katniss-stew-71

That bread is so good with Katniss’s Favorite Capitol Stew. Looking at that picture is making me drool. This dried apricots, turmeric, ginger, and mint give this stew an incredible, complex flavor. Plus it is so hearty and satisfying that it will keep you feeling cozy as the days become shorter.

So there you have it. I hope my Canadian friends are having a happy Thanksgiving, and I hope you try some of these recipes this fall!

 

Helene in Between Blogtober

The Best Advice I Was Ever Given

The best advice I was ever given was actually an admonishment; while it is in regards to teaching, I find it applies to a lot of areas of life.

baldy

So what was this life-changing admonishment? It comes from the year when I was a Teaching Associate, which means that I taught one section of English 101 while I was a grad student. We T.A.s took a class concurrently where we had guidance over our syllabus and assignments and could discuss what was going on in our classes.

Our professor was this older, very snarky woman. I was equal parts terrified and inspired in her presence. After the first couple of weeks of the semester she asked us, “So, how are things going in your classes?” It was either me or a classmate who said, “good, it seems like the students like me!” The rest of us nodded in agreement and relief, saying yeah mine too! 

Our professor rolled her eyes at us and asked, “Why do you care so much about your students liking you?”

Ummmm… because? We couldn’t figure out how to answer that, because uh,of course you want to be your students’ favorite professor. You want to be that cool professor that students talk about and gets good ratings on ratemyprofessor.com.

“If you’re so worried about your students liking you, then you’re in this for the wrong reason. You’re probably not being a good teacher if your decisions are driven by making them like you.”

We all looked down at our shoes sheepishly. Because damn, she’s right. But damn my world was shaken, because I really wanted to be that cool professor.

But teaching isn’t about being liked. Sure it’s great when people like you, but if they don’t, well, who cares? If your decisions are driven by making people like you, there’s a good chance that you’re not always doing the right thing. Being fair and just and thoughtful is always more important than being liked. But too often we let the desire to be liked cloud our better judgement.

I think that because of that admonishment/advice, I’ve changed the way I approach a lot of things. I am no longer afraid of people not liking me, and more importantly, I make more of my decisions based on what is right. Unfortunately, that professor died at the end of that semester, and so I’ve never had the opportunity to thank her for what she taught me in her moment of exasperation with us. I can do the next best thing though, and pass that lesson along to the new T.A.s who I mentor.

 

Helene in Between Blogtober

If I Were President

I get it, in this kind of post you’re supposed to say all sorts of over-the-top, unrealistic ideas that the POTUS could never actually have the power to do. But I am going to focus on the things that actually can, and need to, change in our country. So if I were president, I’d…

blue stitch fix dress

Tell congress to STFU and get to work. A policy of “no” to everything is no policy at all.

Shut down Guantanamo. Even if evil bastards are in there, we need to do the right thing and give them due process. This is America.

Push lawmakers to pass the DREAM Act ASAP.

Research the best judges for when it’s my turn to appoint a new justice. We need another Ruth Bader Ginsberg, and NOW.

And appoint Biden to be Secretary of State. Sure he’s a loose canon, but he’s crazy smart about foreign policy, and I think he’d make shit happen.

Call congress out and make them raise the federal minimum wage. When employees work full time and still need government assistance to actually eat, there’s a problem. Instead of relying on the government to feed workers, let’s make corporations actually pay their employees a livable wage.

have my peeps draft a bill that would subsidize solar energy more than we ever have, and give massive tax breaks to industries that create innovative solutions to get us off of our dependency on foreign oil. I’d love to see a Tesla be affordable for most middle class families. But even more, I’d love to see us not be dependent on Middle Eastern oil.

What would you do if you were president?

 

 

Helene in Between Blogtober
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