The 10 Essentials of Life

A few weekends ago, my longest standing, non-relative, friend (seriously we met when we could hardly hold up our heads) came for a visit. This was a big deal because she NEVER gets time off work. I told her I would never even consider moving back to California until she came for a visit. Guess what, she and her boyfriend were here for almost 5 days! And you know what we did? We went camping.

Setting out on an adventure!

 I might not strike you as the camping kind of gal, but I absolutely love, love, love camping. Mom, Dad, Brother and I did some camping back when we all could fit in a 4 man tent. That is where Brother told me about the Bogeyman, he said the shadows I saw on the tent were the Bogeyman’s hands coming to get me. It turned out to be a tree, but that particular camping trip was one of the scariest of my life. We visited the Redwoods and a few different beaches, occasionally I camped in our back yard. I did more beach camping and Joshua Tree with Scouts. I even camped in England (well sort of, it is hard to call an international scout jamboree camping, it was amazing, but that many people in a field with showers and a pub, it was hardly roughing it). I hadn’t gone camping here yet, you know, floods and winter slowed me down a bit, so when she said they wanted to camp I was thrilled.


We decided to drive up into the Arapahoe National Forest and find a spot to call home for the weekend. It was amazing, incredible, rejuvenating, exhausting, phenomenally dirty and everything I didn’t know I needed.


It was pretty stinking beautious...
It was a pretty stinking beautious spot we found to just relax.

We talked about EVERYTHING, we always do. I almost feel bad for the boyfriend, but hey he knew what he was getting into. We talked about, religion, politics, family, friends, music, cosmetics, careers, dreams, fears, memories, my blog. I asked her what she wanted me to write about. She said: The 10 Essentials of Life


Before we were down the mountain a few days later this was almost totally written in my head.


I first learned about the 10 essentials through Scouts. We are a scouting family Mom, Dad, Brother, and Me. I remember my first pocket knife that I got to take with me on hikes, it was a pink swiss army knife, my whole troop got them, I think we were six. I still have it. My friend comes from this kind of family too (scouting/ ten essentials type), but in case you don’t, and incase you ever want to go out into nature at least minimally prepared this is what I am talking about (although please don’t use me as your only source of information):


Scouting 10 Essentials

  1. a pocket-knife or multitool
  2. first aid kit
  3. extra clothing
  4. rain gear
  5. flashlight
  6. trail food
  7. water
  8. matches and/or fire starter
  9. sun protection
  10. map & compass


This is what REI lists as “Updated 10 Essentials”, just for additional reference

  1. Navigation (map & compass)
  2. Sun protection
  3. Insulation
  4. Illumination
  5. First-aid
  6. Fire
  7. Repair Kit & tools
  8. Nutrition
  9. Hydration
  10. Emergency Shelter



So, since life is a journey (hence the name of the blog), I had better pack my ten essentials, but what are they? Are they things? I know I have gone on and on about my love for my stand mixer. But that would be heavy and hardly essential. Sure my passport, drivers license, and favorite stuffed animal are things I don’t want to go without, but essential…not in the macro sense, not at all. So, what are the 10 essentials of life, according to me? Well, I am glad you asked. In no set order, other than how they came to me..

1. Positive Attitude

I am a firm believer that a positive attitude will get you farther in life than most anything. This isn’t always an easy thing to have, but with practice it gets easier. Life throws some epic curve balls once in a while, a positive attitude makes that pitch easier to handle. It is a choice, as are most things. We don’t always get to choose what happens, but we do get to choose our attitude.

2. Passion

Some people are blessed with one great passion from the very beginning. Others take years to find their passion. I feel lucky to have so many passions. It doesn’t matter what you are passionate about, it matters that you seek out your passion and pursue it. Passions enrich our lives and give us purpose.

 3. Gratitude

It seems to me that gratitude might be one of the biggies here on this list (I think I am going to have to try and stop myself from saying that about each one). It goes hand in hand with a positive attitude.  Having gratitude makes us happier people and it makes those around us happier as well.

 4. Community

We weren’t meant to be solitary creatures. We need community. Often we need multiple communities. Family, friends, co-workers, religious, cultural, shared interest communities, it matters more that we find our people and build those relationships than who exactly makes up our community. Remember how life throws those curve balls? Well let me tell you, community matters. Not just to help you when you stumble, the real joy of community is when you are able to celebrate together. Life is a journey that is meant to be shared.

5. Sense of Humor

Because if you can’t laugh…well, what is the point? It doesn’t have to be the same, perhaps you like dry humor, slapstick, raunchy, witty. Who cares?! Just find laughter in life, try to make others smile, and strive to see the humor in everyday.

 6. Perseverance

Life is an adventure and a challenge everyday. An obstacle, a fear, a “no”, those things shouldn’t stop you from, well anything. Imagine all the things you wouldn’t be able to do now had you not persevered. Walking, that was difficult to learn. Maybe you know another language or you have a highly specialized skill. It took me three hours to change my own oil the first time (it was so much easier once I realized I had to remove the skid plate), but I persevered and I am still silly proud of myself for being able to do that. Just keep at it, you never know what you will discover along the way.

 7. Dreams & Goals

Without these, why get out of bed in the morning?! I used to hate in school when we would have to do goal worksheets. Not only did I think I didn’t know what my goals were, they seemed generic, bland, and contrived. When I did know what they were I was self conscious about sharing them. They were after all my dreams and my goals, no one else’s. Things have changed, ask me and I will gladly tell you all about my dreams and goals. They might be small; today I wanted to sweep the floor and wash my car (Brother and his family are coming to visit and I know he is a little particular about clean cars, it is supposed to rain tomorrow and we are going camping when he gets here, but hey its the gesture). Or they might be outrageous dreams. Did you know I would like to be dictator of the world? Dreams and goals give us a purpose and a direction. It is about picking a destination, or at least a highway, dreams and goals get the journey moving out of the garage.

 8. Something to Believe In

I think it is important to have something to believe in. For me that something is religion, for other people maybe not. Maybe it is numbers, or science, or other people, or something I haven’t thought of. But I would argue that having something on the macro level to believe in makes us look beyond the micro and beyond ourselves. Too much time spent on the self doesn’t make this world a better place. And why be a part of it then? Believe in something greater than yourself.

 9. Compassion

I don’t love everyone, I don’t even like some people, but that doesn’t mean people shouldn’t be treated with compassion. We are in this together whether we want to be or not, so we might as well treat each other in a way that enriches our lives rather than takes away from it. Don’t get me wrong, there are toxic people who don’t deserve to be in our lives, and it is important to set boundaries, I just think we should strive to do it not with a hardened heart, but perhaps with compassion for ourselves too. The more compassionate we are to others, the happier we find ourselves. And I am pretty sure that happiness is contagious.

 10. Integrity

Being honest and moral are essential to being a person of good character. Again, thinking about the bigger picture, the macro level, this is important. How do we interact with those around us and how to we make the world better? Being someone with integrity.

We don’t get to pack very much in our ten essentials, I had so much more I wanted to add, but this is where I stop. What would you add if there was room for more? Would you leave anything off the list?




On My Own

It happened so fast I think I am JUST now having it all sink in. The last time I posted, I had decided, but not aloud, that I was ready to have my own place. A few days after that, I mentioned it aloud. Within a week, I was filling out paperwork and getting keys. I didn’t expect it to happen so fast. But that is the thing I have noticed about this crazy journey, when it rains it pours, and then your new city floods….

I got my keys. I had a roll of toilet paper in my purse this time. The first time I rented an apartment in college, my roommate and I signed the papers and were going to run and get a few things and the store before we unloaded (I think our parents were an hour behind us with all our stuff…maybe…I don’t really remember), but first, as is typically with my tic-tac sized blatter, I wanted to make a pit stop. I walked in and realized, “Oh my gosh! I have to provide my own toilet paper now!” Silly, I know, but before this I had lived with my parents or in the dorms, so toilet paper was just always magically there. This time I was wiser. I was prepared. I brought my own roll. I borrowed an air mattress. I ran to store for a shower curtain. I got cereal, milk, and my coffee maker. I settled in for my first night.

It has been a week. I am still moving my stuff in and trying to furnish the place creatively (read: spending as little as possible). I have discovered the usefulness of Craig’s List. Up until now I only looked at it because I found the missed connections section interesting. I have obtained a few tools to help me with the things I have found on said useful site. Friends have loaned me furniture so there is a place to sit if you come to visit, but not if you and two of your friends come over, so bring a chair. It is kind of a BYO whatever at this point. Maybe one day soon I can offer you your own plate, just not today.

I think what feels so good about it is that I am really starting. I am on my own so to speak. I know I am never really on my own. I learned this lesson a million times over these past few years. I have amazing people in my life. Not just the people out west but the ones right here in town. Especially the ones who have helped me make this place home. And even though it hasn’t been a whole week and I am less than 8 miles away, I miss the No-Longer-Pregnant cousin and the My-Actual-Biological cousin and the Wee One. I will be eternally grateful to them. If they hadn’t opened their hearts and home to me, I doubt I would have loaded my car up and headed this way. They gave me a safe place to land and to start rebuilding. Rebuilding was exactly what I needed. Thank you guys.

Taking a job, getting my own place. Those feel like HUGE things for me at this point. They are major commitments for me. The kind I very much intentionally avoided for almost two years. I needed to take that time for myself. To wander wherever my spirit took me. It brought me here, and on a few other adventures along the way. I’ve learned that no matter what the paperwork says, no matter all our best intentions, it can change. It can change because you want or need it to. It can change and you have no control over it. All you do have control over is how you deal with it. So here I am, on this journey, starting out again and I couldn’t be more excited.

Independence Day

Tomorrow is my favorite holiday. I love the 4th of July even more than I love Thanksgiving, Passover, or my half birthday (it was last week if you were wondering).

There is something really special about July 4th.

It is so festive and fun. For me, growing up, it was always about community, family, fun, and gratitude. I think that is what makes it so special, the gratitude aspect. Arguably, my other favorite holidays (minus my half birthday) are also holidays of gratitude. But I like Independence Day the most.

I could go on and on for you about the long history of patriotism in my family. The love of country that was instilled in me since I was small. The fact that I sing patriotic songs as lullabies because I know those songs best. And perhaps one day, in a future post, I will. But today I just want to share my unabashed enthusiasm for my favorite day.

My first 4th of July
4th of July circa my toddler years


I am so grateful to be able to celebrate tomorrow. My parents will be in town (Mom said, “I know it is your favorite holiday and Dad and I just wanted to be with you to celebrate), and so will some other family. I am grateful for my family. My friends, cousins, Dad, uncles, and Gramps served our country, and many members of my family have chosen lives of service in some capacity or another. I am thankful for them, and for everyone I have met, and haven’t, who work and sacrifice to make my life, and the lives of others better.

I am thankful, even though I did not enjoy spending a week at the downtown criminal courthouse, to have jury duty. Yes you read that correctly, I am thankful for jury duty. I see it as a civic duty, it is my responsibility as a positively contributing member of society to participate in the judicial system when asked. It is right up there with voting. It is a privilege that, even when inconvenient, is part of the whole package. I am also incredibly glad to be able to vote. I remember the first ballot I cast. It was for the California gubernatorial recall (do the math). I was so absurdly excited, and I still get excited every time I vote. I love getting my sticker, I love watching the news as the polls close. Even the “little” elections are exciting to me. I totally geeked out with enthusiasm the first time I was in D.C. as a middle school student, and again as a high schooler, and again as an adult, and I don’t doubt I will again and again.

You know, just part of my civic duty
You know, just part of my civic duty


I could go on and on about all the little things I love and I am thankful for as a citizen of the United States. I think Dennis Prager said it well here, it is only a part of what I love, but I really appreciate the way he articulates the idea of the values that make this country great.

Tomorrow isn’t my favorite holiday just because I think America is an amazing country (which I do, not perfect but amazing nonetheless), or because I am thankful that I was born a citizen of America (which I am), it is also my favorite because it is such a happy day. How can it not be? If we are setting aside a day in the summer to be thankful and celebrate freedom, we should be happy. No one has the pressure of buying gifts for people. We get to hang out with people we love. It is often a great opportunity for pictures because people aren’t matching, but they typically coordinate well with each other. Clothing is often minimal and people smell like sunscreen and barbecue. The food is great. The sun doesn’t set until well into the evening. The fireworks are so beautiful. It is almost romantic in a way. I mean really, what’s not to love?

This year I will miss Brother waking me up by blasting Stars and Stripes Forever on the stereo. Dad wont have set up chairs to watch the parade, and as small town and kitschy as the parade is I LOVE it . Getting to sit on the sidewalk with friends and family, some of whom are from different political affiliations (gasp), and worse, are Giants fans (poor things), while we enjoy a day of celebration and gratitude is all part of the coming together as a community and nation that make it such a special day.

A day meant for joy
A day meant for joy
Waiting for the parade to start
Waiting for the parade to start


Celebrating the 4th of July is whatever you make it. I know for me this year, I will be once again thankful for my freedom and all that that entails; for my family and friends; and for the journey that I have taken since the last Independence Day, and the freedom to be on this crazy adventure.

A family tradition
A family tradition

Absurd Things I Miss About L.A.

This past week I experienced legitimate homesickness for the first time in my life. Granted, before now I have never lived more than 152 miles (door to door) from home. I didn’t feel homesick at sleepovers, sleep away camp, or traveling abroad.

Sometimes life just throws all kinds of bombs in your direction at once. I would like to think I can handle it, I’ve dealt with some pretty epic life bombs, but this week, I had a a few pity parties, I got a little nostalgic, I realized I felt like I wanted to go home because I was feeling…homesick. Check that off the list of life experiences. It made me decide to finish a post I started about the silly things I miss about a place that was my home for, well as many years as I am old, minus almost one.

I grew up in L.A. I never thought I would leave. But I left. I pioneered in the wrong direction. I packed up my car and went east. No one writes songs about going east…

I got to the base of the western slopes of the Rockies and thought, “Seriously, I still have to get through those?!” I made it. I ran out of gas once, but I made it.I have come to really love it here. I have also grown to really miss some absurd (and less absurd) things about Los Angeles. Thankfully I have most of my family and so many friends there, so visits back are a given.

If you aren’t from around those parts you might think it is weird how many things on this list have to do with cars and traffic, its just part of life there. If you are from L.A. and still living there take a moment to appreciate the things on this list. If you are from L.A. and you live somewhere else, join in my nostalgia and longing. And if you are from somewhere else…I ‘m sorry.



1. Real Mexican Food

It is probably slightly unfair that I have this on my list. I haven’t, to date, actually tried any Mexican food out here. I just can’t believe it will be as good. How can it be? This state doesn’t even share a border with another country. I long for tortillas made by hand right there in the tiny little store front when I order. I miss the really good restaurants. And I miss the ones where you are kind of playing Russian Roulette with your digestion, but it is so worth it.


2. Car Chases

A year or two ago on New Years Eve, there were a whole bunch of us getting ready to go out for the night. But then a car chase came on TV. We all watched it and had commentary and reactions and speculations. When the guy finally ditched the car and went on foot we knew it would be over soon and we would be headed out. It was kind of a communal activity. Every since that Bronco tore down the freeway, car chases are just a thing.


3. Flip Flops

When I first made this list there was still snow on the ground. Wearing flip flops wasn’t really a valid outdoor option. Although, I did wear them the day I learned to snowboard, not my best footwear decision, also not my worst. Recently I have been wearing flip-flops almost everyday. I just miss having them as a legitimate year round option. Even when it was raining and cold I wore them, but now freezing temperatures thwart phalange freedom.


4. Traffic (sig alerts)

I get that this is absurd. Everyone who knows what a Sig Alert is probably thinks I need to have my sanity checked out. A world without them?! Sounds miraculous, I know. I even thought so too when I first moved. For those of you that don’t know, a Sig Alert is defined by the California Department of Transportation as:

“Sig-Alerts” are unique to Southern California. They came about in the 1940s when the L.A.P.D. got in the habit of alerting a local radio reporter, Loyd Sigmon, of bad car wrecks on city streets. These notifications became known as “Sig-Alerts.” Later Mr. Sigmon developed an electronic device that authorities could use to alert the media of disasters. Caltrans latched on to the term “Sig-Alert” and it has come to be known as any traffic incident that will tie up two or more lanes of a freeway for two or more hours.

So why would I miss such a thing?! Two hours or more of traffic?! Yeah, its a thing. You just deal with it. You gripe and complain about it. Sometimes you make friends with neighboring cars. Knowing multiple effective alternative routes is a point of pride for Angelenos. It is a cultural identity in a way.

If the amount of green and yellow on this is exciting, you’re from LA too.


5. Earthquakes

Again I know people might think I am crazy, but except for the big ones they aren’t that bad. The first time I missed an earthquake, my initial thoughts were to check in with everyone I knew nearish to the epicenter. My text to them went something like this: earthquake status check-in, you good?

I knew better, it was a tiny little 4 on the richter scale. The next time there was an earthquake, people texted me (it was the next day). The third one? I just felt left out. Name an earthquake that happened during my lifetime and I can tell you where I was. My two favorite were the Sierra Madre quake, I was home from school sleeping in my parents waterbed, that was exciting. Northridge? We had just gotten our hardwood floors redone and there was nothing under the wheels of my bed to stop the rolling, talk about an adventure. Really folks, I would take earthquake over most of the rest of the countries disasters, they come, they end, that is it. A few seconds of adrenaline and then on with life.


6. Predictable Weather (read: Weather that I understand)

My entire life, up until moving out east, I would look outside and know how to dress. I listened to the weather while getting ready for work more for company than actually information. I knew that in June I should wear a sweatshirt in the morning for camp, but by the time I had finished my coffee I would be glad to be in a tank top and shorts. Sun means shorts, wind means something warmer, gloomy means layers. And it usually cooled down enough at night to have an extra light layer. One day this past spring, I looked outside, saw sunshine and clear blue skies. I got dressed for such weather, walked outside, and promptly returned inside to dress significantly warmer. Oh and did you know that it can be 80 during the day and then suddenly it will rain?! The sun doesn’t mean warm, nor dry, nor predicable. I guess I am not just learning how to winter, I am learning how to weather outside of Southern California.


7. The Dodgers

My boys in blue. My brother made one of those crystal radios when we were kids. He would listen to the Dodger game in bed, and sometimes if I was lucky he would let me come in his room and listen with him. It was the only TV during the week I remember being allowed to watch. My earliest memory in life is Kirk Gibson’s home run, well actually it is Mom crying happy tears after he hit the home run. If you don’t know about this moment in baseball history please stop reading and go find it, immediately.

I have an audio clip on my ipod of Vin Scully announcing this moment, it brings tears to my eyes every darn time. Loving the Dodgers means having a great start to the season, only to have them break your heart after the All Star Break. But don’t worry, next year will be our year. It means getting stuck in Sig Alert levels of traffic to and from the stadium. It means the whole family takes the day off work and Mom and Dad take Brother and me out of school for Opening Day. It means Kirk Gibson, Clayton Kershaw, Sandy Koufax, Jackie Robinson, Tommy Lasorda, Vin Scully, Nancy Bea, The Ravine, it means home.

No one here seems to cares about my boys of summer, they have some other team they think is good, some of them don’t even know what Vinny’s voice sounds like. I cried once in college when I realized my future children will not fall asleep listening to him announce a game (this is why I have downloaded sound bites, my future children need to know the voice of this amazing man). I haven’t been to a Dodger game all season, this is perhaps a first in my lifetime. Thank goodness for satellite radio in my car and internet radio, because even 1,000 miles away, I can drive around, or fall asleep to the sound of my boys in blue.

This field, this game: it’s a part of our past […] It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again.

8. The Worst Best Drivers

I don’t know what to say about us, other then, perhaps, sorry everyone else. We are the best drivers and the worst drivers at the same time. We possess a zen like patience for long drives stuck in traffic, there is no alternative, it is part of life. And at the same time roadrage is just a given. I learned to curse in multiple languages within a year of becoming a licensed driver. The other day, I had to fight every urge in my body to not brake check the jerk riding my tail, and when he zipped passed me, I sensed the California wave coming, and again fought the urge. Sometimes I let my inner driver out, but I have local plates now, and I feel marginally guilty (well, not really) about driving the way I want to. I would like to make one request though folks, do you think you could pull all the way out into the intersection while you are waiting to make a left turn, do you realize more of us could go if you did that? It is just the decent thing to do.


9. The Beach

I would never call myself a beach girl. In fact, I think most people who know me well will read this and say, “But Aimee, you hate sand.” I do. It gets on everything. I also hate beach parking, which really should be called lack of beach parking. But ever since moving to a land locked state, I miss the ocean. When I went back for a visit during Mother’s Day, I wanted to go surfing, I hadn’t done that since college. I wanted to sit on the sand and just drink in the beauty of the Pacific. When I had regular access to it, when traffic was a part of my daily life, and when my summer trips to the beach included the entire summer camp for which I was responsible, I did not like the beach. But now I am happy to go and visit, to get sand on everything, to look around for good parking, to people watch, and best of all to take in the vastness of the Pacific.


10. Oak Trees

I didn’t know I had a favorite tree. I love all the trees here. There are trees I had never seen before. I still can’t name most of them, but I am working on it. What I don’t see much of are those beautiful live oak trees that are just everywhere in Southern California, well all of California really. They just kinda speak to my soul I guess.


11. Food Trucks

They just don’t seem to be as much of a thing here. No random taco truck to stop at and get AMAZING tacos at 1 am. Oh, and there was a time when we lost power for like a week and a dozen the food trucks converged on one empty lot. There was music and such good food and it didn’t matter that I was getting dressed by lantern light and sleeping under every blanket I owned, and all the food in our fridges had gone bad. That ice cream, the one that had an entire breakfast of coffee, waffles, maple syrup, and bacon in it! Oh I could just die…

A local food truck festival


12. People saying “the” in front of a freeway names

Okay, here is the thing: it linguistically makes perfect sense that we place an article in front of the freeway number. Los Angeles, THE Angels. Spanish is kind of an influential part of the culture and identity, and articles are kind of a big part of Spanish (says the girl who speaks French). So I am going to tell you to, “take the 210, to the 605, to the 405.” And now that I live here, I am going to tell you something along the lines of, “take the 70, to the 270, to the 36.” I am not going to change, so learn to find it endearing and accept that it is culturally and linguistically appropriate considering my roots. Also, maybe Southern Californians will stop saying the when people from Northern California stop saying “hella”.


13. The Rose Parade Flyover

A stealth bomber flips a U-turn directly overhead my parents house twice in one day every New Year’s day. Enough said.

Hey Dad, can you take a better picture for me this year? This person clearly lives too far south.


14. Billboards

How am I supposed to know what kind of neighborhood I am in? What language is the dominant first language in this community?! Which sports team do they most support? Am I close to the brewery? Where the heck is the nearest In-n-Out?! When is the Ren Faire? What is the newest attraction and Disneyland/ Universal/ the Zoo/ the Science Center? Cross town rivals? Seriously Colorado, I am getting very little information on my drive…

In-n-Out didn’t quite make the list, but here is a cameo.


15. Booze in the  Grocery Store

Okay, I am learning to get over this one a bit. For a long while I thought it was incredibly annoying and stupid that I couldn’t pick up a bottle of wine with my groceries. Now, however, I am actually finding liquor stores to be a somewhat fun experience. I have also discovered that having to go to a liquor store is not an uncommon experience. I just kinda miss the convenience of getting everything in one place.


16. The Mountains are North

My ENTIRE life I have oriented myself to the mountains being to the north.  There are hills in every direction, but the mountains, North. It makes for easy navigating (side note, I often give directions based on an assumption that everyone else knows what I mean when I say, “head north…” which is apparently not the case…Briana…). Sure, the ocean is always west(ish), but sometimes it is smoggy, or you aren’t near the coast, so the mountains make a good reference. Now, I live in this beautiful place, with the most beauteous mountain view right outside my bedroom window…my western facing bedroom window. Did I mention that to the east the land out here is flat, as in plains and prairie flat? It is a breathtaking, obvious landmark looking at the Rocky Mountains, but I often have to quietly remind myself that in this crazy place those mountains mean west.

This picture is looking NORTH.


17. The 605/10 split

Joan Didion wrote about this. The first time I had to drive it I considered getting off the freeway and taking side streets. I have often wondered who the heck engineered it. I can’t decide if they were clearly not a local, or such a local they knew it was the kind of thing that would become a rite of passage for other locals. Either way, twelve years after I started driving, I still get an adrenaline rush and feel a sense of accomplishment when I smoothly make the transition from one freeway to the other, especially if I don’t even have to tap my breaks. The two lane things they call freeways here (I know, right?!) just don’t provide the same experience.


18. My people

So more seriously, I love my life here, but I miss my people. Maybe y’all could move out here? Bring the Dodgers, and the food trucks, and a few live oaks, and some of the traffic out with you….