Monday, April 16, 2012

A Winter Wonderland Wedding

Bear Valley is known for it’s simplistic beauty.  Blankets of snow meet your doorstep during the winter, and the sun, himself, will always warm your cheeks in the waning days of summer. My existence began in this small town over 25 years ago when my soul attached itself to my mother.  Who knows how long I waited in the dense forest sleeping with the bears and tossing pinecones from trees.

I’ve only returned a few times that I could remember (less than the fingers of one hand heed that answer).  I was in 10th grade—only a year before my sister and I began to live with our father full-time in Tahoe—and my cousin Jenna, took Ali and I on a car trip to visit her father (my uncle).  My visit previous to this was more than 10 years before high school.  We were passing through the area to go camping at Lake Aspin.

Yesterday, however, provided me with a new memory—a memory that I could really clutch onto without having to chase down the broken pieces of a puzzle.  This, of course, doesn’t mean that those previous experiences didn’t hold significance in my being. I remembered those events, after all (and one would think that the character of your soul develops from such circumstances). My cousin, Lauren Phillips, dropped her last name, put on the most awesome dress, turned up the music and hosted one amazing gathering with her new husband Mike Schimke! In other words: SHE GOT MARRIED!!

 What an amazing and memorable occasion it was!  The Bear Valley Lodge was packed to the gills with family and friends (and even a few people that no one knew—cheers to the mysterious Reggae band).  Trees tangled with beautiful white lights and snowflakes cascaded from every part of the ceiling.  It was a winter wonderland!  Ryan, Elena (my cousin) and I sat right behind my aunt and uncle. Love reverberated from person to person.  Love bounced off the walls and splashed into drinks. People stood in the back of the room and even watched from floors above—hanging over the log banisters—to catch a glimpse of the beautiful bride and her new hubby! The anticipation for everyone was incredibly exciting. Lauren’s dress, of course, was a showstopper. She looked like a beautiful winter princess standing next to her husband (who was also dressed all in white).  I felt so lucky to be there to share such a special occasion with her.

After the ceremony, my cousin and her wedding entourage, went to snap some photos in the snow. I introduced Ryan to parts of my family he hadn’t met, and I got to visit with my cousin, Elena (who I haven’t seen for nearly 10 years).  You always know someone is a family member when you can pick up right where you left off—just as if you saw each other yesterday. Time passed quickly as we ate dinner, and listened to some awesomely incredible toasts (which you can find on YouTube by the way). As the crowd gathered to give their blessings, in what easily could have been mistaken for a extra large group hug, we had the option of raising a fist or glass or hand in the air for the toast.  Man it was cool.

The music took the room by storm. Smiles plastered everyone’s face, and dancing feet shook the room for hours.  By 12:30am we said goodnight, and the party continued for hours. Rumor has it that the DJ didn’t stop the music until after 2am; even after the last song walk through the hotel doors, people continued to carry on until the sun began to rise.

Taking off from my busy schedule of working and wedding planning to celebrate such a union was just right for my soul.  I had the chance to reunite with Bear Valley; I had the chance to breath in the brisk, snow-filled air; I had the chance to party-it-up with some of the most favorite people I know! What more could you want?

Thank you Lauren and Mike for bring together such an amazing group of people. And, of course, congrats to Mr. & Mrs. Mike Schimke!  I wish you a lifetime of happiness! 

Feast your eyes, ladies and gentlemen! Below are some glimpses of the amazing night we had:

Moments after the "I do's"

Me, My Aunt Sandy, and My Cousin Elena Celebrating!

Stealing a moment with the beautiful bride! (Lauren, Me, Elena)

The morning after the wedding!  All the cousins together! (Elena, Jenna, Me and Lauren)

Ryan and I saying goodbye to a wonderful weekend!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

It's all in the Details

Weeks and weeks have passed. Which, believe it or not, I have no control over this thing called time. Time is a finicky thing that can only be mastered by the best of us thus leaving the rest of the population to roll around in it as if it were a massive pile of mud.  Layers and layers muck cling onto you (very much like the sticky snow of the snow ball), and when you finally get the opportunity to stand up and dust yourself off, you think, "huh...where did all this mud come from?"

I too have been a prisoner of time--at least for the past few months. So, you must be thinking, what has this college graduate been up to for the past few months? If you aren't thinking this, you should be. I am a very awesome person to know.  Contrary to popular belief, I haven't become famous, and I certainly haven't reached the ultimate stardom after college graduation--obtaining the job of my choice (well this isn't 100% accurate, but I will tell you about that soon).

For all those current college graduates, be realistic. A job won't fall in your lap right after you snatch up your diploma (for those lucky few that do get a job, congrats). You're CRAZAY if you think it happens that way.  Start making connections today! TODAY! You will thank me for this later.

Any-who, I've had some really awesome adventures since graduation (which was of course in Dec 2010), so I'm gonna give you the highlights:

  1. I got engaged in November! I'm almost halfway into the wedding planning process; its been a blast!  You can catch up on my crazy-other persona at (chances are you will find more posts from me under this blog until after marriage time in October).
  2. My Mother got hitched last December, so my sister and I flew to Kentucky to enjoy the merriment.  We now have a new step father named Smith.
  3. Somewhere along the way, I became a substitute teacher...I haven't subbed yet, but my name is out there, and I've been waiting for my first call!
  4. I had an adventure in Mexico with Ryan and his family to end the year of 2011.  The food, the people, the land, the animals--everything was AMAZING!
  5. I started to take guitar lessons. If not now then when?  Don't make excuses for yourself!  Get out there and do something new.  Something that you haven't tried. I guarantee you won't regret exploring new and unmet challenges!
  6. To start off the new year, I job hunted like a crazy person.  After weeks and weeks (more like two months)...
  7. I got an internship in Sebastopol with an awesome company called MAKE! This is my third week with this company, and I love it!  
As a writer, the stories I choose to write about are all in the details.  The decisions and life directions that I choose today are a direct correlation with my choice to graduate from college (and my sheer desire to always remain AWESOME). The past few months have definitely been crammed with a fluctuation of crazy and cool thus spinning me to this point right here and now.  I am really excited for what this year has to bring--especially because the year has gotten past all of the fluffy bits (and chances are you won't be writing 2011 on your checks).  

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

30 Karleeisms (all those tiny things that help to define me as a person)

1.   I’ve lived in 7 states and over 21 homes.  The states include California, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Delaware, North Carolina, Kentucky, and Texas. I’ve lived the longest in Kentucky and California.

2.  I am the oldest of 7 siblings. 4 boys and 3 girls—but I will always be number 1—pichaw.

3.  I am me, and I’ve always been me.  My body and circumstances around me have changed, but not me.  At my core, I’ve always been the same person.

4.  I’ve always been the best person I can be.  That means I treat everyone I come across, regardless of who they are, with respect.

My most recent creative endeavor
5.   Challenge me creatively. I will always find a way to succeed. I can guarantee it.

6.   I don’t take bullshit easily, so please don’t bullshit me.

7.   I’ve always wanted to be a voice actress.

8.  I’ve never considered myself to be very interested in political, on-going debates.  I am moderate.

9.   I am an advocate for social justice.

10.  I love to travel. I've currently been to  California, Nevada, Texas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland, Delaware, Florida, Alabama, Virginia, Minnesota, Chicago, Arizona, New Mexico,Oregon, Washington, Georgia, West Virginia, Ohio, Tennessee, Canada (Toronto Area), Mexico (the Yucatan Peninsula as well as Julachuca on the peninsula).  Now that I've covered a good chunk of North America, I would like to travel the rest of the world.

11.  I advocate people. Period. No one should be treated any different than how you want to be treated. Take some time to think about that.

12.   I love learning about other cultures. The media really digs in a blur of ethnic stereotypes and so many people are blinded from preconceived notions of people.

13.   I am particularly over honest about things (I always feel guilty for lying. Always).  I tend to only lie when I’m scared.

14.   I have a degree in English and Linguistics. Other than my occasional blog and creative free-write I haven’t done much with my degree so far.

15.   I have NO IDEA what I want to do with my degree. And, unless you know someone, your dream job becomes less and less of a reality every day (yes—this concept is rather depressing).

16.  I keep those close to me who believe in me as a person.  You know who you are. Thank you.

17.   I have a brown belt in Judo.

18.   I play 5 instruments (hopefully, I will learn to play the guitar sooner rather than later).

19.   I love anime. Period. I really think it’s unfortunate that people have this pre-conceived notion that if you like anime you must be “weird” or “odd”. I tried to hide my love for years, but admiring anime is something you don’t ever grow out of.

20.   I love stories and books. Fantasy is particularly my favorite, but I’ve always loved reading almost any type of story.  It helps to define you, and it helps to define your culture. I love love love to read. I have hundreds and hundreds of books on my bookshelf for all those sleepless nights I’ve spent reading. Some of my favorites include: "Memories of a Geisha," and "The Count of Monte Cristo"

21.   I’ve always felt as if I’ve been a particularly good advice giver. If you need some advice, don’t hesitate to ask.

22.   I have a hereditary tremor.  So, I shake. I am not nervous or tired, and this is not something I can control. When I am employing the use of my muscles, at any point, I shake. I've noticed that if I am hungry, anxious or my blood sugar is out of whack, I will be more shaky than normal.  This particular ism gives me the natural ability to be clumsy and break things (this happens OFTEN). Unfortunately, this will only ripen with age.

23.   I’ve always always always felt as if my purpose in life was to be a great Mother.
My name is Toby. I am the best.

24.   I’ve always had a more serious demeanor. I get easily irritated when people don’t take me seriously.

25. I've always been over protective of my siblings. You mess with them, you mess with me.

26. I love to organize. You name it, I will organize it.

27. I had braces for 8 years, and my teeth
 still aren't completely straight.

28.  I love my dog Toby. He is the best.

29. Other than english, I've studied two languages: 1. Spanish & 2. American Sign Language

30. I believe in God. I’ve believed in God almost all of my life and that won’t ever change.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Turkey Initiative

For any house, the kitchen on Walters Road was especially large.  The counter and cabinet space expanded for days—pots, pans and food could hide practically anywhere.  Even in the breakfast nook, a small pantry stood to the right of the large radiator offering more potential space for all of the wanted food.
Like many families in the south, we depended on food stamps to fill our bellies.  Food came and went quickly, and as time went on, food seemed to make less and less of an appearance. By the time I was sixteen, I was the only member in my immediate family with a drivers license and a job. I would often come home from work and find something like the refrigerator door open (our dog could open the door),  and/or a brown drawer or cabinet door missing. The brown linoleum floor was almost always covered with layers of dirt and food.  And, if there was food in the kitchen, it was almost always hidden from sight. Climbing on the counters in search for food was a common event amongst my siblings and I.  The ritual repeated itself everyday: climb on counter, open cabinet, search through cabinet, shut cabinet, climb down, climb on counter, open the next cabinet and repeat.  It was always a great day when Little Debbie Snacks found their way into our hands (oatmeal pies were particularly popular among the family). Some days, those snacks were the only things I ate.  I would eat two or three mini pies of sugary goodness (this always seemed to cause more dissatisfaction than benefit).
On one particular occasion, I stood in the kitchen studying the massive pile of dirty dishes. Bits of old food scattering the counter. It was one of those classic moments—you approach a mess from far away, ready with your fingers bared and realized you’ve bit off more than you can chew. Flies swooped and drooped in a timely motion flying through rotten smell as if to celebrate all of their potential, upcoming meals. My bare feet brushed over the brown, flowered linoleum, as I approached the breakfast nook. I can’t exactly remember why I was standing there. Maybe, I was wondering where I could find food, or maybe I was waiting for my Mom or Stepdad to wander home. 
Time passed just as quickly as any other moment, but the next fifteen minutes rapidly slowed to etch its way into my memory. A dark minivan swayed to-and-fro rolling down our driveway upon the uneven gravel. The ground crunched under the solid weight of the tire pressure--only to be silenced when the van settled into its designated spot. A taller woman with short, blonde hair stepped out of the van. I looked closer—I knew her. It was one of the moms from Pikeville's varsity tennis team.  I practiced with her daughter almost every day during the fall season. But, why in the world was she knocking on the door? What could she possibly want?
I met Jessica’s mom at the door. We did the typical “hello, how are you?” conversation, and somehow she nonchalantly slipped in that she was there to deliver Thanksgiving dinner. I was absolutely speechless. Thoughts flooded my consciousness—I’m not sure I even thanked her properly. I'm not even sure how I reacted. How did she find out? Who told her? She retreated down the concrete stairs, and I followed her to the van.  The van door slid open only to reveal a blinding amount of shopping bags.  Our kitchen table was covered with food—food for not only Thanksgiving but for many weeks to come.  Jessica’s mom left me alone in the kitchen shortly following her delivery. I was left to finish the final stage of unpacking our food. Many people helped to contribute to our family that day, and it was there and then that I vowed I would one day do the same for someone else.

Today, with the help of friends and family, I was able to donate 10 turkeys and 20 boxes of stuffing to the California Homemaker’s Association. My relationship with Thanksgiving and my undeniable love for turkey, of course, contributes to my drive for the ultimate Turkey success. My hope is that those turkeys could put a smile on someones face erasing moments of uneasiness and tiredness. This cause will forever be called “The Turkey initiative,” and I hope to see more for many more years to come.  My goal: to pass on the hope that was once given to me through the gift of a Thanksgiving meal.  I will forever call this idea the Turkey Law. So, with each year brings on “The Turkey Initiative” with the ultimate goal of spreading the Turkey law. 

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Churro Man

Outside AT&T park--The first pitch is about to happen!
The biggest regret of my night: I bought a churro from a man covered in sweat for $4.75. I couldn’t resist the temptation. The churro was a massive 18-20 inches in length, and the sugar glowed, bounding and reflecting off of the stadium lights perched just beyond my peripheral vision. The Churro Man wore a duffle bag—presumably full of churros—across his chest. Sweat dripped down his forehead in a string of pearly beads. His expression never faltered, although it was obviously that he was outwardly tired. The Churro Man wore a slightly dangerous and deranged look upon his face—I guess he really needed to sell those churros. Waving the sugary treat violently above his head, he presented it to AT&T Park as if it was an award to be won, and I desperately wanted to win it.

What more could I have asked for? Crazy, yelling man with food? Check. Giants playing ball in the background? Check. Friends to my left and to my right? Check. And you know what I asked for? A damn churro. I wanted that churro so badly, I even had to borrow money from Kevin. $1.75 to be exact. The beer and mound of garlic covered fries that I bought right before the first pitch burned a whole in my pocket. The overly priced ballpark food didn’t have a chance—I felt the loss of my hard-earned money before I felt the hungry void disappear. So, as the Churro Man quickly approached, I responded to his fast, loud pace with an even faster loud pace. He was only two steps away when I yelled, "Hey! How much?"

1,000's squish to witness the last Tuesday
Night Game of the 2011 season.
I wrapped the long sugary concoction between my fingers. Oh how I admired the glow and sparkle of my new purchase. Layers upon layers of sugar coated the fried dough like a winter coat. I shook the churro, and the churro shook all over me. I then shook the churro closer to the ground, and then brushed the sugary coat off my lap. I silently thanked the churro for finding me during the last Tuesday night Giants game in San Francisco. 

It was about that time that I heard someone behind me say, "is there a nurse or doctor around?" The voice repeated the question again, “is there a nurse or doctor around?” Naturally curious, I looked around for the problem.  A few seats down and a little over to my left, there was an elderly gentleman having a seizure. Of course, after the announcement was made, doctors and nurses seemingly mass-produced. By any means, the man was not alone, but not much can be done to help someone when seizing. All you can do is stand by their side and make sure they don’t hurt anyone—or more importantly, hurt themselves.  Many stood and kneeled around him until he was ready to be helped.

The elderly man, didn’t seemed to be panicked or worried, and I was pleased to see that people stood by him in his time of need. Regardless, however, I was disturbed by the situation. I was disturbed by how unmoved the crowd was. Someone’s life was being changed, altered, and people were cheering about a ball being tossed around.  Of course, it would be impractical for thousands of people to rush to this man’s side—that would have looked ridiculous—but more consideration and compassion could have gone a long way.

Could it be possible that the baseball game was more important than the health and well being of this man?  I even admit—I was no better than my surrounding counterparts.  I had my churro. I had my friends. I had my game. Consciously or unconsciously—I chose to pay more attention to the field that a man in desperate need of assistance.  I would glance down momentarily every now and again, but just like the people gathered tightly around me, the baseball game would eventually become my focus again. To further my point, the mild interest of the man’s illness didn't travel much farther than 5-10 seats. That evening, all of our lives intersected in one location—AT&T Stadium. Everyone sat tightly together adding to the spirit and fervor of the crowd. When someone couldn’t participate, however, they were unintentionally separated from the event that drove everyone to the same intersection.

The 3 Replacements sitting in seats below:
Yellow cap man in the center.
I felt selfish. I felt selfish for having my churro, and I felt selfish for having my health. I felt selfish for not needing to be helplessly walked out of the stadium. I felt selfish that my biggest regret for that evening was questioning the health status of my sugary churro.  As the churro, not mere minutes later, dwelled in the pit of my stomach, I wondered if the uneasy feeling in my gut was the result of the sugar or the selfishness I felt.

Eventually, a paramedic/emt and a few friends escorted the elderly man out of the stadium.  His face appeared worn and tired, and walking seemed to be no easy task. The man swayed on his feet as if he was just learning how to walk. With each slow, shaky step, he leaned on the paramedic/emt with his remaining strength. And just like that he was gone. The man passed by me, and walked out of my life. Who would have guessed, though, that mere moments later, a new crowd would swoop in quickly to take his place.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Making the Most of Your Commute: A Simple Guide to Becoming A Road Warrior.

It’s inevitable: if you live in America, and you have a car, you will fall prey to traffic at some point in your life. There are no if’s and’s or but’s about it, traffic is a beastly monster that crawls under the hood of every car, releasing poisonous fumes into circulating vents, thus causing a major delay in your brain. Hence, traffic is born—a  new monster created everyday capable of taking out even the most harmless of creatures. Overcoming the monotonous, terrifying beast is vital for your survival. And, I assume you want to survive your commute, so taking this advice may be your only hope. 

Terms for Survival:

A commuter—one who drives a distance longer than 30minutes between 3-5 days a week for work and/or school.  Common characteristics of a commuter may include: tunnel vision, reading, swerving in a dazed stupor, and expressing road rage through a series of gestures and words.

A road warrior—one who has surpassed the dullness of a commuter with god-like qualities. They can often be compared to Jeff Gordon, dragons and Yoda alike. Using their creative whit and brute strength, these individuals always manage to put the entertainment of others before there own needs. Laughing in the face of danger is always a must.

For your transformation from normal commuter to road warrior, here is what you need to know:

Honk your horn frequently and often. This will insure that you get the attention of everyone, including yourself. You want to be awake and present for anything. After all, you are a warrior, and warriors don’t let people idly pass—you want attention! Popularity is an important quality that road warriors crave. And, if you honk, heads will be naturally inclined to turn in your direction.  So, honk that horn. Honk at cops, honk at old drivers, honk at pedestrians—but make sure you choose wisely the tone of each honk because each one is an extension of your personality.

Drive it like you stole it (and when I say “it” I mean your car, of course).  To ensure maximum use of the on-ramp, slam your foot on the petal and turn your wheel sharply (in the direction of the freeway, of course) to insure you get the most squealing potential.  “Where your eyes go, your car goes” (The Art of Racing in the Rain, Garth Stein)—it’s open road and it’s yours for the taking. People will get out of your way (and if they don’t, you both have an immediate problem on your hands). The friction of rubber against pavement will either light the underbelly of your car on fire or send the people behind you into a smoke induced coma. To be honest, you will probably find the latter to be more common, but that doesn’t mean putting your car into an induced blaze of glory isn’t possible—dragons can do it, so road warriors must fall into this greatness pool as well.

Weave in and out of the carpool lane during rush hour.  This will provide you with entertainment typically between the hours of 6am-9am. If it is no longer the allotted carpool time during your commute and you are preceding to continue this advice, stop. You are no longer a warrior; you are a fool. The damage will be irreparable.  However, swerving in and out of the carpool lane during traffic is the way of the warrior. It is cool. People will look at you with admonishment and adoration. Many will think, “Cool! I wish I could do that!” and others will furrow their brows and communicate awful words that cannot be repeated on this page. Both qualities are required for the mightiest of warriors. At this point, you may be thinking: what about the cops? Well, what about them? They are drones of the commute too. Becoming a warrior creates an impenetrable force field of awesomeness—cops and morons alike will bounce off your shield like a hockey puck reverberating off of a wall.

Like the carpool lane, you can also use the shoulder at will. Besides that little white line creating an invisible barrier, you have NOTHING blocking your way to instant gratification.  So, be gratified. Spread your wings; honk your horn, and swerve from the carpool lane into the shoulder. After all, America is all about instant gratification, and your wish, as a warrior, is to be gratified.

You are a warrior—paralleled to the great Yoda himself— so if you truly wish, you too can BE traffic. Slam on your breaks, frequently and often.  Swerve into the onramps at massive and uncontrollable speeds; blindside those who wish to be a warrior but undeniably remain a commuter. What you decided is the inevitable; nobody can escape the glory that is you.

Simply: If you don’t become a road warrior during your morning drive, you will not survive. The vicious fumes of the traffic monster (which you could have had the choice to create) will eat at your soul giving you little ambition to continue on the path set before you.

So, what will you chose to be? Road Warrior? Or Commuter?

PS. As a road warrior, I must heed this warning-- if for some reason, you do find yourself in flames or rundown by the cops, it's because you weren't reading between the lines. So please, be careful with the weapon that is you. 

Monday, August 29, 2011

A Picture Perfect Day

By the time I was in 1st grade, I had attended a number of primary schools across Delaware and North Carolina (I believe it was 4 or 5, which would mean that I attended one or more schools every year until our family moved to Kentucky). I was six—truthfully wishing to be seven—but I am positive I was six. Endless summer days in the North Carolina sun bleached my short, boyish-like hair and freckles splashed the brims of my cheeks. My attire consisted of shorts (or overalls), a pair of roughed-up tennis shoes and a t-shirt ready for a beating from Mother Nature. A daily invitation from the sun beckoned me to come and play (and, willing, I never let the sun down).  I would run and run and run. And if Ali, my sister, was outside (which was always very likely) we would run and run and run. Like every summer, time was always deceitful. Rolling around in the dirt, making mud pies and selling or eating the mud pies always had to stop sooner or later. And when the production line had to stop, it was a sign: school was on the horizon, and picture day was soon to follow.

Like all of my 20-30 classmates, I was going to experience picture day.  I am sure my mother probably mentally prepared me the night before, but all I could remember was the sheer terror I felt when my feet landed on the pavement and the blue car door shut behind me.

I was wearing a dress. The dress was painted with pastel green and pink flowers. The sleeves held an 80’s puff complimenting a simple, white lace accent, and a light pink sash tied around my waist to complete the grand statement: I was coming to school with style.

I began to wander toward my classroom door. It was then my pace began to slow. I came to a stop, and wiggled in my dress. I was uncomfortable. That was when my conscious was flooded with consistent and awful thoughts: What if today wasn’t really picture day? What if I am dressed up and no one else is? What if my friends don’t like my dress? My stomach began to ache and my throat quickly dried out. I was tempted to turn around to find someone (or run), but the hallway was empty. The idea of being alone terrorized me further; I was stuck in the spot where I stood. The slight glow from the classroom remained in my focus giving me little comfort. Seconds turned into minutes; it wasn’t until a parent rounded the corner with her son dressed in the height of fashion that I could will myself to move.

My lovely desk...
 Fast-forward 17 years. It is the night before my first “official” day of work, and I can’t help but relive the terror that visited me years before. I am no longer in college (hooray! I am a college graduate!), and I no longer can say I am “hunting for a job.” I guess that would put me into the category of “big girl.”

To preoccupy my fears, I packed my lunch, laid out my navy dress, organized my paperwork and started to watch a movie. The rumbling in my stomach and clenching of my throat put me on my feet again.  I began to wander around my room. I was forgetting something, but what? And then it hit me: I was missing the documents I needed to prove my citizenship. Unfortunately, my desk became the victim of a mini tornado. Destruction laid in my wake as I tore apart file after file.  Even my phone conversation with Ryan was disparaging—I needed to take my frustration out on something or someone. So I did both. After the mini storm, It took me 30minutes or so to reconnect with myself and harness my chi, but I did it!  And I eventually fell asleep. Like my first grade photo shoot, I really had nothing to fear about my first day of work. It was wonderful (minus the traffic I had to wait in).  Hopefully, day two will be even better.