Well… How Did I Get Here?

Most of the things I use today have been self taught.

My college education – gave me a dash of

Statistics (one class early morning, I only remember because I disliked mornings in college) I remember doing things like calculating percentages of people who bought certain items in a grocery store, to establish demographics for supply and demand.

Psychology/Philosophy – both of which fed my introspective curiosity about humanity and our connection to a higher power, very existential, reality shifting stuff.

English classes I only took to fulfill requirements as I was not good at writing papers by some higher ed standards. Also, I always went for the high hanging fruit. In Psychology I tried to build a defense that people were connected by chemical attraction. The research was limiting and I think I got a C or something.

History? I have no recollection of taking history classes (ironic)

ALGEBRA – why?

Otherwise, I Focused on creative writing classes, scriptwriting, film/video, editing, Photography, Theater & acting classes.

Things I self taught myself…

Management skills, project, operations, et al…

Administrative skills, building systems for data management and operational continuity, consistency, sustainability, et al…

Graphic Design

Web Design


A friend told me I had diversified my income opportunities.

There is no purpose of this post. Except perspective. My own of course.

Welcome to my ongoing mid-life crisis.

The Year of Wee

In 2019, I was texting my Dad on New Years Day “Happy New Year”. At the time I had my old iPhone SE the 6 in a 5’s body. Ya know how Apple like to do. I loved that phone, but texting was a total nightmare. Autocorrect had me saying all kinds of unintentional things, so I had previously turned that function off, choosing to deal with typos instead. So circle back, I texted “Happy Nee Year”, then to justify my mistake, as improvisors often do… I followed up with “it’s the ‘new’ new!” Being at my best friends house while this was happening, I shared with her my delightful typo and we collectively decided that “Happy Nee Year” was too fun, not to employ. And so 2019 became the “Year of Nee”. We decided that we wouldn’t define what “Nee” meant and let the year take shape, allowing Nee to become something meaningful over time. And by golly… Nee ended up meaning “No Expectations Ever” a perfect idea for a reset, a transition year, a year of discovery, and fearless adventure.

If you have a year of Nee, then there must be a subsequent year, I mean you can’t year of Nee every year…. so in 2020, after experiencing a perfect Year of Nee… the natural next step seemed “The Year of Mee.” Time for reflection, for grounding, rooting and growth to your potential self. I know… it’s a lot of hippy dippy stuff, but it works for me. I’m far too philosophical and curious in nature to not find my own sense of life. Ya know what…? 2020 was the craziest of times and functioned as a “Year of Mee” without permission… grounded by nature. Forced to reflect on what we’ve done. At least this is very true for me. A definite “Year of Mee.”

2021’s moniker was a conclusion of immense clarity, within no time upon the turn of the year… I labeled 2021 the “Year of Wee”. Two meanings here, time to re-connect, which is personally very important to me and a hopeful outcome of the whole quest, but also, reflective of humanity, which I find interesting….

Tangent: As if I had some sort of sixth sense this was all coming… I mean, I started cooking before it started. Why? Sixth Sense. I stopped going out places and got really comfortable being alone. Why? Sixth Sense. I severed many of my obligations and did not have any major plans to be disappointed by (also if you spend an entire year in the “Year of Nee” focus, you tend to get very comfortable with not having expectations, if that’s a good thing, I don’t know yet, still collecting data). Anyway, my point… perhaps there is a God, no that’s not the point of this…. that’s for another post.

Getting my point back on the road…. the second thing, The “Year of Wee” is about releasing the pendulum, heading down the other side of the mountain, choosing the slide instead of the stairs.

In conclusion. I hope we all enjoy the ride! Together.



Don’t Mind Me

Don’t Mind Me

by Jacqueline Arend

There are moments where I can’t bear it. There is so much inside of me, so many different feelings, thoughts, ideas pulling and tugging at my being. Working through these moments are a blessing… so don’t mind me.

A friend asked me recently if I’ve always been conscious, “woke”, per se, before “woke” was a label. I know I have always been self aware, self conscious and believed that life was bigger than me. Sensitive beyond understanding as a young child, constantly adapting to behave in ways that are socially acceptable, misunderstood and labeled weird. This caused me to become very observant and inquisitive about life and the meaning of my own.

In my 20s… during the days when I was living more recklessly, when driving over bridges, I used to have visions of just driving off them. Imagining what the fear, thrill and shame all at once would feel like to make such a ridiculous choice and then the cause of effect, dropping below on oncoming traffic, the sound of the crash, the impact, the panic in others, the potential casualty beyond my own and it’s no longer a thought. Too much pain and suffering on the other end. Too much unnecessary destruction. I did not imagine this to take my own life… but to understand the experience of such a situation, if an accident was incited by someone else, I may have no control in the action of my car going off a bridge. The sudden realization that your car can be a very deadly weapon, intentional or unintentional is an intense feeling of fear. And so the responsibility to be safe when driving is reiterated and respected. I don’t imagine that scenario as often, yet, still become aware of the impact my vehicle can have on the lives around me… and so, I still become suddenly anxious about it. 

One day, about 5 years ago, I got in my car, pulled out of my complex and felt instantly anxious about taking a left turn onto a busy street, during rush hour. Without thinking, my imagination saw me in that car and began zooming out, the car on the road, the road on a grid, the grid on a map, the map on the globe and the globe in the solar system. For a split second I was made aware of how insignificant my car and I were in the bigger picture… yet still, like an ant, part of a working system…. belong in symbiosis. Then, it didn’t seem so daunting anymore. Much of life became less daunting. I am a part of the whole, like matter… and so, fluidity. Funny. I didn’t know that’s where I would end up… with fluidity, but a good enough place for the now of my life. 

At the ripe ole age of 41… the introspection is maddening. It’s… also beautiful. It’s true what they say about the mid life crisis. I hope everyone is lucky enough to have an awakening of mortality, inventory on quality of life and the drive toward positive growth. If you’re lucky, you have a chance, at this point, to live another amazing 40 years, what are you going to do with it? I have the good fortune to take my time with myself, be mindful and recondition. With that comes a new sense of self that is not clouded by requirements of traditional standards. i.e. dress codes… specified routines… responsibilities even. I don’t have kids, I’m not chained to a career. I’m self employed, work remotely and set my own hours. I don’t have any assets, just my husband, friendship, family, handful of jobs and a few cats.

In 2017, at 38, I had that moment. I took inventory on my quality of life. I made a point to try and begin living my life unapologetically, out loud, shine my light and turn up my volume. I had all these voices in my head about who I was and where I was going, but none of them were mine, so I had to find “my voice”. With this focus comes bold new behavior. One of the first mental choices I made was to extinguish the guilt for saying “no”. I said, “I will not do anything that gives me anxiety.” I have to dull the anxiety, I have to reprogram that feeling into something positive. This meant that I said “no” a lot and… confused my entire understanding of myself by becoming introverted. I was shocked by how easy it was for me to hide away, to avoid people, small talk… to say hello and goodbye and not engage any further. How easy, and how relieving it was. For my friends, it was difficult, some friendships still haven’t recovered and lots of that is buried under piles of dirt… I had to be transparent with many what I was doing so they knew that it wasn’t personal. This is about me and what I need. Saying “yes” led to anxiety, saying “no” led to guilt, guilt led to anxiety. 

So… the guilt. Much of that was dependent on me understanding that how I was operating was beyond full capacity… and full capacity is all of you and then some, so if you give everything to your work, to others… what happens to the stuff that you should be giving yourself, it overflows the cup, spills, shame, guilt and creates anxiety. I began living by the “love yourself first to love others” motto. I love community, I love people and supporting others… but if I don’t have that love for myself… am I truly living? The realization of how much I loved myself was disheartening. I was becoming aware that I was existing purely on the reflection from others. I did not truly have an identity beyond my life in the eyes of others. Well, I did, I was just afraid to make it important.

It’s true you attract things, well, I think we’re always attracting things. I had a boyfriend once who was reading the necronomicon and bad shit kept happening to him. I was like “duh, stop reading the necronomicon”. Anyway, I had a full cup, I am making room, because my cup was gross… it was once delicious, but it spoiled or I didn’t want that taste anymore. So I emptied my cup… and I’m being very picky about what I fill it back up with. I’ve carried a number of beverages in my hands as a server, I could carry up to five with two hands. I was amazing at it and still love to show off at parties. Strong hands and amazing balance. I loved to impress myself and others with the skills. Now… it’s like, one glass is nice, just enough for me. I’ll let others get their own drinks for a while. And, let’s leave room, ya know, no need to have to walk around all day worrying about spilling. And, let me try to attract a variety of things before I decide what to add to it. And funny enough, when you have room in your cup, things come round to fill it. When you vibrate high, things will attract to you. Once you’re comfortable saying “no”, find your own voice, it becomes much easier to choose quality for that cup, guilt free. A lot of this is also understanding your value. I never could sell myself, I did not believe in my value. I did not love myself.  

So, I look in the mirror everyday, I wear what I like to wear, I look how I want to look, and slowly, I began to love myself, more and more with each passing day and soon my body began to look right, my face, my smile, I began to see my own glow. I admitted to a friend a couple years ago that perhaps if I was born later and a youth in this age, maybe I’d be non-binary. I can’t claim that today, I’ve lived too long in society, where it was, to accept my biological womanhood and truly appreciate the gift of having been born a woman. However, my image of myself is very androgynous and my own ability to see gender within is incredibly fluid. I was this way as a young girl, where I rejected super feminine clothing and liked my hair short. I conformed, over time, especially because I wanted boyfriends and it was made clear to me that boys don’t like girls who look like boys. Eventually, I got boyfriends, a husband, and then…. in the advent of loving myself… here I am. Living my best androgynous life, trusting that in being myself inside and out, I will love myself more for being brave, authentic and bold… 

I know many woman, people, friends, like myself, getting the hair cuts they want, dressing how they want, turning up their volume and living out loud… These people are inspirations on others to do the same. You see people living their best life and you think, I want that. Slowly you start to make bold choices that fully represent your innermost self, your authentic self, that which you’ve hidden so that society will accept you. I’ve seen people around me bolder and braver… 

So perhaps I’m not alone with these things I’ve shared… and isn’t that meaningful in humanity, to be reminded that we are not alone. Yes, we have individual thought, but those thoughts resonate with others. We can relate to more than we imagine. After all, any which way you look at it… we ALL come from the same ilk, we are all a small spec on the planet, we are living in symbiosis. 

My life, at 37 was like a metaphorical car crash. A pile up, and I went off the bridge. Ultimately, we as people can do damage too, we are a weapon of the heart. That year and the events within, changed everything I knew my life to be. I had a passion for something, a purpose, and suddenly it was gone. I tried refocusing, I thought, oh, this has made it possible to put more into acting, writing, what the fudge is it? … turns out it was me. I had to come to terms that I wouldn’t find the answers right away. I had to become okay with just being. I’m grateful for that event in my life… the “car crash”, cause I wasn’t happy, I was no longer living my best life… I’m now grateful to be alive and to look everyday, every moment for the opportunity to feel alive, in all its pain and glory. I believe this is where the joy of humanity lives. I still have no clue what’s ahead, I don’t know my purpose, I don’t have a burning passion driving me. However, my energy, my heart, my mind, my all… is open to whatever magnificence this life has to offer. I do believe I still have a purpose waiting to be realized, a calling, something to do yet on this earth, whatever that thing is that has been eating at me my entire life, telling me there’s more for me. I don’t know how else to get there, other than love life more and be better than I was yesterday. Knowing that is enough is a wonderful place to be.

Don’t mind me, I’ll just be wandering this party with my half full cup, having a ball.

Golly… Finding Your Identity

… I struggle with this topic and my interest in sharing with people. On one end, I don’t think it should be a big deal, but on another, it’s been a part of me my entire life, never truly addressed. It’s about my identity. Truthfully, I did label myself recently, but shortly after, I thought it was still trite. I feel strange about what it is exactly I’m saying, discovering, exploring with this post, however, it also seems necessary. I’m still boy crazy, and I’m pretty sure that supports my heterosexuality I’ve claimed my entire life. Yet, I am not opposed to the idea that I may feel the same about a woman, or a trans woman. My sexuality although mostly heterosexual, is more fluid than concrete and so I can not claim 100% anything.

In terms of my looks, my charm, my demeanor. It’s all dude. This is not a physical thing I struggle with. I love my physical form, and love being a woman, however, the androgyny is the look that best represents my personality. I like cool, looking cool, acting cool and feeling cool. I have spoken to it before, I aim to be more interesting and more charming than each moment before. I feel slightly weird about this objective in life, and incredibly frustrated that I see this manifested in traditionally male concepts, i.e. pants, suits, oxfords, and classic short hairstyles. I want to feel confident & sexy as a woman and honestly, without a doubt, I do that by dressing like a man, the hope is that in doing so, I am all woman. So removing gender from clothing & fashion seems like the best way to soften the lines that may plague other folks from anywhere on the spectrum to celebrate their sensibilities without judgement, labels and boxes saying “now you will forever be this.”

Here is a piece of dialogue from something I’m currently writing. I can often tell when I write dialogue that I have some personal things to work out, because I can’t help writing my own truth, to an identifiable outcome. I suppose that is part of the writers curse. Everything is a thought that belongs to them, it’s an incredibly vulnerable process. It’s frightening to share anything, because all my best stuff comes from truth. I am trying to strengthen my courage to share more, to believe that I have something to say that’s interesting. Or even to say to myself, “who the [beep] cares, no one cares about me, they just want me to be happy.” hahaha. Cause, ultimately, I have something kinetic going on within me. It’s a dragon of energy, I’m feeling open and I suppose this is the best time to put myself out there a little more and more with each passing day. I know there is more for me, but first I have to arrive.


Ooo, that’s big. I struggled with it for some time. I guess it started about 5 years ago, I just was, like I said, finding my light, transitioning… like you were, which is also why I think I was so drawn to you. On order to find my light, I needed to understand my voice. What am I trying to say, what am I wanting to represent. It’s that idea of presenting who you are, so that when people see you, they can get a sense of your personality. Before I got on the right path toward that, I battled with the urge to be more masculine, not be a man, I don’t identify as a man. I just feel normal, like myself, in giving myself the permission to appear the way I feel then I would in return have a stronger connection to my true identity, and sexuality. I feel sexy like this, because it’s me. I hope men find it attractive. Otherwise, life’s gonna be a total bummer. Anyway, I did give myself the permission eventually to just go for it as I started really winning at the light thing, and I eventually labeled myself gender-creative. Then almost a few weeks later thought, that wasn’t necessary at all. I’m just me. This is who I am… but more importantly, I’m a constant changing living thing who is always striving to be who I want to be. This means that nothing ever remains the same. So who I know myself to be today, will not be the same for who I am in two hours. Who is hopefully a better version of me now. 

in addition, I’ve been playing men recently in a couple of small projects. I played Sam Spade in the Maltese Falcon, linked below. And Nixon in a student project, which I can’t share, but it’s pretty [bleep]ing great. I loved it. Proud of it, feel motivated by it. I think it’s the first thing I’ve ever done where I felt, yes, I definitely have something, keep going Jacque. You’re doing it… think happy thoughts. haha. That’s not to say I hope to play more men, not at all, but I certainly welcome the opportunity and my courage to say yes without fear. Playing men in improv is what I do. I’m good at it. Why not celebrate that with something a little different. Why not be the normal. It’s acting. Anyway – here’s Sam Spade:

I have been talking about this to a variety of people over the last years, and those individuals have always been so kind to support my image, my vibe, to enjoy it and recognize it as me. To ensure that I am remaining true to myself, and reminding me that I am not crazy, but wonderful. This has been invaluable to helping me remain confident to continue being bold in how I engage with the world around me, down to the socks & shoes.

The 2020 Post

So it’s 2020 and another 10 years went by –

In 1980 I turned 1.

In 1990 I turned 11 and went into 6th grade.

In 2000 I turned 21 and started my life in Arizona.

In 2010 I turned 31 and was building an improv theater.

In 2020, I will turn 41 this summer, i’m still in Phoenix, still married (eight years) and still undecided.

In reading many friends and acquaintances post at the turn of the decade, it’s hard not to reflect on your own path. And with 2019 being the turn of my 40th year in human existence I have done an awful lot of reflection on all four decades. Especially as the year 39 was spent finding my authentic self and committing my future to living my best life.

In my 30s the 2010s – I focused all my attention on building an improv community in Improv, for no other reason than being passionate, driven, motivated and madly in love with the art form. These were career building years in a realm of art that may never have been able to provide for me, yet, I was still hopeful that my hard work and dedication to it would give back and be my guiding light forever.

At the top of 2010 the Torch was just turning three and we rented our first space with the hopes of creating a dedicated space to this wonderful things we all loved. Along with that and down the next ten year road I was learning all kinds of things, a free education of sorts. However, mistakes, naivety, lack of conviction, complacency and the inability to fully comprehend how my actions affected every outcome, the amazing thing I had built with my colleagues became toxic. My return on investments no longer outweighed the heavy burden I created for myself.

And just like that…

I turned 40 and I felt like I wiped everything I worked hard for off my plate. I had to… I had to find myself underneath the life I created for myself. I sacrificed and compromised so many little things to be the person this organization needed that I no longer understood myself. The initial burn was incredible and felt like reinvention. It was hard to imagine myself without that history. I had a big gaping wound and was very angry about how it got there. I had anxiety over the one thing that connected me to my experience, improv. The thing I loved, the thing that drove me for 10 years of great life, was now, a scary monster. The healing has been slow and, rightfully so. I stopped performing for a time, I stopped teaching… and I let go of whatever I thought laid beyond 2020. To the point that nothing existed beyond it. Opportunities were still being offered, doors were still opened, but my joy of walking through them was not there. My dreams of finding more were ignited, but I no longer had a lamp to see what lied beyond this point. So yes, I feel very much like I am seeking a new doorway.

But time is not ever lasting, it doesn’t stand still while you feel the need to. I have given myself permission to look inward, focus on self preservation, find my light and turn up the volume on my stereo. This has led to more courage and bravery, to present myself the way I wish to be seen. Big dreams and fantasies swarm and cloud my mind… there is not a lot of doing, just a lot of being. However, in just being and doing more for me than others, I am finding my joy, my happiness in aspects of life I could not see under all the narrowed focus of my 30s.

This is lovely and is grounding me, allowing me to find my core, anchor me to this life… but finding my place and imagining a future in it is still unsteady. I focus on my likes and dislikes to stay linked to something. Putting no pressure or expectation on who I should be for others, but who I want to be for myself. It’s an empowering period and I have hopes that it blesses me with fulfillment once I see the possibilities. Yet, sometimes I worry that all that’s ahead of me is all there is… and that’s not a bad thing, I work for two great organizations, have a happy and healthy marriage with an amazing man who loves me. I am given opportunities to share my expertise in the art form and people are inspired by my. My biggest concern is who inspires me? What inspires me? Will I ever find something like improv again that drives a whole 10 years of experiences, growth, challenge and life affirming good times?

As much as I appreciate the last decade and all four that make up my life to this point. I worry that I’ve missed the mark. I antagonize over the talent I possess and the standing still I do with it. I wanted more for myself and sometimes I feel like my fear has held me back from being great. I don’t see the little affect, because I yearn for a greater one, yet, incapable of putting in the real work necessary to succeed, or taking the big leaps… perhaps I’m actually more comfortable, safer in this life.

All in all – I feel like the healing process is completing itself. I want to be an individual now. A powerful light that fills a room, without having to do much, just because that is what I am.

The 2020s just started for us, and the 2010s was full of amazing things. It’s not my job to predict, but I can imagine, ultimately, I just need to experience… and I wanted this for myself. When things got bad for me, I wanted time… I was desperate for space to find myself again, to figure it out. I suppose I’ve been harsh for having to take so long standing still. I’m not sure what will happen, but I have hope, and I feel alive, very much alive.

Best to everyone in the New Year! May you get one step closer to living your best life, everyday.

Jacqueline Arend

Whatever Gets You There

When I went to the Summer Intensive at iO Chicago in 2005, I had the pleasure of seeing TJ Jagodowski perform often. He was so electric and alive on stage in every choice he made, I walked away from that experience saying “I want to be as good as him.” This was an incredible motivator. I may never be as good as him, because even as I grew and continue to grow as an improvisor, so is he. But that’s not the concern, it’s the journey of the attempt that makes me an individual within the art form, hopefully inspiring the same in others. Especially as an educator in improvisation, that is all you can hope for. This goal gave me purpose for 13 years and in that timeline, many great things presented themselves to me. A theater, a community, a husband, best friends and a network of people all around the world that have enriched my life exponentially. This specific journey, although not over, has taken a much needed detour which has rocked my world in terms of how I saw my future and my stability in it. It destroyed my confidence in myself, my self worth and made me look in the mirror to see my created identity. I have been working pretty hard the last year to rebuild all of that and in doing so, have had the privilege to re-identify – blending who I was before that summer, who I was during my dedicated process to it and who I want to be – into an identity that feels right, real, truthful, unapologetic and joyful.

I met someone completely randomly on my travels that had the same profound affect on me. This person was charming, interesting and created a response in me that was just as electric as watching TJ perform. I have made it a secret goal within recent years to be the most charming person, why this is important to me, I can’t begin to fully understand, however, I know it has to do with the joy that someone can offer to another just through meaningful connections, fun experiences and love of humanity. I am changed from our encounter, and have a new motivation, it may be fleeting, life may subdue my vigor, but I am truly now seeking to be just as charming and interesting as this person. Perhaps it’s superficial, self motivated and/or slightly bizarre, but just like improv, it’s the journey of the attempt that will certainly open up new avenues to an unpredictable future. This is what I like… and it’s this idea that will assist me in my adventure to seek out what my future beholds. For those of you that know me well, I strived to clear out my life so that I may find happiness again without fearful anxiety and in doing that, that I may find passion for something to fuel every moment, the lack of clarity for the future creates a feeling of distress, as if I’m lost, and possibly lost for good. I must hold faith that my entire purpose is yet to be discovered and that the dream that something bigger lies ahead is not a fantasy. In attempting to be more interesting and charming than this person, I have a thirst for knowledge and self awareness that I believe will be the light needed for the journey ahead.

To what lies at the end of this series of tunnels, corridors and hallways… or to what ever doors, windows and shafts open along the way. I am not afraid to climb, and certainly not afraid to adventure.

UPDATE: As I have continued to go down rabbit holes of insight, inspiration and information I have encountered a few quotes after posting this about competing not with others but with yourself. I think in regards to the inspiration of wanting to be just as awesome as another, the process does end up focused on always superseding yourself through the journey. So, ultimately I do aim to be better… than me, for I can never be anyone else, nor should I try, because I am exactly who I am supposed to be. I hope that others can walk through life with the same gratitude of individuality.

UPDATE: (7/22/2019)

Been thinking a bit about ego and how much of this new drive satisfies my ego. My reflection on it is that in all the years that improvisation and the art of it taught me how to set aside my ego. I focused on honing how to support another, setting aside my ego for the needs of others. Yes, anding my fellow to lift them to success. As strong of a skill as this is, the focus on another idea led me to not trusting, believing or supporting my own. My new focus, makes me the priority and now I am honing how to support myself, to trust myself, believe in myself – and most of all, how to love myself. I think in striving to be a better me, helps me to love myself and all of me, the whole picture, my past, present and future me.

Old Intoxications

transcribed from an old entry (circa 2014), from sloppy handwriting clearly representing my state of being

It is a day… It was a day. No day unlike the other, at least, by way of any other. It was a good day because there was perspective & fear. Not forbidden fear. Attacking fear. Jumping in & finding air. A breath. A breath of fun & laughter. Smiles that beamed so bright. A rainbow of opportunity and… and the ability to accept. Say Yes. Yes And… yes and arise… make a path… a path filled w/ gold. But not just gold, stars & moonbeams. Rivers that run wild w/ joy. – Two turtle doves in the moonlight. Only to know the wonder of sharing a moment. A special moment that screams passion. Passion is the word… it is the word! … the word that whispers… “today… was a good day”.

Life is Magic


For someone who loves all of those synonyms, I certainly buy into how magical moments can be. I still work everyday to stay present, for that is the only way you’d really connect into the splendor of it. Ultimately, travel or any new experience is a fantastic way to live in the present and lean into life’s most wonderful gifts. Here is my unapologetic and vulnerably truthful recount of a glorious and splendid adventure I hope never to forget.

I just finished a 17-day holiday in Europe that was full of intrigue, adventure and intensely magical experiences from beginning to end, deliberately spending chunks of days in one place so as to leisurely enjoy a day without over planning or obligation.

First stop London.

Staying North of the more touristy spots near Warren St station and calling a late night pub called Newumberland my home. This represented the beginning of a long journey with one of my best friends, not our first time traveling together, but certainly our longest trip. First day was a walk through the Mayfair & Soho boroughs and stumbling upon record stores. This day created the phenomenon I like to call a “Pint and a Pee”. In a world where there is a pub on most every corner, someone who needs a loo quite frequently can also feed their interest in a pint. This also created the instagram hashtag #steptomyloo – as a desert girl, going up or down to pee is a joy in itself. Overall – since last years trip to Europe with my husband, London upped their craft beer, specifically IPA game and draught choices were far more exciting. On the third day, my travel buddy and I took a long walk up to Hampstead Heath to visit Parliament Hill via Camden Town and a “Pint and a Pee” stop off at Sir Richard Steele pub, here I discovered Camden Town Brewery’s “Sarcasm” a delicious Hazy IPA. This day was the hottest day of the summer so far. The sun was out and so were the people, which made our trip up Parliament Hill a special treat full of the good vibes of summer love. The view over London was spectacular from this suburb on a hill and the alternate view to the East was unexpected, offering a new understanding of what England had to offer. We walked back down toward central London, stopping back at Sir Richard Steele for more “Sarcasm” and a bite to eat to help fuel the remaining walk. This time bypassing Camden Town for the view atop Primrose Hill and lingering through Regency Park. Again, the Londoners were all out, reveling the summer day. This night we finished off at our home pub mentioned earlier and met some locals celebrating long into the night who welcomed us and treated us like new/old friends. It’s amazing what alcohol does to our power of interpersonal connection. We may never see these people again, but the magic of that moment will always remain. The next day we went to Harrod’s to be enamored by the enormity of fine department store life, then onto the Thames to enjoy a drink on a pub boat, where we met a lovely Italian gal who lived in London. As she waited for her friends we connected on the joy of traveling and the spectacular idea of living somewhere new. Then onto Millennium Bridge, the Globe and St. Paul’s Cathedral. This was a day where I had all the energy in my walking feet I needed, and my travel companion did not… this day, we started to polarize. We used the public transportation to get back, for the first time giving our legs a great journey’s rest and when we came to a fork in the tube, I sent him on his way, while I ventured back into Soho for a new perspective on the little village’s after work environment. It proved to be a different environment indeed as the streets were full of energy, people and pints. When I finally headed back north toward the hotel, my travel buddy and his sister had ventured onto Camden Town for vegan pizza and I headed on by foot to join them. With a few pints in and my iPod shuffle – walking at this point was like riding a cloud. After they finished eating we went on to The World’s End pub and closed it down. Passing on the Underground, late night dance club beneath the pub, we followed the rest of the crowd pouring into the street. My two companions chose the tube, while I hopped back on my cloud, dancing my way back to the hotel. The next day, we ventured on via train to Hackney to attend the Hackney Vegan Village festival. I had my first experience with truly inspired vegan food and we had a few “pints and a pee” at the brewery there. It was a hot day, but good atmosphere and good company kept us in good spirits. We then took an Uber from there to Greenwich to see the Prime Meridian. Our Uber driver eventually warmed up and swooped us down lovely little east side streets, talking about London politics and school systems until we finally drove under the Thames at which time he asked “why do you think this tunnel isn’t straight?” my answer “gravity”. Close enough I thought, as it had much to do with load bearing the weight of the river on top of it. We poured out of the tunnel into Greenwich and arrived upon the Queen’s House, then up the hill to the Prime Meridian. We were too late to stand on the actual line, but another viewpoint looking North on London made it worth while. At this time, my Mom chimes in on my facebook post stating “it seems that London is just a bunch of parks with people in it” to which I responded, “that’s summer in London”. Cause, ya know, I’m a real pro at this Londoner thing. At the same time, we have created a pattern of visiting the parks of London, which seemed fine by me. We wandered back North toward the Thames and my buddy and I tempted the idea of taking the walking tunnel back underneath the river, while his sister had no interest, so we just walked down the steps out of curiosity and back up the lift to catch the train back to Warren St Station. The train ride was splendid, casual and relaxing, weaving in and out of parts of London we had not explored. We had dinner at a Chinese restaurant we enjoyed only two nights prior and then they joined me for a “pint and a pee” at our home pub while I built up the courage to go to a Northern Soul All-Nighter near Soho. I had stated that I would regret not going, but my nerves had me twisted inside. I stayed strong and ventured on alone into the 100 club. I felt like a sore thumb around the older Northern Soul crowd, hoping I’d be brave enough to join the dance floor. A lovely gent misidentified me as someone he’d met before and gave me a long chat about Northern Soul. The room was loud and he was tall, so the conversation involved him bending over and us talking cheek to cheek so we could properly hear one another. I was welcomed by him and my courage bloomed. I stood on the fringe, tapping my feet and swaying until another bloke who was my height this time made a joke about tall people standing in front of him. He said his weathered knees didn’t allow him to dance like he used to and I admitted to be intimidated by the dance floor, as the dance style of Northern Soul is very specific. He responded that it was never about the dance moves, it was about doing what you feel, letting the music move you. His words and encouragement to be myself was exactly what I needed and finally a little after 2am I made my way onto the dance floor. My American spirit released and I enjoyed a solid hour of dancing my heart out, frequently being visited by others who wanted to connect with my energy. At one point, my new friend Tom who encouraged me to dance found his one song that drew him onto the dance floor. I danced into his space and welcomed him out and he embraced me with so much joy, it will be a hug I hope never to forget. My travel buddy and I were leaving the next day, so… eventually, with the hope of making it home safe and getting enough sleep to not be dead to the world motivated me to leave the underworld of Norther Soul and venture onto slumber. I said goodbye to Tom on my way out and he gave me a nod towards my free spirited dancing.

Second Stop Amsterdam

My buddy and I leisurely ventured onto the train station to catch the Eurostar to Amsterdam. We found our seats around a table and wondered who would fill the two seats across from us. Suddenly the energy shifted as four Argentinians walked onto the train chatting loudly as they settled into their seats. The younger couple sat across from us with only the wife speaking fluent English and the older couple sat across from us. Turned out these two couples just met getting on the train and carried the excitement of meeting randomly in a foreign place. Eventually we were welcomed into their fold as Andrea translated for us. Her husband Norbert was a charming man full of life and the older couple were cattle ranchers, a very wealthy profession in Argentina. We drank wine together, and more wine together until we were laughing and gossiping like it was a teenage sleepover, representing the laughter and energetic quality of the American’s, South & North. The energy among us was so captivating my buddy invited our new travel companions to meet up for dinner the next day in Amsterdam. Amsterdam City Center is a bustling environment of so much diversity. It took some time to navigate the streets and canals to a comfortable level. We settled into our hotel and a quality of living that proved far more relaxed than London. Having had far too many pints in London, my “pint and a pee” way of living waned and my buddy and I rested more. We enjoyed the qualities of Amsterdam that make the city stand out, while leisurely exploring via viewpoints of the city. We took a ferry across the river and wandered Amsterdam Noord. We enjoyed this is Holland a flying adventure that took us around the Netherlands via giant screen, spritzes of water in our face and an amazing scent of tulips as we soured over landscape. We took a train to Amersfoort, slowing down the pace for a couple hours and visiting with an old friend who grounded our trip with history of relationship. We slept a lot and even kept to our dinner date with the Argentinians. A dinner date that was meant to be at a Herring Shack turned into a very expensive fresh seafood and wine experience. My travel companion and I experienced more friction among us as it was evident our interests contrasted and compromises were made. Certainly not to a level of resentment but truly representing that the company you keep can define your experience.

Next Stop Ireland

Feeling refreshed from the relaxing Amsterdam adventure we traveled via flight to Dublin airport. Then we took a cab up to Newgrange Lodge to settle in for Improv Utopia Ireland. Returning to Newgrange was like coming home and seeing the staff was like visiting old friends. We walked up to Daly’s the local Donore pub and with the small group of us, new friends along with old friends from camps past enjoyed pints and food from the local chip shop. We drank while the locals took great interest in our new energy. One bloke asked if we walked to Daly’s from Newgrange and kindly encouraged us to take a taxi back to avoid the danger of the small winding roads. The next day was spent getting the weekend ready for camp and we took a bit of the day to have a delicious meal at Daly’s before the excitement of 78 campers checking into the lodge. Camp is a magical experience in itself. With 33 Europeans representing several countries and 45 Americans coming to share the weekend the first night’s anxieties were high. As the weekend went on the energies relaxed and people were diving into the spirit of improv utopia. Sharing the joy of improvisation across a measure of diversity makes you realize that deep connections can be made within this art form. By the end of the weekend it becomes hard to say goodbye and the heavy heart is overwhelming. Most people, at least the ones that leaned into the weekend are full of life and ride away on clouds feeling enriched, rejuvenated and excited to see what lies ahead. We cling to each other via social media and say our hugs with passion. Many of us stayed in Dublin after the camp weekend and my buddy and I found our way safely to our hotel via two return campers from Ireland who lovingly harbored us while giving us Irish history and details along the way. We relaxed in our hotel, me combining a few hours catching up on work and napping. Our hotel room was up against construction and the loud drilling and banging drove us to pursue a room switch, however since we made the decision late, we arranged the switch for the morning as we made our way out to Tightrope for a special Camp Jam at their upstairs venue at Anseo. The walk there was lovely and we met up with two Camp friends for a bite to eat beforehand. The room at Anseo was small and there were so many campers representing, excited for more, the room was cozy and steamy, but we persevered through the event with excitement and laughter. My travel buddy and I were polarizing again as his energy was more interested in rest and I was full of life, embracing more pints in another city where pub life is a way of life. I performed in the final act of the jam – being brought up to recap the entire jam, an attempt that I did with pride. After, I enjoyed conversing with fellow campers making even stronger bonds through conversation that surpasses the surface. High on life, my spirit was open, alive and ready for anything. Suddenly I found myself next to a local, who happened to be in the same pub and we connected outside while sheltering ourselves slightly from the misty rain. The small talk turned into concentrated conversation over another pint and eventually among the spirit of revelry he directed all of our group to the late night pub Whelan’s. My travel companion had a hard time leaving me and was concerned for my well-being, but I encouraged him home as I knew our energies were on different spectrums. I stayed at Whelan’s with a couple friends from camp until the wee hours and eventually was the last of our crew among the large crowd of folks unwilling to call it quits. My new local friend disappeared on me and I suddenly realized it was time to leave so I too disappeared. My phone had died, so I was left to my own devices to find my way back. My incredible sense of direction had me confident, but my wandering spirit left me concerned as I found myself unable to avoid venturing down unique streets taking in the Irish architectural design of seemingly normal apartment buildings. I eventually found myself upon St. Patrick’s Cathedral and knew I was close, however unsure, so I kept an eye out at this 3:30am hour for kind passers by to check their maps for my location. Finally finding two nice fellows, we discovered I was within the block, I mentally captured the directions to make and safely returned home. The next morning my travel buddy was frustrated with me, but let me sleep till the last possible moment as we quickly got packed and ready for our next days adventure. We left our bags with the hotel who would switch our room for us upon our return and took a taxi to the Connelly station where we met with my other best buddy to take the train up to Belfast in Northern Ireland. I was over the moon from the previous night. Something about that night of extended camp energy, a fun improv jam, the random connection with the local, the atmosphere of Whelan’s and the lingering of booze had me smiling with joy of adventure. This concerned my buddy who felt as though something inappropriate had happened and unfortunately created more tension among us over the last few days of our travel together. His concern was not completely unwarranted… I had not done anything wrong, however, swept away with the thought of something new in my life. This brings me to a concept of life that I speak often with my husband about. The idea that we weren’t meant to love just one person, how we define love and how difficult it is in our current society to create strong platonic bonds without it challenging our partnerships. The fact that we have a very complex soul and finding one soulmate couldn’t possibly satisfy its entirety. I could go on about this, but the truth is, jealousy and insecurity in our relationships are a harsh thing that is impossible to avoid and it comes down to trust. The fact that my friend did not trust me to be loyal, faithful and aware while having had a few was frustrating and took away from the joy of finding a kindred spirit. Then again, the fascination of a new energy that makes you feel something special can sometimes feel wrong… but I have to think, why? It does not seem right that we can’t enjoy humanity through strong connections that surpass the surface into an intimately emotional depth. This is an interesting topic for me and one I will continue to ponder and talk about with my husband and others so that my thirst for these connections among men, woman and those in between are never rejected, just because it’s traditionally unacceptable. Belfast continued to be a grand day’s adventure as three other campers were on the same train. We stopped at a delightful little pub that had a BagNB, a place to leave your bags. We had a “pint and a pee” and I continued to enjoy my “over the moon” attitude by taking in the lovely music and watching the seagulls weave in and out of the skyline. We walked along the river taking in the beautiful day and ventured onto the Titanic museum. We took our time and my buddy and I spent a long time in the additional tour of the Nomadic, a big ship ferry where we met an Iraqi who helped me find a penny to get a pressed penny memento. He talked to us about life and people and how he helps people to find their way to a career later in life and specifically noted that it’s not too late for me. My buddy mentioned that meeting people like that and taking that time to connect is a reminder that we are exactly where we are supposed to be. This is something he mentioned before during our travels, when we connected with the Argentinians. It was too late for the group of us to take a Black Cab tour of Belfast, a tour that was recommended by the local I met the night before. The tour takes you around Belfast giving you the history and current status of the tensions in Northern Ireland among the different factions of people, so much so that there are walls between neighborhoods that are locked at night to keep the dangers away. This division created a culture of art in murals in political protest, an aspect that sets it aside as a sight to see. To make up for lost time in that regard we headed into Belfast to walk upon some murals ourselves and in doing so stopped at a pub for some delicious eats before catching the train back to Dublin. Upon our return, despite my interest to return to Whelans, and my buddies adamant disagreement to the idea, we had an early night, ultimately the best decision to make. The next day we awoke and settled in to work and catch up on missed days, my other bestie joined us at our hotel room and the three of us shared space all enjoying our ability to be remote while living an adventurous lifestyle. We eventually went out for lunch and took a walk around a nearby park Stephan’s Green, back to the hotel for a spell and then out to the Irish Whiskey Museum for a lesson in Whiskey. After this we went on a pub crawl. An adventure that we may have been too old for, but we leaned in for the first three pubs before splitting with the large group to join other campers at Brazen. Here we had another pint before retiring back to the hotel so that my buddy could grab his stuff and head to his airport hotel. I had lost my key and was tethered to my travel companion, I again had interest in going back to Whelan’s, with it being our last night, I didn’t want it to end, and in his mind, I was still looking for trouble. I threw a little tantrum about not being able to go anywhere, as with European hotels, the key must remain in the lights to have light, and he angrily agreed to walk me down to get a new key while saying some very harsh things in which, even in my mind of knowing I had not done anything wrong, knew was warranted by his reaction to my overall behavior around the matter. I did not wander onto the pub, but took his advice to stay nearby and just enjoy a final walk around the surrounding area taking in the atmosphere knowing that my last few moments of adventure were almost up. The next morning we had plenty of time to pack, freshen up and get breakfast, at which time we talked about the night before with complete honesty, each apologetic for our behaviors and settling back into our true love and care for one another. This allowed us to not leave the adventure at odds, but to embrace the full scope of what we had just experienced together, strengthening our friendship to a new level with high hopes for the next opportunity to experience life together at such a wondrous degree. We taxi’d to the airport and parted with tears in our eyes and I traveled home with a heavy heart, grateful for the whole of it and enriched from the magic that such a holiday can endure day after day after day.

Everyday our life has magic in it, it’s certainly much easier to see when you are living every moment for all it is worth. Coming home from a 17-day holiday abroad, it is hard not to be saddened by the stillness, the familiarity, the realization that home life is dull in comparison, but is it really? or is it perspective? Living moment to moment is a way of life and can be the difference between a magical life or a complacent one no matter where or when you are.

To life and all of it’s

fascinating, captivating, charming, glamorous, magical, enchanting, entrancing, spellbinding, magnetic, irresistible, hypnotic