I kept this one clean, folks. No crotch talk!
Big moment, people:
My book, Take a Hike Phoenix, arrived on my doorstep!
It’s been arriving on doorsteps across the country as evidenced by the texts, photos, and tags from friends and family. As painful as it was to receive many of these messages before my own copy arrived, I was beyond touched by the enthusiasm and support. I know it’s just a hiking book (let’s face it, I won’t appear on the New York Times bestseller list or anything) but it’s my first published book and I feel pretty darn good.
(Except for when I think about all the inevitable mistakes that I didn’t catch which is totally freaking me out right now but I’m trying, trying, trying, trying to be gracious about it and enjoy this moment but I can’t help thinking it’s my mistakes that are arriving on doorsteps, not my book, shut up, Lilia, shut up, shut UP!)
Aside from all that noise, I hope other people feel pretty darn good about this, too.
Because, you know, it’s not like I did this thing all by myself. This accomplishment should be shared by everyone who knows me and is nice to me.
So today, my blog features the Acknowledgements page that I wrote for the book but does not appear in this printing because my publishing company tragically forgot to include it.
This book is dedicated to my husband, Lou. (It’s all for you, babe.)
I am humbled and touched by all the support from friends, family, and my community during this endeavor. Being my first book, I could not have successfully waded through this project (something that once seemed an insurmountable and lofty goal) without such vital reinforcement. And now, drawing from the momentum of others’ encouragement and care for what I do, I modestly offer my thanks.
First and foremost, my undying gratitude is showered onto my husband, who was literally with me every step of the way. He’s not only my trusted hiking companion but he seamlessly took the responsibility of every other aspect of our joined life while I spent evenings and weekends hunched over my laptop to write about our adventures on the trail. Special thanks to my mother who, during the summer months, braved the heat and the hours of travel across The Valley to sweat through miles of dry, dusty trail in 110+ temperatures. To my dad who saved my butt by helping edit during the final stages of compiling this book when I was so overwhelmed with words, I could hardly see straight. To my three older brothers for telling me how proud they are of their baby sis — fulfilling the lifelong dream of every last-born to finally gain the admiration of their older siblings (and thanks to Alan for hitting the trail with me). Love and pinches to my nieces, Madison and Gracie, who were always up for fun family hikes and who patiently put up with my endless requests for their photos. Huge thanks to Kristina and Craig Smith for re-hiking trails I hiked in the past, alleviating me from repeating miles of trail. I owe Kristina for aiding in the discovery of my love for hiking so many years ago and consider her my very best hiking companion on this earth. And Craig is the only person who has ever convinced me to fight through the tears as I climbed vertical rocks in sheer terror. I send a giant hug to Stephanie Buell for braving some of the most challenging and poorly-planned hikes on my list with a smile on her face the entire time. Thanks to Nate Sauer for remaining calm at the wheel while indulging my requests to push his car to its limits as he navigated tricky roads to reach remote trailheads. Thanks and love to Sam, who selflessly offered the supreme comfort of her high country cabin. Appreciation to the other folks who enthusiastically hopped on the trail with me when I needed company (and, in some cases, 4-wheel drive): Hilber Blair, Starr Preodor, Kelsey Hazelwood, Kate Crowley, and my uncle, Carl Menconi. Hugs and love to the entire Robinson, Menconi, Kummerer, and Gutschalk clans for the endless encouragement and general joy they provide me. Big thanks to Katie Moder and Jill Matejcik who saved me from hours of brutal technical work. Gratitude and love to my in-laws for accepting our absence from dozens of family dinners (and for not being mad at me for using my maiden name for the byline, right?). Love to Lisa Hildebrant, Katie Kucharski, Chris & Amy Johnson, Laurén Hart, Christy Cocchia-Barbaree & the Skrats, Todd Grossman, and Lou’s social circle for forgiving our lack of availability. Thanks to those who regularly read my blog (liliatakesahike.com) and who graciously tolerate my sporadic commitment. Appreciation to my day-job leader and teammates whose professionalism and personal support made me feel capable of chasing many goals at once. Big thanks to the staff at Avalon Travel and my editor, Sabrina Young, who were always available and willing to answer all my questions. Gratitude to my colleague Martin Cizmar for his many trail suggestions. And, without question, I could not have done this without my incredible writing mentor, trusted confidant, dear friend, and half-assed “deadline buddy”, Robrt L. Pela. To anyone I didn’t call out by name but have been a part of this process, thank you for sharing this path with me — each in your own important way.
I have spent years proclaiming hatred for the actress/singer/hipster darling Zooey Deschanel.
But I do not hate her anymore.
Here’s how it happened:
Hate Reason #1: The Lost Girl
I despised Zooey because I watched a bad movie called Winter Passing and she played the “lost girl” role. I then blamed her for the creation of this weak female archetype: Girl in her 20′s with less-than-perfect parents who has indiscriminate and unemotional sex with lots of men and is prone to suddenly moving from city to city. In this version of “lost girl”, she also drowns a kitten. The “lost girl” movie role is a two-dimensional excuse for a hot girl to be slutty (and therefore accessible) on screen.
How I talked myself out of Hate Reason #1
Zooey was a young brunette trying to make a career in acting. I’ve done more than a few lame things in my career as a writer to keep a paying job, so I get it. Besides, she didn’t write the role. A girl’s gotta pay the bills somehow.
Hate Reason #2: She’s Pretty
I got mad at Zooey Deschanel because she wears cute little girl dresses and she’s constantly blinking her big blue eyes under her flirty brunette bangs.
How I talked myself out of Hate Reason #2
I’m a brunette with bangs and blue eyes. Let’s face it. She does it waaaay better than I do. And after reading Lean In, I’m big enough to admit that I was just jealous.
Hate Reason #3: All the Boys Like Her
And it seems like every guy my age wants to do her.
How I talked myself out of Hate Reason #3
Jealous. Again. (Duh.)
Hate Reason #4: Her Music
Technically I never hated her music. I’m big enough now to admit that from the minute I heard She & Him’s (that’s her band) Why do You Let Me Stay Here song on the myspace page of a guy I drunkenly made out with then mystalked afterward, I loved her music. I even bought the She & Him Christmas album for God’s sake.
How I talked myself out of Hate Reason #4
I didn’t talk myself out of it…I just started talking about it out loud. Like a true coward, I used to only listen to She & Him by myself in the car.
Hate Reason #5: Her “Bad” Acting
Between Winter Passing, that horrible Wizard of Oz re-interpretation, and 500 Days of Summer, I did not have a high opinion of her acting.
How I talked myself out of Hate Reason #5
Let’s face it, those roles sucked. I’ve already explained the irritating lameness of “lost girl”. Dorothy wasn’t her fault. The writing was unforgettably awkward. And as far as 500 Days of Summer goes, Zooey actually did a pretty good job in an acting role that was designed to absorb the residual hate for some pathetic, self-victimizing, crybaby asshole who never got over his ex girlfriend (and then made a boring movie about it).
Love Reason #1: New Girl
Sure, the first few episodes play up the adorably quirky Zooey Deschanel caricature in an annoying way, but as the show moves on, things get better. Way better. In fact, when my Netflix binge ended on the last available episode, I felt sad for days that it was over. I’m still sad. She was hilarious in that show and I can’t wait to see more.
Because I love Zooey Deschanel.
I’m writing from the screen of my twice-as-expensive-as-any-other-laptop-I’ve-ever-purchased-before MacBook Pro.
I’ve been a PC user for years. Because PCs are cheaper.
“You’re a book author now,” Lou said. “It’s time you get yourself a good piece of equipment. As a musician, I wouldn’t hesitate to spend money on a quality instrument.”
Since this thing arrived, I’ve (taking a deep breath and using grown-up corporate words) been challenged by the transition in the following ways.
No right click. God, I miss the right click. It was so nice to be able to have all my options at my fingertips (well, my right hand ring fingertip, to be accurate).
Only a “delete” key. So the “delete” key functions like the backspace key and I don’t have a delete key at all. This means I can only eliminate the text behind my cursor and not in front of it. As a writer, I require full functionality to erase my work from every direction, dammit.
Hidden scroll bar. I actually had to change settings in order for the scroll bars to show up. Come on!
Icon overload. Everything is a flippin’ icon. There are no actual WORDS on my desktop. A little explanation would be nice.
Minimizing is a problem. Here’s a new one I just discovered. I maximized the window. Now I can’t figure out how to shrink the damn thing back down. I guess I’ll google THIS basic move, too.
No right click. I already covered this. But the amount of red-eyed craziness this is causing warrants a 2nd mention.
I have many more complaints. Please tell me this gets better.
At work, I’m the Communications Coordinator.
I love my job. I’m not setting the world on fire by writing corporate communications but it’s fun. I get to be creative in a supportive environment. I like my team. And I’m encouraged to pursue other writing and creative endeavors outside of the office. So, yeah, Corporate America is cool with me.
Anyway, I was recently researching what kind of National so-and-so month May happens to be. Turns out, there’s a lot of so-and-so’s for May. And for every month.
But, for now, let’s just focus on May.
Asian Heritage Month (Canada)
Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month
Awareness of Medical Orphans Month
Better Hearing and Speech Month
Better Sleep Month
Borderline Personality Disorder Month
Brain Tumor Awareness Month
Correct Posture Month
Creative Beginnings Month
Family Wellness Month
Fibromyalgia Education and Awareness Month
Foot Health Month
Freedom Shrine Month
Get Caught Reading Month
Gifts From The Garden Month
Go Fetch! Food Drive for Homeless Animals Month
Haitian Heritage Month
Heal the Children Month
Healthy Vision Month
Huntington’s Disease Awareness Month
International Audit Month
International Business Image Improvement Month
International Victorious Woman Month
Jewish-American Heritage Month
Latino Books Month
Lyme Disease Awareness Month National (World)
Motorcycle Safety Month
National Allergy/Asthma Awareness Month
National Arthritis Month
National Artisan Gelato Month
National Asparagus Month
National Barbeque Month
National Bike Month
National Chocolate Custard Month
National Egg Month
National Family Month
National Foster Care Month National Good Car Keeping Month
National Good Car Keeping Month
National Hamburger Month
National Hepatitis Awareness Month
National High Blood Pressure Month
National Macaroon Day
National Mental Health Month
National Military Appreciation Month National
National Moving Month
National Mine Month
National Osteoporosis Prevention Month
National Photo Month
National Physical Fitness and Sports Month
National Physiotherapy Month
National Preservation Month
National Revise Your Work Schedule Month
National Salad Month
National Salsa Month
National Share A Story month
National Smile Month (From May 18 to June 17)
National Strawberry Month
National Stroke Awareness Month
National Vinegar Month
Older Americans Month
Personal History Month
Strike Out Strokes Month
Sweet Vidalia Onions Month
Teen Self-Esteem Month
Ultra-violet Awareness Month
Women’s Health Care Month
Young Achievers of Tomorrow Month
I should not be blogging right now. I should be writing my book.
I’m in the total-freak-out stage of this writing project. Now that I’m settled into my corporate job (I’m very happy there), I’ve developed a new discipline to devote 9-10 hours per week to this book. I can only hope this is enough.
I’m stressed to the max.
But I’ve been writing this blog post in my head for months and it’s time to get it out.
It’s about my camera.
When I graduated college in 2006, this Canon Power Shot A540 was my Dad’s gift to me. I’m going to send the link to this blog to my dad later today so he’ll soon learn that this was so not what I wanted. At the time, I had given my then-fiance very specific instructions to tell my dad that I wanted an iPod.
Instead, I got the camera.
“I figured that, with your new job at the New Times, you could use a camera for your work when you’re out reporting stories and such,” Dad told me.
Then I started my job and quickly accepted the assignment to take pictures of party people once a week for a column called Club Candids. I despised the gig but the money was way too good to pass up. This camera was with me all the way. It somehow survived bars, clubs, and dance nights each week for three years solid.
Today, the lens is missing its cover. The screen on the back is scratched to hell. The flash only works if you flick the bulb five times with your finger before you take the photo. The wrist strap is so caked with dried booze and grime, the woven threads are now all leathery and gross.
I promised myself I’d buy a new camera so I could take excellent photos for my book. I planned to use my sad, sad Canon only for the first few hikes. But I got busy and lazy and I didn’t want to do the research needed to buy a new camera.
Today, I’m more than halfway done with my list of hikes and this beat up little thing has captured some gorgeous photos…some are even good enough for the cover (according to my publisher’s Graphics Coordinator).
Dad knows best!
I’m taking a break from making maps.
It’s actually my favorite part of “writing” this book (I guess since I enjoy it, I’m not really justified to take a break but whatever). For every hike, I must turn in a map so the cartography department can accurately create another map that’s included with the trail review.
It’s not a far cry from what I do in my current day job in which I must find the most meaningful way to accurately communicate complicated information.
In short, that means turning most things into pictures.
I’m probably betraying my kind here, but I believe that humans are much more sophisticated in reading the pervasive visual language than the traditional written language.
Don’t argue with me. I learned this in my Art History classes.
They say the average modern-day American views [it's too late in the evening to look up the estimated number right now but think about every billboard, computer icon, television show, packaging design for products, etc. you see each day] a whole shit-ton of images in a day. Compare that to the actual words you read in a 24-hour period.
See what I’m getting at?
When my book comes out, I can expect most “readers” to flip through the pages, scan the photos, glance at the maps, and maybe, maybe read a caption or two.
I can’t blame them. I do the exact same thing.
Taking that into consideration, I suppose I shouldn’t feel so guilty about busying myself with map-making in order to avoid the writing.
College is certainly a faint memory for me at this point in my life. Except for that pesky student loan payment, I’m rarely reminded of the four (let’s be honest, six) years I spent studying for exams, writing papers, and half-assing my way through the curriculum.
Half-assing until, that is, I chose my major.
After years of switching majors and wasting money on classes that didn’t count toward a degree, I made the very impractical decision to major in Art History. My logic went like this:
“I’ve taken two Art History classes. I aced them both. I love having class in a dark room. Fuck it. I’m majoring in Art History.”
It took another few years to complete the required courses. Shortly after graduation, I joined the work force and was shocked to discover that I could use my education to write art reviews. (And, eventually, I used it to write vulgar top ten lists about famous dicks and T&A throughout Art History.)
Today, I don’t use my degree for much else than checking the box on my resume.
Which is fine by me.
When I picked the major, I didn’t harbor any fantasies of entering into the contemporary art market. The short-lived amount of time that I spent frequenting the local visual art scene was (and still is) enjoyable. But it didn’t turn out to be my life’s desire.
Still, I’m so glad I studied Art History. It’s like learning regular history, but through a picture book. And all your classes take place in a shadowy classroom with a passionate professor who shows slide after slide of gorgeous imagery. Then you get to hear the juicy stories of personal turmoil, political ideology, passionate love affairs, and any other human experience that caused the inception of such creations.
And if you’ve ever traveled with me, I’ll most likely force you to visit the city’s art museum.
Then I’ll bombard you with inaccurate tellings of all the juicy stories I learned in college.
I learned that today is Black Cat Appreciation Day.
I don’t know who decided this and I don’t really care. It’s an excuse for me to talk about our lovely little black kitty, Bruce.
We adopted Bruce through the AZ Maine Coon Cat Rescue organization — which basically means we paid a few extra bucks for a domestic long-haired cat. Bruce was worth every penny.
He had been living in foster care for years. The agency said he switched owners once, and was then given up by his second family.
Back then, his name was Alex. His profile described him as “regal and proper”. His foster mom assured me that he was shy, liked to hide under beds, and grumpy.
While in foster care, Bruce lived in a guest house with many other kitties. The conditions were more than acceptable but the unavoidable cat-piss smell was depressing. The foster parent also hosted a pack of pugs…one with a missing eye, no bark, and a wheel for a leg (he’s wearing a top hat in my memory but I’m confident I made that part up).
Once home, Bruce immediately retreated to a closet.
We didn’t see him for two weeks. Sometimes, in the middle of the night, we’d hear a guttural, scraping cat moan. This rusty-door-hinge sound is Bruce’s regular voice.
One night, when we returned from an evening out with friends, Bruce met us at the door. He rolled flirtatiously on the floor. Stinky and matted, Bruce graciously allowed us to brush him and clean his long fur with some cat-cleaning wipes. His coat became shiny and smooth. And he lovingly purred as we scratched and cooed over him for at least an hour.
Since then, Bruce has emerged as one of the finest cats I’ve ever owned. He’s surly, shy, secretly mischievous, and occasionally over-affectionate.
Like I said, he’s perfect for us.
Turns out, I’m not afraid of public speaking.
I figured out a great trick: I have to know what the heck I’m talking about.
Last week, I got a last-minute invite to talk about blogging at a meeting with the Gilbert Small Business Alliance.
With less than 24 hours to prepare, I whipped up an outline. While Lou cleaned the dishes that night, I rehearsed my presentation.
And, because my husband is awesome, when I “opened the floor” for some Q&A, he asked multiple questions and spoke in a different character voice each time.
I expected I’d be super nervous before the presentation. Instead, I was just slightly sweaty as I blabbed in front of the small crowd of florists, mediators, floor cleaners, and other independent business owners.
The audience asked some really great questions, shared their own blog ideas, and I received some great feedback from the organizers. All in all, I think it went well.
Of course, the big win for me was not feeling terrified.
And, as a bonus, I now have an outline so I can easily write a blog about blogging.