2017 – Embracing Family & Practicing Love Through Authenticity

In all the years I’ve been writing these reflections, I usually start writing way in advance to make sure I have everything in here that I want to share. Every picture most come with a post that leads to more photos and stories. These days, I’ve just been going with what I’ve been thinking and feeling in the moment. Realizing these entries don’t need to stay within the structure of sharing my photography or even be complete in order for me to share. While I do love sharing the important memories and opportunities I’ve had over this last year, I realize it’s been more important to share my actual reflections of self and the life around me.

Photo by Sally Phnouk photography!

Rereading my 2016 reflection just now, the thing I want to update you on the most is my experience with Landmark education. It’s the program Kevin and Jamie shared with my years ago and finally at the end of last year, I took a leap of faith and just signed up because I didn’t feel like I had anything to lose at that point. 2016 was such a mess emotionally, I knew I needed a place to sort it all out.

What I’ve been getting, and continue to get is something that can’t quite be put into words yet for me. It’s been humbling, life changing, tumultuous, and a slog all at the same time. Let’s just start with what I’ve been up to regarding this program. Landmark starts from something called “The curriculum for Living”, which is broken up into three main chunks: The Forum, The Advance Course, and The Self Expression and Leadership Program (SELP).

I completed my forum in January of this year over three and a half days. What I got was a whole new world. I learned what has been blocking me in many aspects of my life, was myself and my thoughts. I had conversations I never thought would ever happen. By the end, I hugged my dad (a man I didn’t have a single fond memory of in my life and the only way I related to him was through obligation) for the very first time with true genuine love (aw man it even makes me tear up just typing this now). I also began a relationship with my brother. We brushed the surface in 2016, but during the Landmark forum I acknowledged him for being the great human being that he is and apologized for never being there for him during his life and when he was in trouble. I realized while I was always trying to run away from my parents, I accidentally lumped him into the family group to avoid as well. The result is that I lost years of sibling bonding and someone to share with. My whole life I thought there was no one who could ever possibly understand what it was like to live with my parents, and the whole time, my brother was there and I didn’t even see him. We’re not best friends, but we can finally hang and I have been making some AMAZING memories with him! Did you know my brother is actually a karaoke rockstar and way more badass than me? Yeah he is and its AWESOME. The way I’ve been able to build new relationships with everyone in my family has been awesome. I actually enjoy spending time with them now. It’s not all sunshine and roses, but its been fun actually being a part of my own family. Ironically, my parents finalized their divorce this year, but I see it as a good opportunity for them to grow and be happy on their own. I’ve been learning how to embrace them as they are and actually finding enjoyment from the things that used to annoy me about them. Weird right?

Never have I ever smiled so much at a family Christmas.

I also made a break through in my communication with Chris, seeing where I was the reason our relationship failed, not allowing our relationship to grow because of my own subconscious fears, but more importantly, finally being able to see things from his perspective. I saw the world in a whole new way. I was ready to be someone new. I finally saw myself the way my friends see me. I always thought I was an awesome person because of all of the awesome things I have accomplished in my life and the people I surrounded myself with. But I finally saw myself as someone truly awesome even without those accomplishments. I could finally see myself accomplishing things I never thought I could. The people I placed on a pedestal in my life, I finally saw them as my equal.

Following the forum, I fell into another slump. The roller coaster life I had before seemed to have high highs, and even lower lows than before. I felt more emotionally drained than ever before. I spent a good month or two staying in and being pretty antisocial (how unlike me!). Most people take Landmark and they set out into the world to accomplish great things, and I took Landmark and all I did was stay at home and curl into a ball and netflixed it up. I finally attempted to step out into the world, which resulted in meeting new people. Life was colorful again. There was a possibility to start a new relationship, but I felt too drained and too emotionally imbalanced to take on a  new relationship. But I shared that authentically, I shared my past, I shared things I never shared with even Kevin and Jamie. I found it so incredibly easy to just be honest about my life, take my past as what it was, not letting it be in the present or the future. I refused to let the way I’ve been approaching relationships in the past be the same for my future. And suddenly it was like everything in life seemed so much more awesome than it already was in my eyes. We stayed great friends but it was a refreshing start to be someone new with someone else new in my life! Eventually, I met someone else who of course I met the one day of the year I go out with my friends. He was so silly and we had a lot of weird things in common but I agreed to a first date (which I NEVER EVER do) and it ended up being the best first date I’ve ever had. Now before you get too excited about that, that relationship blew up a few months later in such a disastrous way, I am still feeling the affects of it. I realize now, that by being authentic and more patient than I ever have been, I was investing much more of myself emotionally than I ever had before in my life. The result, was when it didn’t work, I was crushed. The best takeaway I’ve been able to embrace is that I have been able to be more honest, supportive, and patient than I ever have in any relationship I’ve ever had. Now that I know I can be the person I want to be, I just have to find the right person to be that way with right?

Too be honest I’m still feeling pretty distrustful these days. I know I can choose to leave it in the past, but for now, I’m remaining in my bubble with a dagger at anyone that attempts to enter it (I know, not very open and loving, but it is where I am now. I’ll know when the time comes to step out again). Oh yeah the thing you hear a lot in Landmark is how people met their now husband or significant other in Landmark (I still roll my eyes a little ever time someone shares this, but it’s probably because I’m just mad that didn’t happen to me, and I’m practicing listening now, so I am pushing past that initial reaction so I can hear what people have to share instead). Kevin and Jamie met in Landmark and they are the most magical couple I know.

I completed the advance course in April, and funny enough, Chris was in it. After I completed my forum, he registered and completed his forum as well. The transformation I saw in him was INCREDIBLE to say the least. I cried and cried and cried when I saw him after he was done. He was like a totally different person. If any of you haven’t seen or talked to him since we broke up, you should. It’s crazy. He was the same person but he was ALIVE. He started seizing opportunities and didn’t make up excuses. He was embracing people, being outgoing, and all sorts of awesome I can’t describe. It was inspiring. So being in the advance course together was special for me. We grew and transformed in our own ways, but it was really nice to have someone who could relate to me and understand the language. The advanced course was mind blowing. When people who are in the forum ask me about it, I always tell them that I can’t imagine taking the forum without the advanced course. Your world gets so much bigger. Motivation doesn’t become dependent on you, you are motivated by your community and your world. By the end of the advance course I was ready to take on the world. I registered for the SELP because, honestly, because it was so cheap compared to the other classes and I figured I should complete the curriculum for living. In the past I have been someone who only does things while I can see the benefit, once I feel like I get something enough or something becomes too challenging, I give up and move onto something else. This applied to every aspect of my life. So I decided to stick it out.

I am currently enrolled in my SELP course. It’s been a frustrating experience to say the least, but that’s not unusual for my feelings towards Landmark. It’s like when you’re in the middle doing all the work, it’s uncomfortable, it sucks, I definitely don’t want to do any of it, I think it’s dumb, it doesn’t apply towards me, I get so stuck in my head about how I feel about it, I start to doubt that it’s the thing for me to do. And it’s true, no one NEEDS Landmark, but the way it contributes to expanding your world is so great, why wouldn’t you want to make your life more awesome? The SELP is LONG….oh god it’s so long. I’ve already almost quit, but thanks to some great sharing with Jamie, and a great coaching call with my SELP coach, I’m feeling like I can stick this out afterall, and instead of feeling like I’m being dragged through it (which i often feel towards many things), I’m going to be excited and stop focusing on how resistant I am to the structure.

The ladies of JoyRide which include Kate (middle) and Caitlin (right) and Maiike (above). Missing Michelle!

So in the SELP you’re supposed to create a community project. Chris actually already completed his SELP and he created the Rock the Boat project, which he puts together activities on his ferry commute to bring people together (if you knew Chris before this and hearing this for the first time, I know it’s shocking). It’s been so awesome to see him be such an awesome person. I am eternally grateful that he remains such an important part of my life as well because I love seeing him being able to express himself in a way I always knew he could. Being able to support each other in a way we never had before in our relationship has been an enlightening experience. I had a hard time picking a project because I felt very forced into a project and didn’t like that. I wanted to do something that mattered to me in my life, and I didn’t want it to be forced. I’ve already put together benefit concerts, events on so many different levels, it was hard for me to choose something that I wanted to be more awesome. One day, my friend Kate was sharing with me how she decided to compete in the Race to Alaska on an all women crew. Naturally I was not surprised by this because she’s the most badass sail racer I know (and Caitlin Hardy – that woman is a force to be reckoned with – pure power). Her and her crew dilemma was being able to raise enough money for the race. Here, I saw a beacon! I love fundraising, and I’m awesome at it! So I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to help a friend and participate in a community I love. I would love to race to Alaska some day, but that day hasn’t come quite yet. You really have to know what you’re doing out there, as the sail race requires no motor, no support, all the way from Port Townsend, WA to Ketchikan, AK. It’s a rough race, and something I definitely will complete at some point in my life, once I’m a better sailor. In the meantime, I love helping my friends achieve their dreams! This project is in a bit of a flux at the moment as the original crew of women has since formed other teams and I am not sure what Kate plans on doing at this point as she tries to find additional teams to join, but we’ll see where it goes!

Enough about Landmark, I could talk forever about my experience, so if you want to know more, just get a hold of me! Better yet, you can come to the free special evening intro the Landmark on Wednesday, January 10 at 7pm! I’m going with some friends who are interested in learning more and if you are then you should too. It’s definitely one of those things you have to go to and see what could possibly be in store for you. I’ve had many ups and downs. From being excited to be in class to being physically forced to go to class by Jamie. It’s all a part of it. Sticking it out is when you find what you needed. Spoiler: whatever you think you’re going to get, you’re probably going to get that, but so much more and something you would never expect.

So what else did I accomplish besides creating a new way of living life?

Tuck and Robin Lakes

Backpacking with my favorites is always a good time. I saw my first mountain goats (including baby ones!) and proud to accomplish carrying my tent and most of my supplies all on my own during one of the hardest backpacking trips for me. This awesome photo was taken by Jamie, and I probably my favorite photo of me from this year.

Volunteering for The Center of Wooden Boats

I finally decided to get off my bum and become a volunteer for CWB. I’ve been working in the workshop mostly since I plan to build my own boat someday. Learning to work with tools and getting into the nitty gritty of boat building and care brings me back to my tallship days and makes me so happy. I also recently started volunteering as their communication coordinator. They don’t have one so between writing communication plans and helping them strategize and reorganize, I’m loving all the time I spend at this beautiful maritime community.

Fell in love with Orcas Island

I finally found my American version of La Distesa. I spent five magical days on the island and never has my heart felt so full since my days living on the vineyard in Italy. I can’t imagine any other way of living out my days than on an this island. The ideas of possibilities of how to make this happen have been growing, but I hope that someday I will be able to make this happen! I’ll probably eventually get a blog post up about this. Mermaid photo taken by my friend Wiley.

Returning to La Distesa


After four years, I finally returned to my beloved La Distesa. I still plan to finish writing the blog posts for these so I won’t go into now, but you can review the photos from Musica Distesa.

New friends new traditions

One of my favorite things about this year was developing new friendships with two awesome ladies! Together we started bi-weekly picnics to enjoy the summer sun and good food! We managed to keep this up all summer long and it grew from our little group of four to many many more!


Visiting San Fran

Because I can’t stay away from my tallship loves for long. Always good for heart healing.

All the races


(left photo by Michelle Neville, right photo by Jamie Hood)


I am so lucky to know so amazing sailors who have shared their time with me. I sailed my first dinghy with the help of Jamie on a beautiful day in greenlake. The time spent on Selchie, Elusive, and JoyRide are always great learning opportunities for me and I am so grateful for every sailor I get to crew with! I even got to race with Jamie aboard her dad’s boat Mei Li for a race! After the years of racing I’ve done, which all started because of Jamie, it was great to actually be in a race with her (even if it was a slow and nearly windless day!).

Stepping up My Craft Game


As part of my reflection this year, I have spent a lot of time crocheting and other crafts. I made a blanket for Wiley’s parents (my biggest and best one yet because his dad is so tall) after such an amazing time on Orcas Island and I was so inspired by their life I had to give them something back! I also started making hats! I also spent a lot of time crafting a rainbow fish being eaten by a shark costume, which is one of my better costumes I’ve had in a while.

Stepping up my Hoop Game

Now that I can see my life can be created any way I want it to be, including being an amazing hooper like Jamie, I’ve been stepping up my hoop game! I started practicing more and even started coming up with my own combos, which I’ve never done before. It’s been really fun being trying new ways to express myself through hooping, and I even gifted myself an LED hoop this Christmas, so I am so excited for it to come! This photo is from Jamie, when we hooped at a silent disco at Gasworks Park. It was AWESOME, and probably the longest hoop session I’ve had with her. We danced for hours!

GoLdmeyer Hot Springs

I’m losing how many times I’ve been to this magical place but it never gets old.

5th annual beast feast!

An awesome success as always. I recconected with my old colleague, Rachel Belle for the first time in 12 years! We first met when I was 19 and an intern at KIRO Radio! She’s even more amazing that she was back then. Still the funniest person I know and it’s been fun reconnecting with her this year. From noodle crawls to fancy dinners, she has been a fast growing friend.

Developing relationships with women this year has been big for me. I’ve never had many female friends (let alone close ones). I have always been very picky about that, but after realizing how withholding I am when it comes to my friendships, plus being distrustful of women, I’ve been able to open myself up to some amazing new friendships! Miraculously I’ve planned my first ever girls snowshoeing trip next month! I’m looking forward to sharing all the wonderful memories with four very awesome ladies (who needs to get married to have an awesome “bachelorette party”?).

All the weddings!

So many weddings this year! So happy to see my friends be so happy and celebrate their love!

Adventures Forever

And of course to end, I had to take a dip in a half frozen lake. Because some things never change. Oh! I also started hot yoga! Kevin is practicing as a student teacher at Modo Yoga, and the best way I can describe it is Yoga for Landmark graduates. Everything from setting intentions, to acknowledgment, power, and presence. I hate sweating and I love going to Modo. So if you’re ever interested in trying it, let me know! I have free passes for first time visitors, and you’ll likely find me at most classes Kevin teaches and then some!


It’s funny when I first started this entry I didn’t think I had anything to share about my 2017 year. It’s been such a strange year of growth, but definitely inspiring by listening to others in new ways learning to contribute and support my community in ways I never did before. I always notice when I’m not being the person I want to be and in that moment I make a decision to either stay that way or be different and so far, being different has lead to some amazing results (go figure haha). For me, who I am is the possibility of being a supportive friend, daughter, sister or whatever I am to you in your life, through unconditional love, patience, and courage.

Have an an amazing new year everyone, I look forward to sharing more and finding inspiration in all the things each and every one of you bring to my life.


P.s. Forgive any typos or grammar errors. I wrote this super fast and now heading off to work! I know there is more I could say and saying things in different ways, but this is how I want to say it now, and this is how it is now! Thanks for reading if you actually got this far!

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