2019: The End of a Decade – Fearless and Fulfilled

I always love this time of the year when I get to create some time and space to reflect on my past year. The things I am grateful for, the moments that were most challenging, and the new memories created. Sometimes life is happening so fast, you don’t even realize how much has happened until you spend some thinking about it. I’ve been really looking forward to writing about this year because of how I ended 2018 and my reflection was just at the cusp of so many exciting things to come. But as I was watching a beautiful winter sunset with some Modo friends, Jane pointed out that 2019 was the end of a decade. And it made me start to reflect on what has happened the last decade. So much has happened…From 23 to 33, my life has changed over and over again in so many incredible ways. While I can’t capture everything that’s happened the last 10 years, here are some of the good lessons I’ve learned in relation to my 2019 highlights.

If you want to fast forward, you can watch this compilation of one second clips from everyday of 2019. 


Love – It all starts with yourself

I love love. I love to be in love, I love to share love, I love to dream about love, and despite my best efforts I love to obsess over love. I am a true product of what raising your child on Disney is like (for the good and bad). Love has taken many shapes and forms for me over the past decade. When I was 23, love only applied to romantic relationships. Something I was constantly searching for on the outside. Turns out I would just spend the next 10 years struggling to date at all except for a couple key good ones out there. I went from toxic relationships, to guys who couldn’t make up their mind, to being a part of an affair (worst decision/best lesson of my life), to being ghosted time after time again. Somehow in between those, I got lucky and crossed paths with a couple good ones. Guys who were everything I ever dreamed of having in a partner on paper, but in the end we were in different places in our life and wanted different things. But through the ability to hold space for each other and a lot of communication, we remain good friends, and I think we’re all happier with how things have turned out now. Our separate journeys have allowed us to grow in many ways we may not have been able to do as partners. Especially me. 

One of the things I’ve been thinking about the last few months is how in the absence of having a partner, how my decisions and the influence of the people in my life have shaped my life. I’ve truly come to be not just comfortable with being single, but being grateful for it. My life does not feel less fulfilled without that special someone. In fact, I feel blessed because I have so many special people in my life who love and care for me just as much as a partner would. Certainly there are times I feel down and wish I had a partner, but through a lot of self-reflection, I’m continuing to learn how to move with my feelings. Acknowledging my feelings are sometimes not my own, and that when I am able to process them and choose how to move forward instead of having a reaction, I’m much happier with the result. Also thank you LIZZO for being the soundtrack to my life this year.

You are free – Choose how to create your life

We have the unbelievable luck of being free. Free to choose how to live our lives. I chose to bring integrity, creativity, and courage into all parts of my life over 2019. I’ve learned that being fully self expressed is more important than choosing the path of least resistance. Even when you know by living your truth can lead to heartbreak, you do it anyway. And in that moment you truly empower yourself. Because in that moment you chose you above all else. You are free to live your life without hiding any part of yourself, not afraid to share who you are and go for what you want. And every small step you take adds up to you living fearlessly.

I’ve learned that anytime I get nervous or my heart rate increases, instead of trying to ignore it, I lean into it. I try to explore those moments because it is in those challenging times you are able to change your life. I try to take notice of why I feel that way and look at ways to create a new outcome. You can’t have the same approach to the same problem hoping one day the result will be different. You just have to be different if you want different results.

I suppose when I was 23, I thought I was in control of everything in my life. I got really good at making unworkable things work and I hardly rose to the occasion to really challenge myself. I preferred to just do what made me happy. And there was plenty out there to keep me busy otherwise. In recent years, mostly thanks to the coaching of my favorite feather, when I am more intentional, I can create a fulfilling life.

Last year, my mom gave me my first sewing machine and I created my first project: sequin overalls. This year, I kicked it up a notch with a few more sewing projects. With Oregon Country Fair’s 50th anniversary on the horizon, I decided to embark on making a light up flower bomber jacket. I tried my best to convince myself I could do it with just a glue gun, but after some reasonable advice from Jenn, I knew if I really wanted to achieve the result I wanted, I would need to hand sew each flower onto the jacket. Good thing my word for the year was PRACTICE. 29 hours spread over endless weeknights sewing till midnight or later…I finally had my creation.


I had SO MANY flowers left over, I decided to create a matching costume for Jamie since she was getting back right before Summer Meltdown and I knew she wouldn’t have time to create something special to wear. Plus Jamie’s birthday and summer meltdown is the perfect excuse to make my best friend a matching costume I’ve been sketching out to make. I also ended up making hats for Kevin and Josh and little extra flower clips to carry in a basket and give away as gifts to everyone at camp and other people at the festival. It was so fun to run around and give people gifts and see their faces light up and wear the flower clips in their hair or on their hats.

Just about 10 years ago I met Dave and Robin Sheriff at a silly amazing white elephant exchange at their home. Over the next few years I would get to know them in so many different contexts. I dated someone who lived in the same city and we would find ourselves visiting for a great meal and or football, or I’d be hanging with the downhill bikers…opting to stay and help David cook over throwing myself into a tree…but in recent years, I learned I didn’t need some dumb boys for an excuse to visit them, I’ll visit them on my own! Over the years I’ve slowly incorporated myself into their annual mini golf set up. Culminating by working on two holes this year! I love to share their story because they are such amazing examples of how to live a creative life. Plus Tracy (Robin’s sister), is basically my idol. Her yurt is my dream home. Getting to know them over the years has been such a gift. When I grow up I wanna be just like them! This year they even offered to host my birthday! We had SO much fun making all the food, drinking all of David’s famous blackberry margaritas, sharing laughs, craft time, and playing mini golf. I felt so loved and had so much fun sharing such special people with some special friends.


Do the things you love –

you never know what possibilities are waiting for you

One of the biggest changes in my life over the last 10 years is how my career has morphed. I find it hilarious because instead of making more money as I get older, I seem to be picking salaries that start lower and lower. but work satisfaction and fulfillment keeps going higher and higher.

When I was 23, I was working as a public relations representative for the Washington State Department of Transportation. It was the first job I got after college. It was stable, close to home, good benefits, and it was fulfilling in the sense that the projects I was working on affected the public and so I felt my work mattered. Four years into it, many frustrating bureaucratic situations later, I turned in my resignation and moved to Italy (read the previous entry to catch up on how that unfolded).

My first real job. Patrick and the Snohos (me, Meghan, Aurora)!

WSDOT – Last day before Viaduct demo in 2011 – finally opened the new tunnel this year!


For those who don’t know, I spent a year living in Italy with an Italian family working at a winery, La Distesa. It was one of the best decisions of my life, and has greatly influenced how I came to be where I am now in my career. Back in 2011, I was debating whether or not I should buy a house, but I thought the idea of owning a house with that much responsibility was a little too dull for this 24 year old. So I took those savings and took myself abroad to fulfill a lifelong dream instead. One of the things I took away while I was in Italy was the way the people there are so passionate about what they do. They don’t do anything they don’t feel matters to them. I knew I wanted to implement that value when I came home.


I’ve always believed in loving what you do because otherwise we spend most of our lives doing something we don’t even enjoy. I understand its easier said than done, but I believe in intention and being open to possibility. When I returned home 13 months later, I tried to make a move to the nonprofit sector, but it was difficult to make a mid-career cross to another industry without starting at an entry level job. Since I just needed to recoup my finances, I chose to go back to the urban transportation industry as a consultant. Eventually though, I couldn’t stand being at a computer doing literally nothing (because all my projects were held up in financial limbo) and waste another summer day inside. I quit my job with no plan…but it wasn’t long before I found the right opportunity.

10 years ago I started an amateur food blog. Basically a place for me to post photos of food I’ve made and review restaurants I went to (quite AWFUL when I look back on it now), but mostly to document my first attempt of homemade wine. When I chose to move to Italy, I expanded the blog to the photography website you see now to capture my other hobbies and travels. Because of my early days as a food blogger, I became friends with the owner of my favorite restaurants in Seattle. Long story short, I somehow convinced him to hire me as his PR and events coordinator after I quit my consulting job.

It was amazing to translate my work skills for my favorite restaurants in Seattle. I met some amazing people, created some great memories, ate incredible food, drank all the whiskey, and learned how to stand up for what I believe in. Eventually the industry caught up with me and it was time for me to move on from this restaurant family.

Now I’m planning events for The Center for Wooden Boats. Who knew when I started volunteering years ago I’d be working here. It’s crazy how much I’ve done at CWB in the short 8 months I’ve been working here. As soon as I came back from winter travels, I executed our annual auction & gala, our Wagner Education Center Grand opening, The Norm Blanchard W.O.O.D. Regatta, a 4th of july volunteer party, a Pink Boat Regatta fundraiser, started a new series of outdoor maritime movie nights (we watch movies on a sail!), kicked off Beers at the Boathouse (vinyl DJ, free boat rides, awesome food from Chef Manu), the 43rd Annual Lake Union Wooden Boat Festival, and crashed into the fall fundraiser. All with the normal nonprofit struggles of lack of staffing, resources, and funding. It’s been quite the challenging year, but also the most rewarding. 

Overview of the 43rd Annual Lake Union Wooden Boat Festival. Photo by Emil Anderson


Beers at the Boathouse & Outdoor Maritime Movie Nights were my favorite events because it was my way of bringing something of my own to CWB! Bringing all my favorite people and summer past times together to create a bigger community for CWB. Because the people that volunteer here and support CWB are the ones who make things happen. I am so incredibly grateful for the amazing people I get to work with everyday.



And as per my hope from last year, I got to spend a lot more time in the boat shop this year! I started taking a boat building class at CWB and met my new favorite person, Ben Kahn (an amazing boat builder), whom quickly became a very dear new friend of mine. Whenever I need to step away from my desk, I go downstairs to work on The Kitten. A 1920’s kitten class sloop (hopefully launching April 2020)…I started with making a gaff, and whenever I could step away help with fairing, or anything else that needed to be done. Currently working on the tiller. Romper and all. I finally got myself a pair of coveralls so I would stop being known as the girl in the pineapple romper who works in the boat shop (even though I kind of like being that weirdo…it wasn’t practical with getting marine paint all over my legs). But it has been SO much fun learning how to work with woodworking tools and getting to know the guys in the boat shop! While I’ve always had a dream of building a little wooden boat, I don’t think 23-year-old me thought I would actually be working on one. Sometimes I feel so far behind compared to the amazing people who have been working with boats most of their life, but I am inspired by their willingness and patience to teach me. It’s never too late to learn! 


travel – oh the places you’ll go!

Travel has always been a dream of mine since I can remember. It’s funny to think about where I’ve been the last 10 years, because my very first trip abroad was 10 years ago to Ireland. It’s where I took my first photo I ever sold. A lamb and presuming it’s mother on the country roadside in Dingle, Ireland. This video below from 10 years ago capturing Ireland.


Since then, I’ve been lucky enough to keep traveling abroad and around the United States based on the relationships with people I’ve met along the way.








Sorry I never got around to blogging about Patagonia except for Ushaia…but Jamie made these great videos of our time there if you want to watch!


Argentina – Patagonia 2014 from The Hoods on Vimeo.




2019 was a really big year of travel for me though. I went to Tibet, Sri Lanka, China, Bali, The Netherlands, France, Spain, Switzerland, and Italy! I hope to get around to blogging about these places one day…but considering the last few countries have barely made it…here are some previews.


Following up from my reflection last year, I made it to Tibet. I made it to Everest Base Camp. Just barely. Visiting Tibet was a very surreal experience for me. It wasn’t filled with romantic ideas, but I spent a lot of my time thinking about the suffering and lifestyle the Tibetan people face everyday. I will write more on this later, but for now you can browse through this slideshow. So many amazing photos it’s hard not to pick them all. Going through these now is giving me motivation to write some blogs about it. Must stay focused and finish this reflection first though!

Sri Lanka

After my time in Tibet was over, I popped down to Sri Lanka to visit Jamie & Kevin on their soulsurfing journey. It felt so good to be with them again, even if it was just for a few days. 


After I said goodbye to The Hoods, I made my way back to China to celebrate Chinese New Years with Nathan, who had just moved to China to teach english. It was perfect timing! Except I do NOT recommend traveling in China during chinese new years. Absolute CHAOS.


Because Jamie was not able to come back in time for Oregon Country Fair, I chose to go see her and Kevin again in the middle of summer. We spent a week in Bali practice a whole lot of yoga (2-3 workshops a day) at The Yoga Barn. And then we all headed home together!


We even got to celebrate Cody’s birthday by creative a flower mandala for him in the family temple of the balinese home we were staying in. It was a perfect way to honor him.


Italy ( Yes again!)

After I finished my sail with Tres Hombres (more on that in the next category), I stopped into Italy for a few short days. Even though I was just there two years ago for Musica Distesa, SO much had changed! Especially Giulia and Giacamo! They are now 11 and almost 14! When I first met them they were 4 and 6! I couldn’t believe how much the children had grown. I kept looking at photos of us when I was living at La Distesa in 2013…nothing like watching children grow to make you really see how time passes. 

Over the past two years, the family has been busy renovating the cellar into their new home, Lisa lives at the cellar, Giovanni had a baby, Giulio had a baby…I learned so much I had no idea was happening while I was away. Something about that visit triggered something in me that I has been on my mind the last month. I still don’t know what it is, but I’ve suddenly become aware of time. I cried after I hugged the children goodbye knowing they will be very different the next time I see them! My attachment to how I’ve always known things to be can get in the way of moving through changes. This much I know. I like to think I live in the present, but lately I’ve been wondering if I am making the most of my time in the present. Like I should be doing more. 


I went to visit Karin who I met while in Tibet earlier this year while she was in Switzerland! This girl is on the move more than me so I wanted to make sure we were able to cross paths while she was back home. And just in the nick of time before she moves to Beijing to work for the Swiss Embassy (seriously such an amazing lady…and she’s single fellas!). Our week was spent mountain hopping, my first attempt at skiing, and eating ALL THE CHEESE. Can someone please answer the question why the most attractive men all live in Switzerland? Pretty sure I need to move to the italian speaking part of Switzerland at some point in my life.

The Netherlands, France, & Spain, can best be explained through my blog entry about my journey with Tres Hombres…which leads me to the next category…

Sailing – Boats, boats, and more boats

Maiden & Tres Hombres in Baiona, Spain 2018. Photo by Marco Van Der Does


I had no idea what would happen for me in sailing this year, but 2019 was a big one! Eerily enough, I was sent this photo just a few days ago, showing Maiden (forward) and Tres Hombres (behind) on the same dock that I was just on one month ago. Except this photo was taken one year ago. And I unexpectedly was on both boats this year. What are the chances that these two boats would be at the same dock and same port halfway across the world? I am still shocked by this. But I’m getting ahead of myself because you might not even know what I am talking about. But I wanted to show it first because it basically depicts how this year in sailing was for me.

In addition to working on The Kitten at CWB, I embarked on my first boat project! Stripped down and repainted the El Toro Brandy gave me at the end of last year and gave her a name: Lil’ Bucket!

I did fulfill my goal of racing Lil’ Bucket in a duck dodge during my birthday week and it was glorious. I managed to wrangle 9 other el toros and we buzzed around the lake, even making a couple stops at beer island where I was able to grab two beers with one hand (like a boss!).


Special thanks to my favorite feather Jamie for capturing these photos and joining me in my first race with Lil’ Bucket!

And as if one boat wasn’t enough for me…somehow I walked away with another boat earlier this year. I blame Ben and the fact we stayed up all night to make to the Fisheries swap meet by 5am. But against all my reasoning, when I saw Trouble, I had to have her.


We thought Trouble was a Mini 12, but turns out after some more digging, she is technically a Millimeter…a scaled down version of a 12 meter yacht like the ones in America’s Cup. She was SO DAMN CUTE and sleek with all the fancy sails and I just HAD to have her. Unfortunately, with my schedule and my inability to find a home for her at a marina, I haven’t taken her out yet! It is definitely on the list for this next year.

Now onto Maiden. If you haven’t heard of Maiden yet, she is a 58 foot racing yacht that Tracy Edwards skippered with an all female crew in the 1989 Whitbread Round the World Race (also coincidentally there is a documentary that was released earlier this year about it). She was recently found abandoned a couple years ago and has been restored and sailing around the world with an all female crew to raise money and awareness for girls education. When she stopped in Seattle, and my friend Jeanne (captain of Team Sail Like a Girl) was looking for crew to escort Maiden to Port Townsend for the day, I couldn’t stop jumping up and down.

It was truly an inspirational day for women in maritime. Sailing with Team Sail Like a Girl, meeting the Maiden crew, meeting Kaci Cronkhite & Carol Hasse…I was completely overwhelmed. and how long these women have been breaking down barriers and being badasses. And then I got to reunite with some badass tall ship women I’ve met over the years and I was even MORE inspired. Because everyone knows my heart belongs to tallships and wooden boats.


When it came time to bring Maks to the Moon (Team Sail Like a Girl) back to Bainbridge, I tried all the things (including some good time at the helm) and tried with as much confidence as I could muster at the time that wasn’t being drowned out by anxiety of doing something to break the boat. I had an AMAZING day on the water with some amazing women that definitely sparked some adventure in my heart.

You can’t really tell but I’m at the helm here! And this photo was taken by Ben from Sail Bainbridge who I only know through instagram so I was fangirling from afar (feels just as silly as it sounds).


I went to my first Thunderbird regionals this year in Port Townsend with Selchie and it was insanely fun. Racing against national champs, it was an exciting and competitive fleet to be with! 

And then, somehow a couple months after that whole experience, I found myself on a tall ship, Tres Hombres, sailing from The Netherlands to Spain! I did manage to actually write a blog about that crazy experience, so if you really want a long read…you can find it here!

While I always had an interest in sailing, never would I have imagined the adventures I would go on the last 10 years. My first sail was actually about 9 years ago…on a second date with the swooniest irish man on Lake Union. It took a while for me to actually make it a priority, but as soon as I did…it’s amazing how far I’ve come since then. From cruising to Victoria, to many Race Weeks on Whidbey Island, to crewing on tall ships, to owning two boats! 

Family Matters 

If you would’ve asked 23 year old Sandy what she thought her relationship would be with her family, she would have laughed at you. Just a couple years ago, decades of resent and self-righteousness, dissolved in a weekend. An opening for unconditional love, listening, and new memories created. . Since then, I’ve been having so much fun getting to know my family and learning more about who they are as individual people. My brother even has a girlfriend now who is the COOLEST. 

Three generations


And while Jamie and Kevin are technically not my family, I certainly consider them my family. And this year they announced they are having a baby! Which means, I get to become an auntie, and I AM SO EXCITED. This new chapter for them will also change my life. There will be a mini feather to welcome into the world!

New Year Intentions

I’ve been spending so much of my time writing and getting ready for the holidays, it’s been hard to really put my intentions together for the new year. Some new goals:

  • Mountaineering (I set this goal last year but couldn’t make the course I had in mind work because I had to work), I still really want to make this a goal
  • Finish my aerial ABC’s (scheduling conflicts with work and sailing have made this difficult to do quickly!)
  • Skiing (I’m hooked! Time to find some used gear post season and maybe try practicing next season!)
  • Find a home and sail Trouble (maybe make it to a race in Almeda, Canada? Where is that anyway?!)
  • Financial Wellness – It’s time I really prioritize money to put myself back on track for some long term goals
  • Make it to the unloading party for Tres Hombres…possibly the 20th anniversary for La Distesa

My words for the year are Light, Balance, and Presence. My intention is that they will inspire me to be in action with who I want to be. What word or mantra are you bringing into the new year?

However you choose to end your 2019 or begin your 2020, I wish you all the light and love, courage and tenacity to embrace and lift up those around you – including yourself. Live your truth, create magical possibilities, start today not tomorrow, one step at a time, and you never know where the next 10 years will take you. Thank you for all of your support and your contribution to my life. No matter how brief our interactions may be, or if we haven’t even met yet, please know that you are loved and appreciated!

Love Always, Sandy

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