Mary Elisabeth

on Fridays I burn my fears…


Ever since I was in middle school I’ve been journaling.  I still own my journals and have slowly (very slowly) been transcribing them for a future writing project.  I recently took a look at an entry in the master journal, so far, and discovered an entry from my senior year in high school.  The following is a reflection I wrote and shared on a retreat I led in high school.  The topic of my talk was “ideals”.  Here’s what I had to say:

Who am I?  Who are you?  What distinguishes me from you or you from the person sitting next to you?  Besides the obvious, hair color, eye color, each one of us has his or her own set of ideals which distinguishes us from one another.  Ideals are what you stand for and what you live for.  Our ideals are who we are and what we believe.  Last night we were asked to look at the movie of our life and to think about our pasts.  Hopefully during that time of reflection you came across some of your values.  In my movie I found that my three main ideals are loving others and myself, living in the present, and valuing my time with my family.  My ideals stem from my values.  An ideal is an ideal with the “L” of love added to it – it is a good idea I pursue with love and determination.  An idea is something in the head; an ideal is in the heart.  Ideals make our whole lives possible and in order to achieve our goals we must determine our values and ideals. 

Ideals play a huge role in our lives.  We all have ideals, values, desires and goals which influence our actions.  An ideal is a belief or goal that each individual must choose for himself in order to make his life meaningful.  Ideals require constant time, effort and energy.  And even though we may never reach them, or we may fail to follow them, they affect the way we live our lives for a certain period of time.  For instance, in the past I made a goal to make the varsity girls’ basketball team.  I took great strides toward achieving my goal and I desired so strongly to make this team that I spent numerous hours training in a gym.  On another note I also wish to treat others with respect.  For this reason I am nice to others and don’t put them down.  Our actions are reflections of who we are and what we believe, and others often take notice of our actions.  Sometimes you can tell someone’s ideals based on their actions.  When I notice someone taking time out of their lives to help someone out, or smiling and greeting everyone they’re putting their ideals into action.  People who work hard in school clearly value their future and the importance of education just as those who volunteer value helping others. 

Some of our ideals are internal, and reflect what is important to us.  Ideals are the reasons behind our attitudes and values.  For example, I want to do my best, put forth 100% effort, and work hard in all that I do.  To me “it’s more important to do my best, rather than to be the best.”  I strive to do the right thing even when no one is watching.  I also desire to be honest with not only others, but also with myself.  Furthermore, I work to live in the present.  After reading a book, “The Present,” by Spencer Johnson, I discovered the importance of being in the present, learning from the past, and planning for the future.  Even though I try very hard to live by my ideals, I often fail to do so.  I don’t always put forth all my effort when I’m doing something, and I do compare myself to others.  Through one specific failure to live by my ideals I learned a great lesson.  I failed to be honest with myself and others during my high school career.  I failred to express my true beliefs because I wanted badly to fit in and maintain friendships.  Over time, I became accustomed to conforming to how others acted and thought, and I found myself miserable.  I was doing things I didn’t really want to do, and being a person that I really wasn’t.  I didn’t want to be a “designated driver” watching others act foolish.  I didn’t want to be the goody too shoes being taken advantage of.  I didn’t like being in situation where others were putting each other down with phrases like “you’re ugly, you’re fat, why are you so stupid?!”  Because I value seeing the best in others I didn’t want to listen to others put each other down.  The more I heard these phrases, the more I began to believe they were true, even when I knew they weren’t.  I had to get myself out of this situation.  At this point I had to be honest with myself.  I spent a great deal of time discovering who I really was and what I truly valued and ultimately made a choice to be myself.  Through my failure to be honest with myself is others I discovered more of my ideals, and began to recognize my own ideals, rather than live by the ideals of others.  

Some of our ideals are external, that is how we want to be seen by others.  Most people want to be liked by others, so their ideals reflect this desire.  For me, I want others to see me as I am.  I want them to view me as a dedicated, hard worker, who is spiritually devoted to God.  I hope people think of me as a genuinely nice, happy, friendly and loving person.  Because I desire people to see these qualities in me, I act in a way that enables them to shine through.  I smile at everyone and greet others with a friendly “hello,” tell others the truth, and genuinely attempt to express my love toward everyone.  Sure there are days when I fail to portray these qualities, but setting external ideals sets goals which influence my actions for how I act around others. 

The third type of ideal is Christian ideals.  These ideals stem from the life and teachings of Jesus.  We cannot accomplish these ideals without the help of Jesus.  God gave His toughest commandment to humanity when Jesus said, “Love one another as I have loved you.”  Loving one another may sound easy, but loving as Jesus loved us, to his own death, is hard.  Jesus asks each of us to take the love and understanding shown to us and pass it on to others.  I owe it to myself and others who live in this world with me, to at least try to understand the Christian ideal.  Each day I try to live by the ultimate Christian ideal, to love others as Jesus loves me.  I strive to see others as well as myself through God’s eyes.  For me, it’s easier to see others through God’s eyes rather than see myself through God’s eyes.  But I continue to work on recognizing God’s love of everyone, and expressing that love to all I encounter.  I must love others and myself in spite of our faults.  Each time I can forget myself and help someone else I’m putting the Christian ideal into practice.  I also desire to help others out by volunteering my time and giving to those less fortunate.  Volunteering is a great way to live out the Christian ideal because it’s an expression of loves towards God’s people.  I recently discovered that Jeeps Guyesky has spent every spring break on Habitat for Humanity, volunteering his vacation to help others.  Talk about an example of living out Christian ideals.  I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “God is first, others second; I am third” on numerous retreats throughout high school.  This is a perfect philosophy to live Christian ideals.  Our Christian ideals affect the ways we live throughout our entire lives. 

We need our ideals because without them we are aimless.  Our ideals give our lives direction, meaning, and purpose.  Without ideals I would be a nobody going nowhere.  If I didn’t establish goals to be nice or to spend time with my family, my time would be spent completely different. 

Our ideals are not always constant.  They can change, in fact they should change and will change as we mature and grow spiritually, mentally, and physically.  As I have changed and matured, my ideals have changed and matured.  My ideals are as unique as the movie of my life.  If I want to change them, only I can.  In looking at the movies of our lives last night we could probably see how our attitudes and ideals have changed and developed, toward friends, school, family, work, and other things.  For instance, my ideals have changed in many of these aspects.

Regarding friends – I used to go with the flow and wouldn’t say what was on my mind, just so I could fit in and maintain my group of friends.  I limited myself to a small, selective group of friends.  When I recognized how miserable I felt hiding my true beliefs, and how unhappy with myself I was, I changed my ideals.  Rather than agreeing with my friends’ ideals I discovered, developed and began to follow my own.  Now I view everyone as a friend and try to initiate many new friendships.  I don’t limit myself to a small select group of individuals to hang out with.  I take the time to get to know and talk to as many people as I can.  Because I realized that I needed to change my ideals I became comfortable and confident enough in myself to initiate friendships. 

My ideals also have changed regarding my family.  As I get older, especially as college grows nearer.  I learn more and more of how precious my time with my family is.  I foresee the near future when I won’t be living with my family anymore, I’ll be away at college, so I’ve established an ideal to cherish every moment with my family and be grateful that God has blessed me with them in my lives.  Sometimes I lose patience with my family and always regret doing so.  When I find myself not consistently following my ideals I take the time to gather my thoughts in order to keep myself in check and continue practicing my ideals. 

As we look back over our pasts, we may also notice that there were times when our actions were not consistent with our ideals.  All of us have times when we don’t live as we believe.  However, it’s important that we keep trying to live our ideals, despite our failures.  The effort is what counts.  I mentioned how I strive to live in the present.  Yet, I often dwell on my past mistakes, and tear myself down about them.  I want to be viewed as someone who works hard and genuinely loves others, but there are times that I roll out of bed, feeling so tired that I fail to “cowboy up” to put forth my best effort and energy at school.  But a saint is a sinner who keeps trying, so I learn from my failures and continue trying to live by my ideals the best I can.  I always feel the best about myself and everything in general when my actions are consistent to my ideals.  It’s like the feeling you get when you’ve worked so hard to achieve something and then you finally do.  Like when you cross the finish line of a big race.  A feeling of accomplishment and self-worth. 

There are also times when we aren’t aware of our ideals.  We can devote our time, energy, and effort to something without knowing why or what that something is.  For me, I discovered many of my ideals after putting them into practice.  When I began to hang out less with friends from school and more with my family I began to discover activities that I truly like doing, and found that I didn’t like stuff that I thought I always had.  On the route to self-discovery I realized that playing basketball at Lansing Catholic wasn’t something I enjoyed as much as I had thought.  I found that I was doing things because I always had, but I had lost touch with myself, and became unable to notice what really made me happy.  After realizing that I didn’t like some of the things I was doing I was able to discover the variety of things I really do enjoy doing, like spending time with my family, trying new things (I happen to love surfing!), and learning and studying.  The more I know of my ideals the better I can live them.  If I do not stand up for my own ideals, how can I respect myself and expect others to treat me with respect?  It is up to each of us to recognize our ideals because we are the only ones who can devote our entire lives to them. 

In order to discover some of our ideals, we might ask ourselves some questions.  I want you to write these down.  How do I spend my time?  What do I like to do?  What don’t I like to do?  When do I feel my best?  How do I view and treat myself and others?  Who do I admire, love and respect, and why?  Take some time right now to answer a few of those questions.  When I answer those questions I realize that I enjoy spending my time with my family, learning, coaching girls’ basketball and providing services to others.  However, I don’t like partying.  I always feel my best after doing something I love, or doing something for someone else and brightening their day.  For instance, I feel great selling my Italian water Ice to people who absolutely love it and smile as they eat it.  I love seeing others happy.  Of course I also feel great after doing something for myself, treating myself to something that I like as well.  I attempt to view others and myself through God’s eyes and treat others and myself with respect and dignity.  I admire all of my family because they show such great love for me and others and passion for what they do.  I tend to develop many of my ideals based on what my family members do out of love.  For instance, my parents began a Capital Area Cougars basketball program for young kids.  Although at first their time seemed consumed by the project, I learned that it was such a great thing they did for all these kids.  My desire to help others is influenced by their love of doing so as well.  Answering questions like those will help you discover where your heart is and what you value in life.  Your heart will be where your treasure is.  Don’t treasure possessions or pleasures. Possessions rust, rot, or fall apart.  Pleasure passes. 

Remember, all of us have ideals…ideals that determine the way we live.  Ideals give life its meaning.  It’s up to you to live your ideals.  I can live my ideals if I want to just as you can live your ideals if you want to.  Like I said earlier, an ideal is something in the head; an ideal is in the heart.  Therefore, the best way to discover your ideals is through reflection and listening to your heart.  

“What do you do?”

When we meet someone new usually one of the first questions we are asked is “what do you do?”  It’s such an odd question because it’s asking something so broad, typically expecting a narrowly defined answer, detailing our profession.

Whenever I am asked that question I carefully think about how I want to respond or I just say whatever is on my mind.  Because I do a lot of things.  We all do.  And more of what we do is outside of our professional lives (for some of us who don’t make their work their lives).  For me, my work and life interlace, so the distinction isn’t as clear.  Here are some of the ways I like to answer that question:

  • “I make gelato”
  • “I practice yoga”
  • “I write comedy”
  • “I sleep”
  • “I cook”
  • “I run”

If someone is really pressing for a more professional answer, usually I say something like “I create solutions to solve problems (or I’m an entrepreneur)”

Recently someone asked me to describe what I do for work and I used the above description.  She continued to dig deeper into my work, asking:

  • What about it is really satisfying? Making an impact in peoples’ lives (whether an employee, customer, partner, etc)
  • What about it drives you crazy?  It can be a very lonely road & there are lots of ups & downs, highs & lows. And the lows can be very low. 
  • What are your goals?  To leave the world a little bit better place
  • What is driving you?  Honestly, probably achieving. I’m highly competitive.  And making an impact. Doing something that positive impacts people.
  • What is holding you back?  Myself. I’m my own biggest hurdle. Self-doubt. 
  • Do you regret any significant decisions you’ve made about your career? If you had it to do over again, would you do it differently?  No regrets. Lots of lessons though. I live by the philosophy “no mistakes, only gifts & opportunities” 

There you have it. That’s what I do and how I feel about it.

Venture on,

<3 mel

What were your favorite toys as a child?

Someone I love recently subscribed me to StoryWorth, which prompts a weekly question for me to answer. The first question was “What were your favorite toys as a child?” To which I responded:

To help you understand my favorite toys as a child I’ll first say that I loved animals! As soon as I could talk I asked my mom to horseback ride & my family always had dogs. Maybe that’s why I enjoyed the fake animals just as much as the real ones:

Puppy in my pocket. If you ever wonder why I can name almost any dog breed from just seeing a dog on the street it’s because of these small plastic dogs. Each dog came with a card, sharing the breed and the dog’s name. I’m pretty sure they are still in a shoe box (a Hush Puppies brand shoe box of course) in my parents’ basement. Check out the attached photo for a glimpse of what these puppies looked like.


Breyer horses. These model horses were a higher priced toy item and it was always a special treat to get a new one. I had Black Beauty, Man of War, Secretariat, Ruffian (photo attached), all the “famous” horses, and then others that were just as special. I gave them all names and played with them with my friend Lauren. We’d create our own equine sitcoms (or often times soap operas) with the characters we created and plots we developed. Horses had stallionfriend drama, friend fights, gossip, successes and failures, just as we experience. I also had smaller plastic horses, more similar in form to the puppy in my pockets. However, they did not intermingle with the Breyers.


Stuffed animals. Let’s just say I could fill a bedroom with just stuffed animals. I collected them over the years because family knew me to love animals and gifting a fake plush one was a suitable substitute (and more favorable from my parents who were not excited when I brought home a live gerbil from a friend at school in the third grade). These plush friends brought much of the characteristics as a real friend…comfort, hugs, a shoulder to cry on, and a great listener (they never talked back and always agreed with me!)

Beanie babies. I struggle to include these small bean filled animals as toys, as they were more of an investment. They were supposed to pay for my college education when their $5 cost became $5,000 in value. Heck, that could’ve also paid for retirement considering all the Beanie Babies I owned. Even if they did appreciate in value ours probably would have still been worthless, since they made great amo for my siblings and my “beanie baby wars” during which we’d throw them at each other from across the basement floor. Once the tag was removed, the value was stripped.

With my imagination, all of these toy creatures had names, lives, personalities. They were my storyboard for creation in addition to childhood toys and entertainment. They were friendly compliments to the sports’ toys – basketballs, soccers, skates, or other recreational games. A basketball wasn’t something to cry on or talk to about my day at school. My husky stuffed animal was always there with a warm hug and listening ears, even if they weren’t real.

Am I missing anything, mom?

<3 mel

Happy 2014! A 2013 Recap & Reflection


Last year at this time I was ringing in the new calendar year with some friends in Santa Rosa, California.  Though I wasn’t yet living in the Bay Area, it already felt like home.  The start to 2013 blossomed change, as I was exploring what next in my life.  Looking at a new venture, a new geographical home.  Flash forward one year later and I have been living in San Francisco since May (officially), enjoying a new venture, and have made many new friends and memories in this chapter of my life.  Looking back over the year, here are some of the things I’ve done:

At the beginning of the year I was finishing up my job at RPM Ventures, involved in the Recycle Ann Arbor board, working with the best gelateria, challenging my fitness goals, and going to every farmers market I could get my hands on.  The year evolved into an exciting and memorable adventure – from moving to a new city, taking on a new venture, and building relationships with amazing people – I truly feel blessed as I reflect on my 2013.

The lengthy nature of this post is meant to encapsulate my 2013 year in review, with just a few of the highlights throughout the year, as well as reflect on my personal growth throughout the year.  If you recall, I don’t make traditional New Year’s Resolutions, and rather set goals and resolutions throughout the calendar year.   Though at the start to 2013 I spent an ample amount of time getting to know myself better and now is a great time to revisit what I set out to be and accomplish over the past 12 months.

To start, here are some of my happenings in 2013.


  • Rang in 2013 with a small group of friends in Santa Rosa, California
  • Exploring opportunities for my next venture
Ringing in 2013 in Santa Rosa, California with friends

Ringing in 2013 in Santa Rosa, California with friends


  • Watched the SuperBowl with friends in San Francisco (ironically just a block or so away from my current apartment)
  • Went to San Diego with my parents and saw my dad receive the Phelps-Martin Award for Community Service
  • Started working at SoFi



  • Watched the University of Michigan men’s basketball team play in the NCAA Final Four at the Palace
  • Led an Improv4 Entrepreneurs workshop in Detroit
  • Celebrated my mom’s birthday at a B&B with horseback riding
  • Received first press from my olive tree in Italy


  • Saw The Colbert Report live in NYC with my brother
  • Led an Improv4 Entrepreneurs workshop in Portland for the TechStars Nike+ Accelerator
  • Explored Traverse City and other parts of the northern part of the lower peninsula of Michigan with my dad
  • Moved to San Francisco! And immediately the day after experienced Bay to Breakers
  • Spent Memorial Day weekend camping in Big Sur with great friends
  • Some more highlights of my first couple weeks in SF
Pre- Colbert Report viewing

Pre- Colbert Report viewing. We’re excited!

Day I moved to San Francisco

With my parents in Michigan the Day I moved to San Francisco



  • My 25th birthday with 50 of my closest friends!
  • Continued taking improv classes at BATS Improv
  • Checked out the Treasure Island Flea Market with some friends
  • Some more highlights 
My birthday party!

My birthday party!


  • Performed in an improv show at BATS Improv
  • A blur of professional and personal challenges, including the loss of three people



  • Quick trip to Michigan
  • My parents and grandmother visited the Bay Area.  My mom and I ran the Healdsburg Half Marathon together, both getting our PR.
  • Judged the San Francisco Crossfit in-house competition, Virtuosity
  • Attended the Net Impact Conference in San Jose, representing SoFi
  • Dressed as a farmer for Halloween
Family in Napa together

Family in Napa together


  • Spoke at the Babson Entrepreneurship Forum, on behalf of SoFi
  • Got my first case of walking pneumonia after traveling on 7 flights in 5 days for SoFi
  • Participated in a pre-Thanksgiving progressive dinner
  • Thanksgiving at the Fallone’s
  • Kayaked to Angel Island and did a little hiking around there, with picnicking, once we got there
Made it to Angel Island!

Made it to Angel Island!


  • Joined Brian Rumao at the LinkedIn Holiday Party
  • Saw Book of Mormon!
  • Got my first concussion from a SoFi injury further demonstrating that student loans are dangerous
  • My brother, Nick, visited me in San Francisco
  • More holiday parties and cheer!
  • Hiked Gerbode Valley Trail
  • First Christmas away from my parents.  Spent it with wonderful family in Lafayette.
Hanging out at the LinkedIn holiday party

Hanging out at the LinkedIn holiday party

At the start of last year I wrote about what’s important to me and listed many words that I wanted to be descriptive of my 2013.  Here are some thoughts and/or examples highlighting those words in my life over the year:

Love – to quote a movie I like, “love actually is all around”.  There is so much love in my life and throughout 2013 I was continuously reminded of this.  Love from my family who flew out from Michigan to visit me in my new home.  Love from my friends who called me and asked to help when they heard I had a concussion and pneumonia.  Love from complete strangers who smile as we cross paths.

Risks – moving to San Francisco, taking on a new life venture, leaving familiarity behind

Passion – I’ve seen my passion for cooking really flourish in 2013.  I have spent a lot of time creating new recipes, trying new foods, and learning more about culinary knowledge…and enjoying every minute of it!

Challenges – My biggest challenge of 2013 was probably moving to a very new place.  It wasn’t the move itself that was challenging.  It was the adjusting, a bunch of little challenges in the process that added up to make it a larger challenge…more than I thought. For instance, things like figuring out how to get places, navigating new social circles, taking on a new work venture, AND taking time for/discovering myself in the process.

Improvement – just the other day I got a PR on a lift in crossfit – clean and jerk – by 5 pounds.  It’s a little improvement, but an improvement nonetheless, and it feels great to progress on something I work hard to achieve

Discovery – With a new city, new friends, new ventures abound, which means tons of discovering new restaurants, people, places, activities to try, and more!  I even wrote about some of the new places I explored.  Never a dull moment!

Health – my health has been great!  Other than the walking pneumonia dip in November I have felt great and been strong and energetic out here.  It certainly helps that the sun shines so much!  I have stayed active with running, crossfit, yoga, hiking, and other adventures.  I am eating well – California’s farmers markets are spoiling me (but not my wallet!)  Sleep needs improvement in 2014!

Creativity –  Improv was my primary creative outlet this year.  I led several workshops with Improv4 and hosted more informal improv jams with friends and improve classmates.  I took a couple of improv classes at BATS Improv, an acting class, and had my first improv performance in San Francisco!

Smiling – I love smiling and I’ve embraced smiling at strangers more in the past year than I had previously.  Lots of improv in 2013 also kept me flashing those pearly whites!

Independence – For the first time in my life I truly feel independent.  I live on the other side of the country as my immediate family.  When I moved out here I didn’t have much.  I sent one box and brought a couple of suitcases.  I was responsible for getting my act together – buying a bed, dresser (still working on that), furniture, taking care of my health and finances, and more.  Not that I wasn’t doing those things before, but help was always an easy call away.  Fortunately, I have amazing friends and family in the area and they always have my back.

Commitment – May of this year marked my 1 year anniversary with crossfit, something I have been dedicated to since my intro sessions at Hyperfit in Ann Arbor.  I love everything I am learning at crossfit and the amazing friendships I have built through my involvement in the community.  I remember last year setting a goal to go to crossfit 2-3 times per week and now I go 5-6 times per week (if not more – my record is 7…that was a tough week!)

Courage – on so many levels I have needed to exercise courage in my life.  Courage to stand up for myself professionally.  Courage to speak my mind at work or with friends.  Courage to try new things and put myself out there in a new city.

Fun – definitely had more fun in 2013.  Probably my most social year yet.

Strength – I am the strongest I have ever been, physically and mentally.  Habits help.

Endurance – I’d say running 2 half marathons in 2013 has to do quite a bit with my endurance =)  Not just the race itself, but the training and the perseverance to get it done!

Ventures – life is a venture and 2013 sure had its fill!  Hiking ventures.  Food ventures.  Improv ventures.  New ventures.  San Francisco ventures.  Writing and more.  I’ve really had a full 2013 with lots of changes and exploration.

Here’s to a happy and equally venturing 2014!

mel, the Venture Gal

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Time flies when you live in San Francisco!

…Or when you’re having fun, or both!

It has been about 2 months since I moved to San Francisco.  The end of June and early July have been exciting here in San Francisco.  Since I last shared on my blog I have taken on new adventures, eaten at new restaurants, and continued my enjoyed habits!

Some highlights to share…

Refinanced my loans with SoFi – that’s right, I’m saving thousands of dollars on my student loans.  You can too by applying here!

Celebrated my birthday – I started off my birthday with a run to one of my favorite places in the city, the Ferry Building, and picked up a couple impulse festive finds – flag tray and star candle.  Then I went to crossfit, to celebrate with a good workout and birthday burpees!  Later that day I hosted a potluck style party at my apartment, in our backyard with our above ground fire pit and picnic table.  I assembled kabobs, which were cooked over the open fire.  For dessert, I made some themed foods, including, a flag fruit salad, and two tarts sporting red, white, and blue décor.   The fireworks were outstanding!  We walked to Fort Mason and found a point right at the water near where the fireworks were launching.  Though I didn’t spend my birthday with my family (I did FaceTime with my mom and grandmother), I spent it with 50 ish friends, making my first birthday in San Francisco a fabulous time!

Blowing out my candles!

Blowing out my candles!

Exploratorium – the Exploratorium was fun!  I stepped back to my 12-year-old self (minus the pre-teen moodiness) and explored science and creativity.  The place was packed and swarming with kids.  It was fun to see their fascination with little things that just don’t seem as magical as an adult.  This place definitely brought some magic back into my life!

Fun at the Exploratorium!  Not sure what that kid was doing, but it worked for the picture

Fun at the Exploratorium! Not sure what that kid was doing, but it worked for the picture

Ocean Beach Bonfire – a friend from Michigan invited me to an evening at Ocean Beach, filled with fire, fireworks, and interesting conversations!

Fire is strong at Ocean Beach!

Fire is strong at Ocean Beach!

Vator’s VentureShift – I went to this event last week and met all sorts of cool people!

Some of the restaurants I ate at…

Swan Oyster Depot – this place has been on my list for awhile and usually the long line is discouraging.  Some friends and I went, waited in line briefly, and then discovered that we could bypass the line if we ordered take out.  That was a no brainer, so we ordered our food (I got the fresh crab!) and went over to Lafayette Park to enjoy!

Fresh crab from Swan Oyster!

Fresh crab from Swan Oyster!

Mama’s – A friend and I went to Mama’s on a Saturday morning…the Saturday after July 4.  We got there about 30 minutes after the place opened and the line was already long.  We waited for 2 hours (2 hours too long if you ask me!)  I got the Dungeness crab omelet (with avocado, tomato, and spinach).  It was fine, but I wouldn’t wait another 2 hours to go again!

Dungeness crab omelet from Mama's

Dungeness crab omelet from Mama’s

Gracias Madre – went here with a friend I hadn’t seen in years!  It was fun to catch up with him and the food was fine.  I got a coconut ceviche and kale side dish (it’s a vegan restaurant).

Gracias Madre in the Mission. Organic, vegan Mexican food.

Gracias Madre in the Mission. Organic, vegan Mexican food.

Coqueta – this place is a gem!  Right along the water, on the Embarcadero, dangerously close to the Ferry Building.  I met a friend here for lunch on a Saturday, after and before checking out the farmers market, of course.  It’s a tapas place, with many options.  I ordered grilled razor clams with meyer lemon and Monterey calamaria on the plancha with onion jam and squid ink aioli.  The menu highlights local ingredients and the service was spectacular!

Monterey calamari on la plancha with onion jam and squid ink aioli

Monterey calamari on la plancha with onion jam and squid ink aioli

Baker and Banker – local, “New American” menu and great service.  I ordered a salad to start and a lamb dish for my main course.  To my dismay, the lamb dish had sausage and belly, two things I really don’t like to eat.  Nowhere on the menu did it say that my lamb would be wrapped in sausage.  I did ask “will the chef be offended if I ask him to cook the lamb a bit more?” after I saw mostly pink/red lamb in front of me.  They cooked it a tad more, but the sausage was still there.  I ate it, though afterwards felt sick for days.  Gross.

In addition to new adventures, I continue to crossfit at San Francisco Crossfit, take improv classes at BATS, disrupting student loans with SoFi, running, cooking, and going to farmers markets.  I started taking an acting class and have been practicing yoga at Bikram Yoga Seacliff, though am looking for a new spot since Seacliff is far from me and the yoga studio is carpeted (gross!)

Until next time, Venture On,

MEL, the Venture Gal


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How to Learn

I started an online course on writing.  My mom shared it with me and she is taking it as well.  I am mostly doing it for the writing prompts and to practice writing more, and to have something to talk to my mom about and do together (in addition to both training for the Healdsburg half marathon in October).  The course just started and the first question asked is “how have you learned what you are good at?”  Basically, it’s a reflection piece thinking about learning styles and how I learn.

When charged with the question how have I learned what I am good at I first asked myself, what am I good at?  What do I know?  Then I considered how I learned about that.  The things I think I am good at (or have been good at) are: cooking, improvising, writing, yoga, horse riding, running.

Take a look at how my learning for those activities breaks down:


  • Practice / doing
  • Experimenting
  • Receiving feedback
  • Reading relevant material


  • Classes
  • Practice / doing
  • Reading relevant material
  • Teaching
  • Receiving feedback


  • Classes
  • Practice / doing
  • Reading relevant material
  • Teaching
  • Receiving feedback


  • Classes
  • Practice / doing
  • Receiving feedback

Horseback riding:

  • Classes
  • Practice / doing
  • Reading relevant material
  • Receiving feedback

Clearly there is a pattern here.  I learn by doing.  I learn by practicing.  I learn by teaching others and by receiving feedback about my work.  Reading relevant information is useful, but is just a piece of the puzzle.  I strongly believe that learning by doing is vital to mastering something.  However, learning something from taking classes or reading is a great predecessor for practicing and then teaching.  Teaching a skill is a great way to master it because it forces knowing.  When teaching you are expected to answer questions, so must know enough to answer those questions.  Asking questions is an important part of the learning process – when taking classes or practicing with people more experienced, it is good to ask questions to develop more knowledge about the particular subject.

Considering learning involves a process of absorbing (reading, taking classes, asking questions), doing (practicing), and sharing (receiving feedback, teaching).  And it’s never done.  It’s a cycle of absorbing, doing, and sharing, and doing more of all three.  This learning model I can apply to other activities I’d like to master or activities I’d like to get better at, like writing, improvising, cooking, crossfit-ing, leading, etc.  Absorbing, doing, and sharing in those activities will continue to get me to a level of skill worth noting!

Venture on,

MEL, the Venture Gal

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Fighting Kryptonite


I have climbed rocks, ran long distances through subpar running conditions (think arctic tundra and extreme heat…not at the same time), traveled to almost the south pole, driven across an eastern European country with people I just met.  I lift heavy things, swim and surf in the ocean, stand on my head, and push my mind and body to the edge on a regular basis.

That being shared, there is something that is my achilles’ heel…and this blog post is about to get personal…

For as long as I can remember (or my parents can remember and share with me) I have encountered fainting regularly.  Starting with my kindergarten shots, for which I prepared myself for for weeks (by pinching my skin claiming “this doesn’t hurt”).  Even that preparation didn’t prevent me from passing out after the needle penetrated my skin.  My mom was a bit freaked out, especially considering she just read something about the potential side effects from the shots.

Then in first grade I passed out after pulling out a loose tooth.  I remember sitting on my cold metal chair, pulling out my tooth, there was blood, and I fell over sideways.

The fainting sagas continued…shots, blood (especially blood draws) were the two main culprits causing me to lose consciousness.

In eighth grade science class I believe we were talking about blood clots (or sharks…for some reason I cannot remember exactly which) when I turned to my classmate Hillary and told her I was going to pass out.  From there I put my head in my lap while Hillary patiently raised her hand.  Before the teacher called on her I was already on the ground.

Even the mention of getting a tetanus shot at an annual physical had me dizzy and then passing out.  As an aside, this was one of my most frustrating episodes because the doctor’s office sent me to the hospital, after I explicitly told them not to.  An ambulance ride and a pointless day in the hospital later I had racked up more in hospital bills than I cared for (especially considering I told them not to send me to the hospital because I knew they would tell me what I always hear after the fainting spells).

My freshman year in college I passed out in the dorms, in the bathroom in my hall.  I hit my head and was bleeding on the floor until someone found me there and called 911.  Note:  this fainting episode had nothing to do with alcohol.  I was severely dehydrated after getting sick to my stomach from a breakfast I had at an unnamed cafe in Ann Arbor.

In college I also passed out while home alone, after slicing my finger while cutting pineapple.  After I gained consciousness I called 911…then I called them back after I felt better.  By then it was too late and the paramedics were already at my house.  They were young guys.  I told them not to take me to the hospital because I felt fine and I just passed out.  The cut on my finger was pretty embarrassing (definitely less than an inch long and not deep at all).  They stayed with me until someone came home.  They shared some stories of even more ridiculous 911 calls, so I didn’t feel as lame for calling them about my cut finger/passing out.

About a day after completing my first half marathon I passed out very late at night (or very early in the morning, depending on how you look at it).  My dad found me on the floor (he happened to be visiting that night) and called 911.  Several gallons of IV fluid later, I had my color back and was back conscious.  “Severely depleted” were the words the doctor used to describe my state entering the hospital.

When my sister got her wisdom teeth removed I face dove into the floor after seeing the doc remove the bloody gauze.  I knew I was going to pass out, but as I made my way to the floor I passed out before I got there all the way, so my eye looked like this (below) for awhile.  Pro Tip:  If you are going to pass out, pass out at an oral surgeon’s office.  They have comfy chairs, friendly staff, and will give you real orange juice.  They surprisingly handled me passing out better than most doctors do.


During a complete blood draw the summer after my junior year in college I had multiple episodes, that were described as seizures, and smelling salts were the only thing to get me back conscious.  The rest of that day I spent at my mom’s office aka the American Red Cross on one of their beds.  I was totally out of it.

Imagine my surprise when in October 2012 I stayed conscious when the emergency room took a blood sample to see what could be causing my lower abdominal pain.  Hours later I had multiple fainting episodes when the IV was put in my arm…episodes that caused the ER doctor to tell me “in my dozen years of working emergency medicine, I have never seen anything like that”.  Too bad there isn’t a special award for that.

Why do I pass out so much?  Vaso vagal is what I’ve been told by doctors.  It’s also hereditary and my dad and grandmother have experienced vaso vagal episodes regularly as well (with different triggers).  For those of you who do not have vaso vagal or are not familiar with it, let me tell you a bit about it.  Vaso vagal is completely harmless, unless you pass out, hit your head and suffer a conclusion or other physical injury (like my eye scar from the photo above).  I can predict when I’m going to pass out, which is good so I can try to get somewhere soft or sit down so I can minimize the chances of me hitting my head or something.  Even though I can predict when I am about to pass out, a vaso vagal episode is not in my control.  Once triggered, a vaso vagal episode is an incredibly incontrollable feeling, which is what makes it so scary.  Since I know what at least some of my triggers are I can do my best to avoid them…but sometimes that isn’t always possible…

Recently, my doctor ordered another full blood exam.  Uck!  Memories of seizures, smelling salts, being out of control, and feeling awful drowned my head and I put off the blood draw for several weeks…always finding some reason it wouldn’t work out.  One lab didn’t have a place for me to lie down, and I need to lie down.  The time I didn’t I remember I slid through the chair all the way to the ground.  Fortunately I was in the hospital.  The next lab I went to didn’t have the lab order sheet.  Third times the charm I guess because the third time I went to the lab, after a 24 hour fast (only 12 hours was required but I was feeling sick to my stomach for other reasons so I hadn’t eaten) I finally got in with no hiccups from the lab side of things giving me no excuses to use to push back the blood draw…

This lab draw started out like all the rest…me telling the phlebotomist that I needed to lie down during the draw.  She said that would be fine and then continued to process my paperwork.  I sat there, waiting, anxiously.  Then I saw the stickers print out.  The stickers they put on the tubes they put the blood in.  There were a lot of stickers…about 12 as I recall.  I remember saying “that’s a lot of stickers” to which she replied “there are a lot of tests”.  That’s when I started to feel it come on…the pre-fainting sensation.  The vaso vagal episode was coming earlier than usual.  I stood up from the chair, said “I can’t do this” and walked toward the door to the waiting room.  I stopped and sat on a chair by that lab room door.  I sat with my head between my legs and breathed deeply.  I did what I knew to do when these episodes came on…I just don’t always have the luxury of being mobile and able to sit with my head between my legs.  As I sat there, I imagined walking out, not having gotten my blood drawn, and needing to tell my mom waiting for me in the lobby that I didn’t do it, and also telling my doctor I couldn’t do it, and even worse – facing myself and the disappoint in myself after failing to face my kryptonite.  I kept my head down and deep breathes until I felt better and then I stood up and approached the reclining chair where my blood was to be drawn.  I felt the pre-fainting spell again and sat on the floor again breathing deeply and my head lowered.  The phlebotomist asked if there was someone with me and if I wanted him/her to come in.  I said my mom was there, but I’d be fine…I could do it.  (Plus I knew my mom doesn’t like watching me pass out).  At this point it became pure convincing…telling myself I needed to do this and just do it.  It also helpI stood up, laid in the recliner, rested my right arm on my sweatshirt, and clenched my fist as instructed.  I told her not to tell me when she was poking the needle, just do it, and let me know when I can unclench my fist.  I didn’t even feel the needle penetrate, so it didn’t even feel like she was taking blood.  My fingers got tingly, but my head didn’t.  I didn’t feel like I was going to pass out.  For the entire 5 minutes ish that she was drawing my blood, I was completely conscious and felt fine.  I kept my eyes clothes, breathed deeply, and at some point started talking about puppies with her to keep my mind off of the blood leaving my body and keep my mind off of thinking about the fact that I hadn’t passed out yet.

First time ever that I have immediately sat up and walked right out after getting my blood drawn.

My krptonite is no longer my kryptonite.  I feel like I can conquer anything.

What’s your kryptonite?  What holds you back?  Which battles have you fought and won?

Venture on,

MEL, The Venture Gal

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Rapid Fire Thought Questions

From I grabbed some thought questions & answered them quickly…then going back through & reading my instant reactions to the questions.  Want a challenge?  Answer them for yourself without spending more than a minute on each!  It is eye opening to see how well you know yourself.

What is one selfless way to pay it forward?

give something up for someone else & not have any expectation or desire for the recipient to reciprocate

I never get tired of ___ ?

  • cooking
  • laughing/smiling
  • making a positive impact
  • being active
  • spending time with people I care about
  • brussel sprouts

What does every child deserve?

  • love
  • a puppy =)

What’s something you don’t want to regret when you’re older?

  • not doing things I wanted to do
  • not saying how I felt
  • not being me

Every person needs ___ ?

a friend

What is best done slowly?

  • eating
  • kissing

What is something you know you need to stop doing?

surfing the web more than real waves

What is your ideal day?

going to crossfit in the morning, having a fabulous tasty homemade breakfast, getting some work done, healthy lunch, walk outside in sunny warm weather, get more work done (some work alone some involving people), walk outside in sunny warm weather perhaps back to my house & then have yummy home cooked dinner with friends, myself, or boyfriend.  somewhere in there walking my dog!  reading, creating, being outside, being active, cooking

What’s your dream job?

anything where I’m learning, working with amazing people, contributing to a larger mission, & positively affecting peoples’ lives

If I gave you a plane ticket to anywhere in the world where would you go?

Australia & New Zealand…along with a healthy list of other places I’d like to visit

What have you always wanted to do, but never done?

Travel the world

What are you afraid of?

  • Losing my family
  • getting hurt
  • disappointing others
  • needles/blood draw
  • regrets
  • not being me, the best version of me

What are you passionate about?

Being the best version of myself I can be, helping others to do the same.  Making the world a better place. Learning new things.  Creating things that make a positive impact.

What 10 words do you use to describe yourself? 

  1. Driven
  2. Caring
  3. Warm
  4. Friendly
  5. Honest
  6. Healthy
  7. Fit
  8. Sensitive
  9. Creative
  10. Fun

10 Reasons to Date a Girl Who Gardens

"Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?"  Like this!

  1. We are patient
  2. We are good with our hands
  3. Though we don’t like dealing with the weeds, we are good at getting those out of the way
  4. We don’t mind getting dirty
  5. We are nurturing
  6. We are tan
  7. We can deal with bull shit. In fact, we put it to good use.
  8. We work wonders in the kitchen
  9. We are strong
  10. We can grow something that starts out small into something beautiful and/or useful

“Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?” Like this!

Venture on,
mel, the Venture Gal
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Personal Commandment #11: Live Simple (Use or Lose)

Material possessions don’t make me happier. I don’t need a lot of “things” to be fulfilled. I’m a simple person. I don’t need much. And I find that the less meaningless stuff I have, the better I feel. Living simple isn’t about living with nothing necessarily. It’s about living with necessities & then things that you do find use in & satisfaction with. For instance, owning a juicer isn’t a necessity, but for me, I use it & by using it I am satisfied. I don’t own it just to own it. However, owning a video game console that I never play wouldn’t be contributing anything to my happiness or fulfillment.  Use or lose it is a good phrase for me to live by…when evaluating a purchase decision, figuring whether I will use it or not..if I will use it, it’s a good purchase. But if I won’t use it, I should lose it. Not save it for a later day. Because that later day may never come.

Venture on,

mel, the Venture Gal


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