Getting To Know Me

Excuse Me, Your Nerd Is Showing by Rachel Abrahams

Have you ever had a secret you wanted to share but knew if you did, people would judge you? A part of you that felt a magnetic pull towards something and you just spent a lot of energy digging your feet into the ground, clawing at the dirt in the hopes of not finally get sucked into its vortex? Yeah, I spent many years doing that. I feigned being too cool and above it all and yet deep down inside there was a part of me that was 100%, dyed in the cloth, there’s no denying it Nerd (with a capital N).

In school, I did not shy away from working as hard possible to excel in every way. I refused to dumb myself down in order to be cool or have boys like me. I went to my AP and Honors classes to make the best grades and graduated high school with a bunch of college credit under my belt. I had great social skills and was really good at being able to make friends with pretty much anyone. Well, except for when people pointed out I constantly used words they didn’t understand (I have always had a huge vocabulary due to reading). Then I would try to speak more……normal? FYI – this still happens.

 Hogwarts Express - Harry Potter World, Universal Studios

 Hogwarts Express - Harry Potter World, Universal Studios

It wasn’t the book smarts I hid but my inclination to be interested in things many of my peers made fun of.  I pretended I didn’t like them either because I knew, deep down inside, once I embraced my true nerd nature there would be no turning back.

You know the fantastic news? As you get older, you don’t give a crap anymore and start doing the stuff you really want to do. Now I have no issue admitting I love awesomely geek culture. Websites, Facebook, Tumblr’s, Pinterest boards – I follow whatever is going to share info and inside jokes of the multiple nerd topics I love.

You probably realized all this about me already. I feel like hearing I like nerdy things is no true surprise here as I’ve touched on some of my fave subjects before but today I am going full tilt. I am laying it all out on the table and it’s kinda nerve wracking, ya know? I’ve spent so many years quietly enjoying whatever I want and not really telling too many people. 

Three Broomsticks - Harry Potter World, Universal Studios

Three Broomsticks - Harry Potter World, Universal Studios

COMICS

I have (secretly) read comics almost all my life. I read Asterix and Obelix (a comic from France) as a kid while living in the Middle East and collected as many of the books as I could but then never saw them again when we moved to the U.S. Then I visited London, found them in a comic shop, and was back at it. With the digital era, I’ve gone full tilt into reading all sorts of comics. It’s a favorite pastime for the inspiring art and fun storylines. Marvel Unlimited, Comixology, trade paperbacks – yup. All of them. According to the guy at the local comic store (after I inquired if they had several comics I wanted to read and they didn’t) I tend to read “girl comics”. Whatever that means. If it means rockstar, then yes I read rockstar comics.

TV

My dad watched a lot of science fiction shows and I didn’t have a TV in my bedroom, so I watched them too. Star Trek: The Next Generation, Babylon 5, Xena, Stargate, Doctor Who (the 80s episodes) and more. I have no doubt it influenced my affinity today for pretty much any show (or movie) that involves fantasy, superheroes, make believe, science fiction, unicorns, and general awesomeness. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, Arrow, Supernatural, Once Upon a Time - and the list goes on and on.

Ollivander's Wands   - Harry Potter World, Universal Studios

Ollivander's Wands  - Harry Potter World, Universal Studios

BOOKS

Young adult paranormal and fantasy books are my Achilles heel. I have long left the idea I have to force myself to read novels that are usually on those “Top 600 Cultured Books To Read Before You Die” lists (thank you public education for making me read many of them and not want to read them ever again). Do I want to slog through a book just because the book critics say it’s what adults do? NOPE. Give me my Harry Potter, Hunger Games, The Giver, Wrinkle In Time, and whatever else escapist books that make me feel like magic is real, tangible, and if I look closely enough there are fairies hiding in the bushes at night.

MOVIES

Well, we all know majority of the best movies are based on wonderful comics and books, right? Yes, I do own every Marvel movie. Yes, I do have all of the Lord of the Rings movies. Do I own multiple versions of the Harry Potter films? Ummmm – hell yes. Did my husband give me the iTunes release of all 6 Star Wars movies? Yup, cuz he’s amazing. Are the books better than the movies? Most of the time it’s a definite yes except for Lord of the Rings. Those books were a total snooooozefest for me (cue the internet rage and rotten tomatoes thrown my way). In other words, stick some imaginary creature, superhero, or trip into space into the plot and I am pre-buying my ticket while figuring out my popcorn/candy/soda combo (very important).

Potage's Cauldron Shop  - Harry Potter World, Universal Studios

Potage's Cauldron Shop - Harry Potter World, Universal Studios

For all my nerd affinity, there are huge pop culture things I haven’t gotten into (ya know, day job, photography business, and marriage kind of take up some of my time) and it usually shocks the hell out of people who know me that I haven’t seen Game of Thrones, Walking Dead, or the latest seasons of Dr. Who, played video games since Nintendo, gone to a comic convention, or read the His Dark Materials trilogy. I’ll get around to them at some point (maybe not the video games).

So there you have it. All laid out in one space to either make you laugh (with me), cry (in happiness), or run away (to go find other things to recommend to me). It's on the internet, loud and proud, so next time someone says “Man, you are such a nerd” I can respond “Yup and let me recommend something awesome for you. I promise, it will blow your mind.....”

 

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Why I Love My Tiny Little Beach Town by Rachel Abrahams

Satellite Beach, Florida

Satellite Beach, Florida

“Oh man, I had to play dodge the surfer this morning.” Yes, this was an actual statement I made recently. I was chatting with my boss about my drive into work that morning and there was a hurricane off the coast which was causing predicted “epic waves” for a record number of days. As a result, the surfers (and those who hadn't broken out their boards in years), were flocking to the beach in my town in droves. It was considered so normal when a converted school bus full of surfers parked in the grocery store parking lot for the weekend and was a campsite for the big group of surfing out of towners, no one blinked an eye.

It's moments like these where I realize exactly how unique where I live really is. There is an entire culture built around the ocean and the rivers surrounding our barrier island and it permeates everything from the clothes, the restaurants, the language, and what's considered normal (like watching surfers run barefoot across the road with their boards in hand every day). It really gets into your soul. You can't help it when your drive to work every day is parallel to the ocean on one side and a river on the other, driving up a tiny strip of land where sometimes I can see both the ocean and the river at the same time.

I don't say these things to brag. I honestly tell you this is my normal and I know that the day I forget to appreciate it is the day I need to get a solid slap upside the head (with ensuing stars circling around my face like a cartoon).

Satellite Beach, Florida

Satellite Beach, Florida

I moved here when I was 10 years old and it was a very interesting transition for me (I had lived most of my childhood in the Middle East and missed the 80’s in the U.S.). When I arrived, everyone was rocking their corduroy Billabong jackets, Reef flip flops, looooong beach hair (both girls and guys), bathing suits underneath their school clothes, and saying things like “dude”, “awesome”, and “totally”. Now, I am an auburn haired, see through pale, freckled, not a size 0 in shorts (so I couldn't shop at the surf stores), allergic to pretty much all seafood, and generally not a fan of the sun kind of gal so I naturally spent the next 8 years of my life trying to be a beach bunny like my friends. All I achieved was a healthy fear of sun burns, an inability to retain a tan, and I surfed once (on a longboard the size of a Cadillac) where I did successfully stand up but it didn't convince me to try again (did you know the best surfing is super obnoxiously early in the morning? Uh, no thanks).

Needless to say, when I left my tiny beachside town for college I was off and running to a place that actually had seasons. I came home sparingly for the next 6 years until circumstances outside of my control forced me to move back here. 

Satellite Beach, Florida

Satellite Beach, Florida

At first when I moved back, all I did was plan on when I was leaving again. It felt like too small of a town and my reasons I felt like an outsider in high school were still there. Then I realized the problem wasn't the beachside town – it was me. Every time I went on a trip elsewhere, I realized how much I missed home. I missed the water everywhere, surfer influenced restaurants, the ocean noise in the late evenings, people deciding if it’s worth it to go somewhere if it means going over the causeway to “the mainland”, random surfer magazines at the entrances of local establishments, the laid back attitudes, and even the tourists (a little bit). When I came back into town and got to drive on the causeway connecting the mainland to my barrier island that crossed over the rivers while facing the ocean, I'd realize I was taking a deep meditative breath and relaxing knowing I had arrived……home.

I've embraced the community now and enjoy it on my own terms because when I looked around I realized that was exactly what everyone else was doing. Despite stereotypes, you don't have to be a beach bunny or surfer boy to enjoy living here. It just took me entering my 30s to finally realize the obvious. I typically go to the beach at sunrise or sunset (avoiding the sunburn times of the day), tried kayaking for the first time recently on a nighttime bioluminescent tour (it was fantastic and magical and I had the most amazingly patient friend who taught me how to paddle), enjoy watching the surfers, and accepted that my Flintstone feet are not going to fit into the dainty thin strapped Reef flip flops and instead rock the wide straps (they aren’t flattering but have lasted me 10 years and are SO comfortable).

Satellite Beach, Florida

Satellite Beach, Florida

Now, don’t get me wrong. There are negatives. It’s hot. Like really hot. There are mosquitoes everywhere, a tendency for alligators wherever there is deep enough standing water, no seasons (we Floridians celebrate when it gets below 80 and some even break out their winter coats from the 80s when it gets below 75), and sometimes I do wish I wasn’t in a small town where it’s almost guaranteed you will see someone you know from high school right after leaving the gym with no makeup, disgusting hair, and an insanely unflattering gym kit on.

Those negatives are minimal compared to the positives. I see dolphins and manatees multiple times a week on my drive to work. I can see the ocean now from the back deck of my house. If I want to visit the beach, it’s not a huge production and all I have to do is walk across a 4 lane road and stop by for a few. My friends from New England pointed out how lucky we are to have so many public beach accesses and I realized how right they were. I am finally embracing everything this tiny beach town has to offer because I was too narrow minded focusing on what I wasn’t when I was younger to see it for everything it has to offer.

Honestly, it’s pretty magical here. It only took me until I was 34 years old to get my act together and figure it all out. Better late than never, right?

P.S. If you like the beach, I share my walks and other beachside adventures on snapchat. My username is rach.abrahams

Alcatraz Is Not Azkaban And Other Lessons I Learned In California by Rachel Abrahams

Lone Cypress - Pebble Beach, California

Lone Cypress - Pebble Beach, California

It’s a pretty common thing (I’d say an average of twice a week) for me to say or do something totally random and my husband to just shake his head and (kindly) say to me “You’re SO weird”. When he does, I always remind him he’s the one who picked me and also that he is stuck with me.

When we recently visited California, I had a tendency to say a lot of really dumb things which then I would pre-empt his response and say “Yeah, I know. I’m weird”.  Admittedly, I wasn’t helping my case. I seriously said some really dumb things.

Let me enlighten you on what I said and my own lessons learned so you can be a savvy California traveler. Sharing is caring and I have no shame. Just don’t judge me, please. Well, at least not too much.

Pebble Beach, California

Pebble Beach, California

“Wait, is that a whale? Nope, it's a rock. I need glasses.”

Yup, in my eagerness to try and see a whale while looking at the Pacific Ocean I repeatedly would see things hoping it was a whale but alas, it wasn’t. It was a rock. Lesson Learned: Wear glasses while whale watching.

“Those are the cutest sea otters. Oh, those are sea lions? Whoops.”

There was a definite trend where I didn’t seem to have the capacity to learn the differences between otters vs. sea lions and whales vs. rocks. Lesson Learned: When in doubt, just say things like “Oh my goodness, how cute” and DON’T attempt to identify the animal. Be smooth about it. Attempt casual coolness.

I kept calling Pebble Beach, Pebble CREEK. Repeatedly. To which my husband said "If you call it Pebble Creek one more time, I'm kicking you out of this car."

If you’re not a golf person, you won’t see what the big deal is about this. If you ARE a golf person, I’m sorry. That’s all I can say. Also, it was super gorgeous there even for this (obviously) non-golfer. 

Alcatraz and Golden Gate Bridge - San Francisco, California

Alcatraz and Golden Gate Bridge - San Francisco, California

On our way to Alcatraz, I said “I am so excited to see Azkaban”. Later, my husband said "Stop calling it Azkaban, weirdo" because I did it 2 more times.

Yup, card carrying Harry Potter fan here. Admittedly I really didn’t mean to call it Azkaban. 3 times. Without realizing it until my husband pointed it out. Completely oblivious. Which makes it very obvious how much my subconscious wishes receiving a letter saying I was selected for Hogwarts was a real thing. Lesson Learned: I never realized how badly I wished Harry Potter was real. There, I said it out loud so everyone will know. No more shame.

“Good lord, those seals smell terrible.” (Phil reminds me they are sea lions). “Dammit, why can't I get this otter, sea lion, seal thing straight?”

Me + nature = not friends. Lesson Learned: Refer back to #2. Be cool. Pretend and just say “Ooh”.

“Oh look, a real live California Pizza Kitchen. I've only seen them in the freezer section.”  

What can I say, this Florida gal has never actually seen a California Pizza Kitchen in real life. I honestly didn’t even know it WAS a restaurant. I just thought it was yet another brand of pizza temptation in the freezer section which calls to me in its siren song “You are tiiirreeed. Coooook meee instead. Piiiizzzaaaaaa is gooooood” every time I pass by. Lesson Learned: CPK is real. The freezer pizzas are pretty delicious. As to whether the real ones in the actual restaurant taste good, I wouldn’t know. We rushed off to somewhere else that day.

These are Sea Lions! Pier 39 - San Francisco, California

These are Sea Lions! Pier 39 - San Francisco, California

“I don't feel like shoveling shit at the elephant show but somebody's gotta do it. Just not me.”

I honest to goodness have absolutely no idea what prompted me to say this. I do remember finding it hilarious at the time I said it and again when I opened my travel log I kept about this trip. I do have some deep thoughts sometimes, I tell ya. Lesson Learned: Keeping travel logs on your phone or in a notebook is awesome. My memory sucks, hence the travel log.

“Whew, smells like a lot of people are taking their ‘medicine’ around here.”

We decided to walk around Venice Beach Boardwalk, see the sites, do some people watching, and even swing by the famous gym. What I wasn’t prepared for was how many vendors would be hawking their “glaucoma medication” in dirty lab coats trying to convince every passerby to stop in and get a prescription for weed. It looked totally legitimate (eyes rolling so hard they nearly fall out of my head). I kept walking through some hardcore “medicinal” areas (or maybe the wind was blowing just right). Lesson Learned: Venice Beach Boardwalk was really not worth the time. The people watching was amazing. The crush of humanity and shop vendors accosting you was not cool. We left within 20 mins.

“We're going to Beverly Hills? Maybe I'll see some Kardashians.”

So, if you haven’t judged me too much so far about being a complete nincompoop sometimes, you’re awesome BUT I do realize after admitting this next thing I may be asking too much. Ok, here goes. I am a big fan of “Keeping Up With The Kardashians” (huuuuuuge exhale). Oh my goodness. I know. I have no idea why. I am not a fan of reality TV (I’ve never seen Survivor, The Bachelor/ette, Big Brother, or Dancing With The Stars) and yet I am completely sucked into their vacuum. Lesson Learned: Maybe it’s because I’m an only child? That’s all I’ve got to explain it.

Pebble Beach, California

Pebble Beach, California

Hopefully you can learn from my mistakes and take these lessons learned to travel around California like an expert. Maybe you’ve decided traveling with me deserves an award and my husband is a superstar. I like to think I make the experience more awesome and unusual. Either way, my inability to stop saying dumb things is here for your pleasure/pain. Just call me Captain Generosity.


Anxiety Makes Me Do Weird Things | Getting To Know Me Series by Rachel Abrahams

I am a big believer that our life’s stories shape how we view the world and especially how we create art. I realize although many of you appreciate my photography and enjoy reading my stories, you may not really know all that much about me. Today is my second post in this "Getting To Know Me" series to give you a chance to “see behind the curtain”. You can read thefirst post here.

When my husband married me, he knew (and loved) that there were certain "quirks" about me that came along with the entire package. Things like my penchant for swearing, an overactive imagination (as noted here), the inability to control the volume of my voice while drinking, my obsession with reading books, a nerd culture affinity, my ability to get lost in a paper bag (I thank my stars every day for GPS), and the strong desire to always improve myself.

He also knew there was going to be a third party in our relationship - my anxiety.

Now, when people think of anxiety they get this image of a trembling chihuahua hiding under the covers of the blanket with only their eyes peeking out. Although, yes I've done this when someone unexpectedly knocks on my door and I don't have a bra on, that's not exactly what anxiety overall looks like.

The best description I can think of is I have an extremely rational side that does a daily battle of the wills against my anxiety gremlin living in my brain. As I've gotten older, I've worked very hard to learn tools and activities to Hulk up my rational side so it will be less exhausted and can stand tall against the anxiety gremlin, therefore winning more of the battles, but I am definitely far from perfect. My rational side can get exhausted and will sometimes even quit on me and then the anxiety gremlin, like a toddler, runs rampant with the freedom to just color all over the walls, the couch, and the dog of my brain.

Here are some examples of things I do, which I KNOW with all of my rational self are dumb, but when anxiety wins I can make some very odd decisions.

Weird Thing #1: I will drive to a grocery store that is completely out of my way in order to lessen the chance of running into someone I know. I already cannot stand grocery shopping (who can I pay to do this for me? I am completely serious) and the idea of running into someone I know and being forced into the awkward "Hey, how are you? How's life? How's your parents? How's the job?" conversation makes my right eyelid twitch and my palms sweat. To avoid this, I drive 20 minutes out of my way, wear headphones, and scurry in/out so fast I feel like The Flash. If I forget anything, too bad/so sad, I will make do without it until the next time I am forced to go to the store (that's usually when I run out of toilet paper and don't want to buy the 4 pack at Walgreens. Yes, I will check Walgreens first).

Weird Thing #2: While sitting in a group of people bantering back and forth, I will want to jump in but my anxiety gremlin will barrel in with guns blazing and all of a sudden my adrenaline will skyrocket like I am in fight-or-flight mode. When I do choose to jump in my brain scrambles the frequency and my response will be something like "Farfegnugen" or I will just laugh overly loud like a hyena and make everyone look at me like I am an alien. I have learned I am much better conversing one-on-one and when I am in a group, I stop beating myself up for not participating. I try to sit back and enjoy the show instead.

Weird Thing #3: I will sometimes rehash conversations I had with people years ago and cringe in embarrassment and think of a million different ways I wish that conversation had gone. When I was younger, I would even write down in my journal "next time, I will do x, y, and z instead", like I was prepping for a life strategy battle. I am better about it now and have adopted the "F**k it / it is what it is / quit yer whining" attitude more often. There are times where I get sucked back into that vortex and have to really push to stop remembering the dumbest perceived mistakes I think I have made. I try distracting myself with things like snapchat or acting silly (or snapchatting myself acting silly).

Weird Thing #4: The old me used to say yes to anyone and everything and then I would spend days agonizing leading up to whatever I agreed to do trying to figure out how to get out of it or psych myself into wanting to do it. I spent most of my 20's coming down with a lot of random food poisonings or illnesses. It's a wonder my friends didn't label me a hypochondriac, demand I find better places to eat, or disown me altogether. Being older (but not necessarily wiser) I say no more often now. I check that inner gauge to see how much panic it induces inside me to agree to something and (most of the time) I listen to it and respond with a proper yes or no. There are still times where I say yes, because at the time it sounded awesome, but when the day comes I feel like latching on tight to the door frame with my hands and feet like a cat does when it doesn't want to go into the bath. The greater the number of people expected to be at an event, the higher my barometer of insane anxietygoes. One on one, people - I do better mano y mano. Street parties, festivals, and parties are rare for this gal anymore. When it happens, it's like seeing a pig in a tutu. Better appreciate that shit and let's go full tilt into it and make some memories. Otherwise, I am sitting at home texting you the day of with the excuse peacocks attacked my car and now I have to fix it 

(FYI - That ACTUALLY happened -  3 months after buying my first brand new, never been used, car 2 male peacocks attacked the car because it was black and they thought their reflections were another competing male. I kid you not).

Weird Thing #5: Some weeks are better than others. Most of the time, you can label me a fully functioning "adult". But there are times I will plan all week to go home on Friday and then come back out on Monday. I call it my hermit weekends. On Friday, I will stop at the store on the way home, stock up like the Apocalypse is coming, and rush home to my pajama's and AppleTV. I am fully aware that's not necessarily the most adult way to handle things but sometimes I get a sensory overload and it's how I recalibrate my energy.

Maybe this helps explain me more. Maybe this helps others know they aren't the only ones who do this stuff or feel this way. Maybe this makes you think I am even weirder (than you did already). All I know is, I am fully aware my anxiety can make me act like such a nincompoop and I am, slowly but surely, becoming ok with it.

My new motto?

Most weeks I am rocking it and just trying to keep up the fantabulousness but when I want to go home on Friday and not come out until Monday - that's ok. The Anxiety Gremlin wins and gets to color all over the place until my rational side can get it back together. 

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