Overcoming Spider Phobia – Before


I was forwarded an email from the psychology department of the university and urged by my boyfriend to consider it. It read as follows: “Overcome Spider Phobia”. After a lot of thought, spread out over a couple of days, I decided to go for it. What could I lose? I probably couldn’t become more scared of spiders than I already am and the techniques used claim to have 80% success rate with people who feel the way I do about spiders. It’s time to reclaim control.

So, how do I feel about spiders? When I see a spider that’s all my mind can focus on until the spider is eliminated (sorry spider-lovers, I wish this weren’t so). I have nightmares about spiders that wake me up in the middle of the night, thrashing about, only to realize that I had been scared by my own curly hair lurking by my face as a big, dark, hairy, spider-like visage. Terrifying, I know.

A dark clump of threads that fell on the floor – Brain, “SPIDER! Oh…”.

A big, dark fly crawling across the wall – Brain, “SPIDER! Oh…”

A small, dark spider on the floor – Brain, “SPIDER! SPIDER! SPIDER! S…” You get the point.

Why must I kill said spider? Because it is the quickest, surest way to know that the threat is gone. I know people put cups over them, or can even be brave enough to mercifully scoop the thing into a cup and put it outside. I wish I could do this, but (currently) the fear is too paralyzing. Nor can I just leave the spider, because do you know what that spider’s going to then do? It will (surely) either lay eggs and one day there will be a hellish eruption as its spawn flood my apartment, or it’s going to resurface from the place I least expect, at the worst time possible, most likely when I’m alone and trapped in a corner or something.

If you too, dear reader, are scared of spiders, you get it. To those of you who are not, I apologize if you are feeling frustrated or impatient reading this. I will try my best to explain my perspective. That being said, people experience arachnophobia in different ways and my experience does not describe all.

It is a fear. An irrational, mind-freezing, gut-wrenching fear. And I say that because I recognize how stupid this fear is, yet I want to explain how insidiously it cuts through my brain-body communication and makes me violent.

I am very aware, that the majority of spiders I come across in daily life will do absolutely no harm to me AND that I pose more physical threat to a spider than it does to me. I’ve tried the rational approach when encountering spiders. My boyfriend has taught me that as soon as my brain screams, “SPIDER!”, my inner monologue should respond quickly with a “Yes. (Pause, deep breath). Okay, now what?”. This allows me to think through to that next step and recognize that I’m not in immediate danger and can tough it out a little longer to make sure I deal with the spider in a more appropriate way. I’ve practiced this enough that it has become a habit and has saved me from a number of embarrassing public outbursts. It has also helped prevent impressing my fears onto young children, who learn to mimic the behavior of adults. Not to mention, it has saved me from doing something stupid on the occasion that I saw a spider crawling across the dashboard as I was driving.

That being said, this doesn’t work for me at all when encountering bigger spiders. Since everyone’s perception of “big” is a little different when it comes to spiders, let me clarify; I’m talking about any spider that is at all thick-legged or thick-bodied and is the size of a quarter or bigger.

Some of you may be wondering, “Olivia, you went backpacking, you garden, how can you do such activities with such a debilitating fear? Spiders are everywhere.” You are correct; however, for some reason, my brain differentiates between my territory and their territory. Any spider that enters my territory (i.e. my apartment, the bus, my lab, other human spaces) must die. Whereas, when I am outside, my brain recognizes that this is spider land and that I’m going to come across some and am not going to be able to kill them. When I’m out there in the garden, I will typically just move away from said spider and work somewhere else for a bit until my nerves calm down; as long as they are not on me, things are generally fine. I’m sure some of you are thinking that everywhere is technically spider land, and yes, you may be correct, but not to my brain.

I don’t know why I’m scared of spiders; that’s exactly the reason I’m doing this study. It’s a feeling that I can’t think my way through. It’s something about how they move, how sturdy they are, how hairy, how chunky. It’s something about the eyes, the body shape, the webs, that screams “CREEPY” and “EVIL INCARNATE”. It’s a loss of control and uncertainty that I feel around them that makes me react in such a way.

For me, the bigger and thicker the spider, the more terrifying. It is no overstatement to say that my worst nightmare is being trapped in a small room with a tarantula…

…And guess what I’m going to make myself do?



Sailing Trip #2

On Jan 31, 2016 Graciela {Colombian}, her husband Geoff {Kiwi}, and their friend Tim {Kiwi} took me sailing for the second time in Evan’s Bay in Wellington. This time we left the bay and sailed in Cook Straight to Island Bay.

I learned about woolies (telltales) – small pieces of string placed strategically on a sail to tell us what the wind and airflow over the sail are doing at that particular moment in space and time. The goal is to get the woolies to sit calmly parallel with the water, indicating that the sail is at it’s best possible setting.

I also learned how to change a sail, while still sailing and loosing as little momentum as possible. This was necessary as we needed a smaller sail in order to properly steer the boat. The wind was just so strong out in Cook Straight.

Once we arrived in Island Bay, we anchored and had a cup of tea. We soon learned that the anchor wasn’t holding well and had tangled with one of the nearby mooring lines. Luckily Tim is a spear-fisherman and dove into the cold, cold water and untangled the lines. Special thanks to Tim for saving the day!

We  Here’s a record of our trip!


A Bra That {Actually} Fits


This is a shout-out to anyone who wears a bra, has worn a bra, or is looking to buy a bra that fits correctly. And it’s important. For years I have been wearing an improperly fitted bra. How do I know this? Because my kind boyfriend gently pointed out that when I bend over, I flash any surrounding people with my nipples. As someone who supports the “Free the Nipple” Campaign, I see nothing wrong with people seeing my nipples (we all have nipples after all), however, it may have frightened some of my more conservative friends, colleagues, family, etc. For that, I’m very sorry; I hope you haven’t had nightmares about my boobs. This comment did alert me to two larger problems: one, that my bras were not fitting as I had assumed they were. When I stood upright, my boobs seemed pretty content and well adjusted, but boy was I wrong. And two, that my boyfriend, someone who does not have boobs, knew more about them than I, someone with boobs, did. To be fair, he may have more interest in boobs that I do, but I’m a strong proponent of knowing one’s body and self – so things needed to change.


Now, you may not be flashing everyone you see on a daily basis, but you might have back-ache, straps that don’t stay in place, cups that are too small, bands that rise up your back, the list goes on… Basically, why not double-check that you’re wearing the right bras size?


So here’s the link. It explains 5 measurements you should take in order to more accurately size yourself. Insert those measurements into this calculator, and voilà! You will have an estimated bra size along with two close sister sizes.


YES, this is way different than a Victoria’s Secret sizing. Let’s being with the fact that if you go to Victoria’s Secret for a sizing, they do it over the shirt. This is understandable because boobs are so sexual they must be kept a secret unless in an intimate moment or for porn. Duh. No one could be comfortable showing a stranger their boobs for something as practical and asexual as a bra fitting. But let’s be real. Many bras, especially those bought from VS (and I’m going to guess that that is where you purchase your bras if you’re having a fitting there) come with extra padding. This can change the shape and size of your naturally beautiful boobs (because you know, that industry tells us that only one look is okay to have). So it’s really important to do the measurements naked (at least from the waist-up) so that you get the best sizing for your unique boobs. Yes, they are unique. And it’s amazing. Take a minute to appreciate your boobs. Second, VS only carries band sizes 30-40”. Did you know there are band sizes as small as 26”? Many of you are probably wearing a band size that is way too big! I was. VS sized me as a 32C. Way too big. I could literally pull the bra band away from my body and stick several water bottles between my bra band and my upper body. Using the calculator above, I found out my bra size is a 28DD. Yup. Mainstream bra industry/society teaches us that anything above a D cup is INSANELY HUGE. It’s not. I don’t have insanely huge boobs. Hah. The fact is, cup size corresponds to band size. For example, a 36C cup is a lot bigger that a 30C cup. Don’t be too shocked if the bra size calculator gives you a bigger cup size that VS did.


I’m going to take a second to mention that my intention is not to hate on VS. I’m sure there are many people happy with their VS bras, and that’s wonderful. Now, back to the content…


…So once you’ve figured out your size estimate, what now? In general, Reddit’s A Bra That Fits is a fantastic resource to use once you’ve determined your size. You can find anything from size variations among brands, to bras for every budget, to where to try on and buy bras in sizes that aren’t usually stocked. In regards to brands, thanks to A Bra That Fits I’ve found Panche and Freya to be brands that are great for D+ boobs of all band sizes. Additionally, I have found Amazon Prime to be amazing. Free shipping and free returns has helped me try on bras and figure out my exact size in the comfort of my own home, since I haven’t found a single store (yes, including Nordstrom) that stocks a 28’’ band size. Thanks to Amazon I’ve been able to find bras that fit pretty perfectly.


Everyone deserves undergarments that fit. Best of luck with your boobies, I hope you find a bra that fits! Please feel free to message me with questions and share this post with anyone who wears a bra 🙂


Finally, a very special thank you to David, for showing me A Bra That Fits and helping me learn more about boobs.

Status Anxiety


I really like this book.


First of all, it happens to address one of the BIG questions of my journey through New Zealand:

“Was it possible, asked Jean-Jacques Rousseau in his Discourse on the Origin of Inequality (1754), that it might in fact be the savage and not – as everyone had grown used to thinking – the modern worker who was the better off of the pair?” (62)

I’ve spent a lot of time recently asking myself whether the sequential plan that is laid out for us – high school, apartment, college, entry level job, job, marriage, kids, house to settle down – is necessarily right for me, or right for anyone for that matter, and whether the end goal of having a well-paying job carrying out the ideas of someone else is really what we should all be striving for. This is what I’ve been told I want. However, it doesn’t sound that appealing to me, and never has. Part of my travels through NZ have exposed the autonomy that comes from taking a different path and knowing how to grow one’s own food and be self-sufficient. Needless to say, I’ve learned a lot, which can be found in many of the other posts I’ve written or will soon write. Most importantly I’ve found that there’s something extremely powerful in knowing that if the world collapsed and it came down to just me out in the wilderness, I could make something of it an not just survive, but support myself and create a self-sustaining ecosystem. I’ve found gardening to be extremely meditative – I’ve had pretty much zero stress here, and it’s helped me have more fun, be more creative, and focus on my mental health. I think that’s pretty cool. One of the main reasons I decided to WWOOF was because I felt my education was lacking in certain areas. I felt like my knowledge of things crucial to human existence {plants, identifying food sources, growing food sources, water systems, ecosystems} were lacking in the most practical ways. I lacked general hands-on literacy and competency, and I think many of the US population suffers the same. Back home I would never have been made to collect cow shit for four hours a day to then carefully chop and lay it over the plants I had grown from seeds and planted in beds. I had the opportunity to see the results yielded from my hard work. I think hands-on literacy is something that can be lost, especially in university when so much time is spent studying. Sure, I knew my brain could do a lot, but I think I’d forgotten the impact I could have on the physical world. Back home I would never have been handed a dead turkey and been instructed to take the remainder of the day to “figure it out”. There was something amazing in that moment. However gruesome the actual task was, how often are we instructed to take the time we need to get into something, get messy, and learn? Dealing with that turkey is something I will never forget and the result was something tangible; I could see what I’d done and the impact the action had.

What my internal question was is this: “Why is it that society tells us that the ‘modern man/woman’ is what is best, what we should all strive for? Why do we want to have sterile lives centered around jobs we don’t like, that control us, where we don’t even get to create physical things that we can be proud of, just so that we can stress out to hoard money away, and use that money to buy the same boring house that doesn’t interact with our world in any positive way – no living garden, but instead a horrible grass lawn, wasted, contaminated water, a house that is so ingrained in society as desirable that we see no other alternative”. Long, multi-part question, I know. But really, why don’t people question these things more? Why are people okay with what they’re given? Why, when we know water is such a precious resource, don’t we demand that houses be built in a way that the sinks and showers drain into a retaining tank for dirty water that can then be used to flush the toilet? Honestly. Do we need purified water to flush a toilet? I don’t think so.

What this book made me question, “Why are we always trying to separate ourselves as humans from nature? When will we see that we are one in the same?”. When we learn that we are one in the same, I hope that we will take better care of ourselves (meaning humanity and the planet).


On another note, de Botton’s book also helped me make a connection for an issue I see rising, that of the future feudal state. Perhaps I’ve been watching too much Downton Abbey and listening to the Tim Ferriss Show too much lately. Anyway, in his most recent interview with Chris Sacca, Tim and Chris discuss how the future appears to be one in which the ultra-rich are a select few, controlling companies and the world economy, surrounded by everyone else, the gentry-level workers. I couldn’t help link this to the feudal system, or even the aristocratic society of Downton, and how the noble few controlled the land and had the duty of creating jobs for the rest of society. Sounds similar, right? Anyway, my brain jumped to this conclusion when I was reading through these stories featured in Status Anxiety:

Three Useful Old Stories about Failure

  1. The poor are not responsible for their condition and are the most useful in society.
  2. Low status has no moral connotations.
  3. The rich are sinful and corrupt and owe their wealth to their robbery of the poor.

Three Anxiety-Inducing New Stories about Success

  1. The rich are the useful ones, not the poor.
  2. One’s status does have moral connotations.
  3. The poor are sinful and corrupt and owe their poverty to their stupidity.

Perhaps, when we return to a feudal society, the useful old stories will become relevant again? Either way, there are pros and cons with both arrangements.


Basic Rose Pruning


So today I learned from my WWOOF host Jenn Keenan, who, by the way, happens to have a stunning rose garden, how to prune roses. It’s pretty simple, just do as follows:

  1. Find a dead rose flower.
  2. If you don’t want to keep the rose hips on the plant to develop, proceed to step 3. The rose hips are the fruit of the rose plant that develop when a flower has been successfully pollinated. They grow and ripen towards the end of summer and can vary from shades of orange, to red, or even black.
  3. Look down the stem of the dead flower and find the next bud.
  4. Make a clean cut on an angle above the bud with clean secateurs. Take into consideration the direction in which you want the future flower to grow in when deciding the cut angle.

There you have it! Simple.


Hello world!

My name is Olivia Sanchez-Felix {sometimes referred to as Livs, Livy, Liv, or Olive… take your pick, or even better, come up with something entirely new} and this is my web page. It’s dedicated to documenting the projects and experiments I’m currently trying out and the lessons I learn along the way. Hopefully it leads to some collaborations and fun!