I DID IT. Yesterday was the last day of my Whole30 journey and nothing like I expected. This may be partly due to the fact I was recovering from the flu, but most of me… More
It took me a few days to feel the rejuvenating effects that a new year often brings. Scratch that, it took me about a week. For whatever reason I wasn’t feeling super motivated to set resolutions right off the bat. However after a few days of moping, and coming to my senses realizing that sulking around wasn’t going to make me any happier, healthier, or solve my problems, I vowed to start fresh the Monday following the first of the year.
I decided to embark on the Whole30 journey as a part of starting the year off on the right foot. For a girl who’s been eating peanut butter toast basically every day since the third grade, and who would eat mac and cheese four times a week if she could, I knew this would be challenging. But doing plenty of research and understanding the gravity of the challenge ahead made me even more motivated to give it a go.
Following the Whole30 diet requires you to cut out all grains (including the ‘healthy’ ones like quinoa or whole wheat), sugar (even those occurring naturally like honey) alcohol, legumes (including peanut butter and all forms of soy) dairy, processed foods (containing sulfites or msg), and baked or junk foods.
Whole30 effectively rules out my two favorite food groups: bread and cheese. Are these not essential to human life?! According to Whole30 (and apparently most other scientific sources) they are not.
When I began, I thought that cutting out grains was going to be my biggest challenge. However, I’ve found that giving up dairy has been much more difficult for me. Especially working at a teashop where I grew accustomed to drinking a specialty latte every shift! This awareness has prompted me to reevaluate my relationship with food. Why I’m eating, what I’m eating, and when I’m eating.
Today marks my 8th day following a sugar-wheat-dairy-legume free diet and honestly (and surprisingly!) for the most part it has gone very well! The nice thing about Whole30 is it discourages you from counting calories, so you can eat when you’re hungry. Since you’re supplying your body with better food, you get fuller faster and stay that way for much longer than if you’re running off donuts and lattes. Although to be honest, I really wished I were running on a donut and latte this morning!
According to research and numerous Whole30 message boards people react differently to the changes in the first few days, but usually struggle in the first few while beginning to feel better nearing the end of the first week. I, however, felt great in the first few days, but am recently starting to see pizzas where stoplights should be. They’re just so similar in shape…
I am attributing this lack of early cravings and overall well-feeling to being high on the motivation of big changes, throwing out all my non-compliant foods to eliminate distractions, doing my research, making grocery lists, and meal planning. Then day six hit me like a wrecking ball. My poor coworkers… I worked all day and the rumored Whole30 fog finally caught up to me. Not entering menu items into the system correctly, stumbling over my words, mishearing drink orders, feeling as if I could fall asleep standing up: it was a little painful. But thankfully people were incredibly patient with me! When I got home I ate dinner and made it through a chapter of my book before falling asleep for twelve hours. Clearly my body needed some time to recuperate after realizing that these changes weren’t just for a day or so, but were going to be the new norm for a while! Good news though, the next day I felt great! A little sleep can work wonders…
I’ve also found that grocery shopping is much more of an outing when you’re eliminating all sugars from your diet. Learning to read labels has made me more aware of what I’m putting into my body and how our food is being processed. You’d be surprised at just how many of our foods contain sneaky sugars. In meats, spices, milk alternatives- it’s hiding everywhere. And when the cravings hit, it makes sense because even when you’re not eating a cinnamon roll, it’s likely that your diet still contains quite a bit of sugar. Whole30 has made me a much more conscientious shopper, although I’ve figured out how quickly a 20 minute tip to the store can turn into an hour as you’re reading, finding alternatives, and Googling brands!
After my first week of Whole30 I’m feeling really positive, despite the fact my mouth waters when I pass a Starbucks, and when my coworkers bring donuts into work to share I have to laugh when I say ‘no thank you’ so that I don’t cry. But overall I’m proud of myself for making it through the first week without a single taste of these foods that I’ve placed at the forefront of my diet for far too long. One week down, three to go!
2017 seemed to be commonly regarded as the worst year in… well a while. Amidst all the political and social turmoil it felt easy for me to chime in with a “thank God it’s over” or “absolutely the worst!” but shortly after agreeing, I had to reconsider. A lot changed for me this year, and too many of those changes were positive to deem the year bad.
I’ve tried to write this post from a few different approaches now, but keep coming up short because the year was such a roller coaster. I experienced too many things and learned too much to sum it up into one short blog post. So I’ve decided to go with a highlight reel, choosing one great thing that happened each month in an eventful year.
January: Finishing my second half marathon, the Rain Run, with my mom and aunt cheering me along the finish.
February: Having my best friends back in the same town.
March: Traveling to St. Louis for the first time to celebrate Carly’s birthday with Ted Drewes, museums, walks in the park, laughs, Shnuck’s, and t-ravs.
April: Getting offered a job with the Portland Timbers.
May: Moving to Portland, Oregon.
June: Moving into my very first apartment with help from my mom and aunt.
July: Getting offered a job with Stash Teas.
August: Road tripping to Missoula for Big Sky Brewing’s Traveler’s Rest concert, celebrating fantastic music with old friends and new.
September: Starting a ten-week writing class, Prompt, at Powell’s City of Books to get in the habit of writing and sharing again.
October: Attending John Green’s Turtles All The Way Down book tour.
November: Surprising Mackenzie in Sacramento for a birthday weekend complete with sushi, hot tubbing, mimosas, and movies.
December: Decorating and making updates to my apartment (aka getting a bed!) with my parents while they were in town for a quick visit.
I’m thankful for all the changes that 2017 brought, despite their accompanying stresses, and I am grateful for the ability to see myself grow throughout them. I’m certain that 2018 will continue to push me through excitements and challenges and I can’t wait to see what forms those may take. Embracing the good and using the bad to learn and make positive changes, I know this year will bring plenty to celebrate. Cheers!
One of the best classes I took at the University of Montana was “Montana Writers Live.” It closely resembled an author reading and Q&A that you might have attended at your local bookstore, though perhaps with more homework involved and questions geared towards aspiring writers. We received the work (poems, novels, short stories) from a local author and had the week to review it and come up with questions, and then the following week that author would come in and read their work, give advice, and students were given a chance to ask their questions. The one piece of advice that every speaker seemed to emphasize was the importance of setting aside time to write every day, or even every other day.
At the time this didn’t seem like that big of a deal, we were all writing so much for classes each day this hardly seemed like it would be a challenge. Of course we’ll write, we love to write! How hard could that be?
I get it now.
Making writing a habit, when there’s no assignment, no due date, and you know there may not be anyone to look things over and give you feedback is difficult. Regardless if you’re passionate about writing, what those authors said is true: even on the days you don’t feel like writing, you just need to get some words on the page.
Writing, like exercising for instance, can often be more motivating in a group. Both can be done in a solitary capacity, but sometimes it’s nice to get together with a group all working towards a common interest, to cheer you on along the way.
Write Around Portland is a local non-profit benefiting the Portland area with a straightforward mission: bring the power of the written word to those who may not have the resources to tell their stories, and help strengthen community through the recognition that everyone has a unique story to tell. They hold free workshops in hospitals, care facilities, low-income school districts, and treatment centers, as well as hosting traditional workshops for all.
I recently participated in their “Prompt” workshop held at Powell’s Books. For ten weeks our little group met, wrote, provided feedback, and grew in mutual appreciation for each other’s talent. The class was structured around short timed writes to specific prompts and then providing feedback for each writer. You never had to share if you didn’t want to, but the group was focused on building each other up rather than criticism (even constructive) and I found myself pushing to break out of my comfort zone in sharing. It also helped that we all understood we were working with short time constraints- our longest writes were ten minutes.
Aside from writing to specific prompts provided by our facilitator, we did a variety of other activities. My favorite was creating our own “found poetry.” A found poem is created entirely from snippets of headlines, phrases, or snippets of conversations. The key is to create a cohesive thought, something that’s yours, but using words that you’ve found elsewhere. In class we were sent out into the nonfiction section of Powell’s to find our phrases. It was interesting to see where people went: the history section, the self-help section, and cookbooks… I went to the oceanography section and as I was flipping through pages I found inspiration in the movement of the tides. This is what I came up with: *The blog formatting made it lose it’s shape, but the pieces are all still there!
Ebb and Flow
The places in which a living thing
are limited by the physical conditions it is
able to tolerate.
The rougher the wave,
the smoother the stone.
They lay down threads during the stormy season,
tethering themselves more tightly,
or retreat from rising waters.
A graceful deadly motion
washed from the land,
The tempo isn’t a standard that’s set.
How hard are they hit by the waves?
as the tide comes in
and everything changes.
Another exercise I enjoyed was taking our prompts from phrases we overheard in the store. We walked around listening to people converse with one another (at times I felt a little creepy) and then used one of the phrases we heard as our prompt. It was a little challenging as many people talk in undertones in a bookstore at night, but I overheard a young boy asking his father “You still love me right?” and his father smiled and replied “I still love you.” “I love you too.” I ended up using this for my prompt. Although I also overheard some other good ones like: “We’re trying to explain something that’s virtually impossible” “I’m going to run!” and “oh you are coming in today… we weren’t sure if you were or not.” Here’s what I came up with for the father and son:
Father settled Son into the wide seat on the train, his legs stretched straight out, barely touching the seatback in front of him.
“But when are we coming back?” asked Son.
“Soon,” replied Father, though he could not look Son in the eye as he said it.
“And then we’ll see mama?”
Father could not bear to answer, so instead pursed his lips and felt Son’s eyes on the side of his face.
“Look out the window, we’re starting to move,” Father said, leaning over Son and touching the glass.
Son scrambled anxiously to his knees to get a better view.
Father watched as Son’s eyes tracked the landscape in the reflection of the glass.
“Are we there yet?” Son asked, turning from the window.
“Not quite,” Father said.
This seemed good enough for Son and he settled back into his seat.
The pair remained quiet for some time, lost in the passing landscape and slight jostling of the car, until Son spoke quietly:
“You still love me?”
Father looked down to Son with a small smile.
“I still love you.”
“I love you too,” Son asserted, nodding his head once in affirmation and turning back to the window.
“After all we’ve been through,” Father ruffled son’s hair, “Of course I do.”
Son continued to gaze out the window.
One last exercise I enjoyed was using photos along with the prompts we were given. I got a photo of a group of graduates tossing their caps into the air, with the prompt options “the smell of smoke” or “with nowhere to go.” With ten minutes on the clock I had to make one of those work with my photo and this is what I ended up with:
It was the first day of the rest of our lives. But I mean, it’s all downhill after gradation, right? That’s when true life really begins. You’ve spent the last twenty years of your life preparing to walk across the stage when your name is called only to get to the end of the platform and find you have nowhere to go.
I look to the people surrounding me and realize I’ll probably never see them again. They aren’t really my friends, they’re just people I absorbed information with for a few years. Information that I hope will be useful, but god knows it probably won’t be.
The strangest part of these weighted thoughts is that despite their heaviness, I can still feel a lifted excitement. I’ve been jumping in this elevator all day- weightless in all the potential greatness to come, in all that I’ve accomplished, and in all that I may accomplish, yet still pulled down.
The sensation is unsettling, but intriguing. I don’t want to step off this elevator; I don’t want the doors to open, to lose this feeling of weightlessness. Because I know that when I step out, when I step off this podium and take my seat to listen to the speeches of those who studied more diligently than I, I’ll truly feel the weight of the rest of my life.
Prompt was easily the highlight of my week. I wasn’t super outspoken in class (high school or college) so I made it my goal to share more often than passing, and in doing so I gained confidence in the idea that I have ideas worth sharing. I really hope that I can continue to carve out the time, even once a week, to put words on a page. They don’t have to be full stories, or the attempt at a novel, but the simple act of writing is liberating. I think Prompt really reiterated that when you sit down to write, short snippets are just as valuable as complete stories. Ideas become things. I am incredibly thankful for my classmates, our facilitator, Powell’s, and Write Around Portland for the experience and encouragement.
For those who are interested, here are a few more prompts that I wrote to, keeping in mind that they’re unedited and written in either two or ten minutes time.
I’m taking back:
I’m taking it back. I’m taking it all back. The blurred photos taken in shaken laughter, the off key ballads sung along winding roads to nowhere, and the quiet mornings where we both lay awake, but pretending to sleep just to have a little more time in that moment. I wasn’t to take it all back. I don’t want to share those memories with someone who littered them away as we walked. But as much as I want to take it all back, as much as I need to take it all back, I can’t. We can’t take back moments. They become memories before we get the chance.
In the quiet:
In the quiet she found her peace. The earth was hers and she could dance in her own thoughts. She believed people needed to learn to live in a noiseless world. Not completely, but enough to be able to enjoy the contrast, to make the sounds beautiful. To fully appreciate the noise, you must know the quiet. To find peace in the chaos, you must embrace the silence.
It gives birth:
Wandering along the riverbank I approached the worn wooden bridge with heavy boots. This was my thinking place: where the small stream trickling through the forest flows to the salty canal. When I was young I would walk along the rocky path to watch the salmon fight their way into the forest. Legs dangling between the slats of the bridge of the bridge, I watch the fish suspended in the river, fins slowly sliding back and forth, preparing for their next push upstream. Though the river still gives birth to the salty sound there are no longer salmon to root for. I’m not sure when they stopped coming, though I never did. Pulling on my boots and patchy knitted hat all these years later, I watch the river flow. I cast my thoughts out at the top of the stream and watch as they pass under the bridge and drift out into the sea.
That was the day:
Remember the first time you met my parents? When you offered to help my mom by getting a vase from the basement, tripped down the stairs, broke the vase, and had to get six stitches in your chin? That was the day I knew I wanted you in my life forever. You knelt on the dimly lit concrete floor, holding your shirt to your chin to keep the blood from hitting the floor and willing the antique to piece itself back together. As if pushing the ceramic pieces together could be enough to make them whole again. I swore as I saw the blood but you seemed more concerned about staining our basement floor rather than the fact you needed medical attention. Later at the hospital, when you finally cried, it was over the vase, and today when I trace the small scar, giving you your second smile, that’s the day I think of: the day I was certain you were the one.
A thought occurred to me the other day: Every city I have ever lived in has had phenomenal ice cream. The kind of ice cream that people are willing to stand in half hour lines for. Each with it’s own quirks and flavors, I’ve been lucky to try an assortment of treats from them all (although of course I have my own favorites). And with this realization, a brief tribute to each of them:
Big Dipper, Missoula MT
I think my love for Big Dipper was solidified when they parked their ice cream truck outside my dorm freshman year and offered free scoops to everyone packing their cramped 9th floor dorm room in the 80-degree heat. There’s a chance they offered others this same treat, but for the top floorers, it was especially welcomed. I remember packing up with my mom and grandma and every time one of us took a load to the car, we’d stop by the truck for a new flavor to share between the three of us.
The Dipper was there for me rain or shine throughout my four years in Missoula: After sorority functions, dates, letdowns, and celebrations. In 28 degrees or 101 degrees, I never grew tired of standing outside their small ice cream stand to sample new flavors, pretending I might get something other than yellow cake in a plain cone with rainbow sprinkles.
With plenty of classics to go around and a rotating variety of specials, you can’t go wrong. The ice cream feels fuller on your tongue and creamier than most and you can smell their homemade waffle cones from around the corner. If you’re really feeling up to the challenge bring a friend (or 4) and take on the super nova. It’s basically 6 huge scoops of ice cream (maybe more?) over what feels like a hub cap sized plate of brownies, hot fudge, whipped cream, nuts and cherries. It may kill you, but at least you’ll die happy.
Mora Iced Creamery, Poulsbo WA
I’ve never been to another ice cream establishment with as many flavors as Mora. And the issue is all of them are good. Basically even the flavors I didn’t like there are still enjoyable. Mora has some of the richest, most flavorful ice cream I’ve ever tasted. They boast all natural ingredients and less butterfat than other ice creams and it really makes a difference. After having worked there for almost two years I think I developed a low-key addiction. I wish I were kidding. But with such variety and quality, how could I not. If you find yourself in Kitsap County, get some raspberry sorbet for me, will you? Or chocolate peanut butter moreo. I’m not picky.
I have some wonderful memories from Mora, and some less than wonderful memories from Mora, but the fact remains- they know their ice cream. I miss having a constant supply of it in my fridge. I also miss the arm strength I gained while working there. RIP almost-not-really-but-kind-of-muscular-at-least-not-pudding-like arms. I met some pretty amazing people and had some good fun, but I also grew a lot. I think your early post grad years can be some of the most challenging (or at least I hope they are) in your life and having that little bit of sweetness definitely helped me muddle my way through a few of them. It was at Mora I learned to love chocolate ice cream. It will probably be the only place I’ll order it.
Salt and Straw, Portland OR
I don’t want to tell you how many times I’ve been to Salt and Straw since I’ve moved here. Frankly it’s embarrassing. But before we get judgy you’ve gotta hear me out: the flavors change every month. The ever changing menu of high quality ice cream makes it a brand new experience every time. I’ve tasted flavors inspired by berry season, Halloween, thanksgiving, and local farmers market vendors, and ice cream created by kids to support local elementary schools. They have some solid staples, but I always find myself trying their new flavors.
Maybe that’s another reason I like it so much- it’s basically the one place I frequent where I don’t have a “go-to.” Anyone can tell you, I’m a creature of habit. Yes, I’ll try new things, but then I’ll end up with my favorite (see declaration of love for yellow cake on a plain cone with rainbow sprinkles above). With no true loyalty to one of their regular flavors, I branch out. I’ve tasted ramen ice cream, blood pudding ice cream, dill pickle sorbet, thanksgiving turkey ice cream, zucchini bread ice cream, and ice cream made with crickets and mealworms in it… just to name a few.
My favorite series so far has been thanksgiving with notable mention going out to goat cheese pumpkin pie, maple and pecan sweet potato, mashed potato (yes they used real mashed potatoes and gravy in it) and cranberry challah bread stuffing. I don’t know how they do it.
Would I describe myself as an ice cream connoisseur?
Just kidding!! (ish) But I will admit that I’ve been a little spoiled and have become accustomed to a certain level of quality when it comes to frozen dairy products. When I move again, it will have to be somewhere with quality ice cream: that’s non negotiable.
So let’s talk about this whole concept of “work-life balance.” Apparently it’s important. I’ve only heard rumors, but it sounds pretty great. Over the past few months I’ve learned that it’s something I need. Initially, I thought having an afternoon or morning off would be good enough and I was mostly just excited to be getting enough hours at work to pay the rent. Being a generally optimistic person, I didn’t realize my mental and physical health was slowly deteriorating.
It’s been a few months since I’ve written, and as of a few weeks ago, it had been a few months since I’d been on a good run. I really don’t require a whole lot to keep me going, but in recent years these two activities have become things that I really truly enjoy. We need these activities in our lives and I found myself spending less time expressing myself in a creative outlet and more time ruminating in worried thoughts. I found myself setting my alarm a little later to get a few more hours of sleep instead of hitting the pavement, and spending the rest of the day guilty and frustrated for it.
It’s not even that I am working insane hours a week, because I understand some people work 60-hour workweeks, so I am by no means complaining about my 40-45 hours or so. My struggle has come from not having an unplanned day off. Today has been my first day off since July that I haven’t had a single obligation.
I have been incredibly blessed to have friends and family coming into town to visit, I’ve attended concerts, I’ve attended weddings, bachelorette parties, surprise parties, and had Halloween fun, none of which I regret. I feel incredibly lucky to have jobs that allow me to take time off for these things, but today has been my first true day off since the summer. No work and no obligations. I didn’t set an alarm, I went for a run through the woods that I didn’t feel obligated to cut short or hustle through, took my time in the shower, did laundry, sent my book out to a few more agents, and am taking the time to sit and write.
It’s been so nice to breath today.
There’s still a lot I have to learn about balance, and I’m sure it will be an ongoing process as my life and career evolves and I’m going to have to be okay with the fact my balance may not look exactly the way others balance their lives. As I’ve begun to feel a little burnt-out over the past couple of weeks, I’ve learned that an afternoon or a morning isn’t enough time off for me- I need at least a full day where the only commitments I have are to my self.
I’m not sharing this to complain, or as an excuse for why the blogs been a little empty over the past couple weeks, it’s more to reflect upon the types of changes I hope to make in my life and that I hope to be held accountable to now that they’ve been written down. You don’t get a special medal for working more hours or more days than others and losing control in the process. Not only is it okay, it’s important to admit that you need some time for yourself when you realize you do instead of digging yourself into a hole. If you keep digging you’ll eventually bury yourself.
So last you heard from me, I was embracing my new city by getting into as much car trouble as I could find, and it’s been a while so I figured I should try to get back into the swing of things here with some updates: This month my car was stolen.
I’m happy to report that I’ve had no further car troubles, and I plan to keep it that way for as long as I can. July was a whirlwind. I’ll include some of the highlights here and by the time I’m finished you’ll be able to see why I haven’t gotten around to writing for a while.
God Bless America… and Blackberry Tarts
To begin, I was lucky enough to get a long weekend off around the fourth of July, and with the family planning on heading up to our cabin for a good chunk of that time, there was no way I was missing out. I got to spend 5 entire days on Hood Canal, and as I’ve gotten older I’ve come to fully understand just how rare having more than a day or so has come to be. Five entire days of relaxing in the sun, hiking, playing cards, reading, crabbing, skiing, and enjoying the company of my favorite people in the entire world. We ate well, we laughed, and we loved. I’m incredibly thankful to have moved someplace where I can sneak back to enjoy moments like these without too much trouble, and am grateful to work for an organization that understands the value in these experiences and not only allows me to take them when I can, but encourages it.
New Job, Who Dis?
I began working at Stash shortly after I got back after the holiday, and after a month in, I’m loving it! As my job with the Timbers is just part time, I needed to find something to compliment that to keep me busy, and well, pay the rent. There has been so much to learn, but since it’s something that I enjoy, it’s been incredibly interesting and fun to learn. Tea has a very rich history and there are so many different strains and traditions revolving around each type, that I definitely haven’t been bored! Despite all there is to learn, I jumped in without feeling nervous or getting flustered, and whether that confidence came from my experience at Mora or having been busy leading up to my start date and not really having the time to entertain my nerves, it’s felt like a good place to be so far. My coworkers are wonderfully quirky and relatable people, the company itself does a lot for the community, and I’ve gotten to expand my palate for tea, which has been a lot of fun in itself.
Working It (Out)
I knew I wanted to look into going to a gym or doing something else to supplement running because I’m not very good at keeping up with strength training unless someone else is making me do it. Seriously, I can run 8 miles comfortably, but don’t ask me to do a pushup. So I’ve signed up for Orange Theory Fitness and while I’ve only gotten a few workouts in, I feel like I could easily become hooked. Every time I come out, I’m dripping with sweat and exhausted, but feel a great sense of accomplishment. Recently, I’ve learned something strange about myself: Under most circumstances, I could care less about numbers, but when it comes to fitness the numbers intrigue me. I like seeing the efforts I’ve put into something represented numerically, whether that’s in miles run, or calories burned. The cool thing about Orange theory is you’re wearing a heart rate monitor and your numbers are posted on boards around the class, with the goal to push yourself into specific zones throughout the class. There’s no cheating yourself, and as that person who tried way too hard in middle school gym, I love seeing how hard I push myself translated to numbers and colors flashed up on a board. Alternating between rowing, treadmill, and weight-room, no two days are the same, and while it’s a group fitness program, the coaches are great about encouraging individuals and helping to correct form when necessary. So next time you see me, expect me to have a six-pack. …That was a joke. Please don’t expect that.
Madi came to visit around mid month and we were able to cram quite a lot into her quick weekend trip, despite the fact she was in town for less than 48 hours. After some unlucky bus delays she arrived later Saturday night than originally planned. That didn’t deter us from waking up early to go for a run along the river, ending with breakfast at the riverfront café. Catching up over french toast and green eggs and yam (guess who got which haha) on a sunny morning on the river was the perfect start to the day. I was able to get tickets to the Thorns game that day, which turned out to be a great game! We had third row seats, the Thorns pulled out a win, and it was sunny but not sweltering. After, we walked down to the Pearl District, because I figured Madi could appreciate the blocks filled with LuluLemon, Free People, Anthropologie, Lucy, and North Face. She did. We ate a late lunch at Garden Bar, which, from the second week I lived here I knew I needed to take her to, and the look on her face when we walked in the door alone was worth it. A salad lover’s dream come true. After that we walked around downtown and shopped, embracing the lack of sales tax, planning to walk up to 23rd Ave for dinner. We walked the street and probably checked out the menus at every restaurant on the block before arriving at Papa Hayden. It was so good, we forgot to leave room for Salt and Straw afterwards. After a long day filled with walking we stopped by red box and had a relaxing evening, planning on waking up early to get brunch and explore a bit more before she had to catch her bus and I had to get to work. It was a practically perfect day and a half and I’m already getting antsy for her to come visit again.
Another perk about living reasonably close to home: You can sneak back to Mount Walker for an old coworkers wedding and make it back to Portland the next day for your afternoon shift. You’ll be exhausted and debate pulling over to nap at a rest stop, but it’s doable. Being able to celebrate the love between Lauren and Doug and catch up with some of my former coworkers was worth every minute of the drive. The ceremony was beautiful and the relaxed and fun feel to the entire day was so incredibly Doug and Lauren, I can’t think of how it could have been any better.
Books, Barbecue, and Birthdays
On the very same day I got back from the wedding, my aunt Liz and uncle Marc came into town on their way back to South Dakota after visiting the family up in Washington. I am so incredibly grateful that they stretched their already long drive a little longer to stop by. We were able to enjoy each others company over a delicious dinner, then after I got off work the next day, wandered around IKEA. They happened to be celebrating IKEA’s birthday so there was free cake- talk about taking one of the greatest places on earth and making it even better. Before our dinner reservations, we explored Powell’s, where I once again proved I have no will power when it comes to books. While I’m bummed I missed out on all the activities that took place with the family at home the week before, it was great to be able to have some of our own catch up time.
But wait, there’s more. The last weekend of the month, I was headed BACK home to make good on my birthday gift from Madi. Ed Sheeran tickets. I cried. I drove back home on Friday afternoon (shout out to Ana for getting me through the traffic filled drive by talking to me on the phone for literally 3 hours) to takeout from my favorite Thai place in Poulsbo and a delightful evening catching up with my mom and watching episode after episode of carpool karaoke. Perfect night. We woke up the next day to have lunch with my grandparents at the cabin, which was an absolute delight, as always. Then on to Tacoma for dinner with my aunt, and to pick up Madi as she had been at leadership camp all week. I did her makeup in the car in between bites of sandwich and chugs of water and we were dropped off in perfect time to get our shirts and find our seats just as James Blunt was opening. Madi hooked us up. Our seats were incredible, and I left feeling as if it didn’t really matter what happened to me beyond that point; my life was complete. We sang, we laughed, we danced, we cried. Ed was amazing and every song played was an absolute treat. While my favorite song from the new album is “Castle On The Hill” I think my favorite song of the night was “Photograph”- so well done. “Galloway Girl” had the best energy, and “Bloodstream” had the coolest graphics along with it. Did I mention he game out for the encore in a 12th man jersey? Okay, Ed, I see you. So thank you Madi, because that was the most perfect birthday gift I could have hoped for.
So there’s the super condensed highlight reel from July. I could have definitely written an entire post for each of these events, but as the time has past this is all I’ve got. Until then, I’ll just keep wondering where summer went, and embrace the last month while I can!
If I were to write a short novel about my first few months in Portland, it would have to be titled “Car Trouble.” Nothing else would do. Since moving to this city I have created a small dent in my door from an encounter with a pole in a parking garage I now deem “the terror dungeon”, I’ve gotten two parking tickets, and when I awoke this morning, I discovered my car was not where I’d parked it the night before.
I would like to take this moment to share that before this city I had a perfectly clean parking record, and still have an unblemished driving record. So if I ever offer you a ride somewhere you do not need to fear for your life. Just maybe don’t let me park your car in Portland for you, because there’s a good chance you might never see it again. I will not be applying for any valet jobs here soon.
Back to my missing car: Thankfully, I was able to discover that it hadn’t been stolen, but I had accidentally parked it in the wrong zone so they towed it. After the brief period of confusion and denial, I can’t deny I was upset when I discovered my car wasn’t where I’d left it, I mean who wouldn’t be? But the funny part is, now that I’ve located the lot it was taken to and figured out how to get it back, I feel this strange sense of satisfaction associated with accomplishment.
Now hear me out, because that statement on its own is fairly ridiculous. “You feel… satisfied that your car was towed?” No, not that my car was towed- that obviously sucks and I don’t want to pay to get it back, but I feel good about the way I handled myself in the situation.
A month ago I would have cried. Probably a lot. I would have panicked and put off calling before I had read several websites to figure out who to call and how to handle these situations, and then I would have rehearsed what I was going to say over the phone when I finally did call. I would have let it ruin my entire day, and maybe even a few days after that.
But this morning I picked up my phone, googled something like “how to locate my towed car in Portland”, was directed to the city’s police and impound site, called the listed number, calmly explained my situation to the man who answered and he was able to track it down and give me the info of the towing company, which I called immediately after and figured out what I needed to do to get my car back. And I don’t feel like my day has been ruined. I called home with the update, took a walk in the sun, and am now borrowing Starbucks’ wifi to share the experience with you, before I work on some other projects while enjoying a cup of coffee.
And then beyond an excitement for stepping up and acting like a reasonable adult, to realize I am in a place where I can take this as something to learn from and move on with a positive mindset feels pretty darn good.
I would not have been able to do this a month ago. At least, not in this levelheaded and adult way. Things have a funny way of becoming known to you, but this situation has shown me how much I’ve grown in the past month. I might not have been able to recognize these changes in myself and feel proud about them without this little misadventure. While it might have been nicer to discover this new confidence in way that didn’t involve a tow truck, I have to admit, I’m grateful for this takeaway.
At some point during the past week of my living in my new apartment, I have become the sort of person who deems it acceptable to roll out of bed and walk down the streets of the city without even bothering to put on a bra.
I understand that this has become something of the style now, but the well endowed can appreciate it’s not one we should embrace… maybe I just haven’t found the right shirt. However I’m fairly certain that shirt will never be a plain cotton t-shirt, and the final look will never be completed with rumpled running shorts, flip-flops (or sneakers without socks depending on the weather), puffy raccoon eyes, and cavewoman hair.
It has taken all of a week for me to give up all cares regarding public image and there is but one thing to blame for this misfortunate turn of events: Street parking.
“Don’t be that person! All it takes is a minute! Just put on a pair of pants!” Cries the voice inside my head as I reach for a loose fitting sweatshirt and some running shorts. That’s as good as 17th Avenue is going to get from me during my morning meter feeding. I’m really setting myself up to make friends here.
Each morning as I lock my door behind me, I’m really counting on a good majority of the neighborhood population to be asleep before 8am.
Now I know what you’re thinking. “Come on, what are the odds that the meter guy (or gal) will be up and patrolling at precisely 8AM?” Trust me, the risk does not outweigh the reward. After having already received two tickets in the month that I’ve lived here, I’m too scared to push my luck any further… That is, if you can call two tickets in a month “luck.”
Literally a block away from zoned parking and unable to apply for a residential pass, and surrounded by lots that won’t let you park in them Monday- Friday from 7-5, street parking has very quickly become the bane of my existence in this city. I fully understand that I’m not even suffering at the hands of some ungodly hour. I realize that many people are already at work, also getting out of bed, or have finished their run by 8am. But it’s the principle of the matter.
I will be all too thankful come July, when a space in our buildings parking garage opens up and I will no longer have to trudge down five flights of stairs to spend 8 dollars for 4 extra hours of peace. But for now, I will continue to embrace the lifestyle of the man who walks out the door to get his paper in nothing but a robe and slippers.
This weekend I had the pleasure of visiting the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry to see Nathan Sawaya’s “Art Of The Brick” installation. Sawaya works in a unique medium that appeals to the young, and young at heart: Lego bricks. The exhibit drew in a wide audience and left you believing more firmly in the idea that art isn’t limited by a particular medium; it exists all around you if you allow yourself to open your mind to it.
The exhibit was divided into multiple sections, beginning with reconstructions of famous paintings, sculptures, and artifacts made entirely from Legos. I felt like I had stepped into an adult version of Lego Land, and it was too amazing. Beside every one of Sawaya’s Lego interpretations was a brief description and history of the original, and then an explanation from Sawaya about how he chose to interpret the piece, specific techniques he used, and the number of bricks it took to complete the piece.
Many of Sawaya’s recreations were crafted to exact (or very close) scale of the original, although in some cases this wasn’t entirely possible, due to enormity or the dimensions effecting the Lego versions ability to stand on it’s own. The detail that Sawaya was able to capture with plastic brick is incredible, from jutting angles, to softer round edges.
The next section captured various phases and interpretations of the human experience. This portion explored the greater meanings of what we as humans view as meaningful, both personally and from societal expectations, in terms of aesthetic value. It also explored uniqueness and encouraged leaving behind self-doubt. Each of the pieces in this section was created using the same color brick, instead of mixing multiple, with bright primary and secondary simple colors.
This room moved into the personal exploration of Sawaya’s own times of doubts and evaluation of self worth. While this wasn’t necessarily the most captivating section, it was the bravest. Putting your internal battles on display for the world to see couldn’t have been easy, but it was incredible to see the battle waged in Sawaya’s mind between following his passion and meeting societal expectations. The effect of conveying such darkness with a children’s toy associated with joy and creativity was powerful.
The last section I’ll share was a collaboration titled “In Pieces” with photographer, Dean West. West and Sawaya captured photos of the common American landscape incorporating Lego props subtly into the scenes. The photos hung on the walls and the pieces used in the photos were on display in the middle of the room. My favorite photo was, “Dress,” featuring a woman standing outside an old theater in a red dress made of Legos which disintegrate behind her in the cold. However my favorite Lego piece was an umbrella used in the photo, “Umbrella.” I’m still so impressed by the way Sawaya managed to create the domed of an umbrella with square and rectangular pieces.
Pieces in other sections that need some honorary mention are the Tyrannosaurus Rex constructed from 80,020 Lego bricks, and perhaps one of Sawaya’s most recognizable pieces called “Yellow.” Constructed from 11,014 yellow Lego bricks, I loved what it conveyed about opening oneself to the world, and spilling out your soul.
The Art Of The Brick is an incredible gallery for all to enjoy. Kids loved it, because well Legos, and adults could appreciate the craftsmanship and message Sawaya intended to convey through his pieces. It made me step back and really admire the creativity of the mind and the potential it has to transform ordinary little fragments into works of art that can make big statements.
One of the best parts of working in an ice cream shop is that whenever you have a tough day you can always leave with an ice cream cone, and I’ve found that it’s a lot more difficult to be upset when you’ve got an ice cream cone in your hand. I recently had my first challenging day at my new job and by the time my shift ended I found that all I really wanted was ice cream. It’ll take me awhile to break this conditioning.
This lack of sweetness after a tough day was the first moment I really missed my old job, specifically my coworkers and the rainbow sprinkles. The years I spent working at Mora were some of the most challenging and surprisingly rewarding years of my life. My experiences there strengthened my belief that everyone should be in the position of “serving” someone else, at least once in their life. You encounter some of the greatest and most awful people you can imagine in customer service, and it forces you to grow in so many ways. I learned early on that you can tell a lot about someone by the way they treat a person who is “in service” to them.
More often than not, I found people making assumptions about me based on how I was earning my living. For example, one day I overheard a man tell his daughter “This is why you go to college, so you don’t have to work a job like this for the rest of your life.” It honestly took every bit of my will to not stop where I was and mention that I had earned not one, but two bachelors degrees in four years, the girl working the register was earning money to pay for medical school, many of us were back for the summer preparing to pay off future student loans, and not a single person there planned on “doing this for the rest of their life.”
And then I would have had to ask why he thought this was such a degrading line of work, also leading me to defend the choice not to attend or the inability to pursue higher education. I probably would have ended up on YouTube heckling this customer that there was absolutely no shame in working for a great company where we made good wages, had a lot of fun, and got to interact with unique and wonderful people both behind and across the counter
That’s the challenging thing about customer service: you have to ignore those ignorant comments, bite your tongue, and laugh along when people make jokes about what you’re doing, or else you’ll get poor reviews for “talking back” or being “rude” for defending your life to some stranger, which you really shouldn’t have to do in the first place.
All that being said, you can imagine there are a lot of tough days, which brings me to the redeeming factor of working in customer service: your coworkers.
Because of the challenges and overwhelming nature of the jobs being performed, you get really close with your crew really fast. I’m not sure I’ve worked a job where I’ve felt a greater sense of comraderie with my coworkers. Even if you’re not great friends outside of work, the minute they walk in the door it’s like your best friend has arrived. You’ve got to depend on each other for so much, because if you can’t create a smooth flow of conversation and means of operations, things fall apart.
Besides the necessity for smooth function of the store, I think another reason people working in customer service become so close is that they spend so much of their day dealing with difficult customers.
Because nothing brings people together more than shared misery.
If you’re rude to your server, I guarantee the entire store knows about you, and not in a good way. Servers need backroom rants to get frustration out of their systems so they can go back out onto the floor and smile politely to the people who call them idiots to their face. It’s easier to apologize for a mistake that isn’t your own when you can turn around the back corner and call bullshit to someone who empathizes.
I wouldn’t have lasted as long as I did without my coworkers. It didn’t matter that we went to different schools, that our interests outside work were different, that we were years apart in age, or that our styles of interacting with people were different. We had each other’s backs, because we were all in the same boat when we walked through those doors and we needed each other if we were going to keep that boat afloat.
One of my biggest takeaways from working customer service is the importance of leaving your bad days behind with an ice cream cone. Some days it was an actual ice cream cone and other days my ice cream cone was laughing with coworkers while jamming to the “after hours playlist.” Other days it was driving with all the windows down in the sunshine, or knowing that I’d go home to puppy snuggles. After leaving a challenging workday, you need to be able to find the little happinesses that wipe away any negativity you’re still feeling. Working at an ice cream shop definitely made leaving with a bit of this happiness easier. I’m not sure what my new ice cream cone will be in this new position I’ve taken, but I’m sure it’ll come with time… and hopefully a few less calories!