The Art Of The Brick

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. IMG_6816

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.IMG_6820

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.

IMG_6810The 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.

Sweet Observations Part 4: Leaving With An Ice Cream Cone

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.

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The management team visiting the Starbucks Roastery in Seattle to test out their new line of affogatos featuring Mora’s ice cream!

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.

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Just a few of the people that got me through my days

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.

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The very definition of a “happy accident”caught on camera by a coworker.

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!

The Tenacious Ten

About a month ago, I ran Seattle’s “Tenacious Ten.” I’m writing about it now, because when I ran it I was a little preoccupied with other things (see my previous post “Movin’ and Shakin’” for more details) and writing wasn’t really a priority. But I feel like it was an experience worth sharing, so better late than never right?

This year Oiselle, a Seattle-based women’s athletic apparel company, organized the Tenacious Ten, a 10k or 10 mile run, around Gasworks Park and Lake Union. Simply put, it was everything I needed.

The week before the race, I was offered a new job in Portland and in the hectic transition, I completely forgot that I had signed up for the race months before. My race week schedule looked a little like this *feel free to input screams wherever you see fit*: I asked my manager to schedule me as close to 40 hours in three days as she could get so I could get to Portland and view apartments on Thursday and potentially Friday. I caught a break, as the weather wasn’t great those days so thankfully the shop was pretty quiet. The apartments offices didn’t open until I was already at work and closed before I got off, so this added a nice little layer of difficulty. I’d wake up early before work and make lists of places to call when they opened, and in the quiet moments at work I’d cross my fingers that no one would walk in while I called building managers to set up viewings.

I greeted Thursday with a 5:30 wake up call to be out the door by 6. From 10-4 my parents and I went to place after place and while I naively thought everything would work out so smoothly we could just drive back Thursday night, (so I could pick up my race packet in Seattle on Friday) my parents knew better. They had the decency to tell me to slow down for five seconds and that if we left Friday morning I’d make it just fine.

While all this was happening, my friend Lauren, (whom you may recognize from my previous “PBR” post) lives in Seattle and offered to let me stay at her place so I wouldn’t have to take the ferry and Uber over to Gasworks Park at the crack of dawn. After signing paperwork for my new place on Friday morning, I planned on stopping by home just long enough to grab my stuff, hightail it to the ferry, Uber up to the hotel where packet pickup was before it ended and get back to Laurens. This might have worked if traffic had been on our side…. But everyone knows that the moment you need to be somewhere, there’s an accident. Or construction. Or everyone and their mother decides to hit the road.

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Lauren and I, post race and pre brunch

So with time no longer on our side, Lauren offered to go to the hotel and pick up my packet for me after she got off work. This girl is an absolute saint. So instead of going to the hotel I planned to grab my stuff, hop on the ferry (praying I’d remembered my shoes), catch the light rail to Capitol Hill and meet Lauren and some of her college friends for dinner, get back to her place at a hopefully decent time to be out the door by 7:15 the next morning. Raise your hand, if at this point you think I’m crazy for not swallowing the race fee and taking a nap instead.

By this point I hadn’t run for a week (maybe more?), hadn’t slept well, and didn’t even try to eat well. When I signed up I remember being a little bummed I missed out on the 10 mile distance and would be running the 10k instead. However this turned out to be a blessing because once I got to mile 5, I cannot express how happy I was that I only had a mile left instead of another 5. As I sat on the ferry the night before the race, I knew that the only thing pushing me across that finish line would be the excitement of the upcoming changes in my life, and any extra fuel in my tank would come from all the stress of the previous week.

Oiselle did a great job. The race was well organized, there was a great turnout, and they had plenty of fun booths to check out pre and post race. The course was easy to navigate and led us through the city, over bridges, and by the lake, and the start and finish in Gasworks Park was perfect. There was a great sense of comradery between the other runners as well as the volunteers hosting and cheering along the way. The morning was beautiful- the rain held off and it was even warmish, which is the best you can ask of Seattle spring.

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You’d think I’d look like I was having more fun having just passed the 5 mile mark…

This was one of the most stressful weeks of my life but by the time I stepped across the starting line, I felt so at peace that the race went from just another thing to cross off my list, to something of a life changing experience. I felt like I was able to leave so much behind me in those 6 miles. A year of rejections from various prospective jobs, the feeling of remaining stuck while everyone around me seemed to be moving forward, tears and breakdowns, knowing my only non-work friends in town were my parents and my dog, and fed up with the monotony my life had seemed to take, this race was the end of it all. Exhausted and overwhelmed I was able to plug into putting one foot in front of the other, and leave everything on the course.

It was a nice goodbye to a city that I never lived in but had grown to see as the only option for getting out of my small town. I felt a strange bitter sweetness running around the water and knowing that wasn’t the skyline I’d be waking up to every day. While I love so many things about Seattle I’ve never really felt compelled to call it home in the way so many of my peers have. While I ran around the lake it was comforting to know it’d be there, but in the capacity it had always been: a great place to visit friends and go to football games, see concerts or run a race, but not to stay. If I hadn’t been so set on lacing up my shoes that morning I never would have realized that, and I don’t think I would have gotten that closure.

I hope that everyone can find something that brings them peace like that. It doesn’t need to be running. You just need to find something. Something you can do almost anywhere and that you don’t need someone else- especially a specific someone else- to make it happen. I’m not saying it has to be a completely solitary activity, people surround you while running a race and it’s always fun to find a running buddy, but for it to really heal, it can’t be something that depends on someone else making it happen for you. You need something where you can take a second to get out of your own head before you dive back in.

The Tenacious Ten was the perfect end to my week of ups and downs. Crossing the finish line gave me a sense of finality to that chapter of my life, and I couldn’t have asked for a better source of relief.

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Movin’ and Shakin’

These past couple weeks have been a whirlwind. Stresses and excitements have been swirling around to create utter chaos in my life. I tried to take a break from it all last week to write a post about everything that was happening but I think instead of providing a sense of serenity or feelings of anticipation, it was a stream of incoherent thoughts because half of my brain was dedicated to telling me I should be doing something constructive like packing or making phone calls or really doing anything but relax. So now that I have a minute, I’ve got some big news.

A few weeks ago I accepted an internship with the Portland Timbers in their administration department. I’ll be working the front desk part time, while taking special assignments from other departments as needed. When I received the offer letter I cried. Everything seemed to go from zero to sixty. I had all my interviews and accepted the job within the same week and my manager at the ice cream shop was an absolute saint in helping me find coverage, switch shifts, and get me down to Portland for my interview.

My mother can attest to my spastic behavior post acceptance. I was in the middle of baking a blueberry lemon cake when I got the offer, and it kept hitting me at random. It’s a wonder that cake turned out because mixing was interspersed with bouts of sitting on the kitchen floor in awe and measuring was interrupted by several needs to make lists.

One of the most daunting of tasks for me was finding an apartment. Having spent my days at home, college dorm, or sorority house, I haven’t had to experience the whole process of looking for a place of my own yet. The idea made me both embarrassed and grateful. Sometimes one more than the other… So having decided I wanted to try living on my own, eliminating the roommate finding factor, I began scouring sites and making appointments to tour places that looked worth seeing and within my budget.

I planned to get down to Portland to look at places on Thursday so Monday through Wednesday, I crammed about forty hours of work into three days to make that happen. I scheduled these viewings during slow moments at work, praying no one would walk in while I was talking to these building managers. My parents came with me, waking up bright and early to be out of the house by six to make it in time for my first appointment. 10-4 was booked solid, and miraculously well ordered in terms of locations.

One of my biggest frustrations while looking at colleges was that I never felt that “this is it!” feeling everyone talks about. I absolutely loved where I ended up and couldn’t picture it any other way today, but I won’t pretend it was love at first sight. The town, campus, and tour were all great but didn’t hit me like a bolt of lightening or anything… I’m not sure why I thought apartment hunting would be any different. But at about two, after not having anything stand out as fabulous, combined with the pressure to find said fabulous place in a day, I was incredibly frustrated.

This feels like as appropriate a place as any to thank my parents. I was not a pleasant individual to be around that week. I like to think I have a fairly easy-going personality, but one of my big takeaways from this process is that my easy-going demeanor is reserved for others, and not something I apply to my personal life. If you are going through a crisis, I’ve been known to give sage, levelheaded, and calming advice. However, I can’t seem to find this advice when I need it for myself. I’ll admit that now. I’m honestly surprised neither of my parents didn’t just throw their hands up and walk away. But I guess that’s what you do for people you love. You take the bricks they throw at you and build them a platform to stand upon.

With the pressure of a two-week start date looming, I weighed pros and cons and ended up filling out an application feeling okay. Not great, but definitely fine with my decision. While I did this, my mom called the apartment across the street to see if their parking garage was full and what the prices and wait-list looked like. While she was on the phone she ended up asking if they had any studios available. And much to my horror they did. I only say horror because in my head I’d finally committed to this other place, and I was going to make it work wonderfully. More importantly, this new one my mom found was not on my list. Being on the list and being on schedule was incredibly important to me, it’s how I both kept my sanity and also how I realized I’d lost it.

Guess where I’ll be living ladies and gents?

Just as I stumbled across the job opening with the Timbers, I stumbled across my new apartment. It’s funny how things have a way of working out. There is something to be said for faith in God’s timing. After a frustrating year or so of applying and interviewing for a variety of jobs that didn’t work out, this opportunity felt like it came out of left field. After laboring over apartment listings and city maps and various phone calls and scheduled interviews, the right home came to me completely unplanned. For these reasons I think Portland will be good to me.

The subsequent application processes haven’t gone off without a hitch by any means, but I guess they say that the best things in life don’t come easy. I wasn’t even sure that I’d gotten the place until about a week ago. Thank goodness my mom had me shop for furnishings, because my stubborn mindset took the stance of “Well I don’t even know if I have a place yet so why would I shop for things to put in the apartment that I don’t have?” I’m telling you people; I was loony. To be fair, after I said this out loud I realized I was being ridiculous and embraced the healing power of home decorating and retail therapy. I started to get a little less stressed and a little more excited, and tried to stay that way by not looking at my bank statement too frequently. So now when it’s time for me to move in, though I won’t have a bed, I’ll have some pretty great wall art, a great chair, and furnished kitchen. Priorities.

While I made it down to Portland and I’ve started my job, I haven’t been able to move in quite yet. I’m starting to get antsy, but in the meantime I’ve been able to stay with the kindest family until my place is ready. Friends of family friends, it was a bit of a stretch, but I think we all kind of embraced the situation and ran with it. I’m incredibly grateful for their generosity; they’ve already done so much for me in my first week, and it’s been the perfect start to this new chapter in my life.

Hopefully there will be a good follow up to this piece about a flawless move in to my new place. Since my sister has already informed me she’ll be visiting me every weekend this summer, I’m sure she’ll have some input about decorating, and my grandma has been planning shopping trips since the minute I told her about the move. My aunt is an organizer extraordinaire, and a known breath of fresh air in moving process (from past college moving) providing helpful tips and laughs when needed. I’ve also been informed my dad thinks bringing the trailer into the city for potential furniture hauling might be a good idea. I’d like to see someone parallel park a large car and trailer in a city notorious for its poor parking. Not someone I’m related to, because the whole scene has great potential for a comedy sketch, but maybe someone else. I know you’re reading this dad- can we please borrow a truck?

So be patient everyone, this story isn’t over yet…