School vs The Real World

I thrived in school because I was busy, challenged, and I knew what was expected of me and the precise steps I needed to take to attempt to meet or exceed those expectations.

I’m recently coming to terms with the fact that when my friends teasingly called me an “overachiever” they may have been right. I’ve never really seen the point in half-assing things- if you’re going to do a job, do it to the best of your ability. And if you’ve got this life to live you better make the most of it while you’re here. So in maintaining this mindset, throughout school I aimed for A’s, played multiple sports at a time, joined clubs, ran for offices in my sorority, and worked a job to top it all off. I don’t mean for this to come across as braggadocios, this was just my norm, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

When I graduated all of that was taken from me. For the first time in my life I didn’t have a practice to get to, I didn’t have a test to study for or a paper to write, and I didn’t have commitments to keep me social. All I had was a job with an inconsistent schedule to show up for and a book to write: A job that for all its challenges was not mentally stimulating, and a book that didn’t have a deadline to push me through it.

I’ve spent the better part of the past two and a half years trying to find some semblance of that challenging, provoking, and fulfilling lifestyle, but not entirely sure where to look or how to get there. The funny thing is, I recently realized I’ve experienced more harmful stress trying to cope with having less obligation and responsibility, than I ever felt with nonstop meetings and tests. I think much of this is in part to being a chronic over-thinker. More free time paired with an ever-changing schedule has seemed to translate into more existential rumination for me. Because of that, my post grad years have been marked with a lot of overwhelmed and directionless feelings.

I know that I will never get my exact academic lifestyle back, and I need to make that okay. How busy you are is not a determinate of your success, no matter what society might like us to believe. That being said, I do believe it is okay to need a certain level of stimulation to feel productive, accomplished, and proud at the end of the day. It’s important to recognize what you need so that you’re not sitting around wondering why you’re unsettled. Similarly, you need to learn to adapt without depending on praise or reviews from others to judge where you are at. In school, if you get an A you know you did well, if you get a C you know you need to work a little harder next time, or you have more to learn. There is no grading system in life- it’s just you, feeling okay with what you are able to put forth.

Learning these things has been an ongoing process, and I’m not going to pretend that I’m fully able to practice what I preach yet, but having that information in the back of my mind is a start in the right direction.

I’ve just taken on a full time position with the Portland Timbers MLS club that will be an incredible challenge, but for the first time in a long time I’ve left work feeling as if I’ve contributed something that has been essential to the support of an organization. It has been a long time since I’ve done work that has required me to be efficient, thoughtful, creative, and hasn’t left me with a dull moment, and I am incredibly thrilled to be pushed back into a role in that environment. I have specific expectations and there are specific steps that I need to take to meet those expectations and that is an incredibly settling feeling for me.

Having never worked in HR before, I have a lot to learn, but as aforementioned, I thrive when I get to learn new things and apply them under a looming deadline. Working in sports is incredibly fast paced, and I have enjoyed jumping back into moving from one project and meeting to the next without much time to think in between. I know that the novelty will eventually wear down and I won’t be starry eyed forever, but if I continue to stay challenged and busy, I know that my enjoyment will last a good while longer.

The past two weeks I’ve worked longer hours than I am used to and been overloaded with new information in learning how to a job that’s entirely new to me: I’ve left the office with a smile on my face every single day. I am excited to continue to learn and grow in this opportunity, and I am incredibly thankful that I’ve been given a chance to return to a routine that is closer to a lifestyle that I find comfort in.

 

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Whole30 Week Four, or, Staying Determined Till The End While Battling A Raging Flu, Overall Hopeful Thoughts, And Bragging A Little

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 believes that Whole30 really did change my perspective on a lot of things. I know I won’t follow these rules for the rest of my life, that’s not what the program was designed for. But it did what it was designed to: it gave me a better awareness of my relationship with food and as I start reintroducing certain foods, it will show me what I can happily live without.

On my 25th day of Whole30 I had the misfortune to fall under the weather. They aren’t lying people- this year’s flu is a doozy. I’ll spare you the gory details but just know I was fevered from Friday morning to Sunday afternoon and at one point slept for almost 16 hours straight. I like to think I’m not a terribly helpless sick person, but I wanted to cry because I was completely alone with only a fridge full of fresh veggies. You know what doesn’t sound good while you’re sick? Spinach. You know what does sound good when you’re sick? Sprite. And buttered toast. I cannot stress enough that I do not recommend getting sick while on Whole30.

When people told me to abandon the Whole30, but I’d survived 25 days and would be damned if the flu was going to knock me out of it. I had a container of compliant chicken broth and a few oranges that, along with a whole lot of water got me to the point where I could shuffle to the store. I bought seltzer water as a replacement for the bubbly Sprite, unsweetened applesauce, a few bananas, and some potatoes I could fry up or bake pretty plainly.

And I did it. I almost passed out at the grocery store but I was determined to see this thing through. I’d initially labeled this obstinate behavior as my just being “stubborn” but later I want to use the word “determined.” The two words essentially mean the same, but one has a little more depth. You can be stubborn over stupid things like not being the first to break silence in a meaningless argument, but to be determined needs something to back it up. There has to be something at stake other than pride for true determination. And I was determined to finish what I had started, and to do it right.

After a few days of resting, I felt better and was excited by the thought of grocery shopping without so many rules. I went grocery shopping to prepare for reintroduction, and ended up surprising myself. I wasn’t ever planning on going totally crazy, but I wasn’t going to totally deprive myself if I saw something yummy- I’d earned it right?! But the strangest thing happened:

My grocery cart looked pretty much the same as it did when I went shopping on day 18. The only “noncompliant” foods I’d added were rice to test out my reaction to non-gluten grains, and milk to check dairy. I considered buying a few extra items, and even had a few in my hand, but I put them back. I’m not saying Whole30 has permanently changed my bad habits forever and I will never put frozen pizza in my grocery cart ever again, because I don’t expect that to happen. But it has made me optimistic about the direction I can take with my relationship with food.

Similarly, I thought for sure when I woke up in the morning post Whole30 I would be jumping out of bed, celebrating my new food freedom by eating a slice of peanut butter toast and cheering for all I accomplished. But I wasn’t. After I woke up this morning it took me a full hour to remember that I had finished my 30 days. I wasn’t cheering either, it was more of a quiet “oh” moment.

To be honest I’m a little nervous. It was easier to say no to temptation when I had set rules holding me back, but now I don’t have that. Now it’s just me, and that’s harder. Before I’d say no to things because I couldn’t have them, now it’ll be because I shouldn’t, which can feel a little less convincing. But I am hoping that in having written down some of the positives that came from this, I can return to the feelings, both physical and mental, and arrive at a place where I feel confident making these choices for me with no brick wall to prop me up.

Whole30 has pushed me to recognize that your relationship with food is something that needs to be attended to just as much as human-to-human relationships, or our own relationship with self. In fact, these relationships all coexist and depend on each other. Eating is a social activity, and friendships, peer pressure, or environment can easily dictate this connection. Eating is also greatly influenced by personal mood, and we’ve been conditioned to believe that we can gain control or be comforted by indulging.

In the past thirty days I have gained more responsibility over my awareness that I have a rocky relationship with food. I use it to comfort, reward, or occupy, much more frequently than to nurture, strengthen, and satisfy. But as I’ve become more aware of that and recognize the differences between the way I was eating before, and the way I am now, I believe that I can adapt some of these changes now that I’ve finished the program.

Because at the end of the day I am proud of what I accomplished and I want to continue making good choices. I like having extra energy in the mornings and staying positive throughout the workday. I like looking for new recipes and taking time to read labels when grocery shopping. I like that a 3 mile run can turn into a 5 because I feel strong and recover more quickly. I like that I lost 12 pounds without ever feeling hungry or making intense changes to my fitness schedule. Yeah, you read that right: 12 pounds down.

I’m really glad that I did Whole30. It was often trying, but that’s the thing about challenges: the more difficult they are, the sweeter the victory. I proved that I could do this, and I saw the benefits. I’m not vowing to start every year on Whole30, but I’ll definitely consider doing it again next year. Taking control, completing a challenge, and learning new things about myself was a fantastic way to begin the year, and I’m looking forward to all of the challenges and changes that are sure to follow.

I also need to thank my family and friends for cheering me through the tough spots and celebrating the victories with me along the way: your support means an incredible amount to me. It wouldn’t have been the same journey without you, and for you, I am extremely grateful. To anyone thinking about giving Whole30 a try, I’d be glad to candidly answer any questions you may have, to share recipes and tips, and to cheer you along the entire way, from the days you want to lay in bed all day to the days you’re bounding out of bed before your alarm goes off: having someone, or a few someones, there makes all the difference.

Let me just say it again:

I DID IT.

 

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Whole30 Week Three, or, Extreme Productivity, Goldfish Cracker Sales, And The Horror Of Remembering The Reintroduction Phase.

If you’re still tuning into my Whole30 journey I have some excellent news: week three is in the bag! Better yet, it blew week two out of the water. It was almost as if writing, “week two was terrible and I just want to feel better and need to be done, why would anyone do this to themselves” were the magic words.

I get it now. Despite working 50 hours between my jobs this week I felt incredibly energized and excited to be wherever I was. Honestly it was a little weird, but I tired not to overthink it on the slight chance it might go away if I did. When I set out to go running this week, I ended up adding extra mileage. When I made a point to clean my kitchen I cleaned my living room as well. When I woke up in the morning I felt like I didn’t need to hit the snooze button so I had a cup of coffee and read, putting me in a good mood for the rest of the day.

Being busier should have made me exhausted, but I found myself continuously hit with bursts of energy and optimism. I feel like this was due to a mix of the effects of my changed habits starting to take hold and the knowledge that I’m on the downward slope from here on out. It feels better than good to have made it ¾ of the way through Whole30. At one point during the week one of my coworkers made the comment that I was in such a good mood lately and I haven’t made drastic changes to anything in my life except my diet, so I can only attribute these good vibes to fueling my body with healthy foods.

That being said, these changes don’t make Whole30 easy. Often, it’s still incredibly difficult, and there are moments where my cravings sneak up. But Whole30 has taught me how to recognize the reasons behind them and then how to respond correspondingly. Grocery shopping has become fun as I’ve become a more thoughtful shopper, but every time I walk through certain sections or see some of my old favorites, my mouth literally waters. I would also like to take this moment to express my extreme displeasure in the fact that goldfish crackers have been on sale at my Fred Meyer for the entirety of my time on Whole30. If I were able to eat them, there’s a good chance I would have purchased them all and I would have turned orange because of it. I’m just kidding, obviously that wouldn’t have happened. Because I would’ve mixed it up with the parmesan flavor in order to prevent that, duh.

I anticipate my biggest challenge for next week will be planning my reintroduction. On day 18 I was struck by the terrible realization that day 30 wasn’t actually the end. It’s called Whole30 but with time set out to slowly reintroduce foods, it’s more like Whole30 plus Partial15. I was so focused on the now, and the immediate future I forgot to look ahead to my habits after Whole30. I think somewhere I believed that the end would mean taking what I learned and simply trying to use it to create a better diet, and approach my food more thoughtfully. But shocking my system by jumping back into what would basically be a more refined version of my old habits would make this entire endeavor for naught. My reason for starting this was to become aware of the way my body reacts to certain foods, and to eat more mindfully. To really emphasize those effects, I have to play by all the rules, not just the ones I like.

However, if I continue to feel the way I have the past week, reintroduction may be a little easier. I’ve also found that I crave certain foods as individual snacks rather than a huge combination of all the foods I can’t eat. This might make it easier to stick to the rules in reintroducing specific food groups back to my diet. Cheers to my last official Whole30 week- I can almost taste the freedom!

Whole30 Week Two, or, Scraping My Knees, Dreaming Of Breadsticks, And Trying To Like Avocado

I kicked off my second week of Whole30 flat on my face. Okay that’s a bit of an exaggeration- I caught myself before face planting, but my hands were dirty, my knees scraped, and my good spirits took a hit. Don’t worry, I didn’t pass out due to malnutrition or anything, but the thing about depriving your body of what it craves, is that after awhile you become a little ornery. This week I found myself with a little less patience for people than I usually do, so on Tuesday after work I wanted to be as far away from humans as I could feasibly be while still remaining in Portland. I figured a run in the woods would do me some good.

You know when you try to do something nice for yourself and it just ends up making things worse? That’s how my run went. Less than a mile in and I tripped on some rocks and went down. While my leggings weren’t ripped (honestly my main concern) I was covered in mud and when I got back to my car, discovered I was bleeding. Now things could have gone a lot worse, I didn’t pull or strain anything, and like I said, my leggings were fine, so all in all I consider myself lucky. I just needed to share this to set the tone for the week, because this start was basically week two in a nutshell: not great, but it could have been worse.

My second week of Whole30 can be best summed up as a craving week. Week one was relatively smooth sailing so it only makes sense that in week two I literally had a dream that centered around me eating cheesy bread. I wish I were kidding. I honestly can’t remember any sort of context for the dream, but there was a box of garlicky cheese topped bread on a table at a party and I was putting it awaaaay. Ranch was involved and I was truly happy. Then I woke up.

At day 14, I’ll admit that the excitement and newness of the program has worn off a bit. My meals are starting to feel repetitive and I haven’t necessarily noticed any big changes in how I’m feeling, which I think I’d hoped would have happened by now. I understand everyone reacts to Whole30 is differently, but I think I hoped that reaching the halfway point would yield some more excitement. Maybe I’ll find it in a few days, but at this point two weeks might as well be years away.

In order to combat this feeling starting to settle, my goal is to try some new recipes, and to be better at meal prepping. I haven’t really prepped a whole lot, mostly just cooking enough food for one meal, which makes me feel like I’m constantly doing dishes, which probably just reinforces my desire for easy takeout. I’ve also been making a lot of repeat meals, or dishes with only slight variations that don’t help necessarily make them feel unique. I’ve got scrambles down pat at this point, I’ve experimented with cauliflower ‘rice’ numerous ways, and I’ve grown exhausted of balsamic dressing on salads. I’ve even started putting avocado in things. I don’t understand avocado. I keep trying to like it, I really do, and whenever I try to use it a new way, I think, “This is it! This will open a whole new world for me! A world filled with healthy fats and trendy brunches!” But it’s probably time to stop kidding myself.

That being said, Whole30 has pushed me to branch out with a lot of foods, and given me a balanced refrigerator filled with great colors. This week in particular has prompted me to consider my relationship with food when it comes to specific cravings. I’ve been able to better recognize when I’m craving certain foods, prompting me to consider why I’m craving them. Oddly enough it’s not because my body is signaling that I’m starving and the only thing that will save me is a cinnamon roll. I’ve noted trends when it comes to boredom, stress, or social situations and I hope that I can carry this awareness with me after my Whole30 adventure is over.

While week two was much more challenging than week one, I’m still grateful for what I’ve gained from it. Despite my cravings I found it easier to say no when offered noncompliant foods and not including those foods in my cooking or on my grocery list has already become more habitual. My goal in week three is to try a few new recipes and not only to think ahead, but also actually prepare them in advance. Hopefully after this upcoming week I’ll be able to get back to you having tried some new recipes and gotten a handle on these cravings and subsequent dips in mood!

 

Whole30 Week One, or, Saying No To Donuts, Craving Mac and Cheese, And Getting Good At Reading Labels

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!

My 2017 Highlight Reel

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.

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February: Having my best friends back in the same town.

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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.

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            April: Getting offered a job with the Portland Timbers.

   May: Moving to Portland, Oregon.

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           June: Moving into my very first apartment with help from my mom and aunt.

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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.

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September: Starting a ten-week writing class, Prompt, at Powell’s City of Books to get in the habit of writing and sharing again.

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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.

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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!

 

 

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Prompt

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

can survive

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?

 

Watch,

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.

“But close?”

“Almost.”

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.

Sweet Observations Part 5: Sweetness In Every City

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 

 

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There are few things better than standing in line for Big Dipper ice cream on a warm summer night

 

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.

 

 

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Please note that most Mora sundaes do not come with 7 cherries. You’ve got to know someone.

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.

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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?

Yes.

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.

Work-Life Balance

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.

 

July July

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.

KIDDING!

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.

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New Job, Who Dis?

I began working at Stash shortly after I got back after the holiday, and after a FullSizeRender-3month 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.

Sister Weekend

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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.

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Another perk about living reasonably close to home: You can sneak back to Mount IMG_7211Walker 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

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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.

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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.

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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!