Reflections on a Random Tuesday

I've heard a lot about the "good ole days of blogging" lately. Most of the people I know from this funny little online activity are from a period when blogging was quite different than it is today. Blame the prevalence of social media (twitter, Facebook, tumblr, and so on) or blame the fact that life changes I sure had a lot more time to write about nothing when I was 17 than now, when I'm 30.

I've been thinking about how my life online is quite different than it was a decade ago. While most of what I share happens on Facebook and Instagram, it's admittedly much less information that I used to blog about. Blogging was, for many, a deeply personal look into another's life. It used to be a way to form these deep connections with like-souled people without ever "meeting" them face-to-face. Through this weird phenomenon of blogging I have some wonderfully dear friends that I have only meet a few times in my life. Without being involved in the friend circles blogging created, I would not have met Vahid, and that worked out pretty well in the end.

While blogging is not what it used to be, I will always be thankful for falling into this crazy time on what was the tail end of what I consider the "hey day" of personal blogging. Now, most of the blogs I loved so much have been shut down by their owners, transitioned into "lifestyle blogs", or, like me, they simply stopped writing, while their sites remained, a quiet tomb of a life shared online. While blogs slowly died or changed, those who avidly read and commented slowly disappeared as well. People who used to take time to read and comment with their own stores of relevance no longer did that, myself included. We still read but ran out of time to comment, then we ran out of time to read everything, then we stopped finding time to read anything altogether. Our attention dwindled to bite-sized snippets on Facebook or Twitter between work, families, and life.

I've kept this blog here even when I stopped writing. Updating this became less important as I moved onto other things in my life: graduating college, getting engaged, married, finding a job that didn't make me hate life. I always meant to come back, to "get back in the rhythm of it," to find the group again. Although that group is gone, migrating onto other parts of life. I am still here, tentatively sticking my toes into the same water, feeling the nostalgic warmth of it all. I miss writing, writing about my life to reflect back on, writing for the sake of writing and the continuous learning that comes with a writing practice, sharing photographs I took the time to shoot & edit. I realized that when I stopped writing, I stopped doing many of the things I found personal joy in. Coming back to any of those things–photography, writing, painting–has me fumbling to find the path that I had worn so well previously.

Am I jumping back in, blogging forever? I don't know. I never intend to stop, I just…do. Eventually I find it harder to sit and write or paint. Then I find it easier to find excuses than time to sit. Then I find it hard to remember the last time I actually sat. So I'm here, for the moment at least. Maybe I'll see you here and we will wave to each other, remembering how good it feels to be back at the same shore, with the same water washing over our toes.

Doodle of a Memory

I found myself doodling on a notepad at work one morning. It was a slow day and I spent most of it waiting for information from others before I could complete the few projects I was working on. I spent an hour filling up the page with random shapes and lines, little creatures, bits of body parts, anything really. I found myself so enraptured by what I was doing that before I knew it the whole morning had passed me by.

I’m not an artist. Sure I can draw things and it mostly looks like what I am aiming for but something is always off. The parts don’t quite add up to the whole, the shadows and highlights never quite end up where they should be, one eye is always bigger than the other, giving the subject a very startled look. But I’ve always doodled and drew and while I wasn’t going to have an art show any time soon it’s fun to do.

I’m whiling away the morning drawing when a coworker comes up to me and asks what I’m doing. I’m bored, I say. The words escape my mouth before my brain and pull them back, back behind my teeth and down my throat, where they will die in my lungs. But they ran out my mouth and into the world, dancing on the quiet air. I looked up at my coworker, my eyes were wide in my own surprise. She laughed and made a joke of how hard I was working and that was the end of it. But it wasn’t the end of it because as things do the words triggered a memory and I was off down the rabbit hole of my own mind.

For some unknown reason I thought it would be a good idea to take a 6:40am math class. I would always say that I’m never good at math, I don’t like math, my brain just doesn’t understand math. But that’s not true. It’s more honest to say I don’t care about math even though it was at it’s heart the core of everything I was studying. Chemistry was math, Biology was math, I loved Biology and the math never bothered me the way it would in my math class.

I was late almost every day to that class, often pulling into the parking lot as the class was starting. I showed up with wild hair, still in pajamas half the time, trying to remember if I brushed my teeth. I slid into my seat by the door and she would always have a comment.

Her name was Ms. Tanaka. At the time she was the bain of my existence but looking back she is one of those teachers I remember fondly and if I could go back in time I’d slap myself for being so mean. She was young and perky and she was so good at explaining math and making it understandable that if I had tried I could have enjoyed myself. But I was 18 and trying too hard to be cool in a school full of people who were also trying to be cool and no one cared and no one went on to do anything better.

I had my notebook open and I was doodling something down the spine of my notes, barely following what was going on when she called on me. In my memory she knew my name and I was called on a lot. But I’m sure the reality was that she didn’t know my name, the girl who was always late and sullen. But she did call on me and I remember not looking up from my desk and just stating “huh” to the class.

“What are you doing? Are you taking notes?”

“I’m bored.” I remember freezing as I said it, chastising myself. Stupid, stupid, stupid, I repeated as a mantra to myself. I looked up at her then. Her eyebrows were raised.

“I’m sorry this bores you. If you don’t like the class feel free to not take it.” She finished her example and the time was up. Everyone gathered their things, giving me glances. I was the girl who said she was bored and I wished that the ground would part and swallow me whole. It didn’t though. I had to walk out the door, I had to face her.

“I know you are probably taking this class as a requirement but it would be nice if you could act like you care while you are hear.” She said the words to me but not to me. She said them to all the students who were disrespectful of her time. After all she was here every morning too, ready to teach and answer questions and help us learn. Help us be the adults we were supposed to be.

I failed that class and had to retake it. I retook it with her and did really well the second time. It would be many years before I doodled again. I often found myself drifting in and out of lectures but I never took pen to paper quite the same way I used to. Something had changed. I wouldn’t say I became a better student, in fact as the years dragged on I became worse and by my senior year I was terrible to have in class. But I never displayed such outright boredom for a class since that experience.

It’s funny because the experience itself is nothing really, a small exchange between a crappy student and a teacher. In the grand scheme of things there are bigger memories, bigger moments, defining times, but it was this memory that came to me on a quiet Monday morning.

That memory led to others and I was winding through my late teens/young adulthood in no particular order, hopping from year to year going forward and backwards in a lazy zag.

My memories don’t work in chronological order. If you asked me what happened when I was three and four and five I’d have a hard time answering you. But if you asked me what happened with the pinata on my birthday I could tell you all the details about that, I was three I think. I could tell you about the time I tried to feed a bone to my dog and she bit me because I was a dumb kid who didn’t understand how she worked. I could tell you about the time I had to change my other dog all over the playground at school because he followed me there one afternoon. Or the time I lost a lens from my glasses and didn’t notice until an hour later. Or any of the number of times I had to climb in through my window or the bathroom window because remembering to take my keys was the most difficult thing as a kid. But these don’t come in order but rather they flit around, hover at the edges until a seemingly innocuous thing as a doodle brings them roaring to the surface and I am reminded of just how interesting life can be.

Making the Time

dates
Last week Vahid and I went out on a Thursday night for a date night. We got all dressed up and headed out for cocktails and a nice dinner at two places we hadn’t been before. We headed down to NW 23rd and had some amazing cocktails at The Fireside. The place has a great atmosphere and the drink menu is a great one. The food looked delicious, although we didn’t have any this time around.

We then headed to a place I seem to see all the time in Portland, Touché. I’ve been wanting to go there for the longest time but never seem to make the time to go there. Or rather whenever I see the building I think, “Oh yeah I want to go there for happy hour.” Then the thought fades away as the building fades from sight. When I saw a groupon pop up for the place I snagged it and mentally made a note for a future date night. The food was okay. I had a pasta dish with chicken in a tomato cream sauce and Vahid had a hazelnut crusted chicken breast served over rice and a cranberry dish. I really liked my food while I ate it but the next day when I was thinking back over dinner I didn’t find myself remembering it fondly the way I do a really good dish. I thought it was good but nothing too spectacular. I’d say it’s on par with The Old Spaghetti Factory which is a chain restaurant with much cheaper prices. Vahid’s chicken was a bit on the dry side and his sides were more flavorful than the main dish. We’ve made better chicken at home. It was a bit disappointing and I am glad we went there with a groupon and saved a bit of money.

What spawned our date night was actually my Christmas gift to Vahid. It’s a year of dates all pre-planned and where I could, prepaid for, and nicely sealed in an envelope. Each month is something we have never done before but have always wanted to do. It’s a way to experience more of Portland while also making sure we carve some time out for each other minus all the distractions that come from everyday life. There is only one month that is something we have done before but the locations are different and I just wanted to make time to do this summer as the season for this is incredibly short.

In February we are going on a brunch cruise down the Willamette River. Some of the envelopes contain something simple like January, a nice dinner a place we haven’t been and perhaps a show afterwards, some are adventures or day trips, some are going to places we always say we want to go but never make time to do so.

While I feel that I perhaps didn’t start the year out strong it’s hard to find something to do in the dead of winter. No one wants to go hiking when the trail is just mud and it’s raining and you’re wet and you are most definitely not having fun.

I am really looking forward to these each month, almost as much as Vahid is. I hope you’ll continue along with me as I share each new envelope and what’s in store for us this month!

Just a Spoonful of Sugar

A spoonful of sugar ...

This month I’ve turned the focus back on my health (probably where it should have been all along). In the past few months I’ve let my attention turn towards other things and ignored what should have been big red flags regarding my health.

I decided in December that I just can’t do what I’ve been doing anymore. I spend a few months health focused and when things start going well I let little things slide and it becomes a landslide that ends with me eating junk food all the time. Besides the weight issue and vanity associated with feeling bigger than you should be I just know my body is older than it should be. I’ve lost some of that vitality and my energy is nowhere near where it should be. I fear that if I keep down this road when I am thirty, forty, fifty I’ll feel sixty, seventy, eighty and have a lifespan that reflects that.

Part of my problem is mental and emotional which I am making strides to fix. Part of the problem is I love to do so much in the beginning that the moment it fails I abandon it all and resort back to old, destructive, habits.

With Vahid’s help we’ve designed a plan to follow that will help cater to some of the issues I’ve been having. The first thing we decided to work on is eliminating sugar.

Do you know how hard it is to quit sugar? So hard.

I think if I was going to say I was addicted to something I would say it was sugar. I crave sweet things, I even have been dreaming about eating sweets. It’s crazy all the things that happen when you quite something cold turkey.

Now I will preface this by saying that I am speaking of processed sugar exclusively. I have a few drops of stevia in my morning bulletproof tea. I won’t pass up some fruit because of the fructose. If I am eating out I won’t be upset if a sauce has a few grams of sugar in it. One big exception I made this month was not worrying about it for our scheduled date night which falls in the middle of the month. I’m opting to have a drink instead of dessert but I’m not going to worry about sugar in my drink or in the food especially because it’s a date night.

I’ve done this before, I’ve been successfully eating unprocessed, whole, foods and limiting my sugar intake drastically. I’m successful for a few months but something happens that gets me off track. So I’m back with training wheels to get back to eating good food that is good for me.

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”

?Hippocrates

It’s true. When you are eating the foods you need to be eating for health you just function better. My head is clearer, I have loads of energy (even tiring out my 6 year old niece), and my body just works. I hardly get sick when I am eating good sources of protein, lots of wonderful colorful vegetables, a few fruits, and very little sweet treat foods.

So I’m starting with my biggest weakness. I know I am not successful when I change everything all at once so each month I am picking one habit to either start anew or re energize until I am fully back where I need to be.

I’ll be keeping you informed as always of my progress and what other changes are on the horizon to making this the year I become my healthiest self.

What do you focus on regarding health? What are your biggest weaknesses when it comes to maintaining health? Let me know what health changes you are working on!

(credit for picture: Tristan Martin via Flickr)

Let’s Decorate

We renewed our lease in December. We talked about whether we would renew or look for a new place in October and decided to renew our lease. We’ve been at this place for five years now. We would have loved to move but they weren’t raising the lease much and in the long run it would just be cheaper to stay here for another year while we focus our finances in other directions.

Apartment decoration

It’s not a bad apartment but it definitely has no charm. It’s a poor use of space and for as big as the kitchen is I always feel like I am running out of room. It’s also not decorated. I treated this place as a layover of sorts, a stopping point from college to adulthood. So I avoided putting money into it, decorating it, making it look less like a sad version of student housing. I didn’t see the point, I mean why put holes in the wall when you will have to cover those holes up when you move and I always thinking we were moving.

I’ve been really looking at apartments and houses this past year and realized that for the moment Portland is so saturated with people looking for places to live that, frankly, crap apartments are costing a premium and nice apartments are just unaffordable. Or rather I can’t fathom putting that much into rent when I could be doing other things with my money like traveling. So when we decided to stay for another year I decided that I needed to be happy when I come home. I need to walk through the door and not feel depressed by my surroundings.

One out-of-state friend visit and several trips to Ikea later I have done some decorating. Our place no longer looks like a sad layover but rather a nicely lived in apartment. I couldn’t paint and I am not even sure I could put up shelves but I worked with what I could do to make our place not look so barren.

Apartment decoration

I found some fabric that I loved at Ikea. It reminded me of sketches in old information books and I loved it and knew immediately I wanted it on our walls. Using a homemade liquid starch I put the fabric up around our fireplace and along a partial wall separating our kitchen from the rest of the living area. It brings some much needed color to the place and doesn’t make the rest of the white walls look as stark.

I also hung some shelves along the partial wall to make use of that space. It always bugged me that some apartments had built in shelving along there and some did not. I decided to create my own and now we have some out of the way places to store our collection of books.

Apartment decoration

I also hung two shelves near the kitchen and that houses our growing collection of cooking books which I feels highlights them well.

Vahid’s birthday present was a new desk and chair. Getting rid of his old desk meant that we had much more room and could now buy a table and chairs. I got an adjustable table so when we have guests over (and when we hosted Thanksgiving) it could become bigger so everyone can have a seat.

Our fireplace has no mantle so with a floating shelf I made a “faux” mantle. It’s not my favorite thing. It doesn’t sit as straight against the wall as I’d hoped and there’s the slightest slant downward which always makes me think it’s going to come crashing down at any moment. But it hasn’t so far and we don’t have a bunch of heavy things on it so I’m sure it’ll be okay but if I was doing that part over I’d definitely look into other shelving options.

It doesn’t look perfect and we have to store our bikes in the apartment and some parts look a little cluttered but overall I am so happy I decided to decorate our place. It’s so nice to walk into the place and not see something barren and stark. Now I walk in and I enjoy being at home because it feels nice to want to be at home.

I’m also making plans to host a running game night every month and hosting a lot more get togethers now that I am not so depressed by the state of my apartment.