Oi Vey 2016

I feel like everyone is on the same page as me right now… 2016 was an incredibly challenging year. Horrible events were reported in the news almost every day and I feel scared and sad for our future.

dsc01415

In the spring…

  • John and I got a cold then flu that stuck around for three straight months.
  • When we took a weekend trip to Portland, we were threatened by a couple of homeless men.
  • My annual trip to the dermatologist found more mutated cells and more testing for skin cancer. (I’m fine, but it’s pretty likely those cells will come back cancerous one day) 
  • After years on debilitating back pain, I was officially diagnosed with scolosis. Trying physical therapy and acupuncture therapy didn’t help and there’s really nothing I can do except manage the pain. 

In the summer…

  • Several experiences within my family have really disappointed me the year, causing me to put distance in several relationships.
  • We had a flea infestation in our new apartment that lasted two months. It took four different treatments for something to finally work.

In the fall…

  • John quit his job and he was out of work for two months.
  • John’s youngest started to experience intense psychological episodes and doctors have recommended everything from medication to a hospital stay.
  • My mom was diagnosed with stage 4 oral cancer and was rushed into major surgery with a several month recovery process.
  • Donald Trump, an ignorant, idiotic reality TV star, is the president of the United States.

In all fairness, good things happened too…

  • I started a new job at a much improved company. I have more responsibility, but I’m learning a lot and am basically kicking ass.
  • I had the opportunity through work to volunteer more than I ever have before, helping the homeless through organizations like Urban Rest Stop and YouthCare.
  • I met John’s family! We took the kids with us to Virginia where we rode roller coasters, fished in a saltwater river and ate at the Waffle House.
  • I dressed as Hillary Clinton for Halloween and everyone knew who I was!
  • John and I have made our apartment even more beautiful than ever before and we finally bought a new couch!
  • When things got too hard, I took a long weekend to do a beautiful solo hiking trip to Whidbey Island. 

In the end, I learned to love and respect more about myself than ever before. I am a really loving daughter. I am really good at my job. I love my boyfriend and I’ve found that it’s true, it does get better every year.  I care about my community. I care about our political climate. I care about our environment. I’m a good cat mom. I’m a tough woman and if 2016 didn’t defeat me, nothing will! I welcome 2017 with open arms and can’t wait for this “fresh start” to wipe this slate clean. 

Resolute Resolutions for 2017

I definitely failed on all my 2016 resolutions, and I’m actually ok with that. Despite all the hardships from the year, I’ve learned that I need to give myself a break. I’m focusing on loving myself more, but also being more intentional with where I put my energy.

img_1044

Pay off my school loans.

I’m very careful with my money, but I still have thousands of dollars that I owe in college loans. I’ve taken a look at my finances and have decided that 2017 will be the year that I will officially pay off all my remaining loans and become debt free. It will be tight, but I know I can do it. And I’m so excited to get rid of that debt!

img_1231

Take myself on a date once a month.

There are dozens of restaurants in Seattle that I am dying to try. John loves being at home, and he loves cooking, so he’s not hankering to try these restaurants with me. I need to be brave, stash a book in my purse and treat myself to a delicious meal in a gorgeous setting.

img_0643

Do something politically active once a month.

I’ve never felt comfortable talking politics and I’ve actually considered myself “not interested in politics”. I’ve always felt like I don’t know what I’m talking about, but I also get stressed when things get heated. After this election, I don’t have the privilege to not care anymore. I’ve decided that every month I will do SOMEthing to show politicians how I feel.

9n1a4649

Set monthly exercise goals.

I’ve actually been doing a great job with this one in 2016. For the past three months I’ve set a goal of walking to work and doing back stretches and every month have met or surpassed all these goals. In the new year John and I are going to be joining a gym, with the goal that we will become happier, healthier people and that I might finally learn how to Zumba!

 dsc00704

Do something special for John once a month.

My goodness I am a lucky woman. He feeds me, he cleans our house, he makes our home beautiful, he’s a wonderful father, he’s a great friend and the smartest, hardest worker I have ever met. Yes, he’s cranky and difficult, but so am I. I want to show my partner how much I appreciate him.

dsc01436

Meditate every day.

I admit, I’ve had a VERY difficult time compartmentalizing in my new job. There have been weeks were I can’t sleep because I am so incredibly stressed. I’m making it a goal in the new year to calm my mind and breath, at least once a day. I might invite the rest of my office to join me… it could be fun!

dsc01554

Make a new friend. 

This may sound silly, but in the past month I’ve put distance between myself and my family, John has started a new job and my closest friend took off for a 6 month adventure in Asia and Europe. Needless to say, I’ve felt lonely and it’s made me realize that I need to 1. Find things that I love about myself and 2. Find people who will love those things too.

Banana Leaf

It may be due to my intense wanderlust, or maybe I’m just sick sick sick of this Seattle rain, but I’ve become slightly obsessed with tropical prints! Most especially palm and banana leaf prints. A couple months ago I was determined to find a similar print to line my work cubicle with and after searching high and low for weeks online and in stores, I gave up completely. Short of tacking some Tommy Bahama shirts on my walls, there weren’t a lot of options out there. Luckily, I’m seeing more and more of my weird obsession in stores and there may be hope for me yet!

Screen Shot 2016-03-06 at 9.46.36 AM Screen Shot 2016-03-06 at 9.47.16 AM Screen Shot 2016-03-06 at 9.47.38 AM Screen Shot 2016-03-06 at 9.48.22 AM Screen Shot 2016-03-06 at 9.49.25 AM

Anxiety

Screen Shot 2016-03-06 at 9.39.49 AM

I think when most people think of anxiety, they think of anxiety attacks. For me, anxiety is my constant state of being. I am by nature a very anxious person and I always have been, but there have been points in my life when my anxiety has reach unhealthy levels.

A few years ago I went to a doctor, thinking that I needed medication for what was wrong with me. Instead, she took a long look at me and calmly asked me questions. Rather than taking pills, she prescribed some lifestyle changes that she wanted me to try first. Needless to say, I never went on the medication and these lifestyle changes made a huge impact on my life. I wanted to share them with you today in case they might help you too.

Screen Shot 2016-03-06 at 9.41.33 AM

My first life change happened slightly before I went to the doctor… I started taking “warm yoga” classes at CorePower Yoga. I loved the classes and even though yoga is supposed to be super relaxing, it was enough of a challenge that I pushed myself harder every week. But yoga also taught me to be gentle with myself too. Teachers will usually say “You did the hardest part. You made it to your mat.” They ask you to set an intention at the start of each class, anything of your choosing. Breathe, Calm, Presence are all “yoga-like” intentions that I’ve done, but I’ve also dedicated my practice to work, to my family and even to my cat. Though I probably don’t look it, I’m insanely strong from the classes and I leave feeling weightless. When you spend an hour focusing on not falling, not sweating on your neighbor and trying to breathe… your mind just tunes out everything else in the world. It’s an amazing feeling.

Screen Shot 2016-03-06 at 9.38.23 AM

My second change happened when my doctor looked at me like I was a crazy person when I told her how many cups of coffee I drank a day. She suggested that I cold-turkey cut back to 1 cup a day and to really savor that one cup. Coffee is apparently really, really bad for people with anxiety. I still abhor tea, but I do my best to savor my one (large) cup of coffee every morning. I’ve even created a little morning coffee ritual with my tea kettle and Chemex. It’s time just for me in the day.

Screen Shot 2016-03-06 at 9.35.28 AM

My third change was something I laughed at… at first. My doctor recommended that I meditate. I’d tried meditating once before and found myself pondering the premise of the M Night Shamalan movie, The Happening. Needless to say, I felt like an epic failure at it. She encouraged me to try guided meditations, and pointed me toward a site that “wasn’t cheesy”. I figured I’d try my first one that night, and I passed out. I become so incredibly relaxed when I meditate that I almost always fall asleep. It’s so powerful for me that I still don’t try myself to practice meditation at any time that wouldn’t be appropriate for a nap!

I use: Calm.com, Headspace and free UCLA guided meditations.

Screen Shot 2016-03-06 at 9.42.42 AM

My fourth change was when the doctor asked me if I felt stressed at work. After a resounding YES, she recommended that I focus on my breathing while I’m working by joining a breathing room. Basically if I’m having a stressful day, I just put on my headphones and go to a website. I click a button and I hear people breathing slowly and steadily. You can help but join them and slow your breathing too!

PDX

John and I have this terrible habit when we are traveling: We arrive, set our bags down somewhere and get so tangled up in exploration and adventures that we realize, when it’s far too late, that we are famished. I should also mention, he and I both become cranky toddlers when we are starved.  We also become incredibly indecisive. In a new place, any restaurant can be ok, or even good, but is it the BEST? Case in point: we once drove around Denver for 2 hours trying to find something, ANYTHING to eat, and ended up eating Little Cesar’s in our hotel room because we gave up. Now that we’ve traveled a few times together now, we know that we get like this, we can anticipate it.

IMG_0462.jpgIMG_0463

We arrived in Portland hungry. So… not a great start. Our first priority was to find the block of food trucks in downtown. The only problem? John thought it was this way and I thought it was that way (Ps: I was right) We wandered for about 15-20 minutes, which isn’t so bad for normal people (but not two adults acting like cranky toddlers) and finally I spotted the trucks off in the distance, hoping it wasn’t a mirage from hunger. I helped myself to banh mi and hawaiian BBQ while John was the last customer of the day for a Carolina BBQ truck. That’s more like it! We found a little park (well, really more of a bricked area) and sat down to enjoy our food, happily munching in silence.

DSC00199

To make a long story short, we were finishing up our lunch when a heavily intoxicated homeless man came up to us, threatening us if we didn’t give him money for “booze and a blunt”. He mostly left me alone, and chose to scream just a few inches from John’s face. Another Santa Clause-looking homeless man disrupted the other man’s rant and asked him to leave. Once the angry man stormed away, the Santa Clause-looking man assured us that we would have been safe and moved his jacket. Both John and I didn’t catch a look, but I’m pretty like 90% sure he was trying to show us his gun. A GUN. Did I mention that this all took place within the first hour of being in Portland?

I tried not to take that experience to heart, but it definitely upset John a lot. In order to put ourselves in a better place, we headed to our Mecca, Powell’s. After about an hour of wandering on our own, John managed to find 6 books that he’d been searching for for years and I came up empty handed and frustrated. Though it didn’t occur to me at the time, I kept getting overwhelmed and then really tired. I ended up grabbing 4 magazines and a random book, just to feel like I’d accomplished SOMEthing, but left pretty bummed. John and I both used some downtime in the hotel room to decompress.

IMG_0467

Being pragmatic, I decided that we should walk around until we found something good to eat. Being us, we walked for at least 3 miles before we almost gave up. (I should note here that we passed several perfectly decent restaurants, but we wanted something quiet and something “our style”, aka: no chains). We even stopped back at the hotel restaurant, but it was roaring and packed to the brim with people. Finally, we headed in the opposite direction of the hubbub. At this point we were both officially hungry and I told John that we could walk for 10 more minutes before we should give up and just order room service.

IMG_0477Then, we saw it. Hamlet: super cute sign outside of a super cute bar. We treated ourselves to a baguette slathered in butter and a plate of super tasty applewood smoked prosciutto. And some wine! Needless to say we were happy, a little tipsy and very satisfied with finally having found someplace that fit exactly what we were looking for.

IMG_0510

The next morning I woke up on a mission, a Google mission. I searched for the BEST Portland breakfast within walking distance and didn’t find many restaurants that were open that early on a Friday. I finally came across the Original Dinerant which definitely fit the bill for diner-breakfast foods that John and I love. While my food wasn’t “the best” that I’ve had, it definitely wasn’t bad and for what the food lacked, it made up for in the most attentive service and adorable retro decor. Plus, John LOVED his Monte Cristo sandwich.

IMG_0494 After breakfast, we walked to Billy Galaxy, a super kitschy vintage toy store. John walked through and pointed out all the GI Joe’s he played with, and how many Star Wars figurines he had. I wasn’t really into a lot of toys as a kid, but it was fun to see him so excited about it! I should also mention that we went back to Powell’s (I know, I know) and I managed to pick up 2 more books and a tote.

DSC00274 It was about time to check out of our hotel, which was a bummer since now we had to lug our luggage and our gatrillion books around with us for the next 4 hours. (We obviously did not think this through) We started off our trek with doughnuts at Blue Star because it was recommended to us by pretty much everyone we knew. I can’t say much about my doughnut (ahem, Top Pot is way better, ahem), but it was a really beautiful space and it was fascinating to see how they rolled out the dough right behind the counter with their whole forearm!

IMG_0505 We wandered for a pretty long time and my back kind of felt like it was being stabbed by my backpack. It was pretty cool to see so many beautiful buildings and signage across the city, but John and I kept noticing just how many homeless people were around. We saw people defecating on the wall of the Chinese garden, we saw newspaper blowing across the sidewalk that had been used as toilet paper, we saw people screaming at each other on street corners and others staring with blank expressions at the puddles on the ground. I’ve been to Portland about a dozen times now, but I’d never seen it like this. I’m sure a large part of it had to do with the weather (the sun peeked out about 5 minutes the entire time we were there) but I also have a feeling that something has fundamentally changed. There was no construction going on. Buildings lay empty. And there were just SO many homeless people around. I feel snobby for saying this, but it was tough to see the beauty around us and I think in a lot of ways, we missed home. DSC00262DSC00264DSC00279DSC00284DSC00285DSC00297DSC00300DSC00302 After walking another 3 miles or so, searching for just a nice quiet park to sit in (spoiler, there aren’t any!) we decided to stop in the bustling Sushiland for some cheap sushi and a break from walking. I helped myself to a ton of their salmon nigiri because I’m pretty certain it was the best sushi I’ve ever had. Finally, we hobbled back over to the train station and immersed ourselves in our books and magazines until our train arrived. DSC00304DSC00308 I’ve traveled by train before, but this was John’s first time ever! He was much more patient than I with the dozen stops were had to make and the handful of delays that the trains put us through, but the trains were actually really well maintained and our first train actually had comfortable seats! If you hate driving, taking the train really didn’t take that much longer (especially with the traffic we saw on the 5 outside our window!) but for what you get in ease, you lack in control. Both of our rides took longer than expected and it was tough for me to deal with the other passengers loud conversations. It was a cool experience, but not one that I’m looking forward to experiencing anytime soon.