Time out

Tomorrow, I’m off to follow my dream. Tomorrow, I will be getting in my car to start a four-month road trip in which I karaoke in the 48 contiguous states. Tomorrow, I will begin my MelOdyssey.

I’ll be taking time away from this blog for a few months so I can focus on my new one. I hope you will follow me on my journey — and pursue your own as well.

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Follow your own path

Seven days

I sit on my couch and watch NFL playoffs, exhausted, feeling my immune system fighting against the push I gave this week. I actually fought writing this post, part of me too tired to do it, but knowing that the words would keep floating in my head until they made their way through my keyboard and onto the screen. My wonderful seven days, where I was able to experience so many loves, refused to remain silent, wanting to be boasted to the world (and deservedly so).

Last Sunday morning, I woke up to a miraculous view as Seattle welcomed a rare sunny day in the middle of winter.

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I could stare at this all day, every day.

Then, my friend and I were off to a bar to watch the home team come up victorious on an improbable last-second play. The crowd erupted in the excitement of playoff football, strangers celebrating together as sports fans do. I high-fived the young man who shared our crowded table even though I was secretly rooting for the other team. The pure joy caught me, too.

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It’s not difficult to figure out where this bar’s allegiances lay.

No sooner was the winner declared than it was time to go visit a friend from far away. Reconnecting with someone from Korea – someone I wasn’t sure I would ever see again. Yet, here I was, seeing her twice since I left the country. Tea, girl talk, and a late lunch of authentic Vietnamese food in a strip mall passed the hours too quickly and it was time to go back to Portland. I wonder when/if I will see her again as she heads back to her home in Iksan. I arrive back, and it’s time to unpack and repack for the next trip.

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I miss this sassy lady already!

Off to Enterprise, OR for a work-related site visit – perhaps the one time I will see real snow this season. The road dangerous, but my colleague skilled at navigating our route through the elements. The clinic visit was informative, as I learn more about the healthcare system everyday I work this job. Evenings we were treated to beers from the local brewpub – ones that could only be had as a reward for making it all the way out to eastern Oregon. The hotel had an indoor pool and hot tub for two nights of relaxation. It took a few days, but on our last morning there, the sun came out and we were able to see the mountains as we headed back. I learned that the billion-dollar Powerball winners live in California, Florida, and a small town in Tennessee three times as big as where I was staying. I won’t be retiring soon.

snow in Enterprise

We drove through this…

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…to get to this.

One day of work in Portland which featured lots of writing and struggling with data on difficult topics. Speaking my mind when things didn’t feel right, I was both firm and tentative in expressing my thoughts on a project I feel deserves more authenticity than the quick-fix it was being given. I struggled through tough conversations without sacrifice. Celebrated the end of the day by buying my plane tickets to China in April, and then settled in for a night filled with bad TV and good food. Leftovers are never to be taken for granted; stews taste better days later.

The weekend immediately followed and consisted of some volunteer work tearing down an adult entertainment establishment that will someday be replaced by a community center. Over 25,000 square feet of red, white, and black décor. Tearing up over-worn carpet and removing nails from 2x4s that will gain new life somewhere presumably happier. Taking a sledge hammer to the bar area was extra satisfying – shards of tile tumbled to the ground and drywall simply fell away with every swing, perfected from my softball days. I was sore and it felt great.

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Goodbye, Sugar Shack! Though that cheetah *is* something to behold.

That night I met up with a friend to see The Book of Mormon. We arrived at the theater several hours early to enter a lottery for cheap tickets. We were the first names drawn, and for less than half price ended up in the second row – close enough to see the actors’ facial expressions and even when they sprayed their lines. I forgot how much I love musicals and though I could vow to see them more often, I’m not so sure that will happen, but it’s something to keep in mind.

Reflecting on this past week, it’s easy to see how I’m the luckiest woman in the world.

My three songs*

A friend from college posted this interesting piece about “Your life in three songs”  — basically, can you sum up your life in just three songs? I will continue to ponder this, and instead today I created “My current life in three songs.” Drum roll please…

  1. Don’t Stop Believin’ by Journey.  Song from my formative years, a sports rock anthem to reflect my fandom, a song that is epic to karaoke. I like the message as well. Though it’s a bit bleak, I like the idea of just getting on that train and going (on and on and on and on).

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    Me singing a song I can’t relate to at all.

  2. Vienna by Billy Joel  In general, I identify with almost all of his songs in some shape or form and, growing up outside of NYC in the 70s and 80s, he was simply the Man. This is a song that current me could sing to my “younger self.” Begging someone to “slow down” and advising “Though you can see where you’re wrong, you know you can’t always see when you’re right. You’re right.” It would have been nice, when I was younger, to have believed in myself a little bit more. I am turning out just fine.
  3. These are Days by 10,000 Maniacs.  The idea of living in the present, appreciating the mundane, the moment. Hearing this song instantly cheers me up when I hear it. I involuntarily smile whenever it comes on. And, it’s a heck of a lot of fun to sing as well:

These are days you’ll remember

Never before and never since, I promise
will the whole world be warm as this
and as you feel it, you’ll know it’s true
that you are blessed and lucky
it’s true, that you are touched by something
that will grow and bloom in you

These are days you’ll remember

When May is rushing over you with desire
to be part of the miracles you see in every hour
you’ll know it’s true, that you are blessed and lucky
it’s true, that you are touched by something
that will grow and bloom in you

These are the days
that you might fill with laughter
until you break

These days you might feel a shaft of light
make its way across your face
and when you do
you’ll know how it was meant to be
see the signs and know their meaning

You’ll know how it was meant to be
hear the signs and
know they’re speaking to you
to you

Thanks Jennifer and NPR for the inspiration! I was totally struggling to find something to write about. Another lesson about letting go and trusting that things will sort themselves out. And now to ponder how I can condense my entire life into only three songs. It will be interesting to see if any will actually overlap with the ones above. Stay tuned!

*Who remembers this game from KFOG in San Francisco?

I am putty in my hands

Thanks to a recent(ish) TED Talk, I am now playing with the identity of “Multipotentialite” – a person who doesn’t really have one true calling, but is lucky enough to find success in a variety of realms. I say lucky, but also recognize the challenges of this identity. It’s hard to focus. While it’s easy to find something that really grabs me, it’s harder to find something that sticks for long. Simply put, a Multipotentialite is in a potential state of mid-life crisis. The idea of finding that one thing that will keep me happy, settled, and satisfied for a long period of time is probably a concept I should just let go.

With that in mind, I pondered what matters to me today. Many of these things have been the focus of my life for a long time, while others are pretty new to the scene:

Issues I am passionate about (and may or may not have done anything to address them):

  • Incorporating healthy relationships into sexuality education. This goes beyond the new emphasis on teaching “enthusiastic consent” – which I am pleased to see – but to me needs to come from a more strength-based, inclusive foundation that addresses not just sexual and romantic relationships, but relationships of all kinds and across all domains (including digital ones).
  • Developing supports for those who have survived their own suicide at There is so little out there on this topic and I want to do something about that.
  • Supporting LGBTQ youth as they navigate their identity development, schooling, relationships, and family life. The idea that young people are at risk for losing their home, don’t feel safe going to school, and suffer abuse just because of who they are attracted to/how they identify on the gender spectrum sickens me.
  • The complex issue of welcoming and supporting Syrian refugees. I know nothing about this issue and I have no idea where to begin. But the news coverage and stories of struggle move me.

Note: I’m surprised I am somewhat stalling out here. I have strong opinions on MANY other issues, but nothing else right now – at this moment as I write this blog – really calls to me as something I want to dedicate a significant portion of my life to.

Things that I love/interest me (I dabble in these with varying degrees of success, enthusiasm, and expertise):

  • International travel
  • Road trips
  • Karaoke (especially the idea of singing in all 50 states and anywhere else I go)
  • The NHL
  • Sports talk radio
  • Mystery novels and crime shows
  • Microcars
  • Interacting with people, especially my friends
  • Writing
  • Mindfulness and Buddhism
  • Cooking/food in general
  • Bikram yoga

Things I used to do with great zeal, but have dropped off my radar:

  • Being involved in community theater and improvisational acting
  • Playing hockey
  • Reading tarot cards and horoscopes for others

Professional rabbit holes I have gone down that can still suck me in:

  • Policies related to how youth can successfully transition from adolescence to adulthood, especially those with “system experience.”
  • Respite for those who are taking care of chronically ill loved ones, as well as those in professions that are dedicated to supporting and healing others (this includes teachers).
  • Sexuality education inside and outside of school.
  • Strength-based approaches to incorporating youth voice into issues that matter to them.
  • Social networking to create communities
  • Access to education for women in developing countries
  • Creating culturally appropriate approaches to health care, especially mental health care
  • Policy issues related to women’s reproductive health, especially those related to fertility treatments.
  • The juvenile justice system.
  • Social justice as it applies to youth and young adults.

Work-related activities I enjoy doing:

  • Creating and reviewing surveys/interview protocols
  • Teaching/providing technical assistance
  • Synthesizing data
  • Seeing how different disciplines and theoretical approaches can fit together: Looking at systems and the big picture.

I am sure I could expand on all these lists, but will leave them for now. I both look forward to what my next passions will be, but also hope to be mindful of the fact that no longer will I assume something will be the “one thing” that changes my life and moves me forward. I hope to find comfort in the fact that there will always be a “right now” but not a forever.

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This is not my path, but it sure is pretty (taken in Taos, NM).

Today I am grateful for discovering Emilie Wapnick and her website puttylike.com. To me, her approach to life is one I hope to emulate while following my own path.

“To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest.”
― Pema Chödrön

 

 

 

 

 

Six month review

It’s been a little over six months since I’ve returned to American soil, yet it seems like forever ago. I find myself feeling as though I never left the US – as though all I learned from being away has simply vanished into a different reality. Was it only a year ago that I went out into the desert and rode a camel? Went snorkeling in an amazing sea? Seemed to have all the time in the world to contemplate both everything and nothing? That person who enjoyed those things doesn’t seem to exist anymore, yet here I am in (somewhat) the same body that I occupied there and then.

When I first got back, I wrote about what I had taken away from my travels in terms of shifting priorities and focus. Since I’m due for a six-month review in my job, I figured I would do one on these aspects of my life (original goal in italics):

  • More minimal living – I want less space and fewer possessions, especially when it comes to my wardrobe.
    I’ll give myself a passing grade here, but barely. I have enjoyed buying more than a few items since I’ve returned, but part of that is due to, ahem, a slightly “fluffier” body thanks to a bit of overindulgence of Mexican food and beer upon my return. I really missed a good ale and some tacos. I also find that I enjoy dresses and skirts more than slacks now, so I am letting my wardrobe shift in that direction. I’m late to the game, but am discovering the wonders of tights and leggings (this means they will be out of fashion in 3…2…1….).
  • Appreciation of food for its variety and simplicity.
    Yup. Doing this and happy about it. Cooking more vegetables at home and spending more time with friends in the kitchen. When I first got back there was too much dining out (see above), but I am enjoying a wide variety of foods and am still enjoying the not-too-fancy. And soon it will be roasted vegetable season! Hooray!
  • Friendship and the need to be present with those I love.
    I’ve seen most of my friends since I’ve been back with a few notable exceptions. I sense a couple of Happy Hours in my future, and I am hoping to revive a version of the Toddy Tour now that the weather is colder; this is where a group of women get together once a week at a different bar to sample the Hot Toddies across Portland. Yum! My brother and sister-in-law were just in town to help celebrate my birthday (of course there was karaoke). Many weekends are spent on my block, hanging out with neighbors who are also my dear friends. Going to their plays, cooking food, lazing about while enjoying Sunday morning bubbly. I’m also trying to see one of my closest friends as much as possible; she’s sick and every moment of being with her is precious. Texts about the mundane are enjoyable, wonderful moments. It would be nice if I thought of all my interactions that way.

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    Me and my amazing sister-in-law sipping tropical drinks at a karaoke bar. Magic!

  • The awareness that there is little I can control. Letting go is something I will continue to struggle with and I look forward to the challenge.
    Not sure how much I’ve been challenged here (knock on wood), but I think I’m getting better. My basement flooded this weekend and I didn’t have a complete meltdown. I consider that a victory!
  • Taking day trips/weekend getaways. Even one night somewhere else does so much to recharge my mind and soul.
    My knee-jerk reaction to this was that I haven’t been getting away much. Not sure what the ideal bar would be for me, but when I review what I’ve done since I’ve been back, I think I’ve been doing OK actually. I spent some very fun weekends with my father at the stock car races this summer, which then had me staying at my parents’ house overnight (they live about an hour away). While not exactly the stereotypical “getaway weekend,” going down there does recharge me. Also, I’ve been up to Seattle a couple of times to visit a friend and attend intellectual events (a talk, conference) – while Portland has tons of talks, for some reason I haven’t really gone to many. I don’t think about them here; I bet it’s a neat way to explore the city in a different light. I’ve gone to Sacramento to visit Dave and ride around in his Singer – ah, sun. Hmmm, why does it feel like I’m in Portland all the time?

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    The most enjoyable deathtrap ever.

  • Meditation practice. Haven’t revisited this yet, but planning on it! Really. Someone hold me accountable! Or perhaps it will naturally happen when I am ready.
    Fail in this department. Who’s the ass-kicker who will help me with this? I find it funny that I want someone to kick my butt about meditating more. Seems wonderfully inappropriate and paradoxical.
  • Tea breaks. Wherever I went, people actually stopped for tea. “To go” was rare. I want to take the time to sit and enjoy.
    So-so here. I sip tea at my desk constantly, and enjoy using the mug that I co-opted from the college (Lipton, the sign of good taste). When I work from home, I have morning tea while I answer emails. There I use a mug with Snoopy on it that says “Canada.” I bought it at Incheon airport in South Korea. But I am not actually taking breaks while I have tea. Still, the tea itself makes my work more relaxing. While I think it’s doing what I need it to do, I still could benefit from the occasional break from my desk.

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    Sipping tea from my liberated Omani mug.

  • Writing. Though no longer an expat, I hope to continue to write about things I did while overseas, and things I experience here as a result. If there’s anything you are interested in learning about, I welcome questions and inspiration.
    Thanks to NaBloPoMo (National Blog Post Month), I am planning on stepping up my game. Writing makes me feel better. Sharing it even more so. As I said six months ago, please send me your questions/ideas for writing! I have a full month to go of daily writing. It will be interesting to see what I end up posting.

Huh. Not too shabby if I do say so myself. I’ve maintained a lot more of these shifts than I feel on a day-to-day basis. Perhaps this is something I can meditate on in the future.