Archive for June, 2011

June 29, 2011

What I Love… Angry Birds

I recently caught a cold. This is not good especially when I’m my busiest at work and will be traveling for one of the best holidays ever, the Fourth of July, my brother’s wedding and one of work’s largest events. In an effort to kick my illness to the curb as fast as possible, I came home from work early and watched movies. Redbox, my usual standby for quick movies, failed me and I got the worst movie ever – of all time. I won’t even admit what it was, but the one thing that kept me entertained while it hurt too much to think was the Angry Birds app on my phone. So thank you Angry Bird creators, you saved my evening:

http://www.rovio.com/index.php?page=angry-birds

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June 28, 2011

What I Love… Radiolab

I was listening to a recent episode of Radiolab about how talking machines make us question what it means to be human, to be alive. The part of this piece that I liked the most was their discussion of an AI computer which they developed where the students who actually helped develop it wanted to spend time with it. This computer kept the conversation going with what seemed like simple questions, but the students couldn’t resist it. They were revealing their inner most thoughts to a machine, knowingly.

I wonder if the allure of talking this machine was it taking the sense of fear and judgment out of what was being said and felt. It can be scary to reveal our hopes and fears to another person. Some of us refuse to open up while others do it freely, but to be able to do it to a machine and know that it’s not going to  think less of us because what we say, may just make it easier to open up. Perhaps there was a need for companionship,  to have someone listen. Sometimes I feel as if some people know only how  to talk and not to listen. Sometimes  I’m guilty of this, but I have noticed others just as guilty as me. How nice does it feel when someone actually seems to hear what we say? While this computer program might have had no actual conscious awareness of what was being said, the way it reacted and picked up on keywords to keep the conversation going, made it appear that way.

This episode and other awesome Radiolab episodes that I love can be found here: http://www.radiolab.org/

June 25, 2011

What I Love… White Water Rafting

A week ago I went white water rafting for the first time. This is something that I have been wanting to do ever since I was a small child. I remember going on camping trips to Montana and seeing signs for white water rafting, but never had the opportunity to go. I was too young, too small, or there wasn’t time. A good friend of mine and I have been talking about going for a couple years and when he sent me a message about a month ago that we should finally go, there was no turning back.

The experience was everything that I had ever hoped it could be. Not only was I with a great group of people, I couldn’t stop smiling the whole time we were in the water. I will admit there were times where my smile might have reflected a better “Oh, shit…” than “Bring it on”, but once we started into a rapid my shocked expression turned to one of laughter. I couldn’t stop laughing.

Wenatchee River - River of Many Pillars

Our guide, who was just about as cute as they come and newer to guiding, running a group in 3-4 rapids, kept our trip adventurous. Not only did we lose both our paddles but two people in our group went swimming unintentionally, one my friend in a rapid no less and the other our guide trying to stop the boat for the others to catch up.

I took this picture as we were floating down the river between the rapids. It was calm and beautiful, a perfect day to escape and have a wonderful time. Even the swallows, which  I have decided are my favorite bird, were playing with each other, flying over our boats and skimming the water. They are amazingly playful creatures. I think that’s what I like most about them. They remind me of what I want out of life- happiness and joy.

White water rafting will be an annual trip from now on and I hope I can do an extended one where we can go for more than one day and camp. Already, I’m making plans for next year I loved it so much!

June 19, 2011

What I Love… Russian Olives

It’s been three years since I was back home in Salt Lake City during June. Although, June happens to be my favorite month in Utah, it has been impossible to travel home this time of year as I usually end up home for holidays and family events that always manage to occur at different times throughout the year. This year, I purposely planned a trip to be home in order to smell the Russian Olives blooming in the early summer. Unfortunately, the smell was not as potent as it could be due to the atypical cold weather and bouts of pouring rain not common to the area. Regardless, I still got what I wanted, to smell the sweet aroma of the Russian Olive in the early evening the first few nights I was there. Sunday afternoon before heading back home to Portland, I was taken by surprise,  when I went outside onto the patio at my mother’s condo to watch the thunderstorm that was blowing through the valley. The sweet mix of rain and Russian Olives reminded me of why I love Salt Lake City.

Almost three years ago, I packed up my car and moved as far as possible from the state I grew up in with no desire to return, even for vacation. I fit the stereotype of a young  kid who hated their small hometown and always dreamed of moving far away and finally did after college. It was not even a year after I moved that I returned to help my mom who became ill the spring after I moved. Ever since then I find myself traveling back to Salt Lake City four or five times a year, mostly for family. At first I went reluctantly and now I go willingly, happy to see my friends and family.  Sometimes, I find it hard to leave, but the moment the plane starts to land in Portland, I realize how much Portland is now my home, even though I miss my family and friends back in Salt Lake.

Utah has a stigma and not a good stigma, from what I’ve learned when I tell people where I am from.  I usually get the same questions over and over again, the same questions that I was running away from. Yes, this used to irritate me, but now I just have to laugh. Without going into a rant and rave about where I grew up south of Salt Lake, I will say that I believe that stigma is earned.  However, I can’t say that Salt Lake is a horrible place. In fact, Salt Lake City is becoming a cool metropolitan area. Going back home over the last few years has shown me how much it has changed and how liberal, open, and tolerant Salt Lake City is becoming.

I am who I am today because of where I grew up and in spite of where I grew up. For that reason Utah will always hold a special place in my heart and the Russian Olives will forever be one of my favorite spring smells for all the happy memories it brings back.

June 14, 2011

What I love… The Letter I

Since I’ve decided to write more, I’ve decided to learn more about writing. A book that I’ve been trying to read over the last few months, but have had too little time to read is The Glamour of Grammar. The author, Roy Peter Clark, suggests that the readers pick their favorite letter. Immediately, I thought of the letter K, as my first name starts with a K, but as I continued to think about it, I decided on the letter I. There are a multitude of words that I love that begin with that letter: Illicit, Imagine, Invincible, Ingenious, Illusion, Illustrate, Integrate, I, Intelligence, Instill, Identity, Inertia. I also love the way these words roll off the tongue, to me they are strong and poetic. I’ve never thought of myself as a word person, but I love to read words. Sometimes, I get lost in a story and take my time reading a passage, lost in the words that illicit images and thoughts, letting every syllable of the words flow through my mind.

As a child, I never loved my handwriting and took considerable time to perfect several letters and symbols that I write; I, %, K, and &. My ‘&’ is something that does not even resemble an ampersand in the least amount, but I love it all the same because it looks like a ‘+’, which to me means the same thing and for some reason I could never seem to master the ampersand in any form that I liked. I love my ‘%’ as I make the top ‘o’ link to the forward slash and this proud accomplishment took me weeks of doodling in class to master when I was 12. My ‘K’ varies depending on my signature, if I’m printing my name, or if I’m just writing a sentence, but I love each different way of my writing it, just as I love the different nicknames I go by. Sometimes, I wonder if this contributes to my identity crisis of “who am I?”. Which leads me to ‘I’. I started journaling at a young age, but in college when life became a little challenging, I decided to try to recreate how I write ‘I’ and to even re-create myself. If you knew me when I was 20, to who I am now, I am very different even in my appearance. People can change, I changed. I created a new me. I created a new life. I do know the actual act of me changing the way I write a capital ‘I’ has nothing to do with my change. It came from a conscious decision to push myself beyond my boundaries and comfort levels. I think changing how I wrote the letter I is a reminder to me that I can create whatever I want in my life, even now.

I am reminded that there is still work to be done for me, who knows, maybe I’ll change the way I write ‘I”s again. As I am always evolving, maybe my ‘I’ needs to evolve with me. Although, I do think growth is something that continues throughout our lifetime and while I had forgotten my goals, I’m thankful to have found them again.

I have always found the lower case ‘i’ to be fun and wistful. The dot can transform and blend into the handwritten letter. I can make it a pointed dot or a tiny circle to give it more emphasis. The lower case ‘i’ also represents an imaginary number in math. Although, ‘i’ also has a serious side, like me. It looks like a candle a flame of knowledge or a head on top of a body representing the mind.

Another reason why I love the letter ‘I’  is that it also represents the number 1 in Roman numerals. I am one person, I came into this world as one, and I will leave as one. Combined together ‘II’ represents two, ‘III’ represents three and it can be added to subtract one or add one to additional numerals, ‘IV’ equals four and ‘VI’ equals six. This is how life works, people come and go, adding and subtracting from our lives. While seeing that we all come into this world and leave alone is a sad perspective, there is the flip side that we are all in this world together. There are 7 billion “I”s on this planet and we are all connected by our humanity. I will always be one with a separate mind and a separate heart from those that I love and those that I don’t even know, but I am me and there is power in that knowledge and there is power in knowing that I can share and connect with numerous people within my lifetime.

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June 13, 2011

Count your Blessings

The next ABC of Life is ‘Count your Blessings’. For me, this was easy, as the realization of how blessed I am struck me over the last few months. I will admit it was one I didn’t think about until recently. All too often, I take for granted the amazing people and things that are in my life. This month I focused on how grateful I was to have those blessings and people in my life. It amazes me how much I have in my life and how recent events have opened my eyes to the things I did not even realize I had. It even now brings tears to know that I did take for granted and could forget what I had and not appreciate it.

I always thought I was an island, emotionally. I thought I could handle anything and everything on my own. I didn’t think I needed to share with anyone when I was upset, sad, angry, and sometimes even happy (this makes me the saddest that I felt I couldn’t even share my joy). But lately, I’ve been crying in front of people, yes actually crying, something I’ve always avoided at all costs, which even included me hiding in a closet as a child when I cried. Accepting my emotions has been relieving. I’ve even been sharing my excitement with people. Instead of running the other way, they listened and to my amazement, they opened up and shared their experiences with me.

I am blessed with an abundance of lessons. I would call my recent experiences as a right of passage. A necessary challenge for me to make it to the next phase of my life. What phase am I moving into? I’m not sure, but it involves a personal journey of self discovery. A journey that I feel I have attempted to undertake for years, but never had much success.

I think it is hard to see our blessings especially when everything becomes challenging. Life can be hard; we lose jobs, get sick, have a loved one get sick, have our hearts broken, get our car broken into, get flat tires, get a ticket, wreck our cars – in my case a UHAUL. What I learned though when I faced my recent challenges, was to laugh through them. This is life and it can break us if we allow it to, but I have watched people that I love and care about face seemingly insurmountable challenges and I am inspired by their strength and courage to do the same in my life; to laugh when I can, cry when I need to, and to realize what I have is invaluable instead of wishing or wanting something else.

I think it is always easy to want more. I don’t think there is anything wrong with wanting more especially when it comes to success and personal growth. Material gain may come along with those things, but should never be the reason why we want more, otherwise we end up in a perpetual cycle of never believing we have enough; when we do get more, we can only see how much more that we need and don’t appreciate what we achieved. When we come from a space that we appreciate what we have, those gains are more valuable to us. When we feel blessed for what we have, we break free of the perpetual “the grass is always greener on the other side” trap as well. Which this is a trap I always fall into. “I know I have this, but what if I had that?” is a constant question on my mind, but it is never satisfying and it always seems that something is missing from my life. Right now, I am content with what I have, for the first time in my life. I still have my goals, but those are what I strive to achieve while being happy with what I have now. It is challenging sometimes to stay in this frame of mind, but it gets easier with practice.

I do feel blessed with an amazing group of people that I know. Thank you for all those that are in my life – friends, family, and co-workers. I am truly blessed. How could one girl be so lucky?

June 11, 2011

What I love…. things people write in a bathroom

I’m not sure why people feel the need to graffiti bathrooms about their love. It’s really gross. I understand when people carve on trees or benches about their true love. It’s romantic. But it’s not romantic when you write about your soul mate on a bathroom wall. I saw the best quote in the ladies room at a 76 gas station on the way to Seattle today, “if you love your man, show some class, don’t write his name where you wipe your ass”. Thank you whoever wrote that! maybe someone will listen. Made me laugh out loud.

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June 10, 2011

What I love… A little romance

Gentleman, a little word of advice, from a girl, if this is the only paragraph of this blog you read, take a moment and think about the lady in your life that you love and adore, what would you do to show her you love her? Taking out the trash doesn’t count, although it does help put you on her good list. Take the time to add an extra touch of romance in her life to make her smile. Most of us are romantic at heart and I promise whatever it is you do, it will go a long way.

For awhile I was certain I wasn’t romantic or passionate, but maybe I didn’t know I had it in me. I don’t know what got me on this topic this week, but I’ve thought a lot about it. I realize that life is not a romance movie, but this is something that I have always wanted, a little romance and a little passion.  I’m not the only girl to ever want a little romance. Most girls like to be swept off their feet. Why do you think we all love chick flicks?Is it too much to ask to be swept off my feet, to be serenaded even by a bad musician, or to have my Lloyd Dobler stand in front of my house with a radio over his head, and yes even play Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes”, or to have a song written about me, like the Flaming Lips’s “Do You Realize”, or plan to meet someone at the top of the Empire State Building, or fly to Paris to meet the man I fell passionately in love with?

I would even settle for someone showing up on my doorstep unexpectedly with flowers or a note left on my mirror telling me how beautiful I was. Romance does not have to be grandiose, sometimes it’s the little things we say and do that add up. I’m not insinuating that the guys I have dated never did anything romantic for me, they did, but the romance died right along with the relationships.

Romance is often one of the first things that is forgotten in a relationship, but I think what makes a great relationship is keeping that spark alive and recreating it if needed. Relationships need to change, as everything is always changing, but we have to grow with that change. It isn’t always easy, it takes a few practice trials, just ask anybody who has been heart broken. We learn a lot from those heart aches.

I know I am romantic at heart. With some embarrassment, I will admit this, sometimes I write poetry when I’m dating someone and it is certain that I will write at least one or two bad poems about my love after a breakup. Maybe I need to share what I write, although that might scare a man away, unless I was an aspiring musician. But who cares? I don’t anymore. I am passionate and emotional, that is who I am and maybe I’ve been hiding that for far too long. I also know that, writing is my outlet for my passions, my worries, my sadness, my joy and  my love. It always has been. I love writing love letters, especially post breakup letters that I never mail. It’s exciting and relieving. I think my next relationship will have to involve some form of love letters, not emails, but hand written love letters.

I’ve recently been thinking about one of my all time favorite movies, Broken English, how two lovers spent an entire day unexpectedly together and how the protagonist, played by Parker Posey, traveled across the world to find the man that she fell in love with. Parker’s character was lovesick and lonely, but she refused to settle for anything less than spectacular. That’s what I want in my life and I won’t settle now and I’ll ask for what I need. I have never been very demanding in a relationship, but I will be now, because I am worth it and ladies, you are worth it too, know that and never settle for anything less than what you deserve.

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June 8, 2011

What I love… Tchotchke

Traveling for work can be challenging, stressful, busy, and the lack of sleep and long hours are exhausting, but still I always find myself laughing and having a great time. I contribute that to my amazing co-workers who are fun and who can laugh when things don’t quite go according to plan. Well, one such day, where things weren’t going according to plan, happened this last Saturday, while I was down in Los Angeles working.

After an early morning to catch my flight down to LA, with a short break to get a bite to eat at lunch, we were thrust into a long evening which involved the majority of our time being spent at several FedEx Office locations attempting to print labels. Attempting, is the operative word here, because it wasn’t until 1 in the morning that we were able to print a full set of labels without issue. In fact we had one functional list that we were making copies of because none of the printers were printing straight on the labels.

If I never set foot in another FedEx for the rest of my life, it will be a day too soon. The customer service was sub par, the printers were practically useless and the staff knew little about how to use  or fix the machines. Aren’t they supposed to be the printing experts? We ended up at a total of three different FedEx Office locations between 1:30 PM and 1:30 AM, all of which were an entirely different experience and not one of them had the ability to redeem themselves. The first FedEx was the worst and busiest FedEx in all of Los Angeles. While we attempted to print out our labels, I could feel the people glowering at us as we sucked up the printer’s bandwidth. I was also concerned for our safety because of the homeless man with dreads that was trying to do something on the computer was talking to himself and a few other non-existent people in the room. While I’m certain the man was harmless, you never know when someone is schizophrenic, what person they’re talking to will convince them to do something drastic involving, at that moment, us.

Okay, at this point you are probably wondering what this has to do with my love of tschotchke. Yes, I realize this story seemingly has nothing to do with my recent found love of tschotchke shopping. However, it was what lead us to Mercado La Paloma, a small “world” market near our hotel. It was a random chance find when we were trying to get dinner, before setting off to yet another FedEx print more labels. When we first walked in, we were over taken by confusion. The space was a giant warehouse, filled with different restaurants including a Thai and Mexican restaurant and small Mexican gift shop. Lesson learned, never judge a place by the setup. We walked out when we weren’t sure what the food would be like, but then our rumbling stomachs and lack of time forced us to return rather than hunting for somewhere else to go. We were greeted by an older gentleman, I’m assuming he was the owner of Chicken Itze where we finally ate, who told us to sit wherever we pleased and he would bring us menus. The food was amazing and the people were incredibly sweet especially after our nightmare at FedEx. Although, I do think that any place where someone was helpful at that point would have seemed amazing in comparison to what we experienced.

I ended up buying a pair of earrings and a tiny Dia de los Meurtos skull at the Mexican market, which broke later as I was trying to pull out my key card. I was a wreck, but I can’t help but laugh at that whole day, while I was stressed, I was still amused. However, on the way out, I saw another amazing black and white ceramic skull that I immediately fell in love with and had to buy. It is no surprise to me that I would love the items that this small shop was selling for the Day of the Dead, being that I am in love, yet terrified, with the idea of souls returning or even lingering here on earth. I even once loved horror movies, but have had to take a break after watching Paranormal Activities. Someday I will be able to watch horror movies again, but maybe not for awhile.

Purchase at Mercado la Paloma

This is what made me happy that day, great food and something to decorate my life. Why is it that all of a sudden I have a fondness of buying trinkets to put in my home? I have always lived my life with the theory that simple is better and the idea that a little goes a long way. I find that it makes life easier and organized. I strove to be feng shui. Although, I wouldn’t call myself the most organized person, I like to keep things tidy. It helps that I don’t have a lot to clutter my life with. As I was recently unpacking, I realized how boring everything was. I do think that part of this has to do with my nomadic lifestyle. Where moving every 1-4 years my entire life has taught me how to purge and always think twice before I buy something that may be difficult to move or add to the pain that is moving. I realized though, that I felt boring and my home was not a reflection of who I was and what I loved.

Sometimes I feel like I tip toe through this world without leaving an imprint. I’m quiet, reserved, and don’t always say what’s on my mind. I don’t own a lot and try to be a minimalist – I do have a lot of clothes, but clothes are easy to move and cheap to ship. I’ve always thought that it was keeping my life uncomplicated and yet simple. I may seem like a simple person, but I’m not, I’m just really good had hiding my complexities. There’s this burning in my soul, a desire to free myself and to make an impact, on my life and on those in my life. To share my love, my passion, my thoughts, my wisdom, my joy, my sadness with all those in my life, is something I have pushed back on, even feared.

What does this have to do with tchotchke? I think what people buy to decorate their lives is a reflection of what they love. I am not saying that you are what you own, but what you own can show what you are passionate about. I hide myself and my passions, even from myself sometimes, but I’m letting go of that strange notion that it matters what other people think about what I like.

Recently my good friend told me that the advice her mother gave to her when she first got married was “share everything”. Meaning share everything that’s on your mind with your partner, but I also feel that we should share more with our families and friends, within reason. I come from a family where hardly anything is shared and sometimes it breaks my heart not knowing what’s going on in my families’ lives, but maybe I’m the one that has to help break that cycle knowing that I am part of the problem. Basically, I’m not good at sharing myself and I think that shows in my style, something that is changing on spiritual, mental, and physical levels.

There is no reason to try to hide who you are from the people you love. There are certain people you may choose to keep things from for whatever reason, such as professional relationships or acquaintances, but those whose relationships you hold dearest should be shared.

Now I’m buying tchotchke and art, where I used to be the person who was always walking around a store or art walk unsure of what to buy, I know what I want and don’t care if someone else doesn’t like it. Where things once never held meaning to me, which is why I never bought anything, everything holds meaning now. Everything in my life matters to me now. Life with passion is a life about caring, whether its for people or jobs or causes or even random trinkets.

Every time I look at my Dia de los Muertos skull, I will remember that little market in LA and that silly day and even now it makes me smile.

June 7, 2011

What I love…. SLEEP

After a very long and eventful (but always great) work trip, what I always love is crawling into bed and sleeping. I have several unfinished posts for other things that I love that I ran out of time for, but my brain has officially quit and I know when I can’t write without shaking, that it is time for sleep and I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I am to sleep in my own bed after taking a nice long shower. I might just be in heaven right now.