Friday, December 3, 2010

I choose bliss

Dumb: Going for a long meandering run in a t-shirt and shorts in 40-degree weather, with no water or energy gels, in unfamiliar neighborhoods, and for nearly twice as long as the vast majority of my runs for the past half year.

Blissful: Running toward a stunningly silhouetted Mt. Rainier, plowing up and barreling down huge hills, getting utterly lost in unfamiliar neighborhoods, and listening to beautiful bluegrass music while at it.

Perception is everything.

Either way, warming back up with tonight's Vitamix blender creation = Unarguably blissful.

Yummy Thai pumpkin soup

Thursday, December 2, 2010

My first juice fast

From my blog entries here to the new kitchen appliances to my raw food musings and experiments to the dinner parties I've been sharing with many of you lately, it's clear that I've had food on my mind a lot lately! I've been cooking much more than ever before in my life, as the new blender and juicer have amped up my confidence to buy copious amounts of produce at the grocery store. If I can't find a way to prepare it (I've lost every single eggplant I've ever purchased this way...*sigh*), I can always just toss it in the blender!

My reading list has also been pretty heavy on the food and diet spectrum lately:

So, I've been toying a lot lately with the idea of doing a juice fast. I have, undoubtedly, a ridiculous sweet tooth, and I often eat beyond the point of satiated comfort. (Why do you think I run so much?) Incorporating green smoothies into my morning routine has already helped me cut out coffee completely and maintain steady energy levels, even without ample sleep. I recently talked with one of my coworkers who juice fasted for an entire month, and saw huge health and energy benefits because of it.

Well, I decided yesterday to stop toying with the fasting idea, and just go ahead and try it - just a 24-hour one. I had dinner around 5 p.m. last night, went to school, went to bed, woke up, made a big glass of my Unpalatable Chlorophyll Juice and several mason jars to go, went for a 5.5 mile run, drank some more juice, walked to work, drank more juice after my shift, walked to school, sat in class for 3.5 hours (which took me into the 25th hour of my fast and beyond!), then walked home. And...ta-da, I felt great! No real hunger bothers or rumbling stomach or anything. Some cravings, sure, but those happen even when my mouth is already full of food and chewing, so I can't blame it on the fasting. Being out of the house and away from food all day certainly made it easier. Overall, it was much less of a big deal than I thought it would be.

Unpalatable Chlorophyll Juice in action: the last swig in my mason jar.

My run was especially excellent. I'm sure running (and doing sprints at the end!) are not what you're supposed to do while fasting for the first time. It would up being about 29 hours total with food...honestly, probably the longest stretch of time I've ever gone without food in my whole life. Even fasting for Ramadan with my host family in Turkey was only a 16-hour fast or so...though there was no juice or water then. But you know what? I'll trust my body's intuition over someone else's opinions any day - and I've felt great all day long.

I considered briefly extending the fast through tomorrow since I felt so good...but ultimately decided against it, not wanting to get ahead of myself. Went grocery shopping instead - which is definitely a crazy idea when you haven't eaten all day long. I must have looked at least mildly ravenous, because in spite of my modest $53 grocery bill, the checkout guy who was scanning my food said, "Dang girl, you must have been hungry today!" Fresh apple slices with Trader Joe's Blue Stilton cheese was a most excellent way to ease out of my fast.

And now, because I failed to post this when it was timely...why you shouldn't try to drive your car in Seattle when it snows:

Monday, November 29, 2010

Seek and you shall find.

This is about ice cream, and some other things.

Today was a long day. I left home at 6:30 a.m., made a quick pit stop at home again in the late afternoon to shovel down some mashed potatoes and an English muffin, and between work, school, and picking up new tabs for my car, didn't come home again until 9:30 at night. 15 hours makes for a long day.

But you can bet I'm appreciating my couch, my music, my cat, and my pint of pumpkin ice cream now.

Pumpkin ice cream, in fact, was all I could think about for the majority of my evening. I considered going to Trader Joe's after class, but it was pretty out of my way; QFC has better produce, and I also needed some greens for my morning Unpalatable Chlorophyll Juice.

I scanned the ice cream freezers long and hard for pumpkin ice cream, almost to no avail. The cases of Ben 'n Jerry's and Haagen Dazs both failed me utterly; no pumpkin anywhere. I thought I was going to have to settle for a vat of Edy's low-fat pumpkin stuff when suddenly my eyes landed on a modest little pint of pumpkin custard ice cream from a local company, Snoqualmie Gourmet. + On sale. + I got the last pint.

Fate, no doubt.

It's the second time recently that I've walked into a store with a very deliberate idea in mind of what I want to walk out with, and the universe has worked in my favor. Last time was an impulsive nighttime venture to Elliot Bay Books in the hopes of walking out with a new novel. I had a really specific sort of book in mind for myself, and I spent a good hour browsing, reading book jackets and first pages, and nothing seemed to be speaking to me.

I'd just about given up when I cycled back to the original table of bargain books I'd been browsing and my eyes lit upon the One. (I'm about 70 pages in, and it's wonderful so far.)

So often, it can feel as though the universe is conspiring against us.

But I'm trying, more and more, to consciously acknowledge and appreciate it when it's not - which, honestly, is most of the time. After all...I do not have cancer! I have no broken bones! I'm on good terms (I think) with everybody in my life! My car did not break down today! I did not get in any accidents! While traffic was frustrating, and my schedule exhausting, and getting new car tabs a hassle, I have a home, and a job (or 3ish), and a vehicle, and I can afford to go to school. I did not lose anything important today. So many horrible things didn't happen to me today!

There ARE, in fact, things - good things - that have happened to me, things I should be writing about: the glorious ten days in a row Alan and I got to spend together, the plethora of amazing dinner parties attended and hosted this week, Thanksgiving awesomeness at Seyeon and Andrea's lake house, the crazy snowstorm and the giant car accident pile up on our icy hill of a street, the amazing snowy hike Jeff and Kate and I did a couple weeks ago, the usual Seattle love stuff...

...but it'll wait for another time. Tomorrow's a (more modest) 12 hour day, but I need my sleep. Good night, good world!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Running Meets Politics: 300 mile foot races vs. changing the world

When I was at Oberlin, I got to attend free speeches, lectures, and performances by famous people all the time. (Toni Morrison, Michael Pollan, Newt Gingrich, Jerry Springer,etc...) Once you're no longer paying great sums annually into the system, however, there are fewer "free" perks. However, every now and then, I still luck out.

This week at REI, we had our annual all-store meeting. Some ambitious soul recruited world-famous ultramarathoner Dean Karnazes to speak at it. Again, I realize that for most people, "famous runner" is sort of an oxymoron, and the vast majority of you won't even recognize the name. (I know Natalie will, though! What Would Ultramarathon Man Do?) However, a short list of Dean's accolades: Ran 350 miles nonstop without rest or sleep, Ran 50 marathons in 50 states on 50 consecutive days, Ran a marathon at the South Pole in -40 degrees F, Voted one of Outside Magazine's Ultimate Top 10 Outdoor Athletes, Voted one of the GQ's Best Bodies of the Year in 2004, Winner of the 2004 Badwater Ultramathon (135 miles through Death Valley in the middle of July), etc etc etc.

He's been called "The Perfect Human."

The gist of his motivational speech to all of us was that what he does isn't so miraculous after all; it's just a matter of yearning to test his own limits.

Whenever I go for more than a few weeks or months without running a lot, I forget how much I love it. I forget how good it makes me feel, how simple it makes the world seem, and how much my mind and body alike appreciate me for treating them. I forget the surge of creative energy and flow that comes when I run, and I forget the natural high I get, and I forget, most of all, what a perfect metaphor running is for everything in life.

I've always said that I could probably be a fiscal conservative, under one condition: that how hard one works actually corresponds with how much money one makes. (A terribly gross oversimplification of my political beliefs and interpretation of the world, but allow it to suffice for now.) In such a "perfect world", it's easy to get behind the idea of straightforward economic incentives to motivate people to contribute to society, in whatever way they best can.

On a tangential but related note, my favorite quote find of the week, on the Facebook profile of a Seattle ultrarunner I met briefly at my Vashon Island run..."Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive." - Howard Thurman.

Anyway. Distance running is that "perfect world." Dean summed it up yesterday when he gave his tongue-in-cheek demonstration in response to the question "How do you run 300 miles without stopping?" He sort of did a little jog across the room in front of all of us and said, "That's pretty much it. Except instead of stopping, you just keep doing it until you've gone 300 miles."

Me smiling at the end of my first ultra!

In the world of distance running, anyone can excel. It doesn't matter if you're big, small, long-legged, short-legged, old, young, male, female, have a high V02 max or not, see 55-year-old women kicking 25-year-old men's butts at ultramarathons. The only things that matter are: how hard you trained, how well you fueled your body, and how hard you pushed yourself mentally during the race. Sure, injuries and weather and other minor unpredictables can happen and throw you off course, but for the most part, there is a direct correlation between how hard you work and how successful you are. The playing ground is level, how much time you're willing to devote to make yourself great corresponds with how far you're able to go, and ultimately, anyone can win.

I'm finding myself more and more confused about how close or far our American society, as it stands right now, is from mirroring that world of "anyone can win." How level is the playing field? So many important people in my life, all whose opinions I value and trust, have completely different answers to that question. How much more level is the playing ground than fifty years ago? How much more level should it be? And how do we get there?

Big questions without easy answers. As opposed to...Q: "How do I get better at running?" A: "Run more."

I wish the world were like running: simple and easy to navigate. The path to running success is long, but at least it's clear cut. The path to other goals is so much trickier to identify and get started on. Seyeon, for example, wants to design and implement an entirely new school system for adolescents. I want to be a better asset to this world and use my words to help people feel more connected and understood, less isolated and hopeless. America wants to stay true to its founding ideals and ensure every one of its citizens is given the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Where do you even start with such goals? If you want to run a marathon, the first step is a literal one; you pick yourself up off the couch and put one foot in front of the other. And you keep going. I sure wish I could figure out the first step on all the other things I'd like to change about our world...

Monday, November 8, 2010

Monday Night Thanks

A short list of things I feel grateful for:
(Note: Just things. If I included people, the list could go on forever.)

1. Pandora
2. WriteRoom
3. Dark, leafy greens
4. Public libraries
5. Mountains
6. Tulsi tea
7. Autumn leaves in Seattle
8. Paper and pen games
9. Open source projects
10. Audio books
11. Freezers
12. Fresh air
14. The entire Adobe Creative Suite
15. Yellow notepads
16. Merino wool socks
17. Groupon
18. Rosemary (the herb)
19. Sunny November days
20. UTNE Reader magazine

Saturday, November 6, 2010

ZOOM ZOOM goes the rocket over the elephant shooting ants out of its nose!

Weekends are lovely. Why did I ignore this fact for my first year in Seattle?

More FoodBlog! Homemade raw broccoli/zucchini hummus.

Yesterday, James and I trekked down to Burien to cash in LivingSocial deal coupons we'd purchased months ago for hourlong massages. We spent the rest of the afternoon having various adventures in Ballard, at Grocery Outlet (duh), and just hanging out at my apartment, watching the latest Office episode on Hulu (five years and counting since I've lived with a TV), listening to bluegrass and cooking stuff. Dinnertime brought new guests, and the five of us had a lovely evening of butternut squash soup, fresh bread, vegetables with various hummus dips - homemade and otherwise, wine, chocolate truffles, and pumpkin cookies to round it all out.

Who recognizes the table?

We all stayed up until well into the wee hours of the morning playing games - everything from Balderdash to a paper-and-pens game that Leo suggested. As he explained it, I didn't think I'd played it before; everybody sits in a circle, and each person has a sheet of paper. You make up one narrative sentence, write it down, then pass your sheet to the right. Then everybody has to illustrate the sentence they've been passed. Then you fold the sheet over so that only the illustration appears (and the original sentence is hidden), and pass again. Now everyone writes a sentence to describe the illustration they're handed. And folds it so only the sentence appears, and passes again. And so forth.

Essentially, the game is like telephone, on paper. The worse of an artist you are, the better, and the more ridiculous the sentence becomes as it gets passed around and altered with each new rendition. We were down to four people by then, so each sheet only got a few passes, but it was still amusing. My original sentence evolved as such:

Elodie and I continued the excellence of food tradition today with a lazy morning around the apartment, baking banana bread, drinking Dutch chocolate milk and green smoothies (grapes + pineapple + peaches + banana + kale + cucumber today), and making a scrumptious egg scramble with all the orphan veggies in my fridge, plus goat cheese. Delicious!

So here's the funny thing...and the real point of this blog entry in this first place...(aside from reveling in how awesome my friends are, and how nice it is to relax together over delicious food) also last night, after playing Leo's game, I went digging through my personal filing system and found a sheet of paper I'd saved from one time when I'd played what I remembered as a similar game to the one Leo proposed. It was, in fact, the exact same game, and one that Seyeon and I had played six years ago at Stanford, when we'd just met each other. And guess what? My story sentence back then was eerily similar to the one I wrote last night:

Six years later, apparently I'm still fascinated with abused, down-on-their-luck anteaters.

Who wants to psychoanalyze me?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

For the love of vegetables

I feel long overdue for a food blog entry. It's been about six months since my last food/cooking frenzy, and given that a lot of big things have been happening in my kitchen lately, I feel like it's time.

My grocery hauls have been really colorful lately!

Exactly two years ago, Seyeon and I took a fall break trip to Austin, Texas together. She was interested in scoping it out for grad school and future living, and I went along for the ride. Given that we were both wrapped up in our busy lives prior to the trip (I was in the final stretch before the 5K that I'd organized and stressed out of my mind about it), we had no time to plan anything, including where we'd stay once we got there. We found a decent hostel for the first couple nights, and from there, coordinated a couple homes to stay in after that via FANTASTIC website.

Our first couchsurfing host was a guy named David Ansel, who'd started his own soup-making-and-delivery business in Austin, The Soup Peddler. Our next couchsurfing host was the self-proclaimed "Team Sprout" - three young, enthusiastic raw foodists who hosted us for a craft night and a board game night and made us delicious raw food and smoothies to take with us on our daily adventures around the city. The three of them - Kaye, Chris, and Kristy - have been in both Seyeon's and my mind since we visited Austin for the first time, and their introducing us to the raw foods lifestyle irreversibly piqued our interest.

A quick overview on raw foods: essentially, a 100% raw diet (though many raw foodists will only maintain a 70% or 80% raw diet) excludes anything that's been heated above 116 degrees Fahrenheit. The theory behind is it that heating foods above 116 changes the actual chemical structure of the food, introducing carcinogens, zapping nutrients, and essentially killing the life energy out of the food. There are countless stories of people reversing cancer, heart disease, Type 1 diabetes, and various otherwise life-threatening, degenerative diseases by switching to a raw foods diet. People report soaring energy levels, because their digestive system no longer requires huge amounts of energy to break down weighty, nutrient-depleted foods. It's like veganism on steroids; not only no meat or dairy, but no cooked grains (only sprouted ones) either. Even coffee and tea is technically not considered raw. ("Sun tea", in which herbs are left to steep in a cup of water in direct sunlight, is permissible.) No bread, no oatmeal, nothing pasteurized.

Of course, there's nothing practical about being raw in our modern society. Virtually nothing at restaurants fits the bill; you have to pack all your own food when you travel or go anywhere; our culture is truly built around cooked food and the sharing of it, and people will think you're crazy. Raw food is extreme, yes. But if you all could meet Kaye and Chris and Kristy in Austin, you'd want to give raw foods a try, too; you couldn't meet happier, kinder, more energetic souls in your life.

Don't worry; I haven't totally gone off the deep end with it yet. But I have been fascinated with raw foods over the past two years, and am trying to incorporate more raw foods into my daily diet. Finally having a powerful juicer and blender on my kitchen counter has made a huge difference. Already, just with incorporating juiced greens and green smoothies into my morning routine, I've entirely cut my dependency on or cravings for coffee. I switched to black tea for awhile, but now, I don't even need that. Some blended kale or spinach with fresh fruit really gets me going first thing in the morning.

A huge thanks to Alan for the juicer (birthday present!) that got me from just thinking and reading about raw foods to putting it into action in my daily life and seeing what happened. The 2-horsepower Vita Mix blender was a present to myself, with help from both Elodie and my mom, who contributed to my ongoing "blender fund" that's been pending since that trip to Austin. Amusingly, it was a sentence from Leo Babauta's "The Power of Less" that convinced me to get it - something about how if you think you really want something, to wait 30 days, and only if you still want it then, to go ahead and buy it. I realized I've been telling everybody in my life about how much I want a Vita Mix for two years now, so it was just time.

Here are a few of my raw food experiments so far:

Raw guacamole

Raw corn chowder (yup, cool soup...surprisingly good)

Green smoothie: Before.

Green smoothie: After.

So am I giving up on cooked food altogether just yet? Absolutely not. I just ordered a ton of yummy organic groceries from, via a fantastic Groupon yesterday, when I got home from school, two giant bins of produce and loaves of bread and chocolate milk and fancy cheeses and hazelnut granola and locally made pumpkin cookie dough were awaiting me.

I've tried to do a few days of eating 100% raw, and my body wasn't happy about it. A lot of raw foodists would argue that my body sees cooked food as a drug, and trying to quit it cold turkey will elicit withdrawal symptoms...who knows? Otherwise, I can't imagine lots of fresh vegetables and fruit giving me headaches, but I have been especially headachey the past week or two.

Bottom line: I will continue to experiment, and probably write about my findings here. Last bit of awesome food-related news: My neighborhood just got hooked up with food and yard waste pick up! So now all my food scraps (of which there are many, especially with my juicer!) can get composted. Good news.

Friday, October 29, 2010

An FML Sort of Day.

For all intents and purposes, today should have been a good day. I woke up feeling unusually well-rested, having slept in (until 7:45...!), well-satiated from a lovely impromptu autumn dinner party last night at Cam and Avey's, featuring a spectacular squash soup, grilled burgers and asparagus, wine, Ben & Jerry's and Theo chocolate for Friday is the beginning of my weekend - no classes, no jobs. I had a lengthy to-do list, but mostly fun things like my web design homework and picking up tools for Elodie's pumpkin-carving party this evening. I had an email from the public library notifying me that two of my requested books were in and ready for pickup, adding yet another fun item to my to-do list. After a pretty rainy week, the sun was out in blazing autumn glory today. What was not to love?

But some days, despite the relentless optimism of most of my entries here, I just don't feel so hot. Today was one of those days, 100%. Everything just started going awry in small but insidious ways.

After much research and input-gathering from friends out here, I'd finally settled on a new dentist and made an appointment. Found out this morning they're out of network for my insurance. Called the office to find out if I switch plans, which companies consider them in-network - but the person in their office who has that information doesn't work until Monday. To-do list item check-off FAIL.

Onto working on my homework. But Adobe Illustrator just plum disappeared from my computer. It's the software I need to do my typography class homework, which was due this afternoon. I already had the assignment "finished", but I wasn't happy with my work - I'm still working on my graphic design eye, let alone that I've no idea how to use Illustrator - and wanted to work on it more before turning it in. No can do, apparently; thanks, laptop. Then when I tried to print out what I did have, my printer spat the whole thing out in shades of green - despite the fact that I just spent $60 on new cartridges for it and deep-cleaned all the nozzles.

On my walk to go turn in my homework, I got accosted by a friendly albeit pushy advocate for "Save the Children." These guys have gotten me stuck talking to them for up to twenty-five minutes in the past; I'm a sucker, because yes, I do love children, and yes, I would like to save them. I want to write letters to orphans in Africa. But I do not have an extra $10/week to spare for them at this point in my life :( The activist caught me at an intersection right as the light changed, so I had no choice but to talk to him. The light turned from red to green to yellow to red again several times before I was able to pull away, feeling like a callous jerk for not caring enough about orphans in Africa. And guess who was waiting for me on the other side of the intersection? "Hi, my name is Sarah!!!" - another "Save the Children" advocate. Didn't she see me talking to her colleague across the street for five minutes and know not to try and stop me?

When I finally made it into QFC, I found they were completely sold out of pumpkin carving kits. FML.

So I thought I'd buy some vegetables instead. There were two giant bins of avocados side by side - one labeled "Avocados: $1.49/each", and the other labeled "Avocados: $2.99/each." They looked identical, and even had the same stickers on them. Hmm. Fortunately, there was a QFC employee right there, stocking tomatoes in the next bin over, so I asked her, "Excuse me, can you tell me what the difference is between these?" Without looking up, she says, "Price", and continues stocking her tomatoes. Smiling a little, I said patiently, "Yes, I noticed that. That's what made me wonder what the difference is." She seemed to think this was a rhetorical comment, as she offered no further insight.

Honestly, working in customer service myself, and going out of my way every single day to be friendly and helpful with even the most impatient customers leaves me little tolerance for people like Tomato-Stocker lady.

Tried to call Alan on the walk home. His reception dropped within two minutes.

When I got home, I found that the sun had come out and gone to work melting away the giant Ziploc bag of delectable Theo dark chocolate (kindly bestowed upon me last night by Cam) I'd casually left on my living room floor. My own fault, for being too lazy to put it away somewhere in the kitchen, yes, and I'm sure it's bad Seattle-karma to feel angry at the sun in late October...but still :( Now I just have a big, brown melty mess in a Ziploc bag.

Small things. Trivial, and halfway amusing, now that I can write about them in retrospect. But I was not amused earlier. It mostly just felt like a long, rough, tiring day...and such a bummer, for my first day off after a pretty busy week of long work/school days. Fortunately, Elodie's pumpkin-carving party was a true delight. Here is the fruit of my efforts:

Other redeeming things about today: Picked up new library books. Read one cover-to-cover already this afternoon. Went for a spectacular 9.5-mile run along my favorite running route in all of Seattle. Second email from the public library with even more requested books available. Great talk with Shari. Placed a very exciting order for organic grocery delivery from Spud (from a Groupon I purchased months ago); portabello mushrooms and Dave's Killer Bread and Dutch chocolate milk and smoked goat cheese and Cougar Mountain pumpkin cookie dough are on the way! + In spite of it all, I'm still pretty excited about my big, brown melty mess of dark chocolate.

And Seattle. I still live here. So ultimately, no complaints.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Unearthing secret geekdoms

I guess the last word of my last blog entry wasn't entirely accurate.

I'm having that feeling now where I'm so behind on my blog - too many stories that need telling, too many thoughts that need sharing, too many musings that need processing - that I've no idea where to begin.

As with my personal journal, there's always the conflict between wanting to relay tangible events in my life for the purposes of chronicling and memory preservation and urgency to somehow render my experiences permanent, less ephemeral than they really are - and the desire to just elaborate indulgently on all the crazy thoughts and ideas that have been spinning around in my head lately. I always tend toward the latter.

But for the sake of posterity, the tangibles include: being 4 weeks into school now...Alan and his daughter Kristin being in town for a week and a half of Seattle sight-seeing, great meals and many trips to Old School Frozen Custard, cozy evenings of cooking and board game-playing and movie-watching...road-tripping to Leavenworth for Oktoberfest...pumpkin-carving parties and art parties and fancy schmancy wine and cheese parties with good friends...the increasingly regular Seyeon-and-Yitka get-togethers of frenzied TED-talk, UTNE Reader, and book sharing...Cam and Avey's gorgeous wedding in beautiful, wild Washington...multiple visits to Seattle's homegrown chocolate factory, Theo Chocolate. The list goes on and on; it's been a gorgeous month here, of sunshine and stunning colors and crisp autumn air and wonderful adventure.

As for the intangibles? I can't even believe how much my life has felt lately like a jigsaw puzzle with pieces flying into place at light speed. I'm sure there's a better, less hackneyed metaphor out there for what I've been feeling lately, but the puzzle one really tells it like it is.

Here's the deal: I can't imagine myself having majored in anything but creative writing at Oberlin. Creative writing was the reason I ever even looked at Oberlin in the first place. I met "my people" in the creative writing department. I unearthed a love for creative nonfiction there. Nothing, absolutely nothing, sets me on fire the way putting words on paper does.


My grammar and vocabulary and storytelling geekdom is not my only geekdom. I'm a geek about other things, too: hex codes, acronyms like XHTML and PHP and MySQL, obscure keyboard shortcuts, feeling a warm affinity for people who recognize "& n b s p ;" as a meaningful combinations of characters.

Now, not only do I readily point out shoes and grammatical examples in every day life to people who could care less (e.g. "Hey random stranger, how do you like those Salomon XA Pro 3D's on your feet?", or "Damn you, grocery store, it's 10 Items or FEWER, not less!"), I've also begun pointing out typefaces to my poor unsuspecting friends and loved ones. (e.g. "That pilates studio is branded with Helvetica Neue Light...nice.") Thank you, Typography class. Bored, finally, of keeping a daily Subaru sighting count in Seattle, I've started tracking Papyrus sightings on business signs and posters instead. Atrocious...

I guess I'd just forgotten how unbelievably fired up geeking out about tech stuff gets me - and how being in school for an IT field now makes me feel like so many threads in my life are all coming together in big, exciting ways.

Seamless connections between disparate aspects of my life crop up everywhere:

In my how-to-be-a-webmaster/web designer/web programmer/content manager/project manager/freelance business owner class (not its official name, of course, but that pretty well sums it up), my teacher Mike shows us a website he designed for David Lemley - the man behind major corporate rebranding projects for Starbucks, Home Depot, and...REI. I read about his work, fascinated by the driving forces behind this company I work for and admire that's succeeded in maintaining a pretty darn loyal, happy base of employees. How? Rebranding efforts a few years ago.

I have some rebranding(ish) ideas for Outdoors NW, even though it's on a completely different level. Yet truly, the skills I'm garnering in school, week by week, I get to turn around and apply immediately in my creative work for the magazine. As well as in building an art portfolio website for my friend Jenica. Jenica hosted an art party several weeks ago in a big art space basement studio on Capitol Hill. When I got to the party, I found none other than Oberlin's semi-famed Kalan Sherrard chopping vegetables in the kitchen, talking about Oberlin-nostalgia-friendly topics, but with a Seattle touch: dumpster diving at Pike Place Market, doing puppet shows and performance art on the streets of Capitol Hill...

See how it works? Web design -> REI -> Outdoors NW -> Seattle -> Oberlin -> Creative writing -> Web design...Full circle; small world.

My friend Tom (originally met at REI) recommended to me the blog several weeks ago. I didn't make the connection then, but the author of it, Leo Babauta, has written "The Power of Less" - a book for which I'd just put a special order request in with the King County library system, independent of Tom's recommendation to me. Got the book last week, plowed through half of it, called Seyeon to rave about it to her. Turns out she'd put a special order request for the exact same book from the Seattle Public library system, and was in the middle of reading it when I called.

Seattle's an awesome city. It's an unbelievable hot bed of amazing energy and creativity and inspiration. Every time I stumble across another blog or website or book that completely changes the way I look at the world, I swear, 90% of the time, the author is either from Seattle or lives here now. So many incredible people here with big ideas living out big lives...I want to be a part of it all. Life doesn't feel long enough.

That's probably one of the top ten best problems in the world to feel like you have, though.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

But won't your dress get wet?

It was a glorious day for a wedding here in the Northwest. Congratulations to my friends Cam and Avey on consecrating their 11-year relationship on this beautiful Wednesday afternoon!

At the confluence of the Taylor and Middle Fork rivers, LC bid these two partners for life.

Kilt-clad guests frolicked in the rivers.

...and the cake was yummy.

More soon.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Full circle: How I came to be where I am now

a.k.a. The entry in which I try (and fail) to address the afore-mentioned 7,000 items in need of addressing.

First of all, thanks to everyone who took the time to respond to my blog entry about life as a 15-year-old Yitka. I've had a lot of rich conversations with different people that came out of that entry - and it's that sort of meaningful content on the web that makes me, paradoxically enough given my reflections on The Shallows, excited about it as a medium. That entry alone has fetched well over 500 unique visitors, according to my GoogleAnalytics, which is rather unheard of for my humble little personal blog. (And Tom Atchity, I still owe you some book recommendations in response...)

I want to write about some other things first, but you'll find some afterthoughts on the DMTM entry at the end of this one.

So. I started school this past week. I am officially a full time student again - though the fact that all my classes are evening classes makes it feel very different than full time studenthood has in the past. The vast majority of people in my classes are in their late twenties, thirties, forties, and fifties. Many have full time jobs already, but are looking for a change of scenery. It's amazing how many people are completely miserable in the jobs they do. And a shame, too. More power to all of them for having the courage to try something new. I think especially in this economy, it takes guts to not clutch on to job security, even at the cost of your soul.

I am pursuing a certificate in web design. After a couple years of feeling, admittedly, a bit huffy that my college degree didn't lead me straight into full time work, I'm realizing what a blessing in disguise it's all been - and how, given the chance, I wouldn't have it any other way. The truth is that at 17 or 18, most of us have no idea what we want to do for a career. A liberal arts education helps you figure out what you like to study, and it teaches you to be a professional, lifelong learner - which however priceless it may be, is not an especially marketable skill to throw down on a resume. Creative writing was the perfect major for me, as there's nothing that fires me up like thinking and learning about the written word - but does that mean I'll be happy in a writing job for 40 hours every week?

Not necessarily. I loved writing in school, and I still would love to go back and get my MFA someday...and in the meantime, sustain my soul with my own writing projects, and the omnipresent pursuit of publishing my own book. But writing for a job is very different from writing for yourself.

Don't get me wrong; I love the writing and editing I get to do for OutdoorsNW. (Did I mention that I got paid to bike around Oregon, drink wine, and write about it?) But in working for them and starting to rethink their web presence - an imperative at this point in time for all print media publications - I've gotten back in touch, again, with shades of my former self. I have always been really, really into this sort of thing. I love design and layout. Thinking about it again, and for the first time ever in terms of a possible career path, takes me back to building and distributing table-based layouts on Expage for other aspiring 13-year-old web designers, to laying out pages for yearbook in high school, to designing grunge brushes in Photoshop to use for our literary magazine The Muse when Kelly and I were co-editors. I feel like the color of my parachute has been right under my nose, but somehow I've been so hung up on the writing thing that I've forgotten about this whole other huge part of what's sustained me so much throughout my life.

So, isn't it better that I spent those formative years from 18-21 immersed in education that helped me learn to think and explore - and now that I've had a few years to be in the so-called real world and figure out what aspects of different jobs I like and what aspects I really don't like, to be able to go back to school to pursue the thing I'm confident now I could be happy doing full time?

Honestly, my appreciation for school at this point is higher than it's ever been. At the end of Oberlin, I felt burnt out. Now, a few hours of classes at the end of a long work day feels like dessert. I'm giddy that I can justify spending my money on books that are going to help take me from where I am to where I want to be, career-wise. The fact that it's my own money I've saved up over the past year paying for these classes makes me value every second I get to be in the classroom, soaking up knowledge and tools and advice from my teachers.

Also, even though I'm now pulling 12-14 hour days four days a week, I have (or will soon have) something that I have never had in all my life in Seattle thus far: a weekend. It'll be a Friday-Saturday weekend, but nevertheless, generally speaking, two full days off every week that I can count on. The peace of mind of it is beyond thrilling.

So I found the handwritten notebook where I was keeping a journal of ideas when I first came up with the DMTM project. Amongst my plans for that are also several other interesting gleanings...mostly lists (generally not given in their entirety below...just excerpts.)

A list of things I wanted in my life at that point:
Better relationship with my parents
Get A's
A boyfriend

A list of tangible ways to go after those things:
Don't get mad over little things, try to see things from my parents' perspective, no yelling
Study groups, make outlines/flashcards, DON'T PROCRASTINATE!
Be more outgoing, hang out in groups, work on my sense of humor

A list of Likes: Doing makeup (ha), sleeping in, making websites, playing soccer, making collages, photography, being patriotic, chocolate ice cream with marshmallows, Harry Potter, connecting with nature, thinking, gel pens, happy people

A list of "Things That Suck": School, waking up early, smoking, math, regret, spinach, the smell of trash, death, liars, the color brown, Eminem, bad moods

I have to admit, that list cracks me up. My opinions, at least, on school, waking up early, math, spinach, the color brown, and even Eminem (such excellent running music) have all done a pretty serious 180 over the last decade...

A list of things I wanted to be able to buy: skateboard, belt, winter jacket, camera/film

And a list of ways to save more money: limit vending machine spending at school to $3/week, fewer snacks at the movies, bring lunch, remember that EVERY PENNY COUNTS!

Lists of good words: myriad, brazen, cascade, sagacious, illicit, atrocity, nuance, abyss, rhetorical, calamity

A list of things I missed when I was at Stanford (age 16): Sasha, my hermit crabs, my parents and friends, Luna Moonshine (my car), Eternal Sunshine (wasn't out on DVD yet...)

A list of things I wasn't missing when I was at Stanford: Humidity. (That's literally the only thing on that list.)

Lastly...I was able to actually track down the first "professional" website I ever made - where I designed layouts for other people and distributed them for free to my 5,000+ visitors - on, a website that has catalogued 150 billion current and expired webpages over the years. Mine is so embarrassingly bad and amateur on so many levels I won't link it here, but I will leave you with this fun tidbit: On my "About Me" page on that site, I had filled out a little meme that included the "Currently, I am listening to..." question. My response?

Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians' "What I Am", which was playing on the local radio station at the moment I was making that webpage. Whew, bringing back the memories...

Thursday, September 30, 2010

A rude awakening

I have 7,000 things I need/want to blog about, BUT this morning, I've got about ten minutes I feel okay devoting to blogging before I get on with my to-do list, and there is one thing above all that absolutely NEEDS addressing.

At approximately 5:30 a.m. this morning, I woke up to a very noisy, very nearby clamor. It took a few seconds to register what was happening: someone was yanking open the blinds on the window right over the headboard of my bed...they were jerking upward at an alarmingly fast but haphazard rate. I think the thought in my head right at that moment was, $@#%, somebody'sbreakingindamnitI'mdoomedIhopealltheimportantpeopleknowhowmuchIlovethem...

...until I sat up in a panic, flipped the light on, and realized what was actually happening. Chloe had gotten herself tangled in the cord of the blinds. She'd managed to get it to be a sling for her belly as she leapt from my pillow to my nightstand, thereby pulling the entirety of the blinds open in one (albeit herky-jerky) fell swoop.

I'm still trying to figure out whether I've got the clutziest, most accident-prone cat ever created, or the brightest, craftiest one in the world who's simply realized that quieter efforts (tromping across my pillow and wiping alternating sides of her body across my face like a paintbrush, gentle paw-prodding at my eyelids) to wake up her breakfast-provider have proven fruitless lately. Chloe knows: desperate times call for desperate measures.

The adrenaline rush of thinking someone was breaking in to my apartment kept me up for awhile. I might have been angry, but she's just so darn cute...

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Booklust: Another long one.

A book must be an ice-axe to break the seas frozen inside our soul.
- Franz Kafka

Less than one month ago, I finally picked up a copy of The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to our Brains, by Nicholas Carr - a book I'd heard much about, picked up every time I wandered into Elliott Bay, and tried to chase down at libraries and used bookstores all over - before making the plunge. I read it in two days, and it's been a serious wake up call.

Flipping open my laptop first thing in the morning, starting my days with internet, and punctuating most of my free moments with mindless web browsing is NOT good for the soul. Nor for the mind. I've justified it, telling myself that it's important to read the news and stay up on current events, that Facebook is a pleasantly mindless, relaxing pleasure at the end of an exhausting work day, that the internet is crucial to being connected in this modern world, that most careers are web-based anyway, that it's far more interactive than TV anyway and hey, at least I don't own a TV.

All those things are true - but it doesn't mean that constantly being connected is a positive thing in my life.

I should know, right? As a lifelong devotee to the great outdoors, I've written plenty of journal entries that attest to the mystical powers of disconnecting from the daily grind, of immersing oneself entirely in the natural world and just living in the moment.

Oct. 2006: Mammoth Cave National Park, KY

(Case in point: Journal entry, Oct. 22, 2006, after my first multi-day backpacking trip: As cliched as it is to say so, it was so refreshing to liberate myself from all the meaningless crap we fill our day-to-day lives with, the "free time" we create through microwaves and laptops and flush toilets, that we just, in turn, squander. Or, at least, I feel like I do. Even as I'm writing this entry, I'm multi-tasking a bit online...and I HATE that! I felt so very "in the moment" during our trip...I was just thinking about the woods, the rain, the people I was with, my body - "moments of being" as Virginia Woolf called them.) It's a powerful thing.

It's not just in nature. It happens, too, in deep, rich conversations with a close friend. Or on my morning walk to work, face turned to the sun's first rays over the building tops downtown. Or when I curl up in bed with my leather-bound journal and ink pen and let my thoughts flow. Or on a 15-minute break at work, the din of screaming kids and bad 80s music on XM radio in the background, as I lose myself, however temporarily, in the refuge of a good book. Or in dreams, or while cooking, or while riding my bike, or while stepping over a fallen leaf, or while photographing the full moon, or in those groggy, post-alarm clock, first few moments of a new day.

The moon last night.

It's in those moments that thoughts are born. Not just normal processing thoughts, but the fodder that gives rise to our best insights - the very stuff that makes us most human. That insight, those connections, is what separates the human brain from the computer brain, and what can be the saving grace of our species, if people can only not lose the ability to harness that power...the power of insight, from which we also derive the powers of compassion, of imagination, of free will and ambition and creation.

Since The Shallows, I've been in a reading frenzy (as I've mentioned in brief passing already in this blog, I know.) It's crazy that two months ago, I was saying, "I'd love to read more, but I just don't have the time." Wrong. I just wasn't making the time. I've had the same 24 hours in my day as before, the same crazy 50-60 hour work weeks, the same obligations, everything; I've just made reading priority again. As Gandhi once said, "Action expresses priorities." After all, I didn't seem to have a problem reading when I was at Oberlin. One (delightful!) semester's worth of reading then:

Here's my reading list from the past month, most of which, yes, I've read cover to cover...a few are still in progress.

Compelling Nonfiction: Because we live in a fascinating world.
The Shallows, by Nicholas Carr
Bait and Switch, by Barbara Ehrenreich
Framing Innocence, by Lynn Powell
UTNE Reader: The Best of the Alternative Press, Sept/Oct 2010 Issue

Business Books: To help me help the companies I'm proud to work for.
Raising the Bar: The Story of Clif Bar Inc., by Gary Erickson
The Power of Full Engagement, by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz
The New Rules of Marketing and PR, by David Meerman Scott
The 4-Hour Workweek, Timothy Ferriss

Personal Development Books To give the gifts of knowledge and motivation to myself.
Rich Brother, Rich Sister: Two Different Paths to God, Money, and Happiness, by Robert Kiyosaki
Awakening the Buddha Within: Tibetan Wisdom for the Western World, by Lama Surya Das
My Reality Check Bounced!, by Jason Ryan Dorsey
The Myth of Stress, by Andrew Bernstein
You're Broke Because You Want to Be, by Larry Winget
Poor Dad Rich Dad, by Robert Kiyosaki

Writing Books To give me a definitive shove toward my dream of being a published author.
Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott
Writing Down the Bones, by Natalie Goldberg
Nonfiction Book Proposals Anyone Can Write, by Elizabeth Lyon
Writer's Digest, October 2010 Issue

Some samplings:

It seems to be that Facebook and Twitter and YouTube - and just so you don't think this is a generational thing, television and radio and magazines and even newspapers - are all ultimately just an elaborate excuse to run away from yourself. To avoid the difficult and troubling questions that being human throws in your way: Am I doing the right thing with my life? Do I believe the things I was taught as a child? What do the words I live by really mean? Am I happy? The problem...with Facebook and Twitter and The New York Times [is that] when you expose yourself to those things, especially in the constant way that people do now - you are continuously bombarding yourself with a stream of other people's thoughts. You are marinating yourself in the conventional wisdom. In other people's reality: for others, not for yourself. You are creating a cacophony in which it is impossible to hear your own voice. - from "Solitude and Leadership" by William Deresiewicz, reprinted in UTNE

My favorite season is autumn; my favorite time of day is sunset. These are beautiful times - poignant and ever so fleeting. Isn't that true of many of life's loveliest moments? Everyday problems teach us to have a realistic attitude. They teach us that life is what life is: flawed, yet with tremendous potential for joy and fulfillment. Everything is workable. Until we fully learn this lesson, we are burned time and again by our unrealistic expectations. - from Awakening the Buddha Within

In an interview Writer's Digest did with Alice Walker, WD asked, "You've said that heaven should be a verb. What other words are underutilized?" Alice responded, "Bliss, ecstasy, joy. I live in Mexico part of the time, and my friend Yolanda always says that something is maravilloso. The word marvelous - especially when she says it about almost everything - reminds me that yes, indeed, that's the truth of it. Even with all of the things that are so awful, if you walk into your yard and stay there looking at almost anything for five minutes, you will be stunned by how marvelous life is and how incredibly lucky we are to have it.


Friday, September 17, 2010

Thoughts on a rainy Friday

Changed my blog layout, as some of you non-RSS -feed readers may have noticed. Just needed a change of scenery, I suppose.

That's what autumn is all about anyway, right? Shifting seasons, changing colors, falling leaves, a new year beginning for the schoolbound, that cyclical creep of cool, crisp September air nosing its way into August heat. For Seattle, it's just meant a lot of rain the last few days. I keep thinking about Ruth, who just moved here a few weeks ago from New York, and how she must be calling home and telling everyone, "It's really true, this gray and rainy all the time business about Seattle!"

For now, though, I like it. Rain means books, fleece, butternut squash soup, music, snuggling with Chloe, Cozy Time socks, copious amounts of tea, and snowboarding season just around the corner. I guess that's how I know I moved to the right city...I can take my place among my Seattle friends whose Facebook statuses all echo my sentiments: James "likes that it's overcast today" and Gale wrote, "has anyone looked outside? Exquisite rain. Really. Top notch Seattle rain. I love it.", etc. Clearly I am in the right place. I was listening to some great music a minute ago, but I've turned it off, because I'd rather sit by my open window and just listen to the droplets splattering in the gutters. What a great sound!

Life's been interesting lately. I've read more books in the past month than I think I have in all my time since graduating. A bittersweet observation...completely awesome and tragic, all at once. Why did it take me until now to remember how much I love reading? How much richer my life feels when it's surrounded by words - real, thoughtfully crafted, deliberately transposed words - and not just Twitter posts? For once, I haven't held myself to one or two books at a time. I've checked out dozens from the library, spent afternoons lost in bookstores, placed exorbitant orders with Amazon (no, I don't think they're evil, just because they're an online retailer), and woken up every morning surrounded by books and let myself take to work the one or two that really appealed to me on that particular day - rather than holding myself to the one, necessarily, I was reading the night before. It's been fantastic.

I went for my first run in 6 weeks. I did about 3.5 miles, and it felt spectacular, but also hard (though not as hard as I was worried it might be.) But I was ready to be done by the end. It's sad to not be in the kind of running shape I was in just a couple months ago, but my body feels strong and rejuvenated and excited for all the rebuilding and strengthening that's possible when you're not already in tip-top shape. The fact that "going for a run" only takes half an hour now instead of three or four is also very productive for the book-reading habit.

Got together with three lovely Oberlin folk a few nights ago for tacos and a political discussion on the pros and cons of Katy Perry and her effect on American pop culture. Ah's amazing how many fellow alumni have settled in the rainy city, too.

School starts in another week and a half. I'm excited for all the possibilities. And again, for change. Change is great. It's always been a positive driving force in my life. I've had so many ideas in the last few years, but with the modern technological age, it feels like a roadblock to not have the skills to build websites for my ideas. School will (hopefully) help me develop those skills, and for that, I'm infinitely grateful.

My eclectic soundtrack for the month:
Goodbye, Sean Fournier (his whole album if obtainable free at his website)
Jolene, Dolly Parton
Turns Out You Won, Meredith Bragg
Seminole Wind, James Taylor
Otherside, Macklemore
Alla This, Ani Difranco
In the Barrel of a Gun, Emily Wells
Cornflake Girl, Tori Amos
When You Come Back Down, Nickel Creek
Ain't No Reason, Brett Dennen
Somewhere Over the Rainbow, Israel Kamakawiwo'ole

That's all I got for now, folks.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Ramblerambleramble on life.

Many years ago now, I initiated a huge, huge project that absorbed hours of my life every day - part journaling, part artwork, part web design, all with a huge dose of self-reflection - and I didn't tell a soul about it. To this date, until this moment in which I'm deciding to write about it on my public blog, nobody's really heard about it. Bear with me.

During my sophomore year in high school, I was fairly depressed and angsty. I was going through a devastating breakup in my young life, having lost my best friend and the person I'd been sure I was going to spend the rest of my life with it, all at once. My mom had gone back to school herself and my dad was getting crushed under his workload, so I felt like they were both too busy for me - and even when they weren't, I shut them out in the stubborn way that only 15-year-olds can. I hadn't really blossomed yet socially, and the word "shy" was still the dominant adjective people used to describe me. I was struggling with everything from my self esteem to my body image, from feelings of hopelessness to a serious exhaustion with life.

But I was good at hiding it.

At the same time, I recognized that I had to do something drastic to get myself out of the hole I felt like I was in. I credit my parents fully with having loaded up my emotional toolbox in childhood with tools to cope with challenging situations. I thought about what I'd read in my one of my favorite books at the time, "Succulent Wild Woman" by SARK: a story the author relayed about a male friend of hers who'd whined to his mother about not being able to meet the right woman. The mother told him to stop worrying about meeting the right woman (which was out of his control) and focus instead on making himself into the right man (which was within his control) so when he finally found her, he'd be ready for her.

That was my thinking when, at 15, I launched my secret project, which I dubbed DMTM - "Discovering Myself Through Myself." Using techniques Mike had taught me during our relationship plus a lot of research on my own, I built myself a website on my personal computer. I never uploaded it to the internet, but instead kept it buried on my PC for personal access only. I designed a main menu that led to a dozen pages and sub-menus. I moved my personal journal onto the site. I kept other writing I was proud of on it, too. I put up scans of my sketchbook pages. I kept record of any and all dreams I had and remembered. I showcased my budding web design projects - all with no audience in mind but myself.

The focus of my project was to redirect all my angsty energy into something productive - an investment in my own future. I refocused my journal entries on positive thoughts of change, of learning, of growth, rather than on negative ruminations about how stagnant and trapped and sad I felt at that point in my life. I meditated. I went running a lot. I tried to calm my soul, and recorded the entire process on DMTM as it was happening. On the first day of it, I wrote:

So many people spend their lives so desperately seeking their own purpose on this Earth, and they are seeking for it so intensely that they lose sight of what’s right in front of them. Life. Reality. Humanity. Being. Existence. This. Now. My purpose is to find myself and be true to that. I am forever changing myself, changing who I am, to make others happy. The few times I don’t do this are when I write in my journal with the confidence that no one is going to read what I’m writing and while I am running and my mind is completely centered on that.

In a world full of people screaming to be individuals, I’m just like everyone else. I want to leave my own unique imprint on the world. I want to be special, too. I want to inspire. I want to be an individual. But I’ve come to realize I can’t do that merely by dressing funky or writing band names on my backpack or posting my poetry in my AIM profile. I have to start small. Before I can even think of advertising who I am, I need to find out who that is. I don’t do that by trying a million different self-images out on my peers and seeing which one everyone else likes best. I have to start with myself.

Psychosocial scientist Erik Erickson acknowledged in his work that, indeed, identity formation is the most crucial task of adolescence. (Check!) The next steps of young adulthood and beyond include the searches for intimacy (vs. isolation) and "generativity" (vs. stagnation) - so I suppose those are naturally my next life projects. The point of writing about all this is that, first of all, I'm infinitely grateful to my 15-year-old self, and second of all, the amazing thing about personal development is that you can do it for free, anytime, anywhere, and it always, always yields results.

A few years ago, when I first began dreaming of moving to Seattle, I imagined myself securing from afar a full time job in publishing or editing. I certainly never imagined myself working in retail once I got here. And yet, "things not going as imagined" can be such an unforeseen asset. On the bright side, I work for three fantastic companies, doing diverse projects and work at each, generally loving it all - all the while getting to reflect a lot more on what aspects I appreciate most in each, plan for my future accordingly, learn about different business models, and develop my own life skills along the way. I love that REI pushes me constantly to be a better worker, a stronger communicator, a leader with positive drive and energy. I love that everything about my job with Kaplan is pretty far out of my comfort zone, and made me miserably scared at first, but sticking with it despite my anxieties has led me to grow into a confident, effective tutor. And I love that all my work at the magazine so far has helped illuminate for me this path I'm interested in pursuing further academically...the overlaps between print journalism and internet media. Hello world.

It almost feels like cheating to be reading books on personal success, because they're full of wisdom and lessons that people have taken entire lifetimes to earn - and I can access them all now, at this age. That's powerful. I've just been reading a ton of books lately. I've stopped checking my email or Facebook when I wake up, or on my breaks at work. I read books instead. It's completely transformed my energy levels throughout the day.

It's part of the reason Seyeon and I bonded so intensely when we met at Stanford the following year; I recognized instantly that disparate as our personalities were, we were made of the same clay. I emerged from conversations with her energized about life, about thinking, about learning, about planning for the future. We're both feeding off that energy again in each other now, and our reading/hiking seminar on Mt. Teneriffe last week was only the beginning. We're both going to school this fall; after Oberlin, I was burnt out on school and vowed not to do any more of it until my adult self figured out for sure what I wanted to study and could pay for it with my own money. That time has come.

Happily, Alan's on board, too. I know it's rare for me to do this much personal rambling on my public blog, and probably most of you won't make it this far anyway (web stats show that the average person reads only 18% of text on any given webpage), but I'd like to state for the record that I feel really lucky to be in a relationship with someone who loves and supports me as much as Alan does, and furthermore, is making purposeful tracks of his own in creating the future he wants. Motivational speaker Jim Rohn once said, "You are the sum of the five people you spend the most time with." True story. I'm a lucky lady.

Let me know if you would like to share book recommendations. I'm in a reading frenzy, and would love to share in it with you. So, no awesome photos of beautiful Washington this week. Just a lot of enjoying being home, reading and writing and relaxing and catching up on both sleep and cuddle time with Chloe.

Thoughts always welcome, in the form of blog comments, emails, Facebook messages, handwritten letters, phone calls, in person, or whatever other crazy medium you can come up with.

Monday, August 30, 2010

100 Miles. Done.

Before my own ego gets too puffed up, I'd just like to point out that this past weekend, a handful of amazing folks covered 100 miles on less than 24 hours.

I did it in less than 31 days, which is cool, too. My shins and knees are pleased that this year, at least, I chose the latter of those two options :)

So, a confession: I've been composing an "I failed, and I'm trying to be okay with it" blog entry for the past two weeks. When I first set out to do this Hike-a-thon business, I had to set a mileage goal for August. My initial thought was to aim for 80 miles. It seemed ambitious, but doable. Then I reflected on how often I set "ambitious but doable" goals for myself...I'm a go-getter by nature, so even goals that sound crazy to most people (write a 50,000 word novel in a month, organize and direct my own road race, run an ultramarathon...) don't necessarily seem so crazy to me.

But, ambitious as some goals might appear to those on the outside, it's lame to create goals you already feel 100% confident you can achieve. What's the point? Even as you achieve them, it creates a false sense of satisfaction when, in fact, you haven't really pushed yourself to your limits at all. Hiking 80 miles in a month felt too readily attainable. So I upped my goal to 100 miles. And I genuinely spent all of August thinking there was no way I'd make it; I only had one day off from work per week, with the exception of my birthday week (3 days off).

When I got back from my birthday trip and realized I still had nearly 40 miles to hike, and only one more day off in the month of August, I thought I'd have to give up on my overzealous goal. Unfortunately, I'm too much of a...I don't even know what the right word is...nut? just give up. With a little creativity, I somehow managed to squeeze in all 40 of them. Well...39.5, by my most accurate count, officially clocking 99.5 miles for August...but without GPS to verify mile-by-mile each of my hikes anyway, who's really counting?


I've been fortunate to have great company on all my hikes this months, but this hike was particularly special. Though Seyeon is the person in Seattle I've known the longest, until this day, we'd never hiked together, just the two of us; with no nearby mountains, northeast Ohio wasn't really a place to hike much, and when I first moved out to Seattle, REI hadn't helped the hiking bug find me to bite just yet.

Given that we live within two miles of each other, Seyeon and I have a remarkably hard time actually getting together to hang out or catch up. This is largely the fault of My Ridiculous Work Schedule, the Yitka-time-hogging qualities of which many of my friends and loved ones are all too aware. (It's going to get better someday, I swear.) But we've both been reading some fantastic books lately, and having some equally fantastic thoughts and revelations surrounding them, so this hike was far more about spending time together to catch up with each other's minds than anything else.

We headed out to North Bend to take on Mount Si's neighbor, Mount Teneriffe - a mountain with several different routes to the top. We opted for the longest, most roundabout one - a steep, winding abandoned logging road that proffered some nice views of the fog on the way up, but mostly provided us with eight hours of uninterrupted conversation. We had the mountain entirely to ourselves, and our hike mirrored our conversation: meandering, full of tangents, no absolute summit at any point, but a wonderful journey along the way nonetheless. We stopped multiple times for snacks and to read to each other, then discuss what we'd read. Kind of like an intellectual seminar, except on a mountain.

Books discussed included: Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg, The Shallows by Nicholas Carr, and You're Broke Because You Want to Be by Larry Winget.

"It's not enough to just know what you want. If you only focus on wanting things, you will end up with more want. You have to have an action plan: things you can do every day to move yourself closer to your goal. Always ask yourself what you could be doing right now to make sure you have the future you want to have."
- Larry Winget

Mileage: 14 miles


My friend Gale is wearing pink in this photo, a tiny speck on the trail that's cut into the granite on the side of the mountain. See if you can find her.

This hike was another spectacular one, on the other side of the basin from Rampart Lakes, where I was last week. In fact, we could see Rampart Ridge from where we stood today, and likewise, last week, could see the Katwalk from our vantage point there. Very cool.

Gale and I also had never hiked together before (not even in a group), despite not having known each other for over a year. A fortuitous day off in common allowed us to head out early this morning for this trek up to Kendall Katwalk, a popular destination along the Pacific Crest Trail (the west coast's equivalent of the Appalachian, i.e. a 2,650 mile trail from Mexico to Canada.) Lucky for us, Mondays mean very few cars at the traihead, and most of the hikers we encountered were thru-hikers with big packs.

The views along the entire hike were stunning. Getting to talk to Gale more than our usual cursory chats at work was awesome. We also got to watch scurrying pikas and listen to screeching marmots. Video footage of this phenomenon forthcoming in a future entry...

Our weather ranged from blazing sunshine to a trail-flooding downpour, with a lot of partly cloudy in between. After months of being nervous about screwing up my feet for either running or hiking, I finally have absolutely no other physical adventure penciled in on the horizon, so I felt like it would be a good day to start breaking in my new boots. In truth, they're old boots...a pair of Vasque Sundowners from the 90s, back when Vasque still manufactured full-grain leather boots in Italy rather than China - an era of bootmaking in Vasque's history for which hikers across the world are still nostalgic.

Landing myself an unworn pair in my size was a serendipitous gift from the universe. Nevertheless, the leather is ridiculously stiff and in need of a lot of breaking in. 11 miles today with only one tiny blister isn't a bad start, though! And given the downpour at the end, I was grateful to be wearing Gore-Tex footwear for the first time in my feet were the only dry part of me by the time we got back to the car.

Glad it was nice at the top, though!

Mileage: 11 miles

Total August Mileage: 100 MILES

Ultimately, here's what I feel I got from all hundred of them: the kindling of new and old friendships alike, a better knowledge base for my job(s), some much-needed mental clarity, strong gluteus muscles, rest for my battered shins from too many running miles, a lot of fresh air, rich food for thought, many awesome photos, and an even deeper appreciation for this beautiful world we live in.

And onward!

Friday, August 27, 2010

I saw the ocean!

It's been far too long since I've updated my blog. Apparently, working long hours and hiking on all your off-days doesn't leave much time for writing. I have more reflections on the psychology behind this goal-setting experiment, but I'll save writing about it for once the month is over altogether. For now, suffice to say that I have raised over $200 for the trails, thanks to all you spectacular souls who've helped sponsor my Hike-a-thon. I'm short of my fundraising goal, but I've still got four days! (This will be the last plug for it on my blog, I promise, but if you're at all interested in helping the effort, this is your last chance! Click here to help out.)

In the meantime...the latest in long-awaited hike reports of the past couple weeks...


Not the most spectacular hikes I've done, but the Bald Mountain Trail nevertheless enchanted me and my crew with its sheer solitude. Jenica, Casey, Wayne and I set out for what some of us thought would be a cool summit - but because we did our approach from the Ashland Lakes trailhead, rather than the generally recommended one by Cutthroat Lakes, we wound up just hiking for a long, long time in the woods until the threat of sunset forced us to turn around, still in the middle of the woods, sans summit or views. We at least had a nice day for it, and a pretty lake on the way up:

We also had the trail entirely to ourselves, which amounted to the intrepid Casey having to fend off many spider webs on the way up. We ate many berries, talked music, and shared stories from our disparate homelands of Appalachia, the Midwest, and southern California. Though the hike itself was nothing to write home about, the company was. Again, so grateful for the friends I've made since moving out here. Good people. :)

Total miles: 11 miles

HIKE #7: OZETTE TRIANGLE (Pacific Coast)

Seyeon and Leo hiking along the beach.

I've been talking about wanting to go out to the coast since I moved here. With that ambition in mind, I took a few days off from work surrounding my birthday last week and, in all the craziness of August, failed to plan pretty much anything. Happily, things worked out all right anyway. I didn't get in the dozens upon dozens of miles I envisioned myself hiking in Olympic National Park, but I did get: amazing time spent with some of my favorite people in the world, a beachside game of Scrabble on my birthday, and my first rain-free camping experience in as long as I can remember (well, it did rain...but only when we were already in the tent, so who cares? At that point, it was just a soothing audio companion to the waves crashing against the rocks thirty feet from our tent.)

There is a sweet loop trail on the coast that Seyeon, Leo, Alan, and I decided to hike and camp along. We had to hike about three miles ("hike"...really, it was an extended stroll through the woods on boardwalks) out to our campsite, an amazing spot right next to the water.

My crew.

Camp: Leo making dinner, Seyeon tending the fire, Alan off searching for firewood, and me predictably behind the camera lens.

The Washington coast is far more rugged than most coastal areas - lots of jagged rocky outcroppings, far less developed, i.e. quite isolated and wild. I definitely want to spend more time exploring it. After an evening of drinking hot cocoa, inhaling s'mores, talking politics, and telling ghost stories, we retreated to our respective tents. I woke up before anyone else and decided to seize the opportunity to go for a little solo birthday morning hike. I walked out quite a way on the beach and found myself a nice big boulder amidst the tide pools to listen to the sea lions, watch the birds, and wish the darned sun would come out. It didn't, but I still felt perfectly content.

A good start to a new year in my life!

When I got back to camp, Alan woke up and joined me for morning stroll #2. We walked out to a cool little island that I believe is only accessible at low tide. There, we watched the waves and speculated about the array of strange objects washed up on the beach. Returned back to camp for a long, lazy day at our campsite, spent drinking more hot cocoa, stirring up our fire again, and playing some Scrabble oceanside.

I couldn't have asked for a better way to spend my birthday.

Total miles: 11.5 miles

HIKE #8: KLAHHANE RIDGE (Olympic National Park)

This was a seriously rockin' hike. Alan and I car-camped at the national park's Heart o' the Hills campground the night before, slept in, and got up to Hurricane Ridge by late morning to start our generally unplanned trek.

Alan and I outside of the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center.

At a park ranger's suggestion, we began our amble along the Klahhane Ridge trail, which was paved for a short bit, albeit ridiculously steep and at elevation that made the climb seem much more intense than most of our typical hikes. The pavement and national park crowds quickly and drastically thinned out as we climbed, until finally we pretty much had the largely exposed ridge trail to ourselves.

Although the elevation made it a challenging one, it was a stunning, stunning hike. Sunshine and mostly clear skies proffered spectacular views on both sides of the ridge - on one side, Port Angeles, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Canada visible, and Mount Baker poking through a thin line of clouds...on the other side, a panoramic view of the Olympic Mountains, way more up close and personal than is visible from my beloved home city. No photos will do it justice.

All the wildflowers and wildlife - friendly deer + even friendlier marmots - were icing on the cake.

Total miles: 10 miles


I'm sure I've said it before, but I really, really mean it this time: this was the most gorgeous hike I've done in the Northwest. At the recommendation of a new hire at work whom I was helping train last week, I gathered five friends this past Monday and made the epic trek up first to Rachel Lake, a sometimes gentle, sometimes brutal 4-miler up, then even more brutally upward to scale a ridge and drop back down into the Rampart Lakes basin - a truly magical little hideaway in the mountains, isolated, and pocked with crystal-blue, shimmering mountain lakes. I've been doing a lot of alpine lake hikes lately was, I'm ashamed to say, beginning to feel sort of like "Ehh, once you've seen one mountain lake, you've seen 'em all" - until this hike.

Alan above Rachel Lake on our hike up to Rampart Lakes.

Alan and I were both disappointed as we reviewed our photos later, because somehow more than usual, they completely and utterly fail to convey the majesty of this place. But so it goes. That's, I suppose, why I go outside and hike instead of just admiring the photos in the guidebooks.

The coolest part of the day? At Rachel Lake, as we were all doubled over catching our breath, already massaging our exhausted quad and gluteus muscles, we ran into a 90-year-old man who was hiking with his dog, Dusty. Really friendly guy, who told us that every year, he's worried it'll be his last time getting to see Rachel Lake - but so far, so good; what an inspiration!

Total miles: 12 miles

Total Mileage so far: 74.5 (of 100)
Total Funds Raised so far: $210 (of $300)