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...