Astoria

Anniversary Trip to Astoria

Man, I completely fell in love with Astoria on our anniversary trip.

The place absolutely feels like a movie set, and not just because it was actually the backdrop of so many iconic films from childhood, but it’s small and quirky and gorgeous. Also, there’s way more good food here than I would’ve expected.

Discovering new gems of a city remains one of my favorite rushes of excitement.

“We need to swap the Romantic view [of marriage] for a tragic, and at points comedic awareness that every human will frustrate, anger, annoy, madden, and disappoint us – and we will (without any malice) do the same to them… compatibility is an achievement of love; it must not be its precondition.”

– Alain de Boton

Alain de Boton wrote a phenomenal op-ed in a New York Times column titled “Why You Will Marry The Wrong Person.” Its title is a drama queen but also really faithful to what he’s says in the piece. There’s no way to marry the right person. Once you marry someone, their moods will fluctuate, they’ll change and evolve, and they’ll very frequently irritate you and let you down. The article goes on to talk about how the true mark of love isn’t “how well you compliment each other,” but how well you forgive each other and stay committed to what you’re working on.

It’s an absolute treasure of a piece and I recommend that everyone types “Alain de Boton marriage” into their Google search bar to read it. I married my favorite person who rarely disappoints, and I still think a lot of it is good and true and could help out so many people I know.

I redid philippelazaro.com! Go check it out.

Also, I’ve stopped blogging. I used to do it as a way to simply preserve moments from my life, but I think these posts now are sufficient. For times I want to write a longer article with thoughts I want to put out into the world, there’s no shortage of online magazines and outlets for me to submit to, and this week, Good Men Project has already put out something I wrote about Jose Reyes and domestic violence in Major League Baseball.

This trip, up and down the Oregon Coast, it’s done a good job of refreshing me and helping put me back at ease.

It’s been a weird summer, full of trying to anticipate what’s coming next and wanting to be more present and patient but really not doing a good job at it. The road to where you need to go happens when you solve one problem after another, but right now, I’ve got the itch to take them all on at once.

Maybe that’s what coastlines are for. To remind us of our own smallness. To give us the perspective of crashing waves and towering cliffs and beautiful things that could kill you in an instant. I used to watch the waves crash when I lived by them. I should do that some more.

There are so many things putting a smile on my face this week. I’ve been married to my favorite person in the world for over a year now, and that alone is worth a fiesta.

To celebrate, we spent our weekend on the coast. The “real” coast, since I insist that Florence is just a tease when it comes to the coastal life. We spent time in Astoria and Seaside and Ecola Park, and passed by so many great towns all on the 101.

Oh, and who knew the coast had such a good food scene? I know now! We found this quirky little spot vaguely called “Coffeehouse Bistro” that served a little bit of pretty much everything. Their ambiguous name served their extremely diverse menu well. And what really matters was the food was fantastic.

Great summer so far.

There are so many things putting a smile on my face this week. I’ve been married to my favorite person in the world for over a year now, and that alone is worth a fiesta.

To celebrate, we spent our weekend on the coast. The “real” coast, since I insist that Florence is just a tease when it comes to the coastal life. We spent time in Astoria and Seaside and Ecola Park, and passed by so many great towns all on the 101.

Oh, and who knew the coast had such a good food scene? I know now! We found this quirky little spot vaguely called “Coffeehouse Bistro” that served a little bit of pretty much everything. Their ambiguous name served their extremely diverse menu well. And what really matters was the food was fantastic.

Great summer so far.

This girl freaks out every time I’ve been away from home for a little while on a trip. Particularly with her bladder.

Glad she misses me, though. And glad we’re reunited again.

But seriously, Beignet, get it together!

“To make injustice the only measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.”

–Jack Gilbett

Is there plenty of stuff that you hear about every day to get angry about? You bet. I know a lot of people my age who think that the world keeps getting worse every day. I empathize, but I don’t exactly agree. Our lifespans only account for a small sample size of the world’s history. We’re more connected than ever before, which is why we’ll hear about the bad stuff more and more often, but evil around the world is nothing new.

Meanwhile, there’s somebody who took a leap of faith to start a small business who just found out that they’ll make it. There’s a couple that just found out they’re going to be parents, and another who found out their kid’s heart condition can be treated. There are places like the Oregon Coast that need no explanation to be admired.

It’s only fair that if we spend a lot of time wrapped up in the things of the world that make us angry, we should spend just as much time paying attention to the good. I don’t think I can say it any better than Jack Gilbett, but he’s on to something.

This dog was such a nutcase when we first adopted her. All puppy energy, no idea what to do with it.

Over the weekend, we took her with us to the Oregon Coast, which was the most dog-friendly trip I’ve ever taken. And the whole time, Beignet’s behavior was actually pretty exceptional. We haven’t even had her for four months and that’s made such a huge difference.

As a treat to our puppy for making good life choices, I tested out my long held hypothesis that her mind would be blown going into the ocean. My results at Seaside confirm my hypothesis.

“The family is like the forest: if you are outside it is dense; if you are inside you see that each tree has its own position.”

– Yaa Gyasi

Feeling especially thankful right now for my roots, for where I come from, the lives before me that shape where I am and where I’m going.

I’m so thankful that God made lives in a way that were meant to intertwine in order to create stories. In a divisive climate, it’s especially important to remember that we were made for a few really deep connections in the time we get on earth.

Deanna, it’s been a year since we got married and having you as my wife has been beyond incredible.

Shortly before I got married, somebody told me that marriage is too fast. Seems kinda weird. How can a commitment you make that’s supposed to last you the rest of your life be too fast? Well, we’ve been married for a year as of today, and I get it. Slow down! Being married has been a big adventure, a long conversation, and a beautiful process.

Even though the year feels like it went by in a hurry (especially those first six months!), we’ve done so much together. Nashville and Johannesburg and Kona and New Orleans. A half marathon. Adopting Beignet. Discovering even more relatives. Hospital beds and bank accounts that run too low too quickly. Campsites and hiking trails and geocaches. Fast as it was, it’s been a very full year.

Happy anniversary, Hun. I love being able to dream with you, to go places with you, to cook with you, to stay in and watch our shows with you, and to get even closer than we knew was possible.

Thesis Defense

Quelf! I don’t think I’ve played this game in years but I’ve just been reminded of how much fun it is.

These summer weeks are exactly what I’ve been needing lately.

Currently reading: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi… I’m only into the very early stages of the book but I already get what all the hype is about. People have been saying some very nice things about this generation-spanning novel of African and African-American family trees. I can’t wait to dig deeper.

Currently loving: Pok Pok’s drinking vinegar. I had a limited release black pepper flavor last weekend and now I wish that was one of the ones I could find in stores.

It was a very good 4th with some very good friends to wrap up a very good weekend.

This week will once again be full of hustle and work and contemplating options and balancing money and trying to figure out what’s next in life.

None of that matters while fireworks are going off. While the sky is on fire and flecks of gold rain down on the waterfront.

Twelve months of writing, three months in South Africa, 240 pages of work, and I can now celebrate a Masters’ thesis successfully defended!

Honestly, today was the fun part. I just got to stand in front of my committee and talk for thirty minutes about my time working with orphans and vulnerable kids in South Africa. Those kids are the best though and I can easily talk about them for hours.

I’m so thankful to have the kiddos as a part of my life for forever in some way, to have Deanna so willing to join me on my research trip, for the staff at 5Cees being accommodating, for my academic committee actually being really fun to work with, and for my friends and family willing to sit through academic jargon to watch me defend. I’ve got a great team!

This past week has been one of the craziest ones this year. It’s been a difficult one for obvious reasons, but there were a lot of good things that happened too.

One of those good things was having my in laws visiting Eugene for the week, along with Deanna’s grandma.

Lots of good nights on backyard patios, wine tasting at vineyards, playing tour guide around Eugene, and reintroducing them to Ticket to Ride brought a lot of needed light into this week. Glad for that.

Lola’s Memorial

Sometimes I wonder what qualities exist in the type of person God allows to live that long. I think it’s a strong suggestion that Lola’s presence on the earth was needed for nearly a century. Her Love. Her gentleness. Her care for her family.

When she would wake up at three, I wondered what she was doing. How many things were there for her to do at three in the morning?

She prayed. For each of her kids. And grandkids. And eventually, great-grandkids.

Lola’s Love was so large that it ends up sounding statistical. Ask anyone in her family and they’ll start rattling off a tally of family members. Kids? 9. Grandkids? 20. I guess it makes sense that she lived so long, she always put up astounding numbers.

Lola’s very long life was spent surrounded by Love, and at the end of the day, no matter how many years we get, I think that’s all we could really want. To know that we have Loved and been Loved. Lola spent nearly a century giving and receiving Love as freely as possible.

I’ve made it to Hong Kong to stretch my legs! Being on international flights, in new airports makes me wish I weren’t on this journey for such a short time and under these circumstances. There are so many places and people along the way that I’d love to see and I’m getting flashbacks of our adventure two years ago that stir up good memories I’d like more of. I’m glad to be on my way to see family, though.
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On the plane I discovered a Korean detective movie and actually really liked it, which was good because the three other movies I saw were big letdowns! I had much higher hopes for Deadpool and Hail Caesar.

Also, I finished Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. Loved it so much I can’t wait to give it a fuller review.

I can’t wait to be with my family in just a few hours. It’ll be good to be with everyone, even if the reasons aren’t so happy.

Being back in my mom’s hometown to celebrate my grandma’s life brought back so many memories of my past trips here.

There was 2008, the reunion with most of the cousins. We went to KTVs and watched Myx and ate at great breakfast buffets. We spent some time at the beach and mall but mostly spent time with each other. As an only child, I really loved having an extended family that was always a blast to get together with.

Six years later, in 2014, we would get together a little less often. I brought Deanna here to introduce her to the Philippines and to my grandma. I’d tell her what we did on past trips all while we built new memories, exploring a sketchy petting zoo, having fish eat our feet at the mall, and singing along to Surf Powder commercials. It’s a place I associate with happiness.

This unexpected trip wasn’t exactly a happy one, and there definitely was a felt absence. It felt like something was over. I also wondered what connections I’d keep to the Philippines as I got older. I’ll have fewer and fewer people to visit, and I’ll probably do that less frequently, and that makes me sad.

This isn’t the end, though. Some day I do want to come back. I hope to have kids one day and I’d love to take them back to have them discover their heritage. The heart of the country. It’ll just be a little while.

Hearing stories from the past week have helped me realize how many traits my grandma passed on to me. Traits i’m really proud of.

Lola loved to cook, especially for others, and I’ve always wondered where I got that interest, since my mom and most of her siblings don’t enjoy cooking at all.

Lola was also a traveler, especially for a Filipina woman born in the 1910’s. (Most of them just didn’t do that back then!) She did it for those she loved, and that’s the best reason to travel.

Lola also loved orphans and vulnerable children. Yesterday, I met the boy (now almost fifty!) she took in as a foster child after she had raised nine of her own. She also essentially adopted her sister’s family. I wonder if that same heartbeat is the one that drove me to South Africa.

I always thought I took after my grandpa more, the one I knew mostly through stories since I was really young when he passed. I’m happy know that I have traits from them both alive in the things I’ve done and the things I’ll continue to do.

“Imagine… you could have all this!”
–Lola
The last time I saw my grandma, she was so happy to see me and to meet Deanna that she got up and slowly walked us around the house to give us a tour. Four times in a row. We went from the living room, to her bedroom, to the garden, again and again. Each time we got to her room, she picked up this plate with her portrait that somebody made for her as a birthday present. She would look around the room and say those exact words. “Imagine… you could have all this!”

Maybe she was just really excited about her plate. Maybe she was talking about “all this” as in us. Visitors. Family. One that would keep on growing and keep on traveling in order to stay together. I think that’s more likely. It still makes me glad to know that my last memory of Lola will be of her flooded with joy and gratitude.

I asked her caretaker Alice if she knew what plate I was talking about, and she remembered exactly. I’ll be bringing this back home with me as a reminder to always go where the Love is.

I landed at my Narita layover to find that my flight to San Francisco had been cancelled, along with pretty much every flight to the United States. What to do?

First, I treated my free hotel stay like it was Home Alone 2, complete with complimentary bathrobes!

Then I tried to see which of my friends in Japan I might be able to meet. It was a bit of a puzzle navigating the Tokyo railway, but I made it to the city in time to eat lunch with my friend Chika who I haven’t seen in two years. Not bad for a cancelled flight.

“You must respect the body you are trying to heal.”
–Malcolm Gladwell
This quote stood out to me on one of the later episodes of Revisionist History. Part of the story included a retelling of an unsuccessful attempt by Princeton Students to rename the Woodrow Wilson School of International Affairs, President Willson being much more racist than I realized. Part of the big failure of the campaign was that it spoke about what students deserved rather than the greater values of Princeton, the legacy of major donors, etc.

Every day, I find myself pretty sympathetic to people on a mission to change some terrible aspect of the world. Racial biases in law enforcement, gender inequalities in hiring, and a whole slate of other issues. And I can totally see why staring at these things day after day would make you angry. And anger is a powerful motivator.

What I see so often, though, is that people just get so disillusioned that they lose sight of the difference between winning arguments and winning people, or as the Hunger Games put it, forgetting who– or what– the real enemy is. Most of us have seen a really unhealthy side to patriotism, nationalism, etc. but there’s also an unhealthy opposite of that where you hold a little too much contempt for what you wish to change.

Before you diagnose a problem, search for its solution, fight for change, campaign to others, and all that, start with Love and respect.

Summer 2016

Not everybody gets to have lunch with Sonny Van in their town in the middle of the week. #blessed am I.

Ninkasi, sushiritos, and good chats about what life’s been serving us lately, which isn’t always easy but at least it doesn’t have to be a solo act.

This weekend was niice. With two i’s.

Of all the concerts I’ve seen in the past several years, I was probably the least familiar with Miike Snow’s music before going to their show. But hey, I like Animal and Genghis Khan and a handful of others, and I had an inkling that they’d be a fun bunch to see live.

They were! And it isn’t very often that bands like them drop by Eugene.

Took a very quick, almost unplanned, and way unannounced (sorry!) visit to Santa Barbara today. I really wish I had the ability to stay much longer, because there would’ve been so many people I’d have loved to see. Unfortunately I was in town for mere hours, so I ended up making it just a quiet solo visit.

This was my first time back here since I got married over a year ago. That’s also officially the longest amount of time I’ve spent away from Santa Barbara since I started living there almost a decade ago.

I still like the way the streets feel. And I know that there’s a sense of home here that I’ll never fully erase no matter what happens.

Eastern Oregon Road Trip

Hot weather, big beers, freshly made playlists, and big brim hats made for one good summer weekend trip.

Wallow Lake State Park was probably the furthest destination we’ve gone to within the state ever since we moved to Oregon. It was gorgeous out there.

We spent most of our time around the city of Joseph, and appropriately enough, Joseph the band made for some good road trip music. I hear they’re gonna be in Eugene soon, which makes me really want to be at that show.

And while we were on our way back and going through Portland, I finally got to fix the unusually intense craving I’ve been having for Nashville Hot Chicken at Basilisk. The chicken was memorably hot– probably the spiciest thing I’d eaten in a couple of years. But it was exactly what I was looking for and I loved it.

Drives to this half of the state don’t look too unlike California’s Central Valley. Lots of 100° desert out here.

Weekend in Joseph and the Wallowas. This should be good times.

This has been one of the strangest summers for me on record. A lot of new things, a lot of challenging and difficult things, and a lot of unexpected things. Most of all, a lot of not really knowing what comes next.

I recently realized that there was so much ambiguity in my life that I can’t really make any plans beyond September. Then it also occurred to me how much I liked that… just having to take things weeks at a time, and soon enough, days.

The summer’s winding down, and I’m not even sure if it felt fast or long. That probably means it was both in some ways. There were times where I was so busy that it felt more like a really warm March.

At the same time this summer has also been full of some really beautiful moments, like getting out of a car I had spent seven hours driving just in time to witness the sun finally go down in a part of Oregon I’d never seen before– the mysterious, sparsely populated east. Deanna and I needed to cook dinner and ended up being shifty and “borrowing” a fold out table from a laundromat to get by. It was an unexpected challenge, but one all the more memorable because of that.

We’re back in Eugene after hours of driving. Oregon is a large state, with almost all of its population huddled in the valley. I knew we had to go check out the large and mostly empty Eastern half at some point.

I was skeptical, at first, of the idea of spending almost an entire day getting to Wallowa Lake, only to spend the night and spend most of the next day getting back. But– we enjoyed our time on the road, got to have hours of great talks, and eat some great food while exploring towns of four digit populations. Who knew the City of Joseph has an incredible affogato and chocolatier?

Happy and thankful after our time in the Wallowas, and ready for all of the projects this week has to offer.

Just some morning thoughts. Being able to walk in peace is a gift and a superpower.

The more familiar you get with the world, the more you start to realize how much of it is designed to freak you out. TV news has this down to a science. So does advertising. The late night infomercials where people suffer from severe accidents because they don’t have a state-of-the-art living room ramp are the most exaggerated version of this, but it’s pretty much everywhere.

A sense of humor goes hand in hand with peace, because there’s so much stuff you just need to laugh off.

Of course the world has plenty of stuff worth getting angry at. The unequal treatment of women. The terrible things black people in the US have to endure. The “forgotten” countries taken apart by fighting. But at the end of the day, the people who seem to have the biggest impact and make the biggest change are all people who have a spirit of peace… and oftentimes they’re the sort of people who have the best reasons to be angry most of the time.

MLK said that hate is too great of a burden to bear, and I get what he means. The internal fight for peace needs to be won first before fighting for peace in the world.

Justin & Caytlin Visit Eugene

This is the part of town that is always flooded with Pokémon Go players. There’s been a crowd over here for two months now. People sit on the corner by the creek on lawn chairs with their phones out.

There are three Pokéstops at the intersection, and all of them always have lures. The Bier Stein is right here and I wonder if they love the foot traffic or find it a nuisance. My guess is that they like it, and my sneaking suspicion is that they’ve been planting the lures. And why not? If I owned a business near three Pokéstops, I’d spend a good ten bucks a day to keep foot traffic pretty heavy in front.

I joined the crowd for the first time last week with Andrew. We mostly went to try and take over as many gyms as we could. A successful outing.

 

Sometimes new endeavors and opportunities spring up out of nowhere and take off way faster than you’d expect. Doesn’t always happen, but sometimes it does, and it’s one of those things I like a lot about life.

This summer, an unexpected side hustle showed up. I’ve been doing work on copywriting and content consulting with different organizations to help make their messages more clear, more energized, and more empathetic. This sort of stems from a realization I had earlier this year about how people are designed to thrive off of helping each other.

So far, I’ve really enjoyed doing this! One of the companies I’ve had a really fun time working with has been Coach Pro, that does customizations and repairs on big coach buses. I’ve got to go inside some of their vehicles and Xzibit would be totally jealous. These guys have a lot of fun making a bus just right for whoever they’re working with– whether that’s been converting a coach into a camoflauge-patterned man cave or making a big RV disability-friendly. Their old website was informative, but it didn’t quite showcase what a great service they did for their clients. Their new one does.

So far these projects have been a really good fit for me, and I look forward to taking on more in the upcoming months. If you know someone who could use a storyteller, give me a holler.

This is gonna be a good weekend– we’ve got a visit from Caytlin and Justin and of course, Charlie Waffles the corgi.

Good times on the Ninkasi porch with two puppies in tow.

A lot of work went into making the puppies’ Lady and the Tramp inspired photoshoot happen. This was about the extent of our success.

For the most part, Beignet has been pretty good with having Cousin Waffles around so we are proud of the furry ones.

We loved having visitors, as we always do. Caytlin and Justin came to town to pay us a visit, and Charlie Waffles came with them.

It was a great couple days of eating great food, going out into the woods and finding a waterfall to go splash in.

One of the hardest parts when we first moved to Oregon was being far away from some of our closest friends. One of the best parts was having endless nature to go be mesmerized by. Last weekend was a combo of that first problem being solved and that second gift being enjoyed. Perfect.

Last weekend was probably the warmest all year, with it teetering over 100º pretty often. Nothing compared to what I lived with in Bakersfield, but I overheat pretty easily.

Turns out it was a really good weekend to go jump in some ice cold water. We found a waterfall with a swim hole at its basin a little bit outside Cottage Grove, and took the dog.

It took some river fording and some rock climbing to get to the right spot, but it was great when we arrived. And we got to sit and watch other people jump off cliffs while soaking it up

Beignet got to go to her first baseball game this week. The Emeralds hosted puppy night at the ballpark as a fundraiser for the shelter we adopted her from.

There were dogs everywhere at this game. If you love baseball and dogs, you would’ve thought you were in the best place on earth.

I think Beignet liked the game. She at least liked the sasquatch mascot. She was less thrilled by all the stairs we had to climb on the bleachers and the scary foul ball that came our way.

Went to Hop Valley’s trivia night for the first time. Showed up. Signed up. Dominated.

First time I’ve ever placed as high as second, and we could’ve had a good run at first if only we remembered Ellen Degeneres’ short stint as an American Idol judge.

We did good enough for me to win a $10 gift certificate for burgers in Albany, though.

I don’t get to brag about Deanna nearly enough, but she does really meaningful work and really difficult work. And she’s really, really good at it.

It’s impossible to know how many crises she’s averted or how many lives she’s saved through hard work, but I know she’s helped a ton of people. At the very least, there’s one kid out there this week who is in a much safer situation thanks to Deanna.

I get to be married to an actual hero. How cool is that?

My friend Andrew invited us to come check out a camp he’s been involved with for a couple years, and we’re so glad we took his invitation yesterday to come hang out at the campgrounds yesterday.

The site was awesome- it was everything I remembered from my childhood summer camps, but with even more. Mini golf, a zip line, bumper boats, even this pulley system so kids could be yanked 60 feet in the air.

The best thing of all though was that the camp sends these kids home with messages of being Loved and not being alone. All of them have parents in prison, and that’s not a population I think of a whole lot, but man, they have it rough in so many ways. I’m glad this camp exists for them.

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