Celebratory Weekend in San Diego

I was born in May. My mom was born in May. Mothers Day’s in May. Everyone graduates in May.

This month has been ridiculous for my entire life.

Since I could only make it into town for one weekend only, we decided to celebrate everything. We went on a cruise for my Mom’s birthday, but we also had a newly hired doctor on board, and a fresh college grad back at the house.

I feel like there’s this point in life where you have to stop and see your family from a zoomed out point of view, noticing things you hadn’t before. For the first act of life, you tend not to question family. Things just work the way they work. But sometimes you get to introduce a new member to your family, or you spend a lot of time around other families that you start to take note of how unique your own family can be.

I love seeing where everyone in my family has ended up at this point in life. It’s fun to see our parents still healthy and enjoying life and dedicating an hour to the adventure of trying to figure out how Lyft works. It’s fun to see my cousins starting families and careers and all kinds of things. It’s excitement, but the hard-earned kind that only comes from knowing somebody for a lifetime.

Family is pretty great. I’m thankful for being born into one that really knows how to celebrate things.

My momma celebrated a birthday over the weekend, so what else was there to do other than cruise the San Diego harbor?

So glad we were able to make it to California to celebrate with the rest of the family.

Here’s to another year of staying fresh.

“I’m thanking God for being alive. And for our victory.”
–Trash (2014)
Is this city our next home? Maybe. Maybe.

One of the big things that’s been on my mind lately is the fact that I’ll most likely be moving sometime within six to nine months. I’ll be finishing grad school and I’d like a job in a city that puts my family and friends in much closer access. San Diego perhaps? I definitely have a lot of family and friends there. Portland? It’s a possibility. We’ve also been throwing around the names of Sacramento and Ventura, and others may emerge.

Sometimes I wish I knew the answer already so I could start imagining the future, but perhaps that’s one of the big reasons why it’s a good thing I don’t know. In the end, I’ll have to see what my job hunt looks like after the summer and see what the options are then. So much of this move is out of my control. Then again, most of life is and I’m just pretty good at acting like it’s not.

One way or another, we end up where we need to be. It’s one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from the crazy travels and outdoor things I enjoy doing, and part of the reason I insist on adventure. It’s seeing how you managed to end up where you need to be and being astounded by the process.

I’ll find out how this goes eventually. In the meantime, I thank God I’m alive and for every little victory.

I’m not gonna lie, I’ve been really restless lately. I write a lot and talk a lot about how important it is to be present, and I haven’t been doing a very good job of that.

Perhaps it’s because if I didn’t take a leave of absence to go to South Africa in the winter, I’d be done with grad school this week. And I’d be able to look for jobs, hopefully in a city that allows me to be closer to some of the people I care about the most. It’s been hard for me not to keep thinking about being able to work, bringing in a better income for our family, and being able to relocate.

I’ve been thinking about it a lot. Excitedly, for the most part. Even then, I know I should be more focused on what’s in front of me. Ayudame. Someday soon, today will be nostalgia, and I have a few months left that I can think of as a victory lap.

I guess that makes it perfect timing to take a trip of pure vacation, the one goal being relaxing and doing little that would feel like work. It’s a lot easier to stay focused on what’s in front of me when it’s scenic, and tasty, and ever so chill.

Two days in San Diego is a crazy short amount of time! I’m impressed at what we were able to fit in, though. I think we made the most of our weekend.

Cruising the harbor was cool. Mount Soledad was pretty timely for Memorial Day. Seeing some of my oldest friends and family was the best part, naturally. Thanks to Jeremy for taking us to some fun spots I hadn’t been to in years. Possibly decades.

Oh, and there was a night spent in a rented karaoke room too.

As fun as all that was, I think the memory that might stand out the most from this weekend was just being stuffed all the time. You know you’re taking a family trip when you go from one eating activity to another, while having to put an invitation to Korean BBQ on hold.

Of all the San Diego natives I know (and there’s a lot of them) few know the city as well as Jeremy.

Had a good, good time catching up and talking about hospital work and photography during my short stint back in the city. The view up on Mount Soledad wasn’t too bad, either.

This was a really memorable Memorial Day weekend. I’m glad I got to spend some of it in San Diego, home to so many military families.

The world gets crazy complicated oftentimes, especially when it comes to war and conflict. I study international issues for a living and that doesn’t make those big questions about war and peace and being human any easier.

One thing that’s clear is that fighting comes at a huge cost. There’s the visceral destruction of land and loss of lives, and the hidden cost of what often happens to the soldiers that come home. People and families who fight for peace and freedom often lose their inner peace and psychological freedom in the process.

Sacrifices like that can’t be taken lightly. And it means that it’s actually pretty important for us to decide how to best avoid future conflicts and how to be good stewards of freedom.

End of Spring Term

It’s been forever since I’ve been able to do any sort of wedding, engagement shoot, or photoshoot for somebody, so it felt really good to get out to the Columbia Gorge with my camera and a lovely couple.

I’m really glad that Raquel and Jesse chose to call Portland their home when they had a whole country to choose from (and probably a dozen or so other countries, too, knowing them). It means we get to see them quite often, and hanging out usually involves good food or gorgeous places.

With these two, it isn’t hard to get some gorgeous shots and having Shepherd’s Dell in the background didn’t hurt either. Of course some of the shots that turned out great probably won’t be used on the Save the Date cards: Jesse smirking, Raquel blowing her nose, and Deanna photobombing.

Sometimes, there’s a lot of wisdom to be found on a small sticker on the back of an espresso maker.

Enjoy life.

Today I did something that should have probably been on my bucket list, except it’s not really something I imagined myself doing. I got to help give away a giant check.

The funds went to the Relief Nursery as part of a class project I’ve been a part of. I also got to physically hand them the “real” check for $15,000, which is the most money I’ve ever given away. It wasn’t my money, but I physically got to give it away, so that counts for something I guess.

The Relief Nursery is one of the things making me pretty happy midweek. I visited their campus and was pretty impressed at the parental support they offer to low income families with the goal of putting an end to child abuse.

What else? Hmm… I’ve been loving the Chance album lately, like most other people who are aware of its existence. It’s one I really don’t mind on repeat over and over and over.

And I’m also pretty happy with Xurroland in Portland. Yet another dessert spot in the City of Roses that I hope to make part of my routine whenever I pass through.

Redmond’s City Hall building is totally art deco. It also kind of looks like a deli. How cool is that?

So, one of the really fun grad school projects I’ve been able to work on this past year was helping a group in Redmond figure out how to serve the city’s homeless population. We looked into tiny homes or possibly a church based support network.

The other week, I got to go over to Redmond and give my presentation in front of city leaders and community members. I remembered how much I love speaking and presenting in front of groups. I know that probably puts me in a minority, but I love being able to help get people excited about things. Whatever career I do next I hope contains some element of this.

Close to triple digit temperatures… also known as a good time to hike, apparently.

Jordan took us to go see the highest point in Lane County, somewhere pretty deep in the Umpqua National Forest. Then to Bohemia, an abandoned mining town that hasn’t been used in a century. Creepy. And cool.

Beignet loved her time on the mountaintop too. A little too much. She got away from us for about an hour. Good thing she loves snow as much as she does. That made it way easier to go find her.

I’m the lucky one.

The past four years have been wild. Both of us have gone through grad school, we’ve moved from Santa Barbara to Bakersfield to Oregon, we’ve done long distance while I’ve lived in a van or in Africa, and we’ve shared some of the best adventures ever together. We drove across the country with a brake missing. We’ve also had to carry each other through stressful jobs, tragic news, and rough transitions, and we’ve been experiencing the excitement of getting married and talking about what sort of family we want to build.

There’s absolutely nobody I would rather be sharing this amazing and often ridiculous life with than my best friend. I’ve told her again and again that so many others become better people just by being around her, and I get to benefit from that the most by being around her the most.

I Love you, Hun. Thanks for saying yes to me on the Goleta Pier four years ago. I think it’s worked out pretty well.

Family Vacation to Kona

Hawaii means easy living, but getting there isn’t always so easy. Yesterday we had to jump through a crazy amount of hoops to get to the Big Island.

I’ve never, ever just been straight up late for a flight before, but that happened to me for the first time yesterday. I underestimated how slowly Eugene’s taxis work (seriously, give us Uber back!). I underestimated how crowded the airport could be…it usually feels like there’s two people there, but I guess things are different with the Prefontaine Classic and UO’s graduation on the same weekend.

So what could we do? We rented a car and booked it to Seattle, took a mimosa break in Tacoma, and made it to the airport. We somehow charmed an agent into waiving our rebooking fee, and at the end of a long, long day, make it to Hawaii.

Hawaii now joins Morocco, Germany, Thailand, Swaziland, and South Africa on an ever-growing list of places that have taught me that no matter how crazy setbacks can get, somehow you get where you need to go.

“God must be a pretty big fan of today because you keep waking up to it.”

–Jamie Tworkowski

We’ve all got the things we’re worried about. The uncertainties of the future and the worst case scenarios. We’ve also got the things we’re hopeful for. The places we dream of going to, the people we want more of in our lives. It’s easy to go down either rabbit hole. Most of us know that both dreams and anxieties can be really unhealthy when taken to the extreme.

It’s totally fair to take some time to name anxieties. Sometimes the best thing you can do is to just name it. Same with hopes and dreams. If you’re the type who can’t help but daydream, give yourself a ten minute recess to go do it. Then come back to today, cause it’s a great one.

Summer’s a great coach at teaching us how to take on one day at a time and to solve that day’s problems. I know I could do some more learning.

Last week I took the time to list out some of the things I’m hoping to get done this summer:

1) Update my resumé and my LinkedIn that I haven’t touched in forever
2) Fix up my car so that it’s in shape to be sold
3) Defend and finish my thesis
4) Update and make some big changes to my website
5) Pursue a few writing gigs
6) Take a couple of summer courses
7) Look for some part time work
8) Fully take in a PNW Summer.
9) Write. A. Lot.
10) Host a bunch of friends and family up in Oregon.

This should be a good one!

The past few days have consisted of nephews, boogie boards, salty ocean water, and shave ice.

In other words, it’s been a pretty good week.

Okay, last weekend, most of us were hit by some really sad news. I used to think that with so much terrible news that goes on around the world all the time, things like the sports or entertainment segments of the news were pretty worthless. I’ve changed that outlook, though. They’re largely positive reminders that life is worth protecting because it can produce some great stories.

Speaking of great stories… did you happen to catch what my alma mater did? UCSB not only advanced to the College World Series by beating Louisville, they did it in the most spectacular way possible. I think every kid imagining a high stakes baseball scenario imagines being down by three runs in the bottom of the ninth with the bases loaded, getting all set up to win the game with a grand slam. How often does this actually happen in real life, though?

This year, it happened at least once! All thanks to the Gauchos. This has been their best baseball season yet, and I’m glad I got to see this team play in person, even if it was a loss to the Ducks.

I’m loving my time in Hawaii thus far, and that’s another good thing this week has going for it. Quality time with the nephews and some shave ice usually gets the job done.

Ah, and all this musubi I’ve been making this week.

Summer. Yes. You’ve finally arrived.

Kona Brewing Co. makes so many different beers I’ve enjoyed, and I have a feeling there are even more beers they make that I would love that I haven’t tried yet. This one right here, though, this is one of my favorites from anywhere. Wailua Passion Fruit Pale Ale. This is one of the most refreshing beers I’ve ever had the good pleasure of sipping.

And Deanna and I have returned home to find a new season of Agents of SHIELD on Netflix. I never would’ve expected Deanna to be such a big fan of the show considering she is as much of a foreigner to the Marvel Universe as you can be, but she does and that makes for half of the enjoyment I get out of it.

And with that we’ll be spending our weekend on Oregon’s lovely coast.

Hooray for good things in life.

Swimming and boogie boarding with this kiddo marks the perfect start to summer.

I miss having my nephews close by. The six months in between Christmas and our Hawaii trip was the longest stretch of time I’ve gone without seeing them since they became a part of my life.

A week in Hawaii with the boys was great. And now I’m constantly counting down the weeks until I can move somewhere that allows us to see them much more often. Before they get a whole lot bigger. That’s a real race against the clock.

Our visit to Kona wouldn’t have been complete without ample amounts of Kona coffee, and perhaps even a tour of a coffee plantation on the island.

I usually can’t taste much of a difference between coffee beans based on where they come from. Kona beans are the exception. I can tell when beans come from the Big Island, and I have yet to come across a brew of them that I don’t like.

Kona Joe’s turned out to be our spot. Gorgeous location with a view that overlooks the water, and some really good roasts. I tried each of the samples in their gift shop and even their decaf option was delicious. That’s saying something.

Kona Brewing Co. makes some of my favorite beers, hands down. Pipeline porter? Excellent. Lychee Lager? I really enjoyed that. My absolute favorite though has to be the Wailua Wheat… especially as a solid summertime beer. It’s a passionfruit pale ale and I don’t know if I’ve ever had another beer that I can consider equally as refreshing. Lava Rock was a little bit hoppier than my usual preference, but that’s why there are options.

For lunch we went with pizzas… most people seemed to be pretty excited about the pizzas, and they looked pretty promising. I went with the Kohala, recognizing most of my favorite toppings alongside Hawaiian specialties. On the whole, the pizza was pretty good, but not entirely what I was expecting. With garlic, roasted peppers, and parmesan sausage, I think I was expecting a bolder taste. The crust was also a bit uninteresting. It was still a good pizza, though, and I’d get it again.

As an appetizer, we had an order of the ahi poke. It’s hard to go wrong with poke, and we liked what we got.

Deanna and I got to snorkel with dolphins around the Captain Cook monument and we had so much fun. It was most definitely mating season out there.

We kayaked out a couple miles to get to the spot. It was a good workout, but it was totally worth it. Being able to get really, really close to the dolphins was amazing.

The dolphins were pretty interesting, and so was the hippie mermaid who kept singing Joanna Newsom style while underwater. For obvious reasons, most people thought she was pretty nuts until her singing lured the dolphins towards her and she hitched onto one for a piggyback ride.

Every day we spent in Hawaii pretty much felt like the same day on repeat. I mean that in the best way possible, though.

Wake up, beach activities, get musubi. Beach some more or go somewhere else. Big family dinner, then hang with the nephews. Drink lots of cans of Hawaiian Sun and lots of bottles of Wailua.

It went by slowly and all too fast.

Give me some shaka and some ‘tude.

Deanna and I had the rental car and the afternoon on the Big Island to ourselves this afternoon so naturally we started by eating ourselves silly. Coffee then a massive plate of loco moco, then some shave ice.

This was a perfect afternoon to cap off our Hawaii week. No plans, free spirits, and a bunch of good experiences by the end of the day.

We had the rental car and the Big Island to ourselves, and one full day before we’d need to head back to the mainland. No way were we going to let this go to waste!

First we ate. And continued to eat. I think our first six consecutive stops were all places to eat. It wasn’t until we realized that we had more hours to spare than space in our bellies that we decided to head out towards a state park.

The area just north of the Kailua-Kona airport is some of the newest formed land on the planet Earth. There’s massive boulders made up of lava rock lighter than IKEA furniture. We climbed through caves carved out by lava and caught a glimpse at what the state of Hawaii might look like without people.

“When my dad got sick and his muscles were atrophying and we thought we were gonna lose him, I had an emotional crisis.
And out of that came this idea of, what if this happened to my father’s hero? And what if there was a young guy in his life, and we were following their relationship? I was questioning masculinity. Is your manhood defined by your strength and your ability to protect all you love?
-Ryan Coogler
I got the treat of watching Creed on my plane ride this morning and loved it– way more a film about fatherhood/growing up fatherless than “Rocky 7.” Ryan Coogler might be becoming one of my favorite directors, and Black Panther will probably only further cement that.

Start questioning what defines masculinity and you’ll easily get into heated debates with no straightforward conclusions. Regardless, the ability to use your strength to protect what you love is a noble goal and I realize how much effort my parents put towards that. It’s what I want for myself.

Of course, we’re never perfect at this. Or in the process, we neglect other important things. It takes a world of grace to be a dad or to have a dad, but when your own parents get older it gets a little easier to realize how necessary all that grace really is.

Thanks to a couple of guest passes from Deanna’s dad, I got to enjoy a taste of life inside a airline mileage club lounge. In San Francisco the day of Game 7 of the NBA Finals no less.

We arrived early but got to grab coffee, bagels, and then a mimosa while people watching and working in some fancy recliners. It’s fun in here. I’ll have to pay better attention to all those travel-hacking blogs Ifollow to get back in here the next time I take a trip.

This summer, my focus will be on preparing myself for the end of grad school. Professionally, spiritually, personally. I’ll hope to do more copywriting, bulking up my portfolio before my job hunt goes full swing. (Seriously, if you need some writing done, send me a message!) I’m aiming to think and pray through what I’d want out of life after grad school and what my top priorities are. And of course, taking things a bit slower and enjoying the sun.

I won’t be doing a whole lot of travel this summer, which feels odd. Instead, I’ll be doing more short-term getaways around the Northwest since we may or may not get another summer here. We’ll also be hosting a lot of visitors which I think is a blast.

Hosting Ivy & JB in Portland

James Baldwin says that to be black and conscious is to be in a state of perpetual rage. I guess I have no way of fully understanding what that’s like, but from what I see on a way too frequent basis, I can see why. The news cycle is way too cyclical, and in the worst way sometimes.

I can’t think of anything that turns me off more quickly than seeing people I know express insensitive attitudes towards the pain felt by my black friends. Posts that are dismissive, or constantly insisting that these recurring incidents have nothing to do with skin color make me it way too easy for me to lose respect.

Alton Sterling and Philando Castile were fathers. They were loved ones, and they were humans made in the image of God. They weren’t made to be hashtags.

I doubt this post or anything I do this week will do much to change the way things are in America. It seems like a daunting task that continues to take generations of work for slow, often unnoticeable progress. But I believe that God is Love and Love is Love is Love is Love and only Love can drive out hate. So if anyone I know is grieving this week as something that’s way too familiar, that hits way too close to home. I’m with you.

Mission accomplished!

We spent a few hours of our afternoon wandering the rows of berry patches on Sauvie Island, emerging with a basketful of blackberries and blueberries that would join yogurt to make breakfast the following day.

Portland remains my favorite playground.

How do you Portland in 36 hours? Basically, you eat. Pick berries, then eat. Go see a waterfall, and eat. Powell’s of course, then more food.

That was basically our task at hand when Ivy and JB came up to visit us for the weekend but only really had one and a half days to spend exploring my favorite big city. There was Pok Pok and Powell’s and Salt & Straw and all the things I’d deem as a Portland must. Not an easy task when that’s an ever growing list.

I’m satisfied with all we got done. Most of all, it was great getting to spend some time with these two again.

“Compassion hurts. When you feel connected to everything, you also feel responsible for everything. And you cannot turn away. Your destiny is bound with the destiny of others. You must either learn to carry the Universe or be crushed by it. You must grow strong enough to love the world, yet empty enough to sit down at the same table with its worst horrors.”

–Andrew Boyd

I’ll bet I’m not the only one who can relate really well to this quote, especially after some of the events that have been going on in recent weeks. The world’s full of heavy stuff. Some people get an especially heavy exposure to it. Police, people working in mental health, those running charity organizations, parents of kids in rough neighborhoods.

One thing that I always find helpful to remember is that we weren’t exactly designed to handle the full volume of the world’s catastrophes. We were made for empathy and I think our hearts were built so that they’d be broken by the things that break God’s heart– injustice, broken relationships, violence. But were we meant to be able to handle the weight of every single tragedy on the news? I don’t think so. For most of human history, people have had to grieve really local things– deaths in a community, property fires, natural disasters, and they were able to do so with the people immediately around them.

When the world seems big and daunting, I like to remember that we were designed for a smaller, more intimate world. I got a call last week from a good friend wanting to talk about some of the terrible things that have been happening in the world. We didn’t solve anything, but all I know is that it was way, way better to process one-on-one, than all alone and with the world online, and it felt really good to talk.

Baseball parks are pretty much my favorite place to be this time of the year.

Truth be told, the main reason we went to this game was because we thought it would be the Emeralds’ tribute night to Prince. Unfortunately I read the schedule wrong and they were wearing pinstripes instead of their special Purple Rain jerseys, but we had a good time anywho.

Baseball is summer, even when you’re at the lowest level of minor leagues.

Mom & Aunt Viv got into town yesterday. We are getting visitors left and right this summer and we absolutely love it.

Later this week, Deanna’s family gets into town.

Also… Slowbro!

It’s been a pretty busy week- I had a presentation of some sort nearly every day, but that’s over and now it’s time to go explore some Oregon small towns in the middle of nowhere.

Current musical fixation: Oh Wonder. Phantogram-esque production with more restraint and way better harmonies.

Also, I watched The Little Prince last night. Wayyyy different from what I was expecting but that movie was romanticism and whimsy.