Marble Falls

Meghan & Brendan’s Wedding in Texas

I’ve come to love cutting back on the things I own. Taking old clothes to be donated. Giving old books away to friends or selling them at Powell’s. I swear to you I didn’t just find out I’m dying. It’s just better in so many ways to own just enough… not more and not less.

I’m sure I’ll always have a few things I’ll accumulate quickly. The bookshelves will replenish themselves soon and it’s hard to say no to a useful kitchen gadget. I’ve spent most of my adulthood so far pretty low-budget, so I turned into an excellent scavenger. Hopefully I can keep up these new habits though for the benefit of other scavengers.

I got to spend a good amount of time today tidying up and I’m quite pleased with the look of our living room.

I don’t know when this change happened but I’ve come to love the look of my space when it’s all cleaned up and neat. Growing up, I was kind of a messy kid. Now, having a house with everything squared away feels weirdly energizing.

A dog that loves the road this much clearly belongs in our family. Happy to be reunited with Beignet after the weekend.

Here’s a few things making me happy this week.

My friends came through on making a pretty good queso recommendation for me- Torchie’s Tacos. Not to be overshadowed, their tacos were also pretty good. I’d recommend both the Democrat and the Republican- bet you haven’t heard someone say that in a while.

We were hosted by our friend Julian’s family while in town and while we were all over the place with the wedding they were so accommodating and hospitable. I love the art of giving and receiving good hospitality freely. You wind up with friends everywhere.

Finally, to make a long story short, I lost my keys somewhere deep in the heart of Texas. Car key, house key… and it was looking like it would be pretty difficult to drive home to Eugene and pick Beignet up from the sitter without those things. Thankfully a friend had a copy of our house key and for some reason, a spare car key I never knew existed showed up in my backpack. Our only loss was one hour and no money, while we were looking at a week and hundreds of dollars. Praise. The. Lord.

Here’s one last look at Deanna and her long hair. She bet on the Ducks this weekend and had to cut it all off.

Kidding.

She did cut off about a foot though to donate. Stylish and charitable!

Deanna now looks the way she did when we started dating, and that’s the circle of life pretty much.

Leave the dog at the sitter– check.
Pack up more books than you have days on this trip– check.
Phils cap to take care of morning hair– check.
Coffee, coffee, coffee– check.

Just had a fully loaded Thursday and still found some time to pack up the Osprey.

Onwards to Texas, amigos. Got a 2 AM start to the day’s journey!

“That scene still haunts me. The explosion and then five minutes. If only I… If only I… and then the capsule hits the water, it’s all over. Then you realize it’s all the same– five minutes, five days, 50 years. It’s all the same, for it’s over before we realize…. It may be the last time… stop, appreciate the blessings you have. ‘If only I could’- you still can, you’ve got today.”

–Rabbi Berger

The New York Times ran a really interesting piece on Rabbi Kenneth Berger this week. The Rabbi gave a Yom Kippur sermon the year of the Challenger Explosion that contained the above quote, reflecting what it would be like to stare at death from five minutes away. Only a few years later, in 1989, the Rabbi and his wife experienced exactly what he preached about, being killed in a plane crash over the Midwest.

Time is a crazy thing. This year I’ve had to say goodbye to two family members who’ve lived very long and full lives, and yet they felt too short. I’ve had to wait and countdown the weeks until grad school is finished, and that feels like forever. And all while this is going on, I’ve got no idea how much time I’ve got left.

There are so many things in life that don’t work out, even though they made total sense on paper. I’ve seen couples break up that seemed like a great fit to me. I’ve had friends not get jobs that they seemed made for. I’ve known people who have started projects that for some reason never got the attention they were worthy of.

What’s the deal? I wish I knew. Unfortunately life is full of these little injustices that don’t seem to have a good explanation.

It’s good to know that this happens, and it happens quite a bit. It’s good to be prepared for this. Hard work is indispensable, but sometimes, it’s not enough. You can make all necessary efforts, all the right choices, and it still doesn’t work out.

It’s probably a healthy thing for everyone to experience this at least once in their lifetime. So many people in rough situations are there through no fault of their own. It’s important to have empathy for that. Not blame, and not a rescuer mentality. Just a deep sense of understanding and compassion.

“You learn more and more that everything exists at once with its opposite, so the contradictions of life are never-ending and somehow the mediation between these opposites is the game of life.”

-Milton Glaser

One of my favorite ideas ever is how for every personal strength you have, you also have a corresponding weakness that comes out of that same tendency.

“In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer. And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.”

–Albert Camus

A beautiful, somewhat out of character quote from Mr. Camus that sums up how things are.

I had to do some important research for Donut Studies while in Texas. Round Rock Donuts, I approve.

I dunno about you guys but Saturday just started and I’m already having an incredible weekend. Rainstorms and floodwaters are no match for good news, good music, and good food.

Loved getting to hang out with these two in Texas the other week. They loved getting to hang out with this parrot.

Here’s a few things making me happy this week.

Deanna’s birthday weekend was so much fun! Having Bre, Jesse, and Raquel in town was a treat, and we mostly spent it just doing whatever felt enjoyable and of course, eating at some of our most favorite places.

One of my favorite podcasts, On The Media, has been doing special segments exploring poverty in America and popular myths that surround it- all across the political spectrum. I’ve liked it a lot! It looks at the different “varieties” of poverty common in the country and challenges some of the notions I’ve held.

And… it’s very much fall in the Northwest, and I love it. I happen to think we get an especially pretty taste of the season every time this part of the year comes around.

Congrats to Meghan & Brendan! Deanna and I had such a blast celebrating in Marble Falls- that was definitely a unique wedding experience.

Between your wedding and ours, every time we’ve seen you two together it’s been a really, really fun day.

Deanna and I got the treat of hanging out with Hamaila while we were in Austin. Plus it was a hangout with donuts and bookstores involved, so it’s hard to top that.

So much to fit into a short amount of time, but I’m glad we got it all in.

Doughnut lovers, I’m having cravings. What are your picks for best doughnut shops in the country? I’ll give you my top three.

Pip’s Original Doughnuts (Portland) – Going the route of keeping it simple but executing well. I’m a fan.

Gourdough’s (Austin) – Going the opposite direction with Big. Fat. Donuts. piled high with everything from fried chicken cuts to jalapeño jelly. I’m a fan as well and make it a point to come by whenever I’m in Austin.

Blue Star Doughnuts (Portland) – French brioche dough makes all of their doughnuts good to the breadcrumb. They won me over by tossing a vile of rum on to a caramel brulêe doughnut.

Yup, Portland takes two of three. Although I say this not having tried Daily Dozen in Seattle, which I’ve heard such good things about.

Deanna’s 27th Birthday

Today I submitted my forms to graduate and be done with everything in nine weeks.

While my motivation going into this quarter is mostly propelled by the finish line I’m looking at, I’ve found a helpful way to think about work that provides an extra boost.

Imagine, for a second, what the best possible outcome could be of you showing up and doing your job well? A lot of people can easily drum up the worst case scenario, but what’s the best case scenario. My wife’s a therapist, so in her field it looks like saving a life, preventing suicide, and breaking up abusive cycles in a family. That’s a pretty serious contribution to the world. Do you accept a so-so job because of the healthy pay? Maybe the money you donate to charities, treat friends with, or support your family with are also in the life-saving business. Are you a barista? Maybe your pleasantness and warmth have actually made somebody’s day or turned it around… I can credit a phone rep for Virgin Airlines doing that for me once.

As a teacher of African studies, hmm… who knows? Maybe I strike the curiosity of a kid who one day discovers an efficient way to get antiretrovirals or malaria meds to the people who need them most.

Are these pretty out there possibilities? Yup. Unlikely? Probably. But here’s the crazy thing… if these things end up happening, a lot of times we’ll have had no idea. So we might as well act as if they just might, and by doing so, we’ll really increase our odds of doing meaningful work.

Here’s a fun fact- some studies show that businesses that use totally made up words or names are often more successful than those that use descriptive, already existing words. Airbnb? Much better than ShareYourHouse. Instagram? Beats out Mobile PicShare. Ghostbusters? Better than its Chinese translation, Super Power Dare Die Team.

Here’s the part of that I find interesting… there’s a good part of us that can so easily be convinced we’re looking at something new just by the way it’s presented. Both traditional media and social media have gotten really, really skilled at that. The way to keep you glued is to run up storylines that seem like they’ve never happened before.

Corrupt politicians? That’s actually about as old of a news story as we have. Leaders with dictatorial tendencies? They go pretty far back throughout history. People unable to live peacefully with each other because of race, gender, or a bunch of other qualities? Yeah, unfortunately, that dynamic is much older than we are.

What to make of this? I’m all for staying informed, but also remember, there’s nothing really new under the sun and there’s a good and bad side to that. Unfortunately, progress happens very, very slowly, and many of the world’s big issues will probably outlive us. But the good news is that the world is crazy resilient. There’s still a lot of good that persists along with the bad.

At the end of the day, don’t just respond to the big bold headlines. Listen to what your life has taught you, to the lessons learned from the dirt underneath your fingernails. Don’t let panic take control of your creativity, it was meant to add good into the world, starting with what’s in front of you.

Having my life look totally different from one year to the next, making new friends in new places, discovering things I’ve never seen or done before… I’m sort of a native to constant change. For the most part, I love living a life that lets me experience a bunch of different things, but because I’m such a chronic sampler I also crave having some recurring traditions.

Nonexisting traditions that I wish I had is an oxymoron, but here are three examples that fit the bill…

I’d love to take a day like Easter or my birthday and spend it in the same place every year. We went camping in Yosemite for my birthday two years ago and it was amazing. It’d be awesome to be able to keep going to the same place on a day that’s naturally more reflective. Sparks Lake in Oregon, Joshua Tree in So-Cal, I would love that.

I’d love to regularly go “all out” and throw a feast on a holiday that might go otherwise missed. St. Pat’s, perhaps. Or host a books-only white elephant every MLK Day.

I’d love to host recurring dinners with roughly the same batch of friends on a regular basis, out of doors, and around a giant table. I’d love to grow older with a bunch of people who keep coming back to the same dinner spot. Weekly… every other week… just often!

Already looking forward to their wedding in six months. I know it’s gonna be a fun one.

Again, last weekend was a blast with these two in Eugene, our small little country town.

Hosting visitors is one of mine and Deanna’s favorite things to do.

Over the weekend we got to have Bre and Raquel and Jesse over for soul food, Ticket to Ride, and more food. Loved it.

We’ve now passed the amount of out-of-town friends we hoped to be able to host in Eugene for our marriage goals, but we have no plans of stopping! We love having people over.

Happy, happy birthday to my sweet and beautiful Deanna! It’s been a good day of church, eating, friends, and hygge.

Life with you is so sweet, simple, fun, and I couldn’t be more thankful for it. I love getting to spend every day with you, taking Beignet out on little weekend adventures, watching our shows, trying to squeeze out every last minute of conversation before we go to sleep, cherishing the friendships we’ve managed to build around town, and dreaming of all kinds of things we hope to do together.

It’s a great life and I love that I get to share it with you.

Johnnyswim in PDX

Wind and rain have this river feeling pretty good about itself.

Here are a few things making me happy this week.

So first, there was the bit of good news we got last week that I mentioned in my last post.

I’m also really loving Johnnyswim’s Georgica Pond album. So much soul and so many songs off the new album sounded great live.

And before the show, I finally got to eat at Tasty and Sons, which was on my places to eat in Portland list for a good while. Get the Asian Bloody Mary.

Know what’s a really, really good feeling? It’s when you don’t know exactly why something happened or didn’t happen to you but still feel really, really at peace with it.

I got hit by that while driving through Texas Hill Country a week or so ago. Suddenly convinced that the end of this year would make for a very important time for me to be learning things.

Last summer, I came pretty close to getting a job that looked like such a right fit on paper. I would’ve loved the work I’d be doing. I would’ve accepted without hesitation.

I realize now that if I did that, there would be no way I’d be able to tie up all the loose ends of my Masters programs like I thought. There’s a bit too much left to do, and I would’ve likely had to pay to do that too if I wasn’t teaching at the same time. I also did some math and figured out the “just right” amount of income for Deanna and I. This would’ve been a bit too far below, and sometimes I tend to underrate income for more idealistic trade offs.

Some stretches of life can feel so slow, with a purpose that’s hazier than mid October mornings. Surrendering what you don’t have control over frees you to unleash your best stuff.

I got to talk to a longtime friend last week about making it through grad school, hitting the late twenties, and figuring out what comes next. We pretty much compared notes and found out they look a lot alike.

If you would’ve asked me a couple years ago what I wanted to do with a Masters Degree, I would’ve had a really specific answer involving NGOs and children’s programs and so on. The closer I get to the end, the less specific my answer gets. If the job’s a good fit financially and the work is tolerable enough, that’ll do!

We decided that we haven’t given up on our initial big dreams, we just get that they don’t need to all materialize by next month. Sometimes the simple first step of just getting a few things in order and having more time and financial flexibility can open plenty of new doors.

We chalked this one up to growing up, rather than giving up. It’s almost a paradox- the older you get, the more you learn how to be patient with yourself.

Not gonna name any names, but one member of this family makes taking selfies a lot more difficult.

We’re thrilled, though!

Deanna went to see a doctor for a checkup. When she got really sick last February, her breathing scores dropped from a typical range in the mid-high 70s down to 22. We had a doctor tell us that a lot of people don’t get back to their old numbers after a drop that drastic.

Well since then, I knew she was doing better since we’ve visited lots of places, snorkeled in Hawaii, and ran a half marathon. But how much better?

When she went to get tested at her doctors, I walked Beignet around while praying for a good number. We got it… 80! This sort of comeback is really, really rare.

I’m a believer in never taking what you have for granted, in realizing there are things so much bigger than the usual things we freak out about on a daily basis, and in God working an old school miracle every now and again.

You know how there are often those articles of 13 Foreign Words we Don’t Have in English like ‘saudade’ (a profound nostalgia-meets-melancholia) or ‘ghigeel?’ (the irresistible urge to pinch the cheeks of something cute)
.
I think we need one to describe the way cold weather puts me in the mood for a bunch of Japanese things.

Like, I could really go for sitting underneath a heated blanket table, drinking green tea, and watching a Kurosawa film or reading Murakami or anything that takes me away to the somber, snowy social lives of young people in modern Japan. That is totally the mood I’m in right now.

Somebody invent me a word!

Deanna and I absolutely love Johhnyswim. We got engaged to our friends playing a cover of Paris in June and left our wedding reception to the tune of Diamonds.

We were absolutely not going to miss our shot to see them play in Portland.

Man this was an amazing show. So much charisma and stage chemistry- I’m loving the sound of the new album already.

Month of October

Ah the rain has returned in full force after taking a little summer break. My opinion will probably change when February rolls around but right now I love this so much.

Also glad we were able to make it to and from Portland twice while having to basically drive through a lake with all the flooding. On Friday night we ended up backing up on a one way road just to get out from all the water.

Last night, I got to attend our local human rights commission meeting. I didn’t even know we had one but here’s what I saw.

A representative from the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs shared a nasty courtroom experience directed at her while trying to speak on behalf of land belonging to her tribe. Everybody listened empathically.

A member of the ACLU talked about methods of police surveillance that may raise some privacy concerns and a rep from the police department acknowledged the concerns and mentioned some potential benefits of the technology in stopping child predators or kidnappings.

I know a lot of people are so over political discourse, and I get why. But I was also encouraged by what I saw. Local governance offers so many opportunities for regular people to be a part of the process that not many people take. And in a local setting, you can oftentimes have a huge influence.

When you get tired of being a political spectator, maybe try participating every now and then.

On paper, this was supposed to be a really challenging Fall for me. I had to request special permission from the University to take twenty credits (twelve is my normal) all while keeping up my freelance projects, my job hunt, and several weekends of travel for family reasons. Plus it’s also the time of year when the sun disappears and everything drops fifty degrees and it’s way harder to feel motivated for anything.

The funny thing is that we’re close to halfway through this quarter and I am loving it. So far it’s all gone by smoothly and I’m surprised often at how efficiently I’ve been able to get things done.

Here are a few things that have been real helpful this term.

Going one day at a time. It’s easy to rush it when you’re close to the finish line, but just making sure each day’s challenges are given appropriate attention.

Before most items on my to do list I ask myself who do I really have a chance to serve with this task. The answer isn’t always obvious but it makes otherwise unmotivating tasks much more fulfilling.

So far I haven’t worked a Sunday, I’ve mostly been able to slow down my Saturdays, and often finish everything by 5 or 6 pm. All that time to enjoy life and not just work through it has finally become a good habit after years of working on it.

This summer, I came really, really close to getting what I thought could have been my dream job. I would’ve worked as a director with a really cool organization doing international work, it would’ve been work I’d enjoy doing every day, and it would’ve been in a city where I used to live that I miss a lot.

Part of me was surprised I didn’t get it because it seemed like such a great fit on paper, but another part of me just had a feeling that it wouldn’t work out. And while there was a bit of disappointment, there have been so many times this past fall where I’m glad it didn’t go through. If I got it, Deanna and I would be back living in California right now, and almost on a daily basis, I’ve been thinking, I’m glad I’m still here.

So in honor of understanding and appreciating things better in retrospect, here are a few reasons why I’m glad I’m still here.

Fall in the PNW is gorgeous. The first weather cycle, with the unending rain and grey skies can be a bit overwhelming. The next time around? I’ve fallen in love with it. Grey skies, bright orange leaves, and hygge weather… I’ve been liking this so much. I’ve also grown to appreciate having different seasons, and I’m thankful for this one.

Moving a couple weeks ago would’ve been a huge hassle, logistically. Not just with getting all our stuff and dog to California. We would’ve had to find a place to live. I would’ve had to figure out how to finish grad school remotely- which I now realize wouldn’t be easy at all while working full time. And there are some financial reasons too.

Ultimately, we really aren’t ready to leave where we are right now. Maybe we will be. Maybe soon. But I think we needed this last round to take it all in and to enjoy this stuff.

“Be sure that the patient remains completely fixated on politics. Arguments, political gossip, and obsessing on the faults of people they have never met serves as an excellent distraction from advancing in personal virtue, character, and the things the patient can control. Make sure to keep the patient in a constant state of angst, frustration and general disdain towards the rest of the human racein order to avoid any kind of charity or inner peace from further developing. Ensure that the patient continues to believe that the problem is “out there” in the “broken system” rather than recognizing there is a problem with himself.”

– Not C.S. Lewis or the Screwtape Letters

This quote has been going around, being falsely attributed to C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters. WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS? Some random person came up with a brilliant quote and instead of taking the credit decided to attribute it to C.S. Lewis, who definitely does not need another eloquent quote to be assigned to him. This would be like me writing a song and telling everybody that Johnny Cash did it. Maybe I’m an attention hog, but that’s not gonna happen.

Anyways, that person’s loss. Even if it’s a fake C.S. Lewis quote, it’s still a really good quote.

Justin and Caytlin Get Engaged

Living in a state with one In N Out > Living in a state with zero In N Out.

Also, order 32’s number was just called at In N Out and a family of six stood up and started clapping. There truly is good in the world.

“Radical hope is our best weapon against despair, even when despair seems justifiable; it makes the survival of the end of your world possible. Only radical hope could have imagined people like us into existence. And I believe that it will help us create a better, more loving future.”

–Junot Diaz

This weekend was about as good as it gets.

Deanna and I went down to San Francisco to help our friend Justin propose to his now fiancé, Caytlin. There were tears and corgis and food trucks and beaches involved, and we got to see a bunch of our good friends again.

Congrats Justin and Caytlin- we are so, so happy for you two and we’re looking forward to you two being married!

All Caytlin ever wanted from Justin was a corgi and a ring.

He totally delivered by proposing at Corgi Con.

“There is love that is like a stream that can go dry when rain no longer feeds it. But there is a love that is like a spring coming up from the earth. The first is human love, the second is divine love and has its source above.”

– To The Wonder (2012)

For full effect, imagine that quote delivered by Javier Bardem’s biutiful Spanish accent in an echo-y cathedral during a Sunday homily.

Mahal kita. It means I love you.

I post a little recap every week of some of the things making me happy. It’s the simplest thing but this week’s a good reminder of why I do my best to add as much positivity into people’s news feeds as I can.

So here we go again.

I found a random movie on Netflix called ‘Dough.’ I put it on to have something going on in the background while working and it turned out to be really good. If you think you could go for a more uplifting story about a Muslim refugee from Ethiopia and an old Jewish baker who learn to get over their differences while making pastries, here you go.

And speaking of movies, I discovered the Coburg Pizza Company which not only makes the best pizzas in the Eugene area, but also doubles as a video rental shop. My one gripe is that I wish I lived closer!

Also along the lines of Best in Town, Oakshire Brewing continues to win me over. Especially with their new seasonal release of their Gose To 11 Ale. Sour as I like it.

I hang out with a good looking bunch.

And we eat brunch.

It’s crazy to think about how close life is to radically changing all over again. I’m both looking forward to it and ready for things in my life to last a little longer.

When I started grad school, I had a whole lot of energy to get things off the ground. I wanted to launch projects, new organizations, groups of people and have them all spring into action. I was ready to hit the ground running. The past few years before that had been so dynamic and full of big changes it seemed like there was only one direction to go.

It turns out that most of the things I attempted to start didn’t work out. There were a lot of false starts and midway through it started to feel like I’d been spending my year doing nothing. Life went from this dynamic journey to being surprisingly still.

I had a friend talk to me about how sometimes we hit these seasons in life where God just wants us to chill for a bit, without much going on. That gets really challenging for my personality and my inclination to want to go everywhere and do everything. But these stretches, slow and frustrating as they might be can be really important and underrated.

Some recipes have steps where dough needs to rise for hours, or flavors need to meld for a day, just so it can come out right. Some pieces of pottery need to chill for a week so they don’t shatter when used. Some songs need to rest after a big note before going on to the next movement so the listener can take it all in.

I don’t think God’s one to waste time. And when we can trust that there’s a point to these.

This weekend was a great one for corn mazes and mud.

And in 2016, I attended my first ever baby shower.

Looking forward to meeting baby Mathis in just a few weeks.

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