The Grapevine

Our first Thanksgiving and Christmas as a married couple

The Late Fall

Hoodie weather. Early evenings. The Beergarden. Sitting outside next to all the food trucks with a pint of Barley Brown’s Breakfast Stout.
A stein holding contest broke out, and the guy in the plaid shirt swept the floor with the competition. In just a few minutes everybody dropped out except for two. They went toe to toe for about one more minute before the other guy put down his glass. The winner shrugged and said he could probably go for another ten minutes at least. I believed him. Some of our friends knew him, and apparently he’s a pretty serious weightlifter… training his whole life for this moment.

If I ran a fitness-challenge Instagram account, this would be my only post. Strong is sexy. You never know when a stein holding contest could break out. That is all the gym-spiration you could ever need.

The results of this game, along with the Ducks season, were quite disappointing. But let’s put that aside for a second. Check out this view! I never get seats this good.

We put up with quite a downpour in the third quarter, but we came prepared, and that soon gave berth to a beautiful quarter four. Beautiful in terms of the sky and weather. In terms of gameplay, not so much

On the whole, I love my job. Ambiguous as it is, I love the fact that I get to teach and learn and intellectually engage people and cultures all around the world. I have a pretty demanding schedule, but it’s flexible at the same time that still allows me to make room for different adventures.

But, there are times where I need some space from it. Lately, all the hoops I’ve needed to jump through in order to get my thesis research project going has been more of a burden than anything. It’s easy to feel guilty about being burnt out by a job that you actually love. How do you say that without sounding extremely spoiled? The reality is that even the best jobs in the world occasionally get burdensome and come with their own stressors.

No job should totally define who you are as a person. That just isn’t healthy. At the same time, realizing that your job will most likely take up the largest cut of your hours in a day, you’ve also got to find some sense of purpose in what you do.

Anybody have much experience giving out a micro loan? I’ve heard and studied so much about them, and yet, I’ve gotten no first hand experience.

I decided to go for it and see what happens– helping a mother purchase some chickens in Burkina Faso. Here’s hoping it works out for the two of us!

Got to share a large bottle of Noir with Deanna to kick back with on a weeknight.

I really dig this Ninkasi special release… a milk stout brewed with cold brew coffee. The coffee extract came in nice and strong, with a deep and striking taste going on. Liked it a lot!

It’s been a whirlwind past few months for us. Our first holiday season as a married couple will be a crazy eventful one. Lots of major events and trips all in succession. It’ll be tiring but definitely a blast.

I love it when people are close enough to you that you don’t just share outings or isolated memories, you share entire seasons. Of newness. Of busyness. Of simplicity. I’ve loved the past few months but a season of simplicity sounds like a nice chaser.

We geocached right outside of Autzen Stadium. I must’ve passed the one we were looking for a dozen times mistaking it for a piece of trash and continuing to hunt for something more capsule-like or metallic.

I’ve always been fascinated by the whole idea of hiding in plain sight. I’ve heard stories of people sneaking out of dangerous situations not sneakily, but by acting flamboyant and boisterous since it would be unexpected. As a kid, I put in 100% effort to memorize the faces of criminals at large on the news, or missing kids at the post office, just in case we happened to ever do our grocery shopping in the same place.

So far, I haven’t noticed anything but perhaps that’s how hiding in plain sight is supposed to work.

This keychain was a gift from my friend Haley, so glad you’re safe, friend! I’m feeling thankful and fortunate tonight that (thanks to Facebook) I’ve accounted for all of the friends I know I have in Paris at the moment. At the same time, it’s hard to be anything but sad over all the other lives that were lost tonight in such a beautiful city.

The photo of the Louvre is one I took almost six years ago, the last time I was in Paris. I didn’t arrive in the very best mood… I had planned on spending a special weekend there with somebody and ended up basically alone and frustrated over some conflict. The sour mood didn’t last too long. A day at the Louvre, a taste of some éclairs, trying to make do with my terribly limited French, and playing “subway system roulette” with the Paris Metro quickly helped me realize how much good was in the world to be tasted and seen and felt.

Today’s news is sad and horrifying and all that. Life can be pretty brutal and exhausting at times. And while the city of Paris is the subject of mourning for the time being, it will always be known as a city of beauty. And that is such an important thing. The fight to make the world a little bit better, the long arc of justice, the struggle to get human beings to coexist peacefully and happily is such a tough one. We need every reminder of beauty to remember what we’re fighting for.

It’s like something one of my favorite writers says:

“The world needs gorgeous places and amazing food and incredible art because… because when we’re fighting evil armies and ravaging diseases, we need to know what we’re fighting for. And the world needs Paris because in light of all the horrendous things human beings are capable of doing, we need to know that we’re also capable of extraordinary beauty.”

–Sarah Thebarge

If you asked me what my plans were for last weekend, I wouldn’t have said Comic-Con. If you asked me what panel I’d guess I’d be sitting in on, I wouldn’t have guessed Dungeons and Dragons. If you would’ve asked me to guess who would be moderating this Dungeons and Dragons panel, I would not ever have guessed it to be my lovely wife, who knows a lot about many things. Just not Dungeons and Dragons, per se.

And yet, last Sunday, we found ourselves at the Eugene Comic-Con, with Deanna moderating a panel in front of a bunch of fans. Actually, she was discussing how the RPG could be used as a therapeutic group vehicle with some co-workers, so that makes a little more sense, but the thought of us being Comic-Con panelists still amuses me. I made her watch the Comic-Con episode of Psych in preparation. Seriously, Oh The Places You’ll Go never even hinted at this being a possibility.

We didn’t offend any major fandoms, so I’d call it a success. We even saw the former Green Ranger and somebody looked a bit more familiar if we knew anything about the Walking Dead.

Got to enjoy a Plank Town brunch with Jacob and Alisha the other weekend while they were in Eugene… our first time seeing them in a while!

These two were some of our earliest friends we made after moving to Eugene. Then they moved to Gresham but hey, they come back fairly often.

Plus I finally got to enjoy a Plank Town brunch- their oyster po’ boy was actually really good and paired nicely with their Foggy Scotsman Ale.

Our First Thanksgiving

How you Thanksgiving is how I pre-Thanksgiving cause these two are my aunts! Seriously.

Got my very first taste of married life holidays by spending yesterday with my mom and these two before heading to Bakersfield. In return, they made sure our bellies did their stretches and warmups by feeding us plenty! A full stack of pancakes for breakfast then only a couple hours later ribs and adobo as part of the same lunch. It was a perfect carboload in preparation for Thanksgiving.

Thankful that this year allows us to get in time with both families. Thankful for the married life and seeing that develop and spawn new traditions, and thankful for the old ones that have carried over.

At some point I became Simon’s favorite source of bedtime stories and its a role I wholeheartedly embrace. Lately I’ve been pretty good at pulling random morals out of the stories that I usually make up as I go.

Tonight’s tale of Iron Frog was essentially the Iron Man origin story, albeit with an ordinary frog who gets a new mechanical suit with special abilities following a near death experience. The suit allows him to do awesome things and help people, but eventually he gets bored and life returns to being fairly normal although the frog gets more adept at his new skills. The moral? Sometimes the novelty of things wear off but skills can still improve.

Without missing a beat— “Like how when I first got my Nerf gun I must’ve fired it a ton of times but now I don’t use it as much but I’m a better shot and better at dodging missiles?” Simon connects.

Glad my stories are so relatable.

A scene from my Thanksgiving… “Uncle Philippe, I wrote a book like you. Wanna see?” How could I say no.

Untitled Graphic Novel is a debut comic from nephew and author Simon Andrew. The story is a fictional memoir in which Simon and his dad enter a cave and encounter his little brother. They all have light sabers and battle until the tips of their light sabers all fall off, except for his dad’s.

So thankful for the holidays giving me a chance to catch up on great reads and discover new authors. Especially when those authors are nephews.

I think escape-the-rooms have become to 2015 and 2016 what Color Runs were to 2013 and 2014. It’s a trend I whole heartedly approve of, too, simply because they are fun as heck. Each room is a real-world, hands-on puzzle that you have an hour to solve… and they’re usually so engaging that the hour goes by quick.

I’ve gone twice in the past couple months. In Bakersfield and in Portland, successful both times. Got to cross this adventure off of our little list in style.

Last night…

And now we go onwards… Onwards to Oregon once more to finish off the last two weeks that sit in between me and a wonderful Southern holiday, and being done with this quarter I’ve been over for weeks.

And also, we go onwards to the MLS Cup! We meaning the Timbers. A belated thanksgiving note… I’m thankful for phone apps that keep me up to date on games as they unfold while I’m stuck in places I can’t watch.

And speaking of onwards… Onwards to our seventh hour at the Burbank Airport!

Talk about a test of will- coming back for one and a half more weeks of work in between a really fun Thanksgiving break and a really fun Christmas is such a tease. And if that weren’t such a motivation leech, dropping temperatures are.

Here’s to finding a night in the middle of it all that allows me to lean into the lethargy. Hard. Cozying up on the couch with Deanna to Jane the Virgin status.

Warm apartment. Cold beer. And a new discovery at that. Jaberwocky had a deeper, more coffee-like flavor than I expected, and I liked it a lot.

MLS Cup

Still pumped off the Timbers win yesterday and the really fun viewing party put on by Oakshire. I swear the temperature in here rose at least 15° when the clock ran out. Even the halftime raffle drawings were full of spirit.

Somebody in this big friggin crowd suggested that Oregon should’ve declared today a statewide public holiday in the Timbers honor. I would be so in favor of that. On a personal level, that would free me from grading exams and think of how much more invested people would be in big games.

Alas, we got way too late of a head start to make this idea come true. Time to put in word to state legislature to get a head start on the 2016 season, then.

Campeones de MLS!!

Nuthin’ like a grey, laid back Sunday with some football and beer.

And by beer, of course, I mean bier. Some cranberry weissbier from Oakshire that was more like a very tart lambic than anything else. Super perfect for winter when you’d want to break up the darker spiced porters.

And by football of course, I mean futbol, more specifically the Timbers taking the MLS Cup! Went out to Oakshire for the game, and man, was that fun! Some sweet vengeance for Oregon against Columbus.

Christmas 2015

A day in San Diego equals some in-person time with Chris and Katie – making good on what we talked on our last podcast episode. Making our own subscription boxes!

We got to exchange them today. We took slightly different approaches to crafting each other’s boxes.

Deanna and I now get to enjoy olive products for days. And the Wards? They have all the John Kruk baseball cards they could’ve ever dreamed of.

One of my favorite things about the past few years has been seeing some people who have been a part of my life forever start families of their own.

I especially love being in on the process. Last night, I got a birds eye view.

Still pumped for Ivy and JB getting engaged!

I usually feel ambivalent towards the idea of personality tests… Half of me doesn’t like the idea of reducing people into a color or a number or a code of letters, and even with something as almighty as the Myers Briggs, I wonder how we’ve come to decide that the four most definitive traits to go with are social energy, decision making, and thought processing.

But I guess they can be helpful in another regards. They can help you better understand what a person is motivated by, what they’re more turned off by, and what shapes the decisions they make. Having a construct to help you understand that difference can be super useful.

I’m calling it… Best Christmas I’ve had in recent memory. And our first married Christmas at that.

Who knows how long we’ll be able to keep getting in both families for the holidays but it worked out wonderfully for this year.

I got to watch my cousin get engaged yesterday and I made it to Bakersfield just in time to construct a giant dinosaur with my nephews.

Got to hang out with some great people at Dagny’s… months ago around Christmas. But I’m clearing up some phone space.

Here are a few good things I’m thankful for this midweek.

• I’ll Have What Phil’s Having – it’s on Amazon Prime and it may be my new favorite food plus trace show. Great visuals, and it’s Anthony Bourdain like, though Phil seems a lot more like a happy camper than Anthony. It makes more sense given how awesome of a job he has.

• Dave Eggers – Trying to beat the movie release to A Hologram For a King and I appreciate how much this guy can mix up his writing subjects while keeping his voice.

• Harriet Tubman – Congrats to the $20 freedom runner. I feel like the desirability of soon to be made $20 will subtly increase their value and thus save the American economy.

When your route home takes you through Anaheim during rush hour, sometimes you just gotta stretch your legs in Downtown Disney.

Found this great New Orleans restaurant that came highly recommended by Daniel Santos – I wish he were there to enjoy it with me.

I especially recommend the beignets. The small order isn’t enough. You’ll want to get the family size serving. And no sharing. It’s all for you.

Fun little exercise I like doing at the end of each year… dividing the year’s soul into seven appropriate horcruxes. 2015 was a big year, so here’s what we’ve got!

The Wand of Minerva McGonagall – An actual Harry Potter related horcrux! This one was from an essential honeymoon stop, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

If Not For Second Chances – This was the year that I first released a book into the world.

The Wedding Polaroid – I love everything about this little snapshot from our wedding… it perfectly captures us and the joy and excitement of this moment.

George A. Dickel Whiskey – A handle of the whiskey we picked up in Tennessee during our Southern Road Trip. Loved the trip and I love

Mini-Mug from Café du Monde – Deanna and I fell in love with New Orleans this year on our honeymoon, and Café du Monde is the perfect symbol of what we love about it

A Letter From My Dad – I won’t share much about this, cause I want to keep it personal, but I was so glad to read this at just the right time in life.
The “Light My Fire” Camping Knife – Something needs to symbolize all the camping trips we took this year… I could’ve gone with any of our wedding presents from REI, but this one doubles as a Valentine’s Day gift from Deanna.

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