Thor’s Well

Labor Day Weekend

A quick trip to Portland for errands would not be complete without setting aside an hour for exploring, preferably bookstore exploring.

I decided to skip out on the usual Powell’s spot for the smaller but easier Powell’s on Hawthorne. It’s still a Powell’s so I did not walk out empty handed.

Books, I look forward to the time we’ll be spending together soon!

Thanks to this little indie theatre that runs out of an office suite, I’ve gotten to see a pretty good pair of movies this week that you can’t find in most theaters.

Deanna and I went to see Captain Fantastic, which truly was fantastic, and not at all a superhero movie. (Otherwise I never would’ve gotten Deanna to go). Viggo Mortensen plays a “fight-the-power” hippie dad who has to figure out if he wants to continue raising his kids in the woods after their mom dies. It’s a little bit Moonrise Kingdom meets Into The Wild, but also it’s entirely own thing. I don’t think I’ve seen such an honest portrayal of an alternative way of living in a movie.

Then I got to see Don’t Think Twice which I liked. It was a bit insidery to the whole world of stand up comedy and theatre, but way, way back in the day I did my share of improv, so I liked it.

Congrats to the Eugene Emeralds on their playoff run, and a really good season after all. I’m glad we got to make it to a few games this year.

One of our marriage goals was to make it to four different Emeralds games, and we closed out the season with our fourth one. If I had to pick a favorite, I’d go with puppy night against Hillsboro a couple weeks ago.

Fun weekend getting to hang out with Crystal, going hiking, camping, and concert hopping. We love bringing friends along on our adventures.

On the unofficial last night of summer, we got to hang out at the park by the river with what felt like the entire city of Bend and watch a few really great bands put on a really great show.

There wasn’t a bad act in the lineup, but NEEDTOBREATHE was the headliner and so they brought some serious oomph with them on stage. I’ve heard from lots of people that they’re good live performers, and those people were right. Lately, I’ve been all about the song Happiness… the lyrics of that chorus telling me I wasn’t made for the simple life… that resonates the way a meaningful song does.

It’s all for you, in my pursuit of happiness.

For a long time, I’ve been wanting to spend a little bit of time in Sisters, hiking the surrounding mountains and camping out.

While there’s just enough camping-friendly weather left, I’m glad we were able to get out there for a weekend.

Sisters is gorgeous. The Deschutes Forest is incredible. I Love it here.

“Life goes by very fast, it can be blurry at times, follow your instinct and your heart!”

–José Fernandez

I was really quite sad to wake up and find out that Jose Fernandez had been killed in a boating accident. If you’re a baseball fan, there’s no need to explain how good of a pitcher he was. If you’re not, he was one of the top pitchers in the game, and at 24 years old, he was looking at a very bright career and had all the potential to become an eventual legend.

Not many celebrity deaths register with me, but I’ve played baseball for most of my life and I suppose that makes it strike a different chord. Even more than being an awesome ballplayer, it seems clear that Fernandez was a well liked guy who in such a short life did a lot of what I hope to do in mine: find something you do well and have a blast while doing it.

Fernandez was a refugee, who defected to the U.S. by raft no more than just a few years ago. His life wasn’t an easy one to begin with, but he made the most of it and spread joy. That’s something that people around us need pretty badly these days, and I feel all the more motivated to remember to have fun while doing my day job. It goes a long way.

How does our family of three (but only 2/3rds human) decide to end our summer? With a camping trip, of course.

We snagged an awesome campsite in the Deschutes Forest full of friendly people and quietness and a small creek. Pretty much everything you’d want in a campsite.

The puppy tent we bought for Beignet is turning out to be one of our most rewarding purchases this year. It’s also pretty nice now that she’s no longer terrified of it like she was in March.

“But aren’t all great quests folly? El Dorado and the Fountain of Youth and the search for intelligent life in the cosmos – we know what’s out there. It’s what isn’t that truly compels us. Technology may have shrunk the epic journey to a couple of short car rides and regional jet lags– four states and twelve hundred miles traversed in an afternoon– but true quests aren’t measured in time or distance anyway, so much as in hope.”

–Jess Walter

I hope that after every season, I’m able to clearly state something I learned about myself and about things bigger than me.

Here’s what I learned this summer about myself: I am a planner by nature. I’ll seem spontaneous, but in my head I’ll be dreaming up my next adventure or trip. It’s both a strength and a weakness.

Here’s what I learned this summer about life: Go ahead and make plans, but also make room for things not to go according to plan, room to have to rely on faith, room to still be amazed in the end. Feed hope. It’ll feed you right back.

“Chasing that life, moving on, cause I had to prove there ain’t no life worth doing what I did to you.”

–NEEDTOBREATHE

Chasing after life, good things, and new experiences comes extremely naturally for me. I want a full life with no stone left unturned. For the most part, I like that about myself. I also know that this means I need to take certain measures to make sure that remains a healthy trait.

For me, that especially means making sure I have a clear sense of what my priorities are so I can say yes to the right things and no to the wrong things.

I STRONGLY believe Bend is the best kept secret in the country. Especially to people outside of Oregon. It’s got the very best of a city with culture and a small town. Northwestern nature with the better weather of the Rockies. Why people aren’t clamoring to move there is beyond me, but I’m also really glad people aren’t moving there in droves. They’d ruin it.

We’ve gotten to come by a few times this year and we’ve loved it each visit. Plus it’s maybe the dog friendliest city in the country.

If I had to choose somewhere to live and career and family wasn’t a consideration, I bet Bend would be a strong candidate. If my book happens to sell a million copies this week out of nowhere, I’m buying property.

Let’s talk about this past Labor Day Weekend. Was it the best one of my life? I can’t really remember a past Labor Day off the top of my head, so probably!

We spent it sitting on this patio for hours and sipping chardonnay with coconut custard pie. Also, visiting Bend, camping at Sisters, listening to good music, roasting garlic by campfire, discovering amazing poke at Safeway of all places, and hiking to lakes.

This was a memorable summer. Lots of good. Lots of hard stuff. Lots of learning. It’s been a while since I’ve learned this much about myself. I’m glad we got to give this season a proper sendoff.

Hellgate Jetboat

Time to update our friends on one major bucket list item of ours… funding the rescue of a North Korean refugee.

One of our marriage goals is to raise $3,000 to fund the rescue of a refugee from North Korea to get safely out of China and into resettlement in the U.S. or in South Korea. We wanted to do this within our first 1,000 days of being married and we decided to make the year of 2016 our phase one. Raising the first half, or $1,500.

I’m happy to announce that this phase is complete and successful… and it’s all thanks to a ton of our friends and family who have helped contribute to our donation page or attend our various fundraising events that we’ve done. Here are some of the ways we’ve gotten to the amount so far: Everybody who pitched in $15 at our murder mystery party last Halloween, all those who helped give when we ran our half-marathon in May, everyone who paid at our charitable carbo-load the night before, lots of birthday gift donations on my birthday, and setting aside small portions of our paychecks.

Hats off to you! Now it’s time for phase two.

We’re about to launch a new fundraising page for the year ahead and you can see that it’s basically the same goal as last year. $1,500, or the second half of the rescue! We’d love it if you could give us a nice little boost to kick things off, and we’ll be brainstorming some other fun fundraising things we could put together soon.

Maybe it’s the place, maybe it’s the stage of life, but when we first moved up to Eugene, Deanna and I had a much harder time finding community than we expected. There was a lot of meeting people, “we should hang out” exchanging, with nothing ever really happening.

A few years later, we really value the friends we’ve made here and the bonds we’ve formed. We are far more thankful for the community we’ve managed to grow into over time. There are times in life where you meet people right and left and times where that happens way more slowly. Either way, though, you’ll always need people.

“That’s what storytellers do. We restore order with imagination.”

–Walt Disney

A good Sunday like this one is never quite complete if I haven’t taken some time to follow some spontaneity and allow myself to get completely taken away by something that takes over my imagination.

There’s no telling what it’ll be. Lately, it’s been cookbooks. Really well done cookbooks, where recipes are the solid, but also accompanied with great writing, brilliant photography, and other bits of fun. Outside of a niche community, people tend to overlook how much of an art these are.

A lot of times it’s a physical location that amuses me. I’ll want to explore a random store I keep passing by, more interested in what they have and why they have it than I’m interested in buying anything.

I love days like this. They’re to the week what the playground is to the schoolyard.

The only thing wrong with Oregon summers is that they’re way too short.

I’m so glad that we’ve been able to live here. When we were twenty and not even dating, we both talked about moving to the Pacific Northwest together. Sometimes all of it ends up coming true.

There have been a lot of ways in which moving to a new state and totally uprooting hasn’t been what I thought it would be. But it’s also something I’ll never regret doing. Every now and then I’ll realize how beautiful these days are.

I’ve found myself extremely thankful lately for all these little adventures we’re able to go on, for our pretty simple life that we get to share, and for the routines that slowly turn into the best parts of living if you do them enough times.

A day that ends in you getting this soaked with river water is probably a good day. There are some exceptions, like Kevin Bacon’s character in The River Wild, but usually it means you’ve had a lot of fun.

We had so much fun yesterday, even more fun than the guy behind us wearing his Gun Cleaning Hat.

Thankful for the remaining days of warmth and sun and the adventures they call for.

One of the most fun things I’ve done since living in Oregon was going on the Hellgate jetboat ride. I’ve heard so many people who’ve done it talk it up. Rightfully so.

The jet boat goes thirty-six miles down the Rogue River and into Hellgate Canyon. It’s a lovely and scenic ride with the wind in your face and waving hi to all the fishermen.

After reaching Hellgate Canyon, we spun around to a boat-in only restaurant where we got bottomless mimosas, and a pretty full breakfast. Because what better way to wrap up a nice boat ride than with brunch?

Then then Hellgates open. Unfortunately for anyone who overindulged at brunch, the jet boat ride back is a bit more of a thrill ride. The captain steers the boat over as many choppy waters and into as many spins as they can manage. Everyone gets wet. Especially the guy in the first row who was celebrating his 75th birthday.

So much fun.

Sunday afternoons are for no-rules. Alright, there’s one rule. Nothing that feels like work, and just spend time with people or doing inspiring things that birth new ideas and energy.

Today’s inspiration came in the form of Emiril’s Amazon show and looking through the pictures and words in what might be my new favorite cookbook. Oh and a nice can of passionfruit juice.

Feeling pretty inspired after that, I put together my leftover chicken inasal with some spicy papaya salad to make yet another Filipino style taco.

Here are some of the things making me happy this week.

I just got a deep fryer and I am having so much fun with it. I bought it because I’ve said the phrase “this would’ve been so much better with a deep fryer” a few too many times this year, and because I have some great ideas for doughnut recipes. I broke it in by making some fried catfish lettuce cups.

A trio of albums came out from artists I like last week, and whenever good music comes out in one big grip, it’s hard for me to give each one adequate attention. So I’m going one at a time and starting off with the new Local Natives album. It’s good. It’s grown on me even faster than their other two so far.

And we’re also officially going to Austin in a couple weeks! Just got our tickets booked. And by tickets to Austin, we mean Dallas plus a rental car, since we can’t afford the convenience of a direct flight!

With summer coming to a close a little too fast, I went to go buy up some of my favorite limited release summer beers before they went away and became impossible to find. Here are my top three from this year, all available in cans.

Oakshire Cucumber Belgian Ale – Not so much of a sour that it turns into a pickle beer, but a perfect mix of everything that’s in its name. It’s a summer afternoon beer, and I prefer not to have it with food, since it’s got an interesting taste of its own.

Anchor Brewing Meyer Lemon Lager – Much like the Cucumber Belgian, this is also a beer that hits the spot after a long day. It’s a mellow lager, which means it can kind of act as an afternoon session. The amount of lemon is just right.

Mazama Brewing Mosaic IPA – Hey, something from Corvalis that I like! And an IPA that I like! This is all kinds of unlikely. The hops that go into this beer are actually pretty flavorful and not bitterly repugnant. This isn’t an exclusive summer release, per se, but that’s when I think it goes best.

Another pretty good trivia night in the bags.

I’m calling shenanigans on the trivia master’s use of Wikipedia for info, though.

“It’s not failure if you fail at doing something you’re not supposed to do. It’s success. Because with each success, and with each so-called failure, you’re getting a clearer sense of your calling.”
–John Mark Comer
I’m becoming more aware and accepting of one of my bigger personality quirks: I’m extremely experience driven. I want to do things. It’s practically a need of mine to not just engage things at a knowledge level, but to get my hands dirty and to do work. It’s also completely in-character of me to want to get my feet wet with so many different experiences. If I find out there’s something out there that people do, I’ll likely have an interest in trying it myself.

This ends up being the way I learn things. I’ll learn that a certain endeavor isn’t for me by trying it out and seeing how it goes. I thought I might want to work in academia. Then I went to grad school and learned that I need outlets for the head knowledge that accumulates.

So there are times when I really feel like I should be a little further down some path as far as my career goes at this point. I know most people would think that I’m way too young to think like that, but there’s also a lot of people around my age who would be glad to know someone else feels like that.

The good news is that almost any experience is good experience. You’ll learn something. Even if the thing you learn is that something isn’t for you.

I know that based on my social media posts, one could easily believe I live a problem free life, driving fancy sports cars and sharing mimosas with my famous rapper friends without a worry or care. It’s a good life, no doubt, but here’s a humble reminder that it isn’t all gold flakes and tiramisu.

I spent most of today trying to put out a fire, helping a client get his urgent email back up and running after some web work got a little out of hand. I was in the office all day until I needed to go pick Deanna up from work and it felt like one thing after another. Unfortunately, this also meant Beignet had to wait on the patio for me to get home for an unusually long time. I took her to the dog park and when I got back I was ready to do absolutely nothing.

It was a long day with lots of surprises I wouldn’t have wanted, but somebody wise once said that once you realize the sets of problems other people face you would gladly accept your own. I think it might’ve been Lil’ Wayne. Sorry I couldn’t take your calls today, pal.

Thor’s Well

We had a sweet weekend outing to the nearby coast- spent just a little time getting coffee, browsing old bookstores, and watching only the good parts of football games while eating.

I found a grilled oyster burger that was excellent. We walked around in the rain and made it back home in time to read new books under old blankets.

This is exactly my kind of weekend.

Thought for the day: Most of the things that are “super controversial” at any given moment shouldn’t be.

I don’t think anybody should be killed by police because of minor infractions, and I think the fact that this has been such a recurring part of the black experience in my country is a serious and grave issue. Is that such a hard thing to agree with? And yet, instead of confronting the problem, what I see most often is people trying to redirect the conversation. Try and take a stand against this and suddenly– you’re unpatriotic and insulting veterans, or you’re anti-cop.

Who decided that honoring veterans and police officers and respecting the serious ways our systems fail our black friends was mutually exclusive?

I guess, in some part, we all do. The human brain loves binaries. It’s like gym class kickball. Immediately, you look around and find out whose on your team. This takes seconds. You spend the rest of the time attacking the other team. It’s a good system for gym class and a terrible way to live.

When I worked as a teacher and had tough kids to manage, I was taught I could give them a choice between option A or B… like doing their homework now for five minutes, or later for ten minutes. Behavior could be managed by creating a binary where there wasn’t one. This is helpful in a classroom, but we often don’t realize that out in the world, there are more malevolent forces trying to manipulate us with a similar tactic.

Here’s a little challenge– start keeping tally of all the times you feel your brain being pulled to make a choice between two sides, whether it’s which phone is better or what political party you belong to. Then ask yourself – am I really only stuck with two sides here? Then think of what we really miss out on.

Some people really easily gravitate towards saying no. Others say yes way too easily and too often.

I fall into that latter category. I hate closing doors and cutting myself off to possibilities. I hate that choosing to live in one city means not living in any other cities. I can so easily sign up for pretty much every opportunity.

Unfortunately, all of us are finite. We have limited amounts of hours in a day, days in a lifespan, energy in a human body, and abilities to do things well. Whenever finite resources are involved, economics becomes a thing. And not knowing how to say no can really cheapen the value of yes.

Overall, I like that I’m a person who really easily says yes to life. But here’s the way I’m reframing that trait– I’m making sure my yes still holds a lot of value by saying yes to fewer things, but by making sure it’s a really solid YES. Whatever projects I take on in the near future, I want to make sure they’re worth the investment. I need to know that they can be things through which I actually add value to the world and can do pretty well. It’s a work in progress.

This summer went by fast and slow. I saw some really difficult moments within my family but fell in Love with simple weekends with Deanna more and more. I seemed to go somewhere every weekend and yet I felt like I stayed home the entire year. This was the summer that contradicted itself entirely.
It’s over now, and it’ll take a while to get my head around everything that happened in the past fewmonths. I do know that I’ve learned quite a bit about myself. These things will help me make better choices in the upcoming year when life gets a total makeover and when I’ll probably have to make more than one tough decision.

1 – I learned that I place an extremely high value on experiences. It’s really hard for me to be just satisfied with dissecting an idea with textbooks and theories, I need to actually try stuff out and do things. That means I have to find out what endeavors are right for me by trying out a variety of things and discovering what doesn’t work. Knowing that helps me be more patient with myself when it comes to figuring out what I want to do and more gracious with myself when things don’t go right.

2 – Related to that, I have an unusually high amount of energy for doing things and for variety. Doing the same thing all the time sounds like a death trap to me, and it takes zero effort for me to start planning my next idea. It’s been really important for me to learn this so I can be careful not to wear out other people around me, since few people are built with a similar energy. Knowing this has helped me be more compassionate to those closest to me, and has made me conscious that I need outlets for that energy.

3 – I thrive when I’m connected to a cause, when I can use my energy to get other people fired up for something that I sincerely believe matters. Times in my life where I’ve done really well have been when I’ve had a cause pretty centrally positioned in my life– North Korea, kids in South Africa, working at an autism center. I’ve put an incredible amount of effort this decade towards trying to find a role that fits me well that allows me to pour that energy into. That project still isn’t complete, but learning this has helped.

Just off the Oregon coast by Yachats, there’s this pretty amazing sinkhole where the tides make it look like the water collapses in on itself. If you time your gaze, it’ll sort of look like somebody pulled a drain out in the ocean. It’s gorgeous.

Deanna and I went out to go find it the other weekend.

It was our rainiest weekend in a long time. We ended up braving winds and stormy weather. Then finally I got to stand at the edge of this thing and state straight down.

September

I have this week off, more or less. Some errands and odd jobs and freelance projects to tinker with, but mostly a week off.

Stopping myself from doing too much work this week. I can do this so easily when I start to get spare time. I like to take on a bunch of projects, and sometimes having nothing to do for a week gives my brain too much space to start taking on even more projects.

My goal right now is to not let that happen. Weeks like this don’t come by very often.

Spent some time welcoming new grad students onto campus. Here’s some of the things this week making me happy.

I’m loving the show Galavant. I don’t think I’ve laughed that hard at a TV show in a long time.

I love Rover. The Airbnb of pet sitting. We needed to find someone for Beignet this weekend while we’re in Austin. I hope to get myself listed there as a dog walker soon enough!

I loved watching the Marlins play for the first time on Monday since Jose Fernandez’s death. By now a bunch of people have seen headlines and replays of Dee Gordon hitting a home run on the first at bat any one of his teammates took after the tragedy, but watching it in real time was unbelievable. By far the most emotional oomph and heart I’ve ever seen out of a game, personally, and I’m glad I gave this a watch on Monday night. We all could do with some reminders of how human we are.

A visit from Jeremy wouldn’t be complete without taking him to get his shots.

Nothing like a good visit from a good friend.

Except when you realize he’s only in town for one night and you can’t decide where to eat for your one dinner. Then you have to get creative and eat different courses in different places and save room for dessert.

Photo cred: our waitress at The Vintage.

It seems like the news gets more and more horrific and contentious every year. I try to balance my hope for progress and belief that human horrors are nothing new with the simple reaction of hearing things and going ‘It really does seem to be getting worse.’

Last week an unarmed black man was shot in San Diego, bringing a recurring national nightmare to where I grew up. Sometimes there is room for these things to strike in an even fiercer, more personal way. Like a school shooting at my alma mater. Or another one an hour from my house. These things have all happened.

I used to be a much bigger advocate of people staying informed. Now I feel like more people are so well informed but unsure of what to do with all the info. It can be so easy to have it distract us from the little things with great love we can do. We hear about these things at such a frenzy and the things we can do seem so limited.

That’s not to say we can’t do anything. It may seem disconnected but outbursts of racial tensions and gun violence are still an urgent call us to do the best job we possibly can at our day’s tasks, to be as present as possible to those around us, and to act with compassion and grace.

Augustine of Hippo once said that people will always say things like “the times are bad!” He counters by saying “We are our times. Let us live well and times will be good.”

Live well today- the stuff on the news is only a sporadic overflow of the small pieces we contribute to our times on a daily basis.

Put the finishing touches on my friend Andrew’s photoshoot this week. If you need a pianist my friends, book him. And if you don’t need a pianist, just imagine how much more fun your house would be with a hired pianist livening up your living room.

Here are some things making me happy this week.

The World Series, not a fan of either team so that means I’m pulling for the Cubbies for sure. This is the first series in a long time where I feel like the two most deserving teams this year are actually in it. Last time I recall was 2009.

I had such a fun weekend trip back in California. Good friends, lots of food, people gonna get married and such. What more could you ask for?

Also, I bought a wallet. A Pendleton wallet with one simple fold and pocket, so I’ll actually use it. For a while I stopped using a wallet and just carried my cards around in an exposed stack like some teenage boy. Whenever I did have a wallet, I wouldn’t actually put cards in, I’d just wrap the wallet around the outside. Now that I have one that fits my card-inserting-laziness, I can say bye to scratched out card numbers.

Heads up, Eugene! If any of you are looking for a piano teacher or if you need somebody to play for you or accompany you at some event, Andrew Pham is your guy!

He and I got to take some headshots together to update his site and they are coming together.

I’ve had the perk of getting Deanna and I into games for fifteen bucks the past couple years, but this will be our last season to take advantage of that.

Unfortunately our five game sample size gives us a losing record.

W vs. Colorado, 2014
W vs. Georgia State, 2015
L vs. Utah, 2015
L vs. Washington State, 2015
L vs. Colorado, 2016

Always leave things better than you found them. I love this idea. Sadly this won’t be the case with Ducks football. We came in during their best season ever.

Anytime Marcus Mariota wants to take a gap year from the NFL for grad school is fine by me.

Ever see a game and go, wow, they just handed the other team the win? I have plenty of times, but never as literally as today’s game.

What a shame, too, because the defense was starting to look sharper than I’ve ever seen them play.

Ah well. Still a fun day of oversleeping and eating pancakes and erasing our memory of the game with Galavant.

Over two years ago, Deanna started telling me that she wanted to get involved with a worship music team. She’d never really done it before, except for a little stint with a college gospel choir. She just felt real strongly that it was something she was being pulled towards. When she told me this we just moved to Eugene and hadn’t even found a church up here yet.

On Sunday she supplied our church’s music team with some female vocals. It was basically Sister Act.

Sometimes, you know that you’re called to do something but then you have to wait a while. Don’t rush, don’t quit. Just stay ready.

Today, I started my very last quarter of grad school. Ever feel restless with your current life? I do.

I wish I could say that I was a little more excited for the term. To be honest, though, I’m feeling pretty ready to be finished with school and ready to be working full time.

I look forward to have a job that involves helping people more directly- not to say you can’t through academics, but that’s so not the way I’m built. Lately, I’ve felt a bit like a bench warmer when hearing people describe their jobs- especially ones where they get to work directly with people. Even when I hear about their really stressful situations, I remember how restless I get with theories and theses and I get a pretty bad case of put-me-in-coach!

At the end of summer, I came super close to ending early to take a job I would have loved and given my all. And it didn’t quite work out, so now I’ve got an anticlimactic feeling going into the term. But I know the reminder I need.

The way to get to where you wanna be starts with giving the present your very best.

I have ten weeks to do as good of a job with my current work as I can possibly do. And even if it’s not an apparent high stakes situation, I’ll have students to help learn about the world… and who knows what any of them might do with that knowledge. These ten weeks are ones I’ll never get back once they’re finished, so I’d better make them count.

Contentment can be a challenge for me, but it’s important to learn. But if I can learn some things about it over the next ten weeks, then it’ll be time unwasted.

 

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