January

#1 Welcome to 2017

01 January 2017 // Manhattan, New York

This young year is off to a really, really good start.

I can’t recall the last time I started a year with so much mystery surrounding my life… so much wondering what’s going to happen next. It’s refreshing since last year felt fully planned out from the very beginning. Right now, all I know is to anticipate a handful of big changes… and that’s as specific as I can get!

This year, I hope to live with openness. Open hands, doors, minds, openness for new things and holding on to old things loosely. Not knowing what comes next can be scary, but I’m finding that I really, really like it. Life feels less like a conveyor belt when you’re forced to take things just one day at a time.

#2 Drive to DC

02 January 2017 // Washington, D.C.

Spent the second day of the year driving through several East Coast states and the giant Burger King freeway exit that is New Jersey.

We did it to get to Washington, D.C. to hang out with Deanna’s cousins for a few hours and even though we weren’t able to hang out for very long, it was well worth it.

I’m not always madly in love with Washington D.C., which is kind of a shame because in my field that’s where almost all the jobs are. But it does have its sweet spots.

#3 The Daily Show

03 January 2017 // Manhattan, New York

Now this was fun… Deanna and I took a chance on standing in line for a few hours in the rain and we earned ourselves seats inside a live taping of The Daily Show.

Honestly, I’m pretty partial to Trevor Noah, and I have no doubts that a lot of that fondness is because of my broader love for South Africa. He won me over just after he came to the U.S. with his knack for accents in his half-hour Laugh Factory Special. I know his reception as Stewart’s successor has been mixed, but I appreciate his perspective as a relative outsider. Especially as one who was brought up in the collapse of apartheid.

Anyways, if you watch his episode with Michael Che from a few weeks ago and overhear somebody with a weird laugh that sounds like morse code for ‘IAIAIAIA,’ I did that for you to have an easier time recognizing me.

#4 Manhattan

04 January 2017 // Manhattan, New York

People. Adventure. Generosity. These are the three big components of the life I’ve been trying to build.

You can live well in nearly any scenario as long as you have the right people around you. There are times where I miss the closeness of sharing dilapidated houses with almost a dozen friends, right next door to a dozen other friends who were doing the same thing. I don’t think community needs to look like that exactly, but I do long for more game nights, dinner parties, and heartfelt conversations.

Pursuits are important, too, and I often struggle to put into words why ambition and adventure matter to me. Think of any life you admire, and most likely, there’s been some pursuit behind that admiration. When I shared this idea with a friend who understood what I was talking about, it felt so validating.

The best pursuits, of course, are the ones that help and create opportunity for other people, and there’s so many different ways for that to look. Being a listener. Being a fundraiser. Climbing a corporate ladder but with the goal of changing its culture and giving away your earnings. The more I hear about my older family members’ spirit of generosity, the more resolved I feel to have that be a part of my own raison d’etre.

People. A pursuit. An opportunity to help others. These are pretty much the three things I want to have in my life at all times, and the three things I’ll be taking heavily into consideration as this year likely brings about a new job, a new city, and a whole lot of change.

#5 Fly Newark

05 January 2017 // Newark, New Jersey

One of my favorite feelings is when you’re on the plane en route to whatever next adventure. I put a lot of thought into setting the mood just right. Some playlists that can flow right into my ears those moments before takeoff, a book I look forward to making a lot of progress on, and- if I’m flying out of PDX, a massive banh mi sandwich, because that’s the only airport where I can get that many calories for just a bit over five bucks.

I have only the vaguest sense of what life might look like by December, but I know there are adventures to be had. And I’m glad I’ve got a few miles saved up to make them happen.


#6 Eugene Snow

06 January 2017 // Eugene, Oregon

We kept comparing the weather on our trip to the weather in Oregon. We were going to Chicago and New York, after all, so we expected COLD.

Almost every day of the trip, Oregon was colder than wherever we were. Chicago was at 20º below the week before we left, and it rose to 40º while we were there. New York only made me put on a single leather jacket. I kept thinking that “wow, bet this is going to be the warmest day of the trip” and it just kept getting warmer.

Now, I’ve come home to snow everywhere. And apparently NYC is getting it too. Weather be weird man.

#7 Beignet Reunification

07 January 2017 // Eugene, Oregon

The surprise on her face when we got back from our trip and she realized we weren’t dead. Plus, there was snow all over, so it was a great day for Beignet.

Also, she had a stomach ache again… separation anxiety.

#8 Portrait of Beignet as a Young Pup

08 January 2017 // Eugene, Oregon

Beignet is so spoiled.

In college, the first one to pass out is the one who gets drawn all over. Instead, Beignet gets painted in watercolor.

#9 Late Start

09 January 2017 // Eugene, Oregon

Came back home from New York with sleep I wanted to catch up on, a stack of books I was lost in, and snow all over the place.

Plus Deanna was off. It was the perfect recipe for a few nap filled days.

Now, two weeks into it, it feels like the year is actually starting. Finally sitting down to handle to logistics of things like time and money makes it feel all the more real.

And actually, I like having these things to chip away at. We’re officially in the part of my year where I have no idea what happens next.

Side note: I’ve been drinking so much water. It wasn’t even a resolution, I just wanted to wash out a very mild cold, but I’m feeling very proud of myself for it.

#10 Playlist Making

10 January 2017 // Eugene, Oregon

Any other obsessive playlist makers out there? I spent the better part of the day sorting out my favorite songs from the past several years into several different playlists.

One set of songs for the morning, one for the gym, some for dinner parties and road trips and everything else you could do.

The perks of being between jobs. Every single thing in my life gets organized.

#11 Commonwealth

11 January 2017 // Eugene, Oregon

“It was about the inestimable burden of their lives: the work, the houses, the friendships, the marriages, the children, as if all the things they’d wanted and worked for had cemented the impossibility of any sort of happiness.”

–Ann Patchett

It’s gonna be a good year for reading, I can tell.

Ann Patchett’s latest was a good one, though she’s been such a reliable author I’d be surprised if it wasn’t.

This novel chases two sets of half-siblings back and forth between the moment their family branched to their own fallout as adults.

I do often get bored with novels that are about discontented domestic 40-somethings moping about their existence and there are times when Commonwealth bordered on that. But the true-feeling characters and creative approach to storytelling kept the whole thing afloat.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

#12 Brail’s

12 January 2017 // Eugene, Oregon

It’s a bit late, I know, but it’s here! What is it? It’s my list of favorites from the year of 2016– movies, books, albums, TV shows, podcasts, speeches, sports things, all mashed up into one list. By popular demand!

Okay, no one was actually demanding this out of me, but I love making lists, and it was a fun use of a snow day when I got trapped in the house with no power or wi-fi.

2016 was actually a pretty good year if you’re a lover of linguistics-focused science fiction, socially woke bunnies, and dudes that can sing a cool falsetto.

#13 The Kitchen Wall

13 January 2017 // Eugene, Oregon

I don’t know when it’ll happen exactly, or where it’ll be, but I’m really looking forward to knowing where we’ll be living next. It’s been a really long time since I’ve been able to live somewhere without seeing an end to it not so far off and there have been quite a few things that I’d love to finally be able to do with a more permanent home base.

1) Being able to start building up a community around a regular ritual is something I’ve been hoping to do for a while. A dinner party, game night, movie night, anything like that. I’d love to be able to gather people together.

2) I’d also like to start mentoring somebody- and to be mentored. It’s hard to get that going when you might just leave soon enough. To get the most out of these ties, it takes a long-term investment of time. Soon enough!

3) I have two ideas for side projects I’d love to have- one nonprofit and one business service. Again, it’s tough to start these things in a place if you’re planning to uproot. I’ve been working on these ideas as much as possible and I feel like I’ve gotten as far as I can so far without a permanent base.

#14 Deserved Donut

14 January 2017 // Eugene, Oregon

In an age of misinformation, chaos, a refusal to accept the facts, and blatant deceit– don’t ever forget what’s true.

You deserve a donut.

#15 Born a Crime

15 January 2017 // Eugene, Oregon

“In any society built on institutionalized racism, race mixing doesn’t merely challenge the system as unjust, it reveals the system as unsustainable and incoherent. Race mixing proves that races can mix, and in a lot of cases want to mix. Because a mixed person embodies that rebuke to the logic of the system, race mixing becomes a crime worse than treason.”

–Trevor Noah

I was probably in the minority when I found out Trevor Noah would be the successor to Jon Stewart. I had kept tabs on Noah’s standup and mostly liked his multicultural stuff. When he was named to the Daily Show gig, I figured it would be a nice change to get the perspective of an outsider to the U.S. who is also wildly familiar with things like apartheid and racial tension. As it turns out, that hunch ended up coming true.

Noah’s autobiography was even better than I expected it to be. It’s deeply personal and also features some brilliant essays and commentary on growing up in the time of apartheid and throughout it’s collapse. It examines the poverty he grew up in, his relationship with his comically religious mom, and the last chapter of this book… it was completely unexpected and something else. I enjoyed it totally.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

#16 Pisgah on MLK

16 January 2017 // Eugene, Oregon

Nine times out of ten, you’ll notice that whenever something controversial happens that divides people in sides, I default to reminding everyone to try and get along. To avoid trying to take sides, and to find some sort of common goal. Most of the time, I like this approach and I like that I have some sort of built-in avoidance for wanting to take sides.

That said, this isn’t always the right approach.

In an instance where people are being oppressed, when one set of ideas contributes to people being harmed, being put at risk, being separated from family, being vulnerable to hate crimes, being talked about as if they were not entitled to the same treatment as any other human, or being excluded, it is impossible not to choose sides.

To choose to do nothing, to say nothing, or to act like it isn’t happening contributes to the status quo. It allows the oppression to last a little longer, for that many more lives to be ruined. There is no real neutrality in oppression. Yeah, speaking up may result in a few difficult conversations, but there is no improvement without sacrifice.

I think there are ways to do this that are respectful of people while still challenging harmful ideas. And it’s difficult to get it exactly right. But one sure-fire way to not get it right is to let my non-confrontational nature to be an excuse for not showing my Muslim friends, my black friends, my LGBT friends, and all others in my life that I care.

#17 Morning Mugs

17 January 2017 // Eugene, Oregon

I believe that most people want what’s best for their families, their neighbors, their communities, and each other. I believe that in divisive times, attacking each other only makes the division worse. I believe that we must not lose sight of kindness and civility.

But also…

I believe to do nothing during times of oppression is to contribute to it. I believe there are times that we’re called to speak truth against hate, that history is full of examples of the beautiful things that happen when people are bold in standing up for right and the awful things that happen when people ignore problems.

How do both these beliefs coexist these days?

Love people. Evaluate and critique and investigate ideas. Love people. Know that most of the time, our ideas require nuance, but there still is truth. Love people. Attack ideas that do harm to people. Love people. Even the ones who hold espouse those ideas. Love people, and remember that hate harms both its target and the one who hates. Love people to bring freedom to both.

#18 Tsunami Books

18 January 2017 // Eugene, Oregon

As of the end of January, I’ve completely finished four books and have three others that I’m within pages of finishing. As I’ve suspected, the end of grad school is leading to what will probably be my most well-read year so far.

Here are a few hopes for what I’d like to read this year.

1) Some graphic novels. I’ve never been a big graphic novel guy but there have been enough I’ve heard good things about. I’ve already got Boxers & Saints on its way and I’m hoping to read John Lewis’ graphic memoirs soon.

2) Some of the books on racial justice that have been on my radar forever. The New Jim Crow, Between the World and Me, and Just Mercy. I want to be better educated on some of the things many of my friends have to deal with that I’m unfortunately not aware of like I should be. And for that matter, Hillbilly Elegy and The Righteous Mind have come highly recommended as titles to understand differences in political thought from a sociological standpoint.

3) Thomas Merton. I think this is the year I finally read The Seven Storey Mountain, instead of just taking screenshots of quotes from it.

#19 Thai Tea Donuts

19 January 2017 // Eugene, Oregon

The mission: Try to create homemade donuts that remind me of the taste of creamy thai iced tea.

The results: Yes! So the texture wasn’t quite what I was hoping for. I ended up unwittingly creating some old-fashioned donuts with a crispy exterior and a crumbly inside, when I was going for a little bit more of a puffy brioche dough. When it comes to the icing, though, I think I nailed that thai iced tea taste.

#20 What To Do Now

20 January 2017 // Eugene, Oregon

I can’t recall a time in my life that’s been as filled with tension, anger, and outrage as the past several weeks. Political drama trickles down and it’s made so many people quite unpleasant. A lot of the anger has been righteous anger- there really is a lot to be upset about. It often feels like that part of the movie where one thing after another has gone wrong, and it seems like the heroes are screwed.

But this is no movie. What do you do when this is the world around you? Can it still be one tension building scene in a great movie?

It’s a season like this one that makes me look all the more forward to having a job with an organization doing work that makes life better for people and to know where my long term home will be so I can begin pouring heavy into that community. I want to channel all of that uncertainty into action- even if it’s just trying to make sure I can do for 20 people what I wish I could do for the world.

In the meantime, it’s a bit of a waiting game. It hasn’t been a passive waiting game, though. I’ve been discovering in random moments a strange sense of calm that doesn’t make much sense.

I think it’s faith. It’s faith that the next chapter will begin exactly when it’s supposed to. It’s a faith that it’s coming, that I’ll have a role to play in taking care of other people, and that I’ll be ready and willing.

#21 Women’s March of Eugene

21 January 2017 // Eugene, Oregon

I’m the product of being Loved well and having strong, positive, encouraging influences in my life, and when I think of who those faces actually are, they are overwhelmingly female! Like… by a long shot!

There’s Deanna, who has to fight every day to have some of the things most of us take for granted, but she doesn’t just settle there. She gives hers to lift kids out of some really dark places.

There’s my mom, who managed to totally put everything she had into raising me after losing my dad and her dad almost within a year of each other without ever using that as an excuse for giving me anything less than the best she could.

Then there are my Aunts, Ella and Fely. Auntie Ella hopped on a plane in the fifties to be one of the first in the family to move to the US and practice medicine. She then basically turned into Mother Teresa, using most of her earnings to support the rest of her siblings and donating her skills on medical missions. These two helped me get a car and a college education and are the most generous people you could ever meet.

Oh, and my Lola, who passed last year. She had the original heart for orphans, the love of hooking people up with a good meal, and the willingness to cross borders for loved ones.

If you think people who treat women like objects are fit to lead, you need to change that. If your vision for the future, the country, the planet, or the Kingdom of Heaven in any way inhibits women from full and equal opportunity, I want nothing to do with it because it’ll always be weaker than it could be with women empowered.