life

Fighting Hate With Love

Female. White/Caucasian. Middle Class.

On any given form, this is how I would be identified. These are the statistics I would represent if I participated in a poll. These are the bubbles I filled in for every standardized test I took in school. But for anyone who’s ever met me, known me, or ever even seen me in passing, I’m obviously much more than that.

I’m curious. I’m quiet. I’m friendly and tough and a terrible liar. I love to write and read and be outside in the fresh air. I love sweet potatoes and hate peanut butter and will try to make anything into a quesadilla. I’m funny, or at least I try to be, and I’m smart, determined and constantly pushing myself to be better.

These are the things that forms don’t tell you. These are the things that statistics don’t tell you. These are the things that stereotypes, discrimination and bigotry don’t tell you. Not about me, or anyone else.

In the real world, where people are living, breathing things, checked boxes and filled bubbles don’t matter. They will never tell you about the morals of a person or whether or not you will relate to them, get along with them, like, or even love them. Only conversation can do that. Only time, patience and mutual respect can do that. But our world seems to have forgotten that.

Recently, it seems that people believe the only mediums of expression available to them are hate and violence. Aggression and disrespect. I watch and I’m not only hurt, but confused.

How? I want to ask. How can you feel this way?

No, I don’t want to know when you started feeling this way, I don’t want to know why you started feeling this way, and I don’t want to know who you believe made you feel it. I want to know how.

How in this world built by so many beautiful, unique, hardworking people. How in this world of deep oceans, vast forests, tall mountains and endless skies. How in this world of kindness, compassion and understanding. How can you possibly believe that hate offers you more than love? How can you believe that someone is less important, less valuable, or less worthy than you are? How can you live each day hating the statistic filled inside the bubbles and boxes, rather than taking the time to get to know the person doing the filling?

Don’t you know what a big world we live in? Don’t you understand how much life you deprive yourself of? How much beauty and depth and color? Can’t you hear the hate in your voice? Can’t you feel it killing you? Will you ever realize that you don’t have power, never will have power or anything close to it, not when love exists, and it always will?

Well, hear this. Know this. Understand this: I do not and will not meet your hate with hate. But I will not concede. I will not watch idly as you spread it day by day. I will fight, I will love, not to tear you down but to drown you out. Your voices will only make my voice louder. Your darkness will only make my light brighter. And your hate will only make my love stronger.

A Handful of Pictures & One Thousand Thank You’s

With the sound of ocean waves lapping against the shore below us, and the sun doing its best to poke through the clouds, we moved closer and closer together. It was hot, but not too hot, especially when you don’t mind each other’s company.

I was standing in a striped dress and a hat made of palm leaves, next to my uncle and in between two amazing women named Tracy; my brother stood behind me, holding up a small dog we’d all made the day’s mascot; my sister was sitting on the floor, in a line of cousins, three by birth, one by marriage; and my mom and dad stood in the back corner, surrounded by siblings, nieces and nephews, some requiring an –in law suffix if you wanted to get technical. Directly behind me were our gracious hosts and directly in front of me was my grandpa and my great aunt, the two who started it all.

The camera snapped three times and Leslie, a second cousin of mine, and co-owner of the beautiful house we’d gathered at that day, ran around from behind the group and stood next to the tripod we’d macgyvered out of an ice chest and an empty cardboard wine carrier.

“I’d like to make a toast without a toast,” she said.

We all remained at our posts, none of us holding a wine glass or bottle of beer to cheers, so instead we offered her our sole attention and silence, a rarity for our big group.

“I just want to say thank you,” she said, this time focusing on my grandpa and my great aunt Shatzi. “Thank you for this.” With the last word she gestured to us, everyone who stood in a united, giggly circle around them. “Because of you, we are here. Surrounded by love, made of love.” The air fell silent, heightening the sound of waves crashing below us. We all stood still, quiet, teary, humbled by the truth.

“We have this,” she said, gesturing again to the group of us, but referring not only to our collected presence, but also our shared love of each other’s company. “Not everyone has this.”

Suddenly the air was loud, powerful, as if we were all talking at once, even though no one was talking at all. Thoughts and memories ran through our minds, recalling laughs and tears, good times and bad. We thought of all the ways we were similar and all the ways we were different and how all of these things added up into a group of people that loved each other unconditionally. These words raced through the air, from ear to ear, hand to hand, and we smiled a thank you for every single one of them.

“Thank you,” Leslie said again to my grandpa and great aunt Shatzi. “Thank you for all of this.”

For a few more seconds we stood silent, basking in the love brought into the light. Some wiped tears from underneath their sunglasses, others bit down on their lips to stop them from quivering.

As we moved apart, making our way back to patio chairs or poolside pavement or kitchen bar stools, to continue conversations about the distant future or recent past, we all walked with a lighter step. We had love. We were surrounded by it, we were made of it, and with that, any problem or worry we might have walked in with suddenly seemed very small.

“Okay, NOW is it time for cake?” someone yelled from the kitchen. We’d all been told that Porto’s cheesecake and my grandma’s famous angel food cake would be our reward for taking a group picture. “Yes,” someone else said, be it an authority figure, or just a hungry someone who pretended to be. Suddenly the room was full, loud. Conversations took off in every direction, and laughter echoed off every wall. Plates were filled and then refilled and after a while we all found our way back outside, listening to the ocean waves below us and watching the sun set out in the distance.

“Thank you,” we said to the sun as it made its way behind a mountain, “and thank you,” we all said silently, both to each other, to my grandpa and aunt Shatzi, and to all the years past, present and future. Because even though we’d always known it, today it had been brought to the tip of our tongues. We are lucky. We are grateful. We are love.

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2017 Goals Check In (#2)

The fact that we are already one week into July has me feeling a little bit like this:

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This always seems to happen. One minute you’re ringing in the New Year, the next you’re…ringing in the New Year. Everything—except lines at the DMV, clocks in an office building, and lethargic pedestrians—moves so fast! This year especially seems to be moving quick because I have so many goals I’m trying to keep track of.

Let me tell ya, if you ever want to live a year in fast forward, set a list of specific goals for yourself and watch the time fly by. Sure, it’s a little bit frightening, but it’s also exciting, because alongside all that time travel is a growing list of accomplishments.

Full disclosure: since my last goal update post I did make a spreadsheet to better aid me in my quest of tracking my progress. In other words, over the last three months I’ve leveled up in nerd. #noshame

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1) See Star Wars

1st Quarter Progress: 0%

Current Progress: 37.50%

That’s right, I’m down to the .5%, people! You thought I was kidding about the whole spreadsheet thing, didn’t you? You should know me better than that by now. Anyways, yes, I have watched the first three Star Wars movies—and by first three I mean Episodes 4, 5 & 6, because I was told to watch them in order of release date, not episode number—and you can read all about that experience here, here, and here. Did I like them, you ask? Well, let’s just say there’s a C3P0 keychain in my Amazon cart and a Death Star waffle maker on my wish list.

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2) See 5 WLRA’s

1st Quarter Progress: 3/5 (60%)

Current Progress: 3/5 (60%)

I was pleasantly surprised by how well I attacked this quest at the beginning of the year. My sister and I actually worked two WRLA’s into our previously planned road trip earlier this year which ended up being 100% worth it. As of now, I have a few oversized sites in mind to top off this year and am currently in the process of making that happen.

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3) Try this jean rug DIY

1st Quarter Progress: 20%

Current Progress: 20%

This has been kind of a daunting task all its own because, seeing as it’s a project that involves sewing, I have to, you know, learn to sew. And while sewing has been on my to-do list for quite some time—my family was even so generous as to buy me a sewing machine for my birthday last year—I’m still rather terrified I’ll end up sewing my lip to something. HOWEVER, this shall not deter me.

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4) Run 1,000 miles

1st Quarter Progress: 233.84 miles (23%)

Current Progress: 474.1 miles (47.42%)

After taking an entire week off during my vacation in March, I arrived home to find myself terrifyingly far behind schedule. To make matters worse, in that short amount of time, I somehow managed to fall slightly out of shape, so my first run back was frustratingly hard. As a result, I spent many a late night thinking about quitting. A part of me wondered if maybe I should just call it a wash and try again another year. But the other part of me—the competitive, can’t stop, won’t stop part of me—said “hell no.” So, after gaining very little ground in April, I welcomed May with open and determined arms. I was going to catch up and I was going to start immediately. That month, I ran 22 out 31 days, totaling just under 100 miles. It was by far the hardest month so far, but at the same time, the most beneficial. I’m more motivated than ever to accomplish this crazy goal I’ve set and have found myself more courageous and daring in my running than ever before. Plus, with the 500-mile mark right around the corner, I can already taste that Heisman.

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5) Complete The Ultimate Fit Bit Week

1st Quarter Progress: 0%

Current Progress: 0%

Yeah, nope. Still haven’t gotten around to this one.

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6) Volunteer (at least) 5 times

1st Quarter Progress: 0%

Current Progress: 40%

With the arrival of summer, and the beginning of a new outreach at my church, I was able to find a couple great opportunities to volunteer over the past couple months and already have a few more penciled in for the next couple months, which makes my heart happy. I always forget how rewarding volunteering is until I get back in the groove of it, then I want to volunteer everywhere all at once! In case you’re interested, the organizations I’ve worked with so far are Children’s Hunger Fund and Food Forward. I believe Food Forward only has locations in California, but Children’s Hunger Fund has a few branches across the country, so if you can find one near you, I highly recommend looking up opportunities to volunteer. Also, if you have any places you love to volunteer, I’d love to hear about them!

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7) Go to a sporting event of “every” kind (i.e. baseball, football, hockey, basketball, & soccer)

1st Quarter Progress: 1/5 (20%)

Current Progress: 1/5 (20%)

As I stated in the first progress post, I haven’t really had the opportunity to make progress on this one because most of the sports are out of season. However, I do have a soccer game on the calendar for July and football, hockey, and basketball will all be back in the fall.

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8) Try every class at the gym

1st Quarter Progress: 0%

Current Progress: 0%

Good news! My gym has finally resumed its workout classes. Thus, I can finally start making some progress on this goal a.k.a probably writing posts about how hard/painful the workout classes are. Stay tuned for whiny rants about how my fingers feel like they’re made of glass and how my legs have forgotten how to be legs.

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9) Do The Princess Diaries painting

1st Quarter Progress: 0%

Current Progress: 0%

Yeah, so, another goal full of goose eggs for me here. However, while I’ve made no progress on the actual painting, I have garnered some interest from friends who want to participate. So, if you happen to see a group of people throwing darts at easels, don’t worry, it’s just me and my friends achieving.

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10) Find and try the “Best of” restaurants in LA

1st Quarter Progress: 0%

Current Progress: 0%

Honestly, I have no explanation for why I’ve made no progress on this one. I mean, it’s a goal that involves FOOD. *shakes head in shame*

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11) Watch every film that has ever won Best Picture

1st Quarter Progress: 6/89 (6%)

Current Progress: 11/89 (12.36%)

Fun fact: Netflix DVD (who is not sponsoring me, but totally should) has pretty much every movie ever, so to make progress on this goal, I recently upgraded my subscription and it’s been great. My mailbox has been pleasantly surprised to receive little red envelopes containing musicals and romantic drama-dies from the 40s and I look forward to working my way up to present day Oscar winners.

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12) Learn to Longboard

1st Quarter Progress: 0%

Current Progress: 0%

The to-do list on this one remains firm:

1) Buy a helmet, elbow pads, and knee pads

2) Wear aforementioned safety apparel with pride

3) Lose all inhibitions.

When I’ve managed to do all three, I’ll have some progress (and probably bruises) to update you on.

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13) Learn to do a headband braid

1st Quarter Progress: 0%

Current Progress: 40%

I’ve watched this tutorial on YouTube a few times and have been working to improve my skills gradually. I expect it will still take me a solid while to get it, but at least I understand the concept now. I used to think it was 100% impossible unless you had three arms.

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14) Reach the 100,000-mile mark on my car

1st Quarter Progress: 99,720 miles (99%)

Current Progress: 100%

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THAT’S RIGHT! For those of you keeping track at home, you can officially check off #14. I wrote a whole post about my car, Jeffrey’s, big day which you can read here.

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15) Do a bar/pub crawl

1st Quarter Progress: 0%

Current Progress: 0%

There appears to be an inkling of a plan for this one to happen around my birthday. Stay tuned.

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16) Sing Karaoke

Current Progress: Complete!

Much to the surprise of my pre-2017 self, I’ve actually done karaoke 3 separate times now, all of which have been about 100 times more fun than I ever thought karaoke could be. That being said, while I’d never pressure anyone into doing something they don’t want to do, I highly recommend you give karaoke a shot. There are few things more freeing than belting out a Backstreet Boys song, knowing you’re hitting exactly zero notes, and yet not caring one bit.

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17) Complete Project Lightbulb

Current Progress: Same as Quarter One.

Due to scheduling/financial conflicts, it appears as though the trip that coincides with this project will not be able to take place until next year, thus preventing the goal in its original form from being accomplished. However, I’m planning on shifting it a bit, so as not to punish myself over unforeseen circumstances.  I figure, if we get the whole trip planned to the tee, with everything set and ready to book, if not booked for 2018, I’d call that a success in its own right.

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Adding all of that together, it comes out to about 29% complete. Which is kind of disappointing to look at, especially since it’s only 10% more than the first quarter. HOWEVER, I’ve done more planning and organizing in this second quarter than I did in the first, which has put me on a much better looking path for the second half of this year. So stay tuned folks! These next few months are going to be crazy. See you in September!

How to: See Portland in One Day

So it was 9:14 pm on a Friday and we’d just arrived in Portland, Oregon. It had been a long (fun, beautiful, delirious, 14 ½ hour) drive and we wanted nothing more than sleep.

Why were we here? Pancakes.

If you read any of my posts about my trip to Hawaii last summer (especially this one), you’ll know that in our time there, my family and I came across a restaurant named Slappy Cakes, which is like the Korean BBQ of breakfast. You choose the batter, the fillings and the toppings, and then you cook them in various creative shapes on the griddle installed in your table. A few weeks after we returned home, I found the T-shirt I’d purchased while we were there and decided to Google the chain to see if there was a closer location. Turns out, the only two locations in the United States are Maui, Hawaii, and, you guessed it, Portland, Oregon.

Sure, it was a crazy plan, driving 1000 miles for breakfast, but when it came down to it, it was a trip I couldn’t resist, and luckily, I convinced two other suckers to take it with me.

When we arrived at our hotel, we all agreed we needed sleep, and lots of it. So, we set our alarm for 9:30, and all died beautiful, instant, fluffy pillowed deaths.

10 1/2 hours later we were up, and we were starving. But upon arriving at Slappy Cakes, we were quick to discover that it was not unknown to the people of Portland. There was a line out the door, and the wait time was around an hour. It went quick though. After some walking around, trying our best not to look touristy (though our pointing and aweing did little to make that case) we received a text message that our table was ready, and we all rejoiced.

Once seated we decided that, since we’d come all this way, we might as well go all out on our order. Thus we opted for three different types of batter (buttermilk, chocolate, and peanut butter), six toppings (chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, blueberries, strawberries, bananas and whipped cream), and an order of breakfast potatoes. Here is our attempt at commemorative pancake art  (with some assist from Snapchat):

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Once we were back in the car—and 10 pounds heavier no doubt—we all kind of paused.

“So…where to now?”

In the midst of the long drive and pancake elation, we’d done little in the way of planning what to do with the rest of our day. So, like any smart-phoned humans of the 21st century, we asked the Internet.

Things to do in Portland?

And with a few key sites jotted down we set off, hopeful to see as much as we could, but completely uninhibited by plans or time schedules. We were going to window shop Portland, stopping anywhere and everywhere we felt like and this is what we found:

 

1) The Pittock Mansion

A home consisting of 46 rooms that was originally built in 1909 for Henry Pittock and his wife, this was by far the highest rated attraction in Portland. People Yelped their hearts out for old Henry. And after taking the $10 tour of the grounds, it was not hard to understand why.FullSizeRender

 

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2) The South Waterfront

This was an accidental find provoked by our seeing a green sign with an animation of water on it. (I’m serious) It was a, “Let’s see where these arrows lead” type of thing. And lucky for us, the arrows led us to one of the most beautiful views we would come across.

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http://www.southwaterfront.com/

 

3) Portland Aerial Tram

This was another point and find. While we were admiring the miraculously clear sky, we saw a pod floating above us, headed into the face of a mountain. I mean, how do you not seek that out? Better yet, how can you pass up a $4 ride that gets you a view like this:

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http://www.gobytram.com/

 

4) Tilikum Crossing

While oohing and aweing at the city from OTTSU (the tram’s drop off point) I saw what appeared to be a group of red balloons and for no good reason, became obsessed with them. I could not go on without knowing what they were. So, after taking the tram back down, we finagled our way over to them, only to discover they happened to be at the entrance of this exquisite pedestrian bridge. And, going with the theme of the day, we said, “What the hell, let’s cross it.”

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This is me finding my beloved “balloons”

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5) The USS Blueback

Across the bridge we found a few fun tidbits of Oregon history, including this submarine, which served in the Vietnam War. We didn’t get a chance to go inside, but it was a humbling reminder of how lucky we were to be living such a joyous, spontaneous day.

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https://www.omsi.edu/submarine

 

6) Saint Cupcake

When you’ve been driving around all day and you’re hungry but not, you know, hungry hungry, a dainty cupcake shop is practically irresistible. Especially when the pastries are this adorable.

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7) Multnomah Whiskey Library

Besides Slappy Cakes, this was our only other must see destination going into our road trip. And in case you’re wondering, yes, we did hear about this place on The Bachelor, but the 5 minute slot on ABC did little to prepare us. For one thing, the place is HARD to find. We did about 5 trips around the block before we noticed its small, understated door. Also, the wait time was 2 hours, so we put our name in and gave the host our phone number before leaving to find something to eat.  We were warned however, that when he called we had 10 minutes to show up or they would move on to the next party. Harsh.

 

A few extra notes on MWL: The menu is practically as big as the Bible, which makes sense after you look at the literal wall of whiskeys to choose from. Also, the bartenders know EVERYTHING, including how to not shoot a dirty look at someone like me, who flips through the vast menu quickly, and then orders a beer.

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8) Pok Pok

This was one of the highest rated eateries in Portland, thus making it our first choice after we put our name in at the whiskey library. We thought we’d just pop over for a quick bite, check another big name off the list, but, if you’ve ever been to Portland, you’ll know this was a hilarious thought. The wait time was 2 1/2 hours, so we politely smiled and moved on. (I’ll be back for you Pok Pok!)

http://pokpokpdx.com/

8.5) Wicked ‘Witches Food Truck

Down the street from Pok Pok was a group of food trucks, a food truck gathering if you will, and we opted for the stylings of this sandwich truck. I got the Cuban, and long story short it was a beautifully crafted high five for my tongue.

http://www.wickedwiches.com/

 

9) Voodoo Doughnuts

This was another highly recommended, must try Portland local. And since we had a long drive back on Sunday*, it was the perfect way to start our morning. Just look at these masterpieces:

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http://voodoodoughnut.com/

(*In case you’re keeping track, we woke up at 7:30 on Sunday, and since we woke up at 10:30 on Saturday, the whole “Seeing Portland in One Day” thing still stands. HA. If you weren’t keeping track, just take this note as further proof that I am an honest and trustworthy tour guide.)

 

10) “Keep Portland Weird” Wall

This is located right across the street from Voodoo Doughnuts. That being said, there’s not much else to cover except that, 1) it’s awesome, and 2) you simply must take a picture in front of it, especially if it’s a little too early for your liking and you didn’t get a lot of sleep last night and you have a 14 ½ hour drive ahead of you. The weirder you already feel, the better the picture will turn out. Proof:

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Overall, my review of Portland is 40 thumbs up. This may sound weird, as I am only one person with only two thumbs, but it deserves more than that. So just picture me and 18 other people sitting around talking, when suddenly Ryan Seacrest pops out and asks us what we think of Portland. Then picture Ryan agreeing with us, offering up his own thumbs and then signing off with, “Goodnight America, especially you Portland.”