Pay It Forward

I suppose with age comes a heightened sense of awareness, and thus a less-filtered exposure to the “not-so-pretty” parts of life.

Because I consider myself of an empathetic nature, I tend to “feel others emotions and take them on as my own”.  In an age where pessimism lurks at every corner, I find it difficult not to be saddened by the state of the world.  Furthermore, I feel quite helpless, in regards to making any sort of impact to rectify this.

Saturday evening, I was fortunate to be inspired by the words of a twenty-eight-year-old woman. She stood in front of a room of 650 and spoke about her accomplishments.  She shared that she’d recently completed her third marathon, qualifying for Boston; that she’d just earned her PhD, and that she was newly engaged.  Then, she discussed her hardship: battling a very serious disease.  She shared that this disease does not define her, but rather, she defines herself, as an athlete, a doctor, a seizer of opportunity.

As the tears rolled down my cheeks, I realized that it is alright to feel fear, and anger, and dissapointment; so long as we, too, refrain from allowing them to define us.

Voltaire once claimed that, “the most important decision you will ever make, is to be in a good mood”.  I suppose the best way I can contribute to the greater good, is to make this choice, as often as possible, in hope’s that my decision will help someone else to do the same.

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Home, Sweet Home: Seattle Edition

March 21, 2017

We were chasing the sunset in the 2000 white Chevy; windows down, an ocean breeze wrestling my unruly mane. The orange stripe on the horizon was melting, as was my time on this Island.  Though the sky was growing dark, I pulled my sunglasses over my face to hide the tiny tear creeping out the corner of my eye.  I was suddenly flooded with the same feelings of fear and excitement I had experienced nearly two years prior.  I hopped out of the truck and pulled Shelly into an embrace, as David hoisted my suitcase from the back.  He set the bag down and wrapped his arms around the both of us.  Somehow, this place was still home.

I glanced over my shoulder as I slipped my shoes off, and passed through security; half-expecting to see three weepy faces watching me walk away.  I dragged my bag behind me and up the steps to gate 23A, the familiar emotions allowing me to recall the morning of April 21, 2015:

Randy shifted the car into park at 1409 Sixth Avenue.  I was suddenly aware of the fact that I’d spent the last twenty-four hours in this same pair of black slacks, and felt as though I’d brought half the beach along with me.  I yanked the mirror down and attempted to smooth my salty curls; they framed swollen brown eyes drenched in puddles of ink.  I wiped the residue from my cheekbones with the back of my palm, applied some lipstick and emptied the sand from my shoes.  In a flash, the ZipCar had disappeared, with my one and only friend in this new city, inside of it.  I inhaled, in an effort to calm my nerves, and entered the lobby; a world of unfamiliarity awaited. 

Back at OGG, the fear subsided as, I realized: this time was different.

This time, not perfect strangers, but friends who I can no longer remember my life without, awaited me.

How was it, I wondered, that just three-hundred and thirty-five short days later, a destination that at one time represented nothing and nobody to me, had become a place that I could now, also, call home?

Awhile back, I wrote that, “Maybe, one day, some place or someone might encourage me to throw down the anchor and make home something more permanent”.

I was mistaken, you see, “You can have more than one home. You carry your roots with you, and decide where they grow” (Mankell).

The Difference A Year Makes: Part III

2016.

As I look back,  I choose to define it by a series of seemingly insignificant moments. Episodes of contemplation, when I could think of a million reasons why not, but ultimately chose to listen to the little voice in my head.  The one that said, “just do it”.

Learning to snowboard – though, battered, bruised, assaulted by the lift, and (feeling) nearly frostbitten.

Running 13.1 miles – all the while carrying the subtle remains from a week of wine-binging in the Napa Valley.

Booking a flight to Europe, three weeks out – when it seemed completely irrational.

Boarding that flight – despite the fact that our destination city was entirely locked down.

Watching my brother play soccer in Colorado – when I should’ve been at work in Seattle, tending to the needs of my client.

Packing an overnight bag for Rebekah’s Mount Baker cabin – instead of packing my entire apartment.

Speaking my mind, sharing how I feel, standing up for what I believe; with friends, with colleagues, with family – even when I feared the outcome.

In essence, 2016 was about understanding that “life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next” (Radner).

Because, as my friend Kellie so kindly reminded me, just days ago, “all we have is now”.boots

Three Things I’ve Learned From Three People In Three Years

Today is my three-year-anniversary.

Not with a boyfriend.  Not with a job.  Not with the city I live in.

Three years ago today, I took to the keyboard and wrote something in this blog.

It only seems appropriate, on this three year anniversary, that I recall three things I’ve learned, from three amazing people, in three incredible years (whether they have realized it or not).

1. Put Yourself Out There

Randy, and the coupon theory: you get what you give.  Making yourself vulnerable is absolutely terrifying, no doubt. However, forever wondering is far more painful than could be any perceived failure or rejection; this I am sure of.

2. Do What You Want

Shelly said it to me – two years ago; she had quit her job, because it was preventing her from doing just that.  For twenty-four months since, those four words have been resting inside my skull, subconsciously empowering me to leave, to travel, to learn something new, to be around people when I wanted the company, and to be alone when I didn’t.

3. Be Authentic

I was sitting in a meeting with Leslie about a week ago.  She made a statement that resonated with me, “we take our shoes with us when we go”.  I instantly fell in love with it, and tossed the words around for seven days before determining just why: an urge to refrain from measuring ourselves against others; a screaming advocate for authenticity.

I guess all three of them are really saying the same thing.  And I guess what they’re saying can be summed up quite simply by my friend Mr. Seuss:

“Be who you are and say what you feel; because those who matter don’t mind, and those who mind don’t matter.”

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1,000 Miles

January 1, 2016

It was clear and cold; twenty-eight degrees to be exact.  A slight headache reminded me I had done some drinking the night prior.  I crawled out of bed and into the living room, tiptoeing around a trail of french fries, hamburger wrappers, and two twenty-something boys sleeping, respectively on the floor and couch.

I laced my shoes, pulled back my hair, and hit the pavement.  I darted through the crisp winter air, watching my breath dissapear.  I crossed the Ballard Bridge, at which point I opted to turn home.  Apple Watch told me a steady six miles was the perfect way to ring in 2016, and kick this hangover to the curb.

Back home, for reasons I myself cannot understand, I drew up a challenge: I would run 1,000 miles over the course of the 364 days to follow.

Quick math told me this amounted to less than three miles per day, with a little give and take.  Nonetheless, it seemed attainable.  I was committed.

I pushed through the winter months, diligently logging my 3-4 miles, as frequently as I could manage. The days were short and the rays of sunshine were far and few between.  There was rain, which meant cotton t-shirts stuck to my ribs and a wet ponytail whipping my back with each stride. There was cold, which made for numb fingers, chapped lips and frozen toes. Spring brought with it, longer days, which in turn, allowed for longer runs.

Soon, my evening had transformed from something of a chore, to the reward at the end of each day.  I craved those thirty to sixty minutes, alone on the road; just me and my music.  Sometimes, I worried incessantly; other times, I made plans. Often, I daydreamed.  Mostly, I cleared my head entirely, escaping from anything and everything that had exhausted me throughout the day.  Always, I enjoyed myself; so much so, that in the month of May, I logged more than 100 miles, with ease.

While my passion for the sport grew exponentially, my preoccupation with keeping track of the miles, simultaneously subsided.  Some days, I simply ran until I grew tired, and hopped on the bus home.

At this point, I’ve lost count entirely, and quite frankly, don’t care.  As I prepare for my second half marathon in six months time,  I have to imagine I will come close to, or perhaps surpass, my goal by year’s end.

But I suppose I’ll never truly know, and I suppose I’m just fine with that.

And perhaps, in the end, this little experiment serves merely as another reminder that we are far too often preoccupied with the notion of “being somewhere”, whether it be a mark, a person, a place, a job; that we seldom allow ourselves to enjoy the process of actually getting there.  And when we do, we might just realize, that being there is not all it’s cracked up to be; but in fact, true plesaure lies in appreciating the moments along the way.

 

The (Mostly Comedic) Highlights: German Bangs & Dierks Do Europe 2016

July 22nd

Detroit, Michigan

We hit the tarmack and switched our phones from airplane mode to find text messages from concerned friends.  We glanced at one another confused, then back to the cell phone to discover news reports pronouncing something of a suspected terror attack that had been committed in Munich a few hours prior.  This happened to be the final destination of the flight we were preparing to board in about 20 short minutes.  We gathered what information we could from scanning the web: the shooting was being described as “acute” terror and three suspected gunmen were reportedly still on the loose, with a high-speed chase underway, and the entire city on lockdown.  Though these sorts of things sadly occur daily throughout the world, I couldn’t help but acknowledge the dull ache in the pit of my stomach resulting from the uncertainty that would accompany arriving blindly to a foreign city with potentially nowhere to go.

Nonetheless, after a quick conversation with a German woman at the gate, and few text exchanges with our mothers, we proceeded with our plans.
Twelve hours later, I had laced up my shoes, and was running through the city streets, soaking up the German sun, as I admired fresh produce carts and couples chatting over espresso and cigarettes on the sidewalk cafe.  All was business as usual in Munich.  It was difficult to fathom that a mere half day prior, the couple we’d spoken with at breakfast had been forbade by local Polizei from setting foot on these very streets.

 

July 23rd

Munich, Germany

I suppose someone once suggested getting to know a city by becoming lost in it; we will go ahead and pretend the like is why we did just that; all the while gawking at old brick buildings, adorned with flower boxes on the windows.  We walked and walked until we’d worn fresh blisters into our heels, finally arriving at the Hofbrauhaus for our first German meal.  This authentic beer hall was complete chaos, just as I’d hoped it to be: packed with locals, chants audible throughout, and smelling of liters of bier (and a hint of sweat).  After being advised the entire “wine system” was down (whatever that meant), watching Amelia work her way through a liter and a roast, and offering our struggling server a few words of encouragement on what we learned was his  first day on the job; we set off in search of some grapes.  The search came to a screeching halt, or perhaps a full sprint depending upon how you look at it, as the sky erupted with thunder and raindrops resulting in Storm #1.  Upon entry to the hotel bar, to enjoy some Riesling, Amelia assured me I looked decent.  Moments later, the bartender appeared with a stack of towels that he proceeded to offer me; my loyal travel companion burst into tears and admitted I was in fact, glistening.  The first of many moments I would be envious of that little black umbrella she’d stowed in her purse.

July 25th

Salzburg, Austria

After spending two hours locked in a train car with a dozen and a half elementary school aged Japanese girls, braiding one another’s hair and playing strange games, we hoisted our luggage onto the platform and hailed a taxi: Salzburg, Australia (as Amelia would accidentally proclaim it later that evening).  We stashed our bags in the hotel room, conveniently located in the heart of Aldstadt, and took our new friend Johannes’ advice.  What was originally described as a leisurely stroll up to the Hohensalzburg Fortress proved to be more of a hike.  My hair had long since transformed into Afro status in this 95% humidity and I was embracing it.  Our reward at the top: the most breathtaking view of this quaint city along the river, skirted by the majestic Austrian Alps.  We made our way through the castle, noticing a dark cloud rolling in overhead.  We determined it best to begin our journey back down, but did so far too late.  Halfway down the dirt (now mud) path, we were warned by a couple of British Scout Masters that we “ought wait it out”.  In the words of AD, “it’s officially our first Austrian storm!”

The showers seemed to slightly subside after about 15 minutes and we made a break for it, finding ourselves soaked from head to toe for the second time in three short days since arriving on this continent.  Exhausted and delirious, we forced ourselves to remain awake a few more hours, strolling through old cobblestone streets, taking selfies with Mozart and admiring, in the words of my friend Amelia, “a big ass fountain” and some “old shit”.  We stumbled into a cute little Italian place, where we discovered Austria was indeed a friend to the gluten frei.  I made it through dinner, but only after being ordered to excuse myself from the table and take a quick lap, to keep from drifting off while Amelia captured the European Pokemon.  We resorted back to the Goldener Hirsch where the Pokemon catcher herself, proceeded to break an entire cabinet of wine glasses, on a desperate hunt for the room service menu (which we later found hiding beaneath my bag), and finally allowed our heads to hit the pillow for some sleepytime.

July 27th 
Bavarian Alps

Two things we had forbidden ourselves from doing on this trip: referring to the train as the “douche bahn” and talking about Hitler.  On Wednesday morning, we visited his bunkers, not by means of the D-bahn, but instead, a tour bus guided by another new friend: Johanne.

We climbed to the peak and gazed into the alps, dressed in pockets of misty fog; the air was eerie. I crept to the tip-top in hope’s of securing the most jawdropping view, and was warned and threatened by Amelia that she was not about to push a wheelchair across the cobblestones should I fall and break something. From the nest, we made our way down, the steepest hill in all of Germany, to the quaint town of Bertschesgaden, which I’m referring to as the Aspen of Europe.  The evening concluded with our second official Austrian storm, when our relaxing champagne cocktail hour on the dock was quickly transformed into a refugee camp for the boat tour gone awry.  This trip is all about themes (in the event you have failed to notice), so of course the evening couldn’t end without broken glass #2, as I somehow managed to throw my champagne flute into Amelia’s lap.  Cue, sleepytime.

July 28th

Enkenbach, Germany

Train game was on point this day.  Around 6:45pm we arrived in the “infamous” Enkenbach, where my childhood neighbor Amy resides with her husband Marc, and three sons: Tobin, Jonah and Doren.  We followed Amy’s explicit directions asking us to exit the train platform and “follow the dirt path”.  A site, we were, as we stood with our luggage, staring down this path that appeared to lead nowhere, just in time for rain to begin: enter Storm #4 and that damn umbrella.  In the distance, I believed I saw two little blonde heads.  It had been at least three years since last visiting Toby and Jonah; highly unlikely either would recognize me.  At any rate, I waved; they waved back and came darting toward us in their superhero costumes – to the rescue!  In less than two minutes, we had arrived at the Holt Haus, where cousin Shawn was also taking up residence for a couple of nights.  After a home cooked meal of beef stew, and a few lessons in German, Amy put the boys to sleep, while Shawn, Amelia and I headed to our favorite corner gas station, for a few bottles of wine.

The next three days would be spent throwing the football with Toby, watching Jonah make out with his ice cream, and unsuccessfully attempting to make Doren laugh.  We would also pay a visit to Gartenschau in Kaiserslautern; this wonderful concept in Germany where kids can play at the park, while their parents drink beer.  On our final night, I proposed that Amy should ditch her plans for momcation at the spa in Baden Baden and join us in Switzerland for a girl’s weekend. A hard sell that was(not).

July 31st

Zurich, Switzerland

We said our goodbyes and left the boys in Daddy Daycare (aka under the supervision of Marc and Shawn) and made a bee-line for Swiss Country.  We climbed the staircase from the underground platform at Zurich HBF to find ourselves in, wait for it, Storm #5, and surely, our heaviest rainfall to date.  The three of us searched for signs of the street car through muddled vision, before, concluding, “bye felisha, let’s get a taxi”.  Five kilometers and fifty francs later, we arrived at the Sheraton Zurich, with our (unannounced) third guest, and were disappointed to learn that no larger rooms were available.  Being the resourceful women (we claim to be) we pushed the two twins beds together, to form one giant bed. I slept in the crack for two nights; fearful I’d slip through to the floor each time either Amy or Amelia stirred (but never did).

My German phone flashed with Manuel’s instructions to “meet under the big fat ugly angel, next to the clock”.  The three of us glanced up, smiled, and found ourselves in agreement with his description.  We proceeded to tour the city alongside our Swiss friends, which included Manuel’s entire clan: his wife Corinna, his three-year-old daughter, Lavinia and his nine-month-old son, Keanu.  We saw the sights, and enjoyed the occasional moments of comedic relief from Lavinia randomly undressing herself in public and being ejected from the stroller.  We ended the day with a scenic train and small climb to Utilberg, the top of Zurich.  The lake glistened and the green stretched for miles.  We sat for a few moments to absorb it all before heading to the park.  Never one to pass up the fun, I climbed into the swing.  My hips didn’t quite fit into the seat the way I remembered them to, but nonetheless, I pumped my legs back and forth, rising into the air and enjoying the simple pleasures of childhood alongside my new little friends.  By now, nearly sunset; we opted to make our way back into town to consume more things covered in cheese.

Our final day in Switzerland proved to be among the greatest, as we headed to Europe’s largest waterfall, gently perched along the Rhine River.  We shared stories, and sips with Manuel, and apologized for not coming equipped with Gulfstream G6.  We threatened to never return home, but alas, said our farewells, and made our way back to the hotel to pack up our things.  It was at this point that I discovered I’d lost my American sim card, and Amelia proclaimed that I would forever remain “German Bangs”.

 

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Smells Like Summer

Yesterday morning I awoke to raindrops and grey sky. Memorial Day weekend — it didn’t seem so.

Around 9:00pm I drove.  I ended up near the water, somewhere in Ballard.  The setting sun had lured me.

I parked my car, first, and then my behind, in the sand.  I adjusted the bill of my hat, kicked off my slippahs, hugged my knees tight to my chest, and stared.

Before long, I was studying.

Shadows draped themselves across far-away mountains, more aggressively with each passing minute.  An endless soft blue was blended perfectly into a bold streak of orange and melting into the horizon.  The water, like stained glass, glistened with impressions of yellow, disturbed only by the ripples of skipping rocks; a movement which could be traced to the distant silhouette of a man. Back on shore, flames erupted from pits and smoke dissipated into the surrounding air.

I shut my eyes and inhaled a breath of sooty bonfire, feeling that simultaneously, a giant smirk had crept across the lower half of my face.

I felt good. Really good.

A bit of nostalgia, I suppose; for a time when Summer was not merely a season, but a way of life.  This scene was home.

I relished in it for a minute or two before opening my eyes and hoisting myself from the ground.

A moment of familiarity was just enough.

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