Thursday, November 20, 2014

how to make money at a job interview + life lately

new ikea slippers. utterly ridiculous yet ridiculously comfy.
The last few days have been introspective and quiet. Quiet is good. When things gets emotionally complicated, as was true for us the last couple weeks, it's nice to be able to say life is uneventful. Boring, even.

Mario is in the land of bread, cheese and berets for eight days. France, I mean. (I'm such a silly American with my stereotyping.) Which means Kiddo and I are holding down the fort. As often happens when Husband is on an extended business trip, we have fallen into an easy rhythm.

these soup mixes! kiddo and i are obsessed.
keep me away from the mint oreos. i'm begging you.
The weather has been cold, but not New England cold—one must keep perspective—which lends itself to these quiet, simpler days I've been waxing about. Meals have been warm, nurturing and simple; clothing and footwear soft, wooly and insulated; beverages hot and herbal. (There's just something about carrying a steaming cup of tea around all day, you know?)

After my announcement the other day (made mostly for my own benefit), I started thinking: I should do something. Right now. (True Sarah form right there.)  You see, it dawned on me that Kiddo is getting braces in two weeks (I should have been an orthodontist), we just forked over four digits in vet bills, and oh yeah how about that cash Christmas we aspire to.

So in a streak of boldness very opposite my nature, I got to work. I composed a Craiglist ad selling my tutoring services (it starts something like, Need a boost before finals? Trust me, it's marketing gold.). Because it turns out I have a degree and happen to know a thing or two about science, math, and writing.

Then, while still aboard the bravery train, I threw together a quick and dirty (but thoroughly impressive) resume and, before I could shrivel up under the uncertainty, applied for a job as a catering barista. It's pretty much the perfect job: no commitment, high pay, and little to no training above my current skill level. Thanksgiving is fast approaching (Kiddo has 5 whole days off!), and we are spending Christmas at my in-law's lake house in Montana, so it doesn't make sense to dive into a grownup job right now anyway.

After years of intense academia and a cross country move and a lengthy transition period and and and, it sounds nice to do something simple. For now anyway. And while a more career-focused job is in the very near future, I like the idea of going backward a little bit. I liked being a barista. It's a great way to meet people, it's lighthearted and creative, and at the end of the day you get to shut it down and go home to your family.

I'm trying to be really honest with myself these days. And also kinder. Stopping self-judgement in its tracks. In doing so, I realized that it's perfectly okay to revisit a past job. To choose something because of what it offers now, as opposite to how it fits into my five-year plan. (Though in the spirit of full-disclosure, I have to admit that I spent some time yesterday researching the Biology graduate program at Portland State. A leopard and its spots and all that.)

In the end I scored an interview. I was nervous and doubtful and took a few extra hours to reply to their request, but I did it and that's all that matters. I was never very good at putting myself out there; it's simply not in my (mostly) introverted nature. So, yesterday morning I put on a skirt (and my lucky ankle booties, of course) and steadied my resolve. (First job interview in 8+ years, folks. Thankfully, this one was low risk and presented a non-threatening way to relearn the art of wooing an employer.)

I was a little rusty at using a stripped down manual espresso maker. (Counting a 20 second shot and steaming milk based solely on sound and touch kind of stripped down.) But I gave it my all and, go figure, had fun. At a job interview. The business owner simply could not have been nicer, and I even scored a five dollar tip from the workers next door after I practiced making mochas for them. Have you ever made money at a job interview? Me neither. (A little awkward + very funny.)

If a more (recently) experienced barista applied, I would expect them to get the job. No hurt feelings. I practiced being bold and took the first step toward reentry into the working world. Though I've gotten more tenacious and outgoing with age and experience, I'm still more timid than I'd like to be.

I'm working on it.

my last evening walk with jack. it was a good one.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be.

Abraham Lincoln

As most of you know, I graduated from college last year. In most ways attending college a little later in life was a good thing. I was focused and had a definite career path in mind. Unlike my younger classmates, I didn't change my major four times or settle for barely passing grades. I was all in. And while it wasn't easy juggling school and grown-up life, I thrived.

Now I find myself in a transitional phase. I'm in a new city on the opposite side of the country. Opportunities abound. Kiddo is (mostly) settled into his new school and Husband is transitioning into a new position that will require less travel. On the surface, it seems to be the perfect time to go back to work. To make a little extra money (student loans!). To meet new people and create a life for myself outside the home. It's time to get those pesky 2000 hours of requisite healthcare experience under my belt.

My home life has never been more accommodating.

So why has the whole issue of work-life balance been on my mind so much lately? (And by "life", I mean motherhood, marriage, personal development, health/fitness, hobbies, and all other non-career goals.) Why do I have this nagging feeling that something is off?

This was a rough week. Saying goodbye to a family member has put a lot of things into perspective for us, and Mario and I have been pondering life a lot the last couple days. Like, sitting on the bathroom floor contemplating our future, kind of pondering.

In the end we always ask the same fundamental question: When all is said and done, what is the most important thing?

The tears, the talks, and the self-reflection have all led me to the answer: I don't want to be a physician assistant more than I want to be with my family.

There. I said it.

My heart has been pulling me in this direction for a while, but my mind kept me from admitting I want to be at home. After years spent getting my undergraduate degree + racking up five figure student loan debt, I was afraid to lose momentum. What's more, I was terrified that wanting to be at home, wanting to be available to my family, was me abandoning my life goals. A betrayal of the Sarah that stayed up until 2a night after night studying organic chemistry and physics and A&P because she could see that finish line if she looked hard enough at the horizon. Did I bait-and-switch myself? (And Mario?)

The short answer? No. And here's why:

1// I deserved that college education, regardless of what I decide to do with it. Everyone does. Knowledge should be a right, not a privilege.

2// Mario doesn't care what I do. If I use my biology degree to make lattes at Starbucks, he's got my back. Do whatever makes you happy, he always says. What's more, he means it. (A good egg, that one.)

3// Admitting that my heart lies elsewhere is not the same as admitting defeat. I'm not a quitter. I'm choosing to put myself first, my happiness first, which is something we should all aspire to do more. Being a martyr doesn't benefit anyone.

Let's be clear: I am going to grad school. Just not tomorrow. Or the next day. I have decided to postpone my education until Kiddo finishes high school in four years. In the meantime, I'm going to start racking up those healthcare hours. Slowly. When I'm ready. If I'm not worried about applying next year, I can take my time finding the right job with the right hours that will allow me to put my family first.

The goal is to work an average of 24 hours per week. Three shifts. That's enough to make a healthy dent in my healthcare hours while allowing me to focus on my family + pursue other interests.

Which brings me to my next epiphany: A biology degree doesn't mean I have to be a biologist.

Don't get me wrong. I love science. I get all twitterpated teaching Kiddo about mitosis or reading a juicy new research article. My degree provided me with those skills. But unlike many other majors, I also spent a great deal of time learning English and economics and math and psychology. I'm capable of doing a lot of things! I had such a narrow view of my skill set (and life goals) that I never stopped to consider that I could write for National Geographic (!) or photograph food (!!) or study orcas (!!!) for a living.

I can work toward becoming a PA and still be open to other interests. It's amazing that I found a calling! But what if there is more than one thing that will fill my bucket? I'd be doing myself a huge disservice if I picked just one goal and stopped dreaming. Never stop dreaming! To do so would be to postpone happiness. I have to be open to the idea that I may use my degree differently than originally intended.

It all seems so obvious, doesn't it? Dream! Seek happiness! Follow your gut! Don't apologize for being who you are! My fortune cookies and wall calendars have been telling me these things for years. I suppose my faulty thinking is simply another example of how us humans like to get in our own way.

You live and you learn and the hardest fought lessons are usually the most valuable ones.

(Rambling post, over and out!)


 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself. -Josh Billings



Jack Sparrow,

This morning I was standing in the kitchen, cleaning up after Jared went to school and I started to look around for you. When my eyes reached the back door, and my brain realized you weren't there, that you'd never be there, it was like losing you all over again.

Saying goodbye to you was the hardest thing I've ever had to do. After 8 1/2 years of loving you, parenting you, waking up without you next to me the last two mornings felt like having my heart ripped out.

A tiny little thing that fit in my palm, you stood out among all the other little ones that fateful spring day. It was you that captured my heart and soul from day one. Even before you could open those beautiful brown eyes or hold up that impossibly soft head. It was always supposed to be you.

You bounded into my life when I needed you most. And I think you knew that somehow. You were there when I became a wife. (You were a wedding gift to Kiddo. Did you know that?) You were by my side during the ups and downs of parenting. You saw me put on my cap and gown. (I'm sure I carried a bit of you with me across that stage, you furry boy.) You saw me at my best and my very very worst, and you loved me either way. I never, not once, felt judged by you. You were my safe person, the one who had my back even when I didn't deserve it. I was so safe under your watch.

You stood vigil when my human baby was sick and made sure he was never without a playmate. Remember that time he fell and you came back up to the house and barked until I knew he needed help? Or when you guys built that snow fort together? All of Jared's most beloved childhood memories have you in them. You were the best, most loving friend a little boy could ever hope for.

Oh, and how your dad loved you! You always made sure he knew how much he was missed when he went away, and reminded him daily how important he is to us. You made him feel as special as he is and never let him forget it.

Your one and only goal in life was to love us. That's all. You lived to greet us first thing in the morning and to lie next to us as we rested our heads at night. When we felt overwhelmed or sad or lost, you sat by our side until we got through it. All you wanted was for us to be happy.

There is nothing to know about love, unconditional love, that I haven't already learned from you.

The last two days I've cried until all the tears dried up, then I cried some more. I've cried at the kitchen sink, in the car, in the shower. There is not a single place that doesn't remind me of you. Your leash in the basket by the door, ready to connect us on our evening walks. Your stuffed animals with the ears nibbled off.
Your soft black fur in the carpet that I can't bring myself to vacuum up. You are everywhere.

I want so desperately for the vise to relax its grip on my chest; for my throat to unclench. It hurts too much. But I'm also desperately afraid of the inevitable day when the pain subsides. Because that means you're really, truly gone. It means I have come to terms with the fact that I'll never see you again. And I can't accept that. I don't ever want to accept this loss.

Those moments we sat with you, before you went to sleep, were precious. The kisses, the tears, the telling of stories. Stories of how you loved to watch fireworks, that silly orange ball you ran around with, and the time Dad and I left you in the car for a minute and you drank both our lattes.

There are not enough hours in a day to express all the ways in which I loved you.

I'm not whole without you.

I still can't understand how you're gone. How you could get so sick. We took you to the doctor Monday morning thinking you had a touch of arthritis, and just a few short hours later, you were gone. I'm so mad I couldn't fix you. Nothing could.

More than anything, I'm so proud of you. How you hung in there, laying on my lap, while Daddy drove as fast as he could to get you to back to Kiddo. You knew he needed to say goodbye, to hold you one last time, so you hung in there. You were hurting, but you never let him see it. Just your crooked little smile.

You were selfless until the very end.

As we held you in our arms, and told you over and over and over again how much we loved you, what a good boy you are, you took your last breath. And in that moment, the most miraculous thing happened: the room filled with light. Those gray clouds that had covered the sky like a blanket faded away in that instant. For the first time that day, the sun shone brilliantly.

It was you. Somehow, it was you. I know it. I don't know much about what happens after we leave this world, but I know you parted the skies for us.

I knew I was going to have to say goodbye to you one day. We all have to say goodbye eventually. But I thought we had another 8 years. When the salt and pepper had extended past your eyebrows and whiskers. When you were good and old and we felt like we'd had enough time. You were supposed to see Kiddo go off to college and keep Dad and I company so our empty nest would feel less empty. We have so many unfinished walks and car rides and trips to the lake. I don't want to do them without you. But since I don't have a choice, know that you will never be far from my mind.

You are a part of what makes me me. A part of all of us.

People have been telling us how lucky you were to have us. Isn't that a silly thing to say? Because we both know we were the lucky ones. You made our family whole. We are better people for having loved you. We can say that we have experienced the purest, most unadulterated form of love. Not many can. I owe you a world of gratitude, and I will spend the rest of my life trying to pass it on.

It was an honor, Mr. Sparrow.

I'll eat you up I love you so.


Jack Sparrow
May 8, 2006 - November 10, 2014


Sunday, November 9, 2014

Weekend Links


I hope you are all enjoying a lazy, low-key Sunday. It is a little dreary, but in the nicest sense, and the boys are still in bed (Mario probably playing games on his iPad). And so I took this (oh so rare) opportunity to enjoy a quiet morning spent at the kitchen island. Laptop open, coffee in hand. So far I've finished a homework assignment (and contemplated another), caught up on my blogroll, and tracked down a long lost Christmas ornament from my childhood on Ebay.

Almost every year for the past decade I have looked for a replacement, and this year I'm finally committed to finding one. Everyone has that ornament, right? The one you were most excited about unwrapping when you set up the tree every year; the ornament that stood out amongst all the others. This one was it for me. I have few mementos from my childhood, so occasionally I go about replacing those little things that defined my youth. Fingers crossed I have the winning bid.

In the meantime, here are some things that have caught my attention since my last Weekend Links post:

How to Overcome a Binge-Watching Addiction // As previously mentioned, I have been binge-watching Pretty Little Liars the last couple weeks. Productivity has been at an all-time low. I'm also terribly afraid of burning through all the seasons on Netflix and having nothing left. After googling the issue, I found one common tactic for limiting binges: don't watch the episode from beginning to end. Instead, watch until the halfway point, preventing the cliffhanger from reeling you into another episode. It works! (Sometimes!)

20 Stores That Refuse to Open on Thanksgiving // I just re-read my thoughts on the holidays written this time last year. I feel exactly the same. (I think it's one of my favorite posts to date.) I'm happy to see that retailers are putting their foot down. If only Target would get on board. That would make me really happy.

Against the Grain // This article satisfied both the scientific and cultural issues I grapple with when it comes to the gluten frenzy.

Make a Hoop Shelf in an Hour // I'm searching for wall space so I can DIY this bad boy.

Being a Stay-at-Home Parent Is a Luxury, for Your Spouse + With kids off at school, how I answer "So what do you do all day?" // I've chronicled my struggle with stay-at-home parenting on this blog over the years. The struggle to carve out my own identity. To be everything to everyone while trying to find personal fulfillment. These articles helped me see a new perspective. And while I may not be advancing my career goals at the moment, or contributing financially, I am making it easier for my husband to do so. He can focus on work without concerning himself with things like the critical state of our toilet paper stock or the dog's limp or Kiddo's never-ending math homework. And that's not nothing.

Rent or Buy? The Math Is Changing. // When we moved to the Pacific Northwest, we decided to rent indefinitely. After owning our last two houses, it certainly required an adjustment in the way we perceived home ownership. We are not sure where we'll be in five years, making it the smartest choice. And yet we have gotten flack for it. (Once, from a relative of a friend who had never met us nor knew our story.) And while I don't need confirmation that we did the right thing for our family, this article felt a little like a pat on the back for a decision well made.

Why Are We So Obsessed With 'Gilmore Girls'? // I am. I so am. Always have been. But it's interesting to hear why people think this show has such a cultural influence.

15 things that make an ordinary day happy // Taking a page from this book. Also, perhaps it's time to give journaling another go. (I've been working on a hybrid system that will allow me to scrapbook, memory keep and journal all in one. Though I'm still working to find the best supplies to accomplish this task, I have a good idea of what I'm going for and how it will look.)



Thursday, November 6, 2014

A whirlwind tour of the Pacific Northwest + thoughts on easy friendships



There's this girl I know. We worked together for a bit almost 10 years ago; having since kept in touch through life changes and relocations. We followed similar later-in-life college trajectories. We share many of the same world views. We both love Golden Girls with all our hearts, which, really, is enough in common don't you think?

It's not your typical friendship in the sense that there are no phone conversations or Facebook interactions. (We keep in touch primarily via text and Instagram.) I feel more at ease with her than most, and yet it is perhaps the most low-maintenance relationship I've ever had. That pressure to stay on top of each other's lives just doesn't exist. I wish all my friendships were that uncomplicated.

What I'm saying is, it's an easy sort of friendship.

Whenever our paths cross (or easily could), we meet up. And you know what? Each and every time we reestablish an effortless rapport. Last week was one such occasion. In just a couple short weeks she is embarking on an overseas journey to start her post-collegiate life. I have no idea when she'll be back, and neither does she.

Fortunately, the timing worked out perfectly and she was able to spend three days with me. The Pacific Northwest was unfamiliar to her, so we set out to take in as much as we could in the little time we had. Husband generously took over most of the duties at home so I could take her on a whirlwind tour of our new 'hood. (Which included a day trip to Seattle. It's a 2.5 hour drive away, so we are able to run right up there when the mood strikes; a fact that thrills me to no end.)

You know all those stereotypes about Portland? Totally true. And they flaunt it. This children's clothing store display kind of sums up the culture, no? (The book!)


In Portland: Blue Star Donuts; the N. Mississippi neighborhood (a favorite); Rimsky-Korsakoffee House (great desserts and drinks, meh service); Powell's City of Books (obviously); the Pearl District; Old Town Chinatown; the Underground Portland tour (interesting + funny!); the food truck block on Washington; and the waterfront. Next visit: the International Rose Test Garden. (Though not too shabby for two days.)

Future Halloween costume idea. Fo sho.
I get all twitterpated every time I see the Labyrinth display. Hands-down my favorite movie of all time.
Those Pike Place flowers, I tell you.
We can vouch for the Apple Cider sorbet and Extra Dark Chocolate ice cream.
I spy a sexy new umbrella.

In Seattle: The EMP Museum; Space Needle; Pike Place Market + an extensive walk through downtown Seattle; my favorite graffiti wall; Bella Umbrella (where I scored my first real umbrella); Metsker Maps; Cupcake Royale; and Storyville.

I think Seattle did an excellent job of wooing her. It was the perfect drizzly kind of day for a visit. On the advice of a friend, we hung around until after rush hour traffic. In order to kill some time, we stopped by a coffee shop to people watch + chat. Without realizing, we stayed a full 35 minutes after closing and the baristas said not one word. They just let us hang out while they cleaned up. Storyville was the icing on the Seattle-shaped cake. I heart that place.

Until next time, Jenn.




Tuesday, November 4, 2014

life + a look back at October


For the first time in a couple weeks, I am perched at my favorite coffee shop tackling my digital to-do list. I'm determined to make this the week where I finish my resume, return long overdue emails, and submit my two weekly essay assignments early, as opposed to two hours before the Thursday night deadline (as has been the case for the past 6 weeks).

I'm a creature of habit. Any disruption to the norm throws me off and I quickly lose footing. Gosh I wish that weren't true.

In the past two weeks: Kiddo finished up his first cross-country season (and suffered a concussion), my in-laws came for a visit, then a week later so did a good friend.  Kiddo had his first school dance, which was a whoa! moment for us as parents. Husband has been working from home, but his schedule is non-stop... so he's around but also not if that makes sense.

Yesterday afternoon Kiddo called to tell me he was done with his after school activity and needed a ride. In the five minutes it took for me to get to the school, he slipped on wet leaves + mud and smacked his head on the sidewalk. The nurse at his doctor's office suggested I just ice it and watch him, but I followed my gut and took him to urgent care. Four stitches and a few gut-wrenching tears later, he's on the mend. (Husband and I are still recovering emotionally, however. We would have taken those stitches on his behalf in a hot second if given the choice.) We are contemplating the purchase of a bubble suit for him.

Needless to say, I want nothing more than to be curled up on the couch binge-watching Pretty Little Liars while wearing elastic-waist pants. Instead, here I sit, freshly caffeinated, feeling cautiously optimistic that I possess the mental fortitude to get something accomplished already. I'm on my third drink and the precipice of productivity. I can feel it.

My blogging has been spotty at best the last couple weeks. And so comes the obligatory "Life Lately" photo dump. It must be done. Because it's now November (whaaat?!) and I have a file full of October photos feeling ignored on my computer.


Where have ankle booties been all my life? Why must I always be so behind trend? Why did I pass on the brown suede ones (which are now nowhere to be found)? These are the pressing questions, folks. (P.S. I want to wear the grey ones all day every day. For reals.) // What are these new pants you're wearing? said Husband one afternoon. My styling of joggers clearly still needs some work. //


a gypsy chair (We asked my mother-in-law, a fantastic seamstress, to re-cover the cushions on my favorite chair. Somehow she talked us into taking them with her until we see her at Christmas. [We are currently practicing using the word "no".] It's integral to our TV area, so we've had to cobble together a series of cushions so we can use it. It's rather eclectic if I do say so myself.) // our plate wall is (finally) complete (Dapper Animal Plates-West Elm) // a mission to find decent Chinese food in the greater Portland area (it's notoriously bad) //


a better-late-than-never finished workspace // so that's where hazelnuts come from // the discovery of vegan ice cream that tastes like the real thing // a fancy dinner with one of Husband's colleagues (wearing grey ankle boots, of course) // 


a boy and his cat (in a gypsy chair) // a man and his cat (whom he [poorly] pretends to be indifferent to) // a man and his dog // we learned Vista is a Norwegian Forest Cat, and now have an answer to all those What kind of cat is he? inquiries) //


Kiddo's inaugural cross-country season has come to an end. I loved going to his meets: the scenery, the culture... all of it. He is something to behold, that kid of mine. Come rain, shine and sore muscles, he ran; shaving over two minutes off his 5k in the course of just a few weeks. I could stand to take a page from his book.


homemade door decor // a Halloween gift for Kiddo, who was a little bummed that he's too old to go door-to-door anymore (crystal skull-West Elm) // Pacific Northwesterners appreciate October as much as I do (our neighbors did it up right + the store displays were lovely) //

This was our first authentic Halloween in years, as living in a rural area didn't lend itself to trick-or-treaters. I have fond memories of our friend Angy's annual Halloween party, and we had a favorite neighborhood where we took Kiddo. I loved the ritual of walking from house to house with Mario, warm drink in hand, our dog in his glow-in-the-dark skeleton t-shirt. But we decided a long time ago that the cutoff for trick-or-treating is high school, so it is nice to be in a neighborhood and back to the tradition of handing out candy.

And also there was this, one of those mom moments that trumps all the difficult ones:


(Yeah, I have the kiddo that wears a bow tie to the school dance and pulls it off.)