Thursday, April 30, 2015

(Better) Realized: Stop confusing satisfaction with settling.



Grab a mug of tea and get comfy; it's time for a flashback. One of those instances where we must go back in order to go forward for the sake of context.

At the ripe old age of 22, I knew what people in their 30s and 40s wish they'd known about the world at that age. But you shouldn't know these things if you don't have to, because your twenties are for fun sex and finding yourself.

This is not to say I had totally evolved at that point in my life. Far from it. Still, a complicated, messy relationship had forced me to establish personal boundaries much earlier than most, and my position as the middle child of a manic depressive had taught me a thing or two about self-preservation. I was career (not college) driven for the sake of survival and working to shed the emotional scabs left by my many life experiences.

I was a shy, well-behaved child and the same could be said for my teenage years. I seldom rocked the boat or broke the rules, save for a cartilage piercing created with the help of a safety pin and a friend, but I was far from complacent. Inside that stare-at-the-floor exterior lived a soul so strong-willed, it seemed I was impossible to break. People tried; people failed.

Just a year into my early twenties, I had reached a sweet spot: I loved my job, had many great friends and coworkers, and coworkers who were friends. I worked out every day and had a peaceful relationship with my body. I woke up every morning, bright and early, excited to live my life. I was also totally and completely content to be single. I had long since distanced myself from that life-defining, messy relationship. I had been on several dates with agenda-less young men who were sweet and kind and fun to be around. I was happy. Most the time, blissfully so. I didn't spend my days pining for more money or a fancy life, and a relationship was not a priority.

For the first time in my life, I was totally and completely content to just be me.

One Saturday night in April 2003, I was barhopping around town with friends, a rare occasion for me. We had come full circle, back to the bar where I'd left my car, and I said my goodbyes. Just oooonnnneee more drink, Sarah? Come oooonnnn. And so I agreed to just one more. As fate would have it, the kindest, most amazing soul, in the form of a dark haired, doe-eyed fellow, was in the bar that night. A friend of a friend who lived hours away and was only in town for one night.

Spoiler alert: I married him.

I've spent a lot of time thinking and talking about that night. About the amalgam that had to occur for us to have met.  The world works in mysterious ways, and I will always and forever be thankful that it facilitated our unlikely pairing. But I've long since felt that it was more than just dumb luck and good timing that led me to Mario. More than anything, it was my head space.

You see, even a few short months before that, I'm not sure I would have had the openness necessary to see him for what he was: my soulmate. In order to love someone properly, you have to love yourself. You have to own your own happiness. Because no one, no matter how wonderful they are, can fill in the blanks created by deep-rooted discontent. In the way people create vision boards to unlock their dreams, I had found my way to satisfaction despite an imperfect life. It took a lot of perseverance, years spent shedding the people and things that held me back, to get where I was.

Had I not done the work necessary to enjoy the phase of life I was in, I very well might have missed out on one of the two greatest things that has ever happened to me. And that, my friends, would have been one hell of a tragedy.

Many chapters in my life and marriage have been written since that fateful night, some of which have been chronicled here. And every so often I come to a realization: I've lost that sense of satisfaction. The hard-earned ability to find happiness where I am right now. To not let outside noise and rigid thinking affect the fundamental way I feel about life. Oh, to feel that tingle of excitement in my belly each morning!

I've talked a lot lately about the perils of my job search. A 4-year degree carries little weight when it comes to skilled labor in the healthcare sector, and years spent being a mom and student have left me with a thoroughly unimpressive work history. So I agonized, applied to 10 patient care jobs, read all 10 rejection emails as they trickled in, and then agonized some more. I went round and round in my head and had the conversational equivalent of hand-wringing while poor Mario let me get it out (more frequently than I'm proud of), always showing nothing but the utmost compassion for my anxious ruminating.

I interviewed for The Perfect Job several weeks ago, and in response to my second follow-up email, was told they would be making a decision by the 20th. The 20th came and went and I resigned myself to the fact it was a long shot anyway. Then I had an epiphany: What if, instead of obsessing over The Perfect Job, the job that fit my established timeline and carefully constructed expectations, I applied for a less than perfect position that would get my foot in the door and allow me to move up the system? What's more, what if I actually applied because it sounded, well, fun? A job I wanted to do and wouldn't mind continuing to do if I didn't get accepted into grad school in the first application cycle.

What if I could be satisfied where I am right now? If history has taught me anything, it's that satisfaction can lead to wonderful, unexpected things. And so I started hitting the "apply" button on other positions within the hospital. Ones I could definitely score and would enjoy doing... despite the fact they don't fit neatly into my pre-grad school parameters. For the first time since embarking on this journey through the world of academia, I was okay where I was and open to any and all opportunities.

Worse case scenario? In 3 years, when Kiddo is done with high school, I can apply to programs all over the country and we can move again.

Life hadn't boxed me in, I had. Just like that, I felt a renewed sense of calm. And a tiny tingle in my belly at the prospect of finding perfection in the imperfect.

And you know what?  This morning I got a call for a second interview. I'm still in the running for The Perfect Position. Thank goodness they made me wait those extra 10 days. They were agonizing, yes, but also exactly what I needed to get my head out of my ass. The moment I turned myself over to the experience, let go of all those preconceived notions, life opened back up. What's funny is, now I'm much less concerned about whether or not I get the job. It's almost not the point anymore.

Pursuing happiness, whatever the cost, is never the same as settling.


Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Keep Calm and Cherry (Limeade) On


I'm not a big drinker, and am okay admitting I don't really like the taste of alcohol. Though there are certain times when I wish I more enjoyed drowning my sorrows with some Pino or celebrating with a bit of bubbly, the occasion is rare. Very occasionally, however, I get the urge to have an alcoholic beverage. And since they stopped making Zima in 2008, I've had to get creative. (Remember Zima and wine coolers? Oh to be an 18-year-old wannabe rebel again.)

There was this one extra dirty martini to end all martinis, made at a now defunct bar in Keene, New Hampshire by which I compare all alcoholic drinks. Few, if any, compare. I think the key is smoothness. (That miracle martini was like buttah.) Sweet drinks are good if not too sugary, but seldom are they not too sweet. I suppose there are worse things to be picky about.

Recently I got one of those rare wild hairs and decided to order a hard cherry limeade from a restaurant. And would you know, I enjoyed it. Which prompted me to perfect it at home. You should, too.


Grownup Cherry Limeade
(Makes 1 pint)

Ice
1.5 oz cherry flavored vodka
1 oz maraschino cherry juice
3-4 (or 10) maraschino cherries
lemon-lime soda
1/2 lime, sliced

Fill pint jar (or glass) with ice. Add vodka, cherry juice and cherries. Squeeze limes into the jar, then throw the slices in as well. Swirl. Fill to the neck with lemon-lime soda (I use Sprite). Swirl with a straw.


Then... put your feet up, watch reality television and ignore the cat hair tumbleweeds rolling across your floor. (Just me?)

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Old St. Francis School // Bend, Oregon


Earlier this month we were faced with what to do over spring break. We needed to take a life break something fierce, but Kiddo was in the midst of track season, and was therefore required to attend a minimum of three practices. And so we were left with a conundrum: Where could we go that would feel away, but wasn't too far (geographically speaking)?

The answer came in the form of Bend, Oregon. It's three easy hours from Portland, and the raves about this mecca for all things outdoorsy had us curious. Let me tell you, it looks like an awesome place to live. The culture is funky, but not so funky it's unrelatable, and the aesthetic is beautiful. The town feels like it is an extension of nature—it doesn't compete, but rather melds into the scenery. It's not large, but obviously growing, yet it maintains a small town feel. The riverfront houses are swoonworthy, as are the abundance of lovely arts & crafts + bungalows. (I'm a sucker for a sweet bungalow.)

The food scene is also on point, and we had some great meals while we were there. We stayed for 3 days/2 nights, and never ran out of things to do. One afternoon we meandered down to Sun River, a small town just south of Bend and walked around the quaint village. It may be the first town we've seen with more trails than roads. It has tentatively been placed on the vacation home bucket list. You know, for when we're millionaires.

We decided to stay at the Old St. Francis School, which was an adventure in and of itself. We are still utterly fascinated by McMenamins  properties, though word on the street is most locals aren't so keen on them. Selling out to the masses or something? They have regular restaurants, but also several properties whereby they converted old buildings into hotels. St. Francis was a Catholic school, so eacch room was once a classroom. (The rooms are named after students.) The property also boasts a saltwater soaking pool, loungey movie theater, restaurant, and two bars. And it's right in the heart of downtown Bend. The aesthetic is super quirky with whimsical art and dim, ominous lighting. (I don't work for their PR department, but perhaps I should?)




Monday, April 27, 2015

Shenanigans


Kiddo's school had parent-teacher conferences late last week, which means the heavens shone down on us in the form of a 3-day weekend. A break from the usual grind is always, mercifully, welcome. Not all of us were spared, as Husband had goods to market and spreadsheets to spread, but he got the house to himself, which is something.


I fought the urge to pull up the covers and waste away the morning; Kiddo was not so convinced. Still, we packed ourselves into the car, turned on The Da Vinci Code audiobook, and headed to the ocean to see the tufted puffins nesting on Haystack Rock. Though they purportedly nest from April to August, there was not a puffin in sight. A trip to the beach is never a waste, says we, and so we had a great time wiggling our toes in the sand. And the visit was not without oddity, as the beach was covered with million and millions of vibrant purple-blue jellyfish called Velella; a mass beaching that occurs every few years when the winds change. I was utterly fascinated and Kiddo was like, Um, don't let them touch me.


Have I every mentioned my love of Cannon Beach, Oregon? I do. I love it. There is just something so wonderful about the beaches of the Pacific Northwest. Positively swoonworthy, I tell you. Kiddo declared that he'd like to live there, and when asked what he'd do for a living in a small beachfront town, he replied: Perhaps I could be the town intellectual. I'd be the person people come to when they need answers. He may have his finger on the pulse of something here.


There was also: books; tea (I'm digging this Sticky Rice Pu-ehr. It's good.); Easter candy consumption (Lemon Delight Peeps, oh my); grown up milk cartons; a restaurant supply store (hot dog steamers, sneeze guards and gigantic mixing blades galore!).


I've backed off on the IKEA visits since reaching our furniture quota last fall, but, you know, I'll brave the throngs of pregnant women and screaming children in order to buy that boy a reading chair. He did, after all, confine most of the Legos in his room to one area, revealing a corner perfect for book consumption. I had a nice rocker in mind; he a swiveling faux leather office chair. I stood and stared at it unsure how to proceed, but ultimately we left with a throne fit for a high powered attorney. (Yet no meatballs. Riddle me that.) He set about proudly assembling it himself and only asked once if he would be earning allowance money for doing so. (For the record, my response was, You're joking, right? I just bought you a replica of Spok's bridge chair.)

Anywho, I resisted any and all urges to gorge myself on paper goods and fruit-shaped string lights because, gosh, IKEA is on point this season.


 I woke up this morning wishing it was Sunday but was instead suddenly and unexpectedly overcome with the urge to walk all six round-trip miles of the local trail. It was so unexpected, in fact, I had to remember how to properly wrangle a sports bra onto my body. I feel like I've spent a great deal of my life waiting for certain things to happen organically, and they seldom do (especially in the workout department), but in this case it did and so maybe there is hope for me yet.

This week may just turn out to be a winner. Best buy a lotto ticket.


Friday, April 24, 2015

Get a job. Or a hobby. Or both. (also, Bookmarked)



This week I entered into a weird vortex. I am actively seeking work, have endured the interview process, and been turned down for fifty hundred jobs; needless to say, my intention to work is clear. And while I do the same things I did 4 months ago, pre job hunt, I no longer feel like a homemaker. Though I still fulfill the role and the pay is the same (i.e. the mostly unspoken admiration of my kin), my mindset has changed drastically. I want to work; I am actively looking for work; I need to work, and so I'm feeling very.... unemployed. (In case you missed it, I need 2000 hours of hands-on patient care experience by next April to apply to graduate school. Oy vey iz mir is right.)


I made up my mind to do something, and developed both short and long term plans, but the kindly people down at HR see it differently (labor economics and all that). This leaves me feeling a little, well, aimless. The word ennui is on the tip of my tongue more than I'm comfortable with.

The other day I was eating a bag of croutons and watching a mid-morning rerun of Walker Texas Ranger, the one where Winnie has her baby stolen, and I became a little too invested, often trying to anticipate the need for a roundhouse kick, before it hit me like a ton of bricks: I need a hobby. Nothing all encompassing, because gosh I hope a job is on the horizon, but something that will tap into my creative mind, fill idle time, and still prove enjoyable once my days (hopefully) become less free. A tall order, I'll admit. (Side note: there is always that elusive hope that I will stumble upon a hobby or interest that will open my eyes to a new and exciting career opportunity that does not have a one year sputum collection prerequisite.)


The trick is to find something lighthearted, easy yet challenging (!?!), fairly compact, and not too expensive. Bonus points if it involves glitter and I don't get bored with it and abandon ship after the hot and heavy honeymoon period is over. (I may have tried a few dozen hobbies in my time and possibly have a garage full of UFOs to prove it.) (UFO = unfinished object, an apt term I inherited from my aunt.)

Husband has woodworking, hot tubbing, and a smattering of other hobbies; Kiddo has track + cross country, Legos and comic books. I have reading... and drinking tea? (Though admittedly I spend my days drinking tea with the hope I will somehow reach a therapeutic level of caffeine in my bloodstream sans coffee.) I'm pretty close to terrarium capacity, and while I'm enamored with my new found love of reading, it's a rather stationary exercise. I want to move my body and use paste! I think this conundrum calls for the creation of a vision board. 

While I contemplate becoming an ultra runner (and my precarious mental state), here are some things that caught my eye this week:

eat up

feeding my dream (of becoming outdoorsy)

dip dyed

fingers crossed it fits in our space (rental schmental)

(still) lemon obsessed

figuring out what to do (with your life)

dusting off the spiral slicer

next road trip destination?

smitten


Happy Weekend!


Thursday, April 23, 2015

terrariums + aeriums


(Jared and "Hubert," his Old Man Cactus... named after his favorite bottled lemonade. He pronounces it Hoo-bert, which is really quite entertaining. // The teacup and embellishments are a "fairy garden," given to me by my niece. She also painted the little fox in the photos below.)

Last fall, when we were mostly settled in our new home (but I was still in full-on home decor introspection mode), we wandered into a Portland street market and I fell in love with my first hanging aerium (complete with a tiny gnome!).  Mario bought it for my birthday, after seeing me light up at the very sight of it, and I hung it in the window above the kitchen sink. Soon after I added another, simpler one, containing just glass, water and three Marimo moss balls.

After 7 years in a house with very little natural light, I'm really enjoying the art of plant husbandry. Like reading for pleasure, it was a treasured pastime that fell by the wayside over the last decade. Bright sunny windows and a plethora of wide windowsills have inspired me to bring the greenery inside. My fiddle leaf fig is thriving (and almost as tall as I am), our avocado plant is well on its way to becoming an avocado tree, and foliage emits character from nearly every corner.

Ask my husband how much I love things in miniature, and he'll roll his eyes (every so slightly) and say So. Much. Tiny things make me quite happy.

I'm equally smitten with succulents. When I was a wee one, growing up in Southern California, I was enamored by the succulent ground cover at my aunt's house. I've always thought their intricate patterns and vibrant, juicy leaves make them equal parts fascinating and beautiful; little alien flowers.

When you combine my two loves, tiny things and succulents, you get terrariums (or aeriums, in the case of air plants). My enchantment with these little worlds has blossomed (see what I did there), and become not only a creative outlet, but an opportunity to bond with Kiddo. There is just something so endearing about creating these tiny little worlds together.

Recently we covered the kitchen table in butcher paper, gathered all kinds of interesting supplies, and had a terrarium + aerium building session. It was the best.


Other little things on my mind lately:

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
Stowaway Cosmetics
Tiny House Nation (we are a tiny bit obsessed)
(Mini) Doughnuts + Chai (double yum!)
Real life Ewoks