Sunday, December 23, 2012

Everything Is So Much

Dreaming by David et Myrtille

This is not a real post. Rather, this is as disjointed and unfocused as my general thought process has been lately... so at least it's accurate?

10 points/observations/odds and bodkins of the last few weeks as my life is gradually turned on its head:

1. Our apartment is empty save for the boxes and last-minute items for packing cluttering the corners. The walls look bleak without my canvases, our collection of streetlight-stolen concert posters, the Haitian, papier-mache-with-pages-from-old-newspapers-in-French taxidermy giraffe head. We've sold, donated, or given away most of our belongings, and our few remaining pieces of furniture have been promised to friends. Most days, I feel good about our progress and our contained chaos, and I can keep my emotions at bay. Most nights, however, I feel overwhelmed and my emotions sweep back in with the evening clouds. I expect this cycle to continue with greater intensity in the coming weeks.

2. To provide a bit of distraction during the more tedious tasks, I watched both White Christmas and Holiday Inn for the first time (thanks to Stacy for the recommendation years ago). I enjoyed both, but I think Holiday Inn was my favorite of the Bing Crosby-fests (barring the atrociously racist black-face routine commemorating Lincoln's Birthday. Yikes, you guys).

3. Speaking of Christmas movies, Adam and I will continue our tradition of watching our perennial contradictory favorites, Elf and Bad Santa. Unfortunately, we won't be able to spend Christmas proper with each other this year, so we'll be having our 4th annual Elf/Bad Santa Christmas tonight with the only officially appropriate pairings: cookies and candy with Elf and whiskey with Bad Santa. Obviously.

4. Against the odds of the holiday season and moving stress, I'm finally developing a 6-pack. Well, right now, it's the top 2 with the middle 2 about half-defined, but I'll take it. We'll see how long it sticks around with all the empty Christmas calories destined for a home in my thighs (see #3).

5. While alone in the kitchen, I was curious to see if I could fit inside the box in which our suitcases were shipped. I climbed in and curled up, and the results were twofold: (1) Yes, I could totally fit, and (2) I am a child.

6. All I will say about Newtown is what I said on Facebook, without mention of sociopolitical policy issues: We can't do this. I cannot bear the trend of waking up to news of such baffling, senseless violence every few weeks. The emptiness of devastation, the fruitless attempts to comprehend the incomprehensible, the dread and rage and sadness all waging a renewed war in my stomach - I can't accept this. I'm so sorry, Newtown. I'm so sorry, children.

7. I truly love my usual process of making/purchasing thoughtful gifts for my family and friends, but this year simply hasn't allowed it for a number of reasons. However, I was able to at least frame up a few little pieces for my mom and brother and sister-in-law. I'm pretty satisfied with how they turned out, and I'm especially tickled about the idea that sprang to mind for my brother and sister-in-law in Long Beach, CA (that's a peek at it below, with the west coast making up the left outline of the heart). Not gonna lie, I think it's pretty damn clever, and I'm going to be smug about it. So there.

8. Last Friday, I donated blood - something I do as frequently as I can (every 56 days) - and as of that donation, I have given 2 GALLONS of blood to the Puget Sound Blood Center, contributing to hospitals all over the Seattle metropolitan area. I'm proud to be able to do this small thing, literally giving of myself to help others in such a uniquely intimate, human way. After all: give blood, get a cookie! What I'd really love to do is join the national bone marrow registry - I've been wanting to for years - so when I get back from Korea, that's one of the first things I'll be doing.

9. Roasted cauliflower with curry powder for dinner. Do it. Your mouth and belly will high-five each other.

10. As Joy the Baker said, the best way to describe these days and the ones ahead is, "Everything is so much." But as she also said, it helps to think of newness as to distract ourselves from the temporary shortcomings of nowness. I can't help but take this advice and see it as the wisdom it is in times like these. So in the breathlessness of Now, let's refocus on the coming new, shall we? Beyond Now, in the coming new year, lie infinite new adventures, new loves, new losses, new everything. What is Now but groundwork for the road ahead? Celebrate the Now - especially this time of year - and with it, celebrate the Nows that were and will be. They're fleeting, and they're all we've got.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Half a World Away (Happy Blogiversary)

Happy First Blogiversary, friends.

It's been quite a year. I haven't posted as often as I would have liked, nor have I made much progress toward establishing what exactly this blog is, but having a space to write and share of myself has been refreshing, especially after so many years without. Even if I can't be sure who is reading or if there's even an audience who cares outside of my parents, it still gives me room to breathe, whether I'm at my most eloquent or my least coherent. A Blog of One's Own might not be quite what Virginia Woolf had in mind, but it does the trick.

Since I started writing here a year ago, a lot has changed -- in fact, had someone told me last November where I would be today, I would have assumed that this someone was crazy, or at the very least, that one of us had been drinking. Last week, I hinted at some big news, promising that today I would "post something Blogiversary-worthy and wear some fancy shoes." Well, I've slipped on my shiny, 4-inch heels, so here's my news.

Adam and I are moving to Korea.

In January, we will be making the 12-hour flight half a world away to begin a year in Seoul working for an English school for children. I will be teaching immersion classes ranging from preschool- and Kindergarten-aged children to fifth grade students, all based on the American elementary school model. While I'm in the classroom, Adam will be working primarily in research and development for the school's textbooks and curricula. My contract doesn't begin until a few weeks after Adam's in February, but the school has been amazing enough to work it so Adam and I can fly out together; I'll just have a couple extra weeks to get acclimated, playing homemaker and taking exploratory runs around the neighborhood in the cold, eyes wide and mind blown open.

Our certifications in TESOL, our quiet head start on paperwork -- before we even had interviews -- back in September, our lifelong loves of language and travel and adventure - everything has been leading up to this. To anyone feeling like we've been exceedingly quiet and unduly keeping secrets, please don't feel unimportant -- we simply didn't want to risk very public disappointment had plans fallen through (and Adam only just put in his notice at work today). The littlest hiccup could have blown this ship off its precise, delicate course; honestly, it still could. Between getting fingerprinted, applying for and awaiting results on FBI background checks (good news: we got them back Monday and neither of us has a record of arrest! Surprise!), collecting official transcripts and letters of recommendation, getting diplomas notarized and mailing documents across the country and back for various government apostilles... we're still diligently peeling back layers of red tape. If everything goes smoothly enough, we should receive our visas from the Korean consulate come Christmas. We won't know the exact date we leave until we've secured our visas; until then, we're learning a little Korean and busying ourselves with the gradual task of packing up the few belongings we'll keep from our beloved apartment then getting rid of the rest.

(One thing's for sure: preparing to move to the other side of the world challenges my notions of materialism and puts the details of daily life into perspective. As I get older, I'm growing more sentimental about collecting memories and becoming less attached to Things. Some Things have significant sentimental value - books I just can't part with or souvenirs of time and life that I love and know I won't really be able to find again - and those are the Things I will keep. Everything else can be replaced when I'm ready to settle into a sense of home that feels a little more permanent.)

Sorry, I couldn't resist.

All in all, I am excited. Scared, anxious, overwhelmed, and excited. I am absolutely heartbroken to be leaving Eliot behind for now, but Adam's brother and sister-in-law are generously welcoming him into their family while we're gone, and I know he'll be happy and well-loved -- that is, if he survives my sobbing, snot-covered cuddle-squeezes when I hug him goodbye. I will miss my furry baby terribly, just as I will dearly miss my family and friends. I will miss Seattle something fierce and everything about it that makes it home, but I am hopeful that after a while, we'll start to feel a little at home in Seoul, too. And I know we'll be returning to Seattle someday, and to our loved ones, furry or otherwise.

Ready or not, life is only going to get crazier from here on out. The holidays are upon us and our departure date will be here before I know it, but in the spirit of Thanksgiving (tomorrow already? How did that happen?) and my first Blogiversary: thank you, everyone. Thank you for reading, thank you for holding me accountable, for holding my hand, for letting me word-vomit all over your interwebs every so often -- thank you, thank you, thank you. I'll keep posting here as this adventure unfolds, and next year, I'll be blogging Gangnam Style.

So Happy Thanksgiving, friends, and Happy Blogiversary. Here's to throwing off the bowlines, sailing away from the safe harbor, and hoping you'll come along to help me anchor this unmoored life.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Remember, Remember

A lot has happened over the last few weeks, though you wouldn't know it from all this radio silence. I can assure you that for all the stillness here, there has been a riot of noise in my head, not to mention on a grander scale: plans made and changed, then changed again, pumpkin cookies baked and eaten (and eaten and eaten - for breakfast, even, on lucky unhealthy days), a quiet but appropriately-absurd Halloween. There was the small thing of my birthday on (remember, remember) the fifth of November, but the real celebration came on its heels with the excitement and relief of the president's historic re-election. Dozens of decisions were finalized, with the snowy fields of paperwork to show for it. Adam and I toasted the anniversary of our trip to Belize with the last of the Belizean rum we smuggled back, complete with Mexican coke. I couldn't catch my breath for a month when a cold decided to make itself at home in my chest, then get comfortable enough to invite a sinus infection to the party - this made me a downright joy to be around for weeks while the singing required by my job became a cruelty (both for my voice and those poor, poor children). The colors that I coughed up rivaled those in the trees this time of year.

While my voice has returned and our president has thankfully done the same, I still can't catch my breath. Life is stumbling forward in running shoes tied a little too hastily as I try to keep pace. It's more than the usual first stirrings of holiday frenzy; in fact, any thoughts I've cast toward Thanksgiving or Christmas have been infrequent, and distracted at best. There is something bigger on my horizon than stuffing or sleigh bells (although don't get me wrong, stuffing is way too important to be ignored - it can't be ignored). Some of you already know or have an inkling, but until a few more formalities are taken care of, I can't officially announce it here just yet. But almost. We'll know for sure by the end of next week, I think. And then I'll shout it into the great wide interwebs with a mighty exhale and - hopefully - a rush of calm before the promised commotion in mind and matter.

While this horizon-lurker preoccupies my mind every minute of every day (and night), I need to remember to focus on the immediate, the Now - not only on the quickening footsteps of the future. Remember, remember to be present. Remember to stare at the rain and think, or stare without thinking - that's perfectly alright, too, and probably better for my mental health every once in a while. Notice the small signs of life despite the overwhelming movements of heavier cogs and be thankful for them: my breath in the air, brief clouds marking time with my pulse and offering proof that I've got plenty of heartbeats left in me when it doesn't necessarily feel like it. String lights in the trees at night, something that will always make the cold of winter feel a little more magical. The usual Americana-laced nostalgia around Christmastime that makes me sad, but keeps me mindful. Kisses on my cat's nose and feeling his comforting weight settling on my abdomen in the middle of the night. Listening to music that makes me feel infinite, especially when I'm feeling limited. Rarefied meals with family, chats with friends, coffee in the mornings with Adam, and quiet walks alone through fog-pillowed parks. These are just as important as what's coming, and just as worthy of memory and time.

Today, I remember that the boulders fill the eye, but the pebbles fill the path.

PS. Next Wednesday is my first Blogiversary! It's crazy to think how quickly a year has passed, and oh, how so much has changed. I'll be sure to post something Blogiversary-worthy and wear some fancy shoes.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Diving into a pile of leaves

"Matt Pond PA on repeat in my headphones, a scarf pooling around my neck, and my cheeks chilled to a familiar pink from the walk home. Fall is here."

This time last year, I dashed off that quick line capturing my personal heralds of autumn in a very tangible moment. This year, as autumn begins to saturate everything from trees to bakeries to the air itself, I'm taking more time to let it saturate me, too.

Seattle was made keenly aware of the end of summer last week as we were suddenly greeted by colder, gray-clear mornings and the dry, papery whisper of leaves on concrete, a sound as identifiable with fall as sleigh bells are with snow. I pulled on boots instead of slipping into flip-flops. I sheathed my fading summer arms in sweater sleeves, armed myself with coffee and good music, and walked a little more quickly than I had in a few sun-slowed months. 

Last week, I started my position tutoring ESL with the community college nearby, a few mid-morning to mid-day hours a week. The walk home is short and downhill, making it all too easy to get lost in a Think and arrive at my door before I realize it's been fifteen minutes. When the obligation following my tutoring session on Wednesday was cancelled, I let myself wander along longer route home. I stopped to sit in the bleary light in Tashkent Park, a tiny pocket of grass and maple trees hidden in a block of quiet apartments.

"Semurg" Bird of Happiness statue in Tashkent Park

My neighborhood of Capitol Hill is littered with many such half-acres, each feeling like a discovery every time I visit them. On this visit, I was alone, and in the brick-lined silence, I felt autumn more fully than I had expected, and with it, a surprising combination of simple love, cold sunshine, and acute sadness. Confused, I looked up at the park's statue - a Tashkent boy flying on three Birds of Happiness, a gift from Seattle's sister city in Uzbekistan. I studied the boy's dull bronze features, followed the lines of the not-particularly-happy-looking birds, scanned the trees behind them, all the while searching my mind for a reason for the sadness. It didn't take me long to understand.

If all goes as planned, this will be my last autumn in Seattle, at least for the foreseeable future. I love this city; Seattle feels like home, and autumn is when I find it most beautiful and most... well, home. And as much as I am thrilled/anxious/excited for my next adventure, I am so, so sad to be leaving this place.

This year, I will throw myself into autumn like a child diving into pile of leaves. Pumpkin muffins and cookies will bake in my oven; their scent will fill my nose and warm my apartment. I'll soak myself in the everywhere-color and brush my fingers over the delicate geometry of dahlias and chrysanthemums. I'll wrap myself in too-long scarves and fill as much daylight as I can with walks down my street, the mornings gently spiced by the smell of crushed leaves under my boots. And I will miss it when I am gone.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

This Side of Paradise

I recently joined my parents on a trip to Mount Rainier. I had been wanting to visit for years, but while it's a mere 2.5 hours away from Seattle, I had just never been able to just plan the drive and go. And oh, now all I want is to go right back again.

The road to aptly-named Paradise - a small stretch of clearing on the south slope of the mountain and home to the visitors' center and the historic inn at which we stayed - was designed by collaboration of conservationists and engineers to create minimum impact on the environment and maximum impact on visitors making the drive. The mountain reveals itself gradually through the glances afforded by the road's meandrous climb, its monstrous beauty made all the more entrancing by the moments in which old-growth trees block it from our view like winter clouds blot out the sun from our sight but not our minds.

At 5,400 feet, we reached Paradise. Over 48 hours, we hiked more than 20 miles (with temperatures in the 80-degree range), felt the thunder of several waterfalls in our chests, watched solar flares through a sun scope, and at night, spotted lights on the mountain from climbers' camps and gazed at the rings of Saturn and the clustered stars of the Hercules Nebula through a GPS-programmed telescope worth more than I'll make in 50 lifetimes. I saw my first glacier, fell in love with the Avalanche Lily and the Pasqueflower, encountered as many furry and feathery creatures as Snow White could want, and ate one of the best meals of my life from a recipe passed around by National Park chefs in the Northwest. And wildflowers, subalpine wildflowers everywhere you looked. At Mount Rainier, I felt so laughably small among such powerful forces that have been in the world for so long before I came and will be for so long after I am gone. I renewed the appreciative pain I always feel in such pure places: that while I inhabit the same world as this mountain and its meadows and air, I am too far removed from its purity of form to ever really be a part of it.

I saw and felt and knew a place so devastatingly beautiful that I ached.

Above the visitors' center, dozens of trailheads lie just beyond a humble stone stairway engraved with the words of John Muir, a sort of love-letter description of his most hallowed of the "fire mountains" of the Pacific Coast: "...the most luxuriant and the most extravagantly beautiful of all the alpine gardens I ever beheld in all my mountain-top wanderings."  But there is another thought from Robert B. Marshall in his tribute to John Muir that I find just as fitting: "One cannot describe Mount Rainier, one cannot describe the Grand Canyon, one cannot describe his beloved Yosemite; humanity is silent in their presence." Even though I have written my share, words will always fail to describe Mount Rainier, and so I have written more than enough. Photos, too, will fail, but their silence is more reliable than mine.

Lupines for days.

Before I knew their name (Pasqueflowers), I called them Lorax Trees
Sitka Valerian
Magenta Paintbrush

Corn Lily (False Hellebore)


Avalanche Lily

Bathtime in Paradise River

Under Narada Falls

Above Myrtle Falls

Nisqually Glacier

Grouse in the House!
The second fawn (twin?) is hiding behind the white log

To wrap it up, here are some other tired, sweaty, hiked-out animals. Note: unless you ever go hiking with me, this is the only time you will ever, ever see me in a baseball hat, plus the messiest bun ever. Live it up while you can.

Sitting on boulders counts as bouldering, right? (Hi Dad)

Snow day, every day! (Hi Mom)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The heart is no fool and the gut is its loaded gun

sadlyharmless on etsy

We face What We Don't Know with all sorts of weapons, whether designed for battle or negotiation. With grit, with grace. Through grief and grins. Through anger and exhaustion and whiskey and more whiskey. But through all of it - even despite and because of it - there we are, left with certain truths. With our bodies we feel truths so unimpeachably true that they make our bones shimmer in their light and make our cells swim in circles. Those currents of truth are as strong and subtle as electricity, and they can drown us as easily as the ocean's if we fight them. And so we best know these truths with our bodies rather than knowing them in our heads, the way we can lose ourselves in thought on a long walk and still trust our feet to find the way home. Our brains are small, and our minds are bigger, but our hearts are doubly so. We can trick our brains into believing something just because we WANT to believe it, but the heart is no fool and the gut is its loaded gun. The deep-pitted flutters down there are itches on the trigger, so pay attention to them. Epiphany does not always come with klaxon bells and intuition is quieter still.

I think the truth we seek is really clarity robed in spiritual light. For some of us, maybe it is simply self-resolution in a fancy hat. It seems so deliciously mysterious and desireable when we think of it as alien or separate from ourselves, because if we have anything to do with it, then it must be lesser. We think it is soiled if it is already inherently marked by the fingerprints of the very person reaching for it (if we're fucked up, it must be too). But I don't think that's the case. Instead, I think our truths are long buried beneath muscle and memory, safely tucked away from harm as we corrode our more obvious parts with the daily acids of worry and doubt and restless ambivalence manifest in mental anxiety.

It can, of course, relieve some of this anxiety to analyze and overanalyze and make lists of pros and cons. Plans and theories often help us see a little further down the path of What If when we aren't ready to trust our feet to lead us past uncertainty. But just as often, these plans and lists only tell us what we already knew and felt, revealed in a tangible denouement of ink or type. I'm finally learning to do as we're so often told: Trust your instinct. Go with your gut. Maybe I'm finally old enough to listen to the flutters and young enough to have time to follow their guidance. I will make up my mind but let my body have final say whether the choice is right or wrong. Our small brains are useful tools for mapping unilluminated terrain, but our bodies are the compass that has ultimately been pointing us North all along. 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

It is terribly romantic

Sunday morning begins as it usually does. It is the only time neither of us face obligations forcing us out of bed; our bodies only stir out of routine, waking whether we like it or not in the moments when, on any other morning, we would be pretending to ignore the alarm. I take heavy steps to the bathroom, the cat dutifully slinking after me, my own drowsy chaperone. He follows me again as I return to bed, thinking as I always do that maybe this time, for once, I will be able to actually fall back asleep. I won't; I never do. I don't really mind.

Lying awake but unwilling to betray ourselves to the impatient daylight, we blame the cat for our laziness; Eliot has just gotten comfortable on my abdomen and we'd hate to disturb him. He settles into me, his purrs more determined as I try to remove him, so I yield, but we both know he will stretch and yawn and find another suitable spot whenever we manage to budge him from this one.

Adam asks me to make coffee. I want it, too, but draw a kiss and a 'please' from him first. A little persuasion never hurts.

I make coffee and listen to the percolation and pops of steam from the kitchen. I move and start to think in this special kind of quiet. Adam's steps toward his desk are slumberous and shuffling, and as he sets himself before his computer, I bring him a filled, well-chosen mug.

Today, we write. I on the couch, Adam in the office - his feet, propped up over the edge of the desk, are sneaking into my peripheral view through the doorframe. The tick-tack-taps of his fingers on the keyboard are sometimes fluid, sometimes hestitant, always comforting. I drink my coffee and try to move my own fingers fast enough to keep up with my mind as it changes too quickly and too often. I am distracted, and Eliot seems to notice from his armchair perch; he picks his way to me and casually shifts his body to lie against the warmth of my computer. The light behind the curtains fails to convince me it's almost noon.

It is terribly romantic, two writers in love. We are no F. Scott and Zelda, no Ted and Sylvia, but neither were they - not at home, not to each other. Adam and Kait will never rival such myths: we are not, of course, of such a caliber, our passion is not born of turbulence or resentment, not of instability of either mind or character. The inspiration and criticism inherent in such tempestuous artistic partnerships is also inherently disastrous. By comparison, we are refreshingly dull; no Waste Land will come of us, though its author is our cat's namesake. We inspire the other and are inspired in return; our critiques are tactful and given only when solicited. I have learned not to read my partner's fiction until it is finally public and exists safely beyond our shared space; I too easily personalize and am prone to emotionally-fueled over-analysis. My partner knows it is better for us to read my writing only after I am physically removed from it, best when I am emotionally removed as well. We love our writing, but we remember to love each other.

So today, we write. We are always writing, and we are always loving each other. It is terribly romantic, and it is delightfully mundane. We will write, and we will live our lives. Tonight, we will eat dinner and happily waste time together being silly and stupid and enjoying each other until it is time for bed. Someone will still need to feed the cat, to scratch behind his ears and lure him into sleep. One of us - usually me - will still need to turn off the lights before climbing into bed with the other. I will tread the path so familiar, it's automatic: reaching out in the dark to find the wall, then following it to my side of the bed, trailing my hand along the cool plaster like a child absentmindedly trails a stick along a fence. We will fall asleep, easily or not, and prepare for tomorrow, for tomorrow is coming. Tomorrow, we write.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

It's a Dangerous Business

Oh dear. Is it August already?

I'll spare you the usual laments about being so busy that time passes unnoticed and all too quickly, but I will say that I am a little exhausted and, obviously, shamefully remiss about posting anything here. I've been consumed by longish days of teaching (read: singing to/coaxing developing motor skills out of) tiny children and reassuring (read: easing fears and worries which I have no right to ease in) their parents, followed by intensive, 3-hours-a-night, 3-nights-a-week TESOL class. Sprinkled into the mix has been a quick trip to Long Beach and San Diego, a physically-exhausting but soul-satisfying day slinging cherries and peaches at a farmers' market, and some rarefied afternoons in the Seattle sun. There has been a wink at painting (2 whole paintings! 3 if you count a 2-canvas piece!) and a nod to the Olympics when my heart and hands are not otherwise distracted by what Adult-Kait deems "more important" things.

Admittedly, some distraction is acceptable - welcomed, even. Last November, in the inaugural post of this humble, stumbling blog, I wrote about transition and the fear that is transition's constant shadow. Distractions keep my head comfortably in the sand until I am ready to face the discomfort of Change - the Change happily building sandcastles and tearing down others in the lives surrounding mine, patiently waiting for me to meet its eye. Maybe by the time I'm in my seventies, when the hours I waste worrying now will have added up to regretful years, I will finally have learned to accept change gracefully, to relinquish doubt graciously; for now, I will continue to know the familiar fear of change when the distractions fade. For now, I'm shaking grains of distraction out of my hair because things are changing for everyone, and my nervous hands and restless sleeps are tell-tale signs Change is coming for me, too.

Killian and Daniel have moved temporarily to Portland this month before making the staggering, still-temporary-but-longer-term move to Oxford, England in September. Stacy and Jon just moved to Orange after transitioning through the Bay Area from Seattle last year. Friends are getting married left and right. Molly is having a baby (okay, I don't actually know her, but when she has her child, I'm praying she brings the little Orangette-blossom to my work in Ballard - it's her neighborhood, after all!). Lauren has taken the exhilarating step of quitting her job to write and blog full-time, giving herself a year as a trial period before reassessing her decision (again, I only know Lauren as an admired blogger and interwebs-friend, but I am thrilled to hold my breath with the rest of her blogstalkers as she takes such a thrilling plunge into what will surely be further success and continued brilliance). Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes are everywhere, and they aren't stopping anytime soon.

As for me? This week - tomorrow, actually - Adam and I will be certified in TESOL. Our names will be recommended for candidacy and we will receive our basic certificates within the month. Upon completion of the grammar-specific course in December, we'll earn the Advanced 100-Hour certification, but really, with the basic certificate already in hand, we could find a contract next week and move half a world away next month if we wanted to and start teaching. That's not happening, though, and yet - even thought I know we're not moving anywhere for a while yet - it's still a scary prospect, even if excitingly so.

What amplifies the fear is the unknown and our progress in spite of it. We don't know where teaching will take us just yet; we simply know we are continuing our forward motion anyway, into the dark, lighting our way with a torch fueled by the earnest cocktail of love of language and wanderlust. Should we be practicing "good morning" in Vietnamese? Are we slouching toward Bethlehem (I hope not)? We've been passively eyeing a few countries in South and Central America (our background in Spanish would be a linguistic comfort blanket), but we're excited about the possibilities of countries like Thailand and Cambodia in the Asian arena and Eastern European opportunities in Croatia and the Czech Republic, as well - again, we haven't even begun testing the waters, so we have very little idea where we want to dive in the deep end.

My home-loving Hobbit ways have always kept my dreams of adventure safely tucked in the folds of my brain's fiction section. After all, such dreams can never become nightmares when they are lived only vicariously through Jim Hawkins or Indiana Jones. I know adventure is out there, and I am feeling and fearing it now more than ever. To paraphrase Tolkein, it's a dangerous business, going out your door; you step into the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to. But for all the dangerous business of Out There, I can't ignore the need to explore it, and I can't very well do that if I don't find the courage to leave Here. I reassure myself that the tiny shard of excitement I do feel buried somewhere in my chest will eventually work its way to the surface to splinter the fear and worry.

Transition will happen, and I will be ready. Until then, I will enjoy my time left in the sand - it is still warm there, but the weather is changing.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

And Summer On My Mind

Summer is a time of watermelon juice dripping down your arms, off your elbows, and onto the grass. It is a time for cold beer in the warmth of the sun and the familiar balm of lazy evenings with friends. A time for outdoor music festivals, afternoons by the water, and a pervasive sense of ease in the city. A time that moves a little more slowly as the days stretch and the glow of sunlight lingers almost until bedtime. And, of course, it is a time of skin, skin everywhere.

Bikinis abound right now, with legs and torsos and shoulders out in force playing catch-up in Seattle's rediscovered sun. The pale bodies on display are, on the whole, lithe and lean. Typically, this means my tendency to compare myself to every other female in my vicinity kicks into overdrive, but this year, I've been (mostly) able to stay in the lower gears and actually be a little proud of my body. For some reason, I can accept what I've got, and what I've got is good.

Well, actually, for two reasons.

Katrina and Karena of Tone It Up

Karena and Katrina of Tone It Up popped up on my radar a few months ago when I was stumbling around on Youtube looking for... I'm not quite sure. Maybe motivation. Inspiration. Something different than what I had been doing, which was a hodgepodge of Jillian Michaels videos and a smattering of cardio, usually running, throughout the week. I had no concrete idea of what I wanted or where I was trying go with all of it - wanting to be fit, sure, but I didn't really know what "fit" looked like for me.

Now, Jillian Michaels is still my girl and she'll always have a special place in my heart. I fell in love with her years ago during college in Santa Barbara (land of the beaches and the accompanying babes), when Stacy, Barbara, Alex, and I would watch The Biggest Loser while stuffing ourselves with Freebirds nachos, ice cream and Indian food. We longed to have her body, her strength, to have her scream at our lazy asses, as surely she could scare us into fitness unlike anyone else. We enjoyed kickboxing classes through the university and we walked everywhere (and also at times I was unhealthily thin, at times unhealthily sedentary), but Jillian's drill-instructor-style verbal abuse was the kind of psychological beating that got me to push myself in my workouts. But after a few years of worship in the Church of Jillian, I gradually grew immune to her yelled dogma and my eye began to wander.

Thus, the Tone It Up girls. They are quite different from Jillian - incredibly feminine, endearingly silly, and all about having fun in fitness (and in life in general). I won't lie - I kind of hated them at first. They're gorgeous and seem to live on the beach in cute clothes and glorious hair. They're sweet and giggly and genuinely seem to enjoy doing what they do, and sometimes, on particularly crap days, it can be hard for me to handle their perpetual perkiness. Basically, they're perfect and I couldn't stand it, because I couldn't possibly ever be like them, and that's exactly what I wanted in full blown envy rage.

Katrina's hair is so beautiful it makes me stupid.

As I poured over their blog, I saw that they indeed hadn't always been so perfect, and that they had been a lot like me: slenderish and healthy enough, but not quite as "fit" in terms of muscle tone and overall lifestyle. I learned that what they do is achievable, and their food motto is smart and simple: "Lean, Clean, and Green," emphasizing lean proteins, foods as organic and as unprocessed as possible, and as many greens as you want - and as they say, a piece of fruit never hurt anyone. Most importantly, they still like their wine, cocktails, and chocolate, and they know it's okay to indulge sometimes (again, cold beer in the sun is just part of summer). Like I've written before, it's all about balance, and no one can, nor should, be perfect all the time - I'm certainly not. It's just common sense, elevated.

True to their name, toning is the major focus of their exercise approach; sure, you can be thin without muscle, but muscle strength and tone is what helps define a thin, healthy body. All of their videos (seriously, there are tons and tons on their YouTube channel) are rather short - no longer than 20ish minutes and sometimes as short as 8 or less. Cardio is, of course, an important part of fitness that they really emphasize, but their toning videos steal the spotlight. I love them - especially some from their first "Bikini Series," like the ab-focused Itty Bitty Bikini workout, the Beach Bum which kills my butt, and the all-over toners: the Bikini Strap and the Sandcastle Workout. They combine basic individual moves (like dead lifts with a row, or squats with side leg lifts) to make the circuits as effective and efficient as possible, and the girls' personalities are so engaging - they do the routines like sane, normal people with senses of humor, not tireless machines. They don't make it look deceptively easy all the time (push ups are hard), but because they're so laid-back - sometimes even goofy - when demonstrating the moves, it's easy to forget about the whole "work" part of working out. Again, I'm not usually one for flowers and rainbows and bunny giggles when it comes to exercise, but these girls are all inspiration without the intimidation, and it makes me want to be their friend and meet them for brunch on Sundays. Plus, their beachy sets and California style encourages the Santa Barbara blonde in me to resurface just a bit, and that's not so terrible a thing.

Karena, those shoulders. Katrina, those abs ...and that hair.

Anyway, long story short: I love these girls, and I owe them a lot. Because of them, I'm developing the abs, the legs, those cut shoulder muscles I've always wanted and the strength that comes with them. They've helped reinforce the message of loving your body, even if there are some days I can't always hear it. I still do Jillian videos sometimes, and thanks to Barbara's fantastic new blog, I'm getting exposure to new challenges, but Karena and Katrina at Tone It Up have won my girl-crushing heart. Now that the weather has finally caught up to the season we're in, I am happy to oblige in proper bikini-clad form: sunscreen on my white Seattle skin, watermelon in hand, cold beer in the fridge, and summer on my mind.

Capitol Hill Block Party, the warm-up for Bumbershoot right in my neighborhood.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Something Borrowed, Something Blogged

Our view of the fireworks on the Fourth.

In lieu of an update in the typical style of this blog, I've borrowed the idea of "Five Things Friday" from my only-through-the-interwebs friend Lauren over at Filing Jointly...Finally (I interviewed her, did a little write-up of the thing that was the result of two awkward girls Skyping, and she posted it on her very real, very awesome, actually popular blog, a blog that lots of people actually read - yikes - and thus, my first official guest post for someone Internet-famous.)


Five Things Currently Happening in Kait's Apparently Uneventful Life:

1. A couple of weeks ago, I was hired to "teach"/wrangle/sing to* babies and their parents a handful of hours a week for slightly above minimum wage. Additionally, I spend many more unpaid hours at home memorizing songs and activities. I'm still figuring out how I feel about this, but luckily most of the kids are almost as cute as kittens or puppies. Almost.

2. After a second interview for another job opportunity and the requested submission of a writing sample a week and a half ago, I am still awaiting (read: agonizing over) contact regarding a decision. Especially agonizing is the fact that, at said second interview, it was mentioned that I should hear back, yea or nay, by the end of last week. I even did my due diligence by patiently watching week pass and sending a carefully-crafted follow-up email at the exact perfect hour and day. No response. I accept that I probably didn't score the position, but I would like - NEED - to know either way; I need to know I didn't imagine the interviews and that someone received and read my sample, and just one little emailed reply is all I crave. Is the midweek holiday interruption of work schedules to blame? Did I not scour my writing sample free of inappropriate words as I had thought? Am I ugly and worthless and failure personified (or, more accurately, does obsessing and lack of communication make me paranoid)?


3. In the months I've been agonizing over my future and scheming and planning for all of it to be practically thrown over for a semi-related course of action with TESOL, I've let my savings dwindle past the point I swore I would never reach. I am horrified and have recently been finding myself paralyzed with said financial horror in the middle of the night (and the quiet mornings free of distraction) more and more. I know I'm still better off than a lot of the world's population, but I am so beyond uneasy with my situation, and it's increasingly difficult not to regret decisions that were - and still are - right long-term, but would have kept me quite financially comfortable for the last several months. It's just one more source of fuel for the anxiety fire.

4. I've fallen into a creativity hole, and am scraping its sides trying to climb out onto solid, inspired ground. To be fair to the hole, it's probably more of a ditch with sloping walls into which I've gradually wandered, but I didn't notice until the ground flattened with my artistic faculties.

5. On a good note: I am rocking the TESOL course. Classes began last Tuesday, and any apprehensions I had immediately dissipated. You guys, I am such a good nerd student. My note-taking is flawless and I'm already brimming with full-fledged ideas for lesson plans. We had an intensive grammar study over the weekend and have been reviewing this week, and while the  vast sea of grammar is riddled with eddies in the undertow and has several Bermuda-like triangles, I'm a language aficionado and love playing navigator. (The second TESOL course in the Fall is solely focused on grammar. I am so excited.) We definitely have a leg up on a lot of the material we're learning with our combined backgrounds in writing, editing, and education, but regardless, Adam and I will sail through this class.

And there you have it. Adam is as wonderful as ever, probably more so as he's the star witness to my crazies and therefore wins Best Friend for Life award daily, Eliot is a cuddly muffin, and I am trying to stay grateful for the many ways I am lucky, to stay positive in the face of certain negativity and uncertain whatevers. We did take a short trip to D.C. - my first time visiting the East Coast! - and it was a fun challenge to cram as much stuff and as many monuments/memorials/historic documents as possible into essentially less than 72 hours of actually being there. Once we've finished vetting photos, I'm sure a few will surface here. (And maybe the same will be done for Belize soon! Remember how I went to Belize in November and it was magical and I promised I'd write about it? Yeah. I'm sure that will still happen sometime.) Anyway, despite the Adult Problems, I'm pretty content, good things outweigh the not-so-good, and life is still happening - just one day at a time.

Le sigh.

*I've had to push through my fear of singing for an audience, but I've compartmentalized it a bit; singing songs about bubbles and ducks to the tune of 'Twinkle Twinkle Little Star' for 15 people - most of whom don't have the developmental capability to understand/judge me anyway - is oddly less scary than singing acoustic covers of Bon Iver or Frightened Rabbit with my guitar in the apartment with Adam or anyone else present.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Some grand adventure

There are times I get excited about something and I act without thought of consequence. For example, I'll get a craving for oreos, and the initial fervor of excitement inevitably leads to despair:

Delirious with brilliant idea of Eating All the Oreos, I'll (1) run out of the apartment like a maniac to the corner store just barely making the time or effort to don publicly non-shaming pants, (2) nearly injure the sweet, soft-spoken, elderly Chinese Harry* of Harry's Fine Foods and Frozen Meats by blinding flinging money at his head like he's a first world problem, (3) tear open the package and wolf down half of it in a flurry of wafers and creme that would make the Cookie Monster blush, and finally, (4) bottom out from the sugar/adrenaline rush and hold myself in fetal position on the couch until the shame and stomachache subside.

This pattern holds throughout nearly every other area to which I've applied it: getting way too excited about a new workout and training so hard, so fast that I pull a muscle and never do it again. Boldly buying a shirt outside of my stylistic comfort zone, wearing it once with uncertainty, then letting it collect dust and mope with old pairs of jeans, forgotten in the back of the closet. The Adkins Diet (a terrible, traumatizing week during which I was denied my beloved fruit). I start strong and invigorated by the promise of - a smokin' body in 2 weeks? A new signature look? Ketosis? - and finish weak, if I even finish at all.

So many bright, shiny prospects leading to unsatisfying, if not downright dismal results. This has taught me patience. I am rarely impulsive; I weigh and measure and methodically examine my choices so that I can do everything in my power to prevent failure when I do make them. But I realized that no matter how much I plan and scheme, no matter how much I try not to let excitement get the best of me, sometimes my choices won't work out. I can't prepare for things beyond my control, and maybe I shouldn't let fear of failure extinguish the excitement. Maybe I should let my heart override my head when the choice is worth it, because the problem with so many exciting Beginnings is that they just weren't the right ones in the first place.

This time, I was impulsive. I was excited. And I still am.

On June 26, I will be starting my first course toward TESOL certification. I registered within 72 hours of discovering the program existed, and I'm still reeling from how quickly I moved to enroll. I chanced upon TESOL in a pivotal moment and something clicked. I didn't let myself get too excited at first, but it wasn't a frenzied, Oreo-score excitement; this was - is - a resonating, steady kind of slow-current excitement that tells me I'm doing the right thing.

So I'm excited. Anxious, a little nervous, and overwhelmed with day-to-day realities, but I'm excited for the right reasons. Plus I get to buy a new spiral-bound notebook, which makes me all giddy with first-day-of-school thrills. It'll be nice to have Adam to keep my head screwed on tight; after much discussion, he enrolled in the same program - apparently this excitement is contagious - and maybe this time next year, we'll be off on some grand adventure, like language-peddling Hobbits.

But for now, this course will be adventure enough.

I can't wait.

*While I can confirm that he is indeed sweet, soft-spoken, elderly, and Chinese, I cannot confirm that his name is in fact Harry. He owns (and lives in the apartment above) our corner store called "Harry's Fine Foods and Frozen Meats," so we just call him Harry and he is polite enough not to correct us if that isn't his actual name. And polite enough not to laugh when I'm buying Red Vines and ginger ale in my pajamas. 

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Good night, and good luck.

I haven't been sleeping. More specifically, I haven't been sleeping between the hours of  2am and 5am, because this is the cracked, finger-smudged window of time in which my brain harnesses the darkness and negativity takes the reins. I've counted thousands of sheep, I've sipped a hundred cups of chamomile, I've drugged myself with Advil PM - but unfortunately, those standbys do little to calm an anxious mind. (My friends know well this insomnia - sometimes Killian and Stacy feel like old war buddies - and it's just something I accept as par for the course of unsettled twenty-somethings dealing with too many doubts about... well, being unsettled. As we go to bed, we just have to wish ourselves good night, and good luck.)

During the day, it's easier to take a brighter approach to my anxieties, to let a little light fall on my worries. Small problems cast small shadows. But at night, the light is gone. At night, the glass is always half empty.

"In a real dark night of the soul, it is always three o'clock in the morning" - F. Scott Fitzgerald

This was exacerbated yesterday when I learned the MAT program I was most excited about at UW is no longer offered thanks to a new departmental dean. The news was a little more devastating than it probably should have been, given the very preliminary stages of my planning, but it still felt like the rug was unceremoniously pulled from under already shaky legs. I've held many restless 3am vigils in bed agonizing over my future, and I know there will be more over the next several months (years, decades, etc.); last night was no exception.  Because soon I think I might actually be taking a step - maybe not in the direction I'd planned, but a step nonetheless.

I've always been interested in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages), although it's something I've always compartmentalized in my head as a nice idea, but maybe not the actually actionable one for Career Kait. Remember ESL (English as a Second Language)? It's the small-minded ancestor of a field that has evolved and expanded into something really exciting at the international level, way beyond photo-flashcards for transplanted children in a tiny back room of a public school. And as it turns out, the community college a few blocks away from my apartment? It offers TESOL certification.

I spoke with the program coordinator yesterday, and with my B.A. in English and history of tutoring English from grade-school level to university level, she encouraged me to enroll. The course is 8 weeks this summer, followed by a grammar-specific course in the fall (for which I am perversely excited, because immersing myself in an environment of proper grammar is sexy, sexy, sexy). Once I can put that certification on my resume, I can do anything from teaching classes at English learning centers in the US to working as a language aide in schools, to teaching English in countries anywhere in the world. And if I want to continue toward getting my regular teaching certificate, the TESOL certification is just another advantage and gets me back in the classroom to start logging experience hours. Plus, the cost is significantly less, both money-wise and risk-wise, than other programs about which I feel less sure.

"One may not reach the dawn save by the path of the night" - Kahlil Gibran

I still don't really know what I'm doing, or if this is the right choice, or even a good one at all. I'm plagued by fear and am struggling to move forward while pulling the weight of the insecurities I'm constantly dragging behind me. Tonight, I will probably lie in bed at the appointed time and place, prodded awake by anxiety, paralyzed by doubt, inspired by the crowding sheep to run away to New Zealand to work on a farm where I won't have to worry about money or teaching certificates. Tonight, I will want to take the half-empty glass and smash it against the wall. But today, reason and rationality edge out the fear. Today, the glass is half full.