Wednesday, December 26, 2018

A Weekend Away for My 35th Birthday in January


Life moves forward year after year and here we are somehow keeping pace with the inevitable changing of the hours and rotations of the sun. The days when we feel stuck or sad join with the days of feeling immense power and happiness to create a life that is punctuated with celebration, gloom, or flat out apathy once a year during the day of our birth.

Birthdays and other days that are supposed to be special and "amazing" hold a lot of weight that can crush us and keep us down. For some, this concept might seem entirely foreign, and to those of you who cannot relate, I am genuinely glad for you. For the rest of us, we can start to feel like we're not living up to this imaginary picture that the world has given us--or that we have given ourselves--of how life should be.

For this reason, I was a little apprehensive about trying to plan a special milestone celebration for my 35th birthday. I didn't want to build it up to unreachable heights only to be disappointed at the reality. Sometimes this just happens and is a part of life, but it got me thinking about what I really want to do on my birthday in January. Do I want to plan a big party or stay in a nice hotel? Do I want to go to a fancy dinner or spend a weekend in Vancouver B.C.?

While all of those things sound nice, I realized that what I really want is to be cozy and happy for my birthday. I want to go somewhere that has meaning for me and spend time simply existing in a beautiful place. Tonight I booked two nights on San Juan Island in a cozy cottage on a 15 acre farm. I am looking forward to spending more time with Brian and Kiki in the place we loved visiting so much in November. I don't think that I was exaggerating when I said that it was my new favorite place on Earth.

The house I found to rent has a sun room that looks out onto a serene and peaceful farm. It's perfect for a winter stay where I don't mind spending a good amount of time indoors, but I will still feel that I am in that specific place with nature all around me. I look forward to bundling up to take walks around the island and going home to enjoy a good hot ginger drink or turmeric milk with a book in my hand, my dog at my side, and my sweetheart in the chair across from me.

I used to feel a little left out when people had summer birthday picnics or camping trips. I even thought about celebrating my birthday on my half birthday every year so that I could join in on the summer birthday fun. But somehow this year, I find myself embracing the winter. I might do a big trip or an exciting party someday in the future, but for now I am happy with my winter island retreat and embracing the depth and reflection that comes hand in hand with cold winter nights.

How do you like to celebrate? Are you more of a big party person or would you rather have a cozy gathering? Regardless of how you get festive, I hope you all have had lovely birthdays in 2018 and will have many more next year and in all of the years to come.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Welcome to My New Favorite Place on Earth: San Juan Island


For months we dreamed of water, the ocean, and temperate rainforests. I hunted for jobs, rewrote my resume and cover letter repeatedly, prayed to the gods of good fortune and good timing, and flew to Washington twice for interviews. And then we moved to the Pacific Northwest.

I'm from Carson, Washington on the Columbia River along the border between Washington and Oregon. Moving back to Washington was going home for me, but it was also the start of a new adventure. When I was a child, we went to the mountains in our backyard and to Longbeach for the 4th of July. We went to Portland, OR for big city life and to Murdock to visit our grandparents. There were one or two trips to Seattle and I moved to Seattle for university. We didn't venture further north very often. It was only when my younger sister moved to Bellingham that we started heading in that direction. Little did I know that I would soon (fifteen years soon) join her in this magical coastal city.

My partner, Brian, is from Chicago and has been longing to move to the Pacific Northwest for some time now. We enjoyed our time in the high plains desert of Colorado. The rock formations and bright blue skies were incredible and awe-inspiring. We drove up one of the highest paved roads in America and discovered the tundra of Colorado for ourselves. We saw mountain goats gnawing on truck tires and drove down the mountain in a hailstorm. The city itself always had tons to do. Denver was a very good place to live. But the climate didn't quite agree with us and we craved the water. We wanted creeks, rivers, bays, and oceans. The sun was so very hot and I was bad at remembering my sunscreen. I prefer the grey skies and mists of autumn that you'll find on any given day in Bellingham.


I moved across the world to a different country where I knew absolutely nobody when I was 23 years old. A little over a decade later, moving to a city in my home state where my sister lives was much, much more difficult. It's easy to be portable when the entirety of your earthly possessions fit into two suitcases and a backpack. This time we had to pack up what we have acquired so far. We didn't really think it would be that much, but even with my dad taking two loads in the cab of his semi-truck, we had to leave some things behind. If we ever move again, we'll have to be a little more careful about how we do it.

But we moved and we live here now. We are happy and proud Washingtonians. When Brian arrived, a month behind me, we took the ferry to Lummi Island and had a picnic on a beach that was covered with pebbles. The move, the money, and everything else it took to get here was worth it. We sat on that beach and stared out into the water. We walked in awe through the forest. Kiki run up to the water, ran away again, and ran back. The island was quiet and we were the only ones on the beach. We were home and we knew it.


A month and a half after Brian arrived, we went to San Juan Island with my sister and her fiance. She has some friends from college who own and operate a small farm on the island. She has other friends who run an art center.

We hopped on the ferry in Anacortes and got ready for a beautiful ride through the islands. Ashlee, my sister, pointed out an island they sailed to and a hike they took. We had an amazing view of the mountains. Everyone was very chill about us having a small dog. It seems as though they are unofficially allowed everywhere as long as they're not creating a ruckus.

The small town of Friday Harbor (Don't you just love that name?) lived up to seaside dreams and expectations. We left Kiki in the car with the lasagna and went to brunch with the friends we were meeting at Cynthia's Bistro. It turns out that the greens we were having with our meal were supplied from their farm. More on those later.



We went all around the island visiting different places of interest. We stopped by the art collective in the forest, a beach with lots of bull kelp, Grandma's Cove, the American Camp, and the farm at night to start a bonfire and have dinner with friends of the farmers. That night Brian, Kiki, and I slept in the van. It was so much fun to be "camping" in November. Kiki did seem a little skeptical, though. What are we doing here and why am I cold?

The next morning we took a walk down to the farm. The horses were getting in their morning jaunt in the mist-covered fields. Everything was magical--especially the moment when our host was greeted noisily by her pet donkey. He was so excited to see her that the moment he spotted her he started in on the exuberant braying. After a delicious breakfast of tomatoes (from the farm) and eggs in the yurt, we went on a tour of the land. We stopped by our host's parents' place next door and took a look at her father's amazing sculpture work. It seemed that many people on the island who we met were creatively inclined (or thoroughly established) in some way.



We also drove up to a viewpoint with a very good view of Mount Baker and the rest of the island. Kiki seemed at home there and we thought we heard raccoons in the trees. Did you know they sound like pigs? After taking in the view for a bit, we went down to Lime Kiln State Park. We took a short and easy trail to the lighthouse and had a small picnic.

By that time, my camera had died. I have a feeling that we'll be back again soon, though. And we will be back again as many times as we can.


The ferry ride back to Anacortes was just as magical as the ride out to the islands. We had great views and stood in awe of everything once again, but spent a little more time indoors since we had just seen it all the day before. I love the idea of going to the island and from the island in the daylight to get as much visibility as possible from the ferry.

Spending a night on San Juan Island was the perfect day trip from Bellingham. After months of dreaming of water, what better way to start our lives in Washington than to be surrounded by it?

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Moving to Washington State


In one week, I will be loading up a rental van and driving from Denver, CO to Bellingham, WA for my new job. Dog-friendly hotels are booked, my route is mapped, audiobooks are nearly ordered and I'm ready to go--after I finish work and pack all of my belongings, that is. Brian will leave at the end of September. After a long and exhausting job hunt, it still seems unreal that I have finally found a new place to call home. I found out on August 10th, had a brief moment of being on the verge of happy tears at work, held it all in and started planning. We will be renting a lovely unit in a duplex near my new job and downtown Bellingham. It has a fenced yard with an apple tree and a clawfoot bathtub.

Being in Denver has been a pleasure and an adventure. Experiencing the never-ending view of mountains and hills around Mt. Evans and the wide open landscape of Eleven Mile State Park are two of my favorite memories here. There are things that we don't particularly like about Colorado, but it's more of a personal preference than a strong dislike. We want to be near the ocean and other bodies of water. (There's a creek near our new apartment!) We love the rain and want more of it. We wanted to be near family. I will miss a lot of things about Denver, like the art scene that I never really got involved with other than working at the museum cafe for a bit, going to a few galleries, and having a show at City O' City. But it will be fun to see what art things are happening in Bellingham and there is always Seattle or Vancouver, BC a short drive away.

Moving to Denver was more about making life work back home. It was more about finding jobs and surviving. We've done that and now we have chosen where we want to live next and settle down. I'm ready to start a new job and keep learning. I have a volunteer opportunity lined up with an arts organization. I'd also like to volunteer at the food bank eventually. They're both within walking distance from our new apartment. It will be really fun to start over and be more involved with our new community, knowing that we will be there for a long time. It also helps that my sister Ashlee has lived in Bellingham for about 12 years. I can't believe we'll be in the same city again. I can't wait for her to meet Kiki and come over for dinner whenever she wants. In good weather, we can have a picnic in the yard under the apple tree. I'll be there to help her plan her wedding and I'll be able to be more involved when it actually happens since I will no longer have to fly in at the last minute.

Yet again, I have not kept up with blogging here. I have some photos saved and organized and almost ready to go for posts about Denver and Colorado. I use the excuse that I can't just plug my phone into my computer and upload photos (it somehow does not work). But I hope to finish up my Colorado posts and start writing about life in the Pacific Northwest as soon as I can. My first priority is, of course, learning how to do my new job and learning how to do it well. I will also be working on a certification and using my volunteer time to get out into the community and meet new people. Eventually, I will learn how to take better pictures on overcast days (the majority in Washington) and I'll be back here writing about our new home.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Life Lately, Looking to Move


Last December, Brian and I took a trip to Oregon for my parents' wedding. They were just getting married after 40 years together. We flew into PDX and rented a car. Walking through that airport always gives me happy nostalgic feelings. It's the first airport I flew out of when leaving the country for the first time. It's the airport I always came home to between teaching contracts in Korea. A place where I have had to say goodbye and hello again so many times--it holds a lot of emotion for me.

We drove our rental car to Lincoln City where my parents were getting married in a rented house. The drive was a treat for us. We marveled at all of the green around us. I can only imagine the number of times that we exclaimed, "It's so green!" throughout the entire drive. We stopped for dinner shortly after leaving Portland. I was intent on going to Burgerville and having the best fast food burger and milkshake that you can only get in the Pacific Northwest. My burger was as delicious and peppery as I could hope for and the cherry chocolate milkshake did not disappoint.



After our lovely journey through the magical mist and greenery of the Oregon countryside, we arrived at the rental house after dark. From the minute we stepped in the door it was a happy and lively party that would last for approximately 36 hours. We spent some time hugging and catching up, and then everyone got to work in the kitchen to prepare for the next day. But it wasn't really work. We all helped out and took turns with the chopping, organizing, mixing, and cooking while chatting and hanging out. We spent the evening this way and continued the next morning. Brian and I went to Safeway to get a few things we all forgot and an extra box of wine. Being in Safeway in the Pacific Northwest is somehow one of the small things that holds some nostalgic magic for me. I also feel this way when I have a flashback to one of my local grocery stores in Korea--it's a place that is so mundane but so specific to that place and time.

I will write more about my parents' wedding in a future post with photos from the ocean. I'm bringing up the wedding now because it is one large part of why I want to move back to Washington. Being with my parents, siblings, cousins, aunts, and uncles for such a short time made me realize how much I missed being around family. There were some people that I hadn't seen or spoken to for at least six years. But we all took up like the time and space between us was nothing. We laughed, told stories, chatted, played games, and cooked together like no time had passed. I've had a few friends from the Pacific Northwest come to Denver and stop by for a visit. It was the same with them. It's great being able to go back to something like that, but I know that it might not always be that way. I want to go back to the PNW and rekindle these relationships. I want to live in a place where I am near enough to take a day trip to visit the people I most want to spend time with.



We have enjoyed living in Denver, but we are planning to move to Washington as soon as we can. This might be a year from now or it might be in a month or two. There are so many reasons why we want to leave, but it mainly comes down to personal preference. I like Denver and all that it has to offer, but it is not the place for me. Colorado has beautiful mountains, the most intense blue skies I've ever seen, and plenty of access to the outdoors. There is always something fun and interesting going on in Denver. There is definitely no lack in activities, places to spend a leisurely Sunday afternoon, restaurants, cafes, museums, and quirky neighborhoods. It's been great to live in a new place and discover a part of the US that I had never before experienced. I feel that we have taken full advantage of living here and we will be ready to go when it is time to leave.

I've been applying to jobs casually since sometime early this year. I've had a phone interview and a Skype interview. I've also had quite a few rejection letters, but some of them came with kind and encouraging words. There was an educational non-profit that said I was in the top 15 out of 120 applicants. This job was actually in Portland, Maine. Leave it to me to be deciding between the two completely opposite sides of the country! I applied to a few other jobs in Maine that didn't work out. Through the roller coaster of the job hunt, Brian and I have decided that we would like to focus on Washington. This way we can at least be within driving distance of one side of our family so that we don't have to fly to see both sides, in hopes that we can see them all more often. I think that I came close (enough) to getting a job in Olympia, and I have a few more applications out in that area.



In the end, we might just stay in Denver long enough to save to move to Washington before either of us has a job there. It's been nice applying for jobs while I have a job that I like here. Two years ago, I was applying to anything and everything just to get a start in Colorado. Now, I can look more carefully and apply for jobs that I am more interested in. It is hard not to be able to control and plan specifically how things will happen, but only time will tell where we will eventually end up. Letting go of control and being open to things working out in unexpected ways is hard for me to do, but it is also a very freeing and worthy exercise.

While we are still enjoying Denver and getting out into the city or nature as much as possible, I can't help but daydream about road trips to the beach, walking in misty forests, visiting family more than just once a year, and all of the other things that the Pacific Northwest holds for me. At the same time, I cannot believe that this year is almost halfway over. I think it has gone so fast because I have been busy with the job hunt and daydreams. For the remainder of this year, my goal is to be open to possibilities, but also to remain present in the moment.

What big changes do you have planned for this year? Have you ever had to let go of control and let life take its course? I hope that you're all enjoying your cities and the (hopefully) pleasant weather that spring brings!

(The photos in this post are from my walk to work from Capitol Hill to Downtown Denver.)

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Downtown Denver


Every day, I walk downtown to work. It's a nice little walk. I like the view of the buildings and the sky. The morning is usually peaceful and quiet, especially if I can take it upon myself to get up and get to work early. From our last apartment, I had a 45-minute walk to work. My current walking commute from our apartment in Capitol Hill takes only 20 minutes. It's a nice change to have a shorter commute. I work more hours now, though, so it doesn't feel like I am saving any time (although having a full-time job is great and much appreciated).

Sometimes on the weekends Brian and I walk downtown to the movie theater. We try to use his car as little as possible--especially if we're going to be back after 4 or 6 pm. It's hard to find parking in Cap Hill after that time. It's nice being able to walk, though. The last movie we went to see was "Black Panther". We tried seeing "Lady Bird", but our seats were really close to the screen and we had to leave. They did warn us, but we thought they wouldn't be as close as they were. Those were the closest movie seats I've ever seen! We would have been tilting our necks all the way back the entire time. I still need to rent "Lady Bird" when it comes out.



Downtown Denver starts just after the Capitol Building and morphs into Lower Downtown (LoDo) somewhere along the way. It is not my favorite place in Denver, and it's not the first neighborhood I would recommend to see if you are visiting, but I do like going there from time to time. There are some cool old buildings amidst the taller office buildings, and there are a few decent restaurants peppered throughout the neighborhood. It looks a bit grungy during the day, but the lights on the trees give it a little sparkle at night.

Sometimes while walking through 16th Street Mall, we get a little flustered by the hustle and bustle, but then again sometimes I want to be part of the noise and the crowd. The Denver Art Museum is near downtown and the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver is in LoDo. I love going to Union Station in LoDo from time to time to enjoy the architecture of the building and the open seating area where you can sit and enjoy a sandwich or coffee from one of the surrounding cafes. There are couches, armchairs, and a shuffleboard table. If you're in Denver for a layover, getting to downtown from the airport is easy on the A Train. Then you can take the free shuttle from Union Station all along 16th Street Mall.



We like living in the middle of the city, for now. It's fun to have restaurants and bars at our fingertips. The noise of traffic and exhaust fumes coming in our window is not so fun. We're hoping to move to a smaller town soon. I imagine being surrounded by trees and waking up to hear birds chirping in the morning. I imagine having a four-season porch and taking my coffee out to my wicker chair to sit in the mornings with Kiki on her special porch dog bed. These dreams are nice, and they're taking over my thoughts more and more these days, but we will have to wait and see for that. For now, we take advantage of where we're living and enjoy our time at the local eateries and drinkeries.

What's your favorite kind of place to live? Are you living there now, or are you dreaming about it like me?










Seoul Sadness


Last night as I was falling asleep, I dreamt about Seoul and felt that heartbreaking feeling of loss that haunted me for my first year back in the United States. This morning, Brian was looking at his old neighborhood on Google Maps and I decided to find mine. I found the place I moved to in a suburb of Seoul 11 years ago. I "walked" the streets of my first neighborhood in Korea. I found the corner store I used to stop at on my way to work for a coffee in one of those little plastic cups with the lid and straw that you punch through the foil. The owners were so nice and friendly. When I first went to the store, they said something to me in Korean and I repeated it back to them. I thought that it meant 'hello', and I was proud of myself for learning my first word in Korean. It was only a few days or weeks later that I learned that it meant 'welcome'.

As I looked at the street view, it all came back to me. I found the bridge over the road where I dropped a bag of groceries when I was sick. I found the park with the man-made lake where I used to walk around and around while listening to music on my headphones. My favorite part was the lily garden, even though it would be swarming with mosquitoes in the summertime. It was a little scary, but incredibly beautiful, to walk through the park during an intense summer storm with a lot of lightning--one of the first that I experienced. I have so many fond memories there that for a minute, I just wanted to go back. I just wanted to walk all of the streets I'd walked before one more time. I wanted to be there, in Korea, sitting outside of a convenience store drinking coffee or other beverages with my friends. I wanted to be on the subway watching the landscape slide smoothly by on my way into Seoul on a Saturday. I wanted to be in my favorite cafes, just to know that they were real and I had really been there before.

I haven't felt this way for a long time, but a dream or a picture can bring it back. A little part of my heart is broken by being far away from the place that I called home for 7 years. I look back and have my regrets, things I should have done differently, things I didn't do. I want to live it one more time, slowly, just to take it all in breathe by breathe. But I know I won't be doing that, and I know that I might not even visit. I do hope that I can visit someday, though. I would have to go for two or three weeks to give me time to visit the first city I lived in and all of the places that hold memories for me in Seoul. I would want to take at least one trip to the mountains and one trip to the beach. If only some of my friends from Seoul could visit at the same time. That would be an amazing trip.

Missing home in Korea wasn't the same as missing Korea at home. When I lived in Korea, I always knew that I would move home eventually. I knew that even if I ended up living abroad forever, I would at least visit home as often as I could. But with Korea, I don't know if I will ever walk those streets again.

How are all of you doing with living abroad or moving home again after living abroad? Has anyone else experienced these feelings?

Sunday, March 4, 2018

A YouTube Drawing Lesson


This morning I watched a documentary on Louise Bourgeois presented by Tracey Emin. I am always inspired to make art after seeing art by someone I admire. When we got back from the dog park, I sat down with this drawing lesson and tried my hand at sketching. I would like to build a regular sketching practice in order to improve my drawing skills, but also for my own enjoyment and relaxation.

When I sketch, I sometimes hold my breath and get anxious as I am trying to get my hand to move a certain way. My stomach knots up and my hand becomes tense. I would like to teach myself how to draw without the anxiety and tenseness. Art can be a form of meditation for me, but not if it is tying my stomach in knots to do a simple sketch.This is why I plan to also make breathing exercises and yoga a part of my life routine, in hopes that it will seep into my everyday actions and help me to do even simple tasks with focus and clarity. I will keep drawing spheres until I am able to breathe and draw at the same time. After just a little bit of practice, my sphere and my breathing are already getting better.

'How to Draw Ep. #01' is a very good place to start for someone who wants to get back to the basics and relearn drawing skills after not drawing for a long time, or for someone who has never sketched at all. I took a drawing class in college over ten years ago and I need to brush up on my basic drawing skills. In the past five years, I've been making mostly line drawings. I enjoy these drawings, but I reached a point where I couldn't do anything else and now I would like to expand my abilities. In this drawing lesson, I like how he presents his lesson and doesn't give you too much information all at once. It's easy to watch this video and get started immediately. I also appreciate that he lays out the tools that you will need and gives you information about them. Part of learning any skill is understanding the tools that are required and how to use them.





If I chose to dedicate more time right now to learning how to draw, I would take a class from Skillshare. For now, I will keep sketching here and there when I feel like making time.
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