Monday, November 30, 2015

Onward and Upward

I start a brand new job tomorrow.

I don't talk much about work around these parts, but this is such a significant life event that it would feel weird not to mention it.

I have been working for a real estate development company in a downtown Seattle high rise for the past seven and a half years. It has been an amazing experience, during which I've learned and grown so much, and met some incredible people who have become life long friends.

Sadly, since returning to work after my maternity leave, the mommy guilt has really started to set in. I tried to ignore it, and for a while reducing my hours and working from home one morning a week was enough to make the situation manageable. But, during the past six months, my commute has become a complete time suck. When we first moved to Snoqualmie, it only took me about 40 minutes to get into the city each day. Now, it takes over an hour, sometimes almost two. That's two and a half hours a day that are wasted -- time that I could be spending with my family. 

Enough was enough.

I have been fortunate to find a new position, also in the real estate development industry, with a company located just a mile down the road from our house. Obviously this was an opportunity that I couldn't afford to turn down. 

My little boy is getting bigger every day, and I just can't stand to waste any time that causes me to miss even a minute of his amazing life. 

Life's too short. 

So today I said goodbye to my home away from home. 

So many life changes have happened to me here... We bought a condo, got engaged, got married, bought a house, had a baby. Really, I've become a different person than when I started.

And it's time to move on.

Although I'm very excited about my new position, I will miss everyone at my old company so much. It was an honor and a privilege to work with them, and I hope that we are able to keep in touch.

Until then...

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Sunday, November 29, 2015

Thanks Again

Stewart and I are super fortunate to have family and friends spread all over the state.

On our way home from Thanksgiving with the Always, we stopped in Olympia for a little visit with my family. My aunt hosted a second Thanksgiving feast, and I think I ate enough in two days to last until next year...

Most of my dad's side of the family.

All the guys...

This would have been four generations, but I have no idea where my brother was for this shot.

Ryder was super excited to help decorate the Christmas tree! 

Of course the shiny Christmas balls were his favorite.

I helped my mom pick out some new decorations at Costco. Aren't these pretty?  

Such a good little helper!

Not a great glamour shot of me, but I love how this captures the fun we're having.

Stew was experimenting with our "nice" camera. 

Family, holiday music, and Moscow Mules made the afternoon super festive.

He couldn't get enough of the ornaments.

Seriously, isn't this the cutest kid you've ever seen?

My little bro and my future sister-in-law!

Grandpa gave Ryder his very first box of crayons. He loved them of course.

Attempting to capture our Christmas card photo for the year... difficult with a squirmy toddler!

My adorable parents.

On Sunday we headed back north for the Seahawks game, who pulled off an exciting win against the Steelers! It was the perfect way to end a wonderful weekend.

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Saturday, November 28, 2015

Giving Thanks

We spent Thanksgiving at the Always this year, and as usual it was a fabulous day filled with family, food and fun.

We left home at bedtime the night before, in the hopes that Ryder would sleep all the way down to Vancouver, Washington. Luckily he did, and this time he didn't barf in the car first, either.

The next morning, we went for a walk so that Stew's brother Mark could show us his drone. Those things are so cool! It was extra cold out though, and apparently Ryder isn't a fan of being freezing, so unfortunately we weren't able to stay out very long despite the sunshine.

After he got warmed up, Ryder was such a good boy, even taking a long nap with Mommy before the rest of the guests arrived for the big feast. 

Dinner included all of our Thanksgiving traditional favorites. We were surprised to learn that Ryder absolutely loves turkey, but he won't touch mashed potatoes. Strange kid.

Ryder hadn't seen his Uncle Patrick in quite a while, but it didn't take them long to make up for lost time.

Just a little boy and his Daddy.

Family photo. I'm so thankful to have these two. With them in my life, I really don't need anything else in the world... 

Ryder loved building / destroying block towers with Uncle Mark.

If you look closely, you can see his hand is blurred as he swings it wildly, preparing for destruction... 

Drone. The only acceptable way to take a selfie.

We hope that everyone had a wonderful holiday, with lots of food and all of your favorite people.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Friday, November 27, 2015

All I Want for Christmas is You

Dear Santa,
I really don't require anything for my December birthday or Christmas this year.
However, for the benefit of those people in my life who may refuse to adhere to this request, here are a few items that, if received, would be accepted with a smile.

MacBook Air. I've wanted one for years, ever since my iBook kicked the bucket.
Paris Purse. Super cute, made by Thirty-One, my current obsession.
All About The Benjamins Wallet. Because I'll need the matching wallet. Obviously.
Seahawks Pep Rally Pants. I can always use more Hawk Gear!
Double Duty Caddy. I'm such an organizational nerd.
Victoria's Secret Gift Card. Because sometimes it's fun to buy some pretty, expensive undies.

Happy Black Friday, everyone!
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Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Mandela Effect

I. Am. Freaking. Out.
For many of you, this post is going to make you question everything you know...
I'm sure most of you remember reading The Berenstein Bears books when you were little. The series contains some of the most beloved children's literary characters of the modern age.
I was a major book nerd as a child. Unlike most of my peers, I looked forward to getting my summer assigned reading, and I took pride in the fact that I was usually able to complete the entire list by mid-July (thus leaving the rest of the summer to tackle the rest of the library's young adult section). Since the age of five, I have spent the vast majority of my free time with my nose in a book. Therefore, I have pretty strong memories about this favorite pastime, and the authors, books and characters it involved.
The Berenstein Bears were some of my absolute favorites.
I've been referring to the series as The Berenstein Bears throughout this post, which probably seems totally normal to you if you're familiar with the series.
BUT... that's not right.
The actual, correct title of the series is The Berenstain Bears — with an A.
What? What? WHAT?!
Dude, no.
I was absolutely shell-shocked to find out that I've apparently been spelling their name wrong this entire time.
Unable to come to grips with the fact that I've been incorrect about something for my entire life, I called my mom and forced her to unpack my childhood library and put my mind at ease. The mind-f*ck continued as she confirmed that the title is, in fact, The BerenstAin Bears (the bears were named after the authors, Stan and Jan Berenstain).
I distinctly remember The BerenstEin Bears, and there is nothing on god's green earth that will convince me I am wrong.
Many other fans don't believe it, either. There are currently forums upon forums across the internet insisting that the name was once BerenstEin. And a popular theory is circulating as to why the name was "changed."
This theory has been named The Mandela Effect.
It states that shared false memories are in fact glimpses into parallel worlds with different timelines (based on the fact that thousands of people apparently remember Nelson Mandela dying in prison in the 1980s, despite his having been released from prison in 1990 and going on to become the president of South Africa).
Mandela Effect believers say that the name of the books was actually Berenstein at one point, but we've shifted into a parallel universe or an alternate timeline in which the title of the books is now The Berenstain Bears.
Y'all... I'm pretty sure I've slipped into a parallel universe.
Writer and "paranormal consultant" Fiona Broome believes that The Mandela Effect is based on quantum mechanics. I've spent uncountable hours on her website, poring over other "false memories," similar to The Berenstein Bears phenomenon.
I. Am. Freaking. Out.
If you have some time (and don't plan on getting much sleep tonight) check out the list of most popular topics currently trending on the site. I was shocked at mildly horrified to learn how many things I'm "wrong" about...
Most importantly, I remember very vividly The Berenstein Bears being spelled with an E, and calling it that all my life. Learning that I may have been wrong for all these years has brought on what can only be described as an existential crisis.
What do you remember?
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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

At the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month

On this Veterans Day, suicide has caused more American military casualties than the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan combined.
When I first heard this statistic, my mind was absolutely blown. It hit very close to home.
A little more than a year ago, my Uncle Doug added his name to the somber roll call of 22 U.S. military veterans who die by suicide every day — this is more than double the civilian rate. Burdened with the stigma associated with mental health issues and shame surrounding posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression, veterans instead turn to suicide as their only option to relieve their suffering.
Many people think of suicide attempt as a selfish act. But when a person gets to the point of taking their own life, they truly believe that their loved ones will be better off with them gone. This is mental illness: a terrible and relentless disease. Many of us have been close to the edge ourselves, or have dealt with family members in a crisis, and many have lost friends and loved ones to this disease. Please, let's stop sweeping mental illness under the rug.
The United States military veteran suicide epidemic is one of the most tragic problems afflicting those who served our country. Far too many of those we honor for their service on Veterans Day have died by their own hand.
Earlier this year, Congress passed the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act, designed to reduce military and veteran suicides and improve access to quality mental health care. I was so happy to see this step being taken toward reducing the tragic number of veteran suicides each day.
But mostly I just miss my uncle.
I think of him at every family event, where his absence never becomes less jarring. I think of him every time the weather gets stormy. I think of him today, on Veterans Day.
He joined the United States Coast Guard in 1998, where he served proudly for 15 years. After 9/11, he participated in Operation Noble Eagle in the Puget Sound, providing protection to U.S. Navy facilities and ships. He deployed to Kuwait and Iraq in 2003 for Operation Iraqi Freedom, and again in 2011 for Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation New Dawn.
A year ago, he took his own life.

 Douglas E. Swift
July 13, 1967 - November 12, 2014
Uncle Doug, wherever you are, please accept my lasting gratitude for your service to our nation. You gave up the comfort and security of your home and family to endure the hardships that come with military service. You served abroad and at home, in peacetime and wartime, taking on the responsibility of maintaining the freedom and way of life that we all enjoy and take for granted.
You are an American Hero. 
I honor and remember you today, and every day.
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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

A letter to my younger self...

Dear 18-year-old Sarah,
Hey there, it's me... future you.

As you prepare for college and all the ups and downs that your 20s will encompass, I'm writing to you with all the wisdom that you will acquire over the next 15 years.

Please... listen closely.

Things aren't going to happen the way you imagine, but don't let that stop you from enjoying what does come your way.
 Respect and take care of your body. It's the only one you'll ever get. You need rest, exercise, and healthy nutrition. I know it seems awesome that you can eat Big Macs, sleep for only six hours a night, and hardly exercise, but these bad habits will eventually come back to haunt you. Wear sunscreen.

Work hard to be a kind and trustworthy friend, but don't stress out too much about your high school friendships. Some will stand the test of time, and others will ultimately fail, no matter what you do to try and preserve them. Luckily, the true friends you gain in the future will meet and often exceed the expectations set by your childhood friendships.

Stay busy and healthy to avoid depression. And no matter what happens, do not take antidepressants. They will royally screw up your metabolism and you'll spend the rest of your life trying to undo the damage.

Stay in school. You're going to have several massive breakdowns throughout college, but no matter what happens, keep your chin up. Be proud of yourself for all that you have accomplished, and continue pushing forward. Dropping out to "find yourself and figure out what you want" will ultimately be a complete waste of time.

Don't ever change yourself for someone else — especially a guy. It's hard to understand now, but the perfect person is going to love you for exactly who you are, not who they think you should be. Love is amazing, but guard your heart, and take things slow. Don't fall in love for the sake of falling in love. Love yourself before loving someone else. You deserve so much, and he's not worth the heartache.

I wish I could prepare you for the heartbreak of losing a loved one. You will experience this many times in the future, so remember to cherish the times you have with the ones you love the most.

Respect and appreciate your parents, and create lasting, meaningful relationships with your siblings. They're your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.

 Don't drink too much — especially tequila. You'll regret it almost every time. Get yourself a glass of water and save yourself a a couple bucks and a lot of embarrassment.

Be confident and brave. Be generous and kind. Be happy.

Don't lose yourself. Remember that it's important to have roots and wings.

It's okay to make mistakes. Own them, learn from them, and move on.

Regardless of your choices, I'll stand by whoever you become. Because the mistakes you make will shape who you are — and that's me.
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Friday, November 6, 2015

The Reality of Motherhood

I am not the mother I always thought I would be.

Before I had Ryder, I completely idealized motherhood.

I dreamed of sitting in his perfect nursery, rocking my sweet little baby as his eyes gently closed while I sang a lullaby. I imagined sitting on a blanket in the backyard, reading magazines and sipping lemonade while he cooed beside me and I soaked up the sunshine of my extended summer maternity leave. I pictured dressing him in adorable little outfits with matching hats, socks and shoes and taking him around for visits to show him off while he smiled sleepily and then drifted off to sleep while I enjoyed coffee with friends. I thought getting up a few times each night for the first few months of his life would be no big deal, because at least I'd get stretches of sleep in between, and we would cherish those special nighttime cuddles together.

Then I actually became a mother. And realized I was delusional.
Every parent knows what it's really like.

You come home from work excited to spend a few hours of quality time with your family, and instead your child spends the evening whining and throwing epic, writhing, screaming fits for apparently no reason.

You plan a perfectly orchestrated evening with a healthy dinner, bath, stories and bedtime, followed by a lovely glass of wine. But, apparently determined to ruin the night, your child poops in the tub.

You finally make some progress on everyone sleeping through the night, and then your child gets croup and ends up in the hospital, putting you back to square one with sleep training.

After a rare decent night's sleep, you're feeling confident and professional at work, only to discover that you've been walking around with a giant booger smooshed into the collar of your dress shirt all morning.

There's definitely nothing glamorous about this life.

And yet, I still find myself idealizing motherhood. Mostly it's in those quiet moments at the end of the day, when I'm rocking my sweet little angel baby to sleep. And I think later, as I lie in bed, that tomorrow I'll be more cheerful, and less frustrated.

Tomorrow I'll be a better mom.

Parenthood is made up of hard work. But we idealize it anyway. It's what keeps us going, day after day. And sometimes, for sweet, brief moments, everything is perfect.

But some days, the reality of motherhood is so hard and suffocating that I can barely breathe. I don't know how I'm going to make it through the next hour, let alone the next 18 years.

Still, I hold onto that idealized version of motherhood.

And once again, I promise myself that tomorrow I'll be a better mom.

Because I do love my sweet baby boy, more than anything or anyone else on the face of the earth.

And for today, love will have to be enough.

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Thursday, November 5, 2015

Book Club: The Kill Order

That's two books in a row now that have basically sucked.
This one had promise. After all, I absolutely loved the Maze Runner Trilogy.
So I fully expected to love The Kill Order by James Dashner, which is a prequel to the trilogy. (The books are young adult dystopian science fiction novels, a genre that's obviously right up my alley).
The Kill Order is set 13 years before the events of the original novel, and it expands on the same world but does not focus on the same main characters. The story begins chronologically in New York City when the world is hit by solar flares. Mark and Trina form an alliance with Alec, Lana and some other survivors who flee to a high rise to avoid an impending tsunami. Most manage to survive until they are able to escape to a settlement in North Carolina.
One year later, the story picks back up in the small village as the survivors are attacked by huge, helicopter-like devices known as Bergs, from which crew members shoot darts that immediately kill many villagers and infect others with a strange virus. Mark and Alec manage to take over one of the Bergs and find the headquarters of the mysterious attackers.
From here the book just drags on and on through one over-the-top action scene to the next. Reading it was like watching the last ten minutes of a bad action movie over and over again. Mark and Alec are repeatedly attacked by countless people infected with the virus, but they manage to escape each time (only to have the only scenario repeat itself a few pages later). It really got to be monotonous.
In a nutshell, I wasn't entertained. The book didn't answer any questions about the series as a whole, I didn't really care about any of the characters, and the writing is mediocre at best. I never found myself wondering what was going to happen, or who was going to ultimately survive. I did enjoy Mark's flashbacks of the days immediately following the sun flares, but those were few and far between.
I'd say skip it. 
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Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Podcast Picks

When it comes to new forms of technology, I tend to be a little slow on the uptake.

But this year I discovered the amazing world of podcasts, and since then my life and commute haven't been the same. 
What is a Podcast?

My friend Jessica was always referring to interesting little tidbits she had picked up from various podcasts, and eventually I asked her, "What IS a podcast? How do you access them? Which ones are good? Where do I start?"

If you haven't yet been introduced to this extra-special form of addiction, here's the deal:
A podcast is a digital audio file made available on the Internet for downloading to a computer or portable media player. It's typically available as a series, new installments of which can be received by subscribers automatically.

Thus began my love affair...

My 10 Favorite Podcasts

1. Serial
This was the very first podcast I ever listened to, and it has remained by far my #1 favorite. Serial unfolds one true story over the course of a whole season, following the plot and characters wherever they lead, through many surprising twists and turns. Season 1 investigated the murder of Hae Min Lee, an 18-year-old high school student in Baltimore, Maryland allegedly murdered by her ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed. Syed was convicted and given a life sentence despite pleading his innocence. Serial brought massive new attention to the case, including a court decision allowing Syed to appeal his conviction. I am waiting on pins and needles to see if Adnan will be freed from prison, because I, for one, think he is innocent.

2. Undisclosed: The State vs. Adnan Syed
In the wake of Serial, tons of new evidence and information has been discovered and uncovered thanks to the investigations of attorneys Susan Simpson, Colin Miller, and the Adnan Syed Legal Trust. Undisclosed examines and explores the case in greater detail, from an investigatory perspective instead of a narrative one. Definitely don't dive into this one unless you've already put in the time listening to Serial first.

3. Truth & Justice with Bob Ruff
This podcast is a listener-driven show devoted to the pursuit of truth and justice. So far the host, Bob Ruff, is investigating the Hae Min Lee murder case, hence why I find this particular podcast appealing. Bob is a Fire Chief and uses his experience investigating arsons to find the truth, and he has proved to be very effective in finding new details in the case.

4. This American Life
This weekly public radio show is one of the most popular ones out there. Each week's show has a theme, explored in several "acts." Primarily a journalistic non-fiction program, it has also featured essays, memoirs, field recordings, short fiction, and found footage. The content varies widely by episode, and the mood of the show ranges from gloomy to ironic, from thought-provoking to humorous. I've yet to listen to an episode that I didn't love.

5. Love + Radio
This podcast features intimate and otherworldly-produced interviews with an eclectic range of subjects, from the seedy to the sublime. It's featured some really emotionally complicated stories and portraits of people that I've found super fascinating.

6. Matt Walsh - TheBlaze
Matt describes himself as a "professional truth sayer." He is a young, outspoken conservative Christian covered in tattoos, and surprisingly I often find myself nodding along to his outspoken tirades about current events and social issues.

7. TED Radio Hour
This podcast is a journey through fascinating ideas: astonishing inventions, fresh approaches to old problems, new ways to think and create. The episodes are based on talks given by riveting speakers on the world-renowned TED stage, and each show is centered on a common theme such as the source of happiness, crowd-sourcing innovation, power shifts, or inexplicable connections. I always feel inspired after listening to this one.

8. The Longest Shortest Time
This is the only podcast I listen to that's focused on parenting. It features a variety of stories about all different kinds of parents, kids, and experiences from all walks of life. And you don't have to be a parent to love this podcast and the people it features. I recommend listening to one of my favorite episodes, "The Accidental Gay Parents," which is sure to have anyone with a heart in tears.   

9. Radiolab
This one features an investigation told through sounds and stories, and is centered around one big idea. Information sounds like music and science and culture collide, and the show is designed for listeners who demand skepticism, but appreciate wonder.

10. Invisibilia
"Invisibilia" is Latin for "all the invisible things," and the podcast is about the invisible forces that control human behavior: ideas, beliefs, assumptions and emotions. I absolutely love listening to the co-hosts, Lulu Miller and Alix Speigel, as they interweave narrative storytelling with scientific research that will ultimately make you see your own life differently.

How to Listen to Podcasts

To subscribe to a podcast, use iTunes or the Podcast application on your smart phone and click "subscribe" on the page for that podcast... it's as simple as that! iTunes will then automatically check each day for new episodes. You can also stream an individual episode by clicking its episode number in the episode list.

Serial is what originally sucked me in, so of course I recommend starting there. This American Life is also a great place to begin. Or just start browsing the Top Charts in your app and see what appeals to you. There are literally bazillions of podcasts available; truly something for everyone.
Podcasts are such a great way to pass the time during a boring commute, difficult workout, house cleaning frenzy, or just a dull afternoon.

But beware... once you start you won't be able to stop!

What are your favorite Podcasts?

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