The Eclipse Chasers

The Great American Eclipse of 2017 is over, and luckily Tom and I were there to see it. Parts of Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee and South Carolina saw a total eclipse of the sun on Monday, August 21, 2017.

Portland was only an hour away from the band of totality, but from everything I heard, seeing 99.3% of the eclipse could not compare to seeing 100%. Only when the eclipse reaches totality can you safely look up at the sun, sans solar glasses, and witness the reality of what’s happening. We decided we had to go. Luckily Tom has family living in Waldport, Oregon who were gracious and willing to put us up for a couple nights. Waldport is a coastal city and just at the southern edge of the band of totality.

Eclipse Map

Sweet Home where we raced, Waldport where we relaxed and just east of Tidwater, where we chased the eclipse.

We left early on Saturday morning and headed south on Interstate 5, encountering exactly NONE of the apocalyptic traffic the news had warned us about. Our first stop was about half an hour east, away from the coast. Earlier in the summer I found a solar eclipse themed 5k happening in the town of Sweet Home. This turned out to be a wonderful little gem of an event! There were just over 100 runners and walkers and the race began and ended on a historic covered bridge in Sankey Park. I was pretty rusty after a couple months of no training (yes, I have been that bad) but Tom and I ran and walked the entire thing side-by-side and really enjoyed it. We were adorned with medals upon finishing and feasted on chocolate moon pies! There was also a health and wellness fair happening at the high school next door and we were able to pick up some fresh apples, a frisbee, toothpaste, and lots of other useful goodies.

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Then we hit the road again, encountering little traffic, and made our way west on Highway 34 through Corvallis, Philomath, Alsea, Tidewater and finally to Waldport.

Sunday was a day of exploring historic Nye Beach and the Bayfront in Newport, then Hatfield Marine Science Center and Seal Rock. I was obsessively checking the weather reports for the next day and could see a forecast of partially cloudy skies until about 10 a.m. when it showed sunny. Totality was supposed to hit at 10:20 a.m.

We woke up early on Monday morning to a familiar coastal fog bank. This usually blows off before noon and the weather report had showed clear skies by the time of the eclipse. But… we were nervous. Having taken the journey here to see this very thing, we wanted as good of a chance as possible. Since we hadn’t encountered any traffic on our way into town, we decided to hit Highway 34 and head back east, driving until we were out of the fog bank. We pulled over in a clearing with a large pullout along the side of the road where three other cars had already stopped. This was somewhere slightly east of Tidewater. Highway 34 has a few dips before heading north towards Philomath and it’s possible we were in one of these dips.

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We traded our second pair of glasses with the driver of a truck near us (his glasses were not ISO approved) for his extra folding chair, and settled in. We had absolutely no cell service; no connection to the outside world. I got comfy with my book and some snacks, alternating with Tom views of the sun through the solar eclipse glasses we now shared. Over the course of an hour, I could see the small bite in the sun become a larger and larger bite. Eventually the sun became a large crescent and then a small crescent, when looked at through the glasses. I could feel the temperature dropping and the sky growing slightly darker, but it was still definitely light out. I don’t know if I would have noticed the slight difference in the sky had I not known what was happening. This experience gives you a new level of respect and appreciation for the light energy that sun puts out. Even at just a sliver of its former self, the sun was still bright as ever! In the final moments, when the sun looked like a small speck of light through my glasses and it had suddenly grown dark, Tom shouted “Look at the ground!” There were waves like those of water rippling over a bright surface, what I now know were shadow bands, moving across the grass. I looked up and the sun still seemed bright. I put my glasses on a saw a tiny bright speck. I pulled the glasses of quickly and saw what can only be described as a ring of light. It still seemed fairly bright to me and I was confused about what I saw. After what felt like only a couple seconds it started getting brighter out. I looked through my glasses and saw a speck of light that was larger than the one I had viewed before. I am still not 100% sure that I saw totality. Tom believes that he did. In looking at this website about solar eclipse phenomena what I saw can best be described as something between the Diamond Ring and Bailey’s beads. I did look at the sun without my glasses and it was slightly uncomfortable but not at all like would be normally. So it’s a mystery to me. The whole experience was quite amazing though and I’m glad we went.

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Upon returning to Waldport we discovered that the totality was visible for the town, apparently the fog did clear in time. We also saw traffic reports showing that Interstate 5 northbound was experiencing major gridlock. We decided instead to head up North along Highway 101, following the Pacific Ocean. We took our time, stopping at a historic lighthouse and getting lunch. Traveling up the coast we went in and out of bits of “bad” or grey/foggy sky and nice sunny sky. Before leaving the coast for good, we wanted to find a nice beach (with nice weather) and lay out on the sand. We found that beach at Beverly Beach, a little south of Depoe Bay. We spent a full hour just laying on the sand on our beach blanket, reading books and listening to the roar of the waves. Of course we were both wearing sweaters, because the wind was chilly even with a sunny sky. Laying down against the sand and below the wind where it was warm was very pleasant.

A quick stop at the Tillamook Cheese Factory for ice cream was our final stop before arriving home.

I know both Tom and I would like to see another total solar eclipse and luckily there is another one scheduled for 2024. This one will travel SW to NE across parts of Texas, Arkansas, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, and upstate New York. And I happen to know people who live in some of those places…

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This is the only photo I got of the sun and was taken after the speck began to grow larger, post totality. Notice how dark the sky appears though… this photo has not been edited!

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#17Booksfor2017: Dragonfly in Amber

I got myself into a really rough spot by choosing Diana Gabaldon’s Dragonfly in Amber as one of 17 books to read this year. This historical fiction/fantasy novel is 947 pages long! Compare that to the last book I reviewed, The Birth of The Pill, at 329 pages… but while I’m a bit behind schedule now I’m determined to meet my goal.

I’ve had a fondness for historical fiction since I was in elementary school that started with the American Girl series. These books and the expensive dolls they paired with became popular in the 1990s. You might have heard of them if you were a 90s kid or a parent of one. Yep, I had one of the dolls too – Kirsten!

Dragonfly in Amber is part of the Outlander series, and was recommended to me by a fellow lover of historical fiction (Thanks Katie!). I read the first novel, Outlander, back in 2015 but was hesitant to read more of the books. But not because I didn’t enjoy it! Diana Gabaldon has written eight novels in this series so far and is currently writing the ninth. I read many books series when I was a teenager and it was never an issue because I had the time to get through them. Today I’m hesitant to start reading a series (especially one I know I’ll fall in love with like Outlander) because I’m afraid that’s all I’ll have time to read for years. Years!

Blog Outlander Books

Outlander has become very popular since STARZ decided to air a televised series based on the novels a couple years back. Last month Tom and I started watching Outlander and while I knew I would enjoy it, I’ve been surprised at how much Tom has gotten into it! The basic premise is of a British woman, Claire, who accidentally travels back in time to 1743 while on her honeymoon in the Scottish Highlands in 1945. Claire served as a combat nurse in WWII and uses her medical skills to great advantage in the 18th century. There’s mystery and romance (including the explicit kind) and adventure! But I also learned about a time and place (Scotland) in history that I had almost no knowledge of before. Medicine was so much less developed at that time. There are many instances in the books that both fed my love of science and made me feel extremely frustrated about the lack of awareness of germs and much else!

At this point, I’m sure I will end up reading the entire series. I’ve been suckered in.

While I haven’t read many historical fiction *series* since my younger years, I have a couple favorite authors who have written individual books in the genre. The first is Alan Brennert. His novel Moloka’i is one of my all-time favorites. He has written three other novels, Honolulu, Palisades Park and Time and Chance. The first three are historical fiction and the first two are definitely worth reading. Why? Well… personally I love Hawai’i and both novels take place there and tell stories about the islands you do not normally hear. The protagonists are young women with unique backgrounds (one native Hawaiian and the other a Korean immigrant). Alan’s style of writing is so lush and rich in its descriptions of the surrounding landscape that you feel like you’re right there in the islands. The second author is Tracy Chevalier, who became famous for writing Girl with a Pearl Earring. Her books take a famous painting and imagine a fictional backstory for them. Tracy also has a knack for writing lush descriptions and protagonists that are intellectually curious. My favorites of hers were the novels, The Lady and the Unicorn and Remarkable Creatures.

If you love historical fiction (especially the 18th century) or Scotland and you aren’t afraid to delve into a long series of books, then I fully recommend the Outlander series. If you want a taste of Outlander without committing to several 900 page novels, watch the television series from STARZ. If you love historical fiction but can only dedicate yourself to a single book or two, definitely check out those I mentioned above from Alan Brennert and Tracy Chevalier.

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Running through 2016: A Year of Races

It’s May. Traditionally May is when race season really heats up, at least here in the Pacific Northwest with our mild summer weather. Just this past weekend, there were back-to-back 5k races in Esther Short Park in downtown Vancouver. I’m feeling a little bummed out when thinking about all of the cool races coming up because I’m not running any of them (not right now at least). Last year I ran and walked in a ton of them and it was so much fun!

My running journey began in 2013 when I ran my very first race; the Portland Rock N’ Roll Half Marathon. I ran another in 2014 and two half marathons in 2015. It’s a lot of work to train for 13.1 miles, especially when you add fundraising to it. I ran my half marathons with support from Team In Training which meant raising money to fund research for blood cancers. I wouldn’t change anything about the experience but in 2016 I decided to take a break from fundraising and longer miles. At the same time I didn’t want to stop participating in these events. I also wanted to keep up my exercise regimen. So I made a resolution. I would run a 5k or 10k race each month of the year. It was tricky to find races in January and February but a little easier in March and April. Once May came around, I had to be discerning and picky because there were so many to choose from.

Here’s an overview of the races I did participate in and what I thought of them. I hope any aspiring runners or walkers or those considering these particular events find it helpful!

Sunday, January 31: Race for Warmth in Vancouver, Washington

This event has both 5k and 10k options and a free kid’s dash. I choose to do the 5k since I hadn’t run much at all in the three months leading up to the race and didn’t want to overdo it. I registered on-site the day of the event and therefore didn’t get a T-shirt. Normally, you’d get a long sleeved shirt (cotton blend) but no medal. There was a pretty fun set up in the starting area with booths giving out free coffee, hot cocoa, snacks and whole pieces of fruit. Yum! The route started at Clark Public Utilities, just north of the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site. Our 5k route went down into the Fort, over the land bridge and along the Columbia River waterfront for a short while before heading up into downtown Vancouver and back to the starting point. It was a great course and although I skipped it, there was an “after party” with actual food and a beer garden.

100% of proceeds from this event support Operation Warm Heart, a program that provides funds to low-income families in Clark County who have trouble paying their electric bill.

Recommended.

Saturday, February 27: Polar Plunge in Portland, Oregon

The Polar Plunge has a 5k option but is much more well known for the “plunge”, a dip in the Columbia River… in February. So, it’s very cold! Some people do the run and plunge together. I decided to just do the run. This race offered a long sleeved shirt (tech fabric) for an extra fee and no medal. There were additional prizes for teams that had fund raised at high levels. The registration tent had snacks for people to enjoy before the race. I remember seeing peanut butter toast and mini-donuts. The race took place along the path by Marine Drive in NE Portland, very close to the Portland International Airport. This was both good and bad. Good because you got some nice views of the Columbia River but bad because there wasn’t much change of scenery and we moved in a fairly straight line out to Broughton Beach. The set up at the finish line was excellent. There were lots of food options and several vendors with activities and giveaways. I won a CD from a local radio station (which happened to be a band I love). Since the finish line was removed from the starting area, shuttles were available to take us back there and to our cars. I decided to walk back, technically making this a 10k for me, although in two parts.

100% of proceeds from this event support Special Olympics of Oregon.

Recommended with caveats. I would participate again if I had someone to run with and it was forecast to be a very nice day.

Polar Plunge 5k Official

Sunday, March 13: Shamrock Run in Portland, Oregon

This is a HUGE race here in Oregon. The Shamrock Run is billed as the largest running and walking event in the state and I believe it. The race has grown in recent years to include a 5k, 8k, 15k, half marathon, 4 mile walk-only “stride” and the Leprechaun Lap for kids. I ran the 8k in 2015 and the 5k in 2016. Registration included a shirt (tech fabric) and there were lots of goodies worth picking up at the race expo. 15k and half marathon finishers receive a medal. Both years I ran the Shamrock it poured buckets and buckets of rain on us. It is March after all (but strangely both my January and February races for 2016 were dry). For me, the large crowds, being downtown and the rain have made this an unpleasant race to participate in. The crowds and location necessitate arriving early and parking far away from the starting line. The smells that arrive at your nose while running through rain soaked city streets are not the best. The after party at Waterfront Park would be amazing (bands, beer garden, clam chowder, etc.) if it were covered or indoors. I didn’t stay after either time because I didn’t want to stand in the rain. Yeah, I’m a wuss. This is an event that many people love and I think it can be a great experience if factors are in your favor. I did not do the Shamrock Run this year and of course it was a mostly clear day. Still, I’m not upset about missing it.

The Shamrock Run is put on by Adidas and a portion of the proceeds benefit Doernbecher Children’s Hospital.

Not recommended.

Sunday, April 17: Race for the Roses in Portland, Oregon

Race for the Roses has a 5k, 10k and half marathon option. I decided to do the 5k. Registration did not include a shirt (although one was offered for an additional fee/donation) but did include the cool wooden medal you can see me wearing in the photo below. These medals are hand made by participants in Albertina Kerr’s Port City Program, making them extra special and meaningful. The registration area and after party was indoors at the Memorial Coliseum, with the start and finish line just outside. It ended up being a very beautiful day out but I was thankful for the indoor location because even April in the Pacific Northwest can be pretty iffy when it comes to the weather. This current year in particular. The course took us over the Broadway Bridge (I enjoyed that) but otherwise was pretty similar to other races I’ve done in downtown Portland. The more races I do, the more I realize I prefer suburban or rural routes. Albertina Kerr handed us a rose at the finish line and gave us a commemorative photo. There were nice snacks at the after party and mimosas for those 21 and over. The indoor location and extra perks (medal, complimentary photo, etc.) help set this race apart from other downtown events.

100% of the proceeds support Albertina Kerr, a nonprofit that provides programs and services to children and adults with developmental disabilities and mental health challenges.

Recommended.

Race for the Roses 5k

Saturday, May 7: Walk/Run for the Animals in Vancouver, Washington

This Walk/Run for the Animals is a unique 5k because of all the dogs you’ll see! The Humane Society for SW Washington is not as large an entity as the Oregon Humane Society and this event isn’t as big as OHS’s Doggie Dash. But I liked that about it. There was a really nice community feel here. I did not a have a dog with me (many people ran or walked with theirs) but I did have a friend. We choose to the “walk option” (not timed and without a medal) and were given “doggie bags” with treats and coupons for pet-friendly businesses. If you choose the “run option” you get a shirt and a medal. The Walk/Run for the Animals follows the most common route events in downtown Vancouver take. It started at Esther Short Park, cut down to the riverfront just under the I-5 bridge and followed the Waterfront Renaissance Trail just beyond Beaches and McMenamins restaurants and then back to the park. It’s a beautiful route even if it’s overused. The Humane Society for SW Washington put on dog agility show after everyone returned and there was a very nice beer garden with a Italian soda bar for those who didn’t want to drink. I don’t remember there being much in the way of snacks or food though and all of the vendors were pet-related.

Proceeds from the Walk/Run benefit the Humane Society for SW Washington.

Recommended with caveats. This is a great race to do with your furry friend(s) but worth skipping if you’re only human.

Sunday, June 26: Pacific Crest Weekend Sports Festival in Sunriver, Oregon

This series of events has been the highlight of my year every year since 2014. My family rents a cabin and we all participate in different events within the festival. I grew up going on vacation to Sunriver so there’s a lot of nostalgia for me in that place as well. If I could, I would move to Sunriver and live there every day of the year. That’s how much I love it! Okay, enough waxing on about Sunriver. The Pacific Crest Weekend Sports Festival is a beast for athletes of all kinds. There’s a long course triathlon, duathlon (bike/run), aquabike (swim/bike), marathon, half-marathon, 10k, 5k and kids dash. There are also multiple distance options for the tri/du/aqua ranging from a 1/2 mile swim with a 5k and 28 mile bike ride to a 1.2 mile swim with a half marathon and 58 mile bike ride. I did the half marathon in 2014, the 5k in 2015 and the 10k in 2016. I enjoy swimming and biking leisurely but have decided to stick just to competitive running for now! When you sign up for any race, you receive a shirt (tech fabric), medal and goodie bag with coupons and snacks. The after party has tons of great food in a festival setting, including a robust beer garden. Unfortunately 3/4 of the beers offered were IPAs and I happen not to like those. That’s not much to complain about though. Sunriver’s large network of trails makes it the perfect venue for these races. I would try the full marathon but sadly it’s a double loop of the half and that’s very unappealing to me. Sunriver is a resort town and very under-developed. People do live there but all houses are painted dull browns, greys and tans that blend into the natural forest around them. People don’t cut down trees unless there’s something wrong with a tree. Yards are natural scrub-brush with native flowers and no fences. The Deschutes River is right next door along with Mt. Bachelor. You don’t see either while running the 5k or 10k but you do get excellent views of both river and mountain in the half and full marathon course. I have seen deer, ground squirrels (which are similar to prairie dogs), field mice, osprey, hawks and cranes during my runs there. The air in Sunriver is crisp and fresh and the course gives you nice twists and turns throughout the property with only gentle rolling hills. It’s breathtaking and I will continue to participate in the future.

WHY Racing Events puts on the Pacific Crest Weekend Sports Festival and donates a portion of the proceeds to local charities like the Three Rivers School.

Very much recommended.

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How would you like to run on these paths in Sunriver!?

Saturday, July 9: Twilight Half Marathon in Vancouver, Washington

The Twilight Half isn’t just a half marathon but includes a 5k and 10k. Also, this race is in THE EVENING. All of the other races I’ve reviewed started in the morning just as the vast majority of all races do. I like that the Twilight is different and so did my husband Tom, because he ran the 10k with me! He has a strong preference for night races. Registration for this event includes a shirt or tank top (cotton blend) and a cute medal cut in the shape of an owl. The route is really something special too. All three races start at Vancouver Lake Regional Park and head off down different trails. It’s not as rural as Sunriver but the second best thing to it. You get great views of the lake and the Columbia River during your run or walk and the course is very flat. The after party provided free beer or hard cider and burritos. This year they’re providing tamales so I think we can safely expect Latin cuisine each time.

The Twilight Half Marathon is put on by Good Sport Promotion and a portion of the proceeds benefit the Children’s Cancer Association.

Recommended.

Sunday, August 28: Alki Beach 5k in Seattle, Washington

This was the only race I traveled for in 2016 and I’ll just say now that it was worth it. It’s a simple 5k with no other distance options. The starting area had a wide variety of vendors, which means lots of goodies and giveaways. Registration included a shirt (tech fabric) and they encouraged everyone to place a sign on their back noting who they were running for or in the memory of. All of the races I ran at this point in the year were either directly benefiting a charity or giving a portion of proceeds to one. But out of all of them, the Alki Beach 5k was the one where that mission seemed most front and center. Race organizers gave moving speeches on the importance of what we were doing and about what NW Hope & Healing, the nonprofit that puts on the race, does. I ran in honor or my aunt Susie, who was diagnosed with breast cancer but is now in remission as it was caught *very* early, and my mother-in-law Lynne, who lost her life to ovarian cancer in 2012. The course was in West Seattle, along the waterfront trail that connects Alki Beach Park and Anchor Park. You could see downtown Seattle (including the iconic Space Needle) while running but the beach setting and distance from the city core made it feel much more rural. The suburb (is it a suburb?) of West Seattle felt really quaint and reminded me of towns I’ve visited along the Oregon Coast. There was no beer garden or food at the finish line but the scenery and feeling that you were there supporting an important cause made up for that and more. I can’t tell you how much I adored this race.

100% of proceeds from the Alki Beach 5k support NW Hope & Healing which provides financial assistance to women undergoing breast, cervical or ovarian cancer treatment at Swedish Cancer Institute in Seattle, Washington.

Recommended. And it’s worth traveling for too!

Alki Beach 5k

Sunday, September 25: Run for Recovery in Salem, Oregon

I traveled for this race as well but only 45 minutes out of my way. The Run for Recovery includes a 5k and 10k option and was the smallest race I attended in 2016. There were only about 200 people there, compared to 1k or more for the other events I participated in. The route was a nice quasi-scenic loop around Minto Brown Island Park in Salem. Parts of the park, and the route, passed the Willamette River and were quite scenic but others were not as much. This location is less scenic overall than either Vancouver Lake Park or Sunriver. Registration included a shirt (tech fabric) and a goodie bag with snacks, swag and coupons. The finish line area included a loaded baked potato bar and fruit. There was no beer and that’s not surprising as the race is put on by an organization that provides counseling and health care for addicts. There were some memorable speeches heard here, similar to the Alki Beach 5k. This was the least polished of all the races I did in 2016 but it felt good to support this organization and help grow a new event. Still, there was nothing that really stood out to me as worth doing a second time around.

100% of proceeds benefit Bridgeway Recovery Services, who also puts on the event. Bridgeway provides integrated health care services for mental health, chemical dependency, and/or problem gambling.

Not recommended.

Sunday, October 23: Run Like Hell in Portland, Oregon

I know A LOT of runners who love Run Like Hell. It’s a Halloween themed event with costumes galore so who wouldn’t? There’s a half marathon, 10k, 5k and half-mile kids dash option. I decided to run the 5k. Registration included a shirt (cotton blend) that had a really cool comic book motif on the front. Those doing the half marathon got a free medal. I could have purchased the medal for $10 but decided not to. I actually love the shirt I got though and wear it often (Tom loves it too). It looks like they’re giving everyone a medal this year though, and according to their website 2017 will be the 15th anniversary of Run Like Hell. This is yet another race that takes place in downtown Portland which means taking extra time to find parking ahead of the race and walking to the starting line. I did have a lot of fun checking out everyone’s costumes. I also saw lots of photographers on the course, those with the race organization and the local media. But I didn’t find a single photo of myself on the race website or anywhere else. This was a little disappointing since I did find photos of myself at other races I ran alone. I wore purple running leggings, a long sleeved purple tech shirt, purple hat and my lilac purple fairy wings (that I wore in 2015 for the Tinkerbell Half Marathon). I noticed a lot of people ran in groups and had themed costumes. Luckily this Sunday was nice and dry and I did stick around in Pioneer Courthouse Square after the race to check out the vendors and grab snacks, giveaways and have some celebratory beer! There was no food for us but plenty of bananas and cliff bars.

Run Like Hell is organized by Terrapin Events, a running event company that puts on half a dozen races throughout the year in the Portland Metro Area. I did not see anything on their website about beneficiaries.

Recommended with caveats. I would do this race again if the forecast looked good and I had someone else to run with who was interested in doing themed costumes.

Run Like Hell Purple Fairy

Thursday, November 24: ORCC Turkey Trot at the Oregon Zoo

This was SUCH a cool event. The Turkey Trot is a 4 mile race (a little more than a 5k) that starts just outside the Oregon Zoo in Washington Park, an area that encompasses the zoo, the World Forestry Center, Portland Children’s Museum, Portland Japanese Gardens and the International Rose Test Gardens. It’s an amazing course. The halfway point was just outside the rose gardens (with some great views) and after looping back towards the zoo, the race finished INSIDE THE ZOO. Yes! The Oregon Zoo is closed on Thanksgiving but those running the Turkey Trot can hang out and visit the exhibits from the time they finish until noon. There was a shirt available for an extra fee/donation but registration only included participation in the race and entrance into the zoo for those few hours. I get so many shirts from all of these races that I decided to go without it. The only downsides to this race were how hilly the course is (if you’ve been to Washington Park you’ll understand) and the fact that this particular Thanksgiving was extremely wet. I was about as soaked as I was after the Shamrock Run. When I pulled into the finish line area, I was handed a chocolate turkey and some animal crackers. There was also water available for us. Sadly they had run out of bananas… unfortunate. There was nothing else for us food or snack-wise. It was so wet that I spent the majority of my time after the race in the indoor area for the elephants. I would have loved to take advantage of our access to the zoo and visit more animals but it was pretty miserable outside. I was already fighting off shivers while I waited for my husband to pick me up. On the plus side, I had a really nice appetite for Thanksgiving brunch (my family eats at noon) and I didn’t feel guilty about indulging in an extra slice of pumpkin pie!

The ORCC Turkey Trot is put on by the Oregon Road Runners Club (a membership organization of runners) that puts on dozens of events throughout the year. Approximately $25,000 of entry fees from the Turkey Trot goes to benefit the Oregon Zoo Foundation

Recommended. Personally I would wait to see how the forecast was before doing this again. I wouldn’t want to get as soaked. Even so, it was worth it.

Saturday, December 31: First Run PDX in Portland, Oregon

Yet another race in downtown Portland… only this one is very unique! Technically the “First Run” is in January since it starts at 12:00 a.m. sharp on January 1 but I am counting it as my final race of 2016. There is a 1-mile, 5k and 10k option. Tom ran this one with me (another evening event) and we decided to do the 1-mile together. Registration included a long sleeved shirt (cotton blend) that Tom grabbed but I passed on. I did spend $5 on a medal though, which wasn’t included in registration but looked awesome. It feels a little lame to have a medal for running 1 mile but not enough for me to feel bad about it! There was some snow/rain mixture coming down for most of the evening but luckily the starting line and finish area (at the World Trade Center) was indoors with additional covered outdoor (along with heat lamps) seating. Tom and I ran into my friend Pam, who was also my very first mentor with Team in Training, while out on the course. Unlike the Shamrock, Race for the Roses and Run Like Hell, the First Run is entirely along the Portland waterfront. By the time the clock struck midnight and we hit the course, the snow and rain had stopped and we got to enjoy some spectacular nighttime views of the Willametter River. Our 1 mile loop took us downriver past the RiverPlace Hotel and south waterfront shops and restaurants. We made our way back to the finish line and were treated to lots of candy, chicken noodle soup, bananas, toast and more. No beer though… this is a dry New Years Eve event. Perfect for those who don’t want to drink and would like to celebrate in a different, more healthy way. There were no photographers out along the course (too dark) but there were some fun kitschy photo ops in the finish area, complete with an inflatable snowman and fake “bubble” snowflakes.

AA Sports organizes the First Run PDX. I’m not aware of any charity beneficiary.

Recommended with caveats. If you don’t have to work the next morning and you’re looking for a fun way to celebrate the new year without drinking… then this is a good choice!

2016 Races

My many race bibs from 2016.

To recap, my favorite races were The Pacific Crest 5k and 10k, The Alki Beach 5k and the ORCC Turkey Trot. The Race for Warmth, Polar Plunge 5k and Turkey Trot were not timed. All of the other races were chip timed. The Race for the Roses, Walk Run for the Animals (run participants), Pacific Crest and Twilight Half included medals for their 5k and 10k participants. Run Like Hell and First Run PDX offered medals for an extra fee.

I’m not sure which races I’ll be doing this year. But I am interested in doing either Portland to Coast or Hood to Coast relay events. Next year my goal is to run a full 26.2 marathon to celebrate my 30th birthday. I don’t know which marathon I’ll choose (open to your suggestions!) but I would like to join Team In Training to help me accomplish this big goal. Wish me luck!

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#17Booksfor2017: The Birth of the Pill

In 2016 I made and kept my News Years Resolution to run a 5k or 10k every month (post on that coming soon). This year I wanted to challenge myself to another resolution that wouldn’t be easy but was something I could stick to. Since I’ve been keeping a running list of books I want to read for a few years now I figured 2017 could be the year to finally make good on that promise to myself and read them. All of them.

I just so happened to attend a fundraiser/clothing swap for Planned Parenthood of Oregon earlier today so it seemed the time was right to review this particular book. I actually finished the book about a month ago. “The Birth of the Pill” by Jonathan Eig follows the history of the birth control pill, Margaret Sanger and Gregory Pincus. Sanger, who opened the first birth control clinic in the U.S. in 1916 and later helped found Planned Parenthood, was one of the key people involved in the creation of the Pill. Gregory Pincus, a biologist, met Margaret Sanger in 1951 and was convinced by her to start research that led to the creation of the Pill roughly 10 years later. The book goes into that research in detail, and gives you a great overview of cultural sensibilities in the United States during the 1950s and 60s.

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I’ve been on some form of combined estrogen/progestogen pill almost continuously for about ten years. I’ve been one of the lucky women who have experienced no negative side effects while on it. For me being on the pill has meant that I know when my period is coming and can plan around it or even avoid it if I wish (by skipping the placebo week). It’s meant that I’ve never been pregnant and never had to contemplate abortion, pregnancy or unplanned motherhood. It’s given stability to my life. I want to have children. I’m at an age now and at a place in my life where if for some reason I was to get pregnant, unplanned or not, I would welcome it. But that would not have been true ten or even five years ago.

Dear Mrs. Sanger

I received your pamplet [sic] on family limitation… I am 30 years old and have 11 children the oldest 13 and youngest one year. I have kidney and heart disease. Mrs. Sanger can you please help me. I have miss [sic] a few weeks and don’t know how to bring myself around. I am worred [sic] and have cryed [sic] myself sick. I know I will go like my poor sister she went insane and died. My Doctor said I would surely go insane if I keep this up but I can’t help it and the doctor won’t do anything for me. Oh Mrs. Sanger if I could tell you all the terrible things that I have been through with my babys [sic] and children you would know why I would rather die than have another one. Please no one will ever know and I will be so happy and I will do anything in this world for you. Doctors are men and have not had a baby so they have no pitty for a poor sick mother. You are a mother and you know so please pitty me and help me.

Sincerely your,

J.M.

This is a letter written to Margaret Sanger in 1925. At the time, Comstock laws prohibited the dissemination of birth control devices (mostly diaphragms at the time) and of literature on “obscene” topics which included birth control. Margaret Sanger broke the law by giving out both pamphlets and cervical caps/diaphragms at her clinic. She served 30 days in jail for doing this. Keep in mind that this was less than 100 years ago.

I’ve benefited from growing up at a time when contraception is accepted and widely available. I’ve also used this particular form (hormonal pill) of birth control for almost a decade. So it was fascinating to learn the science behind it and the immense effort it took to bring the pill to market. When the first birth control pill, Enovid, became available in 1957 it was marketed for “menstrual disorders” with the side effect being contraception. Enterprising doctors could prescribe it for either reason. The pill faced opposition and criticism at every step. In 1961 the FDA approved Enovid for contraception but even so, it was only available by prescription to married women. Eisenstadt v. Baird, which was argued in front of the Supreme Court in 1972, made birth control available to unmarried people across the country.

In the book’s epilogue we learn that women from states where the age of consent for contraception was lower (in the 1960s and 70s) were more likely to enroll in graduate school and postpone marriage. In 1960, a typical American woman had 3.6 children. In 1980, that number had dropped to below 2. Today the abortion rate in the United States is at an all time low, and we have seen the steepest drop (other than the period between 1989 and 1995) in the years since 2008. The Affordable Care Act, which went into effect in 2010, made birth control available without a copay on insurance plans. I don’t think it’s a reach to see these two things as connected.

While fascinating, this book was a bit dry at times like many nonfiction books are. I will be alternating my books between nonfiction and fiction for my #17Booksfor2017 goal. Stay tuned for more!

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Why I Marched

It’s been five weeks since the Women’s March took place in cities all over the United States and across the globe. One of those places was Portland, Oregon.
This was was my second protest ever. The first was back in November after the election with a small gathering of people (less than 50) in Beaverton, Oregon. That time I went out of curiosity and primarily so that I could say “I was there and this is what I experienced.” if any anti-protest and discussions about “those people” arose at Thanksgiving. That discussion did happen by the way. At November’s protest there were a number of speeches that resonated with me and reaffirmed my decision to attend. There were also a few that I did not like (one in particular that was given by an anarchist). When the Women’s March was being planned I knew I wanted to attend. And I realized there would be some speeches and signs I agreed with and some I did not.
The Friday of Donald Trump’s inauguration there was another protest in Portland. Most of the (roughly 5,000) protesters were peaceful but a few decided to burn flags (which is a legally protected form of free speech) and then take to the bridges and streets, which they did not have the permits to do. A few people also decided to vandalize businesses. The police reacted by deploying stun grenades and smoke bombs. Then came the Facebook rancor. The local media unsurprisingly focused A LOT of attention on the issues with Friday’s protests including sharing images of protesters burning the flag, shouting at police and wearing facial coverings. These are images that paint a negative portrait of protest and play to the average person’s fears of protesters. I am in no way making an excuse for people who committed violent actions. But I also feel like whenever a protest is in the news, it’s always the most negative aspects that are focused on. What happened on Friday made me very wary of what to expect on Saturday at the Women’s March. Luckily I didn’t need to worry.
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By now most people know that in 99% of circumstances the Women’s March was peaceful. In Portland there was no vandalism and no arrests. Permits had been acquired for the route and the route was followed with very few exceptions. Low estimates had about 70,000 people in attendance and high estimates had the count at around 100,000. I was only expecting around 25,000 to be there so it was overwhelming to see the huge crowds. Overall it was a very positive experience. There were people of all ages, families, dogs, people of every ethnicity, and different viewpoints. I’m happy to say that most of the signs I saw were positive. A few were negative. Some people would call some of the signs “crude”. I’m not a parent so I don’t know how I would feel about my child seeing them but I didn’t think anything was offensive. As we marched we chanted “Love trumps hate”, “This is what democracy looks like”, and “We will never go away. Welcome to your first day.” Some of the speeches mentioned President Trump directly. People spoke about their fears that we may see a rolling back of federal protections, funding for services that benefit us and possibly the overturn of Roe v. Wade. Other speeches mentioned his rhetoric concerning woman and bragging of sexual harassment. There was fear about President Trump’s ideas on immigration (much of which appears to be well-founded at this time). But some of the speeches (and signs) were purely about coming together as a community, and as women to support each other. To send a message that we are here, we are watching and listening, and we are not afraid to be active.
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I find it really sad when I hear people say “I don’t know why they marched” or “Marching doesn’t change anything. What’s the point?” I’d like to respond to that here and give the reasons that I personally decided to march.
We didn’t march to change what’s already happened. What’s done is done. President Trump is in office and no one marching expected to somehow reverse the course of history. What marching that day did do, with 3.5 million people, was to send a message. The fact is that President Trump won the election with the largest popular vote defeat in history. What that says is 1) The majority of Americans did not want him to be president 2) He doesn’t have a mandate and 3) If he enacts some of the policies he’s proposing he should expect resistance.
I marched to be a part of that message. I marched to honor the millions of women who have marched throughout history. Some people may not think this march was worthwhile but I’m telling you there were women who felt the same way about the suffragettes. History has its eyes on us. It’s easy to be complacent. But sometimes a little outrage is needed here and there.
Some of my favorites messages I spotted on signs at the march included:
“Complacency is a far more dangerous attitude than outrage.”
“Action is the antidote to despair.”
“Examine what you tolerate.”
“Never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it.”
“Respect existence or expect resistance.”
“Boys will be boys… no boys will be respectful.”
“Black, brown, short or tall. Love and justice is for all.”
“Left or right we can all see wrong.”
“Build bridges, not walls.” and
“Make empathy great again.”
My sign said “Peaceful protest is patriotic.”
Thanks for reading and please, be kind to each other. We need more of that.

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Halloween Misgivings

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Halloween 2009 at Walt Disney World.

Today is Halloween and the memory Facebook decided to share with me was of the time I dressed up as “Tiger Lily” from Peter Pan. I was working as an intern at Walt Disney World when the photo was taken. My friend was Ariel from the Kiss the Girl scene in The Little Mermaid. The blue seats we’re sitting on belong to the Tomorrowland Transit Authority (TTA), otherwise known as the PeopleMover.

I didn’t share this memory.

In 2009, when the photo was taken, I had never heard of cultural appropriation and I’m willing to bet most of you hadn’t either. Today, I wouldn’t wear this costume. And to be quite honest a little part of me feels bad about that. Because even though I might make different choices today I still remember when this photo was taken. It wasn’t that long ago. I loved this costume. I had a fantastic night! Good memories.

I consider myself very progressive when it comes to Women’s rights and LGBTQ rights. But when cultural appropriation is brought up I have mixed feelings. I would never want to unwittingly hurt someone’s feelings and if wearing a costume like this does that, then that’s reason enough for me not to wear it. But I have concerns. I think free speech and free expression is such an important part of our democracy. And yes, no one is going to be arrested for wearing an insensitive costume. So in that sense, there’s still freedom of expression. But they may be publicly shamed for it. I hate the idea of shaming anyone for something as benign as a costume.

When does admiring a culture and wanting to show your love of it through a “costume” turn into appropriation of another culture? We’ve known for decades that it is wrong to wear blackface (and yet some people still do it). We’ve understood for a relatively short time that wearing a Native American outfit on Halloween is not okay. I’ve seen it said that dressing up as a character who happens to be of a different culture is okay, as long as you’re not dressing up as the culture itself. But would anyone looking at the picture of me above know I was trying to be Tiger Lily, and not just random Native girl? Probably not.

Maybe I need time to adjust to the new normal. Maybe this hits me a little closer to home as someone who has worn this costume and dressed up as Princess Jasmine from the movie Aladdin as a kid.

There are culturally insensitive people out there who purposely wear a costume they know is bad idea. There are people who say, “Lighten up, it’s just a costume.” There are culturally dense people out there who make bad judgements. There are people like me. There are people who claim the mantle of social justice and call out wrongs as they see it. There are people who call out those wrongs more loudly. There’s a whole spectrum of opinions out there.

Right now I think the line between appreciation and appropriation is still getting moved around. It’s fuzzy at times, or at least I perceive it that way.

For some examples of how “all over” the place opinions on this topic are see You Can’t Steal a Culture: In Defense of Cultural Appropriation at The Daily Beast, Don’t Be a Racist for Halloween: Here’s Why Cultures Aren’t Costumes at Everyday Feminism and I Told My Daughter She Can’t Dress Up as a Native American for Halloween: Here’s Why at the Washington Post. I know we as a society are still figuring all of this out. In the meantime, I’ll keep learning and listening.

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This year’s non-offensive costume was a sassy black cat.

 

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My Attempt at #Whole30September

Before this month I had gone 28 years without ever being on or trying a “diet”. I’m lucky. I’ve never struggled with my weight. I was always a skinny kid and I’ve been able to eat what I want, guilt-free, for the most part.

In August my coworkers, who are very health-minded (a benefit of working in Parks & Recreation) decided to challenge our office to do the Whole 30 for the month of September. What’s Whole 30? It’s a meal plan where you eliminate sugar, grains, legumes and dairy from your diet. My first reaction was to just say “Uh no, sorry that’s not for me but good luck to you all.” Then peer pressure set in and I gave Whole 30 some real thought. Did I need to lose weight? No. But Whole 30 isn’t about weight loss. It’s about changing your relationship with food and teaching yourself how to knock out sugar cravings. And if there’s one weakness I have… it’s sugar! Give me chocolate covered raisins, soda, candied nuts, pastries and you name it. I eat my scrambled eggs with… you guessed it… sugar loaded Ketchup. I put sugary dressing on my salad. I add flavored syrup to my coffee and sprinkle cinnamon sugar on my toast. It’s far to say that going into this I had strong relationship with sugar.

So I did it! Well for two weeks I did. Whole 30 is supposed to be for 30 days but I had to cut mine short for medical reasons (don’t worry, I’m okay). When the timing is right I may try this crazy thing again.

What did I eat? I ate lots of eggs and sweet potatoes. Seriously, those two things alone SAVED me so many times. I taught myself how to fry and poach an egg because variety is key when you’re eating the same thing every day (I ate eggs most days at least once). I also ate nuts, lots of fruit, veggies, meat and SMOOTHIES. Smoothies are “taboo” in Whole 30 land but I decided I was going to set myself up for success and be kind to myself.

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I ate a lot of meat on the Whole 30 because it was filling. This included homemade sesame ginger beef lettuce wraps, meatballs and marinara and salad with sausage and egg.

What did I like about Whole 30? I’ll admit, after I got past the first five days, my body was feeling very good. Whole 30 is a very clean diet where you eliminate many common allergy causing foods or foods that can make you feel congested. I’m thinking of certain grains and almost all dairy. I discovered that I LOVED almond milk. Sweet potatoes taste great with just a sprinkling of cinnamon on them. No sugar needed! Fresh fruit and dried fruit began to taste sweeter after I stopped eating foods with added and processed sugar. Seriously, so tasty! I learned to love the spices in my cabinet I’d been neglecting. Things like basil, paprika, cardamon and good old salt and pepper. Salt and Pepper on scrambled eggs? Delicious.

What did I dislike about Whole 30? Putting yourself on a restricted meal plan like this takes $$ and time. Almost all cheap and processed food has either sugar added to it or grains. So, when on the Whole 30 you make a lot of things from scratch. The packaged meatballs at the store? They had breadcrumbs in them. That bottle of Prego tomato sauce on the shelf? It has sugar added to it. If you don’t take the time to plan out your meals for the week and prep some meals ahead of time… you can really get yourself into a pickle. There were a couple occasions where I just ran out of time and because I couldn’t run out to Taco Bell or wherever for a burrito. So I just made myself some more scrambled eggs and ate a banana. There were definitely some downer times. Another thing that was an issue for me personally, is that I’m not a huge meat eater. I’ve flirted with becoming vegetarian a few times. When I do buy meat, I make sure it’s rated highly by the Global Animal Partnership or that it’s from a small and/or local farm (yay, farmer’s market). For someone who works really long hours, a single parent with kids at home or someone on a very low income… Whole 30 is not that realistic of an option. It takes a effort. The good thing is that it’s just for 30 days.

But, if it’s just for 30 days, what’s the point? Here are my takeaways. I learned important things from doing the Whole 30, even if it was only for two weeks in my case.

  1. Read your labels. I had NO idea how often sugar is sneaked into everything we eat. Bread with high fructose corn syrup. Summer sausage with dextrose (that’s sugar). Beef jerky with cane sugar. 95% of canned soups have sugar added to them as well as pasta sauces. I’m eating sugar again but I’m trying to keep it under control. So I am reading my labels and making choices when I see a lot of added sugar in something.
  2. Making food from scratch isn’t easy but it’s so tasty and rewarding! I will never again buy tomato sauce from a bottle or can now that I’ve made my own. You can hide all of your leftover veggies in there and it tastes great! I found Whole 30 recipes for making Ketchup and BBQ sauce from scratch. You can bet when my current supply runs out, I’ll be doing this.
  3. Almond milk is an awesome alternative to cow’s milk. I’m trying to move away from the animal food industry where I can. Now I’m ordering all of my coffee with almond milk. It adds a distinct buttery/nutty flavor but I love it.

So, have you tried the Whole 30? What did you think about it?

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Secrets of the Wedding Industry

The first paid position I found after losing my job last summer was at the Abernethy Center; a full-service wedding venue where Tom and I were married in 2013. While I applied to be a ceremony specialist (a day of site coordinator of sorts) I mostly worked as a server. And before this I had ZERO serving experience.

I don’t think I had your typical serving experience while at Abernethy however. There is no memorization of the menu, beyond what’s on the *limited* menu THAT night. There are no taking orders. There are no tips.

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While I left because I was frustrated at not being able to move beyond serving and because the hours were encroaching on my ability to effectively work at my other positions, my time in the wedding industry was an insightful one. Here is my advice for anyone planning their special day:

  1. Most couples see each other before the ceremony (for pictures) or do a first look. But the look on your fiance’s face when they see you coming down the aisle for the first time that day is something truly special. So consider it.
  2. If you decide not to see each other before the wedding, you MUST have appetizers for your guests. If you make guests wait more than an hour in between the ceremony and your arrival at the reception (while you’re out taking photos) with no food they will either get A) drunk B) hangry C) bored or D) all of the above.
  3. You will probably order more food than you need but that’s a good thing. While it was a bummer to see that amount of food that got thrown away at the end of each night, the worst was when a couple RAN OUT of food. It didn’t happen often but man oh man… it wasn’t a good thing when that happened.
  4. Fondant cakes are beautiful but they aren’t tasty. Or, rather, they have a large frosting to cake ratio and the frosting isn’t really that edible. Cakes can be pretty but they should be food first, art second.
  5. If you want to have a dry wedding, provide an Italian soda bar or something similar for your guests as an alternative to alcohol. Otherwise they will go through A LOT of coffee and tea. A lot.
  6. When your server comes to clear your table, don’t pile up plates for them in advance. We have a system for which plates to stack at the bottom (the ones with less food) and how to set silverware to the side of a tray. I had “helpful” people try to do this for me and it wasn’t helpful. But I appreciated the thought behind it.
  7. If you’re going to splurge on something, splurge on a good location (something that’s memorable and will photograph well), good food and some decent alcohol options, your DJ and your photographer. Having a good photographer and venue will be to your benefit. Having good food and music will be to your guests’ benefit. People won’t remember what color the flowers in your centerpieces were or which trinket you imparted them with. They will remember if they had a good time or not.
  8. Your DJ is the most underrated vendor at your wedding. DJs set the mood, make announcements, keep the “flow” of the event going and so much more! A bad DJ can (and I’ve seen it happen) ruin a wedding. A great DJ can elevate a good wedding to a fantastic party that everyone enjoys. Choose wisely.
  9. Please leave your ready rooms in a decent shape. I was so thankful when I got the bride or groom’s suite at the end of the night and it was tidy and not disgusting. The horrors I’ve seen in those places. Please, don’t be that person.
  10. Don’t do what everyone else is doing because it seems cool, unless it’s something you truly want to do. During my time as a server I would see waves of Pinterest inspired trends come through (succulents, cheesy photo booths, mason jars, candy tables). Those weddings tended to blur together. I really enjoyed those times I saw a couple’s personality come through in the decor or entertainment and I know their guests did too.

 

Oh, and we will cry during the speeches. No matter how many we’ve seen.

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My Not So Secret Shame

When I celebrated my birthday last summer I was obsessed with finding all of the things I could do (a Sephora Makeover, a visit to the Portland Rose Gardens) or get (a drink from Dutch Bros, a pastry from Panera) for free. This was because I had lost my job the month before and I didn’t know when I would have an income again. Money was tight and anxiety levels were high.

I don’t reference that time in my life too often anymore but occasionally I’ll catch myself saying things like “When I lost my job…” or even “When I was laid off…” Which is really sad because the truth is, I was fired. Terminated. Whatever you want to call it.

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Yes. You never think it’s going to happen to you. I certainly didn’t! And I always assumed that anyone who had been fired, or terminated, or “let go”, deserved it. And there again things can get tricky with that word deserved. I don’t think I deserved to be fired but obviously my employer felt differently. I’m not here to wax on about how I was mistreated or how awful they were to me. I was not given any formal warning, put on a PIP, or anything of that sort. In fact, I had a positive performance review earlier in the year (I still have the paper copy of that review too). So I was surprised to say the least. But Oregon is an Employment At-Will state, and so as long as I didn’t feel my firing was due to retaliation or another illegal reason, my termination was perfectly legal.

I did apply for unemployment and I did receive it roughly eight weeks later. During that time I applied for jobs like it was my new full-time position. Which it was. I remember one day where I had three interviews. In mid-September I had made it to second and third round interviews at four different places. My anxiety was high because I knew I was close to getting an offer and I thought I might have more than one to wrangle with.

I remember with one of the jobs, the hiring manager calling me personally to tell me they had chosen someone else but that I was their second choice. She asked if I wanted feedback on why they went with another candidate. I did. She said “I can tell you’re a humble person and that’s a great quality to have but in the job interview you have to sell yourself. I think you’ll go very far in life if you can get past that mental roadblock.” It was hard to hear but I appreciated that she took the time to call me and offer me advice.

My firing did do a number on my confidence and feeling of self worth. In 2014 I left an organization I loved and coworkers I got along with very well for a job that seemed like the perfect fit. And yes, I LOVED that job. It took two months, a phone interview, a panel interview, a project submission and a personal interview with the CEO for me to get the offer for that full-time job with benefits that I loved. And once it was gone I worried that I made a mistake. Because I had chosen to leave the place I had been for three years, where I felt stagnant in my career but otherwise cared deeply about.

In September of last year I did get one offer for a job and accepted it. And it’s a fantastic job that I now have. It’s the perfect match of an organization and department that supports its employees, has friendly coworkers who I get along well with AND is a position where I feel I can learn and grow. But… and there’s always a but. It’s part-time. In some ways I feel like it’s been six years since graduation and here I am, still working part-time. Although technically with the other part-time work I do (farmers markets, house cleaning and marketing consulting) I sometimes work over 40 hours a week AND make more money than I did in a week at my full-time job. It’s hard work juggling multiple commitments. Earlier this year I had to let one of my part-time jobs go. It got to be too much.

I know I work hard and yet there’s still some shame. Shame that I don’t have a full-time job with benefits aka a “real job” and shame in having once lost a job.

It’s something I need to work on.

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Best thing about not having a job? Trips to the beach with friends!

What this journey has taught me:

  1. One bad job experience won’t break you. Be honest with yourself and others. Use the people who are in your court, your advocates. Take advice from anyone willing to offer it. Volunteer more! Potential employers will see through a small negative in your job history when its surrounded by so much more positive.
  2. Dirty jobs are not beneath anyone. In the past year I have been a food service worker (both a server and barista). I have scrubbed other peoples’ toilets. I currently spend a good number of Saturday mornings hauling a tent, tables and product into my small hatchback and setting up a booth at the farmers market.
  3. Mentors are important but in the end I’m the only one responsible for getting myself ahead in life. If an opportunity comes, it’s up to me to take it or let it go.
  4. Hard work is hard. Taking time for relaxation and self care is key to surviving a hectic schedule and multiple commitments. Sometimes you just have to say NO to things. This is something I’m still working on.
  5. Having a budget and keeping track of how much money you spend on things is the secret to finding extra money in your life you didn’t think existed. I don’t deny myself life’s pleasures but I don’t eat out, grab coffee in the morning or buy myself clothes I don’t need even 1/4 as much as I did before my job termination. It forced me to be more careful with money. And even though it annoys Tom at times, having the perspective we do now makes me feel confident we could weather another financial storm if we have to. PSA: Have an emergency fund and a budget.
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Dancing in the rain after visiting Heceta Head Lighthouse last summer.

 

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How I Raised $5,935 to Fight Blood Cancers with Team In Training

Three years ago, in early summer 2013, I ran my first half-marathon, which was also my first ever endurance event. I hadn’t walked as much as a 5k going into it.

Today I spent four hours volunteering with set up for the Grateful Dad (a hippy themed Father’s Day race) to earn a free entry into one of Terrapin‘s future races. One week from today I’ll head back to my favorite place in the world – no, I’m not exaggerating this – Sunriver, Oregon to take part in the Pacific Crest Weekend Sports Festival. While I’m not training with Team In Training this year, I have their program to thank for getting me to the level of physical fitness and drive that I have today.

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After finishing my first half marathon, Rock N’ Roll Portland, in May 2013.

Now, $6k spread across three years and three races probably doesn’t seem like a lot and it is nowhere near what some of my teammates have been able to raise. But I’m proud of it because I had to work to raise that. In some cases that meant actual physical work! For me, the hardest obstacles to fundraising weren’t physical but mental. I am an introvert. When I signed up to do Team In Training in 2013 the training wasn’t what daunted me even though I was new to the race world. The fundraising was daunting because I didn’t feel comfortable asking people for money. I HATED it. And while it’s gotten easier it’s still never been something I feel comfortable doing.

Here’s how I did it.

Straight Up Ask for Money

While this is my least favorite way to fundraise it requires little effort and is the best place to start. Make a list of contacts; people you speak to on a regular basis, friends and family members. I like the handwritten letter approach because it’s more personal but this method could be done through email. If you really have the time, personalizing each letter is a really nice touch. If I knew the friend I was writing to had lost a loved one to blood cancer, I would offer to honor their memory by writing their name on the back of my race shirt – symbolically carrying them across the finish line. When you ask someone for money, you have to get used to hearing “No”… or in the case of a letter, just never hearing back. If you do hear a “No” you have to understand that it’s not personal. Perhaps this person has just donated to several other causes this year and they’re tapped out. Maybe they just can’t spare the money. It’s not personal. People will surprise you. The wealthy relatives you expected to donate might not but that college friend who is just starting out in their career? They might throw in $10 or $25. Ask everyone you feel comfortable asking, and don’t assume who will and will not give. An ask is just that. It’s not a demand.

Get Creative with a Raffle

During my Fall 2015 Season with Team In Training I  asked both local businesses and friends and family members for in-kind donations. This can be a great option for someone who can’t spare a monetary donation but still wants to help out your cause.

Gifts in kind, also referred to as inkind donations, is a kind of charitable giving in which, instead of giving money to buy needed goods and services, the goods and services themselves are given.

For my raffle I got gift baskets from local businesses (Starbucks and Stash Tea), and put together gift baskets comprised of items I’d won myself or wasn’t using (new water bottle, a gift card to a running store, makeup samples from Sephora, a bottle of vodka) and items that were gifted to my cause by friends and family (wine glasses, bottle of wine, brand new exercise ball). I asked people to make a donation of at least $25 dollars to be entered into the raffle. Several people participated and I was able to raise a few hundred dollars this way. A majority of the people who donated won a prize, so it was a win for them as well!

Get on the Streets and Panhandle

This I was really nervous to do. It’s tricky because you have to get lucky and find the right spot. On my first attempt back in my Spring 2014 Season I tried a freeway on-ramp outside Bridgeport Village with a teammate and got nada. During the Fall 2015 Season I tried a freeway off-ramp at Keizer Station just north of Salem with another teammate and we got over $75 in about an hour’s time. This same teammate and I had earlier tried a sidewalk just outside the Woodburn Outlet Stores and were shooed away by mall security. After that we tried the sidewalk by one of the exits from a parking lot and got minimal money. It was about $2.50 for over 30 minutes of time. Location matters A LOT. Private property won’t do. It has to be a public sidewalk. On another occasion during Fall 2015 Season a different teammate and I tried the sidewalk outside the Fremont Whole Foods in NE Portland. This sidewalk technically belonged to the store as it was between Whole Foods and the parking lot, not the parking lot and the sidewalk. But we went in and talked to management and they gave their blessing as long as we weren’t approaching people or hassling them (we stayed in one spot with our signs and buckets). For this we made over $50 in about an hour’s time. I later went back again on my own and made another roughly $50.

Sell Your Own Wares

I’m not crafty by any means but I can bake. During the Fall 2015 Season I took custom orders for healthy cookies using nut butters from Nut-Tritious Foods, a business owned by family. I offered to make the cookies vegan or gluten-free upon request. I was able to make $60 making 4 dozen cookies at $15 a batch. I also sold books to Powell’s City of Books and clothes to local resale shops and donated the money I made to my own fundraising efforts. I was able to raise about $25 this way.

Partner with Local Businesses for a Percentage of Sales

This is where things can really take off when it comes to fundraising. Lots of restaurants – Panda Express, California Pizza Kitchen, Old Spaghetti Factory, Chipotle and Burgerville come to mind – will partner with you for fundraising nights. This is done one of two ways. Burgerville is the only one I know of that does it the better way. They will donate 10% of sales between the hours of 4:00 and 8:00pm (typically) on a weeknight of your choosing (except Fridays) from anyone who walks in the door. Usually you help out by being in the store during those hours, helping deliver food and bussing tables. Burgerville will also sell Team In Training “blood drops” at the register for an optional additional donation to anyone who wants to purchase one. You make 100% of the donations from blood drops and someone could choose to spend $1 or as much as $20 on one. It’s up to their generosity. Most restaurants do fundraising nights by offering some higher percentage of sales (usually 20% to 50%) for an evening or a whole day but only to those people who mention your charity or fundraiser when they order. This can work half decently if you can get an entire office or large group of friends to eat at the same restaurant on the same day for lunch or dinner. One of my teammates was able to make flyers about her fundraiser and pass them out to people entering the restaurant while the fundraiser was happening, and those people probably mentioned it. But most restaurants won’t let you do that. You can tell every single one of your facebook friends you’re having a fundraiser at X restaurant but unless they decide to eat there that night and ALSO mention your fundraiser you won’t get any donations. I did a fundraiser at California Pizza Kitchen during my Fall 2015 Season and used my birthday as a way to get a huge group of people in and ensure donations. It worked but even so at the end of it all, I got a check for about $70. Compare that to Burgerville. The worst one I did, where they only sold 20ish blood drops, still made over $200. At another Burgerville the staff got really laser-focused on selling the blood drops and my teammate and I ended up with over $1,000 in donations!

Carman Drive Burgerville

Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Blood Drops covering the wall at Burgerville. This is the location that made my teammate and I over $1,000 in donations!

Some businesses – Sees Candy, Jamba Juice and What’s the Scoop? Ice Cream in Portland are a few – offer a product-selling fundraiser. In the case of Sees Candy and Jamaba Juice you have to purchase the product (chocolate bars or gift cards) at a discount and then sell them at regular price. You keep the difference, which becomes a donation. During my Fall 2015 Season two other teammates and I did a fundraiser with What’s the Scoop?. Here we didn’t have to put out any money. We took orders for $8 pints of ice cream (four flavors available) and gave the completed orders back to staff at What’s the Scoop? For every pint we sold, What’s the Scoop? donated $4, which is 50% of sales. Not bad! Purchasers had to stop by the shop during a 3 day time period to pick up their pints. My teammates and I made a little over $100 doing this. When split three ways it wasn’t great for the amount of effort involved but I could have done it by myself and then $100 would have been great.

Keep Your Blog Up-to-Date and Post on Social Media

This one’s really simple. When you join Team In Training you’re given a blog where you can track donations and write updates to keep friends and family in the loop about your progress, both physical and fundraising. I’m a writer so the idea of blogging was one I was already into. But writing there helped keep me focused and engaged. And when I posted an update to Facebook? Well, I got a few donations that way. It was less than $50, but it all adds up in the end.

Sunriver1

At Mile 12 of the Pacific Crest Half Marathon in June 2014.

Finally, I think it’s important to understand that when you fundraise with Team In Training you’re getting “free” race registration, T-shirt and dinner the night before the race. For this reason I like to donate to my own fundraising the rough amount that will be spent benefiting me personally. That way any donation from family, friends and strangers is truly going to the mission. This isn’t something you have to do but I like to.

I was inspired to write about my fundraising journey because it wasn’t easy but I did it. I did it while working at nonprofits where I wasn’t allowed to solicit donations (lots of teammates fundraised at their work places) and while making an entry-level nonprofit salary. I did it despite being an introvert who hates being in the awkward position of asking people for money. In the past couple years as I’ve broken into this “run-walking” thing I’ve talked to a lot of other runners and walkers. Not all of them have done Team In Training and for many of them, the idea of fundraising is too much to handle. But if I can do it, so can they. I’m not trying to sugar coat anything. It is a challenge. There’s a reason I am taking this year off! But it is so rewarding. The training you get and the friends and contacts you make are so valuable. When I’m ready to make the leap from half-marathons to a full marathon, the first place I’m going to sign up is with Team In Training.

Nike SF 69

Sam, Kristen, Rachael, me and Karlene during the Nike Women’s San Francisco Half Marathon in October 2015. I helped train these ladies as a mentor during the Fall Season.

 

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