Half my Life

So, this past October I turned 30. I wondered what the first year of my 30’s would bring.

So far: stress, exhaustion, carb loading, yoga, sunsets, pictures, peace, revelations, and lots of feelings.

Today those feelings bubble to the surface like hot grits over the side of a pan, ebbing and flowing as the steam inside waxes and wanes.

15 years ago today my father died.

As I reflect on what that has meant to my life and who I have become, the tears and anger come back to me like it was yesterday and I wonder if this pain ever really goes away.

I have healed over and over, in different ways about him missing graduations, relationships, smiles, tears, birthdays, and celebrations.

But what stuck out today was he has missed half of my life. To live half your life without a person who makes up half of what you are (genetically at least) leaves this whole in your identity, no one else can ever really fill.

The emotional me thinks about:

The first time I saw a picture of my dad as child, I sobbed for hours, because it was a picture in a box of things he would never get to show me. Or finding a letter he wrote to my mom, and wondering what things means or who he was at the time he said the things he said. The questions I would never be able to ask and the person I could never understand. Or the fact he will never walk me down the isle or hold any of his grandchildren. The emotional me knows, while he physically misses these things, parts of him are here and present, from his handkerchief I carry to the pictures next to my office, somewhere here he still exists.

The rational me thinks about:

How much pain he was in, how his feelings drowned him from being the man anyone ever knew to being the half human I grew up with, how the only thing I ever wanted was for him to be free from everything he kept inside and I can only hope that by not being here somehow that is possible for him. The rational me know, he was not here living any kind of life, he was here dying slowly in a way no person deserves and letting him go, was the only way for him to find relief from all the things which caged him.

So for the last 15 years, these emotions and rational thoughts have been at war.

Who wins?

On the less emotional days usually the rational thoughts, who remind me the good days for my father were few and far between. And while he did his best not to show it, there was a place in my little existence as early as 4 which knew he could not be saved, and I watched and waited, knowing he would not be here for very long.

On the days where every tear falls heavy like rain, my emotions gather the best of my heart into a little cup and tip it over, so some part of me cries out and lets him know he is still missed and needed and wanted. Even though he cannot be here, the child who still lives inside, screams for the parent she will never know and the person she will never meet who once resided in the man she looked up to and the person in so many ways she would ultimately become and have to overcome.

Today, I know the rational and emotional are no longer at war, but trying to learn to co-exist. To allow for each truth to own its place in my life. Neither one is wrong, both have a place in my being, in who I am and how I honor and value the relationship with the man who meant the world to me without ever really knowing him.

Being Single Focused & Present in a Multi-Tasking World!

There comes a time when you just learn to be present, in the here and now, and let everything else fall away!

In today’s world it feels as though each person wears 100 hats a day. From parent, worker, student, partner or spouse, soccer mom, non-profit volunteer to writer, baker, mail man etc. The list of labels and roles could go on FOREVER!

With this growing list of “jobs” which take up our time, it seems as though we are more and more expected to be in multiple places at the same time. We are meant to multi-task and get it all done while looking fabulous and being “present” in everything we do.

This feels so unrealistic.

Over the last 10 days, I have put down the Facebook & Twitter (most the time), My blog, and other electronic distractions to be more present in each activity I am experiencing! Rather than capturing a picture to post or a memory to “share” I have let go of the constant updates and the who is doing what “feed” to try and get more present in the lives of those I know. This has allowed me to not only be more present in the lives of those I care about, but also in the relationships I have with my job, my spouse, and my school work.

I have read mean articles about what getting rid of your Facebook can do for you and not that I was skeptical at all, but I had to try it for myself.

Granted, nothing huge changed. I just noticed I was able to focus on one action at a time, rather than trying to always do more than one thing at a time. I found I did things better and more thoroughly. I also noticed I had more time to do other things because I was more effective at what I was doing. I made to go to the lookout point with some friends, talk on the phone to my God-Father and write a letter to someone I hadn’t talked to in a few years.

These things were small, but when added up, I spent 10 hours of time doing things which meant something to me, rather than spending time doing more than one thing at a time (like working and checking my Facebook, or tweeting in class). By doing less, I actually did it better and had more time in the end.

So how can you be more present or single-focused? Yes it is hard, but well worth it!

Kit-Kat Candy Bar Banana Bread Mini Muffins

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Ingredients:
3 c. Flour spooned and sifted
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
3 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking powder

3 eggs

1 c. Vegetable oil Or jar apple sauce for low fat version
2 c. Sugar or Splenda
3 tsp vanilla
2 c. Banana or Substitute Wet Ingredients listed below
5-6 Regular size Kit-Kat bars broken into the 4 sticks and then each stick into 3 pieces
Directions:
Pre heat oven to 325° F.
Line a 50ct mini muffin tray with paper liners

Start by sifting and mixing all the dry ingredients and set aside in a separate bowl

In a stand mixer or with a bowl and electric mixer mix  the wet ingredients to the vanilla
Add the dry ingredients 1 cup at a time, making sure to stop and scrape down the sides and each addition is fully combined before adding the next one 

Add the banana or wet ingredients and mix till combined

Fold in the Kit-Kat candy bar pieces using a spatula.
Use a medium size cookie scoop to fill the muffin cups 3/4 full.

Place on middle rack and bake for about 20 minutes till golden brown on top and spring back when touched.

You may also elect to use – 2 loaf pans or 13×9 cake pan
Make sure to spay with non stick spray (that has flour)
Evenly divide the batter between the pans
Bake for aprox. 1 hour for loaf pans or about 45 minutes for 13×9
Do not check by opening the over too often, keep over light on and check to see when golden brown.

Note: you can substitute other wet ingredients for Banana if desired:
Ex:
Zucchini
Carrot
Prunes
Apples / apple sauce
Greek Yogurt
Sour cream
Raspberries
Strawberries
Blueberries

Magic Cookie Bars

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These were by far my favorite “cookie” as a kid. They are more of a bar type dessert you eat on a plate since it is messy! I promised to give the recipe to someone and so I figured I would share with the masses. Sorry there are no pictures of this one… I will take some and update the recipe soon!

This will make 1 – 13×9 pan

Ingredients:

3 c. Graham Cracker Crumbs

1/2 c. butter/margarine

1c. chocolate chips

1 can sweetened condensed milk ( I use Borden Fat Free)

1 & 1/2 c. of any of the following toppings (or really anything else which you can think of as an Ice cream topping – minus gummy bears LOL)

Raisins, Chocolate Chips, Coconut, Roasted Almonds, Peanuts, M&M’s, Pecans, Yogurt Chips, Dried Cranberries etc.

Directions:

Pre-heat your over to 400° F.

Start by melting the butter in the microwave for 1 minutes (it might not be melted all the way, but that is ok). Mix the graham crumbs with the butter. They should be moist (like a rung out sponge) but not wet, if you find they are still runny or really wet add more crumbs till they are a little more sturdy.

Dump the crumbs into the 9×13 pan and use a rubber spatula to pat them into an even layer in the bottom of the pan. Bake in the oven for 5-7 minutes, till golden. You should smell it in the air when it is ready.

Once the crust is out of the oven allow it to cool 10 minutes.

Then top with your selected toppings. You want to make sure you leave some little “blank spaces” meaning you see the crust through the toppings.

Then crack the can of condensed milk using a can opener with a point and drizzle it from the opening in the top or take off the lid and spoon it over. I usually use a spoon and drizzle it one spoonful at a time for even covering.

Once the entire can is distributed over the entire pan, place the pan in the oven to bake for 15-20 minutes. You will know when the bars are done when the condensed milk bubbles and becomes slightly golden (you do no want it too brown, or the bars get to crunchy and become hard to eat).

Allow to cook at least 1 hour, and then cut and enjoy!

Photo Finish!

One of my bucket list items for the year was to take 100 pictures in 100 days and share them in my blog. Well tonight marks the 100th day and I am posting a project I spent the last 10 days taking pictures for. A project I did on homelessness for one of my honors classes.

I examine some of the ways in which Portland communicates as an urban space about homelessness.

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Capturing Homelessness One Snapshot at a Time

Portland appears to be one of the most popular destinations for populations with no permanent place to reside. I pass people in doorways of buildings and under awnings regularly, seeking relief from rainy Portland days. While I cannot tell for sure if all the people I pass are homeless, I am sure some of them actually are.

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I chose to focus on homelessness for this project because it reminded me of when I was homeless. Over the course of 2 years I found my way from San Jose, California where I lived at the time, to many places on the West Coast.  The appeal for each of these places was it was where someone else was going, not really by any choice of my own. Reflecting on each of these places and how they communicated to their homeless citizens helped me in compiling and thinking about this project.

During this last month I sought to explore how Portland as an urban center communicated about homelessness. I explored how local businesses and public spaces communicated to the homeless people surrounding them. I watched homeless people in the spaces where they resided. I paid attention to how the local police treated the homeless who were in public spaces. I also became painfully aware how many empty buildings sit completely empty and could be put to good use for those who currently live in the public spaces of the city.

I started around the food carts off 10th and Alder downtown Portland. I found there were many people with signs on corners asking for food or change and in the park close by either talking in groups or sleeping under the trees. I also found you could walk by the local library at any time of day and find at least a handful of homeless people sitting on benches or the stone steps leading to the library doors.

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(Multnomah County Library – Downtown Portland)

I found in this area, densely populated with homeless people, many businesses had signs to communicate to the homeless population. Some indicated they might not be refused if they came in, others specified they were welcome only if they could afford to use the businesses services. These businesses also chose to communicate where public resources are located (ie: restrooms) rather than letting them use their facilities.

Chinese resturant(Art Café – Near the art museum on 12th)

deli   (Café/Deli off 11th and Taylor)

boutique (Boutique near Pioneer Square)

While these businesses were restrictive in a sense, the theme of public spaces being more forgiving and gentle with the homeless population was seen. I sat for a few hours in multiple places and watched the homeless sleep, eat, sing, and dance.

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(Group of guys rapping in the parks blocks)

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(O’Bryant Square – Downtown Portland)

While Portland has no specific sit-lay laws in public spaces like other cities like San Francisco, it is something which has been put on the voting ballot multiple times and never gone through. Here you can see, even with a man sleeping the space was continually used by other people both homeless and not. This communicates the fact that while these people live outside it does not always deter others from using the same spaces they occupy.

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(Liz & Drake – Corner of 10th & Alder)

Another instance in public space was in the Parks blocks one afternoon where I noticed a man sleeping. Within 15 feet there was a large group of children playing. There was no concern by the adults watching them for the safety of the children, no qualms about them being in such close proximity to someone who they did not know. This is something I noticed in other public spaces which was different from other places I have lived. The homeless people in Portland are not as feared as other places I lived, like in San Francisco, CA or El Paso, TX.

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(Parks blocks off Madison and Park Ave)

In all of these public spaces, there were no signs prohibiting homeless people. There were signs which prohibited certain types of trespassing, but nothing like the signs seen in the doorways of stores or near private parking garages. These signs let them know they were allowed on private property and were often being watched if they tried to utilize these spaces.

I even saw a homeless man being ticketed by a bicycle cop in downtown for sitting in front of a store which had a no loitering sign. Rather than asking him to leave, he was criminalized for getting out from the weather by sitting under their awning.

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 (Joe (the man) getting the ticket)

Overall these private spaces continue to communicate a sense of un-welcome to the homeless masses. But there population is not getting smaller or going away. I travel daily by empty buildings and spaces which could be used to offer the homeless some space of the own. However, these building are often private businesses which have gone under and rather than let the space serve a civic purpose they would rather be left empty.  Communicating that offering no other resources is acceptable and un-used space is better off sitting un-used.

empty building 1 (Old Pharmacy Building – SE Foster)

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(Old Auto Shop on NE Alberta)

These 2 men were sleeping under tarps outside of a large empty building on Jefferson and Broadway

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Overall Portland conveys a rather clear message about homelessness in its urban area. Private space is private and public space can be used as long as no one complains and other citizens are not disturbed. It is also conveyed that most people are not afraid to use the same streets or spaces as the homeless population, meaning they are not feared or considered dangerous in a public regard.

While the amicable social acceptance in Portland allows the homeless to live outside under tarps and in parks, perfectly good indoor spaces are left empty and rotting. Essentially communicating two gaps exist, one for the people with nowhere to live having to live outside and a second for the empty buildings which have no purpose. Allowing these two gaps in urban space to be combined and utilizing space which has sat empty for years in some cases, could bring relief to the tensions of homelessness in urban space and the waste of space in urban design.