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Changing cities

15 Aug

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In July we took a trip to Seattle for a mix of family and business. First family, then business. We spent a few days on the Eastside visiting my family in surprisingly hot summer weather. We had happy hour among blackberry bushes slowly trying to reclaim my mother’s backyard. We watched hummingbirds in her flowers and got chased inside every night by giant mosquitos. The area around my childhood home is still wild and undeveloped, it is deeply green and in such contrast from parched San Francisco right now. We drove a few miles down the road to visit a new-ish local farm in the pasture of a former dairy. As kids and then later as teenagers we’d drive by this dairy on our way to the river or the falls, and had to hold our breath as we passed this stretch of country road. Now the cows are gone, the dairy has been converted to another use and that farm-y smell is long gone.

We spent a few days north of Seattle visiting Intern’s family for a big family reunion and got caught up with all the aunties, cousins, new babies and family friends we haven’t seen or met in a long time. Our usual cooking lessons with Intern’s ammi were brief, the weather was hot and there was a big party to prep for. Our free mornings and evenings were spent digging through old family photo albums, hearing stories, and finally getting a good laugh and a hearty dose of some awkward photos of those uncomfortable teenage years that have until this trip, been hidden away with purpose. Other people’s teenage years are really endearing to look at, I felt so much love for my young lanky Intern and his sweet sister, during the baggy clothes years of the 90s. SO. MUCH. LOVE. I don’t think Intern enjoyed it quite as much as I did.

I spent some time at my mom’s house looking for two Rome books I wanted to bring home, and in the course of searching, found a few old boxes of mine full of high school and college photo albums and journals. I flipped through a couple sort of hastily, it brought up a mixture of nostalgia and uncomfortable embarrassment for me. I was suddenly feeling old but also feeling like all of that feeling was still recent in my mind. Reading old journal entries was just too much for me, I stopped rereading after a few very earnest entries, one about my first time voting in a general election, and another about an apparently very drunken college party… that was SO FUN. Hopefully older, older Kate will appreciate how much younger Kate documented her life in journals, cause right now it just causes me to cringe. I stacked all those journals down at the bottom of the boxes and repacked them again– I think it will be a few more years before I feel ready for a good trip into the past.

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We said our goodbyes to family and spent some time in Seattle working and visiting shops before taking the train down to Portland for a few days of the same. Our conversation kept rotating around the same subjects: could we live here? Does this city have what we want and need? The purpose of our trip wasn’t to evaluate Seattle and Portland for possible livability– we have no moving plans, yet we couldn’t stop. Portland has always been the city that we’ve pondered and put in the maybe category. It seems to be some of Seattle, some of San Francisco, and a lot of other things too. Seattle has changed since our last visit, and even more since we left it 5 years ago. Portland has evolved too, as it will continue to do. San Francisco is racing in different directions of course, in good, bad and strange ways. Instead of accepting this, Intern and I have been busy dissecting it, like we are searching for something specific.

Cities aren’t the same once we leave them, and they don’t stay the same, even if we stay put. Our wise Portland friend Kanna reminded us so expertly, “That’s the thing about cities, they change, that is what they are supposed to do”… or something like that. What she said was succinct and so perfectly simple, I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind. We love where we live, and can’t imagine life in the suburbs or the country, because we believe life there moves too slowly. We crave change and movement, but at the same time we’re living in our chosen city and constantly questioning and critiquing the changes around us.  Why is it that we can’t come to terms with the very thing that we love about cities?

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A significant birthday

21 Jan

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A couple days ago, I turned thirty. Thirty was not a scary milestone for me, but it did feel significant. Nothing abruptly changes or ends at thirty, but there is a transition-y feeling lingering in my mind. Ten years ago I turned twenty, and I can barely remember what that felt like. Twenty-year-old Kate was vaguely planning to go to law school after college, not move to Italy, have a huge life transition/crisis, get a design degree in San Francisco and work for herself. Nope, I was a different person then, thinking of a very different life for myself.

A much older someone recently told me to remember the feeling of being thirty, because 10 years from now, forty will feel twice as old. Nice, right?

I’ve always secretly felt eager to be a little older. Maybe its a holdover from being the youngest child, or usually finding myself the youngest among friends. I still feel it, I like being a little older. I feel more sure of myself and my work every year, I feel more confident in knowing when to say no and when to say yes to experiences, people and opportunities. Dare I say, thirty feels pretty good?

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To celebrate and reflect on another year of growing, working and being a full-time grown woman, Intern and I took a few days off mid-week and drove to Healdsburg for a few days of fun and relaxation in wine country. We biked, we napped, we read books, we picnicked and wandered. I didn’t worry about anything for three full days!

Thanks-break

3 Dec

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For as long as we’ve lived in the bay area, I have wanted to experience the hot springs in Sonoma and Calistoga. Its so close to us — but we never make time. This past week, we decided to keep Thanksgiving plans low key, so we could take some extra time off to really relax. I had it set in my head that hot springs would be the only way to calm down and recover from the past few months of work-stress. Intern was a bit  doubtful about the curing properties of hot mineral water… but I felt pretty certain.

After all the hustling and juggling of the past few months, its hard to slow down. I have a hard time giving myself permission to give a break, even if that means “taking a break” while also doing two other things at the same time. Not an effective method for achieving relaxation. Intern and I made plans and shook on it, we’d take 2 days off. The magical part of our plan was that it actually happened. No work crisis, no last minute meetings, no reason to postpone our trip. The morning we’d planned to head out to Calistoga we found a last minute deal on a hotel, so we packed our picnic and an overnight bag and got on the road.

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The drive to Calistoga from San Francisco is just under two hours. We visited a winery for a pre-Thanksgiving picnic lunch, then dumped our bags and threw on swimsuits to test out those restorative mineral hot springs. Works like a charm. In two days we packed in a good amount of healing water and relaxation. We drove back the following afternoon to make our traditional Thanksgiving meal.

Washington in Fall

18 Nov

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After 10 days in Washington, its good to be back in warmer, drier weather, though having a taste of real fall was pretty refreshing. Bright fall leaves, listening to rain at night and a fire roaring in the fireplace? Not bad for a few days. I think I experienced a full spectrum of weather there- rainy days, windy days, dry cloudy days and even a few days of patchy sun. I sort of miss that changing weather and rain! The rain was brief, and very very nice.

My sister went out into the woods near my mom’s house and came back dragging this old painted sign we’d taken out there as kids. The sign is probably 15-20 years old, long forgotten in our old fort hidden in the woods between old growth stumps and moss covered nurse logs. I remember taking the sign out to the woods with my sister, carrying it over streams and wetlands and across fallen logs and through dense woods to a little moss covered clearing. Every trip out to the woods was always full of big plans for extended trips out to our fort, but in reality most of those plans were thwarted by too many mosquitos from the surrounding wetlands, or our encounters with mysterious animal tracks in the mud, and scary sounds and movement just beyond our eyesight. I realize now we were pretty brave kids, much braver than I feel now.

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Napa Valley Escape

27 Aug

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For the last three years we’ve joined Intern’s company for a weekend-long retreat away from the city. Coworkers, consultants, families and an open bar all weekend. There are planned activities like biking, pool parties, golf and competitive wine tasting. Things can get a little rowdy, but this year things got a little fancy. This year the escape was held in Napa, with a special party at Castello di Amorosa. The dinner was black tie, with a masquerade ball following dinner. After dinner we all put on our masks and were lead down through narrow candlelight hallways down deep underneath the castle, past wine cellars, a room of armor, and even a torture chamber. Yes, more than one reference to Eyes Wide Shut was made… but fortunately the only thing waiting for us at the end of the procession was top 40 music and a dessert bar.

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