What Do You Do?

Have you ever been in this situation? You’re at a party, or gathering of some kind, mingling among some people you know, others you don’t. Eventually, you’re approached by someone in the room you’ve never met before. After the introductions, there’s the inevitable question, “So, what do you do?”.

This question, as we all understand, is asking about our job or career. When someone asks, “What do you do?” they aren’t asking what your hobbies are, what books you’ve read lately, if you like skiing or if you fix up classic cars in your spare time. They are asking about the thing you do to earn money.

This question has always bothered me for many reasons. I’ve struggled to decide what exactly about this question bothers me. The short answer is that in our society talking about money (how much you make, how little you have etc.) is considered somewhat taboo, but here you are asking a question which will tell you roughly how much money I make. Yet this question is totally acceptable. It is even one of the ubiquitous questions we are asked in any number of social situations.

Here’s the long answer; there are plenty of people who would find some jobs less “respectable” than others. For an extreme, think of the sex worker or porn actor at a gathering being asked this question. What do they say? For something less extreme think about the stay at home mother? We all know the reactions stay at home moms get. It’s the same reaction working moms get; judgement. She stays at home all day her house must be immaculate, her husband must have a great job, she probably sits at home eating cookies all day. Or on the other hand, she’s a working mom? She must never see her kids and must never cook for her husband. I wonder if she makes more money than him. Her kids must not know her at all. What about the unemployed person, or the person between jobs? Since you ask about their profession, they’re forced to talk about something that might be extremely sensitive or shameful for them. And if we’re all honest with ourselves if we know nothing else about a person other than the fact that they don’t have a job they immediately fall into a pretty negative category; lazy, pitiful, stupid.

Maybe I dislike this question not so much due to the comfort or concern for other people, but because this is such a difficult question for me. I’m 37 and have never had a “career”. I have stood in rooms full of intelligent, successful people and dreaded when someone would walk up and ask me “So! What do you do?” I’d cringe a smile at them as I tried to decide what angle to choose, Starbucks barista, or just barista because what if they hated Starbucks? Writer or author? What if they ask if I’ve been published? Which “job” would get just a tad bit more respect?

When I was a grad student the question became a little easier because it bought me time. I didn’t have to have a real job yet because I was still learning. But now I’ve got that Master’s degree, and I’m still floundering for the best answer to give to this question. Because I’m discovering that maybe I don’t want to get a “real job” just yet.

Maybe I enjoy staying at home, cooking, baking, cleaning, planning get together’s, and carting my kid around to his various activities. Maybe I want to start writing seriously again. I was really in it for a while. My blog was updating regularly, I had followers I didn’t know personally! My blog got an award from a fellow blogger once.

I sometimes wonder what might have happened if I kept with it instead of stopping all together when I started my master’s program. I don’t regret getting the degree; I met some great people; maybe I’ll be a librarian, maybe not. Only I wonder, what might have happened if I hadn’t let other people’s expectations into my head. If the strangers raised eyebrow hadn’t bothered me so much…

Some of these reactions are extremes to be sure, some people are very kind and non-judgmental. But the fact remains, the person asking this question has no other information about this person answering aside from their job, so extreme judgments are going to be made. We as humans rarely give each other the benefit of the doubt. People talk about how mean kids are…but where do you think they get that from? The kids just say it out loud, while adults have learned to keep their mouths shut.

And does a person’s profession really tell you much about who they are? I was a Starbucks barista for two years and when I told people their usual response was “wow you must love coffee!”. Which, sure coffee is tasty, and I do like it, but it isn’t a pivotal piece of my personality. If you took away coffee, I would still be me because liking coffee doesn’t define me. And then there was the moment when they would ask what I actually wanted to do. In my case I was writing a lot and trying to get published, but what if I wasn’t? What if I was happy being a barista with no plans on moving up the ladder to a corporate job eventually? Isn’t that ok? I’d argue that no, it’s not. It’s not ok to be content with a job like that, because this person knows zero else about why you are content with that job.

Maybe this barista wants to travel the world. Starbucks pays well, has stock options, and healthcare for employees working at least 20 hours a week. Why not take that job save money and use the savings for epic vacations? When you hear that story perhaps your opinion of that person changes, but that’s not the question you asked. You asked, what do you do? And that barista has been asked that question many times before and is sick of explaining themselves to get respect from a stranger.

There are not that many people out there that live to work. Few are the folks I’ve run in to who speak about their job like it’s a gift and they can’t wait to go each day. I’ve known people who like their job, enjoy the work, and have nice co-workers, but at the end of the day they’re happy to punch out and go home to do the things they want to do. So why don’t we ask about those things?

This is my goal for this year, to not ask one person what they do for a job, but what they like to do. Or ask specific things like what books they’ve read, what movies they’ve seen, what their favorite meal is. I want to ask questions to get to know the actual person. I’ve seen meme’s and jokes on the internet about people opening up too quickly and how awkward it is; but I love that. I hate small talk and “What do you do?” is the pinnacle of that. I’d rather have a conversation about someone’s favorite vacation, than hear about what clients they dealt with for eight hours of their day. I’m not trying to start a new trend. My goal is not to create the latest trending hashtag (#squirrelsarehighincholesterol #namethatmovie), I’m not looking to be the pioneer of the newest buzzwordy practice. Very simply, I want to make more meaningful connections with the people I meet and I don’t believe “what do you do?” is the way to do so.


French Lessons

France! Our family visited this past summer and it was lovely. It was the three of us, my boyfriend, my 9 year old son, and me. Some people are wary of travelling with kids, and that’s understandable. Kids are messy and stinky and complain a lot, but despite all of that, my kiddo is one of my favorite travel companions. I was excited to take him to France because he’s been obsessed with it since he was three years old. While the trip was enjoyable overall, I learned a lot about traveling with him and traveling in general on this trip.

I thought I was pretty decent traveler to begin with. I can pack light, I know what should go in a carry on bag, and I try to be considerate and make sure my son is considerate of other travelers. If you’re sitting in front of my kid on a flight your seat won’t be kicked. Getting him to keep his feet on his side on a train though is a little more difficult. What follows are some lessons I learned while on this trip to France.

Lesson 1: Get into tourist mode right away. This may sound weird to you, especially if you want to blend in and “live like a local”. I totally understand that feeling, but here’s the fact, you’re not a local. You are a tourist. That doesn’t mean you are allowed to be obnoxious, and it doesn’t give you permission to be an asshole, but you’re not local. You’re likely staying in a hotel, you don’t know the streets, you won’t know the in’s and out’s of all the places you’re visiting. So don’t pretend like you are a local and go out unprepared.

I did this on one of our first big outings to Versailles. My first mistake was that I brought my purse with my wallet and sunglasses. And that’s it. It was a whole day trip, a 30 minute drive from our hotel, with my kid in tow and that’s all I brought. That was real dumb. I should have brought my medium sized bag with sunscreen, bottled water, snacks, and our pouch with meds, band-aids etc. Because there were no stores with these items inside the palace. I assumed there would be, but my assumption was super incorrect. So we walked into Versailles, got our audio guides then went looking for a bottle of water since it was hot and we were parched. We learned we’d have to exit the palace (which we hadn’t toured yet), turn in our audio guides, buy water then wait in the long line to get in again. Traveler fail. We toured the palace, thirsty and a bit grumpy. Had I been prepared with our mid-sized bag with water and snacks it would have been a better experience.

My second mistake at Versailles was the fact that I insisted on eating at this overpriced, fancy restaurant for breakfast. We arrived at Versailles around 9:30am and there was basically no line to get in, we could have walked right in. But I really wanted to try this place called Ore. So we made a reservation for 10am and waited a bit. At first it seemed like it would be a fun experience (the hostess was nice), but we were quickly proven wrong. This was the only place I experience the “bad french attitude” I’d heard so much about. It was overpriced and the portions were tiny. But mostly the staff was so rude. We spent a little over an hour in this snotty place. By this time the line to get in to the palace was winding through the front courtyard. Unless you want to pay out the nose for a snotty experience, then wait in line for 30 minutes, skip going to Ore and get to Versailles early to beat the line up.

My last mistake was wondering around to find water. This can be avoided if you decide not to be a dum-dum and bring your own water. The audio tour starts right after you receive the device and it follows a pretty distinct path. Wandering around aimlessly will get you lost and you’ll miss large chunks of the tour. It will also take twice as long as you try to find your way back to the starting point.

Versailles was a beautiful experience and I wish we could have gone again so I could fix my mistakes and actually enjoy it a little more. My traveler flubs made it a difficult day and I missed a lot things I would have liked to see, like the gardens, the Queen’s Hamlet and the Estate of Trianon. Had we skipped Ore and brought our own refreshment we might have covered more ground and enjoyed ourselves more.

So don’t be afraid to bust out the mid-sized bag when going to the big tourist destinations. They’re going to be full of tourists anyway, might as well join the maddening crowd.

Lesson 2: Have a discussion about expectations before you go. My kid is obsessed with video games, and my boyfriend is too. It’s their hobby, they love them. I don’t, but I try to be understanding. So it’s natural that on their vacation they wanted to play them. I didn’t realize before I left that I had certain expectations around vacations; especially family vacations. I suppose I had this idea in my head that we’d spend the whole day together then come back to the hotel and chat about what we liked, what was weird etc before we disengaged from each other. The truth of what happened was more like we got back to the hotel and immediately started ignoring each other which bummed me out. Our mistake was that we didn’t discuss how we liked to relax at the hotel at the end of the day. I also didn’t discuss my expectations regarding screen time with the kid before we left, so that was also a mistake.

It got to the point where Jack was bringing a device out with him everyday and pretty much playing it the entire time. He missed our first whole week in Paris because of this. On our Big Bus Tour he didn’t look around and see things and learn things. He stared at his phone and that bummed me out.

I took him out for a walk on our last morning in Paris. As we walked I talked to him about his devices. I told him about how I worried that he was playing on them too much and becoming a one dimensional person at 8 years old. He used to want to try so many things. When we were in Scotland he ran around and played while we were out. He looked around and saw things. He was present on that vacation, because his iPad wasn’t really a thing yet. This is actually a deeper issue for the two of us which I may or may not write about later. But there was an element of that deeper stuff in our conversation.

So basically we had a big conversation about expectations and being present, but it didn’t happen until a week into our vacation, so he missed a lot of it. Things improved a little more each day as we adjusted and did our best to meet each others expectations. But it would have been so much better if we’d sat down and had a family meeting before we left. Going on vacation with grievances on your mind makes for a crappy getaway.

Lesson 3: Packing is an art. I’ve been traveling for some time now. Our first international trip as a little family was back in 2014 when Jack and I went to Scotland. I totally and utterly over packed for that trip. I brought clothes that never saw the light of day, because although it was summer, it was also Scotland, so those shorts and tank tops stayed packed away in our gigantic suitcase. Now that Jack is a little older, he can handle pulling his own suitcase through the airport, which is helpful when it comes to packing. The reason we took such a huge suitcase to Scotland was the fact that I put both Jack and my clothes in the same bag. At the time I didn’t think he could handle taking care of his own bag so it made sense. But here’s what might have made more sense, pack a rolling bag for me, a duffel for Jack and utilize the space in our backpacks better. I think that would have made train travel less stressful.

For France I did things differently. I packed enough undergarments and socks for the duration of the trip, but only packed a little over a weeks worth of clothes. We were going to be gone for about two and half weeks. The idea was to pack pieces that could be mixed and matched easily. The thing with France, Paris especially, is that they are bit more dressed up on the regular over there. Casual wear in France is more like business casual in the US. And I only have so many business casual pieces. I only purchased two new tops and one new skirt for this trip. It worked out pretty well. I was more careful when eating knowing I was going to have to re-wear a lot of my outfits, but that wasn’t too bad. My sister and boyfriend will tell you, I can afford to be a little more careful when eating. I packed the same way for Jack, of course he dribbled stuff on his clothes often. But usually a scrub in the bathroom sink took care of that.

Additionally, many hotels offer laundry services. They can be a little pricey, but if you’re desperate for a clean shirt or pants it could be worth it. Personally I’d only utilize that service if there’s a huge stain or if the garment is getting really stinky, which after only two and half weeks wasn’t a problem for me. At three or four weeks though I would absolutely toss everything in the laundry bag and say go to town! There were a few backpackers we came across that would have benefited from such a service.

Lesson 4: When it comes to train travel, just relax. I admit it, I have some bad travel anxiety. It’s sort of weird because it’s not the act of traveling that stresses me out. Planes, trains, boats, and automobiles don’t make me nervous, I don’t get motion sick, nothing reasonable like that. It’s the thought of missing my plane, train, or boat that stresses me out. 

So I usually arrive hours ahead of time and then end up ridiculously bored waiting for my plane to board. But I always thought it’s better to arrive and wait were you should be then arrive late and panic through security.

Train travel in France, however, does not follow with this. We left Paris for Marseille on a Sunday. Our train was leaving around Noon so I insisted we get a cab to the station around 10:30am, which felt a little late, but I was trying to be chill. We arrived at the train station around 11am and our train was listed on the board but there was no gate letter yet. In fact the place it told us to be, had no access to trains at all. We printed our tickets and wandered around staring at monitors that all told us the same thing, hang out in Hall 3. But there were no train gates in Hall 3 my brain screamed at me. We found an employee and he told us Hall 2 Gate O. So we went up to Hall 2 and found Gate O but there was no train. By this time it was nearing on to 11:30am. My boyfriend told me to try to relax, the train wouldn’t leave without us because it wasn’t even here yet, just give it time. I thought that sounded insane, but tried to relax. Hall 2 was wicked hot so we got in line at a Starbucks for some iced teas. After we got through the line and got our iced teas our train finally arrived at 11:50am at a gate that was most definitely not O. Everyone gathered and pushed through the gates, scanning their own tickets and going through no security at all. We got on the train and settled in. I learned that day that trains don’t operate like planes do. They arrive minutes before they’re set to leave and then once the crowd is mostly on the train they leave. What’s funny is there was several people on our train that didn’t have a seat assignment, so they sat in the luggage areas. I wondered if they snuck through or if they actually sold tickets like that, ‘here’s a ticket on, but just ya know find a place to put your booty’…it was weird.

So I guess I learned to be a little more laid back, which later bit me in the ass the next time we went to the airport.

Funny story:

Remember how I said I relaxed a little bit. Well on the day we were set to return to Seattle I think I relaxed too much. I discussed with my boyfriend the night before when he thought we should head to the airport. Our flight was leaving at 10:20am and to my surprise he said we should leave around 8am, which is when I was thinking. I should have taken that as a warning to leave earlier, alas I did not. We aimed to leave by 8am and we actually managed to get checked out and calling an Uber close to that time, but the problem was very few Ubers operate at 8am on a Thursday morning in Paris. So we had to ask the front desk for a taxi which cost us 8 extra minutes. There wasn’t too much traffic on the way there, but then we arrived at the airport only to discover the driver only takes cash. So my boyfriend left us with the bags and the driver and ran into the airport to get Euros. We paid the driver then discovered he’d dropped us off as far away from our airline as possible. Check in was alllll the way at the other end of the terminal. We finally checked in, got our boarding passes and printed our bag tags for checking our luggage. We were directed to the Delta bag drop where we waited in the wrong line for 5 minutes and in the right line for 3. We dropped our bags and the checker made a comment about us needing to hurry. We finally get to the first security check and we wait for about 47 years. I’m starting to get super duper stressed. We get through the first border check then dash to the train (of course our gate is one of those ones you have to tram to) just squeezing in before the doors close. We have Sky Priority (good choice past Staci/Pouya) so we get to skip the intimidatingly long line of security to a less intimidating line. Finally we’re through security and we go jogging to our gate. It’s not a full out run because boarding for our flight only started about 10 minutes before but I’m full of adrenaline and stress so we jog through. We make it onto our plane catching our breath, getting comfortable, settling in, when the captain comes on the speaker. He says that due to Bastille Day practices there’s only one runway, so we’ll be pushing off about 30 minutes later than planned. After all that, it was a bit delayed. I’m sure it’s still better that we got on the plane on time, but still, that was frustrating.

So that taught me, hang on to your anxiety a little bit, so that next time there are those little 8 minute bumps in the road (which add up quite quickly) you won’t be so pressed for time that you’re running through the airport to a delayed plane.

Whole30: Tips & Thoughts on My Last One

For those of you who don’t know, Whole30 is a restrictive food program designed to eliminate everything from your diet that may be causing any number of problems. The program is meant as way to figure out any food sensitivities you may have, and help you foster a better relationship with food; essentially viewing food as fuel rather than an escape, habit or treat.

Today is the last day of my family’s Whole30 experience. The kid has not been on it really, aside from dinner, because I’m not making two different meals. I also read an article (and talked to my nutritionist sis in law who confirmed it) that said diet plans like Keto and Whole30 aren’t good for kids whose bodies and brains are still developing.

But both my boyfriend and I have been following the strict limitations of the diet. This was his first and my fourth Whole30. We both agree it will likely be our last. I’ll talk about that more in a minute but first I have some tips for those who want to do Whole30 and some insight!

Tip the first: If you can get it pre-chopped/sliced/diced/minced/ shredded etc., DO IT!!

Seriously, unless you enjoy spending endless hours doing those things listed above, just buy it already done. Bonus if you can buy a bunch frozen. Trader Joe’s has a surprising amount of stuff chopped/diced etc. I even found sweet potato ribbons there once, and it’s miraculous! Honestly, Whole30 did teach me a lot about preparing food and I even enjoy it a bit more than I did before, but cooking is not one of my favorite things. Cleaning up after cooking is also a drag and with Whole30 you’re likely to use every kitchen implement you’ve ever owned. Buying stuff already prepped (especially onions and garlic) will save you so much time.

Here’s the thing I discovered with Whole30 recipes, the times they list for prep and cooking are assuming you’re already some sort of super ninja in the kitchen. These times are provided by folks who like to cook, who have been cooking for ages I’m sure. Not the kitchen noob (coughmecough) that takes fifteen minutes to slice an onion because they have such a strong reaction (coughalsomecough). So a recipe that takes “20 minutes” according to the book I know will take me 30-40 depending on how much slicing and dicing I have to do. Using pre-prepped stuff takes the total time down to something closer to what’s quoted.

I read some literature that said you couldn’t find pre-minced garlic that was Whole30 approved. This is totally false. The garlic I used I found at Trader Joe’s. The things I couldn’t find at my local grocery stores I found on Amazon, just be sure you can read the labels properly.

Sure, fresh may taste best, but I’m more about convenience and quickness. If you’re not, more chopping power to ya!

Tip the second: Get the meats at Costco!

This again, is a matter of preference. Some folks will prefer to buy fresh meat (and pay through the nose) each week, because Whole30 isn’t just about eating better and learning about your body it’s about buying what you need for a week and nothing more.

I got tired of buying meat every freaking week. Because sometimes it was so much meat! And since I shop at Trader Joe’s I had to buy crazy amounts since most of their meats don’t come in packages larger than a pound. So this time I took a general tally of how much meat I would use throughout the 30 days and bought it all in one go at Coscto. When I got home I divided it up among plastic bags, labeled them and froze them. I’ve only had to buy a couple salmon fillets and ground turkey this round. It seemed like a lot of money to drop all at once, but I really felt the difference at my weekly shopping trips where I mostly bought fruit, veggies, and spices. Often times my final bill was under $100 which is the cheapest I’ve every paid while doing this program.

Tip the third: Plan everything weeks in advance.

This type of thing is difficult to do without a plan. Each time I’ve done this, I’ve had a plan, some better than others. This time was the greatest plan! I knew about mid-summer that I wanted to do a Whole30 in September/October. I started planning at the end of July/beginning of August.

You may be thinking I’m insane, who starts planning that early? I do. That’s how I am. Also one of the things that drives me crazy about Whole30 is the weekly meal planning and grocery lists. I start strong but loose steam about halfway through. So this time I started meal planning really early. I planned a couple weeks here, and a couple weeks there. I leisurely printed out the grocery lists and completed a couple here and a couple there. By the time we started our Whole30 experience I had all my grocery lists ready, and all the meals planned. So I didn’t have to do any extra work while I was doing the program.

There’s a bunch of meal planning websites, some might even be Whole30 specific. I’d say don’t waste your time or money on those. I’ve tried a few here and there and I wouldn’t recommend any of the ones I tried. This time I used an Excel spreadsheet and the grocery list pdf you can find online. This experience has been the best and all it cost me was the ink from my printer and the paper the lists were printed on.

If you don’t plan anything ever, let this be the one thing you do plan.

Tip the last: Don’t be afraid to try!

So Yoda says “Do or do not, there is no try”, but I have to respectfully disagree with the Jedi Master. I think that’s applicable to some things in life (you either go jogging or you do not), but with Whole30 I think it’s ok to try…and sometimes fail.

This is my fourth Whole30, but it’s only the second one I’ve completed. It’s hard to do, there are harder things in life sure, but that doesn’t mean this isn’t.

Much of our social lives revolve around food. When we get together with friends we meet up for meals, drinks, coffee. Even events like going to the movies, or going to a game night also involve tons of beverages and refreshments that Whole30 forbids. My boyfriend is surrounded by snacks and food he cannot eat all day long at work and he hasn’t slipped. But if he had, I wouldn’t have made him feel bad for it.

You shouldn’t feel bad either. If you accidentally eat something with an ingredient you’re not supposed to have I really don’t think it’s the end of the world. Especially if you don’t have an adverse reaction to it. I’ve never been an advocate of the mindset of starting all over if you have one slip up.

Likewise if you get halfway through and decide you simply can’t do it, or it’s not for you there’s no shame in stopping. I won’t say quitting because I feel like that word has a lot of negative connotations surrounding it. Choosing to stop doing something isn’t always a negative thing.

A piece of information for those humans who experience menstruation: Here is a thing I didn’t know about Whole30, if you’re doing the program and on hormonal birth control you may experience some wacky periods. The fact is Whole30 changes your diet so drastically that those changes combined with the hormones of your baby blockers could cause your period to freak out. It didn’t happen to me during my first two because I wasn’t on hormonal baby blockers then and my third try was pretty crappy so it’s sort of unfair to say I was actually doing a Whole30. Just know that if your period freaks out, it’s probably normal. But if it’s weirding you out go see a doctor. I’m not a doctor of anything so taking my word for it if your experiencing something heinous is not a smart idea.

In closing I have a few thoughts on this experience. Whole30 has taught me a lot about my body, food, and the relationship between the two. The first one I did was by far the best, but the subsequent ones have never quite gotten me in as a good a place. Through this diet I’ve learned a lot and become more confident in the kitchen. But I think this one will be my last.

There are some meals I really enjoy from the cookbooks so I’ll probably make those once in a while, but I doubt I’ll ever do a full on Whole30 or any variation of it again. Why?

Well, I’ve learned more about the program and what your body is dealing with when you do it. I’m not going to get into it because I’m not a nutritionist and will get all the things wrong. This time around I was using Whole30 to break some bad habits I’d been indulging in over the summer. I was approaching an unhealthy weight for my height and wanted to make a change quick. So in addition to working out regularly, I started Whole30.

But I think what would have been more effective would be finding a balance. Whole30 does not offer you balance. If eating poorly and sitting on your ass all day is an extreme end of a spectrum, then Whole30 is the other side of that. It’s an extreme program. It cuts out entire food groups which are not wholly bad for you. It turns wanting a piece of cake or a glass of wine with dinner into a forbidden fruit. Eventually you just end up replacing those things with something else that happens to be Whole30 approved.

There are some things I will stick with after our 30th day is gone. I’ll try to keep added sugars out of our foods at home, I’ll probably opt for more healthy bread options, and definitely limit alcohol and sweets. But I don’t believe it’s healthy for me to keep yo-yoing between extremes. My goal after this Whole30 is done is to find a happy balance, because that for me is the key to being happy.

“Don’t Break the Chain”

A few weeks ago a friend of mine sent me a link to this blog post about writing: https://www.writersstore.com/dont-break-the-chain-jerry-seinfeld/

In a nutshell the author states that Jerry Seinfeld’s advice for writing is to do it every day, to not break the chain. They even include a downloadable calendar for writing big X’s on. The thought of missing a day and breaking your chain of X’s is good motivation to do it.

I’ve wondered a little about this type of idea. I’ve tried something similar with exercising. I’d reward myself with stickers on days I worked out. Even the Wii Fit gets in on this idea by having you “stamp” a calendar each day you hit your workout goals. And it’s been surprisingly successful…for a time. Eventually I didn’t really mind if a day here and there were missing stickers or stamps. But I’ve never been dedicated to working out. I just don’t enjoy it and think about all the other stuff I could be doing instead of push ups.

Like writing! Writing, for me, is something I feel passionately about. I enjoy it and I think I’m pretty good at it, so I like to do it. I decided to give this method a try. My writing has greatly decreased since 2015, when I started my master’s program (and by decreased I mean its become non-existent). But I’ve graduated now and am hoping to jump back in to writing more frequently.

This seemed like the perfect way to jump start that part my life again. I’ve been doing “Don’t Break the Chain” for a few weeks now. I’ve missed a couple days here and there, but I went on a great run last week. My wall calendar is filling up with red X’s and it is satisfying to see. Here’s the thing though, I’m not really writing…anything.

I don’t have a story I’m working on. There’s no huge backlog of blog posts itching to be edited and posted. There’s no book of poetry or even one poem or one completed short story. What I’ve got is a few private journal entries (I give myself a break on weekends and count journaling as my writing for the day) and a million story starts. A couple of those story starts seemed promising until I actually started writing. Now they seem forced and I have no ideas for moving the plot or characters forward.

The truth is, it seems that my creativity has been sapped away. How, I’m not quite sure. Perhaps the rigors of school have left my brain lazy and hoping for a break. Or maybe I just don’t have any good ideas. Whatever the case may be, I don’t have a story I’m working on so I’m wondering what the point of all this writing is. I make myself do it everyday, but to what end? Perhaps there’s a curve where I have to get my head out of the academic game and back into the creative writing vibe. It’s discouraging and encouraging at the same time. On the one hand I’m glad to be writing again, on the other most of what gets put down won’t be anything more than the start of a story.

But maybe that’s ok. Not every story is meant to be told right? Maybe these characters that appear in a single scene are a part of something larger that will eventually come together and create a great story. Who knows? At this point though I guess I’ll just keep pressing on, writing the starts of stories that go nowhere and putting red X’s on my calendar.

The Stigma of the Online Student

This year I graduated with my Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science from the University of Washington. I’ve been participating in the program for three years and while overall it’s been a great experience, there is one thing that still rankles me to this day.

I’ll start by telling you about orientation. The event was required. It did not matter if you were an online student living across the country or residential student local to the Seattle area; if you were in the program you had to attend orientation in person in Seattle. And so we flocked to campus brought together by our love of books, libraries and all things of the like nature. When we arrived we were given a name tag to wear. It had our name, program, and whether we were an online student or a residential student. I suppose by adding the type of student we were was a way of helping us find and connect with those we’d likely be in classes with, but it also made things a bit more…segregated.

You see, even in today’s internet savvy culture, there is still a huge stigma attached to being an online student. Being an online student (sort of like participating in online dating) carries certain connotations with it, and they are not positive. Many of the residential students viewed us online students as lesser.

Before you jump down my throat, I know that not everyone thinks this. If you didn’t or don’t good for you! But simply because you don’t think that way doesn’t mean that no one does. I’ll share a couple of examples.

One situation happened at the aforementioned orientation. I was standing around at an event trying desperately to not be super awkward. No one I knew had arrived yet, so I was trying to look approachable and friendly. A couple of women approached me and struck up a conversation. We chatted for a little bit before they asked my name and what program I was in. I glanced down at my name tag and saw it had spun around so my name and information was hidden. Chuckling, I flipped it around and introduced myself. The two women read my name and their eyebrows went up, one smirked.

“Oh, you’re an online student,” the smirker said. I nodded and began babbling about being a single mother, not having the money for childcare while I was doing classes at all hours and the convenience of being able to tackle the weekly work on my own timeline. They nodded, then excused themselves and walked a few feet away from me and chatted between the two of them. For the rest of the event I noticed how the residential students and the online students congregated separately.

I have a second situation as well. During my last year I was able to take one residential class. I was excited because the professor was one I’d been wanting to take a class from since the start of my program and it looked like it was going to be a really interesting course. Another of my online classmates was able to take the class as well.  We were about 4 weeks into the quarter when the discussion somehow turned to online classes. One of our fellow classmates, a residential student, questioned the validity of online programs, including UW’s! The professor did defend the program and talk about how comparatively UW has one of the best online programs out there. My friend also defended the online program, and even posited that it might be considered more difficult since you really only have yourself to be accountable to. The class was one of those 4 hour jobs, so at the break my fellow online student and myself ranted in the hallway about this stigma surrounding online education. The woman who said insulting things about the online program sent an email to my friend that evening apologizing, which was considerate.

Now you may be thinking I’m being overly sensitive. But I don’t think so. There is no reason for the scoffing, smirking reaction I received at orientation and the student in our class was talking about a program she didn’t know anything about. What is most ridiculous about these specific situations is the fact that no matter what program you’re in you have to take the same classes, which contain the same material and sometimes are even taught by the same professors. The only difference between the classes is the medium in which it’s delivered. At the end of the day we’ll both have a degree that says Master of Library and Information Science from UW. So why the snobbery? Why this stigma attached to being an online student?

I think this mostly stems from the years when “scammy” correspondence courses were prevalent and online “universities” were just getting started. These things were not exactly reputable institutions. Indeed when I was looking at library school programs I originally shied away from online programs thinking of them as not as good as a “real” university. If I’m being honest even when I got accepted at UW, for a split second I was a little disappointed that I didn’t get accepted to the residential program. And I have seen my online classmates toss around the words “correspondence course” as an insult to the classes they dislike the most.

But let’s think about a few things. Firstly, back in the day (and maybe even now, I don’t actually know) correspondence courses were probably the only way some groups of people could become educated. I’m thinking especially about women here. Let’s be real and recognize that since the dawn of humans scams have existed. I’m sure there was some first human out there tricking another first human out of their hard earned food, or clothing, or shelter. Scams are a part of life as a human person so we need to get used to it and not think of it as some sort of new invention. There will always be scams, but that should not discredit an entire way of learning. Some correspondence courses were garbage, designed to trick the student out of their money with nothing or very little to show. But that doesn’t mean they’re all the same.

Likewise, there are some online courses out there that are scams as well. You won’t learn anything and you’ll waste your precious time and money if you participate in them. But UW isn’t a scam university. Neither are the other top five universities that offer ALA accredited educations, so assuming their online programs are less than or a scam is simply ignorant. A residential student is not inherently better or worse than an online student and visa versa. We’re all in the same boat here. Instead of trying to push each other out without life vests why not ignore stereotypical stigmas that are patently untrue and support each other?


Election Reflection 2016

Last night, when I turned off my bedside lamp, Trump was ahead of Clinton. I couldn’t watch anymore. I went to bed hoping for the best but expecting the worst. When I woke up this morning I discovered that what I dreaded had come to be.

I was devastated. I was sad, angry, shocked and frustrated. What will America become under this president? What has America been all these years without my noticing? What will happen?

Somehow I managed to roll out of bed and get the day started. Jack and I had breakfast and talked about the election. I told him not to be scared, that this was merely a shadow going over us for a time, it would end, I loved him and would protect him with my life. He told me not to be sad, because at least there’s still bananas (7-year-old logic). I told him I didn’t know what we were going to do. He mentioned Canada. I shrugged, “Maybe.”

If we’re friends you’ve probably heard me say on occasion that I would move to Canada if Trump won the election. So now Trump has won and the words of The Clash have been running through my head all day; “Should I stay or should I go now?”

I was leaning heavily towards go. As a middle class, white woman currently living in America I recognize that that statement comes from a place of privilege. Those most affected by a Trump presidency, as a friend pointed out to me, aren’t able to leave. A Trump presidency frightens me. So my statement of intent to leave not only comes from a place a privilege, it comes from a place of fear.

Leaving seemed the best thing for me to do. “Get out while you still can!” my panicking, shocked brain yelled at me. But then I went on Facebook. Facebook has not been a comfort lately (or ever really). So, I can’t pinpoint exactly why I thought checking it would be a good idea. In fact, I made a vow to myself not to check it for weeks. But my will power check failed and on I went.

The notifications were high so I clicked there first and saw one of my cohorts had posted an article on our UW page, so I clicked on it and read. I felt a little fire start to glimmer somewhere inside me. There was still plenty of bus ride left after I finished the article so the Newsfeed was next. Person after person were posting their reactions to the results. There was so much talk of fighting for good, standing up for what’s right and not leaving anyone behind. The fire in me started to spark a bit more.

As soon as I came home I watched Hillary Clinton’s concession speech. It was beautiful and eloquent. It made me realize, I have been silent. I have not fought for what I believe in, I have not stood up and I am ashamed.

So as cool as “Reflections of a Sopping Wet Expat” sounds for a blog name, I am not leaving. What’s more, I won’t be silent anymore. I will fight for what I believe is right. When people tell me to sit down, shut up and don’t rock the boat, I’m gonna tip the fucking thing over. Because equality matters, women matter, immigrants and refugees matter, families and children matter and furthermore I matter. It’s going to be hard, it’s going to be awkward. Mostly because I have been silent for so long, letting others do the hard work. That’s not enough anymore.

The next four years could be a brutal, awful, hellish experience. But I’ll be shouting the whole way. It’s time for me to stand up and fight. So, that’s what I’ll do.

A Letter to my Kindergartner


Dear Jack,

I didn’t expect that I would write you a letter on your first day of Kindergarten. I also did not expect to be so emotional on your first day. I did not burst into tears, but I did feel a welling up in my heart as I watched you walk with guarded confidence away from me and into your school. You did not freak out, you did not cry, you did not cling to me. I did not want you to do those things and I’m glad you didn’t, but I suddenly felt so…un-needed is not the right word, but the closest thing I could think of.

I walked in after your class and watched quietly as you took off your backpack, sweatshirt and hung them in your locker. I couldn’t help myself, I hopped forward and said “Let me help you.” I got out the markers, box of tissues and Ziploc bags we were asked to bring. I piled them carefully in your arms and told you to give them to the teacher. I stood back and watched as the precarious pile fell to the floor. I held back the urge to leap forward and help you again. You leaned down and piled the fallen items again. No frustration, no tears, no need for my help. You handed the items to your teacher and gave her your name, loud enough for her to hear, not shy. I felt my eyes sting and my heart clench and I was astounded.

You are a little boy. A little boy who can walk into your school and find your locker without my help. You are growing so fast.

You were a baby yesterday.

From the moment you were born you’ve been growing so fast. The newborn months gone in a flash. The toddler in you is gone, when? When did it slip away? You are growing up and away from me. And this is the first step. The first step away from me, and again my eyes are stinging and my heart is clenching.

I love you little bug.



Book Review: Tear Soup

Disclaimer: Every person is different in what they find to be helpful, spiritual, humorous and comforting, which is why I include a section for general thoughts to clarify exactly what I liked and disliked about the book. This is simply meant to be a guide in helping you find the book that best suits your individual needs as a newly widowed person. I wish you peace on this difficult journey.

Title: Tear Soup

Author(s): Pat Schwiebert & Chuck DeKlyen

Publishing Info: Grief Watch, Portland Oregon 1999

Helpful Meter 1-5 (1 being not at all helpful, 5 being very helpful) 4

Spiritual Meter 1-5 (1 being not spiritual, 5 being very spiritual) 3

Humor Meter 1-5 (1 being not humorous at all, 5 being very humorous) 1

Comfort Meter 1-5 (1 being not comforting, 5 being very comforting) 5

Staci’s Recommendation (1 being pass on this, 5 being read this today) 4

General thoughts and feelings on the book: I received a couple copies of this book when my husband died. This along with one other book (which is due for review next) helped me the most. Tear Soup is great for someone who doesn’t have a lot of time or doesn’t like to read. It is short and in picture book format. Don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s just for kids. It’s great for kids, but also covers a lot of general grief and healing for adults too. There’s a lot of emphasis on each person’s grief being different, and what you might encounter along that journey. There’s also great resources listed in the back and bullet point advice for dealing with different situations. This would be a great book to gift to someone who’s just experienced a loss (after giving it a read yourself). It scored a 3 on the spiritual meter because there was a couple pages on dealing with your faith, which I’m finding most grief books include. It’s not preachy or pushing towards faith either way. The metaphor of making “tear soup” as the grief journey is great and easy to understand. I highly recommend this book.

Quietly Creeping

So I managed to make my deadline. My goal was to have this little book of short creepy stories published by September 30th. September 30th is when school starts for me and I knew if I didn’t have it published by then it would fall by the wayside and not get done until I had completed my Master’s program.

I’m proud say it’s done. It’s published. It’s ready and waiting to creep you out! You can buy it here.

Right now it’s just an ebook but I’m looking into making physical copies available as well.

The whole reason this book came about was because of my late husband Jordan. He was a writing enthusiast, but as far as I know, was never able to finish a story. While going through his things I found a metric ton of his writing, which included but was not limited to, poems, songs and the beginning of intricate, winding novels. I think if he’d had the discipline to sit down and write one it would have been picked up quickly and sold like gangbusters. This is not to say he wasn’t a disciplined person. He wanted to write a novel, it just wasn’t a huge priority. He was a talented man and he spread that talent over many mediums. He sometimes referred to himself as a Jack of all trades but a master of none.

One day I was reading through his many written words and I came across three stories that were similar in nature. They were dark, creepy and examined the differences between reality and fantasy. I remembered him talking about these stories. While I remembered the general gist of the stories I, of course, could not remember all their intricate details. I re-read the writing he had. I pulled them out and put them all together in a binder. I got out a notebook, highlighter and post-its and took on the task of combining and adding to the stories.

I anticipated writing a long mystery novel. What I came up with was another short story. At first I was annoyed. I already had a number of short stories I didn’t know what to do with. As I glanced over my folder of short stories I decided to re-read some of them. I realized they all shared a common theme, fear.

But not in the way you would expect. It was something more subtle. The White Room was written as I struggled with my beliefs. The Child and his Beast explores growing up and loosing something in the process. Oliver Waits for Olivia examines relationships and what might happen if what you thought was real was not. The Roommate delves into being alone and going crazy. Wake Up, 
Travis, which is the story that was born of Jordan’s writing is sort of the odd ball out. Although it does examine some fears, like not having control of your life and not being able to tell the difference between reality and fantasy, it does not directly reflect a fear I’ve had to face. But I still put it in because I realized something else as I re-read these stories. All of these stories were written right before or after Jordan entered my life. I decided right then to edit and compile them into a book of short stories.

I knew I could not in good conscience publish this book under my own name. Jordan’s influence was in the very souls of these stories, so I figured a nom de plum was in order. The nom de plume would be a combination of my name and Jordan’s to honor his role in  each of the stories. I know Jordan would love these stories because he had read all but two of them and had told me he loved them.

I hope he’s proud of what I’ve put together and thrilled that one of his stories has been published, even if it’s in a slightly different form than he expected.

Book Review: I Wasn’t Ready to Say Goodbye: Surviving, Coping & Healing After the Sudden Death of a Loved One

Disclaimer: Every person is different in what they find to be helpful, spiritual, humorous and comforting, which is why I include a section for general thoughts to clarify exactly what I liked and disliked about the book. This is simply meant to be a guide in helping you find the book that best suits your individual needs as a newly widowed person. I wish you peace on this difficult journey.

Title: I Wasn’t Ready to Say Goodbye: Surviving, Coping & Healing After the Sudden Death of a Loved One

Author(s): Brook Noel & Pamela D. Blair, PhD

Publishing Info: Sourcebooks, Inc., Naperville IL 2000

Helpful Meter 1-5 (1 being not at all helpful, 5 being very helpful) 5

Spiritual Meter 1-5 (1 being not spiritual, 5 being very spiritual) 4

Humor Meter 1-5 (1 being not humorous at all, 5 being very humorous) 1

Comfort Meter 1-5 (1 being not comforting, 5 being very comforting) 4

Staci’s Recommendation (1 being pass on this, 5 being read this today) 4

General thoughts and feelings on the book: I was intimidated by this book at first because it’s quite thick. But I soon discovered it’s extremely well organized into parts and chapters. It’s also very easy to read. The thing I really liked about this book is that it’s not just a book for widows. It covers grief in losing a parent, sibling, friend, spouse among others. It also offers advice on what children may go through and how to help them. It includes insight on dealing with different types of sudden death from car accidents to suicide. It’s really nice to have all that information in one place. You can not only use this book to help you through your own grief, but also to understand the grief of others.

There’s a general feeling of “spirituality” in the book that doesn’t really focus on any one religion or set of beliefs. It does contain a chapter dedicated to faith which gave it the high spiritual score. So while it does speak a bit about God, faith and personal beliefs it is not preachy or churchy.

It has an extensive list of resources in the back pages from support groups to book recommendations. It also has exercises to help you work through your grief and contains worksheets for preparing a memorial service and eulogy for loved ones.

Even though the book is written by two women it does contain a chapter on how men cope with grief, understanding the differences between men and women’s grief journey and ways to reach out to men.

The great thing about this book is its versatility. Since it contains so much information a lot of it is mostly a jumping off point to explore your own grief. I think it would be overwhelming to attempt to read the whole thing while in the throes of grief, however it’s so well organized that it would be very easy to go to the table of contents or index and find exactly what you need. It can be a little repetitive at times (which may have come from my reading it through), but I think overall it’s a great book to have that would be very helpful on any grief journey one may encounter.