About Me

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Seattle, Washington
topics of concern: Seattle, celebration, husband(Mr. Fleece), clothes, crafts, Jesus.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Chapter 7 | Break a Sweat

I had a "Jillian Michaels" phase to my career where I taught group fitness classes at the University of Texas RecSports Center. It actually started off when a friend of mine invited me to take a water aerobics class with her. Never a great swimmer myself, I actually enjoyed the aquatic activities since you were either always touching the floor of the pool or had a float to keep you buoyant. Jumping jacks or 'stars' in the water, hopping on one foot down and back, superman-suntan - it was all pretty low-key and definitely low-impact. Somehow I ended up as a substitute instructor for the class and from there applied/auditioned to teach both a Dance Aerobics & Step class a la Richard Simmons.

I'm not one to be super vocal or authoritative, but there was something about those smaller groups of mostly women coming to workout. When they walked in that mirrored room, I fell into the role they expected me to play - encouraging, upbeat, instructive leader! I choreographed various routines and practiced them with the 8-count-pop-music-remixes the program provided and then taught them to the participants. It always made me glad to see my ideas come to fruition. As a teacher I could go to an unlimited number of class for free so I picked up helpful techniques, ideas, and exercises along the way! It was a great way to stay in shape. There was also a brief stint where I worked at the UTRecSports welcome desk, filing memberships, helping sort out locker issues, setting up massage appointments etc. The entire UTRecSports team was amazing and I will always be thankful for the supportive collegiate environment. Mr. Fleece and I even played racquetball a few times in that building!
In that same vein, I pursued an internship with ActiveATX, a start-up biz that curated an online list of all the workout studios/gyms and exercise classes across Austin. I blogged for them by going to various workout classes - everything from Crossfit to ballet. I tried yoga and kayaking and even a meditation class that I will never forget. Trying new things and crafting a unique angle to describe the experience and sharing it with our followers challenged my creativity. Perhaps like most writers, I cringe a little when I go back to read my posts. The business itself must have tanked because I can't locate the website or any of the old content. I had fun while it lasted!

These days, it's often a struggle to work out. Difficult to motivate myself, I'm still drawn to my group fitness friends. I recently signed up for Class Pass, which is essentially everything I ever wanted in an exercise routine. I'm able to sign up for a variety of classes across the city so I don't get bored :) I can be kickboxing on Monday, spinning on Wednesday, and sculpting on Friday. I've been enjoying barre the best and have been challenged by the instructors at Pure Barre and FlyWheel. Recovering from some cold symptoms, I'm hoping to re-establish a routine soon to grow stronger, more flexible, and improve my mood. Like Mr. Fleece says, it's an investment into our future selves. When I'm 70 years old+ I want to be able to be nimble & strong, able to put on my own shoes.
Chasing down those 5 pounds,

-SJW 


Monday, December 4, 2017

Chapter 6 | Yeehaw & Country Twang

The summer after my junior year, I decided to try and find an internship that was more specific to my major in communications. I applied to several and landed an unpaid internship with KASE 101, a country music radio station in Austin, TX. I don't think I've ever done something more quintessentially Texan in my life! I supported their morning show along with two other gals. Translation: I woke up at 4:30am several times a week and did a bunch of random stuff for Bama, Rob, and Heather and the Producer, Matt Kasper. 

We edited some of the morning show clips, choosing the best sound bites and posting online, pulled miscellaneous celebrity gossip for them to talk about, answered the phones for the "be the 11th caller" segments, and wrote entries for our intern blog Cubicle Chronicles. Beyond that, we pursued a variety of random projects that they could talk about on-air like eating donut tacos and testing whether we could back-angle parallel park in the new spots along South Congress. It was also the summer where planking and cone-ing were in fashion, so we of course did both. 
Most summers I'll dip a toe back into my country music phase and enjoy the ballads featuring lovers, fighters, and drinkers. Here are some of my current favorites:


And then you have this one that doesn't really sound country but is on repeat every hour, right next to these ridiculous lyrics and this deep drawl

And there you have it, my six-song country playlist :) Cat's out of the bag. 
 
- SJW


Monday, November 27, 2017

Bookwormhole | November

My reading game has been strong this year (33 books and counting!) I tend to read and move on to the next one clickity click as if my enjoyment of reading is just a never-ending checklist. In an effort to honor my high school English teachers and engage in some critical thinking, I've decided to jot down some thoughts/highlights/quotes from every book I read moving forward. Not quite a book review, but just something to stir my thoughts if five years from now I'm trying to remember if I enjoyed a book and what stood out to me. I often articulate my thoughts best in writing, but enjoy sharing them with others once articulated :) So if you ever want to go to coffee to discuss a book or join me in reading one together, just let me know. I'm currently curating my book list for 2018.

Here are the books I read in November along with a few lines from each that struck me.

1. Cannery Row by John Steinbeck
This is a quirky read, but it's more evidence that I enjoy Steinbeck's descriptive writing style. His word choice and imagry is unmatched, making even the mundane seem remarkable and captivating. He does this scene by scene but also weaves this throughout the book. We'll be following the main characters in one chapter and then the next will feature an unconnected soul whose brief cameo helps further paint the atmosphere and essence of Cannery Row.

"Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream."

"And perhaps that might be the way to write this book - to open the page and to let the stories crawl in by themselves."

"For Monterey was not a town to let dishonor come to a literary man."

"Cats drip over the fences and slither like syrup over the ground to look for fish heads."

"Mack and the boys - the Virtues, the Beatitudes, the Beauties. They sat in the Palace Flophouse and they were the stone dropped in the pool, the impulse which sent out ripples to all of Cannery Row and beyond..."
2. The Myth of Equality: Uncovering the Roots of Injustice and Privilege by Ken Wytsma
A great read to better understand the origins and examples of racism, white privilege, and implicit bias. Lots of good thoughts stored up in these pages, here are some of the key nuggets -

"Everyone has a voice, and we don't need to speak for them. Instead we need to understand and address the processes that steal their voices or the reasons we aren't hearing them."

"Instead of putting energy into denying that we're racist, a more transparent and honest response might be to admit our desire to be free from racist thinking - and commit ourselves to searching for latent forms of bias within ourselves and trying to address them."

"Many people still use the word colorblind. It used to be a common phrase for talking about a post-racial way of living. The truth is, however, that not seeing skin color is a form of not seeing reality. Reality not seen is reality that cannot be affirmed. "Colorblindness" is a way we remain blind to the many subtle ways we're still dealing with a white standard. Colorblindness can lead to a comfort in not seeing or not calling out the need for diversity where it belongs."

3. The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur
Poetry is rarely on my list - maybe one book a year (last year was Grief is the Thing with Feathers), but Kaur's collection was approachable, relatable, and influential. I enjoyed her various metaphors, the floral/gardening motif throughout, and the topics she chose to explore: family, abuse, self-loathing & self acceptance, hardship, love, sex, restoration, immigration, beauty, brokenness, and more.

But your skin can't help
carrying as much sun as possible

It is a trillion-dollar industry that would collapse
if we believed we were beautiful enough already

If you have never
stood with the oppressed
there is still time
- lift them

despite knowing
they won't be here for long
they still choose to live
their brightest lives
- sunflowers
4. I Don't Know What you Know Me From: Confessions of a Co-Star by Judy Greer
I've read most of the I'm-a-female-celebrity-so-now-I'll-write-a-book memoirs (i.e. Bossypants; Yes, Please; Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me; Scrappy Little Nobody) and I think this is one of my favorites. It didn't tap into the crude or I'm-trying-too-hard categories which I appreciated. Instead, Judy came across as down-to-earth with her light-hearted, humorous stories. She splits her book into three sections: Early Life, Hollywood Life, and Real Life. We learn of her Detroit-ish background, how she ended up at an acting school, what her day job is really like, and how she balances being a stepmom. Other favorite parts include the "Random Judy Texts" chapter, her trip alone to Spain and the "alone" conversation with her driver, her list of alternative careers she would have thrived in, and the best pieces of advice she's received, featuring this classic:

"Wear your underwear over your tights; it will keep them from sagging" - Mom

Thinking back to the Accelerated Reader program at my Elementary school,

SJW





Saturday, November 25, 2017

Chapter 5 | Clothes Upon Clothes

That same summer, I also landed a job with Buffalo Exchange, a buy, sell, trade retail store. I still have the layout of the Austin store etched in my mind and can recall quite a few fashion scores during my brief tenure. I worked the floor - rotating between a greeter, dressing room attendant, and runner putting back clothes/helping people browse. Overall, a few things stand out to me:
1) Working with all sorts of people...with all sorts of styles! I was still fairly shy and reserved at this point in my life (still am), so working with a bunch of people who had been working with each other for a long time wasn't super easy to walk into, but people on their own were friendly & kind. I just perceived them as all being very cool & edgy. 

2) We had displays around the store that individuals would style and arrange. One key rule was "no lifesaver displays." Lifesavers as in the candy - meaning no grouping clothes together based on color. Cut, fabric, print - yes. Colors - no. 

3) People love/hate the buyers because they judge all your clothes and people would leave ticked off when none of their wardrobe was purchased. The fun thing was - staff members would get first pick and could reserve anything that came through the store before it went out on the shelves. Coworkers of mine scored some pretty unique dresses, shoes, vests, etc. 

4) One of my favorite things about Buffalo Exchange is the education piece. Once a month managers would hold an all-staff meeting and talk about fashion, give presentations on current trends (like old school approach - poster collages with magazine cutouts), and explain different labels and what stores they originated from. They also talked through pricing so that they were more consistent and would pull examples from the current inventory to show 'errors' and talk through why a sale piece didn't sell and probably should have been priced at a lower point or not taken at all. 

5) It was incredibly fun getting to wear whatever I wanted to work. I had a funky/vintage flair to my style at this point in my life. At times I want to revive this girl & bring her back into action. 

If I was giving a presentation in fall 2017, here's what'd you see on my poster:

Kicking myself for not buying this dress.
SJW

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Chapter 4 | Let's Get Coffee

The summer after my freshman year in college I made a pretty big decision to stay in Austin for an internship with my church. Even though Mr. Fleece would be back in our home town for the summer, I thought this was the best choice for me. I ended up living in an extra bedroom in the home of my pastor & his wife up in Steiner Ranch, about a 30 minute drive to and from downtown. Lots of sweet memories from that summer in Austin...including BINGO.
I was a Connections Intern - helping welcome, connect, follow-up with, and answer questions from people that visited our church. Hill Country Bible Church UT was a church specifically planted to reach college students at the University of Texas for the gospel of Jesus Christ. This meant that about 85% of our people were college students and the other 10-15% were recent graduates or families that chose to help partner with the church and mentor us youngins. It was great. I loved it - the community, the authenticity, the mission, the worship. I heard the gospel message in new and fresh ways, understanding idolatry, the depravity of man, and the depths of my Pharisaical heart. The friends I made and mentors I had shaped my entire college experience. I am forever grateful for the older women that pursued me, welcomed me into their homes, studied the Bible with me, and met for coffee. So much coffee!
That summer and into the school year, I in turn helped engage students on campus and would meet with gals that had already visited our church. Getting to be a friendly face, listening ear, and encouraging voice for so many young women was an absolute gift! The many iced coffees at Cafe Medicci were just a bonus.:) God created me to enjoy 1:1 conversations and as a natural question-asker when it comes to getting to know someone. He's also given me a loving-yet-sometimes-creepy way to recognize people and remember names & details they've shared in the past. I've used this super power lots of times. This internship was one of my first jobs where I really felt like it was a good fit, blending my innate abilities and tendencies with my interests & core beliefs.
At times it felt a little odd to be that person - a semi-ambassador of the church. I could see how it seemed like I was trying to "sell" the experience of getting involved and connected. But really, if my motivations were right, I was simply inviting them into God's plan for their life - to trust Him fully and be a part of a local people who come together to worship and proclaim Jesus as Lord. It's a good thing!
Missing friends from college,

SJW

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Chapter 3 | Those White Ceremony Chairs

Dear Barr Mansion, You are magnificent, beautiful, and the epitome of dreams.
The house where the bride & groom get ready, drink champagne, & take photos. 
Barr Mansion is without a doubt an amazing wedding venue. If I had gobs of money, I would have loved to get married here. Instead I settled for a good alternative - working here. The venue is at the top of its game as the "first certified organic special events facility in the nation" and the owners have a farm to table approach, complete with onsite recycling and compost. If the setting and venue doesn't capture you, the food certainly will. I still remember all the servers would help themselves to dinner and extra cake between washing dishes and listening in on the speeches. 
Common ceremony spot, beneath the big pretty tree. 
 There are so many details that go into a person's wedding day, it was always fun to see the choices firsthand. I've witnessed many a first dance, cake cutting, and bouquet toss. Aside from the manual labor of helping set up decor, staging white ceremony chairs in the perfect arc, serving appetizers, and clearing plates - it was actually a pretty cushy job. Everyone's happy, the staff was huge so the burden of tasks was well distributed, and the best part - there were always flowers and extra party favors to take home. A true #workperk my roommates and I enjoyed. 
Typically the reception building, often with cocktail tables out on the patio. 
One of the aspects of this job I particularly appreciated was the flexibility. I think you were only obligated to work one event a month and you could just choose the dates and shifts you were available once the options were listed. I worked semi-infrequently with so many different people that I didn't become close friends with anyone (although a good friend of mine got hired after I did), but it was a great summer/fall job. 
Lots of different reception options with beautiful exposed wooden beams & high ceiling.
In 2010-2011 it was mighty popular to cap the night off with Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" blaring loud and proud. It was everyone's queue that the night was winding down and we'd be passing out bubbles or sparklers soon. Even though this was more of a food service/customer service position, it was a bridge to the events world - which I have always loved. Bringing people together, managing details, and pretty backdrops, I'm all for it!
For better or worse,

- SJW

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Chapter 2 | Queso & Fish Tacos

My only other job in The Woodlands was as a server at Alamo Joe's, a quintessential Tex Mex restaurant that even had a cut out replica of the Alamo. This job started out rocky. I didn't do so great my first couple weeks on the job and had a pretty intense boss. He and another one of the lead servers were the exact opposite of encouraging, telling me it was "sink or swim" and initially it felt like I was sinking.

I was on the brink of quitting but for some reason decided to stick with it and try to both improve and just simply prove. Prove that I could do it. This sceanrio was one of the first times I can look back and recall how important managers and work environments are for mr. Wiith his energy focused on starting another restaurant in town, that guy kind of faded into ththe distance and another manager began taking over day to day operations. Once that happened, I actually did really well. Still a proud moment for me, I received the "Employee of the Month" only a few weeks later.

I somehow got the hang and pace of welcoming guests, filling water, placing orders, checking in, presenting the check and bussing tables. I mastered small talk and again, enjoyed the customer service component of the job. With margarita Mondays and taco Tuesdays, it became pretty clear what the popular orders would be. It was the first time I checked IDs, poured beer from tap, witnessed intensely drunk people, was flirted with by a co-worker, and met a person named Atticus who wasn't just a fictional character in Harper Lee's tale. For some reason that just sticks out to me. Tuesday night was a special night - the Bucks came in. If you were assigned their table and did a good job they would tip you $30. We all loved them! I would love to be a regular somewhere and pay it forward...literally.

I went back a few years ago and was visibly bummed to see it had turned into a Rico's, a chain restaurant. I didn't know the owners had changed so when I drove up in the parking lot, I kind of freaked out. I really wanted queso and those fish tacos! So unfortunately I can't go back, but I will always remember those colorful chairs and classify this as a good summer job. I gained confidence in interacting with people and managing busy situations and now appreciate good service and notice when it's bad.


Tip your servers, kids!

-SJW