Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

I hope you are all having a wonderful Christmas Day! I know I haven't blogged in a while, so I figured today would be a great day to connect and catch up! Christmas morning was quite different for me this year; waking up in a new place, across the country, far far away from my beloved family. I was sad not be able share the traditional memories that were always made on Christmas morning and making the 'rounds' around Dixie, visiting each Carlisle family's home to see what everyone got for Christmas. I was also sad not to be at Carlisle Christmas this year. Thankfully technology helps provide a wonderful alternative to dealing with the physical separation through skyping during the whole event, for 1.5 hours!!! I truly felt like I was there in the room. Thank you all for making that so special for me. I hope this is the only Carlisle Christmas I will be missing. I really enjoying watching Lola and Jack perform their traditional Christmas program (it tugged on my heart) and also see everyone exchange their presents. You two put on quite a show. Lola, you are a very enthusiastic and dynamic dancer! It made me miss you both very much, you are so special to me! I have all of your Christmas cards hanging on the fridge!

So, I know you are probably wondering how I am spending my Christmas holiday…About two days ago, I was looking for a church service to attend on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day and found a few churches I started to research and look further into. Jeremy had told me about the Acts 29 Network that Crossroads (The Bridge) is connected with and there are two churches here in Portland that were also involved with the network. So, I contacted a man named Josh from the Bread + Wine church to ask him about how their church was celebrating Christmas. It said on their website that they were not going to be gathering as a congregation, but within their gospel groups, which would be like the community groups at Crossroads (The Bridge). So, he invited me to goin his gospel community group for brunch on Christmas Day at 11 am. On Christmas Eve, I attended a traditional Christmas Eve service at a Covenant Church, where they had a candlelight singing of "Silent Night". I got teary-eyed during the candle-light service because of the memories it brought back from my childhood at the Presbytrian church I grew up in. It made me wish I was with my family, sharing this special memory. After the service, I headed to the grocery store to make some delicious peanut butter cookies to bring the the pot-luck brunch the following morning. When I woke up on Christmas morning, my roommate Willoughby was in the kitchen making his breakfast, so I joined him and made me some fried eggs and dripped coffee. We sat and visited at the breakfast table together and then proceeded with our day- he was headed off to his families house (about 2 hours south of Portland) and I was going to get ready to walk to the brunch, which was about 15 blocks down from my house. When I arrived at the brunch, I didn't know anyone and had not previously met anyone before coming, but I immediately felt welcome. Josh and his wife Laura are a young couple (about Emery & Jeremy's age) with a precious year and a half year old daughter. There were other young couples, singles, and next door neighbors there as well. I also got to connect with Josh's sister who was my age and visiting for the holidays. Josh and his sister are both from Fayettville, so small world…his sister said it was good to hear my southern accent because she lost hers (haha). I get comments on my accent all the time…Anyways, everyone had a lovely time, eating, fellowshipping, and getting to know each other. Afterwards, I headed home to Skype with my family and got to see my grandparents Gee & PopPop before they headed back to Haynesville. It was very special that I got to see everyone and be a part of their Christmas celebration. After I skyped with them and watched them open up their presents, I cleaned the house to get ready for a few friends to come over for dinner. Maria, Jessica, and Amanda came over and we all shared a Lybian dish, I made a spinach-pecan-blue cheese salad, and then Jessica brought over a Mexican dessert. We all ate well, like you're suppose to do for Christmas-stuff yourself. It was a great evening, everyone left around 11pm and I headed off to bed so I could get up and start to begin a normal 'running routine' and use my new GPS watch. I went running 9 miles today, it felt good and cleansing to run off the holiday treats.

Here is the crafts that I made and tried to sell, the "12 days of Christmas" from Portland. At first, I made one for my family, and decided it was clever and creative idea that was worth selling. I wasn't able to sell any because I didn't finish them until the day before Christmas Eve. But, it made for an interesting experience. I learning I don't like 'vending' on the street corner…..putting myself out there with the other vendors and beggars. Some of the places I tried to sell I was standing on the opposite side of the sidewalk as a newspaper vendor. But, it was worth giving it a shot. It just wasn't the right place or time. I tried selling them at the market and outside of two of the local grocery stores. I think people weren't 'shopping' for gifts anymore with Christmas Eve approaching so closely. Oh well, maybe next year I'll make a lot and set up a booth in the 'Crafty Wonderland' annual show.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The job hunt...

I know everyone is curious about my job situation as well. No, I have not found a job yet, but I am putting forth my best effort. I am slowly learning how difficult it is to find a job here, not solely based upon my experience, but from what I hear from locals. As easy as you would think it is to obtain a job at a coffee shop or restaurant, service jobs are more highly valued than back at home. Unfortunately, I do not have the knowledge of the organic and local foods and don't hold a UCCL card, so I don't know if I met the requirements for the restaurant industry. But, I am still going in and trying….I am going to an interview session this Wednesday. I just want to find a job where I can make some money while I am waiting for firms to start hiring. Of course, my first choice is to obtain a job with a firm, but there aren't any hiring at the moment. Business is slow during the holidays, but I am preparing a special Christmas package to personally hand out to some of the firms. I am excited because I think it will grab there attention. Since I  have better printing options here, it is going to be well designed and professional. I am also writing each firm a more personal and direct letter to help show my special interest in their firm. It is really important for me to make a good first impression, because I'm not going anywhere! : ) Applying for a position with firm's here is different now than it was in July, because I'm not just visiting…..I am living here now. So, I have to start following projects that firms are working on right now, share my interest in learning about their sustainable practices, and become involved in the architectural community. Although some of the firms I am interested may not be hiring now….I will be back, I will become the fly on their wall until they have a position available. So I am going to do whatever it takes to get their attention and show them how committed I am to architecture. After talking to someone at the AIA office, I learned about committees and volunteer opportunities I can start becoming involved with to help me meet local architects and start networking. I have to start building my foundation from the ground up, and that is the best place to start. So I am going to join the Committee on the Environment (COTE), Women in Architecture and Related Design (ForWARD), CitySCAPE (non-profit organization put on by a local firm), and attend meetings fro brainstorming ideas for Oregon's Design Conference. I also plan to volunteer for SCRAP and Habitat for Humanity's ReStore; both in which are large warehouses that buy-sell reclaimed materials.

Im excited to start my foundation here in Portland. I love it here so far and I am enthusiastic about building my network and start meeting members of the architecture community while building relationships with people. I feel like this is where God wants me to be and I know He has a purpose for me being here. In the meantime of attending committee meetings and volunteering, I am still putting together some of my photography and art pieces to display and sell at local coffee shops. I know I can make some good extra cash off of some things I enjoy creating. I also check Craigslist daily, looking for work, and I will continue to pop into restaurants, coffee shops, or other places I feel like I would be a good fit to work in! Keep me in your prayers! I love and miss all of you so much!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Settling in....

Hello all! I know its time for an update on what I have been up to since I have been in Portland for two weeks now. The first week I spent at the hostel, I spent most of my time refamiliarizing myself with the city and learning how to get around and where things are. [And taking lots of photos!] Now I have spent about a week in my new house and I am settling in great!  I finally have my room all situated to where I can call it my new "home away from home". Emily told me I could me I could adjust her room to my liking by taking things off her wall and putting up my own decorations wherever I wanted to. At first, I thought it wasn't worth the trouble, but after I spent a few days here, I decided just unpacking my clothes and toiletries wasn't enough. It didn't provide a sense of comfort, like I was actually living here as opposed to just visiting for a few weeks. So, I hung my sculpture piece, an old feed sack, some rabbit key hangers, and of course all of the fun Halloween animals Lola cut out, which are filled with letters from my sweet family, are hanging above my bed. I also put my quilt on the bed (which came from Mama D's house), my dad's old guitar is propped up next to the wall, and my scrap-yard bunny that Aunt Paige gave me rests by my chair on the floor. I also proper the old-charred farm house door up against the wall as my headboard. It feels homy now with all of my stuff around. I like having the little reminders from home. Aside from my room being situated, I am also getting along great with my roommates. My first night here, Willoughby had made some delicious spicy thai soup and invited me to have dinner with him and his dad (who is also the landlord). I can tell he comes from a good family, with a similar background from mine, after visiting with his dad. His parents live about 2 hours away, so they pop in from time to time. Both Willoughby and Michael are excellent cooks, and I occasionally get to have a taste of what they're cooking. I thought I was a good cook, but they make me look like an amature. I'm having so much fun watching and learning from the 'extravagant meals' they prepare for themselves. Nothing is done halfway, they homemake everything with fresh, organic, and of course 'local' produce and seasonings. For example, Willoughby had a batch of apples that were going bad, so he boiled them up and seasoned them with cinnamon and fresh shaved ginger to make homemade apple sauce- it was so good! We have a kitchen stocked with homemade seasonings and spices in small zip-lock bags!

On the subject of food…Portland's community is really aware and cautious about what they eat!!! Most people here live a pretty healthy lifestyle. Shopping for food has been one of the biggest adjustments for me, because nothing is familiar, especially all of the whole-food brands which are either whole-wheat, whole-grain, gluten-free, free-range, vegan, or soy products. Some of the fresh produce even looks odd to me, like its a foreign plant…..I'm wondering what in the world is that, where did that come from, and how do you cook with it? When I went to the alberta co-op grocery store the other day to get some ingredients for a cake, the only option I had was to buy organic molasses. I have also tried a vegan brownie, it tasted ok…a little dry. Every time I go into the store, there is someone giving free food samples of a new fresh-local product which they share all of the details of it's ingredients; what gluten-free or soy products its made from and which free-range local farm it came from. They know they're stuff, and are proud of it, proud to be local! As much as I can be overwhelmed with the fresh-local-organic lifestyle they uphold here in Portland, I am impressed by their community pride and support for local food production.

It is not just the food that they have local pride in, just about everything is made local here. I have been into to so many cute boutiques and shops that are selling hand-made crafts and goods made by local artists. There's clothes, wallets, purses, jewelry, belts, hats, beanies, stationaries, stamps, and much more little things that are handmade (with designed price tags made by the artists). It is very evident, while walking around and exploring the shops and streets, that there is a strong creative class here, everything is well designed and presented at the highest quality. It's a little intimidating, but also exciting to be around a community that values and strives to uphold a strong art and design culture. But, it can be a little exhausting because there is so much out there…so many good designs and avant-garde (top-of-the-line) designers that it makes designing extremely competitive.

I have also already started to make new friends. It doesn't take a lot of effort to meet people here. Everyone I interact with has been super friendly and welcoming…whether I am at the coffee shop, bus stop, or the grocery store, I am always greeted with a friendly and genuine hello, "how are you today?". Most of the time, the greetings evolve into a nice conversation. I feel like I am living in a fairy tale land sometimes where everyone is happy to be alive, loving their jobs, and comforting one another. I have yet to see someone be rude, bicker, or complain. I think everyone here must have been read the Berenstain Bears book Manners when they were a child because they are so courteous and polite! People always tell the bus driver 'thank you' when they are getting off the bus. It doesn't matter to me that I hardly know anyone here because I feel embraced by the sense of love and care by the community. One of my new friends, Happy, that worked at the hostel invited me to his friend annual Christmas party the other night. Yes, his name Happy, and he is happy! I baked a spiced ginger-apple molasses cake to go with the spiced wine he was going to be serving at the party. When I first walked in, I knew no one, which would have initially scared me, but I felt very comfortable and welcomed by everyone I met along my way to find 'Happy'. My cake was a big hit, everyone loved it! Most of the friends I have made have been either through Happy, people I met at the hostel, or people I have met on the bus. Almost every time I am waiting at the bus stop someone initiates conversation with me and I immediately make a new friend! Happy has been a great connection because he has introduced me to a lot of girls my age that I am becoming friends with and swapping digits. My new friend Jessica, who is 23 and relocating from New York, invited me to see a few bands play at a charity event the other night. We danced, mingled and had a good time. Since she also just relocated to Portland, she will be here for the holidays and we plan on doing something together for Christmas! So no, I will not be alone : ) But I will miss my family dearly during Carlisle Christmas and Christmas morning, especially Luke's first Christmas : ( I hope we can Skype so I can feel like I am there!

Here's my new address:

5707 NE 12th
Portland, OR 97211

Also, here is a link to my website if any of you would like to check out the photos I have been taking. This website is my digital-online portfolio of all of my architecture projects as well. The link to my photos is under the 'colorful' project labeled 'urban photography'

Love and miss all of you so much! Merry Christmas!