Welcome To The Paradise

Don’t you love finding a book, movie, TV show, or a character that reminds you of your own life, and in the best possible way? Not just in a “well that’s just like me/my situation” kind of way, but more of a “this makes me feel better about my situation” kind of way. I have found this in The Paradise, a BBC program that only lasted two seasons. One of my friends from college alerted me to this show’s existence by commenting on one of my selfies, saying, “You look like the girls who work at The Paradise! Have you seen that show on Netflix? They always have amazing hair.” I’d never heard of this show, so I found it on Netflix and started the first episode, intrigued. Great hair can always grab my attention.

The Paradise is based on a French novel by Emile Zola, Au Bonheur des Dames. The show moved the story to North East England, where John Moray is running the nation’s first department store. The main character is Denise Lovett, a Scottish girl from a small town who is seeking a job in sales and ends up working at Moray’s store, The Paradise. Denise turns out to be quite the salesgirl, always coming up with brilliant ideas that no one else would think of. The show revolves around the drama between the customers, traders, and employees in and around the store, and my, is there drama, at least for a story set in 1875. I am halfway through the second season and not looking forward to have no more show to watch, as it was never renewed for a third season. Thanks, BBC.

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Denise has her “I have a stupendous marketing idea” face on.

But back to my point, Denise’s drive to run her own shop and be as powerful and respected as Moray has put in me an acceptance and respect for my own profession. Yes, I am an editor by trade, but right now, I’m in customer service, and a good dose of positivity could make me so much better at my job. Yes, times have changed since 1875, but one fact remains: Doing what you’ve always done will never lead to progress. You have to let new and radical ideas prevail sometimes. Denise is always coming up with things that people think are crazy, because “this is just the way it’s always been,” but as soon as someone has some faith in her, she shows everyone that she really knows what she’s talking about, and basically saves the day. She’s so passionate about making the store money and bringing people together to become more successful and more powerful than they could be alone, that just watching an episode before work can make me work so much more cheerfully.

This is why I think TV shows that depict people loving their careers and doing well in them are so important. If everyone did their job a little more cheerfully and with a little more drive, even if it’s not what they want to be doing forever, imagine how much more smoothly everything else in the company would run. I wonder if Parks and Rec is like that for people in small government. I honestly can’t think of anymore that portray the workplace as a place you’d want to be, that encourages you and helps you love your own job. We should make more of those!

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What Makes A Beautiful Day?

The past week, we’ve been having intermittent “beautiful weather.” As it is February in western Washington, rainy or at least cloudy days would seem to be the norm, but there are random times when the sun shines through and gives us a beautiful Kirkland sunset, like this one.

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Between interacting with coworkers, customers, friends, and housemates, I’ve gotten the impression that “beautiful weather” is synonymous with sunshine; warm, still air; and blue skies. You might be thinking, “Well, of course it is! That’s beautiful!” I know it is. It feels so nice to have the sun on one’s back and have all the fauna out to play and the flora brightly illuminated by the day. I’ve never complained about a sunny day, unless of course, it’s 110 degrees outside and I have to walk to the bus stop in work clothes.

But today, I drank in the stillness of a cloudy morning, and found it just as beautiful. Luckily, it hadn’t rained in enough hours that our front step was dry, so I sat on it in my pajamas and a pink hoodie, eating the last clementine, and just listened. At 9:30, I saw a morning that I rarely willingly saw. In the small bubble encompassing my house and yard, it was quiet. Only the grass breathed, glistening still with dew. The clover at the edge of the yard was so richly green that it seemed to revel in the thought of coming spring, or in thankfulness for living in a place where spring never truly ends. Past the yard erupted songs of at least four different kinds of birds, in dozens of little voices. I could have done without the neighbors’ dogs barking in conversation with each other, or maybe the birds, but they reminded me how alive the morning was in still moments like this. Under the soft soil of the lawn, I’m sure there were vast civilizations of earthworms and ants, aphids and spiders, living in a harmony, even if that harmony means someone will be eaten soon. It is vast and we don’t know it. We rush out of our doors when we have to and stay inside when we don’t, spending entire days on the couch just because it’s cloudy outside.

I realized yesterday, while wandering downtown Kirkland, that people around here must have realized this long before I did. That a cloudy day doesn’t stop a true local from going out and enjoying the day. On Monday, it was very warm and sunny with clear skies, and I was looking for a place to blog. The first three coffee shops I visited had no seating at all for someone with a small tablet to type on. The lines were long; the sidewalks were crowded. The waterfront was packed with families with dogs, couples having picnics, small children running into the water and back out when they realized how cold it still was. I expected yesterday to not be as crowded, as the nice weather had stepped back for a day, but I was surprised. The sidewalks were emptier, yes, but the coffee shop where I met my friend had no seating at all! And it’s a big coffee shop! So we got our coffees and walked down to the waterfront to sit on the steps that led down to the bay. The whole time we were there, there was also a man in an electric wheelchair with a young black lab. Other than them, the area was nearly deserted. The man stayed on the sidewalk or the docks, zooming around, becoming a silhouette as the sun sank into the water and burned the sky gold. The dog was having the time of his life, jumping off of docks into the water, swimming over to shore, splashing around to his heart’s content. And I realized when I got home that if a man in a wheelchair can transport himself and a dog to the waterfront to go have a good time on a cloudy day, then I can certainly pull myself out of bed before noon and appreciate whatever world God has given me on any given day. If I’ve learned one thing from riding buses, it’s that getting around in a wheelchair must take a ton of patience. Have you ever seen anyone get on or off a bus in a wheelchair? All I can say is I should be more thankful for my able body and work harder to accept and rejoice in the day I’m given, and not use the weather as an excuse to be lazy and sorry for myself. Any day I go into with a positive attitude can be my own beautiful day.

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“This is the day that the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24)

Abstract in Oil Pastels

Today, while busing home from downtown Kirkland, I was having trouble focusing on reading “How To Win Friends and Influence People” because a few people near me were talking loudly and I was finding it distracting. So I put in my earbuds and turned on my Zune, something I rarely do because I’m usually reading and I can’t do both at once. Now, Kurt’s dad, Bob, gave me this Zune as a gift one Christmas, but it used to be his. He didn’t erase any of his music first. It’s literally thousands of songs, by a wide variety of artists. I’ve definitely never complained, because just listening to it on shuffle introduces me to music I probably never would have heard otherwise. And I feel like I get to know my father-in-law better by hearing things he chose to listen to and add to his collection. I really should listen to it more often.

While I was walking home from the bus stop, an instrumental song came on, and I was struck with a mental image of a painting I wanted to try, with the song as the background. I’d always wanted to try painting or drawing something with no inspiration or plan other than a song, and tonight seemed like the perfect time. I paused it so I would still have it after I went to the bathroom, but by the time I got to the study and got out some art supplies, the “now playing” screen had reverted back to the main menu. I couldn’t find the song again, and I had no idea what the title or artist was. I was so disappointed. So I resigned myself to applying the same method to the next song that played on shuffle. I hit play.

I wasn’t feeling the first two songs, but settled on “Incredible Love” by Ingrid Michaelson. I started out by closing my eyes and lightly dragging my oil pastels (I couldn’t find any paintbrushes!) across the canvas paper in time with the music, switching colors after a few bars, making bigger strokes and swirls with crescendos and swells in the song. “The Reflex” by Duran Duran came next, and I opened my eyes to add some bold blue polka dots. It just felt right. I was literally doing whatever popped into my head as I heard the music. “Calling All Angels” by Train inspired jagged stripes of orange, red, and yellow. “Darkness” by The Police called for an emphasis on the lazy lines and swirls from the first song, bolding them with the same colors. “Loser” by Beck warranted a determined coloring in of all white spaces left, and “The Chair” by Fleetwood Mac gave me details like red spikes on one of the points at the top, arrows and extra lines on the green swirls, and a little compass rose for some reason. I’ve used oil pastels maybe once or twice and I remember hating it, maybe because I was trying to make an actual picture, maybe a portrait. They don’t do details very well, especially not realism, at least not on such a small canvas. But abstract, that I can do. No one’s expecting it to look like anything. But I like it. I lost myself in it, listening to such different kinds of music and only focusing on the colors and the lines, the fade in and out of shades of the same hue, the contrast between colors and shapes and lines. I want to do more abstracts.

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Capitol Hill–>University District–>Ballard

The other day, I met a new friend in Ballard, where I spent the first seven years of my life. Every time I visit the area, I am filled with wistful nostalgia and the thought, “How would I have turned out differently if I’d grown up here instead of an unincorporated small town in a desert?” This time, I got a taste of where I might have spent a great deal of time and money in my college years, assuming I stayed close to home for college. But it was quite the adventure that got me there, due to my inability to follow directions.

I knew right from the start that I’d be meeting my new friend, Farris, in Ballard, because that’s where he lives and he wanted to show me around. But somewhere between my getting on the 255 and getting off in downtown Seattle to find a third bus, I must have gotten confused. I looked up the coffee shop at which we’d arranged to meet, Bauhaus Coffee and Books, and clicked on the first one, completely ignoring the address. The fact that it didnt take me that long to get there should have clued me in, but I think I was too distracted by the fact that there was a coffee spiller AND a guy with a lit cigarette in my 10-minute bus ride. I just wanted to get off. It was VERY lucky that I didn’t get any coffee on my boots, and I hate sticky soles more than anything. So when I got off on Capitol Hill and found Bauhaus across the street, all I could do was breathe the fresh air and rejoice. I ordered an iced hazelnut latte because I always forget that I don’t even like iced hazelnut lattes until I’ve taken like four sips. There was an upstairs, which I loved, so I sat up there, and realized why “Books” was in the name. It didn’t look like a typical bookshop. Only one wall had any books on it, and they were all hardbound, most in solid, earthy colors, like they were all 100 years old. I did find a copy of Divergent, which looked wildly out of place. The wall facing the street was all windows, and anyone could go out and sit on the balcony overlooking Pine Street. Everyone sitting upstairs looked my age and were dressed like hipsters, but real hipsters who aren’t trying too hard because they really are that creative in their fashion sense. Several had laptops, all Apple of course. A few people sat in pairs and laughed and lounged about like they came there everyday. I felt very at home. They looked like people who felt very at home with themselves and it made me very happy. Then I realized that though Farris had texted me and said he had just ordered and I had already told him I was upstairs, I didn’t see him anywhere. He called me. I realized I was at the wrong location. Obviously.

We laughed about it and agreed to meet in the middle, in the U-District. I was there in like 15 minutes. He was standing on the corner in front of American Apparel, tall with dreadlocks and a beard, reminding me of a North African Santa Claus. Turns out he’s a hugger, which I love. It was already dark out, but you could hardly tell, as all the businesses were in full swing and the sidewalks were full of students. Farris remarked how the U-DIstrict was such a fun place to hang out because college kids are still so full of hope about the future, and they always have the energy for an adventure. Unless it’s finals week. I thought he put that perfectly. We walked up and down University Way, too busy talking to find a place to hang out. He asked if I liked pool, which I do, so we found a sports bar decked out in Husky colors. I got a cider and he got a beer, and we played two games. The first time, I nearly beat him. I’ve realized that I always say I’m bad at pool, but then I suprise myself. I lose more often than win, but I still have my moments. Just as we we finished the second game, another guy who was starting a game with his friends asked if I was any good and I just shrugged. He challanged me, but I said we might be heading out. As we left, Farris said the guy was definitely flirting with me. I Laughed and said, “I know; I, too, have been to college.”

After stopping to use the bathroom in a very dead bar up the street, we casually played ping-pong and I surprised myself with how long I could volley. We talked and talked about things like God, relationships, dating, karaoke songs, and dancing. He had been hinting multiple times that we should really go to Ballard, so we finally did, and that’s when we made it to Wingmasters. It reminded me of Wing Central, but cozier. There’s a juke box, two pool tables, and an awesome Wednesday night special: 50 cent wings and a bucket of 5 beers for $10. We were starving, by this point, so when I suggested ANY FOOD, he suggested wings and I jumped at that. He seemed to know most of the staff, and they were nice enough to plug in his phone behind the bar to charge it for him. On the bus ride there, I told him about how I used to live in a high school building in the very neighborhood we were passing, and he told me about how he was born in Liberia and then went to America for school, attending international school in Zurich in the summers. The stories he told stirred in me the love of travel that has sat dormant since graduating from college and entering the world of never-ending bills. One day.

After finishing eating, we played two more games of pool, then a third when Kurt joined us. It’s always a shot in the dark getting him to leave the house after getting home from work, but I used my super sweet voice. I knew he’d really like Farris too. They got along swell, and we finally left at almost 11 even though Farris had to get up at 5 the next morning. Well, he chooses to, to get a head start on the day and have tons of time to get things done. I found this admirable, but not something I could do, at least not while I’m working evening shift at Fred Meyer. That’s not a lot of sleep. But, as it turns, Farris is a person with a lot of professional connections and rapport among the small business people of Seattle and other parts of the world. Maybe just making friends with him will be a step toward my ideal writing/editing career. And if not, that’s okay. He’s still super cool, and making new friends is always great. Cheers, and I hope I’ll be blogging more often now. Until next time…