Friday, March 25, 2016

Why I love Portland (OR)

First of all, I'd like to thank everyone who has read, commented, and reached out to me about my previous blog post. I've been meaning to write that post for a very long time. Anything that I can do to reduce the stigma in this country regarding mental illness is a huge win in my book. I'm extremely happy that I was able to connect with some people and hopefully make them feel like they aren't alone in this. I'm right by your side.

With all that said, I'll be moving to a different, much lighter topic. However, I will likely revisit it in the future, as it is something I'll always carry with me. As I've mentioned previously on this blog, I moved out to Portland, OR over 3 and a half years ago. I'm extremely lucky that my fiance's job lead us to this amazing city. We both absolutely love living here and can see ourselves living here for a very long time to come. Here are some things that I love about our city. Maybe I'll be able to convince those of you who haven't visited to come over and see Portland for yourself.

1. The Food- this alone would keep me happy in a city. The amount of amazing food is absolutely incredible. There are always places on my list to try! I can't seem to keep up with it all. Part of it has to do with the amazing amount of fresh produce we have in the region. It inspires chefs from all over to come to Portland and open a restaurant. Inspired chefs = delicious, complex, interesting foods. Need I say more? Some favorites include but aren't limited to: Beast, 23 Hoyt, The Picnic House, Park Kitchen, Irving Street Kitchen, Screen door, Brix, Saint Honore Bakery, Ken's Artisan Bakery, Serratto, Bamboo Sushi, Pok Pok, Blue Hour, Urban Fondue, Departure, Natural Selection, Jam on Hawthorne.

2. The Hobbies- Running, biking, hiking, camping- anything outdoorsy is huge in Oregon. There is just so much to see and do in Oregon. It's a beautiful state, with everything from mountains, beaches, forests, deserts, rivers, and lakes. While I still haven't seen much of the state, every time we venture out to explore I am completely in awe of the beauty Oregon holds. I also love that so many people who live in Portland really do appreciate all there is to see and do. It really motivates me to see others enjoying the outdoors like Dan and I do.

3. Environmentally Friendly- I love how environmentally conscious the city is. I love having the option to compost things, both at work and at home. It's great to live in a city that is concerned with protecting the environment and takes steps to ensure a healthy future.

4. Community Based (i.e. farmers markets, Portland Timbers, etc)- I love the vibrancy of the community, especially at sporting games (Portland Timbers Football Club) and at the many farmers markets. It is fun to see people who are extremely passionate about their community. These aspects quickly made me feel like I was part of a community, even though I was so far away from the community I had grown up in.

5. The Drinks- Coffee, Wine, Beer, even the water tastes better in Portland. Try some Willamette Pinor Noir or stop by one of the amazing coffee shops- you won't regret it.

6. The Size- I really do love how walk-able the city is. It's the perfect size for us- not too big but not so small that it feels like nothing is going on. It's great being able to explore all the different parts of the city without having to commute hours and hours to get there.

7. Eclectic/Cool- Another thing that I like about Portland is that it definitely has a personality (especially on the east side). While I can't grow a beard and haven't gotten tattoos, I'm definitely embracing the casual work/life attire, drinking delicious coffee and green juice, and taking a bit of a slower pace than I used to on the east coast.

8. The Weather- It is always mild here, which enable people to be outside year round. This helps with all the outdoor hobbies mentioned above. It also extends the growing season for fruit, vegetables, and flowers.

9. The Scenery- this one can speak for itself. From Portland proper, to Mount Hood, to the Oregon coast, there is so much beautiful scenery around Oregon that pictures alone can't capture. However, here is a small peak at home of the beautiful things I've seen.

10. People are friendly- In general, I find people in Portland to be friendlier to strangers than on the east coast. This took some getting used to at first, but now I actually do enjoy chatting with people. Here is a group of girls from a running club I joined recently! They are all so nice and supportive, and a good representation of what you can find out here in Portland.

While there are probably hundreds of other smaller things we love about Portland, I feel like the list above really captures the overarching pieces that make up the city we love. Have a good one!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016


For the past 7 years or so, I've been dealing with an anxiety disorder. It is technically a "generalized anxiety disorder", i.e. uncontrollable, excessive bouts of anxiety. Obviously it varies considerably from person to person, but I wanted to talk about my experience with it in hopes that it might touch someone who is also affected by a psychiatric disorder. To preface this whole recounting, I wanted to start by saying while this is an all consuming, terrible disease that I would never wish upon anyone, there are ways to manage it and live a relatively normal life. It may seem impossible for someone who is currently in the middle of this struggle, but I really want to emphasize that there are things that can help you manage it.

So let's start at the beginning. I started out having a normal amount of anxiety- I would get worried about a test or a recital, but it was a fleeting emotion that would go away once I was finished with that task. I was a fully functioning, relatively happy normal kid. While I encountered some family struggles as I grew up, I always had support of love ones and friends who became loves ones to help me through everything. I tended to be a bit of an overachiever, and liked to constantly be doing something. However, I was happy and able to balance everything harmoniously. 

And then college came. That's when everything changed for me. I was hit by my first bout of anxiety. I couldn't eat anything, I was hyper-vigilant, my heart beat was pounding fast, I couldn't concentrate or relax, and I was extremely nervous. Now my guess is that everyone has experience this feeling of intense nervousness before, but my problem was that it was constant. I would feel this way for weeks. It was almost as if the world had dimmed. I couldn't taste my food, I couldn't find the good or humor in anything, even colors seemed muted to me. All that was constantly on my mind was the nervousness. Nothing would relieve the terrible feelings that I was experiencing. I would have panic attacks and have no idea why I was panicking. I seriously felt like I was on the brink of something catastrophic and the most frustrating part was I had no idea why I felt that way. 

I would drive to class in complete panic. I had to convince myself to sit through lectures, holding on to the edge of my chair trying not to bolt out of the room because of the panic I was feeling. It was a battle throughout my whole first semester. It took everything that I am to keep myself seated in those classrooms, when I felt like I was in mortal danger. I had no sense of happiness, or laughter or contentment. It was all about finding things to keep my attention away from the ever present nervousness that was right underneath the surface. 

I decided that I needed help. This in and of itself was hard for me to do. There is such a stigma against mental health disorders in the United States. I didn't want to admit that something was wrong with me, but I couldn't keep living like that either. It was the worst I have ever felt in my life. So I eventually went to psychiatrist and was able to start on medication. Unfortunately, it takes a couple of months to ramp up the amount I needed in order to feel "normal" again. So I had to battle that fall semester of my freshman year, through all 4 months. Finally, I started to feel the improvements and was able to begin enjoying things in life again. I found my laugh and smile again. Food had flavor, and the world wasn't a muted version of itself anymore. 

Over the years, I have gone through difference phases of high anxiety times and times when I felt completely normal. Changes in my life became much harder for me to deal with. Anxiety forced my hand in a lot of decisions I made during college, which I am not proud of. But I was able to hold everything together and hide it from most people so on the surface, I was just a normal, high achieving college student. I found things to manage the anxiety and lived a relatively normal life for a few years.

Then I moved across the country for the guy I loved. He got an amazing job offer in Portland, OR (where I had never been before) after graduation, and I told him that he should take the job and I'd move out there for him. As I mentioned earlier, huge life changes really were tough to handle coupled with an anxiety disorder. I was able to find the help I needed to battle the new and probably worst bout of anxiety I had ever faced. I was fortunate to find a great job at an awesome company out in Portland, and started making friends with our coworkers. There were many times when I thought I'd never make it through this move successfully. But my love for my boyfriend and his unwavering support got me through to the other side. 

It's been over 3 years now I'm engaged to that same supportive guy and have some amazing friends, with a wonderful dog and house to call our own. We both are happy with our jobs and are really happy with our new home in the Pacific NW. I am truly so happy for all of these things, and I know that the battle I have fought through the bouts of anxiety was completely worth it. While my anxiety will never be completely "gone", I have a tool kit full of coping mechanisms to help me through it. 

So that's my story so far. Obviously people who have generalized anxiety disorders have a lot of different experiences, but I hope that sharing mine might somehow support someone who is going through anxiety or just something that seems insurmountable. The battle is worth it. You are worth it. Don't give up. 

Friday, March 4, 2016

Protein Powder

This next post was prompted by a text conversation between me and 2 of my girlfriends that I had a few months ago. We are all running Hood To Coast in August (a relay from Mount Hood through Portland, OR down to the Pacific Ocean via Seaside Beach) and have begun training for it. This is of course is accompanied by many sore muscles. Naturally the idea of hydrating, stretch, and foam rolling instantly came to my mind, but one of my friends also mentioned that she would drink a protein shake 1 or 2 times a day to help repair her muscles after a workout. I've occasionally tried protein shakes every now and then, but after talking to my friend and reading about it online, I realized that I was probably not getting enough protein through my regular diet and needed something extra to help with recovery.

Here's what I ended up finding out. For a normal person, you are supposed to eat 0.36 * your body weight in pounds in grams of protein. So for a woman who weighs 130 pounds, you should consume at least 47 grams of protein a day (more if you are physically active). I started doing the math and realized that there were some days that I wasn't even close to hitting that number. That was definitely a good wake up call for me. It also started to explain why I seemed to suffer from sore muscles more often than the average person. In the end I started paying attention to my protein intake and have already noticed a difference in the amount of time it takes me to recover from a workout and the amount of soreness I feel the next day.

Now let's talk protein powder. Since I don't want to be eating a ton of meat each day and I'm really not great about eating enough vegetable based proteins, I knew I would need some extra help somewhere. Enter in the protein powder idea. I used to think only frat guys who spend every day in the gym staring at themselves in the mirror while lifting weights would drink protein shakes. I didn't want to bulk up but wanted to recover quicker and build long lean muscles. However, after doing research I discovered that lots of perfectly normal looking women drank protein powders and that it was more universal that I had originally thought. So I decide I'd give it a go and try it out.

After trying a few different kinds, my favorite is Vega One Protein Powder. There is a nutritional shake as well as a Vega Sport one, but I tend to just drink the nutritional all in one shake to get some extra greens into my diet. French Vanilla is definitely the best flavor, and I tend to mix it with water or soy milk. I will drink it after a big work out or an hour before I go to bed so my muscles and rebuild while I'm snoozing.

Vega One seemed to be the most cost efficient (I tried Shakeology but didn't think it was worth the crazy price), tasted the best (I tried a few that I really didn't like at all), and seems to produce the best results (I bought a few different cheap kinds but didn't seem to get the same feeling as I did with Vega). I also bought a blender bottle ($10-$15) that helps break up all the chunks and gives a smooth texture to your protein shake. I've heard about other incorporating protein powders into smoothies, milk shakes, coffee, baked goods, etc, but I find drinking protein shakes works just fine for me. 

I will continue to see how the protein shakes make me feel, but overall I am really glad that I found one I liked and works for my body (doesn't cause my stomach problems) that also tastes decent. I'd recommend trying out different kinds until you find one that works well for you. Of course it isn't for everybody (there are those amazing people who get the perfectly balanced diet every day), but for those of you looking for a protein increase, give it a try.