Thanks For Giving

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Brunch Club Movement 

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Appreciation 
noun  |ap·pre·ci·a·tion \ə-ˌprē-shē-ˈā-shən,|
an ability to understand the worth, quality, or importance of something

This word, Appreciation, is the unsung hero of modern sentiments. Growing up in the ever evolving contemporaries of “quick and fast” service, things that take time are often unforeseen. Things and acts that take time are labeled as “inefficient” or “unproductive” and if you’re not going as fast as a sports car, you may be marginalized in society as lesser than.
Although I label myself as Type “A” and I’m very much living a mobile lifestyle, this weekend I took all the time in the world in  appreciation of humanity. To be removed from the vortex of the digital and live in the present, the physical. To sit down and have a cup of coffee with someone and hear their story. Eyes wide open and ears at the ready for listening.

Too much? Probably. Too heavy in emotion. Definitely.

Let’s start at the beginning shall we? Okay.

 

The beginning of this year I sought out to better myself as one does, but  I decided to be implicit with my intentions. In my typical “Type A” fashion, I laid out a plan and a time-line of when those intentions would occur. The biggest “Action Item” on my aspirations was “Love the way you want to be loved” and “volunteer  frequently.” And for awhile, those goals remained as such.. goals. Just arbitrary thoughts in my ever-so-scattered mindspace and was always a constant reminder of something I NEEDED to do. Months went by before I even took notice of this aspiration of mine and before I could even negotiate with myself how much time it takes to volunteer, I got off my lazy excuse-filled ass and signed up for events that I took a personal interest in. That is for me, food. 

I found the Brunch Club Movement through means of social media and I’m fervently thankful that I did. This nonprofit organization’s mission is to not only feed the homeless veterans, women, and children of San Diego, but help them with the transition out of it. It follows the mantra of “If you teach a man how to fish” principle and has built an immense audience of volunteers over the years, myself included.

This past weekend at the Annual Thanksgiving Dinner for Brunch Club was the pinnacle event for the organization with a goal to feed 300 people and hand out 300 holiday care package bags. The minute I stepped into that commercial kitchen to help out with the dinner prep was the minute I felt that nostalgia of magnanimity that comes with doing purposeful work, and I haven’t felt that way in two and a half years. The rush of working with a group as one cohesive unit with a common objective that is bigger than yourself is nothing short of magical in the best sense. There are many things that bring me pure joy, but doing something I love (cooking) for a purpose that I love (nonprofit work) puts me over the edge with elation. In quick ten minute intervals I went from carving turkey to dicing sweet potatoes to blanching green beans.. and I relished every moment of it. 

Once the intense rush of prepping a massive meal was over, the real special part began. I stood out there in the twinkling lighted courtyard of the church and welcomed our honored guests with the most genuine smile on my face. Three particulars that I met that evening stood out to me. Their stories resonated with me in such a deep personal matter; the whole experience felt very much like The Five People You Meet In Heaven. Here are their stories, I hope they strike a chord with you like they have with me.

 

 

Mac: A man about 70-73 years old stood in line to get his complementary haircut. He had served in the U.S Marine Corps during the Vietnam War and when he came back he was drowning in debt. With a struggling search of employment in combination of PTSD his wife left him and took the kids because she believed he was an unproductive member of their family. Four years ago was when he started to experience homelessness and four years ago was when he last had a haircut. He came up to me and asked me where he should sit and I directed him to a chair with my friend Jess. As Jess began cutting his hair I couldn’t leave him. His sheer positive energy was something I wanted to engage more with so I stuck around and talked to him for awhile. He spoke about his buddies in the war, how much he loved pho, and how guilty he felt for “infiltrating” a country with such beautiful landscapes. When Jess was done cutting his hair he had the largest grin plastered on his face as he looked at himself in the mirror. With eyes sparkling, he exclaimed “Watch out George Clooney!” Mac’s spirit was pure magic, the kind you don’t forget. 

 

Spencer: I stood in the entry archway of the church and saw a man with clean clothes and a backpack. I automatically assumed he was a volunteer and so I directed him inside where he would check-in. He said to me “Oh, no I’m here for a haircut and a hot meal and a sports coat if they might have any.” I’ll admit, I was befuddled in my own bias because off the bat he didn’t “look” homeless. He had a certain inflection of anxiety in his voice so I decided to accompany him with whatever he needed for the time being. Spencer didn’t look me directly in the eye, he spoke to everyone in this manner and I learned early on that he has Asperger’s Syndrome. Standing in line with him to enter the meeting hall he spoke about the clouds. He ranted on and on about the temperature change and how temperature change causes barometric pressure change and when that happens that causes different types of rain to fall. He spoke of so many numerical variants that I got lost in translation, but he kept saying that numbers are absolute, they tell the truth, they’re objective, they do not lie and if we follow the numbers there would be less accidents. He looked up at the sky once more and said that these clouds resembled the ones in Portland. I asked him if he was from there and he said candidly “Yeah, that’s where my wife and kids died. In an accident.” He said it with no emotion but as if he was stating another numerical fact to me, he then proclaimed “After that happened I researched a place that could hardly have clouds and San Diego came up.” All I could muster up to say was “On behalf of San Diego, we’re glad to have you here.” I spoke more with him about what he likes about San Diego and he spoke immediately of his work as a Physics professor and his keen interest in Geotechnical Studies. I took notice of all his other stories and the menagerie of factual trivia he kept in his conversational arsenal. I felt like I was with Rain Man in flesh and blood. He thanked me for my time and I thanked him for his knowledge.

 

Maggie:  After escorting Spencer inside for his sports coat I heard a higher pitched voice loaded with inquiry. I heard “Excuse me ma’am, but do they have hot coffee inside?” Elated at this question (because I’m an enthusiastic person for coffee) I assuredly answered back “They most certainly do.” Jubilant at this answer, she smiled a magnetizing grin and said “Oh good. That’s all I really want, a comforting cup of coffee.” I told her I really love coffee as well and she reminisced about her own tradition that surrounded coffee. Maggie told me that her grandmother was from Ethiopia and that the coffee she grew up drinking was called “kahawa” and it has notes of cardamom and ginger in it and that on cold days it was the thing that brought her the most joy. Seeing the purest of happiness transcribed upon Maggie’s face was really something special. It reminded me of how incredibly significant the simple things are. I wished I had spoken with Maggie more, but it was time for me to go as my source of transportation arrived. I told her it was a pleasure meeting her and she looked straight into my eyes and said “God bless you and your beautiful soul.” She said it in the most earnest manner that I couldn’t help but cry. We engaged in an embrace and it was something I never knew I really needed up until now. 

I met three people that night. Three individuals with their own compelling stories to tell. Stories that taught me about Triumph, Trauma, and Exultance; stories about the insatiable hardiness of the human spirit and how important it is to live vicariously in the physical and in the now.

So, if you’ve read this far.. this is my thanks. My Thanks For Giving.

Indelible Gratitude,
-Kat

 

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My Life In Coffeeshops

_DSC1954With the proliferation of popularity amongst social media, the respite of coffee shops and their appeal to customers far and wide is something I can always support.
The relationship I have with coffee shops has been transformative over the years; from stealing wi-fi at Starbucks on a regular basis to engaging with the elderly at my neighborhood Pannikin to now embracing the craft coffee culture and it’s widespread viral presence in today’s public domain, these spaces have always remained a place of this idea of “home-base” for me.
I was introduced to this idea of a home-base in my 6th grade English class. My English teacher at the time had giant letters scripted upon the white board of the classroom that just read “HOME BASE.” She then explained that her classroom, this space we share, is a safe place of ideas and conversation. In this space we do not degrade one another because our opinions are different, we seek to find similarities between ideas and talk about their common space. From that moment on, this arbitrary but philosophical idea of a “home-base” was something I was always seeking.
I found that feeling of a “home-base” in one of two places: a studio environment and a coffee shop.
My life in coffee shops thus far has always been one of connection, collaboration, and creation. I’ve spent my formative educational years spending my weekends in coffee shops, studiously plugged in and tuned out or gathering together amongst my cohort delving deep into the politics and study of design.
Nowadays, post-grad life, I spend my life in coffee shops unplugged and tuned in to the people that inhabit this space. I’ve read a lot of design articles from various parts of the interwebs about the rapid spread of coffee houses and their picturesque atmosphere and how much design thought goes both into the physical space and the business model when it comes to the creation of these environments. I’ve siphoned through the literature but at the end of the day the cathartics  I get when I step into a coffee shop (third wave, obviously) is second place to how I feel when I’m dancing.
I was first really initially introduced to this craft coffee culture around four years ago when I would spend my days in East County San Diego at this coffeehouse called Kaffee Meister. I grew fond of the space because it was quiet and the open window interface that was adjacent to the neighboring park always eased my mind in the greatest of fashion.
Fast forward two more years in 2014 and my caffeine journey became elevated when I decided to spend a couple weeks in Auckland to become reacquainted with who I really am (but that’s another story). I spent a majority of my alone time as one would predict, in coffee shops. The space I frequented was Atomic Coffee Roasters and I would just spend hours, watching people interact and having incredibly personal and intimate conversations with the baristas that worked there. I’ve met some great people in the walls of this establishment and although it will be ages until I meet with them over a cup of coffee, their impressions are clear and distinct in my mind. I’ve also fallen deeply in love with flat whites and pour overs in the land of the Kiwis.
Accelerate that timeline of 2014 two more years again and in 2016 I’ve re-fallen back in love with coffee shops. Although my hometown scene surrounding coffee is still in its progressing stages, the dynamic landscape of all these coffee shops with a unifying but diverse mission to offer a great cup of caffeine and perhaps conversation is something I only hope aims towards longevity. In trying times where all we ever do is live vicariously through our phones, it’s nice to have some real face time, in person, with a hot steaming cup of black fuel to reawaken your senses.
I actually had a more concise outline for this blog post, but I decided to throw that wayward and just go with my gut in the composition of it. I hope you all don’t mind the random stream of consciousness, I guess you can pen me down as a regular Holden Caulfield.
Indelible Gratitude,
-Kat

Refractory Relations

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I’ve been reading up on the dynamics of relationships recently (of all kinds, both romantic and platonic) and although I don’t believe in most “hocus pocus” of sorts, I have a strong sense of analytical prose when it comes to reading other peoples’ body language. Through my experience as a dancer (currently in dormancy because this adult life is really kicking my ass right about now) I’ve learned how peoples’ body shapes coincide with how people feel, think, act. etc. How facial expressions and eye movements could possibly be the most earnest of demarcations when it comes to formations of opinion. Sometimes though, people come at you left field and take you completely by surprise.
But anyways, as I was thinking, I’ve come to know a certain individual over the course of a couple weeks and I’m still perplexed by this person. Let’s call them, Person A.
Person A communicates with me through direct, intense eye contact. The sort that is extremely rare and extremely soul revealing. For me, the constant contact with Person A was incredibly nostalgic, almost addictive. Knowing myself, once I’m into something, I’m basically “balls deep.” Just intense curiosity mode.
We got to know each other on a Sunday night and it was really the first interaction that wasn’t loosely based around the confines of where we work, and everything just felt…right. Our conversations were dynamic and deep and covered a plethora of topics that I never really took a moment to speculate before, and there was just something refreshing about it.
You know that moment when you leave a conversation with your mind reeling and your heart full? It felt like that. It. Just. Felt. Nice. I told Person A a lot of things that I never tell people when I interact with them for the first time. It felt good to be vulnerable and to trust someone with information that is near and dear to my heart. It felt extremely cathartic and so memorable that I was basically smitten with the moment (not the person, just the moment) and when we live in this high-paced life of technology it’s nice to be able to just look into someone’s eyes knowing they’re not anticipating an upcoming tweet, notification, snapchat, etc. It was experiencing someone in an old school way and I loved it.
Then come Monday and things began to change our dynamic. Person A was communicating in via side conversations. Eye contact was minimal at most, and conversation went from a “balls deep” perspective to really trivial subjects.
I’m not saying that this completely blind sighted me, I’m getting acclimated to the idea that people need to recharge (I definitely do) but I’ve been really independent for a long time that a deep face to face conversation was such a good refresher from the everyday norm of discussing the weather forecast.
I think I just needed a dose of real conversation to regain my humanity, because nowadays I just feel quite robotic and pragmatic. Sometimes a tin man needs less oil and more heart, to say the least.
This post wasn’t any sort of cohesive at all, but my brain has been rattling at this situation for quite some time and I just needed to release it from my conscious once and for all.
Hopefully this friendship-relationship (because friendships are relationships) will work itself out soon. I just need to develop a social circle outside of work that I don’t have to drive 2+ hours for.
Until then, wish me luck on developing adult relationships!
Indelible Gratitude
-Kat

Falling Back Into The Urban Fabric

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A night last week was a turn of events that lifted my spirits in the most connective way possible. My previous post about “Intimacy” and sharing a human experience left me feeling despondent with a craving to discuss bigness, not business. I missed observing all the walks of life that inhabit the fabric of the urban environment. Lately though, I got my “dose” just as unexpectedly.
My cousin invited me to a multi-medium art show in the heart of a bustling downtown and I almost hesitated because I didn’t want to go alone. Had I made the decision with my fear I would have missed out on a soul-soothing experience.
The event was called “FUTURES” and it was sponsored by the organization RAWartists.org. This showcase featured artists of all different mediums. From makeup and fashion to music and dancing this event had it all. It took residency in the House of Blues performance venue for a night and it was something to experience as with anything that is ephemeral in nature.
I was uncomfortable at first, because I came alone and didn’t know anybody except for my cousin whom was busy selling her handmade jewelry, but after a beer I became more conversational (huzzah for a little bit of carbonated liquid courage eh?) and I met some creative souls over conversation I won’t forget.
I had conversations about things I missed talking about when I was in college. Amongst these conversations were topics of the following:
  • The importance of narrative driven design
  • Instagram and the consciousness of light, shadow, tone, and texture of a photo
  • How to write socio-political rhymes for a modern “twerk & bae” audience
  • The materialization of an idea and the logical process of starting
I sound so elitist with my art & design jargon, but I just miss talking BIG ideas; things regarding the creative process whatever the medium may be. I still have hopes to search for conversations like the ones I had that memorable night. Or maybe my INFP personality is just overly-romanticizing things.
Whatevs, I’m slowly sipping away at my flat white and enjoying this pitter patter of the rain that is currently storming through the Southern California skies. Here’s to a Lazy Sunday of mental preparation for this beast we call Mondays.
So, this is to you, my reader/subscriber to my thoughts.
I hope you find yourself in good conversation over this next week. We all need it.
Indelible Gratitude,
-Kat

Intimacy

All I ever wanted in life was to reach out and touch someone. Not with my hands, but with my heart.”

– Tahereh Mafi

Over the weekend was a real in-depth soul searching queue of events for me. I couldn’t explain what brought on this inundation of speculation but my mind, as it naturally does, began to wander. As I sat there in silence with my thoughts  and the anxiety of worry began to chip away at my mood. I began to question what it is I ought to do in life.

What is the best situation for my personality? Am I really in a place of personal achievement right now? What makes me happy?

And there…that question resonated over and over again. What makes me happy? I looked over at this postcard that a dear friend of mine from college sent to me and I realized that’s what makes me happy. Intimacy.

Not in any sexual innuendo kind of way, but the emotional kind of. Having heart to heart conversations over coffee. Eating brunch for hours on end talking about anything and everything. Knowing that someone accepts you for all your bizarre idiosyncrasies; that’s intimacy. I’ve been in a really defeated kind of mood lately and that’s when I realized that I lacked intimacy and connection on a regular basis.

Hopefully in the near future more caffeinated conversations come my way.

How would you define your intimacy?

Indelible Gratitude,

– Kat