Finding My Next "Brand Next Door"

Friday, December 9, 2016

I was 11 or 12 the first time my mom took me to Gene Juarez. I felt so fancy. This place had pretty things and pretty people using paint brushes and foils on my hair instead of pulling it through a cap like they did at the little shop in a strip mall by Safeway in my hometown about an hour south of Seattle. This place made me feel like a princess. I always remembered it, especially after we moved to Idaho. As I've mentioned, the transition to a private Catholic high school in Boise as a brace-faced fourteen-year-old who came from a years of public schooling with people who smelled like patchouli (some of whom had parents who showered only a few times a week in a misguided effort to conserve water--for the environment, not for themselves) was rough. So my mom would fly me to Seattle for short weekends in the city and we went to Gene Juarez. We went to Nordstrom and we shopped. We went to Pike Place. We preserved both of our sanities.

Writing that just put all of my jobs into perspective. During my eight years in Seattle, I have worked for Nordstrom. I have worked in Pike Place. And now I'm working at Gene Juarez.

Whoa.

Excuse me while I take a moment to pace around and consider that all of this was pre-destined and subliminally planted in my brain space by MY MOM when I was little. WHY AM I SURPRISED.

You may have noticed that I've been on a winding and kind of confusing journey for the past eight-ish months. Admittedly, it's been weird.

I was laid off from my Pike Place Market job in March. My Uber driver on the way home that afternoon asked me how my day was going and I told him, "You know, not great. I just got laid off. It's my first time." He swung around in his seat, handed me his W2, and asked me what year my car was. I could drive Uber, he told me. He makes good money, he showed me. I had options. In a small way, that was comforting.

It took me five months to find what was next for me. It was an exercise in patience, which I lack. In high school, my dad would remind me of this every day as he rushed me to the door and then told me he needed to brush his teeth before driving me to school. Ohhhh, the fights we would have when he said that. I like control. I like to be in charge. I like to know what's coming. But, after eight years of being in the real world, the layoff really shoved me off that fear cliff I'd been standing on for a long time. I had to face it and I had to decide if I was going to fly. There are various reasons why I remained unemployed for five months, some to do with job inventory, some to do with f-f-f-a-t-e, and much to do with the lessons I think life was trying to teach me. In that time, we traveled to Montana, we drove Highway 1, I visited my mom a ton, we starred in an Alaska commercial, and I reconnected with longtime-not-so-lost friends. I'm grateful for it. The laundry was always done, dinner was always made, and I was always caught up on my shows. Plus, the cats were like, "Why are you killing our vibe?" and that was fun for me. Sure, I often felt like I was floundering. Yes, I absolutely felt like an unemployed loser on my thirtieth birthday and spent much of the morning of it laying on my bedroom floor throwing myself an itty bitty shitty party while taking deep breaths, but I wouldn't change it.

As soon as I decided to embrace the time I had and focus on personal fulfillment, I got a job. It was a contract role with Amazon supporting communications for Prime Air, the future drone delivery system designed to get small packages to customers in 30 minutes or fewer (can you tell I memorized the talking points?). It was great--and it sent me to the UK--but I knew it wasn't meant to be forever.

Then, just as quickly as I had been laid off eight-ish months ago, I got snapped up by Gene Juarez and all my pre-adolescent dreams started to come true. I don't know about you, but my pre-adolescent dreams were my best ones, probably my truest ones, and it turns out they've been guiding MY WHOLE LIFE.

So here I am. I'm in the game, baby. It's been a little over two weeks, but I feel like I've gotten my groove back. I'm working on some really cool personal projects I can't wait to share, and I'm hoping to make time to write more. Honestly, a lot of my motivation to write comes from creative fulfillment. I feel that now. I didn't then. Aside from watching Bravo on the couch with a fluffy animal in my lap, writing things down is the place I feel most at home.

I've learned I feel like my best self when I'm representing homegrown, Northwest brands full of people with similar interests in bad TV and beauty products. I'm excited to talk about it all more. Until then, I'll see you at the salon during my weekly blowouts.

This is from my first PR internship in Seattle when I was 22. We were unboxing Halloween costumes for our client, Savers/ Value Village. Sooooo much has changed since then. 

Living La Vida in Lake Powell

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Every year, George and his family spend two weeks in Lake Powell. I'd heard of this lake before, but had never been. This year, after hearing a lot of stories about how fun it is from my mom (and my grandparents!), Raz and I signed ourselves up.

The culture in Lake Powell is all about houseboats. People own them, rent them, live on them. They set them free at one of the main marinas and then cruise over to a little cove of their choosing and tie up. Usually they'll tow a few Sea-Doos and a speed boat. Sometimes one or both of those smaller guys goes ahead, picks a spot, and reports back to the house boat. That was the case for us.

We got all our groceries ahead of time based on a big excel sheet managed by George's daughter-in-law (and my step-sister-in-law, I guess? We like to just go with sister-in-law and such because it's easier. Blended family labels, man. Complicated.).

This is glamping at its finest. Two fridges, lots of toys, AC, a big TV. Views for days. One night we watched the stars--the brightest I've ever seen. Another we watched a lightning storm. I seriously felt like I was living on another planet. A planet without cell service and full of family.

We also partied. The beers and wine were flowing. The SIL got me my dream water throne for my birthday and I spent a few days just floating and chatting and bonding and loving life. It wasn't as hot as it usually is there, so the weather was perfectly pleasant, allowing for optimal all-day lounging.

I did walk away with some impressive burn lines that faded into a wonky little tan, but, hey, I'll take it. I got way too into my book and didn't spray myself as often as I should have. Spray sunscreen is defeatest anyway. No matter what, you will streak and you will burn, unless there is someone following you around with the can at all times. And no one wants that. I'm just saying I understand that I was set up to fail and am accepting the consequences of drinking while reading in the sun with a sub-par sun protection product sprayed on my very white, sensitive skin.

SO ANYWAY, here are some photos from our time on the boat on a lake that is the absolute opposite of any lake I've ever been to. But I really liked it, and I'm so glad I've gotten the opportunity to see some of the most epic places in the West.

How cute are two-year-old pigtails? THE CUTEST. 
Raz loved mobbing around on these. 
Took a little trek to Rainbow Bridge, which is like 150 million years old and has a dinosaur print under it. No joke.

Our cove. 

LIVING MY TRUTH SO HARD.
Taking it all in, man. 
Views from the caves.
A note: Raz got me Lightroom for my birthday and I've been playing around with it. If you're good at photo editing, please don't judge too hard as I continue to learn and revise. However, if you have great tips, please let me know! 

Catharsis Up The Coast—Our Road Trip Up Highways 1 and 101

Friday, July 22, 2016

We turned two on June 28, 2016. We celebrated by paying for a very fancy dinner on the waterfront with gift cards. What can I say? We're shopping geniuses! We always will be. 

I will never forget this day
The next morning, we got up even before the cats did to catch a one-way flight to Santa Ana (aka John Wayne) International Airport. I'd been thinking about doing a road trip up Highway 1 for a few months. It seemed like I was seeing it everywhere and mah boy Thomas Rhett kept telling me about it every time we'd sing together

Then my mom told us she needed to get a new car—funnily and quite seriously, the little Z3 my dad got before he got really sick doesn't have a enough trunk space. A bunch of various family members wanted it. I told my mom the only people she could justify giving it to, at least for now, had to be us. After all, was the one who rode around in it with my dad with our top off. was the one who watched him wash and wax it in the driveway. was the one who married a man equally fastidious about car care. It wasn't hard to convince her. 

Raz and I batted around a few ideas as far as timing, and I plugged some dates into my trusty Alaska Airlines app one night over dinner. When I discovered a $64 flight the day after our anni, we booked it. Fate. 

I also made us a Google doc outlining our journey. To be honest, I built the framework and let Raz plan the stops and time between them. After that, he volleyed it back to me, and my Travel Agent alter ego, Roxana, booked the accommodations. If you haven't noticed, we aren't exactly "happy campers," so a combination of airbnbs and hotel/motels were well within Roxana's purview. 

We landed in Orange County and were packed and ready to hit the road from my mom and George's house before noon. We gave ourselves seven days to get back to Seattle. Here's where we knew we needed to get to each night before the sun set:
  • Night 1: Santa Barbara
  • Night 2: Carmel
  • Night 3: Bodega Bay (we stayed in Occidental and it was so weird and amazing)
  • Night 4: Eureka 
  • Night 5: Bandon, OR
  • Night 6: Lincoln City
  • Night 7: HOME
Along the shore in Ventura, CA
Ready to get this party started
Exploring the Santa Barbara marina 
Where Oprah and I might stroll 
Beach steps in Santa Barbara—I had to pull over a few times
Starting up those is not comforting
Mountains just north of Santa Barbara 
Bev at one of many vista points 
Everywhere we looked was just epic
McWay Falls in Big Sur
Taking it all in—my hat is from Urban and on sale for $10 if you want it
Can I move in under the waterfall?
Found a nice person to take our photo
Bixby Bridge in Big Sur
Just north of Big Sur
Hairpin turns on the way to San Francisco—this is where I almost lost my cookies, and I don't get carsick

Stalking baby elk just north of Eureka (where they have the BEST Best Western Plus and Cambodian food—trust me)
Just over the border of Oregon on the 101
The cutest house I made Raz drive back to in Bandon just so I could take a pic
Celebrating the 4th in Lincoln City 
Almost home and feeling a little emo about it all—check my Instagram for the whole little essay
A few Dos and Don'ts:
  • DO take as much time as you can. It would have been great to have a few more days for some of our favorite places along the way, but we treated this as an intro to where we wanted to return.
  • DO get recommendations from locals. We took some incredible back roads and had a few delicious pastries because we asked questions. 
  • DO pull over. A lot.
  • DO take the detour onto Seventeen Mile Drive in Pebble Beach. Very worth it.
  • DO take the detour onto the Avenue of the Giants, which parallels the 101. It's otherworldly. 
  • DON'T rent a Mustang. We had a fun little game counting them all. 
  • DON'T invest much time in Malibu. It's extremely overrated. Unless you go to Nobu to join the Kardashian/Jenners for one of their private back room parties. 
  • DON'T forget to ask your friends for reccos before you leave.
  • DON'T be afraid to take wayyyyyy too many photos (I'll probably be posting mine forever).
  • DON'T underestimate the power of Yelp in random towns to tell you where the best places to eat are along the way (hello, Annie's Cambodian in Eureka, CA—even thinking about it is making me drool in my mouth).
  • DON'T forget the tunes, even if they're throwback mix CDs! 
We didn't stop in San Francisco because my bff was selfish enough to be in Europe while we were driving through (who does she think she is?). If we were to do it again, we might stop there for a few days. We might not. We weren't terribly tired in spite of chilling with only each other for seven days straight, having a terrible radio signal most of the time, and forgetting our CDs.

We've discussed it, and this trip probably comes in at #2 behind our honeymoon, which is nearly impossible to beat. We knew it would be once-in-a-lifetime driving my dad's car home to Seattle where I know he'd be thrilled for it to live. I'm so glad we jumped at the opportunity and got to make such powerful anniversary memories. This is a tradition I know we'll keep going—the tradition of adventure instead things each year.

Anything I missed? Anything you want to know about our trip? Let me know in the comments! 

Finding the Monkeys with Alaska Air + Global Partners

Friday, July 8, 2016

I've been getting texts and Facebook messages and Instagram comments:

"Did I just see you in an Alaska commercial?"

"How did you get in an Alaska commercial?!"

The rumors are true. Raz and I were "real and interesting" people in the newest Alaska Air spot, which is apparently airing during a lot of primetime shows.

So here's how it happened: I am a part of Alaska's Insight's group, which basically means I answer surveys and give them advice to help them improve. I've had high status the past two years because of my work travel, and I tweet at them often—about baggage delays, about my dreams of Fruit & Cheese, about my excitement for upcoming trips. Given my status and love for Twitter, I think they thought I'd be eager to fill out surveys for them. THEY WERE RIGHT.

The Insights group is a new thing. I'm not completely sure, but I think they started it the month they invited me to join it. I'm just that major, I guess. :)

One day I got an email: "Last Chance to Star in Our Next Commercial!" I'm pretty on top of refreshing my email and swear I never got the first one. Either way, it said I just had to answer a few questions ("If you could go anywhere, where would you go? What do you love most about Alaska?"), which were pieces of cake, and send a photo. So I did.

A couple days later they asked me some follow-up questions, and I was invited to come in and talk to them at this random, new apartment building common room in West Seattle.

I figured I had nothing to lose and had been fighting traffic earlier to get to a job interview in Tukwila, so talking to Alaska people about why I loved them at some random apartment building in West Seattle was a welcome change in my day. I have spent a LOT of time flying with them, to a LOT of places, so I was happy to prattle on and on and on. I filled out some paperwork and was called into a room with, essentially, a hot seat in the middle, a bunch of people around the sides (clients and agency people) and two British director guys in front.

They asked me the same questions from the email, along with a few more, we all laughed, they thanked me, and I went home.

A few days after that, I was waiting to go in to another job interview, and got an email asking my husband's name and can I please send a photo.

I have experience with this. I built the eHarmony profile that got my friend married and pregnant within a year. I know what I'm doing when it comes to selecting photos that show how fun and well-rounded people are. I sent three photos, along with his name and how to pronounce it. They thanked me and said, basically, "this does not mean you've been selected."

No skin off my nose, I figured. But I knew they wanted me, and they wanted Raz to ride my coattails. I had mentioned him when I talked to them at that apartment building in West Seattle.

Again, a few days passed. Then they started calling and emailing—lots of different people—saying we were selected and to send our availability for two days in the next week and asking various other questions.

We were in! We had no idea what it meant.

The next week, we went in to a big warehouse by the airport with a bunch of outfits they told us to bring ("We want you to look like you're coming home from a tropical vacation"). Of course they didn't use anything that I brought for myself, but all they did was change Raz's shirt and fluff his hair. Boys...

There were people everywhere and chaos and a woman making quesadillas. It took about two hours for my outfit to be selected. They ended up letting me wear my own sweater and sandals, but that was it. They wanted to remove my lashes. Thank God they couldn't. They painted my nails coral to seem more "tropical." They were still tacky when they wanted me to wheel in my bag for our big debut, and someone else had to do it for me so I wouldn't mess up my mani. That's when I really felt like a star.

When it was our turn, we stood on our marks on a blue screen in front of a green screen and answered the same questions again.

"If you could go anywhere, where would you go?"

"What do you love about Alaska?"

That's why we look all shifty eyed and weird. We were in a huge room staring at a bunch of people answering the same questions over and over. But I suppose that's the life of an actor!

The whole process was maybe 20 minutes once we were in? I can't be sure. They laughed again and clapped (after they asked if I would have wine with my Fruit & Cheese and I said "sure, why not?" and then asked Raz if he would have the same and he said "I just like the jerky and beer,") and said we "nailed it" and they wanted to send me some Fruit & Cheese because I clearly loved it so much. It was one of those experiences we get to use in those "Two Truths and a Lie" icebreakers now.


The commercial is out and I was shocked to see they closed with us. Basically, we're the Kendall Jenner of this thing. I embedded it below. 

And that's the story of how Raz and I became commercial stars. We're still the same people you know and love, just slightly more famous. 


And
TAn

Really Into Roche

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

When I was 23, I forced asked my parents to take me Orcas Island for my birthday. They lived there the summer I was born and we hadn't been back since. It was probably the best little trip we'd taken together in my 20s. It was an opportunity for them to show me where we came from, the little house they lived in next to a perfect rocky beach with views up to Canada, and all their favorite places on the island. It was one of the last getaways we took all together.

A few years later, Raz took me back for an anniversary trip. We went to Rosario, where my dad had worked the summer I was born. I gave him a similar tour to the self-guided one my parents gave me. That trip was a little harder. I cried for an hour in the ferry line while he tried to watch Breaking Bad on the iPad. I was embarrassed that I had "ruined" our trip because he had been so thoughtful, but turns out it was too soon after my dad had gotten sick for me to be back. Some things you have to learn the hard way.

Then, recently, my mom invited us to Roche Harbor on San Juan Island. I'd never been to that one and given my current phase of early retirement, I agreed to come a few days before everyone else to have some alone time with my mom and George.

I took a little seaplane adventure on Kenmore Air and spent most of the forty minute ride snapping pics and vids. It was otherworldly.





We were on San Juan Island for a weekend-long boating event, so I can't speak much to anything beyond the marina and I'm totally fine with that. What I can say is island life makes you breathe a little deeper and walk a little slower. 


One of the nearby islands we really want to go to and haven't yet is Victoria. I need to experience that high tea life at The Empress. Add that to the ol' bucket list, along with everything San Juan.

Impulse buy! ;)

Blissed Out

Thursday, June 2, 2016

It's amazing how quickly your new "free time" can fill up. My mom recently retired from the professional world and always mentions how much busier she is now than she was then. I'm starting to get it. I think I'm finding my groove in this new normal.

This housewife life really isn't so bad.

It's forced me out of my comfort zone in a lot of ways. Who am I now? How do I define myself? What does success look like? Will the cats miss me when I leave the house all day again? "Walk me through your resumé..." 

It's isolating.

But it's also pretty nice. We no longer spend our weekends doing laundry or grocery shopping, unless we want to. And we usually don't.

I've taken charge of my wellness. I've gotten back to my Olympia hippie roots and have taken up acupuncture, reflexology, and regular massages. I'm doing a lot of yoga, pilates, barre, and girly protein shakes (I've come up with a killer recipe using the kale from my garden!). I'm reading a lot of books—heady and chick-litty—and putting them in Little Libraries all around town.

I'm a little stressed, but it's a different kind, and I've found that taking care of myself within my new little routine has helped lessen it.

And more often than ever before, I get pretty blissed out within it. I lead with gratitude. When I'm searching for things to take deeper breaths at home, I casually stalk the New In Beauty! section of Nordstrom.com. I was really excited to see some Blackbird products in the new POP-IN. I loved their store in Fremont and sniff their super-masculine products pretty hard when I'm near them in cute boutiques around the city.

Here are six things I've recently added to my Wish List that I may snap up one by one...in the meantime, please don't hesitate to email me about anything wellness-related, whether you're curious about what I'm doing for my body or would like to share how you're treating yours: whitneytbnd@gmail.com.


An Open Letter to My Dad on His 67th Birthday

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Kouk—

I visited you a few weeks ago and I had a hard time believing that it's been almost four years. It really doesn't feel like it's been that long at all. It made me kind of mad, honestly. I sat there in front of you watching this lady let her dog run wild through the cemetery and thinking Lady, have a little respect. Also, Sunset August 2012? That can't be right. 

As you know, in that time, everything has changed. We have a whole new family, and they're really, really great. We got lucky. We have embraced a life of adventure because we know our time here is short. You taught us that. We eat more ice cream. We don't eat spaghetti. For various reasons.

Most importantly, we are together and we are committed to being together as much as we can, even though we exhaust each other sometimes. 

Today, on your 67th birthday, we are in California. Grandma and Papa ditched us this weekend to go to Carson's graduation at WSU (Go Cougs!), so we'll bother you and them later. I found us some super cool ice cream options and am making mom take us to the beach. 

There's a lot in flux right now. It might be, as a moon goddess told me once, another "foundational year." Help me build it right, will ya? What's the point of a guardian angel if I don't put you to work up there pulling strings? I'm trying to keep my anxiety about how it will all work out at bay. I'm trying to play it cool. I don't know how well I'm doing. 

I hope however you choose to spend your birthday today—on a boat, on a horse, on a motorcycle, cruising down the highway with your top off—you know how intensely you are loved and thought of every day. 

Raz will be excitedly using your barbecue tools all summer. He was thrilled at how clean they were when he found them recently. I wasn't surprised. You are both extremely anal retentive, in the best ways, of course. He and I might be driving your Z3 home from California this summer, up the 1 just like you might have done if circumstances were different. I'll be looking for you along the way, and I know you'll be looking for us, too. 

Love you, Kouk. We'll cheers our ice cream to you today. 

Until we meet,
Bud


To The Woman Who Taught Me to Never Sit Still...Unless My Nails Are Drying

Sunday, May 8, 2016

First, an apology. I'm sorry I ever underestimated you. I should have known better. I always knew there had to be more to us, to what we could be. I'm sorry I told you to be more like Amber's mom and drive a Taurus and bring me and my 7th grade soccer team perfect, unblemished apple slices after practice. You laughed. "I have more in my life than just you, Whitney," you said. "You are loved," you said. "I will never drive a Taurus," you said.  

As it turns out, Amber's mom is an alcoholic. Things aren't always what they seem. 

We were rocky. I didn't feel like you gave me enough of your time. Everything and everyone else seemed to take precedence—you had a work trip, your friend needed you, you just...couldn't be there that time. 

And yet. 

You've never missed my birthday. You've shown me the world. You taught me how to shop quickly and efficiently. You've woken me up and surprised me with quick trips to beautiful places. You took me to the library. You introduced me to sushi at a random, hole-in-the-wall place by the airport. You held me down at Barnes & Noble and tried to force eye drops into my itchy eyes. You worked hard so I never wanted for anything. You threw your arm across my chest when we stopped too fast just in case my seat belt and airbag were somehow defective. You called my friends when they were mean to me and they wrote YOU letters of apology. You said exactly what I was thinking seconds after I thought it. You sent me He's Just Not That Into You with no note and no preemptive, explanatory phone call. You gave me someone to admire in every way. 

What I didn't know then, back when we were rocky and complicated, what I do know now, is that you were navigating through very deep pain that had nothing to do with me. It felt like it did, but it didn't. You protected me from it. You flung your arm across my chest just in case. And when you finally explained everything to me, the lights came on and I was more captivated by you than ever before. In literature, they call that a tragedy, but I consider us more of, like, a smart comedy. Suzanne Somers can be you and Kristen Bell can be me. They can be layered and funny and fun and pretty just like we are. 

Anyway, I couldn't believe it. Except I could. And when I looked at you, I finally really, really saw you. 

You gave me a gift that day, probably one of the biggest you've given me, and since then we've found our way to what I always wanted: A mom who shows up for me, sometimes more than I would prefer. A mom who answers the phone when I call. A mom who makes me apple slices. A mom who still won't drive a Taurus. 

Brava to you, mom. You are a totem of fierce love and deep, unwavering patience. You are sparkle personified. You are beautiful, but more importantly you are smart and funny and FUN. You exhaust me. You keep surprising me. I'd pick you straight out of a catalog every time. 

Above all else, I hope you know you've raised a really great kid. 

Happy Mother's Day, Queen Carlo! I love you endlessly. 


Us in horse form
All photos courtesy of Northern Born Photography

Double the Nordstrom Triple Points, Double the Fun!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Well, guys, I got another post card last week and it could not have come at a better time. TRIPLE POINTS ARE BACK May 4-8 at Nordstrom, Rack, and Hautelook! If you didn't take advantage last go-around, you must. I'll be heading to a couple stores near me tomorrow to work on a few things I have coming up—multiple birthdays, Mother's Day, my BFF's 30th birthday party in wine country, and a Memorial Day adventure in Palm Desert.

Check out the assortment of things on my Wish List and please don't hesitate to share what's on yours!

Brand Next Door—Volunteer Park Conservatory

Monday, May 2, 2016

When I got laid off, I made a list of all the cheap and/or free things I wanted to do while I had extra time during the day. Honestly, I was pretty bummed that I'd lived in Seattle for almost eight years and was able to compile such a long list. But, hey, I'm one person and I have a lot of life to live.

The Volunteer Park Conservatory ($4 day pass for adults) was top of my list for many reasons, not least of which was how anyone could figure out how to keep that many plants alive at once. I can't help but perpetually kill plants, so I was in awe the entire time I was self-guided touring.

Plus, it smells like Hawaii, and anything that smells like Hawaii is a good thing.







If you have ideas of places I should add to my list, please do let me know!


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