Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Mise en Place

 What. A. Year. 

I was adamant about writing before 2021 because it will be my first time posting as frequently in over 5 years. Maybe next year I will meet my blog goal and post once a month. But, I'm also tired of making goals when so much can happen in a year, as seen in 2020, where our entire world has changed in 9 months. Being disappointed in what we "should" have accomplished this year wouldn't have allowed us to celebrate the successes of this year. Surviving a pandemic, a wildfire with hazardous air quality, political unrest, global racial awareness, etc. The list goes on because honestly, this year was so traumatic that I am hardly able to remember sometimes. What I do remember is that I felt more well rounded than I have in over a decade. With so much going on in the world, this year challenged me to strengthen my friendships, reactivate my artistic creativity, explore ways to give back - all while maintaining 6 feet and social distancing. 

A small successes for 2020 included diving into my filipino roots. I have spent so much of my life dedicated to my Black community and background, but I wanted to also give time to my other half. I am also Filipina! I can go into a long discussion on being bi-racial and multitude of layers that creates in identity, but I'll stop for this post. I read Filipino American books (Thank you Carlos Bulosan, Jose Antonio Vargas and Elaine Castillo!), joined the Filipino American City Employees (FACE) Affinity group, and spent lots of time in the kitchen with my mama. I've also been making up for lost time and eating lumpia WAY too often. My mom always says it's supposed to be for celebrations, which I think is fair because 2020 calls for parties at dinnertime simply for maintaining sanity and joy. 

Lumpia! (No, it's not a spring roll) 

Some much larger success happened all right in the last month. In my last post from August I talked about working on an artist grant. The Jordan Schnitzer Family Foundation had announced the Black Lives Matter Artist Grant, which dedicated $150,000 to 20 artists in Portland, Oregon (and another 40 in Washington/Eugene) for artists whose work responds to Black Lives Matter. I haven't made a visual art piece in over 8 years, but my past work was all themed on social injustice, so this grant was a perfect chance to funnel all my feelings in to a new piece. It was hard. I learned I can't just jump into art at a whim anymore - thinking too much on materials, dimension, composition, etc. Too much engineering lately, if you ask me ;) In spite of the hours staring a blank slate, I pulled together not just a proposal, but a completed piece for the grant. It was worth the effort too because I was announced as one of the grant recipients earlier this month. I was and am still elated. I thought I had given up the artist in me when I became an engineer - choosing not to study art in college and giving up the street shows I used to do. Details on the upcoming grant showcase are TBD due to COVID, but I plan to share the piece at that time. Applying for the grant also prompted me to reactivate my old domain and recreate my website, so is also up and running again! 

Also, around August when I was feeling particularly overwhelmed with the state of affairs, I did some research on starting scholarships, foundations, etc. Thanks to some great advice, I was able to start my own scholarship for BIPOC women majoring in engineering, the 'Brannon Diversity in Engineering Scholarship' through my alma mater, University of Portland (UP). It is essentially a unique way to support diversifying STEM fields, which to almost all who know me, is a passion. As part of the 2% of engineering graduates who are black women, I am personally vested in diversifying my field. My scholarship was highlighted this month by UP in their Annual Giving Campaign. Highlighting my scholarship was astounding because it got so much support! Seeing my friends become donors and even a local company supporting this effort brought me so much joy. I am so grateful to all of the donors who made my education possible via scholarships, so it is a pleasure to give back to the future generation of engineers. More info on my newest website tab! ;) 

I can't pretend this year was all good. I lost my great grandma, spent many days in bed, slept more than I thought possible, cried over a lost foster kitten, drank too much, postponed parts of my life and found myself feeling helpless. In spite of the tumultuous year our world has had, we each accomplished so much - working from home, maintaining health, getting closer to friends, and reshaping our "normal." The french phrase "mise en place" means 'everything in its place,' as well as 'setting up' and thats a bit how it feels right now. A year so wretched, but hopeful - setting up for something better in 2021. 

Small orange highlights to this year. Meet Franz.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Some Assessment and Some New Things

I feel torn between two states of mind. One part incredibly hopeful for the future with all of the activism / awareness that’s spread around the world. And, the other feeling hopeless with some people’s innate lack of empathy and willful ignorance. I’ve seen many of my (what I thought were) friend’s/family’s true colors to which I’ve realized that who I am as a person was just the one exception to their racist world views. The moment I show emotion or solidarity with activists who are trying to make change, I’m being “racist.” All of which is comical and frustrating at the same time. I’ve learned this little summary of insights:


-       Don’t read the comments. Trash world trolls there and they will make you doubt hope for humanity

-       I will get called sensitive and throwing the ‘race card’ for discussing who I am, but they’ll be the first ones to claim they feel left out, upset that they’re being “targeted,” and that they’ve had a rough life, so therefore don’t carry privilege…  A LOT of people miss the point. For the people in the back – To have white privilege does not mean your life hasn’t had struggles, it just means your skin tone was not one of these struggles. Given that I can’t change my skin tone and it’s the first thing that is seen, along with my assumed gender, it’s a big one to have at the forefront of how I walk through this world.

-       I’d rather take well meaning than willfully ignorant. Was frustrated by this concept when this activism bug caught on, but I’d rather have folks trying to learn or do better, than deal with those refusing to see facts or experiences, and having a stubborn inhumane lack of empathy. Just because it doesn’t affect you, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.


All of this being said, this blog was never very personal or political as far as my emotions and frustrations, but with the world in its current state, I can’t pretend that my COVID crafting streak or increased involvement in community wasn’t fueled by a desire to destress, self-care, and a need to do something that creates meaningful change in a system that is undeniably broken.


Cross stitching (a new craft hobby) via virtual “Crafternoons” with friends, gardening, making cocktails, cooking almost every meal, and spending time with my beau have been some of the calmer parts of my life. I have also seen more friends virtually and socially distanced than I ever had time for in pre-COVID times, and value their friendship more than I realized. I am also thankful for having a job that allows me to work from home, though finding out this work style will continue into 2021 was a bit of a shock. The cats definitely enjoy this work life, not very balanced lifestyle than I do…

Gardening Results

My completed cross stitch projects from the last few months. ;) 

Cats enjoying backyard office time with mom :) 

Joining the National Association for the Advance of Colored People (NAACP) Portland Branch has been a whirlwind. I was recruited by a friend who chairs the Political Action Committee and within a few weeks, I’ve stepped into a new role as the Environmental Justice Subcommittee Chair. With the increased racial awareness that has spread worldwide, there has been a reinvigoration of activism with the NAACP and its breathing new life into the local chapter’s committees. Meetings are thought provoking! I’m learning a lot on honing my leadership skills and the work that goes into legislation. It’s a different experience than working with engineers all day at work, which often continued in my time as the Vice President for the NSBE Portland Professional Chapter (also, check out our new board members on our site) I am very excited to continue working with the NAACP and gain a more political background, to which I hope will create real change within our society. Stay posted on IP 44 on your ballots, which is one of the measures our committee is supporting!


I have a lot of projects in the works now too. Potential app development, attempting to apply for my first artist grant (remember when I was an artist 8 years ago? I'm hoping to tiptoe back into my creative side again…TBD), continued studying for my PE license, and maintaining my existing commitments – NSBE, Etsy Shops, Found on Fremont, CAAN projects on empowering my fellow black employees within the City of Portland, and the inevitable search for BALANCE.


See below for my first site visit in months. Very cool project in SE Portland, that to be fair, I was just visiting for cost negotiation on my own projects, but I got to go on this fun field trip afterwards. I do miss Construction management sometimes.


Construction in the time of COVID - masked up!

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Restless Quarantine

Hard to believe it's been more than two months since I was in the office. The adjustment of working from home and being in quarantine for this long has been an emotional rollercoaster. I tend to value myself based on productivity/actions, so with nothing but time, I began quarantine frantically trying to get as much done as I could. I think I honestly thought things would go back to normal shortly. I'm now in a more relaxed mood, and finally realizing that things aren't going back to the old routine for quite a while - and that maybe its not a bad thing. I'm getting things done I've been procrastinating for years and going back to old hobbies that are fulfilling me just as much as they did when I was younger. I'm also working harder to stay connected with friends because the skill of socializing is something I gained with practice and its far too easy to go back to my naturally introverted ways.

I'm also happy to report that my volunteer affiliations have transitioned to some virtual efforts. I was on two panels for NSBE outreach (with more events scheduled in the next few weeks - follow @nspbepropdx), been hosting semi weekly virtual check in meetings with the City African American Network, and completed a shoebox float for Good n' the Hood's participation in the Portland Rose Festival's Grand Petite Parade. There is so much creativity in how folks are staying connected during this time and I'm so impressed with everyone - no matter the situation, we still continue to provide outlets for the community.

I've completed a slough of projects around the house, crafted a lot, and implemented some changes to my diet / health. Some of my projects included:

  • Started my garden / had extreme trimming done on my trees
  • Started running - I can now run 5 miles and have been running a few times a week
  • Organized my garage / art room 
  • Ramped up online sales with ebay, etsy, etc.
  • CRAFTING - jewelry with mom, virtual crafternoon with my engineering ladies from work, paint night with my guy, and lots of weaving on my own 
  • Lots of cooking - bulgogi, smothered pork chops, almond flour pizzas, etc.
  • Started and ended a keto diet - lost most of the quarantine weight I gained in the first month and am now actively watching carb/sugar intake
  • Removing old carpet / painting my guy's attic room, so he could lay laminate - looks great!
  • Painted my room and replaced/stained new baseboards/crown molding
  • Scheduled new windows to be installed next month
  • Read over 10 books since quarantine began 
  • Intentional connection with friends - Zoom, Skype, Teams, etc. 
  • Finished a puzzle
  • Reupholstered my mid century dining table chairs
  • Started playing the piano again - remastering old pieces and am continuing to be amazed with how reliable my muscle memory is
  • Oh, and my dearest cat Ludwig now has an instagram, ha!  @acatnamedludwig

While I really want to get back to the office and my usual pace with work, I am beginning to appreciate the newfound balance and forced reset in how I spend my time. Goals I hoped to accomplish the year are likely delayed. Travels I planned are definitely delayed. But - all in all, I feel incredibly lucky to work from home and have my family in good health during this time. :) 

My latest woven piece - tried to step outside of my comfort zone with some color!

The Good n' The Hood shoebox float I worked on with my fellow parade co-chair
Rocky the Cat showing his favorite pose by my puzzle - he gets excited when packages are delivered!

Some bottle cap collage magnets I made. I used to make these when I was about 11 years old :) 

Easter/Mother's Day and lots of birthdays via quarantine. This bouquet
shows how well the garden has been blossoming 

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Stayin' Home, Stayin' Busy

2020 is surreal. Prior to March, I had finished reading The Stand by Stephen King. Little did I know it was a strange foreshadowing to the string of events related to COVID-19. This new reality continues to shock me. I have waited in line to buy groceries, seen completely empty aisles in stores, seen a fight in grocery stores, and been far too pleased that I had three bottles of hand sanitizer in my car. Also, doing the math on how long my eight rolls of toilet paper will last has been interesting.

I am now in week two of working from home after my job's building was evacuated. The City of Portland continues to work, but we're all learning to use Microsoft Teams, making due with personal laptops, limited software, and wonky internet. I've even learned that a good chunk of my coworkers don't have wifi. It's a strange time.

While the impacts of "Stay Home, Save Lives" have been pretty isolating, it's allowed me to get a ton of work done around the house and helped create the balance I was trying to find. Good in the Hood 2020 has been cancelled. My various NSBE and City African American Network events have been postponed. Concerts cancelled. Professional Engineering (PE) exams have been postponed. All of these cancellations have given me the free time to cook healthy meals, garden, cuddle with my cats, study without deadlines, and craft without trying to balance my work and extensive volunteer commitments. At first I struggled with losing my sense of purpose... it is hugely fulfilling to plan events and be a part of my community. But, keeping the community safe so that someday we can be in large groups without infecting one another is also important. I'm proud that all of my organizations value the communities they serve.

Anyway, in spite of being home, I'm keeping as busy as I can with self care and productive things around the house. :)

Mulched my front yard myself this year! Was happy my perennials came back nice and healthy this year.

Garden boxes ready for seeding when this week of rain is over.

Dining chairs freshly reupholstered and our newest cat family member, Rocky, approves!
One of the things I'm also taking a break from is thrifting and Found on Fremont in general. The shop is temporarily closed until the virus is over, which saves me some more time and is actually a nice break from tagging and making little displays. Its likely this Easter display wont get much love though, ha! 

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Balance and Inspiring Creativity

Hard to believe we're in 2020. I did about my usual with four posts last year and I always hope I'll do better. Things have been busy, but not in the way that I usually am. This year I am focusing on authenticity, balance and focusing on my long term goals. I do a lot of volunteer work and I get a lot of joy out it, but I don't want to lose sight of my personal goals whilst being busy, so I'm hoping this year to get a better balance on my time.

That being said, last month and the latter portion of last year were spent on NSBE (National Society of Black Engineers). We now have an active board, executive advisors, and are planning to attend our first National Conference next month. We put on several events that had a consistent turnout every time. I've made a really awesome network of black engineers and that is something I didn't know was possible given the lack of diversity I see in Portland and within my career field. I'm so proud of our board members and that my super sleuthing/networking/pestering to start a chapter paid off. Check our our new website! And, give us a follow on instagram @nsbepropdx

This last month up until February was busy with work volunteering as well, since the City African American Network (CAAN) always works hard to put on events for city staff in honor of Black History Month. CAAN started out as a small group of individuals and has grown significantly. It is so nice to be a part of a larger group now and take a small step back to see what others can do. My main task at our City Hall proclamation this year was to coordinate an art display for the month. I chose two artists to showcase, Sade Beasley and Hobbs Waters. I don't usually highlight other artist's work on my blog, but these two really inspired me to think about my original roots as an artist. I have been so focused on being an engineer, that I kind of neglected my creative side. I always craft - making jewelry typically, but it has been over 5 years since I made a piece of visual art. Organizing the art display made me think about my old portfolio and the type of work I want to put forth later. I hope after a certain engineering license exam is passed that I'll be able to focus on my creativity. Thank you to Sade/Hobbs for inspiring me! :) The proclamation event itself was lovely too - the national theme on 'African Americans and the Vote' allowed for some great programming. We still have a couple other events planned, so be sure to follow CAAN on facebook!

Outside of volunteering, work, and still managing my little vendor space at Found on Fremont, I've been enjoying travel and FUN. I went to Peru for my birthday in November and took a mini weekend in San Francisco in January to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Taking breaks for a fancy tiki cocktail, retro arcades, and weekends to coast are things I value so much lately. Finding time for a gym run, keto cooking, and journaling are also part of the balance of self care I'm incorporating to the week. It takes a lot of organization to juggle things.

Selfie in Machu Picchu, Peru!