Reflections on 2009

Late 2008, I was working as an analyst in real estate finance. The real estate bubble burst and what followed in 2009 was the worst recession since the Great Depression. My employer was a privately held company and while they hung on as long as they could, it was evident drastic changes were on the horizon. Eventually, they shed 30% of their staff, including me. (A second round of layoffs followed a few months later.)

I kicked off 2009 in a funk. Job prospects in my field were dismal. Within a matter of months, my condo dropped 30% in value. Without a job, I panicked and put my house up for sale. It languished in the declining market.

Well-intended friends asked about plans for my ‘round-the-world trip.

I laughed at the thought. “ ‘Round-the-world? I’m fighting for survival here!”

In just a few short months, I went from being secure and making bold plans for my future to mid-morning pep talks and consciously making an effort to get out of bed.

I attended mandatory training at the unemployment office. With a stack of “Worker Retraining” and “How to File for Unemployment” papers in hand, the counselor looked me in the eye and directed me to the nearest shelter providing free food. I navigated past screaming children and a waiting room full of false optimism, and threw up in the parking lot.

For the next two months, I hid under the covers and slept. Channel surfing through cartoons, I took my rage out on Curious George, “What the hell are you so happy about???” and secretly yearned for The Man with a Big Yellow Hat to help restore the pieces of my life.

My lifeline came in the form of Twitter.

Everything from the fascinating to the profoundly mundane mingled within my Twitter stream. It was comforting to see people going about the normal business of life...and eventually, I joined them.

I was still inching my way back when my friend Catherine suffered a debilitating brain aneurysm. Just two days after a fabulous dinner party, she was in intensive care with a ghastly post-surgery suture and swollen black eye the size of my fist. Her long blonde hair was in a lopsided do--half-shaved, and the other half in a gnarled, matted mess against the pillow. We spoke in hushed voices while a battery of equipment beeped softly in the background, and prayed the predicted seizures would never come. Six weeks in ICU plus two weeks in the hospital, were followed by months of recovery at home. (Related post is here.)

Suddenly, my worries seemed so very trite.

Still in my cartoon phase, I took a cue from Frosty the Snowman and put one foot in front of the other….

Looking back on 2009, I can honestly say it was the best year of my life--the good, bad and seriously depressing…I wouldn’t change a thing.

When I finally jumped off the pity party train, it was astonishing to see what happened. Beginning in the spring, I dove head first into a number of projects and continued that frantic pace well into the winter. (In hindsight, it’s clear I was trying to reclaim my wounded ego.)

I had a powerful yearning for community…and that became a central theme in 2009. In a town known for the legendary “Seattle freeze,” could I really make a difference? The idea began to build momentum. What began as dinner here and there, eventually mushroomed into the first International Food Blogger Conference, a documentary screening & panel discussion, speaker events, and a 90-person communal potluck!

While my plans are uncertain for the new year, if 2009 is any indication…brace yourself! It’s going to be a wild ride!

Life’s a great big canvas, and you should throw all the paint on it
you can. - Danny Kaye

Traca’s 2009 highlights:

– Dinner for New Orleans Chef John Besh, organizer

- Americana Community Potluck, organizer

Artisan Beef Institute’s Seattle Tasting Series, organizer

International Food Blogger Conference, co-founder

Fearless Writing Workshop (San Diego, CA), attendee

End of the Line exclusive Seattle screening & panel discussion, organizer

– Lunch with Michael Escoffier (August’s grandson), hosted by Sur La Table owner Renee Behnke

- Outstanding in the Field Dinner prepared by chefs of SPUR, attendee

- Artisan Butcher field trip for chefs, organizer

- Umami field trips (rhubarb & strawberry) with Jon Rowley & Kate McDermott

- Herbfarm Restaurant farm visit & dinner

Ventana Restaurant, consultant and opening PR

Canning Across America Project, founding member

– 3-day Northwest Sustainability Discovery Tour (Portland, OR), attendee

- Named a “Foodie to Follow on Twitter” - Seattle Magazine

– FoodSnap: Food Photography workshop with Lou Manna, attendee

Coffee Fest, attendee

– Photographer Scott Bourne’s lecture on Previsualization, organizer

– American Lamb Board’s Lamb Jam, judge

- Interview with Momofuku’s David Chang

- Dubbed “Food Guru” - Edible Seattle

- Interview with Will Write for Food author Dianne Jacob

– Culinary Institute of America’s World of Flavor Conference – Street Food & Comfort Food (Napa, CA), attendee

- Lunch with Saveur co-founder Dorothy Kailins

– Taste TV’s Seattle Luxury Chocolate Salon, judge (2008, 2009)

- Cooking demo, Queen Anne Farmer’s Market (my first!)

– Theo Chocolate’s 3-part Chocolate University, attendee

- Coffee from the Grounds Up, 9-part lecture on coffee, attendee

- Chef’s Collaborative Summit, attendee

– Lunch with author & New York Times columnist Mark Bittman

- New blog series: Books that Paved the Way

- Serious Eats, photo credit

- Travel & Leisure, photo credit

Tasty Awards, judge

- Food News Journal, Best of the Blogs [December 18, 2009]