Let’s Talk About The Unexpected, Shall We?

Dena Ogden
Apr 19, 2017 · 11 min read

Note: In the spirit of this month’s theme of “unexpected,” Julia and I (the two founders of this very website you’re reading), hopped on a chat to discuss what the concept means to us.

Julia: Let’s go for it.

Dena: Okay, for context, we had another theme ready to go, and I changed it last minute while you were on vacation. By the way, sorry about that. What did you think of the last-minute switch to an April theme of “unexpected”?

Julia: Oh stop, it — it was totally okay! I will admit, at first, the type-A part of me twitched for just a split second. But then, being knee deep in wet sand while reading the email, it kind of made a lot of sense.

Dena: How so?

Julia: The vibe of the month was just, well, unexpected. I hadn’t planned to be at the beach until a week before (which is a pretty short lead time for me), and without being able to put my finger on it, this April just wasn’t fitting in with the rhythm the first three months of 2017. “Unexpected,” once you sent it to me just…made sense. What made you switch it up?

Dena: Ah, good question. Strictly talking editorial logistics, as we were getting closer to the beginning of the month, all of the ideas I had for pieces weren’t really jiving with the original theme. Plus, to be totally transparent, some of the plans I had for March got pushed back, so I still had that on my mind, too. It felt like nothing was quite going as planned.

Julia: Was there something specific that made you choose it as the theme, and focus more on the concept of “unexpected” instead of skipping over it?

Dena: Really, I felt inspired to just lean into it. Like, “I’m feeling this way, I’m sure other people feel this way, this happens to everyone, let’s shed some light on it.”

Julia: It reminds me of our spring cleaning conversation last month…we cleared some things off our list and made some plans, and it looked different from what we anticipated it would look like, but we just went with it.

Dena: Yesssss. Like, sometimes things don’t go as planned, but rolling with it can be for the better.

Julia: For sure. Plus, we’re just getting to the six month mark of having a live site, and I think we’ve learned and adjusted quite a bit since November.

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Dena: Yes! I mean, I’m not sure about you but I wasn’t really sure what to expect. We’ve made lots of tweaks and changes in the last few months and especially since the planning phase.

Julia: I think having the site up and running was necessary for us to really figure out what we liked and what was working, and as scary (and exciting!) as it was to launch with about 85% of our ideas up and running, I’m so glad we did.

Dena: Me too!

Julia: We’ve talked before about how we could have sat and written and planned for another three months.

Dena: Three months, easily.

Julia: But the “unexpected” side of seeing how the workload would be, and how people would react to the content and format was really cool and valuable, I think.

Dena: Hehehe, remember when we were like “5 posts a week! Every week!”?

Julia: Oh yes, those were the days!

Dena: We were so…optimistic.

Julia: And I want to get back to those days one day but…just not yet.

Dena: For sure. We’ll get there. That’s actually been something surprising for me, is how malleable the whole process has been.

Julia: It helps that there’s only two of us and we’re in charge.

Dena: I think I’m more forgiving of myself because there are two of us, as opposed to when I work on solo projects. Like, if it was just me, I’d be so much harder on myself when adjustments are made. But since it’s not just me, I put myself in your shoes and think about how I feel when your schedule changes. It’s a good reminder that, “oh right, this is life and this happens and we will just handle it accordingly.”

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Julia: Same here! I feel like we talked about this before launch too — the importance of being flexible and not too hard on ourselves if things didn’t go as planned. That’s funny, because I do the same thing. I also feel, if we change something, your texts are so calm and in control. They always make me feel better. Like when I have to push back a date I start stressing about it, and then you reply with something like “sound great” or “of course” or “whatever you need” and it puts it in perspective for me. The world will not end if I finish a project a day late. Which is a pretty huge for me. I’m big on structure and deadlines and things…but only if I actually have them set.

Dena: Hehehe, I strive to sound calm and in control when everything is actually going to sh*t (not that any changes from you are the cause of things going to sh*t, I just mean in general of course).

Julia: So you’re texting me in your adulting voice, is what you’re saying?

Dena: Fake it ’til you make it! My camp counselor days taught me that.

Julia: Totally.

Dena: I also wanted to talk about times we’ve been proud of how we’ve handled the unexpected. It feels like the site itself is one big example, but do you have any others…?

Julia: I guess most of the unexpected things that have come up about the site have been positive, like how quickly the profiles have been picked up and shared by people, and the evolution of our content taking us off pretty far from some of our original ideas…but I love where our content is going even though I wouldn’t have been able to predict it. I even think back to our original concept for the site before we switched over site names and I am shocked at how far we’ve come.

Dena: OMG someday we’ll have to share what the original name was. I’m so not ready for that though.

Julia: Yeah, me neither.

Dena: It’s like when you hear of an actor who was considered for a beloved role before the actual star was cast and you’re like “EW NO.”

Julia: Haha, yeah, I hear you on that. I can’t imagine The Woodsy not being The Woodsy. Small tweaks can make such monumental changes, and you don’t see how big they are until you get there.

Dena: Seriously. Okay, switching gears a little bit…how does this theme of “unexpected” play out for you on a more day-to-day, regular basis? For me, it’s totally about having a young child. I feel like I have to constantly be on my toes, and just when I think I’ve got a certain stage under control, or a routine that works, the toddler is like “yeah NOPE” and I’m totally humbled. I can also think of a few times from earlier stages of life when family emergencies struck, or significant relationships changed without warning, and I think I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that all factors into how I feel about the word.

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Julia: I can totally identify with that. Making your own routine is one thing, but juggling two or three, and trying to make sure nothing falls through the cracks is tricky and often makes me want to jump out a window. I have been fortunate enough that I haven’t had a lot of major surprises in my life, because the day to day tiny ones are quite enough for me to deal with.

Dena: They can definitely add up.

Julia: Right!? Particularly for freelancers who work from home, such as ourselves. Our lives are based on self-imposed structure, and so little surprises and unexpected twists can really mess up a day, if you know what I mean.

Dena: Oh, for sure!

Julia: I think, for me, setting a routine and making plans, and doing all the things that go along with that…those are always a work in progress.

Dena: And, the older I get, the better I get at saying, “okay, I think I can handle X, Y and Z in this specific period of time.” But I’m ALSO now more practiced at being like “oh snap, now A, B, and C have come up and I need to rework everything.”

Julia: I totally agree. I do wish though, that I could have a nice, snug, concrete schedule once in awhile. I feel like the constant “work-in-progress-just-roll-with-it” can be so draining. But, as we get older, or at least as I get older, I’ve learned to start thinking in different chunks of time and being more flexible. Ten years ago, if it was a cleaning/organization day, I set aside HOURS for it. Now, I’m satisfied if I can get one Pomodoro of laundry done or a quick clean up of a drawer in an odd half hour.

Dena: I have a feeling we’ll get there with the site, though. We’re five months in, and we’ve learned so much already, and we have so many other lessons and ideas that we’re ready to apply…

Julia: I feel like we’ll reread this one in six months and chuckle at how we thought things were going to go, too. That’s how much and how often things change — and we never really take time to measure them.

Dena: Right? Erika Kelly of Portland Apron Company just mentioned something like that in her profile earlier this month! About how old FB and Instagram posts can really remind us how far we’ve come.

Julia: I look back at when I started posting sketches a year ago, and see how different my stuff looks now, just from getting into the habit of drawing almost every day. Just like we look back at November now, and think the exact same thing.

Dena: Okay, I just have a couple more things to touch on…do you have any go to responses or methods when something catches you off guard? I know that’s vague. For me, it depends on what the issue is. If it’s something more personal, I think my instinct is to ask a ton of questions and try to understand as much as I can. If it’s more work or project-related, it’s kinda the opposite, like more assessing than anything else, and asking q’s like “what are my options, what are my priorities?”

Julia: Aside from screaming and throwing things? Just kidding. Generally, when things go banana-shaped, I do three things. First, I stop, step back and try to figure out how much of an impact it has on my day. Next, I figure out realistically what I can do about it, and lastly, I adjust. My attitude throughout this process depends largely on just how banana-shaped things have gone, but the process is always generally the same.

Dena: You sound so wise.

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Julia: Ha ha, oh yes, the wisest people use the term “banana-shaped.” That’s funny you say that, because to me, my answer sounds so bare bones…like I should know better by now, or have a better way to handle the unexpected.

Dena: I may or may not eat cheesy snacks when I go through my process.

Julia: My explanation also excludes all the swearing that potentially happens under my breath. And we can’t forget the rehashing that I inevitably do to try to dissect just when and why it happened and what I could have done to prevent it.

Dena: Okay, let’s end on a semi-fun note. What have been some pleasant surprises that you’re so glad to have experienced?

Julia: Is saying meeting you too cheesy for this conversation? Because that’s one of the most recent.

Dena: Awwww

Julia: Awwwww

Dena: That’s the best answer ever! You’re so sweet and no, it’s not too cheesy. I totally feel the same way, like, I can hardly picture my routine without our constant texts.

Julia: Love fest! But really, that, combined with the reception to The Woodsy so far has had a pretty big impact in my life in terms of what I’m focusing on in my career.

Dena: Samesies. Okay, I was also going to say something completely out of left field.

Julia: I love left field.

Dena: And readers may even be like…wtf. But I was going to mention that…I didn’t think i’d like Battlestar Galactica. But it’s one of my favorite shows EVER.

Julia: I LOVE THAT YOU LOVE BATTLESTAR GALACTICA (because it’s awesome). IT IS THOUGH. I could go off on tangent about people (not you) who think they don’t like science fiction giving it a chance and LOVING it, but that would be a huge digression. Hmm, let me think if I can come up with a left fielder…

Dena: Also, I seriously think Michael Bolton is totally underrated.

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Michael Bolton-03

By Alterna2 http://www.alterna2.com (Michael Bolton en Barcelona) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Julia: That’s not unexpected from you, though.

Dena: Although that’s not a surprise so much as a revelation I take it upon myself to spread as much as possible.

Julia: Oh! My left fielder is the Seattle Sounders winning the MLS cup last season.They were more or less in last place in July, roughly halfway through the season, and then went on an unbelievable streak to win on penalties in the final. It was the definitive “it’s not over until it’s over” type run and it was wonderful that it happened to my home team.

Dena: Niiiiiice. I thought of another one, too…growing up in the Puget Sound area, I had no real opinion of Spokane. I pictured, like, tumbleweeds on a desert highway. But the first time I visited, I was pleasantly surprised, and now I really love living in Eastern Washington.

Julia: That’s lovely!

Dena: It’s true! Okay, can you think of anything else we should cover…?

Julia: Refrigerator….That was me being unexpected.

Dena: LOL

Julia: No, I think we’ve covered it all. And I’m getting silly, so I should probably stop trying to answer questions.

Dena: Octopus

Julia: Albatross. “And now for something completely different…”

Dena: You’re the besssssst. I’m sure i’ll text you in like 9 hours

Julia: You too! All right, friend, sleep well!

Dena: Good niiiiiiiiiight

Julia: Nighty night!

The Woodsy (Archive)

PNW topics, insights, and enthusiasm, circa 2016–18

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