Living in the Moment

Right now I’m in a place in life where I have no choice but to live in the moment.

I’m starting a business which is a crazy roller coaster. It also means I don’t have a career or income. We are relying on Ace’s income to pay all our bills, and this month it was significantly less than it has been in over a year. We straight up don’t have enough income this month to pay all our bills and eat. Luckily we have some savings, so we aren’t going to starve or have our utilities turned off our anything. Yet, I’m still anxious becuase I was hoping we’d made enough this month to pay down our small amount of credit card debt and keep saving our savings strictly for the new business.

I’ve been driving for Postmates since December to make a little bit of cash. In an average week of working 3 nights (about 12 hours total) I’m making about $150. That doesn’t include what I’m paying for gas, and becuase I’m a contractor theres no taxes withheld, so in the end on an average night I’m making just above minimum wage. When it snows I make great money though, sometimes as much as $25/hour. But, I’m only working a few hours at a time, so its still only a few hundred dollars each month. This is the job I could find that was flexible enough to work with my current life situation. I can stop at anytime. I have no hours. I work when I can, I don’t when I can’t.

Right now I’m waiting on possibly renting a perfect building for my business. I have no other potential sites right now. I lay down and can’t sleep becuase I just think about this building every night. I’m excited about what it will be like when the business is open, and I stress about how much work it will be. I wonder about countless things, the cost of the remodel, city regulations, safety, if the city will take issue with non-gendered bathrooms, and more. I was told I would have a response from the building owners this week and have heard nothing significant yet.

My anxiety has been high this week

Today in my yoga practice the wonderful Adriene said, “Find strength by letting go.” That really hit me. I’ve been doing all I can to stay calm and in the moment and this mini money crisis is really forcing me to do that. Right now the best course of action is for me to work Postmates as much as I possibly can, becuase I have no idea if this building is going to come though, but I’ll know soon.

If I get the building my life will be very busy with getting this building ready for a business, and working with the city to get approval to be in the building. At the same time I’ll be working with my builder to design ramps for the space,  overseeing all the improvements to the space, searching out sponsorship deals to help fund as many improvements as possible, and even starting the early stages of hiring.

If I don’t get this building I will be applying for regular jobs while continuing the hard search for suitable spaces for my business.

Each is its own kind of terrifying and the waiting is the hardest part.

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Mark started an obsession with Sudoku yesterday after being introduced to it at school.

I literally have no idea what tomorrow will bring for my life. I can’t plan for it, so my only choice is to live in the right now. That means doing yoga, breathing deeply, doing sudoku with my son, learning about circuits together, watching Rick and Morty with Ace, driving for Postmates and praying for good tips, cooking good food, and just being here.

I’m not particularly good at it, but I’m trying, and I’m certainly better than I was a year ago when this kind of stress would have had me in a state of anxiety and depression to strong to get me out of bed. My best practice is to take things one day at a time even one moment at a time, by letting go of the unknown, letting go of the future, and being in the now.

Meditation

I started going to therapy sometime in the fall of 2015. One of the very first things suggested to me was meditation. At that time I just did not really know how to do it. I read descriptions and guides and even tried a few guided meditations. I was so lost and frustrated. At that time all I could accomplish was trying to control my breathing for two minutes, and even that was hard. I was experiencing a lot of panic at that time, and really struggled to focus for two whole minutes.

Slowly, over a long period of time I started to find some things that worked for me. The biggest, by far, was doing yoga. I love Yoga With Adriene. I found Adriene when my back was hurting badly one day (kind of like it is today) and I googled “Yoga for back pain” becuase I was willing to try anything free to get some relief. I found Adriene’s video and was so impressed. Adriene was the best yoga instructor I’d ever seen. She was extremely inviting and somehow felt like she was speaking right to me, even though it was an old YouTube video! Adriene just has this way of communicating that is so respectful and inviting. I even said to myself “She talks like a good therapist.” I loved the video so much I did more and more!

I didn’t expect the videos to help me learn to meditate, but they did. Adriene is able to gently and expertly guide you though the movements while coaching you to keep breathing and to focus on your body and breath. Her constant guide of “find what feels good” gave me the freedom to modify poses as I needed. I was learning to ignore all the racing thoughts and feel my body while paying attention to my breathing. For me pairing movement with breathing was the key I needed to learn to meditate. Over time and with practice my time on the mat, guided by Adriene’s videos, became a key part to my healing and getting my anxiety under control.

Each practice would end with shavasana, which was a new practice to me. At first being still and relaxed and focusing on breathing deeply was extremely difficult, but the practice of yoga made my body feel so good that I kept coming back. Day after day I did yoga and ended in a meditative pose. On the days that I would really be able to focus on my breathing instead of my thoughts I would find all sorts of strong emotions rising up. I would find myself sobbing at the end of a practice thinking of departed friends and old wounds. It really helped me discover the places of hurt hiding in the recesses of my mind that needed work. I had no idea that yoga could do that.

Recently I started adding time for meditation at the end of yoga. I don’t time it, but I think its generally about five minutes that I lie on the floor, just focusing on my breath. Of course all sorts of thoughts pop up, but I really try to just let them go and come back to my breath. I’ve also found that bringing my hands to together in front of my face helps. Feeling my fingers resting on my face and forehead give me a physical point to focus on.

Five minutes doesn’t feel like much, but it is. Especially paired with yoga, it makes a huge difference in my day. I am starting to notice the days that I struggle a lot and am short tempered with the people I love are the days I skip yoga and meditation.

It’s taken me 15 months to get the point that I can meditate for five minutes several days a week. Thats a long time, but the pay off has been absolutely huge. Its quite hard for me to quantify how much its impacted my life for the better. I’ve always seen myself as a snappy and sometimes straight up mean-spirited person, but that view and that reality is changing, and its in large part thanks to meditation. On days that I meditate, I feel more focused, more empathetic, and more flexible, things I’ve always valued but struggled to actually live out.

If you have wanted to try meditation but are scared to start, or worried you might fail, or don’t know how to get started, I urge you to just start somewhere. Before I found yoga I would set a timer for two minutes, and go outside at night and just look at the stars. It wasn’t quite meditating, but I would spend those two minutes breathing deep and it would help give me a short break from the anxiety that was nearly constant at the time. If I can do that at my lowest I’m sure everyone can find something they can do to bring some calm and peace to their minds for a few moments each day. I know if you try you won’t regret it.

Skate Staph

I’m sick with a Staph infection. It sucks. I feel really sick, but I don’t look it. Its like having the flu without most of the stomach symptoms. Its been going on for a while now. Even though its been exhausting, and at times terrifying (these infections are increasingly antibiotic resistant ya know!) part of me is a bit proud or even smug, that it was caused by skateboarding.

Well it was actually caused by bacteria, but the infection started at the site of skateboarding induced open wound.

Back in mid July, I was dealing with a lot of personal stuff, all the emotions were a bit overwhelming so I did what I do sometimes to work though that stuff, I went out to skate. I actually went street skating for the first time in forever. I didn’t fall trying to do any tricks. I fell navigating the 100 year old sidewalks. Small skateboards wheels are no match for large cracks in the sidewalks. Too many cracks very close together were too hard to avoid and I went down, hard. Ripping my last pair of decent pants and the skin beneath it.

It was one of those good falls. It woke me up out of my funk, and got me out of my head. A good fall reminds me that falling isn’t that bad and I don’t need to be scared of skateboarding. That fall felt great, I even posted it on instagram!

Skateboarding is good for my mental health. It keeps me connected. Sometimes pain is a good reminder of where I am.

A post shared by Stronger Skatepark (@stronger_skatepark) on

Days and weeks went on and that wound kept reopening. It was very slow to heal. I was busy non-stop until the Alberta street fair, which was the first day I noticed I didn’t feel well. It was hot, but I’ve dealt with hot before, I can handle hot. But I couldn’t that day. The mixture of feeling tired and overheated plus anxiety had me spiraling into a total mess by the mid afternoon. I felt so weak that I could hardly stand. Local coffee shop, Barista, was amazing and let me rest in their air conditioned lobby with a bag of ice while my husband loaded up our booth.

The next day I didn’t feel great, but I pushed though it to get us off to go on our annual camping trip to San Juan Island. By the time we were on the ferry in the afternoon, I was starting to feel pretty OK, tired, but much better than the previous 24 hours.

I was up and down the whole trip, feeling great here and there, terrible here and there, but mostly in a tired fog. I slept, a lot. I would pass out hard at 9 pm and nap each day. One day we did nothing but chill at the campsite and I still napped for almost 2 hours. I knew something was off. I knew it, but I didn’t know what. I started worrying I was pregnant. (I’m not).

The last day, the day we were coming home, was the hardest. I woke up dead. I couldn’t function at all. I felt horrible and just wanted to sleep more. I almost fell asleep a few times while we were packing up. I had to have Ace drive me to breakfast, “Its just been too long since you ate” he said. I disagreed. Something more was going on. I did feel better after I ate, at least awake enough to walk around and drive the car. But by then my knee had started hurting, bad. I’ve had had some decent knee injuries and couldn’t remember how this happened. “Maybe when I was pulling in the kayak I hit my knee?” I reasoned. “But… it should have been swollen last night then.” I was confused and just determined to have a decent last day of the closest thing to vacation I’m going to have this year.

I was so tired. The drive home was probably erring on dangerous for the last 20 miles of Washington. Singing Ben Folds at the top of my lungs was the only thing keeping me awake until the excitement of coming over the I-5 bridge into Portland gave me the infusion of energy I needed to get home. That, and a bag of candy.

The next day I felt similarly bad. My knee hurt a lot and I was treating it like an injury. I was so tired. I took a nap. Then my sister came over to hang out and get out of the insane heat wave (we had AC set up in our living room). Then my knee turned red. “Does this look like cellulitis?” I asked. “Don’t ask me.” she responded. OK off to the internet. I asked my trusted group of moms and they agreed, cellulitis, go to the doctor.

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Day two of obvious cellulitis. The green circle was the outline of the red on day one. It was spreading. I needed meds. 

The next day I felt even worse, and I was getting worried. I was so tired. I felt like a zombie. I went to the doctor. “This looks like staph” she said. “You need to be on antibiotics, today.” We talked about what the best choice of antibiotic “Please not levaquin I asked.” “No no no, you don’t need that.” she assured me.  So off to the pharmacy. After waiting way too long while feeling like death and nursing a kombucha becuase everything else in the world made me want to puke (I had a low fever by now) they hand me a bottle of huge capsules.

Shit. I can’t swallow big pills. I’ve tired. Over and over. I can’t do it. Usually antibiotics are tablets and I break them in half and they are small enough. So lots of calls and waiting and more waiting and more feeling horrible and watching a movie and forcing myself to eat some food and by 8pm I finally have antibiotics. Finally. I can get better.

The next day I woke up and could think again. I felt semi normal, at least in my head. The weird brain fog was lifted. But damn, my knee still hurt, and I was still tired. I don’t even really remember Saturday. I’m trying…. but I can’t. Sunday was the day I woke up feeling pretty good. “Hey maybe these antibiotics are working! Lets go out!” So we went on a bike ride, oops. Too much. Soon I was feeling terrible again. Terrible enough to call the doctor Monday becuase I was worried I wasn’t getting better. They wanted me to come back in for a recheck. My knee was getting better enough that she was feeling good about the antibiotics. “You need to take it easy. Your body is telling you you need rest.” Well I can’t argue with that.

All this becuase I fell down skateboarding. This is the most serious skate injury I’ve ever had and the most sick I’ve been in a long time. I think in a day or two I’ll be back to normal. My knee is finally much better. No pain relief needed for that today (but its cycle day 1, so I can’t seem to catch a break from pain right now).

I’m prescribing myself two more days of nothing. I’m going to nap and read and rest and play video games. Then I’m really looking forward to seeing my friends. Its been a long time and I miss them.

Here’s to having antibiotics when we really need them. Also, please stop taking them when you don’t need them. Stop creating super bugs becuase you have a cold. You are killing people by doing that.

Love only Grows

I’ve never fully understood my friends who choose to have lots of kids. Even 2 or 3 kids feels like too much to me. But now I’m starting to understand it more.

I’ve been working hard on getting to know myself. Losing my church and the identity that went with that was hard. Getting to know who I am without an outside community telling me who I am has been a long hard process. But as I learn who I am and learn how to love that person, I learn how to love the others around me better. As I learn to love those around me better I learn to love myself better.

Christians often debate if “Love your neighbor as yourself” means that first you love yourself and then love your neighbor or if it means first love your neighbor then love yourself. I think the only way they can work is hand-in-hand. You must be constantly striving to love yourself and others better. If you have a low image of yourself you can’t be as effective at taking care of others.

I think becuase out culture has so many people that glorify themselves too much, many of us react by loving ourselves too little out of fear of lifting ourselves up too high. The balance is hard to strike, but I think I’ve now experienced moments of it here and there and its been a really long time since that’s happened. I’m working at ignoring the shame I’ve learned over the past two decades and replacing it with accepting myself and others exactly where we are at. Its a good process.

Losing judgment and shame for yourself and others is hard, becuase first you have to acknowledge that it is there. Its a painful process realizing how much these weird cultural ideals shape who we are. Pride, shame, judgement, they are there here and we must point to them before we can fix them. It has to start with ourselves though. We can’t point out the speck in our brothers eye until we recognize the plank in our own.

Its amazing that though this process I have not lost my faith. Many do. Many see the shame and damage that comes from christian culture and they reject all of it. And I don’t blame them for doing so, its not a bad choice. But for me, my faith has just changed. I still see the absolutely incredible wisdom and beauty in Christ’s words. I think I see it more now than I have in a long time. The biggest travesty is that these words meant to help have been used over and over again to harm. But when we can see that, and when we can choose love, both for ourselves and others we grow. As we add more people to the our circle of people we care for we don’t run dry on love, we overflow with it.

I can now understand why people have lots of kids. With each one your love grows. We have an every increasing capacity for love, not a limit.

I’m going to be 30 soon?

Inspired by a facebook friend I decided to make a post that is the condensed version of my life story. Many of my friends are newer and may not know much about my past. Here is the fly-by version.

I lived in a little town nestled between big towns, known as of Lake in the Hills, Illinois. My parents were poor when I was little, but the little I remember from my very early life is pretty ok. My dad died tragically when I was only 4 and my sister wasn’t quite 2. The resulting lawsuit bumped up our families net worth and our little family of 3 moved to a new house in Algonquin and soon I was in public school.  After two terrible years of public school, I was moved to a catholic school, which was only slightly better. My school years were a weird mixture of good times and personal struggles. I was a total nerd and my only friends at school were the other nerds. We had good times. Outside of school I was friends with many of my cousins and we all played a lot of video games together.

We had a a lot death and tragedy in my family alongside my Mother’s chronic illness, that had her in and out of the hospital my entire life. Sometimes I would be randomly be picked up from school by my grandma or aunt or even my Mom’s friends I barely knew and they would care for us while mom was sick. Those times were really hard on me. I was in some kind of therapy on and off that I only remember hating. I struggled in school at times and at other times found school to be far too easy and boring. I would get A’s in half my subjects while being tutored so I could pass in the others.

I started skateboarding about age 12 when my maternal grandmother died and I got to spend some time with my older cousin who lived far away, but was in town for a while. I had seen skateboarding on TV and was drawn to it, but getting to skate with my cousin sealed it. I was hooked. I got a board and skated every moment I could for the next several years. Once I could skate ramps I lived at the local skateparks. Thanks to my neighbor I discovered WARP (skatepark) shortly after it opened and found a place where I felt I like I belonged. I spent my teen years at WARP or driving around to other parks and spots with my skater friends. When I was 14 we moved from Algonquin to rural Wonder Lake, IL. Not long after, my family doubled in size when my soon to be step-father moved in with my new siblings. I now had a second little sister and a younger brother, who became my live in skater friend.

I started in a Catholic High School, but after bullying and terrible teachers I moved to Woodstock High School. School was not a focus for me. I did enough to keep my parents and teachers happy, but was only invested in my music classes, in which I met this kid named Ace. We became friends though our various musical endeavors together. Life was busy between school, family, skating, and music. So why not add one more thing by going to the local evangelical youth group!? So that’s exactly what I did. And when I do things I do them hard. I was in deep really fast. They offered the deep kind of relationships I was missing and craving alongside answers to spiritual questions. My life really changed during my zealous Christian period. I quickly became part of the worship band and became a youth leader. By my senior year WARP had been sold to new owners with almost all of us who worked there quitting our jobs (I worked there as soon I was old enough to beg for a job, and boy did I beg). Youth group was my new community.

Ace and I had become close friends and started dating around the same time. After high school I went to one semester at NIU, then came home and did one semester at community college. Then I got a job (as a nanny for my pastor’s preschooler) and moved out. Ace and I had all sorts of drama in those years, and eventually he went away to school in Minneapolis and we kept dating long distance. After a year of working and doing some school on-line I decided to go to Bible College. Our youth pastor had started a new church, and I was very closely involved with that start-up. I was the kid’s person. I designed and organized the entire children’s program. I was on the fast track to becoming ordained. But Bible college had me deeply examining all my beliefs. I was deconstructing and rebuilding my theology and it wasn’t coming out how my church community had hoped. At the same time Ace was doing the same thing at a different school and every time he came to visit he would cause friction at church with his ever more progressive beliefs.

Ace came back from school for good and we got married in 2007. About a year later we were ready to move on from our church. Our beliefs just didn’t fit anymore. We couldn’t find anything remotely progressive or inclusive in our little town, so we just started inviting people over to have dinner and discussion in our (newer, bigger) home. It was pretty awesome. I could tell a lot of stories of what happened at Mosaic, but this is getting long already. Somewhere in there I graduated from school with my bachelors, got a bunch of dogs, worked at a doggy daycare, got my black belt in Tae Kwon Do, kept skating but not nearly as often and most importantly, my nephew was born!

Vincent’s birth was really what opened me up to having a kid sooner than I had originally planed. Ace and I wanted a baby and in 2010 he was born. It changed everything. I studied everything in depth and started radically changing my lifestyle to make it healthier for my baby. I quit eating sugar, I worked on cooking my own food more often. I stopped eating fast food. I learned how to love better than I’d ever loved in my life becuase I was in love with this tiny, fat, often screaming, human.

Ace had spent years working on and off in terrible retail jobs while never giving up on his music, but we needed something more stable, and Ace was considering opening a business. He even went back to school to learn the ins and outs of small business. His dream was a tea shop/small local venue. A safe space for young adults to share their art and get some drinks and snacks. But, did we want to be stuck in McHenry (which is where we lived now) for another 10 years? The answer was clearly “no”. So the search for a new home was on. Portland was quickly the front runner when we learned that my sister was considering a move to Portland as well.

Soon, both of our small families were packed into my car and visiting Portland. None of us wanted to go back to Illinois. We all took the next year figuring out how to move to Portland. In august 2012 we arrived in Portland for good. It was a new start, one we needed after the rough break-up with our old church. We wouldn’t have to run into people around town who would unintentionally break our hearts with the things they would say. McHenry was too small and too conservative for us to stay there, we felt like we didn’t fit. Here in Portland we fit.

Here there is a space for creatives like Ace. He decided to once again get a part time job and pursue his music. I tried to stay home with Mark, but we just couldn’t afford it for long, so soon I was sitting for friends and looking for another Nanny job. Luckily I found one that grew with me from 1 day a week, to 2, to 3, and sometimes 4. The job also grew from one child to two. It got hard, but I stuck with it for a long time and it allowed us to refinance our home and pay our bills. In the meantime Ace lost his part-time job and switched to music full-time. He’s now doing a combination of YouTube, original albums, cover albums, and freelance composition.

Last summer my job got to be more stress than I could handle. It was also becoming hard on Mark and it was clear that I needed to quit. Luckily I worked for awesome people and the timing worked well and I was able to leave without any hard feelings. We had a few really hard months and I had to sell a lot of stuff to help pay the bills while I wasn’t working. But by December Ace had found some more success with his music and since then we’ve been more financially stable.

I started doing childcare again this year, but I’m already moving away from it as I start my new business, Stronger Skatepark. Skateboarding has been the one constant in my life though all of this. I’ve been skating for 18 years now and here in Portland the skate scene is bigger and better than it ever was back in Illinois, even at its height in the early 2000’s. I’m passionate about helping kids get into skateboarding and helping parents support their kids. That’s why I’m devoting the next few years of my life to to this park. Portland needs it!

Next month I turn 30, and I feel like I’m finally really getting to know who I am. I’m not sure why it took so darn long, but I’m glad I’m here. And summing up 30 years in 1500 words isn’t too bad a skill. 😉

 

 

SCORE Meeting

Today I met with my mentor matched with me though SCORE. Overall it went very well. I wish I had a longer list of questions prepared, but I had already solved most of the questions I sent in my initial e-mail last week!

I gave him an overview of my business and my plan, taught him a little bit about the skateboard industry and the market, and he had some good feedback. I was able to ask him the questions I had about planning for shrinkage and loss prevention in general. We talked about payroll, and the costs and benefits of hiring a payroll company. He explained the different roles a bookkeeper and account could play and how much of that I’m going to handle myself. He answered my questions about what steps I need an attorney for (not much). We talked a lot about various methods of inventory management and ideas for keeping inventory moving.

He seemed to think I was in a good place overall and thinks I’m doing things right. He suggested a few classes that might benefit me and I’ll be looking into those. He was glad to hear my reasons for doing what I am doing. We talked about people who want to start businesses simply for the reason of working for themselves. He told me about so many people who walk in the door and have no idea what they are doing, and how I wasn’t one of them.

If nothing else, I was glad for the conformation from someone who’s done it, that I’m doing it right.

Stronger Skatepark

Stronger Skatepark

You may have seen me posting about wanting to start a skatepark for a while. Well, I’m doing it.

I have a business plan that I’ve put months of work into. I’ve read a lot of big books about small and big business, and spent more time than I care to admit educating myself though various resources on-line.

I’m ready to move forward and I’m taking steps. In addition to the self-education and the plan, I’ve been building a relationship with an excellent local ramp builder. He built the ramp in my garage and a lot of other fantastic projects here in Portland and around the world. I’m excited that he’s a part of the conversation from the beginning and already has an idea of my vision. Today I obtained my EIN and filed my business with the State of Oregon. I’m meeting with my new business mentor though SCORE on Tuesday morning and I have a few options for funding in the works.

My passion is skateboarding and the skate community. My goal is to support everyone in their perusal of what they love, starting with skateboarders. Skateboarders are often pegged as loners and outcasts, they are judged by what they love and not who they are. Skaters are painted as lawbreakers and vandals and are often treated as less than people. Often their only community is the skate community, and for some even making connections in the skate community can be hard. So many skaters are young, straight, and male. It’s easy to feel like you don’t belong if you aren’t a 14 year old boy.

I want to create a place where everyone belongs. Where you can feel connected regardless of age, gender identity, or sexual preference.

The name of the skatepark was inspired by the Gungor song, “We are Stronger.” The song is about the common thread of being human and the strength that comes from standing together as opposed to creating division.

“You and me
We’re the stuff of stars and dirt
With eyes to see

We are better together
We are the day and night
Together we are stronger
We are stronger”

I have a lot of very detailed plans for the business that I could talk about, but what’s more important to me than that is the goal of the business; To create a inclusive community of skateboarders, a place where those marginalized even by the skate community itself can be accepted. Just the simple fact that it will be a skatepark founded and managed by a woman will attest to that. Skateboarding is a boys game even more than almost any other sport/industry/lifestyle. But there is no reason it has to stay that way.

Doing things to the highest quality possible is incredibly important to me. That’s why this process doesn’t happen over night. Its been nearly a year since I decided to take this seriously, and a dream I’ve been thinking about since I was 15 years old. In addition to being inclusive, my park will be clean, modern, safe, and beautiful to look at. It will have a shop, with all sorts of great products, but more importantly, it will be filled with people. People who love skateboarding and who love seeing all sorts of other people loving skateboarding.

I’m looking for all kinds of support as I launch this labor of love. The most obvious is financial support. I’ll be running a Kickstarter campaign this summer where backers will receive free sessions, memberships, and other rewards for their support. If you wish to support me financially with a smaller amount, the Kickstarter will be the time to do that. If you are interested in investing in the business with a larger sum of money please email me at allisonw.cpst[AT]gmail.com. In addition to monetary support, I’m going to need moral support, and help with my everyday responsibilities. I’m happy to accept all support offered in these areas. I’ll also be looking for all sorts of help with design work, book keeping, and other things related directly to the business.

Thanks to all my friends and family who have supported me thus far. I’ve got a long road ahead of me, but rarely have I been so excited at the prospect of so much work!

Below is a link to my pitch built with Live Plan. This is but a tiny piece of the much larger business plan, but it can give you a good idea of the size and scope of the project.

https://pitch.liveplan.com/dYADS/ghuSw

I’ll be keeping people updated on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Strongerskateparkpdx/

Much love, Allison.