Almost 30

Just finished watching Master of None. It's really excellent and available on netflix. Thanks for the recommendation Matt! The last episode was pretty moving for me as the main character is recognizing that his possibilities in life are invigorating and limitless but requires making touch choices so all possibilities don't "wrinkle and go black."
“I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn't quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.” 
― Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
Click on image to see the rest of this gorgeous comic
I suppose I need to add The Bell Jar to my reading list now too.

Here's a poor quality video from the episode. I really like the photo-mosaic during the monologue. Throwing it in at the end because I'm guessing the link wont stay active long:


36-Hour Clean Water Fast

While in Bolivia, my chapter of Engineers without Borders worked with a local NGO, Engineers in Action. Their tagline "Clean Water Shouldn't Be a Luxury" really resonated with me as I hiked through the mountains to find sources of clean water for the rural Bolivians we were serving. When their executive director asked us to participate in a 36-hr fast as part of their fall fundraiser I signed up and started this morning (ending at our monthly Engineers Without Border monthly meeting tomorrow evening).

Measuring Flow Rate of a New Spring

Could you please sponsor my fast? engineersinaction.networkforgood.com/

Dollar amounts are in odd amounts to match the 36-hour fast. Feel free to use the blank box to donate any amount. (Note: half the money will go directly to Engineers in Action and half will go to my local chapter in the form of a reduced price invoice for future trips)

Thank you so much for considering.


P.S. Bonus pictures! Because I remember my coworkers sharing pictures of their kids as incentive to buy girl scout cookies being especially effective... Here are some cute Bolivian kiddos!

The first schoolgirls to warm up to us
Someone who loves me very much went to Belgium and got me this shirt
P.P.S. Full report/blog post to follow


Pretty Much the Best Greeting Card EVAR

My BFF mailed me the bestest card ever for my birthday. Back story? Matt and I went on weekend ski trip about a decade ago. At some point I took a tumble, got back up, and finished the run. I didn't realize that I ripped a GIANT hole in my bibbers that nicely revealed my white long underwear underneath. It's tough being me sometimes but someone's gotta do it.

card by this awesome dude:



My heart is aching. I wish I were more informed. I wish I were taking action. I wish I lived in a world free of racial discrimination. Here's a tiny sampling of what has touched me today:

(in no particular order and names left off)

The pain of my communities is real. Change needs to happen.

All for now. I'm physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted.


Impossible is nothing

"Impossible is nothing." is said. "Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to to live in the world they've been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a declaration. It's a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing."


Christmas Letter 2013

I haven't posted here in over a year?! Apparently I've had other priorities...

2 December 2013

Dearest Friends and Family,

I've composed bits and pieces of this letter in my head over and over again but consistently fail to do that crucial step of putting pen to paper.

The last time I wrote a "Christmas Letter" update in Summer of 2009, I was working on slowly digging myself out of a deep, deep hole of a life. I dropped out of school and moved into my parents basement. Aside from a couple of temp jobs I was unemployed the entire year. Instead of working, I spent my time reflecting and planning for a better future, reading loads of bestsellers, and exercising daily with my dad.

At my parent's 40th anniversary party (August 2010) I announced my next big step: move to East Saint Louis, IL to volunteer for the Griffin Center for a year. Diane Sonneman, the director, helped me get an Americorps Scholarship to provide for my living expenses. I worked as an Education Advocate and Learning Lab Coordinator for an after-school program that served the children of the public housing projects in East Saint Louis. I'm not sure how effective I was under either of those lofty titles but I learned volumes about social justice, racism, and myself. As an outsider to the community, I struggled with my desire to learn and observe and my nature to fix it all--and right now too! I fluctuated hourly between hope and apathy. There are no easy answers...

Christmas in East Saint Louis
I'm convinced that there's something magical in the midwestern water because I blossomed socially in my year in the area. I made more friends and faster too than I have any other time in my life. Although I've only been back to St. Louis once since I left, I've been able to keep up with many of my St. Louis friends through conferences all around the country. (And a few of them have come to visit me too!)

Incredible STL Women: Lauren, Claire, Kaleena
Moving back to Colorado was a bitter-sweet choice that was primarily motivated by getting in-state tuition. I started back to school at the Community College of Denver Fall 2011 with a full load. The next semester I took a few engineering classes at University of Colorado Denver along with my full community college load (25 credit hours that semester). I'm doing well academically and am currently the president of the student chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers on campus. Graduation from UCD is so close I can taste it. I'll be getting a B.S. in Civil Engineering in two short weeks.

I moved apartments last September and now live alone for the first time in a pretty big apartment. I'm loving my neighborhood, Capitol Hill, and just love having guests! (I think I got the hospitality bug from my mom.) Come visit! I have plenty of space and Colorado is amazing and Denver is even better. :)

A pretty major car crash last September (days after moving) totaled my 1995 Toyota Corolla. Thankfully I live in the right part of town because I've yet to replace it. I got a lot of good miles out of it and gave her many incredible road trips. I intend to go car-free until after graduation. So far, I can bike, walk, bus, fly, or politely mooch rides to get just about anywhere I need to go. I just love using and abusing my bike to fly past all the "cagers" when biking downtown.

My love of biking was temporarily derailed in April, however. I crashed hard when I saw the steps in my path only after tumbling down them. In the ER I remember telling the doctor, "Don't I at least get one year between accidents?" And right before finals too. It took me about a month to get back on that horse. I'm now a more convicted helmet user than ever.

My summer job was a big catalyst for biking again. An hour+ commute via bus gave me the push I needed to choose a 40-55 minute bike ride instead. I bike to/from work every day this summer! I worked as an inspector this summer for the Public Improvement Inspections division for the City of Aurora--a neighboring suburb. I was in the field almost full-time and helped oversee so many interesting construction projects! 

Looking fly in a hard hat and safety vest was tough, but I like to think I pulled it off.

When I'm not a student, I've been spending my free time dating. I love everything about getting to know someone new, instantly sizing them up and then noting where first impressions are wrong, comparing notes on hopes/dreams/likes/dislikes, and waiting for the perfect moment for a first kiss. For now, I'm just enjoying the ride.

Motorcycle Road Trip around Southwestern Colorado with a boyfriend.
This summer and fall have been the summer of weddings and I loved every one of them! Two cousins and two high school friends. First-time bridesmaid for the two high school friends too! So much fun. And each one came with a mini-vacation in the mountains of Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, and central California.

High School Church Friends Helping me "cover up"

Kaleena and Sarah
I know you're just burning to ask what adventures lie in store for me next. I have no idea. As soon as I finish up this semester I'll be in full-time job hunting mode. I passed my Fundamentals of Engineering Exam in April, (1st step in professional licensure for engineers.) so my prospects are bright. I can put initials after my name and everything! Kaleena Menke, EI. I've been giving my career a lot of thought and have a lofty list of qualities for my dream job: directly helping people/saving the world, actual engineering, field work, and travel. Got any ideas?

Final thoughts: My instructor for my capstone Civil Engineering Design Course just gave us these final words in his last lecture this evening and I love it:
To Have Succeeded
To laugh often and love much;
To win the respect of intelligent people
And the affection of children;
To earn the approbation of honest critics
And endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty,
To find the best in others;
To give one's self;
To leave the world a bit better,
     Whether by a healthy child,
     A garden patch,
Or a redeemed social condition;
To have played and laughed with enthusiasm and sung with exultation;
To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived...
This is to have succeeded
~Bessie Anderson Stanley
Given my track record, it will probably be another four years before I bother to send another newsy update. In the meantime you can find me on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn, my blog and on and on and on. Hugs and Kisses, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year! Love, Kaleena