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Good Karma for Keegan

After overcoming substance abuse, Keegan Rice picked herself up off the ground, laced up her sneakers and has been running the best race of her life
by: Vern Uyetake, 

The living room of Keegan Rice's one-bedroom Lake Oswego apartment used to have stark white walls and be more of a storage unit than a home. After local designer Monica Ensign worked her magic, the space became more peaceful — incorporating a light blue ceiling, green in the kitchen and honey-colored walls in the living room. On a $480 budget, Ensign chose affordable accent pieces to complete transformation, which will be featured on Fox 12’s “Better TV.”

Candle flames flicker against the honey-colored walls.

The tidy room - crisp with neutral tones accented by light blues and greens - feels like a spa you'd see in some magazine advertising honeymoon getaways.

But, the newly remodeled, one-bedroom apartment in Lake Oswego is home to 24-year-old Keegan Rice and a place for her to start over.

'I'm enriched with the color,' Rice said. 'You notice the ceiling in a positive way, not like it was before.'

Last month, Fox 12's 'Better TV' approached Designer Monica Ensign of Lake Oswego to find someone with small living quarters in the local community that is deserving of a makeover space so the TV crew could film the transformation.

Unable to think of the perfect story, she took her dog on the usual walk to Chuck's Cookies and Coffee in Lake Oswego. There she chatted with Rice - the assistant manager and barista - and realized that by accident she'd found her design subject.

Rice - friendly, bright-eyed and blond - takes her job seriously and has met lifelong friends through the casual exchange of warm coffee.

'She's the bright spot in our customers' days,' said Lisa Shaw-Ryan, who owns the shop along with her husband Chuck.

But, her nearby apartment was more of a storage unit than a place to call home - hardly inspiring for a 4.0 college student, track star and someone who beat alcohol and drug addiction at a young age.

Winning the race

Rice is still beaming after qualifying for next year's Boston Marathon earlier this month.

'I beat my time by 22 minutes,' Rice said, 'probably because I quit smoking.'

After growing up in Eugene, an 18-year-old Rice moved to California to attend California State University at San Marcos and soak up some sun.

Instead, the one-time track star delved into alcohol and addictions with prescription drugs and marijuana. Her eating disorder would give her grand mal seizures. Her friends knew she could drink them under the table.

'I'd wake up at one or two in the afternoon, smoke a few bowls and then have a couple of drinks before I went to work at a restaurant,' Rice said, looking like it was hard for her to believe her past life. 'I would continue drinking after work and then go out and party … It became a priority, like, 'this is what I want to do,' And then it became, 'I can't do anything else but this.''

After repeat hospital trips for the seizures and completing a treatment program in Florida, Rice said she felt better, had more energy and wanted more than just sobriety and a healthy appetite.

'I wanted to be somebody,' she said.

She turned her energy toward education and meditation, moved closer to her parents in Lake Oswego and swapped party nights for books. She laced up her sneakers and hit the ground running.

'I have so much less today than I had two years ago,' Rice said. 'But, I have so much more.'

Ensign designed her apartment to reflect that Rice is a, 'sophisticated, spiritual, single woman.

A 'woman of substance'

Spending $480, Ensign and Rice choose decorative items, an entertainment center, new table and chairs, end tables and an oversized Buddha poster to create a cohesive, relaxing look.

Ensign hid the once-visible radiator within a loosely covered, decorative box and swapped the location of the couch.

'The side tables are from Ikea. I got a number of things from thrift stores and Craigs List - like lamps,' Ensign said. 'The entertainment center was originally $300 and I got it for $30.'

With power tools in hand, the women giggled while putting together the entertainment center.

'This is my first apartment in sobriety. This is my first place I've lived that represents success,' Rice said. 'This is somewhere where I can feel grounded and at peace.'

Shaw-Ryan said she doesn't want to focus on Rice's past because, 'she has such a bright future ahead. She's an example that discipline and determination gives you great results.'

Rice said her apartment represents that it is never too late to start over.

'I was so close to giving up because it felt overwhelming,' Rice said. 'I had to grow up and realize that at any age - 18, 34, 54 - you can start your life over and achieve happiness, but you have to change your perspective.'

'I was addicted to all these substances,' she continued, 'and now having stopped them I am a woman of substance.'