Seven days

I sit on my couch and watch NFL playoffs, exhausted, feeling my immune system fighting against the push I gave this week. I actually fought writing this post, part of me too tired to do it, but knowing that the words would keep floating in my head until they made their way through my keyboard and onto the screen. My wonderful seven days, where I was able to experience so many loves, refused to remain silent, wanting to be boasted to the world (and deservedly so).

Last Sunday morning, I woke up to a miraculous view as Seattle welcomed a rare sunny day in the middle of winter.

IMG_3918

I could stare at this all day, every day.

Then, my friend and I were off to a bar to watch the home team come up victorious on an improbable last-second play. The crowd erupted in the excitement of playoff football, strangers celebrating together as sports fans do. I high-fived the young man who shared our crowded table even though I was secretly rooting for the other team. The pure joy caught me, too.

20160110_102857_HDR

It’s not difficult to figure out where this bar’s allegiances lay.

No sooner was the winner declared than it was time to go visit a friend from far away. Reconnecting with someone from Korea – someone I wasn’t sure I would ever see again. Yet, here I was, seeing her twice since I left the country. Tea, girl talk, and a late lunch of authentic Vietnamese food in a strip mall passed the hours too quickly and it was time to go back to Portland. I wonder when/if I will see her again as she heads back to her home in Iksan. I arrive back, and it’s time to unpack and repack for the next trip.

20160110_160419_HDR

I miss this sassy lady already!

Off to Enterprise, OR for a work-related site visit – perhaps the one time I will see real snow this season. The road dangerous, but my colleague skilled at navigating our route through the elements. The clinic visit was informative, as I learn more about the healthcare system everyday I work this job. Evenings we were treated to beers from the local brewpub – ones that could only be had as a reward for making it all the way out to eastern Oregon. The hotel had an indoor pool and hot tub for two nights of relaxation. It took a few days, but on our last morning there, the sun came out and we were able to see the mountains as we headed back. I learned that the billion-dollar Powerball winners live in California, Florida, and a small town in Tennessee three times as big as where I was staying. I won’t be retiring soon.

snow in Enterprise

We drove through this…

IMG_3930

…to get to this.

One day of work in Portland which featured lots of writing and struggling with data on difficult topics. Speaking my mind when things didn’t feel right, I was both firm and tentative in expressing my thoughts on a project I feel deserves more authenticity than the quick-fix it was being given. I struggled through tough conversations without sacrifice. Celebrated the end of the day by buying my plane tickets to China in April, and then settled in for a night filled with bad TV and good food. Leftovers are never to be taken for granted; stews taste better days later.

The weekend immediately followed and consisted of some volunteer work tearing down an adult entertainment establishment that will someday be replaced by a community center. Over 25,000 square feet of red, white, and black décor. Tearing up over-worn carpet and removing nails from 2x4s that will gain new life somewhere presumably happier. Taking a sledge hammer to the bar area was extra satisfying – shards of tile tumbled to the ground and drywall simply fell away with every swing, perfected from my softball days. I was sore and it felt great.

20160116_124955_HDR

Goodbye, Sugar Shack! Though that cheetah *is* something to behold.

That night I met up with a friend to see The Book of Mormon. We arrived at the theater several hours early to enter a lottery for cheap tickets. We were the first names drawn, and for less than half price ended up in the second row – close enough to see the actors’ facial expressions and even when they sprayed their lines. I forgot how much I love musicals and though I could vow to see them more often, I’m not so sure that will happen, but it’s something to keep in mind.

Reflecting on this past week, it’s easy to see how I’m the luckiest woman in the world.

Advertisements

2016, here I come!!

Resolution: a firm decision to do or not to do something.

Goal: the object of a person’s ambition or effort; an aim or desired result.

A friend of mine doesn’t do New Year’s resolutions. She does New Year’s goals. Reading the definitions and differences between those two terms, I wish to follow her lead. Resolutions are too firm and judgey. I like the way the meaning of goal focuses on effort, which to me reads more as process. It’s a “desired result” – it may not happen, but I am sure as hell going to try.

So, here are my goals for 2016:

  1. Write more. I’m going to revise my book, Sexual Decisions. I aim to blog at least two times a month. I have other books in my brain that may or may not evolve because revising a book and maintaining my blog is already a lot of writing – but I love the idea of hitting the keyboard and producing.
  2. Travel! I will be going to Nepal and China in April. So excited! My brother and sister-in-law got me this amazingly bright and wonderful orange suitcase that will go with me. At the stroke of midnight, I ran around the block with it to welcome travel this year. But first, I will be going around Oregon this month. I’ll be heading to Enterprise, Oregon for work and then to Pacific City for a girls’ weekend. I love going places and there’s no reason not to.

    IMG_3912

    This suitcase and I are going places in 2016.

  3. Apply for my Canadian citizenship. I have the forms; I just need to start filling them out. The problem is I hate forms. They make me nervous. I will probably need some serious help. Another goal will be to ask for that help.
  4. Reconnect with myself through meditation. I haven’t practiced in a while, and I miss it. There’s going to be a lot going on in 2016 and sitting will help me stay centered. I’ll shoot for three times a week. Quiet, deep breathing and peace are things my body craves and appreciates. I plan to honor that.
  5. Go to the driving range. I haven’t played golf in ages, and it just seems like a fun thing to do. Maybe I’ll try a kickboxing class too.
  6. Paint my kitchen. I love my kitchen: it’s huge and invites people to come in, cook, chop, chat, and sip champagne. However, I’ve always hated the color. My ex and I had a hard time trying to figure out what to paint the west wall, and after the poor man tried two horrible colors, our compromise resulted in green mud. I think he liked it, while I was disappointed the very moment it went on. But at that point, a fourth time was not in the cards. I am debating going with a deep, smoky plum but that might be too dark. I’m going to take that chance anyway. It can’t be worse than dirty pea soup.
  7. Save less. This sounds odd, but it’s something I need to work on. I have a habit of saving things until it’s too late. Favorite foods that sit in the freezer until they burn. Expensive bottles of wine that sit on the shelves too long. An outfit that I don’t wear enough because the day it’s an interesting one. Special glassware and dishes that never get used. This Christmas, Dave gave me a pink elephant cocktail shaker, which pretty much completes my set of an amazing, vintage bar set. I plan to serve everything with these from cheap wine to juice to dry martinis.

    IMG_3913

    Many drinks will be served using these. Note the soon-to-be-gone crappy wall color in the kitchen.

Here’s to setting goals, not limits, and moving towards things that bring joy. Happy New Year.

Five things that make me smile

Things are grim out there in the world. The news is full of violence. The sky is full of wind and rain. I’m not really up to writing, as my brain is heavy and slow. So, to cheer myself up, I decided to look through some pictures — to lighten up my inside and outside. Here are five pictures of things that make me smile.

  1. A beer-inspired R2D2 sticker at a pinball arcade/bar in Seattle, WA.
20151017_232216_HDR

Rainier beer R2D2!

2.  A park full of penises (Haesindang Park) in South Korea

IMG_0915

Phalluses as far as the eye can see!

Microcars…

IMAG0364

We picked up Dave’s NSUs (yes, he has both of these) in Roseburg, OR

…and this llama who came to visit us while we were picking up Dave’s NSUs

IMAG0363

Hello there!

Street art

IMAG0727

Awesomeness in Toronto, Ontario

I am grateful that it was super easy for me to come up with five things — this list could go on and on, really. Even on a day like today, I can find lots of things that will brighten my mood. I am very grateful for this ability, and the fact that I have so many memories that warm my heart. I know many suggest writing in a gratitude journal (it’s scientifically proven to improve your health!), and this is a similar exercise. I wonder: What would happen to our hearts if, every day, we named five things that make us smile?

 

 

 

A writing retreat

Trigger warning: Some acquaintance rape references in a research context.

Yesterday we were fortunate to arrive before sunset. The sky wasn’t completely greyed over – an anomaly for the Oregon Coast in November. We drive to the beach and walk along the low-tide waves as the sky turns from pink to orange to red to dark. The clouds turn the sky into an abstract painting. Both of us fall in love with the dead trees that enhance the scene.

IMG_3862

Dusk in Oceanside, Oregon

IMG_3867

I love dead trees.

Driving back to the house we rented for this escape, we discuss the plan for the next day – how to turn a mass of data into something that matters. How to convey the idea that when young people grapple with a scenario about sex and alcohol and popularity, that the word “rape” is relevant, yet barely reaches awareness. How “victim blaming” ideology still plagues our culture. Objectives for the next day set, we take our minds off of the work and indulge in a hot tub soak. Conversation turns to the data again; we are optimistic about our goals. Sleep comes easily that night.

The next morning brings the expected Pacific Northwestern rain and ten hours of work. The fire burned all day, filling the storming outdoors with piney smoke. We analyzed, deconstructed, reconstructed, and finalized an analysis plan. Wrote, deconstructed, and reconstructed again. A better plan. Writing was slow, but steady. It feels good, even though the material is heart breaking.

IMG_3869

This fire made everything better.

We finally take a break from reading difficult phrases uttered by youth: “Well I think she put herself in that situation first of all, and if she didn’t want that to happen, then she should’ve said, ‘No.’” and “how she could have prevented it” to cook a Thai meal. Onions, summer squash, baby bok choy, red peppers and tomatoes in a curry sauce. I over-cook the rice noodles but it still tastes good. The break from the sadness and frustration over the youth voices feels good, but it’s time to go back.

We notice flaws in the analysis, and begin again. A few more hours of struggle. The hot tub waits patiently. Finally, we put the computers, printouts, and pens away and soak out all the difficult thoughts. We talk about our dreams and fears. A couple of stars shine through the black cloud cover. The rain is light and cool.

Tomorrow we will dive into the work again for a few more hours. It won’t be as completed as we had hoped, but we’ll continue to make sense of something that shouldn’t exist in the first place.

Why I love microcars

Three years ago, I had no idea what I microcar was. I remember seeing them – most vividly on the streets of Italy when my family went there when I was 10. We traveled around Italy, Greece, and the then-Yugoslavia with another family with kids the same age as my brother and me. Our method of transportation was a large orange panel van affectionately named Le Grand Orange. While the van was a great way to transport eight people, it was not ideal for going up and down narrow cobblestone European streets. One prime example of this was when we tried to turn down an alley to get to a hotel, only to be thwarted by a Fiat parked too close to the corner so that we couldn’t make the turn, our mammoth vehicle not meant for centuries-old passageways. The solution was for the two dads to pick up the car and hoist it up on the curb.

Microcars have engines under 700 cc engines (as documented by Wikipedia) – though the shows I have been to allow engines up to 1000 cc. I can’t believe I know enough to write a sentence about engine size, though I admit I still don’t completely know what it means. I also can’t believe I have now gone to multiple car shows and am sad that this season is over. Still, it’s hard not to become fascinated by fully-functioning and useful automobiles that look like this:

IMG_1971

A spiffy Subaru 360 (nope, not a Volkswagen) I have had the pleasure of riding around in a couple of times. On Vashon Island.

Or vans and pickup trucks like this:

IMG_3595

Subaru van and pickup trucks. My friend Rex helps you grasp their size.

In a time when so many things are getting bigger and bigger, I find smaller cars so appealing. They challenge America’s general mentality that things need to be so huge – SUVs, McMansions, Super Size meals of epic proportions. Yes, here in Portland Smart cars are quite popular, and both the Mini Cooper and Fiat 500 have been relaunched into the American market. But have you seen the size difference between those cars now and as they were in the 1960s? Today’s tiny cars aren’t so tiny after all.

IMAG0334

A new Fiat 500 parked next to an older model.

 

IMG_1972

The Fiat next to a Subaru pickup.

But real microcars fit nicely into my desire to simplify my life; their size challenge the assumption that more is better. However, I know that owning a microcar is not so simple; they are old cars and therefore not necessarily reliable. And when they break down, parts aren’t necessarily easy to come by, or aren’t available in the most obvious places. Dave and I once drove one of his NSU’s about 400 miles to transport it from its former owner to its new home in his parents’ yard, alongside others of its kind. As we reached the CA border, something went awry with the clutch and we had to pull over to figure out what was wrong. Not used to cars breaking down on road trips, I was concerned (OK, panicky), but Dave did his best to ignore me as he guided the failing car into a Home Depot parking lot, passing an auto supply store en route. Of course I was confused and annoyed as he assessed the damage in the middle of a sunbaked parking lot, no shade to be had. He peered into the workings of the car (a completely foreign arrangement of metal in my eyes), poked around, and emerged holding a split piece of ring-shaped rubber – only the split was the problem.

“Do you know where to find one of these?”

I did! In the plumbing department! Years of home reno brought intensive practice at finding weird objects in all corners of hardware box stores. Dave waited outside while I ran into Home Depot and got what we needed. It cost a buck twenty-nine, plus tax. He fixed the damn car with a part from a hardware store that cost no more than what you can find in an ashtray. I was amazed with, pissed off at, and in love with microcars all at the same time.

IMAG0415

Dave and the dang NSU. Yes, we stayed at a Tiki Motel. Why not?

We almost completed the journey without incident. The car broke down again less than a mile from his sister’s house. We pushed it the rest of the way in the Sacramento summer heat, reaching our destination tired, sweaty, and pissed. At least I was pissed; little seems to bother Dave. That’s because he’s been a proponent of microcars and other old vehicles forever and is used to them breaking down. I’m learning to be patient.

A Hillman Husky (photo credit for below) might be a great starter car for me – or maybe a Morris Minor.

Hillman Husky

Dream car #1 — a Hillman Husky

 

IMG_3522

Dream car #2 — a Morris Minor I saw at the MPH Microcar show in Forest Grove, OR last month.

Hopefully, I will get one in time to bring to a show next summer. And if it breaks down along the way, I know where the nearest Home Depot is.