The Return Of Spring

I have to admit that I am a lover of all things Fall and Winter.

I was born in winter; Christmas happens in winter. Many of my several people were born in winter.

And also, I live in the southern United States, so it is unbearably and miserably hot for most of Spring, all of Summer, most of Fall, and sometimes even in Winter.

I’m not a fan of the warm months that fashion magazines advertise as “so amazing” and “can’t wait for” them to come. I call horseshit.

But, there are about four days that are absolutely gorgeous in Spring, here in the South, before it is hot enough to fry eggs on the sidewalk.

And I am so lucky to have had time to go walk around in this beautiful weather this morning.

It’s about 64F , bright sun, and a little breeze. People are out cutting grass, and the scent of the chopped blades fragrance the breeze.

It’s the Spring (or is it still technically Winter?) day of my dreams.

These little purple wildflowers were not here a few weeks ago, but now, here they are, reminding passers by of the colors just waiting to burst from the ground, when Mother Nature gives the OK.

The sky is so beautiful! I could just look at it all day.

Do cherry blossoms grow in Texas? I have no idea what kind of tree this is; whatever it is, it’s gorgeous.

What is going on in your part of the world?

What beauty have you seen today?

Until tomorrow my friends…

Cheat Day #1

I predicted this.

I predicted, before I started this experiment, this commitment, that some days, I will just be exhausted and not have the will to write.

What will I do on these days? Break my commitment to writing everyday? Well, no , not exactly, but kind of.

On these days, let’s call this cheat day #1, I will share something that I have written in the past. The rules are: 1) It can be anything that I have written in the past and 2) I will not edit it to change the meaning or tone of what I meant at that time.

So, please enjoy this strange, one page anecdote that I wrote way back, almost 7 years ago, on 08/24/2011.

ENJOY

 

A day in the life of corporate America (or The Little Leaf that Could)

 

Today at work, I was sitting outside the building, taking what I like to call my non-smoker smoke break. I came up with this idea after seeing fellow smoking co-workers eagerly plod down the hallway past my office, off to take their smoke breaks. I became a bit jealous, admittedly, and decided to simply go outside, too (and not smoke).

So there I sat, on the green, cast iron rocking chairs in front of my building. A young, blond girl from Human Resources, in all of her young and blonde glory, came by and asked what I was doing. I thought the answer to that question was rather obvious. I was obviously sitting in a chair, rocking back forth, hence the name of the chair. That description describes one hundred percent of my activity at that time. But, I knew her asking the obvious question was an attempt to make conversation, so I decided to one-up her. Not only would I answer her question; I would answer it with a bit of wit and humor.

“I am warming up,” I said, referring to the freezing 65°F that is the normal temperature for our office building.

“Ha ha…that shouldn’t take too long,” she replied. She went on to chat for a few more minutes about some topic in which I was even less interested. I was honestly very happy to see her enter the building. I was tired of both envying her gorgeous shoes and feigning interest in her uninteresting story.

So, returned to my peaceful sitting. No iPhone in my hand. No computer in front of me. Just sitting. And just then, I had an epiphany. Instead of just looking straight ahead (into the parking lot full of good ole’ boy trucks parked next to pretentious eco-friendly trash), why won’t I look UP? UP! UP!! How often do adults look up at the clouds? I wondered to myself. So, I looked up. I relaxed my fluffy ponytail and head on the back of the chair and looked up at the sky. My eyes seemed to react…they seemed to wonder what I was doing. I decided to try to find shapes in the clouds, like little kids do (or something).

I looked for a few seconds when from the corner of my left eye, I saw a small leaf fluttering down, seemingly coming from nowhere. It made its slow descent and landed on one of the tables. I was almost shocked. No, I was completely shocked. Shocked because there are no trees around for quite some distance. There are especially no trees on top of the building. And the leaf just seemed to float down from exactly nowhere.

I looked around. I looked up. Not wanting to seem silly or even the least bit un-cool, I casually stood up and stretched. I even faked a little moan when I stretched, you know, to seem like my stretch was the most authentic stretch ever stretched. I sauntered over to the leaf and looked down. I looked up again, to try to see where it may have come from. Still, no idea. I picked up the small leaf and looked into the windows of the building next to me. The dark tint prevented me from seeing how many people were staring down at me and this incredible, appearing from nowhere, little leaf.

I knew that there were probably dozens of people sitting at their desks inside the building, just cheering me on to keep the leaf and one day describe the awesomeness that broke up the monotony of their corporate America lives. This leaf would have to represent all that we wanted to be- free and floating carelessly, not frozen by overzealous air conditioning or fattened by our sedimentary lifestyles. And all of our freedom would have to come out of nowhere, just like the little leaf.

Portland Day 2

Part of my goal in travelling to Portland was to not have goals, to not over think, over plan, over anything. I wanted to give chance the chance to interact with me and my life, something that I don’t usually embrace.

This is also a long and more eloquent way of saying that I didn’t plan anything to do, other than the tour to Haystack Rock and along the Oregon coast.

On Friday, October 20, 2017, I slept in (thank goodness) and met up with Rachel, the friendly British girl from the tour yesterday.

I should say that one of my “soft goals” for visiting Portland was to attempt to experience it as if I lived here. If I lived here, I wouldn’t search “what to do in Portland” everyday and check off things off the list. I would do regular, stuff, like meet a friend for lunch, sit in traffic, etc.

The sitting in traffic bit has become more familiar than I’d like, to be honest. So, on Friday, I drove from Beaverton in to downtown Portland. I wanted to be a cool kid and act like a local, so I tried to look for street parking.

Between the terrible traffic, journey from Beaverton into downtown Portland and searching for somewhere, anywhere, to park, I was 30 minutes late meeting up with Rachel. Tardiness is the biggest of my pet peeves, but, I am happy to say that I did not get into a mental frenzy over it.

Lesson learned: Even when you try or do your best, there is still a good chance that things won’t work out the way you planned or hoped.

Thanks, Portland traffic and downtown parking, for reminding me of this important lesson.

I finally found a parking spot that required me to pay $4 for two hours. I had to parallel park my huge rental, a 2017 Chevrolet Impala, into the spot, and I am proud to report that I was able to do it in one try. The Impala isn’t a limousine, but it is quite larger, in both length and width, than the Honda Accord I typically drive.

After walking in the light rain for a few blocks, I arrived at Powell’s bookstore. Powell’s is a Portland institution and is a lot of fun, but I had no interest in going back inside to wander around, since I did so a couple of years ago, and didn’t want to lug around the several pounds of books that I would buy. Going to the bookstore is a treat for me; I absolutely love it and it’s hard for me to control myself when I am in one. On more than one occasion, I have gone into a bookstore and left with $100 worth of stuff and no idea how it happened.

Rachel seemed completely unfazed by my tardiness and even more uninterested in my polite attempt to explain what happened.

Lesson learned #2: People are usually a combination of quite forgiving and loosely uninterested in you.

This lesson is hard for me to learn when taught in the context of tardiness. I absolutely hate when someone is late, but aside from that, I, too, am generally quite forgiving of people and their shortcomings, whether intentional or not.

Rachel and I walked 10 minutes in the cold, wind, and rain to the Portland City Grill, a lovely and swank restaurant on the 30th floor of an office building. The tour guide told us about it and it did not disappoint. The views of the city were spectacular.

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I love the pacific northwest because the trees here somehow speak to my soul. I am not an outdoorsy person. I am quite chubby and I don’t typically do much of anything related to the outdoors. To me, “outdoors” is where I keep my car and where the roads are where I drive my car.

However, there’s something that warms my soul about the transition that trees undergo in the Autumn…well, trees in places that are not as close to the equator as we are in the southern United States.

Once you leave the South, where everything is warm and green seemingly year round, you are able to experience Autumn in a visual way. I have seen the most beautiful colors ever, just existing, for free viewing, on the trees here in the Portland area.

The food at the Portland City Grill was also very good. I had steelhead trout, which looks identical to salmon (to me), but the flavor is a little less pronounced. I also had the New York style cheesecake. It was ok, but not terribly memorable.

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After hanging out with Rachel, I walked back to my car. I knew that the meter had expired, but I made no particular hurry to get back there. I would usually have rushed through lunch, with the impending deadline looming over my head and invading my thoughts. Instead, I thought, “It’ll be ok” and when lunch was over, I carefully walked back to my car, in the wind, rain, and cold, and observed the dashboard. NO TICKET.

Another full 30 minutes late.

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Now, this experiment in “low worry, low stress” is not a doorway into tardiness for me. No, absolutely not. I still abhor tardiness with a level of hatred that I can’t describe. However, this mind experiment is a way for me to curb some of the ongoing and pervasive anxiety that typically fills my mind every day, all day. To sum up:

  1. Did I try to be on time for lunch? Yes. Did factors beyond my control and knowledge prevent me from being on time for lunch? Also yes. Should I beat myself up about it? No.
  2. Did I know what time my parking meter expire? Yes. Did I rush through an encounter with an actual human to get back to my car? No. Did the universe reward me for breaking my anxious patterns by not giving me a parking ticket? Perhaps.

All in all, it was a good day. I began to not feel so great, like a cold was coming on, so I went drove back to the hotel room for some rest.

I am also learning that one of the most important things that you should give your mind and body is A BREAK. Give yourself a got damn break. Take a nap. Go to sleep. Stop doing stuff, all the stuff, any of the stuff. So, that’s what I did with the remainder of the day.

Until the next adventure…

 

Portland Full Day 1

Thursday was my first full day in Portland, Oregon.

I normally do not like to schedule tours or other regimented things to do on the first day after landing in a new place. My body doesn’t tolerate airplane travel terribly well, even though I do it relatively often. I am often tired and just not feeling very energetic after air travel.

However, due to some scheduling conflicts with the tour company, the only day I could go on the Oregon Coast tour was on Thursday, my first full day in the city.

I don’t currently have to get up super early in the morning, so getting up at 6:00 am to fight rain, wind, and Portland traffic to go on a tour of the Oregon coast was a challenge. I am currently staying in an Extended Stay Hotel in Beaverton, which is just outside of Portland. Even though the journey into downtown was less than 10 miles, it still took me over an hour from door to parking garage. Yikes! This is the route from the airport area to my hotel.

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I can say, however, in defense of the Oregonians, that they are a friendly driving bunch. I was able to easily change lanes when I realized I was in the wrong one. No one honked at me, and in an attempt to blend in, I did not honk at anyone.

I arrived at the parking garage, then walked the two blocks to the near-by Starbucks to wait for the tour bus to arrive. I received a call shortly after 9:00 am, stating that the tour guide was caught in some traffic. I was glad to know that even locals suffer through the traffic as well.

I saw one tour bus pull up, so I left the Starbucks with the $2 bottle of water that I bought just to ease my guilt about asking for the code to the bathroom. Guess who was in line for the tour? The lady who sat next to me on the flight yesterday, and of course, her husband. Thankfully, the bus was there for them, not for me. I am so appreciative that the universe did not think I was so awful as to deserve to sit next to those people for two days in a row, two travel excursions in a row.

While waiting for the next tour bus, the woman waiting with me started talking. She was a short, fair-skinned, blonde haired Brit from Manchester. I held my umbrella over her and examined her outfit. I thought it was a curious outfit, given the weather: Ugg boots, denim shorts, black leggings under the shorts, a sweatshirt, a coat with a furry hood, no rain slicker, no umbrella.

I felt quite smart in the outfit I’d chosen, but I have learned from experience to dress for comfort and weather while traveling, to hell with how cute you want to look. I was wearing an over-sized jacket with deep pockets, well-fitting blue jeans, a camisole, a long sweater, and pink rain boots. I felt so superior during the whole day, as the other tour participants wearily maneuvered around puddles while I stepped right in them with glee, not a care in my heart and not a drop of rain water on my feet.

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The tour had several stops, including one at a nice, but not terribly blog worth rest stop a the entrance to a state park.

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By far, the most interesting stop of the tour was Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach. You can read more about it here: Haystack Rock Wikipedia

The weather was MISERABLE. I loved it, though. I have been to London twice, and even though both times have been cold and rainy, it is still my favorite place in the world (at least so far). So, to experience cold, windy, rainy, overall miserable weather along the Oregon coast was a delight to my soul. Perhaps my soul is also cold and miserable, which is why the weather delights me so much.

This is a view of Haystack rock. You maybe can’t tell from this photo, but it is absolutely majestic! The weather was SUPER COLD, near freezing. It was so windy that I fought to control my umbrella, but the wind snatched it away and turned it inside out twice. You can’t see her, but there’s a local teenage girl dancing barefoot in the waves, while wearing a hoodie and shorts. I just stood there for a little while and smiled, letting her joy infect me from afar, even though of course I thought she’d also lost her mind.

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This is a set of houses along the beach. Wow, those folks sure are fortunate. DSC00069

This photo of me was taken by my super cute, happy, energetic, and overall adorably kind and hilariously Oregon-ish tour guide. I didn’t get a photo of him, but he had the kind of energy and kindness that I aspire to one day have.

Haystack Rock is in the distance and the girl next to me on the phone is the British girl that I met outside the Starbucks. Although it is popular for tourists, or just anyone with a face and hands, to go places and photograph everything, I have trained myself to stop doing that. Thanks to the self-inflicted control, I have actual memories, you know, the kind that you keep in your brain, of places I have visited. I have the memory of the girl dancing in the freezing waters and if I just think about it, I can feel the cool water drops beating against my face while standing on the beach. I think memories > selfies + incessant tourist photography.  But enough of my ranting…DSC00062

The next stop was along a cool trail near the Haystack rock. I didn’t get a photo of where this was, but the tour guide was super jazzed to take us here. We followed him down what he called an “entirely flat” path to another spot on the beach. As a chubby girl who isn’t yet the athlete of my dreams, I can say that the path is more accurately described as “mostly, kind of flat”, but to a super fit soccer coach / tour guide, I could understand how his muscles didn’t require the effort that the rest of ours did.

Even though I am thoroughly a city girl, at least that’s how I currently describe myself, I was in awe of the old growth trees (that’s what the tour guide called this area, “old growth”).

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This is a tree that fell down a long time ago, and other stuff is growing from it and on it. So beautiful. DSC00085

This is a gorgeous tree stump!DSC00076

A downed tree across a small river running through the forest. DSC00075

The river running through the forest and the bridge overhead.DSC00072

Next, our super, super eco-friendly and conservationist tour guide drove us through a lumber mill. I found this to be so, so hilarious and a bit ironic, especially to an outsider, perhaps even more especially humorous to a person who has lived in Texas for a long time. In Texas, it seems the most important thing to protect is GUNS or your access to them. To hear a tour guide wax on about conservation but then to also drive us through a lumber yard, in a judicious attempt to show how even though he hates cutting down trees, sweetly showed how he also understands how doing so is the livelihood of lots of Oregonians.

This little deep sea fishing business was located next to the lumber yard.

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The next stop was the Tillamook Forest Center. Of course, I had to take a photo of the huge Smokey the Bear statue.

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Because I am a city girl, and I knew that I’d be going back to the hustle and bustle of Houston, AND because, really WHY NOT, I bought a pair of statement earrings from the gift shop. Yes, the gift shop had tons of, well, forest related stuff, but I am moving towards only acquiring things that make me happy. So, a book about trees would have perhaps matched the purpose of the museum, but, for me, there’s nothing like a pair of interesting earrings. I have an embarrassingly huge earring collection and I love a pair that comes with a story. These definitely have a story. And they’re gold. And they’re birds. I mean, what more do you want in a fashion accessory?IMG_1815IMG_1816

Photos of me attempting to take a few shots with and of the beautiful scenery. I took some of these with my phone in an attempt to save my point and shoot camera from getting even more wet.IMG_1808IMG_1810IMG_1811

I am trying to let my eyebrows grow back and I have been mistaken for a much younger person lately. Coincidence? Perhaps. IMG_1812

The last stop was the Tillamook Creamery and Museum. They make world-famous cheese and the shop was part museum, part gift shop, part creamery. I am lactose intolerant, don’t particularly have any affinity for cheese, and, since it was about 45F outside, I had no particular interest in the ice cream, which I will usually endure the intestinal distress to eat anyway. So, I wandered around and took some photos while we were there.

Here’s a photo of a very beautiful dairy cow. This is a photo of a huge photo, to be exact.

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The outside of the museum and gift shop.DSC00113

Some plastic cow figures explaining the birthing cycle of a cow.DSC00109

I absolutely love a museum, but I honestly wasn’t too jazzed about a dairy museum. Maybe it was the end of the day and I was too tired to appreciate it.

That’s it for today, more stories and adventures coming soon!

 

 

 

Meaningless? Pointless? Portland!

About a week ago, I was sitting in my office in Houston, Texas, daydreaming about whether or not I should take a quick jaunt up to Oregon, you know, to relax, escape the enduring Southern heat, and take a break from the sadness in my heart, and the sadness of the whole city. In case you have been under a news media rock, Houston was pretty much submerged in water for several days thanks to our friend known as Hurricane Harvey.

Without much planning, I booked a flight and hotel and rental car and arrived here in Portland this morning. The few hours it took me to get here have already given me enough to write about for the next week, and if this hotel was any nicer, I might just lock myself inside and do just that. Alas, my efforts to be cheap have landed me in a barely nice, lightly musty hotel room, which I may vacate if my snobbier tendencies do not release me. I am going to give it one night.

Here’s a few stories from the day, so far. It’s only 3:16 pm here and the day is still young, even though I typically feel horrible after flying and today is no different.

Air Travel Sucks

Before I arrived to the airport in Houston, I received a text message from United Airlines saying my flight was delayed by 30 minutes, and it’d leave at 9:30 am. With the extra 30 minutes, I decided to very slowly eat a bag of cashews and trail mix, drink my $5 bottle of Fiji water, and play with the idea of reporting the well dressed business man who left his luggage unattended for about 15 minutes.

Just as the businessman came back, I overheard an impatient woman announce the final boarding call for Portland. I looked at my phone, noticed it was only 9:01 am, but proceeded to run to the gate anyway. Although I was technically wearing athletic shoes, no other part of my body is athletic, and I was doing my best not to swallow the heart pieces that were lodged in my throat. I was relieved when the United representative did not ask me any questions regarding my boarding pass. I wouldn’t have had the breath to respond anyway.

Aside from the very, very talkative passengers next to me, the flight was uneventful. I will write about them in a future blog post.

Arriving in Portland, I had the chance to sit in a full-sized chair while I waited, and waited, and waited for the bags to arrive on the carousel. While I waited, I took a picture of my feet.

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And here’s a photo of the nearby piano that has a big sign on it that states “Play Me.” Two people took the piano up on its offer; one played beautifully, the other just played.

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Here are some other fellow, miserable passengers waiting for the bags to come.

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And here’s a lovely old lady who decided to wear all the contents of her bag instead of packing them. You can’t tell from this photo (which is a shame) that she is wearing an undershirt, a sweater, a coat thing over that, and a skirt, and some stockings, and some leggings. Even to a Southerner, Oregon isn’t cold enough to require such excessive attire. The poor dear. Or, should I say, “Bless her heart” as we’d say in the South.

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I stood around patiently until my bag finally came. I have learned to be a little aggressive when waiting for bags; I learned this behavior in Lagos. After a full plane of people waiting for about half an hour for their bags, being a little aggressive at the carousel was necessary.

After retrieving my bag, I went to the Budget rental counter. I forgot that I rented from them before and I also forgot that you have to ride a little bus a full 10 minutes away to their rental counter. The price was cheap, but I did regret the distance, once I got on the funky little bus.

While waiting on the funky little bus, I noticed these odd little storage houses inside of the terminal. I wonder what’s in them? Oregon has that feel of nice people doing nice things all the nice time, so I didn’t automatically presume it was something treacherous or macabre, like I would have thought had I been in Texas.

 

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And what a lovely and dreary day to arrive in Portland! I love the rain and the cold, so for me, this place is like heaven on Earth.

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First place to go after getting the rental car? FOOD, of course. I typically fly in the mornings, and if it is a short-ish flight, I do not eat. So, I was ready for breakfast about 7 hours after waking up this morning.

I had heard about this place called Burgerville and I decided to drive there and have a chicken sandwich. It was tasty, even though everything is sold a la cart, so a chicken sandwich, sweet potato fries, and a soda cost $12. Meh, I guess, when in Rome, right?

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I can say that going through the drive-thru at Burgerville was its own lovely experience because of two things: 1) There’s a sign alerting car drivers to watch for folks on a bicycle (which I honestly think might be against the law in Houston, ha!) and 2) I have never seen such beautiful, Fall foliage in a drive-thru.

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This is where I will leave the post for today. More stories and adventures to come.

Until next time, my friends…