Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Polar Vortex: driving edition

Let's talk winter driving for a minute.

In case you haven't heard, out West we're experiencing a bit of a drought and a dry winter. But I did just have to chisel a sheet of ice off my little Camry before trekking into work this morning. Can someone say freezing rain?

It's a dry winter, but it's not exactly a balmy one. And with freezing fog, some of us can go weeks at a time without seeing the sun even once.

I feel for my East Coast friends. I do. There was a time when I lived out there. And quite frankly, I can't even imagine how they are coping with all the snow they've been getting. I mean, I remember driving around DC one Sunday morning with a little powdered sugar dusting of snow and seeing 5 fender benders at one exit. Just one exit, people. It took me an hour to drive 5 miles that day. Longest drive of my life.

Let's face it, a lot of you East Coasters simply don't know how to cope in winter weather. Having grown up in the Pacific Northwest, let me give you a few pointers on driving in winter weather.

1)  Slow down. If you think you are driving slowly, go even slower. You should basically be at a crawl here. The roads are likely slick and one patch of ice can send you careening into your neighbor's mailbox in a split second if you're going too fast. Go slow. Sure it's going to take you longer to get everywhere, but it's better to be late to work than never make it at all.

2)  Give 'em room. You see the car in front of you? I know you usually follow along inches from their bumper to ward off anyone who'd attempt to take that space as an invitation to join your lane. Don't do that. Imagine the biggest pickup truck you can think of. Or maybe a stretch limo. Now put that imaginary limo in between your front bumper and the brake lights of the car ahead of you. Keep that fancy rig between you as you go, and you'll likely avoid playing bumper cars if one of you should start to slide or brake suddenly.

3)  Stay home.  If your office shuts down, if your children don't have school, if you don't have to leave the house for any reason, just don't. Cancel your coffee meet up. Stay home. Enjoy the time off. Tackle your honey-do list. Organize your closet. Bake cookies. Watch a movie. Catch up on your favorite show. If you don't know how to drive in adverse weather, don't.

Monday, January 27, 2014

I'll wear your colors, my dear

I have been on a red nail polish kick over the last year. If you know my sister, you can ask her. She's sick of me choosing a different variation of red every time we get a pedicure (which was only like twice it the last year, but whatever). 

The thing is, I don't generally paint my fingernails. There are a number of factors that go into this. I don't have the patience. I don't know what color to paint them without making me look like a 12-year-old. I don't have the patience for them to dry properly. I know they will chip within 24 hours and start to look shabby and I'll end up taking it off tomorrow anyway. I don't have the patience.  See a running theme here? 

When I do work up the nerve to actually sit still for hours on end and paint my fingernails, I stick to Julia Robert's wedding mantra in Steele Magnolias. Blush and bashful. My colors are blush and bashful. Unlike Julia's character, Shelby, and her Pepto-Bismol pink ceremony, I choose the lightest pinks and most neutral colors I can find. This only seems to add to my problem. These light and sheer colors need multiple coats of paint for full coverage. 

So ladies who paint your nails, tell me something. What are your tricks for painting your nails without feeling like you're wasting hours on end waiting for each coat to dry? And can a working professional really get away with going bold on long fingernails, or should I stick with blush and bashful? 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A rose by any other name . . .

Please excuse the horrible photography taken on my flip phone in dim lighting. Every post needs a photo, so you're stuck with this. 

I am not a food blogger. Not by a long-shot. In case the above photo didn't prove that to you, you can ask my friends. They'd tell you I'd make a horrible food critic. That's not to say I don't appreciate good food. I do. I even enjoy making food, when I have someone else to cook for. But when it's just me, food is a survival mechanism, and not always an art form.

I didn't realize until I did a bit of traveling in 2013 how spoiled I am with dining out options in this mountain town. For any of you who doesn't know, I live in Central Oregon's tourist mecca, Bend.

I work downtown. In a four block radius of my office you can find at least 8 different coffee shops, only one of which is a Starbucks. Not only does downtown boast an impressive variety of coffee shops, but there is not a single major chain restaurant in all of downtown, if you don't include that one Starbucks.

When I visited other cities last year, bigger places than Bend, I found that everywhere I went, I was eating at large chains. Places I haven't been to in years. I am not even joking when I tell you that the only McDonald's I went to in 2013 was in another country, but that's a different story all together.

Bend, and particularly downtown Bend, has tons of options for dining out. So many in fact, that I forgot about a new Thai place that opened up in November. I finally made it to Wild Rose this week. It features Northern Thai cuisine.

The small dining hall was packed when I walked in. Other than the bar, there was only one table open, and the couple in line behind me filled it.

Sitting at the bar, I learned was the best choice. It gave me a chance to talk to the server a bit more about the recommendations. I am notoriously indecisive. I prefer a few choices that I can easily narrow down, as opposed to many options that overwhelm me. I'm pretty adventurous when it comes to food, so I do like to get advice from the staff.

I was pleased to find that Wild Rose doesn't have your typical five page long menu as is common with many Thai/Chinese/Vietnamese eateries. At Wild Rose, the menu is one page. And a pretty page at that, printed on perhaps a bamboo paper. To hold the menu is an experience in itself.

In addition to the printed menu, the wall behind the bar is a giant chalkboard filled with current, rotating specials. Both the server and the bartender chatted with me and made recommendations. When I decided to go with the server's recommendation, I even got my own private lesson in pronunciation. (I love learning new words in all sorts of languages.)

After the gentleman (possibly an owner, they were busy so I didn't pester him with questions) took my order, I was slightly worried about time. I had gotten a late start getting to lunch, and I worried the crowded restaurant meant that I wouldn't have time to eat. But Wild Rose proved me wrong. They were speedy, and before I knew it, my meal was in front of me, complete with gold handled utensils. I strayed away from my usual green curry pick, and was glad I went with the Moo Gratiem, a garlic pork.

Prices for all the menu items were reasonable, and comparable to other lunch options downtown. Wild Rose is a great choice for anyone looking for Thai in Bend.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Remembering King

I was in middle school or high school when Mama decided to have a dinner party on Martin Luther King Jr Day. It wasn't going to be just any dinner party either. There would be dressing up. There would be performances. Everyone in attendance would participate. No excuses. 

It was a night filled with music recitals and speech recitations. I don't remember what we ate, or even who all came to the party that year or the years following. But MLK Day was never again a holiday to be taken lightly. Never again would it be just another day off from school or work.  

That was many years ago. And too often it seems we forget to pause on these designated holidays to remember why. Why it is we celebrate this man. This person. This day. Many of us no longer even get the day off work. 

If I were to go to a Martin Luther King Jr. dinner party today, I'd probably share something by Kentucky Poet Laureate, Frank X. Walker. So today, in honor of Mr. King, and those dinner parties Mama used to host, let me introduce you one of my favorite poets. 

For more of Frank X. Walker's poetry, even some honoring King, hop on over to his website. 

If you have the day off school or work, I hope you consider getting involved with the MLK Day of Service and volunteer in your community. Whether you work today or not, I hope take a moment to remember why we honor the life and work of Martin Luther King Jr, or perhaps even host your own private reading of MLK's Dream speech.

Tell me how do you honor Martin Luther King in your home or place of work? I'd love to hear your stories, and find out if Mama really was the only one who hosted a MLK Day party, as I always secretly suspected. 

Friday, January 17, 2014

Reading Bob Welch

Last night reminded me why Bob Welch is one of my favorite Oregon authors. I finished reading Cascade Summer, and you guys, I cried.

I never expected to cry over a book about hiking in what is essentially my own backyard. I mean, I've been to some of the lakes they camped at, and have walked some of the same trails. Crying over a book about hiking and backpacking? Who does that?

I'll tell you who, anyone who reads Cascade Summer and has a heart. The book is about so much more than hiking. It's about an adventure. Chasing a dream. Reaching a goal. It's about a decades long friendship between two brothers-in-law. It is about the exhaustion of the journey. It's about the heartache that comes with trials. It is about so much more than camping.

Honestly, I can't believe I didn't read it sooner. Last spring, my sister and I had a chance to hear Welch give a reading at Paulina Springs Books in Redmond. I had met Welch at least once before, and have read some of his other works, including American Nightingale and My Oregon. I bought a copy of Cascade Summer that night. But my sister promptly swiped my book, and I didn't get it back until a month ago. I am so glad I did. In reading Cascade Summer, I often found myself laughing aloud, usually in a coffee shop surrounded by people who most certainly wanted to know what I found so funny. And, as I already admitted, the final pages brought me to tears.

What I really love about it is all the detail on the history of the Pacific Crest Trail that Welch weaves into the story. He introduces his readers to Judge John Breckenridge Waldo. An Oregon judge who spent nearly 30 summers hiking the mountains of Oregon in the late 1800s. He and his partners formed some of the first trails in the Oregon Cascades. It was Waldo who first suggested protecting the range from development, and he persisted in seeing his dream become a reality.

If you love nonfiction. If you love any book that can make you simultaneously laugh and cry. Go get a copy of Cascade Summer. It'll have you itching for June before the book is through. I already have a list of my own hiking and camping destinations inspired by Welch's journey.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Bloggers Beware: The Cliché Stops Here

"You can't fight it. It's in your blood," he said.

This was a college classmate telling me not to fight the pull journalism and English had on me as it came time to declare a major. He knew Mama was a journalist, a writer, a published author. And eventually, I did declare English as my major. 

I loved my writing courses. But I still dragged my feet all the way through journalism and working on the student newspaper. I was determined not to become my mother. Not that it worked, I eventually would take a job at a newspaper, but I didn't have her skill for investigation. For getting to the heart of a story. I don't like asking people questions. I'd rather spend the day with them and let them tell me their story over time. Journalism's tight deadlines don't provide that luxury. 

But I do like writing. And English. And I eventually became a book editor, of all things. As a tutor, I refused to mark on my students' papers. I made them mark their own corrections. But then I started editing books, and I had to be the one marking things up, usually for writers I have never met. 

I have never been a grammar geek. I had (maybe still have) a terrible habit of run-on sentences. My academic career was plagued by my insistence on using fragments for effect. And my use of contractions very nearly cost me my master's thesis. 

The only grammar lesson I remember clearly is the lecture given by my journalism professor on commas. Although I know I still do it wrong. (Sorry, Neil.) I find errors in my own writing constantly. I am sure if you've been around here for any period of time, you have too.

But I promise you all, I try. I do try to get it right. I am forever reading and re-reading and editing my own work. This blog may not have a wide audience, but I want what you read to be quality. 

The thing about this virtual library called the internet, or about walking into a bookstore or library these days, is you realize how many "writers" there are. Self-publishing and e-books and blogs have opened the world of writing to just about anyone.

But not everyone who writes is a writer. Not in the sense that they study the art of language. And that fact is never more clear to me than when I read blogs. Now before you go argue with me on this, let me remind you that I just told you that I too make errors and mistakes when I write on my blog. When I write period. I am not in the habit of reading with a critical eye. I don't edit everything, usually only what I'm paid to read.

But there is one big mistake that many bloggers make that I just can't overlook. It's my writing pet-peeve, I suppose. It's the nails on the chalkboard, when I come across it in my online browsing.

Jumbled up clichés.

I cringe every time someone uses "mute point" when they wanted to say moot. Or that they want to "nip it in the butt", rather than the bud. Or they have a "road to hoe," rather than a row. Or they use for "all intensive purposes," not realizing that the phrase is intents and purposes. And the "luck stops here" simply doesn't have the same meaning as the buck stops here.

I sort of get it. I mean I was the child who said "I sawl" instead of saw for far longer than I should have, because that's what I thought everyone else was saying. I still remember the day Mama told me I was wrong. I get that many of these mix-up clichés sound similar. But they're not. They don't mean the same thing. If you're writing for work or for pleasure, and if you insist on using clichés, get them right and you'll make us all happy readers and writers.   

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

On the Deschutes

I cross the river
four times each day. On foot.
The dam, north of the bridge,
sprung a leak last fall. In winter
river waters run low. Now
its middle bare. A strip of murky mud.
On its edges, ice forms.
In its depths, ducks dive.
One emerges, shakes its head -
victorious. The only fish
my eyes have seen
on this stretch of water.


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Return to gypsy life

Do you remember Psycho Kitten and Griffin? Well, I'm back house sitting again for these two ornery cats. Really they aren't all bad, but they do get into a bit of mischief at night. Imagine a real life Elf on the Shelf, and I'll tell you nobody would be sleeping through the shenanigans he finds himself in.

That's the thing about being a semi-gypsy. You're all the time waking up in places that are sort of familiar but not quite familiar enough. You might wake up at a quarter to 3 after five hours of sleep only to see the glow from the light in the hallway bursting through the crack under the door. But instead of rolling over like you might in your own bed, you start to think. And thinking at 3 a.m. is a bad idea no matter where you are.

I turned that light off last night. How is that light on now? 

You distinctly remember entering the room after brushing your teeth last night and saying to the cats who you hoped were in the other room, "Goodnight cats. Be good. I'll see you in the morning." Then you shut off the light and made sure to latch the door behind you. But now it is the middle of the night and the light is on. How could that be?

Various scenarios start playing in your head.

Scene 1:  Someone broke in the house. You listen for any noise. Any movement. Any sound. After what feels like an hour, you conclude the only sound you hear is the cat using the litter box at the bottom of the stairs.

Scene 2:  The cat jumped off the banister to the opposite wall and pushed the light switch back on. It could happen. With the replica push button switches, a cat could turn the light on. Maybe? But considering the cat fight that woke you up in the middle of the night the other day, you're pretty sure you would've woken up if the cat had launched itself kamikaze style into the wall outside your bedroom door.

Scene 3:  Your neighbors have a key and decided to play a trick on you. The neighbors have been known for their harmless pranks. You wouldn't put it passed them. They might do it. They are fully capable of it. But would they really do that to their favorite neighborhood house sitter? Really?

Sleep comes in fits and stars from 3 a.m. on. You might even hear the garbage truck and think it's someone breaking it. But eventually your alarm buzzes and it's time to get up. The sun is beginning to rise. And in the clear light of day you no longer worried that a stranger is lurking in the basement. The only logical conclusion you have reached is that while you thought you switched the light off, maybe you didn't. Or the cat's conspiracy to kill you while you sleep simply hasn't worked, yet.

The good thing is, you survived one more night as a gypsy, and that's all that really matters.

Monday, January 13, 2014

5 for 5

I have officially been working in family law for five years now. Five years. It's kind of hard to believe. It's not a field I ever imagined I'd be working in.  To be honest, I don't think anyone grows up thinking, "I want to do divorce when I grow up." Do you?

This journey called life is always bringing me to unexpected destinations. And in honor of five years in this little career of mine, I thought I'd share with you five things the last five years have taught me. Now I have never been married or divorced, so take this advice for what it is, simply five years of observing the end of marriage.

1)  If you're going to get divorced, make sure you really mean it. Because if you end up remarried to the same person and divorce them again, it's always more expensive the second time around. 

2)  Think twice before you act on your emotions at the beginning of a divorce (or just always think twice). Because it's very likely the Judge will grant you the house that's deck is missing because you got mad and ripped it off with a backhoe. 

3)  There are no winners in divorce court.  It's usually better if you are able to work together to come up with your own agreement, than to let the Judge decide. 

4)  Love is a choice you have to make each and every moment of each and every day. Especially the days when you're sick and tired of picking up dirty socks off the bathroom floor. And the best you can hope for is that you choose someone who chooses you and all of your flaws. 

5) If you haven't found that person yet, don't worry. It's always better to be happily single than unhappily married. And there are a lot of unhappily married people in this world.  

Friday, January 3, 2014

A running allergy

Besides eating black-eyed peas, another thing I like to do on New Year's Day is get in the first run of the year. It's not a resolution to get fit thing. I don't have a gym membership. I just like to run when I've got the day off and the sun is shining, which it was on Wednesday. So I laced up my running shoes and hit the pavement.

The problem was not in the few miles I ran. It was in the coming home. Almost immediately upon my return from the run, I started sneezing. If you have spent any time around me, you know that I have a rather unique sneeze. Small, short bursts in rapid succession. A dog yipping, a mouse, a baby, a cry. These are all thing my sneeze has been described as. But on rare occasions, like when I have allergies or a cold, my sneeze turns loud and violent.

Since I finished that run on Wednesday, I have been sneezing, loud and violent like. Mama called and thought I was sick. No, I said. I'm just allergic to running. She thought I was silly. But it's kind of true. Did you know that for some people exercise can cause allergy-like symptoms? I am one of those people.

Okay, so I'm also one of those people who is also prone to real allergy symptoms. Cats, grasses, weeds, molds, dust mites, just to generalize the basics. Now one would think winter in a mountain town wouldn't cause too many allergy symptoms. But winter just happens to be the time of year that exercise induced rhinitis increases. So basically I am congested for the majority of my life.

During my peak allergy season, a guy a used to work for would say every morning, "You look like you're going to die." Not, "Hello." Not, "Good morning." Simply, "You look like death." Why thank you. Thank you very much. I was feeling fine, but now I feel like dying.

The biggest thing about the allergy and allergy-like symptoms is that they exhaust me. By the time I get off work, my head feels heavy and foggy and all I want to do is crawl into bed. Which this time of year, isn't such a bad idea. I mean as long as I'm not getting out and exercising these symptoms will go away, right? Right?

Over-the-counter-medication can help sometimes. I do try to avoid triggers as much as possible. But I can't ever seem to figure out is this winter exercise problem. How do I stay active without suffering from extreme congestion, sneezing and exhaustion. As it is, it takes me two days just to recover from one outdoor run.

Please tell me I am not the only one with this problem. Any tips or advice for a girl who is apparently allergic to running in the wintertime?

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Hope in black-eyed peas

I spent New Year's Eve with this guy. 

He's as sweet as they come, but he's still a pup and managed to swipe a role of TP while I was making dinner. But that's not all we did on NYE. I got to talk to some of my favorite people on the telephone as the clock struck midnight on the East Coast and again in Pacific Time. What did you all do? 

The real party for me begins on New Year's Day. I make a traditional meal of black-eyed peas and cornbread. Mama taught me that. I make a different recipe nearly ever year for the black-eyed peas, but I always make sure to eat them. 

My housemate has never heard of eating anything on January 1 for good luck. And I had to explain the tradition to her. 

Now I grew up on black-eyed peas; it's a favorite in the family among many other southern dishes. Mama made sure to instill southern tradition in us. In many circles, black-eyed peas are said to look like coins and are eaten for wealth and prosperity in the new year. They are often cooked with pork, because a pig roots forward, symbolic of moving forward in life. I can't say for certain that black-eyed peas have ever brought me good luck or prosperity. But I love a good tradition. 

As I reflect upon 2013, I can't help but remember that I accomplished some big goals and traveled to some fantastic places, and met some incredible people. I am thinking about what I hope for 2014. I haven't set any goals or resolutions yet. I don't know that I will. I do know that 2014 is going to bring some more travel, along with some more running and racing, and I hope it brings more opportunities to meet new people, as I continue to strive to live in community with others. 

What hopes do you have for 2014?