Friday, November 29, 2013

First Thanksgiving Dinner with Just the Charlies.

Charlie & Charlie stayed home this year with Oatie & Bailey. We knew of some people in town, but didn't have any invitations until the day before. Since we have some hermit tendencies we were pretty happy not to have to decide what to do. We thought it would be nice to have our own quiet holiday. Also, we've not had a lot of time alone in our two years together, so when we do, we treasure it.

Though I've been a vegetarian for about eight years now or so, I've never really been into fake meats. One of the reasons I gave up meat was because I didn't really care for it anyway, among other things, and I was trying to go to a healthier lifestyle, which meant that I didn't want uber-processed foods. Occasionally one must break with your values. A national holiday is a good time.

We'd seen the Tofurky roast in the New Seasons ad on sale and decided it was the year to break out the Tofurky. My mom has a long standing love affair (not) with all things tofu, so I go out of my way to harass her about it, even going as far as sending a Tofurky card in the mail to her last year. (I know she loved it secretly.) We did a little research and discovered that Tofurky is made about 60 miles from Portland, in Hood River, OR. The company was founded in 1980 in Forest Grove, OR (where I went to optometry school), and during the first seven years the founder lived in a tree house to save money. Wow. Those people are real hippies!

The dinner was a joint effort- Justin bought a few small sides at New Seasons (green beans, sweet potatoes, and stuffing, so we wouldn't have too many leftovers), Gluhwein (which being the heavy drinkers that we are, never got around to opening) and beeswax candles for the table, as well as a beautiful cheese ball (which we also didn't get to eat until today but was super tasty). I made the mashed potatoes (had no idea three russet potatoes made so much!), some vegetarian gravy (super yummy, also a first time), a all-organic, natural pumpkin pie and homemade crust (thank god I got the Grandma Agnes pie-crust gene), and some Light Rolls (which are a southern thing, but basically light and buttery dinner rolls). Surprisingly we didn't have any fails. I rarely use recipes and often screw things up a bit, so this was pretty great.

Justin set the table and we arranged the dishes for photos and timer pictures and then sat down to our little meal. It was quiet and peaceful and really lovely. The two dogs were treated with tastes of almost everything (even the pie) and I think enjoyed the day too. Earlier, I'd taken them for a walk in the park, so no one gained any weight (I hope).

This year, I'm very thankful for a lot of things- mostly having a good family and my Charlie by my side. I'm thankful he didn't give up on me when he could've (when I ran off to Oregon) and thankful that we've been having such a nice and happy life. He has a really large calming effect on me, which is not so common. We get along and have so much in common and meander through life at about the same pace. We've found peace and tranquility in Oregon again and things are moving in the right direction. I'm thankful to have a job, and to have been lucky enough to find work whenever I needed it. I'm thankful that I was able to be a gypsy for five years and return to home with Justin, coming full circle. We are thankful for everything we have, and try not to take it for granted.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Oregon Fall - and quick visit from Amber & Patrick (from my old Germany Job)

The weather's definitely gotten chillier with frost whitening the grass a few mornings this week. Justin even had to break out the ice scraper when he came to work with me one day. We've cranked the heat and still it's cold. We sit bundled up under our lap blankets on the couch like two senior citizens. I guess we are at the door of forty, so that is to be expected. Old people we are. 

I biked downtown this week, the first time since I'd returned from Iowa. It was about 30 degrees out when I set out, so I piled on the clothes and set off. Within five minutes I was roasting. This is the tricky part about cold weather cycling. What to wear. But it was a beautiful ride and I met up with an old friend at the art museum. This fall has been very cool and crisp and pretty dry. It feels like a Midwestern fall, which is pretty nice. The sun shines bright. You need shades. It's a foreign feeling for fall in Oregon. 

The Charlies are still settling in just fine. We met up with some of my old friends tonight from Germany. Amber, who I used to work with (also an optometrist) and her husband, Patrick. They are wonderful folks from Montana, normal and laid back. We had a good evening of walking and talking and eating at the top of the pink tower in Portland- where they have stunning views of the city from the Portland City Grill restaurant. The last time I was there was the eve of my move to New Zealand. I remember sitting in the booth by the window with my sister Carrie and our friend Nate, tears rolling down my eyes, feeling the emotions of the big life step I was taking. And now, almost six years later, I am back. Calm and settled, feeling relaxed about life, older and wiser from my years of travel and work. It was a round about way to end up back here, but I think it was the right way to do it.

Oatie, the Red-Nosed Reindeer
 Downtown Portland, in front of the Portland Art Museum
 Fourth Graders, visiting the art museum
 I like this
Hanging out at Stumptown Roasters downtown. Gorgeous light today. 

Amber & Patrick were in town from Missoula, MT. The last time I saw them was in Germany! After a dinner at the Portland City Grill (happy hour), we walked over to VooDoo Donut and got a little magic to take home. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Chopping my hair- Letting go of the extra weight (HAIR TRAUMA photos)

Cutting off my hair has historically related to the end of a relationship. Once a man is out of the picture, I feel the need to lighten my load. That freedom means time to chop the hair. I have a problem in that there has been no man disappearing lately. Justin and I are just under the two year mark- my second longest relationship ever. That compounded with my history of horrid haircuts has left me with ridiculously long hair.

I haven't cut my hair in about three years. No kidding. I had so many horrible haircuts that my entire immediate family would swear under oath it's definitely true. I figure about 90% of the time they were so bad that I'd spend months after the cut fixing my hair myself with mirrors and a scissors until it was in a serviceable condition. After my last cut, I decided I was just going to give up and have a bad hair life.

My last cut was in Germany by a woman recommended by one of my cute patients with an awesome haircut. I drove into Amberg, a nearby village and met up with a German lady who had excellent English skills. I told her, "I want layers, but NO short layers in the front. (I have the waviest hair in the front and it puffs up like a mushroom if short.) So what was the first thing she did? Chop about eight inches off the front. After that first cut, I thought, shit, well may as well let her go to town, it's already a total disaster. I paid about $50-60 for a haircut which made me look like a total idiot. (The previous cut I'd had was in New Zealand I think by a guy who was used to cutting Asian hair, and also a total disaster.) This time I took a picture to show to my family. I could be a commercial.

GERMAN Lady's haircut 
(about what I normally get when I go to ANY hairdresser, on ANY continent)
After I fixed it with mirrors and my little Goody scissors. 
(Which is what normally happens after every haircut.)

So that is the history. I get a haircut. I pay money. I look worse. I have to look like an idiot until I decide to fix it myself.

Now I am sitting here with this long hair that takes fifteen minutes to blow dry, gets caught in my shirts, and looks generally like a Hutterite's hair. (I'm sorry if you are a Hutterite and I've offended you.) If I don't cut it soon, I'm going to have to make it into dreads and start singing on the street or run around naked like Eve and eat apples. At least then there'd be a reason for my long hair.

I've made about four appointments and rescheduled them, feeling not quite ready to chop it off. I was going to donate my hair. Then I thought, no kids with cancer actually wear wigs- what good would it do anyway? But the other day I was talking with my old friend Lourdes, and she said, "I have a friend whose daughter has Alopecia, and she had to home school her because the kids at school were so mean to her. It was so hard for them to find a wig that matched her hair- a reddish blonde." This story broke my heart, and made me realize I should donate my hair. The places who make wigs ask for hair that is chemically untreated. Which mine is. I was thinking then that most people do not actually have my hair color not from a bottle and the nice thing to do would be to give it away.

So I am again scheduled for a haircut next week. I am expecting some major life changes in the next few weeks, and I think the time to shed the extra weight is here. I know my sister Molly has donated her hair about 2-3 times in her life. She has this lovely thick, healthy dark hair, and it is so generous of her to give it away (it is a big deal to cut that much off). I'm going to follow my baby sister's lead and make a donation in time for the Christmas season, for those who need some blonde hair.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Being from Nowhere

I was paging through Etsy today, snooping on my mom's site (Baby Me by Kathy) when I came across a cute item for sale- a coffee mug with two states with hearts in each state connected by dotted lines. What a cute gift. I thought about giving it to Justin for Christmas. I could put North Carolina and... and what? Where I would I put for me? Even if I spent ten years in North Dakota, and would mostly consider that's where I'm from, I don't feel a massive connection to North Dakota anymore- I left in 1997. I spent eleven years in the Northwest. That doesn't exactly feel like the right state either. Maybe I could put the earth for my state. Is this what happens when you've been wandering for so long?

Five years away from the Northwest, and here we are on our first full winter back. Hopefully it doesn't scare Justin off. It's been drippy and grey for several days. I know my first year here was not easy. I can't remember but my mom said I called all the time and said it was miserable and I hated it. Of course the second year was much better. And now I have returned and feel totally at home.

We're planning to have a small Thanksgiving alone, and hopefully the week of Christmas, we're able to drive down to the California Redwoods for a special celebration.

The two puppies have been getting a long pretty well. Oatie's occasionally snarky to Bailey but then it is his territory. They are so old that it's really like we're running a home for dogs.

So far so good.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

HUMP festival, Portland

Last night Justin and I had a double date with Carrie and Drazen. We met in northwest Portland outside of Cinema 21, to view the HUMP festival screening. HUMP has been going on since 2005 as a shared amateur porn festival among Seattle, Portland, Bellingham and Olympia. Every year there's a call for submissions from locals, and about twenty short films are selected for the screening. They vary across genres- some serious, some comical, some artistic, and others are just weird. Gay, lesbian, straight, bi, etc are all depicted.

We've still been unwinding from all the travels, and work and whatnot. I'd never been to HUMP before, but I'd told Justin about it (and that he had to get back into town before the festival). As we were driving home last night, he said how glad he was that we went, and the night of light-hearted laughter and naked people was just what we needed. Thanks to Carrie for helping us to get tickets and save us a place in the movie theater. It was really fun!

I have to say too, there were no fake boobs, or grossly altered bodies (no anorexia or the like). It was really nice to see a bunch of normal people doing fun things. I would recommend this to anyone who is in the area during the screenings. Maybe next year, we'll have an entry! Ha.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Bailey takes a walk to the park

Tonight we sit on the couch, one puppy under my arm, the other on the bed in front of the heater. It's been a bit of adjustment for Oatie, who feels mildly threatened by the larger milder Bailey, who basically meanders around the house silent and watching. Only one episode of barking so far when the two of them saw another dog walking by on the sidewalk outside, which was actually quite hilarious. We come home to two puppies wagging their tails and waiting at the front door. They've been sleeping upstairs with us the last few nights- Oatie in the big bed and Bailey on the floor. This is all quite ironic, considering I was someone who never wanted any pets and was deathly afraid of dogs for my entire childhood. Now I am the geriatric dog lady who would do anything for the little ones.

The second day in town, I came downstairs to talk with Carrie on the couch, and noticed that it was kinda drafty. I said, "Did I forget the deck door open?" I checked and it was shut. But the door by the garage was ajar (sometimes it doesn't latch). "Is Bailey in here?" I asked. He wasn't. He'd saw his chance at freedom and decided to take a little look around the neighborhood. I was worried, but less so than with Oatie, since Bailey is pretty smart and while we were at my mom's in Iowa used to go out on his own and return, and did the same  in North Carolina. Still he was at a new place.

After realizing Bailey was missing, we both ran out the side door. Carrie in her yoga pants and me in my bathrobe and slippers running down the sidewalk yelling for Bailey. A grey-haired man saw us coming, and said, "Are you looking for a little red dog? I just saw him headed toward the park." We ran in that direction, hollering for Bailey. I removed my slippers and ran barefoot through the wet grass. The man walked off and asked a lady with dogs on leashes if she saw Bailey. Another woman said she had and extra leash and if she saw him, she would put him on it. We ran to the Off-Leash area of the park. No Bailey. I decided to head back and tell Justin who was upstairs and didn't know.

I rounded the corner to our house, and there was the grey-haired man walking down the sidewalk with Bailey. Like he was his own dog. He said, "He was looking around in the bushes." I thanked him and took Bailey inside, running upstairs to tell Justin what had happened and changing into clothes to go and find Carrie. I got outside and headed over to the park, running into Carrie first thing. "We found Bailey!" I said. "I know," She said. "That man came and found me and told me that you had him."

Strange what people will do for others, especially when there's a missing animal involved. We had a number of people in the park helping us, and that little guardian angel man who just calmly found Bailey and brought him back.

We've decided to invest in a chip for Bailey. He has his collar off at night so we can sleep and when he'd wandered off, it was still upstairs in our bedroom. I was sort of anti-chip until Oatie wandered off - now I think they are ok. Second rule: Garage side door must always be locked.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Back home Oregon

We survived the cross country trip to Oregon. It was long and pretty but a bit rushed since I had to work the day after we got back. Not much to say except that I'm happy to be back. At first I was wondering what I was doing living in Oregon. Maybe it's too far from our family. Maybe we should be living in Iowa? But after we got back I felt happy to be here. When we hit the "Welcome to Oregon" sign, both of us felt pretty happy. Shortly after the sign we started seeing patches of green grass again which was also welcoming and a relief. The air felt moist and balmy in the morning as I drove off to work Friday morning. We went to the coffee shop later in the day and saw all the interesting folks of Portland. I felt at home especially with my Charlie by my side.

Flying into Iowa
 Bike ride to the top of Council Crest in Portland before I left
Still fall in Oregon
 Our front tree
 Puppies at the door
 Portland sunset