Tuesday, November 10, 2015

November, Grateful November

Man, do I love November! Every where I turn there are just the most glorious of colors--even on these drab, gray Oregon days---the vivid trees are just incredible. And truthfully there's just a lot that I love about this month, especially as I look toward the coming months. It's such a great transition period.

Today I'm focusing on so much of what is making me happy this week:

This month also marks the downhill turn of my terms. Meaning that today I gave my last "new" lecture (we're heading toward a community event, a week off for Thanksgiving, and then student presentations in my new program and then it's the regular set of lectures for my old program). So my amount of prep work will be less and I should have a week or two to dig into new books (program research) and focus on a few other things. I'm excited to have more time to immerse in material myself and to plan out the coming terms.

This week I also was able to work ahead. I already have two out of the three courses I'm teaching winter term at my regular institution completely ready to go. I have one more course to work on for there. I also have most my courses at the new institution mapped out (one is done minus scheduling guest speakers). I'm brainstorming ideas for converting the course I taught this term into an online format for spring term...and truthfully the students are asking for a follow-up course to this one so we'll see what my bosses decide to do with that. (I also had a great meeting with my boss last week and there might be additional courses thrown onto my plate for spring...ones that I'm pretty excited about...as well as some potential other opportunities coming up....) I'm finalizing my mentee meetings for this term and getting all the students set to be moving toward their fieldwork placements for spring....and coming up with workshops for winter to help with that process. Altogether I'm feeling pretty happy with the work load for winter and the potential load for spring......and I'm so glad to be feeling more organized and on top of my game than I have in months....

In more work news....As an instructor you dream of those "Dead Poet Society moments" when the students are just so immersed in the concepts, making connections, and driven toward lives of authentic aim toward change....and the last half of today's class held exactly that. It made me beam inside to have the students still so passionate and engaged, and I'm really looking forward to seeing what they produce in their presentations. As I sat and listened to the exchange going on, I couldn't help but feel that change on a large scale CAN be possible if enough people get involved in the conversation.

Teaching this course on global and environmental food systems has also re-immersed me into so much of the material that I was so passionate about in grad school and during the years prior (when I first started blogging)....and it's re-exploded that passion (which you probably noticed if you're connected to me on FB). But the truth of the matter is that the planet's health, your health, global health is intricately connected to the environment and vice versa. There is no separation, and every choice that we make contributes toward improving, maintaining, or harming the greater system. I've been spending a lot of brain power thinking about my various choices of consumption and analyzing where additional improvements can be made. Right now I'm really trying to be aware of food and consumer packaging and trying to brainstorm additional changes to make. (Ie next up: purchasing loose leaf tea in bulk and steeping in the re-usable tea "bags", focusing more on farmer's markets for local less packaged produce).

In additional work related news, I also just purchased my plane ticket for Argentina and I couldn't be more stoked to finally return to this amazing country. It worked out that I could get a cheaper ticket if I left earlier in the month, so I'll also get to spend the first handful of days reconnecting with many of my friends and former host families (while still getting to be home here to celebrate Christmas). I haven't been to Argentina in fifteen years and I feel so much...awe at the opportunity to finally get back, while also being able to do so for work purposes. I'm really looking forward to exploring the prospect of a relationship with an established global partner down there, researching placement options for students, and discovering how we could potentially create a cultural immersion trip for students. It's a lot to pack into 2.5 weeks but I'm excited!

This time of year also leaves me daydreaming of trips on snowy trails with the dogs. By prepping so much in advance and being able to be back in time for Christmas, I should actually get a week or two of "down time" over December break. I truly cannot wait.

Have I mentioned that Reg D is potentially headed for Malawi (Africa) with the PeaceCorps in Feb? There's still a lot that has to finish lining up but I'm excited for this next potential venture for him. This also means that he'll be crashing here again from mid-December until he would leave in Feb, and I'm truthfully looking forward to sharing space with him again. Since he's been my best bud for over two years now, he knows what annoys me about sharing space with people and he's able to take steps to be an awesome housemate while he's here. I actually really enjoyed the time he was here in August and Sept and I hope that this next go with be just as fulfilling. (The other awesome thing about his potential PC location is that it's just south of Tanzania...depending on how things line up I could potentially get to visit him while he's on assignment....)

I just made a significant payment against my credit card and the last few months allowed me to make gains on not contributing to the credit card. Based on my calculations...I still should be on target to have the car AND the credit card paid off in full by April or May. I'm going to continue to rent out to L through March, but dependent on what I do with the house come spring/summer...I might see if she wants to stay (or rent to someone else) to start saving toward a potential down payment....like on a house :)

As in...I'm letting myself daydream about having property and even with the crazy prices in the greater Portland area, I'm trusting that it's going to be possible. (Although I'm not going to lie, this renewed enviro global passion is again pushing me toward exploring doctoral programs....and I don't know that I'm going to find one that is the best fit in the local area....) But I'm hoping that 2016 will bring me toward my goal of property...and also somehow present an opportunity to get to India...

And here's the crazy thing...I think both of those are totally possible. When I think of how many walls I was hitting three years ago...and yet everything that has happened in this year, it's such a contrast and totally has made me realize that when I get out of my own way and allow Greater plans to be put into motion, then the doors will open. If I'm supposed to buy property...it'll happen. If I'm supposed to get my PhD, I'll find the right program. If I'm supposed to go to India like I'm feeling like I'm supposed to...then the way will present itself. I feel renewed, my faith is restored, and I'm trusting that God is going to lead the way. Not all moments are fabulous nor wonderful, but I'm so glad to be back....here. If I'm honest, not a day goes by that I don't think of how life has evolved over the last 5-6 years especially, but when I think about this last year, I'm truly in awe....of everything that CAN happen. (Tanzania, Canada, Argentina all in one year? career change falls in my lap? new manfriend?! major debt reduction in motion?)

Couple more awesome things: 1) I'm totally stoked for monthly family dinners. It's been great to have a set time to catch up with my siblings and their families that live in Oregon and also spend some great time with the padres and Granny. 2) The Dude and I hit a rough couple weeks...as all relationships do, but we're seemingly back in a good space. It's not all going to be peachy but at the end of the day, I really just like and appreciate that I can trust and laugh with him. His smile just plain lights up my face. 3) Have I mentioned that I gathered a variety of my gal pals together and we're also doing monthly dinners? We're rotating different ethnic varieties in a couple quadrants of Portland...and it's so wonderful to try new foods AND get to catch up with so many incredible women. 4) I was able to spend some time thrifting last week....for $50 three totally awesome warm sweaters, black maxi skirt, a maxi dress and loose pants that will be great for various work travel locations, a great shirt, and a new scarf (wide enough to be a great travel cover). I'm working on creating more of a "capsule" wardrobe where things can work between multiple seasons and various locations. 5) I'd been feeling called to get my rear back to church....and I finally made it happen this last Sunday. SO rewarding and fulfilling to be back in a space with so many other believers...and this truly is my last goal to focus on for this year...finding spiritual community....

Truly...in this moment....life just feels nice....headed toward potential good things, preparing contingency plans, but trusting that things will keep evolving as they should. I also hope to be able to spend some time in the coming two weeks to do a few catch up posts....like finally recapping my BC/Alberta road trip :)

Much love to all of you and Happy November!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Gratitudes....

I'm retraining my focus on this season of awesomeness, where every time I drive down my local streets, I'm in awe of the beauty that Mother Nature presents....vibrant greens from returning rains, brilliant reds, oranges, and yellows, misty mornings, all contrasted against the gray browns of the local fences and abundant trees. To say that I live in a beautiful area is an understatement. My hike last week had the dogs running through piles of fallen leaves as I enjoyed listening to the crunch they created underfoot.

There are a multitude of other things I'm grateful for this season as well:

--Family. Having my parents closer has actually been a joy and it's been nice to be able to go down at least once a month to spend some quality time with them, Granny, and my older siblings. I've continued to enjoy the occasional dinner with my local aunts and grabbing coffee/happy hr with any of my local cousins.

--Health. That for the most part my health is stable and strong. I can still manage miles and hold planks. And that for the most part my relatives and friends are also healthy.

--Friends. From girls monthly dinners, to my male buddies who I also see routinely, to the couples I've watched grow closer over the years, to my old milspouse ladies and childhood cronies, I feel incredibly blessed that my social network is so active and extensive.

--Dogs. My two furry ladies continue to be such incredible daily companions. They've coated my life with fur and kisses, they're happy to wake up in the morning and generally make me feel like I've won the lottery every time I come back home, they keep me motivated to keep active and they're some of the best trail buddies I could have asked for.

--Work. It's exhausting, but it's also rewarding. I'm doing things that I love and that I truly care immensely about. I'm working in a career that seems well suited to and for me. I'm inspiring others and helping them figure out their own life and work paths.

--Finances. As much as I wish it would all be taken care of already. I'm incredibly grateful for the current financial situation. I'm no longer short on money and my debts are reducing.

--A Home and Resources. I have heat available to me, a house with plenty of room to share, comfy furnishings, clean water & sanitation. My vehicle gets me from point A to point B with all sorts of great safety features and it just got a full servicing with a clean bill of health. I'm well educated and have been taught to think for myself. I'm knowledgeable and resourceful. I have a wealth of food available for my needs plus the option to grow and harvest some of my own.

--The Dude. Who I'm still enjoying, who is still cracking jokes, who seems to have an immense amount of patience and puts up with the chaos that I can create. He's also frequently tired, has his own quirks, and I wish we could spend more time together, but I'm enjoying the moments that we do get. No idea how far this will continue, but I appreciate what he adds and the similar mindset that he holds.....and his sparkling blue eyes, let's get real...I appreciate those too. :)

--Sleep. I'm grateful for deep zzzs, glorious deep sleep. :)


Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Yeah, but....

....one of the short term individuals who crashed here for a few weeks in September was a former student who was in between housing and had no other options. He had just gotten out of a relationship and as the housing/rental market in Portland has gotten tighter, it was taking him a bit to find something worthwhile in his budget. During his time here we had several "deep" conversations, but one of the lessons he imparted onto me was that of the "Yea, but...." clause. His ex-girlfriend was one who apparently operated under the "Yea, but..." frame of mind....there was always an excuse, always an exception, etc.

Somehow today it dawned on me that as much as I tend to be a "stop and smell the roses" type of person...I also take the "yea, but..." mentality to a whole.new.level. Basically, I am my own worst critique and my expectations are always aiming to be higher. I also tend to hope or expect that others in my life will operate "up to my standards," and this can create a whole realm of other issues :)

There tends to be a thin line at times between not doing enough and on the other side, doing and expecting way too much. I feel incredibly fortunate that just when I tend to over-push or exhaust myself...something or someone tends to come along that nips me back into a gentler frame of mind.

I've had people in the past ask me what I'm striving for. The truth is that I aim to strive. Striving is part of what makes me who I am. I like to push myself outside my comfort zone in some ways, I like to run that extra mile a lot of the time, I'm constantly working on being a better, stronger version of myself. That doesn't mean that I'm dissatisfied. It just means that I prefer to be working toward something rather than not heading in any particular direction. I want to soak up moments of life (even though frequently I need to remind myself to truly SOAK it in...).

Today reminds me of the balance that must exist however. Yesterday I was so stoked at my level of productivity. I woke up after a solid sleep. I finished grading everything for one institution, had a solid lunch and made time to catch up with my housemate who had just returned from a weekend away, I spent the next four hours prepping for today's lecture, then took the dogs on a 2.5 mile jog (finishing off our mileage goal for the month), all before cleaning out the gutters, picking up the yard, showering, eating a solid dinner, and then allowing myself time to read until later in the evening for fun (although always work related). Ironically, as happy as I was at yesterday's productivity, today I woke up tired, drained, feeling like my lecture didn't go as planned, wanting to use my in-between hours to work but instead taking a nap, worrying about how quickly I can make financial goals, etc....and that's when the notion of the "Yea, but...." came to me and how much I need to work on loosening up and reframing.

I had a GREAT day yesterday...yea, but now today's exhaustion is frustrating. (Not every day is going to feel like a million bucks.)
I spent solid hours prepping....but felt like the students weren't as satisfied. (Not every lecture is going to feel like I nailed it. The students still learned.)
My finances aren't where I want them. (I still paid off a pretty decent chunk of money in the two months of these contracts. The debt WILL disappear, be patient.)

Instead of "Yea, but.."ing about how things should be or could be better, I would be a whole lot better off if I would continue to focus on granting grace. Allowing for "off" days, rest days, and recognizing the work and strides that actually have occurred.

So here's to continuing to straddle that thin line, but doing so in a better frame of mind.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Changes.....

Ha...well complete and total fail on goal #1 for the year, ie regarding blogging 5x a month, but I'm okay with it. Sometimes we give and take in life...and I made great progress on the other goals and experienced so much life in the missing moments.

Between August/September's road trip and now, I've started working both adjunct jobs and am still adjusting to the extra prepping, etc. I like to start the term off solidly prepared with all lectures, exams, assignments pre-created, but this year that hasn't exactly happened. Each week then I am prepping a LOT of the time, grading a LOT of the time, and thinking about work a LOT of the time. I'm teaching my usual four courses at my normal institution, altering and teaching a new-to-me course at the new institution, and mentoring 9 students in their program. I'm also researching and planning the work trip to Argentina in December, creating 2 new courses to run at the new institution next term, and altering an older course into a new hybrid format for my overload term at my normal institution. All in total, I am scheduled to teach 10 classes winter term and still mentor the same students....just call me crazy, but somehow I feel like it's totally going to work out okay. Because by then it truly WILL all be prepped and the pieces ready to roll! (In fact, really most the course prep should be done in the next month or so anyway...)

The house has also had a lot of changes with a lot of overlap that occurred within the same one to two week span. The final summer housemate moved out in the beginning of September and her room was taken by a return gal who will be here for at least six months. Reg D was crashing in the guest room off and on for most of August and half of September...and then I also had another individual who was here for two weeks while he needed a place to stay. In that same period of time, I rearranged the rooms so that the furnished rental room is now the largest room (where L is) and the middle room became my office. Luckily Reg D had a cast away desk and the summer housemate left shelves so my office got outfitted for zero dollars--just the way I like it :) I also redecorated the den, which meant painting, Reg D fixing the futon, a new TV console, rearranging furniture, a slip cover for the Ikea chair, and pictures from my travels hung on the walls. L and I have settled into a sort of routine and it's been nice to just have the two of us in the house actually. I'm attempting to transition to not subletting rooms anymore, so L will probably be the last long-ish renter.

Somewhere in August I started dating again....and a month ago I met someone who might just pan out to be someone. I'm not going to say much more...but I'm actually a little bit hopeful with this one....and luckily he thinks it's great to spend dates in nature, helping me get in some running miles, cooking dinner together, or just having me hang out on the couch grading while he works on projects around his home....

Somewhere in the last week, I feel like I'm slowly creating a routine that is helping...and I'm also working on getting back into the groove with the things that make me feel like me....like ensuring I get regular time in nature, decent sleep, good nutrition, some solo moments, and that the dogs and I get in some regular miles. I'm learning to listen to those moments when I'm just not going to be productive and instead letting myself veg out on the back deck or create time socially. It always works out that the days when the productivity is free flowing, much more gets done than the average day anyway so I've been banking on those moments for surges of work and then granting reprieves for self-care on the days when the brain is just not wanting to go there. Amidst the busyness, I still appreciate the stillness and the awesome simplicity of existence. :)

I also feel incredible grateful in this season. Yes, there's so much I still wish that I had time to do....canning did you say?! :) Yardwork? Day dreaming?! :) But when I compare this life to where it was and how I felt three years ago, I truly am amazed at how it has evolved. That's not to say it's going to stay this awesome and that additional changes might not be on the horizon or things could again fall to pieces, but I also recognize that strength is there, doors always somehow eventually open, and I'm surrounded by a wealth of amazing individuals via family, friends, and acquaintances. I truly couldn't ask for much more.

In terms of other goals, I'm so glad to finally get a real paycheck again soon and am so glad that I budgeted just enough to cover most expenses in the three months of less income...well minus the road trip but.....between the two jobs that credit card (including the awesome road trip), my car, and hopefully a spring time trip to NOLA will all be paid in full late spring of next year all while still making a tiny bit of headway on those student loan payments also. I'm already day dreaming of when I can do the happy dance regarding the credit card and another one with the car :) and then starting to sock away on the student loan payments :) Beyond finances, so far this year, I tried snowboarding lessons and gave hot yoga a go. I traveled/taught/served in Africa and also finally visited Matt & Haley in Canada. I exposed people to new outdoor pursuits and took the dogs on more than two backpacking trips. I've enjoyed & embraced who/what I have, continued to rent rooms, and focused on regaining health/balance. My car loan will be within that $4k range by end of year and the credit card made it to 75% earlier this year (although didn't maintain but SHOULD be paid in full by March). I passed my massage exams, worked part-time as a LMT, and still provide the occasional assistance for family and friends. I'm still working on exploring spiritual community, but I also tackled a few items from the larger three years list like: transitioning into international health (and it does look different than I imagined), exploring other areas of Oregon (Central Oregon trips including the Painted Hills), and figuring out how to truly be open to a different life partner. I also got to include the amazing road trip from this summer, spent time exploring multiple national parks, completed my first solo backpacking trip, figured out how to car camp comfortably, and made great headway on getting my financial independence in order. Altogether...so far it's been a pretty remarkable year!

Hoping that the next few months come together just as nicely and I'm looking forward to all that 2016 could potentially have in store....while absolutely enjoying all the moments inbetween!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Happiness Is....

....gearing up to head out tomorrow on my Alberta roadtrip. I don't have anything solidly planned, well other than to be in Edmonton on the 29th for the wedding, but I'm pretty excited for the opportunity to be alone and somewhat spontaneous for a little over a week. That to me is happiness. Even if I'm going to miss the heck out of the dogs..and I'm a little bummed that Reg D can't join the first leg of this journey after all....but still a full week to explore, experience, appreciate new areas full of natural beauty and just general amazingness. :)

...the awesome routine that has developed for the dogs at my parents place. The fact that my parents took the dogs for the full five weeks I was gone, they're having them now, and they'll watch them during more work related travel opportunities. The dogs get spoiled with bacon, a set morning and night routine, and oodles of attention on the back patio...but it's also been great for my parents I've realized too. I feel so incredibly fortunate that they've bonded and gotten along so well together.

...daydreaming of the room changes that will happen once the current house renter moves out and I can convert the middle room into an office. I'm looking forward to organizing and creating a space that will truly let me have a regular space to work from home in.

...this last month having Reg D crash in the guest room. He and I butt heads about as much as we get along, but our friendship is good for each other in so many ways....and it's been wonderful having him here routinely to chat with, fix food with, brainstorm with, finally have him meet many of my other friends, and get suckered into watching episodes of Parenthood with....oh and he even fixed the futon for me too! He's scheduled to be living elsewhere as of mid-September, which is right when my return housemate moves back in. :)

...having bosses that are mentors as well as friends. When I hit a snag in my professional thoughts the other day, I called my other boss who has been my supervisor for 4+ years to ask him about a situation with the newest job. Even though this job has nothing to do with him (and in some ways could eventually lessen my availability for the job he oversees), he's still such a phenomenal mentor and friend that he took the time to hear me out and offer his insights and perspectives on how to approach that situation. I so appreciate working for people who truly want the best for their employees in the short and long run.

...spending so much quality time with family this month. As it was Granny's 104th birthday, it was wonderful to celebrate with all of the cousins via our regular ladies tea party and a BBQ as well. My parents came for a day soon after my return to help me tackle the beast that had taken over the yard and I spent another few days this past weekend with them. My cousin hosted a night at her house for our extended family so I could show pictures from Tanzania in one swoop and answer questions. I've been at my other aunt's house twice for clothes alterations and had my other cousin over three times for produce picking, canning lessons, and a photo shoot so I could get a picture for the job's website. We had our first regular monthly dinner at my parent's for my immediate family and my parents and Granny came up on my birthday to take me out for breakfast. Loving the family time!

...realizing how many wonderful things I truly have in my life. A great rental with landlords I adore, an incredible support system through my family and friends, water/sanitation/food/safety readily available, two jobs that are extensions of my passions, a body that functions, and I could go on....

So much to be grateful for! :)

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Tanzania Recap

I'm finally feeling that I'm in a place to discuss the happenings that occurred on the Tanzania trip :)

To say that the trip was an experience is an understatement. It was a phenomenal experience, a rewarding experience, a beautiful experience, and in so many ways an exhausting experience. There has been a lot of professional development in flux in the weeks since our return, but as of today I feel that things are more solidly in order and have returned in many ways to how they originally started out.

The climax of the trip happened early when the trip coordinator became ill, we discovered it was malaria, and as her medical situation deteriorated rapidly in the Tanzanian hospital, she was medically evacuated out of country. She and I had already been in country for eleven days prior to this happening and she became ill on the second day that the students were in country. The experience was definitely daunting, worrisome for her health, taught us a LOT about where policy and program gaps exist that need to be fixed, and also left the coordination of the trip on the shoulders of our boss and myself....The good news is that she's recovered and that we also had individuals in country who were able to assist us with language/transportation/etc. Thank God :)

The daily coordination of multiple details, student advising, travel, programming, etc meant that I had limited moments to myself, slept like a log most nights, and came back home just wanting to sleep for weeks. Since I'm not good at just sleeping for weeks, I actually feel like I'm more tired now almost a month later than I was when I returned....

But on to the good stuff!!

The ten days in country before students arrived, my colleague and I traveled to the various locations where we would be taking students to ensure that lodging, program contacts, travel was all in place and to set up programming activities for students. Since this was my first time ever being in country, it was really great to get acquainted with the locations prior to the arrival of the students. I also discovered that Zanzibar is absolutely beautiful....and I relished the sunrises and watching the morning harvest of seaweed at low tide:


After those ten days, we traveled to Moshi (which is near the base of Mt Kilimanjaro) where our boss joined us and then the students arrived a day later. Moshi was not my favorite town ever. It's a major stop for tourists and climbers thus there are a lot of pushy salespeople and individuals that wander the town hoping to lure tourists. I did however find a great dress shop before the students came where I enjoyed an afternoon chatting with the local women, trying on dresses, and negotiating having a dress made for me. I also took a guy out for lunch who had just come off of Kili and it was great getting his story and seeing his pictures. 

Honestly, it was wonderful having the students finally arrive! We spent two days in a rural mountain village halfway up Mt Kilimanjaro. In the village, we toured the local market & clinic, chatted with individuals about health concerns, played with the kiddos, hiked to a gorgeous waterfall, did a herb walk where we learned about the immense amount of local plants that can be used to treat various ailments, and explored the various parts of the town/water sources/ways of living/etc. This was one of my favorite experiences.


video


From Moshi we went to Serengeti.....on LONG bumpy roads :) I'm not going to lie...I may have choked back tears from the back of the van watching sunset the first night in Serengeti. I just kept thinking to myself...I'm here...I'm in Africa...dreams truly happen...somehow life truly turned around and it keeps going....etc etc. In Serengeti, we went on three game drives. One in the early morning, mid-morning to mid-day, and then a sunset game drive. Truly words could never do the Serengeti justice. It's dusty as all get out and you're coated in it....but man, it's beautiful and you're looking at the most amazing creatures with your own eyes...truly seeing them in their own gorgeous natural habitat.




From Serengeti we drove all the way back over to the eastern seaboard to spend a few days at a different program site. Honestly the second day of driving there was one of my favorites also. We drove alongside this beautiful fog coated hillside for miles that just called to me to come hike it, the terrain changed drastically, we crossed a river on a tiny ferry, I helped one of the student groups brainstorm ideas for the next day's presentation, and we drove through a multitude of small Muslim towns and along dirt packed roads. 

We spent two days at this program site. One was a day of rest for students. The second was a programming day when they practiced wilderness first aid and held focus groups with local contacts about first aid practices in Tanzania. This site is BEAUTIFUL and we truly only have this contact due to the coordinator's connections. Interestingly the site coordinator/contact ALSO had malaria while we were there so we were unable to do everything we had planned at this particular location. 

From there we drove down to Dar Es Salaam (the capitol) in order to catch the ferry over to Zanzibar....which was an incredible cultural experience in its own right. In Tanzania people don't really line up, so it was a mess of individuals all trying to push through the security door to get into the waiting area to get onto the ferry....in hot, humid weather with sweat running down one's body and hauling our luggage with us...and a couple in our party having horrible flare-ups of traveler's diarrhea. Internally I thought it was an incredibly fun experience that was one of the best cultural exchanges of the trip...but my empathy for others in our group who were struggling was immense too.

Final ten days of the trip with students....Zanzibar...and I have to say....if I fell in love with anywhere on the trip, this was it. Our site location was an hour from Stonetown but we were able to take the group to Stonetown on two different occasions (once for dinner with a public health contact and second for a cultural experience day). Zanzibar is primarily Muslim with a large amount of astonishing poverty that is highly contrasted with the tourist industry that markets its culture, amazing beaches, and incredible water sports opportunities. There was so much in Zanzibar that I didn't get to experience and would have loved, and there were also a lot of amazing potential contacts there for additional programming options for our students. Our ten days there included three days working with a local NGO working with "mamas" (the women of the village) to turn seaweed cultivation & harvest into products to be marketed internationally. We held focus groups with them about particular health areas of concern and then the students developed culturally appropriate suggestions to improve quality of life, etc. We were able to tour and observe in two separate clinics (these students were medical students) and talk about health improvement projects with a NGO representative who is working with the government. We went on a spice tour, saw the Slave Museum, toured Stonetown, had multiple classes, and on our final night we had a traditional goat meal served on mats in the village.



Altogether the experience was pretty incredible and the students made it rewarding in so many ways. I don't know that I truly soaked up as much as I would have if I had been traveling solo nor did I have time to truly process any of what was happening. In so many ways it was just plain surreal though. I already look at pictures and think "I was there?!"

I'm sure there are many more thoughts, reflections, and suggestions, but altogether it was surreal and just plain incredible :)


Monday, August 3, 2015

Catching Up....Sort Of

Hi all!

So this isn't a massive overview update of the Tanzania trip, but I just wanted to check-in to mention that I'm still trying to catch up on life...and work :) Lots of additional work pieces, even with my additional short-term summer course getting cancelled. I'm helping pick up some additional pieces that need assistance with the new job, reviewing and planning a new course that I'm teaching this fall, updating my standard course, adding details to the course I taught in Tanzania and following up with students from there, AND planning a new course/trip to Argentina this winter. Today was a full day of work (from home thankfully) and I forsee at least another two to three days like that this week.

Beyond work, during the ten days I've been home, I spent a weekend at my parents, the dogs and I spent a morning hiking and have been on three jogs, we celebrated Granny's 104th birthday with two family gatherings, I spent an entire day in the yard overhauling the chaos that grew during my absence, I've had two visits from my parents, my young housemate moved out and I turned over the room cause Reg D is residing in the guest room for at least part of this month, Reg D and I have been tackling the show Parenthood together, we floated the river, I met a friend/colleague for lunch & work talk, I went to dinner with an old dude, I cleaned out & reorganized closets, and countless other to-do list items.

To say that I'm still tired from the return is an understatement, but I'm hopeful that once I get a few more of these work ducks in a row and check off a couple more to-do list items that I can spend a few additional days just relaxing. Although there's the Alberta road trip to plan, hopefully the den to paint, a potential half-marathon to start training for, my birthday to celebrate, and the usual research, acquiring, and canning of some local produce :) So many great things to look forward to....once I finish prepping the rest of fall.

Hope you all have been well however....and a Tanzania update is to come still! :)

Monday, June 29, 2015

Mambo from Tanzania!

The best part of this trip so far has been having the opportunity to interact with some of the local Tanzanians. We have local individauls working on our team who have been so wonderful with trying to help me learn parts of the language. Each day I try to learn a few new words or phrases, so that I can at least great individuals and wish them a good evening. Beyond our team members, the staff at one of our locations was also instrumental in expanding my vocabulary and just generally being really welcoming & fun people to interact with. Today I also was able to get away for a few moments by myself and I had a great time trying on dresses and looking at hand bags to purchase. My colleagues pointed out that I probably was given a foreigner price but I definitely don't mind since it was enjoyable interacting with and "just being a woman with other women." Between their limited English and my limited Swahili we worked out a deal for two dresses (one pre-made and one made from a local fabric I chose) and a bag, but it was fun gesturing, exchanging names, and offering womenly compliments to each other.

Yesterday I finally was also able to try some of the local Tanzanian food which is sort of a corn meal porridge along with various types of stews. The one that I had was a lentil soup variety, while the other locals had chicken and veggie stews. The food here is a mix of influences as so much of Tanzania is influenced from local tribes but there is also a large SE Indian/Arab influence (especially along the coast). Since so much of their nation is dependent on tourism, there tends to be a lot of English & American influences with food as well. This morning I also tried one of their standard breakfast fares which is mtori and chapati. The mtori is a beef and raw banana mix, which sort of has the consistency of really runny oatmeal. Over breakfast, we also discussed local practices ranging from learning English (all of their secondary school subjects are in English actually) to marriage practices. I love learning directly from those who live here and are from the country.

In the last week, we have been in four different locations and once students arrive we will return to those same locations plus one other over the course of three weeks. While I have enjoyed having the opportunity to follow a dream to come here and can see where this position could truly open many professional doors going into the future, I've really been struggling with some of the relationship dynamics with and general practices of one of my potential new colleagues to the extent that I am questioning whether I will actually let myself follow through with joining their team as of this fall. I am really looking forward to the arrival of our boss and the students in the next few days and having the opportunity to engage in teaching and interacting with a larger crew of individuals. If I'm additionally honest, I will be more than ready to head home once the program here is complete and at this juncture I am sort of wishing I would have come to Africa under a different context. All that being said, I definitely am grateful for the opportunity to come, the ability to teach in this context, and the assistance that my colleague has provided in country with things like language, etc.

The various sites we have been in have been beautiful in so many ways and we've had the opportunity to travel by Cessna twice which has allowed for aerial views of the land also. To ensure group safety during travel, I'm not disclosing any of the specific areas we're in nor the projects we'll be visiting until I've returned, but it's amazing to see so many individuals truly working to try to bring sustainable programming options to this country. Like many countries, povery abounds but one thing I have witnessed over time is how much joy is visible in areas where less abounds, even when hardship and suffering equally exists. Here (and in the majority of the world) consistent water & electricity access doesn't exist, sanitation standards are lower, and nutritional variety is lacking. (While some research does argue that standard indigenous diets can be healthier than something like the Western diet, lacking nutrition in Tanzania is known to be responsible for stunted growth among other health outcomes.) This is a country where malaria is still prevalent, access to trained physicians & usable medications is almost non-existent, HIV is much more common that readily accounted for, medical & vital records aren't standard, and there are over 120 varying tribes with a wealth of traditional medical knowledge that is not integrated into the Western model of care. While Tanzania in general is a fairly "safe" country for tourists, it's still not a country one would want to be injured in nor one where a visitor would want to enter without being aware of what is standardly culturally appropriate.

Most of what I discussed in that above paragraph is information that I had prior knowledge on and that also translates across to many other developing nations. I have definitely come across many things that I wasn't aware of before coming here however. :) For one, most developing nations I have traveled to were way cheaper than Tanzania :) The inland parts of the country tend to be a bit less expensive than the coastal regions but hotels on the coast were comparable to hotels back home in Oregon, the taxi ride cost about the same, and most locations have a break down of prices that includes citizens, residents, and non-citizen categories. Non-citizen categories have prices in USD$ and things like a nature preserve park entrance are anywhere from $30-60 for non-citizens PER DAY. In comparison, the price for locals is something like 20.000 TSH (Tanzanian shillings) which is currently about $10. Thus just to drive through one park along a highway to get to one destination cost $30/person, which in a sense is a pretty hefty toll tax :) Things like climbing Kilimanjaro are thousands of dollars depending on the route, number of days, etc and definitely weren't in my personal budget for this trip.

Another big thing that I was aware yet unaware of was just how large that the Indian/Arab/Muslim influence is within the country. It definitely makes sense as the coast here was part of the trading route and there are several areas on the coast that are predominantly Muslim. It's currently Ramandan which was also an interesting experience to observe and there were a few times when we had to shove food items/water bottles into our packs in order to be culturally compliant. In terms of dress this means that culturally appropriate clothes include covering legs down past the knees and the upper body should be covered including shoulders (exposing arms is okay). Luckily I was able to get a few days of thrifting in before heading this way (and my amazing aunt altered a few items) so most of my clothes have worked really wonderfully here. The Arab influence is also noticed in some of the words found within Swahili and with local spices, etc. Just like in Hindi and Russian, the word for tea in Swahili is also chai. In every town we have been in (even in the inland areas) the call to prayer has been announced over the loud speakers in the mornings and evenings. A side note to this additional cultural context is that there is also a sub population of people within the country who have Rastafarian tendencies/lifestyles. Thus between the variety of rural local tribes, major urban center of Dar Es Salaam, Muslim & Arab influences, the Rastafarian vibe, and the cultural elements that we might envision as being "typically" African, it's a pretty incredibly amazing melting pot of diversity.

And with all of that I'll wrap up this initial post from the land of Tanzania, where I still have so much more to observe, soak up, and enjoy. Hope each of you is doing well!

Friday, May 29, 2015

Happiness Is...

....a day in the yard: sweeping patios, weeding flower and raised beds, watering starts, trimming bushes, finally gathering the last of the winter yard debris, spreading 18 bags of wood chips, mowing lawns.

...a day painting old rockers, creating new outdoor seating areas & a new fire pit area, and finally hanging a clothes line.

...Swahili lessons, end of year happy hrs with colleagues, regular class lectures, and final prepping for summer lessons.

...afternoon runs with the dogs, tails wagging, frequent pee stops, & post jog relaxation.

...an evening over pizza, ice cream, and a couple of brews at various joints downtown helping (Reg) D celebrate his birthday.

...mornings waking up with sunlight streaming in, happy dog faces, and lots of furry cuddles.

...finally going on a "stock up" grocery outing and filling the fridge with food galore, fixings for sausages with kraut, tomatoes & mozzarella, perfectly ripened mangos, ingredients for my chicken/salsa/avocado/blackbean/sourcream/cilantro delight! SO exited to eat at home :)

...having just one housemate for the next three weeks, having the house to myself entirely this weekend, and yet still having rent and everything covered for the summer.

...shock over next week already being June...time sure flies!

...researching week long backpacking options.

....laying in the hammock, warm day, slight breeze blowing, dogs lounging, Texas country playing, smelling Poppa's rose bush blooming, surrounded by kiwi blossoms, dragon flies flying, hard apple cider tasting.

...Netflix marathons: Long Way Down series, I Am and Fed Up documentaries, explorer shows, all inspiring.

...summer planning: late summer trips, bday bbq, pre-travel coffee dates & happy hrs.

...three weeks til Africa traveling!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Solo Backpacking Trip

Since I'm currently off backpacking, I figured I'd finally post about the solo backpacking trip I did earlier this month. I have to say that after finally conquering this item off the "bucket list," it's really pretty freeing in a lot of ways. To feel like you can just take off for a few days into the woods and be okay is a pretty amazing feeling, although I can't exactly say that I could totally live off the land for a few days just yet :)

This 28 mile Lucky Lake Loop was one I had discovered after I ran a search from returning from the Lucky Lake trip I did before. While the trail log and maps provided at Cascade Hiking Adventures definitely was a good reference, I did feel like the trail log could have used more detail at times. There were a couple of spots where I started to lose elevation gain or the trail split where I didn't expect it, as the changes weren't recorded on the website. Overall though their review definitely helped and I was able to screen shot the maps to pull them up on my phone en route. (I also had purchased an actual map from REI in Bend.) When I had hit the trail in April, there was minimal snow on the trail and the campsite that I had stayed at while car camping was completely empty. This time I planned to car camp at the same spot the first night and then spend two days completing the 28 mile trek. The original campsite I tried was packed with fisherman however so then I researched and drove over to another nearby camp area where I was able to find some open spots.

These are pictures from the camp location:

 Roxi taking over my spot in the car:

The next morning we were up and on trail by 8:30am. I'd had a solid breakfast with oatmeal and surprisingly both dogs actually ate. It's just over a mile up trail from the Senoj Trailhead to Lucky Lake. The total trail goes by MANY MANY lakes so I'm not including pictures of all of them :)


I would not be exaggerating if I stated that we climbed over, around or under over 100 downed logs on this trail. Apparently a pretty decent wind storm had come through the weekend before. 


There was one section near Corral Swamp where there were so many downed trees that I completely lost the trail. I wandered around for a bit exploring the area and was also able to get a slight cell signal to pull up GPS and be able to see what general direction to head in. A bit of additional gut instinct and I refound the trail...after crossing through the swamp :)

After turning onto the next trail, we hit an area of pure sunshine. There was a side jaunt to an additional lake that we could have taken but I decided we'd just keep on going as we were already going to see so many bodies of water along the way.

About mile 9 or 10 we came across Boyd with his pack llamas. He asked if we would sit for a spell and chat and I always love meeting new people on trail. He has been traveling this trail for over thirty years and had some great stories. The original trail log mentioned camping at around mile 13, but I was able to ask Boyd about other options and he encouraged us to go on. Although he did share his secret camping spot and gave permission to use some of his stowed away goods at his lake about 11 miles in :) 


He also told us about Muskrat Lodge. Years ago this was a great spot with mouse proof cabinets, an incredibly warming stove, and a sleeping loft. He talked about spending time in there warming and sleeping by the fire on snow shoe trips. It was sort of sad to see it in such disrepair now.
After his one pack llama started backing toward as as if he wanted to kick, Roxi almost got into it with his dog, AND Roxi almost sat on a snake, I decided it was time for us to move on. About two miles later, the dogs and I passed the lake where Boyd frequents and we took the side trail toward Snowshoe Lake.

This is a short pano of Snowshoe Lake, which is where the guide suggestions camping: 

I kept checking mileage on the maps and seeing how the dogs and I were doing. Since we were in pretty decent shape (and I didn't see the point in stopping hiking til evening), we continued on til we made the Pacific Crest Trail shelter off of Cliff Lake. 

This made a great little spot to set up camp: 

Both dogs were pretty beat after 18 miles and scarfed down all their food. I had plenty of daylight to change into fresh clothes, set up the tent and sleeping gear, prepare hot cider to keep my body temp up, make some dinner, and then soak my blistered feet in the icy lake. I spent a few moments in my camp hammock and then crawled into bed to read for a bit. Roxi got to spend a few hours sleeping inside the tent for the first time ever, but she decided she likes it outside much better. :)

On Day 2 we headed out back on the PCT:
We passed several more lakes before starting to run into snow, even as we were dropping elevation. Interestingly we came across the worst of the snow banks about 4700-5200ft and once the final trail split off, it was a struggle to find the trail. This is the start of where the trail split and headed into even more snow: 
There were a couple miles in here where I could hardly determine where the trail was and seriously had to start contemplating turning around in order to backtrack all 22 miles. (We only had six more to go.... but the trees on this trail aren't stamped nor marked like many other winter trails...) Eventually I was able to pick up a pair of slight footprints that you can see two pictures down. Someone had come through on this trail probably a couple days prior and knew where they were going. Thank the Lord....because backtracking 22 miles would have been horrible! This was also the moment when I realized that Reg D truly needs to teach me map & compass navigation. 

Senoj Lake was beautiful!

The footprints! Woohoo!

Besides the initial mountain behind Lucky Lake, this is the only other decent viewpoint from the trail. This is at the highest point of the hike which is about 6000 ft. 

From the viewpoint is a few more miles back to Lucky Lake. On the route from Lucky Lake back to the car we met another older gentleman who we chatted with for ten minutes. He advised that I just get a GPS rather than use the old map and compass system :) 

The dogs ran straight to the car and jumped inside. They were happy to have more food and some additional water. I changed clothes, used the actual bathroom at the trail head, shoved an apple in my mouth, and then headed back to our favorite camp site to check my work email, soak my angry feet, and take in some great views. I contemplated spending another night here as most the fishermen had headed out....but decided to head back to the valley and work instead.



Altogether I learned a few lessons but was also really glad at how well the trip went overall. General rule of thumb is start with highest elevation first. I also figured out that drinking a hot beverage right after stopping mileage granted me additional moments of finger usage. I have Raynauds so once I stop moving and my core body temp starts to drop, I tend to lose sensation in my fingers for quite a while. I've learned to work around this by doing everything that I need to do with my fingers (changing, setting up the tent, getting dinner ready, getting fresh water, etc) within 10 minutes of stopping. The hot beverage trick granted me more time and I also noticed that I didn't lose sensation in all of the fingers this time. It was great! Besides compass skills, I also probably need to be in the market for new hiking shoes.

But altogether a pretty successful first solo excursion! And I didn't even have that on my goal list for this year :) Glad to be on trail with Reg D this weekend however!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

A Fun Crawfish Friday

Blog catch-up time :)

Two weeks ago, we were headed into a full sunshine and heat weekend. Since it was Thursday I asked one of my massage clients what she was planning on doing for the weekend and she told me all about local crawfishing and how I should go. After spending a few years in Louisiana, I couldn't help but get excited.....and I went and bought a crawfish trap at Bi-Mart right as my shift ended :)

I spent the evening researching the best spots to crawfish and what regulations might exist. (Which there are none if you're doing it for sport.) I had seen a few posting that mentioned that the Wilson River had crawfish which was perfect as that's where the dogs and I do a lot of hiking. I figured that we could hike a few miles and then the dogs could relax on the river bank while I put the trap in and lounged reading.....

....except when I arrived to the trailhead I had in mind, the Forestry gal told me that the Wilson was too fast moving and that the Nehalem would be much better. The Nehalem had been mentioned on the forums also but was 45 minutes away. I decided to get the dogs on trail for a few miles and think on it. My feet were still recovering from my backpacking trip so we only hiked up and in about two miles and then ran back out. There were several guys on trail mountain biking and it's always entertaining to hear grown men hollering like lil boys as they excitedly come around corners ;)

When I came off trail, I decided that it was a nice day for a drive, so I loaded the dogs back in and off we went. We made it to the campground the gal had suggested about two and I was able to get the trap situated and in the water within thirty minutes. I used chicken for bait and as soon as I put the trap in I could see the crawfish coming toward it....

.....but let me tell you....those crawfish are SMART! :) At one point I had  15-20 crawfish ON the trap. As in they knew they could just eat my chicken through the trap without going inside it. I was able to catch three by hand, but really wished that I had a small net to just scoop several more up. Eventually I tied the chicken inside in a way that they couldn't eat it through the sides...and of course they were less interested. At the end of the day I had only two crawfish inside the trap and one of those was smart enough to know how to swim out! Ha.

I came home with four crawfish....but it made for a pretty entertaining day anyway. I also struggled with whether or not to boil them up once I had them home. They just looked so sad in the bag on the counter and in reality you don't get much meat off a crawfish. So I seriously debated letting them go in the local creek by my house (which I found out later is either frowned upon or illegal...can't remember which), but eventually I sucked it up and just dropped them in.

Altogether I learned a lot, still felt proud to catch my own dinner....and now I'm pretty excited to go fishing with an old buddy of mine for free fishing weekend (June 6th and 7th). :)

Friday, May 8, 2015

Things I'm Loving

1) Two new housemates arrived and are settled in. So far I really enjoy both of them and honestly each of us will only live with the other for a max of two months, so I'm hoping this really works out well.

2) It's a high of 80 today and a high of 85 tomorrow! One of my clients told me about local crawfishing. I bought a trap & some beer, found my old lawn chairs, and plan to head to the river later today after some grading to try to catch some dinner :) We'll also see if we can get a few hiking miles in! Oh and my Friday meetings were cancelled for both today and next Friday.

3) Yesterday was my last day at the massage job. I really enjoyed the diversity of clients that I was able to work with and it's incredible to spend an hour with someone and watch their tension, headache, ailments slowly disappear....but there were also things that I definitely learned from that job that I won't be looking for should I look for massage work in a clinic again. Everything is a learning experience. :)

4) The dogs and I went back to Central Oregon this last weekend and had a fun time soaking in the views at our favorite camp ground before heading out to complete our first solo backpacking trip! I plan to write about the trip on it's own later but it was a pretty awesome trip, and ironically I didn't even originally intend to check that bucket list item off the list this year. It's really sort of freeing though in a sense--to know that you can go into the woods and be comfortable overnight and alone.

5) The visit with my old friend last Saturday went really well, although I got a bit delayed starting on my trip out of town. I also stopped at my sister's to see her family and her (& my great niece who was visiting) and then swung by my parent's place to chat with Dad & Granny and drop my massage table off. Granny was in great form that day and it was great to spend a few moments with her. I also stopped by my parents place on my way home from the trip and had a great visit with all of them. It was really nice to see them so much in the last week. They'll be up here at my aunt's for mother's day on Sunday.

6) By the time I leave for the Tanzania trip, I think my credit card will already be at the 75% goal mark that I'd set at the beginning of the year (well minus, the extra from the plane ticket that will be reimbursed). I have the tendency of always striving for more...so there's the chance that the credit card will be paid in full by the end of the year. Since I'm planning on taking that road trip the end of this summer and probably only renting out just one room in the fall, repayment will definitely slow down but still exciting to be so close to the original goal for the year :)

7) Two more outdoor trips are in the plans. Reg D and I are planning a 5-6 day trip with the dogs to tire them out before they go to my parents in June and then we'll also do a shorter trip over part of Memorial Day weekend. If I can square all my grading away, I could also go somewhere next weekend but I haven't decided if we should head out or just hang out closer to home for a bit.

But lots of great things in the works. There's the occasional speed bump but I'm pretty stoked with where life is and where it seems to be heading....just trying to enjoy, live a life I love, and trust the process....

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Done....& In Progress.

Completed:
Plane Ticket to Tanzania!!
Tentative Pre-Students Travel Plans.
Phone Unlock for International SIM Card.
Travel Vaccinations & Testing.
Travel Prescriptions Picked Up.
Summer Housemates/Cat Sitter Secured. (Arriving tomorrow)
Half Utilities Paid Ahead.
Other Half Set up for Online Payment.
General Outline for Tanzania Course Developed. (& For 2 other courses.)

In Progress:
Basic Swahili Lessons.
Getting to Know Students.
Researching Articles for Tanzania Course.

Happening. So surreal. Dreams & prayers....and 15ish years of a calling...all in motion. Amazing.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Blasts from the Past

You know how people choose words to represent their year? Well, I've continued to feel like my word or intention of the year tends to choose me...and this year is proving to be no exception.

Last year, the word evolved and presented itself as "grace." This year I'd sort of wondered if it wasn't going to be a bit more about settling...as in settling more into life, myself, the future, my career & finances, slowing down physically, etc. And while it does seem to be about that....it also has really been presenting this aspect of reconnecting with the past also. 

Case in point:

1) I returned to search out the career that I always felt was more my calling....and doors opened...as in flew open. But I had to reconnect to the past and what mattered to me then in order to move forward into the future of what those dreams could be....

2) I mentioned last year that while on a running date, I literally ran by a guy from my hometown. We shared mutual friends through two sources and so he and I hung out a few times with one of those connections (who also lives with his wife in Portland). That particular mutual source actually was an old love/long time best friend of mine and I am so in love with his wife and him together. I've had the opportunity to hang out with them (the couple) and the guy I ran by several times in the last year, but we all just reconnected again this spring as well. I honestly so love being in contact with my old best bud, am continuing to look forward to building a relationship with his wife, and totally enjoy the great moments out with them as a couple!

3) This story continues as on a lunch date last month with the guy I had run by, I also saw a friend of mine from my middle school days when I used to live in Eugene. It had been 12 years since I'd seen her the last time (again when I randomly ran into her in Portland). She and I were finally able to meet up for lunch last Friday and caught up briefly on the last 10-20 years....amazing! We've both had interesting turns in our life stories in the last five years but agreed that we are much stronger people because of it. It was fun seeing an old blast from the past and we're planning on taking her kiddo to the zoo one day this spring.

4) And there's more....In 8th grade, my family and I moved to the coast where I also finished high school. Almost 70% of my 8th grade year was spent with my buddy who lived down the street. I called his mom my second mom and she drove me to all sorts of events. I have SO many memories from my five years on the coast with this first brother-from-another-mother: shooting hoops in the gym, learning to shoot a gun up in the woods with his parents on my 15th birthday, homemade ice cream, camping with his family during a basketball tournament, going to church youth group, sharing my boyfriends as his other best friends. (Most my good friends were males until I hit my junior year of high school....) He met his now wife when we were 15 and they've been married & parents since we were 19. If I'm totally honest, he's one of my friends that I am most proud of and the two of them remind me so much of a younger version of my parents. I was able to visit them in 2009 when we were stationed in Louisiana and he and his wife were stationed in Alabama....but then somehow life got away from us. And even though they've been stationed in Washington for the last 2-3 years....it wasn't until way earlier this month that we saw each other again. Yet, I saw them again yesterday for the second time this month when I stopped at their place for dinner after a trip to Seattle....and it felt just like old times albeit now with more life and responsibility. And truthfully, I really hope to fit in a few more trips in the next year and before they get orders to a new location. It feels SO GOOD to have reconnected.

5) If you haven't noticed, beyond having just plain male friends, I also tend to try to transition guys I have dated into friends. While I recognize that not everyone operates this way, I've been fortunate to turn some unrealistic romantic partners into wonderfully supportive friendships, although I don't have the opportunity to see many of these friends much due to distance and life circumstances. One of the guys who taught me so much in my mid-20s however has been a great minimalist supporter over the years...and after not seeing him for almost ten years, I will be getting together with him briefly on Saturday.

6) I've already mentioned stopping by my old college housemate's house and visiting with her, her hubby, and their four kiddos on my recent trip to Bend. In that case it had been four years since we'd last seen each other in person.

7) Oh and that wedding I'm going to in Canada at the end of this summer? Again....an old high school friend who I only get to see every 2-3 years usually. There are only two of us from our hometown who are invited/going and since this other guy and I are also family/church friends, it'll be great to see him. Ironically he, his wife, and kiddos live locally....but we really only reconnect when our mutual buddy is in town or involved. :) 

I also have a feeling that the reconnections that I've mentioned aren't going to be the only ones. While this influx of old connections could be totally coincidental, I also do find it interesting and can't help but wonder if there is a bigger lesson I'm supposed to be recognizing out of it. Regardless, I've been enjoying the process and am looking forward to more visits ahead. And maybe just maybe, as I move toward this notion of "settling," perhaps this other underlying lesson is that sometimes it's good to be reminded of who you were before the rest of life happened.... :) 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Early April Explorations

I'm lounging in bed this morning researching PhD programs, giving my housemate the opportunity to use the main space in the house for her video conference call, and daydreaming about hiking for Earth Day. The responsible side of me decided not to head to the Gorge this morning in order to save gas and time...especially since I'm heading to Seattle on Saturday and hopefully back to Central Oregon the weekend after. Sometimes making the sensible choice isn't the most fulfilling one though :) but it does demonstrate that I'm trying to slow down still too. :) Instead, I intend to finish the weeding that needs to get done and hopefully do some other yardwork that needs to happen also.

Since I'm not heading out into the wilds today however, I thought I'd finally post some pictures from the fun explorations that the dogs and I did as the term was starting. The first week tends to take a lot in terms of admin type of stuff but also is slower in other ways, so it allowed for great flexibility to get the dogs out and about and enjoy some parts of the local outdoors that we haven't explored. Both of these spots were about 30 minutes from my house and were so neat to check out.

SELLWOOD PARK & OAKS BOTTOM REFUGE:

In my dreams, I will eventually move to Sellwood or SW Portland....and on this particular day I fell even more in love with this area....

Crossing this lil bridge reminded me so much of our old treks in Louisiana

River beach access! The dogs LOVED it here! That's downtown PDX in the background.

Non-fenced in dog park. Roxi did great and this accessibility made me love Sellwood even  more...

Oaks Bottom 

There's a lot of history and controversy with this empty building...

The trek around Oaks Bottom Refuge...great running trek.

LOVED IT!

SAUVIE ISLAND "HIKE":

Technically we were trying to do the "hike" aka walk to the Lighthouse, but I ran out of time and also had just kayaked to the lighthouse so didn't necessarily see the point in needing to get to it this day. We had a blast walking stretches of the beach though and then trekking along the trail. There are wildlife/bird refuges out in this area too so it was pretty incredible to see so many birds stopped on their migration patterns AND to see all the calves running around the fields. Roxi was so excited in the back of the car as the calves ran along. 

It was a pretty overcast day but it was great to have patches of sunshine break through. The dogs loved being able to be in the water and we did a couple of miles along the beach.

One of the neat things about this stretch is you can watch ships and barges traveling along the Columbia River (which separates Oregon and Washington, so that's Washington state across the river...) We also had a seal swimming along side us in the river on the way back.

I absolutely loved seeing all the plant life and was so mesmerized by these... They looked like dead branches along the shore but are actually root systems that have plant off shoots coming up out of them seasonally. Amazing how nature works :) There were so many parts of this trek that made me see new aspects of nature that I don't normally get to enjoy.

The "trail". We ran part of this but mainly just strolled along :)

Those cows!

One of the bird areas. So incredibly neat!

It's always a lot of fun to explore new nearby areas. We didn't cover a lot of miles on these treks but they really filled our souls right up :)

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Things I'm Loving.....

1) Anna's healing up like a champ! The skin is almost all fused back together and we've all gotten out on evening walks the last two evenings. Will attempt a run and/or hike in the next few days or on the weekend. So happy with how fast it healed and how quickly we'll be back to our regular routine.

2) I've had several more moments of having the house to myself and it's been LOVE-ly. I love just being comfortable in my own home. I'm hoping to make it through the summer continuing to rent out rooms and then will rent at least the furnished room in the fall...unless I end up moving closer toward the city.

3) We've had amazing sunshine the last few days and it even made it to about 80 yesterday. I couldn't help but throw on that bathing suit and soak up the rays on the back patio for a bit. It feels so great to have that sun kiss my skin. :) The dogs love the moments when we just lounge around out back too. (Although we did get some good yard work/weeding/mowing in too...)

4) Housemates are settled. Current short term gal leaves this weekend. Two new short term ones arrive early May. One will be here until end of July and the other until the end of August. Bills should be covered in full while I'm gone...and there will be cat coverage.

5) Tomorrow is my last pre-travel vaccination. I'll buy my ticket this week or next for Tanzania. And I just started researching my Alberta trip for later this summer.

6) I gave an awesome deep tissue/structural massage to a friend of mine this weekend. He'd just finished up a week of intense physical activity so it was so rewarding to truly help ease his muscles toward relaxation. I also emailed in my resignation from my massage job last night. I plan on continuing to work in that gig for a few more weeks but I'm going to need the extra time because.....

7) I was asked to continue on in this new teaching position into the next academic year :) Seriously, I never could have imagined that this opportunity would happen, let alone that it would all come about the way that it did. I will be developing new courses and have the ability to assist with program development. Both of those are areas I've been missing and I couldn't be more excited by the prospect. I will continue teaching at the institution I've been at as well although probably reduce the credits I teach there slightly....and there's the chance that this new option will present more travel opportunities and become full time within a year or two. Dreams are arriving in ways that I never could have imagined.... When I first started thinking about entering into this field I never thought I could blend ALL my passions together nor that it would take six months to find the perfect fit for me rather than the couple of years that I expected. Still.in.awe.every.day..... and so incredibly thankful for so many answered prayers.

8) This new gig also means that life direction just landed in my lap in some other ways, ie that PhD program needs to happen....

9) Do you ever have those moments when you wake up, sunlight streaming through your windows, dogs jumping all over the bed, coffee soon to be enjoyed....and you're just so grateful and sustained? It's like you know you're not really in a tropical location but in that moment life feels pretty tropical and rewarding....like you just want to lounge and soak it all in and up... That's been life the last few weeks.... and it's been a long time since I've had that sensation and never quite at this level of true satisfaction....

10) There have been several times in the last week or two when I've truly caught myself being surprised by where life has landed. I've always loved the outdoors but I don't know that I ever expected to enjoy them quite at the level that I get to do so. I look at this life I'm living and arriving into...and while it's so different than I really would have imagined, it's rewarding, sustaining, soul-feeding, and truly a better fit for me than I could have dreamed. I'm still working on letting go of the life that I "wanted" and dreamed about, but truly I'm SO.in.awe. by the views I routinely see, the outdoor skills I've developed, the social support that surrounds me, the professional opportunities arriving, and the little moments that I notice every.single.day.

11) Casual skirts. Sandals. Bangs pulled back. Long flowing hair. Tanned skin. Sunglasses.

12) Sparkly lights on the patio. Moments curled in the hammock. Lemon water. Books laying next to me intending to be read. Finished grading.

13) Researching new course options. Moments when curriculum ideas arrive in the kitchen or on trail. Cross comparisons of other programs. Synthesizing information. Passion.

14) Small town coffee shops. Sunrises over mountain tops. High mountain lakes. Country music flowing out of car windows down. More upcoming outdoor fun.

15) Happy hours and outings with friends. Moments and communication with family and new and old friends. Reconnecting with really old pals. An evening out with Reg D over the weekend--as always pretty entertaining and fun :)

Life makes my heart happy lately....and I can't help but keep thinking about that old adage about how it sometimes takes tasting the bitter to truly appreciate the sweet. The bitter was definitely pretty bitter but I can honestly say that this sweet is so incredibly sweet. Fulfilled in so many big ways and trusting that things will continue to fall into place and/or present as they should.