Saturday, January 9, 2016

18 Adults, 1 Child, 5 years, 1 Home

The title to this post is....18 Adults, 1 Child, 5 years....and that is exactly how many individuals I have shared space/house with over the course of the last five years (come March). That does not include the two dogs, two cats, and 6-9 chickens that I've had in this space, nor the additional small dog that I allowed to join us for a very short 6 weeks.

The overall breakdown is as follows:

2011-Spring 2012: Ex and I; fall-spring 2 friends lived w/ us
June-Dec 2012: I was solo in the house
Dec 2012-Nov 2013: 7 short term housemates; 1 guest dog
Dec 2013-Nov 2014: 1 repeat housemate (& baby grandma & kid), 1 long term housemate, 2 short term housemates
Dec 2014-Feb 2015: same long term housemate, 3 short term housemates, 1 repeat housemate, Reg D

A couple of my friends have joked that I should write a book about the experiences...because I've met a LOT of people and learned a ton about others and myself in the process.

Out of those 18 people, 2 were friends before they moved in, 3-6 became decent friends while they were here and I still actively am in contact/friends with 2-4 of those, and 1 was a romantic partner for a while. Two struggled with alcohol issues while they were here. One turned out to be a chain smoker who smoked in a chair on the property 2/3rds of the short time she was here. Two were given 30 days notice and asked to leave. One tried to retrain my dogs. One had issues with perpetually lying. Two ate other housemates food. One repeatedly hit on another housemate even though he was married and 2-3 actively hit on any/all of my single male friends (sometimes even including the men I was dating). One told me after moving in that she was not okay with any males ever staying in the home while she lived here...even in the guest room, even if he was married, even if there was no romantic notion whatsoever. The shortest stay was one month, the longest consecutive stay was 10 months, the longest total stay was one year, and the average length of stay for most was 2-4 months. Six were here on internships/fellowships, four had solid professional careers, 1 was exploring the business market in Portland, 1 was a fellow massage school student, and most were in transition in some form or another (either between travel/work, moving to Portland, moving out of Portland, or trying to live somewhere short term while figuring some long term options out).

I've always preferred short term housemates. Mainly because I'm a bit anal retentive :) I don't sleep well if people are up moving around or making noise. I like the kitchen & bathrooms to stay clean. I like things to look organized and generally operate in an "everything has its place" sort of existence. I can live with most things for a few months but once it starts to become a longer term situation, then my need to take back over starts coming out more. I'm not easy to live with long term if people do not operate in a similar fashion...thus it's better for them and for me if we co-exist in more of a transitional fashion.

Living with so many people I've also come to realize a few things:
1) People will ALWAYS present best foot forward. It's our human nature to do so. The longer I've been involved in the rental scene, I've come to operate by a 2/3 principle. 2/3 of what someone tells me generally tends to truly be how that individual operates. How we see & describe ourselves can be different from how we actually are...and this would go for myself as well more than likely. This also ties into #2.
2) Definitions of living standards differ. My idea of "clean" or "noisy" can be very different from someone else's standards. In my ads I always state that I'm a clean by appearances sort of person, but not a clean in terms of bleach or product sort of individual. I have had to explain to 1-2 people that clean also means that the bathtub does not have visible grime on it and no soap on the counters. If you're looking to rent, it's always a good idea to specify in writing whatever those standards of importance for you actually mean.
3) I'm always in awe of how some individuals are naturally not mindful. I found this to be true when I had to live in the dorms also. There are so many easy ways that people can do small things to make living with someone else easier, but frequently I've found that people do not recognize the ways that their actions can impact another.
4) People who are renting from another tend to somewhat expect to be taken care of. Out of those 18, only 1-2 actually bought their own cleaning supplies and routinely cleaned the rental room/bathroom & helped out consistently with other household duties. That same 1 person also contributed to baking supplies & spices, oil/butter, plastic containers/foil/baggies/paper towels, laundry soap, etc without being asked. Almost all the rest either never did or I had to ask them to purchase additional supplies.
5) People mean well but sometimes "when the cat is away the mice will play." I run a pretty utility mindful house--meaning I keep the heat low, turn off lights when I leave the room/home, and try to be mindful of water usage. I try to be upfront with housemates before they move in that I expect the same out of them. I also operate on a "I stay out of your personal stuff, please stay out of mine" manner. The times when I've traveled....that utility bill skyrockets however (as in higher than it's ever been both in summer & winter) and I've come home from countless runs/work days with the heat jacked higher than it needs to be (ie I'm sweating profusely). I've also had a scarf, a buddy's hat, and a pair of pants "disappear" as certain housemates were transitioning out. Additionally one of my dogs almost got out of her collar and ran into an oncoming car after a housemate continually loosened her collar even after she assured me she wouldn't do it again.... Rule of thumb: Most people don't communicate straight forwardly, don't want to deal with confrontation, & will agree to things even if they'll never put those things into practice.
6) When people are looking for somewhere to live, they don't always listen to everything you told them.....about your expectations, about your pets routines/needs, about the house and its natural quirks....Enough stated.

I sometimes get asked about how to write an ad or rent successfully to another. The truth is that I don't have any tried and true strategies. What I can say is that overtime my selection process got more fine tuned. I learned to write better ads, to wait & be more selective, to not compromise on house rules, and to read through the lines. This doesn't mean that in the last year or two I haven't looked forward to having certain individuals move out however, but it does mean that I've had better compatibility & success with matches over the last two years. For me the short term window truly has been best because in the case that you find someone who is good for short term but not for long term, then your time together is short anyway. There is always the potential to renegotiate together as the original timeline nears whether or not you or s/he would like that individual to stay. I've had some housemates completely surprise me in good ways too. One thing that I have not tended to do but would advocate actually doing, is to have some sort of established rental/sublet written agreement & a down payment established. At times I did call references and this is definitely a good practice as well. (Although let's get real, unless it's 2-5 years of prior rental reference that you require, no one is going to supply a "bad" personal reference to you...)

I can honestly also say that the individuals who I rented to during my short window on AirBnB also tended to be more established....but due to the nature of the site, many of those also had more of an expectation of being hosted. (And I also was very selective and communicated a lot with the people I rented to from there....). I'm contemplating doing super short term windows on AirBnB again this spring (ie 2 nights to 2 weeks) mainly for four reasons. 1) It truthfully does supplement my rent. 2) It's fun to meet new people. 3) Sometimes I feel bad having this large home and yet only having just me live here. Call it my environmental heart, but it's sort of a waste of total space...and the housing market in Portland can be challenging. 4) After using AirBnB for my own travel needs, I feel like giving back to other travelers.

Well...and then there's 5) if i DO travel again this summer for work...then I'm going to need to sublet the house for 1-2 months. (Note: this time payment upfront, down payment, rental agreement, AND references will be required.) Ideally I'm hopeful to sublet to a couple or small family, who is cat friendly (ie can feed the cat & give him the occasional lap to lay on), and who can pass the lawnmower over the lawn 1-2x a month. Hopefully if that is that case..the perfect match will present itself :)

All that being said...I'm incredibly have been able to share this space with so many individuals, to have shared time/stories/lives with each of them too, to have learned a lot in the process, to have a home that is flexible/changeable and yet constant, to have been humbled to share more than I always wanted to, to have to trust that His plan was bigger than mine, and to have landlords who have truly desired me to stay and supported/trusted me enough to allow me to continue to sublet spaces within what is truly their extended family's home.

March makes five years in this home, five full years back in Oregon, and the longest I've continually lived in the same house during my entire life. This house has seen my life go through enormous transitions. It's held my mutual tears & laughter, hosted numerous gatherings, warmed my heart & body, inspired decoration, benefited from kitchen dance parties, housed guests, watched the dogs mature & age, functioned as my nest/office/ground...but truthfully throughout these last five years its proved itself to be my HOME. What started out as a month by month rental agreement with the potential to only last six months and that every year I've questioned whether it would be better to move on elsewhere...this home has remained steadfast and grounded. In March (or potentially next month...even though it's slightly before I financially wanted but internally I'm oh so ready...), this house will truly return to be just (& the animals') home. What a five years it's witnessed, but what a steady blessing it's been and continues to be....

I'm grateful, so grateful, for my home.

(...and ironically, more than likely....I have no doubt that this space will probably get shared again sooner than I might imagine. :))

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Fall 2015 Hikes & Portland Hiking

One thing I'm pretty serious about trying to maintain is self-care. Last term was much busier and I felt way more stressed adjusting to the new job than I had hoped, but I still tried to get the dogs & I on some sort of a trail at least 2x a month. Some hikes were with others and may or may not have included the dogs. But nothing restores me quite like being deep in the woods, hanging out with God & creation, noticing the changing seasons, recognizing how small I am in regards to the planet, and enjoying the pure happiness that the dogs exude. Almost all of these locations (minus Lewis River) are 1.5 hours or less from my front door.....which might just be yet another advertisement for why Oregon is an incredible place to live (although the secret is out...Oregon no longer is a hidden gem)...

Larch Mountain (14 miler in the Gorge, 7 miles up & reverse, start at Multnomah Falls):

Angel's Rest to Devil's Rest (12 miler in the Gorge):

Eagle Creek to Tunnel Falls (12 miler in the Gorge):

Gayles Creek (Tillmook Forest 6 mile trail run):

Council Crest (4 miles in the city):

Lewis River (14 miler in SW Washington):

Twin Lakes to Frog Lake (8 mile loop near Mt Hood):

White River (3 snowy miles, base of Mt Hood): 

Palmeer Pt/Barlow Road Loop (6 snowy miles near Mt Hood):

I feel incredibly fortunate to live where I do and to have the ability to manipulate my schedule at times to allow for us to get up to a trail head midweek. (Although what I typically don't mention is that I do a lot of prepping & grading on weekends....and that Roxi is a bit of an aggressor sometimes so we prefer weekdays when it's less likely to have lots of extra people/dogs on trail to deal with :))

I get a lot of requests from friends or people new to Portland looking for a decent hike to go on, and truthfully I have several main standbys but I also frequently use a variety of backpacking/trail books and to find new options. If you want Gorge specific hikes, look here. If you want Mt. Hood specific hikes, here. I've used the site for five years now and while not all the descriptions are always 100% on point, it's still been an incredible resource. The site used to be more Portland specific, but I've been glad to see it branching out to the entire state of Oregon, as there is SO much more to the state besides just this area. (Can you tell I'm originally from a smaller town in Oregon?!) :)

My standby trails without a doubt are: Gayles Creek & Wilson River Trails in Tillamook Forest, as they're the closest lengthy forest trails to me. Forest Park's trails are technically 10 minutes closer but they're heavily traveled by people these days (although they're great for trail running)....

In the fall I typically hit up Eagle Creek once, also heavily popular (although less so in fall) and a major backpacking trail in summer. Once a summer and at least once a winter, I travel the Twin Lakes loop. At least once a winter I also do White River, but if you go on the weekend it's a challenge to bypass the families that are having a fun time sledding here too. Once a year, I also tend to do one of the Multnomah Falls options. The rest of the time I try to find something new in SW Washington, the Gorge, or near Mt Hood...unless I have the time & money to make a trek over to Central (3-4 hours away) or Southern Oregon (4+ hours) :) Not all trails are always well signed (it's a good idea to have an actual trail map from a store like REI) and I'm not going to lie, even with the trail "skills" and numerous miles on trail that I have I can't count the number of times I've lost the next leg of the trail (downed trees, snowed over, darkness, overgrown trails, etc) and had to contemplate backtracking before being able to navigate my way on. Next major purchase once I have some debts paid off might just be an expensive GPS system to load maps on....

But altogether, always stoked to get us to a trail head and to start venturing onto a trail. Here's hoping we can get weekly or every other week hikes in this term!

Monday, January 4, 2016

Talk About an Amazing Day

Today was the first day of the new term. Yesterday we received an inch or so of snow, followed up with some melting, an afternoon and night of freezing rain, and a night/morning of freezing temperatures. When this happens in Oregon (west of the Cascades), we cancel classes & offices and we stay home. Ironically, a handful of days ago I had posted something on social media requesting a snow day for today (Monday). At that time snow was not in the forecast....but here we are...and I'm not going to lie, today has been absolutely amazing.

I spent yesterday going to church, running errands, and eating lunch at my aunt's so I could visit with my cousins. In the afternoon the dogs and I headed out for a snowy jog which soon included freezing rain, and ironically it was a MUCH better feeling run than compared to the two days prior. I spent the evening finishing up a home project and then finalizing prep for the courses I was to teach today. As of when I went to bed last night, we were projected to only have a two hour late start this morning.... I got up as if I was going to go to work & also have time to make copies prior to teaching. Since I'm trying to get better about eating out less, I got up early with enough time to make a solid breakfast and also make a real meal to take to work with me. Thirty minutes into the morning, I got the email that the campus would be closed today, so then I started cooking....literally :)

I decided it'd be a good idea to spend part of today preparing food that I could eat throughout the week. (When Reg D was here we prepared a lot of food that fed us for multiple days.) I need to get in a better habit of trying to meal plan, shop for the plan, and then cook in excess so I can eat multiples throughout the week. I know I'd save time, stress, and money if I would do this, but I have yet to ever actually get in the habit. Thus, this morning I threw a couple extra salmon fillets and another sweet potato into the oven, and later this afternoon I peeled a huge pan full of different root vegetables that I had on hand and roasted those as well. Yesterday I'd picked up the remaining ingredients I needed to make a Shrimp & Chicken Gumbo recipe I'd found on pinterest, and at least an hour of this morning went to making it. I also fixed an extra large batch of couscous to serve it over throughout the week. -And I have to tell you, the Gumbo is amazing--so tasty!

For this week I have:
--Spinach, red cabbage, cilantro, broccoli, sunflower seed, & dried cranberry salad
--Salmon fillets & baked sweet potatoes
--Gumbo & Couscous
--Roasted root veggies
--Chopped up veggies & hummus and dried fruits/nuts for snacks
Pretty stoked to not have to think of what to eat for a few days, minus breakfast, which I prefer variety for anyway.

This morning I also emailed my grad students and assigned work for them to complete prior to next week. We should still be in good shape and hopefully ready to role for the second week of the term.

The rest of the day was also equally rewarding. In the afternoon I finally uploaded all the travel and fall photos off my phone onto the computer, did a yoga session & some other exercises, used the foam roller to loosen up the muscles and fascia around my core and quads, picked up the house, relished a hot shower, and now I'm settled in front of the fire with a glass of wine. This evening I plan on reading for fun/work and maybe watching a documentary on Netflix.

While it probably would have been better to have had today as our official start to the term, I've thoroughly enjoyed what the day has allowed! So happy!

Saturday, January 2, 2016

The 2015 NW National Park/Canada Roadtrip Recap

So this post is only 4 months overdue?! :) But since the roadtrip sticks out as my most favorite moment from 2015, I figured I should share a bit of it here finally. :)

Stop 1: Olympic National Park x 2 nights

Let me just preface by saying this was not my best planned trip, although that may be one of the reasons I enjoyed it the most. Oh sure I'd looked stuff up, but I still couldn't really formulate a plan and I was so stressed/tired from work that I just decided to roll with it....and I was absolutely incredibly fortunate that fortune smiled upon me so much during this trip.

Case-in-point number #1 was when I was low on gas and the National Park and State Park were both out of campsites....but the friendly ranger let me park in day-use "overflow" for the night. (Or how about the fact that I just happened upon the next to last campsite in two NPs and arrived in Jasper the week after the busiest week of their season? Fortune, so blessed!!)

Day 1 of the trip allowed for a great slow drive up north, a quick meander along some beautiful sunlit trails,

and getting situated at the camp site. Day 2 allowed me to snag a great new campsite actually in ONP and then I changed and nailed out an epic 24 mile day hike that was oh so beautiful and my body felt great!

I got back to the car as night was encroaching, changed clothes, made some food, crawled into my sleeping bag, and passed out. Day 3 I drove from that location up to Hurricane Ridge where I did a few super short excursions from the visitor's center,

grabbed coffee at a great little bistro on the way, took the ferry across to Whidbey Island, drove up the beautiful route to Bellingham where I stopped at a brewery for a burger & beer, and then I watched the most incredible sunset over rural Washington farmland right before I drove across the Canadian border. At the next large town, I grabbed an actual hotel to lounge in the tub (a full hot bath with a bucket full of ice chips to munch on is one of my favorite hotel guilty pleasures) & get a solid night's sleep.

Stop 2: Hotel just across the Canadian border

The next day I grabbed a coffee, extracted Canadian cash from an ATM (so pretty!),

and headed toward Kamloops. I had researched enough to want to make a few stops on the way so I did the quick jaunt at Bridal Veil Falls & the Othello Tunnels.

I grabbed a cheap, legit diner BLT on the way and then I made it to Kamloops. Driving through the passes was a lot of fun also. In Kamloops I snagged a beautiful spot on the tent side of the RV Campsite where I enjoyed the cows and hung out in my hammock until I met up with Amber (Girl with the Red Hair) for a great sunset hike! The views in Kamloops were incredible 

and it was so wonderful to meet Amber in person :) Post-hike I headed toward downtown where I grabbed an amazing meal of mac & cheese and a local beer and then I drove back to the campsite.

Stop 3: RV Campsite in Kamloops

The next morning I headed to an area that Amber had told me about to do some trail running, which really was getting my rear end handed to me :) Kamloops is a hiker/trail runners dream, but those trails are by no means easy!

Truthfully I feel like there are a lot of additional areas that I could have checked out there but I needed to hit the road, so I headed toward the lake region of BC/Alberta. I had wanted to stop at one of the lakes to kayak and possibly camp, but I had pushed on too far and hit the more crowded areas, so I only stopped for lunch and to chat with the visitor's center (which I stopped at the Visitor's Centers in many towns on this trip---great resource!). From there I headed toward a rural campsite, but a wrong turn on the road I was on had me flag down a super friendly industrial worker who advised me not to go to the campsite I was headed toward. He had hunted and camped in that area for 30 years and so he directed me to a different, still remote, and beautiful. The campsite was toward the headwaters of the Columbia River, allowed for a few super short hikes, and made for a great place to wash off in the chilly river before crawling in for the night.

Stop 4: Campsite on the upper Columbia River

From here I headed toward Golden, which actually had the most unhelpful Visitor's Center of them all and changed my initial "plan." I instead stopped at the Parks Canada Visitor's Center which turned out to be perfect...and truthfully directed me to a great campsite and one of the best hikes of the trip. The walk-in Tent site was 1/4 to 1/2 mile walk-in, but I only needed to make two trips to get everything situated and my food secured (bears!). From there I still had several hours til sunset, so I hiked the four miles up to the glaciers (AMAZING!)

and then ran the six mile loop back down. There were several incredible waterfalls on this trail and seeing the glaciers was pretty amazing. The only drawback was the immense amount of smoke from the wildfires, but it still was so beautiful and an incredible experience. I was glad to crawl into my tent that night and sleep to the sound of the immense waterfall down river.

Stop 5: Walk-in Tent site in Yoho National Park

I woke up early the next morning (per the advice of many) to make it to the infamous Lake Louise before the biggest wave of tourists. Beautiful, absolutely beautiful.

I wished I could have ventured onto more trails this day (but you have to be in a group of four here due to grizzly habitat...and I didn't have as much time nor energy for lots of hiking this day). From the main lakes in Banff National Park, I drove the Icefield Parkway up into Jasper NP, stopping at several of the waterfalls and sights along the way and thoroughly enjoying the immense beauty that this area provides. Photos could never do it justice truthfully and it's an area where I'd love to return to eventually.

I did manage a sort of off-the-beaten-path hike this day that was pretty nice to do...and then after I got situated at my campsite on the north end of Jasper NP I ventured out for an evening hike. I wasn't sure I had enough time/daylight to do the one I really wanted to do, so I did a different one that I eventually realized I had gone farther than I was supposed to for the day hike and I got a little nervous about being alone in bear country... Post hike, I decided to try out the natural hot springs pools (I'd been hoping to do one of the natural springs rather than the pool type, but it just didn't work out for me to do that extra leg of the journey this trip). The pools were a nice change of pace but definitely not the most relaxing nor solitary. :)

Stop 6: Jasper National Park campsite

The next day I drove out of Jasper and headed toward Edmonton, which was my main destination so I could be there for my high school buddy's wedding. There wasn't much on the road to stop to see but I did finally stop to get some coffee & carbs from Tony Horton's, which is pretty Canadian iconic (think Starbucks mixed with McDonalds).

Once in Edmonton, I got situated in my AirBnb basement room, oriented myself via some maps and park trail guides, and headed out on a running tour of part of the city. Edmonton in the summer reminds me a lot of Portland: river bisecting town, lots of great parks, major quadrants of the city, etc. I probably covered between 7 and 10 miles this day cutting through 2 of the city parks, running through the UofAlberta neighborhood,

and eventually making my way back to the house. After a much needed shower, I headed out to a nearby pub for an organic burger & this delicious rose beer.

Stop 7: 2 nights in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

On day number 2 in Edmonton, I drove to the other side of the river to check out that side of the city on foot. I grabbed coffee at a hip lil place in one of the newer neighborhoods, checked out Canada's version of REI, and then literally walked between 20-30 blocks to check out a farmer's market, the business district, and the main center of the city.

 I'm not gonna lie, by the time I made it back to the car, my feet were not very happy to be in their sandals. After the morning excursion, I bee-lined it back to the house to shower, change, and head to the wedding....and eventually to the reception. It was so great to see this buddy get married, I thoroughly enjoyed chatting with his parents, and it was really nice to have almost a full day to catch up with another couple from high school who were the only other guests from our hometown who had been invited. We had a great time that evening!

The next morning I rolled out early (after realizing that I actually prefer sleeping in the back of my SUV snug as a bug in my sleeping bag & fuzzy blanket rather than staying in a house)....and truthfully as much as I enjoyed Canada, for some reason I was just ready to make it back into the US. Ironically as I eventually crossed the border (with some incredibly strong winds), I also arrived at the same time as a massive thunder storm that was blowing in from the west (which thankfully helped with some of the wildfire issues this summer....). I was able to snag the next to last campsite, I bundled up and hid out in the lodge for a bit eating a tasty burger and drinking some amazing huckleberry beer, and then I headed back for my snug dry SUV where I spent the rest of the pouring afternoon & evening finishing off the book I'd been reading. Truthfully at this point a forced day to relax and hibernate was actually pretty amazing.

Stop 8: Rainy campsite in Glacier National Park

The next day was chilly, overcast, wet, and with winds...and I hadn't packed much cold weather gear, so I knew I needed to scrap my initial plan of long day hikes. I did manage a 2-3 mile cold, windy hike up to a neat view point (42 degrees, 33 mph winds)

and then I drove the Going to the Sun Rd through the park. 

From there I headed over to White Fish where I stopped for lunch and to check out the lake, I did a brief stop to check out Flathead Lake, stopped for an incredible elk burger & huckleberry milkshake along a rural highway in Montana, contemplated stopping at one of the campsites along the rivers, 

but pushed on to arrive in the dark & way late at an (overpriced & noisy) RV Site along I-5 just outside Coeur D'Alene.

Stop 9: RV Campsite outside Coeur D'Alene, ID

The next morning I decided to drive around the lake and I stopped for coffee and a bit of exploring at Harrison, ID. I chatted with the nicest locals and had some incredible bites & coffee brew for breakfast. This would be a great place to come in the off season for kayaking, hiking, & running.

From here I had decided to drive over to check out Mount Rainer National Park. It made for a couple of hours of extra car time, but it was fun to fit in an extra National Park before I made it back home. The two short hikes I did were both foggy & misty, as the rain was still falling from the western storms. From here I was glad to head back home...

Altogether an incredible outing! 2800 miles driven, 4 states & 2 provinces, 6 National Parks, several new towns explored, lots of great people met, countless trails/roads covered, and oh so many incredible memories. I was so grateful for safety & no major issues along the way. The break from work and not being accessible via phone/email to many was a nice change of pace. I seriously enjoyed just camping in the back of my SUV and the simple freedoms that the days presented. Oh and I purchased a National Parks pass too.....and have already made my money back between the US parks I visited and the hiking on federal lands I've already done since then. Altogether just an incredible journey that happened with just the perfect timing!

Friday, January 1, 2016

2016 Already?

I don't know that I was entirely ready to close the book on 2015. It was SUCH a good year and so restoring for my soul in so many ways. After two incredibly challenging years and then such an incredibly stellar 2015, I'm trying to approach 2016 staying optimistic about what this year could also hold....but I'd be lying if I said I'm not somewhat apprehensive about it also :)

So I have the biggest desire to start a new blog page for a fresh start focused on fun outdoor outings, travel, global health, and environmental health considerations.....but I'm realistic about how little I post here. I keep trying to figure out how to get better about routinely posting (and uploading pictures, etc) BUT I'm not sure how to go about doing so. For now the intermittent posts will continue here. :)

Argentina work trip was successful. Christmas was easy and rewarding. Best bud (Reg D) has been staying here for a few weeks but will transition across town this weekend so he can spend his last two months in country closer to the mountain. The dogs and I have found ourselves happily tromping through the immense amount of powder in the hills and on the mountain a couple times in the last two weeks. I'm in the final days of prepping this next term, and never realized how challenging it can be to schedule a handful of guest speakers!

2015 held an answered dream to travel to Africa and I still feel so in awe and blessed of the trip I got to take to Tanzania. Returning to spend three days with my prior host families in Argentina touched my heart in another huge way at the end of this year. (It was also really fascinating to see how much the country itself had changed in the last fifteen years, and I was stoked that my ability to communicate in Spanish was so much better than I thought it might have been.) The dogs and I took some incredible trips to hike/camp/explore Central Oregon earlier in the year and those moments truly filled me up in another way. I did my first solo backpacking trip in the spring and also took that incredible solo road trip through some of the western National Parks in the US and Canada in Aug/Sept. In all honesty that road trip was probably the highlight of 2015 and I thoroughly enjoyed just camping in the back of my SUV. The dogs and I backpacked twice with Reg D, spent an epic Spring Break (and all the winter holidays) with Reg D, and I also took 6 people out hiking/snowshoeing who usually don't get out into the woods much. Ironically this last year was less about physical activity however and focused on achieving other major dreams & travel. I also made significant process on paying down debts and did a good job budgeting money to cover a lack of employment for two months this summer.

2016's goals are returning to focus on physical activity, skill development, and debt reduction. I'm hoping to get 850 miles in this year (and will be tracking mileage again), run a race (of 3-10 miles) in another state, and go on a kayak camping trip. I made a goal of getting acupuncture once a month in order to allow that mileage to happen (have I mentioned the fascia around the muscles on my right leg is perpetually tight?). I also am hoping to work on my fear of horses this year. I got bit on the shoulder by an injured horse when I was a kid and ever since then I've been a bit nervous/skittish around them. If there's one thing the last few years have taught's to face your fears head on, because there is a good chance they're going to arrive regardless and it's better to be prepared. I want to work on improving my Spanish and learning a third language (mainly for work trips), I'm going to take the GRE finally and start applying to PhD programs (cause I finally realized again it's my passion to continue to do something with global environmental health), and hopefully have my credit card paid off by Feb/March and my car by May/June. There are a few other "hopes" for this year, (I'm feeling called to go do service work in India) but I'm also focusing on what's on the realistic list while being open to other opportunities that might present.

For now, I'm going to bite off the bit that I can control though, which will be an easy jog with the dogs and organizing the stress course I'm teaching this term. Here's to 2016, may it provide just what each one of us needs!