Sunday, March 27, 2016

On Planning Trips to the NE

Somehow I forgot how much time and searching it takes to "plan" out an upcoming trip!

Yesterday I lucked upon a 50 Best Hikes in New England book and as I was boycotting working on the weekend, I decided it was finally time to start organizing my trip to the NE. And truthfully it was a good thing, because trying to just wing the east coast doesn't exactly appear to be an option :)

My original intention for the later half of the trip was to explore the region, do some hiking/kayaking, hopefully check out and maybe work part of one day on a sustainable farm, walk through history in Boston, soak in the coast line of Maine, and meet a fellow blogger. Ambitious for 5-6 days of travel, but this tends to be how I do most my trips.

What I've come to realize however is that things go fast on the east coast...and travel costs (lodging, rental cars, etc) are definitely higher than I expected. ALL of the farm stay options (and I must have searched in 3 different ways and investigated about 20-30 options) were well above my price point, especially when I was hoping to truly get a deal for putting in some actual labor. (Plus I had no idea that farm stays were such a niche tourist market in VT and NH! Who knew?!) By the time I had pulled up Boston as a location on Airbnb, there were exactly 17 options left within my price range. Within the greater Portland, ME area there were about 10 options left. Thankfully I also stumbled upon some other really great finds for lodging (like a room-themed historical BnB for $59/night!) but altogether I was pretty surprised to find that a basic room rental in the NE on AirBnb runs about the same price as a cheap hotel.

When I travel solo I generally like to go with the flow with a general plan in mind but lots of flexibility on when/where I have to stop for the night, but this time it didn't appear that would be a very safe case with trying to secure lodging etc. There is still some general flexibility with how far I drive on the second day and which trails I actually hike (weather dependent too of course), but overall this trip is appearing much more set than most the ones I've done in the last five years.

The tentative plan is as follows:
Day 1: Train from Yale, arriving in Boston around noon. Store luggage at train station and spend the afternoon treking around downtown seeing the bay, Boston Commons, Paul Revere's house, and other historic sites. Pick up rental car & luggage, Drive down to Plymouth to a beach house rental owned by a local educator/farmer. This spot is a bit out of my way but the location, the extra history, and the farming component made me decide that it was a great option. I'm really hoping this day works out well.
Day 2: Leave Plymouth for VT. It's about a 5hr drive to Burlington, but I'm hoping to do at least 1-2 short-ish hikes this day too so I'm not sure I'll make it all the way to Burlington to investigate the city. We'll see, as there are several small towns I'd also like to stop in along the way. I'm staying in an AirBnB at Camel's Hump, which is one of the hiking options.
Day 3: Leave Camel's Hump and stop in Montpelier for breakfast & to see the city. Head to do a 8-10 mile day hike in the White Mtns, drive to Mt Washington, stay the night in North Conway.
Day 4: After breakfast, head out of NH to Stonington on the coast of ME (4ish total hour drive), stopping en route to officially meet one of my longest held blog contacts (Heather at Townsend Home)! :) The lodging in Stonington is an old bunk house, lobster dinners, with kayak rentals on site. I'm really looking forward to this location and can imagine I'm going to wish for more time here...
Day 5: Drive from Stonington to Portland, ME, soaking up the coastal views, small towns, and stopping to do some hiking in Camden. I'm hoping to explore some of downtown Portland and grab dinner there. I'm staying on the other side of the bridge in South Portland.
Day 6: Breakfast in South Portland, explore Cape Elizabeth (how could I not?!), and arrive to airport around noon.

I'm really glad I made it a point to get back on a Saturday evening to allow Sunday for oodles of make-up grading I'll have to do and rest, before teaching and a full day of work on Monday.

I have to say that the more I've looked at the region, the more excited I'm getting. So much sustainable agriculture, so much history, so many amazing hiking/water outdoor options, so small of populations! After the long term and the first week of working in April, I'm going to be pretty excited to be hitting the road and doing a bit of exploring!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Looks, Food, Readings & Watchings of the Term

I always love how Amber and Lisa do these great recap posts...who knows if I'll keep up on these but I think they're great ways of summarizing where one is at for a period of time.

Clothing: I also haven't posted many thrifted looks in a while and truthfully I've been in a black/gray/beige phase so it's ironic that two of these pictures have color :)
Thrifted dress with a black long sleeve under, thrifted leather coat (recent purchase that I LOVE), scarf from local artisans in Tanzania.

This I LOVEd as I'm so into just plain basics these days: same thrifted coat, old belt, old leopard print flats, old thrifted skirt, long black sleeved shirt

And this is only half (I needed a picture for those who wanted to see the new hair), but this was St Patty's: thrifted green tunic, thrifted replacement gray cardi (w/ ripped capri jeans & old leopard flats)

I've been debating just streamlining the wardrobe to basics....but I've been thinking about this for months and have yet to do so. But I pretty much have a uniform down these days: pencil skirt or work appropriate pants with a regular long sleeve top or short sleeved business top, chunky accessories, tall boots or flats, and a cardigan or sweater. :)

I also started compiling my travel wardrobe for Tanzania of culturally appropriate pieces:
Maxi dresses/skirts (totally NOT my favorite but good for travel), a variety of coordinating short sleeved shirts, 3 interchangeable cardis/wraps, 2 scarves (for shoulders/head/beach wraps), and I've had my eye out for super light weight flowy black/tan pants (but I might have missed the boat on this one....)

Food: This term I made it 11 out of 12 weeks pre-gaming meals for the week and making sure to have food to take for lunch at the office.
Sweet potato with a salad of mixed greens, purple cabbage, broccoli, & salmon.

From scratch waffles (w/ blueberries, pecans, & coconut shreds here).

LOTS of sauteed veggies happened this term. Here we have asparagus, broccoli, carrots, onions, garlic, garbanzo beans, mushrooms, greens, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds seasoned with loads of olive oil, s&p, and turmeric.

I started getting down on lots of herbal tea...and made some of my own from sage in the garden.

A few days at my parents produced this gem for breakfast: berries, banana, grapes, & macadamia nuts with almond milk.

I also made two pans of a take on this awesome white sauce & chicken lasagna for the dinner party (and the remainder fed me for a week). (I layered differently, doubled the recipe, and mixed the cheese/chicken/spinach into one concoction....but it was a hit!) I also had a rhubarb/blueberry cobbler which is a usual go-to at dinners...which became breakfast for the week :) AND I had chicken breasts for everyone, which the left overs of that got shredded and much got frozen. Those left overs are being used in soups, fajitas, sautes, chicken salad sandwiches, etc. I LOVE left overs!

There also was a 2-3 week period in here where my body no longer wanted meat...and I seriously contemplated going back to being a vegetarian. I'm listening to what it says and right now I'm just eating meat in moderation....

Reading: I've been halfway through a handful of books:
 1) I taught about food ethic/social justice issues out of Food Justice this term. 
2) I'm several chapters into A Year of Plenty about a Christian family (pastors) who decided to get off the rat race and live more mindfully/locally for a year...and all that they learned in the process. (I'm a BIG advocate that Christians SHOULD be leading the charge for environmental & social justice issues, so I LOVE reading material on these notions....). 
3) I'm almost halfway through Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream....and this is about where I got stuck last time I tried to read it. There's things I like about it and other things I don't. I'm going to make it through this time though :)
4) I'm a couple chapters also into Jane Goodall's A Harvest for Hope: A Guide to Mindful Eating. I've read many of her other books (and hope to reread them) and so far am enjoying this one.
5) I also started reading a few of the short stories in the Oprah endorsed Say You're One of Them, which gives stories of children's realities from across the globe. Heartwrenching at times...and I stopped where I was because I read the following two books and needed a break:
6) The heart-wrenching story of Somaly Mam (The Road of Lost Innocence), who lived through an abusive childhood and forced existence in the sex trade in Cambodia...and was eventually able to create a non-profit on advocacy and legal work against the international sex trade. These types of stories really muddy my mind & heart for weeks and tend to give me a bleak outlook on how humankind treats each other......BUT I also feel like it's so important to know more, advocate more, & spread the word/advocacy..without it we just do nothing and only further perpetrate injustice.....
7) I also read Children of the Jacaranda Tree, which was an unfortunately similar story to the Dirty War of Argentina...and also had me researching more of the history of Tehran/Iran in the 70s. This story is "safer" than the one above and also captures some of the beauty and connection that exists even in the most desolate of times--worthwhile read!

(Also while all the links are to Amazon, I actually found about half of these books at my local thrift store and the other half came from our regional new/used book store. I still use Amazon when I absolutely cannot find what I want local, but due to not wanting to encourage wasted resources for packaging/shipping...I highly endorse finding books where you are if possible :))

I've also been reading a TON of "pins"/articles on pinterest about homesteading pigs, goats, cows, expanding gardens, considerations for buying property, and reading some medicinal herb blogs/books to increase my knowledge of how to plant/harvest more.

On average, I'm also skimming headlines of about 100 articles a day & reading about 10-30 articles a day on sustainable/simple living, global health issues/programs, food ethics/concerns/policies/interventions/programs, environmental considerations/concerns/policies, and local health items. I've pretty much converted my FB feed as an easy way to follow the organizations, agencies, etc that are working in the fields I'm passionate about and as a way to stay up-to-date on other news/research findings. To say that I'm immersed in the topics of global & environmental health (with a focus on nutrition & food) might be a tad bit of an understatement these days.....and if you're following me on FB, just know that I only share a VERY limited amount of what I'm actually reading (so I apologize if even that bit seems a little overkill). :) I've been contemplating trying to create a new/separate blog for storage of the various items I'm referring to but I know that right now I just don't have time/energy/ease of doing so. (I barely blog as it is...and my tech skills are nil these days :))

Documentaries/Watching: If you know me, then you know that I'm not big on TV. It's rare that I even sit down for a real movie these days and I usually have to be absolutely convinced (and really care about someone) to binge watch anything. But I DO love having one day/night every couple of months where I watch through a selection of great documentaries or travel shows or immersing in a few TED/YouTube learning options. (I also will totally admit that I'm super into Fixer Upper when it's available on Netflix too...)

So what have I watched this term? Well..several important items mainly on food, of course. :)
The Cooked series by Michael Pollan on Netflix was really neat & further inspiring to be cooking routinely again.
Food Chains shows the too frequently unheard voice of those farming and producing our food. Talk about human and ethical rights issues.... (Please watch...)
Farmland showed the various stories of a diverse group of young farmers.
And I re-watched and required students to watch Soul Food Junkies.
On the topic of farmworker rights, I also showed several of the Tedx Fruitvale clips to students...and I wish more awareness/advocacy/policy change would focus on these issues.
I also showed part of this documentary on Living in a Food Desert.
And I encouraged students to watch these two inspirational Ted Talks: A Guerilla Gardener in South Central LA and A Teacher Growing Green in the South Bronx
I also attempted to start watching the Call the Midwife series as I've heard lots of good things about it....and I just couldn't get into it.

Miles: We logged 80 miles in February (somehow) and are more or less on target to make the 850 for the year. I plan on making a separate post of some of the treks we've been out on in recent months however, although I'm nervous to keep posting pictures of the amazing Oregon beauty :) We were able to get out for a handful of snowshoeing/hiking treks, some regular hikes/trail jogs on our most frequently traveled trails, and then lots of plain neighborhood jogs over the last several months. I also was able to finally get back out kayaking on Friday and on most running days I have been throwing in sets of burpees, push-ups & abwork also. I'm definitely hoping to be able to get in some longer hikes again in the coming months, but it's looking like snow levels will be staying low longer again this year (much needed!) so backpacking probably won't be too much of an option until I'm back from Tanzania this summer.

One other item that's been on my mind a lot: I'm still in awe so many days that I can just say these things....Tanzania, Argentina, east coast travels, holidays. There are days where I'm completely exhausted (although in denial) but I also feel like I'm truly back to living a life of authenticity. My hippy/survivalist side is in full force and I am intrinsically aware of being human while being one tiny dot in a greater culture, environment, universe. Some days I wake up with texts and emails from various corners of this globe and I'm still so in awe wondering how I wound up here at all or even how quickly....but I'm grateful. When I mention to family/friends that I'm unsure that I should stay in this field long term, the resounding message in response is that this is the life that so many of them imagined that I would be living. And I know when I'm tired I don't sound it...but man, am I oh so in awe and grateful for what life has presented....and all that it pushes me forward toward.....

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

25ish Dates, Relationships & Still Searching

So here's a raw life post based on a big item that's on my mind and heart these days...and where sometimes when I'm on trail....I think about the darnest things.....

....and sometimes I go on trail and think about some things because I wake up feeling a bit lonely and wishing there was someone else to so deeply share life, thoughts, love with....

...most days I recognize that romantic love (having it or not) does not define who I am, my purpose, nor where I am supposed to be heading....but man, sometimes it'd just be great to, well, have a man :)

....but of course not just any man...cause let's get real I'm not the easiest woman in the world...and I'd like a partner who is heading in the same direction with the same values and his own solid foundation. Finding a man just to spend time with is easy, but finding a man to spend and create a life THAT proves to be a challenge.

It doesn't help that I'm a *slight* hodge podge of pieces of things (military and somewhat socialistic OR country and liberal don't always go together for example....but all these things are pieces of me also). It also doesn't seem to help that my mind rarely turns off and while I totally love to go explore, I'm also a major home body :)

But one day when I was on trail slightly bummed about being single for so much of my adult life (most my 20s I didn't "waste time dating" when I could focus on work/school), I started doing a little bit of math....

....and that led me to realize that in the 4ish years/48ish months since my separation and eventual divorce I've: unfortunately (although I learned a lot...) been involved with my ex for about 16-20ish of those months, dated about 5 other guys for a total of another 13 or so months, was not emotionally available to attempt dating at least 6-12 of those additional months, and yet still managed at least 20 other first dates in the 6-12 months that I've been "available" (including taking a guy out for lunch in Tanzania and meeting up with a date while in Argentina). Based on those general numbers, I realized that I really cannot complain....

....the other math I routinely do is the total estimated population of single males on this planet. Granted I have no real numbers for this...but world population is about 7 billion. If you cut that in half that's 3.5 billion. Even if we discount for outside the age categories, same sex preferences, and those that are already, that still leaves a LARGE population of potential partners :) And while I have come to realize that I probably should end up with someone who has a similar background & culture, that's STILL a large potential pool. Additionally, I live in ONE city in ONE state in ONE nation. I've been out with "just" 25ish men in three cities/countries...I really cannot complain.

....and all that being said I also realize that potentially there's the chance that I truly won't meet a lifetime partner and some days I'm better at accepting that. I don't believe I HAVE to spend my life with someone else. If there's one thing Reg D was adamant about, it was that I became as independent as possible, which in a lot of ways helped me to return to realizing that I truly can do life on  my own if need be (including adopting kiddos). But the thing is that it's a WANT vs a NEED thing. I don't NEED a partner....but I WANT one. Someone who can see life similarly but also challenge my thinking, someone who has their own hobbies but has some shared fun, someone who is working on making this world a "better" (healthier/more caring/more sustained) place, someone who can balance out aspects of myself, someone who can focus long-term on just (this) one woman...and who also wants a family, someone who can find the joy in the ordinary things...and maybe, just maybe could he also have a killer smile, a twinkle in his eyes, and be able to rock a 5 o'clock shadow while wearing a sexy pair of utility pants-ha! :)

....which truthfully brings me to where I currently to introductions, online options, chance meetings, and lots of hopeful thinking/praying/arguing with God on this topic :) I'm back online (which is not my preferred manner of meeting people) and trying to keep an open mind. I work in a female dominated environment, tend to not have too much energy for volunteering these days, I live in the suburbs and tend to really enjoy relaxing in my cozy home, and meeting people in bars/church doesn't seem to pan out in my favor (especially when my relationship with God is a bit different than some churchy notions and I don't really want a relationship based on booze/beer) generally online it is. There are times when I talk to the man upstairs and feel answers arrive on my heart...but sometimes I feel like this is one that just might not come to fruition and I don't blame Him. When I have a partner in my life, I tend to lose sight of Him and of the other items He puts on my heart to do with my life. What I'm arguing with Him about is the reality of presenting a partner who is already ON the same path that He wants me to head toward/stay on, because man the idea of having a partner to share that journey with sounds much more rewarding and fulfilling and TWO working toward His same goal is much better than just one! :)

So while this post is meant to be more entertaining, thought-provoking, and sharing more than anything, you're more than welcome to join in my positive thinking/hoping/praying for an awesome guy to mosey on in to this journey of life with me... Ha!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Argentina Trip Recap

Just a few months overdue... :) 

But December's work trip to Argentina truly was absolutely lovely. I hadn't been back to the country for FIFTEEN years but siempre tenia ganas para volver (although I had such desire to return). We're eye balling Argentina as a country to take students, so in reality I was sent with a colleague to investigate options for a cultural immersion trip for our graduate students. 

The first three days in country I flew to visit with my prior host families and friends. Truly this was the best idea as I was able to brush up on my Spanish and rebuild some missing vocabulary (although I'm still missing much!), visit and love on some of my favorite people after so many years away, and re-immerse in the culture while learning about the current sociopolitical climate. There were elections about a week prior to our arrival and since Argentina has had tumultuous governance over the last several decades, it's always a good idea to know what's currently going on with politics....

Here's a little back story: When I was 18 I lived in Argentina as an exchange student for a year. I lived with three families (two of which I'm still in touch with and still consider to be my own brothers and sisters). I also attended high school for 3ish months, traveled across most the country for 2ish months (with other exchange students mainly), and then rotated through study programs in a junior college for 3ish additional months. All of my host dads were doctors, I had a total of 15 host siblings, and I'm still in touch with a handful of friends from my schooling also (most of which are also involved in the medical, education, or social justice fields). My first host family was also involved in the beef market, which at the time Argentina was the largest exporter of beef...and I was a vegetarian. Talk about opportunities to learn! :) The total experience was life changing and I still feel like Argentina is a second home for me.

Here's actual a fun picture my host mom sent me from back in the day: :)

So without further ado, here's the nuts and bolts of the trip....and some of my favorite things about the country :)

Here's a picture of my dear host mom pouring the water for afternoon mate:
Mate is such a tradition in the country and can be drunk throughout the day. The loose leaf version is the traditional format, drunk out of cured gourd, and sipped through the communal straw (which also strains the tea leaves). When you go to the grocery store, replace our US coffee selection with rows of mate options (for cheap) and you have the same thing....

This is (half?) of the second host family I stayed with 15 years ago. I was really close to most of the 6 siblings in this family and my host mom. I was only able to connect with two of the siblings in this picture and my brother in Buenos Aires was phenomenal with meeting up and arranging various contacts throughout my time in country. My "baby" sister in this picture (next to me in the photo) hosted us in her home and made sweet AND great to spend an evening with them!

So let me let you in on a little secret, Argentina food is heavy sugar, meat, and carb laden. This has only become even more apparent over the last decade and a half that I've been away. I was incredibly fortunate that my last host mom is super mindful of fruits and veggies, as every meals is choke full of them. Truthfully once the work part of the trip started, there were days of NO veggies...or the usual shredded lettuce and a slice of tomato as the only options.....It also seemed that the amount of sugar and overall carbs has increased drastically....which I'm sure comes as no surprise that they also are struggling with very high rates of chronic disease. (It also might just be that now that I'm so nutrition and health focused, I just notice it more now....)

However, this is my FAVORITE Argentine sweet: alfajores. Imagine two short bread cookies with dulce de leche/caramel slathered thickly in between and all rolled in coconut. AMAZING! My grandma in my third host family made this for me because she knew how much I love them. 

And this is a picture of my host dad BBQing or making an asado in their backyard. The very traditional method are actual sides of cow that are cooked on stakes around a fire by the guachos (traditional cowboys) and you can see it here.

A photo op with my third host family: One host sister is getting her PhD in Germany (and already bought tickets to fly home for this coming December's trip) but everyone else still lives in the home town or came home so we could all be together:

On this trip I really developed a love and appreciation for Buenos Aires. This is the famous Bosque (Forest) block in the city, where my brother and I sat and chatted about life dreams and trip needs. The city truly has put in a lot of time and effort to "green" and clean up. I feel like it's pretty easy to get around on foot, the taxis and public transport are reasonable, and it's truly much more modern and prettier than it was 15 years ago. I spent about 48 hours in BA split between two different stops and was able to check out a couple of the different touristy things. Definitely much more of a modern European with a South American twist (and weather).

On the work trip part, we spent a day checking out Iguazu Falls which we know students would love. This is located on the border of Brazil and Argentina and is truly incredible to see. Both my colleague and I had visited before but this way we were able to orient to the logistical needs of bringing students while also exploring other nearby options.

Breakfast in Argentina usually is just the coffee and the media lunas (crossiants) but as we were desperate for healthy protein and veggies...we had Spanish omelets also made with some fruit juice thrown in. This also was the first meal I ate after getting completely knocked out the day before. I'm rarely sick when I travel (knock on wood) but the afternoon/evening before with a pounding headache, shakes, and eventually losing all fluid/food externally :) That's just how it goes though and luckily it was over by noon the next day :)

I don't want to share too much about some of the work parts of the trip (as I try to keep a lot of work stuff off the blog), but here are a few pictures of the some of the stuff we were investigating and working on collaborating: Rural health clinic, traditional herbs, mate production, medical care & public health options 

We also went to Cordoba, which is the second largest city in Argentina and reminds me a lot of what Buenos Aires used to be... Here we were checking out a separate collaboration. As an institution we're investigating partnering with a variety of already established organization and one organization has a sub-contract here. We came to check out what that option looks like and how it works in one of the other host countries. So we spent three days exploring a variety of social work options and hospitals and also engaging in cultural courses offered to students. 

This particular photo is of the Cathedral in Plaza San Martin...right before those amazing clouds soaked the city (and us :)): 

And right next to the Cathedral is part of this building: Where "subversives" (aka those with more socialized or "left" ideals) were held, tortured, and killed during the Dirty War. Historical accounts include stories of individuals going into church/confession and being led out the side door into this other building, but people were also rounded up directly out of their homes and streets. This period of Argentine history is one that was rare to have talked about when I was here 15 years ago (it was still too recent and it seemed there was still much fear regarding discussion on it), but now it is more openly discussed and there are several museums (like the one below) to make these places accessible, to stimulate dialouge, and to offer memorials to those lost in such a period of human rights violations. 

Back in Buenos Aires, I had approximately 24 hrs to re-investigate the historic cemetery, do a walking touring of many of the governmental and historical buildings, go on a date to a closed brewery opening (the micro brewery scene is just getting started here), and engage in another collaborative work meeting with a holistic healing center.

Since it was Thursday, I was also able to see the madres de los desaparecidos (Mothers & Grandmother's of the Disappeared) protest in front of the Casa Rosada (the "white house") where they have been protesting once a week in the decades since the end of the Dirty War. They still want answers and to raise awareness...and there is another piece to this whole story. Many of the women who were taken were also pregnant or became pregnant. It is estimated that 400 babies were taken and placed in "adoptive" homes. Part of the protest these days is to continue to pressure the government to continue to search for these babies (now 40 yos or so) and disclose additional information. (The newly elected president was not in favor of allocated energy and resources to continue the search....)

And there you have it, 13ish days in a country that I adore. Four days for play, nine days for work. Multiple work contacts arranged, amazing views explored, culture enjoyed, heart wrenching history engaged with, incredible sweets and drinks enjoyed, and an amazing amount of people interacted with. Altogether it was pretty incredible to be back in this lovely country. It's currently projected that I'll take a handful of students down in December of this year to explore the culture/history of Buenos Aires and deeper engage with many of the indigenous, rural, and more traditional health issues of the north, while also enjoying a day or two in beautiful nature settings. Keeping my fingers crossed it all continues to come together as hoped and planned!

Monday, March 21, 2016

Spring Virtual Coffee Date :)

If we were meeting for coffee:

---I'd ask what you've been up to, how your day/week/month/spring has been, and what's been on your mind lately? I'd probably feel a lil guilty for being so absent throughout winter's end.

--If you mentioned my hair cut, I'd tell you how it's a nice change but that I'm struggling to handle it in my face while running. About how much I love $15 haircuts at Great Clips and then leaving a big tip for the hair dresser. About how it took me 6 months to decide to chop it back off, since it sometimes can take years to regrow....and about how so many told me to leave it long, even though now everyone seems to love the new look :)

--I'd tell you about how nice it is to just be working one job at a time while alternate spring breaks are happening. About how I'm somehow teaching a fuller load again next term than originally intention-ed, but that due to scheduling and the actual classes I think it won't be as bad as this one. I'd tell you how nice it was to get in a kayaking class on Friday and spend two nights & a day back at the coast again. I'd daydream about heading over to central Oregon and mention my upcoming trip to the NE mid-April.

--We'd probably talk about the fact that I've re-immersed in socializing and how great it was to host 20 people in my home for dinner two weekends ago. What a joy it was to treat my cousin to happy hour this evening and how fun it was to hang out all St Patrick's Day evening with a buddy of mine in NE Portland. I plan to host another dinner in early June and just scheduled a girls brunch for mid May as well.

--I'm sure I'd mention how excited I am to see one of my gals in Washington DC prior to the work conference at Yale. How much I enjoy time with her and how great it will be to jog through the city with her in the evenings. She and our other mutual friend will also rendezvous in late September in New Orleans for a fun girls weekend, and that other friend and I also bought tickets to a concert in early September.

--I'd probably laugh a bit about how the calendar is already filling up from now until October (but I'd also sigh internally somewhat). I might sneakily mention that Reg D is in maybe status for still doing the Peacecorps and how much I miss regular chats with him. How much I've realized that he truly was a non-romantic partner....and how much his absence in my life has allowed me to realize the space that exists for an actual romantic partner.....which might lead into a conversation about how frustrating it can be at times to find someONE to date seriously and long term in one's 30s.....(and which there might be a whole entertaining blog post on this later). And how I've suddenly turned that window of life where not only am I really wanting a true life partner who is intent on a solid foundation and mutually shared vision for the future...but I'm googly eye balling every rolly polly baby as well.....

--I might mention how I've decided to use this total "waiting" period of life to start honing in on some of the additional skills that will help me longer term. I'm currently increasing my gardening skills and researching/expanding a medicinal herb garden in the entry way. This year I'm planting some new varieties of things (potatoes, herbs, more veggies) and I also hope to be able to get in some good amounts of preserving before I head out of country this summer. I'm also reading up a lot more on actual homesteading, DIY, and home remedy type of items. I'd truthfully really love to take a class on wildcrafting and local herbalism....

--I might mention that I think I've found a great in-state doctoral program option....but I still need to take the GRE and that I have time as I plan to work in my current position for at least one, if not two more years prior to doing a PhD.

--And truthfully I'd probably complain about the vast amounts of people who have discovered (and moved) to Portland. About how Portland isn't what it used to be. How gentrification has drastically altered original neighbors and pushed already disadvantaged populations out into the fringes. About how horrible traffic has gotten (and the roads beaten up) as the roads (and even the public transport systems) aren't designed for this many people. About how traffic accidents happen ALL.the.TIME these days and how impatient so many of the newer drivers are in the city. About how full trails in the Gorge and the route up the mountain can be....and about how much I miss the prior gem of the city....and how I'm not sure how long the city/suburbs outside of it will continue to sustain me....

There's a lot going on in this brain these days ranging from larger life plans (in pencil), constant immersion in global and environmental issues, daily health needs, half-marathon training, aches of the soul and deep prayers about some things, frustrations with teaching....and lots of brain power focused on trying to focus in on and appreciate the little things. The smallest joy of the moment that never fails to bring a peaceful mind and big smile?? Frogs croaking in evening gets me every time :)

What's going on in your heart, mind, your neck of the woods?!

Sunday, March 6, 2016

March, oh March

How did March already get here?!

So...I've been in a bit of a funk lately. Tired. Worn out. Not able to restock the energy piles. A tad bit anti-social. Several restless nights. And even though I hit 80 miles last month, my body doesn't show it. I imagine it's a mixed effect from too much work the first few weeks of the term and the non-stop nature of my new academic life, a lot of accumulated life stress in general, and a whole variety of other worries/items on my mind topped off with associated guilt for even letting these first-world problems matter to me....

I've been using Lent as a period of decreased social media engagement, which usually is a benefit, but this time around I'm wondering if it didn't disengage me too much. While I recognize that my hiking/running, social media use, overly social nature at times is a distraction technique...I'm also not sure that I'm any better off these days by NOT distracting. ie I've been thinking about things related to my ex on a daily basis, which isn't too outside the norm but it seems to have increased more in the last couple of months again. Sometimes I wonder if I'll ever really be able to shake that past situation. Best bud (Reg D) and I also haven't been talking much. His Peacecorps assignment got rerouted so he'll still be here for a few more months, but in truth we've rarely chatted nor spent time together since the new year. Which could also be part of what's going on, as in a sense, I've disconnected from my number one order to allow space for what is to come...

But sometimes when you focus too much on the wanting of what is to forget to be happy for the what is already here. Because there is so much goodness in my day to day existence, but when I let myself yearn into my bones for those newer unfulfilled wishes, then it tends to diminish how awesome of a life I've already arrived into. Life today is a far cry from the chaos and sadness of years prior and I truthfully need to remember to relish SO FULLY in all the aspects of that which I have already. Apparently, however, I'm great at non-stop striving for life to be more & better...and less amazing at truly being okay with being settled in a reality for a while. This has been a constant theme in my life...and one that I'm wrestling with how to overcome. I'm always itching for the next item of life to arrive...and once it does, I want it/us/me to be even better. I'm not good at staying "still" even when simple stillness is also exactly what I need & desire.

Today however I seemed to be practicing for fulfillment via simpleness:
--Woke up gently to sunlight through the glass door, a cat nestled in along side my body, and two dogs sharing the other half of the bed. My movements led the dogs to excitedly snuggle closer for our morning ritual of cuddles & kisses...and then I embraced a few more moments of dozing.
--Relished in the simplicity of a panel clad small church steeped in tradition. Inside it's door, one could connect with the multitude of generations that had worshiped in this space for over a hundred years while the rest of the suburban city bustled around about it. Inside it's door, I whispered old hymns, put voice to lines of passages taught to me in childhood, and for the first time in months, felt awe and relief at the experience of sharing communion.
--I allowed myself unfettered time on social media today: pinning homestead dreams, fashion, and simple living items to my hearts desire, sharing a multitude of various links on fb, and uploading a picture of my new window herb box into my IG account. Somehow the "connection" left me more fulfilled even if at times I was letting myself use it as a distraction.
--Rearranged & cleaned the patio furniture in preparation for next weekend's gathering, fed the birds, & relished bits of bird song, gentle rain, & slow sun breaks on occasion.
--I met my parents, granny, cousin & her husband at my aunt's for a mid-day meal of stew over mashed potatoes (totally amazing and oh so easy to make in a crock pot apparently!) and a couple hours of  great quality time together.
--No forcing of mileage and instead let my body rest, even with the dogs herding trials. The miles will get accomplished.
--Multiple loads of laundry washed and I thoroughly enjoyed the task of folding clean laundry today. Other items in cupboards got re-arranged, plants got moved, and the dogs got lots of individual attention.
--In the evening, I focused on grading each of my online student's assignments and appreciated the reality of how much they enjoy the feedback that gets left on their papers. I also searched for AirBnB options for my upcoming work trip in April. (and I should book my plane ticket, but I'll get to that....later...)

Within the mindful simpleness and recounting of blessings, even the deepest of funks can lift out of the moments....

I'm looking forward to the end of these final weeks of the term...and what's looking to be a potentially great trip to the east coast in spring. While my original plan was to hit up all the major cities in the week and a half on either side of the conference I'm attending, I'm feeling like it might be better to take a road trip to explore the coastline and countryside of those northeastern states that are more rural.... We'll see :) But a bit of flexed exploring, a bit of offgrid tempo, and some potential new greenery all sound pretty soul fulfilling :)