Monthly Archives: October 2008

Oregon Voting

At the risk of being a hyper cheerleader for Oregon, I need to write about what a great experience voting is here. About three weeks before the election we received handbooks on how to fill out the ballots. Two weeks before the election our ballots arrived with a brochure that described each measure in detail. My boyfriend and I walked over to our favorite coffee shop in Ladd’s Addition,, and spent the next two hours looking up the measures and candidates on our laptop and smart phones. I have never had a voting experience where I was this informed about all of the decisions. After we finished up our butter pecan steamer and Italian vanilla soda, we then signed the envelopes and put them in the mail. Presto, voting is done.

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Moments of Being

Virginia Woolf once wrote about a concept that she called “Moments of Being.” According to Woolf, moments of being are those times in life when years later you can still remember how it felt, what it smelled like, the temperature, etc. They are those rare moments where no matter how much time elapses when you think about them in your mind you are magically transported back to that space. Woolf wrote that these “Moments of Being” are the things that one should write about. I can’t will an experience into being a “Moment of Being.” In fact, often they are fairly ordinary or common place moments, but for some reason I can remember them perfectly. An example is when I was little and a dog jumped up and knocked my snow cone over. I remember the air being crisp, and my hands being sticky. I also remember the extreme guilt I felt at the age of five as my mother wiped up my spilled cone and then gave me hers.

I have had many events that I wished were moments of being, but they just turned out to be magical moments in my mind. For example, today I was driving back on I 5 from a conference in Lake Oswego. All of a sudden I looked out and saw a fantastic view of Mount Hood. It was incredible. Because traffic was backed up, I had several moments to sit and stare at the snow capped mountain. While crossing the Ross Island Bridge, I was able to see Mount St. Helens in the distance. It just was so clear and crisp and enchanting. Will I remember it as a moment of being? I don’t think so. But it was a magical moment all the same.

I am intrigued by this thought tonight, and it is driving me to consider my own moments of being. I have decided to list a few below:

1. I remember when I was in 7th grade and had been working out in the barn on a particularly cold winter’s night in Western Kansas. When mom called us in to supper, she had homemade stew and homemade buttermilk biscuits on the table. I still remember the taste of that stew and the smell of those biscuits. I can still remember the steam coming up from those items on the table and how it felt when I swallowed all that wonderful warmth into my freezing body.

2. When I was 19 years old, I had the good fortune to spend a weekend at a retreat house in upstate Minnesota called the Villa Maria We stayed in the main building that time had kind of left behind. The rooms were bare and cold. I remember waking up in the morning on the third floor and realizing that the cold Minnesota morning had crept into the room as we had slept. I jumped out of bed, my toes cringing at the cold linoleum underneath my feet, and ran to the bathroom. They had a couple of rows of old clawfoot tubs seperated by shower curtains. I filled one of the tubs with hot water and had one of the most soothing and relaxing baths of my life. No one else was up, and it was just me in this large bathtub with the steam rising up from the water. My feet are tingling just now as I recall how it felt to step into that incredible tub.

3. The first year after I graduated from college, my father passed away from a painful form of cancer. It was quite a year to say the least. I had taken a job five hours from home and was teaching Eng. 9 and Eng. 10, fall play director, forensics coach, and assistant basketball coach to the junior high. On the weekends I often went home to help mom with dad. On one particular Saturday I had stayed at school to work on the set of the play. It was just me in this large, old school. I worked late into the evening while rock music played on the radio. While I was blocking out the lighting system and when which lights should go on in the script, I started dancing to the music. Before I knew it I was dancing on stage to the rock music under the stage lights. I switch from green to yellow to blue lights as I danced more and more wildly on stage. I jumped and swirled in time to the music. It wasn’t dull dancing, but a form of wild/animalistic dancing. I was dancing out all of my stress and fear. It was like if I didn’t dance I would cry. I can remember the heat of the lights on my face and the beating of my heart as the sweat began to form and run down my cheeks. I can remember the thud my feet made on the stage as I ran around the stage dancing in an effort to bring back some type of calm and stability into my life Most of all I can remember the feeling of exhaustion and total muscle relaxation as I collapsed on stage in a heap of spent emotion. When I think about that moment, I am transported back to this time in my mind.

So, there are three of my “Moments of Being.” I have more, but then again we all do. I wonder what other people have for “Moments of Being.” What are your “Moments of Being?”

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Oregon Wine Country

Last weekend my boyfriend and I headed out to the wine country of Oregon. It was his birthday, and we wanted to have a weekend getaway. We were amazed at how many wineries there were within 60 miles of Portland in the Willamette Valley Region. All we had to do was drive down 99 South and we found the winery signs everywhere, especially around McMinnville.

Saturday night we stayed at Harrison House, , a bed and breakfast in Corvallis. From the common areas stocked with complimentary red and white wine to the cute little cottage overlooking the herb garden that we were able to stay in, it was all very nice and comfortable. The breakfast was very, very, very good. Did I mention the breakfast was good?

We celebrated my boyfriend’s birthday Saturday night with a meal at Aqua’s in Corvallis. We both thought we had died and gone to seafood heaven. If you ever find yourself heading though Corvallis and looking for a nice seafood restaurant, then this place is a must.

We toured four vineyards during our quest for wine. They are listed below:

Left Coast Cellars,

All of them were very educational because they really took the time to tell us about the different types of wines and how wine is made. Tyee was particularly wonderful because they let us walk in the vineyard. There is something very special and almost biblical about walking among the old grapevines heavy with grapes. Tyee also had a plate of grapes that they let us sample, and then they used those grapes to educate us about the wines we were about to taste.

During our journey, I saw a sign that said Brigittine Monastery this way. So we went that way and found a wonderful, out of the way monastery where they sell incredible fudge. They gave us samples of all of the varieties. We particularly liked the pecan praline fudge royale and had to buy a box of it to take home. Their prices were very good, and you can buy their confectionaries on the web. Oh those high tech monks think of everything.

Finally, we stopped in McMinnville at the Bistro Maison OMG. Yep, that just about covers the incredible experience of eating at Bistro Maison. The food was awsome, but the dessert was beyond words. What that chef does with dessert is just short of a miracle.

Whew! We had a full and fun packed weekend. Here are some of the things that I learned:

1. I love Pinot Gris and Riesling wines. My fondness for Pinot Noir depends on how much of the oak barrel taste is actually in the wine.

2. I tend to go for the white wines because they are a little sweeter.

3. The color of wine depends on the length of time the grape is in the skin between the picking and the actually pressing of the juice.

4. It is definitely ok to use those cans at the counter to toss in the wine. If you are the driver and heading to several vineyards, you will need to just take a swallow and dump the rest into the can.

5. Sometimes the best moments are the ones that are unplanned.

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It is so different living in a blue state after living in the red state of Oklahoma. I could bash Oklahoma a little bit here, but I will refrain. This blog will be about Oregon, and more specifically Portland.

I daily come across reminders that Portland is serious about politics. When the debates were airing on television, many of the theaters around town showed the debates on the big screens. It was standing room only in these theaters. Wow! Also, I have been asked by volunteers on the street numerous times if I am registered to vote. These volunteers hold papers on clipboards eager to sign me up. This has happened downtown, outside of businesses, and even when I just go for a walk in my neighborhood. I also find it very interesting that you don’t go to polling booths in Oregon. Instead, the ballots are mailed to you at home. When I asked why, I was told that people like to take their time and maybe even research the different candidates and items on the Internet and answer the questions in the privacy of their own home. In fact, I think the ballots were mailed out today.

While biking or walking down the streets, I am reminded of how blue the state is everywhere I look. One of the businesses downtown has unofficially changed their name from “Backspace” to “Barackspace.” I also recently saw a garage sale and a bake sale where the contributions went to Obama. Just today I was biking in a neighborhood and looked over to see that a homeowner had painted the letters for Obama on 5 large gourds and placed them in her front yard.

From what I understand, not all of Oregon is blue. In fact, most of it is red and conservative. It just so happens that Portland, especially Multnomah County, is as blue as the eyes of a newborn baby. I find it incredible that one city can pretty much dictate the way a state will be represented.

Note: Today Germany passed a 675 billion dollar bailout package to help their financial institutions.

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Biking in Portland

I have mentioned the amount of bicycling I am doing in previous posts, and I have made reference to all of the bicycling that everyone else does here in Portland, but I think I should go into detail about it just a little more. Biking in Portland is not just for exercise or sport, but it is for necessity. A lot of people don’t own cars, so this is their main form of transportation.
People also bike for convenience. Whenever we go downtown, we bike downtown because of parking. When we went to the Weezer concert the other night at the Rose Quarter,, we biked there and back. Parking was sooooooooooo not an issue. 🙂

Portland was made for biking. Bike poles are placed all over downtown and the surrounding neighborhoods. It is hard to find a business that doesn’t have bike parking nearby. Bike lanes are marked on many of the streets, and now the city has devised green boxes downtown which help prevent bikers from getting hit by drivers making right turns. The following link tells about the bike boxes:

The sheer number of bikers is incredible. Whenever I go anywhere in Portland I see bikers. During rush hours you can see a flood of bikes enter and leave downtown on the various bridges. I read an article in a Portland magazine which told about two business women who ride their bikes all over Portland to different appointments. They said they save at least $300.00 a month in gas with no carbon emission. Another example is when I was biking into downtown the other day and saw about 100 bicycles tied up in the street in front of an open warehouse. I was told that the BPA, ,was sponsoring an encouragement event for bikers with free beer and pizza.

I am sitting at Clinton Corner, neighborhood pub/restaurant, and writing this blog. I am looking out the window and I see at least 1 bicyclist every minute at the moment. Wow!

My boyfriend and I are going to be die hard bicyclists. We are already biking home at midnight after events, and we are learning to bundle up tight for the cold evenings. I still have to put fenders on my bike, and we both need to get water proof pants and booties. Yep, we will definitely be biking throughout the winter. I keep telling myself I need to get fenders put on soon, but I just hate the thought of not having my bike with me for a couple of days.

Well, it is time for me to go. I have to actually do some bicycling for exercise today. I am wondering just how far North I can go in 30 minutes before I turn around and make the trip back. I am hoping to reach Loyd Mall and watch the ice skaters, or at least make it to Hollywood Theater and see the times for the independent films.

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As I sit here in the office and begin this blog post, I hear in the background the tick tock of my 1880’s Waterbury clock that I got from Grandma’s house. I like to think of it as the heartbeat of the house because if you listen quietly, you can hear it in every room of the main level. I have definitely put into it in repairs more than it is worth. I like it, and it is very relaxing. 🙂

So, what does the clock have to do with writing? Well, it actually was the inspiration to one of my longest writings yet. I have always said that every English teacher has at least one unpublished, and unfinished, book on their hard drives or in their closet somewhere. I am no exception. I have written over 100 pages on a book that takes place in the old west and centers around a small town called Justice. It unflinchingly details the specifics of small town life that applied back then and still today. It was inspired by the clock on the wall. This clock plays a visible roll in the first scene of the book, and it continues to reappear throughout.

Why haven’t I finished the book? Good question. Part of me says that the book tells me when it wants to be worked on and continued. I know, lame excuse. I guess I just don’t have the tenacity of the great authors. Hmmmmm, let me take that back. Someone can actually have tenacity and write/publish many books, but they really are not close to great authors, they are just popular authors. Yes, there is a difference, or am a I just an English snob.

I wish I were one of those people who really loved writing. Where an evening at home with my laptop or pencil and paper is the highlight of my week. Unfortunately, I am not that way. I am blogging now though, so maybe there is hope. One of my goals is to be a published author, and so far I have been able to attain my goals in life. I just think it would be so cool to walk into Barnes & Noble and see my book on the shelf. I would have to take a picture of it.

As I sit here in the office and see the clouds outside I realize that this would be the perfect day to pick up my book writing again. Will I do it? I don’t know. I also am tempted to keep reading my current book selection, The World Without Us, by Alan Weisman. I just looked out my window and saw my 82 year old neighbor, Frank, loading fishing stuff into an SUV. It looks like his wife is going with him too. An outdoor adventure sounds interesting today. Oh, and the Hollywood theater, is showing some great independent films. Ok, now I am beginning to understand why I don’t take the time to write.

Uh oh, the sun is staring to poke through the clouds which is a definite sign that I might end up doing something outside today instead of writing. I’m thinking the day might begin best with a Bubble Tea from the Fat Straw. Ohhhhh yeaaaaa!

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Portland (Overall a definite yes)

I have to admit that I did not heap a lot of expectations on Portland. I moved around a lot as a kid, and the one thing I realized early on is that a place really does not have a huge affect on my life. I can be happy or sad no matter if I live in Oklahoma, Portland, or even in an exotic place overseas. At first everything is exciting, new, and very different, but overtime it begins to seem routine again. Some people despise the routine, but I kind of like both the new and the routine. Honestly, I figure it is just a part of living life.

Beauty. So, having lower expectations for Portland means that the city definitely exceeded them. Actually, if I had high expectations for Portland the city still would have exceeded them. The sheer beauty of Portland and Oregon is incredible. One of our friends said that if you could measure beauty by units, the unit would have to be called an Oregon. People told me about the beauty of the N.W., but I had no idea it was this incredible.

Activities. Before we moved here we made a trip to Portland in order to see the city and meet some of the locals. They said that they thought of the city as an extension of their living space. All the coffee shops, restaurants, music venues, bars, public parks, hiking trails were just an extension of their living rooms. I like that idea, and I think it is definitely true here. There seems to always be something to do in Portland. For example, tonight there is a board game group going on at the Lucky Labrador, and Friday night is the beer and blog.

Politics. Everyone seems to be interested in politics here. When the debates are on, most local theaters are airing them on the big screen. One thing I find particularly interesting is that if you go to one of those theaters a quarter till the debate starts, the theater is full. Cool huh. I definitely live in a blue state. One of the coffee shops in downtown went from being called Back Space to Barack space. Everywhere I look I see Obama stickers, signs, and t-shirts. When I was out garage selling the other day I saw a sell with a huge sign that read “Everything is free with a donation to Obama.” Later in the day I saw a bake sale for Obama. It is definitely different going from the red state of Oklahoma to the blue state of Oregon, and particularly Multnomah county.

Struggles. It is not all roses here. I have almost decided that real estate is not for me, so I am considering pursuing education and training again. Most of my training is in this area, and I am good at it. It has been hard for us to meet friends here, especially fairly normal friends. Everything is new. I have to take about $900.00 worth of state tests in order to get permanent English/social studies certificates. We are both away from our families. In Tulsa, we lived just a 5 hour drive from our families, now we are a long flight away. This has not been easy, but we are coping with it. Sometimes I do feel lonely here, but I know it is just a matter of time before we make some friends and start to socialize more.

Stress. It is easy to stress right now with the $700 billion dollar bailout and the financial situation in America. Add to that the fact that I don’t have a job, and you can see why I might be stressed sometimes. On the other hand, this has been a very relaxing and calming time for me also. It has almost been like a personal sabatical.

Well, that is about it for now. I think I’m going to try to convince my boyfriend that we need to go to the Fat Straw tonight for bubble tea. Yummmm! So addictive.

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Biking or walking around Portland seems to be the preferred means of transportation. My boyfriend and I have parked the truck and are trying not to use it if possible. It results in physical exercise, as well as better personal finances. 🙂 In fact, when I drive the truck around now I realize how artificial and out of touch motorized transportation is to the soil, the plants, the people, and the earth in general.

It reminds me of how cars were viewed in one of my favorite books, Howard’s End, by E.M. Forster. In this book, that takes place in the early 1900’s, an old wealthy family meets a new wealthy family and is slightly put off by their love of all things modern. The newly rich family are considered to be “just a wall of newspapers and motorcars and golf clubs” behind which lies nothing but “panic and emptiness.”

Now that is an interesting thought. I am going to focus on how technology (represented by motorcars in the book) has led to “panic.” How much has modern technology actually enhanced our life with true, not fake or superficial, interactions with our fellow man? Has modern technology actually made our lives easier or does it mean that people just expect more of us? For example, take the teacher. In the past, he/she had to figure grades once a quarter or so. Now they are in a “panic” to figure the grades weekly using a computer program and download them to the office at least on a weekly basis. It is expected that teachers run around in a “panic” sending letters home to the parents and responding to their e-mail on a regular basis. Some schools have it set up where the teacher has to post their assignments daily on a website where the parents can access them every night. Does this make for more effective teaching? Are the students learning more from this extra effort by the teacher in a hurried “panic?” Honestly, I do think that modern technology has helped many parents and teachers keep students on track, but in the process it may sometimes be robbing the students of learning personal responsibility.
Also, consider the incredible “panic” everyone is in to stay on top of the current programs and trends in technology. We are rushing around trying to master the new items before they become obsolete and replaced by even newer and more advanced technology.

Having said all of this I have to admit that I like my technology. I am becoming addicted to my new Blackberry, and Twitter is definitely a friend of mine. I love my Ipod and feel absolutely isolated without the Internet for e-mail, information, directions. Yep, I am definitely hooked into the technology machine. I am being assimilated, like the Borg in Star Trek. In fact, I often think of the Borg when I see someone with one of those blue tooth ear pieces. It becomes an attachment to their body. I can see it now, slowly that piece of machinery will make it into informal pictures, then family pictures, and finally wedding pictures. “Resistence is futile.”

So, maybe riding our bikes and walking to places is Portland’s way of detaching from technology for a brief time and having a real interaction with the environment which surrounds us. Nature is so incredible and so accessible. We have to stop looking out the window at it from our heated office, close our laptops, turn off our radios, and actually walk out and experience the real that is nature. Ok, closing laptop now.

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