Tuesday, December 31, 2013

In With the New

2013 has been an awesome year (see previous post), but the last few weeks have been sufficiently out of the realm of my usual routine to make me eager for a fresh year and a return to normalcy. Five days before Christmas, I had surgery, and precisely a week later, on the 27th, so did Bill. Both were non-emergency outpatient procedures, but enough to keep each of us on painkillers and in bed for the better part of a week. Bill took amazing care of me, along with the help of my excellent friends, and by the time Bill's turn rolled around, I could get around enough to take care of him. We had a nice low-key Christmas with my parents visiting, and sunshine for three days, with lots of good food and many games of Bananagrams. At this point we've still got a few days of laid-up-ness to go, and we're both good and ready to get back to normal. We both lead active lives, and tend to guage the goodness of a day by our level of productivity during it, and when you're healing and can't move around too much, all of that kind of goes out the window. So we've been playing cribbage, reading a lot, knitting (me), learning to knit (Bill), watching The Woodwright's Shop on PBS, and finding out that we can spend two weeks in almost constant contact with each other without conflict (yay!).

I won't be fully back to normal for another month or so (most aggravating of all, no biking for me until almost February), but returning to work routines and being able to take care of ourselves will be awfully refreshing (I took two full weeks off work, so I've still got another week free. I miss going to work, but also I don't). I've never had surgery before, and it's been ages since I've had any illness that kept me inactive for more than a few days, so it's been a huge adjustment. It was kind of nice to have an excuse to lay around watching movies for the first few days, but that gets old pretty fast. I'm up to taking a 15-minute walk every day, and am already restless get back to hiking and biking and other activities to combat the cloying gray that is a Portland winter.

I'm happy to greet the new year, and to look forward to traveling to new places, working on new projects, pursuing my public health career and of course becoming an aunt in just a few short months (mid or late March!). I've been dreaming of camping trips with Bill to sunny dry places, trips to the coast for sun, wind and salt air, backyard barbecues on warm summer nights, getting back on my bike for miles and miles, and working with new recipes from my Christmas present cookbooks. With any luck, and a little bit of effort, the new year will contain all of these things and more.

So it's out with the old, in with the new. 
I wish you and yours a bright, happy, healthy and adventuresome 2014!

Monday, December 30, 2013

My 2013 List, or How I Somehow Managed To Keep My Resolutions

On December 31st, 2012, I found myself unpacking my life into a tiny apartment after yet another move, feeling uprooted and scarred and very much ready for a new beginning. I had ended a relationship less than a month earlier, was pretty much broke, and had been homeless and living with family for three weeks over Christmas and while I tried to find a new place to live and divide up several years' worth of cohabitation with my ex. It was New Year's Eve, and I spent it at home, by myself, unpacking and organizing and ruminating on what I hoped the next year would bring.

Before this year, I had never stuck to a single New Years resolution. Not that I've made that many, but I've never had the wherewithal to follow through or keep up with what I had resolved to do. By this point in my life, I've realized that it is pointless for me to make goals which are phrased in the "I will do ___________ every day/week/month" format. I will be enthusiastic and keep up with whatever it is for approximately two weeks, and then fall off the wagon.

2013 was different. This time I put my "resolutions" in the form of one-time activities to do at some point in the course of the year. In between sorting clothes and organizing kitchen cabinets late in the evening on New Years Eve, I cleared off a corner of my kitchen table, cut the flap off of one of my moving boxes (I couldn't find any paper at the time), dug out my multi-colored Sharpies, thought about all the things I'd been wanting to do but had been putting off (in many cases, for years), and came up with this:

(Photo clearly taken some time into the year, starting to check things off)

I've been referring to this as my 2013 Bucket List. To keep myself accountable to this list, I put it up on the wall in my living room, where it is visible for me and all visitors to see. And, for the first time, my goals for the year happened.

Portland State University, in June.

Granted, earning my MPH was kind of a gimme since I was already well on my way, but it still feels like an enormous accomplishment. And, as one of my MPH classmates pointed out, "Do Yoga (lots!)" is not a measurable objective, and thus, unsurprisingly, is the only one I didn't fully complete. But considering that I did yoga regularly for the first few months of the year I'm not going to chalk it up as a total failure.

2013 is the year when I fully comprehended the fact that if you really want to do something, you can. This was a year of making things happen, and it feels fantastic. It seems to me that 90% of the time, it is just my brain that stands between me and a particular accomplishment. Things I thought I never could do are just that: things I thought I never could do. In the space of a mere 12 months, I went from thinking, "Well, I could never do _________ " to realizing that doing _________ is totally feasible and just takes a little courage and maybe some creative planning. This opens up the entire world of possibilities, and takes away all the negativity I used to have around goals that seemed wildly unrealistic.

 Snack break while backpacking with Bill in the Three Sisters Wilderness in August.

Without intending to sound cocky, I'm incredibly proud of myself for achieving all the activities I set out to do this year. And, let's be frank here, as good as it feels to have other people be proud of you for something, being proud of yourself feels even better. After years of shying away from potentially fun activities because they seemed "too wild" or "too immature" or some such hogwash, this year I really went for it. After making many promises and never keeping them, this year I followed through. This was the year that I promised a friend I would come visit her in San Francisco, and made sure it actually happened. This was the year I made a split-second decision to take a solo trip to Canada, and had a complete and utter blast exploring a new city by myself. This was the year I rode my bike more than ever before, and felt healthier and happier than I had in ages. This was the year I challenged myself with more advanced knitting and sewing projects, and began to really understand what I love about photography.

Baby pants!

 Baby vest!

Using Bill and his bike to experiment with panned motion shots for my photography class in October.

Other great things happened in my life during 2013, but these are the ones that happened because I took control of them in a way I never thought possible. It wasn't just because they were on a list on my wall, although certainly that helped. I don't know why exactly, and I don't think it comes from any particular inner strength or something; somehow I just had to get very real with myself about what I needed from life, in a way I hadn't ever done before. Part of that meant ending a toxic relationship; once I realized I could survive the pain of that, I felt able to challenge myself by pursuing the other things that intimidated me. 

Victoria, BC, on Labor Day weekend.

Suffice it to say, at the end of 2013, I am a very different person from the one I was at the close of 2012. Just shy of another New Year's Eve, I am counting my blessings, feeling grateful for what has been probably the best year of my adult life to date, and am working on my new list of challenges for myself in 2014.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Internet Again

When I moved into my apartment a year ago (really? a year? yep.), I decided not to get internet at home, as I was both poor and in need of as much serenity as I could find. To be honest, I've loved not having internet at home. I'm still poor, of course, but I'm now back in the land of wireless at home, for a variety of reasons.

Oddly, the things I missed most without it did not include the ability to look anything up at a moment's notice, or watching things via the internet. It became an easy routine to write things down, and look them up during a free moment at work, or during the next trip to the library, and with the Netflix DVD plan and an excellent public library system, I didn't miss out on movies or TV shows. Mostly, I missed listening to things. I have lots of good music on my computer, and the ability to listen to the radio via my iPod, but in the last few months I've really found myself yearning for the ability to stream back-to-back episodes of my favorite radio programs, and missing my Pandora stations with a passion. I could take my laptop to the library and download the most recent This American Life episode or one story at a time from The Moth, but I was getting a little greedier than that. (I'm still smart phone-free, so no ability to download things that way either).

I've also really missed being able to spend spare minutes on blogging and actually commenting on other peoples' blogs, rather than passively reading. I think this change will enable me to be a bit more active in that realm, although I'm pretty sure I've said things like that before, so we'll see. I have sorely missed the ability to take pictures, upload them, and put them straight into a post, without having to wait a day or five until the next library run. 

Besides the desire to mix up my listening habits and reinvigorate my blog, the ability to job search from home will make a big difference these days (that job search...yeah. Slow and frustrating are the two adjectives that come to mind.). Lastly, and most self-indulgently, I will be having surgery this Friday (nothing too major, don't worry), and the idea of being laid up at home for a week or two with limited options for entertainment does not really appeal to me. Hence, internet.

Last, but certainly not least, I once again have the ability to Skype and Facetime with far-off friends, something I have very much missed.

I'm hopeful that the habits I've developed while living without internet at home will stick with me after this transition. Or, more accurately: I hope I will have the willpower to maintain my minimal internet habits from now on. I used to waste hours getting sucked into YouTube and Wikipedia when I could be active and productive, and I will be moving forward with the intention of using internet predominantly for listening, not watching (I can achieve so much while listening, but nothing while watching), and hopefully my main activities apart from email will be job searching, recipe and knitting pattern discovery, and blogging. I'm not setting up Netflix streaming, but just keeping the DVD plan. And while I usually watch movies in bed (I don't have a couch), the rule I'm setting for myself is that I can't use the internet while in bed, unless I am sick/laid up for some reason.

So, I found a basic wireless plan for $30 a month, received my router and set it up with minimal cursing but a week's delay as the company had to fix an outside cable, and I'm actually posting this from home.

It's been a good journey, this one. I much prefer my low-internet habits and outlook, and I feel so much better about life when time spent on the internet is for practical and intentional reasons, rather than the time suck of 'I'll just watch this one video' which then turns into another hour burned. We'll see how it goes this time around.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

A Mountain Tree

My Christmas tree this year is a wild one! I loathe the perfectly uniform farmed trees, but not as much as I loathe not having a tree at all, so for the past several years, I've purchased a small one from one of the Christmas tree lots in town. None of them have remotely resembled the trees I grew up with, cut from my parents property. But a couple years ago, I discovered that you can buy a permit for just $5, which allows you to cut a tree in the National Forest. Last year I didn't have a tree, and this year Bill was excited about the adventure too, so on Sunday afternoon we drove up to Mt. Hood. We stopped to buy the permit, and headed up one of the many National Forest roads branching off of the main highway on the lower part of the mountain. We didn't leave ourselves a lot of daylight, so we didn't go too far, but a short wander up the snowy road and we found the perfect fir tree on the edge of the road (as well as the biggest mountain lion tracks I've ever seen. So cool. Also, spooky.).

Apparently our spatial skills were lacking somewhat. I knew we'd have to give the tree a haircut to make it fit in the corner of my apartment, but when we got the tree inside, we both cracked up, because it took up exactly half of my living room.

 Bill's having a snack after landlocking himself behind the tree. We were both on the verge of getting hangry by the time we got back to my place.

I had to cut at least a foot off of all the lower branches, and more off the back, so it would fit back against the wall in the corner. Handy, because this gave me some extra greenery for decorating my apartment and office. I'm very happy with it. For me, this is what a Christmas tree should look like: not groomed, not uniform, covered with multi-colored lights and an eclectic mix of ornaments.

My tree has lots of birds on it this year (not a Portlandia reference, I swear. I just like birds.). I already had a number of bird ornaments, and then I got sucked into one of the many antique shops in my neighborhood last week and found a bag of these beautiful and hilariously perky ones from Japan, which now are perched all over my tree.

Only two weeks till Christmas! (How the heck did that happen?!)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

In the Snowy Woods

Bill and I spent Saturday at the property of some family friends of his, in the northern Coast Range. Folks were gathering to "welcome back the Coho," the salmon that swim up the stream there to spawn. The property was beautiful, made even more so by the few inches of new powder snow. We've had very very wintery weather lately, highly unusual for Portland, and had a string of several days where the temperature didn't get over 25 F. When there's moisture in the air and 20 mph winds, that's really chilly! It wasn't windy in the mountains, and the sky was perfectly clear and sunny, but although I was wearing two pairs of wool socks, thermal long underwear, and four layers of long sleeves under my big wool coat, it was still uncomfortably cold when we weren't hiking around or gathered by the fire. We were told later by our host that an hour before we showed up, they measured the air temperature there at 8 F. Even so, six hours spent in the gorgeous wintery woods with a group of excellent people and amazing scenery made for an fantastic day.

The cabin was toasty warm, with big pots of soup and chili and hot cider on the wood stove. All three totally hit the spot after hiking around in the snow for two hours.

We saw three salmon, and other folks saw a couple more- more than the property owners had seen in a few years! They were enormous, for so small a creek. This one was about 2.5 feet long. 

We crossed the creek on this somewhat dodgy cable crossing, which had my feet about a foot off the very very cold rushing water. For some reason I couldn't stop giggling the whole time I was pulling myself across.

Bundled up Bill scanning the creek for salmon.

We thought we would be miserable being outside all day on such a cold day. Instead, we had an absolute blast.