Monday, December 28, 2009

Walking on Faith.

I don’t know about you, but I’m that sappy person who gets reflective at the end of a year. As I look back at 2009 I keep returning to the final night in my old house last December, the night before the new owner was to move in. I remember thinking: This is it. This is the first step in a new direction. I wasn’t sure of my direction, but I did know I was both excited and petrified. There was just one last item to attend to before I officially moved out of my house. I stepped out onto my deck, looked up at the star-filled sky, and focused on one thought:

In 2009 I would Walk on Faith.  

Sure, it all sounds a bit dramatic. But, you see, faith and I had never been the best of friends, mostly because I was a worrier. A good friend and former roommate used to say to me “Just have faith!” “But how can you trust something you can’t see?” I’d ask. I now realize that’s the beauty and mystery of having faith.  

As 2009 winds down to its final days I’ve come to appreciate how affective walking on faith has been for me. By putting my fears aside I’ve seen that things really do fall into place: from selling my house to leaving Atlanta to traveling across country and finally arriving in Portland, Oregon. It all fell into place.  

Snowshoeing along Trillium Lake this week I reveled in the magnificent beauty of my surroundings - the bright blue sky and Mount Hood standing majestic in the background. And I marveled at how having faith can make a world of difference in one’s life. A year ago I never imagined I’d be snowshoeing. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do but never knew how to get started.

I took a plunge and that plunge paid off. After years of squirreling extra money, I am finally starting to create the life I wanted. And while 2009 has certainly had its ups and downs I wouldn’t change it for a second.  

Best of all, I’d like to think faith and I have become lifelong friends.  

Monday, December 21, 2009

Going Soft.

This was a week of extremes. A week where I noticed I’m getting a little soft. And I’m okay with that.  

I spent four days at Mount Hood covering the story of three missing hikers. In those four days I witnessed tears, prayers, even a debate raging outside about whether the climbers should have been wearing beacons (locator devices). That debate made me wonder at what point in our own worlds and in our own heads do we forget that we’re talking about fellow human beings? These people were young, passionate, and making a positive difference in other peoples lives and discussion became more about an issue than simply about just them. 

The last night I was there was the one that really stands out. I hung out by a fire until 1 a.m., talking with a brother and a friend of one of the missing hikers, Anthony Vietti. The three of us discussed everything from our places in the world to whether we’d cut off any finger for a million bucks. (Um…no!). But what I will remember most is when Anthony’s brother turned to me and said, “my family and I are at peace now with what’s happened to Anthony…and you will be, too, when the time feels right.” 

But time probably just wasn’t right for me yet, because as I drove back to Portland after learning the search for the missing hikers had been called off, I felt a sense of unfinished business. I was almost home when the phone rang. It was ABC calling to see if I could fly out to Boise the next day to field-produce a heartwarming piece before Christmas. Good Morning America was doing a story on a sheriff delivering gift baskets and coats to those in serious need. Hearing that, it dawned on me: perhaps this was what would help me get to that peace. 

I arrived in Boise and, from the start, loved the town and the crew. ( Our assignment was to follow the sheriff for the next two days throughout beautiful Idaho.  

You can’t miss Sheriff Daryl Crandall. He’s the guy with the curled handlebar mustache and the big cowboy hat. On a wall near his office is a picture of him covered in marijuana leaves after a bust where they confiscated forty million dollars worth of the drug. I mentioned the picture to him and he asked if I wanted him to send me some. This surprised me, so I asked,”the weed?”  He exclaimed, “No! More pictures!” And we both laughed over it. 

Sheriff Daryl might appear tough, but he’s got a lot of heart. His excitement in delivering the gifts was obvious. As we went house to house, I felt a pang in my heart and tears well up. The looks on the recipients’ faces ranged from delight to surprise to embarrassment. It didn’t matter if it was the family of nine without any gifts under the tree, the elderly man who wore shoes a size too small, or the young mother whose yard was littered with garbage, animal traps, and thrown out food…one thing was clear: these folks would now have a Christmas.  

When the shoot came to an end, I couldn’t help myself: I had to give the Sheriff a big hug. Some might perceive it as an unnecessary gesture, but I guess I’m getting a little soft these days. And I’m okay with that.  

Monday, December 14, 2009

Make a Wish...

This year on my birthday I woke up and just stared at the ceiling feeling frustrated and, quite frankly, a little lost. Though I knew I had made the right choice in leaving a good job and starting fresh in the Pacific Northwest, I couldn’t help but wonder when would this unknown future of mine finally kick in. When would the leaves from the money tree start to fall? I decided to throw out a request to anyone listening, asking for some sign that everything would be okay on the road ahead. And then, I got out of bed to start my day. 

My initial birthday plan was to head out of Portland, find a strenuous hiking trail to conquer, then follow it by a soak in a natural hot spring. But bad weather scratched those plans so I opted for a hike locally.  

As I put on my trail shoes the phone rang. It was someone from ABC’s Good Morning America, wondering if I could drive out to Timberline Lodge --about an hour east of Portland -- and help produce the unfolding story of three missing hikers on Mount Hood. Without hesitation, I said, “absolutely!” He suggested I pack an overnight bag but not to be surprised if I were asked to stay even longer.  

I arrived at Timberline Lodge ( just as the snow started coming down hard. So I took in the historic landmark as quickly as I could. The lodge had been built in the 1930s under Roosevelt. It was adorned with beautiful art work, big stone fireplaces, and stairways with carved etchings. Its exterior also served as the Outlook Hotel in the movie The Shining. Pretty cool. 

But I wasn’t here to sightsee: I was here to work. And all the mayhem surrounding the missing hikers’ story brought back memories of both why I got into journalism and why I got out. The information we were receiving from authorities wasn’t looking good; one hiker had been found dead and his two companions were still missing. As the snowstorm raged on outside, the Sheriff’s office called off the search for the night.  

It was only then I realized I hadn’t eaten all day. The only people left were a reporter from the Oregonian and me. We decided to have dinner at the Timberline’s Cascade Dining Lodge, considered one of the finest restaurants in Oregon. Besides, it was still my birthday after all…why not treat myself? After an amazing meal with complimentary champagne and a delicious glass of pinot noir from a local winery, we topped the night off with an incredible dessert. Here I was celebrating my birthday with a handsome stranger and I was working hard, making some money. It was a far cry from the “lost” feeling I had at the start of the day. I went from melancholy in the morning to the craziness of a last minute job offer, to taking a trip afterall. Talk about a complete 180.  Or, well, at least a 160. 

And though I realized the events of the day weren’t necessarily the path to my *unknown future*, as I blew out my candle, I knew everything really would be okay. I thanked those special angels out there for giving me this renewal of hope -- and I made a wish that the hikers on Mount Hood were safe, warm, and filled with love.

Update: at this blog posting the two hikers remain missing and ground search efforts have resumed. Please keep the hikers and their families in your thoughts and prayers.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The FAT fight.

Flying, especially during the holidays, can be a big hassle. But my first trip out of Portland to see family in the Midwest was nearly perfect. And as I prepared to return to the Northwest I thought, “what could possibly go wrong?”

Turns out? A lot.

I arrived at the Detroit airport with luggage and license in hand. A US Airways employee, who we’ll call Jerome (because that’s what his name tag said), looked at my license and before I know it, I’m hearing him say: “You … license … 20 pounds lighter… back then.”


Was this guy for real? Did he really just say that?!

Here I was, carrying a backpack filled with organic food and feeling pretty good about my body.  I was even “good” about how I ate over the holiday. But this man’s comment brought me crashing down.

The scene that followed wasn’t pretty.

As I practically threw my “30-pound” suitcase at him, I hissed, “you should be careful what you say, mister.” He apologized. But it was too late. I had let him get to me. I fumed as I went through security. I fumed even more as security took away my yogurt, because we all know what kind of destruction lies inside an 8-ounce container of Greek yogurt.

I was so upset I couldn’t think straight. So I called US Airways to complain about Jerome. The lady on the other end of the phone was as appalled as I was and encouraged me to email customer relations. I quickly fired up my laptop only to find I’d have to pay $9.95 to get WiFi. Fine. I thought: I’d wait to get home to deal with the Jerome drama.

As fate would have it, Jerome was the person checking our boarding passes to get on the plane as well. I decided I’d ignore him. But as I handed him my pass, he apparently remembered me because he looked at me and said, “again, I’m very sorry.” I responded with a curt, “sir, I’ve already called US Airways.” Jerome looked away, visibly upset, and whispered, “okay.” And that was that.

But as I headed to my seat, I felt my throat constrict and tears well up. Why couldn’t I have just said, “that’s okay Jerome, we all make mistakes?” Instead I was as mean to him as he’d been to me. As I sat down, I thought about all that happened. It was so random. So out of the blue.

Until suddenly I remembered something from the night before. My sister-in-law and I had taken my nephews to the science museum for one last night of fun. When we gave the girl at the register our last name she mentioned she had gone to high school with one of my cousins who happened to be an amazing athlete in track and field. As we walked away I joked, “clearly, she wasn’t on my cousin’s track team.” It was a snide and totally unnecessary remark about this young girl’s figure ... an ugly comment about a perfectly nice girl who had done absolutely nothing wrong to me.

As I waited for the plane to take off it all started to make sense. It’s called Karma. So I thank you, Jerome, for your comment and the lesson I learned from this experience. And while flying during the holidays can sometimes be painful and annoying, it can also be incredibly enlightening.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Soaking up the holidaze...

There’s something to be said about returning home for the holidays; to the place where the people who know you best can say just the right thing to turn on your happy face or hit the button that turns you red with anger. One minute you’re laughing and the next your younger brother is making a joke about that adolescent girlie mustache you once had above your lip. During the holiday season this is more than sibling rivalry: it’s all out war with both of us digging deep, hoping to find the most humiliating story we can and share it with the rest of the family.

This rivalry also extends to my young nephews who can show absolute adoration for one another, then flip in an instant by slugging and tugging when no one is looking. Add to that the sugar buzz that comes with holiday treats and you’ve got full on laughing and crying from “Jojo keeps tickling his nuts!” to “D-man punched me in the stomach!” It probably didn’t help that I bought each of them fake poop as a present. They are boys after all; plus I figured my coolness factor would fly off the charts. What I didn’t anticipate was their non-stop re-enactment of taking a rather tough bowel movement. Next time they’re getting a fish.

But this wasn’t a holiday weekend filled with just nuts and slugs. For about an hour each night there was a calmness that settled over the house. What was this power that lulled little children into a mesmerized state of Zen? What could make little kids and adults laugh together in unison over the same joke? Well, his name is Spongebob Squarepants and I have new admiration for him. Years ago when I first discovered this somewhat flamboyant fictional cartoon character while visiting friends, I turned in amazement and whispered “is Spongebob gay?” to which my friend replied, “We don’t discuss that because it doesn’t matter either way”. And she was absolutely right. It doesn’t matter if he’s straight or gay because when his buddy Patrick comes prancing on the screen in fishnet stockings igniting laughter among a family of all ages, you can’t help but appreciate the humor on so many levels.

And the moral of the story this holiday season? Young or old, straight or gay, mustache or not? Family is family, regardless of blood, and when you have the opportunity to be together and share in the moment, take advantage of it.  Because these are the folks who will always be there for you, poop or no poop. 

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Age Old Game of Lying...

When I was a kid I couldn’t wait to get older. Now that I’m 42, that’s not the case so much anymore. But this week the age game seemed to play a starring role in my life. First, a friend confided she wasn’t sure how she’d react to turning 50, even though she’s years away. Then, another scolded me for asking a mutual friend her age, saying “you should never ask a lady her age.” What is that all about anyway?  Why not?  

The climax came when I discovered a guy I met shortly after moving to Portland had lied about his age. I’d always suspected it but now that I was certain, I couldn’t help but think “Really dudeman, this is how you start off relationships?” Shaving off five years of his age meant he was almost ten years older than me, not just the four or so I was led to believe. Which explains a lot… like the blank look he got on his face when I talked about watching The Jetsons every Saturday as a kid.    

The biggest thing about this to me is: why lie? What purpose did his lying achieve? Was he that insecure and sensitive about his age?  Are we ALL too sensitive about our ages? 

Obviously there’s a difference between lying about your age and refraining from revealing it. Regardless, I try to see age as just a number and I’m a friend to all numbers. Sometimes it’s a good thing, sometimes it’s not. When I was 27, I asked my 9-year-old neighbor if she thought a guy I liked might like me back… to which she shrugged and said, “I don’t know. I’m nine.”

This week I had friends over for a spaghetti dinner. Our ages ranged from 26 to 42. The weekend was consumed with college football surrounded by friends and lots of strangers. The ages probably ranged from 5 to 75. And every single one of those ages is perfectly fine. I’m a firm believer that having friends of all ages keeps us young. 

Life is short and the aging process is inevitable. Perhaps it’s our responsibility to represent our age whatever that number may be. Besides, no one gets out of here alive and the longer we’re here the older we get. So why fight it? Embrace it. Own it. Just don’t lie about it. 

Monday, November 16, 2009

Cool, hip and almost fearless...

I’ve always thought women who ride bikes on dirt trails are cool, hip, and fearless. And given the chance, I figured I’d try to be one of them. My friend Vicky is one of those women and this week she drove from Northern California to come visit me. She was also writing a piece for, an online magazine geared toward the bicyclist. In my opinion, it doesn’t get much cooler, “hipper” or more fearless than that.

Our plan was to ride a dirt trail at a nearby park. It sounded easy enough and it was… until we rode up to a single track and decided to give that a try instead. A single track is a dirt path typically only the width of a bike. But that’s not how *I* would describe this single track. This one was skinny and muddy and, frankly, I thought I was going to die. As I wobbled, weaved, and panted my way uphill, I silently prayed I wouldn’t fall into the rock-filled creek. Vic was cheering me on from the top. I, in turn, was secretly cursing her for making me do this. But in truth, when we got back to the main dirt drag, I felt exhilarated.  

That exhilaration lasted until we got back to my house, because that was when I found out that several of my former colleagues had been laid off that day. The live, streaming news service known as Live was no more, or at least it was not going to be the way I’d always known it. Having worked at the network for nearly 15 years, I had witnessed layoffs before but this one hit really close to home. was the place I had always felt most comfortable. And although I had left on my own in June, I couldn’t help but wonder what it would’ve been like had I stayed. I will always cherish the few pictures I have from my dotcom days.   

 One thing is certain:  there is life after CNN… and so far it’s pretty awesome. Anything is possible and there is so much out there to see. I mean, who would have thought five months after leaving the network I’d be trying something I never even put on my To Do list? Here I was in the Pacific Northwest; riding my bike on a single track, eating dirt, wearing dirt, and actually enjoying being one with dirt. For a brief moment in time I was cool, hip and almost fearless.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Call me superstitious...

I failed the knowledge portion of the Oregon driving test this week. I mean, who knew passing a person on horseback who’s raising his hand means the horse is nervous? And how many horses use Interstate 5 anyway? Add on top of that a $60 ticket for accidentally parking in a loading zone, then finish out the week with a flat tire after running over a nail, and there you have my unlucky week. Why all this misfortune? Simple: A black cat had crossed my path as the week began.  

Mind you, I have nothing against black cats as pets. It’s just when they cross my path, I get a little unnerved. 

Normally I would have turned the car around to avoid the situation altogether. But I had a friend with me and the last time I did that with a friend in the car I had to listen to him call me “crazy” all the way home.  

Well crazy is as crazy does and I’m not crazy. I just try to protect myself. It’s sort of like self-insurance, really. I knock on wood, avoid walking under ladders, and tend not to pick up pennies that are tail side up. But I wouldn’t describe myself as extremely-fundamental-superstitious. After all, I no longer lift my legs when crossing railroad tracks.   

And the week wasn’t all doom and gloom. From the street sweeper cleaning up the leaves to my friend Sarah, a poised and pretty woman, replacing my upper radiator hose in just minutes, there was plenty of positive too. Other moments included hiking up Multnomah Falls, catching sight of a rainbow after days of rain, and walking to Mt. Tabor, a few blocks from my house, to check out Mount Hood and a gorgeous sunset. 

Wandering around the park, I reminisced about the week that was and realized there were some lessons to be learned. First, study the driver’s manual first because twenty-six years of driving just doesn’t cut it. Second, failure comes in all forms. Deal with it and prepare to give the state of Oregon another five bucks to re-take the test. And finally, black cats wandering the streets of my neighborhood need to stay out of my path. Really, it’s for their own good. After all, I still haven’t passed that driver’s test yet. 

Writer’s note: this week’s blog is dedicated to my late cat Fatboy Sly, a fun-loving mostly black cat.

Monday, November 2, 2009

So old school it's new school.

I’ve often heard and said that duct tape is a must have in every single woman’s home. My admiration for this type of tape is pretty high up there. I mean, I’ve used it for everything from weatherizing my house to securing the front of my HVAC system! A month ago I decided to use it to stop a leaky radiator hose under the hood of my car. I figured if duct tape has always held up for me before, why would it ever stop? But, as will be the case with high expectations and delusional bliss, my duct tape was finally letting me down by coming apart and melting right off the hose. I guess every relationship does have its limitations after all. 

 The end came Halloween night on the way to a party with friends when, of course, we were all dressed in costume and ready for fun. We managed to temporarily fix the car problem, (with said beloved duct tape, of course), but the future of Subie remains uncertain. Though I do still love the tape, I’m not sure I can trust it anymore. 

The next day, with my friend Sarah visiting from Atlanta and without a reliable car, we took our friend Chris up on his offer to go sailing along the Columbia River on a gorgeous November day. With Mount Hood prominently featured in the background, the sheer beauty of our surroundings reminded me why I moved out here. Looking around, I also noticed how Captain Chris was surrounded by four single women on his sailboat… and can only assume he might be enjoying the beauty of his surroundings as well. 

This took me back to a conversation earlier in the week while visiting friends at their home as they taped their weekly podcast for Geek in the City The scene was so old school it was new school! Sitting around later, they told me about a former radio host who used to advise guys on how to pick up women. For example, he would tell them to find ATM receipts with large balances, write down their numbers and hand them out to the ladies so they’d be impressed by their financial status and return a call. Seriously? And this worked? According to my guy friends, it did.  

So I guess my advice to my single gal pals is to be very wary of guys who hand you their number on an ATM receipt with any kind of balance showing.  I don’t care what they say: that’s just kind of ridiculous. But then I remembered that all my gal pals aren’t the type to be led by big balances anyway. In many ways, these women are like me, just trying to find ways to keep things together in life… most likely with some nearby handy dandy duct tape. 

Monday, October 26, 2009

I spoke too soon...

Have you ever started off a week where things just don’t sit right or where someone innocently says something to you that sets you off in a downward spiraling direction? Maybe I’m being a little dramatic, but just as I wrapped up talking about the merits of “positive thinking,” I hit a wall. Starting from a potential client deciding not to move forward with a project, to chipping my front tooth while trying to pull a staple out of paper, I hit a wall.

Yeah, I know. It’s a bummer and I’m a curmudgeon.

Luckily I eventually came out of this self-created dark fog simply by realizing this was actually one of those *manageable* bumps in the road.

It turns out I wasn’t the only one having an off week. A friend of mine was going through what we’ll call “a transition” with her boyfriend. She called to talk and like two talented surgeons we took the situation apart layer by layer. Then, somewhere in the conversation someone said: “well, he’s in his mid-40s and he’s never been married”. Uh-oh. You probably know where I’m going with this. (Disclosure: my friend and I are in our 40s and have never married … yet).

The truth is that there are people out there who truly believe if you haven’t been married by a certain age you probably have “issues” too big to overcome. But doesn’t everyone have issues? I mean, if you’re married to the same person for 20 years and you see them day in and day out, aren’t you still going to have some issues at some point, whether they are with your companion… or perhaps even because of them?

Not to get too heavy here, but I pondered the “issues card” as I strolled around a local farmer’s market filled mostly with married couples, dating couples, and kids. And I continued to ponder it as I walked around my neighborhood taking in the beautiful fall colors with my friend’s 20-year-old nephew Hans who was visiting from Oregon State University. (More disclosure: Hans doesn’t have issues).

So here I am, 42 years old and never married. Does that mean I’m wracked with issues? Maybe. But my issues are cute and endearing -- at least to me. And I can’t help but secretly hold on to the possibility that there’s a special guy out there for me with a matching chipped tooth. We’ll meet, fall in love, marry…. and live happily ever after issues.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Poop on Positive Thinking

Earlier this week I caught an online episode of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. His guest was author and journalist Barbara Ehrenreich who wrote the book Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America. She mentioned she wrote the book after battling breast cancer and how she came out of the experience nastier, tired of people telling her to “stay positive”. Though I can see how that can wear on you during tough personal times, I would think living to tell your story is pretty positive. But, hey. That’s just me. She also referred to the bestseller The Secret ‘s notion you can control the world with your own thoughts and scoffed that if things don’t go your way, then you probably sent the wrong message to the universe. It was a tough interview to watch. This woman really brought me down! 

I’ve read The Secret and I’ll admit I’ve even tried out its message about the law of attraction; the idea that you can draw things to you. I tried to draw on a pair of size 4 pants. Didn’t work. I tried to draw producers from The Amazing Race to watch the entry tape I did with a friend. We’re still here.

Then, I finally decided to draw on the belief that walking on faith and staying positive to the idea that leaving a good job and moving to a new town with an unknown future could actually work.  And so far, it has. So there may be something to it after all. 

Still, as I rode my bike along the historic Columbia River highway I couldn’t help but wonder why Ehrenreich’s comments kept getting on my nerves. All week I felt agitated but didn’t know why. Could Ehrenreich be behind this agitation? I doubted it. Could it be the crazy unpredictable Portland weather I was finally experiencing? It couldn’t be. Then it occurred to me. All the positive thinking I’ve been doing might actually be taking shape: like settling into a home I like, getting back to girls’ night, and bringing in more work. Perhaps therein lies the source of my agitation: the fact positive thinking really is working with only minor bumps in the road. Ironic, isn’t it? That positive thinking actually working is causing negative agitation? I think it’s more that I’m not used to this, or at least recognizing this when it happens. Maybe positive thinking works when you prepare for what you want to draw in, yet stay in the moment. And if you do that, I really can’t see how you could be sending the wrong message to the Universe. 

Monday, October 12, 2009

Embracing my inner Hippie

Hippie. The word itself has many meanings depending on who’s saying it. This week, that word could probably have applied to me. I’m not sure if this is who I’ve always been, or who I might secretly want to be, or just one aspect of who I’m becoming. To be honest, I just gave it more thought writing those last four sentences than any time before. 

But I did dabble in the “who am I and what am I doing here” philosophy when I went to a one-woman show at a local Portland New Age bookstore after a friend suggested I check out Vanda Mikoloski She’s a Metaphysical Comic who very well may be on the cusp of full force mainstream. Vanda jokes about a lot of things including her strict Roman Catholic upbringing and how, at the age of 11, she discovered she was one with everything as she tried LSD. The way she tells that story had me doubled over with laughter. But while she jokes about it, she also admits you don’t get that “sense of wholeness and then forget about it”. Perhaps that has helped fuel her quest for enlightenment. Mostly, the take away from her show is not to take life so seriously.  

And I don’t. Or at least I try not to. But one thing I do try to take seriously is getting to know new and interesting people, like my friend Martin who I met randomly last spring as I was visiting Portland. Martin and his wife Sarah have lived here for more than a dozen years. They invited me on a boat ride along the Willamette River which divides Portland’s east and west side. As Martin and Sarah both said, it’s a great way to see the city. They were right.  

It was also a great way to decompress from a week where I lived hippie style, trying my hand at homemade granola, dehydrating fruit, making Greek style yogurt, returning to Bikram yoga, knitting scarves and just living an overall earthy life. I think I even got little glimpses of enlightenment…so I may have gotten in touch with my inner Hippie after all. Whatever that may mean. 

Monday, October 5, 2009

Knittn' Kitten ... Meow.

I’ve always wanted to knit. Now I can officially cross that stitch off my list.

I think people gravitate to knitting for many reasons: as a creative outlet, as a spiritual outlet, even as a source of meditation. No joke. Google it. My friend Jenn taught me the art of knitting during “girls craft night” this week. While I knitted, Jenn made jewelry and our friend Lara sewed. Joining us that evening were wine bottles number one, two, and three. I’m not sure what happened to number four. But as will be the case when women gather and drink, the topic of relationships, sex, and food popped up. In fact, the more the wine flowed, the more I was educated on the importance of going with the flow and staying open to all that comes your way in life. One minute I’m knitting and the next I’m handed a series of books: Breakfast in Bridgetown, Best Cat Houses in Nevada, and The Ethical Sluuuu… (sorry, the prude in me just won’t let me write it out).  

Suffice it to say, the only book I’ve felt a desire to pick up so far is Breakfast in Bridgetown, which is a guide to Portland meals. I’ve already hit up one of the featured food joints with a friend. Fat City CafĂ©, located in Multnomah Village, is about 10 miles south of downtown Portland. It’s a small, simple place decorated with license plates from across the country and has a basic but delicious fare of meat, potatoes, eggs and yummy homemade cinnamon rolls. For my first venture to turn out so well, I already know I’ll be referencing this book again.

After breakfast I ventured to nearby Ryser Farms to kick off the autumn season. Want good pumpkin? Go to your local farm. At Ryser’s I learned there’s an art to picking pumpkins. Some say it’s all about the color. Others say it’s all about the stem. And as I wandered around the pumpkin patch, just doing my thing and going with the flow, I realized the same three topics coming out again. I was surrounded by hundreds of pumpkins (food, of course): some big, some small, and many with distinctive stems. So many choices….So many decisions (much like relationships can be). And through the blaze of orange I couldn’t help but wonder if there is such a thing as the “Ethical Pumpkin” and how to tie that in that last subject too. But, again, the prude in me has decided… nah…I don’t need to write it out. 

Monday, September 28, 2009

My First Gig

I played Mom this weekend.  

Sort of.  

I spent the weekend with two cool kids, Megan and Ben, while their parents, Lisa and Ross, took off for a much needed getaway. I know. I sound like a super nice friend, right? And I’d like to think I am. But truth is, negotiations for this event began long ago. In exchange for babysitting, they gave me a great couch that pulls into a bed. My friends even threw in a bonus coffee table as part of the deal. Of course all this time I’m thinking: “how hard can it be to watch a thirteen year old and a nine year old”?

Turns out the kids were terrific but playing the role of “mom” takes chauffeuring to a whole new level. I drove from home to school to home to swim practice, then back to home. The next day I drove to Mount Hood for a swim meet and then back to home for lunch. After a brief pause to paint the coffee table and make dinner, it was back to driving again to drop Megan and Ben off for her babysitting job. I absolutely have a newfound respect for parents, especially single moms and dads. 

When my mom called to check in I happened to mention that I was babysitting for a friend. There was a long pause. Then in her thick Lebanese accented voice came: “So this is what it all comes down to?” As if I had made some new crazy career choice by deciding to go from senior producer to senior babysitter!  

Of course I had forgotten to tell my mom about a job that came to me earlier that week. Three months and ten days after leaving CNN, I found myself at the University of Oregon on the field of Autzen Stadium, watching the Ducks football team during their morning practice. I was field producing for CBS College Sports. In many ways it felt good to be back in the game, doing what I know so well.

I told someone recently I’d like to keep doing what I do well while I discover what my passion is. That passion could be as simple as hiking a trail, planting a garden, or, as I found as the weekend winded down, biking with friends to Sauvie Island just outside Portland. Or it could end up being something chaotic and complicated and yet for me to discover. 

And though I can’t say if that passion will turn out to involve children or being a chauffeur, as my unusually active week drew to a close, I found myself missing Megan and Ben.  

Missing playing mom.    

Sort of. 

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Saturn-Uranus Factor

Saturn and Uranus need to kiss and make up soon because it’s making my life a little complicated. And I’m not a big fan of complicated. Apparently Saturn and Uranus are in opposition now through the end of this month. I saw one blog talking about how this is suppose to be a natural evolutionary cycle where you have to let go of the old in order to bring in something that’s needed for the “now”.  Great. More letting go. As if that isn’t an intense pain sometimes. A friend even forwarded me an email on “4 survival tips” during this period. So if the last several days has left you confused, angry, stunned or irritable, you might want to follow these tips: 

1.     Stay out of arguments 

2.    Invoke Divine Order

3.    Send positive energy

4.    Conserve your Shakti

Shakti is like your chi. We all have it. How we use it is up to us.  At one point this week I stumbled over a personal matter and it took six female friends to get me over the bump. SIX! That’s a whole lot of talking on the phone in one day. And they all pretty much told me the same thing: just wait and see where my shakti falls.

Gal pals. My friend Mindy has been visiting me in Portland. She lived here ten years ago so while she re-explored I navigated us around, sometimes into unknown territory like the gaming world. On Mindy’s first night we stopped by a local gaming store to meet up with some friends of mine. It was 9pm and Guardian Games was hopping inside ( People were playing everything from Munchkin to D&D to Warhammer. Once upon a time in a faraway land I went out with a guy who got into this type of gaming. I didn’t get it then but I kind of sort of get it now.

Gaming. Portland’s Saturday Market. The Columbia River Gorge. Costco. Even a little gathering at my place. I guess this week hasn’t been all complicated. So while this Saturn and Uranus duke it out, there is a bright side; it only comes around every 40 years so maybe I should just appreciate it. 

Monday, September 14, 2009

Couch Surfing Portland

I hosted a couch surfer this week. His name is Seth and, as it turns out, he’s a super nice guy who just graduated from Georgia and is moving to Seattle to work with Americorp.  

The deal we made was he’d stay on my couch (actually a bed upstairs) in exchange for bringing me some boxes I had left behind in Atlanta. Seth is fast becoming a professional couch surfer, joining the ranks of some 1+ million couch surfers world wide. The mission behind this project is to “create a better world, one couch at a time”. I’m not sure if Seth’s world is any better after staying in my spare room but it was the first bed he’s slept in since August 1, so I can’t imagine it’d be any worse. You can check out what couch surfing is all about at 

Everyone has a story: it just depends if you’re willing to hear it. This week I was all ears. My friends Robert & Mike live in my neighborhood. I randomly met Robert at an art walk downtown a month or so ago. Amazingly, he and his partner live 5 blocks from me. Robert is a painter and his partner Mike is a teacher. Robert once modeled and walked the runways of Europe. Both have authored books. And how cool is it that they own a desk that belonged to the 3 Stooges? 

This week also took me to outside Lebanon, Oregon, with a man I’ve been dating to check out parts for a ‘63 Studebaker he’s working on. In the process I befriended the wife of the Studebaker guru we came to see. Again, I was treated to a great story. While the men spent the better part of the day outside, Jean and I gabbed inside. I found her story compelling. Her Great Aunt raised her. At 16 ½ she and her high school sweet heart moved to California. They married. Eventually she kicked him out and then married John, the Studebaker guru. She’s worked in an office environment, owned her own hair salon, sold that salon, retired. She knits, sews, cans food, dries herbs and on this day was cooking a filet mignon in a crock pot.

My best friend Mindy arrives this week and our high school friend Lisa, who lives here in Portland, joins in the festivities, which will include a girls’ sleepover.  Lucky for me, Lisa and her husband Ross just gave me their couch, which means couch surfing Portland continues.  

Monday, September 7, 2009

Cardinal Rule on Dating...

8 1/2 months after selling my house and sort of drifting around I’m finally in a place I can call my own, at least for the next six months. Home really is where the heart is and you don’t have to own it to love it. I had forgotten what I had kept and what I had left behind. It definitely made unpacking interesting. “Hello teapot”. “Hello mugs”. “Hello unnecessary crap”. Home is also where your friends are. This week Skype took me to my girls in Atlanta for a play date and catch up over cocktails. I also got some one on one time via skype where I learned something new about an old friend. I love technology. I don’t always get it but I love it. I'm starting to think video chatting is the best thing since chocolate peanut butter ice cream was invented. 

As I settle into a new home I'm realizing my online dating membership ends this week. Honestly, I'm relieved. While I’ve actually met some interesting guys, the process itself is exhausting; especially the guys who send email after email with question after question, asking me what I like, what I don’t like, what’s my favorite place in Portland so far ... yet with no request to meet me in person. And I get it. I get that some guys do this because women say they want a man to get to know them first. Well, not this gal. If I wanted a pen pal I would send a note up in a balloon. Seriously, I think it’s great to go back and forth but sooner rather than later it helps to say “hey, would love to grab coffee or a drink and meet up”.

Recently, over drinks with friends of both sexes I asked what they thought was the cardinal rule of dating. I got all kinds of answers, everything from "don’t date" to "it’s all about the package", or my favorite: "it’s always good to sleep with crazy but never fall asleep with crazy".  

Monday, August 31, 2009

Dating the new Old Fashioned way

I did something a few weeks ago that I said I would never do; never in Atlanta, never anywhere. With one exception. I would only do this if I were the new girl in town.

Now I am. So I did … ONLINE DATING. 

Everyone’s doing it and if they’re not doing it, they know someone who is. Plus, there are hundreds of online dating sites out there. I chose to join, mainly because I came across a 30% off coupon for it. Let me tell you, walking into this dating scene is a little bizzaro; you’ve got all types of people swimming in the same pool, from the divorced… the widowed… or the never married “but been in a committed relationship before” type of guy.

One thing is certain: I’m getting quite the education. 

Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

  1. I’m in unchartered waters.
  1. Everyone has a viewpoint on “who pays when” etiquette
  1. Dating in my 40s versus dating in my 20s & 30s is a completely different experience; if a guy isn’t into me, I’m okay with that. Next…

With only a few hiccups, the experience has been fun. Dates have included a concert at the zoo, breakfast at the “original” Original Pancake House, a french pastry shop, and the Canby, Oregon Cruise-In, featuring old model cars. 

I no longer think the pain and pleasures of plunging oneself into the dating world has to do soley with geography but more to do with state of mind. My month long membership is up in a little over a week. After that, I go free agent for awhile. Should be interesting. Meantime, I have plenty to occupy myself with, like putting away the gypsy lifestyle I've led the last 9 months and settling into a new house as a renter. Single girl + new town + new home = Bliss. 

Monday, August 24, 2009

Subaru & Sexuality

I went on a date last week, my first in Portland. I still laugh thinking about him telling me how challenging it is here for men, how they “compete with straight guys and lesbians.”

My date restores old cars as a hobby and he had just driven in from Olympia where he had picked up a ‘63 Studebaker. I, on the other hand, met him in my reliable yet slightly beat up ‘98 Subaru Forester. Naturally the subject of cars came up and when I mentioned what I drove, like others before him, his eyebrows raised up ever so slightly. And just like that I found myself once again defending my love of Subaru as a straight girl.

The more I thought about this stereotype that only lesbians drive Subarus, the more I realized of all my lesbian friends I only know one who actually drives a Subaru. Of all my straight gal pals, five own a Subaru. I did however do some googling and binging and found a website geared toward gay women calling the Subaru Forester the #1 car for lesbians. How they qualify that is beyond me ... and what if gay women around the world don't like this label? Ever thought of that? But all this got me thinking, maybe it’s time to declare the 1998 Subaru Forester the #1 car for Lebanese women? I am, after all, 100% Lebanese.

And “Suby” has been excellent in getting me to where I need to be when I can’t ride my bike. That includes a great show at the Oregon Zoo a few days ago. JJ Grey & Mofro opened for Susan Tedeschi. All were fantastic. Right before a show the zoo releases various birds. On this night they released a red tailed hawk, a bald eagle, and a bird that hails from Africa; a great start to a really nice evening. In fact, a great weekend. On Saturday I hopped in the car with three gal pals and we headed to a farm to go fruit picking. Of course, we veered off course for a few hours to hit up some yard sales, but it made for a well rounded day of shopping.

And it just occurred to me that my married friend Lara who drove that day did so in her … Subaru.