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.