Monday, April 26, 2010

Cold Noses & Wild Rides

I was talking with a friend this week who was saying how part of our American mentality is that we define ourselves by the jobs we have because it gives us a role to play and a purpose. She said that, for some, having a job is just an excuse to have fun on the weekends, even if that “fun” is sleeping in an extra hour or two on Saturday. 

So true. 

For weeks, I’ve been wondering how I got to a place in my life where nothing really defines me. I leapt away from a fixed career path to a road without much signage, and now I don’t even know where this twisting super highway will take me tomorrow. To make matters worse, I have no reference point from my past to help figure out what to do today. I’m making it up as I go, or at least I’m trying to. When I moved to Portland I found this uncertainty exhilarating, but eight months later it’s just frightening, even more so when my long-trusted friends and family are thousands of miles away.

Lucky for me I have a cell phone plan that allows for unlimited minutes and friends and family with equally unlimited compassion. 

Talking with my friends Bryan and Alysia this week, Bryan pointed out that this is a time of big transition and change in my life.  He told me to enjoy the ride because, “you don’t get opportunities for life changes like this everyday.” And he’s right. Alysia jumped in to say that of all her friends she would willingly throw me to the dragons because she knows I’d battle the beasts and come out just fine. Thank you, Alysia. … I think. 

And while I get that sometimes we have to let go of parts of our past and present for new beginnings to take shape, the process itself has not been easy. The last few months have been like a slow unraveling thick rope. 

It seems the only constant this year has been a volunteering gig I began with the Pixie Project, a great local animal organization. (  

I started as a volunteer who would help keep the kitty room clean, but after scrubbing out cat boxes and throwing three bags of dirty litter in the garbage, I quickly switched to dog-walking duty. It’s a win-win situation: I get to hang with some fun-loving dogs and they get a walker who treats them like one of her own. 

So, while I continue to work my way out of limbo and try not to get mired in confusion and doubt about my unknown future, I know at least once a week there’s a dog waiting to see me, tongue hanging and tail wagging.

And for now that might be just enough to define me as I put on my helmet and fasten my seat belt, because this ride I’m on is one I’ll remember forever.  

(please click play button to watch video)

Monday, April 19, 2010

Beefaroni with a side of Ruffles.

While I wouldn’t characterize myself as a “foodie” – I used to get most of my cooking tips from watching Bravo’s Top Chef  - I really love fresh, simple, healthy eats. We’ve all heard the common saying that it is better to eat to live than to live to eat, but, honestly, I waver a lot when it comes to that advice. I’ve discovered that the quality of my food choices depends on what’s happening in my life at the time.  

I was having this very conversation with an acquaintance when he turned to me and said he would be having his own healthy dinner later that night. I asked him what he’d be making. He said - with a completely straight face - “beefaroni with a side of Ruffles.”  He pointed out his meal had two vegetables: potatoes and tomatoes. I didn’t argue. 

What I will argue is that having a farmer’s market nearby really does make a difference in how I eat, and I’ve been lucky to have one near me in almost every city in which I’ve lived. I first stumbled upon tofu at Ithaca’s outdoor farmer’s market and it was at the Dekalb Farmer’s Market in Atlanta that I discovered how tasty squid can be. 

Living in Portland has elevated my palate to yet another level, and I attribute much of that to having so many farmer’s markets nearby. On any given day, I’m cooking up bok choi, tai soy, and chard in ways I didn’t think possible before. This past week I biked to the farmer’s market by my house just to have tamales for lunch and listen to some live music. The tamales tasted fresh and gooey and cost $3.

My new town has more than 40 markets, and the largest is the Portland Farmer’s Market which draws anywhere from 13 to 16 thousand people each Saturday.  

I recently took my first trip there with my friend Dave who’s a consultant with the market. The experience was nothing short of food overload. There were massive amounts of fresh vegetables, meats and cheeses all coming from local farms. The market was crowded with people walking around with bags full of produce. For my part, I enjoyed a delicious breakfast burrito, courtesy of Dave.

I truly believe buying local and eating local keeps us healthy and more connected to our communities and each other. But healthy is as healthy does, and who knows, maybe “beefaroni with a side of Ruffles” would be a big hit at any given Portland farmer’s market, just as long as the potatoes and tomatoes come from a local organic farmer. 

(please click play to watch video)

Monday, April 12, 2010

How Mister Jackson-Hewitt Set Me Straight.

April 15th might be the national dreaded tax deadline, but, April 7th was the big day for me. It was my tax day, and it was both awesome and painful. 

The painful part started pretty much as soon as I walked in the door and sat down. The guy doing my taxes looked at me, turned his head to my W2 form, looked back at me and said after a prolonged silence, “You made this much the first six months of the year, and then you made this much the last six months?” He was referring, of course, to my salary as a CNN producer versus the bacon I’ve brought home as a freelance producer in Portland. No question, there was a huge gap.  

My immediate response was to ask him where the bathroom was located. Once there, my eyes welled up with tears and I thought: “What the hell have I done?”  It wasn’t that I missed the career I left behind or necessarily the city I spent 14 years in, but really, what was I doing with my life? 

I have no regrets with the choices I’ve made to get to Portland. But seven months after the big move I find myself at several crossroads with work, relationships, and finances. I’m still figuring things out and I’m learning I can’t balance it all - at least not right now.  

When I started the journey West it all made sense: Take the summer off. Bike more. Hike more. Find a place to live. It was easy. It felt right. It all worked out. 

When I sat back down across from Mister Jackson-Hewitt, who still had a suspicious look on his face, I said, “Look, I left a really good job to move out here, begin a new life and start my own business. Life just got in the way of things going perfectly.” And just like that he softened up and started hooking me up in ways small business owners get hooked up.  

The painful part was over.  

But later this week I was still dealing with the noise in my head about these tough professional and personal matters. So, over the next few days I did what I always do when I need to clear my head: I went hiking by myself and with friends. I also reunited with an old favorite of mine: the Dirty Martini. There’s something to be said about a good workout followed by the simplicity of a good stiff drink. 

And as I refocus and re-prioritize, yet again, I know the path I’m about to create is the right one: to find my place professionally and continue to build a foundation of friendships. Once I get that going the rest will fall into place.  

By the way, the awesome part of tax day is learning that I’m getting a really nice tax refund. So, I guess taking time off for myself, even if it was an extended amount of time, really has paid off.

(please click play button to watch video)

Monday, April 5, 2010

Power to the Flower

Some of the moments where I’ve felt my sexiest happened when I was deep in the dirt gardening. There’s just something sensual about running your fingers through black gold, digging holes, and seeing big fat worms weave their way through your garden.

When I bought my home in Atlanta I realized, “Hey, this is all mine. I can do anything I want with my house.” And I did.  

Soon I was tearing up my front yard and creating a garden from scratch. I was transporting azaleas from front to back and I was digging up the area closest to the street because that was the only spot with full sun. I’m sure neighbors thought I was nuts, but this was happening at a time of personal transition in my life where I was trying to recover from a situation where I felt betrayal and loneliness. It was almost like I was indulging in self-therapy. All I needed was my handy shovel to unearth the land and work through my problems. 

In the process of physically working my land I discovered I not only had a new passion but I was also centering my mind again. By positioning plants in their proper places and watching them thrive, I felt personally empowered.  

Nowadays, as a renter in Portland, my gardening consists mostly of flower pots. I don’t spend a lot of time with my hands deep in these pots, but then again I’m in a different transition point of my life.  

Still the power of the flower is very much within me.

When a friend suggested this week that we jump in the car and daytrip to Woodburn, Oregon, for the annual tulip festival I was more than happy to join in the journey. We pulled up to one of the most beautiful views I’d seen in a long time: acres and acres of tulips in all kinds of varieties and in all kinds of colors. It was easy to get lost in the beauty of it all.  

Mud was everywhere, on my shoes and on my jeans. As I gingerly made my way through rows of tulips I couldn’t help but think of my old garden and how much I missed it. And then it hit me. It was through that garden that I got to where I am today.  

And while I continue to figure out my place on both a professional and personal level, I know all those years spent tugging weeds out of stubborn soil and taking chances on near dead shrubs, has helped me work through my fears and doubts about making change in my life. I realize if I could build that garden and maintain it like I did for years, then I could certainly do that with my own world today. And how sexy is that?

((please hit play button to watch video))