Monday, July 25, 2011

Honeymoon Time!

I need to make this short because I have a long list of things to do, and my time is dwindling!

We leave in 26 hours for our 11 day trip to paradise. FIJI! When leaving work on Friday (July 22nd) I couldn't believe that I wouldn't be back until August 9th. August 9th? That's insane! That's incredible! That's enough time to forget I have a job!

We are super excited to get out of cloudy, chilly, dreary Portland and partake in some sun and warm, clear waters. Portland typically has fantastical summers but this year has been nothing to write home about. Seriously. Just ask Sad Keanu. It's been a joke.

I decided to check the weather in Fiji, just in case. April through November is their dry season and is also considered their Winter. I assumed that the weather would be great - not too hot, sunny, cooler at night, etc. Well, GUESS WHAT? Rain and thunderstorms predicted for the next 10 days. AHHHHH!!! I can't escape it!!!! I am hoping that it will be tropical, exotic rainstorms that last mere minutes before the wind gods whoosh them away with their all-powerful breezes. I guess I need to keep my fingers crossed. Playing cards inside our hut in Fiji is certainly cooler than playing cards inside our house in Portland.

Regardless of what happens, we feel lucky to even be taking this trip. We will be going to two separate islands, so if it sucks in one place, we hope we can make up for it at the second one. And since we are going for what seems like an eternity, it can't be cloudy and rainy every day. Can it?

I also need to remember that the weather on our wedding day was picture perfect out of a dream sun shiny flowers exploding mind melting incredible. So at least I have that to remember forever.

Here is where we are staying first, for 3 nights:

Aaannnnddd here is where we are staying for a luxurious 7 days:

So, honesty, there is no complaining from me.  See you next month!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Wedding Report

(all photo creds to Meriwether Photography, Stefanie Baker)

What a wonderful wedding! What love! What beauty! What weather! We were so very lucky to have everything just fall right into place on the day of our wedding. We know we had help from lots of people, and we really appreciate them. The weekend was complete MAGIC.

We have been married for about 6 weeks now, and I have had one major realization - nothing is different. But I think that's a good thing. I guess there is a small difference in knowing that this is the man that I am committed to for the rest of my life, and there is no backing out now, but that only makes the relationship more exciting and special. What I am trying to say is that there have been no surprises since arriving home after the wedding festivities. We knew what we were getting into. It was so important for me to know everything that I could about my partner before I made the lifelong commitment of marriage. How awful would it be if a few weeks after the wedding I realized I married a man with crippling road rage? Or one who has unattainable expectations as far as my duties as a wife? Or one who has some pretty disgusting habits (I don't know, like eating his own scabs)? I know Joe, completely and fully, and I knew what needed to happen in order to make this marriage work. We were already making our relationship work before we even said "I do" - we moved across country together, we lived together, we purchased a house together, we purchased a car together, we had a joint checking account, we were parents to a wonderful dog together. I was able to learn so much about my partner, and this knowledge only solidified my desire to marry him. I know some people are old-fashioned, but I really recommend learning as much as possible about the person you are to marry before you actually marry them. Now, when either us take part in a disgusting habit, or do something incredibly dumb, we only have to point to our ring finger and say "it's yours for life!" But we knew of those things already, so it's a joke, rather than an earth-shattering realization.

I am proud to say that the wedding went off without any glitches, issues, mania, or meltdowns. I wasn't sure how I was going to act on the day of, and I truly surprised myself. I didn't force my bridesmaids into a Bridesmaid Sweat Shop on the day of the wedding, requiring them to do everything and anything in their power to make me feel special. They were extremely helpful though, which was a wonderful relief. I didn't yell at anyone, freak out, melt down, or turn sassy. I maintained my composure, and felt like I handled all hiccups with grace. I am proud of this! I didn't know if the day of the wedding I would unleash the beast. AND I did all of it on 3.5 hours of sleep. Incredible!

What helped tremendously for my well-being and mental health on the day of the wedding was the fact that we did a "first look" before the ceremony. A "first look" is when the bride and groom meet privately, which photographer in tow, to see each other and capture their reactions on film. This was wonderful for a few reasons. 1. We were able to react the way we wanted to when we first saw each other, rather than having to censor or filter our emotions due to the fact that 120 people are watching us in that special moment. 2. It will be saved forever on film, which is quite special. 3. There is no one else in the world who I would have rather seen, hugged, squeezed, and checked in with other than Joe. The "first look" gave me the chance to do that. 4. It forced us to be ready an hour before the ceremony, which insured that make-up would be applied, hair done, and smiles dazzling ahead of schedule.

Our wedding truly was magic, and it will certainly be a day that I will never forget. I had so much fun, and it was incredible to be the center of attention for all of that time. What I will remember most are the words of support, love, and encouragement that we received from our guests. It was so heart-warming! My favorite part of the evening was shortly after dinner - we were walking around the tent, going from table to table and thanking people for sharing our day with us. The sun was setting, and it cast a warm yellow glow throughout the tent. The tent was completely aglow with gold, and the flowers surrounding the tent stood out so brightly. This warm image, mixed with the wonderful words from family and friends, will be seared into my memory forever. Nothing will ever replicate that beautiful feeling. There are a few pictures that show this glow. Here is one of them, from our excellent photographer Stefanie Baker.

There are a couple more exciting wedding-related activities that now must take place. First up, HONEYMOON FIJI 2011!!!!!! We are more than excited for our 10 day getaway at the end of July. We are staying at two different resorts, on two different islands, so we will be able to experience a variety of beach, ocean, lagoon, mountain, jungle, animal, food, people, activities, and beach. Next up, I was disheartened that we couldn't share our special day with our main man (or, uh, dog) Ramone. He certainly would have been the ring bearer if we could have brought him to North Carolina. I see a certain wedding dress-inspired photo shoot in the near future, starring me and and the other love of my life, Ramone. More on that later.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Ode to the South

I am writing this from a Portland that is a chilly 40 degrees. The high tomorrow won't get above 53. The projected high tomorrow for Marietta, the town in which I grew up, is an astonishing 77 degrees. Incredible! It's clear that the Portland weather is not my favorite weather system in the world. We do have amazing, sun-filled, bursting, magical summers, but the rest of the year is quite a drag. Traveling back to the south these past few months, I've been thinking a lot about why I miss it so much. I must say that while Portland definitely wins in a fight against the south (open-minded people, eco-friendly atmosphere, bike culture, public transport, etc etc etc), there are still many aspects of southern living that I ache for. Here are a few:

Of course I love food, and of course I love hot, tasty, fat-filled southern food. Ask for sweet tea in a restaurant here, and you will be given a genuine look of confusion. I have yet to find my "go-to" restaurant here in Portland. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of decent eateries, and Portland leads the nation in food carts, with their colorful exteriors, creative menus, and unique offerings (like eating fancy grilled cheese in a double decker bus!) Alas, I still haven't found "the one". Even the fast food and restaurant chains in the south are better - mmm mmm how I crave Chick-Fil-a and Pita Delite. The ultimate meal in the south is breakfast. Where else can you get juicy and buttery shrimp and grits, heart attack sausage gravy, and a biscuit as big as an infant's head? (I'm not kidding, this place has them).
One of the most exciting parts of a trip back to the south is all of the mouth-watering goodness that I ingest while there.

Yes Portland is very close to the coast (a little over an hour away) but unless all you want to do is fly a kite, wear hooded sweatshirts, and shiver while watching massive waves crash dangerously on the rocky shore, then it isn't the place for you. While the beach was a 3 hour drive from where I was living in NC, it made up for the distance by providing the ultimate in swimming and sunning adventures. I have swam comfortably as early as April and as late as October. The picture above is from a beach trip in April! Joe received a massive, life-altering sunburn on this trip and was pretty much incapacitated. I was still able to frolic in the surf. The water temperature off the coast of North Carolina in the month of June is 80 degrees. At the same time here in Oregon, it's a limb-numbing 55 degrees. I won't even consider getting in that water, and often times won't even put my toes in. The chilly, imposing, giant ocean out here often looks like it is just put there to tease me and make me frustrated. "Why can't you be warm! Why can't you let me conquer you!"

This is a tricky one, because part of the reason I like Portland so much is because the close-minded, fanatical rednecks are few and far between. But I kinda miss them. I guess I don't truly miss them, but I miss the idea of them. Portland is devoid of any type of accent, so I yearn for hearing the different styles of the southern accent. I especially miss the eastern North Carolina accent. How beautiful! It toes the line of exotic. You can listen to it here, and watch a man talk about none other than the pride of eastern North Carolina - barbecue. I also miss the southern hospitality of the people. While not always sincere, it was certainly entertaining. I still get chills every time a woman stranger calls me "darlin'".

Nearly the entirety of my family lives in the south, and I miss being close to them. Families can be so helpful! At least we have phones, internet, and skype, but sometimes, nothing can substitute for a big hug.

Overall, Joe and I are extremely happy here in Portland. The few downsides are certainly outweighed by the astronomical upsides. For now, the south must remain a place for vacations only. That might be a good thing, because a softball-sized biscuit tastes so much better when it's been lingering in my dreams and making my mouth water for months.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

34 Days & Counting

As of today, we have nearly one month left before the wedding. I have mixed feelings about this, but I certainly feel different than how I was expecting to feel a month before my wedding. Is there something wrong with me?

The time has flown by at an alarming rate, but we don't seem to mind. Being that we live in Portland, and the wedding is taking place in North Carolina, we are limited with what we can do as far as last-minute wedding preparations. So much of the workload has been placed on my mother and sister out of sheer necessity. I am grateful that I have people I can count on, and honestly, I am glad to not have all of the responsibility. I always feared I would be a "mega-bride" who micromanaged every aspect of my wedding. It seems as though the opposite is true of my situation. There are a lot of details that I won't be a part of until the day of the wedding, and I am ok with that. It just doesn't feel like we are about to throw the biggest party of our lives.

Some things about my wedding experience that might be different from many other brides' wedding experience:

I did not see my ceremony and reception location until after it was booked
I did not pick my caterer (but did sample food once the caterer was picked)
I still don't have flowers
We aren't doing tuxes
We aren't having a DJ (thank god)
I haven't embarked on the tiniest bit of any type of bride diet and exercise plan - oops!
We aren't having a ring bearer (although I really wanted Ramone for the job!)
I am not stressed in the least bit

This final point might change as time gets closer to "The Day". We seem really laid back about it, and I love it. Most of the time we feel like we are already married, so I don't think there will be any earth-shattering revelations discovered on the wedding weekend.

My biggest hopes for the day:

Everybody has fun
Everybody eats tasty food until their bellies hurt
Everybody dances to the great mix that we have created
Everybody has their hearts filled up with love.

And believe me, I will certainly be taking part in all of those activities. I am a pro at eating until my belly hurts.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Baby Fever

The past few months feel like I have been overwhelmed by adorable babies in a variety of stages. It first started when we went to a wedding of a good friend, who had a 7 month old. Our other friend was there with their 4 month old. These babies were not your typical babies. First, they were adorable, and did not look like aliens. Second, they were so freaking happy! Third, they had awesome parents who amazed me with how loving and laid-back they were. It was incredible to witness the relationship between parent and child at its first stages. I had had some hang-ups about having babies (more on that later) but after experiencing the love that these parents had, it made me re-evaluate how I was feeling and totally gave me the fever.

I love children. I worked in a daycare all throughout high school and still say that it was my favorite job. I was raised in a big family where there were always babies around, so I am pretty comfortable with them. Having babies for myself has always been an idea that was far away in the distant future, like a foggy dream. The wedding of my friend really brought that idea into focus. Could that be me one day?

Since moving to Portland, I had been hesitant about having my own child. I had a tough experience, where I was in close quarters with a woman who was pregnant. I will call her Tina. I got to see all of the negatives of pregnancy and I got to hear all of the disgusting details. I hate to say it, but it totally turned me off to pregnancy. I didn't want to turn into Tina. She was depressing, unhappy, unkempt, pushy, opinionated, and psycho. My fever had turned cold.

After a few months, I started having positive experiences with people and friends who were different stages with babies - newborns, 6 months, still in womb, etc, and each and every one of these experiences inspired me. I was able to watch my friends interact with their baby and the people around them in a non-judgmental way. I saw how my friends were totally at ease with other people holding their babies, and didn't feel the need to yell at someone to tell them how to do it. I saw my good friend, who should be having her baby any day now, was taking care of herself during her pregnancy, working out, and looking like the most beautiful pregnant lady who ever lived.

More and more positive experiences kept occurring, and they overshadowed this deeply negative experience I had had with Tina. I realized that pregnancy wasn't Tina's problem. Her problem was HER! It was vital for me to witness my friends and their experiences. That seemed to be the only way to show to me that it didn't have to be this way Tina was making it out to be.

So the fever has returned. I anxiously await the birth of my friend's child. He might be born on Joe's birthday (which is 6 days away). I will cuddle this baby, coo to it, rock it, love it, watch its parents shower it with love and happiness and openness and understanding. The fever has certainly returned.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Quest for the Perfect Hill

This image is the road to Rocky Butte, an extinct cinder cone volcano that is a mile from my house. The road winds up the hill for over a mile. The bike ride down is incredible, but the climb up is a painstakingly arduous task. Since starting my bike-loving life in Portland, I have embarked on a quest to find the perfect hill. I have a few qualifications that this hill must meet:

1. There must not be too much traffic. There is this one hill that I get to ride every morning into downtown Portland. In order to get to the bottom, I must traverse 7 stop lights. When the stop lights are all synced up, it's green green green. Many times I hit the hill on a red light, and then have to fly down a block, only to hit another red light, and so on. At these times, I am usually traveling much faster than the cars that are in the lanes with me, which can be problematic. Also, a girl was hit by a semi turning right at one of these intersections. Not the ideal hill!

2. The road must be paved and smooth. There is another hill that I get to take to work everyday. The road is an old neighborhood road that is cracking and is filled with rocks. My bike bumps and bops the entire way down. I am always afraid that I am going to pop a tire or have my lights and pannier fly off my bike.

3. No stop signs to interrupt the glee. There are quite a few perfect hills that are ruined with a stop sign in the middle of them. Stop signs on hills cause me to have to wear out my brake pads way too much than I would like. Also, I am always tempted not to stop and continue on my merry way, except that I have encountered quite a few close calls.

4. The effort must not outweigh the payoff. The road to Rocky Butte (pictured above) is an intense uphill climb. Some hills in Portland are so taxing that I start to hear my heartbeat in my ears (anyone else know that feeling?) That is not how I want to start my descent! I enjoy putting in mild to medium effort to get up a hill, but if I haven't chosen "hill climbing" as my exercise for the day, then I don't want to feel like I am going to pass out before I get to fly down the hill.

5. While riding down the hill, I must have the impulse to say "WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!" This one is self-explanatory.

I have experienced many hills that come very close to being the perfect hill. I even have one that currently has the top spot. It is a neighborhood road near Laurelhurst Park. The road is Ankeny. There is a moderate climb for about 7 blocks before the hill. The hill slopes down and curves gently as is descends. It is not as high as I would like it to be, but it certainly makes me say "wheeeeee!"

Monday, October 11, 2010

Debating on Whether or Not to Debate Columbus Day

I have never been good at debate. While the best Facebook debaters probably spent their educations in classrooms debating Philosophy, English prose, and rhetoric, I was in a classroom having a giant love-fest. Yes, my years of college were spent in Social Work classes, talking about attentive listening, reflecting of feelings, and empathy. While I might not be able to carry on a debate with the best of the best, I can certainly process with someone who has had their feelings hurt in a debate by said Facebook debater. It puts me in a tricky position when there are issues and ideas that I want to express and debate, yet struggle to make my voice heard. For these reasons, I typically avoid a Facebook debate. Until Columbus Day 2010.

I saw a short clip that was beautiful and utterly moving.

Nice, right? How can anyone disagree with that? They aren't asking to have Columbus supporters burned at the stake, just to "reconsider" your ideas about Columbus and what he stood for. It seems so blatantly obviously and I don't understand how anyone could find problems with that. Well, some people did, and it ended up in some nasty Facebook debates. At one point, a guy (who shall remain nameless, mostly because I don't even know who the hell he is) suggested that the people who are sharing that video should pack up their cars with all of their possessions and electronics (tv, cellphone, ipods, etc) and drive off a cliff. I guess he was trying to say that without Columbus, we would not have any of the wonderful shiny things that we have today? His point is lost on me and I certainly don't agree with his logic. I have a hard time crediting Columbus for all of the "luxuries" that we have today. Having said that, I am not opposed to one day allowing all of those luxuries to fall off a cliff (without me in the car, of course). These luxuries of the 21st century are here for us to enjoy at the direct and indirect expense of others. We live in a world that is full of inequalities. In order for us to have these shiny things, we have to have people who make these things. The conditions and environments under which these products are made are not healthy or happy.

There are American and Japanese-owned factories along the border in Tijuana that produce televisions, electronics, and other exciting things for the fat markets in the Western civilization. Most of the workers in these factories, or maquiladoras, are women. They live in horrible conditions, make shit for money, and raise their children alone (their husbands are usually trying to scrape by in the US). The sanitation and infrastructure is awful - dirty, undrinkable water, live power lines in the streets, and shacks built from reclaimed garage doors of rich Americans who don't need them anymore. These factories also don't offer any type of unions for their workers, instead creating a union for the OWNERS OF THE COMPANIES to keep the women from creating a union and being granted rights. (The documentary on these issues can be found here).

While I don't believe that this is a direct result of Columbus, he certainly paved the way for colonization, industrialization and annihilation in the coming centuries. It is a known fact that he murdered and stole from countless indigenous people. I understand that there are lots of groups or explorers that have done this in history, but he is the only one we have a national holiday named after.

All I am asking is that people "reconsider" Columbus Day. If that means having awkward debates that I am ill-equipped for, I will do it.