Monday, December 17, 2012

The 3 Muskateers in Denver

This post is way overdue... The first weekend of December I flew to Denver to meet my childhood friends, Anne and Sydney.  Anne is looking at grad school at Denver University and we decided to scope out the city with her.  I have to say, Denver is a pretty cool place - pretty similar to Portland.  This was my second time to visit.  It was so great to spend time with these girls who are such dear friends.  We were together all the time in high school, so our teachers called us the 3 Muskateers.  We don't get to see each other too often since we all live in different states (Texas, Missouri and Oregon), but the time that we do get together is always wonderful.

Here's a recap of the weekend in pictures...

dinner after we all flew in on Friday... a great time to catch up on life

hike at Red Rock on Saturday

the Parade of Lights downtown on Saturday night 

bundled up eating ice cream
I even got to see my Baylor friend, Chris

Monday, November 26, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays because it is so joyful and exciting yet low-key and relaxing. I joined the Moores here in Portland for Thanksgiving dinner at their home. It was lovely. All of their kids (my cousins) were there, as well as Thanne’s parents from Florida, two of our friends from Texas (Holly and Lindsey), and Madison’s boss and his wife.
We actually started the day by driving up to Vancouver, WA to run the Turkey Trot which benefits the Clark Country Food Bank. Madison and I kept pace with each other (aka I slowed my pace down for the poor guy) and ran the 5k in a swift 23:38, finishing in the top 50. I even the old guy run ahead of me at the very end in hopes of not destroying his macho image. The whole crew had a great time with this fun run and earned our second servings of turkey and pumpkin pie!
As mentioned in my previous post, the Moores have an inspiring tradition of calling someone whom you are Thankful that week and then sharing your story at the dinner table. I loved hearing who each person called, how that person impacted their life and what that simple yet thoughtful phone call meant to the recipient. We heard stories of friends who were there during difficult times, moms who were a support to high school athletes, neighbors who were caring, and more. I called my elementary school reading teacher, Mr. Patton, who was a part of my life from 2nd through 5th grade. I was able to thank him for making such a positive impact on my life and for helping me grow intellectually at such a young age. It was so wonderful to reconnect!
The best part about Thanksgiving is that it’s on a Thursday, which means even after the fun day is over you still have Friday, Saturday, and Sunday to relax and enjoy being with family and friends. Friday evening Megan, her roommate Sarah and I went to the Portland Christmas tree lighting downtown. It was quite cold and rainy, but we still had a festive time singing Christmas carols in Pioneer Square despite the wet weather.
Saturday was full of watching football at the Moores. Well, all of the guys watched football (Oregon, Baylor, Florida) while I played with my friend Mike’s 6-month-old girl, Eleanor. Look at that cute little chunk!
Cooper is giving Eleanor a friendly greeting here, not biting her... I swear!
The weekend wrapped up with Christmas light hanging and wine tasting. We really did it all this weekend! And now we enter into the Advent season and the anticipation of Christmas…

"Be thankful for the smallest blessing, and you will receive greater. Value the least gifts no less than the greatest, and simple graces as special favors. If you remember the dignity of the giver, no gift will seem small, for nothing can be valueless that is given by the most high God."
- Thomas a' Kempis

"Thanksgiving in its deepest sense means to live life as a gift to be received with deep gratitude. True gratitude embraces all of life; the good and the bad, the joyful and the painful, the holy and not-so-holy. We do this because we become aware of God's life, and God's presence in the middle of all that happens in our lives."
- Henri Nouwen

Monday, November 19, 2012


Tonight I was able to spend time with one of my favorite people in the world, Fr Ganz, my friend who is a Jesuit priest. We sat and talked about life and faith over drinks, he with his Manhattan and I with my ginger pear cocktail. When we were together at a dinner a couple weeks ago, he asked me if I was reading anything and what consumed my thoughts lately. Some of the many things I love about Fr Ganz are his intentionality and his deep insights. He's not much of a shoot-the-breeze kind of guy, he's more of a tell-me-where-you-honestly-stand kind of guy. I love that.

So I told Fr Ganz that I am currently reading C.S. Lewis' A Grief Observed after reading excerpts of it in The Question of God (a book comparing the lives and believes of C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud). I read the following passage and it could completely relate to Lewis - I couldn't have said it more perfectly...

Where is God? When you are happy, so happy that you have no sense of needing Him, so happy that you are tempted to feel His claims upon you as an interruption, if you remember yourself and turn to Him with gratitude and praise, you will be - or so it feels - welcomed with open arms. But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence. You may as well turn away. The longer you wait, the more emphatic the silence will become. There are no lights in the windows. It might be an empty house. Was it ever inhabited? It seemed so once. And that seeming was as strong as this. What can this mean? Why is He so present a commander in our time of prosperity and so very absent a help in time of trouble?... Not that I am (I think) in much danger of ceasing to believe in God. The real danger is of coming to believe such dreadful things about Him. The conclusion I dread is not 'So there's no God after all,' but 'So this is what God's really like. Deceive yourself no longer.' ...When I lay these questions before God I get no answer. But a rather special sort of "no answer." It is not the locked door. It is more like a silent gaze. As though he shook his head, like, "Peace, child, you don't understand."

After Fr. Ganz gained an insight as to where I honestly stand right now, he said we should get together to further discuss my current thoughts and questions. Thank goodness for people who are willing to invest in our young lives! I am thankful for people like this who see an opportunity to make a positive impact on someone and go for it!

So there we sat, a 58-yr-old Catholic priest and a 27-year-old overwhelmed girl, in the corner booth of a Portland bar discussing questions of life and faith. We sat for several hours, me vulnerably sharing my struggles, he offering his wise council. It's hard for me to sum up the words Fr Ganz spoke to me, as he tends to speak in elegant and picturesque ways. But here are a few thoughts that stick with me:

- If you were able to enter God's presence, see Him face to face, and he were to ask you "My child, what is it that I can do for you?", what would you say? Or would you be so filled with peace as he looked in your eyes and called you by name that all of your worries, requests and questions disappeared? Like Orual in Lewis' Til We Have Faces.

- Our culture and language only use the word "faith" as a noun. We don't have a verb for faith (the closest we have is "believe"). So when it comes to faith, we say that you either have it or you don't. But even in times when you feel like you're losing your faith or that your faith is smaller than it use to be, you can still be faithing (for lack of a better verb). One of my biggest frustrations is when I try to explain a doubt or struggle to someone and they simple say, "Just have faith." or "Just believe." Rather than, "It's ok, even good, to have those questions. Keep going and explore your faith." Like Reepicheep in Lewis' Prince Caspian.

- As you go through the deep and heavy areas of life, remember the good in the bigger picture of your life. Things you know to be true, but are sometimes overlooked. Fr Ganz started our conversation (and reminded me at the end) that despite current struggles, God has placed me in such a wonderful and unique place; with my job, my family, my community, my desires for life. He reminded me that it's important to always remember those aspects of life and what God has already provided when I'm figuring out the tough parts of my faith. Such a good reminder.

So I didn't leave tonight with a clear understanding of God and a confident, peaceful spirit. But I was able to openly talk to someone who cared enough to listen and could encourage me in my faith journey. Because it is a journey. Sometimes you just need someone further down the road to meet you where you are and then give you a little boost. To agree to continue down the road with you and say, "Let's read The Chronicles of Narnia together and look at those questions through a different lens. It's quite an exciting adventure!" So we're going to keep faithing!

I'm so thankful to have my wonderful family up here, the Moores, who invite me to their home for special holidays such as Thanksgiving and Easter. The Moores have a very special Thanksgiving tradition which I have come to be a part of. Each year during the week of Thanksgiving, each person should call someone who they haven’t talked to in a while who has influenced or impacted or contributed to their life. It might be a former coach, teacher, friend, family member, or whoever. The idea is to thank them for what they have meant in your life and, since you haven’t seen them in a while, to encourage them and honor them. At dinner on Thursday, we will go around and each person will tell who they contacted, why that person got a call (how they impact your life) and what their response was. We don't tell people often enough how thankful we are for them. This is a great excuse to do that!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Surprise Texas Visit

This weekend, I flew to Texas for a surprise visit for my sister's 30th birthday party.  Everybody had been talking it up and of course I hated missing out, so I browsed online and found a super cheap flight in and out of Dallas (shout out to Spirit Airlines!).  The flights might not have been the most desirable times but hey, it got me from Portland to Texas and back and that's all I needed.  NOBODY knew I was coming for the weekend except for Emily (I had to make sure I had a ride to Waco!) and I was so proud of us for keeping this secret.

I got into Dallas at 5:30am on Friday morning, took a taxi to Emily's house and crawled in a bed upstairs.  When my nieces woke up an hour later, Emily told them to look in the bed for a surprise... and there I was.  It was much more exciting than the piece of candy they were anticipating.  Emily and I were able to go to Hannah's school and sit in the courtyard with her at lunch.  I can't believe she's in kindergarten!  Then we picked Alice Anne up from preschool and took her to Chick-fil-a for some quality girl time. 

We headed to Waco to surprise my parents.  They were sitting on the front porch with Carter and Henry when we pulled into the driveway.  The girls jumped out of the car yelling about the surprise they brought with them.  My parents were shocked when I got out of the car and the boys gave me big hugs (well, Carter did but Henry just screamed).

We got the best reaction out of Sarah.  We walked into her party at a wine bar downtown, she said hi to Emily and then I peeked out from behind her and she was completely caught off guard.  Booya, Sarah!  Totally busted.

The party was so much fun.  I didn't know my sisters could still party like that now that they're in their 30s.  We broke it down on the dance floor and even stayed up past midnight!  Totally worth the redeye flight to be there for this party.

Saturday morning, my mom hosted a brunch because the McCalls were all in town.  They didn't know I was coming in either and it was so perfect to be able to hang out with them.  I even got to meet my cousin's two-week-old baby girl who greeted me with a waterfall of spitup.  Thanks, Adeline.

The rest of the weekend I was able to just hang out in Waco: have wine on the porch with my best friend Hannah, go for walks with my mom, visit Baylor campus, and just enjoy being home.  Making out-of-state surprise visits are simply the best.  Happy birthday, Sarah... and Mom!

the three sisters at Sarah's party

loved spending time with these little ones... they're getting so big!

Mom's bday dinner

Keeping a Secret
At times I was so excited, it was tough to keep it together!  Kind of like this...

Monday, October 29, 2012


This weekend I checked another activity off of my Portland bucket list. My friend Mike and I have been talking about brewing beer together for a while now and we finally coordinated our schedules, got all the ingredients at the local home brew store, and Mike dusted off all of his brewing equipment. We decided to make a nice dark porter that will be ready to drink just in time for the holidays.

It felt like we were working on a science project as we sterilized pots and carboys, mixed and heated ingredients to a very specific temperature and then added yeast for fermentation. The beer will ferment for about a month before it is ready for consumption. I can totally see why Portlanders are so into this. It’s a science and an art. And after you’ve experimented with it enough, you can get creative with it and really make some tasty drinks (such as pumpkin ale). We’ll see how this first batch goes and then who knows… we might be opening up our own local brewery (as if Portland doesn’t have enough of those)! Prost!

mixing the malt extract with the mulling barley

Cascade hops

filtering into the carboy

topping it off at 5 gallons

the hardest part... waiting.
and when we weren't busy in the lab/kitchen, we got to play with this little chunk! Mike's 5-month old daughter, Eleanor.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Fall Weekend

Fall is definitely here! This weekend was full of fun fall activities.  Saturday morning, I harvested grapes at a local vineyard. This party was sold at the auction last year, so this was part of my job: hanging out at a vineyard with great people, eating great food and drinking wine all day. It's a tough job, but somebody's got to do it!

After I left the vineyard, I met up with some friends and headed out to the pumpkin patch and corn maze at Kruger Farm on Sauvie Island. We ran around and got completely lost in the corn maize. Then when it started down pouring, we went undercover and enjoyed fresh corn on the cob and caramel apples.

We headed home to enjoy some nice, hot chili (thanks, Ben!) and watch a scary movie, What Lies Beneath, in preparation for Halloween. I just love a good thriller.

Laura and I finished off our fall weekend by turning on the heater in our house (it's cold outside!) and cuddled up on the couch with some good books. After a long, busy summer, the fall hibernation season is here in Portland!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Great Adventure Auction 2012

This past Saturday was the 7th Annual Medical Teams International Great Adventure Auction - the 4th that I have been a part of.  "Auction season" is always quite a whirlwind, but it's also one of my favorite times of year.  Volunteers fill the office, phones are continually ringing, emails are received and sent like rapid fire, candy and carbs lurk around every corner (which I love/hate), pumpkin spice lattes flow like the Columbia River, and delirious laughter fills our office where you can usually hear a pen drop.
Our auction team which includes Deb, Chiqui, Katie and I spend lots of time together during the weeks leading up to auction night.  We start reading each other's minds, completing each other's sentences and Katie and I creepily started dressing alike and causing people to believe that we are actually twins.
This year, my parents were able to come up to Portland to see the auction first-hand.  They've heard me talk about it for years and now they've actually experienced this huge part of my life.  I think they win the award for Longest Distance Traveled for the Great Adventure.
Our goal for this year's auction was $1.4 million.  And the total raised for the 2012 auction is $1.43 million!!!  All of the hard work paid off and we were all amazed at the generosity of our wonderful guests.  What a blessing to be a part of such an amazing event for an incredible organization.  Just think of all of the people around the world who will directly benefit from the generosity of 600 people gathered in Portland on October 13th.  It really is quite miraculous!

our MC - weatherman Matt Zaffino, our auction chair - Phil Lane and our amazing auctioneer - Johnna Wells

our new CEO and his wife welcoming everyone

a glimpse of the live auction

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Swifts

Tonight, Amber, Debbie and I met up at Chapman Elementary School to watch the swift migration.  The "Chapman Swifts" are a group of thousands of birds that come to Portland every year in September and nest in the chimney of the school in the NW area.  There are reportedly upwards of 30,000 birds who are a part of this group every year.
Every September you hear people talking about how the "swifts are coming" and family and friends bring picnics and blankets and gather on the school lawn at sunset every evening to watch the bird show.  It really is incredible to see thousands of birds swoop in all at once and swirl around the chimney for about 20 minutes before they finally dive into the chimney for a good night's sleep. The finale of tonight's live performance included a large hawk disturbing the the swifts' well-rehearsed act and actually taking the swift population down a few.  The crowd of people "ooh"ed and "aah"ed throughout the show and applauded at the end.
I was enjoying the peaceful evening... until one of the swifts pooped on my head.  True story.  I guess that's what I get for laughing when a bird pooped on the girl-in-front-of-me's head.  I suppose it's inevitable when you're sitting underneath thousands of birds.
the swifts flying around as the sun sets

the finale - the swifts swooping into the chimney

as pre entertainment, kids bring cardboard boxes and slide down the hill... yes Portland has some odd traditions

Friday, September 7, 2012

Waste Land

Tonight I watched the documentary Waste Land about artist Vik Muniz’s project with the garbage pickers of Brazil’s Jardim Gramacho landfill. This particular landfill is the largest landfill in the world in terms of volume of trash received daily. The ACAMJM (Association of Pickers of Jardim Gramacho) is a group of people who collect recyclable materials out of the landfill and sell it to companies that can use these materials to make products such as tires, buckets and PVC pipes.  Muniz is renowned for creating art out of unusual materials. When you combine this artist with this garbage group, you get incredible art out of garbage.
Muniz himself grew up very poor and started this project as a way to "change the lives of a group of people with the same materials they deal with everyday." The work he did was inspiring and he made a direct impact on the community by creating this art and then selling it and giving the money back to the association. But the documentary made me realize how much the way we live and the little things we do (or don’t do) make an impact on people like this and what they are working for as well. A little less directly, but an impact all the same.
One of the ladies in the documentary, Magna, who is a very humble, poor picker as well as a very beautiful and wise woman said, “It’s easy for you to be sitting there at home in front of your television consuming whatever you want and tossing everything in the trash and leaving it out on the street for the garbage truck to take away. But where does that garbage go?” That is a very real statement.
I know that we don’t live near Jardin Gramacho, but the garbage that we put in our trash bins in Portland, Dallas or Waco ends up in a landfill somewhere. We don’t see it every day (or ever), so we don’t think twice about where that garbage goes when it leaves our home. But somewhere it is creating a heap near someone’s home and is a dirty and smelly reality in their life.
Easy solution? Recycle everything that you can! Portland pretty much forces us to reduce our waste by picking up our recycling and compost every week and our trash only every other week. It may sound crazy, but it’s actually doable!  Dallas provides an easy way to recycle here.  And so does Waco. It may not seem like much, but every plastic bottle or cardboard box that goes into the recycling rather than the garbage really does make a difference for our world and the people living in it.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Crater Lake Camping

A few years ago I started the tradition of going camping for the long Labor Day weekend which always happens to be right around my birthday.  This year was quite an epic camping trip as we went to Crater Lake, which has been on the top of my Oregon bucket list for a long time.  I ended up being an all-girls camping trip which was completely awesome!  I've never gone camping without some guys who always end up doing a lot of the planning, cooking, fire-starting, tent-pitching, stuff-carrying.  But this weekend it was just us girls: Megan, Mollie, Melissa, Kathy and me.  And it was so fun!
We packed up the car and drove 5 hours south to Crater Lake National Park.  We checked in at the ranger's station, got our permit and some tips on good backcountry camping spots, put our heavy packs on and hiked into the woods.  The first night we hiked 2 miles into the Dutton Creek area and set up camp.  Kathy cut some wood, Megan started the campfire and we made a yummy quinoa and veggie dinner followed by smores.  It's funny how much better everything tastes when you're out in the wilderness.
We woke up at 4:45 the next morning and hiked out to a viewpoint to see the sun rise over Crater Lake.  It was absolutely beautiful - definitely the highlight of the trip for all of us.  We took naps after we hiked back to our campsite then did a bit more hiking and exploring when we woke up again.
The second evening we hiked 4 miles into the Red Cone area which is actually part of the Pacific Crest Trail.  We set up camp and started another campfire.  That night we had a very delicious chili soup dinner topped off with a surprise birthday dessert that Megan came up with.  We individually wrapped a banana, chocolate chips and marshmallows in tin foil, put them in the campfire coals for a bit, then opened it up and dug into the gooey goodness.  It was delicious - especially paired with a nice bottle of champagne that Megan carried in with her.
It seriously couldn't have been a better weekend.  Definitely one of the best weekends I've had in Oregon.  It was an amazing group of girls - everyone was very laid back, easy going, super fun and fully capable of holding her own out in the wild.  Thanks for making my birthday camping weekend so amazing Firefox, Flo Rida, Honey and Scout!  You girls are the best.  Love, Trillium.

Camping Weekend Highlights
- cuddling with Megan in the tent
- dance party around the camp fire
- enjoying a cup of coffee as we watched the sun rise
- watching my friends from different groups (work, old roommate, new roommate, home community) get to know each other
- early morning yoga
- never knowing what time it was
- finally finding the trailhead marked with a tiny handwritten note
- great conversation

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Hood to Coast 2012

This is my favorite weekend of the year.  The weekend where 12,000 of us crazy runners throw all comfort out the window and pile into vans, forget about sleeping and run from Mount Hood to the Oregon coast on extreme adrenaline (and a little training, too).

Our team name was Return of the Flies - last year we were Droppin' Like Flies and next year we'll be Lord of the Flies.  The team included several coworkers, my roommates, guys from last year's team and a few other friends.  I was in Van 1 with our awesome driver Bruce who owns a 15 passenger van and has driven Hood to Coast for 15 years.  He was the best!  I ran Leg 6 with a total of 17.33 miles which I ran at an average pace of 8:15.

My first leg was 6.75 miles along Hwy 26 in Sandy.  It was a long and hot one on Friday afternoon.  My second leg was 5.23 miles along Hwy 30 in St Helens.  I ran this one at midnight and was grateful that I didn't fall asleep in the middle of it.  My third leg was 5.35 miles out in Astoria.  I ran this one at about 10am.  It included a lot of downhill which was good because I didn't have a ton of extra energy but it was pretty rough on my already sore and tight quads.  Our star runner this year was Justin who ran leg 5.  Not only is the the #1 ranked most difficult leg, this year there was a 2 mile detour added to one of his legs due to a fire out in St Helens.  He dominated and didn't complain once.  Seriously, way to go Justin!

I love the craziness of the weekend event that runs directly through Portland and the encouraging spirit of the 1,000 teams.  I love spending lots of time with the other people in the van (despite the lack of any personal space).  I love being surrounded by others who simply love running as well.  I love not taking showers, not sleeping, and using port-a-potties.  Just kidding - that is definitely not the highlight of the weekend.

Speaking of the highlight of the weekend... I don't know if any of you have seen the Hood to Coast documentary.  It's very well made a gives a good picture of what the weekend running weekend is all about.  The film was made 4 years ago and follows 4 different teams.  One of those teams is Dead Jocks in a Box.  In the words of one of the team members, "Being on Dead Jocks is kind of like being on a select but really irrelevant fraternity."  They are "over-the-hill" athletes.  I think the team is awesome and really hilarious.  Yesterday after I had finished my last leg and we were headed out to the Coast, we came across one of the Dead Jocks vans (literally right after we were talking about them and I said I was hoping we would see them on the course).  So we pulled up next to them, I rolled down my window and said, "Hey guys, I'm your biggest fan!"  They invited us to hang out and talk with them.  I got a picture with them, got an autographed coupon for a Dead Jocks massage (as well as a little shoulder massage right there on the spot) and even got sprayed by one of their infamous water guns.  They were as hilarious and crazy as I imagined them to be.  And I ran into the whole team at the coast and got to meet Larry, my favorite team member.  That was definitely the highlight of my weekend!

After partying at the beach for a while, I made it back to Portland and crashed.  Getting out of bed was difficult this morning - not only because I'm exhausted but because I'm so sore that my legs nearly gave out under me.  Going down stairs feels having small knives poking my quads.  But I'll take this soreness anyday (well at least once a year).  I've now completed my 4th Hood to Coast relay and hope that our team makes it in again next year!

the whole team at the coast

just hanging out with the Dead Jocks

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Banff Road Trip

We just got back last night from our week-long road trip to Banff.  We saw and did so much!  We spent the first night in Sandpoint, Idaho and headed to Glacier National Park on Wednesday morning.  I've been wanting to go to Montana, specifically Glacier, for a while now so I was really excited to get to see this amazing part of the country.  We car camped at a site in the park on Wednesday night then hike around Logan Pass, which is located on the Continental Divide, on Thursday.

Thursday evening we crossed the US/Canada border where we were asked to park our car and come into the station for random questioning.  Once they realized that we weren't smuggling drugs or avacados into Canada, they let us continue on our way to Calgary, AB.  We spent the night there and then toured the city on Friday before making the drive to Banff.

We staying in the small ski town of Banff on Friday night and enjoyed a nice dinner and soak in the local hot springs.  I didn't realize this when I was planning the trip, but apparently my family visited Banff when I was 5 years old.  A few things from that trip 21 years ago came back to me, but this was definitely a different experience.

Saturday we headed into the back country of Banff National Park - our final destination.  Banff is absolutely stunning.  I was constantly amazed at the breathtaking scenery we were surrounded by.

It was a wonderful week of simply relaxing and enjoying the great outdoors.  Here are some pics to highlight the trip... more to come soon!

taking in the sights

a mountain goat

ready to hike into Banff


a grizzly!

a fork in the road... literally!

epic road trip together

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

On the Road

I'm taking a week off and hitting the road on an adventurous road trip. My best friend Megan, her boyfriend Gabe, his brother Jon and I are headed to Banff via Glacier National Park. We've got our backpacks, Chacos, and Clif bars and the plan is to simply explore and enjoy the great outdoors. More to come next week!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


Every Tuesday morning I serve breakfast at Blanchet House, a hospitable place that offers meals to the homeless and those in need in Portland and is also a transitional house for about 25 men.  I've come to look forward to Tuesday mornings, despite having to wake up at 5:30am in order to be downtown by 6:15am.  Some mornings at Blanchet are very enjoyable and I actually have fun serving breakfast.  Some mornings are uncomfortable and I wish I could shield myself from the problems of our world today.  Some mornings are really tough and I'm faced with the dark reality of the complexities of people's life situations.

This morning, a woman with short tangled hair and no teeth walked through the doors of Blanchet.  I walked over to her table, said "good morning" and set a plate of eggs, a banana and a bagel down in front of her.  She grinned and thanked me and I walked back to my position by the kitchen.  It was a slow morning (it's the beginning of the month and people have plenty of food stamps and possible paycheck money right now) so I stood there looking around at the crowd in front of me.  My eyes kept drifting to the woman with no teeth.  At times she was laughing or chatting with her new table friends, but for the most part she was sipping on her hot coffee with a vacant look in her eyes.

I wondered what she was thinking about; what worries she had on her mind.  I wondered what her life story is; how she fell into this life situation.  Was there anyone out there who really cared about her?

And then I thought about my worries; my life story; my current life situation; and all of the people who care about me and support me.

Our lives are different.  Very different.  But we are the same in that we both have complexities and simplicities in our lives.

And then I thought about the prayers I present to God; the worries that fill my mind; the things I stress about; things that many people refer to as "1st world problems" or in this case "privileged life problems".  Example: last month I was stressed about whether I should take my paid time off to go on an Alaskan cruise with my family or a roadtrip to Canada with my friends.  1st world problems.

I tried to imagine the prayers this homeless women might present to God; the worries she is facing.  God is listening to her.  God is concerned for her, and he cares about what is going on in her life.  I'm guessing that she is not a theologian or scholar whose mind is filled with questions about which religious group is closest to the truth or how Bible translations change the meaning of the gospel.  I'm guessing that her thoughts and requests are pretty basic and simple, yet urgent and essential.  And though the world may view her as a less important member of society with a somewhat meaningless life, God views her as equal to any of us.  She's actually our sister, whether we're confortable with that or not.

Our lives may seem complex and complicated and stressful and less than what we would wish for, but try putting that in perspective.  If you are reading this, you are a fortunate person.  Because you know me and I know you and we support each other.  Because you have money to have a computer or iPad.  Because you have time to leisurely read a blog just as I have time to write a blog while eating dinner rather than wondering where my next meal is going to come from.  Your life is important - equally as important as your homeless sister in the eyes of the God who sees and hears us all.

Easy Life/Hard Life
One of my coworkers once told a story about a woman she met in Haiti.  The woman was probably about 50  years old, but her wrinkles and tough skin made her look about 75.  She asked my coworker where she was from to which she answered, "America."  The Haitian woman put her frail hand on my coworker's face and said "Easy life."  She then took my coworkers soft hand and put it on her Haitian face and said, "Hard life."  I don't know why each of us is given the life that we are, but we can't take the credit.  Most of it is our circumstances.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Bike Commuting

I bought a new bike a couple months ago. It's definitely a step up from my old hybrid. This bike is legit.  And I guess it makes me a legit biker. People keep commenting on it and I just act like I know a thing or two about cycling... "Sweet bike. Is that a Raleigh Revenio 4.0? Carbon fork? Ah, Shimano Ultegra gears - the best. 10 speed. Smooth shifting."  To which I reply: "Yep. And did you see the awesome red tires and matching waterbottle?!"

I really do like my bike and I have to admit that it is pretty awesome. I splurged a little because I wanted to start commuting to work some.  I wish I could commute to work everyday, but the reality is that I live in SE Portland and I work 13 miles away in the suburbs.  Biking to work takes about an hour and it's uphill both ways (I'm still not sure how that's possible, but it's true!).  So I've committed to biking on Wednesdays (ok, I don't have a perfect record, but I'm doing pretty good).

My coworker Mike has been my biggest supporter.  He's an avid biker and is the one who planted this whole bike commuting idea in my head.  He helped me research different bikes, came with me to look at this one before I made the purchase, and showed me the route to work on my first ride.  He even sings the Rocky theme song as we're going up big hills and always encourages me when I want to quit and let my cool red tires roll backwards down said hills.  Thanks, Mike!

Today we biked to work together, leaving his house at 6:10am and getting out to Tigard just before 7:00.  Talk about a morning boost!  We took the "scenic" route home (aka the longer, hiller route) and it was tough but definitely gorgeous. When we got back into SE, we decided that we deserved a beer and it was just too sunny not to make a stop at Apex Bar and sit out on the patio.  It's always tough to get out of bed and put on my biking helmet, but at the end of the day I'm always glad that I did. And I don't have to go to the gym after work either!

a nice view of Mount Hood on my commute home on Barber Blvd

blackberry break on the way home today

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

July Texas Weekend

This past weekend I was in Texas for a long weekend… just in time for the heat wave. Yep, it just happened to be the hottest days they’ve seen this summer. And I got to experience it. I prepared myself for the worst: walking outside, immediately getting lightheaded, fainting onto the hot concrete and waking up and hour later in a puddle of sweat and with a lobster sunburn. Thankfully, it wasn’t that bad. I was able to breath, walk and function each day almost like normal!

I didn’t choose this weekend in hopes that the weather in Texas would be comparable to the heavenly 74-degree Portland summertime. I went down for my cousin Megan’s wedding. I already love weddings to begin with, but when you live far away getting to go home for weddings are extra-awesome because you get to see lots of friends and family all in one place. It’s the jackpot of staying connected with people you love. Megan’s wedding on Saturday night was super fun. All of the Carters were together have a good ol’ time (including some pretty crazy moves on the dance floor)!

Since I was in Dallas for four days, I also got to spend lots of quality time with family including brunch with the Colemans, lunch with the Mark girls and sweet Baby Lottie, a golf cart ride around the Belf’s new neighborhood, visiting the Dallas farmer’s market, and getting woken up at 6:30 each morning by some way too energetic kids (who doesn’t love that?!).

Thanks for great talks and a fun weekend, fam!

playing with little Henry before heading to the rehearsal dinner

Jammy with the beautiful flower girls and handsome ring bearer

sisters at the wedding

cousins table at the reception

getting down on the dance floor with Alice Anne

Monday, July 16, 2012

When It's Sunny in Portland

In Portland, summer starts the day after the 4th of July. Until then weather is pretty unpredictable, but starting July 5th you can pretty much count on perfect weather through September.  So what do Portlanders do when the rain finally goes away and the sun comes out to play?? We dust off our sunglasses, store away our black and grey hoodies, expose our pale skin by wearing uncommonly colorful tank tops, and completely lose track of time because it stays light until about 9:30pm.
I personally have a hard time being on my computer during my precious sunny nights and weekends, so I fall behind on my blogging. But I'm sitting on my wonderful back patio on this glorious 74 degree evening and thought I would fill you in on the beginning of another perfect summer here in Portland.
When it's sunny in Portland, we:
 spontaneously bike around the neighborhood, inviting other bikers to join our ride (destination: nowhere) then climb on top of an abandoned elementary school to watch the sun set
join the rest of the city in watching fireworks explode over the Willamette River downtown

forget about our cars and bike everywhere possible
go for long runs in Forest Park where we can see the effects of the rainy season

buy fresh produce at the local farmers markets

pick fresh raspberries and marionberries for dessert

and even experience a little Christmas in July while eating frozen yogurt on Hawthorne

Christmas in July
Speaking of the Christmas spirit, my home community group had a "Christmas in July" camping trip this past weekend.  Niguel's mom lives out towards the coast in Willamina.  We've heard stories about her love/obsession with Christmas, so we decided we would make a trip to see what it was all about.  Just as Niguel said, there were snow globes scattered aroud the house, snowmen figurines above the kitchen cabinets, snowflake blankets on the couches and even a little Christmas tree in the front enterance.  We sang our favorite Christmas carols around the campfire, had a white elephant gift exchange and drank our coffee out of Christmas mugs.  It was a very merry camping trip to say the least!

gift exchange around the campfire