Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Choices, Choices, Choices...

I’ve been listening to old Radiolabs. (it’s a good podcast, look it up on iTunes, if you’re so inclined.) The one I just listened to was about Choice. One of the commentators talked about how the amount of choice we have is endless. There used to be defaults in life paths. It was never a question about getting married, or getting a job, or even what to eat. But today there are an over abundance of options. We are keenly aware (or naively believe?) that we can make our life follow any number of paths. At any time we, as the elite middle class people we are, can go back to school; be a day-laborer; quit society and move to the woods; settle down and make having a family a priority; and the list goes on and on....

I’ve noticed that I am constantly analyzing each road I take in life and am continuously asking questions: am I happy doing this? is there something that I would rather be doing? what can I improve? And this constant rational examination makes it nearly impossible to live each day for each day.

This past weekend, a.k.a Christmas, Heather and I took off to my last BVS project, Camp Myrtlewood. It was a weird homecoming. I, of course, did some analyzing of my life since leaving camp, but I more just let the time be. I was able to really enjoy the time and savor each moment. It was great to catch up with old friends. It renewed my soul to wonder aimlessly in the woods. It calmed me to sit by the mountain stream.

One path that Radiolab proposed was precisely this: We should try to leave rationality at the door and go boldly into the unknown, trusting our feelings and emotions.

Monday, December 20, 2010

And then there were two...

So, Chelsea headed back east earlier in December, and Ben is now at PDX awaiting his flight home for the holidays, which leaves Jon and I here in Oregon for Christmas. Although it’s a bit of a bummer to not be home with family for Christmas, Jon and I have plans to head to Camp Myrtlewood for the holiday. I am seriously looking forward to a few days of reading, walking in the woods, and just relaxing! And seeing another part of the state is a bonus!

We took in our fair share of Portland Christmas festivities this weekend, which included everything from the lights on Peacock Lane (the street even has it's own website) to sighting the Christmas Ships (more like small boats) on the Willamette River, to Peace Church’s big Christmas party at Kerby’s house. The Christmas party was an evening spent with lots of people, lots of food, lots of people, lots of gifts, and did I mention? Lots of people. For sure it was the most extensive Chinese Gift Exchange I have ever been a part of, (you know- the game where you can either unwrap a gift or steal someone else’s already opened gift), with about 50 gifts up for grabs. Yes, 50. So, our house came home with gifts that were a pretty good representation of the assortment available. My new acquisition: a pair of mittens made from parts of wool sweaters. Ben’s new possession: a ceramic manger scene. And for Jon: some peanut brittle- and he made it very clear that Ben and I were not to devour it, as we customarily do with sweets.

On another topic…I relearned a lesson this week that I thought I had learned well while in Northern Ireland, but apparently not well enough. Lesson relearned: Plan an event and do it rain or shine. If you wait around for a sunny day, you may spend a long time waiting.

Joe and Julie, friends of mine from Virginia who are now living in Portland too, graciously loaned me their car while they are back east for the week. What an opportunity this presents for us folk who usually depend on public transportation or our own feet as a means of getting around. After the announcement of a car in our possession: “We should go hiking,” Jon, Ben, and I practically exclaimed in unison! But, wouldn’t fate have it that the forecast was calling for a dusting of snow with a 100% chance of rain throughout the day on Saturday. Seriously? Can we not have just a few hours of sunshine, or even just the absence of precipitation falling from the sky? So, with this dismal (but pretty typical) weather forecast on Friday night, Jon, Ben, and I pretty much ditched the idea of a Saturday hike. And while it may have been drizzling at 7 in the morning while we were still all tucked in our beds…I am pretty sure that no other raindrops fell to the ground between the hours of 9 and 4. Plenty of time and decent enough weather for a great hike somewhere, right? But alas, we had already slept away the morning and had procrastinated making our gifts for Kerby’s party, so there would be no hike. Lesson learned…sometimes it’s better to just ignore the weather report and follow your heart (which usually calls me outside). ☺

So, with all of that said, rain or shine, Jon and I are both hoping to get outdoors and do some walking in the woods down at Myrtlewood! Merry Christmas!
- Heather

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The meaning of a working life?

Today I had a job interview that was far less than perfect.

I’ve been applying to jobs that vary from kitchen jobs to group homes for adults with mental disabilities. My original thinking was that a job, any job, was what I was looking for: It would pay the bills and give me, hopefully, medical insurance.

I applied and today interviewed at a half-way house for convicted persons who pled insanity. The position was graveyard where the responsibilities were staying awake and what can be easily be called busy work for 40 night-time hours a week. It sits very poorly with me: playing medication-dispensing babysitter to grown adults.

It’s raised lots of questions -- I should probably say re-raised and magnified: should a job solely be a means to live? Should it be rewarding and something that you invest yourself in, or should it merely be a job that is superficially enjoyable that you can leave easily after your shifts? Should you identify yourself with your job, as our society often tells: Hi I’m Jon; I’m a (insert profession here)? Or should your job allow you to do what your heart loves: Hi I’m Jon; I love spending time in the woods. Oh and by the way I pay for life by taking out other people’s garbage.

Working for money is a really weird concept when you think about it. Our lives are the most valuable possession we have. And yet we are willing to prostitute ourselves as doctors, accountants, or janitors and the price we put on this selling of ourselves is a mortgaged-house, useless stuff, the latest gadget, and maxed out credit cards.

I think there is validity in the notion of having a calling. I think sometimes there are people who legitimately love being a doctor, teacher, grocery store bagger, and are good at it.

I want to find a way to occupy my time that “makes my heart sing” and hopefully that will pay for a simple existence. The hard thing is finding out what that is.

I welcome thoughts.


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Counties and Cookies

Accomack, Albemarle, Allegheny, Amelia, Amherst, Appomattox, Arlington, Augusta, Bath, Bedford, Bland, Botetourt, Brunswick, Buchanan, Buckingham, Campbell, Caroline, Carroll, Charles City, Charlotte, Chesterfield, Clarke, Craig, Culpeper, Cumberland, Dickinson, Dinwiddie, Essex, Fairfax, Fauquier, Floyd, Fluvanna, Franklin, Frederick, Giles, Gloucester, Goochland, Grayson, Greene, Greensville, Halifax, Hanover, Henrico, Henry, Highland, Isle of Wight, James City, King and Queen, King George, King William, Lancaster, Lee, Loudoun, Louisa, Lunenburg, Madison, Mathews, Mecklenburg, Middlesex, Montgomery, Nelson, New Kent, Northampton, Northumberland, Nottoway, Orange, Page, Patrick, Pittsylvania, Powhatan, Prince Edward, Prince George, Prince William, Pulaski, Rappahannock, Richmond, Roanoke, Rockbridge, Rockingham, Russell, Scott, Shenandoah, Smythe, Southampton, Spotsylvania, Stafford, Surry, Sussex, Tazewell, Warren, Washington, Westmoreland, Wise, Wythe, and York.

There you go.  If you guessed that the above list is of the 95 counties in Virginia then you would be right.  If you guessed that I compiled that list from memory you would also be correct.  Sometimes you do odd things when you're unemployed.  Jon, having little interest in Virginia, has memorized the counties in Delaware and Rhode Island.  I've got Delaware down now as well, but I'm not so sure about Rhode Island.  In case Jon wants to showcase his listing prowess next week I'll skip sharing them with you for now.

This past Friday was Preparing-The-House-For-The-Holidays Friday.  I got to put up the lights outside.  This is the first time Jon and Chelsea have ever had icicle lights on their house.  This was cause for a great deal of excitement.  I was just about as excited about the fact that a previous tenant installed metal hooks under the eaves for holding the Christmas lights.  I think I would like to hug that person.

We also made cookies, most of which we ended up giving to our neighbors (who, by the way, are all super nice) as an excuse to introduce ourselves.

This is Jon working on his double chocolate chip cookies*.  Seriously, you started to feel ill after just one because of all the chocolatey goodness if them.  I think I had five the first night**.

Editor's notes: *None of the double chocolate chip cookies actually made it to any of the neighbors.
                      **No, I did not barf.

Heather busied herself with some nummy-licious sugar cookies.  Seriously, I don't recall sugar cookies tasting this good.  The icing came a day later.  Don't let her fool you; Jon isn't the only cookie aficionado in the house.

Chelsea helped with a little bit of everything.  Have you ever seen somebody as happy while scrubbing pots and pans as this sweet cherub?  Yeah, that's what I thought, too.

We're basically all set up now for some holiday goodness.  By that I mean that half the house will be out of town for Christmas and we're all gaining ten pounds (minimum) from excessiveness of desserts.  You know what else that means?  Yup - plenty more good stories just around the corner.

I think we beat Charlie Brown's Christmas tree, but not by much.

Naughty or nice, we're ready.

Happy decorating to y'all.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A Week Full of Adventures!

What a week! The last seven days have been filled with birthdays, road trips, snow, and a lot of good food!

Monday – If our house doesn’t have a sweet tooth, then I don’t know who does. This was proven yet again when we finished a whole batch of brownies Monday evening, not to mention the two different kinds of homemade cookies over the weekend, banana cake from Peggy and oatmeal cookies on Tues., carrot cake on Wed., Thanksgiving on Thursday (aka lots of pie), leftovers on Fri., and chocolate cake, oatmeal cookies, and Krispy Kreme doughnuts on Sat. Mmm, mmm, mmmm.
Tuesday - Before coming to Portland we all heard how the weather was mild during the winter and what do we get – SNOW! I’m not too sure if you can really call it snow – more like a good dusting. Nevertheless, it canceled local schools for the day and Heather didn’t have to go to work.  I, however, had work and had to walk all the way there and back in the snow, ice, and cold. I didn’t know if I was going to make it. (for those of you that don’t know – my work is right next door lol)
 Wednesday – The first birthday of the week – celebrating 24 on the 24th! It was a day filled with birthday singing, many calls/messages from friends and family, the first fire made in our fireplace, and carrot cake made by Ben!
Thursday – This was our first house venture out of the Portland area on our own.  We had an early morning exploring around the Columbia River Gorge and many of the waterfalls around there – absolutely B-E-A-utiful!  We also got some good ice-skating practice on our hike while we tried not to fall on the icy paths. We followed it with a great Thanksgiving dinner at Jane and Vance’s where we learned that putting a 1000 piece puzzle together in one night is possible and there’s nothing like some good harmonica music.
Friday – We had our second road trip! We ventured over the snowy mountains to the Coast, dodging the rain from one beach to another. No one actually went swimming this time (well Ben didn’t notice a wave quickly approaching and might have gotten a little wet lol) but we went to a cheese factory, saw a wind surfer, and managed to name 80 of the 95 counties of Virginia from memory (impressive). 

Saturday – We had our second birthday of the week!! Jon turned a quarter of a century!   We started our day by getting in the Christmas spirit, decorating the church at Hanging of the Greens.  That was followed by a venture to Forest Park for a hike, the Pink Feather for some karaoke, and a chocolate cake for Jon’s Birthday!
Thanks to Beth and the use of her car we managed to expand our scope of Portland and the surrounding area! However, I think we are all looking forward to a quieter week coming up and perhaps some Sunday afternoon naps in our near future. 
Until next week –
            Chelsea Beth

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Where does the time go??

Day by day we are getting more settled into our cozy green house here in southeast Portland, and it is feeling more and more like home. The folks at Peace COB have been so incredibly welcoming and generous with their time and donations to our house. After sharing with them a list of some items that we still needed for the house, the list has been whittled down to barely a handful of items now. Some exciting additions to the decor this week were some matching night stands, and a loveseat and a chair for our "sitting room" (all freebies on Craig's list). It's amazing what you can find for free if you have the time to look for it (thanks, Ben) and a truck to transport it (thanks, Lou). The walls were feeling a bit bare, so after the gift of some Blue-Tack, we got right to work and posted up some maps. I'm particularly loving the massive city map of Portland on the kitchen wall, as I reference it multiple times daily.

So, what I'm realizing is that despite working/volunteering a reasonable 35-40 hours a week, there still doesn't seem to be enough time in the day or the week to do all of those things that I'd like to do....I'm still trying to figure out why that is, but I think I'm realizing that living with other folks and being intentional about it just takes more time than I anticipated. The other thing that takes time is getting from one place to another. I've discovered that the sheer nature of public transportation slows down the pace of life, and it is definitely to your advantage to have some degree of patience. For example, it can be a 45 minute commute to travel three miles to work via a combination of walking and bus. And on Friday to visit the credit union to open an account (not so easy when you don't have a lease or utilities in your name I discovered) and then the drug store, literally took me 2 and a half hours from start to finish, whereas with a car, both events could have been completed in less than an hour. So, it's easy to see why a lot of people have cars in the suburbs. There is definitely a convenience factor there. Even so, the public transportation system seems much better in Portland than most places I've visited in the US, and I am pretty excited about the prospect of expanding my transportation options with a bike.

Personal highlights for me last week: our first attempt at dinner conversation in Spanish only (thank goodness for Jon!), expanding our "house family" to six while Jon's friends visited, an entertaining evening at "The Seussification of Romeo and Juliet", a fabulous homemade Ethiopian meal, and love feast after church today (complete with vegetarian sop)...life is good.
So, what's in store for us this week??? A three day work week for Chelsea and I, two birthdays in the house, and some day trips on our days off. Stay tuned! - Heather

Monday, November 15, 2010

Retired...nope just unemployed

Hola World Wide Web:

We’ve been in the house officially two weeks! It feels like 2 years.  I never really understood what retired people meant when they said that “They are busier now, than when they had a job.”  As a fellow retired person (aka unemployed), I fully agree.  These  two weeks have seen our house having lots of hours of house meetings, painting a room that we not so lovingly call the Smoker’s Lounge (the previous tenets unthankfully smoked but thankfully kept it to one room), visiting almost daily with church members who bring us housewarming items or help us fix things, and learning to share a pretty small 3 bedroom house with 3 other people.  Despite all of this, it’s been really enjoyable. 

This past weekend we went to Brandy’s surprise birthday party (she’s 15 and a dog).  Thankfully, no one spilled the beans and she was surprised although quite apathetic and tired.  Ben made a sweet card that said, “It’s your birthday .... Let’s all PAWS to celebrate!”  :)

Stay tuned for next week’s update.  This week we are welcoming 2 friends of mine from back east, going to a Dr. Seuss version of Romeo and Juliet and a homemade ethiopian dinner! 


Friday, November 12, 2010

Let's Get 'Dis Par-tay Started

We've been here in SE PDX for almost two weeks now.  Whew.  Whatever each of us was doing before we arrived here seems like a small eternity ago.  Two weeks ago I hadn't even boarded the train to come out here.  A month ago I lived in Cincinnati.  Holy mackerel.  Was that even this year?  The calendar says that's the case, but I'm not sure I believe it.

There's plenty more for us to learn about each other and hopefully you'll hear about some of the fun and whatever involved in all that.  So far we know that we go through a heck of a lot of yogurt, peanut butter, and cheese.  We also have some durn good cooks in the house, regardless of prior cooking experience.  Food-wise, I think it's gonna be a spectacular year.  The people are pretty cool, too.

Tonight we're attending a surprise birthday party for one of our canine fellow congregants.  I'd like to share more details at this time but it IS a surprise party, so I can't divulge too many details at this time.  Maybe someone will provide some follow up details in a later post.

So, welcome to the Portland Community House blog.  I hope it's everything you dreamed of and more.  Stay tuned; it's only gonna get better.