Monday, January 31, 2011

We ain't from 'round these here parts

One of the neat things that Portland can offer that most East coast areas can't is that there aren't as many people who have deep roots there.  Of the Under-50 crowd at Peace Church you'd be considered practically a native of the town if you've been here more than ten years.  Even the older generations rarely can claim Portland or even the state as their place of birth.  For those of you reading this who are familiar with the East coast you know that you aren't "from" someplace usually unless your great-great-great grandparents are buried in the local cemetery.  (For those of you claiming West coast origins, I'm only kinda joking about that last part.)  With so many new faces it seems to be almost more welcoming of a city than most places I've lived before.  Heck, most everybody you know was a newbie on the block at some point here so they can still remember what it was like settling in to the area.  Yay for Portland.

While a good number of Portlanders are transplants, we sometimes are reminded of how recently we arrived here, even if we're beginning to feel like we belong to the city and the area.  For example, there is this fun phenomenon where (at least Heather and I) mix up which direction is East and West.  I can't necessarily vouch for Heather, but I know I can clearly see a map in my head when I am incorrectly telling someone that I was headed North then turned right and was going West.  Heather and I have figured that it must be because in Virginia (and Maryland and Pennsylvania and North Carolina and...), West means mountains and rural living while East means a higher population density and the coast.  Therefore, when we head toward the city and away from the mountains (well, the bigger mountains) then it only seems logical that we're heading East.  We'll get it right eventually.

Another good indicator that we aren't true Portlanders yet is how we deal with snow.  Actually, the fact we even deal with it is a pretty good sign that we aren't from Multnomah County.  It's as if we're all of a sudden in Atlanta when there's snow in the forecast and everyone freaks out and the schools close before the first flake falls.  A few days before Thanksgiving there was a forecast of snow and Heather was checking for school closings to see if she'd need to go to work the next day.  One school district actually closed school for the following day and the day after that without a single snowflake sighting.  I sure hope I never get to that point.  Otherwise, all of my friends in New England and the Great Lakes region just might pee their pants from laughing so hard at me.

Possibly the greatest indicator that we aren't fully converted Portlanders is that we consider (fine, at least I consider) taking an umbrella with us when we're headed out into the rain.  The fact that we're still going out in the rain instead of rescheduling or calling off whatever was on our to-do list is a step in the right direction.  Still, there's that moment of hesitation where we look out the window and think, "Ugh.  I really don't wanna be wet."  Slowly, that pause by the panes is fading away to an afterthought half a block down the road.

Being that I really don't have any concrete plans after the end of this year it's hard to guess whether or not what I'm learning now will come in handy down the road.  For now, it's a learning experience.

Monday, January 24, 2011

I'm actually here to blog!

This is our 12th week blogging – and only my 2nd time having to blog- I’m not sure how that happened. Actually… I do know how that happened; I’ve been away for almost half of the time I’ve actually been living in Portland. The traveling has mostly been for work, and then some time for the holidays at home. I’ve had relatively good luck with the traveling as well! (which is unusual for me) with only a couple short flight delays and an eventful trip down to Florida – which consisted of flying down to Florida, staying the day in an airport in Florida and then flying back up to practically the same location that I had left from that same morning.  My most recent trip was last weekend, when I went to Boulder Colorado, for my first Peace Retreat of the year! Overall, I think the retreat went really well – despite the nervousness and butterflies- and a plus was that I got to see sunshine and blue skies!
It’s been a little hard to make Portland feel like home when I’ve been traveling so much, I think mostly b/c I don’t feel as connected to the larger city or with people outside the house and church. And it probably doesn’t help when your house, church and office are all within 50 meters. (Although it’s nice on rainy days and it’s very convenient)  This past week however, I felt more like a Portlander than I think I ever have. Let me tell you! Wed. night we had a young adult get together at Bobbi’s making pizza! I think the one thing that sets our young adult group apart from others is that you know there will always be some kind of food involved, and you know there will be vegetarian and gluten free options available, and these options are often more common.  Thursday night we had a group come over to the house for a Special Response Hearing.  Friday night Jon, Heather and I went to see Portlandia (a new tv show about Portland) at an old theatre downtown. The doors opened 2 hours before the showing and when we got there 2 hr 10 min early, there was already a line wrapped around the building. Lol. Saturday I learned that miracles really do happen – when Portland had blue skies and Sunshine in January!!!  All of us got outside at some point – there was no way that we were going to let such a nice day go by. Ben and I went on an hour bike ride, stopped at a park hike and to see the awesome view of Mount Hood, and then biked back. And Heather and I made a new record with grocery shopping – taking only 1hr 25min – while using public transit!  Sunday, Heather and I went to a pizza place to watch the Steelers and Jets Game- where the Steelers won!! Whoot whoot! (A couple months ago, I wouldn’t have cared-  but my boyfriend is slowly converting me over to be a Steelers fan lol )
Other exciting news – Jon has a new job and car! We’re starting to venture out and meet and hang out with other people outside the house. I found out today that people play ping pong on Mon. and Wed. nights at the local high school – which I’m going to try to check out soon. And! Professional Bull Riding is coming to Portland!! Yay! (the funny thing is that facebook told me this through the ads on the side column- it’s scary how well facebook knows you sometimes)   
I think that’s about it for now- Until the next time I’m in town for my Blogging turn - Peace

Monday, January 17, 2011

Come on over. Bring a friend or two!

We didn't get any pictures from this past week, so this rendition of the good times will have to suffice.

This past week we hosted not one, but TWO different social gatherings at our house.  On Monday evening we had a lively trio of retirees - Jane, Vance, and Lou - over for dinner.  Jon cooked up a scrumptious meal with the rest of us pitching in on side dishes, deserts, and dish washing.  Afterward, we had a guest appearance by Charles and played possibly the most entertaining game of Trivial Pursuit (copyright 1981) of my life.  The evening eventually came to an end because the younger generation needed to get to bed.

The second gathering of friends occurred on Friday when Jen and Beth dropped in for a Game Night.  On the menu was gluten-free chocolate cake with homemade chocolate icing (courtesy of Chef Jon), ice cream, potato chips, and extra homemade chocolate icing.  I had at least three pieces of the cake.  On the game end of things we covered Bananagrams, Urban Myth, and Salad Bowl*.  Unless we missed a major part of the rules, we concluded that we would not recommend Urban Myth for anyone who actually wants to play a game.  I believe we decided it would be better for sitting around and simply reading the cards to each other and maybe Googling some of the real ones to find out more.  Salad Bowl was particularly fun, especially with Beth turning into Super-Animated-Beth.  We finally said our farewells as the clock started pushing 1:00AM.

The significance of these two evenings for me was that it felt like we were having friends over simply for the sake that we like them and they are good company.  It wasn't a get-to-know-you gathering and there wasn't any particular holiday we were celebrating.  Maybe this holds a bit more significance for me since the previous house I lived in back in Cincinnati didn't get these kinds of opportunities very often.  We didn't know many people in town beyond the Cincinnati Church of the Brethren aside from co-workers and only two of us commuted to work.  As much as we liked our fellow CCoB congregants, almost all of them lived 30 minutes to an hour or more away from our house.  The result was that we rarely had guests over in the evening unless it was a friend from out of town who was also staying the night.

So, yay for friends who are close enough to visit in the evenings.  This doesn't make Cincinnati any worse or better than Portland.  This is, however, one difference that I am currently appreciating and enjoying.

*How to play Salad Bowl:
1. Cut up a couple of pieces of paper into little strips big enough to write a couple of words on them.
2. Have everyone write down names of people or characters that everyone in the room will recognize (example: David Letterman, Juliet, Minnie Mouse, Harry Potter, Quasi Moto, Stan Noffsinger, etc.)
3. Fold each paper in half and put them in a (salad) bowl.
4. Divide into two teams.  You're probably sitting in a circle already so go ahead and arrange yourselves so that each team member is sitting between members of the opposite team.
5. Get ready to have fun.
6. The first player starts with the bowl in front of them and has 60 seconds to try to get his or her teammates to guess who is written on the sheet of paper that was pulled from the bowl.  Once one of the teammates guesses the correct answer the person giving the clues can draw another piece of paper from the bowl.  The goal is to get your teammates to get as many correct answers as possible in the allotted time.  During this first round the players may use any words for giving their clues as long as they are not written on the piece of paper.  If a player can't get his or her teammates to guess the correct answer or does not recognize the name on the paper they drew out, tough luck.  He or she must keep trying until the end of the 60 seconds and then the paper can go back in the bowl.
7. After the bowl has been emptied in the first round the scores are tallied up for each team based on how many pieces of paper the players have.  Then all the papers go back into the bowl for Round 2.
8. The second round is the same as the first except that the player pulling the papers can only use three (3) words as clues.  "Ummm..." is a word, as is "Geez."  "I don't know" would be three words so don't screw up and say that.  Even if there is an "I don't know"er, his or her teammates can try wildly guessing and hope for the best.  Tally up the score after the round and put the papers back in one more time.
9. The third and final round is played like Charades.  That's right, there is no talking.  This is when things can get very entertaining.  This can also be a time for some more of that wild guessing.
10. Tally up the scores after Round 3 and find out which team had better describers and guessers.  The winning team should then proceed to gloat while the losing team points out that nobody on the winning team knew who Jim Thorpe was and that was really sad.

We actually opted not to do the team scoring aspect.  It was still fun.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Hopes for rational, humane voices

Today’s shooting of Congresswoman Giffords has hit me pretty hard. It feels like our country, and I guess the entire world, has lost its sense of humanity. We increasingly talk over each other, and fail to listen to the validity, and necessity of differing opinions. For one reason or another, we’ve stopped having rational and principled conversations.

I thought democracy was supposed to be about discussions, rhetoric (in the original sense of the word), intelligence, faith in diversity both in identity and beliefs, and that despite of our differences we are united in being part of one humanity (ok I’m over-reaching here; being united in being American is more accurate, in this country at least). But it’s no longer like that here; “Democracy” has become a dogmatic adherence to our group’s ideal: the tea party's defense of individual liberty, through smaller government and a deep faith in the constitution, or the progressive’s belief in the importance of meeting basic human needs such as health care, protecting the environment, and education. Both world views have a core of truth. Instead of realizing our own view’s imperfections and short falls, we’ve polarized to extremes.

Radio and TV political pundits on both sides spew hate and spread fear. News in our country has stopped being about the nuances of complicated issues that matter; we have 24-hour “news” shows that are about ratings. And ratings are really about selling advertising slots. These shows are about entertaining gossip, well entertaining to some. The news that gets reported is dumbed down, over-simplified, and told with an unhealthy dose of fear and hype.

Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik said today at a press conference in the aftermath of the shooting: “I think it’s time as a country we need do a little soul searching, because I think that the vitriolic rhetoric that we hear day in and day out from the people in the radio business and some people in the TV business, and what we see on TV, and how our youngster are being raised. It may free speech but it does not come without consequences. Arizona has become the mecca of prejudice and bigotry.”

Keith Olbermann has a very honest and critical reflection on the nature of our national dialogue:

I hope that today’s tragedy will be the inciting incident that helps us see the real danger of condoning violent imagery in our discussions about each other: Ms. Giffords opponent said in campaign literature, “Get on Target for Victory in November Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office Shoot a fully automatic M16 with Jesse Kelly (Giffords’ November opponent).” I hope that we can return to the time of open, intelligent, and PEACEFUL dialogue. I hope that we can see and respect each other’s humanity. I hope we can dispense with fear-mongering, racism, homophobia, xenophobia, and see and respect each other as brothers and sisters.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Your flight has been...

That's right.  Less than 24 hours before I was set to return back to Portland the call came in that my connecting flight through Newark, NJ and their 20+ inches of snow was no longer happening.  I had been rescheduled for Saturday evening - New Year's Day.  I was supposed to have already returned to Portland by New Year's Eve where I would be attending a Pink Martini concert with Jon, Heather, and some other cool cats.  Those plans were now shot.  There wasn't anything lined up with hometown area friends so I made the most logical choice there was: Go to Pennsylvania.

More specifically, I went to Camp Swatara for the yearly staff reunion and a small New Year's gathering.  Swatara is a bit of a second home for me, similar to Jon's Myrtlewood probably.  There were plenty of friends to see that I wasn't expecting to cross paths with for some time to come - a farm manager, a very faithful blog-following seminarian, a morbidly devout Redskins fan, a wanderlust traveler, a piano-playing program coordinator, a soon-to-be-graduated soprano, an India-bound spirit, and many others.  Once again, I don't know when then next time is that I'll see any of them.  I guess time holds those cards for now.

Yet another bump in the road has turned out well for me.  It would be nice if I could go into all situations knowing that somehow, no matter the outcome, I'll be alright in the end.  It's probably true.  Maybe I enjoy the worrying and anxiety.  Ugh.  Now I'm back on the bumpy journey that is this community house, resettling in as a returned to space for the first time.  As I think about what's to come in the weeks and months ahead I find myself thinking, "Gee, it sure would be nice to know what's coming up next."  Then again, it's good to have the canceled flights that keep us guessing just a little and lead us on unexpected adventures.  I'm just hoping that the next adventure doesn't also try to take me through New Jersey.