Saturday, June 22, 2013

vacation 2013 - never a dull moment

we got back about 4am last night from our first vacation since moving west and my first weeklong camping trip.  it was great!  our 1 year anniversary of moving to Portland is coming up in a few weeks and this time last year we were beginning to pack up our quaint little home on Stanley Avenue in North Carolina in anticipation of the moving company.

Oh how a year flies by!

A little about our vacation.  I'll try to list off the things we did, places we went, things we saw, and quirks of the days, but pictures tell better stories.

Clutter HomeStead for the Week
Above you'll see our campsite for the week.  We don't often do campgrounds or official campsites, but rather drive down forest roads and find a site.  It keeps things interesting this way.  This one was off of Highway 4 in California just down from Ebbetts Pass in Stanislaus National Forest.  We camped at about 7,000 feet, which was a first for either of us for this long and a first for me in general.  Altitude sickness is a real thing for the first day, even for dogs.  Who knew?  So we're driving and pull off on this random road that looks like a camping area and we find this great site right by the river!  And a picnic table and a bathroom (vault toilet, but its still a toilet!)!  And so we get our permit the next day to build a campfire and learn that California doesn't charge for these permits or these random sites...they really should.  At least $5...but no, so we can build a fire or camp in any California National Forest until the end of the year with our official permit.... 

So we set up, with out sweet free picnic table, our too big for 2 tent, and our hammocks under tarps.  And don't forget about the shower station (pictured below) complete with a solar shower and loofah hook.  Gotta stay clean when camping for a week and creek baths in 40 degree mornings won't cut it!
Shower Station complete with loofah hook
Campfire Night 1

So throughout the week we
  • had Chick-Fil-A on the way down!
  • took a nap in a McDonald's parking lot in view of Mt. Shasta in Weed, California (yes a real place)
  • saw Lake Tahoe and did the Rim Drive with stops at Kiva Beach, Emerald Bay State Park, and a visitor center on the much more scenic Nevada side of the loop
  • hiked North on the Pacific Crest Trail from Ebbetts Pass at elevations between 8000 and 9000 feet
  • hiked up to Inspiration Point from Lake Alpine including a detour off trail through some loose rocks
  • read nearly 2 whole books!
  • saw Mosquito Lake, Bear Valley, Mark Twain's Cabin in Gold Country, and countless little Gold Towns on the way to Yosemite
  • hiked in snow IN JUNE!
  • hiked to Bridalveil Falls in Yosemite National Park
  • saw panoramic views of Half Dome, El Capitan, Vernal Falls, Nevada Falls, Yosemite Falls, and the Yosemite Valley from Glacier Point
  • saw Elk run through Tuolumne Meadows on our way out of the Park through Tioga Pass
  • drive on scenic byways through the Eastern California Desert at night passing a bluegrass rave at a closed gas station, 2 sheriffs herding cows back into their pasture, a gas station with a sign explicitly requiring 'guns left in car', and beautiful lakes
I tried to make a Google Map of this all.... maybe it worked, maybe not.  Check it out here

For those interested in more details on the bullet points, read onward.

Kiva Beach at Lake Tahoe

The Dogs Loved it!

Us at Emerald Bay

Emerald Bay with a "castle" with a guy who squatted on the island buried there

lion king moment with Tails on Ebbetts Pass Pacific Crest Trail Hike

from our Hike on the PCT from Ebbetts Pass
Subaru Ad near a Reservoir
Snow in June? In the Sierra Nevadas at 9,000 feet, yes.
Hiking up Inspiration Point above Lake Alpine
one of the many cool rock creations on top of Inspiration Point
View before the final summit of Inspiration Point
First Yosemite Stop: BridalVeil Falls - CROWDED!
Family Photo at Glacier Point with Half Dome in the background

Lower Yosemite Falls
Pisgah Being Awesome
Final Picture on the way home
Everything on our trip was beautiful and most of the time I felt like it must be fake because of how big and breathtaking things were.  I'm not sure how anyone moves from the West to the East Coast...things are just so much bigger out here.  There are volcanoes, snow in june, Half Dome, massive rock outcroppings, and In n Out Burgers.  Everything is also so wild out west...cue the song.  You can go 100 miles without gas or cell service, which while that's a first world problem, it truly makes things feel wild and undeveloped.  Which is nice, unless you're running out of gas.  We saw gold country and old gold mining towns with original architecture  saloons, mines, etc.  California is also MUCH dryer than Oregon, especially Eastern California.  Camping in dry 7,000 feet air was a new experience that made me appreciate Oregon rain and the Willamette Valley.  It's truly beautiful and Yosemite was more than I could have prepared myself for.  Nevada is a funny state, there truly are casinos JUST across the state line in any possible spot, it's entertaining.  Camping for a week was a great vacation and a great time to just disconnect, sit by the fire with my dogs, and read nearly 2 books after hiking.  I could go on with more stories of the random gas stations, the cows in the road, or more, but the pictures capture 1/2 of the beauty we experienced last week.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

southern communication

i've come to the conclusion that you can be 'southern' without being trashy or country or redneck (those 3 are also not synonymous with each other)

i've also come to recognize how indirect i am in my communication and could write a LONG meandering post but instead, i'll share 2 pictures a friend found that explain it PERFECTLY

here's the original post that also inspired this:

and my favorite quote from it

I need to remember that there’s a difference between being polite and being a wallflower who can never ask for anything directly, and realize it’s not the end of the world if someone tells me no. Part of the beauty of the way I talk is that if you never ask, no one ever directly says no. They just don’t address your wants, which in the end is no better.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

be an editor not a critic

someone very wise today told me that we should make room for people to edit our lives instead of just be critics.

we create spaces where people feel comfortable helping us edit our lives instead of just standing on the sidewalk pointing out whats wrong or what they'd do different

this, i believe, is a 2 way street.

we have to create an attitude/presence/whatever you'd call it where people feel comfortable talking to us and comfortable walking with and being around us.  we have to be the type of person where people think we can accept their edits (knowing they will walk with us through them) rather than the type of person who gives off the vibe that others should 'throw in their 2 cents and run like hell' for fear of revolt.

we also have to surround ourselves with others who are more than critics.  people who are self aware themselves and value that.  and those people have to know how to help edit and be WILLING to walk through the edits with us.

and thirdly, we have to be willing to BE an editor ourselves.  this goes back to the Ghandi quote of BEING the change we wish to see.  otherwise, we're just standing pointing from the sidewalks of life...

Thursday, April 11, 2013

honey badger walks and free boxes

tonight was one of those nights where it was just once again confirmed that I'm right where I need to be in life...

after work, I headed to a girls night with some lovely women from our home community group and we talked grad school, doctors, boys, shopping, portland, bikes, and the usual.  it was a place on my way home from work - super convenient - and a very portlandia place at that.  weird artwork, intentional graffiti everywhere, birds on things, board games being played at tables (no that's not a joke), and funny drink and food names and combinations.  oh and lots of hipsters trying to be noticed while acting as if they don't want anyone to notice them for being so 'unique.'  yes, portlandia in real life.  but, alas, it was great food, great friends, and great happy hour food/drink specials.  so I encourage you to check it out, Swift Lounge (yes it's even named after a bird and I give you the yelp link).

once home, the 2 dogs are HYPER, a typical Thursday evening occurrence after a long day of us being away for more than usual with work, etc.  the weather's nice, the sky is clear-ish and you can see the stars, and my severe hayfever from the massive beautiful pollen overload is mildly subsided, so we head out on a honey badger walk.  these are some of my favorites - if the mood/weather is right.  they're typically at least half an hour and have no end goal in mind other than the joy of the dogs.  dog owners (who love their dogs) know that  - when the dogs are happy and tired - the house is at peace.  i won't subject you to why the walks are called honey badgers other than to suggest that you check it out on youtube.  on these walks, the boys (dogs) get to stop whenever they want, go where they want (to a reasonable extent) and spend as much time sniffing dirt as they want.  we have a routine, but if that changes, so be it.  we have a typical route, but if they want to go somewhere else, so be it.  they're in charge.  they've been alone all day, why not, us humans should walk around and wander about more often anyways....we could learn a thing or two from dogs.  living in Portland, we of course always check the neighborhood free boxes and the book cabinet at Share-It Square.  tonight we scored a board game!!

  I'm not sure what "Whoonu" is or how it's played, but we now have a sweet new game.  If you don't know about the phenomenon that is free boxing - you must not live in Portland.  I'm sure it happens elsewhere but this city really does put the meaning in "reduce reuse recycle" everyone recycles!  We've gotten a bathroom shelving thing, a chair, a stool, a small table, and considered getting other stuff from free boxes around the area.  It's not sketch, I promise.  Why not?

So the point of this rambly post is that tonight was perfect.  I got to spend some quality time with ladies I'm developing deeper friendships with eating great food at great prices then come home and take the two cutest dogs in the world on a walk doing whatever they wanted AND scored a sweet new board game.  I feel SO at home here, in this town, in my job, at our church, in our home community.  And "at home" isn't a thing I've consistently felt in awhile.  There have definitely been people I've felt 'at home' around and seasons where i've felt like i was on my way to 'settling,' but I havent' been overwhelmed with the peace that in nearly all aspects of life, I'm right where I need to be and in the big aspects, I'm right where I'm called to be, and that's something that can't be explained until you feel it for yourself.

I wish and pray this feeling on everyone.  Everyone deserves to feel at home.  Everyone deserves to be poured into.  Everyone deserves someone to really mean it when they say "how are you?".  But it takes one to be one, so I'll go back to my favorite quote "Be the change you wish to see in the world."  Be THAT person who helps someone feel at home.  I know when I was at a point in life where I felt completely NOT at home, I just started realizing that even if I couldn't feel that way, I could do my best to BE that to someone else, to help them.  Even if I couldn't have a group of close friends, I could be the type of friend I wish I had to someone - even if it wasn't genuine back.  We can only change ourselves, so be what you want others to be back to you.  Be the type of friend you wish you had, even if you don't have that friend or don't receive that back.  Listen to the answer to deep/shallow questions in life that have deep answers.  Hold the door for someone even if they're fiercely independent and get upset at you for it (another new west-coast phenomenon).  Get up early to meet with that new person in town.  People appreciate those things.  Even if they don't recognize it in the moment.  Help people feel at home.

To add to the cheese factor of this post, I can't help but be reminded of this overplayed song.  "Home" by Phillip Phillips.  I'm sure it might be romantic, but it also reminds me of a deep friendship - even if its one sided.  The trouble might drag you down, but if you get lost you can always be found (by someone who wants to make you feel 'at home').  This is also a 'thank you' to those of you who have made us feel 'at home' 2,500 miles from any family we have and to those who we felt 'at home' around in our previous home(s).  Despite the struggles of the past few years with finding somewhere to be 'at home,' we've learned alot and truly learned how important it is to have people who make you feel like you can be yourself and 'at home' around them.  So thank you :)

oh, and as usual, this isn't all about the title, but if you have dogs, take them on more honey badger walks and on less scripted lets go here pee here walk home here kind of walks (the usual kind).  everyone will be more joyful 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Quit-It Thursdays

this is the record-keeping post of the quit-it Thursday concept from Bob Goff 

October 18th: I quit having serious/big decision making conversations after 10pm

October 25th: I quit a Facebook "group" that was not bringing anything positive into my life, but I was spending to much time checking
February update: this has been a relief and a much-needed removal from some unhealthy communication

November 1: I quit starting tv-shows after 10pm
February update: this is going miserably... Netflix and getting home late have derailed this

November 8: I quit artificial sweeteners...

November 15: I quit diet soda (again) and all drinks with artificial sweeteners... I had quit for 9 days, tried one with lunch, migraine again, so now they're quit for good....
February update: no more soda migraines! while I do miss Diet Dr. Pepper, my occasional natural ginger ale or Izze fix takes care of most of that

November 22: Happy Thanksgiving!  Today, I quit stressful holidays.  I hear so many stories from friends or family about family drama, stressful worrying over food and frivolous things like who will eat where and when and where events will be held, planning out spending money we don't have on things we don't need and stressing over who will go where and when the next morning, and just general stress from broken relationships and today I quit all that.  There's no point in it.  Today, while we didn't physically see any family face to face, we were able to connect via Skype and Facetime which are wonderful technologies when used for building relationships!  We were able to have a GREAT meal with new friends from our new church here in Portland and had great conversation and built even deeper relationships as we learned more about Portland and the great outdoors and snowshoeing.  So I quit stressful holidays.  Mine haven't been as stressful as the horror stories you hear, mind you, but I'm vowing to never get to that point in my life.  Why start now?  I value people, relationships, and some good mashed potatoes and gravy....oh and my sleep and sanity, so no stress!

November 29:  I quit putting sugar in my coffee.... sounds silly, but since quitting soda, no more headaches! and I can't really taste the real sugar in my coffee, so why add extra stuff?  So, just cream!
February update: no real complaints here, no migraines and no guilt from adding sugar to something that could otherwise be mildly healthy

December 6 and 13:  I'd love to say I just forgot about these 2 Thursdays and had some epic revolutions where I quit something that was really infringing on my time with God, but that's not the case.  Each week, I racked my brain for what I should quit and came up empty.  I started this project trying to quit something that was taking up the margins of my life and began quitting things that were bad or unhealthy habits.  My rationale for those was that if I'm not healthy, my margins are already taken up by my bad/unhealthy habits and I cannot be who I was designed to be.  I am proud to say that quitting diet soda and artificial sweeteners has decreased my headaches and made me feel like I eat less 'junk' - artificial man-made stuff.  I still get an occasional craving for Diet Dr. Pepper and try to satisfy it with Reed's Ginger Ale with all natural sugar.  

December 20th: As you can see from above, I've flatlined in my quitting of things.  So this week, I quit quitting something every week.  In my effort to free the margins, I have begun to put pressure on myself to quit something epic each week and ended up stressing out over it, which I'm pretty sure is not the point.   I will for the foreseeable future, be quitting something on the FIRST Thursday of each month.  I hope that this will give me a month to be very intentional about looking at what's taking up too much time, what's causing unhealthy habits, and how can I remove that from my life.  

In an effort to remain transparent in this project and alleviate any "she must not have many things she should quit" rumors, there are some things I KNOW I need to quit, but I have been unable to commit to quitting, so I'll list them here and ask that you'll pray alongside me that I can quit them sometime in the future....
  • sleeping past 6:30am during the week/making excuses for not going to the gym
  • sleeping in to the last minute
  • not having a mentor
  • cable
  • forgetting to prayer journal each day or night
  • feeling as if I need to KNOW the plan
  • "pinning" great ideas and never making time to do them
i'm sure there are others.  But I invite you to come alongside me, and begin your own journey of freeing the margins in your life.   Free them so that you can be who you were made to be, not just who feels right.  Free them so God can reveal Himself to you clearly.  Free them so you can add things that are meaningful

and stay tuned for January 3rd!

January 3rd.... well if you were following this, you noticed nothing was posted, I didn't quit anything.  It was during my Christmas Break and honestly I was quitting stress by relaxing with my husband and the dogs, so I neglected to quit anything for the month of January...

February 7th Quit-it Thursday's resume!
after nearly 2 months of consideration of what to quit and why to quit it, I've decided to quit all communicative technology on Saturdays.  let's admit it, we're all too attached to our phones/emails/communicative devices and taking 24 hours away from them won't be the end of the world.  I LOVE times when my family (husband and 2 dogs now)  go camping or somewhere without service and it's just us.  just quality, in person time with no distractions.  so why not implement a plan for that each week?  Between my Americorps more than full-time position, volunteering on a few committees, finishing up a graduate school application, and serving with the youth, my plate is filling up.  so, the need to be intentional with my time is greater than at any other time in my life.  Saturdays are the only 24 hour period I have with family, so we've been very intentional to savor and keep them sacred. so starting this weekend, I will be shutting off my computer and phone when I head to sleep Friday night and will turn them back on Sunday morning.  For those of you far away, Tom will have his if you truly need to contact me in an emergency.  Also, there is an asterisk to this.  There are a few Saturdays when I will be away from my family and working or Tom will be away.  On these days, the phone will stay on, but will simply be on in case of an emergency call.  So, I challenge you today, what are you doing to be intentional with your time?

March.....couldn't come up with something meaningful so in the spirit of my word of the year (intentional) I decided not to post this month.

April 4th....This actually happened one week before and wasn't confirmed until a few days later, but on March 28th, a Thursday during an Alternative Break Service trip to San Francisco during a really deep morning of worship, I finally quit wavering on a decision - whether or not to return to a second year at my job (assuming there would be funding).  I committed.  Officially.  No 99%, but 100%.  So now that the funding has officially come through, I can write about it with excitement and say I will be serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA with Concordia University as their Experiential Learning Trips Coordinator through August of 2014

Thursday, March 21, 2013

we kept charity overhead low - dead wrong

Our generation does not want its epitaph to read, "We kept charity overhead low."   We want it to read that we changed the world, and that part of the way we did that was by changing the way we think about these things. So the next time you're looking at a charity, don't ask about the rate of their overhead. Ask about the scale of their dreams, their Apple-, Google-, Amazon-scale dreams, how they measure their progress toward those dreams, and what resources they need to make them come true regardless of what the overhead is. Who cares what the overhead is if these problems are actually getting solved? If we can have that kind of generosity, a generosity of thought, then the non-profit sector can play a massive role in changing the world for all those citizens most desperately in need of it to change.

I love TED talks and am thrilled to know that my workplace will be hosting a TEDx Event this weekend even though I won't be attending.

This video gets to the heart of a HUGE struggle I see in our society.  A struggle that keeps those who want to change the world continually burning out.  A struggle that runs rampant in the minds of those who want to help, but also want their families to be able to be comfortable.  A struggle that keeps us from helping those most vulnerable to the most capacity.

I've never heard anyone put it as eloquently as Dan does in this video and I hope that you'll take the time to hear from him.

I hope we can make this shift so that nonprofits in health and human services can succeed, thrive, flourish, and grow without the fear of people being concerned with 'overhead,' which, is 100% NECESSARY.  100% volunteer run organizations struggle and cannot grow as well as those with dedicated employees who CAN put 100% of their time into the organization because they aren't also out working in a for-profit company.

Let's consider this and shift our thinking .

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

stop guarding your heart and start using it

this post is inspired by this post from Rachel Held Evans' sunday superlatives
"If you really want to be in healthy relationships, stop “guarding” your heart and start using it. Walk through the mistakes you will inevitably make and learn from them. Find a community of people who are practicing vulnerability. Fill your heart full of the love that makes it come alive, full of grace, full of determination to walk with pain rather than around it, and you will be much better off than any heart that has been merely “guarded.” If you want to learn vulnerability, allow God to really truly love you, exactly where you are, with a love that disintegrates shame."

tonight at our small group I was reminded even more about how true this should be for my life.  The idea of 'guarding your heart' is something I, like the post's author, heard about constantly growing up as a notable quality to have.  We should strive to guard our hearts in relationships with guys, with new people, and even with our friends.  We shouldn't get 'too emotional' or 'too attached' to people or relationships.  While I strongly feel that you need to be comfortable in your own skin before becoming seriously committed in a relationship so that you don't become co-dependent on the other person for your sole source of happiness, 'guarding your heart' in the way I was taught now seems like more of a weakness than a strength to me.

I grew up in the opposite corner of the country and in many ways a very opposite culture than the one I now live in.  Granted, I've only been here just over 6 months, but it is so refreshing to see a larger amount of authenticity among people rather than remaining guarded.  This post and our home community refreshed my thoughts on that and brought something to light I hadn't even considered about what I was taught in church and in life growing up.  Guarding your heart can still allow you to be vulnerable, open, honest, and transparent.

While I filter most things and concepts in life through the lens of how I would explain it to teenage girls and the notion of not giving yourself away in romantic relationships is something I believe very strongly in, I do not believe in hiding yourself or trying to put up a facade simply on the notion of fear of vulnerability in friendship relationships.  So i'll speak to this from the perspective of talking about mostly non-romantic relationships.

The article says, you cannot shut down part of your heart and not shut down all of this.  This is TRUE. If we continue teaching ourselves and our youth to 'guard' or 'shut down' part of the natural vulnerability they have rather than teaching them about healthy relationships and positive ways to be vulnerable while remaining self aware and teaching them about how to be wary of negative influences while being transparent, we will have a great deal of robots who don't know how to really feel...

We cannot hide ourselves.
We cannot be afraid to truly answer "how are you doing?"  we can't keep saying "fine"
We cannot be afraid to take longer than our allotted time to listen to a friend who genuinely needs to tell you how they are.  Time is relative, we have to accept that.
We need to stop the gossip train that fuels the 'need' to guard our heart in some cultures
We need to stop the judgement
We need to pour ourselves up so that others may be filled and we may be renewed by a spirit of vulnerability

most of all...

We need to love each other.  Like REALLY love each other, not just say we go (i'm sure that's a Bob Goff quote)

I could go on about this, but just think about it.  What would it be like if we quit 'guarding our hearts' and started using them, started being vulnerable, started actually answering people's questions about our feelings?  Proverbs 4:23 talks about guarding your heart, but I don't interpret this to mean 'shutting off' part of your heart.  I believe it's what I discussed above, and being vulnerable and transparent while recognizing the influences around you and controlling their affect on you.  This is what 'guarding your heart' means, not shutting it off...

Yeah sure, we'd make people feel uncomfortable because they were just expecting a "fine, how are you?" from us, but maybe we could start a cultural shift...