Friday, February 27, 2009
And in other artist offspring news, it seems The Dark Lord has been asked to contribute something to regional show for high school artists later this year.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Sunday, February 22, 2009
When we were ready to buy, The Spouse worked 2 doors down and I was teaching all of 4 blocks away from our rental house. Obviously we didn't want to move far, but as we quickly learned, a house that would hold all of us in a condition the banks would accept couldn't easily be found nearby. Portland is a city full of groovy, cool, and very hip neighborhoods and it quickly became clear that we wouldn't be living in any of them. We made the very un-cool choice of looking to the east. We learned that home prices dropped $20-30,000 just east of the I-205 freeway and that there were in fact lovely homes to be had in Parkrose. Our neighborhood is far from hip but it turned out to be one of the few places relatively close to our places of work where we could get a decent-sized house. And a lovely home it is.
But--there's almost nothing here. A great fabric store, a wonderful hardware store, and a good-sized Vietnamese market but no regular grocery, no restaurants I'd eat in and, saddest of all, not one decent coffee shop. There's a little coffee place attached to a huge church/motel complex down the road but I haven't visited because I just don't need Jesus with my coffee, thanks.
Our neighborhood is poorly lit with no sidewalks. People drive their kids just a few blocks to school because parents understandably don't want them killed walking on the streets. No bike paths, almost no parks, really very little that would cause you to get out of your car and meet your neighbors. The only reason I know anyone around here is due to conversations about my wandering cat.
But, ever so slowly, it seems that things are starting to happen. Graduate students from Portland State University's urban planning department began a conversation on neighborhood improvement here a couple of years ago though, honestly, I'm not sure where that's gone. Last spring a farmers market opened up, operating every Saturday May through October in the high school parking lot. This isn't your typical Portland market brimming with organic produce, fine coffee, and artisan breads and cheeses. In fact, the coffee is truly awful but since the concession belongs to the family that worked so hard to get the market up and running, I say let them have it (even though I just can't drink the stuff). The produce is local if not organic, and it's lovely to see my neighbors out in full force on market day.
And now it seems that perhaps City Hall is finally willing to concede that we are, in fact, part of the city. Not only a part, but possibly the most diverse and dynamic part, according to a recent Oregonian article which claims:
The article further details the Portland City Council's newly adopted East Portland Action Plan which addresses details relating to development including:
The area, with a population of more than 125,000, is growing twice as fast as the city in general. In the last decade, nearly half of all single-family housing and one-third of the apartment units built in the city have gone up here. And residents have complained about the low quality of much of the development.The area also is becoming more racially diverse at a faster rate than the city as a whole, and low-income families are swelling the schools.
parks, public safety and transportation in eastside neighborhoods. It calls for more sidewalks, street lighting and storefront improvements, for example.Sidewalks, which most of Portland takes for granted, would be a huge improvement. Maybe then I'd meet more of my neighbors on my morning walks, rather than watch them drive by in their cars.
Saturday, February 21, 2009
He rode The Dark Lord's bike which isn't a bad fit now the the son is as tall as the father. He immediately began complaining about the seat but I just kept on pedaling. We went first to the library and then decided to ride further for a coffee. By the time we got near our coffee destination we were starving and changed plans in order to get a proper lunch. We sat outside, chilly and hungry and very happy. Well, I was happy. My husband was still grumbling but he tried to be cheery. Given that his idea of a perfect morning is more likely to involve a newspaper and a cozy house than a bicycle and helmet I think he was rather a good sport. I couldn't get over how cool it was that we'd taken our first ever bike ride together in nearly 20 years of marriage. I know, I know, kind of ridiculous, isn't it?
Our return ride was right into the east wind and not ideal, especially when there was nothing to do but ride in traffic. I wish there were more low traffic roads out of our neighborhood, but an interstate freeway and a rather large chunk of rock force us to use the higher traffic roads for part of nearly any ride. I don't much like sharing the road with speeding cars but my poor husband was quite worried. Eventually the shoulder widened out as we approached home and we arrived tired but quite pleased with ourselves.
When I asked if he was glad I made him go out with me he insisted I didn't make him do anything-- it was his choice. Fair enough--I hope it's a choice he makes often in the near future. because I can't think of a whole lot that's more fund than a cycling date with my sweetie.
Friday, February 20, 2009
Eventually we lost touch. She moved north, we moved south, and somehow things got crazy. I often wondered how here family was doing but never really made the effort to find her, so I was more than touched when she looked me up. Since we've been back in touch I've been thinking back to 15 years ago and I feel like I've reclaimed some of those long lost new mom days. Of course I was delighted when she proposed a visit to Portland and I made great plans for all the things we could do while she was here this weekend.
I haven't seen D in a decade or so, but I was still crushed when she informed me that some kind of crud had gotten to her and her son and she'd be postponing the visit. I'd even set up a fun afternoon for The Princess so D and I could visit the sauna today! Never one to let free child care go to waste, I planned to sent The Princess anyway and go steam and sweat on my own but as it turned out, Lynn wanted to join me. Not only that, she wanted me to ride on the back of her bike!
I can't even tell you how fun this was. I felt like a little kid as I perched on the Xtracycle while we whizzed down the street. Lynn (and her Stoke Monkey) did all the work--there was nothing for me to do but grin and enjoy the sunshine. I really, really wished I'd had my camera with me, but otherwise our little excursion was the best. We rode all the way down to the river and back up the hill on a spectacularly gorgeous day.
The best part? Only a couple of years ago my dear friend Lynn had some very serious medical stuff going on. Very serious. Never in a million years did I think she'd be carrying me around town on the back of a bike! She keeps getting stronger and healthier. She makes me look like a slug and nothing could make me happier.
So it turned out to be the best day ever. I know I'll get to hang out with D soon, and that will be wonderful as well. But I am delighted that things turned out so well today. To top it off, D got me going with Skype and we managed to have a hilarious video chat which, while not a real visit, was a good preview.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
But lab results seem to indicate that my $5000 worth of dental work is in fact helping me get better. The antibodies that cause the autoimmune response in my body have decreased dramatically since I first began getting my teeth repaired last spring. Once those antibodies are in the normal range, my thyroid will no longer be under attack and causing my body to run at high speed. At that point I will be officially in remission from Grave's Disease. I honestly never thought the day would come but under the guidance of my most excellent doctor, I think it's a very real possibility and not so far off.
Two and a half years ago when I got word that I had a chronic autoimmune disease, things really fell apart for me in the sense that I felt like a powerless victim beginning the long slide towards the grave at just 41 years old. The doctor I had at the time did nothing to dispel my fears, and in fact seemed to exacerbate them as much as possible in an attempt to create a weird sort of dependence. This lady head serious control issues, and I am so grateful that I was able to walk away from her and find a doctor who was truly interested in my health. I feel so lucky to have a solid, respectful relationship with my current doctor who really feels like a partner in managing this stupid disease. Also she prescribes sauna visits. That's crackpot hippie doctor advice I can live with!
I'm not out of the woods yet, and there's more chelation and dietary tweaking in my future, but I am amazed at how empowering it is to know that I do have at least some control over my health. The food I eat and the choices I make really do make a difference, and I've managed to get healthier without the lifelong complications of the mainstream therapies.
Monday, February 16, 2009
In other related news, I made the sad discovery that my old version of Photoshop won't install on my new Vista computer. Damn. But really it's OK because the only thing I ever figured out how to do in Photoshop was remove blemishes. I know it does plenty more but nothing I ever seemed to need.
I've used Picasa for years as a photo organizer and a lightweight editor. It's a great (free!) program and every new release has had truly useful improvements. I especially like the current version's photo collage features. I haven't found anything better for organizing and tagging my zillions of photos. But what Picasa doesn't do is resize things. Since I like to shoot my photos in maximum quality, I often need to make them smaller to get them up on the web, including here on the blog. Photoshop does this, along with 50,000 other things, but since it wouldn't install on my new computer, I was stuck.
I googled free Photoshop alternatives and came across my new love, Photoscape. It does everything I ever needed Photoshop to do, but much more intuitively. I actually have a better understanding of what I'm doing when I adjust my photos, rather than just clicking buttons and hoping for the best. And I whipped out a new blog header in a snap, so if you're reading me in an RSS reader, please hop over to the blog and see what you think. I am absolutely delighted with this find and wanted to share it with you.
Thanks to Colin for the lovely lilies!
Saturday, February 14, 2009
I hope it's been a day full of loved ones and sweet surprises for all of you as well.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
But no more. Now all these tests are computerized. My students have very little computer experience so doesn't it make perfect sense to test them using an unfamiliar medium? Why, keeping them confused and anxious is certain to elicit their best responses, right? But it gets worse. Tonight as I gave my students their annual English Language Proficiency Assessment (the dreaded ELPA) one after another got trapped by error messages, forcing us to log them in repeatedly, move them from one computer to another, and interrupting any possible semblance of concentration they might have had. I keep trying to explain that it's not their fault and they've done nothing wrong but how am I supposed to convey that in, say, in Burmese?
Why do we do this again? I think I'm supposed to be proving something, but I'm not sure what. The test is way too difficult for my students, I've lost an entire day of instruction, and subjected my students no end of frustration and doubt. But thank God we're in compliance with the state.
Sunday, February 08, 2009
Courage Campaign has put out this powerful video featuring Regina Spektor's Fidelity (which just happens to be in constant rotation in this house) and I encourage you to watch it, talk about it, act on it, and share it with anyone you know who's concerned with justice and equal rights.
"Fidelity": Don't Divorce... from Courage Campaign on Vimeo.
As Americans who believe in the rule of law and fundamental civil rights, we know that Ken Starr and the Prop 8 Legal Defense Fund's shameful attempt to nullify these unions will not be vindicated in the eyes of history. We know that, ultimately, love will prevail, no matter how hard they try to fight it.--Courage Campaign
Many of you suggested that I just do something and so I did. I started small, just a batch of granola, but that simple act seemed to adjust my attitude.
It didn't hurt that I arranged for a massage at my beloved sauna place. I'd been hesitant to do so because honestly I couldn't imagine driving home after such an experience. Instead took the bus and arranged for The Spouse to pick me up.
It was a beautiful day, warm and sunny, so I decided to skip the bus transfer and walk the last almost 2 miles down a street I've driven hundreds of time but never walked. I had my camera along (I can't take the photos if I don't carry the camera) and the walk was full of delightful surprises.
I want to thank everyone who took the time to share thoughts about getting out of this rut. Of course I know everyone goes through this, but it's good to know I'm not alone.
Thursday, February 05, 2009
I don't think I've ever posted so rarely since I started the blog. I don't have much to say, but today a friend encouraged me to say something anyway.
Shall I tell you about my slump? (This is your opportunity to move on to the next new post in your RSS reader. This won't be pretty.)
I look over my yarn, itching to start something, and then unable to focus on a plan. I get out my camera and realize with every picture I want to take that I already took that picture this time last year. I pick up the current panel on my skirt with every intention of finally reaching completion, but somehow I set it down and it languishes for days, still weeks from being finished. I try to help MonkeyBoy up the ante on his schoolwork in preparation for entering high school next year but I find that we butt heads over the same issues and he makes no noticeable progress. Every day I think I am going to get back into my exercise groove but I have no stamina and end up exhausted and annoyed with myself for my weakness. I've been concocting elaborate Valentine's surprises for my loved ones in my head but have done exactly nothing.
I feel drained, depleted, and completely lacking in inspiration.
So tell me, Dear Readers, how do you handle a slump? What gets you past it? What keeps you from falling in up to your neck?