May 14 2011

Common courtesy.

Ever want to muzzle someone?

My phone was pressed to my ear as I talked with a business contact.  I was standing in a dog park with my two Whippets, Leo and Bliss.

Bliss began to bark.  Bliss only barks for the equivalent of the most direr "Code Blue" type instances.  She immediately got my attention.  Her cause for concern: a wolf-looking dog baring down on us in that slow, creepy way.  We were in his sights.

I gathered up and leashed both Whippets. The wolf got closer and his mate, a sleek, black Great Dane, joined in - stalking us.  I looked in the direction of their owner. "Please call your dogs," I called out.

He made a half-hearted effort.  I repeated the request with more urgency in my tone.  Taking flight was no longer an option; the distance between prey and stalker was too narrow.

"I am calling them." was his (lame) response.

"Can you be more assertive? My dogs are frightened," I asked.

A nose distance now from his dogs and increasingly frightened myself, I said, "Get your dogs on a leash NOW!  I am scared."

We visit the park four times a day and have since October 2008.  I didn't know this fellow or his dogs.  The same could be said of the owner and the pit-mix that hospitalized Leo last August.

You know what the jerk said?  "Lady, this is a dog park."

Anything but a gentleman, he may have had the last word but I didn't catch it.  My back was turned after a volley from our camp about common courtesy being common courtesy anywhere.


Jan 29 2011

Now or later.

Do you live in “now” or “later?”

Do you wake up in the morning thinking about all the things you have to do before another sunset?  Do you stop regularly to ask yourself, “Where do I want to be in a year, with whom, doing what?” Do you reflect periodically on all the zillions of moments and memories you’ve already experienced?

Do you put as much energy into meeting new people as you do nurturing friendships?  Do you make a regular effort with either?

Do you make a point of learning something new each day?  Do you walk, ride or drive the same route everyday?

What choices do you make – for yourself?  Are you tourist or explorer or homebody?

I have cleaned my flat, bathed the Whippets, done the laundry, closed the door on my office and turned my back on the photo albums, household items and clothes soaked in the December rains that flooded Wyatt underground storage units and still in need of sorting and fixing.

A year ago I left my marriage of 24 years largely for “now.” I thought we’d fallen into a routine of  “When this happens, we’ll …” all the while living a wonderful life but not content enough.  Connected and not.  The half full glass is half empty.

Since last January  I’ve crafted a busy, full life between my two cities – on my own, sometimes feeling very alone.  Sometimes empowered by the possibilities.  Many times feeling doubly blessed.  I have not always been true to my mission. Routines have gobbled up hours, days.

Today, with almost seven hours until I dress for a theatre date, I have a blank canvas before me.  What do I pick to do first?! How much can I fit in?

Portland’s Pearl is my playground! I’ll share what I find!

Enjoy the moments of today, Trix



Jan 13 2011

Baggage.

January 10, 2011

“Is there something in the side pocket you can take out to lighten the bag?”

I avoided eye contact with the fellow asking the question.   He had watched me stuff my lined, hooded raincoat in the zippered compartment. I didn’t want to carry it on the plane, across half the country – the long way.  Nor I was in the mood for someone who lived excruciating by the rules.  Twice a month I weigh in for flights with two bags, often each just under 50 pounds.  Last Monday I arrived with one 52-pound suitcase.

Charming the agent was out of the question.  A fowl mood was lurking just below my uncharacteristic, neutral, quiet, matter-of-fact demeanor.  I was worn down by two days with energy-draining people, the type whose complaining isn’t an occasional venting but a character trait.  I had wasted energy, time and breath with both, arguing the half full glass wasn’t leaking.

Many hours earlier a telephone call had woken me at 5:30 am from a dream of being tossed around in a vast, dark, bottomless ocean.   Two men were near me (in the dream, not in the bed). We were all swimming forward which seemed to me to be further out to sea; no land was visible.  I had paused to tread water, to question our direction (the dream mirroring my waking life isn’t lost on me).

The men had more reason for concern.  We were in shark-infested waters, they explained. We maybe had minutes until all was lost. I challenged this conclusion just as I’d foolishly argued with my weekend naysayers.  Once awake I wondered if the swimmers or the sharks were my two grumpy companions of late.

In the movie Eat Pray Love, Liz Gilbert is nicknamed “Groceries” by someone she meets on her quest.

My nickname might be “baggage.” I am not a pack rat. I regularly edit, delete and prune.  But I have always been a homemaker, even during my heaviest travel years.  An itch to travel, to economize is now rarely more than a thought away.  I have two dogs, heavy furniture and treasured possessions.  Each unique and irreplaceable, like the many people in my life.  I have been trying to travel with all of it, everyday.  It is time to maybe store possessions and distance myself from people that weigh me down and don’t make me happy.

Lugging baggage stops now.   Moving forward is about refueling, less about being grounded.

Suddenly it makes sense. Fifty pounds of baggage is the limit if I want to fly.

Lighten your load!

Always, Trix


Dec 27 2010

The company of strangers.

December 27th, 2010

“We are going to ride the streetcar! We are parking the car so we can catch up with it.”

On Lovejoy Avenue, just outside Sammy’s Flowers, I was stopped by a little boy colorfully dressed in waterproof clothes.    His sandy-colored dreadlocks swept  his shoulders with each wisp of breeze .  He was either an articulate three-year-old or a petite four-year-old.   He told me more about his plan.  I shared with him my idea of sometime just riding the streetcar until it stopped and seeing where I ended up.  As I watched him walk off with his family for their Sunday adventure,  I thought of my son at that age.  He is 23 now and lives in Tulsa, the city where he was born, the city where I spent all of my adult life until late 2008.

It was Sunday.  For two hours I had been walking a corner of Portland’s Nob Hill Neighborhood and the northern part of the Pearl District. Oddly enough I was thinking about all the ways to get around as I wore through a bit more shoe rubber.  I’d passed boats, cars, buses, streetcars, trains and lots of walkers and cyclists. The public transportation in my neighborhood is a chief reason the Pearl often places in the top five places to retire.  What other things go into deciding where to live?

A bit of goggling and I found sites with questionnaires to help a reader decide where to live.  Factors to consider included work location, cost of living, climate preference, cultural amenities, outdoor scenery, health care access…  I have tallied up pluses and minuses for both Portland and Tulsa.   There isn’t a clear winner.  My marriage brought me to Oregon.  My business client base is still in Tulsa.  I visit Tulsa monthly and still put full-time effort into staying connected to the community.  On Thanksgiving I passed the morning with an iPhone in one hand, a coffee cup in the other – texting and calling over 70 people – many of whom hail from Tulsa.  That Thursday night I dined with Portland friends.

I grew up living on four different continents and an island in Indonesia.  I don’t know that I need to be with someone to feel connected, especially not in this technical age.  Because I work from home, one thing I know I need throughout the day -as much as oxygen and food – is regular brushes with people, opportunities to smile, chances to exercise.  I meet the eyes of each fellow walker, chat with neighbors on the elevator, at the dog park, in the market…I wave as I pass businesses and store fronts to acknowledge the owner of Green Grocery, the designer at Smash Cut, the associate at Umpqua Bank, the concierge at Park Place… I wave back at people on passing trains.  Each walk is energizing.  Each  lifts my spirits in any kind of weather and collectively they’ve helped me shield some (many) pounds!

As I sat waiting for my Mac to boot up to begin writing this entry, I glanced over my left shoulder through my south window.  A neighbor standing in her living room folding linens,  stopped to wave.  Turning back to my screen I looked up and a 12th floor neighbor on his balcony smiled and nodded.

Making your way on your own can be daunting, exciting, scary, overwhelming and confusing – every day!  When you are ready to choose where and how to live, try to embrace it as an opportunity to find a good fit for you.  Listen to one voice – yours.  Make this your time.

And for fun: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FE_9CzLCbkY&feature=player_embedded#!

Always, Trix

Trix

http://web02.bestplaces.net/aarp/ls/


Nov 10 2010

My guy Tad.

“Tad, as in Tad the Cad on All My Children?” I asked.

“Yeah.”

About the name – pretty sure he’s been asked before by those of us familiar with the soap opera role played by actor Michale Knight. My Portland Tad is a homeless fellow I met him through the Whippets in the Fields.

My friends who know of Tad worry about me and our connection.  They needn’t.

The Fields is a rare undeveloped plot in Portland’s Pearl District that functions as a semi-official off-leash area.  In one particular spot it hosts a treasure chest of smells and discarded items. Most dogs and owners miss it, preferring the grassy fields for games of fetch. Whippets don’t play fetch. Leo gets the ball and then deposits it as far away from the person who flung it out there as possible. During Leo’s first days of living with us he and I indulged in games of Donut Dash in the long hallways of our Tulsa home. Leo would retrieve the greenish, tennis ball material, donut-shaped toy. He’d then quickly zip back towards me but always try to skate past me on the bamboo floors with his catch. I caught him, threw the toy back down the hall. The game continued.

The day I met Tad was a sunny, but slightly cool day. He was wrapped mummy-style in a green blanket on the pavement next to his heavily laden cart. The Whippets couldn’t resist exploring. They sniffed and poked around Tad during each of our first two walks of the day despite my effort to distract and chorale them. By mid-afternoon and our third walk, we found Tad standing, neatly folding his linens. I apologized for my nosey Whippets.

“I’ve found a huge bag of dog food. Would your dogs like some?” Tad asked.

Tad has eaten dog food, cat food, too. He definitely prefers dog food.

“Is it the oiliness of the cat food?” I asked Again, “Yeah.”

I worry often about financial security, especially starting over in my 50′s when many friends are retiring and embarking on fabulous trips I don’t see in my future. Tad didn’t once complain about his situation. He was, indeed, concerned about the disorder of his cart when I took his photo. Now when the weather here turns cold and wet, I text Tad. “Are you somewhere dry, warm?” He sends me a photo of an enclosed parking garage – his cart off to the side.


Aug 14 2010

Closer than you think.

Think about the drive to work today, or the drive home.  With or without a mobile phone in use, how often were your thoughts somewhere else?

We often cruise familiar turf preoccupied with thoughts outside the present moment and space.   Could it be we are similarly programmed to look elsewhere for things that perhaps are right under our nose?

Take hiking and coffee. The airplanes are full this time of year with travelers headed to Oregon to enjoy the state’s trails and java shops.  Since moving to Portland I’ve even taken up hiking. It bares a strong resemblance to what I once called walking, but the scenery is different and I do it regularly with friends – something I never did in Tulsa.  “In Tulsa,” I have explained, “the harsh weather keeps us inside socializing over food and wine.” In Portland I feel like a kid again, playing outside with chums.

I Goggled hiking Tulsa and got 322,000 results.  I Goggled coffee houses Tulsa and got 45,800 (substituting Portland for Tulsa yields 2,140,000 and 290,000 results respectively.)

Clearly I could have hiked in Tulsa everyday of the over 30 years I lived there. And despite 107 degree weather this month, I did – twice! Not with the same companion both times but that’s beside the point.  Come October, I am confident both will consider joining me again.  Both my August outings acquainted me with Turkey Mountain on the west side of the Arkansas River.  I’d only been there once before though I still own a house just three miles west on 71st Street.  With a heat index of 115 degrees, you may wish clothing was optional but the tree canopies protect you from the sun; bottled water combats the heat.  And (thanks Julie!) I learned a simple way to navigate this unfamiliar urban wilderness: consistently climbing up hill not only provides a better workout but makes later finding the parking lot and your car as simple as walking (excuse me, hiking) downhill. In Portland’s Washington Park, my strategy is simply to follow whoever is ahead of me and keep tabs on my off-leash Whippets.

When it comes to coffee, my approach is equally simple.  I usually get my daily dose brewed at home in one of those noisy “by the cup” machines that will wake the dead in the morning but yet go relatively unnoticed by chatty dinner guests many hours later in the day. Though I live in Portland, where Starbucks coffee beans are roasted, I buy Topeca Coffee in Tulsa and cart it home in my suitcase.  (Each and every time I open my suitcase to find an airport security inspection notice. I can only figure I am suspected of using coffee beans to throw off the hounds sniffing for other substances.)

I buy Topeca coffee as much for the story, as the taste.  Topeka was founded by John Gaberino and his wife Maria, a woman from El Salvador whose family has owned and operated a coffee plantation for six generations.  I remember years ago when John used to serve up samples of the coffee for Petty’s shoppers.  When the coffee market hit one of its lowest points, the Gaberinos and Maria’s relatives had determined the best way to continue the business for another six generations was to take the product from the field to the consumer, a process they dubbed “seed to cup.” This last trip to Tulsa I finally met Maria. It’s an easy task to find her in their relatively new cafe downtown.

When the Mayo Hotel in downtown Tulsa reopened after 30 years -sporting a $50 million plus renovation, Topeca Coffee opened a cafe on the ground floor.  It’s an inviting spot with glass table tops resting on trays of coffee beans, comfy leather sofas and over-sized photo portraits of plantation employees, like Miguel, who works on the patios. As the portrait label reads, “Topeca uses a traditional method of sun-drying fresh beans on large patios.  Beans must be raked and turned often to ensure all moisture is gone.” In Tulsa, beans from El Salvador are roasted on site daily and freshly brewed coffee is served with an assortment of pastries and sandwiches. I’ve read the Starbucks story; I don’t get the same feeling from it as I do talking to Maria or John.

The next time you are yearning to explore or wishing for a change of scenery, try looking at home with fresh eyes.

Always, Trix

My finds:

http://www.topecacoffee.com/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turkey_Mountain_(Oklahoma)

www.washingtonparkpdx.org/map.htm


Aug 10 2010

Dogs & neighbors

I awoke today to find cards slid under the front door of my flat.  Each addressed to Leo or to Leo and Tracey.

Leo is my five-year old Whippet. He was viciously attacked by a Pit mix in the Fields, an off-leash dog park two blocks from our home in Portland’s Pearl District.

Dogs, like children, jump start the process of getting to know your neighbors.  In my experience, dogs  even more so than children.  Children, after all, are heavily booked with after-school activities – keeping parents on the run to places outside the neighborhood whereas dogs provide occasions to walk the neighborhood, conversing with those you meet on the street.  At least in an urban environment it works this way.  Without a fenced backyard, one walks with one’s dog(s) and a proper supply of doggie do bags. If you are at all social, you easily have two or three exchanges per walk, of which there are 4 to 5 a day.  Do the math…walking a dog can be your entire social life and an enviable one at that!

Sunday night while Leo was in surgery at Dove Lewis, I felt alone in my adopted city and longed for the yard around our former house in Oklahoma – a safe haven where Leo could chase birds and squirrels and his only brushes were with broken tree limbs.  But Leo is a city dog now and he has made his mark in his urban setting…perhaps more than me, The Whippet Lady, companion of Leo and his sister Bliss.

Leo will literally stop dead on the sidewalk if a passerby fails to acknowledge him.  There’s not an ounce of ego involved.  In every instance Leo has made eye contact, lifted his nose, raised his ears…he expects (and, I think, deserves) a return greeting.   I tug at his leash when the offender, a snob, has passed.  He quickly returns to his mission of greeting those ahead on the path.  I love this dog.  He has taught me so much.

It has long been observed that dogs and owners resemble each other.  I used to joke that I got Whippets in the hope I’d become lean, sleek and graceful – like Leo and Bliss.  Now I hope they will keep me sensitive, forgiving, accepting and trusting despite what comes on a Sunday in the park.

Always, Trix


Jul 24 2010

Creatures & Music.

What creature do you most relate to?

Sitting outside Lovejoy Bakers a few months back, a friend and I chatted with a young couple sharing the community table. Somehow we got to what I call  “parlor games.”  Based on our selection of just three favorite creatures and the three traits that made us favor each, my friend could tell us how we saw ourselves, how others saw us and how we really were.  It was amazingly accurate.  If you are interested, write for the formula.

As favorites I picked dogs, dolphins and giraffes.  But me myself?  Think I was born in the year of the dog but I am a bird.  A reader told me so today (see comments in Good Questions).  I am not a yard dog, to be sure, but a bird.  Go ahead with, “Yeah, a loony bird!”  I say it with pride since I cannot claim being much of song bird and only occasionally dress up Peacock style; Portland is pretty casual.

The bird song on my iPod is Skylark sung by K D Lang for the 1997 soundtrack of Midnight In The Garden of Good and Evil.  Melts my heart every time with a bitter sweetness of longing and hope and a strong sense of soaring, seeking.  Kinda of what I’ve been doing across the Oregon countryside in recent days. And man, what a bad ass horn solo!  http://www.220.ro/videoclipuri/KD-Lang-Skylark/rP5PONiVNM/  Once you have followed that link, you gotta listen to Kevin Stacey singing That Old Magic, too.  Same movie soundtrack.

Before Sony pocket size tape players in the early 1980′s, we could only imagine breezing through life with the perfect music score playing as our picture perfect  life  unfolded in Hollywood style.  Music is pretty powerful, wouldn’t you agree? How long could you go without it? How many times has it set or worse, ruined a mood?

“No one going through a breakup should listen to any music other than instrumentals,”  I remarked to a dear friend last summer after the  iTunes shuffle mode on my Mac nearly made a wreak of my work day.  She laughed, and agreed.  I should have extended the recommendation to ” instrumentals for which NO WORDS were ever written.”  There are a zillion songs that speak to our heart, our experiences.  I am beginning to wonder if music – all genres – isn’t the most powerful art form.  It certainly speaks to our daily life experience.

They’re Writing Songs Of Love ..but not for me drove me to the powder room during a Tulsa concert last year.  Yesterday Bill Joel’s hit, “I Am An Innocent Man” caught my attention in the car; I was riveted to the words.  Was Billy Joel out there, waiting for me? In 1983 how could he know what I was going to experience in 2009-10 and have the right words to sing?   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-xmKBf8QWsA

During my last visit to Tulsa  I wrote on facebook of my intent to visit the roof of the Mayo Hotel in Tulsa, Oklahoma for my evening ritual of sky gazing (birds cannot be caged for too long).  In the back of my mind a lyric surfaced…”up on the roof…”  I couldn’t place it but soon friends were sending links (The best:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zbasjy2_IY8) One song and before I knew it I was lost in the music of the 1970′s (a giant step toward the future, for me, by the way!).  Later in the conversation thread a forgotten group surfaced and another even older song spoke to me:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eSVfLNCW4Fs&a=54af4yShH-4&playnext_from=ML

And what a bonus – the group I had forgotten was Australian (like me mum!)

Follow the links, Take a few minutes to think about music.  As the song says…Come on, wake up!  Life is a joy. Fill it with music and welcome all the feelings it brings.

Always, Trix


Mar 14 2010

Material girl.

3.13.10

The term “housewife” has always struck me as a ridiculous word, notion…until now. As a single woman, I have become a housewife. We separated; I got the house! This sunny spring Portland day I feel anything but footloose. I am responsible for a house in Tulsa, 10 plus tons of household items filling my two-bedroom Portland flat and two five-year old Whippets napping on the office sofa.

Downsizing is common at my age. I belong to the first wave of empty nesters trimming our sails. I have gone from 3700 square feet to less than 1700. It wasn’t difficult. Growing up as an Exxon brat, moving every two to three years, I wasn’t allowed to accumulate a lot of stuff. Typically each assignment overseas meant a new home and new furnishings.

As a 20-something year old I began accumulating things, feathering my nest and inviting friends over every chance I got. I guess you could say I was a homemaker, before and after I was married.

I set a personal record many times over by living 10 years in a midtown Tulsa house on Cincinnati Avenue but the die appeared to have been cast; Tulsans pegged me as a frequent mover. The title is warranted. In 17 months I have lived in one house and four flats. I don’t count the half dozen places I’ve stayed during monthly visits to Tulsa.

While living in Tulsa, moving around town allowed us to experience the different lifestyles related to the locale of the house. South Tulsa is different than downtown, midtown or uptown. It also gave us floor plans suited to our stage in life. Most houses really aren’t flexible enough to ideally accommodate a family’s changes over many years. Too many houses are thematic and have rooms assigned for very specific functions. Houses are often designed to suit the “new family,” “the empty-nester,” and such. The formal living room that was a product of the Regan era was eclipsed completely by the “great room,” “the family room,”… sprouting from the more casual era of the Clinton administration. A young child’s room near the master bedroom is great; a teenager’s room over the garage is far more ideal a few years later.

So where is home? More often people ask me which city I like best – Portland or Tulsa. That’s an easy question. Where is home? “I don’t know,” I said to Steve Canada when he asked this week.

Webster says home can be a domicile, a social unit, congenial environment, a place of origin or where the heart is. My mum, Pat Medaris, calls Australia home. She left Sydney in 1947 to travel the world with my father. It was on one of their trips to the states in late 1958 that I was born. I’ve never thought of the Missouri town between Fayetteville, Arkansas and New York City as home. I left it at six weeks of age, headed to Venezuela.

Pat has also many times said, “Home is where you hang your hat.” Does anyone still wear a hat?

As always, Trix


Feb 16 2010

Double trouble.

Things come about for many reasons. When is anything truly black and white?

Did I do it after being worn down by eight years of desire? Was I evolving into a stereotypical empty nester? Did I have a soft spot for expressive brown eyes and a gentle nature?

Yes, yes and yes. I didn’t want to stop with just him. In a high-energy, fast moving crowd we repeatedly connected – undeniably drawn to each other. All my reservations melted away. I was putty. I wanted to take every one of the darlings in the crowd home but he was the one.

To the breeder watching me and Joel overwhelmed by Gracie’s litter scurrying around our driveway, “four spot,” as he had been dubbed, was “it,” my Whippet, the one I had agreed Joel could have, the puppy whose mere presence triggered in me a physical reaction (coughing) for months following his arrival. Nonetheless he was the four-legged “new baby” in my life. He sat on my desk, in my lap. We were almost inseparable. Three years later I would get to keep Leo’s sister, Bliss. She had been a frequent visitor on long holiday weekends. 

In Portland, “Dog Capital of the World,” I fit right in – I am a woman with two dogs. We have so many pets in our building, Wyatt Manager Billie LaBelle decided to conduct a pet audit to ferret out those breaking the two-per-apartment rule. I’ve not noticed a decrease; we still have plenty of dogs! I think her bark is worse than her bite?

The Whippets play many roles in my life now. Stay tuned for more chapters to this love story.
Trix