Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Earthquakes are a constant

22 years ago today I awoke early and abruptly, but familiarly. An earthquake was shaking my futon, and having recently moved from California, I knew exactly what it was. Strange though, I thought I had left those behind when I moved to Oregon. It was a light one, and I went back to sleep. But my phone rang. Students at the conservative Christian college who had never left Oregon were shaken and scared, bewildered by what had just happened, calling me as their residence director for answers or I-don't-know-what, support? It was Spring Break, and only a few were in the residence halls, but I calmed them down and explained it was a very small quake.

Having lived in California all my life, this "Spring Break Quake" was a wee one, in my books. My very first memory is of my mother chasing me around in my crib during an earthquake. My crib had wheels and the linoleum floor of my bedroom made the perfect racetrack for a wayward crib in the middle of the San Fernando Earthquake. That one, at 6.6, was a rocker, shaker and a roller, and we didn't live far from the epicenter. In my memory, I'm standing in my crib, holding on to the frame, and my mom in her nightgown is chasing after the crib as it rolls across the floor.

Duck and Cover was a familiar drill at school in earthquake preparation, instilling a fear of those big plate glass windows that gave us views of the Southern California sunshine and eucalyptus trees. At home, we ran to a nearby doorframe, most often awaken from sleep. If we weren't sure if it was an earthquake or not, I knew to look at a hanging light fixture to see if it was swaying: that was the tell-tale sign of an earthquake. After a rocker, dad would check the ceiling crack in the dining room to see if it had grown. I suppose it was our own personal richter scale.

In October of 1989, I was deep in the basement studios of the communication building at Chico State, working in an audio booth, manually slicing reel-to-reel for my radio production course. When I left my soundproof studio, the air felt tense in the hallways, and something had changed. I heard "earthquake" mentioned and knew it had been a large one. Most of my fellow students at Chico were from the Bay area, and the Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989 was a major one. For days, television news was constant and run from backup generators in the studios, the reporters wearing the same clothes and eventually becoming frazzled. Phonelines were down, and reaching family was difficult for many of the students. The quake was captured live on television during the World Series at Candlestick Park, and the images of the Bay Bridge buckled and warped will be forever in my mind. Aftershocks hit for quite sometime in the following months and years, waking me from my sleep with sharp jolts, and sometimes even rolls. My last California quake hit Ferndale in 1992, and even in Chico we felt it. Later that same year, I moved north to Portland, a land of moss, rain, thinking I had left the earthquakes of my first 25 years behind.

My first winter here, it snowed epic amounts, much to my surprise, and in the spring, the ground shook with a 5.6 earthquake. As I admired for the first time the giant magnolias blooming, I gazed up at brick chimneys crumbled by the quake. As daffodils and tulips bloomed in the vivid green environment I was newly experiencing, I saw the melding of my past and my present, and realized that the earthquakes had followed me. They will always be a part of my life.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Acceptance, body love, and self compassion. Also, I climbed a $%$&#* mountain.

I could write for days about my love/hate relationship with my body. My weight has been an all-consuming aspect of my head space my entire life. Dieting since a single digit age, I learned self judgement was harsh and acceptance by others would be gauged upon if I was a fat kid or not. Whether or not this was true of my external circumstances, it doesn't matter. It's what my mind internally told me.

Beginning as a young adult, I have gained weight, lost weight, gained weight and lost weight, numerous times. I have never been a skinny person. But I have been in the BMI rankings of very obese. Hell, I may be there now. I don't look at those rankings anymore. You name the diet, I have done it. I just know it's a lifelong struggle, and it's tied up in an emotional bundle with lots of strings and bows and tape around it.

A few weeks ago, after training for months, I climbed the third tallest mountain in Oregon. South Sister has an elevation gain of over 4,500 feet, and the 12 mile hike was a beast. But I had trained for the 14 hour hike. The day after the climb, I did some reflection on what I had accomplished, and felt a huge boulder off my shoulders that I had been carrying my whole life. Most of that boulder consisted of shame. Instead, I found myself so proud of my body, my strength, muscles, endurance, and ability to climb a fucking mountain. Did you know I climbed so high I could see to California and to Washington, from the center of Oregon itself? And it was my body that got me there. My. Body. There is no shame in that accomplishment.

A few days after the climb, it was hot, and we went for a run. I chose a snug fitting tank top and shorts. It shows off my curves, but also doesn't leave much to the imagination. I looked at myself in the mirror before I left, and I said to myself, "That is the body of a woman who climbed a mother fucking mountain. Hell yeah." And out the door I went. Air on my skin, sunshine on my shoulders, that was the most confident run (okay, it was part walk too) I've done in some time. I didn't care about what anyone else thought, I just knew I felt good. That outing wasn't full of a mind wondering if my shorts were too short or if my arm fat jiggled or if my stomach was too big for the shirt. I was present in the moment. This, was a huge change.

I've been taking Pilates classes, sessions with a close friend and just the instructor, a woman I've known for over a decade. I absolutely love these workouts. They stretch, lengthen, and use a variety of movements that align the spine and strengthen my core. Some movements I can do like a champ, bending into advanced positions even. Some I can barely do, or not at all, either because my arm length or proportion or body ability or take your pick reason. But you know what? My inner voice on this doesn't give a rat's ass that I can't do all of the movements. If my past self, from a few years ago, were to be in this situation, the self-talk I would berate myself with for not being able to do a position would be so deafening I would have fled and never returned to the class. I would have internally flogged myself for my fat body not able to do what I could do if only I was skinnier. Instead, I recognize it for what it is: not all bodies are the same, and this body climbed a mother fucking mountain and so what if I can't walk my hands down my calves while balancing in a V position on a reformer with my legs up at a 45 degree angle? Check out what I can do:

This change in self talk is me, in my mid-40s finally experiencing body acceptance and self love. There will always be work to do, and being healthy requires self care, time, attention and prioritizing. I'm giving that to my body, and my mind is finally responding. It's coming through positive affirmations, not through shaming or negative self talk.

And by the way? I climbed a mother fucking mountain.

P.S. My upcoming column at PQ Monthly will chronicle my climb, the amazing group of women I trained and climbed with, and the story of getting to the top, despite altitude sickness. I'll share a link here when it's published. The women I train with are the Miss Fits, and we're led by the compassionate super hero, Nikki Becker.

P.P.S. If you're in the Portland area and are interested in exploring Pilates with a wonderful, insightful instructor in a sweet studio, visit Jodi at Bloom Pilates and Wellness.

Friday, September 05, 2014

The Hardy Hibiscus That Could

Five or more years ago, I found myself at a local nursery on Mother's Day. They had a nice selection of Hibiscus hardy to my Zone 8, and I began to swoon.

I had to have one.

It was cool and rainy, not at all yet into the warmth of summer, and the dream of hibiscus swirled all around my head. I had grown up with a giant red hibiscus on our back patio, and the blooms were the quintessential flowers to tuck behind your ear if you'd like to do a hula dance. Mahalo.

You would think I proudly carried that hibiscus home, dug a hole after finding the perfect spot, amended the soil, and planted it carefully. You would be wrong. It sat in its nursery pot on our back patio for two years. It appeared dead. I tried to not look at it. It was a sign of my gardening failure, I was sure of it. It shamed me every time I walked by it, but yet, I didn't trash it.

And then, after two years of looking dead as a doorknob, it showed growth at its base. Oh my god it was alive!

I finally planted it, in a full sun spot right in our front bed. It sat there, dying to the ground every winter, sending up stems in the summer, for two years. Never a bloom. Always a bridesmaid. It wasn't encroaching on anyone, and I let it do its own little thing for three or four years. Pretty leaves. Never big. Meh.

You know what's coming next, right? This year, it bloomed. And it didn't just do a little bloom, it produced massive, giant blooms, multiple times, for several weeks.

The blooms were as big as the plant itself. What a showstopper. It's amazing it didn't flop like those top heavy peonies. These hibiscus stems are strong, and hold their blooms up for all to see. "Pfffftttt to those peonies," I'm sure they say.

I don't know if the plant will get much larger. But I'm sure proud of what it did this year, and that I never gave up on it. Even after all of the neglect I put it through. I just needed to be patient.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

How you doin'?

In the past week Ive had four friends mention this long lost blog to me. Missing stories, asking about recipes, wondering why I havent written here. These mentions have been in person, with friends close and near. Ive asked, What would I write about? as I havent been so much of a hard driving home arts badass this year. Confession time:
  • Ive done zero canning this year.
  • My tomato harvest is minimal.
  • One of my raised vegetable beds in the front consists of zinnias grown for cutting and a volunteer pumpkin. (I did one of those vomiting jack-o-lanterns last Halloween and the plethora of seeds must have made their way into the bed.)
  • I pay a housekeeping service to clean my house these days.
  • I spend more of my time in outdoor adventures and with friends than I do in homemaking. 

But I realize in my conversations with these friends, its just the stories of life that they ask about. And I suppose I still have those. Plenty, Im sure. And I still value the beauty and place of home, and our garden, very much so. I suppose my life view has broadened some, to include more and to adventure more. To risk more, to try new things more. And really, thats where my love of the home arts began. With trying something new and delving into a part of my life that I held at arms length.

I think about the stories I have for you, to share here. From growing my business, to exploring recipes to support weight loss, to learning to love new things like spinning class or dragon boat paddling, to pushing myself to new levels of mountain climbing and running. To losing weight and gaining weight and losing weight and figuring out exactly how I feel about my body and what Im capable of. Did I mention Pilates? Its my new love. And then theres all of the wonderful young people in my life these days. I am indeed, a very proud Nina.

And theres this evenings lovely recipe, completely made up, using roasted cherry tomatoes from the garden, topping chicken breasts stuffed with a mushroom/chèvre/garlic/basil combination. It was delicious, by the way. And super healthy. (For me, these days, super healthy equates low carb. Did you see that NY Times article?)

So I suppose I may have stories to share. I just thought Id check in here, say hello and let you know I miss you.

Getting back to basics, this isnt a blog filled with sponsored posts or sales writing of  items sent to me to review, or fill-in-the-blank any description of so many of todays blogs (ugh, what happened?). Its just a personal blog, begun in 2005, anonymously, and as a personal journey and journal. Hey 2014, nine years later, how you doin? Im doin fine.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Of writing, memories and magic time

Hey, what happened to my blog? I used to write about gardening, canning, cooking and things here. I suppose I wrote about them because there were so few others who were too. But today the web is thick with full time talented bloggers taking gorgeous photos of their food, crafting wonderful recipes, gardening every day and writing plenty of how-tos. I love reading them. I think blogging has been a way for me to document my own learning and discovery, and I refer to my own blog when I'm trying to find a favorite recipe. Like spinach enchiladas. Or scones. But the newness has settled, I suppose: it isn't 2005 anymore.

Writing my monthly column over at PQ Monthly has helped me focus my editorial voice a bit, while growing to include my work with personal essays. And that's where my heart's at. This tapping into my inner voice, and allowing it to flow through my fingers onto the screen. I journey through memories of scent, feelings, explorations and emotions. I love when the stories come easily, but respect that it's not all of the time. When they do come, it's early in the morning, when the world is quiet, and my foggy brain from sleeping begins to awaken with a cup of coffee. It's before I do my to-do list, or speak a single word that day, or venture out into the world. I'm most in touch with my inner voice then, and perhaps my dreaming mind. I wonder if it's a transition from slumber to alert that makes for these times.

Whatever it is, I respect it. It was in this time I wrote my most recent column, joining memories of a childhood place with current explorations in the forests of Oregon. And a haunting photo of a conejo—rabbit—being rescued from a wildfire in Southern California. You can read it here. 

2600 elevation climb to this view of the gorge. We are so lucky to live in this land.

Dripping moss wall

Good morning

Furry trees I like to pet #oregon

Monday, May 06, 2013

Quick fix gardening

Is there such as thing as a quick fix when it comes to gardening? A friend was lamenting last night to me about weeds growing in and among river rock. We determined they're experiencing both deep rooted weeds growing from underneath the river rock, and annual weeds blown in by seed atop the surface area. It's a messy situation with no easy answer. I'm not fond of delivering that news. But it's something I've come to realize the more I garden.

It's the same with the ab buster or thigh master. If you want a six pack or thighs of steel, it's going to take hard work, not a gimmick.

And thus my latest column over at PQ Monthly is out and about, themed this month about tools and items that are must-haves in the garden, and those that are a big waste of money and time. You can read it here.

Save your money, and invest in time spent in the garden. It delivers more than any quick fix. It's also good for your soul, mind and body. Remind me I said that as I curse the sneaky blackberry that returns year after year in the far corner part of the garden, okay?

Thursday, April 04, 2013

The crotchety gardener, Pinterest, and me

I love Pinterest. I hate Pinterest. Anyone else feel this same duality? Pinterest is filled with images of ridiculous overly twee crafting/recipes/nail art, while delivering visual loads of ideas and eye candy for fashion, design, gardening and the like. Love/hate. I suppose it's really about curation, a word I have come to love more and more.

I'm finding the negative voice inside of me when viewing many gardening images on Pinterest. The reality of things, and what may look lovely for a photo op, in reality, is ridiculous to maintain, impossible to obtain in the first place, or completely wrong for the climate I live in. It's making me roll my eyes and guffaw out loud at the screen.

Not wanting to be a negative ninny, I never comment like this on Pinterest. Instead, I'm saving it all for here on my blog. You are welcome.

Let's get to my crotchety gardener review of Pinterest garden-tagged items, shall we?

How to turn stairs into a death trap:

Now imagine the reality. After one month, the sedums grow above the step and you break them off every time you descend and ascend the stairs. Aunt Matilda trips on one and breaks a hip, and you spend hours carefully tugging out the weedy clover, popweed and even grass that like to grow in there as well.

Palette gardening and the living wall:
See those tiny areas of soil between the water loving planks of wood? See the plants plucked in there all twee and sweet? Fast forward to a hot, dry summer and you tied to a hose every single ding dong day frantically trying to keep them alive. Don't even think of going away for a few days or you'll return to an UNLIVING wall of dried up, sad plants.

Color coordinating your clothing/tools/flowers:
I've filed this one under Fakegardening.This cannot be real. You want real? Let's take a photo in my garden...hold on while I take off my mismatched muddy gloves and grab my neon orange handled trowel to dig out that bright yellow dandelion growing right there at the base of my hydrangea. And yes, I see that dead branch in there. I'm getting to it!

Oh wait. Here's a photo from Pinterest of a typical workday in my garden. Yours looks like this, right?

This is a perennial "gardening" favorite on Pinterest:
 I think it would look great next to this:
Oh no wait. This one:
I love alliums, and the fun form and playfulness they bring to a garden:
Hey kid! Hands off the alliums!

Nothing says I Love to Garden!!! like a dirty pink bra:

What would Pinterest be without words plastered on walls, clothing, or on pots?
Okay okay. I'll stop. You get the picture. Aren't you glad you're not here when I'm on Pinterest? Good news, I'm mainly using it as a place to curate things I see from around the web. Feel free to guffaw at my boards here. Oh Pinterest. You crack me up. Not really.

Friday, February 15, 2013

What do you see? A dreary grey day or a scene filled with lush moss and lichen?

My friend, Moss #pdx #oregon #moss
I realize I haven't shared much in the way of my thoughts for the new year, yet alone my word for the new year. I have been writing about them, just not here on my blog. For the past year, I've been writing a monthly column called, Cultivating Life, over at PQ Monthly. This past month, I wrote about gratitude, and the powerful force of training your brain to practice it.
If I’m to add a new practice to my day, this year it will be the act of practicing gratitude, and I’m doing that by picking up my camera. Not my iPhone camera, but my digital camera. The day of the Newtown shootings, I turned off all media, shut down my social media, and picked up my camera. I carried it with me and looked at the world in a different way that day. It helped me see beauty in little things — like a bright blue sky, the pattern of my leggings combined with the tile floor, and how the steam curls from a freshly poured cup of hot tea. It took my eyes, and my brain, to a different place when it would have been so easy to have been overcome with grief and shock, and I learned that contemplating life, composition, pattern, and the world around me is a form of meditation when using my camera.
You can read the whole thing here, and about what happened the year I decided to say "no." It was transformative, and enlightening.

The rare glow of winter sunshine