Wednesday, November 29, 2006


Hoo, boy. Winter has definitely arrived in Portland. Snow. Temps in the low 20's. Black ice. All of the above.

The little pond in our back yard was frozen over this morning, and the bucket I use to carry weeds up to the green waste container (filled with water by last week's rains) is now a bucket of ice. We're working to keep the bird feeders filled with black sunflower seeds, so the birds have enough food to keep them going until it warms up a bit.

I feel little abashed when I write this, but I am almost completely unused to this kind of cold weather. Even after fifteen years in New England, where winter started at the end of October and didn't end until May some years, my body acclimated itself to Northern California about five years after I moved out there, and it hasn't gotten used to this cold weather yet - not by a long shot. Luckily, I saved a bunch of sweaters and gloves and wool scarves, even after the move to California, so I have a decent supply of those garments, but I no longer have a really warm jacket. I'm not going anywhere near stores or malls until after the holidays, so I hope the temperatures moderate enough that I won't be in desperate need until early in January.

In the meantime, I'm sure grateful for central heat!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Can someone be grateful...

...when that someone is sick?

Well, duh! Of course I can be grateful, even on days when my right leg seems to have a strange and unhelpful mind of its own, or when I'm too tired to do more than empty the dishwasher and check my email before stumbling into the bedroom for yet another nap.

I remember someone saying this to me, years and years ago, and thinking how obvious and inane it was - "The most important thing you choose in your life is your attitude." Obvious? Sure. Inane? Not on your life, it ain't!

Here's the thing. I could choose to focus on all the negative stuff in my life (and believe me, that's my default mindset). I could focus on how much I miss my work, or how much I miss my friends in the Bay Area, or how much I miss being able to wake in the morning, throw on a pair of running shoes and sweats and walk a mile in fifteen or twenty minutes. Hell, I could focus on how much I miss being able to drive across town, spend an hour with a friend, and be sure I'd have the energy to stay awake and drive back home!

But if that was where I focused my attention, I'd be dead, either literally or figuratively. And dammit, I refuse to let this illness control my attitude, even though it seems to have control over my body!

So here's my Gratitude List, a few days after Thanksgiving, but heartfelt and true nontheless.

I am grateful for:

David - my caring, supportive, smart and multi-talented husband, whose quiet, strong presence gives me strength

Zack - who has grown into exactly the kind of man I hoped he would. Beside his amazing artistic talent, and his quirky sense of humor, his capacity for love and affection seems boundless.

Emily, Zack's sweetie - a lovely and talented young woman who seems to appreciate all of those qualities in him, as well, and who has made him very happy.

Families. My birth family, now down to my sister, her grown children and grandchildren. I love them! My family-in-law, including nephews and nieces and grand-nephews-and-nieces, all of whom are smart, interesting, talented and caring folks. And my family-of-choice, those amazing and wonderful friends whose presence in my life is a gift beyond words. I can't imagine my life without all of you, dear friends and family!

All of my 'teachers'
- the friends and colleagues who have taught me more about how to live than any book or class could have done.

Sam and Harley - our beloved kitties, who allow us to be their staff!

And, in a strange way, I'm grateful for MS, because nothing else could have slowed my frantic pace enough to allow me the gift of being in the moment - of watching birds swoop from the trees to the bird feeders and back again, while I marvel. Or seeing a ruby-throated hummingbird, hovering and swaying as it drinks from the feeder on the back deck. Or spending time snuggling with Sam, our big, black kitty, who comes into the kitchen while I make the coffee, and yowls his desire to be picked up and petted. Before MS, I was much too focused on the next task - whether it was driving to work, or, when I was home, the emails I had to answer, or the proposals I had to write. Now, my 'task' is to get through the day, to accomplish a few, small chores or errands, and to try and be mindful of my physical limitations, but this gives me a LOT of time to simply SEE, which isn't a bad thing at all.

Friday, November 17, 2006

The Perfect Day for a Wedding

Our phone rang on Monday afternoon; it was our friend Mike, calling to ask if we were free this morning for a couple of hours. I said we were, and he dropped a small bombshell by asking if we'd join him and Stephanie, at the Multnomah County Courthouse to witness their marriage. We adore Mike and Stephanie. They're both incredibly smart and witty, with exactly the kind of wicked sense of humor we love, and we count ourselves as lucky to have such terrific friends living close by in Portland.

They started dating in 1980, and have been engaged for at least five years. Six months ago today, they moved into a gorgeous, old house in the Laurelhurst district of Portland, which is chock-full of his political and her baseball-related memorabilia. I guess getting married was a logical next-step, and they decided to do it today so they could announce the marriage to Steph's family in person at Thanksgiving.

We live a very informal lifestyle, to say the least. Most days, I shlep around in leggings and some kind of loose top, usually barefoot and always sans makeup. So it was a wee bit scary to contemplate pulling together something to wear to a wedding with three day's advance notice, to say the least. I unearthed an outfit I bought in 1998, and have only worn once (!), an intact pair of pantyhose that were hiding at the very back of my sock drawer, and a pair of shoes that could at least pretend to be 'dressy'. So I managed to pull it off, although that's about as dressed up as I can get; thank goodness we only had to go out for breakfast, not attend a black-tie affair after the ceremony.

David and I were married under the Rotunda at San Francisco City Hall, and I've decided I really like the low-key feel of a small, civil ceremony. I've done the Big Wedding (200 guests at Wedding Number One) and it is so much easier and less stressful this way.

There was a humungous, long line at the Courthouse (I guess a lot of stuff happens on Fridays), so we snuck in through a handicapped entrance around the corner from the main doors, feeling smug and smart at not having to stand in line for a long wait. Unfortunately, David was carrying his Swiss Army knife and we had a gift bag containing a box of chocolates and a bottle of champagne (no weapons or alcohol allowed in the courthouse), so he had to race back to the parking lot to stash the contraband in our car before being allowed into the courthouse. He went back to the handicapped entrance to find that the guard who let me in initially had gone off duty (of course) so he had to return to the line and inch his way back into the courthouse. We hung out in the judge's chambers, watching Stephanie conduct business on her Blackberry, telling silly stories about all kinds of stuff, and getting cell-phone updates from David as he worked his way towards the front doors of the courthouse. Luckily, the judge's 9:30 appointment was postponed, so we were able to wait for David to arrive before the ceremony began.

It was a lovely ceremony, short but warm and charming, and one of the administrative staff took a group photo (well, three group photos, actually, with each of the three digital cameras available) before we trooped out for breakfast.

After some of the worst wind-and-rainstorms I've ever experienced, the day turned out to be just gorgeous - blue skies, cool breezes and lots of bright sunshine.

A fitting - and perfect - day for a wedding!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Where did all those leaves go?

We've had some WEATHER in Portland the last few days - lots of pelting rain and high winds - accompanied by road closures, downed power lines, fallen trees and, of course, leaves. David spent an hour or so yesterday up on the roof with the leaf blower, cleaning out the gutters, and the driveway was pristine and clear when I woke from my much-needed, fatigue-fighting nap in late afternoon.

This morning, however, it's covered again.

But the biggest change is in our back yard, which was looking like the Poster Child For Gorgeous Autumnal Foliage on Saturday afternoon. This morning, it looks sad and naked. The pear tree is completely bare, and the few leaves left on the once-blazing Japanese maple are wizened and ready to drop at the slightest windy provocation. Everything, and I mean everything is covered with a thick blanket of heavy, water-sodden leaves. I think David will be out there a long time if the weather holds and the rain stays away for a few hours today.

The other interesting change (that I'm assuming is due to the season) is how quickly our bird feeders are emptying. We have one of those 'squirrel-proof' bird feeders hanging from the back deck where we can see it easily from the dining room window, and it's been visited by a host of different birds (house finches, chickadees, bush tits, to name just a few of the species we've seen and noted in a little journal we keep alongside the various bird books we've acquired). Over the summer, we needed to fill the feeder about every four or five days; now, it looks like we'll need to step up the action and fill it every two or three days. We're thinking we might need another feeder to keep up with the demand...

There's another feeder that hangs from the pear tree and isn't squirrel proof, and we've seen a small-ish squirrel wrapped around the dish at the bottom of the feeder (it looks like a mesh bucket with a dish at the bottom), looking like a Roman citizen reclining as he chows down on black sunflower seed. If I notice any orgies out there, though, there's gonna be Big Trouble. ;-)

The best change-of-season news, though, is that we're still attracting hummingbirds with our back-deck feeder; apparently, the Annas hummingbirds winter in Portland, so we should see them all year round.