Thursday, June 26, 2014

DC Made Me Dizzy

My whirlwind trip to Washington DC last week was both exhilarating and exhausting. The program I attended with Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine was all I'd hope for, and actually a whole lot more. I came home loaded with information, both in my brain and in my suitcase, and now I have to spend time going back over all of it and really assimilating what I plan to teach.

I had imagined myself traveling up and down the west coast, mainly Portland, Seattle, and San Jose, teaching Food For Life classes in all three places, since I'm in all of them often. It looks likes I'll be mostly confined to Portland though, since there are FFL Instructors all over the country (and the world!) and we're pretty much required to stick to our own home area. It makes sense, but it's also kind of disappointing. Maybe I can get them to work around this little rule, since I've found that there are no classes being offered in Seattle, and the closest classes to San Jose are over in the Santa Cruz area. Portland is wide open too, which kind of surprises me. We'll see how it goes. Contact me if you want a class and can't find one! I'll do what I can to make it happen for you.

Dr Neal Barnard spoke to the group. Amazing man. A new hero of mine.
There was more time for fun than I expected on my trip. I made some friends and we all ventured off in the evenings to explore and eat and see some sights. I'd been to DC once before, but it was a very different experience for me this time. Not as hot for one thing (we went in August last time... ugh), and because I stayed in a different part of town than the last trip I got to see a whole different terrain. A friend had given me a subway pass, which I used a couple of times. What I quickly realized though is that I preferred to see where I was going and what was along the way. A train in a huge underground tunnel is cheap and fast, but you end up missing a lot.

I learned about Uber this past February in Seattle. My kids know everything, which is great because I've grown tired of faking it. When they tell me I need some new technology, I believe them. Uber is one of those things I might not have found on my own, but I'm really glad to have that little app on my phone now. It's like a cab only better. More like a personal driver who is always on call (although it's always a different person), and always shows up in just a few minutes. You request a ride through the app, get a confirmation with a picture of the driver and his license plate number, and a text or call as he's arriving. Your credit card is on file and billing is automatic, including the tip. It's always cheaper than a taxi, the cars are nicer, and I find the whole Uber experience to be a good one. Besides, since I cheaped out on the hotel, which turned out to be not that great, and not at all convenient, I felt justified in spending a few extra bucks to get around.

I suppose there was once a canopy over the door.
The view from my window, directly across the street. No, a wake up call was not necessary.

Probably needless to say, I didn't want to spend a lot of time in my hotel. The exception was the wonderful little Italian place next door, where I sat out on the patio just before closing two nights in a row and had a glass of wine and some of the best bread I've ever eaten. Just a little snack as I avoided going to my room. 11:00 still felt like 8:00 to my body - much to early to go to bed. On my second visit to this lovely little place, a nice man from Albania cleared my table and chatted a bit. Everyone who worked there was Italian or at least from that general part of the world. They were all so nice, and I almost felt like I was on vacation in Italy. I told Rick later that the Albanian man made me feel like Diane Lane in Under the Tuscan Sun, when he bowed slightly and told me (in a very nice accent) that I was "Very beautiful lady." He wasn't hitting on me. I'm pretty sure those days are over. It's just so nice that there are men in the world who feel comfortable complimenting a woman, no matter how old she is.

Little side stories aside, I saw a lot of the usual suspects in DC, and really enjoyed the whole tour of monuments and views.

I'm not sure how this picture happened, but I like it. See how the stripes in the flag are see-through? I like to imagine it's a magical message, foretelling a coming transparency in our government. You never know.
While standing around the base of the Washington Monument, someone handed us extra tickets to ride to the top. I didn't even know you could go to the top until that happened. I also didn't know that there had been an earthquake in DC a couple of years ago, which damaged the monument. It's a free-standing stone structure, held together only by its own weight. It reopened to the public just a couple of months ago, and tickets are hard to get. We were just in the right place at the right time!

This is one small vignette on the wall of the World War II monument. So beautiful.

And then there's Mr. Lincoln. Sigh... I love hanging out with him. Even with all these people it felt like a holy place.
Dinner on the last night was at a terrific Ethiopian place called Meskerem. We'd read about it and decided to Uber our way over there from the Lincoln Memorial. We had a fun ride with a driver who had grown up in DC, and was happy to point out interesting things along the way. At the restaurant, I felt like I was back in Ethiopia. It was wonderful, and the food was even better than any I had in Ethiopia. I have no idea what any of the dishes are called, except for the injera, which is a wonderful tangy, spongy, soft flat bread made from teff, the tiniest grain in the world. It's kind of like a big, thin, sourdough pancake that you tear apart and pick up bites of food with. No forks were offered, and we didn't need them.

The lighting was not great for photos, but I had to try. This was an absolutely fabulous meal.
So I'm home now, and this brings me to the "dizzy" part of the title of this post. I woke up the day after my return to find that every time I moved, even a little bit, my head would spin. I was afraid I was coming down with something, or that I'd injured myself when I fell off a bench in a Chinese restaurant and hit the concrete hard, flat on my back. (I was not drunk. It was a freak thing that was very embarrassing and painful and allowed the entire place to see my underwear.) I emailed someone that day and said that I'd taken in so much over those few short days that "my head was spinning." That's when it hit me. It was information overload, for real. I took it easy all day and was fine by that evening. But even now, several days later, I'm easing into all I need to do to actually get classes together and start teaching here. It's a lot, which is great because it means I'll have a lot to offer. I just need to take my time and make sure I'm keeping up with myself.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Off to DC

I'm posting early this week. It's going to be a busy one! I'm leaving early tomorrow morning for Washington DC, for the much anticipated PCRM Food For Life training. If you're unfamiliar with PCRM, they are the Physician's Committee for Responsible Medicine, and they are all about prevention and reversal of disease through plant based diet. The program I'll be attending is designed for nurses, dietitians, and other health care professionals, but somehow I got in too! There was a pretty extensive interview process, and only 60 people were chosen this year. It's not an on-going thing that can just be signed up for. I'm really rather proud of myself.

This is exactly what I want to be doing in this part of my life - helping people who care about their health change their diets in simple, fun, tasty ways. I hope to soon be teaching lots of cooking classes here in Portland, as well as up and down the west coast. I'll talk more about it after I get back, but if you might be interested, drop me an email. I do a lot of traveling from Seattle to the Bay Area and would love to work in some teaching gigs along the way.

So wish me luck and happy travels! I'm going to navigate DC all by myself, which makes me only a little bit nervous. Mostly I'm excited to jump into this big adventure! See you next week with a full report.

And by the way, Portland remains amazing. xoxoxo

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Seattle By Train

We knew Portland would be a great "hub" for us, positioned so conveniently between our families in California, Nevada, and Seattle. We've already seen several of these favorite people more in the last month than we used to in a year or more. I love it because it's no longer hard to say good-bye, knowing it could be a long time until the next visit. Now we just say "see you soon," and it's true.

I took the train up to Seattle last weekend, mostly to visit my daughter, because she invited me. But I was also lucky enough to get in some time with my son and his lovely wife, as well as my dear friend Sally. The train ride is inexpensive, almost as fast as driving, and much more beautiful a route than the highway, following the Columbia River much of the way. I plan to do this as often as I get the opportunity!

On the train.

Waiting outside the Seattle station, next to Safeco Field.

With my kids, Lauren and Danny. Danny works at Tesla. Yep, he's cool. So is Lauren.

Sally is one of my favorite people on this world, and probably beyond.

Walking around downtown with Lauren, we passed an old favorite landmark, the Pink Elephant Car Wash.

Lauren gave me a quick tutorial on how to rent a Car2Go. I have a membership, and now I know how to use it!

Lunch at the really big feet of the Space Needle before I caught my train home to Portland.

Less than 4 hours later - with someone else driving - I was back in Portland, just about a mile from our apartment. Everything in life should be this easy.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Let's Dance

I took a dance class at Bodyvox. It terrified me. It was not really a dance class. It was a stretch class in the form of dance. It was fun. It was scary. I felt awkward. I enjoyed it. I hated it. I wanted to hide. The mirrors made me very uncomfortable. I cried at the end when the instructor was kind to me. I'm trying to give myself permission to never go back. I'm also knowing that I need to go back.

What's making me so bunched up and creepy-weepy is the fact that I'm the New Girl. And not in a cute Zoey Deschanel sort of way. I'm almost 57. (Sheesh, how did that happen?) I've been in full stress mode for several months. I've gained weight. I feel lethargic and achy. Some days I sleep until almost 10:00! OH. MY. GOD. I am so not myself. And then, why would I be? I'm in a new city, where I know only a couple of people. I have no idea where my place is, where I fit in, what I'm supposed to do, or how I'm supposed to find it. I do not always like being the New Girl. I do not like all this not-knowing.

And then... I also know that this stop on Earth is brief and temporary and not all that important in the Big Picture. I know there's so much more than what we're living here. I know that if I let myself just relax a little bit I'll remember that this is all supposed to be fun. And it can be. I mean really, what's the worst than can happen? I do some clunky dance moves in the process of working a whole lot of crappy mental junk out of my physical body? Or I embarrass myself by crying in the face of kindness? Or I quit the class and move on to something else? It doesn't matter! What matters is that I keep going, keep trying, keep opening the doors to What Might Be Waiting For Me. How can I know if I don't give everything a chance?

I feel like I'm too old to be the New Girl. But here I am. New everywhere I go, with everyone I talk to. It's exhausting. So what? I'll sleep. A lot. And I'll go out there again, and I'll find where I belong, and who I belong with. A Movement Class forced me to moved my body in fun ways I haven't moved since I was 12 years old. Of course I sucked at it! And also, of course there has to be some muscle memory in here, waking up, smiling, and thanking me for the chance to move in old-new ways.

I could play it safe and sit in a chair, or I could dance. Dance with Portland, dance with Life, dance in a class... I think there's only one good option.

Monday, June 2, 2014

In The Gardens

We spent a gorgeous sunny afternoon in the Rose Garden and the Japanese Garden, just a streetcar ride (and a rather long uphill hike) away. We were up for the walk, but quickly realized we could have caught a bus to get us to the top of that hill. It's ok. The exercise was good for us. And I think we appreciated the view that much more because we'd worked for it.

Do you see Mt. Hood in the distance? And our apartment is just a couple of blocks to the right of that very tall building.
I particularly wanted to see the ikebana exhibit at the Japanese Garden. As with most things these days, I love the minimal approach to flower arranging. Some of the more modern designs we saw kind of missed the mark, I thought, bringing too many components into the arrangement, and ending up with something that looked more like an overblown Costco bouquet than a serene Zen moment. All of them incorporated roses, because it's Portland, and because it's Rose Festival time. There were a few that I liked a lot, including this one...

We might want to buy a pass to the Japanese Garden. I think we'd like to visit it often, especially on some of these hot summer days we'll be seeing more and more of. It's like a drink of water for your eyes and nose and skin. I like it best when we go slow, avoid the tour groups, and sit on a bench to just drink it all in every so often. That's what all those benches are for, to slow us down. Good for the blood pressure.

This tiny fence is about 3 inches high.

After the Japanese Garden, we sniffed our way through the Rose Garden. What a fabulous place. I felt very Alice-In-Wonderland, expecting to see the Queen of Hearts pop out at any time. After a while I hit sensory overload and just stretched out on the grass in the sun, telling Rick I was not moving any time soon. Nearly dozing off, I'm sure I glimpsed a white rabbit with a pocket watch peering through the blossoms...