Like A Boss

Greetings minions! I have much news.

Recently I have stepped into a couple of leadership positions. One with a nonprofit organization and the other one they pay me to do. Was it wise to take on both of these roles within weeks of each other having virtually no prior management experience? Of course not! But alas, this is what I have done.

In one role I’m herding cats…scratch that, cats would be easier to manage. In the other I’m rocking that delicate balance between earn-their-respect and exert-my-power-before-they-walk-all-over-me.

I’d say it’s going well. Having never been the boss before I have no idea if I am going about this the right way. Having been a minion since entering the workforce some twenty years ago I am enjoying the clout. On the one hand I can exact change. Exhibit A: I didn’t like eating my lunch in a back corner next to a mop bucket so today I christened an employee lunch table in an open, bright area. On the other hand the change I exact falls completely on my shoulders. Exhibit B: Since we now have a designated lunch area, I must enforce rules requiring all food in the building be consumed in the designated lunch area (hey, I’m not the CEO, just the assistant manager). Still, I’d like to believe I did something good for employee morale today. Nobody will be eating their lunch in a corner next to a mop bucket in our “break closet” anymore.

I don’t miss being a minion. I’ll take the responsibility if it means my ideas are heard and my efforts count for something. Being the boss comes with some cool perks. You tell people to do something and they do it. You make the call to send home the employee that came to work with the plague instead of avoid them all day and chug vitamin C. When someone doesn’t get the answer they want and asks to speak to the manager, you get the satisfaction of informing them it’s you and watching them choke on their sense of self-righteousness.

The most frustrating part has been the lack of training. Both organizations oozed about their in-depth training programs. So far they have both thrown me to the wolves without even a day of orientation. Truth be told I find my new positions unfulfilling and overtly frustrating. It is incredibly difficult to chair a board whose members refuse to be in the same room together and retail is not exactly my passion. But I am learning some great skills and intend to stick it out!

Why do this to myself? I already had a job that paid well, oversaw no one, and allowed me all of the schedule flexibility my little heart craved.

I’ll tell you, I did it for the doors.

door

photo from Google images

I’m looking for doors of opportunity to open for me. I have lost count of the number of interviews I have attended where I was told “we love you, you are one of our top candidates, but nothing on your resume tells us you have management experience and part of this position requires that.” Thus, I have endured one slammed door after another. Opportunities I was passionate about that would have been a terrific fit, lost forever.

Those doors are why I am currently working two jobs (I didn’t leave Company X, they have great opportunities for advancement for those with management experience) and giving what free time I have left to chair a pro bono effort. In some ways it feels like I have put my life on hold and in others I feel like an arrow being pulled back just before it is set free to soar.

Now it’s the toughing it out and waiting. Those doors will open, and when they do, I will be ready.

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A year later

Dear me, has it been a year since I last updated you guys on Oregon?!

A thousand apologies.

I am happy to report things have turned up for us once again. We decided after the House of Hell we would find a place with the least amount of responsibility possible and bought a recently remodeled condo in a suburb just outside of the city. We’ve been here 9 months and have found a farmer’s market two streets over, a library we can walk to, a large park for the dogs up the street, and we’re along the route for a fairly impressive annual community parade. As part of a condo association, we pay fees for other people to worry about the siding and the beautiful grounds around the units and the creek that runs through it. There is a fenced yard…perhaps I should call it a garden (I mow it in 2 minutes with a push mower), and a garage and it’s officially my first domicile with stairs. It might be silly, but I’ve always wanted to live in a place with stairs. In short, we love it.

I have also learned that once we move from here, I’m good on stairs for life. It has improved my planning skills [“ok, I’m headed downstairs for the day, where’s my going-downstairs-for-the-day checklist?”]. Even so, it never fails I get downstairs and realize I have to go back up for a hair pin or a laptop power cord. In related news I’m super proud of my little haunches after all of the stair exercises I do daily.

On the community front, we have finally created a web of friends. It’s snowballing into a glorious village. Oregon has started to feel like home. So much so the idea of going back to Texas feels a little like a chore. People ask me if I miss it…I really don’t. I miss some people that are in Texas, sure, but Texas itself? No. When you have a Pacific wonderland to explore and a new friend and a new experience around every corner, why would you long to go back to a place full of scorched, prickly things where everyone your age is consumed in raising kids? Forgive me, Texas, that might have been a little too harsh, but it was my truth and my experience. This place feels full of possibilities. Every season is beautiful. Every person is an adventurer. My list of new things to try is ever expanding – new foods, new places to venture, new sports, new ciders, new bike gadgets. Oregon has been a place of inspiration for me and I’m loving the group of friends I am collecting.

As always, there is change on the horizon. My partner and I are both looking into new jobs. His current position was always intended as a stepping stone, and I am learning my job at Company X is great, but not sustainable for the rest of my life as anything more than a part-time gig. We saw the writing on the wall, reviewed our finances, and are jumping off the cliff into the winds of change again to see where we land.

change

 

The World Didn’t End

Since my last post things got worse, and then they got better. And now that they are better, I am ready to blog again.

First we learned the people I had the terrible dog incident with just before Thanksgiving were our next door neighbors – we share a bedroom wall. Then we learned they claimed one of my dogs bit the girl and filed a police report.

It didn’t add up.

They didn’t ask for my contact information that night. They didn’t mention anyone was hurt when I asked. They didn’t ask for shot records, or ask us to cover a doctor’s bill. The apartment manager explained that the girl said she had been bitten on the hand and it had broken the skin and everyone accepted it as truth. An insurance claim is still pending. A note has been added to our permanent file. And no one has come to me yet to ask if any of this story matches what I saw happen. How did the one person that took no part in breaking up the dogs get bitten? I asked for proof of the bite and was only given a sad expression from the manager with a hint of disapproval for asking.

For a few weeks we gasped each time the phone rang or a knock came at the door. Now more than a month has passed and we are breathing easier.

Absolutely nothing has happened.

We haven’t been contacted by the police, or told we have to move out or put a dog down. No news is good news, and as each day passes, more no news appears to mean we’re in the clear.

In the clear…that brings me to my next update: My husband doesn’t have TB! A student in the lab made a mistake and got a false positive (yay for teaching hospitals). Three more cultures were sent and three more TB tests were done that all came back negative.

Perhaps the best part (for me) is I will no longer have to greet a stranger in a duck mask at my front door before I’ve had a chance to brush my teeth or change out of pajamas. No more suffering through an unwelcome CDC rep going through our affects  asking questions like, “who plays the guitar?” and “where was this picture taken?” I never did, but I always wanted to respond “that picture was taken a the corner of not-your-business and give-him-the-pills-and-leave-already, and I’d be happy to play you a ballad called get-out-of-my-home-now-you’ve-made-me-late-for-work-again.” I’m not sure what came over me, but I HATED having the county force me to let these people into my home every morning to watch my husband take pills like a five-year-old and treat it like a social call.

So, what does he have? A non-TB mycobacterium with a difficult name to pronounce. If he were sitting next to me I would ask him how to spell it, but as it so happens, he is back at work right now. He tells me he has had this one once before and it takes about a year to treat, but its not a bad one.

The rains have stopped in Portland. Today the skies are blue and sunny. It was 32 straight days of rain before it ended, but it ended at last. It went out with a bang too, the final day of precipitation produced the first snow Portland has seen since early 2014.

IMG_1769.jpg

The “viscous beats” terrorize the neighborhood in their thug gear.

And so, things are better here. The earth keeps turning, the clock keeps ticking. We have applied for a mortgage loan to buy a home up here. I have made contact with a new flight instructor. Little by little everything is getting back on course.

Dreary December

I’ve thought long and hard about publishing this post. Its brutally honest and frankly, depressing, which is not my style. But sometimes the best thing to do is tell the truth.

We’re having a really rough December.

Just after Thanksgiving my husband’s health took a dive and he spent the next week in the hospital. While he was there I caught a cold and spent a few days dripping and coughing on the couch. While I was sick the puppy got sick. When I called the only friend my age in Portland over to watch movies and walk the dogs for me he mistook it for a booty call, then bailed on me. Our dogs which have experienced a lot of changes in their environment and a lot less exercise lately decided to take it out on another dog we saw on our walk. The other dog was owned by two of Portland’s biggest jerks. One of them crossed the street with my puppy in a choke hold whimpering in pain while the other one screamed at me hysterically. I had to beg to get the puppy back and instead of accept my apology and collect my information in case their dog was hurt, they stormed off and filed a report against us that is now in our permanent rental history record. I have to go talk to the manager about the insurance claim and they will be “taking further actions against the animals.” How did the dogs I have taken to work with me; the dogs that used to be perfect angels off leash with children crawling all over them on the beaches; the dogs that know how to search and rescue and run next to a bike; the dogs I am constantly getting compliments about become “vicious” animals that require legal action against them?!

more

My flight instructor got a job with a regional airline and left the flight school so I have to get my scissors out and begin cutting through the red tape again to find another good CFI. But flying is the last thing on my mind right now because the cultures from the hospital came back and the doctors have declared my husband has tuberculosis.

Does that still happen? Do people still get tuberculosis outside of the Old Wild West and developing countries? In 2015? Really? Yes, apparently they do.

Now both he and the dogs are “a threat to public safety” and the team of CF specialists has been replaced by representatives from the CDC who have quarantined him to our apartment for at least the next two weeks until they know how contagious he is. Strangers in duck masks appear at our door daily to collect sputum samples. He hasn’t been able to go to work since Black Friday and his job is threatening to fire him. All of our insurance benefits are through his job.

Could it get worse? Maybe. Pending what strain my husband has and how contagious it is, I am told I will be tested for TB next and if it is found my body didn’t fight it off and I am contagious I too will be quarantined and unable to leave the apartment for a few weeks.

dog

It’s just CDC reps and these folks at our door these days.

Accordingly, today I put all of my end-of-the-world prep skills to work. I am grocery shopping to have enough food for a month and stocking up on puzzles and board games. I am getting all of our Christmas stuff in the mail (relax, TB is not spread through touching the same things, only breathing the same air, and I’ll get to wear a super cool duck mask to go shopping).

Perhaps there is a silver lining to being under house arrest this month. A terrible storm from the Pacific has been reeking havoc on Portland. Neighborhoods are flooded, roads are collapsing, freeways are closed, every night the news begins with more landslides. Fortunately we live at the top of a hill. Instead of braving the weather, we can stay locked up in our 700 sq. ft. ark and play Risk.

Wanted: A Village

I don’t want to pretend for a second that we regret moving to Oregon. It has been an unbelievably great decision. Our health has improved. We are more active. We wake up most days to beautiful fall leaves and mountain fog. The culture is very live-and-let-live and we love it here.

BUT…there’s always a but, isn’t there?

We are lonely. As friendly as everyone is, we don’t really have any friends yet. Sure, we know lots of people. Friendly people. People that are happy to greet us at work and ask us what we did last weekend. People who say hello at the apartment mailboxes. People we wave at everyday that also bicycle commute.

The fact that we didn’t have any friends yet hit us recently when we traveled out of town for a friend’s wedding. We needed a dog sitter and realized we didn’t know anyone well enough (or even have their phone number) to ask them to dog sit for us. Then there was getting a ride to the airport. Who do we ask? Collecting our mail while we were out of town? Who? We really are alone up here.

Lately we’ve been trying to make plans for Halloween. It falls on a Saturday this year and we are both off of work that evening. We’ve both been dropping hints every chance we get that we have no plans and we’d love to join in on whatever it is that people do up here to celebrate. The hints have all bombed. Apparently tons of people are throwing parties…that we are not invited to.

Then there’s the holidays. Since we’re both new to our jobs, we both work and don’t have enough time off to fly home and visit our families. So, like two little smelly orphans (this is not to suggest orphans smell, only that we must stink since no one wants us around) we will be spending the holidays alone up here.

Sometimes we feel like strangers in a strange land. The weather reports on the news offer an “outfitters guide” and a bicycle forecast. No. Seriously. I took a picture because I knew the folks back home would never believe me.

cycling forecast

Sometimes we have no idea how to react in conversations (“you have to drive out to the Dalles tonight…..wow??? Is that far then?”) Then there’s the home buying process. So far we’ve been turned down by three realtors. Apparently no one wants to work with you if you are trying to buy property, no matter how small for anything less than $200k. The folks at work tell me they have missed out on houses because they didn’t bid $100k above the listing price.

So, as glad as we are to be here, sometimes it hits us hard that we are two thirty-somethings stuck in a crappy, little apartment with no one to hang out with but each other. It’s a dramatic change from just six months ago when we had a large house with a large yard for the dogs, family just an hour away, and more friends than we knew what to do with.

To compound that lonely what-do-we-do-all-by-ourselves-this-weekend feeling, everything in our place is unfamiliar. We sold everything in the move. Everything. Now the bed we lie down on is unfamiliar. The couch I am blogging from is new. The vacuum I’m charging is new. Nothing is a friendly reminder of the life we had just a few short months ago.

And this is what our dinner conversations look like:

Me: ok, I’ve almost worked up the courage to ask one of the guys I work with out to dinner. He’s pretty cool and his wife sounds like an interesting lady. I think they might be a good couple to double date.

My husband: ya, I’ve been working on this new guy that is helping out at our office. His haircut and tie selection convinces me we could be compatible. He transfers back to his regular office next week, but I think I could close the deal by Friday.

That’s right, folks. We are trying to “ask out” and “close the deal” on some friendships. The one friend I’ve made up here was accomplished by passing a check-yes-or-no note as a joke after four days at a workshop together because I thought it would be strange to say out loud:

“I like being around you. I feel like you are someone I could someday ugly cry in front of and I value you enough I would be willing to someday spend five hours at your hypothetical 8-year-old’s birthday party with only minimal alcohol consumption. Want to make it official and give me your contact info?”

No. People don’t just say that to each other. But, oh! If only they did! This would all be much simpler.

This silly note scored me the one phone number I’ve gotten so far and when I asked for a hangout I got “I’m really busy for the next couple weeks, so…”

Somehow the idea of organically growing friendships through similar interests has not worked and we are branching out to strategize and recruit our village. We’re using all of our resources, even the puppy. I’ve set up four play dates for her in the last two weeks…and I didn’t score a phone number from a single one. Just a “Well, this has been great, we’ll see you guys around. Wonderful to meet you!”

Perhaps we’re radiating desperation and potential friends are being driven away by it? I’m not exactly wearing shirts proclaiming “Seeking friendship within ten mile radius of greater Portland” but at this point, I’m not above it.

So, in summation, we’re happy to be here; we can’t find affordable housing; we’re currently accepting friendship…any friendship….really….anyone…you don’t even have to be originally from Earth…we’ve broadened our search criteria to interstellar…and we’re just a tad lonely in a beautiful, but strange new place, surrounded by what appears to be someone else’s stuff.

Update

Forgive me, readers, for I have left you hanging. It has been three weeks since my last post.

We have been keeping busy with our new life in Oregon. Learning how to bike in traffic and park in bike garages. Growing hydroponic basil. Navigating the MAX. Making friends in the apartment hot tubs. Getting cash for recycling bottles at the grocery stores. Frequenting dog parks and hiking trails. Spending days off at the beach. Discovering what pole bucking is. Adjusting to the new job at Company X in the new office. I am happy to report that things are going swimmingly well.

These are my two hydroponic basil plants.

We are remembering who we were before we were the newlywed couple that bought a house that was falling apart that consumed all of our free time. We are discovering who we are now that we have relocated 1,600 miles away from all that we knew. We are finding it is both liberating and frustrating that all we own now fits into a one bedroom apartment.

In other news:

We have only gotten our Subaru stuck on the beach once. Important lesson kids: all wheel drive is not the same thing as four wheel drive.

Subaru Crosstrek stuck in the sand on the beach

Special thanks to Sheriff Wood for towing us out (and knowing about the eyelet in our tool kit in the back and how to screw it into the frame while we stared in amazement and commented “oooh, so THAT’S what that thing is for!”)

We have still not discovered all there is to the gargantuan that is Fred Meyer (just yesterday we discovered it has a garden center).

Oregon does sometimes get a few days in a row over 100 degrees.

Has it all been sunshine and roses? Well…yes. It IS called the City of Roses and we’ve barely seen any rain yet. Then again…no. Our first few weeks here I battled a terrible sinus infection. The allergens here are totally different. I spent so much time worrying how my CFer would adjust, it never entered my head I might have trouble with a new climate. He’s bopping along great. I started every day for two weeks with a neti pot and a pill.

BUT things are better now. My body has adjusted. My partner got a job. People have been very warm and welcoming to us. We unpacked our last two boxes today. It appears we have landed on our feet.

Now all I’ve got to do is work up the courage to call the local 99s and figure out how to get myself back in the air.

Arriving at home base

We woke up one morning last week at Cannon Beach, drove up to the coast in Seaside, then headed to Portland to see our apartment.

two dogs play on the beach

making friends in Seaside 

On the way in we caught the Hillsboro air show. Military pilots were showing off their aerobatics next to the highway.


All was great until we pulled off of the highway to see the only available apartment that would take a doberman in the greater Portland area.

See, being as it is Oregon and we’d just spent the past few days staying at homesteads and camping on beaches and sightseeing all of the local character and making friends at every turn, we had a certain expectation about what our living situation would be. We were expecting it to be a little weird. We were expecting the local culture to be more laid back and west coastish. We were expecting lots of new shops and new household names and new cultural norms.

Imagine our surprise when we pulled off of the highway to a sea of consumerism at its worst. Every chain restaurant and grocery store and department store were all lined up in a perfect little row on each side of a congested street. The apartments we are living in look identical to the apartment complex next door, which are identical to the apartments next door to them. For this we could have stayed in Dallas.

We opened our front door to find a white box with white carpet and white appliances and white ceilings and white walls and white doors and white blinds and white cabinets and white floors. A glaring picture of antiseptic vanilla everywhere you turn. Outside on the grounds all is planted to match and manicured perfectly. All of the trees are the exact same kind and exact same height. All of the perfectly laid mulch is the exact same width from one plant to the next. All of the bushes are cut in exact squares. All of the plants match in type, height and width too.

Where had the fun, quarky Oregon gone? Where were the local mom and pop shops? Where was the charm and the redwood floors and the window seats and the hydrangea bushes and the rain chains?

This is not quite the picture I had in my head.

So far Oregon is great, but the location we have chosen to start out here is lousy. This place is for young business executives with no soul and blank personalities with no ambition. It’s where bad traffic and bad moods go to latch on to unsuspecting victims. Where people believe the way to be happy is to buy more stuff. Where status and matching coffee cups matter more than human interaction and creativity. Where a required $25/month trash valet saves you the trouble of walking your rubbish to the dumpster yourself. Heaven forbid you be seen doing something so lowly! This place is offensive and boring and…and synchronized pretension! That’s what it is! Antiseptic vanilla synchronized pretension!

It’s an adjustment for everyone. The dogs are adjusting from a yard full of squirrels and a doggie door that leads to a 2,000 sqft house to a 700 sqft apartment, no barking privileges and no access to the squirrels outside…should one gain a permit to enter the conspicuously kept grounds.

BUT, to find the positive, the location is great. We are walking distance to a park with redwood trees and grassy knolls (with only soft golf course grass of course). We are down the street from every store we could ever need. We are across the parking lot from one of the community pools and the mailboxes. We are down the street from a daily open air market. We are 10 minutes from downtown Portland. I am three miles from my job at Company X. We are three turns and two streets from the nearest dog park. We are in Oregon – we made it and we are officially here.

I decided if I can’t find the weird Oregon in my surroundings, I will bring the weird to me. My first order of business was to buy an eggplant purple living room set from Craig’s List. That’s right folks. Have a look.

This is the eggplant chair 

Then I bought a bike. Because you have to have a bike here. It’s too beautiful and bike friendly to not have one. Now I just need the stamina to pedal for more than a half mile.

Soots and I learning to bike together. 

Then I found the local university surplus store which I will hit up for unique book shelves next week.

I set out to the grocery store and was not disappointed. The produce section alone baffled me. Can anyone tell me what this is?

WTF is this?! 

Then I discovered WinCo. If any of you live locally and were at Winco last night and saw a woman wandering through the bulk section exclaiming things like “I love this place!” and “Would you look at this?!” to random strangers and “That’s it, I’m just going to move my stuff right here” that was me. I love a good bulk section, and this place had it all. Bulk dog treats. Bulk granola. Bulk cheese powder. Bulk smoked paprika. Bulk coffee. Bulk candy corn. Bulk almond flour. Bulk…..everything really.

And you guys. Tillamook makes more than two kinds of cheese. Tillamook makes sour cream and ice cream and many varieties of cheese.

And the fish! I can’t even name all (or recognize) all the kinds of fish I’ve seen.

This is not to mention my discovery of the local New Seasons Market, one of countless competitors to Whole Foods here that I can make it to with my half mile bike peddling stamina.

I live in a foodie paradise. And I am good with that.

It didn’t start out so great, but this place is ok. It’s not that weird, but it will do for the first ten months.

I lived

There’s something wonderful about the open road. Even though the world is more globalized today and every town looks the same from the freeway, adventure still lurks in the shadows for those that brave the long and winding road.

We have arrived at our new home, and tonight I sit reflecting on the adventure it was getting up here. Here are some of the things that happened to me over the past ten days journeying the open road:

I left and sold the home I’d put four and a half years into making my own.

I visited the wasteland that is Cadillac Ranch.

I slept in an earthship (and consumed water from the wrong tap…all is well though).

I survived torrential rains in the desert.

I discovered and promptly consumed watermelon licorice.

I met all number of strange, strange folk.

I dangled my toes over the Grand Canyon.

I played fetch with my dog in Lake Tahoe.

I made love under the stars.

I got a sunburn.

I got a toenail fungus.

I lied to a border patrol agent about produce in my vehicle (you can have my out-of-state snack apples when you pry them out of my cold, dead hands. Friggin’ California!)

I coined the term “friggin’ California”…but I don’t say “friggin’…

I got a speeding ticket.

I lost and found a credit card in Reno.

I lost a pair of sandals somewhere along the way.

I drove over the Hoover Dam.

I took a Doberman through Caesar’s Palace…we became our own Vegas attraction.

I watched the fountain show at the Bellagio.

I rushed into the waves of the Pacific Ocean.

I got sand in my sleeping bag.

I slept in an 1880s Oregon homestead.

I acquired three new keepsake coffee mugs from three amazing places.

I tried my first Oregon moscato.

I ate my weight in dungenes crab and salmon on the coast.

I moved into a place sight unseen.

I checked off a few items common to many people’s bucket lists. I don’t have a bucket list though, and I don’t want one. I don’t want to wait until I am old and dying to finally live. Death sneaks up on many of us. Should it sneak up on me, I don’t want to have a list of what I missed. I only want it to be that while I was able, I lived.

Day 2 at the coast

Currently we are homeless.

Our house in Texas sold and our apartment in Portland isn’t ready until later this week. So we are living out of our Subaru until then and it feels great.

Today we spent another day on the Oregon coast and it went something like this:

We have entered the land of hydrangeas. Everywhere you look there are giant bushes of them in every color. I didn’t even know hydrangea bushes could grow this big! This was in front of our hotel in Newport but we saw them all the way up the coast to Canon Beach where we stopped for the night. They are only allowed on furniture in hotel rooms. And they totally milk it.
The beach in Newport.

    
In Pacific City (and at the beach just north of Pacific City) you can drive out on the beach…and fly a kite…and have campfires…and do donuts…and chase seagulls.


…and chase frisbees.
  Are we a Subaru commercial or what?
  More beautiful scenery from Hwy 101.
Bicycles on Canon Beach.

The tide pools at Canon Beach.
Unwinding from a long day on the beaches.

A Day at the Coast

This is the Oregon coastline from Hwy 101.


We took a whole day and didn’t make it to all of the stops along the way or even do half of the coastline, but what a fantastic day we had!

This is part of Sunset Bay State Park.
  
  

This is Winchester Bay.
In Florence this guy saw me taking his picture and charged me!
Still in Florence, those little white things are jellyfish. Sights seen on the hike up to the Heceta Head Lighthouse, just north of the world’s largest Sea Lion caves above Florence.
  A river empties into the ocean at Devil’s Elbow Beach. From the lighthouse, looking down on Devil’s Elbow Beach and the historic bridge just past the tunnel.
  The bay in Newport.