Thursday, May 31, 2007

Let me count the ways...

Well, I've had another great day in Portland! Work was great...just meeting more people, training, and logisticating. Today I got to meet the Portland Substance Abuse Team and sit in on some groups and classes at the Vancouver VA.

The highlight of the day came after work when I met up with Adam and Eresha for dinner downtown. Adam and Eresha are friends from LA who got married and moved up to Portland about a year ago. Adam works at the VA in Administration (he's one of the guys that showed me around yesterday) and Eresha works for Kaiser. They met at USC when they were both getting their Masters in Hospital Administration (or maybe public health...I forget). Anyway, I am thrilled that they are both up here! They are among my only friends and it's been really great to see some familiar faces! Eresha and Adam are one of those couples that I love because I was friends with both of them before they got they are totally fun to hang out with and it's not weird at all. We had a yummy dinner at Hunan on Broadway which is near Pioneer Square. It was the first time that I've really walked around downtown and again...I fell in love. The city is exactly what I've heard it is...and exactly what I was looking for with this move.

Here is a short list of the things that I love about it so far:

  1. It is a happening city...LOTS of people walking EVERYWHERE!

  2. The streets are narrow and the architecture is the city a very charming feel.

  3. All of the streets are tree lined...again, charming.

  4. I saw no fewer than 3 men wearing kilts (none of which were paired with the usual bag pipes or golden buttoned coats...think soccer jerseys or work boots).

  5. The city had a great energy and was filled with people, but at the same time, some of the major intersections had stop signs...STOP SIGNS!!

I'm sure there will be many more things to add to this list as I explore the city some more. I already feel like I am getting to know my way around and figure out where things are. After dinner, we went to Lake Oswego where Adam and Eresha live. We had some Tillamook ice cream and walked down to the lake where we sat on benches and talked. LO is also a great little town. Cute shops and restaurants, walkable, great big lake with beautiful homes, tree lined streets. If I can't live in Portland, I think I'd like to move there. It's the kind of place that has a real "town" feel. It is hip with lots of things to do and really feels like a community rather than a suburb. All in all a great day! Tomorrow I head down to the Salem VA clinic!! Here are some pics of us by the lake:

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

I Love My Job (ILMJ)

So, I've just finished with day 2 of my new job! For those who don't know, I'm going to be working as a therapist, specializing in addictions, at the Salem OR Veteran's Administration (VA) Community Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC). Just like most of the other things in Oregon, I am going to LOVE my job!! I have spent the last two days up at the Portland VA and the Vancouver VA, getting oriented and checking out their programs. The Substance Abuse Treatment Program (SATP) is based in Vancouver and it's made up of an interdisciplinary team of clinicians who treat addiction. The idea for my new job is that I'll be a part of the SATP team embedded in Salem. So, it was great for me to check out their program and meet all of the people up there. I started off my day in Portland yesterday. I met one of my bosses, Dave, who is really really great. They had me running around and doing a lot of HR stuff, getting a badge and computer access (none of which were actually accomplished...don't you love bureaucracies??). Then I met my other boss, Jim, who is also really great. He and I drove over to the Vancouver clinic where I was able to check out the facility, meet some people, and sit in on their interdisciplinary team meeting. I also got 2 bag loads of resources to bring with me to Salem when I go. Day one was totally crazy and an informational overload...but it was also really great. I was craving that kind of information about the program and the position and what it was they expected of me. So, it was great to be flooded with all of that! I was able to get a handle on my role and figure out what I'm going to be doing. Basically, I'll be functioning as an independent clinician in Salem and provide a linkage to the substance abuse treatment program. I'll be providing substance abuse consultation to the primary care teams, working with the mental health clinic, doing intakes and assessments for the SATP in Vancouver, doing individual treatment with those who need it, running a continuing care group in Salem for those who have been through the initial phase of treatment in Vancouver but live closer to the Salem clinic, and providing support and treatment for recently returning vets through the National Guard station in Salem. I am really really excited!!

Day 2 started off in Vancouver. I sat in on the complex condition team meeting (working with those who have co-occuring addiction and other mental health problems or who have complicated circumstances that would effect their treatment). I then sat in on the Access clinic and saw how new patients are oriented and admitted to the program. I tried to figure out the computer access situation a bit more (still not done) and then had lunch with Jim. He continued to fill me in on the program and the exciting things they are doing. He has proven to be very helpful, supportive, and just an all around great supervisor. In the afternoon I headed back over to Portland. I had a few hours to kill before meeting with Dave, so I said hi to some other LA transplants who work at the VA. Gian and Adam both gave me great tours of the VA and the Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) which is a big teaching hospital that is connected to the VA by this beautiful sky bridge. Here is a picture from the bridge.

The VA sits on top of a big hill on the west side of Portland with a number of other hospitals. It's surrounded by trees and has the most amazing views of the city. There is also an air tram that goes from the bottom of the hill up to OHSU (you can see the lines if you look closely). Adam showed me a great patio look out point where you can sit and eat your lunch while overlooking Mt. St. Helen's and downtown Portland across the river (if you look closely in the pictures you can see Mt. St. Helen's and Mt. Hood in the background). Gian has a great view of the river and Mt. Hood out his window. Here are some pictures from those points.

The facilities in Portland and in Vancouver are just so much nicer than West LA. And the people here are SO nice and friendly. I was initially a little thrown off by it...but I'm loving it more and more. It feels more like me, you know?

So, after touring and checking out the incredible views, I met up with my supervisor Dave. We talked about a few things and then he handed me off to Andrea who is a social worker in addictions in Portland. We chatted for a minute and then I sat in on her continuing care group so I could get a feel for how they are run. After these two days I am feeling much more confident about my job. I was initially excited about the autonomy and creative freedom that I would have being the sole addictions social worker at the Salem clinic. But, I was also a bit worried that I would be thrown in and expected to develop a program, when I don't really feel like an expert in the field yet. It was great to see that there is a structure in place, there are clear expectations, and support and resources for meeting those expectations. I'll still get the autonomy and creative freedom with just enough structure to reign in the chaos. I'm really really excited about it!

In the process of driving to work and to and from the various clinics I've been able to experience the Portland roadways a bit more. It's been a little bit of an adventure! Yesterday I got mapquest directions to the Portland VA and figured I could reverse the directions to get back home. Annette Krainik was right, the place you get off the freeway is not necessarily the place you get back on! After missing my turn and having to back track a bit, I finally made it back to the place where I expected the freeway entrance, only to find that there was not even a hint of one there. Also, the streets in Portland, especially up in the hills which is where I was, are not at all gridlike...they wind around all willy-nilly. So, using my innate navigation device, I wound a round for a minute and was able to find another freeway entrance and crawl my way back home (whoever said Portland didn't have traffic??). The traffic wasn't nearly as bad as LA, but was more than I expected. It was especially bad because Portland is currently experiencing record heat (it was 90 degrees today) and I don't have air conditioning in my car. Needless to say I was disgusting by the time I got home. See, it's not always cold in Portland, only when I'm doing water sports! The rest of my time here it has been really warm with clear skies and relatively low humidity. My perfect weather. I'm going to love it while it lasts!!

I heart KCRW



Over the last four years I have developed a deep and undying love for NPR news. This can be blamed on Nic Harcourt, the KCRW DJ on the morning music program, "Morning Becomes Ecclectic" or as I like to affectionately refer to it, "MBE". When I first moved to LA, I happened upon this radio station while trying to survive my morning commute. I fell in love with Nic who introduced me to some of my favorite bands and helped me realize that the music world as I knew it was not dead. I love KCRW and all that it stands for. Through it I discovered great music, Matt's movies, This American Life, Story Corps, early concert details, and NPR news. Just like most things that I really dig, I became a little obessed and would talk about Nic, MBE, and NPR all the time. That station saved me from the commercial radio in LA which would have otherwised led to a slow and painful death during commuting (this was in the pre-ipod days). Anyway, Nic indirectly led to my discovery of NPR news. I would get to work in the morning listening to MBE and when I got back into the car to drive home, I would hear the soothing voices of Melissa Block, Michele Norris, and Robert Siegel telling me the news of the day on All Things Considered. In my younger years, I would have immediately changed the station to something more hip and exciting. But, there was something incredibly grounding and calming about hearing the news as I fought my way back to Hollywood in the heat and traffic. NPR quickly became part of my daily routine and when I started working earlier in the morning I would listen to Renee Montagne and Steve Inskeep give me the morning news as I was getting ready for work and on the morning commute. I didn't realize how much a part of my routine and daily world these people had become. But, as I was driving to work yesterday, I had this empty, disconnected feeling. I realized that I had no idea what was going on in the world and I missed my friends at NPR. I frantically searched through the radio stations, listening eagerly for a familiar voice...but none could be found. I settled for some amature news program that just wasn't giving me the satisfaction I was looking for. I came home from work last night, got online, and found the local NPR station, Oregon Public Radio (OPR). This morning, I drove to work while Renee told me about an elephant that was holding up motorists in Orissa and Steve told me about the political crisis that Musharraf is creating for himself. All was right with the world.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Wet = Cold

So, right now I'm sitting in my room, listening to some Aretha Franklin, realizing that my life is pretty great! You know how I was worried that I would move to this new city and be bored and lonely? Well, that was dumb! I have been having SO much fun so far! And I've been meeting some really fun people! I hope this weekend is a good sign for things to come. Today I spent the day out on the river wakeboarding with some of my "new friends". We went out super early in the morning and hit the river before almost anyone else was out there. They were expecting the river to be packed because of the holiday, but it was a little chilly so there was hardly anyone else out on the water. And, by "a little chilly" I mean FREEZING. I don't know if it's because I lived in Southern California for so long but when I'm near the water, I sort of expect it to be warm. I've discovered this weekend that that is a not necessarily the case. The beach was cold, the river was cold, and I've realized that, in Portland, wet generally equals cold. This is a fact and I'm going to have to get used to it. I don't have to like it, but I am going to have to get used to it. I hear in the summer things warm up quite a bit and then it's not so bad. I'll believe it when I see it! But, just because it's cold doesn't mean I'm not having fun! Today was really great and I forced myself to get in the water (with a wet suit) and do some wake boarding. I got up on my first try! I wish I would have handed off my camera to someone to document the feat, but I didn't think I would pop up like I did! So, here is a picture of us freezing on the boat...
And here's a picture of Joe, the owner of the boat.

He's super nice and fun and a very patient wakeboard instructor. I told Jim that Joe is the first honorary member of the J-Crew, Portland edition. Not that you guys could EVER be replaced, but c'mon...he has a BOAT! As much as I totally miss all of my friends, the people here have been very nice and friendly and welcoming. It has made the transition much easier than I expected. Who knows...this could be just one wild and crazy weekend that is not at all indicitive of what life will be like, but it's been a good start. I think the thing that makes me happiest is the fact that everyone here likes to do the things that I like to do. In LA, there was certainly opportunity for doing outdoorsy things...but you always had to look for the opportunity and look for people to join in. Here, it seems like going hiking and boating and camping and doing outdoorsy things are the things that people do. So, I don't have to fit it in or squeeze it in among other's just what people are into, which is really nice. We already have a hike planned for next Saturday at Dog Mountain, and possibly more boating on Friday...depending on when I'm done with work.

This weekend I also had another adventure at church. The ward seems very nice...but it is just really really weird being the new girl on the block. I went from a ward where I knew everyone and felt totally comfortable, to a place where I don't know anyone and feel a bit uncomfortable. I feel a little needy and like I'm a tag along with the people I want to be friends with. It's weird not knowing who to sit with at church and just not knowing anyone. I know that it just takes time and patience and before I know it I'll be fully integrated. But, it's just weird being in this new phase again. It's been a while since I've been in this position.

I start my new job tomorrow!! I'm really excited but also pretty nervous. I'm supposed to be the addictions expert at an outpatient VA clinic. YIKES!! I'm not sure how that happened because I don't feel like much of an expert...but hopefully I'll do a good enough job of faking it! Wish me luck!

Sunday, May 27, 2007

My First Adventure

This weekend I went to the Oregon Coast with my roommate and some of her friends, who I now affectionately refer to as "my friends". Here are some pictures of the coast...

Isn't it gorgeous? I was so amazed!! We drove out in the morning and met up with some wardies who were already out there for a sleepover at some kid's beach house. We all went for a hike and were promised that the end would involve some sort of pirate beach and caves (yes, that's pirate, not private). However, our hike was cut short by a big fence and a sign that said the rest of our hike had been turned into a nature sanctuary and we couldn't go any hoo. But, there was plenty more exploring to do in the big meadows and up onto this great peak that overlooked the water. The hiking was amazing! I was so happy to find that on my very first weekend in Portland, I was already doing all of the fun outdoorsy things that I love to do. After the hike we went down to the beach. It was beautiful, sort of similar to Malibu with it's tall cliffs and rockiness. However, it was FREEZING! We were in Lincoln City, which is apparantly known for it's high winds, which make it perfect for kite flying...not perfect for sunning yourself on the beach. I was in jeans and a jacket and still cold. Despite the frigid weather, one girl decided to get into the water. She is crazy and I will from here on out refer to her as such. After the beach we made a brief stop at the outlets...but I was way too tired to shop. Then we had dinner at Mo's which is a local seafood joint with really yummy clam chowder. Delish!

So, all in all it was a fantastic day. I have to admit that it's still a little hard being the new guy and not knowing anyone. And, people seem to be really young. But, I have met a few really cool people who I hope will be my buds. This is my new friend Kaydi, who I felt an instant connection with. She's really fun and adventurous we seem to have a lot in common so far. I just have to be patient with the awkwardness of being new and feeling needy for friends. I still miss my LA peeps quite a bit...and always miss everyone else that I'm far away from. You all need to come up and visit asap...maybe you will fall in love with it and move up here with me!!

Tomorrow we are going boating! Yes...boating! There are several people in the ward who have boats so we're going to go out to the river and go water skiing and wakeboarding. I'm super excited!! I grew up water skiing on my friend Amy's lake and I haven't been in a very long time. I'll post more on that adventure soon! Love and miss you all like crazy!!

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


I'm a nerd. I admit it. I love to do puzzles. Be it jigsaw, riddle, sudoku, crosswords...I just really love to figure stuff out and the sense of accomplishment that comes when a puzzle is complete. This fact has become evident on this most recent trip home. The other day I sat down at the kitchen table to help my mom with a jigsaw puzzle she had been working on for months. I quickly became obsessed! I could not pull myself away and I basically finished the whole puzzle by myself, with intermittent help from mom, dad, and Desiree in 2 days. It was a lovely little picture of a horse drawn carriage in front of a perfect little house with a white picket fence and it was entitled "Americana". Just as I had destroyed it, I realized that I should have taken a picture to document how my time at home was spent (I promise that I will get better at this. Amy, now I understand your blog silence when your camera was missing. It is an essential element). So, with my new obession underway and with a real desire to post a photo of a completed puzzle on my blog, my mom and I started another puzzle (this time of the kiss between Scarlette O'hara and Rhett Butler...classic). This one had half the pieces of the one I started earlier, so I was sure I could knock it out in a couple of ours and satiate my puzzle jonesing. After an hour of work...this is as far as we got. It was an impossible puzzle which consisted of only 3 colors which all varied slightly and somehow turned into Scarlette and Rhett's faces. We even had the help of my friend Alice...also a puzzle fanatic (she once missed a flight because she was so into a puzzle at the airport while she was waiting to board. It was a sudoku puzzle...but I like the image of her with a big jigsaw puzzle spread out on the floor of the airport with all of her perfectly organized piles of pieces just waiting to be placed in their proper spot). Needless to say, I was frustrated. It was not a happy hour of puzzling. Now, because of my competitive nature, I may spend the entire day tomorrow working on the puzzle (without the distraction of my family who will all be working). Sorry Amy, we're going to have to cancel lunch.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Wild Ride Indeed

It's been exactly one week and one day since I left the great city of LA. And yes, I do mean great. I'm not sure I ever called it great while I lived there, but as Cinderella most eloquently put it (or rocked it), "you don't know what you've got till it's gone." That's not to say I didn't have a fabulous time in LA. I did have a fabulous time! But, I never really felt totally connected to the city. Now, as I look back, I realize that I was connected, that I did love it, and that I learned a lot while I lived there. I am so grateful to my amazing friends and the month and a half long farewell to Renee celebration that reminded me why I love LA and why it was so hard to leave.

So, this particular "wild ride" started last Saturday. After a morning of packing and saying good bye to all of my LA peeps (who deserve a huge shout out for all of the help they gave me last weekend), my Dad and I headed North, hoping Lulu would survive the trip. We made it up to Alameda (in the Bay area) where we stayed with Courtney and Alisa for a few days. My dad and I spent the first day at the Exploratorium and finished off the evening with a steaming bowl of clam chowder on the pier. I woke up the next morning feeling horribly sick and we took an extra day to rest and then headed up to Napa Valley. Still feeling sick, we decided to forgo the winery tours and just head for Portland. The second day of driving was BEAUTIFUL. Everyone has been telling me how gorgeous Oregon is. I believed them and all...but I really didn't know until I saw it for myself...and I can is GORGEOUS!! Beautiful, lush, rolling hills; great big volcanic mountains; trees as far as you can see. It's amazing. If I were a truly good blogger, I would have taken pictures to post here...but I didn't. I'll try to get some soon so you can all see for yourselves.

The closer we got to Portland the more excited I was about the idea of moving there. It really is the land of milk and honey (if the milk is hot bearded men and the honey is the beat up old subaru wagons they drive). I was in heaven! We pulled up to my new digs in Tigard at around 7 pm...just as people were beginning to show up for the enrichment class my roommate was hosting (she's the RS Pres). We checked out the place really quickly (it's super are a few pictures of the bedroom yet as it is currently filled with unpacked boxes) and then decided to go explore a little. We drove through Multnomah village and then accidentally ended up on the freeway, so we decided to go to the city for dinner. We had a fabulous meal at Mother's Bistro (thanks to a recommendation from Ryan Tait) and again, I fell in love with the city. It is everything I hoped it would be and more. It's perfectly charming. We found parking right outside the restaurant and it was free. I about wet myself! The city is filled with charming neighborhoods, cute little boutiques, independent restaurants (no chains!), and a nice healthy homeless population (lest I long too much for LA). The river runs right through the middle of town and has all of these amazing bridges that connect the two sides. It also has the most lovely park that runs along the river and I hope to be spending many hours there, riding my bike along the river paths. Even in the 2 hours we spent in the city, I feel totally connected...I'm in love.

The next day was spent moving all of my stuff (twice...due to scheduling problems with the moving company). But, my dad, my roommates, and my friend Adam were a huge help and we were able to get everything in by sun down. Moving really makes you realize how much crap you have...I think another garage sale may be in order. I have 15 boxes of books...who needs 15 boxes of books?? I spent the evening unpacking and then the following day my dad and I headed to the airport for our trip to Denver to see my sister, Desiree, who just got home from her mission.

My mama picked us up from the airport and by the time I got home I was so exhausted from all of the driving, moving, and traveling, that I went straight to bed. Friday morning we went to the airport to pick up Desiree. It was SO great to see her. She looks so great and is so happy. We met her at the airport with balloons and a big neon sign and all kinds of excitement. She is the cutest thing and it's been so fun to watch her and see all of the ways that she's changed. She is a whole new person. Totally confident, totally independent, she even carries herself differently. It's been fun to hear all of her stories and learn all about the new Desiree. I think it will be a tough readjustment to the real world, as it is for all returned missionaries, but she is doing a great job so far.

Anyway, those are the highlights of this whirlwind week of change. The rest of the time has been spent hanging out with Desiree, catching up with a few old friends, and playing with my family. We had a big homecoming party for Desiree on Saturday night all kinds of old family friends were there. The reaction to my move to Portland was mixed...I think most of them think I'm some sort of crazy vagabond bound for spinsterhood because I can't settle down in one place long enough to get married. Maybe they're right...who knows.

I hope you check in again to get updates on my life, come along with me on adventures, or humor my musings. Love to all!

P.S. To all those who favored "Emigrant Labor" as the blog title (particularly Dan and Evan) are right, Emigrant Labor is a far more clever title. I am deeply sorry to disappoint you with this second best option. No excuses...just apologies.