Friday, August 24, 2007

The Q-tips

Emma, Betty, Ellen and Bridget

Meet the Q-tips. They are a fabulous group of women I work with in Salem (named for their white and fluffy hair). While I wish I was creative enough to have come up with this name myself, I'm not sure how they would have taken it coming from me, a sassy brunette 20 years their junior. I don't know who came up with the name, though I suspect it was Bridget. And while their hair is certainly white (except for Betty's) they can out sass me with their pinkie fingers.

I have to admit, when I first came to the Salem VA clinic, I was slightly disappointed and a little trepidatious at the abundance of grey (or as Bridget prefers...silver) and the lack of anyone under the age of 30. I was used to "my girls" from the VA in LA - another fabulous group of women who were crazy, fun, and supportive and who made a hard job worth coming to. During my first few days of work in Salem I was sure that there would be no one there with whom I could create that sort of bond and it made me feel quite lonely. I prepped myself for long and boring days at work.

But, as I've gotten to know these women (the Q-tips), I've realized how totally amazing they are. I've also realized that age has absolutely nothing to do with the bond of friendship that can be found among women. Though we are all in totally different stages of life and from totally different circumstances I still feel very connected and supported and understood by these women...and we have a heck of a good time together!

Tonight, my bad car karma brought me amazing good fortune. Because my car was in the shop today (yes...this makes 3 times in as many pay checks...though luckily I have an amazing mechanic who charged me only $10.65 for today's services...and that is definitely fodder for another post) I carpooled to work with Bridget who not only offered a generous service and insightful conversation during our drives, but also invited me along to happy hour with the Q-tips after work. I never would have been lucky enough to hang out with them had I driven myself. I think they think I have better things to do than to hang out with "the old ladies" but little do they know that I think they are a riot and LOVE hanging out with them. And, now that I've gotten to know them a little better, I just admire, adore, and love them even more. They are seriously amazing women.

Ellen is the mother of the group. She is soft and warm and welcoming and inspires confidence with her calm yet firm demeanor. She is the jbeany of the Q-tips and knows everything about everyone...nothing gets by this woman. She is the go-to girl if you want something to get done and get done right. She lives in a little cottage that is filled with her collections of plates and socks and miniature houses and weathered wood and coffee grinders that all seem to be an extension of her soul. And lest you think she is all sweet grandma, when she had a big garage sale a number of years back, she put an ad in the paper which read, "dog died, husband left, big sale." And it was God's truth.

Emma is the sweet thing. At first she seems so quiet with white hair and a great smile always accentuated with her bright pink lipstick. I found out tonight that she was a nun-in-training for 5 years in her late teens and early 20s. Literally, she was training to be a nun. And while doing so, willfully broke at least 3 of the 10 commandments (although she may have many more hilarious stories of her sins stashed away behind that innocent smile). She is persistent, kind, and hilarious. She is little but she's a firecracker. She works out regularly and hides her hot little legs under very motherly dresses while on the job. She's always been so warm and helpful and welcoming to me and I'm so excited to get to know her better.

Betty is the case manager. And she means business. Instead of knowing everything about everyone, Betty knows everything about everything. You need business cards cheap? Talk to Betty. You need to know where to go to lunch? Talk to Betty. You need someone to push management for a compressed work schedule? Talk to Betty. You need someone to light a fire under your butt so you'll start looking for a place to live? Talk to Betty. Anything you to Betty. She is brilliant - a Nurse Practitioner with a PhD who went to a little school in New Haven, CT. And she's tough - took Judo as a young girl and can hang with the most hostile of veterans. She just has this amazing presence that exudes confidence. She owns it and tells it like it is. And, lest you think she is all business and no heart, she has 5 dogs (most of which I think she rescued from some sad existence or another). She is incredibly empathic and understanding.

Bridget is the feeler (and not in a dirty way). She is more in tune with the energy of the world and of people than anyone I've ever met before. She has an amazing ability to read people and understand them in a way that's different than most people, deeper than most people. She also is incredibly empathic and easy to talk to. She has an uncanny ability to get people (or at least me) talking about themselves and their lives and spilling all. I admire her ability to recognize and appreciate the good in people. She is quick to compliment and is always sincere. She is also incredibly humble and is sort of like a sponge, totally ready to soak up as much new information from the world as she can. Not only is she an incredible conversationalist, she is hilarious and has a ridiculously active imagination. She is a "child of the sixties" who follows her heart and twirls with her girlfriends on Saturday mornings.

So, these are my work girls. Totally different and unexpected but completely delightful. I am so excited about all of the things that I can learn from their great wisdom and life experience. And no, they are not a replacement of my LA girls, who will always have a special place in my heart. They are just proof that the heart always has room for more.

P.S. Sorry to disappoint EvRo, I could only hold back the floodgates of verbosity for so long!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Obsession or Compulsion?

So, I think I have a problem. We went to the Coast this weekend for a little ward camp-out. It was a great weekend filled with girl talk, long drives, s'mores, hot dogs, thumbs, bon fires, moonlit beaches, shooting stars, campfire songs, freezing cold feet, beach ultimate frisbee, and gingerly wading in the mighty pacific. But, the thing I wanted to do most in the world was take jumping pictures. And so I did. And, I think I might have gotten a few other people hooked too. All day, I would spy people taking jumping pictures in various places on the beach. Here are a few of our shots.

Prior to this weekend, the most people I had tried to get in a jumping picture at a time was 5. That number has increased exponentially. Turns out, jumping pictures with a lot of people are a lot harder to capture...but have some fantastically funny results.

The timing was a little tough

I have three favorite parts of this picture:

1. Kevin (guy in the black shirt on the left)

2. K-dawg (guy in the blue standing there looking confused)

3. Sally's balarina pose (on the far right)

This was the best we were ever able to do as a group of 12

I'm afraid of my own hops!

Kaydi and I are pros :)

This guy proved to be the best jumping picture photographer.

Turns out he's not bad at jumping either!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Sunny Days Are Here Again

So, I may have been a little premature and overdramatic in my last post. The cold, dark and rainy days really did only last 3 1/2 days and today it returned to the Sunny Portland that I know and love. In fact, Portland's forcast for the week: Wednesday - partly cloudy 78, Thursday - clear 81, Friday - partly cloudy 84. Los Angeles' forcast for the week: Clear 77 every day (good call EvRo). I tried my darndest to put a fancy little picture of the forcasts compared but couldn't manage it and got all bothered in the process (I guess I'm not as advanced in my blogging abilities as I thought). The important thing here is that my sunny days have returned and I have renewed my trust in Oregonians and their alleged "They Were Here First" Summers.

And yes, I am really looking forward to having seasons again. I love seeing the leaves on the trees change in Fall, feeling the crisp air at the first signs of Winter and watching the world come alive in Spring. Mostly I'm excited for seasons so I can keep track of time again! When I think back on memories in LA I find it difficult to place them in time because in every scene I'm wearing short sleaves and it's bright and sunny and 77 degrees outside. I'm excited for my rain jackets and sweaters to give me a reference point by which to organize my life narrative.

Aren't we all glad that life has gotten so exciting that the primary focus of my blogs has become the weather?? Sweet.

Monday, August 20, 2007

The Old Man is Snoring

So, I have finally experienced what it's like to have several days of overcast weather and periodic rain. Like I've said many times before, the summer in Portland so far has been GORGEOUS! Totally warm and sunny and beautiful...just what summer should be. And, everyone has been telling me that it's only supposed to get better. Apparently we have an amazing (and totally un-PC) Indian Summer in Portland where it's warm and wonderful through September. If I hadn't been told this fable, I might not have been so upset with the last few days. But, since Saturday it has been nothing but cold and dark and rainy. And I don't like it. I'm ok with cold and dark and rainy in February...because that's sort of the definition of February (hereby pronounced my least favorite month...luckily it's a short one...which on second thought should maybe be my most favorite because it is like me...but I digress). Now that I'm writing this out I realize that it's only been 3 days of cold and dark and rainy...but c'mon!! It's August!!! Is summer over already?? I know all the kiddies are going back to school and that autumn is on it's way...but why so soon? All I have to say is, Summer, I miss you already and I hope you come back and spend a little more time with me before you go away for another 6 months.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Splish Splash

Finally!! Proof of me wakeboarding (not of wakeboaring skills, mind you...but just of me actually being on a wakeboard behind a boat). You may want to wear your sunglasses to protect your eyes from the reflection of my white skin. Apparently the Oregon sun hasn't been as good to me as the California sun (though, let's face it...I'm Irish).

And in other water related news...I never got a chance to blog about my incredibly fun weekend at Detroit Lake a few weekends back (other than the jumping pictures, of course). We went out to the Lake to camp with Korie and her family...and it was a lovely time. I was reminded of how much I love camping and being in the woods. I am a fan of camping of all kinds, be it car camping with a community of fellow campers or backpacking into the lonesome woods. There is something great about sleeping outside and the slow, laid back pace that comes along with sitting by a campfire with little else to do. We took a walk on Friday night and got to know the locals.

Jeni and I played a riveting game of don't touch the ground (and made up rules as we went along like 5 year olds...awesome!).

We also hung out on the dock and watched for shooting stars. I didn't see any this time around, but it reminded me of the trip my family took to the Florida Keys when I was a teenager...among my fondest memories was laying out on the dock with our feet in the warm water, watching the meteor shower. Amazing!

I had a heck of a time trying to wakeboard that day, and never successfully got up. I was ridiculously frustrated since that has never happened to me before and we all know how much I hate failing at something. After the attempted wakeboarding we went to this little cove where a river came off the mountain into the lake. There were a bunch of waterfalls, one of which you could slide down on the tubes! We hiked up the riverbed to another great big waterfall. It was beautiful! Just like the spot on LOST where Kate and Sawyer had their little waterfall moment (sans dead bodies or anyone as beautiful as Sawyer or Kate). And, unlike the island on LOST, the water here was freezing cold as it was mountain snow run-off. Despite the cold, we jumped in and swam across the pool to touch the waterfall and back. I think I've officially qualified for the polar bear club.

Unfortunately, I didn't get any photos of the waterfall because getting there required swimming to the beginning of the hike from the boat (in much warmer water). But Korie took this video of us sliding down the first little waterfall on the tube...if you listen closely you can hear my squeal...I promise it looked much scarier from the top than it does from this angle :)

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

What a Feast!

So, I'm having a bit of a cash-flow problem since the major car repairs and signing a new lease (yay, I found a place to live! More on that in upcoming posts). So, I haven't been able to go grocery shopping, yet I still need to eat. I started off the week with $8 in my wallet and have managed to make that $8 last me (with $1 and some change left) for lunch all week (dinners have all been made at home with whatever is in the cupboards...shells and white cheddar, tuna fish, the usual college grub...and have not really worked for left-overs, and we all know how I feel about left-overs). This post is by no means meant to inspire pity or sympathy for the lack of cash. It is merely an expression of my amazement that I have been able to feed myself pretty hardy meals for 3 days on less than $8. Today's meal was by far the best. I went to Costco for some pizza and a coke, which came to a whopping $2.54. I think I may have blogged about Costco pizza and the amazing deal that it is in a previous post...but I'm happy to repeat myself here. Costco pizza is not only delicious, but it is also a nice big fatty piece of pizza that is more than filling enough (plus it reminds me of lunches in DC with Jake and Stubbs at the Costco in Crystal City). And again...what a deal!! Refillable drinks at Costco are only 55 cents!! Where else can you find a refillable fountain coke (the best beverage on the planet) for only 55 cents?? I dare you to find a better deal...I triple dog dare you!

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

BGD's 5 Rules

I went to my very first show in Portland on Saturday night. We went to see The Format at the Hawthorn theater and it was a fantastic way to kick off my concert career in the new city. First off...big hearty thanks to Dan for alerting me to the show (and he said that no good bands would come to Portland...HA!). Although it was terribly difficult for me to go to a show without one of my usual show buddies...I managed and am working through it.

In honor of one of my show buddies, I am going to take you through the evening and discuss the show based on BGD's 5 criteria for a really good show. If you see a band you like, who can actually sing and play their instruments (i.e. isn't a "studio band"), and the show meets these 5 criteria, you are guaranteed a good show. As illustrated below:

1. The opening bands play short sets.

There were 4 opening bands at the show on Saturday night. A little excessive in my mind, but turns out they were it was worth it. We got there in the middle of the Reuben's Accomplice set. They weren't bad...usual opening band stuff, and the set was short. Then came Steel Train who was AMAZING! I really loved their stuff and even bought a t-shirt and their new album...I also stood in line for the bathroom with the bassist Evan Winiker before I knew he was in the band. He was nice and cute with his big curly hair. He even remembered me when I ran into him later. After Steel Train came Limbeck, who were great, as expected. Finally, there was The Honorary Title, the only flaw on an otherwise great night of music. First of all, they took SO long to set up and do their sound check...which was a fine introduction to their sound guy, hereafter referred to as The Prick. Not only did he kick my friend as he tried to hop over the counter into the sound booth (rather than using the more conveniently located door) but he was also a terrible sound guy, I mean The Prick. The vocals were WAY too loud, to the point where they were piercing, which makes listening difficult, let alone liking. Plus, he was mean to the resident sound guy who was nice and cute, we caught him in a lie, and he smoked (which was not allowed at this venue). Toward the end of their set he found the light board and decided to get crazy. He was also terrible at the bad that he thought I might do a better job. He asked if I would do the lights...but since I thought he was a prick I didn't want to participate in his little game I said I couldn't reach the light board. So, he decided to try to move it toward me, thereby disconnecting the board from the plug and causing a total black-out on the stage. A+. Anyway, other than The Honorary Title and their Honorary Prick, the rest of the bands met the aforementioned criteria, making one step toward being a really good show.

2. There is good music between bands.

The resident sound guy, hereafter referred to as Cutie Pie, did a great job on the in-between set music. 'Nuf said.

3. The headliners have a good light show or something to watch while they are playing.

So, the Hawthorn Theater is relatively ghetto. The stage doesn't really provide for doing a really good light show or having anything crazy going on behind (though it is favored with a great neon green border ala a Tijuana strip joint). We made friends with The Format's sound guy, Muzz, and, though half the light controls didn't even work (perhaps due to The Prick's clumsiness), Muzz did the best he could with what he had. I've never really paid attention to the regular old stage lights in a show, unless it's something special...but since Muzz was my buddy I was much more aware of his craft (sort of like how you pay more attention in church when your friend is speaking).

4. The headliners play songs from their entire catalog, not just their most recent album.

The nice thing about making friends with Muzz, the lights guy, is that he gave me a sneak preview of the set list. He said, "Hey, you want a sneak peak, sister?" And, while I'm not that familiar with the Format's entire catalog (which, from what I can tell, consists of two full-length albums and a couple of EPs and a live album) they did, indeed, play songs from all aforementioned albums. And they rocked 'em hard.

5. The headliners play at least one good cover.

Since I wasn't that familiar with all of the song titles in The Format's catalog, there wasn't really any way that I could tell if a cover was on the list. Toward the end of the show I was thinking that they had missed this criteria, thus not qualifying by BGD's standards. However, I was mistaken and was treated to one of the best covers I've ever seen. They brought out horns and a sax and did one of those everyone-is-on-stage-and-having-a-really-great-time-because-we're-buddies sort of rendition of Van Morrison's Caravan. Complete with the crowd coming in for the laa laa la la, la la laaaa. Fantastic!

Moral of the story (for EvRo): The Format is a great live band who puts on a really good show. BGD's criteria hold steady.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007


This morning I was running a little late for work, which is not out of the ordinary for me. But, today I happened to catch the 8 at 8 on 94.7 fm. They pick a theme and play 8 songs based on the theme...the usual radio kitch. This morning, the theme was 1995 and as I was listening to the first three songs I came to the realization that I LOVE 1995. In that year I was a Junior & Senior in High School. I was cruisin' around in my yellow 1974 VW Bug named Sunny, relishing my independence, making life long friends, and I didn't think life could ever get any better. As I rocked out to the first three songs of the set (Oasis - Live Forever, Better than Ezra - Good, and The Presidents of the United States of America - Lump) I started to feel those happy feelings well up in side that make you feel like you might explode. I was flooded with memories from back in the day and I somehow felt the vibe of that year and some serious nostalgia for that time in my life. For me, music is a lot like smell, the sense that is supposed to be the most connected to memory. When I hear particular songs I can be instantly transported, just like when I get a whiff of the sweet smell of carbon paper and it takes me back to the summer of 1997, but I digress.

I think the music of that era is still among my favorite. Is that the case for everyone? Does everyone just LOVE the music from their high school years? Is it so great because it's associated with such fun memories (for those who actually enjoyed their high school years)? Or is it great because that's usually the age where you are discovering music and figuring out what you like (a la Emily)? Or was the music of 1995 particularly good? I don't know the answer to these questions. But, I do know that I'm grateful for 94.7 taking me back today. I'm grateful for 1995 and all of the people that made that year so great. I'm grateful for the music and the happy times it brings to mind. In the famous words of Bob Hope...Thanks for the memories!