Category Archives: Me

South Korea: Fueled by Coffee and Friendship Part IV

Update: The winner of the giveaway is Courtney Barriga!!

My trip to South Korea had been one of the most impulsive, fun, and exhausting few days of my life. The only appropriate way to end it? More of the same.

Coffee #13: In case you’re still keeping track, coffee thirteen was early Monday morning. It was another morning of waking up extra early because I couldn’t sleep, so I did my usual – drank coffee and FaceTimed the boyfriend.

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I again managed to navigate Seoul independently, finding my way to another palace, Gyeongbokgung, the primary palace in Seoul. Originally built in 1395, it has been systematically reconstructed after it was most recently destroyed by the Japanese in the early 1900’s. It was incredible. One of the things I love about traveling alone is getting to wander at my own pace. So that’s exactly what I did as I savored my final morning in Seoul.

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I arrived at 9 am, just as the gates opened. For a while, I had the entire place practically to myself, although the crowds quickly grew.
I arrived at 9 am, just as the gates opened. For a while, I had the entire place practically to myself, although the crowd quickly grew.

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The only interruption to my morning was being approached by multiple groups of adolescent boys who asked me to take a picture with them. It was either some type of school project or some type of teenage boy field trip dare. I’m not sure which explanation I prefer…

Coffee #14: I was not ready to leave Korea. Absolutely 100% not ready to leave. I consoled myself with yet another cup of coffee.

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After one last stop to say a quick goodbye to Shannon (who was, you know, my entire reason for being in South Korea), I headed to the airport.

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I left Korea unwillingly, completely exhausted, feeling strung out on excessive caffeine and inadequate sleep. I left Korea on the first day that I did not feel like I was going to die, just as I began to recover from jet lag. I left to go home and back to work the day after getting back. And yet, it was perfect.

Coffee #15: After a 10.5 hour flight, during which I was thankfully able to sleep, I drank my last cup of coffee of the trip.

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I arrived back in San Francisco intact, but rather disheveled. And notice that I’m still wearing the exact same thing I was at the beginning of the post. Which was well over 24 hours before. Just keeping the reality of long distance travel alive. #itsnotglamorous

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The things I do for friends.

To wrap things up, I am hosting a small giveaway from my trip. Small to reflect the short time I spent in such an incredible place.

To enter to win this hand painted mirror, comment on this post, perhaps sharing the most fun or impulsive or ridiculous thing you have done in the name of friendship. The giveaway ends at 11 pm PST on Saturday January 23. A randomly selected winner will be announced on this post Sunday January 24.

Roommate Reunion 2015

At some point during the past 10 years since I graduated college (side note: how is that possible????), I began trying to get together at least once a year with my college roommates Jessi and Shannon. Of course life sometimes intervenes (i.e., people have babies and by people I mean Jessi) and we can’t always get together, but for the past 7 or 8 years we have managed to make a yearly reunion happen more often than not. But this year, my year to host the reunion, I was no longer living in Texas, a place conceivably within driving distance of Arkansas and Tennessee where Jessi and Shannon reside. I was in faraway Oregon. So it was a bit of a surprise when one day in July I woke up with no notion of an upcoming reunion and went to bed knowing that two of my best friends had plane tickets booked for September. Some things are just meant to be.

September arrived and so did Jessi and Shannon. Although of course it was not quite that straightforward as I will get to in a moment. We enjoyed a long weekend of good times, lots of laughs, relived memories, and very little sleep with copious amounts of coffee to compensate.

I’m trying to pretend that I’m okay with being wake right now -Cora

If a quote could sum up an entire weekend, it would be this one. The trip started off with an unexpected twist when Jessi called to share that her flight had been cancelled. I had picked Shannon up from the airport in Eugene and we were killing time at, where else, Target, before returning to the airport to pick up Jessi later in the evening. Or so we thought. Following a somewhat panicked phone call from Jessi, we quickly worked to get Jessi rebooked on another flight. That got into Portland. At midnight. So we did what any reasonable people would do, we decided to buy matching coffee mugs, supplies to make a welcome sign, and party hats. Because what airport greeting would be complete without party hats?

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How could she say no to this awesomeness?
I quickly downed three cups of coffee at 9 pm before making the drive from Eugene to Portland.
I quickly downed three cups of coffee at 9 pm before making the drive from Eugene to Portland. Desperate times…

Shannon and I spent the 2 hour drive mostly talking about my new boyfriend. After she agreed that she didn’t mind hearing everything twice when Jessi inevitably would want to have the same conversation.

By 11:30, we were feeling a bit less enthusiastic.
By 11:30, we were feeling a bit less enthusiastic.
I had failed to consider that Jessi would not be the only person to see Shannon and I holding the sign. It was like an exposure exercise designed to elicit embarrassment.
I had failed to consider that Jessi would not be the only person to see us holding the sign. It was like an exposure exercise designed to elicit embarrassment.

I loved the sign! It was like a painful joy. -Jessi

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We managed to make it back to Roseburg around 4 am. To Shannon and Jessi, that felt like 6 am and the two of them had both been awake for over 24 hours. What a way to begin. And if one should begin as one plans to continue, we did just that – going to bed too late and waking up too early. That just meant we had a constant excuse to drink coffee.

We even got to meet my other best friend, Kacy, for coffee. My worlds collided and it was pretty much the best.thing.ever!!
We even got to meet my other best friend, Kacy, for coffee. My worlds collided and it was pretty much the best.thing.ever!!
Introducing them to Dutch Bros.
Introducing them to Dutch Bros.
Pre-hiking bagels and coffee
Pre-hiking bagels and coffee

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And, imagine that, we are at another coffee shop!
And, imagine that, we are at another coffee shop!

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Not pictured: At least 5 other instances when we drank coffee. And yes, I realize they were here for like 4 days and we drank enough coffee to last a normal person at least a month.

Because a sleep-deprived, coffee fueled weekend was not quite enough exhaustion for one week, we woke up at 3 am on Wednesday so I could drive them to the airport for their early morning flights… before going to work at 8 am.

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How do I get in on that? -Jessi

One of the benefits of having best friends around is exploiting them for their talents. Like back rubs and fixing hair and fashion advice.

For a 4-day stretch in September, I had good hair thanks to Shannon. IMG_0036

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Cora, you need an Oregon makeover!! -Jessi and Shannon

Shannon, are you really going to wear Chacos with that… – Jessi

In addition to great hair, friends can also provide fashion advice, solicited and otherwise. Which could explain how I ended up with a shopping bag big enough for me to fit into full of new clothes.

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That (insert meal here) was so good/yummy/delicious -improvised by Cora to transition to a discussion of food

Okay, so that quote generally reflects the fact that we ate a lot of really great food while Shannon and Jessi were here. Roseburg is not exactly known for being a foodie destination, but happens to have exactly the number of good restaurants you need to get through a long weekend without actually cooking. Stay any longer than that and you’re out of options and stuck with fast food, but at least you can eat well for a weekend.

This was not in Roseburg, but Shan and I enjoyed a fantastic meal at Cafe 440 in Eugene.
This was not in Roseburg, but Shan and I enjoyed a fantastic meal at Cafe 440 in Eugene.
Fried green tomatoes done right and served with chipotle aioli.
Fried green tomatoes done right and served with chipotle aioli
Salmon over risotto. Can I just eat this everyday, please?
Salmon over risotto. Can I just eat this everyday, please?
And chocolate bread pudding because we were literally not going to bed that night. And I needed something to go with my coffee, right?
And chocolate bread pudding because we were literally not going to bed that night. And I needed something to go with my coffee, right?

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The Lighthouse is a vegetarian bakery that even carnivores love.
The Lighthouse is a vegetarian bakery that even carnivores love.

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The guacamole “burger” is amazing!

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Alexander's Greek Cuisine
Alexander’s Greek Cuisine

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Seafood within driving distance (in this case Florence) is a definite perk of living in Roseburg
Seafood within driving distance (in this case Florence) is a definite perk of living in Roseburg

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Dakota Street Pizza
Dakota Street Pizza
Brix, one of my favorite spots
Brix, one of my favorite spots

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Bagel Tree. For bagels. We needed the calories for hiking obviously.
Bagel Tree. For bagels. We needed the calories for hiking obviously.
We enjoyed a nice dinner at Dino's on our last night together to celebrate over 13 years of friendship in the best way possible - with delicious food and laughter-filled conversation.
We enjoyed a nice dinner at Dino’s on our last night together to celebrate over 13 years of friendship in the best way possible – with delicious food and laughter-filled conversation.

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There is more to share, but a weekend with two of my favorite people cannot possibly be summed up in one post. Stay tuned for more about gray hairs, misunderstandings about trips to Antartica, and probably more coffee.

Sleeping in Seattle Day 3

Of the things I love in this world, time alone to recharge and to think is surprisingly high on the list. I say surprising, because I absolutely love the people in my life. I have said before that they are simply the best, most wonderful, and amazing people that could possibly exist. But sometimes, I just want to be by myself. More recently, I’ve discovered that I also enjoy the luxury of alone time while traveling. Of course I love exploring with others, but exploring alone is an entirely different and utterly enjoyable experience. My last morning in Seattle, I took the opportunity to do just that. Without the pressure of conversation or the need to be aware of another person, I could fully notice.

Notice the delicious tastes and textures and sounds as I treated myself to breakfast at Shaker + Spear, the Palladian’s onsite restaurant.

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Notice the smells and the noise and the color of Pike Place Market on a Saturday morning. Notice the lives that were being lived all around me and yet were separate from my own.

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Notice that what I really wanted to eat for lunch was the taste of authentic Chinese food, which I had been craving for months (thanks, Natalie, for the perfect recommendation!).

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And notice how so very grateful I am for the people and places, the sights and sounds, the tastes and travels that make up my life. What have you noticed today?

 

Couchsurfing in China: The Epilogue

How does one end an amazing, once in a lifetime, trip to China? I don’t know how most people do  it, but I chose to fit in a 24 hours stopover in Dallas. Just enough time to see friends, eat Torchy’s queso, and oh yeah, take a shower after a long day in the city and an even longer flight. But not really enough time to sleep much…

But before we get to all that, this is really important to say: You know how there is this romantic idea of sitting next to the cute stranger on the flight and falling madly in love? Well, the whole sitting next to a cute stranger thing is totally overrated. Do not get me wrong, I enjoyed the dinner conversation with the very attractive world traveling engineer who I was fortunate enough to sit next to on the Shanghai to Dallas flight. However, one never sees the scene wherein the female protagonist (that would be me…) tries to both get some sleep, not exactly the easiest task on a plane in the first place, while not ugly sleeping. Which means no drooling, no awkward head bobbing, no crazy hair, and definitely no accidentally leaning over on your seat mate while sleeping. Have you ever tried looking attractive while sleeping on a plane? Not easy! Especially while wearing compression socks to prevent my feet from swelling. Sexy. Despite all of that, I quite enjoyed the flight…

And then I arrived in Dallas, almost 8 months since I had moved. My lovely friends were kind enough to want to hang out with me despite the fact that I had not showered in an unmentionable amount of time and had been sitting on a plane for 13 hours. We ate Torchy’s (and I may or may not have brought an order of queso back in my luggage), told stories, laughed, and just generally had a wonderful time. And as if all that were not amazing enough, I got to take a legit shower. Sorry Kelsey if I used all the hot water.

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What happens when a bunch of 30-somethings try to use a selfie stick. There was a table of not-so-30 -somethings not-so-silently mocking us.
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This. This is happiness.

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Saturday morning, another sweet friend picked me up for lunch at one of my favorite spots that I miss terribly – Patina Green. After savoring every bite of my cauliflower sandwich and every minute of the conversation, I was dropped off at the airport to finally go home for real.

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I have the best friends, hands down.

The amazing part was, as I took in the view while flying into the Portland airport, that I realized I really was coming home.

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In the 8 months I had lived in Oregon, this place had begun to be my home despite the distance from every place I’ve ever lived and the total lack of knowing people in the town I had moved to less than a year before. It took traveling far away for me to appreciate for the first time the home that this new place had slowly become. As my flight landed in Oregon, I came home.

I always wish I had adequate words to capture the moments I spend in the places I go. I hope despite my shortcomings as a writer, you found something to enjoy or entice or ponder in the time you spent reading about my trip. It was a week of (mostly) ordinary life in a city in China that reminded me what an extraordinary life I live. Thanks for being a part of it!

Couchsurfing in China: Friendship

Friendship is one of those things that is hard to put into words. It is impossible to describe the complexities of relationships that begin and continue by choice, despite distance and time and change.

Candi and I have been friends since we were 13 years old. We later became family when she married my cousin. We made it through the awkward teenage years, road trips to Florida and back, and being roommates for two years of college. But in the past few years, the circumstances of our lives (ummmm, grad school controlling my life; Candi moving to China) brought more distance into our relationship, both literally and figuratively. Given the recent distance, I was unsure how my week in China would go. Fortunately, I spent a week being reminded of all the wonderful things that friendship can be.

Friends pick up where they left off. Whether it has been days or months or years, with friends it feels like you were never apart.

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Friends shop together and share clothes. Okay, so maybe this is not necessarily true for everyone, but it is definitely true for me. In college, my roommates and I used to joke that we each had four closets because we so frequently borrowed one another’s clothes. Even though I was only in China for a week, I managed to borrow multiple items of clothing from Candi and we certainly spent time shopping. Sometimes the only way to make a decision is to get a second opinion from a friend.

Wearing a pair of Candi's leggings because it was cold and so I could ride the e-bike without flashing anybody.
Exhibit A: Wearing a pair of Candi’s leggings because it was cold and so I could ride the e-bike without flashing anybody.
Candi's fleece
Exhibit B: Candi’s fleece
Candi's tennis shoes
Exhibit C: Candi’s tennis shoes

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Friends can just be together. You don’t have to do anything special to have a good time. One evening, we went for a walk around campus before buying a watermelon that we shared while sitting on a bridge. It was nothing special, but it was wonderful.

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Friends make you brave enough to try new things. Whether that is staying out after dark

Apparently Candi being outside in the evening was an almost unbelievable sight
Apparently Candi being outside in the evening was an almost unbelievable sight

or trying new foods

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or booking a plane ticket to China, the presence of a friend can be the difference between being too cautious to try something new and feeling capable of going outside of your comfort zone.

Friends may push you out of your comfort zone, but they also share common interests. For me, that usually involves coffee.  Okay, it always involves coffee. In a single week in China, Candi and I went to no less than 3 different Starbucks, not to mention the other times we spent obtaining and drinking coffee.

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However, as much as I love coffee, sharing a cup of tea with a friend is a ritual I sometimes enjoy. One evening, Candi and I relaxed over traditional Chinese tea.

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Chinese tea is accompanied by the savory, not the sweet - things like sesame seeds, breadsticks, and cucumber, with the sweetest food being something like melon.
Chinese tea is accompanied by the savory, not the sweet – things like sesame seeds, bread sticks, and cucumber, with the sweetest food being something like melon.

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Friends survive painful experiences together. Sometimes friends walk with you through the worst parts of your life. Other times, you get massages together at a Chinese spa. One night, and by night I mean like 10 pm, Candi and I found our way to a spa for foot massages. Anticipating a relaxing evening, we ordered tea and sat back in the comfortable chairs.

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And then the massage began. First, our feet were forcefully immersed into a scalding hot bucket of water. And when I say scalding, I mean food could have been safely cooked in it.

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After holding our feet in the buckets of water, the massages began. A series of miscommunications led to my masseuse increasing the pressure rather than decreasing it. I think I may have cried. Eventually, in response to a combination of Candi’s translation skills, my tears, and a few hand signals, the pressure was reduced and I mostly enjoyed the remaining foot and back massage, although it was certainly unique among the many, many spa experiences I have had. At one point, my masseuse hooked his arms under mine and jerked me up into the air. Like I said…unique.

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By the end, I was feeling a bit disheveled.
By the end, I was feeling a bit disheveled, although I will admit I was also more relaxed.

Friendship can be many things – fun and strength and laughter and tears. Friendship is some of the things I have mentioned and many more that I have not. I am thankful for the many incredible friends I have in my life and I am thankful that I got to spend a week in China with one of the friends I have known the longest. Anything you would add to the “friends are.. ” list?

 

Life is the Small Moments

As I prepare for my trip to China, I’m again reminded of how blessed I am. I get to travel, eat great food, work at a job that challenges me, and be loved by wonderful people. So often on this blog, I document the big things: trips and meals and time with too-infrequently seen loved ones. All of these things bring immense happiness into my life. But they are the uncommon happenings of what is really a most common life. The extraordinary moments, though wonderful, are not the moments that determine my happiness. Rather, I’ve learned that joy rests in noticing the small moments, the forgettable ones, the seemingly insignificant ones. Today’s post is about acknowledging these moments:

It’s 5 am yoga where I learn to love my body despite its imperfections.

It’s the blessedly short drive to work during which I can daily appreciate the beauty amid which I live.

It’s cuddles, kisses, and excited full-body wiggles from Sydney.

It’s watching the sunrise and sunset and stars from my own backyard.

It’s that moment at the beginning of a therapy session when I’m reminded that I have the opportunity and the privilege to help someone create a better life.

It’s drinking my morning coffee and contemplating the upcoming day.

It’s the process of preparing a beautiful, delicious, and healthful meal while listening to music too loudly and dancing quite poorly.

It’s getting so wrapped up in a great book that I forget where or when or who I am.

It’s the infinite group text with two of my best friends and hilarious conversations with my brothers.

It’s chocolate peanut butter ice cream or a glass of wine. Or both.

It’s cookies made just for me by a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old. And it’s watching those sweet kids play outdoors with abandon.

It’s knowing that despite my distance from family, I have a friends who are like family who live nearby.

It’s sunshine and blue skies whether in the mountains or by the ocean.

It’s feeling that place in my heart that will always call Arkansas home.

Ultimately it’s these moments – the mundane, the everyday, the sometimes redundant – that determine the tenor and tone of my life. And what a lovely life it is. What are your small moments?

How to Convince Your Brother to Move to Oregon

Like all big sisters should, I have frequently had an opinion (or two… or ten) about what my brothers should be doing at any given point in time. And being the amazing big sister that I am, I was often successful in convincing them to agree with my (obviously superior) perspective. For instance, when we were children, I repeatedly convinced them that they should allow me to pretend like they were my own, personal, real-life dolls. Which basically meant playing dress up with them. Yes, pictures of my brothers in coordinating blue and pink dresses exist. There may have been makeup and high heels involved. But because I love them I will spare them the mortification that would ensue if I shared said pictures. Plus, I have bigger priorities at the moment (see below) that require at least one of my brothers to continue to like me.

Now that I live in far away Oregon, I have decided that at least one of my brothers should also live here, too. It seems perfectly reasonable to expect at least someone in my family to move closer to me. I shouldn’t have to miss them just because I decided I wanted to move halfway across the country. I want my cake (to live in beautiful Oregon) and to eat it, too (being close to family because I miss them). So it is only expected that I used Ethan’s recent trip to Oregon to implement my evil amazing plan: convince him he must move here.

Step 1: Introduce him to Oregon’s gastropubs and microbreweries. In fact, almost as soon as he got off the plane, we headed to Falling Sky Brewery in Eugene.

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Perhaps the best veggie burger I have ever had. The fries weren’t too bad, either.

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We had so much fun that we did it again the next day at Vista Pub in Brookings.

Four words: mango habanero jack cheese.
Four words: mango habanero jack cheese.

Step 2: Show him the undeniably beautiful and varied scenery of Oregon. Beach? Check! Breathtaking mountain views? Check! Redwoods? Check! Okay, so technically these were in California. Saturday morning, we drove to Jedediah Smith State Park in California to see the redwoods. Of course, I had to introduce him to the amazingness of Dutch Bros. Coffee first.

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Seriously, Dutch Brothers AND redwoods. How can he not move here?

When we stopped at the visitors center to determine where we wanted to hike, the ranger recommended the short Stout Grove Trail for the best views of the redwoods and then mentioned the Boy Scout Tree Trail, even if we did not want to hike the entire 5.2 miles. Apparently, this was where the Ewok Forest was filmed. She had Ethan at “Ewok Forest.” There was no way we were missing that.

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Navigating the old-fashioned way.
Navigating the old-fashioned way.

We spent Saturday night in Brookings, Oregon where even the Best Western has an ocean view.

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The next day, I showed Ethan even more of Oregon’s awesomeness with a drive along the coast. With views like this, no words are needed.

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I had to work Monday morning, but took the afternoon off to spend time with Ethan before he (reluctantly, I might add) left Tuesday morning. He had seen redwoods and the coast, but I couldn’t let him leave without introducing him to the North Umpqua. We spent Monday afternoon doing a bit of hiking – Fall Creek Falls, which was magical, and Susan Creek Falls, which was perfect because it’s an easy trail and you can actually talk when you’re not constantly walking uphill. Oh, and there were waterfalls.

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Step 3: Show him the wonderful and fun people he could hang out with if he moved to Oregon. We spent Saturday evening and Sunday morning with the family of one of my best friends. Okay, so technically a third of the people we spent the weekend with were from Texas. For now. My friend is implementing her own convince-them-to-move-to-Oregon plan with the distinct advantage of having grandchildren involved. Regardless, we had a really fun time eating delicious food, enjoying the antics of the kids, and spending time on the beach. Perfection.

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I get to call this place home. Thank you, sunset, for helping me convince Ethan that he should, too.

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A crucial part of my strategy was feeding Ethan delicious food: bruschetta, spinach artichoke dip, and homemade pizza. None of which I can take credit for. Although I will take credit for having friends who make amazing food.

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Step 4: Feed him oysters and seafood. You just can’t get fresh Oregon oysters or crab salad from crabs that had been alive earlier that day or smoked salmon sandwiches in Arkansas. And you certainly can’t eat such deliciousness while sitting next to the ocean.

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My first time eating raw oysters...
My first time eating raw oysters…

Step 5: Remind him how much fun we have together. And how awesome I am at being a big sister. I introduced him to Dutch Brothers and Radiolab. I forced him to watch Mockingjay and Pitch Perfect. I constantly elicited dating advice to get “a guy’s perspective.” We laughed. A lot. Why wouldn’t he want to leave everyone he knows back in Arkansas just so we can hang out/go hiking/have fun together more often? He’s pretty awesome, too. Like, he takes me out to dinner and does not expect me to put on makeup or fix my hair. And he changes the batteries in my smoke detectors. Which means that I don’t have to stand in a chair on a stool in 4-inch heels to change the batteries. Hypothetically, of course.

Step 6: Subtlety remind him about all the incredible things he “just didn’t have time to see.” The key here is subtle. Think, “I’m so sad we didn’t have time to make it to Crater Lake. I can’t wait for you to come back so we can go there!” and “Oh man, I’m so bummed that we didn’t get a chance to do a vineyard tour. Maybe next time!” or perhaps “You think this waterfall is great, you should see (insert one of many waterfalls here). You know, if you moved here we could go hiking together more often…” I am sure he did not pick up on my strategy.

Time will tell whether or not my plan was successful. Regardless, I am so thankful I had the opportunity to spend one hilarious and fun and unforgettable weekend with one of my favorite people.

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So it’s Been a While…

I have obviously not blogged in a while. And there are, like, 5 whole people who regularly read my blog and want an update about what’s been happening in my life. So here goes.

I wish I could say the reason I haven’t written is because I’ve been doing something fabulous and farflung. But the truth is, thus far in 2015 I have stayed close to home. Of course that doesn’t mean I haven’t been busy. For instance, I recently decided to try online dating. It’s been completely weird and (thankfully) mostly fun. And so far I’ve been able to follow my brother’s advice to “not get murdered.” So that’s nice. In addition to being weird, fun, and non-murdery, it’s also a surprising time commitment. I know. Excuses, excuses. And there’s this little trip to China I have coming up soon which is requiring both time and money as I prepare (but, seriously, I’m going to China!!!).

So yeah, I haven’t taken any trips yet this year. I have been on a couple wonderful hikes, though. And there are pretty pictures. That I’m sharing. Because Oregon is beautiful.

A snowy Watson Falls (snow!!!)
A snowy Watson Falls (snow!!!)

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Toketee Falls
Toketee Falls
North Bank Habitat has become one of my new favorite spots.
North Bank Habitat has become one of my new favorite spots.

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There have been breathtaking sunrises and sunsets.

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There has even been an Oregon Ducks shirt.

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Don’t worry, Dad, I’m still a Razorback fan. No need to disown me. I realize I’ve already risked my inheritance by getting a tattoo and all.

This year may have begun quietly. But then again, so did 2014. And then I took a last-minute trip to Oregon and my life went in an entirely unexpected direction. Whatever it may be, I’m ready for the next adventure!

A Better Year

Last New Year’s Eve I rung in 2014 with friends and tried to ignore the fact that I should have been celebrating my 8th anniversary. Still devastated from my recent decision to move out, I was thankful to be with friends who could both make me smile without expecting me to feel happy and acknowledge the pain I was feeling without increasing my sadness. At midnight we toasted the new year and made the obligatory resolutions. When it was my turn, I paused to try to put into words my hopes for the upcoming year. Ultimately, I settled upon the resolution to “have a better year.” These inadequate words were responded to with enthusiasm and smiles by people who genuinely wished the same thing for me. It would not take much for 2014 to be better than 2013 – the previous year had been the worst of my life. But I could not have imagined what an amazing year I would have.

Looking back, it’s almost impossible to wrap my mind around the past year, how much my life has changed and – most of all – how much I’ve changed. I began the year an anxious and worried person and have become someone who is, if not exactly easy going, willing to more completely trust that life will work out and to be open to new and unexpected possibilities. I went from a postdoctoral fellow to a for-real psychologist with an actual job. And that job is in Oregon. After making a last minute trip to Oregon in February, I decided I wanted to move there and then I was fortunate enough to see that happen.

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I went from the uncertainty of living alone for the first time to confidently moving halfway across the country in August.

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I travelled to Oregon, Arkansas (as many times as possible), and Tennessee, before taking a road trip through Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, California, and Oregon with just my dog. That Grand Canyon thing? Pretty amazing!

IMG_2606My nephew was born and I felt my heart get a bit bigger as my family did, too.

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I rediscovered my love of hiking and the outdoors.

I also love my brother. Brother + hiking = one of my favorite days
I also love my brother. Brother + hiking = one of my favorite days

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My heart began to heal. I realized that it might be possible to one day love someone again and that, more importantly, I can be content and happy on my own.

I started to build a new life in a new place, a place I have only just begun to explore.

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My partner in crime.
My partner in crime and exploration.

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One of my brothers encouraged me to “become Cora with no apologies.” So that’s what I did. I embraced my love of wine with dinner and country music and the occasional fantasy or science fiction novel. I accepted my essential nerdiness without being embarrassed (yes, as a matter of fact, Doctor Who is my favorite TV show). I pierced my ears and got a tattoo (I am honestly still a bit surprised about that one).

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I became more confident both personally and professionally. I had amazing times with friends and began to look forward to the future with excitement and anticipation for the first time in many, many months. There was certainly loss this year – the loss of my grandmothers, the changing nature of friendships due to the move, the distance from family – but the loss was tinged with gratitude for what amazing people I have in my life and for their influence on the woman I am and will become.

The person now greeting 2015 would hardly recognize the person who resolved to have a better year. But I do know that I kept that resolution. Sometimes with heart-rending pain, I kept pushing forward without looking back (at least for long) knowing that despite the uncertainty of the new path I chose, that only along a new path was there hope for something better than what I left behind. I don’t feel like I can resolve to have a better year in 2015. Last year was so incredible that I can’t imagine a better one. But, I never want to live a life limited by my imagination. So, my resolutions are these: to live each day to the fullest, to be open to the possibilities, to be continually grateful. And obviously to travel as much as possible. What are your resolutions for 2015?

#smalltownproblems

Although most of the time, I enjoy living in my new small town, I do on occasion encounter what I call small town problems. I am certainly familiar with the aforementioned “problems” having grown up in a very small town. But something about having lived in Dallas for the previous 7 years has made re-adjusting to small town life challenging at times.

Exhibit A: My kitchen has been only partly functional for the past 8 weeks due to a water leak and subsequent repairs. At times it has been entirely non-functional. Like earlier this week when I came home and my oven was in my living room. Being frequently unable to cook in my own kitchen has meant eating at restaurants. Living in a small town means there are few options and certainly few non-fast food options. That is a small town problem.

Exhibit B: There is no Target. Enough said.

Exhibit C: One thing that is absolutely wonderful about where I live is that I spend my weekends hiking in beautiful places. One of the less wonderful things is that sometimes I want to also spend my weekend doing things like shopping at Trader Joe’s and Target, which I obviously cannot do in my small town. How does one fit both hiking and necessary shopping in (sort of) far away places into a single weekend day?

Well, like this.

A couples weekends ago I was determined to hike, eat at a great restaurant, and shop at Trader Joe’s. And when I am determined (because by determined I really mean stubborn), I am usually able to make something happen. After a bit of research, my plan was made.

On a recent Saturday morning, I made the one-ish hour trip to Eugene and made my way to Mount Pisgah Arboretum. The western summit trail begins just outside of the arboretum parking lot and ascends 1.4 miles to the top of Mount Pisgah. Even on a cloudy, cool, and frequently rainy morning, I enjoyed the view from the top.

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Of course it was raining. When is it not raining? #westernoregonproblems
Of course it was raining. It is always raining. #westernoregonproblems

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After a bit of hiking in the cool and the rain, I was ready for lunch and something warm to drink. Now, the greatest challenge of my multi-tasking day was my wardrobe. I didn’t particularly want to change clothes in a gas station bathroom, which ruled out a completely new outfit. After some debate I settled on an outfit that was both comfortable for hiking, but also could be considered casual Saturday attire. And a change of shoes. Yes, I realize I probably spent waaaay too much time thinking about this decision.

Although I spent a ridiculous amount of time deciding what to wear, the area of my day I actually spent the most time researching was where I would eat lunch. That pretty much sums up my priorities.

I eventually settled upon Off the Waffle. Because waffles.

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And not just any waffles – authentic, sugary, Belgian liège waffles with creative and delicious toppings. My waffle was topped with pear slices, brown sugar glazed bacon, brie, and a maple-balsamic glaze.

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Pair that with a cup of organic hot chocolate topped with several inches of fresh whipped cream and I was a happy girl.

And then there was Trader Joe’s.

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Living in a small town may sometimes be inconvenient or mean that I have access to fewer options, but this is the life that I chose to live. So if I encounter the occasional #smalltownproblem, that just means I have to apply a bit of creativity to finding a solution. And sometimes that results in a day that somehow includes a combination of hiking, waffles, and a carload of groceries. In the 3 ½ months I have lived here, it seems to be working out just fine.

Although I am loving exploring Oregon (and then writing about it), I just bought plane tickets for my next major trip. Although the trip is still a few months away, I will be going to… China!!!