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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!

#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!!!

Home Sweet Home

I have written about the idea of home before. It is an idea that is important to me, especially recently as I have started to build a new life in Oregon. It is hard to believe it was only two months ago when I was packing up to leave Dallas.

Earlier this year when I wrote about the meaning of home, I was at a point in my life when I had chosen to walk away from what had been and what I thought would be my home. I felt adrift in uncertainty. The thought of moving to Oregon had not even crossed my mind. Heck, the thought of visiting Oregon had not even crossed my mind. I had no idea where I would be living at the end of my fellowship. But I knew the things that were important to me.

Today, my life has a little more direction and much more happiness, and yet I continue to appreciate that I do not truly know what tomorrow will bring or what direction my life will take next. I love that this no longer drives me crazy. And that each day I get to wake up and make the choice to build a home in this new place through doing the important things.

It is with that attitude I have been exploring Oregon. And for the most part, I am really enjoying the possibilities and the anticipation of what my life could be. Not that moving and starting over has been all fun and games. I mean, moving to a place where I know no one kind of means that I have to meet a bunch of new people, which is pretty much my idea of the least fun thing ever. Thankfully, I have met some very nice people, some of whom even manage to at least seem as if they are not offended when I just do not feel like talking. Sure, I have hours or days when I really just want to sit on my couch, magically make my brothers or one of my best friends appear, and never talk to someone I’ve known for less than 5 years ever, ever again. But, those moments aside, I am trying to live with a sense of discovery and exploration.

So, today I thought I would share a bit about what I have discovered and explored.

More than anything, I have loved living in such a beautiful place, a place where I can go hiking and see the stars and not spend hours of my day sitting in traffic. It. is. amazing. In just the short time that I have been here, I have been hiking in several incredible places. However, hiking at Crater Lake has undoubtedly been my favorite. There are no words and pictures do not begin to do it justice. Suffice it to say that if you ever have a chance to go, just go and prepare to be amazed.

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Of course, there are other great options, such as the waterfalls I recently hiked to and the nearby North Umpqua Trail.

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I always want to remember to feel grateful for the opportunity to live in a place with such abundant beauty.

As if the trees and the waterfalls and the rivers were not enough, I have the privilege of living close to the ocean. Like I-randomly-feel-like-putting-my-feet-in-the-ocean-so-I-am close.

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Just as Crater Lake was on the top of my must-see list, it did not take long for me to make my first trip to the coast. The town of Bandon was a great choice for my first coastal venture – great seafood, an especially scenic coastline, and plenty of little shops to explore.

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Like with any change, there have been some adjustments. When I first moved into my house, I noticed that there was an interior bathroom perfect for sheltering during a tornado. And then I realized that, for the first time in my life, I probably did not need to worry about tornadoes. Wildfires, on the other hand, were discussed on the radio repeatedly through the end of the dry summer. And now it is fall. And most days are to some extent cloudy and rainy and will likely continue to be so through the winter. But at least it is not hot and humid!

I also love the easily accessible farmer’s markets. My sister-in-law lovingly calls me “sort of a hippy,” partly because she sees me as easy-going (hahaha) and partly because, well, I still do not fully know why. Of course, I’m fairly certain I only confirmed her belief when I got “Peace” tattooed on my body. And then every now and then I do things like post pictures of the farmer’s market produce that I am really excited about on Facebook, which she says are further evidence in support of her conceptualization.

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In addition to a weekly farmer’s market, the town I live in has a farmer’s co-op that is open daily, so I do not even have to get up early on a Saturday morning in order to buy locally sourced products.

Speaking of farmers(ish), another amazing thing is that I am entirely surrounded by vineyards.

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I really do live in an incredible place. It would be even more amazing if there were a Super Target and a Torchy’s Tacos. Seriously, I literally dreamed about Torchy’s queso last week – any of my Texas friends want to figure out how to ship me some? And while you’re at it, maybe some Desperado’s tacos? Or some Chuy’s salsa?? I’m sensing a theme… Like I said, there have been some adjustments.

These are just a few of the things that I have experienced since moving to Oregon. All of this and it is only the beginning. I have a lifetime to explore this new place I call home, to build new relationships, and to continue to create the life I want to live. I cannot wait to find out what is next!

Erwin Park

For me, sometimes the choice to hike is about working toward a goal. At other times, it’s a way for me to focus on and enjoy the present.

As someone who could be described as a planner, I have a tendency to look forward to the next thing (like moving to Oregon!) at the expense of slowing down and appreciating what is currently happening in my life. However, one lesson that I have certainly learned during this past year is that the things I anticipate in the future do not always come to pass. By living in the future, I rob myself of the opportunity to fully experience the current moment. Although perhaps it was understandable that I spent the last few years anticipating being finished with graduate school.

I do not want to spend my life never living it. Hiking and being outdoors are ways I can focus and find more meaning and satisfaction in the present.

          Erwin Park

That is how I, yet again, found myself at a place I have frequently hiked. Erwin Park in McKinney has an almost 9-mile mountain biking trail that can also be used for hiking. I enjoyed the park on a beautiful Saturday in February (which was approximately 26.45 hours before it was literally freezing again). It is recommended that hikers walk the trail counterclockwise in order to face oncoming bikers. Which is a really good idea given the number of mountain bikers on the trail most weekends. The park has a combination of wooded areas and open fields, providing a decent variety of scenery.

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Erwin Park also offers campsites, a playground, and picnic facilities.

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Although a 9-ish mile hike at a local park may not be life-changing, it was the perfect way for me to slow down in order to appreciate the gift of a beautiful day and to feel gratitude for what is happening in my life right now.

What are some ways you focus on the present or enjoy the moment?