The Visit

Family. It’s a complex word isn’t it? When I was asked about the visit with my family by friends my response often started, “I love my family but…” And it’s true. I love my family but. But they are exhausting sometimes. And this visit was no exception.

It was the first visit where the three of them (my parents and grandmother) were not crammed into my tiny apartment. It was nice to have time to unwind after each busy day and take that time and prepare for the next day.

I did notice that for the week my family was here I was falling into old routines that…well they aren’t the best things to be doing. I found myself getting frustrated at their lack of knowledge, knowledge that I shouldn’t expect them to have. They were frustrated that I wasn’t able to locate exact places for them or know exactly how many blocks the lunch place was. I walk here all the time or take public transit. I’m used to walking a few blocks and it’s not a big deal but I forget that my family doesn’t walk and my grandma can’t walk more than two blocks without having to sit for a break. Which is not a big deal if she would just let me know she needs to stop.

I forget that my parents don’t live in a big city and they certainly don’t live in a “walker friendly” or “public transit friendly” city. Those differences created a tension between everyone. I was frustrated by their complaints of always walking uphill and wanting me to find the “flat way” to get to the restaurant, store, whatever we were going to. I tried to make comparisons to San Francisco and how hilly that is to walk and this is no different. There aren’t “flat” streets that I’m avoiding on purpose to be a dick.

We had a good time. I showed them lots of good places to eat. We saw movies and went to some pretty good gardens and parks. We did a little bit of shopping and hit some good second-hand shops.

The last day of their visit I had to work and after a week everyone (myself included) was tired and ready to be back to their own routines. I ended up having to work a bit late due to some meetings that went longer than expected and that did not go over well with my family. My grandma got very passive aggressive and there was a lot fighting going on in the car on the way to the airport.

Before they got on the plane we had burgers and milkshakes and my family seemed to forget the fighting that just happened ten minutes ago. I forget how extreme my family is sometimes. Fighting one minute and happy-go-lucky the next. I forgot how exhausting that can be.

I love my family. I love spending time with my family. But the fighting puts me right back into the child headspace and I react to it like a child. Instead of remaining calm and trying to ease the fighting I play into it and cause more problems than I fix.

After seeing them onto their plane, everyone smiles, I took the hour and a half ride back home and reflected on everything. The good, the bad, and how could I have created a different outcome. It was good to reflect back on everything. I feel like I learned a lot from this trip that I wasn’t able to learn from previous trips. I was able to recognize some of the patterns present that lead to dysfunctional behavior and I have some ideas for ways to stem the tide when those behaviors start presenting themselves.

Although maybe the answer is to have everyone visit separately so I’m not feeling overwhelmed catering to everyone’s differing ideas of what to do. But the important thing is that they really only visit once a year and overall it’s was a great success. Everyone eventually went home pretty happy.

So, until next time…

Moving Meditation

“Mornings? Gross!”

That’s been my standard reply for years now. I don’t like mornings and I would never ever like them. So imagine my surprise when I find that I really do like mornings. I just never liked my morning routine.

I love waking up early enough to do some meditating in the morning, have a warm cup of tea and breakfast, and generally take some time to collect myself before the rush of the day. Part of the morning routine I’ve been developing includes some morning Qigong.

I’ve always had this vision of the “perfect” morning routine. Do you do that? I would wake up, blissfully untired at an ungodly early hour. I would get out of bed and luxuriously have time for meditating, exercising, pampering, hot tea, reading, the list went on. I lived in a fantasy world where my “morning routine” would probably take about six hours if I acted it out in total.

Snap back to reality and most often I’m hoping Vahid hits the snooze and I can roll over and pretend that the alarm isn’t really going off. In an effort to a) get me out of bed and b) avoid the constant rushing that seemed to make up our mornings we started developing a routine. We sat down and looked at all the things we wanted to accomplish before going to work or before starting the day (on non-work days).

My routine actually starts the night before. Before heading to bed I take a few minutes and prep my morning vitamins with a small cup of water. I have a tiny plate that I put them on and this and the water I leave on our “charging station” by our bedroom door. We moved our phone and device chargers outside the bedroom. After an adjustment period I must say that it has been really nice not having our phones in the bedroom. Once we close the door it’s either reading or lights out, no more checking email/twitter/facebook one last time that turns into “why am I still awake at 1am?”

Nearly every morning I wake up before the alarm goes off. We have a natural light alarm clock and the brightness in the room wakes me before I’m jarred awake by the buzzing. I take a few moments to lay there sleepily, I’m awake but there’s no rush to get out of bed until the alarm sounds. While laying there I start a few of the movements I do as part of my morning Qigong session.

Once the alarm sounds it’s time for action. Or rather laying there for a few minutes then action. I finish the Qigong session I started and I go about getting ready for the day. Once I’ve rid myself of the awful morning breath and dressed for the day I do ten quick minutes of meditation and finish with some breakfast. Then I’m out the door for work or onto the next thing I’m doing that day.

Coming back to my vision of the “perfect morning routine,” I wanted to get some exercise in before the start of each day. I do enjoy working out in the evenings and that’s when I do my intense workouts (no one wants to witness me trying to swing a 30-lb kettlebell around first things in the mornings). However, I feel that starting the day with some movement is great at fully waking up your body and just giving yourself some mental clarity for the day.

My Qigong session is my morning movement. It’s almost a moving meditation. The movements are slow, deliberate, and require concentration. The mornings are quiet and I complete my morning practice to the sounds of the birds singing and squirrels scampering about. After I finish I feel calm, tranquil, just the total opposite than what I used to feel every morning upon waking.

Vahid and I settled on Qigong as our practice for the health benefits. I have been dealing with a lot of water retention and subpar kidney function. There’s also some other little health things that need improving between the both of us. Qigong has specific movements for everything from improving kidney function to back pain to getting your digestion going so you digest food better. I have a series of movements that correlate to certain organs and areas of the body. I also have a few movements specifically for the meridians of the body.

I haven’t been practicing enough to be able to say that I have noticed a difference but I have noticed that I just feel better when I make time for this than when I say, hit the snooze until 7:30 and rush around getting ready in twenty minutes to catch my train.

What do you all do for a morning routine? Do you have one? Do you want to start one? Do you have a daily practice that you enjoy doing?

Shot of Joy 6

- the summer weather still clinging to September – the chill in the mornings and evenings to cool down our place – keeping the windows open – hot tea in the mornings – just tea in general – the mornings I get to sit, drink tea, and read with Vahid –
– the week spent with my family – new clothes to get me through fall – the changing of the leaves that are starting to happen – feeling ready for fall – showing my family around Portland – taking them to Multnomah Falls –
Mini Landscapes at the garden.
– feeling happy – handling stress so much better - picking up my meditation again and extending to an hour in the evenings rather than thirty minutes in the morning – morning Tai Chi – sleeping better after getting a new mattress – working just three days this week!

What are some things you are loving at the moment?

The Story of the Epic Sunburn

I’ve never grown up near the beach. The power of the ocean and calming sounds of the waves were only ever something I felt and heard on dedicated day trips to the nearest beach. It was rare to see seagulls fly so far inland and even rarer still to hear about the beach as a common place adventure, like going to the movies or getting In-N-Out.

I relished my trips to the ocean and when I was young I vowed that when I was old enough to drive myself I would go to the beach all the time. That, of course, didn’t really happen because as I got older I learned that cars don’t run for free and sometimes you can’t just take your mom’s car all day because she might actually need it for errands. Then I had a job and found my time for beach trips was even less than before. The beach became a yearly visit if that and I found myself missing it less and less because it wasn’t on the forefront of my mind.

I moved to Portland the beach became several hours closer but still a bit of ways to get to but the trips increased exponentially. Part of that was the proximity, but  most of that was being with Vahid who did grow up with the beach as his backyard (not quite, but if you could walk there in the span of 10 minutes it was close enough), who did get to experience the pull the ocean has on you.

However, if any one has been to the beaches Oregon has you might have noticed they are quite different the beaches of my childhood. The water will freeze you if given the chance and there’s a constant wind to remind you that perhaps this beach isn’t the best for lounging in the sun, if the sun bothered to make an appearance anyway.

Sometimes you have a make a sacrifice and find a beach along the river. The water will be cold but the sand is usually dry (when it’s late summer) and the sun makes it great for lounging. That’s how Vahid and I found ourselves trekking along reeds and over rocks (and dodging one baby river snake) in search of this “perfect beach.”

There’s a hidden beach on the Washington side of the Columbia Gorge. Through a blackberry patch and following a trail through the marsh trees you come out along the riverfront. The area is sandy and wet and walking along the river you should reach a big sandy beach in about ten minutes. Except no one tells you are walking over soggy sand and mud, rocks, and across reeds that for most of the year are immersed in the Columbia River.

Halfway through the trip Vahid and I both fell into thigh deep mud a few times and after spending a minute staring longingly at the beach that never seemed to get closer, no matter how long we walked, we called it quits and headed for home. We arrived at the wet sandy bank we emerged out and and decided to set up camp there. It was actually rather pleasant and not as wet and it looked at first. We rinsed our clothes in the river and hung them to dry.

We snacked on berries and lemonade and spent the rest of the afternoon lounging, in true beach fashion, taking in the quiet of the river and warmth of the sun. It was a wonderful afternoon and as the sun began to sink behind the trees we gathered our things to make our way through the marsh trees and blackberry bushes home.

Then we noticed something. Putting on my (now dry and mud free) pants everywhere burned. During all the time lounging in the sun and enjoying life I had forgotten that maybe sunscreen would be a good idea. My back, legs, stomach, and chest area were bright red. Thankfully my arms and face seemed to  have missed the notice that the rest of me was catching fire.

Vahid was just about to comment on my poor lily-white skin when he noticed that he also did not escape the epic burn. Although not near as bad he did manage to burn a little of his stomach as well. I found this hilarious as I haven’t ever known him to burn, except that one time he was out surfing with his friend all day.

We were full of grumbles as we drove home. The next day we could only laugh about how foolish we were to think we could escape a burn after five hours in direct sunlight in the heat of the day with no sunscreen.

I made a tea bath (throwing a bunch of black tea bags in a hot bath and allowing them to steep until the water gets cool and then getting in for as long as you can) to help ease the sting and eliminate some redness.

We are recovered now but we vowed to not let that happen again. I also think we both decided we had gotten our fix of the beach for the year as well. At least the lounging in the sun on the beach excursions are done for the summer. The Oregon Coast is quite a place to visit in the winter, watching the waves get high and stormy, the greys mixing together to create quite a palette. That is if you don’t mind the cold and the rain.

Monthly Triumphs of August

I’m sitting here wondering what I actually accomplished this month. It’s been a little stressful at work and when I think of August those stressors pop into my mind. However, despite that it’s been a good month and here’s why:

  • Vahid and I are cooking nearly all our meals at home. I’m really loving the routine we’ve developed of getting our produce (and most of our meat) at the Farmer’s Market each week and cooking with really good, really fresh ingredients. It’s really great to learn new uses for things I used to just walk by each week like leeks and fennel.
  • We bought a new mattress and our sleep has dramatically improved. I knew our old mattress wasn’t great and wasn’t giving up good quality sleep anymore but I wasn’t expecting such a difference. I don’t wake up in a bunch of pain from sleeping on a mattress past it’s prime. It’s a much better way to start the morning!
  • Exercising in the morning. This isn’t an every single morning activity yet as I’m still adjusting to waking up a little earlier to accomplish this but the mornings that we have been doing this I’ve felt more alert and just felt more energized throughout the day.
  • Reading. This might seem silly but it’s been quite a long time since I’ve dedicated time (nearly) every day to do some reading. I’m even reading a book just for pleasure (I’ve been reading a lot of books on thinking, habits, and general self improvement) which is a great change of pace. This summer one of my favorite things has been to just sit on the shared patio with a book and a glass of iced tea or lemonade in the evenings and read. It’s pretty nice, even if I don’t have the whole place to myself.
  • Drawing some boundaries professionally. I don’t mind my job mostly. I’m not in love with it. I don’t wake up super excited for work, but I don’t dread going either. But it was good that for the first time I was able to draw a line in the proverbial sand about a couple things and it felt good. No one was upset and I was glad that this will end up being a place where I am not expected to be ready to work ‘round-the-clock.

I suppose once I thought about it this month has been pretty eventful!

How has your month gone? What are some things you’ve accomplished or are accomplishing?