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Frozen, but unable to Let it Go

Let me preface this post by saying that we are making good, discernible progress on the unpacking front. That being said, I am being challenged daily with considerations about what should go where. I don’t think any of these issues are specific to this house. Any time one moves from one space to another, these types of questions will arise. Unfortunately for me, this is not my strong suit. But hey, what is life without the occasional spacial challenge, right?

Speaking of challenges, I am beginning to wonder if I will ever again be able to listen to public radio for extended periods without wanting to poke my eyes out. Unrelenting news about mean and vile behavior is more than I can handle right now. Thank goodness for NPR One and podcasts of my favorite shows to remind me that there are still good people in the world.

I have always said that local government is where the rubber meets the road, so I have decided to direct my frustration-driven energies there. Plattsburgh is facing some challenging financial times driven by the Common Council’s ongoing unwillingness to make the difficult decisions. I saw a note in the local paper asking for people to join the Citizen Finance Committee. Of course, I volunteered. Our first meeting was last night and I am pleased to report that there was some good discourse. But we still have a long way to go.

My favorite small town moment was when someone asked to see the full city budget. The council member running the meeting explained that the full budget was about 40 pages long and that might be too much for most people. He offered the 2 page summary instead. I tried hard not to laugh because I have yet to encounter a city’s departmental budget in either Portland or Philly that was that short. I requested the full version, obviously.

One of the perks(?) of leaving Oregon is having a congressional rep (Elise Stefanik) whom I can try to encourage to change her mind about destroying the ACA. I have made my opinion known to her office, but that is of limited use. As I am beyond angry about the blood-pressure raising perpetuation of the health care debacle I needed somewhere to direct that energy. Which is why I have also submitted an application to volunteer at the local Planned Parenthood.

This weekend we met Tedra Cobb who is one of Stefanik’s potential challengers for the house seat in 2018. Her heart is clearly in the right place and she has held municipal office. However, I really need to see some of her policy positions before I can throw my support behind her.

This is where I admit that writing this post was little more than an excuse to avoid the boxes surrounding me. The guilt is beginning to reach critical mass, so I will sign off now and go slay some more box dragons.

Clicking my heels together

The last few weeks have been quite the whirlwind. There is more than I can possibly say in a single post, but I will do what I can to post more frequently now that we are at least not living bi-coastally.

A couple of days after we arrived with cats in tow, David and I commuted back and forth between Plattsburgh and Lake Placid for several days (discovering several cool country roads in the process). David’s stepmother’s family has a house (or a camp in local parlance) where they/we have been gathering as an extended family since long before I arrived on the scene. This year, David’s family’s week coincided with our first week in New York. We were hesitant to leave our cats alone having just recently moved them cross-country, so we visited during the days and spent the nights at home with the beasties.

It is always nice when we gather there and have an opportunity to catch up with people we see all too rarely. This year, for a variety of reasons, the cast of characters was different than usual. Those who couldn’t make it were very much missed, but it was a great opportunity to get to know some relative newcomers.

Sadly, there was one very noticeable absence. Shortly before this year’s gathering, we lost a beloved family member. Since Lake Placid was his happy place, we interred him there, in view of the Adirondacks that he loved. It was a perfect time and place to say our farewells, but we were all acutely aware that he was taken from us much too soon.

I stayed in Plattsburgh for David’s first service (which was very well received, I am excited to say) and then flew back to Portland to do some final packing and supervise the last stages of the move. Unsurprisingly, it was a bumpy process. We will get a better sense of just how bumpy when our furniture and boxes arrive tomorrow. For the moment, let me just say that the movers were not used to Reedie/rabbinical types and were overwhelmed by the sheer number of books we own. What they didn’t know was just how many boxes of books had already been culled from our collection.

As an aside, I remarked to a friend that David’s books now make up about 2/3 of our total collection. And of those, about a third were written more than 1500 years ago. Although the copyrights may have expired, they are not always easy to locate electronically. And even if they were, it somehow seems appropriate to me to have paper editions of texts that were written long before modern paper making techniques or moveable text were invented.

To wrap up this rambling post, let me cut to the chase. On July 13th I made my final flight east as an Oregonian. The next day, several of David’s congregants welcomed me home. Although I am not sure I could have predicted that I would ultimately settle in New York, I am very glad to be here.

What a long strange trip its been

Tomorrow I reverse the trip I took in August 1988. Back then I was a naive 17 year old with a New Yorker’s view of the country. 

When I told people that I was going to college in Portland, the first question was Maine or Oregon (pronounced AR-E-GONE).  The question was quickly followed by a look that essentially conveyed “do you know you are heading to the frontier?” Now when I tell people I live in Portland, they immediately assume I mean the one in Oregon and know that it is a mid-sized city filled with coffee sipping, beer-loving hipsters obsessed with donuts. I remain amused when the people who once scoffed at me moving to Portland now extoll its virtues.

Back in 1988, I didn’t get any sleep the night before I left home. Some combination of my friends Rachel, Lisa and David Franks spent the night hanging out with me. I can still clearly remember stopping by the front door and looking back and thinking that things will never be the same from here on out.

My next memory is one of me on the plane to PDX, walkman in hand, popping in the Dead Milkmen cassette copy of Bucky Fellini and opening the paperback of The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. Both were farewell gifts from Rachel because of their references Reed and Portland.

I really don’t think I have truly wrapped my mind around leaving Portland. Maybe it is because last time we left Portland for a spell, we always knew that we would come back as soon as we could. Maybe it is because this has been my home for my entire adult life so I don’t know what planting new roots really feels like.  Maybe because it is just too big a change to fathom in one fell swoop. Maybe it is because I know that I am coming back in July for 5 days to meet the movers when they load up the house. Regardless, I am fully aware that there will be an emotional reckoning ahead.

As sad as I am to leave my home, I do feel some degree of lightness. The move put the purge on the front burner and we have donated boxes and boxes and boxes of crap that had been accumulating for an embarrassingly long time. The last vestiges of the furniture I acquired while in college will be donated to live out their remaining days in Portland.

Tomorrow morning I move back to New York. And I keep catching myself looking around my house and my city and thinking, once again, that things will never be the same.


So many thoughts, so little time

I am building up quite the collection of draft posts that, for an assortment of reasons, I have decided not to post. The most prevalent reason being a lack of time to devote to editing. I tend to draft posts by spewing words on to the screen, so they can be fairly incomprehensible without that last step.

The weeks have been flying by, which, in all honesty, is kind of terrifying.  June 27th, the day David and I fly to Plattsburgh with our cats, is waaaaay too close for comfort. Especially when you consider how little David is around this month. I won’t enumerate the actual days I am solo because I am trying to avoid inducing panic in myself or David. But trust me, he is gone more than he is here.

Being a short-timer has helped me become more mindful of what I love about Portland. Most of what I think I will miss most varies from day to day, but my number one item remains constant, friends. I have many friends in Portland whom I have known since I was but a wee freshling at Reed.  I have grown up with these people, been there for marriages, babies (some of whom are somehow now headed off to college), career highs and lows, family illnesses and deaths. In other words, we have all grown up together.

But my friendships extend far beyond the bubble on SE Woodstock. I also have dear friends made throughout my professional career, whether they be from Portland Parks & Rec, CubeSpace or the Portland tech scene. I value these friendships greatly and will miss getting together with these friends, albeit often less frequently than I would have liked.

Believe me, I have absolutely no intention of losing touch with my Portland friends. Nevertheless, things will inevitably change once I am no longer local. And that is sort of sad-making. But I have lived 3,000 miles from my BFF (who is also a Reedie) for over a decade and if anything, I would say the need to be intentional about nurturing our friendship has helped bring us closer.

Portland has become much more of a foodie town since I first moved here back in the dark ages when the only food available after 9pm came from The Hotcake House or QP. No one can accuse Portland of having a dearth of delicious food at this point. But sadly (at least for me), some of my favorite haunts are now long gone. I would love an to opportunity to have farewell meals at Saigon Kitchen or Jarra’s, but they are no more. And even a last #4 at Woodstock Wine & Deli seems unsatisfying without Tak around.

On my way to reunions this weekend I had a sudden craving for Oasis Pizza. I have lived 2 blocks from Oasis for the past 13 years and I have only been there a handful of times. But once upon a time, the pizza options in Portland were fairly limited. Oasis had slices for a $1. Which made it well worth the effort to hop on the 75 to get cheap pizza. Their slices are now closer to $5 a pop and they are not the tastiest pizza in town, but I am nevertheless planning on getting a slice for nostalgia’s sake.

This post did not end up where I thought it would, but I am posting it anyway. I suspect there will be a few more rambly posts before we become Plattbugh Platypi (no that is not a thing, but enough of my friends think it should be so we are going to see what we can do).  You have been warned.


Our next great adventure

After a week of jet-lagged misery, I am finally over whatever nasty bug I brought home with me and feeling human again. Even so, I don’t think the enormity of the move has fully hit me yet. I am going to take this window of opportunity to share my thoughts before the logistics of a cross-country move take over my waking hours.

As many of you know, the last couple of years have been very difficult for us. The seemingly endless state of limbo while we continue to wait for our baby has been slowly sucking the joy from our lives. I had resigned from all of my volunteer and board commitments when we started the adoption process to make room in my life for a baby.  That left me with too much time on my hands. Early on, I used that time to be creative, but as time passed, my creative energy dissipated until it was essentially gone.

Meanwhile, David continued to apply for select rabbinic positions. He got close a few times, but nothing came through.

Right before Passover, David and I were invited to spend a weekend at Temple Beth Israel in Plattsburgh, NY.  David was really impressed with the community members he had been speaking with  during his Skype interviews, so I was eager to meet them.

We had already planned to spend Passover with David’s family in Boston. We had even booked our tickets. All we needed to do was take a weekend jaunt up to Plattsburgh. But that was easier said than done.

Long story short, it was fortunate that the airport we got stranded in was JFK. We were able to hop a cab into Manhattan, spend the night in a hotel (last minute hotel booking sites are awesome, we found a great deal at a hotel just 3 blocks from Penn Station) and take the train to Plattsburgh the following morning.

To say that we received a warm welcome in Plattsburgh would be an understatement. Everyone we met, both within and outside the congregation, was wonderful.

The congregation is comprised primarily of transplants, many coming from one of the 5 boroughs. One comment we heard over and over again was how people had moved to Plattsburgh for work, intending to stay just a couple of years.  They then surprised themselves by staying for the next 20 to 30 years (and counting). To me, that speaks very highly of the community.  I am eagerly looking forward to getting to know these people better as we settle in to our new home.

In addition to the ubiquitous strip malls, Plattsburgh has a historic downtown that has been revitalized with restaurants and shops. They have a newly expanded co-op that David has made me promise not to join the board of (at least not right away). There is also a used book store and a children’s book store to keep us entertained throughout the winter.

We were originally concerned about the weather, but since Plattsburgh is in a valley, the weather is more moderate than in the Adirondacks. The average low is 8 degrees Fahrenheit and the average precipitation year-round is 2 – 3″ a month. Yes, we will need to revert to having seasonal wardrobes (as opposed to what we have in Portland, which is one set of clothes that we either layer up or down), but all in all, it is not too terrible.

The one thing I have not mentioned is how this move will impact our adoption process. The answer is that we don’t quite know. Adoption laws in New York are more restrictive than Oregon. Our secondary adoption agency has already removed us from their pool because they are not registered to place in New York. We have a call with a New York adoption lawyer on Monday to discuss whether we can continue to work with our primary agency. Either way, we will also be discussing next steps so we can do what we need to to put the adoption process back on track.

At a minimum, we will have to get a new home visit and do a new criminal background check in New York. Worst case, we will need to redo our entire home study. Our incredible adoption attorney in Oregon, Robin Pope, has connected us to some highly recommended lawyers in upstate New York, so we feel like we are in good hands.

All in all, I am choosing to be optimistic about these developments. As a wise friend told me when we told her about the move, this is why we haven’t ben matched with a birth family yet.

David and I are planning on having some kind of farewell gathering before we leave. We will set a date as soon as we have worked out our travel and move schedule. Keep an eye on Facebook and Twitter for details.

There is also a (likely) final #PDXBreakfast (unless someone volunteers to take the reigns) scheduled for 8:30am, May 18th at Mi Mero Mole in Chinatown.

Last but not least, we really do want to see as many people as possible before we leave. We will do our best to remember to reach out and schedule times with people individually or in small groups. However, our to-do list is long enough that it is very possible that we will find ourselves completely overwhelmed and completely lose track of time. Therefore, we are relying on you, our friends, to help us by reaching out to schedule a time to see us before we go. Believe me, we will welcome the forced breaks and the excellent company.



My only hope

In some ways it was hard to be a little girl in the 70s. There weren’t very many female characters to identify with.  Sesame Street only had Prairie Dawn who had a whispery voice and was a goody two-shoes. In other words, she annoyed me. Fortunately, I had absolutely no problem assigning gender to non-humans*. I simply decided that Grover and Ernie were girls because they were my two favorite muppets.

When I first saw Star Wars in 1977, my little mind was blown. Here was a princess who was not passive. It only took a few minutes before she showed us her mettle by standing up to the scary villain. That made me sit up and take notice. So much so that I even  remember being irritated with Luke from an early age for describing Princess Leia as beautiful when he sees her in the holographic message. Who cared whether she was beautiful or not? She had an important message to convey. Why didn’t he understand that?

As I grew older I started to (grudgingly) recognize that Carrie Fisher and Princess Leia were not one and the same. But that was ok with me because it turns out that Carrie Fisher was more than just an actor. I can still remember my surprise when I first ran across a book she authored at the library. In the days before IMDB and Wikipedia, it actually took me a bit of digging to confirm that this author and Princess Leia were the same person. I knew actors and I knew writers, but I had never encountered someone who could do both. It would not be the last time that Carrie Fisher impressed me.


In 2008, Carrie Fisher released “Wishful Drinking” and that is when, in my mind, she truly came into her own and transcended Princess Leia. If you haven’t read any of her autobiographical books, I suggest you do so in short order. Her style of no-holds-barred truth telling is both funny and poignant. And if you really want some good entertainment, watch the one woman show that grew out of that book. I’ve seen it several times and she still cracks me up every time.

Carrie Fisher is gone and a great light has been extinguished from the universe. But Princess Leia will live on. She has been immortalized in film and literature.  The Star Wars universe may now have Jyn Erso and Rey, but as awesome as they are, they will both walk forever in Leia’s magnificent shadow.


*As R2D2 was an ungendered droid, I happily decided that he was female. And no, using the male pronoun was not a mistake. It never bothered me that my favorite female characters were referred to using the male pronoun. It simply made me feel like I was in on a secret that no one else was privy to.

Breaking up is hard to do, but sometimes it is necessary

This week I  decided that I need to break up with the guy who has been cutting my hair for the past 3 years. He is more than just a service provider to me. During that time, he has become a friend and confidant. However, after he shared that he was going into business with a man who had voted for Trump, I realized that our relationship was over. I spent the ride home feeling queasy and uncomfortable and that feeling has stayed with me. Ultimately leading me to share my thoughts on the matter.

This friend is a young (25ish) white, gay man from the Portland area. He has been fortunate enough to grow up in a city that not only celebrates its LGBTQ population, but has now elected both a LGBTQ mayor and governor in races where their sexual orientation were non-issues. He is too young to know about the AIDS crisis and is naive to the homophobia that remains a serious issue in this country and the world at large.

When he mentioned that his new business partner had voted for Trump, he added that he completely understood that decision because he is a very wealthy man. He seemed oblivious to the hatred and venom that was an integral part of Trump’s campaign. The same hatred that Trump continues to endorse when selecting his closest advisors and cabinet members.

He is either unaware or unconcerned that his ability to marry is being threatened.  Or that fellow LGBTQ people are feeling threatened and/or suicidal as calls to the Trevor Project have increased to numbers last seen after the horrors of the shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.

While he was washing my hair, he asked why I was wearing a safety pin on my shirt. When I explained that it was to demonstrate my solidarity and willingness to step in and support those who are feeling threatened because of their race, gender, color sexual orientation, immigration status or religion, he was touched, but clearly did not see himself as a member of those communities most at risk.

But why should he? The world is a very different place than the one I grew up in. There have been great strides made in LGBTQ rights over the past decade and that is the only world he knows. Over the years, I have tried to explain how much things have changed and how important it is that we never go back to the dark ages where discrimination was the norm. Where men like Matthew Shepard could be tortured and beaten simply for the fact that they were born gay.

Although I understand how my friend’s decision to disregard his business partner’s vote comes from a place of naiveté, that doesn’t sway my decision. I don’t require that my friends agree with me on everything that I believe nor do they require that of me. But there are some lines that I am not willing to cross. The biggest one being an endorsement, whether implicit or explicit, of hatred for others.

Bastille Day

When I was younger and went to summer camp for 8 weeks at a stretch, my dad used to send me an annual Bastille Day letter. Even after camp, once we both had email, he resumed the annual Bastille Day missives for a while. The letters, emails and cards stopped years ago. And This is not the first Bastille Day without him.  However, I don’t think I will ever make it through a Bastille Day without thinking of him. Not that I would want to.

This is the first Bastille Day since we entered the adoption pool and it led me to wonder what kind of off-beat rituals my kid will associate with me after I am gone. I know that my dad would be amused to learn that this particular quirk has stuck with me for so long.  Just as he would be pleased to know that both my brother and I scored very highly on the vocabulary test making its way around Facebook these days.

As the wife, sister and daughter-in-law of rabbis, I really do understand the importance of ritual in life. I also know that it is particularly important when raising children.  But what intrigues me most (at least at the moment) are the family-specific rituals.

We recently returned from our annual week in lake Placid with David’s father’s side of the family. One of the highlights of this annual trip is playing Milles Bornes with my nieces. It took about 15 minutes after we all arrived for the younger of the two to go grab the box from the playroom. And it was in heavy rotation for the duration.

I like playing Milles Bornes (which is good because it is not an exaggeration to say that not a day goes by during our annual visits without at least 5 hands being played). But it would never occur to me to buy it for myself because at this point Milles Bornes is inextricably linked to my nieces in my mind.

Each girl has an established style of play. Which only becomes an issue when the 3 of us play together (which is happening decreasingly often).  And it should surprise none of you that I look forward to the day when I can integrate my child into the game (and someday their children as well, if they are so inclined).

It is possible that with time the girls will outgrow playing the game with me. They might decide that it isn’t cool to play games with an adult or they may simply decide that I am no longer cool enough for their time (one is a teenager and the other is just a few years away). I truly hope not. But even if they do, I hope that they eventually remember our ritual with fondness. And maybe, just maybe, if they become aunts themselves, decide to teach Milles Bornes to their nieces and nephews.

Moose and squirrel

We are back from our adventures in the not-so-wilds of Alaska. It was a great trip with lots of hiking (we hit our step targets almost every day) and fun day trips.  We originally thought 10 days might have been too long to spend in Anchorage, but we found it all absolutely worthwhile.

Often our adventures required a fair bit of driving, but every one of our forays had an amazing payoff. The worst part of our drives was never knowing what side of the road to watch for wildlife. Although David did spot of couple of bears from the car, we saw more moose in the city than we did in the wild.

Although spring came early this year (it was amazing watching the buds turn to leaves throughout the time we were there), the official season doesn’t begin until mid-May. The only things we missed out on were riding the Alaska railroad and checking out the Alaska Native Heritage Center.  What we didn’t miss were the hordes of tourists. It was great having the trails, museums and conservation centers almost to ourselves. Totally spoiled us.

Some of the highlights of the trip were:

  • Visiting Denali National Park and Preserve. This is one of the places where we won by going pre-season. The park was open to mile 30, but normally private cars are only allowed to drive to mile 15. Everything else requires either a shuttle or a tour bus. But because the busses don’t start running until mid-May we were able to drive right in.
  • The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. This is where we got to see brown and black bears (relatively) up close, as well as moose, musk oxen, wood bison, elk and caribou. We both really enjoyed reading about the origins of the animals (often they were injured or orphaned). They make a real effort to return their charges to the wild if at all possible. They have recently successfully reintroduced wood bison to the wild and have seen the first wild-born babies.
  • Our boat ride around Prince William Sound. There are very few tour companies who do winter tours, so we were very excited to discover that Lazy Otter Charters is one of the few that do. We tagged along with a group of reflexologists from throughout the world on a great tour where we saw whales (including one that David saw breach–he said it kinda looked like the creature from Empire Strikes Back that the Millennium Falcon escapes from), porpoises, otters, bald eagles and several glaciers. The glaciers have really receded in the past couple of years, which I personally found kind of depressing. On the plus side, we got to see a couple of them calve.
  • The Anchorage Museum. We found the first floor a little underwhelming, but the second floor more than made up for it with two great exhibits focused on Alaskan natives. They were in the process of changing the exhibit on the third floor, so we didn’t get to see anything else.
  • The Alaska Sea Life Center in Seward. We had originally thought this too was closed for the season and were delighted to discover that we were wrong. This is another place that takes in orphaned and injured sea life and do their best to reintroduce them to the wild whenever possible. The highlight for me was a peek into the animal rehab center where we saw two baby otters get their baths. One escaped out of its tub, much to the chagrin of the person responsible for it. It was ultimately put into the larger tub with its friend where they happily played with their feet, their toys and each other. We even got the full story on their history because the staff were relatively unoccupied with other folks.

Our next adventure (subject of course to the usual caveats about The Call disrupting our plans) is a weekend trip to Chicago to meet up with some friends in May.  After which I will head to New York for some niecelette time and David will return home to remind our cats that they actually do have humans.


We don’t need no stinking routine

It seems when I decide to keep my schedule full enough to distract me, I go all the way.

The last week completely breezed by, courtesy of my best friend’s visit. We did all of the requisite things, including eating our way through Portland, hanging with friends, seeing Peter Murphy and coworking together.  And now that she has returned home, we all miss her. Impressively enough even Nom Nom. Because even though it has taken us years to get Nom Nom to a place where he trusts us enough to pet him, he trusted her after mere hours.  What can I say, she is simply that awesome!

This coming week is filled with all sorts of plans, ranging from client work, to spending time with friends to a sleep study to speaking on security at a conference. The only day with nothing on the docket is Thursday. And the following week is already beginning to fill up too.

And we are also not-so-slowly creeping up on our trip to Anchorage. The closer we get our departure date, the more excited I am that we are going. And I am even more excited that I am taking the time off from work.

I am utterly and truely ready for a break from life for a while. The low point this past week was an update of sorts from our social worker. Seems that there are once again no babies in the pipeline. And the pool of adoptive parents has increased from 5 to 17 in the past month. The good news is that they have closed the pool to new entrants. The bad news is that it just means that there are more of us waiting for babies.

Although we will be keeping our phones charged and by our sides throughout the trip (you never know when a baby is going to fall from the sky), we will otherwise be shrugging off our routines and responsibilities for at least a short while. And while Passover will be keeping us from eating our way through Anchorage, we are very much looking forward to the new vistas and possibly even new perspectives the trip will bring.