I always thought they were. Just recently, the newscaster on the treacherous snow scene (which would currently be anywhere in Portland or the surrounding area) puzzled and frowning at the mysterious white substance in his hand, said, "It's doing something out here now. It's not snow anymore. I don't know what it is."

I hope he's not the meteorologist.

It also made national news. Well. The hours (plural) it takes to get 20 miles right now made the news. The sleet / freezing rain mystery was curiously absent. I will try to forget the screeching sounds of "Willamette" Valley in the newscaster's mouth. Will (as in the name) - a (as in at)- met (as in mets - the team). Now you know, and knowing is half the battle.

Portlanders are decidedly horrible at driving in the snow and I cannot even begin to want to apologize for thinking so. You follow too closely. You move too quickly. You start too forcefully. These are completely in your control, even when one takes into account the sudden onset of the snow and the inevitability of being caught without traction devices.

On the way back from the airport, which should have been a 20 minute drive, I was stuck on the freeway for an hour and a half. Never before has snow felt like the apocalypse. Emergency vehicles were forced to weave their way through stopped freeway traffic (impossible to move over to the right or the left shoulder). Buses and semis jackknifed (bus riders choosing to get off and travel on foot).

And. I was almost out of gas and my high mileage, hanging-in-there car started to overheat for idling so long. Nothing like being stopped in gridlock traffic, nowhere near a freeway exit watching the needle creep to the highest end of the red zone. Additionally, the fact that I had to go to the bathroom - desperately - was frosting on the fluffy white snow cake.

Not that long ago snow was something lovely, even if it, and the ice, did last for 3 months. I remember towns that plowed and sanded. I remember sledding and fearlessly leaving the house for whatever reason I wished.

Nope. Housebound now.

I made them. For four hours I mixed, rolled, cut, frosted the snowmen, the trees, the bells, the ... candy canes. And then I got tired of making them and 20 cookies later, threw away the rest of the dough.

Yes, I DO think dough grows on trees. Or it multiplies in the bowl, pulling a holy Loaves and Fishes act.

Shoes was very grateful for his cookies of deliciousness. Genuinely so. He picked one up and looked at it, scrutinized it carefully and said, "You made me a Christmas Ghost?" (It was obviously a snowman, however. Obviously). But that's ok. Shoes got in the Christmas spirit himself and decorated for Christmas:

A Christmas Totem Pole. It was bequeathed to him by his late great aunt as part of his inheritance. We mean no disrespect to the totem pole. It is just that he did not at all want to buy a Christmas Tree for just him (remember, we now live 4 hours apart). That's creepy, he says.

I told him the truth:

This no Christmas Tree thing lasts as long as we're not in the same town. And for Heaven's sake, quit calling my snowmen ghosts.

not quite a postscript: what you must know about Shoes is that from the moment I stepped foot in the vineyard town to the moment I left, I was taken care of, pampered and loved. He is a keeper, despite his penchant for making fun of my cooking.
Sugar Cookies in special shapes and I have a Bad Relationship. The Angel and The Gingerbread Man are especially problematic, with their heads and wings that just fall off. I swear. They just fall off. Whatever. Coincidentally, the Bell and the Stocking, which obviously don't have wings or legs or arms or heads, also break.

Roll the dough to 1/8" thick? Really?

Then how do I keep them from sticking to the counter (and sure, I floured the surface before I rolled them out)?

Cheryl and I tried to indulge in traditional cooking making this Christmas. It failed miserably. {Turns out I'm also an imbecile at decorating them.}

Shoes called during our cookie making mission and while we were dripping frosting onto the cookies, past the point of them looking at all presentable, past the point of caring, Shoes drops this:

"Sugar cookies? Really? Did you know I was a big fan?"

O, come on. Seriously? Sugar cookies in Christmas shapes? This fantastic man who asks for almost nothing and is mindful of every little detail of our relationship is asking for sugar cookies for Christmas? How can I say no?

How can I say yes? Those little trolls disguised as candy canes. It's just not right.

I'm ready for you now.

Holiday Happiness:

{Something so much bigger than all the questions I ask}
Four Weeks Off School.
Judy Garland's "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas".
{Warbly, bittersweet}
Christmas Dinner With Family.
{It's been at least two years}
Perfectly Square Edges on Wrapped Boxes.
Letters to Santa
{Made all the better if they're from good friends' children}
Quiet, Cold Nights.
Four Year Old Christmas Carolers.
Scarves, Mittens, Hats.
Warm Hands from Warm Cups of Coffee.

Holiday Not-So-Happiness

Christmas Lights.
{I know. I'm sorry.}
Christmas Cookies.
{I know. I'm sorry. Trying to decorate those little buggers ...}
Most Christmas Music.
{I know. I'm sorry.}
Made for TV Christmas Movies.
{I know. I'm sorry.}
Two amazing women.

Sometimes you find things you have to share with everybody.

If find = love, then love = share.

My compulsive, detailed-obsessed, you'd-better-realize-who-really-owns-these-images self feels once again compelled to spell out, and certainly not to insult your intelligence, dear hearts, that the following images belong quite fully, wholly and totally to the following ladies and are borrowed here as an enticement to visit them. Consider them a stunning preview of greater loveliness to come ... once you visit their pages. {Protected under copyright, folks. And we don't mess with copyright around these parts.}


Beautiful. On Etsy, wouldn't you know. She's explained how she creates her engaging images, but I have no mind for art. It's an intriguing process and only completely captivating and bewitching. Only.

And Sherri

A little note here ~ if you supply the photos of your own enchanting clan, she'll provide the wonderfully, meticulously edited cards and announcements. And really. They're completely breathtaking.

So please, go. Visit. Roll sweetly and indulgently around in their talent.

Interesting how the posts around these parts tend to increase when school isn't in session.

And around these parts, things have been a little blue lately. Maybe a little gray. Hard to tell. Still waiting for final confirmation of my final grades, even though I've been keeping close track of all of my points.

{Of course I've been keeping close track of all of my points. That, of course, of course, is a very big part of who I am. Compulsive me needs to see it in print, though.}

Still looking for a job, which, oddly enough {she said somewhat wryly} is still demoralizing. Finally got an interview with OHSU, which, by this girl's accounts, did not go well. As in {big sigh}, I'm not what they're looking for. I do so hope I become what somebody is looking for. And soon! {15 job applications later ...}

Not the season to be blue ... or gray ... or a blah beige. Blech. Christmas break is a little slow when all of your activities center around looking for a job and watching a proliferation of "18 Kids and Counting." {And then letting yourself slip into, Good Lord, I'm 31 and I don't have ONE child yet ... Eh. Happens.}

But really, I shouldn't complain. I did just return from a fantastic weekend in Southern Oregon with my littlest sister. That was good.

And good plans for this week: a shift {one} at the bookstore, a lovely birthday dinner with my oldest friend {plus her kindergartner's Christmas program!}, a trip to the Queen Anne Victorian Mansion with my oldest sister and niece, a pampering hair appointment, and then to the Vineyard Town to spend some much needed time with Shoes. These are all super good things, so I guess I need to pull my super sullen blah beige attitude out of the trash.

Christmas Spirit, you better get here fast ...
Well, not my baby. Remember my roommate Tiffany and baby Madelyn?

O, that was a good year, living with those two. And I'll probably begin the story of Tiffany, Madelyn and the apartment just like that: O, that was a good year.

It was amazing.

One year ago, Hiding Madelyn looked like this:

{Not quite sure what the ribbon was about, but lots of things are hard to explain. Like the time Tiffany gently moved the end of the hammer handle on her stomach trying to re create the sensation of the ultrasound machine to try to get Madelyn to kick from the inside. Glee and silliness abound.} And now, a year later, the baby in Madelyn is fading quickly, and she's turning into a quirky little girl with a Big Personality:

And, of course, sometimes she looks like this:

That probably comes with the personality.

Last Christmas, we had a pre-Madelyn. The end of January, she was born four weeks early. February and March she slept soundly, so tiny.

And then, she started to wake up. It seemed like everything she did socially was advanced ~ she smiled early, engaged people early, laughed early. {Making her laugh her low, maniacal belly chuckle was ridiculously easy}. In an advanced poetry class in undergraduate school, Dr. Axelrod read us a tender poem about a father picking up his infant from the crib. I so wish I could remember the title of that poem or the author; whatever emotion it invoked in me is the same thing that rises up when I think of Madelyn. Before I left the Vineyard Town, Madelyn had just started rolling over.

And my exit marks the end of my knowledge, in many ways. That's all I know. That's all I know personally. Tiffany is so good about sending pictures and videos, but, of course, it's 1/10 of the picture. Madelyn is now pulling herself up to standing. And yodeling, apparently, which I'm pretty sure is normal and listed in "Baby's First Year." ;) But, if I were to be honest, videos and pictures are as close as I'm going to get to Madelyn. And that's ok, because that's how it goes.

And lucky me, I get to see them the week of the 20th.

I'm selfishly hoping it's still so ridiculously easy to make Madelyn Pants laugh.
In fact, it's not so much of a sw specific principle. It's just good people practice.

We empower our clients. We work with our clients toward their own, personal goals. We respect the client's individuality.

We try to stay away from doing client work that's not client centered. Creates a bit of an issue. Hard to engage people when they don't believe you're invested in them as individual people.

Bureaucracies, then, are potentially problematic when it comes to client centered work. (Shocking, I know.)

Like the State of Oregon Employment Department. Like the office in North Portland. Like the office I had to visit because the one job I wanted to apply to off their website required the WorkSource approval. I went fully aimed with resume, phone numbers and time on my hands to see if my skills matched the skills the job posting required.


The client must follow The Process, right? It was required that I fill out an online profile, online resume and then take a reading and mathematics placement test. The computer started blinking out partway through, and when I raised my hand for help, as this was The Process, The Help was a little irritated with me and told me that I needed to check The Box.

I told The Help that I had checked The Box. The Help told me that I obviously hadn't. As in, "Obviously, you haven't." I checked The Box in front of him and asked him what I was supposed to do now. The Help then told me, "You must be doing something wrong. Finish checking these boxes and push save. It's that button right there." I did, and when all was Saved, I asked him {again} what I was supposed to do now, as The Process hadn't actually been explained to me in a linear fashion in the beginning. The Help looked at me through narrowed eyes and said, "What are you trying to do? Find a job? Get a GED? Do you need training?"

{Coincidentally, none of this is exaggerated.}

When I told him there was one job that I wanted to apply for, he then directed me to the reading and math placement test. I still don't know how that had anything to do with the minimum wage, 20 hour a week job transporting people with developmental delays to appointments.

I took the reading test. I failed the fourth level. I took the math test. I failed the fifth level. I have to say something here. I have two undergraduate degrees -- one of them in English. My undergraduate GPA was a 3.71. I'm in a nationally ranked graduate program where 1 in 7 applicants were granted entry for Fall of 2009. My Graduate GPA, to date, is a 4.0.

They were two of the most poorly written tests I've ever seen. I have no idea what they were talking about.

And after all of that, the all wise, all knowing System had decided that my skills weren't a match for that minimum wage job after all.

As I was leaving, a bi-lingual man was showing the front desk staff a letter he had received from the Salem office dictating that if he wished to continue receiving his UI (unemployment benefits), he needed to go into his local office to take a class. The North Portland office was his local office. They knew nothing about the "training." So helpfully, one of the English speaking employees loudly told him to call the number in Salem on his letter (because speaking loudly to bi-lingual people helps them understand English better). He informed them that he HAD called that number and they had instructed him to go to the office.

I left at that. Demoralized, un-helped, discouraged, frustrated. All I wanted was someone to sit down with me, explain the process, explain why the process was necessary and give me follow up tasks. Meet me at the level I'm at: not under, not over.

I love experiences like this. I love experiences like this because it drives home what I know to be true in my little social worker heart: That we are all the same; That there is little space between the Professional and the Client; That all people deserve respect, compassion and a chance. These experiences that put me in the role of the client are unbelievably necessary. I never, never want any of my clients to walk away from me thinking I undervalued their intelligence or their potential.

I'll continue to look for jobs in other areas than the Employment Department.
{some spoilers included. consider yourself warned. also, and this is a just in case, cover my bases reminder, there are a couple of parts in the book that may offend some. ask me if you want the details.}

A lofty goal, indeed.

How about this. Once a month, and it may be the first week, but chances are ... probably not ... we'll chat, you and I, about these book club picks.

And for December, this pick would be The Outlander (Gil Adamson).

Earlier this year, during a horrible bout of bronchitis, I hid in my apartment. Hunkered down, using my couch cushions as fort walls, hiding from my co workers and clients (whom I normally love. It was just ... a season), Shoes had brought over a stack of books for me to befriend.

Initially, I did not befriend this book. The imagery seemed stale, the plot barely moved and the character development seemed largely absent (who goes through almost the entire book calling the protagonist "The Widow"?). I drove through the book at a high speed, willing myself into expediency, too prideful to allow myself to not finish it.

And in doing so, I missed ... everything.

The second time around it was a completely different experience. I bring this up because it was also the experience of another book club member. For some, we read it the first time and think, "Point being?"

In short: In 1903, Mary Boulton has killed her husband and has recently lost a child. Her escape through the Alberta wildnerness, with her two, red haired, giant twin brothers in law tracking her, affords her the opportunity to become something she did not know she was capable of: being whole. Up and down through the mountains, eventually arriving at a primitive, early mining camp, Mary allows herself to enter into relationship with people at will. Enter and exit a host of archetypal characters: a Good Samaritan, a Reverend, a Dwarf and her new object of desire: The Ridgerunner.

I found myself most drawn to the issue of Mary's "madness" ~ nightmarish visions visit her frequently. "She forced her eyes down, away from the vision, and as she did, tears surged up. Defeated again by an imagined thing" (p 15).

In Mary's life, she is "defeated" by many things: the death of her mother; a pious, superficial grandmother, a father incapable of affection; a dishonest husband; the loss of her child; her insanity. She waits to be happy, as one of our book club members pointed out. She waits for her visions to pass. If only this one thing or that issue were resolved, her madness would pass (aren't we all like this?). It's only when Mary leaves her world, albeit at first quite un-purposefully and completely without direction, that she is able to re-gain control. The start of her escape finds her feeble, without vision, almost starving, afraid of people and pushed higher and higher into the mountains. Eventually, this escape turns out to be the one thing she has been able to control in her lifetime.

In one of the closing scenes, Mary picks up a shotgun and points it off the tent's deck at her pursuers. I didn't know she had it in her; it was as if meeting a new character altogether.

I think I missed it the first time around completely.

And for January ... The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (Junot Diaz).
The end of the term is a demanding, selfish tyrant. In the last week, it's not hard work, necessarily. No. That happened 2 weeks ago when the lengthy, research heavy, logic model papers were due.

No. This is a different type of demanding. A wild-goose-chase-at-7:30-in-the-morning-for-a Mac-adapter-from-the-AV-department-that-won't-actually-check-the-adapter-out-overnight, so-come-back-the-next-day-and-hope-one's-available-for-your-graduate-school-class presentation (it's only 50% of your grade);




type of demanding.

That kind of demanding.

I think I'm going to fail relaxation yoga. Not really, by the way, but I have a horrible time ... um, relaxing. Alternate nostril breathing makes me feel like I'm suffocating, so I cheat. My fingers are in the correct position, but my mouth is open slightly. And corpse pose for 40 minutes? When the lights go off, I'm a constant fidgeting girl. (It hurts my hips, no matter how many blankets I roll to put under my knees.) Well. there's only one more class of that to go. Thank goodness. Relaxation yoga is very stressful. (Only me. I know.)

{postscript ~ I'm instituting 1st week of the month book club recommendation on this blog. I've never joined a book club before and my first meeting is tomorrow. I'm so looking forward to this and need to figure out a way to succinctly synthesize what I'm reading (struggling a little with junk language in grad school), so practice here. Just as a warning, though, I'm living in a liberal city and am attending a liberal program. I can't guarantee that some of the picks won't be offensive to some readers in one form or another, but it's ok. We're all loving grownups around these parts. ;) }