More updates: Plastic Free September, output vs. input, etc. etc. etc.

I’m out on the deck this morning. We had a rare Oregon thunderstorm last night (I should probably mention I’m writing this on Sunday), which knocked the power out for a few hours. We lit a few candles and it was all terribly romantic. Just kidding, it was dark and loud. All I could think about was Laura Ingalls Wilder trying to read or darn or whatever the hell they did back then by candlelight (well, kerosene lamp, I guess) — how hard that must have been on her eyes.

But the upshot: The air is clean and crisp. And it feels like autumn.

Plastic Free September continues. I was thinking earlier about how much packaged and processed foods we used to buy when we were newlyweds and how much we’ve stopped buying in those intervening years — mostly for health reasons, like forgoing packaged lunchmeat for actual chicken or roasts or whatever. But also because of environmental reasons, like buying bulk carrots (now at my favorite farm stand and they are delicious) instead of packaged carrots. It didn’t even occur to me back then that bulk was an option. Progress!

(Now it’s Monday morning, back out on the deck — Abby Facetimed and that put an end to my thought process; air is cooler still, but I know my days writing out here are numbered so what’s numb feet?)

Anyway, I have had a couple of challenges on the challenge front: The first was last Friday. I’d planned on taking a nice lunch break with my favorite salad and an Americano at a coffee shop; instead, I found myself the only member of the newsroom in the office with a breaking news story (or is that a heartbreaking news story?) and a loose 22-page paper to fill. Because I was planning on eating my salad at the coffee shop, I did not bring any containers — and this was an eat at your desk kind of day — but I did have a cloth napkin and fork hidden in a drawer, so while I my to-go order was in a paper box (lined in plastic, trash), I was able to save on the plastic fork and paper napkin (when I placed my order, I asked for no utensils). I always have my coffee mug, so while that was technically a win, it wasn’t really — I do that anyway.

The next was on our Saturday grocery trip. I needed coffee and forgot to bring a jar. I used one of their paper bags — again, lined in plastic. I can save it and reuse it, and that will be my punishment for the rest of the month. This is slightly better, plastic aside, than the packages of coffee I’ve been getting at the coffee shops lately (Stumptown! Ammiright?!) because those packages are immediate trash; there’s no reuse possibilities there. And also, the coffee I purchased Saturday was roasted right here in town.

Note to self: I need to start stopping by that particular coffee roasters again with my jars. They totally know how to fill them. I’ve gotten out of the habit.

(The clouds have parted just enough that I can see Mount Hood has a fresh layer — albeit slight — of snow this morning. That is awesome. Poor thing looks so bare by this time of year. Our glaciers are toast.)

Output vs. input

I came across an interesting online article by Ryan Holiday with tips on spending less time with your phone. Besides the usual (turn off all alerts, remove social media apps, don’t use for entertainment), he had a couple that struck me as so obvious but so genius: Start your mornings phone free; use the do not disturb setting; and whenever possible, replace your phone with another solution.

Oh, Ryan Holiday, have you been reading my diary? That is advice I can use.

NOT grabbing my phone first thing each morning is slightly difficult because I tend to fall asleep using a white noise app (it also serves as my alarm), but I can click those buttons, shut the app off and then place my phone face down on the dresser and go about my morning.

I’ve got the do not disturb setting on from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.; I may lengthen that time. I’ve got it set so family members can get through. Everyone else can wait. (Fact: No one really calls me anyway so.)

As for finding other solutions to the phone, that is interesting as heck. Instead of using my phone to check headlines, I can read a paper (or fire up Freida the Laptop, which I’m not as apt to do). Instead of using my phone for entertainment (looking at you, word games), I can play Uno with Johanna, who LOVES that kind of thing. Instead of using my phone to numb my feelings or help when I feel bored or anxious, I can … well, I’m trying to figure that one out.

My phone helps me connect with my kids, create paperless lists, fall asleep, listen to music. FIND WHERE I’M GOING. (All caps because wow, I am terrible with direction.) That’s amazing. Everything else is just noise.

Etc. etc. etc.

Back to my Friday from hell and no lunch break — basically a seven hour day at my desk wanting to cry: This week I have been working on taking breaks. Setting boundaries. Not killing myself. It’s hard because at the time, it seems so important to push through and crank out pages / stories / web updates / insert whatever here, but I think it’s also important to recognize that there is only so much I can do as a human, that I am not perfect, and that all I can do is make the best of the circumstances in which I have been given (small staff, big needs).

I can’t say I’ve been great about it, but it’s on my radar, which is half the battle, anyway. I think technically, just in my line of work, I need to be aware of the fact that there are days I am not going to leave the office for seven straight hours. But on the days I can, I need to take full advantage.

Because I’ve noticed that my stomach / anxiety is acting up these days as I head into the office. I dread it. That can’t be good.

Victories this week

I took everyone to a coffee shop for our weekly staff meeting Tuesday, and everyone got their orders in regular mugs. We talked about paper stuff, but we also just decompressed and messed around and had fun. I think that’s important. (And also I could do that because our editor was on vacation and I had no adult supervision. That’s what you get for leaving me in charge, corporate!)

Our publisher came in on Monday and asked if anyone wanted coffee. Hello! Yes I do! She pointed to my travel mug before I could even hand it to her. It’s nice to be understood.

(And now it’s Wednesday morning as I finish this post — just to keep you in the loop about my deck time. I did not expect this post to take so long to write, but here we are.)

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Oven update (and more!) in list form because that’s how it wanted to come out

  1. Well, hello there, everyone! I had a chance to visit with my dear friend Shannon last weekend (SHANNON! I forgot to ask whether you got your birthday card. I do not trust the post office to deliver in a timely manner), and she was like, “Hey, whatever happened with your oven?” and I was like, “Oh, yeah, I keep meaning to write about that.”
  2. (No one who hears this story thinks we are sane, but you know what? We aren’t. What’s your point?)
  3. To do a quick recap: Our oven tried to kill us and we had to flip the breaker and turn the whole thing off. Eric had someone come out to look at it, and we learned that we needed a certain part to fix the … control panel? … because that was what was making the oven just stay on all the time at self-clean temperatures.
  4. So it turns out that the part we needed no longer exists. But Eric saw a similar oven advertised in the classified section of the newspaper, and he started communicating with the seller to figure out makes and models and whether or not that oven was compatible with ours — it was older, but all we really needed was the … control panel or whatever. We’d be essentially wasting an entire oven for one part, but that also meant we could save ours.
  5. Long story short, it was not compatible.
  6. And also, they’ve completely revamped down draft oven models so if we got a new one, it would be a bear to install. Not insurmountable, just annoying.
  7. At this point, a month or so had gone by. No oven AND no stove. I borrowed my mother’s rice cooker and learned that I can make the same pot of rice in 55 minutes using that device instead of the 15 it takes on my stovetop. I was feeling depressed.
  8. Eric had made no headway into figuring out what sort of replacement oven we should get, but had an idea: What if we just had the repairperson come back, cut ties to the oven and then at least we’d have a stove to work with while we sorted this whole mess out. And I was like, YES LET’S DO THAT PLEASE. And Eric was all, It could be a year before we get an oven back. And I was like, I don’t care, I just want my stove, we’ve got a crock pot, what could happen?
  9. Repairperson came back and I now have a stove. Thank heavens! I use the stove way more than I use the oven — I can’t eat anything so I don’t bake anything (sorry, Eric and Jo), and it’s summer so we’ve been using the grill a lot.  I do missed roasted sweet potatoes because they do not come out the same in the microwave and that’s, like, a daily staple. But overall, it’s been fine. Life has been semi-impacted. It hasn’t been insurmountable.
  10. This decision will probably make less sense in the winter when cooking in the oven becomes more frequent.
  11. But it also gives us time. Here’s how Eric works: He likes to research a thing thoroughly. He does not like to be rushed. And because I don’t have to think about any of that (my brain does not have the bandwidth — I make decisions super quickly and then accept the pain), I feel like I can live with only a stove for a year.
  12. So that’s the state of THAT union: Stove top, no Thanksgiving at my house this year unless someone else cooks the turkey, fighting the urge to get rid of all my ovenware because I know that, while I have no oven at this point, I will eventually and it makes no sense to discard.
  13. (Minimalism in action.)
  14. Okay, so here’s something I probably should just keep to myself because it shows how idiotic I can be, but I found out earlier this summer that couscous? IS WHEAT. I’ve been eating it as part of my new wheat- and gluten-free diet. HA HA HA. Oh, the irony. Also, this explains so much, like why my stomach would get all bloated after I ate it. So cross that off the ol’ list.
  15. After that lifechanging realization, I began to look around for gluten-free grains that aren’t rice. I don’t know, rice is fine, it’s just so … rice. A little research pointed me in the direction of millet. So I bought some from the bulk bin and snapped a picture of the cooking instructions, and eventually got around to cooking up a batch.
  16. While it was cooking, I decided to do some recipe research. Retrospect alert, I should have done that BEFORE I bought it, but that is not the Trisha Way. I learned that millet is mostly used in the U.S. as bird food.
  17. This did not make me want to eat it.
  18. My finished product was a little … lumpy. Not knowing what else to do with it, I added a few scoops to a canned carrot ginger soup I’d been wanting to try. It wasn’t great. But that might not have been the millet because when I ate the rest of the soup the next day without the millet, it tasted just as awful. Conclusion: Carrot ginger soup is not for me. Millet may also not be for me, but I’ve got about four servings still in my jar, so I guess there’s time to experiment and see if I can make it taste decent.
  19. Or I could just give up and stick with rice.
  20. Uh, anyone out there eat this stuff? Anyone got a good recipe?
  21. The end, I guess.

No. 24

Twenty-four years ago today, this happened:

wedding blog

Well, hello there, little babies Eric and Trisha! Wow, you have so much ahead of you — most of it good, some of it not, but all you really need to know right now is that you have indeed found your person.

Oh, and Trisha, that prenup of “No heads in the living room” (Eric is a hunter, after all) works out really well in your favor. Having promised to never toss any of his things, ever, maybe not quite so much. 😉

Dear everyone,

Hey there! I did not mean to take a break from blogging — the words were there, but not the time. I like writing, so that was not an easy decision (and it forced me to do other things that weren’t as fun), but it was the right one.

I’ve learned to allow myself the gift of saying no. I’m trying to learn not to feel guilty when I do.

First things first: We took Abby back to school a couple of weekends ago and the Walker Four is again settling into its Walker Three Plus One Out of Town routine. Not my favorite, but I’ve got two years of this under my belt so essentially I’m a pro. Back to school is such an intense time, with its excitement and anxiety. What makes it easier is that she was ready to move into her new place, to see her friends and start classes. (Clinicals this year! We got her a stethoscope for her birthday. Wild.) Uh, and it also helps that we have Snapchat, Instagram, texting, FaceTime and emails to keep in touch.

We had a lovely summer. It’s time for the next step. I’ll quit crying eventually.

Johanna has wanted to get her ears pierced for several months now, and a trip to the big city with Abby in July seemed just the time to do it. That’s when we all learned you need a parent physically present if you’re a minor. Good to know. Anyway, we had some errands to run for Abby’s move-in weekend, so we hit the mall for that sole reason. The short story is that Jo got her ears pierced and I learned that the holes I let grow in when I was 14 were still viable — so I ended up with earrings too. It always surprises me when I see Johanna and her pierced ears, and then myself with mine.

We’re so punk!

Also: Johanna is a freshman in high school this year. I can’t even, except I have no choice.

One project I’m getting ready to launch (that sounds too high tech for what I’m planning) is a weekly quote from a woman on this very blog. Without getting up TOO high on my soapbox, I’ve noticed that most of the quotes I’ve collected over the years are attributed to men. I mean, that’s fine, but where are the women? You can’t tell me that we don’t have just as much to say. I think it’s more an exposure thing, or maybe a “who can yell the loudest” thing. Yeah, I said it. Nothing like having daughters to make you a feminist.

So that’s coming. Eventually. I haven’t figured out formatting yet.

Another project: The Simple Year anthology is now just me and Kerry (Year 1). No one else has time. I’m learning to use Google Docs. I wish I wasn’t.

But it’s fun to have projects going on that I’m excited about. Work has been kind of rough — we don’t need to rehash all that garbage, I’ll just leave it with this: Sometimes I really think about whether or not I want to continue being a journalist.

I think I still do. I’m not sure how much longer I can hold out, though.

One story I just covered that I was jacked about as a person interested in zero waste and social justice: A local church held a free clothing event where everyone was welcome to come and outfit their kids with whatever they needed. Church pews were sorted by boy and girl items, and then by size. The parishioners even made sure everything was cleaned beforehand.

They have a partnership with the school district and items unclaimed at the lost and found at the end of the year made up the bulk of the items offered, but parishioners also supplied brand new blue jeans because that’s what is generally most in demand.

With all the shitty news out there, this was a breath of fresh air. People helping people, no questions asked, no agendas. The whole ordeal was heartwarming and affirming.

Anyway, my dear internet friends: Off I go. I hope you are all well. Let me know what’s on your radar at the moment. I can’t be the only one with stories.

— TW

Good things

I am beyond heartbroken and stressed and sad and upset and angry and just … things this week in the States have been rough. I can’t stand the news, I can’t stand social media, I can’t take any more negativity.

I just can’t. But the hits just keep on coming.

So today we’re going to talk about good things. Not because things are good — they aren’t. But to remind ourselves that despite all that, there is light. Even if we have to dig really deep to find it.

So here are a few of my good things, in no particular order. And in the comments, I’d like to see yours.

  • This plant
plant blog

Mind Flayer at work?

I wrote a story about a local fundraising effort for fistula repair in Uganda, and the woman behind the fundraiser gave me this plant as a thank you. Thank yous are NOT necessary — I’m a reporter, I reported! — but I appreciated the thought and the kindness behind the gift. Abby has claimed it, and I’m also happy about that because plants bring her a lot of joy, and this one will remind her of me when she’s at school. Plus it’s just freaking cool — that droopy flower growth has been two months in the making. Awesome.

  • My grandma
gma blog

Grandma Hollywood

Grandma is 95. She came to live by us this past May. She’s seen a lot, she’s done a lot, she has great stories and has had great heartbreak, but she just keeps going. I love being able to stop by and see her. I love hearing her stories and learning about some of the genetic quirks that make me a Trisha (panic attacks, check!). I love that she’s always excited to get a copy of the newspaper and that she reads my articles first. I love how she proudly tells everyone in the halls, “This is my granddaughter, Trisha.” Grandma kicks ass, you guys, and she’s right down the road. I haven’t had relatives closer than 2 hours away since I was 9. This time with Grammie is such a gift.

  •  My laptop
laptop blog

Freida on the deck — that’s my parents’ 1970s card table she’s resting on.

Freida, born of anger and fire, has proven to be a beacon of peace and calm. Wow, that sounds dramatic. Here’s her origin story: I purchased this ol’ girl from an office supply store about a year and a half ago because I wanted the freedom to get out of my office and write, say, in a coffee shop. (Freida is derived from freedom. I wish I’d have been clever enough to come up with that, but it was Eric.) Freida and I have written in those coffee shops, on park benches, on the deck, in my parents’ backyard and in hospital waiting rooms. I lug her around every day in my backpack and, while she’s heavy and clunky, she’s worth it. Freida gets me out of the office, but more than that, she gives me the gift of possibility.

  • Coffee

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I made my 57,000th batch of iced coffee Monday night (method HERE — although now I use a gallon of water, 1/4 pound of ground coffee and let that sit upwards of 12 hours) and was reminded that there is such simple pleasure in grabbing a cup, filling it with ice and cold coffee, topping that mother off with lots of half and half, and heading to the deck to read or write. I don’t have a lot of food pleasures because my stomach is a jerk, but I do have coffee. Thanks, magic beans!

  • All my kids under one roof
IMG_6122

An old photo, but a good photo. And very indicative of their personalities.

It seems like just yesterday that Abby came home from college for summer vacation, and now we’re looking at roughly one more week with her here before taking her back. Johanna is pretty sure we can just lock the door and she’ll have to stay. Seems like a solid plan. I’ll report back on how that works. Although actually … we are in a good place. It’s exciting to see both girls spreading their wings and figuring out where they want to go. I mean, yeah, I would like to go back to when they were younger and I didn’t have to rely on apps to communicate, but I don’t know if I would wish for that because … well. You can’t stunt them, right? Isn’t this what we’ve been working towards? Those wings? Well, whatever, we’ve had a great summer and I have thoroughly enjoyed having both girls under my roof. They’re fantastic. And yes, I am biased, why do you ask?

All right, my lovely internet friends: Your turn.

P.S. Happy birthday, Shannon! Your list is coming …

A not so new normal

I was at acupuncture earlier this month, updating my provider on our vacation, how well I’d done and how proud I was for not only surviving, but surviving well. And she was like, Of course you did well. That’s the normal you’ve worked hard to achieve. It’s only your mind that thinks it’s five years ago, when that was not your normal.

I sat there, completely flabbergasted. She was right — I have been feeling well. I have worked hard to get here — it’s been 12 years in the making, actually. That’s when I decided, on my 35th birthday, that something had to change. Um, because I couldn’t get up off the couch and I had a 2-year-old and an 8-year-old who needed me.

All the head meds, all the reflexology and acupuncture, all the doctor’s visits and learning how to eat for my gut, as well as how to manage my anxiety — that’s all paid off. And the truth is I’ve been feeling well for a while now. Setbacks have come when I tweak my diet or life inevitably throws me a curve ball. But overall … I am well.

I am well. I can’t wrap my mind around that fact. I need to flip my thinking so that I look at my life from today’s vantage point and not c. 2007, afraid of what could happen on the gut and anxiety fronts, expecting the worst day in and day out because that was just my reality.

But how do I flip the switch in my mind so I expect to feel well vs. always waiting for the other shoe to drop, for the next IBS attack, for the next panic attack?

Hell if I know.

Well, maybe I do: Maybe, it’s like any habit I have attempted to form, when I make a conscious effort to reframe my routine — and eventually, it does become routine. Maybe it’s as easy as setting the intention each morning to be well. To recognize that I am well each night before I go to bed.

(That seems too easy, really, but I’m willing to give it a go.)

I don’t know, this is interesting to me because I am not a naturally optimistic person (nor am I a pessimist — I’m just a realist who expects the worst 😉 ). I like thinking about reality vs. perception, what’s really true and what I think is true. And I want to be well. I’m enchanted by the idea that I could expect to be well, all the time.

How different my outlook will be if I can master my thoughts.

Trisha Walker and the Case of the Murdering Oven

Abby has had a lot of college friends visit lately, which has been a lot of fun. We’ve heard about these kids often, and it’s nice to put faces to names or get to know them a little better.

I have, uh, kind of stopped cooking — I’d say this was a summer thing, but really it’s a life thing. I do a big batch of something or other on Sunday and then we just pick at it all week. But with actual kids coming to visit, we’ve been trying to cook actual meals. Which my own kids seem to appreciate.

Mt hood blog

Our visitors especially like our view of Mount Hood. She is a beauty. On this side, anyway.

So this fun story begins last Sunday: Eric is barbecuing chicken and ribs on the grill and I’ve got sweet potatoes, potatoes and a chicken breast in the oven. I’ve got about 10 minutes left on the timer. Johanna and I are hanging out in the living room (this is probably a good time to tell you our kitchen, dining room and living room are one space) when all of a sudden, we smell something … off.

We live in orchard country and farmers are burning branches affected by fire blight, so my first thought was that THAT was what I was smelling. But no, the air is clear. I go into the kitchen and check my food. It’s close. I close the oven door and go back to the word game on my phone.

But the smell just gets worse. I head back to the oven and realize in the short time I’d been gone, everything has started to burn. The oven has gone from 350 degrees to supernova. We’ve been watching Stranger Things so my first thought was that my glass oven dish was melting … but it turns out that it wasn’t that hot. 😉 Ah well. It was an exciting 20 seconds thinking I was about to be murdered, anyway.

Eric finally had to flip a breaker because the oven would NOT turn off, regardless of what buttons we pushed. It just kept getting hotter and smellier. We did a little test later on that evening when the oven had completely cooled by flipping the breaker back on, and lo and behold, the oven started to heat again. Rapidly. There was even steam coming from the vent, so clearly all facts point to this sucker being haunted.

I spent all last week without an oven, which also means I spent all last week without a stove. I make my coffee every morning via tea pot and a pour over cone, so this hurt a little, until I figured out I could just microwave the water (think outside the box, TW!) and my routine wouldn’t even miss a beat. Tangent: I kind of prefer this method now because A) it’s faster and 2) I can measure the exact amount of water I need so there’s no waste.

Our oven is 16 years old and I never liked it anyway, so our first thought was replacement. Then Eric did some research and noticed that, because we need a downdraft vent (we have it in the middle of an island so there’s no room for a hood vent), the cost of replacement would be $3,000. Hilarious. Repairperson it is!

Repairperson came Friday and came to the quick conclusion that something in the clock interface zapped out and that’s what regulates the oven’s on/off feature, as well as heat. Estimated cost of part and time: $500. Free: A rant about new downdraft vent ovens and how the companies have changed the hookup mechanisms so repair people everywhere hate them. “Those are the professionals,” Eric pointed out. “Now imagine me trying to hook that thing up.” HA HA HA oh, I am.

The moral of this story is that the repairperson is calling this week to give us a final estimate on parts and time, but regardless, if it’s under $3,000, we’ll go that route. Probably more environmentally-friendly than tossing it in the landfill. I’m telling myself that to stave off disappointment.

What I’ve learned from this ordeal is that my crockpot is a lifesaver and so is the grill. That I can live without the stove even if it’s uncomfortable (no weekend eggs, no cooked rice to supplement my diet of meat and sweet potatoes). But I’ve also realized that this is a kitchen appliance that I take for granted — I was at the grocery store on Saturday checking out potential new items I could add to my diet (that’s another post for another time), only to realize I needed a stove or oven for that.

Bummer.

But really, if your oven is going to try to murder you, summer is a good time for it: Lots of fresh fruit and vegetables that we eat raw, lots of grilling anyway. I feel like I need to come up with a better concluding paragraph than this, but the words are telling me they’re done, so.