Wednesday, January 25, 2017


January 25, 2017 marks the official five year anniversary of our move to Portland, Ore. I have already documented our relocation process and adaptation to life in the Pacific Northwest in several blog posts,
When Less is More (i.e. The Big Purge) and For the Love of Portland so I thought I would take this opportunity to summarize what has happened over the past five years.
This is all we brought with us!
We moved here without jobs, without a car, and having never seen the furnished apartment we rented via Craigslist for the first four months. Greg started looking for full-time employment right away, while I got steady work as an extra on Grimm, Leverage, and Portlandia. I also immersed myself in the local beer scene, primarily by volunteering at all of the festivals. We spent all of our spare time exploring Portland and its suburbs on public transit, and occasionally rented a car for excursions to Hood River and Mt Hood, the coast, and Bend.
Alethea the TV cop
Greg started working for Cambia Health Solutions as a Problem Management Analyst in June, 2012. We extended our lease at the first apartment off SE Hawthorne Blvd as it turned out to be a great location and nice set-up for the time being. I had a very lucky year in the sense that I frequently won local contests including a new bicycle, a prize package worth over $2,000 from Portland Monthly magazine, and much more. I was less fortunate health-wise as the hip pain I started feeling just before we moved became almost unbearable. Once we had insurance through Greg’s new employer, I was able to see a doctor and determine that I had a torn labrum that would require surgery.
I won a bike!
2013 was the year of surgeries, physical therapy, and maxing out our out-of-pocket medical expenses. After six months of rehab from my hip surgery, which took place in mid-January, during which time I also had sinus surgery in late April, I developed severe pain and audible grinding in both knees. Even after more physical therapy specifically for my knees, along with Synvisc injections to help lubricate and cushion the joints, I still wasn’t getting any better. It doesn’t help that, in August, we moved into Irvington House, where I took on the role of full-time caretaker of the licensed vacation rental. This added a physical labor component to my daily routine, which was not the best thing for my knees. Within a few months my doctor recommended I have arthroscopic surgery, which we scheduled for December 31, 2013. The year was not entirely bad; we still made time for adventure and travel, including a two-week trip to Alaska, visits from family, and a winter vacation in Southern Oregon.
Rehabbing after my hip surgery in a CPM machine
Needless to say, 2014 started out pretty rough for me. After double knee surgery on New Year’s Eve, physical therapy was a long and arduous process. It took much longer to be pain-free than after my hip surgery and, even then, it seemed like I would never regain full mobility. I also developed severe pain in my upper back and neck, which required additional physical therapy as well as epidural steroid injections. Thankfully I had other things to look forward to, particularly travel planning. We took a wonderful trip to Europe in the spring, hosted several friends and family members throughout the year, and drank copious amounts of local craft beer. I also started writing for Oregon Beer Growler magazine, and I helped Greg prepare for his first marathon. All of this occurred while I continued to work as the caretaker of Irvington House.
At OHSU for physical therapy after double knee surgery
After another busy year, we wanted to start 2015 with a relaxing vacation. A 10-night cruise to Mexico out of San Francisco fit the bill, so that’s how we spent part of February. Little did we know how much things would change over the next few months. After much deliberation, Greg decided he wanted to look for another job as he just wasn’t happy at Cambia. Meanwhile, I was getting tired of the physical labor and being on call 24/7 that was required with my job at Irvington House. It turned out I didn’t have to quit; the owner’s sister and her husband had recently relocated to Portland and needed a place to live, so we were given short notice that we needed to move.
You can't see it clearly in this photo, but we're swimming with a whale shark in La Paz, Mexico!
Just as we got this news, I was departing for a one-week vacation in Alaska with my mom’s extended family. I had recently started doing freelance writing work for Brewery Consultant Group as well as helping out at Culmination Brewing as needed. Greg’s youngest brother got married in Indianapolis in early June so we flew there for his wedding. Thus, we finally started looking at apartments and even pursued the idea of buying a house in mid-June, but quickly hit a wall because of low inventory and high prices. Just when we thought we might have to leave Portland, Greg got a job offer from Trimet and I managed to secure us a lovely two-bedroom apartment on Mount Tabor. We moved shortly afterward, on the weekend of my 41st birthday.
This is the view from our deck at the new (and current) apartment. Mount St. Helens is visible on a clear day.
A few weeks later, on the evening on August 2, I got the kind of phone call you always dread. My beloved Uncle Jim, with whom I had just spent seven days in Alaska in late May, had taken his own life. I was beyond shocked. I immediately threw some clothes in a suitcase and got on the next plane heading east toward Indiana to be with my family and assist with the funeral arrangements. Jim’s death continues to affect me to this day but, even in the weeks after I returned home from the memorial service, I knew I had to keep my chin up and try to focus on the good things in my life. Thankfully, I had something to look forward to, as Greg and I had already planned and booked a two-week trip to Iceland in early September and we would also be traveling to Greg’s brother Doug’s wedding in Tennessee in October.
Cruising in Alaska with my family in May 2015. My Uncle Jim is the third person from the right.
2015 was a bit of a roller coaster ride so I definitely wanted and needed 2016 to be focused even more on what I enjoy most in life -- travel (and beer!). I succeeded, for the most part, by visiting seven states and nine countries on two continents in a total of nine different trips. I also helped Greg prepare for another marathon, started my own business, and spent some quality time with friends near and far.
Cruising the Panama Canal with our families in December 2016.
That pretty much sums up the past five years of life in Portland. As this post is already quite lengthy, I'll save the "future plans" part for my next post. :)

Thursday, January 12, 2017

A Portland Winter to Remember (and it's not over yet!)

While winter technically doesn’t begin until December 21, I am referring to meteorological conditions for the purposes of this post.☃
a bit of blue sky after the snow 12/15/16
After a lovely two-week cruise from Ft Lauderdale, FL to San Diego, CA through the Panama Canal, with multiple stops in Central and South America where the temperature averaged 90F with high humidity, followed by five days in San Diego exploring the local beer scene in mild 50F weather, I returned home to freezing rain in Portland on the evening of December 9, 2016. Several inches of ice had already accumulated over the previous two days creating treacherous conditions on roads and sidewalks. I was lucky to get up the slope to our apartment that night!
impact of the ice storm 12/10/16

icy rhododendron bud
That was the beginning of what has already been a record-breaking winter here in the Pacific Northwest. The ice had only a few days to melt until snow began falling on December 14. This was accompanied by below-freezing temperatures and created very slick conditions that persisted until the 19th.
father & son sledding down SE Stark St on Mt Tabor 12/16/16

the view of downtown Portland from the top of Mt Tabor 12/16/16
It stayed cold but relatively dry through the Christmas holiday, then snowed again on New Year’s Eve. That eventually gave way to rain, so the ground was only white for a few hours.
snowing just before midnight on 12/31/16
The first week of 2017 was bitterly cold, with lows in the teens and high winds that made it feel even colder. We got snow and ice again last weekend and were essentially homebound for three days. Greg went to work on Monday, but the roads and sidewalks were still so slick that he fell (but didn’t get hurt) and it took an hour and a half to travel five miles on foot and public transit because the buses were sliding and/or getting stuck. I didn’t leave the house until Tuesday afternoon and there were still patches of ice in many places.
if the snow and ice isn't cleared then treacherous conditions on SE 69th down to Burnside
The main reason I got out was to go to the store to get some groceries. The forecast was calling for more snow, so I stocked up on wine (we already had plenty of beer) and bought enough fresh meat and produce to last us through the rest of the week. Sure enough, as we were eating dinner around 6:00 pm, it started snowing. By 7:00 pm, everything was completely white. It continued to snow steadily all night.
the evening forecast on Tuesday, 1/10/17

this was taken after 30 minutes of snowfall on 1/10/17
When we got up on Wednesday around 7:00 am, we already had six inches of snow. I went out to take some pictures around our apartment just before 10:00 am. At that time we were up to eight inches. It continued to snow until around noon and then the clouds finally lifted.
9:45 am 1/11/17

exactly 8" of snow at this point
Since Greg was working from home, he was able to finish up a bit early so we bundled up and headed out for our usual winter weather destination, the top of Mt Tabor. From our house, it’s a one mile gradual uphill walk to get to the highest point in the park. We always make a loop around the top, enjoying the views of downtown Portland to the west. Then, if luck is on our side and it’s open, we take the eastern slope down along SE Yamhill Street, and walk another mile to Montavilla Brew Works. There we enjoy a beer or two before we walk ½ mile back home along SE Stark and SE Thorburn Streets.
walking south on SE 71st St towards the top of Mt Tabor

many skiers, snowboarders, and other winter sporting enthusiasts made the trek up Mt Tabor

one of the views to the west from the top of Mt Tabor
That’s exactly what we did yesterday afternoon, with the exception that we ran into a couple of friends at the brewery and decided to hang out longer to catch up with them. We were hungry after the physical exertion of our hike, so we picked up a huge calzone from Flying Pie Pizzeria for dinner. We eventually got home around 7:30 pm but not before we had a snowboulder fight!
the view to the east on SE Stark in Montavilla 
a pint of Bipartisan Porter

Greg toasts our huge calzone with a Dortmunder Wonder Lager

this snow boulder is heavier than it looks
Greg worked from home again today so we spent almost two hours this morning shoveling our sidewalks and the stairs down to our apartment. It’s our landlords’ responsibility, but they are at their vacation home in sunny Palm Springs, CA so the task fell to us this time. I always get pretty angry with my neighbors because they never clear their sidewalk and thus it is impossible to get down to the bus stop on Burnside without risking life and limb. Portland has a law (part of the city code) which requires property owners to remove snow and ice from sidewalks. I always photograph their uncleared section in case Greg or I end up falling and getting seriously hurt, so I can prove that they are liable when I take them to court.
Greg clearing the public sidewalk on SE Gilham

the sidewalk leading toward our apartment
I cleared the stairs and the path leading around to our back door
The current forecast indicates that it won’t get above freezing until Monday, and even then it may only be 34F. The rest of next week is predicted to be in the 40’s, so that should help. But, in the meantime, we get to enjoy this lovely white stuff for the next three to four days. I just hope we can do so without injury!
our neighbors built this awesome snow fort but didn't bother to shovel their sidewalk