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Grab My Button
Every year a group of women who met in college fly from all over the U.S. to, as Whitley Gilbert said, “Relax, relate, release!”
And I’m so fortunate to be counted among this tribe. Three years ago, we went to Bermuda, then it was Belize, and last year was Turks. I didn’t go to Turks because we had recently moved to Portland and it just wasn’t a good time for my family.
But this year, it was awn! Wild dogs couldn’t keep me away. In the weeks leading up to vacation, the group, which we call “The Friends,” were chomping at the bit to leave. Some girls were already packed a month before the trip. Not me, I finished packing as the taxi pulled into my driveway. (No lie.)
That’s the thing about us. We’re all so different, but we compliment each other perfectly. Some of us are hard-charging, uber-organized Type As, while others are more go-with-the-flow and whimsical. Many of us fall somewhere in between. We’ve got business executives, doctors, lawyers, members of the military, stay-at-home moms, single moms, not-yet-moms, married, single-and-fabulous, obviously we run the gamut.
One of our core values is friendship. We value our group for its fantasticality and each other for who we are. One of the girl’s signature line is that “My friends are my family.” And I can say that I deeply love these girls and I feel they love me too. They’re the ones who don’t care that you do the ugly cry, will jump on stage with you to shake it even if though they’re the shy type, or they retrieve you from drinking with a group of thugs at a fish fry. (Don’t ask.)
In Turks, The Friends started a tradition where toward the end of each vacation we set two to three goals for ourselves to achieve by the time the next #girlztrip rolls around. To keep each other accountable, a group text messaging thread (is that what you call it?) was created.
What started out as positive, reinforcement and tips for better living, transformed into sharing the ups and downs of our daily lives. That in turn, brought us closer together.
When we met this year, most of us had achieved many of our goals of losing weight, getting promotions at work or advanced certifications and then we set new ones. I’m already excited for next year’s trip so we can see how far each of us has come.
It’s great that The Friends push each other to be better, smarter and happier. For me the best part of the trip was getting back in touch with myself. Connecting with these girls who know me so well brought me closer to me. I know that sounds strange, but it was really needed as I still feel like such an outsider in Portland. It’s getting better, but slowly.
At least I know that on the hard days, my besties are only a text away.
You know how most of the people on TV are pretty, skinny and reflect the so-called vision of perfection? And how we’re not supposed to want to emulate that?
Let’s be real. Not admiring them is easy to say, hard to do. But there’s one TV show that I don’t mind trying to emulate: Parenthood. Hubby and I love that show. If you haven’t seen it/don’t know about it, it’s on NBC and focuses on the Bravermans.
They’re a family headed by patriarch Zeek and his wife Camille. They’ve got four adult children, Adam, the responsible one; Sarah, the free-wheeling single mom with questionable judgment; Julia, the hard-charging lawyer; and Crosby, the artsy musician who’s married to a black woman.
Then there’s their nine grandchildren, and we’re introduced to those ups and downs. Living with Asperger’s, first loves, first broken hearts, bullying, racism, drugs, pregnancy, the show walks the characters through such challenges.
This is the final season of Parenthood, but thanks to the magic of Netflix, I can still watch the Bravermans. I look forward to reliving the good ol’ days between Julia and her husband, Joel. The perfect tone the writers hit in depicting a biracial family that looks like mine. The closeness between Sarah’s kids, Amber and Drew.
I feel like they have the perfect family in that their family bond is strong, seemingly impenetrable. They have big gatherings, they share each other’s business, they’re messy, they say the wrong things, do the wrong things, but all have unconditional love for one another.
To me, that’s what family is about. I like a recent scene where Amber told Zeek that she was unexpectedly pregnant. She was bracing herself for his judgment, but the only thing that came forth was his tears of happiness.
I like the intergenerational connectivity. I sure hope that my grandchild is comfortable enough to talk with me about such tough topics. I certainly never would have discussed that with my grandfather. That’s not a knock on him, he was one of the nicest, most generous souls you’d ever meet. I’d just never tell him I got knocked up, I’d be a punk and let the family rumor mill handle that one.
But with Amber and Zeek, it was a great moment and made me hope that one day I could have that. For it would mean I had a solid relationship with my adult children, and their own children and even maybe a great-grandchild.
I know that no family is perfect, but in my book, the Bravermans, especially with all of their flaws, are pretty dang close.
It’s been too long. It really has. It’s been too long since I’ve written. My writing is the lifeblood of me and I’ve been too caught up in my busy-ness that I’ve been neglecting it and thusly me.
We were in Hood River this past weekend, seeking a nice respite from the demands on our time and attention. Hubby had been in India for nearly two weeks, and when he came back last week, he immediately jumped into work. I’m not sure how he does it, he was jet-lagged, but powered through his work day, soccer games and helping out around the house.
After flying solo for so long while he was more than half way across the world, I too was tired. I had a smattering of friends help out here and there, but no where near as much help as my life partner.
Once the weekend hit, we couldn’t wait to get out of Dodge to decompress and reconnect. Our reason for going that weekend is because it was Hopsfest, an annual celebration of beer. More than 40 local, regional and national breweries provide about 65 different beers on tap. We went last year and it mostly rained. We didn’t much mind, we find the Pacific Northwest rains charming, just a characteristic of the region.
A lot of people here are annoyed by or get angry at the rain. Lot of good it does them.
We got here on Friday about 5 p.m., Hubby had wanted to get here around 3 p.m. but I signed up to oversee our school’s biggest fundraiser and we’re in crunch time. I had to finish up a couple of must-haves with the school fundraiser and things related to our Cub Scout pack. (Yeah, we joined last year.)
But Hopsfest was fun, Hubby went in the late morning for his VIP early entrance. As the beer drinker of the family he should maximize his time at the one-day festival. Me and the boys hung out at this sleek and sensible home built by an urban planner. I admittedly was emailing/texting/Facebooking for a couple of hours Saturday to iron out some wrinkles with my Scout responsibilities.
But soon I unplugged and we were off! The festival was fun, I did my usual swing by the Naked Winery booth. Since I don’t like beer, the festival is really pearls for swine when it comes to me, but I thoroughly enjoy the lone wine booth.
I also got lost in checking out the vendors and their wares. The Old Trunk had old album covers and neck ties turned into totes, and a different vendor had old children’s books rebound and filled with blank paper, transforming them into journals. What’s old was new again.
But the best part was unplugging from the busyness and plugging into each other. We laughed, talked and acted silly.
Some of my favorite moments were:
- While walking from the house we rented to downtown Hood River, we started singing. I swear this came well before the first drop of alcohol, but we began belting out one of Ethan’s favorite songs: Capitol Cities’ Safe and Sound. Soon Hubby found the song on his phone and played it while we danced and sang down the street. It reminded me a bit of the Whiz.
- Logan and I had a long talk about friendship. How that just because he’s in Portland, all of his friends in Chicago are still his friends and when he sees them again, it’ll be like old times.
- Listening to the boys laugh maniacally while playing in the loft.
- Gasping for breath as the funniest man I know was cracking jokes. I’m glad I married him.
It was as if we were back in Chicago, like old times. What was old, was new again and boy did it feel good.
I’ve sat down to write this post a few times, but there’s so much to say I’m honestly not sure where to begin. My journalism self demands: Get to the point!
And that in itself is hard. I recently went to the BlogHer conference and I learned more about my craft, was so inspired by my peers and reveled in the greatness of being without my Hubby and kids. Having time away from my everyday cleared space to think about where I want She’sWrite to go and how I can get there. I’m sure ya’ll don’t want to hear about my navel-gazing so I’ll share with you some of the conference highlights.
- My friends. This undoubtedly is my favorite part of any conference. Who doesn’t like to reconnect with old buddies? I’m still homesick for Chicago, so this was an especially lovely treat. Plus I always love meeting new people, and the atmosphere at BlogHer makes it so it’s easy to find kindred spirits. I met a slew of them. The first post-conference blog that I wrote was about them. I’ll share that with you guys later this week.
- Netflix. This wasn’t an official BlogHer activity, but as a member of Netflix’s Stream Team, we got to tour their oh-so-cool headquarters, ask executives questions and meet the real Piper from Orange Is The New Black. I even kissed Piper Kerman! #teamnoshame
This is Piper Kerman, a good sport and author of Orange Is The New Black.
- Kerry Washington. She spoke at one of the keynote sessions and it was refreshing to hear her anxiousness on going back to work as a new mom as well as her passion for being politically active. That was instilled in her when she was young. Her parents even took her out to dinner to celebrate the first time she was able to vote.
- VOTY! Voices of the Year celebrates some of the best blog posts in BlogHer Land. I always enjoy anything that recognizes quality, heart-felt writing. Last year I was one of the lucky ones who got to read her essay before the crowd and this year I was able to take in others’ soul-baring essays.
- Arianna Huffington. I wouldn’t say this is a highlight of the conference, but it was one of the more notable moments. At a keynote she was talking about her newest book, “Thrive.” She was making all of these platitudes about women and how strong we are and we have to make sure that we’re well-rested before we do anything else. And for me it fell flat. Here was this woman who was advising a room full of sleep-deprived moms to rest. Most of us don’t lack sleep because we want to walk around like zombies. It’s a peril of the mom job. Not to mention we’re all bloggers and The Huffington Post does not pay its bloggers. I couldn’t get over that. How does a blogger “thrive” under such a pay structure? Still yet, many women were inspired by her talk, gave her a standing applause when she was finished and hordes of them scrambled to get inline for their autographed copy of her new book. So who knows, maybe I just wasn’t in the mood to hear her message.
- I’m Enough campaign. I met a kickass rocker chic who had amazing shoes and a even-more-amazing perspective on what it means to be “enough.” She’s the driving force behind The Mrs. band and she plays the drums. I can’t wait to share more with you on their #imenough project.
- Celebrity sightings. OK. Confession time. I do enjoy me some vapid entertainment. After a rough day, instead of treating myself to something sweet to eat, I like to buy what I call “Mind Candy.” Those celebrity magazines. Anyway, Khloe Kardashian was there, the line to get a picture with her was astronomically long. I just took a few pics from the sidelines. I also got a pic with David Tutera, who has amazing eyebrows! But the best was Rev. Run. He was DJed a set at the closing party. All I kept thinking while shaking my groove thang was “There’s Rev. Run! There’s Rev. Run!”
Even though it was only a weekend, so much was packed into it, BlogHer felt like a week-long event. I’m still digesting all the little nuggets I learned and connections I made. Are you ready to come along with me as I work to grow my blog? I’m sure it’ll be a fun, quirky adventure.
Well I did it. I chopped it off. I’ve long been wrestling with the issue of whether to rid myself of my chemically treated hair and grow it natural.
I’m going to back up just a smidge to drop some knowledge for those who don’t know much about black hair and why going natural is a thing. I liked how this piece in The New York Times explains it in the context of updated Army regulations.
OK, so for a few years, I’d stopped getting a relaxer that straightened my hair and opted for a texturizer which loosened my natural curls. I loved my texturizer. I could wash-and-go letting my curls air dry, or I could invoke the power of the heat and straighten my locks. I had a fantastic hairstylist in Chicago (Cister to Cister Salon) and under her care, I was the happiest I’ve been with my hair.
Fast-forward to my move to Portland. Not known for being a mecca for black people, I began looking for a black hair salon the moment I found I was moving to the Northwest. I knew the hair thing would be a challenge, especially with all of the rain. I got some ideas from Yelp, and when I got here, I noticed that many of the black women I saw were wearing naturals. Should I do it? How would I look with closely cropped hair? Would it make my face look fat?
I wasn’t ready to do it. Shortly after the school year began I saw a black woman with wavy long hair walking her kid to class. I literally chased her down, dragging my 2-year-old behind me and bewildering my 6-year-old. “Excuse me!? EXCUSE ME!!” I shouted breathlessly. Then she turned around and I could tell it was a wig. Damn.
Turns out she was natural too, but she recommended a black hair salon that is in my area. Months later, my hair was looking like who-did-it-and-what-for, so I needed to go in. I got the texturizer, but the woman left the chemical on too long and it really was like a virgin relaxer. Basically my fun, springy coils were just wavy blahs.
I vowed to never return and searched for more hair salons. I also began to look into natural hair options. I found a woman named Amber at Conscious Coils, who specializes in chemical-free hair. She is a pioneer of sorts here in Oregon. She led the push on easing regulations on natural hair care, opening the door for her and business owners like her to practice their trade.
But what struck me is that she offered consultations. That’s what I needed, someone to talk this over with who was an expert.
I could read all of the blogs, watch YouTube videos, talk with my naturalista friends, but everyone had their own take. After my consultation with Amber, I had a good outlook on what was ahead on this natural hair journey and was sold.
I wasn’t going to be as cool as one of my besties about going natural. She had just had enough of her hair and had her husband take his clippers to her hair. She said she was crying during the process, but as soon as it was done felt just a freedom and weight lifted off her shoulders. It sounded intoxicating.
But I’m not as ballsy as she. I decided I would cut off a few inches and then use protective styling via weaves and braids. From my weave-wearing days in Chicago, I still had a couple bags of hair, so Amber gave me the contact for the go-to place for weaves in Portland, Studio Six 9 Hair Design.
My stylist Jerry was a nut, but in a good way. She rocked a thick, tousled mohawk that was red, purple and had shaved her sides. Usually that would have given me pause since our hair style choices are obviously so different, but I figured, I’m getting a weave and having her cut off an inch or two and that’ll be it.
As I’m sitting in the chair, she starts to cut. I got curious.
“How much of my natural hair is there?” I asked.
“Oh you’ve got a good three, four inches.” Jerry said, snipping away an inch here and there.
Should I cut it off? This wasn’t part of my plan to do it right now, but I’m really tired of feeling blah and I needed a change.
“What if we just cut it all off?” I suddenly could relate to Britney Spears in her head-shaving moment.
“All the relaxed hair? Are you sure?”
I am so effing done, I thought, let’s just do it. “Yes.”
Jerry began to invoke her inner Edward Scissorhands and a few minutes later I had a nice puffy little fro. I was so stoked, I sent my girlfriends a group message to announce my new ‘do. They were so excited, I got ballsy and put pics up on Facebook.
I thought about taking a pic of the piles of hair on the floor, but thought, nahhh, that’s gross. So I looked at it and was reminded of what it meant. All of the swimming-pool concerns when I was a kid, the awkwardness of a gheri-curled tween, the panic-inducing rain as a career woman. All of that, was no more. It was headed to the garbage where it belonged.
Then… I looked at the pile of weave on Jerry’s desk and questions swirled in my mind. Should I just forget the weave and rock my new hair? I don’t even have any products and I’m leaving for BlogHer in the morning, do I have time to get it all together? Do I want to be getting acquainted with my new ‘do while away?
I decided to stick with the plan. (My Type-A personality doesn’t often allow for deviations in plans, but it’s something I’m working on.)
So I’m rockin’ my weave and it’s a big change. When my 6-year-old first saw me, he dropped his jaw and Kindle simultaneously, which is a miracle within itself. “Whooooaaaaaaa!” My Portland bestie got out of the shower and met me soaking wet in only her towel just to get a glimpse and my neighbor didn’t even recognize me.
But it was when I later read the numerous comments on my Facebook page about my metamorphosis into a naturalista did I have a twinge of regret about not rocking the ‘fro from the beginning. But I won’t have the weave forever and once it’s out I can begin getting to know the real me, the natural me.
Cannon Beach is just 80 miles west of Portland. National Geographic named it one of the 100 most beautiful places in 2013.
The largest of the sea stacks is called Haystack Rock. It’s 235 feet tall and you may recognize it from the Goonies.
The fantastic four.
One of the several interesting tree stumps along the beach. Geologists say these can be anywhere from 300 to 2,000 years old.
Trying to outrun the waves.
The waves won.
The White Heron is the third from the left. We were in the suite that’s balcony is on the upper left.
Steps to the beach.
These trees arched over beachfront homes. Years of wind from the ocean gave them this extraordinary lean.
Logan insisted on this silly candy that gave him a grill.
Calla lilies are my favorite, and were even part of my wedding bouquet. We spotted them throughout the resort town.
I love red doors.
I gave the boys these foam planes for fun.
Excited to test out the planes on the beach.
Even Farmor got in on the plane action.
Apparent leftovers from an old bon fire.
Writing in the sand. These are all her grandchildren’s names.
“We love Jorgen.”
It's easy for me to get lost in my thoughts here.
Walking along Ecola Creek, which feeds into the Pacific.
Brothers getting one last look at the Pacific before we head home.
“Let’s go to the beach, each!” That line from the Nicki Minaj song had been running through my mind since I had the idea to slip away to Cannon Beach, Oregon for a couple days.
My mother-in-law was in town from Norway to help me take care of the kids while my husband was galavanting in Brazil at the World Cup. Seriously, he was at the World Cup. More on that later.
So our summer had officially begun. We finished our soccer season first, a couple weeks after that we were done with Cub Scouts, then our baseball season ended and finally, school was over. To celebrate, I thought it best to get out of Dodge.
Late one night I hopped online to try to find a place for us to stay. I know it’s the summer season, but figured surely *something* was available. I got a list of the top accommodations for kids and families in Cannon Beach. It was nearly 11:30 p.m., but I started calling places anyway. I mostly got the resorts’ voicemail, except for one. The Waves.
I got excited when a woman answered the phone. I quickly told her what I was looking for, a two-night stay for two adults and two children and had an oceanview. Turns out they had a property called The White Heron Lodge that fit the bill.
♦ ♦ ♦
A couple hours after Logan left first grade behind, we all piled into my Jeep. It was me, Farmor (The Norwegian word for father’s mother), Logan and Ethan. An hour and 15 minutes later, the GPS said the White Heron Lodge was just 5 minutes away, but we were still deep in the lush forests of Oregon. How could the Pacific Ocean be anywhere near here?
A winding turn to the right and a zigzag left and poof! We were in charming downtown Cannon Beach. The mainstreet, Hemloch, is lined with all kinds of boutiques, eateries and galleries. What’s cool is that once you walk along the stores facing the street, you will see snaking alleyways between some of the shops that reveal more back-to-back boutiques. Shopping is clearly alive and well in Cannon Beach.
We didn’t know what to expect when we got to our property. Online the pictures looked great, but we all know how pictures can be deceiving. Thankfully this place was even better than I imagined. There was one bedroom, a full (but small) kitchen, bathroom with a jacuzzi tub, a living room and dining area that had an expansively gorgeous view of the Pacific Ocean.
♦ ♦ ♦
Farmor and I lugged all our bags inside and she quickly began unpacking everything. That’s the thing about Norwegians. They’re crazy practical and efficient. I had unpacked only half of my 3 year old’s clothes and she already had her clothes in the drawers, our jackets and shoes properly put away in the closet and was half way through unpacking the kitchen. I was floored. She was like the Unpacking Ninja.
For our first walk on the beach I put the kids in rain boots. I guess the Norwegian practicality is contagious. I felt a little silly because others were barefoot or wearing flip flops. But when the boys started splashing in the cold, sandy puddles, I no longer felt silly, but a little proud.
The water was cold, but Logan was determined to try it out. And I couldn’t blame him, the ocean is so lively and mesmerizing. It’s impossible not to dip at least a toe or two in. Well at least for Logan and I. Farmor decided to stay on the nestled on the couch with her book and a glass of merlot.
The straightest shot from our suite to the ocean required that we cross a stream called Ecola Creek, that fed into the ocean. We were all kind of nervous because we didn’t know how deep it would be.
Another family was standing along the banks of the creek considering a walk through it. Collectively, we decided to send their teenage son into the waters first so we’d know what to expect. He waded in, it went up to his knees, and he looked back saying that it wasn’t too cold. After he made it ashore, his parents followed.
I lifted Ethan while Logan grabbed onto my elbow. We waded in and Ethan started hollering: “I want to go back!” “Take me back!” In the pool, Ethan is like a fish and that he was afraid of this creek struck me as funny.
The water was cold (that teenage boy lied) and against Ethan’s demands to go home we kept trudging through. When the water reached my knees and Logan’s netherly bits he tried to climb me like a tree, sending Ethan to scream louder and switch his call for help to “Farmor! Farmor! I want Farmor!” Meanwhile I howled with laughter.
After crossing the creek, we spent some time walking along the shore, uncovering partial sand dollars and crab claws. It was lovely and I’m instantly envious of anyone who lives on the sea.
The rest of our time in Cannon Beach we hit up some of the local restaurants, windowshopped and enjoyed Haystack Rock, which is a 235 feet tall sea stack. You guys might remember it in a couple scenes from the movie The Goonies.
And then, it was time to go. As my SUV snaked through the forest and back toward Portland, all of us were a little calmer, happier and excited for the next time.