Sunday, February 23, 2014

From Portland to Bend

Highlights from an Awesome Mid-Week Getaway to Bend

After working seven days straight through Snowpocalypse, I desperately needed a few days off to recover. Since I've declared 2014 the year I travel more often and enjoy small "adventures," we decided to head down to Bend mid-week for the wintery-desert scenery and perhaps some outrageous fresh powder on Mt Bachelor!

Off to Bend! It's Only 3.5 hrs from my house.

First stop was at Detroit Lake. WOW. Morning mist was rising and the lake looked so cold and forbidding. Like some isolated loch high in the Scottish hills.

We took my '89 Tacoma because it's our only 4-wheel drive vehicle. Look how thick the snow is on top of the dam!

Sick but smiling. I was so terrified of the drop! I refused to lean out and over.
Disclaimer: I did NOT take this picture. Too chicken to lean out! 
I've never seen mist like this before.
Detroit Lake was built in the 50's. 

You can barely see the tower where we drove out. It's just right of center.

Driving on past Black Butte and Sisters, I got to Bend in the late afternoon and began exploring the city. If you haven't been to Bend recently, it is simply gorgeous. Where Portland would go for a "grunge" or "vintage" feel even in a newly renovated building, Bend takes a cue from California and goes for a polished resort feeling that is both high-class and Oregon-style friendly! It's a magical combo. I see why so many folks buy second homes here.

Pine Ridge Inn - Snuggled into the Bend hillside overlooking the Deschutes River
Fireplace!!!! Mega-score.

Seriously how cozy is THIS? There were homemade cookies on the table to the right
Anyone care to jump on this with me?
So now for a quick recap on shopping. The traditional Bend "mall" is the Mill District. It's built up along the river and REI lives in one of the original buildings - how cool is that?! After visiting Whistler, I can easily see Bend as a small version of an Olympic Village. Maybe one day? 

REI uses the original "Old Mill" building
Me at The Old Mill shopping center. This mall seriously looked like a mini Olympic Village.
Here are my two favorite shops: 

Vanilla Urban Threads - Cute and comfy girl clothes. A sporty mix of bohemian chic and street-savvy modern wear. Something for everyone here and very affordable. Shoe collection is incredible.

Nashelle - Here's a real treasure! Bend-made artisan jewelry. Love the delicate metalwork and vibrant stones. Multiple photos of celebrities wearing Nashelle wear. Too many choices to select a piece in-store, so shop online!

That's all for now dear friends. Keep exploring and post up if you've got a favorite nook or cranny in Bend!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Vast Difference Between Empathy and Sympathy

"I'm Stuck. It's Dark. I'm Overwhelmed!"

By nature, I wouldn't describe myself as overly compassionate. Perhaps it was growing up in an emotional home with lots of roller-coaster feelings shared and emotions acted on. Perhaps it was my church-camp style group experiences where a collective "high" is felt for a short period of time only to be followed by an intense emotional low when the stimulus has dissipated and "normal life" returns. Perhaps I have no soul.

Whatever the reason, I struggle to emotionally invest in others. I pull away - afraid that their "loss of control" will leave me a blubbering idiot ripped of my strong emotional walls. This tight-ass approach to personal relationships, has left me strong, but often isolated, alone, and distant. Friends, family, and possible new friends are held at bay by my self-preserving anti-empathy streak. 

That's when I found this Lifehacker video. While I haven't made huge strides (yet) in opening up more and creating a more empathetic aura, it helped me clearly see the difference between empathy and sympathy. Don't know the difference? Go ahead and watch the video!

If you can't watch the video now, here's the nutshell:

"The key to being empathetic is to not judge the other person, or try to paint and unwanted or unhelpful silver lining around their problem, and to instead recognize what they're feeling. You're not trying to solve the problem for them - since often statements usually don't solve problems along - the goal is to let them know you're there and that how they feel matters to you. Doing so, however, requires you be aware of your own emotions and fragilities, which can be hard for many people."

That simple explanation helped me recognize when I avoid personal contact and push people's emotional reactions away. Once labeled, I can now attack this joy-robbing habit of mine and allow me to experience a more fruitful and enriching connection with everyone I meet. 

This is the Secret I've Been Trying to Share with You!

Here's an incredible response I got when I shared this video with an intimate connection of mine:

"How does Tara empathize?

If that is what you're asking, you know the answer - based on your words above... sooo - I'm guessing that isn't the question.

The question is more like... since you (Tara) are less experienced using empathy, you're afraid of being empathetic because you don't want your 'groove' crushed - because you are struggling with so much that you want others to empathize with! ---- Right?

I'm VERY sorry that I've let this sit.

Because, THIS is the 'secret' that I've been trying to share with you for years! :)

Bottom line: by focusing your empathy (and true care and concern) on others, your issues shrink.

It's basic math.

You have a limited amount of capacity in your head to actively 'think' about things... so - a quick list of things you normally focus on:

work work

work work work

Then there is:
Your body
Wiley your cat!

Point is - you can come up with a HUGE list of things to worry about, right?

Now - go back over the list... worry is a waste of time, right? Like 'thinking' about most of those things when you're not actively doing something about them is a waste of time and energy - right? AND it adds stress usually. So you end up thinking and pondering and wondering, and stressing about A, B, and C....

And nothing is being accomplished other than 'stress'...

Well - by focusing on OTHERS, in an empathetic, caring, loving way - you are occupying your mind so you can't worthlessly stress about your 'issues'.

This plays out a lot of ways.

Obviously, you have to focus on your issues in order to improve them - actually put mind power, physical effort, etc... into solving your challenges.

And - It is a waste of time to try to be TOO empathetic too. There are a lot of people out there that did that just too much... right?

On the other hand - if you're so stressed that you're eating too much because you're bored; or you're doing 'unhealthy' things to occupy your hands as you stress about the day's events... Well, instead of that - practice empathy! Stop what you're doing. Realize that you're wasting time stressing about something you can't affect right now... ask - what can you affect right now?


You could channel the energy into something productive that needs to be done for yourself (clean the house, polish your shoes, wash some clothes, etc...)


You could practice empathy (not sympathy).

Find your lover, try to REALLY understand where he is mentally at that moment. Grasp the stresses and anxieties that may have him (or her) in a strangle hold...

Then, by 'getting outside yourself', and 'empathizing with someone else' - you LITERALLY erase YOUR worries! Your mind can only focus on so much at once!! You have the ability to erase the stresses and anxiety you feel, by simply shifting your focus onto someone else.

Ask around, I give some pretty good foot rubs!! By recognizing what I can do (provide a modicum of physical pleasure), and focusing on giving to someone else - my 'worries' are literally washed away!"

Valentine's Day Wishes

I know lots of folks groan and dread V-Day, especially if they are single. But here's a gentle thought, I'd like to leave all of you dear friends with:

Hearts + Roses 

Sunday, February 2, 2014

A Morning on Mt Tabor

I Just Might Make this a Habit....

As I let myself spin and spin Monday through Friday, I started craving another outdoor escape like the amazing hike I took up Powell Butte last weekend. There's something freeing about starting your Saturday outdoors in a totally different environment than I live and breathe in. No laptops, buzzy phones, or shoulder tension (Yes, for some reason I keep trying to fix problems by tightening my muscles. Never works...).

A short drive across the river brought me to Mt Tabor on 60th and Salmon. I looped up the curving driveway past a huge rectangular water reservoir and pulled eagerly into the lot. A 15min hike along steep, winding paths brought me to the top of the Mount - large trees, sweeps of lawn, and plenty of Portland dogs taking the owners for a run.

Overall, I was expecting more views of the City and the east side, but mature trees impeded the site lines. As I looped the park, I imagined carriges, parisols, and top hats, taking in the air and parading around this historic park. How cool to reflect on our PDX ancestors and realize the same trees I was enjoying today cast shadows across their vintage lives! Fresh air and exercise are still just as crucial to our well-balanced lives.

Around 10am, the park really began to fill with joggers. Definitely a running park rather than a hiking park. May have to bring the Nike's out on the next sunny day!

Stay healthy and happy, friends! Comment below and share your latest outdoor exploration.

Letting go of the weight of the world to the sound of chirping birds

Layers of Volcanic Soil Inside Portland's Volcano!

Seriously...did you know Mt Tabor is a volcano?

Original lamp posts! Loving the Art Deco style.

Facilities. Can't get much quainter.

There aren't many places that offer this west-facing view of Portland

Tight cluster of oaks.

Peak of the Mount!

Mossy steps. Don't slip!

Healthy Oregon Grape. Great low-growing, glossy green groundcover.