The Washington and Old Dominion Trail

The beginning: trailhead in Shirlington

The bike ride on the W & OD Trail was everything I had hoped it would be.  The trail stretches 45 miles, from Arlington, Virginia out to Purcellville, where I attended middle and high school.

The end!

I took a Lyft in the morning rush hour from Fairfax to the trailhead, with my friend’s folding bike in the trunk.  At the trailhead, I met up with the cousin of my first-grade best friend, Lisa, who put my suitcase into his trunk and ferried it to Tyson’s Corner during his morning commute to work, then handed it off to Lisa’s husband, who also works in Tyson’s and who lives in Purcellville.  I was so grateful to the three of them for helping me in this creative way to bike without a trailer, and without generating any additional vehicle miles to do so!

Trees, sky, and kudzu in Paeonian Springs

The trail was as beautiful as I had hoped.  After a couple of hours, I stopped for a rest in a lovely park in Vienna, Virginia, and then had lunch at the Sunflower Vegetarian Restaurant.  Afterward I pressed on for about five more hours, under warm but rarely too hot sunshine.  The trail took me across a number of creeks and bridges.  It also took me across an overpass of Route 7, my most familiar childhood highway.  I cannot count the number of times I crossed that overpass, drove under it, or exited the freeway directly before it, over the years, but always in a car. Never had I experienced that place on a bike, until two days ago.  It felt amazing to do so.

Nottoway Park, Vienna
Kale and burdock with tofu and chickpeas
Route 7 overpass

On the way I also discovered a new-to-me snake (almost hit it!), a diminutive and all-green grass snake, who was sunning itself on the pavement of the trail.  I doubled back to try to photograph it, but it had, predictably, already squiggled off the path after its near-death experience.

Shortly thereafter, I rode past a strangely abandoned pair of velvety rose-colored couches and frilly pillows, in a gravel pull-out lot with shattered glass in front of them.  I decided they were bizarre enough to require a glamour-shot selfie, so I turned back to take one.

Toward the end of the trail, I found a low-tech safety mirror at a blind curve, and took a surreal selfie there as well.

Surreal safety mirror at a blind curve near an underpass in Leesburg

Later, after passing my high school and running late to meet my parents, a man in a red, white, and green spandex cycling jersey with the word “Italia” emblazoned upon it—whom I had seen earlier on the trail, traveling the other direction—passed by me, and called out, “Your parents are waiting for you at the end of the trail!”  I was quite surprised—how did he know it was me?—but cheerfully called back, “thank you!” as he receded into the distance.  Sure enough, a few minutes later I hit the end of my journey, and found my parents reading a placard that described the history of the trail.

Made it!!

We went out for a delicious Thai dinner at a local place I found on HappyCow, and then went back to the homestead, where I soon collapsed into bed.

I’m so glad I finally experienced that trail.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Charlottesville and Washington

The journey continues! 

West Virginia countryside

The Cardinal train was an interesting experience.  I definitely enjoyed the scenery, but I found that the physical trains themselves (I took two: one from Chicago to Charlottesville, and the other from Charlottesville to Washington, DC) were a bit unusual.  The dining car was “modified,” meaning no vegan lunch option, no reserved seating, no announcements for meals at all.  There were two “lounges,” but one seemed to have a snack bar that was perpetually closed, and both were much smaller than the panoramic lounge cars on the Superliner trains.  I had thought the Cardinal was a traditional Superliner, but apparently it’s a bit different.

The other thing that surprised me a lot in my sleeper car was that the toilet and sink were right next to the seat/bed!  There were no shared bathrooms in the sleeping-car section, and no shower that I could find, so that was all different.  In some ways I found it more convenient to have the toilet and sink right there, but it also did feel a bit odd to use the toilet directly next to where I was sitting or sleeping.  (And many people travel with two people per roomette, so there could be a privacy issue there!)  In addition, I found that the water pressure from the sink was so high that there was almost no way I could wash my hands or brush my teeth without spraying water all over my seat or bed and belongings, which was less than ideal.

Overall, I prefer the west-of-Chicago Superliner trains I have experienced.  But, I’m glad I finally got to experience the Cardinal.  I did eat dinner the first night, and had a nice conversation with someone from Cincinnati.  On the Charlottesville-to-DC leg of the trip, I took Business Class since it was only a three-hour trip, and had a lovely conversation with my seatmate from Lowell, Massachusetts.  She and I talked about staying in touch.

In Charlottesville, I had a wonderful time, staying with a friend of a friend who has spent her entire career working on clean-water issues, for the nation via the Clean Water Act (all the way back to when Nixon signed it into law in the 1970s) as well as more recently in her surrounding area.  She drove me all around the Charlottesville area, and I was reminded of why people say Virginia is one of the most beautiful states in the union.  After the incredible beauty of the arid western states on the train, the rolling hills of West Virginia (on the Cardinal train) and the areas around Charlottesville were a completely different kind of natural wonder.  The trees were just starting to turn, and it felt like I had arrived during a magical moment in time.

Light parting the clouds in Albemarle County outside Charlottesville

The other big highlight of my Charlottesville stay was on Saturday, when I reconnected with a friend I knew from 20 years ago in Portland. We were both native Virginians, but found ourselves living in the same apartment building in SE Portland… and later discovered we were born only two days apart, in the same year!  She and her husband and 12-year-old son, neither of whom I had yet met, drove several hours from their home southwest of Charlottesville, to pick me up there, and then we drove about another hour and a half to see Luray Caverns.  I had visited that place at age six, with my grandmother and my two-year-old sister, and found it captivating.  When I realized the train would be going near there on this trip, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to relive some childhood magic.

Reflective lake inside the cavern

The caverns did not disappoint; they were just as breathtaking as I had remembered from 40 years ago.  I’m so glad I got to go!  I also enjoyed the time I spent with my friend and her family, as well as dinner with their extended family on the way back home. 

The wishing well!
The Stalacpipe Organ!

Then, yesterday, I boarded the train in the afternoon, and disembarked at Washington’s Union Station in the evening.  I made my way to my friend’s home in Fairfax, Virginia, which took nearly two hours via the Metro subway.  But she picked me up at the station to drive me the last segment of the journey.  I got to meet her two chihuahuas, which continued the theme of adorable pets across the country.  (A snuggly cat in San Francisco, an energetic beagle in Denver, two huge fluffy cats in Chicago, and a snuggly poodle and enthusiastic miniature schnauzer in Charlottesville.)

Union Station, Washington, DC

After dinner at the nearby vegan-friendly Silver Diner, we called it a night.  This morning, after she left for work, I headed back into DC.  First I went to the always incredible NuVegan Café (if you ever find yourself in Washington, do not miss it!!) where I ran into a friend who lives just a few blocks away from NuVegan, but who had returned only yesterday from a two-week trip to Portugal, Spain, and Morocco!  I expected that she would be sleeping all day, but no, there she was in the café.  We got to catch up a bit, before I headed out again, on foot, to the stalwart Sticky Fingers Bakery.  I devoured a mocha cupcake on the spot, and bought a few treats for later, and then caught a bus to the National Cathedral.  Wow!  The architecture, both inside and out, was incredible.  There was a choir of teenagers practicing inside, which made the place even more magical.  I sat in a pew for a while and soaked it all in, then toured the rest of the place.

The National Cathedral
One of many amazing views from inside the cathedral

The light was about to start fading, and I needed to practice assembling and riding the folding bike my host will be graciously lending me tomorrow for my epic ride of the 40-mile W & OD Trail, so I began the long process of returning to Fairfax.  (This trip involved two buses, a train, and a Lyft, and totaled more than two hours.)  In the Metro station in the city, I noticed someone distinctive-looking whom I had glimpsed on a prior vacation in a completely different locale, but had never spoken with.  I introduced myself, and we had a wonderful chat for the next half-hour or so on the train, until his stop. He said he had been having a stressful and unpleasant day at work, so it lifted his spirits to be “found” by a near-stranger.  We took a selfie, and each left the interaction with a smile.

Inside a Metro station

So much magic on this trip.

I’m going to turn in now, so that I can wake up in time to be fresh for my bike ride!

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Regaining the flow in Chicago

Waterfall at Anderson Gardens

Chicago has been wonderful so far!  I am staying with warm and fascinating friends of a friend in a historic building within the beautiful Hyde Park neighborhood.  I spent all of yesterday with a dear friend exploring the Anderson Gardens and the Chicago Botanic Garden (which also contains a beautiful Japanese garden.)  In between, we had another delicious meal at the newly relocated, all vegan Kitchen 17.  (When I saw that they had a cheeseburger pizza, I was reminded of the wonderful offering at Rudy’s Pizza in Portland, so I knew that’s what we had to order!)

Anderson Gardens
Chicago Botanic Garden
Chicago Botanic Garden
Cheeseburger pizza at Kitchen 17

The weather has been predictably humid, but not as hot as I had feared.  Last night we had a rain- and thunderstorm, so I am definitely getting my fill of those!  The moisture in the air has actually been a welcome counterpoint to the aridness of Denver.  The two gardens we visited were large and gave an all-encompassing feel.  We weren’t able to cover the whole botanic garden, but the parts that we saw were absolutely wonderful, and the trees and open areas surrounding each separate garden gave a holistic magical feel to the whole place.

My mood is much improved. I have been able to catch up on some sleep, and I got wonderful news from Johnny: not only did his stressful situation get reversed, but almost exactly on the one-year anniversary of the garden’s first NBC news coverage (their first national coverage) he learned that NBC News will be filming a TV segment about the now-nearly-completed garden on September 27th!

The flow keeps flowing.  I’m looking forward to visiting more parks and restaurants today (hopefully including a third Japanese garden, in nearby Jackson Park) and then making my way back to Union Station to board another new-to-me train, and head into Charlottesville!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Shifting external and internal landscapes

Denver was a quieter, more relaxing stop, which was just what I needed.

The train trip between the Bay Area and Denver was beyond breathtaking.  I could scarcely believe what I was seeing out the windows.  I understand why people call this the most beautiful line in the system. I’m including a few of the photos in this post; to see more, feel free to follow me on Instagram (@dreamintochange). 

I did my best to stay present with myself and my surroundings on that leg of the journey, but I admit I was somewhat glued to my camera, and even when I put it away, I could feel the “pressure” to enjoy all the scenery in each moment, while I could.  I did have some good conversations with dining and lounge car companions.  (One such fellow told me that he thought the Cardinal line—the one I will board next—is actually the most beautiful line in the system, surpassing even the Zephyr.  Wow!)  But despite my pronounced lack of sleep these past two weeks or so, I didn’t dare to nap for more than a few minutes, for fear of missing more spectacular views.

We even had a thunder, lightning, and heavy rain storm right before our arrival, which actually delayed our arrival by about 15 minutes.

But when I disembarked in Denver, the storm subsided, and I began to enjoy some nice downtime.  I stayed with the relative of a friend, in the northern suburbs, and got to spend time with his adorable beagle, and walking along the beautiful giant-cottonwood-lined trail behind his home.

I got a good night’s sleep in a non-moving bed, and the next day we headed out to Watercourse, possibly Denver’s best-known vegan restaurant.  I had a delicious skillet meal for breakfast.  Then we proceeded to the Denver Botanic Gardens.  It was a huge place, filled with a profusion of flowers and exotic plants, and there wasn’t time to see it all, but we enjoyed the tropical and Japanese gardens in particular.

On our way back to spend more time with the dog, we stopped at Beet Box, an all vegan bakery, where I grabbed a cinnamon roll and chocolate croissant to enjoy later.

The rest of the afternoon was spent in quiet reverie, which gave me time to rest my mind and enjoy the journey so far.

In the evening, we headed back downtown to the train station.  Sadly, a few years ago the station was sold to a swanky hotel, whose designers gutted the original station, keeping the rail aesthetic but replacing most of the practical infrastructure with expensive restaurants and bars, and relegating the Amtrak office to a small, hidden corner.  This was sad, but I had to admit that the building remained majestic, inside and out.

The remainder of this portion of my trip, to Chicago (where I will be disembarking in about an hour) has also been quiet, and slightly less idyllic than the earlier part.

This particular train set, for example, seems to be older than the one from the day before.  It sounds more rattle-y.  I got thrown around in my bunk more last night (probably also because this time I was on the upper level); I actually awoke with some fright more than once during the night, hoping we would be able to stay on the rails.  Fortunately, we did.

But we had another deluge + electrical storm (definitely fun for this Virginia-raised gal who has gone without such storms for almost 30 years in Portland) on this train, and I found that all the couplings between the cars had begun dripping heavily afterward, falling onto passengers as we walked through, and leaving dangerously slick puddles on the floors. 

Further, my roomette was too cold for comfort last night, and the single thin blanket was not enough to keep me warm.  I didn’t want to disturb the attendant at a late hour by asking for another blanket, so I toughed it out, but this did not make for a restful sleep.  I recalled the advice I received on one of my first long-distance train trips, nearly 20 years ago, and stuffed my towel into the overhead vent that was blowing cold air and could not be closed… but that was a minimal help as well, since it could not be completely covered.

Meanwhile, my mind briefly slipped out of “vacation mode” and found things to worry about: payroll at my employer, which I would need to handle remotely; bad news I had just received via email from my partner Johnny about a seemingly crushing setback he has encountered in his work on the prison healing garden; worries about the state of the world, and my place in it…

This is a major journey I am undertaking.  It makes sense that I would experience a variety of physical, mental, and emotional states along the way.  I am perhaps one-third of the way through this trip.  I continue to read “Planetwalker,” by John Francis, and marvel at the geographic and spiritual journey that he describes.  I know that everything I experience on this trip, whether blissful or painful, is a part of my journey, and a part of my human condition.

I await my next chapter with curiosity.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

First leg: Southward to the San Francisco Bay

This trip has been absolutely magical so far.  In southern Oregon, I had a wonderful conversation in the sightseer lounge car, with a woman from Corvallis. We looked out upon rain-soaked late-September trees in the fading golden light, then watched as our surroundings turned into misty dusk, punctuated by lightning strikes, and a crimson sunset behind the trees.  The feeling was breathtaking, and despite my best efforts to capture it on camera, as always, it simply wasn’t possible to convey anywhere near the full sense of in-the-moment majesty.

My new friend and I discussed rail travel, and how much we enjoy it compared to air travel.  However, she told me about her knowledge of the original rail barons of the United States, describing them as “despicable people” for a number of reasons, with obscenely concentrated wealth which, to their partial credit, some of them donated to create Stanford University and the amazing Huntington Library and gardens in Pasadena, the latter of which I thoroughly enjoyed visiting a few years ago.  (Apparently one of these rail magnates married a woman 30 years his junior, and when he later died, she married his son, continuing the concentration of wealth within the family.) 

The next morning, at breakfast in the dining car, I was seated with a couple from Louisville, Kentucky, taking the Coast Starlight for their first time.  Somehow we got onto the topic of environmental destruction and deforestation, and the husband shared some disturbing information I had not known (and I have not verified this yet, but I do plan to look into it).  He said that most of the eastern United States’ old growth forest was “ruthlessly deforested” largely by these people who built up the rail system.  In order to lay all the track to build their new lines, they needed staggering amounts of board feet for rail ties.  Rail ties (which are now sometimes made from concrete rather than wood) must be perfectly square, so they needed to be cut from the center of a tree trunk.  Huge swaths of old-growth forest, from Maine to Florida, were destroyed, my dining companion told me, to build this infrastructure.

He also shared that the owners of these rail companies who were building the tracks grew to hold so much wealth and power that they began to print their own currency, and they would pay rail workers who were building the tracks—in then-remote-locations—with their own currency, so that the workers would have to purchase everything they needed to live from the “company store,” which of course further served to concentrate their employers’ wealth.  Once the workers moved back to their home locations, they could choose to swap out the currency for US dollars, but the exchange rate was abysmal.

It gave me pause to realize, or perhaps I should say to be reminded, that the infrastructure for this form of transportation I love so much came at significant social and environmental costs.  I had already been aware of the exploitation of Chinese laborers to build the railroads in the West, but I hadn’t been aware of these other aspects of the construction, and I am sure there are more of which I am still unaware.  I am now curious to do some research about these particular four rail magnates who were responsible for building most of the initial infrastructure for freight and passenger train travel in the United States.

After I left the train, though, my magical trip continued.  I took a Lyft to the Redwood Regional Park in Oakland, and walked among giants both evergreen and deciduous for about two hours, leaving my sandaled feet thoroughly dusty.

Then I headed up to Berkeley on the BART train to meet my old Portland friend Joanna (who, I remembered, also grew up in northern Virginia, near my old orthodontist’s office).  We shared a delicious lunch at acclaimed vegan restaurant The Butcher’s Son, and then we explored the botanical garden on the UC Berkeley campus.

Afterward, I said goodbye to Joanna and headed west on the BART to San Francisco, where I met up with my childhood friend Kristin.  Her mother had taught me to swim at age 6, and later her mother became my high school guidance counselor.  I had spent childhood summer days at the local shady swimming pool with Kristin and both of our younger sisters.  I hadn’t seen her for nearly 20 years, back when she had also been living in Portland and we surprised each other—in pre-Facebook days—by running into each other out and about.

She had a further surprise for me: another of our childhood neighbors, Jim—whom I had not seen since at least 1990, if not before—now lives a few blocks away from her in the midst of this metropolis. We all met up for a drink, and reminisced about Mrs. Johnson’s folk song instruction and ukulele lessons, among other things.  I ended the evening by looking out from Kristin’s balcony over a beautiful night cityscape.

This morning I made my way via Lyft and BART to the Emeryville Amtrak station, and I am currently in my berth aboard the long-awaited Zephyr!  I hope to catch a few winks on this train, since I haven’t slept properly in weeks… but I also want to make sure to catch the upcoming views.  I’m sure I’ll find a way.

Onward to Denver!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

My epic cross-country train trip

It’s been a while since I have written here.  I judge myself, sometimes, for my lack of discipline in keeping up this blog.  And then, sometimes, I am able to instead empathize with myself—to recognize the obstacles that get in my way, and also celebrate all the other ways I choose to spend my time and energy instead—and just let things be as they are.

But I feel drawn to write now.  I am embarking on a journey I wish to document and share.  Many of you know how much I love train travel.  For the past year and a half, I have been dreaming up the trip that I am just now beginning.  (As I type, on Thursday evening, September 5th, I am sitting in the Sightseer Lounge car on the Amtrak Coast Starlight train, with panoramic views of the Willamette Valley countryside.  It is beautiful.  Dry at this point in the season, with the trees just beginning to change color.)

I have crossed the country by train before, more than once, on the Empire Builder. (The colonialism/manifest destiny of that name now makes me wince, whereas initially when I took it to my ten-year high school reunion back in 2000, I was enthralled by the implied power and adventure in it.)  That route stretches from the Pacific Northwest across the top of the nation, through scenery including the breathtaking Glacier National Park, all the way to Chicago.  In Chicago I transferred to the Capitol Limited, which took me through Pennsylvania and West Virginia to Washington, DC.

I wanted to try something different this time.  I had heard the name of the fabled California Zephyr, described by many as the most beautiful route of the 15 in the Amtrak long-distance-train system.  I had taken the Coast Starlight to southern California several times, and absolutely loved the views.  And I wanted to try a new way to get between Chicago and the DC area, so I looked up the Cardinal, which goes through Indiana, Ohio, and West Virginia. 

I also wanted to see various sights across the country, and visit various friends and family members.  I had seen Luray Caverns, in Virginia, with my grandmother at age 6, and it had mesmerized me.  I wanted to see it again!  I also wanted to bicycle a rails-to-trails project, the Washington & Old Dominion (W & OD) Trail, which opened when I was about 8 or 10.  It ran from Washington, DC, out to Purcellville, the small rural town where I was to attend middle and high school.  At the time, I had never heard of the rails-to-trails concept, but I thought it sounded cool.  My family lived out in the country, without bikes, so it didn’t occur to me as something that I could personally use, but I liked knowing that it existed, and that some adults in the area apparently enjoyed biking and/or walking along it.

When I moved to Portland in 1990 to go to college, it only took a few years before I adopted the city’s bicycling ethos and took up cycling as my main form of transportation.  Every time I would go back home to visit my parents (who still live in the old stone farmhouse they bought in its shambles state the summer before I was born in 1972, and spent decades lovingly restoring) I would think to myself, “Hey, I ought to bike that W & OD Trail one of these days!”

But I never did, because I never had a bike when I was back there.  I decided that this trip would be the perfect time to prioritize it.  (More on the amazing logistical details in a future post!)

I’ve also grown obsessed with Japanese gardens, ever since my remarkable partner Johnny decided, more than five years ago, to build one inside the maximum-security prison where he resides.  In that span of time, as I have watched and supported his efforts to bring the garden to fruition (it’s nearly there now) I have made a point to visit at least a dozen Japanese gardens, around the United States and Canada.  This trip seemed like a perfect opportunity to see several more, and to revisit one that was built by the same world-renowned Japanese garden designer, Hoichi Kurisu, who has partnered with Johnny to build the prison garden.

I also have cultivated a love of botanical gardens over the past few years, and I plan to see several of those as well.

So… this feels like a trip of a lifetime.  My hope is that I will fully enjoy every moment riding the rails—drinking in the scenery, meeting interesting strangers, enjoying the vegan dining-car meals I worked hard to secure—as well as fully enjoy all the cities and towns I visit, and the friends, family, and strangers I connect with along the way.  I also hope that I may be able to inspire someone reading this, whether to take a train trip of your own, or to work toward realizing some other travel or life goal.  (And, as always, I am here to support any such endeavors if you need some co-brainstorming, strategizing, or emotional support of any kind.)

My intention is to post regular updates here, detailing how the trip is progressing.  Thank you for following along with me!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

How to use Tinder (without losing your soul)

(Note: This is a piece I wrote for another site, and I wanted to share it here as well. So many of us struggle to find meaningful connections; I hope some of you will find this useful.)

Here we are, 2019. So many technological tools for connection… and yet a large percentage of the population feels isolated, lonely, and touch-starved. We want love, we want sex, and it seems like those two things (separately or together) should be pretty easy to come by. But for those of us who are living consciously, trying to stay connected to our hearts and our integrity, those two basic human needs can feel tragically out of reach.

I’ve been using Tinder, and similar apps, for a couple of years now. In that time, I have made a few great connections. I’ve also, at times, experienced brushes with the depths of despair, both from my own interactions (or a painful lack thereof) on these apps, and from the stories and social media postings of friends who are similarly struggling.

Many of my friends are now considering signing up for the apps for the first time, and many have expressed trepidation about “how to do it.” I also know people who have tried to use the apps, but have been so unsuccessful in their goals that they have quit after a short period.

In my trials and tribulations, I have noticed some consistent “problem patterns” among users, and I have felt the difference that certain approaches can make. My intent in writing this piece is to help others to navigate the world of dating apps as effectively as possible. (I will use the name “Tinder” here, but my suggestions will apply equally to any similar dating apps.)

Ready to dive in? Let’s begin!

The first step is to get very clear on what kind(s) of connections you are seeking. Are you looking for a long-term, monogamous partner? (Yes, some people do use Tinder—successfully!—to find such relationships.) Are you looking for short-term connections? A summer fling? Multiple partners? Fun dates while traveling? A committed, but open, relationship? Whatever it may be, first identify your ideal connection in the present moment, and then consider what other kinds of connections you might also be open to.

After you are clear about what you’re seeking, it’s time to put together your profile. First, choose photos. Plan to upload at least five, so that people can see you from a variety of angles, and in a variety of contexts. Avoid sunglasses in most photos; let people see your eyes. Make sure all photos are recent. A good guideline is within the past 2-3 years. If you are self-conscious about how you look, compared to how you looked in older photos, remind yourself that whoever you are seeking is going to need to be attracted to the current you, so make sure you give them accurate information to help them decide. Make some effort to find flattering photos. If you don’t have many, maybe take some new selfies, or ask a friend to take some photos of you. Before you hit the “upload” button, take a look at each photo, and see if your facial expression is a good one for attracting the kind of person(s) you are seeking. Maybe ask a close friend or two to take a look and offer their feedback on your pictures.

Now, write your bio. Do not skip this step. Many people—myself included—make a policy of never swiping right on someone without a bio, because it comes across as aloof, arrogant, lazy, and/or secretive… as well as simply not giving people enough information about you to know whether you might be a good fit. (And for that matter, I do recommend swiping left on people who haven’t made the effort to do this. Whenever I have made an exception to my rule because the person looks so attractive or interesting in their photos, I have always—every single time—found myself disappointed in the ensuing conversation.)

The text field is pretty small. Use it wisely; don’t waste space writing things like, “Does anyone even read these things?” or “I’m terrible at this stuff. If you want to know anything, just ask.” Make the effort to be as thorough as possible, in the limited space, about what is unique to you, and exactly what you are seeking. It’s best to use positive language (“I’m looking for a long-term relationship”) rather than negative (“Not looking for hookups!”) That said, it’s OK to list deal breakers (“no smokers, please”) to respect everyone’s time. Spend roughly half the space describing yourself, and the other half describing the kind of person(s) you are looking for.

Once you have uploaded your text and photos, you are ready to begin searching for connections! As you begin, remember that each photo/bio on this app represents an actual human being: a person as real and complex as you, who is also seeking connection. Sadly, many factors in our society—including widespread trauma—can lead people to show up on dating apps reflecting less than their full, beautiful human selves. This can be painful to witness and feel as you browse the apps. But, it is an important practice to remind ourselves of each other’s humanity, so that we can enjoy the process as much as possible, and be as successful as possible in finding our optimal connection(s).

The most important principle to follow—even though it can be difficult to remember in our fast-paced, phone-addicted world—is, Don’t swipe absent-mindedly or half-heartedly. Before you open the app each time, take a few moments to close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, and feel into the kind of connection you are seeking. Maybe picture someone who would be an ideal connection for you. Take a moment to really feel the way you imagine feeling in the presence of this person. Maybe imagine doing whatever things you are wanting to do with a Tinder connection, with this imaginary ideal person. Only after you have spent a few moments doing this, and have really felt the positive feelings you are seeking from Tinder connections… open the app.

As you begin to browse, feel for the energy of each person you see. Swipe right only if you feel that this person could genuinely be a good fit for what you are seeking. Also, don’t swipe right until you read their bio. There may be a deal-breaker in there, and if there is, it will be less potentially hurtful for the other person if you don’t match to start with.

Once you find a match, take a moment to look back through the person’s photos and bio. Feel into who they seem to be, and what you find attractive about them. Then, send them a message. Don’t play games by waiting for them to contact you first. This is not a power struggle; it’s an effort to find intimacy of some kind. Be proactive. Be vulnerable. Make the first move. In the message, start with a compliment about something you saw and/or read. Ideally, include both a visual compliment and a personality-based one. (“I love your smile! And it looks like you enjoy bicycling as much as I do.”) Of course, any visual compliments should be respectful and not vulgar. Keep the first message brief, but end with a question or something the person can respond to. (“What are you most excited about these days?” “Have you been enjoying this beautiful summer weather?” Or, if possible, ask something related to their stated or depicted interests, especially if those interests overlap with yours.)

If they don’t respond, try not to take it personally. Remember that not everyone uses Tinder in a conscientious way; some people swipe right carelessly, looking for matches merely as ego boosts, or simply swiping on photos they like, without looking at bios for deal-breakers. If someone doesn’t respond to your initial message, trust that they are not a good fit for you, and move on.

If they do respond, you will probably get an immediate gut reaction as to whether you might get along. When you read their message, do you feel a spark of excitement? A sense of warmth? Or a feeling of disappointment, because they didn’t match your warm, interactive tone? If you get a bad feeling for any reason, it’s probably best not to pursue the connection. You can either politely let them know you don’t think it’s a good fit (“Sorry, I’m getting the feeling we won’t be a good match. Thanks for the conversation, and I wish you the best in your search!”) or, if their response was minimal, just let it drop. Use your instinct about which is more appropriate in any given case: saying “goodbye” can be overkill if the two of you have interacted very minimally… but on the other hand, using dating apps can feel very isolating, with people starting connections and then disappearing; so a brief “thanks for this, and I wish you all the best” can go a long way—for both parties—toward humanizing the process. (Of course, listen to your gut and respect your own boundaries. If someone speaks to you in a disrespectful way, you owe them absolutely nothing, so feel free to un-match, block, and/or report anyone at any time.)

If you find that you and a match have been chatting for an amount of time that leads you to want to meet up, ask if they would like to meet up. (Again, don’t play games by waiting to see if they will ask first.) A good way to do this is to say, “I’m really enjoying our conversation so far. Would you like to meet up sometime, to see how we feel in person?” If you like, you can be more specific: suggest coffee, lunch, a happy hour drink, or maybe a walk.

If you do agree to meet up, follow basic safety precautions: Meet in a public place, maybe let a friend know you’re going on a Tinder date.

When you meet in person, treat it like any other date: Do your best to relax and be yourself. Ask questions, and listen as much as you talk. The two of you can decide from there if you are a good fit, and if you would like to get together again.

If the answer is yes, congratulations! You’ve made a Tinder connection! If the answer is no… well, congratulations, too, because you still made it through the process, and you can now go back and repeat the process, until you do find a good fit. Persistence in the process is essential, which is why it is crucial to remain connected to your sense of both your own and others’ humanity. To a large extent, dating is a numbers game. For every successful connection, there will be a few dates that don’t go as well as you had wished. For every date you set up, there will be other matches who won’t make it to the date-scheduling phase. For every match you get, there will be some who don’t swipe right back on you. So… do your best to stay present, to stay connected to your felt-sense of what you are looking for, to enjoy the process, and to honor your own, and others’, humanity as you interact.

ps. I love working with people one-on-one to help them find the kind of connections they are seeking. If you’d like to schedule a free, no-obligation 30-minute phone call to see if we might be a good fit to work together on this, please contact me to set up a time!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Partnership for Safety and Justice benefit


I have long been a supporter of the work of the Partnership for Safety and Justice. This Oregon nonprofit takes a holistic—while also unapologetically political—approach to criminal justice reform, focusing both on pragmatic support for crime victims, and a humanistic approach to offenders and their rehabilitation, for the benefit of the entire community. Members of PSJ have met with my partner Johnny at the Oregon State Penitentiary to talk about criminal justice reform in general, and his prison healing garden in particular. The organization also recently featured the complex and nuanced story of my friend Rebecca, who in her family has experienced both sides of the victim/offender perspectives.

In these waning days of 2018, I am offering a benefit for PSJ, donating 20% of proceeds from any Happy to Listen or Dream Into Change session that is scheduled and paid for by the end of the year. The actual sessions can happen later, if need be, by phone, Skype, or in person here in Portland. As usual, this is a sliding-scale benefit, so you can pay whatever rate feels good and workable for you, and 20% of whatever you pay will go to PSJ. Sessions can be 20 minutes, 30 minutes, 60 minutes, or 90 minutes.

The end of the year is a great time to speak out loud your feelings about the previous year, as well as to set intentions for the coming year or begin new projects.

Feel free to call or message me to schedule a session, and please also share this with anyone you know who could use some empathy and/or strategic support, and who might want to support intelligent and compassionate criminal justice reform.

Happy almost-2019!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Please vote!! and a MoveOn.org benefit for November

I’ll keep this brief. I’m sure I don’t need to tell anyone reading this that our nation, and our world, are at a political crisis point. The US midterm election is less than a week away, and its results could have catastrophic consequences for numerous marginalized groups of people, as well as our natural environment, for years or decades to come.

So, three things from me:

  • Please, please, please vote. And please encourage your friends and others to do so, in person and/or via social media, lawn signs, door-to-door canvassing, street-level actions (alone or in a group)… etc.
  • I recently learned of a peer-to-peer texting-based Get Out the Vote campaign by MoveOn.org. I plan to sign up and spend a view hours texting targeted progressive voters. If this type of activism appeals to you, you can learn more at https://front.moveon.org/join-moveon-text-team/
  • I have always appreciated the work of MoveOn, in all their various campaigns. I am going to support them financially with a benefit this month: For any Happy to Listen or Dream Into Change session scheduled and paid for between now and Election Day on November 6th, I will donate 20% to MoveOn.org. (The session can take place later if need be; it just must be scheduled and paid for by the 6th.) I want anyone to be able to participate, so this will be a sliding-scale/pay-what-you-can session, but 20% of whatever you pay will go to MoveOn. This is a great time to brainstorm a campaign or project you may have been toying with, and/or to speak out loud any hopes, fears, anger, or other emotions that might be keeping you up at night in this fraught time. I am here to listen and offer emotional and/or strategic support.

May we all move forward together, toward a better world.

Posted in Life coaching for a better world | Tagged | Leave a comment

October benefit for assault survivors

Wow. What a week. As we all reel from the activity in the United States Senate these past few days, I have felt a groundswell of emotion all over my social media feeds. People of conscience—particularly women and sexual assault survivors—are both horrified and incensed. This feels to me like a pivotal moment in our culture. I am hoping and trusting that whatever the outcome for the Supreme Court (and of course I am hoping against hope that by the end of this process we will end up with someone who will take our nation forward, not backward) that at the very least, women and sexual assault survivors will be more heard and respected from this moment on. This is so, so far past due, and I feel the momentum building unmistakably.

I feel drawn to make my own small personal contribution to the cause by offering a sliding-scale benefit for the first week of October. For any Happy to Listen or Dream Into Change session scheduled and prepaid (at whatever rate is affordable to any given client, no minimum nor maximum) I will donate 20% to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) for their work in supporting survivors. The session itself—by phone or Skype, or in person if you’re in Portland—can take place during this week or later.

If you wish to just talk or vent, on any level, to someone who will listen fully andrespectfully, this is an opportunity to do so. If you have an idea for a project or political campaign to shift our cultural reality, this is an opportunity for bouncing ideas, co-brainstorming, and/or resource-gathering. For more details about what to expect in a session, see http://happytolisten.com/expect.html and/or www.dreamintochange.com/page-2/

Thank you to all of you, for everything that you are doing to shift our culture forward. We can, and will, make change away from violence and oppression, toward mutual support and respect.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment