Maren

The poignance of my plasma practice

6/30/23

This has been a challenging post to write. I’ve been dreaming it up, yet putting it off, for days. It’s after midnight now, and following another six hours of active procrastination, I’m going to take a stab at it. It feels somehow important for me to share, but also vulnerable, as well as difficult to convey. I’ve actually been thinking I’d like to write more “meaningful” posts like this, but the amount of cognitive and emotional energy they take to create (relative to journal/travelogue-style posts) is daunting, to say the least.

Anyway, here goes. This will be imperfect. That’s OK.

I’ve been selling my plasma, off and on, since February. (They call it “donating,” presumably for legal reasons, but they pay you for it, which is why most of us do it, so… it’s selling.)

Doing so has opened up many new worlds for me. Some have been painful and some have been wonderful.

To start with, I was scared. I don’t like to have needles stuck into me. And what if my body could be somehow harmed, or weakened, by doing this?

And… was this what my life had come to? Reaching the end of one’s financial rope to this point carries a certain stigma. In fact, I still remember the remark of my boyfriend of the late 1990s, commenting on the advertising choices of the plasma centers who advertised with placards inside city buses at the time: “Give red blood! Get green money!” (The ads—drawings—showed red “love hearts” next to fists holding green dollar bills.) He was making a commentary about how advertisers attempted to reach people in poverty. I remember thinking, at the time, about how desperate people must be to open up their veins for cash.

And here I am, now.

I had spent an amazing year traveling exactly as I had dreamed, around the US and Canada, by train and bicycle, seeing beautiful sights, meeting amazing people, and reveling in beautiful weather, for an entire twelve months. I financed it with my savings, with an awareness that those funds would probably only last for that one year. Before I left—and as I traveled that loop—I would sometimes say to people that I was taking a leap of faith into the unknown, and that doing so would somehow “catapult” me into whatever the next phase of my life would be. After 18 years at an unfulfilling job, I was ready to leave the 9-to-5, hopefully for good.

Upon my return to Portland last September, though, I still wasn’t entirely sure what that next phase would be. I began living as a full-time cat sitter, first for no pay but just in exchange for places to stay, and now incorporating paid sits wherever I can, to supplement the income. I’m still doing some life—and now travel—coaching, though I now often offer these for free or by donation, since I believe they are a big part of my life’s calling, and that method seems to feel better to me than the traditional pay-for-service model.

In the spring, I began tutoring English online, for Cambly, which has definitely added some stability to my income, despite its rock-bottom pay rate of $10.20 per hour. (And recently I have found that I can’t always count on calls to come in when I’m logged in. The past three weeks have been painful in that regard, with my earnings roughly two-thirds of my budgeted projections.)

I’m still receiving donations from well-wishers, whether one-time or ongoing via Patreon (huge thank you to all my Patreon supporters!) and I’m still inspired by my idea of fairy godfunding, and believe that more of that may flow my way, as I use my newfound time to practice becoming the best, healthiest version of myself, and take whatever opportunities I find to pay it forward via emotional support to people whose visions and projects inspire me. I truly believe my best and highest use of my limited life energy is to give freely of that wherever I feel called to do so, and to trust that the money I need to live will come to me in some way.

But plasma has been an important part of my financial “planning” this past winter and spring, too, and I’m coming back to it now in summer, after a brief hiatus. The special bone-strengthening gym I have begun attending costs $149 per month. That is nowhere in my current budget, so I decided to prioritize my osteoporotic bones by going back to the plasma center three or four times per month, to cover this cost.

Some of the unexpected benefits of doing so have been the beautiful parks I have found in and around the Portland suburb of Vancouver, Washington where the plasma center is situated. Just the other day, I found some breathtakingly enchanted scenery in a small, nondescript park that was barely on the map, as I pedaled past it on my way to a larger park I had chosen to explore after plasma.

Sitting on shady benches in beautiful parks like this on sunny days is one of my top priorities in life these days—which I crystallized for myself almost exactly a year ago, in Montreal on the 4th of July—so I’m always delighted when I find new local parks to enjoy.

As I continue to experience life in more and more beautiful and creative ways, I continue to lean into visual metaphors. (I hope to turn some of these into visual art soon, and I also have a dream of becoming a muse to a talented musician—ideally a progressive rock musician—who can turn some of these beautiful themes of humanity into powerful music that can reach a segment of the population. But I digress.)

One such metaphor is that of a being of love and light, reclining in the curved, contoured plasma bed (use your imagination to visualize a plush Victorian fainting couch, or something similar from a Renaissance-era painting) simply relaxing and being, without hustle or stress… while blood—the fluid from the actual, physical human heart—makes its way out of that being’s body and into a metaphorical healing pool for the human collective.

I mean… wow.

“Give red blood… get green money,” yes… but also… this. (It beats the hell out of typing up helium invoices.)

It’s all in the perspective.

One motivator for me to write this post happened the other day, as I was reclining in one of those beds.

While you’re hooked up to the machine, you have to squeeze your fist a good deal of the time, to keep the blood flowing. This can be uncomfortable, especially for someone like me with mid-length fingernails. The plasma techs often offer to bring you something to squeeze. What they give you is the cardboard core of the Ace bandage tape that they use to wrap up your elbow when you’re done. My first time, I appreciated this, but I soon discovered that after only a few minutes of squeezing, the cylinder collapses and becomes markedly less helpful and comfortable. Still, I always request one, because it’s better than going without.

When I asked for one the other day, I was amazed when the tech handed me a hand-made “deluxe” version: someone had stuffed two additional, collapsed, cardboard cores into it to provide structural integrity. (In fact, it called to mind the rebuilding of bone that I hope is happening during my OsteoStrong workouts.) In addition, they had left on a few layers of the Ace bandage, giving the whole contraption a better grip and cushion.

My mind was kind of blown.

As the plasma drained from me, and my mind grew mildly fuzzy as my blood pressure dropped slightly, I mused on this.

Someone had realized the limitations of the traditional squeeze object.

That person had taken it upon themselves to design and engineer a significantly better “product.”

Then they had taken it upon themselves to actually make one or more of these, using the materials at hand, during their incredibly minimal downtime.

The unexpected human ingenuity and kindness of it nearly made me tear up.

When another tech came by to check on me, I realized I could also put my gratitude into practice by commenting on this “product.” I told her I’d like to thank whoever made it, partly to show gratitude and partly to encourage whoever had made it to continue doing so.

The tech suggested that I take it home with me, so that I could use it again next time! (“Or you could ask the person next time to make you another one like it.”)

Wow!

That never would have occurred to me, but it made perfect sense. I pocketed my new treasure at the end of the session, and used it again the next time.

But my “plasma practice” hasn’t all been rosy.

I have noticed that it has brought up a certain amount of fear and shame, too.

Fear and shame. The ever-present foes, always seeming to lurk under the surface of even the most joyful times, which most of my life is these days.

But it’s good to have opportunities to transmute them. And I have been doing so.

I have had fears of bodily harm. More than once I have felt woozy after donating. On one occasion I mentioned this to the tech when they asked how I felt at the end, and they seemed to take my comments alarmingly seriously, calling over a nurse who stayed by the bed with me for ten or fifteen minutes, taking and re-taking my vitals and showing alarm at my pulse rate and blood pressure, and then finally releasing me after making me eat a snack and drink a bottle of Gatorade, after which my vitals returned to normal.

I wondered if there was something wrong with me. Was I too small, too frail somehow…? (They check your weight ahead of time, so I wasn’t too small. But after my year of travels, a sense of diminishing physical strength had seemed to creep up on me, and a quiet sense of alarm and dread began whispering to me from the depths of my psyche. Was I somehow starting to waste away, in some kind of permanent decline?)

I had shame, too, about having “come to this.” Shouldn’t I be more successful in life? How could this be me at age 50? (My preteen self would have imagined me at this age as a successful psychotherapist in private practice.) Wasn’t my epic journey supposed to catapult me into doing something orders of magnitude more enjoyable—and laudable—than this?

The fear and the shame seemed to reach a joint climax one day in April.

I had a day to myself, and no pet care responsibilities for a few days.

I decided it was time for a conscious psychedelic experience.

I don’t use psychedelics often, but I like to use them at times for mind expansion and a sense of tuning into larger “messages.”

I had been feeling good in my life—on an upswing—and believed that this springtime psychedelic experience would be a positive one.

It turned out to be pretty challenging.

One of the phrases that began going through my head at the beginning was “human frailty.” I found this odd, but allowed myself to repeat it out loud a number of times. It didn’t feel personal; it felt like just a musing on human frailty in general. I began to feel a bit teary as the concept permeated my consciousness.

A few hours later, I found myself experiencing some mild paranoia. I paced around the room and reflected on my life. That day I was wearing the one warm sweater I had worn all winter, which had started out white and fluffy but was now showing signs of pilling and grunginess. It had a large pocket in front where you could put a hand in each side, and touch your hands inside. As I did this, and paced in front of the bay window, I was reminded of Elton John’s haunting classic, “Madman Across the Water.” (“Get a load of him/he’s so insane … but is it in your conscience that you’re after/another glimpse of the madman across the water?/argh…”)

In my altered mental and emotional state, I wondered, Am I the madman across the water? Do the people walking on the street outside see me and think there is something wrong with me?

My train of thought continued, as my gaze fell upon the prick mark on my left ring finger where they had recently tested a sample of my blood before allowing me to donate that day.

My skin had been blemished by this practice! I then pulled up the sleeve on my right arm, to view the scab on my inner elbow.

Sadly… mournfully… I heard myself saying quietly, but aloud, “Everyone will see that I have opened up my vein… for the purpose of commerce!”

It seems comical to me from this distance… but at the time I felt so low. Such shame. How could I have opened up my vein—for others to see!—for the “purpose of commerce”??

A few hours later, I had a bit of a health scare, when I started to feel very lightheaded while making dinner, and worried that I might pass out. It concerned me enough that I made an appointment to see a doctor.

I was greatly reassured when I went to the doctor and he said that my blood pressure was very low, and that was what had caused the faintness. He ordered a few tests (which came back fine) but said not to worry too much about it, but just to continue drinking plenty of water but also add salt to my diet, to make sure that the water could do its job in my body. (Dehydration can aggravate low blood pressure.) He also suggested electrolyte drinks like Gatorade, especially before and after plasma.

This doctor’s appointment gave me the opportunity to ask him about plasma donation in general, and he helped to alleviate my fears. It appeared that the main problem was my blood pressure, and he gave me the tools to address it, while reassuring me that giving plasma is a generally safe thing to do.

After that appointment—and after adding salt to my diet, and going to the bone-strengthening gym every week—I am feeling physically stronger, and that has alleviated a lot of the lurking fear I had been barely aware of, but which was affecting many areas of my life.

Whew!

I also decided to confront the shame head-on:

It’s OK that this is where I’m at in my life at this time! Although my income is extremely low, I am living my life on my own terms to a degree that I have never done before, and the sense of self-actualization and empowerment that brings me is immeasurable. I feel gratitude for it multiple times a day.

I don’t know what is coming next in my life, but I’m loving every day that I bicycle around, snuggle kitties, and sit on shady benches in sunny parks. I’m having deep and meaningful conversations with people all around the world, and they reflect to me the blessing that my presence and connection provides them.

This is it. This is my dream life. And plasma is part of it, at least for now. It is a powerful practice, if I choose to allow it to be.

The weather has recently warmed up, and I’ve been choosing to allow my elbow scars to show on my bare arms. It’s nobody’s business where they come from… and, as the saying goes, it’s also none of my business what anyone else might think of me.

And!

This afternoon, as I pedaled back to my friend Sandi’s place after plasma, the last shuffled song that popped up on my iPod—which contains seven days’ worth of music—was Madman Across the Water.

“I can see… very well…”

Thanks for reading. Thanks for following my journey—including the internal one—along with me.

Do you have your own dream or project, and would like some support or collaborative brainstorming about it? Use the green “contact” button above to schedule a free, no-strings one-hour phone or video call with me!

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Yamhill County is gorgeous!!

6/16/23

Wow. It’s been a week and a half since my last post, and a lot has happened!

I was tickled to have the chance to perform at the Alberta Rose Theater for Mortified! which was a wonderful experience. The two Saturday night shows represented the fifth and sixth time I had performed this teenage-diary material onstage, and the two audiences were amazing. The early-show folks, in particular, seemed to eat up every sentence that I, and my fellow five performers, read. It was wonderfully gratifying.

One of the other performers took a photo of us all in the green room after the shows.

That night, I stayed in SE Portland with a dear friend—having completed my grumpy-cat sit that morning, although the kitty did finally allow me to pet her during the final hour of the sit—and my friend and I had wonderful deep conversations, both in the afternoon before the show, and then into the wee hours afterward.

The following day, Sunday, another dear friend picked me up from the house—with my rig—and drove me out to our other friend’s annual outdoor strawberry party at her family’s farm in Banks, far out to the west of Portland. The party—an annual tradition for more than 15 years—had sadly been canceled the previous three years due to COVID, so it was wonderful to get back and see so many old faces, and enjoy a beautiful, perfect-weather day.

After the party, I bicycled right before sunset along a beautiful ten-mile stretch south of Banks into Forest Grove, where I stayed the night with yet another friend—who had also attended the strawberry party—and I had some nice conversation with her and her housemates before collapsing onto the couch to sleep.

Then, Monday morning, it was time for my big adventure: bicycling 25 miles south of Forest Grove to McMinnville for a two-night mini-vacation.

I had visited that charming burg more than 30 years ago, when my college friend Laurie drove us out there to Linfield College to visit her friend Tony. Having recently discovered a three-day gap in my cat sitting schedule, I decided it was well past time for me to make another visit.

The ride through rural Yamhill County—including the small towns of Gaston, Yamhill, and Carlton—was hot (87F/30C that day) but beautiful. It felt good to be back out on the road, like I was during my year of travels.

When I arrived in McMinnville in the late afternoon, I was greeted by my wonderfully warm and hospitable Warmshowers hosts, Steve and Robin. At 70 years old, Steve had bicycled the entire span of the continental United States last year, from Washington, DC to Portland. (Except for the last little stretch—he got COVID in Cascade Locks, Oregon, and sadly had to bow out at that time.) He and Robin have a beautiful house, with an amazing pollinator-friendly back yard. They showed me birds and many kinds of insects, amongst the copious honeysuckle, strawberries, lettuce, and much more.

One of the highlights of my two-night stay with them was my guest quarters: a tiny house in the back yard, complete with a composting toilet, basin sink, and outdoor shower! (And electricity and wifi!) It was one of the most charming spaces I’ve had the privilege of occupying.

Another highlight was a small-world moment, when Robin and I went to get a drink at the McMenamins Hotel Oregon downtown. We sipped our beverages on the outdoor rooftop seating area, and during our conversation, discovered that we had both been living in Canberra, Australia in 1981. What are the odds??

Steve and Robin are also vegan, and they shared some delicious homemade meals with me while I was there. It was lovely to meet them, and I even managed to introduce them to another friend of mine—and fellow strawberry-party attendee—who recently bought a house in McMinnville and is wanting to create a pollinator-friendly habitat in her own back yard.

While in McMinnville, I visited three different nature parks, and basked in the lush green that filled all of them. What a magical place.

On Wednesday, I reluctantly packed up and said goodbye, and began my 32-mile return bike trip, this time through Forest Grove all the way to the MAX light rail stop in Hillsboro. I then took the MAX train all the way into Portland, then biked the final half-hour or so to my next cat sit in the Johns Landing neighborhood of SW Portland.

That 32-mile ride back was absolutely breathtaking. All the mint-green fields (wheat, I think?) completely mesmerized me. There is nothing like that view, especially with the sunlight dancing on the fields.

In the evening I reached my new sit, and was delighted to reacquaint myself with Nala, one of the first cats I sat when I began this new lifestyle last fall. She is one of the most affectionate cats I’ve ever met, which was a nice change after the couple of cold-shoulder kitties I’ve recently cared for.

I’ll be sad to say goodbye to her again tomorrow, although I’ll be heading back to my friend Sandi’s house in north Portland, to care for her cat Lima. Lima was the very first cat I sat, upon my return last September. So, lots of things are coming full circle.

And, today I met up with a new friend, Stuart, who is a fellow car-free nomad, having recently arrived in Portland from Hawaii. After hitting up Voodoo Doughnuts, where I enjoyed my standby vegan Portland Crème filled confection, we visited the Lan Su Classical Chinese Garden, which was beautiful as usual on this summery day.

What a packed week! I’m excited for what the coming week will bring, although I also hope it will include some rest and downtime.

Do you have your own dream or project, and would like some support or collaborative brainstorming about it? Use the green “contact” button above to schedule a free, no-strings one-hour phone or video call with me!

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Cats, Alberta, Pedalpalooza, and Mortified!

6/6/23

Another week and a half has gone by! It’s feeling very summery here in Portland  (high of 90F/32C today). I am loving the sunshine, and things are getting busy here in the summer! I’m even planning to take a mini-vacation to a small town southwest of here next weekend; I’ll report on that next time.

For now, I’ve been spending my time building my bones at the OsteoStrong gym; talking to people all over the world via Cambly; watching the Japanese Netflix show Terrace House; having magical meetings with friends near and far, in person and via video chats; and sitting with more cats!

I said goodbye to the fluffy and high-spirited Laszlo on the 31st, and made my way up to NE Alberta Street to care for a mellow and incredibly affectionate fellow named Zu. I hope you’ll excuse all the photos; when I get to stay with a snugglebug like that, I soak it in! (His shy-but-adorable white-mittened neighbor, Naya, would sometimes come over around feeding time, hoping to find a stray morsel. But then she would catch a glimpse of me, and scurry out again.)

During those five days, I got to go out for several strolls along the iconic Alberta Street.

And, my next–and current–sit is actually just about a mile and a half west on Alberta as well. This kitty, named Cat, is not snuggly, unfortunately. In fact, she reminds me a lot of Libby, in both appearance and demeanor. Cat is 16 years old, but spry enough to meow, hiss, swipe, and even attempt to hold me hostage in my own (guest) bedroom! Fortunately, as with Libby, the house is plenty large and comfortable for both of us, and her people have let me know that the best way to handle her surliness is to simply avoid her as much as possible, just quietly providing food when needed.

Fair enough.

Meanwhile, Pedalpalooza—Portland’s annual 3-month summer bike festival with dozens of themed rides—happened to hold its kickoff ride in Alberta Park this year, less than ten blocks from where I was staying. I took this as a sign that I should definitely attend this year. In years past, I have tended to participate only in the World Naked Bike Ride, while intending to partake of the other rides but never following through, and then feeling slightly disappointed in myself.

This clearly was to be the year to change all of that. I had been gone—on a bike adventure, no less!—during last year’s Pedalpalooza, but now I was back, and summer was here, and the kickoff ride was practically in my backyard.

At the appointed time, I pedaled over to the park, which was teeming with cyclists arriving from all directions.

I recognized a half-dozen people I knew, all in different areas. But I felt strangely shy, and didn’t engage with any of them.

After standing around for about five minutes, it slowly dawned on me: I don’t actually enjoy group bike rides! That was why I had never been motivated to do them in years past!

I had to chuckle at how long it had taken me to realize this fact so clearly… but there it was. And my path was clear: I needed to get out of there before the ride started!

So I did. I went back to the house and sat on the porch, enjoying the warm evening.

And everyone else had an awesome time on the ride. Win-win.

Then today, a cool opportunity fell into my lap: I’m going to perform at Mortified! again.

This is a hilarious (and sometimes heartwarming) live show that has been taking place around the country—and even overseas—for more than 15 years. It is a show where adults get up on stage and read from their teenaged journals. I first performed in 2009, and had a blast. I reprised the material several years later. And now I’m going to do it for a third time! (The theater is right on Alberta as well!) I’m assuming this will be a new audience, of folks who haven’t seen me before. But even if some of them have seen me, I hope they will still enjoy it. I have attended dozens of Mortified shows over the years as an audience member, and sometimes I would get excited to see a repeat performer on the docket, if I remembered having enjoyed their reading the first time.

So… that’s my life right now! It’s awesome!

Do you have your own dream or project, and would like some support or collaborative brainstorming about it? Use the green “contact” button above to schedule a free, no-strings one-hour phone or video call with me!

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Want to support my vision financially? You can make a one-time or monthly contribution, or even become a Fairy Godfunder! (Heartfelt thanks to all my patrons, contributors, and godfunders!)

Cats, more cats, and the promise of summer

5/27/23

Wow, where has the time gone? It’s been three weeks!

I haven’t had too much to report, honestly. Life has been lovely, but mostly unremarkable. I haven’t gotten back out to do the What Is Your Dream Event… we’ll see if I pick that back up in the next few weeks. I’d need to get chairs for it again, if I were to do it in the same spot.

I’ve been attending to various medical appointments (nothing serious, but checking all systems, as it were, while I’m in Oregon and covered by my Oregon-specific health insurance.) I’ve also started rebuilding my osteoporotic bones at a bone-specific gym near here that I just discovered. Cool!

But, as always, I have taken some photos I’d like to share, so here they are. First, all the cats!

You may recall Libby, the kitty who hissed and swiped at me and had no interest in being friends. I’m sorry to report that this dynamic changed very little during the week I spent at her house. She never once let me touch her. The best she offered was—once, four or five days in—to make sure she was in my line of sight, and then flop down happily on the floor and roll on her back, about 15 feet away from me. On another occasion, on Day 6 or 7, I believe, she allowed me to get close enough to capture this photographic evidence of her dour countenance.

Such is life, eh? But the house was absolutely beautiful, and the location was wonderful.

From there I stayed with friends for a few days, one of whom lives with this chess grandmaster kitty, Cora. She was nice and snuggly, a balm for my ego after the cold war with Libby.

Then I sat for my friend Celine’s sweet and cuddly cat Moxie for a couple of days, which also was lovely (and the back yard was a garden wonderland!)

And now… I’m spending a week just off Hawthorne (perfect location!) sitting for this character, Laszlo. He is a force to be reckoned with, and often quite photogenic.

This is my favorite season. Late spring/early summer… everything is lush, bright, and full of unsullied promise. Just walking the neighborhoods feels magical.

One of my favorite recent outings was to the incredible Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden. It was at its peak, and in fact I took advantage of two free-admission Mondays in a row. The first day was sunnier, the second cloudier, so I was able to get good light for the photos.

I hope you enjoy.

Meanwhile, I’ve been reveling in the richness of my life, having some magical meetings, connecting with friends, dreaming up possible future local travel for the summer, tutoring English on Cambly, and loving this weather!

I hope things are unfolding beautifully in your worlds.

Do you have your own dream or project, and would like some support or collaborative brainstorming about it? Use the green “contact” button above to schedule a free, no-strings one-hour phone or video call with me!

Want to be notified of future blog posts? Use the green “sign up” button to subscribe!

Want to support my vision financially? You can make a one-time or monthly contribution, or even become a Fairy Godfunder! (Heartfelt thanks to all my patrons, contributors, and godfunders!)

Beautiful trip to Corvallis and surrounds

5/8/23

What a full week! It’s actually been more like a week and a half, I think, so there is a decent amount to report, and also more photos than usual to share. Spring is so lush and beautiful here!

I noticed a cat sit in Corvallis a week or two ago, and thought it might be the perfect opportunity for a low-cost local “vacation.” I’m so glad I did it!

I had several friends in Corvallis, and was especially looking forward to connecting with Judy and Jeff (who, as you may recall, hosted me not once but twice, starting almost two years ago.) Sadly, after I confirmed the cat sit, I learned they would be in California celebrating Judy’s birthday, so I missed them this time around.

I did meet up with two other Corvallis-connected friends, though, and also met some great new folks.

I stayed with a lovely Servas couple, Hector and Carole, who hosted me in their comfortable “garage suite” behind their house. We shared several wonderful meals, and talked about life, travel, dreams, writing, and many more topics. These are the sort of people I love to meet wherever I go!

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

On the way down, I had a wonderful train journey of about an hour and a half on the Amtrak Coast Starlight.

I had an engaging seat partner, a young man named Dylan on his first-ever train trip. Then later, in the lounge, I met a really cool young German man named Sven, who was just finishing up several cross-country train trips via his Amtrak USA Rail pass. He was heading to San Francisco for the last part of his US travels, looking for inspiration from locals to help him decide how he may next want to proceed in his life of Effective Altruism (EA). This was a new term for me, but it seems to mirror almost exactly my own life’s goal!

He really impressed me when he told me that he had arrived in the US—after having traveled around Europe for some months—via a sailing ship! I had no idea that was a thing one could do, unless one happened to be Greta Thunberg. He said the Atlantic crossing had taken about a month and a half, and he was hoping to be able to return in the same way, albeit via a different route.

I introduced him to my wonderful East Bay friends (and hosts from my year’s loop of travels) Mimi (and her partner Steven) and Thomas, who also happens to be German. The four of them ended up meeting up for a dinner to talk about EA, living car free in the US, and similar topics.

I love connecting people like that!

I disembarked the train in Albany, Oregon, and hopped on my rig for a bike ride of about an hour to Hector and Carole’s place on the east edge of Corvallis.

During my time with them, I also found a few hours to set up my What Is Your Dream/Free Listening stand downtown, along the lushly beautiful riverfront bike path.

As usual, I found that I didn’t have many people stopping, and in this case that was partly because there wasn’t much foot traffic on the path, compared to Portland’s relatively busy Eastbank Esplanade.

However, toward the end I did get two “takers.” One was a young man who skateboarded by to let me know he had an “ecological dream” of people collaborating globally—similarly to how computer programmers collaborate globally—to solve various ecological problems.

The next person was an older man who shared a variety of stories from his life, as well as some information I hadn’t known about local Oregon flora and fauna. Specifically, he told me that he kept local snakes and lizards as pets. I didn’t even know that there were lizards in western Oregon, but he said there are alligator lizards here(!) I had only known of those from the America song Ventura Highway, and assumed they only lived in southern California’s desert climate. Not so.

He also told me about a snake called a rubber boa (a boa! A boa constrictor! In Oregon!) It is a small/short snake. I had never heard of it, and was shocked to learn that it also makes its home here.

When I mentioned this new herpetological information to my friend Karen over dinner that night, she further surprised me by sharing that when she and her siblings were growing up in Corvallis in the 1970s, they also kept both rubber boas and alligator lizards as pets!

Mind. Blown.

The next day, I bicycled three easy miles over to the apartment where I would be doing my cat sit for the next three nights. The host, Courtney, met me ahead of time to show me the ropes and give me the key, so I was familiar with the cats when I arrived.

Those two cats—a tortie named Piper and one of the most beautiful, sleek black cats I’ve ever met, named LeeRoy—were two of the sweetest, most affectionate cats I have cared for. They were an absolute delight, and I felt so sad when I had to leave three days later.

But pack up and leave I did… and the journey back to Portland couldn’t have been more beautiful.

I retraced my bicycling route back to Albany, but the northbound train—which originates in Los Angeles—was running two to three hours late. So, I had plenty of time to stash the trailer at the station and take off on my bike to explore several nearby hiking and biking trails. The weather was incredible, and all the lush green of the foliage filled my senses with bliss.

With spring having arrived, I feel like my life can begin again!

(I haven’t even mentioned my Corvallis jaunts to Central and Avery Parks, which were also filled with beautiful spring trees and flowers, as these photos illustrate.)

The train ride back from Albany to Portland was pretty uneventful, but I made sure to once again enjoy my traditional Amtrak cocktail of sweet tea and vodka—paired with the café car’s vegan blue corn tamale—while taking in the Willamette Valley scenery from the observation car.

We pulled into Portland while it was still light, and I pedaled about three miles to my current cat sit, with a kitty who unfortunately is not happy with my presence. It was a bit of a rude awakening—after Piper and LeeRoy’s affections—to be met at the door with hissing and a swipe, but I’m giving her a wide berth, and crossing my fingers that at some point this coming week she will warm up to me.

Meanwhile, I began an exciting online symposium today about animal communication—perfect timing, it would seem! I’m hoping to learn from animal communicators all around the globe who are also attending.

I hope that the spring—or autumn, if you’re reading this from south of the equator—is treating you well!

Do you have your own dream or project, and would like some support or collaborative brainstorming about it? Use the green “contact” button above to schedule a free, no-strings one-hour phone or video call with me!

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Spring profusion, and amazing people

4/29/23

You all… my dreams are coming true. I am living the life I love!!

Challenges and obstacles are present. They always will be.

But things are flowing. And I love how I’m living. And this spring weather, OMG!!! It just makes everything look and feel right.

And, I keep meeting amazing people—including via my What Is Your Dream events—whom I’ll write more about below. This is such a big part of my dream life!

But first, some fun photos of what’s been going on around here this past week.

I moved out from Coconut the cat’s peaceful Milwaukie abode yesterday, after a pleasant and restful two weeks there. I moved in for a short stay—just two nights—with this SE Portland supermodel, Toshe. He is regal, and he owns it!

While I was still in Milwaukie, I had a doctor’s appointment in Gresham. Although the early hour wasn’t my cup of tea, it gave me the opportunity to bicycle the whole way—more than an hour—almost entirely on car-free bike paths. And in the morning light with the dazzling dew, too. I loved it.

After the appointment, I took the opportunity to go back to Gresham’s Tsuru Island Japanese Garden and nearby Japanese plaza. The light was beautiful in those places, too.

In the plaza, I sat on a shady bench on a warm sunny day (one of my favorite things to do, as I identified in my past year’s travels) while pale pink cherry petals swirled gently down around me.

Doesn’t get much better than that.

But then on my way back to Milwaukie on the bike path, I decided to visit the Leach Botanical Garden. I hadn’t been since before the pandemic, and during that time they did quite a bit of construction, adding a beautiful tree walk.

The camellias were out in full force, and the light through the trees remained beautiful for my visit there.

Having slogged through yet one more Portland winter, it is such a balm for my soul to reap the rewards of a springtime and summer season here again.

My last evening in Milwaukie, I took an evening bike ride out to the grocery store, and stopped on the way back for a snack in a new-to-me park, to savor the warmth and late pre-sunset hour. Getting back to the house afterward took me through a beautiful short, steep unpaved path. Everything was glowing.

Meanwhile, I have continued my What Is Your Dream/Free Listening events. After my first one last Saturday, I did one on Tuesday, and another today—Saturday—both back in the same spot on the Eastbank Esplanade, alongside the river.

In all cases, I have had one “taker” per two-hour stint… and I’m finding that that suits me just fine. Today I found myself beaming, as I realized that once again I was sitting in a shady seat on a beautiful warm sunny day, with a blossoming magnolia tree right by me. I was physically comfortable, and doing something that feels like contributing my best gifts to the world. I don’t need a lot of takers; the signs speak for themselves, and hopefully spark something within anyone who sees them. And the few conversations I do have feel meaningful.

On Tuesday, I met a Polish artist named Aleks. (Here is an article about some of her work.) She said she could see my event as a sort of performance-art piece: something to provoke a response in onlookers. I could see that perspective once she pointed it out, and it tickled me. We talked about her visions for helping people, especially children, to get connected to tending land, growing food, expressing themselves artistically, and connecting with each other in community.

We added each other on Instagram; I hope we can keep in touch.

Today, I spoke with a man who told me that he is just a few days away from embarking on his longest-ever solo bike tour, which will be for 90 days, and will cover much of the western United States, including a total of 55,000 feet of elevation gain(!!!) My hat is off to him, and I’m so excited for his adventures.

Meanwhile, I’ve had a cool Facebook connection with a woman who is blowing my mind right now, Liz Pomeroy. We had friended each other at some point during my year of travels, because we were both in some Facebook groups for bicycle traveing women.

She has an amazing story, and I won’t detail it all here, but I hope you will click through to her crowdfunding link to read the details. (And send a bit of money her way if you can, and/or consider sharing the link to your networks so that others may be inspired to do so.)

In a nutshell, she is an Irish-born musician based in Edmonton, Alberta (Canada) living a zero-waste lifestyle. Despite (or maybe because of?) being in recovery from addiction, she has already once bicycled all the way across Canada, to promote her last album, and she is now is planning to go to Europe and tour by bicycle there! (That top photo is her, of course. Photo credit: Matty McKechnie.)

Like me, she prefers to keep her carbon footprint as low as possible by minimizing flying and auto travel, and she also—clearly—enjoys challenging herself in dramatic ways. I so admire her courage, and can’t wait to see her succeed. One excerpt from her bio:

“On Earth Day 2022, I embarked on an epic cycling tour across Canada to promote Freefall, the first mini album from Pendulum State. I carried all of my gear, including my guitar, tent and solar panel, on a rig that weighed 192 lbs and cycled 5,400 km over the course of 5.5 months.”

WOW.

These are the kinds of people I love connecting with. That—and traveling, and living in beautiful spaces in beautiful climates—is my dream. And I’m living it!!

Heartfelt thanks, again, to all of you for following along, and cheering me on!

Do you have your own dream or project, and would like some support or collaborative brainstorming about it? Use the green “contact” button above to schedule a free, no-strings one-hour phone or video call with me!

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My “What Is Your Dream?” event

4/24/23

I am happy to report that my on-the-street (well, on-the-bike-path!) empathy and encouragement event went well!

I set up “camp” next to the Vera Katz statue on the Eastbank Esplanade, just north of the Hawthorne Bridge. I sat there for about two hours, from 3:00 to 5:00.

I’m mildly disappointed to share that I didn’t get many “takers,” in terms of people stopping to sit and talk. But I still consider the event to have been a success, and I’m looking forward to doing it again soon—possibly even tomorrow, since the forecast is looking lovely, with sunny skies and a high of 65F (18C).

Although I only had two people stop by to talk, a third guy walked by and looked wistful. He glanced at the “free listening” sign and said, “Where to start??” I smiled encouragingly, and the woman who was already sitting in the other chair talking with me got up to offer him her seat, since “this gentleman clearly needs to talk more than I do!” But he demurred, shaking his head and saying, “Ugh, no, I’d be here for three days! But thanks for doing this.”

He walked on.

There is a need for this.

I also saw a number of smiles when people saw the signs, and a few people commented to me that they thought it was a kind and valuable thing I was doing.

Although I had hoped for more interaction, I could really see and feel the value of simply having a sign publicly visible that says “What is your dream?” I could see people looking at it, perhaps thinking of their own dreams, or wondering what their dreams might be.

I’ve been talking with some Cambly students lately about their dreams, too, and several students have mentioned that they used to have dreams, but those fell by the wayside over time. I suspected that some of the people who walked or cycled by my sign may have felt the same. I hope the sign helped to inspire, or re-inspire, some people to connect with their own dreams.

Toward the end of my time there, my second visitor arrived: an awesome guy named Tim Davis, whom I had met via a mutual friend on Facebook just about a week ago. We had agreed that he would swing by (on his Brompton!) after participating in an Earth Day celebration at Kailash, a nearby ecovillage where we both know some people.

Sure enough, he came by, and we started talking about Bromptons, bicycling, traveling, how cool Portland (still!) is, and many other topics. His mind was encyclopedic; I’m always inspired and awed when I meet people like that.

He waxed rhapsodic about Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley, where he will be moving soon for a few years.

We finished up the talk at the downtown Veggie Grill, where we shared an Earth Day buy-one-get-one-free entrée special: Santa Fe chik’n wraps!

On the way home, I enjoyed all the industrial and natural sights of the Springwater-on-the-Willamette bike path.

I’m really proud of myself for following my own dream—and overcoming some jitters—to bring this event together. I’m happy with how it went, and I hope to do it again tomorrow or very soon!

p.s. Dear reader, what is your dream?

Do you have your own dream or project, and would like some support or collaborative brainstorming about it? Use the green “contact” button above to schedule a free, no-strings one-hour phone or video call with me!

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Empathy, cats, and a magical rainbow!

4/21/23

Wow, it’s been quite a week! Thanks to those of you who sent supportive messages after my last post, in which I shared some of my recent struggles. I appreciated your witnessing and encouragement. This week, I feel more excitement, joy, and forward motion in my life.

For one thing, get a load of this forecast!

I should really know better, by now, than to trust it—and those three rainy days were showing as not rainy until about an hour ago, argh!—but it seems like a break from the rain and clouds is on its way. Those first three days reflect how the past few months have been, with very few breaks. But it appears some sun and warmth are on the horizon, and that makes a world of difference in my mood.

Next, look at this amazing collage that my new friend Zen Achilles made for me! It’s made from imagery I had recently posted on Facebook. That pic of me is ten years old—in Washington, DC on my East Coast Empathy Tour—but I love how the collage combines many of my recent cat-sitting pics with some recent flower photos… as well as me doing my on-the-street empathy!

Because…

Today I’ve made up a couple of new signs, and if the rain holds off tomorrow, I plan to tow them in my bike trailer to a public place with some folding chairs, and set up camp for a few hours in the afternoon, talking to people about their dreams and whatever else may be on their minds.

It’s been ten years since I’ve done this—and back then it was just empathy, without the dream focus that I’m especially excited about these days—and I think it’s time again. As I recently wrote about my dream for my life’s work, I think this is it. I love supporting people all over the world via video chats, but when the weather is pleasant, I like the idea of offering this support in person as well. If things go well tomorrow, I hope to continue these events throughout the summer here in Oregon, and then possibly “take the show on the road” as I travel elsewhere in the US and overseas, following the magic of beautiful weather.

Wish me luck!!

Speaking of life magic, the other day I was out bicycling to the store in the rain, when what should I suddenly spot but a brilliant rainbow seemingly springing directly from a set of train tracks.

How perfect is that for me?? I’ve been recently self-identifying as an “enchanted rainbow zillionaire” (maybe I’ll explain more of what I mean by that in a future post) and here was the perfect visual for it, railroad and all!

I’ll leave you with a few more cute pics of my latest feline charge, Coconut. And if you know of anyone who may need cat sitting—especially in Oregon for the coming months—please feel free to send them to my Rover profile, which contains my rates, availability, and references.

(Oh, and if you’d like a cool collage of yourself or someone else, Zen takes commissions—let me know if you’re interested, and I can put you in touch!)

Here’s to spring, cats, rainbows, empathy, and inspiration!

Do you have your own dream or project, and would like some support or collaborative brainstorming about it? Use the green “contact” button above to schedule a free, no-strings one-hour phone or video call with me!

Want to be notified of future blog posts? Use the green “sign up” button to subscribe!

Want to support my vision financially? You can make a one-time or monthly contribution, or even become a Fairy Godfunder! (Heartfelt thanks to all my patrons, contributors, and godfunders!)

Train, trails, Japanese garden, Cambly… and rain, and life

4/17/23

I feel like I’m getting a little later every week on these “Friday” blog posts, and I’m a bit chagrined about that. To be honest, life feels surreal and challenging these days. I am wholesale changing my way of life. I believe it’s right that I’m doing so, but it’s not easy. I don’t have a steady home space (though this is my choice, and has its benefits too); my finances are precarious; and this spring continues to be mostly cold and wet, feeling rather like an extended winter.

Where is my dream life of traveling through continuously sunny 70-degree weather??

I do believe it’s coming. I’m working toward it. I’m manifesting it. I’ve made lots of progress over the past few years.

But it can be hard, and lonely, and scary at times. And the weather doesn’t always cooperate.

Feels good to get that off my chest. Thanks for “listening.” That said, though, I’d like to share a bit from the past week, mostly fun stuff!

I’ve started a new cat sit in Milwaukie, just south of Portland, for my friend Melora’s cat Coconut. What a character!

This location has also allowed me to visit my close friend Johnny again at the prison in Salem, including the opportunity to take an Amtrak train each way; experience a new-to-me Amtrak station (Oregon City); meet and talk with some really cool women there while we waited nearly an hour during the train’s delay; and bike a total of 27 miles to and from the station on each end.

This in turn allowed for some beautiful bike trails, and some sightseeing in Salem, including probably my favorite shot I’ve ever taken of the Oregon capitol building. (Look at those cherry blossoms!)

I also took the opportunity to visit Salem’s waterfront park, with its iconic acid-ball-turned-globe.

Then I meandered through the Willamette University campus on the way back to the train station, and stopped by the tiny Japanese Garden there. What a little hidden gem.

On the way back to Milwaukie, I got to enjoy the falls in Oregon City from the train window. I have heard that this is the second-largest waterfall in the United States, surpassed only by Niagara Falls! I always enjoy seeing it from the train.

It’s back to rain today, but that one day of partly sunny weather was a balm for my soul. It got me to thinking about summer, which it’s looking like I will spend here in the Northwest. I’ll be seeking cat sits around the region, and enjoying the beautiful weather we are (I think??) pretty much guaranteed from July through September, with some beautiful peeks of it between April and June.

I’m thinking of possibly reprising a version of my 2013 East Coast Empathy Tour, going out on the street to ask people about their life dreams. We’ll see…!

I’d also like to share a video my documentary-filmmaker friend Aurelie recently made (you may recall Aurelie from the time she hosted me in Montreal last summer) about her Brompton bicycle travels in the Netherlands this past September. She even visited the headquarters of the small, 8-person company—Radical Design—that makes the trailers that she and I both use with our Bromptons. I invite you to watch the whole 30-minute video—it’s delightful—but if you want to skip ahead to the trailer factory part, it’s at about the 26:00 mark. (There is even a fun parrot tie-in!)

Meanwhile, I continue to enjoy my English tutoring on Cambly. I do it for a few hours each day, and talk to people all over the world. I’ve been trying to think of exactly how I can write about that here. I may write more later, but for now I’ll just include a few “factoids” that I have learned by video chatting with people from more than 15 countries.

First, the countries. I have talked with people from Saudi Arabia (probably about 40% of my students), Japan, South Korea, Brazil, China, Taiwan, Turkey, and Mexico. I would estimate that these countries—roughly in the order I listed them—make up about 85-90% of my students. But I have also spoken to at least one person each from Jordan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Oman, Peru, Belarus, India, Vietnam, and Venezuela (though he was in Colombia when he called). A number of these folks have been in the US when they called; they call Cambly tutors to practice their English once they have arrived here, either temporarily or long-term. Two were calling from military bases: a Saudi Arabian guy in San Antonio, and a Taiwanese guy in Biloxi, Mississippi.

A few things I have learned:

Korean music, drama, food, and culture is very popular with young people all around the world, including Saudi Arabia.

There is a city in Brazil called Gramado, with classical German-style architecture.

Overall, I have probably had the most interesting and philosophical conversations with Koreans. (Interestingly, two of them were living in Manhattan, including a fellow vegan woman around my age who is an artist, and a man just a bit older, who had done some backpack traveling around Asia and Europe for six months in his youth.)

In the city of Azumino, Japan, there is a place called Wasabi Park, which is a big tourist attraction, and you can get wasabi ice cream there! (I’m assuming no vegan options, but who knows?)

English is very important for international business, the tech field, and university education. (I have learned that in Saudi Arabia, university courses in many, if not most, subjects are taught in English, not Arabic. I’m really noticing my privilege to have been born into an English-speaking country. And, I’m enjoying teaching and helping people with their English. It’s fun!)

That’s my update for the week! I’ll leave you with a sleepy shot of Coconut.

Do you have your own dream or project, and would like some support or collaborative brainstorming about it? Use the green “contact” button above to schedule a free, no-strings one-hour phone or video call with me!

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Want to support my vision financially? You can make a one-time or monthly contribution, or even become a Fairy Godfunder! (Heartfelt thanks to all my patrons, contributors, and godfunders!)

Spring’s arrival in Portland

4/9/23

This has felt like the longest winter ever.

Last year I “opted out” of Portland’s winter, in what I hoped was the beginning of a new pattern. It felt so satisfying to be traveling through warm and sunny Arizona, Georgia, and Florida during Portland’s winter weather.

Alas, I’m back here this year, and this particular winter has stretched on seemingly forever, with temps still not ever having reached 60, I don’t think… and rain, rain, rain alongside the chill.

Fortunately, at least the blossoms have begun making their appearance, and that is always delightful.

I left Silverton a couple of weeks ago on an extremely rainy day. Fortunately, the homeowner whose cats I looked after was willing and able to drive me and my rig to the Salem train station; I would have been continuously drenched during the hour-and-a-half pedal if not.

Once I arrived at the train station, whom should I spy but a fellow Bromptoneer! Sadly, the volunteer photographer I hastily pressed into service as our bus pulled up was not the most skillful at framing, but I wanted to at least commemorate the occasion with a photo. This fellow cyclist lives in Portland and works in Salem, and he told me that his wife and daughters also each have Bromptons. It’s always fun for me to run into such others “in the wild.”

When our bus pulled into the Portland station, I happened to see my sister briefly; she was arriving in Portland on the train from Seattle! She got to meet my friend Greg, who picked me up at the station on our way to enjoy a delicious meal at the all-vegan (and queer- and Mexican-owned) taqueria Mis Tacones. Their tacos are amazing.

Before I met up with those two at the station, though, I briefly stole away on my bike—stashing the trailer in the first-class lounge, as is my perk as an Amtrak Select Plus member this year—to photograph the nearby cherry blossoms in the Japanese American Historical Plaza along the Willamette River waterfront. The blossoms were nearing peak bloom, so I was glad to be able to capture my (nearly) annual photos. Being in Portland does have its benefits.

For the past couple of weeks, I have been sitting a total of three adorable cats, including nearly identical littermates Dora and Acorn, as well as my old friend Simba, whose humans will sadly be moving away soon, so I may not see him again. (The last photo is of him, peeking out from under the leaves.)

I’ve also been out doing various errands and such, and have taken advantage of the opportunities to enjoy bicycle paths and spring blooms. The camellias are gorgeous this time of year.

I did get caught in a wicked downpour a few days ago. Wow! Reminded me of my ride from Niagara Falls to Buffalo last summer, when I could barely see through the driving rain. Thank goodness for Gore-Tex!

My other primary activity, for the past month, has been talking with people all over the world via Cambly. I’ll have to write more about those experiences in a future post, but I’ve spoken with people from about 20 countries, on multiple continents, and it has been very interesting and rewarding. I’m glad I’ve added this new activity to my life.

Do you have your own dream or project, and would like some support or collaborative brainstorming about it? Use the green “contact” button above to schedule a free, no-strings one-hour phone or video call with me!

Want to be notified of future blog posts? Use the green “sign up” button to subscribe!

Want to support my vision financially? You can make a one-time or monthly contribution, or even become a Fairy Godfunder! (Heartfelt thanks to all my patrons, contributors, and godfunders!)