Tag Archives: family

Oregon Chronicles: A PDX Christmas in the Year of Our Lord 2018.

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We moved to Oregon on August 25th 2018 and were met by one on the mildest and most beautiful falls I have ever seen. Fall as in the season, not the water that drops over cliffs—although those are quite splendid and abundant in Oregon as well. We moved into a house off 18th and Killingsworth in the NE neighborhood of Portland. The neighborhood is extremely walkable and within a five minute walk we can walk to Hat Yai (Thai Fried Chicken), Pine State Biscuits, Proud Mary (Aussie coffee shop), Podnah’s (bbq), Barista, Handsome Pizza, Salt n’ Straw (ice cream), The Bollywood Café (Indian)—a plethora of bars I will probably never visit based on my current Dad situation—and a dog store called The Filling Station. I think we ate out every night the first week we were there. The eating out couldn’t last forever though, and so we started ordering a few Blue Apron meals every week to lessen the load of cooking w/ child.

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For the first month Portland felt like an extended Airbnb vacay. We didn’t really feel like we “lived” there. But once I started working and Cat started her internship at Randall Children’s Hospital two days a week, a routine began to develop. I had trouble finding work at first and though I am busy now and working more than I’d like to, I have already forgotten that it took me over a month to find a job and have almost forgotten how endless the search once was—a futile time suck of days spent emailing resumes and developing a CV for jobs you may never have a shot with. All the coffee people were confused as to why I was the owner of a coffee roasting company in Utah applying for barista jobs in Portland. I also applied for jobs at Nike and PSU on the whim that they decided to hire a completely unqualified person to do the job. They had no such whims. We’d like to buy a house soon but will probably need to wait until Cat goes back to work as she has the type of jobs that look good to lending companies, my barista job …. not so much.

I finally found work with a coffee shop called Con Leche and Smalltime Roasters—a Mexican-American owned coffee shop in their second year of business that was started initially to raise funds for Dreamers. My main goal has been to help build their wholesale and roasting operation, but I also work barista shifts four days a week at Con Leche—which is a shared space with Frank Wine bar in the South Waterfront district of Portland. I have to work weekends, but this also gives me some flexibility to take Tuesdays off while Cat works at her internship at the hospital.

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However, just last week I accepted a position at Sustainable Harvest, a green coffee importing company. I will be working with a woman named Yimara from Colombia as her quality specialist assistant in the lab as we sample roast, cup, and evaluate coffee from around the world—along with helping with some minor logistics. It really is a dream job come true and sort of the next level for me in the coffee world. In February I plan to get my Q Grader, which is like a sommelier or cicero certificate for coffee. I will still be helping Smalltime out on the side but probably drop my barista shifts. The new job at Sustainable will also be good for me because I think I will finally have to quit smoking…but we’ll see.

The move to Oregon has been a combination of excitement and adjustment. Exploring a new city (more so for Cat, less for me) and starting a new job, living in a new neighborhood, new house, new neighbors, friends, and most importantly, family. Though not new, this is the first time in ten years that Cat and I are living in the same state as family. And while the opportunities are exciting, a new move also brings with it a bunch of SLE’s, or Stressful Life Experiences (as this new book I recently bought at the Portland Book Festival called This is Your Brain on Depression calls them) and I still find myself lapsing into similar vices and frustrations I wish I could have left behind in Utah. But as the saying goes, “Wherever you go, there you are.”

IMG_7650 Cat misses her friends from Utah and is excited to start work again in the summer, but she is cherishing this time with Evangeline so much. Overall, she is adjusting to life in PDX beautifully.

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Evangeline turned six months on November 23rd and now is almost seven months old! Everyday she seems to get more and more active and interactive. She started pulling at our face and nose and glasses and my beard. She pulses her legs, laughs and smiles, and she can practically sit up (though not roll over, not yet). She has been pure joy. Her rosy red cheeks shine bright, and her brown eyes seem to emanate with a purity and light that must be beamed from heaven straight into her little soul. She is 99th percentile in height and whatever is in that formula must be good because she’s growing fast.

On Thursdays my mom drives down to watch Evangeline as both her and my dad now live an hour away in Hood River. Also in Hood River are my sister Alyssa, her husband Eli, and our two little nephews Eero and Bodie (who were born three days before Evangeline). I chose this picture because they both move so fast you can barely capture it!

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My favorite part of the day (besides coming home to E of course) is when I bike to work downtown in the morning. The air crisp and cool. The sun slowly penetrating through the clouds. So far it has barely rained this fall and so I can bike most days. I bike from my house in Northeast down Going, a bike greenway, to Vancouver which is a mini-bike highway. I have found one of my favorite things is mobbing down Vancouver in the early morning with a pack of cyclists all commuting into work. Sometimes there are so many bikers there is even bike traffic and I am forced to weave around slower bikers as faster bikers simultaneously pass me. Often, as I cross the Steel Bridge in the morning, the Willamette River will be cloaked in fog and mist and it feels as if I am biking through the clouds. As I don’t have a gym membership yet, to either a climbing gym or regular old gym, and running with a dog and a six-month old in a stroller just doesn’t sound like fun, biking is my only form of exercise these days. It feels like too much to ask Cat to watch E while I hit the gym for an hour after work after already being gone for eight hours and so biking it is. And I need to do it. Biking = Happy Levi. Not biking= Angry and Depressed Levi.

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I write often but have still not had much luck getting anything published on the level I’d like to be at. I’ve been working on a novel for the last few years that is just not working for some reason (my friend Mike says it might be a movie, not a novel, but the idea of spending another few years turning it into a screenplay just sounds exhausting to me). I’ve also been working on various short stories, essays, and perhaps, who knows, a new novel, along with tweaking a memoir-in-the-works. So, lots of projects but right now they’re all iceberg status, as in, lurking large underneath the surface of anywhere public. While my craft is developing, I feel like I still haven’t found my niche, or my voice, or corner, of what to write about. I now know and am doing my best to accept however, that writing is a long journey. I am ten years in so far of seriously pursuing writing and it might be twenty or even thirty years before anything happens with it. I feel as if it’s best to look at writing (for one’s own sanity) not as a career choice or even art form, but as a form of meditation/asceticism/monkish pursuit. On my best days I can view it in this very zen way—as a practice I will work towards regardless of outcome. On my worst days I chainsmoke and drink myself to sleep because the world is a depressing place and rejections and false starts and wasted time in writing is also depressing. So, I am still the same old Levi, for better or worse (even know, I can sense a creeping melancholy in these words in what should be an otherwise happy and cheerful season/letter).

Perhaps the most interesting thing about our moves is that our cat, Waffles, has really gained a lot of ground with this move and transformed from a scared, timid cat into a bold and adventurous one. She used to be afraid of everything, but this move has strengthened her resolve and moral character. Now she is the one who spends all day outside exploring and our other cat, Chicken, prefers the dry indoors. Both of them no longer hide when guests come over and are much friendlier than they used to be. Amelie, our dog, requires more attention and though I never thought I would say this, I find myself becoming quite annoyed with her at times as it seems a dog is the last thing I want to think about taking care of at the end of the day. It probably doesn’t help that for the past couple months her paws have been very red and irritable, and I find myself spending a lot of time soaking them in Epsom salt and shampooing them and making trips to pet stores to try and change her diet so we can figure out what’s wrong with them—yeast infection perhaps?

Anyways, it’s been an exciting year. For the first time in some time, I am looking forward immensely to what the New Year brings as we continue to explore the many opportunities Portland offers Cat and I as well as watch Evangeline grow.

Wishing you all the best this Holiday Season as the New Year approaches.
Hoping that whatever physical or mental demons afflict you will flee into the night like the spell from a Patronus.

Love,
-Levi (And Cat and Evangeline and Amelie and Chicken and Waffles)

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September 17th 1983-A Tribute to my Parents Thirtieth Wedding Anniversary

September 17th 1983

 

As the American Indians say, many moons ago (some thirty years ago to be exact) two people met. Beneath the mouth of a canyon named after a creek and a fowl consumed for Thanksgiving. Terrill Dean and Laurie Ellen. Was it love at first sight? Perhaps a little—they sure didn’t date for very long—but then again it was the eighties.

She didn’t say yes at first.

She said she’d have to sleep on it.

How a man could stare a comment like that in the face and not lose heart is beyond me. But he did. He faced the tempestuous response from her lungs and didn’t waver.  Eventually she came around. Perhaps it was his conviction that made her say yes, but how she got over those ugly facial features I’ll never know. Then to be honest, I’m not really sure what happened after that. They got married beneath a mountain named for it’s number of sisters. Three to be exact. But I have very little recollection of what happened after that. Perhaps it’s because I was not yet even a fetus.

 But soon I grew inside, firstborn and reckless. Then they had two more. A girl and then a boy.

The girl was okay.

One time she bit my back and drew blood and to this day I’m still quite scared of whatever mythical vampirecal teeth she might possess beneath those seemingly innocent lips.

The boy was not so good either as he continues to receive the award for world’s most good intentioned, kind, and smiley human being ever. Next to him, I’m practically a child rapist.

But they raised us, the three of us, all of us, in the best possible way. Giving us the sort of childhood that seems rare as you get older, setting the bar so high we’d need a lunar rover to reach it.

They moved from Morrison to Conifer to finally settling in Bailey, Colorado, a small mountain town in the foothills outside of Denver.  A town so small it didn’t deserve a dot on most maps. My mother planted a beautiful garden in our front yard. She planted aspen trees and pine trees. It was beautiful for the way in which it held up against the harsh mountain climate. My dad literally chopped down trees in the forest and built a deck around our house, stripping them of bark with a silver blade you held with wooden handles between your hands. Sometimes they made me help them plant trees or peel bark to which I begrudgingly did. I was a teenager and I wanted to skateboard and watch T.V. and music videos, not move rocks around the garden and peel an entire tree of its bark. But I did, and now I will make my kids move rocks around for no reason and peel entire pine trees.

My parents gave us the best thing a parent could give to their kids—a wonderful marriage. Not a perfect marriage, but a wonderful one, leaving us no better example to follow. It was rare that I ever heard my dad raise his voice to my mom, or my mom lose her temper with him. I’m sure they did. But they worked it out. Hell, they were so good at marriage they started marriage counseling other people.

My dad took me on a backpacking trip when I was in the eighth grade. It was part of a coming of age ceremony my dad wanted to hold for me to celebrate my journey from adolescence to adulthood. One night he invited a bunch of older, distinguished men from my life (uncles, youth pastors, friends, and such) to share with me their life experience and offer a gift containing some symbolic element. Example: my youth pastor gave me a piece old climbing equipment known as a piton, which functioned essentially as an anchor back in the olden days. He then went on to talk about how important it was to know what you anchor yourself to in life.  It might sound weird to the modern ear as people don’t really do that thing anymore but it was nothing of the sort. My Dad and I spent an entire week backpacking around the beautiful Tetons. On the last day of our trip we returned to Jackson Hole and rented a motel room before our drive back to Colorado. My dad took me to the video rental store  (sorry if this concept doesn’t make sense to you droids in the future) and let me rent Gladiator. It was a big deal. I had wanted to watch Gladiator for years, or so it seemed, but couldn’t because it was rated R and had lots of violence in it. The renting of Gladiator, more than the advice and backpacking, made the trip really seem as if I had come of age. I mean backpacking is cool and all, but rated R movies? Awesome.

My mom used to throw the best birthday parties for me. She’d ask what I wanted to do for my birthday and I’d tell her. It usually involved some crackpot treasure hunt or cowboy and Indians theme. But on the day of my birthday she’d stand there, handing all of us rabid boys a treasure map with which to find trinkets buried around our yard. One time in high school she almost bought me cigars at the gas station when I stared up at her with those puppy dog eyes of mine. I almost had her under my spell when suddenly she broke and said, “What am I even thinking about? I can’t buy my son cigars!” It was funny mostly because it was a trick you could never even think about pulling with my father.

 

I’ve been married a year now. To think about what it means to be married for thirty years is incomprehensible. It’s unbelievable. The number of hurdles faced, the joys shared, the tears collected, the road trips to the Tetons and road trips to the hospital. Raising three kids who are just now barely out of the house. Setting aside everything for them. Making sure they knew they were loved no matter what career path they took. Even if they skateboarded and snowboarded instead of playing  high school football.  

I hope now I am old enough to ask them for advice. To ask them questions I’ve never asked before, about what those first few years of marriage were like when I was still unborn. About their favorite memories together. How they can still sleep in the same bed without losing their minds or stabbing each other with forks.

I’m not sure that I’ll ever be as good of a parent as they were to me, I can barely take care of myself. But they’ve given me a pretty good starting point. 

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