The Year in Review: 2009

What did Christie do in 2009? Briefly: I said goodbye to a good friend, moved in with my beloved, got even more involved in the awesomeness that is the Portland tech community, practiced some Zen, and found a new job. For the long version of the above, keep reading…

2009 started out with a quiet weekend trip to Eugene (trip photos). When I tell people that Sherri and I took a mini “vacation” to Eugene I usually get very puzzled looks that tell me Eugene is known to be boring and why would we go there for vacation. But Sherri and I wanted an economical, mellow trip. And we both like college towns. We found a lovely bed and breakfast at which to stay. We explored the campus, including the natural history museum and art galleries. We enjoyed the vegan pizza and playing cards with some of the locals at Sam Bond’s garage. We drank champagne and watched tv in bed. It was a nice way to begin the year together.

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Christie saving a worm from certain death on the Oregon State campus

In February it was revealed that our openly gay Mayor Sam Adams had had a relationship with a teenager before he became mayor (at the time he was a city council member). It’s still not clear what activities did or did not happen before the person in question turned 18. Anti-Adams groups called for his resignation (and now recall). Many more people turned out in support of the Mayor. Sherri and I were two of those people. I’ve never been much of an activist, politically or otherwise. Actually, this was the first rally of any type that I attended. I found it energizing. Adams said later on that he was prepared to resign in light of the scandal, but changed his mind after seeing so many people come out to support him. Participating in the rally made me feel positive about community involvement. It made me realize that my, seemingly inconsequential actions could indead add up to make a difference.

In April, I attended my first weekend workshop at Great Vow Monastery, called “Working with the Inner Critic.” Much of the workshop focused on using voice dialogue to identify and work with the Inner Critic. Rather than banishing the inner critic, we learned techniques for putting what she has to say in context and then making our own decisions, from our true selves. During the workshop, I learned just how much my inner critic, and another very fearful self, hold me back, particularly in my professional life. I found the workshop to be fairly transformative. So transformative, in fact, that I came home and had Sherri help me cut off all of my bleached blonde hair. After nearly a decade of doing crazy things to my hair with chemicals, it was time to just be Christie again.

Less than a month after the Inner Critic retreat, I moved in with Sherri. We’d been planning this move for nearly six months. While I’m finding that home ownership can be overwhelming at times, Sherri and I have slipped into domestic routine very easily. Most of the pre-moving concerns we shared have evaporated under the warmth of being together so consistently. I revel in the simple pleasures of meal-making, playing with the cats and reading together before bed.

This year I spent a lot of time thinking about my own decision to go vegan, how to talk to others about veganism, and how to be a force for positive change towards veganism within my community. I talk a bit about what prompted me to want to be more activist in the blog post “Vegan is More than a Strange Diet.”

In early June, we said goodbye to Atari the Wonder Cat. I miss him still.

Shortly after Atari’s passing and partially in his honor, I got my first tattoo. It’s a flash style heart that says “Vegan” inside of it.

This year I got even more involved in the awesome Portland Tech community. I started to co-lead Code ‘n’ Splode meetings. I participated in a few other user groups like PDXPHP, Ruby Brigade and Javascript Admirers. I volunteered for Legion of Tech events Ignite Portland and BarCamp. Perhaps the highlight was speaking and coordinating the volunteers at the first ever Open Source Bridge in June.

I often travel for my birthday, but this year I decided to stay in Portland. Sherri surprised me with tickets for the musical Rent. I’d never seen the theatrical production before, but had seen the movie and knew the soundtrack by heart. The seats were awesome. We enjoyed strong, tasty cocktails before the show. It was a most excellent evening.

On the weekend after my birthday, Sherri and I traveled to Sacramento to visit with my family. While in the area, we spent a few hours in Davis, where I went to college. We visited the farmer’s market and I gave Sherri a tour of campus. We had a good time despite the fact that it was over 100 degrees that weekend.

Jesse's Memorial Tree
I was surprised at how much Jesse's memorial tree had grown. I almost didn't recognize it.

To celebrate Sherri’s birthday, we spent a week on Hawaii’s Big Island (photos). The trip was somewhat exhausting (we scheduled many activities), but still fantastic. Hawaii is simply gorgeous. I can’t believe all of the native plants we saw: lilies, orchids, mangos, bananas, all growing in the wild. And, I swam in the ocean for the first time (albeit with a life jacket). And with Dolphins! We know we’re going back, and probably this year.

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Sherri and I recharge with some shaved ice after a morning spent swimming with dolphins.

During our time in Hawaii I had some downtime to reflect on my freelancing career and decided that upon returning to Portland, I’d start looking for full-time employment. I found a web developer position at an agency here in town within a month. Next week, I will have been there three months! I enjoy where and with whom I work.

A women in our Sangha fosters cats and kittens for OHS. She often posts their photos and progress on Facebook. Shortly before leaving for Hawaii, she posted about two kittens, a tuxedo and a black and white striped tabby. I told Sherri these were my two favorite colorings of cat, and she suggested we go meet them. So we did. And I fell in love right away (they’re kittens after all). We’ve named them Puck and Oberon (from Mid-Summer Night’s Dream). They’re doing very well.

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Two new additions to our family: Puck (left) and Oberon.

One of my 2009 goals was to establish a retreat practice. I didn’t manage to make it to a sesshin, but I did attend a Beginner’s Mind Retreat. It was a very good experience. I wouldn’t say it was easy; it wasn’t. Any time you a required to do sitting meditation for 8+ hours a day isn’t going to be easy. But I did notice that I felt at home at the monastery and was able to begin to relax into the container of practice that it provides. I look forward to (if one can look forward to) my first sesshin (week-long silent retreat), which I’m planning for mid-2010.

In October, right after completing my Beginner’s Mind retreat, I received the Five Grave Precepts from my teachers Hogen and Chozen. My mother, step-father, two of my brothers and a number of our friends attended the ceremony and celebration afterwards. I was honored to be supported in this way. Sherri also took Jukai during this same ceremony and it was lovely to share this aspect of practice with her.

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Precepts and Jukai Ceremony

I made the tough decision to spend the holidays in Portland, for the first time with Sherri, but away from my family of origin. It was nice to not have to travel, and to get to spend these special days with Sherri and with my Portland community. But it sucks that these good things come at the expense of missing my family and not getting to spend the holidays with them. I envy those who are fortunate enough to see their families more often.

Thanksgiving was quite lovely. Our Sangha holds it’s annual holiday party on Thanksgiving day with a giant potluck out at Great Vow Monastery. This year I think there were at least 70 people, including two friends that came with Sherri and me. At least a third of the dishes that other people brought were vegan (a great improvement over previous years). The residents put on quite a marimba concert. Some of us played a strange board game from the 70s called “Social Security.”

Thankgiving at Great Vow
Thanksgiving at Great Vow. Everyone gathered in a circle for the meal chant.

Christmas was just as lovely, although more low-key. I worked at home on Christmas Eve, knocking off in the early afternoon. Sherri and I stayed at home and open our stockings and gifts on Christmas Eve. Sherri and I both had the week between Christmas and New Year’s day off from work. We spent the time at home working on projects, took a few yoga classes and mostly just rested.

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Getting ready to exchange our Christmas gifts

A few days before the end of the year, Portland received a few inches of unpredicted snow. Because we were home already (both having the week off from work), Sherri and I went out to play shortly after it started snowing.

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Surprise snow makes Christie happy

This year we opted to stay in for New Year’s Eve. Sherri made a wonderful Japanese food themed feast. I even lent a hand by making some cocoa mochi (turned out okay, but I think I prefer other kinds of mochi).

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Sherri preparing burdock root for our NYE feast

Despite the fact that it was a very busy year, we managed some fun day trips. Some of the highlights were Ecola State park and Canon Beach, Lincoln City on Memorial Day weekend, a visit to Kiyokawa Orchards for apple tasting, and a couple of visits to Hood River.

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One comment

  1. Amy

    Sounds like a good year! Glad things are going so well =)

    PS I didn’t know you got to meet Dan Savage!