The Perfect 15th Wedding Anniversary Gift : Glassblowing Workshop in Astoria, Oregon

David and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary last week. The traditional gift is crystal, but the modern one is glass or a watch. So David came up with a truly unique idea. He took me to Astoria, on the Oregon Coast, and treated me to a workshop at a glassblowing studio where I made a glass pumpkin. It was my first experience learning the craft of glassblowing.

We made an appointment at Fernhill Glass Studio where we met Claude and Chris. Claude let me choose the glass colors, and explained the process of making a glass pumpkin from beginning to end. It was a lot of information, but Chris made sure I used the right tool the right way at the right time. It was a lot of fun. At one point, I even used a blow torch half as big as I am tall to heat the glass stem, giving it its mirrored finish. I’d never used a blow torch before. There’s no photo of me with it; I suspect David, who took these photos, ducked for cover and I don’t blame him.

Click on images to enlarge.

I love my new Fall decoration! I had a blast, and can’t wait for our trip to Astoria and trying my hand at another project.

Discovering Our Inner Lewis and Clark

Centennial Mills Snowscape II oil, wax on panel 2019 by Julianna Paradisi from an image of the 2017 Portland snowstorm

Those of us living in the Banana Belt of downtown Portland were spared the large amount (up to 8 inches) of snow dumped onto adjacent neighborhoods and outlying towns this past weekend.

Michelle Obama cancelled her trip to the Rose City because of the weather reports predicting Snowmagedon, after Seattle was blanketed in 5 inches of snow in only a few hours. Flights between Seattle and Portland were cancelled.

On Friday night we got a dusting of powder. Saturday morning, although air temps only reached 30° F, the sidewalks were clear except small patches of ice here and there, gone by noon.

The rest of the weekend was pretty nice, in terms of weather. In fact, the sun shone gloriously most of Sunday. I got a slightly pink sunburn from an hour’s worth of it shining on my face through the window during barre class.

The Internet guffawed mercilessly at the forecasters. Twitter and Facebook popped with snarky photo memes. Portland weather forecasters are used to the heckling, similar to our local sports teams when they lose.

Unpredictable weather is a part of life in Portland, treated like a personality participating in all social events like that crazy relative everyone suspects will act out but is invited to the wedding anyway.

It was reported with great humor that all the kale in Portland grocery stores had vanished from the shelves as panicked Portlanders stocked up on essentials to sustain them during the predicted week-long siege of Snowstorm 2019.

I hadn’t planned to go to the studio on Saturday, because we had tickets to see Michelle Obama. When she cancelled Friday afternoon, I still  didn’t plan to go because of the predicted inclement weather. When the snow accumulation proved slight, I still didn’t go because something inside me suspected foul play on the part of the storm: It was just an unexpected break in the weather; the really bad stuff could start any moment. These thoughts were somewhat fueled by reports and photos posted by Facebook friends attesting there was significant snow in selected Portland neighborhoods.

So I adapted. I scheduled barre classes instead of my weekend runs along the river. I did laundry. I meditated. I read my Tarot cards, and then journaled about what I thought the reading meant. I read a book. I took a nap. I made a pot of soup. I texted my husband who had to work the weekend. I told him I loved him and missed him, adorning the texts with happy faces blowing kisses emojis.

It didn’t snow.

On Sunday there were occasional light flurries of powdery snowflakes that melted on contact into tear drops falling from the railings of my deck. I took another barre class, but ventured no further from home than that.

We ate leftover soup that night for dinner.

The whole weekend was entirely anti-climatic.

I wasn’t alone in my feelings I discovered on Monday morning at work. When the topic of “the snowstorm that wasn’t” came up, and it did often, everyone said the same thing. They had been unable to reorganize their weekend plans to make use of the unexpectedly good weather. Almost everyone made soup. Lots of soup, too much soup for one family and they shared portions with their neighbors.

Disappointment was the most commonly expressed emotion. We had looked forward to being homebound by the snow that never fell.

In my mind, we were mourning our inner Lewis and Clark. A snowstorm gives us a cause to focus on as a community. But more than this, a snowstorm provides the opportunity to test our inner resilience, because in reality, Portlanders are closet survivalists. Note that stores ran out of kale, bread, milk and bacon. There were no shortages of parkas, snow boots, traction devices to put on the boots, or of generators, or snow tires, That’s because households already have these things, and every neighborhood has a neighbor with a big sturdy truck with all-wheel drive who will happily volunteer to take you to work at the hospital or wherever it is you need to be.

Oregon is home to the last of the pioneers headed west. Europeans discovered Hawaii long before Lewis and Clark arrived on the Oregon coast. In Oregon, we have travelled as far west as one can on the continent of this great country.

Those of us who came to Oregon from other places as young people came because we wished to connect with our inner Lewis and Clark; at least I did. I learned to start a fire from kindling I split myself from wood taken from the cord I stacked in the fall to get me through winter. I came because I love the change of seasons, the colors of fall, the damp, grey mossiness of winter that breaks into the brilliant smile of spring. I left the monotonous days of the state where it never rains to experience the full palette of nature.

Like my fellow Oregonians, I relish the threat of a Snowpocalypse for its gift of revelation: who I am, and what I am capable of.

And like my fellow Oregonians, I’m a little lost when the Snowpocalypse doesn’t arrive.

Don’t Change the Way You Look, Change the Way You See

Vegetable Still Life with View of Yaquina Bay photo: David E. Forinash 2011

Getting cancelled for part of a scheduled shift at work is often a problem during a recession, but on Friday I volunteered to go home at noon when our patient census was low. David and I planned to leave early Saturday morning for the Oregon Coast, but since he had Friday off, I packed quickly and we left that afternoon instead. Getting cancelled for half a shift felt like a gift instead of a loss in this circumstance, and my coworkers who wanted the hours were happy. The way it looks depends on your point of view.

I am in Newport, Oregon looking at a 180 degree view of the Pacific Ocean, with a blue heron nesting in a nearby fir tree. Last night I thought I heard a small dog barking, but it was the heron. What surprisingly harsh squawks from such an elegant bird! I see the heron in a new way.

Saturday morning at Newport’s Farmers’ Market we bought heirloom tomatoes, slender eggplants, a radicchio with red leaves edged in light green, and purple, yellow, and red peppers. Although we are traveling, I couldn’t resist the beauty of the vegetables, and when we paid for them even the farmer commented on the remarkable colors. Although he’d set up the booth himself that morning, he saw them from a fresh perspective while weighing them on the scale.

At the locally owned JC Market (which has a surprisingly good wine selection) I bought a bottle of Oregon Pinot Noir and a Pinot Gris. As I carried the brown paper bag through the parking lot, I saw Don’t change the way you look, change the way you see, written on a sticker pasted to the bumper of a parked car.

It makes perfect sense.

I knew a pilot who said when he entered any public venue such as a movie theatre, the first thing he did was locate all the exits in case of fire. It makes sense that a pilot would see a theatre that way. After all, how to exit the plane in an emergency is the first thing taught to commercial jet passengers.

For a long time, I viewed many opportunities through the lens of their worst possible outcomes. I believe I learned this behavior as a nurse, seeing the traumatic outcomes of choices written on the bodies of patients in the ICU. Jobs requiring an exceptional sense of responsibility for the safety of others, such as piloting a jetliner, or nursing, affect our view of life, creating habits within our personalities, which I believe are unique from most of our society. It took me awhile to realize nursing influenced my enjoyment of life, and not always in a positive way.

For instance, I used to make choices based on their potential for risk or emotional pain. “Hope for the best, but plan for the worst,” was my viewpoint. Now I look at choices for their fun value too, not only potential peril. Otherwise, I may miss seeing the movie by worrying that the theatre might catch on fire.

Don’t change the way you look, change the way you see.

Summer Weekend Guests Part I

Salt bowl, chocolate, and spurtle photo: jparadisi 2010

This weekend David and I happily entertained out of town guests. Besides the opportunity to spend time with people we love, we get to see our city, Portland, Oregon, through the eyes of visitors. Here are a few of the fun places we visited:

Bob’s Red Mill: 5000 SE International Way, Milwaukie, Oregon, uses antique millstones to grind whole grain products, which they package and sell. On weekdays you can tour the mill, then head over to the grain store and restaurant to buy products or have a hearty meal. I had the eggs and grits for breakfast, but could have had French toast, waffles, or one of many other choices from the bakery or espresso bar. Family friendly, Bob’s Red Mill has a vast selection of gluten-free products too. Bob’s steel-cut oats are an international award winner (also available gluten-free). If you buy some to take home, be sure to buy a hand-carved spurtle (Scottish porridge stirring stick) made by artisan Tim Cebulla from native Oregon myrtle wood.

The Meadow: 3731 N. Mississippi Ave., Portland, Oregon. Okay, I know about sodium and high blood pressure, but it’s worth learning the discipline of moderation to shop at The Meadow. This unique establishment sells salt from all over the world. I think of it as geology for my kitchen. As a return customer, I already own one of their salt starter sets, and a bowl carved from pink Himalayan rock salt. So, I bought a bar of imported dark chocolate to melt directly in the salt bowl for dipping fresh strawberries and bananas into. The knowledgeable salesperson provided complete instructions on how to do it. Besides salts of the earth, The Meadow also sells a large assortment of fine chocolates, wines, and fresh flowers.

Pistils Nursery: 3811 N. Mississippi Ave., Portland, Oregon, is down the street from The Meadows.  A marvel of design in a very small space, Pistils is a nursery and chicken habitat in a converted old house. Nestled in a largely residential neighborhood, my husband wondered how they keep their free-roaming, exotic chickens within the fenced yard. I’m curious how they keep the neighborhood cats out. At any rate, this homey version of a full-fledge nursery is a delight for the senses. I am kicking myself that this was one of the rare times I was without a camera. You’ll have to go see for yourself.

Meandering Through Powell’s Bookstore and in My Head About Art and Nursing

     

Powell's City of Books photo: JParadisi 2010

 

     My husband and I recently entertained guests from out-of-town. One of the fun things we did was visit Powell’s City of Books in Portland. Powell’s on Burnside is the largest bookstore in the world, a reader’s Paradise. Rooms of books sprawl from floors of multiple staircases, like levels of heaven. It is so big; the store provides maps for customers, like Disneyland. If you visit Powell’s, allow at least two hours. Like making a painting, you never finish going through Powell’s, you just reach interesting places to stop.   

     Of course, I bought some books while we were there. Three came from the Pearl Room, where the art books are shelved. In the Gold room, I found a copy of American Pastoral by Philip Roth. I’ve meant to read Philip Roth since I read Night Studio, a memoir by Musa Mayer about her father, the artist Philip Guston. The two Philips were friends, as painters and writers often are. That is not why I bought American Pastoral. I bought the novel because I’m reading books from the Books to Read Immediately list in How to Read like a Writer, by Francine Prose. An award-winning author, Prose teaches writing the way my instructors at Pacific Northwest College of Art taught painting: study the work of the best, and imitate what they did.   

     It sounds so simple: study masterpieces. This kind of observation is about getting inside the artist or writer’s head, understanding the choices they made, and why each decision contributes to the masterpiece. The next step is to take that why and store it like a tool in its box, until an opportunity for use presents itself.   

     That sounds simple too, except that the trick, the magic, the craft, only occurs if one wields the tool in a fresh, new way. Restating something said before needs to reveal a unique voice. That is what makes the work a piece of art: craft and a unique voice.   

     As I meandered through the rooms of Powell’s, it occurred to me that craft and unique voice are often missing in nursing innovation. How many times are manufacturers of IV tubing and connector systems replaced in a hospital? That is not innovation; it’s changing vendors because the current vendor contract has expired and the hospital is shopping for a new one. Real innovation is finding ways to improve, for instance, staffing in a damaged economy. It is seeing old ideas in a fresh new way. Hospitals move slowly towards change, as if lumbering freighters pulled along by tugboats in a busy harbor. Nurses resist change too. For instance, we complain about understaffing, and about losing hours (pay) when hospital census is low. Not enough nurses leaves a unit under staffed, but too many nurses means not enough working hours for everyone. Dilemma is part of the business of health care. Problems have answers; dilemmas are ongoing and need management.    

     Reduced paychecks due to lost shifts were particularly painful when I was a single mother with a mortgage. After awhile, the vacation paid leave dried up too. I needed cash. Therefore, I became agreeable to floating from PICU to related units, like NICU and general pediatrics. It wasn’t always comfortable going to an unfamiliar unit and taking  patient assignments, but I found if I went with an open mind, spoke up about what kind of assignments were appropriate for my skill level, and won over a buddy or two from the unit, floating wasn’t that bad. I took CE courses in NICU subjects, including NALS and improved my skills. That improved my comfort level and patient safety. Social networking the old school way, I made friends in the units where I floated, and rarely lost a shift of work. Each new skill embellished my résumé; adding to my marketability. It’s a good tactic for nurses wanting to look experienced, instead of just aging, to employers.   

     Hospital administration plays an important role in successful floating experiences for their nurses. It is critical that they understand it takes more than a body with a pulse and a stethoscope to care for various patient populations. Years ago, I attended a meeting organized by the hospital. Its administrators asked nurses what would encourage us to float. I pointed out that while I was able to sustain a critically ill child on life support;  if floated to labor and delivery I could reason that a slow heart rate on a fetal monitor was probably not a good thing, but all I would know to do about it was scream for help. The administrators listened, and created float area “bundles,” limiting the departments nurses are asked to float to by related acuity and skills. The tugboats helped navigate the freighter in this case.   

        I am grateful to have a career that provides so many opportunities for work. In this economy, nursing is one of the few jobs with any security at all. It also provides opportunity for creative souls.

The Volcano Lover

Cinder Cone with lava field in the background photo: JParadisi

Cinder Cone with lava field in the background photo: JParadisi

     Recently, I walked to the top of a volcanic cinder cone in the Cascade Mountain range, in Oregon.  I have been in love with volcanoes for decades now, since I first heard of the ruins of Pompeii in the fourth grade, and  images of cataclysmic geology flowed  like molten lava within my ten year-old imagination. 

     I read the novel, The Volcano Lover, by Susan Sontag, simply because of its title.  It wasn’t  as much about volcanoes as it was about submerged passion and possession, but I enjoyed reading it.

     It was weird, walking on the top of a volcano, though it’s been more than a millenium since its last eruption. Volcanoes in the Pacific Northwest don’t conjure tropical images of the goddess Pele hurling showers of orange and red molten stone at the lovers who displeased her. Pacific Northwest volcanoes are more subtle. They simmer quietly for eons, occasionally belching benign plumes of white steam, seen for miles.

     I didn’t live in Oregon when Mount St. Helen erupted in May of 1980. But I have seen large spirals of steam billow up to the sky from it,  like no cloud I’d ever seen before.  It was a few years ago. I had just gotten off work, and was going to my car on the top of the hospital’s parking structure, when I saw it. A coworker of mine, who I occasionally ate lunch with (we liked the same bench in the hospital’s garden during good weather) was the only other person there to see it. We sat on the hood of his car, watching the phenomenon, and congratulating ourselves for having the best seats in Portland for this spontaneous performance. A year or two later, I can’t remember, this same coworker, who loved nature, his family, and his patients, was shot in the head by an intruder in his home, who stole the very car my now deceased friend and I had sat on that day, watching the volcano, and wondering what would happen next. 

     You never know what’s brewing underneath.

     I thought about all of this while walking the cinder cone. Life is unpredictable. One day you’re healthy, the next, you or someone you love is in an accident, or diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. Or you get a phone call from a stranger, telling you  “I’m very sorry to inform you ma’am, that your loved one was found dead…”

     With this in mind, I refrain from judging my outpatients who irritably or sheepishly ask me to let them go out for a smoke, between their infusions of chemotherapy. A diagnosis of cancer motivates some patients to quit, but others find it so stressful, they don’t have it in them. Some of them berate themselves with guilt, because of it.  I do my duty, and encourage them to quit, but I know first hand that a healthy lifestyle doesn’t guarantee a cancer free life, and out of compassion, I share this knowledge with them. 

     I think about safety, and how to avoid danger, and this quote, from the sci-fi movie Demolition Man bubbles up from memory:

 “I have seen the future. Do you know what it is? It’s a 47-year-old virgin sitting around in his beige pajamas, drinking a banana-broccoli shake, singing, ‘I’m an Oscar Meyer Weiner’.”

     I’m learning that the rules we make for ourselves only create an illusion of control. We have choices, but we don’t have control. Or rather, we have control until it’s taken away from us, through illness, accident, or a violent crime. We walk, not realizing the volcanic turmoil underneath the smooth surfaces of our lives, until an eruption occurs.

     You never know what’s brewing underneath.

Greetings from Eastern Oregon

Paulina Lake, in the Newberry Caldera, Eastern Oregon photo JParadisi

Paulina Lake, in the Newberry Caldera, Eastern Oregon photo JParadisi

     Taking advantage of the beautiful fall weather we’re having in Oregon this year means a road trip, and we are in eastern Oregon this weekend.  The geography is very different from Portland. Yesterday, we visited the Newberry Caldera and climbed the Big Obsidian Flow, a 1,300 year-old, outpouring of black, glass-like stone, valued by native communities for making arrowheads and knives. I saw a snake, warming itself in the last of the autumn sun.

Recipe: Curried Shrimp & Apple Salad (Yummers!)

Apples and Pears from the Oregon "Fruit Loop" photo: JParadisi

Apples and Pears from the Oregon "Fruit Loop" photo: JParadisi

     Last weekend David and I drove out to Hood River, Oregon for lunch.  Afterwards we took  in the “Fruit Loop” and bought apples and pears at one of the many fruit stands. Inspired by the autumn still life on my kitchen counter, I made this incredible salad of fall flavors.

 

 

Curried Shrimp and Apple Salad

(makes 4 servings)

2 tbsp olive oil-divided

1/2 cup shalots, thinly sliced

1 tsp (or to taste) curry powder

1 cup pear juice

1 tsp apple cider vinegar

1 lb shelled and deveined shrimp

salt and pepper to taste

1 large apple, chopped (I used my favorite: Honey Crisp)

1/4 cup tart dried cherries

1/2 toasted cashews

8 cups chopped field greens with herbs

     Heat half of the olive oil in a large skillet. Add sliced shalots  and saute till tender, 2-3 minutes. Add curry powder and cider or pear juice. Bring to a boil and reduce to 3/4 cup; about 4 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl. Add the vinegar. Let cool.

     Heat the remaining olive oil in the skillet and add the shrimp. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Saute shrimp just until they curl and are pink. Place on a dish.

     Add field greens to cooled curry and shalot dressing; toss. Add chopped apple, dried cherries, and toasted cashews; toss again. Divide into 4 servings in bowls and top each with a serving of sauted shrimp. Serve with whole wheat pita.

 

Sometimes Staffing Issues are Beneficial

   How sweet it is!

   You know how it goes, when you’re a nurse. You work your assigned holiday weekends. It’s fair.

   Sometimes, the department you work for has a low census, and your shift gets cancelled, because they don’t need you.

   I got cancelled for the entire holiday weekend, due to low census.  This feels like a gift from the universe (but it actually was Friday’s charge nurse who made it happen), after working my tush off all week installing The Acorn Contains the Tree and “One more than four” at Anka Gallery.

   David and I threw a couple of overnight

Yaquina Bay from Newport's Historic Bayfront July 4th photo: J.Paradisi

Yaquina Bay from Newport's Historic Bayfront July 4th photo: J.Paradisi

 bags in the back of the mighty Subaru yesterday afternoon and took off for Newport, Oregon, to watch  the fireworks display tonight. Some well earned R&R.

Have a happy holiday!