The Mommy Rush

Learning, Exploring, Creating, and Growing.

Archive for the category “Create”

People of Portland, you continue to amaze me!

It’s been quite a while since I’ve forced myself to sit down and do some personal writing.  But, this week, I feel I must rant about how wonderful it is to live in a place like Portland, Oregon.

Some of you who know me personally know that I have a teenage son.  And if you know me well, then you know he recently wrote for a grant to restore a small plot of land in the neighboring town of Gresham.  This is no surprise to most of you, especially if you know how I feel about hands-on learning and the power of service-based learning.  I confess the Big Son followed through on this grant opportunity at my urging.  He, however, did all the legwork, including contacting a wildlife expert in the area, lining up volunteers to help with the removal of invasive blackberries, choosing, purchasing, and planting the native plants to restore the habitat.  I was there for moral support, transportation, and well some serious hard work, too.  But for the most part, he completed his project on-time and under budget, and I think he gained a lot from the experience, not the least of which is a sense of what he can accomplish with persistence and focus on a goal.

When he received the grant, the cool thing about it was that in addition to receiving $500 to complete the “project”, which was to restore the habitat of a known population of threatened Oregon Slender Salamanders, he also received an internship stipend of $500 after he completed an 80 hour summer internship related to conservation.  The only problem was, the organization is not in the Portland area – it was a nationwide grant – so they provided no help or facilitation in finding an internship.

So here we are, nearing the end of our summer, and after returning from a 4 week wilderness camp, Big Son realized he hadn’t heard back from any of the organizations that he contacted about a possible internship and he had only the month of August to complete his 80 hours.  As a mom who wants to be sure her teenager 1) follows through on his commitments and 2) doesn’t waste the little summer time he had left laying around the house, I did what any mom would do and sent off a frantic email to the Oregon Urban Environmental Resource Council email list-serve, of which I am a member.  Here’s the gist of my email:

I’m wondering if anyone on this list can use a volunteer during the month of August?  My son received a Youth Conservation Grant from Planet Connect to restore a part of Johnson Creek to improve the habitat for threatened Slender Salamanders.  He completed his project in June and part of his award includes $500 scholarship for an 80 hour internship with a conservation organization or initiative. However the organization did not give him any guidance or connections for organizations in need of volunteers.  The net of all this is he needs to dedicate 80 hours to a conservation effort in order to receive his award.    He is 15, so not driving yet, and we live in Lake Oswego.  He can get pretty much anywhere in the Portland Metro area. Any ideas?Thanks in advance for any help you can offer,

Imagine my surprise when this community sprung into action.  Here are some of the many amazing emails I received in response:

We could use his help with some things around the office if he wants to come here. – Amy, Johnson Creek Watershed Council

I have work he could do!!  Give me a call, numbers listed below, and we can talk. Thanks, Chanda S., Volunteer Specialist I Restoration Coordinator, City of Tualatin

Try the watershed basin councils. -Mark M., Clackamas County

Three things I can think of near where you are:

Have you tried the watershed councils? Specifically, Johnson Creek Watershed Council? Or maybe Tualatin Riverkeeper? The only other idea I have in your area is the Soil & Water Conservation District in Hillsboro. If he doesn’t mind more driving, there are also the East and West Multnomah SWCDs and the Columbia Slough Watershed Council, maybe the Clackamas SWCD although that is far out. Let me know if you’d like me to put you in touch with my contacts at any of these places – they may be able to help pass him along to others as well!- Jen

I might have some habitat restoration projects he could help with if he could get out to the Sauvie Island.  We have bus service to the bridge and I could pick him up there.  I’m on vacation next week, but will be back on Aug. 9.  We are going to have some work parties to remove ivy and other invasive weeds, but he could also help with plant propagation.- Jane, Sauvie Island Habitat Partnership

I have room on my Summer youth Eco-Team the week of August 13-17 (which would be 40 hours), plus we could definitely find some projects for your son to work on for an additional 40 hours. (Entering bird survey data, assisting our staff with daily activities, assisting me with some volunteer programs preparation and documentation…) If this sounds interesting, please let me know! – Susan H., Portland Parks and Rec

Any luck finding an internship for your son? If not, does he have a resume, bio, or what he’s looking for out of an internship?- Thanks, Laura P., Watershed Management, Clean Water Services

I am the project coordinator for the Blue Heron Wetland Restoration Project that is located in NE Portland. We conduct our management and research in the Blue Heron Wetlands located off of Marine Dr. and adjacent to I-5. The purpose of the project is to eradicate the invasive species Ludwigia peploides (aquatic primrose) from the wetland ecosystem. The work that your son would be involved in would include data collection in an aquatic environment, native planting, soil relocation and plot construction. The work is being carried out in a swamp environment, is labor intensive and would definitely make him earn his hours (no surprises). Please feel free to call me for more information. — Alex S., Project Coordinator, Blue Heron Wetland Restoration Project

We also received personal phone calls from the North Clackamas Urban Watersheds Council and a project coordinator from SOLV with a restoration project in Lake Oswego (the town where we live), however by the time the latter came in, the Big Son had already selected two organizations he wanted to work with.  In the end, he applied for the Summer Eco Team through Portland Parks and Rec (watch the video at the link), and the remaining hours he committed to working with the N. Clackamas Urban Watershed Council on some education and outreach activities to engage youth in the area.  Both opportunities sound like amazing experiences and I’m looking forward to hearing what he gets out of them.

But more than anything, this week has proven to me that Portland is not a beautiful city by accident.  There are environmental stewards all over the city and the state, really, working hard to preserve the precious natural resources that make the Pacific Northwest such a beautiful place to visit and live, much of which we take for granted.  If nothing else, for anyone interested in getting involved with some citizen science or environmental volunteering, this list can definitely get you started!

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2012: My Year of Balance and Knowing the Fish

Yesterday morning I visited the Lan Su Chinese Garden in downtown Portland and was truly inspired. I decided to finally visit this landmark in my hometown for 2 reasons, 1) the rain had let up and the weather was somewhat conducive to a walk in a garden, and 2) it was FREE! As a way to generate local interest in the Chinese culture and to prepare for the Chinese New Year celebration later this month, they have opened their doors for the Great Eight Free Days, because, as you may know, eight is a very lucky number in Chinese culture.

In anticipation of the visit, I expected to see some beautiful plants, architecture and design and to learn a thing or two about the garden. But what I left with was so much more. I was fortunate enough to arrive just as a tour was beginning, and there was just one other person in the tour so I pretty much had a personal tour from a very knowledgeable ‘Chino-phile’ (his word, not mine) and come to find out he is a published author of two books about Taoist principles, The Tao of Now, and the philosophy of tea, The Hut Beneath the Pine: Tea Poems.

What struck me most about the experience was how much the Taoist principles on which the garden design is based would resonate so strongly with me and where I am in my life.  The first pavilion we stopped in is known as the Knowing the Fish Pavilion and as we stepped into the square pavilion that overlooked the fish pond that spans the garden, Dan, our tour guide told the story of the two ancient philosophers, that the pavilion is named for.

One day Chuang Tzu and a friend were walking by a river.

“Look at the fish swimming about,” said Chuang Tzu, “They are really enjoying themselves.”

“You are not a fish,” replied the friend, “So you can’t truly know that they are enjoying themselves.”

“You are not me,” said Chuang Tzu. “So how do you know that I do not know that the fish are enjoying themselves?”  

The moral of the story is that the fish are in their element, so they must be at peace. And when one is at peace, they are happy.  Then it follows that if one is in their element, they must be happy.  Chuang Tzu saw the fish in their element and knew that they were happy. 

This year, I’ve committed to live with intention, to stay within my element, and to ensure every moment that passes is spent in alignment with my values and within my element,  and more specifically to capture these moments here on The Mommy Rush.  But what are those values and where is my element?  These questions have been on my mind over the last 3 month ever since I left my full-time, very demanding position as a product manager for educational publisher, Learning.com

It’s funny the way life works, isn’t it? I think back to my life at the beginning of last Summer, and I remember feeling like my stress level was at its max and that if I were given one more thing to deal with, life would fall apart.  And then the news, the surgery, and my view of life shifted dramatically.  I recieved my wake-up call and I decided to re-evaluate what I was put here to do.

Reflection

Even before our family medical crisis, my inner voice was very quietly whispering that I needed a change, but it wasn’t until I had to face such a difficult challenge, that I realized what this meant.  I was off-track.  I was spending my very precious time on earth, on work and things that were out of alignment with my true purpose, my true spirit.  So, at the end of September, when my company began evaluating budget reduction options, I made it known that I was open to a change.  And on September 30, I parted ways with my full-time employer and since then I’ve been reflecting on what it is I was meant to do with my time on earth.  After several weeks of reflection there was at least one thing that I knew for sure, that, until now, I was not living life with any intention and I was not really living.

Living Fully

What does this really mean? Living Fully?  This was a big question that I knew would take a while to answer and so instead of jumping to my next project, I began to take note of moments when I felt like I was ‘in my element’; when I was enjoying what I was doing, learning a lesson, or creating a memory.  These moments were my clues to developing a list of values that define how I want to spend 2012.  In order to live in my element, like the fish in the pond, I’ve decided I will only spend my time and energy on activities that fall within my list of values.  As a means of simplifying the list, I’ve summarized each in one word and have described below what each means to me and what it will mean in 2012. 

  1. Purpose: In 2012, I will live with intention and accept my obligation to serve my purpose.  As recently as 6 months ago, if you were to ask me to describe my purpose, I would have had no problem.  This year, I would like to be less rigid about what this purpose is and to live each day within my present purpose.  Each day, I’ll ask myself, ‘what can I do today to live my life with intention, within the framework of my list of values?’  I imagine this year, I’ll continue to reflect on this concept and with any luck by next year, my purpose will be clear to me and all those around me.
  2. WisdomWhen I began to reflect on what types of activities make me feel most alive, one activity rose to the top of the list as very important to me: lifelong learning.  Not from an educator perspective, even though my career is focused on encouraging students to embrace lifelong learning, but rather a desire to learn for learning’s sake.  As a voracious reader, I want to be more purposeful about applying the lessons I learn from reading and from life itself.
  3. Connection:  It’s no secret that I value my family to no end.  Though my offspring are often the source of my craziness, they are also the source of the majority of my joy – capturing this joy was the original intent of this blog!  I also heavily value my relationships, with my husband, my immediate and extended family, and longtime and recent friendships.  This year I will dedicate my efforts to developing these connections and allowing them to enrich my life.
  4. Spirit:  It is hard to put into words how critical inspiration is for me; when I am inspired there is no stopping me.  However, when I’ve lost my inspiration, or have allowed my spirit to be depleted, I find myself trying to dig my way out of a deep ditch – which often involves a day at the spa or a solitary retreat.  This year, I will make a conscious effort to feed my spirit, to avoid the need to retreat from life to recharge.  I’ve heard the term “Sharpen the Saw”, and that is my goal, this year.
  5. Journey:  I have a deep and significant desire to travel the world, to experience life in different parts of the world.  This year, I will design my life to include opportunities to make regular journeys that enrich my life, whether they are international adventures or local field trips to expand my horizons and to continue my quest for wisdom.  Yesterday’s visit to the Lan Su Chinese Garden is a perfect example of a local journey that has impacted me through inspiration and exploration.  More and more of these journeys, this year!
  6. Energy When I began to think about when I feel most alive, I most certainly know that eating healthy and being fit are important not only for my physical health, but for my mental health as well.  When I look back at 2011, I’m pleased that I managed to accomplish at least one goal I had for the year – to lose much of the weight I’d hung onto since my last 2 pregnancies.  I accomplished this through a simple routine of adding 2-3 easy runs to my week.  As a lifelong runner, this baby step in improving my health and fitness did wonders for my mental fitness as well.  This year, I will continue with this routine and consciously care for my energy levels through the health and fitness of my body.
  7. Simplicity:  This concept of simplification has been calling to me for some time.  2011 found me taking some steps to purge our home from unnecessary clutter.  However, there is so much more to do, and I’ve learned that the effort towards simplicity requires a wholehearted dedication to a simple living mindset.  This year, I am committed to living simply, mainly to make room, literally and figuratively, for the many new experiences and joys I plan to focus on, in the near future. 
  8. Nourishment This value comes from my love of good food and the process of preparing good food from whole foods, something I love, but with a busy household and demanding career, rarely have had the time to incorporate into our lives.  This year, I will pay close attention to how we nourish our bodies with food, and will focus and reflect on the meals and foods our whole family puts into our bodies.  In addition, I will allow myself to explore, enjoy, and learn about the foods and drinks that I absolutely  love: wine, tea, chocolate, and cheese.

Balance

To sum up my focus for 2012, I’ve decided to focus on BALANCE, which was a key principle used in the design of the Lan Su Chinese Garden.  Balance, depicted through the concepts of Yin and Yang are infused throughout the garden, as well as the philosophy of the Tao.  I will maintain Balance; of work and life, energy and spirit, wisdom and simplicity.   I will maintain Balance and through Balance I will Know the Fish.

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