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October 2011

the dream of the '90s: still alive portland!


Ever since I saw my first episode of Portlandia, I've been more than a little intrigued by the city. Though the characters are clearly exaggerated, I find them all to be so much more interesting than the cookie-cutter, suit-wearing east coasters I'm so familiar with. (I'm also a little bit in love with the idea that the dream of the '90s is still alive in Portland, an aspect that gives me some weird sense of hope.) Last week I was lucky enough to travel on business to Portland, and it was such a wonderful experience that I had to share it with all of you!

I'm a huge fan of the west coast. Maybe it's because I grew up on the east coast and am just over it, but, for whatever reason, I love the vibe that seems to radiate up and down the left side of the USA. More laid back, more creative, more mysterious. The vibe that greeted me in Portland was just as I expected it would be: AWESOME. The people were interesting, the shops were unique (okay, there was a mall that was just like the one at home, but I loved it away because it was in Portland), and -- bonus! -- there were tons of dogs around. Though I only spent a few days there and only had the opportunity to enjoy the Downtown area, I wanted to share with you some of my favorite places. 

The nines

The Nines: The hotel where I stayed was beautiful. I really enjoyed the teal accents and the lobbies and common areas were filled with beautiful art -- gigantic necklaces, portraits, sculptures. I've stayed in a lot of nice hotels, but this was one of my favorites. Just wandering through the halls, I felt as if I were in an art museum. Though I didn't, I was tempted to visit various floors and check out the art selection. Atop the hotel is a fun-looking club called Departures. Though I didn't check it out personally, I caught a sneak peek when my elevator key didn't work and I was escorted up to the rooftop. It looked like a good time!



Powell's Books: Definitely my favorite stop on the trip, this bookstore was filled with level after level of new and used books. Had I not been on my lunch break, I would have spent hours in this place, just wandering from level to level and exploring the bookshelves. Instead, I scurried through the levels trying not too make too much noise with my east coast heels, (Note to anyone visiting Powell's: do not wear heels. Mine were incredibly loud and distracting while I was perusing the shelves and caused heads to turn. In fact, I think I may have been the only one in Portland wearing heels.) and finally settled on purchasing a wonderfully used copy of The Grapes of Wrath for my boyfriend. 


  Wolf by lizzy stewart(About Today - Lizzy Stewart)

Reading Frenzy
: Another favorite spot on my Portland tour, this bookstore was awesome. In it, there were all kinds of hand-crafted books and zines featuring offbeat or local writers. It was hard for me not to want to buy everything in the store, but I managed to control myself and snagged only a copy of Lizzy Stewart's Living Things Series Volume One. Though it was the wolf above that initially caught my eye, I'm now smitten with Lizzy's work. If you enjoy that wolf print as much as I do, check out the rest of her stuff here. Lizzy's artistic expressions are just a small sample of the wondrous things you can find nestled in the shelves of Reading Frenzy. 


Portland sign

Portland Sign: When I arrived (at nearly midnight east coast time!) in Portland, this sign greeted me as I traveled sleepily from the airport to the hotel. Though I couldn't see much of Portland, my face lit up with excitement when I saw this sign lighting up the night and assuring me that I was somewhere far, far away from home. Apparently the sign used to read "Made in Oregon" and was recently changed in November 2010 to say "Portland, Oregon." Seeing it was definitely the defining "I've arrived in Portland" moment for me. 


All in all, my trip to Portland was a success! I'd like to give a special shout out to Nubby Twiglet, who gave my some tips on places to check out in the Downtown area. She also took the photo at the top of this post. Beautiful, huh? Even though I was confined to the Downtown area, with Nubby's suggestions in hand, I did get the sense that the dream of the '90s is still alive in Portland. Tattoos, groups of people hanging out on the streets, coffee shops, flannel, bikes, records, cool art, weirdness. There was so much weirdness -- and I loved it! It's by far one of my favorite places in the country. So if you ever have a chance to check out Portland, do it! 


in the port: the pros and cons of safety


Over the summer, I stumbled across my old yearbook at a friend's beach house. In it, my parents had purchased a portion of a page to write a special message to me. They reminded me that I was safe and always welcome in their port, but that's not what ships are for. They were, like all good parents should, encouraging me to embark on my own life adventures, to leave their nest in search of an independent existence. 

At the time, I don't know what that yearbook note meant to me. Did I fully understand its meaning at the age of seventeen? Or did I just think it was silly, laughing my parents' poetic attempts off with a wave of my hand? Now, looking back on the ten years since I first held that yearbook in my hands, I see that what they were saying is so true. It was tempting -- still is -- to stay safe in the port, docked securely against the shore, but that's not what life is for. Life is for sailing, adventuring, experiencing more than safety. 

After re-reading that message in my yearbook, days later I happened to stumble across the image above on Tumblr. It felt like a sign, a push from the universe, nudging me to revisit those words my parents had written to me a decade ago. I found myself lost in thought, wondering: Am I still in the port? Have I simply traveled from one port in search of another? Have I missed out on parts of my life because I was more interested in being safe? And, really, what is wrong with safety? 

Right now my life is very safe. Everything about it makes sense, falls into line, and looks -- from the outside -- as it should. Aside from the whole marriage-and-kids thing, I am doing everything the "right" way -- the safe way. But I have to wonder if the safe way is the right way for me. In typical Dani fashion, this wondering inspired me to make a two lists: The Pros of Safety and The Cons of Safety. 

The Pros of Safety

1. Familiarity. Staying in a safe situation is wonderful for its familiarity aspect. Doing what you've always done, where you've always done it, with the same people you've always done it with offers a certain level of comfort that you just don't get when you leave the port. 

2. Security. Safety often offers a sense of security. For example, if you stay at your job rather than leaving it to start a business, you're guaranteed a paycheck (at least while you're employed!). Staying in the port often allows you to feel secure in your daily coming and goings. 

3. Flexibility. When you feel safe, you are often more flexible. If you are with people you feel comfortable with, you might be more willing to try something new. Or, if you have a stable job, you have the flexibility to spend money without worrying. You might also be less likely to try new things if you feel safe. 

4. Growth. When you are in a place of safety -- say, a great relationship or a cushy job -- you have more freedom for focusing on personal growth. Without the fear and worry of what's next, you can focus on growing yourself and have time and energy to explore your hobbies and interests. 


The Cons of Safety 

1. Boredom. Let's face it: being safe is boring. It's nice sometimes to know things are where they should be, but who wants a life that's all figured out and in place? After a while, that becomes very uninteresting and life should be exciting, should it not? 

2. Staleness. The safer things are, the more they have the potential to grow stale. Like a loaf of bread sitting in the cupboard for weeks, a safe life can often turn moldy and inedible. One of the worst things about staying in the port is experiencing only what is happening on that particular dock. 

3. Fear. When you choose to stay in the port, you're likely to encounter a lot of fear. Feeling safe can be wonderful, but it also makes you wonder about what things would be like if you weren't being so safe, causing you to fear the unknown rather than embracing it as you would if you actually left the port. 

4. Limitations. Staying safe provides many, many limitations. The benefits of safety may be worth forgoing the freedoms that come with leaving the port, but it's hard to know if one never tries to strike out on his or her own. Safety, while comforting, puts certain barriers on living life to the fullest. 


I once read, "You can never cross the ocean unless, of course, you have the courage to lose sight of the shore." I struggle with this a lot. I know there are things in my life that I want -- like a full-time writing career or a business focused on cultivating creativity -- but the safety of the shore keeps me treading water by the dock. Though it used to be one of my specialties, risk is something I typically avoid these days. And this has me wondering if I'm missing out on some unknown shore, a place I could find if only I wasn't so afraid to leave the safety of the port...

Have you struggled with staying safe and/or taking risks? 
What advice would you offer someone feeling stuck in the port?  

stop looking back: 5 tips for living in the now

"Never look back unless you
are planning on going that way." 

Henry David Thoreau


Focusing on the present moment is something I struggle with on a daily basis. Hard as I try, much as I know it's so much better to live in the now, I struggle with finding the present moment among my constantly racing thoughts. Whether it's the already-happened past creeping back into my mind or the who-knows-if-it-will-happen future taking hold of my thoughts, more often than not I find myself living somewhere other than the present moment. And, of course, that's not what I want to be doing. 

Looking backward has always been a fault of mine -- and, in fact, was one of the reasons I started this site. I wanted to -- and still want to -- stop focusing on the past. Whether it's a past relationship, a family issue from the past, or a mistake I made years ago, thoughts of days gone by often seem to find their way into my mind, clearly hindering my ability to live fully in the present moment. Like most people, thoughts of the past impact my present -- and not often in a positive way. 

I'm really striving to make this year a very present one. Being more positive and present was one of the 28 Things To Do Before I Turn 29 and I'm determined to cross it off my list. I know there are many ways to be present -- but it's up to me to take action on them. Living in the now means not looking back, not focusing on the past. Here are some of the ways I'm going to push myself into the present moment: 

How To Live Now: 5 Tips for Being Present

1. Realize my thoughts are not me.
Tempting as it is to believe that whatever I'm thinking is true and real and present, that's often not the case. I plan to reflect more on the words I wrote in the "Don't Believe Everything You Think" post in order to keep my mind focused on the now. 

2. Use my breathing to center me in the now. Occasionally, when I'm really stressed out, I'll take a few deep breaths to calm myself before taking any action. I'm going to try to use my breathing more to keep me focused on the present moment. By focusing on my breathing, I can bring myself back to the present. 

3. Increase my practice of mindfulness. I really do want to be mindful, but I can't say that it's always the case. I'm often rushing and to focused on what's next to pay attention to what's around me. I plan to spend more time noticing my surroundings -- as well as how they make me feel -- to stay in the now. 

4. Forgive myself and others for the past. Letting go of the past can be really hard, especially when it hurts. Tempting as it is to cling to it, I know that forgiveness is the best way to move forward so that I can live in the present. I plan to work on forgiving others -- and myself -- for the past so I can live in the present. 

5. Switch up my routines to make them new. Too often I adhere to the same exact routine, making it easy to lose focus on the now. By switching things up -- taking a different way to work, telling a story in a new way, etc. -- I will force myself to be more attentive to, and present in, my daily routines. 


If you've tried to live in the present moment, you know how hard it is. "Be present" is one of those phrases -- just like "be positive!" -- that sounds so easy but is really quite difficult to put into practice. If you're struggling with staying present in your life, know that you're not alone. It's a very tough thing to do -- and I have to wonder if even those who are experts on the matter (think: Eckhart Tolle) are really able to stay present all the time. It's so easy to write the words "stay in the moment" and really mean them as true and honest advice, but it's so much more difficult to actually stay in the present moment with thoughts being as they are. They are tricky sometimes and can lead us backwards into the past. Hopefully these five tips will help me -- and you! -- to stop letting my thoughts pull me back to the past and, instead, I will stay focused on the now. 

Any other tips for staying present?
What do you do to live in the moment?