It’s Gettin’ Portland Up in This Bitch

The high today is supposed to be 52 degrees. Right now it is 48 and partly cloudy. My body is saying, “I remember this.” Right now I am wearing a long-sleeved t-shirt, an oxford, my hoodie, jeans, and two pairs of socks (one of them being thick and woolly). If need be, I have a down jacket to put on top of all my layers, but I doubt I will, because within five minutes of walking, I’m ready to take it off, anyway. When I’m walking, I rarely need a coat because the movement in itself creates enough body heat to keep my inner layers warm. When my mother gave me a Macy’s gift card, I splurged on a Ralph Lauren double-weight hoodie, and I am not sure I have taken it off since she bought it for me because Samantha likes to keep the air conditioning (as I have said before) somewhere between low-boy and walk-in. If you do not know what those are, you’ve never worked in a restaurant. A low-boy is a refrigerator under the prep area. A walk-in is a freezer as big as a dorm room. Needless to say, wearing layers has come in handy since April, and especially handy since August. I am slowly re-acclimating to the cold, and I cannot say it is not welcome.

One of the reasons I stayed in Portland so long was the cold. I do not like the humid heat of Houston, and I love fall clothes and being bundled up like a walking sheet set with comforter. In Maryland, we get our fair share of hot weather, but it doesn’t last as long… another plus being that when it is cold, the sun still shines, so my Vitamin D level doesn’t plummet into nothing. Once I came home from Portland and Angela (my doctor stepmother) ran a set of bloods on me and a few days later, I got a phone call:

Angela: Congratulations! You have the lowest Vitamin D level in the history of my entire practice!
Leslie: I’d like to thank location, location, location. What do I win? An Amana side by side refrigerator/freezer?

My Vitamin D level was six, and normal is somewhere between 20 and 50. I took the pills religiously, but they didn’t work for me. Apparently, what I needed was natural sunshine. When Dana and I moved to Houston in 2013, I sat outside in the backyard and drank water no matter how hot it was. I would sit there for at least an hour a day, and not only did I get a farmer’s tan, I started to feel better, less depressed even, within a week or so. Since it worked, it only encouraged me to sit out there and sweat some more. I made friends. There was Clarence, the toad that lived under the house, an abundance of squirrels, and a bat I named “Batly” after the clumsy character with huge glasses on Eureeka’s Castle, but Dana preferred “Batholomew.”

In the cold of Maryland, it feels right. Sunshine and warm clothes together, with an equal amount of squirrels, cardinals, blue jays, orioles, and hummingbirds. We also have the occasional rabbit, because we Nassers (me being the adopted one) will feed everyone. We’ve got a “squirrel feeder” because the other Nassers will not take my advice about how to keep them out of the bird feeder (toss the birdseed in chili oil, because mammals can taste heat and birds can’t). We put peanuts all over the yard. We even have the occasional bee, which pleases me to no end. I stay away from them because I am allergic, but nothing makes me happier than the fact that they can feed themselves in our yard.

As a former line cook, the fact that bees are dying in large quantities is enough to get me to break into tears, but that’s an entry unto itself. We’ll talk about that another time.

Just now, as I’ve been writing this, the clouds have drifted away and it is truly sunny. It’s still 48 degrees, but the neighborhood looks so pretty bathed in sunlight.

I wish we’d had that weather yesterday, because I went with a group from church out to our retreat house in West Virginia. People were hiking the hills and taking hay rides, which sounded awesome in theory and terrible in practice. I spent most of my day huddled by the campfire, because even though I was warm enough12079716_10153562371040272_5781095409101176503_n without my down jacket, I forgot to bring gloves. Gloves would have made all the difference, because even when I put my hands in my pockets, it wasn’t enough to keep me from shivering violently. I sat there most of the day, trying to remember everything Matt, Ned, and Dana had ever shown me about making a fire. I did pretty well, actually, and kept us going with monstrous heat in the middle of a misty Portland-like day. Everything was beautiful, with the leaves turning and the grass so green that I couldn’t believe the picture I’d taken. There was no correction at all, and the grass popped out at me. In the photo, I am standing in front of the retreat house, looking out toward the entrance and exit road. I wish I’d taken more pictures, but I got a great shot, and I figured, “let’s quit while we’re ahead.” The rest of the shots I could have gotten included things like cars, orange cones, etc. I wanted the shots I got to be pure, and completely free of anything modern. I wouldn’t have liked any of the shots I’d gotten if I’d had to spend time editing out pickup trucks, and I don’t think you would’ve, either. I tend to spend too much time on editing photos, and would rather concentrate on my eye for photography so that editing doesn’t really need to happen in the first place.

I think it would be a great place to take the youth group on retreat, but the house needs to be brought up to code in order to let the kids sleep there. It might be a project the youth might think about taking on, especially if we have some Eagle Scouts able to supervise. I sincerely believe that Eagle Scouts can do anything. It might be a good conversation to have with Rev. Susannah, who is the woman that actually got the job as the youth director at CCC. I am looking forward to working with her, because as I have said before, all of this is preparing me to fly solo. Learning how to manage a youth group, I believe, is the best step you can take before becoming a senior pastor, because nine times out of ten, you don’t get people to come to your church by adults randomly showing up. The kids hear about the youth groups their friends attend, and that, in turn, brings their parents into the fold. It works the same with young kids’ Christian Education, although in our church, that’s a completely different department, led by Rev. Audrey. I firmly believe anything we can do to get more kids active in our children and youth programs is a good thing, because our congregation is getting older. New lifeblood is coming in, but it would be great to see the rate progress, and I believe it will. There are so many ways for people to plug in, especially kids. Everything from Sunday School to string orchestra.

This church is so amazing that I can’t help but gush about it…… while I wrap up in my layers and try to recreate the acclimatization I had to Portland cold way back when….. but at least my Vitamin D level is normal. 😉

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