But I’m in My Slippers! And Other Sick-on-Christmas Horror Stories

Your head aches, your eyesight is hazy, you try to breathe – it’s like stretching an undersized piece of skin over a drumhead, tight and painful, and the base of your throat is searing from coughing. In your delirium you have the sense to take your temperature. It’s a fever alright – your face is burning, you’re shivering and can’t get warm no matter how many layers of blankets you pile on top of you. Logically, you turn up the heat, COMPLETELY unaware that there’s a problem with the ventilation system and it’s pumping gallons of toxic fumes into the house, which you can’t smell due to the viral war raging in your head and chest…

Dear readers, welcome to my Christmas Eve.

My sister arrives several hours after the scene I have just described above to drop off some provisions, opens the door and instantly covers her nose and mouth in horror. “It’s toxic in here! Why does it smell like diesel fuel?!” I try to leap from the couch, but it feels more like I’m Sasquatch swimming to the surface of a lake in very s-l-o-w m-o-t-i-o-n.

I think she’s crazy at first. “I don’t smell anything!” I say red-cheeked and panting from the exertion of standing up. She starts researching furnace oil on her phone to determine whether or not she should call the fire department. I turn off the heat and try to remain calm, but I’m terrified, and sick and utterly exhausted. “I can’t stay here. Please don’t leave me here!” I say beginning to tear up. Of course she wouldn’t have, but I was in a fever nightmare and everything felt ten times worse than it was. Once we determined I would come with my sister and brother in law to their house, I tried to grab what I thought I would need – pajama pants, tooth brush, my thermometer, computer, a few changes of clothes. Somehow as we all bustled out the door, leaving the plume of fumes behind us, I manage to forget two very important items: #1 my Christmas gifts for the family and #2 MY SHOES!

Too bad, they say, we’ll open your gifts later and at least you’re wearing slippers! It’s true, I do have on my favorite rudolf red wool slippers. “OK” I sigh, “let’s go.” Fast forward through three hellish nights with a high fever, aches, shakes and chest-ripping coughing and Christmas has come and gone – after-all, it hardly arrived for me, since I spent most of it in bed – and my sister is dropping me back off at my dreaded fume-filled house.

But first we stop at the New Seasons near my house (you know the one where I bought a shower cap to stay warm when my heat wasn’t working the first time) to buy some kleenex and cough syrup. When we park in the lot, I start to get out and then suddenly realize I’m not wearing shoes, and I’m still in my pajamas. “But I’m wearing slippers!! I can’t go in there like this!” I begin to protest. My sister is unmoved. “Of course you can! You’re in Portland, remember?” Well, she does have a point, I think to myself. I shake my head again in protest. This is so embarrassing. I look like a freaking wreck! I hope I don’t see anyone I know…followed by…who would I see anyways? I’m new to town; I hardly know anyone!

OK FINE. I trudge across the concrete, unable to ignore the fact that I’m wearing large, glowing red slippers and that my hair probably looks like I just flushed it down a toilet and then tied it into a haphazard pigtail on top of my head. But as I trudge through the entrance, past the usual traveling-artist-street-kids out front, I see a young woman playing the banjo with giant arms-length holes in both the inner thighs of her jeans and I chuckle, thinking, it is Portland after all. People wear whatever the hell they want here and call it cool. At least I know I can feel comfortable going to the grocery store in my slippers!

Today I am still in bed recovering from viral bronchitis and feeling only slightly less depressed about being sick over the holidays. Sadly, this gal’s going to be staying in on New Year’s Eve as well, resting up. At least there’s a reason to slow down. Maybe I need this rest after the whirlwind move up here three weeks ago. Either way, I hope whoever you are, reader, that you are healthy and jovial this holiday! Please be twice as much…for me 🙂 And if you’re wondering about the fumes…we got the heat fixed, only to have it break again a day later. So Monday, we’ll be having the furnace repairman over again. Let me just say, I don’t intend to ever rent a home with an oil furnace in it again!

Oh! And if you have any sick horror stories of your own, or recipes and tips for beating the winter virus season, please leave them in a comment!

My favorite red slippers

My favorite red slippers

Red slippers

The Art of Traveling In My Own Neighborhood

My olive-green stocking cap hugged wet curls. I was showered, fed, and ready for the day. I pulled on my jacket and slipped my camera into my purse. My hands found my pockets as I stepped outside my door to see what I could find. It’s Sunday and I don’t have any other plans, so why not be a traveler in my own neighborhood?

As a new transplant in Portland, OR, I’m determined to connect with this new place I’m living in. The rain had let up and it was the perfect timing for a stroll. I walked with eyes attuned to small details and opened my mind to a state of wonder.

Before my walk, I was thinking of backpacking through Europe and the way things – people, synchronicities, purposes – seemed to find their way to me ease-fully. It was affirming to feel the spirit of adventure still well and alive in me as I set out in my own neighborhood, and to realize that the world provides endless discoveries for those who want to discover, regardless of how far – or how close – you travel.

In a tree just a block away from my front door, I was thrilled to find a bird’s nest and nearby that, an unpaved alley with large puddles, currently doubling as a local bird spa. A few blocks further, I found an adorable Patisserie and was brought back to Belgium when I took a bite of a chocolate macaroon that melted as soon as it touched my tongue. Mmmm, I closed my eyes and savored the rich, smooth texture of one of my favorite European treats. Past the bicycle shop and several bars, I stumbled into a coffee/pie shop, curious to try their espresso, clueless that I was about to make a new friend in a very special way.

As I stood waiting for my latte, leaning against a lacquered wooden bar and breathing in sweet scents of berry baked goods, a wrinkled New York Times next to me caught my eye. Then two large hands picked it up. I glanced up and saw a tiny blue spiral tattooed on his left earlobe. That’s interesting. As his face came into focus, my gaze was met with two green eyes, smiling at me. “Hello,” the stranger said. “Hi,” I said with a shy nod. We started chatting about the crossword puzzle and then about the status of the world. I sat down next to him and sipped my hot drink as we moved from topic to topic, eventually landing on travel.

It turns out he has also traveled through Europe and he commiserated with me over the less-than-comfortable transition from backpacking freely to working and having a steady routine again. Berlin came up, and then Spain, and we laughed at the fact that we had been to many of the same places, equally impacted in a profound way through our experiences there. I learned other things too, like he has an eight-year-old who he describes as the anchor in his life. The same swirl on his left earlobe is also tattooed on his right one. When his fancy drink came, he offered me a sip, and it didn’t feel strange at all to take him up on it.

What was meant to be a quick stop at the coffee shop had turned into a nice conversation, and unknowingly, I had stayed until my cup was empty. Then it was time to go. He opened his arms and hugged me like an old friend. We didn’t exchange numbers, but decided we’d run into each other again. After all, we live in the same neighborhood.

I walked off, smiling, headed to explore the cooperative grocery store up the street. I grabbed a planner that caught my eye in the section where calendars and candles were on display. By chance, I flipped to a page with a very fitting poem on it. Huh! Life never ceases to amaze me…

Here are some of my favorite shots from my wanderings today:

Bird's nest

Bird’s nest

IMG_0017

Bird Spa

Bird Spa

IMG_0034

Free stuff

Free stuff

Keep Your Chin Up

Keep Your Chin Up

Water Tower

Water Tower

Dreamy dresses

Dreamy dresses

Puddle portrait

Puddle portrait

The Poem I found that was very fitting

The Poem I found that was very fitting

Mural

Mural

Movies are all the rage

Movies are all the rage

Random pretty tile

Random pretty tile

Empty lot

Empty lot

For the love of God

For the love of God

Graffiti

Graffiti

It's true

It’s true

Art

Art

Skater dude

Skater dude

Interesting trash sculpture

Interesting trash sculpture

Neat tree

Neat tree

Money box

Money box

A new view

A new view

Reflection

Reflection

Skeleton dancer

Skeleton dancer

Broken

Broken wall

Latin Grocery store

Latin Grocery store

Front view

Front view

Glittery puddle in tree root

Glittery puddle in tree root

Water tower

Water tower

Community Supported Everything

Community Supported Everything

Bunny

Bunny

Moss

Moss

The Know

The Know

Bike Shop

Bike Shop

Corner space

Corner space

Co-op grocery abundance

Co-op grocery abundance

Railing art

Railing art

Texture

Texture