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Sep 23, 2014

Postcard From Portland!

Times Flies. 1 month & 5 days. That’s how long it is since we bid farewell to the people we love the most and set off for a new life and adventure in the America.

I month and 5 days later, I find myself, dressed in Nike sports gear, sitting in amongst the bearded hipsters & cool cats on my mac, drinking really strong coffee in Downtown Portland, finally able to blog and string a sentence together. I’ve been trying to write for a few weeks, but i’ve been either too emotional or sad or over excited - none of which anyone wants to read!

For any of you giddy with ideas and dreams to follow in our footsteps, I have to warn you - no waterfalls, mountains, lakes, new friends and excitement will ever heal the pain of the goodbyes. I never expected the tears and sadness and heartbreak of the weeks leading up to our departure. The Dude’s agony was just so real and so hard to watch, it was all I could do to actually board the plane. As the wheels left the runway we all held hands with excitement and fear and overwhelming sadness as we watched the green green grass of home fade away and as our only child sobbed that we were running his life. Will this journey be the dream we dreamt? Will our adventure be as wonderful in reality?

A few weeks before we left, I remember someone saying they thought we were brave. Until that point, I hadn’t thought of it like that. To me, the offer to travel, give our child a taste of living in another culture, with BigG taking a firm step on his career path and doing what he loves & getting paid for it - just seemed like an offer that was too good to turn down. I felt that it wasn’t an opportunity we could turn down. I didn’t want to sit back in my dotage saying “Shoulda, Woulda Coulda!’ What a waste of life. Life is for living right? In truth, how many opportunities like that come your way in life? Answer: not many.

So here we are. In Portland. Oregon.
BigG got headhunted for other jobs. New York. San Francisco. Amsterdam. They all sounded dreadfully glamorous places but he gradually turned them all down & finally announced he thought Wieden & Kennedy in Portland was where is heart was, mine sunk. Oregon. Really?? He said he wasn’t prepared to commit ‘career suicide just because I wanted to live in California!’ (which i thought extraordinarily selfish!) However - after a recon mission to check it out - it was love at first sight!

Lots of people haven’t heard of Portland in the UK. When people were polite enough to ask where I was moving too, ‘Portland in Oregon’ was met with differing responses. People would look at me quizzically as I explained it’s in the Northwest - or just top left of America sometimes worked. I got raised eyebrows, looks of indifference or, when you did meet someone who know of Portland, they excitedly say they’d heard its cool and “don’t they have a lot of local breweries?”!

And it is cool.
Effortlessly cool.
Those who follow me on Twitter, instagram or Facebook have been subjected to an endless stream of photo’s and updates #newlife! Shiny sunny smiley pictures of us jumping in waterfalls, having fires on the beach, staying at motels, staying at beach houses, swimming in lakes, SUPing on river beaches, BBQ’s with new friends, reconnecting with old friends, eating fabulous food and dog sitting!

Good friends send me messages saying “how is it REALLY?”
It makes me chuckle when I get those messages. I have never been one to create a faux Facebook life. I’m blessed enough in my life not to have too. Every now and again, if someone really pisses me off, i’ll have a rant, or if i’m really low and homesick, i’ll have a tweet, but generally, i’m fairly sure no one wants to know if i’m miserable or unhappy, so i refrain from sharing every detail! (some of you may beg to differ) my mother taught me that if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

Moving to another country is like nothing else I have experienced. I’ve lived abroad before - when i was young and single and looking for a good time. There were many happy days working for Club18-30. Now THAT was fun! This is different! The good times I’m looking for have definitely changed. As it turns out, uprooting your child and life is certainly a brave thing to do - even if I didn’t think so before we left!

Waterfalls and breathtaking scenery, eagles soaring above you and mountains to one side - It’s stupid day to day stuff I hadn’t even thought of that have proved a challenge.
I still get in the wrong side of the car every day.
I have to remind myself to drive on the right & Stop signs are really annoying. Who do you trust to do your eye lash extensions, who will dye my hair the right shade of blonde and which coffee shop should i go too? Why is all the bread sweet and flavored with honey? Supermarkets. They are a minefield! Trying to just find stuff to put in The Dude’s lunchbox has been a mission. Nothing is quite right for him yet. Not just his lunchbox.
His cereal bar “isn’t as good as the ones we had at home” He tried out for a couple of football teams and they “aren’t the Colts”
I try to explain to him that it will never be The Colts - They have been his best friends for the whole of his 10 year life, they went to school together and played everyday, he’s only ever played soccer in a team with them. They know each other inside out. They accept each other and know each others good bits and bad. He played with them at lunchtimes and after school. Their mums loved him and so did their brothers and I love his friends as much as him. We even went on holiday with them. So no. No team will ever be The Colts.

As I say this to him, in a vain attempt to comfort him, or to myself or type it here, my heart breaks in half and a physical pain and wave of tears come up from my toes through me to my eyes, and it’s all I can do to keep them inside. What have we done? Why HAVE we ripped him from his life and all he has ever known and loved?
He has a new team to play for now, but came out of training on Friday saying he didn’t want to go again. After some tears and empty words from me he’s trying training one more time again tonight so we’ll see how he feels when he gets home.
They play 2 matches at weekends - one on Saturday and one on Sunday. That’s really going to balls up the snowboarding!! Watch this space.

His sadness and homesickness is so hard to watch and feel. It comes and goes - usually worse when he’s tired or if gets a message from home. I was trying to explain to him that when he feels pain, I feel it too. He looked at me with his “you’ve gone mad mum” look that he has mastered so well. I am so proud of him. As I watch him jump out of the car and skip across the road and up the steps to school, I think how hard this must be for him. I thought he would make friends really quickly - which he has - but it’s not The Colts for him and that must so hard for him. He doesn’t really complain. He so brave. Some days he’s just quiet & I know he’s thinking of home. The old gang all went on a school residential last week and that was really hard. He feels he’s missing out on things and - I guess the reality is - he is. He’s not ready or able to understand the trade off between 3 days at an adventure centre with his mates in Brighton with this bigger adventure just yet. The adventure centre they went to is called Little Canada. I tried to joke that we are only a 3 hour drive from the real country of Canada and we’d be going snowboarding there soon - but even that didn’t work. BigG and I have to stay true to our belief that this will ultimately be a bigger and better life adventure for him and that he will learn more than rope skills through this experience. BigG says maybe on 20 years time, he’ll come to stay for the weekend with his own family and maybe, just maybe say ‘thank you for that experience’. Only time will tell.and that is hopefully - what will help The dude…..time.

For me. I’m having a love affair with this city. I love the people. The positivity. The outdoor lifestyle. The obsession with kale. the craft of making really goos coffee. The pinot noir. Being around so many fit people! I love the food and trees. I love peoples attitude to life and nature. It’s everything I imagined it would be and more. I feel somehow like this has always been my home - or where I was destined to be. I have no idea if that will be forever or for a few years. It’s odd living in such a temporary world. BigG’s visa is only for 3 years initially and then who knows what will happen……. It feels hard to ’settle’ in such a state of uncertainty. We certainly have to master the art of living for now, while balancing it with the reality. I can’t think beyond being here for now and commit to the now. Maybe things will feel more secure for all of us when we have our house. We are still living in an apartment in the centre of the city. We certainly can’t complain and it’s called the Louisa and is pretty cool and we are thankful for the amazing care we have been shown by BigG’s company, but it’s strange living on the 7th floor! I miss my own front door and people popping round. It’s so close to BigG’s office - they can see us in bed!
When you tell people here that he used to commute for 4 hours a day, they look at you as if you are insane. You nearly always have to repeat yourself because that can’t believe their ears. It seems so alien now that we have been subjected to that life choice for the last 13 years.

Don’t get me wrong. The London salary bought us a nice lifestyle living in Brighton and if BigG didn’t love his job, we could never have survived that long, but that commute has bought both of us - and our marriage to our knees more than once. Our search for a better quality of life and some work life balance has bought us here to this place - and to see my husband walk though the door for supper with his family fills my heart with joy and we both can already feel the difference in our family. He even came home for lunch today. My fears he would be home too much and get on my nerves haven’t materialized (just yet) - it’s still strange to do the school run at 8am & get back to find him drinking tea and lounging around in his pants! We have a whole hour together then. Often we sit in silence on our phones catching up on whats happened while we were asleep! But he’s here and he’s next to me and he looks so well!

After the song and dance it took to finally get us here and the roller coaster leading up to moving, the pressure he must feel must be overwhelming. Responsible for The Dude, a huge new mega job and me - alone and jobless - I know he has a lot on his mind and his plate. Luckily, Team Feathers has never been stronger and we will be alright because we will always have each other. We have always been a tight team - and now more than ever - we have to reply on each other. hummmmmm. Relying on someone. Not one of my strong points, but I’m working on it.

So American life is really different. The Americans don’t have fortnights! I mean really?? They simply say 2 weeks!
They have sidewalks and zucchini and who knew cilantro is actually coriander? The Dude is flabbergasted at the thought of PB&J sandwiches and there is a big issue with soccer/football!! Everything is so gloriously BIG here! The first week I hated driving everywhere! I sulked and thought i would never get used to it - but you do. Really quickly. Shops aren’t all in one central place here, but there are some very cool ones squirreled away all over the city. There’s a big city centre with a Macy’s and Gap and Abercrombie & Fitch - but the good stuff is out in the neighborhoods and you have to drive. Driving here is different though - the roads are quiet, people drive courteously and people rarely honk! It takes a few minutes to get anywhere and it is just the way it is. The city itself is clean and most of the men have beards! Everyone is fit, most people have a dog or tattoos - or both. Lots of people cycle and because 10,000 people in the city work for Nike and do yoga, people mosty wear sportswear all day long instead of proper clothes!

The city is surrounded by forest and trees and outdoor life is part of everyones life here. There are trails to run, walk or bike just about everywhere and you can be in the urban forest within minutes. My friend asked me if I fancied a walk with the dogs before school pick up last week. We strolled to this trail near her house and walked along by the stream, bumped into a coyote. It feels like we have won some kind of lifestyle lottery. It’s everything we love but on speed!!!!!

Talking of things I love. I miss my family. i miss the smell of my baby nephew’s sick. I miss my girls. I miss the familiarity of old friends - like old slippers that you just slip on. The time difference in the top left of America really sucks and days can go by very quickly when you don’t manage to coordinate and talk/skype/facetime. That said, I love rolling over in bed in the morning, flicking off the alarm and scrolling through my feeds to see what’s been happening while I slept. Imagain having to wait for a letter for news of home. I don’t know how I would be surviving without the sight of my Mum and Dad sitting on their familiar sofa at home telling me the latest news. Skype certainly shortens the miles. I know now that if my text or FB messenger rings after midday - it’s a Portland friend & if I hear my whatsapp tings I know it’s someone at home looking for a chat.

I miss the school run full of friendly and familiar faces and I miss watching The Colts on a Sunday morning. I miss my gym & my gym mates. My friend had a house fire at the weekend and I can’t be there for here or her boys. My best friend started college and I can’t hear all about it everyday and she’s making new friends without me.I know my other friend isn’t going to gym without me. But, I have a new school run now - and I could not have been made to feel more welcome. Brits, Americans, Dutch - there’s so many new faces that are quickly becoming familiar and who smile and say hello. I have new friends now. Stuck with me wether they like it or not! Thank goodness for them & for my old friend of nearly 20 years - who has lived in Portland for around 6 years herself, who has introduced to me to what feels like the whole city and tips me off on all I need to know! I owe her a debt of thanks for my sanity. She has welcomed me into her circle of friends like I’ve been here forever & luckily I also have my daytime Monday margarita drinking friend Sarah - have we really only known each other for 6 weeks?? Then there’s Anna who’s having a baby soon………

So, if you are looking at the stream of great pictures coming from the top left of America and wondering if it’s all as good as it looks……now you know a bit more. Probably more than you wanted/needed to know if you have read all the way to the bottom of this post! It rains here - a lot you know! The smug sunny posts are about to come to abrupt halt. Everyone told us about the rain. Portland is famous for it. Not quite as bad as Seattle, but it’s gonna be wet! Everyday since we arrived the weather has been glorious. However - change is here this week. The rain is coming and so is Fall. I’m excited for Fall and the colors. I’m excited for Halloween and thanksgiving. I’m slightly dreading christmas without the family, but we have our Portland family to cling too and they have us now too. There is so much to do here. Never turn your nose up when someone says Oregon!

We came looking for adventure.
We have certainly found it.
Adventure is out there.
In more shapes than you can ever imagine!

Lx

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