My Writing

A selection of published works including features from a 12-month housing crisis series cited by Harvard Law School’s Fair Punishment Project, homelessness, the opioid epidemic, the resurgence into psychedelic research, the eclipse, feminism and… adventure cats.

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Oregon Moves to De-Felonize Hard Drugs: Hopes to eradicate racial profiling and the opioid crisis

It's Friday and you're speeding 5 miles over, anxious to get to your favorite brewery. A glimmer of light flashes across your rearview mirror: those familiar blue and red lights of your local police officer, doing his routine gig. The officer notices you're tight lipped and testy — or maybe too smiley and sweaty — and decides to search your car.
He finds three Adderall pills and a 1/2-gram baggie of cocaine. You're now a convicted felon, facing up to 20 years in prison, lumped in with those serving life sentences for murder and armed robberies.

Is this a film? No.
Is this over-exaggerated?
It depends.

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Two Years, Two Bikes, 18,500 miles and a bike packing journey spanning Alaska to the tip of Argentina.

It wasn’t the altitude sickness in the Peruvian Andes or the grizzly bear encounter in Alaska. It wasn't the grueling 100-kilometre stretches to find water in the scorching Argentinian desert or the debilitating mud patches in the Pacific Northwest. It wasn't even the exhaustion from two weeks of the same flat scenery, 20 months of continuous riding or being sick of each other's company.

In the end, what nearly halted a two-year, 30,000-km bikepacking journey wasn't one of tragedy or grit.

It was a mosquito.

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The Second Wave: New research into psychedelics offers clues to curing addiction, depression, PTSD and the fear of death.

There's a faint excitement filling the room as international researchers, psychologists, pioneers and policy-makers crowd into the first of a four-day conference in British Columbia.

The topic? Psychedelic psychotherapy and the potentials for these substances to offer hope for everything from addiction, alcoholism, depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and even couples' counseling. Combined with counseling, the hope is to alleviate or even cure certain mental illnesses with one, or just a few doses—no long-term prescriptions required.

The setting—a golf and spa resort nestled into the foothills of Victoria—is indicative of the changing landscape of this once taboo topic...and there's not a long-haired hippie in sight. Okay, maybe there are a few.

"Holy smokes," says an unassuming man as he enters the room, pausing ever so slightly to lock eyes, as he deadpans the delivery. "There's not mush-room in here." His eyes twinkle. Hey, no one said these guys had to be funny.

A House Divided: Dissecting the AirBnb Effect. Do short term rentals help solve the housing crisis? It might depend on who you ask.

Right now, a Dutch guy is bathing in Carol's bathroom. It's attached to her master bedroom in the mid-century bungalow she shares with her elderly mother. "He seems to take two showers a day," she laughs. "Maybe it's a European thing."

In her 50s, Carol—who asked to be known only by her first name—was born and raised in Central Oregon, and was one of the casualties of the economic downturn in 2009, when she lost her job. "It was a complete shock," she says, "I was a single mother of two growing boys, my mother fell ill, I had a mortgage to pay for, and I felt completely helpless."

Four years later, she struggled to make ends meet, at one point holding three part-time positions. That all changed in 2013, when she sent her eldest son to college in Portland and had trouble finding a place to stay. "Everything was $200 or more a night," she reflects. "I thought, here I am sending my son off to start his life, and his mother can't afford to properly send him off." Someone mentioned Airbnb. "I stayed in someone's home, just like mine, for $55 a night. That's when the lightbulb went off."

The Eviction Mill: Lessons learned from a day
cycling in and out of eviction court.

At first, the falling snow brought joy.

Stephanie Williams' kids gleefully scampered outside, throwing snowballs in front of their southeast Bend duplex. "It was so great to see them so happy," says Williams, "But then I thought, if they cancel school how will I pay for daycare? I knew I couldn't afford for them to stay home... I was already just barely making it, you know?" That was the least of Williams' worries. The huge snowfalls of early 2017 brought about what many other Central Oregonians experienced: an ice dam on the roof that caused their ceiling to partially collapse.

"My youngest came screaming into my room, totally drenched in water," recalls Williams, "He said something had fallen from the ceiling." The ceiling's drywall had partially caved in next to her six-year-old's bed. The landlord, who Williams didn't want to name, was out of town and couldn't be reached for five days. Eventually he sent a disaster relief team out, but with anecdotal reports of hundreds of houses experiencing the same situation and insurance teams stalling, Williams claims they lived with an exposed, rotting ceiling for nearly half a year.

"That was the straw that broke the camel's back," she laments. "I'd already had a huge list of things that I had asked him to fix— there was black mold in the bathrooms when we moved in, two of the stove burners didn't work and one of the windows didn't completely close, so we had to jack up the electric in the winter." Williams pauses, teary. "So I needed to send a message to him that he couldn't treat us this way." Williams did what thousands had done before her: she stopped paying rent.

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From Homeless to Housed: Transitional housing project offers shelter, transformation and hope.

Danielle Patton has a friend who offered her Oxycontin to relax after an explosive fight with her husband. Mellowed out, Danielle stopped the pills a few days later and suffered her first of many severe physical, gut-wrenching pains. "How do I stop this?" she cried to her friend. "You have to take more," the friend replied.

She defaulted to heroin, and then to meth to ease the heroin withdrawals.

"I took meth to be a super-mom. ...I felt like I worked a lot and I was tired so when I started doing meth, I felt like I could take care of my son, I could work, I could make lunches, I could make sure all of his school projects were done on time. I just felt like it gave me extra time. But in reality, it didn't. It took time away from him and pretty soon everything was about that drug."

There's Ariana who grew up with parents who met in rehab. "I used anything I could get my hands on," she says, "alcohol, pills, meth... and then came the heroin days." Arianna says one day she woke up and realized she had missed an entire month of school. At a loss and broke, she says, "There's only a few options as a non-functioning [person] to get money: steal, do sexual things, or sell drugs. I was not willing to sell myself or become a stripper, and we would just do all of the drugs.

So we started robbing houses."
She got caught.

Inaugural Day at a Fish Haus. A review.

As we waited, the soft sounds of Donald Trump's inauguration played in the background and images of rioting and tear gas rolled in. I'm not sure if it was this surreal scene or the lounge, or the Long Islands, but I felt like I was in the Twilight Zone. Full of seafood.

My wandering mind was jolted as a strong scent of fried batter permeated the air. Our (now) unsteady gaze (we would later regret the Long Islands) searched and found our waitress, whose wrists were struggling under the weight of our entrees. Even so, she ever so gingerly placed my fish and chips and her platter down. The tour de force had arrived. Magdalena eyed her platter skeptically, not able to discern the quoted three types of shrimp from one another. "It all looks the same," she whined, but within the same breath, grabbed one, dipped it into a curious brown sauce and popped it into her mouth.

The F Word: Feminism

180 years. That's how long women have (officially) been fighting for equality. Since its early European incarnation, feminism and the women's movements have been responsible for: a women's right to vote, work, divorce and choose.

Thousands of women (and men) pounded the streets, protesting for change and got it. Yes, we've come a long way, but feminism is still misunderstood by the masses, feminists are still chastised and labeled as radical, and the F word can be more polarizing than the word fuck.

But why?
And should we reframe?

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Festie Life: Sparkles, dust, insomnia, psychedelic trance and 30,000 chasers descend for the eclipse.

Ahhhh festivals.
An excuse to forgo real life, slap on glitter and indulge in debauchery with friends old and new.

The Symbiosis Global Eclipse Gathering held in the depths of the Ochocos at Big Summit Prairie was a week-long adventure that took place Aug.16-23 and featured a whopping seven stages of music, ranging from electronic music to.... electronic music — with a bit of String Cheese Incident, Indian Kirtan, Russian Gypsy beats, Psychedelic Trance and strung-out hippie ukulele melodies thrown in.

Stages, workshop areas, yoga shalas, dance spaces, pop-up country and western bars (that confusingly sometimes offered alcohol and sometimes didn't) tea houses, kaleidoscope booths, Burning Man-esq wooden art installations, play areas and swings, psychedelic temples, tree-houses, water slides, teepees, nude mud pits and several party barges dotted the prairie landscape.

PHEW! Did you get all that?

Oh, as did really, really, friendly folk dressed in unicorn costumes Young millennials fumbled along as they held their cell phones uselessly in their hands, dumbfounded at not having cell service — probably for the first time in their lives..

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(Mis) Adventure Cats.
A cat + a harness = tufts of hair and tears.

We tried to turn our cat into an adventure cat. Turns out, it ain't easy to conform a creature that doesn't care about pleasing you. At the end of it all, there were tufts of fur everywhere. And I mean. Every. Nook. And Cranny. But, let me start at the very beginning. I held tiny-cat in the crook of my neck and the Weaving Guild members surrounded me:

70-year-old knitter: "Aw, look how she clings to you!"

Me: "I think it's because I'm wearing a scarf and it's comforting. Plus, her mom's dead, so...",

64-year-old-spinner: "It's instant chemistry!"

Me: "You think so? I think she just pooped on me. Does that quantify our chemistry?"

75-year-old-weaver: "She loves you! She has to come home with you!"

Me: "Yeah, she DOES appear to love me...but, wait, what?