Random Thoughts on a Wednesday

I was just wondering, uh… now I forget.

It’s a rainy day in Central Illinois.  It’s been rainy for a few days now.  Unusual in our experience here.  It reminds us of Oregon.  Day after day of rain and rain and rain.  It’s sort of nice actually.

After The Rain

After The Rain (Photo credit: Tj Parker Photography)

Leaves are falling, and all over the ground.  We’ve already picked up a few bags of them.  The first of many.  And yes, we’ve already talked to our lawn guy about maybe handling the leaves in the front yard, assuring him we planned on taking care of the leaves in the backyard.  I’m sure he was relieved.  I’m kidding.  He’s a professional, don’t try this at home.  We are very relieved.  Last year we had around 100 bags of leaves.  100.  That’s a lot of raking.  I’m not sad even just a little bit about having someone help us out with that task.  We do, however, need to take care of what is becoming a wet mess in the backyard.  It’s supposed to dry up the next day or two and then there will be some raking in our future.  I’m psychic like that.

It is beautiful out there though, if you ignore the rain and just look at the changing colors.  Really getting gorgeous now.  Maybe this weekend we can get out there and take some photos.  Go to Homer or some such place.  Take the cameras.  Take the dogs.  Have a day trip.  It might be a fun thing to do after we, on Friday, take our trailer in for the season.  Yes, Lily is going to the barn.  Not actually a barn, this is a figurative barn with heat and loads of other trailers parked in it.  She’ll be nice and tucked away for the winter.  We’ll be sad to see her go, but glad she’s being well looked after.  We have a big fondness for our travel trailer.  It could border on unnatural.

My honey is making a meatloaf.  Right now she’s mixing it up.  We’re taking it to the kid’s house tonight.  Meatloaf, sweet potatoes, peas.  Yum.  I’m hungry right now, I didn’t each lunch, so almost anything would sound good.  My honey’s meatloaf though, it’s tasty.

The dogs are happy.  We just got a new box of Greenies.  They are fans of the Greenie.  We spoil them, that’s a good thing.  They totally deserve to be spoiled.

I can’t believe we leave for Florida next week.  Crazy.  Seems like we were planning this so long ago and now it’s here.  Family reunion time.  K’s family.  It will be great to see everyone.  We’re going to Orlando.  Dog/house sitter arranged, car rentals arranged, rooms arranged.  We’ll be packing shorts, probably our last chance to wear them this year.  We’ve been wearing jeans for a week now at home, too cold and wet now for shorts in Illinois.

Ramble.  Ramble.

It’s Thursday now….

We just got back from a regular six month appointment with my oncologist.  I used to see him every three months (for two years now, since getting into the whole post treatment phase) with accompanying blood work, then every six months though I still had blood draws every three months.  Today he told me that he’s going to work it so that I see him once a year, and I’ll see my regular doc for a physical once a year.  He wants to coordinate so that I’m seeing one of them every six months, with blood work.  Meaning I’m now only going to get blood work every six months.  I will see him again in March, then a physical with my regular doc in September, and then him again in March, and on and on.  This is big news for me.  Great news for me.  He said my blood work was fantastic.  He said I was doing really well.  I feel high right now.  Leukemia, and the threat of it, has been a part of my life since June 1, 2010, the day I went into the hospital for the first time.  I’m much better now about leading a normal life and trying not to worry about it, but it’s still there sometimes, the fear, lurking.  Every time I get another step or two away from it I feel freer somehow.  Less encumbered by thoughts of it.  More like my self, the self before it every happened to me.  It’s a good day.

Our life is amazing.  Simple, lovely, wonderful, and joyously alive.  Every bit of it.  Every small tiny bit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

49 For 49

I turned 49 a few days ago.  No, I’m not really 50 something and just using 49 as my sticky-post age.  I’m 49.

I’m not fazed.  Not being fazed is a good thing.

I have never been a person who was affected by my age.  I turned 16, 21, 25, 30, 40, etc. with no real worry or fear about getting older.  Time is what it is.  It marches, so do we.  I feel like I’m becoming a better version of myself, and getting better all the time, as I’ve aged.  Wisdom, lessening insecurities, a strong and getting stronger I-don’t-give-a-shit-about-what-anyone-thinks attitude, and a more and more relaxed way of looking at the world.

I feel like I’m better at looking outside of myself, outside of my inner dialogue, to the world beyond.  I realize I’m a small drop in a very large bucket.  And what’s more, when I fall back to being too much in my head, too much about me, I can snap out of it pretty quickly by reminding myself there’s more to life, so much more, than me.  It’s my personal version of a mental slap upside my head.  It’s a wisdom thing.  Something I’ve gained with age.  A certain perspective.  I’m grateful for it.

I try not to take myself to seriously, also a wisdom with age thing.  It’s the last vestige of big things I’m trying to work on.  I think I just wrote that with a serious face.  Mental note to relax the face while writing.

So I’m better, like fine wine, aged cheese, a good bourbon.  A better and bettering version of myself.  Is bettering even a word?  I have no idea.

I don’t know why I’m writing all of this.  My intention was to make a list of 49 things, of various types and intention, in honor of my 49th.  Instead I’ve seemed to wax on about how aged I am.

Let’s take a new tack.

I received a boat load of well wishes and birthday congrats and notes of love on Facebook.  I have an amazing group of people in my life, which I’ve mentioned on this blog before, and I’m ever so grateful for their presence, support, love, generosity of spirit, and humor.  It’s not so much that I have a quantity of people, I have quality people.  There’s a huge distinction in that.  They are quality people, and I’m beyond lucky to know them, to have them in my life.  I know this.  I’m blessed.

Which brings me back to the list.  The multitude of wishes made me grateful for the people in my life and that made me think of others things I’m grateful for.  I thought, at this juncture, it would be good to write some of those down, so the following is a list of things I’m grateful for.  It’s like a master list, though I know it will change, has changed, and morph over the years.  Some things though, remain constant.  I think it’s so important in life to look at what’s good, what’s working, what’s beautiful in our lives.  To actually take the time to acknowledge these things, stop in our crazy day, be still, and reflect on what’s good and important to us.  The people in my life would be number one.  So let’s start there.

1.  Family.  Born into a group of beautiful people, on both sides, was like winning the lottery.  There are people you choose in life, who I will get to in a moment, but the clan you enter the world belonging to can be a matter of luck.  My luck was good.  They are, to the last of them, quality, wonderful, and staggeringly spectacular.   I can’t even being to express the fortune I feel and how proud I am to belong to the lot of them.

2. Friends.  Or a better description might be to say they are the family I’ve chosen.  Throughout my life I seem to have chosen well.  I also find this lucky as I was not always my better self, yet somehow my center chose wisely, most of the time.  I’ve met and made friends with so many shining souls in my life I can’t even count them all.  As I sit here I see face after face run through my mind and I’m smiling.  Each and every one brought, and continues to bring, something singularly special to my life.  Such a unique, varied, luminous group of people.  I don’t know how I ended up with the pack of you, but I’m so so glad I did.  You are more than friends, you are truly family to me.

Brown Eyed Soul

Brown Eyed Soul (Photo credit: Tj Parker Photography)

3. Pups. I’ve always been a dog person.  I love their pack mentality.  The group is better than the one.  I love their loyalty and sweetness and unconditional love.  I love how cuddly they are.  I realize not all dogs are like this, but in my experience, this is what I’ve found.  Our dogs, Weston and Riley, are the most wonderful of creatures.  Both quirky and slightly flawed and neurotic in their own little ways, they bring so much joy and love and happiness to our lives.  I can’t believe how much I love them, and how much love they give to us.  It’s miraculous, the love of our dogs for us.  It’s important to honor that, to cherish it, and to take up the responsibility that having them in our lives brings.

4. Wind in the trees.  This is a bit of a crazy one, or might seem crazy anyway, but its going to stay here none the less.  I love the sound of the wind in the trees.  It’s a reminder of the moving world.  The wind blows here, it’s blowing somewhere across the world.  It carries life and hazard and is alive in its own way.  It reminds me how gentle or ferocious life can be and that I should try to be gentler, quieter, softer in my approach.  It reminds me how small I am, how big the world is, and that there are people in other places lifting their faces to the wind, closing their eyes, and sighing, just like I do sometimes.

5. The grand boys.  I know they are people too, and yes they are included in what I wrote above, but they are worth their own category.  Every day it seems I learn something new from them, something new about them.  They have such zest, such emotion, such joy for life.  They are amazing little men and the fact that I get to be privy to their growth and exploration of the world is magical.  Seeing how they respond to things, how they are effected by their world, how they learn, it all stuns me.  I’m so grateful for the experience of knowing them and loving them and having them love me.

6. My honey.  Yes, she also deserves her own category.  I would’ve put her first, as she deserves to be first, and is, but no matter.  It doesn’t matter what number gets put next to her on any list, she’s my number one.  My center, my split apart, my soul mate.  Two people were never more suited for each other.  We are like a hand in a perfectly fit glove.  We mesh.  We work.  We somehow found each other.  It’s rare, to have this kind of relationship.  I know it is.  She knows it too.  I can be moody and difficult, we have our issues, like everyone does, but the difference is that we are always moving together in the same direction.  We find joy in each other, in our relationship.  We look at things the same way, with a sense of adventure and excitement.  She has more joy than anyone I’ve ever met.  I am amazed by her.

7.  The Scooter.  It’s fun.  It’s fast.  It’s zippy.  It’s freedom on two wheels.  Riding it gives me great joy.  What more is there to say?

2397017863_b3d3da1b98_b8. A good book.  I’m in a reading phase now.  I seem to, over the course of my life, go in and out of reading phases.  I’ve always loved it, but sometimes I go off reading.  I have no idea why.  The times when I’m in a reading phase definitely are better times.  I am more relaxed, more at peace, more in touch with things outside myself.  It’s a good advertisement, in my life anyway, for me trying to stay in a reading phase.  New worlds are always waiting inside the pages of a good book.

9. My kindle, and other electronic devices.  Is this cheating to bring up the Kindle right after the above number 8?  Nah….  I’m a geek.  I love all things techy.  I love new technology, what it can do, the places it can take me.  I have always loved these things.  I have no idea why.  I don’t really want to know how they work, I just want to figure out their functions and then use them.  Whatever thing; phone, laptop, Kindle, iPod, GPS in the Jeep, new app, etc., I happen to be using at the time.  Fabulous.

10. The dictionary.  The vehicle of its delivery has changed, moving to an online or let’s make that plural as in multiple online dictionaries, but I love them all the same.  Words, meanings of words, other words to use in place of words I think I’ve over used, and on and on.  The dictionary and/or a good thesaurus, are wonders of the world.  I adore them.

11. Chocolate.  In all its forms, covered over the top of things or standing alone on its own, I love me some good chocolate.

10469198_10152595625135802_7636557574230510828_n12.  The ocean.  Doesn’t really matter which one, though I’m sort of partial to the Pacific as it’s the one I grew up with.  The power, the endless depth, the mysteries living there.  Again, it’s one of those things that makes me feel small in a big world.  As you can probably tell by now I love that feeling.  It helps to put things in perspective.  I like most forms of natural water; rivers, oceans, big lakes, streams.  Even rain.  Rain is amazing.  I think my Oregon is showing through.

13. Ceiling fans.  Crazy as this may seem.  I love our ceiling fan in our bedroom.  I don’t know if I could sleep without it.  It’s the simple pleasures in life.  Besides which, in Scappoose we actually named our ceiling fan The Super-Sky-Diving-Fan-Blade-Lady.  Yes, if you looked at it just right, like shapes in clouds, you could see her.

14. Filtered sunlight.  I’m looking out into the backyard now.  It’s now (a few days have gone by since I started this list) the first day of Autumn (which happens to be my favorite of the seasons) and it’s gorgeous outside.  The light is coming down in streaks through the trees and it’s absolutely beautiful.  Stunning.  Gorgeous. Amazing.

15. Weston’s snoring sound.  I know I already talked about the dogs, but seriously, his snore rocks.  He’s a small dog, but can snore with the best of them.  I love that sound.

16. Finding a new band/music and music in general.  I’m an explorer by nature.  This applies to music as well.  I’m constantly looking for new music.  Finding a new group/artist is an amazing thing.  It lifts my soul.  Just as listening to an old standard lifts my soul.  Some people aren’t music people, they could care less.  I don’t understand those people.  I’m moved, shaped, enlightened, lifted, seared to the core, and effected greatly by the music in my life.

17. Birkenstocks.  We are a Birkenstock household.  There are so many different kinds of Birkenstocks in our house it’s sort of ridiculous, but they are here for a reason.  They are comfortable.  The most comfortable shoe ever.  My feet sing while wearing them.

Portland Rose Garden

Portland Rose Garden

18. Walkabouts.  I love a good stroll.  Going places my feet can take me, anywhere I happen to be, is a great thing.  My Mom and I just did a 13 plus mile stroll in Chicago recently.  We hadn’t planned on walking that far, we just did.  The weather was wonderful, the company stellar, and the sights beautiful.  Walking is an experiment in living the slow life.  It allows you to drink it what’s around you, be more effected by it, be IN it.  I recommend it highly.

19. iPhone camera.  I’m a fan.  Being somewhat of a photographer (I’ve gotten paid to do it occasionally) I have a lot of equipment.  Recently, however, I’ve been using my iPhone camera more and more.  I’ve done this for a couple of reasons.  One, I don’t have to carry around a ton of stuff, my phone is always in my pocket anyway, and two, not carrying around all that stuff and attending to it, and then using it, I feel like I’m more in the moment.  I’m still taking loads of photos, but I seem to be more present in situations just using my phone as opposed to big cameras.  And to top it off, the iPhone camera is pretty darn good for a phone camera.  I like it.  I like it a lot.

20. Eggs on toast.  We just spent many days in our travel trailer.  An egg on toast was a go to breakfast for us during that time.  One egg, one piece of toast.  Simple, and warm, and tasty.  I enjoyed it.  I just thought of it this morning, so guess what we had for breakfast today?

21. Autumn.  I mentioned fall in an earlier item.  It’s my favorite and deserves its own slot.  I love the changing of the leaves, I love the new crispness in the air, I love how we clean up the yard and put stuff away and everything starts to get still, quiet.  Strangely I love having to put on my long pants and sweatshirts for the first time in months.  I love the holidays during fall and how here in Illinois the trees start to bare themselves as the leaves start to fall.  It’s a time of change and quieting and relief from the heat.

22. Old fashioned chocolate sodas.  To be honest I just discovered these this last week.  I liked it so much I’m including it here.  Yum.

23. Travel.  As I said earlier, I’m an explorer by nature.  New places, new things, new experiences are like mana of the gods to me.  I drink them in.  Travel, by its nature, feeds that need in me to explore.  New sights, sounds, people met, and areas to explore feed my soul.  I’m a bit of a nomad and travel, of any kind and distance, fills that part of me.

Redwoods

Redwoods

24. Our new travel trailer.  Related, obviously, to the previous item, our travel trailer rocks.  We just got it this summer and ended up spending, so far, nearly 50 nights traveling around and sleeping in it.  I never got tired of it.  It’s small, but feels big for its size.  I think, honestly, I could actually live in it.  That won’t happen, as having a home base is necessary for my honey, and probably for me as well, but I think I could.  It’s perfect for the two of us and our two fur heads.  It symbolizes adventure and fun and exploration.  I’m ready to take it out again.

25. Tasty vittles.  Along with new places to see, I love finding new foods I like.  As well, truth be told, as eating standard favorites of mine.  A good meal shared with good people and maybe a nice glass of Barbera d’Alba.  Yum.

26. Quiet time.  I’m a person who enjoys solitude and silence.  In fact I don’t just enjoy it, I need it.  Sitting alone in a space reading, watching tv, drinking coffee, looking around, or just sitting and thinking, is necessary for me.  I call it my recharge time.  It’s important for me.  And consequently it’s important for those around me.  I’m a better me when I get time to myself once in a while.  If I don’t I begin to feel overloaded, overwhelmed, and a tad crazy pants.  Plus, I just plain enjoy it.

27. The blogs.  Creative outlets, period the end.  I love writing, I love taking photos, and I love having a place to put that out into the world.  Read or not read (though I prefer read) I so enjoy the constant platforms for creativity.

28. Speaking of photography.  Photography.  I see the world a certain way.  I see it in detail.  The whole is beautiful, but the real secret beauty lives in the details.  A leaf, an arm, a man smoking a cigar, shadows and light.  I have always seen this way, though I think using a camera so much has heightened this sense of mine.  When I capture what I’ve just seen with my eyes in a photograph it’s an incredible feeling.

29. Words.  Written by others, written by myself, lyrics, stanzas, dialogue, conversation, puns, silly phrases, novels, poems, short stories, witty commercials, plays, dictionaries, etc.  No matter the vehicle, words mean a lot to me.  I’m grateful for their breadth and depth and expanse.  I’m grateful to be able to convey and to have things conveyed to me.  I’m grateful for the expression of others and my ability to express.  They are the bread and fruit of life.

30.  A good hug.  My brother, Kev, is a fantastic hugger.  He’s known for it actually.  I think his hugs will go down in song and story.  He hugs with the all of himself.  It engulfs and warms and conveys so much.  There’s nothing like a good hug.  We are a hugging family.  We are people who hug.  There’s a reason for that.

Peace

Peace

31. Experience.  Vague, yes, but not really meant to be.  I love new experiences with the people in my life.  Fishing on Stan’s boat, disc golf with the Gal Up group, crab feast with the POD, fantasy football, going out for a bite to eat, bike rides, walks, dinners at the houses of great friends, train rides, laughing and laughing, seeing a film, reading a book, walking on a beach, kayaking, exploring cool buildings, seeing great art, and on and on and on.  The experiences we have are everything.  What we own, nothing. The time we spend with the people we love, doing things we love, that’s where the heart and soul of living is.

32. Bike rides.  I have always loved the feeling of being on a bike.  It’s always meant freedom and fun to me.  When I was a kid a whole gang of us would ride around together, exploring the neighborhood.  I bought my first bike, a sweet little green 10 speed, when I was in junior high.  I’d had bikes before, but that was the first one I paid for by myself.  I saved the money.  It was so cool.  I rode that bike for years actually.  I think it’s even the one I took to college with me.  It was, during school days, my main mode of transport.  Somehow I let that bike go and didn’t have another one for a long time.  In recent years I’ve gotten back into it, not as a major cyclist or anything, just as a day rider, and have loved every moment I’m in the seat.  It’s liberating, invigorating, and free.  Last year I got a new, slightly better bike, and it’s been heaven.  Stepping out to the garage and just hoping on the bike and going out for a spin, so much fun.  SO much fun.  Makes me feel the same way I did when I was a kid.

33. Life.  I’m grateful for it.  Four years ago first my honey and then I had brushes with death.  Both sicknesses, both life threatening, both terrifying.  We each pulled through with flying colors, but at times, for each of us, it was touch and go.  I’m grateful we are both here and loving, laughing, experiencing, exploring, and trying to drink in every bit of life.  I’m so very grateful.

34. Not taking things for granted.  I don’t.  I feel an expanding sense of gratitude all the time.  I know my life is good, and I don’t take that for granted.  I’m glad I don’t.  I’m lucky to know not to.  I’ve always been this way, but as I get older, and as I’ve experienced more in life, I feel this even more.  I wish I could gift it to everyone, this feeling of being so thankful for what I have, and so in tune with that feeling.  It changes everything, or can anyway.  I know people who struggle with life, always feeling they are owed, or due something, or that they have been robbed of something.  I feel so sad for them.  Honestly sad.  Our lives are a matter of perspective.  “Coffey looks and he sees hate and fear, you have to look with better eyes than that”.  It’s my favorite line from the move The Abyss.  It says everything there is to say.  We all have to look with our best eyes.  I’m not preaching here, OK, maybe I am just a little, I’m just trying to say that I’m grateful that I don’t take things for granted and I wish everyone could feel what that feels like.

35. Connection.  I feel a deep sense of connection.  Not just to my family and friends, but to the world at large.  I feel a spiritual connection to all living things, and therefore a responsibility to them.  I’m grateful for this feeling.  It brings a depth to my life, helping me to center myself at times, to know my place.  Again, I’m but a drop in the bucket and this larger living world is a huge place filled with wonders.

South Dakota

South Dakota

36. Silliness.  I was going to write a good laugh here, but changed my mind and wrote silliness instead.  There’s nothing like being silly, being a dork, being unafraid to be ridiculous and not care what anyone thinks.  I’m a total dork.  I admit it.  I embrace it.  I say and do things that get me strange looks at times.  I’m OK with that.  I’m grateful for the quirk in myself, for the quirk in my friends, for the dorkiness of my family, for the natural pratfalls and schtick, and playfulness in myself and the people I love.   Everyone should be willing to dance in the rain and do silly stuff just to make the people you love laugh.  At least, that’s what I think.  Last night I was talking in the most ridiculous southern accent just to make my honey laugh.  She did.  It was awesome.

37. Film.  I adore a good movie.  I cry, learn, expand, dream, breathe, laugh, and find so much beauty in movies.  I always have.  It’s the stories, the hope, the despair, the human commonality, the connection with places and people who I feel I know.  Near or far, made in the US or not, these stories grow a world view, empower change, enlighten, and sometimes offer an escape and relief from my daily life.  I value them, their contribution, their art.  I value their expression and message, even if I don’t always agree with it.  Movies enrich my life in a myriad of ways.

38. The Library.  I’ve always been a fan of libraries.  When I was younger I used to hang out in them a bit to do homework, people watch, enjoy a quiet place.  I never took full advantage of one and I’m not sure I even had a library card (other than in college) anywhere I’ve lived, until now.  When we moved to C-U we, naturally because it’s why we moved here, started hanging out a lot with our first grandson.  The library in our town has a great children’s area and a couple of times we found ourselves there with him exploring the kids area, playing with the train, running up and down the little stairs.  I decided to look around a bit and discovered they had a lot to offer and set about getting a library card.  I’m so glad I did.  Books, movies, music, magazines, and so much are now at my fingertips.  I created a hold list and add stuff to it all the time.  It’s so much fun.  In a time in our lives when we are trying to live smaller, use less, and have less, the library provides a great way for me to still enjoy all those things I love without having to pay out tons of money, or find tons of space in the house.  Plus, again, it’s so much fun.

39. The Y.  We also joined the Y when we moved here.  We’d never been members of a gym together.  Not really.  Well, OK, we joined another gym the first year we were here, but it was small and in a mall.  Neither of those things were necessarily bad, but it was limited.  Then the new Y opened up and we went in to check it out.  Great facility.  Pools, weight rooms, indoor track, rock climbing wall, great locker room facilities, and a great play space for the grand boys.  We were hooked and signed up.  We go through spurts when using it, like most people with gym memberships, but the diverse class offerings (we’re going to try yoga next week), combined with the facilities themselves and the incredibly nice staff make it a total winner.  We absolutely love it, and I’m particularly fond of it now as I’m back in a swimming mode and love being in the water.

40. Our meat man.  I get a lot of joy out of this one.  When we moved to Illinois from Oregon I did a lot of research on sustainable food sources, organic availability, grocery stores and what they offered, etc.  Coming from the Portland area we were used to having locally sourced meat and other foods available to us all the time.  What I found in my search here was that we could join a meat club.  Yay.  Seriously, it’s the coolest thing.  We buy our meat directly from a farmer.  We can visit the farm, though we haven’t, if we want to.  We know his practices, like him and the other people who work the truck when we do our monthly pick up, and totally dig on the superior quality of the meat we are now eating.  It tastes better than anything we’ve ever purchased, anywhere.  It rocks, and we love that we get the majority of our meat this way.  We get an email every month, we use and order form and email back what we want, we show up at the pick up spot and pick it up.  It rocks.

1393417878_f1c0d17f07_o41. Quirky art.  My honey and I are fans of art.  All kinds actually.  We’ve purchased sculptures and paintings and photography and funky lamps and stain glass pieces.  We’ve even made some of our own, of various kinds.  It’s a great thing to go to some art fair and find something we both love.  It’s a rule, we don’t buy anything unless we agree on it, which actually isn’t that tough since our tastes are similar.  I love the pieces we’ve purchased and so does she.  We haven’t regretted a single one and the whole of them makes our house uniquely ours.  It’s funky, it’s fun, it’s joyous.  And I’m grateful for the funky beautiful things we’ve managed to collect.  They represent us well.

42. Coffee.  I can’t believe this didn’t occur to me earlier in this list, but no matter.  I love a great cup of joe.  Love it. We buy our beans from a local roasting company and every morning we grind them fresh and make two french presses full of gorgeous, beautiful, sweet-smelling coffee.  There’s nothing like that first cup of the day, except for maybe the third cup… or the second.  We’re also fans of going out to a local spot (no Starbucks for us anymore), and enjoying a nice cup of drip coffee.  A good cup of coffee can be heaven in a cup.

43. Our DVR.  This one is a tad shallow, but who cares.  These are the things I’m grateful for and the DVR, and services like Netflix, are on the list.  I love not having to watch commercials.  I love being able to watch what we want when we want to.  I love the ease of it all.  I love the technology of it all.  We watch only what we want, when we want to, and barely know anything else is on.  Lovely.

44. The Up Center.  Moving to a new place is tough.  Especially when you love where you already live, have a fantastic group of friends, and aren’t over the moon with where you are going.  Our transition, those first couple of months, was tough.  We cried, we had regrets, we asked ourselves what the hell were we thinking and why did we do it?  Of course, we did it for the grand son (there was only the one at the time, not the two and the baby girl on the way we have now) and he was totally worth it.  It’s just that we had a big big life in Oregon and at first our move here was difficult.  But, we found a little place called the Up Center, went to a group or two, met some people, and started making friends.  All the friends we have here we met through that organization.  It’s because of that I’m so grateful for it.  We have a stellar group of friends here.  A truly amazing group.  A group we probably wouldn’t have met otherwise.

45. Big Boy Shorts/Pants.  I’m a huge fan of cargo shorts.  My honey and I call these our big boy shorts. We also have big boy pants.  Nothing says convenience more than shorts equipped with pockets.  Keys, phone, wallet, etc.  They all fit.  No purse, no backpack, no anything else to carry.  It’s perfect.  They are perfect.  I really dig them.  Grateful for the ease of wearing them.

46. Our bird feeders.  I’ve never really been into birds.  I mean, they can be lovely and all, but I wasn’t ever a bird watcher or anything.  Then we moved to Illinois and my honey wanted bird feeders.  She is a bird lover.  We tried a few configurations including sitting them up on things or putting them on hooks.  We have a lot of trees which means we have a lot of squirrels.  Finally it occurred to us that we needed something taller.  A long story short, we actually sunk posts in with hooks on each side.  We stained them, put copper tops on them, and used nice wrought iron hooks.  They’re great.  And we get loads of birds.  So many types it’s amazing.  I’m a bird person now.

47. Our down comforters.  We have both a summer and a winter comforter, they’re both down.  There’s something extra snuggly about getting into bed with either of these on.  They make our life so much more comfortable.  They’re awesome.

1557202_10152252227945802_1261058153_o48. Grateful.  I’m grateful for being grateful.  I often feel a wave of gratefulness wash over me.  Not sure where it comes from all the time, but it happens.  I’m grateful for this feeling.  For knowing there’s so much to be grateful for.

49. A positive attitude.  It’s fitting that I should save this for last.  It’s important to me, and a big part of who I am.  Don’t get me wrong.  I am afraid sometimes, really afraid.  I worry.  I get really angry sometimes.  I’m moody.  I’m not always the person who says let’s hold hands and all sing kumbaya.  But for the most part, most of the time, I’m pretty upbeat.  I tend to look on the bright side.  I think it’s a mixture of hope and what I believe to be true all rolled together.  I’m genuinely hopeful, most of the time.  I also genuinely believe in the overwhelming good of most people.  I know there are evil souls out there doing bad things, but I truly believe that for the most part people are good, are trying to do what they think is best, are sincere and giving and gracious and kind.  I believe that.  I’m glad I do.  I believe that things can work out.  They don’t always, but they can.  I’ve always been this way.  Maybe that’s why the teachers at my high school gave me a president’s award my senior year for having the best attitude.  I believe we should smile at each other, with our eyes, and say thank you, and that we should be friendly, we should be nice.  A positive attitude gives you a lot in return as well.  In my opinion it just doesn’t project out toward the world, it gives you a better view of it.

So there it is.  My list of 49 things I’m grateful for as I start this year of my life.  50 is just around the corner and I can’t wait to see what the rest of this year, leading up to that milestone, brings to my life.  It’s exciting.

No Small Task

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English: (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We knew, coming out to Oregon this year, we would be emptying out our storage unit in Scappoose, bringing all the stuff to Mom’s, sorting it, re-boxing it all into plastic tubs instead of old boxes, and then finding a much smaller storage unit here in town, closer to Mom, to put the remaining stuff in.

We’ve moved it here, which took several hours, we unloaded it from the large rental truck, which also took several hours as we were sorting it all into piles as we went, and then we began the sorting/culling process.  What a job.  Having to make decisions about stuff we’ve each kept from our pasts, childhoods, K’s kid’s childhoods, etc., is a job.  It’s hard.  Not just the physical labor of it all, but the emotional task of deciding it’s finally time to let some things go.  We were each doing this, occasionally showing each other stuff we’d found, telling stories about a certain item, what it meant, where it came from.  Fun, and sad, and cool, and touching.

We placed a tarp on the ground the size of the storage unit we want to get.  We piled up our tubs, nestling them in as we filled them up.  I went through boxes and boxes of books, deciding to get rid of so many, saying a mental goodbye, and being OK with that.  And then I took CD after CD out of it’s case, putting them into binders instead.  That alone took an entire day.  I have a lot of CDs.  Luckily I’ve already digitized them, but seriously, I’m a music fiend.  K went through box after box of her kid’s stuff, holding up hockey jerseys and swim caps, old skirts and hats, toys and books they liked.  Fun, and hard.

This coming weekend there will be a big yard sale at my Mom’s place.  It was already planned, and we are adding a lot to it.  We’re also selling some stuff on Craigslist.  It’s time to purge.  Time to pare down.  Time to finally let go of stuff we’ve been holding onto for a long long time.  Doing so is no small task, but it must be done.

We’re simplifying.  Seems simple.  But really, it’s not.

10 Things That Will Improve Any Road Trip

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We are, once again, ready to embark on another cross-country road trip.  Our trip this year has several legs, the first taking us 2233 miles, through 8 states, in six days.  We tend to not go more than 6 or 7 hours a day when we have the pups, which we will on this trip.  The second leg will take us over 642 miles down the coast of Oregon, through the Redwoods in California, and finally to San José, California.  And lastly, we will travel from San José back home, covering 2798 miles with possible visits to Austin, TX and New Castle, OK.  The last leg hasn’t been fully formed, or planned, but at this point we’re thinking about it.  If that’s the case, by the end of our big road trip this year, we will have traveled well over 5000 miles and covered 14 states.  It’s a big one.  Our summer road trips usually are.

Since we moved from Oregon in 2011 we’ve made some version of this trip every year since.  We always try to vary our routes there and back, see new things, and we’ve always, every time, enjoyed the hell out of ourselves.  We love each other’s company, love seeing the country, love listening to music while we do it,  love the photos we take, and love the experiences we have along the way.  Small towns to big cities, vast areas of gorgeous countryside, conversations with locals in coffee shops, traveling on the road is a fantastic thing.  It’s a wonderful adventure.

As we get ready for the trip this year I was making lists of stuff to pack, trying to remember all the things we need to do before we go.  It seems like there are always a million little things, and then ultimately there’s really only making sure we have us, the dogs and their supplies, and something to wear as we hit the road.  It initially always seems complicated, but at the core it never really is.

Thinking about our trip, planning out and preparing, I wondered if some of what we’ve learned doing these road trips might be helpful, or at least amusing, to other people.  So I did what bloggers have been known to do in situations like this, I created a list.

Tips to help make a road trip successful, in random order…

1.  Make digital playlists or mix tapes or mix CDs or whatever it is you mix.  Make them long and fill them with stuff you like, but also stuff that’s slightly unfamiliar.  Make them funky.  Include music from your childhood, from different times in your life, use different genres.  It’s cool to be driving along and suddenly a song comes on that I used to love as a teen.  Next thing you know we’re singing at the top of our lungs, pounding on the steering wheel, seat dancing, and grooving like it’s 1999.  Variety is key.  The music will become the soundtrack of the trip.  And something cool will happen, you will hear a song from the playlist later, after you’re back home, and you’ll think of something that happened during the trip when that song was playing.

2.  Bring water, lots of it.  For some reason a person gets parched driving across, around,  and through the country.  I don’t know if it’s the air in the summer and the heat in the winter or it’s just all the talking and singing you do while you’re sitting there, but a person definitely gets thirsty.  Having water handily available is something you’ll want, trust me.

3. Use a camera, a lot.  It doesn’t matter which kind — high-end, point and shoot, phone.  Just use one.  Remember not to just take photos of the stuff you’re seeing, take photos of yourselves as well.  Take strange and funny photos.  Be silly.  Make yourselves laugh while you’re taking them.  You’ll laugh later when you look at them.  Try to think about using photos to “describe” your journey.  What would that journey look like.  Tell that story.  Use those photos as your travelogue.  K and I play this game with the camera.  Whoever is in the passenger seat takes photos out the window as we’re driving.  The rule is we can’t stop for a photo-op (OK, yes, sometimes we actually do stop if it’s something really amazing, but in general, no).  Some of the stuff we’ve taken has ended up being amazing.  You have to be quick, you fly by the seat of your pants, and you don’t know, half the time, if you get what you’re trying to shoot.  But later, when we look at those photos, we remember parts of the trip we wouldn’t have otherwise.  We’re reminded of the smaller things along the way.  Like that huge wine glass and bottle on the side of that hill made of wire or something.  Strange, and cool, and luckily for us, captured.

4.  Plan ahead without planning ahead too much.  When we travel we pretty much know our route, though we do detour sometimes, on a day-to-day basis.  We usually have somewhere we know we’re going to stay that night.  We’ve done the fly by the seat of our pants thing, but when we had to drive for 16 hours once because we couldn’t find a room — let’s just say it taught us a tiny lesson about preparedness.  However, being ready is one thing, spontaneity is another.  You can have your route planned, but don’t be so stuck on it and your timeline that you don’t allow yourself to stop and see something wonderful.  It’s possible to stop spontaneously and still make your room that night.  We once decided to leave the interstate (we do this often actually as we prefer smaller two lane highways so we can really see the country) and ended up finding the Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve.  It’s an amazing place, and we’d highly recommend it.  It wasn’t on the day’s itinerary, but it was totally worth getting to our room a couple of hours later than we’d planned.  Surprises are good, and make the trip, you just have to let yourself be open to them.

5.  Bring snacks and try to be healthy-ish with them.  It will help to stop the fast food urge.  If you’re starving by the time you stop it’s easy to look at the closest burger place and give in.   If  you have snacks, it will help you to make more considered choices.  I only mention this because if you find yourself eating greasy fast food, or heavier food, while you’re on the road you won’t feel as good during the trip.  Feeling good allows you to have a better time.  We know this, from experience.

6.  Stop at roadside attractions to marvel at greatness, and strangeness, and silliness.  I use a site called Roadtrippers to help plan our trips.  It’s great because it allows you to look for different things along the route you might find interesting, like natural national monuments or the largest fork in the world.  The site has great filters and lets you really narrow down things specific to what you like.  There are the times, as well, that you just happen to come across these things as you drive.  Stop.  Check them out.  The adventure of a road trip is enhanced 10 fold by these little side trips.  We saw the fork, by the way, and it was awesome.

7.  Talk to locals when getting coffee or ordering food or just walking about.  I’ve found they are pretty friendly and willing to talk about their town and the area that surrounds it.  And locals will know the difference between which places are honestly good and which places are good only in guidebooks.  Those can be two different things.  Talking to locals will also give you the flavor of a place.  It’s what helps you realize that really, we are all the same.  It’s the part of the trip that broadens your view and expands your horizons.  It has expanded ours.  It helps if you get off the main road and go into a place, not just through it.  We try to find a funky local coffee shop every morning during our trips.  We’ve had some great brew, and more importantly, seen some places we wouldn’t have seen and talked to people we wouldn’t have talked to.  You get better coffee and better interaction at an actual coffee place than you do a truck stop.  Oh, and go in, don’t just use the drive thru.

8.  This one is a tad crude, but crucial.  Pee when you can.  There are surprisingly large stretches of road with nowhere to go.  Literally.  So when you stop for gas or snacks or to walk the dogs at a park, if there are facilities, and you feel even the slightest inkling, use them.  I can’t tell you how many times we’ve not learned this lesson.   Leave in the morning after grabbing coffee from a local place, pass by some little part of civilization where accommodations can be found thinking surely there will be something up ahead only to find ourselves in total pain by the time we reach somewhere we can go.  If you can avoid the bushes along the road, that’s my recommendation.  If not, the bushes, or that small twig, might have to do.  It doesn’t hurt to have a roll of toilet paper in the car.  Just sayin’.

9.  Make the dogs, if you have them, as comfortable as possible.  We do this whole layered thing in the back of the Jeep so they can lay down, but still see out.  Additionally we give them a couple of toys and a couple of bully sticks to chew.  We also figured out a way to have a little bowl of water for them in the back.  They use it.  We’ve found that by doing all this we make them more calm, and the trip is easier for them, and consequently it’s easier for us.  It’s tough, just by their nature, traveling with pets.  Our boy dog gets car sick, but we’ve found an herbal remedy for it that makes him much more comfortable.  And as I said, when they are more comfortable, we are.

10.  Stop often enough.  Get off the main drag.  Sometimes it’s tempting to put the pedal to the metal and keep it on the road, hour after hour.  After all, you want to get there, to that next place.  But driving endlessly without stopping is exhausting, and it can become this monotonous thing.  Have you ever been on the road, driving straight through to somewhere, and once you get there you don’t really remember anything from the trip.  Small details about gas stations and drive thru windows pop into your mind, but nothing about the places you actually drove through.  Stopping every two or three hours allows you to recharge, regroup, take a breath, look around, stretch.  It makes the trip, as whole, seem more relaxed, easier somehow.  Stopping allows you to appreciate what’s there, where you are, the places you’re traveling through.  It’s so worth it.  After all, it’s about the journey, not the destination, right?  The saying is corny, but it’s true none the less.

Now get out there, and see something.

Facing the Book of My Life

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I was sitting outside this morning, enjoying a bit of time before the heat and humidity forced me back inside.  I had a cup of coffee and was chatting with K about our trip to Oregon this year, going over some of the little details of the trip out, discussing some of the things we will do while we’re there.  During the discussion I started thinking about all of our people out there, which I often do.  I wondered if we would get to see most of them, I hoped we would.

Thinking about the people you miss sometimes leads to thinking about the life you’ve had.  Mine has been amazing so far.  Amazing, mostly, because of the people who have been in my life, either for a short time or for most of it.  It’s the people, you see, who make a life what it is.  It’s the experiences you have with those people who make the memories you hold on to, that make this journey we are all on worth the ride.

In that short time sitting outside I ran the gamut of my life, thinking about antics on playgrounds, singing silly songs in high school hallways, riding around in my Plymouth Scamp, playing frisbee in dark parks, skipping class to go to the coast, bridesmaids dresses, card games, talks in coffee shops, bike rides, racquetball, drive-in movies, travel to far away places, crying together, music shared, and laughter.  So much laughter.  So many smiles.  I have what seems like an endless litany of shared experiences.

My thoughts then turned to Facebook, which really isn’t that strange of a leap to make.  I realized, during this short accounting of my life, that I am friends on Facebook with people from all phases of my life.  I have managed to gather them there, these parts of my life, parts of myself.  I can look at my friends list and see people I knew in grade school, people I spent time with in high school, people I met in college, and people from my work life afterward. And I realized something else… I love them all.  I love them like I love those versions of myself.  The versions of me I was when I knew them.  I hold those parts of myself close, trying to remember who I’ve been, how far I’ve traveled in life, and who these wonderful people have become themselves.  Who we are all becoming, every day as we move forward in life.

It’s a deep thought, not easily articulated.  I guess I will say this.  I love Facebook.  Not for the games or the re-posting or the political stuff I seem to be inundated with every day, but for the connection.  I love it for the window into people’s lives.  For the thoughts and photos and snippets of things that are important to them.  People I’ve loved, people I still love for who they were to me,  who they are to me now.  People who have made my life what it is, who have made me who I am.  I’m grateful for this connection, for this window.  I’m blessed to have been able to renew those ties to my former self, my younger self, and to stay connected to family and friends in far away places.

Before Facebook these parts of my life were like vapor.  Diffused.  Slightly transparent.  Now, though still removed and in far off places, they are re-connected to me.  And I am, miraculously, reconnected to myself, to my past, to this life I’ve lived and am living, and to the people that have made this life.  I’m grateful for that.

 

Trading Up to a Marriage We Already Had

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It’s the 12th of June.  We’ve been legally married for 10 days now.  I don’t feel any more married than I did before, though we were told, immediately after getting the deed done, that now if we split up we’d have to get divorced like everyone else.  That made us laugh.

In 2003 my life changed for good, in both senses of that word.  It got infinitely better and was also altered for all time.  I met K, and life changed.  Ours is a true love story.  Girl meets girl, they fall madly in love, they buy a house, they do their own marriage ceremony on a far off Hawaiian island because it’s not legal where they live anyway and Hawaii was the perfect spot, they return home and have a party with their families and friends to celebrate both the purchase of their first home together and their union, and bliss ensues, even if it’s not legally wedded bliss.

Flash forward five years and Oregon gets Domestic Partnership.  We already considered ourselves married, but this was a step toward legal recognition, so I marched over to the County Clerk‘s desk (I worked for the county so it wasn’t a long jaunt), filled out the form, took it home for K to sign, paid the fee, and tah-da! we were suddenly legally domestically partnered.  Soon after we got a letter from the state of Oregon telling us we now had to file our state taxes together.  However, we still couldn’t file together federally so we had to do a fake federal return every year to go with the real Oregon return we filed.  Hilarious, and annoying.

A couple of years later K got sick, and not long after that I did.  Both required hospitalization and nearer to death than we’d like experiences.  Both times the hospital staff were very nice to us, as a couple, and even complimented us on our relationship, saying we were more devoted to each other than many couples they’d seen together.  But, they also asked us, in the middle of emotional crisis, to call our attorney and have him fax over our legal paperwork, which we’d done not long after we bought our house together, to protect ourselves and our relationship because we couldn’t get protections through legal marriage.   They said that they didn’t perceive an issue, but just in case, to be safe, we should get that paperwork on file with the hospital so we could make decisions for each other.  We were glad we had that paperwork, but slightly upset we had to go through all that, on top of everything else that was going on, during very hard times.  But, you do what you have to, even if other couples don’t have to.

We continued to live our blissfully un-legally married lives.  We got dogs (who we still have and adore more than we could ever explain), we bought rental properties, took vacations, took a motorcycle class and then bought motorcycles, got into kayaking and started doing that, went to dinners with friends and celebrated birthdays and anniversaries, visited our families, worked in the yard, eventually moved to another state, set up a new house, spent time with our grandson (and then, as of last year, grandsons), bought and sold cars, sold that first house we’d bought together those years ago (ironically the sale happened during our 10th anniversary road trip), and loved each other the whole way.  We are still loving each other, the whole way.

Suddenly, or actually not so suddenly, this year, an amazing thing happened, marriage became legal.  Huh?  And, Yeah!

The subject of marriage equality, in our normal every day lives, rarely ever came up.  We were living as a married couple, thought of ourselves as a married couple, and have been treated like a married couple by our families and friends for years.  But, we were never legally married.  We were married in every way that counted, save for that one.  Once in a while we’d talk about it, about being legal, about getting to be the same as everyone else we knew, as our brothers and sisters had been able to, as our parents had been able to, as many of our friends had been able to.  Something they all took for granted.  Meet someone you love, marry them, settle down.  For us it was never that easy, we had never been allowed do it.  We were barred from it though we were expected to pay our taxes like everyone else, without getting all the benefit those taxes are supposed to ensure.  Rubbish.  It was rubbish, but there was nothing we could do about it, not really.  So we’d talk about it once in awhile, get disgruntled, I’d sometimes cry, and we’d move on to other more important things, like what to make for dinner and the logistics of taking the car in for service and what we were going to do on the weekend when we spent time with the kids and the grand boys.  Life stuff.  Tangible stuff.

Then, as I said, marriage happened.  So, the day after it was legal here in Illinois, we again marched down to yet another County Clerk’s office to, as we’d read we could, to trade in our Oregon Domestic Partnership for an actual marriage certificate.  We walked into the building joking with each other, laughing, saying hey, wanna get married?  We walked up to the counter, whipped out our domestic partnership paperwork, and were immediately told no.  It was a kind and polite no, but a no none the less.  They said IF we’d had an Illinois Civil Union we could trade that in, and trade up, but not with our domestic partnership stuff.  I was, as is per usual, ready to accept it and ask for a marriage license so we could get married, K was not deterred, as is per usual for her (thank goodness!).  She said she’d read it on the state website, that we should be able to it, and that the conversion should be, as stated on the state website, backdated to our domestic partnership date.  The clerk went back to talk to the actual County Clerk, more than once, who finally came out to chat with us.  He again said no, but by then I was onboard and explained that Oregon’s Domestic Partnership was legally binding, just like Illinois’ Civil Unions were, and that we were even required to file taxes together in Oregon.  He smiled and said this was the first time they’d run into a situation like this, as it was all new to them as well, and he had to go make a call.  A bit later he came back, said we were correct, that Oregon’s was legally binding, and that they would indeed convert our domestic partnership to a marriage certificate backdated to our domestic partnership date.  He congratulated us, shook our hands, as other people in the office also congratulated us.  So did the heterosexual couple standing at the window next to us who was applying for their own marriage license.  Everyone was pretty awesome.  About 15 minutes later there we were, walking out with two legal copies of our marriage certificate, dated 2008.  We were, suddenly, after all this time, legally married.  We smiled, we giggled, and… I cried.  Of course I did.

Now, looking back on it all, the legalization has changed nothing in our day-to-day lives.  We made dinner that night, we chatted with K’s parents, who were visiting us at the time, we called our tree guy about a damaged limb we need to get removed, we snuggled our pups,  held our grandsons, and did a million other things we do every day, every week, and have done every year since we met and fell in love.  It hasn’t changed us, but somehow the light is a bit brighter, the wind is a bit sweeter, and the world is strangely a tad more solid under our feet.  We are married.  We are legally married.  We are suddenly, miraculously, the same, afforded the same privileges and pains in the ass as every other legally married couple.  And yes… if we ever decide to split up, we will have to get divorced.  I can tell you, with absolute certainty, that won’t happen, but the fact that we would have to get divorced means a lot.  We take on the good with the bad, the consequences with the privileges, we take it all.  Because we, my friends, are now in the same boat as every other married couple we know.  We’ve traded up.  Traded up to a marriage we already had.