No Small Task

English:

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.

70 For 70

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My mom turns 70 today.  In honor of this milestone, and of her, I thought I’d throw out 70 facts about her.  So off we go….

1. She has the best smile of anyone I know.  Period, the end.  She smiles with her eyes, and is always sincere.

2. She played a mean trombone when she was younger.  I actually have a record of her playing with her high school band.  She rocked.

3. She lived next to and was friends with a prostitute when she was younger, though she was naïve and didn’t really know it at the time.

4. Her love of music led her to her love of my dad, which led to me and my brother.  He was playing in a band at what I think was a bar.  Their eyes met across the room….  (actually he might have known someone she knew, or something like that, and they were introduced?  I should really ask her this question.)

5. She is kind.

6. She can solve most problems to do with fixing things.  She’s very handy to have around because of this.

7. She isn’t above being silly, which I love about her.

8. She loves deeply.

9. She manages to handle tough situations with more light and grace than anyone I’ve ever met.

10. She’s one of the two best people I know, the other being my honey.

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11. She went back to school when my brother and I were in grade school and got her degree in education.

12. I learned to play guitar because she took guitar in college.

13. She’s super artistic and can draw really well.

14. She really pays attention.

15. She was a Cub Scout leader.

16. Every time she made a pie when we were kids she made squirrel tails out of the extra dough.  (squirrel tails are made of pie dough sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon and then rolled up, cut into little rounds, and baked… you should try them.  Tasty!)

17. She used to read to us while we ate breakfast, before school.  This gave me a huge love of books and words.

18. She’s a mean Scrabble player and we played a lot of Scrabble growing up.

19. She loves to laugh.

20. She’s an amazing gardener.  She can grow anything, and has probably tried to.

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21. She can carve a pumpkin better than anyone else I know.

22. She’s always there to help, genuinely.

23. She’s someone you can always count on.

24. She has big feet for a small woman, size 10.

25. She’s the second born child of seven siblings.

26. She worked at the Salem hospital for a few years.

27. She’s in much better shape than I am.

28. She used to be a Jazzersize fiend.

29. She makes me proud to be her daughter every day.

30. She’s a breast cancer survivor.

31. She can drive a tractor.

32. She took Latin in high school.

33. She’s lived in the same house since 1979.

34. She’s generous.

35. We’ve had many a dance party in various kitchens.

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36. She’s incredibly smart.

37. She’s very emotional, which is where I get it I think.  I’m glad of this.

38. She’s the one, and probably doesn’t know this, who got me interested in photography.  She loves taking photos, the art of it, and has all my life.

39. She once slept in a hammock by a river in the jungles of Guatemala.

40. She has eaten some gross and disgusting things (this goes along with the category of will try almost anything) like crickets and fish eyes.  Gross.

41. She loves road trips and travel in general.

42. She can fit into tiny spaces and is the person you want when you need to have a small area painted.  Somehow she fits in there and gets the job done.

43. She loves to sing.

44. She used to make our clothes when Kev and I were younger.

45. She used to knit and I still have a crazy sweater she once made for me (at my request I think) that’s made up of all the left over yarn she had.  It’s multi-colored and awesome.

46. My friends, throughout my life, have loved her and consistently told me how lucky I am to have her as a mom.  They’ve been right.

47. She calls our dogs her grand dogs and they love her tremendously.

48. She was a row boss when Kev and I picked strawberries as kids.  She was tough.

49. She once substitute taught for one of my grade school classes, I believe it was 5th grade.  She was hard on me.  I deserved it.

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50. She’s a mama bear when someone threatens one of her cubs.  You don’t want to mess with her when she’s defending someone she loves.

51. She’s vegan and has been for a few years now.  Even still, she calls herself a weekend carnivore as she sometimes eats meat on special occasions.

52. She’s open to and interested in other people’s ideas and thoughts.

53. She’s a staunch supporter of her gay daughter and her gay daughter’s partner.  It breaks her heart when discrimination of any kind is mentioned to or seen by her.

54. She used to fly fish the Metolious River with me, and my brother.  I loved that time with her.

55. She used to be a little overweight, but decided to lose it and has kept it off.  It’s inspiring and she looks awesome.

56. She always swam with us when we were kids.  I have great memories of being in pools with her at little motels all over the place when we’d go on family vacations.

57. She used to water ski, and we have the super 8 video to prove it.

58. She has an adventurous spirit and loves to do new things, try new things, and push herself.

59. She’s brave.

60. She once traveled across the country in a train.

61. She has the best laugh.

62. She has a big love of family.

63. She’s interested in how things work and is curious by nature.

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64. She’s played miniature golf on a cruise ship and eaten pineapple on Antigua.

65. She’s always the first to volunteer help when someone needs it.

66. She did a  4 day 40 mile hike along the Rogue River.

67. She grew up on a farm where my grandparents, for a time, practiced the ‘have more’ plan.  Basically self-sufficient farming, etc.

68. She’s had to shoot many a skunk and possum in her life.  She doesn’t like it, but does it because it needs to be done.

69. She knows what’s important in life, and has always made that clear, and thankfully, passed it down to me.

70. She is loved so much by so many people it’s pretty amazing.  I doubt she knows how much people think of her, or how much she means to so many.  She’s humble like that.

I love you Mom.  More than I could ever express.  I am so lucky to have you in my life, and I’m thankful for it every day.  Happy birthday!