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

1094041_10151884167640802_293897564_o

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

10560687754_1d56bece29_bVapor.

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

192513_10151471565185802_1069606502_o

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

534379_10202267331861941_599401510_n

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.

1463955_737018292979383_1285934693_n

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.

1401524_727022510645628_1018053509_o

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.

32120_135617083119510_1466813_n

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.

1001266_10151959730970802_1934675072_n

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.

193465_10150162763525802_100508_o

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!

Seven

Weston And Hedgie

Weston And Hedgie (Photo credit: Tj Parker Photography)

Our boy turns seven today.  Seven years of love and snuggles and play and joy and laughter and smiles and exasperation and sweetness and tail wagging and pawing and cuddle-time and barks and bullies and deep soulful looks.  Happy birthday little man, we love you so.

Weston at Saturday Market

Weston and Hedgehog

Weston and Hedgehog (Photo credit: Tj Parker Photography)

Sir Weston

Sir Weston (Photo credit: Tj Parker Photography)

Weston

Weston (Photo credit: Tj Parker Photography)

Weston in the creeper

Weston in the creeper (Photo credit: Tj Parker Photography)

Weston

Weston (Photo credit: Tj Parker Photography)

24796_404765740801_7018631_n 1174170454_4840230606_o 20111208-150746.jpg Standing on the Desk

Weston

Weston

Sleeping Boy Riding IMG_2096 IMG_0259 p_2048_1536_77867677-DF06-4E2F-80E3-842E3B7CF562.jpeg

Enhanced by Zemanta

What Makes a Marriage

I’m married.  At least K and I feel we’re married.  We’ve already had two marriage “ceremonies”.  One on a beach in Maui, just the two of us, words spoken, rings exchanged, sand ceremony, poetry read, and lots of love.  We consider that one our real marriage ceremony.  It might not, technically, have been legal, but it was sincere, honest, and full of love.  It had everything, everything we needed and wanted anyway.  It was beautiful, and perfect.  The second, not actually a ceremony, was when I walked into the courthouse, paid the filing fee, and left with a domestic partnership certificate for the two of us.  We had to certify that we’d lived together for a certain length of time, by then we’d been together for a few years.

Now, nearly 11 years later, we’re living in Illinois, not Oregon, and in June, when the Illinois marriage law takes effect, we can, once again, get married.  We find this funny by the way.  Not funny that we’ve had to wait for marriage or hope for marriage or long for equality, but funny that this will be our third time.  We joke that maybe this time it will stick.  One can only hope.

All of this has me thinking.  What makes a marriage?

In June we will take our domestic partnership certificate in to the courthouse here in Illinois and exchange it for a marriage license.  They will back date our marriage license to the date we got our domestic partnership, which is great.  It means we will be considered legally married from that date, which was like, oh, six or seven years ago.  I can’t remember.  It wasn’t THE marriage so we honestly don’t even know the date we did it.  I’m sure it says on the certificate.  And, suddenly, miraculously, we will be, after all these years, legally married.

192513_10151471565185802_1069606502_o

The thing is, we are already married.  When we made those vows to each other on that beach in Maui, we meant them.  We didn’t need someone else to sanction it, or tell us it was OK.  We just needed to hear from each other that we loved and were loved in return.

So what’s the big deal about legal.  Well, it is a big deal.  Not so much to us, or to our friends and family who I think all consider us already married as well.  It’s a big deal because we will be protected under the law.  The taxes we pay will, finally, be used to our benefit, and we won’t be paying for other people to enjoy freedoms and benefits that to this point we weren’t allowed.  We will be the same.

The same.  That’s the thing, really.  We are the same as everyone else.  I know I’ve said this before.  We laugh, we love, we have friends and go to family functions with both sides of our families.  We work and do the dishes and go out to dinner and clean our bathrooms and mow our lawn.  We vacation, collecting heart rocks on every trip, take our dogs to the groomer, and go to the movies.  We babysit our grandchildren and buy organic food and go on bike rides.  We live.  We live and yet we’ve always felt just a little bit separate.  We’ve been made to feel separate. We’ve been told we are less than.  We aren’t.  But this is why gay groups have sprung up and gay people have banded together and held each others hands and been out and proud to be out.  We’ve had to. We’ve had to in order to feel what community feels like, since the larger community has shunned and pushed us away for so long.

And now… now we will be the same.  Still ridiculed and feared in same places, by some people, but the same legally.  We will, finally, be included, be part of the larger crowd.  We will be, honestly, the same.  Which is all we’ve ever wanted.  To continue to live normal lives and instead of being gay Tam, I’ll be Tam.  I’ll be Tam and K will be K and we will be married.  Married just like my Mom was married and my grandparents were married and K’s parents are married.

We will be married.  A piece of paper does not make a marriage, but it sure makes a marriage a legal, tangible, and a real thing in the eyes of the law.  It makes it real in the eyes of the community at large, even those who would still try to deny us.  What has, and will always be, real and true to us, will be real and true to our larger community.

Wow.

When the Cats Away

 

It’s quiet in here.

My honey is away for a few days on a business trip.  I was just sitting here working on my various blogs, yes I have more than one, and realized the only sound I’m hearing right now is the rattling of the pipe as the washing machine fills up with water.  Even the dogs are quiet, they’re sleeping.

Westminster

Westminster (Photo credit: Tj Parker Photography)

I’m a person who enjoys quiet time, needs it in fact.  As K and I joke, I could sit quietly by myself in a room for hours with no outside stimuli, just looking at the walls, and think.  I’d be happy doing that.  I’ve done it.  It probably sounds strange.  It rejuvenates me.

Conversely my honey can’t take too much quiet time.  She can’t take sitting and not doing something for very long.  She’s a doer, a bundle of energy needing to have something to pour itself into often enough so that she doesn’t spontaneously combust.  It’s her way, and I love her for it.

We are very different in this regard.

I just realized I’ve been sitting here for a little bit of time.  Not as long as I originally thought, when this first occurred to me, as I realized I did get up to do the dishes, then to feed the dogs, then later to clean the bathrooms, then later still to do some laundry, but a long time none the less.  It’s not like I’m sitting here doing nothing, though really I guess I’m sitting here doing nothing.  Unless working on the blogs, checking Twitter and Facebook, and reading the news online counts as something.  I think it’s more fluff than substance.  No matter really, I’ve been sitting here, aforementioned activities excluded, all morning.  No radio on and there’s no TV on this floor.  Silent.

There’s a lot of light in this room, especially now that the snow has finally melted off the solar tubes.  The sky is bright blue and the temps are, amazingly enough, above freezing today.  This makes two days in a row.  I’m shocked.  It’s lovely out.

The dogs are laying on either side of me, both zonked out.  They are relaxed, and so cute.  I love them.

Our normal daily lives are a bit noisy.  Laundry going, dishwasher going, my honey on one work call after another, phone ringing, us talking to each other, radio on.  Usually the dogs are barking at squirrels or people walking by, but strangely, not today.  Maybe they know what’s going on.

I’m listening to the sounds of the world.  The faint chime on our front porch as the wind moves it just enough to clang, not more than once or twice all morning.  The unseen, but heard, sounds of the occasional car rushing by the house.  I can see the branches on trees moving, but can’t hear the wind.  Then there’s the far off sound of a fan, somewhere in the house.  The little girly just barked, muffled, in her sleep, followed by a heavy breath.  My fingers are making sounds on the keyboard as I type.  A helicopter just flew over.  I think I just heard the faint sounds of a woodpecker.  That’s all.  The rest, silence.

When K is away for work I always think to myself, maybe I’ll go see a movie, go out to dinner, meet up with some friends.  I never do.  I probably would if it was going to be longer than just a couple of days, but it isn’t.  And as much as I love my honey, and don’t like when she’s away, I do love my alone time.  So much so I don’t answer the phone, unless it’s her.  I can think of all this take out I’d love to go get, or have delivered, but I don’t want to see anyone, talk to anyone, so I make due with what we have here at the house.  I’m enjoying this too much to have it interrupted.  I could go two days and not talk to anyone other than the pups, myself, and as I said, my honey when she calls.  That’s it.

I’m recharging.  It soothes my soul.

I know people who like it when their spouse has to travel because they get to do things they wouldn’t normally do.  Maybe go out with friends, get a bit wild.  Nothing terrible, just cutting loose a little.  Not me.  When my cat’s away, this is how I play.  I sit, looking out the window, listening to the lovely sounds of silence.

Enhanced by Zemanta

A Meditation on Love

Love.

I looked up the definition for love at Dictionary.com and there were 27 kinds of love listed.  At Merriam-Webster  there were 13.  And, over at the Urban Dictionary, there were 142 submissions for the word love.  Poets have tried to harness the feeling in stanzas, film makers have tried to capture it on-screen, and musicians have tried to condense this complicated emotion into under three minutes for decades.  Even scientists have studied the physical reactions our bodies make when we are in love.  It is mysterious, strange, frustrating, beautiful, and all together nearly impossible to describe.  And yet, we keep trying.

1393417878_f1c0d17f07_o

There’s nothing like love.  It can lift and crush us all at the same time.  The feeling leads to wonder and obsession, giddy excitement and incredible loss.  It’s at once unknowable and all-consuming.  It is an enigma.  A puzzle we are all constantly trying to solve, in one way or another.

My first feelings of love were for my mom, my brother, my  family at large.  I remember feeling warm, wrapped in the whole of these beautiful people.  Knowing I was a part of them, and they me.  I was constantly being held up by their concern and encouragement and leveled by their disappointment or criticism.  I was dependent and depended upon.  All of those things still hold true, none of them capture the depth of the feeling.

I have a deep and abiding love for so many amazing friends.  I’ve had that all my life.  I’ve been lucky to pick, and have been picked by, a generous, fantastic, lovely, lot of people.  A group of people, throughout my life, who have given me so much in the way of support and kindness and laughter and companionship.  We’ve shared stories and triumphs and heart breaks.  We’ve hugged each other and cried together and laughed so hard no sounds came out.  As I sit here thinking about all of them, I am overwhelmed to the point of tears.  Face after beautiful face popping into my head, a wonderful tapestry of smiling eyes.  And still I can’t describe the depth of this feeling in me.

I’ve had a few romantic loves.  Crushes and relationships that were never meant to be, but felt like they were at the time.  Secret loves and awkward feelings of love I hid from some and exposed to others.  I stumbled and bumbled my way through most of my early life, meaning before I was well into my thirties, not really knowing what I was actually feeling, or wanting to feel, but feeling it so deeply and overwhelmingly that ultimately only confusion resulted.  I had passion and commitment in spades, but didn’t really know what to do with it.  But I loved, and yes, I was loved in return.

And then… then I fell madly and deeply in love.  I’ve attempted to describe this feeling, this feeling of fitting together.  The best way I’ve found is to say that there was nearly an audible clicking into place when I met K.  It’s as if all the cogs settled just so, accompanied by a perfect little whoosh of sound.  I believe, to this day, that I actually heard it.  Love.  True, impossibly real, and mine.  And still, I can’t really describe it, not even to her.  I’ve tried.  I’ve said the words, written poems, sung songs, and looked at her with so much feeling coursing through me I’m sure she feels it.  When she looks back I feel it from her.  It is obsessive and sweet and ruthless and honest and miraculous.  And still I feel as though I can’t quite get my words around it.

It’s such a small word.  The ultimate four letter word.  I feel it so deeply, for so many, including those furry little faces walking around our house.  And yet, even with all of this, the words seem hollow and the attempt middling.  I guess when all the scholars and scientists and poets and musicians have trouble condensing it into any kind of real explanation I shouldn’t expect that I could, in any way, do it in one small blog post.

I guess I will just say this, no further explanation needed… I love, and I am loved in return.  It just is.  And, in the end, that’s all we really need to know.

7:24 AM

7:24 AM

I wake up, suddenly.  I feel like someone is staring at me.  I turn over slowly and there he is, a small furry little fella with big brown eyes sitting over me looking down.  His eyes say everything he can’t speak.  I’m half awake and tell him no.  Gently at first… no buddy, lay down, lay down now.  He doesn’t take no for an answer and leans down and gives me a kiss on the cheek.  Again I say, no buddy, lay down.  He’s relentless.  I try to go a bit more firm with him, NO, Weston, lay down.  He ignores me.  We’re having a battle of wills.

I tell him I didn’t get to sleep until really late last night and in fact have only slept for about four or five hours.  He doesn’t seem to care.  I change tactics.  I ask if he needs to go outside.  Maybe that’s it.  I get up, he follows, and I think, OK, this is it.  I open the doggie door and he sticks his head out, then pulls it back in.  He sticks it out one more time, looks around, and again pulls it back in.  I don’t have time for these shenanigans.  I open the door, telling him it’s OK and that a little rain/freezing rain won’t hurt him and that I’ll stand right there in the door, in t-shirt and shorts, waiting for him.  It’s freezing cold outside and I’m cold waiting in the doorway.  He ventures out tentatively, makes it to the bottom of the steps, and immediately turns around and comes back in.  I shake my head and pad back toward the bedroom.  I need more sleep.

Of course, he follows me.  I get back in bed and look down.  He’s sitting on the floor next to the bed looking up at me, those big eyes doing their magic trick on me again.  Practically programmed I scoot back, making room for him.  I open up the covers and he jumps up effortlessly, laying down up against me with his head on my arm.  He demands to be petted for a while, continually nudging me with his nose until I get just the right spot on his tummy.  It’s nearly 8:00 AM now.  I still want to go back to sleep.

We stay in that place for what seems like a long while, me petting his tummy, him enjoying what we have come to call his morning cuddle time.  This is not the first time this scenario has happened.  He’s trained me well.

Finally, finally, I hear him snore.  This little sign tells me I can stop petting him and try to go to sleep.  I do.

9:15 AM

We both wake up.  Him still up against me, head on my arm.  I just spent over an hour spooning our boy.  I vow, as I get up, and he gets up reluctantly, that this won’t happen again.  It’s a vow I’ve made many times.  His soul filled eyes melt my heart, even when I’m irritated by him.  I remind myself he’s just a dog, but I love him so.

4:50 PM

He jumps up on the sofa next to me, stares at me with those eyes, and paws my hand.

1174170454_4840230606_o

What Kind of Eyes Do You See With?

Eisenhower QuoteI happened to be looking at quotes this morning, which is something I occasionally do, and found this little gem.

I’ve never been a huge Eisenhower fan, and to be honest, I don’t really know too much about him.  He was a two term president, a conservative who also happened to be against McCarthy, for civil rights and inclusion, and ultimately pretty good a foreign policy.  He adhered to a policy of moderation and cooperation as a means of governance.  Yeah, you got me, I just looked him up and that last bit is a direct quote from Wikipedia.  I just read a bit about him and turns out he was an interesting guy that somehow gets overlooked when we mention presidents.  Probably because he came after Truman, and World War II, and before Kennedy, who garnered a lot of attention.

What strikes me about this quote is how relevant it is today.  We find ourselves in an era of bitter rivalry, and one might even say hatred, toward our fellows.  Our political system is a prime example of this.  Hate, fear, finger-pointing, and a general culture of unkindness seems to prevail.  Individuals, and I see this all the time on Facebook, love to post hurtful, finger-pointing comments full of ridicule and scorn.  Nowhere in that is a thought toward commonality, togetherness, kindness, or even an idea toward actually working a solution to our many problems.  It’s all about how the other guy is an oaf or an idiot or simple-minded.  Sadly, it’s the same behavior I saw so many times while I was working with at risk kids.  People who post these inflammatory things are bullies.  They wouldn’t call themselves that, no.  They would say they are passionate about their topic of choice and are attempting to push change.  They are wrong, just as people who try to bully have always been wrong.  One does not get their way by pushing, cajoling, shoving, and name-calling.  Name-calling… I’m appalled.  Adults, people I know, do this.  It’s like we’re back on the playground again.  Ridiculous.  Arrogant.  Shameful.

If you are a passionate person about, well, anything, the way forward is to promote an idea, not knock someone else down for an opinion that differs from yours.  Find what you feel are solutions and put those forward.  Create ideas or support causes you feel are worthy and promote those.  Stand up and state what you believe in, without saying that someone who believes differently is an idiot.  They aren’t, they just don’t agree with you.  And their not agreeing with you is OK too.  Differing ideas bring different looks at a problem.  We have a lot of problems, we need a lot of looks.  If you must comment on the “other side”, do so by posting actual, honest and real, events or circumstances that happened that you don’t agree with.  Then, comment on those with integrity, and an eye, again, toward solution.

I’m so tired, can you tell, of the trend toward mass posting these ridiculous saying and quotes about how liberals are this or that or tea party members are this or that.  Blanket statements that do nothing to enrich the world.  Mean quips and vicious comments about “those people”.  You know what?  I’m those people, and my mom is those people, my family is those people, and my friends are those people, on both sides.  Before you post something of that nature, think of people you know, picture their faces, and decide if you would say whatever it is you are about to post right to their face.  If you would, well then I guess you aren’t really a friend of mine because true friends of mine aren’t mean.  Friends of mine are kind.  I will, to borrow a phrase, accept no substitutes.  Everyone, and I mean nearly everyone, is entitled to a measure of respect. You choose who you are.  You can rise, be kind, elevate.  Or you can degrade, denigrate, and wallow in the muck.

As Eisenhower, whose quote started this whole little stand on the soap box, said…  “we must avoid becoming a community of dreadful hate and fear” and as the character Lindsey Brigman says in the movie The Abyss, “We all see what we want to see. Coffey looks and…  he sees hate and fear. You have to look with better eyes than that.”  I love that quote.  It’s stuck with me.  We see what we want, we create our world based on what we see and what we do.  We have to be better, for the world and for each other.  If we show a general disrespect for people we don’t even know, we disrespect ourselves, our children, our neighborhoods, our larger communities.  We have to look with better eyes than that.

Jumping In

Some of you may have noticed a decreased number of posts in the last couple of weeks.  Or, to be clear, basically no posts in the last couple of weeks.  I finally remedied that today, with a 10 Word Review, but otherwise… nada, zip, zilch, zero.  I love Z words.  I have a great explanation and I’ll make it short, I was otherwise occupied.

It’s been cold in East Central Illinois.  Really cold.  We’ve had our share of snow this year, not to mention the whole polar vortex thing, which basically trapped us in our own home for three days.  We love our house, but being forced to stay home, not fun.  Neither of us like being told what to do, even by Mother Nature.  To remedy this situation we’d planned, to be honest it was long before our version of the Day After Tomorrow happened, a family vacation to the much more balmy Florida Keys.  Can we get a hallelujah?  I thick we can.

So ladies and gentlemen, without further ado…

1557202_10152252227945802_1261058153_o

… this is where I’ve been, and what I was doing while I wasn’t posting on the blog.  Everyone needs a vacation now and then and this was what mine looked like.

Sometimes you just have to let go, and jump in.

Best Finds of 2013

I’ve been reading a lot of best of lists in the last several days, everything from albums of 2013 to recipes involving bacon.  Everyone seems to be making a year end list.  I thought, why not jump on the bandwagon.  So here we go.  This isn’t a top ten or even a list with any sort of theme.  These are just things (songs, movie houses, art, tv shows, food, etc.) I discovered in 2013 that will stay with me long into 2014 and beyond.

Let’s get to it….

The Lone Bellow came into my life via iTunes and a free download.  I instantly became obsessed with them.  Great lyrics, excellent harmonies, and catchy tunes that stay in your head for days.

The Cinnamon Crunch Bagel from Panera.  This thing is addicting.  I’m so glad we discovered them, and so sad at the same time.  It’s all kinds of deliciousness in a small round baked good.  Toasted with butter… so damn tasty.

cinnamon

Kickapoo State Park, Illinois.  We’ve lived in Illinois now for nearly two and a half years.  Surprisingly there are many things we’ve come to appreciate and even truly like about living here.  One thing we haven’t is that there isn’t as much water as we were used to living in Oregon.  We’ve done our best to travel to nearby towns with river walks (there aren’t that many) and to find state parks and such that have a decent amount of water, in whatever form we can find it.  One such place, to our delight, is Kickapoo.  First, you have to love the name, c’mon, it’s kind of awesome.  But more importantly, it has water.  All sorts of little lakes and a stream, running through it.  There are canoe rentals in the summer, and loads of trails.  We went in the fall, when the colors of the foliage were stunningly beautiful.  We will definitely be going back.

1534876_10152212584160802_2075198641_o

The Golden Harbor Restaurant.  With a huge menu, free tea by the pot, and a cool old school vibe, this place rocks. Plus, the food is great.  How can you go wrong with spicy green beans, salt and pepper mushrooms, and plates full of sweet and spicy chicken.  The menu on the wall is enormous and all in Chinese.  You can pick up an english language menu from the little table by the front door if you like.  Write down the numbers of the things you’d like to order, take it up to the counter, and moments later your tasty hot food starts coming out as it’s ready.  We love this place.

SliceMenuWall

Season tickets for the University of Illinois women’s volleyball and basketball.  What a great deal.  We’d been to games before, but this all inclusive $35 dollar ticket package gets you into all the home games for both sports.  We’ve had hours of enjoyment at these games.  The atmosphere, the competition, supporting the local university, and eating an occasional stadium dog… all worth it.  Can’t beat it for good sporty entertainment.

1471313_10152118417475802_1262614362_n

Cris Cab.  I can’t even remember how I stumbled on this young gent.  All I know for sure is that his music is catchy and I’m semi-addicted to it.

Dominic Thomas was born.  I don’t know if you can call him a discovery, but as he grows, and has one discovery after another of his own, we have discovered a little more about him, and ourselves.  I think that’s part of the beauty of little people.  As they grow and change and develop we see the world through them, and it is an amazingly wondrous place.

966861_10152212598445802_1963504907_o

The fun of riding steam trains.  Taking a five mile ride on a steam train isn’t exactly something I would choose to do on my own.  Maybe an over night or a several night journey, one with sleeper cars and a nice dining car, but not a shorty ride on a steam train that goes one way forward and then backs up on the return trip.  But, somehow, with the help of the excitement of a three year old, short trip steam trains kinda rock.  We went a couple of different times and I’m sure we’ll be going again this year.  Our mini engineer in training loves it and, consequently, so do we.

1399146_10152032865670802_954895830_o

The Blacklist.  James Spader is just plain awesome.  He’s an amazing actor.  In lessor hands this role, and the tv show connected to it, might not be as riveting and interesting as it is.  But with James Spader at the center, a decent supporting cast, and top notch writing, Blacklist keeps you hooked.

The-Blacklist

Portland, Maine.  We took a little road trip for our 10th anniversary to Portland by way of NY, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, etc.  We loved New England.  It’s beautiful, it’s people are great, and it’s beautiful.  Portland, the destination for this trip, didn’t disappoint.  We met in Portland, Oregon.  It’s our city, as we like to call it.  We love it there.  I had, however, always wanted to go to the other Portland.  To check it out.  To see what it had to offer.  My honey felt the same.  Seemed fitting that on our 10th we would take a trip to that other Portland to see what we could see.  It was great.  Good restaurants, excellent scenery, really nice people, and funky in it’s own way, we enjoyed it very much.

893068_10151671209620802_1987702919_o

Roadtrippers.  I love this website.  We travel quite a bit.  Most especially, in recent years at least, we’ve gone on some major road trips here in the U.S.  This site allows you to plan your route and then see what sorts of places might be along it.  From practical to strange Roadtrippers has them all.   They also have an app, which rocks.  I couldn’t recommend it highly enough.

1094041_10151884167640802_293897564_o

Cafe ZoJo.  It’s a local coffee shop that’s fairly new.  I’m not sure if we actually found this in 2013 or the year before, but never the less, I’m including it here.  The staff are friendly, with quick helpful smiles, the atmosphere is eclectic and comfortable, the food is tasty, and the coffee is sublime.  ZoJo is our go to for take away coffee.  I’ve never had better drip coffee in my life.  That’s saying a lot.

zojocovercoffee (1)

Sleepy Creek Vineyards.  We actually discovered this place by way of a thing called the Fork in the Road Tour.  A few local farms, their goods, a nice drive with good friends, and we ended up, last stop on the tour, at Sleepy Creek.  We were given a tour of the vineyard,  an explanation of the bottling process, and then a tasting.  The wine was good, but the people were great, and the atmosphere was awesome.  Later, like a month or so, they hosted the Salk Fork River Art Festival.  Again, great setting, great wine, great people.  We were hooked.  They do several events a month including things like film festivals, live music, art festivals, weenie roasts, and of course wine tastings.  It’s worth the drive east.

1269536_10152006322545802_173713000_o

Cinnebarre in Salem, Oregon.  We live in Illinois now, but we still spend a significant amount of time in Oregon.  It’s where I’m from, and where my honey lived for over 30 years.  It’s home.  My mom lives in Salem, in the same house we lived in when I was in high school.  Salem is the capitol city, and has always been considered, amongst people who live in Portland anyway, a lessor town.  But in the last several years Salem has grown up a little, and funked out a bit as well.  To prove this point they now have a movie place downtown called Cinebarre.  It’s a chain, though there are only about seven or eight locations around the country.  The fact that one of those is in Salem is very cool.  Cinebarre is a movie theater and it’s a restaurant.  You get table service during the movie, which seems like it could distract you, but it doesn’t really.  Walk in, look at the menu before the movie starts, fill out your card, prop it up, and the wait staff comes to take your order via your card and then brings you the food while the movie is going.  You can keep ordering if you want to, they also have beer and wine.  It’s a kick and a unique movie experience.  I like it.

l

Honda PCX 150 Scooter.  We used to own motorcycles.  Big motorcycles.  Hogs.  We had all the gear, went on rides, and thought we were slightly above all those scooter riders out there.  That’s the way it goes.  If you ride motorcycles you think scooter riders, or scooterists as I like to call them, are slightly beneath you.  Not really in an arrogant way, it’s just that as a motorcycle rider you’re cool.  As a scooterist you’re nerdy.  Until, of course, we gave up the motorcycles and bought a Honda scooter in 2013.  It’s beyond awesome.  It hauls buns, can carry both of us, is fun as hell to ride, and seems easier.  Maybe the easier part is just because you don’t have to shift, I don’t know.  But it’s zippy, and it makes a fantastic second car.  I so love to ride it.  Who would’ve thunk, those few short years ago, we would prefer a scooter, but we do.  I guess if that makes us nerds we proudly own it.  I’m a scooterist.  Damn straight I am.

13_Honda_PCX150_1

Here Comes The Sun

For some reason this version of Here Comes the Sun by Nina Simone makes me feel warm and happy.  Warm and happy seems like a great way to start off the New Year.  Here’s hoping everyone has a warm, happy, joy-filled 2014.

Questionable Questions

I don’t know what made me think of this, but I was just remembering the last big interview I had.  The year, 1999.  I was working for a county in Southern Oregon as a juvenile probation officer.  I’d been in that job for a couple of years, loved the work, but was looking at moving north, back up toward Portland and the family and friends I had near and around there.  I’d been thinking about it for a while, but there hadn’t been any job openings anywhere near Portland for some time.

One day I was using the copier at work and posted right above it was a job announcement for an opening in a small county next to the county Portland is in.  That would be Columbia for those of you who know it, and for those who don’t.  I saw the announcement and knew I had to apply.  They were small, which I liked, and on the Columbia River.  I applied, ended up number one on their list, and got an interview.  Yay!  Or maybe I should have said yay?

I’m not good at interviewing.  In fact, I sort of suck at it.  It’s not that I don’t think I know what I’m doing, or am confident in my abilities.  I am.  It’s just that I don’t much like talking about myself.  At least not in that way.  List your best strength, your greatest weakness, etc.  Yuck.  But it’s a necessary evil, so we do it.  I did it, sort of.

I made the drive up, four hours North of where I was, stopping at my mom’s place to say hi.  I should have known I was going to struggle that day as I ended up getting a speeding ticket just after I left Mom’s.  My head was already at the interview and not on the road.  I deserved the ticket, but getting it threw me off my game even more.

I found the town, the courthouse, and the department pretty much without incident.  Thank goodness.  I was dressed up in my best suit jacket, code for my only suit jacket, with some nice pants and shoes.  Anyone who knows me knows I don’t dress up, normally, so just finding something to wear was a feat.  I walked in, gave them my name, and was instructed to sit in the waiting area.  The courthouse was historic, which I thought was cool.  The doors into the department were two big swinging doors, wooden with windows in them.  The decor in the department was old, the pictures hanging on the walls dating back 20 years, at least.  The desks the secretaries were sitting at were ancient, the kind with drawers that stick, and the counter had probably been there for decades.  I liked it all immediately.  Which made it worse since I felt the atmosphere suited me.  Liking it there meant wanting it more.  My nerves grew.

3889921235_19e0e90790_b

A gentleman came out and introduced himself as the Director of the department and escorted me back to his office.  He was nicely dressed.  There were four people in there, besides me.  Four.  All of them nicely dressed.  Great.  They all looked polished and there were so so many of them.  Pretty shy, I struggle with knowing what to say, and having to say it to more than one person is a definite challenge for me.  Unless of course it’s a group of 300 and I know what I’m talking about.  Go figure.

So I went in, sat down, and everyone was introduced to me — director, two senior probation officers, and the office manager.  Uhg.  They were all nice, had great smiles, were very welcoming.  I could have thrown up.  I attempted to make small talk.  My talk was very small.  I have no idea what I said, and am grateful for the forgetting.  I’m sure it wasn’t riveting in any way, and probably involved the weather.

Questions.  There are always questions when one interviews for a job.  Silly practice, but there it is.  I was asked questions, most of which were pretty easy actually as they were related directly to the job.  I can talk about what I do all day, or how I think it should be done.  My answers were much too short, but I had them.  Then the dreaded questions started — what do you see as your biggest strength, what is your biggest weakness, where do you think you could improve, yada yada yada.  They weren’t exactly those, but they were similar.  I froze.  I seem to remember mumbling something and then the director, who was a nice guy and probably saw the deer in the headlights look that had come over me, lead me through it.  He started asking more direct questions to prod my answers, thank goodness.  Without him I feel as though I would’ve been a complete and utter jackass.

Afterwards I knew I had semi-blown the interview.  I liked them, felt they liked me, but I knew my answers left something to be desired, having to have my words basically pulled from my mouth by a symbolic team of horses in the form of the Director.  My shyness, and horror at talking about myself, got the best of me that day.  When I left, after having been given the tour of the very cool courtroom I would work in if I got the job (It was old style, all wood and windows, the judge’s bench a giant wooden desk, and there was a place in the banister between the gallery and the counsel tables that a shotgun had been stored in the old days.  The secret hole was still there.  Cool.), I questioned whether they would hire me at all.  I really wanted the job, very much, which made it worse.

I made the long drive home, questioning questions and my answers the entire way.  Four hours of going over what I’d been asked and how I had answered, or better yet not answered adequately, some of them.  Nothing to distract me from those thoughts for four hours.  Four.  It was a long drive.

A couple of days passed and no word.  I knew they were interviewing a few people so the decision was going to take a few days, but that didn’t really help.  As a day passed and then another I was sure I’d fumbled my way right out of that job.  No move up North for me.  I was going to be staying in Southern Oregon, which is lovely, but didn’t suit my liberal sensibilities much.  If you’ve read my about page you know how I got the tokenhippygirl moniker and why.  They were lovely people to work with, I was just a square peg in a round hole there.  But I started resign myself to staying, knew I’d just have to wait for another opportunity and try again.

Then it happened.  I got the call.  The Director phoned up and offered the job to me.  Shocking, but true.  I seemed to have won their confidence despite my terrible interview.  They saw through it to who I was and who I could be for them in the position.  Amazing.

I started in June 1999.  I stayed until June 2010, when I had to leave because I got sick.  A long time to be in a job, for me at least.  I loved it there, loved those people.  I still love them and am still friends with them today, even though many miles separate us.  It was a magical place.  The best working environment I’ve ever been lucky enough to be a part of.  The combination of the people and doing work that mattered a great deal were unbeatable.  We were a family.  An incredible family.

Just goes to show that sometimes questionable questions can lead to a wondrous place.  They did for me.  I stumbled and fell into that job, but ended up succeeding there in ways I never, as I sat in that waiting room in my only suit jacket, thought possible.

I Offer This…

It is the holiday season now.  I’m filled with both a sickness about the greed all around and a warmth and love and gratitude for the gifts in life I’ve been given.  These two do not live exclusive of each inside me.  They live and breathe together, making my thoughts this time of year slightly muddled.  Waffling back and forth between these two I cry at the injustices and cruelties perpetuated every day in the name of power and that never ending black hole of “more”, and then I smile and feel overwhelmed with joy by the goodness and beauty in my life.  I sing inside with possibility and hopefulness about the human condition and the kindness of strangers.  I curse the cruel and power hungry, and ache for those who are cold and hungry this time of year.

I’m of two minds.

Then I say to myself… zip it.  Zip.  Shh.

I am currently filled with an overwhelming feeling of love.  Love for family I have close and those who are far away from me but who live in my heart every minute of every day.  Love for friends near and far who lift my heart with laughter and connectedness and a joy I am so lucky to recognize is there.

I sit here watching the kids and my honey build the new configuration of Sebastian’s train track.  It’s quite an undertaking.  They are somehow managing to stay calm and I am somehow managing to keep my opinion out of it. Three opinions are enough.  They are getting it done with laughter and cooperation.  I keep writing.

Christmas snuck up on us this year.  Thanksgiving later than usual lessened the time in between.  Consequently we were unprepared and haven’t realized even half the things we dreamed we’d get done.  No worries.  The things aren’t important.  Not really.  Yes, I’m referring to the buying of gifts.

I love giving gifts.  Always have.  I don’t much enjoy getting them.  OK, honestly, I do enjoy getting them, but am always, with the exception of getting gifts from my honey, uncomfortable with having others watch me open gifts and then knowing how to respond to said items in an appropriate way.  I think I’m slightly off in this regard.  I don’t often know how to be when I get a gift.  My default is always to smile and say thanks.  I think it works.  I’m still always slightly uncomfortable.

And that’s just about enough of the gift talk….  almost.  I always appreciate getting gifts and recognize the fact that the people or persons who’ve given them to me do so with affection.  I recognize this.  I appreciate it.  I’d just much rather be the giver of gifts than the receiver.  Tomorrow, however, on Christmas Day, I will get gifts.  And, truthfully, I will love them, whatever they are.  I’m an oxymoron.

A word on holiday cheer… I’m drinking a bit of wine right now.  Very cheerful.

I think it’s tough to feel so lucky about what I have in life without thinking about how there are so many people out in the world who don’t have the family and friend support I have, who maybe don’t have enough food or warmth or love in their lives.  And once again I’m back to the ache I feel for those who may be less fortunate than I.  Sadly, there are many of those as I am mightily fortunate.

I am of two minds.

The wine cures this conundrum and adds to it.

Preparations are nearly done for the big reveal tomorrow when two small boys, one three year old in particular, will rush down to see what Santa has brought to the house, how many cookies he might have eaten of those that were left for him, and how many nibbles on carrots Santa’s reindeer might’ve taken.  It will be a fun and glorious thing.  Love in a short and glee filled package.  There’s no waffling about that.  He and his brother are light and love and wishes fulfilled.  I am blessed beyond measure.

Merry Christmas to all… and to all a good night.

Thankful Everyday – The Thirtieth

Here we are, the final day of thanks for the month of November.  I think every day, in my normal life, I say a mental and emotional thank you for something… the way my honey laughs, the excited way the pups greet me every time I walk in a room, the smiles of my grandsons, the beauty of the sky or the day or the soul of a friend.  I appreciate things.  Even so, this has been a lovely exercise in purposed thankfulness.  Being cognizant of what I have in my life.  I have a lot.

30.  I am thankful for love.  Love of all kinds.  Love from friends, family, my pups, the grandsons, the kids, my Mom, my siblings, and most of all my honey.  I am blessed to have so much love in my life.  More love and more joy from that love than I could ever dream possible.  I feel it like a wave sometimes, immense and overwhelming in a totally good way, and other times it’s presence is like a vast and endless calm sea supporting the weight of this tiny ship.  Most importantly, I feel it.  Always.  I’m lucky, fortunate, grateful, thankful, honored, blessed, graced, and humbled by the magnitude of it.  I am loved, and I love.  It’s beautiful.

1393417878_f1c0d17f07_o

Thankful Everyday – The Twenty-Fourth

24.  I am thankful for lined jeans.  It’s cold cold cold outside.  Temps well below freezing and wind chill bringing it even further down.  Lined jeans, down coats, and warm hats make all the difference.  I was walking the dogs tonight in the cold and the wind was blowing hard.  It was cold out and I was toasty warm.  Thanks to lined jeans.

10560386206_24b89d58ca_b

Thankful Everyday – The Twenty-First

21.  I am thankful for the birds in our backyard.  I’ve never really been a bird person.  I like looking at them, am amazed by them, but haven’t ever really been into them.  Until now.  My honey loves birds.  She loves animals of all kinds actually, but she really digs on the birds in our backyard.  So much so we’ve got this whole feeding system going on back there that’s pretty spectacular.  It actually involved putting in posts (with cement to anchor), stove pipe (to stop the squirrels from climbing), and then hooks on top for the feeders.  We stained them and put copper post tops on.  They look pretty fantastic.  We have two of these posts now which means there are eight feeders.  This doesn’t count the outside clothes dryer pole that used to be a drying apparatus and was cut off to now be a post with a tray feeder on top (we didn’t need to dry clothes outside anyway… we have a stand alone rack for that if we want one) or the other colored rod iron poles we have around the yard or the two bird baths.  Yes, we are a veritable bird sanctuary.  All because my honey loves birds.  We have bird books now and binoculars for looking out to see them up close.  It’s sort of awesome.  I was never into them before, but now… I just went and filled up a pitcher with hot water to take out and pour over the bird bath water (which this time of year pretty much freezes every night) so they have some water to drink.  I’m in it.  And I’m thankful for that.

1149310_10151918065665802_429477326_o

Thankful Everyday – The Eighteenth

18.  I’m thankful for our basement.  I admit it, I’m freaked out about tornadoes.  The thought of one scares me.  I’m from Oregon, land of earthquakes and volcanos, not tornadoes.  I’m just not used to living in a place where tornadoes can and do happen.  So when we moved to east central Illinois we agreed we would get a house with a basement.  It’s a peace of mind thing.  When a tornado warning happens we head down, with the dogs of course, to the media room to watch what’s happening on the television and to peruse the ongoing situation on our iPad and laptop.  We both feel better knowing we have that place to go.  Again, it’s a peace of mind thing and I’m so thankful for it.

looking back

looking back