49 For 49

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s take a new tack.

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

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

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

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

Brown Eyed Soul

Brown Eyed Soul (Photo credit: Tj Parker Photography)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Portland Rose Garden

Portland Rose Garden

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

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

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

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

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

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

Redwoods

Redwoods

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peace

Peace

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

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

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

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

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

South Dakota

South Dakota

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Trip to Oregon… and Back Again

Our 2014 trip to Oregon, we’ve now done it for three summers running, was a big one. Gone nearly two full months, we left in the Jeep and returned with the Jeep and an R-pod trailer. There were many highlights from our two months away, these are just some of them. Adventures listed, of course, in totally random order.

And, by the way, looking at the photos from our trip recently I was struck by how wonderful an experience like this is.  We love being together, love seeing new places, love the strange and random and cool and gorgeous and amazing sights along the way, love seeing the world and meeting new people.  We have the same adventurous and fun and silly spirit, my honey and I. This was an incredible adventure and a gift we were lucky to share with each other.  Life, ours, is stunningly beautiful.  Both the adventures on the road and also the adventures we have on a daily basis at home.  It’s all a miracle to me.  Deep and full and filled with so much light, beauty, and love.

10514198_10152758385480802_3510521704757295644_o

OK, OK… enough of me waxing on about life, etc.  Here are the details of the trip, as I said, in no particular order.

We love our jeep! Not one problem with it and it pulled like a champion! Man… what a great ride. What a beast. It averaged 30 miles per gallon going out and after we got the trailer we averaged somewhere between 14 or 15. Amazing.

Love LilyPod! It’s what we named the trailer. It has a picture of a frog lounging on a lily pad on the side of it so it seemed fitting to name her LilyPod. Lily for short. She’s an amazing rig and we couldn’t be happier with her.

7190 Miles travelled… whew… that’s a lot of miles.

13 States visited, a couple of them more than once, in order – Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois

Drive to Oregon done over seven days. Six nights of hotels with dogs, lugging in luggage, and ice chests, and electronic equipment and cameras.  It was also filled with interesting sights and lovely countryside.

Not long after we got to Oregon, and after our camping trip to Davis where I did use a big camera, I decided I wasn’t going to use the big cameras anymore during the trip. I decided to use only my iPhone, try to be more in the moment and not behind the lens. It was a nice break, and I was still able to capture some pretty cool pics with the iPhone camera.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We met people with Rpods at gas station near Kennewick, on our way to Oregon, who let us look inside their trailers and gave us some tips, including sway bar (which we are so glad we got!). We all talked to each other for a good half and hour or 45 minutes and we exchanged info with them.  Very nice people and a great experience.

K’s work computer bag fell out of the back of the Jeep at a gas station after we left Kennewick and we didn’t know it. Some good samaratin saw it happen and turned it in to the gas station attendant who searched the bag, found her number, and called her, thank goodness!

1 night spent at Mom’s before we got the trailer.

We had an 11:00 AM appointment to pick up the trailer the day after we arrived in Oregon. They gave us a tour, quickly showed us the mechanicals, helped to set the brake controller, and took me for a little test drive around the block with Jeep towing trailer before they unleashed us, rookies, on the world. We had a day and a half to get it all outfitted and ready for camping before we left for Davis Lake.  In retrospect it was all a bit rush rush, but it worked out OK.

Dry camped for three nights at Davis Lake. It was hot, but cold at night, and we loved every minute of it. The dogs adjusted to the trailer right away. We loved Lily immediately.

Davis Lake was a lot of fun, camping with my bro and Vicki and Mom and all the Hale kids and their families.  Once we were there and set up, we got to stop and be mellow and relax for the first time since leaving home.  Plus, as a bonus, it’s beautiful there.  Central Oregon is amazing.  And to me, it smells like vanilla.  Always this undertone of it in the air.

Inner tubing at Davis.  We bought float tubes and took them to Davis.  I went down the creek with K and Vicki and also with Mom.  We did it a couple of times.  Once K and V and I floated all the way down the creek and out into the Lake.  We had to paddle a lot there at the end and then walk back quite a ways, but it was a kick in the butt.  Fun times.

No fouling! Meaning, avert your gaze if you don’t want to hear this, we don’t poo in the trailer. It’s a steadfast rule. In England there are signs all around to remind people to clean up after their dogs. These signs have a dog and a pile of poo with a red circle crossed out and they say no fouling. This has always cracked me up, so we incorporated the saying for the trailer. No fouling. Period. It makes us laugh. And, as the person who hooks, unhooks, and is responsible for making sure all the waste, black and gray, gets cleaned out, I appreciate this rule.

Countless high fives. K and I love to high five. Who knows why. She kind of started it, and I once gave her a bad time about it, while chuckling of course, but we do it all the time. Any time any little thing goes well, or is fun, or is cool, we high five. I can’t even count the number of high fives we did during the trip. And that, my friends, deserves a ::: high five :::

Stopping at rest stops for lunch every day.  On the drive down the Pacific Coast and then east we would stop at rest stops or truck stops or pull outs on the side of the road, and make sandwiches for lunch every day.  It was very relaxing. We didn’t eat restaurant food at all, during travel days, except when we were in the wind delay in Wyoming and then for dinner the last two nights (we were just plain ready to be home, though we still made sandwiches in the trailer for lunch those days).  Being able to just pull over, make sandwiches, and relax for lunch was a fantastic bonus that having the trailer gave us.

My honey drove the trailer in Nebraska and did small 1 or 2 hour stints every day from there to home… So proud of her for driving! Driving the trailer, for novices, is/was intimidating. It’s a whole new ballgame to pull something that’s big, bulky, and weighs 3300 pounds. The whole driving experience is different, and it’s at tad scary. My honey was nervous about it so for the most part I drove. By the time we got home, having driven all those miles, I was feeling pretty darn comfortable, though still cautious, about pulling it.  But, after our stormy night at the Walmart in Laramie we decided were going to cut a day off our plans and try to make it home early.  Longer days driving meant I needed a break. I could do six or even seven hours by myself, with a break for lunch, but driving 8 or 9 hours a day… tiring. Thank goodness for her. She came through in a big way and despite being nervous about it, she drove like a champion.

Antennae television in LilyPod.  There are actual cable/satellite hookups on Lily you can use if you have hookups at the parks you stay at.  We actually had cable at a couple of RV parks, though we only really watched TV one night.  Something that’s totally funny though, kind of like finding strange radio stations when you travel, was turning on the antennae, when we didn’t have cable available at all, and seeing what we could get for channels.  Some places, nothing.  Others, strange off channels broadcasting weird stuff.  Kind of cool.  I actually found an episode of Wonder Woman once.  Caught the last half of it, then turned it off.  We didn’t really watch much TV this trip.  It’s more fun to just hang out, make dinner, be together, walk the pups, and read.  Which is what we did most nights.  But the antennae tv, kind of quirky, and cool.

Speaking of reading.  I did lots of it.  Loved it.  The Kindle, for traveling, is awesome.

Convoyed with Mom, the PodMother,  and her Rpod, to Davis lake and the beach.  It was so much fun communicating with walkie talkies back and forth.  PodMother, come in.  Yes, LilyPod?  We’re going to stop up ahead, does that work for you?  Yes, LilyPod, works for me.  We had so much fun with it.  And had so much fun camping with Mom both at Davis Lake and at the beach for a week.  She in her Rpod, figuring it out, us in ours doing the same.  It was great to have that shared experience with her.

Salem, OR for 21 days.  Between Davis and Seal Rock we were in Salem for just about three weeks.  During that time we mostly worked on getting stuff moved out of our big storage unit in Scappoose.  We rented a big ol’ truck, loaded it, took it to Mom’s and unloaded, sorted as we went, sold some stuff on Craigslist, re-boxed some of it, got the rest ready to sell in the big yard sale my Mom was going to have, took what we wanted to keep to a new storage unit we found in Salem, helped set up the sale and run the sale, and then helped load up and take what didn’t sell to the Goodwill.  Crazy.  It took us what seemed like days and days to get all of that done.  It was a lot of work, but worth it.  We really pared down what we have there.  It was cleansing.  And we’re now spending less than half of what we were before on storage.  Some day maybe we’ll get all of that here to Illinois.  I’d like that since a lot of it is books and records, stuff I just can’t get rid of.

Weenie roast with most of the sibs and aunts.  After the big yard sale at Mom’s place we had a weenie roast/s’more making session to celebrate a great sale (all proceeds going to the scholarship fund set up in my grandparents names by Mom and her siblings) and the fact that K and I are now legally married.  We keep saying, third times a charm and maybe this time it will take.  It was a long day, lots of sales, lots of moving stuff and such, but it was a great one.  It was fun, and the celebration at the end capped the day off nicely.  Also great to see the aunts (we missed you Barb!)

Lunch with Thomas.  We got to have lunch with K’s son while we were in Oregon.  He lived and worked in Japan for five years and then was in Portland the last year working at a law firm.  We haven’t been able to see him much, given all the distance, but getting to spend at least a little time with him was awesome. He was just about to leave for Austin, where he’s entering law school, so it was great we got to get together with him before he took off.  Austin isn’t really that far from where we are in Illinois, in the grand scheme, so we’re hoping we get to see him a bit more after he settles into law school.  His words to us were that first year law students don’t have time to do much other than go to school, study, and go to school.  We’ll see how it goes.  We’re just excited for him, this is a cool phase he’s entering.

Visit from Ann.  One of our friends from Illinois came for a visit.  K worked a lot of the time we were in Oregon so I got to be Ann’s Portland tour guide, with some help from our friend Vicki.  It was awesome showing her Portland and hanging out with her for a few days.  Good food, fun Portland sights, great laughs.  Fun times had by all.

Dinner with Maggie at her place and getting to meet her new woman, Colleen.  So great getting to spend time with them.  It was the one day our paths crossed with Maggie as she was in Sweden, visiting family and friends, all the rest of the time we were in the valley (that would be what locals call the Willamette Valley).  She’d just flown in the day before and was jet-lagged, but we managed to have a great meal and some wonderful conversation.   We so enjoyed the evening.

RV Service – Refrigerator fix.  You buy a new trailer, you have a few issues with it.  We were told everyone has something, ours had a refrigerator problem.  It started beeping and wouldn’t stop, as if the door was open, but it wasn’t.  We realized there was a lot of condensation inside.  We ended up driving it back to Salem from the beach so it could be repaired.  The issue… at the factory they hadn’t attached the drip line to the receptacle it was supposed to drain to which created all sorts of water inside and all kinds of condensation.  The condensation messed with the latch making it think it wasn’t fully engaged when it was, hence the beeping.  Easy fix and off we went.

Seal Rock RV Cove for 9 nights.  We had so much fun there, so much so we reserved two spots next summer for two weeks.  It was awesome.  Walks on the beach, great dinners made in concert with Mom, visits from Vicki, who stayed a few days, and from Maggie & Colleen who came over to see us for a day because one visit with them hadn’t been enough, whale watching, and some great relaxation time.  K worked from there (yeah, it’s cool she can work from our trailer at the beach) so there were early mornings (she worked Central Time) and early evenings to bed, but it was all pretty low key.  That part of the Oregon Coast, the central coast, is so mellow and not crowded at all.

Animals spotted at some point during the trip…  Whales, seals, sea lions, heron, bald eagles, pelicans, sea gulls, sea life (anemone, muscles, star fish, jelly fish, giant kelp), antelope, deer, turtle, cows, horses, llama, bison, prairie dogs.

Heceta Head Lighthouse.  The lighthouse wasn’t all that far from where we were staying so we went there and did the hike up to the lighthouse.  Great little walk and a fantastic view once we were up there.  The Oregon Coast is spectacular.

Cooking over fire, lots of s’mores.  We did a lot of cooking on this trip.  Grilling, yes, but also a crock pot meal while camping, awesome by the way, and numerous other things.  Here’s a little list… Crock pot chili, skewers, stir fry, hobo meals, skirt steak, steamed veggies, rice, corn on the cob, hamburgers, hot dogs, chili dogs, salad, edamame salad, cheesy potatoes, spaghetti, eggs and toast, and more.  We ate well.  It was great, and oh so tasty.  Oh, and my honey, every time we made s’mores, roasted a mallow or two after the s’more eating and called them her closers.  I loved that.

Harris Beach State Park - Brookings, OR (2 nights).  This place was great.  Beautiful.  The beach was amazing, the rock formations phenomenal, the campground totally great, and the weather was wonderful.  This state park actually has an ice cream truck that comes around nightly.  We didn’t partake, but how cool is that?  There were also good showers there, which is important when you’re basically living in your trailer for weeks at a time.  We liked it, and would recommend it highly.  There were also some really cool tent sites.  The night before we left we were sitting out by our fire and low and behold another Rpod comes driving by and they end up next to us.  We went out to walk the dogs and when we got back we discovered the people in the Rpod had left us a note asking us to come over and have a beer with them.  We didn’t, as it was late, but did do a lot of hey, hello, and waving to them on our way out in the morning.  We didn’t see a lot of Rpods on the trip and having one pull in and set up right next to us was a novelty.

Richardson Grove State Park, Redwoods, CA (1night).  What an amazing part of the coast.  This place was gorgeous and right in the midst of the Redwoods.  Dry camping, meaning no hookups, and totally cool.  We had a huge big daddy redwood right in our campsite.  It was an amazing place, all shadows and bits of filtered light.

Mountain of death – Cloverdale road, no trailers advised ( narrow, one Lane, steep up and down, bad road, scary!). Peed on the side of the road in Redwoods.  Yes, it’s all true.  We, for reasons unknown to us about the GPS and it not knowing we were pulling a trailer, went on a road we never should’ve been on.  It was one lane most of the way, very hilly, very steep grades (like 18%), very windy, blind corners, steep cliffs on the sides occasionally.  We started out on this road, which at that time was two lane with a large paved shoulder, and thought, this is not bad at all.  A bit windy, and bit hilly, but we can handle it.  Then we saw the sign, trailers not recommended.  We thought, well, there’s not really anywhere to turn around now, we are already on it, and this isn’t that bad.  What a mistake.  We were scared out of our wits for 50 miles.  Who knew.  It’s called Scaggs Springs Rd, and takes you from Cloverdale, CA, which is on 101, over the mountain (literally) to Stewart’s Point on Hwy 1.  The GPS said it was the fastest route.  Maybe if you’re on a motorcycle and like really hilly windy roads.  The only thing that saved us was that there was hardly any traffic on it.  No wonder, but still, it saved us.  We laughed (a bit hysterically) and helped each other through it.  Seriously folks, don’t try this at home.  And if you ever find yourselves there, don’t go on that road, even in a car.  A woman told us, after we got to our campground (Salt Point on Hwy 1), she was the ranger there, that she doesn’t even drive that road in her Prius.  ha ha ha! It was insane.  But, we survived to tell the tale.

Salt Point State Park, near the Ocean Cove General Store, Hwy 1, CA (1 night).  Great place as well.  No real beach, but we had a nice hike down to the cliffs overlooking the ocean.  Really cool topography, similar to Harris Beach (though that was a tad cooler), and pretty empty.  We showed up and found there were actually two campgrounds within the State Park.  It was a Monday so they told us to just drive around and find the one we wanted and take it.  We did.  Bit flat spot, the trailer was naturally leveled on it so we didn’t have to level it and stayed hooked up to the Jeep, no hookups so we just filled up the handy bucket my brother had made for us (It’s a food grade five gallon bucket with a hose spicket on it we can fill up at a campground water station.  Fill up, carry to our trailer, screw on a piece of cut off hose we have, put the cut off end into the clean water tank receptacle on the trailer, turn on the spicket, and empty the bucket full of water into the tank) so we could flush during the night.  A very nice, quiet, place.  Someone did end up coming to to the site next to us.  K talked to them… a little family, Mom Dad and two girls, camping in their Westfalia, and traveling up the coast.  They were out of work drama teachers.  Very cool people.

Speaking of the bucket… we bought paraphernalia for the trailer.  All sorts of doodads and gadgets and thing to make living it in, and working in it for K, more comfy.  It’s now pretty well outfitted and awesome.  From silicon muffin tins to sewage hookup equipment to hooks on the walls to the storage hammock to a menagerie of other “stuff”, Lily is now very well equipped and we are set to go.

Weston got stung by a bee on his foot in a parking lot at a Target in California.  We were on our way from Salt Point to San Jose to see K’s parents for few days.  We stopped at a Target right off the Interstate to use the restroom, make a sandwich, and let the dogs walk around for a few minutes.  I went in to use the facilities, came out, and there was K sitting on a curb with Riley right next to her and Weston half in her lap.  She was looking at me with a funny expression and waving me over.  I was sauntering, not really thinking much about it, when her waving me over got more frantic.  I got over there and she told me Weston had been stung by a bee on his foot and wouldn’t let her touch it or look at it.  He was in pain, not putting and weight on it so I picked him up and carried him to the trailer where he laid down next to me.  It subsided and he recovered, but it wasn’t fun at all there for a little while.  Especially for him, poor fella.

San Jose, CA (3 nights in the house).  We actually parked the trailer on the street in front of K’s sister’s place, covered the top of it with a tarp (it was under a tree that was dropping seed pods), and stayed inside K’s parent’s house.  We did laundry, got lots of great visiting in, relaxed for a couple of days not having to drive anywhere.  It was awesome.  It was a lovely time and the pups, who had never been there before, were champs and didn’t cause too much of a ruckus.

RV Service – Brake check & brake controller adjustment.  While we were in San Jose we took the trailer in again, to a place we’d found there, to have the brakes and brake controller checked.  Since the harrowing mountain of death we’d noticed the trailer brakes seemed to be grabbing a bit.  We were worried we’d done them in coming down that mountain, even though I was downshifting like a maniac on those hills, so we thought we’d best get them looked at.  The guy there, Dan was his name, was such a sweetie.  We wished, after we’d left there, that the place was here in Illinois, we’d definitely go there for service.  He was so nice to us, answering all of our novice questions, allaying our fears, and he took me for a test drive and reset the brake controller, which was set a tad too high.  That did the trick actually and we were well on our way again.  He gave us his card and said we could call him and they didn’t charge us anything since the brakes were still great on the trailer and there were no issues he really had to fix.  If you are ever in San Jose, California and need trailer service, go to Leale’s and ask for Dan.

RENO, NV, River’s Edge RV Park (1 night) The place is actually in Sparks, which is like a twin city to Reno.  The best thing about it was that it was on a river and there was an awesome walking path all along the river way.  We were able to take the pups out for a long time, which they needed after being in the car all day.  We set up our camp table and cooked on our camp stoves (which we actually did all the time we were away… we only used the stove top in the trailer to make coffee a couple of mornings).

ELKO, NV, Iron Horse RV Resort (1 night) – It’s supposed to be one of those upscale parks.  Pool, full hookups, laundry facilities, a club house room, etc., etc.  We used none of the amenities and really I think this was our least favorite park over all. It had no trees.  The spaces were wide, but open, there were picnic tables at each space, but again, all open.  We used the picnic table to set up our camp stoves to cook dinner, but that was about it.  Plus a couple across the way from us, in the residential area of the park, had a huge fight and was screaming a lot of the night.  It sounded like bad reality TV.  It was the most expensive and not what we’d hoped.

EVANSTON, WY, Phillips RV Trailer Park (1 night) – This place was a tad muddy, but the facilities were decent and the spaces were wide with a lot of mature trees.  We didn’t have people on either side of us initially and it was quiet there.  The shower facilities were also not bad so we took advantage of those.  It was cold there, in Wyoming.  Very cold.  Made for nice cool sleeping in the trailer.  We had to put on the heavier comforter, but that was OK with us.

Wind delay for four hours at the Flying J. Hung out in the Rpod, listened to the weather updates on the radio, ended up getting a late to go lunch at the Denny’s that we ate in the trailer, watched the big winds whip around outside and felt them rock the trailer, petted the pups.  It was actually kind of fun, and a great part of the adventure.

LARAMIE, WY, Walmart Super Center (1 night)  We had to do it.  We knew Walmart let trailers stay there for free so we had to try it at least once.  We actually liked it.  The weather sucked that night, it was stormy, but we bought water and put some in our fresh water tank to use overnight, and hunkered down.  It was really windy, rocking the trailer all night, and rainy, which was incredibly loud, but very cool.  In the morning we went in, bought cups of coffee and danish, picked up a couple of items we needed for the trailer, and then hit the road quickly, having never unhooked.

Weston sprained his leg jumping into or out of the bed or the dinette.  Poor guy.  He couldn’t get comfortable and wouldn’t put much pressure on the leg.  He’s sprained his leg before (he has long legs for a little dude which sometimes causes him problems) so we knew what was up.  It took him a couple of days, once of which we spoiled him and let him sit in our laps all day.  Whoever was the passenger held him so he could at least be a tad more comfortable.  He was miserable for a time, and is still recovering from it a bit.  It’s much better, as he can jump up on the bed or couch or chairs by himself, but you can tell he’s still hesitant.

As of Laramie the weather turned on us.  Every day there were predictions of severe weather, 60 mph winds, heavy rain, lightening, etc.  We didn’t want to mess with it and were tiring of it pretty quickly so we decided at that point to head home more faster than we’d planned by cutting a day out of our plans, which meant a lot more driving every day.  That combined with Weston’s injury that morning in Laramie and our travel tiredness, we did the unthinkable and stayed in hotels the last two nights.  Crazy, but true.  Our tiredness and the storms won out.  So in Kearney, NE (Microtel) and Coralville, IA (Best Western) we parked in the lots, locked up Lily, got to-go food from restaurants, and stayed in hotels.  Two months on the road, sleeping 43 nights out of the 52 we were gone (which includes the six nights driving out to Oregon before we had the trailer and a night at Mom’s before we picked it up) isn’t bad.  We enjoyed the hell out of it and though we were ready to be home we weren’t tired of Lily, not one bit.

All in all it was so great to see Kev, Mom, all the Hale kids, the K’s sister’s family, K’s parents, most of that set of sibs (no Con or Ken… and I’m making the sad face now), some of the aunts, some of the POD, and Thomas. Sad we didn’t get to see my ex work peeps, who feel more like family than ex-work peeps, the rest of the POD, and more family.  Our storage adventures consumed us this time around, but now that it’s done we won’t have to do it again, thank goodness!  Next year we hope to just enjoy our time, not work as hard, and see everyone we’d like to see.  After all, more hugs are always good.

One thing is always certain… we will be back!

Off the Grid and Back Again

We’ve had a bit of a disappearing act. I was going along nicely, posting something every day as we travelled across the country and them BAM! no posts. Don’t you hate it when someone uses punctuation in the middle of a sentence. Anyway….

We arrived in Oregon a few days ago, picked up our new trailer the next day, outfitted it and learned how to use it as best we could in one day, then headed out on a dry camping adventure in Central Oregon. Woods, lake, stream, tubing said stream multiple times, and some much needed relaxation. We slowed down. We looked at the water. We stopped moving. We stopped using electronic devices. It was wonderful!

I highly recommend it. Slowing down I mean. It’s amazing.

20140716-210053-75653309.jpg

20140716-210049-75649344.jpg

20140716-210051-75651307.jpg

The Way to Oregon – 2014 Edition

And they’re off…..

Woo Hoo!

Seems as though we’ve planned for this a long time.  The minute we decided to buy the trailer and put the down-payment on it we started planning.  That was a few months ago.  And now, here we are.  Time always always goes so much faster than you think it will.

Today we loaded up the Jeep just right so the pups had a really comfy area, grabbed our travel cups filled with coffee, fired up the Oregon 2014 playlist, and off we went.   First stop, Peoria, Illinois for a refill, of course.

10500588_10203252117796328_260146535007874148_n

IMG_0240

Our first day’s adventures found us entering Iowa, where it rained and rained.  It was nice.  I’m not kidding.  Much better with a little rain than 100 degree temps and high humidity.  Early summer in the Midwest is unpredictable.

IMG_0241

After we arrived in Mason City, Iowa, our first night’s stop, we went for a nice little walk along a river to stretch our legs, and the pups legs.  It’s our pattern; drive for 6 or 7 hours, get checked in to our room, find a place to walk, find food, sleep, repeat.

The sights today included deer in a field, corn fields, rolling hills, corn fields, windmills, corn fields, huge legos, and deer on the path we walked after we got here.  Very cool.

IMG_0245

IMG_0248

Tomorrow we make our way to Chamberlain, South Dakota.  There will be more music, more singing at the top of our lungs into our thumbs, more laughing, more picture-taking, more fun, and more miles checked off on this crazy journey.

I can’t wait…

 

 

This Is How a Day Goes

Alarm.  Uhg.  We don’t like the alarm, but really, who does.  It actually doesn’t even matter when it’s set for.  It could be 5:30 AM or 10:00 in the morning.  It’s the idea of having to get up.  Being told to so to speak.  If we don’t set the alarm, but wake up at 6:30 that’s fine.  We’re good.  Just don’t tell us what to do.

Wander in to get the water going, the coffee ground, and the french press ready.  This step is vital.  Coffee before almost anything else.  This includes opening the doggie door, poor dogs.  Unless of course we already opened the doggie door some time in the early morning and just left it open.  Our pups are pretty good about sleeping as long as we do, but occasionally they feel the need to get up and go out during the night.  This disturbs and upsets us, but it’s part of the life of being people owned by dogs.  They rule.  Let’s not kid ourselves.

After coffee comes the waking of the computers, the checking of emails, the brief glance at Facebook, etc.  Gearing up for the day by checking into the world outside of our humble abode.  Sometimes things need to be attended to immediately, work to do, bills to pay, important emails to send.  Sometimes there are no things emergent and the coffee, and we, go to the back deck, weather permitting, to enjoy a few sips while looking at and enjoying our garden, as the Brits say.  I like that term, instead of yard.  So much nicer really.  I’m adopting it.

Garden viewing and email sending aside, at some point these girls have to eat.  We are slow to wake, me more than K, so breakfast usually happens first for her, later for me.  She’s an oatmeal girl, I prefer cold cereal.  We’re trying to be healthy, trying to eat well, so the oatmeal works great for her and I’m currently munching on something akin to cardboard in an attempt to find a healthy cereal I actually enjoy.  There have been recent hits, but currently we’re on a miss.  I can’t throw anything out so I’m trying to convince myself it’s not that bad.  Plus I’m only eating 3/4 a cup a day so it’s only a few bites.  At this rate I can move on to a new box in about two weeks.  Yay.

At some point in the day we may actually shower, if it’s a shower day, or not.  We don’t hold to the shower every day principal.  We don’t see the need.  I used to be like that, but now it’s a miracle if I get a shower three or four times a week.  Yes, if I can tell I stink, I shower, but unless we go for a bike ride or a long walk in the humidity, or we’ve made a trip to the gym, showering is unnecessary unless it’s necessary.  This makes perfect sense to me.  Maybe we don’t shower or bathe every day because this is a place in our lives that was better before Illinois.  A few years ago we put a bathroom addition on our Scappoose house.  This addition wasn’t just any addition.  It was 300 square feet of bathroom deliciousness.  A shower fit for a locker room.  Huge, two heads, no door, walk in.  And a pedestal soaking tub set in a bay window looking out at the forest.  We had no window coverings.  We didn’t need them.  It’s really the only thing, other than the setting and the enormous shop, we miss about our former house.  Our washrooms in our Illinois house could both fit inside that longed for Scappoose bathroom, with room to spare.  Taking a shower or a bath here feels a little low rent compared to the bathroom we built there, the washroom we waited for a saved for seven years to build.  We did get to enjoy it for a while though, and enjoy it we did.  Perhaps we don’t shower or bathe here as often because it makes us a tad sad, a little reminder of things left behind.

Walk the dogs.  At some point during the day the dogs get a walk.  Usually.  This is a change from our former life in Oregon.  Where we lived in Oregon was not conducive to going out, directly from our house, for a walk with the pups.  Too dangerous.  Hilly, windy road, no sidewalks, fast-moving cars, etc.  Not safe for the dogs and not safe for their people either.  We had to drive them to walk them.  The consequence of this was that they didn’t get walked all the time.  Sometimes we went for days or weeks without walking them.  Here in Illinois we walk.  A lot.  We would say that their life, because of the move here, has improved tremendously.  They have a better backyard, as they have a larger fenced in area to roam at will, chase squirrels, chase an often thrown ball, lay on the chaise under the umbrellas, and generally bark at any dog that happens to wander by.  They also get walks here, nearly every day.  They get so many walks that if they don’t get one the boy gets antsy.  He sometimes stares at us and barks.  We then obey, we go for a walk.  Again, they rule.

Grandsons on the loose.  Well, to be accurate, I should say currently there’s only one grandson old enough to be on the loose.  The other is still only seven weeks old so he can’t just run around on his own.  That time is coming, and then boy, or should I say boys, are we going to have fun.  We see the grandsons almost every day.  Yes, there are occasional days when we don’t see them, but we see them often.  Yesterday they came over for their Moo Moo’s birthday.  Sebastian wanted to know if they were going to bake Moo Moo a cake for her birthday.  This hadn’t been planned, but since he asked for it he and Mommy went to the store, bought a cake mix, came back here and made it, and then we all enjoyed a piece or two after.  No frosting.  Still good.  I also spent some time reading to him and telling him stories about where he was driving his truck and trailer, with deer of course.  Deer of course meaning there was a little plastic deer on the trailer he was driving around.  He likes to drive it around and have me tell him where he’s going… i.e. the desert where it’s hot and sandy brown and you have to wear shorts and flip-flops, or the arctic where it’s cold and white and snowy and you have to wear your parka.  He says, as he drives to a new area of the rug, “what does Gamma Tam say?”, and I tell him the story.  The grandson rules too.

Realizing we are far down on the totem pole to the dogs and the grandsons we sometimes need time for ourselves.  Yes, the dogs are usually with us, but sometimes we go out.  We run errands, to pick up stuff for the dogs or grandsons or the house, have lunch at our favorite place to get good salads and eggplant fries (try them before you mock, they are damn good), go for a bike ride to the market or a coffee shop, spend some time with friends when we can, or just wander around at a local festival when they happen.

We make dinner instead of eating out most every night.  Sometimes there’s an exception, like last night, K’s birthday, we got wings to go, after having gone to the pet store for stuff for the dogs.  See what I mean.  When we make dinner it’s usually something healthy.  The other night we had stir fry made with chicken from our local farmer/meat guy who we buy all our meat from, sugar snap peas from our mini garden, green onions from our mini garden, mini carrot from our mini garden, and broccoli from a local organic farm that we purchased at the farmer’s market.  It was good.  Really good.  Nothing like noshing on your own veggies.  It’s our first year trying a raised bed garden and so far we are enjoying it.  We’re going to have more tomatoes (two plants mind you) and potatoes than we can use, we think anyway, but it’s all good.  That’s what sharing with your friends and neighbors is all about.

Speaking of neighbors.  We really like our neighbors next door to the east of us.  They are a little family, sort of non traditional in that they have been together for 17 years or something and never got married.  They have two girls.  One is about 11 and she likes to come over and swing on our swing.  We have one of those cool wooden play sets that’s like a fort with a slide and a swing, etc.  It was here when we moved in.  Sebastian calls it Moo Moo’s house.  No worries, I don’t make her sleep out there.  We call it his fort and he loves it.  So, as it turns out, does the neighbor girl and her bestie.  They hop the fence all the time, with permission of course, and spend time both in and around the fort.  The dogs love this as the girls also like to the throw the ball for them and Weston, who is a bit of a ho for attention, also gets loads of pets.  They are sweet, which is why we pretty much let them come over whenever they want to.  We get along great with them.  We can’t say this for all of our neighbors as we also have the evil former librarian behind us who called the police on us a couple of times after we first moved in and wrote a couple of letters, sent in the mail, explaining how she doesn’t like our barky dogs.  One… the police and animal control both said our dogs are totally fine, and two, they don’t bark that much really.  And the barking they do it totally in acceptable limits in their own yard.  Other people have dogs in this neighborhood who bark more.  Is it us?  We don’t know.  We’ve been here for two years now and she seems to either have accepted her fate of living next door to us, our dogs, and our what I’m sure she thinks as noisy grandson.  I wonder if she’ll ever call the police on him, you know, for laughing too much and too loudly in the backyard.  I picture her standing on the other side of the fence, finger to mouth, as she loudly whispers… SHHHHH!

Living in a neighborhood, as opposed to on very private property, is a daily difference for us, but one we’ve found we like.  There are, of course, ups and downs to it.  The downs… no privacy and not as much room to stretch out on the property.  We have a corner lot and neighbors all around.  They know when we come and go, who visits, when we take the dogs out, they say hi to us on the street, or avoid us all together, they know our business.  Not long ago we had friends over for a little chiminea fire and s’mores in the backyard.  We were enjoying good conversation and some wine around the fire when we heard a terrible howling sort of sound.  Which doesn’t describe it at all.  It sounded like an animal in pain.  It was an animal in pain.  We went into the house, grabbed flashlights, and set off in search of the sound.  If we could find the animal or help in any way we were going to do it.  We weren’t the only ones.  Some of our neighbors also came out with flashlights and as a group we wandered the streets searching.  A corner was turned and there was another neighborhood person who said he saw the whole thing.  There were foxes fighting with each other in someone’s garden.  They must’ve come over from the arboretum, which isn’t far, or nearby farmland, also not far.  They had a disagreement and those were the sounds we heard.  After discovering what made the racket we all turned on our heels and walked back toward our respective homes, chatting about this and that as we went.  A neighborhood… this is what it’s like.  That and all the baked goods delivered to us right after we moved in.  Astonishing.

Living sustainably.  We’ve always considered ourselves a pretty green pair.  We recycle, love the land, love to spend time in nature, try to buy local, eat organic as much as possible, etc., etc.  We’ve always espoused this, but honestly we didn’t always live that way before we moved to Illinois.  This is a case of getting a bit of  a reset.  Before we moved I started researching.  We knew the reputation of the midwest.  It’s consumer central.  Or so we thought.  Before getting here I found a co-op not far from our new house.  We joined when we arrived and since then it’s doubled in size.  It’s an awesome place filled with local produce, organics, meats, etc.  We also found our new town had a weekly farmer’s market.  At that farmer’s market we found there were local farmer’s who sold meat they grew, direct farm to table kind of stuff.  We joined a farmer’s meat club and since then have purchased our meat directly from a local farmer.  It’s amazing tasting, high quality, and doesn’t have any crap in it.  We also favor a few vendors at the farmer’s market who now know us and so we have witty repartee with them when we see them.  Same goes for the co-op, where we buy all the produce we don’t buy at the farmer’s market and where we also get breads from a local bakery.  We try to avoid shopping at big box stores and instead opt, when we can, for smaller locally owned shops.  Same goes for restaurants we choose to eat in most of the time.  Yes, these things don’t always hold true, but we do a much better job here than we did in Oregon.  Maybe because we had to look for things and spent the time doing it.  We took things for granted there, and here we don’t.

A little snapshot of our lives.  What a day looks like.  Similar, I’m sure, to the days of people all over the world.  We get up, we love each other, we love our dogs, our grandsons, the kids, our families, our friends.  We try to have fun and joy in most everything we do.  We make little adventures for ourselves, exploring our newish town and surrounding areas.  We did this in Portland too, taking what we called neighborhood walks in neighborhoods we hadn’t explored, taking photos, grabbing a bite to eat somewhere new, seeing what we could find.  We’ve had this attitude, K and I, since we met, and I think separately, even before we met.  Every day, even the most mundane of things, can be made fun or interesting.  We seek it out.  People have said to us that we lead a fun and interesting life, that we are always doing stuff.  When I think about people we know I think they are always doing stuff too.  Going out for coffee or a walk or a hike, cooking a new recipe, playing with their pets or grandchildren or children, looking at sunsets with wonder, and feeling the rain or the wind or the sun on their faces.  Life is rich and layered.  Life is always there, waiting.  It’s waiting for us to notice, to experience, to grab.  It’s waiting for us to pay attention to the details.  It’s the details that matter.  The look from one of our pups, the way our grandson smiled, the smell of some flowers in our backyard, a dance break in our living room, the fun of getting on our bikes and going for a ride, the beauty all around us.  Life is waiting for us to not take ourselves so seriously and to realize what’s always right there.  Life is so very sweet.

This day, today, we did most of this stuff.  Got up, made coffee, pet the dogs, ate breakfast, worked, showered, and looked at our beautiful garden.  Later we’ll go to the store and pick up some stuff for the barbecue we’ll have at the kid’s house tomorrow for the fourth.  We’re also going to try to watch some fireworks tomorrow night with the kid’s and our son in law’s parents who are here visiting from England.  We’ll eat and play and laugh and chat.  We’ll love on the grandsons and I’ll take loads of photos I’m sure.  We don’t always take big trips, though we sometimes do, and we don’t always go to big events, and in fact we mostly don’t.  Usually, like today, we just live our lives.  Most days, like today, I look out this window and try to type some stuff, and K works and has meetings and the dogs bark and interrupt her.  Most days we chat and smile and make food and watch TV.  This is our life.  This is our amazing life.  This is our daily life, and it is beautiful.

Our House Was A Home

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I’d never owned a house.  I was, until I met Karen, a gypsy of sorts.  I moved and moved all up and down the valley, over to the beach, down to Southern Oregon, and back to the valley.  When a person moves so much they tend to pare down.  Meaning I also didn’t have much in the way of stuff.  Some books and music, of course, and same old boxes of papers and some memorabilia from childhood, but otherwise not much.  What I owned fit into a small Uhaul.

My life was, to a certain point, about movement, change, experience.  The places I lived were weigh stations and spots to put my head at night, places to keep my CD’s and my stereo.  They were not home.

Then she walked in.  She walked in and some months later we bought a house.  We owned a house.  It was my first one.  More than that though, we made a life there.  The house was home for me, really, from the moment I stood on the front deck that hot summer day, wind moving through the trees, peace… quiet.  I can’t explain that feeling, though I’m sure many reading this have had it.  It felt right.  Puzzle pieces moving, click, into place.  The sound of that wind in the trees, a bit like the sound of the ocean, eyes closed listening, and instantly a house suddenly became a home.

We moved each of our things in, things that had been separate but were then combined.  Things which had been mine and hers, but  were then ours.  We bought furniture together to fill the rooms and pots and pans and silverware to fill the kitchen.  We bought art, oh how we love our art, and TV’s, cool bookends, and shampoo.  We worked on the yard, planting flowers we chose, and putting up hanging baskets.  We got wind chimes and hand blown glass hummingbird feeders, had decks, a paved driveway, and fences put in.  Karen built tables and things in the shop, I took photo after photo after photo of the flowers in the yard.  I trimmed trees, she weeded, I worked on the Japanese Garden, she mowed.  We hauled in loads of topsoil, spread a bit of bark dust, and moved tons of rainbow rock.  We lived.

Karen and I both got sick in the house, but we also recovered there.  We added on a master bathroom and painted some of the rooms.  Mom got married there, we threw big and small get togethers, we brought home both our babies, Weston and Riley, who loved it and called it there own, relishing the use of their doggie door and playing Chuckie in the yard.  We sat in the hot tub at night, stars all around, and listened to the deer walking on the hillside.  We even had a mountain lion living at the house for a time.

In our house we laughed, and danced, and cried, and hugged, and  sometimes yelled.  In our house we ate, watched TV, played cards, got snowed in, had visits from mostly everyone we love, watched the deer, and tasted good wine.  In our house we loved each other.

A house is just a house, until suddenly it becomes a home.  We poured our lives and love and heart and our souls into it and it gave back in kind.  It is a reflection of the life being lived in it and ours was beautiful.  That house, our first house, was not just a house to us, it was our home.  A home we both loved… and love still.

Hallelujah

I love this song and it always seems sort of fitting to play it during the holidays. This is a fantastic 2009 live version with Portland singers Storm Large, Holcombe Waller, and Oregon born Wade Mccollum at one of my favorite Portland venues, the Aladdin Theater. Happy Holidays.