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.

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Into the Evergreen State

Today’s drive actually seemed shorter than our drive yesterday. Maybe it had something to do with the scenery or maybe it was the people we met along the way.

The scenery. What can we say, we finally arrived at the place of the Ponderosa Pine, big lakes, mountains, and green. The smell is familiar and brings back thoughts and feelings of home. We’re nearly there.

The people. We were fortunate today to meet not one but two couples, at the same gas station none the less, who had Rpods. Amazing, and fun. We all talked, they answered our myriad of questions, they each gave us tours of their respective Pods, and we all exchanged information. Really nice people out on their own adventures. We can’t wait to start ours!

Tomorrow we will finally, after six days on the road, arrive in Oregon. The dogs will be happy to get to the farm. So will we!

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Across the Continental Divide

Today, day four of our Illinois to Oregon adventure, found us staying in Montana. It’s an enormous, and enormously beautiful, state.

We crossed the continental divide, which always feels great as we are now officially flowing west.

As we passed through Butte we looked up to see the Our Lady of the Rockies statue that overlooks the town and sits on the Continental Divide.  A pretty amazing feat to get it up there.  You can read more about her, and see some photos, here.  We took photos with the bigger camera and you’ll see one later, when I do our “we finally made it” post.

We also drove through downtown Bozeman, something I’ve never done in my many times through Montana. It’s very cool. Little funky restaurants and shops. Pretty hip looking, but all with a laid back non-hipster vibe.

Animals spotted today…. More antelope, a possible bald eagle, cows, horses, a couple of blue heron, and prairie dogs.

We are back into the lands of rivers and streams and evergreens. So much water near the highway. We passed over the Blackfoot and the Yellowstone rivers and past many smaller streams. Made me long for my fly rod.

Tomorrow we head out of Montana, through Northern Idaho, and into Washington State. We’re getting close!

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Passing Through Big Sky Country

We’re tired. We were on the road for 8 1/2 hours today. To long with two dogs who can handle being in the car for about 6 hours. But, we did it and we’re here. Yeah.

Today we passed through the Black Hills of South Dakota, Weston somehow got hold of what looked like an old boca burger and nearly choked on it (damn tall grass near strange little coffee shops!), we sang many songs, went into and out of Wyoming, outran what looked like a nasty storm, passed where Custer had his last stand, and managed to rock out the miles.

We won’t get out of Montana tomorrow. It’s big place with a big sky.

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On the Road In South Dakota

Today’s sites included the National Hobo Museum, hundreds of bikers in their cuts on the road with their MCs, more windmills, more corn, a cool sculpture park along the highway, many more hills, songs sung loudly by each other, many signs for Wall Drug, a far off coffee place that appeared much closer on the GPS, and a gorgeous river walk.

We drove another 7 hours through three states (Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota) and we’re a third of the way through our journey west.

What we didn’t see… The Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD, hobos near the hobo museum, anything that looks like a normal salad at a deli counter in a grocery store, or anything organically grown.

Tomorrow we head to Montana. More sites, more sounds, more of the unexpected.

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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…

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… 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Thankful Everyday

November. So many great things about it – leaves changing and falling, cooler temperatures lead to the wearing of jackets and hats, blankets and the beginnings of spending more cozy time indoors, women’s basketball, football in full swing, and Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday.

I’m actually not much of a holiday person. I know, bah hum bug, but it’s true. I don’t much like decorating or dressing up and I definitely don’t like the commercialism if it all. Decidedly not my thing. But Thanksgiving, that’s for me. Family time, food, conversation, and a general spirit of thankfulness.

In the last couple of years I’ve noticed more and more people doing this thing called 30 Days of Thanks on Facebook.  Listing, each day of the month, something they’re thankful for.  I love this idea.  I’ve written a lot about being thankful, grateful, and lucky for various things in my life on this blog.  Obviously I’m a big proponent of saying thank you and so jumping on the bandwagon of something as cool as taking a moment every day to give thanks for someone or something seems like a great idea to me.  All this thanking is good for the world.  It’s been good for me to read the thanks other people are putting down.  It’s warm and fuzzy.  It’s good energy.  It’s a beautiful thing.

I’m a bit late starting this, so I’ll be doing a little catch up, but here we go…

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1.  I’m thankful for my split apart.  Every day I get more love, laughter, and togetherness than a person really has a right to.  She’s poetry and light.  She completes me.

2.  I’m thankful for the wag in our pups tails.  The pups add so much joy, fun, and wonder, and magic to our lives.  They make our family.  I love them.

3.  I’m thankful for having the coolest, most wonderful, amazingly awesome Mom a person could have.  Not just my Mom, she’s also my friend.  And that smile — wow.

4.  I’m thankful for words.  They have, and continue to, inspire, transform, encourage, explain the world, and enlighten me.  I’m so appreciative of their presence in my life.

And there it is… I’ve caught up.  Tomorrow number 5 on the 5th.

What are you thankful for?

Carving Out Halloween

Halloween, it’s nearly here.  For me Halloween, though enjoyable (mostly for the candy and occasional small party), hasn’t been my number one holiday.  I know people who live for this little snippet of time in the year and I love how they love it.  I envy their enthusiasm for it.  I wish I could share it.  I think I’m just lazy.

Corn mazes (I finally went through one two years ago — made fun by the fact that we made it a game and had teams competing to see who could finish first — mine didn’t), costume parties, candy corn, leaves falling, spooky houses, apple bobbing, rascal ghosts and goblins, and carved pumpkins.  My enjoyment of this particular holiday nowadays mostly consists of taking photos of the cute grand sons in their costumes and maybe going along to watch the trick or treating.  Some years we leave our porch light on, like last year, so we can open the door multiple times and give out loads of candy to the nicely dressed munchkins, and some years we just leave the light off and hunker in.  Our one Halloween decoration is a plastic pumpkin that is lit from within.  We put it in the window and plug it in, then we take it back downstairs to the storage room.  I know, I know — bah humbug.

When I was a kid Mom made our costumes.  We were ghosts, Batman and Robin, and other regular stuff for kids of our generation.  A favorite of mine was the year I wanted to be a Lucerne carton of milk.  Yes, a carton of milk.  Mom somehow made that happen.  A box, some shoulder straps, and a nice paint job — I was milk.  Quirky.  It goes along with my personality I guess.  When I was older, in college, I went to a party as the unknown guest.  This was a play on the unknown comic, who was popular during that time.  He used to wear a paper bag over his head when he did his shtick.  I made a huge paper bag out of other paper bags and put it over my head.  I had eye holes.  The bag went to my waist.  I remember it being hot in there.  I hardly knew anyone at the party (big parties aren’t my thing, they make me kind of uncomfortable), and after being asked a few times “who is in there?” I took the thing off, went outside, and smoked cigarettes.  Then I left.  Once, when I was a kid, I think it was the year I was the milk, I went to a kid’s party.  At some point during this party some girl hit me in the leg with a caramel apple.  My pajamas got all sticky and gross.  I ended up leaving.  I guess parties and me really don’t mix.  I can’t recall one I’ve been to, of a large size anyway, that was fun for me.  Smallish gatherings with several friends or family, or both, no problem.  Big parties with loads of people I don’t know — torture for me.  Maybe it was the apple incident that threw me over the party edge.  I’ll never know.

But enough of my insecurities and  foibles, back to Halloween, the day of scares and dares and tricks and treats.  There is a thing I loved, and love, about Halloween, other than it being in the fall, which rocks for me (I love fall), and that thing is my mom’s carved pumpkins.  My mom — so creative.  She has loads of creative talent, way more than she realizes.  That woman can draw, play music, sew, fix most things around the house, and she can carve, or sculpt if you will.  I always looked forward to what she would do and was always so proud of her creations.  She didn’t think much of them, you know, just something she did, but man were they cool.  We have loads of photos of them, year after year, and not one was the same.  She used to do one or more every year and take them to my step-dad’s office or other places.  She usually did at least one for us at the house as well.  Those pumpkins had loads of personality.  That’s what made them so great.  Each was a definite character unto itself.  They were amazing.

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She doesn’t always carve them anymore, but when she does they are as spectacular as ever.  I always bragged about them, and still do I must admit.  My idea of carving is a very crude triangle-eyed, triangle-nose, jagged mouth sort of creation.  Not very inventive or attractive.  But Mom’s pumpkins — Wow.  While mine appear to be some sort of freakish trick, Mom’s pumpkins were, and are, always a definite treat of the season.

Fall-ing

Just received a text message from the weather channel… Freeze Warning. I guess fall is coming in like a lion. Does that even apply? I have no idea.

The leaves are coming down now. We had our first city leaf pick up this week. There will be four spread over three months. First round… 18 bags. The sad thing is the bags were filled and put out and then we looked up at the trees and… what? Doesn’t even look like a single leaf had fallen off of them. Sigh.

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I sound like I’m complaining, but I’m not. I love fall. It’s my favorite time of the year. Sure, summer is nice and all… in Oregon much more than Illinois, I’m adjusting to the humidity (not really). Fall is just… sweet. The air starts to cool, the leaves start to turn, I change from shorts and t-shirts back into jeans and sweatshirts and closed toed shoes. Coffee tastes better when it’s raining or snowing outside. The smells are better in the fall as well… fireplaces and crisper air. I start eating soup again. The outdoor furniture gets put up and the hose covers go on and the yard gets buttoned up. It’s sort of a cleansing feeling.

You could say I’m falling for fall, like I do each year.

Right now it’s raining out. Cold. We just came back from getting new sole inserts for our Keens. The Keens are like eight years old or something. Maybe only seven. Whichever it is, we’ve had them a long time. But they’re good shoes, they just needed a little updating. It’s a good thing we did because, freeze warning. With all this rain and falling temps, maybe there’ll be snow. The forecast said there was a chance. Here we are, October, and it could snow. Oh Illinois.

I feel like I should have a hot toddy or a hot apple cider or something. Maybe I’ll just settle for another cup of coffee. It’s fall, and it’s cold, I can justify that extra cup. Just another reason to love this time of year.

I Hope The Fish Are Bitin’

I can’t believe it’s been a week.  A week.  Time goes so fast, or slow, or fast again, depending on how you look at it, and how you feel.  To me, and in talking to Mom, to her as well, it seems as if the last week has stretched out creating the illusion that oh so much more time has actually passed than has.  Yet all in slow motion… stretching.  It’s strange.

It’s strange what emotions do to you.  Sad ones anyway.  A week ago today Mom called me early early in the morning to say her husband, Don, has died suddenly, and what everyone believes is pretty peacefully, in his sleep.  She woke to strange breaths, tried to wake him, called 911, did chest compressions until the ambulance arrived, and watched as they worked on him both here at the house and then again at the hospital.  He couldn’t be revived.  She was sitting with him when she started making calls.

I couldn’t believe it early that morning and still I don’t know if I can believe it.  I was just here visiting a month and a half ago.  Just here at the house hanging out with them.  Here chatting with him, loving that occasional mischievous grin he’d get sometimes when he thought he was pulling one over or getting your goat a bit.  I really liked that grin.  I really liked how he made my Mom happy.  Gardening, traveling, spending time with family, trying new Vegan recipes together, reading the paper over good espresso in the morning, and watching the news at night.

Don was a passionate man.  Passionate about seeing and exploring the world, passionate about his grandkids and kids, passionate about my Mom and their life here on the farm.  He loved trying new gardening techniques and recipes and finding just the right mix to make a suet the birds would like and eat, mixing it up in big batches and devising a plan of delivery so the bigger scrub birds couldn’t get it all.

Sitting here helping Mom go through some of his papers I discovered he was a bit of a poet and philosopher at heart, eloquent when he wanted to be in writing his thoughts down.  Snippets here and there of things he’d experienced while traveling, feelings he’d had as kept moving forward through life.

He was an amazing guy, and though I didn’t know him nearly long enough, or know him as well as I would’ve liked, I really only need to know this… he loved my Mom well, he loved his children, and he adored his grandchildren.  He had friends he cared about and who care about him.  He knew what life is all about.  He lived his life using that as his guide… it’s about the people you love and who love you.  And because he lived his life that way, because he knew it was all about loving his people and them loving him, he made such and impact on those people… he made an impact on me.  I can see him in the beauty of his grandchildren, in their smiles, their sense of fun, in their determination.  I can see him in his children, how they are as parents, who they are as people.  His legacy is vast and far reaching.  His memory, his impact on everyone, so lasting and strong.

Don… you loved well… and you are so well loved…

And if you can hear this… hear me… I hope the fish are bitin’ where you are, and I hope they look out because Fly Fish Don is coming.

Honor Thy Mother and Thy Father

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See these people? They are the epitome of class, love, honor, good humor, integrity, fellowship, and nice. They are just plain nice people. I am proud to know them.

This last weekend these people, my mom and aunts and uncles, had a gathering up at Marble Creek Campground near Marblemount, Washington to spread my grandparents ashes. My grandparents spent many days and nights at that campground. All of us, children and grandchildren alike, have memories of staying up there with them. It was fitting they should have their ashes scattered in a place where so many family memories were made. In a place they loved and spent so much time. In a place as lovely as the woods of Washington State. The next day there was an estate sale at my grandparents house, all proceeds going to the Burlington Edison Alumni Scholarship Fund. They were all there. Very cool.

So many times I’ve said my grandparents, my mom, my aunts and uncles, are the best people I know. I’ve described them that way to everyone I’ve ever talked to about my family. And it’s true. When a person goes along, having a life, they meet many people. I have. Some of them fantastic and some of those I’m still lucky enough to have in my life, or lucky enough to just have met. But there’s a special thing about coming from a family of people you respect so much, love so much, and are so proud of. When I say these seven people are the best people I know, I am proud to actually mean it. In fact they have been jokingly and not so jokingly referred to as the angel children by us, their progeny. Not that they are without fault, just that those faults are honest and have not hurt anyone. They are good people, from good stock. Again I will say, they are nice human beings.

This was never more evident than during the events of this past weekend. When parents die there can sometimes be bickering, nastiness, and divisiveness between siblings. Not these people. There are seven of them and they have managed, at least to my eye, to get along through this process. And maybe that’s not a huge feat as they get along so well anyway, but still it’s a wonderful thing. This ability they have to get along, to enjoy each other, no matter the event, to work out the process of it all, among the seven of them… pretty spectacular. I was impressed by them, yet again.

To me this ability to be these people they are even under these circumstances, the scattering of the ashes, the deciding how to handle the estate, etc. is a direct reflection of who they are. It is also a direct reflection of who grandma and grandpa made them. It’s a direct result of a good upbringing, of who their parents were to them. And it so honors their parents, my grandparents. These fantastic people… wow. My grandparents would be so proud of them. They always were proud of them, of us, but they would also be proud of this. Proud of how well their children have handled this sad time, of who their children have been through this process, how well they have been there for each other and for their own children. My grandparents would be so very proud. I know I am.

Pronunciamento

I love words and this is a great one. Pronunciamento. Meaning… pro·nun·ci·a·men·to   [pruh-nuhn-see-uh-men-toh, -shee-uh-] noun, plural pro·nun·ci·a·men·tos. a proclamation; manifesto; edict.

I came across this one today as I was looking around the dictionary.  Or more precisely, in this new age, dictionary.com. It’s a wonderful word found in a wonderful place.  Dictionaries are exciting, to me anyway.  I’ve been reading them since I knew what one was and found one in our house.  Words.  Wonderful.

I used to play word games with some of my work mates.  Emails going around with sentences made up of words with the same letter.  Peter picked pickled peppers.  Like that.  We’d start with A and work our way to Z and back again, or we’d rhyme, or be cute some other way with wonderful wacky words.  Fun, to us anyway.  We’d stretch our minds, our vocabularies, and we’d laugh and laugh.  Words are good like that.

Today as I looked around I came across this great word.  Had never heard of it.  And now I love it.  I am also, I think, going to use it here.  Make a pronunciamento about things I’d like to do this summer… a proclamation of sorts.  Here, publicly, live and “in person”.  Maybe if I put some things down here I will do some of them… maybe I already have.  Maybe I would anyway.  No matter… it’s a fun exercise.

(Riley is playing with her Uncle Kevin right now… he’s rubbing her belly, she’s growling, barking, and jumping up to wiggle around and play bite at him.  She’s like popcorn. It’s cute.  They missed each other.)

Anyway… back to the pronunciamento.

100 things to do this summer… and in life.

  1. Be present.
  2. Act with grace.
  3. Ride my bike around town.
  4. Use the frisbee golf set I purchased.
  5. Play with Sebastian.
  6. Eat grapes.
  7. Get my photos better organized.
  8. See an opera again.
  9. Hold hands.
  10. Be patient with people.
  11. Listen.
  12. Walk.
  13. Sing loudly in moving vehicles.
  14. Eat more whole food, less processed food.
  15. Play guitar again.
  16. Travel to foreign places.
  17. Write.
  18. Be silly.
  19. Dance suddenly and randomly at home, and sometimes in public.
  20. Be child like.
  21. Hug my honey more than I already do.
  22. Use the library more than I do.
  23. Make pudding.
  24. Sleep outside.
  25. Be less afraid.
  26. Live more sustainably.
  27. Don’t buy anything for myself, including music, clothes, videos, etc. unless it’s second hand. (related to previous point)
  28. See a few movies in the park.
  29. Stop and listen to live music (street corners, festival bands, etc.)
  30. Paint something.
  31. Go to the drive in.
  32. Take photographs that inspire me.
  33. Continue to evolve.
  34. Give more than I get.
  35. Show respect to strangers.
  36. Buy meat from a farmer.
  37. Write and send actual letters.
  38. Study other cultures and ideas.
  39. Honor my ancestors.
  40. Swim in wild waters.
  41. Walk in Central Park in New York, eat lobster in Maine, watch hot air balloons in New Mexico.
  42. Use the crockpot to make dessert.
  43. Put my feet in lakes, oceans, rivers, puddles, tiny wading pools.
  44. Do another paring down of my clothes and shoes.
  45. Eat tomatoes from our tomato plant.
  46. Sit quietly outside in the wind and sunshine listening to the trees and not talk or play on the computer or phone or any other man made thing.
  47. Live responsibly.
  48. Worry less.
  49. Try new foods that scare me a little.
  50. Use hairbrushes and wooden spoons as microphones.
  51. Give the pups even more attention than they already get.
  52. Go snorkeling.
  53. Take random day long road trips with my honey to nowhere in particular with good music playing and great conversations.
  54. Embrace my dorky nature.
  55. Go to museums.
  56. Dinners with friends.
  57. Be in awe.
  58. Make people laugh on purpose.
  59. Learn.
  60. Make and eat pudgy pies.
  61. Talk to strangers.
  62. Laugh at myself and things that might irk me, but shouldn’t.
  63. Be the nicer version of me in taxing situations.
  64. Do things I love more than things I should do.
  65. Make and drink naturally flavored sun tea.
  66. Make a fort out of blankets.
  67. Smile often and only from the eyes.
  68. Camp in wild beautiful places.
  69. Put my toes in the sand.
  70. Color.
  71. Eat more fruit and less bread.
  72. Read at least two books a month.
  73. Make stuff.
  74. Take care of my honey like she deserves.
  75. Skip, hop, and jump.
  76. See the AFI top 100 films.
  77. Know what’s going on in the world.
  78. Read poetry again.
  79. Play games and cards.
  80. Volunteer my time.
  81. Be passionate in life.
  82. Always look people in the eye.
  83. Wear funky hats.
  84. Write random and unexpected emails to friends and family more often.
  85. Love.
  86. Get paid for being creative.
  87. Take the dogs to parks and on walks.
  88. Be an agent of positive change.
  89. Travel to new places.
  90. Take the train more often.
  91. Ride a bus to Chicago or maybe some other random place.
  92. Sit around our chiminea with good company.
  93. Make a s’more or two.
  94. Say what I mean and only that.
  95. Smell flowers.
  96. Live free.
  97. Eat handcrafted ice cream.
  98. Help out friends and family.
  99. Be kind to myself.
  100. And lastly, though I could go on, laugh laugh laugh at why WordPress has famous nuns and Saint Peter as recommended highlighted links down below this as I type.  Hmmmm….

Julia

My Mom turns 68 today.  A day celebrating Mom is a wonderful thing.  She deserves it.  She’s fantastic.

I’m sitting here 2300 miles away from her, it’s 9:00 in the morning my time, and here the sun is out and the sky is blue.  It’s a gorgeous beginning to this day, her birthday, and I wish Mom was sitting here with me, sipping a cup of coffee, looking at the beautiful outdoors, and talking about what fun things we might do together today.  That’s how it is.  I miss her.

Up until several months ago I lived, all of my life, no more than 3 hours away from her.  I loved living in Oregon, was actually born there, and had never left.  Didn’t really want to live anywhere else actually.  Travel yes, move somewhere else… why?  It’s gorgeous there, the people are fantastic, and it fits me.  So there I stayed.  The bonus of that was that I was close to Mom, to my brother, to family in general.  Close to friends I love as well.  And that, well that is what it’s all about.  Family, friends, love.  Which, in the end, is why I ended up moving so far away.  Family, and love. Seems, for now anyway, we couldn’t have it all in one place.  And that’s OK.  This has been and continues to be an adventure.  Adventures in life are good.  I’m not complaining.  What I am doing, sort of lamenting, is missing my Mom.

Mom…  how to describe her.  She’s fantastic, as I said.  Though that doesn’t really get to the meat of who she is.  She smiles a lot, loves to laugh, is playful, full of energy, and she doesn’t often turn down an adventure.  She encourages without being suffocating, sometimes tells you what she thinks in a rush if there’s passion behind it, challenges herself to be better physically, and is honest about who she is, what she thinks, and what she expects.  Mom has integrity.  She says what she means and expects you to do the same.  She won’t tolerate liars, cheats, or people who try to get one over on her or the people she loves.  She can be a bear, yet she is quietly strong.  When Mom is around everything seems as though it will be OK.  It’s as if she wills it to be and it is so.  This has been the case my whole life.  When Mom is around you want to do better, be better, you don’t want to disappoint.  Her presence makes you want to be a better person because of the person she is.  Mom is always there to help, to support, to get the job done.  It seems, most times, like she could do anything.  I think, seriously, that she probably could.

And yes, like anyone, she does have her faults, before you go and think I’m nominating her for sainthood or something.  She’s hard on herself.  Too hard.  She sometimes puts the wishes of others before herself at the expense of what she really wants.  She’s sometimes incredibly shy.  But she is kind, and sweet, and full of love.  She’s welcoming to people, warm.  She accepts, never judges, and defends.  When I came out to her one of the first things she said to me, after “I love you” and basically so what, is that she wanted to be the one to call many of the family members to tell them.  She wanted to do this not so she could be the one in the know or whatever, she wanted to do it so that she could tell them, and then let them know that she was just fine with it and that, with her tone I’m sure, they should be too.  That’s my Mom.  Defending, supporting.  She loves deeply, isn’t afraid to cry, and is emotional.  I love this about her.  As I love so many things about her.

Mom is uber talented.  In my lifetime she’s played instruments, gardened in a Better Homes and Gardens kind of way, drawn, photographed, sung well, and whistled a whistle that makes my heart soar.  Mom’s whistle is amazing.  I miss her whistle.  She can build anything, use most every tool, and drive a tractor.

I am lucky to have the Mom everyone wants.  I’m lucky to have the Mom all my friends, all my life, have envied, liked to be around, and loved.  I’m lucky to have that Mom.  I know how lucky I am.  I would say, without hesitation, that, along with my honey, Mom is the best person I know.  The best.  Karen and Mom are a lot a like, which I guess would make sense that they are the best people I know.  Mom is a person I strive to be like.  She’s a person I’ve always looked up to.  Always admired.

Happy birthday Mom.  I love you more than I could ever express and I am so very proud to be your daughter.

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Someday Soon…

Everyone knows how much I love Karen.  At least they should given the fact I plaster it all over Facebook and nearly all of my many blogs.  I do.  I love her.  She is life and breath and hope and happiness and joy and light and peace.  And those things, my friends, do not even begin to encompass what she is to me.  Suffice it to say she is big love.  We have big love.  Still.

Today I read that Prop 8 was ruled unconstitutional.  This is a lovely thing.  Wonderful.  And hopefully it is just the beginning of what will be a wave of equal rights and civil liberties running rampant across this country and throughout the world.  This is my hope.

I know there are some people who believe with everything they are that gay marriage is evil.  But seriously people, what’s it to you?  If you believe in God, and this is the reason for your objection, read scripture and you will find passages saying things like judge lest ye be judged and do unto others and love your fellow man as yourself.  If you believe God won’t approve, then let God decide.  That’s how it’s supposed to work.  You aren’t God.  Just sayin’.

I don’t believe I’m going to be judged.  I believe in love.  I believe in hope and happiness.  I believe my love is no less important than yours.  I believe that if Karen and I were allowed to marry legally this would not undermine what you consider to be traditional marriage. I don’t care who you marry, as long as it doesn’t hurt either party involved, and I expect that I should have the same rights as you.

I’ve found the someone I will spend the rest of my life with.  I’m lucky.  And someday soon I will be able to legally marry her in any and every state in this country.  I believe this to be true.  Today’s ruling gets us back on the right road.  We’re going to get there.  Slowly, maybe, but we will get there.  And when we do Karen and I will stand up in front of friends and family and say I do.  Just like we did privately 8 years ago on that beach in Hawaii.  Someday soon…

A Day in Chicago

Karen and I decided the other day that she would take a day off during the week and we would go somewhere.  Our original plan was to head to Indianapolis for a couple of days, spend the night, that sort of thing.  The dilemma… the pups.  We wanted to take them, and could have, but then what would we do with them when we wanted to go in somewhere or have dinner out or any myriad of other things that don’t allow dogs.  We couldn’t leave them in a hotel room and we wouldn’t leave them in the car, so there you go.  Dilemma.  And subsequent change of plan… day trips.  Ah ha!

So Sunday we just sort of drove around locally.  Didn’t really go anywhere overly cool, just sort of checking some places out.  We did this with the dogs.  They like to ride along.

Monday we got up, got a tad bit of coffee, waited for the radon guys to fix our leaky boot, and then headed to the train.  Ah the train.  I love it.  We were lame to wait until the last minute so our tickets were more.  Yes, they have so many at different price ranges just like the airline and if you wait too long the cheaper tickets sell out and you are left paying more.  Though really, c’mon… $52 for two one way to Chicago wasn’t terrible.  We have paid half that, but we weren’t too flummoxed by it.  Flummoxed… I love that word.

Drive to the train station, park in the 10 hour parking, hop on the train, get off in two and half hours after reading and listening to music and looking at the passing scenery and there you are… Union Station in the Second City.  Chicago.  I do love it there.

We have been to Chicago a few times now… before we moved to the midwest once, for two weeks over Christmas and New Years when the kids got married there.  That was our first time… we loved it then, and still.  We have only ever been downtown.  And this time was no exception.

One glitch… we didn’t have a plan.  We didn’t really decide until Monday morning that we were going for sure, hence the last minute ticket buying and such.  And we didn’t really talk about what we wanted to do or where we wanted to go beforehand or on the train ride there.  So there we were, Union Station, smack in the middle of the city, and had no idea what we were doing.  Pretty funny… and, kind of fun.  No agenda.

So we walked… and walked… and walked some more.  We originally headed toward a restaurant some friends recommended, The Artists Cafe, on Michigan Avenue down across from Millennium Park and the Art Museum.  We were starving so that seemed like a great place to begin.  It would have been, only before we got there we passed another place.  There were people sitting in the window who had enormous burgers that happened to catch my honey’s eye.  Needless to say all thought of the Artists Cafe was out the window and in we went for burgers.  They were good.  Aside from the rather vocal and potty mouthed man sitting next to us, it was all good.  And to be honest, we didn’t really care about the vocal potty mouthed man either.  He wasn’t loud, so we could tune him out as he lit into his lady companion for… who knows what.  Just a little extra flavor in the big city.

From there we walked to Macy’s to check out the window displays.  They were pretty cool this year.  I liked them.  A sort of magical fantasy theme thing.  Then we ran across the Christkindlmarket  and wandered there for a bit.  Every ornament you could possible think of, strudel, schnitzel, some strange drink served in a tiny boot… and crowded.  Cool.  We bought nothing, but we experienced it.

After that we decided we’d wander over toward the river and see if we could find some hot chocolate and chai.  We did.  A nice way to warm up and charge the phone (another word for map nowadays).  We sat in there for awhile, got warm again, purchased our return train tickets from the Amtrak app on my phone, and then wandered along the river back toward the park.  Millennium Park at night is gorgeous.  Especially this time of year.  Skating in the city rink, reflections of christmas lights along with city lights in The Bean, the faces all lit up, trees with lights in them, people everywhere, music playing, the Pritzker all gorgeous.  Beautiful.  We spent a bit of time down there just hanging out and looking at the sights before walking back toward Union Station.

Most of the day we walked, I took photographs, we talked, we hung out together.  Nothing major.  We figure we walked somewhere in the neighborhood of 6 or 7 miles.  We had some good food.  We looked at some cool stuff.  We enjoyed both the train ride going and coming home.  But mostly, honestly, we just enjoyed spending the day alone together.  It’s truly our favorite thing.  Being together and having an adventure.  There is nothing better than that.  Than days like our day in Chicago.

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On Toward San Jose

We are on the train, the Saluki Northbound, making our way toward Chicago. The first leg of our journey to San Jose. Train travel rocks. I’m a fan.

The weather turned cold and wet in Illinois today. A 25 degree drop in temperature from where we were at yesterday. That’s Illinois. T-shirts yesterday, fleece jackets today. Too funny. I think it’s raining in San Jose today as well. Hopefully the weather improves in both places so that we can enjoy some nice California weather and Mom and Kev can have the same here as they dog sit/house sit for us and the kids.

Next stop for us… Union Station. Two hours and twenty minutes away. Then… Lunch!

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What a Weekend… I’m Exhausted!

We had such a fantastic weekend.  So great that I’m tired today.  OK, maybe to be more accurate I should say that I’m partially tired from having to get up in the middle of the night to the let the dogs out.  For some reason, and this is a rare event, they both had to go out.  There’s the little girlie getting up for water and then not jumping back in the bed.  Bad sign.  I got up to find her and she was waiting in the hallway for me.  She ran over to the doggie door and then I heard Weston coming along as well.  I opened the door, they go out, and there I am peeking through the curtains over the sliders trying to see them out in the backyard at four in the morning.  Too funny.  So I could be tired from that.  But, the weekend was so busy, so much fun, and tiring in a totally good way as well.

It started Friday night with a Gal Up (a group we’ve found and joined) event at a local bar, the Esquire Lounge in downtown Champaign.  Drink, food, talk, pool playing, and good times had by all.  A great night with cool women.  Saturday we got up early to go watch Sebastian’s first swimming lesson here in the U.S.  He’s somewhat of a swimming lesson expert as he’s been in them since he was like three months old or something in the U.K.  But it’s been a little while since he’s been in the pool, so he was a tad cautious.  He had a big hold on Mary most of the time.  He didn’t cry, but he was unsure.  By the end though he was a champ, showing that now famous smile all over the place.  He’s going to be great and it was such a blast watching him, and watching Mary be such a fantastic Mom with him when he was unsure and scared and such.  Makes a person tear up watching the kid be so good with her kid.  Impressive.  After the swim lesson we took a jaunt over to Einstein Bagels with the kids to have a little bagel breakfast and then went over to their house for a bit to visit with Ashley, one of Mary’s friends and bridesmaids, who was visiting for the weekend from Indianapolis, where she’s living now.  It was really nice to see her.  Ashley recently got married, the wedding the kids went to over the weekend we did our overnight babysitting for the first time.   After we left the kid’s place we came home, picked up the pups, and headed out to Mahomet and a lovely new to us walking trail out there.  A great spot to walk them.  There are numerous trails to hit so it will be fun to go back out there and see what’s what with those.  On Saturday we only walked for about a mile, one way, because it was really sunny, with no shade, and Weston doesn’t much like the heat.  He was panting and kept trying to lay down in close to the tall grass.  We couldn’t keep going so we turned around, but they got a nice walk in anyway.  Afterward we came home and just enjoyed being here.  Watched some of the World Series, ate dinner followed by caramel corn, relaxed.  Nice.

Yesterday we had a nice mellow morning at home.  Brewed and drank some coffee, we each looked at our fantasy football teams and adjusted (we played each other this week), drank more coffee, pet on the pups a lot, and lounged in our living room.  Later we’d finally had enough of that lounging stuff and took the pups for a long walk.  We discovered a great area on campus only about a 15 minute walk from our house.  Fantastic.  It’s near the Arboretum, which includes the Idea Garden, and Japan House.  So great.  There’s an actual hill over there.  You can see out a ways.  We plan on going back to the garden with a camera to get some ideas.  It is the idea garden after all.  We also plan on taking the pups back over there again.  It’s so close to our house.  It’s so cool that we keep finding all these great places to take the dogs for walks.  We’re loving that.  After the walk we met up with Ann, one of our new friends here in Illinois, and drove out to Hardy’s Reindeer Ranch where we met other peeps and then all did the corn maze.  We ended up splitting into two groups and raced each other.  Texting the other group with things like… Number 5!  There were eight punch stations to get in the maze and we were racing to see which group could get them all first.  We were ahead most of the time, until the end, when they managed to squeak by us for the win.  Damn Dracula! Where were you?!?!  We also looked at the reindeer, the pumpkins, and watched the pumpkin cannon shoot a pumpkin out into a field.  The cannon was pretty impressive.  A fun time with great ladies.  After the Reindeer Ranch we headed home again, hung with the pups for a little bit, and then went over to the kid’s place for dinner.  We played with the grandson, ate some food, and watched the beginning of World Series game four with the kids before heading home where we loved on the pups and finished watching the game.

Whew.

A lot of stuff…. a busy weekend.  Fun.  Illinois is growing on us.  We love the adventure of discovering things in a new place.  We are loving… and let me say… L-O-V-I-N-G… the fall weather here.  Beautiful blue skies, gorgeous fall colors, and warmish (enough to be in t-shirts yesterday).  We are loving being close to the kids and getting to see Sebastian all the time, go to his little classes, hang out and play.  And we are finding some friends, getting to know some people, starting to make a life here.  We still miss everyone in Oregon tremendously, but we are starting to really settle in, and excited about all the new things we’ve yet to discover and do.  Everything is an adventure when you live in a new place.  It’s kinda cool….

A Few photos from the ol’ iPhone

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Color Fast

We went for  little walk today.  We needed to get the pups out and about, moving their little feet, so we took them over to Mahomet.  It’s a little burg 10 minutesWest of  here with a couple of great places to walk.  One, the Mabery Gelvin Botanical Gardens and the Lake of the Woods, and the other, still part of the Lake of the Woods Forest Preserve, but called Buffalo Trace Prairie.  We’d been to the Lake of the Woods and the Botanical Gardens so we tried the Buffalo Trace Prairie walk.  Lovely.  We had a fantastic walk, other than the fact that Weston seemed to not like the heat.  It was 30 degrees warmer today than it was two days ago.  Beautiful sunshine and we were back to wearing t-shirts.  Gotta love the rapidly changing weather of Central Illinois.

Tomorrow we head to Hardy’s Reindeer Ranch in nearby Rantoul with some new friends. Time to try our luck with the corn maze and maybe, if they have it (?), drink some cider.  I’m sure there will be photos galore, but for now these are some I took today during the walk.  Cheers.

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Patina Me

Karen, the pups, and I took a walk a couple of days ago at our favorite local park, Meadowbrook.  As we walked the path, looked at the natural prairie that’s been restored, and enjoyed the many sculptures and natural beauty along the way we had an epiphany…. this is big stuff people, so listen up.

We feel that as we age we should patina instead of wrinkle.  How cool would this be?  Instead of drying out and wrinkling up we would all slowly turn a lovely shade of green.  Women would get upset because men would probably turn green more quickly.  And since green would be the new “wrinkle free” this would be fodder for many a joke on the late night talk show circuit.  There would be creams developed to give that certain special shine to your patina.  But since we would patina and not wrinkle, we’d all look like we did when we were 21.  Granted, sadly this would do nothing for the whole sagging thing, but hey… we can only solve one serious world issue per walk.

That’s it… our big ah ha moment.  These are the conversations we have…

Enjoy some photos taken with our little Canon SD750 during the walk.  Notice the woman… this is the sculpture that inspired the whole revelation.

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