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.

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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.

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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.

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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…

 

 

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.

Missing People Just Plain Sucks

Missing people just plain sucks.

I’m sad.  I just finished watching a video about the School of Piano Technology in Vancouver, Washington.  And no, pianos themselves don’t make me sad, just in case you were wondering.  What just made me sad was missing my dad.

My relationship with my dad was… complicated.  My parents divorced when I was a young pup.  Knee high to a grasshopper.  My dad, who didn’t want it, didn’t handle it well.  My mom, for her part, wishes she would’ve done the whole thing differently, but we’re human, and we handle things the way we do.  Better or worse.  Life is messy, and so was this.

After the divorce my brother and I lived with Mom full-time.  Dad had visitation and Mom, who still thought he was a great guy, wanted us to have him in our lives.  She talked kindly and fondly of him and often encouraged us to call him.  Dad, who was a person filled with light and joy by nature, couldn’t handle the separation and his best defense was to ignore that it happened, and consequently, to ignore my brother and I.  Simply put it was easier for him to pretend we didn’t exist than it was to actually be engaged with us on a part-time basis.  The whole situation was made more difficult by the fact that he remarried and after a few short years together they moved to Montana.  Being so far away just put further distance between us.  My dad had a great life there.  He and my step-mom had five children together and were happy.  It was good for them, for him.  But he was still my dad and though I loved him, and knew he loved me, he dropped the ball in the being a parent to my brother and I department.  He dropped it big time.

Missing people just plain sucks.

There were hardly any calls to us, and when we did talk to him it was because Mom had asked if we wanted to call him.  And when, finally, we were on the phone with him, after we’d made the call, he would cry, say he missed us so much, and ask how come we didn’t call more.  We were pre-teens, he was the grown up.  Who should have been responsible for keeping in touch?  Apparently, according to my dad, the pre-teens.  I think I only ever got one or two birthday cards from him.  He never wrote a letter.

Missing people just plain sucks.

When he first moved to Montana we didn’t see him for four years.  Not because Mom stopped us from going, but because Dad didn’t ask us to come.  I remember our first visit there, I was 12 when he moved and 16 when we went for the first time.  My brother and I went by train.  It was strange suddenly being with him, with his new family, and feeling outside of it all.  Feeling apart.  He tried to make us feel like part of the family, but he was a tad clumsy with those things.  I have memories from that visit all clouded by this feeling of us all being a bit uncomfortable.  The weird thing is that when we were with him we were his everything.  In person he was fantastic.  Showered us with attention, talked as if nothing was off, as if we hadn’t just spent four years not really communicating at all.  We were his light, when we were there with him.  I’m sure that then made it strange for my step-mom and for my younger siblings.  Suddenly he was all about us.  Wanting to introduce us around town, spend all his time with my brother and I.  He would say things to us like, take this to your mom, referring to our step-mom as our mom.  It didn’t feel right, to us or to her.  He wanted one big happy family when we were there.  Like I said, he was awkward with things like that.  Then, when we weren’t with him, when we were back in Oregon, it was as if all the lights shut off.  All communication once again stopped.  Like a switch.  A switch I wasn’t very good at understanding for a long long time.

Missing people just plain sucks.

This happened every time we went to Montana to visit, or my dad and all came to Oregon, which wasn’t a lot.  After I was a bit older I drove out for my little sister’s high school graduation and then for my younger brother’s high school graduation.  Same thing.  Switch on.  Switch off.  It’s something K saw first hand a few times after we got together and she never understood it.  She always said it was so strange that he didn’t communicate at all with me and then when I was with him he couldn’t get enough of me, showered me with attention and affection.  Switch on…. switch off.  It was actually kind of nice to get her opinion about it.  All those years feeling that way, to then have her confirm how odd it was, was comforting.  Made me feel a little less off kilter where the Dad situation was concerned.

My brother and I handled this whole switch scenario very differently.  When we were younger my brother had Dad on a pedestal, way up high, something porcelain and delicate and beautiful and not to be disparaged or messed with.  Dad was the end all and be all to him.  For me that wasn’t the case.  I was angry.  I remember my brother and I having big yelling matches about Dad.  He defending him as I screamed about what an ass he was for not caring, for not talking, for not being there, for basically abandoning us.  I wrote Dad letters I didn’t send.  Made mixed tapes for Dad that, unfortunately, I think I did send.  Embarrassing, and yet not embarrassing.  I was a teenager who desperately wanted her father to love her.  To acknowledge me when he wasn’t right there looking at me.  To be my father, my dad, whether or not he was standing in the room with me.  Because honestly, I adored him too.  I wanted desperately to have his attention.  After we were adults, my brother and I did a swap in this regard.  Me, having come to grips with who Dad was as a person and who he would always be, and my brother having an experience with Dad in regards to my brother’s wife at the time that would make him so angry he didn’t see or speak to Dad for six years after.  Dad didn’t really do anything, but he didn’t stand up for my brother or his wife and my brother couldn’t make excuses for him anymore.  I think all the anger he hadn’t allowed himself to feel over the years came out because of this incident.  And I think the amount we love and adore someone informs the amount of anger we can feel for that same person.  He was bitter and enraged.  For a long time.  Just as I had been bitter and enraged for a long time.

Missing people just plain sucks.

Later, after we got older and Dad and his second family moved back to Oregon, it was really too late.  They lived not far from Mom, probably only 20 minutes or so, but I never thought of visiting him.  It wasn’t a vindictive thing, it was just that it didn’t occur to me.  He had made himself so absent in my life that he was absent in my thoughts.  By then I would see him every couple of years and that was about all.  I didn’t even think of seeing him.  Didn’t think of making that effort.  Strange.  It’s amazing how someone can be gone from your life for so long that they are no longer a part of the every day culture of it.  You think of them sometimes, and those thoughts and feelings are usually warm and tender and genuine, but during the course of a normal day they don’t even enter your mind.   It’s sad, but that’s what happened with Dad.

Missing people just plain sucks.

Several years ago now I got a call from one of my younger sisters.  She told me Dad had had back pain and had gone into the hospital.  Everyone always teased him about how he whined about his pain or an injury, or whatever.  This time he wasn’t whining.  He went into the hospital and 11 days later, having gotten out and been sent home on hospice, he died in that house 20 minutes from my mom’s place.  I was there.  During those last few days I spent time with him at the hospital, listening to him writhe in pain as the cancer that was attached to his spine grew so quickly it broke his back.  I was there telling stories from my childhood with him and our visits together over the years.  I asked him questions, he asked me questions.  I was there at their house, one that had never been mine, watching the stream of well wishers from their church who brought food and spoke so fondly of him.  I was there to talk to him about music, which was his life’s blood, and laugh with him about some silly thing or another.  I was there standing by his bedside with my brother when our dad apologized to us for not being the father he should have been.  I was there to forgive him and to tell him I loved him.  I was there when his breathing slowed and then stopped for the last time.

Missing people just plain sucks.

I’ve been thinking about Dad a lot after watching the piano hospital video, which made me cry and cry.  I was thinking he was such a joy-filled, emotional man, and here I am, a joy-filled and emotional woman.  I’m blessed to have been his daughter.  He didn’t always do it well, being my dad I mean, but he did do some things right.  Most especially when I was with him.  In person he was awesome.  He was passionate and joyful and silly and fun and so warm.  He was one of the most genuine people I’ve ever known.  Honestly himself regardless of the situation.  He loved to laugh, and that laugh was so infectious anyone hearing it had to laugh right along with him.  He had music in his blood.  So talented and effortless, able to play pretty much any instrument, though he stuck with the pedal steel guitar because it was the hardest thing to play and he loved that about it.  I loved to listen to him play.  Loved it.  I loved watching his face when he was playing and singing.  I swear light shot out of him in all directions when he was sitting at that guitar.  Getting to see he and his band play together, live, was always awesome.  I loved his mis-matched outfits and his love of sweets and his gray hair and how when he walked places he moved fast.  He never moseyed.  He was blind, but that guy could move.  I remember watching him do single axle jumps while Ice skating and can picture him floating the river with us.  I can see him playing frisbee at my step-grandparent’s house, leaping in the air, and I remember fishing his glasses out of the river after he, my brother, and I went into the water when the raft ripped down the middle.  I love how he loved his coffee, with loads of sugar and cream, and how he was always the first to lend a hand when someone needed it.  I loved how he smiled and I loved his laugh.  I remember being a tiny girl visiting him one night at the gas station he worked at at that time, and how he walked over and bought us hot chocolates at this diner next door, and then lifted me up so I could clean someone’s windshield.  He made things an adventure.  I remember feeling like I was having an adventure almost every time I was with him.  Not many people do that, give that feeling.  He did.  It was a gift.

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Missing people just plain sucks.

Now, thinking about him, the all of him, I’m proud to be his daughter.  I had, long before he died, come to grips with who he was.  The guy who wasn’t the greatest of dads, yet was.  I’d wrapped my head around the fact that he was who he was, and that he would never change.  He wasn’t emotionally mature where my brother and I were concerned, but that was what it was, and it was OK.  I came to a place of accepting him for him and accepting and forgiving myself for putting him in the place I ended up putting him in my life, which was sort of on the side, just out of reach.  And I learned a great lesson from him.  I learned to be there for the people I love.  I learned that the hard way from him, but I learned it.  I think he’d be proud he taught me that lesson, even though I know he wasn’t proud of the way he taught me.  I’m also proud that he passed on his dorky sense of humor, his ability to be light and silly, and his love of all things coffee.  I’m grateful for those gifts, and for the gift of having had him in my life, even the little amount I did.  I’m grateful he gave me my younger siblings; my brother from our mother, and the younger five he had with my step-mom.  They are fantastic, and even though we don’t spend loads of time together, not nearly as much as I’d like, when we do it’s wonderful.   They are, simply, great people.   Each with a great smile.  I have a great smile too.  My smile came from both of my parents.  They both, Mom and Dad, have and had great ones.  Smiles from the inside.  Smiles that light the eyes.  It’s the thing most people notice about me, and it comes from them.

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Missing people just plain sucks.

It just does.

I miss Dad, and I love him, and sometimes, when the light is just right or my mood is, I see him in me.  Smiling.

One Month – 6475 Miles

We’ve been home now for a few days.  Getting home after being away for a month is a process.  Check the house, clean up the yard, re-set your air and take the long hose off the de-humidifier in the basement, spend significant time with the kids and the grand boys, do laundry, and settle back into our life.  All of which we’ve done, including re-organizing our garage and buying our second car, a scooter.

Life is beautiful.

The trip was fantastic this time.  We both kept commenting on how relaxed we were.  No house in Oregon to deal with, other than visiting the rentals, no running around like crazy people.  We made the conscious decision to spend most of our time at Mom’s place helping out on the farm and just being there, hanging out with her.  It was lovely.  Dinners on the patio, sleeping in the tent trailer she’d so nicely set up to be “our space” while we were there, helping her do some projects at the house, going to the movies with her and my bro, playing chuck-it with the pups under the walnut trees, and generally just being mellow.  We spent 13 days driving, in total, there and back which was also fun this time.  And we spent a few days at the beach with the kids and the grand boys who’d flown out so Mary could be in a wedding.  The time at the beach was also wonderful.  Sebastian’s first time seeing the ocean and walking on the beach.  Pure magic.  Every little thing a new and exciting adventure for him, and in turn for us, watching it through his experience.  We got to see some of our friends, and help one celebrate turning the big 5-0.  Some even came to visit us at the farm.  I got to spend time with the other six.  So great to see them all.  It’s not often all seven siblings get together.  I love them.

We didn’t see everyone we would’ve liked to, and we didn’t hit all of our favorite restaurants, but what we managed we loved.  Every single minute.  Somehow the time flies by and though a month was a long time to be away from here, it seems as though it’s never enough time there.  It’s amazing how a person can be ready to go home, but not want to leave all at the same time.

Without rambling on and on too much more I’m going to do what I did the last time we took a major road trip… I’m going to list the highlights.  Fun for me, and hopefully fun to read.  Here goes…

  • 6475 miles put on the rental car.  It had 7900 when we picked it up.  We almost doubled what it had.  Nice.
  • Animals spied… Big Horn Sheep, Coyote, Cows, Antelope, Sheep, Cranes, White Pelican, Turkey Vultures, Horses, Buffalo, and your regular dogs and cats.
  • The Boardman Plantation… 24,000 acres of Pacific Albus… wow.
  • Watching Sebastian collect rocks at the beach.
  • Music played on the road… sometimes loud with us singing along.
  • How gorgeous this country is, most particularly Colorado and Western Wyoming… wow.
  • The decision to take the roads less traveled and see places we wouldn’t normally see.  Hwy 20/26 is worth the drive people.  So is Colorado highway 114.  Just gorgeous.
  • Best coffee… Mud House in Springfield, MO and the Coffee Trader in Montrose, CO.
  • The surprising beauty of Northern Nebraska.
  • World’s Largest Fork, Springfield, MO.
  • Huge legs in Amarillo… nowhere to be found.  We looked, but apparently we looked in the wrong place.
  • Walking the fishing docks in old town Newport and hitting the aquarium with the kids, grand boys, and Thomas.  K spending time with both of her kids was a joy to behold.  Amazing what can happen when they both, the kids I mean, are finally living back in the U.S.
  • Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, TX…. as expected, and not.  Used up spray cans everywhere, people spray painting them as we walked around the big dirt field they were in, big crowds, iconic, cool, strange, a tad zany, and worth it for the photographs.
  • Seeing friends and spending some time.
  • A fun and fine 5oth birthday party.
  • Cake.
  • Sleeping in the tent trailer while it rained.
  • Craters of the Moon National Monument.  Strange and beautiful and other worldly.
  • Signs on old bars, restaurants, gas stations, etc. on small highways = awesome.
  • Air conditioning in a car and hotel room when it’s hot as hell outside.
  • How great the dogs were during this trip.  They traveled so well.  The water bowl we were able to have for them in the car helped a lot, as did their comfy beds.
  • Realizing we both like motor lodges better than fancy hotels when traveling across country.  Fancy/expensive definitely isn’t always better.
  • Trailer shopping with Mom and Kev.  We ended up finding the Hood River model of the R-Pod Trailer  we will be purchasing next year.   Whoop!
  • Finally getting to visit Santa Fe, NM.
  • Being able to check off two more to-visit U.S. states on this trip….  New Mexico and Texas.  Had been to airports in Texas before, but I can’t count that as an actual visit to a state.  Leaving only Alaska, Connecticut, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana.  Next road trip through the southern states perhaps?
  • Selling Dent, the Toyota Tacoma truck I’d had for 15 years.  Sad, but I was ready.  The sale afforded me the ability to buy a scooter here in Illinois.  Moving forward is a good thing.
  • Yelp.  I use it all the time when we travel to find funky coffee shops and restaurants for dinner.  It rocks.  I recommend it.
  • Spending the day with my siblings.  The seven of us rarely get together and it was wonderful hanging out with them for a drizzly day at the beach.  I’m lucky to have them and to be part of such a great group of peeps.
  • Deciding to not stop and sit in the saddle of one of the World’s Largest Jackalopes in Douglas, Wyoming.  We should have gone back and done it.  We did see it however.  It was big.
  • Deciding not to stop at Hell’s Half Acre because the road construction made it slightly difficult and we were only 40 miles from our destination for the night.  Next time.
  • Time spent alone with my honey.  We love being together, all the time.  It was wonderful getting to have yet another adventure with her.  Nothing like traveling with my best friend and the love of my life.
  • Laughing until we cried several times as we both attempted to take photographs from the car going 65 miles an hour.  Sometimes we got what we were after, many times we didn’t.  Either way we had fun.  Getting it was victory and celebrated, not getting it became a recurring joke.  We find fun in the smallest of things.
  • How many times two people can say, “this is beautiful, wow, look at that” in a one month period.
  • Wandering the Portland Saturday Market with our friend Vicki.  It was raining slightly on and off, but it was also loads of fun.  Plus, we bought soap.
  • Ruby Jewel Scoops Ah Joy sundae.  It is the best ice cream sundae I’ve ever had and whenever I’m in Portland it’s a must have.
  • Pasta and dinner with Thomas at Piazza Italia in Portland.  My honey dreams of their lasagna.  It’s perfectly wonderful.  Plus the company of Thomas was so very cool.  What a great kid (sure, he’s 27, but you know… a kid is a kid) he is.  International Patent Law here he comes.
  • Sunshine and no humidity.  The weather was pretty much perfect while we were traveling.  Only too hot and humid a couple of days on our way back to the Midwest.
  • Being so relaxed.  It was awesome.
  • Love of friends and family we got to see, missing the family and friends we didn’t get to see.

It was a wonderful trip this year.  Stupendous.  Terrific.  Really great.  So good we’re already planning our trip out next year.

Oregon Odyssey – Day Seven & Eight

Ah road trips, how I love them.  The sights, the experience, the music played along the way.  They are glorious things.

When I was a kid our family did road trips all the time.  It was sort of our thing.  We mostly stayed in Oregon for these, though we did venture out to Arizona once, exploring different parts of the state.  We always stayed in Mom and Pop motels, which don’t exist as much today.  I loved those.  One time we stayed in a motel with a pool shaped like an airplane.  Very cool.  There were always things to see, places to stop along the way, new adventures to be had.  I grew up taking road trips and they got into my blood.

Luckily I met someone who loves to road trip as much as I do.  When K was young her family hit the road every year from California to Oklahoma.  During our drive out this past week she called her parents to confirm that their main route was route 66.  There wasn’t an interstate the majority of the time her family was doing these trips so route 66 was the main route between Los Angeles and Oklahoma.  Awesome.  As we drove out this last week we basically followed what was the old route 66 highway.  Now not even commissioned as a highway, there are still signs along the way indicting where route 66 was and there are long stretches of road you can still drive.  Those stretches take you past, as we saw, old gas stations and motels and diners that have fallen into disrepair long ago, though there are still some establishments up and running today.  It’s a bygone era, but along that route the feel is still there in some places.  It’s pretty cool.

I digress though and will get back to it by saying that we both love a good road trip.  It’s why we’ve decided on this trip every year.  It serves two purposes… we get to drive back out to Oregon and see everyone we love who lives there and who we miss, and we get to have the experience of traveling different routes out with the pups.  It’s tiring, but oh so much fun.

We finally arrived, day seven, after starting in Burns and driving highway 20 through Bend and Sisters, then highway 22 to Salem and the farm.  It was nice to get here.  Another great thing about road trips is the getting to your destination and getting up the next morning not having to drive anywhere.  It’s a good feeling.

We spent yesterday, our first non-driving day, doing some chores like taking our Toyota Tacoma in for servicing so we can put it up for sale, and helping Mom work on the garage at the farm.  She’s wanted to clean it out, reorganize, and paint for some time so we cleared that puppy out yesterday and went in and got the paint for it.  Today, we paint.

The pups adore Mom and my brother, Kevin.  They were very happy to see them and they also love the farm.  What dog wouldn’t.  They’ve been here many times and they basically get to roam pretty free while they’re here.  They were exhausted last night when we went to bed.  It’s nice for them.

It’s so good to be here and we’re looking forward to seeing friends and family while we’re here.  We love this place and the people in it, and we loved the getting here as well.

Pretty soon we’re going to have to start planning our trip back out to Illinois… wonder which route we’ll decide to take this time?

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Oregon Odyssey – Day Five

Today’s word… drive.  Drive and then drive and continue to drive for hours.  It was tiring, but it was also gorgeous.  Colorado and southern Utah are so beautiful.  If you haven’t experienced this part of the country, you should.  Seriously.  Plan your trip immediately.  It will be worth it.

Besides the beautiful landscape there were cows, horses, sheep, some asses, and an antelope.  And there were gas stations, rest stops, one really good coffee shop (Coffee Trader in Montrose, Colorado), one funky but not so good coffee place, a mini hike up a semi-steep hill to give the pups a walk and also to see what was on the other side.  On the other side was an antelope running down the middle of a road and a beautiful view of the nearby colorful striated hillside.  It was worth the little jaunt.  It was also nice to stretch the legs.

Tonight we are languishing in Burley, Idaho on the Snake River.  Tomorrow… Oregon.  Not quite all the way home, but we’re getting there.

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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.

Keyser Soze Has Nothing On Us

Wow.  And wow again.  I think I may have started more than one blog entry with that word and here I am using it once again.  Oh well, I’m getting older and that means repeating myself repeatedly.  I’m OK with that.

I digress…

Wow.  It’s been a whirlwind of activity and adventure since we left our little hovel in Urbana, Illinois for places west on July 5.  Here we are on August 14 and I have no idea where the time has gone.  Day after tomorrow we pack up Thor, our tried and true Volvo, our two pupinos, a bunch of crap, and ourselves for the trek back home.  Six days later, and some 2500 miles we will once again be back in the Midwest.  Where has the time gone?

When we were planning this sojourn we thought, OK, six weeks (including two weeks driving) would be plenty of time, but  then again how can there ever be enough time spent with the people you love.  There are so many people here who are in our lives it’s been tough to see everyone.  We haven’t seen everyone.  That’s a hard one.  To leave without seeing everyone.  Seriously though, how could we?  We’ve been so busy.  Let’s recap…

Six days driving here, get here and have appointment with Oregon oncologist, start treatment in Oregon, see Stan and Connie who drove to Salem just to see us (you guys rock), drive up to Portland to meet my cousin and his family after he finished the STP bike ride, eat pizza, have yogurt, drive up to Burlington, WA (and Marblemount, WA) to participate in the spreading of my grandparents ashes and next day check out the estate sale put on by my Mom and Aunts and Uncles at my grandparents house, from there take off for three days in Long Beach, WA (after a 5 hour drive to get there), enjoy the beach, drive back to Salem, drive back up to Scappoose, dinner with friends who invited us over (thanks SJ and Angela, your house is awesome), trips back and forth between Salem and Scappoose every week so I could get my shot in Salem, helping Mom sprinkle some of grandpa and grandmas ashes at Willamette University, work on the yard in Scappoose, and more work on the yard in Scappoose (thanks to Mom and Kev for helping us out with that one of the days… you two are amazing), dinner out with friends (thanks Maggie for taking us to dinner for our birthdays), dinner with friends from Urbana who happened to come to Portland for a wedding while we were here (great dining with you Evelyne and Natalie), showing our friend Jen (who also hails from Urbana) around Portland, and the farm, for three and a half days,  the treat of breakfast out at the Screen Door courtesy of Vicki (thanks girl, the chicken and waffles there can’t be beat!), a few walks in parks both in Portland and Salem with the pupinos, one of which included a piano solo by Karen, a trip on the river with Stan, dinner at Stan and Connie’s place for us with some of our good friends (so great to see you guys), a walk at Cathedral Park with Liz and Jake and Ilsa and Indy followed by a tour of their new house (love it you guys!), a stop by my old office for some chat (Stacia, I love ya girl) and lunch with some of my old work mates (I miss you Josh, Linda, Chris, Liz and Stacia!), packing up the car and driving back and forth between Salem and Scappoose every week (oh, I think I said that already), our annual walk through of one of our rentals with the renters and a drive by of the other, a couple of barbecues thrown for us by POD members, one including splashes in a pool and the other including a tasty salad made with home grown veggies, a couple of trips to the Portland Saturday Market (Sundays too!), a zoo concert (Melissa Etheridge) with some of the POD, dinners out at various places we didn’t want to miss while we were here (Piazza Italia, Little Big Burger, tacos at The Varsity, The Stepping Stone, Ruby Jewel for ice cream, chicken and waffles at The Screen Door, Mississippi Pizza, a food cart or two, Pok Pok, E-San for thai, burritos at Muchas, etc.) all of which made us each gain about 10 pounds, breakfast with my sister Kay, time spent at the farm with Mom and Don, time spent in Scappoose with Kev, packing up the car and driving back and forth between Salem and Scappoose every week like gypsies, sun, fun, and loads of love.

It’s been an amazing time.  We’ve had so much fun.  Though, seriously, I think we’re ready to be home again.  Not that we don’t love it here, and love everyone here, but we’re ready to be home.  Sleep in our own beds, be in our own house, see and spend time with the kids and our little man, who we have missed very much.  I guess that’s what happens when you live in two places.  Live in two places in your heart I mean.  You are always missing something, someone.  That’s the nature of how life works sometimes.  We moved to Illinois to be a part of of the kid’s lives, to be in Sebastian’s life, and we are glad we did.  We wouldn’t change that at all.  It’s just that this is home, and always will be.  The people here and this place make it so.  We are torn, but that doesn’t make us any less happy to be there when we are there, or here when we are here.

That bit there being a few moments of reflection.

So we are heading home on Thursday morning.  Leaving early to get a jump on our longest driving day of the lot.  10 hours the first day.  We’re going to Boise, Idaho by way of Bend and Hwy 20, then Driggs, ID near the Tetons, and from there a drive through the Tetons and Yellowstone and then stays in Sheridan, WY, Chamberlain, SD, La Crosse, Wisconsin, and home.  We’ll get there just in time for the Urbana Sweetcorn Festival.  Yum!

We’ll miss you Oregon, and everyone in it.  It’s been a flash, and now we’re almost out of here.  A month, poof, just like that and it’s gone.  Keyser Soze has nothing on us.  We love it here, and we love the people here.  This wonderful adventure has flown by, and been fantastic.  But be rest assured… we will be back.  It’s time for us to go back home, to more people we love, but we will be back.  We will miss you while we’re gone.  But be rest assured… we will be back.

Oregon My Oregon

We have been here, the Northwest I mean, for 12 days.  I really didn’t realize how much I love it.

When a person grows up in a place and spends their whole life in that place, I think they don’t really realize how much they love it.  If they do love it that is.  I’ve traveled a lot and I’ve always said no matter where I’ve been, and I’ve been a few places, the Northwest is/was the most pretty.  I said that, and meant it.  It’s just that I don’t think I realized the depth of the statement, of my feeling for it, until I moved away.  I realize it now.

We have walked the streets of the city we love the most, spent time in the woods, helped to scatter my grandparents ashes, walked on the beach, spent time with family and friends, and slept in my childhood room so far during this visit.   All of that in less than two weeks.  I guess we’ve packed it in. Everything we’ve done, everyone we’ve spent time with, everywhere we’ve been has reminded me, further instilled in me, how much I love this place.  How much it is in me, a part of me.  How much I am, we are, of this place.  It’s in our cells.  I feel that.  And it makes me know that I will never take this place for granted again.  It makes me appreciate, even more, what the Northwest means to me.

Oh Oregon my Oregon… I do love you so.

Day Six… And Home

The drive on day six was awesome.  We went to Caffe Mela in Wenatchee before we started, as usual going to a local coffee place we’d found, and fueled up before heading to Leavenworth.  It’s a quick drive over to Leavenworth from Wenatchee and we were there in 30 minutes or so.  Not bad.  The four of us wandered the town, looking in windows, walking in the grass, taking a couple of photos with the phone.  Nice.  Then it was on the road for the drive to Salem, by way of Portland.

We were pretty happy as we entered Oregon near The Dalles.  I tried to take a photo of the entering Oregon sign, but Riley was on my lap and bumped my arm.  I got a fantastic shot of the side of the bridge.  The drive along 84, done so many times by both of us both separately and together, was gorgeous.  We passed Multnomah Falls, Karen driving, and I tried to lean over and take a photo as we whizzed by. I think I got a great photo of the dog bed and a tiny view of the falls.  Hilarious.  My photo taking abilities were definitely lacking yesterday.

We stopped in Portland to pick up a half a tray of lasagna from our favorite Italian place, Piazza Italia.  Yum.  We’d called and ordered in advance because my honey has been craving this lasagna for a year.  We had it for dinner.  It was yummy.

We arrived at Mom and Don’s last night about 6:00.  2584.1 miles, 8 states, 6 days and we finally were able to stop driving.  Yay!  Don’t get us wrong, we love road trips, but being able to stop and not have to drive the next day… lovely.  The dogs are liking it too, though we’re sure they thought they lived in the car after spending so much time there over the last several days.  They thought that was their life.  Good thing they adjust pretty well as long as they’re with us.  Kev was here to greet us, very nice.  Nothing like a Kev hug on arrival.

Next on the agenda… enjoy this fantastic Oregon weather.  It’s supposed to be low to mid 80′s very low humidity the next several days.  Lovely lovely.

Whirlwind

Wow… I’m tired.  We arrived back home at 11:00 PM last night after spending much of the last five days back in Oregon.  What a time we had…

I’m sitting here looking back on it all and I’m overwhelmed with a feeling of love, laughter, and community.  We have a big life there.  So many people who love us and who we love.  Amazing.

We arrived Thursday at about 10:00 PM after a direct flight from Chicago Midway.  Kevin, my brother, picked us up and hauled us back to what used to be our house and is now Vicki and Kevin’s house.  We slept on the hide-a-bed after staying up way too late talking to Kev.  I love my brother.  He’s an awesome man!

Next morning we jumped into our Toyota pickup truck (the one we left in Oregon so my brother could use it if he had to do stuff for any of our rentals) and drove in to Gravy for a fantastic breakfast with Kev.   I love that place.  So good.  After we  all drove down to Mom and Don’s place in Salem.  Kev stayed over there as well, which was great, so we had a really nice time just hanging out at the farm with everyone.  Mom and Don’s place is fantastic.  A true Better Homes and Gardens kind of place.  Gorgeous plantings, landscaping, etc.  It was so nice getting the Mom hugs and just hanging out with her and Don.  I love my Momma.  She so rocks it out!

Saturday, after hanging out more at Mom and Don’s we jumped back in the trusty Toyota and headed back to Portland.  We hit Saturday Market for some wedding gift shopping and some lunch.  After we drove on out to Stacia and Eric’s place to drop our stuff and load Stan’s party playlist on his retirement present… new iPod and docking station.  Then it was off to the fairgrounds to hook up my laptop to the sound system and make sure all was well.  Then… party party party.  We were there from 5:00 to after 11:00.  I got to see so many great friends and people I hadn’t seen in a long long time.  People who I hadn’t seen since I abruptly left when I got sick last year.  It was wonderful getting to catch up, hug some people, and hang out with some fantastic peeps.  Plus, getting to be there to help send Stan into retirement… so wonderful.  I love that man…. he’s  a true sweetie.  A fantastic friend.  He’s family…. many of those people are like family to me.  So much love in that room.  For Stan and for each other.  It was lovely.  When we got back to Stacia and Eric’s that night we had a chance to hang and visit with Stacia a little bit… and then again in the morning for a brief time.  Not long enough… but it was great just getting the time we did.  I love you girl… my sister from another mother!

Sunday we got up and drove back over to our Oregon house to drop off the truck and get a ride from Vicki (thanks girl!) into Maggie’s for the wedding.  Wedding prep ensued.  It was a lovely lovely ceremony.  I love weddings…. after all, they are all about love.  What’s better?  I was so honored to be a part of it.  I love Kate and Terri and am so happy they took this step.  Plus, it was wonderful wonderful to hang out with the POD.  Ladies, you are a classy group of babes and we are so lucky to be a part of this little family we’ve made.  Love love love to all of you.  It was so nice sitting around the chiminea Sunday night chatting it up.

Sunday we got up and hung out with Maggie a bit.  She’d had to take Bernadette (so great to see you again B) to the airport early early that morning and then had come home before work.  So glad she did so we had some time to chat.  You’re house, and you yourself, are fantastic.  We love you!  Later Sandy and Angela came over, picked us up, took us to the airport, and then enjoyed some breakfast with us at a restaurant at the airport.  So so great to get to spend this time with them.  We were rushing so much that getting these little snippets of time with individual people was like getting little gifts each day.  Sandy… you are a gift to us.  We adore you.

It was wonderful… our time back home.  Lovely.  Fast.  Furious.  A whirlwind.  We saw so many people, ran around so much, stayed at a different house every night, but so so good.  So so wonderful.  Our life there is so big.  Our relationships so important to us.  We love each of you.  Know this.

Yes, it was also good to get back home.  Which is nice.  It was great seeing the pups again, great to see Mary and Sebastian this morning.  Great to see Lisa Lynn who was so fantastic to stay with and care for our babies while we were gone.  Girl… you rock and we love you.  Thank you so much!  And… we felt like we were coming home as we traveled back here.  Because, this is home now.  We are making new friends, loving being near Sebastian and his parents, and finding things to love here in Illinois.  We are starting to make a life here… what we hope, and what we can dream… is that our life here starts to resemble, even in a little way, what our life in Oregon has been and still is.  If we can do that, build even a part of that here, we will have done something amazing.  Because people… you are an amazing glorious group… a huge web of love we feel all the way over here in the Midwest.  Much love to you.  Thank you, thank you, thank you….

Better Late Than Not At All

What follows are some shots, mostly taken by Karen, during our road trip east.  It was a tiring four days, but we got er done… as they say.  We were so lucky to have Mom and Sandy along to help out.  They were amazing and true champs!  People say this all the time, but in our case we totally mean it… we couldn’t have done it without them!  Thank you guys, you were wonderful traveling companions, and true champs of the road!  We love you!

Seven states, 2300 miles, three nights in hotels with four adults and two dogs, road food, great conversation, some beautiful scenery, more gas money into a big ol’ truck and a car than two girls ever want to pay for again, and no real issues… it was a tiring, but good trip east.

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17 Days in Urbana… and Counting

Life in the Midwest is pretty much everything we expected it to be… yet… more.  And less.  So philosphical.

Karen and I were making a list the other day of some of those differences and I thought, given the fact that I’m sitting here in the office while Karen works and it’s getting hot hot hot out there, that I would do something in our air conditioned house.  Namely blog about some of the differences we’ve found so far after living in Urbana for 17 days.

It’s hot here… and that hot is a different kind of hot.  Hot as in the butter is always soft if you leave it on the counter.  Really soft… melting soft.  Even inside with the air conditioning on.  Not only that… ice cubes melt incredibly fast.  They are there… then poof, gone.  Your glass has sweated all over the table, coaster, napkin, whatever.  Inside mind you, inside with the air conditioning blasting.  Not outside, where ice wouldn’t stand a chance at all.

Sunsets are beautiful here… and the weather creates part of that, but so does the endless skyline.  No mountains to block them out so they last a long long time.  It’s flat.  Really flat.  So the sunsets last and last… lingering over the corn fields and prairie grasses for a very long time.  Gorgeous.

It’s never quiet… during the day there’s the regular noise… cars driving by, people walking by, dogs barking (ours and others), horns honking, garbage trucks, people mowing their lawns.  A cacophony of sound for a couple of girls who used to live out in the country… we’re getting used to it and actually like a certain measure of it.  It’s the symphony of moving life all around us.  The thing that’s shocking is the night noise… the sound of the cicadas.  So loud.  So very loud.  It’s such an interesting thing since we didn’t have them in the Pacific Northwest.  We had the occasional owl sound and sometimes coyotes, but that was only once in a while.  This wall of sound from the cicadas is amazing.  Not annoying to us, just shocking.

Humidity.  We were not prepared.  We thought we were mentally prepared, knew it would be the hardest part of the transition, but we were not prepared.  Neither of us like that kind of heat.  Hot, damp, heavy air.  Not fans.  And it’s not even because our bouffants don’t stay up or that when we tease it suddenly goes limp… and yes, I’m kidding, about the bouffants and the teasing I mean.  It’s an amazing thing, this humidity.  We are learning, slowly, all about dew points and heat indexes and why 60% humidity in Oregon is nothing like 60% humidity here.  It’s a learning curve, and air conditioning is our friend.  That and fans… loads and loads of new fans.

There’s something to be said for a small kitchen.  Our kitchen in this house is small.  Smaller than the kitchen we had in Scappoose.  Not much counter space, and hardly any cupboard space at all.  It’s cool… with it’s granite counter tops, great gas stove and oven, it’s under mount sink.  But it’s small… really small.  But… we like it.  Who knew?  We put up a big metro shelf for storage of food.  It’s all out and open to the room, but we love that about it.  We also got a metro cart that we put spices and baking stuff on and added a cool dark bamboo cutting board to the top of it so we could move it around and use it for chopping and such when we needed more room.  It works great.  When we put our bowls and large collection of coffee cups away from the dishwasher we don’t have to move at all.  Everything is right there. Easy, close, convenient, and very organized.  It has to be.  It is.  We like it.  Simple.  Of course, having a small kitchen is helped by the fact that we can store anything that doesn’t fit, the stuff we don’t use very often, down in our second kitchen.  It’s small too, but it holds the overflow nicely.  We got lucky there.

I had here, next, that we couldn’t find raw dog food… and it was a challenge.  We tried several places with no luck.  We thought, wow… there are a lot of dogs here, we see them all the time.  People love their dogs here, like in Portland, so what gives.  No raw?  Finally we looked up the company that makes it and used their locate our products in your area tab… one place.  In Savoy.  It’s only 4 miles from our house, and it’s a very cool feed/country store.  They have everything a pet owner or horse and cattle man might want.  Plus, they were nice.  So… we couldn’t find it, but now we did, and we love the store.  There you go.  Out in Savoy we also discovered a huge movie theater, a new Shnuck’s grocery store, a Buffalo Wild Wings (Karen was a happy happy woman knowing she could get Asian Zing so close to our house), and a small myriad of other little places.  Savoy is the nearby hamlet that seems to just keep on giving.

Living in a University town again is really cool.  I’ve always loved Universities… the vibe, the life, the people (students and staff alike) rushing to go somewhere important.  This town, these towns, with this huge University at the center of them, is the same.  There will be art, and music, and sporting events galore.  There will be philosophical discussions to over hear in coffee shops and restaurants, there will be slightly drunk young men to talk to outside of the Black Dog Smoke and Ale House when we go to get take out.  Awesome!

Lots of bugs and five times times the size.  There are a lot of bugs here.  And they are big.  Nothing to really expound on except that I saw a thing (and then Mary saw it) at Mary and Martin’s house… it looked like a small bird, only it was a bee or hornet or some such thing that was too awfully big to be anything other than awful.  I’m sure it chased me into their house one day.  I’m sure of it.  I narrowly escaped.  It was frightening.  Mary saw it a few days later going into a hole in the ground in their back yard.  Karen filled the hole with a crap load of sand.  Hopefully that thing won’t be making another fly by appearance.  Creepy.

There are super friendly people here.  Really friendly.  We have had most all of our close neighbors come over to say hello to us.  Two even brought baked goods. We haven’t returned the plate to one of them, so they might not be feeling as friendly toward us right now, but they will again when we bring it back with oatmeal cookies on it.  That’s our plan… bribe them back with our own baked goods.  But it’s not just our neighbors… everyone everywhere we go has been friendly.  Nice nice nice.  They say hello when you pass them, look you in the eye, mean it.  Nice.  Friendly.  Sure, there’s that anonymous neighbor who has called the cops on us twice for barking dogs (admittedly once before we got here and the kids were living here with their dogs… and then one time later when their dogs were over here… though I’m sure it was all four of them barking).  We don’t know who they are, since they wish to remain anonymous, and the police, who came to the door both times, said the second time that really they just wanted to make sure the dogs were OK and not being left outside in the heat.  Once they knew we had a doggie door they were like, no worries…

Nights are (forever without you…. laaaaa…  that song just popped into my head… I digress) warmer for being out and about.  One fantastic thing about living here is the night time weather.  It’s so nice being in shorts and flip flops out and about at 9 or 10 or 11 and it’s warm.  A nice little breeze, but still 75 or 80.  We both love love love that.  It’s summer… and flip flops and shorts, no sweatshirt… awesome!  In fact, the other night when we were at the Sweetcorn Festival waiting for Survivor to start we were both a tad shocked when we said we were just a little chilly.  Not bad, but just a little.  The sweat that happens here, followed by a cool breeze in the evening, even when it’s still 80, cools a person down.  We are acclimating.  And everything is relative.  Any way you look at this one, we love being out and about in the evenings without having to don a sweatshirt… or even take one with us.

It’s really fun to discover a new place.  Every day we find a new restaurant to try, or a new store we want to go to, or a new park to walk the dogs in.  And that’s just in these two towns.  There are neighboring towns and townships, neighboring states and parks, all waiting for us to discover them.  It’s an exciting thing… even just walking the aisles of the local grocery stores.  We’re learning, discovering, experiencing the adventure of it all.  That’s a great fantastic thing.

We’ve worn more wicking t-shirts than ever before, in our lives… they work great.  And they dry fast.  Enough said… this one goes along with the humidity factoid.

Being so close to everything is nice for walking and just going to the store.  Not having lived in town for a very long time, for me, and for a very very long time, for Karen, it’s really nice to get anywhere we want to go in minutes.  I had to drive across the cities on Monday and I got over there in 10/15 minutes.  Easy.  And closer to home we can walk to restaurants, the library, the recent Sweetcorn Festival, and parks.  It’s lovely.  As soon as Karen gets that walking boot off we will also be bike riding.  We’re both looking forward to that.  It’s one of the things we wanted in coming here and our house is definitely in a great spot for that.  Very different from our life in Scappoose where we had to drive to go anywhere.

8.75 sales tax is shocking.  There’s only a 1% on food in the grocery store, but it’s a surprise to us, every time, when we go to pay for something.  No more knowing exactly what you’re spending when you walk up to the counter.  The taxes here are high… and that’s no lie.

Pumping your own gas is cool (karen is not a fan).  For a girl from Oregon I’m used to other people pumping my gas.  I love that I can just whip in to a station, hop out, pump the gas, and go.  Karen isn’t as big a fan as I am.  She likes someone to do it.  To not have to get out of the car.  I may feel the same way when the temperatures turn cold here, but for now I love it.

Having a fenced backyard for the pups is awesome.  In Scappoose we didn’t have a fence.  We did that on purpose as we didn’t want to mess with the aesthetic of the place, but it caused me stress when the pups were outside.  I would worry, too much I’m sure, about where they were, what they were doing, where they were going.  I could never really relax outside if they were out with us, which they usually were.  I was always worried someone would drive up and not see them or they would chase something down the driveway to the road.  Always worried.  Here… no worries.  There’s a completely fenced back yard that’s really decent size.  They are loving it more and more and I love that they have it, and that I don’t have to stress about them.  Ahhhhhh….

The new medical facilities are very nice.  The transition with my medical stuff has gone really well, and the new facilities here are really nice.  It’s sweet.  We will see how it is when Karen goes to get her ankle looked at in a couple of weeks and I go to have a new patient consult with a GP in a couple of weeks.  But so far… it’s good.

Pacific northwest people don’t know anything about thunderstorms… and that included us.  So… yes, I did learn about thunderstorms, as did Kev, when we drove Mary’s car out here in June.  Tornado warnings, black upon black clouds, etc.  Scary stuff then.  But even the regular thunderstorms here… boat loads of rain in a really short amount of time, LOUD thunder and lightening that hits the ground.  It’s fun and fantastic to watch, and also a tad scary at the same time.  I think I like them… and am scared by them…. it’s going to be a love hate relationship.

Shopping is an adventure… none of our known stores are here… besides things like Walgreens I mean.  We have Meijer, and Shnucks, and County Market.  We have the Co-op  and Strawberry Fields for more natural and organics though Meijer actually has some decent organic selections.  It’s learning a whole new system of grocery buying for us.  It’s fun actually.  As is learning about new restaurants and deciding where we should go for my upcoming birthday weekend (we decided on Southern Illinois and the Shawnee National Forest).  It’s all an adventure… finding new places to take the pups for walks, learning about where to see music,

Lastly, for now anyway… Illinois sweet corn is good.  Very tasty.  We are fans.  Karen is in corn heaven!

It’s continuing to be different, new, strange, good, scary, happy, sweet, sad from missing everyone, great, adventurous, and beautiful to get to spend time with Sebastian, Mary, and Martin.  It’s what we feared, but more than we hoped for.  It’s life… and we are living it!

Conspicuously Absent

Hello out there in Think Tank Land…. Been a LONG time since I posted anything.  What can I say… it’s been crazy.  You will know and understand how crazy when I say I haven’t taken one photo since I’ve been here.  Not one.  Yes, I snapped a couple with my phone, but otherwise… nada.

We’ve had a time of it… moving is hard business.  Ask anyone who’s moved.  Add to that Karen breaking her ankle, frustrations with some things after we got here, helping the kids settle in, etc., etc.  It’s been exhausting.

A good thing…  Thomas, Karen’s son, was here for a week.  He stayed with the kids and we went over every day, once in the morning to take him coffee and then again in the evening for dinner every night.  It was wonderful spending time with him, getting to know him a bit better, just hanging out with him.  It’s a big deal.  And no, I didn’t take any photos.  I know… what was I thinking.  Maybe just that we were in it and I didn’t want to be an observer…   Thomas is a lovely man.  Really.  Sweet, thoughtful, fun to have conversation with, and excited about his upcoming stint at the Yokohama International Student House (where he will live) and the intensive language program in Yokohama.  I’m so glad we got to have this time with him, that Karen got to sit there every night and have dinner with her two children, her son in law, and her grandson.  That I got to be in that with her.  Wonderful.

There have been ups and downs on this journey, that’s still not complete… we have purchased some furniture, but it won’t be here for a couple of weeks so for the time being we are using a futon the kids bought when they first got here.  We will return it to them when our couch and two new chairs arrive.  We need to paint a couple of rooms, buy some rugs, still do some major unpacking (our clothes, put the office together, the storage room together, and deal with the garage).  Yesterday we got the upstairs kitchen all situated.  We even barbecued (our first real cooking here at the house) last night and then ate while watching a movie on our spectacular new 55″ TV.  It’s going to be cool down there in the media room… but yes, it’s still lacking the two recliners (I know… recliners… I can’t believe it myself… LOL) and the sofa/lounger that should all be coming this week some time.

We’re getting there….

The pups are doing better every day.  It’s been rough on them.  All the moving from place to place before we left, then the traveling here (they were total champs by the way), then the new house, going over to Mary and Martin’s and meeting and getting to know their two fur heads Wicket and Ziggy, and just being here, in a new place.  It’s a major adjustment for the little rug rats, but they are sweet and are actually beginning to love their new backyard, and we think their new house.  Weston is laying on the chaise as I type.  He loves it out here.

The weather has been a major adjustment.  The humidity factor, which we knew would be a problem for us has definitely been that.  We went out and bought another fan and have them all going, the ceiling fans going, and the air conditioning set at 70.  We walk outside and it’s like being it by a wall of damp heaviness.  Though today… lovely.  Feels like crisp Oregon weather today.  We’re heading toward fall now, so we should have more crisp than heavy.  At least, that’s what we’re hoping.  We keep saying it’s an adjustment… though everyone we meet here keeps saying you never really adjust, you just live with it.  We combat it yesterday with another stop at Jarlings Custard Cup.  Yum yum!  Nothing says cool down in the summer like a cup of strawberry custard covered in cold fudge and almonds.  Helps to heal what ails ya…. LOL

Now we’re going to head out and get some breakfast at the Cafe Kopi in downtown Champaign.  Kev and I had coffee there when we came out in June with Jennie, the nice woman who knows Mary and Martin and put them up for a couple of nights when they first got here.  It’s a funky place.  A place you’d find in Portland.  I know the coffee is good… we’re going to see if the food is good.

I promise to take some photos (as soon as I can locate my camera bag… I know it’s in the house… where in the house is the question) soon.  It’s a cute house… has a good feel.  And it’s feeling better and better, more like us, all the time.  We’re trying to make it a home… I think we are.

And Mom… we found the cylindrical red gong.  It’s hanging on our front porch… It looks and feels like home.

And that’s the short version of all that’s transpired.  It seems like so much more… and has been.  Who can actually encapsulate everything in a blog post.  Not I…

Pictures will follow…

All kinds of love to everyone out there in blog land…

 

 

Monday Sunshine

Monday and beautiful outside. I love these days. Crisp air, blue sky, fall feeling, leaves changing and falling. This is an absolutely gorgeous place to live.

Floatin

Floating

Originally uploaded by Tokenhippygirl

I think Weston and Riley’s outside water bowl needs to be emptied and re-filled, don’t you? Though really…. they don’t stay out long enough in the rain to need a drink. They are fair weather pups. No rain shall touch them… if they can help it.

Walking Mississippi

Walking Mississippi

Originally uploaded by Tokenhippygirl

So a couple of weeks ago we had the enormous pleasure of hanging out with and then having dinner with Grandpa, my Aunt Syd, Mom, Don, and Kev. It was a really nice evening. A very nice time. I love my family. Seriously, are there any better people out there? I know some of you might be saying yes, there are… as in your families, friends, or whatever, but still… I love these people. They are awesome. I always have a good time, without exception, when I’m with them, which I’m not often enough. And again I will say lucky. I am so lucky to be a part of this brood. Lucky.

Monday Morning

Haven’t posted in eons. Thought I’d get back on the band wagon with this. Happy Monday everyone.

PS.. More posts coming soon on the bathroom addition and life in general. The bathroom addition, plus the kids being here for a couple of weeks, plus a work conference all contributed to my non-posting. No excuses… Just really busy.

PDX

PDX, originally uploaded by Tokenhippygirl.

Let’s sum up our lives since the last I posted something… which has been a little while ago.

On the 10th of September Mary and Martin arrived from Britain. This was us walking across the pedestrian bridge from parking structure to the terminal. I took this one with my phone. Not bad, with a little tweaking from an app called Camera Bag. I believe this was like the 1974 version of the photo. All browns and muted. Cool.

Bridge 99

Bridge 99, originally uploaded by Tokenhippygirl.

There’s no better place to camp. I know that feeling in me is spurred on by all the great memories I have of the place, but seriously… gorgeous river, fantastic trees, the smell of the air is breathtaking, and the beauty unparalleled. Ah, it will be good to go back again.

Pups

Pups, originally uploaded by Tokenhippygirl.

The pups love camping. Weston is on his lead here, but he got to be off of it. They both did. They were worn out by the time we got home. Two hikes in one day just about did the little souls in. They made it though, and actually wanted to go to bed that night. Pretty funny.