Questionable Questions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hallelujah

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

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….