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A Trip to Oregon… and Back Again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One thing is always certain… we will be back!

Baby, It’s Cold Outside

snowI want it to be sunny AND warm.  Is that too much to ask?  It looks gorgeous outside today.  Blue sky, slightly breezy, crisp.  Looking out there, it seems as though I could grab my cup of coffee, the book I’m reading, and head out to the chairs we have on our back deck.  The chairs that just yesterday were covered in snow.  But, no.  Uh uh.  Ain’t going to happen.  Why?  It’s damn cold.

It’s not really that bad, being 37 out there right now that is.  Not bad considering the winter we’ve had.  Not bad considering how much snow and cold and wind we’ve had this year.  But, c’mon.  37.  It’s spring.  I’m ready for spring weather.

Not long ago, November of last year, we had our first snow of the season.  We were so excited.  Yay, we said.  It’s going to snow we exclaimed excitedly.  Yay.  When we only got a dusting we were upset.  We felt robbed.  We wanted more.  We should’ve kept our gosh darn mouths shut.  Be careful what you ask for is right.

Those months ago, when we were entering the cold season and we wanted to experience a real Illinois winter, we didn’t know what we were asking for.  The previous two winters we’d lived here were mild, mellow in fact.  We were told repeatedly that the warmer weather we were experiencing then wasn’t normal at all.  We had no idea.

Now, after a frigid winter and loads of laundry from all the layers we have to constantly wear, we’re ready to pare down.  We’re ready to break out only t-shirts, shorts, and flip-flops and not have to spend 10 minutes just getting ready, layer by layer, to go out.  We’re ready to actually look forward to walking the dogs.  We’re ready to be able to sit outside on our deck and watch the birds in the feeders and talk to our neighbors over the fence and grill with ease.  We’re more than ready.

Of course, in three months I’ll be complaining about how hot it is, how humid it is, and I will long for the cool breezes of early spring.

Thankful Everyday – The Sixteenth

16.  I’m thankful for our furnace and air conditioning.  It’s cold in Illinois in the winter.  Cold.  It’s also hot in the summer.  Humid and hot.  We live in a place of extremes and I’m so very grateful for the warmth and coziness of the heat on those cold winter mornings (like today) and for the cool refreshing air conditioning on those hottest of hot summer days.  They both make our lives so much nicer, so much easier.  And it’s not lost on me that other people in other places don’t have either, which makes me appreciate both all the more.  I’m so thankful for the heat every time the temps get down to 17 and the windchill brings that down even further.  So grateful for the coolness of the air every time humidity is 88 percent and it’s already 100 outside.  For these things I’m thankful, everyday.

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Love

I’m actually sitting here at a loss for words.  Shocking.  Yesterday I was jumping up and down, crying, pumping my fists in the air, and trying to mouth the words, “it passed!” to K who was on the phone in a meeting for work.  It was a comedy of sorts.  She involved in her meeting, me jumping and crying and trying to shout without saying a word.  She mouthed the words, “what’s up?” and I just kept whispering that it passed.  We had a mini failure to communicate until she just asked the person on the phone to wait a second, held her hand over the headset mic, and said, “what’s going on?”.  I could then finally answer aloud.  “It passed!  It passed!”  She got excited, had to tell the person she was on the phone with what I’d just said.  Finally, we could semi celebrate together.  When she got off the phone we hugged each other.  I was still crying.

I spent over two hours yesterday with headphones on, computer tabbed to the state house feed, listening and watching the debate about the Illinois marriage bill.  It was infuriating, enlightening, glorious, encouraging, a tad scary at times, and ultimately wonderful.  Whether people said things I agreed with, or not, it was fascinating to watch and listen to the process.  When the vote finally came it happened so fast it was almost anticlimactic.  They vote electronically so it took less than 10 seconds.  Bam.  Done.

I don’t expect everyone to agree with me on this.  After all, there are many people, who for religious reasons, feel my right to marry who I love is wrong.  And, oh well.  I don’t expect people to agree.  It’s a divisive issue.  Always has been.  I see it as the civil rights issue of our time, and others see it as a religious issue.  I could argue that, as I have in the past on this blog, but today I won’t.  Today I guess maybe I want to write about love.

I am in love.  Since April of 2003, and if I really admit it to myself it was probably a couple of months earlier, I’ve been in love.  In the beginning I was scared as hell.  Me being in love with a woman was not something my family would expect and at that point didn’t know anything about.  So I was scared.  In love, but scared.  Would they accept her, would they cast me out, would they turn their backs or talk behind mine?  One of the reasons I kept being gay a secret for so long was because I didn’t want to go from being Tam to being gay Tam.  Because whether people mean to or not, that’s exactly what happens.  You suddenly become something different from what you were to other people.  Not always in a bad way, but different none the less.  I didn’t want that first perceived difference, until I met her, and then I didn’t want to keep it a secret or hide her from everyone in my life.  I wanted her to be a part of my family.  I wanted to live a whole and authentic life and to do that I had to tell my truth.  So I did.  And yes, I became gay Tam.  But then — then I was just Tam again.

A lot happened right after the coming out thing, as you can imagine, but what mostly happened was a whole bunch of acceptance and love.  Love.  I have friends who are pretty religious people, but they still loved me.  One of them, a super spiritual Christian guy, came to see me in person and ended up telling me he loved me, no matter what, and that it wasn’t his job to judge or condemn me.  You know, the judge not lest ye be judged thing.  I love him for that.   I respect him for that.  And I respect his beliefs.  We differ, but that’s OK.  My grandmother, who my mom elected to tell (with my permission of course) said, and I quote, it was about time I came out.  ha ha ha!  That still makes me smile and laugh.  She’d suspected, she kind of already knew, she was OK with it, and had been impatient for me to just say it already.

Love.

I think I was surprised at how well people just sort of accepted K into our family, into our lives.  Friends I’d had forever accepted her as well.  People treated us as if we were just like every other couple.  Because, you know, we were.  We are.  We’re the same — mortgage, dogs, making dinner, working, pulling weeds in the garden, going for walks, taking vacations, watching dumb television shows, having the occasional argument, babysitting the grand boys, grocery shopping.  Same.  We love.  We are loved.

I’m lucky.  I know this.  When I say it’s not every day people find the kind of relationship we have, I mean anyone.  Gay, straight, somewhere in the middle.  People strive for this, this thing we have.  This absolute certainty that we are.  We are more than just meant for each other or made for each other or any of that.  We are.  Simple.  When I met her it was as if everything snapped into place, an audible click.  Home.  I still feel that way.  Lucky.

Yes, alright — we argue and somehow she puts up with me when I get too emotional.  I put up with her need to do a million things at once which sometimes leads to her not listening as well as I’d like.  We do struggle at times.  Of course we do.  We aren’t perfect.  What’s great is that no matter how much we struggle or how angry we get or how hard things sometimes feel there’s never a feeling of wanting to end it, or go, or take a break, or any of that.  The tough stuff always makes us stronger as a couple if we let it.  We let it.  We can’t imagine our lives without each other in them.

We’re lucky.

Love.

We’ve already been married twice.  To each other.  This makes me smile.  The first time we got married we were alone on a beach in Hawaii.  We’d purchased rings and found our spot and did it ourselves.  Words spoken, rings exchanged, happy tears shed, poetry, and a sand ceremony she’d surprised me with.  We still have that bottle of sand.  We’ve considered ourselves married since then.   I think, really, we’ve considered ourselves married since that first date.  I know I was.  It’s why we count our anniversaries from then.  But the ceremony in Hawaii was a real marriage for us.  Maybe not sanctified or certified or papered in any way, but real none the less.  The second time we got married Oregon had just passed a domestic partnership law.  I worked for a county in Oregon at the time so during a break I walked down to the proper desk, paid the fee, we filled out the paperwork, and a week later there it was, our certificate of domestic partnership.  Not really a marriage, but a legal thing, even if it seemed slightly empty in a way.  We laughed, but at least that, combined with the $1600 in paperwork we’d done with an attorney, sort of protected us as a couple.  Sort of.  I say this because later, when at different times we were each hospitalized, we had to give the hospital with our powers of attorney, etc. so that we could make decisions for each other.  It added a stress regular couples don’t have to deal with.  Nothing like worrying if you’ll be kicked out of your wife’s room because she isn’t legally your wife.  Luckily those strangers were kind and gentle and accepting.  So much so one of the nurses mentioned to us how fantastic our relationship was and that she rarely saw a couple so devoted.  It was a compliment.  It was a commentary.  It spoke directly to the we that is us.

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Love.

We’ve never had an actual ceremony in front of people.  A ceremony the kids and my mom and my brothers and sisters and K’s brother and sister and parents and our friends, etc., etc., could attend.  As a young woman I never thought I’d be able to have a wedding.  It was so far out of the consciousness I literally never even imagined it.  Later, K and I vowed not to do it until/unless it became federally legal.  Our paperwork and our own private marriage were what we’ve had.  And on one hand they’ve been enough.  The hand that says we don’t need anyone telling us our relationship is valid and important and real.  We know it is.  We live it and feel it every day.  On the other hand not being able to legally wed has denied us many rights other couples who can get married enjoy and take for granted every day.  Some of those rights legal, like getting the same rights for the taxes we pay, and some human, like being recognized in the same way as all other couples who love each other and last are when they are married.

And again, I’m not trying to convince anyone of anything here.  I’m just speaking to my own personal experience.  Yesterday, when marriage happened for us in Illinois, I cried.  I cried because it’s another step toward being culturally real.  Toward begin a part of something bigger than just us.  It’s being looked at, from the outside, as legit and meaningful in the same ways as other couples who are devoted to each other, who have taken that step.  It means my mom can be at my wedding, the kids can be there, our family and friends can be there.  It means we can celebrate and rejoice and affirm the love we have and have had for each other for over 10 years and our families and friends can hug us and share in that moment.  I means all the same protections and privileges will then apply to us.  It means inclusion, not exclusion.  And it means so much more than I can even put into words.  Which, as I said in the beginning of this, sometimes fail me.

Love.

There is nothing more important in this life than the people we love and who love us.  Period, the end.  Love is beautiful and special and precious and real.  Man, woman, gay or straight.  Ours is.  Our love for each other and our love for the people in our lives.  This latest happening in Illinois is a victory for love.  It’s very existence has advanced us, as a species.  It’s propelled us a bit closer toward a place and time when all people will be loved and accepted and celebrated for who they are.  A time and a place that’s hopefully not too far off in the future.  Love always wins.  Eventually.  Love of our spouses, our children, our families, our friends, our fellow man and woman.  I believe this.

I believe in love.

Fall-ing

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

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

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

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

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

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