Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Monday, December 21, 2009


For unto us a Child is born ...

Wishing you all a wonderful Christmas and God's blessings on you in 2010!

Your friend,

Saturday, December 12, 2009

This Past Week

O.k., I'm back to a pleasing shade of light-medium brown with beige highlights. The box actually says, "beige highlights that are flattering to maturing complexions", or something like that. Really. Hmm.

It is so nice to look in the mirror and not cringe. When we bleached my hair the second time, to get as much red out as possible, things got even worse. Most of my hair was a light banana yellow but still had a lot of red. There I was with braces and hair in an unbelievable shade. I was miserable.

But now that's all behind me. I am very happy with this color and, hopefully, they won't discontinue it.

On a sad (and obviously more important) note, my favorite (and last) uncle died last week. I couldn't make it to the funeral. Sometimes it's tough to be so far away from my family. With kids and all, I just can't jet down for things like that. This uncle always called me "Chatty Cathy", which was the name of a doll that came on the market the year before I was born. I actually never saw this doll until the last few years, when a company re-issued it. Apparently, it was a new kind of talking doll and when I was small, I chattered quite a bit (not unlike my own daughter). My family calls me Kathy and my Uncle Derrell dubbed me "Chatty Cathy". The name stuck.

My daughter, Carmen, was chatty all day long today and I finally asked her why she was talking so much. She sighed in exasperation and said, "I just don't know!" I said I'd start calling her "Chatty Carmen", to continue my uncle's tradition. I haven't seen him since 1999, but I miss him, knowing he's gone.

We also got news last week that the husband of friends of ours passed away this year. It's been a long time since I've received news like this so this week has been rather sober.

The good news is that after more than a week of bright sun and temps during the day of high 20's to mid 30's, with lows in the low 20's at night, we finally got to 40 degrees today! It was down right balmy! I never thought I'd be happy about 40 degree weather! I'm always so cold but after freezing temps for so long, you can really feel the difference in just a few degrees. At least I can.

Now I need to start work on my Christmas letter. Make it short, funny, informative but not too much detail. I hate writing these things but people say they want to know about the family. I got the annual Christmas letter from a dear friend of mine that usually expounds upon how brilliant her children are and how many trips they've taken but this year was different. She was rather subdued. It's been a tough year for many. Praise the Lord for keeping them afloat. Praise the Lord for keeping us afloat, as well!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Hair Of Gold?

Oh, boy. You should see me. I don't think much about posting photos (for whatever reason, or no reason) but I'm SO glad you can't see me.

Being a woman of a "certain age", I dye my hair. But this time, we (my husband is my colorist) dyed it a bit too dark. It looked o.k. but I thought it was too dark brown for me. So ... we tried to lighten it up. Twice we tried a lighter brown - didn't work. My poor hair.

The next step was to bleach all the dark out of it. What I am left with is what my dear old Dad left me, genetically. My Dad was a redhead. My son was born a redhead. And now, I am a redhead, too. Can you say "copper-top battery?" Carrot head? Look - your hair's on fire!! That's what I keep thinking every time I happen to see my reflection. It's unbelievable. Totally.

It's, like, orange-gold-unreal. I cannot leave the house. I have become another Christmas decoration, put me on the mantle. I do have a soft hat that I stuffed my hair into this afternoon because I just couldn't take seeing it anymore. When my kids first saw me, I told them to get their comments out of the way, I knew what they were thinking. Bless them, they all kept saying how nice I looked. Liars! Todd keeps looking at me and smiling. He likes it, for goodness sake!

The good news (I think) is that we will be dyeing my hair again, this time to a nice shade of light-medium brown. I hope, hope, it works. As long as my hair doesn't all break off or fall out in the meantime.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Give Thanks

I'm starting to mold. It has been raining for so long I've quite forgotten what a sunny day looks like. Oh, we had a bit of sun break yesterday and I ran outside with the kids for a quick walk. Within minutes after we returned home, the rain began again. At least the wind has calmed - three bad storms in one week is all one really needs. At least the power only went out once for 1-1/2 hours. I consider us fortunate. Today it went out for just a few minutes for no good reason. Just for fun, I suppose.

Oh, Happy Thanksgiving, by the way. I dislike this holiday but I've written about that several times so I won't go into the details again. However, I truly wish everyone who reads this a very happy time where ever they celebrate this holiday of thanks. I try to be thankful each day, anyway.

My daughter has been wanting all our Pilgrim story books read to her. We decorated the piano with a cornucopia and she wants to make a paper bag turkey like her brother did years back. But she doesn't want to go to Grandma's for dinner, she wants our feast at home. So do I. But this is one of those times when you can't do what you want, you do what is expected of you. Can anyone relate?

Praise the Lord for family, for keeping us safe and providing for us. I am thankful for God, for our country and those who came before us who worked so hard to eventually create what we call America. What we have is special, important and worth hanging on to. May God bless our country and give those in power guidance and wisdom. They need it.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Worth Your Salt

My oldest son, Chad, decided he wanted to see how much salt was in sea water. What is cool about this is that Chad has never been too interested in science - he's a history/music guy. So, of course, I took him down to the beach and let him brave the wind and rain to gather two gallons of sea water. One thing I love about Oregon beaches is how desolate they are on days like that. It was just Chad down by the water with nothing but the shipwrecked Peter Iredale (the iron remains of a ship that ran aground about 100 years ago) for company. Of course, as soon as he left the car, my Prius decided to flash an unfamiliar warning light at me. While he was enjoying the surf, I was frantically thumbing through my owner's manual, trying to decipher this strange symbol lit up on my dashboard. The bad thing about Oregon beaches on days like this is that they are desolate - just me and my Prius and possibly in need of a tow home. Todd was at home asleep (he had to work later) and the younger two were home but they would be of little use. I did have my cell phone but, fortunately, I figured out what that dang light meant. I had put my cell phone on the car charger for the first time and this light was to politely tell me that my phone was fully charged. AS IF I NEEDED TO BE TOLD! The symbol was of a key with an exclamation point through it. I ask you, does that mean "cell phone fully charged" to you? And the owner's manual showed the symbol but conveniently forgot to say what it meant. I discovered on my own by unplugging the cell phone charger, thinking that it might have something to do with the light. It's a good thing I have a few wits about me.

Anyway ... We got home with the water but waited until the following day to start boiling. We were thinking it would take all day. We have been discussing Lewis & Clark for the last month or so, since we just went through some of the places that they traveled. And the Salt Works where the Corps of Discovery made their salt during their winter stay here on the coast is down south of us in Seaside, about 17 miles away. We have visited this place in Seaside and during the summer, there is a Salt Work reenactment down on the beach where the actors immerse themselves in the roles of the Corps. If you ask them about anything modern, they don't understand but they'll tell you all about the Lewis & Clark expedition and the making of salt from sea water. So, now, Chad wanted to make his own salt. It actually didn't take that long. We got it boiling pretty good and after about 45 minutes, salt started boiling over onto the stove top. I think it took about an hour for the water to boil away. Chad ended up with nearly a cup of salt. It was pretty amazing to me. He spread the salt out on a cookie sheet to let it dry out thoroughly. We are not going to consume this salt as it has a lot of impurities in it but the boys will be using it for further science experiments. I think they want to figure out some kind of fuel source involving salt, something like that. So I think the experiment was a success. Chad enjoyed the process and we all learned something. Fortunately, we don't need this salt to season rotting elk meat, as I believe that was the reason Lewis & Clark needed their men to make salt. The next time you use your salt shaker, be thankful you don't have to work too hard for it. I know I am.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Kitchen Blunders, The Sequel

I'll have to admit that making mistakes, wherever you make them, has the potential to teach you something. It should, anyway. And I suppose that I have learned a few things as I've blundered along in the kitchen for 20+ years.

I have learned that omitting the seasoning in the homemade pizza sauce and then sprinkling dried oregano, garlic and basil on top (before the cheese) is a sacrilege. It doesn't work. You may as well scrape the pizza sauce off into a bowl and then mix in the seasonings. Trust me on this (Todd agrees, whole-heartedly).

A recipe printed on a box or package seldom goes well. Forget it. Betty Crocker is best for most things. The first meal I cooked for Todd was on the back of a pepperoni package and involved some kind of pasta. We both still shudder when this is spoken of. I am surprised he proposed to me, after this nightmare.

I completely forgot about the yearly pumpkin pie episodes! I know of at least two times I have forgotten to put eggs in the custard. One year (or two, maybe), I actually removed them from the oven, poured the too-thin batter back into a bowl, mixed in the eggs, poured the batter back into the pie tins and rushed them back into the oven. They survived. Then there was the time I went a bit heavy on the cloves - whew! Way too spicy. Another time, I put the pies in and Todd wanted to go driving, to look at the Christmas lights (we make our pumpkin pies for Christmas dinner). I thought it would be o.k. as long as we were back in half an hour. As we were driving, I started getting anxious about the pies and we finally returned home. The timer had plenty of time left on it but the pies were way too brown. Um, oh, yeah ... I was suppose to turn down the oven temp after 15 minutes. We foiled the pies and they turned out o.k. - once again. I don't think I've actually ever ruined my pies but I really don't want to push my luck. Someday, I may not fare so well.

I will say one thing in my defense - my pies usually do taste good. They often don't look very pretty but I do know how to crimp and, armed with Todd's paternal grandmother's recipe, my crust nearly always tastes good. I say this now but I just found out that I am expected to make the pies for Thanksgiving dinner at my mother-in-law's. My sister-in-law usually makes them but things have changed this year. I need to pray.

Let's see - when I was single, used to broil steak whenever I had to cook for someone, as most of my friends couldn't afford steak so it was a treat (I worked full-time while my friends all went to college). I nearly always caught the steak on fire. That was before the days of required smoke alarms in apartments. Good thing.

I know I've caught at least a few things on fire in our married life but I can't remember right now. Scary isn't it? Oh, and then there are the times that are completely out of my control. When we first moved to Oregon, we lived in a little old house built in 1949, with an oven to match. I swear it had a place to put wood in to heat with, it was so huge. Anyway, that old oven gave out on me right in the middle of baking Christmas cookies, either the first or second Christmas we lived here. I finished baking the cookies in our toaster oven. Fortunately, we were just about to head home to see family and Todd's grandmother had an oven she didn't need anymore. What a blessing that was. Another time, I was experimenting with baking scones (I sometimes crave scones) but I don't think I had made them before. Anyway, the oven element decided to fail, right in the middle of baking my scones. Bummer. I can't remember if it burned the scones or if we finished baking them after we went and got another element. I guess I subconsciously try to forget these things, small wonder why.

There are many more stories but I'm sure you've had enough (I know I have). Tonight, I watched my husband skillfully make perfect steak and sauteed mushrooms. Watching him cook is like watching a ballet. He is so confident. He makes it look so effortless. I used to be jealous of his kitchen ability but I am over that. Now I just appreciate it and thank God that I have Todd to rescue me in the kitchen.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Never Ask Me To Bake Cornbread

I have had it.

When it comes to kitchen blunders, I top the list. But my biggest and most frequent goof-ups always involve cornbread.

Don't ask me why.

I never, never seem to be able to make my cornbread come out the same way twice. Even when using the same recipe, it ends up being too ... something ... or whatever. I just can't get it right.

But tonight really took the cake (or bread but it really seems like cake to me.) Tonight I made cornbread in two smaller pans in our large toaster oven (yes, it has a bake control). I had a ham going in the big oven so I thought this would be a good idea. And it was. The cornbread looked terrific and baked about the same length of time as it would have in the big oven. I brought them to the table and Todd started cutting the breads to serve. I went back to the kitchen and when I returned, Todd asked me how much cornmeal I had put in the recipe. I about died. That's when I realized I had completely forgotten the cornmeal! As I stood there, speechless, my entire family was looking at me, waiting for my response. I finally admitted that I hadn't put ANY cornmeal in it. You should have seen their faces! Surprise, shock, a bit of fear (my kids REALLY love cornbread and probably were afraid to eat it). While I began to whimper, my dear husband (who is no longer surprised by anything I do or don't do to a recipe) said with a smile, "Mommy made 'Cornless' bread". Every child got up to hug and kiss me and say it was o.k. Talk about an embarrassing/humiliating/frustrating moment. What a dufus I am. (But what sweet kids I have!)

Then I tasted the cornbread (I figured it was only fair to be first). It wasn't bad. Everyone liked it, actually. Whew! I absolutely can't stand to waste time and resources on something that turns out inedible. I'm just not good in the kitchen, at least at cooking. You can read what you want into that sentence.

Now, every Mom kitchen blunder is always followed by my family recounting and retelling every kitchen blunder I have done in the past. What is funny is that several of my blunders have turned out to taste o.k., even to the point of being asked to repeat it. Like the time I had the oven turned to broil when I made pizza. I make homemade pizza weekly but I've only broiled it once and the kids liked it but Todd would have liked the crust a bit more done on the bottom. That blunder is talked about frequently. Omitting an ingredient happens a lot but I also get distracted a lot when I'm cooking. I've taken to telling the kids not to talk to me when I'm in the middle of a recipe.

There are so many, many things I've done wrong, I don't feel like discussing any more right now. I'm still so miffed about the cornmeal thing. I'd like to go back to Jiffy mix cornbread which is what I grew up on but my family prefers from scratch. My Mom used to make it from scratch until she discovered Jiffy. Now I know why. I never liked the way she made it until she started using a mix. Cornbread was a major staple in her house as well as my Dad's when they were young. It was made weekly when I was growing up. You'd think I'd learn a thing or two. But that's part of the problem. My mom didn't teach me a thing about cooking and I never was interested enough to learn (I'm not blaming you mom, it's just the way it was).

When I got married, my husband taught me to cook. But he just can't teach me the essence of cooking. He tries. Tonight he asked what ratio of flour to cornmeal did I have. I just looked at him. He then asked what the consistency of the batter was. I said I didn't really notice. He just shook his head. I feel badly that I don't notice things like that (not often anyway). But that's the difference in a cook and someone who just makes a recipe - attention to detail.

Sigh. My Mom burned a lot of food. My Dad would always say it was just the way he liked it. Now that's love. Still, I am fortunate - my husband continues to eat my blunders. And fortunate that he tries to help me improve. If only I were a better student!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Yellowstone or Bust

We got the trailer. We went to Yellowstone. And now we are home.

If only it was that simple.

The funding finally arrived on a Mon. to pay the seller of the travel trailer (also known as a caravan to some of you). But the seller was out of town until Saturday. We had various problems and delays equipping the van (our tow vehicle) for this 10-day trip. Todd got his flu shot on Friday and spent the next 48 hours having an immune response (chills/fever). Finally, on Sunday, we crossed the Columbia River to get the trailer in Washington. Transaction completed, shaking of hands, a few words of advice and we hitched up. As we pulled out of the driveway, it was then that I realized the scope of what we had just done. Driving the narrow (oh, so narrow) winding road along the river back toward Oregon, I could feel just how looming and large that trailer was behind us. Going through the tunnel, then over the steep incline on the bridge back into Oregon, I shuddered at the thought of following the Lewis & Clark trail on our way to Wyoming.


There was no turning back now. On Monday, we had the transmission serviced on the van, obtained insurance for the trailer and got it registered with the state. We spent part of Monday and all day Tuesday cleaning the trailer and packing for the trip. Amazingly, we headed out on Wednesday, September 23rd, taking the highway that goes through the mountains headed toward Portland. My son, Alec, shouted, "Yellowstone or Bust!" Little did he know. 1-1/2 hours into the drive, we started seeing steam pouring out from under the hood. Todd pulled over to the side. We were in the middle of nowhere, about 1/2 hour from Portland. Cell phone service was sketchy but we talked with our travel club (AAA) to arrange to be towed. They didn't know where to send us. So I called an RV store I knew in the nearest big town (Hillsboro) and they recommended a radiator repair shop. Todd kept stopping to fill the radiator with water and we limped into Hillsboro. They said it could be fixed by the next day and offered to let us park next to the building, even allowing us to use their electricity. I was in tears. This was not the way I pictured starting our trip. But it was really the best option. However, at about 6:15 pm, the manager knocked on our door of the trailer and said we were good to go. What an angel! He stayed late so we could get on our way. This was only the beginning of us seeing God's hand at work on this trip.

We stayed at a campground in Portland. It had been an extremely hot and exhausting day and we were so thankful to finally stop for the night. Our first night was interesting because no one knew where anything was or how things worked in the trailer (there had been no time for a tutorial) and sleeping was difficult as no one was used to the shaking of the trailer everytime someone rolled over in bed. Carmen was especially whiny, a bad habit that we became used to every night of the trip.

The next day was awesome. A beautiful drive along the Columbia river, through the Gorge and on up into Washington's lower tip, staying along the Snake river where it meets the Clearwater, right at the Idaho border. This would become our favorite campground where we biked a bit until Chad's tire sprung a leak. Then we headed out on Highway 12 which is known as a long and winding road. We were basically following the Lewis & Clark Trail and stopped to read a lot of historic signs along the way. We had to stop 4 times due to road construction but it gave us time to hop out and explore the Lochsa river. Then we started to climb. It got steeper and steeper, on Lolo Pass. Alec and Todd started to see smoke coming from under the van. It got pretty thick. We pulled over and saw something leaking under the van, where it was hitting hot metal and causing the smoke. Since we were near the top of the pass, Todd decided to keep going until we found a better place to pull over. As the van slowly lurched to the top, I yelled to the kids, "Pray!" Amazingly, there was a huge parking lot and visitor center, waiting for us to pull in. I yelled to the kids to get out of the van, as smoke was everywhere. We ran. But Todd said it wasn't going to blow up or anything, it was just the transmission leaking. We went into the visitor center where they let us use their phone (again, NO cell phone service) and we arranged for a tow vehicle from AAA in Missoula, Montana (the nearest town down the other side of the pass, we were still in Idaho). The park rangers were so, so kind and helpful to us and our kids. God put us right where we needed to be. We needed transmission fluid but they didn't have any. Then a delivery man pulled up (it was about 4:30 pm) and came in. I jokingly asked if we could hitch a ride with him. Then I had a thought, "Hey, do you have any transmission fluid in your truck?" He said no, sorry, and went into another room. Then he came out and said his next stop was a ranger station that had a store - perhaps they had some. I gave him $20 (all I had) and teased that if he didn't return, it would be on his conscience (he laughed but I just knew he'd be back). We waited while the rangers closed up the center and Todd finally got through to AAA. Amazingly, the tow truck arrived, followed by the delivery man who handed Todd the transmission fluid and our change. I ran out in time to grab his hand and thank him profusely for helping. I could have cried (I think I did). May God bless that delivery man for coming to our rescue. God put him there just at the right time. We filled the transmission and the tow truck driver followed us all the way to Missoula, right up to the campground (where I had already called as soon as we got cell phone reception.) Tow truck man waved goodbye and we parked and set up camp for the night. Another late night but at least we were where we should be. The rangers in Idaho had called a transmission repair for us and Todd had arranged for us to take the van in on Monday (this was late Friday, of course, everything was closed.) Saturday, we spent doing laundry and resting. It was hot and windy in Missoula but it was my first time in Montana so I was a little stoked. I haven't been in a new state since I was 12, which makes 39 states I have set foot in. There was, however, a fire to the northeast (in Helena) and we could actually see a red glow. This would not be the only fire we encountered and with the wind, it was a little unnerving. The kids played a little mini golf at the campground and Todd made some decisions. If we waited until the van was repaired, we would run out of time to go to Yellowstone. So I started making calls, booking a hotel room just outside of Yellowstone and reserving a rental van. If we couldn't camp in Yellowstone, at least we could go there. Sunday, we got the rental van, packed our stuff in plastic trash bags and left the van at the repair shop. Yellowstone, here we come!

We had a beautiful drive through Montana - my goodness, it's big! Mile after mile of burnished hills and valleys. It seemed to take forever, going through Butte and nearly getting to Bozeman. We turned south then and headed toward the North entrance of Yellowstone. We walked into the Super 8 that our travel club had arranged for us and, of course, they didn't have our reservation. I wasn't surprise at all, it seemed that nothing would go smoothly on this trip but things did work out and they apologized for the inconvenience (it was actually their mistake, for once!) We got a big corner room that overlooked the parking lot and the sun set over the hills just beyond. I asked the front desk for a dinner recommendation and we ate at a pretty good Italian restaurant. To me, vacations are made up of little moments and that night, as everyone else was asleep and I was just getting into bed, I heard some motorcycles zooming into the parking lot. Three way-too happy guys headed toward the hotel when one of them shouted, "Viva Las Vegas!" It was all I could do not to laugh out loud. This became my mantra for the rest of the trip. The next morning, I saw these same guys in the parking lot and couldn't help but shout, "Viva Las Vegas!" Todd was stunned and the men looked a little sheepish. I explained that I'd had a good laugh at that one and asked if they had a good time. "Oh, yeah!" came the reply and they went on. Todd said, "What was all that about?" I said I'd explain later. Anyway, both nights at the hotel, we heard the mating call of a bull elk outside the window (I was glad to be on the 2nd floor). Quite a noise, especially at 2:00 am. We saw the female in the morning, right outside. Cool.

We spent two terrific days in Yellowstone, exploring the northern half. We could not get to Old Faithful (the most reliable and huge geyser) because of road construction to the east and a fire blocking the road to the west. This fire was near where we had made reservations to camp, near the lake, so it is obvious God didn't want us to go there. Amazing how you see things clearer on reflection. The smoke from this fire covered the east side of the park but it was far enough away not to cause danger where we were. However, we had to make a 120 mile detour on Tuesday just to get to Old Faithful, a must-see. It was worth it but, oh, so much driving. At least we had a reliable van and nothing to tow. We saw so much wildlife, nearly everything on Chad's list. Todd had his new baby, a digital camera, and would regularly hop out of the van to take photos whenever the opportunity came. We'd see people lined up on the side of the road and knew there was something to see. Remarkably there were few people at the park so we had a lot of it to ourselves.

On Monday, we spent a lot of time walking around hot springs and such and I was looking for a particular one, with a hole in the bottom in the shape of a bear. This was special to me because the last time I was here I was 6 and with my own family. They had teased me that a bear had fallen into the spring and I believed them. When I saw that hot spring, I was excited. But then I started to cry ... and cry. I didn't want to leave. Memories of my Dad, knowing he had stood here with me and my family, it just kind of overwhelmed me (PMS didn't help my mood, either). Todd and the kids moved on, leaving me there all alone. All alone. It was quite a moment. Just me, in Yellowstone, with my memories. I will not forget it.

So, after enjoying all we could in Yellowstone, we had to head back late on Tuesday for Missoula. Now, I have always scoffed at minivans equipped with DVD players for the kids. I mean, WE survived traveling without these things as kids so who needs them? However, we bought a DVD of Yellowstone and thought, what the heck! It was late, so we let the kids watch as we drove and then they all went to sleep. Don't knock it until you try it, right?!

We'd had awesome weather in Yellowstone but on Wednesday, we knew a storm was moving in, complete with snow. We headed out of Missoula (with our van and trailer), back to the campground on the Washington/Idaho border (Clarkston/Lewiston). We took a different route, to avoid the snow we had seen on the pass that morning. This route was beautiful but at one point, we began climbing, and climbing. It was awfully hard on the van and Todd was pensive. Just as we were thinking we couldn't get much higher, we came out onto an enormous expanse, like a great canyon. It looked down on Moscow, Idaho, and it was beautiful but the grade going down was going to do a number on our brakes. I think I held my breath and prayed harder than ever. Everyone was silent. I was so glad to reach the bottom. The brakes were a bit warm but we made it.

We stayed two nights at the Clarkston, WA, campground, biking and hanging out. Friday, we headed for home, holding our breath with every incline. There seemed to be a lot of inclines and we didn't know if the van would be o.k. By this time, we didn't trust it (at least, I didn't). Going through the Columbia Gorge, we encountered a head wind that lasted about 80 miles. Todd fought that wind the whole way, poor guy. It beat us around a bit. Then, after Portland, there are at least 4 passes to deal with, along the Columbia River. But we made it. It has taken us two full days to recover. Even today, (Monday), everyone is still a bit shell-shocked by our trip. We had a lot of good times but way too many tense and stressful times. The kids held up well. And we saw our faith tested and strengthened by looking for God to provide and protect. On our last night camping, I needed just one more quarter to finish my laundry. The office was closed so I took my coins and began praying for an angel with a quarter. It was dark but I started walking around the campground and finally saw a couple walking. I knew I had found my angel. I asked if they would exchange my coins for a quarter. The husband obliged and even asked if I needed more. I said, "No thank you but I was praying for an angel and you're it!" So many times I was able to share with the kids how God provided for us. It would have been nice to have had a smooth, trouble-free vacation but life's not like that. We have to be thankful for what we are given and look for the good in people, places and life in general. And that's what this trip did. Definitely.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

No Trailer Yet

No, no trailer yet. However, that didn't stop us from taking a short, 2-day camping trip last week. Dang it.

We had hoped to have the trailer before we left for a couple of days at a beach campground we like, just 1-1/2 hours south of us. We had also hoped it wouldn't rain.

But rain it did. It let up long enough for Todd and Chad to set up the tent (ugh, says Kate) and then Todd said (bless him!) we weren't going to cook in the rain so we set out to search for a restaurant. The campground is just outside of Tillamook, which means "Land of Many Waters" but I believe it really means, "Land of Many Cows", because there are a lot of dairy farms in the area. However, it floods there almost annually so there you go. Tillamook is famous for it's cheese and it's our cheese of preference. Now, we've been to Tillamook many times but we've never actually eaten there so we didn't know where to go. I just happened to have called the local radio station before we left home to ask what the weather was there and I still had that phone number on my cell phone (brilliant, right?) We passed the local radio station on our way to the campground so I got the idea to call them again to ask where to eat. I listen to this station all the time at home so I knew who would answer the phone and I was right. The evening DJ gave me a couple of names of restaurants so we headed out for the first one he recommended. It was right on the bay, had a great view but it was under construction and looked like a dive at first. We decided to drive through town but didn't see anything that looked appealing so we went back to the first place. It turned out to be a nice place after all and the food was good. Thank you, Lord.

It was late and dark when we returned to the campground but it had stopped raining, except for occasional drizzle (nothing new here) so Todd started a fire and we sat around until 10:00 or so, talking and telling stories. That's probably my favorite time of camping. Good thing because I had no idea just how long my night was going to get.

After teeth brushing, we put everyone to bed and got in ourselves. The kids were already grumbling and whining. We haven't camped in our tent in over a year and a half and the kids have all grown, as in, outgrown our tent. It's supposed to sleep 6 but we think that means 6 little people or perhaps 2 adults and 4 very small kids. Carmen had outgrown her sleeping bag and kept flipping around until she was out of the bag completely. She cried and cried because she couldn't sleep, gave herself a headache and was nearly inconsolable in spite of all my efforts to comfort her. I rubbed her head, rubbed her back, etc., praying for God's help. I finally put her in my sleeping bag and she began to calm down, finally going to sleep around 12:30 or so. The bad thing about this is Todd and I sleep in two sleeping bags zipped together to make a double bag. With 8 year old Carmen next to me, I was sandwiched in the middle with 6' Todd on the other side. I couldn't move. At least I wasn't cold (for once). I laid there, dozing off and on, all night long, afraid to move as I didn't want to wake Carmen. The boys tossed and turned for several hours, it sounded like Alec was rolling over and over in his bag. Then, around 3:00 or so, everyone in the tent began to snore. First Alec, then Chad, then Todd, then Carmen. It was like a chorus of snoring, in harmony. I nearly burst out laughing but knew I had to be quiet. Before I knew it, I woke up hearing myself snore, proof that I had slept at least a little. What a night.

Did I mention I really don't like camping, especially tent camping?

I laid there until I saw light and, thank the Lord, it was a sunny day. We had breakfast, walked on the beach, made lunch, the kids went exploring. Todd and I took naps in the van. Well, he slept but I couldn't really. He took the kids kite flying while I tried to sleep some more. I wanted to go home but relented because everyone wanted to stay. Todd could see how upset I was and did all the cooking for dinner. We watched the sun set on the water and Todd got some good photos. We had a campfire again, which was fun but we put everyone to bed earlier this time. The kids all said they'd try harder to go to sleep. But we still had to put Carmen in our sleeping bag. Night 2 of no moving. But I was so tired I didn't care and fell asleep almost immediately at 10:00 (I'm a clock-watcher when we camp, a bad habit). An hour later, our camp neighbor's car alarm went off, sending Todd and me nearly through the top of the tent. Todd tried frantically to unzip the tent and I dove to get out of his way. We were both disoriented, forgetting momentarily where we were. He never did get the tent unzipped before our neighbor got the alarm turned off and we heard him say, "Sorry". I called out, "That's O.K." but I was so shaken it was quite some time before I could calm down enough to go back to sleep. During that time, Todd was turning over in his small space, just as I was sitting up a bit and, "WHAM" his strong elbow came into contact with my forehead. My whole head was shaken. He really belted me one good! It still hurts. I wanted to go home so badly. At that moment, I hated the world, hated the tent, hated the stupid yurt campers next door, hated my daughter's too-small sleeping bag. She spent part of the night perpendicular to me, kicking me in the knees. I kept moving her over to no avail. Todd finally offered to be in the middle, which I gladly accepted. Finally ... sleep.

Amazingly, and by God's grace, Carmen never woke up during all that commotion.

Another beautiful morning but I couldn't wait to get out of there. I accidentally tossed out one of my favorite paring knives (Note to self: Never take a kitchen utensil that you really like camping). I also closed the van door on my hand, not hard enough to do much damage but it scared me (well, it did hurt). My knees are bruised from getting in and out of the back of the van where the cooler and the food were stored. My back and knees hurt for 2 days from sleeping on the ground. What a baby ... waaah, waaah.

O.k., I've gotten this all out of my system. I am not a good camper, didn't camp as a kid, I'm spoiled by the conveniences of life. I do appreciate the beauty of the outdoors, God's creation and all. I just want a shower and private toilet at the end of the day. And a bed. Is that asking too much?

Oh, yeah. If we ever get the trailer, I will have those things. I think that's what frustrated me so much, knowing that trailer is across the river and there we were, sitting in the rain, slogging through the mud, sleeping on uneven ground under a wet, wet tent. This campsite is completely shrouded by trees, dripping, wet trees. All night long, the trees dripped so hard on the tent I envisioned chipmunks slapping the tent. (Chipmunks were everywhere.) Every time I got into the back of the van, there was one particular tree branch that waited for me, just to drip down my neck. Seriously! After the umpteenth time, I was ready to scream.

So much for relaxing in the great outdoors.

Perhaps I had to go through this experience to really appreciate the trailer. God forgive me for being so spoiled.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Our Long Trailer

In case you were wondering, I have reached my goal of learning "Memories" by the end of Aug. Now, I'm working on "The Sound of Music", although I'm not setting a deadline. But, gosh, playing piano is fun! I love the challenge of trying to make my fingers work at the same time my brain is trying to remember what note is what. It seldom gels but when it does, I'm so stoked!

But that's not what you came here to read about. Are there any Lucille Ball fans lurking about out there? I'm not much of a fan anymore but I grew up on the "I Love Lucy" b&w reruns that were always on Channel 11. There was also that movie (in color) called, "The Long, Long Trailer", starring Lucy and Desi Arnaz (of course). If you've ever seen that movie, you will understand the next paragraph.

We are in the process of buying a long trailer. A travel trailer. And more often than I care to admit, that movie comes to mind. I have no idea what I'm getting into. I'm sure camping in the trailer will be not that much different than tent/van camping except we'll have our own kitchen and bath (a godsend) so I'll bet I will like it a lot more. And perhaps I won't be cold, now there's a selling point right there. But I get the feeling that I should learn a lot more about it and fast. I stopped a neighbor down the street the other day (we've never spoken but he was walking out of his travel trailer as I drove by) just to see if he had any advice about RV's, like safety issues, etc. I've been reading anything we have in the house about RV's, which isn't much. I get research-happy about new things and this is no different. I just haven't had much time to research lately but I will.

In that Lucy movie, I remember her trying to prepare dinner in the trailer while her husband was driving it. As you can imagine, stuff was flying everywhere, typical Lucy-humor. In fact, it's the only scene I remember from the movie, which was probably way too adult for me to watch at the age I saw it. While I know I won't be in the trailer while it is moving, I keep thinking of stories I've heard, like the time some husband was doing a repair on the road and something electrocuted him, leaving the wife stranded. True story, unfortunately. I keep thinking, "What exactly did he do?" I also wonder if I'll get claustrophobic but the thing is huge, much larger than the van or the tent. I'm trying to look at the positive things and not dwell on my concerns. But I keep seeing Lucy lurching about, trying to stir something while her husband is turning corners. I think they pulled their trailer with a car. Don't ask me why my mind has chosen this scenario - I can't figure it out.

You know, my poor dear mother actually asked if we were going to pull that trailer with my prius. I guess that's the only vehicle she can remember that we have. I wanted to scream but I simply said that, no, we have a van quite capable of doing the job. My mom makes me want to scream frequently these days but that's another story that won't be posted here. Respect your mom, never write negatively about her. There's some stand-up comedienne who's being sued by her mother-in-law because of the negative things this lady has been saying about her in her comedy shows. That'll teach her.

Oh, I've digressed again. The trailer. Yes. My family is excited. It hasn't sunk in for me. It's not here yet. When we do finally pull it into our driveway, perhaps all my concerns will be put to rest. I hope.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Never Too Old

This is kind of cool. We are a semi-musical family. My husband plays piano and is teaching himself guitar. He's also trying to teach second son, Alec, guitar but Alec is not known for being consistent. There's still hope. Chad took piano for five years then switched to euphonium until his braces prevented him from playing. He switched back to piano on his own but I hadn't heard him play in months.

The cool thing is that I decided I would try to learn how to play piano on my own. After several months of sporadic playing here and there, I finally learned two small pieces (I especially like "Scarborough Fair") and am currently working on "Memories" from the Cats musical. I have observed a resurgence of interest in Chad since I have been working on these pieces. I have asked for his help several times since I only read music up to a point. My formal (school) training is in clarinet and choir, which only helps so much but at least I can figure out the notes. And it's fun! When I was 20, I rented a piano for $21 a month and tried to teach myself from a book of music that included Elton John and Steely Dan, not exactly beginner's material. I got discouraged after 6 months and turned in the piano.

Now, at least, I have two trained pianists for help and I'm much more patient with myself. Owning the piano helps. I also have an audience, including the dogs next door who hear me through the window. Playing for an audience makes one sit up straighter, etc. My family also encourages me which is nice, even when I hit the wrong notes.

But the best thing is seeing Chad tackling a hard piece. He's been listening to a CD of the music he's playing and then goes to the piano to work on it. It's wonderful to watch. He really has potential, this young one. I try to be encouraging to him without pushing. I hope, hope, hope, he pursues it.

Anyone out there remember Steely Dan? (I loved the "Aja" album but I was in Jr. High, I think, so I'm probably the only one who remembers!)

Monday, August 10, 2009

O.K., About The Llamas ...

Funny you should ask. When Todd and I were young, idealistic, and newly married to boot, we began working on a dream to move to a small piece of land in the country and raise something. An animal something, that is. We were living in Southern California at the time, where we grew up, and had no idea how to raise any kind of live stock but we started researching. We first heard about a woman raising muskoxen in Montana. But after learning more about the injuries she received from her precious herd, we began looking for less dangerous beasts. Enter the alpaca. Smaller than its cousin, the llama, producing better wool to sell or spin, and darn cute to walk among (especially the babies) we thoroughly researched this kind of venture. We visited several alpaca farms in California, meeting owners and learning how it's done. We were hooked. The downside was that alpacas were very expensive at the time (this was 20 years ago, before the market became glutted and then declined in popularity). So we began looking at llamas more seriously. They were less expensive and could be trained to carry a pack and used for hiking. We made the big move to OR in our 3rd year of marriage, after several trips north and a lot of prayer. God's guidance was so evident that it would take another post to tell. Anyway, we ended up on nearly an acre in a rural setting which allowed us to have perhaps 2 llamas. We figured it was a start and hoped to get more land someday and grow more animals. We found our first llama, which we named Abraham, in a cramped little stall on a makeshift petting zoo/farm. The eccentric owner sold him to us for a price we could afford and we took our 6 mo old babe home. He was so cute. We fell in love. I got so used to watching him out the kitchen window, grazing and walking around within the electric New Zealand style fencing that Todd labored to put up. The electric wire was to keep out the vicious dog next door that had tried to attack Abraham the day we brought him home. I was so glad when that dog disappeared, along with it's weird owners.

After 6 months, we visited a veterinarian on whose farm Abraham was born. Abraham's older brother was still there and we decided to purchase him as well. Bad move. We loved Abraham's gentle demeanor and sweetness. Big brother was a nasty animal. Hard to train, stubborn. Abraham trained to a halter and pack with no problems, really. Isaac was always difficult. We named him Isaac because it means something like laughter but he was no laughing matter. He kicked Abraham in the face right after we brought him home. I was in tears. They resolved their difficulties, however, and learned to live together. Every evening, they would begin chasing each other, then stop and pose, chase again, then would begin galloping around and around. It was hysterical. I have observed this kind of behavior in my own kids when they were very small. What is it about the evening?

To sum things up, after we had our second child, we were forced to move from our dinky house in the country and into a larger home in town. Shortly thereafter, we auctioned our llamas off to a couple who had a place for them down the coast, south of here. We've not seen them since. It was an experience I'm glad we had and there are times I wish my kids could have grown up with them. We will never forget them.

Friday, August 7, 2009


Todd & Kate
August 6, 1988

3 - kids
2 - states
3 - homes
4 - moves
2 - businesses
3 - episodes of melanoma
1 - heart surgery
2 - llamas
1 - God
21 years of happy marriage

Thanks Todd!
You have been and always will be the only one for me!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Whew! (In more ways than one)

It's official - the Kay Snow Awards winners were announced via email and I did NOT win. I am so relieved to know, even though I was pretty certain I didn't have a chance. I kind of hate what I submitted - I deserved not to win! It was too dark, coming from a sad and scary place and time for me. I'm also relieved that I do not have to attend the awards ceremony, taking place two days after our 21 wedding anniversary in August. However, I just found out who the guest speaker at the awards is going to be and it's a Portland author I am interested in meeting. She used to write a weekly column in the Sunday Oregonian and I always wanted her job. Every time I read her column, I thought I could at least write the kind of stuff she wrote about - usually short essays about her daily life or past. The stuff I write about. Now, she no longer has that column but is concentrating on her third book. Her first book was a best seller and her second is doing very well. Sigh. While I am thrilled for her and her success, I really don't want her life, I just want my own life as an author. Preferably one who can make a little $$. Know what I mean? (Yes, Todd, I know, I know.)

"Whew" also refers to how stinkin' hot is was here today! Man! We actually went out and bought an air conditioner for our bedroom and another fan for the living room. We had every window and ceiling fan in the house going. We were all miserable. Even going in and out of stores was rough, being blasted by heat again and again. We are not used to this. It gets like this, though rarely, where it will be cool and in the low 70's forever and then, wham! The temps shoot up 15-20 degrees in one morning and everyone wilts. It was interesting to see how people around here dress for heat they are not prepared for. Lots of white, white limbs and an interesting array of summer clothes. One woman looked like a street walker (she might have been, I didn't ask.) I was pretty certain I saw a teenage boy in a skirt. And then, at the grocery store, I was walking past a display of signs, the one I focused on said, "Dog On Premises". Then I turned my head and there was a dog, right there at my feet in the store! This is not a common sight at Fred Meyer. The lady walking behind him said he couldn't take the heat in her car. I asked if the store allowed it and she said they would tolerate it for a few minutes. So, off goes this dog wandering the aisles, no leash. Hmmm. I think the heat makes people a little nuts - at least here on the OR coast.

So, now, we have the equivalent of a hotel room-like atmosphere in my own private bedroom. I get to freeze just like I do in Portland. Why is my side of the bed always nearest the air conditioner?

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Fraise Fatigue

I have had this title in my head for a week now. Our two strawberry pots on our deck have been flourishing, rewarding us with ripe strawberries not once but twice a day. My daughter likes to go out in the morning, basket in hand, and pick the best ones. Later, before dinner, she heads out, usually with Chad, and finds more that have ripened in the heat. Yes, we are actually having a summer now, after a cold and foggy June. What a great feeling to wear summer clothes around the house and be too warm. Evenings, when we walk, I still wear a sweatshirt but I don't have to wear my winter parka anymore. It was getting embarrassing in June, the sun shining but there I was, freezing in my parka during our after-dinner walks. Anyway, I digress ...

The strawberries, yes (fraise, in French). Having strawberries means you have to prepare them because you do, after all, have to eat them. Every day, I have been preparing strawberries. At first, we bought those sponge cake cups at the store to eat them on. But they have changed the sponge cakes - they are now Twinkies without the cream (Hostess is the only brand that makes these cakes, at least here in our stores.) Ugh. We are not a Hostess family. So I made our favorite pound cake, a recipe from my first Better Homes & Gardens cookbook that a kind boss of mine gave me back when I turned 21. He liked to cook and was always telling me recipes that I would scribble down on scratch paper. I still have some of those scraps in my recipe box. Anyway, the pound cake lasted 3 days, slicing it thin and only having it after dinner (it's pretty rich). No whipped cream, just cake, strawberries and, for some of our family, milk poured in around the cake in a bowl. Delicious. But now the cake is gone. And there are still strawberries ripening daily. The boys and I like to eat them plain, on their own. But my husband will only eat them cut up, smashed with sugar and on top of something cake-like. So now, I have to make something else. Shortcake seems the likely suspect but I've not had very good luck with shortcake. Decisions, decisions.

Don't get me wrong. I am thankful we have been blessed with strawberries. Growing up in California, it wasn't summer if there weren't strawberries bought at one of the many local farms around our town. As I got older, I saw a lot of those farms get plowed under and turned into buildings and parking lots. But there was always a place to buy strawberries. When we moved here to Oregon, we discovered Oregon berries, available for a very short time. They are smaller but really good. I like them better than the huge berries you buy shipped up here from CA. It's just that I have never, ever prepared so many strawberries in one summer in my life.

I think it was the way our summer of berries began that led to my early fatigue. The day before the 4th of July, Todd spotted big, beautiful strawberries at the grocery store and couldn't resist. We here on the coast don't often get terrific berries at the stores, I don't know what happens to them between their place of origin and here but this was a rare find. He bought 6 quarts (I think that was the size) and announced we were going to make jam. He filled the sink with water and berries and I stood there for 2 hours, rinsing, hulling and slicing strawberries. He and the kids did the jam part. I was exhausted. I never wanted to see another berry again after that. And then our plants on the deck began to ripen. And ripen. And ripen.

So, that's my story. I love how much fun Carmen is having, being the official strawberry picker. I took her photo with her basket. Funny thing is, she won't eat them. She tried one and it was too "stingy". Go figure. She likes the cake, but without strawberries. I guess you could say she has fear of fraise.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Seeing (Simply) Red, Leo and Thunder

The Coincidence Queen strikes again (I'm sorry, I can't help myself.)

Last night, I was listening to a local radio station that plays 80's music from 6 pm-midnight on Saturday. I love 80's music so I was listening with my oldest son. Lately, he's been asking me who the singers are whenever I listen to the radio. Anyway, on this Saturday 80's program, they feature something called Back-To-Back, where they play 3 songs in a row and the listener is to try and guess the name of the song and the singer/group. The songs are often something that wasn't played a lot so this can be a challenge. And they don't tell you the answers until all 3 songs have been played. Song #1: I couldn't think of the singer's name but I knew the song. Song #2: I guessed the group Simply Red but didn't know the title. Song #3 was unremarkable and I didn't have a clue. Then they gave the answers. Song #1 was a surprise (it was U2). Song #2 was a group I had never heard of. Song #3 - you guessed it - the group Simply Red. Is that weird or what? I guessed the name of the group during the 2nd song and it turned out to be the group for the 3rd song! Weird. So today, I turned on the radio (to a different local station) and it was just finishing up a song. The very next song was Simply Red (I Keep Holding On)! I shouted to my son, "Hey, Chad, this is Simply Red, you know, the group from last night!" He just rolled his eyes and shook his head. He's used to his eccentric mother getting excited about obscure things.

On to more important things. Like fish. Todd was not content with just Chad's fish in Todd's new tank. He bought a few more. One, a butterfly fish, he allowed me to help with naming: I said "Flutter" so he changed it to "Flutterbudget" after the nickname Pa gave to Laura Ingalls when she was a tyke. Alec, for reasons unknown I think even to himself, decided he just had to have a lionhead goldfish. Named Leo. (A $7 goldfish - yikes!) He put it in with his female betta. Within a few hours, she nipped a hole in the new guy's tail. Out she went, banished to her former and much smaller home. Leo 1, betta 0. (Her name escapes me at the moment - we are so overrun with fish there's NO WAY I can remember who is who.) Leo appears to have a grin when you look at him just right - I think he's feeling smug 'cause he's got the place to himself now.

Ever heard of MaryJanesFarm magazine? It's really cool. It's for chic farmgirls, in the city or country. Or for those of us who aspire to be farmgirl-like but don't have a clue and hate to get our nails dirty. I just subscribed mainly because of an amazing biscuit recipe in it. My husband declared they were the best biscuits I had ever made. If you knew my miserable history with biscuit making (no Bisquick here folks), you'd understand just how awesome it felt to hear him make that statement. Let me know if you are interested - there's nothing in it for me, I'm just excited about it and want to spread the joy.

I must go - my oldest son is asleep on the couch because Alec's new pump in Leo's tank is too loud for Chad to sleep in the same room with. But we can't let Chad continue to sleep in the livingroom. Maybe we could set him up with a sleeping bag in the dining room. Or pitch a tent on the deck - oh, wait, it's raining. We had a remarkable day of thunder and lightning today. It went from about 4:00 a.m. until nearly lunchtime, I think. Just yesterday, we went for a walk in the warmth of the sun and stopped to talk to the owner of a beautiful hidden garden in our neighborhood. We both agreed that July is the time of year when you could almost count on sunny weather here. Apparently, we were wrong.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Because We Don't Have Enough Fish Tanks

My husband has been eyeing a rather large fish tank at our local pet store for the past month or so. I was not convinced that we needed more fish in our home at this time. But then there was Father's Day and I said he could get the tank as his gift. The next time we went to the pet store, that particular tank was gone. Ever so accommodating, the store had other tanks to choose from. We decided to wait.

Late last night, I heard a noise down the hall so I went to investigate. As usual, Todd was working, which is the only time I hear strange noises. My oldest son was still awake because of the activity going on across the street. It seems that some older teens decided to pour some gasoline in the middle of the street and set in on fire. My son watched it all from his window (he has the top bunk). They were leaving by the time I looked out. We live in a quiet neighborhood, things like this don't usually happen. Calling the police would have been pointless because we think one of the kids was a neighbor's son and his father IS a cop. So we let it lie. The kids left and all was quiet. Then my son pointed his flashlight at his fish tank and said it was leaking. Sure enough, it was. Water was seeping slowly out from the bottom. Great. Why do these things happen at 11:30 pm, while Todd is away?! I put a towel around it and said we'd deal with it tomorrow. Just as I was closing Chad's door, I heard the front door open (always a startling sound late at night). ICU was closed (meaning no patients) and Todd had spent 5 hours working in the ER, then he was sent home to be on-call. By now, I was wide awake and figured it was useless to try to sleep. But I did, after everyone else went to sleep.

Next day, we decided now was a good time to get Todd's new fish tank. We have to put Chad's fish somewhere while Todd repairs Chad's tank. So, of course, it made sense to buy a 26 gal. tank to put in the living room (um, o.k.) It's big. Chad's enormous plecostomus(?) (a ground feeding fish) is dwarfed by the size of this tank. Tonight will be the first time I will sleep (alone) with this new noise (the filter, pump, etc.) just down the hall in the living room. I don't know if it will lull me to sleep or not - I hope so. When Chad's tank is repaired, we'll have to buy new fish for the new tank. I just hope I don't have nightmares about Chad's huge pleco jumping out of the tank and swishing down the hall - that thing scares me. A blog friend had fish jump out of her tank once, huge fish. (If you read this, you'll know who you are.)

The good news is that I refuse to accept responsibility for any maintenance of any of the fish tanks. All I do is feed Carmen's guppies. All the cleaning, etc., is left up to the guys. Chad and/or Todd maintain Carmen's tank. So, I suppose, if all I have to put up with is a little water noise, it's not so bad. Sounds kind of like a fountain in a pond. I can hear it from in here (where the computer is) but the house and neighborhood are pretty quiet right now. The tank looks nice in the living room, I must admit.

But where will it end? How much is enough when it comes to fish? Carmen has been talking about wanting a betta. Alec, who has a betta, wants to get a tank like Chad's. But first, Alec wants to build his own jelly fish tank. Todd is contemplating breeding his male and female bettas. Me? I just want a quiet life ...

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Coincidence

It's happening again.

I have this knack for coincidences. It's like they are drawn to me, like a vortex with me at the center. I used to think if was eerie, but now I think I'm just overly sensitive to them so I notice them more. I also ponder them for awhile, which is why they stay in my head for a time.

The following are coincidences that have happened to me in the last 2 months:

- My son, Chad, and I were driving into town to the bank. It's a small town, 10,000 people, and the bank is about 2 miles away. In that time, we began to discuss the type of car my husband used to want to buy. We hadn't seen one in a long time; in fact, we couldn't remember the name of the car, even though Todd used to point out this particular car every time he saw one. We pulled up to the drive-through at the bank and at the same time saw the car in front of us. In unison, Chad and I said, "Eagle Vision!" Yep, it was the car in question.

- Another car issue. Chad and I were walking in our neighborhood, taking a different loop which led us into a street we hadn't walked on in a long time. We were discussing the Neon, another car we hadn't seen in a long time. We came around a corner and there sat a Neon. Again, we both said, "A Neon!" This may become a recurring theme.

- About two weeks ago, I was listening to my all classical radio station out of Portland and they were playing Beethoven's only opera, "Fidelio", mentioning the fact that it was originally called "Leonora". The following Sunday, on our local radio station, they played the entire opera during the Sunday morning opera time. Here is where I learned more about the plot and storyline. I didn't like it but the music was good. And then, 3 days later, we were in the car listening to different stations, when I came across music I recognized - sure enough, it was from "Fidelio" and they mentioned Leonora again. I couldn't get away from it!

- Today - I've been reading Frances Mayes book entitled, "In Tuscany", and her husband, Ed, writes a few chapters in this book. He quotes Ralph Waldo Emerson as saying, "Hitch your wagon to a star." Until today, I had never heard this quote (I need to read more Emerson) . Tonight, I was reading a news story from the home page online about Ed McMahon who just passed away. In this news story, they quote him from several interviews and in one of the interviews, he is talking about his good fortune to work with Johnny Carson. He says, "There's the old phrase, hook your wagon to a star. I hitched my wagon to a great star." I found it interesting that I read this phrase by Emerson twice within a few hours of each other, from completely different sources.

I think it's kind of fun to notice a coincidence. It's not hard, they happen all the time. Have I mentioned this one: My husband's mother is married to Bob, my stepfather-in-law. He has two daughters, and one of them (Lisa) was in my 8th grade English class. Bob didn't know my mother-in-law at that time. I remember his daughter from that class but she doesn't remember me very well. What's more, one my best friends from that time is Jeree, who was also good friends with Lisa. Bob remembers Jeree very well. And get this: My husband's sister, Jill, worked with Jeree for a time about 15 years ago. So, when I get my yearly Christmas newsletter from Jeree, I update Jill and Bob on how Jeree and her family are doing. Got all that?

I told you this is fun!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

How Does Your Garden Grow?

We've been doing a lot walking in our neighborhood this past week and it's been fun and interesting observing all the gardens. Some are carefully planned, some have made some gallant attempts and others are pretty much weed gardens. Most everyone has the same plants (all bought at one of three local nurseries) so it's a challenge to seek out more unusual plants and flowers. I love the hidden gardens that we have seen. There are even some hidden homes that I never noticed before, blocked from view by trees or shrubs, sometimes unruly overgrowth. One home has an old bicycle as an ornamental element (?) O.k. Lots of trees have been cut down, due to that bad storm we had at the end of 2007. Which has given some people on the hill a view they never had.

I wish I had a gardener's touch. I can only read about it and observe others' creativity. Perhaps I just lack confidence. Is it a learned technique? Or are you born that way?

The book I'm reading is discussing gardens in Italy. Now there's some creativity, to be sure. Centuries-old creativity, in the form of mazes, pergolas and fountains. Gardens were often an extension of the home, apparently. I guess when you live in a place that allows you to be outside often, a lovely garden would be like having another room. That certainly can't be done here.

I will be content with my geranium in a pot on my deck, flanked by our potted strawberries, peppers and tomatoes. For now. If I start reading soon, perhaps I can expand my horizons next year.

Monday, June 8, 2009

In A Mood

A month ago today, I was in Leavenworth, WA, celebrating my birthday. My, how time flies.

Anyway, I've been re-reading "My Life In France", by Julia Child, and it inspired me to find her first cookbook online. As I was looking for it, I discovered that this book (the one I just read) has been made into a movie, starring Meryl Streep! I can't think of anyone else in this role, as I happen to be in awe of Ms. Streep and her chameleon-like acting ability. I don't think this movie is out yet (we don't go to the movies) but if anyone of you do happen to see it, I'd love to know what you thought of it.

I think I've found the Julia Child cookbook I want to get. Who better to learn how to cook from? I still struggle with my cooking ability, although I love to read cookbooks and books about cooking. Eating is not my favorite thing to do so I don't know why I like reading about food. Bon appetit!

It's not fair. I'm newly 46 and I thought I'd have my life in better order by now. No. I'm still pretty much the same person I was 20 years ago, in a lot of ways. Perhaps I need to concentrate on the good things about me that I still am, rather than focus on the things I still am and wish I wasn't. I'll give you a minute to figure out that last sentence ...

You know, I think my braces make me feel younger somehow. Isn't THAT a strange thing to think?

I apologize for the mood I've been in lately. Age has been a theme and a depressing one at that. I hope this passes. And soon.

O.k., think about something I am now that I wasn't 20 years ago. The mother of 3 children. Considering I thought I would never be a mom, that's a pretty good something. (Thank you, Lord!)

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Strange Days

Is it just me or are strange things happening around your neighborhood as well?

A few days ago, my family was out on our after dinner stroll, this time all five of us, when we passed by a neighbor's house. My husband knows this neighbor and this man waved us down to his home, (his driveway is long and on an incline, therefore, we had to walk "down"). He seemed very friendly, even overly so, and that's when I saw the bottle of beer in his hand. Bummer. I'm not at all comfortable with people who have been drinking and here we were with all my kids as well. The neighbor wanted us all to come in to see his newly remodeled kitchen. Apparently, Todd had installed a counter top for this neighbor years ago (back when he was a self-employed cabinet maker) and now that counter top has been removed and replaced, along with other changes to the kitchen. It was really nice and we all enjoyed seeing his home. But ... this guy was drunk, at least he was a happy drunk. He tried to call his wife out to meet us but apparently she was, how did he put it ... "Oh, she's gone," he said, and we guessed she had already passed out from her evening imbibing. It was only 8:00 pm for goodness sake! Anyway, we politely left as soon as we could and when we got home, we had a really good discussion with the kids about his behavior. We discussed how we shouldn't talk bad about him but also how drinking affects your behavior, etc. It turned out to be a good discussion but I really didn't expect the night to turn out like it did. We saw him again tonight, wielding a weed-eater and we were hoping he was sober.

A few weeks ago, we went to get milk at our favorite pharmacy and we saw that the front door was all closed up with wood and the glass was gone. When we asked what had happened, they said a lady had pulled up in front of the store and stepped on the gas instead of the brake. She was in her 70's and had a small dog on her lap. Fortunately, no one was really injured, except for a man who was hit by a side mirror, scraping his arm. Stupid and strange.

We had a garage sale over Memorial Day. It went reasonably well, had good weather and most people bought something. My son did nearly all the work, bless him. However, our first customer was a family of ethnic origin, bringing with them a small boy wearing a face mask and a smaller girl with sniffles. Ugh! Why on earth did they feel the need to drag these sick kids to our sale I don't know. I took their money and after they left, I put the bills in a baggie and sprayed Lysol in it and let if dry. I know, I know, I'm paranoid but after they left, we went inside and listened to the local news on the radio. They announced the first swine flu case in our county. Great, just great. My husband said, "Yeah, the second case just left our garage sale!" I was not amused. Strange, stupid and sick!

The second customer that day was an older guy that pulled up in an old sedan with signs on the door protesting something or other. He bought a bunch of children's books and said he was a child psychiatrist for the police department. Then he said he had a stuffed bear in his car named after a character Elvis played in some movie. He was jittery and made me really nervous, especially after hearing about Elvis. Oooh, boy, was I glad when he left.

Fortunately, we had fairly normal people after that disturbing morning. We even had a guy buy our pedestal sink for $5.00. We were selling it so cheap because we got it free from another neighbor about 4 streets over last year. It turns out that this man grew up not far from where I did and we talked a fair amount. Too much, apparently, for his wife as she finally went out to their car and started the engine. He gave us the money for the sink and asked it he could come back later to pick it up. We said that was fine. And then he never showed. We still have the sink AND his money. It didn't feel right but I wasn't sure what to do. Then I decided I'd donate the money he gave us to a local charity, which DID feel right. But now we have to store the sink.

Perhaps June will be more normal - unless normal no longer mean what I think it means.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Is it possible to like change yet have difficulty adjusting to change?

Is it also possible to like to go to different places, even live in different places far and near, yet like the comfort of being at home?

How do you balance serving your family and allowing your kids to learn how to take care of themselves?

Why is it that about 60% of the time, when I go to the market, the handwipes container to clean the grocery carts is empty?

Which brings to mind another grocery store question: Is it normal to suspect that the store monitors what you buy just to discontinue selling that very item (we certainly feel this is true of our family, as this happens time and time again.)

Do you ever buy from those bulk containers that look less than sanitary?

Do you stack the dishwasher from the front to the back or vice versa?

Why is it that I only hear loud, strange noises in our neighborhood at night when my husband is at work.

Is it better to live life knowing the answers or asking questions? (This thought came from a book I'm reading called, "Crispin, The Cross of Lead" by Avi.)

This isn't a question, it's an answer (in case you were wondering). My teeth aren't hurting as much, it's getting easier to eat. I am adjusting. My daughter says my braces look beautiful.

Now how can I argue with that?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Bonding With My Son (It's Not What You Think)

Last Thursday, I officially joined the ranks (young and old) of brave souls who willingly allow a trained professional to glue metal brackets on your teeth that are guaranteed to inflict pain, usually when you least expect it. We even pay lots of money to let these people do this to us. And we curse them again and again, as we bite down on something as innocent as a toasted English muffin and wince in pain. The knowledge that you can't remove these darn things is somewhat akin to how The Man in The Iron Mask must have felt. At least that's my opinion. I'm at the end of Day 4 and still, it hurts. Advil has been my friend. I've even lost a pound because it just seemed easier not to eat, although today is better. At the table, my family shows sympathy whenever I wince, which is embarrassing to me but sweet of them. I have learned to eat nearly everything cut up in small bites, including sandwiches.

Last week, I told my mother (by phone) that I was getting braces. She was silent. Then she said, " I didn't think you could get braces when you are so old." Good ol' Mom.

When I walked into the orthodontist's office, all the workers (they are called "the girls", believe it or not) were standing there and they turned and stared at me. I stared back until I finally said, "Stop looking at me like that!" Todd told me later that they were all surprised that I kept my appointment, they figured I wouldn't show up. I guess I showed them. Apparently, I have a reputation in this office, as the orthodontist has been after me for a year to get braces. I've always given my excuses for not wanting them. He and my husband chat when Todd takes Chad in for his monthly adjustments. This was all Todd's idea, completely. I would not have dreamed of doing this, due to the expense and the inconvenience, not to mention the pain. I hate, hate, hate the "chair" - in ANY dental office. And now I am committed to "monthly" adjustments for 6-12 months - these people belong in a medieval torture chamber!!!

There ... now I've gotten my rant out of the way.

I really hate having my mouth propped open but that's what they have to do. I laid there for an hour, getting pumiced and glued. Wire inserted. Lovely shade of pink rubber bands wrapped around each brace. Todd came in and stood by the chair. Tears started to flow down my cheeks and into my ears (the chair was tilted into a near headstand position). As he looked down at me, I waited for Todd to say something comforting ... "You look like Wallace and Gromit*, you know, the way they smile?" Not what I expected. More tears. He held my hand and Chad came in, stood on the other side of me and held my other hand. That helped. The tech (or whatever her name or title is) finally removed the darn plastic mouth-prop thing and I felt my lips go over the braces for the first time. What did I feel? Panic! Oh, my gosh! This is me for many months to come! At least it's only the top row of teeth. Sigh.

Fortunately, the pain didn't begin right away. It hurt but I got through it. It's better now but there are times I still feel bummed. Everyone keeps saying how glad I'll be when it's done. I look forward to that time.

About the bonding with my son: Chad has been my support and my coach through this whole thing. I asked him a ton of questions before and after and he's been a doll. Very comforting. I love this kid. Now we have more in common than acne and the gift of gab.

*"Wallace and Gromit" is a British clay-mation series of short, silly movies - and not a complement to be compared to.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

How I Spent My Birthday (For Once, It Wasn't On Mother's Day)

On May 8, 1963, a daughter was born to a family that already had 3 daughters. By then, Dad had given up on ever having a son, though he never, ever complained about it. It was close enough to Mother's Day that Mom always said their daughter was the best Mother's Day gift she could ever receive. That daughter was me, of course. Forever cursed to do the Birthday-Mother's Day dance. How do you celebrate both holidays properly, especially when they land on the very same day? Together? Not fair. Apart? Too frivolous. Add the mother-in-law in there and you've got more problems. I now live too far to even see my own Mom on Mother's Day. Sigh. This year, I had seriously felt like skipping them both altogether. Who cares, really? But my sweet husband had other ideas.

He secretly planned a short holiday for our family at one of our favorite places to visit. We were already scheduled to see our droll dermatologist in Portland and stay overnight, since it was so close to my birthday. But Todd went and booked two nights in Leavenworth, WA, for the following days! Imagine my surprise when I accidentally found this out by seeing an e-mail confirming our reservation! I felt SO badly for that but I couldn't undo what had been done. And I had to tell him I knew. He was bummed but I tried to cheer him up by telling him he should have seen my face when I found out! Anyway, he forgave me, I worked like mad to do a ton of laundry and we set off on a foggy, way-too-rainy Wednesday.

After our appointment, we went to the Oregon Zoo to see the baby elephant that was born 8 months ago. He's grown, all right! The zoo was basically empty as it had been raining and everyone else was at school (the joys of homeschooling!) A quick dinner at Togo's and back to our usual Portland hotel for the night. The kids usually have no trouble sleeping here as it's kind of like our home away from home but I guess they were excited about Leavenworth. Todd and Carmen slept - the rest of us struggled.

Up for our hotel breakfast and then on to Leavenworth. This town is set in what they call "The Enchantments", a valley surrounded by awesome mountains usually covered in snow. The town redid itself in a Bavarian theme and the hotel we stay at is one of the best there. It's definitely an infrequent treat. It has a huge breakfast room with amazing views of the mountains and serves an excellent breakfast, which is one of my kids' favorite things about it. I happen to love their oatmeal (I'm not hard to please). I got to watch the sun rise and set over the hills from our room and the moon was full or nearly so and one night, Todd and I went out to the large deck to look at the moon together. The moon gazing down on us over "The Enchantments" was very romantic. But the door back in was locked. Finding our way back into the hotel was fun - the place is big. It's so nice that the kids are old enough to stay in the room by themselves for a bit. Todd and I also went down and listened to the nightly piano music together. Good to spend alone time with my husband. When we first went into our hotel room, I saw that they had put out a bottle of sparkling cider with a card that said "Happy Birthday" with two wine glasses. On my birthday, all five of us toasted to me. My non-soda drinking kids didn't like the bubbles but that's just fine. I hope they always stay non-soda drinking! Todd and the kids also had cards for me to open. We ate well for every meal, I didn't have to do dishes, it was a great time all around. On my birthday, we ate at a restaurant called "Cafe Mozart". It was so cool and our meals were excellent. The background music was familiar to us (we like Mozart) and that night there was a harpist playing. She took to our family immediately and my kids ended up sitting with her while she played. I got a photo (for once) but only after I saw another lady take a picture and it dawned on me that I should do the same. I'm clueless about photo ops. We walked around the little shops, the kids swam and played racquetball, we golfed at the hotel's putting green. I had a wonderful time and a terrific birthday. Thanks, Todd!

After all this extravagance, I thought today would be rather quiet. My husband came home from work this morning and about an hour later, I finally got up and ready for the day. Walked into the kitchen and there was a dozen pink roses on the table with cards and donuts. Todd was cooking eggs and bacon. What a guy! He really made me feel special this week. I am so thankful for this husband of mine. He went to bed (he's working tonight) and my kids did the dishes. I read. After lunch, I took a nap in my big chair and when I woke up, I read some more. Without guilt. It felt terrific. In between, I finished unpacking our suitcases and did laundry. But it was a great Mother's Day. Oh, and my mother-in-law? She's been in Turkey since last Tuesday. I wonder what kind of day she had?

Sunday, May 3, 2009

What I've Learned Recently

With my 46th (gasp!) birthday approaching at the end of this week, I'm taking stock of what I've learned recently.

I've learned that it is, indeed, possible to put a thong on wrong - and wear it a few hours before realizing the mistake.

I've learned that getting older sucks. One day you are young and can do anything. The next day ....

I've learned that one must not react immediately to anything a child confides in you. One must think carefully about how to respond. Never be shocked or dismayed (at least openly) to what you hear.

I've learned that without God, I am nothing and can do even less. To reach down deep and find the strength to crawl out of whatever hole you've dug for yourself cannot be done alone. I need God.

So, what have YOU learned lately?

Thursday, April 23, 2009


Well, in case you were wondering, it's April 23rd and my story was mailed yesterday. Hooray! It had to be postmarked by today and it's just going to Portland. Now, Portland is only 100 miles away, as the crow flies. (I love that saying, "as the crow flies") From Astoria, that envelope left yesterday in a big, white truck at 6:00 pm (so they say). It takes two hours to get to Portland, but who knows what post office it will end up at. It may take a day or two for that envelope to get handed off from person to machine and back again, getting stamped and perhaps folded up a bit along the way. Into another truck with a friendly postperson who probably will be wearing one of those ranger-like brimmed hats and baggy shorts. They'll pack up their bags and head into Portland, after stopping for coffee (of course). That envelope will be delivered to the suite number it's addressed to and will lay on someone's desk for an unknown amount of time. Finally, someone will notice it and say, "Hey, here's another unknown writer hoping we'll love their story and award them first prize." Or maybe second, or even third. (The third place prize will almost cover the entry fee - it's a small contest.) The envelope will be opened, the check given to accounts receivable, the package divided up between the three judges that will be deciding who the winner is. I had to send three copies so I'm assuming there are three judges. Of course, this is all speculation. Who knows what journey my story has taken. The good news is that I retain ownership of my writing (it's in the rules!) Which means that I can use it again anywhere I want.

The main thing is that I DID IT! After posting about the contest, I knew I had to achieve my goal. Or else risk being scolded by my husband (or perhaps an encouraging blog friend.) In my opinion, it doesn't matter if I win or not; to me, I have already won my own contest. And it feels good.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Procrastinate: To Dilly-Dally, Delay

Has it already been a week since I posted? I'm sitting here posting instead of doing what I should be doing: dishes, laundry, washing my hair, finishing that piece I said I was going to enter into a writing contest. I finally (gulp!) read the thing to my husband today. Gosh, that was hard! Hard!! I feel so extremely vulnerable whenever I read something I've written to someone (that sentence is awkward but you get my drift). It's like opening up your chest and exposing your heart, allowing someone the opportunity to injure it. Especially if it's an emotional thing, which this piece of writing definitely is. But Todd was sweet and said he thought it was good, and worth the entry fee to submit. Bless him! The deadline is April 23rd, so I'd best get it done.

We actually hit 62 degrees outside today - what a thrill to be warm, even too warm. I just learned today that the word "thrill" actually comes from being pierced with a spear, or something like that, back in medieval days. I love word origins.

See, I'm just playing here. Procrastinating. So, how's the weather in your part of the world? Anybody know a good recipe using mushrooms? Read any good pirate stories? ARE there any good pirate stories?

Enough. I'm off to write a little, launder a little and dish wash a lot.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter Weekend

Weeks ago, my mother-in-law called to invite us to Easter dinner. Actually, the night before Easter (Easter eve?). My husband had to work so it would be a (mercifully) quick affair for us and that would be that. I decided to do the basket/egg hunt thing on Sat. morning as well. Have our Easter early. Then Carmen decided she wanted to hide baskets for Todd and me (what a sweetie!), which she did with her brother's help. And I did my typical stay-up-way-too-late filling plastic eggs and Todd hid them, and the baskets. We scaled way back this year. Less candy, one non-candy item per basket. Saturday a.m. was fun and then Todd went back to bed. We rested most of the day and I read from the Bible. I've been reading all week from Mark, about the last week of Jesus' life on earth. Then I got the kids ready to go to grandma's, woke Todd up and got ready myself. We were actually the first to arrive - a monumental first. My mil was shocked to see us there so early! Then her friends arrived, an older couple. She had warned us about them beforehand - her exact words were, "She's obese and he's a typical educator." By this, I decided that we shouldn't be shocked at this person's weight and we shouldn't discuss homeschooling. O.k. So, when we see this couple walk up the driveway, the wife is, indeed, just as my mil described ... she's also wearing pink bunny ears. And she wore them throughout dinner and probably throughout the evening. Hmm. Her husband came in carrying a flowering plant. My mil introduced me to this couple and then she did a funny thing. She introduced each of my kids and then said, in a really condescending tone, "Can you each come here and shake hands with ____?" My kids dutifully obeyed but I know they were a bit embarrassed at being spoken to that way. They aren't little kids, after all. But what good kids they were (are!) I know they thought this lady with the bunny ears was really strange but they never said a word about it during the time were were there. This couple was nice but the wife was a bit annoying, with or without the pink ears. Like I said, we had to leave after about an hour and we went home so Todd could go to work. After he left, my middle son said, "Mom, I really wasn't comfortable with those people that were there." I said I understood and made a point of telling all my kids how proud I was at their good behavior. We discussed how we should act even if we are uncomfortable. I love my kids.

Today, I said to my older son that I was sorry Grandma spoke to them like she did about shaking hands with her friends. Chad said it was o.k. I said I wondered why she had them do that, as I didn't really think it was necessary. I have taught my kids to shake hands but I don't think you always need to. Do you know what he said? He said he thought it had more to do with making her friends feel accepted. What wisdom! I had to agree. Chad also said that the husband asked him the typical question, "So what grade are you in?" (Like, is that the ONLY question adults can ask??) My son told him and said he was homeschooled. This man was pleased to hear that, which I was glad to know. If only he had known that he could have discussed politics or world history with my son, instead of boring "school" questions!

Anyway, today was Easter and it was truly a rotten weather day. Wind, rain, wind, etc. My poor daffodils had finally bloomed but they are now face-down in the mud. So glad we didn't have to go out. I read about Jesus' resurrection and beyond. The kids have really enjoyed our daily Bible reading. I try to do Bible study several times a week but I'm not that consistent and I use the Daily Bread devotionals, which read something different every day. This was the first time we read daily throughout the same book. I'd like to continue doing this.

I'll end with this: My daughter has spent the last two days drawing robots that can do housework, cook, kill spiders, etc. I was in another room when I heard Carmen ask her brother if something like this was really possible. Before he could answer negatively, I said that it didn't matter if it's possible. Carmen said, "I know, Mom - DREAM BIG!" I said, "What?" She repeated, "Dream Big!" I smiled and said, "That's right, honey." We talked about how if people didn't dream up things that had never been, then things wouldn't improve or be invented. I was struck at Carmen's response, though. It tells me she's been listening. Modesty forbids me to say who has always told her to Dream Big. I love my kids!