Friday, December 30, 2011

A Very "Walton's Left It To Beaver's Father Knows Best" Christmas....

 When I was a young girl "back in the day", the tv shows we all used to watch were Father Knows Best, Ozzie and Harriet, Leave It To Beaver and The Andy Griffith Show.  All programs that portrayed the American family as loving and caring, forgiving, teaching with kindness, moral stories abounding, good triumphing over evil, etc., etc.  I guess as a kid, I thought every body had a fairly happy homelife just like those families on tv.  As an adult I have come to know and hear the stories of real life. 
Hard knocks, sadness, illness and death, loves lost and life changes, families broken, all things I have been fortunate enough to experience.
Yes, fortunate.  If I had never known those things I could not share empathy and love with my closest of friends, I could not hold someone elses' hand and share the tears of pain or be a good listener.  And I could not know or appreciate the good times that would come in my life. 
This Christmas of 2011 was celebrated with joy and love and memories that I will cherish until my soul departs this planet for heaven.  This Christmas, a long, long time coming, was one full of all those tv holidays that I had always wished to have.  There was no drama.  There was no fighting.  There were no little games between rivals or siblings being played.  Everyone was together to celebrate the very reason for this holiday.  Jesus would have been very happy at this gathering, indeed.
It has been close to 15 years since I have had a family together at Christmas time.  What made me decide to write about this was that I had been watching an old re-run of the "A Walton Christmas" where all the kids try to return home for the holiday.  The grandparents get trapped in town because of the snow and their old Model T just isn't capable of trekking through the snow.  As it goes, not all the family members make it home for various reasons and the rest of the story is about how they spend their holiday describing what Christmas is about and what it means to them.     
This Christmas I had my husband, my son, my daughter, her two precious little boys and my wonderful in-laws .  The weather was bright and sunshiny in Portland (where only 3 years ago they were so snowed in no one could travel in or out of the neighborhood!), the table had been set for days patiently waiting the arrival of visitors.  And we came, one by one.  Kevin, Mike and I arrived around 10:30 a.m. Christmas morning and shortly after that we heard the door bell ring.  There before the great grandparents and the grandparents were two very properly dressed young men; both Evan and Eric were sporting shirts and vests and ties.  They were so handsome!   

The house was warm and smelled wonderful, a turkey in the oven, snack plates of cheese and crackers and a selection of various cookies on the kitchen buffet counter.  Fresh coffee brewing in the corner while snippets of conversation between the ages were interrupted with laughter and giggles and even an occasional plinking from the piano in the living room.   As many as there were of us, everything went rather smoothly.  Everyone gathered in the family room to open presents while Evan announced he could read now and figured out quickly which ones were his!  A quick blur of Christmas paper wrappings flying, the kids passing out the presents and lots of ooohs and awes and thank yous amidst the hustle.  Just pure joy with everyone together sharing this family day.

Once all the presents had been opened and the little guys were busy with their toys and games, the adults forwarded their attentions to getting the food on the table and ready for serving.
How absolutely wonderful to have all these generations sharing our family love and celebratory repast.
One of the most endearing moments was when Eric decided he didn't just want a few pieces of turkey on his plate, he wanted the WHOLE thing!  Dad convinced him that he couldn't fit the whole turkey on his plate and satisfied Eric's desire with a big turkey wing, complete with skin.  Eric seemed rather happy with that until the wing was placed on his plate where he quickly stated that he now wanted all that "stuff" off.  Ahhh, such big problems we should all have, 'eh?
We cleared the table of plates and silverware to make room for Kevin's famous homemade pumpkin pie paired with vanilla ice cream and fresh hot coffee.  Each of us were immersed in conversation with someone and various subjects bounced around the table.  At one time Mike was explaining some components of his cell phone or the computer to Dorothy (GeeGeeMom), Gread Granddad was discussing politics with Bret and Sara and Mike were bantering with each other and the boys.  Kevin and I were simply enjoying the whole scene.
Shortly after the plates were cleared and the dishes were washed, I found this little guy on the sofa...

I guess that says it all. 

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 2, 2011

2011 In Review

      Gee, I keep thinking that this year went by so fast and when I look at photo folders in Picasa, it DID!  Lots of things have happened and I know I would have forgotten about half of them if I hadn’t kept a photo journal.

      There wasn’t much going on in January other than snow, which is a good thing because one January we barely had any, which amounted to no snow fun!  I did manage to get my snow shoes on in February and ventured out to Dutchman Flats with a group called “Silver Striders”.   You know, for the over 50 crowd.   It was a lot of fun but boy, four miles round trip on snow shoes is not as easy as it looks.   

      In March and April Kevin and I made a couple of trips down to Dorris, Calif., where my parents had bought a 2 acre parcel of property way back in 1966.  I was with mom and dad when they drove up to see it and that is the LAST time anyone of us set foot on it.  Until 2011.   The first trip down we were not able to locate the property but I had a sense of being close to it.  The next trip down we did find it and we had brought with us a time capsule container filled with the local daily newspaper which include the wedding pictures of Prince William and Princess Kate, I also included the story of the property and the family and included the names of my children and two grandsons.  Maybe one day they will be the ones to rediscover that piece of family history and set another generations’ feet upon that soil. 

      In May I made a trip to Alaska, my first since leaving there in 2005.  I was able to visit with a few good friends, tread the old Kenai beach that I used to love and smell that fresh Alaskan air.  I also discovered that I wasn’t as ‘homesick’ for it as I thought.  It was lovely to be there again but it wasn’t the same, that’s for sure.

      Finally summer arrived, late this year but so great fully accepted when it did; the sunshine blew away the cloudy attitude and Kevin and I attacked the waters of the area with a vengeance!  I was able to visit “Lost Lake” on the Santiam Pass with a girlfriend, one I’d always wanted to “get on” every time we drove by it.  Check that one off my list now…

So I dipped the kayak in Davis Lake, then another little unnamed pond just off of Wickiup Reservoir and then finally IN Wickiup.  Hmm, after that my work sort of yanked me away from the fun! 

Along comes searing hot July and a wonderful visit with a long-ago friend, Debbie Hart, whom I hadn’t seen in about ten years.  Years and years ago when our kids were little (one of hers and one of mine were 5) we were “single wives”, we supported each other emotionally, mentally and sometimes physically.  We went on picnics with the kids, we had dinner at each others’ houses, yakked on the phone, drove to town, listened to each others’ worries and fears and we laughed together a lot, too.  Debbie and I were able to meet up with each other at my in-laws’ home in Portland, and it was a tear-jerker reunion!  As soon as Kevin and I pulled into the driveway, mom and dad and Debbie and her husband Don came outside, I cranked open the car door and flew out to hug my old and dear, dear friend!  My throat was literally closed; all I could do was cry tears of joy.  Now THAT’S a friend…

What little was left of the summer we tried to fill with planting flowers, pulling weeds, jumping on the water with the kayaks, mowing, visiting with the grandsons, getting more water time with the kayaks and then it was over all too soon, it just seemed to take forever for it to get here!  I still love the changing seasons, tho’.

      There are two kickers to this year; we were able to have Evan and Eric for an overnighter without MOM AND DAD for the first time!  We loved it!  While Bret and Sara were hiking, camping and summiting South Sister, the boys played outside on their dirt pile, jumped in the pool or played on the swing set.  One of the days Kpaw and me (Beema) took them for a hike in our state park, we wore them out!  But oh how we enjoyed the time we had with them. 

The last big kicker was driving over to Butte, Montana for the last time to pick up Mike and bring him home to Oregon.  I was able to visit with another old friend, Judy, whom I have known for 20 years now.  We enjoyed a few hours sitting in her hot tub on a frosty night watching the stars and the lights glitter down in the valley below.  I left Judy’s the morning of the 9th of November, nose pointed east and within hours I was nosed west again, this time with my son in the car.

We decided to make it a bit of an adventure while we could so our first destination was Seattle, Washington.  It took almost 12 hours to get there and when we did, we got a bit lost in downtown with all the high rises and crazy lights and street lanes!  It was a unanimous decision to get a motel on the outskirts and then return in the morning to tour Pikes’ Public Market.  We hit a McDonalds’, planted our heads in our pillows and rose early the next morning in order to have a little fun before the rest of the long drive.  Mike and I were able to wander around the area of the Space Needle (we didn’t go up since they wanted $18.00 a person!); we jumped on the monorail and rode to the market area with a two hour window to wander around before returning for the rail ride back. It was just the right amount of time.  Once again, two noses were pointed south for a quick stop to see Sara and her little family, and then we hit the road again for the final three and a half hour drive home.

So far, the weather hasn’t been too bad and Mike has made great efforts to find employment and a place of his own.  

I am constantly telling myself to take my camera with me EVERY WHERE I GO.  Just a few days ago I missed a rare opportunity to get a shot of a beautiful, huge bull elk cantering across the road a short way from home.  I did stop the car and watch his graceful exit, muttering all the while, “Why don’t I have my camera??!”  So even at this ripe old age, I can still say I’m learning new things.

On that note, have a wonderful and merry Christmas and may you be blessed with all His glory and love.


Friday, September 2, 2011

In The Jumble, The Techno Jumble, The Lady Roars Tonight

I am trying to remember where it all began. You know, that frustration with technology. I was sitting in the living room of a log cabin in Alaska sometime in the fall around 2003, fiddling with one of three tv remotes. Each one had it's home place so I could simply pick one up and use it in whatever order was required.
And of course the day came when they happened to be in a 'remote jumble' and I knew this was going to be a mess for me. When it comes to machinery or electronics, I am the proverbial dummy. "Honey, I can't get the lawnmower to start and I've yanked and yanked on that ropey string thingy!"...MAN walks over to lawnmower and it starts. Car turns over with the first ignition turn. Washing machines act the way it is supposed to. You know the drill.
As my psychological stress level grew with each remote that I picked up I let loose with, "Whatever happened to just ON and OFF??!! I just want to turn the tv on!!" Little did I know that was only the beginning of my mechanical-brain demise..
Fast forward to 2011, a homey little laundry room in rural La Pine, Oregon.
There are two central figures; one is a non-descript white, front-loading washing machine and the other is me. For months I've been complaining about how the washing machine has a mind of it's own and we are at war. One of the many things I don't like about this object is the fact that it has a complete lock on my life from the moment I push the wash button to the last turn in the final spin cycle. Every now and then I forget and leave something in a pocket of my work apron or a pair of jeans, etc., and I know this because the item ends up sitting right there on the washers' window sill. Staring at me. Lip gloss gets sucked out of it's container and goes-who-knows-where but the little tube sits there waiting, watching me. I hear it through ESP, "You can't get me!" Or a note I needed for later is slowly shredded right before my eyes, in the window of that confounded machine. No, you can't stop it and open the door. It is locked and loaded and all inside belongs to it until it gives up it's final tumble.
But lately The Machine has been acting odd; once in awhile it won't spin all the water out and the clothes are dripping wet when I go to remove them; this requires shoving everything back in and resetting the spin cycle, another twenty minutes of lock-down. In the last week, The Machine has been getting hung up on a cycle and this requires a complete shut down so the ELECTRONIC (!) memory chip can reconfigure. Or whatever the heck it does when it's "off" for another twenty minutes. But just a few days ago I had had enough when the last cycle was stuck on spin. It was not a house rattling, floor-shaking spin but a r...o...l...l for FORTY FIVE MINUTES!! I stomped out into the living room and announced to 'MAN' that I was going to pick that washer up and throw it out into the back yard! 'Man' had that what-the-heck-is-wrong-now look and after several minutes of stomping and threatening and mumbling under my breath and Man walking in and starting the washer with NO problem, I am now expecting a new washer and dryer next week. A top loader. One I can stop whenever I want and take out things I forgot shouldn't be in that load, or retrieve that just remembered lip gloss or put bleach or softener in.
That funny little voice of "Whatever happened to ON/OFF?" popped into my head after all these years. Now it starts with what happened to SIMPLE? I noted on facebook (okay, a modern technological wonder) the other day that all I wanted was a machine that washes clothes. I don't want it to massage my feet, walk the dog, wash the car or cook dinner. I just want clean clothes in less than 30 minutes and I don't want to put a second mortgage on my house to buy one.
I am now going to be the proud mama of a SIMPLE washer and dryer next week. I am a happy WOMAN now.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Sophie The Duck Gets Her Mojo

Sometimes a seemingly ordinary action turns into a rather touching little event.
Last week I posted an ad on our local Craigs' List selling one of those plastic molded pond liners. One never really thinks of the outcome of such a mundane act; where do they go, who will buy it and what will they do with it? Right? Right. Out of sight, out of mind. Until this one found a home and to whom it went to...
Her name is Sophie. She is a duck. And this little duck has been spending her life in competition for water with her dog friend. Now, the water has always come in the dog bowl and as you know, most dog bowls aren't big enough for a duck to swim in. Still, Sophie was attracted to the water like is to water. Just as Sophie would be happily splashing in whatever water she could get her feet or bill or whatever in, the dog would most likely get thirsty. That's when Sophie and Dog would collide, and Dog would win.
Until a few days ago, that is.
Sophie is now happily circumnavigating her own little ocean, planted somewhere in her backyard, her little head tilted up toward the sky and little quacks cheerily escaping her throat.
Life is good.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Ode To Brother

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I have fallen in the eyes of my hero.

I have lost that special bond that only siblings have.

Oh how can I climb back upon my sisterly pedestal?

As old as I am and as old as you are, how could I have possibly forgotten YOUR birthday???

Hmmm, guess I’ll have to invest in the Post It Notes stock cuz I’ll be usin’ them a lot now. It’s so hard to get older, you know? I haz no excuses and not even a damn good reason. But, on the other hand, this event WILL bring you a renewed sense of how lofty a position BIG BROTHERS carry. It will now be upon your shoulders for YOU to NEVER forget. Hahahahaha!!!

All kidding aside, I DO want you to know how special you are to me and how much I really do cherish and hold dearly our relationship.

On another note, we took the kayaks out last week for the first time—as you said, you’ve had a lot of rain and we did, too. It was getting ridiculous; we had SNOW in the middle of May!

I am sending you some pictures of our day on Davis Lake.

The day was overcast but still quite warm and I told Kevin “Let’s just load up the boats and if we can’t get out on the water, well at least we tried”. Glad we did! That lake is 3 miles long and 3 miles wide and we probably paddled a total of 7 or more miles! We always are just ‘putzing’ when we start out, you know, enjoying the scenery right in front of us, enjoying the peace and quiet, living in all of the senses.

Standing on the opposite shore of our port of entry was a slim young man with long dark hair dressed in a grey Henley shirt and black pants, a black windbreaker tied around his waist. Alongside him was his black chow dog, pouncing into the grasses chasing who knows what. The young man had a handful of long, black feathers. He was raising them one at a time up into the air and then watching them fall gracefully to the ground. I didn’t speak to him, I didn’t interrupt his moment. What was he doing? I don’t know. What were his thoughts as we paddled by his space in time? I didn’t take a shot of this. Sometimes the memory makes it more ethereal.

The weather held for several more hours as Kevin and I investigated the shoreline; birds of all kinds and bugs and varmints. Some of the reeds had blossoms on their long, tall stalks. Sort of like orange blossoms.

We saw a point about three fourths of the way down towards the other end of the lake so we made that our point of reference. It turned out to be the only rock lined part of the shore, at least on that side. As we pulled up to rest, birds were flitting all about us. They were mostly blackbirds; redwing, yellow headed black birds (they sound like a penguin!) and something called a Western tanager. What a gorgeous little creature! Their red, orange, yellow and black plumage truly grabs your eye.

Kevin tried to snap a shot but they were so erratic he couldn’t. I put down my oars and simply floated quietly until the birds began to return to the rocks to get a drink of water. I had gotten my camera ready so all I had to do was point and shoot. I got them! Then they were gone.

Shortly after that we thought it best to return to the cars since the earlier mirror smooth appearance of the lake was quickly changing. The lakes tend to get a bit breezy in the early afternoons and with 3 miles to cross, I didn’t want to be stuck in the middle when the whitecaps began.

One tour book describes Davis Lake as “character building” if you are caught out there when the water is roiling. Let me tell you, it was character building just to paddle that far!

We made it and as we cruised up the opposite shoreline, we grabbed onto some tall reeds so we could take a rest without drifting away and losing ‘ground’. It seemed like it took forever to get across and our focus points kept changing. We finally made it up to the truck after our brief rest and with huge sighs of relief, we loaded up the kayaks to go find a place to park and have lunch. We brought hot chocolate (with marshmallows), hot dogs and buns and a little one burner camp stove. It was wonderful to enjoy that repast while we watched the whitecaps grow bigger out on the lake. “Wow…we made it just in time” we kept saying to each other. That hot dog tasted even better then…

That Alaska Trip...

When an old girlfriend called and said, “How would you like a round trip ticket to Alaska for $100.00 and you’d go with me?” I squealed, “Of course!!” without any forethought.

Then again, all the fore thought in the world couldn’t have predicted what would unfold as this adventure began to pan out….

And who knew that $100.00 would eventually grow into almost $1,200.00 as events occurred and the trip would involve NO old girlfriend, none of the activities we had planned and one old friend I was going to stay with who had to leave for Southern Cal the same time I would be up there.

"If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is..."

"Hindsight is 20/20"

And...are there anymore that I should be hit over the head with???

I am finally home, getting rested and starting to write about this 'adventure'. The first two sentences are the opening lines.

It will include lines like, "As I was walking down the concourse, the ticking began. And then the alarm went off!"

TSA had my backpack run through three times before they finally decided to tear the whole thing apart. The whole slow down was due to a 1950's alarm clock. They don't look like THAT anymore...

The trip suggestion began in February with a phone call from a long-time friend in Montana and it started with, “Hey, do you want to go to Alaska with me? I can get a round trip ticket for $100.00” and without thinking, I excitedly stated “YES!” Now, it’s been six years since I left Alaska and after having lived there for five years, I can say that it never left my heart. I have always had a soft spot for the cool, green summers and that crisp clean air. In the spring, you can smell the tree buds bursting open! So knowing that a normal one way ticket usually runs around $600.00, hearing that incredible sum yanked me out of normalcy.

The call came from one I had known since living in Montana and she had done something special for the family when my ten year old daughter was diagnosed with leukemia. My Montana friend has a heart of gold and it’s as big as Texas, she has seen me through a few whitewater periods in my life.

During the time I was living up north, she visited me several times, we were always accompanied by a companion who simply had to dominate everything; time, conversation, etc.

When I moved ‘outside’ to Oregon, my Montana friend fulfilled one of her life’s dreams and moved to Anchor Point, Alaska, about 70 miles south of where I had lived. One of the reasons for this Girl Trip was to finally realize time together and sharing our love and fascination for all things Alaska! There would be a gold panning day in Girdwood, another friend of mine was going to take us out in his little fishing boat and I was going to salute the skies with other old friends by having a beach bonfire, complete with marshmallows and probably some hot chocolate. Walks on the Kenai and Homer beaches with a possible celebratory drink at the Salty Dawg Saloon in Homer. The Salty Dawg is a Homer landmark; it looks like a gray shingled lighthouse sort of sunken into the ground and the floor inside is coated in sawdust. It is always crowded and lots of sea stories float around the air in that place.

I guess the beginning of the end started with my ‘sister’ friend; we have shared some very deep conversations and shed some tears together; she and her husband gave me a home for three weeks when my life fell apart up there and I eventually moved here to Oregon.

We had been talking for weeks about seeing each other, how it had been a long long time since we’d been able to talk, “skin to skin”, as we call it. But a family emergency called her away during the same time I would be in her home area. This is just life and I explained to her that she should feel no guilt for not being able to be there when I was. It will happen in another time in our lives.

There was another phone call from my friend when she announced that the ticket price had gone up to $258.00 and did I still want to go through with the plan? I had to ponder this, you know what with the economy, gas prices and me being the main income provider in the family at the moment. Still, the price was too good to pass up and I told her that yes, I would consider the trip but if it went up again I would have to decline. The next price subject was getting a rental car. My friend had connections and could get a really great deal on one, almost half of what it usually costs; I agreed to split the $134.00 for the week cost with her. Another friend of mine who offered me her home also offered me the use of one of her vehicles to tool around town in. Friend #1 was going to head to Homer and share a few days with several of her old friends while I did the same, then we were going to get together for our reunion.

The closer that time came for our intended May 11, 2011 departure, our phone calls increased and so did my anxiety. The reason the tickets were so cheap was because we were going on “buddy passes”. Stand by. I have never flown stand by. Stand by means you wait until everyone is on the plane and they either call your name or it shows up on a list that you are numero uno or number 20. Now, my friend does it all the time and has always gotten through and she kept encouraging me to not worry. “Hey, so what if you miss one flight, there are more and the chances are pretty good. Sometimes I’ve even had several seats open next to me and I could stretch out and sleep!” I was still nervous about the whole thing anyway; this is entirely out of my box. I like order and things that run smoothly. I know life isn’t like that but that’s my quirk.

Days before May 11, the phone calls were flying and plans were solidified and excitement was peaking. Then it was the day of the flights. Mine would leave Redmond at 1:30 in the afternoon and I would arrive in Salt Lake City shortly, within 2 hours. Then the wait for 9:30 at night to Anchorage. I would get in around 1:30 and spend the night at friends; Joyce and Stephan. I took a cab and was knocking on their door at 12:30. Joyce and I greeted each other with quiet excitement since Stephan was still sleeping. She guided me downstairs to my room and we agreed to have coffee in the morning when she got up to get ready for work.

I had the whole day to myself while Joyce and Stephan were at work and I was awaiting my friends’ arrival that night on her first leg of the trip to Anchorage. That day was good as I rearranged my suitcase, got myself cleaned up and enjoyed the bright 65 degree sunshine out on the back deck, reading a good book, sipping tea and swaying on the porch swing. This is the life! “I can get used to this” I said to myself.

When Stephan and Joyce came home I was well rested, they were happy to have a visitor and Stephan broke open the barbecue for hamburgers! All I had to do now was wait for my friend to call since she was also invited to spend the night. Spending time with great friends and no motel costs.

The evening wore on and as my friends’ flight time approached, we were calling each other, keeping up with schedules, etc. My friends’ flight time passed…the phone rang…and she didn’t get on the plane. Okay, so there is the flight for the next day and she was prepared to spend the night at the airport in Salt Lake City. Next day comes and again my friend missed out on her stand by flight; she was in the loading tunnel when they turned her back. The phone call was heartbreaking. “I’m giving up, I’m going home, I can’t spend half my vacation in the airport.” We both were saddened at this news. I kept telling her that if she changed her mind, to call me, it didn’t matter what time it was, I so wanted this to come to fruition.

I spent my second night with my friends in Anchorage and the next morning Stephan took me to the airport to pick up the rental car. All went well with getting that cute little cobalt blue Toyota Yaris, brand new and bearing the temporary license in the back window. Yaris and I headed south for the Kenai Peninsula. And if it hadn’t been for the desire of a little espresso coffee, I would have gone the wrong way!

There are so many little things about Alaska that are embedded in my memory and my heart. The slate grey color of Turnagain Arms’ mud flats, the shimmery porcelain white of the surrounding mountains snow and ice, the smell of the birch, aspens and spruces that make up that forest aroma. It is too early for my favorite, though. Little shaggy white heads on 6 inch stalks that wave in the gentlest of breezes. They always made me think of Swedish children running in alpine meadows.

As I was driving, my phone rang, I pulled over to answer it and it was my Montana Friend. She told me to enjoy this trip for the both of us. I had just been thinking of her and as I spoke to her, I couldn’t keep back the tears and the sense of emptiness that she wasn’t here in that silly little blue toy with me, oohing and awing over all the scenery and gushing, “We made it together! We’re here! Woo hoo!!”

It took a little over three hours to get from Anchorage to Soldotna where I would stop in and see Laura, another old friend who said she would be happy to have me stay with her during my week’s stay in town. Laura was at work, I popped in to say I was finally there and off to her house I went so I could unload and relax until she came home.

Laura was a Godsend during this trip! Not only did I have a place to stay, but we had a chance to really get to know each other better. She has always had a gigantic and kind heart and we had such a wonderful opportunity to‘re-bond’. No kids, no husbands, just us. That was very special.

During this time I was able to spend a day beach combing in Kenai, collecting some great stones to bring home. Another day I was able to have lunch and coffee with Sis Friends’ husband at a place called Odie’s. They offered great soups and sandwiches but I found their coffee was the best! The days that Laura had to work I would wander around town, revisiting old haunts and sites then getting back home in time to fix a nice dinner for the both of us.

Laura had one day off, Tuesday, so we planned on driving down to Homer and doing some beachcombing there, then wandering the boardwalk shops. We found some great beach stones that we put in the bags she brought and in one of the shops I bought a book called “Beach Stones”; every little pebble I picked up was depicted and explained in that little book of stones.

Needless to say, if it hadn’t been for Laura (she was on my list of people to see!), this trip would have been a huge let down. None of the other people I had contacted so early on before coming were anywhere to be found. The boat persons’ phone was disconnected, I drove all over the Funny River Road hills hunting down the cabin of another acquaintance that was gone, although I did leave my business card in her door. I did find a woman friend in another little town but we almost didn’t get that connection either! When I first called her number, I got a disconnect message. The woman at the post office that I stopped in attempted a call and she got ringing but no voice message. The postal worker couldn’t tell me anything more and I could understand that. Dejected, I walked out of the post office, got in the car and thought, “Oh heck, I’ll try one more time”. Four times I called because I would get ringing but then it would hang up!! Finally, on the fourth call, I heard a live human voice! “Bette??? This is Jane!! I am sitting at the post office parking lot, where are you???” She gave me directions and after several drive-bys on the highway, I finally found the right turn off and managed to get to her house. Another bright spot in my trip! Bette was another one who was always so very kind and sweet to me, generous with her friendship. You see, I had written her a letter telling her I was coming and I never heard from her. When I saw her, she said she never received any mail from me.

Our visit was wonderful, we had tea and talk, the dogs were excited to have some new scents in the house and then the visit was over all too soon. But I was thankful to have reconnected with Bette.

Not much else occurred during this visit, the real excitement began when it was time to go home!

I can’t remember why I called Kevin but we were discussing my return when he says to me, “It’s not tomorrow, Honey, it’s TONIGHT”. “It is? No it isn’t, look…oh…IT IS TONIGHT!” Laura and I were going to head out to the beach one more time but that was cut short. I began to check and re-pack my bags. I was ready to head out the door but couldn’t find the car keys. I checked my purse and all my pockets and then proceeded to unpack the huge luggage bag; no keys. I dumped out all the contents of the carry-on back pack and there they were! Now to repack all that stuff again. Okay, everything is check now so out the door I go.

I decided I would leave around 7:30 p.m. so I’d have plenty of time to make my 1:30 a.m. flight out. Laura thought I was leaving a bit early but hey, it’s construction time in Alaska now and I did run into that shortly after Girdwood. Not a long delay but enough to have backed up my reason. On the bright side, I spotted a ewe goat standing on the edge of the cliff overlooking the highway and I remember she had the most quizzical look on her face. Her head was slightly skewed, looking at the whizzing cars below. A little further down the road I spotted a moose on the edge munching away on grass. I hoped it wouldn’t lose its footing and come crashing down on me. They do that there, you know.

About three miles before the airport I start looking for gas stations so I can fill up the Little Blue Toy before turning it in. I keep thinking there has to be one pretty soon.

All the way into the parking garage I’m thinking this. I pull up into the delivery lane,

a young man comes out of his little closet office and I asked, “So what kind of trouble am I in if I have a half a tank? I didn’t see any gas stations for the last three miles!” He bends over and looks at the gas gauge and says, “Wow, you only used 7/10ths of a tank so it looks like we give YOU a refund!” I didn’t tell him that I had already put $60.00 worth of gas in. Twice. At $4.47 a gallon.

So it is now about 10:30 p.m. and I’ll have time to find the gate I am supposed to be at.

All is good so far. After going through TSA-I’m getting pretty good at this now; take off shoes, take off jacket and place all that plus my purse, camera, pillow, clear plastic bags and backpack in the gray bins to be x-rayed. Everything goes through fine except for the pink backpack. “We need your bag again, ma’am, something in there we can’t identify”. I didn’t say anything and just figured it was the funny-shaped 1950’s alarm clock.

They asked me if I wanted them to repack the bag and I declined, this way I would know where I put MY things, the easy-to-get-to things. Only…I noticed that when they did unpack the bag, I had mistakenly replaced my emergency clean clothes with…DIRTY CLOTHES! Now if I had to stay in the airport for more than 24 hours I had no clean clothes to change into. Yes I was upset but hey, nothing I can do now since my big bag was being sent onward to home base.

The gate area for ***** to Salt Lake City is deserted except for two other women sitting on a bench, chatting away. I asked if they’d mind if I sat with them and they happily accepted. We were all headed out on the 1:30 a.m. flight to SLC and all three of us were stand by. Yep, stand by. That is why this trip was so cheap. The hours went by as the three of us visited and talked about our lives. As 1:00 a.m. approached and the waiting area began to fill with people, lots of people, we were amazed at how many were showing up at that time.

When all passengers had boarded and the only ones left were those of us on the stand by list, there were three seats left and ten people. There is an order to this, a priority list, as it were. Current employees, retired employees and Sky Miles people all have their place. My little group of three was at the bottom and so we did not get on that flight. We re-booked for a flight out to Minneapolis-to Salt Lake City leaving at 8:30 a.m. I said my goodbyes to the other girls and walked off to find the new gate area so I could await the next attempt. Somewhere around 6:00 a.m. the attendants at the new gate area announced that the flight to Minneapolis would arrive there but we would all be staying there until the weather improved. I did not want to fly to Minneapolis to be stuck there for who-knows-how-long to try and get another flight to SLC and THEN to Redmond (home). This could go on for two more days and all of a sudden I was done. I was tired,

I was hungry for REAL food and I was just DONE. So the next thought that occurred to me was to simply go to an Alaskan Airlines ticket counter and BUY a ticket home. A guaranteed ticket home. The woman at the ticket counter says, “Well, I can get you a ticket but you’ll get a 20% discount if you go and use the phone and make a ‘reservation’”. One more hurdle. Over to the phones I go. At least on those airport phones they have a list of airlines posted you can call to make a reservation. I dialed the Alaska Airlines number and quickly made my next guaranteed flight reservation for around noon to Salt Lake City and on to Redmond. “That will be $620.00 ma’am”. I didn’t even flinch; I just wanted to go home.

Now the next item of business was to make sure my luggage would get to Redmond, Oregon, now that I wasn’t going to be a ***** passenger of any kind. I hauled myself, my 5 pound purse, my pillow and my 15 pound carry-on pink back pack down the escalator to the ***** baggage counter to make enquiry. The counter is closed but the sign says it’s closed from 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and I am standing in front of it at 6:45 a.m. And it’s closed. Nobody there, the little enclosed rooms behind the counter all locked up and dark. Back upstairs I go to try and find someone who can help me. I stop two security officers and ask them if they can tell me where to go. (: No help there, passing by another airline counter, I ask the woman if she can help and she tells me I need to go downstairs to the ***** counter. You know, the one that’s closed. Meanwhile, I have to go back through TSA. Let’s just say that I eventually went through TSA a total of five times trying to speak to someone who could help me out with the baggage issue.

I called my Montana Girlfriend and she said she would make some calls, and then I called my husband. Between the two of them, I ended up with the airport manager personally walking me back to those locked and darkened rooms so he could let me in to see if my luggage was in there anywhere. Nope. Nada. Nothing. And wouldn’t you know, this is the time when the alarm clock decides to go off! So by this time, that means it’s on the plane to Salt Lake City. Which according to “them” it isn’t supposed to go anywhere unless that STANDBY passenger WAS ON THAT PLANE. To make a long story short, my bag made its way safe and sound all the way to Redmond, Oregon, while I continued my piecemeal trip.

When the hour came to board that Alaskan Airlines plane at noon, I was completely relieved. From Alaska to SLC it takes about 3 and a half hours, the long stretch of the flight, and the one where I had to go to the bathroom after the first hour. I had the window seat and my seat mates were sleeping. Believe me, there is no room to climb past anymore, everyone has to get up and get out of their seats. (On an incoming flight I discovered that when I let a woman ‘climb’ over me; if I had been a man, boobies in the face would have been the best part of the trip!) I figured if I ordered a sandwich from their in-flight menu, it would soak up some liquid and it did help.

The plane is finally landing on the tarmac at SLC, I’m ALMOST HOME and 15 minutes until I get to a bathroom. As we taxi towards the loading gate, the pilot says to us, “Ladies and gentleman, there will be a slight delay on the tarmac as we have two planes ahead of us, I do not know how long we will be here but if there is anything we can do to help you, please let us know”. Oh. My. Gosh. I’m thinking hours of time sitting on that tarmac. In the sun. And I have to go. But…God was lookin’ out for me because it was a very short wait.

The lay-over between that flight and the next was one hour. I had one hour to get off that plane at SLC and find the next AA connection to Redmond. All goes well as the plane de-boards and I am running to the next gate. It is now 15 minutes until the next plane boards. All I can say is, I made it into a bathroom and back out in time to board that next plane. Now this is very strange because we were boarding that plane to Redmond as it was de-boarding the last passengers! Yes, we loaders were weaving through the

unloaders. I thought that was so very odd but hey, at least I was gettin’ on that plane! I was ecstatic!! Woo hoo, about 2 more hours and I was gonna be home.

That flight was quite nice; the attendants offered a variety of beverages including wine! I was happy just to have something to drink and not have to worry about where to unload that!

I enjoyed the sunshine through my window seat, watching the snow covered mountains of home appear—“Oh, there’s Mt. Bachelor, and the Sisters!” Yay, I made it!!

The plane landed on time and everyone exited in a timely manner. When I got through the gate area and saw Kevin standing there with my bag, tears welled up and I was so very happy to be…home.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Looking Into The Past

I didn't realize it until I tagged the title but this little tale truly is about looking back into parts of the past.
This was Easter weekend and with four days off, Kevin suggested we take a drive south to check out a piece of property we own in California. A piece of property that was someday going to be my dad's retirement home, complete with a little A-frame country cabin and lots of time to read and listen to the wind blow through the pine trees. A piece of property I plan to give to my children.
Saturday I deposited our income tax money into the bank account, got an oil change done on the car and we were ready for our little road trip to the booming (more like busted) town of Dorris, California. On the way we stopped and visited an old logging museum and also the Klamath Wildlife Refuge.
It all started way back in 1966...
Dad, mom and I drove up to the Dorris area to buy a two and a
a half acre plot of mountain property, I was 12 years old and not much into paying attention to the details of the adult world. My recollections are short and hazy, jumbled into crazy bits and pieces. I remember a 'mountain' with steep and rutted dirt roads hindered by huge stones and boulders. I can tell you now that in 45 years, it hasn't changed much, if at all.
I remember sitting in the kitchen of an even then old two-story white farm house where mom and dad signed the papers as the new owners of Plot 375 in Pleasant Valley Highlands. I am guessing that way back then that the cattleman/farmer was parcelling out pieces of a hill just to earn a little extra cash. I remember a long, dusty dirt road. Nothing in any particular order and not a whole lot, either. Try to put those pieces together 45 years later when you're trying to find a plot of land on a small mountain. Things do change in terms of getting lost and swallowed up.
But I will say this, I don't think the county has done anything new with the highway since the last time I was there; there are parts of old cracking white cement intermingled with asphalt and probably the same ruts. It's just a dot on a truck route and I'm sure some would wonder why on earth anyone would want to live there.
Peace and quiet and neighbors who wouldn't think twice to help you out.
And the wind whooshing through the pine trees. You won't get THAT in an L.A. suburb.

We headed west toward the hills--there is more than one--to see what we could find. We had a few road names and proceeded on Picard, which was supposed to lead us eventually to Glen Gary and Cedar Grove. "Oh and by the way, none of the roads are named but you'll be able to find it, I've been there twice" the county clerk we'd called the day before said. Prior to heading out we had stopped at a little quickie store, Kevin looking at a city map and questioning the young clerk about directions. Another young customer overheard the conversation and began to give some directions with landmarks, he being the local tow truck driver who's pulled many a stuck adventurer out of those hills, he knew what we were looking for. So with his information we looked for "a row of trees along the road that look like they were planted there, you can't miss 'em and then a road with a chain across it, your road is in between those. But your little car won't make it up that road without gettin' stuck". I took him at his word so that on our second pass of those landmarks, we decided to park the car and walk up the steep hill. I had come this far and it had been so long and we were so very, very close, I felt I had to go as far as I could.
The red dirt road--and the red comes from the volcanic red cinders--was pitted and rutted and full of huge rocks, just like I remembered. We gave it a shot and walked on up, stopping now and then to just listen and think and breathe. It must have been close to 3/4 of a mile when the area flattened out a little but then the road simply disappeared. No more red cinder, just an overgrown area full of little oak trees, jack pines, ponderosa trees, fallen timber, lava rock and those round boulders that were all over. We walked and walked around there, even found an old steel marker and a few orange hunting marker strips hanging from some tree branches. It didn't look anything like I remembered, of course, and the little valley that I remember looking out on wasn't visible in the slightest way. Not after 45 years of forest growth, IF I was in the right spot. I had to give up before we got lost in those woods. I said to my dad, "I tried to find it mom and dad". I talked to the land and said I would try again to find it from the computer. I said my goodbyes and then I found a rock to bring home, just to say I had a part of it.
I had given it my best considering this was Easter weekend and most likely all city and county employees would have been enjoying the holiday at home. We stopped in at a city office but the clerk had left a sign that said, "Out To Lunch". We stopped by the sheriffs' office twice, a sign outside said office hours were "8 to 10:30 and 12:00 noon to 4"30". He was nowhere in sight at 12:05. This is such a small town that we were thinking the neighbors might even call the police to report a slow and suspicious car cruising the streets.
Two visits in 45 years. Dad's dream of that little red A-frame looking out over the cattle and wheat fields is still vivid in my mind. Maybe someday it will happen.
Then we came home to havoc! The squirrels must have partied like it was 1999! The large bird feeder we had strung up between two trees was laying on it's side on the ground, the contents spilled in a 5 foot radius, squirrels drunk with excitement about their coup. And then...our car comes up the driveway. Like roaches scattering when the lights come on, gray furry bodies were fleeing in all directions. Let me tell you, they weren't hi-fiving when The Witch came home!

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Sunday, February 20, 2011

First Snow Shoe Trip

Seven years or so ago, I strapped on my first pair of snow shoes and I was bitten by the bug! It was a long time between then and this February 12th when I finally was able to go on my first snow shoe trip with the Silver Striders, a group that consists of people who are over 50. It was Christmas of 2009 when Kevin presented me with a lovely light, aluminum pair accompanied with Eddie Bauer poles that have all kinds of bells and whistles.
I joined the Silver Striders for an 'easy' hike that would take us on a 3 mile round trip with very little climb. Ha ha. By the time one is hauling ones' tired and exhausted butt uphill at the end, ANY incline is rough. Still, it was exhilirating just to be outside in nature enjoying the fresh air, birds flitting and following us along the trail. Every now and then our guide would stop and announce, "Drink water!" and the six of us would fumble in our fanny packs for our "water system" for a quick gulp. As we stood for a short break, she would give us little tidbits of history about the area or a tale of Indian lore about the trees and snow. The thought crossed my mind whether or not I had enough warm clothes or did I have too much? Fifteen minutes into my gait I was peeling off my outer ski jacket and taking off my gloves, then stuffing the coat into my small backpack. A couple of years ago Sara gave me an undershirt that is specially made to wick sweat away. I can attest to the fact that it certainly did. I never got chilled when we sat down for our lunch because I wasn't drenched close to the skin.
We were on a one way stretch that was one and a half miles into Dutchman Flats in the Mt. Bachelor area. At the end of that 1 and 1/2 miles we would all stop in a little area of small trees for lunch. Pam would then fill us in more on how to sit down without falling through a possible crust of 3 to 4 feet, how to get back up, etc, by rolling over on your hip and or using your knees. We learned trail etiquette as well and I had no idea that as a snowshoer, I was in the low caste system of adventurers; apparently you are the elite when you are a cross country skier and all rules seem to apply in their favor. Snow snobs. Who would have thought.
I thought for sure that I would be ravenous when we broke for lunch but as it was, I could only finish half of my peanut butter and jelly sandwich yet all of my applesauce cup. It was just enough energy for the return path. We all enjoyed our repast while we listened to a few more stories from Pam; years ago she had done mountain climbing and ice climbing in Alaska.
The weather was just perfect, a little overcast so not too much sun which would mean a lot of glare for the eyes and maybe some sunburn. I did wear a muff to keep my ears warm because it was a bit breezy out there at different intervals. When my ears get cold, my whole head hurts and I wasn't going to ruin this time for anything.
Did I prepare for this adventure by walking during the week? No, I did not. I will say that I was pleasantly surprised when after a day or so I wasn't feeling all the hurt and pain I thought I would. In fact, I felt MORE pain when I went alpine skiing for the first time at 16! I was completely laid out for three days afterward, every muscle in my youthful body screaming at every movement. I will say that for the next two days I did go to work and felt a little tenderness in the upper front thighs and then when I had a day off on the third day, I DID spend it in bed. All day. Still, not too bad for an old gal.
Will I go again? Oh yes...but I will get out a little more before attempting anything longer than the first outing. Today I strapped on my shoes and traipsed around the backyard, to the front and on down our very snow covered road. I think I did close to a mile, round trip. This way I don't wear out the much older body. And remember those bells and whistles I mentioned earlier on my ski poles? Well! One handle has inside it's plastic head the original GPS system: a compass! Um, won't do me much good until I learn how to read it, tho'. But lucky for me the other pole has a plastic head with 5 very bright LED lights that with a flick of a switch will either blink rapidly or just stay lit. Good for me who still needs to learn how to read the other one...

Monday, January 10, 2011

Duck Tales: Oregon Ducks

Picture the old cartoon married couple Blondie and Dagwood in a few frames and then "here's yer funny":

Yesterday Kevin warned me that it was going to be "FOOTBALL!" for today beginning at 11:00 a.m. You know, you've probably heard that The Ducks vs. Auburn would be playing and there was something about 103 years or maybe it was 130, I can't remember, since Oregon has been up to the top. Okay, so I'd been making myself scarce today by reading in the spare room, napping, getting my clothes ready for work tomorrow, did some laundry, dishes, etc. and finally at 4:05 I came out of the cave to see how things were going. Herewith is the following conversation as it went down:

Me: So who's winning?

Him: No one

Me: Huh?

Him: Well, no one because they haven't even started playing the game yet

Me: What?? What the heck have they been DOING all this time???

Him: Talking


Him: Yeah, they've been talking about the players, game strategy, stuff like that


Him:'s been pictures an' stuff...

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Happy New Year 2011

Well helloooo 2011! You came in with lots of snow, yay! Maybe this year I will finally be able to toboggan down the driveway. At least this winter has begun with a real snow bang! We've had the driveway plowed three times and during the last one, the plow driver got stuck! He had to call a tow truck to get him out of a small divet he'd created. I took pictures of this event from inside the house as I didn't want the boys to feel embarrassed. And so how many men does it take to move one stuck truck?
Adding to this year, Kevin built our first snow man about two weeks ago and he did a great job. Then it warmed up a bit and our handy little helper was left in a sad little heap.
Today, January 6th, we went in to town to get my first pair of eyeglasses: for the last 7 years I have been buying reading glasses to get by with.
I finally decided I was tired of peaking over the rims to look at something that was far away and I am tired of spending $20.00 every few months to get new ones that don't look like the 1950's Superman pair. And I think I am finally old enough and that it's been imprinted long enough on this ol' brain to take care of an expensive new set of eyes. All the reasons for holding out are truly no longer valid: I would sit on them, step on them, lose them or even manage to have my seatbelt grab them on the way back to it's lair and fling them out the window into the parking lot. Yes, that did happen once. I had discovered that I could hang my glasses on my necklace while I'm driving; a safe and secure spot, always knowing right where they are.
Until that day.
I had pulled into my favorite parking spot at work and turned off the car, got my purse and 'stuff' ready and proceeded to undo the seat belt. "PHHFFFZZIT!"...tinkle...CRUNCH!
What the heck was that? Hmm, okay, well let's see; purse, lunch, glasses..GLASSES? where the heck did they go??? It took a minute or two for it to dawn on me that they had just been hijacked by my seat on it's automated return and they were literally yanked off my neck and thrown out the window. And then promptly run over by a car.
Did I learn a lesson?
Yep. Hang the glasses on my necklace and then TUCK them down inside my shirt. Still works.
And so now the trepidation to invest in something a little more expensive and much better for my eyes is gone. They're do in ten days.
I'll keep ya posted...