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My sweet ride. This was the real deal and when I slid into the seat, I could *smell* my childhood.

My sweet ride. This was the real deal and when I slid into the seat, I could *smell* my childhood.

First of all I’ll tell you about my night. I was not very hungry after eating gouda cubes and smoked salmon on crackers with complimentary Chardonnay, so I picked a place called Wet Dog Cafe & Brewery (there are a lot of breweries in Oregon), hoping for a tasty dessert. I arranged for a chauffer to take me there in one of the hotel’s three restored antique cars. I think he told me it’s a 1958 Chevrolet. My driver was a great guy who had been driving for the hotel for many years and probably would have been fun to ride around all night with, but in minutes he let me off. Once inside the Wet Dog, I was tempted by the marionberry cheesecake and since I was at a brewery, I had a pint of Bitter Bitch, because, who could resist with a name like that?

snacks

snacks

Bitter Bitch

Bitter Bitch

dessert

dessert

While I sat there I was watching the Bengals-Steelers game and saw Martavis Bryant pull off an astonishing forward somersault through the end zone to maintain control of the football. Did you see that? Wow. I was so impressed I had to tell the ladies sitting next to me. Before I knew it, we found out we were

my server

my server

chandelier

chandelier

practically neighbors, and had made plans to move on to the place across the street, the very cool and chandelier-filled Inferno Lounge. My chauffer came back at the end of the night to get me safely home in that beautiful car.

The Cannery Pier Hotel & Spa at the end of a pier into the Columbia River.

The Cannery Pier Hotel & Spa at the end of a pier into the Columbia River.

I ran out of space yesterday to tell you about the post-worthy Cannery Pier Hotel & Spa. It’s more than you’d want to spend if you’re just traveling through, but highly highly worth it for a splurge. The photos will have to convey the beauty and quality and uniqueness of this place. It could get an entire blog post itself, but instead you’ll just have to suffer with a dozen photos.

These cars are for the guests

These cars are for the guests

Love this tub!

Love this tub!

View from my balcony

View from my balcony

Windowseat, fireplace, wow

Windowseat, fireplace, wow

Lobby area on the first floor

Lobby area on the first floor

Lounge area second floor

Lounge area second floor

Conference room

Conference room

West side of the building

West side of the building

Car below the bridge

Car below the bridge

Boat out front

Boat out front

History on the walls

History on the walls

Early days of the cannery

Early days of the cannery

The Lewis & Clark Bridge that I drive every day is almost the last bridge across the huge river. The Astoria-Megler Bridge is the last one, and it’s a doozy. At 4.1 miles long, it is the longest continuous truss bridge (the load-bearing structure is made of connected pieces forming triangles) in the United States. The whole hotel is on a pier out in the river, and my room was almost beneath the bridge.

Saturday evening was rather cloudy, but Sunday morning dawned spectacularly, and that made for some brilliant scenes for me to capture.

The Astoria-Megler Bridge from the balcony of my room in the morning sunshine.

The Astoria-Megler Bridge from the balcony of my room in the morning sunshine.

The Navajo getting an early start.

The Soujourn getting an early start.

Sojourn makes her way East up the river.

Sojourn makes her way East up the river.

On the land side of the pier, I spotted big ships glowing in the sun.

On the land side of the pier, I spotted distant ships glowing in the sun.

Here they are, at max zoom on my Nikon.

Here they are, at max zoom on my Nikon.

Later in the morning this tug came by, tugging.

Later in the morning this tug came by, tugging.

Close up of the tug

Close up of the tug Navajo.

I had a complimentary breakfast with fresh fruit and Greek yogurt and juice. The attendant even fetched me a larger plate when she saw I was having a waffle. I carried it all upstairs so I could continue to watch the view from my window seat. Finally I couldn’t lollygag in the gorgeous room anymore, so I packed up and headed out. With a day this beautiful, I had no choice but to head back to the Astoria Column that Mads and I visited in March on the first day of our road trip. I stopped first to take a photo of the Flavel House, which wasn’t open yet. Astoria is jam-packed with Victorian style homes and this one is one of the best. Built in 1884, it is now a museum, and something I’ll have to add to my next visit here.

Captain George Flavel House

Captain George Flavel House. It’s surrounded by trees, so hard to get a better shot.

Detail of the column. The closer you stand, the more remarkable it is.

Detail of the column. The closer you stand, the more remarkable it is.

The eye-catching Astoria Column.

The eye-catching Astoria Column stands on top of the hill.

It was still chilly, and on top of the hill the wind could get pretty brisk, but the sun was irresistible and plenty of others had the same idea as me. Soon kids were running to the gift store to purchase little balsa wood airplanes to launch from the top of the Astoria Column. I parked at a lower spot on the hill, and hiked up the grass to get a little exercise on my way up (parking at the top is $5 for the year if you don’t want to hike). Once I arrived at the column, I got even more exercise because there are 164 steps to the top.

The column is 125 feet tall with a spiral staircase inside that leads to an observation deck at the top. It was built with financing by the Great Northern Railroad and Vincent Astor, and was dedicated in 1926. It’s steel and concrete, and the outside is an unbroken spiral history of this area, told in pictures. I was interested in how the murals were made, so I looked it up. “The artwork was created using a technique called sgraffito (“skrah-fee-toh”), an Italian Renaissance art form,” says the column website.

I stayed at the top a good long while, though it was windy as heck and somewhat cramped. Adults and children alike launched their tiny planes, and we cheered them on as they often soared to unexpected distances and for great lengths of time before gliding silently to a stop. Anytime a plane landed nearby, someone at the bottom would scoop it up to try their own launch. The original owners didn’t care, because no one was about to make that climb a second time.

After that I decided to head back home. I stopped at Coffee Girl on Pier 39 on my way out of town. Named after the original coffee girl who sold coffee to the cannery workers at the Bumble Bee Seafood pier, the coffee was handed to me across the original coffee counter. Pretty cool.

A view of the city of Astoria from the column.

A view of the city of Astoria from the column. Columbia River on the right, Youngs Bay Bridge across Youngs Bay to the left, and the Pacific Ocean in the distance.

Youngs Bay

Youngs Bay and Warrenton, Oregon across the bridge.

Mt. Rainier off to the northeast (because I had to include a volcano!)

Mt. Rainier off to the northeast (because I had to include a volcano!)

Me, squinting in the sun.

Me, squinting in the sun.

An Indian boat display at the far end of the parking lot.

An Indian boat display at the far end of the parking lot.

There's my little home town of Rainier in the foreground, on the Oregon side, and Longview across the river on the Washington side. In the center is the Lewis & Clark Bridge across the Columbia River, that helps me get to work (and more importantly: home) each day.

There’s my little home town of Rainier in the foreground, on the Oregon side, and Longview across the river on the Washington side. In the center is the Lewis & Clark Bridge across the Columbia River, that helps me get to work (and more importantly: home) each day.

Saturday I turned 46 and went down the road apiece to Astoria, Oregon. I stopped right away at a viewpoint and looked down on our rural valley, about an hour drive north of Portland, Oregon. From there I could see the industrial mechanisms of the local economy, in the form of lumber and pulp mills, and the Port of Longview.

The next thing that caught my attention was a sign that pointed the way to a toll ferry. I did not need to go wherever the ferry would take me, except that I have been randomly discovering quite a few small ferry crossings on the many Oregon rivers, and it’s become a new interest of mine. Sadly, I did not ride a ferry that day.

Ferry was closed for repairs, but now that I know it's there, I'll go back and try again.

Ferry was closed for repairs, but now that I know it’s there, I’ll go back and try again.

The water beside the ferry launch was picturesque.

The water beside the ferry launch was picturesque.

In no time I was in Astoria, the city built at the mouth of the Columbia as it pours into the Pacific Ocean. I took a few photos near the mouth of the river, which is filled with sea faring ships, of course, since it’s a safe harbour when the ships are not en route. Then I stopped for lunch at the Rogue Brewery on Pier 39. I drove on the pier to get there!

Ships appear to be moving along a track in this photo. But they are in the distance, and a man is walking his dog along the path.

Ships appear to be moving along an earthen track in this photo. But they are in the distance, and a man is walking his dog along the path that follows the narrow piece of land.

The "road" to the brewery. One will also find shops, a museum, a law office, and the original cannery building for Bumble Bee Tuna.

The “road” to the brewery. One will also find a coffe shop, a dive store, a museum, and a law office.

Bumble Bee Seafood Company started right here. Can you sing the tune with me? "Bum Bum Bumble Bee, Bumble Bee Tuna."

Bumble Bee Seafood Company started right here. Can you sing the tune with me? “Bum Bum Bumble Bee, Bumble Bee Tuna.”

At the Rogue Brewery I veered away from the “Dead Guy Ale,” and the “Yellow Snow IPA,” and tried the “8 Hop IPA” and some homemade clam chowder (fresh clams, obviously). I somewhat recklessly agreed to become a citizen of the Rogue Nation and raised my right hand and took the pledge. I got a card that entitles me to a free pitcher of beer on my next birthday, but not this one. I talked with another woman traveling solo who is from Idaho like me, and has been roaming the West Coast since November, she said, trying to decide whether or not to retire. When she left, I talked with the couple on the other side of me, who were having a great day because the grandparents had the baby and they were free for awhile. They were both Air Force veterans like me and I quickly gave my VA-is-the-best-thing-ever spiel, and answered some questions and gave them my contact information.

Next I went to check in at the Cannery Pier Hotel & Spa. This place looked great online, and is *so* much better in reality. The service was personal and genuine. They learned my name in the first greeting, and from then on never asked again what room I was in. I told them it was my birthday and they wished me a happy birthday every time I passed the front desk (and even checked in with me the next day at breakfast, to see if I had enjoyed my birthday. I had.) I took a dozen photos, and I’ll share them with you in my next post.

The Cannery Pier Hotel & Spa at the end of a pier into the Columbia River.

The Cannery Pier Hotel & Spa at the end of a pier into the Columbia River.

There were about two hours of daylight left, so I left the place and went to find the sea.

First I got distracted by this garage covered in scavenged buoys. The woman who owned the home there said the garage was built at the same time as her grandmother’s home, which had been where we were standing before she tore it down to build her new home. “But Grandma loved her garage and it reminds me of her, and I just can’t bring myself to take it down yet,” she said. “We had a pile of these buoys that we had found, and one day we hung them up. Now people drop them off and we keep hanging them up.”

Grandma's garage covered in buoys

Grandma’s garage covered in buoys

Then I was distracted again by a sign giving directions to the Army Cemetery. The road passed through what had clearly been an Army outpost years ago. Though it is entirely civilian now, one can’t ever erase the stamp of the federal government. It had the feel of a military base still. At the end of the road I found the humble Fort Stevens Post Cemetery, founded in 1868, according to an informational sign, when the first burial was Private August Stahlberger, who fell in the river and drowned while under the influence. It was also closed for repair.

The road to the cemetery.

The road to the cemetery.

Past the guardhouse

Past the guardhouse

U.S. Army Cemetery, Fort Stevens

U.S. Army Cemetery, Fort Stevens

Doing repairs carefully

Doing repairs carefully

Finally I found the beach. I honestly tried to pick out just the good photos, but… I fell in love with them all. It was an exquisite view in the January afternoon, as the sun shed her last rays on us ocean-loving humans.DSC_0191DSC_0189DSC_0198DSC_0195DSC_0194

On the way back to the hotel for their 5 pm wine, cheese, salmon and crackers, I had to stop again for photos. These reflections were still discernible in the very last vestiges of light at about 4:40 pm.

Branches stretch across a swampy bay.

Branches stretch across a swampy bay.

My camera makes it look rather light still, but it was pretty dark at this point. Still, the reflections were worth stopping for.

My camera makes it look rather light still, but it was pretty dark at this point. Still, the reflections were worth stopping for.

I went up to my room and changed into my new Christmas dress that I had only worn once so far. I enjoyed the treats downstairs, then came back to my room to try out a new whiskey that I received as a birthday gift. Have I mentioned that I’m a whiskey drinker? A co-worker has been lauding this Japanese scotch for the longest time. I was skeptical that such a good whiskey could be from Japan. I am no longer skeptical. Then, since I wanted to get a photo of my dress for Tara, I took about 75 photos in the bathroom mirror and failed them all. By the time this one was taken, I was totally cracking up at my own ineptness. But at least I got a fuzzy picture of my dress. It’s a sweater dress, so fuzzy is appropriate.

Auchentoshan pours out like syrup

Auchentoshan Three Wood pours out like syrup

Cracking myself up while failing at a selfie.

Cracking myself up while failing at a selfie.

 

A happy Humpty Dumpty was put back together by Roger Tofte, according to the sign.

A happy Humpty Dumpty was put back together by Roger Tofte, according to the sign. This is no hollow claim, since some unruly guests knocked Humpty to the ground last year, and Mr. Tofte was forced to prove that he could indeed put the egg back together.

For Tara’s 18th birthday celebration, a trip to the Enchanted Forest  was requested. We went last year and loved it, so I was on board to visit again!

This enchanted theme park has moved through too-uncool-for-middle school, and has become a hip place to go, if you are a teenager. It is clearly designed for small children, with some great additions since the 1970s that will entertain the parents, but what keeps this place well worth a visit is that it slightly misses the mark, and crosses the Uncanny Valley. What I mean is, it’s just on the other side of cute, and has turned creepy in a most delicious way.

Tara and birthday friends inside the mouth of the witch. The trail continues inside, with scenes from Snow White inside.

Tara and birthday friends inside the mouth of the witch. The trail continues into the throat, with scenes from Snow White and her evil witch stepmother.

The kids peek into the windows of the tiny house of the Seven Dwarves.

The kids peek into the windows of the tiny house of the Seven Dwarfs.

The second floor of the little house holds these darling beds, a tiny rabbit, and a squirrel doing some housekeeping.

The second floor of the little house holds these darling beds, a tiny rabbit, and a squirrel doing some housekeeping.

It is so much like the idea of Disneyland that I am amazed no one has sued. Thank goodness, because the Enchanted Forest, south of Salem, Oregon, is a high-quality theme park that’s a blast for the little ones, and genuinely amusing for everyone else. All that – for an entrance fee of $10.99, and tickets for the rides at $1 per ticket.

The park is a true family effort, envisioned by Roger Tofte, supported by his wife and children, and opened in 1971. A son grew up and learned animatronics, and built for us the awkward, jerking, breathed into life-sized beings across the park. One daughter wrote and directs the comedic plays that show at the theatre, and she also wrote all the music heard in the park, which is always played on pipes.

Hansel and Gretel couldn't resist this place. Neither could Tara.

Hansel and Gretel couldn’t resist this place. Neither could Tara.

This is by far the most frightening thing in the park: animated witch beckons Gretel into the furnace, and creaking, hesitant, animatronic Gretel slowly turns her head back and forth in a

This is by far the most frightening thing in the park: animated witch beckons Gretel into the furnace, and creaking, hesitant, animatronic Gretel slowly turns her head back and forth in a “no.” Life-sized Hansel crouches in an iron cage at her feet.

It begins just past the entrance, where guests walk along Storybook Trail through a real forest, and find miniature and life-sized creations from children’s faery tales and Mother Goose rhymes. You can stand on the trail and look, but if you get close and go inside or peek in windows, that is when the real treat begins. Or the real heebie jeebies, as the case may be.

There is a Western-themed town, which is hilarious, filled with more animatronics, and named Tofteville. The kids got a big charge out of the drunken walk, where you enter a building, and follow the path out on a floor balanced on springs. There is no way to keep steady.

I think I may just love Pinocchio Town the best, a European-style village that has several animated faces that peer from shutters two stories above you that swing open. The characters gossip loud enough to hear, about different storybook characters. You can enter a doorway and follow a path through multiple buildings, peeking into holes in walls, and holes in cheese, and reading about puppetry around the world, and controlling a miniature train on a track through snowy Alps. Through one curtained window is a kaleidescope, that simply turns as long as you stand there. One window reveals a fabulous 10-foot-high Rube Goldberg mechanism that runs balls through a wire obstacle course. And who can stand resist the singing blackbirds baked in a pie?

Four and twenty blackbirds, baked in a pie. When the pie was opened, the birds began to sing.

Four and twenty blackbirds, baked in a pie. When the pie was opened, the birds began to sing.

Peek through one of the holes in an enormous piece of Swiss cheese, and you can see the home of the Three Blind Mice.

Peek through one of the holes in an enormous piece of Swiss cheese, and you can see the home of the Three Blind Mice.

Where will this lead us next?

Where will this lead us next?

Gossips in Pinocchio's Village

Gossips in Pinocchio’s Village

These inviting structures hold picnic tables, where people can eat the food they brought in, or buy from the vendors.

These inviting structures hold picnic tables, where people can eat the food they brought in, or buy from the vendors.

Rip Van Winkle sleeps on a hil

Rip Van Winkle sleeps on a hill

Jack and Jill run down the hill

Jack and Jill run down the hill

Little Red Riding Hood knocks on the door, but the wolf has already eaten Grandma

The wolf listens eagerly to Red Riding Hood’s knock.

The Crooked Man invites visitors to walk through his crooked house.

The Crooked Man invites visitors to walk through his crooked house.

Mrs. Pumpkin Eater is trapped.

Mrs. Pumpkin Eater is trapped.

The Europen-style village

The European-style village

Mad Hatter and March Hare have tea, while the Cheshire Cat looks down, grinning

Mad Hatter and March Hare have tea, while the Cheshire Cat looks down, grinning

I haven’t shown any photos of the rides, but I think I’ll save those for another day. There were too many fun photos in this post to bog it down further.

In 1960s, Roger Tofte seemed to be the only person who could see the final version in his mind’s eye. He was the target of many jokes and whispers that he had some screws loose.

Mr. Tofte can laugh at them all today, though I imagine he’s too sweet to do so. Both times we have visited the park, we have spotted him moving around, quietly under the radar, passing through doors that say “staff only” and happily waiting for toddlers to pass before he drives through on his scooter.

The Western town, named Tofteville.

The Western town, named Tofteville.

In Tofteville, a barber and his client appear startled to see me.

In Tofteville, a barber and his client appear startled to see me.

A dentist in Tofteville, getting some unruly teeth in order.

A dentist in Tofteville, getting some unruly teeth in order.

Start the New Year right with GINORMOUS earrings!

Start the New Year right with GINORMOUS earrings!

I have been delinquent on making New Year’s Resolutions the past two years. As I’ve written before, I don’t do resolutions, but rather New Year’s Fantasies. They are less like obligations and more like awesome potential if I play my cards right. It’s akin to what I saw recently going on over at Bucket List Publications.

My New Year’s lists are a way to remind myself of what’s important. When I make a list of fantasies, it often reveals what is not there, so I can add it. Does that make sense? I don’t want it to be all filled up with activities, because I need to remember to slow down and enjoy my people. I don’t want it to be filled with career goals and paying down debt, without including quality time with Tara and a few good hikes. It’s also a way to embrace my ambitious nature, and give myself permission to be driven and to look forward to amazing adventures and phenomenal self-growth, because that is simply what makes me Crystal.

Another way my tradition is different from resolutions is that I try to make my list around my birthday (January 9th) instead of the first of the year. My birthday reminds me that I’m older (45 this year!) and that lists like this are actually important. If I am granted a typical lifespan, then I’m already more than halfway through it, and that puts me into a little bit of a panic. So much left to do!

Fantasies for 2015

  1. Buy a house.
  2. Visit my brother and his girlfriend in Seattle right away, and tour the University of Washington campus.
  3. Finish the Japan photobook. I am *still* not done. It’s absolutely inexcusable, I know.
  4. Paint something in oils. I need to stop thinking of art as a luxury and make it a priority.
  5. Write more on my Shemya book. I was going gangbusters till pulling up the memories from all those years ago brought up a particularly terrible and traumatic memory. I’ve been in therapy since then and it is making an enormous difference in my life. I think I can dig back into my old life again without meeting an emotional roadblock.
  6. Have a fabulous coast road trip to Canada with M in March.
  7. Have a Disneyland trip in June that is so awesome it totally wipes out the horrible Disneyland memories from last March (I focused on the good stuff in my blog, but now you know the rest of the story).
  8. Be more assertive. As a parent, as a partner, as an employee. I need to be much better at speaking up for myself.
  9. Continue cultivating friends. 2014 was a great year for building healthy friendships and critiquing unhealthy friendships.
  10. Get better at referring to my transgendered teen in gender neutral pronouns, which is *so hard* to do. More on this later…another enormous life-changing event I haven’t told you about yet.
  11. Plan and pay for my trip to Sri Lanka, January 2016. M is from Sri Lanka and has been begging R and me to go there with him. We finally agreed on early January, so logistics must be completed in 2015.
  12. Come up with a way to manage the blogosphere. Those of you who post every single day, sometimes more than once a day, offer me an excellent opportunity to learn better time management. Also, you keep me in awe. “How on Earth….?”
  13. Put out the rest of my raccoon stickers.

Ok, I think that’s a good list. Here is an awesome one from 2011: “Laugh more.” In 2009 I included this long rant. It obviously touched a nerve when I wrote it. And…it remains relevant:

Stay open to what the Universe provides for me. Stop trying to bully my way through. Stop trying to control the direction. Stop trying to control the definition of my success, and my path toward it. Give it up. Have some peace. Accept help from others. Be graceful in acknowledging my ignorance, while maintaining my strength and confidence and power and beauty.

Here’s hoping that most of your 2015 fantasies come true!

Backpacker selfie

Backpacker selfie

I was nearly done with my hike when I realized I had no photos of myself in that beautiful wilderness. I had passed a couple of people, and any of them would have been happy to snap a photo, but by the time I remembered to document my presence there, it was only me. So I took a selfie.

At the place where the little road to the trailhead comes out at Highway 299 is a little ghost town of Helena, California. People still live there and are served by the U.S. Postal Service. The place was settled in 1851 to serve the miners in the mountains. Today there are several large, abandoned, and vandalized buildings left near the road.

Once a large and beautiful home

Once a large and beautiful home

My mother would have loved the pine cone wallpaper.

My mother would have loved the pine cone wallpaper.

The old post office building

The old post office building

Staircase inside the home

Staircase inside the home

On my way west along 299, the temperature dropped from 102 to 72 by the time I reached Highway 101 along the coast. I arrived at Tara’s dad’s house with some sunshine and afternoon left in the day. Feeling pleased to have found Humboldt County in sunshine (a truly rare event), I was happy that Tara felt like walking to the beach. We hit the Hammond Trail and passed the gorgeous country fields near McKinleyville in the flat lands around the mouth of the Mad River.

Once I heard it, I have enjoyed telling the story of the naming of the Mad River. In 1850 the Dr. Josiah Gregg Expedition was exploring, mapping, and documenting the area. Gregg, a naturalist, was also interested in cataloging flora and fauna. Their most important work was arguably the mapping of Humboldt Bay, large enough to accommodate ships that could serve miners and trappers of the region. Falling on hard times, the group had a dispute about the best way to return to San Francisco. Gregg could not bring himself to give up on the scientific work and insisted that they must follow the coast home, and continue to work. The larger group of dissenters argued that they would starve to death unless they made their way inland again. Dr. Gregg had a tremendous temper tantrum at the mouth of a river, as his companions left him and a few others on the shore. The Mad River was named in honor of that event. Dr. Gregg eventually realized he needed to move inland as well, and his group began heading toward what is now called Clear Lake. Sadly, he was starving to death at that point, and in his weakness fell off his horse and died.

After enjoying the beach in the waning sun, Tara and I headed back. The next morning we left early in order to make preparations for the following day’s celebrations: My kid turned 17 and was going to have a big birthday bash at the house. I can hardly believe my baby girl is 17 years old. Babyhood a distant memory, Tara is now strong and kind, thoughtful and helpful, smart and oh, so funny. I feel honored that I get to share in her life.

Fields and farmland near McKinleyville, California

Fields and farmland near McKinleyville, California

I'll bet one does not find many snails on the fence posts of Kansas.

I’ll bet one does not find many snails on the fence posts of Kansas.

Walking bridge over the Mad River, along the Hammond Trail

Walking bridge over the Mad River is part of the Hammond Trail

An abandoned barn along our route

An abandoned barn along our route

My Tara dancing on the beach

My Tara dancing on the beach

Purple flowers and grasses as lovely as any arranged basket.

Purple flowers and grasses as lovely as any arranged basket.

A hunter waits patiently in the field.

A hunter waits patiently in the field.

This heron is doing more aggressive hunting, as she stalks gracefully across the grass.

This Great Blue Heron is hunting more aggressively than the cat.

 

My birthday (January 9th) corresponds with the new year, and often I am struck with a sense of opportunity and renewal with both of those events coming together each year. I got off to a slow start in 2011, and spent some quality time rolling around in the dustballs of self pity during December and the first week of January, before launching into the next chapter of my life.

I missed a “New Year’s Resolution” post for January 2010. Today I felt it was time to check and see if my plans had come to fruition, and discovered that there was no post last year that I can review. Drat. I’ll use January 2009’s list then, and see how I did in the last two years.

  1. Well, we did get enough money to begin paying the mortgage again. Together. But I moved out and neither of us has enough to pay it on our own. So, this one is not checked off the list. Half point for settling with Wells Fargo, getting off the endangered list, but nowhere near financially stable.
  2. I’ve been doing much better about enjoying my girl and I try very hard to curb my lectures, but it doesn’t always work. Half point.
  3. I caught Marcus three times. One freaking incredible show at the Crystal Ballroom, and then the show in Kennewick. The winner was at Jan & Mike’s house though. One point.
  4. I used my frequent flier miles to go to Egypt with my kid. Two points for being awesome.
  5. During 2009 I did not see any brothers, but in 2010 I saw all three! I love them all so much. One point.
  6. I did gain self-confidence at work through a collection of reasons. a) My coach (that’s what VA calls supervisors) went on temporary duty to another state for three months, and our stand-in coach was an awesome, awesome supervisor. He made me feel like a valuable employee in mere weeks, and undid a lot of her damage. b) I practiced talking to others about their performance, and found out that I am doing as well as them, and my coach just liked to tell me I was failing. c) We hired a bunch of new people and my coach now has others to pick on. d) I decided to stop taking her words as a slap, and just laughed her off (in my mind, not to her face). She took the cue and started leaving me alone. One point.
  7. Failed miserably here. I wrote about 500 words of my Shemya book in 2009 and zero in 2010. No points.
  8. The aim was to stay open to the Universe. Hm. I think I am less open in that my thoughts are darker, more cynical, more negative. Somehow I need to find a way to keep my inner buoyancy when life plants a gut kick. No points.

Total for the last string of new year’s wishes: 6 points out of 8 possible. That’s pretty good, except for the fact that I gave myself two years to meet the goals of just one year, so I should subtract points for that. Let’s say 4 points out of 8, which is only mediocre, and gives me a target I can improve upon.

My fantasies for the year 2011:

  1. I will spend more time laughing.
  2. I will practice gratitude for my job even though it involves thankless slaving in a cubicle sea under federal government management.
  3. More painting! I must create more oil paintings. It’s so much fun and it is not merely a guilty pleasure; for me, it is living.
  4. Genuine interaction with my friends. Maybe… get some more? I want to get better at asking them to tell me about their lives, listening, and I want to spend more time with them.
  5. Pay off the credit cards. Enough of those already. Jeezums crow!
  6. Resolve the Morrison Street house situation. This one is a long shot. Though I don’t live there anymore, my name is on the mortgage. Mark is struggling to pay for it, and will continue to struggle. We want to sell it, but the chances of that are unlikely because it needs tons of work and we owe more than it’s worth. We want to refinance so just his name is on the mortgage, and that will probably not happen because he doesn’t earn enough and there is no equity.
  7. Participate in Portland’s multitudinous community activities more often.
  8. Start writing my book again. I’ve got two started. Either one, or both, could use some attention.
  9. Go to Hawaii and see Vlad.
  10. If  Dave Matthews and Marcus Eaton will be at the Gorge again in September, I want to go.

Alright, that’s enough to start with.

…because I know exactly what I want, right?!

I turn 40 January 9th. Forty. wow. It’s a significant landmark, and I decided to do something amazing. So I’m taking my daughter to Egypt. It was my 4th choice of a destination, narrowed down by January weather and price tags. I think our choice will be excellent, though.

I’m taking the laptop and crossing my fingers for a wireless connection or two along the way, so I can update you ON SITE. How fun would that be?

I’ve been practicing my Arabic, got our immunization records together, renewed my passport (whew! It had almost expired, good thing I checked).

What will we learn? This wide world has so much to teach and I have a mere speck of time in this life to learn it and see it. I told my grandmother that it’s frustrating sometimes because the planet is so large I’ll never get to see it all.

My daughter is leaving North America for the first time, and I am dying to see the effect it has on her. She already has a much broader view of the world than I did when I was 12. She is an incredible human and I can’t wait to see how she incorporates this experience into who she is.

We leave for NYC on the 11th. I’ll keep you posted!

I find myself making plans for the year ahead in January. I love that I always imagine that THIS year, THIS YEAR, is going to be a great one.

A lot of the time I am right.

OK, so I turned 38 the day before yesterday. I was talking to my cube neighbor about birthdays and he said that he and his oldest son turn 60 and 40, respectively, at about the same time a year from now. They have made plans to go to Ireland for their birthdays. I thought it was a great idea. I’m pretty much due for another big trip, eh?

I tried telling my boyfriend, but he’s not in the frame of mind to dream about going on big trips. Not when we’re so stressed about paying bills. But I get so much joy out of planning and dreaming, that having bills doesn’t take away from that joy. If my 40th birthday trip doesn’t work out exactly as my most cherished dream, then it will still be great no matter where I go. That’s just the sort of mind I have. I like being me.

He suggested Ukiah, CA as a destination he could foresee being able to accomplish.

The brat.

I’m thinking Egypt. Someone told me the Nile is worth traveling along, and the idea hasn’t left my head for years. But like I said, if it ends up being Banff NP instead, I’ll still have fun.

I still like my job. I’m still in training (my first day was Oct 1 – so that’s a bucketload of training), but I am learning so much every day. I do enjoy trying to help out our nation’s veterans. I made my first call to a veteran last week. That was a high point. It is a good feeling to have it confirmed that there are real people with real lives going on behind these stacks of paper files I look at every day.

We had the appraisal come back on the house, and it looks like we will qualify for a conventional loan instead of a rehab loan. This is a tremendous relief. Instead of 20% down, we will put 0 down, and that will be much easier to manage right now. Our stocks have not done as well as we hoped, so that money isn’t much of a nest egg to draw from at the moment.

In any case, the appraisal is for more than our purchase price, so we can now get the mortgage, and then on top of it, get a home equity loan to re-build the foundation. We can pay off the home equity loan more quickly, and that will save us a bundle in the long run.

Yes, the foundation is in such poor condition, it needs to be replaced. Immediately. Looks like we will also be able to move in while the foundation work is going on – wow. It is so exciting to finally be able to say it’s gonna happen. With so many problems, we took a long time deciding whether or not to actually commit to this place. It’s a great home with mounds of potential. But in this case potential translates to the fact that it’s current state leaves a lot to be desired. It’s going to be dry and huge on day 1, and that’s all we need to move in. I think in 5 years it will be pretty neat, and in 10 years it will probably be resembling the final stages. THAT is how much work it needs.

We found my daughter’s Middle School, which is important because when she reaches the 7th grade, she’ll come to live with us during school and with her dad on vacations. The middle school is only about 8 blocks away, so she can walk there. Her high school is up the road apiece, and should be a short and comfortable ride on a TriMet bus each morning. After her 8th grade year, she’ll have friends who will also be making the transition with her, and so I’m thinking it will make an easier shift to public transportation and the responsibility it requires. She is so smart and capable and independent that if she has any worries at all, it won’t last more than a day or two.

Then! Imagine how free she will be! 13 years old and the city’s public transportation at her disposal. That will be so much fun.

It’s raining and raining here, and I love it. It’s been a bit too chilly for my taste, but today was nice. I scraped ice off the windshield on a regular basis, but it warms up as soon as the sun rises. Nothing like New England January. ha ha!

The Uncles sold another puppy over the weekend, so we have only two left of the original 11 Saint Bernards. I hope they find homes for them soon, because little Onyx is about to pop. She’s a schipperke, and is having puppies for the first time. She’s only a foot and half high, so her pups will be tiny and oh, so cute. I am eager to see them.

I have been taking an earlier bus each morning (I drive from our country home into NW Portland and catch a bus from there) so that I can spend more time in the gym at work. It’s such a treat having a free, clean, gym in the same building I work in. Anyway, I get a solid 45 minutes to work out now, and I can really tell the difference after only 10 days of my new plan. At first my body was crying, “WHAT do you think you’re doing to us?!” But now I am finally past that agony, and enjoy a hard work out each morning to get my juices going.

My fantasies for 2008?
1) I’ll finally get my very own cube and desk to sit at to do my work (can you BELIEVE they still don’t have a place to put any of us new hires?)
2) I’ll gain some confidence and become productive at work
3) We’ll get settled in to our new home
4) Tara will reconcile herself to the idea that she must change school districts in two years
5) Mark will gain some confidence and productivity in his job
6) I’ll plan out the perfect kitchen and maybe even begin creating it
7) I’ll make some headway in eliminating my debt
8 ) I’ll sell the house house in Massachusetts and pay back my mother and grandmother the money I borrowed from them to buy the house in the first place.

…that’s a good start anyway.  😮

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