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Sunshine glistens off the water of Beaver Creek on my property.

Sunshine glistens off the water of Beaver Creek on my property.

After the heat of Santiago, I arrived at the airport in Portland to the winter season once more. In a few hours I was home in Rainier, where a thin layer of snow still covered the ground. Over the week that followed, more snow fell. It’s not a lot of snow as far as snowy places go, but for our area it is unusual. And just in time for Christmas!

Winter is not so bad when it's this pretty.

Winter is not so bad when it’s this pretty.

Looking along a different stretch of the creek.

Looking along a different stretch of the creek.

Snow collects on the top of the frozen pond.

Snow collects on the top of the frozen pond.

Chicken tracks.

Chicken tracks. When I arrived home, the chickens were lose and running free through the snow. They missed me and were glad to be led home.

Kitty covering her nose for warmth.

Kitty covering her nose for warmth.

Deer don't mind snow much.

Deer don’t mind snow much.

The view out my home office window. Having a view like this while I work makes me grateful in so many ways.

The view out my home office window. Having a view like this while I work makes me grateful in so many ways.

Tara and I bought a $5 tag from the U.S. Forest Service and went up into the mountains to collect a tree. We didn’t find much in the way of trees, but we had a great adventure. Soon after we entered National Forest land, we came upon a couple of young men trapped in a little car on an icy bridge. They had tried to cross the bridge the night before and became high-centered on the snow berm in the middle, and couldn’t get any traction on the ice. They had spent the night out there and were SO glad to see us! I towed them off the bridge with the Jeep and we pushed the car to help them turn it around and get them out of there. They looked in pretty good shape, but were ready to eat and get warm again.

Waterfall in the forest.

Waterfall in the forest.

Tara bundled up.

Tara bundled up.

Things turned violent.

Things turned violent.

We made it home with a tree from a U-cut tree farm instead.

We made it home with a tree from a U-cut tree farm instead.

front of the old note

front of the old note

back of the note

back of the note

In the chill, it’s obvious my thoughts keep going back to those warm days such a short time ago. I’m still peeling from the sunburn, but the mosquito bites are all healed. Yay! I’ve got the stamps on my passport to prove it really happened. I was gathering some of the money together to send to my brother, who collects foreign currency as I do, and it occurred to me that my Uncle Sean was a missionary for the Mormon church in the 1980s and did his mission in Chile. He sent me a 100 CP note back then and I still have it. The currency has de-valued, and Chile doesn’t even *make* 100 peso bills anymore.img_2697

 Merry Christmas everyone and have the happiest of New Year’s celebrations! My long, annual Christmas missive is delayed, obviously, but I’ve had a really productive December. I spent two weeks on vacation, I finished the Mt. Hood Cherokees newsletter this morning, and sent it out to everyone on the mailing list. I’ve got all Tara’s presents wrapped. The tree is up and simply gorgeous. Santa comes tonight and we are all very excited about it!

The rain was gushing today, but the ample front porch keeps the front of the house dry.

The rain was gushing today, but the ample front porch keeps the front of the house dry.

Bandaged toe.

Bandaged toe.

This weekend I was recovering from a procedure I had on my foot on Friday. Had to keep the foot elevated, but had I been as mobile as usual, the weather was not exactly encouraging to do chores or to do fun stuff. So I guess it’s time for a blog.

I moved to this house in the summer, but thoughtful housewarming gifts keep showing up unpredictably. This post is to highlight the ones I thought of today. I hope I don’t forget any, but if I do, I’ll just add them later.

I’ve got a few friends from the earliest of days, and I love that. One of them has been among my best friends since I was 16 and he was 17. He sent me my very first housewarming gift, a steel fish. I think it’s gorgeous and it was the very first thing I hung on my walls in this big place.

This beauty is perfectly suited for my plum walls.

This beauty is perfectly suited for my plum walls.

Another metal gift is one I have needed for ages! After the woodstove was installed, I found a nice-sized stick that I used as a fire poker. In its early life it was about four feet long. It kept accidentally catching on fire. I can’t tell you how many times I would have to run from the fire to the kitchen, to douse the smoking stick. One night I didn’t realize a tiny ember had remained on the stick and it smoldered and burned down about four inches while I slept. Yikes. Anyway, after a few months, my poker stick was only about 18 inches long. I complained about it constantly, but never found time to go shopping for one of those metal fireplace sets. You know, the ones with the broom and the poker that hang from a gaudy rack that sits beside the fireplace? I was complaining to my step-father while Tara and I were in Idaho the last time, and he jumped into action. He dug around in the shed and came up with a steel rod that had a few nuts on one end. It was too long, so he heated it with a torch and cut it, then bent and tapered the end. He heated the nuts into place, then filed them down smooth. I tell you: I was thrilled! This is a perfect fire stick. I never have to run to the kitchen blowing out flames anymore.

Metal pokers are best. Can you see it, leaning against the bricks?

Metal pokers are best. Can you see it, leaning against the bricks?

In the way that happens so often in the blogging world, it was my turn to be blessed with a gift from a blogger. Marlene, whose unceasing accomplishments astound us all who know her at insearchofitall, made this kitchen towel for me. She said it wasn’t just for show, and I was free to use it as a towel, but for now I like it hanging up. I washed it first, to make it look a little used. This gift is one that brings love into my world and makes home feel that much more like home, you know?

Close up of the kitchen towel that Marlene made for me as a housewarming gift.

Close up of the kitchen towel that Marlene made for me as a housewarming gift.

My beautiful kitchen towel tells the truth: lots of love here.

My beautiful kitchen towel tells the truth: lots of love here.

My Tara is in love with bees, you may recall from the brand new bee tattoo. Anything bee-related is good, so I recently received two beeswax candles that please their tastes as well as mine. From what I am told, beeswax candles are superior. I haven’t had the heart to light either one yet, but they smell divine. It’s like what honey would be if it were a gas. Omigosh sweet goodness.

A bees wax squirrel candle. Can't get more perfect for me!

A bees wax squirrel candle. Can’t get more perfect for me!

The sweetest-smelling dragon

The sweetest-smelling dragon

My Pa said during one of our phone calls, “You know, I am sure I have a book about ponds around here somewhere….” Lo and behold, one day these pond books showed up. I am so excited to get what I can from them. Both are written for people who want to build a pond from scratch, so much text is dedicated to planning and engineering. However, I am sure that if I read them both, I will find reasons for the engineering, and that will give me an education. I really want to know how to take care of my pond. It is important to me to be a good steward to this land.

Pond books that I can hardly wait to read.

Pond books that I can hardly wait to read.

Another long time friend is one I met in college in northern California, before I transferred to Brandeis University. I took an honors Anthropology class, just because I was trying to take all the honors classes, and what a great decision it was because within a few weeks I had decided to major in Anthropology. I loved that class, the beautiful and intelligent professor, and this awesome chick who sat next to me every day. She and I even did a part-performance from the Vagina Monologues in that class, and I was in awe of her bravery for tackling the skit she chose. We have been friends ever since. Anyway, my friend now lives in Sante Fe, and sent a care package filled with wonderful things carefully selected from town, including a little burlap bag of garlic, canned roasted peppers, a sage smudge she wrapped herself, and a bag filled with pine nuts still in the shells. She also sent a two-page letter explaining the significance of each thing, and how she might come across them in a typical day. I have eaten everything that’s edible, but I still have some of the nuts left. They are good to munch on at work.

Empty garlic bag and mostly empty nut bag.

Empty garlic bag and mostly empty nut bag.

My last gift has to come with a story, so you can understand why I love it so much.

Out of the blue, I got a box from another friend from the early early days. I went to school with this kid starting back in 1980 and we graduated together in 1988. His dad owned “the” lumber/hardware store in our tiny Idaho town, called C&M Lumber Company. It was absolutely the only place to go for tools, for 2x4s, for paint, for glass, you name it. “C&M” we called it, was a hub, and I was like a kid in a candy store there. I belong to that quirky group that loves hardware stores (I know you’re out there!). Anyway, I have these beautiful, sweet, childhood memories of bemused adults interacting with me as a 14-year old customer, and treating me with more consideration than I’ll bet the adults got. For example, I wanted to paint my bedroom once, and my dad said it was ok. He wouldn’t buy me any paint, but I could use anything in the garage that I found. I found about five containers of mostly-empty, close-to-white paint, from different brands, who knows what it all was. It hadn’t occurred to me to tell my dad that I planned to paint with coloured paint. One of the containers was a 5-gallon bucket, and I dumped them all (plus a pale yellow one) into the big one, and stirred. Then I lugged that thing (it wasn’t full, of course) across blocks and blocks of dirt roads, all the way to C&M Lumber Company. Without any concept of how it was usually done, I explained to the person working that I was there to get it coloured. “We don’t usually do it that way…” the salesman began. But in no time, he had agreed to try to make it a shade of dusty rose I liked, and it was like a little chemical experiment, as he dumped in some of this, and some of that,  stirred it, and then painted a bit of it, to see what it looked like as it dried. All totally FASCINATING to me, as I watched eagerly. I had money, and was ready to pay, but at the end I was released without spending a penny. I was oblivious. But what a great place, to put that much effort into a kid’s project. I ended up painting my room dusty rose with dark grey trim and proudly showed my Pa, who flipped out because it was a forest service house, and residents needed to get permission to paint any colour but white, pale yellow, or pale Forest Service green. After a few days, he relaxed, and decided that no one would find out till after we moved, since I had an attic bedroom.

If I wear this hat, I'll fit right in among the locals in Rainier. But I'll be the only one with the gorgeous goose embroidered on the side. Look at that!

If I wear this C&M Lumber hat, I’ll fit right in among the locals in Rainier. But I’ll be the only one with the gorgeous duck embroidered on the side. Look at that!

There was also the time when I was into a kick of etching artwork into glass. I had found a thick, tinted, and huge mirror at the dump, that had broken into about six unwieldy pieces. I carried these carefully to C&M to get the sharper points cut off and cut in half so they would be easier for me to play with. This time it was the owner himself, my friend’s dad. He began the same way as the paint guy. “Well, we don’t usually…” and before I knew it, he had cut all the pieces for me. Then he took all of them to a power sanding machine and ground down the edges of every mirror piece so I wouldn’t cut myself. Again, my parents had no idea I was there. Again, I tried to pay and was shooed out the door. For years I understood hardware stores as places where you did not spend much. Funny, that’s no longer the case for me.

Today, my school friend runs the place. I haven’t been inside since I was a teenager, but I have been through town, and I have seen the brand new big building outside of town. It must still be as vital today as then. In the country, the hardware/lumber/tool/garden store is critical.

I did my friend’s son a favor a few years ago, and he promised to make it up to me. Viola! Favor returned:

Look at all these shirts! I am so excited to get them!

Look at all these shirts! I am so excited to get them!

In closing, I am including this short video of my woodstove. I tried twenty times to get a photo to show what I was seeing, but I couldn’t do it. I had to use video. What you see is not flames, but smoke, lit up orange from the coals in the back. Cooooooolll.

 

New flag hanging at the house.

New flag hanging at the house.

Time for a catch-up post! It has been wet and chilly lately: unusually early for these parts, but I suppose that balances the remarkably early hot and dry weather we had the end of May and during June. The weather this week is unmistakably Autumnal.

And that makes me panic a little: wait! Summer can’t be gone already! I’m barely getting my mind wrapped around this new house and I haven’t spent enough time sitting back and enjoying it. Yet, if I think about it, I realize there has been much afoot, because I am Crystal and Crystal cannot sit still.

In different light, and in different weather, the landscape reveals itself to me. Typically the pond is so camouflaged that people don't even know it's there. But one morning it was all I could see out there.

In different light, and in different weather, the landscape reveals itself to me. Typically the pond is so camouflaged that people don’t even know it’s there. But one morning it was all I could see out there.

The pond on another day. Though it's in the center of the photo, it's hard to know I am looking at a pond.

The pond on another day. Though it’s in the center of the photo, it’s hard to know I am looking at a pond.

I had a housewarming party. For me this is a complicated negotiation of life goals and stepping outside my comfort zone. My Internet personality may not show it, and my real life personality certainly masks it, but I am a solid introvert. I find that being around a gathering of people is often so mentally exhausting for me that I usually prefer to avoid them. So planning a party? I was a dervish that week, spinning 14 hula hoops in different directions. Afterward – I am not kidding you – I spent two days not talking to anyone, not cooking or cleaning or doing anything that needed doing, and playing video games in my slow recovery.

Don't I know it!

Don’t I know it!

The background to that plan is that this summer my friend G came to see the property, and announced, “Crystal, you MUST host many parties. This place is made for parties.” I thought seriously about that. I’ve been pretty lonesome ever since Arno and I broke up, and I am adamant that I will not fall in love again until I am comfortable being without a partner. Parties would force my introvert self to make friends. 🙂

Also! I can take that risk as long as G helps me. In her I have finally found one of those friends that everyone should have. We have dozens of things in common, are delighted by all the same exact non-typical things, she’s as odd as me, she’s as mentally and emotionally unpredictable as me. So, while I have a lot of mainstream and socially acceptable interests and talents, now there is at least one person around whom I can fall apart into eccentric quirkiness, and she won’t bat an eye.

With her encouragement, I invited everyone I could think of to the potluck. I even walked to the house of the neighbor I hadn’t met, in order to invite her, and we had a great conversation. My Uncle showed up, my brother and his girlfriend from Seattle, people from work, a group of Tara’s friends, and the leader of my Cherokee group came out with her dogs. Friends that I’ve only known a couple months came out here. The weather was perfect, the food turned out amazing (a recipe for pulled pork I had never tried before, and some gluten-free enchiladas).

For all the hours that people were at the housewarming party, I never thought to bring out a camera, till we spotted the sun setting through smoky forest fire skies.

For all the hours that people were at the housewarming party, I never thought to bring out a camera, till we spotted the sun setting through smoky forest fire skies.

Tara is less afraid of heights than I am.

Tara is less afraid of heights than I am.

The housewarming party was a great success and I am riding that wave to the next one: a Samhain bonfire party, which must wait till the forest gets a good soaking.

Part of getting ready for the party involved painting the two living rooms, finished WHILE the first people arrived, ha ha. The house was a series of shades of white, but now we’ve got green, blue, and *purple* walls. I love the purple fireplace room – can’t wait to get a good shot to show you.

I’ve had an electrician come out, a fireplace inspector, a well and pump specialist…so much work to be done here, and so many things to learn. Appointments are all set for the experts to do their magic and get this place ship shape.

Seafaring robots dressed for the party.

Seafaring robots dressed for the party.

We attended a Tiki party at the home of Arno’s brother and sister-in-law, and I learned a little about being a gracious host. The gathering was relaxed and comfortably whimsical, because the couple fills their home and lawn not only with the best kind of people, but also with fabulous thrift-shop finds and creative inventions. Structures around the place included Tiki gods with fires, Tiki gods blowing bubbles and spewing steam, a monkey dangling from a vine, hula dancers shimmying, and a 12-foot volcano that erupted frothing bubbles. So much fun.

Left to right: they are Jamie, Tawny, Lacey, and Phil all misbehaving and getting ready to poop on the deck where they are not welcome!

Left to right: they are Jamie, Tawny, Lacey, and Phil all misbehaving and getting ready to poop on the deck where they are not welcome!

The Jeep is baptized in straw.

The Jeep is baptized in straw.

Learning includes taking care of the growing birds. My chickies are now practically hen-sized and hen-shaped, but no eggs yet. They are big enough to intimidate the neighborhood cats, so I let them roam free around the acreage during the day. They are getting saucy and healthy on grass and bugs, and they have claimed the place as their own. I have the worst time trying to keep them off the deck. One day I had the sliders open and I caught them in the house! I purchased my first bale of hay, and my first 40-pound bag of chicken feed. “What kind do you need?” asked the woman at the counter. “uhhh….” was my eloquent reply. Next time I’ll have an answer.

Robert Lewis tells a story with the help of audience members. Tara is on the right.

Robert Lewis tells a story with the help of audience members. Tara is on the right.

Tara's reed basket.

Tara’s reed basket.

Showing the colours

Showing the colours

Tara and I managed to get to only one Cherokee gathering this summer, but it was a good one. We went to Eugene for a combined potluck with both the Tsa-La-Gi group and the Mt. Hood Cherokees, for announcements by visitors from the Nation in Oklahoma, and awards and gifts presented by Chief Baker. Tara went directly to our friend Robert, who was working at the basket-weaving station, and made a gorgeous basket. Robert later told us some stories about our favourite clever hero: Jistu (Rabbit). We also got our full-color picture ID cards for the Nation, so fancy compared to the old paper ones.

Families sit on the beach in the evening, with a view of Longview, Washington.

Families sit on the beach in the evening, with a view of Longview, Washington.

A puff of steam from a factory looks ominous in the otherwise romantic evening.

A puff of steam from a mill looks ominous in the otherwise romantic evening.

We joined the local annual festival here in tiny Rainier, and gathered at a pretty park right on the Columbia River with hundreds of others as the sun went down. The Washington side of the river hosts a seaport, with barges and tugs, lumber and pulp mills and their narrow towers reaching to the sky and covered in lights. It’s not at all pristine, but I’m growing to love those sparkling towers at night. I can find beauty anywhere.

My new home office

My new home office

At work two announcements came that have captured my interest: first, a job opening for a new position that I am applying for. It’s still with VA, and in the same office, but on a different team. I’ve got 8 years yet before I hit my 30 and can qualify for a pension, and rather than 8 years of doing the same thing I’ve been doing for the past 8 years…I may as well try to learn a new job and keep my brain fired up! So cross fingers for me. The other announcement came this week: no more mandatory overtime! Thank the gods! I cannot even express to you how wiped out I am from 4 years of mandatory overtime. Who knows when VA will find more money and set us back at it again…but for now, I am going to revel in the luxury of a regular 40-hour work week.

That is enough news for now. I’ve jabbered long enough. I’ll leave you with a couple more deer photos. I know it’s old news, but I still love to see them.

The most I have ever seen on the land at one time.

The most I have ever seen on the land at one time.

Look at how pretty this Black-tailed deer is.

Look at this pretty Black-tailed deer.

Castle all lit up for the 60th diamond anniversary celebration. It truly is a magical place.

Castle all lit up for the 60th diamond anniversary celebration. It truly is a magical place.

This week we have been digging into the deepest reaches of our creativity, and our patience, and our optimism, as we try to hold onto the idea that we may be able to buy the home we have had our eyes on. I’ve purchased six homes before (I move a lot), and this is hands down the most lengthy, complicated, stressful purchase I’ve ever attempted. Please continue to send any spare happy vibes my way, and if you’re the praying kind, prayers are also appreciated. My confidence may be wavering a little, but I still have high hopes for home #7.

Here’s the GOOD news: I have been happy all week! I can’t think of many places that would have been a better fit for my Tara and me this week. Can you imagine trying to work while worrying so much? No way! Instead, we have been having a blast. Laughing and singing and chasing bubbles and joking with anyone nearby.

The photo was from last night. We were dragging our tired selves back from the New Orleans section, out toward Main Street, and we stopped for some reason, turned around to look behind us and saw this shimmering castle. My life is brilliant and magical.

A livable place, should one have the opportunity to live here.

A livable place, should one have the opportunity to live here.

 Laurie, Marlene, Pauline, and the rest of you who have asked me these past few weeks, “Hey Crystal, what’s the news on the house?” Well, here is an unofficial, totally non-committal update.

The photo above would theoretically be my new home, should the planets properly align.

As I told Laurie, I’m superstitious. I blogged a month ago that I found a home to purchase. And then I tantalized you by saying how close to paradise it’s going to be. And I still won’t get into the reasons why I think it’s paradise, because I worry that if I rave too much, or flash a bunch of photos, it will evaporate. My fingers are crossed, I’m hopping from one foot to the other, hands balled up, trying not to shout how excited I am.

For the last few years I never thought this could happen because my name is currently on another mortgage that I cannot currently escape from. In January 2008 I bought a house with a guy I was dating at the time. I am not at all comfortable with sharing enormous investments and would have preferred either his name on it or mine, but not both. However, we were told that in the state of Oregon, no matter what the relationship, if multiple adults will consider the property their home, then everyone’s name goes on the mortgage. It was the sixth house I have purchased, and the FIRST one that had another person’s name on it. The idea of that grated (I’m a very independent woman, ha ha).

The economy crashed and he lost his job and I carried us for a year till he got another job. Then he lost that one too. And I carried us again. Times were hard. So hard in 2008 and 2009. Though he was finally working again in 2010, a lot of things piled up until I couldn’t bear it anymore and left the relationship and moved out, leaving him in the house since he loved it so much. He said his intent was to refinance and get my name off it. I fully support that idea, as soon as he can possibly arrange it.

Instead, he lost his job again.

So what I have now is a house on my record that is not mine, that I am not welcome at, that has many many months of missed and late mortgage payments, that I have no control over, but it somewhat controls me.

The ex-boyfriend and I barely communicate now, but I still have access to the website of the mortgage lender, and guess what I discovered several months ago? Viola! One full year of mortgage payments have been made in full and on time! This means that I no longer appear as such a great risk, and I can qualify for a loan in this window, while it lasts. (Quick! Before he loses his job again!)

I also mentioned in an earlier post that there are not many houses on the market here, and that they are rising in value. I knew exactly what I wanted and I would not settle for anything less. That meant I had to search far and wide for a place. I found it well outside of Portland. It will be an hour and 10 minute drive from home to work from now on, so thank goodness I work at home and only have to head into the office one day a week. Next month I will say goodbye to City Girl and get to know Country Girl again. I miss her. I haven’t known her for oh, so long.

You will see my new journey chronicled, as I make that transition. In fact, today I was negotiating the price of a used tractor, and The Uncles called to see how many chicks I needed so they can start raising them for me in their incubation cages. I like to begin all my adventures feet first.

That is… once I am certain the adventure is actually going to happen. Stay tuned.

Arno and I playing in the Pacific

Arno and I playing in the Pacific

Somehow Arno’s boys and my girl are on the same visitation schedule with seeing their other respective parent. It’s lovely to have that convenience, since we can get all the kids together during the holidays we have them, and then they all leave at the same time too, so Arno and I get our grown up time together. This week, for example, the boys left PDX airport Sunday morning, we all piled into the car to head south to drop Tara off with her dad in Humboldt County, and the rest of the week would be ours. Blessed stress-free, kid-free week of camping in the desert.

Burst of daffodil yellow in the median strip.

Burst of daffodil yellow in the median strip.

Two years ago I took a solo Spring Break trip south and noticed the daffodils. They caught my eye again this year. It is really a delight to see them splashed in the freeway median and beside the road. I was reminded that there are few freeways that are as scenic as these parts of I-5 through Oregon. From around Salem through Roseburg, I am often impressed by the view. I can think of I-89 in Vermont that is a gorgeous freeway, but nothing else. Leave a note in comments if you have your own favourite beautiful stretch of freeway in the U.S.

Our first glimpse of sea as we moved south of Crescent City.

Our first glimpse of sea as we moved south of Crescent City.

For Tara and I, the thrill of Sunday’s drive was arriving first in the redwood groves and then at the coast. I lived in Humboldt for over 7 years and Miss T has been coming back to see her dad her whole life. So the redwoods and the northern Pacific are home to us. She ran barefoot down the beach and splashed in the waves, getting wet sand all over everything (as is proper at the beach). I put my fingers into the cold water and tasted the salt. The salt in my mouth makes me think of the days when I was surfing a couple days a week with my friend Chad, back when we were students at College of the Redwoods.

Me in the driver's seat, goofing with Tara as we waited at a stop light.

Me in the driver’s seat, goofing with Tara as we waited at a stop light.

We dropped Miss T with her dad and step-sister, and then hit the highway south again for Fortuna. My dear and long time friend Margaret had welcomed us to stay at her place for the night. Her partner was there too, and they served us a fabulous dinner. We drank entirely too much wine, but we all got to know each other, since we ladies had not met each other’s men. Finally, though, we were fast asleep.

Miss Tara splashes through the waves in a skirt.

Miss Tara splashes through the waves in a skirt.

Me and my Arno

Me and my Arno

We got a late start Monday morning because Margaret and I were still catching up. We hadn’t seen each other for two years. Once we did get on the road, I probably annoyed the hell out of Arno for the next few hours with my incessant stories triggered by memories of living there. I was reminded of a hundred excellent days, like the Avenue of the Gods 10K (through the redwoods; my first serious race), the world’s largest Reggae festival in Piercy, outdoor Shakespeare at Benbow (no longer an annual summer event), the organic sandwich shop in Garberville, Ren Faires in Willits (terrible review), and the remarkable wines I discovered, quite by accident, stopping in at wineries that caught my eye in my many wanderings through the northern California countryside.

Sadly, all the beauty of northern Cali must eventually come to an end, and we hit the end once highway 20 took us back onto I-5 in the central valley of California. Yuck and yuck. I feel sorry for people who have to live there. We ended the night in Santa Nella and got to try a bowl of Pea Soup Andersen’s split pea soup before sleep grabbed us again.

Snowy northern Utah before the roads got bad

My goal this morning was to get as far as La Grande, Oregon. Then, I could leave as late as 8:00 am Saturday and still get to the airport on time to meet T’s flight.

I started off strong, despite thick low clouds and rain showers. Outside of the jammed population centers of Provo-Salt Lake-Ogden and the multitudinous communities serving them, I had only minutes to enjoy the view until the weather got bad. I climbed north out of Utah and into some higher elevations, and the dragon wagon was skittering all over the highway in a blinding blizzard and rapidly deepening snow on the road.

The signs still taunted me with Speed Limit: 75 mph, but me and the triple-trailer trucks were crawling at about 45 mph.  My windshield wipers were working only sporadically, and the muddy slush kicked onto my windshield from the semi trucks was putting me into a mild state of panic, so I decided to pass them, one by one, as I came to them. Yyyiiiiiikes a-mundo white-knuckling it through the snow on the highway and blizzard visibility, car fishtailing beside the huge trucks… This went on for miles and miles, up and down over the mountains of the border country. Those conditions did not stop as I crossed into southern Idaho, but I did give a silent cheer to myself for being in my homeland for the moment.

View in southern Idaho

The snow didn’t let up till I dropped into the valley on the way into Twin Falls. I got through the Treasure Valley ok, waved to my Pa in Melba, Gramilda in Nampa and my brother Eli in Boise, and moved on through. Tossed some more virtual hellos to LaDale in Ontario and Sandi in Vale. Too, too many people to visit, you know? If you visit some but not all, you’ll be in big trouble when the neglected relatives find out. Best to visit everybody, or nobody.

My stepfather Jim said that due to incoming inclement weather, I should get to at least Pendleton today. Oregon tried to thwart me by dropping the speed limit to a painful 65 mph, but I pressed on. I came through many heavy rainshowers, but only a rare light snow shower, so the weather was not a real problem for the remainder of the trip (only my windshield wipers!) Because of crossing a timezone backward, I gained an hour, and it was only 1:30pm when I got to Pendleton. Sooo… I decided to buckle down and go all the way home. I did 738 miles in 10 hours.

Columbia River Gorge

Columbia River Gorge

Columbia River Gorge

The eastern end of the Columbia River Valley is dramatic in a sense, but I find it boring: giant wide river in a shallow desert valley. But keep heading west and there are sights that make me gasp in wonderment. After all I’ve seen this week; after the astonishing, incredible mountains and cliffs and valleys and rivers… nothing is more incredible to me than the western Columbia River Gorge. Portland, Oregon is located in a place of indescribable dramatic beauty. Of course my photos here were shot over my shoulder through the car windows as I drove through, so the quality is poor and they do little to support my argument that this is a place of unequaled beauty. Still, you have to believe me. I am a very lucky girl to be able to come home to this!

Update! I had a chance to grab some photos of the Gorge with my new camera. See my post with some of the awesome photos.

Sacajawea

By 6:30 am Tuesday we were heading back to the airport and met up with Sami again, who took us under his wing. I said goodbye to Hossam and gave him some of my apparently worthless golden US dollar coins for his children, and explained who the people were on them. Hossam was excited about Sacajawea, a guide like himself. Silly me, I hadn’t even thought of that connection!

Flights followed by flights, time zones on top of each other, we spent the balance of the day and into the next on planes. It was such a sight to see snow in New York, after spending so many days wilting in the heat of Africa.

Mark gathered us at the airport in Portland at 1:00am Wednesday, and we were treated with the delight of the knowledge that there would be no wake up call this time.

Yes, I’m still here…

I’ve kept a journal since I was 7 years old. Whenever there is real news in my life, that’s when I write the least.

So I’ll give a brief synopsis, as I used to do when I was a weather forecaster. 😉

We are moved into our new house. It’s the one we wanted that needs a whole bunch of TLC.

I really like my job. Monday I finally got a desk! Yay! Yay!  Still don’t have a computer yet though.  If only the federal government was run like a private business…

My brother got married to a spectacularly perfect woman who is beautiful inside and out, and who helped him create my gorgeous nephew last Spring, which made me an Aunt for the first time.

I am completely over the moon for my man, which makes this the first time I’ve ever experienced twitterpation over 3 years into a relationship. (it’s very fun to be madly in love with the person you’re already with. 😉

Things with my daughter may actually be looking up. Her dad had a sudden, inexplicable burst of maturity and suggested a compromise that does not include her leaving Portland. I am grateful to the point of tears.

There are still many obstacles in my path, but I am happy today, so I will think about the obstacles tomorrow. Just like Scarlett.

kisses, me

Morrison Street house

Life is going: “Whoooooosssshhhh!!”

I’m mostly excited about the possibilities of a new house. I was in Baltimore for three weeks, so my honey was house-hunting without me for awhile, fell in love with some house potential, and put an offer on one. We weren’t too sure about the price they countered with, and added to the fact that I had never seen it, we declined their counter and said “No, thanks.”

They countered again, and asked us to please reconsider. By that time I was able to take a look at the place, and I also fell in love with it’s potential. We put in another offer.

Sooo…. I’ll leave description of the place till I know we get to live there. Suffice it to say, it was built in 1925 and hasn’t had a whole lot done to it since then, except perhaps the addition of a full bathroom upstairs in approximately 1973- judging by the style. And… the addition of gallons of white glossy paint over all the solid wood built-ins, and solid wood doors, and trim, and everything – which can be remedied by some paint stripper and elbow grease.

Baltimore was so awesome it should get its own entry. I think I’ll do that. I was there for training, and the training was great. Good class, great instructors, the material flowed, and I actually feel pretty well prepared to get on my feet and start this damn job.

…which isn’t going to happen for awhile yet. I’m telling you: I’m going to qualify for Professional Trainee any day now. I still don’t have a place to sit in the office (space is scarce). Luckily, a lot of people in my group work at home, and so the new hires sit at other people’s desks for the time being. We have several more weeks of training yet to get through, and our training coordinator said today that she’s thinking we may start working by the end of January. Word through the grapevine is that we may have cubes and desks by the end of January also, so the timing will work out. (did you catch my Pollyanna approach there?)

My daughter is really maturing. It is a fulfilling experience to watch this part of her growth. I feel like it’s something I’ve been waiting for: to see who she turns out to be. She’s got confidence in who she is now, confidence in being an individual aside from her parents. Her input into conversations is with the full knowledge that we don’t have to agree, or even to find it interesting. She recognises when we don’t know something as well as she does, and she shares information consistent with her generous spirit. I love that my daughter realizes that we all have the chance to teach each other.

I love discovering how much of her world is now going on without major adult involvement: friends, topics of discussion among peers, virtual Internet worlds, pop culture. She has her own life and doesn’t need to ask anyone’s blessing on what she thinks or does. It is very exciting for me to see this happening.

Always I ponder the balance of “shoulds.” Should I ask more questions, should I watch her more carefully online, should I learn more about who her friends are? But so far, I find that she is a good kid with good motivations. Perhaps this is because she’s 10 years old, but so far I am really pleased with what a great person she is, and I don’t have worries about her behavior.

This makes me a proud momma.

My partner is going through one of his “UP” swings on the pendulum, and that’s the best sort of partner to be around! He’s bringing home the bacon, which soothes his wretched male ego. He has succumbed to the inescapable fact that our lives are intertwined, and he’s committed to us whether he likes it or not… and he’s finding that he likes it. He had a bit of a freak out when the mortgage lender stated point blank that our mortgage would have both our names on it. But he recovered in only a couple days, and now is proud of being able to say “our house.”

Even better, he and my daughter conquered a wall of some kind while I was gone, and they now share inside jokes (both having infinitely more juvenile tastes than me….) and even a smattering of closeness. The other night she and I both went to bed at the same time, and she called to him to help her put her bed in order and then asked him to read her a story. He got her all squared away (the cat had napped on her sheets and left a pile of fur and dead leaves – ick!) and soon I heard his soft voice stumbling through a chapter from Carl Sandburg’s Rutabaga Stories, which, if you haven’t read it, is a riot of silliness and grand tall tales that might come straight from a Nyquil dream.

Life is pretty good. It’s raining in Portland, and I am happy to be loved and in love and moving through my life today.

One of my many guises

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