Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Gypsy Life: Community and Support

I moved again. Surprise. Surprise. Right? It's going to be a more frequent thing over the next month or so. Hope you all can keep up with me in this gypsy life (which by the way, every time I go to type gypsy, I end up writing g-y-s-p-y. I think it must go back to my inner longing to be an actual spy).  

I'm so thankful for my little sis and her husband who are letting me crash at their house for a few weeks. This isn't the first time I've lived with my sister. Way back when I first moved to this mountain town, before I moved in with Mountain Ma and Pa, I lived with my sister for a few weeks. 

Only back then she wasn't married yet. Back then she had a couple of roommates, and no spare bedroom. Little sis loved me enough to let me share her bed for a week or two. We hadn't done that since we were children. We survived for a short time, until the Mountain Folks offered up their spare bedroom, and I'm pretty sure Little Sis was glad to see me go. 

Thankfully, she and her husband own a house now. It has more than one spare bedroom. One which I get to claim for a little while. Don't worry. I am pitching in, and washing dishes, and taking out the trash whenever I can. I am grateful. 

Little Sis and me
There was a time way back in my former gypsy life when I realized that the difference between the unemployed me and the homeless on the street was the family and friends who loved and cared for me. Who made sure I was fed and clothed. Who didn't get fed up with me when I was rejected for another job, even if they were convinced I was bombing every interview. They loved me. They supported me. They lifted me up. They prayed for me. It wasn't just my parents. Or my family. It was a whole slew of loving and supporting people who had my back. 

I don't ask for help. Usually not even if I need it. I was blackberry picking the other day with a friend. And being stubborn like I am, I had to go for the berries way up high. It didn't end well. I ended up stuck in a bush. I had to ask for help out. My friend feigned shock at my request before helping me out of the thorns. I don't like asking for help. I don't know if I would've asked my friends for help way back then when I didn't have a job or a place of my own. But they offered me help anyway. They offered me support anyway. 

I was talking about living in community with a neighbor. What it means and how rare it is to find a neighborhood that has it. For me, it's knowing that I'll have a roof over my head even if I don't have a place of my own. It's a smile and chat on the walk home from work. It's sitting on the front porch with a friend. It's knowing that someone next door has my back if I need anything. It's having the help I need, even before I'm willing to ask for it. 

I am so thankful for the community I found living in that little mill studio. I hope when all this house hopping comes to an end, I can either head back to that little community or find another neighborhood that recognizes the value in knowing who lives next door.  

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Talking about Amanda Mae

I recently found myself in need of a professional headshot. I know right? I used to think headshots were something only aspiring actors needed. Apparently I was wrong. I needed one.

The thing is, I hadn't had professional photos taken of me since I was a senior in high school. Without going into detail, that was way too long ago. Of course, my family takes snapshots of me all the time, but I didn't have any photos that stood out as a "headshot." And certainly nothing from a smartphone that works for a high res situation.

Thankfully, I know a local photographer. I've known Amanda from Amanda Mae Images for a few years now. Amanda was incredibly flexible and available to help me with my tight schedule. Fitting me in for a quick shoot right away.
Photo by Amanda Mae Images

During the shoot in the park, she helped me relax and be myself. And not be as awkward as I felt. On top of all that, she got the photos to me the very next day. That's some seriously fast service.

Back when I had those high school portraits made, it was difficult to pick photos to keep. There were hardly any decent ones. Really, truly. But with the shots Amanda got, it was hard to choose just one.

In addition to the headshots, she did a few fun photos too. It's nice to know I've got those pictures in case I need one in the future.

Amanda travels all over doing wedding photography. She does family shoots and portriats. Her photos are gorgeous. Seriously. Go check out her website and see for yourself. You can even see the beautiful way she has captured her journeys to Uganda. She has a real heart for missions.

Bottom line: if you need a photographer, talk to Amanda. She is an artist. And she is wonderful.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Saddle Up

I grew up in a rodeo town. And anyone who has seen a rodeo knows that when a cowboy gets bucked off a horse, he doesn't stay on the ground. No. He gets up. Dusts himself off. And gets back on that horse.  

That's what I decided to do this weekend. In an effort to conquer the hammock, I decided to pull my sleeping bag out and spend all night under the stars. 

I am proud to say I managed to stay in the hammock all night long. Of course with utility workers drilling just half a block away all night long, I'm not sure how much sleep I actually got. But surely, my ability to balance on a hammock must be improving somewhat if I can last all night in one.

I will admit there were a few moments when I wanted to hop over the neighbor's fence and sleep on the trampoline instead. I thought better of that idea when I remembered I'd likely get drenched by the sprinkler system around 5 a.m.

How about you? Did you attempt to master any skills this weekend? Or did you keep your feet planted safely on the ground?

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Hablo español

Grandpa Z, the missionary, the preacher, the reason I've wanted to learn Spanish most of my life
Most people probably don't know that I minored in Spanish. I studied the language for seven years. Probably longer if you count what I'd learned before it was offered in school.

My aunt taught me my first words in Spanish. I was about ten or eleven when she taught me the Spanish version of the Sunday school song "I've Got the Joy." My grandparents were Wycliffe missionaries in Ecuador when their children were young. In fact my uncle was born there, so he likes to tell me he's my Ecuadorian uncle. And since children typically pick up on language easier than adults, Grandpa says he used to take my dad with him to meetings with important tribal leaders to help with translation.

I also had an English teacher in Georgia who at the end of the year must have been so sick of attempting to teach middle school students grammar that he decided to teach us basic conversational Spanish. It was a lot more fun than learning the parts of speech over and over again. And it made me want to learn more.

The thing is, even with all those years of studying, even in college, no matter how hard I studied, I have never been comfortable speaking Spanish. There have only ever been a few people who I was brave enough to attempt to speak Spanish in front of. People who I knew wouldn't laugh at my mistakes, because I knew I couldn't speak without making mistakes. Writing Spanish was easier in that I could look things up and think about it. Speaking is on your feet. You have to know. You can't pause and contemplate which way to conjugate the verb.  And so as long as I can remember, my mind goes blank when I'm supposed to speak Spanish.

In class the instructor would call on me, and for the first few minutes after she'd say my name, I'd think: "What does she want? I don't know Spanish. I can't think of a single Spanish word." There was one notorious presentation I had to give in an upper level class. I had prepared. I had notes and a power point. But my friends sat waiting, and waiting, and waiting. For the first five minutes of the presentation, I stumbled so much and moved so slowly they really didn't think I was going to make it through.

Somewhere in there I found my balance and I finished strong. When I sat back in my seat, one of my friends had tallied my "ums" and the other commented on how my face was a red as my sweater. The ironic thing about that presentation is that my professor referenced it when she miraculous allowed me to pass my oral examination required for the minor. She thought I'd done so well on the presentation that she claimed she knew I knew what I was doing.  Even then I wasn't so sure she was right.

But even with that minor, Spanish has never gotten easier for me. I still blank when someone asks me to speak in Spanish. I liken it to stage fright. I know Spanish. I can read and understand a lot of what I hear. But I could never claim fluency. And I obviously can't claim to speak the language.

Just a couple of weeks ago when I went to my cousin's wedding, my grandpa tried to have a conversation with me in Spanish. My grandpa. And the best I could muster was a pathetic form of Spanglish.

But yesterday. Yesterday was a different story. The phone rang at work. I answered as I usually do. The female voice on the other end of the line asked in clear English if I spoke Spanish. "A little," I replied with much hesitation. The voice on the other end of the line switched languages and started asking me questions in Spanish. And get this, I replied in Spanish.

It wasn't a long conversation. My Spanish was broken and probably full of my well-known "ums." But I answered all of her questions, and she only had to revert back to English once because I didn't understand the question.

When the conversation ended and I hung up the phone, I was in a little bit of shock. My heart rate had risen as it does in panic mode, but this time, my mind didn't blank. Thinking back on that conversation, I realize I was listening and answering in Spanish. I wasn't translating to English in my head. I actually had a conversation in Spanish. It was a small milestone in my journey to actually speak Spanish some day.

But I'm wondering, am I the only one who, no matter how well I know a subject, blanks when put on the spot? Or are there others out there like me?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

An allergic former cat lady

As a child, I was a cat lover. Lover. I had pet cats from the time I was 6 until I was in college. I don't remember a moment when I was all, "I loooooooovvvvvvvvvvvveeeeeeeee cats!"

Cat Friends by Karen Arnold

It started with cats that were gifted to my sister and I. Tweedledee and Tweedledum. (They came with their names.) We lived right off a local highway and my cat met her end with a semi-truck, or at least that's what the neighbor kids told me. I'm guessing they embellished that story for the drama.

She'd had kittens though, so we kept a couple of those. We moved into town. I don't recall now what happened to those kittens or the other cats we had in the interim. A few years later, I'd get my last cat. Sassafras, or Frassy, as we called her. I remember the first time I met her. She was indoor trained. But my cats were always and forever outdoor cats. 

The older I got, I realized that when I would sit and brush out Frassy's long fur, or pet and snuggle her, I'd end up with itchy eyes and a runny nose. It was clear to me then that I was allergic to the poor girl. I just learned to be careful. To not spend too much time with my face in her mane. And Frassy was it for me.

Until she disappeared when I was away at college. I looked up and down the neighborhood for her. My closest guess is that I'd had Frassy for 13 years and 3 moves. She was a smart cat. Too smart to be hit by a car. She used to lay out on the manhole cover in the middle of the road and when a car came, she'd slowly saunter over to the sidewalk until the car passed. Too smart.

She had a few litters of kittens in her younger years. Usually in a cardboard box we set her up with in a nice warm spot, sometimes inside, sometimes just on the enclosed back porch. One time, she went into labor in the middle of the night. We were all asleep, so she birthed her kittens under the wraparound porch. I had to crawl under the porch the next morning to go get her and her babies. I was terrified. I couldn't see anything under there, all I could hear was the faint sound of crying kittens, and my sister's footsteps right behind me. Mama asked me later how I knew I was picking up newborn kittens and not rats. I hadn't thought of that. I think I cried in response. The thought still creeps me out. 

Frassy would disappear for a few days before. Maybe even a week. Coming home with evidence of having been in a scramble. But she always came home. Until she didn't. At 13, I guess she knew she was getting up in years. I imagine she went out into the open fields behind the house, where the birds she used to catch flew and sang songs, and laid down and never woke up. I found peace in that. And never wanted another cat to replace her.

In fact, I avoid all cats at all costs. I actually became a dog person. It started in the hollers of Tennessee with a dog named Butterbean, but that story is too long for this already long post.

This summer, I am being stretched to reach back into my childhood roots and find that affection for cats I once had. This summer of gypsy living has found me taking care of cats more often than not. I always, always warn people of my allergy, so they know that I'm not going to spend time loving on their pets.  I can't say that I've succeeded in finding that soft spot for cats.

I've come to find that they are fickle and moody creatures that I do not understand. I am afraid I've gotten off on the wrong foot with one of my current charges. Today I am trying a new approach. I'm not sure yet if it's working. But he didn't run from me this morning, and I heard him purr when I pet his head. We'll see how it goes when I have to give him his anti-depressant later today (that's no joke). He is pretty good about locking his jaw and refusing to cooperate.

My new approach is to kill 'em with kindness. Win his trust and affection, and then shove the pill down his throat.  

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A sneaky intruder

I move this weekend to a new house sit. It's just next door to where I was, so it's not like I've moved from this street, I call home. 

I am still getting used to the new environment after only one day on the job. As I've mentioned before, I walk home for lunch most days. Today was no exception. 

The front door of this house is rarely, if ever, used. Everyone knows to use the back door. The front path is overgrown with lavender, and I'm pretty sure the mailman is the only one who ever comes up the front. 

Today, as I rounded the corner of the house to the back door at lunchtime, I heard a noise. Like someone was back there. Before I could see who or what was rustling around in the back, it took off for the side yard. I heard it jump the fence. 

"Hey!" I shouted. Not knowing what it was. It certainly sounded bigger than the cats I'm taking care of, who aren't supposed to get out of the house. 

I didn't get an answer. So I bi-passed the door and headed toward the side yard to see if I could catch whoever or whatever it was. 

This is what I found:

That's her after she squeezed out of the herb garden and headed for the neighbors yard. I only had my cell with me at the time. But here's where she was when I first found her: 

She managed to squeeze through a small opening in the netting just to the right of that door to escape out the front. 

By the time I'd run inside for an actual camera, she'd moved on down the block.

Shortly after that I managed to get myself bucked off the hammock in the back. But that's a story for another day. Just trust me on this, it takes skill to be as bad as I am at hammock sitting. There is never a dull moment on this street where I live.  And that's just during lunch break.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Not France, but . . .

I know nothing about cycling. If you remember, the first time I went mountain biking in my life was just a few weeks ago. I haven't been on a road bike since I stopped riding that Toys-R-Us 10-speed.

Every year this mountain town is host to the Cascade Classic. I've only ever seen bits and pieces of the criterium which takes place right downtown, just blocks away from the street where I live.

If you've never seen a cycling race. Go do it. It's it thrilling and terrifying to watch the cyclists speed by riding so close to one another if they move an inch, they'd all go down like dominoes. That may be a stretch, but it certainly looks that way from the sidelines.

This photo does not do justice to the number of riders and how close they are to one another. But it does give you a glimpse of their speed. They are a blur of motion and clinking gears as they pass by. And then they are gone. Not to be seen again until they make it back around the loop. Over and over and over again.

It's not the Tour de France. But it's still pretty cool.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Shoot Deschutes

Have you ever been paddle boarding? A river runs straight through the middle of this mountain town. It's a super convenient place to go float or board after work. 

Monday night it was especially nice, because it wasn't super crowded like it can get on weekends and holidays. 

I wasn't boarding this week. But I did go watch my sis and friends as they paddled up and down the river. I walked along the shore taking photos and shouting at them. 

Don't they look like they are having so much fun?

I am pretty sure they were. And then this happened:

I think it was Kymberlee's first time out. She was doing so well. She blames my little sis for the fall. But she managed to get back on.

She did lose her sunglasses though. Shoot! By now they are probably hanging out with my blue tank top somewhere on the bottom of the Deschutes.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Goodbye Sallie!

This is a big week for me.  I accomplished a goal yesterday.  It's nothing like winning a race or donning a cap and gown. There is no tangible evidence of this goal being reached. No medal. No diploma.

This is a goal I've been working on for six years. That's when I walked across the stage and accepted my diploma. I got serious about this goal last August.

A friend of mine asked me a question that set me thinking. What would it take? What would it take to pay off all of my student loans in one year? I looked at the numbers and decided that if I really, really disciplined myself, that just maybe I could do it.

By last August I had whittled the loan down to just over half of its original amount. In the last 12 months, I managed to knock out the second half of that loan. It wasn't an easy thing. It had already taken me five years to get it down to half.

It required some major commitments to myself. The biggest thing I had to cut down on was unnecessary travel. I love to travel. I make it a point to visit my friends on the East Coast at least once a year. People are important to me. Seeing and spending time with people I care about is sort of my love language. Also, I just like to hop on an airplane or in my car and go.

I drive a 14-year-old car. It's paid for. It also has over 222,000 miles on it. It didn't get that way sitting in the driveway. I had to think twice about weekend getaways. Not only because I wanted my wonderful, dream of a car to continue to be a wonderful dream of a car, but because I needed to save money on gas and maintenance wherever I could if I was truly going to reach this goal. It helped that I live a mere 10 minute walk from work. But in prior years, I had been a fair-weather walker. This year, I toughened up and walked through rain and snow and everything in between. I have probably filled my car up with gas an average of once a month in the last year.  There were weeks that the only time I'd get in my car was to drive to church on Sunday morning.

With my short walk to work, I was able to walk home for lunch most days too. This town has a lot of great and unique restaurants downtown. If I go out to eat, it's usually for lunch. But I made an effort to scale back on my eating out over the last year. I've never been a big shopper, but even then, I started asking myself "is this a need or a want?" any time I was tempted to buy something for me.

I didn't succeed in all of these areas all of the time. I did buy two significant plane tickets over the course of the year, both times for travel with family. I also didn't deprive myself completely. The closer I got to my goal, I started to justify unnecessary spending more. Buying clothes that were more of a want than a need. Or eating out more often. I also came really close to setting myself back a few months and buying a trailer on Craigslist. But it sold before I got a chance to look at it.

Today, as I left the bank knowing I had enough money in my account to hit submit on that final payment, I thought about that trailer and how I was really glad it sold.

In the end, if I hadn't given up my lease and started living this gypsy life, there is no way that I would have been able to accomplish this goal in the 12 month time-frame I gave myself. It just couldn't have happened if I had been paying the level of rent and utilities that I had been locked into in my little mill studio.

I know when I tell you I paid off my student loans, that it's a little humdrum and boring. It is anticlimactic, even for me. Clicking "submit" on the single largest payment I have made in my life to-date doesn't necessarily scream "CELEBRATION!" Choirs don't start singing. Confetti doesn't fall from the sky.

But this is big news to me. My student loans have been my only debt. I am finally debt free. And inside I hear choirs rejoicing.

And if you want to see how nervous I was making that final payment, I recorded it for proof:

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Packing and Unpacking

This weeks marks eleven weeks into gypsy life. I can hardly believe it. Eleven weeks in, and this extended house-sit is coming to a close. But don't worry, I will not be completely homeless.  I am preparing to relocate once again.

My next assignments will not be more permanent, but rather shorter in length. And resulting in a need to make my life even more portable. Thus I am looking at the items I have chosen to haul around with me for the last few months with new eyes. With a more critical look at what I actually do and do not need with me.

The thing about living out of duffle bags is that you can't see all of the items in your wardrobe. Out of sigh = out of mind. The main realization is that I do not wear a good portion of the clothes I thought I'd want during this time. (Let's not even talk about the shoes.) So this week, I have a goal to reorganize and move from two duffle bags down to one. It's going to be a stretch. But with creative packing, I might be able to do it. I will let you know how it goes. 

I am also taking a leap and trying my level-best to reach another goal this week. It also involves unloading some baggage, but I'll tell you all about it if and when that goal is finally accomplished.

It's sort of a freeing feeling. 

Have you been doing any unpacking of sorts lately? Unloading of unneeded items? Was it overwhelming? Or were you motivated by the sense of freedom it provided? 

Monday, July 15, 2013

Wispy Hair and a Wedding

I remember, it was the summer I turned 10. Mama and Auntie Linda were driving us children across the country to visit family in Tennessee. We were nearing our destination and set to see someone we knew that day. I don't know where we started from, but by lunchtime we were posing under the Gateway Arch and fixin to eat at a fast food restaurant on the Mississippi River. And I remember all this because I was mortified.

Why at 10 was I experiencing such shame?

Because Mama wanted my hair to look nice that day.

My hair is super fine. It can be very wispy and stringy. And probably was even more so when I was an antsy 10-year-old, entertaining myself in the backseat of a minivan with my siblings and cousins. Mama used to put my hair in sponge curlers overnight so I'd have Shirley Temple curls for about 5 minutes the following day.

Only that day. The day we ate lunch in a boat on the Mississippi River. The day I stood beneath the Arch for pictures. That day. Mama refused to let me take the curlers out. I had to wear my hair in curlers like an 80-year-old woman all day long, so that when we saw family or friends or whoever it was we were seeing that day, my hair would be curled for about 5 minutes.

Somewhere there is photographic evidence of that day. I am pretty sure my shame and complete embarrassment is evident in every single photo. It mattered not that I didn't know a soul in St. Louis, Missouri. I could not believe Mama would embarrass me in such a way. (I have since learned not to be surprised by the ways Mama can and will embarrass me.)

Well folks, I'm here to tell you that I've come a long way.

This weekend I drove over the mountain to a cousin's wedding. I left before noon for the late afternoon ceremony. My hair hasn't changed much since I was 10. It is still super fine and can be wispy and stringy. So I did the only thing I knew to do to make sure my hair looked good for at least 5 minutes when I arrived.

Y'all, I wore curlers all day long. I even stopped for gas. And in Oregon that means, I can't pump my own gas. So a young man came to my window and took my card and gave me my receipt and I continued on my merry way without ducking my head in shame. After that I sat in stand-still traffic for an hour trying to get to the other side of all the famous Sister's Quilt Show and continue on my journey. Those curlers didn't come out of my hair until my car was parked in the lot at the historical site where the ceremony took place.

I'm not an 80-year-old woman, but a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do when it comes to making sure her hair looks good for at least 5 minutes a day.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Almost deja vu

A funny thing happens every time Kristine and I spent the 4th of July holiday together. We run into turtles. Turtles. Like the animals who hide in their shells. 

Last year, we did a u-turn on the highway when we saw turtles wondering around a cemetery. I kid you not. They were taking a walk through a cemetery. 

This year, we were on the opposite side of the country when we ran into this guy in the park:

He was significantly smaller than the ones we saw in North Carolina last year. I suppose a park is a more acceptable place to come across a turtle. Not that it's a daily sighting. Turtles aren't exactly native to these mountains. But at least no one had to worry about him eating the flowers off the headstones.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Technological Meltdowns

It's one of those weeks. I'm used to working with people who aren't speaking to each other. I work in family law after all. That's normal. What's not normal is when my computer stops talking to my printer.

They get in an argument where the printer begins to lie to the computer. The printer likes to act like it's all out of paper, even when it's not. Then the computer starts giving the printer the silent treatment. This argument can go on for long periods of time. Time in which all work must be put on hold until they get their differences worked out.

Then the internet connection gets involved and starts hanging up on the computer, all Ya Ya Sisterhood style. You know what I'm talking about:

So far the copy machine is staying out of the drama. But I suspect any minute it'll be all like, "The paper you feed me is contaminated. I must me allergic to it, 'cause my sinuses are all jammed up." It'll require diagnostic imaging only to determine the copy machine is being nothing but a hypochondriac.

And don't even get me started on Google and whatever is causing its power failures this week. Apparently even the technology around here still wishes it was on vacation.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Internet: Bridging the Miles

Social media tends to get a bad rap for the way it depersonalizes relationships. And usually I agree. I was a late joiner to the fad, as I usually am. I still don't tweet or gram or even have a smart phone. I'm a rebel that way. But one thing I am thankful for is the ease in which social media helps me keep in touch with the people I left behind when I moved across the continent.

I still prefer to keep in touch with people nearby in more personal, face-to-face ways. But when that's not possible, the internet can be a useful tool to keep relationships alive.

I just spent the last week with one such friend. Kristine came all the way across the country to spend time out here in the this mountain town and to celebrate my birthday. We don't talk on the phone much. And are lucky if we see each other twice a year. But we're pretty good about keeping tabs on one another thanks to the internet. And we've been traversing the nation at least once a year to spent time here or there.

Last year when she came out, we put 1,000 miles on my car in a week's time making sure she saw all the local sights.  

A hazy day at Crater Lake in 2012
We went on a pirate themed dolphin cruise when I went out for a visit last year:

As cheesy as it sounds, the Pirate Cruise in 2012

The last week was spent going on more adventures and making more memories, all while putting fewer miles on the ol' Camry.

It involved birthday celebrations:

And parades and fireworks:


And outdoor adventures:

And dressing up and going out:


And oh so much more. I'm thankful we've been able to keep in touch thanks to the internet. Thank you for coming to see me and for such a fun week, Kristine. I love sharing this mountain town with visitors! (Next time, it's my turn to come out and see you.)

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Freedom Ride and Emergency Rooms

Grandma Shelby used to call me in my college dorm my freshman year and try to convince me to become a nurse like she was. It's an in-demand profession. It was practical. And there would always be a job for me. I told her I couldn't deal with the blood. She told me I'd get used to it. In the end, I majored in English and spent two years looking for a job only to wind up a secretary. Grandma Shelby was right about the job thing. But I'm pretty sure I'd never have gotten used to the blood and fluids thing. 

Why am I telling you this? I wound up in the waiting room of the local ER on the 4th of July. That's one crazy place to be on a holiday involving explosive devises. Although it's probably a pretty crazy place to spend time any day. I work in family law, so I know a little bit about a crazy work environment.

Let me explain first that I was not ever in need of medical attention. I was assisting friends who needed a ride to the hospital because all the local urgent care facilities close before 7 p.m. My role in going to the ER was minor. And I spent far less time there that day then they did. Poor girls missed dinner and fireworks. 

I told you this town as some crazy holiday traditions, right? Remember the Pet Parade? Another unique event is the annual 4th of July Freedom Ride. An unsanctioned bicycle parade through town with a few thousand participants. The estimate for 2012 was 4,000. 

Here is a short video clip I managed to snag just to give you an idea:

With a ride like that, it's a miracle the ER didn't have a line out the door. I'm not sure how many people in the waiting room were casualties of the Freedom Ride. The gal I gave a ride to was, and four hours later, she left the hospital with a broken wrist and stitches in her chin.  

There was the kid sitting in a chair by the door with his elbows on his knees holding his head in a towel. I couldn't tell what was injured. I could only assume it was another bike injury. 

A gal had her foot propped up on a chair. Possible sprained ankle?

There was an older woman with a black eye and cut above her eye brow, and bloody knee. She held an ice pack to her face and I heard her say something about vertigo. 

The man across from me had his wrist/forearm wrapped and a handkerchief around his neck that tissue kept falling out of. I eavesdropped as he told the story of being mauled be a dog to the audience of supporters gathered round him. "Next year at Crescent, we'll be sitting around and say, 'Hey remember when Jerry was mauled by a dog?'" When the triage nurse arrived to assess the situation, he explained how they were able to staunch the bleeding in his arm, but the puncture wounds in his neck kept spurting blood. 

Another young man with a possible mullet/rat-tail sat near me. Looking visibly uncomfortable and red faced. But other than rapid breathing, I couldn't see any physical injuries. 

The girls were in good hands when I finally left the hospital. But I received updates via text. Including one about a guy who lost his lunch. I was glad I'd missed that.

The Freedom Ride and it's unorganized chaos creates some conflict in this mountain town. Those who love it and those who hate it. But I suppose that's why we celebrate each and every year. Because we are free to wear nothing but underwear and roller skates and parade through town.

And in the words of my friend, Shawna (sorry for trying to give credit to Leslie), "This is what America is all about, people."   

Monday, July 8, 2013

A surprising ride

I went mountain biking for the first time ever yesterday. I knew going into it that it was going to go one of two ways. Bad. Or worse. 

You see, I don't bike. Sure, I drive the Cycle Pub. But I haven't owned a bike since I got to pick out my Sweet Sixteen road bike from Toys-R-Us over 20 years ago. That's no lie, y'all. In fact, I've ridden a bike only a handful of times in the past decade (or longer). After watching my sister take a nasty fall years and years ago, I put away that road bike and never wanted anything to do with bikes again for fear that I too would end up face-planting on the sidewalk, or worse. 

A week ago I worked up enough courage to take one of the bikes on loan to me during this gypsy living to make a couple of quick trips around town. I managed not to kill myself or get hit by any vehicles, and I thought it was a success. Somehow all it took were those quick trips to give me the confidence to say "Yes" when a friend suggested we go on a 13 mile mountain bike ride. Crazy, right? 

So you see there wasn't a lot of high hopes for the ride. Others spoke their doubt about my ability to survive such a ride. But my motto in life is you've gotta try everything (almost everything) at least once. (I'm not robbing a bank or doing anything illegal or unsafe.) You see, if I'd said no to mountain biking, I might not have learned that I can do it. 

The bike ride went far better than expected. Y'all it might just be my hidden talent. Here I am feeling pretty good at the end of the ride: 

Have you tried something new that perhaps you thought you'd never do? I once said I'd never become a cheerleader, but then I did, and that's a story for another day.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Pets on Parade

This mountain town has some pretty unusual Fourth of July traditions. Like the Pet Parade:


This was my first year watching it. I was surprised by how many people were not only in attendance, but also how many people were in the parade. Lot of children on scooters and bikes and even on painted horses:

What crazy traditions does your town take part in?

I had a lovely birthday week. Thanks to my little sis who planned a surprise dinner party for me, and topped the night out with some fireworks in her driveway with the help of her husband. Thank you both for a lovely day and week and for the fireworks! You guys are the bomb.

Birthday fireworks should be standard for every party!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy Announcement Day!

Happy Announcement of Independence Day!

I hope you all sit back and reflect on why we celebrate this day a couple of hundered years after the approval of the Declaration of Independence. And why John Adams knew this day would be celebrated for generations.

It's true that Yankee Doodle wouldn't sound as good if we sang "Born on the 2nd of July . . ." So from me to you, here's wishing you a very happy 4th of July!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Red, White and Blue Floats

If you've paid any attention to the weather lately, you've probably heard the West Coast has been hit with a bit of a heatwave just in time of the 4th of July holiday. 

If you're looking for the perfect cool down for the holidays, look no further. I bring you Watermelon Floats! Cold, light and refreshing. 

I made these for the first time a couple of years ago during a Hermiston Watermelon party. Introducing hometown melons to people who'd likely had them and didn't know it. It's early yet for a Hermiston melon, but another sweet ripe melon will substitute. Here's the oft requested recipe for anyone wanting to know:

Watermelon Floats
serves 2

2 cups chopped watermelon (seedless or with black seeds removed)
1 cup club or lemon-lime soda (with a couple dashes more)
ice cream (or non-dairy substitute, I use coconut ice cream)

Mix watermelon and soda in a blender. Blend well. You can run the juice through a mesh, but I never do, and have never had a problem. Put a couple of scoops of ice cream in a glass. Pour watermelon mixture over ice cream, but just about 3/4 of the way up the glass. The blending will have defizzed your soda, so it won't look frothy like a float at this point. Grab your soda can/bottle and top off the glass to give it that extra fizz and froth of a true float.

And the best thing about it is you can serve it in blue glasses and have a nice and easy Red, White and Blue treat for Independence Day!   

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Declare your Independence

Even John Adams knew today was a day to be celebrated. Did you know that today was the day the founders of this nation declared their independence with the approval of the Declaration of Independence? 

Here's an excerpt from the letter Mr. Adams wrote Abigail on July 3 of that year.  

"The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more. You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not." (The Book of Abigail and John: Selected Letters of the Adams Family, 1762-1784, Harvard University Press, 1975, 142).

It's a technicality that we celebrate national independence on the 4th, the day the declaration was officially announced, instead of the day of actual independence. We should call the 4th of July Announcement Day. But whatever. (I had to tell you the above to satisfy my father and brother, both history nerds who remind me of said facts every year on this date.)

Today is a day to be celebrated for another reason altogether . . .

It's my twin sister's birthday! Happy birthday, sis!

Yes that means that it's my day of birth as well. This week is just bursting with birthday. And you know your birth is important when an entire nation celebrates it. Am I right? 

Feel free to celebrate today. Celebrate all week for that matter. Have a parade. Play a few games. Light a bonfire. Live it up. For my birthday. For independence. For John Adams. Just remember the 2nd of July is a memorable day. Worthy of commemoration. John Adams said so. 

Monday, July 1, 2013

Feeding the pretzel monster

So many good things happened this weekend. For one, I got the best package in the mail on Saturday.

Anyone who knows me, knows that pretzels are my big weakness. Like if I wanted to, I could eat a whole bag in one sitting. I'm not kidding here people. 

After coming to the realization about my mindless eating habit years ago, I became very intentional about not buying snack food, especially pretzels, to keep around my house. In fact, I lived for the last four years without a microwave, or any other extra kitchen appliance, partly because the kitchen in my little mill studio was tiny, but also to avoid some of the conveniences of food. If you have to put effort into what you eat, you're going to be a lot more conscientious about what you put into your mouth.

And here's the but . . . I still get cravings. And I've had a craving for soft pretzels for weeks. Maybe as long as a month. The thing about this mountain town is there really isn't a place to go get one easily like some people do at the mall. I've baked my own in the past, but I really didn't want to have to go through the effort. I haven't really perfected the method yet. I just wanted my craving satisfied. 

A coffee shop just started selling pretzels, but they are stuffed with mustard or cheese. I did try the mustard one, since I try to avoid dairy when I can, but it didn't really satisfy that crazy for a true soft pretzel. 

My sister knew about my dilemma. And on Saturday a box arrived and looked something like this:

It worked. Craving satisfied. I promise not to eat them all in one sitting. 

(Mama & Da, when you make it to Germany, be sure to eat a pretzel for me.)