Dec 31, 2014

Into The Woods. To Visit Friends in Snohomish.

So what do you do when you need to make sense of the world?  About six weeks ago I decided that my life felt out of balance and that I needed some perspective. Where am I going? What am I doing? What matters? What does not? I always know exactly what that means so I turned on my computer and I booked a hotel room in Everett, Washington for December 29th. I love that I am close enough now to just shoot five hours up I-5 North to Seattle. It is a very straight shot and so uncomplicated...well until you get to Seattle traffic....but every journey must have it's traffic :)

After the booking of the hotel usually comes the friend contacting. I love to keep up my relationships. It brings me so much joy to reach into my past and have these connections. I learn so much from these people. Dear people who have been part of my life forever. People who know almost too much about me. But because they know all they do they have coveted perspective. I love the comfortable feeling that comes when you are sitting, or standing, or walking with these sorts of people. We all have these people like this in our lives. I love them. They make me smile so much. I need them. I am not sure if they need me. But I need them and I am so grateful for them. Time seems to stand still when I am with them. And I love thinking about how long I have known them. It is also fun to realize how we have changed and how we have stayed the same. There is a wide range of these friends. Some are my parents friends who knew me and had the inexplicable joy of observing me when I was a teenager :) Some are friends from high school. Some are favorite teachers.

Each trip to Washington is a little different depending on which friends are available. Sometimes I need alone time on these trips and I plan a hike or a ferry ride and only see one friend. Sometimes I need as many friends as I can cram into my time, it just depends. There truly is an art to figuring out what one needs :)

This visit my dear friend Shelley was back in Washington. I have missed seeing her terribly. She has been living in Florida for a few years. When she told me she was back in Washington I was thrilled. She lives on Camano Island. She and I decided to meet on Monday morning at her house. Our plans wavered a little, because of me, but thankfully it all worked out and I met her at about 10:00 am. It was a beautiful, clear morning. Tall, amazing mountains with snow on them in the distance and The Puget Sound all around us shimmering blue. It was cold and crisp so we got our hats, coats, gloves, and scarves and headed out. We walked, and walked, and talked, and talked. I love these moments with Shelley. We catch up on our kids. We catch up on our relationships. Our work. Our mutual friends. We don't talk about our longing to re-create Footloose scenes anymore like we did in high school. We did not make cinnamon toast like we used to do when we had sleep overs. But we did eat mushrooms, broccoli, and yummy dip. We always pick up where we left off and that is a great feeling. Shelley always know which questions to ask me to get me to think about my choices. She asks them in the nicest way because she knows of my bad choice tendencies :) She never judges me but as I talk to her I hear myself and know what I need to do :)

My next visit was unusual and spontaneous but I am a silly person and sometimes do silly things. I have been so curious and interested in Solon's store he bought in Seattle that I had to go. Solon is another friend from high school. I was a little bit proud of myself for getting to his shop and finding a parking place on Ballard Street in Seattle. The shop is in an area with lots of interesting and unique shops all around. And I was so happy to see lots of people in his store shopping for outdoor gear. I wish I skied but I don't. I wish I hard core hiked...but I don't. I bike, but not enough to buy serious bike accessories. I do not think any of the people who buy bike accessories at Solon's store have a woven basket on the front of their bike like I do :) No rock climbing for this girl either. But thankfully his store, Second Ascent, had hats. A lot of hats. And I happen to love knit hats and also happened to need some. So it was a win. It was fun to visit with Solon and hear how one decides to buy a store and what it involves. I did not bug him long but it was a fun adventure.

After all my Monday visiting I decided to go to the movie so I went and saw Into The Woods...again. I am saying that sheepishly...in case you did not notice. It is rare that I spend money on a movie twice but I adore this movie and needed to see it again. I sat there and thought about all the times I had seen a movie in the old movie theaters at the Everett Mall with friends, old boyfriends, and family. I do love to torture myself with walks down memory lane.

After the movie I bugged my friend Erin. Erin always has time for me and is so generous and patient with me. She knows what I deserve and is good at reminding me and boosting my courage to do what I know I need to do. Erin and I were in choir together in high school and probably a few other classes too. She was ready to feed me some dinner at her house and very understanding when I just could not visit and had to go. This has been a hard few months for me as much as I like to pretend it has not been hard, it has been, and sometimes I just hit the wall at weird random moments and need to flee and regroup.

So I headed to my hotel room and used that complimentary wifi to watch all of the second season of Master Chef Jr. I ate jelly bellies one by one and just tried to be one with my life. I am not so good at that.

I managed to hit two incredibly beautiful days in the Snohomish Valley. Sunrise was beautiful both mornings. I always forget how beautiful it is there. Mountains perfectly placed everywhere you look.

I drove into Snohomish to meet MaryAnn for breakfast at Jake's. MaryAnn is best friends with my mother. She threw my bridal shower for me when I got married a gazillion years ago. I love that she has known me and my family forever. I love that she has been through some of the things I have been through and knows how it feels. I just sit and soak up all the perspective and views she has and it strengthens me beyond belief. I did not realize how much I needed this until I was sitting there with an enormous pancake on my plate and a side of sausage paying close attention to everything she said having realization after realization. I left breakfast with firm resolve and determination to pull myself together :) And felt like there was hope for my future which is so unsure.

After breakfast I drove to Monroe. My next visit was Lorre/Loretta :) Lorre in high school....Loretta now. Add Lorre to the list of people who have seen me through all sorts of embarrassing things. She and I met at Lake Tye in Monroe at 11:30 and we walked, and walked, and talked, and talked. Do you see a pattern to my friendships? We both have seven kids and always have lots to catch up on. We ruefully discuss all the things we wish we had known before we acted. We lament about having no control over the choices of people around us. The day was so beautiful, cool, and clear. It was nice to connect and reminisce and attempt to figure things out. We reminded each other that life was about unconditionally loving and that in the end that was all we could really do.

I know it sounds cheesy and corny but these connections make my little heart swell and swell. People that I feel safe with. People I can be who I am with. People who do not care that I make the same mistakes over and over. People who see my flaws but are always there for me. I really needed to feel unconditionally loved on this trip and I am so grateful for these solid amazing people who know how to give me views of my life. Who do not judge me. I feel a little selfish because I always am mooching off these people's strengths.

After my walk I knew it was time to face life again. I wanted to stay and just keep visiting friends over and over. Gathering advice....getting views....commiserating about things....realizing. This is life. And I am so glad I have friends to reach out to who know how to reach back and add such richness to my life.

There were many more friends that I called and chatted with on my long road trip up and back....shhh do not tell the police in Washington :) Friends in Utah and Illinois and sisters in Michigan and Georgia. There were many more friends that I could just not meet with this time that also have spots in my life and I love that they are there. Somehow it always works out that I see who I need to see and hear what I need to hear at the right time.

I listened to the Into The Woods soundtrack most of the way home. The lyrics from many of these songs are so insightful and have so much to do with life. I have to share one of them with you because it fit so perfectly with my trip and life.

Though it's fearful
though its deep, though its dark
And though you may lose the path
Though you may encounter wolves,
You can't just act,
You have to listen,
You can't just act 
You have to think...

There are always wolves,
There are always spells
There are always beans,
Or a giant dwells
There,
So,
Into The Woods you go again
You have to every now and then
Into the woods, no telling when,
Be ready for the journey

Into the woods but not too fast
or what you wish you lose at last
into the woods but mind the past
into the woods but mind the future
into the woods but not to stay
or tempt the wolf
or steal from the giant

the way is dark
the light is dim
but now there's you
me, her, and him
The chances look small
The chances look grim
And everything you learn there
Will help you return there
The light is getting dimmer
I think I see a glimmer

Into the woods-you have to grope 
But that's the way you learn to cope
Into the woods to find there's hope
Of getting through the journey

Into the woods each time you go
There's more to learn of what you know
Into the woods but not to slow
Into the woods it's nearing midnight
Into the woods to mind the Wolf
To heed the witch
To honor the giant
To mind,
To heed
To find
To think
To teach
To join
To go to the festival

Into the woods
Into the woods
Into the woods
Then out of the woods
And happy ever after.


Yes, I listened to it over and over. It was the perfect way to wrap up my trip. I felt so empty and sad and unsure of where my life was going when I left Oregon and came home with confidence that I can do hard things and that I am not alone in the woods.

Dec 25, 2014

Christmas Past, Present, And Future.

Well here it is, December 24th morning. I have been awake since five, I can't sleep. Bummer, since I do not have to get up for anything but sometimes it just happens. I knew the holidays would be hard this year. I know that lots of other people feel dread around the holidays for various reasons. Compared to people who have lost a loved one I feel like I do not have much to complain about but nonetheless it is indeed hard. First Christmas divorced. Lots of people have been through it. Lots of people have an ache at the holidays. This is normal...I am sure of it. And everyone says time fixes these aches and I believe them. It is not regret because I know I did the right thing it is just an ache.

I have had 46 Christmas's in my life. Isn't that weird to say out loud and comprehend? Each one so different from the last. Nineteen of them were with my parents and siblings in either California or Washington depending on where we lived at the time. I do not remember ever feeling like I was going to die if I did not get a certain item. No, "need a BB gun" or going to die story in my life :) I do not remember ever making a list. Which is so not like who I think I am. Some Christmases had snow, some did not. Most of them were with just our immediate family. When we lived in California I remember driving to my dad's families gatherings to exchange gifts and race around with cousins. I remember the excited, not able to sleep, feeling on Christmas Eve. I remember conning my dad into letting us open a present on Christmas eve.....that was my job. One year I even outdid myself and nagged and bothered until I got the siblings and I the privilege of opening two. I still have a perfect image in my mind of my moms fudge all neatly wrapped in tinfoil stacked in the fridge. I remember being frustrated that her holiday baking was going to other people....yeah, selfish much? :) I am a little disturbed that I do not have any memories of going to get a Christmas tree but I know we had one every year.

When I was twenty years old that was my first Christmas married. That started the 25 years of Christmas with my own family. I am not a huge tradition kind of girl. I have a secret suppressed longing to be the tradition kind of girl but for some reason I am not one. No fond memories of leaving food for reindeer for the Baird children. As I sit here on the eve of the weirdest Christmas I have faced yet I wonder what my kids will remember about Christmas as they grow up. And if they will forgive me for making the holidays challenging and different for everyone this year :) Although maybe because I did not have many traditions they are all doing fine this year :)

This year I am back home with my parents for Christmas. My Christmas decorations are sitting in boxes in my storage unit. My mom had final say on the Christmas Tree we cut down...not me. No more annual ornament exchange at my house. I only have two of my seven kids with me. Life has moved on. Two kids are married and are starting their own traditions. One is on a mission in California and two are in Massachusetts. I sent boxes to everyone. It was a, "support the United States Postal Service Christmas" for me. Rick at the post office...he is my friend for life. We saw each other way too much these past six weeks. I think he fought the urge to give me a free stamp a few times....I could see the pity in his eyes as I swiped that debit card. And I could quote the "is there anything liquid, perishable, fragile or potentially hazardous" question with him.

So I had a momentary wallow about my situation but I am over it. Everything morphs whether you help it morph or not. We all do the best we can. Here is to 46 more Christmases....whew, that will make me old :) And may all my Christmases be different :)

Dec 24, 2014

The Day In Newport, Oregon.

I am not sure what the rest of you do when you you have a free weekend or a day off but I always want to go somewhere or do something...well not always but it is fair to say that 95 percent of the time that is what I want to do. As long as I can remember this has always been me. Why I am so determined to see places and things I hear about and read about, I do not know. I may never know what compels me to Google, "things to do"... "places to see"... and "top ten things to do" but I guess I
better start embracing the fact that this is me. You might want to do the same :)

Monday was the first day of winter break in Oregon. The girls and I have ten school days off and that is not even counting weekends. We were never treated so well in Massachusetts for Christmas break. We have some goals in mind for this break and I have been trying to work around weather, my trip to Seattle, and the holidays to figure out when we could accomplish our goals.

One of our goals was to see the Zoo lights at the Portland Zoo. The other was to go to the Aquarium in Newport. Fish and chips in Bandon is a must. And the christmas lights at Shore Acres was the last. If you happened to look at a map and found where all these goals I have were you would most likely shake your head. Just like my parents do every time I have a plan. Because technically all of this in one day is really not very do-able. I seem to never see that part. But it does no good to tell me. I am a little bit stubborn when it comes to making my trips work. No, I have no plans to work on this personality quirk I have. It is me.

The first thing I did was to make sure our Monday stayed free. Then I had to decide which trip was first and how much I could fit into one day which meant figuring out the times places were open and the driving times. In my head where all things work out perfectly, I wanted to drive up to Newport via I-5 and Route 20 and be there when the Aquarium opened at ten and then drive down the Oregon coast highway on our way back home stopping in Shore Acres to see the Christmas Light display and making it to Bandon before six to get the best fish and chips in the land.

But, when I got online Sunday night to check road conditions, for some reason, 12 miles north of Florence the Oregon Coast Highway was closed....probably because of all the rain. UGH that effectively cut me off from the fish and chips and the christmas lights. There are only a few roads that come from I-5 across to the shore....so you have to think carefully about your shore plans. Only two roads run straight north and south across the state...I-5 and the coast highway. And there are maybe four good roads that connect these two roads...you know like ladder rungs.

For two days it had been raining and raining and raining. Whenever I looked at weather.com there were always little warning flags on the places I really needed to go on the coast. The warnings were all about flooding. And a lot of the cross roads were flooding or acquiring sink holes from the rain,

Even when I woke up Monday morning I was not sure what to do, But when I saw it was not raining I decided we needed to go no matter what. My other option had been to let everyone to sleep in and head to Portland to see the zoo and the zoo lights. But the coast is constantly calling our name. So it was a no brainer.

I am so glad we went. The sun broke through and it was so pretty. My girls and I loaded the car with our music and food and things to do and we drove. It honestly is therapy.

We got to the Oregon Coast Aquarium at about 11. My girls and I LOVE aquariums. With all of our hearts. But I discovered today that I have inadvertantly ruined visiting aquariums for all of us. My sister Sarah lives in Atlanta by the worlds largest aquarium and we have been and were duly wowed. A touch tank with sharks and rays. Huge shark whales in the most enormous tank ever.And then we have also been to the Omaha Zoo and their aquarium is amazing also. Throw in Chicago Aquarium and Boston Aquarium and.....yeah. I really thought these other visits would in no way affect our visit to the aquarium today but they did. The aquarium had no chance to meet our expectations in any way and it made me so sad. We still had fun and we still saw some cool things but it was depressing to spend $70.00 for what we saw. The seals were cool. The giant octopus was strangely active and mesmerizing. And who could not resist the shock value of the Japanese spider crabs? They are so gosh darn huge and creepy. The aquarium has some tunnels you can walk through with sharks and rays and various fish but the tanks look so stark and empty and sad. But we decided to not complain and feel sad. It is so good to know these things and you would not know if you had not tried :)

After the aquarium we were hungry. A few years ago my dad took me to this fish and chip restaurant in a town on the Oregon coast called Bandon. It was amazing. But I had no idea how hard it would be to duplicate this fish and chip amazingness. My dad served a mission for our church in England and has always been talking about proper fish and chips...the english way. With the perfect malt vinegar. These fish and chips in Bandon come the closest he says. The fact of the matter was I could talk about them all day today but they could not happen because of the road closure so we headed to downtown Newport to a place called Mo's. There were all sorts of claims written on the outside of Mo's so we thought we could not go wrong. But again our previous experiences have ruined our later experiences. Once you have had perfection in something how do you go backwards? I am doing some serious thinking about this subject. But we ate and survived. But the knowledge we have about the place in Bandon made it hard to swallow Mo's heavy fish and chips. Sorry Mo.

I took lots of pictures but this one is from google images.
When we came out of the restaurant we could hear the sound of sea lions....lots of sea lions. We decided to find where the sound was coming from. So we walked down the street stopping to listen and look and finally we found the sea lions and how much fun was this. There were at least thirty of them. They were all fairly large. They were sitting in the water on these old broken docks. They were so close to us. They were sinking these docks with their enormous bodies. Some of them were laying on top of each other. Others were very territorial of their dock spot.They would all be quiet for a minute and then someone would move or change positions and they would all start to bark in protest. They would all tilt their necks back like they were trying to catch some sun. We had the best time watching these sea lions. Apparently they are all male and they come up the coast from California every winter leaving the females behind in California. Which explained a lot of their behaviors :) This was surely the highlight of our day. The sea lions were so close and so entertaining :)

After the sea lions we needed to go to a beach. So we headed north on highway 101. The first beach we stopped at was Cobble Beach by Yaquina Head Lighthouse. It is fascinating to me how different all the beaches are here in Oregon. One could be all sand. One could have cliffs. One could be all rocks. One could be rocks that were all the same. It just so happened this particular one was called cobble beach because the rocks were all like cobble stones. All the same color....black. And all about the same shape. When you walked on them they rolled and when the waves rolled back out it made the best sound ever as all those rocks rolled with the water. The cliffs around this beach had lots of pelicans resting on top of them. And there were a few daring sea lions playing in the rough surf. Tatiana and I walked a ways on these rolling rocks and stared at the rough winter waves.

But the girls felt like they needed a sand beach so we drove to the next beach option and it was sandy. So strange that just five miles down the road was a perfectly sandy beach with not a trace of cobblestone rocks anywhere. This beach had tons of things washed up on it from all the rainy windy stormy weather we had had. We had to walk down a steep clay mountain to get to the beach. We all slipped on the slippery clay. This beach felt dirty to me so we did not stay long. I can not even remember the name of it.

When we were all done we stopped at Wal Mart to grab some candy for our journey home. It is very important to have a bag of jelly belly's in your car when you have a long drive. They are small. They have lots of flavors. I grab a handful and, without looking, since I am driving I slowly eat one at a time. Trying to guess which flavor I got. It keeps me awake.

Dec 22, 2014

All Things Alice.

Remember way back in September when I spent a few days in Port Townsend, Washington ? Well every time I go there a big part of my trip is spent exploring every single store in Port Townsend's quaint downtown. I rarely buy anything but I love to look at everything in each store. This year something caught my eye. I did not buy it but I looked at it for a long time in the store and it stayed in my mind long after I was back home in Oregon. "They" say when this happens it means it was meant
to be and you should buy it immediately. So when October rolled around and my birthday was nearing I decided I would just look and see if I could find this item on Amazon and just see how much it was. It took me awhile to figure out the proper title of the book...yeah, I loved it so much I could not remember the name of the book :) But finally I found it and it is called "All Things Alice" by Linda Sunshine. I put the book in my shopping cart on Amazon and left it there for a few days. Don't you love doing that? Finally, in a moment of whim I decided I deserved it. Yes, deserved was the exact word. I felt guilty about the $25.00. But I knew I would never get this book unless I just did it myself.

I am not sure when my obsession with Alice in Wonderland began. I also am not sure where it ranks next to my Narnia and Lord of the Rings/Hobbit obsessions. But no matter, I definitely have a small obsession with Alice and her adventures......or maybe the obsession is with Lewis Carroll himself and the way he writes.

Um yeah I definitely did not stage this picture for you :)
Excuse me for a moment while I gush about how beautiful this book is. The pages are printed on thick paper. Each page is a different color. There is a pink ribbon book mark!! There are quotes from the book and quotes from people who have found wisdom in the books and a lush illustration on each page. (yeah, I think the word lush is grossly underused :) Inside the front cover the book is described as a, "collection of artwork, quotations, recipes and all sorts of things that were inspired by the works of Lewis Carroll."

I imagine none of us really understood what Alice in Wonderland really was the first time we read it or saw the movie. But I find the more I read about it and watch the movie the more I am delighted with it. Quotes that have so much meaning if you think for a moment.

I am trying to choose a few quotes to share with you but it is so hard. I love them all.


"But I don't want to go among mad people," Alice remarked. "Oh, you can't help that," said the cat: "we're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad." "How do you know I'm mad?" said Alice. "You must be," said the cat,"or you wouldn't have come here."


"How puzzling all these changes are! I'm never sure what I'm going to be, from one minute to another!"


" I beg your pardon?" said Alice. "It isn't respectable to beg," said the King.

The caterpillar and Alice looked at each other for some time in silence. "Who are you?" said the caterpillar. This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation. Alice replied, rather shyly, "I-I hardly know, sir just at present-at least I know who i was when i got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then." 

"What do you mean by that?" said the Caterpillar sternly. "Explain yourself!" 

"I can't explain myself I'm afraid, sir, said Alice, "because I'm not myself, you see."



I could go on and on and on. I am thrilled with the discoveries I make when I read books like this and how I can take those discoveries and fit them into my life and make some sense of things.
One of my favorite blogs I ever blogged was in February of 2012 and it was about the Alice in Wonderland movie... here is the link if you are in the mood Muchness and jabberwockies.

Dec 17, 2014

Where I Live.

The town that I moved to four months ago has a sign on either end of it declaring it's population as 9,749 people. I have no idea how accurate these sorts of signs are. How often do they change that number? I would like to think there is a special person who has this little job but I have a feeling it is not that way. Regardless, there is no question that this is a town where everyone knows everyone else and most likely everyone is related in some way....so you should be picturing small and throw in some rural too.

 There are two lakes on either side of the town. Both are about 15 minutes out of town. These lakes keep the town of Cottage Grove from flooding. Before these dams were built the rumor is that the town of Cottage Grove flooded ALL the time. One of the lakes is Dorena Lake. And one is Cottage Grove Lake. My parents live right next to Cottage Grove Lake and I love this location. It is so beautiful. I love driving up and around the twisty road over the dam everyday on my way home from work and to work. Best. Views. Ever. One thing that causes me a little bit of consternation is that they have to drain both of these lakes every fall. They have to. So that all the rain that comes all winter has a place to collect and not flood the town. I hate seeing the bottom of the lake all empty and bare.....it is just too much information about the lake for me. I know it will fill back up again by summer but I am a little dramatic about it and may be doing a small amount of mourning for the nice, pretty, fully clothed lake. Yeah I know that probably tells you what a surface-y kind of girl I am, but seeing all the tree stumps and odd formations that are under all the water just creeps me out a little. Although if I ever happen to loose a swimsuit in the summer in the lake I will feel better knowing I could possibly retrieve it when the lake is drained in the Fall.....yeah, that will never happen....but it is comforting to know....just in case :)

This little town has railroad tracks right down the middle of it. And these railroad tracks are very used railroad tracks. There is a huge Weyerhauser mill in town and trains are constantly stopping to get loaded with 2 x 4 "s and other assorted wood items. I am very aware of these train tracks because I am constantly driving my school bus back and forth over them..... opening my doors and stopping to listen for trains as I cross. One time I even have had to sit in my school bus and wait for a train that was completely stopped at a crossing thus blocking it for 30 minutes.

I have not had a single person honk at me or flip me off or swear at me on the roads here. Every single minute of every single day there was some disgruntled East coast driver doing one of those three things at me or at someone else. I didn't really notice it when I lived there because it was part of every day life but now that I am away from it I really notice. Don't worry east coast I still really like you.  It is just the way it is.

this is the covered area for rain recess.
All the elementary schools here have a huge covered area on the playground and recess goes on rain or not. I really love that. And when I drive the bus into the school parking lot and see classrooms sitting out in the pouring rain under these covered structures doing something as a class it makes me smile.

Speaking of rural Natalie goes to a little country school about 6 miles from my parents house. It has 94 kids in it and it covers Kindergarten to 8th grade. The 6th-8th graders all have the same teacher. The school is nestled (yep, I said nestled) between two mountains and all around the school is all the land Territorial seed company uses to grow their seeds. The kids get to do all sorts of fun, extra things that bigger schools simply could not do. They have a dome shaped art and cooking building....yes, the kids have cooking class as part of their day. The gym that has old, very dark hardwood floors. A library with huge tall windows. It is old, it is quaint, and I love it. It has been the best thing for my Natalie and her confidence to be at this small school. There happens to be two other rural schools in this school district so that gives you some idea of what the area is like.

Everywhere I have lived people have always declared "if you don't like the weather here just wait a few minutes and it will change." They said it in Kansas, Indiana, and Massachusetts. But I have to tell you that in Oregon that saying is really honestly true and those of you who live in those other places where I have lived it turns out we really did not know what PMS weather really meant. It may just be where Cottage Grove is in relation to mountains and the ocean and the equator and the sun and the moon. I am not sure if weather is this way all over Oregon or not but literally one minute it is sunny...the next raining...the next windy....back and forth all day long. I have learned to be prepared and I have umbrella, boots, gloves, hats, scarves, and a change of clothes in my trunk....always. One day the weather was so silly I saw 6 rainbows in one day.

There is so much rain here that a lot of the trees have moss growing on their branches and trunks. Lots of moss. Once all the leaves fell off the trees we could really see it. I feel like the trees look a little unkempt and messy and basically they just need to shave :) I am trying to appreciate the moss but it is hard to get used to. I prefer less hairy trees. It is an odd sight to get used to.

This town is so small that when I went to the DMV and forgot my checkbook they let me take the test anyway and bring my check back later. That never happened in Massachusetts. It stunned me that the lady suggested it. But I did not complain.

I love different views. And knowing different things and each time I have moved I have seen a new view and learned new things. There are pros and cons to everywhere you live. My kids are going to miss having lots of snow. But I am glad they got to experience lots of snow. Getting to the beach is much easier here than it was in Massachusetts. I miss being close to NYC and Boston and history but I have been furiously googling and learning about equally cool stuff here.

Dec 7, 2014

The Hundred Foot Journey....And Some Feelings :)

There is this feeling... I wonder if you know about it? It happens in your heart. It happens when you connect with someone. It happens when you remember something. It happens when you smell a smell. It happens when you hear something you have not heard in a long time. It can happen in a certain place. On a certain day. It is sight, sound, and sometimes even taste and touch all mixed together. Only you know when it happens. Only you feel it. No one else can really see it. You can try to explain it to others. But it is pretty hard to explain...I know because I am trying to explain it right now....but I am pretty confident that others have felt it too. I think two or more people can have this feeling at the same time but I wonder if that is rare? Maybe that is what causes a standing ovation? I am pretty sure it is a combination of peace, swelling, wistfulness, sometimes a small ache, a smile, a tear and almost a welling all mixed together.....oh and throw in some longing.

I feel it when I watch certain movies with the perfect blend of characters and views and music. I feel it when I accomplish something I thought I could not. I feel it when the lines meet and match. I have felt it when I show my kids something amazing. I feel it when I say the Pledge of Allegiance and then hear the Star Spangled banner. I have felt it when I have had a realization. Fireworks. Riding in the car with the perfect song playing on the perfect road. Making someone happy. Giving someone something they did not know you knew they wanted or liked but it shows them that without a doubt you noticed them. Receiving something from someone that shows they noticed you. Watching two people laugh over a shared memory. Celebrating a hard worked for accomplishment. Sun shining through clouds.

The feeling often results in tears for me. I do not know about you. I wish I could capture this feeling. It is so elusive. You can not seem to predict when it will come. It does not stay long. I know because....gulp.... I have tried to hold still when I feel it and trick it to stay but it never does. It moves on. It makes me long. Do you know what longing is? Yeah, a strong, persistent desire or craving especially for something unattainable or distant. What about swelling? Swelling means to affect with strong, expansive emotion. Expansive emotion. I love thinking about that word expansive put together with the word emotion.

So what has brought all this weird musing up? Well I watched the movie The Hundred Foot Journey the other night. It was a magical movie. The deliberateness and thoughtfulness of the words. The development of the characters. The visual feast. I wanted to open a restaurant, live in the country, savor food, cook....oh, okay and fall in love....why not live large :) It was a beautiful movie and I have no idea why it made my heart swell. If I had to guess I think I would say that it was the simpleness of the life in the movie mixed with the complex-ness of the humans that were in the simple life. Regardless of what it was I realized I have not felt that feeling in a long time. It is a simple yet very profound feeling. I cried and cried after the movie was over and could not for the life of me figure out why.

Oprah Winfrey and Steven Speilberg produced the movie and it did pretty well at the box office when it was released in August. I vaguely remembered hearing about it but not really knowing what it was about. But I am so glad this little gem spoke to me when I was staring at that darn Redbox screen wondering if there was anything rated PG that I could watch that did not involve animation :)

The bummer will always be that the movie may not feel the same to you when you watch it as it did to me......but it will not hurt you to try.....just saying :)  It is possible that this feeling may have been only for me. Which makes me SO sad because I seem to have some silly notion that there is some way to share feelings. Would it not be cool if when you felt this heart, swelling awesome feeling you could choose just one person to share it with....like a Vulcan mind meld :) But just one person.....there has to be rules :)

Dec 5, 2014

Two Roads Diverged.

I got to teach a lesson in church a few weeks ago about how to make decisions. I thought it sounded like a pretty harmless topic but the more I read and studied for this lesson the more I swung between resolve and discouragement. How did I manage to miss the instructions on how to make good decisions? It would have made my life so different if I understood how to make a good decision. Not necessarily a better life just a different one.

How many times have you heard that Robert Frost poem about two roads diverging in the yellow woods and how taking the one less traveled, how that made all the difference? Yeah, almost every time I have found myself standing in that darn yellow woods I have chosen the wrong road. As I made pages of notes for this lesson on how to teach these darling 14-18 year old kids in my class how to make good decisions I have been squirming with the realization that I have rarely followed these steps.

From ninth grade to about 30 years old we are making some of the most important decisions of our lives. Who we are going to marry. What career we want. What school to go to. Whether to get good grades or not. Who to date. Decisions that seriously determine our lives. I was so young when I made all these decisions. So not aware of who I was.

You can't go back ....duh....I know this. So I am trying not to bellyache too much over what is done and gone. And I have this very rare opportunity to make some decisions again and the part that is killing me is that I am not totally sure I am yet capable of making good decisions. I know me a lot better. I know the best way to make decisions but can I put it all into action? Do I have the discipline? The self control? The focus? And most important the perspective? Oh and what about that constant struggle between what your heart wants and what your head knows? Sometimes I want to give up. The struggle does not appear on my outside unless you pay close attention to me but I am just going to be dramatic and say it is epic and the ending....yeah, who knows :)

Nov 16, 2014

Bogs?

"Rain drops keep falling on my head." Do you remember that song? I have to tell you I have very fond memories of that song from my childhood. I remember singing it at the top of my lungs....the only way to sing :) My favorite part was where the singer sang this verse "And I did me some talking to the sun. I told him I didn't like the way he got things done sleeping on the job." If I was not singing that song it was usually something by the Carpenters like "rainy days and Mondays always get me down." But I must tell you that rainy days do not get me down. I love rain. Always have. Always will. I even love gray. It really makes the changing leaves look so pretty when they have a gray background to pop out of.

I am sitting here right now in my parents living room at about 5 o'clock pm in a cozy chair that faces one of four enormous tall windows that look outside (yes, windows look outside here in Oregon :)  I am watching rain pour, and pour, and pour from the sky. This is my most favorite spot to sit. I alternate between staring at the incredible view that makes me sigh inside, and blogging, or reading.

Part of rain is puddles and I am also a most serious puddle lover. I remember when I was 6 or 7 years old walking from school to my Tuesday afternoon church activities in my rubber boots, making sure to go through every single puddle on the way. One time I got to the church activity a little late and as I walked up the aisle of the church all you could hear in the church reverence was the squish, squish, squish of the water and soaking socks in my boots. My mom made me walk home, change socks, and come back.

I have not had rain boots in years maybe since when I was 7. I have secretly missed them. And I am so glad that with my new bus driving job I now need rain accessories. Boots, umbrella and raincoat...all necessary accessories.

I have to walk in so many puddles between the bus office and my bus and I have to be outside and around my bus several times a day. I am out in the rain all the time and my Keds are so unhappy with this new development. I have been searching for the perfect rain boots for about three weeks now. I am sure it does not surprise you that I seem to be over thinking this seemingly simple purchase :)

Months ago I acquired the perfect umbrella for my rain needs. It is one of those retro clear curved ones....like the picture over there. I confess, I could collect umbrellas if I put my mind to it. The big, long, pointy umbrellas. Not the convenient, compact ones... oh no, "the more awkward it is to find a place to put your umbrella the better the umbrella" seems to be my motto.

The next project after the umbrella has been the rain boots and after the boots comes the rain coat. This, "getting ready for the rainy season" is a most serious thing :) I have been noticing everyone's rain boots. I found the perfect rain boots online for my girls from Amazon. Tatiana chose tall red ones that cause almost everyone to stop her and ask where she got them. Natalie chose tall black and white hounds tooth pattern boots that people also seem to like. A little girl that rides my bus has adorable pink, camouflage, light up boots that would totally fit me. One of the ladies at work has boots with Oregon Ducks logo all over them. Every store I have gone into I have headed straight for the rubber boot aisle. Alas, some stores do not have a rubber boot aisle. A lot of the stores simply do not have my size. And then if they do have my size there is always the pattern to consider and the height.

My parents have joined in my boot quest and they have bought some boots and brought them home for me to look at and try on. I honestly thought this would be an easy project. But there is the height of the boots to consider. There is the color. There is how tight they fit around the top of your leg. There is size. My feel are small so I can not just walk into the adult women's shoe department and grab a pair of rain boots, I am usually found standing in the kids shoe aisle trying to find a pair of boots that do not light up and do not have a character on them. Not to brag but I could have had some of those pink camouflage boots with light up heels if I wanted them.

Yep, these are the ones :)
My parents brought home a pair of Bogs the other day. I had never heard of Bogs before. The bottom of them is hard, normal, rain boot, rubbery material but the top is soft, bendable, waterproof fabric. They are very wide and make my feet look very fat when I look down at them. I kept them for a few days with the tags still on them. Thinking and thinking about if they were mine or not. We even went back to to look at the other colors of Bogs in the store. I thought I needed the red ones but then I rethought it....because they did not have my size. All this said they are a little endearing and I eventually decided to keep them. The point is they keep my feet dry and there really should be nothing more than that....right? :) I mean who decided rain boots were about fashion? Who on earth would worry about if the boots would match what you are wearing? Or if they make your feet look fat? Definitely, not me :)

Can you not hardly wait for my blog about shopping for the raincoat? Good times...right?

Nov 15, 2014

Tilamook, Cape Meares, Lookout State Park and More :)

View from Cape Meares
I am not sure why I can not resist the urge to take a perfectly free day and fill it. But ever since I can remember I fill free days with day trips.....hikes....historical sites....Pez factories....beach....big cities....caves...whatever is within 3 hours driving distance qualifies.

So the minute I found out my girls and I had Tuesday, November 11th off I started googling and planning. The first thing I did was pull out the map and study the Oregon coastline. I wanted to show my girls Tillamook, Oregon. On the East coast it is Cabot cheese but on the west coast it is Tillamook cheese. They have a huge factory that you can tour....ice cream, cheese, and even fudge are all readily available. I feel like the girls and I have done a lot of exploring the southern half of Highway 101 which goes the length of Oregon's coastline....with about 40 miles in California and 20 miles in Washington. But we have not done much exploring on the Northern half of Highway 101. So I started researching beaches, hikes, and sites and finally narrowed it down to the Aquarium in Newport, Oregon. Cape Meares which claimed to have the best views on the Oregon Coast, Tillamook...for the cheese, and the longest truss bridge in the United States in Astoria. This was not going to be an easy task to fit this all in but I was going to do my best without making it a stressful trip, I decided I should get a hotel room on the coast so I could at least be in the right place when the day started. If we could get to a hotel in Lincoln City, Oregon I could cut 2 hours off of our driving for Tuesday.

So Monday at 4, after school and work were through, we were in the car driving North up I-5. Which is delightfully straight through this middle part of Oregon. There are several options of roads when it comes to heading West towards the coast and I was not sure which one to take and decided to just go with my gut feeling as the exit came. My gut chose a road that went through Corvalis, Oregon and ended up on the coast in the town of Newport.

We arrived at our hotel at about 7 on Monday night. We ate at an unfortunately yucky restaurant, took advantage of the wifi in the hotel, and played in the amazing heated pool and hot tub. We caught up on episodes of Studio C and slept in.....until 8 :) I was anxious to get going since we had so much to do. The minute the sun was up I knew the day was going to be gorgeous and I was dying to glimpse the ocean since it had been dark when we finally got to the coast the night before. The girls were not thrilled with me but cest la vie :)

It was cold out and pretty windy but it really was the most beautiful day ever. The ocean was a beautiful deep blue color that compelled you to exclaim at least a gazillion times how beautiful it was. I just think I may love winter ocean the best :) The wind would grab the tops of the waves as they broke and cause this amazing spray.

We headed north on Highway 101 which weaves in and out of  Oregon coastal cities, mountains, and staggering ocean views. We stopped when ever we wanted to and ran on the beach and climbed rocks and took pictures....well except for Natalie who I never should have watched tsunami documentaries with a few months ago :) She is so afraid of tsunamis now that no amount of reasoning will convince her to set feet on the shore. So we irresponsibly leave her on the shore and check on her while we race around looking for treasures and exploring.

We decided Tillamook should be our first destination and we got there about 10 am in the morning. There were not many people there so we raced through the cheese making process....and cheese tasting...and photo opps ....and the ice cream which is pretty famous. It was fascinating to watch the assembly line of cheese packaging and cutting. And tasting was fun but I wanted to be able to taste all the flavors they sold but that was sadly not possible. It was interesting to compare it to our cheese tasting trips to Cabot in Vermont.

Astoria-Megler Bridge
After Tillamook we decided to head to the truss bridge. A few weeks ago I happened to hear some ladies in the break room at work chatting about a bridge in Astoria. I LOVE bridges. They are a small obsession of mine. As I listened to the ladies conversation about the bridge I knew I needed to check it out. So I googled and read about it. It is called the Astoria- Megler Bridge. This bridge goes across the glorious Columbia River between Oregon and Washington. The bridge is 4 miles long and it the longest continuous truss bridge in the United States.It is so epic. It starts up high on the Oregon side and then it dips down to skim across the water of the Columbia until it reaches Washington's shore. The Columbia River is very mighty, and wide, and awesome. The bridge is only 14 miles from where the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean meet. Because of the winds the water was impressive and you could feel the wind buffeting the car as we drove across. The ladies at work had been talking about how scary this bridge was to cross because of the strong wind so I was excited. We took lots of pictures but they were taken from car windows so I posted a picture from the internet. This bridge made me happy :) Once we got to Washington we turned right around and headed back across the bridge to Oregon.  The town of Astoria has fascinated me ever since I read a book about John Jacob Astor and his funding of expeditions to explore the west. The book was called Astoria and I really liked it...but I love history stuff...it may bore you :)

After the bridge crossing we thought we would try to make it all the way back to Newport before five so we could go to the aquarium. But as we meandered along we realized this was not going to happen so we headed to Cape Meares instead. I had read about the light house there, and the views, and really wanted to see it. It met all my expectations and that is hard to do :) I want you to feel like you were there but I have no idea how to describe the beauty. We were way up high on the mountain at a lookout that went further out from the mainland so we could see the coastline extending back to our right and our left. We could see a group of sea stacks in the distance. From up high we could see the succession of the waves all lines up to break....it looked so cool.

Beach at Lookout State Park...magical :)
While I was trying to find Cape Meares we happened upon Cape Lookout State Park which was so incredible. There was this empty beach with cliffs that came right up to the beach. Trees right up to the shore line. We found a waterfall that came off the cliff and ended right on the beach...very magical. There were tons of trails on the surrounding mountains and everything was so clean and manicured. I fell in love immediately. I wanted to explore but this is hard with my Natalie and her very intense tsunami fear. So I will be going back to this beach soon and trying some of the hiking trails. There were also some Yurts and very nice cabins not far from the beach and immediately my mind jumped ahead to Christmas break :) You know me :)

Sunset on the Pacific.
As the day was ending Tatiana and I realized that my girls had never seen the sun set on the Pacific Ocean. We had seen it come up on the Atlantic Ocean but obviously had not seen it go down. She decided we needed to do this and I figured why not? So we quickly made our way to the Three Capes Scenic Drive and raced the sun to the beach. As we raced along we came upon a tree that had fallen on a telephone wire. After I made sure someone had called 911 as we drove away I looked in my rear view mirror just in time to see the tree and telephone wire explode three times in pretty awesome, very colorful explosions. My girls felt like this was the highlight of the day .....bless their hearts :) We made it to beach to see the picture at the left there. It was so windy I could barely open my car door. The sand was whipping all over so we did not view the sunset long :)

Once the sun went down the day was over.  It's a little bit of a bummer that Winter days are so short. We cranked our Taylor Swift cd and headed for home already planning our next trip to the Oregon Shore. They laughed at me at work when I said I was going to the shore....they said we do not say shore on the West coast :) Hmmm we will see about that :)

Nov 8, 2014

Living In The Moment.

What does it mean to live in the moment?
 Is it a good thing or a bad thing?
What does someone who lives in the moment act like?
Do we like people who live in the moment?

I have a dear friend who recently mentioned to me that I might want to try some of the, "living in the moment" thing. It will probably not surprise you that I have been over thinking this concept ever since...I am pretty sure that a person who was truly practicing living in the moment would probably not do much over thinking about it....bless my heart :) And since I do not really have anyone in my life right now who wants to exhaust this topic with me I am going to torture the 37people who read my blog by unloading all my wonderings here :)

Honestly and truly I am extremely curious about this living in the moment thing. I am trying to wrap my mind around what it means and if I really do need to do it. I can not imagine what life would be like if I were not trying to think about how my choices in this moment will affect my upcoming moments. When I sit very still, close my eyes, and just breathe I can not tell you how attractive just living in the moment sounds. But is it possible? Is it good for me? Will it make me better? How do you even do it?

Does it mean I do whatever I want trying to trick myself  into believing that in the next moment it will not matter?

Does it just mean taking deep breaths and appreciating what is going on around me? You know...admiring nature?  If this one is it I already do it...whew :)

Does it mean I throw all caution to the wind in the name of the moment?

Does it mean I am selfish?

How do you know when the moment you are currently living in ends and the next moment starts?

Is there a difference between living FOR the moment and living IN the moment?

Let me tell you if I am supposed to be living for the moment that moment will need to involve some great views, someone who thinks I am the best thing since sliced bread, some steak, and a long drive ....throw in some good laughs and some connecting and then I am definitely IN the moment.

I think after all my wondering about this I have to come back to what the parental units always taught me.....moderation.....balance....if you go to far towards one extreme it's probably not a good idea. So I probably should make sure I have some living in the moment to my life but I should also make sure I have an equal amount of not living in the moment in my life .....balance.....right? :) Whew, aren't you glad I figured that out we would not want an overthinking live in the moment 4 foot 10 inch girl roaming the planet....would we?


Nov 7, 2014

My Day.

So every week day at 5:30 AM my alarm clock rings. I get up immediately. I am not a snooze button girl. I open my closet and I stare at its contents realizing, as I do every morning , that I do not have a bus driver wardrobe and my choices are very limited. I finally settle on something after considering the rain, puddles, mud, and bus grease in my life, and then I get ready. I have realized moisture in some form or another is part of life here in Oregon so my hair is almost always in a ponytail or a bun since moisture wreaks havoc on my hair that seems to think it is curly. I fix Natalie's lunch for school and I approve what she laid out to wear for the day. I also make sure there was nothing in her back pack I had to sign she likes to not tell me about those things. I make my sandwich and then fill a sandwich bag with grapes. Sometime in the middle of all of this I make sure Tatiana is up since I have to drop her off at her early morning church class. And then I stand at the counter and eat a bowl of my mothers granola while I stare into space.

We have to leave the house by 6:20 am. But Tatiana thinks 6:20 am means 6:28 am. Which is why I told her 6:20 :) The mornings have been dark. Which I love. We listen to Taylor Swifts new cd as we drive around the lake, down the curvy road by the dam, and into town. I like to listen to my music very loud and as we get into town and closer to the church where I drop Tatiana off she always tries to furtively turn the volume down. She says it embarrasses her. I am not sure how. But it does. She always scolds me as I try to turn it back up, saying, "Mom, I can hear every single word of the song perfectly when I get out of the car and shut the door." I smile at her and say a sheepish sorry and then I always turn it up loud again the minute she gets out and shuts the door. And she glares at me disapprovingly as I gleefully drive away. Yes, I am 46 :)

The school district transportation lot is about 3 minutes from where I drop her off. When I get there I can see all the lights of all the school buses flashing as the drivers are all checking their lights. It looks rather festive. I pull into the front parking lot and park my car. I grab my big huge awesome flashlight, which is one of my favorite possessions. I also grab my umbrella and the bag with my sandwich, grapes, and water in it. I have to make sure I have my wallet since it has my license in it and I have been known to forget it.

I have to walk a little ways to get to the transportation office. And all around me as I walk are school buses in various forms of getting ready to leave. Lights on. The sounds of air brakes being tested. Horns honking and backing up beeping sounds as everyone is getting ready. Once I get into the office I grab my keys out of this enormous cupboard with the numbers of all the buses and rows of little hooks. I put my employee number into the time clock and make sure I have no notes about my route in my box and then I head out to pre-trip my bus.

 My bus is parked all the way at the front on the lot back out by where I had to park my car but I do not mind the walk. I shine my flashlight on my bus as I get close to check for any signs of vandalism or any flat tires. I get on the bus and drop my bag and then go back out to check all the tires. I grab a "thumper" which is a long metal....crowbar? We use them to thump our tires to check for inflation and to make sure the mud flaps are firmly attached. After checking all the tires with my flashlight and making sure I have touched all the lug nuts and axle nuts to make sure they are all secure then I get on the bus and start checking all the lights, fans, indicator lights, seats, and ,,,,yeah, basically everything. I let the air pressure in my brakes build up as I get out and check all the outside lights on the bus, my brights, hazards, and student lights. So it is a lot of in and out, and in and out. The air brake test is the last thing and my favorite part.....you turn everything off on the bus and release the parking brake and just sit for 60 seconds and listen for air leaks and make sure your psi's do not drop to fast. Then you sit another 60 seconds as you apply pressure to your service brake again listening. I just enjoy the silence for two minutes. I stare out the window and look for hints of the sun while I listen.

At about 7:05 am my bus aide arrives at the bus and she and I get ready to leave. Almost all the other buses are gone by this point so I can back my bus up into a completely empty parking lot which is glorious. And makes me contemplate the possibility of doing a doughnut in that empty parking lot for a short minute :) I drive a bus with 330,000 miles on it. It has a flat front and I love how it turns on a dime. This bus and I are peeps and I will miss it when I have to move on to another.

 For the next few months I have been assigned to be a substitute driver on a special education bus route. So I do not pick up lots of kids. I pick up a few kids at lots of different times during the day and at lots of different places. Normal bus drivers pick up in the morning and drop off in the afternoon but special ed drivers are busy all day. I like being busy and being useful. On most days I am done driving at around 3:30 pm. I have a few hour long breaks during the day. I have to pre trip my bus whenever I have been parked in the parking lot for more than an hour but I find the routine of the pre trip very soothing.

The kids make me smile. Sometimes they have hard days and sometimes they have good days and they are so excited to tell us when they have a good day. They love to tell me where they live. They cheer when I back up :) Some walk slow to the bus, some run. Some beg me to avoid the bumpy roads others beg me to take the bumpy roads. One asked me today if I could drive the bus with my eyes closed. One likes to give me hugs. One begs to be able to shut the door. One always has to lift the emergency handle on the window and set off the alarm.

I love this driving gig. I get to go out in the country past lakes, covered bridges, dams, rivers, fir trees in abundance, and mountains. I also get to drive around in our small quaint town. I get to go over lots of train tracks. I get to drive past Weyerhauser and watch piles of logs go from log to lumber. The smell of fresh wood as I drive by is definitely a perk of my job. I get to wave to the same people every day. Funny how many people are walking or driving in the same place everyday...I had no idea. I also get to see sheep, horses, chickens, and cows everywhere I go.

Oct 29, 2014

Musing About Birthday's.

Well tomorrow is the day... that day that everyone in the entire world has. The day when a person turns one year older. I bet when my mother had me 46 years ago in Provo, Utah she and my dad had no idea that 46 years later I would be divorced, and living in their house with them with two of my children....good times :) They probably figured I would cure cancer, write a book, have successful relationships, and be extremely good looking :)

Every time my birthday rolls around I think about weird things. I wonder if anyone else would admit to thinking about weird things on their birthday?

I think about birthdays gone by. I think about how I can not remember what favorite birthday dinner I used to choose to torture my siblings with. I do not know what my favorite dessert was. I sometimes try to remember my favorite birthday present ever and contemplate why it was my favorite. I ALWAYS fondly remember my 12th birthday boy/girl surprise party my parents had for me that made my life utterly perfect in every way.

Every year I remember the birthday card I got from a great grandmother of mine when I turned one that my parents memorized and still quote to me every single year on my birthday:

"Quack, Quack the ducky goes it's your birthday and he knows. There's going to be a lot of fun at your house because you're one."

Can you tell I was the oldest child? :)

Last year a few weeks before my birthday I had just told the hubby that the whole marriage thing was simply not going to work anymore. I remember wondering where I would be on my next birthday and what would be happening....and now I know and no amount of wondering had me where I am.

Last year at this time I was doing lots of substituting at the library in Westfield, Massachusetts. I was loving every minute of it. None of my kids knew about the divorce yet. Amanda left for her mission on my birthday. Miriam was on her mission. I had one kid married. And I may or may not have cried most of the day for lots of reasons.

This year I am driving a school bus in Cottage Grove, Oregon and loving every minute of that too. My kids all know about the divorce and all of you do too. Amanda has been gone on her mission for one year. Miriam is back from her mission. I have two kids married. And there is a good chance I may or may not cry again but for different reasons than last year.

 We all have expectations of birthdays. We all long for there to be someone that knows exactly what makes us happy and is willing to make it happen on just one day. We say we don't care but I would venture to say we really do care. We all have good birthday stories and bad birthday stories. We all like attention but yet hate attention. There are so many layers of reasons why we feel the way we do about our birthday. Depending on how our moms celebrated them. Depending on what time of year our birthday is. Depending on if we share a birthday with someone or not. Depending on if we are easy to please or hard to please. Depending on if someone loves us or not. Depending on if we ever asked for something and actually got it. Depending on if someone ever made us a homemade gift or not. Yeah, you get the picture.

I am a little bit afraid that I am a weird one. I do want attention on my birthday but then when I get it I do not know what to do with it and I quickly decide I actually do not want it. I rarely answer my phone on my birthday and if I do well...I am not sure what occasionally compels me to answer. I am pretty sure I do not answer because I am afraid I will cry if I do. And how would that make you feel if I cry when you call to wish me Happy Birthday? Yeah, that's what I thought :) If you give me a present I am not overly comfortable opening it in front of you. Actually, I really do not want a present I just want you to tell me how you sincerely feel about me.....okay, and maybe to do something for me that I know is a sacrifice for you.....like cleaning the bathroom or spending the day letting me ask you questions.

My kids have been asking forever what I want for my birthday and I do not know how to explain to them that I do not know what I want. I want someone else to know what I want. I know people do not know what you want if you do not tell them but I am a tough customer I keep hoping there is someone who has noticed what I want and has paid attention.

This year for the first time in over twenty years I am with my parents on my birthday. Someone asked me what I want for my birthday dinner. Someone asked me what I want for my dessert. It took me a few days to decide what my favorites were. At first I needed to drive to Bandon to my favorite fish and chip place but then reality stopped me and I told my mom I wanted my dad to cook his fabulous pork tenderloin and I wanted her mixed berry pie.

I wonder how other people really honestly feel on their birthdays? When they thank everyone who wished them a Happy Birthday on Facebook and declare that their day was perfect I wonder was it really? How do they know it was a perfect birthday?

Oct 18, 2014

Stout Grove AKA Home of the Redwoods and Highway 101.

Today was one of those days. You know, the ones where you have no time obligations. The ones where you have a car full of of girls, music, and treats and are headed for an epic destination. I really adore these days. Miriam is home from her mission and she is not staying here in Oregon very long. Her job is waiting for her in Massachusetts. And because she is only here a short time we are trying to cram some fun in.

So this morning we got up and left at 8:30 in the morning. We hopped on I-5 and headed South towards Grants Pass. I love this drive. Through mountains, passes, and valleys all filled with pine trees and trees turning colors for fall. Not too many cars on the road and flying along smoothly at 75 mph wrapped in our little Toyota Camry bubble. Strangely, I have passed my love of road trips on to my girls. We all settle in with our music and food and just enjoy the ride. It is soothing and interestingly seems to be therapeutic to us all. Well... except the part when Tatiana constantly changes the music. And the part when someone feels car sick.

The weather was gray and thinking about raining but we all decided that did not bother us. The gray actually makes the fall colors really pop and I have this strange love of gray and rain. Our trunk was full of umbrellas and rain coats just in case.

We stopped in Grants Pass, Oregon to buy provisions at Wal Mart. My dad had warned me to take the second Grants Pass exit but I panicked and took the first one so we had to spend some time getting over to the Wal Mart that was just off of the freeway by the SECOND exit :) It is very important to have the right amount of sweet snacks and salty snacks in the car so that was our mission at Wal Mart. I also have been contemplating for many weeks the need I had to purchase the Bastille album Bad Blood and since we were starting to have hints of trouble on agreeing on which cd to listen to I figured I could finally justify the purchase....you know ten dollars in the name of peace :) Finally after Wal Mart, getting gas, and such we headed out of Grants Pass on route 199 towards the Redwoods. It really is astoundingly easy to get to the Redwoods...I-5 South to Route 199 to the Stout Grove.

We listened to Bastille. We divided up the Reeses minis. We discussed how candy corn has never broken out of Halloween. This conversation came up because I noticed there were bags of mini peeps in Wal Mart and we were all surprised that Peeps had managed to bust out of Easter. Miriam told us mission stories. We commented on names of roads as we drove by. In Oregon the road name signs are so huge and clear you can not help but notice them.....especially if one is called Suicide Lane.

Hardly anyone chose Friday, October the 17th to be in the Redwoods and it was magical. The girls ran around on the trails and we took way too many pictures. It rained so we all had rain hair. While we were wandering through the grove a sudden wind came up. I had never been in the Redwoods when the wind blew...and all these seeds? Needles? Something? fell from the sky. It looked like a snow storm except not snow. Miriam said it was hurtful snow. But I loved it. It was so cool. All of us got these things stuck in our hair from this sudden gust of wind :)

We played in the grove for a long time and I love that I did not have to check the time once. We could do whatever we wanted. I think it was close to two when we decided to head out. On our way out we drove on this winding, very narrow, packed dirt road for at least a half hour through the redwoods. Half way through this majestic drive I realized we needed the right music and insisted on my Mormon Tabernacle Choir patriotic cd. The kids always moan when I put this cd in but we needed something substantial  as we were admiring the incredible beauty and the immensity of these trees. And it was not Taylor Swift....sorry Taylor :) When our winding road finally ended we were in the back of some town by some homes and cemetery.  I had no idea where we were so I just kept driving.....just kept driving :) In my past life I would have felt anxious and worried a little but I have realized that you are always going to find a main road. And we had time. Finally I discovered we were in Crescent City, California and we eventually found our next road which was Highway 101.

Highway 101 goes up the coast of Oregon and is pretty amazing. My dream is to drive Highway 101 in my future convertible and stop at every single beach and every single viewpoint on this glorious road. But for this day it was rainy and gray and I did not have a convertible so I was not sure how it would go but we all agreed we needed this drive up the coast so it was never a question. Why would you not do The Redwoods and the beach all in the same day just because you could?

The first beach we stopped at was in Brookings, Oregon. I have stopped there before and there are some amazing sea stacks. The parking lot had more seagulls in it than cars and it was raining pretty hard. But we threw on our rain coats and ran to the beach. The surf was rough and I love that. The sand had been beat flat with rain and was smooth. We all ran pell mell like crazies and then I remembered Natalie. She has a fear of tsunamis. I made the mistake of watching the movie The Impossible with her and...yeah. So the rough surf freaked her out and no amount of talking could get her to budge. I wanted to race all over the beach and enjoy the rain and waves but I am the mom :) So after I raced and took some pictures I went back up to the car with her.

She and I watched the seagulls out the window. She felt bad for them because it was raining. And she was sure they needed some of our chips. I said no. I know what happens when we feed seagulls....yes, I do :) The seagulls on the west coast look different from the east coast seagulls they are sleeker and plumper and just all around better looking. The east coast seagulls are mangy and easy to hate but these west coast seagulls were harder to resist. Did I just use the words resist and seagull in the same sentence? One seagull seemed to really like us and he eventually hopped on the hood of the car and peered in at us.

The big girls were on the beach getting into all sorts of trouble so it was good I was not with them to witness their choices. Thankfully all is well that ends well. But lets just say that they ended up on a rock and waves came quickly around the rock and they had to get wet up past thighs to get to safety :) And then they waded across a little inlet that they thought was a few inches deep and was not. Needless to say they were soaking and sandy and cold. But yet somehow content and extremely happy. Miriam declared that it was therapy :)

Miriam getting her therapy :)
We continued to drive up the coast stopping anytime we felt the urge. Running on beaches in the rain looking for perfect photo opportunities. We sang our way through the entire Mama Mia cd.and the entire Taylor Swift cd just to mention a few.

We finally made it home at 9:30 at night. Full of sand and still very wet. But so happy. I wanted to go on another adventure today but they all denied me. I wonder if I will ever find someone who wants to go and see and experience as much as I do?

Oct 8, 2014

Realizing.

Drat. It all started last weekend on my,thoughtfully planned, "be alone in Port Townsend," girl trip. That is the whole problem with being alone, admiring breathtaking views, riding on ferry boats, eating jelly bellies, uninterrupted shopping, and having uninterrupted hours in the car, things start. So what exactly started?

Well, it was......comprehending....grasping....understanding clearly.... basically it was realizing...that's what started. We all do an enormous amount of realizing in our lives. Sometimes it is realizing something good and sometimes it is realizing something bad. Either way realizing always means you have graduated to being accountable for knowing something. It means you have to act. I hate that part. And I am here to tell you that no matter how hard you try not to act on what you realize it will lurk about waiting for action. Trust me I am an expert at pushing poor realizing down and trying to smother it with a pillow. I probably have a certificate somewhere declaring me the avoider of acting on realizations champion.

I have become so much better at acting on my realizations lately that I had hoped I would get a small break. But no. I think I actually opened the realization floodgates. They are coming at rapid speed. And I do not want to play with them. They require brave Jennifer.

Some of these realizations are small like realizing I should have bought that book I saw in that adorable little store in Port Townsend. Even if it was $25.00. It was this book called All Things Alice: The Wit, Wisdom, and Wonderland of Lewis Carroll by Linda Sunshine. It was a beautiful book. I took it off the shelf, I held it, and I looked through it for way too long. It was filled with all things Alice...beautiful illustrations and every fabulous quote that any Alice in Wonderland lover could ever want. I could not justify spending the money on myself so I left it and realize now that I should not have ever left it.

Other realizations are medium realizations. These are ones like realizing you forgot the importance of only eating one helping of whatever you eat. Oh, and realizing that you need to remember to write down when you spend money that one is medium also. And probably realizing it is yet again Sunday and you forgot to fix the hem in your favorite brown corduroy dress could also fall in this category.

Then there are the big realizations. I do not know about you but for me these usually involve relationships. Realizing what they are. Realizing they are broken. Realizing you have been played....my personal favorite...if we are picking favorite realizations :) Realizing they are not healthy. Realizing you really have no one to blame but yourself....maybe my second favorite :) Oh and what about realizing you were not a priority?

I think this is the part where I throw a tantrum about gosh, darn realizations and then having to do something about what I have realized. I do not want to have courage. I do not want to be brave. I do not want to do the right thing. I want to do the wrong thing. I am laying on the floor kicking my feet....can you tell? I do not want to do hard things. I do not want to learn one more things about myself that they say is going to make me better. I just want to eat steak....with someone who loves me for me. Weird...where did that some from? :)

Okay, my tantrum is over...I am laying on the floor in fetal position but I am done kicking. I know I have to endure to the end. I know I can make whatever choices I want and I honestly do want to make the right ones so here I go back to doing hard things. But was it not fun to eat some steak and do nothing for a few minutes? Or was that seconds?

Oct 6, 2014

The Wheels On The Bus Go Round And Round.

Isn't it funny how we think we know about something and then it turns out we didn't know at all? That is how I feel about school bus drivers. I have always taken them for granted. Occasionally one of my kids would complain about their bus driver because they had assigned seats on the bus. Once or twice a Baird child left something on the bus. A Baird child has even been known to hear about the facts of life on the bus. Sometimes a substitute driver would miss our bus stop and I would have to call transportation. But on the whole school buses have fallen into the, "taken for granted" part of my life. I had no idea what went into driving a school bus....but now I do.

This, "getting my commercial drivers licence," thing started in earnest on September 3. This was the day before school started here in Oregon. There was an eight hour meeting at the school district office building for all the bus drivers for the school district. I had no idea what to expect from this meeting but I was expected to be there. By this point I had taken all five of the multiple choice tests I was required to take at the Department of Motor Vehicles, been fingerprinted, and had earned my commercial drivers licence permit. 

I had never been in a room filled with bus drivers before. I was very impressed at the togetherness of this group. I was surprised at how much you had to know and learn to be one of them. As they talked I realized I had never fathomed all the issues a bus driver faces everyday....

 If a parent is not there to meet their kindergartner's bus.
 If a child wants to go home with a friend on a bus and does not have a note.
 If someone is allergic to something someone else is eating on the bus.
 If someone wants to get off at a different stop.
 If a kid does not want to get off the bus
 Or if a kid does not want to get on the bus.
 Kids who do not want to stay in their seat.
 Kids who "need" their feet to be in the aisle.
 Dogs who feel the need to get on the bus and say good morning to everyone.
 Bees that fly in windows and sting kids.
 The keeping track of  mileage, figuring logistics, and keeping up with where kids get dropped and  picked up. 

After this meeting the first thing they had me do was just ride on a bus a few days to see what it was like. It was the first few days of school and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I love morning. I love driving. I love routine. I love the hilarious things kids say. I met a kindergartner who told me she and her dad went hunting over the weekend and that they shot a bear and then they both ate the whole bear together:) I was stunned by how many kids did not know their phone numbers, addresses, last names, or where their house even was. When my Zach started school in Princeton, New Jersey the first day of kindergarten they sent him home on the wrong bus but he knew exactly where he lived and told the bus driver how to get there. I witnessed a few kids on these buses who could not do that.


After a few days of observing I started training. Training meant that every single day from  9:30 to 11:30 I was with my trainer Janet. All through September and even now. The first thing we do every day of training is go through the pre trip inspection. Did you know before the bus driver ever gets on the bus they have a 30 minute pre trip inspection they need to do? Yeah, I didn't know that either. It starts with you telling what you are looking for as you approach the bus and then you open the hood and explain all the parts under the hood and whether they are secure or not and how you would know if there is something wrong with them or not.Then you get on the bus and explain everything on the dash and on the side panel, all the gauges, indicator lights, fans etc. Then you do your air brake test. The air brake test has been the hardest part for me to remember. But after writing the steps over and over I finally have it.Then you check all the lights on and off the bus, emergency exits, and seats. It is a crazy amount of information and I had no idea my brain could do this.

After I finish the pre trip every day we drive. While driving I have learned about crossing train tracks which this little town is chock full of. I have learned how to drive a bus down a 6% grade. I have learned to back into the most interesting school bus turn around spots you have ever seen. We practice student stops. I learn how to not hit the curb when I am making a right hand turn and how to not hit the yellow line when making a left hand turn. I learn how to constantly be looking in mirrors while I am driving. It is becoming so bad that when I am driving my car I have to remind myself I do not need to stop a railroad crossings. How easily we become conditioned.

So tomorrow is my big day. When I show up at 9:30 I will not be trained I will meet the testing lady and I will be tested. First I have to do the pre trip and then I will have to pass the basic skills test which includes backing the bus three different ways. Then I will have a driving test. I am strangely not nervous. I feel like I know everything I need to know. The backing up does not thrill me but I have asked a ton of questions and my trainer indulged me when I begged to try all different kinds of ways to back up so that I could know for sure the best way :)

So the last question I have is what does one wear for their commercial drivers license test? And what do I deserve when this is over? :)

Oh and I know you are wondering and yes, I can easily reach the pedals and see over the steering wheel....but thanks for asking :)

Sep 24, 2014

Full Brain and Chevy Chase Beach Cottages.

So my brain hurts. Has your brain ever hurt? I can not remember the last time my poor little brain has had to work so hard.So much intense focusing is involved in everything I am doing right now in my life. I had really and truly imagined at least one good month of me in Oregon, sitting in a cozy chair, reading whatever I want, figuring my life out, eating chocolate, staring at views, hair perfectly straight, manicured lawn, lazy puffy clouds, and of course an empire waist dress. Yeah, imagination much? That imagination really never does me any favors. Instead of living in that relaxing world I have been actively,cheerfully, and consciously making choices that have led me as far away from that world as a girl could get. These choices have been things like....

Saying, without hesitation, "Yes", when people at church ask me to substitute for them in their callings. As a result of this choice I taught 4 seminary lessons last week and one Sunday School lesson. So this added up to a 45 minute lesson every day for four days plus the 45 minute Sunday lesson.The preparation on these lessons is arduous because of who I am :) And then I committed to teach not one but two church lessons on October 12th....what is wrong with me? Ahem....do not answer that :)

I have also made the choice to be a bus driver which has required me to be studying everything under the hood of a school bus and everywhere else on the bus too. I am deeply involved in memorizing a 30 minute school bus pre trip that I have to be able to do from memory, in order, with no prompting to pass my test. My brain is not sure how to handle all these unfamiliar bus part words.And for me to learn I bet you never would have guessed that I have to write everything over and over, say it out loud, and ask lots of questions. My poor trainer :)

Another choice is choosing to have relationships with everyone around me. There really is no way around this one if you are a normal healthy person. Whether it is my kids, or my parents, or old friends, or new friends, or people at my new job, or Superman, or boys, or girls. I love relationships. They have always been the most important part of my life. They have been my priority no matter what I am doing. But I am going to tell you the relationship thing is wearing me out lately. Decisions I have not had to make in years. Emotions I have to figure out where they are coming from. I just selfishly want someone to want to work hard at having a relationship with me while I admire the view of the mountains and lake and and eat chocolate :)

I have a distant memory of people at some point in my life declaring that they had studied so hard that their brain hurt. I had never experienced this sensation but now I have. My brain just feels tired from all the focusing it is having to do. It really wants someone to take care of it. Someone to fix it food and talk to it about nice unstressful things. It probably could use some validation and reassurance but I do not want to push my luck.

I know what my brain is wanting is not really going to happen and luckily somehow I knew a few months ago that it was not going to happen and I did something very smart. I planned a small vacation for me, myself and I for this coming up weekend.

You see about eight years ago on one of my yearly trips back to Washington State I discovered one of  the most amazing places in the world in Port Townsend, Washington. Yes, I said world :) I was aimlessly googling Bed and Breakfasts in the Seattle area one day and this place called Chevy Chase Beach Cottages came up. The price during the off season was very reasonable. This I knew because I had been searching bed and breakfasts in the Pacific Northwest for way too long. The descriptions of the views, the pictures of the cabins, the promises promised. It was all really just too much and I booked it. I wish there were words to describe this place. The cabins are impeccable. There is a private beach with teeny tiny whole sand dollars all over it. The grounds are perfectly manicured. It is close to all sorts of hiking and beaches. Last time I was there I spent way too much time just watching dvd's and reading. The downtown of Port Townsend is full of perfect small town shopping when a girl needs to get her shopping on. There is a charming independent movie theater that shows just the movies I like. I already have plans to see a showing of "The One I Love" on Monday night. And have I mentioned yet that you are required to take a ferry boat ride to get there? Well you could drive up the Olympic Peninsula but why would you do that if you could take a ferry?

The blue one is my destination.
So it was definitely providential that I got the first off season rates of the year in my favorite cabin...thoughtfully named #10. I cannot wait to post pictures to make you a little jealous. I can not wait to walk and walk on the beach. I can not wait to stop focusing and thinking for a whole 55 hours of my life. This place means the world to me and I am so glad I live close enough now to enjoy it more often than once every seven years. If I ever happen to invite you to come with me that is when you know you are important to me because this place is my alone place... my "have an Anne Morrow Lindbergh Gift From The Sea" moment place :)