Dec 4, 2017

The Cold Hard Truth.

Well, here I am. Wednesday before Thanksgiving 2018. Sitting in my bed, eating honey nut cheerios, trying not to cry while I think about hard things. Thinking about that silly saying, "that which does not kill you makes you stronger." Thinking about that annoying story about how coal becomes a diamond. Thinking about that cat poster with the cat hanging on with its claws to something, just hanging there with some encouraging quote underneath it. Thinking about the poster with the silhouette of a climber on the top of a mountain at sunrise or sunset, you choose which one you prefer, with yet another inspiring quote about how you can do anything. Thinking about the footprints in the sand poster, yeah, you know the one. Thinking about Frodo. Thinking about going to the Olympics. Thinking about how I am failing miserably at being a grown up.

When was the last time you did something hard? How did it go? Did you stay with it? Did you give up? How did you know when to give up? Are you glad you stuck with it? Did you learn something from it? Are you better because it was the worst time of your life?

If something is hard it means it is firm, solid, rigid, resistant, unbreakable, inflexible, unyielding, and last but not least impenetrable. You get the picture. We all do hard things. We have to. It is life. Darn it.

I always thought I was pretty decent at doing hard things. I have had this belief through most of my life that I was a hard worker. I drove a school bus and washed school buses. I raised 7 kids. I had kids that had weird ailments that no doctors could figure out. I spent a week in the childrens hospital in Kansas City with one child. I moved a large family from state to state. I ran early morning paper routes to bring in a little extra money. I broke up my family with a decision to ask for a divorce.  I walked backward in the snow to the store (a lie). But it turns out, after all that, and more, I may be a spoiled brat, prima donna, princess. For the first time in my life, I have to work 8 hours a day and I am miserable. And I am mortified that I am strongly disliking this adult thing. My schedules at Alaska Airlines have been so hard. Right now I work 6:15pm to 2:45am in the morning. I had heard this would happen. Alaska did not sugar coat it. They were very upfront. Funny, when you hear something and then have to actually do it it is completely different. I declared to almost everyone when I got this job "I will be paying my dues but it will be worth it." The amount of information I have to know to effectively do this job has been overwhelming. And I am finding myself asking myself every single day will it be worth it?

Add school, homework, children, and a multitude of other things to the pot and stir it all up and you have "hot mess Jennifer." I will spare you the gruesome details of the daily sobbing of the daily wondering if I can do it.

I find myself looking at all the other people in their cars driving to and from work and wonder to myself do they love what they are doing? How did they end up where they are? Was it hard? Do they laugh about it now?

Maybe part of it is that I am doing what college kids do but I am doing it at 49. Everyone my age knows what they are going to be when they grow up. They make enough money to have a house. They have a significant other to bounce ideas off of and go to Costco with. I understand that I made all the choices that led me to this moment. Yes, it is my own fault. I also understand that this experience will make me insufferable at some point in the future because I will definitely have confidence if I can survive this.

The truths I am learning about myself are a bit painful and very uncomfortable. And the worst part? Yes, there is a worst part. Is that no one can tell me what to do. No one can see three years down the road and tell me that staying with Alaska airlines will be a good thing for me. No one can look down the road and say "oh yeah finishing school will be worth it." No one can even see my beach house with a hammock. I have to trudge forward. I have to bump into dead ends on my own. While you all avert your eyes and sigh.

I have to slay the jabberwocky. I have to believe that I will not be given more than I can handle. I have to dream the impossible dream. I have to look for sunshine through clouds. I have to dance in the rain. I have to think about Rocky running up all those steps. I have to have faith. I have to put on my big girl panties. I have to pull myself up by the bootstraps. I have to fake it until I make it. I have to want it more. You get the idea. I have to somehow see what all of you confidently see. I need to get a first class seat on an airplane and fly over my life just so I can have a view. Just one fly by and then I got this. My oldest daughter keeps saying to me "You do you, mom." I would love nothing more I just cannot figure out what exactly me doing me looks like.

Sep 20, 2017

Take A Chance On Me.

For 25 years I was a mom. Even in high school, I knew it was what I always wanted to be. If we ever needed extra money during my, "married with seven kids" years I ran paper routes early in the morning, babysat other people's kids, cleaned other people's houses, did yard work, and sometimes I even got paid to organize.

My first real-world job was when I moved up from volunteering at the Westfield Athenaeum to being a library assistant at the Westfield Athenaeum. I can not find the words to tell you how much I loved that library job. I loved it so much that I had two of them. One at Holyoke community college and one at the town library. I did not want to leave Massachusetts because of my love for these jobs but after my divorce, I finally had to admit defeat and head across the country to regroup at my parent's house in Oregon.

Even when I got my school bus driving job in Oregon I did not have to convince anyone that they would not regret hiring me. They desperately needed school bus drivers and the transportation supervisor knew my father well. It was a no-brainer, I got the job.

This brings me to the first time in my life that I have had to have an official resume, cover letter, letters of recommendation, and serious convincing skills. I had to convince people to take a chance on me. I had a meager three semesters worth of business classes under my belt so that I had a little bit of knowledge about the process. Having a daughter in the Marriott School of Business at BYU was a blessing. I cannot tell you how many times she edited cover letters and resumes for me and told me what to say in interviews.

I always knew school bus driving was not helping me with what I wanted to be when I grew up. There are a ton of skills required to be a school bus driver. Sadly, most of them no one even knows about which is why I needed to move on. If I had been providing a second income for a two-parent family I would have stayed with school bus driving. It paid over $17.00 an hour, the hours were very flexible, and the stories were priceless. But my degree will be in Applied Management and I was stuck in the vortex of no experience, a few semesters of school under my belt, oh and did I mention 48 years old?

When my parents announced they were moving to Idaho I felt like it was an answer to my wondering about what to do. There were a lot more opportunities for jobs in what I was actually studying. It was a little bit closer to my kids in Utah. I could actually find an apartment that was in my price range. For as much as I loved Oregon, I seemed to be constantly hitting dead ends and that was making me sad.

I am sure you already know that job hunting is hard work. I am probably the only person left on the planet who was naive about this fact. I have never spent so many hours trying to figure out how to convince people to take a chance on me. I actually feel like that is all my life has been the last three years, trying to convince someone to take a chance on me and give me a job. And trying to convince someone to take a chance on me and date me. I am so tired of begging people to notice how awesome I am. I read these entry-level job descriptions and I know without a doubt that I can do them. I see dating profiles online and I know without a doubt that I could make these boys supremely happy. And yet I seem to be in the rejection phase of my life no one wants to take a chance on me. But do not worry I keep plugging along. I have brief moments where I feel sorry for myself and decide to give up but I know better and I usually recover within the hour.

I have applied for at least 25 jobs and had about 5 interviews. And every single job has seemed so perfect for me. I imagine myself driving to it and home from it as I am applying. I have no doubt I will at least get an interview. Yeah, silly, hopeful me. The problem with all the opportunities in the Boise/Meridian area is that everyone else is also applying. One receptionist job I applied for had 100 applicants. Every single morning I wake up and search for a job. Honestly, every job looks interesting to me. I have no focus. I applied mostly for office type stuff from medical offices to accounting offices, to law firms, podiatrists, Scentsy headquarters, Boise State, an enormous meat packing company, OnTrac, libraries and so much more. I truly felt qualified and confident about every single thing I applied for...did I already mention that?

Way back in July while I was still in Oregon I was looking on one day and saw a job posting for Alaska Airlines. Can I tell you a secret? I have always wanted to work for an airline. I think it is the crisp white button-up shirt, the pencil skirt, and the scarves that get me every time :) I applied and within an hour got a friendly computer-generated "thanks but no thanks letter." I was not impressed. They had made me fill out a very generic application with no opportunities to even say who I was, they knew nothing about Jennifer from this generic application. How could they? I stewed about it but I finally just let it go because there was nothing I could do. Fast forward 6 weeks later when I am sitting at my kitchen table in Idaho on and I see the Alaska Airlines posting again. I am frustrated enough with the job hunting process at this point that I decide to write them a sassy letter sharing my feelings about the injustices in the world. So I sit down and fire off a letter to Alaska Airlines telling them how really great I am, how I notice they are still hiring for the position, and how I think their process did not even give me a chance. Lo and behold the next day I get a very personal email from Ms. Rainwater in Seattle at Alaska Airlines headquarters saying she wants to interview me. Of course, you do :)

I have to do a video interview. The kind where you answer the questions while videoing yourself. I had never done anything like this before. Can I tell you how awkward it is to sit at your kitchen table and talk to your computer? They only gave you a certain amount of time to answer the questions and that is a little stressful. I had delved deep into the Alaska Airlines company and had carefully gone through the job description and matched my experience with what they wanted. I was rather pleased with myself that I figured all the technology out on my own. It distressed me a little to watch myself talk on a video. Why did not one of you tell me my eyebrows go up and down a lot when I talk? Nevertheless, I submitted the video and the next day Ms. Rainwater, in Seattle called me and said they wanted me to go to a hotel downtown Boise on Friday for more interviews, in spite of the eyebrows :)

I showed up for the interviews that Friday an hour early because I am just that way. It was 6 in the morning so I sat in my car and watched the sun creep up on the city from the 4th floor of a parking garage until it was time to walk to the hotel.

There were about 60 people in the convention room. I watched them all. I listened to them all. I surmised to myself about which ones were in and which ones were going to be out as I observed their questions and comments. The Alaska Airlines people educated us all about the job. They spelled everything out. They described the pros and they described the cons. I made a mental note that all of the people who were here doing the hiring told us that they had started in the call center and moved up. That was exactly what I wanted to hear. I definitely want to be the CEO.

They finally started the interviewing and I ended up interviewing with three different people. I noticed more and more people were not coming back to the main room. I had to place a reservation for a flight for one of my interviews. That was very fun. I had to tell them what I learned in bus driving that would apply to being a booking agent. I had to assure them of my customer service skills.

At one point a lady came and called my name and two other peoples names, she gathered us in the hallway and told us all that we had been hired. I had imagined it a little differently but it will do. I think they hired maybe 20 of us that day. I had another interview booked for right after the Alaska Airlines interview and now I was confused. What did I want? Do I go the other interview? The commitment to the Alaska Airlines job was a little intimidating. I would definitely have to pay my dues. Was I ready for that? I texted my college kids and called a dear friend and they all told me that I was not cheating on Alaska Airlines to go to the other interview I had scheduled. So I went, I loved the company and what I would be doing for them. Sigh, I think I may be the sort of girl that could be happy anywhere.

For the next three weeks after getting offered the Alaska Airlines job I kept diligently applying for jobs, just in case. I had some interviews but nothing else worked out as clearly and easily as the Alaska Airlines job so I finally conceded that it must be what is right for me at this moment in my life.

So on October 2nd, I start my training to become a reservation agent for Alaska Airlines. It is going to be about 46 hours a week. The benefits are incredible. Twenty free flights a year just to name one. The hours are going to be really yucky for a while. I will not have holidays and weekends off like I have had my whole life. Airlines are open 24/7/365. But everyone has to pay their dues and I am ready to pay mine. I am going to keep going to school my degree is very important to me. And as soon as I can I am hoping to move up in Alaska Airlines.

When I sit and think carefully about who I am and what I value I think this job will be good for me. I love to help people. I love to help them find answers. I do not get irritated easily. And I can handle it if you are angry (hello, seven kids :) I love to travel and this will give me opportunities to travel that I would not have otherwise. I dream of eventually working in an airport or even the Alaska Airlines headquarters in Seattle.

So next time you call Alaska Airlines to ask if you can bring your pet scorpion on the plane you may get to talk to me.

Jul 1, 2017


Have you ever gone on a trip? This trip I am on at this very minute I have been anticipating and planning for for 10 months. It often felt like it would never come. Now it is here, going by way too fast, causing me distress because I am not keeping up with blogs about what I am experiencing. Each day more and more views and observations crowd into my mind and push the ones from yesterday back further. I hate the "getting behind" feeling. My eighteen days here are almost gone and I have so many blogs I want to write it is overwhelming. So overwhelming I am doing nothing but starting blogs and not finishing them as I realize how much my words will never do justice to what I have seen and done. I want to write about every little detail and view but it is not realistic at this point and I am sad about that. The first impressions are not fresh anymore.

I want to tell you about:
  • Jet lag.
  • Nights that never get dark.
  • Going to church and not understanding a word.
  • Endless hours using public transportation; buses, trains, trams, ferries.
  • The thrill I felt when we happened to be in Estonia on two big holidays; Victory Day and Midsummer's Eve.
  • When I happened upon a small town celebrating these holidays and watched them carrying Estonian Flags, listened to them sing songs in Estonian and observed that the food they served at their town celebration was bread and pea soup (nary a hot dog or hamburger in sight.)
  • How often people buy flowers here for occasions and carry them home on the buses wrapped in newspaper.
  • The refreshing lack of fast food and drive thru's here.
  • The richness of the traditions and history.
  • Standing on the edge of a spot where a meteorite fell thousands of years ago. 
  • Happening upon a beautiful field of red poppies on the island of Saaremaa.
  • Renting one of the three rental cars available in the town of Kuresarre.
  • Searching for the Panga Cliffs
  • Hearing a grand son call you grandma, lots of times.
  • Having a grand daughter that observes asks as many questions as you do.
  • Hearing a grand son singing to himself in the other room.
  • Seeing a castle moat.
  • Asking an employee where the bathroom was in a store and the sadness when I realized they did not understand me and I did not understand them.
  • Buying a handmade hat from a sweet old lady in Finland.
  • Remembering you are using military time, the metric system, euros, and kroons.
  • Staring at the Baltic Sea.
  • Not recognizing any brands around me as I ride thru a town.
  • Buying mayonnaise in a tube that looks like toothpaste.
  • Walking, walking, walking until you are sure you cannot walk anymore but you have to because you are telling your kids they have to.
  • The gratitude I feel for my son and his wife who entertained us and let us hang out for almost 13 days. They are truly saints.
  • Seeing things I never thought I would see.
  • The joy of seeing my children experience things for the first time.

My girls running down a path that ended up taking us nowhere.
Going on a trip is a lot of work. The logistics can be overwhelming. The brain power that goes into figuring out train, bus, tram, and ferry schedules and stops. Keeping track of the proper currency. Awkwardly carrying your possessions in backpacks for miles. Discovering there was something you did not account for and there is nothing you can do about it now. Doing it all while you are sleeping differently, eating differently, seeing and hearing different languages, seeing unfamiliar things, smelling unfamiliar smells. Having your phone on airplane mode most of the time. Keeping your teenagers from falling apart when you want to fall apart yourself. There are times I have not managed any of this well. There are a few times I have thought to myself I cannot do this anymore. And those are the times I post beautiful pictures on Facebook so you think things are going well.

I finally had a small moment of quiet alone time yesterday. I was just sitting back behind our Mormon temple here in Helsinki thinking about how overwhelming, all I had done and continue to do to make sure this trip goes as well as it can, felt.

I found myself sheepishly realizing that I do not plan as fastidiously for my real life near the way I plan for a trip and I should. I should put as much work into researching and figuring out my future as I do these trips. I have googled every detail of this trip. I have read blogs. I have read reviews. I have spent hours on MapQuest writing down routes and bus stops. Researching tourist options. Making sure I know all I can. If you know where you are going and what you are doing you are so much more efficient, so much more productive, and things are less stressful. Yes, I understand that life refuses to be perfectly planned. It will never happen perfectly no matter what I do. I know you need to be open to change and the possibilities it can bring you. But I have let my life meander for too long and this realization has given me some determination. The new focused Jennifer will come back to America with me. She will make a plan for her life just like she is going on a trip because we all know we are all here on am epic journey. We also all know that if you have a map you get where you are going so much easier and if you get stuck along the way, at least you know where you are.

Jun 23, 2017

Across the Atlantic Ocean.

I started planning for this trip I am on right now in August 2016. When I purchased those airplane tickets for June 19, 2017 I had no idea where my life would be at that time. Ten months seemed eons away. But before I knew it it was here. Apparently everything else that could possibly happen in my life did not want to miss out on the fun and it all decided to crash the last two months leading up to my trip. These last few months are months I am not going to tell you about just suffice it to say I have probably won a gold medal in surviving and do not be surprised if you see me posing in fetal position with my medal on a box of cereal in a grocery store near you. It would just be to painful for you to have to listen to me tell you about the emotions, decisions, and eternal packing in all forms that have gone into the last few months leading up to this trip.

But I am really blogging today to tell you about day three of my trip.

Day one was driving up to Seattle and staging ourselves to be ready.

Day two was driving to the parking lot where our car will sit for 18 days and going through numerous checkpoints at the airport to get into the waiting area for an international departure. The blessing in day two was a sweet British Airways employee who graciously offered to give us the 4th piece of luggage we had for free. So there we were barely an hour into our epic trip and you can already take $100 dollars off of our trip. Nice, right? The rest of this day consisted of an airplane ride from Seattle to London. Nine hours and 20 minutes on an airplane. I obsessively used the trip checker on the screen in front of my seat. I love that feature. It shows you when you are over the North Sea. When you are over Greenland. When you are over Manitoba, Canada. When you are finally over London. When I was not checking what we were currently flying over I watched way too many episodes of the British baking show.

We did not sleep on the airplane. We left at one o'clock Seattle time. So our bodies did not feel like sleeping during the flight, which was not so great. We arrived in London at 6:15 in the morning. Our bodies were a little confused and we were starting to feel it. At the airport in London they do not post the gate your flight is leaving from until about 40 minutes before it leaves so everyone in the entire world sits in this enormous holding area waiting for their flights to be posted. I spent some time finding a electronic device charging area for us. I was exceedingly proud of myself for having thought to have adapters in my backpack for those different shaped European electrical outlets.

Finally it was 8:25 am and we got to head to our gate. The last time I checked the departure board a sweet lady from Zambia approached me and asked me in broken English to help her. She showed me her ticket and very carefully explained that this was the first time that she was flying. What are the odds that she was on the same flight that we were? She had never flown before and was concerned about getting where she needed to get. We invited her to join us on our trek to the gate. The flight to Stockholm was a tad bumpy. We all slept like logs until the last 45 minutes and then all of us felt sick. Both the girls held the throw up bags in their hands, ready until we touched down.

It was around noon in Stockholm and the hard part of the trip was upon us. The logistics of this part of our trip had worried me for quite awhile. My son and his wife and I had spent a lot of time on the phone discussing the details of all that had to happen between noon and about 4:30 pm. I needed to get off the plane, onto a train, onto a subway, and then walk a mile to our ferry/cruise ship all in Swedish. Which I do not know. There were options to read English on the machine where you purchase train tickets. But it was still hard to know which tickets I needed to buy. Once I bought my tickets I had 75 minutes to get through a 40 minute train ride, walk to the subway, and ride three stops before our tickets expired. It should be plenty of time, But in the middle of all the figuring out of tickets, dragging 4 big, heavy suitcases and going through customs I am also in the middle of having a 14 year old who is still recovering from the flight and is randomly needing to throw up. We figured it out and the train ride was uneventful. It  even turned out that I got a refund on two of my tickets because the two girls did not need tickets since I had bought one.

We got off of the train in Central Station downtown Stockholm. The 14 year old is still randomly throwing up and I cannot figure out why. We still have 4 heavy, big suitcases and we have not slept or eaten a good meal. Things are starting to feel out of balance. It happens on trips. I want to take my time and adsorb what is happening around me but I have time and some unknowns pressing on me.

We now needed to figure out where the subway was. Everyone I asked kept giving directions in kilometers. My Tatiana mentioned she felt like we were in the Amazing Race. I felt that way as well. We had a certain amount of time to accomplish what we needed to accomplish and no matter how many times I had looked at this part of the trip on google maps nothing was the same as being there and seeing how it really works. We ended up dragging our suitcases down the tall, steep steps to the Subway train. The line for the one elevator was long, the aforementioned elevator was very small and different from our elevators in America....probably using the word sketchy would help to paint a picture for you. Remember, Natalie is still throwing up at random moments and I am not adoring the idea of her throwing up in the elevator. (Note to self bring throw up bucket on next trip. Why do they not sell throw up buckets next to the magazines in the stores in the airport?) Tatiana was in charge of the two little suitcases. I had the two 50 lb suitcases, and Natalie was in charge of stopping her throwing up. I cannot imagine what the people who saw us thought. Finally, two very nice fellows happened by and grabbed our suitcases and carried them to the bottom of the steps. This was my grateful moment in this day. We finally rode our three stops on the subway and found our way out of the Central Station maze. The last part was dragging our suitcases down a path for a mile to our ferry. By the time we got to the ferry terminal we were exhausted. We got our tickets found a place to sit and all stared into space assimilating what we had just been through.

They call it a ferry and it does carry cars but it looks like a cruise ship. I had known all along that as soon as I got to this part of the trip I would be able to relax. There would be no more unknowns. Well you know at least traveling wise unknowns. We all know there are still the unknowns of what I am going to be when I grow up and who the lucky guy is who will decide he can love me forever. But that is another blog.

We explored our teeny, tiny, very clean, and well thought out berth, with beds that folded down from the wall. We reviewed our favorite parts in the movie Titanic and discussed being on the 8th floor. Natalie got her clothes changed (remember the throwing up part) and took a shower. Then I needed to see the rest of the ship. I did not encourage my children to embrace the hunker down and relax mode. When I am curious I cannot wait. We explored for about an hour and then found some seats by some windows where we could sit and we just zoned looking out the windows at the endless islands we were passing. Finally Natalie announced that she could not stay awake. Remember the no sleep thing? It finally really caught up with us. So by 7:30 pm somewhere on the Baltic Sea between Stockholm and Tallinn the three Baird girls crashed. We slept 12 hours straight. I do not think any of us moved in that 12 hours.

The next morning we could not wait to get up on deck and see where we were. There is nothing like coming out of a dark, windowless berth to a view of a deep blue endless sea in every direction. The sun was up. The sky was blue. It was an amazing feeling. One we all feel at many times in our lives when things just feel free and light. It made me get a little lump in my throat when I realized how much I had been missing moments like this in my life. When you have an endless view and things are light and clear. We did some snooping around and figured out how to get up on the very top deck of the ship by the disco. No one was there because they had partied at the disco and the casino into the early morning hours while we were snoozing away. So they were still sleeping. We bought a container of cheese cubes, a bag of carrots and one bottle of orange juice and sat on a bench on this top deck enjoying the sunshine, air and waves. The only thing that could have made the moment better would have been a whale sighting.

We finally arrived in Tallinn at about 10 am in the morning. I would do it all again and I will do it all again in July when I go home. Traveling never goes perfectly. Sigh, nothing ever does. There were a few moments that I was not sure I was going to be able to do what was required of me but we figured it out.

Jun 13, 2017

An IRS Story.

Once upon a time I was enrolled in online classes at BYU-Idaho. When I got accepted to attend BYU-Idaho's online college I decided to live large and also applied for financial aid. In due time I was approved for financial aid for my first year of college. The grass was green, the sky was blue with clouds in it, the birds were singing. Me? I was wearing a long flow-y dress while I rode horses across fields with handsome boys who adored answering my questions. Things were going so well in the kingdom of Jennifer that I applied for financial aid for the second year of school. I was so organized that I applied very early. I waited, and waited, and waited but no reply from BYU-Idaho.

Finally, one fair day in the beginning of May I get an email from the well meaning, yet evil, Financial Aid office at BYU-Idaho. They need copies of documents from me. Because I made money on some GE stock and some Merck stock in 2015 and filed an amendment to my tax return they have noticed me.I am not normal. They have questions.

I run around in my flow-y dress like a crazy lady, find the documents, quickly upload them, send them, and check all the appropriate boxes. I hear nothing. My Spring semester starts and my Financial aid is still sitting at the school. They cannot pay my tuition with it. They cannot pay for my books with it. They cannot give it to me. They have questions. I call. I wait on hold for an hour and 20 minutes one time and an hour and 17 minutes another time. I make appointments to have phone calls with them. I send desperate, dramatic emails that may or may not sound like decrees. I even think about riding my horse (I really do not have a horse just in case you did not know that) to the college campus. Once they see me face to face in my beautiful flow-y dress surely they will realize this is all a big mistake. But I refrain. I wait patiently, it is what girls in flow-y dresses do.

Every two or three weeks since the first week of May I have received another request for new documents. I run around like a crazy lady gathering what the Financial Aid office bids me to bring. I call my tech savvy children to make sure I am sending them properly. My days of meadows, green, flow-y dresses are long gone. I am sad. This has been the most in-efficient process I have ever been through in my life. The hardest part is knowing that the Financial Aid office needs my help. They need me to organize them. They need me to help them be efficient. This keeps happening to me I keep seeing how awesome I am and how people or places really need me but they never see it and miss out. I digress, that is another blog.

So two days ago I get yet another request from the powers that be at BYU-Idaho. I have paid my tuition out of my own money so that I can unfreeze my account and register for Fall semester. I have waited. I have begged. I have called. I am almost broken. This time they need me to please send the documents all together and they need me to procure some tax transcripts. WHAT? Now I have to play with the IRS? I need a new flow-y dress for this.

I get online and go to the formidable IRS website. I find the button that tells me I can request transcripts. They tell  me I can get them in a mere days if I can answer all the appropriate questions perfectly. Otherwise the transcripts will be sealed in a bottle and dropped over the Atlantic Ocean and get to me in 6-8 weeks. Am I up to the task? I get a package of fruit snacks and take a deep breath and hope I can pass this quest. I get past my birthday, my SS#, my current address. I get another package of fruit snacks. I tell them how much money I made in 2015. I tell them I filed as Head of Household and then everything crashes, they need my phone number. I give it to them. They say um, NO. I realize I changed my phone number in February and forgot to send the IRS an announcement. Geesh, I will never leave them out of the loop again. So because my new phone number did not match my old phone number I was kicked off and sent to option B. I do not have time for option B. I am moving. I am going to Europe. I paid for my own tuition. I have homework. I am packing. I am trying to find someone to love me. I felt despair trying to open the door into my life.

Luckily, my daughter Madeline called about now and I told her my woes and guess what she had the same woes about 5 months ago. Exact same woes. Minus the flow-y dress. And in Salt Lake City not in Oregon. She quickly finds out where the closest IRS office is to me and tells me to go there and to take everything I own with me.

The next morning I quickly wash buses and then head for Eugene to the IRS office. Something stops me and encourages me to call just to make sure I can truly walk in to the IRS office. I listen to that something and I pull over at the Saginaw exit and call the IRS. I am on hold for about 5 minutes and then someone in Iceland (Exaggeration) answers and confirms that I indeed need an appointment at the IRS office. I mention my flow-y dress but that will not get me in. She asks me to hold for 5-7 minutes while she calls the Eugene office to see when they can appointment with me. She gets back on the phone with me and says June 19th. I feel myself sinking into a deep hole as I explain to her I will be on an airplane to Europe at that time and when I get back from Europe I am moving to Idaho. She was very sweet and put me on hold again and came back and said tomorrow at 8:30 am. I did not tell her I was a bus driver. I did not tell her anything else about my life, I said I will take it. I figured out my route so that I could be in Eugene at 8:15 the next morning to get copies of my transcripts from the IRS.

This morning was crazy. I got up at 4:50 to register for my Fall semester since registration opened in Idaho at 6 am. Five my time :) I drove my route. Handed off my high school kids to another bus driver so I could get my bus back to transportation in time. I ran in. I ran out. I drove fast. I found a parking spot a block away from the Federal building. It was 8:17 when I parked. I grabbed my heavy back pack. I brought every document and every piece of evidence of who I am that I could find. Yes, even my first blanket came along. (exaggeration). I ran. I even did that weird thing runners do at stop lights and jogged in place. I ran all the way to the door of the federal building. Wrong door. Ran out ran to the other door. Oh no. I have to go through security. I am going to be late and the IRS is going to laugh me out of the building. I am not obeying rules. But I smile and small talk with security while they move like snails. I fast walk down the hall to the .....very, empty and quiet IRS office. There is literally no one there. I see a sign that says "take a number". I take one but I am wondering if you have an appointment do you need a number? Yes, folks I am an over thinker. I catch a glimpse of this guy behind a partition. I peek around and ask him if I need a number he does not answer he just motions to me to come in.

He is wearing a black t-shirt with skulls all over it. It surprised me. I thought IRS meant button down shirt, at least. He just says "What do you need?" I quickly identify that this is a short and sweet kind of guy so I spare him the details of the meadows, and the horse, and the flow-y dress, and I just blurt out I need a tax transcript....please. He asks for my ID. I lug my enormous back pack on my lap and dig past my computer, my passport, my past 3 years of journals, my blanket from childhood, elementary school pictures and hand him my drivers license. Whew, so glad I had what he needed. He asks which year I need and I decide to push it and ask for 2015 and 2016. He punches some keys on the computer and then without getting out of his chair he scoots backwards around a partition to the copier. I cannot see him but I can hear him scooting in his chair. Then I hear the copier and then he scoots back and staples my transcript #1 and hands it to me. Then he punches more buttons on the computer and scoots in his chair backwards around the partition to get my transcript #2 and scoots back. I am sitting there observing and loving every minute of this. I notice he has pictures of raccoons on his bulletin board. No family members. I read all the IRS warning signs about conversations are being recorded, do not use your cell phone etc. It all took 5 minutes of my life. It stressed me out to the max to imagine all the scenarios that could happen at this "appointment" but none of them came true I left with my tax transcripts.

I rushed back to cottage grove and scanned them and sent them on their way to the evil, wicked Financial aid office. everyone cross your fingers that they finally know everything about me that they need to know and will release my financial aid so that I can go back to my meadows, and horses and adoring boys.

Jun 4, 2017

Causing or Producing Motion.

The Little Mermaid moved out of the sea to land. Snow White "moved" from her castle to the dwarves house in the woods. The Mormon pioneers were forced to move from beautiful Nauvoo to the West (Utah). Laura Ingalls moved...a lot. I mean we are talking eight books worth of moving stories. Mowgli had to leave the jungle and go back to the man village. Each of these moves was different. The Little Mermaid gave up her voice to move she felt that sure of it. Snow White was "encouraged" by the evil queen's huntsman to not go back. Mormon pioneers were chased by mobs out of their town across the frozen Mississippi in February. Laura's pa went where there was work or promises of free land. And the man village was the best place for Mowgli, he just did not believe it.

I have moved a fair amount in my life:

Provo, Utah
Princeton, New Jersey
Huntington, Indiana
Lawrence, Kansas
Snohomish, Washington
Sedro Woolley, Washington
Seattle, Washington
Vista, California
Visalia, California
Del Mar, California
Westfield, Massachusetts
Cottage Grove, Oregon

At the end of the month of April I made the decision to move again. This time to Meridian, Idaho. Moving is not easy, we all can agree on that. So many emotions. So much work. So many logistics. I did not sign away my voice to make this move happen. No evil stepmother needs my heart delivered to her in a box. Mobs are not chasing me, yet. The reasons for this move that I am going to confess to probably come closest to Pa's reasons in The Little House on The Prairie books and Mowgli's reasons in Jungle Book. My opportunities will be better in the Boise area and it is probably the best place for me. Do I want to move? No. I do not.

I do not want to leave all the enormous trees. I do not want to leave the rain. I do not want to leave gray. I do not want to leave my hour and a half drive to the ocean. I do not want to leave every shade of green imaginable. Endless hikes. Endless waterfalls. The smell of the sun warmed wild blackberries growing along the side of the road in August. The ease of jumping in the car and being in Seattle in five hours. The Redwoods. My kids that I teach singing to every Sunday. Today was my last Sunday with them and it was so hard to imagine someone else teaching them the 8 songs they need to learn for their program in the Fall. I love singing with them.

Once you know you are leaving somewhere you start to gather memories. You start to look at things differently. You start to say to yourself, "this is the last time I will do this here with this person." This is the last time I will see this. My sweet little kids on my bus route are begging me to stay. It is nice to feel needed and loved. Is it weird that I will miss them as well? I know way too much about each of them and their lives.

Missing is normal. Every move I have made I have had to leave things I love and consequently miss them. You would think it would get easier. But my my heart still aches for the dear friends I have left scattered across the United States in the past 48 years. I miss the New England colors. I miss being close to New York City. I miss fields of sunflowers. I miss standing on my porch watching storms with lightening flashing every second. I miss the alive-ness of downtown Lawrence. I miss the traditions each different area had.

I am moving my 17 year old right before her senior year. Every person who realizes I am doing that looks at me with pity and I see them wondering how I missed the memo about that being a huge no no. How could I be handing out hard things to my child on top of everything else?

I am trying to keep up my homework, pack, work, make a gazillion decisions by myself, find a new job, find a new place to live, take a trip to Europe that I bought tickets for last August, just to name a few things. Sometimes I wonder if there is a limit to how much people are supposed to have pressing on their mind. You know how the airlines charge you extra if you want to take more weight on the plane than you are supposed to I wish that worked with life. I would be able to be collecting a ton of money from life because it is definitely exceeding the weight limit I have set. I keep telling life to back off a little but it seems to think it is good for me to be stretched and good for me to go through hard things so it is not showing me any mercy. Funny how I can know that but yet have multiple moments in a week that I find myself up in the night making lists and doing some good old fashioned sobbing.

So wish me luck. Send me a message if you know of anyone in the Boise area who needs a short, hard working, sassy girl named Jennifer to work for them. Send me a message if you want to go on a hike and help me take my mind off of my life.

Moving means causing or producing motion. It is instigating, impelling, or actuating. Things will stay the same if you do not move and sometimes you know things cannot stay the same even though you want them to so you take a really deep breath and you move. The antonyms of moving are fixed, permanent, stationary, unmoving. Someday I would love those words to be in my life but until then I am moving.

Apr 14, 2017

Six Impossible Things.

"Alice laughed There's no use trying, she said. "One can't believe impossible things." I daresay you haven't had much practice," said the Queen. "When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."
Lewis Carroll

Do you believe impossible things? Have you ever even tried? I love to believe impossible things. You know things that our dear friend Webster says are "not able to occur, exist, or be done." Things that are, "utterly impracticable." 

I cannot describe to you the frustration and bewilderment that wells up inside of me when someone says something cannot happen. It honestly feels like they are talking another language when they say things to me like;

Oh, you do not have enough time for that.
Oh, that is too far.
Oh, that will never work.
Oh, I think that is going to be too hard to figure out.
Oh, the weather will be bad.
Oh, aliens will come.

I smile at them when they say it. I carefully listen and acknowledge their very logical and good reasons. But I really hate hearing it all. As I am giving them my very best interested, kind, benevolent look, I am thinking to myself how sorry I feel for them, how I wish I could change their mind, and how I cannot wait to prove them wrong. I often wonder if something is wrong with me because I am pretty confident that whatever it is is possible. I guess that means that I am on team, anything is possible. Is it just a matter of if there is a will there a way? I think of impossible things all day long, it is probably why I am alone most of the time. I am not sure that believing in impossible things is a good thing. It is most likely not something you would put on your resume. Maybe I annoy the team reality crew?

Lest you think I am always accomplishing impossible things let me tell you of a recent moment when I second guessed and ruined things. Before spring break a few weeks ago I thought about something that seemed very possible to me, going to Fort Bragg in California to see the Glass Beach. I desperately wanted this to be possible. I had two free nights and a full day and a half to work with. I kept double checking the time it took to get there and the mileage.  I kept gathering information and voraciously reading about it. I kept asking my dad, who is an expert on where things are in California, hoping his answer and belief that it could happen would change.

 My resolve wavered but I booked an Airbnb in Crescent City, California anyway. I told my girls that we would have to wake up pretty early in the morning if this was going to happen. It was 4 hours and 28 minutes from where we were. We had one day to drive there and back and still enjoy the Glass Beach. It was going to be tight. NOT IMPOSSIBLE, just tight. The morning of the aforementioned attempt of the impossible my girls slept in and I let them. Before spring break our lives were out of control and it was so nice to have this lazy morning in an Airbnb in Crescent City California that I just let them sleep. By the time they got up the plan truly was impossible by all accounts. I did not give up and we still gave it our best shot. We got past Eureka before my nemesis reality appeared and I knew I could not push any further. It was not going to happen. I am not sure if I have recovered from this blow to my little world. I keep muttering to myself that I should have kept going.

I have something to tell you that is going to make you shake your head in wonder. So quick run to the bathroom before I make you laugh too much. For my profile on the dating website I wrote that I need someone who can think of 6 impossible things before breakfast. Yeah, I should probably change that to something like, I love to clean the house, snuggle, fix meals, and exercise all day long. Surprisingly, I have had boys from the dating website show interest in me but interestingly they all have some "impossible wall" that stops the relationship at some point and they declare:

Oh, we live to far apart.
Oh, I am too old for you.
Oh, you are too old for me.
Oh, it is too hard to blend families.
Oh, no one could really love me I have too much baggage.
Oh, we need more money to be happy. 
Oh, are families will think we are crazy.

Sigh. Reasons, reasons, reasons why things cannot happen. Can you tell it makes me grumpy? There, I said it, reality makes me grumpy. We have never been that great of friends.

If something is impossible it is;

and my personal favorite, unreasonable.

The opposite of impossible are all these soothing words like; 


All the quotes in the world (well at least all the ones on google images) claim nothing is impossible. Anything can happen.So why do we even have the word impossible? My 17 year old nags me every day for a kitten, a car of her own, and our own place to live. All these things feel fairly impossible right now. So, maybe we just have moments where things are impossible.

What six futile, hopeless, unattainable, unreasonable things you think of before breakfast?

My 17 year old's list is:
her own car
a kitten
and our own place to live

My 14 year old's list is;
a horse
a horse
a horse

My list is;
my own house
Someone who likes me just the way I am right now
teaching high school business classes
hiking the applachian trail
going on a cruise once a year

Apr 10, 2017

Mind Over Matter.

Placebo Effect

"A beneficial effect, produced by a placebo drug or treatment, that cannot be attributed to the properties of the placebo itself, and must therefore be due to the patient's belief in that treatment."

So this last semester, during week 10 of my Math class we were talking about basic statistics and we were given an assignment to watch a six minute video clip about the Placebo Effect. Of course I had heard about the Placebo Effect and basically knew what it was but I had never pondered much about it. I did not have any feelings about it either way.

This video clip was a follow up on a most fascinating three year study done at the Houston Veterans Affairs Medical Center. A doctor named Dr. Bruce Moseley and many of his helpers were trying to study the effectiveness of arthroscopic surgery for osteoarthritis of the knee. They very randomly divided the 180 patients that qualified and consented for this surgery into groups for the study. Two groups of patients actually had the surgery and one group did not have the surgery. They took great care to make sure that the study was very random and that not even the doctor performing the surgeries knew which patients were actually getting the surgery until he opened an envelope after the patient was under anesthesia and on the operating table. They wanted to do their best to make sure all the patients had the same experience with no bias at all. The patients knew there was a chance that they would not get the surgery when they consented to be part of the study.

What stunned me was that seven years later the people who did not have the surgery were still convinced they were better. You watch them being interviewed, crying about the pain that they had been in. Then you see them so grateful, happy that they are able to function again even though they did not even have the surgery. After watching the video clip we were asked to read the article written about the study in the New England Journal of Medicine and it was very interesting. The very last sentence of the study says, "Finally, health care researchers should not underestimate the placebo effect, regardless of its mechanism."

Ever since this information from this study entered my brain I cannot stop thinking about our minds and how powerful they are. I am painfully aware that most of us do not use our minds to their full potential. Does this study mean if my brain believes something then it is so? How many times have my kids said to me;

"Oh I can't do that, I hate the way it feels.
"Oh I can't do that, it makes me sick."
"Oh I can't so that, it is too hard."

So many of us have things we simply cannot or will not do and we are sure we have very valid reasons for why. What if those reasons are not true? What if someone just told us that and we decided it sounded good, we convinced ourselves of it, and never really looked back? We all flippantly say to each other, "Oh you can do anything you put your mind to." Do we believe it? Is it true? Did you know that when we say that we are quoting Benjamin Franklin?

I have always been the kind of girl that gets extremely car sick if I ride in the back of a car. Ever since I was very little I have always had a throw up bag within reach when in the back of any car. My ex husband used to always casually mention that he felt like car sickness was just in my head. That used to make me a little sad. Is he right? If I worked really hard, told myself that I am not car sick, told people I am not car sick, and emphatically decided I do not get car sick would it work? Would I not get car sick? Is mind over matter true? If someone says "mind over matter" they are suggesting that you use willpower to overcome physical problems.

I think of the things that I think I cannot do. I wonder what would happen if I simply started thinking that I could do them and then eventually actually believed that I could do them. How much power do I have? Is it like having the force? Yoda says that, "Many of the truths that we cling to depend on our point of view." So I am afraid of what I am afraid of because of my point of view and that is it? That is all that is holding me back? Do I love rain and gray days because of my point of view? And do you hate them because of your point of view? I see my kids declare that they cannot do things or they hate certain things, or something simply will not work and I wonder is it true? I guess it is true for them therefore it is true.

The doctor who performed the surgeries in the study says in the video that he went from being a skeptic about the placebo effect to a believer and that it is as much or more the patients belief about the surgery that influences the result as much as it is the actual surgery. This doctor had seen people get better purely because of what was in their minds.

Just what we all need is an over thinker thinking about her mind and what she believes. If I believe you hate me, do you? If I believe you love me do you? If I believe I am skinny am I? If I believe Reese's eggs are a vital food group are they? I told myself I could get a B in my Math class and I did what would have happened if I told my mind I could get an A?

Apr 2, 2017


Well here it is. The closing days of winter break. I feel incredibly guilty at how indulgent I have been over this break. My trip to Port Townsend. The views. Lincoln City. The beach. Barking sea lions. Long thoughtful drives. A ferry ride. Days of doing literally nothing. Blogging. Incredible hiking. A dance. Seeing an old friend. Shopping. Sleeping in until 8. Finishing all 5 seasons of Suits. I honestly cannot remember the last time I reveled so much in my free time. I did no homework. I did no piano practicing. I did not wash one school bus. I did make my bed, take showers, and do my laundry just in case you long to start rumors about me.

Tomorrow real life must start again and I confess I am deeply afraid of it. More than I am afraid of spiders. Which is a lot. My two online classes for next semester have been uploaded and I peeked at them and I am worried. Math and Finance in the same semester. Can I do this?  Do I have what this requires? Am I smart enough? Am I strong enough? Is there an end? Will I recognize the end? What if I fail? Is this the right choice? Am I brave? Can I follow through?

Everything has seemed so clear since my divorce. I was astonished at the ease that I figured out how to go back to school. Surprised at how I got a job that worked with being in school and with my children's lives. Thrilled at my ability to get my school paid for. Hopeful about the potential for a relationship. Grateful to my parents who have been so supportive and sacrificed their peaceful, blissful retirement so me and my girls could come here to regroup.

Yet, I cannot describe the worry and doubts that have plagued my mind lately about my decision to go back to school. My decision to give up on finding a relationship. My wondering about whether I should just quit school and get a full time job that I can support myself and my two girls with. Everything had been so clear and then all of a sudden, almost overnight, it wasn't. Doubt and everything that comes along with it have been stalking me for at least a month and a half. Not a day has gone by that I did not ask myself the question, "What is wrong with me?"

Tonight as I was methodically delving into my classes for this semester hidden among the syllabus's, course instructions, grading policies, and announcements was a seemingly innocent suggestion from my new Math teacher to follow a link to a TED talk. I have a goal to follow every link in my classes this semester and to read everything very carefully so I clicked on the link. Not that it was hard because, hello,TED Talk. Who does not love those?

It was short but it was exactly what I needed. It was Angela Duckworth the author of Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. As I listened to her talk about how grit is what makes the difference in who succeeds and who does not I felt the heavy "I am scared about my life" feeling fade away. I had not realized how incredibly heavy things have been. Thinking about grit made me find my resolve and helped me pull out of this feeling that I cannot do anything right. Grit grabbed my determination and said pull yourself together.

I am not sure when I first noticed the book Grit:The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth. I love to frequently check up on the New York Times Bestseller list maybe I saw it there. Maybe it was one of those times that I treated myself to wandering through Barnes and Noble? Knowing me it was probably that article about the book in The Wall Street Journal last May. I honestly do not know for sure. I do know that I have almost bought the book a few times but that spending money thing always stopped me. The title fascinated me. I tried to justify the purchase by saying it would be for one of my kids. But I never bought it.

Grit is such an odd word. We rarely use it in everyday conversation. When I hear it I immediately think about the different types of sandpaper there are. You know, fine grit. coarse grit, medium grit. Cowboys definitely have grit. Some people eat grits. Some people grit their teeth. Yeah, a lot of things come to mind when you hear the word grit. What is the opposite of grit? Soft? What is in the middle between grit and soft? If you have grit you have firmness of character. if you have grit you are not afraid to fail.

So I am sure you noticed that I started this blog at the end of Christmas break and...ahem... never finished it. Today happens to be the end of Spring Break and I have come up for air. The semester I dreaded ends this week. I survived my 14 week semester of Math and Finance together. It even looks like I have an A and a B in my classes, but that is not official yet. It was a hard semester, I was right to be afraid of it and wonder if I could do it. I had no idea I could do what I just did. I did not do it alone. I had a tutor. I spent countless hours on the phone with my son in Estonia going over Math problems. I often did not answer the phone when people called this semester I just did not have time. I did not parent anyone the whole semester. I cried and wrung my hands in despair a lot.

If you have grit you have courage, you are conscientious, you follow through, you have endurance, and resilience is there as well. Basically you are a dream team of amazing personality traits. I want to have grit when I grow up. Angela thinks we need to teach it to our children more, stop coddling them. Sigh, I wish someone would coddle me. Do my homework for me. Tell me it is okay to sit and read a book all day. Maybe even give me a certificate acknowledging how well I can do nothing :)

Feb 17, 2017


Unlimited. What does it mean? How often does unlimited even happen to us as human beings? I have been searching my brain today for moments when there has been a sentence with the word unlimited in it in my life.

I have heard people talk about unlimited food at buffets.
Unlimited refills of your drink?
Numbers are unlimited, right?
What about unlimited pets? My kids would love that one.
Unlimited cars? Too complicated and most likely comes with needing insurance for all of them.
Unlimited love? Yeah, we all dream of this one. I think it is also referred to as unconditional love. Unlimited time? I am afraid I would just waste it.
Unlimited chocolate? Bad idea.

How many times can you use the word unlimited in your life? This word that means "no limits, no bounds." What do you want to be unlimited in your life? Can you ever have too much of something? You know what they say. Too much of a good thing....blah blah blah. Remember the story about King Midas? Golden touch? Unlimited? Did not work out. I remember when I was a kid I had a friend whose mom limited how many squares of toilet paper you could use. I prefer unlimited toilet paper.

Last night I signed up for the brand spanking new Verizon unlimited data plan. Not only did I sign up for it but it turns out my monthly bill is going to be $10.00 lower as well. You have no idea how careful my girls and I have had to be with our data usage for the past 2 and a half years. When we have ended up going over on our data it has been painful. More times than I care to talk about we have ended up in town sitting in the car outside one of the schools or our church using public wifi to do our homework. Sacrifice never hurt anyone and I am sure that my girls and I are stronger and somehow better because of the shortage of data in our lives. But can I tell you what a relief it was to walk out of that Verizon store knowing that I do not have to worry about our data usage anymore?

I can watch The Crown. I can watch Studio C. I can catch up on Master Chef Junior. Episodes of Suits are definitely in my future. I can watch the videos for my homework over and over again when I do not understand something. I can use google maps on my phone without guilt. I can be the one to offer to Google something when I am out in public with only my phone. Oh man, I can watch James Corden's Carpool Karaoke. The giddy reality is sinking in. I can Skype with my grand babies anytime I want. Now if my kids send me a Youtube video with a song they know I will love I can actually watch it. The possibilities are endless....or unlimited :)

Is it weird that the more I think about the endless possibilities of unlimited data the more I realize I like limits? You know, boundaries, rules. I am not a fan of "anything goes." Is that what unlimited could mean? Yesterday on the school bus I asked a middle school girl for the hundredth time to please hold on to her back pack and stop leaving it in other seats. She said to me why do we have to? And I said because it is a rule. She said you don't have to follow it. I smiled and said "oh sister I am a serious rule follower." She predictably said, "That is dumb." I tried to explain to her that rules and boundaries actually make us happy but she was not going there with me. So I think that unlimited data will make me happy but having that set amount kept us from excess. Does that make sense? I laid awake last night thinking about the rules and guidelines we will need to have in place so that unlimited does not consume our lives. I bet my kids can hardly wait to hear this evil plan of mine.

So,do not get me wrong, I am thrilled about my recently acquired unlimited data. I sit here and try to comprehend unlimited. Never ending. There are so many things in our lives that we need to stop. So many things we need to limit. We have to be vigilant. Then all of a sudden there is something unlimited. Overthinking? Who me?

Jan 4, 2017

Lincoln City Glass Floats and Hiking Cascade Head.

I am usually not a last minute kind of girl. I make plans so far in advance people have been known to enjoy teasing me about it. But last week on Tuesday my 17 year old and I were sitting smack in the middle of an incredibly lazy day when we realized my parents were going to be gone to California for a few days. Natalie was going to be at her cousins. We should have a plan. It was easy to decide on the beach but which one?

Two of our biggest unfulfilled dreams about the coast have been the glass float drops on Lincoln City beach and whale watching. Wouldn't you know it? This happened to be Whale Watching Week and a glass float drop was happening. Two dreams in one week. How do things work out so perfectly? It was definitely a sign.

From October through May they choose random weekends to hide glass floats on the seven mile stretch of Lincoln City beach. By the end of the "glass float season" they have hidden over 2000 of glass floats. They are all handcrafted and amazing. Tatiana and I have had huge dreams of finding one or two of them. We confirmed that on Dec 31 and January 1 they would indeed be hiding 100 of these glass floats so it was decided, we were going to Lincoln City. I took the first Airbnb we looked at and the deal was sealed. I know I have already had my relaxation and adventure this Christmas break but trust me I really needed the chance to clear my head and take my mind off of some hard decisions I had to recently make.

Early Friday morning we headed out. We dropped Natalie and her cousin off in Lebanon and then headed west to Newport, Oregon. After about 43 miles of driving on Route 20 you finally come to the top of a hill on your way into Newport and you can look out in front of you and catch your first glimpse of the ocean. This view never ceases to fill me with happiness.

Our plan was to just do whatever we fancied. Our first "fancy" was historic downtown Newport. We wandered around looking in shops and galleries. We said hello to the incredibly loud and lazy male sea lions that hang out on the pier during the winter months. We even ate fish and chips. We are on an eternal quest to find the perfect fish and chips.

I knew there was a hike on the coast that I had been wanting to accomplish but I could not for the life of me remember the name of the hike. While we were waiting for our food I checked up on Facebook and there happened to be a comment from my friend Carrie reminding me that the hike was Cascade Head and that I was close to it. I quickly googled the hike, read about it, and all of a sudden Newport was no longer interesting. We jumped in the car and headed North on Highway 101. Who wants to shop when there is an epic hike?

Google maps said we had about an hour drive to the trail head and that we would arrive about 1:49 pm. I was a little concerned about how early the sun sets on a winter day and how much hiking we had to accomplish in the time before it set so I was focused on our goal, It is hard to be focused as you are driving past fabulous views of the ocean and you know it is also whale watching week on the Oregon coast. But we made it with no stopping.

Sometimes finding where the actual trail starts on a hike is tricky and this hike was one of those kinds of hikes.Thankfully, I know how to roll down my window and ask questions so with only one turn around we made it to the parking lot for the Cascade Head hike. The people we asked about where the trail started casually mentioned to us that the trail was very muddy. I am so glad they did.

Thankfully, I always have my yellow rubber boots in the car and Tatiana had thought to wear her red rubber boots. You cannot live in Oregon and not have your trunk full of things that you might need to handle the weather conditions in this darling state. It is safe to assume that water and mud will often be involved in your day. This trail was incredibly muddy most of the way up and we were so grateful for our boots. I would have hated to have to be worrying about where I had to step if I was trying to protect my shoes. I am so glad we could just walk right through the middle of anything.

Out of the woods.
The hike to the top was 3.4 miles. The trail is on the road for a minute. It crosses the road. Then is goes up. And up. And up. Through forest. Some of the trail has steps. Some of the trail is wide but most of it is very narrow and did I mention muddy? I had no idea what to expect at the top. As we came out of the forest into a meadow I was so anxious to see what our view was going to be. I was not disappointed. The ocean, the mountains, a herd of elk, clear sky, the blues, the greens, the beach miles below, the snow on the distant mountains, miles of pine trees, there was a view everywhere I looked. I thought okay, this is it. So fabulous.

But the trail kept heading across the meadow so we just kept following it. We stopped to admire the views and take pictures often. I kept deciding no this is the best view, would walk some more and then decide, no this is the best view. Honestly, you could have stopped anywhere on this mountain and been done with your hike but I could see the trail still going and knew I would always wonder what was at the end.

Can you see her?
The trail started to head straight up. Tatiana easily moved ahead of me. She would stop and look back and holler "Keep coming mom." I swallowed down the thoughts that her words made me feel old. I kept trying to think of how I could capture what we were doing and seeing in pictures and words. How could I describe this? I stopped frequently to catch my breath, survey the view, take a picture and then press on. If you look at the picture to the left there you can see I was several switchbacks behind her.

I smiled at the people I passed who had already made it to the top and were on the way down. I saw the look of empathy in their eyes as their struggle to the top was still fresh in their minds. A few of them reassured me the end was coming. I asked a young couple how much further and was a little confused when they declared they did not know they had come from another trail and had only been hiking a mile so they were not sure. What? I chose the hard way? Of course I did. It turns out there are three different trails and we took the longest and hardest trail but I am glad we did and would never do it any other way. It was an amazing hike with huge rewards. I had to resist the urge to burst into the Carpenter's song On Top Of The World a few times. "Such a feeling's coming over me. There is wonder in most everything I see. Not a cloud in the sky got the sun in my eyes and I won't be surprised if its a dream." Yeah,that song and I go way back.
View to the South 

Going down was much more delightful even though there was a constant chance of slipping in the mud. There is just something about knowing what is coming that makes the hike go faster and seem easier. I longed to watch the sun set behind the Pacific Ocean from the top but I knew that was irresponsible. Even though I had packed my flashlight. We got back to our car at about 3:50 pm.
View to the West.

Round trip the hike is 6.8 miles. It gains 1310 feet of elevation. And is categorized as a moderate hike. I saw all different sorts of people hiking the trail. Old people. Young people. People hauling young kids. Couples in love. Groups stopping to smoke marijuana. Hikers on cell phones chatting away. It was definitely a popular hike despite the mud and that it was December 30th. I was so glad we did it and will definitely do it again.

We headed to our Airbnb which was 10 minutes away and had an amazing view of the coast. We grabbed Taco Bell and watched a ton of episodes of Studio C. The next morning we drove less than a mile to a parking lot by the beach and started our search for the glass fishing floats.

It was disheartening to notice lots of people already searching for the floats. They do not hide the floats all at once they hide them throughout the day. So in my head I divided the 100 floats into 50 floats per day and then figured out the daylight hours and tried to determine how many floats they would hide within an hour. Yeah, who does that? I also spent way too much time trying to notice who might be hiding them. I was shamefully looking for an easy way. But there was no easy way. It was just endless walking and looking along the bluffs, through the driftwood, and above the high tide line for an elusive glass float.

We had a time deadline for when we had to head back inland. I had a dance in Portland to attend and Tatiana had possible New Years Eve plans. We stayed as long as we could and walked at least 4 miles on the beach but never found a float. The day started out clear and sunny but within a few hours the clouds rolled in. It was very hard to be at the beach and not be walking out by the ocean so a few times I deviated and headed out to the shoreline.One of those times a sneaker wave caught me and filled my rubber boots with salt water and sand which made me smile. You could hear me coming from a mile away with all the noise wet socks and wet pants inside rubber boots makes.

As much as I loved living in Kansas and Indiana I cannot imagine living where I do not have the freedom to jump in the car, drive two hours and be at the ocean. It makes me so happy to be able to do that. I marvel at the ease of it every single time I do it.