Saturday, December 22, 2012

Still Out There

Life has been ultra busy lately, what with the holidays, and all that means for small retail businesses. It is clear that I will not be hitting the 100 mark for posts this year, but such is life.
We're planning to do some reconstruction in the shop next month, and I imagine that will take up even more time and energy, but one of these days I hope there will be a tie when life returns to something more normal, at which point I'll be able to write and exist in my old ways.
For now, I wish everyone a happy holiday season, and I hope to be more productive again soon.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

To Serve and Protect? or Intimidate?

We all make mistakes. It's a natural part of life. Unfortunately, I recently had one of those moments while behind the wheel. It was a rainy Monday afternoon and my husband and I were randomly driving around in a small community not far from where we live. I was looking at street signs, trying to figure out where to turn next, rather than noticing a stop sign. Oops. Crazy thing is, I actually noticed the creepy looking cop car parked there as I checked the intersection and slowly made my turn.

A moment later I heard the infamous, "Whoop, whoop," and saw the flashing lights in my rear view mirror. I've been pulled over several times in the past, each time for not doing anything wrong. Once, the guy was just bored and pulled me over with the lousy excuse that one of my back lights might go out soon. The next couple times were for headlights that were out. I get the fact that safety is the most important thing on the road, but is it really necessary to give drivers heart attacks?

Here's the thing, the car that pulled me over this time, was one of those angry looking black mustangs. The point of having police is to maintain order, and to protect people when something bad happens. Unfortunately, these days, seeing an officer is more likely to induce fear than a feeling of safety. Even if I know I'm doing everything right when I'm driving, I instantly get nervous when I see them out there. It's kind of sad really.

I'm not normally political in any way shape or form, but I must admit I'm getting a little tired of being overly regulated. Shouldn't we be smart enough to do things like wearing seat belts, and not writing text messages while we're driving without having to have laws about all these things? I mean, honestly, I don't think we should have to be scared that the police out there are looking at us all like we're probably going to be doing something criminal. I'd rather have them doing service projects than parking on the side of the road with their radar guns out trying to fill quotas.

I completed online traffic school today, really the only option with my current work/life schedule. I can appreciate that I did something wrong, and therefore have to pay for it. It sucked, and wasted a few hours, but it is important to stop at stop signs, and I do want to do that. I just wish we could all be treated like we're responsible adults, rather than feeling like some one is out there, just hoping we'll do something wrong so they can pull us over and feel powerful.

Rant complete :)

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy All Hallows Eve

It's Halloween. How did that happen all of a sudden. Weren't we just experiencing lovely summer weather a couple weeks ago? Now we're socked in with clouds that can't seem to stop dripping (although we really can't complain in comparison to the mess in the East! Blessings on those poor folks...)

For some reason I have a poem I wrote in college stuck in my head. Okay, the reason is pretty obvious, seeing as you it was all about Halloween. I was in this creative writing class, where most of the students seemed to think that their writing was so far beyond the understanding of mere mortals that any interpretation or critique was clearly nothing but foolishness.

No doubt, it was arrogance that provoked me to write a poem in a standard rhyming format, littered with innuendo regarding the world of masks we live in, and how only on this classically darkest of days can my real self be revealed. I wanted them to sweat through interpretations:

It's Halloween, Oh Halloween,
A night by ghouls and goblins seen,
Oh what a dream, a perfect dream,
To dance with death on Halloween.

It's getting dark, I see a spark,
I wonder, could it be a lark,
Or could it be, a breath so free,
That only darkness lets me see.

A mask comes out, a scream a shout,
Now freedom, true, can come about,
etc, etc.

I can't remember the whole thing verbatim, but you get the gist. Seems to me, my classmates weren't quite so savvy.

Anyhow, I'm dressed in black today, in silent witness to the bygone era of trick or treating in the past. I left my eyeliner stitch marks by the wayside this year, figuring they wouldn't fly so well for postal customers :) All the same, I'm full of memories of years gone by. Mark and I did get a little pumpkin to carve and stick outside our door, although it'll be after 7 by the time I'm home, so we're not likely to have any trick or treaters this time around, but at least a couple cuties have come through the shop today, so I'll enjoy it all I can.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Pretty Sure I'll End Up Dehydrated

I have a thing for drinking. It's one of life's essentials. Not many people could just give up drinking and make a go of it for very long.

The problem is, I don't just enjoy drinking, I'm also rather picky about it. When I moved in the 8th grade I gave up water all together. The sulfury nastiness that passed for water in our new home just couldn't compare to the sweet well water that I grew up on. So for all of high school I didn't drink water. Period.

Unfortunately, that only meant that my thirst was generally quenched by something sugary. And, thus, I developed a craving for sweet liquids to carry me through the days. In college, I fed my need with Gatorade Frost, and cheap Shasta Kiwi Strawberry soda. In Hong Kong, I became increasingly fixated on the plethora of fabulous Fanta flavors that the wider world affords. In recent years, I've settled more on things that also include caffeine. Dr. Pepper, Cola, or sweet coffee drinks cry out to me from every direction.

In the Czech Republic, beer is cheaper than water. They consider it bread. Something essential as both food and drink. When you're sick, the instant prescription is to consume copious amounts of hot tea. I didn't get into either of those, and actually managed to drink a lot of water while I was teaching. We had a big bottle, regularly changed, out in the hall, and that worked for me. I even managed to convince myself, on occasion, to leave my sugary sweetness addiction for meals out, rather than stocking up on it daily. (Although, I must confess to a Pavlovian urge to salivate every time I hear a can of soda cracked open. Makes me weak in the knees I tell you.)

The hear and now has further complicated my need to consume liquids. I'm in my store all day, with no chance to go anywhere, so I have to haul in whatever I'm going to drink. We have no fridge to keep things cold. I bought a big gallon of water once, but it's awkward to pour cups all day. Instead, I've fallen into the trap of getting a soda on my way to work. Here's the real bad part, the cheapest drink I can buy is a 44 oz refill for 79 cents at Circle K. It's a real budgetary blessing, but do I really need to consume 44 oz of soda on a daily basis? Um, not if I'd like to continue having a semi decent waist line. But it's so cheap, and so tasty, and diet soda is nasty, no two ways about it. I sometimes blend a sugar/diet caffeine loaded cup, but it's just not as good, so on tired days, I let myself indulge.

The heart of this post, however, is in today. Today, I decided to be good. A customer gave me a tea bag months ago, and I decided to put it to use. It was my only beverage for the day. I boiled the water, I poured the cup and warmed my hands. I enjoyed the beauty of my Sally Nightmare Before Christmas mug, and even persuaded myself that the tea smelled good. But then I had to drink it. Alas, even the perfect cup could not make it tasty, and the fact that it was caffeine free only added to the failure.

All that to say, it's 6. Time to close up shop and head home for the day. And I'm thirsty!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Where I Live...

I've lived in a lot of places. Three countries. Five states. Nine cities. I've lived in houses, apartments, dormitories, a colonial mansion (converted into an orphanage), a panelak, and rebuilt flat in an ancient city center, and a few basements.

Right now, I'm living in the home where my grandparents lived all my life. At this very moment I'm curled up on their old rocking couch where I watched cartoons as a child while petting the original Mitzi the poodle. I have a couple throw pillows from Hong Kong tucked in around me, and the blanket my friend Julie crocheted for my wedding wrapped around me.

This is a place filled with old memories, and is the first home my husband and I have shared on our own. Across the street, the Browns have been living for countless years. Mr. Brown is a few months younger than my Grandpa would be if he was still alive. Some nights, when I am cleaning the kitchen after a late dinner, I can see him framed in the window, keeping an eye on the neighborhood. In the morning, if he is outside when I am leaving, we wave and greet one another. But we aren't home often. The daily drive to Portland takes a lot out of me, leaving little time or energy for spending time with the neighbors.

It's the fourth of October, but miraculously, the rains have not begun to fall. Tonight, on my drive home, the horizon was the color of a fresh peach. The winds have started to blow, and a chill is in the air.

I don't know what the future holds. Will our little shop blossom, or fade? Will we continue to live an hour away from work, or one day find ourselves in the city? Will I suck up enough courage to publish my book (and those yet to come), or continue to let the fear of failure keep me unmotivated?

All I can know for certain is that this is where I live right now, so my primary goal is to make the most of it.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Bright Spots On Gray Days

I started this post a few days ago, last week actually, then got off track, but the idea is still a good one, just tempered by time. I still haven't got the hang of the ups and downs of business ownership. People all have theories of how things will go, but I'm stuck on the daily things: hoping for sales, figuring out the bills and budget, and dealing with the surprises that come up, like having my bumper scraped up and not having an extra car to drive while it gets fixed, or suddenly having a massive crack in the door to the shop with no idea how to get it fixed.

It's moving into Fall, and I can sense the bite in the weather rapidly approaching. We've been blessed with a few more days of warm sunny weather, but if I know anything about life in Western Oregon, the gray rainy weather will sweep in soon. My mood is quickly turned by the bleaker months, so it is good to look for the bright spots.

Here are just a few from recent days:

A surprise firework I saw blossom in the gray sky, solitary and beautiful on a midweek evening.

A visit from some of my parents oldest friends at the shop. The wife, Jeanie, used to be a postal worker and was delighted to see me with a post office of my own.

A family game night with Jessie's family.

Meeting a new friend who I formerly knew only by blog reading.

Setting up all the new Halloween merchandise.

The little things can make all the difference. This evening it was the sweetness of my husband writing me a card with the insistence that I schedule a real massage. Yes, I got all teared up at that one.

All these things remind me of how important it is to stay positive. I lean on the side of worry and occasionally, despair. It is easy for me to get down, but there is so much more to life than the gray days. People come in every day, and I have the chance to be a bright spot in their days. Whether I am merely the vehicle to their purchase of joy, or being genuinely interested in what they have to say, I can give something to them, and just knowing that shines a light in my world as well.

Oh, and I almost forgot the amazing sunset tonight. Had me so transfixed I had trouble keeping my eyes on the road. Apparently nature is as dangerous as texting...

Monday, September 17, 2012

50 Years...

On July 20th my parents celebrated their 50th anniversary. There is no denying that 50 years is a long time for anything. 50 years of marriage, now that is definitely a serious commitment and something to be celebrated. We weren't actually able to be there with them to commemorate the day, but after my nephews wedding we headed to Central Oregon, Sun River to be exact, and met up with the rest of my siblings and their kids. It's quite an accomplishment to get us all together, seeing as how there are 26 of us in the family these days, spread out in Kansas, Alaska, Idaho and Oregon. Everyone managed to make it to our wedding, but that was a hectic time to say the least, so this was really the first time we were all together since my parents retirement party back in 2007.

For those that don't know, Sun River is literally a town built for tourists. There are all these beautiful vacation homes that the owners rent out to guests. In the winter it's a skiing destination, and in the summer it's a haven for bikers, hikers, and outdoor enthusiasts. We rented two houses, each with hot tubs, and one with a single lane lap pool, and enjoyed all the pleasures of being together.

I've always had a rather unique position in my family. Being the youngest, I'm actually closer in age to a couple of my nephews than I am to my oldest siblings. I was never one of those married women, so at holidays and family gatherings I was more than happy to keep the kids entertained and leave the kitchen things to the "real" women. Things haven't changed a whole lot so it's not surprising that most of my pictures are of my fabulous nieces and nephews.

I love watching the cousins interacting together. Finally, at the age of six, Josh and Rowan have decided they can be friends, rather than competitors, and the girls have always had a great time together.

Of course, Miss Myrtle was a big attraction as the newest addition to the family. The older girls all took turns oohing and ahhing over the cutie little baby.

I don't know how it works out for other people, but when our family gets together we have to have a plan or basically nothing gets done. We had a few events planned, but mostly the days started slowly with big pancake breakfasts, then there was the general discussions about what to do, who would go where, and the endless amount of time it took to actually get people ready to go anywhere.

Once we got together, however, there were lots of great experiences to be had like a bike trip along the river. We stopped to check out this bridge

so we could enjoy this view

but when I went to stand in a photo I slid my hand along it and filled it with slivers. And I mean seriously filled. There were at least twenty of them buried in my flesh. Amazing how easily they slide in and how brutal they are to remove. Once I got over the shock of it, I decided to continue with the bike ride. Maybe not my brightest moment, but such is life. We went to a waterfall and got a nice bit of exercise as well.

After the ride we attempted to remove some of the slivers, but it was so brutally painful that I just gave up. It was a good week before they finally made their way out. Leave it to me to injure myself at the very beginning of the fun.

Well, I still have quite a few more pictures to share, but it's getting late and so I think I'll leave you with one last one of my fun girls. Today, my oldest niece turned 17! They grow up way too fast for sure.

Friday, September 14, 2012

A Longing That Lingers

Ther's no way to really put my finger on it, but there are moments in life where I am overcome by longing. I wouldn't call it dissatisfaction, or even sorrow, but more of a sudden urge for things that are utterly out of my grasp.

I remember once when a dear friend spent an evening crying in the bathroom. I let her have her space, but when she was ready, I asked what had led to her misery. Her answer, "I was crying about all the goodbyes I am going to have to make in life." We were not at a point in time where a goodbye was close, but she was suddenly struck by the magnitude of the losses she would experience throughout her life time.

The thing is, I have been wildly blessed. I've managed to circle the globe and make friends in so many places that the sun never sets on the ones I love. But such depth of experience comes with a cost. Regardless of all that modern technology has done to make the world a smaller place, distance still exists, and connections do change.

Yesterday, as I drove over the pass above Newberg, I was struck with a deep ache for the lush green peaks and towering concrete, glass, and steel giants of Hong Kong. The gift of Instagram has allowed me to almost taste the succulence of Hong Kong style French toast, and to keep up with the daily sights of life in the city of life, but I am not there. I can't walk up onto my favorite rooftop and watch the twinkling lights, or go downstairs and curl up with a precious infant. I have to drive for miles to get to work, and the Portland skyline just doesn't have a chance.

Today, on my drive through Dundee, the geraniums around a shop transported me to Cesky Krumlov. The new school year is starting, but I have no lessons to plan, nor can I walk to the grocery store for soft herbal cheese and rohliky.

How does one balance the longing with contentment? It's a challenge, and knowing that I have no option to just set down what I'm doing so I can write another chapter in my travel log is hard on a transient like myself.

At the heart of all this struggle is also a lack of personal connection in my current life. Sure, I interact with people on a daily basis, but it's mostly that surface stuff that I quickly tire of when there is nothing of more substance to be acquired. I guess I'm missing long girly talks with all my roomies of old...

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Soon Umbrellas Must Make Everything Rainy

I love summertime, and I'm not ashamed to say it. Sunshine is my friend. It makes my world seem more balanced, more right. And yet I have returned to the land of rainy gray seasons that take up the better part of the year. We have been so blessed to have an amazingly beautiful summer, but now the mornings are downright chilly, and very soon I'll be heading home in the dark.

In honor of these last few blissful days of blue skies and warm temperatures, I thought it best to post some of my summer pics that have been left out for too long.

This summer things in my family made a big change. Last year I was the final member of my siblings to get married, this summer my nephew, Ryder, had his day in the sun as he welcomed his beautiful bride Lauren into our family.

The wedding took place up at the Mt Ashland Ski Lodge just south of Medford. The weather was beautiful, although at that ele
vation the chill in the air didn't take long to show up as we headed into the evening.

The ceremony was beautiful, and it was quite amazing to watch my Dad, just a few days before his own 50th anniversary, perform his grandson's service. It was also great to see my nephews all dressed up :)

After the Mr. and Mrs. were announced, we had the chance to follow them in a little ride.

I enjoyed having the chance to have a little romantic ride with my Love as well ;)

We caught up with the bride and groom at the top of the mountain.

Then we headed back down for a fabulous dinner, followed by the amazing wedding cake that Lauren made. If only I had known her better at our wedding, I would have WAY rather had her make our cake. It would no doubt have been a thousand times better than the pathetically tipping cake that we had.

Also, at the wedding, I met my new niece, Myrtle, for the first time. Here she is with her cousin Jack who gave himself the title of "The Baby Whisperer."

Stay tuned. Next time I'll put up some photos of the incredible week we spent with the whole family in honor of my parent's 50th anniversary.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Blast From the College Dayz

It's September and school is back in session pretty all over the place. Every day on my way in to work I pass through the city of Newberg, home of George Fox University. As I watch the signs welcoming back the students, it has me remembering my college days. Those epic moments like the ice breaker get to know your new classmate games where they throw all your shoes in a pile and you freak out because you're not wearing cheap flip flops, but instead your expensive sandals that you can't possibly live without, so you make a new best friend as you bond to protect shoes that matter.
Then there's the classic car memories. When I was a freshman I was blessed by my oldest sister and her husband giving me their old 1981 Mercury Cougar. They had inherited it from his grandma. Yup, cool like a grandma even back then. Of course, the best thing was when said car would die at the school entrance, leaving me to embarrassingly wave the traffic around.
So I dug around through some old photo albums tonight and retook a few photos to help relive those epic college days and all their glory.

From freshman year we have a couple classics. What college experience would be complete without a dorm room. Naturally, it's important to be sure to decorate...

Somehow I didn't get the shot of my classic room set up, but this shows how many people we liked to squeeze in for the evening.
Then there were those random trips where we dressed up and took photos, just because we thought we were cool like that.

Not to mention the, we go to a Christian school where the girls outnumber the boys by, well, a lot, so we throw all single girls Valentine's dinner parties.

Sophomore year I lived off campus, which meant we got some really classy furniture like this papasan couch...

It's getting late and I'm a bit distracted so I'll just toss up a few more epic pictures from back in the day for kicks.

Yeah, those were the days...

Monday, September 3, 2012

Mac Area Masons

What better to do on Labor Day than write random blog posts? Seeing as how all those lovely outside areas are no doubt packed with day trippers, we're, well, sitting around the house today. After yesterday, when I got overly domestic (baking banana bread, thoroughly cleaning the kitchen including the fridge, doing laundry, and making homemade pizza which didn't turn out so great) it's kinda nice to have a day to just sit around and watch Sponge Bob and NCIS. Okay, maybe not the best use of a day off, but it's kinda nice.

We've been living in Oregon for the past six months, which means plenty of time to wander around the countryside looking for interesting sites. On one of these jaunts we wandered on a backroad near Lafayette, and stumbled across a sign for a Masonic Cemetery. Being the cemetery enthusiast that I am, I was naturally curious, and the blocked off weedy road made it even more appealing.

We parked by the side of the road and hiked up the winding trail into a grove of trees. In my past experience, most Masonic cemeteries are pretty well cared for. We checked out one in McMinnville that actually had people in their mobile homes camping out. Okay, that bit seemed a little dodgy, but at least the place was well cared for and it looked like they wanted to keep it that way. The cemetery at the top of the hill, however, was more on the unkempt side.

It took some work to make it through the weeds, and many of the stones were completely overtaken, but we still managed to find some great views.

Amidst the stones and weeds there were also some interesting close up finds.

The most interesting find was this sheltered grave. It was well protected with a fence, complete with secret handshake symbols of some kind. It seemed that even the trees were protecting this area.

An interesting piece of history, hidden away in the hills. Interesting how places that were once so integral to a community become forgotten and overgrown in time.

Photo Flashback

At long last, I'm going writing a post from an actual computer with photos on it. And so, without further ado, I'm going to have something of interest to look at on the blog again.

During our last few days in Czech, yes this goes way back to February, Mark did some research on things that were taking place in the region during WWII. After spending so much time looking at things online, we decided to literally go out in the field and get up close with some artifacts.

These old bunkers are out in a field just outside Marianske Lazne. Obviously you can't really go into them anymore, but it was fascinating to be so close to the history.

Naturally, I had to get some nature shots as well.

And what would any photo shoot be without a little self portrait to finish things off?

And so we close our last trip to Czech. With all the insanity going on involving owning a business, it's hard to say when we'll have a chance to get back again, but hopefully we can figure something out soon.