Saturday, July 31, 2010

Pig 'n Pancake and Treasure in Lincoln City

Friday morning the spouse and I had breakfast at The Pig 'n Pancake in Lincoln City.  I eat at the P 'n P every time I go to the coast; it's a tradition.  For years I attended the COSA (Confederation of Oregon School Administrators) Conference in Seaside, Oregon every June.  The Pig 'n Pancake was the breakfast meeting place of choice for eastern Oregon administrators.  I always order the same thing, strawberry crepes.

So, I was pleasantly surprised to see a Pig 'n Pancake in Lincoln City.  I ordered my usual, the spouse had his eggs and pancakes, and we fired up the computer to take advantage of their WiFi to find coordinates to local geocache sites.  Then I took a look around the dining room.  We were in a corner booth.  At the table across from us was a family with four boys.  The mother had to be over 300 pounds.  Her thighs were hanging over the chair seat. I watched as the waitress delivered their full breakfast meals, hers  with a side of sausage.  At the table behind us was a couple whose combined weight was close to half a ton.  His enormous Humpty Dumpty stomach rested on his lap.  Everywhere I looked were overweight diners.  I started to feel guilty about those strawberry pancakes with whipped cream...but only for a minute.  They are delicious!

Before heading back to Portland we went in search of our second geocache.  Geocaching is a great way to see a new location.  We followed the coordinates of the cache south of Lincoln City on highway 101 and then east on a small road.  We drove up a hill until we  came close to the east/west coordinates on the GPS and found a safe place to pull over.  We walked a few yards off the road until the GPS indicated we were in the correct location...and then it's like an Easter egg hunt. 

We found the container hidden in a log.  We signed the log inside the box and looked over the list of people who had been there before us.  One couple had left a card that said:
We use million dollar satellites to find Tupperware hidden in the woods.
In the picture above you can see Siletz Bay in the distance.  The treasure we found was really the view!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Sheep and Whales and Lead, Oh My

The spouse and I left Hermiston early this morning to drive to the coast. Our objective was not only to enjoy the beautiful summer weather and ocean breezes, but to....wait for a half a ton of lead!  We are now driving the pickup around the coast with a load of lead secured in the back.  For the record, the spouse did not find any coolers during the 300 mile journey to the sea.  He did point out one cooler lid, but since we were in a construction zone with only one lane of traffic on the freeway, he was (thankfully) unable to stop.  He did point out numerous hubcaps to me.  There was one stretch of road in Portland that had hubcaps every 500 yards.  Urban freeway recovery is much more complicated than in eastern Oregon.  Since we are maximizing our load limits with the lead, the hubcaps are still up for grabs.

We've had a very relaxing day.  It's like rehearsing for retirement.  In the Columbia River Gorge we spotted the big horn sheep and stopped to watch them.  The herd has grown considerably since they were first reintroduced to the gorge several years ago.

Once we got to Lincoln City, the spouse dropped me off at the Outlet Mall while he went to get the lead.  Anytime I can buy shoes at 50% off it's a good day!

We took a drive up the coast to a viewpoint by Depot Bay.  We walked out to the edge of the cliff and were watching the ocean when a gray whale surfaced and blew right in front of us.  He rolled over and resurfaced several times while we watched.  Such an impressive sight.

We had dinner at an Oregon coast institution, Mo's.  While we were waiting in line for a table, I realized that the couple in front of us were also from Hermiston.  Small world!  After dinner we returned to the hotel.  I was asking a question at the front desk when a man came in to register.  He mentioned that he was tired from a long drive and I asked him where he was from....wait for it...Hermiston!  It really is a small world, or we're being followed.

Tomorrow we're heading back to Portland.  Our daughter has been in Japan for the past few weeks for her job.  She is flying home to Austin via Portland.  We'll pick  her up and take her to visit her grandparents during her six hour layover.  Then we'll drop her back at the airport and take our load of lead back to Hermiston.

Are you asking yourself "What the hell is he doing with a half a ton of lead?"  Trust me, I had the same question.  Apparently the price of lead has skyrocketed.  My spouse, who likes a bargain almost as much as me, found a source of lead that was considerably cheaper than what he could get locally.  He uses the lead to reload shotgun shells for trap shooting.  So if you're going to drive 300 miles to buy lead, you certainly want to make the trip worthwhile, so you buy a half a ton!  And, no, I'm not helping to load or unload it!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Treading Water

I've been thinking about treading water all day.  Earlier I left a comment, in my arrogant, self-assured way, on another blogger's post asking her if she felt she was treading water.  When I read her post I felt strongly that, although she was writing about being dissatisfied with her life,  she was refusing to take any action to change anything.  Kinda like treading water.  Why is it that it is easy to see patterns of behavior in other people, but so darn hard to figure out your own?

So instead of working on the grant I'm supposed to be writing for a local school, here I am reflecting on treading water.  Retirement has been a little like floating down a gentle river.  I bob along, quite enjoying the ride, going wherever the river takes me.  I don't know where the current is taking me; I'm just treading water.  I have done nothing to guide my passage on the journey.

When I was working it was important to have goals.  I was always reaching for the next thing.  I was always taking a class or completing some certification and building my resume.  It was important to move forward. 

In retirement I haven't had external pressure to move forward.  Today I asked myself if, just perhaps, it was okay to not move forward but to just bob along and tread water.  Would I be happy with no goals, no direction?  Is it enough just to enjoy?  Is an occasional dynamite blog post or witty comment in the forum enough? Perhaps reading, writing, and building my extensive knowledge of television is enough?  Mixed in between vacations to tropical beaches, cruises and trips to see the grandchildren of course.   Or, maybe the bigger question is, can I enjoy retirement without a sense of accomplishment? 

Okay, I need one of you self-assured and arrogant readers out there to give me the obvious insight I can't see from my perspective.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Nana Organizes a Writing Group

Earlier this year I facilitated a writing class through Blue Mountain Community College. The class didn't enroll enough people for the class to "make", but we decided to go ahead and meet anyway. Four of us met every Wednesday morning to read our writing, give feedback to each other, and to revel in our enjoyment of writing. Four middle-aged women who were both alike and different. Although we shared a love of writing, our styles and content each had a distinct voice . We all wrote about our families, children and grandchildren. Our life paths, however, had been very different.

None of us were experts, but by trial and error, or hit and miss, or just plain luck we each managed to produce pieces that were funny, or touching, or shocking or just plain entertaining. Because we met weekly, we all felt the pressure to produce something to share. We learned from each other and were inspired by each other.

One participant was writing a series that told the stories of significant possessions. She wanted a record of their histories to pass on to her family. Another participant told the story of giving a daughter up for adoption and then reuniting with her years later. The third participant wrote about her life growing up in a rural area. We learned about each other and shared our intimate thoughts through our writing.

…and then the semester ended. We all wanted to continue our writing group. Several locations were suggested including the local library and a new used bookstore in downtown Hermiston. I had several trips scheduled but promised that I would reconvene the group when I got back to town.

But, I haven’t and that has been the challenge of retirement. I have no external accountability so I put everything off for tomorrow…and tomorrow hasn’t come around yet! There are trips to visit my grandchildren, and then the Umatilla County Fair where I‘m scheduled to cook the French fries in the Lion’s Club booth, and then we’re going on our cruise to Alaska. It seems like I’ve got plenty of excuses to put off organizing our group meeting.

I think I have settled into retirement and quite enjoy not having responsibilities. Next week I have two appointments on my calendar and I’m stressing about if I can possibly fit in another activity. I used to cram multiple activities into my day. I don’t think I’ve lost the skill, just the will.

Next week, if I can fit it in between lunch with my friend Tiah and writing a grant for the high school, I’ll definitely get the writing group going again.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Survivor Nicaragua

The new season of Survivor is being filmed in Nicaragua. I survived two years in Nicaragua in the Peace Corps, 1976-1978. I was there during the revolution until we were evacuated by the US embassy in September of 1978. I was 9 months pregnant and we left our little house in El Jicaro in northern Nicaragua with nothing more than our passports and backpacks. Our daughter was born a few weeks later in Honduras. We never returned to Nicaragua.

For two years we had lived in a concrete block house a few blocks from the center of town. There was an outhouse and a concrete sink and shower with cold running water in the backyard, and electricity most of the time. The house was square with one corner partitioned off for a bedroom. When it rained the tin roof was so loud that we couldn’t hear each other talk. There was a gap where the exterior walls met the roof and air circulated freely. It also created a runway for the small lizards that also called our house home.

I had decorated the outhouse with pictures cut from the international edition of Time, our major source of news. I couldn’t figure out why the pictures kept falling off the walls until I took a flashlight to visit the outhouse late one night. As the interior was illuminated, a score of huge cockroaches ran for the cover of darkness. Mystery solved. The cockroaches had been eating the paste off the back of the pictures!

We had a parrot that spent most of his time on the wall that separated our back patio from the street. I spent hours trying to get him to talk. The only words he ever uttered were from the buses that circled through the dirt roads in town looking for riders. Our parrot learned to shout out the bus destinations randomly when he heard a car chug down our street.



It was a small town. Everyone knew us because, aside from a Catholic priest, we were the only gringos for miles. Campesinos from the surrounding area came to El Jicaro for supplies and entertainment. There were very few cars. Most people rode the buses, which were vans or small pickups with benches in the back, to get to Ocotal or Esteli or El Jicaro. In rural Nicaragua in 1978 campesinos were still using horses for transportation. On Sundays everyone, dressed in their best, walked around and around the park in front of the church in the center of town. That was the social event in El Jicaro. Horses were tied up in front of the houses and stores.

As small as El Jicaro was, we did have a movie theater. They showed old American movies with subtitles in Spanish. Every afternoon a truck with a loudspeaker would circle the community and announce the movie.

“Tonight, at eight o’clock in the evening in your Theater Jomari a spectacular movie …”

The first evening we heard the announcement for a film featuring “Charlie Bronson” we rushed down the two blocks to the theater so as not to be late for the 8:00 start. We should have known that the movie would begin on Nicaraguan time…at least a half an hour late!

I have very fond memories of my time in Nicaragua…after all, my daughter was almost born there. (We used to say that she was made in Nicaragua, but born in Honduras.) I hope this season’s Survivor cast members will have similar memories of honest and giving people and unspoiled country.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Nana Tries Out A New Hobby

Retirement can't be all reading, writing and sleeping in between vacations.  Apparently I'm supposed to do other fun things.  Cleaning the house and doing yard work don't count as fun.  Not that I do a whole lot of either of those activities!

Today the spouse and I tried out a new activity, geocaching.  The official geocaching site defines it as:
"Geocaching is a high-tech treasure hunting game played throughout the world by adventure seekers equipped with GPS devices. The basic idea is to locate hidden containers, called geocaches, outdoors and then share your experiences online."
When we looked online, there were lots of caches hidden all around Hermiston.  We've not been motivated to ride our bikes.  We thought that this would be a fun way to get some exercise .  We could ride our bikes to a location and search for the treasure!

This afternoon we downloaded the coordinates of a cache that is close to our home.  The website allows you to search for locations by zip code.  There was a long list of locations in of which is the park across the river from our backyard. 

We rode our bikes to the park and then checked the GPS.  We had to walk a little bit further north and west.  The GPS is very sensitive.  We arrived at the exact coordinates and started searching.  The cache can be hidden under rocks, but not buried.  We could see where others had walked in the brush before us.  Paul finally found the tiny plastic container attached by a magnet to the underside of a park bench.

Inside the container was a log and a pink plastic ring.  I entered my information on the log sheet (Nana was already taken when I registered on the geocache site, so I had to go with MissNana as my log in) and I exchanged an Oregon pin for the pink plastic ring.  I wanted a souvenir from our first cache.

I think we'll keep doing this. It gives us a purpose to ride bikes and it was fun to find the treasure.  I've already checked out what sites are available in Austin...I think the granddaughters would like to go treasure hunting with Nana!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Fire Update

This morning we noticed that the crime scene tape was finally down from around our neighbor Jerry's burned out house.  Jerry and his wife are living in their fifth wheel trailer behind the house.  The house is a total loss.  There are very few items that they have been able to salvage.  It is a blessing that they and their animals are all safe.  The house was insured and they are starting to make plans to have it bulldozed and start rebuilding.

The frightening part of this story is that the fire marshal determined that the fire was definitely arson.  The fire was started at the back of the house with an accelerant, probably starter fluid.

The illusive neighbor, Phyllis, has not yet been interviewed by the authorities.  (She's the one who is feuding with Jerry and other neighbors and who didn't answer the door when I tried to alert her to the fire and then came to the door saying she was in the shower, but the lights were all off in the house...and then she never came outside during the fire until an ambulance arrived an hour later and hauled her out on a stretcher.)    Anyway, the authorities have been unable to contact her.  According to Jerry she was home briefly this morning but while Jerry's wife was on the phone with the authorities, Phyllis drove off quickly down the road.  "I've never seen her drive so fast." Jerry said.

So, there is an arsonist in our neighborhood...what does that do to property values?

Thursday, July 15, 2010


Coming soon, pictures of the fire, as soon as I find the camera!

Regular readers of my blog might remember a post I wrote about a feud in my neighborhood between the two neighbors in the houses at the end of my driveway. Click here to read the original story. Last night there was a fire and all the drama played out at the end of my driveway.

My husband Paul and I were watching TV when my son, who had stepped out on the front porch to smoke a cigarette, stepped back in the house and declared “Jerry’s house is on fire!” Sure enough, flames were shooting skyward from the roof and there was an orange glow around the house. Paul yelled at Jordan, my son, to call 911 and he ran to his pickup and sped down the driveway. I heard Jordan say into the phone “My neighbor’s house is on fire” and give our address. I headed down the driveway. The stillness of the neighborhood was shattered as Paul honked his horn all the way down the driveway.

There were no lights on at the house next door to the fire. I was concerned that the fire would spread. I ran to the house and pounded on the door. I could hear dogs barking inside. The fire was blazing above the roof of Jerry’s house and now I could hear popping noises and an occasional whosh followed by even higher and brighter flames. No one answered the door.

I joined Paul in Jerry’s driveway and he told me that Jerry and his wife were not home. They had gone camping just that afternoon. We were talking about how to move Jerry’s pickup away from the house when the neighbor’s door opened. We could hear moaning like oooh, ooh, oooh. I ran over and excitedly exclaimed “The neighbor’s house is on fire. I thought you would want to know. You might want to start up a garden hose and wet down your roof.”

Half hidden behind the door Phyllis, the illusive neighbor, said “I was taking a shower.”

Later I would wonder to myself why she was showering in the dark.

“I’m worried about the fire spreading” I told her.

“Oh my back pasture is so dry” Phyllis responds.

“Well, if I were you I would wet down my roof just in case.” I said to her as I turned to leave. I wasn’t concerned about a pasture; I was worried about the structures.

Back in Jerry’s driveway additional neighbors had arrived. There was a halfhearted attempt to find garden hoses, but everyone was worried about getting too close to the fire as there were flare-ups and small explosive pops. Someone yelled to keep clear of the windows because they were going to explode. We tried to move the pickup, but without a key we couldn’t move it out of gear to push it out of the way. Paul went back to our house to get a chain so they could pull the car away from the flames.

The air was thick with smoke. The house next door remained dark and Phyllis never came outside. We waited for what seemed an eternity for the fire department. Finally the chief showed up and shortly thereafter the first of three fire trucks. Soon hoses were uncoiled and firemen were breaking down a door to get into the house. The road was clogged with emergency vehicles and all the neighbors. We shared information about where Jerry and his wife had gone and who we should get in touch with. Jerry’s son was contacted and someone else had Jerry’s cell phone number. Unfortunately, there was no cell service where they were camping. We relayed this information to the fire chief and told him that Jerry’s son was on the way.

The house next door remained dark and the lights of the fire trucks flashed red against the windows. The smoke continued to boil out the holes in the roof of Jerry’s house.

The neighbors stood together and watched the action. We introduced ourselves to those that we hadn’t met before and got caught up with neighbors that we hadn’t talked to in awhile. A strange little gathering…rather like being in the drawing room in an Agatha Christie novel. All the characters were there, we were just missing a murder. I enjoying visiting with the neighbors who I hadn’t talked to in a long while, but I also was mentally taking notes of the characters.

Two of Jerry’s sons and a daughter showed up. The younger son, wearing only one shoe, was falling down drunk. He soon lost his remaining shoe and I noticed that his toes were all twisted. He sat down in the middle of our driveway and shouted mostly unintelligible comments that were ignored.

The buzz in the neighborhood crowd soon turned to talk of the Phyllis/Jerry feud and everyone wondered where Phyllis was. The collective reasoning was that if the house next door is on fire, the neighbor would be outside watching. Several of the people had had run-ins with Phyllis. One neighbor had been sued, twice, in small claims court. The suits were later dropped. Jerry’s son, the one with the twisted toes, mumbled that if it was arson then she sure as hell did it. “She did it!” he yelled.

An ambulance arrived and pulled into Phyllis’s driveway. The house was still dark. The firemen/paramedics pounded on the door and there was no answer. I told them that she had been home earlier, but we hadn’t seen her since. I watched through the living room window as a fireman broke into the back of the house, climbed down over a washer and dryer and turned the interior lights on. He opened the door to the other responders. Phyllis was on the floor of the living room. A paramedic told me that they were responding to a call of lower back pain.

The neighborhood watched as Phyllis was brought out on a stretcher. Hurt her back setting the fire someone said.

This morning the fire marshal was here to interview us as part of the investigation into the cause of the fire. I hope they will be able to determine the exact cause. Because of the history of animosity among the neighbors, it would be a relief to have a clear answer.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Listen To The Sound Of Silence

I read an article in the San Diego paper last week that said law makers were considering legislation to require electric cars to make noise.  Apparently there is concern that this stealth capability of electric cars will result in people, especially the blind, being hit by cars. (Perhaps I should say people will be blind-sided by stealthy electric cars.)  While I appreciate the government's interest in keeping us safe, is this really a governmental priority?  Of all of the unsafe and unhealthy things in our environment, do we really need more noise?

When I started complaining to my family about this potential new regulation, they jumped right in to find fault with my arguments.  My brother immediately began listing the flaws in my position.  He is not an advocate of noise, he just likes to argue.

The discussion moved on to how the noise requirement might be carried out.  Someone suggested a bumper sensor that would activate noise when another human or car was within range.  This set off another debate about which animals were worthy of being saved from a stealth attack.  Would the sensor have to detect a dog?  a cat?  a rabbit?  a snake?

Why do we only care about the visually impaired?  Shouldn't we be considering the needs of hearing impaired people?  Perhaps we should require all cars to be highly visible...paint them yellow with red stripes and require flashing disco lights. 

If the noise requirement is implemented, my family suggests that electric car owners be able to personalize their noise.  "Car noise tones" could be downloaded for 99 cents.  Imagine a line of cars stopped at the crosswalk, each car chirping like a bird or blaring "Who let the dogs out?"

Do we really need more noise in our lives?  Is this a real safety issue or needless governmental oversight?  Why isn't the Tea Party whining about this government intrusion?

Author's note:  I'm writing this little story at the commuter terminal at the San Diego airport while waiting for my delayed flight to Los Angeles. A toddler in a stroller has been screaming for the past half an hour while the mother clicks away on her laptop and occasionally tries to shove a bottle of juice in his mouth.  Two chubby children and an adult male sitting with her ignore the child's screams and sit passively staring off into space.  Where's the law about this noise?

Friday, July 9, 2010

Nana Gets Shaken in San Diego

I visited my brother in San Diego this past week. On Wednesday there was an earthquake. Even though I was raised in Southern California, I don’t remember earthquakes from my childhood. I was away at college for the big Sylmar earthquake of 1970, where my family was evacuated and had to camp out at a local high school for several days.

On Wednesday I was standing in my brother’s kitchen. I felt a rumble and in my memory I think I hear a noise like machinery starting, but I don’t think there was really a noise. The memory is my brain trying to make sense of the environmental input. I felt the shaking and then a rhythmic rolling, rumble under my feet. It rolled and rolled for over a minute. I wasn’t frightened, nothing was falling off the walls. We stopped what we were doing and looked at each other for the long duration of the quake…wondering if this was the big one. We later learned that it was a 5.5 earthquake.

In 1976 I was in Costa Rica for Peace Corp training. Our daily classes were held at a coffee farm outside of San Jose, in La Guacima. The classrooms were converted farm buildings with dirt floors. One day during a Spanish class, while I struggled to answer “Que esta haciendo?”, I felt my chair moving. I turned to look, but there was no one shaking my chair. The shaking went on for over a minute. It was an earthquake.

I think perhaps that earthquakes are the universe’s way of reminding us that we can never really be in control. Wednesday’s quake was a strong reminder that control is an illusion.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Things I Like About Summer

Killing Flies: I hate flies flitting around. There’s not much I can do about them outside, but woe be the fly who enters my inner sanctum. I get great pleasure in scoring a direct hit with the fly swatter. In August, around the time of the county fair, the fly population in Hermiston increases dramatically. Even with screens on every window and air conditioning, the flies still find a way into our house. The husband and I will occasionally go on a rampage of fly hunting. Only confirmed kills are added to the body count. I think I need to buy a new fly swatter for the upcoming competitions.

Rainbird Sprinklers: The husband and I were Peace Corp volunteers in Nicaragua. We spent three months in Costa Rica in training. The “training center” was an old coffee plantation and the classrooms were converted chicken coops. But, I received some of the best instruction of my life. I learned how to speak Spanish in those dirt floored classrooms. There was still coffee grown on the grounds. When the stress of adapting to a new culture and learning a new language got to me, I could walk the grounds and listen to the wop wop wop brrrrrrrr of the rainbird sprinklers. The sound still takes me back to a simpler time.

BBQ: I don’t like barbecue sauce. What I like is grilled meat, which in some areas of the country isn’t really considered barbecue. I don’t like writing out barbecue. It will always be BBQ to me and it won’t have sauce. There’s not much better than a BBQ hamburger, unless it’s a BBQ steak!

Swimming pools: When I was a kid we had a pool in the backyard and spent many hours swimming with our friends. There were always more kids who wanted to be our friends in the summer. My brother called them “pool pals.”

When my children were small, we had a pool and they spent hours every day swimming. Every summer my daughter’s hair turned green from the chlorine.

Now when I visit my granddaughters we go to the pool every day. It’s hot and humid in Texas and the water is cool and refreshing. The chemistry must be better now because my granddaughters don’t get green hair.

Long Days: As a kid I loved being able to stay outside later and later because it was still daylight. I still love the long days of sunshine. In the summer we can eat dinner in daylight. There’s time at the end of the day to take a bike ride in daylight. It’s even light in the morning, but I’m still not getting up early!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Nana Skypes An Interview

Update:  They called early this morning and left a message that they had hired another candidate.  I'd be wallowing in misery all day except my Woot! bag of crap is being delivered today and one can't be depressed when there's a BOC to look forward to!

I just finished my first Skype was awful!!  It really is difficult to dazzle people with my winning personality through a computer screen. I took Linda's advice and didn't wear the bright fuchsia jacket...I went with my basic black and white and I wore my slippers!

I was ready to  answer the question, why do you want this job?  But they didn't ask it.  I hate to waste a good answer...

Why do you want this job?

After a year in retirement I miss being in the action, making a difference for kids.  I enjoyed subbing, but I miss the ongoing relationships.  Yeah, I've got some skills.  I can write grants.  I'm a great presenter for staff development.  I've written hundreds of teacher evaluations.  I'm calm under pressure and screaming parents don't throw me.  I'm a team player and will go the extra mile to make sure I don't let you down.

When we were establishing our smaller learning communities at my former school, one thing we wanted to do was make sure that every student had at least one adult who knew him by name and knew him on more than a superficial level.  The research is pretty clear on kids who have been successful against great odds.  Many report that it was one person who made a difference, one person who believed in them, one person who gave them a break  I want to be that one person.

Oh, and I want to live closer to my grandchildren in Texas!

There are eight candidates.  Five of them interviewed in person, one by phone and one other misguided applicant used Skype like me.  I'm telling myself that if it was meant to be then it will happen.  But it will be hard to not be disappointed.

So, I guess I'll have to be retired for awhile longer...and I really don't see a dowside to that.  Except, I'm so far from the grandchildren.  I think I better schedule a vacation so I really feel retired.  I'm leaving for San Diego tomorrow!
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