Thursday, April 30, 2015

A to Z Challenge: Y is for Yes!

My friend Linda over at Thoughts from a Bag Lady in Waiting, says in her sidebar that in retirement her life is "an opportunity to say yes."  It's a great philosophy and one I've tried to emulate.  It is easy to stay within the confines of the familiar, the safe, but more of a challenge to venture into the unknown.  This week we started a volunteer assignment at the Port Orford Lifeboat Station Museum as volunteer hosts for the Oregon State Parks.  Two weeks ago I read about the opening on a blog.  I emailed the State Parks host coordinator...and now I'm sitting at the host's desk at the Lifeboat Museum.  Out the window there is a stunning view of the ocean through the huge stand of Port Orford cedars because I said YES!  (Well, really we said "Why not?")

There were a lot of reasons why it wasn't a good time.  We'd just started painting the house and hadn't gotten the garden planted yet.  It seemed like it was too short notice to pack up and leave for a month.  But, we said, "Why not?"  We finished painting the house in record time and got new drip irrigation installed in the garden.  We harvested our first crop (radishes) and got tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers planted....then we packed up and left.  

The state parks provide us with a site to park our RV...we're the only campers in a little park with a short path to the beach.  Coastal deer roam through our yard.  Everywhere we look there are stunning views and very few people.  This afternoon (after work, and I never thought I would say THAT again) we're going to drive the coast looking for migrating whales.  The weather has been perfect.  I'm so glad we said YES!

Pictures tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

A to Z Challenge: X

I'm not the only one having trouble coming up with something for "X."  Sue Grafton, the author of the alphabet mystery series with a private investigator named Kinsey Milhone, broke tradition in naming her newest novel.  The earlier books in the series, starting with "A" is for Alibi , up to the most recent "W" is for Wasted, all started with a letter and "is for" followed by a word that starts with the same letter.  Then she got to "X" and had the same problem I'm having.  There just aren't any good "X" words.  The new book is "X"  ...that's it, just "X."  It will be released in August.

Monday, April 27, 2015

A to Z Challenge: W is for Working Vacation

The final letters of the A to Z Challenge are this week.  Why is it that as soon as I post a mediocre response to the day's letter I immediately think of numerous other topics starting with that letter that would be more interesting.  Yesterday's letter was "V" and I posted old vacation pictures of Venice because I couldn't think of a thing.  I could have used "vacation" and told you about our most recent plans for adventure.

This week we are leaving for a working vacation.  The spouse and I will be volunteer hosts at the Port Orford Lifeboat Museum.  I read about this opportunity on a blog I read, Wheeling It.  It is amazing the connections we make in the blogging community!  Now the spouse and I will be living at the southern Oregon coast for the month of May.  We get a free spot to park our RV in return for volunteering as hosts at the Lifeboat Museum for  five or six hours a day, four days a week.

We've spent the past week scurrying about to get ready to leave home for a month.  The garden is planted and new drip irrigation is installed.  It will be a jungle when we return, but we couldn't go a summer without a garden.  We've got new curtains in the fifth-wheel to replace the old roll-up blinds.  Our son will maintain the home front while we are gone.

We're looking forward to exploring the southern Oregon coast.  The spouse is excited to fish every day and I'm taking my kayak to try on the lake...I'm not brave enough to try the ocean!  There is Wi-Fi at the museum so I'm sure I will bore you with our adventures, not the least of which will be living in a small trailer for a month with the spouse!

Here's the fifth-wheel trailer we will call home for a month.  Nothing fancy, but it has all we need.

Thanks to Nina at Wheeling It for posting about this hosting opportunity.  I hope we cross paths one day in our travels...the first round is on us!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

A to Z Challenge: V is for Venice

The real challenge of A to Z is the end of the alphabet and we are approaching the end with the letter "V"   I googled up a list of "V" words and found nothing that inspired me.  So, I' m taking the easy way out and sharing some photos from Venice.  Two years ago my daughter had to go to Italy for her job and I decided to tag along and share her hotel room.  Venice was by far my favorite place.  It really is magical.

I couldn't get over that Venice looks just like all the pictures from travel magazines.  It was like no other place i had ever been.

The vendors sell everything from beautiful fresh vegetables to trinkets.

Venice is unique.  I am very fortunate to have shared this experience with my daughter.

Friday, April 24, 2015

A to Z Challenge: U is for Untold

U is for Untold, Unwritten, Unmentionable.  

It's all the stories that never make it into the blog.  Once I year I meet up with five fellow bloggers who I "met" through our blogs.  We have become dear friends and although we only see each other once a year, we are in contact frequently through our blogs and social media.  When we first met it was surprising how well we all got along.  We knew so much about each other through the words we had written in our blogs. It was like we were old friends. 

Here's a picture of my blogging friends at our first meeting on Vashon Island in Washington.

But there was also a lot that I didn't know about them, and that they didn't know about me.  When we were together we talked about the things that we don't write about, the things that we don't publish in our blogs, the things that are unmentionable.  All of us self-edit on the very public forum of our blogs.  Sometimes I don't tell stories because they're not mine to tell and sometimes I don't write because of a perceived potential for backlash...I've lived too long in a small town and know how gossip travels.

Writing in the calm and quiet of my living room it is easy to forget that our blogs have the potential to reach thousands of people.  I am sometimes surprised when I am in town and an acquaintance comments to me about one of  my recent activities.  I forget that local people read my blog.  

I long ago realized that I would never face a congressional hearing for a cabinet level job, but that doesn't mean I want ALL my dirty little secrets posted for eternity on the internet!  ...and I won't post the secrets of my fellow Vashonistas.  Well, unless it's a REALLY good story!

What don't you write about in your blog?

Thursday, April 23, 2015

A to Z Challenge: T is for Thankful

I'm a believer in counting my blessings.  Every year in November I participate with many other people on Facebook in posting a daily message of gratitude.  The first year I did it I found that focusing on what was right in my life made me a happier person.  Since then I've made a habit of noticing the abundance of goodness in my life. I'm grateful for blessings large and small.  

I allow myself to bask in enjoyment of new socks.  Who knew that new socks could be such a pleasure?  ...and I'm grateful.

Yesterday I drove to the Tri-Cities to visit a friend at the hospital.  On the drive I tuned the satellite radio to the Broadway channel and sang along to the show tunes....with NO commercials!  I'd be a fool to not appreciate this blessing.  Joyful music lifted my spirit and made the drive enjoyable.

Every day I am grateful to be retired and have the ability to choose how I spend my time.  The freedom of choice is a gift that I appreciate every day.

Life is good,  and I am Thankful.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A to Z Challenge: S is for Satan

I was searching the abyss of memory for a topic for "S,"  and then Satan rose from the depths.  Here's my story about Satan.

Most people think of Oregon as a liberal state, but I live in Eastern Oregon.  It's the red part of the state.   It's sort of the bible belt of Oregon and very conservative.  

For 7 years I was the vice principal in our one high school town.  Early in the school year the Christian students organize an event called "See you at the pole."   Students gather before school at the flagpole and pray.  Because it is a student-led event that does not disrupt the educational activities of the school, the administration does not intervene.

One year several students decided to express their displeasure of this activity by wearing devil horns, tails, and carrying plastic pitchforks.  I started getting phone calls about 15 minutes into the school day.

"My daughter is upset because YOU are letting students dress up as the devil.  It is not appropriate to have the devil at school."

Now, you might wonder how many phone calls I got from secular parents about the hoard of students praying and singing Christian songs at the front entrance to the school.  The answer is one in Eastern Oregon is surprised when people break into spontaneous prayer, even at a public school.

I explained to the Christian parents that freedom of speech allows students to express their beliefs, political leanings, and points of view.  If we allow Christian students to wear a "Jesus Saves" T-shirt, then another student is free to wear red plastic devil horns as a form of protest as long as neither expression creates a "material disruption of the educational process." 

Another reason to be grateful for retirement...I no longer have to participate in these stupid debates!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

2015 A to Z Challenge: R is for Republican

R is for Republican.  I'm married to one.  I'm not sure how that happened.  When we met in college he didn't look or act like a Republican.  We were both against the war (Vietnam) and I'm pretty sure that he voted for Jimmy Carter.  We served in the Peace Corps...Republicans don't do that!

I was raised a Democrat.  My family supported the civil rights movement and boycotted grapes.  JFK was our hero.  The spouse's parents supported Nixon.  I didn't know that when I married him.

Early in our married life we looked like every other hippie couple in the 1970's.  I thought we were liberal.  I think the spouse's Republican roots were dormant.  Once he hit his 60's he became more conservative.  It doesn't help that he listens to Republican propaganda on the radio...and actually believes that FOX News is a legitimate news source.

I'm not looking forward to the presidential election.  There will be many months of bickering, but at least the spouse won't be driving my car.  I'll have a Hillary bumper sticker and the spouse wouldn't want anyone to think he was a supporter!

2015 A to Z Challenge: Q is for qat, qi, cinq, qis

Words With Friends is a Scrabble-like game played on the internet.   On any given day I have four or five games going on.  I play with friends and a complete stranger named Chip.  I've been playing with Chip for several months and I know nothing about him, except he's never won a game he played with me.  I keep thinking that Chip will give up, but he keeps coming back for more.    In a game last week Chip was leading the entire game.  I thought he was finally going to win one.  Nope, I pulled off a win by 3 points.

I don't know why I continue playing the game.  I have anxiety every time I get a "Q."  I panic that I won't be able to play it and get stuck with a 10 pointer.  If I get a "U" and the "Q" hasn't been played, I'll hoard it just in case I get the "Q."  I usually wind up playing the favorite "Q" words:  qi, qat, and qis.  I have no idea what any of those words mean and I couldn't use any of them in a sentence, but they don't require a "U."  

I also panic when I have a "V" or a "C."  I really dislike those letters.  

These days my only stress is worrying about words.  It is good to be retired!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

2015 A to Z Challenge: P is for Port Orford

The city of Port Orford website  says that Port Orford is the oldest town on the Oregon coast and the most westerly in the 48 contiguous states.  The pictures show stunning ocean views.  Why am I writing about Port Orford you may ask?  The spouse and I are considering volunteering at Port Orford Heads State Park as Interpretive Hosts for the month of May.  The park will provide us with a camp site for our 5th wheel trailer and we would each volunteer 22-24 hours a week.   We've never been to Port Orford and this seems like a great opportunity to spend a month at the beautiful Oregon coast.  

Why are we hesitating?  We'd have to be there by May 1st.  We just started painting the house. (...and when I say "we" I mean the spouse and I, not some painting service.)  I was going to go to San Diego in May to see my Dad for his 88th birthday.  We still have a lot of work to do in the garden.  There are always a lot of reasons to say no.  That's just the fear of the unknown making itself heard.  I think we'll probably do this.  It will be an adventure.

Friday, April 17, 2015

2015 A to Z Challenge: O is for Oprah

I used to have a TV in my office at school.  Students were dismissed at 2:30 and the staff contractual day ended at 3:00.  I was usually in my office catching up on paperwork until at least 5:00.  I got in the habit of turning on the TV at 4:00 and listening to the Oprah show.  She kept me company.  My friend Shawn and I always wanted to attending a taping of her show in Chicago, but we were never able to get tickets, and then the show ended production.

Last September Oprah was in Seattle with the "Life You Want Weekend."  Shawn and I bought tickets and headed for Seattle.

Here's Oprah so pleased to see me...

...and here's the gift that Oprah gave me.  Well, me and the other 15,000 of her closest friends at the event in Seattle.

It's Oprah's Chai tea.  Oprah didn't miss an opportunity to hawk her merchandise.

It was a fun weekend but perhaps more for the company of my friend than anything we learned from the presenters.  I've crossed Oprah off my bucket list.

2015 A to Z Challenge: N is for the Nineteenth Amendment

N is for the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.  That's the amendment that prohibits any United States citizen from being denied the right to vote on the basis of sex.  This amendment was ratified in 1920.  While we may have won the right to vote, women are still fighting for equal rights.  Women have yet to achieve pay equity, earning 78.3% of men's earnings.  Not a month goes by that I don't read about another challenge to reproductive freedom, a constant assault to whittle away a women's right to make her own decision about her health and body.  Women's rights are a topic I am passionate about.  I resent that women's options in employment, education, health, in just about anything can be limited by a paternalistic society that treats women as second class citizens.

Whew!  Glad I got that off my chest.  Rant over...

Thursday, April 16, 2015

2015 A to Z Challenge: M is for Morning

This afternoon I took my car in to the dealer for its 5,000 mile service.  In the waiting room I was thumbing through a "women's" magazine.  I realized that a lot of the content just doesn't apply to me now that I'm retired.  I don't need tips for getting along with my boss and I especially don't need fashion advice.  I gave up fashion when I stopped working.  Cotton knits and comfy shoes are my retirement fashion statement.  One of the best choices I made in retirement was to give up  makeup so I can skip the tips on creating the perfect smokey eye.  I love being able to rub my eyes and not have to worry about raccoon eyes!

One article in the magazine pointed out that mornings can be the most hectic part of the day and offered suggestions for a "morning makeover."  It was another article I didn't bother to read.  Since I retired my mornings are relaxing.  I go to bed when I feel like going to bed and I get up when I wake up.  I haven't used an alarm clock for years.  Some mornings I just relax in bed and think about getting up...because I don't have to if I don't want to. 

In retirement mornings are the start of another day of doing exactly what I want.  I am blessed!

Monday, April 13, 2015

2015 A to Z Challenge: L is for Loss

The theme of loss has played over and over in my head today.  Maybe I can stop perseverating on this topic if I write about it.  I visited a friend today at the hospital.  Her spouse was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  He started chemotherapy several weeks ago, but after one treatment the assault to his system created other medical problems that were life threatening.  He is now struggling to recover from a ruptured spleen and the resulting infection and get well enough to start chemotherapy again.  They can't cure pancreatic cancer.  The best they can hope for is to delay the inevitable.  

What can you say to a friend whose entire life has been turned upside down?  The future that they had planned in retirement is lost.  Their goals are clearly focused: live long enough to see the birth of a first grandchild, walk a daughter down the aisle, leave the hospital.  

My heart aches for their present and future losses.  

2015 A to Z Challenge: K is for Kayak

Last year in the A to Z Challenge I wrote about the spouse and I taking a kayaking class through the Parks and Recreation Department.  We spent a beautiful early evening on the Columbia River learning a few basics about operating a kayak.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that I could keep up with the younger members of the class.

I'm the fourth from the left in the picture.

We never got around to buying kayaks last summer, although we did rent some one weekend when we had the grandchildren.  This year I am ready for kayak season.  I bought three kayaks last week for me and my two granddaughters.  The spouse is still looking for his perfect kayak because he wants a fishing kayak.  The grandchildren don't get here until June, but I'll be kayaking on the Columbia River this spring.  Watch for me.  I'll be the silver haired fox in the bright lime green kayak!

Friday, April 10, 2015

2015 A to Z Challenge: I is for Income Tax

I'm delaying filing my income tax until the last minute...we owe a tidy sum over and above what has already been paid.  I've always done our taxes myself...well, Turbo Tax and I.  Then last year I got a notification and a bill from the IRS for taxes due.  I had managed to mess up on our 2012 taxes.  I went to an accountant to help me sort it out.  This year I just took the file with all my receipts directly to the accountant.  Whatever it costs, it's the price I pay for peace of mind.  There is a part of me that is relieved to hand the task off to someone else, and a part of me that is irritated that the process has become so complex and high stakes that I can't do it myself.  But, tomorrow I will write the check and send it off and forget all about income taxes until next year.

2015 A to Z Challenge: H is for Home Again

We returned from camping this afternoon.  After four days the spouse starts to think about all the projects that he needs to complete at home.  Today's mission was getting home in time to pick up the parts for his riding lawn mower.  If we didn't get home by 6:00 he'd have to wait until Monday to get the parts and the lawn really needs to be mowed...

Maryhill State Park, Maryhill, Washington

So, we left Maryhill State Park and headed home.  The spouse got his parts picked up and I rejoiced at being re-connected.  I have several days of A to Z postings to catch up on.

I am grateful to have a home to return to.  My awareness of homelessness has increased dramatically after volunteering this winter at the warming station.  

Last week I cleaned up the garage.  I recycled a winter's worth of cardboard and newspapers and then returned soda bottles to the grocery store.  In Oregon, every returned bottle is worth five cents.  I was waiting in line with two large garbage bags filled with bottles and saw Marie at the machine next to the one I was using.   

I said, "Hi, Marie,"  and she looked at me with no recognition.  I stuck out my hand and said, "I'm Jann.  We met at the Warming Center."

"Oh, yes," she says, smiling at me. "How ya doing?" 

It was only later that I realized that she probably thought I was another Warming Center guest.  There but by the grace of God go I.  It's good to be reminded.

2015 A to Z Challenge: G is for Getting Away

The spouse and I needed a break from routine, so we loaded up the fifth-wheel and headed out camping.  We decided to check out Cottonwood Canyon, Oregon’s newest state park.  We’d been meaning to get there ever since it opened and had never gotten around to it. 

From Hermiston we headed west to Biggs Junction and then turned south and drove to the middle of nowhere.  It’s a beautiful drive on a two lane paved road that cuts through rolling hills with blooming wildflowers and not much else.  Occasionally another car would approach from the opposite direction, but mostly we had the road to ourselves.  We eventually climbed out of the hills to a magnificent vista of Pacific northwest mountains.  Adams, Jefferson, Mt. Hood were all visible in the distance under a bright blue sky.

Cottonwood Canyon is on the banks of the John Day River, nestled between rugged canyon walls.  The campsites are primitive, which means no water, electricity or showers.  There are toilets however.  None of that mattered to us because the fifth-wheel has battery power that lets us use lights at night and propane gas to keep the refrigerator running and make hot water.  We even have a nice shower.

What Cottonwood Canyon doesn’t have is connectivity.  There’s no Wi-Fi, there’s no cell phone service…NO CELL SERVICE, anywhere, even on top of the nearest cliff!

On day two of our trip we decided to drive into Condon, about 30 miles away.  The spouse says, “We’ll have lunch, check our email.”  We did have lunch in Condon, but there isn’t a restaurant that I’d recommend and there is no Wi-Fi.  Other than a micro mini Powell’s Books, there is nothing in Condon except spotty cell service in high spots.

Back in camp we rode our bikes and explored the old farmstead barn.  What there is in Cottonwood Canyon is solitude and a stark natural beauty.  There’s no traffic noise, no glaring lights, just the wind howling through the canyon.  At night the stars are clearly visible.

As we were sitting around the campfire the spouse said, “You know there could have been a thermo-nuclear explosion and we would know nothing about it.”

This is our third day disconnected, we’re getting along fine, except I keep worrying about posting to A to Z.  Life is good when my worries are this small!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

2015 A to Z Challenge: F is for Free Range

Earlier this year the Internet was filled with numerous stories about a family in Maryland that had been reprimanded by Child Protective Services for allowing their children, ages 10 and 6, to walk home by themselves from a playground about a mile from their home.  The parents were investigated and cited for not supervising their children.  These parents are part of the "free range" parenting movement.  

The free range movement promotes the idea that children need the freedom to explore their world on their own without hovering parents in order to develop self-sufficiency and self-confidence.

This year my granddaughters, ages 9 and 7, have walked home from school alone.  They are free range children.

No, this is not a picture of them walking home from school.  They do not live in the wilderness.  They live in the suburbs and walk from school through a residential area about a mile to get home.   They started practicing walking home at the end of the previous school year.  First with their parents by their side, and then trailed by their parents, and then finally on their own they walked home through suburbia.  They each carry a communication device that allows them to call their parents and allows their parents to track their movements.  They phone when leaving school and when arriving home.  Their parents arrive home a short time after they do.

I have to admit that I was a little apprehensive about the free range concept even though my brother and I and all our friends in the neighborhood were definitely raised as free range children.  We left the house in the morning and didn't return until late in the day when our mother would ring a cowbell and sing out our names calling us to dinner.  We didn't have play dates.  We just knocked on the door and asked our friends to come out and play.  We played outside...all day and ate lunch at whatever house was nearest, or not at all.  

I agree that kids need time to explore and develop self sufficiency, but I have to admit that when the granddaughters stay with me in the summer, they are rarely out of sight.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

2015 A to Z Challenge: E is for Eggs

Tomorrow is Easter and that seemed to be a good choice for the letter E, but I had nothing to say about Easter.  Since our children are grown and the grandchildren live far away, there are no special festivities or unique Easter memories to write about.  So,  I settled on eggs...because they were on sale at the grocery store.  Five dozen eggs for $3.99 with a coupon.  It was such a deal that I couldn't pass it up.  Five dozen eggs and I still have half a dozen in the refrigerator from the last dozen I bought a few weeks ago.  How long do eggs keep?  Five dozen eggs take up a lot of room in the refrigerator.  What am I going to do with FIVE DOZEN EGGS???

Happy Easter!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

2015 A to Z Challenge: D is for Devil's Tower

All this month I will be participating in the A to Z challenge.  I will write a post  every day except Sundays.  Twenty-six posts, one for each letter of the alphabet, starting with "A" on April 1.  

Last summer the spouse and I took an extended road trip with our grandchildren in our RV from Oregon to South Dakota and back.  We marveled at Mount Rushmore.
Oh wait, that's the girls at Wall's the picture of Mount Rushmore 

We camped in Yellowstone and woke up to snow on the ground (in June!).  This is Hunter playing in the snow in her pajamas and cowboy boots.

 We watched Old Faithful erupt right on schedule.

We outfitted the girls in cowboy boots in Cody, Wyoming.

But, today is the letter D, so I'm compelled to tell you about Devil's Tower National Monument in Wyoming.  Devil's Tower is our nation's first national monument, established by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906.  It rises dramatically 1,267 feet above the surrounding terrain in northeastern Wyoming.  We could see it from miles away and it seemed to get taller and taller as we drew closer.

Still miles away we stopped to take pictures.

This is the view from the parking lot.

We hiked up to the base of the monolith and saw these signs posted along the trail.  The monument is a sacred place to the Lakota and other tribes and they pray and worship there.

This picture taken closer to the base of the monolith gives you an idea of the rugged terrain and its size.

Before we visited this national monument all that I knew about it was that it was the mountain from Close Encounters.

We saw no aliens while we were there.

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