Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Don't be diggin' my grave just yet

I've long decried our culture's emphasis on physical appearance, and in many ways I've refused to follow the accepted norms of aging women. 
I don't dye my hair.
I rarely wear makeup, except for a bit of lip gloss most mornings. Chapstick is my weapon of choice.
Skinniness has never been my goal, although I did spend the first forty years of my life being mostly on the slim side. Besides, the mere mention of a diet causes me to suddenly have a self-defeating ravenous appetite. 
And let me say right here, a certain percentage of my unwillingness to put a large amount of effort into my appearance is pure laziness. And a bit of angst that men are held to a different standard than we women. But I truly believe that our worth is determined by our good acts and by what is in our hearts and souls, and that is what should shine from our faces. But if your makeup and well-coiffed hair make you happy, you go ahead and keep on with it. We all draw our own lines in the sand, and that's how it should be. I suppose my wish for all of us is that we could feel free to be our unadorned ourselves, without the artifices that modern society has imposed upon us and without somehow feeling inferior.
I admire women who climb mountains at the age of 90 but I've never really aspired to be one of them. I am impressed with myself when I do an eight-mile hike or ride my bike anything over ten miles. Or climb a volcano, even if I did break my leg on the way down. I tell myself, at least it was on the way down!
But here's the thing. Lately, I have packed on the weight. If I gain any more, I will have to find wider leggings, and that would be just sad! When I look in the mirror with my glasses on, all I see are wrinkles. Droopy eyes. Graying hair. Saggy tummy and everything else. So I feel old and unattractive. And sometimes I just have to give myself a kick in the rear and remember that I can still go out and conquer mountains and muddy trails and pretty much anything else that comes my way. I may not look as cute as I used to but I can still live life to the fullest. I've been told that my smile is my best asset, so I'm going to use it. Lots! And I'm going to blog about the adventures so that I don't forget about them. Because you know, the memory ain't what it used to be either.

Last week, Jeff and I were on our own for Thanksgiving for the first time in almost 38 years of marriage. At first, I thought it would be okay to cook a small dinner just for the two of us. We had thought about going out to the Ranch, as some people were cooking a community dinner, but I had to work on Friday. Then I was able to do the group earlier in the week and so we drove out to central Oregon on Thursday morning. We met the Bradys down at the Senior Center and had a nice lunch, smoked turkey with all of the trimmings. Afterwards, we went over to see their partly finished house and then went home to relax at Vista House for the rest of the day. 
On Friday morning, Bryce and Brenda came over for a late breakfast and then we drove to the Metolius River with the intention of hiking about five miles round trip from the campground to the fish hatchery. And we did! It took us about an hour and a half to get to the hatchery, and less than an hour to get back to the car park. Two factors influenced the discrepancy. On the way there, some of us had to keep stopping to take creative photographs. And talk to fishing guides. On the way back, we were ravenous and highly motivated by the thought of buying dinner in Sisters on the way home.

There were lots of downed trees. This one was unusual because of the large rocks entwined in its roots.

The sign warned us of a detour around an unstable tree, but it took us a while to get to it.

There was a sign at the beginning of the trail that said it was the way to Wizard Springs, but I didn't think anything of it. And then we came upon it. It was actually quite impressive, as the water springs right out of the rocks and feeds the volume of the river.

There were many large trees in the river, almost always causing more white water in the already tumultuous torrent. I do love walking beside a raging river.

This tree was a mystery. It looked like a recent fall and the wood was shredded. We wondered if it was lightning, but there was no blackened wood. Bears and Sasquatch have also been suggested.

We arrived at the hatchery and the best part was when Brenda got up close and personal with the incense cedar in order to smell it.
It just smelled like wood to me but maybe I didn't get cozy enough with it.

We strode back with gusto and it felt great to be walking through the woods again. 
And so I will stop comparing myself to the extreme fitness types and be grateful for the many things I can still do. And then I will do them. Preferably with like-minded and fun friends!

My 61-year lucky streak

I am 61. 
I have never been in a car accident.
These two statements are fact.
But on September 12th I broke that lucky streak and slammed into a Ford truck as it pulled out of a side road right in front of me. I was driving at highway speed and the only thing, I believe, that saved Jeff and me from serious injury was the Eyesight technology in my lovely new Subaru. It sensed the truck before I did and slammed on the brakes so that we only caught the corner of the rear bumper of the truck, rather than the side of it. 
I also managed to swerve a little bit and then pulled over onto the shoulder. The truck crossed the highway and pulled onto another side road. I sat, shaken, and called 911. Strangely, the air bags didn't deploy, which was a blessing because I think they would have caused us more pain than we had. Within five minutes a state trooper was parking in front of us. We didn't realise that we were mere yards from the State Police station and were highly impressed with the speed with which she showed up. By then, the couple in the truck had walked over to us. They were elderly (as in "older than us") and the woman, who was supposedly the driver, looked like a meth addict. 
The trooper was very kind and helpful, especially after I told her I had never been in an accident before, and walked us through the process. 
We didn't think the car looked too bad, but later we learned that the battery had exploded upon impact and the car ended up being totaled.
Oh joy, car shopping again!
My poor baby.

You can see the splashes of battery acid that have started to corrode the engine.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. 
Pretty soon another state trooper pulled up behind us and we wondered slightly why all the fuss? Then the first trooper called out, "Susan, could you come over here?"
I obediently started to walk over to her and she quickly said, "Oh, I forgot your name is Susan too. I meant Susan _____," the driver of the truck. So Susan walked over and was immediately handcuffed. There was an outstanding warrant for her arrest. And the man had a suspended licence for DUII. As I said to Jeff, their day was a whole lot worse than ours!
Considering it was a pretty spectacular accident, we were very lucky. I ended up with a sprained ankle from, I assume, stomping on the brake pedal upon impact. And Jeff has developed some hip problems that should hopefully be resolved soon. But it could have been so much worse.
It has been very time-consuming dealing with the insurance companies and medical issues, but the other miracle is that the man who owned the truck had great insurance, so it hasn't cost us a penny. 
But we did have to go car shopping again and this is the result.

It looks just like the last one, right?
It is actually a  2018 Subaru Crosstrek, which has been the unfortunate victim of some design tweaking that does not make me happy, but my car-shopping tolerance was at an all-time low and I didn't have the fortitude to look for something else. I really wanted exactly the same car, but all of the 2017 models with Eyesight were sold out. 
We do love our Subarus, even if we're a little late to the game. 

Monday, November 27, 2017

The aliens have landed on my back lawn

Or, be careful what you do with that very useful silicone spray.

A couple of weeks ago I looked out onto our rain-sodden back lawn, which I have carefully tended since its third (or fourth) incarnation of several years ago. And I saw this very strange pattern developing on the grass. It was much less defined at the time.

The days passed, puddles came and went, and as the pattern became clearer I realised what it must be.
I like a weed-free lawn, you see.
I have spent hours pulling all of the little bits of seedy annual grass that somehow managed to survive the doses of RoundUp that obliterated the last lawn. I frequently scrutinize the area for baby clover plants or wee dandelions that might have the nerve to rear their heads among the blades of grass.
I prefer to hand pull the few weeds that find a spot to thrive in my garden, which has become an easier principle to hold since we decided to cover the flower and veggie beds with tree shreds. But once in a while, like at the beginning of fall when weeding has lost its novelty, I do a judicious spray with some weedkiller. We have just discovered the joys of silicone spray, since the WD40 lost its little straw and Jeff said wereallyneedsomenewWD40, pleaseohpleasecanwegetsome? Because you know that my frugal self just wanted to find a way to make the old stuff work. But I relented and we trotted off to Ace Hardware and when we saw the canister of silicone spray sitting on the shelf next to the other humbler oil-based lubricants, I had to have it. And it proved to be a miracle worker and we use it on everything we can think of.
Fast forward to The Day I Decided to Kill Weeds. For some reason, our garden spray canisters don't seem to last anywhere near as long as they should, so I was down to one little inefficient canister. I added the poison and started to push the handle up and down to create some air pressure, but the action was very sticky.  Then I had a light bulb moment.
So I sprayed the shaft with silicone and commenced pumping on the slabs of stone next to the greenhouse. That baby was slick and I was in the middle of congratulating myself on the forethought to buy that lovely silicone spray when all of a sudden, WHOOSH! The canister exploded, sending poisonous water all over the rocks and yours truly.
If I ever get cancer I will blame it on this event.
It may have gotten up my nose.
But at least, I thought to myself, it didn't get on any plants or the lawn.
Or did it?

And on that rainy day, I realised that the exploding spray had indeed reached the lawn. And apparently there had been enough of it to attach itself to the soles of my shoes and now there are alien footprints all over my lawn.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Summertime at Vista House

Oh, it's been hotter than Hades here in Oregon for the last couple of weeks. Officially 106 degrees for a couple of days, the hottest temps in my memory, but I'm pretty sure it was hotter than that in my little corner of our town. The window a/c has been running more than it usually runs in two or three summers, and it has been a little champ in making life bearable.
Now I am thinking back on early summer to when Annie and her kids were staying with us for a few weeks while Edwin was deployed. We love those babes, but having four kids under the age of seven (one of them a toddler who loved to scream) in the house could be nerve-wracking some days. Papa and I decided to escape to Vista House for a weekend and we took Gabe along with us. The lad is surrounded by girls and sometimes a guy just needs a break, ya know? He misses his dad something fierce when he is away, so we thought it would be good for all of us.
Gabe was hilarious as we drove out to Central Oregon. He was rather crowded by some iris bulbs and greenery that we had picked up from a friend on the way out of town, and he was not impressed by the spiders and other critters that started to emerge from the foliage as we traveled on. We stopped at Costco to pick up some yummies and Jeff repacked the car, shaking out the greenery and generally giving Gabe some breathing space. 
Well, I picked up a cooked chicken from Costco, because every trip needs a Costco rotisserie chicken, and Gabe was VERY excited. I love chicken, he reiterated several times. He also talked me into a Cars arty-erasable-felt-pen-thingie book, which I told him he would get bored with but he assured me he would not. Whom do you think was proven to be correct? Oh, and a life jacket for the pool.
So we wended our way along the highway, the car smelling like rotisserie chicken, and Gabe exclaiming frequently, I love chicken! And I love Nana and Papa! And various other things that he loved. That boy loves many things.
We wanted to stop and eat chicken and call it a picnic before the chicken got toxic, so somewhere around Detroit Lake we pulled into a state campground. We thought we might be able to sneak into a quiet spot, devour the chicken, and then sneak out again without having to pay the $5 for parking. We drove around the maze of campsites and couldn't find the promised picnic area, but finally stumbled on a covered barbecue area after we tried to get out of the campground and got lost again. 
Gabe was very hungry and gobbled up a surprising amount of fowl. We ate quickly and disposed of the bones, washed our hands in the conveniently placed water spigot, and made tracks to leave again. 

Jeff was just rearranging the car again... 

WAIT!!!!!!!!! Do you see this? My new car! I LOVE IT!!!!!!!!!!!!! After driving my Grandam for almost fourteen years, Jeff declared it was time for something new. I was kind of used to babying it along, but we needed something that would get us out to Central Oregon in the wintertime without having to get snow tyres put on his car every year. We settled on this Subaru Crosstrek and we adore it. If you are thinking about a Subaru, talk to me and I will tell you all of the reasons why I love it so!
Back to regular programming.

...and up drives a park ranger in his little electric cart. 
Um, we got lost officer, and we were just repacking the car and getting ready to find our way out. 
Which was true. Mostly.
We will surely go to hell for our prevarications. 
Just as well the chicken bones were already disposed of.
And the chicken grease washed from our fingers.

He kindly directed us out of the park and on we went.
Detroit Lake was looking more full than we have seen it for years. Sadly, I found out the next day that it was also full of toxic green algae. That can kill you.
I love that lake! pipes up Gabe from the back seat.

We stopped in Sisters and checked out my favourite cotton clothes shop, but nothing caught my eye. Gabe scored a windmill and we got a couple for his sisters. He was happy.

The next day we went down to the pool. Gabe's anticipation was intense, but the reality hit him as soon as he dipped his toes in the water and then he wanted nothing more to do with it. 
Well, Nana wasn't going to stand for that, so I did some stern talking and cajoling and bribing and threatening, and he finally allowed me to hold him close and walk around the shallow end. I sneakily encouraged him to be braver and braver and by the end of the hour he was having a blast, holding onto a borrowed pool noodle and walking along the shallow edge, working his way further and further out into the water as the minutes ticked by. And, of course, he didn't want to leave, but Papa had had enough.

We did puzzles.

Gabe and I went to some garage sales and scored an epic train set for ten dollars. Gabe proved to be an avid shopper and tried to talk me into many things. 

We were back at the Ranch for the week of July 4th. I mosied around the acre taking photos of some of my favourite things. 
I bought a pet carrier for ten dollars at a thrift store in McMinnville and the girls were quite happy to travel in it. Then they used it for a nesting box. One of my best buys ever.

The lavender bush was blooming profusely and every day I picked some stems and put them in the sun on a baking tray. By evening they were fully dry and I've been using the dried flowers in flax pillows.

Dandelions are not quite the same species out here. Somehow, I don't mind them as much.

Every time we go out to the Ranch we plant bulbs and weed and try to tidy things up a bit. I emptied these river rocks out of a vase in the living room and used them to pretty up some garden ornaments. 

We bought this bird house at the farmer's market and it had sparrows nesting in it. They were very perturbed at us for infringing on their privacy.

The yucca plants were pretty until the deer nibbled the blossoms.

We've been painting the gazebo, hoping to extend the life of the wood by a few years. Still not finished.

Jeff dug this flowerbed out a few years ago and we have been gradually filling it with irises and catmint. I think we are at the tipping point where there is more space covered in desirable plants than weeds.

My sister sent me a deer.
She did.
It found its home, gazing at the real thing in the gardens below.

We bought new blinds for the uncovered windows and Jeff installed them with a minimum of fuss and bother. 

This has been the best year for mariposa lilies. We love them and every day we wandered around the acre searching for new blossoms.

It's our little bit of Paradise, albeit a dry and windy one. Come up and see us some time!

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Wild turkeys, Red Rocks, and Buffalo Bill in Denver

Continued from this post.

Jeff had a couple of clients in the Denver area, so I went with him. If he had his choice, I would go with him every week. 
It was a big change of temperature from Atlanta to Denver. 
Jeff's first client was in Parker, so we drove south to our hotel. The plan was for me to drive him to the place of business in the morning and then I would be free to explore until it was time to pick him up in the evening and drive up to Evergreen to the next client. So the next morning I threw on some clothes and off we went. The route did not go as expected. We wound up some windy roads into the hills. It was a residential area and we wondered how we were going to find a manufacturing plant up in those hills. This is what we found when we reached the address.
Wild turkeys.
And deer.
And some very nice houses. 

Jeff called the client and apparently she had written her home address on the client form instead of her place of business. So we hot-footed it back to the hotel, I took a quick shower and packed my bag and off we went. To Evergreen. Same address as the second client.
Life seldom goes as expected. 
Jeff had been in the area and done some exploring on previous trips, so he suggested I visit Red Rocks and Buffalo Bill's grave. I decided on Red Rocks first and set off up the freeway. It was only a few minutes' drive and it was easy to tell when I got there. 
Red Rocks. 

I parked in the lot above the amphitheatre. I kept stopping to take selfies in front of the magnificent rocks but nothing did them justice. And then I saw the amphitheatre itself. 

It is a marvel of engineering, set right into the rocks. Concerts have been held at this venue for over 100 years. The amphitheatre was built between 1936 and 1941 using labour and materials provided by the CCC and WPA. So many famous bands and artists have performed here that it boggles my mind: The Beatles, Jethro Tull, Jimi Hendrix, John Denver (of course,) Carole King, The Carpenters, The Grateful Dead, U2, Coldplay, just to name a few. Jeff's favourite concert DVD of Piano Guys takes place at Red Rocks and many other bands have produced concert albums here. 
This photo isn't mine, but it gives you an idea of the majesty of the place.

I think it's kind of amazing that this whole place is open to the public. It is frequently used by people for exercise. The venue seats almost 10,000 people and a flight of 380 stairs on each side of the seating provides a natural site for athletic types to show off their cred. The woman in the blue tank top was squat jumping up the seat levels. Crazy. 

There she goes!

The view from the stage.

Carrying on down the steps and past the stage, you approach the hiking trails, which are 6,280 feet above sea level. 

The Trading Post Trail is only 1.4 miles, so I thought I would give it a go, in spite of the elevation. I surprised myself by thoroughly enjoying the solitary walk. There were a few fellow travelers, but for the most part I was the only human in sight and I was okay with that. It was a gorgeous day, warm and with the occasional cloud flurry, and I walked with my mouth open at the magnificence of the scenery. 

The trail starts to lead back to the beginning. I was a bit hot and thirsty but reluctant to leave.

I went back up to the amphitheatre a slightly different way and was glad that I hadn't seen this before I started my walk or I may never have continued.

This time I walked up this man-made path. 

Up the stairs this time. These are not included in the total of the 380 stairs by the seating.

And there they are.
Up we go!

I was a smidge tired after all of that stair-climbing and rock-clambering, but the day was yet young so I drove to Buffalo Bill's grave on Lookout Mountain. This overlooks the Rocky Mountain foothills and the Western plains, where Bill Cody spent many happy times.

Cody died in Denver in 1917 while visiting his sister. He had told his wife that he wanted to be buried up on Lookout Mountain, so he was buried here June 3rd, 1917. His wife, Louisa, was buried next to him four years later. There is some controversy on the subject, as the good people of Cody, Wyoming also claim that he is buried on Cedar Mountain, just outside his home town. It's an interesting story if you care to follow the link. Their foster son, Johnny Baker, was so worried about the feud between the two towns that he reburied the Codys under a ton of concrete to discourage any possible theft. 

The weather took a turn for the worse by the time I got back to the car so I went back to the hotel until it was time to pick Jeff up again.
That night we drove all the way up to Fort Collins to visit with some dear friends.
The next day I took late checkout and was completely slothful. It snowed overnight so after I checked out I sat in the lobby by the fire until it was time to leave.
I rather enjoyed my little break from the norm.
Now I want to see a concert at Red Rocks Amphitheatre.
Another jaunt for The List.