Sunday, July 31, 2011

Part II: Even less funny

If you just tuned in, go back and read yesterday's post.

Fast forward a year, to the next summer.
You guessed it! We're off on another rafting trip.
Same amateur friends. Same lack of helmets.
I did tell you to remember that one. 
A little foreshadowing there, did you notice?

We were on a small raft with its owner, Dave, and a teenager, John. The day was just as gorgeous and fun, albeit uneventful until we floated past the point where we had bailed out the year before. Having missed out on Oak Springs, a Class IV rapid, I was jazzed to see if we could hit it just right. You see, at Oak Springs the water gushes through a narrow gap between two large rocks.

If you get lucky, your life dangles by a thread as your raft dips its nose down a precipice of white water. You feel an thrilling rush as it traverses the hazardous gulf to calmer waters. 

Well, we did hit it just right and it was an anticlimax. We had heard horror stories about this particular rapid, so I felt a bit let down.
I know, silly me, right?
I voiced my complaint to Dave.
You know I did.
He asked me if I wanted to get out and pack the raft back upriver to do it again.
Of course I did!
So this time we hit it completely wrong.
All I remember is being underwater and feeling perfectly serene. I'm pretty sure I was breathing water, being held under by a strong current. It happens a lot by the biggest rapids. I have no memory of the passage of time or of any panic, but then someone pulled me up to the surface. Jeff had managed to keep hold of the raft and felt something brush by his feet. 
It was me. 
The men righted the raft and we crawled back in. As we commenced our journey, Jeff noticed that my head was bleeding and he started messing with my hair. He was quite distressed to find that my head was cut to the skull. My husband does not handle blood very well; he goes green when he has blood drawn! 
Lucky me, I have very little memory of the next few hours, but I'm told we floated down the river to the end of our journey and, once again, we headed back to Newberg to the emergency room.
And the same nurse was on duty that had been there the year before.
And she remembered us.
It was mildly embarrassing.

I spent the night in hospital with a concussion, one of several in my life.
Do you begin to see a pattern here?
I didn't sleep much because I was in and out of the bathroom all night. Apparently, I also swallowed an enormous amount of the Deschutes River.
Annie, who was only three, was traumatized for days at seeing her mother in a hospital bed.
My own mother chastised me severely for risking my life in such a manner.

We didn't attempt rafting again for a long time, but it always galled me to think that that rotten river got the best of me. So five or six years ago, when my gym owner gave me a voucher for some guided tours on the Deschutes, I was nervously ecstatic.
Finally, I would face my fears and show that river who was boss.

We took Annie and Charlie.
We wore helmets.
We had a guide.
We had the best day together, but as we approached Oak Springs I felt a yawning pit where my stomach should have been. All of those old fears came rushing back at me and I felt nauseous. The guide knew my story and was reassuring, but I have never felt such an adrenaline rush as when those rocks came into sight. I gripped the handholds with all my might and braced myself against the side of the raft. 

And then, as we sped through the gap and out the other side, my mind and body were flooded with exhilaration. In a strange way, it was one of the best moments of my life. I, who happily shun roller coasters and gigantic bungee cords and say Phooey to skydiving and base jumping, I faced my fear and I won!

Which must have given me a false sense of accomplishment, because there is one more story.
Only it's not about rafting.
Tune in tomorrow.
You will understand why I am left at home, more often than not, these days.


Saturday, July 30, 2011

A funny/not-so-funny story

After writing the last post, I got to thinking
it does happen once in a while, you know
about the reason Jeff and I don't get invited on extreme adventures any more with our athletic friends.

It all started about 25 years ago, shortly after we moved up to Oregon. A couple of people at church owned rafts and asked us if we wanted to join them on a white-water rafting trip on the Deschutes River. It was more excitement than we had seen in a long while (maybe ever) so we made arrangements for the kids and off we went.

My mothering heart grows faint at the thought of the intrepidness and naivety of the state of our minds. We were about to embark on an often treacherous stretch of water with a bunch of amateurs and no helmets. A stretch of water on which people die almost every year.

Go here to see more photos. I have none of our trips. Pitiful, pitiful me.
Bear that in mind for Part II of the story.

We camped overnight on some very rocky ground and climbed aboard the rafts early the next morning. I think there were maybe three rafts and a dozen or so people in our group. It was a beautiful Eastern Oregon day and we had a blast. We paddled through rapids and jumped in the water and splashed each other and reveled in the sunshine as it glittered on the pristine water. At some point in the afternoon (remember, it was a long time ago, so you readers who were there on this trip may disagree on the details) we stopped for a break. The ground was covered in rocks and walking was slightly treacherous. Jeff decided he needed to relieve his bladder, so in his modest way he was searching for a spot that was completely out of the way. Pretty soon, we heard a yell. Jeff had injured his ankle and was in enormous pain. His ankle immediately swelled up and he had to be helped back to the raft. Luckily, we were almost back to where the road meets the river so Barb (yes, the same Barb) and her husband drove up to get him.

Questions occur to me, like How did they get back to their van, or did they not come on the rafts and were just waiting for us at the end?

I don't know, but I'm sure someone will tell me.

Anyway, after a small mishap in the crowded parking lot when the van got hit by a truck, we drove back to Newberg. Three hours, with Jeff in pain and, oh yes, still needing to pee.

We took him to the hospital and he was diagnosed with a dislocated ankle and sent home with crutches. He spent three weeks on those crutches, so it was, in fact, a pretty bad injury.

A few thoughts about that trip:

  1. We missed some of the best (read: most exciting) rapids because we had to leave early.
  2. I have always felt like I owed Barb and Larry because of the damage to their van. I know it cost them and I wish I'd have had the thoughtfulness to share that cost. One of the regrets of my thoughtless youth.
  3. It was about five hours between Jeff's initial foray onto the rocks and when he was finally able to empty his bursting bladder. Which is, when you think about it, the funniest part of the story.
  4. Some time that same summer, I don't remember if it was before or after our adventure, some of those same friends went out and one of the rafts flipped and trapped a young daughter underneath. Luckily, they were able to rescue her, but it was a close one.
  5. What was I thinking? 

To be continued.

You didn't think that was all there was, did you?
You should know me better than that!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

On being not awesome

During my entire childhood and youth, I never willingly entered a sporting event.
When forced to compete, I came last in every race.
I missed every basket in basketball.
I failed to serve the ball over the net in volleyball.
I landed in the middle of the vaulting horse in gymnastics and could not do a backwards roll to save my life.
I don't even want to describe how bad I was at baseball.
Even my best friends would only choose me for their team if they had no other choice.
The only sports I found to be mildly attractive were cricket and hockey.
But I was no good at those either.
Nobody ever said, Wow, cool, Susan's on our team!

Nowadays, my friend Janet in England goes out on a Saturday and does a hundred-mile bike ride just for fun.
My friend Brenda just ran a marathon.
I have friends who climb mountains and do triathlons and bike 200 miles in a day.
It makes a girl feel insufficient, really it does!

Wednesday night will often find me out on a beautiful 16-mile bike ride in the country with friends.
Tonight was no exception.
On the way home, against the wind all the way, I was bemoaning my slowness. To accentuate my feebleness, consider this. My best friend, Barb, had come on her first ride on a borrowed bike. She was afraid that she would lag behind, but, to no one's surprise, she was faster than me. She pedaled up the big hill with ease, hardly changing gears. 
I was discouraged, even though I rocked the downhill on the way home!
Barb is a natural athlete. 
I am not. Everything I do in the way of physical activity is hard for me. I don't think it's my weight, because I was very slim until about ten years ago and even then it was always hard. Maybe I don't have enough motivation, or maybe I'm not built for it. 
Whatever the reason, it frustrates me.
Barb and I have exercised together for over 20 years and she has always been able to out-walk, out-run, out-everything me.

To Barb's credit, she is a very kind person and always pretends that she doesn't mind walking instead of running, or running slower than she needs, or, like tonight, hanging out in the back of the pack with me.
I couldn't ask for a better exercise-friend.

On the home stretch, after I indulged in my aforementioned moan, Kristi asked me what I liked to do as a child.
Wasn't that nice of her to ask? She has a gift of being interested in what you have to say.
It was an easy question. I loved to read and play the piano and listen to music and sketch and cook and sew. Sedentary occupations. I walked and rode my bike, but only as a means of getting somewhere, not for (perish the thought) exercise. 

So, even though I am not an awesome athlete, I am grateful for friends who encourage me and are patient when they have to wait for me to catch up.
Like Ellen, who picks me up and hauls my bike on the back of her van and never complains when I am too tired and weak to lift my bike onto the rack.
And Brenda, who encourages me to run and tells me she doesn't mind riding slowly so that I can keep up.
Because of them, I will continue to fight the good fight, even when it hurts.

That's Barb in front next to me.
She looks like she hardly broke a sweat.

When I got home, Jeff told me my face looks skinnier.
Which, no way it's true!
But Thanks dear, your face looks skinnier too!
Only his really does.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

A party, a list, and a recipe

I had a busy week (well, except for Thursday, which was the last blog post, so you know I'm lying) so it was with relief that I awoke on Friday morning and lay in bed long beyond the hour when I should have gone for a run or biked to the gym. It was a perfect summer's day, our best yet this year. So I sat on the deck, put my feet up, admired the sunshine, listened to the birds sing, and drank my healthy smoothie.

Yes'm, nothing like a pair of feet in some Keen flip-flops to add some class to a pretty back-yard picture!

Mid-morning, I picked up Thomy and Jeff and headed out to Bethany's house for Joshie's fifth birthday party. It was a low-key affair, only four non-family participants, but Jeff pulled a bashful.
He hid at the top of the stairs. 
Slowly, he descended, until he was on the bottom step.

And there he stayed, in varying degrees of concealment...

...until, at last, I jollied a smile out of him.

Even a promise of a cupcake and ice cream did not tempt him for some time.
He sneaked around the corner and under the piano.

Eventually, he warmed up and joined the rest of the Bedlamites and had a great time.
Did I get a photo of the birthday boy?
No, I did not.
I am a bad Nana.

Kenzie came home with me and was to stay until Monday, but alas, due to several misdemeanours on her part, which shall not be mentioned but did not come to light until she had left home, Mom said she had to go home today.
But never let it be said that we let the grass grow under our feet.

Kenzie was playing on my laptop in the evening and told me very gravely that she thought Miley Cyrus had killed Selena Gomez.
I don't think so, Kenz.
But look Nana, it's right here on Youtube.
So I Googled it and was able to reassure her that Miley had not killed Selena.
That there are many rumours on the internet so you have to be careful.
I'm still not sure she believed me.

A little later, she pipes up, Nana, does Google know everything?
Which, trust me, opened the door to a much bigger conversation!
Later, she informed me that she didn't like Justin Bieber because he had cheated on (insert name of teenage star here) with (some other teenage star).
Crikey. She's ten. I told her she wasn't even allowed to think about romance any more.
Then I found out her mom doesn't even let her go on Youtube.

We stayed up late and watched Larkrise to Candleford on Friday, so slept in on Saturday.
We went for a run/scooter ride (I run, K rides a scooter) just before noon, which was far too hot so we came home after one long lap.
Then we made lists.

The girl needs to work on her penmanship, but don't you love how she adds things to the list after we've done them and then crosses them off?
I do that.
So we tri(p)mmed roses.
Yes we did.
And fertilized and watered them and weeded.

And then we came in the house and talked Jeff into vacuuming.
And we traded off pitting cherries and sweeping the kitchen.
Two quarts of pitted cherries in the freezer.

And we made cookies from a Marie Callendar mix.
And ate them.
And we thought about making cinnamon rolls but we were tired, so we went to Freddie's instead.
This is what Kenzie wanted to get:

Is any of it on sale, Kenz?
Then we're unlikely to get it.

So we got what was on sale, picked up a couple of movies, and came home.
Kenzie spent the rest of the evening watching what could be one of the world's worst movies.
Gnomeo and Juliet.
Give the girl a television and no sibling competition and she is in heaven.

This morning we arose early and made bagels before church.
If you've made it this far without falling asleep, you will be rewarded with the easiest and bestest bagel recipe ever. 
I was going to teach Kenzie how to make a loaf of bread in the breadmaker so that she could do it at home, 

but she learned how to make bagels instead.
And aren't they beautiful?

The original recipe is one that I've been making for about twenty years, but I simplified it and use the breadmaker to mix the dough.

Honey Wheat Bagels

Add to bread machine:
2 1/2c unbleached flour
1 1/2c wheat flour
2 tsp salt
2 1/2tsp yeast
2 tbs honey
1/2c water
1/2c milk
1 egg (see note at end of recipe)
3 tbs oil

Mix on the dough cycle, Dough should be stiff, not sticky at all. At the end of the cycle, divide dough into 12 pieces. Roll each into a rope shape and form into a circle, making sure to pinch the ends together well. Place on a cookie sheet (I love my Silpat) and let sit for about 15 minutes while you bring some water to boil in a large skillet. 
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. 
Gently pop the bagels into the gently boiling water and cook for one minute on each side. Put the bagels back on the cookie sheet. Brush with egg wash and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, till lightly browned.
NOTE: Beat the egg lightly in a custard cup and add most of it to the machine. Add a little water to the remaining egg and mix well. Use as the egg wash.

You will not believe how much more delicious these are than store-bought bagels.
And, no evil high-fructose corn syrup. Have you noticed how almost all bagels contain this now?
You can alter the recipe by using all white flour, adding cinnamon and raisins or cranberries and orange zest, or sprinkling with poppy or sesame seeds.
Now go.
Let your imagination run wild!

And no, we didn't make cinnamon rolls.

So Bethany, seeing as how Kenzie is grounded till Friday, why don't you put her to work making bagels?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Slug Diaries

This morning, feeling sluggish because I had no reason to be otherwise, I stayed in bed until the last minute.
Then the piano student for whom I had arisen was a no-show.
So I meandered lazily onto the deck and decided to check on the size of my tomatoes.

Now, we have had a very cold and wet spring and summer in Oregon so far, as I have already mentioned. I am convinced that everything in my garden is going to ripen while Jeff and I are in England in late September. So, I figure a little positive reinforcement from moi cannot do any harm.

As I descended the single stair of the deck, I noticed the pile of sunflower seeds that are making a big mess beneath Jeff's bird feeders.

Self, I said to myself, you must remember to give Jeff a niggle about that tonight.
See, I try not to nag, so I niggle instead!

These are the biggest specimens so far and I gave them a pep talk.
Grow, little tomatoes, grow. 
Show your brothers and sisters how to do it.

Sadly, the other tomato plants are sporting only a few little runts like this.
I am happy to report that this plant, which is in the pot by the deck, has stopped dropping its flowers and is finally producing babies.
Come on, baby, grow. You can do it!

I took a peek at the grapes, which we pruned harshly this year. We had a bumper crop last year that was so sour I have to add as much sugar to the juice as is called for in Koolaid. Yuck! I thought it was because I had let them overproduce, but further research gave me the answer. I had pruned the excess growth off the vines quite religiously throughout the summer. Last summer was fairly cool too, so I thought it would allow the grapes to catch more sun and also get more nutrients from the roots.
Pruning the foliage had deprived the fruit of the energy they receive from photosynthesis. Thus, they did not get sweet. Boy, did I feel foolish when I figured it out!
I will make no such mistake again. Ever.
They are looking promising.

As I was standing by the crocosmia/nasturtium bed, a hummingbird flew up and started feasting on the nectar from the blossoms. The wee thing was only two feet away from me, so I stood stock-still, ruing the fact that I didn't have my camera in my hand. 
So there we were, me, motionless, and little hummingbird, flitting in and out of the flowers, perching on a crocosmia stalk with his tiny tongue flicking in and out of his beak, then back to harvesting, off to a grape vine for another rest, and finally, over the fence.
I was enraptured.
For this, I fill my garden with nectared flowers that might entice hummingbirds, and this year it seems I have succeeded. Almost every time we look outside there is one hovering at the penstemon or perching in the crepe myrtle. I never knew how much hummingbirds sat!

I reluctantly left the veggie garden and almost stepped on this little guy.

I looked at him.
He looked at me.
I stood ever so still.
He kept eating the sunflower seeds.
I skirted my way around the edge of the lawn and crept into the house to get my camera.
He eyed me cautiously but kept on eating.
I took a picture and was glad that something was eating the other-wise wasted seed.

Then Jeff came home and told me it's probable that the little blighter is the one who tipped all the seed onto the ground.
And I felt less empathetic towards the squirrel.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Ruminations on Armageddon and me

I just finished reading a book called The things That Keep Us Here, by Carla Buckley. 
I have been looking for some new authors to read, feeling a little ennui with my usual fare. This one looked enticing, as it proved to be. I read most of it in one sitting yesterday after church.               

It really made me think.

The premise is that a pandemic of avian flu takes hold of the world. About 40% of the population dies. The story follows the family of one of the researchers. Even though they were aware of the imminent danger, they were still very unprepared for the catastrophes that ensued when power and public services were lost, grocery store deliveries were sporadic, and anarchy became the norm.

The scenario is not unrealistic.

I'm known around these parts as the preparedness guru, but this book made me painfully cognizant of the holes in my arsenal. Even though I sit smugly at home when there is a storm warning, no running to BiMart for batteries and candles for me, thank you very much, there is still more to do to prepare for long-term survival.
  • I still don't have a plan for water. In Oregon, I believe a high-quality water purifier is the answer. I need to get on that one.
  • If anything happens in winter, we would have fuel for a couple of months, but I want to get an extra cord of firewood this year and buy some more large propane tanks. And keep them full.

  • I need a shotgun and lots of ammo. People get crazy in emergencies and I want to be able to protect the ones I love. And all my stuff. Yes, all my stuff. I will share, but I will not have it taken from me by thugs.
  • I need to really think through the kind of things we might need long-term that wouldn't be available in stores. Like Shoe Goo. Duct tape. Antibiotics. Vitamins. I wonder if pills last longer when they are vacuum-packed?

  • We need to be more diligent about keeping our cars full of gas. I want to make sure that we could go pick up the kids if they needed us. Or get back home from wherever we are.
  • We have absolutely no kind of generator and the thought of it is making me crazy.
This might sound a little farfetched to some of my readers, but, to me, preparedness is a mindset. Sure, it's full of long to-do lists, but as you get some of the items crossed off those lists, peace of mind gets a little closer. You have to live it, not just think guiltily it about once every month or two. 

So you see, all those innocuous posts about vegetable gardening, canning butter, grinding wheat, vacuum sealers, and stacks of toilet paper and pasta, have much deeper implications. I am really a right-wing, gun-totin' survivalist. 

And, if you're nice to me, I might take care of you when all hell breaks loose.

Lookin' a bit manic, aren't I?
Self-portraits are rarely flattering.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

John Wayne, Johnny Cash, and...

...John Deere, of course!
Every time I see or hear "John Deere", I think of this song.
I love it!

Disclaimer: The photos are cowpucky. Have you tried taking photos of a parade from the third row back lately?

The best Independence Day parade around here is in St. Paul, which is a short country drive (or a medium bike ride) from our house. St. Paul is a tiny town that comes alive every year with the famous St. Paul Rodeo.

The population of St. Paul in 2009 was 449. It is named after the St. Paul Mission. The mission was founded in 1838 by Archbishop Blanchet, who ministered to the Catholic inhabitants of French Prairie. The Catholic Church in the middle of town was built in 1846 and is the oldest building in the Pacific Northwest. 

The rodeo is one of the biggest in America, offering prize money of over $500,000 and attracting almost a thousand competitors. The whole town gets involved, volunteering and making money.

The parade, which takes place on the morning of July 4th, is awesome and heavy on John Deere and patrotism.

Thomy and Jon, looking unimpressed by it all, as usual.

The two Jeffs, having a good time, as usual.

The best drumming group I have seen in a long time.
The Last Regiment Syncopated Drummers.

A Goth drumming band.
Some of the participants were more than a little scary.

I'm not lying, am I?
The guy with his hand up was somehow directing the group. 
I wish I could have watched them for more than the few seconds before they passed.

Of course, old Abe showed up. 
He's not one to miss a parade!

And there were horses galore.
Topped with sheriff-type people...

...and nattily dressed caballeros...

...and rodeo princesses, only for some reason I didn't get any photos of those...

Insert photo of rodeo princess here

...and pulling wagons.

And there was a lone miniature horse, who I just wanted to take home and eat.
Not literally, of course.

Oh, and don't forget the goats, who had stars upon thars.

There were classic cars galore...

...and some, um, not-so-classic cars.

There were enough American-made trucks to make any red-blooded cowboy happy for a millenium.

Oh yeah (in a deep, gruff, voice).

This one.

Did I save the best till last?
You betcha.
Oo, I've been dying to say that all day!

John Deere.
The St.Paul farmers looove their John Deere.

Our houses are protected by the good Lord and a gun
And you might meet 'em both if you show up here not welcome son
Our necks are burnt, our roads are dirt and our trucks ain't clean
The dogs run lose, we smoke, we chew and fry everything
Out here, way out here

We won't take a dime if we ain't earned it
When it comes to weight brother we pull our own
If it's our backwoods way of livin' you're concerned with
You can leave us alone
We're about John Wayne, Johnny Cash and John Deere
Way out here

We got a fightin' side a mile wide but we pray for peace
'Cause it's mostly us that end up servin' overseas
If it was up to me I'd love to see this country run
Like it used to be, oughta be, just like it's done
Out here, way out here