Any Snow is Good Snow

Snowpocalypse is now winding down in Portland.

It is steadily raining now and the snow looks sad and bloated, like a Slushy with all the syrup sucked out.

Day two, it was fresh though, and even the dumbest little incline at the neighbor’s house offered a super-awesome ramp:


You can do a lot on a broken skateboard.  Francis wondered why people buy snow boards at all.


Too bad that you crash into parked cars at the bottom of this!IMG_7876

Something about the snow blanketing everything just makes us want to walk out to lunch.  I love living in the city for this reason.IMG_7896

Hilariously, as the snow makes everything in Portland grind to a halt, it occurs to me that cities all over the US have more snow for longer and yet they manage to keep their schools open and government running.  Oh well!  I like the general panic that comes over our town when it snows.  Who really wants to go anywhere anyway?IMG_7905

10 More Important Things

The Huffington Post recently did a little piece called 35 Things That You Must Agree Upon Before Getting Married.  It was cute.  But while I was totally on-board with #35, (Is it okay to clip toe-nails in the living room?)—-I say, “yes”, Brad says, “No way”, I thought some questions lacked that critical edge that every long-married person is well-acquainted with.  After all, who really cares how many chocolate chips are in the cookie?  It’s the towels that count!  And so, with too much time on our hands, Kirstin, Anne, Mom and I sat around and crafted our own little list.  Please add any we forgot in the comments section.

  1. What is the correct way to fold towels, 3rds or flat in 4ths?
  2. How often do you scrub the tub—on a regular schedule with other bathroom cleaning or only as visibly dirty?
  3. Once a magazine has been read, how long should it be kept around?
  4. At a guest’s house, how do you leave the toilet seat?  (If it was down and you put it up, do you put it back down and vise versa?)
  5. Is it okay to use the toilet while someone else is taking a shower…. in the same restroom?
  6. And while we’re on the topic of peeing, is it okay to pee outdoors, even when you are not camping or hiking?
  7. Cups in the cupboard, rims up or rims down?
  8. When opening a new loaf of bread, do you take the first slice (the heel) or dig past to the next piece?
  9. Is a towel something that just one person uses until it is laundered, or does the whole family share the towel?
  10. If you buy the pie crust, did you really make the pie?



Our Triumphant Return to Portland–Thumbs Up Wrap Up


brad az

Favorite Site:  Newberry Lava Tube

Being in the the dark alone with a lantern is super fun. Not having been in one before, I wasn’t sure what my reaction would be, but it was so pleasantly odd without being too claustrophobic. The kids had very differing reactions. Francis was freaked out (this is common), Zephyr was staying close but doing all kinds of ninja moves at the darkness, Inez was hauling ass down the tube with no light at all. We got some okay pictures down that there don’t adequately demonstrate this difference, but it’s close: Inez is grinning like a maniac and Francis is hugging her parents. I hope to go again soon.

Trip Thumbs Up

Animals! We saw a bunch: deer, eagles, salmon, elk, antelope, cattle, a cat with seven toes on her front feet, a coyote, and I even saw an emu (on a game farm near the road at 30mph, but whatever). At the High Desert Museum we saw otters, a porcupine, a lynx, a bobcat, an owl, tarantulas, turtles. And of course we felt particularly close to the cougar even though we didn’t see it.  Animals.

It was also great just to be together without being under pressure to get anywhere in particular. If we wanted to stop somewhere, we could and did. Took lots of detours, like to the Crane hot springs where we got hailed on. We weren’t even intending to go to Bend when we started the trip, but we spent four days there. Everything worked out great.




Favorite Site:  It was a tie for me between the Redwoods and the Wallowas.  The hike that we did to Slick Rock convinced me that I want to make it back to the Wallowas for an extended hiking trip.  When you start out hiking and are suddenly met with a mountain in your face—bam!  That’s amazing.  Those mountains are just giant and impressive and they seem to come out of nowhere.  And trees always have a special place in my heart.

General Thumbs Up:  There is tons to learn about our gorgeous state.  Whether it is history or geology or the natural world, this state has something to give at every turn.  I was so impressed with our National Parks System.  Thank you Teddy Roosevelt!  What forethought to know that we would want to preserve and protect our natural spaces.  And thank you people who figure out interpretive signs and maintain them.  If it were up to me, I would have just made stuff up, but these people made interpretive signs that are intelligent and educational!  And people who build hiking trails.  And Ezra Meeker.  I am still blown away by characters like Ezra Meeker.  This is a state full of Meekers, people who believe very strongly in their own weird little thing and are willing to walk miles and miles to prove it.

I don’t know if this is a negative reflection on my life, but I actually didn’t really want to come back.  I like doing things and feeling helpful for people in my community, but sometimes the appointments on the calendar feel so oppressive.  I have a million things that I am suppose to get to, which are just a million opportunities to be late or forget what I am suppose to do.  Everyone wants me; everyone needs me.  I felt so free away from a phone and unable to do anything for anyone besides our immediate family.  There is something here to consider and learn from, so I am tucking this sensation in my cap to turn over this fall.  How do I “get away” while I am actually living?

My final impressions of our trip— guess what?  Oregon is still wild!




Favorite Site:  The Oregon Caves

I was so excited to be somewhere where everything was so warped and enchanted.  There were possibilities around every corner.

 Trip Thumbs up

The libraries in the small towns were so nice.  I liked them a lot.  They are a way to stop and relax for a bit.  You didn’t have to have a library card.  You could just relax in a corner and read a book.

 Just being somewhere where we didn’t have a normal routine, and we were able to do something fun each day, and nothing was ever boring or normal.



Favorite Site:  Crystal Crane Hot Springs, Eastern Oregon

This one was a pond strangely.  It was very hot and muddy on the bottom.  It was really big and I could touch in half the way through.

Trip Thumbs Up

 The trip was fun because there was lots of hot springs.  I liked camping because the sleeping bags were so comfy.  And I liked marshmallows.





Favorite Site:  Mt Howard in the Wallowas

We feeded the chipmunks and they were so cute!  I made friends at every campground.


Animals we saw or heard on our trip

  • eagles (bald and golden)
  • chipmunks
  • squirrels
  • wolves
  • coyote
  • cougar
  • hermit crabs
  • crabs
  • rock fish
  • sturgeon
  • trout
  • elk
  • giant pacific salamander
  • deer
  • prong horn antelope
  • gophers
  • sea lions
  • seal
  • wild mustangs
  • starfish

Now we’re home and not feeling like going much of anywhere.  This trip has been a great joy.  

That’s a wrap!

Southern Oregon Beaches

Nesika Beach, where we were staying for a couple days, is a lovely place.  There isn’t a ton of culture in the Southern Oregon Beach towns, but the coastline is by far the loveliest in the state.  The beach house my friend loaned was quite convenient to a quiet, pristine beach, so we walked there in the evening.

The beach is so golden that you can’t help but have sort of lofty thoughts.  I’ve been a religious person all my life, so I suppose that I have professed to believe many questionable things.  On the beach though, the immensity of the ocean grants me a greater sense of faith and wonder…. not pondering minutia, or dogma, but just observing that the water is awesome and mighty and we don’t seem to know much about it.  I see all this light and frothiness, but underneath it is dark and full of bizarre life.  The ocean goes where I will never go.  It sustains us, and can do us in in a second.  We are powerless before it.  I am impressed by the ocean.  Wow, YOU ocean, YOU are wonderful.beach Day one we were so tired that we were pretty happy to just get our camping gear back in working order.  Tents and sleeping bags were soaking wet from our last foggy morning in the Redwoods, so everything had to be hung to dry and then folded up again.  I have done very little folding and rolling of tents on this trip (it’s been mostly Brad’s job), but I do think if I never had to roll another tent, I would be just fine with that.

Day two we decided we would be big old losers unless we walked to the tide pools at the south end of the beach.  There we found a whole world of wonders…. like tiny hermit crabs, little bitty rockfish and baby crab.crabWe explored for about an hour, and then noticed that it was getting late and dark.  Inez was dead tired…. and said so.  When the little one says she just wants to be in her bed, you make all haste to get her there.

The kids are troopers.  When I think of the many miles that we have asked them to put on their little legs, it fills me with pride.  They’ve risen to meet many challenges, and most of those have been done with pretty good spirits.

Sometimes you gotta give the kid a ride.bradinez


feetWell, that is one question answered.

Stop—Cougar Time! (Ingrid)

ingridAs I noted in the previous post, we changed our route out of Pendleton somewhat, in order to go more directly between Pendleton and Enterprise, our next destination. I had thought we would dip south to Ukiah, mostly to get off of I-84. The northerly route through the Umatilla National Forest was just as remote, but more direct, so it seemed to be a great choice. It was also stunningly beautiful with high alpine wild flowers, a more manageable outside temperature of 80-ish degrees, and sparce looking blue-green pines. And it was quiet. We looked at one campground of 16 sites along a lake and chose not to stay there….along with 14 other people. The next campground was the one for us— 8 sites and no one else. The kids could run races around the loop yelling and hooting all the way. Our site was pretty and sun-dappled, and although there was no water, we liked how remote it felt. Until that night.

The kids were slowly winding down towards sleep (you know, fighting, arguing, complaining) when a man in a pick up drove up to our site. He seemed very rattled. “Soooooo, I live in a cabin up on the ridge and I just saw a very large cougar cross the road and turn this direction. He is coming right your way. You might want to get your kids inside.” He went on with even less comforting words, “He’s a big one. This was about ten minutes ago. He’s up on that ridge right THERE, and I thought to myself, there’s a campground down there; My God, I need to tell them!”

I think I went through all the stages of A TOTAL FREAK OUT within the first 10 minutes. First I felt irritation. Why are you telling me this? Do you want to scare me? Then denial. Surely a cougar would not come towards a place where kids are making so much noise. Then an attempt at reasoning. They are afraid of people right? Logic. What did William Sullivan say about cougars? There are no cougar deaths on record for Oregon. Then skepticism. But what about MAULINGS? Then panic. Brad, did you hear this? Oh my GOD.

Brad encouraged calm, cool, rationality. Zip up the tents. Stay inside. Go to bed as normal and the cougar would leave us alone. He then proceeded to roll over and fall asleep. I however, suddenly felt like I needed to go to the bathroom quite desperately. Because I was not at all inclined to venture to the outhouse in the dark, I crouched next to a tree and imagined a cougar jumping on my back while I was vulnerable.

The rest of the night was just an irrational vigil of a very freaked out mother (me). I laid in the dark in my sleeping bag holding my breath so that I might better hear the cougar sneaking up on us. My stomach growling made me jump out of my own skin. Brad snoring made me jump out of my skin. Zephyr snorting in his sleep made me jump out of my skin. My hand brushing against the tent made me jump out of my skin. Without calm (or skin at this point), I spent the long, dark night terrified and (largely) unsleeping. I needed to go to the bathroom but was too afraid. I figured I wasn’t sleeping anyway, so physical discomfort was the least of my troubles.

Somewhere in the early morning, my nerves gave up and I did fall asleep. I was drowsily turning over and noting with relief that it looked like morning when,

OOOOOWWWWWWW!” a cougar screamed. Every hair on my neck stood right up. My arm bones disconnected from my shoulders. My inner electrical wire highway screamed from the tip of my head to the tips of my toes. The cougar might have been a mile away, or it might have been 200 yards. I couldn’t tell. I was scared.

What is that?!” I yelled at a sleeping Brad.

OOOOOWWWWWW!” the creature answered.

That’s the cat,” my very frightened husband whispered.

Oooooowwww!” the cougar responded, mercifully sounding a little further off.

Thankfully that is the end of my cougar tale. We stayed in our tents another hour. Eventually, even when afraid, you have to get out of your tent.  When we finally faced the day, I made myself the best cup of coffee while trying to laugh at myself (and Brad) as much as possible in order to shake the jitters. We packed up, drove away and I ruminated on nature and its ability to make us feel completely whole and completely fractured. It took until about 2pm for me to piece the shards of my nervous system back together. I knew I was going to live when we visited the Joseph bronze walk and checked out this guy without crying or having weird, nervous laughter:


Okay, so maybe I did have weird nervous laughter.

mustacheIt is madness around here.

First of all, we haven’t been able to stay still recently.  I’ve been to San Diego, Sioux Falls, El Paso, and Sacramento, all within the last 3 months.  The novelty of air travel is GONE.

Second, we are now a house of 9 individuals rather than our previous 5.  There is a body (a live one) tucked into each and every cranny around here.  The “under 12 set” now outnumbers the adults in the household.  Luckily Clementine keeps the kitchen pretty clean.

That is all for now.  If you can believe it, I am crazy busy.  I look forward to school being done and dropping into a comfortable rhythm of picking berries outside of town, playing in fountains in the city, and drinking a beer on the porch with neighbors at 4pm.  Come on summer!


Chicken Guard

I haven’t written much about the chickens lately, although we have experienced several mortal incidents.  You see, an old and raggedy raccoon has attacked twice within the last month during the light of day while chickens were foraging the back yard.  We have come to expect predation in the evening and dusk hours, but were completely unprepared for a 3 pm visitor.  We lost two chickens, Fattycakes and Lyra.  I almost felt guilty not being too upset about loosing Fattycakes. She rarely laid these days and really was just taking up room.  Two days later however, Lyra was killed which was traumatic for all.  She was a very unique chicken with a cute personality and special significance to Francis.  Normally I would sit right down and do a nice eulogy for a chicken of this status in our household, but the loss of a very special uncle, my God father Cotch, made the whole chicken death seem sort of trivial.

And I would say something about that, but just can’t.  I am not ready to talk much about it at all; it just hurts a bunch.  I can say that this guy was always there for me, always interested in my life, always humorous and tuned-in.  He was a one-in-a-million type of quality man.  If I can be half the God parent to all my God children that he was for me, how successful I will consider my life!

So as my heart is tender, I am going to talk about a complete lack of tenderness—trapping.  After chicken death number two, we felt really helpless.  Our chickens could stay in all day.  Technically there is space for them, but they don’t like it much and neither do I.  I really feel like animals have a need to roam– I sure do.  So with leaving them in not seeming like much of an option, I decided to go buy a “humane” trap.

These things are kind of clever really.  Despite their cleverness though, that first week all we caught was this:

Then we had a visit from the master.  My friend Maria engaged in a multiple year battle with feral cats.  During that time she developed all sorts of methods for trapping them, and in the course of her work, came up with several raccoons.  We took her advice to cover the trap with a towel and bait it with something stinky.  The first day we got a stray cat, (which I did not get a picture of as he was tearing the towel and his own paws to shreds trying to escape).  The second day we got this:

Brad was not impressed, but I felt heartened that we were heading in the right direction in terms of relative domestication.  We released this guy in a wildlife area in SE Portland.

Day three this:

I know he looks like the same guy, but really he isn’t!  He went to join his brother in the same part of SE.

But now what?  A week or so has gone by and there has been no sight of the raccoon, nor has anything turned up in our trap.  I wonder what has happened to Old Straggely, because after chicken death number 2, we saw him multiple times in the evening coming back to see if the chickens were out.  I even hit him with a rock one day, and the kids claimed to hit him with sling shots on multiple occasions (hmmmmm…I am skeptical).

This is what the kids came up with– “Chicken Guard”.  It involves a bunch of the kids of the neighborhood taking different posts with weapons, (not very effective ones really), and racing back and forth to report on the nothing that is happening.  In between the racing, they check in by jumping in the back of the pick up my Dad had parked here.  I think they look like a child militia.  That ought to scare the raccoon, right?


Da Classics

Yeah, I studied literature in college.  I’m not ashamed to admit that I love reading and thought I could make a career of it.  Sure, at this point in life it seems that it would  have made more sense to study laundry or food science, but I still love my time devoted to literary criticism.

I read a lot.  Or rather, I read often.  If I say “a lot” that makes it sound like I read a great quantity of books, and that just ain’t so.  I am an incredibly slow reader.  My husband teased me unmercifully for reading The Brothers Karamazov for about a whole year.  “Why don’t you give up?” he said.  “Because I am READING this book whether it wants to be read or not!”  I responded.  So I am not fast, but I am determined.

And I like the classics.  I had the good fortune to stumble across one of those bookmarks at Powell’s that had a list of 100 most important novels of our time.  Right then and there I decided I was going to start reading them and weigh in.  Because surely people care what I think, right?

I don’t know why I have spent so much of my life not particularly wanting to read what others called classics.  It must be the rebel in me attempting to be contrarian about something sort of established long before my time.  I’m a little late to be a rebel though.  I guess that is it— I want to feel like I “discovered” an author, and that just won’t be happening with Henry James.  Two years ago I took Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness to Mexico with me.  It sounds stupid to admit this, but right away I thought WITH HONEST SURPRISE, “Hey, this dude can write!  This stuff is really good.”

“No really guys!  That Joseph Conrad guy is super amazing!”

This spring I finally picked up Aldous Huxley’s A Brave New World.  Wow.  Compelling.  I couldn’t find anyone to talk about it with me.  And D. H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover?  Guess what?  There is lots of sex in it!  And I don’t mean that figuratively.

Even though I have been slow to come to most classics, I have read most of Dicken’s work.  I find him incredibly funny and his characters very true to life.  I just like a good, huge Dickensian mystery.  I read slowly so I can nurse the book out over a couple months.  I never have to deal with the jarring sadness of finishing a good book, or at least, I can put it off quite awhile.

Here is Modern Library’s list of 100 most influential novels.  I would love to hear from you what you have really enjoyed reading or were surprised at.  My top recommendation— Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton.  Evil incarnate.  You’ll like it.



Keee-razy Time

My darling Clementine finally tracked me down this evening and as we were catching up she asked what I’d been up to lately.  I took a big breath and…. well, I don’t really know.  I’ve been really busy with something.  I’ve been doing something, right?  I feel all stressed and crazy, but it is hard for me to quite grasp why that might be.

One of the big things that is taking up a lot of time is my new “volunteer of the year” teaching plan.  I don’t know who developed this one… it wasn’t necessarily good.  The thing is that our little school finally got a kiln.  I am somewhat responsible for that happening and I am proud of that.  Sometime around January I sent out an email to all the teachers saying that I would come into their classes and lead ceramics projects in the hopes that everyone would start to utilize this tool.  I didn’t hear much from them back then, but now that it is nearly the end of the year, everyone wants me and guess what?  It is a lot of work.  The classes themselves are not too time-consuming.  They usually take about an hour and a half.  It is the prep and the clean up that is the killer though.  Each class requires that I wedge the clay that is about to be used—- that’s 30 balls of clay.  I wedge fairly quickly, but that is still a good 45 minutes of work.  Hauling things hither and yon is time consuming too.  I have some supplies at school, some things in the art room or the kiln room, and those two places are nowhere near each other.  When the class finishes its work, there are 30 pieces of art to find room to store.  That sounds simple, but it is no small feat.  And then when the work is done there is loading and firing and checking on the kiln.  All these little things add up to a lot.

Okay, big segue here–

I did finish Brian Doyle’s Mink River lately.  Great book about a fictional town in Oregon that by my read of the local landscape is just about where Neskowin or maybe Neahkanie would be.  The town is almost right, although Brian Doyle not being from those parts tends to make it sound much prettier than it could possibly be.  No story about those rural parts of Oregon is complete without a lot of single-wide trailers.  And ugly houses barely hanging on with tons of cars and scrap metal in the yard.  And mean dogs.  And signs that say “Rabbets for sale: pet or meet”.  And the town had a “pub” which is wrong, wrong, wrong.  It would be a dark, windowless “tavern” and we all know it.  Why in Willamina, the tavern is called “Dillon’s”.  Poor guy can’t even spell his own name; he certainly wouldn’t work in something as European sounding as a “pub”.

Anyway, I loved the book and am very proud of Brian Doyle, Portland author made good.  Doyle likes lists… a lot.  So in order to organize my reflections of my business, I shall list what I’ve done this week.

Monday- run, shower, yell at kids, pack lunches, move ceramics around, haul 50 pounds of clay (on my bike!), drink coffee with neighbors, meet the assessor, oh-it’s-hot-out, go to school, fire the kiln, grab Francis, lunch with Inez and Francis, doctor’s appointments, shots-shots-shots, run to the library, pick up Zephyr, pick up clay for home, drink a beer with neighbor, help Francis make dinner, meet Anne, make art, put kids to bed.

Tuesday- why is my arm all hot and swelling up to twice its size, stupid bee sting from Sunday, put toothpaste on it, put lotion on it, put alcohol on it, put Queen Helene mint masque on it, what time is it anyway? (3am), go back to sleep, wake up, try to get kids off to school, nope—no bike train leader, okay, be the bike train leader, ride kids to school, ride them to “Safe Routes to Schools” event ’cause we heard there were donuts, eat donuts, yell at kids, now ride them to school, check kiln, still too hot, go home, haul rocks, work in yard, mow lawn, paint bat house with Inez, nap Inez, laundry, laundry, laundry, hang laundry, pick up Zephyr and Francis, play outside, harass Zephyr about violin, keep kids from dying on bikes in road, yell at kids, visit with neighbors, cook salmon, release chicken from raccoon trap, mess with broken shed door, move tools around, try to convince Zephyr to quit crying, try to convince Zephyr that he DOES NOT have a dance recital that night, try to comfort Zephyr, threaten to put Zephyr to bed instantly if he does not quit howling, talk to neighbors (“he didn’t have a dance recital, right?”—he didn’t), OH THANK GOD ALMIGHTY BRAD HAS RETURNED FROM HIS BUSINESS TRIP!  Take a benedryl for my arm which makes me so high that I can’t hold my eyes open.  Asleep by 9pm.

Wednesday- what is that racket?  Cat in raccoon trap ripping apart the thing, make breakfast, make coffee, late opening means kids are home 2 more hours, work outside, sweep walk, hose down walk, finally pick up bat house painting supplies, fill washtub with dirt, plant snap peas with kids, plant cucumbers, water, water, water, try to take kids to school–whoops too early, take kids to school, walk to cafe, meet Kendall, drink coffee and relax, walk home, babysit neighbor kid, plan curriculum for volunteer class at church, read disconnected story in The Sun magazine, look at neighbor’s photo albums, pick up kids, lose kids while talking too long to a teacher, talk to another teacher, talk to another teacher, plan ceramics classes for tomorrow, open kiln, distribute work, get impatient with crying children, walk home, finally make peanut butter sandwich for “lunch”, turn around for violin lesson, learn about wrist angles, come home irritated and exhausted, contemplate weird food in refrigerator, what can I do with celeriac cheese and beer?, babysitter shows up early (yes!), leave her with problem of dinner, go out to dinner with Brad, go to gospel choir….


I am tired of my lists.  I am going to bed.