Graduation and other updates

Tara Siobhan McMullen graduated from Oregon State University

I am so late in telling you, but Tara graduated from college!!! Yes, in June my kiddo received their Bachelor of Science in Geology. I am very very proud of my baby for sticking with it and doing all the work to make it happen in the end. It took six years and there is some kind of stigma around not completing a Bachelor degree in four years, but honestly I think six years is more realistic for some people and those classes were tough. During the early years, Tara was not committed to it, and during the second and third year talked all the time about quitting. By the last two years, Tara was in love with geology and had bonded with their geology classmates and was very proud to be in the program.

It was a grueling task at times, and there were so many tears. We were struck with a devastating tragedy the middle of May with only two weeks of school, and final exams left. We lost a family member, and Tara was shocked and numbed with grief, but somehow found a way to delay the grieving and finish school. Tara said, “I know some people think it’s corny to hang their graduation certificate on the wall, but as soon as I get mine, it’s getting framed and hung! I am proud of that piece of paper!”

In celebration, Tara planned a road trip through California with their partner, Cameron. You may have heard me mention Tara’s partner before, who is using the name Cameron now and pronouns he/him. The kids both love State and National Parks, and they spent two weeks traveling down the Pacific coast, then up the Central Valley, visiting lots and lots of California parks, which I think is such a neat idea. They had a marvelous time in the Redwoods, on the beaches, in Death Valley and so many great spots they traveled to, and explored, and camped in. While they were on a hike through a place called Fern Canyon, in northern California, they got engaged and exchanged rings.

This is a big deal and I have so much joy for them. In my ridiculously disjointed and dysfunctional upbringing, this is the first time in my life I have ever witnessed the steady, long term growth of a couple toward each other and each other’s family, culminating in an engagement where most people’s response was: it’s about time!! Cameron and Tara have been dating for 8 years and it’s a beautiful relationship. I have told them in all seriousness that at times I have used them as a model for my own relationships. No wedding plans have been made, or even a date suggested as far as I know. But do join me in wishing the kids a rich, full, and rewarding experience in their future life together.

Here’s a spotted baby by my shed. Notice the first brown leaves of the season. Ah, so sad.

I’ll take a quick break here to share some photos from animals in my yard. First, my mediocre attempts to capture the fire-coloured Western Tanager flitting through some big trees. Next there are two different does, one with a single fawn beside the horseshoe pit and one with twins eating dandelions. All of these were taken out one of my two back doors. I am constantly grateful for the paradise I get to live in.

On an entirely different note, I’ll leave the world of once-in-a-lifetime moments and return to the drudgery of daily life and home ownership. My friend Marlene who blogs at insearchofitall has recently talked about how summer is the hardest season of all, because there is already so much work to do, but in summertime the work extends to the home and yard outside, and doubles what we are responsible for. In my case, it extends to the deck. Apropos of nothing, Pedro mentioned a couple weeks ago that he could help me re-finish the deck, and it was a sign that I probably needed to stop pretending.

My deck was in terrible shape and I’ve known it for a couple years. Not just that, my deck is big and it was black and green from mold, and I have never re-finished a deck before, and I’m all alone, and, and…. he rescued me. Sometimes when I’m completely overwhelmed about something, I only need someone to stand beside me and be willing to support me or even to help. And he did both.

I didn’t take any before pictures, so I can’t show you the worst of it, the places that were literally lime green with mold, and the places where moss was thriving in the cracks between the boards. This shot is not a good example because it’s a high-traffic area which wears off the mold, but you can sort of see the black mold if you look at the boards in the bottom left corner.
I have this photo because I noticed these claw marks one morning and thought it was funny. But here you see there is only a suggestion that once these boards had been painted with a protective coating. How many years ago? Who knows?

Pedro brought his power washer, and I went to Home Depot and purchased deck stain and brushes. We have had a hot, dry summer and so the weather was cooperative for this project. He sprayed, beginning at one end, while I scooted around on my butt, digging moss and rocks and twigs out from between the boards ahead of him, using a flathead screwdriver. Then I went behind him with a power sander and sanded off the old stain that had not come up, and also smoothed the boards that were rough from the weather. The green had climbed up the many slats of the railings where the power sander wouldn’t fit, so I was forced to hand-sand much of it.

Pedro at the very first section of the deck, with the power washer. Look on the post at the far right, and see the bright green mold climbing up.

Once we had a whole section sprayed and sanded, then I took up a brush and began staining it. This desperately dry wood sucked it up like a sponge. Actually, some of it is spongey wood, but we decided that replacing boards would be a project in a couple years and let it go. It took at least three coats for me to think there was the appropriate amount of stain to protect the wood.

Racecar is lying on the freshly power-washed and sanded deck. I pointed to this and said to Pedro, “This is Racecar’s contribution.” He nodded gravely and said, “Not just to the deck, but to humanity.”
The difference is drastic.

It took us three days and we worked hard from morning till night. One night we had to quit because it was so dark outside I could no longer tell which railings I had already painted and which I had not. I had been guessing, when Pedro told me we should stop, ha ha. Good grief. Once he finished the spraying, on the second day, Pedro took up the power sander from me and I was strictly on staining duty. We had a tool like a mop, that we could put stain down with on the deck, but what really took forever is individually sanding and staining those railings. I assured Pedro that if he had not said anything, the deck would not have been fixed this year. Probably not next year. It was simply so overwhelming to me I had been pretending not to see it.

There it is, all done. I am so relieved to have this huge project completed. I know the life of my poor deck has just been extended. Furthermore, I am confident I will not slip and fall as much this winter when it rains as I did last winter.

Finally I want to show some old scenes from July that I never posted, as a segue into my big race this weekend. I’ve mentioned the Belle Brigade, an all-women veteran’s walking relay team. Our story has been an exceptionally long saga because of the pandemic. We formed in the Autumn of 2018, and our team captain found out that we had just missed the deadline of October 2018 to enter the lottery to compete in the 2019 race. (Unbeknownst to me, a funny, kind, handsome man named Pedro DID compete in the 2019 race, but I had not met him yet) Anyway, a place in the race is determined by lottery, so we applied in 2019 and were thrilled to be awarded a slot in the 2020 race. We had over a year to bond and prepare. Then the 2020 race was canceled, but our team was told we would get an automatic spot in the 2021 race if we wanted it. At that point we had been together over a year, and yes, we wanted it!

Thus we have had over two years to bond and prepare. Needless to say our membership has changed. One woman who was on the original team became pregnant and had to back out. It has taken SO long for this to happen that she had her baby and was able to rejoin the team when another woman had to leave it.

The big race, the Hood to Coast, is for runners, who form teams of 12 and each run three legs, to complete the course from the volcanic slopes of Mt. Hood to the Pacific Ocean. Here’s an exciting blurb from their website: “The Hood and Portland To Coast Relay, located in Oregon, is the most popular and largest running and walking relay race in the world, annually drawing participants from over 40 countries. Known as the Mother of All Relays, the event takes 12-member relay teams 199 miles running or 130 miles walking from the iconic top of Mount Hood to the beaches of the Pacific Ocean. The event has sold out for 30 straight years and on lottery opening day for 23 consecutive years.” My team of walkers will participate in the simultaneous and slower Portland to Coast race, which is “only” 130 miles and begins in the city of Portland. This way, all the teams should end up at the beach at about the same time on Saturday August 28th.

Yes!! August 28th!! That’s so soon! My first leg is going to begin around noon Friday 27th and my second leg is at 4:00 am Saturday morning. Of course, those are guesses and the actual times will depend on when our team is told to start, and how long it takes each Belle to walk her leg.

The length of our legs can be as short as 4 miles long and some are nearly 8 miles long, so I got together with my friend Erin who has a really long leg, and we made a plan to walk to a nature area near her home. We wanted to test our ability to walk an extra long stretch and also to walk in the heat of the afternoon. The place was beautiful, and I took the photos above with my phone as we did our best to speed-walk through the heat.

At the end of the walk we were tired, and no longer rushing. I took the time to pose at this tree that shows the high water mark during a flood in 1996.

On our walk home we spotted a baby bird that had apparently fallen from its nest. though these pics are from July, it still seemed like a very late in the season baby. We picked it up from the sidewalk and tucked it under a nearby fence that had some bushes. It’s chances for survival were slim.

Well, my friends, that’s all I have for you right now and honestly I don’t know when I’ll be back. I will be racing the 27th and 28th. Probably in serious recovery mode on the 29th. And the 30th I leave my home in the dark before dawn to get on a plane and fly to Italy. Can you believe that? An overseas trip during a pandemic. I bought two round-trip tickets for Pedro and me with frequent flier miles, and we have fingers crossed that with our vaccination cards we won’t have to quarantine at any point. In the interest of leaving many pounds behind, I am not bringing my laptop and I am hoping to rely on Pedro’s iPad for communication while there.

We will be visiting my blogger friend, Manja at An Embarrassment of Riches. She will graciously be our tour guide in Tuscany for a few days, and then she and her husband and her beast (the dog) will drive us to her home country in Slovenia, where we will explore a second wonderful European country. I am beside myself with hope and anxiety and anticipation.

14 thoughts on “Graduation and other updates

  1. Taking your time is sensible in college and in relationships. The old saying I picked in Coastal Maine was – “sin in haste, repent at leisure” having done lots of both I applaud your daughter for uncommon good sense!

    1. Thank you, Lou. ❤ That's a wise saying. I think my Tara has uncommonly good sense, too, and I'm hugely proud of that kid. I am so eager to watch and see how the rest of their life turns out.

    1. Bonnie, I will for SURE tell Manja Hi for you! I’m glad you liked my post and thanks for being excited for me. I’m getting more excited, as it gets closer. I bought the tickets in February, but I really haven’t allowed myself to get too excited yet, because I keep telling myself to be flexible and understand that COVID is in charge. But I think we’re gonna be ok. This week I have noticed with chagrin that all the shops across the river in Washington have “masks required” signs up again.

      1. Oh yes, two steps forward, one step back. Be safe ! Can’t wait to see your photos. Now I’m off to finish reading about your last trip before you embark on a new one !

    1. Ha ha ha!!! If there are any leg fans, that race is the place to go!! Very funny, my friend. You will notice that I have an awkward gait, because my first leg is 6 1/2 miles and my second leg is 4 1/2 miles. I’ll have to wear shoes with an insert, maybe. I am SO pleased with the deck. Maybe less that I think it looks so great and more for the simple fact that it’s done. We did work very hard at it, and I appreciate that Pedro and I are both of the if-you’re-gonna-do-it-then-do-it-right ilk. Thank you for sharing my best wishes for the kids. Of course, when anything official does happen, you will see it here.

  2. Ahh, living in the fast lane! All this and then Italy too, and Slovenia! You can forget about anxiety if you managed to smooth this huge deck, with the help and motivation of Pedro, of course. I just showed your finished deck to amore and he immediately had many suggestions of what you could do around here. 😀 We are NOT as diligent as you. I wish you a happy race and a flight to us, yeahh!! Anticipation yes, anxiety no!

    1. Oh very funny, your amore! Yes, we will pack power tools in our bags just in case there is anything we can do for you two around the house, ha ha! Honestly, we would be happy to help. Our visit will be short, but if there is a task that a couple of extra hands are needed, please do tell us when we’re there. We are already so grateful for your help and enthusiasm. You both are making us feel so welcome and we aren’t even there yet. ❤

  3. I’m impressed on so many levels here. Of course Tara succeeded. That grit and determination exceeds the tough situations. I wonder where they learned it? That deck is also an impressive feat. I’m well aware of what it takes to do what you did and you did it on a much larger scale. It looks phenomenal. So you are racing today while I’m resting. Work is waiting so I can finally get to read here and connect for a moment. I love the deer in your yard. Though we have not yet met, it looks to me like you have finally found your perfect PIL. (partner in life). I think it’s more appropriate than SO (significant other). You and Pedro are a team and will accomplish much together. I’m envious of your trip. Maybe we will have one of our own soon. Keep us posted when you can. HAVE FUN!!!

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