I mentioned before that it was a somewhat slow summer followed by a riotous Autumn. So. Many. Things. Going. On. But fun…all fun.
Some of them deserve their own posts, like North Carolina, god help us we did so much that week. Then our road trip to visit family in Idaho and our first backpacking adventure in Canada. Our travel plans in the next weeks include Disneyland, a wedding in Rhode Island, Thanksgiving in Boise. Top that off with some incredible local adventures, but before I get to the hot air balloon and the ziplining and the bungee jumping…it’s worth saying that small things are still happening as they always do.
Let’s see if I can catch us up.
I spent a week in Annapolis for annual training for the Veterans of Foreign Wars. How many years have I been doing this now? In any case, the trainers are getting closer as we get to know each other better. We had to take 2 years off from in-person training during the pandemic, but it felt really comfortable this time.
The weather was fabulous and I did find time to run over to my favourite spot near the hotel where we live and train, Broad Creek Park. Creeks here, so close to the ocean, fill wide sloughs and almost resemble lakes by the time they reach the ocean. It makes a very pretty landscape I think. Anyway, it’s a beautiful 5-mile run/hike/walk from the hotel door, through the park, and back again. Part of the trail swoops around a high school with several football and soccer fields, so I got to see the kids training.
Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), my employer for these training trips, is managing their finances carefully like everyone else in the world is right now. They will not have a November training this year and instead were able to reach everyone in September with a combination in-person/online training session. This means all us teachers were on camera for folks at home. I had to teach a little differently (staying on one place, repeating things for the folks at home, talking to the camera when appropriate, etc.), and learning on the fly, all while keeping my in-person class engaged. Learning keeps us young, so I welcome it.
I received a message out of the blue from a dear friend from Japan. I worked there for five months in 2012 and my best friends from that time is Norman. As a young man, he was stationed there in the Navy, and fell in love with the country and its people. He married his soul mate, and took her name. When his obligation with the military was up, he got out so he could stay there, and now works for the Navy as a civilian. Isn’t it the sweetest story? Anyway, their oldest is now 20 and in college and she was going to be in PORTLAND, of all places, for a three-week exchange program, and they were worried parents and could I please look in on their beloved? Of course I could. I invited her friend to come along and we had lunch then walked from the campus to the waterfront.
I stopped taking Spanish classes temporarily. I was doing great in the class, and my teacher was a little dismayed that I quit, but I explained it and she supports me. I had three terms of Spanish from a book, memorizing all the different ways to conjugate verbs, and memorizing hundreds of vocabulary words. I can read Spanish with some competence now. But I can’t speak it! Due to covid, the class was 100% online, so I was able to watch and listen to videos of speakers of Spanish, and that was great, and I could attempt to respond to prompts given by the online course, but it’s just not a good way to learn to speak Spanish. At least not for me.
One day I was face to face with Spanish speakers. I had hired a guy to take down a tree for me that was leaning precariously and I expected it to drop any day onto a structure. He showed up with his brother, and it turns out they are from Central America. I was smack in the middle of my third term of Spanish, so I thought to myself it was a perfect opportunity to practice. And my mind was completely blank. I listened to them and could barely pick out a word. In my mind I thought of some very simple things I could say, but for the life of me, could not think of the Spanish words. It was so ridiculous. I realized my training was seriously lacking.
You might think to yourself that I am dating a Spanish speaker. I know!! It’s hard for us to practice together though, I can’t figure out why. Pedro is so amazingly kind that it is a struggle for him to say things to me that he knows I can’t understand. He is not good at tough love. He helps me often with the language, pushing me in small ways, correcting me, which I appreciate so much, but it turns out that I need to go somewhere else for conversation. So. With all the awesome foundation of basic sentence structure, verb rules, and spelling of words in my mind, I have now subscribed to Pimsleur audio courses again, and I’m practicing conversational Spanish. It’s helping me so much. I might go back to Spanish class in the Winter term.
Pedro and I like to do short hikes as often as possible. We both have restless energy and feel unwell and unhappy when we are indoors too long or sedentary too much. We have fun finding trails in the many, many Portland-area parks. After the long, cold, wet beginning of Summer, we are experiencing a warm, dry Autumn, and I simply love it.
We did swing by one of the many farms around here to choose a pumpkin. Look how carefully this farm cut and displayed their beautiful huge pumpkins. We are planning to take his kids to the corn maze this weekend. The place also has a haunted corn maze, for nighttime scare seekers. I’ve never done that – have you?
My neighbor, Dick, is a huge fan of cars and racing. He likes to remind people that he holds the track record at one of the tracks around here. I apologize to any race fans, but I don’t know which track, or what category. Dick has raced in all the area tracks in different kinds of cars, for his whole life. Everyone in racing circles knows him. He’s now happily retired and has a huge property right down the road from me. Over the past few years he has built and refined a good dirt track and invites his friends to race for fun, in the beat up cars he and his buddy buy for cheap and fix up. Annually, he has what he calls Track Day, where everyone he knows is invited. People race cars all day for fun, then at the end of the day there is a demolition derby, where people bang the cars into each other over and over till only one is left moving. Lottery tickets can be purchased, and proceeds go to the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners. People LOVE being in the derby, which baffles me because I can only imagine the next day’s bruises and headaches, but maybe I’m getting old. ha ha. This year was especially fun because five of the lottery winners were women.
If you’re interested, I videoed the derby from beginning to end. This annual event always reminds me of growing up in Idaho, and the types of entertainment regular people enjoy in the country.
Speaking of living in the country, all is well here on the farm. I lost one of my new babies to a predator – in one minute when I wasn’t looking. It could have been a coyote or a hawk. All I could find was a pile of feathers. One of the older hens, GT, died in her nest. That leaves me with 7-year-old Jamie, 4-year old Two, and Maya, and 6-months-old Mathilda the Hun, Chick Nhat Hahn, and Yin. Six hens and everyone an unreliable layer except for Maya, who keeps giving me beautiful aqua-coloured eggs. I occasionally post short videos of them all on TikTok, especially Mathilda, who thinks it’s hilarious to fly up onto our shoulders when we’re not looking, and scare the bejeebers out of us.
Because of the angle of the sun this time of year, my deck garden would now be in shade, so I decided to move all my pots out into the yard. I put a sort of haphazard fence around them, but it only lasted two weeks before the deer found them. Luckily, the deer apparently do not like tomatillos or zucchini, and have only eaten all the tomatoes down to stubs.
Ok this is getting super long, and I apologize, but there is one really big, amazing story I can’t wait to tell you! My kiddo got a new job! And it’s a good one. First of all, they informed me two weeks ago that they are using the name Kellen now. So, for everyone who knows my transgender child as Tara, I will use their name Kellen from now on. Kellen is non-binary and feels that this name sounds less gender specific.
So Kellen got a new job and we are all thrilled.
Their last job was at the Albany Historic Carousel museum which was cool in some ways, but paid minimum wage for part time and no benefits and was a loud, chaotic environment filled with screaming children and demanding parents, not to mention non-stop carnival music. Kellen was in charge of an all-volunteer work group with individuals that might not show up, might not follow instructions, might not stick around. It was challenging.
The new job is for a construction/excavating company that is based 5 minutes from Kellen and Cameron’s apartment in Albany. They could practically walk to work if they wanted to. The company wants to train Kellen as an Assistant Project Manager and is hoping to use their geology degree when possible. The pay is double the carousel job, with a full work week and full benefits. It’s a game-changer for the kids. The job started last Monday, so it has been one week and is all new still. Kellen called me one day saying how amazing it is to work with intelligent, educated professional men for the first time, and get treated with respect and appreciation like never before. (If you are female, or female-presenting, you know that male co-workers can sometimes be a pain in the butt.) From day two they already had more autonomy than at other jobs. I think this is going to be not only great for their monthly finances, but great for their self-esteem. It is soul-crushing to work in some low-end jobs.
That about covers it. Thanks for sharing my amazing life with me. You are my favourite. ❤