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Maria and I sample Thanksgiving food at Zupan’s grocery – finding some space away from all the other people in one of the aisles.

This month I’ve had the opportunity to spend time with friends and that helps brighten up cloudy days and warm up cold ones.

I spent November 7th with Norman and Rodel, as I already mentioned in my last post.

On Veteran’s Day weekend I met my friend Maria and her friend Le, at a wine/beer tasting with food at a Zupan’s grocery in Lake Grove, Oregon. I arrived a little before the others, so I explored this upscale grocery store and found a wine cellar!

The wine cellar at Zupan’s

Maria told me that the wine cellar at a different Zupan’s is larger, and hosts events. That is probably the fanciest grocery store I’ve ever heard of.

We spent the next hour wandering the store (squished among droves of other tasters) and tasting local wines, beers, and heaps of food from their deli counter and aisles. It was all delicious and we were all three stuffed when we left.

After leaving there, I stopped alongside the highway for an overlook point I had never previously investigated. Trees and bushes make the view difficult and I stood on top of a rock wall to see better Willamette Falls, a curved basalt falls in the Willamette River, that is 42 feet high and 1500 feet wide.

Willamette Falls in the Willamette River

A view of Mt. Hood beyond the falls.

An information sign there explains that (while you can’t see them), it is also the site of the oldest continuously operating multi-lift lock and canal system in the United States. Nearby is a museum, and access to the locks, which I definitely want to find another day.

My next stop was to visit a friend who is encouraging me to make a quilt. I got some fabric cut up, and developed some ideas, but it has not progressed yet. If I actually create a quilt, you’ll see it here.

The next day I watched my best friend Genevieve get married to my friend Lloyd. I have loved them so much for years, and their backyard wedding was very sweet. I was able to meet more of G’s family. Best of all I got to see the typically reserved and practical Genevieve look into Lloyd’s eyes with heaps of mooshy love. I’ve never seen that expression on her face and it was precious. I didn’t post any photos because they had a photographer there, and I’m going to defer to Genevieve’s judgement on what the most beautiful photos are to post.

Yesterday I spent the day with Ira & Deborah, visiting Oregon from Hawaii. They have been cold every day, but good sports about it. When they arrived at my house I checked their feet and saw good walking shoes, and suggested a tour of my property that they’ve only ever seen on facebook or instagram. My home itself is in total disarray, due to the kitchen construction. All the furniture in the kitchen, dining room, pantry, closet, and living room has been removed and crammed somewhere else in the house. Not ideal for entertaining. A walk outside seemed best.

Ira takes wonderful photos (find his Instagram account @potatohead_808). He took this one of my pond in the rain.

Ira, me, Deborah standing beside Beaver Creek in my back yard. Selfie clearly by Ira again.

We explored the Rainier marina, and “downtown” Rainier, only a few blocks long. Then I suggested a short hike to Beaver Creek Falls, which you have probably seen on this blog before. I love the falls because it’s close to my house, and great spot to take guests. Also, it’s the same exact creek that I look at every day, just a few miles closer to its mouth.

Someone’s rock sculpture at Beaver Creek Falls.

Ira soon began climbing the walls of the canyon, looking for an ideal perspective for photographs. Deborah and I chatted, and then it began to rain while we stood watching Ira. Not terribly hard, but persistently. I had no hat and no gloves and got soaked. Deborah was smart enough to bring better gear.

He would spot a place that seemed better, and would carefully climb over there. Then he would spot a new place, and make his way slowly. Before we knew it, he had made a whole circle of the canyon, including walking behind the waterfall!

Ira’s shot of Deborah and me from his location behind the waterfall. @potatohead_808

Ira hiking behind Beaver Creek Falls.

I assumed that in order to keep his feet dry, Ira would return the way he came. Nope, he hopped rocks and crossed Beaver Creek. Afterward he said, “I’ve been over and under Beaver Creek today!”

By this time we were starving. I obviously could not feed us, unless we would be satisfied with an avocado and a peanut butter & jelly sandwich. So we began driving to one restaurant after another, and all of them were closed because it’s Thanksgiving!! Purely by accident we stumbled onto a full parking lot in front of Stuffy’s II. They had a limited menu, serving only one meal: a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, choice of chicken, ham, or prime rib. We were delighted! A real Thanksgiving meal after all, when we had been ready to accept sushi or a taco, or anything that was open.

Next we hopped in our cars and made the trip to Astoria to try and climb the column before the sun went down at 4:30 pm. We made it!

Deborah at the top of the Astoria Column.

Ira creating another one of his brilliant photos.

Then we checked in at their Air BnB, which is on a pier in the Columbia River! I have been on that pier several times, because I like to visit the Rogue brew pub there. I had no idea there were rooms as well. Imagine being able to leave the pub and walk 50 steps to your room! (I am making birthday reservation plans as I type….)

We went into the Rogue Ales Public House and nibbled a little at amazing soups and some toasted cauliflower, and of course, sampled some ales. We talked and talked and finally hugged goodbye.

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Frosty pond on Thanksgiving Day.

After rain and clouds and fog and darkness, we’ve had a week of sunshine. Sun in November means there is no protective blanket of clouds and the ground is exposed to the frigid atmosphere. Lows in Rainier have been in the 20s (below zero Celsius) at night and warm up to around the freeze/ melt point during the day (most people saying “freezing point,” but meteorologist say “melting point”). Despite the cold, the sun makes me happy. And when it’s cold day after day, and you walk in the air and breathe deeply while chasing chickens or chopping wood, you get used to it in no time.

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I am no longer worried about the pond being too warm for the fish to stay healthy. Interestingly, I have no concerns about the effects of a frozen pond on the fish inside.

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Frost is adornment for the leaves and grasses and branches. When the sun hits them, the land sparkles.

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My friends told me this plant looks like kale. I’m pretty sure it is not kale, but I haven’t identified this random weed growing on my property. I do agree that it’s as pretty as kale.

The chicken hussies (so-called because of their stubborn insistence on misbehaving) are periodically in their pen. I capture them, and I force visitors to help me wrangle chickens, so on occasion all four are inside. But they lose their patience and fly out within days. Or hours. They used to be content to scratch the dirt and eat the grass within feet of the house, but in the past month have decided that no distance is too far to roam. I usually have no idea where they are.  Thanksgiving morning I walked down to the chicken pen to visit the only chicken in there at the time.

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Tawny examines a crust from leftover key lime pie.

After chatting with Tawny, dumping out the solid block of ice and refilling her water dish with liquid water, I noticed something white that looked like paper trash down by the creek. It was not trash but the most amazing ice sculpture! I’m guessing that the cold temperatures froze the moisture inside the sticks, and when the ice swelled, it was forced to squeeze out of the sticks. Anyway, what do you think happened?

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I brought the two branches up from the creek to the deck, so I could photograph the ice better.

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It was very difficult to get my camera to show what I saw: delicate feather-like wisps of ice that clumped together in a chilly pillow.

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As soon as I touched these mounds of ice, they crushed and melted beneath my fingertips.

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I was totally captivated by the ice.

I have been worn out with my commute. I spend three hours a day in traffic, sometimes four. I can’t stand driving to begin with, so it really takes a toll on my spirit and my ability to get stuff done at home since I’ve been deprived of all that time. But the upside is, I am slowly learning my new job and gaining a tiny bit of confidence. In a few months I will probably be released to go back to working at home.

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My view every single day when I leave work and begin the long trip home. Well, usually it’s raining.

Hair care I find to be a menace, and once I have a hairdresser that suits me, I stick with that person till something drastic pulls us apart. When I lived in Boston, I continued to schedule haircuts for when I flew back to California, ha ha. Well, I have moved from Portland to way out in the country, and only recently made it back into the city to get my hair cut. I like it long in summer, so I can pull it back into a ponytail. I like it short in winter.

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Short hair is a good way to show off enormous earrings!

I was asked out on a date a few weeks ago, and he and I hit it off, which is CRAZY because this guy is proud to call himself a conservative Christian Republican. I may be nuts. I am proud to call myself a liberal atheist who refuses to align with any political party. In my Thanksgiving phone call to my Pa, he laughed and said, “Well, I’ll bet you two have some rousing conversations!” So… it could make for some future rants in my blog that could offer some real entertainment. Stay tuned. 😉

Tara has been home the last two weekends and I am *so* happy to have my kid at home. I didn’t realize how much of a hole there was until it was filled and I felt the peace of it.

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Last weekend, Tara came home because there was a performance by the dancers at their old studio.

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It is like family being there, even for me. I love these girls and have watched them grow into stunning young women athletes.

Tara got their first tattoo yesterday. It was an event. Tara has wanted a tattoo for years, but I would not give consent. The kid is now 18 and I relinquished my right to say “no.” If the plan had been to get a tattoo on the face or neck, or someone’s name, I would have protested, but instead Tara wanted a honeybee on their thigh. I can totally live with that. I think the tattoo is beautiful. While I was there I showed the artist my sadly distorted faery on my abdomen (who looked lovely until I got pregnant), and she had some ideas for how to make her pretty again. I may soon go under the needle myself.

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From this photo you can’t tell how much pain my kid is in.

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honeybee

It’s the season for giving thanks, and I am so grateful. For having a perfect child and an open mind, for having a father I can call, and a stepfather who calls me. For the reminder that I am a woman that a man could love. I am grateful that it’s so cold I think about the weather, and grateful that I have chickens to worry about. I am grateful for a troupe of gorgeous dancers and their parents and siblings who hug me every time I show up. I feel lucky to have a job many miles away, and I know I am lucky to have a home that fills up when my Tara and my Racecar kitty are here with me. I am so grateful that I turned out to be a person who never ceases to be fascinated with investigating the world around me.

Mom's mountaintop cabin in North Idaho

Last night I called Thanksgiving a “success” after all was said and done. It took some humility and love to say it honestly. In my last post, I mentioned that I got it into my head to gather my siblings at Mom’s house in north Idaho for the first time ever. There were hiccups, but most of us made it. Ahh, can’t we always praise life for its opportunities for us to learn the lessons we need to learn?

1. Thanksgiving is about giving thanks, and every time I lost sight of that during the past week was a time when I became disillusioned, fatigued, angry, or sad. NEXT TIME I participate in gift-giving, I hope to retain the perspective that in every scene from my holiday and those leading up to it, was a scene full of things for which I am truly thankful.

2. Next time I will remain focused on the goal, which was the gift, and not my part in it.

3. My stress is contagious, and next time I will tap the joy I feel, and save the agitation for later, when the family is gone. Thinking back, I wonder if they suffered from my mood. I should have at least showed them more of my joy. That would have been an additional gift, to make them feel good about what they had done. Then they could at least have said, “It was worth it! Did you see how excited she was?”

4. I love my family; each and every one of them. I need to remind myself and I need to tell them so. I did say “thank you,” and I could have said “I love you” more often. It was such a delight to meet my nephew finally. It was great to sit at the table and share “remember when” stories with my brothers, for the benefit of our significant others.

5. Though I have indeed suffered challenges, I do not know what’s it’s like to be in someone else’s family.  I don’t have the right to judge someone’s complaint.

6. Next time, my gift won’t involve travel in winter! ha ha ha!

Mom is happy. She knows she is loved. She got to preside over Thanksgiving dinner with her grown kids for the first time.  All the kids and grandkids survived the horrible driving conditions. It was a success!

anticipation builds as we gather in the zoo parking lot

Had a jolly little jog this morning. It’s been so long since I’ve run in a race. I used to do it more frequently when I was married to a triathlete. I haven’t run since I lived in California, and I thought this would be a good starter race. Only 4 miles and for a good cause: to support the Oregon Zoo.

it was a day of many turkeys

Traffic was a breeze at 7:30 am, and we parked with ease right in front of the World Forestry Center. I knew that with only one spot for bathrooms that I needed to get in line immediately, which I did. It took a full 15 minutes to get into the porta potty – dubious prize. First suggestion to Oregon Road Runners Club: more places to pee, please. As if to add insult to injury, Starbucks was co-located with the porta potties, so we could load up on more juice.

The first runners leap across the start line

I left my honey so he could find a high place for his camera, and I picked my way through the crowd of very festive people to sort of aim myself toward the Start. It was a glorious sunny morning following a brilliant sunrise. The clear skies brought in chilly air which was perfect for a run and for all the crazy outfits people had on. Lots of turkey hats, turkey costumes, baked and stuffed turkey hats (nice!), and even a cow. A cow? And several people in tutus, and a guy in reindeer horns. Um?

Where's my smile? I was too worried about trampling the herd ahead of me.

Second suggestion: Put the runners up front, baby strollers next, walkers last. I met up with the woman who handles Human Resources at my work and chatted with her till the race began. She was there with her walking group. So maybe I made it harder on myself by standing where they were. But in any case, jammed in with all those people, it took a very long time before I could actually get up enough speed to call it a jog. I passed the one mile marker before I cleared enough people to be able to get up to my usual running pace, and I am a slow runner!

A plug for beef instead of turkey?

Case in point: The same time I passed the one mile marker, those hot shot boys who were being all lithe and fit and stretching out at the starting line… the first of them passed me on his way BACK up the hill, when I was at mile one, and the next four of them passed me only minutes later. I really should bully myself up to the front if I plan on running in these things.

Cheers rose up from the slower runners still running down the hill for about the first 30 people who passed us on their way back up the hill. Later the cheers went both ways, boosting each other up, and spotting friends going the other direction. “Hi!” “Hey!” “Happy Thanksgiving!”

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It was a lovely run down the hill past the Arboretum, the Japanese Garden, and we turned around just at the Rose Test Garden. Then, sadly, back up the hill. I did walk some of those steep uphills, but it was only to provide moral support for my gentle co-runners who had also slowed to a walk. Because of course, I would be running right up all those hills if I wasn’t so concerned about their feelings. I heaved and gasped a bit too, to make it seem authentic.

Where's the finish?

The last ¼ mile was inside the zoo itself. That’s a pretty fun idea. I finally spotted my man with his camera right at the finish line, and gave him a wave as I headed for the water table. The Oregon Road Runners Club handed out donated pumpkin pies to random people, but they were gone by the time I showed up. I guess I’ll have to make my own.

My body was still crying from that horrible hill, but spirits were high. The sun was still brilliant and kids were running around all happy, and people were cheering for each other. It was a great feeling to have finished a race. Thanks Starbucks for the free cup of Christmas Blend. Thanks Oregon Road Runners Club for the opportunity to run a race for the zoo!

There's the smile!

One of my many guises

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