Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Care Package Project: July

Well, you guys, between the idea and the reality falls the shadow, and even though I'm not really emotionally stable enough to handle the responsibility of writing this one, I am anyway.

Here's the gist: This month is a complete care package project failure, but who even cares. There are a million things I should have done and said, but the fact remains that I did nothing. I thought I had time, but I didn't.

And maybe that's the point. We always think there is time.

Well, anyway. This month I had planned to CP Mom's cousin Marlene, who I guess is my cousin too, except I consider her to be more of an aunt because she's around Mom's age--late 60s--and that's the role she's played in my life since we met about 14 years ago. The last couple of months have been rough. She had two cancerous tumors removed from her brain AND lost a kidney because another tumor was so thoroughly entrenched they couldn't remove it. She still had tumors on her lungs, but the doctors were optimistic those could maybe be overcome.

She spent a month in the hospital, and I thought it would be fun to send her a package to be all yay coming home!

So I went about gathering the perfect items. I had hoped to find her fun presents from our trip around Washington State, so we could tell her we'd thought about her in every place we'd visited.

But that didn't really happen. I mean, I found lotion at the Space Needle with the Space Needle logo on it, but nothing "place specific" in the other places we went. I thought there'd be Mt. Rainier coffee or Hurricane Ridge chocolate or Olympic National Forest vampire teeth. But there wasn't.

Coming back home, I found her a bar of chocolate-scented soap and beeswax lip balm from an artsy lavender festival held literally next door. Johanna and Abby made a card and I failed to get my act together to write her a letter of my own, so the package sat on my wardrobe for about a week and a half.

Then, this past weekend, Mom calls to say that the doctors had just found a very quick growing breast cancer and that without chemo, they were giving Marlene two weeks. With chemo, she might have a year.

Mom and The Aunts (that's Joan and Jan to you) decided they'd visit the hospital yesterday to say goodbye. I gave Mom the package to deliver--complete with my letter (I'm sorry it took me another crisis to get my butt in gear)--because I figured that it would be quicker than using the postal service. The gifts I'd included now seemed completely idiotic, but we decided as a family that didn't matter, that it was the thought.

Marlene died yesterday morning, before Mom and The Aunts could come. Mom is so sad. Everyone is just so damn sad. Except I can't cry. I'm kind of glad that she doesn't have to suffer anymore. I'm glad for her and I'm devastated for everyone else. I wish I could cry and get it out, but I just can't even fathom that she's gone.

And I keep thinking about her husband, Dave, and their boys. It's just too much.

So not the way I wanted this to go.

Monday, July 28, 2014

A Very Walker Vacation part II: Seattle

Seattle has been on Abby's list for a very long time. She's even thinking she'd like to go to school at the University of Washington--specifically because it rains a lot in Seattle and she loves the rain (I know, whose kid IS this?). We've been on the outskirts (Bellevue is kind of cool, by the way), but never INSIDE THE CITY. As a family, I guess. Eric, Abby and I have all managed to make it there separately.

Well, that's what this trip was about: Fulfilling dreams. Um, except part of that dream was to experience Seattle in the rain, but it was blue skies and 80ºs and amazing. Eric, Johanna and I thought that was great. Abby was disappointed. She's weird, though.

Our niece and nephew and great nephew (Reid! So cute!) all happen to live in West Seattle, and they were gracious enough to let us stay with them for a couple of nights, and then, as if that wasn't enough, actually drive us around to various spots and show us "insider" places (we'd never heard of them, so obviously they were insider places) and a few "must do in Seattle" kinds of places. Oh, and fed us what was THE best meal of the trip: Smoked salmon, grilled romaine and zucchini. With fresh lemonade (that's the way to Johanna's heart).

Ever thought of cooking for Mt. Rainier, J. and Andy? ;)

Here are some of our Seattle highlights:

Gas Works Park has a cool history. That's the Space Needle there in the background.
Jo wore her Seahawks t-shirt all weekend because Seattle!

Fremont troll!
I wish I'd gotten a picture of the Lenin statue... 'cause that was unexpected.

Fantastic lunch at Ivars. We ate outside by the river.

Kerry Park.

Space Needle! I'm actually claustrophobic AND afraid
of heights, so I was cool with just looking at it
safely from the ground.

THE original Starbucks at Pike Place. This is as close as we got 'cause
the line was down the street and I am not that patient. I mean, this stuff
is on every corner, am I right?

P.S. The girls and I went to the Starbucks literally located about 50 steps away (give or take, math is hard) on Pike Street. That line was not so long. Besides coffee, I bought a mug with the original Starbucks logo, which apparently is only available at their Pike's locations. This is what it looks like, compared with today's logo:


Look, I'm a minimalist, but how could I NOT buy something with that logo? You guys, I'm not that strong and I'm not that brave. Plus it makes me laugh.

...To prove we were really at Pike's.

Mass at St. James' Cathedral.

Mariners game!

Those are professional players down there! Johanna was so impressed
she drew the entire time in her sketchbook...

Panorama shots are cool. Our seats were along the third base line, in the shade.

So the Mariners like to do little give-aways at their games, I guess, and sometimes you can get a bobble-head or a t-shirt or a towel or whatever. THIS time, the give-away was that all kids 14 and under were invited to run the bases after the game. Abby just squeaked in there! So we got to go into the bowels of the stadium, walk across the grass, and watch the girls go from first to home. Every kid in Seattle must have been there because it took like an hour just to get that accomplished. But hey, the girls had fun. And I didn't end up with a bobble-head. I call that a win.

We were in Seattle Friday night, all day Saturday, and Sunday. We were back on the road by late Sunday afternoon, headed towards adventure and ultimately the Olympic National Forest.

But you'll have to wait for that...

Friday, July 25, 2014

A Very Walker Vacation part I: Mt. Rainier

This year for our Walker Family Vacation (all caps so you know it's serious), we decided to explore Washington State. Well, we've been kind of negligent about showing the girls the finer points of our neighbors to the north (in case it doesn't translate: We're from Oregon), and we thought it would be fun.

Also: This entire trip was equal to the mileage we put on in just one day last year during our Very Canyon Vacation. That's one of the reasons why we chose Washington State. We're still kind of broken from Utah/Arizona.

Our first stop was Mt. Rainier National Park. But because this is the Pacific Northwest, we also saw Mt. St. Helens in distance, which I am going to show you now just in case you're wondering what it looks like 34 years after it blew its top:

Mt. St. Helens.

We got to Mt. Rainier in time for (a late) lunch:

That's how you know you're in the park

We were in a pull-out, just chillin' on a rock wall.
Abby looks ticked but she was just hangry.

This was about the time Johanna announced she was going to throw up, which sent me into an IBS attack (stress is an interesting thing), but hey, the good news is that she DID NOT and I eventually rebounded. P.S. This is probably TMI, but Johanna has acid reflux and that does indeed make you feel like you're about to barf.

She was all better by the time we drove to Reflection Lake:

Aptly named.

And then! We hit Paradise Inn and visitors' center (two separate buildings)!

Paradise Inn. It's full of history.

So the ground was covered in snow... and the air was in the 70ºs. We were not expecting blue skies and warm weather, so we were all over dressed. The lesser mature of the Walker clan indulged in a snowball fight:

The good news is I didn't get hit taking this photo.

It was so warm that the snow was rapidly melting, making a waterfall out of this staircase:

Well, I thought it was cool.

After hiking around for a while and touring the visitor's center, we checked into the lodge:

This was taken right about the time we realized there's no cell service or wi-fi
on Mt. Rainier. The humanity!

Our room was tiny but comfortable. Johanna made the observation that the bathroom was so small that you could literally pee and wash your hands at the same time. That ended up being a true story. You really could. I tried, so I know.

Anyway, we relaxed for awhile, sans phones and devices (which was really weird. Made me feel isolated and disconnected and kind of anxious), and then went to dinner in the Inn's restaurant:

Busy place.

Here's where our story get sad, dear friends. I had high hopes for the restaurant--I've eaten at many a National Park Lodge--and my hopes seemed well founded when I saw on the menu that they're big fans of local food and sustainability.

Me too!

Unfortunately, our meal was kind of terrible. We wouldn't have minded so much if we hadn't just blown a wad of cash just to be disappointed. And it's not like we're food snobs or anything... but come on! You do not need to drown a perfectly good pear and spinach salad in crappy store-bought vinaigrette.

It also didn't help that the aforementioned IBS attack was on me in full force by then, and I kept having to leave the table. As a public service announcement, I'd like to say that Imodium Multi-Symptom is kind of a lifesaver. No one's paying me to say that, but if Imodium wants to send me a free box or something for the plug, I would not be opposed. (Hint hint.)

After our Meal of Disappointment, we went outside on the patio, where a kind soul took a family portrait of us that will probably end up on our Christmas card:

Mt. Rainier is pretty, but we like these crag-tops behind it even better.

We played games:

Johanna is the thumb wrestling champion. She's not quite as good at
Rock Paper Scissors or arm wrestling...

...And watched a bird Mom and Dad feed their babies:

Any idea what kind of bird this is? Jeff, you know, right?

Eventually we got antsy and started walking around again (I was feeling great by this point). It was fun to be in the park "after hours;" we've only ever spent the night in Yellowstone out of all the National and State Parks we've visited, and it's a great way to explore without a crowd.

This "back of the lodge" shot was taken on our exploration mission.

A view of the visitor's center, parking lot and mountain. Paradise Inn is
on the right, not shown.

There's those craggy tops again. So gorgeous.

As we were walking around and taking pictures and wondering aloud if it's safe for deer to be so tame they just walk right past you on their way to the good grass, we met some park hosts, who invited us to be a part of the star gazing... show?... they were setting up for. It looked awesome, and we actually went back to the lodge to change into warmer clothing--by this time, the sun was down and we were freezing. When we went back outside, though, we discovered that we are wimpy and couldn't hack the cold. We had sweatshirts and stuff, but what we really needed was coats, and that we didn't pack because hello, summer.

So we went to bed instead.

The next morning, we had a choice: Spend more of our hard earned cash on what was probably going to be a crappy breakfast, or drive down the road a bit to a picnic area and eat out of the trunk of the car with Mt. Rainier in the background.

Guess which one we picked?

Jo was hiding in the car.

Although, confession, I did stand in line at the Lodge deli for like 15 minutes for a cup of coffee. It was delicious.

Abby wanted to get the hell out of Dodge (which isn't really fair to Mt. Rainier because it is beautiful and peaceful and lovely), but Eric decided we'd mosey the hell out of Dodge instead, so that's what we did. And then we headed to Seattle.

But that's another post for another time. You deserve a breather after this one.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Happy birthday to me

I turned 42 on Saturday, and I've gotta tell you, it was one really great day: Farmers' markets and my free birthday Dutch Bros coffee in the morning, wine tour with family in the afternoon, and a pizza party (with crashers!) to cap it off. Plus! The weather was perfect, my sister-in-law and brother-in-law brought me flowers, and I mentioned the coffee, right? ;)

Eric! Me!

The wine tour was one of the gift certificates I'd gotten when I won that May Basket raffle. I wasn't sure what to expect, but it ended up being really fun. We met at the winery's tasting room, then took a van to the vineyard, where we got to see everything from the vines to the barrels. All along the way there was tasting (Eric drank most of mine. I would really rather have a cup of coffee), and then at the end they set us up at this farm table, overlooking the vineyard, with appetizers and (well, it was a wine tour) more wine. I learned that I prefer whites to reds, except it all kind of tastes the same to me (I know, I know, I suck), but that pear dessert wine at the end? I finished that glass. Mmm.

I'm holding a cracker in one hand and petting Rosie
the farm dog with the other. It was a busy afternoon.

I think back on all the time I wasted being depressed about turning 40 and wish I could go back a few years to tell myself not to worry about it. The 40s are awesome. Maybe because you're through with the "searching" and the "finding" and you're just going for it. I know who I am, I know what I want to do, and I do not waste time with wishing and hoping and blundering. (Well, I'm still naturally awkward, the 40s hasn't taken that away, it's just that I embrace it.) The 40s have given me confidence.

And that's the best birthday gift of all.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Project 333: July through September

So hey! Time for a new Project 333 rotation! That's pretty exciting, right?

Actually, I kind of forgot about it, I was that happy with my wardrobe. I thought I'd just keep my spring 33, but then decided that hey, this is a chance to mix it up a bit, so what the heck. Except it turns out I don't have a lot to mix up anymore, what with my massive purging and everything.

Yay me, I guess.

So basically here's what I did: I looked at my wardrobe, just hanging there all nicely in my closet, and then I thought about what kind of weather we will probably have in the next three months--it's summer, but we're in the Pacific Northwest, so that generally means we could be hot or cold, rainy or sunny, depressing or awesome, maybe all in the same week. Maybe in the course of a couple of days. Maybe in the same day. It's just what we do.

And then I closed the closet door and walked away.

Easiest Project 333 rotation ever!

Well, I guess that's not entirely true. I traded my navy blue long-sleeve t-shirt for my new blue-ish rummage sale long-sleeve t-shirt. I took out a pair of jeans that are beginning to get a hole in the seat. I pondered counting scarves (no) and shoes (yes) this time.

Multi-colored orange tank

Below is my list. You'll notice I'm at 31. I'm not really worried about it. It's nice to know I've got room to add if I need to. I sort my closet by color, so this is actually how it looks:

 1. Pants
 2. Long-sleeve hooded t-shirt

 3. Long-sleeve t-shirt
 4. Short-sleeve t-shirt
 5. Short-sleeve blouse
 6. Tank top
 7. Cardigan
 8. Dress pants
 9. Sandals
10. Flats (? Not really, but I'm not sure what else to call them)

11. Short-sleeve t-shirt
12. Tank top 
13. Jacket (favorite, have had four years)
14. Dress pants
15. Skirt
16. Capris

17. Multi color tank (this thing literally matches everything)

Short sleeve navy multi pretty

18. Zip-up cardigan (getting a small hole in the sleeve but I'm cool with that)
19. Long-sleeve blouse
20. Long-sleeve t-shirt

Navy / Blue / Denim
21. Skirt (favorite, but it's going to need replacing eventually--it's horribly made)
22. Short-sleeve blouse
23. Short-sleeve t-shirt
24. Tank top
25. Multi pattern tank
26. Pull over sweater
27. Short sleeve multi pretty
28. Jacket 
29. Skirt 
30. Dark wash jeans 

31. Skirt (favorite, have had for five years)

Huh. I have exactly three patterned articles of clothing. Everything else is solid. I am a big fan of solid.

P.S. This is my fourth Project 333 rotation, and heck yeah, I'm proud of that. When I first heard of the project, I thought it was insane. And just look at me now. There's a lot to be said about traveling light, even if you're not traveling at all. ;)

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Monday, July 14, 2014

Arts and crafts

Abby is going through some kind of crafty phase this summer, in which she's making hella friendship bracelets, sewn a bean-stuffed "dubious looking dolphin" (her words) "that I will pass down to my grandchildren assuming it lasts the month," and is attempting to create a portrait of Ron Swanson, among other things.

But her best project so far has been tie dye.

Abby and Johanna had maybe too much fun with this whole ordeal. I kept getting texts at work, asking if they could raid my sock drawer (um, no, I do not want tie dye undies), so finally I told them to just raid Eric's sock drawer, because hello, what's his is mine. (Kidding. I told them to ask first. He's nicer than me, so he donated some old t-shirts to the cause. Johanna ended up raiding her own closet and came away with a pair of the most psychedelic underpants ever seen, but that's another post for another time, meaning: Never.) 

The girls made both Eric and I t-shirts, which they presented to us with much fanfare after work, and the next thing I knew, we were modeling. Things quickly went from bad to worse:

We THINK we can be serious...

But no. We can't.
P.S. Abby says she's an ostrich, but I'm thinking more along the lines of T-Rex.

So whatevs. This tie dye train cannot be stopped. Or something.

P.S. Bonus shot, Dip the Dolphin:

"He's manly, but he's pink. He's a walking contradiction, except he doesn't walk.
His name is Dip, because he looks like a dip." --Abby

Friday, July 11, 2014

Delta Ponds City Park, Eugene, Oregon

Last weekend, we visited our dear friends Mara and Alex and their boys in Eugene, and I gotta say, the whole weekend was awesome. One highlight, though--aside from just hanging out in their backyard and visiting and eating A LOT and watching the kids fling themselves down the slip-and-slide--was the little walking tour they took us on around Delta Ponds.

It's a rather popular place, I gather, just based on the sheer volume of walkers, runners and bikers. And dogs. And strollers. And it has a rather interesting history, by the way, which you can read here.

I'm still trying to figure out my big girl camera (it may be that I'm too old to learn any new tricks), so I spent most of the walk playing with settings. I don't know, they all look the same to me, but anyway, here are my favorite shots of the day:

Blue heron.


No idea, just thought they were pretty.

Ducks are always big hits with the younger crowd.

Duck family!

Lily pads. Really loved the colors.

Two herons for the price of one! Abby thinks they're in love.

(It might just be me, but I think it's so weird that we have wild creatures just running around out there, just living their lives. And by weird, I mean awesome.)

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Abby Texts: Generation gap

Abby: Grandma asked if I'd get my ears pierced and I told her I'd do my nose and now she's all worried and like, "But do you really think he would like that?" ["He" being her secret boy crush]

Abby: Ha ha, she's like, "Might as well get pierced between your fingers."

Me: That's just silly, Grandma.

Abby: Nose piercing sounds hella sensible now doesn't it? And then somehow she started talking about texting while driving, as though since I have a desire to theoretically poke a hole in my nose I am now subject to all teenage whims. Next think you know I'll be harassing the elderly and lurking under people's windows with a boom box.

Me: Dude. That would be AWESOME. Where can we find a boom box?

Abby: Rummage sale for sure. Maybe I can pierce my nose with the needle we find in someone's pocket?

Me: Sounds legit but painful. Your call, though.

Abby: I think yolo.

P.S. We're not laughing at you, Grandma, we're laughing near you.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Good-bye, Cranky Steve

Last Monday, Cranky Steve retired.  And then we saw him on Tuesday. And Wednesday. And Thursday.

I have my doubts that he really understands what "retirement" means.

We had the traditional retirement cake Friday afternoon (it was bright pink, blue and yellow, and since anything neon is a clue that I cannot eat that particular thing, I ended up cutting cake and serving everyone. I mean, why not? May as well be useful), in which we presented him with a photocopy of a pocket watch--his retirement gift "from all of us" even though I think the office picked it up--with reassurances it would be here in a couple of weeks. It was all rather touching. Everyone was in a good mood because, hello, cake, and Steve was in a good mood because his days were numbered.

So Monday rolls around, and we're all, it's kind of awkward that we've already eaten his cake, but then Joe the president/publisher passed around the aforementioned pocket watch (that was a quick two weeks) and had us all stealthily sneak into Steve's tiny office to present it to him, but that took forever because he'd sent Steve out on some mission and he got sidetracked. Joe said some very nice words and we all clapped and then we got back to work.

Oh, and ate the brownies Steve had made and brought in himself. Except not me because my system is a jerk.

Anyway, Monday was kind of a nice last day for Steve, I think, because everyone was being all sentimental and Steve was pretty jacked he was hanging it all up. I gave him a jar of raspberry jam I'd made the evening before and the picture Johanna had made for him--Steve with his two cats, raccoon and skunk. I should have taken a copy of it because that picture was awesome. Also, Johanna thinks raccoons look like bigger cats.

And then, like I said, he kept coming back--on Tuesday because he didn't want our new circulation manager thrown to the wolves on her first paper day, on Wednesday because he had raccoon stories, I think, or else he was still cleaning out his office, and then on Thursday briefly to bring by some plastic packing boxes he no longer needed and was wanting to find homes for. You know what, though? Happy Steve is fun. It was a good way to go out.

We'll probably see him a lot this week too.

My favorite Cranky Steve posts:

Cranky Steve probably has rabies

However much I do

Mormon Chicken

Ah, the memories!

Friday, July 4, 2014

Friday "Art," Happy Fourth of July edition

As seen at my favorite farm stand. How cute is that?

Have a lovely day, my internet friends!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

It's the most wonderful time of the year

Last week was the annual St. Mary Altar Society Rummage Sale, a week-long extravaganza and collective parish event. You know, since I'm a minimalist and all, and since I've been a minimalist for like two years now (Eric swears we were minimalists before we were minimalists, and I think there's a lot of truth to that, but still), you'd think that I wouldn't have that much to get rid of at this point. And yet, I really did.

Actually, we all did. It's like a holiday of sorts in our house, where everyone (except Johanna) happily goes through their stuff and fills up bags to drop off at the church. It's kind of like Christmas in reverse, in that it takes months to prepare for and several trips to get it all done.

I don't know, I think I made like six or seven jaunts to the parish hall by the time it was all said and done. The church secretary was laughing at me when I brought in "just a few more things" as the altar society ladies were setting up, asking if my house was empty at this point.

Sadly, no. But man, what a difference! Our utility room was filled to capacity pre-rummage sale, and now it's echoingly empty. (P.S. Spell check hates "echoingly," but I think it has a nice ring to it, plus! I think I just made up a word!) My reading retreat was also filled to capacity... but it's still not empty. That's because there's a different kind of mess going on in there. But that's another post for another time.

I had thought I'd be able to help this year, but then my work schedule changed right in the nick of time, so whew! Dodged that bullet! (Joke. Um, kinda.) But Abby helped all week (she's already thinking about volunteer hours translating into scholarships), and when I came to pick her up her first day, she was wearing a pair of really funky pants, as follows:

Ugly pants with aforementioned ugly
Christmas sweater from Friday's post.

Ah, how proud she was of this find! She mulled over the thought of leaving them behind, but in the end decided they were too awesome to pass up for $1. She's actually going to use them for a chemistry class cover up next fall (she's taking two science classes, chem and biology. Is this really my kid?), and the thought just thrills her to no end.

Anyway, obviously volunteering really paid off.

As for me, I found three shirts that I was very excited about: A really awesome grayish-brown sweater (I know, sounds odd, totally worked), a light blue J. Crew long-sleeve t-shirt, and something that looks like it would be home on the ball field (gray body, black sleeves). Unfortunately, the sweater made me look like I had bat wings because the cut was weird (too bad, it looked awesome with my black pants), and the ball shirt was way too small (damn! I've always wanted one of those!), but the long-sleeve T-shirt fit nicely and, since it's in great condition, I'm considering that $1 well spent:

Nose shot. Also, see how grey my hair is?

So that's it for this year's rummage sale extravaganza. It feels good to be even lighter on the material front. I'm kind of hoping that I won't have quite so much to donate next year, just because that will mean we're finally getting somewhere, but I guess the good news is that if we do, at least we have an outlet.