Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Day!

I love this pic of Jeremy sharing a laugh w/Vicki.
Last day of the month.  Year. Wow. That flew by fast.  I'm thinking this morning about photographs.  When I took my first class with the digital photography class in May, I learned a lot of great new things. One of the topics of discussion was how people store their digitals. I snagged an idea from somebody to store mine in a folder monthly.  This idea has worked really well for me. 

In reviewing my folders, I noticed when the weather turned cold, my number of photos decreased dramatically.  I simply do not  like (notice I didn't use the "h" word ~ it's one of my New Year's resolutions) going outside when it's cold but the truth is that my favorite photos are taken outdoors. I love the morning light and there's nothing like an overcast day for great photos. I'm terrible at indoor photos because I absolutely loath (another word for hate) turning my flash on in someone's face. I've been trying to take indoor photos without a flash all winter and it's just not working out well. The editing program I downloaded from the internet (PhotoScape) does a pretty good job for a lay person like me in getting the red eye out and a few other adjustments but it seems the only way I can turn a bad indoor photo to good is to change it into a black & white photo, which is kinda fun! I love that I have the ability to do that.

Much better in B&W, don't you think?
Tomorrow I will open up a January 2011 folder in my computer. I just know there are interesting subjects to shoot outside my front door. I suppose I ought to get off my keester and start shooting.

I can hardly wait to see what 2011 will bring. I know tomorrow is not here yet. And, really, it's silly to mark it as some kind of special day. Today is what is important. When & if tomorrow gets here, I'll call it important then.  In the meantime, I think I'll use my day off today to bundle up (it's 16 degrees this morning) and get outside and see what's going on in my world and bring back some pics to post up.

Hope you have the most fabulous day of your life today!

love, Susan

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Biker Chicks

I was talking with a friend last night.  We're fairly new friends, having just met about 6 months ago. We're on a committee together and it's just been a real joy getting to know her better each time we're at a committee meeting or event.  Last night she was talking with Gene and all of sudden she made a b-line to where I was sitting and said excitedly, "I DIDN'T KNOW YOU ARE A BIKER CHICK!!!"  Well!  Let me tell you about riding a motorcycle, chica!

My new friend recently went on a poker run on the back of a very cool Harley Davidson with a mutual biker friend and she had the light in her eyes last night that tells me she's probably going to end up on her own motorcycle one day.   

Here's how it happened with me.  

When I met Gene just a little over 9 years ago, he took us for a couple of spins on his old Silverwing.  I hadn't been on a motorcycle since I was a teenager (more about that below).  He took us to downtown Portland once and then a ride over towards Mount St. Helen . I loved the ride the minute we rolled. When Gene moved to Yuma, he brought his Silverwing and a Goldwing. We did a lot of riding time on both until they had some problems and we ended up with another motorcycle we bought while in Oregon on one of our trips.  I was happy to ride on the back for a long time.  That is ... until I started seeing women motorcycle riders. There are lot of them in Arizona.  In fact, there are a lot of them everywhere. I had a very good friend I worked with at the courthouse who was a rider. She looked so cool on a bike and I noticed her eyes lit up when she talked about it.

I got an idea that maybe I'd like to ride my own motorcycle. When I said it out loud, Gene said, "why don't you go take the motorcycle safety class, get your endorsement and then decide if you really want to ride your own".  Good idea. That's what I did.  It was an easy class for me because I had a little Honda 125 when I was a teenager that dad let me ride out in the field in back of our place. I already knew how to shift gears. That's probably the hardest thing to learn and I figured it was much like riding a bicycle, once you learn, you never forget.

I went to the 2-weekend class, got my endorsement and needed to decide if I was really serious about this riding thing. It's one thing to ride circles in the church parking lot and a whole 'nother thing to take your wheels out on the road. Gene invited me to take his m/c for a spin right after my class and I thought to myself, "you'd better do it, Susan ... or you will have so much fear that you'll never get on a bike again".  I took that spin and came home and said, "I want my own bike". 

I bought my Honda 750 Aero from an attorney I knew from working at the courthouse. He had purchased it brand new, only rode it 560 miles and decided it was too dangerous for him to be riding as he had two young daughters, no medical insurance and blah, blah, blah.  That happens to a lot of people who buy motorcycles apparently.  We got a screaming good deal on it and I'm guessing I've logged about 7,000 miles on it.

I'm glad I didn't let fear take over in making the decision to do something that has brought so much joy into my life. Since we moved to Tri-Cities, we have had endless roads to travel and have barely scratched the surface of places to explore.  We have some excellent riding buddies (you know who you are!) who call us on Sunday mornings and say, "hey, wanna go for a little spin"?  We don't talk about riding much this time of year because it's too depressing and it just makes winter seem longer.  But, I'm glad my friend brought it up last night.  She's a go-getter ... I can see her on shiny wheels, all dressed up in leathers with her blonde hair flying out of the back of a helmet and a great big grin on her face.   That was me ... just a couple of years ago and I still love it as much as the first day I rolled.  Ride on!

love, Susan

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Hey, You Have a Bird On Your Head

Honolulu ~ Feb. 2010
So, my sister-in-law (I hate calling her my ex), Ally, is talking about her soon to be trip to Hawaii and I'm officially jealous.  Yesterday on FB she was asking about fins for snorkeling.  I tried not to let it get to me but all I can think about is being somewhere else this morning. The rain outside is not warm & tropical, it's frigid and gray.  The trade-off is a long road trip in May ... I can push through this, right?

Ally is heading to the north shore and I couldn't help but think about one of my favorite days on our trip last year. We took the city bus to the north shore and while on the bus, a guy we were chatting with insisted that we get off in this little town to visit an artist there.  We took his advice and it truly was the high point in the trip for me.  It was the home and music/art studio of the Ron Artis family. I was getting ready to suggest to Ally that she take her family to visit his studio but when I went online to get the information, I learned that Ron died December 8, 2010. How sad for his beautiful children and wife and Hawaii. We spent a solid two hours in his studio while there last February. He and his kids put on a a mini-concert for us and it literally brought tears to my eyes. Here's a sample I found on their website:  "I Can Feel You" - the Artis boys.  There wasn't any genre they couldn't play and it was a treat to see so much talent together in one room and to sit upfront & personal.  Ron Artis taught all of them how to play multiple instruments and sing.  These kids have been sheltered from Hollywood, NY city, and the likes. Now that their dad is gone, I can't help but wonder what direction they will go. If they don't stay together in this venture, I feel sorry for people who don't get a chance to hear them play. We bought CD's and I tried to listen to them but it's not the same as sitting right in front of them.  I'm so glad we listened to the guy on the bus! 

I wish I was going someplace warm ... soon.  But I'm happy for Ally and her family. They live in Fairbanks and I've been watching the weather there.  It's no different than any other year.  Just freakin' cold.  It makes me feel a little better about the rain ....

love, Susan
 

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

It's That Time of Year!

So, I was looking at my FB notes from last year around this time.  I wanted to see how I did for the year, knowing that I did some things well and still need improvement in many areas. This was a list I started at the end of December 2009, and I simply kept adding to it.  I'd love any suggestions others may have that I might add to it or ways you've learned to be less wasteful. 

New Ways to Be Less Wasteful

Dec. 29, 2009 - So I'm thinking I can start this list and keep adding to it. I like to put what I'm saving next to it to give it a value.I'm adding my new (2010) notes in BOLD print.

1) Shred or recycle ALL junk mail as I open it. Don't leave it laying around to waste space & time later when I have to keep picking it up. I take my shred to the local Humane Society so they can use it for the puppies. I throw it in my trunk & drop it off when I'm near the Humane Society. I also take shred from my office to the HS. P.S. I always shred anything with a name, address or account number. Saves environment and may save me from identity theft.  I'm still doing this although it's been a while since I've taken a bag to the Humane Society since we now have a good recycle program in Richland.

2) Always try to make my steps count. If I'm going to the basement, think about what I can carry there so I'm doing two things at once. Saves time & energy. Still doing this.

3) I always keeps a big plastic bag near my closet so I can put things in it that need to go to donation. Once it's full, carry it to the car and place it in the trunk. Next time I'm near a donation place, drop it off! Saves space & energy. This year, I've decided I'm going to have a very large yard sale sometime the end of March. I have been bringing home copy paper boxes that are all the same size and have them handy for dropping stuff I no longer use into them, place the lid on them and stack them in the corner in anticipation of 'the yard sale'.

4) I collect those container trays that cookies come in at work quite often. I reuse them to take to potlucks so I don't lose my dishes. Saves environment and my dishes. I have more than I need now. My friend, Tara, takes them also so the ones at work never see the trash can. There's more than one 'earth muffin' in our office. YES!

5) I only use cold water to wash my clothes. I don't even have the hot water turned on to my washer. My clothes are always clean. Saves energy & money. My clothes are always clean. Hot water is not necessary unless you have someone in your home who works with grease & oil and gets their clothes extra dirty.

6) Keep all leftovers in reusable containers. I use very little Saran Wrap or foil. I try to use my leftovers as much as I can. I can do better though and it's a goal to try to throw less food away. Saves money & environment. I don't use Saran Wrap at all. I like those "disposable" containers a lot. I get a lot of use out of them and am not sure why they call them disposable.  I did a pretty good job of storing frozen food this year. I've been on an oatmeal & blueberry kick all year. I found a container to pour the frozen blueberries into that's easy to get into every morning.

7) I save the plastic bag that crackers & cereal comes in to use for coating chicken or pork. I save my coffee cans for Gene to use in his shop. Saves money & environment. Just used a bag that Splenda came in last night to coat some chicken. I love this tip ~ when you're done with the bag, you just toss it ~ same as a Ziploc.

8) I make a lot of lists. When I have errands to do, I make a list to see how I can accomplish everything without backtracking. Sometimes I put things off that are off the beaten path if I don't really have to do it today. Saves gas & time & frustration. I've started using my Outlook at work to make small lists for lunch time. I usually only give myself 3 things to do at lunch time.

9) Take your own canvas bags to use instead of the plastic bags the stores uses. Saves the environment. This year I started leaving some bags in the trunk because I find I'm out the door and have forgotten my canvas bags. Maybe I should start writing "canvas bag" at the top of my grocery list!

10) Use a Britta filter and fill up enviro safe containers instead of buying plastic bottles that end up in the landfill. Saves money & environment. We just found a slim Britta container at the thrift store in The Dalles.  Paid .99 cents for it. It's brand new. Fits way better in our fridge than the one we bought last year at a thrift store. The old one will be going into the 'yard sale' box!

11) Use coupons. Go to shortcuts.com Save money & time. I have not done well with this.

12) Buy bigger containers of meat and freeze in smaller package. Save money & waste less food. We discovered that Fiesta Foods, over in Pasco, has dynamite meat sales. We've been doing a lot of bulk buying & freezing.

13) When you need a household item that doesn't have to be new, check out your local thrift stores to see if you can find it used. Saves money & environment and it's fun!  See No. 10.  I've been looking for old Tupperware that's made in the U.S.A. that's still in excellent shape. Surprisingly, I'm finding lots of it in the thrift stores.

14) Share a meal with your spouse. And, order water. You need to drink more water anyway and it saves a lot on your meal bill and maybe you can give your waiter a little better tip. Save money and your waistline. Our favorite Friday night out this last year has been a trip to Panda Express. We order a 3-entree meal "to go" so it comes in a handy container with a lid and ask for 2 forks. We always get an extra order of shrimp for $1 and share a medium soda - total $9.65. We sit at a table, open the container and share a meal. Not exactly everyone's idea of romantic but it is for us!

15) January 2 ~ tip of the day for being less wasteful: Consider canceling your newspaper subscription. Tired of papers piling up that you never read? Tip: read your news online or read the newspaper at work. Saves money, your energy & environment. I broke down and ordered the paper a couple of months ago but I'm canceling it before the end of the week.  I started out reading it everyday and now I'm lucky if I read it once a week. 

16) January 3 ~ tip of the day for being less wasteful: PUT THINGS BACK WHERE THEY BELONG. This is all in caps because this is the biggest time buster for me. How many times I have gone looking for my (fill in the blank) and if I had just placed it where it belongs I would have saved myself time & frustration and yes, money. I still try to do this every single day.

17) January 4 ~ double tip of the day for being less wasteful: Take a shorter shower. Yes, you can do it! Use a timer & see how long it takes. While you're at it, start comparing your utility bills from a year ago. See if taking a shorter shower doesn't cut your bill down just a smidge. And, if you don't already, use the same towel all week. Saves time, $$ & resources all the way around. I started showering downstairs after Thanksgiving this year. I like that shower better and it has only one control instead of two knobs. Perfect for saving water.

18) Jan. 5 ~ tip for being less wasteful: Take care with your finances. Set aside time to really look at your bills to make certain they are correct. I do not use autopay because it is like "set it & forget it" and I need to be paying attention to what I'm paying. I still pay online but I have my bills set up so that I can just plug in the numbers & hit pay. This year I saved $30 a  month by renegotiating my basic cable bill with Charter. They run 'specials' for 6 and 12 months. When that time is up, they automatically raise your bill.  Simply call them and ask about what kind of promotion they are running and let them know you are getting ready to change providers. They will bend over backwards to keep your business.

19) Jan. 7th ~ Tip for wasting less time: put a map & a phone book in the trunk of your car. I can't tell you how many times this has come in handy for us. Instead of looking for the map every time we take off on a road trip, this has saved much time & frustration. Saves many dollars buying new maps (we have stacks of them). This works.

20) Jan. 8 ~ Tip for being less wasteful. I've been talking mostly about saving $$ but today my tip is about saving time. The older I get, the less time I want to waste. One of the things I want to do less of is sitting in front of mindnumbing TV. This winter I've got 2 nights a week with activities outside my house. See more in my comments. We spent Christmas at Cathy's this year. We watched 3 movies over the weekend. I realized I had not watched a movie in a while! Enjoyed their HD TV a little too much.

21) Jan. 9 - Tip for being less wasteful: Check the air in your tires. Seriously. Do you know how many pounds should go in your tires? Do you know what kind of mileage your auto gets? I'm pretty sure my tires needs air.  This is going on my weekend to-do list!

22) Can't remember what this tip was. Uh oh. Don't lose your mind.

23) Jan. 11 ~ Tip for being less wasteful: Slow down when you're on the highway. See information in the link I've pointed to. Slow Down, Save Gas. This tip is tried & true. As much as I like to get where I'm going faster than anyone else, it doesn't pay. We paid $3.26 a gallon for gas in Tri-Cities last week. 

24) Jan. 12 - Tip for being less wasteful: This is my personal favorite. Make your own greeting cards! I've been making my own stamped cards for 15 years. It's a hobby. I made all my greeting cards this year. Some of them were not all that fancy but I enjoyed writing notes in them.

25) Jan. 13 - Tip for being less wasteful: When you are making a trip to see your doctor, make a list of everything you wish to discuss. Thankfully, I haven't had to see my doctor this year but I'm getting ready for an annual checkup in January so I'm glad I wrote this tip ~ and will be taking my own suggestion.

26) Jan. 14 - Tip for being less wasteful: Hug your loved ones today. I'm saddened by the devastation of the earthquake in Haiti & can't really think of anything else this morning. Life is precious & I have nothing to complain about today although I probably will without thinking about it.  Was that earthquake only a year ago?  Well, this is still a good tip, no matter what.

27) Jan. 15 ~ Tip for being less wasteful: When traveling, be a minimalist. Pack "lite". This tip is self-explanatory but so hard to do the first couple of times. Saves energy & stress. We took carry-on bags for a week in Honolulu in February. It was awesome to just get off the plane and go. What do you really need when you are on vacation?

28) Jan. 17 ~ Tip for being less wasteful: fill your dishwasher & clothes washer before I run 'em. I don't use my dishwasher unless I have company. I prefer to hand wash my dishes. Weird, I know. I do mix my towels & jeans together to complete a load. I use cold water only for clothes. I haven't found an eco-friendly laundry soap so that's a goal of mine but I do use eco-friendly dishwashing soap. I still do this and I'll keep doing it.

29) Jan. 19 ~ Tip for being less wasteful: Experiment. So, I've been experimenting with homemade pizza this last week and different things at my grocer that I never saw before. Maybe I'll open up my recipe book and make something I've never made before. Doesn't that sound like fun?

30) Jan. 20th - Tip of the day: I'm running short on tips but here's one everyone knows. Just because the sign says it's 1/2 price doesn't mean it's a good deal. Be a good shopper. Right now is a great time for sales but I don't really need much so it's going to have to be a mega-good sale for me to buy right now.

31) Jan. 21 ~ Tip for being last wasteful: Use up what I have first before buying more. This is the hardest one for me.  I get tired of the same food.  I like reading other people's recipes and seeing how they change things up. 
 
32) New tip: Used coffee grounds. To keep kitty from using the garden as his personal powder room, sprinkle coffee grounds mixed with orange peels around your plants. See Coffee Grounds
I've been doing this since the beginning of fall when I dug up an area where I'm going to place some rose bushes in the spring. Mr. Kitty thought it was his new litter box.  Since I've started tossing my daily coffee grounds in that area, it's been 'kitty free'. I have not added orange peels to the mix but it seems to be working.  They also say that it keeps the ants away. 
Okay, well, there it is. I feel like I have a renewed commitment to be less wasteful.  I look forward to any tips others might add.  Have a great day!

love, Susan

Monday, December 27, 2010

The City of Roses

Rain
I love Portland.  I can live without the rain but I love the city.  I was sitting in the car at Auto Zone while Gene went in to get some anti-freeze for the car and I snapped this pic.  It is not in black and white.  That's just how it is when it's raining in Portland. Gray.  Granted, the trees are the most beautiful green you've ever seen. 

Every time we go through the city, I just want to say "take the next exit, let's go downtown". It's a real treat when we do. When I first met Gene, he took me downtown on his motorcycle and we walked around, visited Powell's Book Store and had dim sum at a favorite little spot and walked around. He always bought a box of tea after lunch. We've been back a couple of times and we usually end up at that little restaurant but it's been a while since we've done that.  If I started a list of things I want to do in 2011, going to downtown Portland for a whole day would be on it.  

The last time we ventured out from the center of Portland, we found the most awesome Thai restaurant. The owners had just opened and they told us the story of how they had moved from Los Angeles to open this place.  I can't remember the name of it but Gene will be able to drive right to it.  It's in a funky part of town ... kind of at the bottom of a residential hill.  I remember seeing a teenager who looked like she might be one of the many homeless teens in Portland, across the street from where we ate. The reason I remember her is that she had on a funky little outfit that was black & white striped, lots of metal in her face and she seemed like nobody's girl.  She should have been in school, but she wasn't.  There was a record store across from where we ate.  These are things that stick in  my head.  I don't know why.  Yes, a record store.   And, that Thai food was perhaps the best I've ever had.  I hope they are surviving the recession.  I hope we get to go there just one more time.

COMING HOME:
The rain led us through the gorge and when we got on the other side, I saw blue sky. Big smiles.  I do love the blue sky. I can't help it.  As much as I love  going to Portland, I love coming home.  

It won't be long before we once again get road fever .... maybe a random trip to Portland to spend the day downtown to eat Chinese food and spend hours at the bookstore and ride the Max? 

I think I just might have the start of a 2011 life list!

love, Susan

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Love in a Jar

Jeremy's dad, Frank, makes the best pickles, ever.  This year he put Thai peppers in some of his pickles. Trust me, this jar packs enough flavor that it really deserves a new word in the dictionary to describe it.  It makes my mouth water just looking at the jar. I'll be opening it as soon as I finish this post.

I love home-made gifts. We don't do them often enough these days.  The mother of Gene's children, Wendy, gave me a beautiful pair of wool socks she knitted along with a warm scarf and a matching hat. She also brought the best-ever sweet potatoes with a pecan/brown sugar topping to dinner yesterday. It was like dessert disguised as a vegetable.  I had it for breakfast this morning before we left Portland, along with turkey & stuffing with gravy from last night's gift from Jeremy. Forget the french toast. Give me leftovers.

The kids made us a photo frame with a picture their mom took of them together on the first day of school this year. It's a treasure that will be hanging up on the wall before the sun goes down today.  There was also a small ornament the youngest made for us.  Treasures ... all of these.

It was a really fun weekend and one not to be soon forgotten.

love, Susan


Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Children Are No Longer Nestled Into Their Beds

Nice drive from Tri-Cities to Portland. Traffic was light and the fog surprisingly lifted near Umatilla. Raining in Portland but not a down pour. Justin texted me about noon time that he and Amanda were on the train and headed to Michigan. They won't arrive until this evening, so while I was waking up in a sometimes comfortable hide-a-bed, I was thinking about where they may have laid their heads down last night because they opted to not get a cabin on the train due to budget restraints. Ah, they're young and being college students they probably know how to sleep sitting up, right?

We stopped in The Dalles to stretch our legs, and if the truth be known, to check out the Salvation Army thrift store, since it was open. I don't know why we've never been to this one before but it's a really good one and we practically had the whole store to ourselves with an "overstocked" sale going on.  I scored an awesome cast iron round griddle for $8 and three really nice wool blazers for $1.99 each and a nice piece of Tupperware that was made in the U.S.A. that I couldn't leave there for .49 cents.  Gene found a corduroy hat and oh, another Sequence game, big print!  We now have 3 of those board games.  I forget how neat the town of The Dalles is .... it's a little bit of a step back in time there. Corporate America has not totally ruined the place.  Anyway ....

Speaking of Sequence, we got the game out last night and played two rounds with a total of 9 people.  We have some new recruits to the game and they were instantly hooked.  It's a great game for the kids too because they can all play with the adults now.  So much fun!!

Also, we actually sat down and watched a whole movie together with the kids. Great movie called "Fly Away Home".  Cathy & Jeremy have a new 32" LCD HD TV.  We still have the old, old TV and I was totally obsessed with the clearness of their new TV.  I'm not a big TV watcher but I'm afraid if I got one of those new ones, I might be spending a lot more time in front of it and then I'd have to order NetFlix ... that's how it starts.  Pretty soon I'd be calling in sick because I had to stay home and watch some 4 year series I ordered and ... well ... guess I'll get my fill of TV while I'm here.

Well, the children are up and Santa apparently has been here so I'd better get off this thing and see what's happening. 

love, Susan

Friday, December 24, 2010

Holiday Spirit - It Strikes Me Funny

So, I didn't have to work yesterday. 4-day weekend. Yahoo!  Our office manager made an honest error when she looked at the court calendar and thought the courts were closed yesterday. She had announced over 6 weeks ago that we would be closing the office Thursday & Friday.  It came to her attention about 3 weeks ago that she had made an error and the partners in the firm where I work decided to just leave things as they were and closed the office yesterday & today.  I told her "I love mistakes with a happy ending." What a beautiful gift time off can be!

We ventured out early for a dental exam at 8:00 a.m. and then went to eat some breakfast at The Village Deli. Gene was surprised when they brought him plate sized buttermilk pancakes ~ and they were awesome. Stopped at the bank and stood in line with about 10 people and found my favorite teller to be extra chipper. Then on to Costco where the parking lot was a nightmare. I have terrible anxiety in crowds but I only needed to get in there & buy one of their gigantic apple pies to take to Portland today. On the way in, we stopped and chatted for a brief moment with a nice guy coming out of Costco who had traveled from Walla Walla and he said they needed to post psychologists strategically in the store. I got a good laugh out of that.  Surprisingly, everyone behaved themselves and even though the lines were extra long, people were really pleasant & smiling. I talked with a  nice woman and her 20-something daughter behind us in line and she had one of these hot water kettles that a friend gave to me about a week ago. It was a conversation starter. She was buying it for her son who is going to college in Colorado. I told her he'd love the kettle ~ it gets the water hot really fast.  As we were walking to our car, I heard a little boy behind us tell his dad, "I was walking behind the wrong guy".  There were so many people, the little guy was tailing the wrong dad.  I don't know ... it just struck us funny & we found ourselves laughing out loud.  Then we ventured over to Sears to look at treadmills. We're going to order one online but wanted to see what it looked like first. We walked the length of the mall and it was packed solid with holiday shoppers.  Ran into one of my favorite co-workers (you know who you are!) and she gave me a wonderful, "you're my favorite friend" hug.  On the way out of the store, Gene made a pit stop and I sat down next to a woman who is in town from Spokane to spend the holiday with her peeps. They all still had a lot of shopping to do but they were getting ready to meet up with her brother, who works at Tony Romas, for lunch. She was sure to tell me they were not going to Tony Romas for lunch.  It struck me funny

So, if you're wondering what strikes me funny, it's those awesome, brief moments of love that zap me on a day that usually I would not be caught dead going to the mall.  I realize I'm not the only one who feels this way. I'm quite certain if a person were to stand at the entrance or exit of the mall and take a poll, it would reveal that most people don't want to be there at the last minute.  But in spite of all that, I found all these moments that made me laugh & smile ... and I'm so glad I didn't miss it.

love, Susan

Thursday, December 23, 2010

This Was NOT In the Brochure

Woke up to frosty weather yesterday morning.  As is the case every single morning, I'm always running around like a chicken with its head cut off and so happy when Gene goes out to clear off the windshield.  Funny thing is, after he got done scraping it off, the next thing he knew, it was raining.

We have had the most bizarre weather so far this year. Whoever put together the Tri Cities Brochure must have been on crack.  The brochure touts "the region enjoys over 300 days of sunshine".  They lie.


Yuma, Arizona has 328.5 days of sunshine according to Answer Dot Com.  Now that I've lived both places, I feel qualified to say there are some pretty creative writers at the Chamber of Commerce here in my current domain. Either that, or they see the sun poke through the clouds for 5 minutes and count that as a day.

Near Arizona (Holtville, CA)
In Yuma, Arizona, when they say it's going to be a cloudy day, you might see a stratus cloud way off in the distance.  Yumans get excited about that. Can you imagine waking up every day and looking outside and saying, "Oh gosh, Martha, it's sunny again."  Yeah, I do miss that.  When it rains in Yuma, Arizona, people are known to call in sick and stay home to celebrate the rain. Weird, I know. I never got used to people actually liking loving the rain.  I don't think they're quite right in the head, if you know what I mean.

I realize that if there was a place with perfect weather year-round, we'd all be living there.  San Diego comes pretty darn close but who can afford to live there, right?

Well, at least I have those cute purple Sorel boots I can look forward to putting on every morning. Reminds me of growing up in Alaska. We had ice fog here on Monday. I thought I was having a nightmare and living in Fairbanks, Alaska again.  Quick, somebody pinch me.

Okay, I'll stop now.  I still love it here. Today, we're heading to the dentist since I have the day off and then maybe will take "Missy" over to the dog park to play with her friend "Jake".  I will likely freeze to death.

love, Susan

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Things That Made Me Lose Sleep in 2010

And, the 3rd list suggested on Adam Baker's list of events for 2010:  Make a list of things that made you so excited you couldn't sleep.  This was the hardest of the three. I'm not a future tripper.  I used to be.  And, I lost a lot of sleep because of it. Honestly, I think the only two things that kept me awake last year were trips.  One was mine, the other was the arrival of Justin and Amanda.


Susan on the last day of Honolulu trip.
The first year we moved to Washington, we didn't "get out" in the winter time and it was a long, long, loooonnnnggg winter. By the end of it, we decided we needed to break it up the next year with a trip somewhere warm. We decided on Honolulu for a week and it was just the right ticket. We drove to Cathy's place & she drove us to the PDX airport. I did not sleep well the night before that trip. I'm not fond of flying.  There, I said it. But there's no other way to get there. This year, we are planning a long road trip to AZ and not sure where in between to & fro. If we can squeeze in the Badlands in South Dakota, that'd be on both of our lists.  If not, I'd settle for southern Utah.  The possibilities are endless. Maybe we'll even wait until the day we leave to decide.  That's how we roll.  One day at a time, literally.  It's more adventurous that way. We will definitely keep doing that.

Amanda & Justin ~ Nov. 2010
I hardly slept the night before the kids got here on Thanksgiving.  I knew they were coming for 5 months and didn't allow myself to think too much about it until right before they arrived, or I would have lost a lot more sleep than one night. It's a necessary skill I've learned over the last decade. I used to wear holes in my sheets from tossing & turning while worrying instead of sleeping. I love this quote:

"Do not anticipate trouble, or worry about 
what may never happen. 
Keep in the sunlight"  ~ Benjamin Franklin

So, wrapping up the 3-part list, things that made me cry, laugh & lose sleep and connecting them all together, I'd have to say the things I need to keep doing are travel, be more patient, answer my phone when friends call, make plans but don't plan the outcome, visit family, and hit the beach once or twice a year.

love, Susan


Do That, Too

In continuation from "Do That", this is Part Two of the list from Adam Baker's blog:
 
Make a list of times in 2010 you laughed so hard you were in physical pain.

My honeynut!
I've had a couple of those instances this last year. The times when I laugh the hardest are usually over nothing. Gene will do something that irritates me and he'll start to giggle because I'm being so pig-headed and he knows that I know that he knows that I know I'm being pig-headed.  Did you follow that? It's that place in our relationship where love & tolerance live. I've never had that ... ever ... with anyone else before.  Yeah, my relationship with Gene.  I'm going to keep DOING THAT.

Cathy & Jeremy - Sept. 2010
I had a really good belly laugh at the coast with the kids in September. I can't remember what made me laugh but somewhere in there were Jeremy & Wynter.  When those two get together, there's guaranteed laughter.  Siblings at their best.  Family campouts at the coast ... yes, I'm going to keep DOING THAT.
Justin - Nov. 2010
Justin & Amanda coming to visit for T-day ... it was laughing stretched out over 3 days until, of course, they had to leave and then it was a river of tears.  I do hate goodbyes but I'd never ever give up the time spent with them to avoid the pain of the 'goodbye'.   Can't wait to see them in May.  Save time & money to visit our kids ... keep DOING THAT.

The dog & cat provide a lot of laughs for us. When I come home from work, Missy greets me at the door with her "Kong" and every single day I yell down the stairs to Gene, "have you fed the dog yet?"  The answer is always the same.  Missy doesn't know we talk to each other.  She tries her best to work us. And sometimes it works out for her and she gets fed twice. She loves to harass the cat & it cracks me up when Mr. Kitty has had enough and lets her have it with both full claws.  Have animals ... keep DOING THAT.

Linda "pretending" to fish!
My friend, Linda, and I went on a scavenger hunt photo shoot in September. Had a blast finding things on our scavenger list. We needed to shoot a fisherman and couldn't find one so we found a big stick and pretended we each were fishing while the other snapped the pic. We laughed pretty hard at our silliness.   Always say yes to friends and never lose my imagination ... keep DOING THAT.

 
Playing "Sequence" with dad & Nancy for hours & hours and all the silly table talk.  We'll keep DOING THAT.
 
The list is much longer than I have space for.  Who knew?
 
NOTE TO SELF:  just keep doing what you're doing and you'll keep getting what you're getting.
love, Susan


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Do That

One of my favorite blog sites is Man v. Debt. The blog is written by a young man living life outloud and debt free. I've followed Adam Baker for about a year now and learned of other great blogs from his. I love his honesty and humility.  Yesterday he wrote a post that challenged me -- I went to bed thinking about it.   What makes you cry tears of joy?  Do that, he says.

Make a list of everything in the last year that has made you cry tears of joy.  Take actionable steps to center your life around the items on this list in 2011.That’s it.

Horse Heaven Hills - July 2010
Hmmm ... things that made me cry of joy? Oh, that's easy. When Gene's daughters picked up and drove over to Tri Cities when he was having his medical crisis. I didn't really want to them to have to rearrange their busy lives but they never thought twice about it. They just got in the Jeep and drove. I was ever so thankful for their arrival ~ they kept me sane for 2 1/2 days. About a week after Gene was out of the hospital, we took a motorcycle ride up to Horse Heaven Hills and sat there over-looking the valley & Prosser. We both cried.  Dodging a fatal bullet can do that to you.  It brings you to your knees. Action: Do for others.  And, ride all the days you can ride. The housework can wait.
Chinatown - Honolulu 2010

Eating lunch everyday at Ruby's Bakery in Honolulu ~ that made me cry. I loved it that we found people who welcomed us to come back and share a meal with them, just as if we were family. If we ever go back, we'll be hard pressed to eat anywhere else. The cook & owner made us his special garlic shrimp, which is not on the menu. We felt special. I love that memory. Action: Eat food that makes you happy and always go where you feel welcomed.

Blessing of the Fleet
Visiting with my cousins at the annual Clark Cousins Reunion. I'd like to say it wasn't until we got ready to leave that I cried, but it wasn't.  I've never been good at goodbyes and even though everyone was asleep when we slipped out of the parking lot for our 9 hour drive home, I got a lump in my throat.  But this year was really special for me because my cousins who live in Port Orford took us down to the boat harbor for the  "Blessing of the Fleet". It's an annual event where the town's people remember the ones who have been lost to the sea and they say a blessing for those going out to sea to make their living. Their local pastor had lost his wife to cancer last year and there was not a dry eye in the audience as he spoke of how loss became real to him.  I was so moved by it that I'm losing it just writing this.  There were local people who got up to the podium and read poems, sang a song about the sea, and then they raised a flag and the bell tolled for those lost. My Uncle Red died in Port Orford, not at sea, but he loved the sea. Action: Be kind to everyone. You never know what they are battling in their lives & you never know when you're going to be walking in their shoes.

Whew, this post is harder than I thought it would be. I have a lot more things that made me cry for joy last year but I have to stop writing for now.   Maybe tomorrow I should think about things that made me laugh, huh?  Stay tuned.

 
2.  Make another list of times in 2010 you laughed so hard you were in physical pain.

3.  Make a third list of events in 2010 that made you so excited you couldn’t sleep.

Look at all three lists… is there any overlap?
Do that.
Do it for the rest of your life.

Monday, December 20, 2010

I Shall Wear Purple

This is my Aunt Elsie.  She is the oldest in my dad's family of seven siblings.  When I saw her in August, 2010, at the annual Cousin's Reunion in Port Orford, it took my breath away because she looks exactly like her mother, my grandmother, Alma.  Aunt Elsie turned 90 in September and although we missed her birthday party, we were so happy to see her in August.  When she and my Uncle Elmer pulled up in their RV, it was a happy sight!

Aunt Elsie is a great example of a hard-working, dedicated woman. She raised 3 children on a farm and still lives in the same house in a little junction on the way to the coast of Oregon. My sharpest memories are going to visit her at the little one-room library where she volunteered on a constant basis. My  other grandma (on my mom's side), who died a couple of years ago, also volunteered at the library and the last time I saw them together, I snapped a photo of them in front of the library. These woman are what I call the brick-a-brack of my life. I have lots of brick-a-brack ... and plenty of time to write about them, I hope. 

I received an email late last week that Aunt Elsie had a medical crisis and she is going in for surgery today.  My cousin wrote that the doctor who is performing the surgery is young but has been doing this procedure for 10 years now and very proud that he has never lost a patient.  I have a feeling today will be no different

Ninety.  I think about that and if I live to be 90, that's  a lot of life between now and then.  I can accomplish a lot of things if I set my mind to it.  Since we moved to Washington, I feel like I've done more things in two years than I did the whole last 10 years.  Life is not be wasted. 

I love this photo of Aunt Elsie talking to my Aunt Glenva. She was, no doubt, recalling all the names & events surrounding these photos.  She's as sharp as a tack and I think good, clean living, good food and reading  lots of books has contributed to her longevity. I love it that they brought all these old photos to share with us.

We're thinking about you today, Aunt Elsie, and hoping the surgeon has his best day ever!

NOTE TO SELF:  Remember to print photos to leave for the kids.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

2-for-1 Sunday -- On a Happier Note ...

So ... this snowflake was the other thing rolling around in my head this morning.  It's Sunday ... it's my blog ... and I can write two posts if I wanna!

This lovely, hand-crocheted snowflaked arrived in my mail yesterday as I was busy baking.  Gene handed me the large envelope it was mailed in and before I opened it, I said, "this is a snowflake that Aunt Cindy crocheted for us this year." 

I totally love it, Aunt Cindy!  And I love you, too!!  I love that you sit and watch the Arizona Dimondbacks and crochet snowflakes for all the special people in your life.  I love knowing that you are thinking about me when your fingers are busy with all the details of each unique pattern you make every year.  I love it that you always place it in a ziploc bag and write my name on it with a black sharpie.  And, I love it that you put this precious snowflake in a great big, padded envelope so it won't get crushed in transit.

I took last year's snowflake down and placed it elsewhere and placed the new one up and shot this photo so you could see that it matches our weather!  Aunt Cindy, I leave your snowflakes up all year, first because they remind me of you and secondly, they keep the birds from crashing into our windows and falling to the ground helplessly and hoping that Mr. Kitty is not outside before they shake off the hit to the window, that is, if they survive it.

I've never crocheted anything but scarves and blankets, and that's hard enough.  So, I have a deep appreciation for the work that goes into your snowflakes.

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow .....

love, susan

So You Think You're Poor?

When I have something on my mind, and there rarely is a time when I don't, I have to get it out on paper or research it, and work through it.  This morning, I have a couple of things rolling around in my head and it was a toss up which one would make it to the keyboard.  It's always the louder thought that makes it ....

Warning: It's a downer.  And, even though it's a downer, I'm not feeling depressed about it, it's just an acute awareness that I am finding I cannot easily dismiss.

I heard a woman say something the other day that stuck in my brain and it won't go away.  She said that if you have a refrigerator with even just a container of spoiled milk in it and a closet with only one change of clothes in it, you are better off than three-quarters of the world's population. At first, I dismissed it as crazy talk but obviously it was a thought that didn't go away completely.  I did a little research online this morning and found this website 21st Century Poverty that provides some staggering statistics.  Most people won't click on this site so I'm pulling out the most shocking stats I found:

Today, across the world, 130,000,000,000 people live on less than $1.00 a day; 3,000,000,000 live on under $2.00 a day; 1,300,000,000 have no access to clean water; 3,000,000,000 have no access to sanitation; 2,000,000,000 have no access to electricity.

I had to clear my eyes and count the zeros because the stats are talking about billions of people, as if millions is a small number.  Three billion people with no access to sanitation and a few less with no clean water.  It takes my breath away thinking about it.

****************************************************************

Ever since Justin & Amanda came for Thanksgiving a month ago, I started using our downstairs shower because we gave them our bedroom, therefore we slept in the basement while they were here. I had only used that downstairs shower once or twice before but I really love it because it has a one-knob faucet on it and I like to turn it on, get my hair wet, turn if off, lather up, turn it back on, rinse and get out.  I'm a 5-minute shower person.  I haven't always been this way, but a summer trip with my dad in an RV turned me into a water conservationist against my own will. When Gene I traveled  & camped early in our relationship, we found places to shower like the YMCA and campgrounds where you pay 50 cents for 5-minute showers. We got really good at quick showers & were ever so thankful we could find places with hot water for showering. 

**********************************************************

So, I stayed home all day yesterday, cooking up a storm and enjoying my kitchen and the fact that I have running hot water and walnuts (see about walnuts) to throw in my fudge.  Surprisingly, the melancholy I typically feel this time of year is mild and Christmas is less than one week away and I haven't gotten all crazy about it.

If you've hung in reading this far into my post, I just want to say I'm always grateful for so many things such as friends, family, hot running clean water, walnuts, heat, good health,  chocolate chips and only about a billion other things. I hope I never get so desensitized that I don't hear the messages that people give me that I sometimes dismiss as crazy talk. 

Saturday, December 18, 2010

I Want to Be a Scone

I made Scones (see my other blog, "What's Cooking") yesterday morning on a whim. My sister-in-law, Joanna, gave me a great recipe a long time ago but I didn't use it this time.  I found this recipe in my handy-dandy Better Homes & Garden Cook Book. This cook book has never failed me. There's a cake called Best Ever Carrot Cake on page 151 and they're not lying ~ it's a crowd pleaser.  The recipe for scones Joanna gave me calls for buttermilk, ham & cheese. Mmm ... 3 of my favorite things. I wish I could find a substitute for the cheese as Gene's arteries certainly don't need it. I couldn't help but think about Joanna when I was making my scones yesterday.  She would have liked them, I'm pretty sure. 

Scones are a glorified biscuit, when you really get down to it. I compared the recipes and there 'aint much difference.  I think Scones may have a little more love in them. And, they look really beautiful when you serve them on a plate with a cup of tea (insert your English accent here).  Think about it. It would just be really weird to have Craisins in one of your round biscuits. But somehow when you cut up the dough like pizza and sprinkle a little love on top, it becomes something else.


Okay, this is where I get all philosophical ... sorry ... hope you'll bear with me.  Isn't this what happens to people sometimes?  You sprinkle them with a little love and they become someone else.


love, susan

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Clarinet & Square Pegs

I was reading my cousin Tommy's wife's post to her  blog the other day, Band Concert, and it is probably no coincidence that within the last month I had dusted off the old clarinet I had played when I was in high school. I was getting ready to sell it as it has just been sitting around collecting dust for 30+ years.  My dad  kept it stored at his home in North Pole, Alaska, and on one of his summer trips brought it back to me in Arizona. I remember rolling my eyes when he handed it to me because it's highly doubtful I would ever play it again. But I do love the sentiment my dad has for things and as luck would have it, one of my cousin's children has expressed interest in playing the clarinet. So, I'm going to take this wonderful instrument that brought me great joy when I was a teenager, over to the "Music Man", who happens to be within walking distance of my work office, and ask him to put some new pads on the keys & make sure it plays perfectly. Then, I'll send it over so Alex can give music a try.  I am thrilled to pieces to have this clarinet go where love of music lives.

So, I went to bed last night thinking about band & playing the clarinet. This is where I have to inject that I think it is a great crime that schools have done away mostly with music programs unless it's before or after school hours. We were able to take music for credits. Music was a huge part of my high school life. I took band all through high school along with choir. A few of us were selected to attend an honors concert in Sitka one year and somewhere in my belongings I have a critique from a solo I performed. Those kind words that some teacher or music official wrote still make me feel special today when I read them. 

When my son was in junior high, he came home one day and said, "Mom, did you know there are 9 types of intelligences?"  No, son, I did not know that. So he went on to teach me about that. I have never, ever forgotten the moment when I realized that people of all walks of life have gifts and different types of intelligence.  For more about this, go to Theory of Multiple Intelligences.  It's quite interesting and it reminds me that there is a place for everyone on this earth and that sometimes square pegs don't fit into round holes.  I'm a square peg, for sure. 

The thing is, if the theory of multiple intelligences is true (and I believe it is!), how do those kids who have gifts outside of logical and linguistic discover their gift? If the sports and music programs are cut to the bare-bone, what happens to those kids who might excel in those areas?

I'm grateful that when I asked if I could be in band, the answer was yes. Granted, I never went on to do anything great with what I learned in band, but I have an ear and love for music that has never gone away. I have awesome memories of singing harmony with my classmates and of Mr. Matthews teaching & directing us and probably having the best job in the whole world ~ for a music lover. That teacher always had a smile on his face.

And, who knows, Alex may be the next Kenny G!  Or maybe he'll become a music teacher.  Or maybe he'll play in a marching band.  Or maybe he'll just develop a super love of music like I did.  The possibilities are really endless.

love, susan

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Customer Service is Back!

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am not a shopper. I don't hang out at the mall.  The thought of an all-day shopping spree makes me shudder.  I'd rather clean my oven.  

However, when I do shop for clothing, JC Penney is the place for me.  Here in Tri-Cities, we have some choices.  I tried shopping at Macy's last year.  I bought a couple of really beautiful suits and a couple of dresses. I had to take one pair of lined slacks back to have their seamstress put the hem back in after wearing them once. Same thing happened to a cute little sleeveless summer dress. Macy's is a nice place, but in my little bit of experience, carries mostly poor quality stuff.  JC Penney has their share of poor quality stuff but I shop for the Worthington name brand for my work clothes. This brand has stood the test of time for me. I  own two pair of slacks (Fundamental Things brand) I bought at Penneys that I've worn for at least 15+ years. Classic navy blue, slightly pleated in the front. I can tell when my weight has gone up too much by putting these old friends on.  But customer service?  It's back.

I started noticing that customer service was making its way back when I visited my favorite JC Penney store near Christmas last year. A guy approached me out of the corner of my eye and about scared me half to death when he asked if I needed any help. He clearly was new at it and frankly, I was so desensitized to people helping me that I quickly brushed him off. Does anyone remember the days when customers were king? I do.

When I first got out of high school (30+ years ago) and moved to Fairbanks, Alaska, I landed a job at JC Penney. I worked in the baby & toddler section first and then they moved me to bath & bedding. We had little mini classes on customer service and our job was to keep our department tidy but our main objective was to approach customers and help them get what they want. We were taught "the customer is here, they have money in their pocket, they came to buy something ... help them find it".  I do not think this is a bad thing.  It's the truth!  At least it is for me.  I have better things to do than just hang out at Penneys. I'm there to lay some money down ... I'd welcome any help with that. 

Last Saturday, I visited JC Penney only because I wanted to find a fondue pot and I had a $10 off coupon burning a hole in my wallet. While I didn't find a fondue pot, per say, I found something close to it along with a couple of turtlenecks and a beautiful off-white sweater.  I got home and discovered the chica at the checkout forgot to take that round security device off my new sweater. Nice.  Apparently, the security didn't work when I left the store, but with my luck, the alarms would go off when I took it back to have the device removed.

Long story short, after standing in line for longer than I would have liked,  on my lunch hour no less,  I explained to the nice clerk what had happened and she got a big, sincere smile on her face and said the magic words that turn me on, "well, let me take that device off for you and I'm going to give you another 15% discount on that sweater for your troubles".  I am now the owner of a pretty sweater that started out with a price tag of $65, discounted on Saturday down to $18.69, and another $5.94 credited back to my card, makes my trouble worth $12.75.  Will I go back to JC Penney for all my shopping?  Yes, you bet I will.  And, I'll tell anyone who listens that JC Penny rocks. 

I truly believe the recession has caused retailers to rethink their stance on customer service. If they want to stay in business, they're going to have to romance us once again.  I'm loving it.

love, susan

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Electrician

Gene and I were driving downtown on Sunday night when I spotted the hugest, widest, most beautiful tree with lights in it. (I didn't have my camera with me or you'd be seeing a picture of it!)  I commented that they must have hired a professional to place the lights in the tree because they were perfect and this tree overhangs well out into the street. He said it was an electrician, no doubt.   Apparently, when Gene was an apprentice electrician, he had to do some of those kinds of dirty jobs.  He went on to rant how he one time placed some lights up and was remembering how the woman was so picky about exactly "where the sons of bitches things went" ... and he said it like it was just yesterday.  This gave me a chuckle!

I have known Gene now for over 9 years and he still makes me laugh. And, I'm still learning new things about him. He hates macaroni & cheese and forbids me to cook it in the house ~ that's how much he hates it. He's not fond of tuna casserole either. He has sensitive feet and he hates getting his hands sticky -- like when you eat pancakes and get syrup on them!  He's a great car mechanic, although he'll tell you he's not.  He doesn't make snap decisions about what's wrong with a car, which I've seen pay off too numerous times to not mention it. 

Early in our relationship, we took off on a twenty two thousand (22,000) mile trip to Alaska and then across the United States to West Virginia, traveling through the mid-states like Kansas & Missouri to get there. We swung down and hit the tip of Florida, through New Orleans, Texas, New Mexico and home to AZ.  The day we took off from Yuma in my trusty old, blue girl-Ford F150, with 100,000+ miles on her already, she was making a funny noise and I voiced it.  Gene said "ah, just turn the radio up and ignore it".  "Really?", I said.  That truck got us there, housed us during most of that trip, and it's sitting in our driveway today. She's still running with over 200,000 miles on her. He's been working on her for the last year as we had sold her to a friend in Yuma and through circumstances we got her back. She was running pretty rough but he's got her on "smooth" again. Gene toodles around and waits and listens and he usually gets right to the source of the problem with vehicles but he waits until he knows for sure what the problem is.  He tells me it's because he had to fix his own cars when he was growing up and there wasn't money to waste on problems that didn't exist.

I love that about Gene. He's a steady-Eddy about things and he doesn't get his knickers in a twist about most stuff.  Except maybe if you ask him to hang up lights on a tree or try to serve him mac & cheese.  Tee hee!!

love, susan