"Not all those who wander are lost" J.R.R. Tolkien

Thursday, September 29, 2011

10,000 +

It has been a week or so since my last post because I really haven't been inspired to write much.  We are settling into a normal (as normal as life in an RV can be) routine with school, piano, sports and job schedules.  Donald now has regular working hours and seems to be doing well with juggling work and school.  The boys and I keep a fairly strict school schedule which I find works well for us.  Other homeschool families are a lot more relaxed but for us,  there is less gnashing of teeth if the work gets done straightaway rather than interrupting sacred playtime hours.

Fall is my favorite time of year which only adds to my pleasure of working in the apple orchard.  I love that I have something to force me outside, even on days when the weather is less than perfect and I would otherwise be inclined to stay in with a good book.  Living in an RV, because there is no yard work or home maintenance, allows you to stay in more than is probably good.  I kick the boys outside regularly but then find myself using those moments to tidy up or to relax for a few minutes.  Since I'm not training for any lengthy races my runs are not terribly long these days; all reasons to be thankful for an outdoor job this time of year.  Breathing in the crisp and fresh air is nearly intoxicating.

My latest intoxicant was logging on this morning and discovering that my blog has now received more than 10,000 hits since launching it last Halloween.  Obviously this is not a blog that has gone viral.  It's not taking the world by storm.  I'm still waiting for that call from the Today Show.  Or a famous agent.  Either would be great!  Still, it's heady stuff to know that someone out there thinks what I have to say is worth reading.  Headier still is looking at my audience map and realizing that people from every continent in the world have contributed to my 10,000+ hits.  Complete strangers.  I'm used to my mom reading the blog.  And my A.J.  My friend Emily scolds me if I go too long between posts.  But strangers?  In Moldova?  I possess no knowledge of the internet's fine points so I chalk it up to serendipity that someone could actually find me.  Or even be interested.  Especially if there is a language barrier requiring translation.  I shake my head in amazement.

I also say thank you, whether you are a reader from the beginning of my crazy story or whether you've just logged on for the first time.  No matter the audience's size, a writer is gratified to have a reader, whether it is her mother or someone in Egypt.  Even more gratifying would be to find out that one of those strangers has a book deal . . .

And Mom, if 9,500 of the blog hits are yours, let me remain in ignorance!

Thursday, September 22, 2011


When tea isn't enough and the longing to be on the other side of the Atlantic gets too strong I haunt the Anglotopia website to get my fix of English news blurbs, interesting articles and British Airways advertisements.  Oddly, it increases rather than assuages my longings.  My need to be in England drove to me to the website last week where I discovered that they sometimes take articles from other bloggers.

Well, hmmm.  I'm a blogger.  I have all sorts of things to say about England.  No brainer!  I wrote to the Head Guy and he welcomed a few of my ideas with the caveat that they don't pay anything.  Who cares?  No one pays me to write for you, loyal reader.  It's a huge website with all sorts of advertising.  The pay off is that if my posts are popular then I could be asked to submit things regularly.  I would be able to claim an official byline!!!  My blog would be advertised on their site and vice versa.  I love to write and how cool is it to get a bigger readership?  All the better for me to get hired somewhere!

Yesterday I spent a joyous hour or two sketching out all my ideas for Anglotopia.  A full page of notes.  I began writing my first article with my trusty paper and pencil.  Today I took my notes outside to work, hoping, perhaps, to be inspired by a beautiful fall day.  I set my notes in my chair and then got sidetracked with a small task.  When I turned around to pick up my work I noticed, with great dismay that a bird had pooped blackberry seeds all over my notes!

Everybody is a critic.

I hope it is not a sign of what the Head Guy at Anglotopia will think.  I've already carefully recopied what I could read of my soggy, purple page.  From now on I think I will admire nature, at least while writing, from the safety of my kitchen table!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Pre-Pubescent Pangs

It's an intriguing privilege to watch someone grow up, right before your eyes.  I'm not talking about physical growth; often my boys are running around with jeans several inches too short before I've realized they are taller.  Since last night I've had something of a goofy, half smile when I look at my eldest son.   He is at the beginning of that generally awful stage, puberty.

Last night he came in the house after dark, with his hands rammed deeply into the pockets of his camouflage pants, quite a serious look on his face.

"Mama, you know the girl with the glasses?  Well, I told her that I liked her.  Not loved but liked.  We had a really intense debate.  She said she like me too.  Then she said she needed a moment and she flung herself on the ground.  Why would she do that?"

Amid trying to stifle my giggles he said, "Her friends all giggled like that too!  Why do girls do that?"

Once I composed myself I asked #1 if he even knew this girl's name.  "Uh, Sheila, I think?"  Again, I failed at stifling my giggles but at least had the good grace to cover my mouth with my hand.  He just stared me down, waiting for me to explain womankind.  Keep waiting, buddy, it's a secret we've been keeping since Eve first batted her eyes at Adam!

I loved this conversation for several reasons.  First, #1 has never really acknowledged the existence of the gentle sex.  Girls, previously, have just been another form of creation.  Nothing more, nothing less.  In the last couple of months I've seen a slow shift, first into awareness of their presence and lately, classification into pretty or not.  The shift seems to have coincided with a great deal of hair on his legs and the occasional pimple.  Hmmmmm.  Coincidence?  I think not, my good Watson.

The second reason I loved this conversation is that despite 90% of the rest of his obnoxious behaviour it shows me that not only is he physically changing but that he is maturing emotionally.  Slowly.  Very slowly.  He is learning that girls are different and he is questioning the best way to handle them.  I stress the world "gentleman" all the time.  As long as he's a gentleman, he can't fail.

Another reason the chat was so significant is that even though he made a huge entrance into a more grownup world, he still needs me.  He stood in front of me, on the cusp of adolescence, yet very much needing guidance, understanding, and reassurance.  I did manage to control myself and ask several leading questions that helped him understand that even though he may like at girl at age 11.5, nothing really changes.  He still treats her the same because it's not like he's going to pick her up in his car and go to the movies.

I won't tease him because he is such a serious man/child.  He came to me wanting to know if he had done the right thing and if there was anything else to be done.  I gave him kudos for the courage and confidence to be forthright.  I'm not sure I ever had a boy actually say, "I like you."  Usually it was a friend of a friend saying, "so and so likes you."  Or a handwritten note with a "check yes or no."  He is concerned about what she will do today which required reminding him that he is only responsible for his own actions/reactions, not hers.  I did tell him it might be good to actually find out her name!

Right now he is outside playing with her (and her 7 siblings).  They are playing tag, the old stand by game if you want to chase someone in a benign way!  Am I concerned he is too young?

Not at all.

Partly because I know she is leaving soon and partly because I know he will continue to practice the male/female falling-in-and-out-of-like game for many years.  Hopefully he will keep asking questions and we can guide him appropriately.  We've already talked about physical limitations and cautioned about not being free with his kisses.  Or anything else.  Of course, he was aghast at the idea of Actually Kissing A Girl but I expect that will change soon.

Just like everything else!

Monday, September 12, 2011

For My Boys, Who Don't Remember

"Mama, tell me again about September 11th," whispered #1 during a moment of commemorative silence at church yesterday.  Conflicted by disturbing memories and sadness, all I could whisper back was, "Remember, it was when terrorists flew planes into the twin towers in NY and thousands of people were killed."

Such a simplistic answer to an overwhelmingly un-simplistic event.  Born in NY, he was only one on the sparkling blue autumn morning when his world changed.  He will never know anything other than long security lines at airports, exorbitant taxes on plane fares, meeting people who are terrified of flying and even more terrified of Muslims.  I was seven months pregnant with #2 and he definitely won't know anything other than a country at war for all but his first year of life.  

How do you describe the horror of that day to children just barely old enough to understand?  I can tell them that I was vacuuming and watching the Today Show when Matt and Katie announced a plane crash into the North Tower. I can tell them I was glued to the tv, like the rest of the nation, when the South Tower was hit.  I can tell them that their father was several states away at a conference and since we were planning a two hour drive to my grandparents to celebrate their anniversary I packed in a hurry and got 30 minutes down the road when the transmission went out of our decrepit mini van.  I can tell them that the sky was eerily silent, so unusual for living near an Air Force base, while I waited for a tow truck.  

I can't tell them, not yet, of watching, tearfully and mouth agape, as people plummeted to their deaths rather than be burned alive in the towers.  I can't describe to them what it was like to stand under the Twin Towers and gaze at their dizzying heights, as we did one Christmas when we lived in New York.  I also can't describe the fear gripping my heart as I sent dozens of emails to friends working in the City on 9/11, praying they would all be okay.  One friend had a job interview in the South Tower that morning but it had been cancelled at the last minute.  How do you describe the uncomfortable brew of joy in knowing your friends are safe and the grief for those who still weep?  How do you describe the impromptu prayer meetings where strangers held hands or the lines of people waiting patiently for hours to donate blood, donate food, donate time? How can I ever explain America's naive belief that we thought we were safe from that which had only been seen on television, in other countries?  How can I tell them, without passing on concerns, that while I'm not afraid to fly, I never get on a plane anymore without  remembering 9/11.

My sons will always remember because we will talk about it.  We will look at their baby books and read the newspaper articles.  They will see the smoke, the anguished looks, the rubble.  They will remember because they will see the Flag at Ground Zero.  We will visit memorials, as we did yesterday evening.  Salem created a Field of Flags in its Riverfront Park.  It was a stunning numeric visual to see nearly 3,000 flags, one flag for one life.  Somber yet beautiful, it was, once again, a sparkling blue autumn day and, as our nation has moved forward since 9/11, seeking joy and healing, our military family was honored with free rides on the park carousel. 

The Bridge over the Willamette

The flags were created from the names of those who died on 9/11.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

A Country Girl at Heart

Donald and I recently picked blackberries while the shadows lengthened on a particularly warm day.  As we approached the canes, the purple smell of sun-warmed berries hung heavily on cooling air, every bite a gentle ooze of summer sweetness.  Plink, plinks and then, soft thud, thuds as the ripe fruit fills our blackberry bucket.  Since most things serve double duty in an RV, its alternate life is my pasta pot.

I have picked so many berries in the last week that I fear my cuticles may permanently stay a sickly blue-gray.  Himalayan blackberries grow wild everywhere here and most folk work diligently to keep the invasive vines out of their yards.  I, on the other hand, see them as a free and delicious food source.  We've made several cobblers (enjoyed piping hot with cream for breakfast or stone cold with cream for lunch - it doesn't last long enough to become dessert!), muffins, pancakes and last night, I made jam.

Picking fruit, baking and homemade jam make me happy.  It's what you do when you grow up in the country; it's as annual as Christmas and nearly as important.  Whenever I hear the distinctively tinny "Pop" of a jar sealing itself I hear my Mom's canning motto:  "There's the most satisfying sound in the world!"   Because this simplicity warms my country girl heart it will come as no surprise to you that I am now employed, part time and just for the harvest, at a local apple orchard.

The job sort of fell into my lap through my friend Becky, who has worked at Beilke Family Farms for the last four harvests.  When the Beilke's asked her if she knew anyone crazy enough to want a temporary, part time job, she immediately thought of her friend Denise, who immediately said yes!  92 year old Grandpa Beilke keeps the farm immaculate, driving his Gator everywhere, but not always in a straight line, due to failing eyes, and crooking his finger at me for help with a job.  The orchard is already pungent with the pong of fallen apples and will be resplendent when the colours begin to change.  And I get to roam freely, happily munching Honey Crisps and Pink Ladies while helping the Russians stock up for winter.  I'm a lucky girl to work outside in such a place of beauty where I get paid to walk and eat apples!  I'll feel even luckier when I make applesauce!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Mating bees and Swinging through Trees

The crucial cord for loading photos on the computer went missing the three months we were in the house.  It's a good thing we moved back into the RV because we found the cord in the moving process.  What follows is a photo montage representing our first summer in Salem, including two campouts last month.  A personal family note:  this summer is the first time our boys have done sparklers.  We lived in Iceland for four summers and because of the 24 hours of daylight there were no fireworks.  After moving back we spent the 4th in different ways but never got around to doing the sparkler thing until the boys asked this year, "What are sparklers?"  I was immediately appalled at my inattentive parenting (after all, they are 11 and 9) and I purchased sparklers, snakes and smoke bombs straightaway.

Rub a dub dub, four guys in a tub!
Donald and I, just hanging out.
Look Mom, I'm upside down!

It really is me.  I had as much fun as the boys!

Hanging out with #1.

#2 and I hanging out.

Flowers from the house.

#1.  The headband is made of Lamb's Ears and he is being Legolas from Lord of the Rings.

Three men and some fireworks.

We got tired of lighting snakes individually so we lit the whole box!

What's more American than cowboys on the 4th of July?

Seriously, it's a menage a trois of bumblebees.  We researched it and yes, they are mating.  Not sure how.  The boys and I watched them for about 15 minutes and took a dozen photos.  Craziest thing!

Their favorite spot in the house.

#1, miming at the neighborhood campout talent show.

3 Ex-Cheerleaders, dusting off ancient skills for the Talent Show.

Pool duty is tough.
The Pool at the RV park.

Hiking Silver Falls at the annual St. Timothy's Parrish Campout.
Climbing up a chimney hole.
Almost there . . .

Made it!
This little guy took up residency on the chapel ceiling.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

"Timing is everything in the success of a rain dance."

I don't believe this is original to my father-in-law but he quotes it often and I'm always amused by its truth.  I was reminded, again, of this quote last week when, after looking over our rather tight-but-doable-without-any-fun budget, Donald left the RV to go for a walk.

Remember me blogging about the Target security job that was all but promised to him?  Six weeks ago?  Target called while he was out walking and asked him for a second interview.  He interviewed on Friday morning and starts training for his part time security job tomorrow.  Six weeks without a word and then they hired him, just like that!


If Donald had been hired back in July when he was feverishly looking for a job to keep the house he would never have considered school.  Even if he had called George Fox he would have been told the program was full.


Once we figured out that graduate school, and not a house or full time work, is the Next Thing we were filled with such peace, knowing we were on the right track.  Having the semi-depressing budget discussion was a bummer but it was calm and accompanied by a sense that all manner of things would be well.  And they will.

Because timing is everything in the success of a rain dance!