The Great Pumpkin Explosion

The pumpkin experiment was a success.  I was able to avoid trips to the local pumpkin patches this year AND we grew some impressive gourds – but what to do with the leftovers?  The chickens can only eat so much pumpkin…

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My husband and I were mulling over the possibilities when out eyes met, our smiles broadened and we both said one word, “Tannerite!”

A Glimpse

There aren’t a lot of places in the world that you will hear a conversation like this take place:
RN 1: “I was a little worried last week that the lightning strike may have done more to my heart than I thought. Every time my heart rate hit 160 on the treadmill, I’d start to get that CHF wheeze.”
RN 2: “What? Your heart rate shouldn’t be 160!”
RN 1: “Well, it’s like 158.. But only when I push myself running. Max heart rate is 200 minus your age, I’m fine. The wheezing went away when I slowed down. I was a little worried BUT the good news is that it’s gone this week!”
RN 2: “It shouldn’t be 158! That’s crazy!”
RN 3: “I told you that my camel died 3 days after it got struck by lightning, right?”
Yep. An actual conversation that occurred in the Emergency Room break room, November 2017, in Redmond, Oregon.

The Day I got Struck by Lightning

Storm Cell Black and White

I got struck by lightning.

I have to confess that I’m still having a really hard time wrapping my brain around this one. I can’t believe it happened — and I can’t believe I survived.

Storm Cell Sunset

A fiercely powerful thunderstorm hit the farm just over a week ago.

Tinderbox

Not everyone knows that not all of Oregon is a lush, green oasis of foliage like that of the Willamette Valley. It’s not. Central Oregon is known as the High Desert and on our farm, the only areas that are remotely green are the ones well irrigated. The rest is covered with dried grasses, giant sagebrush and scattered, water-sucking juniper trees. By late July, 40% of our land is a tinderbox.

Brown Angus on the Farm

Complicating the issue further, our dry-land also has no access to water. More than once, flames have threatened our home, our animals and our livelihood.  It happens so often, in fact, that we have proactively purchased a water trailer to keep on hand for such emergencies. We need to be ready to help ourselves because any 911 call is 20-30 minutes out.

Water Trailer

I watched the thunderstorm roll in. I began to worry when I started to see bolts of lightning hit the ground. Sometimes we get lucky with cloud to cloud strikes. This wasn’t that day. More concerning were the little puffs of black smoke each strike was leaving in its path. Fire.

Storm Cell

Then we got hit. And then we got hit again.

At approximately the same moment, the dusty edge of a microburst was within sight.  Hail began to sputter. I waited with binoculars for the telltale puff of black smoke.  There it was. Damn it.  I texted my husband, “We’re hit and we’ve got a fire.”

FireI loaded up our three crazy canines into my car and took off towards the back of our property where I thought the fire might be. We have 1 rural fire department and clearly, they were busy tackling fires on a nearby butte. I needed to know exactly where the fire was and the quickest access roads.

By the time I got to the back gate; winds, hail and giant rain drops were ravaging. We’d gone from nearly 100 degrees to about 70 degrees in less than 10 minutes. I could still make out whiffs of black smoke fanned within the brown dust blowing across the fields like a sandstorm.

I stepped out of the vehicle just as the torrential deluge began. The gate was locked. I needed to get through it to make my way up the hillside to find the fire. It’s a combination lock and I remember getting the first number entered, I was on the second number when I felt the unmistakable vibration of electrical voltage hit my right thumb. Then I heard the crack of lightning. In an instant I felt it blast out my left forearm and thumb as I was thrown back three feet from the gate.

ACLS AlgorithmI wish I could tell you that I had some deep, philosophical epiphany or some awe-inspiring, spiritual rebirth like that of the mythical Phoenix, but no — the only vision that popped into my head was that of TNCC and ACLS algorithms used to save lives in the emergency room. I looked for burns to makes sure I wasn’t on fire and then I traced the electrical path to assess vital organs that may have been affected.

“Crap. My heart. I have approximately 3 breaths left before I’m unconscious and there’s not a soul within miles to do CPR.”

I took my pulse. Although racing, it was present. I got into my car and sat there in disbelief. Lightning must have hit the fence and zapped me through the lock. My thumbs were still tingling so I knew it had to be real but how could I still be alive?

Cardiac Strip

The rain had filled the ditch and turned the road I was on into a mud bog. We had more rain in 20 minutes than we’d had in the past 4 months. I found myself in a surreal world of deadly challenges. I was still in a lightning storm. Our property was still on fire. The road I needed to get out on was in the process of being washed out. I’d likely just had an electrical bolt of unknown strength go right through my heart.

Thoughts that my husband could have found me dead or that my little nephew could have still been with me when this happened overwhelmed me for a moment.

Cougar TrackRattlesnakes, cougar tracks, wild coyote packs tormenting newborn calves, the fires that have almost cost us everything, poachers leaving gut-shot fawns to rot to death in our fields, hopelessly performing CPR on a stillborn calf in puddles of near frozen mud and afterbirth, being buried in 5 foot snowdrifts trying to get in and out of our home in the winter, the incessant rodent pilferings of my home, my vehicles, my lawn, my garden – and now, I get hit by f-ing lightning?!!

I’ve learned over time that my brain almost instantly transforms fear into anger. I don’t get scared, I get mad and at this moment, I was madder than hell that I’d ever left the happy little subdivision I’d grown up in and traded it all for this constantly-testing-me-to-my-wits-end farm. Angry tears spilled over. I just wanted to go home — the home my twelve year old self felt so safe and secure in, where nothing like this could possibly happen.

My wallow through self-pity was short-lived. It had to be. My road was disappearing. I put my SUV in 4WD low, said a quick prayer and thanked our local Les Schwab tire dealership under my breath for selling me some of the best mud and snow tires I’d ever owned — and I slowly crawled through the newly formed creek, where I thought the road once existed.

My phone got cell service around the last turn and my husband began calling.  I couldn’t take a hand off the wheel to answer. Honestly, I was likely still shaking too bad to push the buttons of my phone anyway. I met him at our tree line. He was geared with the water trailer and quite annoyed that I hadn’t answered.

There’s no way to gently tell someone to shut the hell up because you’ve just been hit by lightning and you need a minute to refocus. Nope. Pretty sure it came out just like that; followed by, “Do NOT get out of your truck!” and “If the rain didn’t put the fire out, let it burn. I’m done!”

A week later, I’m just grateful to be alive. My thumbs and forearm still ache but my vital organs have continued to function as if nothing happened. Yes, I’m freakishly lucky. Kind of. Most people don’t get struck in the first place.

But mostly, I’m grateful.

There is a deeper story here. I’m not the first person in my family to survive a lightning strike. Someday, I’ll be able to laugh and tell that story but today isn’t that day. Maybe when my thumbs stop reminding me how close I came to my own funeral.

Rainbow

The storm blew over leaving a beautiful rainbow in its wake. My husband coaxed me out of the house later that night to go on an ATV ride to assess damage left behind. There’s something to getting back on the horse after getting bucked off. The longer it takes to face a fear, the bigger that fear can get. So even though it was the last place on the planet I wanted to be, I went.

Buck Deer

And I’m Glad did.  The rain had put the fires out. The view was beautiful. We saw a group of young bachelor bucks hanging out, munching on alfalfa and I found myself once again grateful to be blessed as a caretaker of this beautiful land.

The Lower Fields

Storm Cell Sunset

Huh – You don’t say?!!

A few weeks ago, I opened the door of the Jeep and the horn went off, the wipers started, my lights flickered and wiper fluid began squirting non-stop. Putting the key it in the ignition didn’t fix it. Starting it didn’t fix it. I had to unhook the battery cables to make it stop.

I did research and learned that over 38% of Jeep Wranglers made in 2008 have had the exact same issue – so many in 2007 there was a huge recall – and it has to do with the epically faulty Chrysler Totally Integrated Power Module – TIPM – plaguing most Chrysler brands from 2007-2013.

I’m going to be honest, I was too mad to deal with it at the time. Sometimes my brain needs time to absorb information (like why a company would continue to build vehicles with a known faulty part for so many years, but I digress…)

Then I got a recall notice for an unrelated issue on the Jeep and was prompted by my husband to get it fixed so I could get it out of the garage and enjoy it some this summer. I made an appointment, had it towed into the dealership and waited over a week for the call to go get it.

After multiple attempts, a phone call finally went through to a live person instead of a voicemail at the dealership and low and behold, the Jeep was ready for pick-up with a surprisingly low repair fee. They told Jeff that it wasn’t the TIPM part that I thought was faulty but instead a tiny part in the steering column. Even at that moment, it felt too good to be true.

IMG_6793So Jeff gave me a ride to the dealership today, I waited in line and when it was my turn, I looked at the service rep with squinted eyes, a tilted head of skepticism and said, “Really? A tiny part in the steering column can cause all that?” He smiled his all knowing smile and explained how “wires have copper inside of them and if the copper wires touch, they can create a short in the electrical system and cause all sorts of problems.” I was hoping for a more complex and less dumbed-down explanation but hey – he’s the pro, they were busy, take my credit card and give me the keys, right?

I kid you not — I walked out into the parking lot, put the key in the lock, open the door and — the horn went off, the wipers started wiping and AGAIN I was squirted with wiper fluid.

But this time, I had the attention of the entire service lobby, the service garage and everyone within earshot. I walked back inside, handed my keys over the desk and calmly said, “It’s doing it again.”

I had two service reps and at least one repair tech moving very quickly to help me, all with increasingly pink cheeks, not one making direct eye contact. My horn was still blaring non-stop in their parking lot.  Finally, a service rep was brave enough to look up and say, “my tech thinks it could be the TIPM, he’s looking for an easy fix like a loose wire now, but it might be that the module is faulty.”

Huh – you don’t say?  I called Jeff to turn around to come get me before he got too far away.  Nobody likes doubling back in Bend traffic.

We got home to a message on the machine stating that yes, it’s a faulty TIPM and the part will be here Friday.

Jeff, the hubby, looked at me and said, “It must suck to be treated like you don’t know what you’re talking about because you are a woman.”

My mind hadn’t gone there but yes, now that he mentioned it, the assumption that I am not my father’s daughter, with the brainpower to figure just about anything out OR my mother’s daughter, with the pure stubborn willpower to get it done myself was a bit annoying, but at some point in adulthood, I let go of the need to prove my capabilities to others and moved past it.  We all have weaknesses. Being a woman certainly isn’t one of mine.  I’ve learned that being underestimated isn’t my weakness.

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I’d speciffically requested that the TIPM module be looked at.  When the recall fix seemed to fix the electrical issue, no one looked deeper into the TIPM and just assumed it had been the faulty steering column part that has caused the whole mess.  Frankly, I was just happy the Jeep had gone berserk in their parking lot before I drove off, and not 10 minutes later, driving down the highway.

The Jeep will be ready with the right repairs sometime next week and the service tech is going to throw in a tank of gas for the inconvenience.  He was kind, considerate and I don’t have any beefs with the local service department.

In the mean time, I just got another recall notice.  Brakes this time…  When is the new Bronco scheduled for release (2020) – and most importantly, will the top come off?

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White Flag Waving

I’m not going to lie, life is kicking my hiney.  Not in the big, scary, life-altering way that trauma or illness effects a person, nope, it’s in small, pecking, almost inconsequential life events that are just enough to remind a person that no matter how together you believe you’ve got it  — you really don’t.

I’m not allowed to talk about work.  I can’t give chief complaints or talk about cases – what I can share is that there should never be a surgical team yelling for retractors in the emergency department and every time it happens, an ER nurse ages 5 years in 10 seconds.  Enough said.

It didn’t stop there.

Until you’ve spilled deer and rodent repellent in a vehicle, you have no idea how bad shuttling kids and running errands in 100 degree temps can get.  This liquid has an odor similar to dog vomit after it has consumed a decompositioned carcass.  Did I mention it’s created to leave a “scent stain” behind?  When a cadaver dog “hits” on my vehicle in 10 years, I’m referencing this blog post as evidence.  Yes.  It’s THAT bad.

Almost as bad as — the little guy taking a crap in the pool.  Yep.  That oversized kiddie pool I’ve been struggling to keep upright for the past couple weeks?  It’s got more quirks than I ever imagined.  Air, water, chemicals — got it.  Add a kid in a swimmer diaper and reset the learning curve.

Mud
Yes – they are ankle deep in the mud.

Lessons learned:

1. Don’t check for a dirty diaper IN the pool, that stuff floats, and —

2. When changing that pull-up in the house, use extreme caution — it comes off with a gallon sized “splash” on the bathroom floor.

The EZ-Up pool has now been drained, sanitized and refilled, as have all of the children involved.  The little guy is still mad at me for making him get out of the pool in the first place but he did help me clean and sanitize the bathroom floor so I have confidence we’re working towards a solution to our issue.  Tomorrow, we’re going to the algae-filled lake.  No harm, no foul.

Happy

I’m short on sleep.  Night shift does that.  I’ve worked this shift the better part of 20 years.  I know each shift comes with a price and I budget my sleep better than any accountant.  I pride myself on it.  I need an 8.5 hour average of sleep to stay human.  I can do 6, I can do 5.5, I can follow it up with a 7 hour night of sleep and maybe even go one more 6.5 — but then, my body is going to crash and not even an alarm clock will wake me from a 16+ hour coma.  Experts say the brain can’t make up on lost sleep.  Several years of personal Fitbit stats argue that.  I average 8.5 hours every week — at least usually.

This week I’m on auntie duty and my single mom sister is depending on me to keep her child alive and not lost while she works a full time schedule to provide a home for her and my nephew.  This means a lot of lives depend on me not being late.  My night shift brain doesn’t fall asleep until 2 at night.  My Auntie A body needs to be up at 7 in the morning.  My most precious moments in life are the moments I get to spend with my siblings’ kids.  It’s at about day 3 that things begin to go sideways.  By Friday, I’ll be wondering how parents survive and ordering my latte over-easy with a grande side of eggs.  My keys will be lost.  My socks might not match — hopefully, I’m wearing matching shoes BUT there have been time that wasn’t the case.  Thank you for not pointing it out or correcting my flipped-flopped words.

There’s more.

I had time to call to get my Jeep towed to the shop today.  The ride of shame.  What’s worse is that we live 40+ miles and two towns away from the dealer so EVERYONE got a good look at it.  I can’t very well drive it that far with wipers wiping, fluid spraying and the horn blasting.  Well, I could — but the same electrical issue effects the air bag and fuel injector system so it wasn’t safe.

TIPM Issue 2008 Jeep Wrangler
The ride of shame…

I’m counting my defunct phone battery replacement today as a win.  I spent 2 hours educating myself about camera settings to capture perfect firework photos on the 4th.  It was a wreck.  My sister held up her iPhone and nailed every shot.  Of course, the battery on my iPhone 6 – was – dead.

2017 Fireworks

 

I don’t know how parents do it night after nights and stay sane.

I don’t how nurses do it night after night and stay positive.

Mostly, I don’t know how anyone does morning after morning and keeps their mind functioning properly!

Sparklers

Me, Martha Stewart and Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting

If you know me, you know I’m a big Martha Stewart fan.  I love that she’s a bit fussy and a perfectionist that doesn’t apologize for who she is or what she does.  She’s a stickler for etiquette and tradition.  She’s uncomfortably honest and, frankly, the woman works her tail off.  She built an empire, went to prison, lost her empire, rebuilt her life and never seemed to skip a beat.  I admire that strength.  I respect that stubborn streak.  I’m in awe of that self-perseverance.

I use to record her daily show.  I would watch an episode after a long night of work in the ER when I came home in the morning just before I went to sleep.  It got my mind off of work and I’d usually pick up a really helpful tip or two.  She’s also overwhelmingly entertaining, though I’m still not 100% certain it was completely intentional.  I could relax, giggle and learn a few things, but there was something about my connection that went a little deeper than the obvious.

I grew up in a subdivision on just under an acre of property.  We had dogs, chickens and cats – but the 2 chickens belonged to my sister and other than dropping food scraps into their pen on occasion, I knew nothing about them.  I grew up, moved into an apartment in town and lived within a mile of the hospital I worked.  I practically shared a parking lot with Costco and a grocery store was at the end of my street.  I wouldn’t necessarily say that daily living was easy – but it most certainly was convenient.

Then I got married and we built a home on a 160 acre farm in rural America.  Life changed.  I had cows and farm equipment and irrigation water.  We raised hay.  We had dial-up Internet that dropped the signal when a bird landed on the phone line.  I went from being an independent, single woman; tucked away in a 720 sq ft apartment where everything I could possibly need was within a 10 minute drive – to being a new wife, in an empty oversized house, on a huge piece of land, almost 15 miles away from the nearest Starbuck’s.

It was a bit overwhelming to say the least.  I was very fortunate and grateful but this new life was also very intimidating.  It came with a long “To Do” list and most of it I had to teach myself.  If you’ve ever had to do that before, you know it meant making mistakes until I got it right.  I can’t tell you how many lessons I learned the hard way.  I was young in my nursing career, too.  Nothing was familiar and feelings of inadequacy crept into my world almost daily.  I think I spent a solid 10 years second guessing myself about nearly everything.

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That’s where watching Martha’s program came in.

Martha Stewart had a mystical way of making me feel a little less overwhelmed.  She had a farm, an impeccable garden, cooked formal meals for long guest lists, ran her own businesses, did crafts, hosted events, filmed a daily show and still found time to show up at over the top events, shows and new restaurant openings.  She reminded me that if one woman could manage all of those things at the same time, I could handle juggling the few things I had going on in comparison.  She had teams of people helping her.  I stopped feeling the need to “do it all on my own” and I got much more comfortable asking for help.  It’s a bit silly that I could get all of that from a stranger on the TV, but it worked and when you’re in the trenches, you use what works.

Martha taught me how to raise chickens, cook chicken noodle soup from scratch, bake some of the best brownies I’ve ever made, roast a badass turkey, clarify butter, prepare my own yogurt and grow a garden that I could be proud of.  She shared tips on creating an inviting home, making a pretty bed and how to keep those towels crisp and absorbent (for the love of cotton, do NOT use fabric softener on towels!).

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I miss Martha but I still catch her on her blog from time to time.  We’ve been on the farm nearly 15 years now, so I’ve figured out a few more things than I knew in the beginning.  What was once foreign is now familiar and less overwhelming.  I let Martha stick to perfectionism and I do the best I can but don’t get hung up on the details that fall apart at the last minute.

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I was hoping to catch a glimpse of her during our New York visit but she was working on a project upstate.  It’s just as well.  I can almost imagine how the awkward introduction would go.  I’d embarrass myself by professing my admiration and she would smile her appropriate smile and uncomfortably thank me for my support in a stiff Martha-esque manner.  I’d feel like a freak and spend the plane ride home wondering why I couldn’t have said something more intelligent.

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So that’s my Martha story.  It came to mind today after I finally nailed a recipe for her Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting.  Of course, I tweaked a few things – less jam, more egg whites — my hens’ eggs are medium sized – so I adjust recipes for them.  I used the buttercream to frost my mom’s birthday cupcakes and it was probably a little too rich to top the cupcakes with as much as I used but it got decent reviews from some tough critics.  My nephews said it tasted like a strawberry milkshake but was a bit too fluffy for their liking.  I think it would be a perfect addition to a strawberry shortcake parfait cup.

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Swiss Meringue Buttercream combines egg whites, sugar and butter.  The strawberry comes from a scoop of strawberry jam.

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You start by whisking the sugar and eggs in a mixing bowl heated over boiling water to heat the mixture to about 160 degrees – then remove it from heat and whisk it to form stiff peaks.  Keep beating until mixture cools, then add tablespoon ny tablespoon of butter.

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After about 6 minutes, the mixture comes together.  Add the vanilla and strawberry jam and you’re done.

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The perk to this frosting is that it’s not quite as sweet as tradition buttercream frosting, and it’s much lighter, so piping it is a quick and easy task.  It holds it’s shape well, hardening when stored at cool temperatures, but it softens quickly at room temps.

I used:

6 medium egg whites

1 1/4 cup sugar

3 butter cubes

1 teaspoon of vanilla

1 large scoop of strawberry jam

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The link to Martha’s recipe with perfect pics and instructions is below:

Martha Stewart’s Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting Recipe

The Yearly Storming of the Castle

So a big ol’ fat field mouse crawled out from under the cabinets and plopped down on the kitchen floor the other night.

This is a fact, friends. Every single year, the mice attempt to storm the castle to make it their own and each year, I fight back, with everything I’ve got, to keep them out.

Let there be no mistake.  It – is – a – war.

Rodents vs Humans.

And if you so much as give an inch — in moves their family, and cousin’s family and babies — so many babies!!!  So NO!!! We do NOT take pity, we don’t seek out humane and ethical treatment of animals – and we don’t share our thoughts or methods with PETA. This is MY house. They have 160 acres to go build their own house.  They cross the threshold of MY house and the battle is on!

In years past, a breach of the household barrier by rodents has caused me to scream in a voice that doesn’t even sound like my own then vapor lock as I continue to scream but no sound actually is produced. This year, when my fat little friend, plopped her not so stealthy self down in front of me — I just looked at her and said, “Oh no – not this year!” She froze, momentarily, then hopped back up beneath the cabinets as if to say, “These are not the drones you seek,” but it was too late. I most definitely saw her.  And that meant war.

I quietly slipped down the hall to the shop where I keep my rodent arsenal.  See – I’m getting better at this farm thing.  Snap traps, bait traps, sticky traps, poison blocks — what do you need? I’ve got at least one of everything. Old ones, new ones, outdoor and indoor varieties — I’m not admitting to contraband, but let’s just say I may even have a few things we can’t mention online.  Ironically, the old fashion broom proved to be the most damaging in years past – not to the rodent – but to the wood floor, wall and glass in the French doors.  Oh, and it smashed a humidifier to a million pieces in the process but the mouse escaped without injury.  We’ve upgraded equipment and trained since those rookie days.

Like a rodent killing Ninja, I proceeded to set a mine field of various traps from the kitchen sink to the pantry, in the pantry, under the furniture, in the cabinets, along the walls, beneath the doors — if there was a space — there was now a lethal rodent snare.

It’s been a week and nothing.  The humanitarian in me (it’s there – just deeply buried beneath rodent despise), was relieved.  The rodent killer and mouse hater wasn’t.  I know that where you see one, there are really twenty and that’s just gross.

But tonight I heard the tribal call of an animal caught in a trap. It was a big guy and he was thrashing about, making a mess and wreaking havoc as he attempted to rid himself of the trap.  I walked into the kitchen to find a hopping, yelling husband with his foot stuck in a giant sticky trap, glue strands extending from one counter to the other.

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It’s not exactly what I expected but it sure made me laugh.  A little dish soap, oil based lotion, bath water rinse and he was free.  Frankly, I’m just happy it wasn’t his pinky toe in a snap trap that caught him.  Either way, this species has always been catch and release – so I let him go – but I think he’s going to hang out awhile and I’m happy about that.

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The mice, on the other hand, I expect to fight this battle with until next fall, when they go underground and hibernate.  This is a farm.  This is what we do.

Seriously?

They can’t all be good days.  Some days are crazy, upside-down, if-it-can-go-wrong-it-will-go-wrong type of days.  Some days can get so bad, in fact, that I literally check the sky for a vortex of bad luck spinning above my head.  Yesterday was definitely one of those days.

I had a day full of tasks to get done within a tight schedule.  If things went right, my day would look like it had been professionally choreographed.  Pick up Nephew #3, dentist, lunch, swimming lessons, errands, pick up Nephew #4, pick up Nephew #2, finish planting the garden, have the boys plant their own flower baskets while we talked warmly about their days, get dinner started, drop the kids off at their respected homes and get home to finish the last of the laundry and get dinner on the table just in time to sit down and catch up with my husband about his day.  Maybe there would even be a pretty sunset and nightcap to wrap the day up.

I was right on schedule and getting ready to walk out the door when I remembered that I had left my purse in my other vehicle.  I walked into the garage, opened the Jeep door and THIS happens – make sure your volume is down before pushing play on this 4 second insight:

No, I’m not joking.

Horn blaring, wipers beating and wiper fluid squirting all over the garage; the Jeep was clearly melting down in its own version of a temper tantrum.  I went inside, grabbed the keys and hopped into the driver’s seat still getting sprayed to see if starting the motor would suspend the assault.  No luck.  The obnoxiously loud horn was vibrating my brain.

I threw open the hood, grabbed pliers and detached the battery cables.  Thank goodness.  Silence.  There was no time to do anything but shake off the dripping wiper fluid from my face and leave to go pick up my nephew from school for his dentist appointment – because now I was ten minutes behind schedule!

I got down my driveway and noticed that the Bluetooth didn’t sync to my cell.  Whatever!  I don’t have time for this!  I’ll worry about that later.   My nephew was waiting in the office for me when I arrived and we slid into the dentist office just in the nick of time.  Phew!

While waiting for my nephew, I reached for my iPhone to update my calendar.  I got 10 seconds of screen time and then the ever annoying black screen.  Perfect.  If you don’t own an iPhone 6s, you may not be aware of the recent battery issues that came with an IOS upgrade a few months ago.  Battery life jumps from 97% to 30% to dead at varied rates now.  Sometimes it takes 8 hours, others it takes 7 minutes.  Apple denies my particular phone has one of the defective batteries included in a recall but suggests I get it fixed because the battery is, in fact, defective.  Wrap your brain around THAT notice.

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No worries, I keep a charger in the car.  The dentist appointment went well and we headed out for lunch.  I even got Nephew #3 to the local pool in time to meet his class for swimming lessons and squeezed enough juice into my phone between stops to get a couple photos for his mom.

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The local pool may be kept at barely 80 degrees but the indoor building temps climbed much higher.  By the time lessons were over, I both felt and looked like I had just spent an hour in a 120 degree sauna.  We headed to the local big box garden department for a few seed packs, potting soil and garden stakes.  By the time we were done, I felt faint.  There wasn’t enough cold air in the world to cool me off.  We stopped at Sonic for slushies to both cool off and surprise the boys with after school treats.  We had about 15 minutes before Nephew #4 was out of school and – Beep!!! It looked like my phone had charged enough to work again because my hands-free was signaling an incoming call.

It was my sister-in-law, calling to confirm that I was, in fact, picking up her boys because she’d gotten calls from both schools that nobody had arrived to get them.  Oh, crap!!!  Early release.  On Wednesdays, they get out an hour early!  Dang it.  I forgot!

I can’t begin to tell you how terrible of a feeling it is to know you’ve let not one, but TWO, of your little nephews – one with special needs – sitting in the school office for nearly an hour, waiting for you.  It’s heart-wrenching.  They both acted like it was no biggie – but I know it was just to make me feel better.  I let them down and I knew it.

We did get the garden seeded but not before thunder rumbled in the background – also not before the little guy filled his pull-up.  We took a break to get him in clean pants when I discovered one of the worst red and blistered diaper rashes I’ve ever seen on the little guy.  Forget planting.  I ran a bath for him in hopes of getting whatever had caused that horrible rash off his sensitive skin.  I patted him dry and slathered him with Butt Paste.  He said it didn’t hurt but how could something like that not hurt?

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By now, it was already 7:30pm.  Dinner was still frozen solid in the freezer, laundry was still piled in the hamper and I realized, I forgot to feed the children even a snack.  They’d been helping me with heavy loads of dirt and gardening on nothing more than a sugar-filled slushie.  Epic auntie fail!  

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It was too late to right my wrongs without ruining their supper.  I packed up the starving, dirty boys — and the one clean kid — just in time for my husband to walk in the door and ask me why the garage floor was puddled with wiper fluid.  I shook my head apologetically and simply said, “Just save me some vodka,” and took off for town again to drop the littles off at home with barely enough time to eat before their bedtimes.

I got home, poured a drink, explained to my husband about the demonically possessed Jeep and turned to the Internet for guidance on what the heck went wrong.  Apparently — the horn, wiper and fluid squirting thing is a known issue with 2007 and 2008 Jeep Wranglers.  It has to do with the Totally Integrated Power Manager – (TIPM).  The 2007’s were updated in a vehicle wide recall.  Guess what – the 2008 model has the same issue but isn’t covered in the recall.  Perfect – it’s the theme of the day.

Just before midnight my phone had enough of a charge to explode with messages and voice mails from both the boys’ school to let me know the kids were waiting in the office — as if to remind me exactly what a messed up day it had really been.

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Then our non-functioning, unplugged-but-not-unwired, security system let out a shrill alarm at about 3 AM.

Seriously.

I want an electro-magnetic, spiritual cleansing.

A New Blog, kinda…

It’s been a crazy-busy month and it seems like every time I get one step ahead, something happens and I’m suddenly 2 days behind schedule.  I was looking forward to a few blank squares on the calendar when – Ka-choo!!!  The rhinovirus seems to have other plans.  Big fat bummer…

So instead of digging in the dirt and getting my garden started, I’m sitting on the couch wrapped up in a blanky and cycling through tissues quicker than a two year old can unroll paper towels.  It’s okay.  I have some computer clean up to catch up on.  Which brings me to my point:

I moved my dormant blog from Blogger over to WordPress and well – here I am.  Blogger and my iStuff weren’t getting along any longer.  I like writing, I like sharing — but if it means going upstairs, firing up ol’ Bessie and learning Windows 10, I’m out.  I like easy.

There are some things I love about WordPress – like the fact it took 30 seconds and 2 clicks to move over my entire blog and did you see that photo gallery? There are a few things that make me beat my head against a wall.  Should I confess it took me 2 whole days to add a simple Pinterest button to the site?

It still needs a few tweaks and there are some updates waiting in the wings, but for now – it think it works.  I think…  Where is a computer savvy 12 year old when you need one?

New York City

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We couldn’t believe it when they announced our names as raffle winners of the grand prize vacation at a holiday fundraiser last December — a long weekend in New York City!!!  We added a night, upgraded some flight choices, packed our bags and headed out.  My husband had been to New York, but it was my first trip and I was so thankful for Winspire, the booking agency, to help me get the trip booked.

Flying across the country is never fun but we were able to fly out of Redmond to Portland and then non-stop to Newark via our favorite Alaska Airline with a seat upgrade.  We landed just as a thunderstorm cleared, the clouds parted and my first glimpse of New York City was beneath a beautiful rainbow.  I could hardly believe my eyes.

We took a taxi from Newark to Manhattan.  I felt like we were in a movie scene.  Our driver was a native New Yorker who talked aloud to other drivers, cyclists and pedestrians.  “Be nice!” he’d holler through a closed window to other vehicles.  We caught the 5 pm rush.  By the time we got to our hotel, we were ready for a drink.

IMG_5206It’s called the Eleanor Roosevelt Cosmo and it is a concoction of ruby red absolute, homemade vanilla syrup, a squeeze of fruit and a quick shake with fresh rosemary. Perfect after a 3am alarm clock squeal, bumpy flight, 2 hour tarmac delay for lightening storms that ironically peaked just as we were circling Newark to land. (Actually, barkeep, can you make that a double?)  I’m so grateful for both a great pilot and a career that keeps me home.

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We got our bearings set and ventured off to dinner at Remi, a great Italian restaurant  with handmade pasta and the best tomato sauce I’ve ever tasted.  Tomato sauce is tomato sauce, right?  Not anymore.  Visions of sun ripened heritage tomatoes came to mind when the sauce hit my tongue.  Yes, it was THAT good.

When they say NYC has it’s own vibe – I never thought to take it literally, until now. There is so much energy colliding at one time, in one place, that Manhattan literally vibrates. If you pay close attention, you can actually feel the rhythmic movement of taxis, stop lights, subways and pedestrians like a pulse. It is pretty cool to step off the beaten path, tuck into a great people watching place, make friends with the locals and watch the story unfold all around you.

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I was expecting Portland’s “weird” with Seattle’s in-your-face “your political opinion must match mine or you are wrong and a bad person” ready-to-protest-at-any-moment vibe with San Francisco’s “you’re probably going to see things you’ve never seen before” city flare — NYC was none of those things.

IMG_5218Manhattan was fast and focused. It was a blend of ideas and cultures and comradely. People were polite, pleasant and if you stepped in their path, they never stopped; just simply moved around you. The food was phenomenal, the architecture and history were things my eyes couldn’t get enough of and oddly enough, the politics constantly taking place all around us is one of the things that intrigued me the most.

My two least favorite topics (politics and history) got bumped to my top 5 favorite things about NYC.

IMG_5217Philly Cheesesteak Sliders and a brewski – let the adventure get started! I decided to chronicle the adventure via restaurant pics for 3 reasons – so I can remember all the incredible places I’ve been (names run together later) also so Jeff doesn’t abandon me someplace midtown when he hits his photo limit and lastly – because SERIOUSLY – isn’t NYC all about the 5-star food and drinks, anyway?!

Learning how to walk down a sidewalk all over again and — hello, beautiful! Manhattan takes it up a level. FYI: Horse noses ALWAYS have the right-of-way.

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Friday, we hopped a double decker sightseeing bus (Thanks for the advice, Tiffany!) and got a guided tour of the sights. I’m so glad we did this! We had a bird’s eye view, someone that knew the history and important sites to point out and it helped us decide what the important places we wanted to visit and which places we were cool just seeing from the bus.

I think the best part of the day IMG_1543was driving past the United Nations at 16:45-17:00 when political diplomats were leaving the building, some via police escorts. To be so close to the minds literally shaping world policies in real time was exciting, especially at a moment in time when the meetings were splashing across every tv across the USA.

The second best part was being able to see the historic architecture without having to fight for sidewalk space. (One does NOT simply STOP on a NYC sidewalk. Period.)

By the end of our first full day in NYC, I had already accrued nearly 30,000 steps. The bus was such a nice break!

While IMG_1340some NYC sights seemed smaller in real life than they do in films and photos, The Bull on Wall Street was actually quite a bit larger in person than on film!

Forty+ microbrews on tap? Yes, please!  IMG_1544The trendy Three Monkeys bar was full of young business grads just getting started in this big, wild world.  In an odd way, it reminded me of Stuft Pizza in Bend circa 1990-something.  Different people, but the same dream filled vibe.

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It was a 2 for 1 bucket list winner for me when Cirque Du Soleil hit Broadway with a show of their own! And it did not disappoint. GThe theatrics and aerials were jaw-dropping! I loved that we could sip our cocktails and snack during the show, too. It had a fun, relaxed, easy to laugh and enjoy vibe that made it one of my top NYC memories!

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Holey Cream was wildly recommended all over Pinterest pages and NYC Foodie blogs. What’s not to love? Donuts, icing AND ice cream? Stand back – I’ve been low carb for 96 days just to be able to splurge, guilt-free, on sugar-filled and delectable treats during this trip.

IIMG_1546 was giddy when I learned they were merely 4 blocks from the hotel aaaaaannnnnnnnddddd open until 1:30am. It sounded like a perfect post-Paramour stop to make on the walk back to the hotel. Well, the closer we got, the fewer people we saw, the dimmer the lights got, the taxi traffic disappeared, the blocks got longer and by the time we arrived, Jeff was ready to call 911 for a ride back to civilization.

Holey Cream itself is little more than a hole in the wall, with dirty, smeared windows and obnoxious, bright colored, paint-chipped walls. Actually, maybe it’s less of a hole and more of a tunnel. There’s standing room only and not much, it’s an isle the width of a door that travels down a bakery/ice cream case. That’s it. Certainly nothing fancy. In fact, it was clear by the look on Jeff’s face, (the one that says “my wife is f-ing crazy”), it was downright sketchy.

But I was committed so — yes, I ordered myself a donut ice cream sandwich. Yes, it was to die for! (Yes, Jeff, pun intended.) 😂 And yes – I ate the whole entire thing and enjoyed every single bite.

A NYC moonrise and a lesson I learned: “This is New York City. Stop looking with your eyes for a perfectly composed photo and start to see things through the energy they resonate.”

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I took myself for a walk Saturday morning because I wanted to see St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Building started in 1858 and frankly, it’s just a cool sight to see something that survived being surrounded by mostly modern skyscrapers.

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En route, however, the side street was partially blocked outside Radio City Music Hall for the cast viewing of latest Fast and Furious movie, “Fate of the Furious” – with an expected star list way too long for me to remember.

Cool – but not as cool as the next street that was blocked off for a NYC Tartan Day Parade complete with bagpipes, more horses (of course) and lots of Celtic pride!

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We, the USA, had just bombed Syria. I was within 10 blocks of the United Nations Building where Nikki Haley, our US Ambassador, was both kicking ass and taking names. I was also a stone’s throw from the USA President’s humble abode.

So when they began clearing streets and putting up barricades, I’m not going to lie — I got a little nervous. The live TV footage of NYC being reduced to ruble on 9-11-2001 will forever be burned into my memory.

Nothing made me happier than to discover, this wasn’t a security exercise at all – it was a NYC parade and party celebrating it’s Celtic roots and pride with a tartan parade! And beer! And bagpipes! And jovial Scottish men in kilts!

No better reason in the world to grab a pint and help them celebrate!

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After the parade, I took myself for a little walk down the street to Macy’s.
Nine stories and a full city block? Yep – stand back. I got this!

They were still ice skating at Rockefeller Center. It seems so much bigger in movies.

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Tucked away in O’Brian’s Pub, across the street from Church of Saint Mary the IMG_1550Virgin, in a hot spot upstairs known as, “The Sin Bin” — celebrating my newly discovered Irish heritage with a pint of house ale, listening to ACDC and totally ready to “fuhgeddaboudit”!!!

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(Sigh)
I have a confession.
We left Phantom of the Opera at intermission.

I know, part of me felt terrible. I’d wanted to see it for sooooo many years – and I IMG_1552thought I’d LOVE opera. I mean, that’s MAD talent, right? I just didn’t expect it to be so – well – loud. And I didn’t think the constant, dark, minor chords of the background organ music would be so – grating. Honestly, it was like the “Great Goat Idea” all over again. A great idea gone bad. It was too much for these tender eardrums to truly enjoy. So I talked an all too knowing Jeff, into leaving. He laughed. He’d spent 4 years attending Ashland plays while going to Southern Oregon and knew exactly what to expect. Again, not unlike the whole goat debacle of 2015, he knew.

I thought the actors were amazing. Our seats were great – possibly TOO great, with perfect acoustics- and I still believe opera singers have freakish talent. I even thought the take-home sippy cup for adult beverages was nothing short of genius. I also thought, no, I KNEW we could find a NY corner to tuck into, order some good food, hear some good music and share some (comparatively) quiet time together.

Again – not unlike the goats – now I know. I’m just not an opera girl. Who knew? I mean, besides Jeff…

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Just to give you an idea of the energy this city has, this is Times Square late Saturday night – still packed, still moving, still making plans on what to do later that night. The nightshifter in me thinks it’s pretty awesome that dry cleaners and bakeries stay open until the wee hours of the night — even the garbage trucks do 24 hour days!

IMG_1553Magnolia Bakery is famous for their banana pudding. Sadly, the last tub sold to the person in front of me. I wasn’t disappointed because how many world renowned bakeries stay open until midnight?! I was happy just to be there and slip in just before closing. We had no problem finding something to enjoy!

Why don’t I have any great pics of Central Park, you ask? Especially since we hit it on the PERFECT day? It was impossible to hold the camera at eye level and not catch an eye to eye portrait of a stranger 2 feet away or a perfectly framed photo of the back of their head.

I had to tap out. At least on the sidewalks, there is a general acceptance of one’s pace and direction by where they position themselves. Central Park was a chaotic, free-for-all of seemingly directionless wandering. I likened it to giant flock of starlings flying out of sync, colliding, bumping, falling, squawking – you get the idea.

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So I stuck to the sidewalk, near the carriage horses, and imagined my friend, Polly, coming to all of their rescue and setting them free to run on the grass because I know if she ever makes it to NYC – she’ll be all over that!

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It was a beautiful day in NYC!  We ditched the hop on bus and took ourselves for a walk.  We stopped in for a bite to eat and enjoyed our chat with our server, Will, who ironically spent some time growing up in Portland and had even been to Bend. Central Park was packed but the weather was perfect!

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Sitting down for dinner and I looked up to see a familiar face, but from where, I wondered? NYC is a long way from home … and then Boom! It hit me – holy catfish, that’s Ralph Lauren!!! And yes, I learned that even while the man is eating, his thoughts are all about fashion, as he explained to his dinner guest what the right pair of earrings can do for an outfit.

(To paraphrase the great fashion icon — if you are going with a dark, low shoulder, black lace dress, or top with jeans, understated but gothic, black/metal chandelier earrings make it go from “nothing” to “stunning” – it changes the focal point and settles the eye on a flattering line. Did I mention he was kind, gracious and understated as well? I’m still a little star struck!)

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It didn’t seem like an unreasonable amount of sushi UNTIL the humongous lobster arrived. This Oregon girl had NO idea Maine lobsters were completely different than Pacific lobsters. (It turns out that ours are more related to crayfish than actual lobsters – yes, I was in such disbelief, I Googled it.)

This bad boy was considered “on the smaller side” by wait staff as it was closer to the 2.5lb weight group as opposed to the “big ones” averaging 3.5lbs.

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The nightly walk back to the hotel. We arrived on a Thursday and I couldn’t help but notice all of the heels, booties and fashion statements in the form of shoes pounding the sidewalk at an aerobic pace. By Sunday, the pace had slowed to a walk and most footwear took the shape of casual and well padded sneakers.

By the way, to get in to see Saturday Night Live, tickets come out in October for the following year on a first come, first serve basis in case you ever wanted to see a live show. The Tonight Show is a bit easier but still requires a bunch of luck and about 8 weeks of forethought – or the patience to stand in a first come, first serve cancellation line where you get 1 ticket per person and if you leave the line to use the restroom, you lose your place. Though I know any ER nurse has the ability to outlast most in a line like that — I had other things to do!

IMG_1559The Hilton Midtown was perfect for us. We could walk to Broadway shows, Times Square, Central Park, The Rockefeller Center and to the places we couldn’t walk, we used the Hop On Hop Off sightseeing bus.

Our stay was nearly perfect. Saturday night we awoke to a ruckus. It sounded like a frat party on steroids was taking place. It began again at about 6am. Imagine my surprise when I opened the hotel room door to give them a “shhhh” to find a hall literally full of both high school kids and teachers. It got quiet again for about an hour and then the trumpet came out, followed by the trombone and – what the heck? Was that a tuba?!

Apparently, a local high school band had moved in next door. Hilton management quickly and graciously moved us to a much quieter floor with a handful of upgrades to compensate us for our troubles which were really no trouble at all. We had a good giggle over it.IMG_1560

I like to walk NYC during the daylight hours. I love to watch NYC at night. It was an amazing trip.

Something I’ve learned about myself is that I’m not a great tourist. I don’t like to squeeze into tour lines or go to crowded places. Trinket souvenirs and places that sell them make me crazy. Places created for tourists make me cringe. It’s just not my thing.

I like to find nooks and crannies to duck into and get the feel of the place. I like to hear what the locals are chatting about. I want to eat at local, authentic restaurants that aren’t national chains. (My one exception is Starbucks.) I like to walk my own path and see the sights that mean something to me. I want to smell the flowers, feel the weather and just be.

As crowded and as busy as Manhattan was – we managed to find spots that felt like our own.

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It’s with a heavy heart that I come to these last few photos.

I once heard that it takes only two generations to disappear and fade away. History books can be edited, photos can be destroyed and no one is left to account for what once was.

I couldn’t go to the memorial with Jeff on this morning. The tour bus came within 2 blocks of it the afternoon prior and I found myself already choking back the tears. So on this day, Jeff went alone. He’d stood on top of one of the original World Trade Center Towers as a young man and it was important for him to return. So he did and I think he did a great job taking photos.

Rest in peace fellow Americans, police officers, fire fighters and EMS crew members. I will never forget watching the live images of you rushing into collapsing buildings to save strangers. I hope stories of your heroism never fade away.

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From the Scottish accent of the waitress at the pub down the street, to chatting with a young man about what his life in NYC is like, to discussing restaurant ownership with a retiree who went back to work as a waiter for something to do, to the taxi driver who spent 45 minutes wagging his finger at other cars telling them to “be nice” — we enjoyed getting to know some of the faces that are a part of this city. It turns out we are all more alike than different in the the end.

Our biggest take-away from the trip? We think spaces are getting tight and traffic is getting insane in Central Oregon. Spend a few days in NYC and it feels almost like a ghost town on return.

And as quick as our trip began, it was over.  I don’t know that I would have ever got to see NYC had we not won a trip – and man-o-man would I have ever been missing out!  A great big thank you goes out to St. Thomas who made this all possible for us.  What an amazing trip!!!

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