Posted in Lists

Drawing up a gratitude list 

November is a popular month for gratitude, given the holiday that’s named for the emotion, but my motivation this year is a little different. I’m grateful that October is over! “Isn’t that the same thing as being-in-November?” you ask reasonably. Well, not precisely. 

The thing is, almost every major Drama, Trauma, and Tragedy in my life has happened in an October–leaving me with a superstitious fear of a “cursed” month. Add in the fact that those events (ranging from loss of a job to loss of a spouse, from severe complications of childbirth to last year’s vacation in a psych ward) have left me with a lot of unpleasant “anniversaries” in October–and it’s just a rough month. 

I literally spent the month praying that I could get to November 1 without anything awful happening–aware that if I did, it would be the first time in about a decade.

It happened! I broke the streak and got all the way through October without an Awful Event of any kind. I’m very nearly giddy over it. And helping with that reaction is the fact that I got my mental-health meds adjusted a couple weeks ago, after realizing I was on a downward slide toward Depression. I’m emerging from the haze of lethargy and indifference and feeling increasingly like ME again. (Witness the fact that I’m back here writing again–a silent blog is a danger sign with me.)

All that said… I’ve been on a sketching-kick, specifically a gratitude list. So although I’m usually one to express myself with words, today I’m offering my “gratitude album.”


I’m grateful for the man who married me. His voice puts a smile on my face, and his laugh lights my world. He has loved me (and prayed me) through some of my worst. It’s a joy and an honor to be “Mrs. Smith.”


I’m grateful for a job that keeps me challenged and interested, and where there’s room for growth.


I love RV-living, and our cozy little home. I’m grateful to live so comfortably!


I’m grateful for Vertical Church, and my church-family.


I’m grateful that I grew a pair of bright, vibrant, good-hearted people. (Readers, too.)


I’m grateful for modern medicine, and my mental-health meds!


I’m grateful for COFFEE!


I’m grateful to live in Idaho.


I’m grateful for my Ma, who has continued to love me no matter what.


I’m grateful for my teddy bear, Toots, who has been a comfort for more than four decades. (Here with Jon, who sewed Toots an Army outfit.)


I’m grateful for Open Adoption, and that the boy-I-grew has such a fabulous family.


I’m grateful for BOOKS!


I’m grateful to have my driver’s license back, and for the car Jon bought me when I got it back. I so appreciate being able to drive myself to appointments and work rather than hiking everywhere.


I’m grateful for open roads and motorcycles.


I’m grateful to be Sober! This is my owl-sticky-note marking my favorite page of the Big Book. “If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are halfway through.”


I’m grateful for my health. Crohn’s Disease has been in remission for 16 years, and I’m healthier than I deserve to be, given my alcoholism. God is good.


I’m grateful for my great Sis, who shares many of my memories (and quite a few of my quirks). And a grand welcome this week to her new daughter!


I admit it–I’m grateful for my iPhone. 


I’m grateful for challenges–like learning to ride.


I’m grateful for seaside vacations!


I’m grateful for a guy who fixes things… and builds things, and COOKS things!


I’m grateful for FUN!


The back of Jon’s helmet is a reminder for the road-of-life… I’m grateful that God has ALWAYS had my back.

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Posted in travel

Eels on the Highway and Other Adventures

Sunrise fishing… no hagfish please
Yesterday we took the motorcycle in the opposite direction up the Coastal Highway, heading north through Depoe Bay and Lincoln City, enjoying long stretches of beach views and cliffside oceanfront. And we’re glad we did it yesterday instead of today, because a friend just sent us a video posted by the Depoe Bay Fire Department—the aftermath this afternoon of an overturned truck full of eels! (Hagfish, actually—alternatively and accurately known as “slime eels.”) I’m pretty sure slime eels would be a traction-hazard on a motorcycle… Fortunately it’s all cleaned up now, because we’re planning one last jaunt to Depoe Bay tomorrow for another bowl of the world’s best clam chowder at Gracie’s Sea Hag… No hagfish-interference, we hope.

Crab pots at the stern
Today’s adventure didn’t involve any eels… And though it also didn’t end up involving the elusive salmon for which we had licenses, this sailboat-skipper was SO happy to be out on the water! I didn’t care at all that the boat had no sails, or that we had no salmon—I was just purely joyful with the motion of the water under us, the waves and the wake and the wind…

We gathered with a half-dozen other fishermen at the dock of Reel Deep Charters at 5:30 this morning, and motored out through barely-lit mist under the bay’s iconic bridge and past the jetties. 

And though the salmon didn’t cooperate, the crabs did. We dropped crab pots on the way out, and Jon hauled in our pair on the way back—hundred-pound pots with about 20 dungeness crabs each! We limited at twelve apiece, which is a LOT of fresh crab. 

We got our catch cooked and cleaned at the dock (our cast iron Dutch oven doesn’t begin to have the capacity for 24 crabs!) and we spent a couple hours this afternoon at our campsite picnic table, cracking crab claws (and taking “tastes”)… Crab dipped in garlic-butter for lunch, and crab-salad sandwiches for dinner!

We rounded out the day with a shell-collecting walk on the beach, and here I am, blogging again at the campfire. Feeling utterly Blessed to be enjoying the week we’re having.

Posted in People

Reasons

We ended up holding an impromptu Scuba-demo last night at our campsite… The same gaggle of youngsters who had gathered around our motorcycle a couple days earlier returned, drawn this time by our clothesline full of wetsuits and dive gear.

They were brimming with questions—what things we’ve seen diving, how we breathe underwater… So Jon pulled one of the air tanks back out of the truck, scooped up his regulator set, and hooked it all up to show the kids how it works. As they took wide-eyed turns breathing from the tank, I chatted with their mom, who had just as many questions as her kids.

img_4401In the course of conversation, I shared with her the comment from her son that made me grin the other day—that the reason he has to grow up is so he can get a motorcycle. Her answer gave me great pause. With an uplifted smile, she told me that he’s terminally ill, so she’s grateful for every reason he finds to fight.

What I had taken for a humorous kid-ism was in this case a literal truth. This little guy, all of five, is collecting reasons to grow up, because “growing up” isn’t a given. It’s a poignant reminder that really nothing is a given, even though we make assumptions about our futures… It’s a reminder to pay attention to all the reasons to enjoy today.

Posted in Motorcycle, travel

Enthusiasms

I love little kids’ enthusiasm for motorcycles, maybe because it so closely mirrors my own. Yesterday we were walking along Newport’s waterfront district, each of us with a helmet in one hand and a mocha from the Surf Shop in the other, when a little guy grabbed his mother’s hand and piped loudly, “Look, Mommy! Motorcycle-guys!” Back at camp a gaggle of youngsters approached our site to ask if they could look at the bike, and the youngest informed us gravely that the reason he has to grow up is so he can get a motorcycle.

Yesterday afternoon we took the bike for a long run down Coastal Highway 101—a wonderfully winding road weaving along the ocean’s edge with spectacular views of waves, cliffs, beaches, bridges… it’s the kind of road for which motorcycles are made

We stopped at the Sea Lion caves to stretch our legs and use the facilities, but declined to pay the exorbitant price tag to go gape at the animals. We’ve been doing pretty well with wildlife sightings on our own. Not long after we pulled out of that stop, a shadow caught my eye and I looked straight up (another advantage of bikes—the unimpeded view) at the underside of an eagle winging right over us with an auk in its talons!

Earlier in the morning we clambered out on the rocks below the lighthouse cliffs, poking around in the tide pools and admiring the low-tide look at marine life. It’s not the high season for whale migration past this coastline, so imagine our delighted surprise when a pair of gray whales surfaced just off our rocks, spouted, flicked their tails at us, and sank again… and three more times. (And I’m laughing to think that our excitement at spotting whales sounded an awful lot like that waterfront tyke’s excitement at spotting us… I guess “motorcycle guys” are a wildlife category in our own way.)

There’s something so much more satisfying about finding the critters in their actual habitat—I do enjoy the Oregon Coast Aquarium, but the real ocean is exponentially more amazing. And along those lines… Today was DIVE day!

Jon and I each have a lot of diving under our belts, but (thanks in part to my horrendous head-cold during last year’s visit to the coast) we hadn’t yet been diving together. “We’ll see how tough you really are,” he grinned at me this morning, over my pile of thick neoprene wetsuit, gloves, booties, and hood stacked on the dive-shop counter. As everyone seems to feel obliged to point out to us when we mention our dive plans, the water here on the Oregon Coast is cold

But oh so worth it. Our camp clothesline is festioned tonight with wetsuits and dive gear, and I’ve added a new memory of gliding hand-in-hand with Jon under the green water, fish darting away from us as we swam.

The South Beach fish market beckoned just before the turnout to our campground, luring us in for  fresh-caught fish and chips… and now we’re decompressing (literally, if you know diving) by the campfire. That’s a lot of enthusiasms indulged in the space of a couple days. My body is exhausted from surf and current—we’ll sleep well tonight!

Posted in travel

Reframing

The first glimpse of ocean is a spiritual moment, every time.

We made it as far as Bend, Oregon, last night before calling it quits and settling into a motel that was unquestionably clean, but quite questionably decorated… We walked this morning to a small diner for COFFEE (and ok, breakfast) and then hit the mountain roads to the coast and arrived at our Newport campground around lunchtime.

After offloading the motorcycle from its trailer, we got camp set up with semi-military precision (Jon being the “military ” half of that equation, and me being the “semi”)… And then we took out the bike!

Newport’s bridge is iconic to this area like the Golden Gate is to San Francisco, and I’ve always loved driving across it. But oh my gosh! It’s amazing how different the crossing is on a bike!

In a car or truck your view is constricted and framed, but on the bike you have the full 360 view at once—not to mention the unimpeded soundtrack and the full smell of ocean air. The marina of sailboats, the channel out to sea, the gulls, the returning fishing boats, the overarching green bridge structure—its all so much “closer” when you’re on a motorcycle. I tried to take a photo, but realized the photo has the same limitations as a windshield—only a fraction fits in the frame. So I have to leave this one to words.

I love experiencing something familiar in an entirely new way. Reframing an experience by losing the frame.

Dinner, fresh-caught!
Posted in travel

Where the World Is

“The world is not in your books and maps. It’s OUT THERE.” ~Gandalf, to Bilbo Baggins

ready to roll!
I’m grateful for books and maps when I’m not traveling… But given the choice, I prefer travel! Of course, my travels won’t involve a dragon (unless it’s the dragon-kite we flew on the beach last year), so I don’t need to muster as much courage as Bilbo did…

Hopefully we’re also better prepared than Mr. Baggins, who had to make do without his left-behind pocket handkerchief. We, at least, had time for a packing-list.

Still, what’s a journey without an obstacle? Ours was not a fire-breathing dragon, but a diesel-spewing fuel line just outside of Burns, Oregon. Jon climbed up and disappeared under the hood, emerging with some of his creative not-quite-cussword vocabulary… and the part we’d need replaced.

Just as we were about to (laboriously) unload the motorcycle from its trailer, prayer-for-an-assist got answered in the person of a Sheriff, who gave Jon a lift to town—and then proceeded to take him from shop to shop in search of the part we needed. At High Desert Diesel (bless their hearts!) they took the part off a truck that was in their shop for repair (and would be there anyway till after the new part came in).

The High Desert guy drove Jon back out to where I was standing guard on the truck (well, ok—sitting guard, in my camping chair. With a book. And a sandwich) and Jon had it fired up in about three minutes flat!

One of the things I love about a road trip is the lovely, lengthy conversation it often becomes. With so much time unfilled by other stimuli, we TALK. About work, about stories from our past, about pipe dreams, about goofy abstracts. We made up verses for a new song. We talked about things we saw, and things those things reminded us of…

I sat for hours with the open road-atlas on my lap, tracing our route landmark by landmark as we talked. I know, I know—my phone could have told us where to go… But you know what? Like Bilbo, I DO love a map. Especially combined with SEEING the world that’s “in” it.

Posted in travel

Anticipation—Part of the Journey

image
Jon writing out our packing list…

My dad used to say that the enjoyment of travel was divided into three parts: 1) planning & anticipating; 2) the trip itself; and 3) re-living the memories. I always suspected he got his greatest amount of enjoyment from that first category—the man was a planner! He put together a six-month road trip through Europe in 1984 with every night pre-planned and reserved, all arranged by letter in that pre-internet era… So he knew trip-planning!

I’ve been feeling some of the same thrill this week as we prep and pack for our week on the Oregon Coast, leaving tomorrow. Jon has the truck half-loaded with camping gear and scuba gear, and our packing-list is growing even as we cross things off.

imageThe weather report for the whole week looks gorgeous—sunny and in the 60s, when we could have expected Oregon rain—and we’re talking eagerly about poking through tide pools, climbing the lighthouse, eating clam chowder, visiting the aquarium, motorcycling along the coastal highway (we’re driving the truck and trailering a bike), flying a kite on the beach, scuba diving along the shoreline, maybe even taking out a fishing charter…

We always get asked if we’re “taking the house” on vacation with us—a reasonable question, since we live in an RV, but no. We have reservations at a lovely campground right by the shore, and we’re perfectly comfortable in a tent. Besides, I think it would feel like “cheating”—less of an adventure—if we didn’t leave home when we left home. (True, we wouldn’t have to pack if we hauled the home… But it’s a big rig, and so much more than we need for the week!)

imageYesterday morning Facebook popped up one of its suggested “one-year-ago” memories to re-post: a photo of us on the coast last summer. Perfectly timed to amp up my excitement!

We just stopped at Walmart for a cooler and sandwich-fixin’s, and came home to pack our suitcase. I must be a girl—I took more than my half!

Think I’ll sleep tonight? I have my doubts.