Monday, November 30, 2009

and I think I like it!

December starts in a little less than 2 hours. I am ready! Got most of my gifts purchased and wrapped. Go ahead and hate me if you must, but Christmas will not catch me off guard this year!

(Yeah, like it really ever sneaks up on a person. Okay, yeah maaaybe people living under boulders. On deserted islands. In Antarctica. But not regular people. That's just silly.)

So a lot of crazy awesome things have been happening to my friends this year. One friend got one of her photos published in a major magazine. Another friend's favorite band practically moved to town over the summer and did a series of concerts, allowing her to spend ample time swooning over the guys in person. Another got to meet -- not once, but twice -- her favorite actor, a man she's admired for over two decades.

In my life I've been fortunate enough to have some moments like those. Not really so much this year. This has been an "off" year. But really, that's okay. Gotta have off years to appreciate the... uh, on ones. You take the good and you take the bad and you take the meh. So be it.

Which is not to say this has been a meh year, either. (OH JUST MAKE UP YOUR MIND ALREADY, GIRL!) I've had some great times with friends. I got to travel. Work has actually been bearable. I got a fish. FISH! Annnd I haven't majorly injured myself, but there's still December to contend with, and there's always the chance of show and ice and falling down, so I'll just stop here before I get myself in trouble.

Friday, October 23, 2009

So then there was this one time I applied for Wheel Of Fortune

Words, like music to my Pat Sajak-loving ears...

"The Wheelmobile Is Coming To Your Area"

Wheel Of Fortune auditions? Here in Oregon, at last!? I knew I wanted to go, but only if I could get some friends to go with me. So I put the word out, and within days, my cousin, brother, and sister-in-law had all agreed to accompany me.

One Saturday morning in late September, we set out for the Chinook Winds Casino in Lincoln City, Oregon. The first "show", or audition, was to start at noon, and we got there around 10:30 am. Hundreds of people were already there, waiting in a snaky line inside a big white tent. Old people, young people, middle-aged... so many folks with the same dream: the dream of meeting Pat and Vanna, winning big money, and living out the rest of their days in luxury.

Orrr maybe they just had nothing better to do with their Saturday, I dunno.

Shortly before noon, we were given small pieces of paper to fill out with our name and other vital information. On our way into the casino's auditorium, we dropped these slips of paper into a big baskety thing. We found seats toward the back of the room, and proceeded to watch the first show. (There would be a total of three that day and three the next day.)

The emcee was a total Mayor McCheese who liked to put his arm around the ladies. The resident "Vanna" would draw five names and Mr. Touchy-Feely "Pat" would read off these names. Think: The Price Is Right, only with less shrieking. The chosen five got to go up and have a quick interview with Mayor McSajak. Then, together they'd play a quick game of Wheel of Fortune (sans the wheel.) After one puzzle was solved, these players would receive some sort of WOF-related prize (a T-shirt, hat, keychain, etc.) Meanwhile, the audience would cheer and try to pretend to not look bitter. This process repeated itself five or six times during the hour.

I didn't get my name called. Neither did my companions. Had we come all the way out there for nothing?

After the show ended, we got back in line to wait for the third show (the second one was already full.) We ate snacks, chatted, played hangman and twenty questions, and people-watched.

For the third show, we had much better seats. We were only about ten feet from the stage, which was great.

But they still didn't call our names.


Yeah. We drove all the way out to Lincoln City and didn't even get to go up on stage and audition. BUT...

We came home with Pat and Vanna talking keychains!!!

And that, my friends, made it all worthwhile. :)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Kid At Heart?

Behold my latest video!

In which I admit to one of my more unusual hobbies.

I did it for a contest.

But I am not a finalist. :(

Still, I think I can still win something if you watch and give "Thumbs Up" on the pop-up.

You should totally do it.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Amtrak Adventures

On August 15, I left for Omaha on a plane. On August 21, I took a train from Omaha to Chicago, and on August 23, I took a train from Chicago to Portland, Oregon. In all, I spent roughly 55 hours on Amtrak trains this week. This is an account of my adventures.

* * * * *
8.21.09 7:57am Central

I have totally lost my sense of direction. It feels like we’re going south to me. The train just left Omaha with the intent of going to Chicago, so I can only trust we’re heading east. If not, I guess I’m in for an adventure… side trip to Texas, maybe?

It’s already been an interesting morning. I got up at 4:25am to catch a 6:14 train which didn’t make an appearance until 7:20 or so. So I spent a couple hours in Omaha’s tiny railway station, eating Spongebob animal crackers and observing those around me.

There was this guy who, upon first glance, brought up the word “codger,” and then, upon witnessing his behavior, the word “curmudgeon.” Except according to Microsoft Word’s thesaurus, that means “killjoy.” Nuts, I thought it meant “old crank.” Because that’s what he was. A crank. He was bald and kind of wrinkly in the way of an aged potato. He was traveling with his wife, who I’m sorry to say may have gotten the short end of the stick in this particular union. He was snapping at her over the most mundane things. Ooh, hey, that’s what he reminded me of (besides a potato)! A turtle! One of those nasty ones, with teeth. He was all, “GO SIT OVER THERE. LEAVE ME ALONE.” And she would. But later she would return and she’d get more of the same treatment. She was trying to get a wheelchair for him so he wouldn’t have to walk all the way down the train platform. Sounds nice, right? But old Mr. Potato-Turtle-Man just growled at her. I wanted to say to her, “You know… this would be the perfect time to abandon him. If you got caught, you could just claim elderly memory loss and say you forgot him. Run, Mrs. Potato-Turtle, run!”

But I didn’t.

On the train now. In case you're wondering what Iowa looks like, this is it:

* * * * *
8.21.09 1:22pm Central

So I just had lunch in the dining car. They make you sit four to a table, even if you don’t know the other people. This makes sense, of course, and I knew this going in, but I was still nervous. Luckily, I got seated next to an old man (who was traveling alone) and an old woman with her genius grandson. This kid looked like he was 12, but spoke like a college grad. The kid's solution to people who jabber incessantly on their cell phones? “Shoot them up with the sedatives they give elephants.” Uh huhhh. Picture me with wide eyes here. And one hand clutching my butter knife.

They all looked horrified when they learned I was going to be traveling from Chicago to Portland on the train without the aid of a sleeping car. (Apparently they had their own mini-rooms.) I was like yeah, but once I went from Portland to Michigan on Greyhound, and well…. And they were like, Oh my! Well then, sitting in a train seat for a day and a half’ll be a snap! Indeed, fellow travelers, indeed.

You know, so many things are just a matter of good or bad timing, have you noticed that? Like, just because of when I showed up in the dining car, I got seated next to those particular people. But if I had been off by just a few minutes, I would have gotten to sit at the curmudgeon’s table! Yes! He and his fellow diners were sitting across from us. It was him, his wife, another old guy, and a girl about my age, who I felt sorry for. The old guys discussed politics and junk. You know how some old men discuss things, and how they pound their fists on the table when they want to make a point stick? Okay, they didn’t do that… but probably only because there wasn’t room on the tables for fists. Otherwise I totally think they would have. It was that kind of discussion. The kind that doesn’t expect or desire any input from “the womenfolk.”

An announcement just came on, telling us we’re about to pull into the last train station in Iowa. Can I really complain we're leaving this state? Don't get me wrong, the farms conjure up images of hot farmboys, but really... even that gets old after a while.

Ha, I just realized something somewhat amusing. According to the train schedule, we’re supposed to be in Burlington, Iowa (this next stop) at 11:36 am. And I looked at the clock on my laptop and was like wow, how did we make up so much time? It’s 11:34am right now! We're 2 minutes ahead of schedule!

And then I realized.

We’re on Central time. My laptop's clock is still on Pacific time.

We’re TWO HOURS BEHIND schedule.

Okay, who can I kick?

* * * * *
8.23.09 2:52pm Central

I just spent 2 days in Chicago. It was great! I got to ride the L train, just like Harrison Ford and the one-armed man. I visited the American Girls store, where I was both intrigued and terrified. I saw some really bizarre sculptures. But now I am back on the train -- the Empire Builder. Doesn’t that name sound important and powerful? Oregon’s trains are called Cascades and Coast Starlight. I don’t know why I’m telling you all this. The important thing to note is that I didn’t have to get on the train in Chicago. There was a station closer to the place I was staying. And after witnessing the pure insanity of Chicago Union Station when I arrived on Friday, with its 852 different gates and tracks, not to mention baby buggies rolling down the stairs and all, I was pleased not to have to deal with that again. This other station was so small, you got to wait for the train on the platform. Ah, just like in olden times.

* * * * *
8.23.09 6:13pm Central

So I just had some cheese for dinner. I figured since I was in Wisconsin, it was the right thing to do. Okay, not true. Actually, it was about the only thing in the snack shop that looked remotely appetizing. As you can probably see from the blurry photo, it came with several different types of cheese (and crackers.) Cheese both round and rectangular. I accidentally ate some of the wax off one of the fancier cheeses. I thought it was yellow cheese! Nope, white cheese with a waxy yellow coat. So I may die now. I’m not sure -- is wax lethal? I doubt it. After all, crayons are waxy and I haven’t heard tale of any kindergarteners dropping dead after a good Crayola gnaw session. Not that I’ve ever known a kid who ate crayons anyway. Erasers, yes. Paste… paper… I knew a first grader who consumed a page corner out of her reader once. Mmm, tasty! In conclusion, I hope I don’t die.

The sun is setting. I’ve never been on a train at night before. I hope nobody snores. Apparently I hope a lot of things. I also hope I don’t go crazy in the next day and a half.

Okay, more later, possibly from Minnesota (which’ll probably be too dark to see)!

* * * * *
8.23.09 8:14pm Central

In Minnesota now. Also, the person who keeps getting texts, announced each time with a loud chiming noise, is cordially invited to bite me. My seatmate got off at the last stop, and I got a new one. But before the new one came, I moved to the window seat. Hey, at least now I can rest -- maybe. The fun part’ll be if I have to, um, get up during the night. But don’t worry -- I’ll karate chop my way there if necessary!

* * * * *
8.24.09 12:39am Central

I tried to sleep, really I did. I think I may have drifted off for a short while. But then suddenly I was wide awake. So guess what -- I got yet another new seatmate. The other guy got off, and I was joined by the guy sitting alone across the aisle. He got coerced to move because two people, “boyfriend and girlfriend,” fresh on the train from the twin cities, wanted to sit together. I was half-asleep but I could hear them begging the man to move over next to me. He seems okay, but let’s face it, sleep ain't comin’ anytime soon. So I grabbed the laptop and moved out to the lounge car, and here I am. Here with my Ritz peanut butter crackers and orange juice, counting the minutes until 6:30, when I can go to the dining car for breakfast. And in case you’d like to know, that’ll be… 348 minutes. I think. Dang, I suddenly just got sleepy.

8.24.09 11:27am Central (about to cross into Mountain time!)

So this is North Dakota. It’s very interesting. Lots of green hills and old fences and the occasional house. So of course, by “interesting,” I mean… zzzzz. Oh well, it could be worse.

At the risk at sounding like the Old Lady to end all Old Ladies, here, I am SO glad I bought a bottle of Pepto before getting on the train, because my stomach is NOT being nice. I often have this problem while traveling. I just get a weird ache and don’t really feel well. No yacking or anything, though. Which is good, because there is just not enough room in the train bathrooms for such things. If this wasn’t totally normal for me, I’d be blaming it on that bite of wax. And I’m not saying that couldn’t be what’s ailing me. It could. But more likely it’s the hashbrowns and omelet I had for breakfast. I shouldn’t have done that, but it sounded so yummy.

So in case it wasn’t obvious, I made it through the night. I curled up on one of the double-seat lounge chairs and managed to catch about five hours total. It wasn’t a particularly restful sleep, though, since I kept getting jarred awake by bumps that made me think, “Ack! Someone is trying to steal my laptop/purse/soul!” Okay, maybe only the first two things.

I suspect we’re near or in Montana now. You know what I’d like to see out my window? Wildlife. Seriously -- where, my I ask, are all the wild beasts? Do they avoid (train) tracked areas? I realize this isn’t a zoo train, but would it really kill the local jackrabbits to pop out of their burrows and put on a choreographed routine for my personal enjoyment?

I don’t think so.

* * * * *
8.24.09 11:25am Mountain (or did I just go BACK IN TIE-YIME?)

Dang, these tracks are bumpy. Is this really necessary? Are there potholes on the tracks that I’m not aware of? I’m surprised nobody has taken a fall yet. Especially any old people. There are a lot of old people on this train. Some of them are part of a tour group, so they wear special nametags. Yes, just like kids on a field trip, aw. But they teeter along through the aisle, as the train races along at a bumpy 60mph, and I keep hearing things like, “Ohhh my!” “Hold on, Edna!” and other exclamations, as they wave around frantically for something to catch them before they go somersaulting into somebody’s lap. It’s quite a show. Sober or not, everybody looks like they’ve been drinking heavily. I like it.

* * * * *
8.24.09 1:55pm Mountain

I really don’t want to gross anybody out, here. I mean, you didn’t come here for that. But if I’m going to relate the true, no-holds-barred train experience, I might as well just say this. This train smells like Depends.

At first I thought odors from the bathrooms downstairs were wafting up here, but I don’t think that’s it. I was down there a little while ago and everything smelled okay. Then I thought maybe the smell was coming from my seatmate’s Subway sandwich, purchased yesterday. You know how salami can be a little foul-scented the day after? But the guy ate the sandwich, and still, here we are. So I’m sorry, but I’m afraid old people are behind this. Or people with bladder control issues. Or a combination thereof. And I’m totally not having a go at people like that. I realize it’s a serious problem, one that is difficult to control, and being on a train with its inconvenient restrooms is probably not a picnic for this person or persons. But I’ve still gotta say “ew.” This situation calls for an air freshener.

But enough about that. So guess what, I’ve hit a milestone! I’ve now spent 24 hours on this train and I HAVE NOT DIED. Or, better yet, “perished.” When Sarah and I were at the Omaha zoo last week, I overheard a mother explaining to her 3-year-old daughter that dinosaurs are no longer alive. “They perished a long time ago,” she said. To which the child replied, “Dinosaurs have not PERISHED!” in a tone that sounded both indignant and horrified. You don’t usually hear that particular word associated with our reptilian friends, so it amused me.

We are currently stopped in Havre, Montana. My seatmate and I were trying to decide how to pronounce it. Our possibilities included: HAY-ver, HAH-vray, HAH-vree, and Harve. (Think: Brett Favre.) But apparently it’s pronounced like “haver.” As in, “someone who haves… stuff.” Or so says the conductor. I suppose he should know.

The border patrol just came through, asking us individually if we were U.S. Citizens. The guys were kind of cute. I told them I was a citizen, and they moved on. Rats. If I had told them I was from Tribekistan, maybe we could’ve had a nice chat.

Meanwhile, check out this sign:

I know it’s serious, train cars falling on people, but I think warning signs themselves are pretty funny. Run, little stick person, run for your life!

Oh, I like this one too, considering...

Behold the boxcar, protector of dinosaurs and other perishables!

* * * * *
8.24.09 8:13pm Mountain

So I’m in a new car now -- one of the conductor guys said I needed to move, if I didn’t want to end up in Seattle -- and this one has ELECTRICAL SOCKETS! Yesss! AND I HAVE MY OWN SEAT! (For now, anyway.) And and and… okay, no internet, but hey. I’ll be home tomorrow and I will hit up the internet like there’s no… uh, tomorrow. Me is a good writer, yah.

No, but this is good, because now I can watch Anne of Green Gables. I bought milk and cookies for the occasion! Yesss, bliss.

(I hope I haven’t spoken too soon. There are little kids on this car, after all. They could start howling at any moment.)

So let me talk about the last 7 hours. Or at least the highlights.

The scenery is beautiful here in Montana. We briefly stopped by a swamp that had cat tails.

CAT TAILS! I haven’t seen one since I was about 14 years old. HALF A LIFETIME AGO. I wish I could’ve jumped off the train and picked one. But I guess you’re not supposed to do that.

For dinner I had some pasta with crazy olives, vegetables, and some kind of red sauce. New to me, but not bad. I was seated across from a guy and a girl who, as far as I could tell, had either met on the train and become friends, or were just friends. They were my age or around that. One of the first things the girl said was, “Did you notice the SMELL coming from the last car?” I told her I had noticed, and she asked what I thought it could be. “I have a theory,” I said, “but I don’t want to gross anybody out, so…” “Well, I’m a C.N.A.,” she said, “and it’s a familiar smell. Somebody needs to change their Depends!”

So there you have it, guys. Not only a consensus, but a professional opinion! Meanwhile, picture this: we’ve got older couples seated all around us when she says this. I hope none of them were like, “Oh crud, she smelled me.” I might’ve kind of felt bad, then.

Yeah, that’s about all that’s happened in the past 7 hours. My life is a banana boat of thrills.

* * * * *
8.25.09 6:34am Pacific

It is no fun

No fun
Sleeping on a tra-ain

Seriously it isn’t. Although the people around me were pretty quiet, the bumps and bonks of the train aren’t really conducive to a good night’s sleep. So when the sun rose, so did I. My limbs feel tight and icky from the way I was curled (scrunched?) as I slept.

Breakfast = Frosted Flakes and diet root beer this morning. I’m trying to finish off my rations, rather than buy anything new. The less I have to haul out in the end, the better.

I just finished watching the first half of Anne Of Green Gables (I started it last night.) I won’t be continuing, because I realized the power outlets aren’t giving any power anymore. Either that or my power cord is dead. Let’s just pretend it’s the former, so I don’t go all Eeyore on you guys. Anyway, my laptop battery must be preserved, and so I will put the DVD aside, and read instead. Either that or watch stuff on my iPod. Or not. You know the funny thing about iPods, I mean, watching videos on them? It’s really hard to do when you’re on a plane or train. The other noises around you sort of take away from the experience. Or maybe it’s just me. All I know is, I get more use out of that iPod when I’m at home. Home… you know, that place that has a TV and DVD player and computer and.… Is that as ironic as a black fly in your chardonnay, or WHAT?

As my can of root beer slides around on the seat tray in front of me (making that Mug bulldog angry, no doubt) I’m going to answer a question I’m sure you’re all totally asking in your heads (okay, probably not. But I’m going to pretend you are.) And that is, which is better -- a plane or a train? It depends on the distance you’re traveling, really. But let’s say, like me, you’re going from Chicago to Portland. Well, here are a few reasons why trains are better than planes:

*You don’t have to arrive 2 hours early to the train station or go through security.
*You can bring your own food and drinks aboard.
*If a crying baby is getting on your last nerve, you can escape to the lounge car.
*Much, much more leg room. Probably about 12 inches more.
*Better views. I mean, clouds have their place in society, but their color scheme leaves something to be desired. Mountains, plains, hills, whatever -- there’s more “scope for the imagination”, here.
*If you take a train through a state or city, you can say you’ve technically “been there.” Flying over a state does not count in the same way. Some would say you haven’t really been somewhere unless you’ve stepped foot on solid ground, but I say bah to that.
*You can use electronic devices whenever.
*The food is much cheaper. Also better. Also there’s food in the first place.

But what about cons? Okay, there are a couple.

*Trains make a lot of stops.
*There are more announcements. Hearing “Johnson, party of 4 to the dining car” at 9pm is a little distracting.
*It’s really bumpy.
*It typically takes a bit longer to get where you’re going.

It’s 7:03am and I’m still not done with the Frosted Flakes. More later, perhaps.

* * * * *
8.25.09 10:30pm Pacific

I'm back in Oregon at last! I had a long nap in my own bed earlier, caught up on my TV shows, and ate some delicious food. I still feel a little wobbly from all the turbulence on the train. My body is still reeling. I'm glad to be home, and yet -- my vacation was so awesome, it's a little :/ being back, too. But I would definitely do it again.

* * * * *
I hope you enjoyed reading about my Amtrak adventures. If you decide to take a trip and blog about your experience, I'd be happy to read it!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The BPP, Part 3

I'm back with more updates. I am about to go out and work on the project some more, cuz I bought wood and other supplies at Home Depot and am rarin' to go. (Is rarin' really a word? And what exactly does it mean? Nevermind.) SO YEAH, I was at Home Depot and I wasn't sure if I should buy carriage bolts or lag screws because hell if I know the difference, so I pushed one of those "Help" buttons, and a few minutes later this short middle-aged woman with an orange apron showed up. She handed me some lag screws and asked if I knew what a such-and-such tool was, something you need for installing said screws. The tool name sounded familiar. I was like, "well, I have a drill...?" She shook her head. "Do you have a dad or boyfriend helping you on this project?" she asked, loud enough for everyone in the aisle to hear.


On one hand I suppose I should've felt insulted. Or the feminist tiger in me should've come rawwwring (rarin'?) out with some reply, such as: "I don't need no MAN, dawg!" And I guess I did feel insulted, a little. I mean sure, I'm not going to win any carpentry awards, but I'm not a total woodsey newb, either. I just don't know the names of all the tools yet! What of it? But no... mostly I felt sad. Because I WOULD like to have a dad or a boyfriend to help me with the project.* But I do not.

The Home Depot lady made me feel sad!


But I'll get past it. Here are the latest pictures...

Fireman pole that wobbles a bit (gotta fix that.)

Slat railings on the upper deck.

A ladder with -- as I discovered last night -- slightly crooked rungs.

Hey, like I said, I'm no carpentry expert. DO YOU WANT TO FIGHT?

*You know, so I have somebody to go fetch me my root beer.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Backyard Playground Project, Part 2

Here are the newest pictures from the Backyard Playground Project, taken yesterday.

First, a shot of the whole thing... as it is right now. It's only about half finished...

This is the bottom part, which will be a fort-type thing. Only one wall is complete so far.

This is the upper part of the structure. Note the green handlebar grips. Thank you, Home Depot playground department!

Here is a view of the clubhouse wall from one side. It looks a little boring, but I will do something to spice it up. That square in the bottom left corner is a working door, which opens inward.

Here's the same wall, as seen from the inside. There are some built-in shelves (for rock collecting or whatever a kid wants to do with them). The Jenga blocks (purchased as a set for a total of 25 cents at a garage sale) are rotatable, and are intended to be part of a large, more elaborate marble run.

A close-up of the door. It has an acrylic "doorknob" (really a cupboard knob) that looks like one of those glass doorknobs. There's also a sliding lock... and I expect to add more locks to it, locks of different sorts.

Next up: Vertical posts for the upper deck's railing, another wall for the fort, and...?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

If you build it

When I was in elementary school (1988-ish), my dad (with help from my cousin) built my brother and me a play structure in our backyard. Here are some screencaps of it, taken off some videos circa 1998:

My dad asked us what we wanted, and we got it. I wanted a fireman pole and a horizontal bar; I got em. Stan wanted a trapdoor; he got it. Secret hiding spots, monkey bars, a ladder, and a tire swing... it got a lot of use over the next few years.

As time went on, "the climber thing," as we called it, started to "fall into disrepair," as they say in Disney movies. These photos, taken in 2006, illustrate that:

Around that time, I got the notion to fix it up. But, of course, some of it would have to go. Who wants to play on mossy, moldy, rotten wood? Not me! So one day in 2007, my mom had some people from church over to our house, and they helped tear down everything except the main support beams (still in good condition) and some of the metal pipes that ran between them. That was in April, 2007. Since then, it has looked like this:

Sure, who WOULDN'T want a giant "Hi" in their backyard? But, really, it left something to be desired. So after two years of procrastinating, this spring I began working on making it into something nice, again. I began by making a wood-planked deck near the ground, between four of the original posts:

The above photo was taken on June 3rd. I've done quite a bit more since then, but I don't have any pictures to show for it yet.

I've been using a power drill and power screwdriver, but sticking to hand saws for the cutting. Yes, it takes longer, and yes, my arms are sore, but the circular saw is frightening, darnit. Those big teeth -- it looks like the granddaddy Langolier, for heaven's sake. Oh, and I've had the guys at Home Depot do a lot of the cutting, too. Hey, it's free. And they do nice work.

Another update soon, I hope.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

chop chop

I am so sore.

Here is my story.

This morning my mom and I went over to this older lady's house to work on her flowerbeds. From 9-11:30 we clawed up dirt, added fertilizer, and mixed it all in together. We measured afterwards and discovered we'd clawed over 100 feet of dirt -- and that doesn't even consider how far back we had to go (2 feet in some places, 5 in others.)

So naturally I came home covered in dirt. After a shower and a change of clothes, I was ready for an afternoon of relaxation. But alas, a few minutes later, my uncle showed up at our house. He had an axe and a chainsaw. Okay, that sounds like a serial killer movie waiting to happen. But it's all good. He was just here to chop wood.

Backstory: The other day, we done felled a tree. Well, we technically paid a guy to do it. It was a pine tree, 50+ feet tall, 34+ years old (we did some ring-countin') and it was leaning, so we had a tree expert come and he suggested we take it down before it fell on something like, oh I don't know... the neighborhood.

And so down it came. (It's the one on the left.) The branches were hauled away and the pieces of the trunk -- each about 2 feet tall and of varying diameters (anywhere from 1 foot to 2.5 feet, I'd say) -- remained in our yard for a few days.

So, at my mom's suggestion, her brother -- my aforementioned uncle -- came over to saw & chop the wood and haul it back to his place for firewood. And because I had the nerve to come out to the backyard to greet my uncle, a lightbulb went off in my mom's head. "Hey," she says. "Molly, you can help take the wood out to the pickup!" Conveniently enough, my mother was just about to leave for the rest of the afternoon.

And so, while my uncle chopped and sawed, I -- armed with a red wheelbarrow -- lugged wood from the back yard to the front yard and put it in the pickup truck... over and and over and over... until I finally filled up the back of the truck. It took about three hours, but here's what it looked like:

And there was still more wood left over!

I have about eight bruises on my leg and a fat lip. Don't ask.

And if I'm able to walk tomorrow, it'll be a miracle.

But I enjoyed it. I like doing hard work as long as it has a purpose. Not only do I get my exercise but I get to feel like I'm doing something meaningful. Shoveling snow gives me that kind of feeling, too. But ah, trees. The smell makes me want to go camping. And the sunscreen I wore today was the same kind I had when we went to PEI last year and now I'm yearning to go back.

Several pieces of the trunk were saved and will be incorporated into some kind of backyard sculpture my mother is allowing me to pursue for reasons I can not quite comprehend. The wood shavings (a result of the chainsaw's wrath) will be spread under our jungle gym to cushion any potential falls.

And so... even though the tree is no longer what it used to be -- tall, proud, green, prickly -- it will live on. Its parts will go to serve other purposes. Kind of like organ donation, only with more of a piney-fresh scent.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

things that are old

So besides estate sales, I really like going to antique shows. Yes... antiques. My parents used to be all into that, going from one little shop to another and thinking it was great fun. I thought they were crazy. Antiques = old = boring, duh! But I don't feel that way anymore. Now I delight in the 100-year-old music boxes, telephones, and gadgets... the old bottles with skulls and crossbones on them (seriously!)... and all the toys from the past century. Oh, and the Shaun Cassidy lunchboxes. Mmmhmmm.

I went to an antique show on Sunday at the Expo Center, but only got to spend a few hours there. Fortunately, the show comes to Portland's expo center three times a year. Typically I like to buy old pictures of people I don't know, but I didn't this time. Still, I got some neat things. Now, should I be spending my money on this sort of stuff, especially since I don't even have my own house? No I shouldn't! But I do it anway. This time, I bought:

A present for my mom, a thimble - $1
A Little Golden Book of Robin Hood - $3
A Little Golden Book of Mary Poppins - $6
A Duplo boat, with some Duplos, that actually floats - $5

Score, I say, score.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Yesterday's News

We went to an estate sale today. It was only about a mile from our house, so I was skeptical about it. "Estate sale" is what some people like to call a garage sale when they don't have a garage and it's too wintery for a yard sale. These people are liars. A true estate sale occurs when a person, preferably old, dies or has to go live in a home, leaving behind years worth of wacky collections and furniture. The older the house, the better the offerings -- usually. Plus, I like old houses. But a lot of the houses around here were built in the 60's or later, which isn't that thrilling. Go to inner Southeast or Northeast Portland and you'll find old houses, suitable for proper hauntings, with the creepy but mesmerizing third floors, small bedrooms, miniature closets, and stairs so old and creaky, they would scare Alfred Hitchcock himself.

I love estate sales.

The house we visited today wasn't that old. From the 50's maybe. But the person who lived there, and had probably bit the dust, was definitely bordering on old. You can usually tell by the kind of stuff they've accumulated. (Unless, of course, they've discovered ebay, in which case they could be 98 or 18. But whatever.) As I was perusing one of the bedrooms, I came across two boxes of old newspapers. I don't know how long I spent sitting on the floor, going through the boxes, but it was indeed a long time. I came home with over 20 newspapers, mostly focusing on/including the following:

*The Vanport flood of '48, which wiped out an entire city and killed a bunch of people. (Topical because we've had a lot of flooding this past week, and there have been a few deaths -- though nothing like back then.)

*The infamous "Columbus Day Storm" that hit Oregon in the 60's, notable (well, to me) for its destructive ways at my college, Western Oregon University (which went by a different name then), knocking down the bell tower/steeple, which they later rebuilt, sans bells. (When I attended WOU, we were subject to a recording of bell music no less than three times per day.)

*JFK's assassination. It's not like there's any shortage of information about that, but it's interesting to have a copy of the Oregonian from when it happened.

*Newspapers about the time a plane crashed into a neighborhood not far from here, back in the 70's. And not just a little plane. We're talking a passenger jet. Amazingly, I don't think anyone on the ground was killed, even though it went down in a residential neighborhood.

*Newspapers from the 100th anniversary of Oregon, full of copies of articles from the 1800's.

Not only am I glad to be able to read these articles, but I LOVE old newspapers because they're just so different from today's. The comics, the movie ads, the department store ads. Low prices. And just the different writing style. How they'd put "Mr." and "Mrs." So-and-So when talking about someone -- ie "Mr. Bob Jones," instead of "Bob Jones." The small print. The silly headlines. Those are just a few things I noticed. I'll spend more time going through them soon.