Friday, July 25, 2008


I know you've been wondering what has been keeping me so busy all this week. I know, because half of you keep asking when I plan on updating this thing. Well, I'm getting to it! I have a lot to do...planning how I'm going to fit a sheepskin, four framed pictures, a pottery soap dish, new books and a moderate supply of chocolate chips and marshmallows in my luggage takes a lot of time!

I've also been visiting every single person I know in these western states, fishing off a jetty for Bass, painting the back deck green, planning a party, and tonight I'm going dancing...wish me luck. I don't know how to waltz (so...maybe wish the guys luck....).

This is my 100th blog post, and I was going to write something special for the occasion, but since y'all are in such a's what's been keeping me:

Anne and Kaitlyn helped me put a coat of primer on the second half of the back porch today. After that, we wore our paint clothes to the buzzing metropolis of Gales Creek for some ice cream.

Fishing out in Garibaldi on the coast last Friday with Dad and Brian was fun.
Here I am, showing Bri how to set up his line...
He's almost got it now....
...good thing I was there to help him out.

That pole Brian's holding? That's MY pole, and that's not a fish he's got. That's a pile of seaweed and a rock. I was kind enough to let him practice his un-snagging skills on this trip.

Take a look at all those rocks we're standing on. Brian and I kinda sorta dropped my keys down between a couple of those boulders. I needed to go to the car to fetch a Kleenex, and we agreed he'd toss the keys to me. This is probably the only stupid thing Brian and I have ever collaborated on. He tossed, I fumbled, and down the trap they rattled, beyond reach. Fortunately, Brian moved a couple rocks and some guy showed up with an old pair of pliers and a piece of wire in his truck. Brian made a hook, pulled them out, and saved the day.

And who do you think caught all the fish? I'd tell you, but I hate to brag.

Brian is painting his truck, and it's projects like this that I wouldn't trade for a house full of the best sisters ever. Do girls ever think of fun things to do like re-paint trucks? No. They don't. And if they did, would they just pull out their trusty Bondo and call out a neighbor to help with the job? Probably not. I love living with boys. They are quite simply the most marvelous creatures on the planet. Or at least the ones in my neck of the woods are. The rest of 'em....wellll, they're just alright.

Steven..."supervising." :) Actually, he was a big help. Oh, and notice it's dark? We do most of our projects in the dark. I've been painting the porches by flashlight some nights.

And...that's what's been going on, folks. In four days I'll be back on a plane, eastbound across the ocean. I was wondering today, if we built a highway across the Atlantic, how long would it take to drive from Oregon to Switzerland? A long time, I reckon. But it would be a fun road trip, wouldn't it? :)

Friday, July 18, 2008

gone fishing

I'm leaving to go fishing with Dad and Brian in a few short hours and should get to sleep soon, but lest I get too far out of touch with what I've been are some pictures from recent expeditions.

My wonderful friend Christy, paddling the other end of our canoe on Henry Hagg Lake last week. We met at work and each thought we wouldn't like the other. Why? who knows. We have a ton of fun together now...obviously.

Ok, so here we are again, and I'd just like to point out that is a 17 foot canoe you're looking at there, and we tied it to the top of my little car to get it to the lake. The two of us got it down off the car and back up again, without so much as a scratch on my vehicle, and we were quite proud of ourselves. As we were putting it back up, there was a guy getting in the car RIGHT next to ours, but did he help? No sir. It was "That's a big canoe for that car! Good luck!" As Christy put it, we live in the Northwest, "where all the women want to be men," and the men are therefore a bit uncertain whether or not assistance is welcome. It would have been, but when it wasn't forthcoming, we were kinda pleased we did it on our own. We were especially proud when the knots we tied held all the way home (thanks in no small part to Dad's Knot Tying 101 instruction). :)

Wednesdays are "Mom & Steph" days because she has the day off for the rest of the summer. Last week we went to Cannon beach for the day, went into all the stores the boys would hate to go into and took a very long time in every single one. It was great. And so was the pizza.

This week for our mother-daughter day, we got pedicures. We have very cute toes at the moment. Mom says other than a gift certifcate she has yet to use, this will probably be the one pedicure of her life. Grandma flat wouldn't come--not even just to keep us company. But even Mom admits her feet "haven't been this soft since I was born!" So I feel somewhat vindicated about my occasional pedicures.

I also drove up the Gorge to see Jessica this week, and we saw some (more!!) Rodin Statues, some funky furniture that once belonged to the queen of Romania and a lot of other stuff. More about that next post.

We've been having perfect weather here. Brian and I slept under the stars a couple nights ago (which were admittedly hard to see, what with the tree, the roofline, and the almost-full moon). I was reading Emerson a couple days ago and I like his opening comments in an address to the Havard Divinity school, written this week in 1838:
"In this refulgent summer, it has been a luxury to draw the breath of life. The grass grows, the buds burst, the meadow is spotted with fire and gold in the tint of flowers. The air is full of birds, and sweet with the breath of the pine, the balm-of-Gilead, and the new hay. Night brings no gloom to the heart with its welcome shade. Through the transparent darkness the stars pour their almost spiritual rays. Man under them seems a young child, and his huge globe a toy. The cool night bathes the world as with a river, and prepares his eyes again for the crimson dawn."

Isn't that lovely? Unfortunately, in the same address he took issue with orthodox claims to the diety of Christ, and wasn't invited back for 30 years. Way to know your audience there, Ralph.

comings and goings

My "see-you-laters" started this week, and you know what? They're not very fun! Not only am I sad about leaving home again, but then as soon as I get back to CH, I'm leaving my OTHER home! and I'm sad about that too. If you remember to pray for me in the next couple weeks, pray that I will be "present" in the time I have here with my family and friends (not bemoaning leaving, or worrying about what this year will be like) and that I'll use the time wisely and generously. Also, I'm feeling kinda overwhelmed about the new job/new living situation/new language situation once I'm back in Switzerville. Like...maybe I could just not show up (cuz if I do show up, maybe I'll be a terrible nanny!) Maybe I could live in a tent on the River. Maybe learning German was a really dumb idea... Alright, it's not quite that bad, but I am finding myself worried about it all and I wish I was more matter of fact about these things.

I'm moving. I'll build new relationships and find ways to maintain old ones. My new employers will find the grace to be patient with me. And it'll be a good year, because God takes care of his children. That would be the sensible, matter of fact way of looking at things.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Swiss Cheese and the President

I'm looking through old class notes working on a couple (brilliant!) ideas I've been tossing around lately, and I'm running into some funny stuff in my notes. First...the margins of my notes from my last semester in college are filled with doodles of prickly cactus and black clouds spitting down rain. My notes have always been graffiti-coated, that's not weird. But usually it's flowers and faces and little houses with happy suns shining over them. I remember it was a rough semester, but my goodness! Cactus!? And what does that say...storms on one hand, and dry, desert conditions on the other. hmmm....interesting. :)

Second, in my Presidential Elections class we studied the history of US elections, the political process, the factors that influence elections, elections in popular culture, etc. We watched all the debates, for example, and in my notes I have written "Presidential debates are to real debates as Cheese Whiz is to Swiss cheese."

Saturday, July 12, 2008


That's what summertime in my neighborhood looks like. Purty, huh?

Summer is a busy time of year anyway, but even more so when it's compressed into 5 weeks at home! Since it's been a week and a half now since I've written anything, I'll have to catch you up via installments of my Insider's Guide to the Great Northwest. This will be part 1.

Date: July 6-7
Destination: Mount St. Helens Forest, Washington, USA
Company: Abby, Libby, Esther, Uncle Bill and Aunt Heather. Drew couldn't make it.
Miles logged: +200
If you go: Plan your meeting point. Don't try to buy a good map just off I-5. And remember--in Washington you pump your own gas and pay sales tax.

Aunt Heather and Uncle Bill are free-spirit travellers--they might decide to drive cross country and leave that very day, they won't call ahead to find campsites or hotels, and they might toodle down any windy road that looks interesting if they aren't pressed for time (and it's hard to be pressed for time if you haven't planned to be anywhere specific). I think this is a splendid way to travel, but when it came to camping two weekends ago, details such as exactly where we planned to make camp were all rather nebulous, as in "you drive northeast and we'll drive southwest, and we'll call each other 'round, oh...say 5 pm." We expected to meet up about then at the Swift Resevoir, though we hadn't checked for camp sites and it was the fouth of July weekend. But camping is nothing without adventure, right?

I set off up the I-5 corridor, and stopped at three gas stations looking for a more comprehensive map than the road atlas I have. At the third station in Woodland, upon discovering that they too had no proper maps, I asked the clerk if she could just kindly point me in the general dirction of Mt. St. Helens. "Yep," she said, "you just go on up this road here, and ya just kinda run into it." Great, I said, and I was back in my car and on my way. Not a half mile down the road there was a fork in the road. No signs, except one labeling the route I was on as "503 South."

South!!?! I don't want to go south! I want to go Northeast! After some trial and error, and mumbling through gritted teeth about how hard can it be to stock decent maps and is it a tourist office conspiracy to control the supply of maps or what, I finally determined that in the interest of clarity, the state had wisely decided that "503 East" should, at that very fork it seemed, turn into "503 South" although it continued generally eastward through Cougar and on toward the resevoir.

Unfortunately, the Washington wilderness doesn't exactly have a cell tower on every hilltop, and as 5pm came around I was near the town of Cougar but hadn't seen a cell phone bar in miles. I came upon the resevoir 20 minutes later and stopped at the first campsite I saw. They had no guests by my cousin's name. I drove down the road looking for coverage...nothing. I drove back to camp to wait, and got chatting with the two old couples who run the place. "Now where'd you say your relatives are comin' from? Ellensburg! Way over east! And you talked to them at 1 you say? Awww, well, heck. It could take 'em till 7 to get here, easy. 'specially if they went through Randall and hit the road block." But, just in case, we talked over all the options: there were three tent camp facilities in the area ("This one is the cleanest, so don't worry--if they go to the others first, they'll end up here). If they didn't turn up, and weren't at the other sites either, they assured me I could sleep in my car. "Inside the gate, we'll have to charge ya. But you can park just as well on the other side of the gate." I was standing in front of the little booth where they take money as cars come in, talking about all this with them between customers until one of the men finally said, "They aren't gonna get here any faster with you starin' up the road like that, so you'd better just go on in there and sit down. You want a coke? I'd offer you a beer, but--I don't drink."

At 7:15 I thought I'd best go find some cell coverage and check my phone for messages. "Now, you know where to call from, don't ya?" they asked. No, I didn't. "Well, you head outta here the way you came and just before you get to Cougar there's a row of houses on the right side. There's a yellow house all boarded up, with green trim, and a little turn-off there. You pull over there and you'll get two bars." Ok, I said. Yellow house. Two bars. "If they come while I'm gone, tell them to wait for me!" They said they would, and "you drive careful,now, hon; there's some real bad curves on that road."

Down the road I went again, driving carefully, with the resevoir on my left and the fir trees on my right. Before I hit the row of houses though I saw my cousins coming. They had in fact run into a road closed for snow at Randall and had to drive 100 miles out of their way to Woodland and come in from the West side.

We made camp, made supper, made s'mores, and slept. Esther and I bored the twins to sleep almost immediately by talking about Esther's college plans. :) whoops. Next day we went spelunking in the Ape caves, which is a cool lava tube with lots of boulders inside to climb around and over. The twins blazed the trail and every so often would fall silent up ahead of us, until we'd catch up and find them crouched behind a rock with their flashlights off, waiting to startle us.

On the way home that day we stopped for lunch at McDonalds in Woodland and I ordered three $1 items. The girl rang my total up as $3.23. "Why is it $3.23 if everything I ordered is $1?" I asked her. She gave me a look that said "what rock have you been living under!?" and said "uh,!" Oh. right. sales tax. I always forget that when I go to washington, but it usually doesn't compell me to ask stupid questions. A few minutes later, Uncle Bill was like, "need to gas up on the way home, steph? Here's a tip: Don't sit in your car wondering what's taking the attendant so long." Hey-I can't help it. I'm from Oregon. We do things differently down here.

This has been your friendly northwest entertainment guide. Tune in next time for tales from the Oregon Coast, Henry Hagg Lake, and the stunning Columbia River Gorge.

Abby and Libby

S'mores...Mmmm! :)

Esther and yours truly

Abby and Esther

Sunday, July 6, 2008


Lots and lots of dirt. And cow pies. And horses. And country music. And cowboys. I love rodeos! Even though I believe they have their roots more in Mexican ranching, they have become such a splendid part of our summertime Americana. Anne and I drove out to St. Paul, a little town of 300 that hosts more than 10,000 people each evening during the Fourth of July rodeo week.If you've never been to a rodeo, here's a taste of what you're missing.

Old Glory makes a lap before the national anthem.

They get the show going with the bareback bronc riders. I personally think this is one of the best events. It's better than the bull riding. The horses are more lively and yet more contestants manage to stay on the entire 8 seconds, which means more of them actually get a score. Scoring is based on two factors: the animal's movements (how many times they buck, turn, etc.), and the cowboy's performance (how they sit, move, etc.). If they get bucked off, they don't get a score.

The guy in green is there to manage the animals after each contestant finishes his ride. They also help contestants get off their horses by riding up along side so the contestant can reach over and grab him around the hips in order to get off the horse safely.

Here we have what's called "Bulldogging" or steer wrestling. Two guys ride out of the chutes together, one on each side of a steer and one guy jumps off his horse, grabs the steer by his horns and wrestles him to the ground. Easy enough, right? This is the rodeo sport I'm thinking of taking up...

Bull riding...not for the faint of heart.

Wild cow milking. This falls in the non-traditional event category, but it's fun. It's fairly straight forward. First, rope a wild cow.
Second, milk said cow while your partner holds her still.
Third, run your bottle of milk to the judges.

There are more events, of course: barrel racing, calf-roping, wild horse racess, sadle bronc riding, etc. You'll just have to go check them out yourself. :)

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Independence Day

James Madison, in his last major speech to the delegates gathered at Virginia’s ratifying convention, commented “Nothing has excited more admiration in the world than the manner in which free governments have been established."

"Franklin was a practical man. Practical men usually do not make revoltuions; dreamers do. Yet Benjamin Franklin became a revolutionary with several million others in America. His action suggests of the ironies of the American Revolution: its sources in a culture of men devoted to the hard realities of life--practical men, down-to-earth men like Franklin himself, men who in 1776 threw off their allegiance to the empire in the name of "common sense," a phrase Thomas Paine had chosen as the title of his great tract on behalf of American Independence. That brings us to another irony: what seemed to be only common sense to Thomas Paine, and to most Americans in 1776, would have struck them as uncommon madness a dozen years before." (Robert Middlekauf, The Glorious Cause)

Most of us have a sense of irony nowadays too, as we celebrate a government and a country that we know have many, many problems. But they are ours to think about, to invest in, to improve, to redirect. And, to keep things in perspective, in case you feel that America is headed to hell in a handbasket, let's not forget that in the big picture of eternity, "The Captain of salvation is not so weak as to need an army and navy and a majority in Congress to support his Cause."
(Abraham Bishop of Conneticut, 1800.)

God Bless America! And with that, I'm off to a rodeo!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Porch painting

When I was little I couldn't say 'porch' correctly because I talked through my nose. Instead of a nice "or" sound, as in 'Oregon", some unbeckoned, nasal, almost french-like sound slipped out every time I breathed the word. Dad tried to cure me of it by encouraging me to pinch my nose and practice saying it properly, but then all I could say was 'Pmmphgh.' I couldn't say 'rose's either--same stupid r, except this time it came out as a w. Dad would say, "stephanie, say 'rows and rows of running red roses' and I'd repeat "woes and woes of wunning wed woeses."

I kept at it though, and eventually I did get my r's right, though I guess we'll never know if it was the nose exercise that did the trick. But if you could hear me say right now, "I've been painting the porches this week--the porches with the roses on them," you would never guess that just a short 17 years ago, that was an impossible sentance.

I have indeed been painting the porches this week, and I could even tell you about it with proper r's. I've been mostly in the cleaning/sanding/priming stages so far, but they're coming along. A few pictures of my progress:

Here we have the "before" pictures of the front porch, and as you can see, it desperately wanted a face lift.

The weird thing is we just painted the porches two summers ago! Primed, two coats of proper Northwest-ready deck paint, the whole bit. They shouldn't look this bad! This time we read the directions and noticed they recommend coating the knots with shellac before painting. NOW they tell us...pshh.

This is the front as it looks this evening with its first coat drying and the whole thing looking shiny and brand spanking new (minus a few little visible "oopsies" that I have to fix tomorrow. What can I say...not really a detail person). Round two, including corrections, are scheduled for tomorrow.

Steph bonding with the power tools. Nifty sander, huh? Why are there five hole sanders and eight hole sanders? Why not just one or the other? One of life's little mysteries.

Sanding. My nose is hot.

I had to consult dad for a little advice and some sand paper. Here he is 'supervising.' He doesn't really like being on record standing around while I'm doing all the work. Take for instance, the time we got a flat tire in a parking lot. Well! It sure seemed to me like a good chance to practice my tire-changing skills, in case I ever need to change my own tire when I'm out on the highway. I mean, I sure can't be trusting just anyone who happens to offer to help, right? So I convinced dad to let me change the tire, and he watched to make sure I jacked it up right and didn't forget to tighten the bolts. But poor dad! Just about every passerby shot him dirty looks for loafing while a girl did all the work. By the end it was "That's it, Stephanie. Next time I'm changing the tire."

My muse for the porch project? Rosie the Riveter, of course.