Sunday, August 30, 2015

To Oregon and Back

When people ask me, "Where's your home?", I'm always a little stumped about how to respond. I was born in Oregon, and lived there as a child until we moved to Alaska in 1957. Later on, Dan and I brought our two Alaska-born sons to Oregon for their school years. Oregon was also the place my parents lived as they were growing up, so Oregon is home to me - at least ONE of my homes. I consider Alaska my other home, since I spent an equal amount of time - about 25 years - in each of those two states. And I now live in Texas, which I've also adopted as my yet another-other home. (Despite the fact that I truly treasure many New Mexico friendships, the geography and climate of that state never earned it a "homey" spot in my heart.)

We just got back from a trip "home" to Oregon. We spent Wednesday, the 19th traveling. We drove to Marci's (Dan's sister's) house, in Dallas, where we left our car. Our nephew, Caleb, drove us to the DFW airport that afternoon. We were traveling on our mileage points, so splurged and went first class. (Splurging with mileage points is easier than splurging with money.) What a difference that made! We had lots of leg-room, nice roomy seats, a delicious hot meal, snacks. The four hour flight was totally enjoyable.

The nostalgia struck as soon as I saw this through the window of the plane. That's the Columbia River in the foreground, and Mt. Hood in the background, as we were approaching Portland.

We moved from Oregon 17 years ago, so there were many changes. But when we got to our old hometown, Newberg, it once again felt like home to me. There were new businesses, and new housing developments, of course, but some of my old haunts hadn't changed.

Friends in Newberg, John and Jan, let us stay at their beautiful home, up in the hills of Newberg. They were there at the house to greet us that first evening, but left, themselves, on vacation early the next morning, so we had their house to ourselves for the duration of our stay. What amazingly generous hospitality on their part! 

On Thursday Dan met some former Tektronix colleagues, in Beaverton. That same group of guys used to have lunch together once a week. While Dan was enjoying his reunion with them, I met with my dear former colleague, Tom. We had lunch at the student center at George Fox University, where we worked together in the Business and Economics Department (now the College of Business and Economics). We got caught up on news of our families and mutual acquaintances, and then Tom took me on a walking tour of the campus to see some of the big changes. George Fox has really grown! This is the old Woodmar building, where I worked most of the time I was at Fox. Just before we left Newberg they completed a restoration of the building, bringing back it's original beauty, and added the more modern section you can see to the right, in this photo. 

That evening Dan and I met my cousins (daughters of one of Dad's sisters), Bonnie and Marcia, at J's Restaurant. J's was one of those old haunts of ours, and hadn't changed much at all. It was nice to have time to visit with these two cousins, one of whom - Bonnie - I'd only met once, and the other - Marcia - I had never met before. Bonnie and I have corresponded in recent years, and she also exchanged emails with Mom frequently. I brought along a silver-and-ivory necklace of Mom's to give to Bonnie, since she had grown very fond of Mom. 

On Friday I had another lunch date. (As is becoming evident, and will become MORE evident, we literally ate our way through this vacation!) Debby was a great friend when I worked at George Fox. We helped each other through the good times and bad, and we never missed having our weekly lunch together. So it wouldn't have seemed right to be in Newberg and not have lunch with her. She took me to one of the new restaurants that have sprung up, and we talked one another's ears off. It was one of those friendships that just picked up right where it left off 17 years ago. I really miss Debby!

Saturday had been set aside for the REAL purpose of our trip to Oregon. After Mom's passing, in March, her ashes were sent to Willamette National Cemetery (WNC), where my Dad was interred, and she was buried there with him. I felt a strong need to visit the gravesite, to say my last good-bye and bring some closure to this difficult time. This cemetery is an amazingly beautiful place, and seeing the graves of these heroes of our nation is very inspirational. We spent quite a long time there, in quiet meditation, just soaking in the beauty and the serenity. 

From WNC we drove north, across the Columbia River and into Vancouver, WA, to visit another dear friend, whom we first knew in Juneau, but who has been living in Washington now for many, many years. John lost his wife, Betty, about three years ago, and this was our first time, since her passing, that we were able to see him and give him a long-overdue hug. He fixed some delicious tacos for lunch and served them with his home-made salsa. I knew that, since his retirement, he had taken up oil painting, so asked to see some of his work. He honored us with a trip upstairs to a room he had dedicated as his studio, where we saw many pieces of his outstanding art work. John is so talented!

On Sunday we went to church, knowing it would be a day full of reunions. Sometimes I forget how much I've missed someone until I see them again. That's how I felt about so many of our dear friends at the Newberg church. There were those who had only been kids when we left there - peers and friends of our own boys - now grown and in leadership roles at church. There were their parents, now grandparents like us. And there were those who were of my parents' generation - now truly the SENIORS of the senior saints. Each one was special; each one brought back so many memories. It was a great day. Our friend, Doris, treated us to lunch. Doris was one of Mom's good friends, and they never missed a day emailing each other. Doris says she still misses those daily chats.

Monday brought both Dan and I back to George Fox to meet my old colleagues/friends from the Academic Affairs Office, where I worked for the final four of my 12 years at George Fox. The three of them, Dirk, Jim and Mark, along with one other, Glenn, who no longer lives in Newberg, were such terrific guys to work with. In that office we dealt with some very serious issues which required concern and compassion for both faculty and students involved. But that seriousness was always tempered by wonderful team camaraderie, well seasoned with humor, making those years the favorite ones of my entire career. I loved spending some time with them again.

It's hard to know how we did it, but somehow we squeezed in a few more meals, at fondly-remembered restaurants still going strong. One was Abby's - the pizza place where we, along with a couple dozen other friends from church, used to eat lunch every Sunday.

And Coffee Cottage, THE coffee spot for hanging' out, near the Fox campus.

And the Tigard Mongolian BBQ. We've never found one of those Mongolian-Ghengis-Grill-type places that we like as much as this one. 

We spent Monday night in Portland, at a hotel near the airport, making the next day really easy for returning our rental car and getting to the airport. It worked perfectly.

Speaking of the PDX airport, they have this giant cuckoo clock there - the tallest free standing cuckoo clock in North America, standing 24 feet tall, weighing more than three tons, and carved from a single Oregon maple. If you've ever lived in the Portland area, you will recognize all of the meaningful symbols carved into it, such as: a replica of the old White Stag neon sign that faces the Burnside Bridge, Mt. Hood, the Fremont Bridge, salmon swimming upstream, street musicians, Sasquatch (reading poetry - ha!), the Portlandia statue, and others, including some humorous insider symbols. We left that area, to go to our departure gate, before the hour struck, so didn't get to hear the "free-range chicken cuckoo's" song, which I'm sure would have been a kick.

I loved every minute of our Oregon vacation -- although we did have two days (Sunday and Monday) of terribly smoky air because of the forest fires in Washington and Oregon. But the wind shifted, I guess, because it cleared up by Monday morning. Dan also really enjoyed seeing all of our old friends again, but was a bit chagrinned by the smoke and the Portland area traffic, which was much more congested than we are used to here in Texas. Since he did all of the driving, it didn't bother me so much ;-)

We spent Tuesday night at Marci's, and then drove on home from Dallas on Wednesday, after having a nice breakfast out with Marci and Caleb. Myles (Caleb and Tammy's little boy) started kindergarten that week, and seemed to be doing just fine with that transition . . . maybe better than his Daddy was, in fact.

(Oh, by the way, our own grandson also started kindergarten last week! Don't miss taking a look at photos of the first day of school for Robert and Clara, on Kelsey's blog - click here.)

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Coffee Pot Flowers

Here's the picture I was working on when Robert and I painted at the kitchen table. I think it's finished.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Life with Robert - Part 2

Friday morning I got out my paints to work a little on my current art project. Robert, as I anticipated, wanted to paint, too. So I draped him in one of Grandpa's old shirts, to keep the paint off of his clothes, and set him to work with some poster paints.

Right after lunch the three of us went to the theater to see Minions. I wouldn't call it a huge hit with Robert, although it did get a number of good laughs from him. My own opinion is that this doesn't live up to Despicable Me, the first movie featuring the minions and the only other minion movie I have seen. The only scene that made me laugh occurred while Dan was taking Robert out to the restroom, so Dan missed it. (The scene where the Minions accidentally pop up, through a manhole, in the midst of the photoshoot for the Beatles' Abbey Road album cover.)

Saturday morning came, and with it the continuing hot weather. We went to I-Hop for breakfast, where Robert chose the Funny Face chocolate pancake with whipped cream. Later that morning, just before noon, we went to the Bend o' the River park for the community-wide picnic. We chose to just buy our lunch there, not knowing what to expect. As we were parking, Robert asked, "Are they going to have anything there to eat besides bananas? Because I hate bananas." LOL. We assured him that the menu would have other choices, and it did. We were pleasantly surprised to find that nearly anything on the menu was just $1.00. Robert got a hot dog, two cookies and a red soda pop! 

There was an enjoyable jazz band playing, first in the gazebo, and later strolling among the picnic tables. 

Robert lasted for an hour or a little more, and then he kind of crashed. All of a sudden he was unhappy with just about everything - the food, the heat, the music, the scratchy grass, Grandma's rules - you name it! Could have been because of the red soda pop! Could have been because of activity-overload. Was probably simply because he's a 5-year old little boy! Anyway, it was time to go home, where watching cartoons on Netflix, in an air-conditioned room, seemed just the ticket. I've probably let him watch way more cartoons this afternoon than would have been allowed at his home, but it seemed to make all of us happy, so Grandma took the easy way out. We'll be returning him into his parents' hands tomorrow, and we'll leave the job of weaning him off of all the one-on-one attention and relaxed rules to them. And that's the JOY of GRANDPARENTHOOD!