Thursday, January 29, 2009

Valentine's Day: Our Story

Jim, looking like Sam Elliot in cowboy boots and hat,walked over as I chatted with friends. He introduced himself and in a smooth, confident baritone said, "We need to be dating." How storybook, how romantic! Since I was totally unfamiliar with dating etiquette, all I could do was laugh in his face and sputter an embarrassed "I don't think so!" in my most sarcastic voice.

I had been alone for five years, prior to that, happily married for twenty years to my best friend since old Hippie days. We were growing up and planning on growing old together. His loss was sudden, devastating, life changing; but I had adapted well. I wasn't interested in another relationship or dating, wasn't looking, wasn't interested! In fact, this cold January night in 2000, was the first time I had ventured out socially... outside of church or work or Costco.

This cowboy was relentless. He wouldn't leave. He took my hand and we danced to some country song playing on the jukebox. There was no dance floor. I had never danced like that before and tried to protest that I didn't know how, but he just said "Hang on to me now." and we waltzed between the tables.

I tried to tell him that if he really knew anything about my life, he would not be interested. He wouldn't drop it, so a couple of weeks later we met for coffee at that same spot. I wanted to explain that my life wasn't mine, I still had eight of our twenty kids at home..... kids with disabilities, some quite significant, and I would be responsible for all of them for life. And, if that wasn't enough to send him packing, I told him that I didn't drink, dance, or date. Since he didn't run away screaming, we decided to turn coffee into dinner. Here comes the acid test. We went to my house, where the care providers were helping the kids finish a spaghetti dinner... it was everywhere! This man was greeted like a long lost rich uncle by all the kids, they shared handshakes and hugs and spaghetti sauce with him. He never flinched. He acted (and I'm sure it was an act) like he loved every minute of it. At dinner, I answered questions about the kids and their lives and how they came to be part of my family.... he told me about his kids. We both talked about our hopes and our heartbreaks. It was a nice dinner. It was a beginning.

Jim came back to the house the next day, although we had made no plan. He remembered every one's name, they remembered his! I think that was the moment I thought I might have a keeper...
We took long drives, he taught me to dance, we met each others' families, we learned each others' ways. We spent the next year and a half talking and planning, learning to trust, being cautious, neither of us wanting to err. We looked at homes, wanting to have space for our families and for a garden and some horses. We finally found our little ranch, spent six months remodeling and building fences before we could move in.

We tied the knot quietly, privately at the Hitching Post in September 2001, the day after 9-11. We laughed and cried, we exchanged bent up old rings that made the minister laugh when he looked at them. We went to our new home and sat on the porch..... everything was the same, but everything was changed. Once, one of the kids had asked Jim if he was going to be her Dad.... he explained that he would be her step-dad when we got married. That night, we sat on the deck, following the news of the Twin Towers tragedy, all the more painful, since Jim had worked there some time before. We had been married less than six hours, the kids were getting ready for bed when a tentative little voice called through the screen door, "Goodnight, Dad." Oh yes, that shy whisper put it all in perspective. Nothing matters more than family. We can get through anything, as long as we are committed to each other.

One year later, we finally got a honeymoon. Over dinner, Jim took my hand like he had on the night we met, looked into my eyes, and said, "It hasn't all been good...." It didn't quite come out the way he wanted, I know what he meant, but I couldn't help but laugh at him all over again.
So, that is our story .No, it hasn't all been good, most of it has been great! Not a day goes by that we don't marvel at the road we walk and the life we live. Our wonderful children, our little Ranch, and the love we found in each other when we weren't even looking. We laugh, we cry, we work hard together, we can argue a bit, too. We will grow old together, surrounded by our forever-children, who will remind us each day and each evening, that nothing in this world is more important than this.

Friday, January 23, 2009

How Time Flies....

I have been deep in thought and melancholy with memories since watching the Inauguration and subsequent festivities the other day. It was this historic event (on so many levels) that sent me reeling through a time warp of my life in an overwhelming mind-slide show of the other historic events I have witnessed...
I remember getting our first TV.... the world came int the living room, a little grainy in black and white, but it is how I first remember "News".... history, now.
I have a vague memory of Eisenhower, the Rosenbergs, and Rosa Parks on TV, but clearer memories of Mickey Mouse Club and Superman. Jonas Salk gave us the Polio vaccine, not soon enough for my cousin Cindy, though. We tried to see Sputnik fly over outside late at night. That ushered in the Space Age, and we all watched the rockets take off, and held our breath until the astronauts came back through the atmosphere without burning up, and cheered when they were picked up... bobbing in the middle of the ocean in that little capsule.
Things began to change in the sixties. We were changing. We began to discover a communal voice. We were so smart, so sophisticated, so wise in the ways of the world.
I remember the flag being lowered outside my Latin class window, and the Principal announcing the death of JFK over the PA system. We were excused from classes, sent home to be with our families to grieve as a nation as we watched the funeral on television. There were other assassinations... RFK, MLK, Indira Gandhi, John Lennon. And attempted assassinations... Regan, John Paul. The Apollo astronauts were killed in the rocket. Elvis died. Janis Joplin, Mama Cass, Jim Morrison too.
Vietnam took my friends away after high school, some came home, some didn't.... some were never the same again. Woodstock and Bob Dylan and the Beatles and Betty Friedan changed even more of us.
Civil Rights and Activism and Marijuana and LSD became a focus. There were wars in Israel and Vietnam and riots in Watts. Students just like us were killed at Kent State. Watergate reinforced our mistrust of the government. The Olympic games in Munich were ruined when the Israeli athletes were murdered. Roe v. Wade was a bright spot for Feminists and we burned our bras. Nixon told us he wasn't a crook.
We put a label on HIV/AIDS, and were very afraid. There were hostage crises, and spy plane problems, oil spills in Prince William Sound, and tanks in Tienoman Square.
I remember the day the Challenger exploded in midair, and again we watched it over and over again, but there was a difference..... we were not the kids in bobby socks anymore. Emotionally, we had hardened, become cold. The Gulf War, Waco, Rwanda, Bosnia, and the first attack of the World Trade Center, and the OK City bombing were all met with less feeling or outcry than OJ and his low speed white Bronco chase.
There have been more wars, countries have come and gone, the Berlin Wall was torn down. There have been witnesses to Moon walks and mad cows, Jonestown, Hale Bop, The Y2K scare, tsunami waves, earthquakes, volcanoes, and now global warming.
We gathered again as families when the Twin Towers and the Pentagon were attacked. It was like before, we were vulnerable once more. There was another shift in our direction, we began to turn back to an old memory of who we were.
We have been searching for something, we carry a remnant of the untarnished children we were when we searched the night sky in awe looking for Sputnik. We want to believe and hope and feel we have a voice again. I think the inauguration and all it's pageantry has allowed us to believe that perhaps, as a result of this historic event, we will reclaim what we have lost .
I need to ponder on what all this means to me..... does it just reflect my years? Is there a message in this bottle? I think I am a little wiser, possibly more cynical, and I eat dessert first. I value Life, and I treasure my memories; the good and the bad; and look forward to the next chapter.... with hope and faith.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


The newspaper articles and news reports about OxyContin, Meth, and related illegalities lately seem to have increased. There have been more and more pharmacy holdups, and they are getting more aggressive. There are big names in the news, locally and across the country, being arrested for posession or overdosing. Addiction. It is a National tragedy. Twentythree million Americans struggle with this disease, few are treated or are able to maintain a recovery. Noone is immune, it can happen to anyone.... rich or poor; male or female; young or old. Addiction knows no social or economic boundries. Many deny they have a problem, that is part of the disease.

Prevention is best. Education is vital. Still, genetics play a huge role in predisposing any of us to addiction. This stuff has become so popular everywhere; there is no longer a social stigma attached to using drugs/alcohol like there was a generation ago.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

4 Wheel Drive

The cold and fog continue. No new snow, so we get to clean up the mess that buried us in December. It made the Holiday Season very quiet, since none of the kids that live elsewhere could make it up the hill to visit. The roads are finally clear down below on the highway, still ice in spots, but everyone is generally travelling near the posted speed limits now. Up here is a different story. I still need 4 wheel drive to get the truck in and out of the garage and even down to the barn. There is too much packed ice to walk down and back safely. I keep it in 4X4 until I come off the hill, where it seems like another country or season with clear roads and diminishing snow packs. The fog has frozen onto all the tree branches and they are beautiful and white. I will get out with the camera next time the sun comes out to get a photo or two of the whiteness. The world up here looks like an Ansel Adams print, all black and white. Very quiet. Fog bank ebbs and flows like the tide on the ocean. Some pictures will help me remember the stark beauty later this year when I am complaining about the heat!! There are loads of elk and moose loitering around, so I'll need my trusty 4 wheel drive to carry me around to photograph the scenery. I'll have the truck to run to if I happen to come across an unsuspecting critter.... been chased by a mama moose before, not an experience I wish to repeat!! So, as soon as I get a few hours to putter, I'll load up the camera gear into the trusty protective 4X4 and record the beautiful spaces where we live.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Tax Reform

I am disturbed.... I am concerned, maybe even downright scared. The economy is in the crapper, prices are going up, jobs are scarce, and the government- both federal and local levels- are going to be squeezing us even more. I have been reading Obama's website and studied Otter's speech, and all of the rhetoric makes me angry and afraid. I wish they would ask my advice!!

The people in power are out of touch with real life here in the trenches. There are so many areas where money can be saved with out increasing taxes or reducing services. Since Health care is my home, I have some strong opinions and see where small changes would save a ton of money, as well as make a more efficient system. There is a large population depending on medical care through the government; Medicare, Medicaid, Healthy Options, etc.... in all but Medicare, this is "free" medical care, and I don't want to deny anyone care. But, the system is so abused. Not by all, but it only takes a few to screw it up and make it look bad. Thousands of dollars a day are spent / wasted because of an inefficient system. If the government asked anyone of us in the office or ER , we would be able to save a ton of tax dollars!!! For example: With regular insurance, there are limitations as to what doctor, pharmacy, a copay, a deductible, etc. The You and I insurance would be well off to have a one doctor/one pharmacy protocol and to have a copay ... even one dollar.... for an office visit, more for an ER visit. This small measure would save us a bunch and stop a great deal of abuse and drug-seeking behavior.
Another area that is concerning is the abuse of the welfare system by young women having babies because it's easy and free!!! U&I will pay for it!! I am beginning to sound like my mother.... but, I have had more than a few girls (15-25) in the clinic who are sexually active, without birth control, already on a welfare medical plan of some sort, who tell me that she and her "fiancee" (of about 3 months) would like to have a baby..... It's hard for me not to groan out loud. I do try to smile and encourage waiting a bit.... finish school, get married, have an income, have some fun before starting a family.... my face is about to crack.....
I will get in trouble if I say too much to either the drug-seeker or the teen aged mom-wannabe, because they have rights. Well, fellow taxpayer, we should have some rights, too.... after all, we are the ones who work every day to pay taxes to support this behavior. I would like to see a little reform in the system to protect us and the people who need the help. Reform that will identify and control the abuse a little better. I think the money saved, would balance the budget.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Chinook Winds Have Arrived

From Wikipedia:
The Chinook in the Pacific Northwest
The term Chinook Wind is also used in British Columbia, and is the original usage, being rooted in the lore of coastal tribes and brought to Alberta by the fur-traders. Such winds are extremely wet and warm and come from the southwest, and are also known as the Pineapple Express since they are of subtropical origin, roughly from the area of Hawaii. The air associated with a west coast Chinook is stable; this minimizes wind gusts and often keeps winds light in sheltered areas. In exposed areas, fresh gales are frequent during a Chinook, but strong gale or storm force winds are uncommon (most of the region's stormy winds come when a fast westerly jet stream lets air masses from temperate and subarctic latitudes clash).
Typically a weather forecaster in Vancouver might say "the Chinook is going to last for another five days, so expect heavy rain for the next week. The mountains [i.e. for skiing] will be rainy to the alpine, so expect lots of slush on the slopes." When a Chinook comes in when an Arctic air mass is holding steady over the coast, the tropical dampness brought in suddenly cools, penetrating the frozen air and coming down in volumes of powder, sometimes to sea level. Snowfalls and the cold spells that spawned them only last a few days during a Chinook, as the weather blows in from the southwest. The snow melts quickly and is gone within a week.
The effects on the Interior of the province when a Chinook is in effect are the reverse. In a rainy spell, most of the heavy moisture will be soaked out by the ramparts of mountains before the air mass reaches the Canyon and the Thompson River-Okanagan area. The effects are similar to those of an Alberta Chinook, though not to the same extreme, in part because the Okanagan is relatively warmer than the Prairies, and because of the additional number of precipitation-catching mountain ranges in between Kelowna and Calgary. When the Chinook brings snow on the Coast during a period of coastal cold, bright but chilly weather in the Interior will give way to a slushy melting of snow because of the warm spell more than because of rain.

I love the Chinooks. It is one of the best weather events we have in the Northwest. Everyone has been waiting for it, and this one is long overdue. But today I stood outside and smiled in the wind listening to the snow melt run like a river.

So, for the last two days, and hopefully for a few more, the temperature is above freezing, the wind is blowing, and the rain is helping them melt the snow. We have had about 5 feet, now down to about 3. The valley melting is causing floods. The main roads are finally clear of snow and ice; just wet pavement now. Up here on the hill there is alot of ice on the road and the driveway, but it will be gone as well if this keeps up for a few more days. The heavy load of snow slid off the barn roof this morning, now there are 10 foot high mountains of packed snow turning the lean tos on each side into tunnels. The boys came by and shoveled the roof of the house one more time, and the icicles that reached the ground on Monday are gone. There is damage, we can see it now as the snow disappears.... some flashing down, a couple of broken support beams, quite a bit of fence is torn out. We won't be able to get to that for quite sometime since there is still hip deep snow out there. The horses and mules are sissies, so I'm not worried that they will go through the downed spots. They are all happy to stand in the new tunnel the snow made today, out of the wind and rain, waiting for one of us to slip and slide to the barn to feed 'em.

I will be out there again tomorrow, smiling in the wind. I will always marvel at the wonder of the experience of the Chinook Wind.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


This is one of my favorite photos of the cowgirls of the early 1900's. I have long had a fascination for the lives , their stories , and their strength. Sometimes I wish had been there myself. I would have ridden some of those rank broncs!! My favorite of these women is Prairie Rose Henderson (2nd from the Right). She was a bit different, a bit of a rebel, and my maiden name is Henderson. As a child, I wore cowboy boots with all the little dresses my Grandmother made for me, and wanted a horse in the worst way. Living in the middle of Buffalo, New York, that was pretty impossible. But, I dreamed of being a Cowgirl. It took a long, and very winding road, and many hills and valleys; but here I am. No, I'm not a bronc rider, although I've had a horse or two that tried to make me one, and I'm not on some 1,000 acre self-sufficient spread, raising cattle or corn, but I am still wearing cowboy boots, have a broad brim palm hat just like Prairie Rose, sit a pretty good mule, have done a little team penning, throw hay and muck stalls, mend a fence, drive a tractor, and can say for sure that I am living my childhood dreams. It doesn't get better than this. Yee-Haw!!!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Icy New Year

Well, the roads are terrible. The drive to and from work has turned into a white knuckle rodeo, taking 2-3 times longer than usual. I haven't had the truck in two wheel drive in weeks!! Last night on my way home, the sign on the local Ace Hardware store caught my eye... ICE. No kidding, as I watched car after car after bus slide through that busy intersection!!! I can't believe the throngs of folks still out in this stuff. We have had so much snow up here on the hill.... about 4-5 feet, we are trapped, can't see out the lower level windows, hot tub is buried, the horses are all standing under the lean to like high school hoodlums smoking after school, looking like they are dreaming of green pastures, instead of the path they have made to the water tank and back.

The sun is shining today, tho, and even with the temperature just above zero, it is great to be able to go outside and bask in the light! It is too cold to last long, but every hour or so, I am taking a break from inside chores to go play outside for a bit.

The Christmas tree is coming down today. All the decorations will be back in the loft in the garage until next year. I am STILL wrapping and shopping, however..... and haven't shipped anything off to out of town family. I think they are all used to my bad habit of procrastination, I never send anything on time. Maybe that should be my New Year's Resolution; to get gifts and cards to their destination on schedule. Or not. I love the decorations, but now I'm starting to get a little claustrophobic and need the open spaces back inside. Off I go to pack and pack away...