Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The New Plan

I woke up early this morning with my brain racing. It's been doing that a lot lately, clocking overtime while the rest of me really could just use a long nap.  It's tiring to wake up at 3:30 and not be able to get back to sleep.  I have had many bouts of insomnia in my life.  I have been to grad school. Actually I think those two statements are redundant.  Anyone who goes for post-baccalaureate education loses sleep.  So does every parent in the world and everyone who has a lot on their plate dealing with the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

So this particular morning, I woke up promptly at 6.  Please don't think for a moment that 6 a.m. is a time for me.  Six in the morning is a concept, not a reality and I haven't seen that time in person for a couple of years.  Unless I am still awake from all night activities, in which case it's a totally different 6 a.m. than what normal folk would experience.  Last night when I went to sleep, I wrote out a list of all the things I had to do today.  This morning, I added even more things.

I can't help it; my brain spins like a tornado.  I think I have all the corners of sleep nailed down, smoothed over and in place like a blanket.  I have done everything I could the previous day and accomplished my tasks.  Yesterday, I went through most of my house on a purging tear and threw out eight trash bags of stuff we just don't need. Lots of it will be donated, have no fear.  I also had listed some items on Craigslist and sold both my lawnmower and futon couch.  My dear, dear Charlotte came over yesterday too, to help keep me on track.  I'd hold something questionable up, some item that I may or may not need or want. She'd say "Get rid of it!!" and off it would go. One of my friends took a bunch of items off my hands and I was able to give my beautiful dining room table to a sweet family with two little girls who will love it and take care of it. I even sold my car yesterday and will be catching a bus to Tulsa this afternoon to get home.  But my brain doesn't want rest, it wants everything to be in the correct place and in the right box.  It wants all decisions made, conversations had, bills paid and floors swept.  It wants to be creative, to write and sing and dance in the shadows.  It goes into overdrive whenever I have a lot to do and little time to do it.

This week's over-scheduling is because of a text conversation I had with my sister, Patti.  I was whining about how expensive the move is going to be because we decided to use a moving company.  She asked if a Uhaul might not be a better solution.  I said no, because my husband is uncomfortable with me following him in a truck and that he was even more uncomfortable with the idea of pulling his car behind a truck.  We figured out how to keep Eleanor happy- I have dosed her with medicine from the veterinarian which keeps her sufficiently loopy and quiet for about 8 hours.  On our nightly walk, I mentioned the text conversation to him, and he decided to reconsider.

No! I had it set in my mind. We had planned a course of action.  Granted, an expensive course of action, but still.  I had everything packed and the movers would come in three days. It was set in stone.

But like many things set in stone, we decided to etch out a new course.  "It's just stuff", he said.  "We'll get more stuff".


New plan.

Because that's what you do when you suddenly and jarringly change course. You make a plan.  You stay nimble and courageous and don't panic.  This is not the end of the world. It's just the end of life here in Oklahoma.  A life that I won't be taking with me to Washington.  It's not the original plan, but it's a good compromise. And I married a man with a great sense of equanimity, and a nimble ability to adapt

We pared down our belongings to fit them into a little 4x8 Uhaul pull-along trailer.  I will send my books by media mail and we will sell what we can.  What we can't, Cathy and Chuck will dispose of either in a garage sale or by donation.  I'm going to ship Grey's records too.  It's a good plan.  We will take four days for travel and arrive at our destination like a turtle with our tiny home on our back. Ok, make that a two-person-one-kitty turtle.  You get the idea.

I have a lot of stuff to do and little time to do it.  So my tornado, I mean my brain, woke me up. And what am I doing? Writing.  Compromise.  Writing and making a list of things to do.  Grey and I are....sort of enjoying the whole move. I certainly have a greater appreciation for him, and he has learned about my elite packing skillz.  These lead to my elite "getting rid of stuff" skillz.

I no longer have a table, couch or place to sleep for the next week.  As my Grandma used to say "They don't have a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out of."  What I do have is support, love and understanding.  Everything I need that doesn't fit into a box.

Alright brain, let's kick this into gear.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Packing, Packing, Packing

Well, most of our stuff has been packed.  I'm typing on Grey's computer.  Tonight at some point he will come get his electronics together.  I have some more to do in the Norman house too.  We will take Grey's stuff to the Norman house on Saturday and then the movers will come pick up everything on Monday around 2.  We had a little get-together last Saturday and a few people came to say goodbye.  I had a lot of fun. Low-key, lots of friends and food! Cathy made homemade, multi-grain pretzels. I love them with mustard.  My favorite!  For the carnivores, she brought barbecue pork.

After sending our stuff on, I'll clean the heck out of the houses and we'll fly the nest on September 1.  I will not cry, I will not cry.  I might cry. More.

Here are some people and things I will miss in Oklahoma.

Tulsa Sunshine

And Bridges

I love it when it rains!

I WON'T miss all that driving

There is a lot of severe weather in Oklahoma

Shelly and her sparkling wine

Shelly and I

Cathy and Chuck


More friends!

Big's new family (+ 4 kids, dogs and cats)

Hey there!

The incorrigible Jenni V

Look at those crummy attitudes! 


We don't talk about the move. Too difficult. Just smile. 

My last picture of Big as he went to his new home

Stuff at the Norman house

Downtown Tulsa

I am so lucky to see this man every day
These are Grey's CD's and books

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Animals and Geography

I have been thinking a lot lately of my little old kitty, Eleanor.

It's a trap.  She's going to grab my hand when I pet her.
One would think at the ripe age of 16 she would be dead.  Or incapacitated or frail or somehow mostly dead.

One would be wrong.  She takes medicines twice daily and has learned that when Grey is going to pill her, it behooves her to act cute and maybe purr him up in an effort to get him to not giver her that pill.  In fact, she has quickly learned how to get on his good side, his bad side and that sometimes he will spoil her (if I am not around) by putting her up on top of a book shelf.  She loves to be up high and will forgive almost anything when she is up there.  In turn, Grey has learned that Eleanor is pretty smart for an old cookie. That he can train her for certain actions, like teaching her some manners about sleeping beside his head.

Yes, apparently when I'm not around, she sleeps by him now. Quite adorable for a man who is allergic to almost every cat he has ever met.  Eleanor is only the second cat he has met that he isn't allergic to. Out of respect for my wonderful husband, who has made this effort because he loves me, I will not post pictures.

Do I look like I'd barf on you? 
But it is hilarious.

Anyway, Eleanor has presented me with a challenge.  In 2008, when I moved back to Oklahoma, I promised, promised, promised my little kitty (she was only 12 then) that we wouldn't move across the country again if she would just live through the trip.  I guess I lied, since we are set to once again make the trip to Washington.  During our frequent trips back and forth between Norman and Tulsa, we have been taking Eleanor with us as necessary.  She has apparently gotten much older these last few years as she tummy, bladder and other parts aren't faring well in the car.  I tried letting her out of her carrier, keeping her in the carrier, giving her some calm down remedy and giving her benadryl.

She had a bad reaction to the benadryl.  Really bad. Everything that can come out of a cat, came exploding out of the cat.  Onto me.  So I talked to my vet and he gave me a prescription for her for amitryptilene.  Amitryptilene is actually an antidepressant and so should alleviate her anxiety and/or make her sleep through the trip.  I'm hoping for sleep because she meows all the way there and back.  She didn't use to do this.  She used to sit in the passenger seat, sleeping or looking out the window.  Sometimes she would sing along to the music on the radio.

Grey and I are both anxious about her ability to survive this trip.  For his end, he has mapped out a 4 day, three night driving course to take us on a scenic trip from Oklahoma to Washington through Montana.  It's beautiful and I have driven this way several times.  But I usually make it in two days, whereas Grey has given us 4.  He is making hotel reservations!  This boggles my mind as I just drive until I can't keep my eyes open and then either sleep at a rest stop or find a motel to crash in for a couple of hours.  His way will be much gentler on our poor little kitty.  My job is to keep her sedated.

I went over a contingency plan with Grey last night: If for some reason Eleanor croaks on the road, I'm buying a travel cooler and some ice so that I can take her with us and have her cremated.  Yes, gross.  I know.  But I'm not leaving my cat in a dumpster in Missoula. Like any sane and normal person, Grey's eyes got that "You must be joking" look to them.  Then when he realized that I'm serious, he got that "You aren't joking.  Ewwwww" look.  "Ok."  That's all he said.  Let's hope that she makes it.

He loves snow
In other animal-related news, my awesome and amazing dog, Big, has gone to a new home.  He was graciously taken in by a family I know.  My friend Moon, who was the one who introduced Grey and I, and his wife now own a Norwegian Elkhound/Wolf mix.  Big joins a couple of other dogs, a few cats and four kids.  They are happy to have him and even their youngest son can walk him on leash.  Yeah, Big is a big gentle baby.  The Ingletts will make sure that he is babied too.

Snow is nice, but it's warmer in the house!
It was a difficult decision to not bring Big with me.  We are renting for the first year while I settle things with the house in Oklahoma.  Renting in a small college town means that it's impossible to find a place in the city limits that will accept a giant breed of dog.  No matter where I looked, I ran into the same problem.  So I did the right thing and found him a home.  Lots of people wanted Big and there were many places he have gone.  He is well trained, happy, sweet, gentle and very, very big and hairy. I am lucky to know so many kind-hearted and willing people.   He will be loved, safe and probably never bored!

In thinking of animals, there are some animals in Oklahoma that I will not miss:

Bark Scorpions are venomous.  And creepy!

Cicadas make a soothing sound in the trees but they look scary.
If you ever wondered how to get rid of scorpions, click here!

Nothing really wrong with June Bugs, but they have terrible navigation and tend to fly in to people.  I also found one in my bed a couple of years ago. 

There is one animal that I will greatly miss in Oklahoma: 

Lightning Bugs are the most beautiful sight on spring and summer evenings.

I didn't include a picture of chiggers, even though I know they are one of the most pesky of pesky Oklahoma critters.  Somehow, in my 13 years of life in Oklahoma, I have NEVER been bitten by one.  They are pretty yucky, burrowing into the skin and laying eggs.  The eggs die because people are unfit hosts, but the wounds left are itchy for weeks.  I have a friend who had to have prednisone after a hike with me.  He was itchy for weeks and still has scars on his legs from that excursion.  

While Washington state does not have to deal with all those flying and biting things, we still have rattlesnakes and fleas to contend with.  And bigger things that can eat you or your old kitty, like bears and coyotes.  

I'll keep you updated on Central Washington.  It will be a new experience for me too, since I have lived on either the extreme West coast or the eastern part, but never in the middle.  I'll take lots of pictures and hopefully give an idea of what we will deal with out there.  Can't be that bad, right?  Less than 150 miles to Seattle, over by a ski area and a mountain pass? 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Back Road

It doesn't always snow in Dayton, Washington.  When it does, you get these big, fluffy mounds that drift across the road and settle nicely at the bottom of the gulches and gullies.  Columbia County is, topographically speaking, like a big patchwork quilt that someone fluffed and never smoothed, with gently rounded hills and creek beds at the bottom of every canyon.  Wheat fields are interspersed with fallow, soybeans, bearded barley and rapeseed.  Corn crops up from time to time and strip farming is common to help aid in preventing soil erosion.  Farming is a time-honored profession.  I learned this not only from living in the environment, but from a day my grandfather took me on a little excursion.

He had an old white Ford pick up truck, and when we would go for a drive up the back roads- Patit Road, Johnson Hollow, Eckler Mountain, Crall Hollow, the Touchet River Road and Hatley Gulch, we would look for wildlife.  I'm a crackpot wildlife spotter.  I don't see dark colors well and cannot accurately tell between gray, brown, and green or blue from black, but I see shapes extremely well.  I can spot small game from hundreds of yards and tend towards a holistic view of a given landscape.  Leaves, time of year, light and weather just sort of point things out for me. And Grandpa loved to go for a drive. I think he just really loved to look around his world.  He drove until he was 89 years old and the people in Dayton just sort of watched out for his car since he stopped obeying parking signs or places to stop and go.  Nice people, Daytonites.

We'd get going and be on top of the world, looking out at the land and the fields, breathing the clean air.  The windows would be rolled all the way down and neither of us thought about seatbelts.  Half the time, I rode in the back of the truck, losing my breath looking over the top of the cab or coughing on dust the whole time.  But on drives like this, Grandpa would dispense advice and we'd take turns pointing out mule and whitetail deer, the occasional elk, gorgeously plumed Chinese pheasants and coyotes.  Grandpa would point off to the right, and that's the way the truck would veer.  On a washboard gravel road, it gets pretty terrifying to swerve so sharply.  Fortunately, we didn't go faster than 20 miles per hour on these outings.  Grandpa didn't really notice, as he would be busy telling stories and jokes I had heard a hundred times before about a 12-point elk (his antlers are still up at the cabin), building hydraulic wood splitters and how the crops are doing that year. I loved it and I knew that one day these would be only memories.  Every ditch we narrowly avoided, every herd of Mulies we spotted and the few black bears we saw stuck in my memory and lingers still in my imagination.  They serve as part of the vast backdrop of my storytelling.  As adults, my sisters and I would play a game with our boyfriends.  We'd take them out to my grandparent's house and wait for Grandpa to offer to take him of a ride, then decline to go with him.  Depending on how carsick and/or frustrated he got would sometimes dictate whether or not that relationship continued.  We weren't really nice girls.

When I was 12, Grandpa took me to watch harvest in action.  I hopped in the truck with him and we made our dusty way towards Waitsburg and off to the Northeast to a corner I'd never be able to find on a map. Fifty or so trucks parked in a field and I recognized several of the old men from town, including my Uncle Vernon.  Almost everyone there was an old man, with a few child witnesses, more curious about days gone by than swimming at the community pool.

Two men sat atop an old-time swather.  A twenty-mule team was hitched to pull, only there were way more than twenty mules.  How did they get so many out here in one field? How were they going to pull that heavy piece of equipment on a hillside?  In the Boax commercials, which is what one usually associates with a twenty mule team, the mules are hitched in a double line, two deep and ten long.  This was not the case. The mules were four and six deep but only five or so long.  As they pulled the swather along, the mules towards the sides did the work of turning and the ones in the front added stability.  Likewise for going straight across the field.  It was hot work for men and mules, kicking up dust but doing the job of wheat harvest.  I can see why a whole crew was needed for harvest work.  Indeed, my grandmother's first paying job was to cook twice daily for a harvest crew of about a dozen men, including shopping for, cooking and cleaning up after the meals.  Hard work for women too.

As Grandma had grown up in a large family with nine siblings, she knew inherently how to plan, cook, serve and clean up after men and children.  A lady hired her was a teenager to stay at their farm and cook for the harvest crew, including the man of the family.  The lady didn't think much of my Grandma, nor did she trust her cooking skills, allowing her to only make one kind of dessert, kind of a dry cake with no icing.  The men didn't really like the cake and Grandma offered to make something else.  The lady wouldn't hear of it, saying that Grandma would just waste money in making inedible messes.  But the man, after a week of the same thing, took Grandma aside and asked her if she could make chocolate cake.  Yes, yes of course she could. And so triumphantly, a chocolate layer cake with chocolate icing was baked and proudly set before them.  It was promptly devoured.  Every Sunday afterwards, Grandma baked them the same cake.  They paid her two dollars a week, plus room and board.  A dollar was enough for a pair of shoes and she gave most of it to her family to help with expenses.  She was fifteen or sixteen years old and worked as a cook for the rest of her life.

Hours later, I was still mesmerized by the process of pull, turn, pull turn.  Dump grain and cart it off. Pull, turn, pull turn. Sweat.  Sweaty mules, sweaty men.  It all depended on them working together in unison.  One man calling out and the rest knowing their jobs. Community.  The mules knew their jobs too, and were offered water when the men took a break too.  It's damn hard work.

Farming practices have evolved greatly.  My friend Ramon Streby works harvest on a big, air conditioned harvester, wearing Oakleys and blaring music in the cab.  He posts pictures on Facebook looking cool.  My other friend Elissa is a physics teacher in Long Beach, California.  Sometimes she has to go home to Dayton to help out too.  Thin, tan and a beautiful California girl, she goes when her dad calls.  And all of us, us kids from Dayton, we sometimes spread out over the world.  David is in New York, I am in Oklahoma, Claudia is in Texas and more and more of us travel and move around the globe.  But the center of our world is, ultimately, a gravel road and an old truck with buttons you push on hard to get the radio station to tune in. It's a 12 degree creek on a hot July day and taking your kid fishing for the first time on the Tucannon.  It's my Grandma telling me stories of the church socials where all the unmarried girls would make a pail lunch for two and put them on a picnic table, and all the unmarried men would choose a pail and that's who you would have lunch with.  Grandma got an ugly one once, and she stopped making delicious lunches for church after that.

We rode home in silence.  I'm not sure why Grandpa took me to see the harvest, Maybe he didn't mean to take me at all.  I'm glad he did.
Later in life, I did the driving

Grandma- heading to church


Mule Deer

Harvest. Photo Credit:  http://www.columbiaco.com/

Columbia County. Photo Credit:  http://www.columbiaco.com/

Monday, August 13, 2012

How a Wild Okie Got Her Name

I thought I would do a regular writing exercise today, something to keep my descriptive skills fresh and something that would also shed a little light on where my mother's people come from.

I remember my great grandparents.  Their names were Albert and Audrey Jennings. I think Great-Grandma Audrey's maiden name was Harsh.  Nobody called my Great-Grandpa "Albert".  Because of my own grandfather's stutter, my sisters and I thought for the longest time that his name was "Abbot".  I didn't find out until he died when I was 11 and I asked my mom to have the funeral home correct the name so they would have it right.  I knew even as a small child that it is a special thing to have your great grandparents in your life.  I remember even at the age of four, I treated Great Grandma as though she was fragile. She smelled like late fall leaves crunched tightly in the hand and thrown in the air and her eyes were once blue, washed by years of hard life to a light spring sky.

My Greats lived way out the Tucannon, a large wooded area somewhere folded into the hills and rocky terrain between Dayton, Washington and Pomeroy.  To get there as the crow flies would be to skim past the steep canyon walls and find the lowest part where the last glacier cut through on its way to becoming a lake.  The Tucannon river babbles forth, fed in the summer by melted snow from the mountains just to the South by the Umatilla National Forest.  In fall, rain and snow cut crags into the rimrock and encouraged the miles and miles of evergreens, whose needles kept us girls wearing flip flops when we would have otherwise foregone footwear altogether.  That's not entirely true.  There were always stickers- yellow star thistle, russian thistle (also known as tumbleweeds), and tiesel with heads so thick you could brush a horse tail with them.  There were also loads of tiny river snakes and the occasional rattler to worry about.  Mostly we tangled with the water snakes since we bathed, played in and cooled watermelon and soda in the crick.  There just wasn't any messing around with the rattlers, whose real or imagined tail shake would send ice through my veins and me scrambling in the opposite direction.

And it would get hot too, up into the 90s in the summer.  In the winter when we visited the Greats, we never took off our coats.  The wood stove would be roaring, filling the house with heat and the smell of creosote. What impressed me most was Grandma Audrey's age. She was old, older than a hundred years to my small eyes, and happily living without electricity in a little slat house.  In reality she must have been 70, but her paper-thin skin smoothed when she smiled and held my sisters and I to her.  She loved children and we loved her. I remember the little sideboard buffet table she had in the house too. It now sits in my own house, without the oil lamps and doilies that once adorned the piece.  It had been sold to her by a cousin, one of the Rose clan, and she treasured it.

In the early 1900s, Grandpa Abbot bought a little plot of land.  It was less than 50 acres but right by the road, which wound up past Camp Wooten and into the Pataha.  You could get there from both Pomeroy and Dayton- about 20 miles each direction.  If you went to Dayton, you'd take the Hartsock grade or the Panjab if you had horses to pull since it didn't have the same washboard gravel on it.  Somewhere in my memory is the way, the map, and I can find it once I am on my way.  You won't find these places on a gps, friends, as nobody has electricity or much of a paved road.  Taking those backroads will dump you off pretty close to the old homestead.  There sat a house close to the road, with old slats and a chimney out the top.  The outhouse sat behind, in various places every few years, and my grandmas (my grandma was one of identical twins) tended to the garden with their sisters and mom.

In the front stood some young evergreens.  My grandma, Verline, and her nine siblings, walked over those evergreens in the yard.  One of them kept growing, bent over like that and still lives to this day.  I played on that tree as a little girl too.  Grandma told me stories of growing up on the Tucannon, of being barefoot all summer and how Abbot was a hunting guide and that he traded with a few of the local tribe members who still lived up in the hills. I'll tell you more of these stories one day when it's raining and I can remember by the look and the feel of cold hard drops against the windowpane.  Abbot's stories, and my grandma's, are precious to me.  Since they don't need them anymore, those memories live in me and someday I will write them down for you.  They won't be the same way that my grandma wrote them for me; memory is like that and is sometimes more vivid than real life. There are stories of canning food and flour sack dresses; working and cooking for harvest crew and my grandma buying her own shoes for the first time ever and how proud she was to bake a chocolate cake as a young woman. Abbot told us stories too.  He lived at the end of days with my grandparents; Audrey had gone on before him and he patiently bided his time in front of their wood stove, watching boxing on television and telling me stories about the bachelor buttons and the wild flowers on the hillside.

That's how this blog got its name, you know.

Four Generations of Jennings

Grandma and the Walkover Tree

Earline and Verline

I think this is the way it happened:  One snowy evening, I was bored and ten years old.  Ten years old and bored didn't really go together in my mind but it was after supper and dark outside and nobody would be interested in turning the television to something I would like to watch.  The dishes were done and the washer was running; Grandma had had me dry with the old flour sack cloths that I also use to this day.  They soak up water better than anything.

And I asked Abbot what his favorite flower was. He thought for a moment, and I watched the wrinkles around his eyes becoming deeper.  He had age spots, liver spots as my grandma called them, on his head, pushed right through the thinning hair.  Time had hunched his shoulder so that his suspenders appeared to bow him forward under the weight.

"Well", he said finally, "I think it's the wildflowers".
"Which ones?"
"The yellow and red rose bushes that grow small close to the canyon wall.  They are the sweetest, just like you and your sisters."

No, that's not quite right. Maybe it was something like this:  It was summer and the hot air had settled down towards evening.  Camp was made, with Aunts Zelma, Earline, Sis and Teddy right nearby.  Great Grandpa Abbot and I were playing cards against Grandma and Zellie.  Abbot "shot the moon", meaning that he won the game by taking every trick in the deal in a game of pinochle.  Aunties swore.  They would never do that in town, but around a campfire with the smoke and pitch crackling high off the ground and the other children playing Snipe, it was alright to let their hair down.  I looked up at the moon, buzzing off of the sugar from s'mores and Hershey's chocolate, Twizzlers and little half cans of Sprite.  And I asked him the question about his favorite flower. And he told me the same thing.  Then Aunt Sis, who had once owned the local bar in Dayton with her husband Wayne, said that he was full of shit.  But I didn't care at all.

Yeah, it's one of those two stories.

Either way, I am a wild flower and so are my sisters and so are those grandparents before us and those who will come after.  It's in our blood.  We are expressions of the same rose bush, bright and reaching for the sun, pushing past the canyon walls and inhaling deeply of the heated summer breeze.

Thursday, August 9, 2012


It was a beautiful morning today.  One of those rare days when it was only about 85 in the shade, so I opened the back door and sat on the stoop to drink my coffee and look at the back yard.  It's pretty crispy.  The crepe myrtle is doing fine and so is my big apple tree.  The little apple tree just ain't gonna make it, but the plum will.  I'be been watering.  And even though I've watered the rhodedendron the most, it is cooking in the sun.  Sigh. But a little juvenile kite sat on the power line while its mother brought it cicadas to snack on.  I remembered another warm summer day when my Grandma visited me.  We had coffee outside both mornings, before it got too warm, and talked to the cardinals and squirrels.  Eventually, the sun came up and the dogs wandered indoors, so that was my cue to get on with the day.  

I took my car to a little self-wash place on Flood street there in Norman.  It's hot lately. Like 113 degrees during the day.  And it has been so for some time.  Before it got too hot this morning, I thought I'd get this little chore out of the way.  We are going to sell my SUV because it will be more fun to drive up with just us two and Eleanor.  I'm hoping that we can afford to have a moving company move the household and we can meet them up there.  

Anyway, car, hot, wash.  

A man in his fifties greeted me. He worked there and made change for the five dollar bill in my hand.  He stands outside all day and has a tan three inches deep into his skin.  He was missing some teeth too, though it didn't impede his speech.  He was soft spoken and his eyes had a gentleness to them.  When I got done cleaning my car, he asked if I could spare a dollar.  Yes, I can spare a dollar.  Of course I can.  I held his hand for a moment and looked directly into his eyes and wished him well, because he is a human being. He made me realize something too.  That if someone genuinely needs assistance and they ask you for it, not only should you give what you can, but you might also think to thank them for the opportunity to show compassion to another person.  I'm not always a good person, but sometimes I get the opportunity to even things out a little bit.  

"How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong.  Because someday in your life you will have been all of these."  ~George Washington Carver

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


I am certain that I mentioned before that I am not a good negotiator.  My husband learned this when we agreed that a certain Friday would be the last day that we would be able to accept an offer from the university.  Then I never communicated that date to them and I didn't get the contract.  My philosophy is that people will do what's right and that they are doing the best they can.

So Grey gave me (and them) an extension until Wednesday.  I communicated this with everything but a bullhorn.  I went behind someone's back.  I cajoled and wheedled.  Wednesday came; Wednesday went.  No contract.  Thursday morning I got the first of the two contracts.  Friday at 4:30, after I posted my blog, I found the second contract in my inbox.

I was so sad.  We'd discussed it.  We had decided.  End of story.  I thought that perhaps it couldn't hurt to forward the contract to him at work and see what he thought.  In the meantime, I was looking forward to some other neat opportunities in Oklahoma at two of the state colleges.  C'mon, I'm a Ph.D.  I can find something relatively easily.  Gulp.  With insurance.  And benefits. That pays ok. As a teacher.  Shoooooooo!

Besides, we already decided a course of action, right?  NO way to change our minds, right?  Stay in comfy, cushy Oklahoma with its mild winters and blistering hot can't-breathe-for-2-months heat that depresses me and makes me want to live on a polar ice cap.  That's the plan.  No way I'm asking Grey to reconsider and please may we move to Washington after I'd already secured an extension.

Thoughts swirled through my tornado brain.  If I have never told you about my tornado brain, it's an amazing and efficient machine.  Any event that happens, my brain likes to imagine the worst case scenario, then whip the event around in my head several times and force a scary and difficult outcome wherein I end up living under an overpass with only Eleanor, a shopping cart and a machete.  Depending on how much I wanted what I didn't get, and sometimes depending on how much I wanted what I did get, it doesn't take long for me to get to the shopping cart scenario.  This time?  Five point two seconds.  With broken down house slippers and a mumu. That's a record of some sort.

By the time Grey got home from work around 6:30, I was in a lather.  I would not wouldnotwouldnot ask him to change our plans.  We were heading out for Norman immediately, so we decided to wait and talk on the way.  Time dragged as he packed his things.  I breathed.  I felt a trickle of sweat slide down the hollow part of my back.  My ear itched; I scratched.  I petted the cat.  He forgot something.  I threw everything (including the cat in her carrier) in the back seat and jumped in.

"You got the contracts?"
"What do you want to do?"
"I said that's not fair.  We decided.  I am not asking to change the course of action."
"Oh."  He thought for a moment.
"Well, what do you want to happen?"  I smelled a trap.
"That's not fair.  I want to know what you think too." He smiled. Grey has a regular smile, a 5,000 watt smile and a sly smile.  This was his sly smile.
"Yeah, I'll tell you what I want.  You first."
"I think we already decided.  I think we should stay in Oklahoma."
"But what do you Want?"
"I want to go to Washington."
"Ok. Let's go."
"Whoa buddy. Input first. You can't just make pronouncements without telling me what's on your mind.  I need your thinking."  Again, Grey smiled his sly smile.  The middle of his lips stay put but the corners go up exponentially, creating a deep V that makes his eyes crinkle a little.  It's...fetching. My heart always beats a little faster when he smiles like that.
"I was thinking that giving them a Wednesday deadline was likely to get a contract by Friday."  By Friday?  My brain tornadoes.  Wait. What?  So he..
"Did you play me?"
"Uh, yeah."

He tricked me.  He gave me a Wednesday deadline so that I would become a hard-nosed negotiator because he knew I would be frantic.  Oh! I never!  How.... Effective.  Oh and he lied to me!  I spent almost .03 seconds being mad at being so easy to predict.  Then I realized that we are moving to Washington.

We are moving back to Washington! Yay!

Yay for beaches and mountains and Canada and Seattle and sisters and nieces and nephews and hiking and a blue state!
Looking out from Port Angeles

Quilcene Bay, 2011
On a clear day, you can see forever

Mt. St. Helens

Port Angeles, Washington

Sand Dunes, Port Townsend, Washington

Friday, August 3, 2012


I have written about this before, but I want to summarize for my readers and bring everyone up to date.

Waaaay back in May, I applied for a job in Washington state, at a small state university.  They needed a person to run their developmental writing program.  They enthusiastically invited me out to interview, and I did my research and - to quote the Dean of Student Services - blew them away.  Well duh.  This is what my doctorate is in.  My experience working with special populations coupled with my best friend and I putting our heads together resulted in a pretty darn good day of interviews and a decent public presentation.

So then I waited.  And I heard back the day before I got married, while driving with my mother (who had flown in for the wedding) in the Oklahoma heat to go get some hamburgers.  Ok, I was getting fries; she was getting the hamburgers with my friend Charlotte.

I didn't get the job.  They hired the incumbent and said that what I would do was probably too much for what they needed.  Worst compliment ever.  But, said the Dean (who I will now just call "Dean"), I have this idea to bring you here to work on my grant and then in the English department for a year until I can find you a permanent position.  I'll let you know in a week.

My Cousins, Baling Hay at my Granparent's Place
Nice compliment!

So Grey and I got married and went on our honeymoon.  At his parents house on the way back (I truly enjoyed the visit and yes, we visited my in-laws on the honeymoon.  We be cool in valuing family) I got another call saying he could make it happen.  Just wait a week to get the contract together.  That was the second week of June.

Today is August 3rd.  We have been married 2 months and a day.  We get to cohabitate and are enjoying it.  Someday Grey is going to yell at me for any one of the stupid things I do, like leaving socks on the floor or not cleaning out the kitty box often enough or waking him up too, too early on a Saturday.  But no, nothing so far. I keep waiting for him to have a strange habit that drives me crazy.  But no. We like walking and talking and hiking and eating healthy and not watching television and having a glass of wine once in awhile.  It's a nice life, one I didn't expect would happen for me.

But still no contract.

My Favorite Part of the Year!
The way universities work is this:  A job is created, posted and filled. One the candidate is selected, a contract is sent, outlining the terms of the agreement, length of appointment, compensation and benefits.   If amicable to both parties, the contract is signed and it's a legally binding proposition.  A job offer is nice but not legally binding. It's two people spitting on their hands and shaking.  It's certainly not something that Grey should quit his job over and not something that I would put my house up for sale over.  Of course, contracts usually follow within a couple of weeks of an offer.

But this time it's taken over 8 weeks.  All I have is an offer.  If I got a contract today, I would need to sell my house, ask my husband to quit his job and find another in Washington and move both of our households within a little less than a month.

I didn't want to, but I had to give a deadline for the last date I would be available.

This came from conversations on those long walks with Grey.  I am pretty much a push over.  I trust people and if it were just me, I'd have already packed, sold the house and left by now.  But it's not just me and I am no longer that portable.  So I told them I needed the contracts by Wednesday.  Did I say "contracts" in the plural?  Yes, I did.  Aside from actually securing grant money and figuring out what classes to ask me to teach, there was a question on how many contracts it would take.  Since I would be working in two different areas, one of which is a grant, it was decided two weeks ago (after the single contract was ready) that I would have to have two contracts.  Then it was vacations and what it boils down to is that the people who got the grant money won't let someone have that money to administer.  The English side got me the contract the day I needed it.

Dean never got me a contract.

In fact, last night around 7:30 I got a text from him saying that the grant side of the contract (while it is forthcoming) wouldn't be ready until next week.

"I am very sorry," my letter will read, "but I have simply run out of time and cannot accept your job offer.  Perhaps next year when a secure position is available..."

In the meantime, school has started again and I quit my public school teaching job.  It would not have been fair to keep them on the line and I did the right thing in dealing squarely with them.  Grey put me on his insurance.

So far, this has been the only real source of marital strife.  I gave them way too long before I gave a final date that I could accept the offer.  Grey also thinks they have handled me poorly, offering me a different job than what I interviewed for, for less money and with no guarantee of more than a year of employment.  I really wanted this; having been grieving the loss of this chance for the last week.  I'm sure I've been a peach to deal with.

I'm disappointed.  This year I won't get to move to my beloved home state or enjoy the cooler climes.  I won't get to take Grey hiking or skiing or for weekend trips to Seattle.

It doesn't mean never though.  You don't just fall in love with a job and get married to it.  You fall in love with a contract- in this case, I never even met it.

I have so much to be thankful for right where I am.  Good friends, a home, good health all around and a terrific husband who is just crazy enough to move someplace he has never been because I want to, and grounded enough to insist that I insist on being treated fairly.

Oklahoma isn't a bad place.  My friends are here and I am more or less infamous in these parts.  :)

And you know, I can find a job.  As I have heard and said so many times before, "Ain't nothing but a thing."  I'm disappointed; true.  But I'm happy because the really big things that matter are still in place.