Sunday, December 29, 2013

Wrapping up 2013: Reflections on my Journey around the World and back to Portland

I'm looking forward to the new year. If nothing else, for the switch to an even year. I've always disliked odd numbers for some reason. Even feels fresh and clear (and easily divisible).

Today I picked up my last check from Costco. I chatted with some of my old coworkers and looked around, thinking that it was a nice place for a while, but I won't miss the shopping carts. It wasn't the easiest decision to leave. For a year, I was never tired, not much stressed, but then also didn't have to think a whole lot either. It was a short term job for me, and it was time to move on.

I've been wondering if it was time to move on from my blog. I haven't had a lot to say lately, and it feels like I've completed my journey. Nearly seven years ago, I started writing this blog after I'd plodded away at life, following the recommended course of university-- work-- car-- house. I was only missing the husband and children. At the time my life was on repeat every day, and I was waking up with severe depression, even though I appeared to almost have it all. I'd felt the need to take an extreme step, to disrupt my life and try to wake up from the stupor I was in. For years, I had read books about my idea to move overseas and travel. Finally accomplishing that dream was pretty unbelievable. Even now, sometimes I wonder, "Did I really do that?"

When I left Portland, I had thought it was forever. I never wanted to return. I was tired of the hipsters and the perfect aesthetics, and all the coffee shops and whatnot. It was all so boring. I thought I was done with the Northwest, never to return. I wasn't in love anymore. So it was with some surprise that I ended up back here again, and back in my same job. I felt Portland deserved and needed to be reconsidered, and my former job as well. It was not without trepidation that I entered into these familiar surroundings. The anxieties of past ghosts. Wondering if I would repeat my misery.

But, one year has passed since I returned and I feel like I have made the right choice. And that the five years away was not for naught. It was an important, albeit non direct route, to the place that I am today. Which is contentment. I think this is partly due to the age that I am now, and partly to the life experiences of which I've partaken, and also due to the stability of Justin in my life.

It is not as if I don't still ask the questions. But then I realize, I have it pretty good. There is no perfect person or job or city. But where I am now (with Justin and Portland and Kaiser) is like an old shoe that fits day after day- calming and quiet and supportive. Life is good.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Making Gnomes

Carrie and I took a wool felting class. We all learned how to make gnomes out of a pile of wool and a felting needle. It was pretty amazing and fun. A good way to spend a Sunday morning. I think they look more like Santas though.

The Gnome Class Picture.
 Mine started to remind me of Willie Nelson.
 So I gave him a banjo.
 Here's the brothers. Willie and Mr. Gnome.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Starting a New Old Job: First Day Back.

When my alarm went off, I was deep in dreamland. Switching to a 7:30 start time after about almost two years of starting around 10:00 takes a bit of adjusting. But the sky was lighting up as I let Oatie out the deck door to do his morning business, so that seemed like a good thing.

While the tea was heating, I quickly dressed, brushed my hair, pulled on some cords, and added the handmade earrings from one of my friends who works for Kaiser. I was out the door shortly after waking and headed to Central Interstate, the office where I last worked full time when I was at Kaiser. I pulled my car into the parking garage, and once inside scurried up the stairs to the third floor and entered the ophthalmology hallway. I was early and it was pretty quiet inside. I didn't know exactly where I was going, so I wandered over to the optometry hall. 

"Dr. Schultz! What are you doing here? Are you back?" 

"Yep, I work here now!"

"Yay, we were hoping you would come back!" 

These sentiments were repeated over and over all day. There hadn't been a formal announcement that I was returning, which suited me just fine since I'm not one to enjoy the spotlight. So the news that I am back has been trickled along person to person. And no one knowing for sure until I showed up again yesterday. 

A bunch of different people hugged me. There were lots of smiles. I felt so welcome- it was about the best first day a person could ever have. So many people said they had hoped I'd come back. And that the chiefs were so excited I was returning. One of the ophthalmologists said she hoped I would work full time in their department. I felt loved and honored. 

Also strangely, they said they still have lab coats with my name on them in the closet. One of my coworkers said they were saving them for me, that they knew I was coming back. I meant to go back and see if it was true (had they been accidentally ordered after I left?) but I started talking with someone and forgot to look. I could have used them too- it was cold in the clinic.

The only complicated part of the day was the actual charting. I had to ask some questions and follow around one of the other doctors a little bit. It was still a bit clunky for me to chart, but I'm sure it will get better. Also I really enjoyed the medical aspect of my day- I did things and took care of patients that were at a higher level than I've seen in a long time. I really enjoyed using my brain again.

Tonight we had a dinner meeting with all the optometrists who work in ophthalmology and the ophthalmologists. This was a dinner of mostly new faces. We had discussions about patient care and ways to improve our services. 

A flurry of emotions has been swirling around my head the last few weeks. Mostly a lot of anxiety and anticipation surrounding my return. My first day back went better than I could have imagined, and I felt right off that I had made the right decision to return. I felt like I was at home. 

***OTHER AMAZING NEWS: My coworker Amber from Germany, who is currently working as an optometrist in Missoula, MT was offered the job for Kaiser in Salem (an hour south of Portland), and so we will once again be coworkers! I am so incredibly happy for her and for me… and for Kaiser. What a great Christmas present.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Killing the Consumer Spirit in our Winter Wonderland

On Thursday, Justin asked someone in the coffee shop if we ever get snow in Portland. They said no. So of course Friday morning I awoke to head off to work at Kaiser and looked out the window to see large fluffy flakes and a white ground. Snow in Portland means accidents galore- all the retro rear-wheel drive Volvos and BMWs with hipsters behind the wheel spinning out and sliding around. The overconfident AWD Suburus and SUVs are no better, flying up to stop signs as if it were dry pavement. I take the side roads and drive slow, hoping to avoid skittering hunks of metal. Luckily I made it to work and back without incident.

This morning, a frigid twenty-eight degrees and fortunately no fresh snow, I pulled out of the garage and headed off to work for one of my final days at Costco. Frigid is relative and this would be balmy in the midwest but here we're accustomed to above freezing temperatures except for the 33 days of the year that are supposed to drop below freezing. I'd guess we're ahead this year on the cold weather. 

I pulled into the Costco lot toward my regular spot and noticed it was caked in snow and ice. I imagined a Portlander pulling into the icy spot and ramming my car. I decided to select another that was dry. I may seem extra paranoid but I've seen a lot of idiots here in the winter. It's best to assume nothing, take extra precautions and stay home, if possible, anytime they mention snow. 

Unable to keep the cold outside, inside Costco the staff was decked out in scarves and parkas. I scurried back to my little white box in the back. TVs and radios blasted outside among the plethora of cart-pushing shoppers. I walked around for samples during a break and wondered who actually bought the home foot bath and massagers and all the other obvious Christmas gifts. 

We've mostly sworn off presents in our family. I'd rather get a card than gifts and I just feel like all the presents smear the meaning of Christmas. I keep remembering the interview my sister Molly posted with my grandma Hazel where she said they got oranges for Christmas and the special Christmas I had in Germany with my landlords where they had only one gift under the tree. Christmas was about family and conversation, not consumerism. I still keep wondering how we lost our way.

My time at Costco has been a blessing- peaceful, drama-free, and lovely staff. I'm going to miss the laid-back nature of the place, but I won't miss the constant stimulation of the carts, TVs, stereos, and people milling about. Fighting through the hoards of carts to get to the restroom. I don't mind Costco as far as a big-box store goes, but I probably won't be back there shopping after I leave. The overstimulation and hyper-consumerism of American stores is enough to keep me away as much as possible. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Kaiser Computer training, Day 1

This afternoon I spent five hours working on the computer and discussing the changes in our patient care load and schedule with our chief of optometry, Jeff, who I graduated from optometry school with and who I told to work for Kaiser, and the doc who does our schedules, (who started at Kaiser after me as well). We went through a lot of things, and I felt my head was swimming. I remember some, but most of it is completely new. Jeff seemed to think I would be flying ahead of him over the next few weeks. I hope he is right, but I doubt it.

It's strange to walk into an old workplace, surrounded by a lot of familiar faces and a few new. I wandered in and had to watch for signs for the optometry department, even though I had worked there many times in the past. It's hard to believe it's been twelve years since the last time I started with Kaiser.  Every time I enter a building I sort of wonder what I am doing there. I feel like I'm sneaking in the back door, and I am- it would be very hard to get in without my history there. Portland is overloaded with overeducated folks, all waiting for any job just so they can stay in the area.

I've heard various sentiments from Kaiser people. Mostly people are really excited I'm returning, which feels good. There's been several people who are "sorry" for me that I am returning since they don't like their jobs. Which is totally fine. But I'm trying to just let that crap slide off my back. I don't want to be felt bad for, since I'm the one who's chosen to return to Kaiser. I left for six years, wandered around the world and decided to come back. I brought my Charlie with me, who's sitting here at home on the couch at this moment having a quiet, peaceful life after our dinner together. I can't complain about not having enough.

What surprises me is that everyone seems to think that I just had six years of a walk in the park. Which is true and not. When I say I lived in New Zealand, everyone thinks "Heaven" and when I say Germany, they think something like "Happy Beer Land" and really they are just places. True, I did walk through a park every day to go work in New Zealand but that hardly made up for being on the other side of the Earth from my family or making such a small income that 50% of my paycheck went to rent. Germany was really special and I miss it but I don't want to go back right now. They were learning experiences. I guess everyone always thinks the grass is greener on the other side. I've seen the other side. The grass is the same color.

The idea of switching from Costco back to Kaiser was so I'd be able to work at a higher level and I'd have more stability and also more to do (and avoid fill in work). Currently I'm mostly rushing through refractions and health checks and contacts and then sending people off, hoping something magical happens with them and they go and get the care they need. There's no follow ups on patients I refer for the most part and  my knowledge is limited by what I have read about. I have prescribed almost no medications for the last six years compared to what I had done at Kaiser. I've been more like an old school optometrist, doing what they did long ago before we become more medically capable.

What this all means is that I am a little scared. I'm hoping that I'm not in over my head and I'm hoping that I will not disappoint them. And I'm hoping I'm still a quick learner and my brain can wrap around the facts and the situation fast enough to come back without appearing to be a has-been. Of course nerves are normal with new jobs, even if they are old ones. I'm also really excited that everyone is excited to have me back and that they rehired me.

Also, today when I was learning some of the computerized charting stuff, we were searching for my name in the staff directory list under "Schultz" and I glimpsed my sister in the list: "Schultz, Carrie, RN"- It was kind of a special treat to see her name there and be reminded that we were working at the same place-- something that happened once long ago at a truck stop in Minot when we were 20 and 17 (and everyone thought she was older- I was so annoyed!) Funny that we ended up at the same place again seventeen years later.

So I have family here and my Charlie here at my side- this will be an interesting next few weeks and years. It's good to be on this ride.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Coming Full Circle & Giving Thanks for a New Old Job

Coming home has been as much of an experience as it was to leave in the first place.

After lollygagging in bed for a while under the covers next to my Charlie, reading the news and my email, I hopped up and grabbed a quick, hot shower with my aqua blue sweater hanging over the shower curtain (free steam iron), thinking about the day to come. I dried my hair and even pulled out the makeup. It was picture day.

I headed towards downtown to the big Kaiser building, and rang the girl who I was meeting there so she could come down and get me. Our first stop was security, where a woman about fifty-five had me sit down and take a photo. Hanging next to her desk was "Australia, New Zealand, Fiji-- 30 days!" I asked who was going. She said she was and for six weeks! I said, "Good for you!" I told her I used to live there. She was very nice and efficient and we were on our way to sign a few more docs, take a copy of my passport and then pick up a my old ID number and enter new passwords.

The guy setting my my computer and charting access kept asking me if I remembered things. A lot of the screens actually looked pretty foreign to me except when I signed into Epic for the first time. That looked familiar for sure. I'm excited and scared to be returning to my old job. I'm sure it will be the same and different, just like coming back here.

There's been a lot of emotions surrounding my return to Portland. I spent a significant portion of my life in the Northwest. Returning here was no small move. It was something I'd been afraid of doing for a long time. The fear that the old sadness I felt last time I was here would return. The loneliness. Being stuck in one place without options. Depression like a sinking ship in the morning when I awoke. Was it the city or was it me? If I came back would I be in the same place wanting to get out? Yet I'd been looking for Portland everywhere I went. It seemed like I had to return.

After about a month of adjusting to the massive move I'd made and rupturing of our relationship, the rest of the year has felt remarkably calm, even as we navigated through the questions that would come. What would Justin think of Oregon? How would we feel when we were together? What would happen?

With my family history, I sort of think that things are always going to go wrong, but it's gone better than I expected. I feel the signs are pointing us to here and staying. I had a really calm year of income with Costco and enough fill in work to help financially. After a lot of soul-searching and speaking with other Kaiser employees (current and past), I decided to investigate the possibility of returning. I know they do not always take people back, and I knew they'd be afraid that I might decide I want to take off again and move around the world. My feeling is that's not going to happen- I'm older and I had my five years of vagabonding and I'm pretty happy with a normal day-to-day routine. I'm aware that working two days is not enough- I have more time off than I need, and fill-in work is fairly stressful. I've also really missed the professional atmosphere of Kaiser and the level of patient care. Mostly I've missed the experience of learning more and more with each passing day through feedback and interactions with other providers and complicated patients.

Through the last few years, I've mulled around the idea of underemployment, switching careers, living off the land, and various other off-the-beaten-path ideas. I've come to feel that working enough to enjoy my free time, and having money available in my bank account without constant spreadsheet and tax analysis by me would be different sort of freedom and one that I'd like to pursue again. I also feel fortunate to just have a job, and to have a career in which I've been able to find work at any time that I needed it, even while taking breaks between jobs to travel and visit family. I know that no career is perfect and I've often lamented the shortcomings of this field, but overall it has served me well.

With Justin at my side, I have an anchor and calmness that makes each day a nice day to have lived. We, of course, will have our rough waters in the future, but we're working together day by day to inch forward. We're both very excited that I'm returning to Kaiser. Today I got my ID badge- I have two days of training at the end of the week and then will start patient care next Monday- two days of ophthalmology and two days of optometry. I'm hopeful and happy at the next chapter we're starting. We think this will allow us to have a little more freedom and peace at the end of the day.

Friday, November 29, 2013

First Thanksgiving Dinner with Just the Charlies.

Charlie & Charlie stayed home this year with Oatie & Bailey. We knew of some people in town, but didn't have any invitations until the day before. Since we have some hermit tendencies we were pretty happy not to have to decide what to do. We thought it would be nice to have our own quiet holiday. Also, we've not had a lot of time alone in our two years together, so when we do, we treasure it.

Though I've been a vegetarian for about eight years now or so, I've never really been into fake meats. One of the reasons I gave up meat was because I didn't really care for it anyway, among other things, and I was trying to go to a healthier lifestyle, which meant that I didn't want uber-processed foods. Occasionally one must break with your values. A national holiday is a good time.

We'd seen the Tofurky roast in the New Seasons ad on sale and decided it was the year to break out the Tofurky. My mom has a long standing love affair (not) with all things tofu, so I go out of my way to harass her about it, even going as far as sending a Tofurky card in the mail to her last year. (I know she loved it secretly.) We did a little research and discovered that Tofurky is made about 60 miles from Portland, in Hood River, OR. The company was founded in 1980 in Forest Grove, OR (where I went to optometry school), and during the first seven years the founder lived in a tree house to save money. Wow. Those people are real hippies!

The dinner was a joint effort- Justin bought a few small sides at New Seasons (green beans, sweet potatoes, and stuffing, so we wouldn't have too many leftovers), Gluhwein (which being the heavy drinkers that we are, never got around to opening) and beeswax candles for the table, as well as a beautiful cheese ball (which we also didn't get to eat until today but was super tasty). I made the mashed potatoes (had no idea three russet potatoes made so much!), some vegetarian gravy (super yummy, also a first time), a all-organic, natural pumpkin pie and homemade crust (thank god I got the Grandma Agnes pie-crust gene), and some Light Rolls (which are a southern thing, but basically light and buttery dinner rolls). Surprisingly we didn't have any fails. I rarely use recipes and often screw things up a bit, so this was pretty great.

Justin set the table and we arranged the dishes for photos and timer pictures and then sat down to our little meal. It was quiet and peaceful and really lovely. The two dogs were treated with tastes of almost everything (even the pie) and I think enjoyed the day too. Earlier, I'd taken them for a walk in the park, so no one gained any weight (I hope).

This year, I'm very thankful for a lot of things- mostly having a good family and my Charlie by my side. I'm thankful he didn't give up on me when he could've (when I ran off to Oregon) and thankful that we've been having such a nice and happy life. He has a really large calming effect on me, which is not so common. We get along and have so much in common and meander through life at about the same pace. We've found peace and tranquility in Oregon again and things are moving in the right direction. I'm thankful to have a job, and to have been lucky enough to find work whenever I needed it. I'm thankful that I was able to be a gypsy for five years and return to home with Justin, coming full circle. We are thankful for everything we have, and try not to take it for granted.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Oregon Fall - and quick visit from Amber & Patrick (from my old Germany Job)

The weather's definitely gotten chillier with frost whitening the grass a few mornings this week. Justin even had to break out the ice scraper when he came to work with me one day. We've cranked the heat and still it's cold. We sit bundled up under our lap blankets on the couch like two senior citizens. I guess we are at the door of forty, so that is to be expected. Old people we are. 

I biked downtown this week, the first time since I'd returned from Iowa. It was about 30 degrees out when I set out, so I piled on the clothes and set off. Within five minutes I was roasting. This is the tricky part about cold weather cycling. What to wear. But it was a beautiful ride and I met up with an old friend at the art museum. This fall has been very cool and crisp and pretty dry. It feels like a Midwestern fall, which is pretty nice. The sun shines bright. You need shades. It's a foreign feeling for fall in Oregon. 

The Charlies are still settling in just fine. We met up with some of my old friends tonight from Germany. Amber, who I used to work with (also an optometrist) and her husband, Patrick. They are wonderful folks from Montana, normal and laid back. We had a good evening of walking and talking and eating at the top of the pink tower in Portland- where they have stunning views of the city from the Portland City Grill restaurant. The last time I was there was the eve of my move to New Zealand. I remember sitting in the booth by the window with my sister Carrie and our friend Nate, tears rolling down my eyes, feeling the emotions of the big life step I was taking. And now, almost six years later, I am back. Calm and settled, feeling relaxed about life, older and wiser from my years of travel and work. It was a round about way to end up back here, but I think it was the right way to do it.

Oatie, the Red-Nosed Reindeer
 Downtown Portland, in front of the Portland Art Museum
 Fourth Graders, visiting the art museum
 I like this
Hanging out at Stumptown Roasters downtown. Gorgeous light today. 

Amber & Patrick were in town from Missoula, MT. The last time I saw them was in Germany! After a dinner at the Portland City Grill (happy hour), we walked over to VooDoo Donut and got a little magic to take home. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Chopping my hair- Letting go of the extra weight (HAIR TRAUMA photos)

Cutting off my hair has historically related to the end of a relationship. Once a man is out of the picture, I feel the need to lighten my load. That freedom means time to chop the hair. I have a problem in that there has been no man disappearing lately. Justin and I are just under the two year mark- my second longest relationship ever. That compounded with my history of horrid haircuts has left me with ridiculously long hair.

I haven't cut my hair in about three years. No kidding. I had so many horrible haircuts that my entire immediate family would swear under oath it's definitely true. I figure about 90% of the time they were so bad that I'd spend months after the cut fixing my hair myself with mirrors and a scissors until it was in a serviceable condition. After my last cut, I decided I was just going to give up and have a bad hair life.

My last cut was in Germany by a woman recommended by one of my cute patients with an awesome haircut. I drove into Amberg, a nearby village and met up with a German lady who had excellent English skills. I told her, "I want layers, but NO short layers in the front. (I have the waviest hair in the front and it puffs up like a mushroom if short.) So what was the first thing she did? Chop about eight inches off the front. After that first cut, I thought, shit, well may as well let her go to town, it's already a total disaster. I paid about $50-60 for a haircut which made me look like a total idiot. (The previous cut I'd had was in New Zealand I think by a guy who was used to cutting Asian hair, and also a total disaster.) This time I took a picture to show to my family. I could be a commercial.

GERMAN Lady's haircut 
(about what I normally get when I go to ANY hairdresser, on ANY continent)
After I fixed it with mirrors and my little Goody scissors. 
(Which is what normally happens after every haircut.)

So that is the history. I get a haircut. I pay money. I look worse. I have to look like an idiot until I decide to fix it myself.

Now I am sitting here with this long hair that takes fifteen minutes to blow dry, gets caught in my shirts, and looks generally like a Hutterite's hair. (I'm sorry if you are a Hutterite and I've offended you.) If I don't cut it soon, I'm going to have to make it into dreads and start singing on the street or run around naked like Eve and eat apples. At least then there'd be a reason for my long hair.

I've made about four appointments and rescheduled them, feeling not quite ready to chop it off. I was going to donate my hair. Then I thought, no kids with cancer actually wear wigs- what good would it do anyway? But the other day I was talking with my old friend Lourdes, and she said, "I have a friend whose daughter has Alopecia, and she had to home school her because the kids at school were so mean to her. It was so hard for them to find a wig that matched her hair- a reddish blonde." This story broke my heart, and made me realize I should donate my hair. The places who make wigs ask for hair that is chemically untreated. Which mine is. I was thinking then that most people do not actually have my hair color not from a bottle and the nice thing to do would be to give it away.

So I am again scheduled for a haircut next week. I am expecting some major life changes in the next few weeks, and I think the time to shed the extra weight is here. I know my sister Molly has donated her hair about 2-3 times in her life. She has this lovely thick, healthy dark hair, and it is so generous of her to give it away (it is a big deal to cut that much off). I'm going to follow my baby sister's lead and make a donation in time for the Christmas season, for those who need some blonde hair.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Being from Nowhere

I was paging through Etsy today, snooping on my mom's site (Baby Me by Kathy) when I came across a cute item for sale- a coffee mug with two states with hearts in each state connected by dotted lines. What a cute gift. I thought about giving it to Justin for Christmas. I could put North Carolina and... and what? Where I would I put for me? Even if I spent ten years in North Dakota, and would mostly consider that's where I'm from, I don't feel a massive connection to North Dakota anymore- I left in 1997. I spent eleven years in the Northwest. That doesn't exactly feel like the right state either. Maybe I could put the earth for my state. Is this what happens when you've been wandering for so long?

Five years away from the Northwest, and here we are on our first full winter back. Hopefully it doesn't scare Justin off. It's been drippy and grey for several days. I know my first year here was not easy. I can't remember but my mom said I called all the time and said it was miserable and I hated it. Of course the second year was much better. And now I have returned and feel totally at home.

We're planning to have a small Thanksgiving alone, and hopefully the week of Christmas, we're able to drive down to the California Redwoods for a special celebration.

The two puppies have been getting a long pretty well. Oatie's occasionally snarky to Bailey but then it is his territory. They are so old that it's really like we're running a home for dogs.

So far so good.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

HUMP festival, Portland

Last night Justin and I had a double date with Carrie and Drazen. We met in northwest Portland outside of Cinema 21, to view the HUMP festival screening. HUMP has been going on since 2005 as a shared amateur porn festival among Seattle, Portland, Bellingham and Olympia. Every year there's a call for submissions from locals, and about twenty short films are selected for the screening. They vary across genres- some serious, some comical, some artistic, and others are just weird. Gay, lesbian, straight, bi, etc are all depicted.

We've still been unwinding from all the travels, and work and whatnot. I'd never been to HUMP before, but I'd told Justin about it (and that he had to get back into town before the festival). As we were driving home last night, he said how glad he was that we went, and the night of light-hearted laughter and naked people was just what we needed. Thanks to Carrie for helping us to get tickets and save us a place in the movie theater. It was really fun!

I have to say too, there were no fake boobs, or grossly altered bodies (no anorexia or the like). It was really nice to see a bunch of normal people doing fun things. I would recommend this to anyone who is in the area during the screenings. Maybe next year, we'll have an entry! Ha.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Bailey takes a walk to the park

Tonight we sit on the couch, one puppy under my arm, the other on the bed in front of the heater. It's been a bit of adjustment for Oatie, who feels mildly threatened by the larger milder Bailey, who basically meanders around the house silent and watching. Only one episode of barking so far when the two of them saw another dog walking by on the sidewalk outside, which was actually quite hilarious. We come home to two puppies wagging their tails and waiting at the front door. They've been sleeping upstairs with us the last few nights- Oatie in the big bed and Bailey on the floor. This is all quite ironic, considering I was someone who never wanted any pets and was deathly afraid of dogs for my entire childhood. Now I am the geriatric dog lady who would do anything for the little ones.

The second day in town, I came downstairs to talk with Carrie on the couch, and noticed that it was kinda drafty. I said, "Did I forget the deck door open?" I checked and it was shut. But the door by the garage was ajar (sometimes it doesn't latch). "Is Bailey in here?" I asked. He wasn't. He'd saw his chance at freedom and decided to take a little look around the neighborhood. I was worried, but less so than with Oatie, since Bailey is pretty smart and while we were at my mom's in Iowa used to go out on his own and return, and did the same  in North Carolina. Still he was at a new place.

After realizing Bailey was missing, we both ran out the side door. Carrie in her yoga pants and me in my bathrobe and slippers running down the sidewalk yelling for Bailey. A grey-haired man saw us coming, and said, "Are you looking for a little red dog? I just saw him headed toward the park." We ran in that direction, hollering for Bailey. I removed my slippers and ran barefoot through the wet grass. The man walked off and asked a lady with dogs on leashes if she saw Bailey. Another woman said she had and extra leash and if she saw him, she would put him on it. We ran to the Off-Leash area of the park. No Bailey. I decided to head back and tell Justin who was upstairs and didn't know.

I rounded the corner to our house, and there was the grey-haired man walking down the sidewalk with Bailey. Like he was his own dog. He said, "He was looking around in the bushes." I thanked him and took Bailey inside, running upstairs to tell Justin what had happened and changing into clothes to go and find Carrie. I got outside and headed over to the park, running into Carrie first thing. "We found Bailey!" I said. "I know," She said. "That man came and found me and told me that you had him."

Strange what people will do for others, especially when there's a missing animal involved. We had a number of people in the park helping us, and that little guardian angel man who just calmly found Bailey and brought him back.

We've decided to invest in a chip for Bailey. He has his collar off at night so we can sleep and when he'd wandered off, it was still upstairs in our bedroom. I was sort of anti-chip until Oatie wandered off - now I think they are ok. Second rule: Garage side door must always be locked.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Back home Oregon

We survived the cross country trip to Oregon. It was long and pretty but a bit rushed since I had to work the day after we got back. Not much to say except that I'm happy to be back. At first I was wondering what I was doing living in Oregon. Maybe it's too far from our family. Maybe we should be living in Iowa? But after we got back I felt happy to be here. When we hit the "Welcome to Oregon" sign, both of us felt pretty happy. Shortly after the sign we started seeing patches of green grass again which was also welcoming and a relief. The air felt moist and balmy in the morning as I drove off to work Friday morning. We went to the coffee shop later in the day and saw all the interesting folks of Portland. I felt at home especially with my Charlie by my side.

Flying into Iowa
 Bike ride to the top of Council Crest in Portland before I left
Still fall in Oregon
 Our front tree
 Puppies at the door
 Portland sunset

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Charlie Arrived

After a rather stressful journey across the first half of the USA, Charlie arrived at our house in Iowa at about quarter to two in the morning. He'd had a check engine light go on and off while he was driving back which caused us a bit of concern (he had it looked at on the way here and they didn't know what was wrong). We have an appointment for the car scheduled on Friday morning at my honest and trustworthy Iowa mechanic. Hopefully they are able to sort it out and we are roadworthy to get back to Oregon on Tuesday.

It was so nice to sleep together again. :)

Monday, October 28, 2013

Iowa, the land of quiet happiness.

Flying in early yesterday morning, I pressed my nose to the window enjoying the view from the plane. It was the first time I've flown into Iowa. All other times were by car. It looked remarkably like North Dakota- squared off farmland, in shades of tan this time of year. A stretch of river. A lake. The flat horizon sparsely populated by trees. Mostly a bunch of blue sky. I liked it. 

Trudging from the gate to the exit overburdened by heavy carry-ons, I noticed the security checkpoint and continued walking, wondering how far it was to the exit and where my mom would be waiting for me. I saw a large group of people on the right, kept walking, then did a double-take- it was Mom, Chuck, Molly, Hazel, Claire and Lily! All there. I didn't even know I'd left the terminal. Lily and Claire ran up right away. Then the braver Lily gave me a hug with Claire behind her, followed by hugs from everyone. Then Claire snuck up again, grabbed my left hand and kissed it. We all walked out to the mini-van, seven of us strapped in, me between two car seats in the back row. It was a full load. The sun shone down, and we got home to North Liberty within twenty minutes. 

Later that day, we participated in a Halloween costume party. Originally just the girls were dressing up, but when I tried on my costume I borrowed from Auntie Carrie, they wanted me to wear it too (had to talk myself into it a bit). It was pretty fun. The dress was uber-short and when I was trying to get Claire out of her car seat, I said "I think I might be flashing people." Lily jumped up and yelled, "I'm blocking you! I'm blocking you!" It was quite a sight, I'm sure. I appreciated the effort. 

Last night Lily tried to stay over, and was very sweet, laying in bed, holding my hand. She did very good actually, but at about 9:20 ended up having to go home. The phone rang and she was still squirming around a bit and decided maybe she wanted to be by her mommy. There were a few tears, and grandma drove her home, telling her that she had to pick up Molly at all hours of the night for many years, and it was no big deal. Josh was happy to see her home, having just arrived himself after a night of call. I was actually pretty tired after two hours of sleep the night before on the red-eye, and crashed immediately again, and didn't wake up for nine hours. 

This morning, Claire came over and played with us. Little Claire is the old Czech lady, and washed dishes by hand with her sleeves rolled up. She toodles around the house keeping busy and hanging out playing with herself wherever we were sitting, dragging in whatever toys she wanted to play with. I sliced up an Asian pear Auntie Carrie sent and she liked it. Later Molly and crew came over for a bit and they went home when everyone was too tired to play anymore.

So far so good. Justin is on the road, and will hopefully be here on Wednesday. We plan to have a big early birthday party for him. 

Friday, October 25, 2013


I got a bad review from a patient. Online. At a fill-in place that I'd done some work for this summer. The patient called me an "optician" and said I was "rude" and "unprofessional". After reading this, I felt like throwing up and running at the same time. I want to crawl into myself. Actually whenever anyone is mean to me, I want to hide inside myself, crawl in a hole, cover myself and melt into the earth. Anything to make it go away.

It was at a high maintenance place, one where the patients make you feel they are too good to be there. I always have a hard time dealing with people like that, and tend to blabber along trying to feel adequate and prove myself. But maybe they are right, maybe I am terrible.

Why is criticism so hurtful? Is it because you feel inside inadequate anyway, and now someone called you out? Why are people mean? I don't know. I have been the target of meanness from various people in my life pretty regularly, some who are very close to me. Some of it is ongoing right now in my life. I've always reacted the same way- balling up inside myself. Saying nothing. Shirking away, like I was the one who did something wrong.

I get tired of trying to please everyone all the time. I work in a field where I have to try to figure out twenty different people a day in twenty to thirty minute increments, make them happy and do a good job. Who would like to trade places with me? If they don't like what I've done, they come back for a "free re-check" and demand it be fixed. I would like to see these same people try to do this job for twelve years. It is not easy.

Of course I want to run off and hide in the woods. My answer to everything is to run off and hide somewhere. Hiding makes everything better. For a while. Then you realise you are still alive and still have a life to live. And can't hide forever.

Lately everything feels like a failure. I'm still living in my sister's attic. I can't buy a house. I ended up having to go through the whole financing application again because they deleted my original approved application. And now I am running into glitches. Failure.

But I'm about to run off. Fly off to Iowa. That's some comfort. Even if only thirteen days long. And I get to bring Charlie back.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Swirling and going nowhere

Attempted to quit Facebook. Failed. Realised it was too intertwined with my knowledge of local events, business meetings and social connections. Instead, I've increased the list of people who I am "hiding" and unliked some organizations. Probably need to also reduce the total friends list again, but that is a lot of work for another day.

I took out my sweet orange road bike, newly re-arrived to Oregon by Kathy-Chuck delivery. Flying down the streets with barely an effort, I forgot how smooth and tight and fast she rides. And the beauty of the orange and aqua perfectly fit in with the orange leaves and blue skies of today. I really was happy.

I'd been planning to go to continuing education Thursday and Friday in Seattle (but had not yet registered). As the date loomed nearer, I was wondering if I'd overscheduled myself, seeing as I have to work tomorrow and Saturday and Seattle is about a three hour drive (if you don't get stuck in the traffic jam). I'm a hateful, despising, despairing driver, especially on the I-5 between here and Seattle.

So today a house came on the market that I might make an offer on, and I ended up back in the trenches of applying for financing (they had deleted my prior application). I was supposedly able to re-submit the application and achieve a new letter today from the lender, but have since run into more glitches. I'm starting to think I should just live in a damn van. Maybe one of those big-ass conversion vans painted some putrid color. At least I could buy it outright without a bidding war, or the anxiety it takes to procure a house. At this point, I feel rather hopeless. It was never this hard the last three times I bought a house. I am starting to hate the idea of homeownership. The whole thing gives me enough anxiety to stay awake for days on end. It's all a big nightmare.

I'm looking forward to a vacation in my mom's basement and finally sleeping with Charlie again... Just the simple things.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Half Cross-Country Road Trip Take 21 Planned for November 2013

 [The Charlies: Insane-o Traveling Folks]

Come October 26, Sara Schultz will be taking the Red-Eye flight to Chicago, Illinois with connection to Cedar Rapids, Iowa arriving at 8:42AM. She will likely be rested and cheery, anticipating a joyous reunion with her three sweet nieces and the other nice folks in Iowa including Baby Sister Molly Rose & Josh and Mom & Chuck.

What was to be a short trip to assist boyfriend, Justin, in his drive cross-country from North Carolina to Oregon has extended into a thirteen day vacation. After months of working extra she decided she deserved some days off. Then she decided she deserved some more. So they will have ample time to complete their journey to the West Coast before work calls again on November 8th.

As well, she is looking forward to celebrating Justin's 39th Birthday on November 7th. The last year of the thirties! Spooky! Also spooky is a Halloween with the nieces who have decided to be the Strawberry Shortcake Clan. Is it a coincidence that Middle Sister Carrie has a Strawberry Shortcake costume which also fits Sara? I think not. Auntie will be twinning up with Miss Lily for a night of evil fun! Hopefully they dole out lotsa fruit for the trick-or-treaters.

Speaking of Hurricanes, Justin has been working up a storm out East. Selling the camper, helping a friend staff his new business, repairing the house (bathroom overhaul and a couple new appliances, as well as new rugs, bedding and more), fixing his truck, buying a new used Suburu, visiting relatives, attending a wedding (today!), renting out his house on AirBnB, and developing a continued rental plan for when he returns West. All in under three months. He'll be hauling a carload of stuff and Mr. Bailey out to Oregon, picking up Sara in Iowa.  *She has volunteered to maneuver the Suburu through the snow and mountains should weather conditions become precarious.

Sara is not sure how many trips she has made across the USA. She could try to count.
Here is a rough guess:
  • North Dakota to Texas and back
  • North Dakota to Colorado and back
  • North Dakota to Oregon/Washington and back (either direction, one time driving back through Canada on Hwy 1) - 6-7 times
  • North Dakota to Missouri and back
  • North Dakota to Pennsylvania and back 
  • Up and down the West Coast
  • Iowa to Virginia
  • North Carolina to Pennsylvania and back
  • North Carolina to Florida and back
  • North Carolina to Iowa and back- twice
  • North Carolina to Oregon 
She thinks that is about 20 half-country trips. Or so. In a nutshell, pretty much an insane person. But Justin knows this, and likes her anyway. They are both very independent people looking forward to their long-awaited reunion and sleeping in the same bed again. They are hoping to settle in soon enough into a house with a Mother-In-Law suite where relatives may visit for extended periods, including moms and grandmoms and any other stragglers who have long yearned for the beauty of Oregon.

Example of Grandmoms who might visit Oregon:

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Kathy & Chuck's Seattle-Astoria Road Trip with regression to Portland before they arrived.

I found this in my recipe book- one that I used when I lived in Germany. I loved this poem. I think I mostly understand it. It's funny, because often now I wonder, "Did I really live in Germany?" "Did I really live in New Zealand?" "Did I really do all those things?" They seem like distant memories.
I've been working a ton of extra days- sometimes nine or ten in a row with only one off. I've been fortunate to work in different locations, which allows me to explore the city a bit. These few pictures reminded me of my first freedom, when I was freed from my relationship with my first boyfriend, who I had not so much in common with other than attending the same school. I bought myself a red paddington bear coat from JCrew shortly after he left. I normally don't even like red. I remember thinking I didn't even know what I liked, or who I was. I had just been doing what everyone else did or what he liked for so long. It was an interesting experience to realise I loved live music, and records, and hiking and the city.
Oatie is a treasure. I keep worrying that he is going to die. He turned eleven on September 16th. Every day, I feel grateful to have him around. So sweet and loving and in the moment.
How I spend lunch. At a coffee shop. Writing. And sipping something. Maybe a treat or an apple or a banana to accompany the coffee (which is often decaf).
 Oatie walking in the Pacific.
 Cannon Beach.
 The Shipwreck at Ft Stevens.
 I never knew that anyone drove on the beach but apparently it is free here in Oregon.
 My crappy camera wouldn't focus on the horses.
 Also at Ft Stevens.
 Running back to the car.
 Astoria Sunday Market
 Arrival in Seattle.
 Pike Place Market
 They had good stuff here.
 Beecher's Cheese
It was crazy sunny
 Beecher's Cheese
Glass sculptures at the Space Needle
My mom and Chuck left this morning about seven AM- the sun was rising and the car was loaded. It wasn't long enough for any of us, but at least I'm coming home soon, and Carrie will be there in December.We all had a pretty good time together. As well, we visited Mike and Tammy Larson in Seattle but somehow forgot to take a photo.