I admit there is relief in sending 2020 off in smoke last night.
It’s not that our family has had a terrible year; we’ve all remained healthy, those who have work have been able to work. At the same time, the isolation grows both too comfortable and irritating. Living with introverts during this time is fairly peaceful. They are content. I’m learning to be content in this new world and, I suppose, learning how to be an introvert. But I hope that the light at the end of the tunnel is real, that a year from now we will be spending time with friends and extended family, attending worship services in person, planning vacations, fully immunized.
As I was reading the news over the weekend and into the beginning of this week, I couldn’t help but recall our visit to Alabama last year. We spent several days in Montgomery and one day in Birmingham visiting civil rights museums, monuments, and memorials. When I read about and saw the video clips of the Biden-Harris campaign bus being surrounded on the highway in Texas, forced to slow down to 20 mph, my mind went to the Freedom Riders bus that was attacked by similar means.
Of course, the Biden-Harris campaign bus did not meet this kind of ending. They were able to call 911 for help. However, the lack of law enforcement on Highway 35 is telling. This wasn’t West Texas (miles of nothingness); this happened on a busy stretch of highway. The parade of Trump supporters, with their vitriol and hatred of anyone not just like themselves, reminds me of other parades.
It’s 2020 in America. I’m trying to hold onto the hope that we can be better and do better, but this past week has me hanging by the tips of my fingers. I cannot understand why so many of my fellow Americans voted for hatred, disrespect, and cruelty.
SuperDad and I took a drive on Thursday to scout out some new camping spots along a river. This section of a national forest has free dispersed sites although not many of them are good for trailers, so it is smart to check them out first before attempting to camp there. This was supposed to happen while we were camped in an actual NFS campground within an hour of our scouting expedition, but heavy rains last night coupled with several days of bad weather in the forecast caused us to rethink the camping part of this trip. Luckily, there were photo ops present:
After such a lovely day, it had darned well better be miserable weather or we’ll regret canceling our camping plans!
I’m not really sure how one writes about travel during a pandemic. For the most part, we are homebodies. Owning a camping trailer has enabled us to get out of the house and yet still have a home of our own during the summer; it’s the ultimate social distancing vehicle, complete with its own toilet. (Hallelujah!)
June was when the travel ban was finally lifted for Oregon State Parks. This happened in the middle of our long-ago planned trip to the beach, so our reservations were shortened from four nights to only two nights. Originally there were going to be other extended family members camping in adjacent sites, but in the end only SuperDad’s parents kept their reservations. Their campsite was across the road from ours. We took our oldest grandson on this trip and he had a great time despite the rain and wind on the beach (which was sparsely populated to our delight.) If you want a warm beach experience, don’t go camping in early June on the northern half of the Oregon Coast!
Since we nearly cancelled out on taking the 4-year-old camping on the coast (heavy rain was expected on the first day, iffy weather the rest of the time), we had quickly made make-up trip plans for the following week, which we kept since it was such a different trip. This time we had sunshine and warm weather in a full hook-up KOA site along the Snake River. Oma and Opa took turns keeping Little Foot occupied on land and water, and his family came out and joined us on the final afternoon/evening for little brother’s 2nd birthday celebration. (Now is probably a good time to explain that we have chosen this family as our “bubble” of 5 other people.)
We began July without reservations at a National Forest campground (no hookups) in the Idaho Panhandle. While I did a little ferrying of my mountain biking husband to his chosen trails (and picking him up from the trails he didn’t mean to take that left him 15 miles further down the scenic highway), I got in plenty of book reading while he played. We liked it so much we returned with a reservation 9 days later for another 3-night stint. (Three nights is just about perfect for camping without any way to plug in: my CPAP battery stays happy as long as I don’t try to use the vapor feature.) We plan to go again before the end of September since it is only an hour away and tends to be wonderfully quiet.
I spent the first part of August trying to find a place for our trailer that would be near where extended family was staying . Thanks to a friend from church and her connections, we were able to do so (I’ve never handed over $50/night so happily) despite everyone else in the region also trying to camp at the lake. We’d heard that RV sales had really picked up this year as so many people were trying to vacation during a pandemic. It’s all true: the campgrounds are full and the RV lots are looking sparse. I love our extended family and I need some personal space, especially when I’m one of the few who thinks we should wear face masks when playing card games at the indoor table. For three nights we ate suppers outside, spread out in the cabin yard in our folding chairs; in the afternoons we met at the local day-use swimming beach.
This was the trip where I learned that it is really difficult to attend Zoom meetings while camping. (Oops!) Later in August, some of those same family members rented a vacation home in NE Oregon while we had a site at Wallowa Lake State Park. We joined them for the tram ride up the mountain, suppers outside, and masked card games around the table inside. After 3 nights, they went home and we had 2 additional nights at our cozy campsite where the bucks entertained us during supper and cribbage tournaments.
The skies were beautifully clear (except for that first full day when we took the tram to the top of the mountain) and we could see Jupiter and Saturn each night through an opening in the tree canopy. By the time we got home again, it was September.
We stayed home for the big windstorm that whipped up fires across the region on Labor Day, but after assessing the situation, we decided to head out again and take our oldest grandson camping before it was actually fall weather. We chose a place close to where his great-grandmother had grown up. Little Foot enjoyed boating on the reservoir with Opa and roasting marshmallows for S’mores after dark. I thoroughly enjoyed staring up at the Milky Way each night. Oh, to escape completely from light pollution! This is one of the joys of camping.
We got home from that trip last Thursday, did minimal unpacking and then turned around and took a trip sans-trailer the next day. According to what was on the calendar, it was a 2-night trip; according to what I learned when we arrived 5 hours later, it was a 4-night trip. It’s probably a good thing I tend to over-pack! It’s also a good thing that I have people I can call on to check in on our cat (who was NOT happy with us about our long, unplanned absence). A few things about this particular trip:
We shared a house with some extended family members but had our own room. I hung out in there to read and rest instead of in the living room.
The smoke followed us inland and turned all but the first day into non-scenic drives (Guess who thought she could get pictures with the camera “tomorrow”?)
Wearing masks while sharing meals indoors isn’t really possible, and wildfire smoke makes it unhealthy to eat outdoors
I was uncomfortable with not wearing a mask around extended family who were previously not part of our “bubble.”
It’s been six full months since the pandemic shut everything down for us here. I’m weary of the continued battle over whether or not masks help (spoiler alert: they do). So now we are home for a bit and I am pretty much quarantining myself after having more exposure to maskless people and many others who were wearing their masks incorrectly than I ever intended to have during a pandemic. So many noses! I was wearing my own mask around them, so I should be relatively safe. As for our relatives with whom we spent time, they continue to be healthy and we are the young ones in the bunch. However, I definitely do not wish to be the one who exposes anyone else, known or unknown, to this virus. Seeing maskless people in Montana was unnerving for me. I’ve been able to control my environment for much of the past 6 months and being at the mercy of others, where I have to rely upon their own responses to this pandemic when I don’t think they are being as careful as I try to be, makes me uncomfortable.
I’m not perfect, and I realize that there are people who are much more careful than I am. By traveling at all, I am at greater risk than staying in my own house. However, by traveling with a trailer, I am bringing along nearly everything we need and limiting our exposure to others outside our household. Luckily, we can continue camping for a while — at least until the temperatures drop significantly.
The writing bug appeared to have moved out and left me to my own devices — and apparently my own devices involve ignoring my blog. Sorry about that (she says in a Canadian accent).
So let’s see: when I last visited with you, The Scout was still hiking– he’s home now. I don’t want to reveal too much for those who will be getting the Christmas letter (you know, the one that hasn’t been written yet), but he hiked about 1,500 miles before deciding he “was good with that” and came home via Greyhound. His 3+ year headache had gone away! Wonderful! Unfortunately, it returned in early November along with the return of decreased brain function the following week. As I type this out, he’s having a difficult day. So we’re back to square one, making appointments with neurology.
Humorous-Juniorous joined the Air Force and spent summer and autumn at Officer Training School. It was such a good course, he did it twice. (He’s very lucky.) We flew down to the southland twice as well: the first time to hit up most of the Civil Rights memorials and museums, and the second time for graduation. SuperDad commissioned him as a brand-new 2d Lt. just last week. Since then, H-J has been spending time on airplanes, getting a flight physical, and reporting to his new duty station. He should be home for Christmas.
The Barefooter has been working for the US Forest Service but that temporary job will soon run out of hours. He likes it well enough — he’s getting paid to walk through the woods (with a vest filled with paint cartridges and measuring equipment in order to mark trees for thinning) — and his schedule has been 2 weeks of steady, daily work in a distant location followed by a week at home. He’s been sent to a variety of places: South Dakota, Colorado, Oregon, and Arkansas.
It’s been six months + 2 weeks since my ankle fusion. The procedure worked very well and seems to have cut my pain by about 50% which is the best outcome I had been able to expect, so I’m pleased with it. Unfortunately, I’m already developing arthritis in the first two foot joints downrange from the fused ankle joint. This is to be expected over time (8-20 years) but I might be an overachiever who is going for the “under a decade” mark before those joints also need fusing. Still… I’ve been able to withstand doing more each day that I could during the past year. My goal is to spend 1.5 to 2 hours in the therapy (exercise) pool, three times each week. That time is more beneficial and enjoyable than sitting for hours on airplanes.
Five days from right now is Christmas Eve, filled with family and church, candles and choir, excited children and tired adults. Hopefully we’ll get the traditional family picture taken while we’re dressed up and looking spiffy. I might have already written the Christmas letter and sent it out early if we’d managed to get that picture taken after my dad’s memorial service in May (but who am I kidding? — I still wouldn’t have those envelopes addressed). Per usual, I am not ready for Christmas. Also per usual, Christmas is coming whether I am ready or not!
May your holidays be sweet and filled with love, and may your time management skills fly high above my own!
It’s been nine weeks since ankle fusion surgery. Unlike my searching at this point after the original ankle repair surgery, I have been unable to find any blog posts from others about this fun experience. I did find some trusted medical sites that gave much of the same information I already knew along with some research that tells me that in approximately 20 years time, I will likely be suffering from severe arthritis in my foot because the pressure relieved by fusing the ankle will be transferred to other places. Oh, joy. And also? Oh, well! I put this surgery off for as long as I could, and here I am — basically in less pain now than I was prior to surgery, despite not being able to walk. I’m hopeful, in a desperate sort of way, that this really-and-truly works. I needit to work.
Little Foot and Chomper
Our oldest son and his little family came to visit on Tuesday night. The mama and daddy went to see Les Miserables while Oma and Opa babysat. We are so blessed to have them less than 80 miles away, and we had a terrific time with the kiddos (and their parents on Wednesday morning). The Engineer‘s company had purchased the tickets nearly a year ago, so they had really good seats.
The Barefooter has been working 15 days on, 6 days off for the US Forest Service as a timber cruiser (not barefoot). We only see him when he comes home for his time off and Colorado has been keeping him busy, so I don’t have a photo to share. He was home for the week of his next-in-line brother’s last week here, which was nice for both of them.
Humorous-Juniorous began his USAF career last week and is currently in Alabama for Officer Training School (OTS). He has been able to send us a few e-mail messages to let us know things are going well.
The Scout, who is hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, southbound (PCT, SoBo) has completed the Washington State section and is well into Oregon by now. He called us last Friday from Cascade Locks and met up with extended family near Timberline Lodge. Hooray for safety, family, food, shower, and clean clothes!
Basically, our family has become a far-flung entity while I’ve been stuck at home. I know the latter is only temporary and the former is perfectly normal. And yet… Facebook memories keep popping of from 10 years ago when we all lived together. They were so cute and young and living at home then! But birdies grow up and fly away from the nest, don’t they?
As I write this, it’s been 3 years and 3 hours since The Scout fell 23 feet from a broken branch to the hard ground beneath. Miraculously, he wasn’t killed instantly and while we don’t know if he only blacked out from having the wind knocked out of him or if he was unconscious for more than that brief time, he did manage to get up and walk home with great effort. His back held the greatest pain felt at first, but the wicked headache made itself known within 36 hours; with no other name to give it, his symptoms have been labeled as post-concussion syndrome and he lives with chronic headache untouched by medication (we tried) somewhere around a level of 4 out of 10 on the pain scale (on a good day). He graduated from high school more than a year ago and we are grateful that we did not have to fight for appropriate accommodations — a stellar scholastic reputation prior to his injury and compassionate staff made a big difference. Since then he has worked part-time, spending the best hours he can give to his employer during the busy season and enjoying occasional good days with family and friends. But like all of us, he wanted something more; unlike many of us, The Scout has made that something more happen.
Last week he began hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.
His first 30 miles were spent hiking north to the Canadian border — the northern terminus of the PCT — and from there he turned around and headed south. If all goes well, he plans to hike all the way to the southern terminus of the PCT at the Mexican border.
Dad died at the end of March. In April we took our already-planned trip to Tucson, which felt odd because we weren’t there to visit him anymore. SuperDad and I, along with my younger brother and his wife, were at the assisted living facility for a small celebration of life (which was very nice) with the residents and staff.
All 9 of us were here for Easter. The Barefooter and I sang with the choir (it was my last hurrah with them for a while because of travel plans when I am actually able to travel again).
Little Foot stayed with us the week after Easter while his Mama and baby brother, Chomper, returned home for the week and Daddy went on a business trip. We love having him with us and he had a great time burning through the energy reserves of every single adult in the house. Little Foot, Oma, and Opa shared their first night of sleeping in the trailer. He loved it!
The Barefooter was briefly in the news for his determination to run the annual 12km race in his usual form: barefoot. He’s run it 5 times in the past 6 years, always barefoot.
I enjoyed my annual K2A weekend with two friends in an area with a lot of wineries. We’re slowing down and making it to fewer wineries in our advancing ages (ha!) but still had a great time together. Another friend joined us on Saturday which was a real treat.
Dad’s memorial service was a weekend filled with family. The celebration of life was held at the church where I grew up and most of us stayed in one house together. Had everyone slept in that house, there would have been 20 of us! Those 20 people are my dad’s children, their offspring, and spouses. The weather was perfect: not too hot, not too rainy. Bonus: we all still like each other.
After another 5 days at home, SuperDad and I left on our first big trek with the trailer. We spent 8 nights camping (9 days on the road). Success! It was also quite the learning experience. Have you ever tried to back a truck and trailer? Pull-through sites are much easier than back-in sites.
We returned home on Sunday, June 2nd. After helping to unload the trailer on Sunday afternoon/evening, I had a pain day on Monday — meaning I got very, very little done.
Ankle fusion surgery was on June 5th. The surgery itself lasted about an hour and a half; we were home before noon. Since then I’ve been confined to lying on the top of my bed, ankle elevated, with the exception of using the bathroom (that is accomplished by holding onto a walker and hopping with my “good” foot). On Thursday morning I have an appointment to (hopefully) remove stitches and get a new cast. My skin looks forward to 15 minutes of air time.
There are a lot of changes happening for the young adults living in our house, but they deserve a post of their own. Of course, blogging about family members includes considering what is mine to tell vs. what is their own stories.
I’m on the road again, heading for Tucson and tapping this out on my phone’s tiny screen. Although this trip was planned several months ago, I won’t be seeing my dad, By the time we reach our destination Dad will have been gone for a week. He passed away rather unexpectedly last Thursday night. Thankfully both of my older siblings were visiting at the same time and were with him when he died.
It’s been a busy week of phone calls and messages between siblings and there’s more work to do. I can’t figure out how to upload a picture to the post via this phone so that will have to wait.