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We had an ice storm last Wednesday, rare in our temperate western Oregon climate. I sat on the couch in our living room watching as freezing rain coated the trees outside, and icicles grew on the power lines. I heard the bang and saw a flash of light as a transformer exploded somewhere in the neighborhood. Thankfully our power stayed on.

Later that evening, as I continued my couch vigil, watching the storm outside, I said a silent prayer that our electricity would stay on through the night. We don’t have a fireplace, or gas, so electricity is our only heat source. At the moment that I finished my silent prayer – the lights went out. My heart sank.

Spencer gathered flashlights, we put on extra layers of clothing, and I told the kids we would all get to sleep together in our king-size bed that night. They’ve both been finding their way into our bed by the middle each night anyway, so it wasn’t too out of the ordinary. It was a little fun, a bit like camping on a cold night.

Waking up in the morning with no heat and light was not very inviting. I was thankful that my parents, a few miles away, still had electricity, so I packed our bags and we headed to their house to stay as many days as needed.

We were lucky. My parents’ next door neighbor, and all down the street to the north, lost power and didn’t get it back until yesterday. The electricity at our house ended up coming back on Thursday afternoon. At Marie’s dentist appointment Friday, the hygienist told me she was without power at home, that it was an inconvenience but she didn’t mind too much. She was looking forward to barbecuing a steak that night.

My husband, who maintains parks in Springfield, has extra work now with all the downed trees everywhere. Ice storms are hard on trees. It made me think of the poem Birches, by Robert Frost:

When I see birches bend to left and right
Across the lines of straighter darker trees,
I like to think some boy’s been swinging them.
But swinging doesn’t bend them down to stay
As ice-storms do. Often you must have seen them
Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning
After a rain. They click upon themselves
As the breeze rises, and turn many-colored
As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel.
Soon the sun’s warmth makes them shed crystal shells
Shattering and avalanching on the snow-crust—
Such heaps of broken glass to sweep away
You’d think the inner dome of heaven had fallen.
(You can read the poem in its entirety here.)

The storm made me realize how fragile we are against the forces of nature. But oh, the beauty!

I may not know much about how the world works or why things happen the way they do. But I do know this: Life is full of fragile beauty. And I am here to be a witness.

“Sometimes I need only to stand wherever I am to be blessed.” – Mary Oliver

 

Yesterday was my birthday – I turned 32. I was woken up by my 7-month-old around 6 am; I nursed him and then he went back to sleep. Around 6:45 my 3-year-old daughter came in the room, and said, “Mommy! It’s your birthday! Daddy said I could sing the Happy Birthday song to you today!” Then she burst into song.

My birthday is on Veteran’s Day, so there was no preschool. I decided to find a new place to take the kids, so we visited Old School. When I was getting Baby Paul out of the car, I discovered he had a poopy diaper. So I changed him on the front seat, trying to do it quickly because it was a very cold and rainy morning. In the process, he peed all over his onesie and coat. I found him a new outfit, but not a new coat, so he was stuck wearing the pee coat. Marie then told me she needed to go potty, even though she had just went before we left the house. She has a fascination with trying the potty in new places. After using the potty in the 5th Street Market, we crossed to the 5th & Pearl building and took the 5 foot elevator ride to the first floor, and ventured down the hall to Old School.

Maybe it was just the mini elevator ride (remember Being John Malkovich?), but I felt like I’d arrived in a magical place when I stepped into Old School. It’s just a space where kids can play and work on crafts, but something about the ambiance is very special. We arrived a few minutes before 11, an hour past my original goal, but just in time for story time. We listened to stories, made a birdfeeder, and then Marie just played dress-up for about an hour before I decided it was time to leave.

When we left, Marie told me she needed to use the potty again. We went into a new restroom (so fun!) and she laid down on the floor of the stall to look at the mom and child in the next door stall. Meanwhile, I was holding baby Paul in the Ergo carrier. “Get up Marie! You’re being rude!” I told her.

“But I’m tired,” she said. I had to pick her up off the floor and set her on the potty, while holding the baby. Then of course I had to pick her up again when it was time to wash hands. All this to say – it’s a major ordeal to go anywhere with a 3-year-old and a baby.

Additionally, I was recovering from a bladder infection that I’d been trying to fend off naturally without antibiotics. So my mom got off work early to come help me out with the kids. When she got to our apartment, I tried to get some chores done, but I got dizzy and had to lie down. She took Marie to her house so I could rest, and I was able to nap with the baby for awhile.

By the time Spencer got home from work, I decided that he should take me to the after-hours clinic. I was imagining my UTI spreading to my kidneys and of course, leading to my imminent death. So instead of a date night, we got to visit the doctor. And the good news was that we found out my UTI was gone. At that point I think I was just feeling sick from fighting off the virus that Marie turned out to have later that evening! She woke up around 11 pm with a nasty cough and a fever.

Ah. So it was a hectic day. Additionally we found out my husband’s grandma had a heart attack that morning, induced by a panic attack. And I was thinking of my friend who is battling Stage 3 breast cancer — at age 30 — and had a bilateral mastectomy scheduled the next day (today).

But I still came out of the day feeling loved and appreciated. Spencer gave me a really thoughtful gift, as he tends to do. He got me books by two of my favorite writers, T.S. Eliot and Gregory Maguire. I’d even forgotten that I love Gregory Maguire, and I didn’t know he has a new book out, about Alice in Wonderland. So by remembering that I love a writer that I didn’t even remember I love (does that make sense?) Spencer pretty much proved that he is a good best friend/husband. And I had the opportunity to hear from quite a few people throughout the day via phone and Facebook. My college friends Jay and Holly called me for a surprise FaceTime chat while Spencer and I were watching our current Netflix favorite, Jane the Virgin. And my two best friends from high school texted me to wish me a happy birthday.

So it was fun to think about all the people who are an important part of my life now, or who have been important in the past. I’m thankful to have had a lot of special people in my life during the past 32 years. I’m thankful that my husband has been my best friend for the past 12 years, and that he’s been there for me in many ways – like taking me to the ER in the middle of the night when my son was 1-week-old and I had endometritis, planning a surprise ice skating birthday party for my 23rd birthday, bringing me takeout from Pine State Biscuits after I had a miscarriage, and celebrating our 5th wedding anniversary with a trip to Kauai. I’m thankful that we are able to live near my parents who offer me constant support – my mom is in our kitchen washing my dishes right now. And I’m thankful to be sharing my life now with two precious little ones – my daughter, the feisty future Broadway performer, and my sweet happy baby boy.

It really is a wonderful life.

I tried to take this selfie a few weeks ago, but my daughter hijacked it.

I tried to take this selfie a few weeks ago, but my daughter hijacked it.

The official start of summer is just around the corner. The fleeting season for eating freshly picked berries, riding bikes along the river trail, and hiking behind waterfalls. Undoubtedly, my richest memories are from summers.

 

At Tunnel Falls in the Columbia River Gorge.

At Tunnel Falls in the Columbia River Gorge.

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When I was a kid, summer was the season for our annual family vacations. Thanks to my parents’ adventurous spirit, I had many memorable experiences during those vacations. I won’t easily forget the time an orca swam underneath our zodiac raft on a whale-watching expedition in British Columbia. Or seeing the ancient marble formations inside the Oregon Caves. I’ll always remember the talent competitions at our Evans family reunions in the tiny Ozark town of Eureka Springs, Arkansas, and the time my mom was serenaded by an Elvis impersonator at the country music show.

I’ll remember the glorious summer my parents and I toured Europe — dodging cars on narrow medieval cobblestone streets, standing in centuries-old Gothic cathedrals as light beams down through stained glass, discovering my love for Impressionist painters at the Musee d’Orsay. And I’d be negligent if I didn’t mention the hot and humid September afternoon my husband proposed to me on a glacial rock in Central Park after a picnic lunch of deli sandwiches and potato chips, and our tiramisu wedding cake the following June.

Our wedding day, eight summers ago. (Photo credit TJ Cameron).

Our wedding day, eight summers ago. (Photo credit TJ Cameron).

Even the summertime flops make for good stories — running down the side of South Sister in the midst of a lightning storm, sleeping in our car in Utah when our campsite was being sprayed with insecticide for its mosquito infestation, flying on a sketchy third-world airline that used hand-me-down Hawaiian airlines jets.

I want my daughter to grow up rich in memories too. A family vacation isn’t in the cards for us this summer due to a lack of money and vacation days as well as my daughter’s young age. But we can still have fun while staying here in Oregon. At two-years-old, my daughter probably won’t remember this summer anyway, so I suppose the memory-making this year is more for the benefit of my husband and I.

To help encourage ourselves to make the most of summer, we’ve created our family summer bucket list. I’ll be checking back at the end of the summer to report on our progress. My husband and I agreed on the late deadline of October 15 to complete the activities, since nice weather tends to last through mid-October in Oregon and we’re not particularly tied to the school schedule. The point is to have fun rather than give myself more things I feel obligated to do. WIthout further ado, here’s my list:

1.  Parent-child swim lessons
2.  Canoeing (without our daughter)
3. Lots of bike riding
4. Visit local farm
5. Get off the beaten hiking path (try some hikes outside of the immediate Eugene area — perhaps Blue Pool, Obsidian Falls…)
6. Portland road trip
7.  join CSA (Okay we’ve already done this. I confess the secret to success for to-do lists is to include an item you’ve already completed)
8. Visit Wildlife Safari
9. Watch fireworks (We never do this, because my husband always has to work at 5:30 am on July 5).
10. Attend a concert in the park
11.  Run in Butte-to-Butte race
12. Host 2 dinners (We love to cook and have friends over for dinner, but haven’t been doing a good job of this since moving to Eugene.)
13. Visit Crater Lake

Do you have a favorite summer memory you’d like to share? Or, do you have items on your personal summer bucket list?

As you may know, we recently moved from Portland back to my hometown of Eugene. Although it was time for us to leave Portland, I’m so glad I had the opportunity to live there for seven years. Some of the things I will miss most about Portland are:

* The Zoo. Marie’s favorite place. We had a membership and were visiting quite frequently. When we first moved to Portland I even got to work at the zoo as a marketing intern. I even got to feed one of the elephants! Still I’m sure we will still visit the zoo several times a year.

* Restaurants. Portland has a great restaurant scene and we will miss some of our favorite spots including: Por Que No?, Lardo, Ken’s Artisan Pizza/Bakery, Grand Central Bakery, Screen Door, Pine St. Biscuits, Oaks Bottom Pub and the Belmont food carts. And the best margaritas ever at Nuestro Cocina.

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A spicy margarita from Portland’s Nuestro Cocina.

* Theophilus Church. For the past four years we had the chance to be a part of a new church that started in the Hawthorne neighborhood. It was great fun because we knew the pastors, AJ & Quinn, from when we’d lived in Eugene. AJ was even my husband’s roommate one year in college. We had the chance to watch the church grow from a small group of people meeting in a living room into a medium-sized church of 100 + attendees per Sunday. Prior to that we attended Imago Dei for three years, which I also loved for its great sermons, social activism and community of artists.

* Gorge hikes. Loved, loved, loved hiking in the beautiful Columbia River Gorge. My favorite was the Eagle Creek hike even though the uneven terrain caused me to have a debilitating knee injury.

* Friends and family. Well it goes without saying that we will miss all our friends and family who still live in the Portland area. We had the chance to get to know a lot people during our 7 years in Portland, mainly through church and my master’s program at George Fox.

However, in spite of all that I am very excited to be here in Eugene because I strongly feel that this is God’s will for us at this time. And I’m finding that I appreciate Eugene so much more now than I ever did before. Here are some things I’m loving about Eugene right now:

* Lack of traffic. Compared to Portland and other big cities, Eugene basically doesn’t have traffic. I didn’t realize how big of a deal this was to me until I got here. I was having frequent anxiety attacks when driving around in Portland and that’s not really an issue for me here.

* Access to nature. Eugene is a smaller town so it is much easier to access nature. Rather than driving 30 + minutes to go hiking, I can drive 5 minutes to go hike Spencer’s Butte.

Mt. Pisgah Arboretum, one of my favorite hiking spots.

Mt. Pisgah Arboretum, one of my favorite hiking spots.

* More great restaurants. Eugene has a lot of great restaurants for a town of its size (approx. 150,000).  I will give a shout-out here to Anatolia, Papa’s Soul Food Kitchen, Taco Loco and Sweet Life. These are our old favorites and we’re excited to discover new favorites.

* Connecting with a new church. This is only the second week we’ve visited, so there’s a chance it may not become our new church home, but so far I’m very excited about University Fellowship Church. I’ve been enjoying the sermons and the worship and Marie has been tolerating her time in the toddler room. I love that the pastor also preaches on Sunday evenings at the Oregon State Penitentiary. Also I’ve been thinking that I really want to join a choir and this morning they announced they are putting together a Christmas choir. Basically it seems to me like a great fit. Although it meets in the gym of my old high school, which is slightly weird. But really it’s been so long since high school that it doesn’t bother me. Plus I have mostly positive memories of high school anyway.

* Family and friends. Yes, we have family and friends here too. In fact one of the main reasons I wanted to move back here was to be closer to my family. It’s been really great having my parents and grandmother so nearby. I’m also excited to have the chance to reconnect with some of my old friends here and to make new friends as well.