Friday, May 29, 2009

Back in the Saddle

I think this is the longest period of “no blogging” for me since I started this thing! I have been very busy 1) enjoying my last few days of freedom last week 2) getting ready to start my new job and 3) acclimating to government employment.

To enjoy my last few days of freedom, I spent a lot of time outdoors soaking up the sun, playing with Sitka, and shuttling Mike down to the dock and back. And last Friday Mike went fishing with Ron and Betty and I had the WHOLE DAY to myself. I bought a People magazine (I never do that) and had champagne and lobster. I’m worth it.

To get ready to start my new job I did some shopping for skirts, shoes, foods for lunch and a BIKE! I got a great deal from a guy on Craigslist for a 21-speed beach bike to ride to work.

Downtown Salem has limited parking and I figured I would either ride the bus or bike to work. I added a wire basket to carry my lunch bag and camera – isn’t it cute?

Acclimating to government employment has been smooth. On my first day I got my picture ID badge and found that I since I bus/bike to work I get a bus pass for unlimited usage, no charge. Plus, I am allowed to drive 2 days a month and park at any 2-hour parking meter for FREE all day. How cool is that?

Day 1 I took the bus to work. That was my first time on a Salem bus and I learned that a bus from where we live in West Salem to downtown Salem is FREE. And in the downtown core busses are all free.

Days 2, 3, and 4 I rode my bike to work. Here I go...

We live about 1.5 miles from my office and it takes me about 15 minutes to weave through a bit of traffic, but most of my ride is over the Union Street Railroad Pedestrian & Bicycle Bridge and then down quiet side streets.

The bridge.

Pictures from the Veteran's Administration Park close to my office.

I work with a small group, in a tre cool office, within the State of Oregon Employment Department with 3 board members (2 of whom are attorneys),4 attorneys, another legal secretary and myself. (I am the number 2 legal secretary.) The work we do is interesting - it is about Unemployment Insurance disputes and boy there are a lot of those right now.

Mike is also acclimating. He’s looking for a bike to buy so that he can bike to the river and go fishing. He has made friends with a bunch of fishing guys and he is loving it. I’m so happy to see him enjoying life again. He finally saw a neurologist and he will begin B-12 injections (I get to do it…hehehe) and folate supplements next week. Hopefully this treatment will help him in many regards.

It is clear, sunny, and warm. We have lots of new friends. Mike’s brother, Mickey, visited this week from Hubbard, Oregon. Sitka is happy in her little yard. Life is good in Salem.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

WORLD'S RECORD - Interview, Offer, Negotiation, AND Acceptance!

It’s called contract law. I am a paralegal and I know something about it. I am now in contract with the State of Oregon.

Mike and I got to Salem on January 25, 2009, but even before that date I had begun applying to jobs online. Salem is the capital of Oregon and I found many “legal” jobs listed. I’d say the bulk of my applications were for governmental jobs – not always legal jobs, but jobs for which I knew I was qualified and that sounded interesting.

I posted about Behavioral Interviewing recently and I had several interviews using that method. Ugh. (Although practice has made it easier.)

Yesterday morning at 9:00 I had an interview scheduled for a Legal Secretary position in the Employment Department with the State of Oregon. I got there 15 minutes early to study “the questions” I anticipated. I was happily surprised to find there would be no Behavioral Interviewing questions. Instead I sat in a conference room with 3 interacting human beings and we had a conversation and traded questions. It was very comfortable.

Before I knew it, it was over and I was feeling some really good energy. I told Cheryl all about it over breakfast and then I went home and told Mike about it. While Mike and I were out shopping for fishing tackle, I got a call offering me the job. After a couple more calls and emails, negotiations were settled and by 4:30 I accepted the position. (Who says government doesn’t move quickly?!)

I have one more week of playing in Salem before I start on Tuesday after the long Memorial Day weekend. Mike has his neurologist appointment this Thursday and he has several “fishing dates” on his calendar. Now that he is doing so much better it won’t be so difficult for me to say goodbye to him each morning. I know he’ll be okay. I’m ready to work and it sounds like work is ready for me.


Monday, May 18, 2009

My Best Friend Cheryl

I met Cheryl when I was the new kid at my school in the sixth grade. Being the new kid is not easy. Cheryl was nice to me because I was in her mom’s Camp Fire Girls group. We were 11 when we met and we soon discovered that we share the same birthday, December 1st. From then on we had that special day together and at age 53 we have now had 42 shared birthdays – not always together, but it's even more special when we are able to celebrate together. But it doesn’t stop there.

When I came home from Bellingham, Washington, after a very trying quarter at Western Washington University, Cheryl was there for me.

When I came from South Florida, after a year of playing on the beach, Cheryl was there for me.

When I came home from Iceland, after a month of frolicking with the sheep, the small horses and a boyfriend named Olafur, Cheryl was there for me.

And yes, when I came home from Mexico, after 9 months of challenges beyond my imagination, Cheryl was there for me.

Yesterday Cheryl came to visit Mike and me in Salem. Her daughter goes to the University of Oregon in Eugene and Cheryl spent the weekend in Eugene before coming north to Salem. It was so good to see her. The last time we saw each other was May 14, 2008, the day before we left for Mexico.

We spent time at our apt looking at pictures of Mexico and catching up like only best friends can. We all went out to dinner at the Roadhouse last night (cool place – there are peanuts on every table and you can throw the shells on the floor!) And this morning Cheryl and I met for breakfast and a little more time to gab with just the two of us. Before I knew it, it was noon and Cheryl was hitting the road for Seattle – well, actually Mill Creek.

How lucky am I to have this great friend?

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Gone Fishin'

Salem has a beautiful Riverfront Park that runs along the Willamette River just blocks from the downtown core. I often walk Sitka from our place in West Salem over the Union Street Railroad Pedestrian and Bicycle Bridge into Riverfront Park and together we explore all it has to offer.

On the north end of the park is a huge bronze statue of former Governor Tom McCall, an ardent environmentalist and a guy who liked to fish.

Walking south you will see a long dock, home to the Willamette Queen, a twin-paddle wheeler, available for lunch and dinner cruises on the Willamette River.

The Willamette Queen shares the dock with ducks, swimmers, and fishermen and women. Today Mike and I headed down to the dock to try out his two “new” fishing poles.

We got there early – 7:30AM and there was just one other guy fishing. But things picked up later in the morning and Mike ended up spending most of the day with his two new fishing buddies, Rick and James.

Mike tried one rod and then traded it for the other. I helped tie hook knots and handed Mike the worms, but other than that I just kicked back and enjoyed the warm sun.

The Willamette Queen had been booked for a wedding and we listened to the traditional “Here Comes the Bride” music before the large boat shoved off for a tour down the river.

We also watched the Polk County Sheriff boat “pull over” three kayakers that were without life jackets. The kayakers got off with a warning (instead of $250 fines each!), but they had to get out of the water at the dock.

Rick and James knew the drill and they both went for their wallets and their fishing licenses…Mike followed suit and the sheriffs were happy that they were all licensed.

The highlight of our day was when I was helping Mike with his line that was sorta tangled on the reel. We let out a lot of line and then I helped guide it back in. At one point Mike told me to quit pulling on the line and I said I wasn’t…and that’s when I thought “Do we have a fish??”

Sure enough, Mike kept reeling in and there it was. A puny little fishy. HA! We threw it back into the river, but we can both claim our first catch in the Willamette (but if you ask Mike he’ll be sure to say that it was HIS catch!)

We had a great time. I can tell that Mike is going to spend a lot of time at the dock this summer.

, something to keep him happy…

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Oprah and the Kentucky Fried Chicken Offer

I think it was last Tuesday when Mike and I were watching Oprah's show. She was doing “good things” that day and one of them involved a promotion with KFC and their new grilled chicken.

Oprah told her viewers to go to her website within 24 hours and download a max of 4 coupons for free KFC meals that included 2 pieces of grilled chicken, 2 side orders and a biscuit. I’m always up for a free deal so I went to the website, printed 4 coupons and gave 2 to Betty and Ron. The weather was supposed to be warm and sunny on Saturday so the 4 of us made plans to get our chicken on Saturday afternoon and have a picnic at Wallace Marine Park, just a few blocks from our home. Sounds good, huh?

Mike and I laughed when we heard on Friday that a New York City KFC nearly had a riot due to the overwhelming response to the offer and the number of people coming in for the free meal. They had to close the doors. We were sharing this story with Betty and Ron as we approached our local KFC. Imagine our surprise when we got to the door and saw a notice taped to the door…it said something like “We are no longer able to honor Oprah’s grilled chicken coupon, however, you can get a rain check at the counter.” HA!

No problem. We filled out forms for rain checks to be mailed to us and we bought a bucket of chicken with side dishes. And we laughed. The counter person explained that rain checks were being issued nationwide! Wow.

So we went on to the park and enjoyed our picnic. There were many families with their little Weber BBQs grilling lunch and some of the dogs were chasing balls in the Willamette River. It was a beautiful afternoon.

We're ready to dig in!

Busy Sitka...checking out all the other doggies...

Ater all that we still made room for the delish peach pie Betty made earlier in the day!

The Union Street Railroad Pedestrian and Bicycle Bridge as seen from the park.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Goin' Campin'

From my last post, “Since I’m not working yet I was hesitant to fork over big bucks for sporting equipment.” Aye, yi, yi…

So yeah, Mike got his fishing gear and now he just needs his fishing license so he can go fishing. But sometime recently Betty told us about “River Romp” – an annual family tradition, week-end long, camping party on the Columbia River (on the Washington side). This event originated with Ron’s sister and brother-in-law (it's held on their property) and has been going on for many years.

Now, I was in Camp Fire Girls all the way from 2nd grade through my senior year in high school. It was never really something I bragged about, but I can still start a campfire in the direst of circumstances. However, the truth is I have had my fill of camping – hotels with room service and swimming pools suit me better at this point in my life.

But alas, Mike loves camping. And we used to have all the middle-class American camping gear…we ended up giving it all to Jake who retextured the walls in our house before we sold the house last May. Do you know how much I wish we had kept all that stuff??

Sooooo, this week we decided we have to go to River Romp, but we need “stuff.” We still have our self-inflating mattress (the one we slept on for months in Duvall after we sold our bed and we even slept on it in Mexico City when we didn’t have a bed).
But we needed sleeping bags. On a whim, I bought cheap, pretty, pink polyester bags at Walmart. OMG – what was I thinking??? We tried them out one night in our apt and I just about died when a hot flash took over my body at 2AM and I had to crawl into our cotton-sheeted bed. Needless to say, we neatly rolled them into the original packaging and I returned them to Walmart the next day.

Sooooo, GI Joe’s, a beloved local sporting equipment store, is going out of business and we went there to check out the sleeping bags. Ahhh, when I saw the beautiful, flannel-lined bags at a good, discounted price I quickly threw 2 into our shopping cart. They fit perfectly on top of our self-inflating mattress.

Mike and I talked about putting our self-inflating mattress and sleeping bags in the truck canopy and sleeping in there at River Romp. I thought that was a good idea. But then he started talking tents...really, I’m still trying to not spend a lot of dough for this one weekend on the river...

But the next day - there I was. Alone on Lancaster Ave. in Salem when I spotted Big 5 Sporting Goods. I parked and the first thing I saw were 2 tents set up outside the door. I went in and found a perfect 3-person tent on sale. Gulp. It was purchased and in the truck before I knew it. We set it up in our apt and our self-inflating mattress and 2 new sleeping bags (zipped together, of course) fit perfectly in the tent.(Notice Mike's fishing pole too!)

Thursday night Mike and I watched Betty’s son, Tim’s, movie about River Romp 2008. It looks like a blast! Games, river, food, talent show – oh yeah, you need to sit on something to watch the talent show…

Sooooo, Friday morning Mike and I set out to check out camping chairs. I won’t go into all the shopping/price-checking details, but we settled on 2 great discounted chairs from Big 5 Sporting Goods. They fit perfectly with the other camping stuff.

Last night we spent the full night sleeping in the tent in our apt. Poor Sitka - Mike wouldn't let her in!

At his point, I can only laugh. My mission began with the fishing pole and we wound up with 2 poles, sleeping bags, tent and chairs. And I’m the one who was so happy to get rid of our “stuff” last year. Hmmm...River Romp is the weekend of July 31st...stay tuned for that adventure.

p.s. I just found out yesterday afternoon that I am eligible for the Emergency Unemployment Insurance benefits! This will really help while I continue my job search. If you think it might apply to you, check with your state unemployment office.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Bob and Mike and Mike

Mike finally has his much awaited neurologist appointment scheduled on May 22nd. I’m not sure why it is so difficult to see a neurologist in Salem, but it has been very frustrating. The neurologist will most likely order an MRI to check on Mike's arachnoid cyst and the implant done in Mexico City. Plus, we want to hear the neurologist's opinion regarding the anti-seizure meds that Mike takes. They are so strong that Mike is not up to his usual self.

In fact, he is not “up” to much at all these days. Imagine having the life that you know stripped from you. Imagine not being able to hold a job cause you can’t think straight (among other limitations). Imagine not able to ride a Harley Davidson motorcycle EVER again (Mike’s Harley weighed 666 pounds before accessories and there is no way he could maneuver something that heavy at this point). Imagine not even being able to drive a car or truck cause you might have a seizure at the wheel. And imagine feeling like you have let your family down when something that you had absolutely no control over dramatically changed your life.

It sucks.

HOWEVER, Ron has been talking fishing to Mike. Ron is a fly fisherman and although Mike prefers a rod and reel, Ron and Betty have offered to take Mike fishing. But Mike had (key word = HAD) no fishing gear. Since I’m not working yet I was hesitant to fork over big bucks for sporting equipment. And that’s when I remembered how much Craigslist helped us to sell our car, Harley, furniture and other stuff before we moved to Mexico. So I put an ad on Craigslist, looking for used fishing gear.

Through this ad I met two men. Bob and Mike. Bob offered to sell me 2 rods and reels, hooks, line, weights, lures, tools and all kinds of other stuff I don’t even know how to name. And for a decent price! Mike (Craigslist Mike) offered to take Mike out on his boat and let Mike use his fishing gear.

As I got to know Bob and Mike through email last week (I was doing this all behind my Mike’s back), I was touched by their generosity and willingness to help out a complete stranger that just wanted to go fishing. Both of them have been hard hit with the employment situation in the Salem area, yet their kindness persevered difficult times.

So on Saturday I picked up Bob’s fishing gear and surprised Mike with it. He was beyond himself. I also got him a tackle box and he spent a good part of the afternoon sorting through his goodies. Mike plans to email Bob with his thanks and Mike (boat Mike) to ask about going fishing. Oh, and of course, Mike will show Ron his new stuff and figure out when they can go fishing.

Out of adversity, Mike and I often find opportunity. This episode landed two new friends.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Salem Storm

Yesterday Mike and I were in our apt and we heard rain beating down on the plexiglas roof of the sunroom. We were also hearing the occasional THUMP from a tree branch hitting the roof. (The “woods” just south of our yard are filled with giant oak and maple trees that are at least 100 feet tall.) I went outside and was surprised by the swaying trees.

[It brought back memories of winter 2006 in Duvall, Washington when we had winds over 70mph and three 100+ foot cedar trees were toppled in our front yard and two more in our back yard. Our private little paradise was never the same after that loss.]

We brought Sitka inside the apt and watched from the window – glad that only small branches were falling. The rain subsided, the excitement died down, and we went on playing with Mike’s new fishing gear (that’s another post!) We had no idea what was about to happen…

BOOM!!! It was a crash like I’d never heard. I thought something had come through the plexiglass roof, but it was much more than that. The powerful wind uprooted an oak tree from the next-door neighbor’s yard and it smashed into Ron and Betty’s deck roof!!! The same place we had our wonderful May Day Luncheon just the day before!

We all gathered outside to assess the situation and I took pictures. Luckily, the damage is limited to the deck roof, fence and some outdoor lighting. The neighbor’s house wasn’t touched and no one was hurt. The wind was still blowing strong so we all went back inside.

So there you have it. A rogue storm. Lunch one day. Busted roof the next. Betty has more detail about the storm...

Saturday, May 2, 2009

May Day Luncheon

Yesterday we were the guests of Betty and Ron - Ron cooked up steelhead trout and steak in their outdoor kitchen. We also had Betty’s yummy red potato and green pea side dish bathed in béchamel sauce and a crisp green salad. Dessert was strawberry shortcake and the strawberries were plump and juicy. The weather was warm and sunny…just right for dining al fresco.

Betty’s garden is blooming like crazy and the veggie starts in our sunroom are growing like weeds.

The flowering plants in the sunroom are thriving in the warmer weather and they all look so happy. (Yes, Teresa, that's our bromeliad in the corner - doesn't she look good?!)

Our private little paradise gives Sitka plenty of room to run after her ball and chase the little squirrels.

Mike is feeling stronger and Salem feels like home.

Friday, May 1, 2009


It’s gotten close to home. Maybe. A student at Western Oregon University (in Monmouth, about 15 miles southwest of Salem) tested positive for influenza and there is a high probability that it is H1N1. (I like that name better. It sounds so science fictiony…) So the school is closed today and all sporting events to be held on campus have been cancelled through Monday.

Other than that, I’m not aware of any other concerns about H1N1 in our area. I haven’t seen any masks or anything else that indicates people are doing anything other than their normal activities.

It does kind of creep me out knowing that people are dying from the flu. But Bliss does give some interesting stats about flu...What's happening in YOUR area?