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Moving on, yet again

Maybe you’ve noticed or maybe you haven’t, but the daughter and I have moved around a lot these last few years.  It’s happening again; our fifth move in three years and I’m terribly conflicted.

Part of my really really really wants to go back to Portland, to the city I know and love with restaurants I enjoy, cheap movie theaters, the big ol’ downtown library, friends who have made me feel loved and my son, yes, I’ll be near my son again. {Really near, in fact, like living under the same roof again.}

People joke about how your kids will grow up, move out and then move back in again when they realize they can’t afford to live on their own. Ours just happens to be the opposite situation where Mom realized she can’t afford to live on her own.


Wait, that’s not where this was supposed to go… So I am glad to be going home to the Pacific Northwest, full of clean air and forests and rivers.  My lungs will be happy, too. They are the reason I finally said Yes, I’ll go back. I’ll give up the job I enjoy at a wonderful company. I’ll give up the sunshine and warm air if I can just breathe again without hurting. If my daughter and I can go a whole month without either of us being sick, I’ll take the rain. I will. 

You see, it’s been months of breathing problems and I’m not willing to let it become years. The daughter has missed weeks of school with all the illnesses, all of them validated by my own eyes. The girl has been sicker than I’ve ever seen her; both of us have been bedridden for days with coughs, fevers, vomiting and, the ever-popular, general malaise.  And on more than one occasion.

My lungs hurt to breathe in deeply. I avoid laughing because it’ll make me cough uncontrollably, gasping for air. Walking up the stairs to our second-story apartment makes me wheeze. I can feel the difference in my lungs if the air is being re-circulated in the car or being brought in fresh.

It’s bad, uncomfortable, painful, disappointing. It totally sucks.

In four weeks, I’m packing up a UHaul and heading north again. Away from sunshine and blue skies. Away from smog so thick it hides the mountains.

In ways, I’m so very very glad. Like I said, I’ll be near friends and family and a city I know and love. But there is an overwhelming guilt about moving yet again. I’d planned to stay for the rest of my daughter’s high school years. Stay here until she graduated. I had the best intentions and instead I’m asking her gently to please at least think about packing. Again. Please do this for my health and for your own. Asking your child to sacrifice, knowing they’ve already had to sacrifice so much to follow your hopes and dreams to SoCal, is so much harder than I want it to be. I want her with me. I want her healthy. I want her to be happy.  It just doesn’t seem like there is one place that can do it all.

The push-and-pull between all the things I want and need and all the thing she wants and needs is tough and the answers aren’t easy. Each time I’ve moved us, I though it was for the best…a place of our own, an extended family, away from the relationship drama, to a good job, back to healthy air… but it’s yet to work out as I had so earnestly hoped.

Nonetheless, here we go again. Packing for another move, another adventure. Another notch in the belt and another reason to be angry.

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Christmas in SoCal

This was a weird Christmas for us: the first when our trio wasn’t together and our first as a duo in Southern California. So we did something new and different.

I’m lucky enough to have my sister live just down the street, so on Christmas Eve, we went to her (bigger and nicer) home and made goodies together. I used my trusty old Good Housekeeping cookbook for the ginger snaps and the recipe Grandma Coates used every Christmas to make butterhorns. 20131227-194426.jpg

Both batches of Butterhorns turned out just beautifully and everyone who tasted them agreed that they tasted delicious. I don’t know, personally, because they are full of all sorts of gluten. I’d like to think that Grandma would be proud to have her Christmas tradition continue. 20131227-194441.jpg

But then there were the gingersnaps. The recipe called for shortening and unfortunately we only had butter. No one really wanted to try going to the store at 8pm on Christmas Eve, so we stuck with the butter. Probably not the best decision I’ve ever made. 20131227-194500.jpgI hear they tasted fine, but with no snap at all and almost the entire sheet made up one massive cookie. Sorry, folks, no gingersnaps this year.

Meanwhile my sister made truffles from my own recipe I’d given her years ago and while the ganache cooled, we watched A Christmas Story. Again. Yet I still haven’t read the book like I swear I will each time we watch it. Maybe I’ll get to it this year? Doubtful, but you never know!


Traditionally onChristmas Eve we go out to my parents’ house and sleep over, but considering they’re in Oregon, the daughter and I just went home after the movie and wrapped a few last minute presents before heading to bed. Strange, yet not too bad.

We’d agreed to let my sister sleep in, but by 8:30 a.m.she was texting me to say her kids were more than ready to go, so we scrambled over there, opened gifts and saved the best for last.

A few weeks ago, I came up with what I thought would be the perfect gift for my daughter who likes to complain how we have no pictures or videos of her (in truth, she’s the second kid and I was newly divorced…). In fact, we have lots of photos of her, but not with me here in CA. I wasn’t even sure where they were when I called my son to see if he could help out. I wanted to put together a photo book of her life so far, but was swamped–could he do it for me? He didn’t even pause before giving me a resounding Yes! and he even had the big ol’ box of photos at his house. It was like a little Christmas miracle.

Over the next two weeks, he got more than a hundred photos scanned and designed the photo book for her, getting input from me via chat, text messages and phone calls during my commute. It was all very secretive and it totally worked.

Christmas morning came and I called my son via FaceTime so he could see as she opened the present, a thousand miles away from him. And he took photos to record the moment (while I took a screenshot).


Seriously, it was the best Christmas I’ve had in a while thanks to her being happy with the gift and the joy of technology bring us together in new and different ways. I miss that kid, but it was really fabulous getting to see him (even if it was on a little screen!).

We finished up the morning by making yet another mess in the kitchen (which my BIL was so kind to just keep cleaning up after us) and made homemade marshmallows using  the delicious Martha Stewart recipe. I’ve made this a few times, but don’t attempt it unless you have a KitchenAid mixer. A hand mixer will never go fast enough and 15 minutes on high would kill the motor anyway. Believe me, I’ve tried. But luckily my sister has a KitchenAid, so we put it to work.


After finishing the marshmallows and divvying up the goodies, we grabbed one pic of all of us and parted ways, with the daughter and I heading out to the desert to visit a friend, and my sister’s family heading to the in-laws. And no, I have no idea why the little one has to look so stone-faced in every single photo I ever take of him. He really is a pretty happy kid, I swear! 20131227-194617.jpg

One of my best buddies from Portland grew up in this neck of the woods and while she’s always headed down “to the desert” for Christmas with her family, it wasn’t until we got out there to visit her this time that I realized quite what she was talking about.

We drove into Lancaster area just as the sun was setting behind us creating an ombre effect in the sky that I really couldn’t catch on camera, but it was mind-blowing. Part of me wanted to stop the car and just stare at all that sky, but the part that wanted to get out to her parents’ house before it was pitch-black won out and we kept on driving.


We wasted away the night chatting, playing games, having some dinner and basically just interrupting their family time, but the next morning (after a breakfast of donuts they bought special for my daughter–so nice!) we headed out for some desert tourism. 20131227-195506.jpgPretty much, it all looks the same. Mile after desolate mile.

But I found the Joshua Trees enchanting. When we’d driven in at nigh, we thought they were cactus and were super excited to see them. Turns out they are a tree instead and a rare one at that. There are all sorts of laws and permit-getting that surround the trees growing and being cut down (a huge no-no) because they survive in only a couple places and take pretty much forever to grow that big.


This is actually in Jaymee’s cousin’s front yard. I was cruel and joked about the lovely landscaping, but seriously, you actually can’t really grow stuff here. You could lay out sod (and she says they’re considering it) but the cost of water to keep it would be ridiculous and besides, grass wasn’t made to grow in the desert. (Frankly, I’m not sure people were either!)

We learned in the backyard that tumbleweed is a real thing and sharp. I only saw one actually tumbling down the road, but there were stories tossed around of tumbleweeds as tall as a man, blocking traffic and frequently causing trouble in the area. After seeing the odd plants, I tend to believe the stories. 20131227-194758.jpg

We visited a couple of movie sets, including this one (Club Ed). It was made for a Dennis Hopper movie, but continues to be used for all sorts of things including something to do with Kim Kardashian. Supposedly she was there just last week, but since it was Boxing Day, the place was empty except for the security guy who just stared menacingly at us as we tromped around taking photos.



The whole place looked like something right out of the first season of Breaking Bad with meth lab trailers and abandoned houses. (But really, can you believe how blue that sky is?!)20131227-194841.jpg

We drove a little further to take a look around the 4 Aces movie set which was featured in the odd little movie, Rubber, and numerous music videos, commercials and films. We grabbed a quick selfie before the security guard there made us leave and took aim for the small town of Little Rock and the infamous Charlie Brown’s Farm.


There we found all sorts of new creations, including deep-fried Twinkies, Mounds bars, Snickers, and pickles. And they clearly need some lessons on being couth because that ad for the rice bowls makes me more than a tad uncomfortable. Yikes. 20131227-194928.jpg

They did have the most delicious Mango smoothie ever though, so that made me like them a little bit. And someone knew what her hat meant which made us both happy after the fellow at the counter asked her if she liked playing golf. 20131227-194940.jpg

Honestly, Charlie Brown’s Farm was one of the stranger places I’ve been to stateside with room upon room of oddities. We bought little matte marbles and a Native America-style painted wolf, alongside chili-cheese fries and the mango smoothie. They offered plenty more, but I think the doll rooms took the cake as the oddest part of the place. 20131227-194956.jpg

And this little guy one as the creepiest doll I have ever seen or ever hope to see. I just keep wondering Why? Who? WTF?20131227-195005.jpg

We didn’t stick around long, eating our lunch outside under the watchful eye of these concrete dinosaurs and flirting tigers. If you look closely to the left of the dino, you’ll see a pterodactyl swooping in, as well. Yeah, it was a weird place.20131227-195025.jpg

But weird is often memorable and I’m pretty sure this trip out to the desert is gonna stick with us for a while. In fact, we’re already planning to head back out to see Vasquez Rocks.


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Making the move.

Sometimes I need a good swift kick in the pants and now seems to be one of those times. To be honest, I’ve had a somewhat rough go of it the last eight months, wondering just what the point was if I couldn’t have the things that made me happy. Then I saw this on Instagram and clung to it:

I knew what wasn’t making me happy but wasn’t quite sure what would. I re-started the Sewing for Orphans campaign and got some sponsors, made more dresses, cheered on other sewists and sent more clothes. That whole project can only make me smile, really, so it is a great thing for me to do and I’m just gonna keep on doing it as long as there are orphans to clothe and I can get the help to ship the dresses, shorts, tees and more to them.

But I needed more. A good shake-up at life. So with a little impetus, I decided to move to southern California to be near my little sister. The whole thing took about a month to figure out and then it was a done deal.

I asked my dad to fix up my little car enough to get us there. Instead he found me a new(er) car and loaned me the money to get it now.


The little white Escort, affectionately known as Ooben thanks to its license plate, has gotten me through a lot over the past nine years, but it was time to retire. So now I have this cute little silver Focus. Totally basic, but I love it.

Then I quit my job at the trade magazine and instead spend the next week teaching these sweethearts to sew in the morning …


and packing everything I own into a storage unit in the evening …


By the time I closed up the storage unit yesterday morning, there wasn’t an inch to spare. It’s stacked high and all the way to the door.And there was still stuff I couldn’t fit in–my desk, our TV, dressers, couch. We’ll be replacing all of it except the TV, which we managed to fit into the back of our car. :)

Then we hit the road, my daughter and I, for a three-day drive to Los Angeles, first along the Oregon Coast, through Sacramento and down I-5 until we reach my sister’s home sometime on Saturday evening.

20130628-071238.jpgIt’s an adventure and it makes me hopeful and happy.