Oregon Trail

Location: Oregon, United States

Monday, August 28, 2006


I think I've figured out how to post pictures, so here are a few of the house. I don't have the formatting piece down yet, but here goes anyway. The first picture is the front of the house. The second is our courtyard, which will someday have a fountain, more plants and a sitting area (think decompression zone from a hard day's work). The third is our living/dining room area and the fourth is the view of the greenspace from our deck.


It's official, we've decided we are a dog-lovin' family and can't live without one. So, not even 24 hours after Sundae had died, Paul was looking online to see if there were any dogs that might work for us. The kids were ready, Paul was ready, and I was still crying but willing to look. Then we actually found one that seemed to be a match! What are you going to do, let her sit in the shelter? Heck, no! So we called about her, asked a few questions, and arranged to "meet" her Saturday.

Saturday, we went up to the shelter (in Washington, about an hour away) and met her. We worked really hard to be objective and say we were only checking her out but we were failing badly. Thomas said, "If she comes up to me and licks me on the face, we have to bring her home." So, as soon as we brought her out to the play area, she ran up to Thomas and licked him in the face and we knew we were goners. Then she found every ball and stick available and wanted to play. She was friendly, appeared healthy, and after less than five minutes of deliberation, we decided to keep her.

Her name is Sasha, which means "helpmate". She is about a year and a half "retriever mix", which could mean anything, but she appears to be black lab mixed with spaniel, border collie, or setter. We've decided that she is a combination of Sundae (because she is smart and snuggly), Daisy, my sister's dog (because she's kind of silly/kooky), and my nephew, Teddy (because they are both crazy about balls. His favorite phrase was "The ball? The ball? The ball?" for quite a while). She loves typical lab things (like playing with balls) and sticks and hanging her head out of the window. She prefers several balls at a time with one in her mouth while she frantically tries to catch the others. She has found Stephen's stockpile of sticks in the back yard and romps around with them. She is housebroken (whew!) and smart and is learning our ways quickly, although she has NO idea how to 'heel' and believes she belongs on the bed at night. And she snores. She's already catching on to sleeping on the floor, but I may have to live with the snoring. Ugh. I've brought her to the vet for an initial check up and she is indeed healthy, already spayed, and weighs 57 pounds (all muscle). We believe she will fit right in and are looking forward to getting to know her.

We are by no means done grieving for Sundae. Everything was so sudden, and there was no time to say goodbye. We've talked about it as a family, and plan to make a stepping stone in her honor and put it in the yard where she used to sit and watch the world go by. Hopefully, that will bring us some of the closure we need. In the meantime, between getting to know Sasha, getting ready for school, and life in general, we are doing alright.

Friday, August 25, 2006


Well, this is awful. Sundae died last night at about 6:00. Here's what happened:

I was getting ready to go to HomePlate, where I volunteer with at-risk youths. Paul and William had gone to the store to get some dinner. As I got my purse, Sundae saw a dog in the greenspace and started running around the house barking - she does this, partly to notify us of an intruder and partly because she wants to go play with the dog. I told her to leave it, which is our classic response to this behavior, and kept heading for the door. She followed me, still excited, and went to jump up on me to beg me to let her go play. I said, no we're going to leave it, and put my knee up, which she knows means don't jump up on me, so she backed down.

Right when she backed down, she faltered and kind of fell over. I thought she had thrown out her back on the tile, so I waited a second for her to calm down and then went over to her. She tried to get up a couple times, then did, walked a couple more steps and then collapsed completely and her tongue turned blue.

I called a local pet hospital and told them I was having a medical emergency with my dog and they referred me to an emergency pet hospital. I called them and they talked me through CPR for her and gave me the number of another pet hospital where I could bring her. The CPR helped her tongue turn pink again, but I couldn't hear her heartbeat. I wasn't sure whether that was just because I was shook up, or if it really wasn't there.

Meanwhile, Thomas and Stephen came out of their room to see what was going on. When they realized it was serious, they started weeping and wailing as loud as possible and pleading for Sundae to come back. Not helpful. I got Thomas to straighten up long enough to get Paul on his cell phone and tell him to come home immediately, which he did.

Once Paul got back, we tried to figure out what to do. I had been giving CPR, but was pretty sure it wasn't working. Plus, how can you get a good chest compression on a dog that doesn't lay flat on her back? She kept tipping over, and I had to lean her up against the wall... The pet hospitals we had been referred to were over 25 minutes away, she'd already been out for way too long even if they could revive her, the kids were a mess and there weren't enough grownups to go around.

We decided to see if one of our neighbors who is a nurse had a stethoscope, but she didn't. Then Paul had a brainstorm and went to another neighbor that has a dog and asked for a vet referral. The vet they use is very nearby and was open until 8. He volunteered to drive while I continued the CPR and his wife called them to let them know we were coming.

When we got there, after a minute in the waiting area (Ugh!), they ushered Sundae and I back and listened for her heartbeat. There was none, which is what I thought, but still...

The vet and I discussed what had happened and he said that every once in a while, a dog that appears perfectly healthy will have a heart defect that goes undetected and they just die like this. So the wind up is, she just had a massive heart attack, and there was nothing we could have done. She was only about 5 years old.

So those are the facts. Emotionally, we are a bit of a mess. It was way too fast and there was no way to say goodbye (being a social worker, I am planning on some sort of 'closure ceremony' so we can do a better job of saying goodbye). This has been a bit of a "banner year" for us. If you start from exactly one year ago here are a few big things that have happened: I went to China. The day I got home, we found out that Paul's office was closing down and we had to decide between moving or severence, we came to Portland to check it out, we felt totally peaceful about making the move, I had to quit my job, we said goodbye to absolutely everybody and cried our eyes out, we moved, the kids transitioned into new schools, we found out William has Crohn's, my mom has been sick, Paul's mom may have a tumor in her brain and now the dog has died. Any way you look at it, that's a lot.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Summer's End

Less than two weeks until school starts. William and Stephen don't want to talk about it and refer to school as "the 's' word". We got a desk for Stephen's room and he said he wanted to use it to "study". I said that was the whole reason we had gotten it for him, so he could have a quiet place to do homework. "No, I'm only using it to study my dragons and Egyptian stuff! I'm not doing homework here!" Okaaay, we'll see about that. Best just to let it be at that point. Once school starts, he'll mellow out. I hope. For now, though, we are walking on eggshells while we shop for school supplies and begin moving bedtime back to a reasonable hour. Yikes.

License plates for the van. See "Red Tape Days" for the background on this lovely process. So, the last time I wrote about this, we needed to have "code 46518" (or whatever) dealt with in order to pass the emissions test because the engine light stays on. I had told the worker there that we'd had that checked and I understood that nothing was wrong. He got all in a wad and said he couldn't understand how people could say there is nothing wrong when it's obviously a code 46518 and needed to be dealt with. So I agreed to bring the van to a mechanic to have the situation addressed.

Fortunately, one of our neighbors has a shop nearby, (but he only works on axles and brakes - not emissions), but recommended another independent guy in the shop next to him. Yah, Hortnagl is his name und he iss vrom ze olt kountree (Austria, that is). So I brought the car to him and he cleared the code for free and said drive it around for a couple of days. If the light comes back on, we need to deal with it. One day later, the light comes back on. By this time, we are entertaining out of town guests at full tilt, so we don't have time to bring the van back for a while. I finally do, explaining that the light had come back on, and could he please de-gunk it or whatever the next step is and let me know how it goes. He does, for a very reasonable price, finds nothing wrong (does this sound familiar?) and says drive it around for a couple of days to see if the light comes back on. Which it does.

I call him again and say the light is back on. He says that this means the sensor is broken and needs to be replaced. A common problem with this car, but one that can be fixed. So we bring it in and have the sensor replaced. This really ticks me off, because there is NOTHING WRONG WITH THE CAR, which I already knew but old dude at the DEQ won't believe me and I just spent over $200 to have it fixed so I can bring it back, pass the emissions test, and sit at the DMV for another 2 - 6 hours just to get a license plate with a picture of a tree on it! RAHR!!!

Finding a dentist. Speaking of rants, here's another one. I decide it is time to set ourselves up with a dentist, mostly because Thomas is developing fangs in his upper gums and it is probably time to start thinking orthodontist. Or garlic around our necks, but we'll go with the orthodontist first. So I find a place nearby and call them. The first question I ask is, "Are you accepting new patients?" "Yes, we are." Second question, "Do you accept our insurance (which is Aetna)?" "Yes, we do." Great, I'd like to set up an appointment. I go through the entire process, names, birthdays, insurance numbers for each member of the family. This takes a while. Then the gal calls me back as she had forgotten to write down our phone number (she used *69 to call me back). Then she calls me again to get our address. I'm beginning to wonder if this was a good idea. Maybe they haven't had any new patients in about five years...but she quits calling and we have an appointment set.

The next day, someone from the office calls Paul, thinking he is Thomas, to see if it would be possible to make his appointment at an earlier time. Paul puts us on a conference call, then disconnects us, so I call the dentist's office back and move the appointment. A few hours later, I receive another call from the dentist's office saying they were verifying our insurance and determined that we would be out of network. See above. Wasn't the second question I asked, "Do you accept our insurance?" Evidently, there are two separate plans within Aetna, and we have the one that doesn't work with this office. Probably just as well, these people were making me nervous.

Cell phone. I had to have my cell phone number changed to a local area code. My plan would have let me keep the old number, but last year, William's case manager had to use her cell phone to contact me because the school phones wouldn't allow her to dial long distance. This was strangely sad for me. More closure, more finality, more permanence here. Sigh.

Kitchen. Cabinets will be installed September 14th. I found a table that goes where the refrigerator was, but it had a support bar right in the middle underneath. I wanted my garbage cans to go under there, so I took out the bar and moved it to the back. This was a very big deal for me - I was so nervous that I would drill the holes wrong or something - but I didn't and I even successfully used a countersink. Cool.

Moms. Paul's mom is giving us a scare this week, as she had a seizure-like episode when she was at coffee with her friends on Monday. She is undergoing tests to determine what happened. It is weird for us to be all the way out here and not able to do A THING. Maddening.

My mom has been sick(er) since the day we left. She rallied for a little while, then started feeling worse again with both pain in her chest/lungs and intestinal issues. She is scheduled to see a gastroenterologist in September. The pain in her chest is being addressed with antibiotics. Again, really hard not to be there, and especially maddening because I keep reminding her to sign a release of information so I can get in on the loop, but she forgets. Ugh!

That's all for now! Thanks for listening!

Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Last Visitor

We have just finished a week with Paul's mother, Anita, and had a great time. More sight seeing - some of the same things like Cannon Beach and Multnomah Falls, but some new things too like the Saturday Market and Astoria. Some highlights:

Eating outside on a terrace at a restaurant in Cannon Beach. This is normally no big deal, but we chose to eat outside because we had the dog along and were not comfortable leaving her in the car at the back of the restaurant. Then the temperature started to drop, and we got blankets and sweatshirts out of the car and scooted closer to the heater. Still cold, but we are from Minnesota and have camped in worse than this, right? William finally got warm enough to give up the blanket he was using and Anita nearly snatched it out of his hand to wrap herself up in it. Okay, so it was really cold.

Five mountain view. Okay, maybe three. Or two. Paul swears he saw all five, but it was pretty iffy. We found out about a viewpoint at the top of Larch Mountain where, on a clear day, you can see five snow capped peaks. It is a beautiful area with a brief hike and a lookout point. We saw Mount Adams and Mount Hood for sure, and we'll do it another day to see the others when it is actually clear. (There have been forest fires on Mount Hood lately, and it has been hazy for about a week).

Blueberry/blackberry picking. We found a "U-pick" blueberry place about a mile away from us - 75 cents per pound! So we picked about four pounds and froze most of them. Then we came home and picked at least four more pounds of blackberries for free in our greenspace. Okay, not for free - we paid with our own blood, literally. I have scratches on my stomach (?), arms and legs and I was wearing a thick long sleeved shirt and jeans. Dang! But I made pie out of both berries, very nearly duplicating the best pie I ever ate at Rick Orred's mom's house when I was in college. Totally worth it.

I have been dreading the day that Anita goes home more than anyone else's parting because she is our last scheduled visitor for the summer. Therefore, from now on we are truly on our own. I have very mixed feelings about this. On one hand, I am confident we will make it. The kids will start school, establish friendships and join activities. I will (hopefully) find a job and be able to plug in some more in the community. On the other hand, I have a very real sense of anxiety about being alone out here with no one to really talk to. Communication with people from home comes and goes in spurts, and feels like it is tapering off - maybe not, but when I'm feeling anxious/lonely, I am sure everyone is busy and can't write. And "winter" is coming, with rain and more rain. How will I be with that? There is no way to know until we live through it. So while I am hopeful about our future here, I am anxious to see how it will all come together.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

This Week with the Radke's

This week has been full of puttering around, doing things that need to be done. The main motivation for this has been the sudden realization that it is FREAKING AUGUST already!!! If I get a job, I will not have as much time for all this puttering around! Scary! So get a move on.

So, I've fixed the toilet in the master bath, which was running and running. This is a very big deal for me because I generally shy away from plumbing. Just way too many things to go wrong, all involving water and a mess, and the thought of it gives me a headache. But thanks to the internet, I was able to figure out what the problem was, buy the part, and replace it. AMAZING! Well, okay, it doesn't run and run anymore, but now it only flushes completely every other time. It still needs a little tweaking, I guess.

I also moved some plants around in an effort to save them from the rain free environment.

I've started painting the kitchen, as we have ordered the cabinets and they are due to arrive in a month. (I wanted to paint first, so I wouldn't have to work around them). I am using the same color in the kitchen as I've used in William's room and in the master bath - it is what I call "Paprika Red" - very rich. But also risky and I wasn't sure I would like it. So when I was done, I stood back and took a look. "I LIKE it," I said out loud. Paul piped up from the other room, "When did you decide to paint it that color?" And I'm thinking, "Where has he been? I picked this color out when my folks were here and bought a ton of the paint so I would have enough." I am quite sure we have talked about it, because we did the whole walk around with the paint swatches thing. Hello! So I told him, "I've had it picked out since my folks were here and bought all the paint then." And he replies, "Oh. (Pause.) Because it's kind of turning up all over the place." Which just makes me laugh. And it also makes me want to paint another room that color just to get to him. Ha! But I think it would start to get to me, too, at that point. Later, I find out that he never realized that the paint color in our bedroom (more of a burnt orange) is different than the "paprika red". This makes sense, coming from a person that calls anything in the red family from purple to dark orange "red". I suppose in his mind it is a very subtle difference.

Saturday, we had a very pleasant afternoon with Brad and Teresa Brubaker and their family, who were passing through on their way to her mother's house. It is a bit surreal to be entertaining people from home out here, as it makes us feel like people are still nearby and could just drop in any minute. Ah, well.

Sunday, the whole family went to the church we have been considering. It was a bit loud for William, and he said the guy who gave the sermon was a little enthusiastic (i.e. strange). We pointed out that our pastors back home often gave similar sermons and used some of the same techniques to get their point across. He said, "Yeah, but I know them." So we think that, with time, he will get used to it. Time will tell...

A note about spiders. There are more spiders here than I have ever seen before. They are in the house, outside - everywhere! And there are so many different sizes and colors! I like spiders, because they eat other bugs, so I don't mind having them around. The other day, I saved one that was floundering in the shower stall and put it on the lid of the toilet. When I got out, it was still just laying there, so I got a piece of toilet paper and gently laid it on top of the spider to soak up the extra water. It immediately clung onto the paper, which I set down, and then it proceeded to rub it's belly (in circles) and drag it's legs on the t.p., drying itself off. I've never seen anything like it - fascinating!

Yesterday, I came across a beautiful web in the garden. The sun was shining through it just right and I wanted to see it better, so I got a spray bottle of water and misted it. The spider, who had been sitting in the middle of the web, then ran around to the droplets of water, which promptly disappeared - I think it was drinking them. I suppose if it hasn't rained, there isn't much dew in the morning for them (?). Looks like I've got some learning to do.

In December, when we had come out here to check out the area, I had met with a fellow regarding whether or not I would be able to find work out here. He was very gracious, and invited me to call him when I was ready to look for work. I called him last Thursday, and he returned my call yesterday. He told me he frankly didn't remember me, but believed that he had invited me to contact him, and said that if he'd done that, he must have liked me. So he asked me to send him my resume, we arranged to meet on Wednesday, and hung up. HUGE ADRENALINE RUSH AND PANIC ATTACK!!! I promptly went to the computer and began to compose a letter to him. I wrote one sentence, but it wouldn't indent properly, so I tried to tab over, lost my cursor, and pushed enter, which sent the mail to him. Gaaack!!! What a dork! So I meekly composed another letter, instructed him to disregard the first, and very professionally proceeded to promote my strengths. Which are obviously not in the emailing category. Ah, well, we'll see...

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The Wind-up about everything else

While William's health has been the centerpiece of the last several weeks, life goes on around us and there are other things to update you on.

Church-hunting: I think we may have found a church. While this sounds guarded, I am excited about the possibility. It is called Our Place Church. If you want, you can check out their website at www.ourplacechurch.com. One of the advertisements for the church was: "Your Rockin' Place to Worship!". I thought, "Oh brother, how silly is that?", but the worship DOES rock and God was in it. The message was solid, applicable to today, grounded in solid theology. There are small groups, fellowship groups on Sundays, AND they have a vibrant youth ministry for our kids.

It has been interesting to watch the family get used to the idea of going to a new church. I am anxious to get plugged in - of course, this makes sense, since I am an extrovert and I'm at home all day with the kids. Alone. In the house. All day. All summer. (Can you feel the desperation?) Thomas is also ready to go, and readily came with me the second time I went so he could check out the youth program. Stephen broke down and cried and had a complete fit when I suggested he come as well. When we finally got to the bottom of what was going on, it ends up he didn't want to go because that would mean one more step away from Minnesota, and one more step toward really staying in Oregon. In short, it brought all his grieving to the surface again. So we let him stay back that week. (Once Thomas came back with a good report, Stephen was game to go and loved it the next week.) William isn't in the mood to do anything and really hates Oregon right now so it may be a long road to get him to go at all. And Paul is fine to stay home with him - he prefers to make changes gradually and there have been a LOT of changes lately.

Job hunting: I am beginning the process of looking for a job. It is unreal how nerve-wracking this is for me. I sent in one application and nearly had a heart attack when I put it in the mail. Then I looked into their requirements a little more and I'm not even sure I want it (their focus is very "problem-centered", my training has been "strengths-based" and it may not be a good match). This is disheartening, because it makes me wonder if I will run into this all around the area. If so, that would mean I would need to work in downtown Portland. This is not all bad, in fact there are a couple of jobs I would love there, but travel time would definitely increase and so far everything I've seen is full time. This makes it hard to achieve work/life balance, and I tend to be out of balance already, without the help of a job I love. The short of it is that I need to have wisdom to be able to know where to apply, what hours to work, whether to stay in this area or look downtown, etc. Overwhelming. But NOT working is bad for me. I tend to get into trouble at home because I am bored. Then I start planning projects that we can't afford, and this is even more frustrating to everyone.

Yard/house: Speaking of projects, we are moving forward with the kitchen cabinets. (Don't worry, we can afford this one). This is REALLY EXCITING to me, because right now my pantry is a bookcase, and I am using a portable table for countertop/storage underneath. The fine china is in the hall closet upstairs. Handy!

The garage is also in order - a major feat. Now there is room for the cars, but the garage door is broken and needs an opener.

The yard is challenging! I have a new appreciation for water conservation. It literally hasn't rained since early June and this is normal. Oh, wait, it rained one day in July, and that one day broke the record for monthly rainfall in July. When I planted in late April/May, it was still raining on a daily basis and I had no idea it would be like this. So now I'm running around watering plants just so they will survive. I hate this. I just want to plant stuff and then leave it. So I dug up all my annuals and stuck them in pots, and have limited my watering to the pots and a few newer bushes in order to establish them. I've also been reading a book about sustainable organic gardening in the Northwest and am totally inspired. The only downside is that I have no idea what any of the plants this woman mentions in her book look like, so it is hard to picture it in my head. Even so, I've got a scale drawing of the house drawn up, and have laid out paths and a little rock wall, and an extended patio area, and fruit trees. This would be one of the projects we can't afford right now. But I have a plan, and this makes me happy, and I can pick away at it as we can afford it.

The other amazing thing is the weather! Summer is positively gorgeous most of the time! We've had three bouts of REALLY hot weather in the 100's, but even then the temps get down in the 50's or 60's at night. During the last spell, the kids, the dog, and I slept on our new deck and enjoyed the breezes and NO bugs. For the last week and a half, we've had highs in the 70's. We call this "camping weather", and it makes us happy like we are "up north at the lake". But we are home! Cool.

Crying Days: Okay, let's face it, moving is hard. While we are doing really well here and transitioning as well as can be expected, crying days happen on a regular basis. At first, it was weekly and now it happens about every two to three weeks. I may get an email or phone call from a friend or former co-worker, or one of our guests will go back home and that is hard. (You can still write and/or visit - I just appreciate you more these days!) I consider these days a normal part of the grieving process and am allowing myself to feel the pain for the day and then move on. So far, this seems to be working well. I really missed my friends when William was the sickest. All I wanted to do was go out to coffee with someone, tell you how hard it was, hear everything that was going on in your life, cry and laugh together. And there is no one here I can do that with yet. Bugger. Again, let me stress that you don't have to worry about me - I believe this is NORMAL grieving and it will lessen with time as I get plugged in here. (If it doesn't lessen, then you can call in the mental health police.) :) But I want you to know you are missed.