Oregon Trail

Location: Oregon, United States

Saturday, March 24, 2007


For a change, this entry will be all about Paul. Otherwise known as Skip, if you have any connection to New Ulm, Radke's, Schluter's, and maybe Gustavus.

Yesterday, Paul went to work as usual and went about his day. At about 10 a.m., he was going in to a meeting when his boss said it could wait, and that he needed to come with her to meet with someone else. Now, things have been changing a lot at his office, and being called away from your regular routine means something is up, big time. So Paul lost all the spit in his mouth and his pupils dilated, and it was all he could do not to panic, like any normal person would do at a time like this. His boss saw the classic signs of terror, and comforted him by saying, "It's okay, it's a good thing. Don't worry." Now, if this had been Paul saying, "Don't worry, everything is fine," no one would listen, because he tends to minimize emergencies. But his boss is trustworthy in this regard and he was able to function well enough to follow her to the meeting.

The intricacies of the meeting you will have to get from Paul, since I glazed over about five minutes into his explanation of what happened. The gist was this: he is getting a BIG promotion, more responsibility, more management opportunity, and, *gasp*, a salary increase to match. I think he went into shock after that, and was probably good for $0.00 per hour for the remainder of the day, although he did say he had one or two really good ideas that he was able to articulate. Their bad for telling him so early in the day. He has the weekend to recover and should be functional again by Monday.

So, KUDOS to Paul! We are proud of you!!!

Saturday, March 17, 2007


HomePlate is the drop in center for youth that I have been involved with since June. I started out as a regular volunteer, then added outreach work, then the steering committee. The Coordinator is also a Gustavus grad - we have hit it off beautifully - our approach and outlook to working with youth is very similar, and we have dreams of making HomePlate a full time drop in center.

This is another one of those things that has been interesting to watch unfold. When we considered moving out here, one of my criteria was that I would be able to find meaningful work that I could enjoy. My presumption was that I would be working in downtown Portland. After we got here, I realized that was going to be a 45 min commute each way, and part time hours were going to be hard to find. Then I found the job I currently have, which I totally enjoy, is in our county, and now that the Safe Haven has opened up, my office is about five minutes away.

But I didn't want to lose the youth piece, so I have continued with HomePlate, cautiously watching to see if it was going to be too much. So far so good. The other night, we had another Steering Committee meeting and began discussing our need for an Executive Director. As soon as the topic came up, I lost all the spit in my mouth. This is one of my signals that I am supposed to DO something. But good Lord, Executive Director? So I waited it out. We decided to come up with a job description. Bing, bing bing, right down the line - things I was already doing or would be happy to do. Then the qualifications. Again, you might as well just put my name in the slot. But no one was looking at me funny, so I knew I was the only one thinking this was a tailor-made job for me. Then the kicker - how many hours do we think this would take per week? 2 - 5. Is that all? So what's the fuss? I can do THAT! So I said something like, "I would like to put my name in as a candidate for that position." And everyone nearly fell off their chairs because this is a need that has been around for a long time and we were thinking we'd have to advertise, and it would take months more, and here I am just sitting in the room going, "Well, duh, I can do that." So I'm in, and we changed the title to Co-coordinator to reflect the partnering element of the role, and it is very, very cool. Hurrah!

Friday, March 16, 2007

Talking to strangers, Model Cars

Talking to Strangers. You know how your mom always told you to never talk to strangers? Well, I have been thinking about that a lot lately with my job and then my life. It's my job to approach strangers that may be homeless, start a conversation with them, get to know them, etc. etc. It's not the kind of thing your mom would encourage. 80% of the people I talk to are under the influence, 30% are mentally ill, most have a police record of some sort. The weird thing is, once you get comfortable talking to strangers, it's hard to stop. I was at the grocery store the other day, going about my shopping, and this guy came up and started talking to me. It became apparent very quickly that he was mentally ill and I thought to myself, "What? Now strangers are coming up and talking to me?" But not five minutes later, I started a conversation with another stranger in the checkout line. Aaaa! Turn me off! Disclaimer: Do not try this at home. These stunts are performed by trained professionals in a wide variety of situations.

Model Cars. William had to assemble a model car for Basic Auto class. It was a great idea, as it really helped to grasp how each part interacted with the whole. BUT, William doesn't DO small motor, which means Paul was enlisted to help (he used to make models when he was a kid, so a natural choice). Then Paul left for North Carolina, and it was up to me to help. I have determined that making models is not my favorite past time. In fact, I find it utterly maddening, frustrating, and INFURIATING! Not to mention BORING!! Gah! How could anybody want to do this for fun?! The pieces stick together only long enough for you to think you've really got it made. You let it sit out to dry for some time. Then, you go to add the next series of pieces and suddenly, PING! PING! PING! A bunch of pieces from the last session fall off. Ugh! The only way this could be remotely fun would be if the glue was toxic and toasted your brain. Hey! That's what was missing! We were using safe glue!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Random note about food

I went to a conference last week with a number of co-workers from my agency. We were supposed to be on our own for our meal, so when the time came to decide where to eat, I was curious to see what we would end up with.

When we came out here with Paul's company in December to scout out the area, Paul ended up feeling sick, so I was on my own with all his co-workers. When it came time to decide where to eat, I said, "Well, if anyone is going ethnic or spicy, count me in on that group." There was no ethnic or spicy cohort, so we went for Italian instead. Good food and company, but not ethnic or spicy. Sigh. The next day, everyone wanted pizza, which is like torture to me because we have pizza every Friday at home. Fortunately, there was a Russian deli next door to the pizza place and I was able to get some pierogis (sp?). Yea!

So I was holding my breath when it was time to pick a place to eat with my co-workers. The conversation went something like this: Where should we eat? I don't care, just not fast food. Exactly. No fast food, and certainly not McDonald's. Yep, and the more vegetables, the better. Well, I know of a Mongolian grill not too far from here. Ooo, Mongolian is good - let's try that. So off we went to find the restaurant. It couldn't be found, so we also considered Japanese (they were closed) and ended up at an authentic Mexican restaurant. On the way, we talked about our different food experiences - chicken legs, fish eyeballs, 100 year eggs, Turkish food. I just had to laugh - you know I'm happy when the discussion is about whether or not chicken legs and fish eyeballs are good eating. :)

Monday, March 05, 2007


Fair Warning: This entry is all about me, so if you want to know what is going on in the rest of the family's life you will have to wait for another entry.

Last weekend was my dear friend Kristen's birthday. After a flurry of phone calls and negotiations a couple of weeks ago, I had a ticket to Minnesota in hand for the party.

If you are at all in touch with Minnesota weather, you will know that they got walloped with snow twice last week. I was scheduled to change planes in Phoenix and was pretty darn sure I would be spending the weekend there instead. Thankfully, the snow had been cleared enough by the time we were scheduled to come in so our plane took off on time and we got there with no trouble at all. Susie picked me up and we went to her boyfriend Jason's house and had dinner so we could meet and get to know each other a bit. For the record, I approve. :)

After dinner, Susie took me to my sister's new house, which is totally beautiful and looks out over a wooded lot near Bush Lake. Mircea and I played a quick game or two of ping-pong (he beat me by two points) while Teddy followed Talley everywhere she went. Teddy is absolutely gorgeous, with eyelashes that could create a wind current, and he is talking up a storm, so he is fun.

The next morning, Mircea went to Sofitel and got us fresh croissants for our morning treat. Then we played with Teddy some more - by this time he had decided I was safe, so while I sat on the floor, he repeatedly pushed me over and belly laughed. It was a beautiful, sunny, winter day, so we went sledding as well - another activity Teddy totally enjoys - and a great work out to boot! Then off to a really great Indian buffet at Tandoor. I haven't found really great Indian food here in Oregon (unless it costs a fortune), so this was a treat. After lunch, they dropped me off at the Powell's house. Our time was way too short and sweet, so I cried as we parted and couldn't straighten up fast enough to be composed when Kristen and Bethany answered the door. So I started my time with them by crying for a bit - oh, well.

John had said he could get the party together on his own, so we decided that we should make ourselves scarce in order to facilitate that. We decided to go shopping just for fun and accomplished our mission. John had said that another one of dear friends, Dana, was planning to arrive early in order to help organize the party, so we arranged to be home a little early in order to have time with her. When we walked in the house, Kristen went first and then I waited a second and followed quietly. Poor Dana almost went into shock and started crying, so I cried right along with her. (Crying along with people is a gift of mine, I think.) It was wonderful to catch up with her, as we haven't kept up our contact as much as we used to.

After a bit, people started arriving for the party. It was a riot to watch their faces as they recognized me, said hello, then did a double-take/jaw drop when they realized how out of context I was. After a few of these encounters, I decided to be the doorman so that they could get over their shock and move on to enjoy the party. I truly had a great time - what a great way to see everyone. Thank you, John and Kristen.

Sunday, we got up and exchanged ideas for brunch - a miracle! John and I had both had the great idea of going for Dim Sum. Psych! So we stuffed ourselves, then came back, listened to the girls play cello and piano, and played a quick board game until they had to bring me to the airport. Again, really hard to leave, but we are planning to meet up with them this summer in the Grand Canyon, so that helped.

My trip home was ... interesting. The flight left from MN a bit late, which made my connection in Phoenix pretty darn tight. I touched base with the flight attendant and the best she could do was recommend I move as close as possible to the front and make a run for it when we got in. Gosh, thanks! So I made my way forward and ended up sitting between two really nice women, one of whom spoke about the loss her family has experienced as a result of Katrina. Heavy stuff, but good. The other gal worked for the airline and was able to call in when we landed. She found out my connecting flight was leaving 10 minutes late and told me which gate to go to. Cool! I still ran for it - why is it that I can run and run on the road, but you put me in a situation where I have to run and I feel like I'm going to keel over? Must be the adrenaline rush... I hope I never have to run to save my life or someone else's... Wheeze, gasp.

I made my flight, got in to Portland around 10:30 p.m. and hopped on MAX to make my way home. Random side note: Downtown, about 15 youth with bicycles got on the train. They started talking to a couple who asked them which hills they were going down and they talked for a bit. Evidently, there is this whole sub-culture out there that joy-rides down these massive hills in the dark on their bikes. They got off en masse at Washington Park to ride hills there. Yowsa. About half-way home, I realized that the train wasn't going all the way to our city. By this time it was about 11:30 p.m., so I decided to take a bus from the Transit Center. Trains, planes, buses and automobiles. This is nuts.

I wasn't feeling particularly safe at this hour - the only female in sight, with a suitcase, and knowing darn well I would faint if I had to run. Some guy had overheard my conversation with Paul as I arranged for him to meet me at the bus stop vs. the MAX station and then I thought how freaking stupid that was and toyed with changing my plans again just to be safe. But I got on the bus and decided to play it by ear. Two stops later, another guy gets on and I nearly fell over - it was one of my clients! My clients are the best people to have around at that hour - street smart, know the ropes, and watching my back. Nice!

So the short of it is, I had an AWESOME weekend. It was really hard to be there and not do EVERYTHING and not see EVERYONE and only spend a little time with the few people I did see, but it was totally worth it, and I can't thank everyone enough for the time I had with you. Thank you, John and Kristen for facilitating a really great time for me!