Back to Germany

We finally made it to Germany again.  It’s been ten years since I’ve been, 19 for Kelly, and first time for the kids.  Germany is like a life time capsule for me since I spent so much time there when I was young.  And going there in ten year increments really puts a spotlight on the passage of time and the significant life changes that transpire over the years.  Several family deaths, births, marriage and divorces.     The most rewarding part of the trip was introducing the kids to family who they had never met and exposing them to a completely different culture, language, history and overall environment.  Hopefully it all leaves a lasting impression on their lives and opens their minds even more to see things differently than they otherwise would have.

The train trip down to Paris for a few days was an interesting twist to the Germany trip too.  None of us spoke French, so we had to navigate the challenges of communication to be able to eat, travel and see the sights.  Even though Paris is only a couple of hours from Nurnberg, it is vastly different in architecture, language, history and culture.  That’s the beauty of Europe; so many cultures and countries in a small geographical space.

The trip was expensive, but I managed to offset some of the cost by juggling the credit card reward points system over the last year.  When I started planning the trip, I Googled “best travel rewards credit cards” and I came up with three:  Barclay’s travel rewards, Chase Sapphire and Chase Reserve.  Between the three cards I was able to amass 250,000 points, which paid for a couple of the round trip tickets.  I was still on the hook for the rest of the plane tickets, train tickets, entertainment, food and lodging.

We all enjoyed the time together, and we spent all the time together.  First in Germany in a one room, six bed hostel, then in Paris in a two room Airbnb.  No downside to the tight space, just upside to being together a lot.  All the kids returned from the trip saying that they can’t wait to get back over there in the near future.

Their first stop inside the old walled city of Nurnberg

Their first stop inside the old walled city of Nurnberg

Outside grandparent's house

Outside grandparent’s house

Cousin and Aunt

Cousin and Aunt

Remnants of the Nazi Party Rally Grounds

Remnants of the Nazi Party Rally Grounds

Beirgarten at Dutzendteich

Beirgarten at Dutzendteich

Folksfest with family

Folksfest with family

Lunch in Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Lunch in Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Frankfurt Train Station to Paris

Frankfurt Train Station to Paris

Arc De Tiomphe

Arc De Tiomphe

Luke's favorite spot - top of the Arc de Triomphe Paris

Luke’s favorite spot – top of the Arc de Triomphe Paris

Enjoying the Musee de Louvre

Enjoying the Musee de Louvre

Rylee and Kelly outside teh Palais du Luxembourge

Rylee and Kelly outside the Palais du Luxembourge

Categories: Family Time, TRAVEL France, TRAVEL Germany | Leave a comment

Busy Summer

I’ll keep it short, just to get a journal entry in…

Work has been insane busy.  This is a good thing in the consulting business, especially following a slow stretch.  Busy bidding work, designing projects, and dealing with staff changes.  Fun times though.  The work is interesting and challenging, and I have a great office downtown.

We have made a lot of progress on fixing the house; more so outside than inside, but we have to take advantage of the sunny days.

Kelly got the exterior painted, which was a two week project with lots of construction repairs and decisions to make.

Tate and I built the fence along with Stephen, a former co-worker.  The fence was a lot of work.  We had to map out all the post locations, auger most of them with a two-man gas auger, and manually dig a few, working around underground obstructions and such.  Three full weekends, 10 am to dark, to the point where Tate had to ask for mercy and I could hardly walk on Mondays.  Good, hard work.

Turned out better than we expected.  Tate and I admire our craftsmanship every time we go outside.  Well earned.

Next up, a locking bike shed in the back, then moving to the interior work.

Otherwise, great summer.  We had a few days above 105.  It was hot, but I sure do appreciate the sun and the heat after our long, cold, wet and icy winter.  No complaints about the heat from me.

Kelly's paint

Kelly’s paint

Fence, day 1

Fence, day 1

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Luke drilling some concrete anchor holes

Luke drilling some concrete anchor holes

Finished back fence

Finished back fence

Categories: Family Time, Homemade, The Homestead | Leave a comment

The 1905 Project

1905 Duplex

1905 Duplex

Well, we bought the duplex, moved into one side of it, and rented the other side to a great set of folks we have met and known now for two years.

This is a massive project since the entire building is a fixer upper.  Fortunately the rented side has been refurbed already though, so that is one exception to the overall redo effort.  We have rotten exterior wood, neglected and missing landscaping, clogged gutters and drains, old carpet, damaged wood floors, missing and broken siding, moss covering the roof, driveway and stairs, in-service knob and tube wiring and old galvanized pipes.  It’s a challenge trying to figure out where to begin.  But, we’ll just dive in and start the work.  I’m sure it will start to come together quickly.

Every one is very pleased so far to be living here.  Kelly is great at projects and the kids are really enjoying the house with all its character.  Moving in was a lot of fun too.  The whole family worked hard to get the U-Haul loaded, unloaded and now setting up the new house.  Our neighbors had a large group of friends helping them move, so they also came and pitched in for a while to help us move in too.  Very generous.

It’s a very interesting old building that was built in 1905.  Lots of great big molding around all the doors and windows.  Old original solid wood interior doors with original door knobs.  Huge walk in basement and walk up attic.  Lots of little turns and levels inside the house.  Great sound when you walk around.  And best of all, lots of potential with the possible projects to improve the place.

Busy days ahead…

Categories: Family Time, Homemade, Money, The Homestead | Leave a comment

Gone

Mom died this morning.

It happened so quickly, but we fortunately had a few days to visit and say goodbye last week.  So many conflicting emotions, memories and what if’s.  Can’t really prepare for this actually happening.

Unbelievable.

A lifetime of interactions and moments shared, all coming back, along with acceptance that there won’t be any new interactions and sharing of new moments, experiences and milestones.

Friends and family reaching out right now helps remind me that this is a normal part of life.

Strange how abruptly life changes.

Categories: Family Time | 2 Comments

Miami 2017

I’m off to Miami today…

Thursday morning.

Unbelievable. Mom went from apparently healthy to hospice in 11 weeks. It can happen fast. Another consistent reminder, if there is something that you want to do or say, move it up.

Everyone is coming together to visit and to support.

So many memories flood back at times like these, when the future runs out for a family member.

Also, we sold the condo this week and bought the duplex.

Categories: Family Time, Learning, TRAVEL Florida | Leave a comment

Enjoy The Good Days

My work took me to Honolulu for a week to work with the utility company in Oahu.  The project came up suddenly, but we were able to also swing having the family come along.  It was a very interesting trip, getting familiar with a utility company that is isolated on a very small island and not interconnected with neighboring large utilities, and getting to know the local island culture.  It was also interesting getting out around the rest of the island with the family to see the people and places outside Honolulu and Waikiki; how they live and where they live.

Kelly did an amazing job of planning activities for the kids while I worked all week.  They got to experience quite a lot on this trip.  I had the first Sunday and last Saturday free, so I completely filled those two days up with outings.  I managed to get a few activities in during the week after work; a couple of hikes, walks through Waikiki, and dinner at local restaurants.  I was planning to skip the Diamond Head hike at sunrise on Saturday morning, but just like with my plan to skip the one last hike at Crater Lake, Kelly talked me into doing this anyway.  She was right.  It was a great hike!

So many situations emerge every day that change our lives, sometimes unexpectedly and suddenly.  Some for the better, some for worse.  Much worse.  We spent the time in Oahu together enjoying the good fortune, each other, and great weather.  When unfortunate situations arise, it’s good to know you fully enjoyed the good days when they were available.

I called my parents form the airport on our way out of town to get the latest updates on current health.  Always evolving.

Pictures from the trip: Pictures

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Sunset at Tantalus Lookout

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Byodo-In Temple in the Valley of The Temples

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Sunrise hike to the top of Diamond Head Crater

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Watching the whales from the Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Lookout

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In the clouds at the Nu-uanu Pali Lookout

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Strange Winter

It has been unusually icy and snowy this winter.  Portland typically has mild winters and only a little snow every few years.  This year, however, it has snowed several times already, and this last time, it snowed for about 24 hours straight, and there was a foot of snow covering everything.  Unfortunately, the city is not set up for snow and ice, so the roads and sidewalks were slippery and traffic and transit was snarled for four days.

I took the train instead of biking since it was so slippery.  I’m glad I got out in the snow.  Downtown looked cool and I had the town almost to myself since most people stayed home.

But, we had a good time.  The first sunny day after the snow, I took off work and shoveled snow with Kelly and walked around the neighborhood looking at all the cars, houses and trees completely covered in fresh white powder.

At the tail end of the four days of below freezing temps, I took a ride out to Multnomah Falls to see what it would look like frozen.  Luke, Rylee and two of Rylee’s friends were excited to come out to see it too.  It was an adventure.  We took the AWD Subaru Crosstrek with snow tires, but the road was still slippery and dangerous.  We saw a couple of fresh accidents coming and going.  And when we got to the parking lot out in the Gorge, the wind was intense, and it felt like we were getting sand blasted by ice and snow when we walked to the falls.  But once we got away from the Gorge and to the falls, no wind, but cold and frozen.  The kids enjoyed the experience.

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Downtown Statue

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Snowy, Icy Llyod Center MAX Station

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My office

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Frozen Multnomah Falls

Categories: Columbia River Gorge, Family Time, Getting Around | Leave a comment

Trillium Lake Snowshoeing

I’ve been waiting for a good day to go out and check out all the snow the mountain has been having this season.  A good day means the rare clear blue, rain free day, a day where Kelly was free and a day where I could break away from work commitments.

So I picked up an all wheel drive Subaru Crosstrek with snow tires from ZipCar.  They also happened to be running a weekday special, 12 hours for $49 with gas.  Not a bad deal for a safe ride up the mountain.  We stopped in downtown Sandy, on the way to Trillium Lake, and picked up two pairs of snowshoes.  All day rental was $30 for both sets, with poles.  One hour drive from home and we were in a different world.  The last half hour or so, the ground was all snow covered and looked really cool.

The snowshoe hike from the parking lot at Trillium Lake Snow Park down to the lake is about 2 miles.  Slightly up and down hill in a few places, but overall pretty mild.  There is another 2 mile hiking trail around the lake, but we didn’t do that loop trail hike.  Just down to the lake and back, plus a bit of time sitting on the side of the lake taking it all in.  From the car and back took about 2.5 to 3 hours.  Kelly packed apples and cheese, and I packed a couple of Woodchuck Ciders for a quick picnic before we headed back home.

It was a great Thursday afternoon.  Unbelievable natural scenery with the tall snow covered fir trees, snow so deep it covered street signs, and a solid, snow covered lake.  Fun walk with Kelly, joy and excitement.  Rylee wanted to come but was too sick.  Luke had no interest.  Tate was still asleep when we left.  We’ll plan a return when some or all of the kids want to go check it out.

AWD Subaru

AWD Subaru

Snowshoe hiking trail

Snowshoe hiking trail

Snowshoe hiking trail

Snowshoe hiking trail

Buried Road Signs

Buried Road Signs

Buried road signs

Buried road signs

Frozen Trillium Lake

Frozen Trillium Lake

Sitting by the lake

Sitting by the lake

Categories: Family Time, Hiking, Hood National Forest, TRAVEL Oregon | Leave a comment

New Car Share

It’s been about two and a half years now since we’ve owned our own car and it actually keeps getting easier and more convenient.  The latest addition is Reach Now, a car share service run by BMW.  It works just like Car2Go, the Smart Car service we’ve used for two years now.  So Reach Now is another pay by the minute service with an app that shows the location of all the cars.  So where ever I am in town, I open the app, find a car, drive it to my destination and then get out and leave it there.  Right now, the BMW is 41 cents/minute.  Not a bad price to drive a new BMW anytime I need a ride.  They have also added the electric BMW to their Portland fleet.  Now that is a fun car to drive!  It’s quiet, quick, and convenient.

It’s hard to believe how many nice cars I get to drive all the time without needing to own the whole thing myself.  I would never get to drive all these cars if I had one of my own sitting in the garage already.  I never have to wash, vacuum, change oil and tires or worry about door dings.  The cars are always taken care of, looking nice and running well.  And with this being the third car share program I use, in addition to Car2Go and Zip Car, I am never without a ride when I want one.

And, of course, still biking to work every day.  No problems.  This time of year, I start the day wearing waterproof/windproof shoes, pants and jacket, and the ride feels good.  Very refreshing way to start the workday.  Pushing the bike hard, cool air and a little mist in my face, I get to work ready for the day.  And at the end of the day, same routine getting home and its a nice transition back to home life.

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The weather on Monday's ride in to the office

The weather on Monday’s ride in to the office

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Audi A6 Drive

I took another drive out through the Oregon desert on the east side of the Cascades.  It’s about three and a half hours from Portland to Yakima, Wa, through the Yakima Nation reservation.  It was a cool day, in the low 70’s and crystal clear in all directions.

I got to the rental car place just before closing, and as luck would have it, the only car left was the Audi with 4000 miles on it.  This is a nice car; smelled new, very comfortable seats, a big sunroof, powerful engine, quiet ride and a nice sunroof.  I don’t usually get excited about cars, but this made for a very enjoyable 7 hour round trip drive.

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The A6. I stopped at the Oregon Stonehenge (WWI & WWII monument) for a view across the Columbia River Gorge toward Mt. Hood

As I usually do on trips, I listened to a couple of audio books.  For this trip I took along two books on Stoic philosophy.  As random events go, driving a luxury car while listening to stoic insights is a perfect combination for reflecting on happiness, voluntary poverty, non-attachment, and appreciation for all the abundance of the present moment.

After spending a few hours on the job site, I headed home, swinging north towards Mt. Ranier instead of following the Gorge back home.  It added a little time to the trip, but I haven’t been to Mt. Ranier yet, so I took the detour.  Spectacular view for the entire drive home.  And the environment of the 500,000 year old mountain and the evergreen forests was an additional excellent backstop for the stoic philosophy of being in accord with nature.

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Mt. Ranier from a viewpoint on the side of the highway. A beautiful Wednesday afternoon.

When I got back to Portland, I dropped the car off and, as enjoyable as it was for the day, it also felt equally as good to give the car back and not have to make additional payments or have to keep it clean or maintained.  I prefer the freedom of not being obligated or committed to that car or any car.  $46 I paid for a brand new $50,000 car, not a bad deal.

 

Categories: Columbia River Gorge, Getting Around, Learning, TRAVEL Oregon, TRAVEL Washington | Leave a comment

Lost Lake

I was able to snag a couple of nights in the big cabin, cabin #7, at Lost Lake Resort, about an hour and 45 minutes from home, just north of Mt. Hood.  I booked it a couple of months ago and all of the early summer weekends were already booked, so we took a Monday and a Tuesday night.  And since this is still the off season, the cabins were half priced.

Being off season, there are still quite a few trees down on the trails from the winter carnage and it’s still a little cool out there.  At night the temperature dipped down to the 40’s and there was snow on the ground in a few places, so it was too cold to get in the water to play, but during the day, we had blue skies and temperature in the 70’s.  Hiking, canoeing and campfires kept us all busy and entertained.

The air up there is cool and crisp, it smells like pine and cedar, and when you get out on the hiking trails or out to the center of the lake, it’s eerily quiet.  In the morning, the lake was perfectly calm, like a big mirror reflecting every detail of the green, blue and white landscape.  It’s a different world out there, and it’s so close to home.  There is no cell phone service, internet or any other easy distractions, so we all spent a lot of time together outside or, after dark, inside playing games together by the fire.  Firewood was never an issue because the staff comes by in the mornings and refills the firewood bin outside each of the cabins and next to the shared fire pit.

Tate chose to stay behind and skip this trip.  He preferred solitude at home instead of roughing it in the woods with us.  Being without him on a trip sure felt different.  Still complete.  But it’s different.  It was a reminder to me to appreciate more fully each person who did make the trip and to appreciate the short time that Tate is still in the house with us.  Time flies with the kids.

Rylee brought a friend along this time, which was great.  They had lots of fun together and it’s great to see their happiness.  Luke was completely available and eager to interact so I appreciated his interest in spending time together taking hikes, catching critters, and canoeing a lot.  Luke and I crossed the whole lake and made it to the far end of the Southern Cove in the canoe on the last morning.  He was quite proud of the achievement.  It was one hour of solid rowing, sometimes against the wind, but we made his goal.  Kelly was content, as always, with whatever came.  Sometimes it was solitude, sometimes engaged with some or all of us.  Kelly brought along some really good burgers and muffins.  Good food.

Peaceful.  Quiet.  Physical.  Teamwork.  Togetherness.

 

Categories: Columbia River Gorge, Family Time, Hiking, Hood National Forest, TRAVEL Oregon | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Horsetail Falls/Columbia River Gorge

Horsetail falls off of exit 35 from I-84, a short 45 minute drive from home.

 

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Rockaway Beach/Seaside/Astoria, Oregon Coast, April 2016

Trip to the Oregon Coast for a short family vacation.  Pictures here.

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Trip to the Oregon Coast for a short family vacation.  Pictures here.

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Portland Area/Columbia River Gorge Hiking

This spring I’ll be exploring the Hiking Trails of the Columbia River Gorge and other Mt. Hood area outdoor activities. The forests, waterfalls and trails in the area offer scenery that is as good as any in the world. Thick, green, fragrant, secluded pine forests with well mapped-out, unending trails that connect to the Pacific Crest Trail. Too many waterfalls and blue mountain pools to count.

There are so many trailheads and state parks within a one hour drive from Portland, I don’t think I can get to them all. But I will put a dent in the list.

I only made it out a few times last year after we sold the van, but I’m a regular Zip Car driver now, so getting out to the forest for an afternoon is very convenient now.

Eagle Creek Trail – February 2016

Eagle Creek

Eagle Creek

45 minute drive to Cascade Locks, OR.  There is a large parking lot at the fish hatchery just off the I-84 exit, but there are two lots a half mile upstream with plenty of parking if you get there early enough. The first part of the hike is right next to the stream and the sound of rushing blue-green mountain runoff. Chrystal clear, ice cold water. Furthe up the trail, you’re hiking a few hundred feet above Eagle Creek on the edge of a steep cliff that was blasted out of the side of the mountain in the 1910’s. Follow the little side trail, all very short, to views of all the waterfalls that are off the main trail. One of the longer offshoots gets you down to the creek bed right next to the lower Punch Bowl Falls. From the trailhead to Upper Punch Bowl and back is about a two hour round trip hike. Add an hour for staring at the scenery and for lunch next to the water and its a short half day outing.

Pictures

Categories: Columbia River Gorge, Family Time, Hiking, Hood National Forest, TRAVEL Oregon | Leave a comment

Camp Creek Campground

The campsites close to town fill for the whole season of weekends pretty early in the year, but about six weeks ago, I was able to reserve a site at Camp Creek Campground for this weekend.  It was the best camping trip ever, but then again, every trip is the best one.

The Mt.Hood forest has a very thick canopy, high overhead on all of the very large Douglas firs.  Camp Creek is at about 2000′ elevation, so it was cool at night and during the day we had a grey mist most of the time, with a few glimpses of blue and sunshine.  Our campsite was next to a crystal clear creek, with ice cold snow melt rushing over the rocks.  Tate noticed as soon as we drove up, that this forest is much denser than the ones he’s used to in the south.  The scenery there was great; bright green, moss covered tree limbs, brown pine needles covering the trails and a little whitewater in the creek.  At night, sleeping was easy with the steady sound of running water.  Click here for more pictures.

Cap Creek Campground, Rhododendron, Oregon, Campsite #8

Camp Creek #8

I got to spend a few quiet moments sitting next to the stream, watching the water rush by.  Just sitting there watching the water made time really slow down.  Luke even mentioned how time moved more slowly out here.  When we are busy with the task of living every day, too many days pass so quickly, unused, under-appreciated.  It’s nice to slow down out here.

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The campground is about an hour east of Portland, down Hwy 26 toward Mt. Hood.  A short drive into a different world.  This campsite, like many other recreational spots around here, was built by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930’s and has lots of old artifacts still around, like some left over stone fireplaces in a couple of campsites from long-gone cabins.

Camp Creek Campground, Rhododendron, Oregon

Old fireplaces in the day use area of Camp Creek

There was no electricity, no WIFI, no cell service, and our water came from two well-fed manual pumps.

Camp Creek Campground, Rhododendron, Oregon

Water source for the campsite

One of the new additions to this year’s camping is a Stanton Propane Camp Stove.  It made cooking much more enjoyable without having to regulate a campfire for every meal.  This stove was cheaper than the Coleman version, had more BTUs and has an electric start.  It was plenty big.  Big enough to accommodate my 10 quart cast iron pot.

Stansport Propane Stove

Stansport Propane Stove

Rylee enjoyed cooking on the stove, but one of her favorite camp meals was cinnamon rolls on a stick.  We took canned cinnamon rolls and wrapped them around a stick to roast them over the fire, then add the icing.  It was quite good!  And easy to make.

Cinnamon Rolls on a stick.  Camp food

Cinnamon Rolls on a stick

And, of course, we had s’mores and we did s’moreos too.  Roasted marshmallows on mint Oreo cookies.  Everyone enjoyed the s’moreos.

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Everyone had a great time, and Rylee already asked me to plan the next trip.  She’s ready to go again!  But, I am too…

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Forest Park

Since the afternoons have been so hot this week, we decided to get out to Forest Park early on Saturday morning before the temperature started to climb, to explore some of the trails that we have not been on yet.  The cool morning air felt good, and leaving the house at 7:30, the temp was in the mid 60’s.
Forest Park, Portland, Or

Forest Park, Portland, Or, Wildwood Trail, Redwood Trail, Hemlock Trail, Hoyt Arboretum

It was a quiet, cool hike.  We took our time, heard lots of birds and saw a couple of interesting little critters.

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The park has more miles of trails than I think I can ever cover, and it’s right in the city.  We took the train to the zoo, then a combination of the Wildwood Trail, Redwood Trail and Hemlock trails to get up to the Pittock Mansion for a bird’s eye view across the city.

Forest Park, Portland, Or, Pittock Mansion

Then we took the trail back down to an intersection with the road to catch the bus, then headed back out of the forest and into the concrete and steel world.

Forest Park, Portland, Or, Wildwood Trail, Redwood Trail, Hemlock Trail, Hoyt Arboretum

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Downtown

When I left work on my bike one hot afternoon, I noticed this statue that I’ve seen many pictures of is right on the opposite corner from my office.
Downtown Portland, OrWhen I got outside, I felt like I was back in Louisiana. It’s been pretty hot out here this week, getting over 100 degrees a couple of afternoons.
Hot afternoon, Late July, Downtown Portland, Or

Nights are still cool, and cooler days ahead later in the week.

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Mt. Hood National Forest

We live so close to the Mt.Hood National Forest that it was easy to take a loosely planned drive out there this weekend.  The sky was clear so it was a good day to get out to the Timberline Lodge to get a bird’s eye view of the area.

The lodge is about an hour and a half from Portland.  Built in 1937 as a Works Project Administration project.

Timberline Lodge, Mt. Hood, Oregon

From there, a short ride up the Magic Mile Ski Lift.

Magic Mile Ski Lift, Timberline Lodge, Oregon, Mt.Hood

Luke loved the view.

Mt. Hood, Oregon

Luke saw the signs to the trout fishing farm, so he lobbied for us to stop on the way home and they all got to fish a little.

Rainbow Trout Farm, Sandy, Oregon

Rainbow Trout Farm, Sandy, Oregon

Rainbow Trout Farm, Sandy, Oregon

Rainbow Trout Farm, Sandy, Oregon

Categories: Family Time, TRAVEL Oregon | Leave a comment

Back to the Redwoods

We made our second trip down to the redwoods.  Second for me, Rylee and Luke but first for Kelly and Tate.  Kelly and Tate didn’t get to go with us the last time, but it it definitely an experience they had to share.  It’s a short drive down into Northern California to see the tall Coast Redwoods.  We still haven’t gotten down into southern California for giant Sequoias.

Rylee and Luke’s favorite grove last time was the Stout Grove in the Jedediah Smith Park.  They liked climbing on the fallen trees and they liked skipping rocks in the chrystal clear Smith River.  Click here for more Pictures

Jedediah Smith Redwood Park, Stout Grove, Smith River

Stout Grove, Jedediah Smith Redwoods Park

Stout Grove, Jedediah Smith Redwoods Park

We left the lowland area of Jedediah Smith Park and headed south to the Lady Bird Johnson Grove.  That Grove is another old growth grove, never been touched by saws, with trees up to 2000+ years old.  That park is on top of a ridge at 1200 ft, away from traffic noise and in the clouds.  The interesting thing here is that the temperature is very cool up there, the park is extremely quiet, and there is always a haze at the top of the trees since you’re in the clouds.  The undergrowth here is much thicker and greener too than in the lowland forest.

Lady Bird Johnson Grove, Redwoods National and State Parks

Lady Bird Johnson Grove, Redwood National and State Park

After the hikes, we drove to our hotel near the beach, checked in, then took a short sunset walk along the chilly Northern California coast.

Northern California Coast, South of Crescent City, Ca

It was a very picturesque day with all of us spending a lot of time appreciating some timeless nature.

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Oregon Caves National Monument

The first stop on the road trip was the Oregon Caves down in Cave junction in central Oregon.  This was about five hours from Portland and is part of the National Park System so it’s very well maintained and staffed with Park Rangers.  This was one of my favorite stops and I plan to go out there again one day.  The drive into the mountain here was a sight in itself with the winding roads, the thick pine forests and the steep cliffs.  Click here for more Pictures

Oregon Caves National Monument, Cave Junction, Oregon Caves Chateau

Access to the caves was via a 90 minute Ranger lead tour.  The caves are at a constant 44 degrees F, dark, steep, damp and sometimes long stretches of 48″ head clearance.  The inside of the caves had stairs in most places and dim lights, so it felt safe for everyone, but a bit strenuous at times.

Oregon Caves National Monument, Cave Junction, Oregon Caves Chateau

The end of the cave tour wraps up near the top of the mountain.  That turned out to be a great short hike with nice views of the Siskiyou Mountains.

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And we ended the night with a stay in the historic Oregon Caves Chateau that was built in 1934.  There is no internet, no cell service and no TVs.  The building is all wood, rough cuts and no air conditioning.  It was like a time capsule.

Oregon Caves National Monument, Cave Junction, Oregon Caves Chateau

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1700 Mile Drive: Oregon, California & Nevada

We took another long road trip last week with seven stops in three states.  It was a very active trip with an agenda to keep all the stops and activities organized since the plan covered a lot of ground.  We’ve all had a lot of leisure over the past year, so none of us were looking for a sedentary vacation and this busy trip was just right this time.

We spent a lot of time in the car together, some hiking and most meals together.  The kids were all excited about going on  trip, having a plan, and seeing cool sights.  We had a mix of historical, natural, and urban adventures.  I got to see a lot of excitement in the kids’ faces over the last week which makes it very much worth he effort.

I planned to take a van from Zip Car since their rate including insurance and gas beat the rate at Enterprise for a van by about $500.  I talked to my local Enterprise folks who I rent from on a regular basis, and they agreed to match the Zip Car price, so I reserved with Enterprise.  As luck would have it though, on the morning of the trip they didn’t have a van, so they upgraded me to a brand new fully loaded Tahoe for the same price.  What a deal!  Now that was a comfortable road trip vehicle.  The best part is, I got to return it to them after the trip and I don’t have to keep paying for that nice car every month.  A one week loan was just right.

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Stopped at one of the viewpoints on Hwy 101 along the Pacific coast

Traveling with the whole family is a rare treat that surely won’t last forever, so I enjoy the gift of it every time we can still pull it off.

 

Categories: Family Time, Getting Around, TRAVEL California, TRAVEL Nevada, TRAVEL Oregon | Leave a comment

Wildwood Trail – Forest Park

I’ve been craving a forest hike lately and Kelly has been looking to get back out to the Rose Garden before it’s too late to see the roses in bloom, so this past weekend we made it out to a short section of the Wildwood Trail between the Washington Park Zoo and the Rose Garden. We took the train from home, straight out to Washington Park, then hiked over to the Rose Garden.

Its a nice,low Impact hike with a little elevation change. Perfect for an overcast 90 degree afternoon.  It took us a couple of hours to hike that section of trail and when we were done, we walked through Washington Park, down to Providence Park Stadium where the Timbers were kicking off a game, then we caught the train back home.

We’ll have to go explore more of Forest Park again soon

Forest Park Wildwood Trail Portland Oregon

Forest Park Wildwood Trail Portland Oregon

Forest Park Wildwood Trail Portland Oregon

Forest Park Wildwood Trail Portland Oregon

Forest Park Wildwood Trail Portland Oregon

Categories: Family Time, Getting Around, TRAVEL Oregon | Leave a comment

Zip Car

I joined the Zip Car car sharing service last week, so I have another part time, on-demand driving option now.  Zip Car is similar to the Car2Go in that there is an app on my phone where I can search for a car close by, reserve it, and drive it for as long as I need it.  This one also includes insurance and a gas card.

Zip Car uses lots of car types; SUV’s, sedans, pickups, vans and electric cars.  So, lots more car type options over Car2Go.  But Zip cars have to be returned to their designated spot at the time you promised to return it.  Car2Go is open ended on the time and you can ditch it anywhere.  Full day Zip Car rental is comparable in price to a regular rental car, but it’s easier to get to and reserve the Zip Car.

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Half of the local Zip Cars

So, to try out the new found car freedom, Luke, Tate and I headed out to the Mt.Hood area on Saturday afternoon to scout out some hiking trails and campgrounds.  They didn’t want to get out and walk a bunch, so we drove to several trailheads and campgrounds, but only got out at Bridal Veil Falls.

Bridal Veil Trailhead Portland Oregon Hike

The Bridal Veil Trailhead

This is a pretty short hike, about 2/3 of a mile from the trail head parking lot, to get to two waterfalls.  It’s all downhill getting to the falls and then a moderate incline to get back to the parking lot.  It’s well worth the walk to see the tall waterfalls, and on the hike, you have an elevated view down across the Columbia river gorge.

This short hike is nowhere near as crowded as Multnomah Falls was on a perfect weather day like today, so it’s a little quieter.  But, we still shared the space with another 20-30 hikers.  It’s about 40 minutes from home and we passed another 5 or so trail heads to other places out in the woods.

We stopped by the Bonneville Dam on our way home too, but it was after 5pm, so the gate was locked.  We’ll have to go back to get a closer look.

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Categories: Family Time, Getting Around, TRAVEL Oregon | Leave a comment

May

May in Portland is great.  It’s about 55 degrees every night, about half the days are blue sky, and it rarely gets above 70 in the afternoon.  Sometimes it feels like it’s getting to be routine, but mostly I still feel like every day is a vacation out here.

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On top of the Arboretum in Washington park with Kelly and Luke

I’ve biked to work every day since I started biking in March.  My legs are much stronger now and I’m less winded, so the ride keeps getting faster and easier and is still the most convenient way to get around town.  This month I have, however, added a new tool to the car free experience here.  I joined car2go.  It’s a car sharing program using the SMART car.  Car2go lets you pull up an app on your phone that shows all the locations of 500+ cars scattered around the city.  Then you locate the closest one, unlock it with you phone, and drive it wherever you need to go, then just get out, lock it and you’re done with it.  Then it shows up on the phone app again, it’s available for someone else to use right where you left it.  So it’s short term, one way rentals at $0.41 per minute.  It’s a cheap, convenient way to extend my range and cargo carrying capability.  Half of them even have bike racks on them.

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All the available cars on my zoomed out view of Portland

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One of the cars I grabbed with Rylee one Sunday instead of biking back home

Rylee is walking again this month.  No crutches or boot, just a limp.  She’s doing physical therapy that should help strengthen her leg again.  It’s still pretty tough to bend her ankle and foot, and after she walks for a while, it swells a lot at her ankle right where she broke it.  But everything is looking good right now.

We went back to the unschooling conference this month.  It’s always good to go meet other people who are trying it and to hear about their successes.  I got to see lots of other kids who are doing interesting things with their lives.  Like many other things in life, unschooling has its time and place just like a more structured learning environment does.  The kids get a lot of freedom and they get to learn about the personal accountability that comes with that freedom.  In a way it lets them be kids even longer, and in other ways it makes them mature sooner.  I was surprised at the number of engineer parents I met there this year.  I sort of guessed that most folks in that circle would have been liberal arts types, but I suppose even the analytical type people see the benefits of not restricting the kids’ learning options.  Then this month, Elon Musk has also been in the news talking about the changes to his kids’ education, and a lot of the same philosophies that the unschool community talks about.  Everyone wants the best for their offspring.

I got to spend a lot of time with Tate at this year’s conference.  He wasn’t planning to go, but he wound up spending most of the weekend there.  I played a lot of board games with him; Pandemic, Settlers of Catan, and Witch Trials.  He entered a Super Smash Bros tournament and got very close to the end.  That was a lot of fun to watch.

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Tate taking down the competition in the Smash Bros tournament. And, as always, wearing his LSU sweatshirt and being noticed for it everywhere we go.

Work has been very fast paced this month with aggressive weekly deadlines.  It’s a lot of fun, even though we had a couple of late nights and once until midnight.  But when it gets to be burdensome, I go out to my favorite park and sit under the trees with a book.  That always works.  Working as a consultant now instead of an employee inside the customer company continues to be a great learning experience.  The work is all about the same, technical challenges, relationships to manage, project management duties and deadlines.  But there are so many little nuances that make it different and it is a super experience.

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An evening at Grant Park, escaping the concrete jungle

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April

The primary event of this month has been Rylee’s broken leg. Today she goes to the orthopedic doc for her four week follow up, to take the long-leg-cast off, get an out of cast x-Ray, then decide on treatment going forward.

She’s been brave through the process of her accident, denial of the injury and the excruciating pain during the first week. So, we are all hopeful that her recovery has progressed as expected and that she’s well on her way to normalcy again.

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Getting around in the wheelchair

For the first few days of the month, we were still in the third floor apartment, which was pretty difficult to get Rylee into and out of to get to the hospital. I had to carry her up and down the stairs, but fortunately, we were in the new place within about three days of the broken leg.  We only have half a flight of stairs to go up now.

We are all moved in and settled now and enjoying the new place. It feels huge after sharing a two bedroom apartment even though it’s only 1000 sq ft.

The spring weather here is great.  I had forgotten how green this place was.  So many trees and flowering plants everywhere.  The air always smells sweet.

The new job has been interesting.  I’m already in pretty deep with lots of work, project responsibilities and now also supervisory responsibilities again.  It’s a fun, fast paced place, lots to do, and a lot of eager colleagues.  I thought I would miss the freedom that I had while not working, but I’m enjoying the work and the people enough to keep me looking forward to getting up and coming to the office every morning.

This Friday is the one year anniversary from the day we hitched up the trailer and started driving.  It will be a good time to reflect on everything we managed to accomplish in the year.  A lot can be done in a year with some planning, deadlines, and a good attitude.

 

 

Categories: Family Time, Getting Around, Learning | 2 Comments

new vehicle

Since I have a regular commute again, I decided to go ahead and replace the bike that got stolen last year. I found a comfortable hybrid bike that fits me well and is a lot faster than the old bike was.

I’ve been riding it to work for a week now, and this is by far the best way to cover the thee miles I go to the office every day.  Over the last month, I have used the buses, the trains and walked big parts of it.  The bike is the fastest way, the cheapest way and I get 20 minutes of exercise twice a day.  I have a couple of nice hills to cross, so I get a few bursts of strength and endurance each way too.  I don’t have a car note for the bike, no gas costs, and no insurance.  I was paying $5 a day for train fare, which the bike saves me now too.  I can’t  begin to add up all the money I’ve paid for monthly parking in previous jobs and here, everyone brings their bikes into the office with them.

A year ago, the idea of riding a bike to work every day seemed very different  and unusual. But now when I commute, there are tons of other bike commuters sharing the road with me.  At the office, I see lots of bikes in the elevators and in many people’s offices.  In my workgroup alone, of the six engineers, five of us are daily bike commuters.

I missed one day of biking because I was not prepared for the rain.  I have since gone out and picked up rain pants and a reflective waterproof jacket.  I also added a set of Ortlieb waterproof panniers to the bike.  Kelly and I tested the capacity of the panniers on Friday by getting about 2/3 of a full basket of groceries loaded into them.  They hold A LOT!

My first day riding to work I remembered how free it feels to be out getting around outside of a vehicle.  I felt the wind. I got to stop and get an up close look at the unbelievable cherry blossoms along the river front.  I got to pass all the cars stuck in traffic. I got to feel my legs burn crossing the bridges.  I got to go on my own schedule and own pace.

My Jamis Commuter 3 in the office with me

My Jamis Commuter 3 in the office with me

 

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New Homestead

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The front entrance to our new place!

 

The Francois Five is moving homesteads, AGAIN!  Luckily, this time instead of 2500 miles apart, our new place is just around the corner from our current apartment, in the charming neighborhood Sullivan’s Gulch (I just love that name!).  After about 20 months of renting, we are buying – putting down some roots in Portland.

A cute 3 bedroom, 2 bath condo, in a spiffy 10-unit 1970 building, came on the market for Short Sale during our holiday trip to Louisiana.  We were in a position to put in a quick offer because, 1) Joe had secured employment for the beginning of February, and 2) I’m a real estate junkie and had been researching real estate and neighborhoods since we moved to Portland.  This was only the 2nd place that hit the market since we’ve been here that met all of our top criteria, a)Price, b)Location, c) 3 Bed/2 Bath.  We were ready to make a move.  I’ve fallen in love with this city and the progressive mindset and entrepreneurial spirit.  Buying this condo feels like the right next step.

Add to that, we get to own a part of our sweet little neighborhood, where we serendipitously landed when we moved to Portland.  Not only is the neighborhood close to three Max lines and multiple bus lines in close-in NE, it’s a hidden gem, keeping prices somewhat reasonable (for now).  Sullivan’s Gulch is sprinkled with beautiful turn of the century single family mansions, charming 1920’s apartment buildings, duplexes from the ’40’s, 1950’s brickers, a 1960’s highrise, 1970’s condos, and even a few in-fill houses from the 80’s and 90’s.  It’s a true urban oasis for renters and owners alike, a cool snap-shot of the evolution of Portland through the decades.  With its charm and architectural diversity, Sullivan’s Gulch is close to all the fun locally owned restaurants, cafes and shops in the NE Broadway district.  It’s not one of the more trendy areas of Portland, but then again we also don’t have to pay the trendy prices!

All in all, all 5 us are getting what we want in this condo.  I’m getting a walkable/bikeable area close to multiple modes of public transit at a price that won’t stretch our budget too thin – in a relatively small living space (1125 sq feet) in a multi-family building.  Rylee and Tate are getting their own bedroom and a second bathroom.  Joe gets covered, secured parking for our bikes and a small storage area in the garage.  Luke is just happy that everybody else is happy.

We are planning on fully moving in the last week of March, after new paint, new floors and some plumbing work.  And then the fun part – I get to peruse the hip 2nd hand shops, vintage boutiques and free piles all over the city for awesome finds for our groovy new digs!

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Back to Work

Having gotten to February now, we have made it all the way around the horn with the experimental year away from work.  Transitions are always interesting and enlightening, as I expect this one to be as well.

I’ve gained a lot this year and learned a lot about myself and my family.  I spent the year free from obligation, free from debt, and free to wake up and do whatever I want with each day.  Looking back now I can see easily that, although many plans were loosely made with creative freedom being the priority, everything I undertook this year has been a great success.

Now with this project behind me, I want to return to work that I enjoy.  Circling back with my former employer, we were not able to resume a relationship or create a long distance arrangement since my family is not interested in leaving Portland and heading back to Louisiana right now.  But that left me free to pursue new options, and, amazingly, a great job found me.  All the people I met at the new company seem very energized and excited about the work and about the company, so I’m very much looking forward to joining up with them, being a part of that team, and making my work part of the family’s daily life again.  So we’re all excited about this change, but I will miss the abundance of time I have had with my family.

This year has been a constant lesson in optimism and allowing things to work out without forcing it.  We have had high level plans but we didn’t loose sleep over any step along the way; from housing, to budget, to travel plans, and now a sweet job, it has all worked itself out.  We’ve also managed to remove a lot of barriers from our lives and it will be a challenge to carry these lessons and new practices forward and sticking with our new habits.

I have spent this month going to school with the kids every day that they went, taking lots of walks and bike rides with Kelly, and getting through a few more books.  It has been several years since I read Walden, one of my all time favorites, but it felt like the right book to read before heading back to work.  The book was just as great as it was the first time I read it.  Overlapping with my reading of Walden, I also re-listened to The Power of Now and The Bhagavad Gita audio books.  Two very interesting books that dovetail very nicely with Thoreau.  And with those three books behind me now, I’m moving back over to fiction.  I’ve started to read the 1000 page Don Quixote and I’m listening to Salem’s Lot.  Don Quixote will be a challenge because of its length, but it is a fun and easy read otherwise which is surprising for a translation of a 400 year old Spanish classic.

I’ll be forever grateful for the time the five of us have had together this year.   It’s been unbelievable.

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Baton Rouge Visit

We made it back home for the holidays.  I haven’t been there since May 1st, so being back was interesting and brought back lots of memories of a great, long, free spring there at home with my family before we left.

This was the first time I have ever spent a week there while sleeping at my sister’s house and spending a lot of time with my nephews.  The boys and I had a great time and it’s a completely different experience being in someone’s house for a week compared to spending the time in a hotel and just visiting some of the time.  My sister was very generous and flexible with her space.  She’s always been very generous with me.

We got to visit with a lot of family, but the time was shorter than I hoped for and I didn’t make time to visit with some friends I’d hoped to catch up with.

I often joke about Kelly’s intense car free focus, but being reliant on a car again after this long stretch of being car free was a real eye opener for me, I’m a believer now.  We’ve gone a long time without a car in Portland, then a Chicago experience, and then Boston, now being in a place with limited public transit was a shock.  Driving everyday to get everywhere we want to go was much more of a chore than I used to realize when I was doing it everyday.  But thanks to a generous friend, we did have a car for the whole visit without having to rent one.  So it worked and we were not stuck.

I really enjoyed a couple of nostalgic walks with Kelly around Highland Road Park, Magnolia Woods, and through Downtown.  Three places we’ve walked many many happy miles through together in the past.

I saw lots of change out there.  New faces, loss of old faces, joy and excitement about new ideas, acceptance of status quo, new marriages, and dissolution of marriages.

I feel fortunate to have made the move West with my family.  Being back home and around friends and family, I realized how sticky home can be.  It’s tough to make a big change and leave behind so much of the familiar in exchange for the unknown, especially with kids still to raise.  But I’m glad to do this with the kids too, for their benefit.  Change is good and brings amazing new clarity.

Now it’s good to be back in Portland to start the new year.  To reflect on an intense year of change and plan for all the coming changes for 2015.

My legs are sore already on my second day back.  Three trips to the kennel to retrieve the pets, a walk to the grocery, and a long ~5 mile walk from home to Alberta street and back yesterday.  Yeah, feels good!

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Bringing the cats home from the kennel, one at a time

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Beautiful blue-sky winter day on my first full day back in Portland

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A spectacular, cool, grey, misting afternoon on my second day back in Portland

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Boston with Tate

Thanks to Kelly booking us a couple of multi-city airline tickets, Tate and I were able to make it out to Boston for a week before meeting Kelly, Rylee and Luke in Baton Rouge for the holidays.  Tate wanted to go to Boston to meet an internet friend, and I wanted to go out there again for all the American history since I was there several years ago for a couple of days, but I didn’t have an abundance of free time on that earlier trip.

Tate was a great travel companion.  He was open to just about any activity we could come across out there, so we went to the Museum of Fine Art, Museum of Science, the Boston Public Library, the Old Statehouse, the Granary Burying Ground, the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum, and too many other things to list them all.  We even took a train out to Cambridge to walk around Harvard Square and through the Harvard campus on one snowy afternoon.  We were in Boston for 6 days and we tried to get one to three outings fit into each day.  We used buses and their subway system to get around every day.

One of our favorite outings was a trip to Faneuil Hall Marketplace to see an art exhibit made out of Legos.  The artist was an Oregon born, New York educated lawyer who left his profession to follow his calling of making art.  Many of his pieces had some very interesting and insightful descriptions about his process of growth and discovery of creativity.

We had lots of guided tours and a few self guided tours.  We learned a lot about the history of the American Revolution, the idea of liberty and the evolution of the concept of liberty for some vs liberty for all.  Travel is a great way to learn about history and generate excitement.  Tate really enjoyed seeing the real Boston as compared to the historically accurate colonial Boston he’s learned about through playing Assassin’s Creed.

There are many American firsts there that we got to experience.  We rode on America’s first subway line, ate at Union Oyster House which is said to be the oldest continuously run restaurant in America, and we walked around the first public library in America.

After our busy week there, we were ready for our trek to Baton Rouge!

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An evening in Boston, walking to get some Clam Chowder and Boston Cream Pie with Tate

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A row of the typical Brownstones that line the streets in Boston

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The reading room inside the Boston Public Library

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Granary Burying Ground c.1660. Burial site for Paul Revere, John Hancock, Samuel Adams, Boston Massacre casualties, and many more.

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Tate’s Favorite Lego sculpture. The plaque said “No matter where your heart wants to lead you, there will be hands that try to hold you back. Life’s challenge is to find the strength to break free. I created this sculpture in response to so many people telling me “no” in my life. I wanted to break free of those people – Nathan Sawaya”

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Our daily ride. The MBTA Orange Line Subway.

 

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The Wealth of Nations

I finally finished the roughly 1100 pages of Adam Smith’s Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations last night.  This was the capstone book of my reading quest this year.  It sort of covers a lot of the themes I have explored in the other 20 or so books I’ve read or listened to since last January.  Themes like: sociology, individual human behavior, money, value, taxes, wages, economics, philosophy, history, education, and an overall excellent command of language that is a pleasure to read; to see what is possible with words.  Finishing a book of this length is bittersweet since it has been a part of every day for many weeks now.  I’ll miss it.

Smith thoroughly covers economic thought and the interactions that adjustments to taxes, wages and commodity prices have on each other.  Wealth of Nations was not  a detailed policy book, like Keynes’ General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money was.  Keynes was more challenging to read since it was like a textbook-type format with detailed methods for economic policy adjustments and application.  Wealth of Nations was packed with history, like Marx’s Capitol, Vol. 1 was, but Marx was more negative and confrontational while Smith was factual and thoughtful.  Marx had a more developed exploration of commodity values though, which was one of the highlights of his book for me while his gloomy theories of capitalism as the cause of social struggle took away from his book.  I stopped at about 600 of 1100 pages of Marx over the summer and switched to fiction for a while.  Marx was too negative for me at the time I was reading it, but I may restart it again because it is a great historical book.

Having more time to read has been one of the many highlights of this year of a more autonomous allocation of my time.  The books help me see around corners that I couldn’t see before and I can’t wait to jump into the next book, Adam Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments, a light read at just over 200 pages.

I made a book list to help me remember the books this year.

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Wealth of Nations. My daily mentor for the last couple of months.

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Solo trip to Chicago

It’s been about ten years since I visited Chicago, so it was nice to get back out there, even if just for an overnight solo trip.  It is a great city; big, busy and of course, very windy.

This was the first time in a year that I’ve traveled, lodged and eaten at someone else’s expense, and it was very enjoyable to do that again.  It was also enough of a jolt to my routine to remind me to reflect on the year of self sufficiency and all the self confidence that has come from that experience.

Portland has a lot of nice public transportation, but Chicago does it on a completely different scale.  The commuter trains there are many times longer than the PDX trains and there are so many going in every direction.  Chicago is a much bigger city than Portland, which was already so much bigger than Baton Rouge.  It’s always interesting to change perspective from time to time.

It’s an easy trip with a 4.5 hr direct flight, and the door to door public transit on my end.

And next week, Tate and I are off to Boston for a week while Kelly, Luke, and Rylee head to Baton Rouge where we’ll meet up with them for a few days around Christmas.

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View from my 17th floor hotel room in Downtown Chicago. This view is away from the city center. A great view of a more rugged, industrial side of downtown.

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November

November is another big milestone month.  The last significant one for me was getting into august, the half way point of the year away from work.  These milestones make me really stop and think, and we’ve passed several of these interesting inflection points this year.

November has its place here because it marks the end of our six month lease in Portland.  The lease was a big commitment on our travel plan when we started down this road earlier in the year without an end game in mind.  Now getting to the end of the lease marks the beginning of a new plan forward.

The apartment lease was also the one point of certainty I could put some personal deadlines around.  One of those deadlines was circling back with my job to communicate my current status and plans.  I didn’t have any obligation to close that loop, but I thought it best to give them an update as I’d originally planned, and I have now let them know that we plan to stay here in Portland for the time being.  I don’t think I could extract Kelly and the kids from here now if I tried.  This is a good place for us right now.

November is also the month to plan our December travels which are a little complicated and a lot expensive, but we’re all very much looking forward to traveling again. We haven’t quite finalized our agenda, but were getting closer.  Planning a trip for five, going in separate directions, then overlapping for a few days is difficult.  Not to mention planning for the dog and cats.

I’ve finally gotten a haircut, and it felt really good to sit in a barber’s chair again after all this time.  My goal was to go the full year without a shave or haircut, and December makes it a year.  So I went ahead and got it cut this week.  It was a few days early, but I’m glad I resisted the temptation several times earlier this year already.  It was always important to stick with the plan and to let it grow, however it grows, uncut and unmaintained and to accept it since I had no idea what it would look like.  It was fun, rewarding and I enjoyed it.  The year of hair growth was, surprisingly, as much a psychological change as it was a physical change.

This month as well a last month, we’re off budget. We’ve re-calibrated quite a lot over the last year, adjusting to spending less, so we naturally spend a bit less than before and we’ve learned to work together more.  A specific budget does not play as big a part in our daily habits now.

The weather has turned persistently cold and wet. It’s pretty interesting how different it is here.  It really feels like it rains every single day.  I used to just stay indoors on rainy days or dash to the car during rainstorms, but here I’m learning to live in the rain; to take long walks, run errands, continue with the daily routine. We are doing it all in the rain and it’s not too bad.  It’s just a new thing for us to adjust to and to prepare for.  All of our neighbors are still out walking and biking in the rain. The cold wet is also making me look at all my homeless neighbors differently.  I’ve seen the same faces for six+ months now and street living must be getting tougher now.

We hosted Kelly’s parents for a week this month too.  It is fun, once again, to share in someone else’s vacation for a week.  It feels like I’m on vacation too when another family makes the bulk of their vacation lives available to us for several days on end and when they bring all their energy, joy and excitement into our world.

The fall leaves are pretty cool to see.  We’ve had lots of bright red and yellow for about a month now. We still have quite a few, but most of the leaves have dropped.  I’m seeing views that I have never seen before through all the bare trees around us. From our apartment I can see several hills now that I didn’t know were right beyond my neighborhood.  I never saw them when all the trees were covered in leaves.

We have a couple of weeks here to wrap up our village home activities, then we’ll be gone for several weeks and then return to Portland to start our new year.

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On our morning commute last week. So much fun riding to school with my three kids on the trains and busses.

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On the way Downtown to Target with Rylee on the train. The air is so cold on my head now. The Christmas lights downtown on all the trees look so nice right now. Rylee is a super fun travel companion.

Our drive up to Mount Hood in a rental van.  We made it to Government Camp, but beyond that we needed snow chains.  Just a couple of miles back towards Portland it was just drizzling, but up here, heavy heavy snowfall.  We attempted to get up to the Timerline Hotel for sightseeing and lunch, but we couldn't get there this time.

Our drive up to Mount Hood in a rental van. We made it to Government Camp, but beyond that we needed snow chains. Just a couple of miles back towards Portland it was just drizzling, but up here, heavy heavy snowfall. We attempted to get up to the Timberline Hotel for sightseeing and lunch, but we couldn’t get there this time.

 

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6 months in Portland

It’s hard to believe we’ve been in Portland for 6 months!!  Every time I cross the Willamette River, and take in the scenes of this beautiful city, I want to pinch myself.   I remember finishing loading up the u-haul for the cross country trip, thinking, “what in the heck are we doing?!  This is crazy, what was I thinking?!  Are we on a fool’s journey, looking to change inside problems with outside solutions?”  Yes, we were crazy!  Luckily, the city we chose has been life altering, and here are five ways how:

1) I appreciate my children’s bravery.  Although I hoped all of us would benefit from an adventure to the Pacific Northwest, it was my brain child to uproot everything my kids have ever known and strike off into the wild blue yonder.  It required an immense amount of trust for Tate, Rylee and Luke to go along with the plan, this huge upheaval to their lives.  And, they responded with courage that is inspiring.  The first few months in Portland were very hard.  We persevered, strengthened our primary relationships with each other, and now are starting to build a village here.

2) Public transportation is all I hoped it would be!  Click here to read my blog post about my multi-modal life.

3) I love having less space.  We’ve gotten our small apartment highly liveable, using hooks, baskets and furnishings that double as storage.  Our sleeping arrangements are flexible, and we don’t have the space to start collecting more stuff.  Our electricity bills are tiny, it takes less than 2 hours to clean the entire apartment, and we spend more time in close proximity to each other.

4) Its very easy to shop local here.  Walmart hasn’t taken over.  Local small businesses are thriving.  I may spend a little more than at a “big box” store, but the money stays in this community, enhancing all of our lives.  And, when you factor in personal service and professional expertise (small business owners are VERY knowledgeable about their chosen subject) do I even really pay more?  It’s so easy here to “shop local” and I feel very good about my patronage to local businesses.  I’m within walking distance of (all locally owned) a bead store, a yarn store, an art supply store, many cafe’s, a locally brewery, a florist, a bakery, and many holistic medicine practices.  I vote with my money and I support local businesses.

5) There is true personal freedom displayed and practiced in this community.  From facial piercings, beards, tatoo’s and traveling lifestyles to educational freedoms (Village Home, Democratic schools, part-time public schools, robust unschooling community).  As well as the freedom to be a suburban straight laced, minivan driving traditional soccer mom, if that’s what is the right fit.  And everything in between.  I’ve never felt such opportunity to be exactly who I am.

Will we stay here forever?  Who knows?!  For right now, Portland is the right city for us.

Categories: Family Time, Getting Around, Learning, The Homestead | 2 Comments

Teen Freedom

Well, we reached a cool milestone here recently.  Of course we’re all traveling on the trains and buses, but now Tate is making solo trips home from school.  11 miles between towns, and he’s able to do it alone without needing to drive.  He just has his bus pass, house key and a cell phone and he’s off on his own.

Its funny now that we don’t have a car, we actually have opened up a little more freedom for at least one of the kids now.

We’ve had a week of rainy, cool, grey days.  It’s been very pleasant and it taking some getting used to.  Some of us will need some better rain gear to get through the winter.

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Waiting at the Beaverton Bus Stop

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Tate’s Tavel Gear

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My multi-modal life:

For the first time in my 40 years on this earth, I live in a city where a multi-modal lifestyle is a reality.  Modal refers to our choice of transportation while everyday living, such as grocery shopping, commuting to work, extracurricular activities, etc .  Multi-modal means using multiple forms of transportation on a regular basis.

In our neighborhood in NE Portland, we have so many options.  I’m within walking distance to a bead store, a yarn store, a florist, many cafe’s, 2 great pet stores,  at least 4 coffee shops, a locally owned book store, a dentist, an eye doctor, quite a few natural healists and other professional services.  Having so much withing walking distance makes it easy for us to shop local and keep the resources in the neighborhood.

For medium outings, a little too far to walk to, but too close to need public transit, we can ride our bikes.  We’ve scouted out the safest, most comfortable routes (surprisingly it’s NOT the bike lanes on busy roads) and can get to about 6 different grocery stores, the post office, the library, the Hollywood District, Overlook Park, the Mississippi District and the Hawthorne District.  We’ve even biked to the Montavilla and Mount Tabor areas!

When we want a bigger outing, for example, to get downtown, I can walk 3 blocks to a bus line through the Pearl District right into the city center.  Or, I can walk  3/4 mile to the MAX light rail through Old Town into the city center.  A different MAX line from the same station takes us to Portland State University and the incredible farmer’s market held every Saturday.  There is a quick bus route into the Alberta Arts District.  We found a straight shot bus route through NW downtown that takes us within 1/2 mile of great hiking in Forest Park.  We’ve bused to Washington Park, and the MAX line goes straight to the zoo.  The street car (about a 1 mile walk) takes us to OMSI (Oregon Science Museum).

Four x’s a week we commute to Village Home, located in a town outside of Portland.  We hop on the bus line that runs right in front of our house straight to the MAX line station.  We take a glorious train ride over the Willamette River, through the beautiful city center of Portland, down in a tunnel beneath the West Hills into Beaverton, OR.  From there, we have our choice of 3 bus lines that take us within a couple of blocks of Village Home.

We’ve gotten all over this city using walking, biking, buses, the streetcar, or different MAX lines.   I’ve loved learning how to navigate the transit system.  Using modes of transit other than a private vehicle has increased our indirect exercise dramatically. When not walking or biking, it’s quite luxurious sitting back and letting someone else get us where we need to go!

Categories: Family Time, Getting Around | 1 Comment

Village Home

A few weeks after we came to Portland, Joe and I went to check out the Village Home Resource Center. We rode our bikes to the NE Portland campus. As soon as we got there, and I saw moms and kids picnicking in the parking lot, children running around barefoot, some toddlers shirtless, and moms chatting and kids actively learning – I knew this was the right place for our family.

When my kids were in traditional schools, I tried desperately to be a part of the learning, I wanted to help in more ways than fundraising or making copies. I wanted to be a part of the education process. They didn’t want me there.

In Baton Rouge, after starting our unschooling journey, I found this amazing secular homeschool co-op, Mt. Everest. I loved FINALLY really getting to be a part of the fun all the kids are having while learning. We had 3 amazing semesters there before we left for Portland.

Now we are starting our first term at the Beaverton campus of Village Home. The concept of this school is so brilliant in its flexibility. You can take one class, or 5 days of classes/independent learning. You can use Village Home as more like a full time school, or you can be an unschooler looking for specific learning opportunities. Or, you can just join one of their teams, such as Mock Trial, Model UN, Robotics or Destination Imagination teams. You can get tuition discounts for doing community duty – or you can pay more and not help out at all, if that fits in better with your financial situation and/or schedule.

The learners (Village Home speak for the kids) can eat when they are hungry, go to the bathroom when they need to, wear shoes if they feel like it. There is no mandatory testing, no truancy, no grades, just loads of instrinsic learning. Director and founder Lori Walker explains, “What learners need most are autonomy and a sense of belonging so that their intrinsic motivation to learn will remain ignited, in and out of the classroom. When learners have autonomy, they show up willing and ready to learn wherever they are.”

Village Home meets the needs of the highly academically leaning kids (I know, I’m the assistant in the AP Molecular Biology class, *gulp*) all the way to the kids who will never willingly step foot in a biology class – and everything in between.  The theater department is amazing, offering tons of opportunities for singing and acting.  The active parents create the foundation for the programs to build on.

I love the flexibility to choose classes that start later.  Our earliest classes are mostly 10:45 or noon!!  I usually stay all day and hang out in the lounge, help out in class rooms, or just participate in the classes with my kids. That works well for me (I get a recharge hanging out with all of the energy that kids emanate). On the other hand, for moms that really need a break from mom’ing, you can leave the campus while your kids are in class.

I know many families, unhappy with traditional schools, that would be much more likely to homeschool with Village Home as an option.  Class Dismissed documentary director Jeremy Stuart quoted, “Every city needs a Village Home.”  I couldn’t agree more.

Article in Portland Family about the documentary Class Dismissed, featuring Village Home

Village Home main website

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Car Free

We sold the van this week since we were only using it for our once a month road trips.  The rest of the time the van sat out on the street with no purpose.

It’s been a year already since we went down to one car.  We have never missed the second car and it’ll be interesting to see how it feels not having a car at my disposal for the first time ever.  We get a lot more exercise than we ever got before, and the exercise is just a natural part of every day.

We may need a car again in the future, but for now we’re better off without it.

I see so much when I’m walking through town and through all the other towns around here.  It looks different on foot than it looks driving by it.  I’ve been enjoying walking through Beaverton a couple of times a week.  It’s a great little town.  Thursdays are my long day now.  While Tate takes his first class, I spend a couple of hours in the park reading and watching all the families in the park.  When Tate’s done, he and I eat an early lunch in the park, then we walk over to their library to pass the four hours before his next class.  The library is a really nice building with lots of wood detail inside, solar panels on the roof and plenty of room inside to sit and read or talk.  It’s been a great place to spend time with Tate for a few hours a week.

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My Thursday morning office

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My Thursday afternoon office

Categories: Family Time, Getting Around | 4 Comments