Friday, October 2, 2015


Nick's parents were here last week.  They stayed with me because I have more room.  It was really fun, getting to know them.  They left Monday morning to spend some time at the Oregon coast before heading back to Colorado, but they called yesterday and wanted Nick and I to meet them at one of our local restaurants for a final visit over lunch.

So, mid-morning I was out in the back garden watering before the rendezvous--because yes, it's still hot here--when out of the blue, like someone flipped a switch, every siren in town began to wail.  I was startled, and worried.  What in the world would make fire, ambulance and police all ignite at once? My first thought was the lumber mill outside town had caught fire, or exploded, though I hadn't heard any booms.

About an hour later, I drove down the mountain to Nick's.  He took the wheel, his face grim.  I asked him what was wrong as he merged onto the freeway.  He looked at me and said, "You haven't heard?"

"I heard the sirens going all over town earlier, was it the mill?"

"There was a terrible shooting at the college," he said.  "There were several people killed."

I stared at him for a minute, not comprehending.  "Was it Oregon State or the University of Oregon? It must have been bad if they needed our help."  (Both schools are in towns about an hour north of me).

Nick glanced at me again.  "Our college,"

"What are you talking about?  Umpqua?  That can't be right."  As the words were spilling out and my stomach was beginning to roil, a LifeFlight helicopter roared over our heads toward the local hospital and two ambulances flew past followed by two State Police cars.

It was true.  In my little corner of the world, an inexplicably tragic act of horror had just taken place. I've watched this scenario play out many times on the television; I've felt for the victims, the communities, the families and friends.  But never, not ever, did I imagine it happening where I live, in the back of beyond small town America.

Our lunch with Nick's parents was fraught, the whup-whup of helicopters and sirens erasing appetites as we watched the story unfold on the big screen televisions at the restaurant.  We parted with extra tight hugs and promises to keep in touch.

Last night there was a candlelight vigil in the park--a place usually filled with kids and picnics, summer music and art festivals.  In the middle of town, the park meanders, following the bends in the river.  It seemed like most of the town was there.

There's a strange sense of solidarity when people come together in disbelief, sadness, shock.  I've seen this time and again on the news, but never understood it until now.  You want that little candle to somehow light the darkness, keep the evil at bay.  You stand next to strangers that aren't strangers after all and you wonder how this happened...why does it continue to happen?

Homeland Security, ATF, the FBI and every major news network have taken over the town.  I had to grocery shop this morning and a store that is usually bustling with noise and clatter, was almost silent.  Afterwards I went to my local coffee kiosk to check on the barista girls as I know several of them go to UCC. Thankfully, only one was in class yesterday.  This morning she told me the images in her head will be with her forever.  We cried.

I have always felt safe here, in Roseburg.  It's off the beaten track, quiet, unassuming and small. The ground has shifted under my feet, peeps, and I don't know how to find my balance.

Monday, August 24, 2015

To Paraphrase Mark Twain...

...rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated.

Actually, I'm alive and well (and thanks peeps, for the emails and phone calls!), though to be truthful, I am sick and tired of the relentless heat, the forest fire smoke that's been a constant for weeks now, and the endless work I've been doing on this blasted house--in particular, for most of this long, interminable month of August, hence no blogging, reading or writing.

Although...a few weeks back, on a truly horrible weekend of triple digit temps, Nick and I loaded the truck, hitched up the trailer and headed to the coast for a couple days of dune action.  It was a welcome relief from the inland heat, though temps nearly reached 80*--which at the Oregon coast is not something that happens often.  Seems no matter where I go, I'm destined to sweat.  Then we got food poisoning on Saturday night and spent the remainder of the night and into Sunday's early morning hours bonding over the toilet bowl.  Ah, the romance of it all...

A few shots taken before the Mexican Dinner of Doom...

Jumped out of the Maverick to take this shot of Nick and machine just as it began to get dark...and okay, I wanted another photo of my favorite bridge, off in the distance.

Love the pools and swamps that appear so unexpectedly, hidden below the rise of a dune...

So, one little bit of fun in a very grueling month of repairing gutters, sanding and painting, installing a new cook top--I handed Nick the tools, he did all the work--deck prep x 2, and a million other things that I'm trying to accomplish before the heat, smoke or workload do me in.

At the moment, I'm not sure who's winning.

Friday, July 31, 2015

A Fire Weather System

I've watched programs on the Weather and Science channels about fire-driven weather systems, but never thought I would see such a thing myself.

Yesterday, the fire that's burning closest to town jumped the containment barrier and roared to new and dangerous life in the afternoon.

Nick was over and called me outside around 4:30 or so to look at this weird cloud.  At first, I thought it was just a normal Summer thundercloud and hoped it wouldn't add lightning to the out-of-control blaze.  I snapped a quick shot but couldn't stay out on the side deck for too long as the temperature was 106* and still climbing...

Curious about what we thought might be a pending storm, Nick went out again at 5:00 while I was starting dinner, then yelled at me to bring my camera.  The cloud had grown, creepy and huge and we now knew it was a weather system generated by the fire.  Doesn't that second shot look like a giant mouth, ready to take a big bite?

Another check, just past 6:00, temperature 108*.  This was amazing in real life; wish my camera could convey the magnitude of this monster, or the turmoil I tried to capture in the second photo. At the bottom right corner of the first shot, you can actually see part of the fire smoke rising just on the other side of that hill.  And yeah, that's the town right below...

I heard this morning that another fire has started 30 miles south of this one and has already consumed 6,000 acres of wilderness.  The scary part is, the two fires are burning toward each other.

Today is to reach close to 110*, the area is tinder dry in this endless drought, the air is nearly too scorched to breathe...and I'm thinking a nice, long vacation at the coast just might be in order.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Fixes, Fires and Fawns

I need a holiday...seriously, a very, very long one.  I'm still working endlessly on the House Chores From Hell list--for what seems like most of my adult life at this point--and though I'm making progress, there hasn't been much time to blog, read or have any fun these past few weeks.

I managed to spend some quality time on the roof last week, scrubbing out the gutters.  Got them clean and washed, then sealed the splits in the bad corner joins, and now just need to sand under the eaves and repaint, though perhaps not this week as the temperatures are soaring: today is 105*, tomorrow 108*...and no let up in sight.

In another attempt to cool the house from the relentless heat of Summer in southern Oregon, I've covered the laser beams--aka the skylights--with sliding shades.  Nick's idea and a really, really good one, too.  We spent last weekend installing three in the great room and almost immediately, I could feel the difference in the Greenhouse Effect.

One of three skylights that blast nuclear rays into the house...and Nick balancing on the 10' ladder getting ready to install the first shade....

Of course, each window was just slightly askew so it took lots of maneuvering and shimming and general cursing to get all three shades in place, but we did it.  And wow, Nick did just an incredible job...

New shade closed, blocking the orb.  And new shade open, though that won't be happening again until about October.

With the temps so high for the foreseeable future, it's really wonderful that we got the shades installed just in the nick of time (yes, pun intended...)


Got up this morning with a clogged throat and a burning nose.  I woke up in the night with cool, fresh air blowing in my open bedroom window, so I was really concerned to smell that now-familiar acrid bite of smoke.

Last night, crystal clear, almost full moon, millions of stars overhead.

This morning...and somewhere down there in the valley is my little town, engulfed in smoke.  I quickly got on the internet to see where this latest forest fire was burning and discovered it's in the deep wilderness just 20 miles or so east of me...holy crap.

Have I mentioned that Summer is my least favorite time of year?   And it isn't even August yet, the real fire month.  Ugh.


Just when I think I can't hack it up this mountain one more day, or deal with another scorching Summer...this happens:  Wee downy Bambi babies start appearing, all wobbly legs and fawn spots and big ears, and I wonder how I can go back to city living.

Though, that might be the heatstroke talking...

Monday, July 13, 2015

Midsummer Madness

I think it pretty much goes without saying that my blog posts have been very hit or miss lately.  And it's not just because of Nick's presence in my life, but the load of work I've been doing around the house this Summer.  And truly, without his help, I would have long been overwhelmed by now and probably not be posting on the blog until Hallowe'en.

I've spent the last week or so trying not to have a meltdown in the heat and humidity, whilst still making some kind of effort to power wash both decks and the gutters.  I'm going to forget staining the decks--that hasn't worked and I'm tired of endlessly doing the same work over and over every damn Summer--so I'm going to try the Deck Over stuff which is sort of like paint and stain in one application.  The only bad thing is, the decks have to be super clean and any defects have to be fixed beforehand.  I have a few boards that will need to be replaced--according to Nick.  Frankly, I would just leave it, but he's too professional for that.  In the long run, I can see his point, but while my brain fries in the relentless heat, I find myself not giving a tinker's damn.

There are some splits in the gutters at three corner joints which have to be washed, wirebrushed and cleaned before I can apply the sealant, then the fascia boards will have to be sanded and repainted because the dripping rain (what rain??) has bubbled the paint under the eaves. Thankfully, the gutters that need fixing are easily accessible.  With no shade from the nuclear orb, I've been forced to work in the early or late parts of the day which means that project is dragging on and on.

And I'm still forging ahead with The Purge, though that's going much slower than I expected.  I mean, really, how hard is it to sort through closets, drawers and cupboards?  Very hard, as it turns out. When I finally get a good bunch of boxes and bags filled and stuffed into the car, I have to haul everything to the Goodwill.  The other day it was close to 100* and no one was manning the area where you drop stuff off, so not only did I have to load the crap, I had to unload it too.  A big bonfire in the backyard would work for me about now...except for the drought and fire danger.

Working while sweat pours down my face, soaks my shirt and makes me cranky is becoming normal these days--and totally not something I'm happy about.  Each task seems to take longer and be fraught with problems, shorting out my temper--and the will to live--while I dream of cooler days, chilly nights, flannel shirts and jeans.

Ah well...this too shall pass.  Right?

Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Speed Of Life

Another wild week has sped by since last I wrote a post.  Honestly, I don't know if it's the heat, or all the work and chores I've been doing, or...what exactly.

Last Thursday I had to move some of the furniture--crammed most of it into the back bedroom--because the carpet cleaning guy was coming first thing Friday morning.  Nick helped me move the big stuff, then after he left, I spent a couple more hours rolling up rugs and stashing numerous smaller items in all the closets before collapsing in a sweaty heap of too hot and tired to do another thing.

So, up at 6:30am Friday, I vacuum the house for the next hour and a half and barely had time for a cup of coffee before the guy arrived.  Still, getting the carpet cleaned was at the top of my Things To Get Done By Fall and I couldn't wait to cross that task off the list.

Friday turned out to be 103*.  It nearly killed the carpet guy, though thankfully he managed to do an excellent job before he began to croak.  I plied the man with endless glasses of water, and fortunately all ended well with the carpet now looking brand new.  I'm pretty sure he was really sorry to be scheduled to work that day.

The new fittings arrived on Saturday for the last three lights in the kitchen and Nick got them installed in a matter of minutes.  I love the clean, clear look of the glass shades; they sparkle like crystal and make me smile.  It's amazing how just a few little fixtures can change a room so much, and with minimum expense if they're on sale.  And you know a guy named Nick.

Then, as the day wore on, Saturday became utterly unbearable...for breathing, moving, eating. Being alive.  The heat was brutal; the burning asphalt road to Hell sounds about right.  By early evening, it was so humid, my hair frizzed.  I don't have the kind of hair that frizzes.

The Arts Festival--a once-a-year event that's usually really fun--was taking place all weekend and we'd planned to go, but it was just too flaming hot. I felt bad for the craft and food vendors...but especially for the bands trying to play music in the swelter.

Sunday...more of the same: heat, humidity, brain fry.  Nick and I went out to lunch, then sat in his backyard under some trees where there was a tiny breeze.  Or maybe it was just me wheezing while my lungs tried to inhale water instead of air.

This huge Monarch butterfly wandered past, picked a leaf and didn't move for the rest of the afternoon.  So, it wasn't just me then...

I don't have a clear picture about everything I've done between Monday and right now, but I have managed to keep busy on the chores list and even finished the closet sorting that I started two weeks ago, and all the drawers and cabinets in the bathroom, and loads of other stuff that I can't remember, thanks to the mind-melting heat.

Long holiday weekend ahead, and although several plans are on the table, Nick and I haven't decided what we're doing yet.  My vote is to fly to some Norwegian fjord and throw myself into the icy cold water but at the moment no one else seems interested in that brilliant idea.

So, dear readers, in case I lose myself in the space/time continuum again...or melt into a gooey human puddle as the heatwave rolls on...and on...

Have a safe, wonderful and Happy 4th of July...

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Cars, Kitchens and Chaos

So, Nick says to me on Saturday afternoon that he saw these really cool light fixtures at Lowe's that could replace the ugly and terrible (my words, though I'm sure he was also thinking them) 20-year old track lighting spotlights in the kitchen.  We decide to go on Sunday and since it's easier to pick him up on the way, I drive to his place around 11:00 the next morning, we spend a few minutes dinking, then get in the Blazer to head for Lowe's.

The car won't start.  Dead as a doornail.  (And hey, what exactly is a doornail...???)**

I look at Nick, he looks at me, then he gets out of the car, lifts the hood, does some tinkering and discovers my battery is a complete goner.  I had no red light warning, saw no change in the gauge, but the thing is toast.  As I'm slightly stressing about the situation, Nick says, "Well, the car couldn't have died in a better place."  And because he's totally right, I just resigned myself to the inevitable and let him rescue me...again.  Course, he knew right where to go for the new battery, even got me a discount, and an hour later we're back on track and off to Lowe's.

[Have I mentioned already that I'm anticipating imminent dumpage?  Seriously.  The Blazer has run like a dream for years--yes, with regular maintenance--and yet in the past two+ weeks, I've Nick has replaced the water pump, running boards, and now the battery.  I'm telling you, dear readers, it's only a matter of time before he decides enough already.  Cripes...]

Anyway.  We get to Lowe's, and although I've just spent the light fixture money on the new battery (holy crap they're expensive these days!), he was right: the lights are really great...and they're on sale. So what the heck, I buy three--to go over the kitchen sink and counters--and with his usual attitude of no time like the present, we have lunch, get back to my house, and...

My wonderful new lights...

There will be three more on the other side of the kitchen to light up the stove and counters, though Lowe's was out of the hanging part of the fixture so they had to be ordered and won't be in until next week--a delay I'm fine with because, honestly, what with all the car rescues and stuff, I'd really like the man to just come to my house and not do any work.


The West Coast is having a record-breaking heat wave, running from Anchorage, Alaska to San Diego, California.  That's 3,750 miles--give or take--of blistering heat, forest fires and temps in the high 90s and low 100s.  Friday will hit 103 here, in southern Oregon, then for the next three weeks, most days will hover right at the 100* mark.  It gives me brain fry just to think of it.

It's too weird having deep August temperatures in June.  My only hope is that by actual August it will be October weather as we seem to be at least six weeks ahead of normal this year. Unfortunately, I fear this could be shaping up to be the Summer The West Coast Burned.  I don't know when the unrelenting drought will end...or maybe this will be the new West: deserts, dust devils and fire.  It's frightening.  And probably not the time to be living on a mountain, surrounded by forest...just my luck.


Still.  While I'm laying on the cold Italian tiles in the kitchen for the rest of the Summer as it swelters and scorches outside...I can admire my beautiful new light fixtures.

And dream of autumn days and warm soup, cozy socks and flannel jammies, pumpkins and falling leaves.  Sigh...


** Okay, peeps, you know I had to look it up.  

Doornails are the large-headed studs that were used in earlier times for strength and more recently as decoration. The practice was to hammer the nail through and then bend the protruding end over to secure it. This process, similar to riveting, was called clenching. This may be the source of the 'deadness', as such a nail would be unusable afterwards.

(Answer and photo courtesy of