Thursday, December 16, 2010

Working - from feelings of dread to happy/high

I am mostly doing fine at my new job at Corvallis Manor, feeling good about the care I give, and enjoying my fellow employees. 

But one thing that can happen, working night shift, is an aide will call in sick for day shift.  It is a feeling of DREAD that it might be my section and I will be expected to work a few hours into the day shift.  When I work all night, I am living for that 6:30am hour to be free to go home.  It feels almost devastating to find out that instead of being free to go home, I need to continue on, getting patients toileted, washed, and dressed for breakfast.  A new round of vital signs needed, call lights to answer.

That happened this morning. What made it worse is last night I forgot to bring my phone.  I would normally call Gary so he wouldn't worry that I'm not home around the usual time.  I realized that I did not know his phone number.  I looked it up in the phone book, but mistakenly looked in the Albany section so it wasn't there.  Argh.  Luckily he saw my phone at home, and when I didn't show up, he called the Manor to verify that I was working late.  A really nice woman came to tell me, and to say that he wanted to make sure I knew that he knew, so I wouldn't worry.  She said she appreciated having a reason to meet me.

At night I'm responsible for 15-18 people.  The day shift is responsible for more like 6-8 people.  Luckily I had a pretty good group.  The first thing that came up was one of mine wanted her shower right away.  I haven't not given showers at this facility so hoped she could direct me on the procedure.  She was just great.  She is a tiny elderly woman, with only one leg.  She is amazing.  She grips things with her hands and hops to get where she needs to be, like wheelchair to shower chair.  She is cheerful and energetic.  It went well and I was so pleased.

The best part of this experience was having so many people thanking me for staying late (like I had a choice!) and pitching in as if I were a regular on day shift.  It made me feel just great to have the other aides thank me.  And I got plenty of smiles and nice words from others.  I ended up feeling happy/high.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas Outlook

I am always wistful about the days when our WHOLE family got together - parents, sisters, their spouses, and all our children.  In recent years we've been scattered.  This year will especially feel scattered with the recent death of our father.  My son Jacob won't be able to make it home from Peru because of job commitments.  That is not all bad - this job was a promotion and the school he works for has done the paperwork for him to work legally in Peru.  Plus he'll be home for a visit in February and I look forward to that.  I'm grateful that he has a good job.  And a Peruvian girlfriend, and her family.

A bit of craziness for me, as I work the night shift on Christmas Eve, plus again the night shift on Christmas day.  Gary keeps saying "You don't HAVE to work", but I like having the money, a way of making my own friends, and stories to tell.  Plus the benefits.

Anyway, the way it will go this year is Debbie, bless her, is hosting a Christmas brunch.  Pam and her son Joe will come, Nick and Debbie's son John will be there, and Gary (bless him) will take me.  Then we'll come back to Corvallis where we will host a 4 pm dinner for Gary's daughter and her family, and anyone else who wants to come.

I am grateful for being with this wonderful guy, Gary.  And grateful for my wonderful sisters.  And wonderful sons.  I will miss going to the Christmas Eve service at Calvin Presbyterian in Tigard that I used to go to with my sons.  But one of these years I hope some sort of Christmas Eve service will be a tradition again.

Lots of love to everyone this season.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Bearkat House Concert and Party

Last night we hosted a party for a performance of Bearkat, the group that Nick has playing with and touring with for the past month.  I was beside myself with excitement about their arrival - inviting guests, making food, and looking forward to hearing them play.  I was glad that they arrived early, plenty of time to get situated and to rest a little before the party. 

We have a variety of spaces for them to sleep.  They have been used to all sleeping in one room, and they said they have gotten used to that.  In face they said the first night on the tour that they were able to have separate rooms they had "separation anxiety" which I thought was so cute.  But they did opt for multiple rooms here, for a little better rest.

It made me so happy that they said they loved the food I offered.

The group leader, singer, and composer of the music is Katy.  She plays guitar, banjo, and ukulele.   Brian on guitar, Kent on drums, and Nick on euphonium.  But they all play different instruments including various percussion instruments and the lovely toy pink piano.  Meredith has been touring with them as the videographer.  Here are some videos of them:

The party was fun - except for guests being noisy and having the feeling that some were not listening to the music.  But afterwards Brian said he liked the lack of performance pressure - they could play in a very relaxed way.  But some of us did listen and their music was just beautiful.  There was a good variety of styles, volume, etc., which kept me very entertained.  And even the people who didn't SEEM to be listening told me enthusiastically how good they thought the group is.  I enjoyed getting to know some of Gary's friends a little better, and meeting some others for the first time.  Also, I really appreciated that a band mom, Linda, who lives in Corvallis came with a friend.  And my sister Debbie and husband Tony, who introduced Gary and me.

I didn't take photos until after the party.  Here is one of the group, being funny:

Later they played cards:

It made me happy that they seemed to enjoy each other's company so much.  Also, they were just fun to talk to and have around.  I know they will be going their separate ways soon, but wish I could have them all back once a year.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Bowling Alley and Best Burger in Town

Today I have been living in Corvallis for one month.  I count it from my first night at work.  I decided it was about time I see Gary's bowling alley.  He works there on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.  I dropped in, and I really enjoyed seeing it.  They had a women's leagues playing today.

Here is Gary cooking.

And he DID make me a terrific burger - pretty spirals of mustard, catsup and mayonaisse on the bun, and lots of lettuce and tomato.

One of these days I will get my courage up and actually go bowling.

Water at the Farm - Amazing!

Gary changed the water in his aquarium while I was sleeping.  (Still working night shift.)  When I woke up, I asked - didn't you have to let the water sit a bit before putting the fish in it?  He said no.  Don't you need to let the chlorine evaporate off?

He told me that since our water comes from a well, it requires no processing.  I am still trying to get my mind around that - water from our tap is pure and tastes wonderful - and it is coming from the ground with no processing.  Really?

So no water payment?  No.  No sewer payment?  No.  And those in our neighborhood each have our own well, so we don't have to compete for water.


Corvallis Christmas Parade

I particularly enjoyed going to Corvallis' 26th annual Christmas parade.  I love smaller town parades anyway.  But it seemed especially fun to bundle up and get out for this.  Someone (maybe Starbucks?) was generously handing out cups of rich hot chocolate.  I loved seeing the families all out there together. 

There was quite a variety in the parade.  Big hair rodeo queens, corgi dog owners walking their dogs, the mayor in his electric car.  I especially enjoyed the Grace Lutheran Church music group -singing rocking music with the men in suits and dark glasses a la the Blues Brothers.  International exchange students marched by with their flags.  There seemed to be a world peace theme, which I can always appreciate.

But maybe the most exciting things were people powered vehicles that came from "The daVinci Days" - they looked like the old time bicycles with huge, and I mean huge, wheels.  Apparently this is an international event hosted in the summer in Corvallis - see  I can't wait.

Afterwards we went to the home of friends of Gary's for dessert.  An HP engineer and his wife that Gary knows from bowling.  They have a funny competition - the wife for her lemon bars and the man for his chocolate chip cookies.  He told us his that his wife's were "Duncan and Hines" when they were clearly home made.  She had a blue ribbon from a fair for them - they reallly were good.  It is fun to meet the wide variety of people who bowl.  And fun that everywhere we go people know Gary.

Society event, Corvallis style

We went to a lovely fundraising event for the group Zonta, which I had not heard of before.  According to their website,  "Founded in 1919, Zonta International is a global organization of executives and professionals working together to advance the status of women worldwide through service and advocacy."  I was impressed with the projects, both local and international, promoting women's interests.  See

Our neighbors Kelly and Dana had purchased a table for 8 for dinner, and we enjoyed their company.  Of course, before dinner there was a silent auction with MANY items, and during the last part of dinner was an oral auction.  They had enough items that there were two auctioneers, spelling each other while the other ran around confirming bids.  This was very familiar, from fundraisers I've been involved with, particularly for the kids' band fundraisers.

Kelly bid on a pecan pie, which he did not win.  I told him not to worry, I would make him a pecan pie. I  take pride in my pecan pies with the triple amount of pecans I use.  I made it and it was appreciated.

The most "Corvallis" aspect was that there was a beautiful, glamorous, silver fox coat in perfect condition, for the oral auction.  Despite any distaste for animal furs, it was truly beautiful.  However, no one wanted to big on it.  While everything else was going for outrageous sums (rich people here in Corvallis?), this coat went for $300-something.  The ladies at my table said that anyone wearing that coat in Corvallis would be laughed at.  OK - I will know to avoid wearing any beautiful fur coats here.

Monday, November 29, 2010


After reading my blog so far, a friend asked to know more about Gary.  I'm happy to oblige.

The first thing you would notice about him is he is tall - 6' 6".  He is strong, and his hands are strong, which I really appreciate when I want a shoulder rub.  As I said earlier, in high school he bucked hay with my brother in law, who introduced him to me.  He is one year older than me.  Here he is in his easy chair:

Here he is on his property:

Gary served in Viet Nam.  We have similar political points of view, detesting those who promote their own agendas with hate and falsehoods.

He majored in business at Oregon State.  He worked up to management in a plywood mill, then got tired of making money for other people, so bought a bowling alley and made money for himself.  He is proud of the bowling alley - and part of that is good food.  Employees are all required to be willing to fill in with cooking. He says they serve "the best burger in town".  He knows many people in Corvallis, from many walks of life, who are bowlers.  The conversation and especially teasing of co-workers and customers was what made it fun for him.  He is now retired, but still "volunteers" working there every Tuesday and Wednesday.  This is mostly because he enjoys it, but also because he mentors the new owner to make sure it continues to be successful.  He runs into people he knows just about everywhere he goes in Corvallis.

Since retiring he puts a lot of energy into growing his produce.  He likes to grow a lot to eat himself, but also to give away.  He is successful - organic methods that make bumper crops of delicious items.  He also does a lot of food preservation - freezing, drying, canning.  He roasts his own coffee beans.  His blackberry preserves are divine.

He is growing red wiggler worms with a neighbor, thinking they will grow enough to sell.  He set up a habitat for bees on his property.  Also feeds birds.  He is happiest when he is working out of doors.  He loves riding his tractor mower around.

And he cooks!  He can throw great meals together that look effortless.  For just about any number of people.  And then cleans up after himself.

He has a strong sense of what is right and how things should work.   He does not mind a confrontation when he perceives something wrong.  He also, as he puts it, does not mince words.  I won't repeat here some of the things he has told me that he has told others - I'll just say it is pretty rude but at the same time effective, and makes me laugh.

Here is what I think is the best part about Gary - he is one of the kindest and most generous people I have ever known.  He has a large heart and has no problem expressing love.  He would do anything for a friend.  He calls his mother every day.  He loves and admires his daughter and son in law, and enjoys his two grandsons.  He has many friends, many of whom date back to high school and college.

Things seem to be going well between us, enjoying each other's company.  We are both used to being fairly independent, and are comfortable with time and interests together as well as some apart. 

How did I do - any questions?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Moving Ernesto

The other significant milestone for my commitment to moving, besides giving notice at PBNC, was to move my beautiful hefty cat Ernesto.  I laid awake one night obsessing about how to do it.  He is too big for a normal cat carrier.  I was thinking of maybe getting a small dog crate or not using any sort of carrier or crate.  I posted my dilemma on facebook and immediately got several responses saying "Do not try to drive with him loose in the car" citing examples of cars wrecked.  Then my band mom friend Diane told me the perfect solution - one laundry basket stacked on top of the other.  It worked out great.  He only meowed a short time, really.  I was playing the audiobook of Malcolm Gladwell's "What the Dog Saw" and his nice voice maybe also helped.  So moving him turned out to be no problem.

Integrating him with Gary's two dogs is another story.  He has made himself at home under the bed in the guest room.  I have put his food, water and litter box in that room, so at least I know his needs are met and he is safe.  I sleep in that room when I have worked a night shift and need to sleep during the day.  I really like having him with me when I sleep.  Sometimes I take him out and hold him in my lap to try to get him used to being around the dogs.  I learned that cats can growl!  Never knew that.  The dogs have been around cats before, and are not a danger to him, but they did chase him a couple of times so he really does not want to be anywhere near them.  Here are the dogs, Lola and Maybelle:

The neighbors, Kelly and Dana, also brought home a big cat to integrate with their two dogs.  Kelly says it will take a couple of months, but soon Ernesto will be the boss.  He said it just takes an encounter where the cat scratches the dogs' noses, and they will not bother him any more.  I really do not know if this will happen.  But Gary says he doesn't think it is right for Ernesto to "stay under the friggin bed".

I was in Beaverton/Portland the past two days and am excited to get back to Corvallis and have time with Ernesto.  Gary is very, very close to his dogs, so he understands about my being close to my cat.  That part is all OK.  He also likes cats and is trying to give Ernesto attention, too.

I will keep you all posted on this.  Here are photos of Ernesto in his new home:

Friday, November 19, 2010

Corvallis Manor

I have worked 7 nights at my new job at Corvallis Manor.  The first 3 were orientation, by a man named Evin in the short stay area.  His girlfriend, Abigail works the same shift, days and area.  He is wonderful.  Compassionate, competent, and has a sense of humor with patients.  Abigail at times has a dark point of view, but was also helpful to me and I appreciate her too.  I hope I scored points with them by unclogging a toilet and mopping up the overflow one night.  I do think it works best when we all are willing to do whatever needs to be done.

The next 4 days I was responsible for 15 people - some were short stay patients and some long term care residents.  At least they were all in the same hallway.  It was a little challenging because each group had a different nurse, and I needed to try to keep straight which nurse was responsible for which person, and there were a few differences in charting.  But at least it was the same group all 4 nights, which really helped, as I got to know them.  And there weren't any who required excessive attention.

So far I love all the nurses and all the aides.  There are a few things that are better than at my old job.  They take care of their own laundry, and we're never short on linens (constant problem at PBNC).  The soap dispensers are much better, you just wave your hand under to get nice foamy soap.  At PBNC we had to push, push, push, and push and got a puny amount of slimy soap out.  The person handling HR seems really 'with it' and nice.  And I like the director of nursing, who hired me.

All in all, the facility is similar to PBNC, and I think it will work out well.  I do love the short commute, I make it home to Gary's before I get sleepy.

Next Steps to Corvallis - and Losing my Dad

Gary called me Sunday October 3rd and told me he wanted me to move in with him as soon as I can.  We made plans for me to come for dinner the next Friday.  I knew he was going to be visiting his mother the next few days, so I asked if he could take some food items to my parents in Klamath Falls.  I knew he'd be happy to do that - since he is a "people person" and truly enjoys doing good deeds and being helpful.  That all went well, and I was happy that he met my parents.  The funny story is my mother asked if he wanted to "take a leak" before heading on over to his mother's.  I asked him "Did she use those exact words"? and he said yes.  I told him that was out of character for her.  Then I found out there was a story behind that - Debbie and Tony had grown a bumper crop of leeks, so would humorously ask everyone who visited them if they wanted to "take a leek" when they left.  We had a good laugh about that.

Anyway, when I went to dinner that Friday, I met the neighbors Kelly and Dana.  Kelly is a stockbroker, and he and Gary do a lot of farm projects together.  They are growing red wiggler worms to sell for composting.  They have two huge containers, and will be harvesting the worms to sell and the compost for their own use.  In the meantime, they drain liquid out the bottom, and use it as fertilizer mixed in when watering their crops.  Gary calls this "worm pee".  His tomatoes are out of this world - a rich red color and the most flavorful I've ever had.  My mother said she hadn't had tomatoes like that since she was in Oklahoma.  He says it is the "worm pee" that makes the difference.

Dana works for HP.  She was in the middle of painting her nails when Gary invited them over, so she finished while at his house, experimenting with a very dark blue color.  That night I drove straight from his house to my job at Mt. Angel. 

I had inquired about employment at Corvallis Manor, which is only 15-20 minute drive from Gary's house.  I was pleased to be invited for an interview.  The director of nursing services was impressed that I was from the Providence Benedicting Nursing Center.  She also liked that I was taking a Medication Aide class.  She asked what area and shifts I preferred and she gave a little jump when I said short stay - night shift.  That was just what she needed.  So I was offered a job, the sooner the better.  I told her I needed to give two weeks notice, and ended up taking an additional week to have a breather between jobs.

This extra week turned out to be really important.  The night of October 13th I agonized about the decision to give notice at PBNC.  It was a huge step for me.  I had been so excited to get the CNA training at Mt Angel.  And so excited to be working there, and for Providence.  Excited again when I got to work in the short stay area.  I loved many of the people I worked with.  And loved the commute with my audiobooks, etc.  Also of course, thinking of leaving the life that I loved in Beaverton/Portland with my 3 book groups, season tickets to 3 theatre series, the Body Recall class I taught, my great Zumba class, etc.

But by the morning of the 14th I made the decision that since Gary was the man who seemed to fill the bill of a man to share my future with, I would give notice at PBNC, and try taking steps toward a new life with him in Corvallis.  I e-mailed my family about this decision.  It happened that later that day my father took his own life.  We daughters were full of sorrow, but also sympathetic with this decision.  He hadn't been feeling well from complications after a surgery, he had lost his appetite, he was facing needing to move to assisted living and never did want that.  He always said he had had a good full life and didn't see any point in living past age 90.  He did it when Debbie and Tony were there, and bless Tony for being the one to say comforting words to him at the end, and to deal with what needed to be done.

Pam, her husband Rod, and I decided to go down the next morning.  I really appreciated Rod driving us.  It was so good for the 3 sisters to be together.  I took the train back, needing to get back to take the final test for my medication aide class.

My dad had been looking forward to me getting a job that didn't require the commute I had, where I needed help staying awake on the way home (phone conversations with him and my mother served this purpose and I treasure all conversations we got to have).  I don't know if he thought about this that day, but he might have felt good about meeting Gary and knowing I possibly had a more secure future.  And at the least, a shorter commute.

October 1st Date

After our promising time together at Gary's, I thought it would be good to see him again soon.  I checked my calender and saw that I was free the next Friday night, Oct 1st.  I called, and he sounded really happy to hear from me.  That made me feel good!  We made plans for me to visit again that Friday.

He called back later that day and said "I'm so stupid, I haven't really dated much.  I should have told you what a nice time I had with you when you were here.  And we could have slept together."  I thanked him but told him that since I didn't know him well I was more comfortable sleeping in my own room.  But I thought it was sweet that he admitted he felt clumsy with "dating".

I decided that the jeans I had worn before were my lucky jeans, so I wore them again on my next visit.  After I arrived, we drove into Corvallis.  We first went to the best espresso place, Allann Bros coffee at The Beanery and got coffees to go.  Then we went to get the best hot dogs in town.  We took them to a bench by the river, and talked while we ate. 

Next we went to the best gelato shop, which impressed me with being more cosmopolitan than anything I remember in Corvallis from the days I went to OSU.  We sat inside, eating our wonderful gelato.  Gary said that he could picture us having a good future together.  I told him that he was the first man I had met in many years who I could picture a future with.  He asked me when I first thought that, and I said maybe when he invited me to spend the night that first time at his house.  It was pretty romantic.

This happened AWFULLY fast, but it mattered a lot that he is my age, from my home town, we know people in common, and have important shared values.  We both like cooking and hosting - connecting with friends.

Here is photo of Gary's house:

September Dinner at Gary's

I was excited about going to dinner at Gary's and put thought into what I should wear. I decided on flattering jeans (going to a farm after all) and crisp white blouse. I was told that we could pick some vegetables from his garden and I was looking forward to that.

I got directions, but went to google maps for what looked like better directions. I was to meet Debbie and Tony, and their other friend Jerry there. Unfortunately, google maps let me down, the road I expected to taker there didn't go through. And also unfortunately, cell phone reception is sketchy at Gary's house. Finally I was able to text Tony the country road intersection where I was, and Gary and Tony came to retrieve me.

I was just a little rattled when I arrived. Gary poured me a big glass of wine. Debbie and Tony had already picked some vegetables for themselves. We all went out for me to see the garden.  Gary noted that it was starting to get dark and said "Why don't you just spend the night here and get vegetables in the morning.  I have a spare room."  Because of being tired from my drive, and the wine, it DID sound really good to not have to drive the hour and a half back to Beaverton after dinner.  But it was also a little odd to be invited to spend the night in front of the other guests.  I was mostly liking the idea of staying.  So I said yes.  Gary told me that there was also a Harvest Festival that was supposed to be fun in Corvallis the next day.

We had a wonderful meal - Gary cooked salmon marinated in soy sauce and bourbon.  And he made the same cobbler recipe that I use!  Melted butter, batter, fruit, bake without mixing.  Here is the dinner plate, and Gary and Jerry in the kitchen:

Debbie said she drove home a little worried about me, and was in mother bear mode.  She said she thought "I THINK he is a nice guy.  I HOPE he is a nice guy."  And he was very nice, did not make any sort of move toward me - no kiss or anything.  I stayed in the guest room, which I liked.

It was raining the next morning, which didn't look like as much fun, for the Harvest Festival.  I couldn't think what else to do with myself, so after a nice breakfast that Gary cooked, and after collecting vegetables, I headed home.  I did kiss him before I left.

Here are squashes that I got from the garden.  I think they are beautiful.

August Dinner Party

My sister Debbie had told me about a friend of her husband Tony's, whose wife recently left him and he was depressed.  His name is Gary Haworth.  Gary, Tony, and another friend Jerry had bucked hay together when they were in high school, to earn money, and are still friends.  She was trying to think of someone to introduce him to, and thought of me.  She told me he lived on property in the country, had a huge garden, and loved growing things.  That did sound interesting.  I had really been enjoying growing some vegetables myself.  I had been driving through some beautiful country on my way to and from my job in Mt. Angel, and wondered wistfully what life would be like in the country.

Finally the day arrived for the dinner party party.  I took a look at Gary and immediately thought of Garrison Keillor, but Gary is better looking.  Debbie's neighbor thought he looked like David Letterman, and I guess he is a mix between Garrison Keillor and David Letterman.  Anyway, he arrived with lots of vegetables that he had grown.  He talked about roasting his own coffee beans.  I showed interest and he said he would give me some beans he had roasted.  Other than that I didn't sense he had any interest in me.  Before he left I told him that I would love to see his place.  Hint, hint.  He said "I'd like to have you (pause) you and Debbie and Tony over."  I wasn't sure if he included Debbie and Tony because he didn't want me to think he was interested in me. 

I decided to wait a bit and look at my calendar and try to figure out a free day that would work with Debbie and Tony.  But before I did that, Debbie told me that we were invited for dinner, September 25th.  I happened to be free that night!

Here is a photo of the hay buckers -  Tony, Jerry, and Gary that night: