You Reap What You Sow

Boy howdy. What a crazy few weeks I have been having! First, there is a LOT of good news to be excited about. Andrew and I have scored a sweet partnership with an organic farmer up in the lovely little town of Snohomish, WA, which is about 30 miles northeast of Seattle with beautiful views of the Cascades. The farmer, Eric, is a wonderful man who has agreed to take us in as interns/ farmers/ laborers / brainstormers / marketers/ whatever-needs-to-be-done-ers.

Chinook Farms is a small side business to Eric’s main endeavor, a sawmill that has been in his family for three generations. His previous farm managers left, and despite our lack of experience he was impressed with our zeal and has agreed to take us on and plan this season around our abilities and interests. We are also going to be building some kind of shelter (a yurt or a tiny house) on the farm property. This is all extremely exciting for me! I am already getting emails from him about upcoming “Grower Round Table” meetings, and different marketing ideas and plans. Andrew has already put in two days of work prepping the farm by tilling and planting seeds in the greenhouse. I cannot wait to learn everything I possibly can about farming while putting my current skills to work marketing and selling healthy food! I am also really proud of Andrew and myself for being able to realize one of our biggest goals. Watch out world!

Naturally, since this is life and nothing ever goes exactly according to plan, my amazing piece of good news has been regrettably tempered by a slew of setbacks here in Tucson. The day after being released from a rehab center (after healing from a successful pacemaker surgery) my grandmother was rushed back to the ER with insanely high blood pressure.  She spent a couple days being monitored, and the doctors readjusted her medications before sending her back to her apartment.

We celebrated this small victory by taking her to get her hair trimmed, curled, and set at her favorite salon. We enjoyed a nice lunch at the assisted living facility, and I went home to relax. A few hours later I got a phone call: “Meesh, you won’t believe this. I fell out of bed and they are taking me back to the ER.” Two ambulance rides in four days. My poor grandmother should really stop getting her hair done. Last time she went to the salon she also wound up going to the ER later that day for an extremely high fever!

Fortunately this time she only stayed a few hours in the hospital. Her X-rays and CT scans were negative (she had also bonked her head on the side table when she fell). The bad news is that she did hurt her back and is in a lot of pain. She has trouble getting out of bed or walking by herself, which is making life very uncomfortable for her.

In the meantime, I took my “special,” neurologically impaired cat to the vet to get her caught up on vaccines before our road trip up to Washington. I thought it would be a good idea in case I needed to kennel her along the way. Big mistake! She wound up having a reaction to the vaccine, and her leg is incredibly swollen and tender. I thought it was broken so I rushed her back to the vet. I lost my marbles in the office right there in front of the vet and technician, and started bawling. They were nice enough to do an x-ray and exam without charging me and sent me home with some medicine for the cat. I joked that they should have also given me a prescription for a therapist! My figures are crossed that my silly cat recovers quickly and can handle the long drive to Washington.

In two short days I will be on the road. I have anxiety about leaving my grandmother in a situation that is less than ideal. I had hoped that in coming to Tucson I would help her transition to a fairly independent, happy life in her new apartment. Setback after setback has me thinking this might be the “new norm” for her. I have to keep reminding myself that she is 89 years old! She has the memory, clarity, and wit of someone much younger, but I suppose after a certain age your body has its own ideas of what it needs.

The emotional and physical toll of rushing between hospitals, doctors appointments, doling out medications, cutting through red tape at various medical facilities, and coordinating care has me bushed. Add a dash of cat-induced panic and I am ready to keel over in Andrew’s lap and sleep for several days. I will be leaving Tucson early Saturday morning to meet him at the San Diego airport for his arrival, and I can’t wait to squeeze him, hand him the truck keys, and let him take care of me for the next few days. Everyone needs to be carried now and again…and I’m ready for my turn!

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Washington Adventures Part Deux

Another trip to Washington has come and gone, and once again I was treated to a mixed bag of weather, including some gloriously sunny (albeit chilly) days. I arrived in Seattle decked out in my newest winter coat: a calf-length, hooded down coat that feels like a form-fitting sleeping bag. Perfect! I learned a valuable lesson this winter…the best deals on absurd winter coats can be found in the desert. I stepped outside the airport swathed in my glorified Snuggie, only to watch locals traipse around in thin cotton long-sleeves, obviously enjoying their “seasonably warm” evening. This wasn’t the last time on my trip I felt ridiculously overdressed. Whatevs…a person needs time to acclimate, especially a scrawny, desert and beach-habituated person like myself!

The next few days were full of activity. There were a couple days when Andrew went to work pouring concrete, and I relaxed around the house with his family while he was gone. Otherwise I made sure we did our best to get outdoors when the weather allowed, and tried to find new things to do. We spent some time outdoors with Andrew’s sister and our little niece, planting some new blueberry bushes and peach trees. Andrew also worked hard pruning the apple and pear trees, and set up some suet to attract woodpeckers. We also spent time outdoors practicing archery, our new favorite pastime. Although I’m a much better shot with a gun, I have to say! I guess it’s a lot easier to aim when you have a sight to look through. We also took a few walks, some in the neighborhood and some through the woods. This part of Washington is wondrously full of gorgeous evergreen trees and ferns, and I don’t know if the novelty of all the greenery will ever wear off. I’m sure the novelty of grey days will be gone in a flash, however!

Andrew’s parents were generous enough to give us a night in Seattle at their timeshare, and so we packed a small bag and took the train into the city. It was a lot of fun to use the public transportation in Seattle. We used an above ground train, an underground train, and a monorail while we were there. Public transportation gives you a unique, more thorough view of any given city, partly because you are forced to walk between stations and experience the sidewalk culture firsthand. One thing I learned very quickly is you must avoid standing under the edges of the awnings, or you will quickly be drenched with dirty water. You must also not use an umbrella, and if you’re a real Seattlean (Seattler? Seattlian?) you don’t stand under the awnings at all. A little mist never hurt anyone!

We had a wonderful dinner at a hip place called Restaurant Zoe. If you are a foodie and you are in the area, I highly recommend this place! And make sure you order the duck confit. It was divine!! The chefs were amazing, and they even added little “extras” in between our courses, which made me feel very fancy indeed. After dinner we walked around the neighborhood and found our way into a very eclectic bar. I think their theme was some combination of Lucha Libre paraphernalia and photobooth pictures. Odd. We stopped in for a drink and to observe the locals in their native habitat.

The next day we headed over to Seattle Center area, where the famous Space Needle is located. We had gorgeous sunny weather, and enjoyed strolling around the grassy areas, absorbing as much UV rays as possible. We also caught a showing of the IMAX 3D movie about the Hubble space telescope. It was phenomenal! The images that they have procured from that thing are mind-blowing. After a huge brunch of eggs and hash browns at a very local, very divey, very excellent bar, we headed back home to Puyallup. And no, I still don’t know quite how to pronounce that.

Now I am back in Tucson, enjoying the warm (almost hot!) sunshine, but looking forward to a more permanent living situation with my husband. While I was up in Washington Andrew and I had a couple of “interviews” at organic farms. I don’t want to say too much, as we have some possibilities brewing at the moment and I’m afraid to jinx them. I hope to know soon what is in store, and if no farms pan out we have a pretty good backup plan involving working hard for the summer, going to Burning Man, and possibly visiting my parents in Australia next winter. Not too shabby of a “Plan B” if I do say so…  Fingers crossed that good things are a-brewin’ for your favorite traveling Ides!

I Left My <3 In Sunny Seattle

A think it’s a kind of curse that every time I go for a visit in Puyallup (near Seattle) the weather cooperates and I’m presented with gorgeous scenery, beautiful blue skies, and happy smiling people working in their gardens or taking their children to the park. I am usually prepared for grey, cold, rainy, misty, and that pervasive damp that chills you to the bone. And usually I do experience some of those days, but they have been mixed in with sunny days which makes them much more bearable. The problem with this is that I always expect to want to leave Seattle and get back to whatever warm weather locale I currently call home. This year my Christmas trip to Seattle included several amazing days spent outdoors in the sun and snow, and it was incredibly difficult to get on the plane back to Tucson. Of course this time it was even more difficult than usual, since I was once again bidding adieu to the love of my life with no definite plans for when we will next be reunited.

This trip to Puyallup was a whirlwind of food, people, noise, fun, love, and exhaustion. Andrew and I made a little nest on the floor of his mom Nancy’s office, and at first I found it a little difficult to make the transition from “me and my cat” to “me and five other adults, a toddler, three dogs, and the large swath of extended family” that was in town to visit. Our delicious Christmas diner, which was held at another relative’s house, included over 20 family members! Ultimately it was well worth it to feel the love and warm familial energy that engulfed the family households during this special time of year.

When Andrew and I decided we needed some time to ourselves, we spent a day in Seattle proper exploring the Pike Place Market where I spent $10 on a tiny (yet delicious!) cup of crab cocktail. Next we checked out the underground tour of the old city after having a few fancy drinks. Apparently the original Seattle was so close to sea level that the streets would flood and raw sewage would pour backwards out of the newfangled toilets and sewer systems, so they eventually raised the city up to avoid this problem. Fortunately the underground streets were pretty well preserved and it was a really interesting tour seeing the old sidewalks and building facades.

We were also lucky enough to spend a dry, sunny day up in the mountains snowshoeing with our friend Vindy and the snow-loving Zephyr. After a few fun, strenuous hours, Andrew and I continued up the mountain to ring in the New Year with his brother Bryan who works at the ski lift on Crystal Mountain. We had a grand time around a bonfire, meeting the various “mountain folk” and tourists who came for the big annual NYE party the mountain throws. Just before the fireworks started we walked back to the truck to check on Zephyr, and… wouldn’t you know it…he was gone. We hopped in and drove up and down the mountain roads calling his name, until we finally had the sense to check Andrew’s cell phone. Lo and behold, we had received a text from someone who had picked Zephyr up along the road halfway down the mountain. The $10 we spent on having our phone numbers engraved on his dog tag has paid for itself a thousand times over! We met up with his rescuer and did our dog exchange (we are pros at this by now), and made it just in time to watch the fireworks explode overhead.

After a cold, fun, slightly intoxicated night spent in the back of the pickup truck, Andrew and I returned back to the house. The clear skies afforded gorgeous views of the Olympic Mountains, and along the waterfront I spotted my second bald eagle of the trip! A few days later we headed back up to Crystal Mountain to get in some snowboarding, and the views from the top of Mt. Rainier were spectacular. I am still only okay at snowboarding, but I have fun trying and took a much-needed break in the lodge while the more advanced Ides hit the steep slopes without me

Unfortunately not everything during the trip was so rosy. My mother-in-law and my grandmother have each had a roller-coaster ride in regards to their health, and this winter is no exception. When I first arrived in Seattle Andrew took me straight to the emergency room where Nancy was being seen for some complications related to her cancer. She went to the hospital several different times while I was there, for various scans, treatments, and a blood transfusion. While I was away my grandmother was checked into the hospital for a blood infection that just won’t quit. She was only in the hospital for a few days, but on my second day back in Tucson she was readmitted for a high fever and other infection-related symptoms. I am getting quite used to visiting people in the hospital. It’s not a fun way to spend your day, but I am ever grateful to be the visitor and not the patient.

I still do not know what the future has in store for my little family. Andrew is working on getting rehired at REI in a store near his parents’ house, and I am still looking for opportunities to work outdoors on a farm. There is a farm a few hours drive from his parents’ house that I am interested in, and will submit an application to this week. Wish me luck! Of course the hard part is knowing that taking a job in Washington means leaving my grandmother alone in Tucson. It’s a really hard thing, feeling like you have to choose between your husband and your grandmother. I also don’t want my husband to feel like he has to choose between his wife and his mother! As you can see, I am sort of stuck between a rock and a hard place. But if there’s anything I know about myself, it’s that I have acquired the ability to accept things as they come and know that life will fall into place. After all, I’m only 28 and from what I hear, (and feel!), that is the new 18!