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!

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!

So Long (Mexico), and Thanks for all the Fish!

You would think that a 15,000 mile cross country road trip would have prepared us for a 12 hour car ride through Mexico, but you would be wrong. Riding in the backseat of an overstuffed sedan that is careening around mountain curves in a country where the lines on the road are merely suggestions is a lot different than meandering around in our pickup truck, stopping to admire the scenery when it suits our fancy. Thankfully Danny has been driving this route forever, and he was entirely capable of getting us to our destination safely. It required some quiet acceptance on our part that this wasn’t “our” road trip anymore, and we tried to sit back and relax while we sucked on ginger candies to ward off carsickness.

After a long uneventful drive with a few unpleasant bathroom stops and drug checkpoints, we made it to the house that sits on a cliff overlooking a serene, turquoise bay in the Sea of Cortez. Katie and I did some preliminary chores around the house (since it is a vacation home it is boarded up and the furniture is covered when no one is there), while the guys worked on getting the fishing boat ready for action.  That first night was the only night we didn’t eat freshly caught seafood that we wrangled ourselves. And by “we” I mean Danny, who is an expert at all things related to obtaining food from the sea.

I didn’t take notes while in Mexico, so I won’t be able to tell you what we did on any given day. Most days we awoke before the sunrise and headed out in the little fishing boat. I don’t know anything about boats, but I know that this was 19 feet long, and had GPS and this fun thing called a “fish finder” that uses some kind of sonar to detect fish below the boat. It was handy, but I could tell that even without the fish finder Danny would have found fish! Every morning started with us catching “bait fish.” I have only really ever done river fishing, and my faithful readers will remember the excitement I felt at catching three rainbow trout with my brother in Oregon. The bait fish we caught in Mexico were about the same size as those trout, and so I was already stoked when we started reeling them in.

After we had enough bait (around 10-15 fish) we headed out into deeper waters. Danny has specific fishing holes on “speed dial” if you will on the GPS, and so we tried various holes to catch fish. The first day out we caught two yellowtail fish; Danny first hooked one and then had me reel it in. I was unprepared for the strength of this fish (which was probably around 12 pounds or so), and so Katie had to help me by holding onto my back AND the fishing pole as I reeled. It was exhausting, but it was definitely a fun experience. That was the only fish I “caught” on the reel. Andrew had even worse luck, and had several fish get away before he could get them in the boat. Fortunately Danny and Katie caught plenty throughout the week, and we never went hungry in Mexico.

In addition to traditional fishing, the sea has lots to offer and we definitely took advantage. Andrew caught a small hognose fish with a spear gun, and it was my favorite fish taco meat we had all week. Danny also taught us how to dive for various clams and scallops. Scallops were hard for me because I’m not so great at holding my breath and diving deep, but I managed to pull up some on my own and I was proud of this accomplishment! Danny also scored us some lobsters, so we had quite the smorgasbord for our Thanksgiving feast.

When we weren’t on the boat we were lounging in the house, on the patio, or taking a hike. It was a relaxing time, and we encountered very few other people on the whole trip. There was no internet, no cell service, and no television. We read books, chatted, and played a game of spades every night. I am not a natural born card player, which gave Andrew (my partner in the game) a sizeable handicap. Everyone else would remember what cards had been played so they could formulate strategy. I only noticed what cards were being played in that given hand. I have the kind of brain that prefers to dwell “in the moment,” which is why I try to take good notes when something interesting happens so I can remember it later for the blog!

As the end of our trip neared, Andrew and I discussed plans for the future. Our visit to my grandmother in Tucson had convinced me she could use a helping hand, so we decided that I would spend the winter at her house while he and Zephyr headed up to Seattle with our stuff. It was a difficult decision, but as I sit here in Tucson typing this up I know it was the right one.  After returning from Mexico we spent a few days in San Diego couch surfing and getting our things organized, and then parted ways. Andrew headed into real winter with a rented moving truck and the trailer, while I headed back into the warm desert with the pickup truck and our brain-damaged cat.

Which leads me to this pressing question: do I continue posting on the blog? Our road trip is over, and we are going to be apart for a few months (with the exception of a week around Christmas, when I will fly up to Seattle). Despite this hiccup, I feel that the adventure of our young married life together is just starting. We still don’t know what the future holds; in February we could be living together in Seattle, or I could apply for a job working at a National Park, or we could decide to move to Costa Rica for a while! I have also become accustomed to having this blog as a sounding board for my feelings, insights, and experiences. I have received so many positive comments and compliments about the blog that I feel motivated to continue, and perhaps see if this whole “writing thing” can play a significant part in my future.  In classic blog style I will end this post by asking you, my readers: what do you think?

A Homeless Homecoming

I’m sitting in the passenger seat of the pickup, outside my favorite taco shop in San Diego. “San Diego!?” you say. “You’re still in Arizona!” Okay, I admit I have fallen hopelessly behind on blogging about my adventures, and for this I apologize. I know many of you (okay, maybe just you Jane!) are sitting glued to your monitors wondering where in the world the Ides are now.

After departing the Grand Canyon we headed down south towards my native city of Tucson to visit my grandmother, who at 88 years old is just starting to experience some health issues. Once we were on our way to Tucson we started to get the sad feeling that our trip was coming to an end. We saw more and more California license plates on the road and realized our teardrop traveling days were dwindling. We tried to keep our spirits up with diversions. We stopped in Sedona for lunch, and we went into every single jewelry store in town so Andrew could find the perfect silver wedding band before he finally settled on a very cool Hopi design. We braved the snow flurries on the crazy mountain pass outside Jerome, and then hunkered down for a freezing night spent in a campground near Prescott. Despite the bitter cold we were not alone, and made a point of camping as far from possible from the group of young men rocking out heavy metal while huddling around a large bonfire.

Sadly, this was to be our last night in the teardrop. We spent our first night in Tucson with Jane, an old family friend who lives out in the desert in an area so remote that she came out to meet us on her four-wheeler as we were driving up. We had a lovely time visiting Jane and her husband Don, while also mooching free laundry and dinner. We have become quite adept at taking advantage of people’s generosity, and fortunately so far people seem to actually enjoy helping us. I am grateful for all of the help and hospitality we have received along our journey. I wonder how long we can keep up this charade…I really think I could have a future in hobodom!

The next few nights were spent at my grandmother’s house, and we visited her every day in the rehab facility where she is being treated for a mysterious infection. While in Tucson we distracted ourselves by having a drink with Chaz, an old high school buddy of mine who happened to be in town. He showed up in his Navy khakis (he is an officer), and talked about his plans for nursing school. Yet another example of one of my peers having achieved so much already and having responsible plans for the future. Who are these people?!?

Most of our time in Tucson was low-key, so we had plenty of time to think about our options and fret about our own future. We figured we were all set to move in with Andrew’s parents for the winter, but we were beat to the punch by his sister, her husband, toddler, and their two dogs. Andrew’s family is very generous and accommodating and still welcomed us to come, but having six adults, a toddler, and three dogs in one house was starting to sound like “crazytown” to this girl, who is used to being alone in the woods with her little family. Additionally, as I spent more time with my grandmother I realized that, while she has a wonderful network of friends in Tucson, there is no family nearby to take care of the day-to-day tasks that she needs assistance with. She had been in the rehab facility for five days before we got there, and still only had the clothes she was wearing when she arrived. I started thinking maybe I could be of use to her this winter, so Andrew and I began grappling with the idea of parting ways for a few months.

After lolling around Tucson for a few days we said goodbye to Grandma and headed back into San Diego for a few days before the exciting Mexican leg of our adventure; the grand finale if you will. Returning to your hometown without actually having a home there is tough. You feel like you’re home, and you start spending money on all of your favorite restaurants and such, but you don’t have a routine, and you don’t have a place to settle. You also don’t have a job, so the whole spending money bit is treacherous! After floating around San Diego for a few days we dropped Zephyr off at Sunnybrook Farms, an awesome dog-boarding farm that lets the dogs run around in a pack and play all day. It was bittersweet to say goodbye. Zephyr has grown on me, despite (or maybe thanks to) his crazy antics, but it was nice knowing he was going to have a grand time with some canine pals.

Our Thanksgiving trip to Baja, Mexico was planned months and months ago, much to the dismay of my father who usually hosts Thanksgiving. Fortunately Dad was generous enough to give me his blessing. I love family and I love Dad’s turkey…but when life asks you “Sacramento…or Mexico?” you’d better say Mexico! Our friends Danny and Katie travel to Baja frequently, and Danny’s family owns a house near the town of Mulege which is about 12 hours south on the Sea of Cortez. After a few days in San Diego the four of us crammed into Katie’s (mostly) reliable sedan, along with oodles of fishing gear, spear guns, snorkeling equipment, coolers, and a wakeboard, and left San Diego at 0’ dark-thirty in the morning.

Ain’t Life Grand?

We entered Arizona on a blustery day, which led to several entertaining complications. Just as we crossed the border, Andrew yelled some profanities and I looked behind us to see that the hatchback to the trailer had managed to pop open. The latch for the hatchback had broken many miles and states before, but there was enough weight in the door to keep it down. I’m not sure if the wind is completely to blame, but for some reason the door had swung up and open, and so we pulled over to assess the damage. My first concern was for the coffee, especially since it had been so cold and wet these last few days and coffee has become my morning lifeblood. I ran back and saw that the coffee was still safe and sound, and assumed that meant everything else was in order. We secured the door with a bungee cord and continued on our way, unaware until later that we had actually lost four plastic cups and my vanilla sweetener somewhere down the highway.

The second funny thing happened when we pulled over at a scenic overlook so Andrew could make a sandwich. It was incredibly windy so I decided to stay in the truck while Andrew fought the wind. Apparently the wind won out, as I once again heard Andrew swearing. I opened my door in time to see bread, ham, and cheese go flying past. Andrew had set his sandwich down for a second on the tailgate and the wind had lifted it up and sent it sailing. Not one to let a good sandwich go to waste, Andrew put it back together after attempting to brush out the gravel. It turned out to be a rather crunchy sandwich, and he ate begrudgingly with a hearty side of grumbling.

We continued on into Northern Arizona, driving through the Navajo Nation Indian Reservation on our way to the Grand Canyon. Heavy, dark clouds loomed ahead, warning us of the cold, wet weather to come. I zoned out in the warm truck, delirious from lack of sleep and the physical exertion of our morning hike in Zion. On the radio we picked up a local Navajo station, and I was lulled into a spiritual stupor by the steady drumbeat and harmonic chanting as we passed increasingly impressive chasms and colorful canyons.

Our first order of duty upon entering the National Park was to take showers. We arrived at 5 PM, and only had one hour before the showers closed so we high-tailed it over to the laundry/shower facility.  I was still cold and damp from our rain-soaked hike, so I was prepared to spend $4 for 16 minutes of shower time. As I put in my first two dollars, the machine got jammed, and when I pushed with force one of my quarters popped back out. I don’t know what happened, but the shower started running, and not only was the water hot and wonderful, somehow the timer was disabled and so I was able to shower as long as I liked for $1.75. I was so stoked for this little bit of luck, I felt like I could go out and buy a lottery ticket and win the jackpot.

After our showers we were wonderfully warm and dry, just in time for the hail/sleet/snow to start falling. At this point we couldn’t imagine sitting outside in the cold trying to cook and enjoy our dinner, so we took advantage of how developed the Grand Canyon is and headed to a restaurant. We had a mediocre and overpriced meal, but I would have paid double just to sit inside and drink my spiked coffee. After dinner we went back to our campsite to let Zephyr run a bit, since he had been cooped up in the truck all day. As we shivered in the snow, Zephyr ran, romped, rolled, and shook about, in love with the weather. Being half husky he is naturally prepared for the cold, and his joy was palpable. That night I made a promise to Zephyr that I would never take him to Florida, or any tropical locale, ever again!

The next morning I awoke early to the eerie silence that accompanies bitterly cold weather. I bundled up and went outside to let Zephyr out, but was thwarted by the frozen truck doors. After a lot of yanking, pulling, and cursing I pried open the back door and let him out. I fed him and then grabbed his water bowl, only to find a thick layer of ice instead! We had some fun sliding on frozen puddles, and then packed up and headed to an overlook parking lot that was in the sun to cook our breakfast.

Sun aside it was a frigid morning, with a temperature of 27° F and a wind-chill of 18° F! We ate our breakfast quickly, and had a brisk walk along the Grand Canyon’s rim. We would have preferred to take a hike down into the canyon, but dogs are strictly forbidden and so we satisfied ourselves with the occasional rock scramble to get some good photos. After our stroll we loaded up and drove out into the chilly Northern Arizona day with our cold noses pointed south towards my native city of Tucson.