Testing the new server
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
I'm back safe and sound from the western adventure. Wow, have these eyes seen some things. Starting with southern Saskatchewan, then through northern Montana (skirting Glacier) and northern Washington, the trip out was one breathtaking vista after another. Oh wait -- even before that. I loved the prairies this time. Apparently, this is the greenest it has been in recent memory, and it was gorgeous. At times the scene was almost too powerfully green, and that sky . . . Mmmmm. It occurred to me that nobody who ever thought the earth was flat could have lived on a prairie. You can see the curve to the earth when the sky screen is so huge.
The trail building on Lopez Islands was as close to perfect as it gets when you are dirty and sweating for fun. The people I worked with were all new to me, but as fine a crop of volunteers as you will find. Nick, the organizer of the group, who works for BLM on Lopez Island was a dream leader. Organized, funny, knowledgeable and vocally appreciative of the work we did. The only rain we saw was as I packed up my tent Saturday morning.
I spent a few days in Seattle doing some work for Scott, and then visited Laura and then Kevin, the two friends I met on my way through last year. Yup -- they are still as great as they were when I found them. Strange how a few people just fit into your life so easily. My turn around point was Brookings, Oregon, just a few miles north of California, right on the coast. I did the coastal highway in Oregon fully, again, and it is a different trip travelling north to south rather than south to north that I did last year, Either way, it is a drive that everyone should make at some point. Traffic wasn't even bad, though I was there at the height of the tourist season.
On the way home, I stopped in Portland to do a bit more work, then headed through the Columbia Gorge and beyond to Walla Walla, Washington. If onions came to mind, not a surprise. That's the place. I stopped for coffee with Diane, one of the women I met o the trail trip. Cute little town. Wonderful new person. Diane is a retired teacher, with endless energy. In fact, her well-deserved nickname was Energizer Bunny on the trail.
I stayed in Lewiston, ID that night, then went to my ex's hometown in the Bitterroot Valley in Montana. It's not as changed as I expected. It's every bit as beautiful as I remember. It's hard to picture the young woman part of the couple who considered moving there early in our marriage, however. My instinct then said I didn't fit, though I couldn't then define why. Today, it's hard to imagine the conversation lasted longer than a minute. <g> I don't mean that to demean that area of Montana. The people there are as nice, warm, generous and friendly as you will find anywhere. The weather is near perfect, and the landscape will take your breath away in any direction. It's just not a place that I would fit. It's the same as why I don't consider living in New York. Now Oregon -- I could live there in a minute if it wasn't so darned far west. I feel pretty comfy in the middle. I may not be especially close to much, but I'm not a 5,000 mile drive from anywhere either. <g>
That was about it for me. I headed a little south in the valley to catch a pass over the Bitterroots and head for home. Danille managed to get a call through during the exact five minutes I had signal in the boonies, and wanted to make a date for the next day -- her last night off before she did four shifts at her second job. That was enough to make me want to be home now. I pushed hard to get from western Montana to Winnipeg. I'm not as good at that hard travel as I once was, but I did roll into home in time to have a great visit with Shawnda and baby Ryan (who can now laugh and roll over), and Danille. Took me a couple of days to feel great again, though.
Since then it's been work and garden. Shawnda managed to keep things alive, an amazing feat with perfect weed-growing conditions, and an unexpected infestation of potato bugs. It will take the rest of this week to catch up completely, but we are starting to harvest. Yum, yum. It's all worth it when you bite into your own radish or sugar pea, not to mention that both of us are toasty brown and getting pretty darn strong with all this grunt work.
Oh -- rather overdue note: I am back to work with the Web design. I'll explain sometime. I also have a zillion pics (have you heard this before?). <g>
Friday, June 15, 2007
As you have probably guessed, a few things have happened since my previous post. In fact, I am pretty sure I posted a while back about gardens, but that one seems to have disappeared.
Anyway -- I am back on the road. Oh how I have missed this. I'm in Maple Creek, Saskatchewan tonight, with a spotty wireless connection and a new look to this blogging site that I have yet to figure out. I wish they would just leave things alone. I'll do my best.
I left Winnipeg this morning after a huge rush to get a new garden planted. I'm on my way to the Lopez Island, just off the coast of Washington for a trail building trip. I'm there for a week, and then off to the coast of Oregon to visit with friends I met on my way through last year. I'm not yet sure exactly how I am coming home, but it will be more or less a diagonal line from the Oregon/California line to Winnipeg. I do hope to hit the Bitteroot Valley in Montana on my way through. My ex is from there, so we spent a fair amount of time there in the early days.
I hope it has not been too yuppified, though I don't hold out a lot of hope. When we were there in 1988, the year Yellowstone burned, the valley was already attracting retirees from Missoula, land prices escalating, etc -- don't we know the sad story all too well. If that doesn't hold up to my memories, maybe I can try Boseman. We passed through there a few times. The first time I went into that town, I felt at a gut level that I could live there. Of course, that was a different person, with a different life in a very different time.
Back to now, not back then or soon . . . Tomorrow I will be exploring the Cyprus Hills in the only intra-provincial park in the country. One of the hills is the highest point between Labrador and the rockies at over (hold your breath now) 4000 ft. Of course, the second province in the intra-provincial scenario is Alberta, so probably not such a shock that some height is starting to surface. I stopped at a visitor centre at the eastern edge of Saskachewan today, and found out that there is quite a bit in southern SK that is worth exploring. Some of it is only 4-5 hours from Winnipeg, so I will come back. The magic word for me was "badlands." I'm a real sucker for that craggy, desert-like landscape, and it is too long since I have seen some.
I'm going to quit now and get this up before the connection fails completely. If you see a late morning stamp on this, rather than a middle of the night one, that means the signal is gone.
Thursday, March 29, 2007
Ryan Ray arrived right on time. I have a beautiful, healthy grandson as of 3:15 this afternoon. My daughter Shawnda followed family tradition and set the maternity ward on a rush, jumping from "it'll be 12 hours or so yet" to "holy UY&^^%^&" within an hour. We tell them. They never believe us. Once we MacLean women (my birth name) get to doing something, we don't fool around. Of course, that three hours of serious labour was an eternity to Shawnda, but she came out the other side with her sense of humour intact, no assault charges, and a beautiful, healthy baby boy.
Now is this a piece of art, or what? He was 9lbs, 4.5 oz, 23" long, and arrived at 3:14pm, March 28, 2007. This is my first grandbaby, and Shawnda presented me with about as perfect a grandparent gift as is possible. Not only is our baby perfect in every way, I was with his Mom and Dad when he was born. I've never seen a baby born before. Having three of your own does not qualify, because I was simply getting the job done, not watching what was going on. It's magic!
I'm honoured that I was asked to be there. Well, asked is a little misleading. I had carefully arranged to have a peripheral involvement through the birthing process. I don't do hospitals well. It's Mom and Dad's show. I could go on for a page with why I was not going to be a major player. Shawnda understood. We had an UNDERSTANDING as to how this would all go. I arrived for my second visit just after 2pm, having left just before noon when things were progressing "normally." Once Shawnda found out I was back, I was ordered into the room even though she was ready to deliver. I didn't exit that room until we had a baby safely delivered.
Danille, my second daughter, who had all along made it very clear she wouldn't agree to the delivery terms Shawnda and I worked out, explained rather succinctly why:
When you are hurting, no matter how old you are, no matter how perfect and supportive your partner, you want your Mommy!
There is wisdom in that statement, and I guess the precedent has been set. I'm pretty sure this is not the last baby I will see arrive on this earth. And you know what? I'll be there, with gratitude, whenever my daughters want me. I am one lucky Mom, and I almost missed this experience due to my own narrow vision. Shawnda, thanks for bossing me around. Shawn -- thanks for being wise enough to accept that the desires of a woman in labour are equivalent to "train headlights" coming right at you. I will never ask you if you wanted me there, though you certainly made me feel welcome. I'm eternally grateful that I was part of my grandson arriving into our lives and will cherish this afternoon forever.
Saturday, December 30, 2006
I've been spending more money in the past couple of months than I have in years. Home costs, renovations, furniture, travel, craft equipment that has been dropping in my lap at a price to good to resist. What's the perfect reaction to a spending spree? Quit your job(s), of course! And that is just what I have done. I am, officially as of today, no longer working for clients, or technically doing Web design. It has been a great run, the best wages, with the best working conditions posssible. However, I am just not good at doing the same thing over and over and over. I started with Web design in 1997. That's ten years -- a new personal record for doing the same thing for me.
Most of you have heard me whining about needing a change. Some people are put together in a way that makes starting from scratch easy, yet keeping it going once it is a success very difficult. That's me. It's backwards from most people, but that is also me. I need to be scared. I need to be challenged past what I think I can manage. That's when I am happiest, most alive, really productive. I have been very successful with first print design, and then even more so with the Web design. I am very thankful for the past seventeen years (I did print for 7 years before switching to Web).
My clients, really just two at the end, have been very understanding, even though I have worked with both Scott and Andy for years and years. That support really helped once I had made the decision, but once I talked to each of them, I felt like a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders. Don't for a minute think it is just because they were hard to work with. Absolutely the opposite. I loved working with both of them. They treated me like gold, and forgave far more than they should have as I became a spoiled brat wanting out this last year.
But that was then ...
Now ... well, I don't have a super-defined plan in mind. I certainly will be starting several Web-based businesses of my own. Instead of using my knowledge to create sites for other businesses, I will apply what I have learned to businesses that I own and control. I'll just keep starting them till one or two take off. I have the benefit of being able to do the expensive part of starting a Web business for free. My goal is to create at least one business that will be bought by a larger company sometime in the future. Until that happens (and I can retire comfortably on the proceeds -- don't laugh, it happens every day, why not to me?) I will be looking for income that happens when I am not there. Right now, even though I make a very good wage with my design work, I earn nothing unless my mouse is moving. The new model will be to do the work up-front and have the income generate from that work. Writing, affiliate sales, ad income, membership sites, . . . there really are many ways to earn residual income using the Web, and I am going to find a few that work for me.
I'll be working harder than I have worked for years, for next to nothing (even a few dollars will be a treat in the first few months), but I am so excited I can hardly talk. Ideas are coming as faster than I can process them. I've registered several new domain names, been checking software to run the back end of sites (the stuff I don't do) and find myself keeping up once again with what is going on with the business world. I'm interested in everything -- just like I should be.
To separate that life from the new one, I am taking some time and going to a resort near Branson, Missouri, for a week (skyauction.com -- find great places for very little money, especially off-season). It's part vacation (no, travelling all those miles doesn't count because I was working), part navel-gazing and getting some of my wildly flying ducks into some kind of order. I'm leaving on Wednesday, stopping to visit friend in St Louis for a couple of days, then off to my retreat. My friend from Indy may join me for part of the week, and then we will go to Arkansas for a few more days. Finally, I will head for Houston to visit Lynn and Keith (the ones who have a place in Santa Fee now, too). Did you catch that location? Texas -- state number 49 for me. I'll be gone for about three weeks, and then the nose will be firmly planted on the grindstone.
I'll try to keep you posted (yeah, right, Wendy <g>)
So much for good intentions. Here is my monthly update.
Santa Fe was wonderful. Santa Fe is always wonderful, of course, but it was wonderful to get back to the place. There is something magical about seeing only adobe-style buildings -- it is relaxing. Even the ugly strip of big box stores is all adobe-style. Doesn't make it my favourite place in the city to be, but I'll take Cerillos Rd over Hwy 31 in south Indy any day. I had an excellent visit with Berkeley, my best bud from my Santa Fe days, including a road trip to Taos, and dinner at Orlando's -- simply the best Mexican food in Taos. Lynn and Keith, trail-building buddies from Houston, who just bought a home in Santa Fe, were the second reason I had such a great time. I did get to the Hispanic market, not on the Plaza as I thought, but beside the farmer's market. That could be called the Catholic market just as accurately, and was a little disappointing to me. Not that there were not excellent craftspeople exhibiting, but not my style. I'm not even Catholic for a start, and even if I was, I think this would be too ... well, Catholic, for me. On the plus side, the farmer's market right next door was fabulous, and I did get a good start on my Christmas gifts there.
Canyon de Chelly was another treat, though it was really too cold to enjoy fully. I was standing at the top of the canyon, trying very hard to absorb the beauty while fighting off driving wind and 13F temps. I was bundled up as tight as I would be at home, and still not winning the warmth war. I guess I will just have to get back another time. My visit south corresponded exactly with the cold snap that went right through Canada and the US. It's some consolation that it was an even deeper freeze at home, but the truth is, I flew 1600 miles south to have the same temps. Of course, if I had stayed put on the low ground around Phoenix, I would have been much warmer. But that crazy mountain and canyon country just will not leave me alone. I think, if you remove Phoenix from the mix, that Arizona may be the most beautiful state overall. I certainly could never get tired of it.
I found a new area on the way back from Santa Fe. Directly east of Phoenix, on a simple little road across the map, there is an hour of driving that would bring gasps from the most hardened southwest traveller. I was driving along through the same forested area I had seen through most of western New Mexico, when I saw a sign dropping the speed limit to 25 mph. That was the only warning I had before I rounded the corner and dropped into canyon heaven. It was right at sunset, and so beautiful I swear my heart rate was up. No pics as I was tired and really had to get into Phoenix, but I will be back.
Christmas was great as usual. The kids and I spent Christmas Eve in a hotel room as it is a bit tight for sleeping with my family this year. We didn't get in till quite late, with everyone coming from different places. But we opened our stockings and gifts in the morning just as we have since the kids were small. By 11am, we were on our way to my sister's place, and all of the time-honoured traditions. There are no little kids now, so it is a very relaxed gathering, and I always enjoy it immensely.
Next year, we will be back to babies. Most of you probably already know, but for those who don't ... I am going to be a grandma somewhere near the end of March. Shawnda and her partner Shawn are expecting their first, and we are all starting to get pretty excited. Babies have never been my favourite creatures, but I am really looking forward to trying a "blood related but returnable" model. I understand that is a pretty special kind of baby. They are going the old-fashioned route (I am thankful -- some things shouldn't change) of not knowing whether we have a boy or a girl arriving, so you'll just have to stay posted. Shawnda is having a tough time. Nothing to worry about, but just about every thing that can make pregancy an uncomfortable time has been visited upon her. I best enjoy this baby, because I don't think there are going to be more coming anytime soon.
Going to end here, because the next bit of info is rather a life-changing announcement of a different sort. Of course, it will be ahead of this in the post order, but ...
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Wow! Can't believe that date, and all that has happened since my last post. One of these days I will accept that a note without images is better than three months with nothing. I have so many pictures I would love to share, but they do take a lot of time.
First, a few stats. I calculated my miles from the time I left Kenora last December, until I arrived back in Ontario to stay for a while: over 30,000 miles, or 50,000 km for my Canadian friends. I've also been in 48 states, with just Alaska (expected) and (bet you thought Hawaii -- nope, been there)-- would you believe -- Texas. Not sure how I managed that one, but I did. Maybe this winter. I have now been in 10 Canadian provinces -- just those territories to get to now.
Picking up from New England seems a bit silly, as I have made my way back home not too long after the previous post. I did go to Tennessee for the artist's retreat at the end of August. That was one of the most relaxing, fun times I had on the entire trip -- great location, great company, amazing food and a focus on art and arty things that only one of us can truly appreciate.
I then backtracked to Raleigh, NC for a fabulous one-on-one workshop with Chris Campbell (see her work). Chris is from Toronto, originally, though she has been in NC for a long time. I've admired her colored porcelain for a long time (color is actually in the clay, not painted or glazed onto the piece -- like solid wood compared to veneer, maybe), and this was a dream come true to learn from the master. As a bonus, I really like Chris and her husband, Terry, who joined us for lunch. OK, maybe that's not fair, since he retrieved lunch, set it up and then called us. I guess, technically, we joined Terry for lunch. That gives an idea how focussed I was on the "purpose" of the visit, though.
I spent almost a week in Raleigh, catching up with my work, and was actually on my way back to Knoxville to investigate a place I had heard might be available for short-term rental, and was also considering renting a place in Norris, Tennessee (another really unique place I stayed where one my new retreat friends lives), when all of a sudden, like right now, I WAS LONELY. It happened on the way back from Raleigh, and almost instantly started exploring the idea of heading for home.
Then, in a small town in nowhere Kentucky, I had the police called on me. Seems the owner of the local computer store was suspicious because I was parked in front of his store for too long, and then -- how could I have missed how it looked -- went in to try and buy a computer. (I was parked there so long because I was having a huge phone battle with Verizon over my crippled modem and my service with them, and decided the solution was to buy a new computer and work around the whole issue instantly.)
Believe me, I can stretch this story longer than the time it took to happen, but I don't have the time, and I have some sympathy for all of you with this marathon catch up. Short version, Mr Minuteman computer geek called the police while I went to get the software he wanted from my car. By the time they arrived, I was already on my way out the door when my instinct that this guy was weird kicked in. Two of them come to protect the country against ME: 50 years old, Canadian (how scary we are) in a Honda Civic with a dog. Thank God the police were thinking men, and there was much more rolling of eyes and pleasant conversation than any serious investigation. In fact, I am pretty sure they only pretended to call in my id (which I had offered before they had to ask and I might have had to refuse on principal), because the license I had was actually cancelled when I changed my address in June (forgot that little detail until I picked up my mail at home and there was my new one).
This guy was an idiot in backwater Kentucky, thinking that it was a hotbed of terrorism planning (he told me that). However, coupled with my lonely experience on the road between North Carolina and Tennessee, I decided this phase of wander woman's adventure was coming to a close. I stopped in Indianapolis for almost a week, actually checking out several houses for sale, and putting in an offer on one near Nashville IN. I was soundly beaten in a bidding war, but it was an idea that would have worked. I love Brown County, and this house needed love badly.
Just after I arrived home, my Mom became seriously ill. I wonder if it was premonition that headed me for home, because I was in the area when she landed in ICU. She was in hosiptal for almost two weeks with pnuemonia, racing heart, low oxygen -- all scary stuff. The great news is that she came out of the hospital feeling better than she has in years, and hasn't slowed down since. Mom's always been a "doer" and it is wonderful to see her with the energy to do what she wants again.
So ... what now? Well, three weeks ago tomorrow, I took possession of my new house -- in Winnipeg, Manitoba, about 120 miles west of Kenora (old home). My kids are all here this year, and I don't know how long I will have all of them in one spot. Too rich an opportunity to miss.
My house is a fixer-upper, though it is in quite livable shape now. I love the little place, built in 1912, Craftsman style, with all the original moldings, quarter-sawn wood flooring, plaster and 9' ceilings. I think it may have been a Sears house -- there is a 1912 catalogue that has a slightly wider version of this house in it. Looks the same, but the layout is different, probably to fit on this bitty, 25' lot. Click on the picture or here to see a larger version. Use your back button to return to this page.
It's actually quite sound, but is layout-challenged. I hardly have to rip anything to studs, which is a good thing, but I do have to move the kitchen and bathroom to the front of the house, and turn the old kitchen into a bedroom. All of a sudden the layout makes sense with that. Since I was seeking a house where I could gut the bathroom and kitchen anyway, this is really quite easy. I won't lose my existing bath or kitchen function until the new ones are ready. For now, though, I am just happy to be here, settling in, and probably won't do anything until after Christmas.
I've already joined a very active art club, which just happens to be a block down the road, and have registered for a few workshops. I intend to really take advantage of living in the city. It's really the first time for me, and I am as delighted as a child by things like mail delivered right to my door. Ditto the daily paper. I've always been such a country girl. The library system here is enough to make a book lover drool. I can "order" books online from any of the city branches, and have them delivered to my branch a few days later. Or take Spanish lessons with Rosetta Stone (repected language course) online, with just my library number as payment -- which I am doing, of course, as Mexico is my next desired adventure. This city has 700,000 people and I am located about dead center for the whole city.
Before you think I have turned over a new leaf completely, settling down, I am off to Phoenix and Santa Fe tomorrow. I am going to Santa Fe to pick up my little kiln, visit friends and catch the winter market on the Plaza (not to mention that Santa Fe is magical in December -- that's the time of year I went the first time in 2000). I'm flying into Phoenix because the flight was very cheap, and rather than driving 1,600 miles of winter prairie, I can drive 450 miles through some of the most beautiful country in the US. In fact, I am going to take a day and go to Canyon de Chelly in NE Arizona. Here's another page. I wanted to go there in the spring, but having Amie with me would have made it almost a waste. Since Amie is staying with my kids, this is a good chance to go there. Tomorrow I will be staying at the Thunderbird Lodge, right at the edge of the park. I hope I can make it before it is completely dark, so I can see sunset there. I'll explore until early afternoon, but must head for Santa Fe Friday afternoon.
That's a quick outline of the past three months. It seems like forever since I was on the east coast, but I guess I have packed a lot into that time. As always, my intentions are very good to keep my blog up. I'm hoping to document my renovations once they start, and hope to have some new art to show before too long. Drop a note and let me know how you are too. Do you know that my email drops dramatically when I am not posting here? Hmmm -- maybe that is a bigger message for me than you. <g>
Monday, August 21, 2006
New England is more fun than I expected. Too many people for sure. Traffic everywhere, no matter how small and isolated the road may appear, there are always, always, ALWAYS cars, cars, cars. I guess I am spoiled on that front with all my travel where I owned the road.
I'm in a little place called Kutzville in Pennsylvania, about 15 miles north of Reading (that's Redding by pronounciation) but am moving on in about 10 minutes. I have been staying in a primitive cabin with a deck overlooking a wonderful little creek for the past three days. This is Pennsylvania Dutch country, and I have had some fun shoppiong for my groceries here. Some of the prices are unbelievablt LOW!!! For example -- a really nice gouda cheese for 2.40lb. Eggs 69 cents for a dozen large. I can only stock up a little, but I sure could get used to shopping here. Too many people to live anywhere in the areas I've been, though."
I'm off to the coast of Delaware now. That's state number 48 for me. Just Texas and Alaska to go in this round. *g*