Monday, October 26, 2009

Another pre-Halloween update

Recently, Stefan made chili. Yummy (both Stefan AND the chili). And the ingredients looked so purdy in our ceramics from Stefan's home town.

We really love our house, and we're so excited to host Anne at Christmas and Stefan's parents in May. Others? We soooooooo want visitors! Come try out Stefan's homemade cornhole game in our backyard!

We really enjoyed the six-part documentary Monty Python: Almost the Truth (The Lawyer's Cut) on IFC recently. It brought back so many wonderful memories for me. I grew up with Monty Python as much as I grew up with Star Wars. And I've become such a huge fan of all of the remaining Pythons' post-Python work (Palin's travels, Terry Jones' historical documentaries, Terry Gilliam's movies, and anything Cleese or Idle do). We loved the behind-the-scenes stories, some of which I knew already having watched Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Life of Brian (not just my favorite Python movie, but one of my favorite films of all time) with the commentaries on (more than once).

I've thrown a lot away, gotten rid of two boxes of stuff at our recent garage sale, and gotten rid of even more stuff in a mass donation to Goodwill. But I'm still not unpacked. It's my office that's the problem. One of the problems with being a communications professional is that you have to save so much paper, either your own portfolio or examples of publications you need for reference. I made the mistake of throwing away reference material from a management class years ago, and I have so regretted it so many times; it's made me squeamish about getting rid of certain stuff. I've loved reading through postcards and letters people have sent me over the years. That's been like therapy. It even lead to my getting in touch with some people from oh-so-long ago. I've thrown away from of them, but some I just can't part with (because who knows when I'll need something like therapy again).

I've been using our scanner a bit, first to scan and then upload some old family photos, and then to upload some old photos of me. The comments about my second-grade school photo were awesome -- they made me cry. Ya'll not only know but, but seem to like me as well:
Little would we know from looking at this deceptively docile child what a hellraiser she would turn out to be!

I wonder, even at that young age, were you beginning to become the fighter for justice that you are today? Did you break up the fights over dodge ... Read Moreball and hopscotch cheaters? Did you stand up to your teachers for teaching opinions rather than fact? No matter, you are all of that now and loved deeply for it.

You have always been and still are both beautiful and indignant over injustice. :)

The grrr heard round the world and may you never lose it...go Jayne!
My next project will be scanning the photos from my grandfather's WWII scrapbook.

By now, you probably all know about my new toy. As noted on the photo, I won't be doing anything particularly ambitious on it this year; I'm spending every dry, not-freezing day between now and March just driving around the neighborhood and getting to know it as much as possible. We bought the bike from a guy in Washington state. Stefan had to drive it down through some horrid rain, which scared me to death. And, unfortunately, he'll have to ride through horrid conditions again later this week in our ongoing quest for a title for his own Honda. I'll be a nervous wreck while he's on the road to Colorado and back...

BTW, we had to take our written tests again to get our licenses transferred from Kentucky to Oregon and I flunked the motorcycle test the first time. I almost cried. I did so well on the written test in Kentucky, but Oregon's questions are much harder (and often irrelevant, quite frankly -- Stefan thought so too). Also, I wasn't wearing my lucky WKU t-shirt. That night, I cooked my first pot roast, and the next day, I took the test again, this time wearing my lucky WKU t-shirt, and barely passed. So, was it the t-shirt or the pot roast?

Still no jobs for either of us. And still no volunteer firefighting. And still no word if the state volunteer firefighters association is going to take me up on my offer to do a free training. But Stefan is still trying -- he contacted the state's public safety and training office about his dilemma, and they were gobsmacked that the Oregon firefighters were claiming his German training is nada. So now he's going down to the state capital on Tuesday for a meeting of his own. We loathe the phrase, "Well, I guess that's just how things are." Jayne and Stefan are rockin' Oregon!

We had a lovely time presenting about our trip last year through Eastern Europe at the Portland Hawthorne Hostel. About 12 people were there, all guests at the hostel, including a German guy on his motorcycle doing a tour of North and South America. Stefan did really well in particular; Mr. Shy spoke right up several times. We're looking forward to doing it again tomorrow night at the Northwest Portland Hostel.

It's such a shame that there are so few hostels in the USA; in Europe, you can often hike from one hostel to another (and many people do!). And it's a double shame that the oh-so-low-profile USA hosteling organization doesn't engage in any activities to encourage more hostels to be built in the USA, and limits its talk about hostels only to serving "young people." The idea behind hostels in Europe (Germany, to be specific), was to provide friendly, inexpensive overnight accommodations for young travelers, but all over Europe, most hostels cater to travelers of all ages. Hostels in Europe provide both dormitory-style rooms with separate quarters for men and women, and private family and couples rooms. Most allow people to camp in the front or back lawn (sadly, HI-USA discourages this). A lot of people choose to stay in hostels because of how easy it is to meet fellow travelers and how hostels have more information posted about local things to do than a luxury hotel's concierge could ever know about.

Albi's fine, oblivious to her fame on YouTube. She's really needy, following us from room to room, although she does sometimes get up in the night and sleep in Stefan's office. She's still not convinced we're staying in this house for a while. I don't think she likes how big it is -- she really liked us all being in the car, or the tent, or a hotel room. Lately, she's been laying with her body on the carpet but her head on the faux wooden floor of the entryway. What's up with that?

Okay, off to watch Big Bang Theory. Drop me a line -- I still love email.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Pre-Halloween Update

I guess we are truly moved in, except for some boxes in my office. I've gone through all my things and have a huge amount of clothes and dishes to either sell at a rummage sale or take to Goodwill (I'm a big fan of Goodwill, per its focus on providing job training and placement services for people who face employment challenges). Being the voracious reader that I am, you will be surprised at the few number of books I have to sell (I had gotten rid of a lot of books when I moved to Germany).

When are you coming to visit? We've got corn hole!

Per cleaning out my things and Stefan and I merging all our worldly goods together, I now respectfully beg that no one ever buy or send us:
  • anything with the University of Kentucky on it. Not that I'm not still a Kentucky basketball fan but, geesh, I've got a ridiculous amount of stuff with UK on it.
  • t-shirts of any kind (both of us have too many even with cleaning out our stash).
  • coffee mugs, glasses, utensils, cookware or dishes of any kind.
  • dish rags, towels, blankets or linens of any kind.
  • dog collars.
  • dog bowls.
  • Christmas decorations (believe me, Mamaw gave me more than enough over the years).
  • picture frames.
  • candles (we could light and heat our house for months).
  • luggage.
  • bags.
I'd say camping gear as well, but we're such gear queers when it comes to camping... can you really have too much camping gear? This coming from a household with three tents...

We've begun the nasty process of getting restitution from Xpress Van Lines, the company that moved our things from Louisville to Portland, with a month of storage in Los Angeles. Not only did they do an incredible amount of damage to our things, they also had a clause so that our month of free storage was, in fact, not at all free -- they wanted to charge eight times the going rate for storage in L.A. My detailed review on Yelp will be coming soon as well, but until then, here are photos that show some of the damage.

We've decorated the outside of the house a bit for Halloween, just enough so that the neighborhood kids will know that they can come a'callin' for treats. I have a feeling we're going to have a TON of kids. Let's see how many times I have to say, "Sorry, but no costume, no candy."

Stefan had his first job interview, and its very probable he will be getting an offer. Downside is that the job will be a hefty commute for him. But, right now, the word "job" is all that either of us are looking for. I did my fourth interview of the year; let's hope four is a charm. I've never interviewed so many times in my life -- gone are the days when an interview meant a job for me. Frown. Plus, a job is going to seriously cut into my NCIS rerun viewing.

My presentation to a certain association of volunteer firefighters in a certain state went well. I'd love a consulting gig out of it, but what I would like more is for Stefan to get to be a volunteer firefighter out of it. GEESH. I never want to hear a fire house whining about needing volunteers again.

I've loved the weather lately, especially when it's been crisp in the morning. Albi loves cold weather -- she loves to run when it is. But just in the last few days, it's really warmed up. Just as long as it's not too cold, and it's dry, for our probably rummage sale next weekend and for corn hole in the back yard (yes, Stefan finished, and it's awesome). Now, if we could just figure out how the freakin' thermostat works...

Still no motorcycle title. I suspect the company took too much time between two or more the steps in the process, hence why they are suddenly saying, after 13 weeks, that they may not be able to get the title after all. It's already been a huge blow to Stefan to not get to be a volunteer firefighter -- no title for the Africa Twin too, and I wouldn't blame him if he said he wanted to go back to Germany.

I grew up in a household without the book Where the Wild Things Are (or anything by Dr. Seuss, for that matter), but because it was all around me in other people's homes and the school library, I saw it, read it, and loved it (just like Dr. Seuss books). Stefan doesn't understand why, every time a preview for the movie comes on, I tear up and look like a nine-year-old that's just been told Santa is coming. And how in the world do you explain it if you didn't grow up with it?!? But who knows when we'll see it -- it's amazing how busy you are even when you are unemployed. A reporter at the San Francisco Chronicle asked the author, "What do you say to parents who think the Wild Things film may be too scary?" Author Maurice Sendak replied, "I would tell them to go to hell. That's a question I will not tolerate." (more). Hee hee.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Guest Room is Ready

Our guest room is ready.

Seriously, this is the tent I bought in 1996, that I used to camp with Buster and Wiley in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas back in the day. It's been in storage for about nine years, so it needed a thorough airing out. Not sure what we will do with it, since we already have two three-person tents; this is a two-person tent -- or a one person, two dogs tent. And it's SO easy to put up (if I can do it, by myself, anyone can).

Buster and Wiley were always so reluctant to get in and so anxious to get out -- Albi walked right in and laid down.

Were we in Eastern Europe or rural Western Europe, we could rent out our back yard to tent campers no problem!

Everyone keep your fingers crossed that this week, at long last, Stefan's get his motorcycle title. He's still reeling from not getting to be a volunteer firefighter -- if he also can't get a title for his motorcycle... well, we'll probably go back to Germany and take a loss on our moving expenses, no kidding. It would be the last straw. So please whip out your religious icons and make those sacrifices and start prayin'.

It's going to be a busy week:
  • Monday I'm doing a tryout training for a potential employer for consulting and trying out the supposedly wonderful Portland-metro-area mass transit, as Stefan needs the car for a job interview.

  • Tuesday, I may be getting a motorcycle, and that evening, we are presenting at one of the two Portland hostels regarding our trip to Eastern Europe.

  • Thursday, I have a job interview by phone.

  • Friday, I present at a certain state volunteer firefighters association's board meeting (I will be polite, don't worry).

Whew! And, no, I'm still not unpacked. But Stefan is. I've been going through files. I have a LOT of files -- when you work in public relations and marketing, you have to save examples of your work, and examples of other people's work as well. I also tended to save special letters and postcards from people, and I've been moved to tears a few times reading things you all wrote 20 years ago. Ah, the power of words. I know a picture is supposed to be worth a thousand words but, well, sometimes, I really wonder -- because photos make me smile, but words touch my soul.

I have a friend that's returned to Afghanistan. Do you remember Thomas, at my wedding, from Paris? He was there just before I was, and after swearing he'd never go back, he's there again, but for just 60 days. And I keep making friends with female aid workers about to depart or now living in Afghanistan, per my blogs about my time there. And, ofcourse, I'm still in contact with dear Fariba. So, if you have any questions about what's really going on in the country, let me know -- I'll give you an earful that, unfortunately, rarely gets reported in the snappy, short soundbites of television news.

So... come visit!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Six months back in the USA

Six months back in the USA after eight years abroad. How do I feel? Like a foreigner. A foreigner with an ever-shrinking bank account... I'm more homesick for Europe than Stefan.

Stefan has dubbed the large grocery store chain, Fred Meyer, as "Freddie Kruger." I prefer "Freddie Mercury."

It's official: I've read more than 400 books. I've probably read more than 500, but have forgotten at least 100 titles.

Stefan has been turned away, at least for now, from the Canby Fire Station as a volunteer firefighter, and I went from crying to angry in about five minutes. The station has a sign out front asking for volunteers -- but if you go inside and ask about it or fill out an application, you get all sorts of put offs: you can't go through the academy until June, and there's several people ahead of you already and you might not get to go because they may get chosen instead of you, and until then you can't do anything with the fire house at all because, you know, you might have the Swine Flu.

See, this is why I'm a volunteer management consultant -- there IS a need for my services...

We attended another gathering of the PDX Stammtisch, the gathering of Germans living in the greater Portland area (and the people who love them). Here's a photo. It was a lot of fun -- this is a very fun, down-to-Earth group.

Our things arrived at last a week ago today. We're convinced that the movers at Xpress Van Lines (based in Los Angeles -- BEWARE!) threw our things in and out of storage. All of our things were taken out of our container back in Louisville in June by customers, and put back, and though things looked disorganized, NOTHING was broken, and all our wrapping stayed on. But Xpress Van Lines played cornhole with our things. And to top it off, they tried to charge me $1200 for three weeks of storage (tacked on to the bill we had already agreed on -- ah, movers...). We're still arguing over that bill (which they've now reduced to $600, still way more than even the most expensive storage costs in LA -- yes, I checked).

But that said, it's been a huge relief to have our things. I'm now cleaning out a lot of things that were in storage in Austin for eight years. It's been a great walk down memory lane. Thanks everyone for the fantastic postcards you've sent me over the years. I'm so glad to have saved many of those! It's a wonderful thing to be reminded of such good friends.

Now that we have furniture, when are you coming to visit?

Albi's two videos on YouTube of her belly rub are raking up the viewers -- one of them has been viewed almost 60 times. She's famous! She has a good walk route here in our neighborhood, but she really needs a proper dog park visit. I'll try to make that happen this week.

I'm watching the debates about the USA military forces in Afghanistan with intense interest. I don't know an Afghan, personally, who wants the USA out -- as bad as things are, they are still better than under the Taliban, particularly for women. But that said, it is inexcusable that the USA doesn't do three things: (1) tell the Karzai government that if they don't boot the warlords out of the government and don't crack down on corruption, the money circumvents the government and goes to NGOs, and/or is cut back, (2) require its own military and all coalition forces to have strategies for involving Afghan women in ALL of its projects and planning, no exceptions, no excuses, and with penalties for failure to meet milestones regarding women's involvement that it sets for itself, and (3) take every opportunity to hire Afghans (they are desperate for employment; it's why some turn to the Taliban and others turn to poppies). If they don't do those three things, Afghan is doomed.