Sunday, November 29, 2009

Motorcycle, vroom, vroom

November 22 marked my first real motorcycle ride on public streets! After about five days (over several weeks) of practicing on the street in front of our house and the parking lot of a nearby school, it was time to get out on the streets. We road to Mulino, then took a roundabout way to get back. It wasn't even 30 miles, and my average speed was only about 35-40 miles an hour, but, hey, for me, it was a HUGE leap forward!

Yesterday I took my second motorcycle ride, this time to Silverton. I wish we could live there! It's a charming little town, with a lovely downtown and a much more welcoming fire station, but it's too far from Stefan's job. As of that day, I had put my first 100 miles of my own on my motorcycle. The gas station attendant did a double take when I took off my helmet (OMG! A MIDDLE-AGED WOMAN ON A BIKE!). I also did my first "Sup?" salutes to other bikers.

And today, November 29, I took my THIRD motorcycle ride, this time to Mt. Angel. The ride was gorgeous -- the scenery is idyllic, and the weather was perfect (I like it sunny and cool). Mt. Hood poked up over the trees a few times to watch me. It was a ride of more than 80 miles total. My favorite speed is still 40 MPH, though I got up to 55 regularly today. I again ended up a few times with a line of cars behind me (even when I was going to speed limit) -- tough luck, dudes!

This is the map of my rides to date, courtesy of Stefan's GPS. I'm taking baby steps - I know a lot of people get their motorcycle license and off they go, but I really want to keep being a student, adding maybe one new element each time - maybe a few more hills and curves, maybe riding just a bit longer, etc. I don't want to ever ride way beyond my skills. I want to be really comfortable on the bike by the time May rolls around and we might dare to take our first camping trip via TWO motorcycles...

No, I won't be giving up riding on the back of Stefan's bike, in case you are wondering. I like it back there!

Ofcourse, I will always ride ATGATT - All The Gear, All The Time. Because I like my skin. I like my head. I don't care that you think I look ridiculous -- all I care about is that you SEE me when I'm on the bike! My biggest fear as I ride is that cars about to turn into the road don't see me. It absolutely terrifies me that someone will pull into my path. That's why I have no plans to ride at night EVER.

See my Flickr set of how I learned to ride a motorcycle (it all started in Germany...).

Super big thanks to Stefan for being so patient as I learn to ride.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thankful for my husband, my dog, the incredible travels I've had to date and the possibilities of more to come, the incredible luck I've had, so many great friends, my wonderful grandparents (92 year old grandmother called to say she made sausage balls, asparagus casserole, chocolate pie and coconut pie, "but I'm too old to do any more than that"), chocolate, Elvis, and chocolate Elvises. The turkey is in the oven, the husband is taking a pre-meal nap (to rest up for the post-meal nap), Albi is also napping, our guest (another newbie to the area) reports his squash soup is cooking, and I'm sending and feeling lots of goodwill.

Thanksgiving = good.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Famine, famine, famine, then a cookie

When it comes to my attempts to make my living from consulting, it's mostly famine, and then two conflicting feast invitations. I will go months with nothing, and then two offers will come for the same weekend, meaning I can only do one.

Remember when, after more than a year of unemployment, I got TWO job offers, one to Afghanistan and the other to Iraq? At that time, Afghanistan was the better choice, but now...

I'm going to Belgrade, Serbia in a few weeks, to do a training (I finally get to work for the State Department!!... well, kinda... see my blog for more details), and if it goes well, it could lead to me getting to do another, bigger gig in March in Prague. But that later gig would happen immediately after the only other training I've got: a gig in Australia. That means I'll be away from home for most of March, and that Stefan can't go with me; he has his own business trips to attend to, and would prefer to save up his vacation time for when I don't have to do any work during the trip. Plus, when we go to Australia for fun, we want to spend an entire month there.

See my public calendar for updates about my schedule, in case you are, I hope, planning for your trip to come see us (you are planning, right?). Bummer that I have to miss the Mt. Angel German Christmas market...

No, no job prospects. With Draconian state budget cuts continuing, there's just not that much to apply for. Yes, I'm very thankful for what I do have, and for these meager consulting gigs. I really am. I do the "at least I don't..." or the "at least I have..." exercise frequently, I promise. It's just that, you know, not having a steady, regular income is scary.

In other news...

You know all those friend recommendations you get if you are on FaceBook? Lately, a lot of those Friend recommendations for me have been guys who, when we were in junior high and high school, I had a HUGE crush on, so much so that I couldn't talk to them. To me, they were movie stars. I doubt they ever knew my name. I've been amused that most of these guys I thought could not possibly be cuter and dreamy did NOT age well. Not that I've aged well but, well, you know, kind of cool to find out yet again that we're all human.

I'm getting even more annoyed with FaceBook. I'm so tired of people I don't know wanting to "friend" me. And some people want to friend me that I don't want to friend (I like using my account to speak freely, and I can't do that with just anyone). So I created a professional FaceBook account, and I point everyone I don't know, or don't want to know, or don't want them to know about my personal life, to that. I've also created a FaceBook Fan page (won't you become my fan?).

Okay, off to walk dearest Albi.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A wee bit of an ego boost

I'm honored and happy for my blog (an entry from last week, to be specific) to be featured in the Wall Street Journal's "Blog Watch" column for Nov. 16 (already online).

Gee, and I thought the highlight of my day would be practicing on my motorcycle (which was a great deal of fun, nonetheless).

Friday, November 13, 2009

The power of negative thinking

The History channel is beyond addictive. As is the Travel Channel. I'm watching a documentary on "Roman Vice" as I write this. I'm not watching it for the titillating tidbits (though titillating they are); I'm watching it for the scenes from Pompeii. I'm so incredibly homesick for Roman ruins (btw, if you are ever interested in going to Naples, I highly recommend this bed and breakfast for your stay, right next to Pompeii). Europe spoiled me beyond belief, getting to live amid the history I've loved to study most. I miss it so.

Stefan loved his trip to Colorado and back on his quest for a bike title -- it was exactly what he was needing. If he can get that title at long last (we won't know about this attempt until next month at the earliest), our lives will get sooooooooo much better. In fact, if I were offered a job or a motorcycle title, I'd take the title. Seriously. Stefan's given up so much that he loved dearly in order to come to the USA -- if he doesn't get the title, then I want to go back to Europe in 2011. Not kidding. I'll be a haus frau for the rest of my life if it means my husband can ride his beloved bike again.

It's been too rainy to ride my own motorcycle. I would love to be able to use all this available free time to learn to ride, but I refuse to ride on even a damp road -- I need to be a much more experienced rider.

Ironically, I'm so happy to learn that thinking negatively can boost your memory, and that Barbara Ehrenreich's book, Bright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America is such a top seller. Clearly, in my current state of mind, it's time for me to write a book, as there is fame to be had!

I've accepted that I'm not going to get a job this year. It was a sad realization, but I've accepted it. For those of you who have jobs, I hope you realize how lucky you are. I moved back to the USA in order to work, and while I knew it would be tough, I never dreamed I wouldn't have a job by now. For a person like me, who finds my personal value in either working or traveling, times are tough. I've had four interviews this year -- I hope this doesn't sound arrogant, but I'm not used to interviewing and not getting the job.

And with that said, let me say again: I'd rather Stefan have a title for his motorcycle (or get to be a volunteer firefighter) than me to have a job. I really would.

Not that I'm not keeping busy; I've got a lot of things to do every day. I have a project that's going to keep me intensely busy up until Thanksgiving, and two free classes I want to take in December. I'm being productive every day, really I am. I just wish I was getting paid for all that I'm doing.

Stefan's company would have paid me to drive a U-Haul truck from the East Coast to Portland! And I would have done it, except that I won't subject Albi to an airline flight again (unless we move back to Germany), and I won't drive that long without her.

What keeps my spirits up? Other than my wonderful husband and oh-so-sweet dog and the History and Travel channels, I read FakeAPStylebook and every day. Oh, and now that there's confirmed water on the moon, I'm dreaming again of that moon base in my lifetime... if we can't have jet packs, then I want that freakin' moon base.

I'm mostly done with cleaning out about 15 years of files. Whew! An interesting find was my play program from The Stephen Foster Story, which I saw some time in the 1980s. I could not believe I still had it. Ofcourse I used The Google to find out what happened to the lead actors. Here's today's weirdness: the actress who played Jeannie is now a psychic singer. What exactly is a psychic singer? I'm not sure, but if there's money it it, then I think I've found my new home-based job.

Why is CNN International not offered on any satellite or cable package in the USA? Why? And who do I write to complain: CNN? DirectTV? Who? Yes, I love having BBC America, but having CNN International would put me back in touch with the world news and international perspectives that the USA networks avoid like the plague.

The Bowling Green Daily News reported that Kentucky ranks among the 11 worst states in the country for women's health care. Kentucky ranks 46th in the U.S. for women’s health and well-being and 51st for days of good mental health. Kentucky women in urban areas like Louisville generally fare better than women in poverty-stricken regions like eastern Kentucky, but the overall quality of care for women - 52 percent of the state’s population - is the worst in the USA on several bench mark measures. And people wondered why I did so well in Afghanistan as far as relating to locals there...

This week's fascinating person from history: Cyrus the Great. The Persian Empire was an awesome thing. And Cyrus was revolutionary in his leadership style (respecting the cultural practices and religion of the people he conquered, freeing the Jews of Babylon, and on and on). Where did I find out about Cyrus? Guess...

I'd love a phone call! Just email me or IM me and say "let's talk now!" and we can talk on Skype or iVisit. And our guest room (my office) awaits visitors! (Anne, looks like you will be first).

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Go Hilltoppers!

So, I'm heading home with Albi after a lovely morning walk today, wearing my lucky Western Kentucky t-shirt (the one with Big Red on it), and I hear someone say, "Excuse me." And I look over, and this woman is getting out of her SUV in her drive way, and she opens up her jacket to show... her HILLTOPPERS T-SHIRT.

I yell "SHUT UP" and run over and hug her. I then notice her husband is also wearing a Hilltoppers t-shirt. She's from Bowling Green, and her siblings all graduated from WKU. Her husband was born in Denmark but grew up in the USA. They got married in Germany -- I don't have all the details of that yet. She says she knows Nancy Toombs in Henderson, Kentucky (2006 recipient of an awared from the National Education Association).

We're now all best friends and hope to get together soon.

And I probably scared all my ever-so-reserved, never-make-eye-contact neighbors to death with all my jumping up and down, but I DON'T CARE. It's time to shake up Oregon with some real Kentucky ENERGY. (I'm not sure Germany has ever recovered from my eight years there...).

Monday, November 2, 2009

Happy November

I've finally started scanning photos from my grandfather's WWII scrapbook. It's something I've wanted to do for a very long time. These photos are of or by Jack Cravens during his service in the USA Army, serving in the Aleutian Islands, Alaska, some time in the 1940s during the second World War.

More than 20 years ago, I interviewed my grandfather about his service. It took him years to finally talk to me about it -- I think he didn't believe girls should talk about such things. But I pestered him for years, and finally wore him down. I recorded it and years later, and then transcribed it.

Project after this? Transcribing two tapes of my grandmother talking about the Great Depression, the home front, etc. With all this incredible technology at our fingertips, it's so easy to record your family history!

I'm also still cleaning out papers. I'm now tackling my collection of theatre programs. Yes, some of them are going to go. I'm making a spreadsheet of every professional or university production I've seen, and including information about who was in the production or other notable things for later reference. I found out that I've seen Jane Krakowski twice on stage (most recently in Guys and Dolls with Ewan McGregor, and the first time back in the 1990s, when she was just 21, in Grand Hotel), that I saw Elisabeth Shue (in Some Americans Abroad) and James Fleet (in a supporting role in the Taming of the Shrew in Stratford-Upon-Avon). I remember everyone from Williamstown, but not necessarily from Broadway.

Halloween was a disappointment. I'd been told that the area took the holiday hugely seriously, and there were many houses in our neighborhood that went all out with their decorations, so we were expecting hordes. But we live on a loop, and most of our immediate neighbors don't celebrate Halloween (they kept their houses dark and didn't answer the door). So the hordes stayed on the main street. I bet I didn't have 100 kids. I did have four pre-teens with no costumes show up five minutes before the end of official trick-or-treating time, and I turned them away for not having costumes. They were angry but walked away because, you know, with fierce guard dog Albi ready to attack....

I've ridden my motorcycle just one day, and then just up and down the street and a few times around the block. I want to do that for several days before I head out into something more ambitious (like the grocery!). I won't ride it unless Stefan is here, and right now, Stefan is not here right now. He's on a quest to Colorado.

Stefan starts his job in two weeks. Me -- I'm about to run out of jobs to apply for... my sector has been hit hugely by the recession, and I now know just how much. Tell me why I left Germany, please? I've forgotten.

Currently re-reading: Pride and Prejudice. I'm on a diet of no book buying until I get a job, so in the meantime, I'm re-reading things, or reading gift books I haven't gotten to yet. I so long to be as witty and poised as Elizabeth Bennett... if you don't want to read it, or if you want to see the best movie version of it, here ya go.