hasta la vista 2021

OK – I know. That’s a bad choice for bidding farewell to a year we will never see again. Sayonara would be more correct I believe.

Iregardless, or regardless if you prefer, it’s time to say goodbye to a year fraught with amazing and frightening events. I have no intention of reiterating the lengthy list of candidates as I’m pretty sure the big ones (newsworthy) are well known to all. Rattling around in my head, up near the top, are events that occurred on January 6th. I’m sure you all know that’s the day Epiphany is celebrated.

“Why,” you may ask, “does anyone celebrate the Capitol Riots?”

Pondering the question with my arms crossed, my head tilted a bit to the right, tapping my chin with my right forefinger, I respond, “Actually, though the Capitol Riots did indeed happen on that January 6th, it isn’t known for sure if that day for such activities was chosen for religious reasons or if it was purely coincidence. You see, January 6th is the 12th Day of Christmas.”

You might respond with a resounding, “Really!” or a “Now, you’re just yanking my chain, right?”

“Nope, not at all,” I reply. “January 6th is the day of Epiphany, marking the end of the Christmas season . Epiphany celebrates the baptism of the infant Jesus Christ by John the Baptist, and the visit of the Three Wise Men to Bethlehem, and the day all Christmas decorations must be removed from the exteriors of homes in areas where HOAs are very strict.” That last bit was only recently added.

Just so you know, the events that happened on January 6th, 2021 had nothing to do with Christmas whatsoever (I’ve always wanted to use that word in a meaningful way). According to many news networks, there may be another upheaval in 2024. I can only wonder if it, too, will transpire on January 6th.

COVID, in many forms, assaulted people throughout the year and caused lots of problems for the nurses and doctors who did their best to deal with it. The medical community will forever have my respect for what they are enduring. If only people would just suck it up and get vaccinated, perhaps they could help end this by not getting sick and overwhelming our hospitals and medical facilities. Who knows?

Enough of that.

How about a nice January 1st, 2022 sunrise?

This is the way 2022 started for me. Kinda pretty, don’t you think? In my mind, however, it conjures up an old nautical saying … Red sun at night, Sailor’s delight. Red sun in the morning, Sailor take warning.

I’ll admit that such a stunning display as this doesn’t really reveal that the rising sun is red. There’s a lot of reflected light on display just before the sun makes it’s appearance. Whenever I see such a display in the morning I wait to see what the sun will do. Not only because it’s very pretty, but because something woke me in time to see it and I need to watch it to the end. It doesn’t last very long so you can’t look away.

In this instance, the sun revealed itself like this …

It means the day will be good.

Hope your’s will be good, too. Like good all year.

“Camping at Umpqua Lighthouse State Park”

Here we are, tethered to slot #8 at the Umpqua Lighthouse State Park campground. Finally!

This is a park Diane has been wanting to visit for a long time but circumstances didn’t work out until recently. She was a little giddy when she made the reservations. It’s really good to see her so happy like that. Makes me happy, too.

Getting here was an unexpected challenge that nearly destroyed our RV and the tow car and it was all because of our decision to take the road less travelled. The reason for that, we discovered, was because it was pretty narrow in spots making it difficult to keep the rig in the lane without going over the center line. Early on, during this route, the right front wheel leaned a little too far right, going over the white line designating the bike lane, you’d think, but it was only about 6″ wide. Consequently, the tire made it all the way off the asphalt, causing a lot of jittering and a bit of fear as I worked to get it back on the road. Which I did. Diane was in the back cooking something, I think, or getting something from the fridge, so wasn’t looking out the windshield to see what was going on. That was a good thing. She would have absolutely freaked out! Really! I can say that with confidence because she was in the navigator’s chair the next time it happened and she was praising Jesus to save us all.

The same kind of thing happened but the bike lane wasn’t even 6″ wide as the asphalt terminated at the outer edge of the white line. So, technically, there was no bike lane at all. It was just a white line, then nothing. This particular event happened as the road curved to the right a little with traffic coming at me from every which direction. The right front made it off the road, then the right back tire went off, then the tow car went entirely into the ditch. I learned that from the guy who was behind us watching the entire show.

I felt the car pull the RV’s back end around about the time I got the front wheels on the asphalt then the RV’s back tires miraculously also grabbed a little asphalt giving me some traction to work with. At that time I was heading across the road with my front wheels turned to the right, then the car must have left the ditch and started the old wobbly back and forth that I’ve experienced before which seems to be a “thing” with the Equinox.

I was able to get the RV back into my lane while slowing down as much as possible. By this time I was probably going about 15 mph, but all that stuff going on behind me made it all pretty exciting.

I got the wobbly to stop, turned a corner onto a major road then pulled over and stopped to see what the damage was. At this time I was still unaware that the tow car had been in the ditch. The guy behind me also pulled over and stopped in front of me and told me he thought the car was going to roll over as it was entirely in the ditch and he wasn’t really sure how I managed to get it all back together.

The entire event probably took 15 seconds, start to stop, and Diane was making sure Jesus was paying attention. I’m pretty sure he was because other than a little mud splattered all over Diane’s white car, there was no apparent damage. So, we buckled up and continued on our way. There were no more experiences like that for the remainder of the trip.

Then we exited Highway 101 in Winchester Bay following the GPS directions, looking for Umpqua Lighthouse State Park. The GPS took us past at least 7 nice RV parks and led us out into the middle of a parking lot where folks who ride quads in the sand gather to unload their equipment. There was no park in site. Just this huge parking lot surrounded by sand. I found a gentleman and asked for directions which his wife gave as she knew what we were looking for. All we had to do was go back the way we came and go past the first 3 campgrounds and turn right on Lighthouse Road. We did that and drove past the Umpqua lighthouse, around a few corners then back out to Highway 101. Nowhere was there any evidence of a campground. So, we went around again and stopped in the parking lot near the lighthouse and I walked back to what appeared to be an occupied 5th wheel nearby.

I knocked on their door and caused a dog to light up the surrounding area with a serious round of barking. Finally, the door was opened and I explained my dilemma. The lady of the house ensured me that we were very close to our destination then gave me some very detailed directions on how to get there.

Without going into more detail, we were able to reach our objective and get connected to power and water before darkness claimed the day. For once in my life I was thankful for daylight saving time. We would have never found this place in the dark.

The problem is, you see, that the GPS made us turn on the wrong road, leading us around to the back of the park. Then, going up Lighthouse Road from where we were wasn’t useful because the sign for the park can only be seen coming from the other direction. Pretty handy, right?

We got settled, had dinner, read our books for a while, went to bed and I slept for almost 9 hours. That’s totally unlike my bladder to allow me to do that. I was amazed. Pleased, but amazed.

Then I went outside to have another look at the car. Although it started pouring rain about the time we settled down, the car was still dirty. But, all the parts seemed to be there and nothing was dented.

After breakfast we decided to take a ride and check out our surroundings. Shortly into the trip it was obvious that things were different as there was an odd odor creeping into the car, and something was dragging on the pavement. A quick look under the hood solve the odor – it was debris from the ditch that had been tossed all over the engine that was being heated by the engine. The item dragging on the pavement was a piece of the right front fender well that had come unsnapped from whatever kept it in place. Not in the mood to give it a lot of attention, I just bent it up away from the road and called it good.

The scraping sound went away and after about 10 miles so did the odor.

Considering all of the possibilities for what could have happened to us we could only look at each other and know, for sure, that we were blessed. Apparently we both have more to do in this world and apparently we’ll need the RV and tow car to do it.

Thank you Jesus!

Family Camp – 2020

Grace Baptist Church Family Camp is an event we attend every year as honorary Baptists. That’s mainly because we are related to some of the members and also because they just like us. The “also” is an opinion but I’m sticking with it.

We departed civilization on Tuesday, July 28th and completed the the trip, that normally takes about an hour, in about an hour. It’s really not that far away … just over the hill about 5 miles from Vernonia. Vernonia is only about 25 miles from home and Google maps thinks it’s only a 38 minute drive. What Google Maps doesn’t know is that the road is only 2 lanes and it’s very curvy. Therefore, I’ll stand by my claim that it’s about an hour away, which it truly is, unless Diane’s driving.

I will surely be in trouble for revealing that last bit …

The camp doesn’t officially begin until Friday but we die hards (the old people) arrive early to enjoy a bit of peace and quiet before the children descend to make a joyful noise. We took three of them with us so we had a head start, and that’s just fine. They were good as gold the entire time.

Since Vernonia is only about 32 miles from Forest Grove, where the Sunset Grove Golf Course is, it was decided that I should meet Doug there Wednesday morning for golf. I figured, “What the heck, I’m in the area, so why not do that?” So, I did. Turns out that the golf course is closer to Scappoose, where Doug lives, than it is to Big Eddy. But, I made it on time and we had a wonderful time. We always do. I lost, of course, because I always do. You’d think that since I always keep score I’d win one once in a while. The trouble is, even with fudging the numbers a little, Doug still wins.

Back to camp …

Big Eddy Park is located along the Nehalem River just off Highway 47, the road from Vernonia to Clatskanie. Big Eddy Park and I go back a long ways to April 20, 1968, when my big brother, Jack, thought it would be a good idea for me to participate in the Nehalem River Boat Race. Seemed like a fun thing to do so I was all in. What wasn’t related until later was that as we passed under each bridge along the way he would drop half a case of beer to us. After a couple of bridges I figured out that it wasn’t really a race at all. It was just a reason to float down the river and drink beer.

The fact that I was getting married later that day was the primary reason for involving me in the ‘race’. Jack, you see, was my best man and it was his job to make the day memorable. He did that.

When we finally made it ashore at Big Eddy I admit I was ready for a nap. I had no idea what time it was, but I remember getting to the church in plenty of time for the ceremony and I totally remember the entire ceremony. It was awesome!

Back to camp, again …

Diane and I spent time around the camp fire with Daniel, Jennifer, Lydia, and Jeran, and anyone else who had a notion to join us. Yes, we were socially compliant, keeping our distance, but I’m pretty sure we could have sat a little closer because the fire surely burned up any virus bits that came into our area.

The kids, Gilligan, Baylee, and Jerrie, ran wild all day, every day, until they got hungry. Then we fed them so they could go out for another round.

The bottom of the river throughout Big Eddy Park is covered with river rock. Those are the nicely rounded rocks that don’t kill your feet when you step on them barefoot unless you’re old like me. Then you wear shoes. Kids spend a lot of time looking for the pretty rocks when they aren’t actively floating around on an inner-tube. Here’s the best rock of the day that a little girl found:

Pure agate. Biggest one I’ve ever seen in the wile.

Here are my girls in a rare moment of inactivity …

Lydia, Gilligan, Baylee, Jerrie

Bronson even came along for a couple of days but had to leave because it was all a bit stressful for him.

Bronson

Diane made camping more homey with her kitty slippers …

Jennifer and Daniel cooked gourmet meals twice a day throughout the entire stay because they are on the Whole 30 diet …

I tried some of it and it was really good.

Jennifer braided hair for anyone who had hair long enough and wanted it done. Mine wasn’t quite there, yet, so i missed out. Little Jerrie didn’t, though …

Gilligan, Jeran, Daniel, and Lydia spent a lot of time running their long boards around the park. Lydia is the only one I could capture. The others were just too fast for me …

We came home last Sunday afternoon, when church service was over, then returned the children to their rightful owners, and took. naps.

Camping is hard work.

Serendipity

A week or so ago, someone’s adult Daughter received a phone call from a friend of her Mother-in-law who shared a story about a young 9-months-pregnant mother of two, 5 and 7. Her children are in foster care and she knew she would make a better choice to give her baby to a Christian family and give him a great life. She sought help from the Mother-in-law’s friend who, in turn, sought help from the adult Daughter.

The Adult Daughter immediately thought about engaging her pastor for assistance, but he wasn’t available. However, the Children’s Minister was.

After digesting the situation, and understanding the concern for an immediate need, the Children’s Minister ended the call saying she would call back soon.

When she did, it was with a solution to the problem.

It turns out the Children’s Minister and her husband took all of the necessary training for adopting a child through foster care last year, but they were never called to serve. Then the pandemic created a situation where officials were afraid to move anyone anywhere. So, the Minister’s family went without a call but continued to pray for an opportunity to provide a good home to a child in need, and a potential sibling for their own daughters, 5 and 7.

The Children’s Minister told the Adult Daughter the she and her husband wanted the baby. The entire situation was like a God Send in that it came at an opportune time for a family excited and ready for a child, and for the expectant mother who desperately wanted a loving family for her baby.

On the surface it appears there may have been a lot of twists and turns to this situation but in reality it only took two phone calls to ease the mind of a young mother, and raise up the spirits of another. All the potential possibilities of who to call for help resulted in a straight line from a problem to a solution in one day.

As of today, the baby has joined his new family and is doing fine, as is his birth mother, and his adoptive mother. That it all happened so fast is amazing.

If that doesn’t make you believe that higher powers were involved in the decisions of who to call, we need to talk.

With a little embellishment, this could be a very enlightening movie, don’t you think?

Till We Meet Again

Yesterday was a continuation of sadness for those of us that Nancy left behind. Stuffing the sanctuary and basement, over 300 people attended her funeral at our little church which definitely violated at least one fire safety rule but none of the dignitaries objected.

Many of those attending extended our parking facilities to include both sides of all the roads in the area and a large unused portion of Bethany Memorial Cemetery which Howard made available. The Columbia County Sheriff was notified about the expected overabundance of traffic so all was good. It was pretty amazing.

First Lutheran Church ladies showed up and took over kitchen duties so Bethany ladies could attend the service. That’s not a surprise because Bethany and First Ladies have worked with with each other for many years, serving each other as needed. Pretty special.

Everything was planned and replanned but as plans go, they don’t always play out correctly in the end. So it was for us. The one that went well was Rich’s efforts to wirelessly stream the service to a projector in the basement. He worked on it for days trying to work out problems with the sound to go with the pristine picture. He solved it about 30 minutes prior to the service and it worked perfectly. The easy part, playing a photo DVD in the sanctuary, didn’t work so well due to electrical issues. Actually, it was due to lack of electricity in AV corner of the church caused by the need in the basement to plug just one more thing into the overloaded circuits. I think it was another coffee pot but that’s a guess. Might have been a crock pot.

Since the service was in progress, and the basement was overflowing with people blocking access to the electrical panel I just warned those who were speaking that they’d have to talk a little louder since their microphones wouldn’t work.

They did, and it was good.

After the service Nancy was transported about 1/4 mile to her spot in Bethany Memorial Cemetery behind the church. It was appropriate that she was walked the entire way flanked by her pall bearers who all wore sneakers and had Nancy’s running/walking medals hung around their necks. They walked her home.

Then, most of the 300 attendees returned to the church for a pot luck lunch. Part of that was baked ham and turkey. I had the honor of slicing all of the meat on our handy-dandy meat slicer so I truthfully told everyone that I touched every piece of meat there.

Nancy approved.

We got home around 5:30 pm, watched a few recorded shows then went to bed. After about 20 minutes, before Diane had a chance to fall asleep, she jerked upright and asked me if I had turned off the heater in the lady’s restroom. Of course, I hadn’t even thought I made sure the door was locked. It didn’t occur to me to check the heater because Nancy always did that.

So, Diane got up and went back to the church to check. I offered to do it or to go with her but she refused so I stayed in bed and fell asleep before she returned. This morning she told me the heater was indeed still on so it was good she returned. Diane’s convinced Nancy reminded her to check it. I’m not surprised.

The Maui Wedding & Other Stuff

The deed is done and this is just the wrap up of an event that’s been in the planning stages for years. As Sarah would say, she got “Mauied”.

To begin this day of joy and change Diane took a trip to the University of Hawaii Maui campus. That’s where the Maui Swap meet is held. The reason for our trip there was to obtain some outer wear for some little people we know back in Oregon. That, and to look around a bit. One thing I noticed right away was that prices were a bit steep for a swap meet. Hats, for instance. One gentleman had hundreds of them stacked neatly on many tables and his price for a baseball hat was $28! That’s not a swap meet price. I didn’t want a baseball hat anyway. The items Diane found were much more reasonable.

While in the vicinity, we took an moment to capture a selfie to show Jeran that Corban University is being promoted everywhere we go.

Here’s Diane hard at work.

Now for the wedding.

The service was held outside at the Sugar Beach Event Center.

Only 40 chairs
Beautiful backdrop

Diane shedding her pre-wedding jitters
Same for Ruth
Sarah and Dad Larry begin the march
They arrived safely
It was a flawless handoff
Rings were exchanged
The final blessing were given
Then “The Kiss”
I think she’s happy
Now it’s reception time
Grandma Ruth
Great Aunt Diane

I went through the line twice – once with Ruth and again with Diane. Lucky me.

Ruth and Larry
Larry and Diane

After the reception line it was into the hall for the reception dinner, after all the photos were taken. Right about this time Diane became ill and had to leave but she insisted I had to stay and eat. I did that then she came back to get me after the crowd began to get rowdy, like young crowds tend to do. They were having a terrific time and I was worried about Diane so it was all OK.

Diane was pretty sick and we spent all of Sunday inside – Diane rested and I stayed quiet like a mouse.

Now we’re going to take it real easy until our flight Wednesday morning. Maybe we’ll find an opportunity to visit Goodwill, but that remains to be seen.

I’m Listening

I’m listening to my lovely wife, Diane. She told me a couple days ago that I haven’t posted anything during the month of July. I checked and, by golly, she’s absolutely correct. I haven’t. I can only attribute this lack of posting to old age or, perhaps I’ve simply used up most of the words available to me in a given period of time. I’ve heard that’s a ‘thing’. Diane has a cousin who, when she’s at a loss for words, says “…I must have used up all my nouns.”

Considering the amount of time that’s passed I’m pretty sure I can’t possibly remember things in proper sequence, if I can remember things at all, so I’m just going to ramble and see what happens. That way I can be just as surprised as you when something profound sneaks out.

Let’s see … on July 15th Jerrie Anne Diane Cate celebrated her 8th birthday which means the school district has no choice but to allow her to attend 3rd grade when school resumes in September. She’s pretty stoked about that. Matter of fact, she actually cried when the school year ended because she likes school that much. Her older sisters love school, too, so it’s apparently a genetic ‘thing’ that comes from their mother’s side of the family. I guess it could be from Diane, too, but it’s surely not from me. I was perfectly OK when summer showed up and I was still wearing little boy clothing.

Shortly after Jerrie’s birthday we fired up the bus and returned to Paradise Cove for a few days of R&R, by ourselves. You may recall we took The Littles there in June for about a week. We had big plans to spend a lot of time in the hot tub but I don’t remember doing that even one time. Instead we spent our time either sitting on or walking along one beach or another, watching the waves. The high light of the sitting part was when we parked ourselves on a tall dune above the remains of the Peter Iredale which has been a fixture on the beach at Fort Stevens State Park my entire life. We were there to watch the sunset and saw some whales playing along the shore spouting a few times, showing us their tails, then disappearing. It was pretty special which is good because the sun went behind some clouds and there was no proper sunset. It just got dark and chilly. Be we had whales!

We returned from that trip on Monday and had a few days days to recover, we thought, until Diane discovered that we had reservations at Big Eddy County Park near Vernonia on Wednesday. This was another trip with The Littles because it’s a yearly Family Camp for Jennie’s and Daniel’s church. We’re always invited and we almost always go because it’s great fun. The Littles went last year for the first time and loved it. They got to spend days, literally, in the Nehalem River, and they made lots of new friends. The great thing about this is that the church rents the entire park so the kids can be free to go wherever they want with no fear of something bad happening. They just had to check in with their home camp on a regular basis so we knew where they were and they could not venture into the river without adult supervision. All we adults had to do was sit around our campfires talking and eating snacks. Once in a while kids would show up and we’d have a meal. The big deal with food culminated in a dessert social where I cut Jerrie a piece of very rich chocolate cake that was far too large. She savored every morsel but wound up giving it all back, plus, later that evening. I suspect it tasted much better the first time it passed her lips. She recovered nicely the next day and was able to spend lots of time with her friend Lilly.

The bigger Littles (Gilligan & Baylee) put dozens of miles on bikes, riding all over the park with their friends. Most of the bike riders were careful but we had to be wary of the smaller ones with training wheels. They weren’t overly concerned about who was in front of them as they pedaled around, talking to whoever was riding next to them. Diane was almost run over many times because she either didn’t hear the rattle of those training wheels or she thought they actually knew about the rules when encountering old people. Like, don’t run into them. They tend to tip over and break things. Thankfully, that didn’t happen.

I exercised our small little BBQ for one meal by cooking hamburger and chicken patties. I don’t use it often, and only clean it when I do figuring that whatever bad things may have grown on it since the last use would surely be consumed during the warm-up phase. It’s worked so far and has provided us with some tasty hotdogs with a hint of steak and old hamburgers. They are a culinary treat. Now that we’re home I’m reminded that I need to remove the 4 chicken patties I left on the BBQ when I put it back in the RV. I have no valid reason for doing that. It just seemed to be OK at the time. I can already hear Diane calling my name, in large capital letters — “JEROLD BRADLEY CATE” — when she reads this.

In case you’re wondering about the danger of little kids playing in the Nehalem River, fear not. It’s not a big river. It’s more like a large creek. And there are always lots of people around lounging on a variety of different kinds of floating devices. It’s pretty safe.

That’s about it for this time. Hope everyone is having a wonderful summer.

Camping at Big Eddy

Last Thursday we took “The Littles” Camping at Big Eddy Park on the Nehalem River near Vernonia, Oregon. It’s a small place but full of fun on hot days. Even I found the water to be pleasant in the 100 degree temps. “The Littles”, by the way, are our Grand Daughters Gilligan, Baylee, and Jerrie. I’m using that now because it’s easier to type.

We attended this outing thanks to Jennifer’s & Daniel’s willingness to let us join them for their annual Church Campout at the park, even though we don’t attend their church. Guess Jennifer figured I wouldn’t cause too much of a commotion this time and the who attend the last time we went had plenty of time to forget past offenses. I don’t think there were any, but you just never know what might trip someone’s trigger.

This was the first time The Littles went camping with us so it was and exciting time for them. Since the church pretty much rents the entire park for the weekend the kids (lots of them) were free to roam all day and into the night. The big attraction was the big eddy in the Nehalem River for which the park is named.

With inner tubes of various sizes, and life jackets, the kids assaulted the river and had a spectacular time just floating around, visiting, making new friends, and for some, catching crawdads.

In line, front to rear, are Jerrie, Baylee, and Gilligan under Daniel’s watchful eye.

 

Living large in the deep water, about 20′ deep, middle of the eddy.

 

Even the dogs get to play. This is Ziva.

 

There was some down time allowed for river rock art.

 

Jerrie in a brief moment of inactivity.

 

Jennie minding the tubes. This is about as wet as she got.

 

Gilligan coming in for a pit stop.

 

Gilligan giving her Mosh Pit greeting.

 

Mocha just floated around all over the place, lurking kinda like an alligator. She loves the water because it sets her free of her aching joints.

 

Open fires are not currently allowed in any Oregon camp grounds unless they had a way to turn them off. So, before leaving civilization we made a trip to Lowe’s and got a propane fire pit that fit that category.

 

It works quite nicely, throwing a rosy glow on everyone who sits around it.

 

It was even used to produce vast quantities of s’mores for those who like that kind of thing. Personally, I’ve never been a fan of s’mores. I think that makes me kind of unpatriotic, or something, and I’m sorry if it does. But, I still don’t care for them. The kids love them, however.

 

Lots of time people showed up from other families to join in with Jeran, Lydia, Joey, Jamie, Sofie, and Ceiarra. I caught this one sitting still so took her photo. Also, got a fairly good shot of Daniels T-shirt, Save the Chubby Unicorns.

 

Most of the girls are wearing their hair longer, young and old, so braiding it was a full-time job. Jennie loves doing it and fixed up all comers. She’s a pro braider. So, I guess that means she’s Pro Braider Jennie, or PB&J for my acronym book.

 

Jennie and Jerrie posing after Jen gave Jer piggies, my personal favorite hairdo.

 

Diane contemplating something while relaxing.

 

Jennie relaxing.

 

Older kids gathered for lunch.

Sunday morning we attended an outdoor church service then everyone packed up to leave. For me, getting ready to go involved driving our motor home around the narrow, wiggly, tree-lined roads to get in a spot where I could reattach the tow dolly and mount the car on it. I’d done it once to drop the dolly and didn’t have a problem. This time, however, I cut one corner a little close and brushed an old, rotten stump. It left a mess on the driver’s side near the rear wheel that I was sure would signal the end of the world.  But it didn’t. Neither I, nor anyone else with a camera, thought to capture the moment and the damage, so there’s no proof that what I’m relating really happened. Therefore, you can just chalk this up to a big lie if you wish. I really did swipe the stump, though, and the visible damage appeared to be permanent.

Once we got home I got out the polishing compound and rubbed 98% of it away. I was amazed. And happy. Now I won’t be ashamed to take it out again next week for a trip to Nehalem Bay State Park. This is the bay where the Nehalem River joins the Pacific Ocean.

How odd is that?

 

 

Jerrie is 7, and a Plumbing Tale

Last Sunday Jerrie turned 7-years-old. That’s 7, as in SEVEN. That means Second Grade is coming up. When that happened, Diane and I looked at each other with similar questioning eyes, wondering how she did that so fast. She’s quick, we know that, but normally it takes at least one dog-year for a child to attain the age of 7. Not Jerrie. She did it in 3, I’m sure. Anyway, she’s joined her bouncy sisters in another upper age bracket and is on her way to fulfilling her destiny. We’re curious to discover what that is. It’s going to be an exciting trip.

In case you didn’t know, this is Jerrie trying out her new blanket that we dare anyone to snatch and try to call it their own.

This next bit is a going to be long, I can tell already, but I’ve got to get it out of my head. It’s getting crowded in there and I want to gather new “stuff” to think about.

Plumbers are sometimes necessary to resolve problems for which one hopes they’ve been trained to deal with, and other times they are used simply because it’s convenient to have someone else do the dirty work. Simply because I involuntarily volunteered to get a couple of new toilets for our church, I became the point person for ensuring they got installed. Although I’m knowledgeable with what’s required to install a toilet, since this was a church project, I was given permission to engage a professional. The project also included replacement of a broken, non-functioning, waterless, cold water faucet in the Lady’s Room (LR). It’s been turned off for years, literally, because it ceased to function. The set up, in both bathrooms is really old, using individual faucets for hot and cold. Old school. Since it takes a little bit of time for hot water to reach the LR, it apparently was deemed safe to assume that at least six ladies in a row could use the facility and wash their hands without being scalded. The seventh person is like a hall monitor … if they don’t burn their hands with hot water at the sink, odds are that one, or more, of the previous six didn’t wash their hands, the choice of many women when using public facilities. I have it on good authority that men ALWAYS wash their hands BEFORE using the facilities because they don’t want to get their junk dirty. They know what they’ve touched, ya know?

I digress. What’s new?

Thinking back on that seventh lady who didn’t burn her hands, when she exits the facility makes a note of who the previous six were because ladies, sadly, always have to wait in line to use public facilities. From that point on #7 avoids the previous six because they’re obviously filthy animals. Or, #7 doesn’t wash either, leaving it up to #8. It gets really complicated after that.

Regardless of who does or does wash isn’t really the issue here. It’s the broken and leaky faucet. Someone resolved the problem by turning off the water to that faucet. Simple. They probably thought they’d get around to fixing it later, or not. Actually, that faucet has been off for 10+ years so you know it was a man who disabled it. Right? I’m pretty sure that’s true, but it wasn’t me. Honest.

Given the authority to procure and arrange installation of new toilets, and a faucet, Diane took me to Costco and allowed me to purchase two toilets, just like the one I installed in one of our bathrooms at home. Get that? I, Jerrie, an old man, installed one of these toilets all by myself and it works and it doesn’t leak.

It took a bit of maneuvering to get two toilets in the back of our Camry, but I did it. On the way home we stopped at the church and I manhandled one into each bathroom, staging them for the plumber who agreed to do the job. I called two plumbers and only one called back.

Shortly after that Diane and I departed on our annual Anniversary trip so I wasn’t there to manage the work. I wasn’t worried, though, how hard could it be?

Turns out that some things certain plumbers encounter are way beyond their capabilities and in the confusion of accomplishing assigned tasks get a truly clouded sense of reality when it comes to figuring out what to charge. In this case, the plumber presented a very vague bill for $1495.00.

Upon return from our trip, I visited the plumber, who was out working on another poorly planned job, no doubt, and talked with the nice lady in the office. I explained that the price seemed overly high for a job where the major components were provided.

The plumber called me a couple of days later and was very apologetic after I explained that the toilets were not provided by him, and questioned his billing tactics that provided no detail about what materials were used. I’m sure the majority of his clientele pay without question, abiding by the popular pre-conceived notion that plumbers are just expensive, and that’s the way it is.

The result of that first contact was a $200 refund check along with a new bill containing some more detail about what was done and what materials were used. It was nice to get a refund, but I wasn’t particularly pleased with the detail and the minimal amount considering he was apparently refunding the cost he would charge a customer to procure two toilets. Having paid $150 for each toilet I was pretty sure that his mark up would escalate the price considerably higher.

The new bill made me a little angry so I sat on it for a while before addressing my concerns with the plumber, again. I contemplated calling again, but decided I wanted something tangible that could be filed for future reference. So, I wrote him a letter providing far more detail that I’m sure he wanted to see. Specifically, about the price of the toilets and what he would charge a customer to provide. I also questioned his charge for wax rings and bolts, which were provided with each toilet, and $50 for caulking, and $150 for a new faucet that didn’t look anything like the one he removed, and the fact that he removed and replaced the wrong faucet. Seriously, how dumb is that? I used his cost for that faucet as a measure for what his markup was for parts. Somewhere around 100% or more I’d guess.

Addressing all of these questions, as well as questioning his ethics a little bit, I sent the letter to him and a bunch of other people. My last comment was that I would love to talk with him about everything in the letter. His response was to send another refund check for $300 with no explanation. Just a check in the mail. I suppose we could have just considered that a nice donation to the church and continue to pursue answers to my questions, but I believe we’re way beyond a peaceful solution. He got the price into the $900’s, which is still high, but not worth the stress of all the confrontation involved, in an area where most people carry guns, should I continue. We’re just not ever going to use him again and we’ll gladly share why with anyone who wants to know.

Then, I’ll fix it myself.

For free.

Like I should have done the first time.

Then we’ll just sit back and watch karma take it’s course.

Dang!

Various and Sundry Things

Greetings fellow Earthlings who woke up on the green side of the grass, as did I, this glorious morning.

My awakening was a confused one because the house was so quiet. Like normal, I was once again on the living room sofa and noticed my bride in the kitchen making coffee. On a normal day, once the coffee was done, she would bring me a cup which is code for “GET UP YOU LAZY BUM AND GO YANK SOME WEEDS!” That didn’t happy, however, and it took me a while of this quiet solitude to realize that it didn’t happen because today is Sunday. I don’t have to pull weeds on Sunday. So, I just relaxed, went back to sleep, and waited for my coffee.

She never brought it to me, though, and I couldn’t hear her thrashing around in any of the nearby rooms that generally alerts me to the need to get up. “Thrashing” is too harsh a word here. She never really Thrashes. It’s just the noise people make, especially me, when they’re trying very hard to be quiet so as to not wake up people they love beyond measure. It never works out well for me because I always do it in the dark. No lights for me. No Sir. I know where everything is in the house … except which doorway the big brown dog has decided to lay in front of, or which end of the hall she chose to occupy. Because of that uncertainty, I walk slowly and carefully but the result is still the same because the big brown dog is deaf. She responds to touch. Consequently, when I finally make contact with her, as I slowly slide my feet, one at a time, she jumps up making all kinds of skritching noises on the floor which ignites the Barking Gene of the little black dog (toy poodle). On the verge of chaos, I get them both calmed down, but the damage, I know, has been done. Still, I close the bedroom door and sneak away. It always works that way, but over the years I’ve learned that all that noise really isn’t my fault and my bride understands this. All I want to do is let our four-legged family members out to run freely in the field behind our house. And, to hopefully pee in said field.

Normally I go to church with her on Sunday and she makes sure I’m up and functioning in time to make myself pretty for the event. When I looked at the clock it was 10:30 am and church has already started so I look in the garage and observe that her car is gone so it’s obvious that I’ve been abandoned, left unsupervised, and could, if I so desired, don my weed-pulling attire and go outside to get really sweaty.

Instead, I got my own cup of coffee, fired up my computer, corrected the church newsletter that I sent to everyone yesterday with an error, then sent it again, and finally decided to visit with all of you for a while. That’s what I do when I’m not given a task. I sit quietly, like this, and think of ‘stuff’ I could be doing, and things I’ve done since last we ‘spoke’ …

… like golfing. I was allowed to go golfing with Doug and Junior twice over the last couple of weeks and, predictably, I did badly. But we all had a good time, especially JR. He didn’t fall down even once. Doug and I help avoid that by teeing up JR’s balls so he can take a whack at it, then pick up his displaced tee and escort him back to the cart.

Now, about JR … in my mind he’s kind of a miracle because a few weeks ago he had a stroke and was paralyzed on his right side. I talked with him about it, and it went something like this …

“So,” I asked, “when did you discover that you’d had a stroke.”

“Well,” he responded, “when I woke up with a severe need to urinate and tried to get out of bed. I couldn’t move my right leg.”

“Did you determine right then that you’d had a stroke?”

“No. I just thought something was really screwed up. My right arm wasn’t working too well, but I was able to make it grab my right leg and swing it off the bed, then I rolled to the floor.”

“Why did you do that?”

“I had to take a leak really bad.”

“Oh, ya. That.”

“I started dragging myself to the bathroom but gave up after a couple of feet and called Jeri for help. She helped me back to bed after my bladder was pleasingly empty (in a way will not explain in detail as he did). Then people showed up. I knew who they were, but could not say their names. I guess I was mumbling. So, they took me to the VA Emergency Room where they hooked me up to a bunch of stuff and just left me there. When a doctor finally showed up he told me that I’d definitely had a stroke, but that there wasn’t anything they could do for me.”

“Really!”

“Yes, really. So, I yanked all the hoses and tubes off my body and Tami took me home. My heart rate and blood pressure were higher when I left than when I got there so once I got home I medicated myself.”

“What did you take?”

“One morphine, 2 oxycodone, 2 Tylenol, and 1 nitro. My BP went down, my heart rate slowed, and things started going back to normal. Then I just sprawled in my recliner until it was time to go golfing again.”

Yes, we went golfing again about two weeks after this happened and he still beat me. We went a couple of days ago, too, and I really thought I had a chance to finally whip him, but that didn’t happen even though I was keeping score. So, after a really harrowing event, JR is back to being about as normal as he can be. Quite amazing.

On other news fronts, I was summoned to the County Courthouse by Betty, our County Clerk, who is kind of Diane’s boss when it comes to counting votes during elections. She, Betty, apparently was cleaning out her attic and found some computer parts she thought I could use and wanted me to get them. Turns out, she had a brand new, in the box,  NCR keyboard, the one with the HUGE connector, way bigger than a PS2 connector, that will not work on any computer made today. I was grateful for the gift and plan to incorporate it in a project I have in mind using obsolete computer parts. I think something like that would look nice hanging on the living room wall, don’t you?

Last Thursday I spent a log of time on my feet chopping onions and carrots, and blending black beans and tomatoes while assisting a herd of ladies to construct a 150 portion version of Diane’s Black Bean Vegetable Soup. It’s really great soup, a family favorite. Making it for 150 people was interesting for me because it required extended use of appliances that I generally only get to use for short amounts of time. Like the Cuisinart. Great for the onions and carrots, but they wouldn’t let me chop up the celery. I really wanted to chop the celery.

After the chopping was done, and soup taste-tested (I’m the official taster) I was dismissed with instructions to return at 7 pm. I went home and just relaxed until the phone rang at 6:45. I answered and was asked, “are you coming to get me?” I considered my response and figured that saying I was told to her there at 7 wouldn’t be well received. She was tired and needed to get home.

Last Saturday the family celebrated both Jeff’s and my birthdays. We’re only two days apart and the ‘real’ dates were middle of the week, the reason for deferring till the weekend. Gatherings like that are always a loud, fun-filled event for everyone. They fill the house with happiness and we love it. We also love the quiet that follows, but the hustle-bustle noise always makes us smile. One thing, though, is trying to explain to ‘outsiders’ that son Jeff’s birthday is only two days after mine. He’s 46 now so I just tell folks that he’s my step son from Diane’s first marriage. That’ a lie, of course, because even folks with rudimentary math skills can quickly surmise that if he’s 46 he was obviously born in 1972, four years after Diane and I were married. I just add another lie that she was pregnant for a really long time.

Yesterday Diane and I attended a retirement party for our friend Rick who exercised his right to end his 30-something-year career with ABF Trucking. We got to visit with lots of old friends that we don’t see nearly often enough because they live so far away. There were three Ricks, two Jerry’s, two Pats, Nelda, Diane, Jo, Josette, Jody, Vie, Lucan, Stacy, Brandy, Linda, Allen and many others I cannot remember. For those who I failed to mention, forgive me. I’m old and forget things. Diane thinks I have dementia even though I’ve explained, many times, that I don’t need to remember ‘things’ because she does it for me. That’s one of the many responsibilities a wife has. Right? Well, maybe not all wives will agree with that, and it’s OK.

Once again I’m totally upset that when I select the magic button on my Xfinity remote that displays current and future sporting events, there is absolutely no mention of NCAA Softball. I’ve got to actually search for info on the games. Then, after doing that, I have to sit quietly while the #1 seeded Lady Ducks get smoked by lower ranked teams in the Women’s College Softball Championships. Last year they lost the first two games and went home. This year they won the first game 11-1 then lost the next two and were eliminated. I think if Xfinity would simply include college sports properly in their displays, the teams would do much better. Just wait till next year. Now we must root for Washington, the #2 seed who won their first two games.

Go Huskies.