Sense of Loss

At the end of September, Andy’s parent’s home burned. Everyone made it out safe except for the fish. The fire started outside and spread under the eves so the firefighters had to punch through the (2 month old) roof in order to put out the flames. The interior was destroyed by fire, smoke and water. I took photos when Andy and I first visited to help with the itemization for the insurance company. They aren’t easy for me to look at.

I’ve been paralyzed to write about the fire without knowing that Andy’s parent’s and sister had a place to live and something to work toward. Now they are somewhat settled into a rental home and waiting to hear from the insurance company on the settlement.

It was 4am when we got a text saying the house burned and everyone was safe. Andy and I held each other and worried. The next morning was a blur of emotion and short, sad phone conversations. The Holmes family centralized and we all did what we could to help. The Hood River community also stepped up and provided free lodging in a hotel until Lynne, Steve and Joanna could move into the rental.

While I was in the house, I discovered that a fire is a nasty toxic thing. The mess left behind in the house was trapped under layers of scorched insulation and it was so putrid that gloves and a mask were necessary. Very little of a lifetime of belongings was saved. There was a moment when Steve looked at a particularly meaningful and destroyed collection of miniature record artwork when I thought we might all lose it.

As Steve said while talking to Andy, losing a house is like losing a family member. Grief and disbelief are a part of the process of moving along. We’re all hoping the insurance company has good news for the Holmes family. Good thoughts are welcome by all.

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Last Gasp of an Oregon Summer

This morning we woke up early to harvest hops at a friend’s house, brew beer and enjoy some sun. The morning started with Sam in a box and progressed to fiddling with crawdads in the Clackamas river while Andy and Ben did the hard work of harvesting.

 

Moved and A New Addition

We moved! It took seven hours and six people (thanks mom and dad, jeff and ben!) and a whole lotta minivan action to get the boatloads of our junk from northwest to southwest Portland. I am in love with our new apartment though and it certainly helps that we’ve been joined by a fuzzball named Sam (Samson, Samuel Jackson . . . ). He’s a seven month old Maine Coon. He’s a huge snuggler and an absolute doll. We got him from a local rescue organization that ended up with him after someone threw him from a truck. Ugh. Luckily, his stellar personality seems unfazed by previous trauma as he spent all last night making biscuits on our duvet. Apologies for cell phone photos. Who knows where the camera is at this point? Soon we will be unpacked and ready for visitors. For now, we are busy romping around with this awesome new addition to our household.

Versatile Blogger

My friend Sara awarded me this lovely little blog award and now I am going to tell you seven things about me and pass it along . . .

1. I started blogging to document my travels to Ghana and Spain during the year after graduation.

2. I started loving blogging after I looked back on my previous entries and dove right into the situations I had found myself in. Riding tro-tros, running from elephants, teaching moments, contemplating the future . . .

3. I think blogs are frustrating because there’s a constant sense of self-censorship. My audience includes my grandparents, parents, friends and random internet passer-bys so sometimes I can’t use the blog as a totally honest journal. I just can’t reveal my deepest thoughts and deeds to the entire internet population. And don’t even get me started on discussing work issues on a blog.

4. I have been dating Andy for 5 1/2 years and we are still discovering interesting new things about each other. I’m in no rush to get hitched.

5. I love eating Trader Joe’s frozen quiches for lunch at work. I buy them in multiples every time.

6. My biggest pet peeve is long toenails.

7. I dream about having a bigger kitchen so two people can actually fit in it at the same time. However, I learned to cook in a totally outdated kitchen in Spain where the oven was lit by match and had two settings: Hot and Slightly Less Hot. I think I secretly like crappy kitchens. I can still make good food in them. It makes me feel like if I ever do get a nice kitchen, my cooking will be the best in the whole world.

Now to pass this thing on(I just read these, I don’t actually know the authors. If you do, then go ahead and let them know they’ve won!): Posy Gets Cozy, Smitten Kitchen, Decor8, Young House Love, 2000 Dollar Budget Wedding, All the Pretty Birds, Anna Maria Horner!

Teaching

There is no doubt in my mind that becoming a teacher is one of the best ways to make an impact on a community. After spending time in schools in Ghana and teaching in Spain, I feel very adamant about the importance of equal access to the highest quality of education for every child.

However, my idealism is stranded on the other side of a ragged divide from the reality of education in the United States and especially education in the rest of the world. Because of my curiosity about that issue, I’ve read a number of articles discussing what even makes a good teacher. It’s a set of skills that is very hard to narrow into categories and it is intrinsically personal. “What makes a Good Teacher” published in The Atlantic is a great read.

Despite the mayhem of war, environmental disasters and all things violence or political plastered on the news, I am always encouraged when I can continue to read articles in mainstream media on the role of education in the US. Today, there’s a heated debate centered around Teach for America on the New York Time’s (NYT) website. I think it brings up a lot of the issues I thought about while working as an inexperienced teacher in exceedingly difficult schools in Spain. The NYT uses opinions from seven contributors as a jumping off point for the discussion that is populated by teachers, politicians and Teach for America volunteers alike. I really enjoyed reading it. Andy starts grad school next week to become a high school Spanish teacher so these types of discussions are particularly vibrant for me right now.

Unhealthy Bed Obsessions

This is a story about a bed. But it starts with the worst night sleep of my life (second to the night before we left Spain from Barcelona where we stayed in a hostel with 5 Japanese tourists who didn’t realize turning the lights on, chatting and digging through luggage for hours after 12 am while others are in bed is not acceptable behavior.) But back to the more recent night of sleep:

This past weekend Andy and I met up with a majority of my mom’s side of the family at a family friend’s beach house in Newport, OR. Night one was uneventful as I slept alone on the twin size hide-a-bed like a baby, completely worn out from a long day. Night two however, was a monster of a night.

I spent the day chasing my five young cousins around the house and beach. The weather was relatively warm and the beach was pleasant. Andy arrived in the afternoon after his last Saturday of work. We ate homemade strawberry jam, fresh picked blueberries and snack food upon snack food. By all estimations, I should have slept like a tiny baby. Instead, I finally came to understand the struggle Andy has been having sleeping. To fill you in: For the past few months, Andy has complained of tossing and turning and not sleeping well. He complained of waking up multiple times a night to roll over and get comfortable. I always found it difficult to understand this as I have never had problems sleeping. In fact, when I was a kid I slept through fire alarms in my own house for goodness sake. So I had no way to relate to Andy’s plight. We also sleep in a full bed at home, which is just big enough to let me pass out in peace and not be disrupted by Andy’s meandering nighttime follies. However, the beach house’s twin bed did not afford such luxury. And we’ve had our experiences with twin beds; Andy and I started dating when I was 18 and we were both living in the dorms.

On the fateful night in question, I finally exited the twin bed after an epic battle with Andy’s shoulders, arms and legs. He was continually in motion and continually poking the hell out of me. I couldn’t sleep at all. At one point, I was under Andy’s shoulder and legs and was having a bit of a problem breathing. By 3 am, I gave up on the bed. I had nowhere to go but the couch in the living room so I stumbled into the bathroom to grab a couple towels to curl up under. In my sleepy haze, I settled into the couch and realized slowly that the towels were both wet and sandy. Ugh. Moments later, a strange girly moaning noise came from the upstairs of the house. I sat up, alarmed. I heard a loud and long exclamation, “What baaabe?” I cringed. It turns out that my cousin’s fiancee sleep talks and they were both sleeping in the loft above me. A few minutes later she exclaimed excitedly, “OK!”

I was done. I threw the towels onto the couch and walked back into the room Andy and I were sharing. He was sleeping soundly in the very center of the bed. His head was on his pillow and the blankets were wrapped around him in a perfect oval.  He looked so very peaceful and I was so very filled with frustration at that point, I got in the bed with a loud sigh and elbowed him over so I could curl up on the edge. I pulled the blankets away from him while trying to warm up after getting damp from the stupid towels. When my dad came downstairs to make his coffee at 7am, I snatched my pillow and ran up into my parent’s unoccupied bedroom and peacefully dozed on their king-sized bed until Andy came up at 9am and asked, confused, “What are you doing up here babe?” I grunted and looked at him through crusty eyes. And I proceeded to tell my sleepless story of woe. He looked at me, eyebrows raised and smiled. It was one of those smiles I recognize, the “I’m putting up with you because you are silly” smile. I love and hate that particular smile. He patiently explained to me that is his night every night. I felt only slightly guilty. And thus I began my search for a new bed for Andy and Jessica. Hopefully one that leads to sleep filled nights. Something bigger and cushier. Definitely not one that includes a loft with sleep talkers. And I made Andy promise that he’ll talk to the doctor about sleeping. I think this bed from Good Hotel in CA is a dandy and I love the built in nightstands and underbed storage (so clever):

So mom, if you’re reading this, feel free to buy us the queen size for Christmas. XOXO,

jess