Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Menlo Park, Ojai and Duarte, CALIFORNIA

Making Balloon Animals
After our crazy night in Portland, we awoke at 4 am to drive the long stretch to Menlo Park, California. We arrived around 7 pm and were greeted along the roadside by my Aunt Donna and Uncle John. They made a delicious meal which we all enjoyed on the patio, by the light of my Uncle's fish lantern.

In the morning, Uncle John got out remote-controlled race cars for Alley to play with. She drove them and Soul-Baby chased after them. It was super cute to watch. We all tried our hand at making balloon animals and shapes. When we climbed in the car to continue our journey, we were surrounded by funky-looking dogs and multi-coloured hats and bracelets.

Uncle John gave us a book called The Ultimate Gift, which we read on our way to Ojai, California. It's a thoughtful read about leaving a legacy. The main character, Red Stevens, is a Millionaire who realizes the disservice he has done to his family by giving them large amounts of money without any training or exemplary wisdom. He has felt disconnected from his family and experiences a sense of regret. As his estate of oil companies is being divided, the true colours of his heirs come through in their selfish and greedy attitudes during the reading of his will.

His great nephew Jason is given an odd inheritance. He must go through 12 challenges on a monthly basis. If he is able to stay on course, he will receive the "ultimate gift" at the end of the year.

It is a simple, yet stirring parable-like tale: definitely worth the read. They have recently made the book into a movie. We really appreciated the gift and the chance to read it aloud and talk as we drove along. We finished it by the time we pulled into the town of Ojai.

Grandma and Grandpa Ward
Ojai was sunny and beautiful. We spent the night with my husband's Grandparents on his Dad's side. Bryan's dad was actually visiting them at the same time so we all enjoyed being together.

They live in a suite atop the garage of their daughter Sarah and her husband Randy's home. They are in their 80's and never cease to amaze me with their wit and hospitality. Grandma only has a toaster oven to cook with and still managed to make Baked Chicken Breasts with Lemon-Pepper, rice and steamed veggies. How does she do it?!

They had gifts for the kids, a trampoline out back for getting the wiggles out before bed, and a screened-in sleeping porch. I could tell it all felt magical for Alley. Before we left the next day, we went out for delicious Mexican food at a local favorite of theirs. And shortly after, we waved as we continued down the highway toward Duarte.

Grandma Russell
Our final stop in California was at "Russell's Rest", the home and Bed and Breakfast of Bryan's Grandmother on his mom's side. What a lovely woman! She showed Alley her singing birds and mural in the Solarium. And various artifacts from her time in Ethiopia. We enjoyed conversation over dinner and then relaxed in the living room when Aunt Jen and Uncle Michael joined us with their Dog Ruby.

One of Bryan's favorite things about his Grandma (fondly called "Queen Esther") is her breakfasts. They are always delicious and celebratory. We were not surprised when we awoke to blaring instrumental music, a beautifully set table and large slices of melon at each spot. She had everything you could imagine for a FULL breakfast. Yum!

And as we pulled away from each home on our trip through California, we felt both filled up with blessings and saddened that we can't do daily life more often with this family we love.

The song going through my head

Loving A Person
by Sara Groves and Gordon Kennedy

Loving a person just the way they are, it's no small thing

It takes some time to see things through

Sometimes things change, sometimes we're waiting

We need grace either way

Hold on to me

I'll hold on to you

Let's find out the beauty of seeing things through

There's a lot of pain in reaching out and trying

It's a vulnerable place to be

Love and pride can't occupy the same spaces baby

Only one makes you free

Hold on to me

I'll hold on to you

Let's find out the beauty of seeing things through

If we go looking for offense

We're going to find it

If we go looking for real love

We're going to find it

Friday, June 22, 2007

Portland, OREGON

I've been reading through some of my writings from the road. And I thought I should keep the posts coming so I can chronicle the trip and move into the present events!

Our first night along the road was spent in the home and company of our dear friend Bree. She and her sister rent a quaint and trendy du-plex in Portland, right off artistic Alberta Street. They are thriving in the unique/communal atmosphere around them and enjoy the diversity of expression and surprise literally at their doorstep.

We had a wild introduction to Portland!

As soon as we pulled up to her house, Bree burst through the door, wrapped us in hugs and pushed us back into the truck, exclaiming "We have to catch the parade!" Portland's annual "Art Hop" was just winding down and the Marching Band Parade of Clowns was making it's last turnaround before calling it a day.

We raced down the street and made a mad dash toward the music, dodging the crowd and weaving through tables of sculptures, paintings, jewelry, handmade clothing. And this is what we saw: gothic "vauderville" clowns on stilts swaying atop an old firetruck, a string of funkified marching band players, one with an electric guitar plugged into the front of the firetruck. The music was amazing and dance-to-able; I could not NOT dance! It sounded like a mixture of funk and reggae with tight, crisp rhythms and a driving beat.

There were funky bikes cruising around the streets. A few of the particularly unusual machines were poised outside of the "clown house", a community of clowns (professional and amateur, I think?), with a twist. In the picture below, with Alley getting her face painted, you may notice a couple of cross-dressing clowns in the backdrop. A little eery for me, I confess. I have crawly-skin feelings about clowns in general, but especially gothic clowns with freaky painted faces.

But, despite the heebbie jeebies, we really liked observing an obvious fulfillment of a group's wild dream. We love that Portland is the kind of place where a group of scary clowns can form a community of unique expression and become known around the world. They can keep crazy welded bikes in their front yard without the city issuing fines.
Later that night, we joined some of Bree's friends for a backyard BBQ. A few of the guys mix music and gifted us with sweet beats all evening as we munched on edamames and shish kebobs.

As one point in the night, one of the women was juicing fresh tangerines. She filled a pitcher and brought it back outside with ice cubes floating. The rest of us had a variety of beers and some wine and I was glad for some juice to give to Alley. I filled a medium-sized glass and she took a few thirsty gulps. The music really got going and Al was dancing like a maniac. She seemed especially wild and would take little breaks from dancing to have some juice.

She was tipping her half empty cup for another swig when the woman who juiced the tangerines looked her way and exclaimed "No sweetie! Don't drink that! That's just for the adults!" I overheard this and quickly swooped it out of her hands, only to taste the unique flavour of Vodka. OH. MY. GOODNESS.

Thankfully, the percentage of alcohol was low and we caught her before she drank the whole thing. But man, we felt bad. For the rest of the night, we handed her drink after drink of water and made sure her tummy was full of bread and fruit and other healthy foods to absorb any remaining alcohol.

Moral of the story: always taste what you pour for your child.

And that was Portland. We had a fantastic, whirlwind time with a dear friend. And if you are reading this, Bree. Thank you.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Bungalow sweet Bungalow

We are home. After a month on the road, it felt good to unlock the door to our bungalow and reenter our daily life. I have spent three days doing laundry, cleaning out the car, checking messages, restocking the fridge and a hundred other little tasks of returning. I find myself decluttering as I return trip paraphenalia to their closets and their shelves.

Here are a few little corners that needed to be reorganized.

While we were away, my husband's brother (who was renting our basement suite) moved into his own place.
We are gradually expanding into the downstairs where I will have an office/schoolroom and a craft/art space! I am thrilled to have a little more room to spread my creative wings.

So much of our trip was about rediscovering: ourselves, eachother and our dreams as a family. My husband and I had leisurely time in which to relearn one another and to concentrate on the kids together. We had hours in the car to talk and reminisce, to dream and to reflect. We wove through old places we visited as children and built on memories as a family. And as we journeyed, we absorbed the beauty of Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, Utah and Idaho. What a gorgeous collision of created nature. Pictures to come!

It feels good to be blogging again. And in many ways, it's like starting to exercise after being relatively immobile for a time. I'm stretching my muscles again, getting ready to rebuild them. This is another beginning.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Burnt Red Rocks

I am writing from the Redrock Country Inn in Kenab, Utah. We decided to settle into a hotel for 2 nights after 4 nights of camping. It was really nice to have a comfy bed last night after sleeping on rocky desert ground.

I realized this morning, that with all the stories and thoughts I want to write about, I might have to do an "along the road" stream of blog posts AFTER the fact. That way, I will have my pictures uploaded to my computer and can do more reflective blogs on the underbelly of the experiences we've had.

For now, I will describe our whereabouts. Kenab is flanked on it's north side by a range of exquisite red rock. The vast, windswept plains surrounding it and the endless horizon dramatizes the contrast: there's a burning mountain in the distance on a palette of clear blue.

Before this, we camped two nights at the Mormon Lake Double Springs National Forest Campground, just south of Flagstaff. We visited old haunts in Sedona and Flagstaff and met up with dear friends (Kira and David and Timber) for a picnic in Wheeler Park and a night viewing stars through the telescopes at Lowell Observatory. Alley loved it. We ALL loved it. I was flooded with nostalgia, as I watched Bry holding her up to look out the main telescope. It almost seemed like I was watching myself, held up by my own Dad. I have looked through that same scope countless times as a little girl. The observatory always felt magical to me and the wind seemed to always blow the perfect amount, through the vanilla-scented Ponderosa Pines.

From there we camped two nights at the Desertview Campground on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. More about that in a coming post. Yesterday, we explored the North Rim and last night, settled into the RedRock Country Inn in Kenab,Utah. For fun, Bry and I curled up in bed with Alley's portable DVD player and watched Curious George.

Today, we drive to Zion National Park to hike "the narrows", a beautiful hike through a narrow canyon. Part of the hike is through water. Last time I was in Zion, two hikers came through after a multiple day trek. They were exhausted, with sweat and mud-streaked foreheads, walking sticks, dusty boots. They looked up with tired smiles and one said "all I need is a steak and a bottle of red wine."

Bry and I hiked it on our honeymoon and today, are returning with our children. I am wonder-filled at this full circle.