Thursday, March 29, 2012


You know how sometimes, when you're around someone a lot who's usual mood is a certain way, sometimes you start to pick up that mood? I've got that going on. I feel like I'm surrounded by people who complain. About everything and everyone. I'm tired of it. I can feel myself getting sucked down into that, and it's really irritating me. So I'm not going to go into detail. Just know that there's been a bunch of drama lately, I got pissy, and dammit, I wish it'd just stop raining already so I can get back to my hermit life on the boat.

For the last few weeks, actually, for the last few months, every time the ferry is closed, I've been working my butt off creating a new system for time sheets, writing up a 17 page manual, and preparing the whole thing for people who aren't comfortable on computers at all. And today, we rolled it out. We had a 2 hour meeting that I lead (!!), where I projected the computer on the screen and walked through every step of the new system, from opening your time sheet to attaching it to an email and sending it. I'm actually really pleased with myself, and once everyone saw how easy it will be, they got pretty excited.

Even the big boss walked past me in the hall and thanked me for all of the work I put into it. I really miss that sense of accomplishing something.

I was so frustrated this week, I was planning on taking tomorrow off. Instead, I'm going to come in. As a reward, I'll take next friday off, since I already have next thursday off to take my stepdad to a doctor's appointment. Besides, I've already got a lot of stuff stacked up for me to do.

This morning, the little boss did something really kind for me. All of us were heading out to the WL ferry to move the boat, since water levels are going to increase 10 feet in 36 hours. Oh joy. Last time I'd talked to him, he'd had a list of office stuff for me to do, so I wore a handknit sweater and a down vest. When I realized we'd be outside, in the insane wind and rain we were getting, I got pretty irritable. On our way to the boat, I realized we were going through downtown, and I asked the boss to swing by my house so I could grab my rain gear. And he did! I ran into the house, grabbed a raincoat, rain pants, and a hat and was back in the truck in under 2 minutes. I was really pleased, and I felt like I was actually able to help on the boat, instead of shivering in the cabin.

p.s. If you roast little skinny asparagus with olive oil and salt, the tips get super crispy. As crispy as a potato chip, but tasty like asparagus. Do this. It's spring, asparagus is here! :)

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

In the shops

I came back to work after my trip to Arizona on the 19th. I'm on my second week in the shops. From the forecasts, it looks like it'll be at least two weeks, probably longer, until the boat can reopen. Currently, the water level needs to be below 13.5 feet. And in the next ten days, the lowest level predicted is 16 feet. I think it's a combination of the constant rain we've been having plus spring runoff from the snowy mountains.

I spent all of last week working on putting together a system and manual for time sheets. Seems mundane, but I'm rather pleased with myself. I created a spreadsheet for filling out time sheets that does the math for the employee. This way, it's more likely to be correct, and saves a lot of time for the supervisors. Hopefully we'll have a staff meeting with all of the operators this week to go over it all and get everyone started. I'm a bit apprehensive. I've tried to make it as simple as possible, but I know that I'm working with a group of people, many of whom are not computer literate at all.

Tomorrow, I think I'll spend most, if not all, of the day tutoring an operator-in-training, who has really been struggling with the Coast Guard exam. At least it's something different, since the time sheets are starting to make my eyes cross.

I realized, once I finished the time sheets, that it was something I really have missed while working the ferry: the sense of accomplishment of completing something. You don't get that simply by going across the river and back, or hauling combines or bikes or whatever. But putting together a manual, which taught me MS Word skills on formatting, plus Excel stuff about formulas and privacy protection, has really made me feel good. I miss that feeling. I miss working with a customer, and finding them an answer. I miss finishing a complicated land use case, turning it in, and knowing that it was great. Dang it, I miss my job.

And sitting at my old desk, with my friends, has made it worse. It's so much fun to be back. My favorite coworker and I have been gossiping non-stop. I'm catching up on all of the latest drama for the county sanitarian, the code enforcement crew, everyone. But it's so odd to be there. I don't feel comfortable eating lunch in the break room. I feel like I really don't belong there. There are new people that've been hired on since I was laid off, and I know they look at me inquisitively wondering who I was and where the heck did I work?

I know most of that's in my head, but still. The other problem is that slowly, the boredom is starting to creep in. I'm doing my best to keep me busy. But if my boss gives me a computer task, assuming it'll take all day or all week, I'll be done with it in about 3 hours, max. I'm not really wanting to go back for more work that same day, I'm afraid that I'll run out of stuff he wants me to do. Keep in mind I'll be here at least two more weeks. It's an interesting juggling act.

Anyway, that's a random assortment of stuff in my brain right now.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


Today is the second day of Spring. This is what I woke up to:
About 2 inches on the grass, sidewalks and roads were decently clear. Not too much to worry about, it was supposed to turn to rain and mostly melt throughout the day.

Out at the shops, it did turn to rain, but it hovered around 36 degrees, so the snow only somewhat melted. There was still snow on the ground and grass when I got home, and the snow was starting to really come down.

This is what I came home to around 9pm, after knit night:
Closer to 3 inches on the grass, the roads were a mess, my car slipped around a lot. And the snow is still coming down! I'm tempted to call in late to work, not because I'm afraid of driving in it, but because nobody else will be there!

Today is March 21st. A few planners and I spent a good while online looking for the latest date of snowfall in Salem. Turns out to be April 8th. So we're close, but not there.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

I have to work?

I'm at the very very end of having 11 days off. I only took 4 days off work, and won the jackpot with 11 days freeeeee. I would have been back to the ferry today, except the river is extremely high, and both ferries are closed. Such a strange spring we're having. Massive hailstorm yesterday, and that's probably the 4th or 5th hailstorm in the last few weeks. And now there may be snow flurries tonight.

So I'm in the shops for at least all of this week and next, and probably at least some of the week after that. In some ways, it's a really nice transition to coming back after a good vacation. I've had enough time off that my sleep cycle has reverted to how it would be if I had no responsibilities and no job: stay up until about 2 am, then sleep until 10:30. You can guess how productive I've been this week (not!!).

The boss had mentioned to me that when the trainee operator gets her license, he'd like me to have a shop day every Wednesday. I'd lose 3 hours of overtime, but I think other than that, it sounds great. I'd have a shorter day on my last day of the week, the day I'm the most tired. Plus I'd be done working by 5:30, and could go to knitting at a normal time every week. I'm really looking forward to it.

I'm hoping I'm mostly working around the office this week, since I don't want to do the grunt work, and would rather sit at a desk surrounded by my Planning Dept friends. But I've learned my lesson from the last long period of shop days: no nice shoes, no white cashmere sweaters. You never know what you'll be stuck doing that day until you show up for work.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A Truly Great Time

Last night around midnight, I got home from a 5 day weekend in Arizona. And I had a spectacularly great time. Such fun people, saw 4 of my favorite people. Wore capris, sandals and tshirts everywhere, as opposed to the 40 degree rain we're having in Oregon. I laughed more in the last 5 days than I think I have in months. It was the break I've really really needed.

Some highlights:
Randomly, one of my friends from my internet forum was driving through town on a road trip right when we were in town. So we went out for lunch with her and her dad. It was so much fun. I've only met her in person a few times, and I think this was the best time.
Later that night, we went to the pre-wedding pizza and pool party, where I got to give the bride a good hug for the first time in, I think, at least 2 years. It was too cool to swim, but a bunch of us hung out with our feet in the pool. That's the bride next to me in the blue dress, and Lynn's disembodied head floating behind me.

The next day was the wedding. Before the wedding, we met another internet friend for the very first time. She was pretty much the nicest most awesome person ever, and so was her husband. It's always so strange meeting internet friends. I've been talking to Michelle for years and years, so once we got over the oddness of talking in person, it was like we were just picking up where we left off. We hung out with Michelle and her husband Jason throughout the wedding.

Don't we look spiffy! The wedding was so very sweet. Claire looked beautiful in a lace dress, her groom, Jason, was such a nice guy and they looked so very happy. I was thrilled for both of them. The reception was really fun and casual. Fantastic tamales and Mexican food, awesome music to dance to, and really touching speeches. It was a wonderfully nice time.

Bright and early the next morning, we drove to Zuni Pueblo, New Mexico. Super long drive, but really gorgeous. I never really thought of Arizona as a mountainous state, but we climbed some major mountains, and at the top, there was snow on the ground. We saw some really stunning painted hills on the way, tons of saguaro cactus, and lots of mesas. When we got to Zuni, we stopped in at the visitor's center. The woman there told us that no photographs were permitted anywhere on the reservation, due to a ceremonial dance that would begin in about a half hour. And why don't we go and watch! So we stopped into a few stores where I bought two amazing kachina dolls and a turquoise pendant, then went and parked near the old church that was actually built around 1660. We looked through two buildings and could see bits of the dancers. We started to approach to see better, and two Zuni women directed us around a few buildings so we could climb onto a roof of a pueblo and get a better view from there.

It was amazing. I looked around, and we were the only non Zuni people. This wasn't a dance for the public, for tourists. This was a real dance, for them. There must have been 40 men, with capes, coyote skins, huge masks covered with flowers and evergreen boughs. It was a dance for moisture--rain--as the woman in the visitor's center told us. From what I remember, I think most of the dancers were dressed as corn dancers, sun dancers, and some others I'm not sure about. There were also mudmen, who are evidently the mischief makers. It was incredible, standing up on somebody's roof, watching this dance. The drums were beating, and the dancers would shake rattles all in unison that sounded like a giant rain storm. I looked to my side at one point, and several men watching were tapping their feet in perfect unison with the dancers.  It was an amazing experience.

After the dance, we headed out of town, towards the very small town of Holbrook, AZ. It's on historic Rt 66, and we knew from checking the day before, that there was one of those old wigwam hotels. That was our goal. On the way, we passed the Petrified Forest National Park. It had closed 10 minutes before, but the man at the gate waved us in anyway. The sun was setting, and we only got to the first few viewpoints, but we saw the Painted Desert! We look down, and with the golden sunset shining on them, the hills were painted in reds and yellows, oranges, bits of green. It totally blew my mind. It was probably the most beautiful natural scenery I've ever seen. I was so sad that the sun was setting and we couldn't see more. But that one image in my head was well worth it.

Finally, around 7pm, we roll into Holbrook. We find the Wigwams easily (they're pretty easy to spot, after all), and decided that we only wanted to stay there if we could get an actual Wigwam, since they had some non-wigwams in a separate building. We walked in, and snagged the last Wigwam! We were giddy with joy. It was so damn cool. The inside was basically round, with two beds in the front room, and a slightly awkward shaped bathroom tucked into the back. It was so fun and goofy to stay there.

The next morning is when the timing starts to go awry. We had calculated that we needed to leave Holbrook no later than 10 to make it to the airport by 1 or 1:30 so I could catch a 3:25 flight. We check out of the Wigwam around 9, and stop for breakfast (green Hatch chili enchilada with an egg on SO good!). The there was a thrift store Lynn wanted to stop in at. And then we find the really cool rock shop. The rock shop took quite awhile. It was really awesome though. I bought some petrified wood, a turquoise necklace and a piece of unpolished raw turquoise. Oh, and a deer antler! Plus, there was this:

So wonderfully hokey Route 66-ish!
Around 10:30, we stop in Winslow Arizona for coffee, and I calculate that if we leave at 11, we've got three hours of driving and we'd get there right around 1. the heck did I calculate that?!?! There's trouble brewing!
But we're in Winslow. We had to stand on a corner!
And then I had that song stuck in my head for the rest of the day.

On the road again, we quickly realize we're somewhat screwed. I needed to return the car, get back to the terminal, get through security and make it in time to check in for a 3:25 flight, and it was now 11:15. There was no way. At least the speed limit on the highway was 75. Even so, it was 2:45 when we checked the car in. By that point, I was actually pretty calm. I knew I didn't work the next day, I knew that there were other flights to Portland that night. This would just have to work out.

When we got to the ticketing counter, the woman just chuckled and said there was no way in hell I'd make my flight. So she gives me a standby ticket for a 7:25 flight, and says I'll probably get a seat, but as a backup, gives me a confirmed seat on a 9pm flight. Lynn's flight doesn't board until 6, so we go sit down and hang out for awhile. I suddenly get a text message from the airline that the 9pm flight was cancelled! Oh crap. Now I don't have a contingency plan if I miss the 7pm flight. I walk up to a counter, and the super helpful woman there gives me tickets on a flight to Oakland, then a later flight from there to Portland. I'd be on Lynn's flight! But I've still got standby on the 7pm flight, that would get me home several hours earlier. It's such a gamble! When I go up to check again right before Lynn and I go check in for her flight, she tells me that there are at least 3 empty seats on the 7pm, and that I'm the only one on standby. I'm almost certain to have a seat...but I have a confirmed flight on an earlier flight. Ack! What to do! I end up picking the standby flight, and in the end, I get a seat! Yay!! Everything went smoothly from there, except for my seatmate spilling cranberry juice all over me. Sigh. Regardless, I'm home and tucked in bed by around 11.

There was so much laughter, friendship and exploration on this trip, it may well have been the best trip I've ever been on. It was endless amounts of fun. I'm so happy I could be there for Claire's wedding, and it was the catalyst for a totally fantastic weekend.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Busier Days

Traffic is picking up. Today, I got my first tractor of the season. People I haven't seen in months have started crossing the river. It's fun. The busyness also means that I'm on my feet a lot more, which I'm not used to, so I'm more tired than usual. 

Today was downright hectic. I left the house late, so I was stressed getting to work--though I managed to get there on time. One of my first trips was a large truck that I haul daily through the spring and summer. We went across the river, and before he drove out, he randomly got out of his truck, walked over to where the boat and apron meet, and stood there peering at something just over his head. I know his english isn't that great, so I asked him what he saw, and he just pointed up. Ohhhhh lordy. 

The apron, which is the ramp end of the boat and extends past the end of the boat, is held in place with cables. Two cables on each side of the apron. The cables are connected with turnbuckles and clevises. Basically just adjustable bits of cable and big U shapes with a pin you run through it. The pin had come out of most of the clevis, and only the weight of the turnbuckle was keeping it in place. It's not a holy-crap-catastrophe, but it's worrysome. I grabbed some tools and the ladder, and climbed up. The cable and turnbuckle was so heavy, there was no way I could lift it enough to shove the pin back in. I called the boss, who is a good sport, and came right down. Turns out the clevis, the U shape, had bent, from the weight of the apron. We had to take the whole thing apart, whack the heck out of it with a hammer, then use all of both of our strength to shove it all back in place. It all worked, it was just a weird random thing to go awry. Finally the boss left, and all was quiet and peaceful for a bit. 

Only about an hour later, I looked up and saw the Crummy. The crummy is the large truck that the bridge crew drives. The bridge crew, obviously, fixes the bridges in the county. Sometimes they just don't have anything to do, so they just wander around. I guess they were down in the area and needed to pee, and were bored, so they came to visit. Suddenly I had 4 large, loud men wandering around the boat and talking over each other in the tiny confines of the cabin. One of them was looking at different parts of the boat, and discovered a BIG problem. The engine, overall, is a pretty simple contraption. The engine turns a belt, which turns a long shaft that runs from the engine to the propeller, which is about 20 feet past the engine and under the center of the boat. The bridge crew guys had noticed that whenever I reversed directions (which you do a lot when landing), the shaft moved back and forth a lot. This, for someone who knows nothing about engines, is evidently very bad, it shouldn't move at all. 

So I called the boss again, who instantly knew how bad it was, and sent a mechanic down. And that's what I did with the rest of the day. The mechanic came down, and spent at least an hour looking at things, and figuring out what to do. Finally he realized the problem, and also that he needed to get into the work boat to fix it. So there we were, holding up traffic for 20 minutes or a half hour at a time. The work boat was tied to the ferry, parallel to the engine, and down there, the mechanic was working away. At one point, I had two of my favorite regulars waiting to go across. I ended up gossiping with them both for quite awhile. I really like knowing the regulars. 

The shaft problem was happening on both engines, so he was at the boat for at least 4 hours. He left at 6:55, which left me just enough time to lock up the boat and go home. It was a very long day. 

I did get a great bit of potentially good news about maybe later this year possibly getting a planning job 
(notice all the potentials and maybes). I can't say anything else, and it's only the potential for the future, but just that bit of potential news made me feel very hopeful for the future. 

So what am I doing right now? I need to pack for my vacation, clean the house up a bit, finish the dishes, go to sleep so I can get up early, etc. What am I actually doing? Blogging and painting my toenails. Yeah, super productive. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Spring or Winter?

Usually this all happens later in March and it's warmer. The typical pattern is to get a few glorious springtime days, birds chirping, tulips and daffodils blooming, followed by a rain storm that makes everyone grumpy that spring disappeared. Well, this year, that all started in late February. Just as we're sick and tired of winter, we get a snowfall that dumped several inches in town, and a lot more in the hills. But when that melts, it feels like spring! A few warm days, my flowers are about to bloom, there's blue sky!

Then this morning it snowed again. It was just starting to snow when I left the house, around 6:15. Down at the ferry, I just got a light dusting, enough to make everything pretty. The roads had snow on them, and I could see that I was the first car since the night before to drive those 5 miles from the highway to the boat. I love that. A coworker came down around 10 and said that 2 inches had quickly dumped on downtown Salem. By that point, the snow was all melted here, it was hard to believe it snowed so hard there. Then, after it got super sunny with puffy cotton candy clouds, it started to hail! It sounded like there was bacon frying on the roof of the cabin.

Such weird weather. I guess this is the "lion" end of March, and there'll be a "lamb" by the end of the month? Sure hope so.

I got the coolest app ever for my ipad. It's the entire Sibley Bird book, and is amazingly searchable. So, for instance, to identify one bird, I looked for birds local to oregon, that were mostly black in color, water birds, and about the size of a duck. And it's a coot! I've never heard of coots before, and thought these were some sort of duck. It's awesome. I now also know that I have merganser ducks and kingfishers, not bluejays.

Even though the weather is bi-polar, there are slight hints of spring every day. The leaves haven't come out on the trees, but the branches and buds are turning color. The cottonwoods, from a distance, have red branches. And there's a short bushy tree by the ferry that has brilliant gold branches. It really is amazing to watch, day by day, as the birds and trees and plants all stretch their arms, take a deep breath, and prepare for the season.

I'm going on vacation on Thursday! A friend and I are flying to Phoenix for a mutual friend's wedding. While we're there, we'll meet up with two other mutual friends, one who just happens to randomly be road tripping through town. These are all my "invisible internet" friends, as SOME people like to call them. It's going to be fantastic. After the wedding, my travel buddy and I are going to road trip a bit, probably exploring a bit of northern Arizona and New Mexico. The best part? It's going to be sunny and 80 degrees. YEEEEHAW! Plus, I come home on Monday evening, and I took the rest of the week off, so I don't have to work until the following Sunday. That's a total of 10 days off, by only take vacation days for 4 days. I love that part of this job.