Monday, September 25, 2006

Hooray! We have a new place to call home!

This afternoon we signed a lease on a two-bedroom, 1 bath apartment that is about 7 blocks east and 20 blocks south of where we are now. We can start moving in on Oct. 21--we have to be out of here on Oct. 31. Among the several suitable aspects of this apartment, one stands out the most in my mind and heart--I can ride the same exact bus that I've been riding, the #10 Harold. I'll get on it about 11 minutes earlier is all--thank goodness!

Riding the #10 Harold home every day means I can still stop in at New Seasons to get Mama's prescriptions as well as loads of fantastic produce, deli delights and other essentials. All I'll have to do it get off, walk a block, shop, walk a block and get on the next #10 Harold that comes along. Whew! That's a load off my mind, I can tell you. I really didn't want to ride a bus to somewhere and then have to get into the car to do errands, no siree Bob.

More details will follow, as well as photos which will play up all of the new white walls to conquer! And wait till you hear about the apartment complex's ammenities. My word. We're uptown now.

Thanks so very much for your encouraging words and thoughts and prayers.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

This is a rotten way to treat someone.

Along with everyone at the Georgian Terrace Apartments, Mama and I recently found out that our apartment complex has been sold to someone who plans to convert it into condominiums, outrageously high-priced condominiums.

We have to move; our lease is up Nov. 30, but if we leave by Oct. 31, the man doing this has made us a deal we'd be fools to turn down. So I'm on craigslist and apartment management company Web sites as often as possible, much like I was months ago in Mississippi. We've spent over a dozen hours driving up and down and back and forth on nearby streets, searching for "For Rent" signs in yards or on windows.

We've looked at four places this week, none at all suitable--virtually no closet space, dangerous-looking stairs or steps, won't take dogs, digustingly filthy, dark and dreary and drab.

Once the shock wore off, we decided we'd not let this ruin how we feel about being here or about the huge effort it took to get here. We shall persevere.

I'll keep you updated on our progress.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

You'd best be sittin' down for this--thank goodness I was!

It all started innocently enough as I opened my gmail account on Aug. 24. I saw an e-mail from "fulfillment" and figured it was some sort of sexual enhancement crap that needed to be deleted. My eyes swept to the right and I read, "Your entry in the Kodak EasyShare Gallery Best Race Moment Photo Contest," so I clicked on the e-mail to open it because I had entered two photos in the contest, back in May. In fact, I'd entered every NASCAR contest I could find, every day for about three weeks, knowing that my only hope of ever going to a race again would be slim once we moved to the Pacific Northwest.

Sitting at our table, beside the empty white wall, I read: "Congratulations! You have been selected as a Grand prize winner in the Kodak EasyShare Gallery Best Race Moment Photo Contest, administered by ePrize. You have won a trip for two to the Homestead-Miami Speedway® for the Ford Championship weekend scheduled to be held November 17-20, 2006."

Right about now, I'm hollering, "Mama! Listen to this," and getting my cellphone out of my bra where I keep in on days when I don't have a pocket. I needed to call Milton and Kay, our buds whose trailer we stayed in at Talladega the last weekend in April. Once I got him on the phone, I started reading again.

"Trip package includes roundtrip coach-class airfare for two from a major airport near winner’s home to Miami, FL; five days and four night’s accommodations at a hotel (single standard room, double occupancy); a Ford Championship Race Package for two; transfers to and from airport in Miami, FL; VIP Pit Passes; and $500 spending money. The Ford Championship Race Package includes two tickets to the following races: Craftsman Truck Series, Busch Series, and Nextel Cup races. Please see the attached Official Rules for further prize details and eligibility requirements. This prize has an approximate retail value of $4,500.

You will be notified of your approval status once we have received and reviewed your fully executed affidavits of eligibility. Your prize will be fulfilled 8 - 10 weeks after you receive your approval notification.

Two affidavits are in the attachment of this email. The first affidavit is the Winner’s Affidavit. It must be completed by you, the prize winner. The person who will be traveling with you must complete the second affidavit, named the Travel Companion Affidavit. Please return the original completed copies, signed and notarized, within the next ten (10) days. If you do not return the affidavits within this timeframe, another winner will be selected. You can find the mailing address at the top of the Winner’s Affidavit.

Please be advised that there are tax ramifications that will result from your receipt of this prize. If you choose to receive your prize, you will be sent a 1099 form at the end of this calendar year. Please consult a tax advisor for further information about how to best address this issue."

Milton started to chuckle about the time I got to Homestead-Miami; he was thrilled for me, as was Kay. They've been going to Talladega twice a year forever, so they understood right away what a big deal this was for me, the novice race-goer.

For the next few hours, I alternated between giddy giggling and worrying that I was the victim of some sort of malicious and hurtful scam. Nevertheless, I headed for 3 Doors Down Cafe, where I asked Leland to go with me on the trip and Lamont to take care of Mama while we were gone. (I looked him in the eye and said, "Honey, I'm about to ask your brother to go somewhere with me; I'll take you the next time I win something.") On Saturday we signed and had notarized our two affidavits of eligibility and press releases at our branch band and sent them quickly off to Michigan to ePrize from the downtown post office.

Several days of anxiety and nerves later, on my afternoon break my cell phone rang with a number I didn't recognize. It was Jean from Travel By Design in Atlanta, congratulating me on the nice prize I'd won and telling me she wanted to set up our flights and hotel. I just about hyperventilated again. The next day I got an e-mail with our itinerary on American, flying out on Nov. 16 and returning to Portland on Nov. 20. Our hotel is the Sonesta Coconut Grove Miami. Instead of the airport transfers, she's given us a rental car since the hotel is 20 miles from the racetrack. All our our paperwork and the spending money will be Fed Exed about three weeks before the trip.

Can you tell I'm about to hyperventilate just typing this? I'm so floored by it all. And way, way beyond excited.

Y'all NASCAR fans know what a big deal this is, but for the non-initiated out there, Homestead-Miami is the last race of the season for all three series; championships could be won and/or lost during those three races, depending upon the standings when someone announces, "Gentlemen, start your engines!" We'll see qualifying, practice, and racing in all three categories--the trucks race on Friday, Busch on Saturday (which is like the minor leagues of NASCAR), and Nextel on Sunday (which is like the big leagues).

Besides getting all that, the VIP Pit Passes totally rock because you get to get up close and personal with the cars and the engines and the sounds and the smells and the drivers and the crews. It's pure-D heaven for a NASCAR fan. At Talladega in April, I lucked out and had pit and garage passes which meant I had a phenomenal time, taking pictures right and left. I believe that I'll have that much fun, if not more, at Homestead-Miami. And I'll have Leland with me; he likes racin' too.

Here are the two photos I entered although I don't know which one is considered the winning one. Mama thinks it's me all rigged out for Talladega on April 30, right before the race got rained out. What do you think?

Monday, September 04, 2006

Stump Art on Ladd Avenue in the Ladd's Addition, Inner Southeast Portland

Before I get into this post, let me give you a short commercial for the Serendipity Art Show at the Mississippi State Hospital. The show is Thursday, September 7, from 11:00 am until 6:00 pm. According to, there's a Poetry Jam, too. For more information contact: Public Relations Mississippi State Hospital in Whitfield at (601) 351-8018. This is the art show where I got 95 percent of my original artwork. The silent auction is a blast.

Now to the post . . .

One sunny day, riding the #10 Harold bus home from work a few weeks ago, a glimpse of something like I'd never seen before flitted across my mind. I wondered, in fact, if I'd really seen what I thought I saw--toys on a stump on the side of Ladd Avenue, beneath the canopy of tall trees? That was a Thursday.

On Saturday, I rode slowly along Ladd Avenue in the Buick, looking on the west side of the street for what I had decided to call stump art. There it was, near one of the round-abouts that keep people from gunning their motors in this and many of the lovely, old neighborhoods in this city. I parked and got out, camera in hand.

Pictured below is what I saw, but you don't believe it any more than I did, right?

Children's toys arranged artfully, humorously and carefully atop a tree stump, standing between a busy sidewalk and a busy street, in front of a greenish-grayish painted, two-story house. How come no one walks off with the toys, I marvelled?

Here's what I think.

In the part of Portland I've been exposed to, folks let other people be. I suspect it's that way all across the city, the metropolitan area even. They let them be who they want to be, without consequence, without judgment.

That's a blanket statement, I realize, but you come up here, sit out front of a cafe or wait at a bus stop, and see if you don't pretty soon agree.

I believe this extends into letting artistic or creative expressions exist for the enjoyment of all, no matter how large or small, whether it's on a stump or a person's skin or hair or clothing.

It's really quite refreshing and encouraging to me. It's power-giving, too, in the sense that if you're left alone to be and therefore appreciated for whatever you've decided to be, then there's no holding you back.

The bathroom and bedroom complete the apartment tour.

The kids and I found these shelves at Fred Meyer, in a box. Thank goodness we have them, because the only storage that came in the bathroom is that narrow little shelf beneath the mirror. Cristina's mom Della gave us the lovely shower curtain, towels and rug--lots of stuff we already had ended up matching perfectly, like the silk flower arrangement on the toilet tank. I gave that to Mama back in 1991, when she was in the hospital. The laugh I found somewhere in Jackson, can't remember where, Steinmart maybe. In the bedroom, we used framed prints of rose photos I took at Portland's rose garden as a sort of headboard for Mama's bed. The lamp and family photo collage are straight across from the door to the bedroom. That lamp is from about 1955--Mama's folks gave it to her and Daddy way back then. Mama's dresser is so big; it holds a lot of stuff, as does the dresser which you can see reflected in the dresser's mirror. Mama is so proud of how beautiful her bedroom is. And that I've left her walls alone!

Here's our cute kitchen.

The kitchen door is straight across from my sleeping nook. It's fabulous window is straight across from the doorway. That means when the fan pulls in wonderfully cool air for sleeping. The frig-side of the kitchen is the only place with electrical outlets, so all of our appliances sit in a haphazard row; we also cannot use more than one of them at a time or we'll blow a breaker--except for Mama's coffeemaker--once she's got it dripped, it can stay on while the toaster toasts of the microwave nukes. Our sink is absolutely huge; we use one of those little plastic bins you get at the hospital to wash dishes in. The only complaint we have, waterwise, is how long it takes to get hot water coming out of the faucet, but now it has become second nature to turn it on sooner. Lamont described out electric range as old-school when he first saw it. The eyes are huge, the oven is narrow but gets hot quickly, there's a deep, deep storage drawer to the left of the oven, and there's another storage drawer, shallow and the width of the entire range. We especially like all of the cabinet space although we often must stand on our little folding kitchen stepstool to reach things. I've taken to using a long barbecue fork to reach extra rolls of paper towels that are on the second shelf over the stove. You cannot see it in any of the pictures, but the floor is black and white squares, some sort of vinyl. The counter top is pale yellow formica which goes very well with the red curtains and potrack at the window. Leland's girlfriend Cristina gave us all sorts of red kitchen stuff, while Lamont's girlfriend Lindsay gave us black and white doggie stuff for Duncan's food and water.