Summer 2018

Wow, it’s been a few months since I made a post.  My goal was once a month, and I’ve clearly neglected that; Darn!

At the end of May, we went on a big family vacation to see Chris’ mom and dad.  We started off with a long weekend in Colorado with his mom, her husband, his sister, his brother in law, and their baby.  We got to see his mom’s new custom-built house, (BIG and BEAUTIFUL), and see our niece for the first time since her birth (we got to meet her the night she was born, how lucky!).  The house was just unbelievable, his mom and her husband, Jim, put a lot of manual labor into it.  Jim is the main builder on it, and has some hired helpers to assist.  We got to see all the kids’ rooms, downstairs, see the layout of upstairs with a beautiful kitchen and fireplace, and walk on the wrap around porch!  His mom lives in rural Colorado, close to an Aunt and Uncle from his dad’s side, so we got to see them too (I love them, dearly!).  We stayed with them, in their custom built house with an alpaca farm, and enjoyed lots of family time.

Then, we were off to Oregon to meet up with Chris’ dad, his girlfriend, her kids, and Chris’ siblings + spouses + kids.  We have two nieces, and we got to meet the eldest for the first time on this vacation!  His dad rented a beautiful house on the coast with a gorgeous view of the ocean, and we spent 4 nights/5 days there.  We saw LOTS of beaches, relaxed in the outdoor hot tub, and had a lot of fun family meals.  Unfortunately, his dad’s girlfriend’s father passed away while we were there.  It was not completely unexpected, and there was a beauty in that Oregon was the last state for him to visit, and the family really felt we took him there in his last moments.  It was so hard, but I’m glad we were together to help support his family, which is really our family; He was a kind, generous, welcoming man, who always made Chris and I feel like grandkids of his own.  Chris’ dad’s girlfriend, Jen, has been in my life as long as Chris has.  She is also kind, and loving, and I consider her family.  The vacation was certainly bittersweet and memorable.

June was a fairly quiet month for us, though I signed us up to host a foreign student through Compass USA!  I got to read through applications, and select a student, so I chose the only vegetarian young man, named Unai.  He is starting his last year at school, and hoping to go to university for physics next year.  He arrived the last week of June, and stayed for four weeks.  He was extremely polite, and a very good kid.  We got really lucky in that we were never required to “parent” him – never had to ask him to clean his room, put his phone away, etc.  He made his bed everyday, and I had to pry preferences from

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Unai cutting the Spanish omelet (that’s fake bacon on his plate, yum!)

him because he was always so agreeable!  Part of the program was the students had activities and field trips planned on most weekdays, then the host parents would have weekends for activities.  The meeting point for the students was ~45 min away from our house, so unfortunately we had to drive a lot on weekdays bringing him back and forth.  We talked a lot on those drives, and it was a great opportunity to get to know him.  He never complained, and was always ready in the morning on time!  On weekends, we took him camping, hiking, I hosted a small party for my co-workers and asked him to invite friends from the program, and tried to do American stuff.  He watched the first Lord of the Rings movie with me, and read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in English.  He taught us how to make a Spanish omlet (SO GOOD), and taught Chris and I about responsibility and working together.  As a child-free couple, we have A LOT of freedom, and you may be able to imagine what a BIG change it was for our household, even though our student was so easy to host.  Thankfully, we worked through the change well, and Chris really stepped up to help out when I needed him.  I was gone for Unai’s last weekend with us, at a sorority conference, so Chris handled driving Unai to a friend’s house and managing his whereabouts.  Unai and I cried when we parted for the last time; I gifted him the second Harry Potter book in American English, and he gifted me a Nightmare Before Christmas tote he had purchased on their trip to NYC.  I was so impressed with how thoughtful the gift was, and how grateful I was to meet him, share my culture, and learn about his.

At the end of July, I attended the national conference for my sorority, Phi Sigma Rho.  My attendance was required because I received training for my new volunteer position: Regional Field Director for the Midwest 3 region.  That covers 5 university chapters, including my alma mater, Purdue!  The main purpose to the role is to me an alumni liaison between the active chapter members and the national organization: holding them accountable to deadlines, national policies, and supporting the chapters with whatever needs may arise, however unique.  I have been out of college for 6 years, and uninvolved with my sorority for almost as long.  This past year, I volunteered for two committees: Colony Education and National Historical, to start giving back in small commitments.  The RFD position was something I applied for, and was selected to hold, and lasts for two years.  I thought the training at conference was very valuable, and I got to return to Purdue, where it was hosted!  I said goodbye to my favorite bar that is being demolished and closed, and ate Mad Mush cheese stix, two quintessential parts of my life at Purdue.  I also met active members from each of my chapters, and especially got to know women from my own chapter!  All around, it was a really amazing weekend, and I can’t wait for next year’s convention, in hot Arizona (ok, not excited for the heat!).

In August we threw a laaaaaaaaaaaate birthday party for Chris, who I promised to throw a party for his golden birthday (he turned 28 years old, this year, on March 28th).  It was gold themed, and we actually celebrated a friend’s birthday there, as his real birthday was the day after our party!  We hosted a beer-Olympics drinking game tournament, and had our guests pair up and declare a country to play for.  I made a giant bracket on a blackboard, and Team America won!  Consequently, also the team of the real birthday boy (not Chris).  It was great to host friends, and everyone enjoyed the gold décor, cutlery, drinks (beer and cocktail), and games!  We even had out of town friends come in to visit for the party, it was so much fun!

Now that the university school year is starting, I find myself jumping into Phi Rho chapter meetings to introduce myself.  Three down, two to go!

September is Chris and I’s second anniversary month, and Girl Scouts will be gearing up!

Girl Keeping Chickens

Last May we got chickens. 

We had just passed one year of home ownership (March 2017), and I was inspired after visiting Chris’ family in Colorado (they have chickens).

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Pippin and Merry

I picked out two chicks, a Buff Orpington and a Speckled Sussex, and named them Merry and Pippin.  They were too cute, and too afraid of me!

Chicks need to live inside, where their environment can be controlled, especially the temperature.  My gracious, chicken keeping, neighbor let me borrow a tank, chicken feeder, waterer, and heat lamp.

After reading more about chickens, I deduced that I needed a third chicken.  They are social creatures, and to be alone is depressing for them.  Three would ensure if one of the chicks didn’t make it to adulthood, that there would still be a pair of remaining chicks that can keep one another company.  Queue Chris picking out Adrian (he also picked the name).

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The girls are checking out their run for the first time!

Addie was bigger than Merry and Pip, and even more afraid of me!  She is an easter egger, AKA a mutt chicken breed that is supposed to lay green or blue eggs.

While the girls smelled up our guest bedroom, we designed and built them a coop with a run.  Chicken advice says they need 3 square feet per bird, and 1 foot of roost space, per bird.  For every 3-4 birds, you need a nest box.  So I gave the girls a 9 square foot coop, with a 3 foot roost, and three nesting boxes.  Chicken advice also says the more roaming space they get, the more flexible the coop dimensions.

It was important that their coop and run be very secure to protect the flock against predators like raccoons, foxes, skunks, and hawks.  We used the wire from our split rail fence to encompass their space, and thankfully had two ‘guard’ dogs who happened to roam the property.  There’s one in the corner of the right photograph.

The girls didn’t get to move in when it was done, because they were still small and needed temperature regulation.  They did get to explore their run, and the coop, and finally moved in after about 4-5 weeks in their tank.

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Baron is weary of these new creatures and happy to not interfere.

The dogs and chickens.  Not as hard as I thought!  We had Baron, our mutt, and Juniper, our hound.  They came at the chickens like they come at life – with total opposite behavior.  Baron was immediately well behaved, and easy to direct.  Leave the girls alone, they are not chew toys!  Juniper was immediately curious, and had Addie in her mouth!  Thankfully, there was no harm done, and we then charged into chicken-training our coonhound.  Juniper is really a star, and learns so well.  Within the month she was behaving, and soon after, allowed unsupervised time with the girls.  We kept the dogs outside with the chickens as much as possible, as they served as great watch dogs, barking at any bird flying overhead.  We later learned these birds were vultures, not hawks, but encouraged their behavior all the same.

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Sammie

We got a fourth chicken.  In October, our girls were bigger, but not laying eggs, and I purchased another chicken, who was already laying and was also so darn beautiful.  I loved her blue coloring (that’s what this coloring is called in chickens).  We got our “first” eggs, from her (cream colored), which was kind of cheating, but still exciting!

In this picture, Sam (to go with Merry and Pippin), is in chicken quarantine, where she has to be separated from our flock for up to four weeks upon her arrival.  This is to ensure she’s not carrying any illnesses from her flock and transferring them to ours.  It also helps with flock adjustment, as usually chickens are not so accepting of strangers invading their homes.  At this point, none of the girls were fond of us, yet, and it was difficult to touch one, much less catch one!

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Pippin not feeling well.

We had a sick chicken.  I relied on internet message board advice, though facebook and chicken blogs, to treat her.  It is unusual to find a vet that treats chickens, did you know?  We separated her from the flock, and put her in a dog crate in the basement, where she could be left alone, treated, and rest.  We set up our baby cam (bought to keep an eye on the dogs, at one time), and I watched her, dutifully.  She was given electrolytes in her water, fed high protein treats (scrambled eggs), treated for coccidiosis, and dewormed.  Thankfully, something I did worked, and after about a week we had a healthy chicken, again.  It was very scary when she was at her worst, though.  Chickens’ instincts do not allow them to show symptoms of illness until it’s really bad.  I thought we may lose her!  I’m so glad she pulled through, and that my handy chicken First Aid kit (self-assembled) and the local Tractor Supply came in very useful.

The girls finally started getting along, as well as maturing.  From our original three, Merry started to lay in November (2017).  She lays brown eggs, so it was easy to tell there was a second layer in the flock!  Once she had matured to lay, Merry became very docile.  She loves people.  She RUNS to greet Chris and/or myself when we come out.  She lets me pick her up and hold her, which I just love.  She perfectly defines what I want chicken keeping to be like.  Pippin finally started to lay in December.  It was hard to tell there was a third layer, since her eggs were a similar shade to Sammie’s.  I was finally convinced when I found three eggs in the nest box!  Pippin, too, has become more accommodating in personality, however she’d still rather I not bother her much.  We’re still waiting on Addie to give us the prized eggs: green or blue in shade!  Lately, she has been acting more compliant, but it’s still a waiting game.

We winterized.  When winter came, I was eager to know how to protect my girls from the seasonal changes.  Mostly, what I found out was: do nothing.  What??  Well, as long as you don’t have an exotic breed, generally chooks are ready to withstand the seasons.  The best advice is to reduce wind in the coop and keep clean water available always (that’s all year).  I did have to check their feeder more often, as they seem to be eating more.

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Her comb with frostbite.

We made some changes to prepare, like getting a heated water dish, blocking their mesh windows from wind, and doing coop cleanings more often.  You can’t close off their coops completely, because the ammonia from their poop needs to vent out.  Collected ammonia can kill them.  The enemy of chicken keeping in the winter is moisture (which can then freeze).  Chicken droppings = moisture.  Did you know chickens don’t pee?  They dispose of their waste in one form of excrement, which is a moist feces swirl.

Also, I have been keeping tabs on their combs, as Merry got a mild case of frost bite this winter.  We got a remote digital thermometer for the coop, and I put Vaseline on her comb when it’s very cold (internet chicken advice).  The Vaseline is supposed to keep moisture from clinging to their combs, which would then freeze and escalate the frostbite.  I feel very guilty for letting my chicken succumb to this infliction, but at least it is a mild case, and we are working to combat it now.

We lost a chicken.  Not to illness, but to a predator.  Chris came home from work one day in January (2018) and let Juniper out into the backyard.  Juniper promptly charged a hawk that was hunched over our poor Sammie, right at the end of our porch stairs.  We do let our girls free range in our back yard, every day, and this was nature’s consequence.  I only hope her passing was swift, as she did not deserve to suffer.

I have since purchased a dummy owl and hawk to post on our fence, and some shiny tape, as shiny items are supposed to deter birds of prey.  We kept the girls in their coop for about a week after the incident, in case the hawk thought he could come back for another meal!

All in all, having chooks has been so fun and rewarding.  We sold our first dozen eggs the other day, and have given countless away to friends and neighbors.  It turns out, even with a steady supply, Chris and I just don’t eat too many eggs.  The girls are really more pets than providers to me, and I so enjoy watching them and spending time with them.  Every Saturday morning is chicken chores time, where I maintenance their coop, refill their feed, and replace their water.  They are extremely easy pets to have, and costs are extremely low (after the coop).  A 50 lb bag of feed is $14 if you catch it on sale (they always are)!  My goal with the girls is to one day sell enough eggs to buy their feed (one bag every few months).

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The girls won a Purina Facebook contest with this photo!  Addie is the last to mature, and you can tell!

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Checking out their coop for the first time.  Look how small they were!

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Introducing an American Midwestern City Girl

My mother described me as an American Midwestern city girl in her blog post Drifting Away from your Roots.  If the boot fits!  In her blog post she laments the passing of my Baba (stemming from obasan, Japanese for Grandmother), and expresses concern for retaining our family’s Japanese heritage. She’s not wrong to ponder how her daughters will keep our ancestors’ culture alive.  My sister and I dabble in cultural appreciation (delicious food, fun characters, and we did visit Japan in 2015), but this topic deserves its own post and further elaboration.  The real point I’m trying to make is to introduce this blog and myself.  The blog’s namesake was coined by my mother.

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Here’s me in front of the Japanese Alps.

My mother’s blog is what inspired me to have a go at this.  I’m not sure I really ever read her’s before, which is through her publishing website.  There are SO many entries, and I don’t know how far they date back!  I recently read a number of them, going back to 2014.  I felt grateful to experience her thoughts and interests, and to have her writing easily accessible to me.  She is particularly interested in capturing history through memoirs, and I feel as if she’s simultaneously writing pieces of her own through the blog.  Mostly it features other literature and authors, but it has a personal touch (like mentioning her daughters) that features reflections of her own experiences and feelings.  My mother is an admirable woman, who dabbles in a lot of activities and does a lot of good in this world.  As we are separated by many states and one time zone, it’s special to have a connection with her by any means.  I hope through this blog, I can provide that same connection to her, and any loved ones in my life.

Buckle up, because you have a condensed life story comin’ atcha.

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Two of my best friends and myself, at a high school pep rally (as alum).

My mother and father raised me (mostly) outside St. Louis, in my beloved suburban Missouri.  I really do love the suburbs.  And small cities (like St. Louis).  I grew up playing tag barefoot in the street and through neighbors’ yards, knocking on doors to see if Colleen or Maureen could play, and walking to every grade school I attended (okay, okay, I caught rides at every chance).  I love my childhood, those memories, and the schools and people that carried me through them.  I still have a very tight group of friends from middle/high school.  I treasure their impact on my life, and their friendship.  Many people grow up in an environment, and seek change when they gain independence.  I thought my biggest change was going to college in the cornfields of a different Midwestern state.  I thought my future held a return to my favorite city, my favorite neighborhoods.  I never doubted my desire to ultimately return to Missouri, and perpetuate the same way of life.  I’ll go on to tell you how that hasn’t been quite accomplished (yet!).  I still appreciate my hometown, and love visiting.  I cheer for the Cardinals and Blues like you wouldn’t believe – across several stadiums and arenas throughout the country.  I guess my desire to return has been outweighed by life’s other goals and priorities.

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Just your friendly, neighborhood transformer.

I went to college at Purdue University, and graduated with a B.S. in Aeronautical and Astornautical Engineering.  I knew where I went had to be a Big Ten school, as both my parents were graduates of University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  I had grown up driving to Illinois games (football and basketball), had t-shirts, jerseys, pennants, and the works to support the Fighting Illini.  I am so grateful my father took me to games, on road trips, and made those memories with me.  My loyalty to the conference drove my own collegiate search, and I refused to consider anywhere else (thus eliminating the possibility of staying in Missouri).  I can’t recall where we visited, except for Illinois and Purdue (alright, and Mizzou as a backup), but Purdue felt right immediately.  They had the degree program I wanted – top 5 in the nation – and the campus felt comfortable, supportive, and like somewhere I could succeed.  I was right!  I spent 4.5 years there, often staying over the summer, working the hardest I had in my life.  I made life-long friends, learned how to navigate relationships, spent the night in computer labs, won bar trivia, and had the quintessential college experience.  It was bliss.  Even when it was 20+ hour homework assignments, it was amazing; I knew it then, and I miss it now.

At my college graduation, I wasn’t sure where I was going yet!  With no solid employment opportunities, and waiting to hear back from the University of Illinois Graduate College, I was hoping to hear from anyone.  Both employment and educational opportunities came knocking:  I had a phone interview with Halliburton Energy Services, and U of I had accepted me.  I packed my bags for U of I and dived into my first (and only) semester of graduate school.  The program I went for was a masters in education, as I had discovered my passion for working with students while I was employed by Purdue’s First Year Engineering Advising office (for 3.5 years).  I formed a career goal of becoming a university-level student advisor, and sought the degree to make that happen.  I got a killer GPA and knocked out four graduate classes that semester, while shuttling back to Purdue to visit my boyfriend, Chris, who was a maters student there.  Well, that interview with Halliburton really panned out, so I chose to leave graduate school in exchange for a salary.  I had doubled my student loans in one semester, and feared the financial consequences of finishing my degree.  Halliburton took me to Hobbs, New Mexico.  Possibly my least favorite place in the United States, so I learned…

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Here’s Hobbs.  The ground always looks like that.

Hobbs, NM is an oil field town.  There is a population there because there is oil near by.  Don’t bother asking, nothing else is nearby.  The nearest mall was 1.5 hours away, the nearest real airport was 3.  I had the wonderful opportunity of spending my free evenings at Apple Bee’s, Walmart, the bar where there were always fights, or the local strip club.  I put on coveralls and worked outside in the first few months, learning about hydraulic fracturing equipment and operation.  I did online learning modules, and had long drives to and from work with my mentor.  Eventually I got in the van and started running jobs, and, finally, delivered my “break-out” presentation, which gave me a new job title and raise.  Then I got TF outta dodge, and transferred to the Pittsburgh area with Big Red (that’s Halliburton).

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Here’s Pittsburgh; it’s amazing.

Well, the office was about 45 min outside of Pittsburgh, but I went ahead and moved to Pittsburgh and took the commute (hell, we never went to the office anyway, we drove to the job sites, which were in beautiful West Virginia or plain Ohio).  I really liked my job, now.  I worked 8 days on, 4 days off, and fell in love with Pennsylvania.  Pittsburgh is very much like St.Louis: It is a small city with big sports teams and it has unique boroughs/neighborhoods with their own character and appeal.  My roommates were two interesting, wonderful women, that easily integrated with my unusual schedule.  I will always speak fondly of Pittsburgh, and would live there again without hesitation.  Caught up in my love for this new-to-me state, I told me soon-to-be-graduating boyfriend, “find a job in Pennsylvania.  I love it here.”  The man listens.  He found his dream job in Pennsylvania, about an hour outside Philadelphia.  For anyone needing a geography refresher, that’s on the other side of the state.  A four hour drive, in the middle of the night, which I experienced first hand, many, many times.  It’s five hours if you’re driving when normal humans do.  After a year in Pittsburgh, I left Halliburton and the inconsistent schedule, in favor of moving in with my boyfriend and having a consistent work schedule.

We got a cat. We got a dog.  We got engaged.  We wanted a house.

My husband and I had no trouble agreeing that we wanted a sizable plot of land for our first house.  We had a dog, and wanted to give him and ourselves room.  Chris wanted the responsibility of yard maintenance.  He wanted to look out our windows or over our porch and to see empty space instead of buildings.  I wanted that, too!  We visited the house we bought three times before putting in an offer.  I drive upwards of an hour (in traffic) to get from our little house to my work.  It’s not a dream house, it didn’t check off every box – but, by golly, if I’m not a sucker for red brick, wood floors, a wood-burning fireplace, and an acre plot of land!  If you’ve read the About section, you wouldn’t be surprised to find out I am averse to change.  I grew up in a brick house with a white picket fence.  So I’ll perpetuate my suburban paradise with a little rural flair.  I find comfort in medium-sized towns, and big backyards.

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Our little slice of heaven.

I think farming and county living is often associated with Midwestern.  I gotta say, those things do not relate to my life.  That’s why my mom threw that city girl in there, I think.  I have family in rural Tennessee that I have always loved visiting.  I have picked from small crops, I have sat on a tractor.  But that was a vacation, not my way of life.  I also never got into country music until I took up with a man who did.  I can thank my husband for easing me into the genre – a man who grew up mucking horse stalls and helping harvest alfalfa.   So here we are in Pennsylvania, an hour from Philly, building our lives exactly how we want.  Straddling the rural/urban lifestyles – and I think taking some of the best qualities from both!