Last week I finished my degree at Oregon State University and I have mixed feelings about it all.  Finishing didn’t quite feel the way I thought it would.  I thought I’d have a burst of energy, relief, and happiness but instead I ended on the note of enduring the most difficult final exam of my life and 30 minutes later my grandson was at the house for me to babysit.  Just your typical college graduate!

When I went to my commencement in Oregon a couple months ago I felt the joy and the sense of accomplishment then but now reality has hit.  For one, I’m going to miss school.  It’s been a big part of my life for the past 4 1/2 years.  This is a big change in my daily schedule.  I went from operating at high-alert to not knowing what day of the week it is.  I honestly didn’t know this morning.  Also, the heat is on.

I’ve got to prove to everyone that going back to college in my 40s was a smart thing to do.  I’ve got to land that six-figure income within the next 72 hours or everyone is going to tell me I should have become a nurse, welder, or plumber.  At least I am beginning to see jobs in my field being posted for the state of Illinois.  While the budget fiasco was going on, I had little hope in finding a job in this state.  There might be some hope now.  We’ll see.

If a great job opportunity opens up nearby I’ll seriously consider it but I am still considering grad school too. I just need a few weeks to ponder the direction I want to go because while I was in college I had about 10 spare seconds each week to think about what I was going to do after I graduated.  There just wasn’t any time or energy to prepare.

I still wake up every morning feeling like I’m up against a deadline.  My attempts to rest thus far have been pitiful and honestly I still feel like I’ve been run over by a truck after my last finals week (even though I got straight A’s, woohoo!).  I’m still seriously wiped out.

I am looking forward to going back to blogging and being able to participate much more in the community.  I think over the past four years most of the stuff I’ve written has been kinda, well, crappy. There’s a lot of things I want to try and share on the blog.  Still, writing is great therapy for me if nothing else, even if it is crap.

And yes, I’m still dealing with some medical issues.  I don’t know a whole lot yet at the moment but in the next few weeks I’ll know more.  Hopefully it isn’t crappy news.


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In 19 days I will have completed my bachelor’s degree and I am ready.  Actually, I was ready about six months ago but I’m really, really ready now.  I went back to college in 2013, first to Columbia College where I earned an associate’s degree, and now I’m almost done at Oregon State University.

I don’t know how I’m going to feel being “done”. College has been a big part of my life.  It’s been more than a job.  I’ve worked regular jobs and college has been way more work, stress, sacrifice, and reward.  Although I’m not going to miss deadlines, exams, and lost weekends to term papers, I am going to miss the routine.  I’m one of those people who don’t like their daily routines changed.  I’m not sure what I’m going to do with myself.

For the first few weeks I think I’m just going decompress and enjoy a little time off.  I’m not sure how much I’ll be enjoying those weeks though because I’ll be undergoing tests to determine if I have thyroid cancer.  Yeah, out of the blue!  Last year I learned I had a nodule, which isn’t rare.  Many women my age and older have thyroid nodules.  In fact, I read something from an expert in ultrasound technology that if an ultrasound technician doesn’t find a thyroid nodule in a woman over the age of 50, he or she should probably be fired.  They’re very common as we get older and the vast majority of nodules are benign but they should be observed over time to see if there’s any changes.

Well mine must have changed over the past year because my doctors are much more concerned now.  I’m not sure what changed but apparently whatever they saw on the ultrasound this week is more likely to be cancerous than whatever they saw last year.  That doesn’t mean it is cancer because an ultrasound can’t diagnose thyroid cancer but now I play the waiting game.  I’m not terribly worried but it is a major distraction as I finish up the last few weeks of my degree.  It kinda takes the glow off the moment a little. Ha!

Beyond all that, I am currently looking at grad schools, so I’m probably not done with college.  Most of the jobs in my field (natural resources) require a master’s degree.  I always planned to at least get a grad certificate at some point but I discovered that I really enjoy research and to do that I need a higher degree.  I’m also interested in teaching, so over the next few months I’ll be looking at different options and going from there.

I still plan to do my other side projects but that’s going to take longer to get off the ground.  First, I have to find enough land to do what I would like to do and land isn’t cheap in Macon County and the property taxes are ridiculous.  Luckily, my family has land in Fayette County that I could use but it’s an hour away.  No, I’m not planning on growing marijuana, although my husband thinks that would be a good idea.  I’m not on board with that.  Instead, I’m interested in growing native woodland and prairie plants to use in restoration projects.  Of course some of those have medicinal uses too. There’s some funky plants out there!  Some of them even help treat cancer. 🙂

Well, I’ve got my assignments to finish for the week.  I’ve been dragging all quarter but I’m getting more excited as the last couple of weeks are here.  I know after I submit the last exam (assuming I don’t implode and fail it miserably) I am going to go for a walk in the sunshine (or rain or whatever it’s doing outside) and just enjoy nature and the outdoors.  I won’t be graded on my observations either.  Woohoo!

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In a few weeks the 32nd Decatur Celebration will take place with some major changes.  The Celebration has always been on the verge of being canned due to financial shortfalls.  Every year we’re warned that it might be the last.  Festivals aren’t the easiest things to make money off of.

For one, some of the vendors which pay to be in the Celebration, don’t show all of the money that they actually make, of which the Celebration is supposed to get a cut of.  I don’t know how many vendors do this but I know that many under-report for obvious reasons.  Then the wrists bands for buying food didn’t quite pan out like some thought it would.

I know for my family, only one of us purchase the wrist band.  It would be kinda silly for both of us to, when only one of us does the purchasing.  One year a man gave his wrist band to ******* (to protect the guilty) as he was leaving.  He didn’t sell it.  He was just giving it away.  He did a masterful job making the band appear like it hadn’t been cut and taped back together.

Then of course, an outdoor festival is always at the mercy of the weather.  I think over the past 31 years just about every type of weather, except a blizzard or a Category 5 hurricane has hit downtown Decatur during the first full weekend in August.  One year, I spoke with a craft vendor who  literally watched her money go down the drain.  A severe thunderstorm had blown in and blew her tent and several other tents over.  Her merchandise and cash box bounced along the pavement.  As she was ducking wind-borne crafts of various media she watched helplessly as her cash box broke open and her hard-earned cash flowed down a gutter towards a storm sewer.  Luckily, she kept her sense of humor about it, at least while she told the story afterwards, but it just goes to show that festivals are a risky business for the organizers of the festival and those hoping to make an income from them.

Fenced In

This year the Decatur Celebration will be fenced in for the first time, assuming the city council approves the fence perimeter. It will no longer be a “free” street festival.  I don’t know how well this tactic will work out.  I think a lot of it depends upon how interested people are in the musical acts that are scheduled to perform.  I think it will keep a lot of people out during the afternoon when major acts aren’t playing but we’ll see.

I don’t mind paying a few dollars to see a musical act that would normally cost way more in any other venue.  My only concern with the fence is safety.  Only time will tell if fencing and charging a gate fee are good ideas or not.

Going Stale or Somewhere?

What I am more interested in is how to make the Decatur Celebration better.  It has become a bit stale and maybe in its current form it has run its course.  Every year it’s the same thing, which has its appeal.  It’s kinda become a late summer ritual for me to brave the weather, the smoky BBQ fires, and crowds to pay homage to downtown Decatur, which seems almost nothing like it feels the rest of the year.

It’s like downtown fades into the background and isn’t even there during the Celebration.  Over the years, downtown Decatur businesses have become less and less involved to the point where they don’t even participate or maybe I just don’t see them.  I’m not sure which but maybe there needs to be a whole lot more of “Decatur” in the Decatur Celebration.  I’d love to see the work of local artists and craftspeople featured.


The parade has been interesting over the years.  I remember one year we invited our new pastor and his wife to the Razzle Dazzle Goodtimes Parade and both my husband and I wanted to hide beneath a manhole cover when the scantly clad middle-aged belly dancers stopped in front of us and and made suggestive gestures to the crowd.  They had turned Franklin Street into a poorly casted remake of a really bad Arabian themed porn video.  None of us knew quite what to think.  My young children couldn’t process the information.  I didn’t know what to do but to turn around and say, “Welcome to Decatur!”

The parade has always been a funny thing.  I remember one year when the then mayor wasn’t in the car that was supposed to be carrying him.  It was just an empty convertible with his name on the side of it driving by.  It was indicative of the local political climate at that time.  Then there is always the jail-themed float for Crime Stoppers that many joke is carrying a former Illinois governor or two.  One year, there was a big uproar as Decatur Memorial Hospital tried to rename the Celebration in their honor.  (Decatur roars over silly things quite often.)

It was going to be the “Decatur Memorial Hospital Decatur Celebration”.  Besides not having much of a ring to it, the plan didn’t go over well.  Hundreds of St. Mary’s Hospital employees (Decatur’s other hospital) and their family members marched by in the parade, cheering and laughing, while about a half-dozen Decatur Memorial Hospital employees shuffled by, probably wishing they had paper sacks to wear over their heads.  It was a hoot.  You’re really missing a lot if you keep up local politics and don’t attend the parade.  There’s always some local political satire or message included but you have to be informed to see it.

The more I write about the Celebration, the more I hope it continues and the more I realize it’s special.  It’s something and it’s usually memorable.  It’s always uniquely Decatur one way or the other.

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One more final to finish and I’ll be done with another ridiculously stressful and overwhelming quarter at school.  After all the mental pressure I’ve endured thus far this school year I think I could qualify for a position with the CIA.  If this didn’t crack me mentally beyond repair, nothing will.

When I finish tomorrow, I’ll be getting ready to head out to Oregon.  I’m both excited and nervous about attending my commencement.  It’s going to be a long day on a campus, in a city, and in a state I’ve never stepped foot in.  I’ll also be wearing a black robe and a black cardboard hat in the sun on AstroTurf in a football stadium for about 3 hours. I really hope I don’t pass out in front of 30,000 spectators and amongst the 6,000+ graduates.  Not only would that be embarrassing, it would also probably disqualify me for that CIA job.

The graduation thing is exciting and all but what I’m really looking forward to is seeing the state I’ve been learning about for the past 2 1/2 years.  I almost feel like I’ve been preparing for a mission to Mars for years and years and now I’m finally going to see the red planet in person for the first time.  There’s so many things I want to see.  Salmon, Ponderosa Pine, Salmon, Douglas-Fir, Salmon.  Really, I don’t think I’ve taken a class at Oregon State, of any subject, in which salmon wasn’t mentioned.  I think Oregon cherishes and reveres their salmon as much as Central Illinois reveres Abraham Lincoln.

I’ve read the experiences of my fellow forestry students with the vast natural areas that are within driving distance of Corvallis – the mountains and volcanoes, the desert, the valley, the rocky coast and the  Pacific Ocean.  And they know all about Garman Park and Rock Springs.  Hey, Garman Park is pretty cool.  Crater Lake?  Mt. Hood? Overrated in comparison if you ask me.  Okay, sometimes I felt a little inadequate.  When I described Illinois to Oregonians, at times it felt like I was describing a vast paved parking lot with a couple lonely potted plants representing our remaining natural wonders.

Actually, I love Illinois. I love the gentle landscape. There’s beauty here but it’s quiet and unpretentious.

Well, I better get prepared for that last final and get the house ready for the house/cat/fish/bearded dragon/dogsitter.






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I’m finally over the worst of that horrible class.  I’m down to just my usual workload which feels like a vacation on a beach compared to what I had been going through.  It finally all caught up to me though and I’ve been sick as a dog the last week so I’m taking it easy again today.  Yesterday was Memorial Day and I didn’t touch my computer.  It felt so wonderful!  I know I sound psychotic but I probably am after everything I’ve been though since January.  School has been pure torture.

So, while I’m taking a break I thought I’d write about Decatur since that’s what this blog is supposed to be about with a few interrupting moments of my occasional mental breakdowns here and there.  Over the past several weeks I haven’t had time to think about Decatur really.  I guess it’s still out there.  Let me check through my blinds…Well the neighborhood is still here but it’s going to look different very soon.

I saw the piles of pipes and rock with big earthmoving equipment parked nearby on one of my rare excursions out of the house.  I got a notice last week hanging on my door that the city is replacing the water mains in my neighborhood.  I have a feeling my neighborhood is going to look like the after effects of the aerial bombings on Berlin in WWII for much of the summer.

Well, at least now I don’t feel so ripped off from our property taxes doubling this year.  Our tax exemption from our home addition is over.  The thing is, the house didn’t double in value.  It might have gone up 30-35% in value not 100%.  So why did the tax bill double?  The house isn’t worth twice as much.  I wish.  I’d sell it and buy a house with enough land for a pet goat – the ultimate status symbol that you’ve made it in America.  It used to be a Buick but now it’s a goat.  Times have changed.

If I’m going to be paying big bucks in property taxes, I better have sewer lines that don’t blow up in my basement (this really happened), water mains that don’t burst, and a street that doesn’t require military grade all-terrain vehicles to navigate.  I’m a little more demanding now that I’m paying steak prices for a Swiss cheese sandwich.  At least my street is still better than 51 between Garfield and Eldorado.  It might have served as a road in the past but now it belongs beneath an archeological tent for a future Ancient Aliens episode.

Well, I’m going to take a nap now and dream of my future goat on the prairie!

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