When I graduated I thought I’d have all the time in the world to do so many things and ha!  I’ve been just as busy.  I’m finding a zillion projects that need done around the house and I’m babysitting my grandson every afternoon.  What a handful!  I don’t remember my kids being that much work but I guess when they’re your kids you don’t worry as much if they  get hurt or like you.  When I tell him no and he looks at me like I broke his heart I feel like I should run out and buy him a pony.  It’s not that easy being a grandma.  It’s complicated.

I’m also preparing for the next step in life. I plan to continue as a grad student but I haven’t decided where I would like to apply yet or which specific program to shoot for.  The top contenders are Illinois State, the University of Illinois, and Oregon State.  I’m pretty sure I would have no trouble getting into Oregon State’s grad program.  They already know me and my GPA is definitely high enough but I think I would benefit more by going to a school here in Illinois. I’d like to attend some classes in person and learn more about local natural resource issues but I’ll just apply at all three and see what happens I guess.

Anyway, I don’t plan to go back until January or March.  I really need the time off to recharge and refocus and build a craftsman style fireplace surround in my family room.

The only woodworking I’ve done in the past is building frames for stained glass panels so I’m pretty proud of myself for building a fireplace surround piece by piece out of pre-finished oak with only hand tools and a lot of improvisation.  Unfortunately, I don’t have the Norm Abram workshop in the backyard.  When we added onto the house in 2011, I had the family room built for a craftsman style built-in fireplace but we ran out of money and mostly energy by the time it came to doing the finish work.  So, I installed a stone surround with the intention of it being temporary.  I should have picked something that would have been a lot easier to remove than stone.  That’s been the worst part of the job so far.

Over the next few weeks I plan to build shelves to connect the cabinets to the fireplace and give it that true built-in look.  Hopefully, it turns out how I have it pictured in my mind.  So far so good but I’m not going to get overconfident just yet.

The Tradition Continues or Starts Again

Today, I visited Greenwood Cemetery to prepare for next week (no I don’t plan on dying).  I always visit the cemetery this time of year as tradition.  It’s the perfect time to visit because the leaves are beginning to turn, the autumn weather is magical, and there’s tons of acorns meaning there’s zillions of squirrels running around to keep me company.  I didn’t make it there last year and I think I unleashed unspeakable evil upon the Earth by not going.  2016 was such a miserable year.  The Cubs won the World Series which was Twilight Zone-like and Donald Trump won the presidency, which is beyond any reasonable explanation from even a parallel demented universe.

So, I’m hoping my return will restore the natural order of things and the gods will bestow good things upon Earth once again.  If that doesn’t work, I’ll need to find a volcano and toss a virgin in it or something.

I’ll be shooting a video at the cemetery next week.  I’ve been wanting to do a narrated walk through Greenwood for years but I never got the chance for one reason or the other.  It should be fun.  I hope.

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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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