Sunday, October 11, 2015

Roseburg, Oregon

I woke up to several missed texts and messages coming in from Roseburg numbers.   The one and only Roseburg, where I  grew up and lived most of my life, until recently.  As all of us locals know, "Roseburg" is not the answer we give when someone asks where we live or where we are from.  "Oh, just a small town on Interstate 5, three hours south of Portland, or one hour south of Eugene", is what we all used to say to people when they asked where we were from.  That has changed.

The missed texts I received during the night were not making any sense to me that morning.  Was I having a nightmare?  Surely the texts didn't say "UCC" and "Mass shooting" in the same sentence?  I immediately googled a major news network and saw the Breaking News.  I turned on the local news and there was my hometown, thousands of miles across the ocean, making headline news here where I now live.

Ever since I moved to Roseburg as a child, I would fantasize about getting out of it when I became an adult.  However, my husband and I married there and started our family.  Actually, we had our first dance as a married couple at Umpqua Community College, where our wedding reception was held. I gave birth to all three of our children in Roseburg and there we lived our Roseburg life.  Raising kids in Roseburg meant summertime swimming lessons  at the UCC pool,  where I also learned to swim as a child---a right of passage for all kids in Douglas County.  It meant my daughter's dance recitals at UCC's Jacoby Auditorium.   It meant countless drives down Umpqua College Road, where my in-laws lived for several years, right across the parking lot from the Science Building and Snyder Hall.  Many walks were taken on the pathways through the trees of the beautiful UCC campus, snapping photos of the kids running around, trying to convince us to let them play in the fountains.  I think of all the weddings we attended over the years at UCC, the anniversary and graduation parties, even a funeral.  Yes, the UCC was not only a Community College for higher learning, but a place any local could come take classes, see a theater production, host an event, swim, play tennis and even learn about wine.  This is why the UCC is so close to the locals' hearts, we all have memories of something we've acheived or celebrated there.

 After living overseas for nearly two years, this summer we went back to Roseburg to see our family and friends, to see home.  We stayed the whole month of August.   It was odd being back.  It was weird that it wasn't weird. Nothing in Roseburg changes, I said again and again.  We drove around, eating at our old favorite spots, doing drive-bys of all the houses we used to live in over the years.  We did picnics at River Forks, wine tasting at the wineries, people watching at Walmart, and of course, craft beer drinking at the tap house.  We posted gratuitous photos on Instagram and Facebook of life in Roseburg, Oregon so  that our new friends from Down Under (where we live now) could see what we loved and hated about the town we came from.

One such post was something my husband thought his Aussie mates would get a kick out of,  a photo of the gun display case at Fred Meyer.  His caption went along the lines of,  "I can buy a gun and a gallon of milk at the same time!"  We posted pictures of "bottomless" fries at Red Robin.  Both of these concepts, never ending fries and guns at the grocery store, was mind boggling for our foreign friends.  And I found myself posting things like pine trees, which I always took for granted.  I was posting from the Douglas County Fair, which I had always dreaded.  I was seeing Roseburg from a totally different point of view for the first time in my life and I was embracing it!  I could even smell the Douglas Fir, something I had never noticed in my 35 years of living in Roseburg.  I noticed and appreciated how outgoing, chatty and friendly almost everyone is when you go anywhere in town.  I had forgotten about those things. . Everything was so familiar and comfortable.  I wasn't a foreigner in Roseburg.

But, as our month came to an end, the same ol' same ol' had set in.  I felt content and ready to go back to our other life, on the other side of the planet, knowing everyone in Roseburg was saying goodbye to summer vacation and  gearing up for the new school year.  Yes, the same ol' same ol' as every other September I remember my entire life. Nothing changes in Roseburg, I said again.   I cringed as I saw a few of the leaves starting to turn orange, the true sign that summer is nearly over.   So, before we left, we did "one last" of everything: one last Oregon brew, one last lunch at our favorite restaurants,  one last Costco trip, one last Dutch Bros coffee, one last look at Roseburg our hometown, where we were from.  We even passed the UCC one last time on our way out of town...

....One last time before Roseburg changed forever.  Before it became infamous for the type of tragedy that just "doesn't happen in our town."

In the past after such tragedies, we always asked, "What if it happened here, in Roseburg?" Each time we saw a mass school shooting, we imagined it happening in our sleepy little town.  We sobbed and smothered our children with hugs and kisses the day those 20 first graders and their teachers were gunned down in cold blood at Sandy Hook Elementary.  We all asked ourselves, "What if it happened here?!  What if it was my baby?!"  Lock down drills at the schools became normal, but we still cried thinking about our children even having to prepare for such violence.

I'm filled with so many emotions as I now see my hometown splashed all over international news.  Roseburg is mentioned by name.   How can Roseburg be the town the world is watching and discussing and arguing about? Even celebrities are talking about Roseburg.  As I see the reports and watch the faces of the locals on the TV,  the terror and grief on their faces is unfamiliar to me, for the people of Roseburg.  Aren't those people from Sandy Hook or Columbine or Aurora?  Certainly these are not my old neighbors in Roseburg?!  I can't recognize this massive suffering , the crowds and the vigils, the tears that I see on the news reports.  Is that really happening back home?!  I can't wrap my head around it.  I see famous news anchors reporting from above Winchester Dam and the intersection I've passed through thousands of times in my life.  From next to the Umpqua River, where everyone either fishes, floats the river or picnics all summer long.  I can't fathom that they are actually there, reporting that something so hideous has taken place, there.  I can't understand why they are there, in little old Roseburg, so boring and plain and small.  The Roseburg that I said never changes.

So here I sit, thousands of miles of ocean between me and Roseburg, feeling shocked and helpless.  I want to help.  I want to take the pain and grief away, erase the tragedy, everyone there does.  But I do know why bad things happen to good people.  I do know that it is going to be rectified.  I do have hope.   I do have comfort in my beliefs.  I am not lost, just so very sad.  Sad for the victims, sad for the families, sad for the survivors who will need so much comfort and help.  And I am sad  that I'm not there to help comfort the ones suffering in my hometown.

The reporters and the cameras will all be gone soon.  Oh, yes, they'll come back every anniversary of the shootings.  They'll make emotional tributes that will make everyone weep.  They will reference it each and every time certain political issues come up. They'll talk about it when the next mass shooting happens. They wrap up their story in a nice little package, with a pretty little bow, by saying this tragedy has brought a beautiful town closer together as a community, as if they actually know us all intimately.  And the truth is, when the reporters have all gone home, when the celebrities forget about it and Roseburg is left alone in the middle of Interstate-5, everyone in town will grieve....all over again.  There is no red ribbon to wrap around a tragedy.  Everything is different now. Everything has changed with the loss those nine innocent people.  Nothing will ever be the same for any of the survivors.  There will not be anything positive to gain from this brutal massacre, regardless of the beautiful things people did for one another in the wake of it. Because nine people are missing.  And countless others are suffering.

So for the record, I was wrong.  Roseburg did change.  Though it wasn't the kind of change I had ever hoped for.

Writing is how I work through emotions.  My daughter writes too, but hers are lyrics.  She knew one of the victims, Quinn Cooper, who she had Drama class with in High School.  She wrote a tribute to the #UmpquaNine for their families and loved ones.  I would love to share it with you now.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Cockroach Chronicles: Part One

The paralyzing fear began in the summer of '87. There was an incident in my bedroom. This is when I found out....they can fly.

It was a hot, humid Oregon summer. There was a somewhat smallish roach on my bedroom ceiling. I had a friend over to spend the night. We stared at it, planning its execution. As if it could read my mind, it decided to show me who owned the ceiling. It did not jump. It did not fall. It flew right at me. Screaming, I ran the direction I was facing...which required an Olympic hurdle over my foot board. I didn't quit make it. I landed on the floor, and the roach thought it best to land in my dark hair...eerily a perfect camo for the nasty little beast. Had I been blond, they could have gotten it out sooner. They could have seen it right away and flicked it off. But I am not blond (even though that was the summer of Sun-In), and that night commenced my fear, loathing and paranoia of these nasty, repulsive little monsters.

I generally only had to worry about them in the summer and eventually my parents pulled the juniper bushes from the front of the house, which were rumored to be attractive to roaches. These particular roaches were small, didn't invade cupboards, and just basically liked to fly around terrifying everyone. They liked to live outside. But things were about to take a turn for the worse.

I got married (no, that wasn't the turn for the worse), and we moved into a very cute, "retro" if you will, apartment complex. They were vintage 1940, in an older part of town. Moving day went fine...but then the sun went down. We turned on a movie, watched for a bit, and then I decided to go into the kitchen to get some ice cream. I flipped on the light and there were about 30 roaches, frozen-mid-scurry, all over the floor. In point two seconds, they were just gone. I screamed.
The next morning, as new brides do, I got up at the butt-crack of dawn to make Hubby his lunch to take to work. As we weren't yet unpacked, I had to go into the living room and dig through a big box to find the sandwich baggies. I was pre-Lasik, so I was blind as a bat. As I was diggin through the boxes, I felt something cold on the underside of my poor, poor bare foot. I said to myself, "Gross! I hate when I drop lunch meat and step on it. Ewwww!" So I started kicking my foot to get the meat off, because who wants to touch cold lunch meat on a foot? What fell off my naked foot wasn't turkey-colored. It was black. And the size of a date. But dates aren't allowed in my house (nas-tay). I didn't know what that black thing was because I didn't have my glasses on. I bent down within 3 inches of "It" so my nearly blind eyes could tell me what it was. As it started to come into focus, I saw that it was a big, black, fat roach! Not the little flying kind, the robust-crawled-up-from-the-sewer type. Big, slow and shiny. (How do I type a retching noise?)

I screamed bloody murder, and started running in a manner quite reminiscent of Ferris Bueller's sister when she saw the principal at her doorstep. I ran straight into the bathroom, screaming and crying all the way, turned the water on to "scalding" and scalded my foot. After sufficiently sterilizing my flesh, I ran (screaming and crying still) into my room, jumped on my bed and curled up into a ball, and told my husband to call the landlord, we were moving!

Stay tuned for Part 2 ....

Friday, November 18, 2011

To Welcome You (or Welcome Back) to Cassoulet Cafe

Below was my very first story about France on Cassoulet Cafe Blog, a few years ago already!  I'm going to recommence my blog with this post for those who are new here...Enjoy!

I have so many things to write about, analyze and discuss when it comes to France but I feel that I can't begin unless I get a relate our first days in France as expats.

I still can't believe I had convinced my husband to move to France, without him ever having been there even for a visit. Dreaming of something is one thing, but when it actually comes to fruition, worry plagues the fairytale in your mind and then gets replaced by nightmare scenarios. Mine was that Hubby would hate France and then hate me. So naturally, I wanted everything to be parfait when we arrived.

We decided to fly into Paris and then take a train a couple days later to our new home. We had two nights booked on Rue Cler in the 7ième arrondissement. For those not familiar with it because they haven't seen the PBS program that has made it famous, it is the stereotypical image we Americans have of Paris. A cobblestone street near the Eiffel Tower, lined with cafés, crêpe stands, flower and cheese shops, boulangerie, get the idea. Top it off with a violinist on the corner playing classic French-film scores just for you, it all seems to be saying, "You're dreams have come true! You've made it to paradise!" It would seem.....

...Until we actually got to Rue Cler, by way of Métro, pulling our 3 spring loaded suitcases containing all our possessions in the world (well, on this continent), two gigantic backpacks, and a small child. Lugging and tugging, over the cobblestones. After having pulled all of that up and down several flights of steps and platforms the previous hour. Using public transport is cheaper than a taxi ride from Charles De Gaulle airport, but leaning on the side of "nightmare scenarios".

When we entered our hotel lobby, just a few long, bumpy blocks from the beginning of Rue Cler, we were exhausted, moody and stinky. Suddenly, I realized just what I had brewed up and convinced my poor little family to do! I started to cry uncontrollably. What if this didn't work out? We were stuck anyway! It was a burden I didn't want anymore.

At that moment, an American family came into the lobby, exuberant from their morning of touring, and tried to befriend us. They told Hubby how wonderful Paris was and they were sad to be leaving the next day. I hated them. They got to leave! I was here stuck for the next who-knows-how-long not knowing how we would survive this situation. And this was only Hour One!

After I scared them off with my sobbing, my husband consoled me and said it would all be great, he loved it so far. Ok, tears dried up, our room was now ready, time to shower, sleep and get emotionally stable again.

But when I got into the tiny room, went to use the tiny bathroom and then saw the flushing mechanism on the foreign-looking toilet (for those who don't know, the flushers in France are usually buttons or pulling devices on the lid of the tank), I started to get hysterical again thinking about having to flush like this for the next year. Ok, if you don't get the picture by now, I was completely irrational from sleep-deprivation, not making any sense, because back in The States I had raved to everyone about how cool French toilets were, because of their flushers!

After passing out and sleeping the rest of the afternoon, I awoke to Hubby saying he was going to go across the street to get some juice and snacks. He was eager to use his French independently. I was amazed but terrified he'd come back ticked off because someone was rude to him. I watched from the window above as he crossed the street and made a successful friendly purchase! He came back jazzed and ready to explore.

Late that night after soaking up the dazzling lights of le Tour Eiffel, we chose a brasserie near our hotel to eat le diner and suck down some vin français. Things were looking up. Of course wine will do that to you.

And then, the people at the table next to us seemed to be staring at us and with judgemental looks. I've been know to be paranoid about this, but I swear they were making a scene. It was a middle-age group of French men who were staring at us like we had just destroyed their evening. (Line from Shrek coming to mind: "It's rude enough being alive when no one wants you...") Anyhow, I was really uncomfortable and infuriated at the same time that they were gawking at us like we were barbarians. My anxiety peaked when I thought I heard the word "américains" in their conversation. Ok, now I had the proof! Turning to listen closer, I heard (in French), "Oh, look at me, I am American, I need my ketchup!" one said, and they all laughed hysterically in response. WHAT?! I didn't order ketchup. I hate ketchup. I kept listening, hearing stereotypical-American one-liners. It went on for several minutes. When they saw my expression, they laughed even harder. I wanted to leave, to check out of our hotel and hop the next flight back home. I HATE FRANCE, I screamed inside, French people are so rude!

act French!) and placed our order. The waiter, astonished that he was receiving the order in his tongue, smiled very lovingly as if to say "You showed them!" I'll never forget the shocked, open-mouth expressions of the men at the table next to us when they heard their language roll off my tongue, understanding now they I had heard it all. Sweet victory!

It taught me a lesson as well. Don't be an Ugly American, even if someone is being an Ugly Frenchman.

Tomorrow I go on to Part Deux: The TGV Tragedy! Vomiting, tractors, accidents and more Frenchiness. Sure to appeal to all sorts.

PS. All photos on this post have been taken personally by moi, except the Rue Cler photo, because I did not have time to find mine today :)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

I'm Baaaaack!

Bonjour! I am baaaaaaaaaaaaack .....from a two year, the blogging world has changed so much, and yet, is still the comfortably the same.

I see many of my old blogger friends are now published authors! I'm talking selling books on! (ie: Anna Lefler of LJKGW) Her hilarious book is called "The Chicktionary"...I rediscovered her in the middle of a sleepless night and as I read her preview, I actually had to wake Hubby (wait, my bucksnorting had already awoken him) to read out words and definitions from her book but I was laughing to hard to spit them out. When I finally did, Hubby was laughing even harder than me.

La Belette Rouge has since come out of hiding and can now be known by her real name Tracey, and is published in big-time things like Huffington Post and actual magazines that you buy in the store! :) I'm so amazed and proud of them and happy to say that I "knew" them when they just started out!

As for me, I've been holding myself up in that little restaurant in the Caribbean (pictured above). No really, I just took a much needed break from writing to take care of some family obligations. My family and I have gone through many changes over these two years of non-bloggin...I know, seriously, how can life go on when the blog is stopped somewhere in 2009? I've had some ups and downs, tears of joy and of sorrow, and some fabulous travels that made me think even beyond France. I have fresh perspective and am ready to blog some more funny, as well as more travel related posts!

I hope you'll rejoin me!

A bientot...

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Cassoulet's First Homemade Macarons!

I'm in French Nostalgia mode, so I reopened my blog, and succeeded at my very first attempt to make La Duree style macarons today!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Messed Up

You told me, because they told you
You warned me, like they warned you.

You did your best, unlike the rest
You used your talent, to release your stress

You drew your freedom, you drew your soul
You drew your dreams, for all to hold...

Until you could take them back for good
You painted the world you knew you'd have

The one you left
The one you had.

You slowly made your tiny hole
Into a home, instead of hell.
You brought it to us with your eyes and hand

You drew the only things you could see,
which wasn't much, to eyes that are free.

And when they ripped you away from security,
They said there was reason, "you're soon to be free"

But instead of getting a reward
You were at the mercy of the new prison's "lord"
When he slammed his fist into your head,
you didn't know it was coming, you thought were dead

The blows kept coming from all around
The darkness and pain kept you down

When they were done, they told you to leave
Or they would finish you, and leave you to bleed

They took your brush, they took your pen,
they took your life, and hemmed you in.

And now all you want is to go home,
Where you belong, where you will be

Oil painting  by My Brother, 2008

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Coffee Talk...Revised

I’ve already discussed cassoulet, for the “cassoulet” component of Cassoulet Café. But we really haven’t discussed the café part of it, have we? Be it the drink or the place. I mean, I’ve touched upon it, put in plugs for French and Italian coffee brands, talked about going to cafes, but I think I’ve really hidden how much coffee rules my life. Oh, it started out innocent enough. Trying to drink coffee at home, as an adolescent trying to feel like an adult, ending up with a disproportionate amount of creamer to coffee, to disguise the coffee-ness so it would be acceptable to a youth’s palate. Then ditching it for a Dr. Pepper.

Then Coffee-Mate came out with Hazelnut creamer. That is when my true coffee addiction began. It camouflaged the Folgers oh-so-well!

Then, as I started getting weary of all that non-dairy sweetness, we started to drink it black and a bit stronger. We moved on up to a metal can of...Yuban! But soon, we declared a ban on Yuban in our house, because we were finding ourselves in the midst of the Starbucks revolution and we adjusted accordingly. We thought that if we slurped down the burnt-tasting brew (and bonus points if we actually liked it), then we were true coffee connoisseurs. And certainly buying the beans and grinding them ourselves confirmed it! No more canned grounds for us, we said.

But then when we moved to France we suddenly felt like Coffee Pre-Schoolers. The coffee there was so strong that it shocked our palates (and guts) the first few mornings and we soon realized we only needed one cup to get going, as opposed to our normal three. After moving back to the States, we continued to make strong puts-hair-on-your-chest java, much to the dismay of our occasional guests. And when friends or family came to visit from France, we’d make requests for loads of Lavazza and Carte Noire to be brought to us.

Then my coffee maker sizzled out. Being the Google Queen that I am (and really, who isn't nowadays?), I had to Google "coffeemakers" and read reviews on oodles of brands and models. As I pored over brewing devices, I came across a site about home roasting coffee beans. Roasting my own coffee? Why would I want to complicate my life more than it already is by adding another step to my coffee drinking regimen?

When FedEx came the next week to deliver my new coffee roaster, I was ecstatic but intimidated. Could someone like little ol’ me really take these green beans resembling lentils and actually come out with a product even close to Starbucks or Tully’s? I wasn’t so sure.

Fast-forward two years. We are officially coffee snobs. After taking that first sip of home roasted brew, Hubby and I looked at each other and could only say “WOW.” No after taste, no burnt flavor, and do we detect…chocolate notes? As home roasters often do, we now refer to that chain as Charbucks. Because, my dear friends, charred coffee water is not a sign of quality, nor does consuming it make one the ultimate coffee connoisseur.

I’ve also added a French Press (ok, I have three of them) to my coffeemaker collection. 

We serve up the best coffee in town, heck, in the state! and friends come from far and wide to enjoy a cuppa Chez Nous (at our house).

When my Best Expat Friend was packing to come visit from France, she called to tell me she received my shopping list, but said I forgot to include my normal order for the usual 10 bricks of Carte Noire coffee. “Oh no,” I told her. “We don’t drink that stuff anymore. From now on, you’ll be taking my coffee back to France!”

And she does.

Stay tuned, as I have some exciting things concerning coffee coming up!