Tag Archives: tattoos

My North Carolinian Exchange Student

(I’m using capitals because I’m writing this for the students of Water’s Edge Village School – don’t be alarmed.)

I met Meghan when we were in Greece as AFS exchange students 25 (?!?) years ago, and we’ve stayed in touch over the years. Meghan is the mother of two cool school-age boys and a big dog. She’s also lighthouse keeper in the Outer Banks village of Corolla, North Carolina. Recently she rallied her community to reopen Corolla’s elementary school so that Corolla’s kids could go to school in their own community instead of spending hours on a school bus to go to school in another town. When my Durham friend Jamie invited me to visit her in North Carolina, we planned a weekend in Corolla – I hadn’t seen Meghan since I was 17.

Meghan and Kriste in Greece circa 1990

Meghan and Kriste in Greece circa 1990

Jamie, Kriste, and Meghan inside the Currituck Beach Lighthouse

Jamie, Kriste, and Meghan inside the Currituck Beach Lighthouse circa 2012

Which explains how I ended up being serenaded on my 39th birthday by Meghan’s two sons in their comfy home in Corolla, which I highly recommend.

A very Corolla birthday

A very Corolla birthday

Recently Meghan asked me if I would host an exchange student from WEVS. My response was almost, “Duh.” But I have better manners than that, so I said, “Absolutely!”

A few weeks later, an envelope from Meghan’s son Paolo arrived. Inside it was Stanley. Flat Stanley is the title of a great kids’ book about a boy who is flattened in the night by a bulletin board. WEVS students made Stanleys (Stanlies?) and mailed them off to folks around the country. Our job as hosts was to write back to Paolo’s class about our states and what Stanley did while he was with us. Here goes.

IMG_6551

When people think about Oregon, they usually think rain. But check out that blue sky – and in January!

I live in Corvallis, Oregon. Corvallis has a population of about 55,000 people when Oregon State University is in session. We’re about a 90 minute drive fron Portland, Oregon’s largest city, and about 45 minutes from Salem, Oregon’s capital. My apartment is in downtown Corvallis, so there are great restaurants and shops nearby. Farmers’ market, the library, and the bus station are a few blocks away.

Strolling along the Willamette River

Strolling along the Willamette River – this is less than a block from my apartment.

There is a great park along the Willamette River as it passes by Corvallis. The park has wide sidewalks for walking dogs, riding bikes, and strolling (my favorite). There’s a fountain that kids like to play in during the summer. Farmers’ market is there twice a week from April-October. There are benches and picnic tables and a skatepark.

The Willamette (wil-LAM-it) River runs from south to north, which is pretty rare for Pacific Northwest rivers. Its headwaters are south of Eugene, and it runs about 200 miles from Eugene, past Corvallis and Salem, to Portland, where it joins the Columbia River (which forms most of the border between Oregon and Washington) and flows out to the Pacific Ocean. The Columbia is the river that Lewis and Clark followed to get to the Pacific, and along the Columbia there are a lot of historical sites from the Lewis and Clark Expedition and the Oregon Trail.

The part of Oregon along the Willamette River is called the Willamette Valley. The valley was was carved out by the Missoula Floods at the end of the most recent ice age. If you don’t know about the Missoula Floods, check them out. They’re pretty fascinating. Basically, an ice dam broke in Montana and the water behind it raced down along what’s now the Columbia Gorge and flooded down into the Willamette Valley. Our fertile soil is actually from Montana – it was deposited here during those floods. The valley is wide and flat and stretches between the Coast Range (pretty small mountains between the valley and the coast) and the Cascades (large volcanic mountains between the valley and Eastern Oregon, which is mostly high desert). Because of the fertile soil and our rain, agriculture is a big deal in the Willamette Valley. Farms grow blueberries, hazelnuts (also called filberts), grass seed, wine grapes, even Christmas trees.

Stanley was very interested in the speech about  how to field-dress a deer.

Stanley was very interested in the speech about how to field-dress a deer.

I used to be an elementary school teacher, and now I teach at the local community college. Stanley came along to work with me. He listened to speeches in my public speaking class, and watched digital stories created by my writing students. He liked that we could walk to LBCC’s campus in about 10 minutes, through a neighborhood of old houses and mature trees.

The digital stories were about where we're from - this is Cerrie's DS about being from the universe.

The digital stories were about where we’re from – this is Cerrie’s DS about being from the universe.

We're almost to OSU! That's it up ahead.

We’re almost to OSU! That’s it up ahead.

On another beautiful day, Stanley and I walked from my apartment to Oregon State University. In June I graduated from OSU with a master’s degree, so it’s a walk I’ve done many times. For my degree I studied the connections between writing and community and resilience (how people are able to recover from hard times in their lives), but most students at OSU are studying science and business and engineering.

There are over 25,000 students enrolled at OSU, but we didn't see very many of them because we were on campus on a Saturday.

There are over 25,000 students enrolled at OSU, but we didn’t see very many of them because we were on campus on a Saturday.

This is the library - I spent a lot of time in there while I was an OSU student.

This is the library – I spent a lot of time in there while I was an OSU student.

I took Stanley on a walking tour of downtown Corvallis.

Central Park

Central Park

My P.O. Box

My P.O. Box

Benton County Courthouse

Benton County Courthouse

Here are a few facts about Oregon. Our state animal is the beaver. We do all of our voting by mail (this ballot drop box is where I return mine). There’s no sales tax in Oregon, so when you buy something that costs $4.99 it really costs $4.99. You can’t pump your own gas in Oregon. Our state motto is, “She flies with her own wings.” Isn’t that lovely? I think so, which is why I have a tattoo of it.

Speaking of tattoos, Stanley came with me to talk to my tattoo artist, Denise, about another tattoo I want to get. Denise offered to give him a tattoo.

Checking out the equipment in Denise's studio

You sit in this chair and put your head in that ring if you’re getting a tattoo on your back – it’s pretty comfy.

This is Denise - she was glad that she got to meet Stanley.

This is Denise – she was glad that she got to meet Stanley.

I’m glad that Paolo sent Stanley to me – I had fun thinking of things to show him. I would have taken him out to the coast (about an hour drive west from Corvallis), but I couldn’t make that work. I wonder where the other Stanleys went – I’m sure that the WEVS students have been enjoying this project.

Meghan sent me this picture of WEVS students with the little toys my grandma Betty made for them. He said that he recognized a lot of them.

The year that WEVS opened, Meghan sent me this picture of WEVS students with the little toys my grandma Betty made for them. Stanley said that he recognized a lot of them.

Advertisements

seis de mayo

it was my 40th birthday last month. on the seis de mayo.

a moment before this picture was taken an elderly woman in line behind me said, "smile big, dearie!"

proof

i have been looking forward to turning forty – it seems like a solid age to be. i’ve worked pretty damn hard to make it here, and not everybody is as fortunate as i am. so i’ve been feeling ready to claim a new decade.

i’ve known for a while that i wanted to mark turning forty with a tattoo, and my ideas went through many stages. i wanted to acknowledge my connections to california and oregon. i briefly thought about getting wrist tattoos of their two flags, but oregon’s flag is hideous.

the scale is wrong, the colors are wrong. as much as i love oregon, i do not want this on my body, even temporarily.

the scale is wrong, the colors are wrong. as much as i love oregon, i do not want this on my body, even temporarily.

my neighbor liz and i have talked about reclaiming the trampstamp as a feminist statement. when the wrist tattoo idea was rejected, i started thinking about a trampstamp – all of my tattoos are balanced on my body, and my lower back is the place i have left (since a chest tattoo just isn’t my style) to keep things symmetrical. i thought about getting outlines of oregon and california, but they don’t go in the right direction for that spot. then i started thinking, “what would charles kuralt do?”

kuralty bliss

charles kuralt reminded me of a few things. i thought about how much i enjoyed being in north carolina last spring, it was so different than where i live, and i feel like a better citizen for having spent time there. it occurred to me that i have never really dreamed about going to london or paris or tokyo – i dream about going to detroit. i would love to cruise around the back roads of america in an RV and see the country and talk to regular folks, like charles kuralt did. through all of this thinking, my tattoo idea came to me. i knew right away that it was the perfect thing.

while i was working this out, my buddy zari and i were talking about getting tattooed together on my birthday; our friend molly also wanted to go with us. then z went and moved to baltimore, and my tattoo hopes were dashed. the three of us really needed to do it together, so i thought of the perfect bribe to get zari to come back to oregon for “drink & ink,” as molly christened it.

i have been friends with zari since she was 3, and i met molly a few years later.

i have been friends with zari since she was 3. she introduced me to molly a few years later.

my bribe worked, and zari got plane tickets to come back to oregon. the plan was set.

molly, kriste, zari - at z's college graduation.

molly, kriste, zari – at z’s college graduation.

i was getting oregon’s state motto – “she flies with her own wings” – as part of my tattoo. a few weeks before my birthday, molly asked if it would be ok with me if she also got the motto. tattoo twinsies?! of course. then zari wanted it in her tattoo, which seemed so damn right.

we spent the afternoon of my birthday with denise, who has tattooed me a few times before. i went first, then zari, then molly.

zari's tattoo

zari’s tattoo

zari got the bear from the california flag, along with the oregon state motto, representing her life on the west coast. the top part of the motto is in molly’s writing, and i wrote the bottom part. we had a long philosophical discussion about who should write which part. i think it looks so damn cool, and it’s a huge deal to me that zari is walking around baltimore with my writing on her thigh.

molly and denise, talking tattoos.

molly and denise, talking tattoos.

molly's tattoo

molly’s tattoo

molly got a hummingbird on the inside of her arm. the motto is in her sister’s handwriting.

here comes mine.

think RV

think RV

this tattoo is a mindfulness piece, to make me think about how i spend my forties. if you look closely, you’ll see that oregon is colored in, because on the first day of my forties that’s where i was. i’m going to fill in every state i visit between may 6, 2013 and may 5, 2023. my grandpa lives in oklahoma, and i should go visit him. ditto for my cousin’s dad in mississippi. my mom’s family is from michigan, and i’ve never been there. washington is the first state i’ve been to since my birthday – i took a quick train trip up there to visit robyn. since she was first, she wanted to pick washington’s color, and she chose green. there’s math involved in coloring in a map – the US can be done in four colors, so i know which color oklahoma should be by the time i get there.

the bribe was that if zari came back for my birthday, she would be the one to write the motto. molly drew the compass rose, based on one that was in the floor of a hotel where robyn and i stayed last summer. the envelope in the middle came from molly’s realization that our relationship as adults has been strengthened by the letters we write to each other.

so happy to see molly when she got back from many months in brazil last year.

so happy to see molly when she got back from many months in brazil last year.

while i was getting tattooed, we started trying to name state capitals. z & m started researching state mottos on their phones. denise was getting into the whole US geography thing, too. i’m pretty sure that it was one of the nerdiest tattoo sessions ever.

i feel like i started this decade in a pretty rad way. it was an honor that these fine women were there with me. i really can’t put into words how i feel about them, so here’s a picture that captures it:

the last time the three of us were together - drinking cocktails at terminus last year.

drinking cocktails at terminus last year.

resolutions

in my twenties i did the new year’s resolution thing.

some years with more success than others. one year i vowed not to punch my friend zari in the arm anymore – that was my traditional greeting. i haven’t done it once since.

around that time i also resolved to always return my shopping cart to the corral or back into the store. being a californian, i sometimes left it in the parking lot – always tucked carefully away, of course. that was another successful resolution -since then i’ve never once left a cart unreturned.

i’ve never enjoyed cooking. one year i resolved to bake one pie a month. that resolution lasted through january. i made a lemon meringue pie and haven’t made once since. that pie was probably 12 years ago.

in 2012 i'll try making my grandma's pecan pie recipe.

soon before my medical drama, my friend harriet introduced me to the idea of picking a theme word for the year instead of making a resolution. i really like having a word as a theme – it seems to lead more towards mindfulness and away from feeling bad about not making pies. it’s a way of choosing what you want to be aware of in your life. what you want to be tuned into.

i’ve done this for each year post-stroke. my new year starts on august 7th, the anniversary of the beginning of my surgeries, so i won’t be putting a new word into effect tomorrow. but two of my friends might be.

emily’s word for 2011 was “ready” – and boy was she! this year she met jeremy and they got engaged and just this week closed on a house. their wedding is in february. emily’s thinking that “trust” will be her word for 2012.

riding the tram in portland with emily, summer 2011.

my friend t.a./bucko is also thinking about a word theme for 2012: “connect” – partially to challenge himself to look for and take opportunities to connect with folks.

bucko has the duck, i'm in the black dress.

i really like both of those words. i just might share one with them when it’s time for me to choose word 4 this summer.

year one, my word was “new” – it was an excellent choice for a year with a lot of changes. it helped remind me not to think of things as bad or good, but as new. i feel like it kept me on a positive path, observing the things around me for what they were, then moving forward.

year two my word was “gratitude” – and it was another excellent choice. that word reminded me to be appreciative of the things i have, and maybe more importantly it reminded me to verbalize my gratitude. all of which certainly helped make for a good year.

i like words, and when i started this theme-word tradition i spent some time thinking over how i might visually collect these words. i decided that on august 7th, as one word was traded out for the next, i’d get the outgoing word tattooed on my back, centered under my tattoo of lafcadio (from my favorite children’s book). i decided that i’d ask someone who was really involved in how that word played out to write it for me and then i’d get it tattooed in their handwriting. i asked emily to write “new” and my former foster daughter’s grandma vickie wrote “gratitude” for me. i like the idea of having a map on my back of the road i’ve taken since my medical drama.

it’s year 3 and my word is “experience” – i chose that word for a few reasons. the first two years were really focused on recovery, and because of all the work that went into those two years i’m now able to do so much more, to have experiences. also, around the time of my 20 year high school reunion this year i realized that i really value people who have experience. the jury’s still out on who will write “experience” for me – over 8 months left.

someone recently asked me what will happen once my back is filled with words. my answer was that at some point i won’t feel compelled to do it anymore and i’ll stop. now it occurs to me that maybe my theme calendar will be like the chinese zodiac and after whatever year 12 is it’ll be the year of the new again. time will tell.

if you’re making a resolution this year, i wish you success. if you’re picking a theme word, i’d love to hear what it is and how it works for you. i’m always looking for inspiration for year 4.

above all, i hope for a great 2012 for all of us.