Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Happy Birthday

Tomorrow is my dad's birthday. He would've been 87 years old, and thinking of the day he was brought into this world and changed it forever makes him not being here all the more difficult.

Some people come into life and merely go along with the flow. Some people come into life and make great splashes in the water announcing their arrival everywhere they go. Some people come and are the gentle waves that shape the landscape of the shore, never to be replicated again. This was my dad. Never satisifed with being less than he knew he could and never willing to "show out" (as he would say), he accomplished many great things in his 86 some odd years.

Growing up on a farm in northern Louisiana, he learned to make do, stick with family, and to never take anything for granted. He came out of humble beginnings and used his sharp wit and self-created sense of right and wrong to make his place in the world. He served in World War II in the Coast Guard, seeing action in the Pacific theater. I could tell where exactly he was and if he shot down any Japanese planes. But that's not what I got out of his stories from the War. He told me about the time he overheard privates complaining about the barber. Apparently, if they didn't tip him, he would give them a bad haircut. Well, my dad was having none of that and apparently told the barber so. When I was in high school, an old shipmate of my dad's finally tracked him down after years of searching. We learned ( I can't remember if Dad told me or if Mr. Foster did) that Dad would make sandwiches for the men on duty overnight. My dad also kept a journal of their travels, even though this was strictly forbidden. But he had his ways. These are the things I remember my dad telling me about those days.

Then he went on to medical school and started practicing medicine. He was a general practitioner, and so he pretty much dealt with the whole gamut. During these times, practicing in a small town, he had to obey both his personal code and that of a doctor's oath, and often these conflicted with those of his patients', but he managed to make his sound advice heard. Hundreds of babies were borne into this world with his hands. Many people took their last breath under his watchful, understanding eye.

But more than a doctor or a WWII veteran, he was my Dad. If there's any life he changed forever, it's the lives of my siblings, me and my mother. Perhaps I was a bit spoiled, as he was well on his way to semi-retirement by the time I was in elementary school. I have so many memories of him, picking me up at school and going for lunch in the park, going to the YMCA pool on a Sunday afternoon, going to Church and hearing his light snores, rattling his spoons in the car (his stick-shift, loud, grumbling truck) while Beausoleil or Scottish bagpipes blared through the speakers, him at the backstop at my softball games insisting I can hit the ball, mowing the lawn and coming in for a concoction of iced tea and orange juice, us both taking great joy out of the antics of our dogs, and I could go on.

And now, I can see all of this so clearly. It's almost as if a movie reel is in my head. I can hear his voice. But then my eyes and mind adjust to reality before me, and it's unbearingly clear that he is not here. A life and light that once shone brightly and lit up my world has been blown out. But I guess on a birthday I shouldn't focus on the fact that the light is gone. I should be grateful that the light ever shone upon me.

Thanks Dad, and Happy Birthday. We miss you.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Back in the Grind

I have a job! After several weeks of stressful job searching, I finally came across a Craigslist ad for a job that was not only appealing, but seemed like something I could do! So I contacted the temp agency, and she had me come in for an interview and some skill testing. All went well, and I had an interview with the actual company for which I'd be working. They liked me, I liked them, and we decided to give it a go.

The actual nonprofit is called Integrated Research Services, Inc., and their "mission" so to speak is The Prevention Researcher ( This is a quarterly journal featuring five research articles pertaining to adolescents. Each issue focuses on one topic (Bullying, Adolescent Children of Alcoholics, Teens and Community are just to name a few), and they try to find a combination of what's new and innovative in the field, in-depth research, and something that fills the holes of research that is currently known.

My role will be to keep track of the subscriptions and new orders. The organization seems to be expanding in its ways of outreach, and they say there are a lot of opportunities for creativity and professional growth. There are six people working there, and it seems to be a wonderfully cohesive unit.

I'm excited! This is great, as I'd like to get into publishing later in life. I've worked there two days so far, and it's gone really well. I think I have a pretty good idea of how things work there, so I won't be in the dark forever... which is nice.

Friday, June 20, 2008


Yesterday I made two of the most delicious meals ever. The first I made with some leftover hamburger meat that I saved from when I made tacos last Friday. It was a lot more than I anticipated, and I didn't have a hamburger bun (just bread), but it was still delicious. I just rolled it up and flattened the pattya little bit. I watched a show about hamburgers, and it said to just let it cook and not to squeeze down it or the juices would all come out.

So I threw the patty on a hot pan, covered it with a lid, and let heat run its course. About when it was close to being done I sprinkled some cheese I had bought for tacos on it and added a slice of monterrey jack cheese. Despite the fact I was forced to eat it on bread, it was one of the best hamburgers I'd EVER had.

For dinner I had planned to make some chicken kabobs. These were SO delicious I'm going to tell you the recipe as best I can (I don't use measuring devices, so bear with me)

1 onion
I used a packaged of red and orange sweet bell peppers


1 Tbsp of minced garlic
1 tsp of cinnamon
1/2 tsp of cayanne pepper
1/2 tsp of chili powder
1/4 tsp of salt
1/2 tsp of pepper
2 Tbsp of olive oil
stir ingredients together

after cutting the vegetables up in your desired size and shape, place in tupperware container and stir in marinade. Cover and refrigerate at least 8 hours.

2 large chicken breasts

Chicken marinade:
I used Newman's Own Roasted Garlic and Parmesan salad dressing
Chili Powder
Cayanne Pepper

3 Tbsp of salad dressing
1/2 tsp of chili powder
1/2 tsp of cayanne pepper
1 tsp salt
1 tsp of pepper
(feel free to add some lemon juice..I just didn't have any handy)
mix well

Cut into small (2x2 in) pieces. After you've cut up one breast, place the pieces in a tupperware container and pour half of marinade over it. Then place the rest of the chicken pieces in the container and pour the rest of the marinade over it. It would be helpful if you could either stir and handle the chicken to make sure each piece is properly coated. Cover container and shake gently. Refrigerate at least 8 hours.

I then used an outdoor grill. This should make at least 10 skewers worth.

Il Postino

Our postman hates me. It all started with a neon green paper in our mail asking if this was the correct mailing address for Brooke Lusk. Because I wasn't sure what time the postman comes, I hadn't filled it out when he came the next day. So he rang the doorbell. I saw it was him and quickly filled out the sheet and brought it to the door.

"So you're living here now?" said the Postman.

"Yes, I just moved in," I politely responded.

"Well nobody told me that," he retorted.

In a small voice I said "I'm sorry."

And that was that. Several days later I got a postcard from the library welcoming me as a new member. It was addressed to Lydia rather than Brooke. This must have really thrown the Postman for a loop. I was driving on a side street, coincidentally to open a PO Box, and the Postman waved to stop me.

"Brooke! Do you go by Lydia?"

"Well no. I go by Brooke, Lydia's my first name."

He waved his free arm wildly in the air, "Well now see I didn't know that!"

The Postman hates me. I brought this issue up with my roommate, and he laughed and recounted several similar stories to me that he had experienced. I felt better.

So please don't put any nicknames on any letters you might feel compelled to send me. He WON'T appreciate that.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

a quieted voice

I have probably the world's cutest beagle. But that's just my opinion. She's so lovable, so sweet, but despite all of this she does have a wild side. Mom tells me that's my punishment for being such an independent-minded kid. Whateva, whateva..I do what I want.

Well MOST people know that beagles have issues howling, and Luna is certainly no different. This issue has been the 2nd most sour point (second only to her running away) of our mother/daughter relationship. Today for some unknown reason she was really on a tear! Howling pretty much nonstop and for no apparent reason. Well sure enough a neighbor came over to complain. It was just a matter of time, and he was really nice about it. Shortly before he arrived, I had been researching bark control collars online. The thought of getting a collar like that for Luna breaks my heart. I feel like a parent whose estranged child was just sent to jail for turning tricks on a street corner. Where did I go wrong? I really have tried. Is it my fault that she ate Papa Johns butter garlic sauce and got really sick the first day of training class? Yes, I suppose it is. But I still feel like a failure as a mom.

But it was time. What else could I do? Spanking won't do anything, and frankly I'm not sure having a trainer would either. She's a beagle, she will howl. She will howl at a bug jumping from grass blade to grass blade, she will howl at pedestrian strolling alongside our fence, she will howl "just to hear her own voice."

So I sucked it up and went to Petsmart to get the collar. $100 and a few tears later, she is sitting, confused and what I might call lifeless (in that all of her spark has been taken out of her), on a pile of clothes in my room. At first she liked her new "necklace" (that's what I call her collar). But then she heard another dog bark and proceeded to run and meet it with the ire of a thousand demons.... and she was stopped short. One bark! She looked frantically around her to figure out what the hell had just happened. Sniffing, licking the grass, rocks, her paws..everything. She trotted off in the other direction and tried again. BARK! Again, she commenced researching the source of her aggravation. All of these test barks ended with a high pitched alarm that I did not know her voice box was capable of producing.

Sullenly she marched around the yard, wondering how she was going to spend her days. I stood leaning on the porch railing with tears flooding my eyes. I feel like I have taken her second most precious piece of life (her sniffer is first) away from her. I'm worried she's going to become depressed. I'm worried that she won't care about getting shocked in a few days, and she'll just continue to howl, and what then? My apologies to her don't fix this suffocation on instinct. But she's Luna. And she'll love me no matter what.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

My Favorite Things

I think I made it relatively clear in one of my posts that I really do like Oregon. What do I love about it? What do I miss about Texas? What do I NOT miss about Texas, and what do I dislike about Oregon?

LOVE about Oregon:
1. The weather - Granted it is June, and so the constant rain and gray has yet to arrive, but the sunny yet bearably warm days have been so wonderful. I have been able to sit in a chair in my backyard and read a book without breaking a sweat.
2. The neighborhoods - Here is a link to the Friendly Area Neighbors if you want to learn more about where I'm living this summer.

3. The Willamette River - I don't know if the river itself is very windy of if practically every main thoroughfare in the city goes over it, but I feel like I pass it several times on a journey. It's a wide, active river (perfect for toobing), and I love passing it by.

4. People talk to each other differently here, with a level of familiarity that I really enjoy. Just person to person. Cashiers, neighbors, etc. Everyone is really nice.

5. The library. The Eugene Library is incredible. Standing proudly at three stories, it is well staffed with a coffee bar in the front and a second hand book store right next door. When it was time for me to check out my book, all I had to do was insert my electronic library card into a machine, lay my books down on a raised surface on the desk (which automatically detected what the books were), remove my card and go. I couldn't believe it.

The exterior of the library
A view from the bottom of the stairwell.
6. It's summer, and I can layer! Anyone who knows me well knows I love my sweaters, pull overs,, etc. Well it's perfectly acceptable (even wise!) to dress that way here. Thank goodness!
Things I'm not really fond of about Eugene:
1. Gas attendants - I'm all about creating more jobs for people, but despite the obvious reason for my dismay is that gas prices are higher here as a result of the mandatory gas attendants, it really throws off my flow and routine as far as pumping gas.
2. One way streets - too many. I'm still confused about the street system here, and I'm so grateful to Mom for letting me have her TomTom GPS machine.
3. The food more or less is not what I'm used to. I'm going to find that anywhere I go. There were no pickles at an "authentic Texas pit BBQ" place I went to. I'm a picky eater, and this is my cross to bear.
Things I miss about Texas:
1. MY LOVED ONES - I think this one goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway. Even though I think I've adapted quite well to having no one who knows me around, I do miss the comfort of relationships, and the phone and email is different than being around people.
2. Pickles with BBQ
3. Wide open streets...this is something that while I miss it, I like the community feel of having closer streets here.
4. Ranger baseball games. This loss will hopefully be alleviated by going to the Eugene Emeralds' baseball games.
5. My dogs, Katy and Lexie.
Things I DO NOT miss about Texas
1. Pretention.
2. Trucks, trucks, everywhere are trucks. And commercials for trucks. Yes, people here do drive trucks, but it's not a pissing contest like it is in Texas. People mostly drive Toyotas I've noticed...and usually for very utilitarian purposes.
3. Sweating when I walk outside at 8 am.
4. Ridiculous advice and condemning phrases on the 8 church marquees in a 3 mile run on Park Row in Arlington
Well, that's all for now. I need to get a fan for my room, simply to make noise. I'm used to having some sort of background noise when I sleep, and this silence won't do.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

beachy keen, jolly green

I finally went to visit the beach last week! Florence, a coastal town, is about an hour and a half west of Eugene. Luna and I headed west for what I hoped would be a sunny day on the beach.

Well, I got half of that right. It was a day on the beach, but it was not very sunny. I knew it would be cooler up here on the NW coast, but I didn't expect turbulent winds and overcast skies. The only people out there were either wearing a full on parka or a wetsuit while windsurfing. Luckily I wore jeans and had taken a pullover (of course!). It was still enjoyable. Luna hopped around in the sand dunes for awhile. It was almost like she was tossing up sand with her paws then pounding on it once it fell to the ground. It was fun day with an extremely pleasant drive out there, and it was nice to get out and enjoy the day.

A windblown Luna ponders the universe.

A squirrel camoflauged in the rocks.

Trying to smile and not get sand in my eyes!

The beach!

All in all it was a great day. I've still got to get my National and State park pass, so I can go see all sorts of places. I'm waiting for it to warm up a bit before I go to Crater Lake and other places. I foresee another trip to the beach though, perhaps to Newport to go shopping!

Monday, June 16, 2008

settling in

After I got back from my best good friend's wedding in Vancouver, B.C. I decided it was time to hit the job search harder than Juan Gonzalez hits a baseball. So I spent several days as a couch potato, surfing the internet for jobs. It was cold and gray here the first few days, and although that was very disappointing it worked out perfectly for vegging out on the couch.

Well I got stir crazy after the first two days of thought, and I started taking Luna on long walks. I LOVE my neighborhood. People here love to garden, and that definitely shows. Beautiful, lush yards with every different kind of flower imaginable are all over the place. The houses are all unique and special, very unlike the homes in Texas. Everywhere you'll see banners with peace signs hanging from windows, carefully manicured and tended gardens, cats keeping watch on porches, or remnants from a child's fun time playing in the yard the evening before, with a scooter or toys scattering the lawn. I love this beautiful, yet lived-in feeling. Down the street about 8 blocks is a the Friendly Street Market. I have walked there a couple of times with Luna, and they have a dog run off to the side where I can place her while I shop for milk or lemonade. I don't buy much since I have to carry it back. Of course she howls her face off while I'm shopping.
I have gotten to know some of the dog walkers in the neighborhood, and there's a nice couple down the street that have a beagle puppy girl named Cooper. It's adorable, but Luna doesn't like her. Probably just jealousy.
Things are so different here. The squirrels make loud chirping noises as they run atop the fence with Luna close behind six feet below. Although there is no air conditioning, we absolutely don't need it. Actually I have turned my in-room heater on a couple of times at night, but thankfully it has warmed up and I haven't for several days. Even employees at stores are different and more laid back. The guys at Blockbuster are really nice and actually tried to estimate if I'd get the most out of my Movie Pass, rather than trying to get me to buy more. I liked that. I love being able to walk up to people and start a conversation with a certain level of familiarity that should be found human to human. I can absolutely do that here without feeling like an outsider. It's wonderful.

Here are some pictures from the house where I'm living this summer:

Luna carefully eyeing Porter's rawhide bone. This bone is definitely a matter of contention with her. She has no qualms about walking up and sneak attacking him and stealing his bone. But if he dares get within 3 feet of her while she's chewing on it, she will go postal on him. Luckily he's a sweetie.

The front porch

The couch where I've spent a shameful amount of hours looking for jobs (and admittedly watching too much TV..)

A view of the back of the house from the giant backyard

The main common area with Porter dog sitting in the background.

I really love the house, backyard and neighborhood.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

a journey's end

Although I am actually here in Oregon and have been for a week, I want to share a bit of "excitement" from the Bishop to Redding leg of our trip. What was supposed to be a 7.5 hour trip slowly turned into a 13 hour journey. This is partially because of an enjoyable excursion to Yosemite, where we saw a somewhat frozen lake, plenty of snow and beautiful landscapes. However, we got sidetracked onto a new path and made our way through a small town of the name Colusa. It is their prime season for farming rice, and the fields were having a hayday. Along with the lush beauty of this area came a certain pestilence. That is..the rice gnats, as I call them. Swarming everywhere, these tiny little flies caused ourselves and other motorists to pull over after having gone through the area to clean their thickly covered windshields. It was akin to cleaning off a light green mud. It smeared, it smelled and it stuck.
First some pictures from Yosemite:

Luna loves the snow!

Now some pictures from the rice gnat's wrath on my car: