OK. First thing first. Yes, this is my November post. Yes this is now December.
But. I have a good reason for this.
Arbitrary rules don’t matter.
Oh, and Elissa and I bought a house.
These last few weeks have been a whirlwind of activity. A special 2020 COVID Thanksgiving, closing literally the day before Thanksgiving on our new digs and a pretty active work schedule. There’s a lot to be thankful for.
Which leads me to my very unoriginal but very authentic topic for this post: things I’m thankful for. So, in no particular order, here’s an unofficial, uncompleted list of things that I’m thankful for that I most definitely will amend multiple times because I’m scatter-brained and most definitely forgetting things that are important.
You thought I’d start somewhere else? Are you mad? Elissa isn’t the type to hold grudges, but I don’t want to find out what would happen if I left her off this list, even though she knows I’m grateful for her, regardless if I write about it. We have been together literally every day since March, working in the same house, eating our meals on the same couch, watching the same shows and doing the same chores. Somehow I didn’t annoy her to the point of her banishing me to the backyard, so that’s a win. She still wanted to buy a house with me, too. We just work well together, and that makes me happy.
Really great friends
I don’t know where this comes from, but I’m constantly amazed, humbled and thrilled when friends text me out of the blue or send me invites to join a video chat. A dumb part of me always thinks, “Why are they so great that they think of me and want to chat?” I, in turn, try to reciprocate, but inevitably fail in being as thoughtful (so I think, though if I’m being honest, I’m sure it’s not that drastic). This year of COVID-19 has been one of the most trying I’ve experienced, but it’s been friends who have won the day. I’ve video chatted with my core group of college friends more than I ever have. My close friends in Eugene have all found creative ways for all of us to still hangout. We’ve hiked, ran, biked, gamed and friended our faces off despite it all. And when I’ve felt uncomfortable with something because we live in a virus-spreading hellscape where some people think the coronavirus is a hoax and masks somehow make them less free, my friends have been right there, mirroring the responsible behavior. I don’t need to name drop, but you know who you are. And I love you all.
An eccentric, loveable family
Back in May, my dad and I had an idea. What if we could find a way to play our favorite board game — a Formula 1 racing game called Formula D — over Zoom with my brother and my uncles? Since I’m the gearhead of the bunch, I workshopped the plan and built an overhead camera rig for my DSLR so I could stream a shot of the board. I would roll for everyone and move their pieces but they would keep track of their points on their own homemade boards. What has evolved from that is a 23-week and counting series that has also included me updating the points standings every week and writing weekly recaps like I was still working for The Register-Guard. I have talked to my uncles, dad and brother more since May than probably the last two years combined.
I often worry about my mom and step-dad, living in my small hometown of Vernonia, but every time I talk with my mother I’m reminded that people who live in rural areas have probably been better suited to the isolation of COVID than most of us. They’re already more self-sufficient than 95 percent of us who live 2 minutes from a Home Depot or Target. Still, even though I don’t go home often, I’m looking forward to early next summer when I can go home and sit on the porch with them and listen to the latest gossip.
Also, I’d be remiss to not mention my chosen family — my in-laws. Elissa and her sister and parents are close. It’s just the four of them here in Oregon. And somehow I’ve made the cut to be included on the family group chat. Even though we’ve been together for more than a decade and married for more than two years, I still feel a bit like an outsider. But throughout all the COVID, wildfire and election madness, I’ve loved being included in the very normal, very human conversations of how we are all navigating this.
This is a simple one. Anything I can control to keep the chaos at bay is a win. Nothing is more satisfying than unsubscribing from random emails, marking others as spam and deleting or categorizing everything else. I rarely end a week where either my personal or work accounts aren’t fully zeroed.
Ear muffs for any family members reading this who might disapprove. But it’s legal in Oregon, it doesn’t give you a hangover like alcohol does and it really does help you get through a smoke-filled two weeks where you can’t leave your home and you are constantly worried about friends and the beautiful places where you recreate.
I don’t remember my first time cooking, but both sides of my family instilled in both my brother and me the importance of being able to do more than heat up a can of soup. My mom taught me so much and loved to say since she didn’t have a daughter she would pass all of her knowledge on to me and my brother. Almost all of our family gatherings on the Fode and Schorzman sides were centered around big meals. My Grandma Pat was a farmer’s wife and cooked every day. She made big, hearty meals that were grounded in our Prussian roots. Chicken and dumplings. Mashed potatoes, sausage and sauerkraut. Borscht. Fried chicken. Pies and cookies. Since we spent every summer in Eastern Washington with her and my Grandpa Ruben, my brother and I would inevitably end up helping her in the kitchen making some pie. At home, my mom bequeathed some duties to me very early on. I specifically remember making scrambled eggs as a third grader and memorizing her chocolate chip cookie recipe. And my late Grandma Clarice was another fantastic cook, molded from the same roots as Grandma Pat. Clarice, though, refined her cooking through the years. She was a collector of knowledge and thrilled at learning new techniques and recipes. She had hundreds of cookbooks at the time of her death a few years ago.
My cooking style is a combination of all of them. I always try new recipes, but I’m also working on the basics every night. Knowing how to make a meal for less than $5 was what kept me healthy through the most lean years of my post-college life when I was living on $70 of groceries that needed to last me two weeks.
This is specific to 2020, but it has been nice to sleep in. I’ve always been a night owl, and 6 a.m. wake-ups are tough unless there’s a specific trip I’m excited for. If I’m just waking up on a random Tuesday for work, I will push the limits of my snooze until I’m forced out of bed by the necessity of getting downtown before I’m late. Working from home has enabled me to sleep in extremely late by pre-COVID standards. My commute is non-existent and I can wake up with a cup of coffee and breakfast while answering emails. Shouts to Elissa for being the realest and only giving me minor shit for my completely lazy ways.
I am fiercely proud to call myself an Oregonian. And throughout this pandemic I’ve been grateful to live in a place where I was still able to find a slice of forest to escape or a mountain to climb. I’m also proud of those who have called out Oregon’s extremely racist past in hopes of creating a more welcoming place. We can’t change it, but we can listen and learn and hopefully be better moving forward.
Buying a home
I wanted to end with what I teased at the top. I’m beyond grateful for the fact that we were financially able to buy a home in this epically crazy year. It’s not lost on me that we have been lucky to have stable jobs and generous family members that have helped us get to the point where it was feasible to purchase a house. When we finally got the keys and I wandered around, I couldn’t help but feel happy and content. It’s a privileged thing, yes. And I won’t ever take that for granted.
So there you have it, my definitely incomplete list of things I’m thankful for. Talk to you soon.