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When my parents asked me what I wanted for Christmas, I teasingly answered that I wanted the famous family sugar cookies, knowing full well they didn’t have time or space to take on that laborious process.  Lo and behold, we ended up receiving Christmas Cookie assortments from *four* different friends and none of the cookies were repeats!

This has been an excellent holiday season of seeing friends and sharing with family.  I talked to my parents on the phone this morning and they told me all about my grandpa’s status. Grandpa was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s a few years ago.  He doesn’t usually know what day it is, but he’s figured his way out of 4 different assisted living facilities.  Most recently, he figured out that hitting the door’s button a certain number of times triggered the emergency exit release.  On a separate occasion, the staff claimed he must have watched them enter their access codes and memorized the numbers because there was no other way for him to get out of the building.

I maintain my grandpa is brilliant and we just don’t understand where he’s coming from right now.  My favorite example from his Christmas Eve conversations:

My dad:  “You remember we moved, right?”

Grandpa: “Yeah, you moved to Oregon.”

Dad: “No, we moved to Oklahoma.”

Grandpa: “I think you’d be happier in Oregon.”

I don’t carry any sort of music player around with me, although I used to and sometimes really wish I had something to block out certain sounds and certain voices. But I also like eavesdropping, and it’s terribly easy to do in this day and age. All the conversations spinning around us – on cell phones, on the bus, on the sidewalk. Lately the conversations have been obsessed with the weather, and every year I have to laugh at this. We all know the seasons. We all know what to expect. Yet every year I hear people talking to each other (usually native to the area, mind you!) about how unseasonable the season is. For instance, it’s October. It’s getting cold. This surprises people. I start to wonder about our short-term and long-term memories, for while the body is shocked by the change in temperature, the mind remembers many winters and these same conversations will invariably bring up the winter of (insert year) when everyone went ice-fishing or the winter of (another year) when flowers popped up in December.

Does the short-term memory of the body override the long-term memory of the mind? I don’t think so. I think the conversations I hear about the weather are attempts by people to cover up the pleasure they feel in remembering / rediscovering the season. Even though I can’t remember where my gloves are, I am thrilled by the leaves on the ground, delighted that my breath turns frosty, pleased to see Orion in the early morning, and terribly excited to have butternut squash soup again.

I've remembered some other things that have stood out for us:

– in most of Oregon, the restaurants/bars have no smoking inside. Nada, nothing, no section.  So being asked "Smoking or Non?" every time we go out still throws us off on this, the one week marker from our arrival.  Champaign-Urbana is in the midst of considering a smoking ban for its restuarants, which has opened an unbelievable can of worms for people around here.  We heard a rumor that the abundance of outdoor seating in downtown Champaign is a direct result of the impending decision.   The outdoor seating is definitely appreciated, and the smoking debate is quite amusing.  

–  even though Illinois borders Wisconsin, the great state of cheese, any varieties outside of cheddar are, like, $15 to $20 a pound! Surely, we're looking in the wrong places.

– along those same lines, we're missing the selection of microbrew beers we had in Oregon.  Well, we're homesick all around.  

– Lori has noticed (and I concur) that none of the businesses here have toilet seat covers in the restrooms.  We could always count on those in Oregon restrooms, but haven't seen a one since east of Idaho.   The details, you know.

We're in a hotel room in St Louis right now visiting a good ol' Oregon friend so I'm distracted at the moment, but I'll be back!

First of all – our internet connection is going to be limited to cafe access for the next few days while we wait for our home connection to get up and running.  

Secondly – mm… where to begin.  There are so many impressions from the past few days here that I want to capture now, while we're still newbies and these differences are still noticeable to us.  I'll try to run through a quick list of Illinois qualities that only an Oregonian would think of as weird:

  • widespread easy-access recycling? uh, no.
  • you knew you'd have a sales tax now, but you might not have known that the tax would vary according to the type of item, the city you're in, and other details we're still learning about.
  • hope you like meat.  Lots of meat. Red meat.
  • everything Oregonians told you about the drastic weather only applies once every other week… in other words, it's actually been quite lovely here.
  • without mountains on the horizon, the setting sun has an additional two hours to be in your face while you're driving; but when you're not driving, this additional sun time is wonderful.  

So those are some beginning impressions of the land.  The apartment… well, there was a whole fiasco with that which I won't get into here.  Suffice it to say we are settled into it now and loving it TOO much.  It's just a sublet.  A sublet place shouldn't be so perfect.  It used to be a grocery store back in the day, and it's still a big, high-ceilinged open space with just slight changes in the floor to distinguish the living room area from the kitchen area from the bedroom area.  All open.  Only the bathroom has separate walls and a door.  I love it.  I love having the whole place connected and open like that.   

Speaking of sublets – this is the first sublet for both Lori and I.  I had very different expectations from what actually happened.  I expected that the tenant would pack up all his stuff, put it in storage somewhere and we would walk into a nice empty place.  But instead… most of his furniture is still in place, all his kitchen stuff is still out and he even left food in the fridge and freezer.  Is this how sublets normally work?  

The cafe visit is almost over.  More moving impressions to come.   

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