Thursday, December 28, 2006

Snowbound in Denver

The snow is at about 10 new inches now. That's on top of everything that didn't melt after last week's blizzard. My husband was scheduled to fly out today at 4:00. We dropped him off at 2:00 after being assured that the plane he was due to fly out on was in the air, on its way from Seattle. Apparently that plane made it to within 100 miles of Denver and was forced to turn back because it would have been flying through a dangerous ice storm as it went down through the clouds. So my husband ended up taking a cab home and is now in watching Star Trek reruns with the kids. Kind of one of those good news/bad news things.

It's incredibly beautiful here, though. At about 10:30 tonight I decided (since I am currently a Seattle gal who rarely sees snow) that I wanted to go out in it again, and we walked to the park right by my parents' house and threw snowballs at signs (and occasionally at each other.) My husband made a snow angel. I went running down the deserted street sliding on my shoes like they were skates. (And wheezing. Oh. My. Gosh. The altitude! I couldn't breathe after five minutes.) Then we walked around the neighborhood admiring the way Christmas lights shine through even when they're covered by snow.

I got home and whacked my shoes against the front steps, which brought back vague and distant memories of doing this over and over and over when I was younger. Different shoes, maybe. But definitely the same feet and same steps.

It's funny how, when you go home you remember things like this. Even the things you don't really consciously remember. My mom had a set of 1 1/2" painted wooden angels out on a countertop. Angels I haven't seen in at least thirty years, probably more. And suddenly with just one glance I could have told you that they belonged to my grandmother, and she used to put them up on her bookcase, and one was missing a wing.

It's odd being home. Life is full of these funny deja vu moments, and also of the moments when you remember things that aren't any more. That taco shack used to be a Tastee Freeze. And there used to be a gas station where those condos are. And that retirement home sits by a creek where we used to play, on land that used to be wild. When I was five my "boyfriend" caught a snake there and gave it to me. Tomboy that I was, I was happy about it.

We are really, really, really hoping to get home on Saturday. This will require that the second part of this storm heads to the east. So cross your fingers for us, and if I can't post before then, Happy New Year! (I am really ready for this month to be over!!)

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

I am Home

We all watched "Scrooge" on Christmas day. The 1970 Albert Finney musical. I once read a review of all the "Christmas Carol" movies which called this one "nobody's favorite version." I wanted to say, "Uh... 'Scuse me? It's mine." Because it is mine, and my entire family's.

So we watched it all the way through on my parents' VCR Christmas night and finished with the typical warm fuzzy feelings. (Seriously, when he ends with the line, "I'm going to go have dinner with my...family," I get teary-eyed.)

And then my dad hits Rewind, and suddenly we're all laughing hysterically as Scrooge snatches back the merry-go-round toy from Tiny Tim, then the dolls and cricket bats from his siblings, then the giant turkey from his parents, then the Christmas gifts from the nephew and the nephew's wife... And then Scrooge is sliding back up the banister, pulling the curtains closed and wrapping the bedsheet around his neck.

And my mother observies dryly, "I think Scooge is off his meds."

Giggle. Oh, right. So THIS is where my sense of humor comes from.

These are my people.

I am home.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

People I'm Thankful for This Christmas

I'm thankful for a lot of folks this Christmas, so I wanted to take a moment to list some of them here. I'm thankful for:

--My husband, who has spent hours and hours on the phone with the airlines because he knows how important it is for me to get home for Christmas.

--Sherry (sp?) and Rob at Alaska Airlines. I hope I don't get you in trouble by posting this, because I know that giving us personal help isn't strictly by the book. But you have no idea how much we appreciate your recognition of the fact that the mistake wasn't our fault and wasn't weather-relataed, and how much we also appreciate your going out of your way to try to fix it by letting us know about the new flights so we could get out before Christmas. You have no idea how much both of you have brightened our holidays!

--All of the folks working for the power companies who have worked round the clock since December 14 so almost everybody could have power and light and heat before Christmas. And a lot of you will be giving up your Christmas to keep at it. You are heroes. You are saints. We love you!

--And while we're at it, I'm thankful for everybody who doesn't celebrate Christmas and offers to take work shifts for those who do. I used to work with a guy who was Jewish, and he voluntarily worked every single Christmas and Easter. It's an example of respect I wish everybody of every religion would follow throughout the year.

--My brother and sisters in the blogosphere, who brighten my life by reading my blogs and writing yours. (And thanks to you, this blog has now reached number five on the melon énorme google list. I am so proud! Give yourselves a pat on the back!)

--My kids, who are just awesome. I am happy and proud to be your mom. (And both boys have gotten haircuts in the past two weeks. It's a Christmas miracle.)

And this really WILL be my last post before Christmas, so everybody have a wonderful one (or, again, whatever you celebrate.) Bless you all!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Laurie Has Fun With Google (And By the Way, This is My 100th Post!)

Okay, first my really, really, really good news! Just got off the phone with Alaska and we're flying out Christmas Eve morning!! We'll be there for the Christmas Eve service! And we were able to extend the trip till the 30th, so we'll get a solid six days in Denver! Woot! Woot! Woot!

But the original point of this post, which I'd already started before the phone call: since my flight was delayed four days, that has left me with four days with absolutely no plans. All this free time has meant that I have been spending far more time than I should doing things like Having Fun With Google.

This is two-part entertainment. First of all, I'm getting dozens and dozens of hits on this blog for "Stop the Cavalry." People from all over the world, although mostly from Washington state and the UK. Plus some more from a number of European countries. (Netherlands seems to be a biggie.)

What's really entertaining are the search phrases people use to get here. The most common are "Stop the Cavalry" and "The Cory Band." But people also frequently use snippets of lyrics, like, "I have had to fight almost every night." Or my favorite, which has been used by a number of people: Dub a dub a dum dum. I never really realized that that's what they were saying until I saw it written out, but apparently that's what sticks in some people's heads.

All of this fun has led me to run some google searches myself, or to click on the google link that Sitemeter says someone used to get here. Some fun facts:

--If I google "Stop the Cavalry" I come in at number 24
--"Stop the Cavalry Cory Band" I come in at number 10
--"Stop the Cavalry Listen"? Number 7
--"Stop the Cavalry Lyrics"? Number 6
--"Dub a Dub a Dum Dum"? Number 4
--And one person who googled the lyrics wrong, with maybe an extra "I" or something, sent me all the way to Number 1.

I am not sure what this means. But I am totally one of the go-to people for "Stop the Cavalry" this season. I am SO proud.

I've also been playing with googling my French soccer stuff. (I know that if you're an American your eyes are glazing over, but bear with me. It's humorous.)

It seems to take 2-3 days after I write something for it to crack the top twenty, but since nobody writes consistently about the French National Team in English but me and a few legitimate new sites, and NOBODY else puts humor and entertainment value into it, it usually happens.(Okay, maybe that's just my ego speaking, but I totally crack myself up on a regular basis.) My piece on young player Rio Antonio Mavuba from Dec.20 just broke into the top ten today, coming in at number 6. (Although who's to say how many hits it takes to crack the top twenty. I'm probably doing it myself by re-reading my own posts.)

It thrills me in a truly out-of-proportion way when I beat out sites like BBC Sports and Sky Sports and Fox Soccer. I have occasionally even beaten out the players' official websites. (But that's at Google.com. At the French site, Google.fr, it's an entirely different story.)

My most entertaining hit? The phrase "melon énorme," which is, as one might assume, a slang french term for big head or big ego. One of the France players used it anonymously to describe another player and it struck me funny. I've tossed it into a number of pieces since, and one of my sisters-in-blog at the site has also started using it. And now when you Google "melon énorme," the top eight hits our ours. I am SO proud. I have printed the Google list out and am thinking of having it framed. :-)

(Use caution if you Google that one, though. My sister-in-blog used it in a slightly salty, PG-13 phrase and that's showing up in one or two of the results. If you're offended by this kind of thing... Well, I just thought I'd warn you.)

And I've now made myself curious about whether or not this site will crack the "melon énorme" list.

I probably won't have a chance to post tomorrow, so everybody have a wonderful Christmas! (Or whatever you celebrate.) And remember: Dub a dub a dum dum!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Complexities of Love

I was at my daughter's choir concert when I felt the tap on my shoulder. I turned around and there she was, the young woman who could have been my fourth child. I had not seen her in over a year.

She looked the same: intelligent, heart-shaped face, dark hair, pierced lip, wary eyes. Managing somehow to look both guarded and vulnerable.

I got to know her just before my daughter's senior year, when my daughter came to us with a request. Her choir friend "Ellie" needed a place to live. Ellie's father had moved across the country to marry his high school sweetheart and now had a hard time with things like remembering birthdays. Her mother had descended from middle-class married life to divorce and chronic pain from an accident, and then into alcoholism and homelessness. Ellie had been living with another family, but they were asking her to leave, at least partially because the money her father had promised had never materialized.

How could we say no? Plans were set into motion. She would take over my sewing room. She would use Medicaid coupons. She would go with us on vacations. My husband and I struggled to figure out the ground rules for a child with whom we had laid no groundwork. She had been independent for so long. What limits could we and should we set?

The people she had lived with had not been family in any real sense. Her true family for the previous year had been self-created, an array of musicians and other kids from the teen centers where she spent her time. Not traditiional, but surprisingly supportive. Not something we could expect her to give up. But what about our kids? Our daughter and her friends were solid and well-grounded by that point, but what about our middle son? His life was at a turning point right then. The two of them liked the same music, had other things in common. How could we keep her from living the life she'd become accustomed to? And if we couldn't, how could we keep him from being drawn into the life she lived?

And then, as suddenly as it began, it was over. Ellie discovered that her mom could get into transitional housing, but only if a dependent child was living with her. She made the choice to go back. I think we all stepped back from that edge, that leap into instant family, with a similar mixture of relief and regret. She continued on with her independent life and adult responsibilities. We would give her occasional rides. She somehow managed to work close to full time and to do well enough in school to be accepted into two good colleges. Then she cobbled together enough financial aid to attend her first choice school.

She and my daughter and daughter's friends had a bit of a falling out that year, a lot of it to do with Ellie's life, and her difficulty in accepting others' boundaries. It's hard to understand sometimes that for some people, accepting boundaries can mean having no place to stay, no way to get home, or nothing to eat.

She seems to have done well that first year of college, enjoying her classes, finding a house to rent with two roommates, learning a lot.

And now here she was again, back from college for the holidays to work. Her mom was living in another town. We chatted for awhile. She asked if she could come see me. I slipped all of my spare cash into her pocket when I hugged her goodbye.

That was Tuesday. She stopped by last Friday, the first day of the power outage. There were no open restaurants where I could take her for lunch, so we went to Safeway and got cheese and crackers, then back to my house. And she had a request: Could she maybe stay with us for a bit of her college break, then pet-sit at our house while we were gone?

Again, how could we say no? She spent one night with us, during the power outage, spending the time chatting about her classes and playing board games with our youngest son. On Sunday she was heading off to visit her boyfriend in Oregon for two days, then she would come back to stay for a week. Plans were made, and we again struggled with ground rules. Drive our car when we were gone? (Yes.) Friends over? (No.) Ground rules that we would, of course, be unable to enforce if she chose not to accept them.

Then yesterday morning we got a call from Oregon. Her boyfriend, a 26-year-old musician, had been hospitalized with a manic episode. She would be staying until school started to take care of him. I wanted to say, "Ellie, be careful! Don't let your dreams be pulled out of your grasp!" But she is not my child. She is another woman's child. So we wished each other Merry Christmas, took down addresses and e-mail addresses and phone numbers, and promised that this time we'd keep in touch.

And once again we we all stepped back from that edge, that leap into instant family. Again with a mixture of relief and regret. And I find myself again wondering about my responsibilities, and reflecting on the complexities of love. Especially love unanchored by blood ties.

Please pray for Ellie, who doesn't believe in prayer.

Here's How Much I Hate Alaska Airlines

First, the good news: The power came back on last night at 9:00. I never thought I would actually enjoy doing laundry. (Clean socks! Clean underwear! O! Rapture!) And I just returned from a trip upstairs to turn up the heat. Again. Because I can.

And now the other news: In case you had not guessed, we are not currently on a flight to Denver. And due to a combination of bad weather and horrendous Alaska Airlines incompetence, it doesn't look like we will make it until (if we're lucky) Christmas day. Which means no get-together with my brother and his triplets on Christmas Eve, and no Christmas Eve service with my daughter singing in the choir of the church I grew up in. And only three days in Denver rather than the eight we'd planned on. I'm alternating between hysterical tears and exhausted resignation.

My mom called early this morning to tell us Denver was in the middle of a blizzard, and sure enough, when we checked online our flight was canceled. Along with every other flight today. My husband (who ONLY flies Alaska, to the tune of thousands and thousands of miles every year) called their "customer service" folks and was told that we couldn't rebook ourselves -- we needed to wait for a rebooking agent to call us. And so we waited and waited by the phone, not making outgoing calls and cutting off incoming calls, waiting for the rebooking call. Which never came, because, contrary to what we'd been told, there WERE NO REBOOKING AGENTS. And in the meantime, everybody who called in the four hours we were waiting was rebooked on a pre-Christmas flight. By the time I finally got nervous about not hearing from them and we called Alaska again, everything had been booked by people who had called after our original phone call.

My husband and I just spent forty-five minutes conferenced on the phone with an Alaska supervisor, who kept trying to tell us that because this was weather-related there was nothing they could (or were willing to) do. No recognition at all (at least for the first forty of those minutes) that this wasn't a weather thing at all. It was an incompetence thing. If we had dealt with somebody competent at 8:30 this morning, we'd be going out on the 23rd.

I have decided one thing: my husband makes a wonderful good cop. I actually, believe it or not, have a bit of a temper, which makes me the bad cop. Between the two of us, we finally got her to agree that we are going to call her directly every two hours or so to see if they're bringing in other planes. Until we get on a flight to Denver. (Her original plan was that Alaska would commit to nothing at all except for maybe booking us on a flight on the 25th. We convinced her that this was not the best option for any of us.)

I keep reminding myself that there are so many people who have it worse. And we could still be without power, like a lot of people in this area. And I have a wonderful family who will be with me, regardless. And I just talked to my parents, who are cheerfully saying that we'll do Christmas whenver we get here. (Even if we're only there for three days.)

I'm still fighting back tears over the fact that I won't get to experience Christmas Eve at home like I'd hoped. But I'll get over it.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Life On a Cold, Dark Hill

We have a new and fun pastime in my house: Watching our breath smoke indoors.

The temperature indoors hit 43 degrees yesterday. To put this in perspective, the optimum temperature for a refrigerator is 37 degrees. There are currently fewer bacteria growing on the food on my counters than on the food in my refrigerator.

We had kept the freezer pretty much closed till yesterday in the vain hope that power would be restored before the 72-hour window. I realized that this was futile yesterday when my youngest son said, "Mom, the dog is licking something off the bottom part of the outside of the freezer." It turned out to be a delightful stew of melted ice cream and meat juices that had dripped to the bottom of the freezer. Yum! Everything goes in the garbage today.

Last night was our fifth night without power. I think I finally saw power trucks at the bottom of the hill today, but I'm not sure. And there are just so many trees down it will still take ages. I'm a little hopeful, because they finally put up pylons and blocked off the street one block over where a sixty-foot tree is suspended over the pavement by the three electrical wires it didn't take down. That's a sign that they expect to have juice in those wires before too long, right? RIGHT?

It's very cold here, and raining again, and people are tired and starting to get surly. Our flashlights are all dying and there aren't any batteries to be had within a twenty-mile radius. (Which could soon make using the restroom a challenge.) Yesterday a woman I'd never seen before pounded on my door and demanded that we not run our generator all night because it was keeping them awake. Thing was, we'd just started running the generator the day before, and it was shut off well before midnight. So geez, lady, go pick on somebody else. You're just jealous. Because yes, we have a generator. Neener neener. (Oops. Wait. Who's getting surly now?)

We inherited the generator from my husband's parents when they sold their vacation cabin a few years back, but we'd never fired it up before Sunday. It always felt kind of like a huge effort. And like cheating. We were tough folk. Generators were for wienies.

Well, call me a wienie. I'm suddenly a big fan of this generator. Life becomes somewhat more bearable when you can power up one light, a TV and an itsy bitsy space heater. Granted, putting an itsy bitsy space heater in a large, drafty 43-degree house is a bit like going after an entire army battalion with a BB gun, but at least if I lie directly in front of it I can read with my fingers sticking out from the blanket to hold the book. Couldn't do that before. We've discovered that one gallon of gas can power the generator enough to run the following for 2 1/2 hours: a TV, one lamp, one small space heater, and the Christmas tree. What more do you need in life, truly? Yes, the Christmas tree may seem excessive and superfluous. But our neighbor last night told us to keep it going. He said it's "inspirational." And it's kind of a way to give the figurative finger to the forces of darkness that would take the joy out of this Christmas.

Ooops, sorry if that offended. I'm down to my last pair of clean undies. So I'm not feeling particularly delicate.

Tomorrow it's off to Denver, where we'll be bringing loads and loads of laundry to my mom's house. It will feel like I'm back in college. I asked her to make me vegetable soup. I am so ready to go home.

Everyone, have a Merry Christmas (or whatever you celebrate.) I'll try to slip in occasionally over the next week, but if not we'll chat as we get closer to New Year's!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

The Incredible Vastness of a Million

Last night we had to drive fifteen miles to find a place with power where we could eat. It was during that drive that I realized exactly what the phrase "a million customers without power" encompasses.

Bellevue, no power. Redmond, no power. Woodinville, no power. Bothell, no power. And when I say "no power," I'm not saying pockets of outages here and there. I mean no electricity. Anywhere. Miles and miles and miles of sheer, solid black.

In case you haven't been following the news for the Seattle area, we had a rather major windstorm Thursday night. The power at our house went out at ten, and the worst of the storm hit between midnight and two. It was so amazingly, frighteningly powerful that I couldn't sleep. All I could do was watch branches and debris fly through the dark streets. And listen.

With every huge gust, you would hear cracks of large tree branches breaking, followed by the smaller cracks of the larger branches falling through smaller ones on the way down, followed by a muffled thud as they hit the ground. Well, actually, it was the lucky ones who heard the muffled thud. Sometimes the final sound was a crash, which meant that the branches had connected with something a little more valuable. Like a car. Or a fence. Or a house.

At at about one-thirty, we got our crash. A neighbor's fifty-foot tree came down on our roof, directly over our bedroom.

We were lucky. It wasn't a huge tree -- maybe eighteen inches in diameter at the base. And the softest, branch-y top of the tree was the part that connected with our roof, and the branches seem to have caused it to bounce at the collision point. (At least that's what it sounded like, listening from right beneath the contact point.) There's no roof damage that we can see. (Cross your fingers. We have another rainstorm heading in tonight. Since all the roof inspectors are kind of occupied and the tree is sitting at the highest part of our house, we haven't been able to make a good inspection. The rainstorm is when we'll find out for sure if there really was damage.) I'll post pictures as soon as I get my computer back.

Right now, I'm sitting here in my husband's office, grabbing a few minutes of computer time and getting warm. Like most people on the Seattle Eastside, at our house we have no power and no heat. (And, sadly, no way to make coffee.) And we have the added bonus of still having a fifty-foot tree on top of our house. They did finally restore power to the main business section of our town today, which is only a couple of miles from our house. But they're still guessing it will be several more days of round-the-clock work before the houses have power again.

But half-a-dozen people were killed in this storm, most of them by falling trees, and a lot more have had their homes destroyed, so we're counting our blessings.

And last night was an incredible night for star-gazing.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Stop the Cavalry Lyrics (In Case You're Interested)

Just thought I'd post this picture, because I LOVE the Grinch. I have the entire show memorized. My youngest is still young enough to find this humorous. (We watched the show together last night, everybody else being out of town.) When I was in grad school I once did an entire marketing presentation that was a takeoff of the Grinch (the gist of it was that my group hadn't done as well as planned on a project because the Grinch stole it.) I think it got me a better grade than I actually deserved in that class.

But anyhoo. The Stop The Cavalry visits continue from around the world. I got a hit from S. Korea yesterday and Denmark today. I'm moving up the google list, too. Eleven yesterday, eight today. So how cool is that for somebody who has no expertise whatsoever?

I thought I'd post the lyrics today so anyone who wants to can figure out what they're saying. (It makes me laugh that they include the entire "Dub a dub a dum dum" chorus.) And then I'm done with Stop the Cavalry. (Click there for the listening link, again.)

Stop the Cavalry

Hey, Mr. Churchill comes on over here
to say we're doing splendidly
But it's very cold out here in the snow,
marching to win from the enemy
Oh I say it's tough,I have had enough
Can you stop the cavalry?
I have had to fight, almost every night
down throughout these centuries
That is when I say, oh yes yet again
Can you stop the cavalry?
Mary Bradley waits at home
in the nuclear fall-out zone
Wish I could be dancing now
in the arms of the girl I love

Chorus:
Dub a dub a dum dum
Dub a dub a dum
Dub a dum dum dub a dub
Dub a dub a dum
Dub a dub a dum dum
Dub a dub a dum
Dub a dum dum dub a dub
Dub a dub a dum
Wish I was at home for Christmas

Bang! That's another bomb on another town
While Luzar and Jim have tea
If I get home, live to tell the tale
I'll run for all presidencies
If I get elected I'll stop - I will stop the cavalry

Chorus

Wish I could be dancing now
in the arms of the girl I love
Mary Bradley waits at home
She has been waiting 2 years long
Wish I was at home for Christmas

Monday, December 11, 2006

Stop the Cavalry: Take a listen!!

In the past couple of weeks, I've had at least twenty people drop by this blog after doing a google search for "Stop the Cavalry." (Which is, in my opinion, bar none, the best Christmas song ever.)

But here's the funny part. They tend to come from two places: Either from England, or from Washington state.

I know I had never heard this song till I moved out here, but I thought that a song this cool would have spread around the country in twenty-two years. So has it, or hasn't it?

Everybody who lives elsewhere, have you heard of this song? Click here. Let's see if the audio I just listened to works. (To make it play, I had to click on the little pink "next" square on the right, then click on the "back" browser button. I'm sure there's a more efficient way, but I didn't find it. But the song will play from this site!)

If you've never heard it before, it this not just the coolest song ever?

Christmastime is not Christmastime without this song!!!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Ring Those Bells


There is something about playing handbells that is just...primal. Heart-deep. Soul-felt.

Your brain shuts off, your day-to-day existence is cast aside, and all you focus on are those two (or,if you include accidentals, occasionally three or four) notes. And your soul takes wing.

We had our annual Christmas concert tonight. Okay, yes, we could have done better. A lot better. The thing about handbells is that when you're only playing a couple of notes, you're very dependent on other people. You expect their notes to be there, to let you know when your notes are supposed to be there. And when they're not... Well, oops, my bad. My notes suddenly aren't there either. And the person who was relying on them... Well, you get the picture.

So we didn't sound so nearly as good as we could have tonight.

But here's the funny thing about bells. No matter how bad you are, most people won't hear it. Their eyes see the movement, the flash of light on brass. Their ears hear the music...

It becomes primal. Heart-deep. Soul-felt. And their souls take wing.

Friday, December 08, 2006

The Corporate Wife Does the Corporate Christmas Party


My husband changed jobs last year. He went from a company where he'd spent twenty years to another company when he was offered a great opportunity to manage a region. And I became The Boss's Wife.

Of course, I was the boss's wife before, but it was different, because he didn't start out as the boss, and a lot of folks knew him when he wasn't the boss, and the department was smaller, and there were more people closer to our age. (Which was, y'know, younger.) So company events felt more folksy and less obligatory-make-an-appearance kind of things.

No more. It's odd. Everybody's still very nice, but they're all So Incredibly Young! Almost all of them in the just-past-college or newly-married stage. So at corporate events I have to make small talk and act like a grown-up while they pretend they want to talk to somebody who's, like, old. It isn't horrible, but it feels like an I'm performing the improv role of Corporate Wife in a play. When what I'd really like to do is kick off my shoes and go to a sports bar and watch a football (or better yet, soccer) game. Or even better, stay home and read a good book.

But at least it's only once a year. Or actually twice. Last night was the company event, next week is the department one. At which point I think I'm home free for another year.

A whole year to practice acting mature and grown up.

I don't think it will help.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

My Favorite Christmas Decoration



This is my wonderful, exciting, color-changing, probably-mildly-tacky fiber optic Christmas Wreath.

I love this thing! And the funny thing is, every year I forget I have it. And then I go down to the garage and, wow, there it is! It's like getting a Christmas present three weeks early. Every year. (I am so easily entertained.)

It changes colors on a regular cycle, and goes through the entire spectrum, and goes from solid to blinking. I love to turn out all the lights, put on some Christmas music, and just watch it. It is cool. It makes me happy.

Now I want each of you to go out and buy one for yourself. (Or maybe Santa can find one for you in the half-off after-Christmas sales.)

Monday, December 04, 2006

Happy Birthday, Daughter, As You Enter Your Third Decade



It was your school Baccalaureate, two days before graduation, with an audience of maybe 600 people. You and your friend Jeff were singing the opening song, "The Prayer." I'd listened to you rehearse as you worked on it over and over to get it just right. And now the two of you were standing onstage, poised and composed, microphones in hand. The music began.

We watched and listened as you began to sing. I doubt that anyone else noticed your confusion, but I could tell that this wasn't right. The person running the sound system had keyed in the wrong track. Without notice you were singing in an entirely different key than the one you'd practiced in and competing with the voices of Charlotte Church and Josh Groban.

What to do? This was a serious and reverent service. You couldn't just stop and make them go back. I watched as you made up your mind, squared your shoulders and began to sing. Your voice soared over Charlotte's, and Jeff followed your lead. And it was beautiful. Probably 95% of the people there didn't realize that anything had gone wrong. You finished with poise and a smile, then made it all the way back to your seat before bursting into tears.

I have never been more proud of you. That incident is you, Sarah. Your ability to triumph over adversity, shine through your troubles, and smile in the most difficult of circumstances... Well, that is my daughter.

I can't believe that you're turning twenty. Your father and I disagree about whether it was 6:08 or 6:09, but we agree that it was an early morning after a very long night. And the first thing I thought, and said, after you were born was, "Oh, what a beautiful baby." And you were. And are.

Have I mentioned recently how glad I am that you're going to UW, where you can stop by home on a semi-regular basis? (Decorating for Christmas just wouldn't be the same without you.)

I love you, Sarah-Kate. My lovely firstborn. Happy birthday!! Posted by Picasa

(S)He's Ba-a-a-a-a-ck!

Back again! To my humble blog! The Play Strip Soccer guy (or, let's be fair, possibly gal) from France!

Oh, Play Strip Soccer Guy/Gal, how I have missed you! It's been months since your last visit!

Granted, my blog has nothing about, y'know, actually playing strip soccer. (And I'm starting to feel a bit guilty about that.) And following the route of your search, neither does any other website. Yet still you persevere! I SO respect that.

Should you return (and I really, really hope you do!)... Well, please stay awhile. Introduce yourself.

And explain to me how the heck one plays Strip Soccer.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Warped and Twisted and More than a Week Late


Sorry about this. I just couldn't wait a full year to post this picture! Giggle.

Our snow is officially over and done with. Two days of school cancelled, and a late start on the third day. (And even with that my mom-van did not want to travel up the hill Thursday morning.)

My youngest son and two of his friends made $80 shoveling driveways (partly because nobody here has a snow shovel.) This is the Gift Wrap Kid -- once he sets his mind on something, he just keeps on going. My little Energizer Bunny.

We're off to another Chess Tournament tomorrow. We're not taking the full team because I don't like to obligate people to events in December -- it's always so crazy anyway. But I think we'll have about ten kids there. This tournament has a U800 section (for more beginner kids) and an Open section for more advanced kids like my son. These kinds of tournaments are always great fun for my beginners, because they have a much better shot at qualifying for State and even getting a trophy. The Open section can be brutal, though. I'm trying not to think about it because I'll get a stomach ache.

Happy December, everybody. Twenty-four days till Christmas. (AAAAAGGGGHHH!) I need to finish the quilt currently on my machine so I can finish the Christmas Seattle Streets quilt I want to give to my parents. Which means I need to have it Done-Done before December 20. Guess I should probably get on it.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Stop the Cavalry


If you are one of the folks who have accessed my site searching for the "Stop the Cavalry" CD by The Cory Band, last I checked it was available from Silver Platters.

You're welcome! Enjoy it as much as I do!

And Merry Christmas!!!

If you want to listen to it, click here. Or here.
If you want the words, click here.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Snow and Christmas Spirit


The funny thing about Seattle weather in winter is that we sometimes get snow. And we sometimes get freezing temperatures. But we rarely get the two at the same time. Two or three times a year, the temperature will drop below freezing for a few days at a time. These days tend to be really clear and really dry and really cold. (Well, mid-twenties. Cold for Seattle. Keep in mind that I tend to lose my winter coat from year to year because I never wear it.)

On the rare occasions when it snows (usually once a year, sometimes twice) the temperature will hover around 34-35 degrees. Then it will warm up and the snow will turn to rain, causing the snow on the ground to turn to slushy mush, which is usually gone within a day.

And then we have weeks like this week. Snow AND freezing temperatures. I think this has happened maybe half-a-dozen times since I moved here 22 years ago. Last night we got 3-4" of snow, and then the clouds cleared. This morning the temperature is in the low twenties and not expected to move above freezing. Everything is shut down. The schools are closed. I just canceled my dentist appointment. Only my husband's car has the four-wheel-drive necessary to get off the hill.

Being a Colorado girl, I used to find it humorous that the world here just stops when it snows. Not so much any more. It's better this way. We have a LOT of hills, and nobody has snow tires, and people tend to panic with the first snowflake. It's better that we all stay home, enjoy our hot chocolate, and watch the kiddies make snowmen and throw snowballs at the side of the house.

And as I sit here looking at the snow, I think I feel the beginnings of a Christmas spirit. "God bless us, every one!" and "Bah! Humbug!" are cheerfully making peace inside my heart.

Let's hear it for snow!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

A Somewhat Odd Request

First, the Foreword to my request:

Many years ago (probably ten or twelve,) I was volunteering in the women's prison in our state and met a delightful, beautiful young woman who was just on fire with a desire to move forward in her life.

"When I get out," she said, "I want to be a youth minister."

What I said was, "That's wonderful." What I was thinking was, "But who would hire you?"

This got me thinking about how we screw up our lives, and how we redeem ourselves, and how the whole forgiveness thing plays out for real people in real churches. And the seeds of a novel were planted.

That novel is now 95% done. And has been for probably two years. For any of you who write (and by "write" I mean "feel compelled to put words on paper because you are completely incapable of not doing it,") you know that being 95% done with something you are writing is a bit like being 95% done with childbirth. Your life cannot proceed in the way it otherwise would because there is this thing that is unfinished.

I am ready to be done birthing this baby. What I need is a reason to finish it. That's where I hope some readers of this blog will come in.

What I am looking for are a few people who are willing to commit to reading what I've written and then giving me your guts on the matter. Keeping in mind that what you may have to tell me is "This is total crap." (And I will be okay with that. Honestly.) It's not hugely long -- it will probably top out at 100,000 words, approximately the length of the average romance novel. (Which it is decidedly NOT!) I'm hoping to send out a chapter or two every few days until it's done.

And yes, this book is Christian at its core, but not angry or political Christian. What I'm most interested in is how faith can heal the broken parts of ourselves, and how those formerly broken parts can be used for good later in our lives.

I truly don't care how this ends up -- whether it winds up published or just sitting on a shelf waiting for a grandchild to read it someday. What I need is just to get it finished.

And if you're a lurker who would like to read it, now's the time to introduce yourself. I'm not willing to turn my baby over to just anybody. :-) For everybody else who has some time on your hands, drop me a note if you're interested. My e-mail address is in my profile -- click on "e-mail."

And thank you in advance.

Great Daughters and Twisted Tunes

I have a pretty great family in general, but I especially have a great daughter.

She read my Bah! Humbug! Christmas post from awhile back, and to make it all better she came home from college with a box of hot chocolate (sugar free, since I try to stay away from sugar, except when I don't) and a special mix CD of personally-chosen Christmas songs.

She nabbed all my favorites, including "Christmas Eve in Sarajevo" by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. And the Bob and Doug McKenzie version of "The Twelve Days of Christmas." ("Three French Toasts/Two Turtlenecks/And A Beer.")

Also "Stop the Cavalry," a WWII song by the Corey Band. (Best line: "Mary Bradley waits at home/In the nuclear fallout zone/Wish I could be dancing now/In the arms of the girl I love." All set to an oompah polka beat. If you haven't heard it, you're thinking I'm insane. If you have, admit it. You love it too! When I first moved out here, my roommate and I used to listen to this song on the radio and dance to it around our old apartment. This song feels like freedom to me. When we finally found it on CD fifteen years later, I was in tears.)

And then, of course, there's "The St. Stephens Day Murders," a really very funny Elvis Costello/Chieftains song about doing away with the relatives who drive you crazy over the holidays.

I am SO warped.

But we had a very fun Thanksgiving. We went down to Portland for the first Thanksgiving without my husband's dad. It was bittersweet, especially eating his favorite pumpkin pie without him. We used to make him his very own pie, and mark it with his name. The ritual became more important as Alzheimers took hold, when there wasn't much else we could do for him that he could understand. This year we ate the pumpkin pie in his honor. But it was good to be together.

And the pies my daughter and I made with our recipe while listening to my new Christmas mix CD and then baked while watching Charlie Brown's Christmas?

The best ever!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Turkey Day!

HAPPY THANKSGIVING, EVERYBODY!

Wishing everybody many, many things to be thankful for!

I'm thankful for my family, not so thankful for rotten weather.

We'll chat again on Sunday!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Little Happy Tidbits (and the Best Apple Pie Recipe Ever!!)

Just a few things that are making me happy today:

1. Sitemeter is back up. Yea! (I know the problem wasn't just me, because while it was down two people accessed my site by doing a Blogger Search for the word "Sitemeter." And I know about this because of... Sitemeter. There is both humor and irony here.)

2. My personal site on French soccer (which, honestly, nobody visits -- I do it mostly for personal fun and to work out kinks in stuff for my WorldCupBlog page) got a hit from Houses of Parliament in London. Why does that make me feel just incredibly important and special?

3. My daughter's coming home from college to make apple pies with me tomorrow night. :-) That's always so much more fun than doing it myself!

And since you're still with me, here's the

Absolute Best Apple Pie Recipe Ever

Crust for two two-crust pies
8-10 medium-to-large Granny Smith Apples
1/4 c. flour
3/4 c. sugar
cinnamon to taste (uh...till it looks cinnamon-y? Probably more than a tsp.)
2 c. apple cider

-Preheat oven to 375.
-In small saucepan, boil apple cider until it reduces down to 1/4 c. Cider will be syrupy. Careful. It will go from "this will never boil down" to burned VERY quickly!
-while cider is boiling, peel and core apples and slice into 1/4" pieces.
-add flour, sugar and cinnamon to sliced apples
-add the 1/4c. reduced cider to apple mixture and stir

Divide apple mixture in half. Pour each half into one pie shell. Add top crust to each pie. Poke holes in top crust to vent. (Optional: Sprinkle cinnamon-sugar on top of pie crust.)

Cover rims of crusts with either a pie protector or aluminum foil. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove crust protection, reduce heat to 325 and bake an additional 25-30 minutes.

Enjoy!

Monday, November 20, 2006

SiteMeter is Making Me an Unhappy Camper

The thing about addictions is, you don't realize you're addicted until you're forced to give something up.

I am 'fessing up here. I am addicted to SiteMeter. Which is currently not working for me. (Is it just me, or is it down for anybody else? I'll type in my name and password, and it just teases me by reloading the login screen.)

So what is SiteMeter? It's the free Blog add-on that allows you to count your visitors. And more. It also tells you what ISP people use, where they're from (city where the server is located only, if I'm not mistaken,) how long they stay on your site, and how many pages they visit. And if you got here via that wondersite Google, it gives me your search string. ("Play Strip Soccer" and "Aurora Avenue Prostitution" are STILL my favorites.) And I have become totally hooked on reading this information.

For the most part, I don't know who you are, but SiteMeter tells me you're a friend. Especially if you stop by regularly enough for me to see your location more than once or twice.

And if the stupid program never goes back up... Well, I guess I can adapt. But it will take a teensy bit of the spark out of my blogging life.

*Sigh.* As if this week weren't already gray enough.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

That Bittersweet Passage of Time Thing

 
We were nearly home when my heart caught on to what my brain had been telling it: that I would never be doing this again.

My oldest son, a high school senior, would never be playing another game for the soccer team he's been a part of every fall for the past eight years. This was my last time standing on the icy-cold sidelines with these parents -- people who have spent time over the past eight years nurturing and cheering my child, even as I cheered and nurtured theirs. My last time with this group of former children whom I have watched grow into wonderful young adults.

It was the last time watching my son on the field, running with those impossible bursts of speed, his feet barely skimming the turf, the ball flying in front of him.

It was my last time watching him laugh on the sidelines with his coach, a man who has played a bigger role in his life than probably any non-family member he's known. When my son would occasionally slip sideways in his choices, the way most kids do every once in awhile, this was the guy we could count on to have our backs, to be there when otherwise we might be alone. This was the person our son would actually listen to.

I drove the last few minutes home with blurry eyes and a lump in my throat.

If you've never had a child on a sports team long-term, you're probably thinking I should get a life, a life outside my children. (And...well...got one, thanks.) :-) But if your child has been here, you know what I'm talking about. Week after week, year after year, these people become a part of your life. The camaraderie, the spirit, the adrenaline... Practices in ninety-five degree heat in summer, games where your feet leave tracks in the frost in fall. It becomes the rhythm of your autumn. The rhythm of your life. And then it ends.

Yes, my younger son is still playing soccer, but that's his team, with its own rhythm. Equally special. Not a replacement.

Coach, if you're reading this... (And I know you are because I'm sending you the link after I hit "publish post"...) Well, I've said it before, and it's still not enough. Thank you, for everything. Just...well...thank you.

P.S. If you hate the photo, I'll take it down. I probably should have warned both of you that it was going to be blogged. But then I would have missed your faces.

(And tell my son to get a haircut.) Posted by Picasa

Saturday, November 18, 2006

The Dark Days of Christmas

One of our radio stations has started playing all Christmas music, all the time.

Oy.

I used to love Christmas. Everything about Christmas. I'd start listening to Christmas music at the beginning of November. We'd do two Christmas trees. In the same room. One a Noble (MY preference, to show off the ornaments,) and the other a... well, whatever that other kind of tree is. (My husband says: A real Christmas tree.) But now, as much as I hate to say it, the thought of Christmas just mostly makes me tired.

I'm not sure what happened. I think the dark just got to me.

We live pretty far north, and it's cloudy a lot this time of year. A bad combo. On December 21, the sun rises at 7:55 and sets at 4:20. And most of those hours in between will probably be cloudy. It doesn't exactly make me feel like running around shopping and wrapping and decorating. Plus that whole shopping thing. With everything you hear around you in the media making the holiday about buying stuff... Just kind of makes me want to pull a blanket over my head till January 2.

The change for me was probably pretty gradual, but if I had to put a date to it, I guess it would be around 2001 -- the Christmas after Sept. 11. A confused and hurting Christmas for a lot of us, I think. It's easy to forget what that year was like, but the memory that sticks in my mind is driving around and listening to "Christmas Eve in Sarajevo" over and over and over. It would play through once and I'd stab the "Back" button. Over. And over. And over. It was a driven, angry, frightened song that match my mood. Christmas has never quite felt the same since.

But this year I'm holding onto a secret weapon. I'm going home for Christmas. Back for a Denver Christmas for the first time in years. (I think it will be my eleven-year-old's first Denver Christmas ever.) We're pretty involved with our own church, and with kids in the teen years it's hard to get away this time of year. But this year we are.

So I'll be spending Christmas in the house I grew up in, going to the Christmas Eve service at the church I grew up in. My daughter's been given permission to sing in their choir with only one rehearsal (she's sung in choirs pretty much all her life, so it's not a big challenge for her,) so on Christmas Eve she'll be singing two services, and in between going and hanging out in one of the Sunday School rooms (I'll bet I could tell you which one!) with all the older folks in the choir and eating finger sandwiches and cookies like I used to. What the heck, I haven't sung in years, but I might even join her.

And maybe in the meantime I'll even occasionally turn the dial to that all-Christmas station.

And hope they play "Christmas Eve in Sarajevo."

Friday, November 17, 2006

The Art of the Eulogy

My husband and I hadn't been married for all that long when I discovered something unexpected about him.

We had only one car at the time (an ancient Toyota approximately the color of tobacco spit) and I needed it during the day. He was teaching a class in downtown Seattle, so I drove down to pick him up. I got there a few minutes before the class ended and slipped into the back of the medium-sized lecture hall. As I listened, I discovered what I had never suspected: that my husband is an incredibly good public speaker.

He's eloquent, personal, funny, and able to weave multiple strands of a story or lecture together without getting lost. (Or worse, getting boring.) He generally uses only the most cursory notes. The thought of writing everything down in advance is as foreign to him as Swahili.

I'm the opposite. When I was in graduate school, I realized that I do kind of enjoy the adrenaline rush of public speaking. But I am a written thinker. Written words are my security blanket. My thoughts never make it past the embryonic stage until they have traveled from my brain and into my fingers and then onto a page or computer screen. I can read with feeling, with personality, with eye contact, but that's what it has to be: read. I'm okay with what I present, but I've always envied his ease and eloquence.

The memorial service last Saturday made me think of this difference. My husband, his sister, and our oldest niece all spoke. Each of them had a very different approach and style. My husband, with his free-wheeling, 90% ad lib style, talking about the close relationships his father had and making everybody laugh with stories of his dad taking vacation-cabin guests out at night to go hunting for jackalope. And my sister-in-law, who also has my write-it-down style, talking eloquently about the knight in shining armor who was always there for her during her single parent years. And our niece, with a hybrid written/ad lib style, discussing being Fred's grandchild and bringing everybody to tears talking about her father and grandfather finally being together again...

One picture with three very necessary pieces, each of them eloquent and moving and supplying important parts of the puzzle. There were a few people in the packed church who did not know my father-in-law before the service. They did afterwards.

It's made me reflect on people's gifts, and how we don't always acknowledge them because they're not what we think they should be. If either of these three had decided that their style was not the "right" one, we all would have missed out on thoughts and emotions and memories that everyone there benefited from hearing about.

I guess the lesson is, embrace your own gifts.

The next day my husband and I were driving to his mom's church together. I complimented him on what he had said the previous day.

"What did you take away from it?" he asked.

"Um...that he was a great dad, and that you were close..."

"But did you get out of it that he was a good person? That was the only thing I really wanted to get across."

A good person? Yes. Absolutely. I did.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

My Last Soccer Post (At Least for Awhile)


I know you're all getting incredibly bored with my soccer page stuff. This will be the last for awhile. I promise. But I made it through the first actual game without humiliating myself. (I think.) It's silly, but I feel that same exhausted relief I used to feel in college at the end of my last final for the semester.

The Footy gods came through for me and I got to see the game. (Yea, Footy gods and their Chinese Footy Pirates!) And my team totally dominated. And, unlike the France-Scotland game, they actually won in the process.

And I discovered that I knew a whole lot more than I thought I did. Not just basic stuff like what positions everybody played, but which players would sub in for the starters, and which Clubs they play for when they're not on the National team, and how they're doing for those Clubs... It was like cramming and cramming and cramming for a final and realizing to your amazement that it worked and you have the knowledge you need. Or most of it. I'd give myself a solid B.

And all this is much ado about nothing, because it's BLOGGING, for heaven's sake, and has no relation to reality. But do you want to see something that I find frightening yet kind of cool? Go to google and type in the words France, Greece, and Anelka. (The names of the teams and the player in the photo.) When I did this in Google, two of the top three hits were mine. I've been bloggin on this page for just three weeks.

(I guess it pays to have interests in obscure things that nobody else cares about.)

Okay, one last time: Allez Les Bleus!

Now it's back to reality. (Thanks for being patient.)

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Back to Reality With a Mild Case of Burnout

I'm back in Reality. We survived what was really a very nice (yet exhausting) weekend. I don't have the energy to blog about it yet -- maybe tomorrow. I will say I felt all of your prayers on the drives up and down. The weather was absolutely miserable -- downpours and wind the whole way -- but we hit no traffic and no standing water, which is really quite miraculous.

My beloved Bleus play a friendly against Greece tomorrow, so I've been busily spending my spare time researching the updated conditions on all of their many injured players. After tomorrow I'll be back in the blogging saddle, reading your blogs and telling you way too much about my life in mine. :-)

In the meantime, here's a post I wrote for my France Page today:

*************
An American Fan Bows Down to the Footy Pirate gods

Today is the day when I will be bowing down in front of the Footy Pirate altar, getting ready to ritually sacrifice a soccer ball and a pair of shinguards in hopes that the Footy Pirate gods will smile on me tomorrow and allow me to watch the France-Greece game. (Okay, so technically the shinguards are no big sacrifice, because it's the end of the soccer season and they smell funny. But I'm hoping it's the thought that counts.)

As an American fan of an obscure (in the US) sports team, I love the Footy Pirates. (But please note that I am not necessarily recommending that you use them. Each time I visit their site my spyware detection program requires the Heimlich maneuver. Plus I'm thinking that the site is, like, kind of pretty much illegal. But desperate times, desperate measures, etc.)

The footy pirates usually come through for me. Sometimes they even give me a bonus, like the time they didn't close out the France channel and I padded down to my computer at six the next morning and found myself watching Law & Order, dubbed in French. (I have no idea why this thrilled me so much.)

Sometimes, though, the Footy Pirates let me down. When I tried to watch the Dynamo Kiev-Lyon Champions League game a couple of weeks ago, I got the following message: "Sorry, but this video is not available from your country."

Uh... 'Scuse me? But you're a TOTALLY illicit site. How can it be MORE illicit to show it in my country than others?

*Sigh*

Which is why we're trying the ritual sacrifices. Because if they don't work, I will be reduced to following this game on two or three liveblogs, and liveblogs can tell you only so much. Especially for this game, where all of the former World and European champions will be returning. Liveblogs are good at recording scores and penalties and basic factual stuff. But they can't tell you much about the flow of the game, or how the players play together, or whether or not Bixente Lizarazu is still he-followed-me-home-can-I-keep-him adorable. (Shhh. Don't tell my husband I said that.)

So tomorrow, oh blessed gods of Live Footy, please smile on me and my team.

And you can keep the shinguards.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Memories and Memorials

We're heading down tomorrow for my FIL's memorial service. Relatives are coming in from as far away as Chicago and Connecticut. It will be pleasant to see everyone, but difficult as we deal with the reason we're together.

If you are praying folk, keep the entire family in your prayers, as this promises to be an emotion-filled weekend. Also pray for our weather. I'm a bit worried about the roads as we've had quite a bit of rain and flooding lately. (Six inches in 72 hours.) Fortunately we only had an hour or two of downpour today, so with luck things will be drying out. But the area in the middle of the drive is prone to flooding over the highway, so we're hoping and praying that everything is passable.

We'll chat soon.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Wild World of International Soccer Blogging

This post is about...
[giggle]
...hold on, I can say this with a straight face...
[snicker]
...honestly, give me just a second...
[chortle, chuckle, guffaw]

Oh, I give up. Go ahead and laugh with me as I discuss my endeavors as an International Soccer Blogger. [teeheeheeheehee]

For those who've followed my blog for a couple of weeks, you'll know that I took over the France team page at World Cup Blog a little while ago despite having absolutely no real knowledge or skills in this area. Today marked my eleventh post.

Three things I've learned
1. I still have no clue what I'm doing
2. Anything that combines writing and soccer is actually pretty fun, and
3. Blogging on an official site makes people think you're credible. (My daughter's words: "Wow, Mom. That is SO cool!")

(I do have to say that I have no idea how big this site is now that World Cup is over. But regardless, it LOOKS official. And it's still fun.)

One thing I have discovered is that when you lack knowledge, you can mostly cover up for it with research. I'm becoming a pro at google searches. The fun part is figuring out which words to combine to make the articles you're interested in rise to the top of the search. Searching for one player by name can give me years and years worth of irrelevant info (and lots of oh-my-gosh-boring, totally-guy-friendly statistical pages), but combining two players who play together currently in the same search will give me something more recent and interesting. My favorite search to date: While trying to find info on Nicolas Anelka's personality conflicts, I hit gold with "Anelka" and "The Incredible Sulk" (his nickname.)

I'm also in the process of figuring out google searches in French. "Coupet injury" gave me pretty much nothing, but the same thing in French, "Coupet blessure" gave me all kinds of interesting details. And Wikipedia, both the English and French versions, is a treasure trove. (And I think it's mostly trustworthy. Right?)

And YouTube? The greatest invention in the history of the universe. Bar none.

It hasn't been totally painless. My best mistake to date: Forgetting to minimize a picture to thumbnail size, and then not realizing that the (full-sized!!) photo would appear not just on my France page but on the main World Cup Blog page. I discovered my mistake at 11:00 on a Friday night. Fortunately the editor checks e-mail on weekends, but it was still up on the site for more than eight hours. It could have been worse, though. I mean, if you're going to make people look at a near-life-size photo, at least make it a picture of keeper Gregory Coupet, who is quite easy on the eyes.

Of course, the real test will come next Wednesday, when my team plays an actual game and I have to actually discuss how they actually played. (I am counting on soccer writers with more skills and knowledge than I possess to blaze the trail. But I'll probably do okay at summing up what they have to say.)

And so there you have my summation of my first couple of weeks as an [oh, wait, hold on, I feel another giggle fit coming on] International Soccer Blogger. Be sure to stop by the site and say hi.

Weird thing about me, part 3

So the original post going around said five weird things. I've done two. So isn't it time for #3?

The third weird thing about me is that I really can't watch television.

I have to say can't, because if I say "don't" it sounds like a holier-than-thou, looking-down-my-nose kind of thing. It's not. I don't care if anyone else watches TV, including my kids. And it doesn't have to do with an aversion to the waste of time, because I have no problem sitting on the computer for an hour, or reading, or doing a Sudoku. Sure, I have problems with some TV content (when it's dumb stuff), but I also see TV reviews sometimes and think, "Well, that looks kind of interesting." And then I don't watch it.

If I had to come up with a reason, I suppose it's because I'm a middle child. And middle children tend to have problems doing things just because somebody tells them they ought to. When you think about it, isn't television kind of the ultimate "Do this now because I say so" instrument? As in, "You will be sitting here in front of me from 7:59 p.m. until 8:29 p.m." Sitting in one place on someone else's schedule makes me edgy. (You don't want me in a meeting you're chairing, especially when people meander off-topic.) And this would still be true even if I taped it with one of those commercial-deleting things. Or TiVo, or whatever other handy gadgets other people have.

There are a couple of exceptions. I can watch football and baseball, sometimes, especially when my team is on offense or at bat. (Interestingly, it's easy for me to watch sports in real life, at the stadium.) I can watch "Lost," a season late, when it comes out on video and I can get through an episode in 42 minutes. (I'm still a season behind the rest of my family.) I can watch soccer, particularly when I don't really care about the outcome. (If I really care, like when France was playing in World Cup, I tend to be up and down a lot. I was in the shower for Thierry Henry's goal against Brazil, which I still regret.) I can usually sit through an episode of Simpsons when my kids are watching. Sometimes I can make it through movies on DVD (or even in the theater,) also if the rest of the family wants to watch it. But mostly I just tend to forget we own a TV.

I'll miss it, every once in awhile, especially when the rest of my family watches something together (which in our family doesn't happen all that often. The rest of my family members aren't really hooked on TV either. We only have one TV in the house.) And sometimes I'll feel a little excluded when I've missed something iconic that the rest of the world is talking about. But when that happens... Well, these days, I can probably find a replay on YouTube.

So I guess this is one of the ways I'm a bit weird. But just think of all the campaign ads I've missed in the past couple of months! (Aren't you jealous?)

Monday, November 06, 2006

Dot's Seattle Streets Quilt

If Google sent you here when you came looking for directions to the Seattle Streets Quilt? You actually want my "pictorial tutorial" page. Go here and have fun.



Quilter's Blog rule #35 or so:

When you have been doing absolutely no quilting of your own, post a picture of somebody else's quilt.

This is a Seattle Streets wallhanging from Dot in England. The first international picture I've received! I love the zing the bright orange-red fabric adds to the quilt!

(The pattern for the Seattle Streets quilt is available for free from UFO-rphanage for Quilters.)

My Seattle Sunset quilt (in sunset colors)
My Seattle Streets Christmas Quilt
Quilt Pink Seattle Streets Quilt
Christina's Seattle Streets Quilt in Brights

Sunday, November 05, 2006

More Fun With Google

This one doesn't quite replace "Play Strip Soccer" as the best search string ever to lead somebody to my blog. But it's close. Yesterday's search string? "Aurora Avenue Prostitution." And the funniest thing is that Google didn't take this person to the post where I actually mentioned prostitution on Aurora. Instead it led to my main page, where my new reader could read about me running out of gas and merely wonder about my Secret Life.

All right. End of story. But since we're all now mentally on Aurora already, we might as well continue the trip so I can tell one of my favorite stories from that era.

Again, journey back to 1984. I'd been here in town for about a week. I was staying in one cheap Aurora motel and found another that was even cheaper, rented by the week, and had a kitchenette so I wouldn't need to live on fast food. (And also had, I would later discover, cockroaches. But that's not relevant to this story.)

The problem was getting there with all my stuff -- two suitcases and a bicycle that I didn't have the tools to put back together after having it shipped in a box on the plane. And of course I had no car. The two motels weren't far apart -- only about two blocks -- but it was across a six-lane highway with a three-foot concrete divider in the middle. So to get the two blocks south, I first had to walk three blocks north to a stoplight, cross the street, then walk the five blocks south. And since my suitcases were big and bulky (remember what old suitcases used to look like before they had pull-up handles and wheels?), that meant three different trips.

I got the bicycle and one suitcase there with no problems and was starting my third trek north when a limo pulled up beside me. Yes, a limo. The driver rolled down his window and said, "Can I give you a ride?"

Of course, even naive Colorado cowgirls know not to accept rides from strangers, even when they're driving limos, so I politely said, "No, thank you."

"Please," he said. "I really want to give you a ride. I've been watching you from the coffee shop across the street, and there's a guy in a pickup truck who's been following you."

Okay. That changes things a bit. Mental calculation. This man could still be an ax murderer. Or he could be a hero trying to save me from an ax murderer. Hmm. He looked innocent enough. There was nobody else in the car. The door handles all seemed to be in working order... I hefted my suitcase into the back seat and got into the limo.

He pulled away from the curb. I was as far from the driver's seat as I could get in the car, watching his face in the rear-view mirror. "So," he said conversationally, "are you originally from Colorado?"

My heart dropped into my shoes. I scooted to the door and put my hand on the handle. How could he have known this? Had he been at the airport? I'd been here a week! Had he been stalking me the whole time? Maybe this was how the Green River Killer operated! Out of a limo!! "H-how did you know that?" I stammered.

"Uh... Your Colorado State University sweatshirt."

Oh. Right.

Turns out he'd spent a few years in Boulder, home of that other university. He'd moved to Seattle a few years previously and started a limo service. We had a nice chat. He dropped me off at the new motel and gave me his card. I tried to call him a year or so later to offer belated thanks, but the business was no longer in operation. And life went on.

Until twenty or so years later, when the Green River Killer was finally captured, and we learned that in 1984 he drove a pickup truck...

Saturday, November 04, 2006

We Have Survived Chess Tournament #1



Posting these is probably in violation of all kinds of district policies, but I don't care. (Stalkers, shoo!) Aren't my kids adorable?

I was very happy that we picked up two fourth-place trophies today, both in 1-3 and in 4-6. Particularly after all the kids we lost from last year. We survived all of the drama and trauma that go with a chess tournament and ended up with four individual trophies and two team trophies. Plus we qualified fully half of our players (8 of 16) for the State tournament in April. My son won 4 of 5 for third place, winning all he should have won and losing only to a nationally ranked player rated 600 points higher than he was. (1150 vs. 1735. A BIG difference.) I think everybody had fun.

The major traumas of the day occurred when my current players played my former players who are now at different schools. You have to root for both, yet at the same time you kind of hope the current players win out. I think we took about 2/3 of those games, which is a good percentage.

And my kinders did not disappoint -- entertainment from start to finish. (One game finished with only one king on the board, with both players trying to convince me that they'd won. Eventually they decided it was a draw.)

So we have survived the first tournament. Only five or six more to go! (We CAN do this.)

Friday, November 03, 2006

Good Samaritans are Alive and Well Here in the Seattle Area

Okay, fess up. How many times in your life have you run out of gas?

For me, up till Wednesday, I could truthfully say none. Zero. Zip. Nada.

I have now sullied my perfect record.

Okay, so, yeah, maybe the gas light was on for, like, three days. My car gives me some leeway. And I'd only been taking little bitty one- or two-mile trips around town, and that can't use much gas, right?

But I finally started making myself nervous, even in my current fuzzy-brained mental state, and headed down to the gas station after picking my son up from school on Wednesday.

The car began making ominous choking, sputtering sounds when we were about three blocks from the gas station. I was able to get through the light and around the corner before the engine gave out, and after that I was able to coast to the next light. Unfortunately it was red and I had to stop.

So here I was, one long block from the station, with no way to get there. I just sat there for several minutes with my flashers blinking on this busy four-lane road, trying to figure out what the heck I was going to do. There was absolutely noplace to pull off, and I didn't think I could steer and push at the same time.

Lo and behold, two guys in their early twenties just happened to be crossing the street right then. I flagged them down and they cheerfully agreed to push me the final block to the gas station. We got there without incident. They waved off money with a laugh. They are my new heroes.

I am coming out of this with two things: an increase in my natural sunnily optimistic belief that people are basically good, and a newfound respect for that Empty light.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

"Shake hands. White, make your first move."

When my kids go to a chess tournament, I tell them I want them to do three things:

1. Have fun
2. Show good sportsmanship
3. Don't win or lose by taking the king off the board.

These are goals. They don't always happen. (Yes, I'll have to admit that I have occasionally allowed kids to go to tournaments when they kind of don't understand the whole checkmate thing. They want to go. Their friends are going. What do you do?)

My team plays at least six tournaments a year. Of those, two give me stomachaches. One of those is the State Championships, in April. The other is the first tournament of the year. That one is this Saturday. I'm taking seventeen kids.

This is a tough tournament because I don't know what to expect. I don't really know who's ready for competition until they actually compete. There is a chance that one or two players will lose all five games, and that's painful for everybody.

It's also tough because expectations are probably higher than they should be this year. In past years, we've fielded some pretty strong teams, particularly in the older sections. This year we lost some really good kids to Jr. High. Plus we lost several more strong players to the Gifted program at another school. I HATE that. I miss these kids personally, and it makes me feel like I run a farm team. As much as I love to see "my" kids do well regardless of the school they're playing for, it still stings just a bit to watch them rake in the trophies for other teams. *Sigh.*

This Saturday I'll be spending the day judging the kindergarten section. I love this. Kinders are a hoot. As a judge, I'm not able to interfere with games, or even to answer questions that might give one player an advantage. I generally have to respond to questions like, "Is this checkmate?" with, "What do you think?" This can lead to some interesting positions. On more than one occasion, I've seen kinders agree that one player won when there are no kings on the board. And I just have to say, "Okay" and write down the result. I must say that, pound for pound, kindergartners deliver the highest entertainment value.

The second reason I love to judge kinders is that it keeps me far away from the room where my son will be playing, and it keeps my mind occupied so I don't have to think of him playing. Because I'm not just a coach, I'm a mom, and that's the hardest role to play at a tournament. My son is a very strong yet inconsistent player. He's not happy unless he wins all five games, or at least takes home a trophy, and the competition in our district is becoming quite stiff. There are no guarantees.

This is his seventh year of chess competition. In the early years, he would become quite upset when he lost. In the past couple of years, though, he's realized that he's a role model for the younger players. He's our team's strongest player. If he gets upset, they'll see that as the way to act and do the same. So he now always fights to put on a happy face and shrug it off. And he realized on his own that it hurts less to lose if you've made your opponent your friend. Often he and his opponent will walk out together, laughing, and I can't even tell who won until he catches my eye and gives me an almost imperceptible nod or shake of the head. I'm proud. He's a good kid.

So wish us luck on Saturday, and send positive thoughts to all my little chess players starting about 9:00, when they will be hearing, "Shake hands. White make your first move."

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Halloween (Or: If You're Considering Having Kids, Read This First)

We finally have the Halloween costume, purchased on the evening of October 30. All it took was:

1. Trip to store 1. Nothing quite what he wanted. Or if it was, it was in the wrong size. One adult-sized Aragorn costume has possibilities.
2. Trip to store 2. Nothing.
3. Trip to store 3. Nothing.
4. Trip back to store 1. Decide to try for the Aragorn costume. When we take it out, it is missing the tunic. They offer us 40% off if we buy it anyway.
5. Trip to store 4. No costumes, the but they have a cool sword that would go with the Aragorn costume. We buy it along with Elvin ears and cool brooch-type stuff that's apparently really, really important to the character. (I haven't seen the movie.)
6. Back to store 1. We find the Aragorn costume, minus the tunic, and wade through the maze of people to buy it for 40% off. (Is our entire town made of procrastinators? At least I have an excuse. This year.)
7. Off to JoAnn's fabrics for fabric so I can make the tunic myself.
8. Drag myself out of bed this morning and sew the tunic. (Okay, I must confess, it wasn't that hard. Slash, slash, slash, and two seams. But it wasn't off-the-shelf, either.)

Seeing the worried, I-won't-have-a-costume look on my son's face replaced by a big smile and a breathless, "Thank you, Mom!"? Priceless.

As our son went off to pack for school, my husband said, "You know, he'll really appreciate all of this someday."

"Yeah," I said. "When he has kids."

"No," he replied, "He'll appreciate it when you're dead and he's going through the old photos."

Giggle.

And so, bit by bit, life begins to regain normalcy.

Monday, October 30, 2006

It's Life That's the Challenge

My husband and I have decided we can deal just fine with death.

It's the combination of death and real life we're having a hard time with.

I drove the whole way up from Portland last night so he could read reports to get at least partially caught up with work. Our son still has no Halloween costume. We haven't carved pumpkins. I forgot to cancel my Beginner's Chess class tomorrow (Halloween,) so I've set myself up for dealing with 35 sugared-up K-3 kids for an hour after school. Life goes on, even when you'd like to forget about it.

Right now I'm seeing some value in the old custom of wearing mourning. Back then, black clothes were as good as a written sign: Fragile. Handle With Care. Maybe if people dressed in mourning, they'd get a pass on a few things. Get waved in in traffic, perhaps, or be allowed to take eleven items in the express line. Treated with a little extra TLC.

We spent the weekend facing death, and life, and death, and life... Layered, an odd parfait. We ate breakfast on a table that also held newspaper clippings on casket costs. My husband sorted through boxes and boxes of old photos for a memorial service slide show while we watched and commented on "Pretty Woman" on TV. He left dinner last night to help my twenty-one-year-old nephew make airline reservations to come home. When my mother-in-law asked how my train ride down was, I wasn't sure if it was okay to talk about the incredible beauty of blue sky and autumn leaves. Life, and death, and life.

When we got home last night, my husband and I each sipped a glass of cabernet as he sorted through the photos, putting them into stacks by decades: '40's, '50's, '60's... Those stacks he then winnowed down to ten pictures each. Fred with kids. Fred with grandkids. Fred with freshly-caught fish. Fred with the fireplace bellows to blow out birthday candles. Fred and my husband sitting on Santa's lap together as adults, laughing.

A lot of laughing.

At the end of the night, my husband took the photos and put them in envelopes to take to a friend for scanning. He finished with eight envelopes -- one per decade. Eight envelopes to sum up a life.

Eight envelopes and three words: "I miss him."

Friday, October 27, 2006

Hazy, fuzzy thoughts

This is our niece, pinning on my FIL's boutonniere at our nephew's wedding in July.
***********
I was at what I call my Friday ol' lady soccer class today. I'd been undecided about whether to go, but then figured it might do me good to get out and move. Ten minutes in, I found myself stopping the ball in the middle of a drill, standing there and just staring at it, unable to really remember what I was supposed to do with it. And even when I remembered, I couldn't make my feet actually do it. The second time this happened I just went to sit on the sidelines until the scrimmage at the end, when I could just run till my lungs felt like they'd fall out. And not think.

My brain feels fuzzy, like all the thoughts are wrapped up in gauze. I can sit and calmly listen as my husband calmly discusses shopping for caskets with his niece and I'll think: We're coping well. We're handling it...calmly. And then an hour later I'm losing it because I can't find a pair of tweezers.

My daughter asked a very perceptive question this afternoon: "Is it kind of strange to be going through this as somebody who married into the family?" Yes, it is. It's odd being an in-law when you're dealing with death. It's like grieving-once-removed. It's hard to know what you should do, what you should say, what decisions you should be involved in, what you should think, how you should feel...

My husband and youngest son went down today. I'm home with our daughter, who's recovering from getting three wisdom teeth removed. (Death is just so darned inconvenient, isn't it?) I'm taking the train down tomorrow, and our oldest son will be staying to help her out in my place.

The memorial service will be in two weeks. Most of the grandkids besides ours are young adults, spread out across the country, and the extra time gives them the chance to get here without bankrupting themselves. I feel especially sorry for our oldest niece, who will be traveling with a two-year-old and severe morning sickness. At the same time I'm looking forward to seeing everyone. Our nieces and nephews are wonderful, nice, fun people and we all get together so rarely any more.

It will be a great party. My father-in-law would have enjoyed it.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

A Good Life

My father-in-law passed away early this morning. It's difficult because the family was not with him. Nobody knew it was imminent. But he was not alone and died very peacefully. I've spent the last hour listening to my husband call other relatives.

In my FIL's own words, he lived a good life. And it is finished.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Self-Intimidation (or: What Have I Done?)

--No real update on my FIL. He was doing worse yesterday than the day before, complaining of pain and not eating, and they put him back on morphine. Other than that I have no news.

-- If you are the person who linked to my blog with a google search for "Seattle Breast Cancer Survivors," you are in my prayers.

-- On a lighter note...

To keep my mind busy and occupied last week, I started a blog specifically and totally devoted to French soccer. Yes, French soccer. Because I felt like it. When I'd finished a couple of entries, I e-mailed the editor at World Cup Blog and said that I thought he should link to me occasionally. Instead he asked me if I wanted to take over their France blog.

Let's see. Do I want to write about my beloved Bleus (my favorite sports team ever, with the possible exception of the '95 Mariners) for an international audience? Gosh, I'll have to get back to you.

So as of today I have my official "keys" to the site and my official password. And I'm too totally panicked to do anything with them. I mean, geez. Any mistake I make in my own blog, my friends, family and fellow quilters will laugh it off. But soccer fans are RABID. And I'm supporting the team of The Headbutt, which is already hugely controversial. (Although Zidane has since retired, which makes things a teensy bit easier.) To say I'm intimidated is putting it mildly.

(On a technical note, anybody who's used WordPress, please e-mail me through the address in my profile.)

I do have my first two posts written, and eventually I will post them. I'm thinking by tomorrow night. Probably. Maybe. I think.

Geez, what have I done????

Monday, October 23, 2006

One More Chapter

The roller coaster continues its run. We got back tonight from visiting my father-in-law, who is doing somewhat better. He is eating, some, and his kidneys are working at least some, and his blood pressure is up somewhat. Late last week the doctors decided that he was no longer a medical case -- technically "end-stage congestive heart failure" -- and had my husband's family move him to a private nursing home where they'll give him oxygen and pain medication only. If he is getting better it is without real medical care. This is befuddling the doctors, who sent him off to die and who now -- because he's getting incrementally better -- may have to start treating him again. We don't know what's next. We don't know what's best. We just grab onto the bar of the roller coaster car and hold on. And my father-in-law still remains, amazingly, himself. Just an older and weaker and more confused version.

Much of my husband's humor comes from his father. My father-in-law has been a people person all of his life, and (much like my husband) he has always used humor to make and hold onto a personal connection with others. In the past few years his mind has slipped, but his sense of humor has still made regular appearances, sometimes uncensored.

Whenever he said goodbye to people in the past couple of years, much to my mother-in-law's embarrassment he would finish with, "Stay out of the barrooms. And if you find one, call me." The rest of us found this hugely humorous, particularly given that my FIL hasn't set foot in a barroom in decades.

Humor becomes much harder as the mind slips, but the desire for that connection remains. My FIL still, even today, works so hard at connecting, at reaching out. He will speak in random words, disconnected phrases... Recently I've been listening to books and magazines in French, and I realized today that the mental process of listening to him is much the same. You reach out and try to grab one word at a time, and then try to connect it to another word, and then try to weave those words into a coherent thought. If you think he's saying, "Mountain" you respond with "Mountain? Mt. Hood? Your cabin?" and hope the light stays on in his eyes.

Sometimes you guess wrong, and his brow will furrow and his eyes will cloud in confusion, his brain unable to process the new thought you've injected into his head. But sometimes you hit it right, and the "conversation" will continue. "Yes," he says. "I loved the cabin. It was a great place," and then maybe you can throw in a couple more sentences, another connection or two... It's a way of holding onto the fact this yes, there is still a wonderful person living in this body. This is still my husband's father.

Last night the whole gang gathered at the nursing home. Me, my husband, our three kids, our niece, our nephew and his new wife, my mother-in-law, and our sister-in-law (who is technically my husband's late brother's first wife, but who bent over backwards to keep her kids connected to my husband's side of the family after their father died and so will always be family herself.) My father-in-law was asleep most of the time we were there, waking up only long enough to sip juice and say a few disconnected words before dozing off again.

When it was time for our sister-in-law to leave for her three-hour drive home, she walked over to him to say what would probably be her last goodbye. She held his hand and he looked up at her, awake but probably not certain who she was. "I'm going to go home now," she told him. "It's good to see you, Fred. Good-bye."

He murmured something to her, his voice raspy.

"What did he say?" she asked. "Did he say, 'See you tomorrow?'"

"No," I said. "He said 'stay out of the barrooms.'"

Everyone burst out laughing, and my father-in-law chuckled along. "Stay out of the barrooms," he repeated. "And if you find one, call me."

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Weird Thing About Me, Version 2.0

Since I'm feeling a need to blog about something (anything!) else today, I'll continue a previous string. The second weird thing about me: Exactly 22 years ago today, I moved from Colorado to Seattle with just two suitcases, a bicycle, $800 and a one-way plane ticket. I didn't have a place to stay or a job waiting. I didn't know anybody here. I didn't even know anybody who'd been here. I picked Seattle because it was time for a change and I liked rain. It was probably the best decision I've ever made.

I suppose the story has to start a few years earlier, when I was nineteen and married my first husband, The Sociopath. (When I write my autobiography, this will be in the chapter "The College Years: Dreadful Mistakes.") We'll just say that the day you recognize your (now former!) spouse in your Abnormal Psych lecture is a Very Bad Day and leave it at that.

So by October 21, 1984, it was time for a change. I got on the plane completely terrified. I spent the flight knitting a sweater and reading Garfield comic books. It was still dark when we took off, and I had a window seat and got to watch the sun rise. Then SeaTac was fogged in, so we spent half an hour circling over Mt. Rainier. I came from the Rocky Mountains, but I'd never seen A Mountain like this one. For some reason it filled me with hope.

It was beautiful here. A fall like this one, where winds haven't yet stripped the trees and the colors are gorgeous. We didn't have leaves like this in Colorado. The colors also filled me with hope.

I spent the first two weeks in a series of cheap hotels. Naive me, I had no clue what cheap hotels meant. When I moved to my third hotel, on Aurora Avenue where the Green River Killer had recently plied his trade, the proprietor, a tiny Filipino woman, looked me up and down and said, "We have bery strict rules. No bisitors." Which I thought was odd, but I just muttered, "That's okay. I don't know anybody here." Naive Colorado cowgirl that I was, it took me five years to realize that she had been warning me off prostitution.

For several years after I moved here, my memory recalled this era of my life as a time when everything fell quickly into place. I found my journal (the only journal I've ever kept, aside from this blog) several years later and realized that this wasn't necessarily the case. There was a lot more fear and uncertainty than I'd remembered. But there was also hope and exhilaration and joy at finally, at last, having some control over my own life and my own destiny.

I got a job working in a restaurant, the same chain I'd left in Colorado. I met my roommate through a classified ad in the Seattle Times. Amazingly, we were the same age, had a lot in common and became close friends. A year later she would introduce me to the man who would become my husband. The real one. The guy I was always supposed to marry.

I've thought a lot in the intervening years about things like fate, and intuition, and destiny, and even divine intervention. In moving here I became the person I am, which is much closer to the person I was meant to be than the girl who lived in Colorado. If I learned anything from moving here, it's that when every molecule in your body and brain calls you to a place or an action or a decision, it's counterproductive to fight. I think there are some things that we are simply destined, or guided, to do.

And somewhere up in my closet I've still got the airplane ticket stub from October 21, 1984 -- one-way from Stapleton Denver to SeaTac -- to remind me of this fact.